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Sunday, October 31, 2004
  • Of Cynics and Sycophants...

    Via Josh Marshall. Someone leaked a memo ostensibly prepared for the Labor Department which looks at various statistics to show that Bush will likely do "much better" in the election than the polls predict. Such a memo, of course, serves no legitimate public purpose and the Labor Department acknowledges that "Clearly, this kind of armchair political analysis doesn't belong in government memos, even if they are entirely internal." True to form, the Bushies are blaming this waste of taxpayer money (as the Democrats have labelled it) on "midlevel employees".

    Because, you know, midlevel employees are the type to waste a lot of time doing extra shit they're not paid for.

    Likewise, the "entirely internal" line - which the spinmeisters managed to get repeated three times in this single article - is pretty clearly a lie. This "internal" memo was written for "external" consumption. What should be obvious to everyone is that this is a hamhanded attempt to make a Bush win look inevitable.
    The economic models are not infallible, but they do "systematically measure past data, which is a far cry better than relying on anecdotal evidence," the paper says.

    In other words, our economic magic is better than your public polling magic. It's classic Bush: trust us, not your lying eyes. And as Josh points out, this president's created a Labor Department wherein the staffers will write stuff like this about him:
    One factor in the election that has been "downplayed is the president's popularity," a variable the report says may be important. "Fortunately, there are models (that) incorporate this concept," it says. ... "Nearly every single model has him winning."

    Yes, your highness, your people love you. No, they're not upset about all those jobs you lost, because you're so popular.


  • Saturday, October 30, 2004
  • In principle, I'm not a fan of royalty. But you've got to hand it to the Queen:
    The Queen has made a rare intervention in world politics to warn Tony Blair of her grave concerns over the White House's stance on global warming.

    She is understood to have asked Downing Street to lobby the US after observing the alarming impact of Britain's changing weather on her estates at Balmoral in Scotland and Sandringham in Norfolk. The revelation gives an unusual glimpse into the mind of the monarch, who normally strives to stay above politics.

    Further evidence of the Queen's views on global warming will be seen this week when she opens one of the most high-profile conferences ever staged in Europe on the issue. She is keen for this to be interpreted as a symbolic and political statement.

    Via pie at Eschaton.

  • The Globe and Mail reports on the latest Osama Bin Laden tape. Josh Marshall comments, reminding Democrats not freak out and to stay on message: the bad is out there because Bush failed to pursue him.

  • Friday, October 29, 2004
  • Jesse provides us with pictures of an Ohio punch-card ballot. He points out some obvious problems with it which will probably mean Bush will get more votes than he ought to. I'm just amazed that 'the world's greatest democracy' is so asinine about voting. Pencil and paper, folks.

  • I'm too busy grading midterms to get into commenting on current events. But suffice it say that there's a lot of bad news for Bush these days. You should be reading Talking Points and Eschaton to follow the Al-Qaqaa and other stories. But I wanted to make note of this post from Kevin Drum, because I'm pretty fascinated by the officer/enlisted cleavage within the military. Kevin quotes an anecdote from Steven Clemens:
    I JUST SAT NEXT TO A VERY TOUGH SOLDIER FROM THE 82ND AIRBORNE on a flight back from Europe. ... According to him, 75% of all soldiers want Bush defeated in the election and don't care who defeats him; anger and resentment are high. He says that 90% of the officers remain far out of harm's way. From lietenants (sic) all the way up, there is general understanding that the officers are hiding in holes, or holding back in well-defended buildings and quite cavalier about sending troops out for assignments and errands that are frequently stupid, poorly planned, and dangerous. ... And he said that most people in the military have had to become somewhat accustomed to the idea that the Pentagon looks at the soldiers as "guinea pigs" to test drugs on.

    Also, I wish someone would make an ad combining these images: Kerry criticizing Bush for Al-Qaqaa, Bush pretending that's Kerry's blaming the commanders on the ground (for losing Bin Laden at Tora Bora) and expressing his disgust at that, Rudy Guiliani blaming the commanders on the ground for Al-Qaqaa, images of the Abu Ghraib torture victims, Bush blaming the troops at Abu Ghraib for that. The ad would underline Bush's unwillingness to accept blame for anything, and the cowardly way he repeatedly pins the blame for his worst mistakes on the weakest people he can find: the poor military grunts whom he sent into harm's way.

  • Thursday, October 28, 2004
  • Get Your War On: page 42. It ain't pretty, but it's accurate.

  • Kevin Drum points us to this New York Times article about Kevin Drum and the Friday Catblogging phenomenon. Now that's pretty cool.

  • Just in time for Halloween: Australian scientists discover tiny people fossils on Indonesian island.
    The new species became isolated on Flores and evolved into its dwarf form to conform with conditions, such as food shortages. Flores, which was probably never connected to the mainland, was home to a variety of exotic creatures including a dwarf form of the primitive elephant Stegodon.

  • Wednesday, October 27, 2004
  • The Earth Policy Institute blames declining sales of US products in Europe on a European rejection of US foreign policy. It's not clear from the article whether there is a largescale organized boycott going on or not. I certainly haven't seen anything in the news about it. But here are some websites promoting the idea. Though I can't vouch for any of these groups, I like the idea of an international boycott of US companies. Especially of major donors to the Republican party and/or Bush campaign.

  • Wonkette provides various links to Eminem's new video.

  • Greg Palast is back in Florida, but he's still working for the BBC:
    A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

    Via Pandagon.

  • Monday, October 25, 2004
  • I really don't know what to make of this Moonie Times op ed claiming that Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health wants mandatory mental health screening of all Americans. But if Bush does get himself reelected, don't say you weren't warned. Via Philosoraptor.

  • Scott McClellan earlier today:
    "Yeah, see, when I dropped that anvil on your foot, I'd been carrying it with this hand. Yes, the hand with the puppet on it. So, you know, it's the puppet's fault."

    Now we see why they were in such a rush to "transfer sovereignty".

    Josh Marshall is all over the missing explosives story today. So go read Josh Marshall.

  • While Josh's point (that the President is way, way out in fantasyland) is entirely accurate, you have to give Bush credit for his Kung Fu mastery:
    Now my opponent is throwing out the wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001, and that our military passed up the chance to get him in Tora Bora. This is an unjustified criticism of our military commanders in the field.

    I mean, talk about using your opponent's attack against him. First, deflect the charge from Bush himself onto the military commanders in the field, next reflect it back at Kerry's patriotism. Hiiiiya!

  • Here's a fascinating look at Iran's inner workings.
    The vast and well-funded Revolutionary Guards are still the most potent force available to the regime. And their network of soldiers and vigilantes may be hungry for even more clout as Tehran faces new pressures over its nuclear ambitions, the war in Iraq and the approach of Iran's critical presidential election next year, analysts say. ... The more than 200,000-member corps of Revolutionary Guards - which is independent of the ordinary armed forces - have a direct pipeline to the leadership and a broad mandate to confront "dangers" to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
    Each advance by the Revolutionary Guards is another potential blow to the influence of the elected government, the regular armed forces and reformist officials.

    The guards have clout. They have prestige; they direct the volunteer militia known as the "basij", which some estimates say includes 15 percent of the population, or about 10 million people; the regular military defers to them on many key matters; and they have a substantial hold on vital economic industries including oil interests.
    "It's no surprise that Iran's leaders could be turning to institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards," said Gary Samore, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "This is a period of many uncertainties for Iran, and the Revolutionary Guards represent a reliable fallback position for the establishment."

  • From Eric Margolis's most recent column:
    It's unfair the whole world cannot somehow vote in the upcoming U.S., elections since they affect all mankind. Maybe the rest of the world could vote and count as one U.S. state, Internationalia. However, if this happened, the result would be a landslide for John Kerry.

    ...Of course, in that case, Internationalia would not only vote for the president, but also 2 senators and 385 congressmen, leaving only one seat for each other state. That would also give Internationalia 385 electoral college votes, meaning that we'd have 387 electoral college votes, or 72% of the total 538.

  • It's a brain, it's in a dish, and it's controlling a flight simulator. I think the appropriate response is Gajesus. The link comes from (ack!) Instapundit.

  • Sunday, October 24, 2004
  • Compare and contrast. The New York Times discusses the 350 tons of explosives that were looted from the absurdly-named Al Qaqaa facility in Iraq sometime in 2003, managing to provide some very interesting detail about who said what when. But the forest is buried within the trees. For that, you need to read the Josh Marshall posts. There, the important questions are addressed, or at the very least noted: What can 350 tons of this stuff do? A lot of damage, with possible nuclear applications. Why are we only hearing about this now? The Bush administration has been covering it up for a year, probably playing politics. What frustrates me so much is that the Times will print statements like this:
    The White House said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed within the past month that the explosives were missing. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed. American officials have never publicly announced the disappearance, but beginning last week they answered questions about it posed by The New York Times and the CBS News program "60 Minutes."

    Here, the term "never" hints that the administration probably knew about this for a lot longer than the past month, but that's the extent of it. Effectively, the White House line that Rice heard about this sometime within the past month is left standing. Here's Marshall:
    What's clear in [Craig] Nelson's and TPM's reporting is that the administration has known about this for at least a year. But they've gone to great lengths to hide the facts both from monitoring organizations like the IAEA but also, by extension, from the American public.

    Why doesn't the Times refer to that reporting? Why doesn't it focus on the important issues, provide some context for its readers during the election season?

    Caveat: All of this is late-breaking stuff, so maybe we'll see the Times pick up on these things. But it's not just the lacunae that bother me, it's also what they put in the story. These lines about it being unclear whether Bush was informed and so on annoy the hell out of me. Let him make his excuses himself. If he has put together such an incompetant staff that news of missing arms depots take over a year to make it to his desk, we can still hold him responsible for it.

    UPDATE: On second thought, I think it's fair to say the Times piece does give us some perspective on the explosive power of this stuff, but it still gets kind of lost amid the details.

  • Clive Thompson discusses the UN's annual census of the world's robot population. We are so going down when the robots rebel.

  • I know that at this point the joke is getting old, but it still makes me laugh:
    As President Bush stumped through Florida, accusing his opponent of "election amnesia'' about the threat posed by Iraq....

    Gaul. Unmitigated gaul. Ghoulish gaul. In the backrooms of Bush's campaign, there are strategists saying things like, "Hey, what's the worst honest critique you could make about us? OK, then, let's make that criticism of them." Bush is flatout lying about what happened at Tora Bora in 2002, when he decided Osama Bin Laden wasn't worth chasing, and simultanously accusing Kerry of "amensia" about the (nonexistant) Iraqi threat.

    Unfortunately, Kerry is busy trying to focus the campaign on his hopefulness vs. Bush's fearmongering and still overemphasizing domestic issues. Both campaigns have released weak allegorical ads this past week. Bush's ad uses a pack of wolves to represent a pack of lies terrorist cell, while Kerry's contrasts the Eagle (a bird that's resolute but can change course when necessary) and the Ostrich (which hides from reality). Fine, but there's a much simpler and, I think, more effective approach. Oh well, I remain optimistic.

  • I'm probably in the minority, but to me, this sentence is patently absurd:
    If researchers are able to repeat this [embryo cloning] process in monkeys, it might help them to refine the tricky technique without experimenting on human eggs and embryos, which are very difficult to obtain and raise a host of ethical objections.

    It's the double absurdity that gets me. (This is, of course, about stem cells, not breeding clones. I'll happily admit that there are reasonable "ethnical objections" to the breeding of human clones.) The cloning of embryos for the purpose of stem-cell harvesting is such a non-issue to me that I just laugh at how objectionable people find it. Add to that the fact that these same people would apparently have no objections to performing the exact same procedures on monkey embryos - species that so clearly share most of our defining characteristics and which are overwelmingly genetically similar to ourselves - and I really find their worldview utterly inane. Have they every looked at a monkey? Or a human being?

    The link is from Majikthise.

  • Digby has some good news for us from the Nickolodean Kids' Vote.
    A strong majority of American children support Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry over President George W. Bush....

  • Saturday, October 23, 2004
  • I'm not a big fan of the Pentagon 9/11 conspiracy, but watch this.

  • I guess its blog narcissism day. Via Blogshares, I've discovered the alternate post no bills blog. (This one's in lowercase.) I'm pleased to say it looks like a very cool blog. It's by an Australian freelance journalist currently travelling in Israel-Palestine.

  • When I discovered earlier today that PrettyPoliticalGirl had me on her blogroll, I was not only very flattered, but also decided I ought to google 'dalairoundabout'. As a result, I disovered All Consuming, a site that automatically finds bloggers talking about books. I haven't fully figured it out yet, but if you like to read, you should have a look.

  • Degrees of detail determine everything. Once again, Reuters, discussing the possibility of a pre-election (muslim) terrorist attack in the US reiterates the story of the Madrid bombing thus:
    Speculation that an attack might take place was been heightened since commuter trains in Madrid were bombed in March three days before Spain's general election. The country's pro-U.S. government was swept from power and the incoming Socialists quickly pulled Spanish troops from Iraq.

    In between those two sentences should be a third: During those three days, the incumbent attempted to blame the attack on Basque separatism, apparently hindering investigative efforts in the process, leading many voters to the conclusion that he was less interested in finding and punishing the individuals responsible for the attack and more interested in retaining power.

    Thus, depending on how closely you look at the events, you can draw two very different lessons: (1) A terrorist attack before an election can change the course of the election. Or, (2) The president's exposing himself as a vile self-interested hack right before the election can help him lose it.

  • Funny because it's true. The Onion headline: Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected. Via Philosoraptor.

  • Josh Marshall sums up the Sinclair story. Long story short, the boycotts, legal actions, and stockholder moves look to have rendered what was to be a mendacious anti-Kerry smear into a fairly evenhanded hour of television. Mark one up for the good guys.

    Meanwhile, of course, the lies continue from another direction. History, they say, is written by the victors. But the Bushies clearly think it goes the other way too: Whoever writes the history becomes the victor.

  • HACKTACULAR: CanWest Global. This news is about a month old, but I've only just discovered it via PrettyPolitical. Shows you how little I've been following Canadian news.
    The owner of the National Post and dozens of other papers across Canada is being accused of inappropriately inserting the word [terrorist] into newswire copy dealing with the Middle East, thereby changing the meaning of those stories.

    Can anyone confirm for me whether CanWest also uses FOX's "homocide bomber" to describe suicide bombers? Or did I just imagine that?

  • This Sheila Copps vs. Paul Martin story is fairly entertaining, though I have no insight into it at all. Intraliberal disputes are just sort of inherently fascinating.

  • Skeletor slips away... Via Pandagon, it's video of the attempted pie-ing of Ms. Coulter and commentary by James Wolcott, who is a riot.

  • Friday, October 22, 2004
  • It's freaking chaos in the United States. The Republican Party is sending out press releases attacking the press. The whole system is turning on itself. Between this and the massive (and relatively public) voter fraud, as well as the Republicans' long tradition of disparaging "activist judges" and, though its somewhat less played up these days, the constant (and bipartisan) portrayal of politicians as fundamentally untrustworthy, there is simply next-to-nothing left in terms of the great democratic institutions.

    Add to this assault on the foundations of society the fear of terrorists at the shopping mall or secret government spies at the library, and it becomes pretty clear where all this is headed. If it keeps up, the country will no longer be a community. No one will be able to count on anything, except maybe for the political parties themselves. The United States becomes South Central LA writ large, Reds vs Blues instead of Bloods vs Crips.

  • I had some last-minute concerns last night that Putin was going to try to improve his democratic credentials by having a public row with the Duma over Kyoto. Thankfully, Russia still looks just as authoritarian today as it did yesterday and Kyoto is basically a go.
    Following Friday's vote in the State Duma, the bill still has to go through the upper house and be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • Video of Al Gore's most recent MoveOn speech (Oct 18) is here. Transcript is here.

  • While I'm busy grading midterms... Did you watch the West Wing season premiere?

    I enjoyed it. The scene in the situation room with Bartlett saying he didn't want to attack a country where there wasn't enough evidence to connect that country to the terrorists responsible for killing Fitz made me laugh. I take it as a shot at Bush, because Bartlett's the better president and pretty much opposite to Bush in every way. (In fact, he's even Catholic, like Kerry.) But I assume a Bush supporter, trying to see Bartlett as Bushlike might see it as a suggestion that no president would attack a country in those circumstances, so Bush's claim that the evidence was rock solid-looking (because of problems at the CIA) must be true.

    But what I found much more interesting was the treatment of the negotiations with the Palestinian leader. It seemed to me that those scenes were modelled very much on the Kennedy experience during the Cuban Missile Crisis, something you'll be familiar with if you've seen Thirteen Days or read Graham Allison. Both the 'freethinking meeting' with the President's advisors and the decision to respond to the first communication and ignore the second one had pretty exact parallels during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • Tuesday, October 19, 2004
  • Here's a fun rumour we could start:

    Inspired by like-minded theocrat Osama Bin Laden, George W Bush decided to send some of his devotees on a suicide mission, crashing a plane into a target chosen primarily for its symbollic value in order not only to instill fear into the American people, but also to send a clear message about why he hates America:
    ATLANTA -- A small plane crashed during a rainstorm Tuesday into a downtown body shop about 40 yards from the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. [...The] neighborhood ... dubs itself as the cradle of the civil rights movement[.]

    Bit of a stretch, but hey...

  • So here's a question:

    What are the odds that:
    (a) Jon Stewart tanks following his Crossfire appearance because having come out as a comic with a serious side, he can no longer be funny?
    (b) Jon Stewart tanks following his Crossfire appearance because advertisers decide he's too dangerous and pull the plug?
    (c) Jon Stewart tanks following the election because Kerry wins and the world loses some of its absurdity?
    (d) Jon Stewart tanks because his Crossfire appearance helps the media recover its self-respect (and ours) - and the world loses some of its absurdity?
    (e) Jon Stewart gets a job on CNN?

    This obviously isn't meant to be an exhaustive list of possibilities. Just some interesting ones.

  • Skimming over some old posts of Josh Marshall's. This is from December 01, 2000, when the Bushies were fighting to win the battle of the chad:
    Don't these transparently ridiculous assertions just make them seem indifferent to the truth?

    Nope, they haven't changed much in four years. Today, Josh notes another example of continuity.

  • I'm posting this as a response to Kevin Drum's post over here. It's on the subject of why all those countries who opposed the Iraq war didn't jump on the bandwagon as soon as the war ended "major combat operations" ended. It's unfinished, but I thought it was worth keeping around.

    In the simplest of models, there are three questions: Is a failed Iraqi state a significant threat to other countries (in which case they have an interest in propping it up)? Assuming the answer is yes, can the US credibly threaten to fail at doing the job itself? Assuming the answer is yes again, can any other states hope that success is possible if they cooperate with the US?

    These questions are all focussed on the 'sticks', but what about the carrots? Thus, another question is: Would our potential partners benefit more by cooperating to secure Iraq, or by not cooperating and thus letting the US flush its super-powers down the toilet of Iraq? The idea here is that in a world of relative power maximizers, the US's loss is everyone else's gain. The US can try to compensate for that by offering to give its partners rewards for helping it win. One reward is a stable Iraq; a second reward might be reconstruction contracts. Obviously, the possibilities are endless - right up to trading away California. Or Texas. Not that anyone would want it.

    A key point, I think, is that Bush's world is a world of relative power maximizers and, secondly, he hasn't been very good about the carrots. Remember when the British and Australians were pissed off because it seemed like all the reconstruction contracts were going to American firms? (There was that ridiculous cell-phone debacle - which, to be fair, turned out okay in the end.) That behaviour made it a lot less tempting for other countries to get involved. But more importantly (in my view), Bush has consistently said and behaved as though the world consists of sovereign states who inherently threaten one another and therefore seek security by maximizing their own power. This view has manifested in two ways: 1. unilateralism; 2. the focus on 'state sponsors of terrorism' rather than on transnational terrorist networks.

    American unilateralism stems largely from the view that allies and international institutions are unimportant because the US's power is so overwhelming and it only intends to get bigger. The focus on states rather than terrorist groups stems from the view that states are the only insitutions which can plausibly have enough power to seriously hurt the US.

    There are, I think, some other important elements to the neoconservative view that deserve consideration, but it's too late and I'm too tired. So I'll wrap this up quickly by saying this. I think the pessimistic views that underly neoconservativism are self-fulfilling prophecies. When the neocons say the US has to rely on itself and doesn't need allies and all that jazz - they alienate their allies. Their allies, in turn, start to worry about the US's attitude and start to think about their own interests as diverging from the US's. Then, a US loss starts to look like their gain. Finally, having the US bogged down in Iraq starts to look like a good thing: they won't have to worry about it causing trouble someplace else. It can waste its money and energy, while they develop their economies, etc. This is why I think a Kerry presidency would have at least a better chance of getting help. Mind you, I still don't think he'd have a very good chance: Bush has already done a lot of damage to the international system.

  • Mother of God, this is an evil ad. Via Atrios.

  • Sunday, October 17, 2004
  • I'm just going through Dr. Zebra's medical history of President Bush, which I discovered via Kevin Drum, and we find this astoundingly dumb statement from Bush in 2002:
    Today I am directing additional steps to protect the health of our nation. I'm ordering that the military and other personnel who serve America in high-risk parts of the world receive the smallpox vaccine, men and women who could be on the front lines of a biological attack must be protected.

    This particular vaccine does involve a small risk of serious health considerations. As Commander-in-Chief, I do not believe I can ask others to accept this risk unless I am willing to do the same. Therefore I will receive the vaccine along with our military.

    Does it require any comment? No, I think the stupidity is self-evident.

  • Saturday, October 16, 2004
  • Too stupid for words:
    Nearly two in three likely voters -- 64 percent -- said Kerry's comment was "inappropriate," including more than four in 10 of his supporters and half of all swing voters. A third -- 33 percent -- thought the remark was appropriate.

    Kerry was asked if he thought homosexuality was a choice and he said:
    "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

    White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan:
    "I cannot think of a single instance where a presidential candidate has talked about his opponent's child in such a way," McClellan said.

    In what way? For Christ's sake, he said she was a lesbian and expressed his support for her being who she is. Bush, a moment earlier, was saying she should be a constitutionally-defined second-class citizen and yet people think Kerry's comment was inappropriate. I'm not spending any more time on this. We could pick apart how brutally, obviously disingenuous and cynical is the Republican response, including that of the Cheney's themselves. How they are obviously once again using homosexuality and homosexuals as a political wedge to distract voters from the real issues. We could talk about the fact that they are bigots. We could talk about how Mary Cheney is fair game since she and her father have both made use of her sexual orientation in the campaign. We could talk about the fact that lesbian is not a dirty word. We could do these things, but we shouldn't have to. It's just too stupid for words.

    Oh, and way to go, Log Cabin Republicans. They're suing the Department of Defense for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' because it's a stupid, bigotted policy that is inhibiting the ability of the country to fight an effective war on terror.

  • Wonkette has a bunch of material on Jon Stewart's CNN appearance. She contacted Tucker Carlson who had this to say:
    While admitting that "I can be a dick," Tucker also was shocked at the sheer unfunniness of it all: "It was like being lectured at by Kathleen Hall Jamison! Like being given a lecture on ethics by an assistant professor of journalism at Blue State Junior College!"

    Carlson's response, of course, was much the same on the air. Carlson is making two points here.

    First, he's whining because he didn't have a good time. Well, the rest of us, including the studio audience, clearly did. And how disturbing is it that in the run up to a hugely momentous presidential election in the midst of two or three wars and lots of other really serious goings-on, Tucker Carlson's biggest priority is having fun. Stewart got him exactly right when he called him a 'dick'.

    Second, Carlson is dismissing Stewart's complaint as something you'd get from an ethics lecture at some third-rate journalism school. Now, you can judge my opinion for what it is: the view of the son of an ethicist. But it seems to me that concepts like 'right' and 'wrong', 'duty' and 'principle' matter. Stewart's point about ends and means was particularly excellent (not to mention Kantian) and Carlson would clearly do well to take a refresher course on journalistic ethics, even from a third-rate school. My point here is that Carlson is doing what he and his ilk do best: dodging the issue by trying to denigrate his opponent. Too bad for Carlson, ad hominem arguments don't work when the man you're trying to bring down is so obviously your superior.

  • If you'd rather not download the rather large files linked to below, mainja has come through with a link to a streaming video of Jon Stewart on Crossfire. For you non-broadband types, this should be a little more palatable.

  • By the way, that Jon Stewart on CNN video: some of the greatest television I've ever seen. Stewart was my hero before, but he's ascended to deity status after this.

  • Video of Jon Stewart on CNN's Crossfire. Via Pandagon.

  • Assuming everything contained in this post is correct, Michael Powell is a disgusting little man. What little I know about Michael Powell would've led me to expect that anyway, but this pretty much confirms it.

  • More Bush National Guard records. What's with the Chinese water torture treatment? Drip... Drip... Is it a ploy to keep the media distracted from anything that matters? A series of genuine oversights and mistakes? Something more sinister?

  • If you watched the presidential debates, then you'll appreciate this David Brooks column. It pisses me off, only because it really is quite balanced and, frankly, anything that isn't vehemently anti-Bush is, to my eyes, horribly dangerous. Anyway, despite that, I still enjoyed the column.

  • Friday, October 15, 2004
  • And as I'm sitting here trying to choose between a nap and a coffee, let me point you to Get your war on's page 26, where find the best description of Coca-Cola ever: "It tastes like robot sweat."

  • I can't remember if I've pointed you to this before, but even if I have it's worth repeating: You should read "Get your war on". There's a lot of it now to get through, but it's hilarious.

  • So many bad tatoos, so many illiterate Westerners.

  • Ah, the Reagan era:
    During the first 40 years of commercial television, broadcasters were required by the federal government to provide equal time to political candidates during an election and to provide programming that was in 'the public interest.'
    But the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine' was abolished in 1987 as part of deregulation in the TV industry. In the 1990s, further deregulation allowed companies to own large numbers of stations, giving them more power and influence over the airwaves.

    Via Atrios, who notes that the Sinclair boycott is having some impact.

  • He is not well liked:
    The United States' reputation around the world is hurting, a series of co-ordinated polls published Friday from 10 countries, including Canada, indicated. ... And in eight out of 10 countries, those polled said - often in landslide proportions - they hope to see Democrat John Kerry beat President George W. Bush in next month's election. Bush won backing from a majority of respondents only in Russia and Israel. ... The polls were conducted in Canada, France, Britain, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Israel and Russia[.]

    Yet the latest Zogby poll shows Bush up by 4 points among Americans.

  • Thursday, October 14, 2004
  • Over 650 foreign affairs specialists in the United States and allied countries have signed an open letter opposing the Bush administration's foreign policy and calling urgently for a change of course.

    On a personnal note, the signatories include at least two of my professors. They come from all over the political and theoretical spectrum. If the Bushies bother to respond to this, they will no doubt decry these people as 'liberal academics' - but as my prof was observing yesterday: these are security specialists. They get more grant money, more jobs, more influence every time there's a war... Yet they still want Bush out! Frankly, getting this many foreign policy experts to agree on anything is pretty astounding. But, of course, Bush is a uniter, not a divider.

  • I really want to go to Kazakhstan. I don't know why it appeals to me so much. I know it's not just the Russian space launch facility. I don't know what it is. But anyway, if you happen to have a free ticket...

  • Kevin Drum's got a rundown of post-debate instapolling and I have rarely been so glad to be so very, very wrong. I was very, very disheartened during the debate, focussing on Kerry's weak points and things about Bush which (even if they irritated me - because everything about Bush irritates me) I figured would play well as 'strengths'. At any rate, based on four major polls, Kevin Drum declares, That's by far the biggest win for Kerry of the three debates. By next week I'll bet Kerry is 3-4 points ahead of Bush in nearly every poll.

  • Wednesday, October 13, 2004
  • This comment at Eschaton made me laugh:
    I lost my job but the preznit is going to send me to community college so I can learn to read, write, add, and subtract.

    That guy in Bangalore who took my systems analyst position won't know what hit him.

    What I saw of the debate online made me very unhappy. The kids over at Eschaton are making me a lot happier.

  • WaPo debate transcript.

  • Following up the James Baker story noted earlier... First, the involvement of Madeleine Albright in this is very disappointing. Second, Klein's observations at the end regarding Baker's lack of progress on Iraqi debt relief return us to a familiar refrain, oft repeated of Bush and his henchmen: Corrupt, or incompetent?

  • Debate tonight at 9pm ET.

  • There's a NATO meeting in Romania, which is interesting in and of itself. But what's happening there is interesting too. NATO is refusing to take control of combat operations in Afghanistan. It's perfectly happy providing security to Kabul, but the US wants to relinquish control of the combat mission there, and NATO isn't biting. At the same time, NATO is agreeing to provide training for security forces in Iraq.
    Overall, about 3,000 NATO troops, including logistics, security, and command personnel, could be sent to support the training mission. Some nations, including France, Belgium and Germany, initially raised objections to NATO training Iraqis inside of Iraq, citing security concerns and a suspicion that the training could grow into a combat operation.

    But those qualms have largely been addressed, NATO officials said. There are now about 40 NATO trainers in Baghdad, working mainly with senior Iraqi generals to establish national military command structures. The United States has been focusing largely on training Iraqi combat forces and British trainers have taken a leading role in training Iraqi national guard soldiers.

    As a result, the NATO role will be mainly to train senior non-commissioned officers and more senior officers in command-and-control procedures. "Our niche will be leadership training," said a NATO diplomat. All training of Iraqi security forces will fall under Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus of the Army.

    It's just curious is all. Here's Rumsfeld speaking about the need to equip the nascent Iraqi security forces:
    "We need more equipment, we need it from NATO nations, we need it from non-NATO nations, we need it gifted," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

    Look, we can't buy weapons for the Iraqis, we've promised all the money to Halliburton!

  • Fascinating and sickening. Naomi Klein on James Baker's travels and travails:
    Baker is on two sides of this transaction: He is supposed to be representing the interests of the United States, but he is also a senior counselor at Carlyle, and Carlyle wants to get paid to help Kuwait recover its debts from Iraq." After examining the documents, Clark called them "extraordinary." She said, "Carlyle and the other companies are exploiting Baker's current position to try to land a deal with Kuwait that would undermine the interests of the US government."

  • It's common knowledge that journalists often pre-write stories. They write up the basics of a story for an upcoming event beforehand and then fill in the details when it actually happens. But talke about being prepared. Some overachieving CBS editor must have written up this headline like 15 years ago: U.S.-Soviet Crew For Space Station.

  • Pierce Brosnan, aka James Bond, has become a US citizen.
    After the ceremony, Brosnan said: "I found a new life and identity in America - and I want to vote for John Kerry...."

    Right on. I just saw him on TV talking about how he wants to have a voice and wants to give his children a voice in US politics. This brings up something I've been thinking a lot lately: that the global power and influence of the US provides some moral justification for giving more foreigners a greater say in American politics. Anyway, hooray for Pierce. I wonder how many other people have been motivated to get a citizenship in time for this election.

  • Tuesday, October 12, 2004
  • You gotta love that down-home style:
    "People in Colorado know what is happening with the economy . . . all these jobs being lost," Edwards said during a town-hall-style meeting. "I guarantee you tomorrow in this debate, he's gonna try to put lipstick on this pig. But no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a pig, isn't it?"

    Yes, John, yes, you're right. Even wearing lots of lipstick, a pig is still a pig.

  • It's not even surprising anymore. Infuriating, but not surprising. Anyone who thinks democracy is a good thing, but should be apalled, but not surprised. And even though it isn't surprising, it should be really big news. The free news media, a pillar of a democratic society, should embarrass the hell out of Voters Outreach of America and anyone else who pulls this kind of shit. Reporters should make it their mission to publically shame these people. They have tried to undermine their country; they are traitors and should be treated as such.
    The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

    Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.

    Via Atrios, as usual.

  • Like fucking Vietnam. They got to keep the numbers up.
    They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, 'No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents.'

    That's Sy Hersh talking, whom I respect immensly. You can see him on the Daily Show (there's a video online, though I can't get to the link right at the moment). This comes to us via Atrios.

  • Really cuts the legs right out from under that argument:
    Cheney used to allege that Zarqawi could not have gotten treatment at a Baghdad hospital for his leg wound without Saddam's knowledge. But now there is doubt that Zarqawi had a leg wound.

    Okay, I know this is old news, but read Juan Cole's post. It's interesting, and it served its purpose as a vehicle for my punnery.

  • Sooner rather than later.
    Scientists have confirmed there has been a dramatic and unexpected increase in carbon dioxide levels. It's raised fears that the ability of the earth's oceans and plants to absorb carbon dioxide may be declining.

  • These people are so mixed up:
    The Republican Senate candidate in Oklahoma warns of "rampant" lesbianism in some schools in the state in a tape released Monday by his Democratic opponent.
    ...In the tape released by the campaign of Brad Carson, the Democratic candidate, Coburn says a campaign worker from Coalgate told him that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

    Mmm... rampant lesbians... Via Atrios.

  • Monday, October 11, 2004
  • I'm pleased to say that things actually look to be going okay for the legitimacy of Afghanistan's elections. There'll be an independent electoral commission to look into the irregularities and, for now at least, the opposition candidates are saying they'll respect its findings because the "national interest" is their highest priority. And I agree with this statement by Karzai:
    The U.S.-backed candidate said the polls should be a slap in the face to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers, and "show that people don't want them, that the people want a different life."

  • Have the time to write some letters? Sinclair Broadcast Group must be stopped. This link comes to us via every decent lefty blogger, because it's that important.

  • Having scanned through it a little, I can understand why the Village Voice called collision detection the "best blog to make you seem smarter at cocktail parties." Check it out. Via Majikthise.

  • I just googled "Jimmy fucking Swaggart" and (not surprisingly) got something useful. In case you forgot, we last heard from Swaggart in mid-September. Well, now he's apologized:
    On Wednesday, Swaggart said he's jokingly used the expression "killing someone and telling God he died" thousands of times, about all sorts of people. He said the expression is figurative, and not meant to harm.

    "It's a humorous statement that doesn't mean anything. You can't lie to God — it's ridiculous," Swaggart told The Associated Press. "If it's an insult, I certainly didn't think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology."

  • Superman has died.
    ...Reeve emerged to lobby Congress for better insurance protection against catastrophic injury and to move an Academy Award audience to tears with a call for more films about social issues.
    "Hollywood needs to do more," he said in the March 1996 Oscar awards appearance. "Let's continue to take risks. Let's tackle the issues. In many ways our film community can do it better than anyone else. There is no challenge, artistic or otherwise, that we can't meet."
    ...Reeve's support of stem cell research helped it emerge as a major campaign issue between President Bush and John Kerry. His name was even mentioned by Kerry earlier this month during the second presidential debate.

  • Sunday, October 10, 2004
  • Marines express frustration with the war in Iraq, via Philosoraptor. This is highly recommended reading.

  • Saturday, October 09, 2004
  • We all know that if Bush gets reelected, one of his top priorities will be to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court. What very few of us on the Left understood was that last night he as much as said so during the debate. We just missed it because he was speaking in code. Scary stuff. Via Kevin Drum.

    UPDATE: For a nice simple decoder ring for this thing, go here. The gist of the story is that Bush made some peculiar statements last night that seemed like a weird nonsequiter to the rest of us, but was a clear signal to the whacko anti-abortionists. When they tell the TV nets not to broadcast Bin Laden messages because their might be secret messages for his followers - this is the kind of thing they're talking about.

  • Red vs. Blue:


  • This from the Associated Press coverage of Bush's radio address today:
    Bush argued that he'll better protect the U.S. by aggressively going after terrorists. He points at his purported successes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Emphasis mine.

  • It doesn't take a truck bomb to wreck an election. Jesse discovers the likely reason Afghanistan got so little attention in last night's debate from either candidate.
    Afghanistan's first democratic election has been thrown into confusion after it was announced that most presidential candidates were boycotting it.

    Karzai's monopolized media time. There's largescale registration fraud. Voter intimidation (vote and we kill you; vote for Karzai or we burn down your house) is putting voters in an impossible situation. Bottom line: until this sort of thing gets significant play in the US press, Kerry can't just bring it up in a debate. But, though Bush mentioned the Afghani election last night, he may not want to harp on it either. Other bottom line: If the Afghan election is not perceived to be legitimate among Afghanis, Karzai will not have the clout to effect any real changes. Either change will occur by dint of force, or Afghanistan will continue to 'drift toward tragedy', to borrow a phrase of the W's.

    UPDATE: Newsweek's story: 'We Don't Recognize the Results'
    Reuters: Afghan poll mired in turmoil

  • This kind of thing must be stopped. Via Atrios, who points out that if this were a Liberal, the media would go ballistic.
    The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering its stations to preempt regular programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives familiar with the plan said Friday. ... The airing of "Stolen Honor" will be followed by a panel discussion, which Kerry will be asked to join, thus potentially satisfying fairness regulations, the sources said.

    This is Sinclair and the people behind the film:
    The company made headlines in April when it ordered seven of its stations not to air Ted Koppel's "Nightline" roll call of military dead in Iraq, deeming it a political statement "disguised as news content." ... "Stolen Honor" was made by Carlton Sherwood, a Vietnam veteran and former reporter for the conservative Washington Times who is also the author of a book about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

    The Left is better, though only by a matter of degree:
    Representatives of Michael Moore's anti-Bush "Fahrenheit 9/11," which has grossed $214 million worldwide, are in talks for a deal to make the film available on pay-per-view cable the night before the election. The Sundance Channel plans to air live clips Monday from the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" rock concert.

    Kevin Drum provides all the contact information.



  • The more I think about it, the more I want to retract my earlier comment that Bush spoke relatively eloquently about stem-cell research. Bush's line was that you need to balance 'science' with 'ethics'. It sounded good, and it took me in for a little while. But it's just stupid: it's not science being balanced against ethics; it's two separate ethical options. You can pursue research that could lead to miraculous new cures for many serious issues, or you can protect some embryos. The question is not whether science or ethics matters more, because science has no ethical weight as such.

  • A questioner raised the Stem-Cell issue during the debate. Bush was surprisingly eloquent, though I still felt Kerry was more so. Kerry made some very good points. It's too bad he didn't mention
    this report: embryonic stem cells have been used to cure a fatal heart defect in a developing mouse fetus. What would Bush's fetus-obsessed principles tell him about this research?

  • Josh Marshall calls it a draw. Jesse says it's "pretty clearly a Kerry win." Kevin Drum figures Kerry will pick up a few more points as a result of tonight. Everyone agrees its the spin that matters most, especially since it was also obviously a closer match than before.

    Something to watch: Will the Democrats manage to make Bush look like a total ass over his wood comment?

    Kerry sort of messed up a few good answers. In response to a good question about the environment, he babbled (seemingly out of nowhere) about labels for a bit before addressing the question. This was doubly unfortunate because Bush actually managed to sound like he gave two shits about the environment and could talk about his "accomplishments" in that regard. In retrospect, though, I can see what Kerry was trying to do. Bush was repeatedly labelling him a 'liberal', which in America's twisted political discourse is a kind of insult.

    Kerry's response was poorly timed and not that well put together, but the approach is perfect: Bush calls me a 'liberal' and himself a 'compassionate conservative', but the names are meaningless in Bush's Orwellian world. Forget the labels, look at the policies: I support responsible government that gets things done with a balanced budget, he supports giving your tax dollars and the blood of your children to his rich friends. I support environmental programs, he supports the words "Clear Skies".

    The good nuancing moment I referred to below was indeed on the partial birth abortion ban. In general, Kerry looked a little uncomfortable with the abortion issue, like he was trying too hard to look like he understood the concerns of the anti-abortion people, but what he really wanted to do was just say, "Oh, for Crissakes, it's just a tiny ball of calls, you fundamentalist nutbars!" Anyway, Bush was very comfortable with it and it gave him a good chance to portray himself as a straight-talker against Kerry's off-putting verbosity. Kerry had some good points, but they seemed to get lost in the presentation. Here's the good part:
    KERRY: Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16-or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help, I voted against it. It's never quite as simple as the president wants you to believe.

    GIBSON: And 30 seconds, Mr. President.

    BUSH: Well, it's pretty simple when they say: Are you for a ban on partial birth abortion? Yes or no?

    And he was given a chance to vote, and he voted no. And that's just the way it is. That's a vote. It came right up. It's clear for everybody to see. And as I said: You can run but you can't hide the reality.

    Kerry just gave a brutally clear reason why any effort to make abortions depend on parental-notification needs a little nuance, which clearly justifies voting against the bill. Bush jumps up out of his chair to get his full thirty seconds and simply doesn't get it. He just repeats that it's simple, black and white, cut and dry. But what about the girl who got raped by her father, Bush? You've got no answer for her.

  • Friday, October 08, 2004
  • Australia is voting tonight. My friend in Australia anticipates, with considerable regret, a Liberal reelection. Has the Bush kiss of death finally run its course, then?

  • Caught most of the debate (transcript) online, despite some connection problems. I don't feel I can assess it yet, partly because I had to switch between various video and audio feeds throughout most of it.

    Bush said some stupid stuff; Kerry fumbled some answers. Bush lied a lot, though nothing like Cheney the other night. I followed two livebloggers: Jesse at Pandagon and Katharine Seelye at the New York Times. Jesse was clearly pleased by Kerry. Seelye, it seemed to me, was often right but focussed on Bush's positives and Kerry's negatives. Bush did manage to sound like he knew what he was talking about for a lot of the questions, citing fairly small details and so forth. He may have been more appealing to the uninformed viewer. But he generally just dodged the real issues in order to get to pleasant talking points. The factchecking is going to be fun.

    Kerry did a lot of nuancing. This sometimes worked well (Bush at one point leapt up to respond to some of Kerry's nuancing and demonstrated that he simply didn't get it - might have been on partial birth abortion) and sometimes didn't (tort reform). It was good to say to the American people: these issues are not all black and white and W doesn't get that, but occasionally Kerry played into the he's-always-trying-to-have-it-both-ways image they're trying to paint him with.

    Now it's spin time.


  • My girlfriend flew to Paris today for a week-long visit, so I'm particularly interested in this story. This morning, a bomb exploded outside the Indonesian empbassy. So far, there's no explanation why this happened. France has the been targeted by Islamic extremists because of its anti-Hijab law. Indonesia is a hotbed of fundamentalism and there have been several attacks of Western interests there (most notably the night club bombing in Bali). But the Indonesian embassy in France doesn't quite fit in with these points - it's not exactly an attack on Indonesia, nor exactly on France. So, what the hell?

  • One of the reasons those of us who value all that is good and right in the world detest George Bush so much is the fact that when one party in a debate starts lying, it strongly encourages other parties to do the same, while simultaneously removing some of the natural disincentives to lie.

    It's hard to compete with someone who has all the facts on their side, even when that's only because they made all the facts up. Often, the only way to keep afloat is to imitate the technique and counter lies with lies. At the same time, once you've started lying, it's increasingly hard to gain any advantage by pointing out that your opponent's lying, since they can do the same back to you.

    One of the reasons those of us who value all that is good and right in the world detest George Bush so much is that we know there is a very good chance he will corrupt us all.

    I think it's fair to say that the Kerry camp's distortions still pale in comparison to the way in which Bush has lied about every significant issue he's dealt with during his presidency, particularly because his lies have enabled him to pursue his malignant policies. Even so, I regret that Bryan Keefer was impelled to write that "In a new ad entitled 'Powerful,' John Kerry levels some of the most misleading charges his campaign has made to date."

  • Public prosecutors in Michigan are refusing to prosecute Michael Moore for giving out underwear and Ramen noodles in his get-out-the-vote campaign. Here's why:
    'Alleging that a person is attempting to buy votes is a serious allegation, and one that is taken seriously by this office. However, your request to prosecute Mr. Moore trivializes the intent of this section of the election code,' wrote Antrim County's Charles Koop in a letter to Greg McNeilly, executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.
    Isabella County's Larry Burdick said he chooses 'to devote our resources to prosecuting those who are delivering cocaine to our young people rather than underwear,' AP reported.

    Good to see these people have some respect for themselves and the offices they hold. Too bad the Michigan Republicans don't.

  • You may have heard that the latest vote-for-Bush-or-you-all-die alert, from the Dept of Education this time, was apparently prompted by a computer disk found in Iraq which contained specific information about some US schools.

    When I read about this earlier today, the only detail available about the information was that it had all been downloaded from public Internet sites. That fact alone was just about enough to dissuade any residual inclination I had to give these craven fearmongers the benefit of my considerable doubt. But I'm glad to report that, thanks to Nick Confessore, my doubt is now complete, and I am happy to say that the disk in no way indicates any threat to US schoolchildren.
    The Department of Homeland Security official said the material was associated with a person in Iraq, and it could not be established that this person had any ties to terrorism. He did have a connection to civic groups doing planning for schools in Iraq, the official said. [Emphasis added]

  • Afghanistan:
    Security forces in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar say they have thwarted an attack that could have killed hundreds of people.
    A tanker carrying 40,000 litres of fuel and packed with explosives was intercepted on the eve of the country's first direct presidential elections.

    Let's hope this goes smoothly. Sure, it's been timed to help Bush. There's widespread voter fraud. But if an attack like this one is successful, how long will it be before Afghans go to the polls again?

  • Pakistan:
    A bill to let General Pervez Musharraf continue as both president of Pakistan and head of the army has been presented to the national assembly. ... President Musharraf had pledged to resign as army chief by 31 December.

    An America devoted to spreading democracy would be speaking out and looking for ways to help Musharraf give up the army.

    What about Canada? If we have the resources, we should be in there too, seeking good ways to return Pakistan to democracy. Somehow, though, I don't think it would be good for Canada to be too outspoken about this though. Quiet diplomacy, that should be our means.

  • Given the stories their media feeds them, you can understand Americans' tendency to view themselves as the sane ones, yes?
    At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. ... People expecting children can choose a pre-approved name from a government list of 7,000 mostly Western European and English names - 3,000 for boys, 4,000 for girls. A few ethnic names, like Ali and Hassan, have recently been added. But those wishing to deviate from the official list must seek permission at their local parish church, where all newborns' names are registered. A request for an unapproved name triggers a review at Copenhagen University's Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, which has the ultimate authority. The law only applies if one of the parents is Danish.

  • Today in the Times, Bremer defends Bush and adopts the party line on troop levels and all that. I don't know much about Bremer, but I know not to trust anyone who writes this:
    As the bipartisan 9/11 commission reported, there were contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime going back a decade. We will win the war against global terror only by staying on the offensive and confronting terrorists and state sponsors of terror - wherever they are. Right now, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Qaeda ally, is a dangerous threat. He is in Iraq.

    President Bush has said that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. He is right. Mr. Zarqawi's stated goal is to kill Americans, set off a sectarian war in Iraq and defeat democracy there. He is our enemy.

    So much mendacity in so few lines. (The Times should really by now start trying to avoid helping these people propagate their lies.) Anyway, it looks like there will be no Karl Rove smear campaign for Bremer.

  • What are cool kids doing this Friday night? Watching the presidential debate, of course. 9pm EST on and probably elsewhere.

  • Um... John Kerry and George Bush in a Galactic Debate.

  • Whether it happens in this country or to the south, Michael Moore can't seem to stop illegaly influencing voters getting falsely accused of nonexistent crimes by rightwingers eager to abuse the justice system.

  • Thursday, October 07, 2004
  • As anticipated, we still have a government.

    The media coverage of this amendment/sub-amendment/vote story has been, to my eyes, woefully inadequate. The Liberals say this amendment would have undermined parliamentary control of the public finances, while the Conservatives say it was no big deal. I haven't yet seen any decent analysis of what was actually voted on, so I have no idea whose version is closer to the truth. If you see any such analysis, post a link in the comments. The whole little drama's been, frankly, annoying.

  • BTW, here's a transcript of Bush's speech last night. I only got about halfway through it before I had to abandon the effort in disgust. Nothing new there. Fred Kaplan of Slate describes how Bush conned the TV networks into giving him a free hour of TV in which to attack Kerry in front of adoring crowd.

    Long story short: He told them he had a "major policy address" to deliver, then gave nothing more than his standard campaign speech. This abuse of executive power (hardly the only one this week) raises at least two questions: Do the networks mind being used this way, and if so, what are the consequences for Bush? In a week where there has been so much bad news on Iraq - Bremer's critique, the WMD report, Rumsfeld's honesty misstatements - why doesn't Bush have an actual major policy address?

  • If the Canadian government falls tonight, who will get the blame? Harper, for pushing too hard to weaken the federal government vis-a-vis the provinces, or Martin, for staking the government's survival on this issue? Here's how the globe describes the amendment and Liberal House Leader Tony Valeri's view of it:
    The amendment, which is to be voted on at approximately 6:30 p.m. EST, asks Ottawa to respect provincial jurisdictions and take into account that federal taxing powers weaken provincial ability to raise revenues.

    Mr. Valeri said the amendment "suggests that the federal government abdicate its responsibility for the physical framework and for unifying the country itself."

    Mr. Valeri said it would alter the physical framework of the country and the Liberals cannot accept it. And Liberal Environment Minister Stephane Dion told reporters that the government cannot allow one province to dictate how Ottawa conducts its business.

    If we go to the polls again, Canadians will be pissed off. It's already freaking October. Harper and Martin are each sure to spin it as the other side's fault, but I doubt either one feels confident they'd win that battle.

  • When systemic and regional games collide, to use the language of international relations theory. From Kevin Drum and the LA Times:
    Hussein often denied U.S. assertions that he possessed banned weapons in defiance of U.N. resolutions, but for years he also persisted in making cryptic public statements to perpetuate the myth that he actually did have them. The Iraq Survey Group believes that he continued making those statements long after he had secretly ordered the destruction of his stockpiles.

    Based on the interrogations, it appears that Hussein underestimated how seriously the United States took the weapons issue, and he believed it was vital to his own survival that the outside world — especially Iran — think he still had them.

    It was a strategy, Hussein has told his FBI interrogators during the last 10 months, that was aimed primarily at bluffing Iraq's neighbor to the east.

    Students of International Relations like to talk about 'two-level games', according to which political leaders are caught in the nexus between the domestic and international realms. These realms are sufficiently distinct that they can place very different pressures on the leaders, such as populist pressures for worker-protecting tarriffs and international pressures for free trade. But perhaps the contradictions within the international realm itself can be seen in terms of another distinction of levels: the systemic and the regional. The regional game means Hussein has to appear tough, while the systemic (i.e. world) game means he has to appear weak. It's a tall order, and he failed.

    Part of what's so interesting about this to me is that this is the first time I've ever seen this explanation. Evidently, Hussein was following a very rational strategy within what, in retrospect, look like very obvious conditions - the rules of the game. Yet all the efforts to explain his ambiguous behaviour (at least all the efforts I've seen) totally failed to see this possibility, totally failed to get inside his head. We've seen bureaucratic explanations: Hussein's underlings hid from him the fact that they were complying with the UN. We've seen psychological explanations: he's nuts. Theoretically, at least, this explanation is far more satisfying and has the added advantage of apparently coming directly from the source.

    Like, really, suppose Iran had decided to invade Iraq anytime in the last decade. How many allies could Hussein have brought to his side? How upset would the international community really have gotten with Iran, given Iraq's pariah status?

  • Wednesday, October 06, 2004
  • Factcheck dot yourself.

    Ezra notes that has factchecked Cheney's lies about, which he also erroneously called "". In addition to using the wrong name, Cheney lied when he "wrongly implied that [] had rebutted allegations Edwards was making about what Cheney had done as chief executive officer of Halliburton.

    Meanwhile, the owners of the domain name redirected their site's traffic to because the massive increase in traffic due to Cheney's mistake was going to cost them money in bandwidth - and also because they're not fans of Cheney. Kevin Drum has the details.

  • Watch this. It's funny, you'll like it. Via AMERICAblog.

  • First chuckle, then cry.

    Josh Marshall today notes a phenomenon I mentioned below, namely the difficulty Republican surrogates are having choosing the best lie with which to respond to Paul Bremer's recent statements. Some of them say one thing; others say something contradictory - and they all look like fools.
    So with the regime-change dead-enders' media strategy you have dishonest arguments, poor coordination, lack of a game plan. Remind you of anything?

  • Best live blogging of the VP debate clearly goes to Wonkette.

  • I had no idea the other great apes were doing so badly. We gotta do something about it.

  • Must... go... to bed...

    In a minute. Early polling news looks pretty good (though it all depends on the post-debate coverage). Uncommitted voters look to be putting Edwards on top by a large margin. But far, far more significant (to me anyway) is this post, which I will simply reproduce in its entirety:
    FACTCHECK.COM....Heh heh. This is pretty funny.

    During the debate, Dick Cheney mentioned that you could go to to get the real scoop on Halliburton. What he meant was, a nonpartisan site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

    But if you click on, as many people probably will, you get redirected to.....

    Oh, just go ahead and do it. This is really too rich to give away.

    Josh Marshall reports on rumours that was a dead URL during the debate and that some clever soul set up the redirect to take immediate advantage of Cheney's screwup. Fun, fun.

    FYI, looks like a decent outfit.

  • Long-term strategy. The debates, of course, are very much a matter of expectations. Both campaigns push the line beforehand that their own candidate suffers from some debilitating speech impediment and that the other candidate's oratory skills are second to none. After the fact, they can say, "Look our guy did so much better and their guy did so much worse than everyone thought they would!"

    But what if the Republicans are thinking long-term this time around? They know that Bush is a miserable speaker. They know he's unlikable. They know his strong suit is fear and war and his weak suit is everything else. So they insisted that the first debate be foreign policy, and then had him act like even more of a doofus than usual. Take a few hits on foreign policy up front. Sure, it'll hurt. But fundamentally, Americans (because they are retarded) consistenly prefer the Republicans on security issues. Americans, figures Karl Rove, will quickly come back to the Republicans on security. But in terms of the expectations game, nothing could lower our expectations of GW like his performance last Thursday. If Bush performs significantly better in the coming debates, where domestic issues like jobs and health care will also be on the agenda, than he did last week on foreign policy, it could act to reassure voters about his weaknesses - even if he still performs terribly.

    I know, it's ridiculous. The man's a nincompoop. I'm just, er, noodling.

  • During tonight's Vice Presidential debate (transcript), Master Puppeteer Dick Cheney said:
    "The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror."

    Yet somehow, 62% of Republicans think Saddam was behind September 11th. Funny, that. Cheney's strategy appears to be to counter the Democrats' accusation that Bush-Cheney went after the wrong guy (Saddam rather than Osama Bin Oops We Forgot) by saying he never claimed Saddam was behind September 11th, he just said Saddam had ties to Al-Qaeda. I'm putting it more succinctly, of course. When Cheney makes this argument he puts the two parts (1. Never said that; 2. Said something nearly identical and every bit as misleading and false) as from each other as possible, since putting them together exposes his verbal contortionism for what it is. Of course, I'm assuming it's true that he never actually said Saddam was behind 9/11... I'm far from being sure that assumption is correct.

    I saw parts of the debate, but not the whole thing. It seems to have been a weird event in several ways. My general sense is: (a) because these are VP candidates, this debate matters much, much less than the presidential debates; (b) because of the lower viewership and also the fact that the debaters are so much more evenly matched than in the presidential debates, the public perception of this debate will depend even more heavily on the post-debate spin.

  • Tuesday, October 05, 2004
  • Also from Kevin Drum, you should definitely read this post on RFID passports and ubiquitous surveillance. Big Brother stuff.

  • Mathematical proof that Bush's approval rating go up an average of 2.75% after the government issues a terror warning. The spike in his approval rating only lasts a week so Kevin Drum is expecting a warning on October 27th.

  • Bremer

    First, let me just say that this is how you frame an issue:
    At a campaign stop in Tipton, Iowa, Kerry said the question for voters was whether Bush was ''constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the truth'' or was ''just so stubborn.''

    It's a quirk of the English language, perhaps, that the simple disjuntive "or" so strongly connotes exhaustiveness, but there you have it. If Bush isn't 'incapable of acknowledging the truth', he's 'so stubborn' or vice versa. Rah-rah false dichotomies!

    Anyway, read this excellent review of the Bushies' efforts to stamp out the bushfires (no pun intended) igniting all around them. The foremost bushfire comes in the form of former Iraq Proconsul Paul Bremer, who has been saying the US needed more troops on the ground from the get go and that he repeatedly asked for them. The Bush response is to throw up as many counterarguments as possible and see if any of them will stick. They've said that the military brass was satisfied and that Bush lets the miliary make the strategic choices. That's a load of crap. The military brass wanted more guys; Rumsfeld, too enamoured of the idea of a new kind of high-tech military, wouldn't let them have them. They've also just flat-out denied that Bremer ever requested more troops. Again, a load of crap.

    Atrios is waiting for the slime attacks on Bremer. I find it a little hard to believe they'd turn on him as publically as they did on some of their other former appointees-turned-harshest critics. Bremer was a very public figure, very closely associated in the public mind with Bush. They can turn on Richard Clarke or Paul O'Neill because - despite being Bush appointees - they were never had much of a public profile before they turned on their boss. Bremer's a different story.

  • Rumsfeld: no known ties between Al-Qaeda and Saddam. The BBC says this weakens "one of the pillars on which the war was justified." Hard to see how that pillar could get any weaker.

    Update: Rumsfeld says he was misunderstood, but his retraction merely asserts that he thought there were indeed ties. He does not explain what he actually meant.

  • Monday, October 04, 2004
  • Rice is not Nice:
    Rice claimed in September 2002 that the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs."

    On ABC's "This Week," Rice said she was aware of debate over the tubes but that they were part of a larger body of evidence pointing to a nuclear threat.

    "What you had was a debate in the intelligence community," Rice said.

    "The tubes were alongside a lot of other evidence about experts being kept together, about balancing equipment being brought in, about how these procurement efforts were being funded," she said.

    Right... Except you still lied when you said they weren't suitable for anything but making nuclear material.

  • The CIA sure ain't what it used to be.

  • Space tourism is coming. SpaceShipOne took the X Prize.
    The team behind SpaceShipOne have been signed up already by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson to build five spaceliners to take paying passengers on short, sub-orbital hops.

    You'll get a three or four hour trip, with about 4 minutes of weightlessness, for about US$205,000.

  • Via commenters at">Political Animal, where Kevin Drum is feeding the speculation over whether or not Bush was wearing an earpiece at the debate, this clip of Bush in France during the D-Day memorial. Due to some technical glitch, you can hear Bush's lines being said by someone else before he says them - as though we were accidentally listening in on his earpiece.

    The video goes much longer than necessary. You don't have to watch any past the point where it cuts away from Bush.

  • The Saudi Arabian US government has got to stop funding Wahabbi madrasas the Moonies.

  • Debate news weirdness.

    Bush campaign communications director on Bush's sighing and wiggling about like a peeved toddler:
    "The president is a man of deep convictions," Devenish said. "The president reacted honestly. It showed the president really believes in his convictions."

    Right, the fact that our guy doesn't have the patience or good will to stand by politely and take his opponent seriously indicates the quality of his character. Vote for George: He's so honest, he can't even hide the fact that he's an asshole... Also, who doesn't believe in their own convictions?

    The debate got over 60 million TV viewers, which is a lot. The AP story notes that CBS's viewership was down from four years ago, and tries to explain that fact as a reaction to Rathergate:
    Nielsen ratings for the debate offered indications of a potential viewer backlash against CBS's Dan Rather, under fire for the network's discredited report on Bush's National Guard service.

    For much of the country, the hit show Survivor preceded the debate, and it led all the networks in its time slot with 21.1 million viewers, Nielsen said. But for the debate itself, CBS had 13.5 million viewers - actually lower than for the first Bush-Gore matchup in 2000.

    That indicates a significant number of viewers switched channels from CBS when the debate came on.

    Would I be wrong to suggest an alternative explanation? Is it naive of me to think it possible that a substantial number of Survivor fans are simply not big politics buffs and turned CBS off after the show, while a different set of people tuned in specifically for the debates? Or maybe the 'off' buttons on American TVs have been removed just in case Tom Ridge or John Ashcroft decide to announce a terror alert.

  • Canadian news roundup.

    The Canadian government is getting back to work. First meeting of parliament is today, but the first real business day is tomorrow. The throne speech, which will be presented tomorrow. Foccuses included Health Care, the proposed National Daycare program, increasing the size of the military, and a Northern Initiative, which aims to develop the North and protect Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. The Globe also reports that the environment will get particular attention, especially the drive to develop alternative energies.

    At Harvard today, former Justice Minister Martin Cauchon will give a speech calling on PM PM to move quickly to legalize gay marriage and decriminalize pot. Martin, says the Globe, looks to be hoping to keep clear of potentially divisive issues. Cauchon is trying to position himself as a good, leftist Liberal in the quest to one day succeed the Big PM.

    Also in the Globe today, our provincial premiers, led by Quebec's own Jean Charest, are pushing for a greater role for the provinces in international affairs. Much silliness ensues.

    Finally, the Canadian Press notes the increasing salience of Bush's missile shield to Canadian politics.
    The sharply focussed debate is an ironic contrast to the situation in the United States, where missile defence seems lost in the presidential political static.

  • moon phases



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