Wednesday, June 30, 2004

plain talking biden

Salon: Big Old Bullfrogs:

"About six months ago, the president said to me, 'Well, at least I make strong decisions, I lead.' I said, 'Mr. President, look behind you. Leaders have followers. No one's following. Nobody."

Wow. Really makes you want to know what was said right before that prompted the "at least".

[100th post. Woohoo!]

gee what a surprise

From Reuters: Drug Prices Rose After Medicare Law, Group Says

ashcroft vs clinton in 2008?

From Politics: "Some Republicans are wondering whether Mr. Ashcroft would be asked to return for a second Bush term if the president is re-elected in November, or whether he would choose not to serve again, perhaps to pursue his own run for the presidency in 2008."

Wow, just think of the possibilities. Two of the most polarizing people on right and left duking it out for the presidency?

I'm always amused by Hilary Clinton's ability to incite foaming of the mouth on the part of conservatives. They truly seem to hate her, and I've never really figured out why she became a lightning rod for so much crap. It's been so much fun watching freepers construct deep dark conspiracy theories about how Hil's planning to hijack this year's convention, about how she's skewering the VP selection to prevent any heir apparent standing in her way in 2008 or 2012. As if she, along with every other liberal in America, isn't doing everything she can to get the nutso idealogues out of the WH this year.

On the other hand, liberals do a bit of foaming themselves when the subject of Ashcroft comes up. I'd like to think it's far more justified, since Ashcroft actually holds a position of power and has materially affected hundreds of thousands of lives with his repressive policies. [Hilary garnered her animus as First Lady, a mostly ceremonial post, mostly it seems because she tried to do something substantive with it. And people forget that the Prez gets to appoint anyone he wants to work on special projects, including ex-felons, unlicensed lawyers, sons, daughters, husbands of political allies, and yes wives.]

For my part, I don't think I could take the level of overt partisanship that would inevitably ensue in a Clinton vs. Ashcroft world. But then again, I may have built up a tolerance for it by then.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

john kerry fact for the day

"Every time we've passed an increase in the minimum wage, America's done better, notwithstanding those arguments.

When I'm president, the first thing we're going to do is start to raise that minimum wage to $7 an hour and allow people in America to be able to work and get out of poverty for the work that they do.

But it's not limited to minimum wage…you've got to start talking about a living wage that so many mayors are beginning to talk about."

Monday, June 28, 2004

quote of the week

Charles Pierce on Altercation: " In fact, the most heartbreaking thing about F 9/11 is that we are now engaged in the national argument over a film that we should have had about going to war."

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Why have I heard no discussion of NATO involvement from the left-leaning blogs I read regularly? Are they all working on big big stories about it? Is it a subject that puts Bush in a positive light--and of course none of us want that? What's going on? It was the same way with the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. I think there is something there--I've heard it discussed ad nauseum on right-wing radio. But zip-zero from lefties.

This is too bad. As a liberal, I want to be well-rounded informed. I want to be able to talk to my more conservative acquaintances and not have them blindside me about topics I know nothing about.

Regarding NATO, I can read the AP reports like everyone else. But it raises more questions than it answers--questions I'd like answered. For example, is this whole NATO effort anything more than a photo op? What are the advantages/disadvantages--to Bush as well as the world--to working through NATO instead of the UN? In fact, is this a deliberate effort to sideline the UN while still appearing to work internationally? Does the US have more influence on NATO activities that UN? Or is this deliberate snub of the UN? What are the global ramifications of NATO involvement in Iraq? Why didn't the Bushies try to involve NATO earlier? What is a true assessment of how effective these NATO plans can be in the near term? In the long term?

hitler politics

I've been regularly amazed these past few months at the anti-Kerry/ant-Dem rhetoric coming from the Bushies and Repubs. So often it seems like the accusations against Dems are either real stretches or outright fabrications, but at the same time are almost perfect characterizations of the Bush Administration.

For example, the flip flop complaint. Virtually every specific example cited against Kerry can only be accepted using a willful misunderstanding of the facts. Such as expecting someone to have the same opinions about an issue twenty years apart. Or demanding that a person must vote either for all wars or against all wars, regardless of circumstances. In contrast, one of the Bush Administration's most notable characteristics has been to push and push their view and then buckle when public opinion coalesces on the opposite site. The past three years are rife with examples. Such as SEC reform after the Enron debacle--their initial stance was the "one bad apple" refrain (heard that lately?), insisting that the overall system was sound. Of course, that was before Global Crossing, Adelphia, and a host of others fell like dominos and the public started howling. Reform was coming, so the Bushies jumped on the bandwagon in order to garner a few kudos as well as drive the reform their way. Same scenario can be seen in the Homeland Security Dept inception, the 9/11 investigation, working with the UN over Iraq (a short-lived sidetrack), the Plame investigation, testifying before investigations, etc.

So now back to "hitler politics". This web ad with images of Hitler seems to fit the pattern. I mean, seriously, when you look at Kerry and look at Bush, which one's policies and methods better fit the pattern? Which one advocates unilateral action over diplomacy? Which one drums up support by hammering the "supremacy" of the American people? Which one believes its a good thing for the country's private citizens to spy and inform on each other? Which one thinks its ok to hold individuals in prison for years without representation, due process, or--in many cases--communication with their families? Which one boldly announces that they are above, not only international law, but the laws of their own country?

Is there some kind of disconnect here, that the Bushies can't see the irony in their accusations? Wasn't that a general Aryan characteristic--the inability to see themselves as others see them?

I think the Bushies better be careful. Once they open the hitler door, what makes them think only Repubs can walk through?

Friday, June 25, 2004

new bush ad

Well, this ad ("The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party") is just stupid as well as amazingly offensive.

It's stupid because, in order to show emotional clips, they also have to include substantive rhetoric, such as Al Gore shouting "How dare they drag the good name of the US through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prisons", Michael Moore stating, very firmly, "We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for ficticious reasons", and Dick Gephardt saying "This president is a miserable failure." As far as I can tell, this ad will only resonate with the 35% of the people who think this country's on the right track. And they're certainly already commited. So what's really going on? My first thought is that they're seriously misjudging the average person's ability to take in the words as well as the pictures. My second thought is that perhaps I am seriously underestimating the average person's capacity to choose comfort over facing facts.

The Hitler images are just offensive (a word I rarely use), because there is no context in which to understand why they're there. The viewer would have to remember a minor flap back in February over two ads submitted to a contest to figure out the ostensible point--that Dems are comparing Bush to Hitler. There is one brief clip that says "sponsored by" but again there's no frame of reference at all. To all intents and purposes, the ad appears to be trying to say that Hitler is one of the "faces" of the current Democratic Party. Disgusting.

august kroll

born October 4, 1922
died June 25, 2004
A good man.

dave ross for jennifer dunn's old seat

OK, Dave Ross has his web site up and running for business. Here's a snippet from the campaign letter he just sent out:
Listeners have asked me throughout my career - are you a liberal or a conservative, and what do you mean by "common sense?" I'll report - you decide:

  • I'm liberal enough to know that government has no business controlling any woman's reproductive choices.

  • I'm liberal enough to know that the burden of proof should be on those who pump waste into the air, not those of us who must breathe it.

  • I'm liberal enough to think that the richest nation on earth can provide a better safety net than Tent City.

  • I'm conservative enough to understand that it doesn't help national security to attack the wrong enemy.

  • I'm conservative enough to insist on an honest budget process that doesn't pretend war is free.

  • I'm conservative enough to know that Social Security is a promise that can't be replaced by a Wall Street gamble.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

what is a rant?

intransitive verb: To speak or write in a angry or violent manner; rave.
transitive verb: To utter or express with violence or extravagance: a dictator who ranted his vitriol onto a captive audience.
Woke up this morning to KIRO News (CBS, I think) reporting that, although this time Gore didn't raise his voice, he was again attacking the Bush Administration.

This was obviously written by a reporter who neither read nor saw Gore's last speech.

Yesterday on NPR I heard a clip of the Clinton interview, and I believe it was the part where he was supposed to have lost his temper. On radio, although he definitely carries some emotion in his voice, it certainly doesn't detract from the point of his comments, which are presented as a well-reasoned argument.

If anyone wants to see someone really ranting, call up some of the video from Rumsfeld press conferences in March/April 2003. Remember when he claimed that all the news coverage of the post invasion looting was the same boy running away with a vase?

From an official transcript (April 11, 2004):
Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, "My goodness, were there that many vases?" (Laughter.) "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"

Q: Do you think that the words "anarchy" and "lawlessness" are ill-chosen --

Rumsfeld: Absolutely. I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny Penny -- "The sky is falling." I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that's being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free. And all this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a civilian, who they claimed we had shot -- one thing after another. It's just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country!

Do I think those words are unrepresentative? Yes.
Rumsfeld: Well, let's just take a city. Take the port city, Umm Qasr -- what the plan was. Well, the British went in, they built a pipeline bringing water in from Kuwait; they cleared the mine of ports (sic); they brought ships in with food; they've been providing security. In fact, they've done such a lousy job, that the city has gone from 15,000 to 40,000. Now think of that. Why would people vote with their feet and go into this place that's so bad? The reason they're going in is because they're food, there's water, there's medicine and there's jobs. That's why. The British have done a fantastic job. They've done an excellent job.

And, does that mean you couldn't go in there and take a television camera or get a still photographer and take a picture of something that was imperfect, untidy? I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. Andm it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

august kroll

One of the best men I've ever known suffered a massive stroke last night and is not expected to survive the day. August Kroll was a veteran of World War II, a Marine volunteer before Pearl Harbor who lost his right arm somewhere in the Pacific. He came home to marry, father three children, and spend his life teaching high school social studies. Most of his teaching career was spent in Seattle, although he spent several years in a teaching exchange program, taking his family to Australia and Europe. Before and after retiring, August worked in East and South Africa; he taught Swahili to his Seattle students, and his home was filled with African artwork.

I knew August for only the last ten years of his life. We were neighbors, sharing a duplex with a common yard and a common wall. He was opinionated and vocal, highly intelligent, and extraordinarily kind. One minute he'd be standing nose to nose with some neighborhood bully, giving him what for with a glint in his eyes that hinted he'd just love the chance to show what he was made of. The next he'd be talking philosophy with the local drunk.

He'd like to think he was an independent cuss, but he knew just about everyone in the neighborhood and everyone knew him. The past few years he'd planted some quite spectacular peonies and daylilies in the front of our homes. One time he told me about a couple who came up to look at one particularly beautiful deep red peony and engaged him in conversation. He cut off one of the blooms and presented it to the woman, who was so appreciative he was tickled pink even days later. But woe betide the person who conducted night raids on his flowers and left only chopped off stems and trampled plants. He had no good thing to say about you. Neither the people who brazenly looted his garden during the light of day, possibly assuming an 82-year-old would be a push over. Boy, were you wrong.

But what was it that made him so special? It wasn't just that we shared a birthday along with our yard and our wall. We had long talks on politics and history, I heard plenty of stories, such as the year he and his family lived perilously close to a Cadbury factory in Australia. I heard stories about his son, Keith, a well-respected research scientist, who died in 1997 of stomach cancer. I didn't hear near enough stories.

But it wasn't just his reminiscences that made him special. August Kroll had an amazingly strong sense of ethics, honed his whole life, but which had somehow remained a living, breathing philosophy instead of hardening into some intractable set of rights and wrongs. And he made those ethics be known to those around him in such a way that you felt it was easy to know what was the right thing to do. Not that it was easy to do it, but that once you'd figured out the right thing, you had no excuse but to do it, whatever it was. And you wanted to do it, because it was the right thing, but also because August Kroll would think well of you. He must have been an amazing teacher.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

kerry's health care plan

Just got an email with a link to Kerry's new health care ad. It's very short (15 seconds?), talks about "his plan" in very broad strokes.

Here's a link to the actual plan, an 11-page pdf file, which spells things out a bit more. Here's a FAQ-type version with pretty pictures for the wonk-challenged.

I think the main "soundbite" issues are:

1. Kerry is proposing a new kind of national catastrophic health insurance plan, called the "premium rebate pool". The plan's stats indicate that while only .4% of all claims are in excess of $50,000, they account for nearly 20% of what insurance companies pay out. As a result, removing catastrophic claims from the mix will materially lower health care costs for the insurance companies and subsequently lower insurance costs for employers and employees.

2. Kerry wants to open up the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan to all Americans. That's every individual--which could be a great option for the increasing ranks of the self-employed. Kerry touts this idea as giving every American access to the same health benefits as those given to members of Congress (as well as the executive and judicial branches), which is a very nice rhetorical device.

3. Kerry plan says that no one should pay more than 6% of their income on health insurance premiums. This will be achieved by both actively reducing the cost of health insurance and providing assistance. For example, laid off people paying premiums out of their own pocket will get a tax break.

4. Kerry wants to "take on" the drug companies. This includes creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit with no deductible. It includes legalizing drug purchases from Canada, and streamlining the approval process for generic drugs.

"I sat down with the smartest people I could find and we really worked at this plan to make it not only a comprehensive and effective way to lower people’s health care costs, but to be something that could be passed by both Republicans and Democrats.

Here’s why. It’s not a government run plan. It sticks to the fundamental American principles of free choice and free enterprise. Americans want choices, we don’t want to be railroaded into one plan. We want competition, but we also want to have cost effectiveness and quality.

Under my health care plan, Americans remain free to choose their doctor and their insurance plan. My plan creates strong economic incentives for states so they can support the plan. It provides a small business tax credit up to 50% and gives individuals new access to affordable coverage. Most importantly, it reduces the cost of health insurance premiums so businesses and individuals across America will support my plan."

great minds

Here's a more informed look at the patient bill of rights issue.

Although note that the author, William M. Welch, says "...Bush, who claimed credit for a Texas patients' rights law when campaigning for president...", which--typically--fails to call a Bush lie a lie.

And yes, this little issue drove some of us to drink in 2000, when the media was going to such lengths to stretch Gore's life into one big lie, while here was one just sitting there, substantive, easy as pie to check up on, and so crystal clear you'd have to be illiterate to be incapaable of conveying it to the public. (This was one of the main media arguments why Bush never got the same treatment--because his lies required debunking that was too complex for the average mind to grasp.)

and speaking of the supreme court

Remember all that talk about Renquist and O'Connor wanting to make sure a Republican president picked their replacements? Well up till about a year ago, it looked like Bush was a shoe in for four more years, giving them plenty of time to pick their retirement dates. But these days that eventuality is looking like a 50-50 shot at best. What are their options now?

If one or both of them announce their retirement after the current session, it raises two questions:

1. What does that say about their confidence in Bush's reelectability? And does anyone really care what they think about his electability?

2. Logistically, how will the nominations play out in such a short time frame? If they announce in, say July, would it even be reasonable to expect a nomination, vetting, and confirmation to happen before the election? Would it be at all seemly to rush the process to make sure Bush gets his Supreme? Could the Dems in the Senate successfully delay the confirmation? And would they be willing to brave the inevitable slings and arrows from the Repubs?

I want to know!

patient's bill of rights

The Supreme Court decision yesterday that a patient can't sue an HMO for malpractice in state court was a big deal. And it could become an even bigger deal with regard to the 2004 election. If Kerry wants it to be.

The crux of this issue appears to be that the US Supreme Court has negated state-level patient bills of rights in favor of the federal ERISA law. Frankly, I don't know much about ERISA, but it seems Congress has been struggling to resolve this issue for a while, trying to put together some sort of specific federal-level bill of rights distinct from ERISA.

This could become (be made into?) a major issue for the Democrats. Recall that one of Bush's major bullet points on his resume was that he had "brought Republicans and Democrats together to do just that in the State of Texas to get a patient's bill of rights through." (This was the one trumped by ERISA in yesterday's Supreme decision).

The only problem, of course, was that the bullet point isn't actually accurate. Bush not only didn't drive the effort, he first vetoed one version, then opposed a subsequent bipartisan bill so vigorously that even Texas Republicans complained about his actions. When the bill passed with enough support to overrule a veto, he refused to sign it at all and let it pass into law without his signature.

So perhaps in this new campaign season new light could be brought to bear on Bush's Texas shenanigans, and his true feelings about patients versus big business HMOs can be contrasted against his rhetoric. After all, a national patient bill of rights was a major issue of his in the 2000 campaign, one he has utterly failed to achieve.

And now, the legislation he dishonestly claimed the credit for has been negated by the Supreme Court. There's definitely the makings of some interesting conflict.

molly ivins in top form

WorkingForChange-Media gets liberal allowing Bush excuses:

"We never claimed he was behind 9-11. No, we never did -- we may have implied it, we may have hinted, we may have suggested, insinuated, intimated, connoted, alluded to and said it between the lines, but we never said it, and you can't prove we did and we have no idea how the great majority of Americans ever got that silly idea in the first place. So stop reporting that it's not true. "


When some people are arguing over the semantics of contacts, connections, collaborator, and control, the people listening to them need to step back and remember what the actual subject is:

Why the US attacked and invaded Iraq.

This is not about whether statements in a vacuum are false or true, accurate or not. This is not a game of gotcha. This is about why Bush people talked about an Iraq/Al Qaeda relationship at all. Because they needed justification for the invasion.

So when we hear administration officials or their pets claiming the 9/11 Commission supports their contention that contacts existed (which is a major stretch in and of itself), those of us listening need to recognize that this is in no way the same as saying the 9/11 Commission supports their contention that the substance of those contacts were a sufficient justification for war.

Monday, June 21, 2004

daily show

Kudos to Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard for showing up on what had to be a less than auspicious day to push his book about Iraq/Al Qaeda connections.

And big kudos to Stewart who didn't let him get away with one inch of crap!

And just a word in response to a Hayes remark about what I as a liberal will say if there's another major terrorist incident while Bush is still in office:

You're damned right I'll blame it on him.

Not because he was too squeamish to take whatever despicable action someone can think up to stop it. Because he spent OUR money on a needless war when it could have gone to our first responders and to pumping up our hidebound intelligence community, which everyone all along the political spectrum have been carping about for two bloody years.

And I will have the right to blame him because I and millions of others have been shouting exactly this message for those two bloody years.

total war?

This whole Anonymous discussion is making my brain hurt: Political Animal (could it be because I spent the whole weekend playing Thief 3 and now when I shut my eyes the world feels like it's off its axis?)

I have to admit I've had a hard time wading through Anonymous' argument. I was one of the many who thought he was arguing that total war was our only option--if we choose to press forward rather than bowing out. But this dialog between Kevin Drum and Spencer Ackerman contradicts that impresson.

Well, I suppose holding out for a complete withdrawal into isolationism wasn't really a viable option anyway, since no one currently in power would ever do that. And I have to say that, angry as I am with them at the moment, the idea of abandoning Israel to its fate is unpalatable. (I started to say the same thing about the Kurds, but I'm not convinced that, without the US whispering sweet nothings in their ears, the Kurds might have what it takes to grab the whole region.)

But this is a depressing thought. The only bright spot is that energy self-sufficiency is starting to look like a good plan from all sides. It may be the that 2004 election finally comes down to whether our future is spent drilling for new oil, or coming up with alternative sources and usage.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

washington in play

Well we always known it, but thisis a bit too close to call:
"The early stages of the presidential race is a dead heat in Washington, with 44 percent of Washington residents supporting President George Bush and 45 percent saying they would vote for Democrat challenger Sen. John Kerry, according to a poll by Moore Information, a public-opinion research firm based in Portland, Ore. "
Yikes--so this is what its like to live in a battleground state.

We also have a senate seat and a governorship up for grabs this year.

Now I also know why, living in Seattle (77% pro-Kerry), I find it hard to understand the mentality of half of this country.

Friday, June 18, 2004

quick turnaround

BTW, on that last post, Reuters included response quotes from several 9/11 commission members refuting Rice's attempt to co-opt their meaning.

It used to be the White House could put out any sort of outrageous idea or so-called fact, and it would take several days (if ever) for someone to say "hey" in the media and show why the original statement was all wet. In the meantime, the original idea had seeped into everyone's head, and most people didn't see or didn't ingest the correction. (You know, like the idea that there was evidence that the White House was a 9/11 target.)

I haven't seen them do this much lately, partly because it stopped working long about July 2003 (when things stopped going so swimmingly in Iraq).

Nice to see Reuter's making its retort so swiftly and effectively.

contacts -> connections -> control??

Friggin' A: 9/11 Report Cited No Iraqi 'Control' of Qaeda - Rice.

People have always suspected the NSC of mind experiments. But we always thought they were about mind control, not mind reading!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

vote or else

This is an interesting concept: compulsory voting.

The ABCNews poll: "In a few countries every eligible citizen is required by law to vote in national elections. Those who don’t have a good excuse for not voting are subject to a small fine. Do you think this would be a good law or a poor law to have in this country?" found that only one-fifth of the nation thought it sounded like a good idea, with virtually no demographic supporting the idea (although twice as many "non-whites" liked it as "whites"--33 percent to 16 percent).

The poll language states that a "few countries" have instituted this law. I immediately wondered which states and why the poll didn't list them. After all, if the only countries were effective dictatorships with one political party and one candidate, then its not a particularly useful law. On the other hand, if the states were ones with democracies Americans tend to respect, then I think the poll results would be quite different.

It turns out they're a mix. There seem to be about 20 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Portugal, Panama and Venezuela (I'm not sure why the count seems to be unfixable).

Here's a thumbnail sketch of the issue along with some pros and cons.

Another issue I had with the polls was that it mentioned a "fine", which even the ABCNews report on the polls assumes influenced the result. So what would have happened if the poll had also mentioned that a national holiday would be created to support the effort? Would that have tipped the scales?

I don't really have an opinion on this topic--I just don't know enough. But I'm inclined to support it, if only to shut up the pundits who constantly harp on the fact that whatever president they don't like was put into office by barely 50% of the half of the country that voted.

Here's a link to the book that inspired the poll: Establishing the Rules of the Game: Election Laws in Democracies, by Louis Massicotte, Andre Blais, and Antoine Yoshinaka.

Here's a review.

civil liberties restoration act

This bill was introduced yesterday by seven Democrats, including Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Russ Feingold, Richard Durbin, and Jon Corzine and by Representatives Howard Berman and William Delahunt.

Here's a Washington Post editorial on the subject. From the editorial:

The act would bar the practice of blanket secret trials, reserving secrecy for cases in which the government can demonstrate a specific need. It would require that when the government locks someone up, it must inform him of the charges within 48 hours, and bring him before a judge within three days. It would limit preventive detention to situations in which the government actually has evidence that an individual poses a risk of flight or a danger to the community. And it would end "special registration," which selectively targeted men from Arab and Muslim countries for fingerprints, photographs and interrogations.

The author, Georgetown law professor David Cole, argues that the Patriot Act has been counterproductive. He also uses history as a lesson, pointing out that governments tend to start out abusing foreigners and then turns on its own citizens as well. "In fact, every significant form of political repression that the government has used against citizens began as an anti-alien measure." I'd be interested to see a real analysis of this concept.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

public vs. private integrity

Stolen from a a letter to Altercation (Eric gets some of the best letters around)....

Said by an anonymous letter writer during the 1884 presidential campaign:
"I gather that Mr Cleveland has shown high character and great capacity in public office, but that in private life his conduct has been open to question, while, on the other hand, Mr Blaine, in public life has been weak and dishonest, while he seems to have been an admirable husband and father. The conclusion that I draw from these facts is that we should elect Mr Cleveland to the public office which he is so admirably qualified to fill and remand Mr Blaine to the private life which he is so eminently fitted to adorn."

Monday, June 14, 2004


Just finished reading Josh Marshall's recent post about Catholic bishops denying communion as a political sanction. The quote he includes from Deal W. Hudson was so breathtaking, I had to search the original article to see if there was missing context.

There wasn't. Apparently this Hudson character, who starts out by saying "Once you open this door, what's going to come rolling through it?...Pretty soon, no one would be taking Communion." sees no problem in opening that door for one special case: John Kerry. He didn't even bother to offer any kind of rationale or justification--he just wants it. And more, he wants priests to "read letters from the pulpit denouncing" Kerry.

Reminds me of that famous DeLay quote as to why he was pushing for another Texas redistricting: "I am the majority leader, and we want more seats."

Of course, another twist on Catholic debate I haven't seen mentioned is the pending legislation that would ease penalties for churches (or rather clergy members) involving themselves in political activity. But as far as I can tell, clergy would still be restricted from making partisan political statements from the pulpit. So what exactly is Hudson asking for?

Or is it considered not partisan if you say "John Kerry is the devil incarnate"? Maybe you have to actually use the word "elect" to get tagged on this law?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

reagan & bitburg & victims

Atrios highlights Reagan's 1985 visit to Kolmeshohe Cemetery at Bitburg, Germany, in this post. Personally, considering all the questionable choices Reagan made in his life, this one's way down the list for me. But the memory and the outrage expressed by Reagan critics has made me think.

Throughout most of my life I admit I've carried a smidgen of prejudice against Germans. I'd read quite a lot about World War ll even as a school kid and, like most, had found the whole episode sickeningly reprehensible. And frankly one of the aspects that most disgusted me was the way the German people themselves inducted the Nazis into power and let the whole thing happen.

Then September 11 hit, and in the days and weeks following I started hearing the most amazing rhetoric coming out of my countrymen's mouths. It wasn't just the fact that people were rushing to agree to outrageous civil liberty restrictions on the off chance it might keep them safe--it was also the entire aggressive "watch what you say and watch what you do" mentality. And pretty quickly I started glimpsing how a country of people--anxious, uninformed, frightened people--could turn their head, say thank god it's not me, and find themselves living in a fascist state. Because it truly did come close to happening here; go see a little movie called "Person of Interest" and then tell me otherwise. Actually, I'm not sure we've completely averted the danger.

I was one of the many Seattleites who spent a significant amount of time marching the streets of our city last year. I'm one of the thousands who finally anted up for an ACLU membership after 9/11. But have I really done all I can to avert the unthinkable? Have I been out there defending our local accused, such as James Ujaama, a community leader turned apparent Al-Qaeda convert? After all, the thought of defending someone who supports the perpetrators of 9/11 is a pretty sickening prospect. Writing about Ujaama, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin says, "So, whom do you stand by: your country or an individual who you've known all your life -- but who may not be what he seems to be?" (go read the entire column, it's a perfect example of the kind of frightened and frightening rhetoric we've been abused with these past 3 years). I can't help wondering how the people of the White Rose (Germany's underground resistance) finally made that crucial decision to actively work against their own government. Today we look back at those people and hail their courage and conviction. Today, we look at our own activists and demonstrators--people not working against the country so much as trying to educate and inform it--and call them terrorists.

It's one thing to understand the people, who were mostly, I suppose, just trying to survive in a hostile environment. But what about the soldiers? The so-called evil, vicious, stormtroopers who raped and pillaged most of Europe in their quest for genetic purity? Can there be any way to understand them?

I think of our own troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. We claim to support them in spite of the fact that they've committed what may in the future described as despicable acts. (In the future our Iraq adventure may well be described as a brazen co-opting of an oil-rich region for our own gain, an act that cost thousands of Arab lives and fomented even greater unrest throughout the region.) And why? In part, those of us liberals who truly do support the soldiers in Iraq do so because, at least to some extent, we understand their choices, whether or not we agree with or condone them. We get that they acted out of fear--like so many have--but more than that, out of a crushing sense of responsibility, not just for their families, but, as soldiers, for their entire country.

I can be angry with them for giving their trust to people who are untrustworthy, for believing and acting on propaganda that was designed for the primary purpose of getting them to act in a certain way. But I can understand it.

In 1939, Hitler whipped up anti-Poland sentiment by claiming that hundreds of thousands of Poles were massed on the border, poised to swoop into Germany. It wasn't true, of course, and we might shake our heads that anyone could seriously believe such an easily verifiable fact. In 1990, President GHW Bush claimed that there were hundreds of thousands of Iraqis poised on the border to Saudi Arabia, one of his primary arguments used to justify deploying 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia and subsequently engaging Iraqi troops in Kuwait. When some fairly conclusive proof (in the form of satellite photos) came to light just prior to the start of Desert Storm, the reporter who broke the story couldn't get it picked up nationally. The reporter, Jean Heller, commented later: "I think part of the reason the story was ignored was that it was published too close to the start of the war. Second, and more importantly, I do not think people wanted to hear that we might have been deceived." In 2002 and 2003, President GW Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had already demonstrated his animosity toward the US and his willingness to take terrorist action. Both claims were virtually impossible to disprove, but were far from being proved true, although there was an established organization actively searching for WMDs. In spite of this, the majority of our country chose to believe the Bush Administration and support the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

So I hear Reagan's comments at Bitburg (and here's a fuller quote): "...Those young men are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps." And I can't help thinking, whatever Reagan's intent was behind his words, that he got it just about right. We are all victims of a few hateful people.

Friday, June 11, 2004

mcain and kerry

What kind of assinine "democratic official" would ever leak a story about McCain rejecting Kerry's VP overtures? Someone who obviously doesn't have the good of the party at heart. Gosh almighty, what kind of people are being given access to Kerry strategy. Sure hope someone's gone by Monday.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


A letter posted on Eric Alterman's blog (MSNBC - Altercation) points out that we're seeing wall-to-wall coverage of the Reagan laying in state event, which they estimate will draw about 200,000 people.

In contrast, six weeks ago the March for Women's Lives, the pro-choice protest march in Washington, D.C. that drew over 870,000 (a conservative estimate) and is believed to be one of the largest marches ever held in the nation's capitol, received little more than a few seconds footage on the evening news.

(As an example, I went to the CNN archives to verify numbers and found exactly zero stories reporting the march. I did find one story from The Morning Grind, written the week before the march, that evaluated political aspects of the event, and one other story reporting on outrage to Karen Hughes' comment that the protesters were terrorists. Nothing on the march. Zip. Zero. Nice, huh?)

regular folks

From an AP story on local reaction to the G8 conference: Yahoo! News - Free Food Hurts G-8 Summit Restaurants:

Residents along Georgia's marshy coast spent months worrying about the potential for mayhem at the summit: violent protesters, terrorism, traffic snarls, you name it.

Now, people like Linda Mahoney are wondering what the big deal was.

'We got to meet a protester. She was really nice, a Christian,' said Mahoney, a St. Simons Island resident. . . .

But Mary Gatch said the summit hasn't been nearly as bad as she feared.

'I don't know what I thought they'd look like,' she said of the protesters. 'Orange hair, gays and lesbians arm-in-arm ... Your imagination runs away with you. But they look like regular folks.'
Man, that is just fucking sad.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

folk hero?

I'm not really interested in publically dissing Reagan at this moment. I'm having far too much fun, as Howler would phrase it, emitting mordant chuckles at the people who are this week exhibiting such paroxysms of adulation.

If I felt the tributes were expressions of honest emotion, I could respect them. I've learned over the years that, although it's not my way, many people draw comfort in grief by letting the bad memories and petty hurts fall away from their memories, at least for a short time of tribute. But, while lots of the grassroot emotion we've seen this week has been honest, at the political level there's an iron hand proffering that mourning wreath. For those people, the elevation of Reagan is nothing other than the elevation of the conservative agenda of the Republican Party.

After all, what kind of folk hero is it who needs a political organization to promote his memory across the country? Establishing memorials in Reagan's name (i.e., getting stuffed named after Reagan) is the sole reason for being of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, a project funded by the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. The Reagan Legacy Project, headed by neo-con elite Grover Norquist and advised by the likes of Karl Rove, Peggy Noonan, and Tom DeLay. The express purpose of this organization is "to honor and memorialize the historic achievements of President Ronald Reagan. It aims to do so by naming at least one notable public landmark in each state and all 3067 counties after the 40th president."

And why does this organization think naming things Reagan is a useful idea? Here's why: because over 600 items have already been dedicated to John F. Kennedy, and over 800 items have been dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., and "as a key figure and hero of the 20th Century, President Reagan must receive parity in Memoriam to President Kennedy and Dr. King." (see Reagan Legacy Project press release dated 6/8/04)

Kennedy and King, both of whom literally gave their lives in the service of their beliefs, both of them cut down in the prime of their lives, assassinated, apparently must not be held in higher esteem than a relatively mediocre president who people found likable.

And why? Because Kennedy and King were liberals, progressives, and are revered because of it. And conservatives want some of that action. 20th century Republican history cannot be defined by Nixon.

not so nutty conspiracy theory after all

For the good of the country?

Tampabay: TIA now verifies flight of Saudis

"For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details."

So the WH is once again caught in a lie. The word lie has been stepped lightly around in the media, and in my opinion for mostly good reasons. Partisans on both sides have used it far too freely to blast enemies for statements that involved opinions, interpretations of non-established facts, or perceptions that changed over time.

But this one's pretty clear. The flights took place, the WH and others were asked about it, and they stated point blank untruths.

And for what reason? We expect that our leaders may not publicize sensitive facts for national security or diplomacy reasons. But those reasons have to stand the tests of time and subsequent public scrutiny. Josh Marshall, yesterday writing about the torture memo, talked about the history in our country of our leaders taking action out of the necessity of the moment that could be considered unconstitutional. The kicker is that, always, when the crisis blew over, the public has the right to judge the action and determine then whether it was for the good of the country or not.

So how will we judge this public lie? Not only does time reveal that these flights in no way heightened our national security, it lays bare the essential motive of the lie itself--not of national preservation but of self-preservation. And not only is the lie selfish in hindsight, it had to have been at the moment as well.

Remember, all but one of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. And our government knew it at the time of these flights. But on the very day of those flights, but signed the proclamation for National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, which contained the following pledge:

"Civilized people around the world denounce the evildoers who devised and executed these terrible attacks. Justice demands that those who helped or harbored the terrorists be punished -- and punished severely. The enormity of their evil demands it. We will use all the resources of the United States and our cooperating friends and allies to pursue those responsible for this evil, until justice is done."

So when you see replays of Bush's "Ground Zero" speech on September 14, realize that only the day before he had subverted the very justice he claimed to demand.

Monday, June 07, 2004

liberal oasis wrong?

What a shocker. I'm always enlightened by LO's insight, and up to now have never dared to disagree. But at the end of Tuesday's post they make a prediction that Bush will ace the Reagan eulogy on Friday because he really needs to and, slacker that he is, he's really good at digging himself a hole and then doing something spectacular to pull himself out of it.

Being a full-blown slacker myself, I can't argue that that's a common pattern for us sluggards. (In fact we take quite a lot of pride in the heights we would have achieved if we weren't busy shooting ourselves in the foot every five minutes.)

But Bush hasn't been pulling off that ace lately. In fact, when was the last ace pulled off? Mission Accomplished looked like a ace for about ten minutes, but his bluff got called early, and it seems like he's been drawing deuces ever since. Remember last September's dud that sent his poll numbers plummeting? It took the Saddam capture to pull that one out. And this year his "if I could think of a mistake I'd own up to it" press conference? Seems like the closest he's come is lately is when his undocumented 9/11 testimony wasn't completely panned by the panel.

religion poll

Here's a link to the poll numbers I referenced in the previous post: Gallup Poll

bush above the law?

Josh Marshall's take on a WSJ article (subscription only): Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: June 06, 2004 - June 12, 2004 Archives

It's crap like this that makes me feel that voting this administration out of office is just not good enough. There needs to be a much stronger repudiation--impeachment, prosecution, whatever it takes to get it through these people's heads that we don't want to be a nation that condones torture--and we really aren't interested in being a hypocritical nation that has one set of rules for itself while using its power to shove another set down the world's throat.

Josh does a nice job analyzing the historical and constitutional aspects of the issue. I take a more visceral approach. Like this:

"The draft report, which exceeds 100 pages, deals with a range of legal issues related to interrogations, offering definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawful. But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply.

It is exactly this kind of despicable justification that the Geneva convention addressed. Because every country in the world could and would make this argument to justify all manner of atrocities. Protecting the citizenry was the justification for WWII Japanese internment; it was also the Nazi justification for the Holocaust, as well as Germany's invasions of Europe.

I'd like to say more about torture, but I haven't worked it all out in my mind yet. It's tied up in being liberal and also steeped in the basic Christian view of reality I grew up with--the idea that some things are more important than personal protection. That compromising those values is never justified even if the end result is that the bad guys kill you, and your family, and other people depending on you. Because, in the end, it doesn't come down to who's alive and who's dead, but rather what kind of person you were and how you lived your life.

I want to think about this more. But I want to clarify that bringing religion into this topic is not about calling conservatives "hypocrites". It's really about the fact that there is liberalism and conservatism in religion as well as politics. And the fact that, given something like 90% of all Americans believe in some sort of god and 82% identify their religious preference as Christian, left leaning moderates and liberals must overwhelmingly support some core Christian values.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

reagan obituary

An unexpectedly balanced obit from the AP: Yahoo! News - Former President Ronald Reagan Dies at 93

One can imagine that the man who inspired such flights of eulogism in life will become godlike on this, the day of his death. We shall see.

God go with.

Friday, June 04, 2004

kerry fact for the day--changes in defense priorities

From the Washington Post:

Some Kerry plan details:

"Sen. John F. Kerry said here Thursday that he would increase the active-duty Army by 40,000 soldiers, including a doubling of U.S. Special Forces; speed development of new technologies and equipment to meet threats posed by terrorist networks; and better integrate the National Guard into the nation's homeland security strategy."

"The Democratic presidential candidate said that, to cover part of the cost of his proposals, he would cut back current funding levels for a national missile defense system, which he characterized as 'the wrong priority' at a time when the nature of the threats has changed."

One way to improve voluntary recruiting is to improve the incentives. You know, kind of like in the real world. If a company wants to attract employees--they've gotta offer a decent package. Its not rocket science.

control room

We'll see if this movie comes to Seattle. Meanwhile, Scott Lamb reports how apparently the current top brass in the US military are only interested in voices touting the glory and honor of war and US supremacy, not those reflecting an understanding of the moral conflicts: Arts & Entertainment | Muzzling a Marine.

The anecdote about Lt. Rushing (press officer) being implicitly accused of treason because he was "close to" an Al Jazeera journalist, seemed evocative of a mindset where its all right to treat certain people like animals. If any kind of reaching out, human to human, is slapped down, and only hyperpatriotism is rewarded, what chance do the vast majority of our military have? The fact is, most people are not mentally or emotionally equipped to stand up to a majority--or a vocal and confrontational minority. This we saw in the run up to war last year.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

"slam dunk" is now part of popular history

Both Reuters and AP report the "slam dunk" remark as fact, without any indication it might be questionable. So I guess that's the way it's going to be. Nobody who attended that meeting felt called to stand up and call his/her colleagues a liar, so the only one claiming its not true is Tenet himself.

Sure does make the resignation go down easier with the populace, though, doesn't it?

Here's what's interesting, though. Seemed like just a year ago, people were marveling at Tenet's staying power. He'd crossed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, not acted the standup guy, and yet had not gone the way of O'Neil and Lindsey who had crossed the triumvirate in their times. Why. Speculation was that Tenet knew where some bodies were buried. Well, looks like he did, but once those bodies got uncovered in an avalanche of events and evidence, Tenet lost his bargaining power.

Now Bush can answer the upcoming Senate 9/11-slash intelligence investigation report with: "Yup that little mess is all swept up. Taken care of. It's a brand new day." And approximately 48 percent of Americans will believe or pretend to believe him.

tenet resigning

I don't like this. It feels wrong. In spite of the fact that Tenet wasn't perfect, it feels like the wrong guy is leaving.

With the exception of the "slam dunk" story, Tenet has appeared to be a brake, granted ineffectual, on the admin hawks. At the very least, he provided some crucial moments of sanity when he refused to go along with certain neocon fantasies.

Of all the people who should go, Tenet is way down on the list.

And what about that "slam dunk" remark? From 3000 miles away, it always looked bogus to me. Remember, the broadcaster of the story, Woodward, did not personally witness this incident. He recounted it based on other people's stories about that meeting. And frankly those stories just seem tailored to give the Bush some cover.

The account of that entire meeting sounds off to me--Bush doubting the strength of the evidence, having to be convinced by Tenet that the evidence was good and strong. First because it's completely at odds with the actors' actions at the time--Bush touting the certainty of this same evidence even before this meeting, going too far in assertions and having to backtrack, sometimes based on Tenet's refusal to back him up. Second, the story itself feels like those same PR myths we hear periodically--Bush on 9/11 raging to get back to DC, wanting to address the nation asap, Bush thoughtfully pondering stem cell research before announcing policy, and others.

I sure hope the WH doesn't think Tenet is a sufficient sacrifice to the angry populace. Because he isn't. We want the true bad actors, starting with Rumsfeld and finishing up with Bush/Cheney.