Sunday, October 31, 2004

New Quote, New Format!

And along with our new quote we have a new Quotes page. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Post 9/11

Ellen Goodman has a good article on the lessons of September 11th. It's a point I've harped on before, but why not harp on it again?
But three years and one Iraq War later, what exactly does the president mean when he talks about the lessons of September 11 and how his opponent didn't learn them?

"First of all," he says, "we face an enemy which has no conscience. They are cold-blooded. Therefore, you can never hope for the best with them. You cannot negotiate with them. ... The only way to secure America, to keep us safe, is to find them and bring them to justice before they hurt us again."

Of course you cannot negotiate with zealots who fly planes into buildings. You cannot reason with people who kill and die in the name of heaven and the hope of 72 virgins. You can only stop them.

But the central lie of this campaign is in the way the administration has conflated the war on terror and the war in Iraq. It's the way he had morphed Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the religious fanatic and the secular dictator, September 11, 2001, and March 19, 2003. It's the way he has drawn a composite of one intractable "enemy": the jihadist in the cockpit.

The lesson of September 11, says Bush repeatedly, is that "we must take threats seriously before they come to hurt us." His punch line is: "And I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein."

Bush no longer claims directly that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He tells us rather that he "saw" a threat. This is the Bush doctrine. And anyone who doesn't accept his vision -- even when it clashes with reality -- is dismissed as "soooo September 10th."

The Revolution

Just went and saw I Heart Huckabees. Good tonic to my agitation over the election. We are all connected and stuff.

So in retrospect my previous post might have a bit elevated. Not that anything I said was untrue (and I'm definately standing by the fact that Republicans are going to challange as many black voters as they can). But there are nicer ways to express oneself.

I am of course not the most elvated person out there. After all the Vice President has been going around talking about how voting for Kerry could lead, more or less directly, to the deaths of thousands of our fellow citizens. I don't know that anybody in the Kerry campaign has gone that far, but others have, suggesting that if Kerry doesn't win this election, this might be the last election we have.

The truth is whoever wins, life will probably go on more or less the same for most Americans (people in the middle east might notice a big difference). Which, I suppose, is its own kind of tragedy.


Three days left in this election. It feels like everything has been focused on this moment--only in true Chinese water fashion, there's a pretty damn good chance the election won't be over for a couple of months. We do our part and then the lawyers on both sides take their crack at it. Democrat Lawyers arguing that every vote should count, Republican Lawyers saying "vote fraud" over and over again like automatons. Hopefully the margin of victory will be wide enough that this won't happen, but who knows what the future holds.

Electoral Vote.Com
has Bush at 480 votes and Kerry at 243. They also have a suspect methodology but since they are currently giving Florida to George W. Bush, I feel more positive toward them.

But part of their suspect methodology is that they rely on polls, which may very well be totally wrong. Beyond the usual problems, there are thousands of new voters this time. The Wall Street Journal, if memory serves, suggested that we had 1.5 million new voters here in Florida. Republicans, taking a glass is half empty approach, see millions of new voters as a bad thing, suggesting that it must be due to Voter Fraud.

By the way if you are Black I would get to the polls early, as Republicans have a pretty specific idea on what color of skin those most likely to commit voter fraud. It may make some of you uncomfortable that I would hint at racism in the Republican Party. So let's not hint. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, would rather not see Black People voting in this election, and they will challenge black voters at every opportunity.

They'd rather not have any poor people voting, but it's too complicated at the polls to ask voters to pull out their bank statements. So they'll focus on the blacks.

Anyway the whole thing is driving me nuts. I'm like angry 90% of the day. I just can't understand living in a nation that looks at George W. Bush, looks at his record over the last 4 years, and says "Sign Me Up for four years of that." What the hell is wrong with you people?

I don't need to catalog his failures again; we all know them. I suspect even most conservatives know them. Part of me is surprised that they are fighting so hard for a second term. The check for President Bush's massive failures is going to come due in the second term, and you'd think they would want to be out of the restaurant before that hits the table.

Of course that begs the question, if the next term really is going to be such a disaster why do I want Kerry in the white house? Wouldn't it be better to let President Bush get hoist in his own petard? The answer is that I think Senator Kerry is man enough to handle it.

Anyway that's enough for now. Not making a lot of sense today I suppose. Hang in there. Expect big changes to this website after the election is settled (which could be a couple of months). I'm not going anywhere, just changing. Change is good.

Friday, October 29, 2004

More Incredible Narcism

2 Year Anniversary madness continues through one more post. Here are pages dedicated to my favorite posts over the last two years. They are somewhat enjoyable I hope, and certainly if you are interested in finding out what I'm all about, here's a good place to start.

Best Posts 2002 to 2004 Rush Limbaugh
Best Posts 2002 to 2004 Humorous
Best Posts 2002 to 2004 Serious

Anyway hope your day is going well. Frankly I'm starving, but I just can't take my eyes off of my amazing website. So if any of you want to bring me a sandwich . . .

Round the Horn Section 3, Paragraph B

1. In the event that supporters of Nader suggest that there are no differences between Republicans and Democrats, they are requested to read this post by T. Rex's Guide to Life.

2. Motions to place Pro Kerry back bumperstickers on the back of Non Kerry supporters cars are out of order unless the participants have previously perused this post at All Facts and Opinions.

3. Jokes involving Lightbulbs and the Bush Administration are strictly prohibited, unless they are in reference to this post at The Gamer's Nook.

4. In reference to subsection D, those questioning whether Iraq is better off now and whether the United States is better off now are directed to this post at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time.

5. Pursuant to the Truth in Advertising (yes even political advertising) Act of 1834, readers are respectfully required to read this post at LEFT is RIGHT.

6. Following the Precedent set by George W. Bush vs. Reality, all are encouraged to absorb this post by Edwardpig.

7. Those considering staying home on election day are required, according to the conditions laid forth in Section 2.331, to read this post at The Fulcrum.

8. Person A, hereafter referred to as the Boss, speaking to Person or Persons B, hereafter referred to as the American people, will be documented by this post at Bark Bark Woof Woof.

9. Pursuant to Item 7 in this list, potential non-voters are also instructed to view this eye-pleasing post from Dohiyi Mir.

10. Finally, those in need of a nice rundown of the alternate reality that the President and his advisors find themselves in are advised to read this post at Rick's Cafe Americaine.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

2 Year Anniversary Spectacular - The Serious Side

My division of articles into serious and humorous was a bit arbitrary as you will see. But these are five posts I thought went particularly well. No runners up here.

5. July 27, 2004. This was my way of reviewing the Democratic Convention (of 2004) with Suzi Registered Voter and the Conservative Cat. They were both fun characters to write and I managed to slip in my normal commentary. I'm not sure the idea is as clever as I thought it was at the time, but it worked pretty well.

4. February 16, 2003. This was one of my reports on attending the Anti-War Rallies in town before the Iraq War. This article was also, in part, a reaction to many of the anti-protester articles I'd read, which classified protesters as idiots or anti American or anti-Soldier and so on. My take contrasted pretty sharply with that analysis.

3. August 16, 2004. Scenes from the war on Nuance.

2. May 22, 2004. This article could be a lot more despairing than it turns out to be--I'm surprised at how mild I sound. Basically this one covers one difference between Conservatives and Liberals, and discusses the creation of separate media organisms designed to serve each group. So basically one potential end for America. It's not to hard to imagine the divisions growing and growing until they tear us apart. But I remain hopeful that we will turn aside long before then. Perhaps that explains my mild tone.

1. February 20, 2004. Songs from the Struggle. A collection of rebel and leftist songs including tracks by Joan Baez, Gil Scott-Heron, Rage Against the Machine and so on. It's pretty cool, I think.

Anyway hope you have enjoyed. Check back tomorrow for a trip round the horn of the liberal coalition.

2 Year Anniversary Spectacular - It Does You Good To Laugh

This is our second retrospective of the day, looking back at some of my more humorous posts. The problem with humorous posts is that the jokes are always a little funnier in my head than they are in execution. Plus of course, humor is subjective, what might be hilarious to me, might not be as funny to a reader. Still some of these must be at least a little funny to you. I hope.

There were a few runner ups in this section as well. Such as my expose on reverse Seven Up, which featured an appearance by Doogie my late little buddy (January 7, 2003). There was the music review that might provide a future name for this blog (October 13, 2003). And there was the time I threatened to punch all my readers in the face (but didn't actually do it) (March 18, 2004). To be totally fair I'd also need to include that Interview with Make Me a Commentator!!! but as it is already readily accessible there to the right, I decided not to.

And now for the top five.

5. May 3, 2003. This is a slightly scatological story involving a new apartment and . . . well I don't want to give away the joke.

4. May 18, 2003. Which was a good month for humor sort of. This is actually a picture of a moo cow which I photo shopped. I have done several impromptu art shows (most recently with pictures of lamps) based on photo shop. Not really humorous I suppose, although the cow is kind of funny looking.

3. October 23, 2003. On my trip to New York City I enjoyed spending time at the theatre and wrote a vaguely humorous post on it. It's pretty funny, but I could have tightened it up quite a bit.

2. January 21, 2003. I have access to the Wall Street Journal here at work, and I've been amused by what they put on the front on a slow news days several times. I really enjoyed finding out that Z is the new S, but this story, about Wolverine being inhuman, beat it out slightly.

1. October 26, 2003. So I'm funniest in May of 2003 and October of 2003. Weird how that works out. Anyway this is my modest proposal on public urination. Again I'm not sure how well it came off; I was really angry at the time about the idea that we shouldn't raise taxes on the wealthy because they figure out ways around them anyway. So this was my response.

Tune in later for five more favorites.

2 Year Anniversary Spectacular

Yep, this website was launched two years ago today, and in response we are having a two year anniversary spectacular. I originally suggested a five year anniversary special, but there's some legal reason why you are only to have as many year anniversary as you have actually been around. So it's a two year anniversary.

And so, borrowing from our friends on TV, we are having a clip show. Yep, get out the popcorn, lay back, and get ready to enjoy some of my favorite posts for the last couple of years. To start things off on a light note I thought we'd cover my top five posts dealing with that Commentator of Commentators Rush Limbaugh!

First of all the runner-ups, those columns that were good, but they just weren't quite good enough. These include the time that Rush talked about what American diplomacy should be and his ideas contrasted sharply with our current President's (February 15, 2003). There was that really weird exchange with a caller, leading into the idea that you can't express a negative idea in the War, or an Arab Newspaper might pick it up and our soldiers might read it (May 1, 2004). There was that laugh inducing moment when Rush Limbaugh claimed to be the best friend the working poor had ever had (June 10, 2003). And of course there was one of those times El Rushbo showed his mean side, suggesting that American Blacks have chosen to live on the plantation by remaining Democrats (July 29, 2003).

Well if those are the runner ups, can you imagine how wonderful our five finalists are? Well you'll have to imagine, because we've decided to keep that info to ourselves! No I'm just kidding.

5. May 5, 2004. Rush Limbaugh suggested that our fears that the Abu Ghraib scandal would inflame more hatred for us in the middle East were unfounded. Apparently the Terrorists already hate us as hard as they can, so this won't make them hate us any more. This was an easy enough argument to respond to, and I got to make Venn Diagrams. I enjoy commentating but I don't often get to draw Venn Diagrams.

4. June 19, 2004. Rush Limbaugh explains that Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't a movie. Nope. Not a movie.

3. June 23, 2003. You'd think claiming Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't a movie would be hard to top, but on this day Rush claimed that the existence of affirmative action laws proved that we were not a racist society and so such laws were clearly not necessary. It's always a crowd pleaser to take on affirmative action, but your arguments should at least pretend to make sense.

2. January 28, 2004. Rush makes one of the harshest attacks on liberals I remember him making. A snippet. "You people [liberals] are reprehensible. You are absolutely reprehensible. You are the lowest piece of (blank) I've ever run to in this planet. I can't believe you people." Rush claims to be a harmless little goofball, but sometimes I wonder.

1. July 21, 2004. Eight Little Words. "My Friends, do you ever marvel . . . at me?" Yes, Rush. Sometimes we do. But probably not in the sense that you mean it.

Tune in later when we will have my five favorite humorous posts and five favorite serious posts. Also the first five callers will receive tickets to see Goobers on Parade.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Two Stories for the Price of One!

The first comes from the Drudge Report. Apparently those bastards at ABC are at it again. They have a tape from terrorists (apparently) threatening to destroy America before the election, suggestions that America will mourn in silence because we won't be able to count the dead. Well, instead of putting it on the air immediately, ABC is taking time to review and authenticate the tape. And they've turned it over to the CIA. How crazy is that? Since it would clearly help President Bush they are burying the tape while they "review it." If they were real Americans they would put it on the air immediately to show how confident the Terrorists are that they can breach President Bush's security.

As Atrios notes, isn't it bizarre that warnings of an impending attack by terrorists are a good reason to vote for President Bush who presumably we'd like to stop said impending attack?

Speaking of real Americans, I came across this story while trying to run down the Drudge Report story above. Apparently there's an article in the National Review Online that talks about how we need to preserve the Electoral College to protect real Americans. From Salon's War Room Blog, I lifted the following accurate analysis.
Of all the Republican arguments for maintaining the Electoral College, the one that Gary L. Gregg makes today in the National Review Online is both the most honest and the most appalling. Gregg's piece, titled a "Counting the Real People's Vote" argues that without the electoral advantage given to small, rural red states, American elections would be dominated by "a metropolitan elite who disdain the cultures and values of middle America." In other words, the urban vote needs to be diluted because it's so Democratic.

It's perfectly fair to argue that the Electoral College is needed to protect the interests of minority voters against the tyranny of the majority. But Gregg's argument is more sinister. By separating voters into "real people," whose votes should be given extra weight, and the "secular urban base" who don't quite count as fully legitimate citizens, he reveals one of the driving forces behind the modern Republican party -- a party which professes to embody Americanism while hating a great part of America. "Al Gore demonstrated in 2000 that the national popular vote can be won by appealing to a narrow band of the electorate heavily secular, single, and concentrated in cities," Gregg writes. This is an amazing statement -- if this band is so "narrow," how can it also be a major part of a popular majority? The answer, in the right-wing imagination, is that only a certain kind of citizens constitute real Americans, and thus are implicitly deserving of power despite the fact that they're a minority.
Nice to know that as a City Dweller I'm not a real American. But I guess as a Liberal I would have assumed that anyway.

Bush Hatred Strikes Again

E. J. Dionne takes on this timely subject, launching off of a poll that suggests that John F. Kerry supporters are more likely than George W. Bush supporters to believe that this is the most important election in their lifetimes (37% to 27% for those who are interested.

Of course Republicans want to play down those numbers and so are trotting out that old scarecrow, irrational Bush hatred. But Mr. Dionne has their number.
The phrase "Bush hatred" is invoked to imply a legion of citizens gone mad.

It's an odd argument when it comes from right-wing talk radio and cable television ranters who insisted in the 1990s that hatred of Bill Clinton was the highest form of patriotism. But their reaction is at least predictable. Anyone else who buys into the notion that the passions Bush has unleashed are primarily the product of unreasoning prejudices misses the central dynamic of this year's election.

The fervent opposition to President Bush is rational and its intensity is a direct response to Bush's own efforts to discredit all opposition to his policies. Criticism of Bush comes not simply from the far left or from fans of Michael Moore movies, but also from political moderates, including Republicans, who see Bush's fiscal, social and foreign policies as decidedly immoderate. The passion comes from a conviction that the president would prefer to use the fear of terrorism and cast his opponent as a dangerous appeaser than to risk the loss of power.

Anyway if you are thinking President Bush hasn't done the best job as Pesident, well you're not alone.

Ben Shapiro Boy Prognosticator Strikes Again

Yes, this week, Literary Ben writes an eulogy for President Bush, the greatest President of the 21st century. Yep here's what the future holds according to young Ben.
For Bush's opposition, this was the last straw. Weeping over supposed violation of international law, Democrats who had approved presidential discretionary use of force in Iraq now decided once again that they had been deceived. And so they slandered Bush as a warmonger and a traitor. They and their vile ilk claimed that Bush was a shill for Saudi oil. Their presidential candidate, John Kerry, derided Bush as a liar, even as Kerry himself refused to answer straight questions about either his record or his political opinions.

The pounding took its toll. Kerry, the perfect embodiment of leftist hatred for George W. Bush, fulfilled his lifelong ambition. And, like Winston Churchill, Bush was unceremoniously thrown from office.

The rest is history. Faith in American republicanism has been undermined by candidates who will not acknowledge the legitimacy of majoritarian democratic results. America has been plagued by a sporadic but regular and devastating pattern of terrorist bombings and killings. The public, lacking a clear moral system, flounders for a vision. And it calls for the most convenient solution: more government.
So apparently John Kerry is going to win the election. And his election is going to destroy America. Kind of depressing in the long one, but nice in the short run. And John Kerry is the "perfect embodiment" of Bush hatred? That's wierd, I thought that would have been Al Gore. Or Al Sharpton.

That last paragraph is interesting--I think the whole nation is bracing itself for a long protracted court battle after the election to determine the victor. At any rate after criticizing how Al Gore performed in 2000, surely President Bush will just immediately concede the election after he loses. I hope.

Of course the nice thing about writing this column is how lazy it is. I mean Ben has no way of knowing whether his predictions of the future will come to pass or not. Certainly he seems to have little faith in the character of the American people. And, just as certainly, his review of the President's last four years is, shall we say, slanted? Extremely slanted with a side of inaccuracy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

What we know so far

On Monday, the New York Times reported that 380 tons of exposives went missing from the al Qa Qaa weapons depot. Obviously this is an enormous story, and everybody jumped right on it. Senator Kerry made it part of his speeches on Monday and today. But those who have a vested interest in reelecting President Bush also jumped on it needing to find a way to defuse this story immediately.

NBC came to their rescue, suggesting that the explosives were gone long before the Army arrived on the scene. Their source was an inbedded reporter who visited the Al Qa Qaa site with his group on the way to Baghdad. They stopped at the site and didn't see any of the explosives, hence they must have dissappeared before the Army even had a chance to contain the site. Drudge picked up this version of the story, and it biovaced into what the Pentagon was already saying. And of course this version of the story was enough for Rush Limbaugh to declare the story over and the New York Times and John Kerry completely disgraced and discredited.
Kerry is the focus. The media is going to survive all this as they always do. They're going to be damaged by it, but they're going to survive it. But Kerry is the candidate and Kerry's actions yesterday are what need to be focused on, his continued actions today, because he is demonstrating his utter irresponsibility, his utter lack of "integrity, integrity, integrity," his utter lack of concern for the decency of our troops in Iraq, his utter lack of concern for our victory in the war on terror. No, all that matters to John Kerry, even if it's a false planted story, even if it is so untrue that it can be documented in less than ten hours, Kerry will nevertheless use it to advance himself.
Except of course this version of events makes little sense. For one thing was that army unit and NBC news crew really qualified to determine that these weapons weren't there? Saying we didn't see them is a long way away from saying they definately weren't there.

There is also the question of where we watching Al Qa Qaa? Josh Marshell explains this problem with the NBC theory (and is a valuable source in general on this issue).
As we noted earlier, there's a relatively brief window of time we're talking about when this stuff could have been carted away -- specifically, from March 8th (when the IAEA last checked it) until April 4th when the first US troops appear to have arrived on the scene.

Certainly there would have been time enough to move the stuff. That's almost a month. But this would be a massive and quite visible undertaking. As the Times noted yesterday, moving this material would have taken a fleet of about forty big trucks each moving about ten tons of explosives. And this was at a time -- the week before and then during the war -- when Iraq's skies were positively crawling with American aerial and satellite reconnaissance.

Considering that al Qaqaa was a major munitions installation where the US also suspected there might be WMD, it's difficult to believe that we wouldn't have noticed a convoy of forty huge trucks carting stuff away.
Of course another criticism and perhaps a more fair one is that this is old news. The materials probably dissappeared a long time ago, so is it really relevant today? Well, the same team that allowed those explosives to dissappear is still largely in charge.

The Other Side

One criticism that might be leveled against me is that I am in essence doing just what I'm complaining that Karl Rove and David Limbaugh are doing. I'm focusing on the negative in President Bush so as to point you away from the weaknesses of my candidate. Well that's not true; I encourage you all to find out more about John Kerry. I think he can stand up to the scrutiny. Now, granted, if you go to NewsMax for your information, well, you won't be getting much accurate information, and hence might not have a very accurate impression of the candidate. But if you go to John Kerry, read a few of his speeches, look at his proposals, well, that might give you a more favorable impression of him.

In that spirit I have collected my own review of John Kerry's stands on the issues. I did this a while back on the website, but decided to collect them and place them to the right there just under the original Candidate Review.

For those who don't remember, the Candidate Reviews were done in the Spring of this year to review where the Democratic Primary Candidates stood on the issues. I trimmed out all the Kerry quotes (mostly from his speeches) and put them together. So you can look at that, and now you can look at my review of Kerry's platform.

To conclude, here's the closing lines from a speech by John Kerry at Green Bay today.

I want a world where no American mother should have to lie awake at night worrying what tomorrow will bring -- whether her husband will be safe at work or her children will be safe at school the next day. No one should have to fear that students on a graduation trip to our nation's capitol or one of our greatest cities might be attacked. I ask for your help - Republicans and Democrats and Independents. Let's unite America to make our country safer.

Our hope - our determination - is nothing less than this: to live our lives confident that we are safe at home and secure in our world. That is a great issue in this campaign and that is the great victory I will fight for as your President.
Good sentiments. One week to go Senator Kerry.

Judge for Yourselves

Paul Krugman writes another brilliant article today (a phrase used so often I should have it as a macro). In it, he makes this interesting and accurate statement.
Although President Bush's campaign is based almost entirely on his self-proclaimed leadership in that war, his officials have thrown a shroud of secrecy over any information that might let voters assess his performance.
We are asked to judge President Bush based on our shallow impressions of him, and then only our positive ones. Karl Rove certainly doesn't want us judging President Bush on his pathetic performance in the first debate, for example. But we are to judge the President as resolved and determined and strong. But more and more it seems like every time we get a peek at how President Bush is actually performing, it reveals a negative impression.

I feel like I'm repeating myself (possibly because I am) but this brings us back to Kerry-hating. The Bush strategy seems three fold.

1. Put up a phony but admirable image of President Bush.
2. Keep President Bush's actual performance off the table.
3. Portray Senator Kerry as a raving yet passionless lunatic.

Will it work? A week from today we'll find out.

Can we trust President Bush?

David Limbaugh writes today on how liberals can't be trusted to handle national security. And by liberals he means Senator Kerry, but presumably he includes all liberals.
Both papers, amazingly, concede that the War on Terror and national security are the most important issues the next president will have to confront. Both admit that Kerry has been wishy-washy on these subjects. But both, ultimately, conclude that Kerry is the better choice, essentially, because he promises to do better. In other words, we should base our decision on some of Kerry's words, not his other words or actions to the contrary.
Well to be fair (although I don't know why Mr. Limbaugh would want to do that) maybe they've also factored in President Bush's poor performance in prosecuting the war on terror. Wait a moment, here's a quote from the New York Times endorsement of Senator Kerry. "There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure." So I guess they did look at Bush's performance too before making up their mind.

I could go down the list of President Bush's SNAFUs. Certainly I could include his failure to plan for enough troops and equipments to occupy Iraq (presumably based on his theory, explained to Pat Robertson, that there would be no casualties (unsurprisingly, the White House now denies the President ever making such a comment. I guess I would too.)). I could review the lawlessness that President Bush's occupation of Iraq allowed, leading both to loss of security for the Iraqi people, a loss of thousands of priceless artifacts from the dawn of human history, and, most importantly, a bonanza for those who would recruit allies to kill American soldiers. I could also review the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

I can already hear some of you saying, "But wait, Bryant, President Bush wasn't directly responsible for those things, was he?" What a weak response. Answer number one is that there is a chain of appointments that goes right back to the White House. Number two is that nobody in the chain of command, except a few lower level sergeants in the Abu Ghraib Scandal, has been held responsible in the slightest. We are a long way from Harry Truman and "the buck stops here."

Of course that brings us to our latest scandal, 380 tons of explosives disappearing in occupied Iraq. A top nuclear-proliferation expert commented on this disappearance in an interview with Salon Magazine.
That this happened is simply inexcusable. The administration knew the material was there. The IAEA warned them before the war. In their public statements to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 29, 2003, the IAEA noted that there were over 200 tons of HMX stored in Iraq. They continued to warn the administration privately after the war began, about the need to secure it.

The administration knew it was there. Why didn't they do anything about it? It was arrogance. I think you have to say that this is not incompetence as much as it is arrogance. They simply did not believe that they were going to have an insurgent or terrorist problem after taking the country. Even when the insurgency began, apparently there was no effort to try to go back and secure these materials.

We don't know yet if HMX and RDX are behind the roadside bombs that are going off almost daily in Iraq. We've been told that they were artillery shells or other munitions, which is certainly possible. But now that we know that nearly 380 tons of this material was stolen, it seems that this is the most likely use for it by insurgents. It's lightweight, it's highly insensitive, so it can be kicked around without it detonating, it can be pressed into a variety of shapes -- it's ideal for the kinds of terrorist attacks U.S. troops and Iraqis have been experiencing.
As John Stewart often remarks, it's hard to imagine how Senator Kerry could do worse. The only hope Limbaugh and his fellow Kerry Haters have is that people will compare an imaginary President Bush (strong, decisive, not a total screw up) with an imaginary Senator Kerry (weak, cowardly, evil alien from planet Z). Unfortunately there's still plenty of people who prefer the imaginary candidates to the real ones.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Broken Promise

I promised to do a blog-around today. And I didn't. Here at Make me A Commentator!!! we deeply regret having dissapointed you that way. Life intervened and we will have to just write off last weeks blogaround until next week.

Fatboy's tripping

Apparently Tony Blair has been using the Fatboy Slim song "Right Here, Right Now" in his campaign. Well Fatboy Slim apparently isn't too keen on that.
I hated the idea that my mates might think I had sanctioned Labour’s use of the song, that on the sly I had been using a private hotline to Blair to cook up this plan and make a bit of cash.

The use of the song implies that I support Blair. Nothing could be further from the truth. The political voices I support are Tony Benn, Glenda Jackson and Ken Livingstone. People who are clearly left wing. I have a very specific opposition to the war in Iraq. It is an unnecessary conflict and Blair is primarily responsible for getting us into it.

I hope the public, and especially my mates, will realise that I have not sanctioned the use of 'Right Here..' and that I do not sanction the war on terror. I do not secretly hang out at Downing Street of an evening with my mate Tony Blair.
So word to the wise. Fatboy Slim's latest, Palookaville, is pretty tight, as I've already noted I think.

The Revolution will not be Carmalized

Anyway here's the score. I read this article this last weekend, but it's probably been out for a while. I thought about posting on it last night but decided not to. I've changed my mind for the simple reason that an article that stays in my head the way this one did probably deserves your attention as well.

It's by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, and its entitled "Party Down." The basic theory is that the Republican Party today is where the Democratic Party was in 1980. In a word deluded.
Just as the GOP in 2000 tended to look at the Clinton administration as an unfortunate detour on the road to a permanent Republican majority, so Democrats in 1976 looked back on the Nixon years as a temporary aberration from the natural order in Washington, one Democrats had and always would dominate. It wasn't just that the party was powerful; the Democrats, returning to the capital in the winter of 1977, thought their principles put them on the right side of history, and the country had come back around to seeing things their way.

But for all the party's political power and institutional strength, it was in an intellectual rut, returning again and again to ideas that had long ago stopped working.
Mr. Wallace-Wells then discusses the fractures in the party; the Republicans are not nearly as united as they would like us to believe.

There are a few differences between 1980 and today--for one President Carter was a moderate, trying to reign in his party's bad habits; President Bush is far more radical, giving aid and comfort to those elements in his party that are further removed from the mainstream. Also of course the Republicans had Reagan in 1980, and like him or loathe him, Reagan was one of the most charismatic politicians America has ever had. I'm not sure Kerry is going to be our Reagan (Clinton was probably that, despite his obvious flaws).

Anyway the argument is worth looking at.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

New Quote, New Format!

Yes a new format and a new quote. And a new Quotes page.

Went and did early voting this morning. You shoudl all consider doing the same, for a number of reasons. For one thing if there are any hitches you can get them ironed out. For another it helps your candidate to see support early, rather than on election day. Just something to think about.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Your weekly Rush

Here's Rush on the smart set.
You know how these intellectuals are when they get together and speak. It's just the funniest thing in the world to listen to, and when you add to it they all think they're smarter than everybody else in the room, it is just one of my favorite things, to listen to a bunch of intellectuals discuss things with each other, and to hear how impressed they are with themselves.
I don't know, but I detect just a hint of anti-intellectualism when I listen to Rush. Oh, and if you didn't know already, Kerry is the intellectual in the race.

I wonder how it would scan if I typed something like "You know those southern hicks when they get together and speak. It's just the funniest thing to listen to." Guess that wouldn't sound too good.

I'm not really sure what's wrong with being an intellectual.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pictures of Ybor City

I went back to Ybor City today after my meeting and took a few pictures (which was about half my reason for going) so here are a few pictures of how Ybor City looks.

That's a picture of some guy leaning against the wall reading the paper. Has some historical significance, but I don't recall what it is.

I just liked the way this staircase looked.

A shot at the big movie theater and the Ybor City sign.


Just letting you know I will be doing Round the Horn on Monday--I was on the road today (as you know) and just got back into my apartment and frankly I am tired. Tomorrow I will be busy for most of the day; so I will come back here on Monday.

I do have some pics of Ybor City I will be putting up shortly.

I'm So Bored with David Limbaugh

This is a reference to the great Clash Song "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A."

Anyway David Limbaugh is pulling out all the stops to defeat Senator Kerry. And he's getting on my nerves. Remember, he's the serious Limbaugh brother. But he is taking several pages from his brother's book these days. For example, repeating groundless accusations in the form of a question.
What is Kerry so afraid of? Why doesn't he want you to find out the identity of that man behind the curtain? Why doesn't he want you to read his book "The New Soldier"? Why doesn't he want you to see "Stolen Honor"? Why won't he release his medical records? Why won't he talk about his Senate record? Why won't he address specific charges about his Vietnam tour?
Obviously I can't answer all these questions for the Senator, but Limbaugh gives away his game in the second question. He wants us to accept at the outset that there is a hidden Kerry; one that doesn't jibe with the one that he's presented.

He brings up the swift boats and other charges almost immediately, as you can see. "Stolen Honor" is a smear piece on Senator Kerry, not an honest documentary. I mean if Republicans are going to make such a big deal about Fahrenheit 9/11, comparatively a more honest film, than why can't they understand Kerry's desire not to have a smear job on him shown right before the election?

Of course Stolen Honor refers to Senator Kerry's accurate testimony before congress on the subject of certain activities engaged in by American troops during Vietnam. But let's let Mr. Limbaugh tell it.
Do you think there's any love lost between Kerry and the military? He has never withdrawn his institution-wide slander nor apologized for it. He did everything he could to undercut our military, its morale and its mission in Vietnam, and he has done exactly the same thing with Iraq. When he criticizes its performance in Iraq every other day, while saying he respects, honors and supports our troops, does anyone believe he's sincere?
First of all if Kerry criticized all soldiers or stated that all soldiers who served in Vietnam are guilty of murder, well that's pretty bad. But he didn't. He suggested the people who created the Vietnam War allowed a situation to exist in which the chaos of war allowed atrocities to be committed. It was the leaders who were to blame for creating the situation, not the individuals who found themselves in that situation.

As for the Iraq war, Kerry's comments have been along the same lines. He thinks President Bush and his advisors rushed into this war too quickly. You can agree or disagree with that premise, but to suggest that criticizing the leadership in this war is the same thing as criticizing the troops is just deceptive.

But what else can you expect from a Limbaugh?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Ybor City

Well I'm on the road again. A one day trip to Tampa, which I've taken twice before. You think I'd have this stupid city figured out by now, but not so much. At any rate, today I traveled to the historical community of Ybor City, which is a small part of the larger city of Tampa. Apparently Ybor City was the old Cuban section, and the architecture is still from that period and is pretty impressive. On the other hand the shops containing that architecture were . . . Somewhat less impressive.

It's clearly a club area, which I have nothing against. But since I was there at 6:00, it wasn't really club time yet, and even if it had been club time I would likely not have participated (I'm shy). So maybe I didn't see Ybor city at its best. Anyway it was one of those trendy art communities, with lots and lots of clubs and such.

I walked a four block by three block area and saw five tattoo parlors. After seeing the third tattoo parlor I began to think this area had a lot of tattoo parlors in a small space. At the fourth tattoo parlor I saw three young people outside smoking and looking bored, and suspected that that particular tattoo parlor was overstaffed.

Outside the fifth tattoo parlor I saw a girl writing on the back of a guy in permanent marker.

I'm not sure what to make of that. Probably cuts down on expenses.

Anyway, no book stores in Ybor City. Two record shops--one a fashion store with a little bit of Drum and Bass and Breakbeat music (neither of which are my favorite, I much prefer Acid Lounge, Acid Jazz, World Beats and so on). The owner who was nice enough, but also gently suggested that I didn't really fit into her store, recommended I visit FYE. Which was an overpriced Mall CD Shop. The one in Gainesville is pretty good--this one sucked.

On the other hand the clerk at FYE did have a nice detailed tattoo on her wrist. So it's nice to see her supporting the local economy.


I am feeling very conflicted just now. I have been down on Eminem for quite a while; I think he's kind of a psycho-jerk, mostly based on his attitudes towards woman. But apparently his new album has a slam on old President Bush, in the song Mosh.
Stomp, push, shove, mush, f*** Bush
Until they bring our troops home
Come on.

Maybe we can reach al Qaeda through my speech
Let the president answer on higher anarchy
Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war
Let him impress Daddy that way
Well that's not the most reasoned argument I've ever read, but well . . . maybe . . .

Naw, forget it. I still think Eminem's a psycho-jerk.

How vicious is vicious? How mean is mean?

This is a really obscure reference to the song "How Rapid?" by the Art of Noise off of their 1988 album, "In No Sense? Nonsense!" Just so you know.

It also refers to Ms. Ann Coulter. I came up with a great idea for today's column--since she so often tries to pass of her mean spirited senseless rants as "Humor" I would give her a taste of her own medicine. Ha ha ha. All I'd have to do is come up with some way to characterize that's sufficiently extreme so as to top her and beat her at her own game!

Well, I'm sure you can already see the flaw in that theory; I'm having a hard time coming up with anything. After all how do you match a statement like this?
This may be the first time in American history that the decisional calculus for many voters will be: Do I really want to throw my hat in with these crazy people?
But of course Ann Coulter isn't going to stop at just making crazy and unprovable assertions that make no sense. No she's also going to make assertions that are easily disproved.
John Kerry has called the war with Iraq "a huge mistake, a catastrophic mistake." He said it was no excuse that "Saddam might have done it 10 years from now" - use weapons of mass destruction against Americans, apparently. (New Kerry campaign slogan: "Let Radical Islamic Iraq Be Radical Islamic Iraq!")
I know that Neo-Crusaders like Ann would like to portray a unified Islamic society in the middle east. That makes it easier to justify their suggestion that we invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. But for those of us who live in the real world, Iraq, while certainly dangerous, was a secular state.

Anyway I just can't match her. I just don't have enough hate in me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Everybody Loves Kerry

Here's an opening line from Tony Blankley's latest article.
It's getting to that point in the campaign when more than everything that needed to be said has been said. Rhetorical exaggerations being judged insufficient, straight out lies now fill the airwaves.
Here is a line from a little further into Tony Blankley's latest article.
. . . all the pollsters have agreed that there are no pro-Kerry voters in the country. This election is simply breaking along the line that divides the voters who don't like Kerry from those who really, really don't like him.
Yeah, you've really got your finger on the pulse of this issue, don't you Mr. Blankley?

Fortunately Mr. Blankley ends his article with this crowd-pleasing line.
The foregoing observations should be seen as sort of neo-gonzoish (with a respectful tip of the hat to Hunter Thompson), and should not be taken as literally accurate in all its particulars.
Well that makes it all better, then.

The Electoral College

Jonah Goldberg defends the electoral college in his latest article. A lot of people have suggested that the Electoral College may not be the most fair or democratic way of determining who is to be the President. To this Mr. Goldberg says Phooey (not literally).

His first argument in its defense? It's been around a long time. Hmmmmmm. The old stood the test of time argument. Yes but does it perform like it used to? I mean I'm sure you can find old Model Ts still around (if not on most roads) but the reason they are still around is that clever and hard working and wealthy gents and ladies have spent a lot of time and wealthy refurbishing and keeping them on the road. Has anybody spent the same kind of energy keeping the Electoral college running smoothly?

Secondly there is the states rights argument. I can buy that in regards to the Senate I can understand and buy that argument, but I don't see it's application here. Everybody in America gets the same vote for President; the President is the President of everybody.

The real switch would be in campaigning. Urban areas would automatically take a greater importance, and rural areas less importance. That's not to say farmers are any less represented, they still get their one vote each. But Presidential politics will naturally gravitate to those areas where a lot of people live. To my mind this might be a positive development; country folk don't give a crap what happens to people in cities. In many cases they actively despise those fools who choose to live in cities. So the problems of cities are often ignored. I'm not sure this would fix that problem; but it might have positive benefits.

The other question is how much does personal political advantage play into this argument? An increase in people voting usually helps Democrats. An increase in Direct Democracy might very well help Democrats as well. There's nothing unfair about it; but Republicans would have to evolve to the new situation. Which they would not like to do.

Personally I like the idea of Instant Runoff balloting--but we certainly need to do something. But we certainly need to do something. A Model T doesn't fall apart if you don't believe in it; an Electoral system just might. After all it is a social system; those only work if people believe that they work. See, for example, the trip without a ticket. Anyway something to think about.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Person of Faith

President Bush is a person of faith. I could hedge my bets and say he claims to be, but I have no way to judge his heart. But I will give this to him. I am also a person of faith. So the question arises, what do I, as a person of faith, owe him?

This is not an idle question; I've read dozens of articles over the last year that tried to suggest, obliquely or directly, that as a person of faith I should vote for President Bush. And I've read the suggestion, over and over again, that one of the things Liberals have against President Bush is his faith. I should therefore defend him against those who would attack him, and by extension all people of faith. This argument willfully ignores both Senator Kerry and President Clinton's faith, which gives you a hint as to how sincere it is.

That brings us to an article in the New York Times Sunday Issue by Ron Suskind, author of "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill." The article, entitled "Without a Doubt," deals with President Bush's religious faith and how it feeds his belief in his absolute rightness.

First things first, the article is too long and wanders a bit. It might read better in the magazine format, but I got a little lost towards the middle on where he was going. But it is still quite informative and at times even terrifying. It paints a picture of a President unable to brook even the slightest disagreement.
There is one story about Bush's particular brand of certainty I am able to piece together and tell for the record.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.
What's telling about this event is not that the President confused Sweden and Switzerland. That's easy enough to do. What's telling is that the President stuck to his guns, refused to be corrected, and the men around him knew enough not to make the correction.

How does this tie back into the President's faith or my own? Well Suskind sees them as connected, mostly because that is apparently how the President sees them. The President makes decisions, according to Suskind, based on a gut reaction and his faith. This doubtless works for him on the campaign trail, as he relates in discussion those who understand President Bush's faith.
That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!''
President Bush talks the language of faith, so those with faith gravitate to him. President Clinton had this gift in part as well, but Kerry seems to lack it.

Of course the large question is how does religious certainty make one a good political leader? Isn't that like asking, well, how does religious faith make one a good plumber? Well maybe a bit more honest (although not necessarily). Is President Bush's certainty and unwillingness to brook disagreement really a good thing? Does the mere existence of faith make one wise?

I have my own answer to these questions, from Matthew 7:16-20.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
I don't want to imply that President Bush is a false prophet or an evil person on any level. But I do want to suggest that were his methods of governance divinely inspired, we would see the fruits of those labors, and they would be sweet. Instead, the best thing President Bush's supports can say about his presidency is that his programs will succeed down the road even if they haven't yet (at this point they usually shift discussion to how awful Senator Kerry is).

Anyway something to think about.

Go look at this!

The latest This Modern World is one of the best ever! You can go see it here at working for change. If this seems familiar, it's because it's exactly what the Republican party did with the ill-chosen words "Global Test."

Those Stupid Voters!

Cal Thomas writes on the depressing state of the American Voter in his latest column. Apparently voters don't know enough on the essential issues of the day, according to a poll taken by the libertarian Cato institute, performed by a Mr. Ilya Somin.

You might be suspicious of what sort of information Mr. Thomas expects his readers to have (seeing as he is a very partisan writer in general). For example, he might expect his readers to "know" that Senator John Kerry shot a fleeing kid in Vietnam out of malice (according to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. For more info on the "truth" of this story, check out yesterdays Daily Howler). He does expect voters to know that the Bush Admininstration has certainly never ever tried to link September 11th and the invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Somin posits an interesting theory as to why people don't know more about the issues when they vote. Rather than ascribing laziness or stupidity to them, perhaps they are simply being rational.
. . . even a smart and hardworking person can rationally decide not to pay much attention to politics. No matter how well-informed a person is, his or her vote has only a tiny chance of affecting the outcome of an election. Since that vote is almost certain not to be decisive, even a citizen who cares greatly about the outcome has almost no incentive to acquire sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice.

Acquiring significant amounts of political knowledge to be a more informed voter is, in most situations, simply irrational. But the rational decisions of individuals create a dysfunctional collective outcome in which the majority of the electorate is dangerously ill-informed.

If political ignorance is rational, there are limits to our ability to reduce it by reforming the education system or by improving media coverage of politics.
Not the most upbeat analysis, admittedly.

The problem with talking about stupid voters is that the obvious assumption is that if people really knew their stuff politically, they would vote for the guy I'm going to vote for. It's hard to believe that someone would know the issues and know the facts and vote for that jerk, "candidate B." It's pretty clear that both Mr. Somin and Mr. Thomas believe that an informed electorate will favor their guy (President Bush), while my assumption is that an informed electorate would largely go for my guy (Senator Kerry). But of course one of us is probably wrong.

I'm guessing its Somin and Thomas. If you want to look at the text of Somin's report, you can get it here (it's a PDF).

Monday, October 18, 2004

We Live in a Nuanced World

Just driving around catching part of a radio program, where in the host commented that he didn't want a President who saw things in terms of nuance. I don't know what that means. We live in a nuanced world. People who want simple answers are being childish. There are few simple answers in life, certainly not in politics..

Now please don't write and explain to me that, as a Liberal, I probably don't have a moral code, probably don't believe in right and wrong, and use "nuance" as a means to justify my depraved lifestyle. First of all my lifestyle is only mildly depraved. Secondly, I do believe in right and wrong - believe in it passionately. I believe, for example, that it is wrong to put a tax cut, predominately for the wealthy, ahead of the safety of our troops as President Bush did, when he lowballed the cost of the Iraq war to protect his tax cut.

But even that simplistic issue has a nuance to it. I mean if President Bush's tax cut had worked, and the economy was roaring now; would that be an acceptable pay off? A strong economy would mean a stronger economy, and increase our ability to defend ourselves. So would that be a good pay off? It's at least discussable (although I think I still stand by my assessment above).


There is an interesting paragraph in Michael Barone's latest effort.
Democrats tend to win on domestic issues if the question is: Who is going to spend the most money? Voters believe, plausibly, that Democrats will. Thus for many years, education was a Democratic issue. Democrats, with their strong support from the teachers union, always promised to spend more.
This isn't exactly true. Traditionally, Democrats have wanted to fix problems, and have been comfortable spending money to do so. Traditionally, Republicans have wanted to ignore problems or blame the problems on things government can't control.

For example, the Conservative solution to segregation was to explain patiently that you can't force people to like each other using governmental methods. That's probably true; but of course that would have left Southern Blacks segregated until Southern Whites decided to give them their rights. (For those conservatives hurrying to send me a message explaining that more Republicans voted for Civil Rights legislation, I would point out in the 1960s the parties were not lined up Republican/Democratic the way they are now).

What is unusual about the current President (which Michael Barone notes) is that he's learned that just ignoring or minimizing the domestic problems facing America won't work as a strategy. So instead he propose programs to help solve problems and then fails to fund them (as he did with the flawed and then underfunded No Child Left Behind act. Of course it's fair to wonder if the American people are going to fall for this shell trick, but I see no reason why they wouldn't.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

New Quote, New Format!

Yep, it's time for another new quote, and along with that a new Quotes Page.

Also a new format; we are switching to dark backgrounds with light letters for a while; that means that to see certain posts properly, you will probably want to click on the post name tot the right there or go back a week in the archives. In most cases it won't make much of a difference. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Interesting story

Long story short; 16 members of a National Guard group were ordered to take trucks and drive contaminated jet fuel to somewhere; because the fuel was contaminated with diesal it was unusable. The convey would be largely unprotected, the trucks were old, and the soldiers figured they had about a 75% chance of getting attacked by insurgents. So they refused to go. They were under arrest for a day and now the incident is being covered up.

The story is here at Salon. I hate to admit this but I'm really not sure how to react to this. On the one hand, I can't think that the idea of optional orders is good for army discipline. On the other hand, I wouldn't have wanted to go either, certainly not if the mission was so much of a waste of time.

What do you think?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Holy Toledo

Here's a picture from Toledo.

For my conservative readers, I regret to tell you this isn't the start of "Operation Round Up All The Liberals Once And For All." While I assume that is still in the works, this is actually in response to some freelance patriots who took it upon themselves to attack the Headquarters of the Democratic Party in Toledo. Maybe they were Protest Warriors or a splinter group.
The Lucas County Democratic Headquarters was burglarized overnight, and three computers, including the party's main system, were stolen.

The computers contained highly sensitive information, including the party's financial information, names and personal phone numbers of hundreds of party members, candidates, and volunteers.

The computers also stored e-mails from candidates that included discussion about campaign strategy.
Seems like there was another campaign burglary that upset the political balance once upon a time. Thank goodness the Republicans are the party of law and order and won't tolerate these kinds of shenanigans.

Round the Horn Part 1, In Which Numbering Becomes Infinite

You know the score by now. Here we go.

blogAmy has a very thoughtful article on what remember September 11 means, or what a post 9/11 mentality means.

All Facts and Opinion has a pretty solid take on Michael Moore and the President's father.

And Then . . . has some pretty good news for Senator Kerry on the debate was perceived.

Steve Gilliard's News Blog also has a good analysis of the debate and how President Bush looks at unemployment.

Rooks Rant also has some comments on the debate and the three faces of President Bush.

Pen-Elayne on the Web also has a question about the Debate, God's Mouth and President Bush's Earpiece.

Chris "Lefty" Brown has a great line on President Bushs jobs creation program.

Mercury X23s Fantabalous Blog has a great suggestion for a Halloween costume involving a beloved space alien and a beloved revolutionary figure.

Collective Sigh has an interesting perspective on the whole Swift Boat Vet controversy.

Rubber Hose has a story about the deaths of sea turtles and the deaths of American Soldiers in Iraq and the relative importance of each.

Fatboy Slim's new album, Palookaville is very good. Not really germaine but felt like saying it. See you later.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

I like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. They are tasty. And I applaud some of the changes of pace Reeses has thrown my way with the limited edition cups. I enjoyed the inside out Peanut Butter Cup. I like the White Chocolate Peanut butter cup. And now Reeses has introduced a new flavor of Peanut Butter Cup.

First of all isn't saying it's Extra Smooth and Creamy a lot like saying "It's just like our product, only better?" Why not make it that way all the time?

Secondly, out of a blind taste test, two out of the three people I imposed it on thought that the regular peanut butter cup was in fact the special "extra smooth and creamy one." That's not a large enough sample to mean much, but it's means something. Sort of.

Adding it up

Thomas Friedman has a very good editorial today at the New York Times.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

. . . That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.
He's not wrong. More and more this war seems to have taken on totemistic significance in Republican rhetoric. September 11th changed everything we are told again and again, and, coincidently enough, it changed everything in such a way as to invalidate liberalism forever. Or so we are told.

Anyway it's a good article.

Debate Analysis

Here at Make Me a Commentator!!! we promise the most intense debate analysis ever as we literally go word by word to tell you what the candidates said and what they meant. We are using the transcript from the New York Times, so let's dive right in.

The first question was to President Kerry and was as follows.
Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion by asking the question that I think hangs over all of our politics today and is probably on the minds of many people watching this debate tonight. And that is will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?
The first word in Kerry's response was "Well" which was frankly a terrible choice. Well doesn't convey a presidential timber, and it reminds one of well, wells, like the one Bart fell in, in that one Simpsons episode with Sting. "Well" can be used on occasion effectively, but in this case I think it didn't convey the sort of presidential material we've come to expect from Senator Kerry.

Senator Kerry improved vastly with his second word which was "first." First of course calls to mind the idea that Senator Kerry came in "first" in the first debate, and his hopes that he'll come in "first" in November. I don't think Senator Kerry could say "First" enough, really.

But inevitably, Senator Kerry falls prey to the third word syndrome, selecting the tiny word "of." There's nothing wrong with a workmanlike word like "of" in everyday speech, but I think America expects more out of a Potential President. Compare the humble word "of" to "flamingo" or to "supermodel." Which words get your pulse pulsing? I don't think it's "of." Admittedly it might be hard to work "flamingo" into an answer to that question, but as President Bush often says, being President is about hard choices and hard work and various other hard things.

His fourth word was "all," completing the phrase "first of all." In this he partially redeems himself for the use of the word "of." As part of a phrase it's far less odious. Still I think we have to ask ourselves; is "first of all" really better than "first" by itself? What if he had created some phrase, conveying the same idea but containing the word "cherry-red?" There's just a sense that more could have been done at this point.

Now Kerry hits one out of the park with his next word, "Bob." This may not have occurred to you, but there are literally dozens of guys around the United States named "Bob." Each one of them felt for a moment that Senator Kerry was talking directly to them. Perhaps an answer composed entirely of common names might have served the Senator well.

I am going to continue working on this analysis and will post it as soon as I finish, which should be somewhere about 2034.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate Responses

1. Just heard President Bush suggest that Senator Kerry wants to follow a law enforcement policy, while he wants to use all the tools in our arsenal. Frankly it shouldn't come as any surprise that I think it's President Bush who doesn't want to use certain tools, notably the diplomatic corps and the international law enforcement agencies.

2. And here I was just going to go get a flu shot, and the President says that I shouldn't. Oh well.

3. Like watching Kerry laughing as President Bush repeats the lie about 98 tax increases. Kerry didn't get a chance to reply. Here's the truth from Factcheck.Org.
Of the 98 votes for "tax increases," 43 were cast on budget measures that only set targets and don't actually legislate tax increases. Often, several votes are counted regarding a single tax bill.

The ad also strives to blame Kerry for raising taxes on the "middle class" and says "There's what Kerry says and then there's what Kerry does." But a close look shows the votes cited in this ad are in fact fairly consistent with Kerry's promise only to raise taxes on those making over $200,000 a year.
4. This is a pretty contentious debate; they don't look like they like each other at all. I also get the impression that this moderator is trying pretty hard to avoid the charge of "liberal bias."

Waiting for the President or Someone Like Him

Continuing our theme of the ease in which the President acknowledges mistakes, we point you to this "online debate" between Senator John Kerry, Private Citizen Ralph Nader, and President George W. Bush at Slashdot. If you flip down to number 11, you see this interesting question.
When is it appropriate for a leader to change their opinion? Both sides have been accused of flip-flopping on important issues - President Bush on establishing the Dept. of Homeland Security and steel tariffs, Senator Kerry on the Iraq war. But changing opinion due to thoughtful reconsideration ought not to be derided as flip-flopping. Tell us about a time when you had an honest change of opinion on a topic of national importance.
I will admit that none of them answered the question directly, but the President's answer is particularly enlightening, and I will reprint it in its entirety.
President Bush declined to answer this question. - Editor

The Past

Here's a famous quotation.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

Here is a quotation from an article on last Friday's Presidential Debate.
For me, the defining moment of this match was the last question of the evening, directed to the President. The questioner asked: "President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it." The question clearly struck a raw nerve, you could see it in the way his eyes narrowed into paper cuts. Bush huffed about accepting the verdict of historians, which is just another way of saying, "as I see things now, I'm perfect". He even balefully accused the questioner of having veiled motive, of trying to trap him into some admission about Iraq saying, "That's really what you're ? when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, "Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?" And the answer is, "Absolutely not." It was the right decision."

But I think the questioner was actually trying to induce the President into a moment of more general introspection on his own character. Eventually he reluctantly mentioned that he'd made appointments that were mistakes, which is to say, the mistakes were yet again external; the products of being disappointed by lesser men he has no control over. Any guesses that those appointments he had in mind were the people who disagreed with him (Richard Clarke? Paul O'Neill?). In short, it seems he thinks his only mistake was in appointing a choice few people who thought that he could be mistaken.
Here is another quote.

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." - William Faulkner

Enjoy tonight's debate if you are so inclined.

Should Presidents Lie?

Why should we care about the lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq? Because that was the rationale presented to American for invading Iraq. They have such spun a myriad of other explanations from grandiose plans to remake the Middle East, to such fantasies as the Flypaper Strategy, to the trivia of Saddam Hussein gaming the Oil for Food program (trivia compared to Weapons of Mass Destruction, at an rate).

There is pretty strong evidence that that wasn't the real reason; that many elements in the government knew that the WMDs claims were overblown, but that this was the rationale most likely to be accepted. Like many actions, the war in Iraq was probably motivated by a number of factors, predominately a desire to remake the Middle East and thus limit the problems (a laudable goal, but one that seems to be moving further away right now, rather than closer).

Eric Alterman at the Nation discusses this problem in an article at the Nation entitled "When Presidents Lie."
Joseph Cropsey, a close friend and colleague of Strauss's at the University of Chicago, as well as the editor of his work, explains that in Straussian thought, a degree of public deception is considered absolutely necessary. "That people in government have to be discreet in what they say publicly is so obvious--'If I tell you the truth I can't but help the enemy.'"

However high-minded, the argument does not really convince. With few exceptions, Presidents lie largely not for the reasons above but for reasons of political convenience. The decisions to lie were bred of a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the practice of American democracy. American Presidents have no choice but to practice the diplomacy of Great Power politics, but American citizens have rarely if ever been asked to understand the world in those terms.
The White House lied because they believe that if they told the truth, we wouldn't support them in what they wanted to do. They might have been right; we have no way of knowing now

Alterman goes on to explore the effect of these deceptions on our ability to act as wise citizens and voters.


OK, first question, is there anybody out there who thinks, barring the Second Coming, we are going to totally eliminate all terrorists? If you do please post in the comments section. Now bear in mind I'm not asking you to argue with the premise of my question; I'm simply asking if you think we can eliminate all terrorists?

If you do think that we can eliminate all terrorists I would ask you to consider the following. Terrorism is a tactic not an organizational characteristic. Other than a few psychos, most people don't join a terrorist organization to become terrorists. They join a terrorist organization to promote their political agenda (say freeing the Palestinians or protecting the unborn) and then select terrorism as a tactic to further that agenda. How do you win a war against a tactic?

This is all related to a comment Senator Kerry made last week, that I'm sure you've all heard.
We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance. As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.
Tony Blankley takes on this comment and puts it in the context of the intra-organization fights in the Bush Administration. Specifically the CIA and the State Department are treasonous dogs for disagree with President Bush. Basically, Kerry is expressing the State Department and CIA's opinion, and they are all wrong.

The problem is nuance. The metaphor of a war against terrorism is so powerful that it's hard to abandon or even minimize. So when Kerry talks about fighting Terrorism using all the weapons in our arsenal (including military options, but also including diplomatic tools and law enforcement agencies), Blankley sees that as weakness, and believes that such a procedure would lead to total capitulation.
At the minimum such a policy would tend to drive us to withdraw from the world as instructed by bin Laden or his successors. Certainly we would abandon Israel. Probably we would abandon the Middle East oil fields to the control by the terrorist regime. Doubtlessly we would have to pay tribute (foreign aid) to beneficiaries designated by the terrorists in "compensation for our past abuses." We might well try to tamp down the export of our Hollywood, MTV culture to appease the terrorist's sensitivities. Perhaps we would have to offer special dispensations to Islamic Americans.
Yep. I suggest you try to line this future up along side Senator Kerry's performance at the debates. See if he sounds this weak.

But of course this is what the Republicans want the election to be about. It can't be about President Bush's performance because there isn't much there to praise (even his supporters admit that while his programs are definitely going to pay off, they haven't yet. The election can't be about the real John Kerry. So it has to be about a caricature of John Kerry.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

More on the "L" Word

Reading Robert Scheer's latest article, who's covering the same ground as Robert Novak, albeit from a completely different perspective.
I like liberals. They gave us the five-day workweek; ended child labor; invented unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare; and led us, despite fierce opposition from "America First" pseudo-patriots on the political right, to victory over fascism in World War II. Liberals also ended racial segregation and gave women the vote.

But when Bush used the L-word in the second presidential debate, Kerry did not defend that proud progressive tradition. Nor did I expect him to. Kerry is one of those New Democrats who rejects the "liberal" label that I find so honorable. After all, Kerry, as he bragged in the debate, voted for the atrocious 1996 welfare reform bill, which has contributed to the 4 million additional people, mostly children, pushed below the poverty line during Bush's tenure.
The problem is that "New" Democrats have won and won big; most notably in Bill Clinton but elsewhere as well. It's hard to argue with success.

The Scarlet Letter

This is Robert Novak's pithy metaphor for a label he asserts that Senator Kerry is trying desperately to avoid. In other words, L is for Liberal.
It seems like a lifetime since July 1991 when Sen. Kerry declared: "I'm a liberal, and proud of it." Thirteen years later, the L-word is forbidden language for Kerry. He is attempting what only Bill Clinton among recent Democratic candidates has accomplished: covering left-of-center policies with a facade of moderation.
It's kind of funny how after decades of conservatives trying every way they know how to demonize liberals ("Even fanatical Muslim terrorists don't hate America like liberals do." - Ann Coulter), some liberals are now uncomfortable being described as liberal.

For that reason I wish John Kerry would accept and dignify the label liberal. Several years ago the Republican Party put up Barry Goldwater, a presidential candidate who was unabashedly conservative. This came after a period of Liberalism triumphant. Liberalism had desegregated the South and was beginning to grapple with all sorts of problems facing America. Conservatives hadn't been demonized per se, but they'd done a bit of demonizing of themselves (particularly Southern Democratic Conservatives like Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus). Still Goldwater ran on a staunch Conservative platform and lost. But he reinvigorated the Conservative movement, leading to the Presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

We are going to need that kind of a turnaround on the liberal side sometime. Still, this year, I'd rather have Senator Kerry defeat President Bush. You can see that as a abdication of principles if you like. Principles won't bring back people that President Bush sends off on his military adventures and they won't feed people hurt by his economic policies. Perhaps if there is going to be a change in how people look at the word liberal, it has to come from the ground floor.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Secrets of Make me a Commentator!!! revealed!

Not that this should come as a huge surprise. I have a 15 minutes till lunch; and I haven't read anything I want to write on. I want another post, but don't want to do a ton of work finding an article and critiquing it. What do I do?

Pull up Paul Krugman's latest article, praise his impressive writing, lift a quote, and call it a day. Easy.

His latest article concerns the Bush administrations ability to willfully ignore what doesn't fit their gameplan.
How did the occupation of Iraq go so wrong? (The security situation has deteriorated to the point where there are no safe places: a bomb was discovered on Tuesday in front of a popular restaurant inside the Green Zone.)

The insulation of officials from reality is central to the story. They wanted to believe Ahmad Chalabi's promises that we'd be welcomed with flowers; nobody could tell them different. They wanted to believe - months after everyone outside the administration realized that we were facing a large, dangerous insurgency and needed more troops - that the attackers were a handful of foreign terrorists and Baathist dead-enders; nobody could tell them different.

. . . The point is that in the real world, as opposed to the political world, ignorance isn't strength. A leader who has the political power to pretend that he's infallible, and uses that power to avoid ever admitting mistakes, eventually makes mistakes so large that they can't be covered up. And that's what's happening to Mr. Bush.
That is one value of the debates; it exposes these contradictions. In effect, President Bush and Senator Kerry are presenting two different realities, and it is up to the voters to decide which one seems more realistic.

Liberals Just Don't Understand.

Laura Ingraham covers, in her latest article, a number of things Presidential Candidate John Kerry and we liberals just don't understand.

Apparently John Kerry and Liberals don't believe that this is a dangerous world. John Kerry doesn't realize that most nations of the world are going to act in their own self interest. He doesn't understand that we can't trust other nations to protect us.

Of course, anybody who watched the debates realizes that this is all poppycock. This is a sad attempt to reinvigorate the caricature of Senator Kerry that the Republicans have spent many months trying to create. The thing about caricatures is that they have to have some bearing in reality for them to really work.

She also criticizes Senator Kerry's line about a global test. For reference here is that section of the first Presidential debate.
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

Here we have our own secretary of state who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.

I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And DeGaulle waved them off and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."
Conservatives like to pretend this is some sort of amazing contradiction. "You say that you won't cede power, but then demand that such power be subject to some sort of global test?"

It's more of a matter of cause and effect. If we had found weapons of Mass Destruction in Baghdad or if we had found proof that Saddam was directly working with Terrorists than President Bush could present those facts to the world. Instead the opposite has happened. And American prestige and trustworthiness will take a hit.

The question isn't whether or not President Bush or President Kerry should have the power to protect the United States; they should. The question is how should that power and authority be used. Consider the following parable.
Johnny and Jimmy sat on the porch admiring Johnny's new gun. Jimmy said excitedly "That sure is a neat gun Jimmy."

Johnny smiled and said, "Yep, and thank goodness we live in a country where I'm allowed to have a gun."

Jimmy agreed. "Yep, the right to have a gun is something we totally agree on!"

Then Johnny took his gun, and standing on his porch shot out the Widow McIckleson's windows. Jimmy looked horrified. "You shouldn't do that Johnny."

Johnny looked indignent "What are you talking about? I have a right to have a gun, which means I have a right to shoot it."

Jimmy said, "Well, yeah, sure you have the right to defend yourself with your gun, but that don't mean you can shoot it any time you like, Johnny. The whole town's gonna be mighty pissed at you for shooting out the Widow McIckleson's windows."

Johnny grumbled a moment and said, "You can't impose some sort of . . . town test on my right to shoot my gun. That's the same as saying I can't have a gun at all."

Jimmy replied, "Well you can have your gun, but you can't use it like that without getting everybody mad at you; better to save your gun for times when you need to actually protect yourself. And shooting squirrels."
To reiterate, the President has the right to defend America when the time comes; but he shouldn't use that power unwisely. Oh, and please don't take that parable too literally.

Ms. Ingraham also has this crowd pleasing line in her article. "They [meaning Senator Kerry and other liberals] trust anti-American voices around the world more than they trust the American people." Kind of funny when you consider Thomas Sowells article last week wherein he shows just how much conservatives trust the American People to vote. But in all honesty I don't know what this means. Certainly I'd rather President Bush trusted me more than the U.N., but President Bush makes it clear that he doesn't govern by looking at polls (this may or may not actually be true, but he says it a lot) or following public opinion. So I just don't know how much they actually trust us either.