Friday, July 30, 2004

Compassionate conservatives and the working poor
Once again the administration and its friends show why they should be unemployed.
A campaign worker for President Bush said on Thursday American workers unhappy with low-quality jobs should find new ones -- or pop a Prozac to make themselves feel better.

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" said Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt.

That might be good advice, but the working poor can't afford it on their crappy pay and they don't have insurance to help them. If Susan Sheybani had ever had to make an honest living she might know that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Florida - the bad TV movie
If you live in a sit com never utter the words, "well, at least it's not raining," because as soon as the last syllable leaves your lips, thunder rumbles and the big fat drops start to fall from the sky. The words, "what else can go wrong?" often have the same effect on the weather. If you find yourself living in a "Law and Order" episode and can't get a break in the vexing case your working on, stand by the phone and tell your chief about it. The phone will always ring with the most unexpected development in the case you were just talking to the chief about.

Suppose you find yourself playing the governor in a made for TV movie, a black comedy about elections. In this plot, your state has had unending problems trying to hold a simple election. Stand next to a telephone while holding your press conference to announce your complete confidence in the new election system you just spent millions on. In TV land, what happens next?
Some states, worried about the potential for abuse with voting machines that leave no paper trail, have banned their use this November. But Florida, which may well decide the presidential race, is not among those states, and last month state officials rejected a request to allow independent audits of the machines' integrity. A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush accused those seeking audits of trying to "undermine voters' confidence," and declared, "The governor has every confidence in the Department of State and the Division of Elections."

Ring. Ring. It's for you Mr. Governor.
A computer crash erased detailed records from Miami-Dade County's first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines, raising again the specter of election troubles in Florida, where the new technology was supposed to put an end to such problems.


The malfunction was made public after the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizen's group, requested all data from the 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.


The loss of data underscores problems with the touchscreen voting machines, the citizen's group said. "This is a disaster waiting to happen," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. "Of course it's worrisome."

Jeb would be funny if this wasn't an election we're talking about.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

We’ve wanted to hear this for a long time
By now everyone knows that Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention was amazing. In my opinion, this is the first great speech of the century. My wife cried.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

I’ve never liked the flag-waving, in-your-face, jingoistic style of patriotism, but I’m a sucker for the gooey, idealistic variety. Obama’s we-are all-Americans message was pure idealism. This was not a disingenuous call to bipartisanism, which, coming from either side, usually means your side gives our side everything we want and never objects.

It’s a common observation that the Republican coalition is held together by hatred of domestic Liberalism (and by making the Democratic Party synonymous with Liberalism). This line of interpretation usually cites a transformation in the Party when they lost their previous unifying enemy, international Communism. The transformation was a little more complicated than that. In 1990, when Communism was on the ropes, the Republican Party had a faction that had been professional Liberal haters for over twenty years. These were the Movement Conservatives, mostly fundamentalist Protestants who had separated themselves from secular culture and rarely participated in politics. In the late sixties, these Protestant separatists were brought back into secular politics by the cultural movements of that decade. Over the next twenty years they very effectively organized, expanded their numbers, and pioneered new political tactics. By the early nineties, after they absorbed the remnant of the old anti-Communist radicals, they could take over the Republican Party.

We’ve spent the last decade in shock at how angry and effective they are. Only in the last two years have we begun to effectively counter organize and develop our own organization and tools. Bush hatred will only serve us as an organizing principle for one election (or three if we lose this fall). Hating the Conservatives back might build a new Liberal Movement around which we can rebuild the Democratic Party, but in the long run it will be disastrous for America. Answering their hate with better hate would first paralyze and then destroy America. An America made up of two unwaveringly opposed cultures would be ticking time bomb, a giant Yugoslavia.

Someone needs to de-escalate this race. Not all Conservatives, not all Republicans, not even all Fundamentalists are radical thugs. We need to make it safe for Conservatives of good will to stand apart from the radicals. We need to be honest negotiating partners with anyone who will themselves be honest negotiating partners. We need to answer divisiveness with consensus building. We need to emphasize what we have in common as Americans and work on those areas of agreement, rather than beat our heads against the areas of disagreement.

Obama’s words hinted to me of that different vision. That was some speech, indeed.
Wrong enemy?
While taking my wife to work this morning we heard about the latest kidnapping in Iraq. Two Jordanian truck drivers named Ahmad Salameh Hussein and Fayez Saad al-Adwan were kidnapped Monday. Their employer, Daoud and Partners, has agreed to stop working for the US in Iraq, in order to save the lives of their drivers. I notice we keep blaming these kidnappings on unnamed militants, terrorists, and Islamic extremists. But while I was listening to the story, I had a thought. "Maybe," I said to my wife, "this isn't being done by bad guys who hate our freedom. Maybe it's the Iraqi Teamsters' Union trying to protect their jobs." She changed the subject to gardening.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

One thousand
Tresy brings up something I’ve been pondering for about a week. At the present rate of American military casualties in Iraq (about two deaths per day), we will probably lose our one thousandth soldier during or near the Republican convention (I estimate September 9). How will we recognize this unpleasant milestone? By we I mean as a country, as amateur and professional punditocracies, and as shrill Bush haters.

I think we can safely assume that the Republicans and the right-wing media machine are also aware of where the lines on the graph are pointing. If their past history is any guide, they are planning to take possession of the memory of these people and use them as a campaign prop. Bush will put on his saddest hound-dog eyes and piously proclaim for the cameras that we make sure these fine Americans did not die in vain. To do that, we must stay the course and reelect him. The slime machine will be ready to attack should any family members protest this crass exploitation.

Is there anything we can do to deny Bush this tool? Is there any way we can turn it against him without being as crassly exploitative as they would be? If we can’t, should we just hold our noses and be exploitative for the sake of getting the frat boy out of the Oval Office? We have a month to think about this.

Update: I have also published a longer and better edited version of this post at American Street.

Friday, July 23, 2004

A bad choice of words
A Republican state representative in Michigan is in trouble for being too honest about the GOP's election strategy.
Democrats on Wednesday denounced a Republican lawmaker quoted in a newspaper as saying the GOP would fare poorly in this year's elections if it failed to "suppress the Detroit vote."

State Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, acknowledged using "a bad choice of words" but said his remark shouldn't be construed as racist.

Pappageorge, 73, was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election."

"I'm extremely disappointed in my colleague," state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, told reporters Wednesday during a conference call. "That's quite clearly code that they don't want black people to vote in this election."

Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit's population, and the city routinely gives Democratic candidates a substantial majority of its votes.

No doubt, Rep. Pappageorge was thinking of the fine accomplishments by presidential brother Jeb Bush in 2000, when the Florida State Police set up roadblocks around polling places and poll workers turned away voters in predominantly black precincts.

Pappageorge shows his sincerity and values in the phrasing of his apology: "If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize." His apology is aimed at his legislative colleagues, with whom he has to work on a regular basis, not at the voters that he has suggested disenfranchising. Like most political non-apologies, he is only sorry that he has made his work environment more difficult by stating an awkward truth. He does not recognize that the action he endorsed is wrong and un-American.
Who will read the report?
The 9/11 report is out. Reporters, columnists, bloggers, and political junkies are all buying and downloading their copies to read and study. Many sat up last night and read the whole thing in one over-caffeinated sitting (I was not one of them). These are people who want to understand the issues and be able to discuss them intelligently. Unfortunately, understand and discuss is the extent of our influence.

What about the people who can actually do something about the issues? We know George Bush will not read the full report. But does he have contact with anyone who will themselves read the full report? Will any of the relevant cabinet people read the full document? We know reading reports isn't Condi's strong suit. What about Rummy, Cheney, Ashcroft, Powell, or Ridge? Rove? Probably not. Will any of their top advisors and assistants read the complete report? Probably not.

So who will take the responsibility of sitting down and reading every word of the report? If anyone at all in the executive branch does, it will be low level staffers. They will write summaries for the advisors to brief the cabinet members who will talk to the president. We can assume the same process holds for most members of congress, though with a layer or two less.

To put this another way: The president will not read the report. The president does not regularly talk to anyone who will read the report. The president does not regularly talk to anyone who regularly talks to anyone who will read the report. The leaders, whom we have entrusted with the task of remedying the flaws described in the report, will act on second, third, even fourth-hand knowledge of the contents of the report. The closest anyone in a decision-making position will ever come to the full report will most likely be reading newspaper accounts and editorials by journalists who really did read (or at least skim) the whole thing.

This is the nature of governmental (and corporate) decision making. Usually it’s just annoying. Sometimes it’s plain scary.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Most. Political. Administration. Ever.
You will probably want to read this several times to try and get some sense out of it
The White House helped to block a Republican-brokered deal on Wednesday to extend several middle-class tax cuts, fearful of a bill that could draw Democratic votes and dilute a Republican campaign theme, Republican negotiators said.

Okay. Stop reading it now. Don't hurt yourself. You can't squeeze sense out of nonsense. Blood, turnips, all that.

The president's people are showing themselves to be more cynically and nakedly political than even I believed possible. I didn't think they could get any lower; I was wrong.

What are at stake here are three popular tax cuts that genuinely helped the working classes: the $1,000 child tax credit, the reduction in the "marriage penalty," and an expansion of the 10-percent tax bracket. These were minor parts of the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages intended to make the larger cuts for the rich and very rich (
Bush's base
) more palatable to the rest of us. These cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. Most members of congress are willing to extend these cuts. The only real debate was over whether to link them to cuts somewhere else or extend them without conditions. House and Senate Republicans worked out a deal last week that many Democrats agreed to (extend the cuts for a limited time without conditions). With a clear majority of both houses in clear agreement, that should have been that.

Enter the White House (via NY Times).
Republican Congressional officials said the administration did not want a deal that Democratic lawmakers might support, giving them a tax-cutting credential, too.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, had already said he would retain most of Mr. Bush's middle-class tax cuts, and many Democratic lawmakers said they would vote for a modest extension of the tax cuts even if the extension was not paid for.

"If the Democrats had been on the same side, it would have taken a lot of arrows out of the quiver,'' said one Republican staff member.

Via Washington Post.
Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. put in a round of angry phone calls Tuesday night, several Senate aides said. Then White House counselor Karl Rove and Bush himself called GOP tax writers yesterday urging them to kill the deal.

"I won't officially pronounce it dead, but let's put it this way: It is expiring," said a senior Republican tax aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail backroom negotiations.

The administration would rather abandon its tax-cutting principles and hurt the working classes than allow Democrats to take any credit for something that might be popular, especially in an election year. These people would have made Nixon feel dirty.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dark and stormy goodness
Via Tbogg, we find that the 2004 Bulwer-Lytton winners have been announced. They’re all so bad, it’s hard to pick just one or two to run, but if I ran them all I’d be guilty of copyright violation. I like these:
The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be.
Pamela Patchet Hamilton
Beaconsfield, Quebec

As Reynoldo lit the votive candle at the grotto for San Jose de los Platanos and prayed for the healthy delivery of his first child, he heard a disembodied voice say, "Your daughter will be 17 inches long," to which Reynoldo replied, "do you know the weight, too, San Jose?
Tom O'Leary
Covina CA

Lord Tarlington gazed upon the crazed Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls of the ancient tomb of the petrified pharaoh, he vowed there would be no curse on him like on that other Lord, unless you count his marriage to Lady Tarlington who, when the lost treasure was found, will be dumped faster than that basket in the bulrushes.
Melissa Rhodes
Cherry Valley, CA

Monday, July 19, 2004

Florida’s problems are not over
For almost four years the state of Florida has been trying to figure out how to hold an election that allows all entitled citizens to vote and leaves the public with some level of confidence that their votes would be accurately counted. This task, which is routinely accomplished by the other forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and several dozen foreign countries, appears to be beyond their ability.

The latest fiasco occurred just over a week ago when they released a new list to be used in ensuring that reformed felons are properly disenfranchised as required by Florida law. The previous list was riddled with mistakes and disenfranchised many of the wrong people. The new list also appeared to be filled with mistakes. The most glaring was that it included almost no Hispanic ex-felons. Hispanic voters in Florida overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates. The almost exclusively Republican state officers charged with creating and enforcing the list loudly announced that that was just a coincidence, before withdrawing the list and telling Florida’s 67 counties to make do as best they can.

Not so fast, says the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called Thursday for a federal investigation to determine whether Florida officials violated the Voting Rights Act when they put together an error-plagued list designed to purge felons from the state's voting rolls.


Mary Frances Berry, outspoken chairman of the commission that produced a scathing report on the 2000 election in Florida, did not express much optimism that the Justice Department would take serious action. But because the commission has no regulatory or enforcement power, she said, handing the complaint to Justice is the only thing to do.


Commissioners said they were shocked that the state somehow managed to end up in a bigger mess in trying to pare felons from the voting rolls than it had four years ago. Meg McLaughlin, a partner at Accenture, the company that compiled the flawed list, was peppered with questions about how things went so awry.

McLaughlin explained that Accenture -- which earned at least $1.8 million for the database -- had nothing to do with the flaws in the data that went into it.

You may remember Accenture. They were formerly known as Anderson Consulting, a branch of Arthur Anderson, Enron’s auditors. AC, as they were known, had the luck to break away from Arthur Anderson and change its name just before Enron imploded and took the mother company with it. Lately, they’ve been in the news over a Department of Homeland Security contract to design a system to track foreign visitors entering and leaving the United States. Accenture’s partner in the tracking contract is Titan Corporation, the contractor who provided consultants to Abu Ghraib prison. Small world, isn’t it.

Meanwhile, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood has ordered her own audit of the felon list to determine how the state got such a bad list and whether it exposes Florida to further lawsuits. She needn’t waste her time; the answer is yes. The law suits are already on the way.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

More to come
It’s been a very long week, both at home and at work. Blogging has suffered (damn you, real life!!). If I can get caught up on my sleep and stop having nightmares about bunnies, I should be back to daily blogging about issues of deep topical interest by tomorrow. Or not.
George Gobel’s Nickname
For some reason, over the last two days, I have received a large number of referrals from searches using the terms “George Gobels Nickname.” I know why they get me as a link, but I’m not sure why they are asking. I assume it’s a crossword clue or something similar. I suppose I could do a search, but wouldn’t it just send me to me?

I’m getting these hits because I wrote a post a few weeks ago making fun of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly for referring to philanthropist Georg Soros as George Goebbles in an attempt to compare him to Nazi propaganda minister Hermann Goebbles. It was a stupid comparison. The proper parallel would be to Nazi financier Fritz Thiessen. Unfortunately, Thiessen was a business partner with George Bush’s grandfather, and that completely ruins O’Reilly’s message.

If you have read this far: George Gobel’s nickname was “Lonesome George.” If you are so inclined, I’d love to hear why you are looking. Drop me a comment. While you are here, I hope you look around and, further, I hope you like what you see.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

They must want us to die
What could be more counter-productive and just plain stupid than a dress code for undercover cops?
Documents and memorandums issued by the Department of Homeland Security and field offices of the Federal Air Marshal Service say air marshals must "present a professional image" and "blend unnoticed into their environment." Some air marshals have argued that the two requirements are contradictory.

Federal air marshals must have neatly trimmed hair and men must be clean-shaven, the documents say. Some of the service's 21 field offices have mandated that male officers wear suits, ties and dress shoes while on duty, even in summer heat. Women are required to wear blouses and skirts or dress slacks. Jeans, athletic shoes and noncollared shirts are prohibited.


The Federal Air Marshal Service acknowledges that a dress code for its marshals does exist, but it will not give many specifics, saying that it is "security sensitive information."


Mr. Adams [a spokesman for the service ]said that the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association "is misrepresenting our dress code policy." Mr. Adams said a dress code was put in place in April 2002 after the airline industry complained that air marshals' attire was too casual. He said some marshals had worn shorts, blue jeans, sandals and T-shirts while on duty.

"In order to gain respect in a situation, you must be attired to gain respect," Mr. Adams said in an interview. He said if air marshals were allowed to be too casual in their dress, "they probably would not gain the respect of passengers if a situation were to occur."

Personally the gun and badge would get my attention and respect a lot faster than a professional demeanor and good haircut. And, if the dress code itself is a secret, can we at least find out the name of the airlines that complained about the too casual marshals so we can be sure to never fly with them again.

I think this transcends far beyond "unclear on the concept" and dives deep into the criminally stupid.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Senator Nugent?!?
This is what happens when baby boomers vote for baby boomers. Sonny Bono. Gopher from "The Love Boat." Jesse Ventura. Arnold. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of this in the next decade or so. It's going to get uglier before it gets prettier.
CHICAGO -- Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka will not run for the U.S. Senate, he announced at a news conference Wednesday evening in front of his restaurant.


Republican sources say that the Republican Party will now focus on two potential candidates: Jim Oberwies, who finished second in the primary for this nomination, and John Cox, who ran a couple of years ago. Both have the distinction of being multimillionaires.

But another name surfacing is that of rocker, outspoken conservative and gun rights activist Ted Nugent.

"He grew up in Arlington Heights. He went to St. Viator High School," said Cook County Republican Chair Gary Skoien. "He has more connection to Illinois than Hillary Clinton had to New York, and he's been a very articulate spokesperson on constitutional issues. He would be a very interesting candidate."

Nugent couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday night.


The original candidate, Jack Ryan, left the race after allegations surfaced that he forced his former wife to go to sex clubs.

I'm sure they'll have no problem getting the Religious Right on board with this one. Nothing quite spells stink of desperation like a candidate guaranteed to make one of your core constituencies stay home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The defining issue of our generation
Rebecca Haglin, one of the regular Town Hall contributors, informs us that same sex marriage is the defining issue of our generation:
Although not the final vote on marriage by any means, the vote your senator casts this week gives a clear signal on how much he trusts you and your fellow citizens to determine the defining issue of our generation. A vote against the amendment means your senator is willing to allow activist judges to make the decision for you.

It must be true because she even has a link to the Heritage Foundation to prove it. In fact, her article is mostly a summary of a Heritage report by Matthew Spalding, PhD (though she leaves out the important part played by Alaska in this sit com). However, I am confused about one thing. I’m not sure she knows that there is more than one generation in the US. For instance, I always thought the defining issue of my generation was the Viet Nam War, or the civil rights movement, or, at least, Watergate. Some bloggers younger that I am appear to think the defining issue of their generation was a plot point on “Saved by the Bell.” And I’m sure that there must be a few people out there who think terrorism is fairly a important issue for their generation. I might be wrong on that last one.

Both Haglin and Spalding trot out the usual bad anthropology and bad history to support their argument: “Marriage has meant one man and one woman in every successful nation on Earth since the beginning of mankind,” (Haglin) and “The basic building block of society is the family, which is the primary institution through which children are raised, nurtured, and educated, and develop into adults. Marriage is the cornerstone of the family…” (Spalding). According to them, the family is a unit composed of one man and one woman for the purpose of producing and raising children. This unit is the basis of all civilization and has been since the beginning of time (or six thousand years, whichever is longer).

That’s a nice foundational myth, but it’s wrong. A more accurate definition of the family and its purpose throughout human time and space is: the family is usually a union of a man and one or more younger women who engage in reproductive sex with the man, one or more older women (the man’s mother and aunts) who do not have sex with him, and a limited group of related men (usually brothers of the man or reproductive women) who have no sexual privileges within the group. The purpose of the family is to manage labor and the transfer of wealth and to raise children. There are many local variations on this template; most involve livestock in a purely economic role. Box turtles are rarely involved in any role whatsoever.

I suppose now that the Republican Party, with a lock on all branches of government, has failed to protect Ms. Haglin’s version of the family, she will want us to throw the scoundrels out. So, vote Democratic. Do it for Rebecca.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Controversy! At last!
I’m a small fish here in the blogosphere. I occasionally post a commentary on the issues that excite our tiny little ghetto, but I’ve never been a significant participant in a controversy. I’m still not. However, someone has taken the time to rebut me and I think I owe them a response. Heck, I’m deliriously thrilled that someone noticed I’m alive and I want to reward that behavior.

Jerome du Bois at The Tears of Things is commenting on something that I’ve barely touched on. Since he is responding to a statement that I never completely made, I feel I owe him and you a full statement on this issue. Let me explain.*

I suppose it starts with Goya.

I’m not a person who is well educated in art. I studied history. I worked my way up beyond a Master’s Degree, but even as I did so, I never liked those chapters in national histories that interrupted the political narrative to tell me about culture. They seemed to me to be an intrusive list of symphonies I’d never heard and paintings I’d never seen.

Goya was different. As an undergraduate I had a Western Civ text that featured some paintings by Goya. To my untutored eye the paintings looked cartoonish, but Goya’s backstory had an element that made me remember his paintings. Many historians believe he suffered from glaucoma, a disease that runs rampant in my family. To me, Goya’s paintings were perhaps a prediction of how I might see the world in the future. What’s important tot his story, is that although I do not have a good education in the arts, I recognize Goya when I see him.

Jump a few decades forward. I’ve become lefty blogger. I’ve run into my old friend Goya twice in the last year. Each time it was in the case of a literary allusion to the painting “Saturn Devouring One of His Sons” and each time it was because of a crude misunderstanding of the allusion.

The original.

Last year a cartoonist, Dave Brown, created a stink by putting Ariel Sharon in role of Saturn. Sharon, the bloated monster, consumes a child in front of a burning building. As helicopters circle overhead calling, " Sharon...," the monster casually asks, "What’s the matter. You never seen a politician kissing babies before?"

Brown’s version.

Many viewers, who did not get the classical allusion, saw in Brown’s parody an anti-Semitic reflection of the horrific blood libel. Even some who did get the allusion were drawn to that conclusion. The blood libel is the inflammatory and unbased rumor that Jews murder non-Jewish children because they need blood for their religious rituals. To me, this interpretation made no sense in the context of the mythological image Goya intended. The Titan Saturn was murdering his own children so that they would not challenge him. In a literary context, the most reasonable interpretation of Brown is that Sharon’s policies are dooming the next generation of Israeli youth for the sake of his current political career. Brown denies anti-Semitic intent and I’m inclined to take him at his word.

The sculptor Richard Serra contributed the "Stop Bush" illustration that appears on the website In his parody Bush appears as Saturn. The same image also appears on the back cover of The Nation magazine as a paid advertisement, cover date July 19 - July 26, 2004—their summer double issue. Many conservative/right wing commentators objected to this image as an example of over the top leftist Bush hating. The image is striking and grotesque (and, in my opinion, not particularly well done). If you do not understand the artistic allusion, the grotesquerie is indeed over the top.

Serra’s version.

I never got around to saying anything about it on my own site. Where I found other people editorializing on it, I added my observations to their comment strings, but the best I was able to do at my own place was to quote a transcript of Paul Begala slapping Novak down as he faked outrage on the July 2 episode of “Crossfire” (my links seem to be on the fritz; scroll down to the July 4 post for the post in question). Tyler Green’s Arts Journal linked to me as a commenter on the Serra controversy (and gained me some much appreciated traffic). Really all I contributed was to favorably quote someone else (Begala) on the controversy.

This brings me back to Jerome du Bois at The Tears of Things. He links to everyone that Green links to. Mr. du Bois sees Brown’s cartoon as clearly anti-Semitic, and Serra’s parody as a clear reference to Brown’s cartoon, not to Goya’s painting. Why would an artist make a reference to another (more famous) artist when he could make reference to an editorial cartoonist? I know nothing of Serra, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Mr. du Bois’ conclusion is, of course, "it's just more of the moral bankruptcy and cowardice of the far left, hiding behind the fact that they're in bed with the Jew-haters." That doesn’t even make sense. Open anti-Semitism is a totally unacceptable attitude in American culture. Wouldn’t we want to hide that fact, if it was true, not hold it up and hide behind it? What benefit does he suppose we get from a public display of our imagined anti-Semitism?

I assume, by extension, I’m part of the Jew-hating left or I’m in bed with them. I have no intention of wasting my time by dragging out proof of my anti-anti-Semitic (not a word, I know) bona fides. They exist. Does Mr. du Bois even get the irony of hauling out claims of anti-Semitism to protest our presumed loss of perspective and over-the-top discourse? "You’re a bunch of rude name callers. You fascists!"

I had really hoped for more in my first controversy. Sigh.

* "Let me explain" is one of my all time favorite hooks. It is the end of the first paragraph of Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee, one of my favorite books, and I’ve always wanted to use it. I feel like Alan Woodward at the end of "Play It Again Sam."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Scenes from a marriage
I walked into the kitchen.

My wife said, “Where’s the thingee?”

Without pausing, I said, “Over there.”

I have no idea what she wanted. We’ve known each other for thirty years and been married for eleven. It was the correct answer.
Nice follow-up
I suppose it would be a bit much if I claimed full credit for this.
MIAMI (AP) -- Florida elections officials said Saturday they will not use a disputed list that was designed to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed convicted Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

The glitch in a state that President Bush won by just 537 votes could have been significant -- because of the state's sizable Cuban population, Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

The problem in compiling the list was unintentional and unforeseen, said Nicole de Lara, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood.

``Nevertheless, Supervisors of Elections are required to uphold their constitutional obligation'' and will find other ways to ensure felons are removed from the rolls, Hood said in a statement.

Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons once they've completed their sentence.

This isn’t a complete victory. Floridians will need to keep a close watch on those “other ways.”

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Not a coincidence
Although he has been invited to appear as a speaker, George Bush will not be speaking at the NAACP annual convention. This is the fourth consecutive year that he has failed to appear, making him the first president since Hoover to never speak before the NAACP while in office. At first the White House scheduling office said there was an unavoidable conflict and no snub was intended. I suppose that could be true. Though, in this week of amazing coincidences, it is stretching credibility to the breaking point to believe that.

Fortunately, Bush himself has come to our aid by clarifying the situation. Even though the leadership of the NAACP asked him to reconsider and guaranteed a respectful audience, Bush refused to appear. The snub is intentional.
Bush, campaigning in Pennsylvania on Friday, said he would not attend this year's NAACP event. He said his relationship with its leadership was "basically nonexistent" and he referred to being called "names" by organization members.

The leader of the free world was merely reaffirming his long-standing policy of only appearing before groups that guarantee a fawning and obsequiously favorable welcome. I’m so happy he brought dignity and honor back to the White House. I'm so glad the grown-ups are in charge. Aren’t you?

Update 1: Jesse is far more civilized about this than I am.
Now, I personally hope he doesn't go, from the same impulse that, oddly enough, also wants to see Lance Armstrong win his sixth Tour de France. It's seeing potential history in action - Armstrong could set the record for most consecutive Tours, and Bush could break his own record for lowest percentage of black votes in an election. The part of me that watches the exact same Sportscenter three times in a row is the same part that wants Bush to stand against the NAACP until he goes down in flames in November.

But that little part of me inside that's still decent and unpartisan and not bemused by the failure of politicians I don't like wants to see him go, to finally give some weight and some credibility to any of the shit that's been pouring out of his mouth the past five years or so. For once, just having him be the actual bigger man…,

Update 2: When I told my wife about this story, her response was, “Is he trying to lose? Is he trying to get out of a second term?” I recall rumors to this effect a few months ago. My feeling is that Bush became president with only three ideas in his head, 1) he should be president, 2) he should make a big tax cut, and 3) we should overthrow Saddam. I have not seen anything to convince me he ever allowed another idea in. Having done all three and discovered that being president is hard, is he looking for a way out?
Another honest mistake
Let’s take a look at the Florida felon list. According to official figures, the minority population of Florida is about 11% Black and 8% Hispanic. The felon list contains 48,000 names. If the felon list matched the proportions of the population at large we would expect it to contain 5300 Blacks and 3500 Hispanics. But we all know that’s not the case. For reasons that are endlessly arguable and not relevant here, minorities are far more likely to get criminal records than Whites. Let’s triple the proportions of minorities to 17,000 Blacks and 10,500 Hispanics. We should expect the numbers on the felon list to be on this order of magnitude. Right?

Of nearly 48,000 Florida residents on the felon list, only 61 are Hispanic. By contrast, more than 22,000 are African-American.

Let’s go back to the calculator. The actual numbers are 45% Black and 0.0013% Hispanic.
In a presidential-election battleground state that decided the 2000 race by giving George W. Bush a margin of only 537 votes, the effect could be significant: black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Hispanics in Florida tend to vote Republican.

Elections officials of Florida's Republican administration denied any partisan motive in use of the method they adopted, and noted that it had been approved as part of a settlement of a civil rights lawsuit.

"This was absolutely unintentional," said Nicole de Lara, spokeswoman for the Florida secretary of state, Glenda E. Hood, an appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother…


The method uses race as one of several factors in determining whether a felon has registered to vote. If a voter's first name, last name and date of birth are the same as those of a convicted felon but the race is different, the name is not put on the list for potential purging.

But the database of felons has only five variables for race: white, black, Asian, Indian and unknown. And a voter registered as Hispanic whose name and birth date matched a felon's would be left off the purge list unless his race was listed as unknown.


The exclusion of Hispanics from the purge list explains some of the wide discrepancy in party affiliation of voters on the felon list, which bears the names of 28,025 Democrats and just 9,521 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

Just to be clear, even if we assume the list is accurate (and we know it is not), the method they used disenfranchised all of the Democratic leaning felons but allowed something on the order of 10,000 Republican leaning felons to keep the vote. Or to put it another way, Democrats are three times as likely to be disenfranchised in Florida than are Republicans. The facts that the Republican president’s brother is the Republican governor, and that their force-of-nature mother was very upset that the governor was not able to deliver a clear victory for is brother last time are just coincidences that should not be considered when trying to figure out how this mess happened.

How exactly are we supposed to deal with something like this? I mean after we after we breathe into a paper bag for a while and chant, “I am not a conspiracy nut” in order to lower our blood pressure and pulse. At what point do good will and open mindedness on our part become gullibility and plain stupidity?

Friday, July 09, 2004

Hidden Messages
Let me see if I have this straight. The Republican Parties in Arizona, Wisconsin, Oregon, Florida, and Michigan have all actively sent their campaign workers out to get Nader on the ballot in their states. Yet they have only passively accepted the presence of Bush on the ballot as their parties' nominal candidate. The imbalance of effort makes the conclusion obvious: The GOP would rather have Nader as their candidate than Bush is secretly sending a message to their supporters to drop Dubya.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Did Bush walk out on a press conference
Some blogs and news sources are suggesting that Bush walked out on a press conference when questioned about his relationship with indicted felon Ken Lay. Kos has a picture of Bush walking away from a lectern with the following caption:
US President George W. Bush walks away from a briefing with the media, refusing to answer questions after he was asked about Enron and the reported indictment of former CEO Kenneth Lay, who was a close adviser and fund-raiser for Bush and his father, earning him the presidential nickname of 'Kenny Boy.'(AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Capitol Hill Blue adds some more colorful adjectives to the story, but doesn't add any substantial details.
A clearly-rattled President George W. Bush walked out of a media briefing Thursday, refusing to answer questions about his close relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth Lay, a campaign benefactor Bush nicknamed "Kenny Boy" when the two were up-and-comers in Texas.

The President, visibly upset, stomped off the stage when reporters pressed him about his relationship with Lay and left White House press secretary Scott McClellan to deal with the questions.

Reuters reports the episode in more neutral terms, but adds the location:
Lay, once a leading U.S. industrialist and close friend of President George W. Bush -- who called him "Kenny Boy" -- now faces felony charges stemming from the Enron debacle.

Bush, at an appearance in Waterford, Michigan, was asked by reporters about the indictment but walked away without answering.

So far my Googling efforts have not produced any additional details, but with the location I was able to look up the transcript of the event on the White House web site. The transcript is called "Remarks by the President After Meeting with Michigan Judicial Nominees" and the pictures clearly show the same set as the Yahoo picture Kos is displaying. Bush spends seven minutes complaining about the Senate holding up his nominees. No press questions are indicated in the transcript. The video cuts off right on his thank you.

On the video, you can hear the murmur of the press trying to interject questions at the end of his prepared comments. Bush leans to his right—the same direction he is seen exiting in the still photo—and the video cuts off.

It's interesting to compare that transcript with "Remarks by the President After Meeting with North Carolina Judicial Nominees" made four hours earlier. In North Carolina he made the same comments about the Senate blocking his excellent candidates for the bench and then he took questions from the press. All of the questions were about Edwards and his snippy answers made the evening news.

What happened in Michigan? It appears that Bush was planning a major offensive on his judicial appointments, but Edwards and Lay took the news cycle away from him. After the reporters in North Carolina ignored the topic he was ready to talk about and pressed him on Edwards did he get mad and decide not to allow questions in Michigan? Or did he stomp off the stage in Michigan in offense at the questions that were being asked?

One last note, and this seems to argue that Capitol Hill Blue is exaggerating. None of the Michigan news media that I looked at mention anything untoward about Bush’s remarks in Waterford including those outlets that did mention his testiness in North Carolina. Is there really a story here? We can only watch.
Quote of the day
Six clowns in a car is funny. One clown in a car is not. It's scary. I was wondering, "Where is that weird clown going? Why is that clown away from the other clowns?"

--Moka Pantages, public-relations specialist, Seattle

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Connecting some of the dots
We already knew most of this. We had the facts before us and many bloggers even commented on them at the time. But other facts were crowding in, also demanding our attention and the significance of the staged photo op was lost for a year.
The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.

"God bless them, but we were thinking … that this was just bad news," the member of the psychological unit said. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' "

Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.

At the time we knew that American Marines had rounded up a crowd to tear down the statue. We knew that an American soldier had climbed the statue and placed the first rope around Saddam’s neck. We knew about the awkward moment with the flags. We knew that ultimately an American vehicle had been necessary to pull the statue down. We knew that the square just happened to be in front of the hotel where the international press was staying. The mainstream media mentioned all of these facts over the following few days.

Some bloggers examined unedited news footage and commented on how small the crowd was and how the problem in getting the statue to fall wasn’t that the statue was too strong, but that there just were not enough people to take it down. This was no Prague or East Berlin. Yet we allowed that there was an element of truth behind all the prompting and let it go at that. We had bigger things to worry about. I think at the time most of us took a “what can you expect” attitude. To be reminded of now, many of us are with Atrios in feeling disgusted at the way the Bush administration takes us for chumps.
What makes me mad is that this stuff wasn't designed for Iraqi consumption - I'm all for a bit of harmless propaganda if it improves things over there. This stuff was done for the Bush'04 campaign. Iraqis knew what was going on.

David Neiwert points out that there is even more reason to be upset. The stunt was goes deeper than a mere campaign stunt (though the Bush administration has treated it as such). Neiwert latches on to the fact “that this project was specifically a product of the Pentagon's ‘psychological combat’ program.” Neiwert quotes Christopher Simpson, of American University, who has written extensively on psy-ops to explain the significance of this group.
From its inception psychological warfare has been the mating of violence on the one hand and what people would call today propaganda or mass communication on the other hand. Another thing that's interesting about psychological warfare, from its inception it has also targeted the people of the United States, the common preconception is that for better or for worse this is something we do to them. The reality is that from the government's standpoint, from the standpoint of those who are paying the bills for its development the targets always involve not only foreign audiences but domestic audiences as well.

Again, part of this is something we all knew. Of course we were engaged a propaganda war alongside the physical one. Despite the name psy-ops is nothing new. Military thinkers since at least the days of Sun Tzu have written about the importance of breaking the enemy’s will. Today air dropped brochures, clandestine radio broadcasts, and carefully planted rumors are as important as firepower and intelligence in fighting a war.

Neiwert’s point—the point we less often consider—is that our government uses the same techniques are by to keep our support as it uses to destroy the enemy. Atrios was right, the falling statue image was not meant for Iraqi TV—they had no electricity at that point in time. The image was meant for our TV. But Atrios misses a point. Karl Rove was not in Baghdad directing the troops. These troops were trained to manipulate the American public into supporting the war, regardless of the enemy or the administration in charge.
This reality raises a serious concern about the fragility of democracy during wartime. Because under the aegis of a seemingly eternal war, the American government has clearly been involving the public in its psychological combat, and has hijacked the nation's press in the process. The entire meaning of the Iraq war -- and by extension, the "war on terrorism" -- is inextricably bound up in the psychological manipulation of the voting public through a relentless barrage of propaganda.


The role of the media in this manipulation cannot be understated. The abdication of the media's role as an independent watchdog and its whole subsumation as a propaganda organ bodes ill for any democracy, because a well-informed public is vital to its functioning.

But the fact that the military establishment, in the context of the "war on terror," clearly views the American public as the subject of a psychological combat operation should give us all pause regarding the ability of democracy to withstand this kind of assault. .

The statue photo op was not a particularly sophisticated operation. As far as we know, it was not scripted or planned in advance. A trained psy-ops professional saw an opportunity and exploited it, though no doubt he had been briefed to look for just such an opportunity.

The incident is telling because it shows how easily disparate elements come together to deceive us. In this case we have the institutional failings of the American news media, information overload of the citizenry, and the presence of propaganda professionals with an agenda.

If you are a regular reader of Neiwert, you are familiar with the weaknesses of the American news media. Their worst crime is not that they involved in an sort of conspiracy to mislead us in the service of this or that agenda. They are not. What they are guilty of is being lazy and eager to please. Most electronic news will gladly accept prepared spectacles in the place of real news because electronic news is very time sensitive and it is very difficult to gather all of the elements of an entertaining news program and still meet deadlines. Most individual reporters are honest and sincere enough, but they are easily seduced by access to the powerful. Asking too many embarrassing questions can endanger that access. So they accept what they are told and don’t dig any further than necessary. The most time sensitive and spectacle driven news is television news. Because of that, it the least likely to question official sources and the most shallow in its telling. By being first to print, television establishes the narrative structure of a story—the common wisdom that most subsequent tellings will follow. By the time a news story makes it out to newspapers and magazines, who have the time to investigate a story and tell it in depth, the images and narrative so firmly established as to be almost impossible to diverge from.

Meanwhile we as news consumers are buffeted by too much information and too little time to examine it critically. Americans are not stupid or naive where propaganda is concerned, when we have the time to stop and examine it. Americans can dissect advertising and other obvious propaganda with remarkable sophistication from a very early age. The problem with news is that it comes so fast and there is always another piece pushing it out of our mind before we can turn our critical facilities on to it. We get flashes and impressions that we either accept or reject at once and move on. Only real news junkies take the time to go beyond “do I believe that?” to “why are they telling us that now?” and “why are they telling it in that way?”

The third element in this problem are the psy-ops professionals. I’ll have more to say about them tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

My new hero
Before this administration came to power Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) was barely a blip on my radar, but over the last three years he has risen constantly in my estimation to become one of the giants. If there would have been any value putting a Californian on the ticket, he would have been one of my top Veep choices. He has been the sharpest and most consistent critic of the Bush administration’s dishonest science policies in either house. Now he’s going after the Republicans’ abdication of their oversight responsibility.

This is from an op-ed he wrote for today’s Washington Post.
In the past four years there has been an abrupt reversal in Congress's approach to oversight.

During the Clinton administration, Congress spent millions of tax dollars probing alleged White House wrongdoing. There was no accusation too minor to explore, no demand on the administration too intrusive to make.


When President Clinton was in office, Congress exercised its oversight powers with no sense of proportionality. But oversight of the Bush administration has been even worse: With few exceptions, Congress has abdicated oversight responsibility altogether.

Republican Rep. Ray LaHood aptly characterized recent congressional oversight of the administration: "Our party controls the levers of government. We're not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn."


Compare the following: Republicans in the House took more than 140 hours of testimony to investigate whether the Clinton White House misused its holiday card database but less than five hours of testimony regarding how the Bush administration treated Iraqi detainees.

There is a simple but deplorable principle at work. In both the Clinton and Bush eras, oversight has been driven by raw partisanship. Congressional leaders have vacillated between the extremes of abusing their investigative powers and ignoring them, depending on the party affiliation of the president.


Asking tough questions is never easy, especially if one party controls both Congress and the White House, but avoiding them is no answer. Evenhanded oversight is not unpatriotic; it's Congress's constitutional obligation.

When the Democrats retake the House, I hope Waxman gets all of the committee chairmanships he can eat.
It’s Edwards…
…and Kerry announced it in Pittsburg, right in the center of the rust belt. The venue is as important to me as the choice itself. Edwards connects well with unions and with anger over the economy. Sure, it’s nice to have a Southerner on board to keep that wing of the party from completely atrophying, but this isn’t going to be the year of our big southern comeback. I hope Edwards spends just enough time in the South to make Bush spend a lot of money there, but not a day longer. He’ll be most useful shuttling around depressed counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia.

I said Saturday that this choice was the best chance we had for shooting ourselves in the foot. I’m happy to say that, as of today, all of our tarsal digits are still attached and functional. I’d do a happy dance, but I don’t want to scare the cats.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Choose your hates wisely
Pete M. over at the spookily named Dark Window has a post up about self-proclaimed patriots who hate America haters. The patriot he has in mind at the moment is Bruce Walker of American Daily. Bruce had the daringly original idea of throwing out all of the America haters. Round up the liberals and deport them. Pete thinks Bruce is patently unpatriotic and perfectly idiotic as well.

As a final conclusion, that works for me, but I think Pete misses some of the subtlety of Bruce’s mind-bogglingly arrogant stupidity. Pete sums up the problem this way:
This is a very disturbing refrain that we now hear incessantly from the Right. If you question something America (or more specifically, George W. Bush) does, then you hate America.

Think about what that means for a minute: If you don't believe in stifling all dissent, then you're a traitor. If you think you have a right (let alone a duty) to question something you see as being harmful to our country, then you hate America.

But the true essence of what Bruce opposes isn’t hating things American; it’s hating things American that are not on the approved list of hate-able things. For Bruce and his ilk it’s perfectly okay to hate America’s liberals, feminists, atheists, intellectuals, artists, and academics. It’s perfectly fine to hate America’s education system from the small town teacher right up to the greatest public university. It’s acceptable to hate the states on the coast for not being like the states in the middle. It’s almost required to hate our news media. And while we’re at it, it is most desirable to hate our diversity, our free speech, and our opposition party (at least during those times when Bruce and his friends approve of the ruling party).

Bruce and his friends feel that their values are the purest and only possible manifestation of what it means to be American. Anyone who varies from the Brucite template is un-American. If we vary in a way that is involuntary, like the language of our birth, we can be forgiven if we show a sincere desire to overcome this disability and become more Bruce-like. If we vary in something voluntary, like our values, beliefs, and opinions, then we are anti-American and don’t deserve the blessings of sharing this continent with Bruce. It must be nice to be the personal manifestation of a nation.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Novak gets his
Back before the Internet, I didn’t get up early enough to watch the Sunday morning talking-head shows and I rarely read Novak’s syndicated newspaper column. It wasn’t that I held any special animus toward him; he was just one of many columnists that I usually disagreed with and didn’t bother to read regularly unless he touched on a topic of special interest to me. When I wanted a dose of conservatism, I usually read Safire, Will, or one of the local pundits carried by the Anchorage Times.

Now, my blogging colleagues save up his ever offense so that I can read about it over my brunch coffee and fume. I now know that Novak deserves to be singled out for special contempt and derision. That’s why I especially enjoyed this:
NOVAK: All right. Readers -- readers of the left wing magazine, "The Nation," might be a little shocked when they see the back page of the current issue. Even the most fanatical Bush haters might be shocked.

Yes, the drawing shows George W. Bush eating a headless child. This is inspired by a 19th century work by Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring his Children, aimed against the Spanish monarchy.

Sitting at this table, I know how emotional and relentless and mindless is the hatred directed against George W. Bush. But in the spirit of patriotism, this Fourth of July weekend, I wonder, Paul, if you can join me in deploring this treatment of any president of the United States as over the line and unacceptable?


BEGALA: In the spirit of patriotism, let me support the first amendment, which says the nation shouldn't be censored by right- wingers. And let me ask you, Mr. Novak, with your new self-founded -- newfounded self-righteousness, are you going to retract the statement you said last week on "Meet the Press," where you implied that President Clinton was involved in people's deaths over Whitewater? That's the most outrageous things I've heard said about an American president.

NOVAK: I didn't say he was engaging -- and you're lying.

BEGALA: I'll read your words.

NOVAK: And when I said that...

BEGALA: "I don't believe that the Whitewater case was ever fully investigated. People died, and I believe Bill Clinton beat the rap on Whitewater."



NOVAK: Well, I didn't say he was involved with the thing.

BEGALA: You said...

NOVAK: You...

BEGALA: ... he beat the rap and people died. Who died? Who died in Whitewater?


NOVAK: McDougal died, and...

BEGALA: He died in prison of a heart attack.

NOVAK: Well, people died (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But just a minute. You can't -- you can't say -- go on national television and accuse me of something I didn't say.

BEGALA: I read your words.

NOVAK: I did not say that, and that is a lie. And I...

BEGALA: These are your words, Mr. Novak. I read them.

NOVAK: And I'm ashamed of you for going on the air and saying that.

BEGALA: I got this from the transcript. This is the transcript from "Meet the Press", Bob.

NOVAK: That's an outrage. And it is...

BEGALA: It is an outrage. You owe Mr. Clinton an apology.

NOVAK: ... an absolute outrage because I did not say that he was responsible for those deaths. And this is not fun, Paul…. That was over the line, Mr. Begala.

He’s pious and self-righteous when he thinks he can embarrass someone else, but when they turn the tables on him it’s “over the line” behavior. When caught completely red-handed he childishly cries “you're lying” and “that is a lie.” Novak is a bully and a crybaby at the same time. It’s not an unusual combination. Take Rush Limbaugh…please.

There’s no profound point for me to make here; I just like seeing bullies exposed and humiliated.
What freedom means to me
On the Fourth of July we are supposed to pause and reflect on the amazing gift of liberty that we possess. We should ask ourselves, “What does freedom mean to me?” Then we should write to our newspapers and say, “Well, for starters, not this.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A couple from Texas was taken out of a speech given by President Bush in West Virginia Sunday.

Police placed Nicole and Jeffery Rank of Corpus Christi in restraints after they entered the event with a ticket and then removed their clothes to reveal anti-Bush T-shirts, according to the acting director of the Capitol police in Charleston.

He said the two were asked to go out to the designated protest area, but refused.


As police rushed her out, Nicole Rank shouted that they were told they couldn't be there because they were wearing anti-Bush shirts.

Police say the two were issued citations for trespassing and released.

Oblivious to the irony involved, Bush proceeded to give lip service the values of the day.
"On this Fourth of July, we confirm our love of freedom," Bush said. "But we also understand that freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.

"And by serving that ideal, by never forgetting the values and the principles that have made this country so strong 228 years after our founding, we will bring hope to others and, at the same time, make America more secure," the president said, to loud applause.

If people won't throw him out for being a bad president, will they throw him out for being an embarassing one?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

While I’m on the topic
I’m may as well get all of my Veep wisdom out of my system before Kerry actually makes a choice and deprives us of the topic. Hillary is a bad choice for many reasons. The Veep shouldn’t upstage the guy on top. The Veep should not be a senator from a state with a republican governor (thus giving them a seat). However, the Hillary option has one very strong element in its favor. The sight of Bill Safire and all the little freeper’s heads exploding would do wonders for our morale.
How to pick a VP
Veepstakes speculation and “insider” news has pretty much been beaten into the ground as an interesting topic in the neighborhood. I have some preferences and prejudices, just like everyone else. The common wisdom going into this weekend is that it’s definitely down to a choice between Edwards and Gephardt, unless, of course, it isn’t, and that’s a real possibility. All of which is a nice way to say no one really knows anything.

The number one rule in picking a VP should be: he or she must add something to the ticket. The Veep should deliver something--preferably electoral votes, but a coveted demographic is also nice--that is either out of reach or difficult for the top name on the ticket to take. A Veep who delivers Ohio or Florida would be nice, as would be one who snatches Indiana or Georgia from the other side. I liked Richardson because he would have made us safe in New Mexico and made the Bush campaign spend resources fighting to keep Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.

I said that “should be” the number one rule because there is another rule so important that it shouldn’t even need to be said out loud, but we seem to need to say it this year. The Veep choice should do no harm to the ticket. The Veep should not drive voters away or provide the enemy with easy targets to exploit. It is not clear that Gephardt clears this hurdle. His behavior in the pre-war debate offended many on the anti-war left and he brings truckloads of baggage to the campaign. All of his supposed strengths were called into question during the primaries. He didn’t deliver the union vote. He wasn’t a strong regional favorite. His record is full of votes that might have made sense at the time, but which now are the mother load to any half-way competent opposition researcher. Gephardt might be able to turn all of that around and become a great running mate, but is it really wise to risk that for someone who is going to be a hard sell to our own party. If the Party establishment feels we owe him some kind of debt of gratitude for his years of service, promise him the Secretary of Commerce chair. He would probably be great at it.

This choice and the run-up to the convention are probably the best chance we have to shoot ourselves in the foot. We are Democrats after all. As the last congressional elections showed, we haven’t lost our talent for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

John Ashcroft vs. Thomas Jefferson
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,...

Two hundred twenty eight years ago tomorrow, the Third Continental Congress voted to approve a declaration written by Thomas Jefferson that began with the above words. The vote was not without argument. John Adams was sure it should read "unalienable rights." But in the end, they agreed on a draft and sent the Declaration of Independence out to have a clean copy prepared for signing on the fourth. Most of us think the Declaration was a good thing because we do hold those truths to be self-evident. The chief law enforcement officer in the United States, John Ashcroft, is not among us. He also seems to have some reservations about John Madison's documents from eleven years later, the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the United States.

Am I being a self-righteous poop to put it that way? Perhaps, but I think it's better mannered to credit Ascroft with honest philosophical opposition to the founding principles of the republic, than to call him an opportunistic and vindictive hypocrite, destroyer of freedoms, and key member of an illegitimate ruling junta hell-bent on subverting our system individual rights and governmental checks and balances.
MIAMI -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court gave more rights to terrorists in three recent decisions, and Justice Department attorneys are poring over the rulings to determine their consequences.

The orders issued Monday on Guantanamo detainees and enemy combatants Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi indicate, "that certain terrorists have more rights," Ashcroft said after a meeting with a regional anti-terrorism advisory council.

"The Supreme Court accorded to terrorists, in a variety of cases this week, a number of additional rights," he said. "We're digesting those opinions in terms of making sure that we adjust or modify what we do, so that we accommodate the requirements as expressed by the Supreme Court."

Ascroft's language betrays his contempt for our judicial norms. The detainees are all "terrorists," despite the fact that none of them have been charged with anything, that none have been convicted of anything, and that a quarter of the original number were released after investigations determined that they were not a threat to us. Ashcroft has no use for the presumption of innocence or the the need to prove guilt in public proceedings. His boss says they're guilty and that should be good enough for all of us.

He also chooses to use the code language of intolerance and cultural divisiveness. To allow judicial norms to apply to the detainees--even the American citizens--is to give them "more rights" or "additional rights." How close is this to the "special rights" argument used in denying normal civil rights protections for anyone who is not a white Protestant male?

Ashcroft does not hold that civil rights are a truth that is self-evident; he holds that they are a privilege that the president can withdraw at will and without question.

The choice is yours, you call him a principled oligarch or a mad-dog enemy of all that is good and right in America. I know my choice. The name really doesn't matter, the point is he should not have the position of power he does, and neither should the people who put him there.
Of course, he still has a job
So easy to hate...
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue is promoting overseas outsourcing of jobs as a way to boost the economy and even increase employment...

Donohue, speaking Wednesday night to the Commonwealth Club of California, said he believes exporting high-paid tech jobs to low-cost countries such as India, China and Russia saves companies money that they may use to create new jobs for Americans.

CEOs from Wall Street to Silicon Valley have embraced the theory, and the pace of offshoring has shocked statisticians and economists.

In early June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics downwardly revised projections for white-collar job growth for 2002-2003, based on accelerated job migration. The agency reported that seven of the 10 occupations expected to gain the most ground are low-wage occupations that do not require a college degree.

Technology consulting firm Gartner Inc. estimates that 10 percent of computer services and software jobs will be moved overseas by the end of this year.


Donohue acknowledged the pain for people who have lost jobs to offshoring - an estimated 250,000 a year, according to government estimates. But pockets of unemployment shouldn't lead to "anecdotal politics and policies," he said, and people affected by offshoring should "stop whining."


Donohue, 66, past president of the American Trucking Associations and regional assistant postmaster general in San Francisco and New York, likes to say that "business should stop apologizing" for perceived abuses.

But some experts are urging politicians and lobbyists to move away from rhetoric and start talking about what to do with jobless white-collar workers in tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle and Austin, Texas.

"Endlessly debating whether offshoring is good or bad is pointless - like debating whether you've had a good trip on the Titanic while the iceberg comes into view," Forrester Research Inc. analyst John McCarthy said Wednesday. "The jobs go offshore today and the economic benefits don't come around for years. For the unemployed guy to accept business leaders' position is like believing Dick Nixon saying, `Trust me, I'll take care of it all. Things will be fine.'"

It's hard to even think of harsh enough things to say about a person like this. After the revolution he will lose everything be required to make a living as a wal-Mart greeter (after the revolution we will keep one Wal-Mart just for this purpose).