Thursday, September 30, 2004

Last thoughts before the debate
Two sets of expectations seem to be floating around in advance of tonight's debate. One sees Kerry as a skilled debater with actual ideas who will run circles around Bush, who is, after all, a dolt. The other version sees Bush as man who connects with the common people while being chronically underestimated by his opponents and who will beat Kerry, who is a boring intellectual stiff. I want the first but expect the second. Ideas and logic--substance--don't usually win election debates, likeability and comfort factor do. As much as I'd rather chew broken glass than listen to a whiny Bush voice or look at his frat boy mannerisms, other people seem to find him just charming.

Yet, there is one wild card in the deck that could work to our advantage. Bush's handlers have kept him carefully isolated for the last four years. He appears only before carefully screened friendly audiences who ask only pre-approved questions. On the rare occasions when he faces the press, it is the tamest press in living memory. In his day to day working routine he allows no contradictions and no opposition. The prime directive for this White House has been to protect the president from ever facing a situation where every element isn't known in advance and controlled. I'm not sure he still has the ability to perform like he did in the past. Of course, his staff has been working for weeks to get him back in shape. In about t wo hours we'll see how good of a job they did.
Golden oldies
The Farmer discovered this fun fact from a 2000 Salon article.
There's also Lynn Novick, a co-producer of Ken Burns' PBS series "Baseball," who had the rare treat of accompanying Bush to a Texas Rangers game in the summer of 1994, before he was elected governor. "He was a very gracious host," Novick says. "He was perfectly pleasant. Until he changed the subject."

Bush mentioned something about Yale University, from which he graduated in 1968. Novick graduated from Yale in 1983, so she brought it up, thinking it would be "like a bonding thing."

"When did you graduate?" Bush asked her, as she recalls. She told him. That's when Bush told her that Yale "went downhill since they admitted women."

"I said, 'Excuse me?'" Novick says. "I thought he was kidding. But he didn't seem to be kidding. I said, 'What do you mean?'"

Bush replied that "something had been lost" when women were fully admitted to Yale in 1969, that fraternities were big when he'd been there, providing a "great camaraderie for the men." But that went out the window when women were allowed in, Bush said.

"He said something like, 'Women changed the social dynamic for the worse,'" she says. "I was so stunned, shocked and insulted, I didn't know what to say."

Feel free to farward this to your mother and sisters.
More on Kozloff
L'affaire Kozloff has become a mini-sensation in Blogistan over night. David Neiwert has the fullest text of Dr. Kozloff's defense. It now seems clear that the good doctor's protests that he was just posting a piece meant to make us examine our attitutes is pure spin. He's a regular correspondant at Horsefeathers and has been heading in this direction for some time. Bellatrys quotes a letter Kozloff wrote last May where he proudly describes his status as the only right thinker on a campus full of the usual liberal America haters.

Horsefeathers has been removing Kozloff's posts from their blog, but many of them are still safely Google cached. It's typical bar-room loudmouth behavior. Those who most loudly proclaim their toughness are usually the first to back down when confronted. Right Blogistan is full of chickenhawks loudly ready for a war to the death of civilizations, as long as someone else fights it. They start backpedalling when faced with a few disapproving words from liberal peaceniks. A southern gentleman of my aquaintance calls such behavior "coat-holding," as in "are you going to let him get away with saying that? Here, I'll hold your coat while you teach him a lesson for us."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Sometimes the neighbors scare me
Ed Cone has discovered the curious case of Martin Kozloff, a professor of something called Specialty Studies at UNC-Wilmington. Kozloff wrote the following letter and gave permission for it to be approvingly published at the winger site Horsefeathers.
I'm an ordinary American. Wife (whom I love and respect), 2 kids (to whom I would give both of my kidneys), 2 cars (ten years old), big mortgage, and a job not always pleasurable.

I've worked hard all my adult life to provide for my family, to be useful, and not go out of my way to injure anyone. Like most Americans, I knew little about arab-muslim culture and believed that the developed nations were partly responsible for the poverty and authoritarian regimes that infest the middle east.

Things changed on 9/11/01 when you ruined the lives of at least 10,000 Americans.

These people instantly became my countrymen and you became my mortal enemy.

Ordinary Americans are arming themselves for war with you. I and many of my friends have closets full of handguns, rifles, shotguns and thousands of cartridges.

If we had enough ammunition and time, we would kill every last one of you.

We completely support our President and our armed forces. We only wish they would destroy you faster, but we are certain that they will.

We no longer listen to the insane words of Kerry, Harkin, Kennedy, Clark, and others whom we now see as ideologues who would sacrifice our country and our lives on the alter of their vanity and desire for power.

We no longer listen to our secular mullahs, our media fools, preaching hatred of America and sapping our will with their lies and deceptions.

We watch your cowardly methods of killing by beheading. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.

You turn your women and children into walking bombs. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.

You shoot and rape children. You kill their mothers before their eyes. You burn, hang, and tear apart the bodies of your victims, and then play with body parts. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.

Why should we fear you? What ARE you to be feared? You are cowards. Your bravado is a clown mask that hides the soul of a ghoul. You are not able even to manufacture the knives you use to butcher your bound victims.

One day soon, our planes and missiles will begin turning your mosques, your madrasses, your hotels, your government offices, your hideouts, and your neighborhoods into rubble.

And then our soldiers will enter your cities and begin the work of killing you, roaches, as you crawl from the debris.

As cowards, you will have your hands in the air and you will get on your knees begging for mercy. And we will instead give you justice. Your actions and your words long ago placed you far from any considerations of mercy. You are not men.

And if you come to this country and harm a child, shoot a mother, hijack a bus, or bomb a mall, we will do what we did in 1775. Millions of us will form militias.

We will burn your mosques.

We will invade the offices of pro-arab-muslim organizations, destroy them, and drag their officers outside.

We will tell the chancellors of universities either to muzzle or remove anti American professors, whose hatred for their own country we have tolerated only because we place a higher value on freedom of speech. But we will no longer tolerate treason. We will muzzle and remove them.

We will transport arab-muslims to our deserts, where they can pray to scorpions under the blazing sun.

You have fucked with the wrong people.

We will rid the world of your foul breath.

Your caliphate will be your grave.

This is pretty ugly stuff and an almost textbook example of a certain type of extremist writing. Look at some of the elements: hysterical anger at the crimes of a vaguely defined them towards a vaguely defined us, dehumanization of the other (“roaches”), desire for collective retribution including genocide, preference for mob action over judicial procedure, and hostility extended to the traitors within. As an extra bonus for students of the genre he includes a conversion narrative (I was liberal before 9/11. Now I have seen the light).

Some readers at Eschaton have passed on communications from Kozloff protesting that the letter was just “a literary device to get readers to examine their own assumptions” “akin to Swift's Immodest Proposal.” He doesn’t say which assumptions he wants us to examine. I suppose that’s it’s possible he was being ironic; my first thought was that it unbelievable (that was just denial on my part. I’ve seen plenty of examples of perfectly sincere and real expressions of the same sentiment). However, Atrios’ readers aren’t buying. They have googled up a number of other samples of Dr. Kozloff’s prose that, while not quite extreme, are leading in that direction.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. I’d like to see a more direct response from Dr. Kozloff. I hope it amounts to more than the usual “you liberals have no sense of humor.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Managing debate expectations
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Senator Kerry has been preparing his whole life for this. He was a prep star debater. He was an Ivy League debater and served 20 years in the United States Senate. So, he's prepared his whole life for this moment, whereas President Bush, he's going to go in there and he's going to hold his own and speak clearly to the American people about what he believes and about how we are prosecuting this war on terror.

Most of attention our attention be focused on the expectations managing message, "George Bush can't use no fancy words like Frenchy Kerry does, so he'll just have to talk from the heart and hope the American people don't mind too much." They used it this message to good effect with Gore. Bush is actually a fairly good debater, but they played him down so much in advance (and allowed us to insult his intelligence) that when he walked out unassisted and didn't swallow his tongue, he exceeded expectations.

The secondary message in this statement, the appeal to American anti-intellectualism, is interesting to me. Kerry is a prep-school and Ivy League educated elite, as opposed to Bush who is -- what exactly? We are expected to picture a young, earnest, barefoot Bush, walking from his hardscrabble farm on the Texas prairie to a humble one-room schoolhouse without electricity. Each night, after contentiously completing his hours of difficult, hard labor chores ("saddle up the stove, Ma. I'm riding the range tonight"), he'd sit by the light of the dying embers of the cook-stove fire doing his homework. We are not supposed to remember that Bush's parents were far richer than Kerry's, that he too attended an exclusive prep-school and, not one, but two Ivy League colleges.
Something wierd at Gallup
When most polling companies poll people, they ask their opinion questions, then ask some demographic questions, and finally correct the opinion results according to demographics. This is called weighting the results. If they poll too many men they will multiply the women’s results by a known fraction to make the percentages reflect the real division of the voting population. These assumptions about who will vote are one of the places where error can creep into the results of a poll. They might assume that only a small number of young people will vote (which is normal) and find out on election-day that some issue like the draft motivated them to turn out in far larger numbers than usual.

Each company has its own formula for weighting. Gallup is one of the companies that weights for party identification. Others, like Zogby, do not. Those that do assume that the electorate is x% Republican, y% Democratic, and z% independent or other and make the same kind of correction as they do for sex, race, region, or age. Party identification is tricky. Because states have different rules on registration, asking someone how they are registered and what party they consider themselves to be can bring two different results. For example, the latter produces more independents than the former.

The recent polls by Gallup have jacked up the number for Republican likely voters, thus giving Bush a larger lead than most other polls. The most recent poll seems to have jacked the number up again. No one is sure why. Bloggers have been talking about this for a few weeks now. MoveOn has an ad up about it. It seems the mainstream press is finally on the story.

Monday, September 27, 2004

David Greenberg gets it
The shape of a Bush second term:
For the electorate to turn Bush out of office would be to proclaim that it rejects this manner of politics. But to award Bush another four years--provided he really wins this time--would signal that a majority of Americans not only tolerates but endorses his anti-democratic style. And it could be interpreted by Democrats as a lesson that resistance is futile.

Fifteen years ago, conservatives put forth the "broken windows" theory of crime. If small street crimes are tolerated, the theory went, neighborhoods begin to accept them as normal and the result is more lawlessness. The same thing will happen if a democracy tolerates Bush's ruthless behavior as business as usual. If voters validate this modus operandi, it won't just accelerate; it will cease to draw even the modest level of scrutiny and outrage that the administration's transgressions have attracted so far. Failing to protest these breaches of the norms that govern political conduct will encourage more such violations.
Defending against the red storm
In the spring of 1945, as the Soviet army advanced on Berlin, Hitler's generals frantically searched for soldiers to prevent the inevitable fall of the city by just a few more days. In the end they they were plugging gaps in the line by sending out old men and school boys with orders to stand and die to the last man (or boy).
About 800 members of the 98th Army Reserve Division from Rochester, New York will begin a year-long mission in Iraq next month.

The unit, which normally trains reserve and active-duty soldiers in the U.S., will find itself training Iraq’s new army.

The 98th is a non-combat unit that doesn't even have its own weapons or vehicles.[My italics.]

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Is it fair
Getting back to Matthew Klam's NYT Magazine cover article on blogging the conventions, here are a few comments that I feel safe making about his portrayal of the superstars of Left Blogistan. Since I don't know any of the people involved I can't say whether his portrayals are fair or accurate, but since his portrayals will form some of the stereotypes that others will form of all of us, I'd like to get my analysis on the record.

Klam shows three different, yet equally insecure, smart kids trying to prove themselves in the big kids' world: Wonkette, the over-smart social climber, Markos, the bully magnet turned intellectual bully, Josh Marshall, the wrinkled loner. They represent three different aspects of blogging going professional. Wonkette (in Klam's view) represents the path of blogging as a pure media phenomenon, content and form are meaningless while image is everything. Markos represents the political phenomenon of blogging, raising money for campaigns, creating a true dialog between the campaign and it's supporters, and uping the speed of communication to several exchanges per news cycle. Marshall represents blogging as an addition to the spectrum of news media; whether that addition is complementary or competitive is not yet clear.

I think, Wonkette comes out the worst of the three. Though listing her with the left, Klam doesn't show her having any actual convictions. Though a star among the bloggers, he shows he despising her peers, refusing to mix with them and preferring to aspire to divahood among nine year-old girls. It's a cruel portrait.

Markos appears to have the self-righteous conviction of a convert. He is an angry, yet naïve, newcomer sure that he has discovered the secrets that have escaped all previous comers. Though his portrait is more sympathetic in some ways than Wonkette's, we are still left with the impression that he is immature and on the verge of gaining a rude, cold dose of reality.

Marshall is portrayed as the most complex personality of the three, which makes the silly literary conceit of continually referring to his wrinkled clothes all the more annoying.

As I said three posts ago, Klam portrays us as a bunch of socially insecure nerds who never went to the senior prom. In graduate school, I remember sitting a seminar discussing a Journal of Higher Education article that made that accusation about History majors (this was before Wonkette's tenure at that august publication). We all put on our best superior airs an denounced such an image as a shallow straw man argument devoid of value. I asked, just out of curiosity, for a show of hands as to how many of us had gone to our senior proms. Less than one quarter (for the record, I was very busy watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show that night).

Is the nerd portrayal fair? Not really. Is it accurate? I don't know. Is it relevant? No. Klam's article is an interesting color piece, but it is not good analysis. We might be nerds, but so what? How does that make us different from participants in other communication media? Are we to believe that everyone currently in the radio, television, and print media were popular in high school and we are the first nerds to ever attempt talking to the world? Don't make me laugh.
This might be a party
The most recent user interface at Blogger has a little counter that tells me how many posts I've created (the earlier UIs might have had this feature, but I didn't notice it). Unfortunately, my counter stopped working sometime in the last two weeks (at number 492). That's a shame, because I was heading for a personal milestone.

This might be my five-hundredth post! I'm too lazy to go back and find out for sure (I don't have enough body parts to count to 500), so I'm just going to celebrate now. Wooo!

Okay. Party over. Get back to work.
Live to blog, blog to live
This seems to be a day for me to be introspective about the meaning of blogging. The NYT Magazine article wasn't the main reason for this. It was pleasant gossip about a few of the gang who have made good. Really, it was only minor fuel to my introspection. More importantly, I have been trying to nail down some thoughts for a post about what will happen to Left Blogistan after the election. The post itself has been fluttering around in the back of my mind for some time now, usually being pushed off the page by current events. But lately I've been fighting a case of outrage burnout and finding it harder to write about the news. Rather than collapse into existential angst, I opted to write my way through the crisis. This seemed like a good time to drag an idea like that out and see what I could do with it.

So, in this state of mind, I ran into Jeralyn Merritt’s post "Are Bloggers Selling Out?" It's her response to an L A Times op-ed by Billmon, agonizing over the incipient commercialization of the blogosphere and wondering if it's time to close the bar. After conceding that commercialization is inevitable, but not necessarily the end of the world, Jeralyn says this:
I wonder how many bloggers would quit their day jobs to blog full time. For many of us, for example, professors, lawyers, political strategists and economists, it's our day jobs that provide us with context to the political events that we end up blogging about.

Is it different for free-lance journalist bloggers and student bloggers aspiring to be writers and journalists? I suspect very much so. Also, more and more reporters are blogging, so its getting difficult to tell who is a blogger and who is a reporter writing a blog on the side--using material that didn't or wouldn't fit in his or her day job's publication. I have no idea what percentage they comprise of political bloggers, but I think it's growing.

Jeralyn’s two groups, non-writing professionals and journalists, both use blogging to supplement their already satisfying intellectual lives. She misses completely that mass of bloggers, probably the large majority, who get far more out of their blogging than they do out of their jobs. For those of us whose dead-end jobs contribute nothing more than a paycheck to our lives—-money we can use to ransom back a few hours of our time—-blogging is the great escape. Blogging allows us a chance to overcome our intellectual isolation, anonymity, and lack of voice.

In answer to Jeralyn's question, I would quit my job, in a fraction of a heartbeat, without a second thought. Paid full-time blogging wouldn’t be a sell-out for me; it would be salvation.
The NYT knows we're alive!
I suppose certain strata of the neighborhood will be all atwitter about the profile of lefty blogging superstars in the New York Times Magazine this morning. Were the profiles of Markos, Wonkette, and Josh Marshall fair? Are we really no more than a bunch of socially insecure nerds who didn't go to the senior prom? Do we have a place in the calculus of news media and political organization or are we merely--sound of teeth grinding--a fad? I have some suspicions about these things, and I might post on them after I've checked out what the rest of the neighborhood thinks, but for now I would like to comment on one amazing thing about the article: congratulations to Markos for finally managing to get a picture into print that makes him look older than fifteen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Someone knew the truth
I’m not quite sure what to make of this. Is this proof that they were full of poop when they started the war in Iraq? This is from page twelve of a State Department publication called The Network of Terrorism. It was posted on the State Department site on November 10, 2001 and appears to be a PowerPoint style justification for the war in Afganistan.

What’s missing from this map and list?

At the time we were invading Afganistan, we were actively publishing materials that said there was no link between Iraq and al Qaeda. This publication is still up on the State Department's website. No one ever thought to correct their own materials as the official line changed.

Via Uncle Horn Head.

Update: Credit where credit is due department. It looks like The Village Voice was the first one to discover the map.
An election of small things
For any political junkie, elections are an emotional roller coaster. We all want to score points on important issues, to see the public's priorities shift our way, to have an intelligent debate about things that really matter. But we also want to win. For this reason it's hard to avoid watching the polls and contemplating cheap stunts to manipulate public sentiment.

This fall the polls are driving us nuts. This may be the last hurrah of old style phone polling. The increased acceptance and spread of new communications technologies like cell phones, caller ID, and internet telephony make it harder for pollsters to get a good statistical sample over the phone. But even if they could get a good sample, they might miss the boat this year.

This is going to be a very close election. Last winter the Republicans still thought they could ride the war on terror to a landslide victory this fall. Later in the summer, some of us allowed ourselves a moment of optimism when it looked like people were growing critical of Bush's many failures. But things have tightened up. We Democrats may have dreamed of clear repudiation of the Bush Doctrine and the Republicans may have dreamed of a generation of counter-revolutionary one-party rule, but it ain't gonna happen that way for either of us. It's going to be close and run right up to the wire.

This very closeness limits the usefulness of the polls. Polls show big general trends across big groups. Good poll professionals can wring an amazing amount of useful information out of a small sample (most national polls are based on about 1100 responses) but small groups remain invisible unless specifically targeted. In a very close race, a few hundred votes in the right place can determine the results. A national or even state poll can't measure these hundred vote groups.

Look at the potential for just a couple groups to throw a monkey wrench into things:

  • Gay Republicans - The Log Cabin Republicans have got to be the most despised PAC in the country. But jokes aside, they could play a role in this election. We all assume that LCRs call themselves Republicans because they are more active in protecting their economic interests than their social/rights interests. The Bush administration has hit them with a double whammy this year. Not only has it come out openly hostile to their social interests and human rights, it has done a crappy job of taking care of almost everybody's economic interests. The GOP may feel confident that they can spurn this group because they all live in blue states, but they seem to be forgetting that one of the largest concentrations of gays in the country is in south Florida.

  • Howard Stern Fans - Stern is mad at the Bush administration, he has lots of fans, his fans are rabid, and he is popular in Florida and Pennsylvania.

  • Arab Americans and Muslim Americans - In 2000, Bush was the first presidential candidate to openly court the Arab/Muslim vote. It worked too. This year he hasn't a chance with this group.

  • Miami Cubans - This has traditionally been one of the most dependable of Republican constituencies. Two things have changed this year. First, the old knee-jerk anti-Castro Cubans are aging. The new generation admits to having more diverse political interests, thus making the Miami Cuban community harder for one party to claim. In addition, Bush's tightened travel ban only pleases the most rabid of the old anti-Castro crowd. Many saner Cubans resent the loss of contact with their families.

  • Hispanic Southwesterners - For over twenty years the Republicans have been trying to secure this group. Though some of their social policies appeal to many Hispanics, they counter that advantage with their policies on race, class, and immigration. Nevertheless the group remains a real wild card because it is decidedly un-monolithic and prone to swing. The only thing clear is that they are growing in numbers, bringing into play the formerly dependably Republican states of Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.

  • Native Americans - This is a group that has traditionally had a low turnout. This is changing. Casino wealth has made many communities in Indian country more engaged in taking care of their interests. A number of very well run voter registration and education drives have made them more significant. In about a half dozen states west of the Mississippi, Native Americans are a significant group in local politics. In New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado they could affect a close presidential race.

  • Fiscal Republicans - Bush's policies have not been good for fiscal Republicans. Sure they love the idea of big tax cuts and eat up rhetoric about ending the IRS, but that's only one side of their agenda. Most fiscal Republicans are also motivated by eliminating the debt, balancing the budget, and shrinking the government. Bush has spectacularly failed them on all of these counts and many have begun to question whether we can survive a second term of Bush.

  • Libertarians - Libertarians share most of the interests of the fiscal Republicans, but also oppose government intrusion into social issues and are rights freaks. Most Libertarians are anti-environmental and Bush has satisfied them on that count but failed on most others. And the John Ashcroft Justice Department has been one unbroken nightmare for Libertarians.

  • Isolationist Republicans - These guys must be about as happy as the Log Cabin Republicans about now.

  • Military Families - Old conventional wisdom held the military, ex-military, and military dependents to be a safe preserve for Republicans. There are clear signs that many of them are unhappy with Bush. The cuts in funding for veterans' hospitals and dependent education, the stinginess over raises and combat bonuses, the stop loss orders, the federalization of the National Guard, and the utter incompetence of the civilian leadership in the war have more than a few complaining. Ironically, the military might not ever have been as Republican as we thought, but it definitely isn't now

Are all of these groups going to turn out in large numbers to vote for Kerry? Probably not. Of the traditionally Republican voters, some will vote for Kerry, some will vote for third parties, and many will stay home. Many will not be able to break the habit of years of voting Republican, so they will hold their noses and vote Bush anyway.

Neither side needs big numbers to win; they just need enough numbers in the right places to win. Another conventional wisdom of this election is that it will turn far more on tuning out the faithful--as opposed to winning the undecideds--than is usual. That's true to a degree. Motivating and turning out the faithful will be a major element in the winner's strategy. So will turnout's evil twin: demotivating and suppressing the turnout of the other side. Along with these two drives, the winner will need to work to locate and turn out these other strategic constituencies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This could be huge
The rumor of the hour is that Roger Stone, a Republican dirty trickster who goes back to the Nixon days, is behind the fake memos. This has some wonderful possibilities (both from the perspective of of creating chaos where it is most needed and from a purely entertainment perspective). Unfortunately I'm on the West coast and still at work. I won't get to sit down and go over this for several hours yet. Damn this eastward spinning globe of ours.

Stay tuned.

Update: So far we just have rumors.

For days now the GOP, its allies, and Right Blogistan have been behaving as if the dubious provenance of the Killian memos was enough to prove that the Kerry campaign and the liberal media were plotting to defraud the election. Most demand Dan Rather’s head on a stick and some have already declared the election of. This despite the fact that no one has shown any proof that the memos were anything other than a fraud committed against CBS.

Meanwhile the thought that this sounds like a typical Karl Rove trick has been getting some mileage. Bill Burkett, CBS’s source of the memos, is almost custom-made for the role of a Rove patsy. The fact that Burkett was in touch with Joe Lockhart, one of Kerry’s advisors, after delivering the memos to CBS has been bloody meat to the right’s feeding frenzy. Lockhart did a solid job of explaining himself on CNN. But even as Scott McClelland was announcing, “It is clear that there's been an orchestrated effort by Democrats in the Kerry campaign to try to tear down the president and use old recycled attacks,” the New York Post was mentioning the Stone rumors.

Now, our side gets to crow. This afternoon Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe issued this statement:
In today’s New York Post, Roger Stone, who became associated with political ‘dirty tricks’ while working for Nixon, refused to deny that he was the source the CBS documents.

Will Ed Gillespie or the White House admit today what they know about Mr. Stone’s relationship with these forged documents? Will they unequivocally rule out Mr. Stone’s involvement? Or for that matter, others with a known history of dirty tricks, such as Karl Rove or Ralph Reed?

The Bush team helped the rumors along by canceling the appearances of their people on talking head shows tonight and canceling a call scheduled to discuss the issue.

At this point we still just have rumors. Though for a rumor target, Stone works even better for our side than Burkett does for theirs. Lambert and Digby have some of the ugly details from Stone’s past. Atrios has the pictures. Stone, of course, denies everything.

Keep in mind that so far this is all just rumors--our rumors vesus their rumors. I imagine real people are getting quite sick of this by now, but it’s far from over. Who knows, maybe they'll get sick of us all and elect Nader.
This is bad news
For hard-core polling geeks.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Forget about the guesswork from the political pundits and ignore all those election polls.

The real key to predicting the outcome of the presidential election is this year's face-off of the Halloween masks.

It's as unscientific as it gets, but the theory, according to some people in the costume business, is that the winner in every election since 1980 has been the candidate whose masks were most popular on Halloween.

So far this year, Bush masks have been outselling those of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin, according to one outfit,, the online arm of Wisconsin-based costume marketer Buyseasons Inc.

On the other hand, this company says Reagan is their all-time best-selling mask. I know that industry wide, Nixon is the all-time favorite. Maybe we can dismiss this as an outlier mask poll.

Monday, September 20, 2004

How to write a headline
We all know that the folks who write the news stories are rarely the same folks who write the headlines for those stories. That job is usually handled by an editor. An editor should have some kind of "big picture" advantage and take into consideration other concerns than just introducing the story. The biggest of these concerns is usually space; brevity is the soul of headline writing. That is why I was surprised to see this wordy headline on my New York Times this morning: "Hu Takes Full Power in China as He Gains Control of Military." Are you telling me no one in that newsroom thought of the headline, "Hu's on First?"

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Solidarity vs. the force
Gary Oldman has dropped out of the next Star Wars movie.
Oldman's spokesman explains, "Gary was excited and looking forward to working on the film. The snag is that the movie is being made without members of the Screen Actor's Guild.

"It means Gary would have been working illegally overseas. Out of respect and solidarity with the other members, he could not and would not consider violating the rules of his union."

I imagine this will only get covered a show business and sci-fi fandom news, but it deserves broader coverage. It's not often that we get a nice story about a high profile person taking a stand on union solidarity. This would have been a very profitable job for Oldman and he's rich enough that he could have ignored the union. Instead, he chose his union over the money. For that, he deserves our applause.
Did Rove write the Killian memos?
I have no reason to believe he did, but it would have been brilliant if he had. Someone else (I'd be glad to give credit, but I don't remember who) made this suggestion as a joke last week. As the various arguments have see-sawed around, I haven't been able to get that idea out of my mind.

At the present moment it appears that all of the silliness about fonts amounts to nothing. Not only could the typewriters of the day have produced the memos, but Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, says they did indeed have and use one of those typewriters (an IBM Selectric). On the other hand, she says those are not memos that she or Killian wrote; the format is wrong and the language is wrong. That would seem to cinch things for the forgery advocates except for one disturbing note: Knox says the content is all accurate. What is the point of a forgery that confirms other information?

Last week was a pretty bad week for Bush even without the "60 Minutes" story. Bush's tepid convention bounce was all set to be destroyed by the thousandth Iraq troop death, the Kitty Kelly book, and new economic figures that showed what a complete failure his economic stewardship has been. The "60 Minutes" story would have been just one more blow, but within hours the internet was buzzing with accusations that the story was based on a forgery. By the next afternoon, the mainstream press was all over the story.

The basic principle of conspiracy nut thinking is the question cui bono, who benefits. Forged documents that tell the truth are of little advantage to the Kerry campaign. Why take the risk of such a thing if they can get the same information from a legitimate source? However, I can think of a couple of advantages for the Bush campaign.

First, it blows the other bad news off the front page. Who cares about covering dreary economic figures and depressing deaths when we have a sexy scandal to talk about.

Second, it relativises the slime tactics of the Bush campaign. People will immediately jump to the conclusion that the Kerry campaign is behind the forgeries. This reinforces the perception that slime is business as normal ("they all do it") and gives the Bush campaign a free pass for their next assault on Kerry.

Third, the forgeries disarm all related genuine criticisms of Bush. They don't need to lie or say anything new or even very interesting. They just need to exist. When the noise dies down, all most people will remember will be that they heard that all that stuff was fake. Only hard-core political junkies will keep track of the distinction between the valid evidence and the fake. Since they already know who they're voting for, they are of no interest to the Bush campaign tacticians.

Fourth, it rallies the troops and extends the convention enthusiasm. There's nothing like a good sense of persecution to get the blood up.

All of these advantages depend on the forgery being promptly exposed. But that's easy to arrange. The hard part would be to get the forgeries publicized at the right time.

Let me repeat, this is all speculation of my part without a speck of evidence to support it. But it is an interesting idea.

Comments? Other advantages or disadvantages? Evidence pro or con? Spirited defenses of Rove's ethics? Okay, I put that last one in there just for laughs.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The right thing to do
I'm glad to see Lynne Gobbell's story getting some coverage in the mainstream news media. As of this morning Google shows 89 sources running it (most are just running the short AP version, but a few have more detailed coverage). This is the kind of story that we should all have printed out and ready to hand to our coworkers and kin who are concerned about Kerry's "character."

Here's a short summary. Lynne Gobbell was a line worker who put in 50-60 hours a week at an Enviromate insulation factory near Moulton, Ala. Last Thursday she showed up for work with a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker in the rear window of her Chevy Lumina. The owner of Enviromate is a bankrupcy lawyer named Phil Geddes, an enthusiastic Bush supporter who has included pro-Bush flyers in his employees' pay envelopes. After a break she was approached by her supervisor who passed on an order from Geddes to remove the bumper sticker or be fired. She confronted Geddes and exchanged hot words. A few minutes later her supervisor told her to leave wit the words, "I reckon you're fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry."

The story got some local coverage, but little else from the mainstream media. But the bloggers got hold of the story and spread it far and wide. By Tuesday Geddes--who was being called a massive pile of elephant dung by bloggers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries-- was being driven to distraction by calls for comment. He sent a subordinate to apologize and offer Gobbell her job back. Gobbell said she wanted a guarantee that she wouldn't be re-fired after the heat was off Geddes. While waiting for his answer, she got a call from John Kerry. Timothy Noah of Slate got hold of her a few minutes later and got the details: "He was telling me how proud he was that I stood up.He'd read the part where Phil said I could either work for him or work for John Kerry. He said, 'you let him know you're working for me as of today.'" The Democratic National Committee called her later Tuesday to work out the terms of her new job.

No doubt the Republican slime machine will kick into action later today. They'll find co-workers to testify that Gobbell was a troublemaker, bad worker, and had terrible taste in music. At the same time the right wing punditocracy will swing into action tut-tutting that Kerry would take advantage of this poor woman (the right thing to do, they will tell us, would have been to leave her unemployed and at the mercy of an employer who thinks he's a feudal master). Well, they are all wrong. Gobbell took her knocks for Kerry, it's only right that he should repay her for her loyalty. This is real character.

Update: John at Americablog spoke to Ms. Gobbell today and has an update about her new job and her new fame.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

This explains a lot
Via Kos:
Already the focus of two major ethics investigations, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay has sunk to a new ethical low - using the Boy Scouts of America to pump up his dwindling approval rates. According to a recently circulated invitation, The Hammer will be honored by the Boy Scouts of America at a black tie reception on September 17. The confusion lies in just what award the Boy Scouts will be handing out.

The invitation first mentioned DeLay would be receiving the Spirit of the Eagle award. The Spirit of the Eagle award is, according to the Boy Scouts' website, "an honorary posthumous special recognition for a registered youth member who has lost his life in a tragic accident or through illness."

DeLay is clearly a brainless, souless zombie, one of the the unholy undead, brought back by some evil mastermind to torment the living.
No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public
Just when we thought it was safe to go back on the road, something like this arrives.
For the driver looking for more in a pickup -- one that dwarfs the Hummer and the Ford F-350 -- Navistar has just the ride for you.

The new CXT -- short for commercial extreme truck and built from the same platform as the heavy-truck maker's typical tow truck or cement mixer -- will be sold starting this week by Navistar's International Truck & Engine subsidiary.

At 258 inches, or 21-1/2 feet long, the CXT is about 4-1/2 feet longer than the new Hummer H2 pickup, and about 2 inches longer than the F-350 Crew Cab.

But the way it really towers over what's on the road now is in height. At 108 inches, or 9 feet, the CXT stands only a foot below a basketball rim and more than two feet above the Hummer or the F-350.

"It's not going to fit into the standard garage," said Mark Oberle, a spokesman for Navistar, based in Warrenville, Ill., outside Chicago. "We can see it as a vehicle for business people who want to make a distinct impression. For personal use, it's for people who want to make a statement."

I'm sure Dr. Freud will tell us just exactly what that statement is. Can you say "compensation."

Sunday, September 12, 2004

So much material; so little time
I'm not a fisker but I play one on the internet. Some days I spend hours surfing through blogistan and the news looking for something to comment on, or mock, and other days, I log on and find one article that demands multiple posts.
(CNN) -- Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry accused the Bush administration Sunday of falsely linking Iraq to the attacks of September 11, 2001, "in its desperate attempts to reinvent a rationale for the Iraq war."

Is Kerry going soft on Bush? This is not a new attempt "to reinvent a rationale;" this has been their lying claim since day one.
Kerry made his charge in a statement released after Secretary of State Colin Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he has seen nothing to link Saddam Hussein's regime with the 9/11 attacks.


Kerry said Powell "came clean with the American people about the lack of a connection between Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks."

Not only that, Kerry said, Powell also contradicted comments Vice President Dick Cheney has made as recently as Friday.

This is an issue Kerry should build on. The Bush administration is at war with itself. Powell is increasingly staking out an apologetic position at odds with the administration's waffling lies. Rumsfeld is in hiding because he is a symbol of the administration's lawlessness. Cheney continually clings to old lies that even Bush has disavowed. Certainly, we can do better than this chaos.

On Thursday in Cincinnati, Ohio, Cheney described Saddam as a "man who provided safe harbor and sanctuary to terrorists for years" and who "provided safe harbor and sanctuary as well for al Qaeda."

In Wisconsin on Friday, he said the "al Qaeda organization had a relationship with the Iraqis."

"The bottom line is that we're [in Iraq] for the safety and security of the nation, and our friends and allies around the world," Cheney said.

"We didn't do anything to provoke the attack of 9/11. We were attacked by the terrorists, and we've responded forcefully and aggressively."


In his statement Sunday, Kerry complained that Cheney "continues to intentionally mislead the American public by drawing a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in an attempt to make the invasion of Iraq part of the global war on terror.

"The president needs to answer the question: Who do you think is right? Vice President Cheney or Secretary Powell? And if it's Secretary Powell, will you direct your vice president to stop misleading the American people?"

Yet when Kerry points out that the administration is falling to pieces, he is characterized as "complaining." "Look at those whiney Democrats; they’re wearing brown blazers again! What a disturbing character flaw!" He isn't complaining; he's indicting. He's justifiably calling bullshit on the administration. Too bad the fourth estate isn't as brave.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Bush has jomentum
I don't usually call Bush stupid. I think he's an un-curious and anti-intellectual boob, but that's not the same thing as stupid. He has a certain kind of intelligence; it's just not the kind I respect. He clearly has a sort of mean canniness that is well suited to CEOs and playground bullies.

So about the time I'm straining my arm, patting myself on the back for my open-mindedness, he goes and says something that, from any perspective, can only be described as stupid. Really, really stupid.
Medicare has suddenly emerged as a volatile issue in this year's elections, as Democrats are vowing to roll back a sharp increase in premiums announced this month and the Bush campaign is seeking to blame lawmakers, including Senator John Kerry, for the rise.

The trading of accusations reflects efforts by both parties to seek advantage with older voters.

Democrats, hoping to reclaim an issue central to their success in past elections, said they would try to block the 17.4 percent increase that will come out of Social Security checks next year.

But in a new television advertisement and in official statements, President Bush's campaign is trying to pin the responsibility for the increase on Congress...

He's actually running for a second term by running against congress. Does he know which party controls both houses of congress? Does he know that he is the head of that party. Maybe Uncle Karl will explain this to him.

The last person to run for president by running against his own party was Joe Lieberman. And we all know how far jomentum got him.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Of typewriters and fonts
Right after I got to work yesterday a coworker e-mailed me the font comparison of the Killian memos. I wrote back that I remembered using typewriters with proportional spacing back in the seventies, so this didn't prove anything. I thought about blogging on it, but unwisely chose to do some work instead. I didn't know what a big brou-ha-ha fontgate was making until I got home last night. Sigh. I could have been one of the first rebutters, but I blew it.

Even so, because I think it says a few things about the nature of blogging, I'd like to throw in a few comments.

First a summary, in case you walked into the middle of this. Wednesday's "60 Minutes II" looked at Bush's National Guard service and produced some previously unknown memos from 1973 that reflected badly on the president. Sometime in the night, someone decided the documents looked more word processed than typed. At issue was the spacing of the letters. Most typewriters used monotype spacing. That is each letter took up the same amount of space regardless of the width of the letter. In a word like "woman" the "w" and "m" would crowd in on the "o", while in a word like "ill" the letters would look oddly wide spaced. Most fonts in word processors use proportional spacing, which adjusts the spaces between the letters (called kerning) in a style more like professional typesetting. By morning right bloggistan was all in a tizzy thinking they had proof positive that the new documents were forged. Their argument was entirely based on the idea that the documents had to be produced on a word processor in order to have proportional spacing.

Later in the day, hundreds of people, old enough to have actually used typewriters, came on-line to point out that proportional font typewriters were a common office machine in the seventies. IBM had been making them since 1941, and the mighty "golf ball" Selectric, in use since 1961, had this feature. That should be the end of it, but it won't be. Already, the right is howling that we can't prove the documents are not forgeries. Irritable wingnuts will bring this up from now until the election, pouting that we lefties are play unfair by bringing in our so-called "facts."

I think this tiny tempest is a good example of some of the strengths and weaknesses of the blogoshere. Up front is our ability to fact check and critique the mainstream news media and other official sources of information. That someone was able to notice something suspicious about the news and propagate their criticism in such a short time is a good thing. Equally, the fact that others were able to catch the error in his/her suspicion and propagate their counter-criticism in an equally short time is also a good thing. This is involvement by normal citizens acting as watchdogs over the powerful managers of information. This is dialog between the factions (however angry and accusatory it might be). This happens fast enough to matter. All good things.

The bad side of this is that their suspicions were wrong and, thanks to the permanence and immortality of information once released into the internet wilds, the accusation of forgery will pop up forever. Also, while there was some dialog between the factions, there is also a large spectator component to the blogoshere that only listen to the echo chamber of their own side. They will hear the original critique, but not necessarily the counter-critique. Our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. The speed and broad spread of the internet allow a bad idea to become ubiquitous before anyone has a chance to notice how bad it is.

This is the kind of affair that the professional (i.e. "paid") news media have in mind when they sneer at blogs and websites for being untrained and lacking editors. There is some validity in their comment. Of course there is an equal amount of validity in our counter-sneer that, if training and editors are such an advantage, why does the news still suck?

The real problem is that bloggers lack training in research, evidence, and logic (and so do most paid reporters). In this case, the originator of the forgery idea noticed that the documents looked more like the word processed documents that they had encountered than the typed ones. Therefore it must have come from a computer. And they rushed to the web with no more than that thought. How many flaws are in this? From a professional perspective, it's flawed on evidence and logic. They assumed nonexistence of evidence (they had never seen a typewriter with proportional fonts) equals evidence of nonexistence (therefore they don't exist). It's also very sloppy research (they didn't try to find out if their assumption was true). Without digging, I can think of at least three ways a letter with proportional spacing could have been produced in 1973. The supporters of the forgery idea continue the assault on logic by reversing the normal burden of proof by insisting we have to prove that it's not a forgery (a negative proof).

Having insulted the mental capacity of the originator of the forgery idea, let me pull back a bit and say I think the real culprit here is over-eagerness. This is another case where speed is our enemy. When most bloggers have a good idea, our first priority is to get it on line and be the first to say it. Thinking the documents looked word processed was a good observation, it just didn't hold up under testing. Speed is not just a technical feature of blogging, it is one of our most respected values. Being first is one of the top claims to status in the blogosphere. Being clever comes in second. Being right or thorough is a distant third.

I don't exempt myself from this criticism. I'd sell my left kidney for a really good scoop. I'm not going to end with a pious call to reevaluate our core values. This is a young medium. Frontier wildness and adolescent mistakes are part of growth. There will be time for more reasoned consideration later. I just wanted to be the first one to say it.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Quote of the day
The Republican Party today is not at all the Republican Party that I observed growing up -- it is extremist ... dangerous, fundamentalist, naive, romanticist. They are as scary as I could possibly imagine. They're not conservative, they're not prudent. Quite frankly, they're not Republican.

--Andre Heinz
Perhaps Frist should rethink this
Interesting juxtaposition here. On the same day that this story gets play in the human interest section...
A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver's trigger.

Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was charged with felony animal cruelty, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. He was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn't find them a home, according to the sheriff's office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies -- one in his arms and another in his left hand -- when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff's report said.

...this story is in the politics section.
Congress will not vote on an assault-weapons ban due to expire Monday, Republican leaders said yesterday, rejecting a last-ditch effort by supporters to renew it.

"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The 10-year ban, signed by President Clinton in 1994, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it.


In March, the Senate voted to add the ban to a bill that would have immunized gun manufacturers from liability suits stemming from violent gun crimes. But the Senate voted 90-8 against the final bill after the National Rifle Association urged its defeat.

By "American people" Frist, of course, means NRA lobbyists. Even if he won't listen to the stream of police chiefs that came to testify before congress, maybe he should consider this a matter of homeland defense. Every year, hundreds of homes and cabins are broken into and weapons stolen. Can we be sure people are doing this? What if the wild animals are taking advantage of the easy availability of military style weapons to arm themselves for the final showdown? Where did that puppy learn how to shoot a gun? And remember, there are people who have already sided with the animals and regularly exercise their constitutional right to arm bears.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tangled Bank # 11
It's here! I received ten submissions on a nice variety of topics. The only fair way to present them is in the order they arrived, so without further ado:

Socar Myles of Ratty's Ghost tells how, after a quiet summer, her 19th floor home has been invaded by bugs, including one highly unpleasant hornet. Though she fought the hornet to a stalemate, the battle was not without collateral damage.

Prashant Mullick draws connections between the PBS show Evolution and recent news items about how homosexuality continues to be considered a criminal act in India. In particular, he confronts the common claim that homosexuality is "unnatural." Not only does homosexuality occur in nature, some of our closest relatives are enthusiastic practitioners.

Sean at Preposterous Universe just back from a rather busy summer of glamorous international conferences still has time to be interviewed for Sky and Telescope magazine. The author of a forthcoming article quizzed him about testing general relativity. He passes on some interesting Q&A.

From New Zealand, David Winter of Science and Sensibility talks about the way modern DNA techniques were used to solve old problems in moa taxonomy. The amazing diversity in the bones found for the moas have been a running problem for naturalists in New Zealand. Because most bones are young enough, DNA techniques offer some hope of unraveling this complex problem, while offering an interesting warning to paleontologists who do cannot use those same techniques.

Radagast of Rhosgobel takes exception to the oversimplified explanations of "photosynthesis" in most reference books. One of the most fundamental concepts in the biological sciences still seems to be taught by what Dave Berry calls the "bad" method. In grade school they teach us a bunch of facts that are wrong and then spend a decade or two more explaining that nothing works like we thought.

Tangled Bank founder and two-time host P. Z. Myers has a detailed post on neurulation in zebrafish. If you don't know what that is, be sure to read the comments. The key issue seems to be that the zebrafish are taking on the powerful mouse lobby for a position in the lucrative world of molecular genetics with the usual longterm goal of developing an army of invulnerable, giant, mutant zebrafish soldier-clones.

Having made your way through the previous two or three seriously educational dinner courses, you probably think you're entitled to some dessert. Mike at 10,000 Birds comes to our rescue with some peeps (not the marshmallow kind).

Wesley R. Elsberry of The Austringer gives us a short post on "Altruistic Punishment" (which does not mean "I'm doing this for your own good, young man"). Altruistic Punishment is the self-righteous urge to kill we all have when exposed to people breaking certain societal norms, especially when we are unaffected by their transgression. Think about people who take cuts in line or too many items through the express line.

S. Y. Affolee, a graduate student at Dartmouth in the microbiology department, sent in a review article called The Black Plague and Paleomicrobiology, which is right up my alley. The authors of the reviewed piece set out to examine the pathogen that caused the Black Plague and found themselves unable to prove the plague even happened. A revolution in Medieval Studies in the making or a D for sloppy research methodology? We report, you decide.

Jennifer Forman Orth, of UMass Boston, Department of Biology, gives us a round-up of interesting peer-reviewed journal articles about invasive species. This is a semi-regular feature at her place, the Invasive Species Weblog. Jennifer is very serious about her topic and has an entire store full of invasive species related goodies for the gardener on your gift list (the holidays are coming).

It's been fun to have an excuse to read more science and take some time off from politics. Now, I suppose I need to actually write something for TB.

The host of Tangled Bank #12 on September 22 will be Kevin, at Lean Left. Send your submissions to Pharyngula , Tangled Bank , or directly to Kevin at Lean Left. Tangled Bank is always looking for new hosts, too (write Pharyngula or Tangled Bank).

Update: I left one of the submissions out. This has been corrected. My sincerest apologies to the neglected writer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Labor Day speeches
I like Labor Day. Labor Day is a holiday with a great concept, that hasn't yet been corrupted by mealy-mouthed, right-wing, false patriots or turned into a vulgar commercial exercise. Sure, there are endless season end and back to school sales, but these are more a coincidence of the calendar than a corruption of the holiday. So far, only the dreaded barbeque industry has managed to directly tap into the holiday itself.

On of the best things about Labor Day is that the workers' movement gets to come out in public and be unapologetically political. This is a holiday where left-wingers are expected to make speeches and we don't have to share the stage. Let's listen to one of those speeches.
Over the last few years, I've thought a lot about why America is heading in the wrong direction. Lost jobs, health care costs through the roof, the surplus gone, our alliances shredded, and our influence challenged. And then the other day, we were driving along the road in our campaign bus, and I saw a sign with a lone "W" leaning up against a post. At first, I was a little confused. But then, it all made sense.

As the president likes to say, there's nothing complicated about it. It does all come down to one letter -- W. George W. Bush. What do you think that W stands for? That W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction for America. And this election all comes down to one decision: Do we want four more years of wrong choices, or do we want to move America in a new direction?

The choice in this election couldn't be more clear. Do we want four more years of lost jobs and falling wages ... four more years of rising health care costs ... four more years of raiding Social Security to give tax cuts to the wealthy ... four more years of schools being shortchanged, leaving millions of children behind ... four more years of shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less ...four more years of a go-it-alone foreign policy. If you do, then you should vote for George W. Bush.


Of all George Bush's wrong choices, the most catastrophic one is the mess in Iraq. It's not that I would have done one thing differently in Iraq, I would have done everything differently. It was wrong to rush to war without a plan to win the peace. It was wrong not to build a strong international coalition of our allies. And it was wrong to put our young men and women into harm's way without the equipment and body armor protect themselves and get the job done.


At that convention in New York last week, the Bush Administration actually said that outsourcing jobs is good for this nation. That shouldn't be a surprise because that's what they've done for four years, and that's what they want to do for four more years. That's W and that's Wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction. It's time for a president who will lead America in a new direction.


At that convention in New York last week, George Bush actually promised the American people that after four years of failure, he now had a plan to get health care costs under control. Well, if you weren't suspicious of a plan announced just two months before an election, you got a quick dose of reality the next day. George Bush socked seniors with a 17 percent increase in Medicare. What's right about that? That's the biggest increase in Medicare premiums in the history of the program. Raising Medicare costs -- that's W and that's wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction. It's time for a president who will lead America in a new direction.


At that convention in New York last week, George Bush said that he actually had a new idea. And you know what it was? The bad, old idea of privatizing social security -- and cutting your benefits. That's W and that's wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction. It's time for a president who will lead America in a new direction.


On every issue, from Iraq to health care, from jobs to education, W stands for wrong. Wrong choices. Wrong direction. It's time for a president who will lead America in a new direction.


Four years ago, George W. Bush told us he wanted to create an economy where there was "high-paying, high-quality work" for everyone. He now says prosperity has returned and we've turned the corner. Well, that's just plain wrong. Most Americans I've met feel like they've been put in a corner. Prosperity hasn't returned. We've lost jobs. Wages are down. Benefits are down. And George Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression to actually lose jobs. That's George W. Bush. Wrong choices, wrong direction. It's time for a president who will America in a new direction.

That might not have been the best speech of the day, but it was probably the most important. And it was a good speech at that. Here's hoping we hear more like this.

I hope your weekend was restful, let's get ignore those polls and get back to work.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Tangled Bank reminder
We have less than a week before the next Tangled Bank is up and I can tell you the excitement is almost noticeable here at the crabgrass castle. But for those of you, who are late joining our show, let me take a moment to explain the Tangled Bank. Tangled Bank is a "Carnival of the Vanities" for science geeks and dilettantes alike. For those of you who haven't run across the carnival phenomenon in blogging, “a carnival is a weekly showcase of good weblog writing, selected by the authors themselves (that's the vanity part).” Every two weeks a different site hosts the Tangled Bank.

As our friend Pen Elayne says, “Oh, that's what a "carnival" is? Basically a blogaround? Geez, now they tell me...” She nailed it. It’s a fancy name for a blogaround. The Tangled Bank specializes in writing about the biological sciences in their broadest sense, including the politics of science, the history of science, nature watching, environmental politics, neurulation in zebrafish, or creationist bashing. If you’ve written a good post that relates to anything like that send me a link.

'Til now the Tangled Banks have all been hosted by science bloggers. This is the first Tangled Bank to be hosted by a humanities major. If you have an interest in science but no credentials, this is your chance to swim with the big kids. Wednesday morning when I get to work is the deadline. Go for it.
...I reach for my pistol
Various Nazis, usually Hermann Goering, are given credit for the quote: "Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my pistol" (also variously translated, this is the most common version). I don't often claim sympathy for Third Reich war criminals, but I do understand the feeling that the Reichsmarshall was voicing. Some words used in public political discourse become so loaded with meaning--and frequently at odds with their dictionary meaning--that my reaction on hearing them is a barely squelched urge to violence. The more American way of phrasing Goering's thought would be, "if I hear 'em say that again, I'm gonna kill 'em."

I offer this as an explanation for my reaction to the President's speech yesterday. There are some words that are so cringeworthy that Republicans should be allowed to utter them. At the top of the list is "reform." Every time I hear a Republican mention reforming something, my fight-or-flight reflex goes into overdrive. Welfare reform. Tort reform. Medicare reform. Social Security reform. Any kind of deregulation as reform. Whenever reform crosses their lips it means the majority is going to be seriously screwed over for the benefit of the moneyed minority.

My normal reaction to a word being bled of its meaning is to announce a moratorium on using that word, to give it a chance to recover some linguistic credibility (not that anyone pays attention to my list). In pop culture, which is random and stupid, that would normally be enough. Pop culture overuse comes from a lack of imagination; words are damaged through linguistic faddishness, not sinister intent. But in politics, the problem is deeper. Words are misused in an attempt to camouflage actions. "Defense of the Family" doesn't defend anything, it deprives a group of rights. "Tort reform" means a limit on our right to seek legal redress. "Social Security reform" means gutting Social Security to provide investment funds. "Tax relief" is just a sick joke. George Orwell called this tactic "newspeak" when he watched the Department of War renamed the the Department of Defense. Despite the fact that we have had almost sixty years since he warned us, the tactic has just grown stronger and healthier. Et cetera, und so weiter, and so it goes.

When George Bush gives a full length speech, there are so many of these cringeworthy moments that I'm still twitching today. Good thing I don't carry a pistol; my TV and computor monitor would need weekly replacement if I did.

Butt covering disclaimer: This post is a semi-humorous, cumudgeonly rant. I have never, nor do I now, advocate violence by me, or anyone else, against anyone, anywhere. In fact, I'm a wimpy pacifist. Can't we all just get along?
Clinton in the hospital
Clinton is in the hospital with chest pains (they appear to be avoiding the term "heart attack") and needs a bypass operation. Ironic that this happened after he lost weight and is his best shape in years.

How long before the wingnuts start claiming it's a plot to steal attention from Bush? How long before Safire manages to work this into his Hillary for president conspiracy theory? How long before someone describes it as the wrath of God? Seriously, if you're the praying type, now is the time to do so.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

This works for me
I love it when Kerry says just exactly what we wanted to hear him say.
I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

The Vice President even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.

It’s still my ideal to hear Kerry use lines like this as applause lines. Defend his honor (but not in a Zellous pistols at dawn manner), slaps the other side hard, but then push on to issues. He can win the pissing match and still lose the election.