Friday, January 23, 2004

Democracy at Risk 

Democracy at Risk

The disputed election of 2000 left a lasting scar on the nation's psyche. A recent Zogby poll found that even in red states, which voted for George W. Bush, 32 percent of the public believes that the election was stolen. In blue states, the fraction is 44 percent.

Now imagine this: in November the candidate trailing in the polls wins an upset victory — but all of the districts where he does much better than expected use touch-screen voting machines. Meanwhile, leaked internal e-mail from the companies that make these machines suggests widespread error, and possibly fraud. What would this do to the nation?

Unfortunately, this story is completely plausible. (In fact, you can tell a similar story about some of the results in the 2002 midterm elections, especially in Georgia.) Fortune magazine rightly declared paperless voting the worst technology of 2003, but it's not just a bad technology — it's a threat to the republic.
Full story.

MoveOn screwed by CBS--sign the petition 

From MoveOn.org:
During this year's Super Bowl, you'll see ads sponsored by beer companies, tobacco companies, and the Bush White House. But you won't see the winning ad in MoveOn.org Voter Fund's Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest. CBS refuses to air it.

Meanwhile, the White House is on the verge of signing into law a deal which Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says is custom-tailored for CBS and Fox, allowing the two networks to grow much bigger. CBS lobbied hard for this rule change; MoveOn.org members across the country lobbied against it; and now our ad has been rejected while the White House ad will be played. It looks an awful lot like CBS is playing politics with the right to free speech.

Of course, this is bigger than just the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) submitted an ad that was also rejected. But this isn't even a progressive-vs.-conservative issue. The airwaves are publicly owned, so we have a fundamental right to hear viewpoints from across the ideological spectrum. That's why we need to let CBS know that this practice of arbitrarily turning down ads that may be "controversial" -- especially if they're controversial simply because they take on the President -- just isn't right.

To watch the ad that CBS won't air and sign our petition to CBS, go to:

Starving the Beast - Part 1 

Restraint Pledged on Spending

Under mounting pressure from conservatives angered by surging federal spending, White House officials said yesterday that President Bush's 2005 budget will hold the growth of spending outside of defense and homeland security below 1 percent.
Full story.

What happened to hope? 

speakingcorpse writes:

I've of course been thinking--if that is the word--a lot about the
sounds and images being projected on my television that are supposed to
represent events in the campaign. But it's hard to think one's way
through all of this. I don't know what to think. Two things keep
returning to my mind, however: one is that there are several good
candidates, and Kerry and Edwards may be very good, and it was stupid of
me to write them off. Two is that what has happened to Dean since
losing Iowa--and I really did not think this until this evening, after I
watched the "meltdown" tape 10 times--is really not his fault. I really
don't think the tape was that bad, at all. It sounds bad on the radio,
but when you watch it, it's quite clear that nothing all that crazy is
going on. Obviously, Dean fucked up. But the important lesson to be
learned from this is one that Atrios has been repeating insistently:
that the media are going to gang up on the frontrunner or the eventual
nominee, if not exactly in the same way, then at least in ways that are
eventually destructive. For Clark and Kerry, this will mean, at some
point, relentless attacks about their "inconsistencies" on the war
issue--this was already happening tonight, actually.

I don't know what to hope for anymore. Dawkins's points about Kerry's
credibility and his gravitas and his military record are obviously very
important. The Iowans responded to this, and in the fall, if he's got
Rand Beers talking about Bush's failed counter-terrorism policy, he
would be able to make a strong case to frightened Americans that he is
the right person to carry on the "war on terror." But: the media will
attack him for voting for the war resolution, and he has not shown
himself to be much more adept than Dean at playing along with the media
(I cannot forget his response to Saddam's capture, and I do not want to
think about what he will do when Osama's torso is discovered in a
dumpster in Karachi next August.)

Dean clearly rubs a lot of people the wrong way--that's why he blew it
in Iowa. (But, again, I don't think the meltdown speech is symptomatic
of what turned off Iowa voters to him.) His out-of-town shock troops
seem to have come across as pretty foolish. Dean also lacks all of the
foreign-policy military gravitas of Kerry and Clark, and that may be the
most important thing. Still, he has already been put on the rack by the
media--and if he can survive (which of course is the condition of anyone
supporting him anyway) he will be very strong. Furthermore, he and his
wife just put on a superb performance in the presence of the repulsive
feigned incredulousness of Diane Sawyer. (She pretended throughout the
interview that she thought Judy Dean's devotion to her medical practice
was either a cover for drug-dealing or just an elaborate fantasy.) Judy
Dean was really great--not to sound like a duped fool, but she really
actually helped me understand Dean himself. She is a huge asset for
Dean because she is obviously in love with him and is also obviously a
very normal person who responds to sluts like Sawyer with confused
bemusement but is not threatened by them. But all such considerations
regarding Dean may now be moot.

As for Clark, I don't know what to say. I haven't seen him speak
enough. (I missed tonight's debate.) I'm not sure that Clark offers
anything that Kerry does not (I'm not convinced that he was any more
principled on the war than Kerry); and he lacks Kerry's impressive
experience and liberal credentials. I can very easily see the media
latching onto the "something strange about Clark" meme--he switched
parties, he's ambitious, he flip-flopped (perhaps) on the war, etc. He
may be much more vulnerable to "Gore-ing" than a lot of his supporters
seem to suspect.

All of which is to say: what about Edwards?! He may have something the
others don't: I can imagine the media shit not sticking to him--he
seems that easy going. But Edwards lacks what Kerry and Clark offer in
the national security/presidential-gravitas area. I do think that if
any one of these guys gets the nomination, he'd be a formidable opponent
for Bush--and whoever survives will have to have learned how to play the
game pretty well.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The news from Belge 

From the Brussel Metro. Even from the Flemish you get the gist. (The front-page photo shows a smirking Chimp backed by a clapping Corpse and Fat-Ass.)
Bush wil Amerikanen behoeden voor seks, drugs en homo's

WASHINGTON--Met zijn State of the Union gooit president Bush zich in de kiesstrijd als verdediger van conservatif-christelijk waarden. Hij haalde scherp uit naar "activistische rechters" die het homohuwelijk toelaten en overweegt zelfs een verbod op het homohuwelijk in de grondwet te schrijven. Ook seks voor het huwelijk kan voor Bush niet door de beugel. Hij wil dat in de klas gepleit wordt voor onthouding, en voorziet ook geld voor drugtests op school.

Does this news story refer to an event which was reported in a previous news story? 

Ho-hum, more on the Republican Senate Judiciary staff breaking into the Democrats' server. And lighting strikes twice! Lookie-who's at the center of this one again: Bob Novak.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The State of the Union address: A few observations 

Dawkins writes:

So maybe I'm a bit of a partisan when it comes to commenting on George W. Bush.

But viewing the speech as objectively and dispassionately as I possibly can, I'd say the thing was just about as peevish, partisan, and adversarial as you can possibly be. (At least, as opposed to the characterization "Somber and Determined" proffered by the New York Times front page this morning.)

The general rhetorical strategy was, of course, to divide, to snipe, to taunt the Democrats as much as possible.

The message:

"Terror, terror, terror, terror. We're at crippling, immediate risk of terror, and if you don't support the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq blindly and docilely, you're a traitor.

"Tax relief, tax relief. If you don't support making tax cuts for the rich permanent forever and ever, and if you insist on believing that the economy is not improving, you're an enemy of America and the American way of life.

"God, Christ, and the President. If you don't believe that God's desires are being enacted on earth by this President and his administration's policies, then you're a blasphemer of Christ and you're going straight to hell."

Now I hate to stoop to the level of the Tucker Carlsons and Ann Coulters and whine, in my own way, "But what about under Clinton?"

But seriously, as "partisan" as the atmosphere was during the Clinton years, there certainly never was a Clinton State of the Union address as tendentious and politically aggressive as Bush's last night. Even amidst impeachment, if I recall, Clinton delivered an address that ignored what was happening politically, and focused instead, as States of the Union should, on policy, collaborative effort, common cause. Of course, he could have easily, George W. Bush-style, shot out with:

"Impeachment. Those of you who are trying to impeach me now are hypocritical, cynical, sanctimonious swine, and you ought to be impeached too."

Thankfully, last night there were a few saving graces.

1. The Democrats' culture-jamming mid-sentence burst of applause during Bush's rant about the Patriot Act:

Bush: Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year…

Democrats: (Applause)

Bush: (Confused blink, petulant sneer)

Cut to: (Tom DeLay, standing, scowling, eyes darting with murderous intent toward the Democrats.)

Bush resumes: …The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule….

Republicans: (Applause. Yes, Republicans actually applauded at this line! "Yippee, terrorism as far as the eye can see!")

2. Then again when talking about tax cuts:

Bush: The tax reductions you passed are set to expire…

Democrats: (Applause)

Bush: (Peevish offense, school-yard bully fury) Unless you act (more Democratic applause) -- unless you act -- unless you act, the unfair tax on marriage will go back up.

3. Frequent reaction shots of Ted Kennedy throughout the speech, seated, shaking his head ruefully.

4. The farcically tortured new Iraq-war-WMD-justification terminology:

While last year it was something to the effect of, "Saddam currently has batteries of nuclear missiles trained and ready to fire at Washington, DC," last night it was, seriously:

"Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations."

Yep. "Dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and "significant amounts of equipment."

Look out! "Significant amounts of equipment!"

Blicero adds: God I'm glad I missed this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Chicken in Leffe Sauce 

If you want to know what it feels like to have seven adult people fawning over you unabashedly, practically drooling with admiration and joy, rapt with attention for an indefinite period of time, until they finally leave amid fanfares of praise, for you, you as a person, just go to dinner at a small-town restaurant in Europe, turn the subject to American politics, speak loudly enough that someone overhears, and then let rip.

Such was the case tonight in Mechelen, Belgium. And the amazing thing: these were regular working-class folks. They had their preconceptions (Bush is bad), but were totally open-minded and receptive (e.g., to learning about all the ways Bush is bad that they didn't know about yet).

Europe is so interesting. No one seems to know what an evangelical Christian is. (Or a neoconservative, for that matter.)

Well, back to propagandizing across the Continent. Man, this is fun...


For whatever reason(s) I woke up at 6am this morning (1am EST) energized and starving, and I read the news online in the lobby of the Park International Hotel (while hearing the reports drifting in over the BCC) and then had breakfast in a room full of pharmacy students from Alabama.

Now, as promised, the latest from the American media, from Europe!

Before the bitter recriminations set in, I want to congratulate the Kerry folks (whoever they may be) and say how much it warms my heart to see a New York Times article that is not only respectful but borderline hagiographic. Some choice (and well deserving of celebration) moments:
What followed was perhaps the most concise and cutting indictment of Mr. Bush that the famously wordy Mr. Kerry has ever given.

"This president has an open hand for his friends at Halliburton, but he has turned his back on our friends and neighbors," he said. "He has turned his back on America's teachers and America's schools. And I will crisscross this country in this campaign and hold George W. Bush accountable for making a mockery of the words `no child left behind.'

"Add up the deficit and the indifference of this administration," he added. "Count the cost that working families are paying while the privileged ride high and reap the rewards. Seniors have seen their retirements stolen by Enron and Worldcom. We've seen financial scandals and jobs sent overseas. And at companies like Tyco, we've seen a work places where this president licenses a creed of greed."

"Two million people have seen their health insurance blown away, and three million people have lost their jobs," he said. "And when we add it all up, as I have in Iowa and New Hampshire and as we will all the way to November, it is clear that the one person in the United States of America who deserves to be laid off is George W. Bush."
Music to my ears: paragraph upon paragraph of what the candidate said, with no smarmy interpolations or "balancing" response from a Bush campaign spokesperson!
By last week, Mr. Kerry had struck on a trademark move: offering to take questions until every caucus-goer in the room was won over. In Des Moines on Wednesday he cut his speech to 10 minutes and paced from one questioner to another for nearly two hours, transfixing hundreds of largely undecided voters. By Sunday night, as 1,800 supporters rallied at the Iowa state fairgrounds, his weekend of wearing down undecideds had left him rasping hoarsely.

But Mr. Kerry, who in the waning days of the race never showed the slightest sign of cockiness, had clearly mastered the art of expectations.

Look ahead to New Hampshire, someone asked him. Would he win?

"I intend to try," he said, the picture of humility. "I don't have to, especially now, but I intend to try."
"Never showed the slightest sign of cockiness"! "Mastered the art of expectations"! "The picture of humility"!

I don't care who you were rooting for, this is journalistic bliss, folks. Let's savor it now, for it ain't going to last. Jody Wilgoren is never far behind:
This is how Howard Dean marked the first loss of his charmed political life.
[Please tell me some reporter ever used the phrase "charmed political life" in reference to Gov. Bush in 2000.]
"We will not give up," he bellowed to the fiery crowd, grabbing one of the American flags being waved and thrashing it around.

Shouting himself hoarse, Dr. Dean readopted some of the growling, angry outsider tone that had propelled his earlier insurgency as he spun through the list of states where he planned to fight the next rounds: from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Massachusetts and North Carolina, the latter two the homes of the men who beat him here.

With a fierce grin and a red face, he vowed, "We will not quit now or ever!"
Dean bellowing? Waving and thrashing? Shouting, growling and angry? "With a fierce grin and a red face"? Who ever heard of such things? Jody Wilgoren must have been there in person, reporting on the event for a news article!

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Kerry Thing 

Josh Marshall has been expressing some genuine bafflement over the true causes Kerry's Iowa "surge." I have one hypothesis: Kerry's key endorser Christie Vilsack. Has anyone seen that woman on C-Span? She's amazing. She has it all. I think we're going to see a lot more from her.

I'm being kicked out of the internet cafe. Goodnight.


Dear all: I will be posting this week from England and Belgium, where I have come in order to cover the Iowa caucuses. I decided to 'think outside the box' and not hop on the prairie-bound bandwagon with all the other 'journalists.' Rather, I thought: why not provide our readers with some European perspective on the American electoral season's opening salvos. By that I don't mean that I intend to read European coverage of U.S. politics and then report on it. Rather, I mean to peruse the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other traditional American media--but from computers that are in Europe--and then develop insightful posts from those observations. I think it will be an exciting experiment in cross-cultural understanding. For instance: why was my taxi from Heathrow so outrageously expensive--yet the hourly access fee at the internet cafe I'm writing from is so utterly damn reasonable? This and more, folks...this and more.

(And when I'm in Belgium I plan to investigate whether the Flemish and French-speaking Belgians have differing or similar opinions on whether Kerry looks French--and whether that is perceived as a good or a bad thing.)

If anything in these posts looks awry (other than the content) it must be on account of these weird English keyboards.

Happy Caucusing!

"Grand Canyon: A Different View" 

Critics Say the Park Service Is Letting Religion and Politics Affect Its Policies

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — To halt the removal of a cross placed in the Mojave National Preserve almost 70 years ago to commemorate World War I veterans, a Republican lawmaker from California has proposed swapping the land it sits on with a private group.

The National Park Service recently ordered the return of plaques bearing biblical verses that had hung in Grand Canyon National Park for more than 30 years before they were taken down last summer. The Park Service also approved selling a book at the Grand Canyon that suggests the canyon was created in six days several thousand years ago.

And here at the Lincoln Memorial, an eight-minute film that shows historical events at the memorial, including demonstrations for civil rights, abortion rights and gay rights, is being revised by the Park Service to add four minutes of more politically neutral events.

While the Park Service says these are unrelated incidents, reflecting no overarching political policy, a national alliance of public environmental workers says the efforts are evidence of a new program of "faith-based parks" promoted by the Bush administration with the strong support of conservative groups.
Oh, and this:
After the book, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" (2003, Master Books), by Tom Vail, a river guide and evangelical Christian who leads religious-oriented excursions, first appeared on shelves at the park's six bookstores last summer, a park employee raised objections. That led to a review by several members of the Grand Canyon staff, who recommended that the book remain on the same shelves with books that offer evolutionary explanations of how the park formed. About 300 copies have been sold, Ms. Oltrogge said, and more have been ordered.

But the book's presence clearly troubles some Park Service employees. As Mr. Barna said, "We're still struggling with it."

"President Bush shares a laugh with women who have made the transition from welfare to work" and more... 

Dawkins writes:

Dear God, please lift these scales from my eyes, and this cynicism from my heart. Whenever I look at this president's "Compassion Photo Album," my eyes and heart won't let me see the compassion in the images. Instead, I only see the president posing for photos with black and Latino people. Please, God, please Mr. President, have compassion on me, and let me see the wonder working compassion in all your works and photo opportunities.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Bush "Surge" Disappears Down Spider-Hole 

The New York Times/CBS News Poll
January 12-15, 2004

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President?

58 Approve
33 Disapprove

50 Approve
45 Disapprove
[Editorial note: Oops!]
4. Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

49 Right direction
43 Wrong track

42 Right direction
53 Wrong track
[Editorial note: Damn. But just wait till we get that moon thing going! Or wait...see item 81 below. ]
6. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling foreign policy?

52 Approve
38 Disapprove

47 Approve
45 Disapprove

7. How about the economy? Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy?

49 Approve
43 Disapprove

44 Approve
51 Disapprove
[Editorial note: That's gotta hurt.]
8. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?

59 Approve
35 Disapprove

48 Approve
46 Disapprove
[Editorial note: Where Saddam go?]
13. Is your opinion of George W. Bush favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven't you heard enough about George W. Bush yet to have an opinion?

48 Favorable
31 Unfavorable
17 "Undecided"

41 Favorable
38 Unfavorable

16 "Undecided"
[Editorial note: Those 1's and 8's got mixed up somehow.]
16. Which comes closer to your opinion about what the United States policy should be after the war with Iraq? The United States should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first, OR the U.S. should be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the United States?

58 Sould not attack
32 Should be able to attack

19. If the 2004 Presidential election were being held today, do you think you would probably vote for George W. Bush or probably vote for the Democratic candidate?

49 Bush
40 Democrat

43 Bush
45 Democrat
[Editorial note: I am astonished that 45% of the respondants to this poll are self-admitted practitioners of hate-speech, apoplectic rage, fascism, anti-semitism, and terrorism.]
43. Do you have confidence in George W. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the nation's economy, or are you uneasy about his approach?

39 Confident
57 Uneasy

45. Do you think George W. Bush has the same priorities for the country as you have, or not?

41 Same
54 Not
[Editorial note: Does death count as a priority?]
49. Do you think George W. Bush is more interested in protecting the interests of ordinary Americans or more interested in protecting the interests of large corporations?

30 Ordinary Americans
58 Large corporations

53. Do you think big business has too much influence, too little influence, or the right amount of influence on the Bush administration?

64 Too much
5 Too little
23 Right amount

59. Do you think the Bush Administration has made a lot of progress, some progress, not much progress, or no progress at all in improving public schools?

9 A lot
33 Some
18 Not much
34 No progress

65. Looking back on it now, do you think the Bush Administration was too quick to get the United States involved in a war in Iraq, too slow, or was the timing about right?

49 Too quick
13 Too slow
35 About right

71. In general, is your opinion of the Republican party favorable or not favorable?

48 Favorable
43 Not favorable

Compare with:

54 Favorable
35 Not favorable

72. In general, is your opinion of the Democratic party favorable or not favorable?

54 Favorable
36 Not favorable

Compare with:

55 Favorable
36 Not favorable
[Editorial note: This strikes me as weird. GOP favorability has dropped significantly since the 2002 elections, while the Dem ratings are still as high as they were then. And even though the parties had the same numbers on the eve of the 2002 election...well, you know what happened, I'm not going to rehash it. Frankly, I doubt there's a lesson here. Moving on...]
77. When it comes to possible weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has the Bush Administration told the public most of what it knows or has it been hiding important elements of what it knows?

27 Told most
61 Hiding important elements

78. Before the war with Iraq, when talking about what they knew about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, do you think the members of the Bush Administration were telling everything they knew, most of what they knew, hiding important elements of what they knew, or mostly lying?

6 Telling everything
27 Telling most
39 Hiding important elements
21 Mostly lying
[Editorial note: Those are pretty incredible numbers. I guess it shows that people aren't stupid. They just don't necessarily know that they're not stupid.]
79. Are we spending too much, too little, or about the right amount on space exploration programs?

40 Too much
17 Too little
37 Right amount

81. Given the costs and risks involved in manned space exploration, do you think building a permanent space station on the moon is worth it, or not?

35 Worth it
58 Not worth it

85. Regardless of what you think about George Bush now, looking back to 2000, would you say George W. Bush legitimately won the 2000 presidential election, or not?

54 Legitimately won
42 Not
[Editorial note: What sort of country are we living in when 42% of those polled do not believe the president was legitimately elected, over three years after that election? What does it mean that this type of question is just accepted as...another question? Number 85 on the list of questions? What is this? Who are we? ]
Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican party or to the Democratic party?

34 Republican
47 Democratic
[Editorial note: I--even I!--have been so warped by GOP spin that these numbers surprised me--I was under the assumption that everyone in the country hated Democrats...but lo, here they are. Where are you, 47? Hello out there! We could use some help!!]

Once-Upstanding Republicans Fall Prey to the Decadent Allure of Hate Speech 

A heartening moment from today's WaPo story on Iowa:
Democratic anger at Bush has been evident for the past year, but what the caucus process is showing is that a number of Republicans share those feelings. Erik and Stephanie Edgren, their young son John in tow, waited for Dean in Oskaloosa on Friday morning.

"We agree with almost everything he [Dean] has to say," Erik Edgren said. "It started out that he's against the war in Iraq. We actually switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party so we could vote for Dean in the caucus. I voted for Bush; I'm disgusted by what he's done. I'm not a pacifist; I'm not namby-pamby against all wars. This was wrong."

Jim Cornick and his wife switched their registration to Democrat a month ago. "The number one issue with my wife and me is that President Bush must go, that our country has gone in a very, very radical direction," Cornick said after Kerry spent more than two hours answering questions from undecided voters at a local theater on Thursday night. "As they [the administration] left us behind, we looked at each of the nine candidates for which one could beat George Bush."


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