The Snarky High Ground

The Teenager just linked to a NYT piece by David Brooks explaining that voters are silly to vote on the basis of "electability", because if they all do that, then voter A will vote for a candidate because he thinks that the candidate is electable, thus making the candidate look stronger and causing voter B to vote for him for the same reason, and so on -- with positive feedback loops leading to a sort of bubble craze which, however, will collapse instantaneously in the same way if the candidate suddenly starts to seem less electable for any reason.

This doesn't seem like much of a point. By now we're dealing with candidates who are all pretty much the same. Gephardt is out, Lieberman soon will be, and support for Kucinich and Sharpton is stable at 1% or 2%. So what we're looking at is really Coke versus Pepsi, and consumer choices of that type are famous for being volatile.

What's really happening is that the core Democratic voters, even the simple Iowa folk, have learned to play the meta-politics game of "electability". So now the pundits have had to try to regain their edge by playing meta-meta-politics: "Aren't those people out there fools, thinking about electability like that?" By doing this, they hope to maintain control of the all-important High Snarky Ground.

As is his wont, Brooks is just throwing a little monkey-wrench into the Democratic works -- no surprise there. Yglesias' case is a bit more complicated. Doesn't he belong to the moderate branch of the party, which has been promoting the swing-voter "electability" strategy and slagging on the odious Democratic Core Constituency ever since Matt was in diapers?

Since approximately 1965 I've had to live with the fact that most Americans don't agree with me about politics, and whatever changes there have been in my own opinions during that period have not changed the situation much. Between you and me (PC aside), the famous White Southern Male the Democrats are supposed to be trying to appeal to seems to be quite the jerk (as do his many Northern brothers). But if I choose to think about his response to a candidate when I vote in a primary -- as people have been nagging me to do for twenty years or more -- couldn't I be cut a little slack?

Of course, my real gripe against the New Dem types (the ones who've been pushing the swing voter strategy the hardest) is that I doubt that they would support an Old Democrat even if he were electable. (Consider Matt's insane drivellings about the ethanol subsidy and Gephardt, for example, or the way many of them turned on Gore because they thought he had gone populist on them.) The big difference between the people who helped Dukakis lose and the ones who helped Gore lose -- I don't mean Matt here -- is that Susan Estrich is "out", whereas Martin Peretz still isn't.

More here.
Revisions for style


Blog Hero Award

The cherished STF Blog Hero Award goes to Cup O' Joe for his post They Brought It On Themselves! about Southern Whites.
"Nothing I can say will convince them that their outlook on life is harmful to them, or that the people they are trusting to protect and to guide them are more than likely just using them to further their own causes, whatever they may be. To them, I'm just an interfering Yankee (never mind that I've lived in Atlanta for a decade) who doesn't know anything about life (despite the fact that I have lived in more places than some of these people have even heard of). Things are the way they are and that's the way it will always be. It's an argument you would expect to hear from a slave or a feudal peasant, not a citizen of a free nation."
Go read, it's good. Other good stuff there, too. Scroll around.


Repost of something from two weeks ago:
"But the most sacred duty civilians have to their armed forces is to ensure they are never called to sacrifice their lives unless this nation faces a real threat."

Kerry Guy Getting Creamed

I'm watching Crossfire, and a Kerry "Senior Advisor" is on, and is just getting creamed about the Iraq war and the WMD question. I mean eaten alive. Begala is stepping in to try to help him. The right-winter guys are bringing up old Kerry quotes about how Iraq had WMD and how we must act... the Kerry guy is being nice, doesn't know the issues, isn't prepared to argue the points, seems surprised that the right-wingers would say the things they are saying... Reminds me of Kerry before his makeover. "Pathetic" is the word coming to mind.

In a way it reminds me of Leiberman saying the Bush people should go ahead and count absentee ballots, even if they are not properly postmarked -- which might be the one event that stands out for me as exemplifying the problems of the old-style "Washington" Democrats.

I've been thinking that if Kerry can continue to be the tough, focused, fighting guy he has been for the last few weeks -- since he took on the Dean persona -- maybe he can win. It didn't occur to me that a campaign is more than just the guy at the top. It's also all the old-style Democrats that we have been so tired of. They're still there.

Voting Machines

Test of Electronic Balloting System Finds Major Security Flaws:
"Electronic voting machines from Diebold Inc. have computer security and physical security problems that might allow corrupt insiders or determined outsiders to disrupt or even steal an election, according to a report presented yesterday to Maryland state legislators."

Amen, Brother

Krugman, Where's the Apology?:
"Still, the big story isn't about Mr. Bush; it's about what's happening to America. Other presidents would have liked to bully the C.I.A., stonewall investigations and give huge contracts to their friends without oversight. They knew, however, that they couldn't. What has gone wrong with our country that allows this president to get away with such things?"

Political Blog Ads

One of the topics on the blogs today is inexpensive blog advertising vs. expensive TV advertising. I think there is no question that inexpensive POLITICAL blog ads reach the informed person most likely to get involved and/or contribute. Compared to the cost of TV advertising there shouldn't be any question that a campaign should be putting part of its money - particularly early money - into weblog ads.

I've accepted an ad for Chandler for Congress, over there on the right. Let me know what you think. And click on the ad to visit the site, see what you think about it, and send a message that politicians would do well to pay attention to us blogers and blog readers.

The South

Erskine Blogs: Stop treating the South like a foreign land:
"I am not an oracle on Southern politics. But I know one thing. Pundits and Democrats need to stop treating the South like it is some sort of uncouth uncle who is easier to ignore than confront.

Certainly there are more differences between New York and Newfound Gap than weather. But as a world traveler, I feel confident enough in my understanding of American politics to say that they have more in common than they have differences. "

Coulter Fails to Slime Kerry

Despite my lifelong interest in slimy creatures, I don't normally do Ann Coulter. However, a line I saw in Diana Moon's fisking of Coulter caught my eye.

Coulter writes: ""Kerry's life experience consists of living off other men's money by marrying their wives and daughters".

To begin with, that's pretty misleading. Like George Washington, Kerry is a war hero who married a rich widow with a taste for classy guys-- and not someone else's wife, the way Neil Bush just did. (Apparently Coulter thinks that Theresa Heinz should have remained alone forever, the way Coulter probably will).

But here's my main point: what's this shit about "marrying other men's daughters?"

What other options are there? By law he can't marry other men's sons, nor can he marry his own daughters. Marrying other men's daughters is where the action is in the marriage biz. Does Coulter think Kerry should have remained single forever too?

It sort of seems that Coulter, at her age, is still not completely comfortable with what Mommy and Daddy do in bed and where babies come from. Isn't it about time for someone to take her aside and give her The Talk?

Edit: Neil Bush, I mean, not Jeb. Can't tell the felons without a scorecard.



Sometimes it is a good idea to wait a bit before saying anything. I think I'm glad that I had decided this week is one of those times. And the news today that his campaign is flat out of money make today another one of those times... I think I'll wait a bit longer to decide what I think about all of this.

Don't you wish the professional pundits would keep their mouths shut when they don't really have anything worth saying? Blogging is great -- you don't live and die by deadlines. Of course, you also don't get paid.

"A Certain Amount of Baldness"

Recently the New York Times posted a story with the too-tactful headline "Less Certainty in White House on Iraq's Arms". Brad Delong objected that the White House is not "less certain" now; it is now certain that it had earlier been wrong.

"Mecki" commented (slightly revised):

"I was reminded of a story by Ephraim Kishon, in which he describes his loss of hair. When he's down to 3 hairs (and two have fallen out) he writes 'I guess I have to own up to having a certain amount of baldness' .

This is the Bush White House: When every one else has realised that there are no WMDs and there were no WMDs, they say 'Well, maybe not QUITE as many as we thought.'"

This sounds like a brand name for the whole Bush administration: "A Certain Amount of Baldness". It describes the economic plan pretty well too.

Edited for style



Wire story from Moon's UPI, printed in Moon's Washington Times, Iraqi govt. papers: Saddam bribed Chirac - (United Press International):
Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
This is almost certainly right-wing propaganda against France, planted in an Iraqi paper for the purpose of being picked up by US media.

And this,
A senior Bush administration official said Washington was aware of the reports but refused further comment.
This is White House assistance in this smear job.

Here is some background on the right-wing's campaign against France. These wingnuts REALLY ARE talking with increasing hostility toward France, with some discussion of military action! FRANCE!

Lyons: "Attack on Scrooge McDuck"

Here's Gene Lyons' column for the week!
Attack on Scrooge McDuck
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004

According to the seers and soothsayers of the right, a terrible new
threat confronts America and its inspired leader George W. Bush. Like
Shakespeare’s Calpurnia, they warn their mighty Caesar of lionesses
whelping in the streets, strange omens and portents in the night sky,
and they do fear them. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has waxed
apoplectic; James K. Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute
forsees "a great threat not just to the re-election of George Bush, but
to our truly open society." Even the Washington Post has expressed
alarm. And what’s the cause of all this hubbub? Simple: the Democrats
have found a Scrooge McDuck of their own. International financier George
Soros, among the richest men in the world, plans to devote a small
fraction of his estimated $7 billion to defeating President Bush. The
Hungarian-born tycoon, who emigrated from England to the U.S. in 1956,
has pledged a reported $18 million to three liberal organizations: $5
million to internet advocacy group MoveOn. org, $3 million to former
Clinton aide John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and another
$10 million toward a Democratic voter registration drive.

Sounds ominous, right? By taking advantage of an obscure constitutional
loophole permitting even billionaires to oppose Bush, Soros bids to
overturn the natural order. As if that weren’t enough, he’s taken to
writing books and articles and granting interviews explaining why he
believes that Bush’s re-election would have terrible consequences for
America and the world.

Writers in the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times have expressed
consternation that a foreign-born citizen would be so cheeky. A website
called GOPUSA.com has described the Jewish financier as a "descendant of
Shylock." The Postasks Democrats to compare the consequences of
"conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife opening his bank account
on behalf of Mr. Bush."

It’s worth wondering what’s in Washington Post water coolers these days.
The reclusive Mr. Scaife, who unlike Soros inherited his pile, has
bankrolled right-wing causes for decades. Had editors read their own
newspaper’s fine reporting back in 1999, they might realize that without
Scaife’s largesse, we might not have such ornaments to democracy as the
Federalist Society, the American Enterprise Institute, News-Max.com or
the American Spectator magazine.

Scaife’s funding of the Spectator’s secretive, $2.6 million "Arkansas
Project" during the Clinton years contributed to the care and feeding of
Whitewater witness David Hale, a convicted felon making absurd
allegations against the president. It also financed articles describing
the president of the United States as a drug smuggler and murderer.
Operatives hired by the Spectator even probed the private lives of
journalists deemed unfriendly to Kenneth Starr. Unlike Clinton’s sexual
antics, Starr placed his office’s investigation of the "Arkansas
Project" under seal. Grand Jury secrets, you see.

The estimable Mr. Soros, in contrast, works in broad daylight. He even
writes his own books. His latest, entitled "The Bubble of American
Supremacy" argues that the Bush administration has responded to the 9/11
terror attacks exactly as Osama bin Laden wanted it to: by implementing
"a radical foreign policy agenda" in which might makes right. An excerpt
appeared in the December 2003 Atlantic Monthly. "The Bush doctrine,"
Soros wrote "... is built on two pillars: the United States will do
everything in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy;
and the United States arrogates the right to pre-emptive action. In
effect, the doctrine establishes two classes of sovereignty: the
sovereignty of the United States, which takes precedence over
international treaties and obligations; and the sovereignty of all other
states, which is subject to the will of the United States. This is
reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘ Animal Farm’: all animals are equal,
but some animals are more equal than others."

The Bush doctrine, Soros recently told Josh Marshall, "is unacceptable
cannot possibly be accepted—by the rest of the world." By invading Iraq
under false pretenses, he thinks, the U.S. rid the world of a despicable
tyrant at the expense of its fundamental credibility. When President
Bush uses farcically Orwellian doublespeak like "weapons of mass
destruction-related program activities" to describe Saddam’s
non-existent military threat, he doesn’t even expect to be believed by
any but the dullest voters. And when Bush boasts, as he did in his State
of the Union speech, that "no one can now doubt the word of America,"
and that he "will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of
our country," he doesn’t mean that Iraq’s imaginary links to 9/11 have
been proven. He means that any nation he threatens had better back down.
Having lived under Nazi and communist occupation, Soros insists that
people who call Bush a "fascist" are both wrong and counter-productive.
He also insists, however, that an ideology of pure power is profoundly
un-American and doomed to fail. How that makes the man a danger to
democracy, I cannot imagine.
• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.



What I Think Happened

I think that a lot of last minute deciders, who had not been paying particular attention to the race, voted for Kerry based on his resume, assuming that he can win because he is a veteran and Dean isn't. I suspect that none of them have had to sit through an entire Kerry speech.

Anyone who HAS tried to sit through an entire Kerry speech knows he can't beat Bush.

Somehting in the Air

I don't know why, but lots of bloggers who seem usually to have full-time proofreaders are posting things loaded with typos, elided words, repeated words, etc. Or maybe it's just me.

Alterman and Springsteen: Problems?

Eric Alterman doesn't like Deanies:

"Moreover, it’s kind of pathetic that so many people on the left become so tied into hero worship—Nader, Dean, Chomsky, (and dare I say it, Stalin)—that they feel a need to abuse anyone who does not share their wide-eyed admiration."

Well, yeah, you did dare say that, Eric. You be scary when you be mad.

He explained himself the next day, though:

"Did I smear all or even a majority of Dean supporters? Did I compare Dean to Stalin? You get an “F” in reading comprehension for even asking either question."

OK, fine, I'm probably not a Stalinist, but since I found the gratuitous Stalin reference highly annoying, I get an F in reading comprehension. I think I'll take what's behind the third door, Eric.

Eric needs to find another outlet. He doesn't let on, but the restraining order Bruce Springsteen slapped on his sorry ass must have really hurt him.

Edit: I WAS JOKING! There was no restraining order!

(Edited for style.)

Sharpton Working For Bush?!

The Left Coaster: Al Sharpton Has Left Our Building.

Go read. Looks like a GOP "dirty trick" designed to erode black support for the Democrats, especially Dean! A high-level GOP campaign operative working with the Sharpton campaign -- for free! From the nature of this relationship I suspect that any investigative follow-up of this story will also show some kind of campaign or personal funding coming to Sharpton from the GOP, whether publicly disclosed or not (as in Swiss bank account).

Ten Patriots

Digby at the american street: Ten Patriots.

The Runup

I'm watching Bush taking questions on TV. He calls the pre-war period, "the runup to the war." Is this related to the "marketing campaign" that his Chief of Staff referred to? Runup?

He also says that Saddam was a man with bad intentions, who could have gotten weapons, so the US is safer with him gone.

Is the US safer from stopping the war on those who attacked us on 9/11 to instead go to Iraq? Either we are in a desperate war against the terrorists, or not. If we are, then how can we pause that war to start a different war?

It took a while...

but apparently the majority of Americans now hold the beliefs about IraqWar Part II that I did before the war took place.
Most Americans (51 percent to 43 percent) believe the result of the war with Iraq was not worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq. (CBS News/New York Times poll, January 12-15, 2004)

Americans overwhelmingly (70 percent) disagree with the statement that “the threat of terrorism has been significantly reduced by the [Iraq] war.” (Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, November 21-30, 2003)

By a wide margin (61 percent to 24 percent), Americans say that U.S. priorities should be to focus on finding Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members, rather than focus on dealing with Saddam and Iraq (CBS News/New York Times poll, December 21-22, 2003)

Americans strongly believe (62 percent to 34 percent) that, given the goals versus the costs of the war, the number of US military casualties so far has been unacceptable (ABC News/Washington Post poll, January 15-18, 2004)

Three-fifths of the public (60 percent) say that the Bush administration was either hiding elements of (39 percent) or mostly lying about (21 percent) their knowledge of Iraq’s WMD (CBS News/New York Times poll, January 12-15, 2004)

Most Americans (53 percent) still think either that the Iraq threat could have been contained (39 percent) or that it wasn’t a threat at all (14 percent), compared to 44 percent who believe Iraq’s threat merited immediate military action (CBS News/New York Times poll, December 21-22, 2003)

Twice as many Americans (31 percent to 15 percent) believe the capture of Saddam will increase the threat of terrorism against the US than believe it will decrease that threat (CBS News/New York Times poll, December 21-22, 2003)

More Americans (25 percent to 20 percent) believe the capture of Saddam will increase attacks on US troops in Iraq than believe the capture will decrease these attacks (CBS News/New York Times poll, December 21-22, 2003)

Most Americans (53 percent to 43 percent) say we are not safer and more secure now that Saddam has been captured (Newsweek poll, January 8-9, 2004)
Thanks for playing folks.


Better late than never I guess.

Too bad all those people had to die, huh?


Virus Warning

Suddenly I'm getting lots of e-mail with attachments. Obviously viruses. Don't open any e-mails with attachments for a while.

At the street

New Post, Guarding the Prize, over at the american street.

Keep This Going -- We Need A Horse Race

I think it would be great if the nomination race goes right up to the convention! The press LOVES a horse race and will cover this as a major story, every day. And every day the media will be reporting what each candidate said about how terrible Bush is for the country!

For example, With Race Near Fever Pitch, Candidates Zero In on Bush:
"Throughout the day, the candidates denounced Mr. Bush's economic and foreign policy: in one typical remark, Mr. Kerry described the foreign policy as 'arrogant and inept.' But mainly, it was a day for the candidates to avoid conflict with one another and set out the themes that have defined this campaign since the beginning. From here in southern New Hampshire to Hanover, in the western part of the state, and from the seacoast to the hills of Keene in the southwest, the candidates called for a sharp expansion of health care coverage and an end to tax cuts that benefit the wealthy. More than anything else, each presented himself as the Democrat who could beat Mr. Bush. "
So here's to Dean, Kerry, Edwards and Clark - may the best man not emerge until August!

Today's Google Experiment: "I trust Hamas more than my own government."

Does anyone remember when Republicans were blocking anti-terrorism bills following the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings?:
"However, some law enforcement provisions were dropped at the insistence of House [Republicans] lawmakers fearful that federal law enforcement would become too powerful and intrude on individual liberties [of right-wing terrorists].

[. . .] Complaining that many new tools that would have helped detect and prevent terrorism had been stripped from the bill, Rep. Frank blamed what he called the 'Hamas wing of the Republican Party.' Hamas is an Islamic terrorist group.

Rep. Frank was referring to a remark made by Rep. Hyde during last month's House debate on the bill. At that time, Rep. Hyde, R-Ill., said he had just heard 'a dear friend of mine, a great Republican, say, 'I trust Hamas more than I trust my own government.''

[. . .] Congressional leaders initially promised to complete the bill six weeks after the Oklahoma City federal building bombing that killed 168 last April 19."
In contrast, here's part of a Clinton radio address on the subject:
"And law enforcement has also asked that explosives used to make a bomb be marked with a taggant -- a trace chemical or a microscopic plastic chip scattered throughout the explosives. This way sophisticated machines can find bombs before they explode, and when they do explode police scientists can trace a bomb back to the people who actually sold the explosive materials that led to the bomb.

Now, tagging works. In Switzerland over the past decade it's helped to identify who made bombs and explosives in over 500 cases. When it was being tested in our country several years ago, it helped police to find a murderer in Maryland.

In the last two weeks since the Olympic bombing, our law enforcement officers have been working around the clock, but they have been denied a scientific tool that might help to solve investigations like this one.

Our anti-terrorism bill would have given us the ability to require tagging gunpowder often used in making pipe bombs. The Republicans in Congress could give law enforcement this anti-terrorism tool, but once again they're listening to the gun lobby over law enforcement. It may be good politics, but it's not good for the American people. "
And do you remember when the Republicans refused to investigate the militias following the Oklahoma City bombing, choosing instead of investigate the government's actions at Waco -- justifying and further inflaming the domestic terrorists?


Dean Goes Nuts

Dean Goes Nuts.com.
"I scream! You scream! We all scream for Howard Dean!"
Their favorite is my favorite, too! (Warning - broadband recommended, no screams.)

Why Can't Democrats Add?

Over at Fight for the Future - Blog for the Future, "Why Can't Democrats Add?":
"It takes 18 years to grow more African American voters, the same for Latinos (unless you let immigrants who are already working here become citizens). Growing more single women is a pretty hard campaign to message.

But growing more union members? The Democrats could do that almost overnight. Polls show that about 47 million Americans want a union but don't have one. The main reason is that corporations tell workers that life will be hell if they vote union.

In Florida, just 2000 more union members, registering and voting for Gore in the same percentage as other union members - and the Supreme Court never would have gotten the case. But most Dems haven't helped a single worker in Florida join a union.

Bush's main man, Karl Rove, told the New Yorker magazine that it is 'absolutely' the president's goal to lower the number of union members.

They outlawed unions for 60,000 airport screeners and 170,000 civilian workers in the Department of Homeland Security. Next comes 750,000 Defense workers. Plus contracting out 850,000 federal jobs to nonunion companies.

So my question is, why do we live in a country where the Republicans know how to subtract but the Democrats don't know how to add?"
Good question: why aren't Demcorats doing more -- much more -- to GROW THE BASE? They're not doing enough to protect and hold on to the base they have.

The So-Called Dean "Scream"

Go see it and hear it the way it sounded in the room - before filtering out the crowd noise and pumping up the volume at the scream, which is what you heard on TV all week.

(Thanks to Body and Soul)

Blog Hero Award

The coveted, much sought-after blog hero award goes to Body and Soul: Attacking a general (or any other Democrat):
"The natural tendency, when you see your opponent get trashed, even when you know it's unfair, is to sit back and watch it happen. But under the circumstances, I think the Democrats have more to gain from standing up for each other than from standing by and letting it happen. In other words, all of the candidates should make it clear that they object to the press putting the Dean Scream on endless repeat. When they go after Dean for mentioning Diebold, all of them should back him up. After Clark was attacked unfairly, all of them should make clear that while they may not want to dwell on Bush's military record, it's disingenuous of the press to completely ignore it.

My gooey, naive, and certainly odd advice to the candidates: Point out your differences with the other candidates, but stand up and be counted when they attack your opponents unfairly, because if you rise to that position, they'll go after you in the same way. It's a battle you can't fight alone."

Republicans Eat Their Own

Vicious tactics are to be expected from Republicans, but here in Oregon they're using them on each other.

Goli Ameri (a woman) and Tim Phillips are contending for the Republican nomination in Oregon's First Congressional District. Both are generic business Republicans who make no mention of social issues on their websites. Phillips is the establishment candidate with many significant endorsements.

Ameri is an immigrant from Iran who has had a successful business career here, while Phillips' mother is an immigrant from India. Both support the Bush administration's new strictness toward foreign visitors, but in 1998 Ameri protested rather similiar policies by the Clinton administration.

After 9/11 her change of position is hardly surprising, and it's not at all unusual for a Republican to respond differently to similiar policies coming from Clinton and from Bush. But Phillips has charged that Ameri "put the people of Iran's interests before those of the American people", and has succeeded in posting his disloyalty smear on The National Journal's "House Race Hotline" (subscription, no link; it may have been taken down by now).

So that's how they treat each other. It gives us a pretty good idea what kind of civility we can expect from them in the general election. Phillips is getting some Republican flak for his stand right now (look here) but in the fall we can expect the gloves to be off.

Ameri Site

Phillips site

Phillips' link to "House Race Hotline" at Jan 25., 10 a.m.

My copy of "House Race Hotline" story

(Edited to add "House Race Hotline" links).