Convention Bloggers

Remember to also check DNC 2004 Weblogs: News Aggregator for convention news from bloggers.

Heading To Boston

I'm leaving in the morning for Boston, arriving about 4:30pm Boston time. So this is my last post before I arrive. There's a blogger gathering tomorrow evening and I'll let you know how that goes, depending on when I can get a connection, and time. Same throughout the week -- connection and time. There is supposed to be WIFI for bloggers in the convention hall. I also have signed up for T-Mobile so I can use Starbucks as needed. (They have those in Boston, right?) (That was a joke.) (But they DO have a Peets in Harvard Square so I'll be able to get some ACTUAL coffee while I'm there...)

I'm also attending numerous events outside the hall, put on by organizations like the New Democrat Network, 21st Century Democrats, etc., and I'll write about those.

I have a digital camera and will try to post pictures each day as I get time.

To everyone who contributed a bit for this trip - THANKS, and I'll write to each of you during the trip or after, depending on time and connectivity.

And finally, not very many people wrote or left comments with specific requests for things to talk about from the convention. So feel free to leave a comment here. What should I, and other bloggers, look for? What should bloggers do that is different from so-called "journalists?" (At BOPNews I left a comment that I'll be trying to be LIKE a real reporter, and flock to everything I hear about where there is free food and drinks.)

The Divider

Voters Are Very Settled, Intense And Partisan, and It's Only July:
"Rarely has a presidential campaign been this intense, this polarized, this partisan, this early."
I think the contrast between Bush's 2000 campaign slogan, "I'm a uniter, not a divider", and the reality of his term-to-date speaks volumes. Directly resulting from Bush's "governing" style, the country is more divided than ever before. Yet he campaigned as a uniter. This is an example of what drives his opponents nuts, while strengthening his base.

His supporters would say that he says what he needs to say to get elected, or to get things done, and that's OK because they trust that he is on their side, and the things he wants to accomplish are things they agree should be done. So deceptions like scaring the wits out of the country to get them to go to war with Iraq are OK and are fully consistent with changing the rationale after the fact to say that we are there to bring democracy and liberate the people and Americanize the Middle East. Most Republicans I talk to are in agreement with this, and freely say that it was probably necessary to do the things he did to get the Congress to vote to pay for, if not fully authorize, the invasion. They understand propaganda, and like it.

And on so many other issues the Freepers and the Limbaugh Dittoheads and other self-identified "movement conservatives" are fully on board with the strategy of saying one thing and doing another. They don't see it as a failing, they see it as a strength. If you point out to them that Bush lies when he says he is helping Africans with AIDS because he isn't providing the funding, or lies when he talks about the No Child Left Behind Act because he refuses to provide the money, or point out that his "War On Terror" budget did not provide even one penny to help rebuild Afghanistan they'll laugh at you and tell you to "get over it." Thet get what he is trying to accomplish, and agree.
"Nowhere are the partisan divisions sharper than in the voters' views of President Bush. Eighty-four percent of the Republicans approve of the job he is doing, but just 16 percent of the Democrats do, according to the latest Times/CBS News poll."
Committed Republicans are fully cognitive of the politicization of everything, and like it. Just listen to the callers to the Limbaugh show on any given day, as they talk about how things should be spun to trick the general public into agreement. Limbaugh's audience is not small, and it is not fringe.

And, in case we forget where the divisiveness and nastiness came from, here's a reminder. And here. And here. (Read these carefully - he is accusing "liberals" of doing things that they do not, in order to justify the Right actually doing them.) And here. Just a few examples, of so many.

Covering the Democratic Convention - Please Help Fund My Trip

I have received press credentials to cover the Democratic Convention next week. So please leave a comment and let me know what YOU want to hear about! That will be my first priority, and I'll try to post as often as possible.
I'm asking Seeing the Forest readers if they could pitch in and help me pay for this trip.   I'll be staying with friends at least some of the time.  So, I need to get there from California, and pay for local transportation and food, and maybe a night's lodging or two.  (And I lose a whole week's pay -- I'm not getting paid while I'm there.)

On the right side of this page, under the Beat Bush button, there is a Paypal "Donate" button, and an "Amazon Honor System" button.  Please pitch in, even if it's only a dollar or two.  THANKS!
Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
Update - I'm resetting the date on this to keep it at the top of the page this week.

Amazing Luck - Big Class Action

With amazing luck and timing my laptop is starting to flake out. I leave tomorrow at 8am for Boston. Great, huh?

Here's what it is - (yes this is leading to something.) Sony Vaio laptops have two memory slots. There's the one that comes with memory installed, and a second slot. The second slot is cheap plastic and isn't soldered well. So the laptop stopped recognizing my second ram bank, and got really slow. It's hard to describe how slow Windows can get. (You can't put more than 256mb in one slot.)

I had to have a PC to do my job, OK? Don't start with me. My wife has a really nice new PowerBook. OK?

Anyway, I found that this is a common problem and one place I found suggested putting a piece of a CD over the memory card and closing the lid on it, so it pushes the card down and forces the contacts to contact. AND THAT WORKED - for a while. But for some reason that causes the screen to suddenly go black at random times. Which is no good.

Here's where this is leading: I read in my search for answers one forum talked about a site called Big Class Action, where you can go see if your problem is subject to a class action suit, and can describe the problem so a lawyer can see if it SHOULD be subject to a class action suit! SO if you have a product problem, or a problem with a big company that might be something worthy of joining with others to go to court over, check out this site.

Other laptop problems - It keeps downloading Windows XP Service Pack 2 BETA, filling up the hard drive, and asking if I want to install it. I don't. AND I have the setting for downloading updates turned off. After a lot of back-and-forth with MS tech support they said it was probably due to a virus. It isn't. That's the oldest tech support weenie answer in the book, so I gave up.

AND I just got a new "G" 108mb wireless card, but the configuration utility just beeps and won't run. AND whenever I come back from standby or hibernation the only way I can get the wireless card to find the internet (it does connect to the transmitter) is to force it to disable and then re-enable...

AND now it ALWAYS does "checkdisk" when I restart.

For some reason it takes almost 10 minutes to boot up when I restart. And it won't even finish unless I right-click on the desktop, which starts the hard drive spinning again and then something happens for a nother 2 or 3 minutes before I can do anything.

There must be 100 other quirks that I have found ritualistic and superstitious ways around just to get my work done. And this next week I have to sit and wait while it swaps things out to disk, because the computer won't recognize more than 256mb, and Windows wants a LOT more than that.

Why did Microsoft have to crush BeOS? I know the answer, but jeeze.

War With Islam

Nicholas Kristoff's column, Jesus and Jihad, in the NY Times today, revived a post I've been working on.  I don't normally read Kristoff anymore, but several people forwarded the column to me.  He writes about the "Left Behind" novels, and what they are saying.
"The latest is "Glorious Appearing," which has Jesus returning to Earth to wipe all non-Christians from the planet. It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety.
[. . .] In "Glorious Appearing," Jesus merely speaks and the bodies of the enemy are ripped open. Christians have to drive carefully to avoid "hitting splayed and filleted bodies of men and women and horses."
[. . .] As my Times colleague David Kirkpatrick noted in an article, this portrayal of a bloody Second Coming reflects a shift in American portrayals of Jesus, from a gentle Mister Rogers figure to a martial messiah presiding over a sea of blood. Militant Christianity rises to confront Militant Islam." 
I've often said that the way to know what the Right is saying is to understand what the intended audience is hearing.  Another way is to learn what the Right says to each other rather than what has to be said in order to trick the public.

Here's an article in the "Christian Press," Conservative Attributes Bush's Pro-Islam Comments to Politics
. Paul Weyrich isn't just any "conservative."

(AgapePress) - The head of a Washington, DC, think tank who has access to the White House says people of faith do not need to be concerned about President Bush's public comments about Islam. The conservative activist says the president does know the "real score."

Six days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush visited the Islamic Center in the nation's capital where he addressed reported intimidation demonstrated by some Americans toward Muslims. After quoting an English translation from the Koran, the president made the following statement: "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."

Since that time, Bush has appeared to go out of his way to bolster his September 17, 2001, statement and embrace the American-Muslim community, even going so far as to host Ramadan celebrations at the White House.

Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, says he is concerned about the growth of the Muslim faith in the United States. But he emphasizes he is not concerned about President Bush's frequent references to Islam as a "religion of peace" that has simply been hijacked by a radical fringe.

"I can say with certainty that [the president] knows what the real score is," Weyrich says. "He feels he has to say these things -- and maybe if you and I were president, we'd have to do the same thing."

Weyrich says if the president actually declared that America is in a war against Islam, there might be more Muslims taking up arms against the U.S. -- a "real jihad," as he puts it. So Bush, according to Weyrich, is soft-peddling his rhetoric in order to "tamp down" any worldwide activity that might occur.

"I know the president has to say certain things -- and I understand that," the conservative icon says, "but I also know that he doesn't believe it."

Want more of what Weyrich and the Right are saying about war with Islam? Read here and here and here.

9/11 Commission: Who Cares?

The 9/11 Commission report has fallen off the first page of Google News, and none of the big Democrats except Conason are talking about it. (Maybe there will be more interest tomorrow when people finish plowing their way through the 500+ pages.) The initial media spin was to blame the CIA and Congress, but not Bush or Clinton -- I think that the idea was to cut some kind of deal with the Democrats. 
Democrats would be stupid to accept that deal: Bush is running and Clinton isn't.
I'm working on it, but for the moment are a few links.
No essential documents missing, 9/11 panel says
"Kean said the commission has been assured that it was able to get copies of each document that apparently was lost. If those lost documents had written notations from former President Clinton or others, they would have been included in those copies, Kean said."
The Berger hooplah is phony.  Berger didn't have or lose any unique documents, but just copies. Nothing was withheld from the 9/11 commission. (Apparently where he was working was not the archive itself, but a working library of copies for people who wanted access to archive materials. The materials were important because they were secret, but they were not irreplacable).
"One result is that the report has cast a pall over the president's vacation plans"

Poor George. This article has lots of interesting stuff about the Bush Administration's resistance to outside ideas and his original resistance to the establishment of the 9/11 Commission.
The 9/11 Commission (and other related investigative committees)

There's a lot of interesting old stuff in there about Bush's bitter resistance to the 9/11 commission every step of the way, as well as some of the conflicts of interest of the members of the commission. (While I'm finding the commission report usable, you still have to do a lot of reading between the lines, and it would be a mistake to think that they are irreproachable.)
Bush and Cheney adamantly insisted on being questioned together. When you read that Bush confirmed Cheney's claim that his shoot-down order had been authorized by Bush, you have to keep that fact in mind.
Just for laughs, here's Scooter Libby's description of Cheney's order: "President Cheney was asked for authority to engage the aircraft. His reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, 'in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing'" (p. 41).
Libby belongs in the Kissass Hall of Fame.


Finding Convention Blogs

You'll find a good source of convention info here, at ConventionBloggers. This site will always have the latest from ALL the bloggers at the convention.

Also, you can sign up to have Seeing the Forest e-mailed to you daily by scrolling down until you see "Enter your email address below to subscribe to Seeing the Forest!" on the right column of this page, entering your e-mail address, and clicking the "Subscribe" button.

Some assembly required: politicizing 9/11

The bipartisan 9/11 commission was careful not to blame individuals or draw political consequences from the events.  The media have also come to the speedy conclusion that no one was really to blame. (And as an emergency back-up, they have also concluded that Clinton and Bush were equally to blame. As I said below, it's as if they failed keep score and called the game a tie.)

So that part of the job is left to us -- the politicization, which the commission was forbidden by its charter to do. In free countries you have political parties, and issues tend to become politicized in a partisan way. Countries where this does not happen are called dictatorships.  The Republicans have already done a tremendous job of politicizing 9/11 -- the War on Terror is practically the only thing Bush has to run on.

We Democrats are playing catch-up.  Bush's wretched counter-terrorism performance before 9/11, as revealed especially in Chapter 8 of the report, is a legitimate political issue.

One man's "fingerpointing" is another man's accountability. Certainly the worst thing we can do with the 9/11 issue is to conclude that "mistakes were made" -- no one's to blame, everyone's to blame, and Clinton and Bush were equally to blame. That's more or less what the commission said, but they had to say that. The facts they gave us are not so nonpartisan.

But suppose I make the Republicans an offer. And I'll go first, too: from here on out, I'm not going to defend Clinton's performance.  You can have Clinton.  Hang him high.  But you can't defend Bush either. Deal?

I don't think so.  The 9/11 issue is going to be politicized, and that is as it should be.  Bush is going to have to defend his record against Kerry. 

And that seems sort of unfair, since Kerry has never been President and doesn't have a record on counter-terrorism. But that's OK, because Bush (whose pre-Presidential record was short and skimpy) has been going through Kerry's 30-year political record with a fine-tooth comb for a year now, looking for waffles and flipflops. Bush didn't waffle much during his short career because he hardly did anything. His Presidential record is all he's got, and 9/11 is the biggest part of it. (And sometimes, you know, if a pitcher is really stinking up the place, you pull him in put in someone else just to see what they can do).

We still do have a democratic two-party system in this country. Let the wild rumpus begin!

Oh No!

San Franciscans (never, ever say, "Frisco") will understand what this means.

I was looking at a schedule of convention-related entertainment events and came across this:
"Thursday, July 29, 2004
starts at 8 a.m. at Copley Square, Boston."
Oh No!


Text of Bush's August 6, 2001 PDB

"Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US"

"Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example ofWorld Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.” After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [—] service.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [—] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the US to mount a terrorist strike. The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself,but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation. Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa’ida members—including some who are US citizens—have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.Two al-Qua’ da members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s. A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American outh for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [—] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives."

From the 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 8 

The system was blinking red, but Bush was on vacation

The 9/11 report doesn't dot the i's or cross the t's. It doesn't come out and say that Bush and his team screwed up. But if you read Chapter 8, there's really no other conclusion that you can come to.
On Aug. 6th Bush was read a brief titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US", which was the 36th briefing he had mentioning Bin Ladin or al Qaeda.  He then went on vacation for a long month, apparently without talking about al Qaeda either with Ashcroft, with Rice, or with Tenet.
The official story line of the 9/11 report is that there were failures of process and structure leading to inefficiency and lack of coordination, which led in turn to a failure to confront the challenge of terrorism. But the details of the story itself show us Bush, Ashcroft, and Rice repeatedly being briefed about a rising threat level by Tenet and an increasingly agitated Clarke, without any of the three of them ever taking any initiative on the issue whatsoever.  
Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Commission report (pdf)
Page 7:
During the spring and summer of 2001, President Bush had on several occasions asked his briefers whether any of the threats pointed to the United States. Reflecting on these questions, the CIA decided to write a briefing article summarizing its understanding of this danger.Two CIA analysts involved in preparing this briefing article believed it represented an opportunity to communicate their view that the threat of a Bin Ladin attack in the United States remained both current and serious.35 The result was an article in the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US" It was the 36th PDB item briefed so far that year that related to Bin Ladin or al Qaeda, and the first devoted to the possibility of an attack in the United States.
The President told us the August 6 report was historical in nature. President Bush said the article told him that al Qaeda was dangerous, which he said he had known since he had become President. The President said Bin Ladin had long been talking about his desire to attack America. He recalled some operational data on the FBI, and remembered thinking it was heartening that 70 investigations were under way. As best he could recollect, Rice had mentioned that the Yemenis’ surveillance of a federal building in New York had been looked into in May and June, but  there was no actionable intelligence.

He did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so. He said that if his advisers had told him there was a cell in the United States, they would have moved to take care of it. That never happened.

Page 9:
We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in  Crawford,Texas, on August 17 and participated in PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period.

Page 12:
Attorney General Ashcroft was briefed by the CIA in May and by Pickard in early July about the danger. Pickard said he met with Ashcroft once a week in late June, through July, and twice in August. There is a dispute regarding  Ashcroft’s interest in Pickard’s briefings about the terrorist threat situation. Pickard told us that after two such briefings Ashcroft told him that he did not want to hear about the threats anymore. Ashcroft denies Pickard’s charge.

George W. Bush and Terrorism

The premise of the bipartisan commission was neutrality and bipartisanship: both sides are equally to blame.  They came to that conclusion because they looked around the table, counted noses, and saw that they were divided 5-5.  It's as if they agreed not to keep score, and then called the game a tie.

So it's our job to figure out whether Bush deserves to be blamed or not, since the 9/11 commission made a point of not asking that question.  (We can ask the same question of Clinton too, but the question about Bush is more important, since he's running for reelection in four months and Clinton isn't.)

I haven't been able to look at the 9/11 report yet, but here are some links to earlier research of mine on the topic. This stuff is several months old and there are probably some dead links, but there a lot of stuff there.

The Bush Administration's indifference to  counter-terrorism (pre-9/11)

Missed Warnings of 9/11

The Iraq War and the War on Terror

The Republicans and the Islamofascists before 9/11

The 9/11 commission assures us that our Saudi and Pakistani allies had nothing whatever to do with 9/11. I'm not so sure, as you can see here:

Who was Bandar Bush? 

Excerpt: In December 2000, Bush met with Clinton for a two-hour, one-on-one discussion of national security and foreign policy challenges. Clinton recalled saying to Bush, "I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is bin Laden and the al Qaida." Clinton told us that he also said, "One of the great regrets of my presidency is that I didn't get him (bin Laden) for you, because I tried to." Bush told the Commission that he felt sure President Clinton had mentioned terrorism, but did not remember much being said about al Qaida. Bush recalled that Clinton had emphasized other issues such as North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


No Saudi

IHT mixed

exec sum 6:

exec sum

put options



Bush doesn't look so good on 9/11

I am in agreement with Dave that we shouldn't waste any more time on the pitiful, ridiculous Berger distraction. That's all just designed to divert attention --  primarily from the 9/11 Commission report, which doesn't make Bush look at all good for Bush, and secondarily from the upcoming Democratic National Convention. I have never seen the trolls so ferocious and vivid.

Initial press reports seem to be spinning it this way: Bush and Clinton were both equally to blame, but really no one was to blame, since it was an institutional problem which should be dealt with by -- ta-DAH! -- a bureaucratic reshuffling! You expect something like that from a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission, and of course the media should be expected to deliver us mush. However, I feel that a closer look will find lots of interesting stuff.

Below are the URLs of the three reports: the recent 9/11 Commission report, the relatively recent Senate Intelligence Committee Report, and the 2002 Congressional 9/11 report. Everything is in PDF format; sometime when you've got a few hours, come around and explain to me why ANYTHING should ever be in PDF format.

And there's a link at the bottom where you can buy print versions; the recent 9/11 report is less than $20.

9/11 Commission Report (2004)
Senate Intelligence Committee Report (2004)
30 page PDF summary of Senate Intelligence Committee Report on pre-Iraq War Intelligence: http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_rpt/ssci_concl.pdf

Complete Senate Intelligence Committee Report:

Analysis of Senate report from Brad Delong's site:

Congressional 9/11 Report (2002)
Print versions of all three reports can be bought here.
The 9/11 report is cheap.

Clearing Something Up

The reaction from "our side" to the Berger smear should be to simply ignore it. We have a bigger fish to fry. The 9/11 Report came out today and every single one of us should be speaking loudly, saying, "This report says that Bush was 'asleep at the switch' and let 9/11 happen!"

We should do this for three simple reasons:
1) It is what the report says.
2) Bush was asleep at the switch and let 9/11 happen.
3) It is the right thing to be doing, for the good of the country and for our own protection.
They have planned this Berger smear for months. They are using it to claim that Clinton was responsible for 9/11. They are using it to manipulate the voters. They are using it to distract us all from the conclusions in the report - and when we spend time on the Berger smear that is exactly what is happening to us.

"Our side" has a RESPONSIBILITY to overcome their distractions and get the truth out.

The Mark of the Beast

I think that the Berger classified documents kerfluffle is pretty good diagnostic test for Republican tools.  Everyone flogging this story bears The Mark of the Beast  indelibly on his forehead (or hers: hi, Steno Sue!)  and should never be taken seriously again. 

And as Dave (almost) says below, Democrats who take the story at face value bear  the mark of a different beast on their own foreheads. A weaker and more pitiful beast.

As Dave points out, this is a staged event meant to distract from the 9/11 Commission's report.  It's been sitting on the shelf for months.  The offense was not taken terribly seriously by the relevant authorities (e.g.the FBI or the 9/11 Commission itself). It's not certain that what Berger did was a crime at all. And no information was destroyed or concealed from the committee -- all Berger ever had was copies.

Most of the people circulating this story have to know that they're lying.  There's really an smell of desperation among the trolls these days.
The pants-and-socks part of the story bears all the marks of a Rove operation -- make your opponent look silly.  It reminds me of the storyline way back when about Noriega's red underpants.  What kind of guy would wear red underpants? What kind of guy would put top secret documents in his socks,  or  grind them down into his groin area? (I tend to suspect that Berger put the documents in the parts of his pants called "the pockets", where most people put things, but that doesn't sound nasty enough.)
The odious Wolf Blitzer played along.  Berger's spokesman stated that Berger had indeed carried away some documents in his leather portfolio.  But when Blitzer later referred to the portfolio, he had to call it "his little briefcase".  (See? Berger is such a ridiculous guy that even his briefcase is is a silly little briefcase! How much sillier could he get?)
My guess is that Berger failed to realize that, not only was he not the boss anymore, but that he was now on the opposing team.  There were people waiting for him to screw up, and he screwed up. At this point no one has said anything about how strictly security rules had been applied before then, or how seriously cases of this kind are normally treated. But we do know that, early on,  information about Berger's offense was in the hands both of Ashcroft's Justice Department and Rove's White House -- two organizations which have the habit of leaking sensitive material for political purposes.
The inside-baseball stuff is stupid and weak.  One guy says that he thinks that the Democrats Biden or Holbrooke did the leaking.  A lot of people argue that when Berger failed to inform Kerry about the leak,  it showed that he was no damn good at all, and go on to argue that the fact that Kerry had trusted Berger (who does not have a long rap sheet)  proves that Kerry is not fit to be President. (Follow that? -- and this mostly comes from supporters of a guy who appointed several convicted Republican felons to high government positions!)
Except that there is so much at stake,  these clowns would be hard to take seriously.  But let me ask a question.  Why  is it that  the various people talking gravely and thoughtfully about this farce are the sensible, mainstream professionals -- and why is it that Dave and I are the wacko extremists?   

Berger - Missing the Point!

Missing the point on the Berger thing... I'm reading Alterman, and Talking Points, and Kevin, and Slate, and everyone else, and it's like they're blind. They're all caught up in what Berger did or didn't do and how bad was it and why aren't the Republicans investigating Plame, etc...

Just not getting it at all. Just missing the point. Just seeing the trees and missing the forest.

Here is what is going on. The Republican Noise Machine is saying this proves Clinton is to blame for 9/11. Got that? Just as the 9/11 Comission releases its report, they are saying that the proof of Clinton's guilt was there, and Berger took and shredded that proof. Let that sink in a while. This theme is ALL OVER THE MEDIA - at least the media that matters to the voters they want to reach. Never mind that he only took copies of drafts of the documents, and they still have the originals -- that small fact is slipping WAY under the radar, and no one on "our side" even seems to understand that is the central issue.

Here's a sample headline: Clinton Spook Sandy Berger is Caught Destroying Terror Evidence.
"Berger stuffed highest-classified documents, including leather-bound after-action reports on Millennium attacks, into his clothing to get them out of the National Archives before they were reviewed by the 9/11 Commission. ... After-action documents showing the Clinton "response" to al-Queda terror plans still are missing. ... Stolen documents were all the originals of after-action drafts, and Berger was caught in a sting, when given another copy, by stealing it too."
Never mind that this is just a lie. That doesn't matter.

Here's an example of a small-town newspaper editorial, One Sandy Berger and a side of lies:
"The central question now is, what was he trying to hide?

We know that some of the discarded documents had to do with the foiled Millennium bombing plot and what the administration did with the gathered intelligence afterward. Attorney General John Ashcroft testified in April about the documents we now know Berger was trying to hide. "The NSC's Millennium After-Action Review declares that the United States barely missed major terrorist attacks in 1999 - with luck playing a major role,- Ashcroft told the Commission."
Even Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said this,
"Was Mr. Berger trying to cover-up key facts regarding intelligence failures during his watch? What happened to those missing documents?"
and this,
"What could those documents have said that drove Mr. Berger to remove them without authorization from a secure reading room for classified documents? What information could be so embarrassing that a man with decades of experience in handling classified documents would risk being caught pilfering our nation's most sensitive secrets?"
Which coincidentally exactly parallels what Limbaugh is saying.

I checked Instapundit (for the first time in at least a year) and got so disgusted I just left without gathering any quotes to link to. I never, ever read Andew Sullivan, so you're on your own as to what he is saying. (And this is the first time I have ever used his name on this blog.)

AND they are now working to EXPAND the story. This is the tactic of overwhelming. By the time anyone can refute the lies put out at 8am, the lies put out at 9am and 10am are what is being talked about. Here are a couple of examples: Did Sandy Berger "Fry" Flight 800 Records?,
So, what does this link between Bill Clinton and Flight 800 have to do with the current John Kerry presidential campaign? Well, perhaps nothing, except that John Kerry also referred to Flight 800 as a terrorist incident in a televised interview. The problem is that, with the upcoming release of the final report of the '9-11' Commission, the general public will have the opportunity to refresh their memory about the link between Flight 800 and terrorism.
and Sandy Berger's Curious Military Records,
"I think it's ironic that Kerry, who takes every opportunity to tout his military record, picks as his [informal] adviser on national security and reportedly short-lists as a potential secretary of state a man with the military service record of Sandy Berger," B.G. Burkett, co-author of "Stolen Valor -- How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History," tells NewsMax.
Once again, just so you get it, they are saying that this proves that Clinton is responsible for 9/11, that it is a big cover-up, and that this proves Kerry is somehow implicated in trying to hand the country over to our enemies.

This has been planned for MONTHS, from the day the 9/11 Commission was formed. It took TIME to research and put together that story about Berger's military records. Limbaugh surely didn't put that complicated 3-part smear together himself. And - and this is important - all these talking points and military record research, etc. were obviously prepared before the story leaked this week.


Mark of the Beast desperation indicator

Rules, infection control, big cheese, even though 9/11 opposing team, for use later, should have known of course

pants socks Noriega 2 socks pockets

little briefcase Mark of Beast Blitzer how low

stakes high, clowns otherwise


Kerfluffle big boys


Where was Bush? and other stuff from the Kerry campaign.

The Democrats seems to be learning hardball. The DNC has a site up called "Where was Bush?" which conveniently summarizes the questions about Bush's military service.

I'm not a military guy myself, but I'd love to see Kerry call out Bush personally during the debates.  Kerry's speechwriters should be working up a few zingers that he could throw in somewhere -- something like "I'd really love to have seen what kind of soldier you would have been, little man!" Bush is a fake in pretty much everything he's ever done, and if Kerry calls him on that personally on TV, it might work.

Here is a Kerry release asking why the Bush administration has still not supplied body armor to all of the American troops in Iraq, and suggesting that maybe Jeb Bush could have a word with his wayward brother. 

Here is a summary of the failures of Bush's domestic policies.

Scott Ritter: How we got it so wrong in Iraq

Scott Ritter, one of the few Americans in the loop who got it right before the Iraq War, points out that both the British nor the American Iraq War commissions (both of which were stacked with promoters of the Iraq War) got to the root of the problem.  The search for WMD was never taken seriously by the Bush administration; all they wanted from it was an excuse to invade Iraq.

"The unwillingness of the American and British governments to capitalize on the dramatic breakthroughs regarding the disarmament of Iraq between July 1995 and July 1996 only underscores the reality that, when it came to the fate of Saddam's government, the outcome had been preordained. There was never an intention to allow a finding of Iraqi compliance concerning its disarmament obligation, even if one was warranted. Saddam was to be removed from power, and WMD were always viewed by the policymakers as the excuse for doing so.

The failure of either the Senate committee or the Butler Commission to recognize the role that the policy of regime change had in corrupting the analytical efforts of U.S. and British intelligence services means that not only will it be more difficult to achieve meaningful reform in these services, but more importantly, the general public will continue to remain largely ignorant of the true scope of failure regarding Iraq policy. "

Scott Ritter: How we got it so wrong in Iraq.

Ritter was the victim of a smear campaign early in 2002 and has never been quite rehabilitated.  More information here and here. If there are any decent Republicans left, they have to be bothered by the Rove administration's propensity for smearing professionals,  even former staff members, who dare to disagree with Bush.


I Am a Conservative

I Am a Conservative

Mary Asks, "Why Democracy?"

Pacific Views: Why Democracy?

It Started in April -- Smearing the Report

There are three well-planned, coordinated Republican smear operations underway, designed to discredit key accusers who told us that the Bush administration was asleep on the job before 9/11.

I'll bet if you took a poll of voters, at least 40% of the likely voters would call these the biggest stories of the election, while most of those on our side of the political spectrum have barely even heard about them. The context of the smears is to destroy the credibility of those accusing Bush of not paying attention before 9/11, and of lying about WMD before the Iraq war, and, finally, to blame Clinton for all of it. It is ALL OVER the Right-wing media, but is largely "under the radar" for most of us.

The first smear is the "Gorelick memo." This is a bit complicated, but is a key to this effort to shift blame from Bush to Clinton. It started in April, and lays the groundwork for the second smear I'll be talking about. During the 9/11 hearings Attorney General Ashcroft accused former Clinton Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick of having written a memo that caused agencies of the government to not share information that would have been crucial to learning that the 9/11 plot was underway. It is called the "Wall of Separation" memo. (Note the allusion to the hated "Wall of Separation" between church and state.) Some background from an April National Review column:
"In his public testimony before the 9/11 Commission the other day, Attorney General John Ashcroft exposed Commissioner Jamie Gorelick's role in undermining the nation's security capabilities by issuing a directive insisting that the FBI and federal prosecutors ignore information gathered through intelligence investigations. But Ashcroft pointed to another document that also has potentially explosive revelations about the Clinton administration's security failures. Ashcroft stated, in part:

... [T]he Commission should study carefully the National Security Council plan to disrupt the al Qaeda network in the U.S. that our government failed to implement fully seventeen months before September 11.

The NSC's Millennium After Action Review declares that the United States barely missed major terrorist attacks in 1999 ? with luck playing a major role. Among the many vulnerabilities in homeland defenses identified, the Justice Department's surveillance and FISA operations were specifically criticized for their glaring weaknesses. It is clear from the review that actions taken in the Millennium Period should not be the operating model for the U.S. government.
What is Ashcroft talking about? An article in Reader's Digest, "Codes, Clues, Confessions" (March 2002; by Kenneth R. Timmerman), provides some valuable insight. It states, in part:
[. . .] When the Department of Justice began interviewing "Norris"/Ressam, they didn't have a clue who he was. But Judge Bruguière did. He called the Department of Justice, and offered prosecutors his file on Ressam and his ties to al Qaeda. At the time, Bruguiere said, DOJ had no idea what a big catch they had, nor did DOJ have access to any intelligence about Ressam's ties to al-Qaeda. Ultimately, because of "The Wall" Bruguiere had to testify for seven hours in Seattle to lay out the al Qaeda connection to help U.S. prosecutors make their case against Ressam.
In other words, the "wall of separation" constructed by Jamie Gorelick made it virtually impossible for U.S. authorities to stop Ahmed Rassam, the "Millenium Bomber," by design or intention. It was left to blind luck. The NSC's Millennium After Action Review ? which, based on Attorney General Ashcroft's testimony, must be devastating in its analysis of not only this event but of the Gorelick policy ? remains classified. And, most significantly, it's likely the Review's criticisms and warnings were either ignored or rejected by the Clinton Justice Department. ..."
More on this later. (Other related April Gorelick stories from the Right here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and so on. This just touches the surface of the attention the Right gave to this.)

The second is this week's Sandy Berger smear. If you just read the newspapers, it doesn't seem like a big deal. But if you pay attention to the Right's channels of communication, it is a very big deal. On talk radio it is the ONLY thing.

The NY Times has a little story about Berger today, A Kerry Adviser Leaves the Race Over Missing Documents
Mr. Berger's aides acknowledged that when he was preparing last year for testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, he removed from a secure reading room copies of a handful of classified documents related to a failed 1999 terrorist plot to bomb the Los Angeles airport. Republicans accused him on Tuesday of stashing the material in his clothing, but Mr. Breuer called that accusation "ridiculous" and politically inspired. He said the documents' removal was accidental.
No big deal.

But all day yesterday on Limbaugh's show, and Beck's, and others, it was a different story. Limbaugh, Trousergate: Serious: Theft of Papers Showing Al-Qaeda in US Under Clinton is HUGE:
"The 9/11 commission leaked this. This is a 9/11 commission leak, I think, and I'm wondering. The White House claims they didn't know about this investigation, even though the justice department was doing it. I'll tell you what this does. This puts this into even greater context. You remember when Ashcroft showed up and testified on television even before the commission and outed Jamie Gorelick with her memo that built the wall? I think this places a lot of that in greater context now, why he did that. I think he might have been -- he couldn't discuss the investigation, but he was letting everybody know what he did know. [. . .] When he went in there to "inadvertently" purloin these documents and stuff 'em down his pants, there was no Clinton administration. He was sent in there by Bill Clinton, not the Clinton "administration."

[. . .] Here I am laughing about it, but it's big. This is big, and I'll tell you why. It's the stuff that was stolen, the stuff that's probably now been shredded, the stuff that he just inadvertently sloppily can't find.

[. . .] You know what those documents contained? Elements of evidence that Al-Qaeda was in the country in 1999! It's all part of this millennium plot that the Clinton administration tried to take a lot of credit for stopping when in fact it was just good police work by a single Customs agent. It was not the results of any directive. This all came out in the 9/11 commission report as well, or hearings. But what's missing is that there are documents elevating, or detailing elements of, Al-Qaeda entry into the United States in 1999, and so when Sandy Burglar says, "Yeah, well, I was sent by the Clinton administration," da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, of course he was sent there by Bill Clinton to get the evidence out. That's what one of the suspicions is, because the whole point of all this has been to shove every bit of Al-Qaeda, 9/11 blame onto the Bush administration. So, you know, none of this is an accident. You don't go in there and inadvertently take things out when you're the national security advisor! You know what the rules are.

[. . .] And you know who he's working for now is John Kerry. Now, how much of what he saw did he pass on to John Kerry? Is it time maybe for John Kerry to have something to say about this? I mean, look at two of Kerry's advisors: Joe Wilson -- now patented liar -- and Sandy Berger, thief. Well, presumed, alleged thief. Oh, he admitted it. He's a thief. He admitted he took the documents, a sloppy, sloppy thief. I think it's time for Senator Kerry here to maybe tell us a little bit more than just that he went to Vietnam: what he thinks of some of his advisors.

[. . .] Now, look, there are many of us, uh, ladies and gentlemen, who suspect that one of the objectives of the 9/11 commission Democrats is to deflect any blame or association for any acts of terrorism on this country to inaction or lackadaisical behavior, laziness on the part of the Clinton administration -- and the reason we believe this is because we know that the Clinton people have been hauling ass trying to rewrite a legacy for this man.

They have been doing everything they can to erase the Monica Lewinsky image from everybody's frontal lobe when they think and hear the name Bill Clinton, and so Clinton has been doing everything he can to rehab his image. He has a very large coterie of loyal supporters, one of whom is on the 9/11 commission, one of whom should have been a witness, not a member -- one of them, Jamie Gorelick, whose memo erected the wall that prevented intelligence from sharing information it gathered with law enforcement, and now we find out that Sandy Burglar, Clinton's #1 spook outside of the CIA. I mean this is the national security advisor guy!

[. . .] So you will pardon us if we have some doubts and suspicions about this when it's the critical assessments that are suspiciously missing. The former national security advisor himself, Sandy Burglar, had ordered his anti-terror czar Richard Clarke in early 2000 to write the after-action report. He has spoken publicly about how to review brought to the forefront a realization that Al-Qaeda had reached America's shores and required more attention. That's what's missing. Berger testified that during the millennium period, "We thwarted threats, and I do believe it was important to bring the principals together on a frequent basis to consider terror threats more regularly."

[. . .] Now, let's go back, and ask: "What is this really all about, folks?" because this, despite the obvious humorous aspects, this is really serious stuff because there is an ongoing effort to spare the Clinton administration -- and Bill Clinton personally -- of any responsibility whatsoever for anything that has happened deleteriously to this country in the world of terrorism.

[. . .] And something very, very suspicious about this information that was never put into action, and that's I think another reason why it's vanished. But this information clearly illustrations and I think points out how Al-Qaeda in 1999 and 2000 are in the country, and the United States government knew it, and they didn't put any plan into action to deal with it, and that's what they are deathly afraid of having been seen. So Sandy Berger has fallen on the sword -- and as Web Hubbell had to do, may have been asked to roll over here. The information was so obviously damning that he risked his career and freedom to take this information out of there and do who-knows-what with it, and that means, folks, that that report and those documents related to it provided advice and information relevant to the 9/11 attacks, some kind of complete breakdown which was not improved later otherwise it wouldn't have been necessary to get rid of it, and that's the bottom line. Take all this sloppiness out. Take all this inadvertently out." [all emphasis added]
Let me clear one thing up - nothing is "missing". The documents that Berger took out were copies of drafts of the memos. But the entire premise of Limbaugh's - and the rest of the Right's - massive explosion yesterday is that Berger took and shredded the only copies of documents criticizing Clinton. It is just a lie. But it is repeated and repeated and repeated -- and Limbaugh's audience is very large. And for those that missed it on Limbaugh the same story was on every other right-wing talk show I tuned in yesterday.

The third component is the Joe Wilson story. Joe Wilson is the guy who went to Niger, came back and said Iraq was not trying to buy uranium, and went public with this after Bush claimed Iraq WAS trying to. So in retaliation the Bush administration "outed" his wife, a covert CIA agent tracking down people who peddle WMDs. In preparation for the Berger story, and to counter the damage done by the White House's "outing" of his wife, the Right has been circulating a new batch of lies about Wilson. In A Right-Wing Smear Is Gathering Steam, Wilson writes,
"For the last two weeks, I have been subjected ? along with my wife, Valerie Plame ? to a partisan Republican smear campaign. In right-wing blogs and on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, I've been accused of being a liar and, worse, a traitor."
This story is all over the Right-wing media. From the same Limbaugh show,
"I mean, look at two of Kerry's advisors: Joe Wilson -- now patented liar -- and Sandy Berger, thief."
In other words, don't believe anything you may have heard about the White House "outing" a CIA agent, and, by extension, anything about Bush lying about WMDs in Iraq.

Did you wonder why the Republican machine made such a big deal about Gorelick, and demanded that she resign from the 9/11 Commission? Well, now we know -- it was all preparation for this week. So, we have Gorelick, and by extension Clinton, preventing the government from sharing information. We have Wilson, and by extension Clarke and other accusers, discredited. And now we have Berger, the guy who led the effort to stop the Millenium bombing and who was trying to get the incoming Bush Administration to pay attention to al Queda, discredited.

Note that even Limbaugh credits Ashcroft with setting this all up in his April testimony to the 9/11 panel, obliquely referencing the things that were "leaked" this week. Remember, by April the entire Berger situation was over. But Ashcroft knew about it and they were using it to weave this tale to discredit critics of Bush.

Any why this week? Because this week the 9/11 Commission releases its report. And what happened was that the Clinton Administration was ALL OVER the terrorism threat, while the Bush Administration ignored it and went on vacation. That is the essence of what happened. That's the big picture. So how do they counter that? The same way they're countering ANOTHER big picture - that Kerry is a war hero and Bush didn't show up for even the light duty his daddy had arranged for him. How they do that is they spread a fog of smears so thick that people lose track of what really happened.

As Richard Clarke told us, when the government detected increased "chatter" in 1999 they TOOK ACTION. They convened a task force to see what was going on, and put top people on the problem, and coordinated, and stayed up nights, AND THEY CAUGHT THE MILENIUM BOMBERS. Contrast that with the Bush Administration before 9/11 -- on vacation, literally. And the 9/11 commission report comes out this week, and it is probably going to SAY that. Even if they don't explicitly say that, it's there and it will be the story. The Clinton Administration did their job, and governed. The Bush administration was never about governing, and we all have to live with the consequences.

So the Republicans have to knock this story down. The way Republicans fight back is with smears to discredit their accusers. They constructed a 3-part discrediting action that phased in, coming to a conclusion just before the commission releases its report.

Update - Go read this.

Update - this post was modified slightly about an hour after original posting - because Blogger went down for an hour while I was working on it.

Here We Go Again

I don't know whether this has been on the national news or not. A pipe bomb exploded on the steps of one of the entrances to the Times Square subway hub on Monday. This is a huge station, perhaps the busiest in New York. The bomb was in a paper bag left on the steps. A policeman was injured. That's all the details we can be sure of at the moment.

At first the report was that this was a bag of fireworks. The people on the street and in nearby buildings were certain they'd heard a bomb. It was a bomb. The suspect is the policeman who discovered the bomb. The bag was on fire, and he says he tried to remove it. He's a suspect because he is about to retire from the police force for psychiatric reasons. He suffers from PTSD because of his service on 9/11.

Plenty of New Yorkers still suffer from PTSD because of 9/11. Whether they were downtown, worked at or near the site, were part of the rescue crew, were among those who took part in cleaning up the debris afterwards, or simply live in the city. I have friends, otherwise reasonably sane people, who still haven't gone downtown at all, ever, since 9/11. They just can't make themselves do it. I live within walking distance of the WTC site. I stood out front with a neighbor and watched the towers fall. Our apartment complex was evacuated. I live on the West Side Highway, and everything removed from the site went by my place. I saw things I'll never try to describe. For months afterward this neighborhood smelled like -- roast pork. No other way to put it. We were breathing in vaporized people, among other horrors. We had no public transportation and had to show identification at check points. I realized that I had to go down to the site as soon as possible or I'd never be able to go down there again. About 1 1/2 weeks after the attack, in a gray drizzle, I walked down there, sneaking around check points, getting as close as possible.

What struck me as I walked down there was how huge the disaster really was -- and at that point I didn't really see all of it. It wasn't just the WTC site that was damaged. I won't go into details, but buildings were damaged for blocks around the site. There is one huge building, draped in black netting, that still has to be torn down. Debris was scattered all across the island, and as far as Brooklyn. I was stepping over cables laid above ground to bring electricity to the area. The infrastructure, sewers, water mains, power, the subway system, were incredibly damaged. The phone company was not only hit by debris that damaged the building but the switching system was flooded out. And of course TV and cell phones were knocked out because the top of the WTC had been the communications hub for the entire area. I managed to sneak close enough to "the pile" to take a good look. You've seen enough photos so I don't have to describe it. This was no joke, not just something you see on TV. Take my word for it, this was Real Life. A friend of mine gave a course in crisis intervention for health professionals. I took it because I was spending most of my time doing crisis intervention. The weeping postman putting mail in the box of the neighbor he knew had been killed, the weeping supermarket manager, the weeping clerks, the weeping neighbors -- somehow my walk down there calmed me and I was the neighborhood comforter. I'd had the guts to face it.

The crisis intervention course I took turned out to be both accurate -- and inaccurate. Nobody seems to have realized that a disaster on this scale leaves scars that don't go away for years afterwards. Yes, that poor policeman who found -- or maybe left -- that bomb at the Times Square station on Monday, probably does still suffer from PTSD. However, I know enough about PTSD to know that it inspires nightmares and timidity, not the building of bombs. I hope they manage to clear the poor guy.

If there's anything this city does not need now it's pipe bombs in the subway system. Remember the anthrax scare? Boil your mail? The fear campaign the Bush administration is conducting is going to bring out the crazies, of course. All these vague "terrorist" threats right before the election. Well, we know how cynically manipulative they can be for the sake of political advantage. These are the same people who insisted the air was safe at the WTC site. Had to keep us suckers working down there, living here, make everything look normal, no matter how many people were going to suffer physical damage for the rest of their lives. Couldn't risk huge clean-up expenses, or shutting down the stock market, could they?



Bush Says: 'I Want to Be the Peace President':
"'The enemy declared war on us,' Bush told a re-election rally in Cedar Rapids. 'Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president... The next four years will be peaceful years.' Bush used the words 'peace' or 'peaceful' a total of 20 times. "
What else can you say, besides, "Sheesh!"?

And what's worse is, this stuff works. They'll eat it up. By August no one will remember Iraq, or the "Axis of Evil." You won't be able to go anywhere without hearing about Bush being the "President of Peace."

Analysis of Kerry's "liberal" label from the Washington Post

The article itself is fairly interesting conventional wisdom, for the most part... a few things that caught my attention:

1. The contention that a "liberal" voting record means a lot less than it used to... because basically speaking, the legislation offered in Congress, on average is more conservative than in the past (at least on economic issues and issues of governmental activism). This would square with a recent analysis (Thomas Frank, Red-State America against Itself) I saw about how the DLC has been pushing the Democrats to "forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues" by "stand[ing] rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it." (*)

2. A related development, according to the ADA, the average House Democrat earned a rating of 90 out of 100 on a series of twenty important votes. In 1980, the average was 58. Not only is legislation more conservative in general, but it voting is more polarized.

3. But, of most interest to STF readers, is the rather pathetic quote from the ADA's communication's director, Don Kusler - someone needs to tell him that we've identified the source of his problems (and that he should start throwing some of ADA's funding muscle behind organizations like the Commonweal Institute).

For his part, Kusler wishes that a word that he regards as having an honorable heritage -- backing civil rights at home and robust human rights policies abroad -- will be one Democratic presidential nominees will again embrace.

Conservatives have "been working on redefining the word 'liberal' for decades, and turning it into a four-letter word," Kusler said. "We don't want to give up the word. We've been losing the fight for the definition."

No kidding Don. Time for a new communications strategy? I think so.

--Thomas Leavitt

* obligatory poke at my deluded Democrat friends: Can you say John Kerry? I think you can: no on DOMA, yes on welfare reform, yes on NAFTA. To cite three examples. Fits like a glove.

MoveOn PAC: The Corporation's choice vs. the People's Choice

MoveOn.Org is attempting to raise $690,000 to air a television advertisement contrasting (in a very simple and direct fashion) the differences between Kerry and Bush.

Now, as a Green and former Nader voter, I have to admit that the ad spawned giggles, rather than convincing me of anything, but hey - if the Democrats want to hijack Nader's rhetoric in the belief that it will win them votes in November, all power to 'em.

Apparently the ad was so effective that it moved the numbers 6% in Kerry's favor. This might explain why the Democrats are so desperate to keep Nader off the ballot, out of the debates, and out of the news. Imagine if a candidate (like the Green Party's David Cobb), who really believed in this stuff had a chance to make his or her case to the American public -- things might never be the same. :)

But again, what the hell... I'm interested in the end result, not the process. If the Democrats notice that MoveOn's rhetorical strategy moves the numbers, and decide to pursue it more often, then maybe they might even decide to actually carry out policy along these lines, and encourage more candidates who wanted pro-people policies enacted to run for office. I might then actually be able to vote for a Democrat running for higher office for once in my life. What a concept?

--Thomas Leavitt

Speech at Common Dreams

My ATLA speech is up over at Common Dreams.

A Must-Read

I recommend everyone read The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: "It Can Happen Here".
"In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President.

As Lewis noted in his novel, "the President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."

I Was Wrong

I was wrong. I have been saying that the Bush Justice Department simply will not investigate ANY top administration officials. But they ARE investigating a top administration official.

Former Clinton Adviser Target of Justice Dept. Probe.


An argument to be postponed until later

Recently Brad DeLong said that having Barbara Ehrenreich writing for the New York Times will be a waste of ink and paper. When Ehrenreich  wrote a piece a few days later renouncing Ralph Nader, DeLong wrote another piece telling her how irrational she had been ever to have voted for Nader in the first place.  Over the next few days Henry Farrell and Kevin Drum came to Ehrenreich's defense,  Matt Yglesias posted twice,  first ambivalently and then scornfully, and finally Digby weighed in with a ferocious post which Matt Stoller mostly endorsed. (And don't let be forget Max).
After a couple of cooling-off timeouts, now it's my turn. 
First of all, I agree with everyone named (including Ehrenreich)  that no one should vote for Nader this year, or the Green candidate either.  I also have agreed for some time,  as Ehrenreich probably doesn't,  that it was wrong to support Nader in 2000. Mea maxima culpa.
But is this really the right time for score-settling?  Ehrenreich's piece very clearly renounced Nader and was clearly designed to persuade other ex-Nader voters not to vote for him.  Isn't that a good thing?  [Three lines of heavy sarcasm deleted]. After Nov. 3 we should have plenty of time to work out our differences.
Rather  than make a detailed response to the various posts, I'll just make a few main points.
First, when people call the Democrats wimps, it's not just a right-wing slander.  In Florida 2000, in particular, Gore, Lieberman, and Christopher were massacred by Bush, Cheney and Baker.  The whole Republican campaign was ruthless, down to goon squads intimidating election officials,  and the Democrats were timid.  At every point the Republicans grabbed, and the Democrats hesitated.  Particular examples were the overcautious request for a partial recount,  the failure to contest the postdated military ballots, and above all the refusal even to touch the charges that black voters were wrongly excluded from voting by the inaccurate felon list and otherwise.
Yes, it's true that the Congressional minority has to pick its battles, but I don't see how that was true in Florida.
I have come to believe that voters take the resourcefulness and ruthlessness of a campaign as a proxy for the military effectiveness of the candidate, and that the Democrats failed that test.  (As the infamous Bartcop asks, how can the Democrats protect the American people when they can't even protect themselves?)
Incidentally, a recent report makes it clear that Kerry will be prepared this time around. Good for him.
Second, while Clinton really did do a lot of good, his results were mixed.  Somewhere DeLong said that the Clinton program enacted was really only part one of a two-part plan.  Unfortunately, only the first, Republican part got enacted (with Republican votes, and in defiance of the Democrats in Congress).  And I think that it is reasonable to believe that the damage Clinton did the Democrats by this had something to do with the eventual loss of Congress. 
Third, to my memory it was not the leftists (except for the egregious Hitchens) who abandoned and double-crossed Clinton during the fraudulent impeachment attempt.  It was moderates like Lieberman, who was rewarded with the vice-presidential nomination. 
Finally, I wish I agreed with Digby about this: "It's good to remind ourselves that our internecine battle is, and always has been, about the right strategy to get where we all agree we want to". 
During the DLC ascendency I have frequently found myself running into Democrats who are completely uninterested in, or hostile to,  questions of equality or economic democracy,  and who talk harshly about "pandering to the core constituency" and "outmoded zero-sum class warfare politics".  (Matt Yglesias is a little that way, though far from the worst).  Many DLC Democrats,  probably including Clinton, were simply dealing realistically with the political realities, but there are others who really, truly  are Republicans Lite.   (And as I  keep saying, the Democrats might have been able to make an issue of Enron if Lieberman hadn't been Arthur Anderson's main man.)
While voting for Nader was the wrong choice,  there were good reasons why people had their doubts about Clinton and Gore.  When I read the comments of some of the rising lights of the Democratic party about this episode, I get a definite feeling that they believe that the Clinton accomodations should define political reality from here on out, and that either they have no idea whatsoever why some Democrats have their doubts about Clinton's accomplishment,  or else that they completely disagree about these doubts.
"Hats Off to Matt Stoller who is trying to do God's work in bringing the fractious Democrats together," concludes Digby.  I do hope that this turns out to be what happening.  I must say that I think that the beginning could have been a bit more graceful.  
DeLong I


Yglesias I
Delong II 
Yglesias II 


Friendly poll: Green or Democrat or neither?

Based on the comments I've seen posted, STF seems to have a very diverse audience. I'm curious to see if there aren't more Greens here than I'd otherwise expect. Cast your vote in the comments section, and let us know where you're coming from. Also, if you've changed from a Green to a Democrat as a result of postings on this blog, or vice versa, or something else, let us know.

My gut instinct is that the Green/Democrat flame wars are pretty ineffective at recruiting for each side, but maybe I'm flat out wrong.

--Thomas Leavitt

P.S. Trivia time: name the one presidential ticket with a woman on it(*). I know the answer. :)

Update: Hey, one of the comments prompted another couple of trivia questions: a) name two parties that have not had a woman on their presidential ticket in 1996, 2000, and 2004; b) name a party that has had a woman on the ticket in the last three elections. I know what my answers are. :) And the Prohibition Party is not among them. :)

* among the 6 that Ballot Access News estimates will qualify for enough ballot lines to theoretically win in November

Greens, Democrats, and Multiparty Democracy in a Winner Take All system

[Note: the bulk of this essay was written before Dave's posting below.]

First of all, a bit of political trivia: both Canada and the United Kingdom have an electoral system that is more or less similar to ours - candidates for national, regional and local office (with some newly created exceptions in Britain) run for office under a winner take all system.

What's the trivia here? Citizens of the United States may be surprised to learn (given the alleged anti-third party bias of a system like ours) that both Canada and Britain, for many many years, have sustained significant third parties (i.e. ones that regularly win seats in Parliament, and that have controlled legislative bodies and governed at the regional level).

In fact, there has not been a single election in the last hundred years in which no "non-major" party failed to receive a seat in the British Parliament, and since 1983, the "third party" (the Liberal Democrats or their predecessor coalition) has received over 15% of the vote every time.

Canada, in 1997 and 2001, had no less than *four* national parties (plus a 5th regional/nationalist party receiving seats in Parliament) - and in no election since 1930, has the "third" (or "fourth" in many cases) party failed to receive a seat in Parliament. Since 1984, the third parties have consistently received between 15 and ~40% of the vote (more in recent elections).

In Britain, there are currently three major parties with a reasonable hope of becoming the governing party of the entire nation - the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats (historically a "third party"). Beyond them, there are a HOST of regional parties and other third parties with members elected to major offices (such as the United Kingdom Independence Party, which has 17 members in the European Parliament after the most recent election to that body). In a recent "by-election" no less than FOUR parties (including a anti-war protest party, "Respect") obtained more than 10% of the vote for their candidate. In a second such election, the fourth candidate obtained 6% (pushing, with other candidates, the total "minor party" vote to over 10%), within striking distance of the lowest "major party" candidate's 17%.

In Canada, there are three major parties (one of which is a combination of a former major party that collapsed, and it's replacement), a very strong regional/nationalist party in Quebec, and a host of smaller parties that have at one point or another obtained and or controlled regional office or have prospects of doing so. Including the Green Party, which is the only party other than the "big three" to qualify for federal funding of $1.75 (Canadian) per vote received in the most recent election (the threshold for this, by the way, was set at 2%, the Greens got 4%... and this was the first election under which a party could quality for federal funding, so they did it without funding).

On a side note: the success of third parties in Britain has lead to the establishment of regional legislatures for Scotland and Wales which use "proportional representation", a system under which the number of seats in parliament is more or less equivalent to the percentage of the vote received by a party - win 8% of the vote, you win 8% of the seats up for grabs. In Canada, several regional governments are seriously considering such systems as well.

So, Dave - here's my answer to your claim that "There is simply no way that the Green party - or any third party - can make a positive contribution within the confines of our political system. The country is designed around a two-party system."

Look North, Dave. Look North. :)

Green since 1990. Green till 2090 (or later), yours truly...

--Thomas Leavitt

Teddy Roosevelt on the importance of criticizing the President

Something to respond back to people who complain about
criticism of Bush as being unpatriotic.

"The President is merely the most important among a large
number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed
exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct
or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering
loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a
whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there
should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and
this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he
does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other
attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To
announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is
not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be
spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more
important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about
him than about any one else."
-Theodore Roosevelt

--Thomas Leavitt

Hate Mail From Greens

I get a lot more hate mail from Greens than from right-wingers. Sometimes it's pretty serious stuff, too. Funny how that works.

I used to be a Green, and two of the bloggers here are Greens. I stopped being a Green because I realized that it wasn't going to go anywhere - that there was no point. There is simply no way that the Green party - or any third party - can make a positive contribution within the confines of our political system. The country is designed around a two-party system. Third parties can only make a destructive contribution, as we saw in 2000. They can't win, they can only cause those who are closest to them in political ideals to lose, thus defeating their supposed reason to exist. I mean, someone tell me how George Bush and the Right in charge is BETTER for anyone or anything that Greens care about!?

And this is about the things I care about. My political involvement is based on actually getting things done, and actually helping people & protecting the environment. Maybe this is because I once was a Chief Steward with AFSCME, during a time of turmoil, strikes, actions, etc. for people who were making little more than the minimum wage and trying to support families. ACTUALLY accomplishing things can take a lot more work than just making statements. But ACTUALLY accomplishing things makes a HUGE difference for those at the margins of our society.

If Gore had won we would have a higher minimum wage, people in unions would be earning more and receiving rather than losing health benefits, the environment would be protected, and we certainly would not have invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands of them and hundreds of us. Those are ACTUAL things that matter.

Additionally I have decided that the Green's analysis is flawed. The Democratic Party is nothing more than the people who show up and vote. And it is not the PARTY'S job to lead the people. Parties, by definition, respond to the voters. The Right has accomplished what they have by changing public attitudes and their candidates ride that wave. The Republican Party is not funding the hundreds of think tanks and advocacy organizations but it's (farthest right) candidates are benefitting from it. It is not the Democratic Party's fault that the Right has set up this network that is changing public attitudes. And it is not the Party's fault that moderate and progressive funders haven't yet caught on to what is happening to them.

I think it is past time for the Greens to wake up and realize that they are hurting the very things they profess to care about. Even Ralph Nader is making fun of them.

Update - I meant to add that I was a Green because of my frustration and anger with the rightward movement of the Dems, and the DLC types, and the wimpiness of the national party, and the number of Dems that were actually JOINING Republicans and voting for tax cuts, war, etc. And I was really, really angry about it! Still am! But I decided that splitting up the Demcorat coalition, built over decades, was not the answer. The coalition was built the hard way, by the working people, to fight the moneyed interests, and the only way it wins is by people sticking together, That's what solidarity means. That's what the word UNION means! If anyone should leave it's the corporate DLC types! (And Zell. Good riddance to Zell.)
"agree" 6 No difference 1
Bush Gore debate "I agree"

Fighting Back!

Digby at Hullabaloo writes about a new Kerry ad that finally DOES put it in Bush's face. He also has a link to the ad so you can see it.

Update - Digby got me good. I posted before I watched the ad. Go see for yourself how he got me.


Apparently Newsweek has the Allawi story, but with interesting twists. NEWSWEEK: New Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi Reportedly Cut Off Suspect's Hand With Ax, Shot Captive Terrorists, According to Stories Circulating in Baghdad:
"Since Ayad Allawi became prime minister of Iraq's interim government last month, stories circulating on the streets of Baghdad include reports that he ordered two suspected insurgents shot in front of him, shot seven captive terrorists himself and personally chopped off the hand of a suspect with an ax, ..."
The actual Newsweek story words this a bit differently:
"Baghdad's streets are as mean as any in the world, and since Ayad Allawi took office, the stories people tell in them are even meaner. Soon after he became prime minister of the interim government last month, many Iraqis whisper, he ordered two suspected insurgents shot in front of him. Or, goes another account, he shot seven captive terrorists himself, one after another. Or he personally chopped off the hand of a suspect with an ax."
Here is Allawi's response:
"Asked by NEWSWEEK if he had killed anyone since taking office, Allawi chuckled and said, "This is a big lie, this is not true, I deny it categorically, No. 1. No. 2, we will spare no effort to secure our people."
"Since?" Of course he "chuckled" at the question. Wink, wink, nod, nod. He denies killing anyone since taking office. And goes on to say he will spare no efforts? Yes, this question used the word "since" (wink, nod), but of course he knew that the report said he did this before taking office.


Getting our point across...

I've been thinking about this for a while now. Every time I talk to someone about this issue (how we progressives have had the political rug pulled out from underneath us by a bunch of ultra-rich, ultra-conservative ideologues), I flail around for a few minutes and then wind up saying, "Go to the Commonweal Institute web site, and read the information there about how the right wing has manipulated the media and public consciousness... spend two or three hours reading some of the reports, and you'll never look at a news article the same way again."

This obviously limits the potential audience for the ideas and information we're trying to communicate. Reading Dave's speech prompted some thoughts, and I thought I'd share them. Basically, it seems to me that we are victims of the standard liberal disease of making everything just too damn complex for your average harried human to follow. You get 10 seconds or less to make your case when someone hits your web page, and if you don't manage it within that time, they're gone.

If you want an excellent example of this, take a look at the Commonweal Institute's website - click on "learn more" on the home page, and you get this (not too bad, four bullet points, four paragraphs of exposition) - but click one more level down, and you get an entire essay's worth of exposition on each point - most people will bail immediately.

Dave's information page on that same site is another example. It's an incredibly valueable resource - but you have willing to take the time to dig down and read a score of multi-page reports to get anything from it. How many people are going to do that?

Even STF doesn't have a single, clear exposition of our core position. We have Dave's posting, "How to Fight Back", but even that is (a) buried and (b) too long -- a new vistor to this blog would have no idea what our core value proposition is, or what the title, "Seeing The Forest" refers to. We need an "About This Blog" link, right above the "About The Authors" one. And it needs to be short and sweet. And visible.

But we need more than that. As organizers, we need the basic communications tools to make our case to the public, the media, and potential funders. I spent several years over the hill, at a VC-funded start-up that went through several rounds of funding and learned quite a bit in the process. In the following essay, I talk about the tools entreprenuers use to convince investors to fund their companies, and how they can be applied to our needs.

The first step in getting any company funded is "the elevator pitch". If you can't communicate the essence of your idea in 30 seconds or less, you haven't refined your core pitch enough to persuade anyone to even let you in the door to speak with them, let alone get funded.

What's our elevator pitch?
If we have one, it isn't visible. It should be the first thing anyone visiting STF, Commonweal, or any of our own personal sites sees. It should be the first thing any one of us says when we raise this issue in a conversation. I see pieces of it on the Commonweal site, but nothing I could easily lift out and repeat to someone in under thirty seconds, that would convince someone that we've got something new and different that could level the political playing field.

Once you've gotten your foot in the door you need to convince someone to let you walk through it. That's where the next tool in the entreprenuer's bag of tricks comes in: the business plan and executive summary. You expect people to read the executive summary - you don't expect people to read the business plan.

The executive summary lays out your case for why your company is worth funding in one or two pages (at most). It boils your argument down to something that can be read and processed well inside ten minutes. It describes the opportunity available, your plan for capitalizing on it, and why you and your team are the people to make it happen. Put another way: people, market, product.

What's our equivalent? Where have we laid out our complete case in as concise a fashion as possible, such that someone could read it, and nothing else, and come away convined that we're on the right track?

I looked around on STF for something like this, and the closest thing I was able to find was Dave's "How To Fight Back" posting, and even that is too long (as I said above) and complicated. I don't think we can honestly expect even someone who is seriously interested what we have to say to read through that whole thing if we sent it to them in email. Seems to me that we have a business plan without an executive summary, which means that most likely, our most valueable work will never get read.

Strike two. Not doing so well, eh? But, hey, this is fixable. We just need to write this up. :)

Now that you've gotten in the door, you've got thirty minutes or less to convince an incredibly busy, highly skeptical and extremely financially conservative professional to invest in your company. Oh yeah, did I mention that they're are looking for reasons to say no, and focused on finding the flaws in your argument? We had a highly trained, throughly experienced CEO at my last company, and even he was hard put to keep on message when confronting a potential investor.

How do you prepare for this? Focus. Refine. Simplify. Repeat. And then repeat again.

What does every entreprenuer walk into this meeting with? A PowerPoint presentation (along with a copy of their executive summary and business plan, to leave behind when they're done).

About that PowerPoint presentation:

1. It consists of not more than ten pages.
2. Each page has no more than three or four high level bullet point points.
3. It doesn't last longer than twenty minutes (at most).

This (and the presentation around it) is your basic selling tool. More than anything else, how well this presentation goes over determines whether or not your company gets funded. Creating it is an extremely valueable exercise - it forces you to refine your ideas to their essence, and discard anything even slightly extraneous or distracting from your core message.

What's our equivalent? A short web based presentation that walks a new visitor through the core elements of our presentation (and their underlying rationales) in five minutes or less. Someone needs to walk away from having clicked through a half dozen pages with a solid grip on our entire case.

Of course, we also need a script to go along with it, for in person presentations to groups and individuals, and for those wanting to dig deeper, later on.

Do we have this? Doesn't look like it. Strike three. No wonder we're losing the battle. We're the smart ones on our side (since we see the forest), and we still haven't managed to put the basic communications tools in place to make our case with. 'cause you're all too damn smart, I guess, and haven't needed our help to figure things out.

But, we can fix this. See tomorrow's posting for some thoughts on how to refine things down to meet these requirements.