Default Kerry image: dour and unsmiling?

Is it just me, or have others noticed that the default image of Kerry in the media is dour and serious... vs. "Bright Smile" Bush? This has been subsciously bugging me for a while, but a spread the other day in the SF Chronicle finally caused me to consciously recognize the phenomenon: on the left page was Mr. Bush, with a huge shit-eating grin on his face, bright, sunny, optimistic, and on the right page was Kerry, with a dour, intent look on his face.

Thoughts? Could this simply be a product of each campaign's particular "spin" on the state of the union?

--Thomas Leavitt

This year's sports post

I've actually been a sports fan most of my life, though I don't see much cosmic or political significance in it. I've followed the Olympics, with sadly diminishing interest, ever since 1956. (Since track was the only sport I was any good at all in, that makes sense). Starting in 1968 or so, murder and political boycotts took a lot of the bloom off the games, and once that kind of thing stopped happening, American network TV took over with uninformed coverage and stupid human-interest stories. (I still occasionally think about the dream Filbert Bayi / John Walker 1500-m. matchup that the African boycott squelched.)

And Portland here is a big enough town to send some people to get medals now and then, but small enough that you might have met them. Years ago I met Rick Sanders, a two-time wrestling silver medalist, as well as one of the coaches of this year's fencing gold medalist, Mariel Zagunis. (A coworker knows her father). So it's sort of a hometown thing for me too.

Today I saw a nicely-written story that reminded me why I used to care. Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj came up from a 1500-m. gold to to defeat Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele (coming down from the 10,000-m. gold) in the 5,000 meters. Kenya's 19-year-old Elind Kipchoge, who challenged but couldn't hold on, got the bronze. El Guerrouj has been a champion and record-setter for many years, but until this year had been unlucky in the Olympics. Three good performances and several little dramas all right there.

-- But all that was really just a way for me to get to the neocon Max Boot's wretched Olympic article, which was as stupid as you could possible have hoped. The Olympics is apparently now on the list of international institutions that people who call themselves conservatives have to pee on, along with the U.N., NATO, and French wines and cheeses.

Boot is a real man who only likes football -- and real Americans only watch American sports. As a freemarketer and a patriot Boot is required to make it clear that the nationalism and the commercialism don't bother him, but as a macho man he has to say that he can't stand the foofoo human interest stories the networks have smeared onto the sports. For Boot the Cold War was the only thing that ever gave the Olympics any interest (e.g., the over-hyped hockey victory in 1980), and he even says that if al-Qaeda ever enters a team he might become interested again.

Along with David Brooks, Boot is on the short list of conservatives who supposedly don't completely suck, but don't ask me why for either one of them. I think it's just because it would scare people to realize that there really isn't anyone at all on that list.

Businesslike Voting

Voting is more businesslike than romantic. Every four years, you get to choose between two (and only two) Presidential candidates. One way or another, one of them will become President. Voting and campaigning are your ways to help decide which one it will be.

It's not like romance, when you decide whether you're really in love or not. You can't choose to be single, because you're going to have a President no matter what you do. You can't wait for someone else to come along, because these choices are made from a two-person menu every four years. And finally, you almost never will find a candidate worth falling in love with.

On a scale of one to ten (with five "sort of OK") you're going to find a lot more ones and twos (very bad leaders) than you are nines and tens (very good ones) -- in other words, it's not a normal bell curve, but instead a curve which is fat on the bottom and gets thinner the higher up you go (like the graph for any other form of competitive accomplishment).

It's really the way of the world; being good is a tremendous, difficult accomplishment, whereas being bad is easy and can just be from laziness, ignorance, bad luck, carelessness, etc. (And the best guys in the world, the Lincolns, if you look at them closely, are imperfect).

So anyway, it's rare to have a perfect candidate you really admire, and it's common to have a horrible candidate who scares you. If you have the horrible candidate, it's pretty much your duty to vote for the sort-of-OK candidate, since in our system you only get the two meaningful choices.

Deliberately not voting is OK if the election is inconsequential or the candidates about the same. And it's OK if you have given up on the US and are planning to emigrate. It's just barely OK if one candidate isn't too bad and you want to "send a message" to the other party (the mistake I made in 2000).

Note:: voting for a third-party candidate is the effective equivalent of not voting, though it does send a more intelligible message to the party you're boycotting.

Voting isn't like marriage. It's a routine thing you do every four years.Your own personal involvement in a candidate you don't especially like is really nothing at all. You don't need True Love. You really don't want to die of a broken heart when The Only One never shows up.

So does this mean that I'm lukewarm about Kerry? Not really. It would be impossible for me to like any candidate as much as I dislike Bush. This is partly because Bush is as bad as he is, and it's partly because it's really not reasonable to hope to be in love with candidate for President.

(This post is based on a comment I made in Dan's thread below.)

Republican Grownups spotted in Oregon

Brad DeLong has written a series been begging the "Republican Grownups" to abandon George W. Bush, who is a disaster even by traditional Republican standards. By and large I have pooh-poohed that idea (for example, in the comments here.) My guess is that if most of the "Good Germans" ended up supporting Hitler in 1932 -- and they did -- most of the "Republican Grownups" will a fortiori end up supporting Bush this year.*

In our weakness and in hopes of getting support somewhere or another, we Democrats sometimes tend to give more credit to people than they really deserve -- "undecided voters" are another dubious group which we really, really hope will come around for us.

But occasionally some of them do show up. Here in Oregon, while no major Republican leader supports Kerry so far, two members of the eminent Atiyeh family, a former member of the Republican State Central Committee, and the former mayor of the sixth largest city in the state (Hillsboro) have all come out in Kerry's support. For most of them it is the first time that they have ever voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate.

*Before invoking Godwin's Law, figure out how "a fortiori" functions in this sentence.

Anyone seen Al?

One of my more shameful hobbies is debating trolls on liberal comment lines. One of the most persistent and most annoying of these is someone who calls himself "Al" (claiming that that is his real name.) He argues stubbornly, never concedes a point, brazenly denies or ignores inconvenient facts, and heaps scorn on his enemies. He purports to be a conservative Republican, but I've found evidence that he might be something entirely different.

Kevin Drum's site, I asked people what the objections were to George Soros -- a successful self-made businessman who had a hand in the fall of Communism. "Al" responded as follows:

"Soros earned his money
Yeah - he earned it by bankrupting proverty-stricken countries.Soros takes from the extreme poor and gives to himself. Sounds like every limosine liberal I've ever heard of.
Posted by:
Al on August 23, 2004 at 8:48 PM PERMALINK "

Now, that isn't a conservative Republican answer. To free-marketers, international finance and currency trading are normal business activities. People who talk about shadowy bloodsucking speculators are normally leftists, semi-fascist nationalists, Muslim fanatics, LaRouchies, and so on. (There are, in fact, serious criticisms to be made of the way international finance is organized, and Soros has acknowledged some of these criticisms. But they aren't conservative criticisms, and Al wasn't talking about that anyway. He was just trying to figure out a way to discredit Soros.)

So I'm wondering whether Al isn't really a desperate leftist or LaRouchie whose real views slipped out in the heat of the moment. There's a lot of speculation that blog trolls are paid operatives anyway (if they're not bots), and a demoralized Communist hard up for cash might well put his sophisticated debating skills to work for the Republican dollar.

Al's style is dump and run, and as soon as things started getting sticky he signed off:

"No point, really in feeding Al any more.
Yeah, 'cause Al's going home for the night.
Posted by:
Al on August 23, 2004 at 9:48 PM PERMALINK"

I haven't been able to pin him down since. Anyone seen Al?

Not Your Mother's Convention

As I begin to write this, police cars are dashing downtown along the highway. Well, the New York March and Rally for Women's Lives should be starting to gather in City Hall Park before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, and we can't allow that, can we? My next-door neighbor and her daughter are planning to go, so I hope they're safe. I'm lame, so long marches aren't for me right now. There's a lot planned for today. There's the Books Not Bombs Youth Convergence at St. Mark's Church in the East Village, the woman's march, a Green Party Festival in St. Vartan's Park at E. 35th St. and 2nd Ave -- which should be far enough from Madison Square Garden that they shouldn't have any trouble, the Middle East Peace Coalition demonstration in Union Square (the Farmer's Market should be open today, too, so I might get to both if it doesn't get too disgustingly hot.) The Stone Walk is supposed to arrive in Manhattan. They're walking here from Boston pulling a 1400 lb. granite memorial honoring the "Unknown Civilians Killed in War" which should be in NY through Sept. 11. Ring Out will be ringing bells at Ground Zero late this afternoon, The Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues, and Ideas starts today at various locations, The Fourth World War film screening is at the Anthology Film Archives this evening, there's a Women Against War concert at Riverside Church this evening, and a Clamor Magazine Party in Brooklyn. Today and tomorrow seem to have the most activities planned.

This is a city of 8 million people. That's probably not all that's going on, just all I'm aware of. That's not much for a city of this size, even on a quiet weekend at the end of August. Local neighborhood papers like The Village Voice that regularly post what's going on usually have much longer lists than this. Normally there are street fairs, art fairs, festivals, concerts, outdoor concerts, parades, lectures, church functions, you name it, dozens of them, and nobody minds this at all. There's a race planned in Central Park tomorrow, that's going to cause at least some street closings and bus rerouting, and that's so normal it's getting no attention even though it will cause some "disruption." There are a couple of ball games and the US Open tennis match. Only those activities designed to protest the war or Bush are getting any public or press attention, no matter how benign or tiny they are likely to be.

Geez! Four military helicopters just flew down the Hudson. They do seem to be taking this march across the Brooklyn Bridge seriously! I'm on the West Side, so I can't see what's converging down the East Side. I should point out that various groups often march across the Brooklyn Bridge to support various causes, and these events receive little notice. There's also a sweet little sailboat drifting by, and a yellow Water Taxi docking at the pier across the street. Life goes on, regardless.

Then there's the Security Orgy, not only around Madison Square Garden, but, it turns out, all over the city, including the boroughs. (A line of big police SUV type vehicles just headed south down the highway. Something's going on down there -- I'm just assuming it's the March.) This is the biggest convergence of security forces, Federal, state, and local, probably ever. Considering that the Convention is only going to be in the Garden all day Monday, and then only in the evenings until it ends, this is incredible overkill. Even 9/11 didn't get a response like this. Streets close around the Garden, open again, close again. Buses are rerouted, re-rerouted, and nobody knows where to catch them to go home. The subways will or will not run, there will be schedule changes, and they will be stopped for searches. More and more kinds of barriers, metal, concrete, what-have-you, are hauled in and set up. There are check points, so bring plenty of ID. Businesses in the area are giving people notes to show that they are going to work. (Now the TV News trucks are heading south. Maybe I'll even find out on the news what's going on downtown.) People are already complaining that it's taking them an extra hour to get to work. It's insane to have the Convention in the middle of midtown. Homeland Security is using this as a proving ground for all sorts of weird, Si Fi type security and spy devices. This is the Brave New World in action, folks. Be careful.

The Republicans want arrests so they can blame the Democrats for disrupting the city, so that's what they're gonna have. There were a few yesterday, most notably Act Up, the group of AIDS activists who have been staging demonstrations for years, who stripped beside the Garden to demonstrate "the naked truth" about the Bush AIDS policies. The police were very moderate and let them have their say for 15 min. before arresting them. Not so moderate last night. I'm hearing that there were 250, 250+, or 264 arrests, some in the area of the Garden, but mostly in the East Village. The target was a group called "Critical Mass" that rides their bikes into Manhattan once a month to protest for environmentally friendly transportation. They've been doing this for months without any trouble. Last night, from what I've learned so far, there were utterly indiscriminate arrests. It didn't matter if you were on a bike or not. At least one person there as a "legal observer" was arrested. If you were in the area, you were arrested. Never mind that it was a nice night, and the East Village is where you go on a nice night. So -- the fun has begun.

What's a democracy? This has nothing to do with democracy, or rights, or law and order. New York City, while not exactly lawless, is never exactly orderly, either. This has only to do with PR, and press coverage. To some extent, on both sides. (More big police vehicles are going down the highway.)

I've saved the really scary story for last. A neighbor came over to talk to me on Friday, very upset. Her college age daughter, who doesn't live at home, had visited her to warn her that she, the mother, might be visited by the FBI, and she shouldn't be upset if this happened. Her daughter, a small (she wears a size 2) very pretty blond, is an artist, a photographer, and had been photographing the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, the Brooklyn Bridge is an American icon. Artists have been painting it since it was built. Some of the paintings are very famous. There are thousands of published photographs of it. It is famous in song and story -- and poetry. If you go to the Smithsonian, you can see samples of the actual cable used to build it. Very impressive. The engineering plans and history of how it was built are on display and published in books. Any terrorist who wanted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge would only have to look up the volumes of, by now, public domain information about it to find any information that could possibly be needed. But, for God's sake, don't get caught photographing it now! She was grabbed by two policemen who called for backup, and six more arrived. Dressed in her tight little shirt and shorts, she couldn't possibly have looked like a mad terrorist suicide bomber concealing a bomb in her clothing. It takes eight armed men to subdue a tiny blond woman? Eight seems to be the magic number now -- the girl who belongs to the American Friends Service Committee (that's the Quakers, the original non-violent group so this was really nuts) was "visited" and grilled about whether she was planning violence during the convention was also grilled by eight men. They held my friend's daughter for several hours, demanding that she tell them why she was photographing the bridge. She tried to reason with them. She explained about art, the effects of light and atmosphere; that didn't work. They wanted to know WHY she was photographing the bridge. She tried another approach. "Don't you have photographs of your mother? Don't you want to be able to remember how she looks right now? She'll grow old, and she'll change. The neighborhood around the Bridge will change, and I want to be able to remember how it looks right now." They didn't buy that, either. They wanted to know WHY she was photographing the bridge, with strong hints about WHO she was photographing it for. She finally said, "Are you arresting me?" They said, they could keep her until at least 3 AM without arresting her. They finally let her go, but it's clear that they're watching her. She was approached again when she was photographing an unused canal -- a rancid stretch of water of no use to anyone.

This is paranoia and sadistic power let loose and running rampant. Our Brave New World.

UPDATE: So far as I can find out, nothing was happening this morning. The woman's march was fine and everyone had a great time. I haven't heard of any disasters at the Holland Tunnel, which is south of where I live. Various kinds of police vehicles have been dashing by, sirens blaring, all day. Doesn't seem to mean much, except their general state of hysteria.


What's next?

You've probably seen the video bite with Bush rousing his screened shills in New Mexico:
THE PRESIDENT: [...] No telling what he'll promise in October. (Laughter.) The problem is, he hasn't said how he's going to pay for it. Well, he said one thing, he said he's going to tax the rich. You've heard that before, haven't you?


THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Guess what? The rich dodge and you pay.


The rich dodge, huh? And then "we" pay! Gosh, how unjust. Putting aside your simultaneous rage and amusement at this fuck-you-what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it remark, what's going on here? What populist kool-aid are we supposed to believe W's been sipping?

You're probably ahead of me by now.

This is a big smelly piece of chum. Kerry's supposed to bite it. It's the sneak preview introduction of the next Kerry attack campaign. They obviously have some really juicy stuff ready about this. I wonder what? We'll find out the moment the Swift Boat Liars smear reaches its point of diminshing returns.

Randian of the Day

The undecided voter

Following Arianna's lead, Tom Tomorrow dissects the undecided voter. (via goddess Avedon)

The Flip-Flopper Accusation

I want to say a few words about the Bush campaign's accusation that Kerry is a "flip-flopper." A number of bloggers and others have pointed to the many instances of Bush flip-flopping, and how Kerry is actually very consistent in his positions, and saying this shows that the charge is bogus and Bush is a hypocrite. This misses the point. The point is that they accuse Kerry of being a flip-flopper because Bush is. Think about it.

Going into the election, Bush strategists had to look at where Bush's weakest points are. Obviously Bush's repeatedly saying one thing and doing another was going to be an issue in the campaign. So how to fight that? Accuse Kerry of it before he can say it about Bush! And look how well it works: the campaign focused on whether Kerry is a flip-flopper or not rather than on Bush's obvious inconsistencies.

The Big Lie Lives On

Thom Hartmann, What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On:
"History tells us that, over the short term, the Big Lie usually works. Over the long term, though, the damage it does - both to those who use it, and to the society on which it is inflicted - is incalculable."
As always, a great piece from Thom.

Bush Says Kerry Telling the Truth. What Did Bush Say?

President Bush said that Senator Kerry is telling the truth about his military record, and in response his supporters redouble their promotion of claims that Kerry is lying. In spite of his statement Bush does not ask them to stop.

What does this mean? I think that Bush's statement and the "Conservative Movement's" reaction to it tells an important story about what is happening in America.

Bush: Kerry didn't lie about Vietnam record:
"President Bush said Thursday that he did not believe Sen. John Kerry lied about his war record, but he declined to condemn the TV commercial paid for by a veterans group alleging Kerry came by his war medals dishonestly."
Bush declared that Kerry is telling the truth. Yet the so-called "conservatives" did not take this to mean they are to stop questioning Kerry's Vietnam record and get back to discussing the important issues facing our country. Instead, they increase their promotion of the story that Kerry lied. If you take a tour of the right-wing news this morning, or listen to talk radio, you see that the Republicans have redoubled their promotion of claims that Kerry is NOT telling the truth. Everywhere you turn Bush's supporters are doing exactly the opposite of what Bush's words would have one think he said.

Bush's supporters have universally done exactly the opposite of what Bush's WORDS appeared to say they should do! Does this mean that Bush is an ineffective leader who can't even get those on his own side to do what he says? No, it seems that Bush's supporters have a different understanding of the meaning of such statements. If you examine the response of the "conservatives" to Bush's words, it appears there is a universal understanding that Bush meant for them to do something entirely different than what he said! It is clear that when Bush said Kerry is telling the truth his supporters heard instructions to go forth and multiply their attacks.

There appears to be an unspoken understanding between Bush and his supporters that he will say things that are different from what he means, with the supporters universally accepting and approving of this duplicity. This is a "wink and a nod" situation, in which they hear Bush telling them to go right along with what they were doing, in spite of his words. Bush's supporters understood his statement was only meant to "provide cover" for his role in the smear, while they are to go right on promoting it on their websites, cable TV networks, talk radio, etc.

Think about what this says about "conservatives'" understanding of the "conservative movement" and their role in it.

This is not an open and honest democratic movement we are talking about. This is the behavior of a conspiracy to subvert the democratic process. Bush's behavior indicates that his agenda is not what is put forward to the public -- and the behavior of the members of the movement indicates that they understand and approve.

Increasingly obvious

It's become increasingly obvious to me that the Republicans, in control of every organ of government and the media, have assumed a brazen what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it attitude.

Looks like someone else noticed exactly the same thing. (Warning - big file to download, high-bandwidth recommended.)

AWOL Alerts

The latimes reports that Ohio, Wisconsin, & Missouri are trending Bush. As the SBVFT demonstrates, the power of going negative could deliver this election to Bush and the country to disaster. The advantage of Kerry supporters in this election is that going negative about Bush is speaking truth to power. The blogosphere is doing its part. Check out the site of Paul Lukasiak, who believes he has unraveled the story of Bush's attempt to transfer himself to Alabama, and can prove that Bush never made up his missed training days.

Republican heros

Firming up the Republican base in Miami.


Big Dan's vote is still up for grabs

Since I put in a guest post a few days back, the expected horsemen (Death, famine, the whole gang) have thus far failed to materialize. Neither has it snowed in Hell. Monkeys have not flown out of any butts that I am aware of. Relatively few pigs have flown (well, under their own power).

Those were the expected results Dave and I figured would come of letting me post here as a guest. Since fate is obviously game for being tempted, we thought I'd have another run at it.

Here goes:

Last time around, I voted for George W. Bush. It didn’t take me long to become disillusioned with the man.

I am a conservative politically (pro-national defense, prayer in school should not be mandated but should be allowed, etc), and a liberal religiously (pro-social activism, not against homosexuals, let’s feed the poor, etc). When the two conflict, I generally fall on the side of the liberal religionist, to coin a phrase.

Bush doesn’t stand for the ideals of what it means to me to be a Christian. Furthermore, his base conservative political views are close, but his “any means necessary” approach is disturbing.

The point? I won’t be voting for Bush this time around.

However, Bush’s failings are only enough to get me not to vote for him. They aren’t enough to cause me to vote for Kerry.

So far, I still don’t know what Kerry stands for. Sure there are the typical Democrat positions (pro-choice, pro-environment, etc), but any Democrat in a nice suit can run on the basic Left platform. I want to know WHO KERRY IS – What does he stand for?

He says we’re gonna put people back to work and reform education and whatnot, but even on his home site I don’t see a real plan to make that happen. I don’t, in short, know what his THING is.

He concentrated on his war record at the DNC. His "thing" seemed to be that he was a war hero.

I don't really feel any compulsion to vote for war heroes on either side of the fence, though. I don’t care about how brave he was three and a half decades ago and, anyway, I really hate war. I want to know who he is today.

So here’s your chance to do more than just praise Kerry because he isn’t Bush. Tell me why you are voting FOR Kerry, not AGAINST Bush.

Of course, if you are only voting for him because you’d vote for anyone who wasn’t Bush, I guess you have to say that, too… it just doesn’t help me with my choice. As of today, I’m leaning toward not voting for president at all.


Respectfully Submitted,
Big Dan

Cabbies Say "Walk the Walk"

RNCWatch: Cabbies Against Bush Offer Free Rides to Airport For GOP Delegates Willing to Go to Iraq to Fight

(thanks to Dave Winer)

latimes poll: Bush Edges ahead


We have been focusing on rebuttal of absurd charges, while allowing the charges to pollute the air. This is a defensive strategy. We need counter-attack. Why doesn't someone (nice 527! nice 527!) run a series of ads called .... "The Making of A President" and present a biography of Bush: the lies, the political hack attacks, the shady insider dealings, the corporate favoritism, etc.

The mainstream press (as well as the rightwing pundits) have claimed that Kerry brought the SBVFT on himself because he emphasized his record of service. This argument can be turned around: Bush has brought upon himself a new examination of his character because a character argument is being used against his opponent.

The MoveOn ads I've seen were more like weepies than tough political ads (remember those little kids on the assembly line?). Everybody has got to start thinking offensively here. It is not too late. To do otherwise would be a real strategic failure.

Security for the Convention

There's nothing to compare with watching paranoia do its thing. Anyone in NYC who farts during the next couple of weeks is going to be in danger of being arrested as a bioterrorist. Think I'm joking? I'm not. I'm suggesting a Group Fart as a demonstration.

Here's what I know now about the Big Plan. I watched Ridge, Pataki, and Bloomberg make their announcement from the floor of Madison Square Garden. Security is going to be provided by federal, state and local agencies. On the federal level, he Secret Service, of course; that makes sense because they always protect the president. The FBI wasn't mentioned, but they're certainly around. Homeland Security -- the coast guard, (well, this is a port) and various "classified" agencies -- apparently around 8 of them. On the state level -- the national guard and the state police. Locally, the poor old NYPD, with many of its members in plain clothes, especially on the subways. Plus something very vague about "help" from New Jersey and Connecticut. Who pays for all this? The taxpayers, of course, although Bloomberg made a pitch saying "private contributions" will cover much of the cost of the convention. Everybody made a big pitch about New York being "the safest city in America." Not with all these paranoid nuts around, it isn't.

The fun has already begun. Without announcing in advance that this was going to happen, the streets closest to the Madison Square Garden were suddenly closed off yesterday afternoon, creating an amazing traffic mess. Geez! Nobody's even there yet! I was planning to go to Macy's today, but I don't think I'll be able to get there from here. I was also hoping to sneak some photos of the security in the area. They wouldn't arrest a little old lady with a cane for taking pictures, would they? Yeah, they probably would, or at least take my camera away -- especially since it's a tiny digital camera, and I'd be sneaking around. I might try a bus ride to see how and where the busses are being rerouted, and whether they just stop dead at around 23rd St. There was a wonderful photo in the paper today of -- I guess it's the National Guard with machine guns -- standing at attention at the entrance to Victoria's Secret. Good grief! Who's likely to attack Victoria's Secret?

Yesterday The Union for Peace and Justice, the group planning to bring at least 250,000 people here to protest, lost its court battle to rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The judge said that they waited too long to appeal this to the court system; that they've had since May and waited until a few days before their planned rally, after agreeing to the city's offer to let them march past Madison Square Garden and then down West St. and that it would be too much of a hardship for the city to have to change its plans now. This is at least partly correct; there are many activities planned in the park, including a big race, that would have to be canceled. The entire stupid fight is over whether protecting the grass on the Great Lawn violates their freedom of speech! This is logical? What absolutely nobody is mentioning at all, ever, is that if you go down West Street, over to your right a block or two away, there's a large, beautiful new park with plenty of room -- the Hudson River Park, with plenty of open grass space for a rally. splendid views across the Hudson River, including the Statue of Liberty, the NY Harbor, and Staten Island. It also has new, accessible rest rooms, and if I remember right, the Great Lawn doesn't. The Union for Peace and Justice (why is it that the groups most likely to incite violence seem to always have the word "peace" in their name) says, in a fit of pique about losing the case, that OK, they'll gather at 14th St., march past Madison Sq. Garden, and then the members can go where they want -- presumably up to Central Park -- and the mayor sez anybody's welcome in Central Park, but the city and the group are going to continue negotiating. So -- I either will or will not be able to get out of my apartment (on West St.). Either way, security is already picking up down here in the Village. Walking past the PATH station (subway from New Jersey) on Christopher St., there were so many police yesterday I thought maybe something had happened, but no, it's just "security." No machine guns yet, anyway.

The word is that if you want to get out of the city, the time to do it is today. Tomorrow is expected to be a gridlock day because so many people are planning to leave before the convention. The airports are supposed to be just as bad. A lot of businesses have, at their own expense, wired their employees homes so they'll be able to work at home on computers. NY1, the local news channel, has been featuring advice for those who work at home, so there must be a lot of them. They've also been reporting rumors, like "80 leading anarchists are planning to be here." So what? What's 80 anarchists in a city of 8 million furious New Yorkers? The mood in this neighborhood, Greenwich Village, seems to be "A pox on both your houses!" The Village is a traditional bastion of liberal politics, Lincoln spoke at the Cooper Union, Union Square Park has always been a center for radical speeches and demonstrations, since well before WW I. Neighbors gather outside to discuss things, and even when you're not part of a particular discussion, just walking by you can't miss what they're saying, because they want you to hear them. They are furious. Mad as hornets that the convention is here at all because of the simpering hypocrisy about 9/11 and the government's refusal to honor its financial commitments to the city. The Speaker of the House just remarked on the "unseemly scramble for money" after 9/11 by city officials. The hospitals have collectively announced that they are in no way prepared for a major disaster. Having averaged about 9 million each at their own expense to retrofit their emergency rooms to handle bioterrorism or a "dirty bomb" because they knew they had to do it, they've been given 75,000 each by the Feds and need much more. Then there's the amazing overkill of the security preparations, the bloodlust for violence during the convention so the Republicans can blame the Democrats for it, and the juvenile attitude of the idiots planning to come here to incite violence.


"Christmas in Cambodia": the musical

This "Christmas in Cambodia" bullshit is so funny that we need to get it made into musical or a screwball comedy. Mel Brooks (78 years young) is the right guy for the job. Work in the Dead Kennedys song "Holiday in Cambodia" (thanks Yglesias, don't think that you're not appreciated!) Get "They Might Be Giants" and Jello Biafra to write a few sharp new songs.

The trolls are losing it over this. They think that this is the killer issue, bigger than Watergate, bigger than the Teapot Dome, bigger than Aaron Burr's treason. They think that they've finally found the magic bullet that will kill Kerry and along with him, liberalism.

They're nuts. They're arguing over ten or twenty miles of distance on an unmarked border. They're arguing about a week or two one way or another in a mushy international French-Vietnamese-American holiday season. "On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me", etc. Who cares? What a bunch of bozos.

They're howling at the moon. Pretty soon they're going to start biting themselves. Grab a chair, pop some popcorn, and enjoy the fun.

You've been warned

If it's not one thing it's another. Bush, asteroids, tipping points.

Eli's blog

If you're a center-right Democrat don't bother, but otherwise check out this blog. A rare, genuinely left viewpoint. I love it.

The Lying CReEP...

As he was forced to reign today, Ben Ginsburg, lawyer for the Swift Boat Liars AND the CReEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President) had this to say about his activities for both groups:

"I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen..."

So, lets see if we've got this straight: he was coordinating the non-coordination?

yeah, Riiiiiiight....

A Lie

The entire right-wing Wurlitzer, right-wing blogosphere and cable TV in general has been all over an old statement by John Kerry that he was in Cambodia over Christmas, calling it a "lie" because he was actually there in January.

So how about this? The Left Coaster points out that Bush Lied About His Military Record. And this is not just some mis-statement, this is a flat-out, undeniable lie. The comparison is clear.

Where is the outrage?

Death and the Conservative Guest

Hello, all. Big Dan here, guest blogging thanks to an invite by Dave! Um, so blame him.

He gave me pretty much a carte blanche in terms of topic, so I've settled on my cause celebre, the death penalty. Read, enjoy, let me have it when you're done.


Kelsey Patterson is dead. He died on May 18th of this year.

I doubt, however, that most will mourn him. Indeed, even among those of us who did not want him to die, most would readily admit that the world is a better place without him. He was a brutal killer and not one with whom anyone would easily sympathize.

But, you see, Kelsey Patterson did not just die – we killed him. More specifically, officers in a Texas prison injected him with lethal chemicals, and quietly he met eternity. There are many more who are in a like fashion scheduled to die. Moreover, the relatively new federal crime bill imposes death as a penalty for 50 more crimes, despite recent court-of-law uncertainty about the cruelty of lethal injection itself.

“There is no doubt that Kelsey Patterson shot Louis Oates and Dorothy Harris, and there would appear to be little doubt that mental illness lay behind this tragic crime. He made no attempt to avoid arrest - after shooting the victims, he put down the gun, undressed and was pacing up and down the street in his socks, shouting incomprehensibly, when the police arrived.”

The answer to the question of appropriate punishment comes when we know why we punish and why we killed Kelsey Patterson, mental health issues aside. There are three means of criminal punishment available: probation, incarceration and death. And we rely on only four justifications for those punishments: rehabilitation, deterrence, containment and retribution. Let us look at how the death penalty compares to the four justifications.

First, one can easily reject rehabilitation as an aim. If there is one thing the death penalty surely does not do, it is rehabilitate the person on whom it is imposed. It simply takes that person’s life. The score is now 0 for 1.

The second purpose, deterrence, is trickier. Statistics uniformly show that the condemned on death row did not consider the possibility that they might die for their crimes. In fact, murder rates actually dropped in Canada after the death penalty was repealed and states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than those without (same source).

Interestingly, not even police chiefs themselves think the death penalty is an effective deterrent, in fact ranking it lowest among the tools at the government’s disposal: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/FactSheet.pdf, bottom of page four.

It is also worth noting that one thing we can’t do with those we’ve executed is STUDY them. A better form of deterrence would come in the form of studies done on those found guilty of capital offenses. We could research their motivations, their histories and their methodologies. You can’t do any of that with a corpse.

On an individual level only, I will admit that the death penalty is a wonderful deterrent. That is to say, 100 percent of those executed never committed murder again. The issue there becomes how necessary and worthwhile the death penalty is.

All current statistics show that it is first of all more expensive to execute a person than imprison them for life, even requiring the added cost of creating federal cost-cutting procedures which certainly won’t help the accused get a fair shake. Secondly, as an individual deterrent, life imprisonment serves just as well as execution.

In just 15 years, for instance, Florida spent an estimated $57 million on the death penalty to achieve 18 executions. (Miami Herald, July 10, 1988)

Need more cost-related stats? Let me know. I didn’t want to spam the screen with all the links I could provide. Suffice it to say that the death penalty now rates 0-2.

Let’s move on to the third purpose, containment. Killing for the purpose of containment (the idea that the death penalty will keep criminals from ever killing again) is problematic because it punishes someone for a crime not yet committed. While killing for a future crime may make great theater, and Tom Cruise may be handsome, in real life, you can’t consider someone guilty because they “might” or “probably will” do something wrong in the future.

Since we can keep someone safely behind bars without resorting to the final, irreversible act of killing them, why add the expense of capital crimes costs?


This leaves only retribution. Revenge. The ultimate payback. Revenge is the area that provides the most difficulty for a reasoned debater. Given simple logic, refuting the death penalty is a no-brainer, since it is, at its heart, based on this logical fallacy: We will teach people that killing is wrong by killing them.

However, the compulsion for revenge is at the heart of every execution, and humans find ways to justify what they want. Ever talked yourself into buying a certain car, or eating that fatty meal, or sleeping with a certain member of the opposite sex you knew was bad for you, or killing millions of Jews in the name of racial cleansing? We tend to view our own skewed logic as reasonable when it supports what we want, especially if that is at the core of our being in the way the impulse to exact revenge is.

We need to be sensitive to the feelings of the victims' families, to be sure. Family and friends of murdered loved ones invariably say that they want the murderer executed so that they can achieve a sense of closure and move on with their lives. But many people who've seen the murderers of their loved ones executed say that, after the execution, they are left with that same anger, that same emptiness, and that the void that they thought would be filled by the "justice" of the execution was still there. Not surprisingly, killing the murderer doesn’t make you miss your loved ones any less. Entire books and collections of essays have been written by the families of victims making this point.

The reason for this is simple: if revenge is a dish best served cold, as the Klingons say, then it is also a dish that never satisfies. In fact, it feeds on itself. Gaining revenge only creates the need for more revenge, more acts of seemingly righteous anger.

I remember seeing a mass of what can only be called party-goers at the Ted Bundy execution. A gathering of celebrants danced all night, cheered when the switch was thrown and held signs saying things like “Fry, Bundy, Fry.” These people were not there expressing reasoned opinions on the justice system, they were there celebrating revenge. They were partying. It was remarkably like the scene around the campfire near the end of The Lord of the Flies.

It is common animal nature to resent a hurt done to us, and to want to lash out in return. Just as the kids abandoned on the deserted island in William Golding’s novel reverted to their animal natures, so too did the party-goers celebrating Bundy’s death.

However, a reasoned justice system requires better logic for its executions than the Texan “he needed killin’” response. Official, state-sanctioned revenge is no less evil than me taking a club to a rival’s head in a fit of passion. Revenge is, simply put, antithetical to our ideas about civilized society.

The problem is that “pay back” is politically popular. It reaches to the animal inside us. It gets ratings. It is our country’s dirty little secret. Perhaps instead of banging the cages of the animals inside us, the government would do better to cater to justice for individuals, not the bloodlust of the masses. 0-4.

Having laid that groundwork, we can finally move on to what I see as the real issue surrounding the death penalty. The unfair system would be bad enough if it worked correctly.

It does not.

This product of the Justice System is patently unjust. We won’t ever know if the death penalty would have been a fair punishment, because it has never been utilized fairly.

With word count in mind, I’ll hit these next points speaking to the unfairness of the current system quickly.

The first and most obvious failure of the system is that, inevitably, innocents die. It is presumptuous and, well, silly to pretend it doesn’t ever happen. Since 1973, 114 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. (Latest release: Gordon Steidl, just a few months ago on March 28, 2004)

The question then becomes: Is it worth killing a few innocent folks to make sure we get the really bad ones? The answer? Ask the families of those executed. I’m fairly certain they would rather shut down the unfair system than kill their undeserving loved one.

Secondly, the death penalty is systemically unfair to certain members of society. For instance, the poor can’t afford to hire the legal team O.J. Simpson did. Listen to the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty. . . . I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial." (Associated Press, April 10, 2001)

The ACLU reports that in Illinois alone, at least 33 times, a defendant sentenced to die was represented at trial by an attorney who has been disbarred or suspended. These are sanctions reserved for conduct so incompetent, unethical or criminal that their license is taken away!!

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, states have executed 486 prisoners and have exonerated 75 others. “How can anyone say these are anything but horrible odds,” says famed defense lawyer Barry Scheck. “Divide 75 into 500, it means almost one in six times, we are dead wrong. If you got the wrong results at a hospital one in six times, you’d have no faith in the system,” he says. “You’d demand the hospital be shut down.”

Speaking of O.J. lawyers, it is also clear that not everyone can play the race card the way Johnny Cochran did. In fact, race is part of the problem making the system criminally, fatally and irreversibly unfair.

The Death Penalty Information Center reported as recently as May 19 of this year that over 80 percent of completed capital cases involve white victims, while national numbers also show that 50 percent or less of all murder victims are white. It’s not a long leap to realize that you’re more likely to fry if you kill a white person.

The same study, echoed in research by both Amnesty International and the ACLU, shows that a whopping 42 percent of death row inmates are black. Care to compare that to the percentage of the American population?

While you’re there, just so you don’t think I am personally playing the race card only, take a look at the rates of death as punishment among women, juveniles (yes, kids on death row) and those with mental health problems.

What we have, at the heart of it, is an unjust system, administered unjustly.

A system that will take life must first give justice. --Former ABA President John J. Curtin, Jr., discussing the current movement to reduce the number of appeals, adding to the possibility of innocents executed.

I will believe in the death penalty when you will prove to me the infallibility of human beings. --Marquis de Lafayette

I think they're a bunch of ignorant, backwoods, redneck clowns bent on vengeance. --Freddie Pitts, who spent nine and a half years on Florida's death row before someone else confessed to the murders he was convicted of committing. Pitts was asked his opinion of state legislators who want to speed up the pace of executions.

As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder. --Corretta Scott King

I have observed that it never does a boy much good to shoot him. --President Lincoln on Roswell McIntyre, sentenced to death for desertion

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. --John Donne

Evidence of innocence is irrelevant! -Mary Sue Terry, former Attorney General of Virginia (replying to an appeal to introduce new evidence from a prisoner sentenced to death).

Respectfully submitted,

Big Dan
From What's the Matter with Kansas? (pg 159):
"By spinning his lurid fantasies of victimhood, he makes a valuable contribution to the movement, providing its followers with a basic therapeutic good. Understanding themselves as victims beseiged by a hateful world absolves conservatives of responsibility for what goes on around them. It excuses them for their failures; it justifies the most irresponsible rages; and it allows them, both in politics and in private life, to resolve disputes by pointing their fingers at the outside world and blaminig it all on a depraved liberal elite."

Letter To Bush

The following letter from nine Senators who are also veterans is being delivered to President Bush today, in Crawford, Texas, where he is (as usual) on vacation:
Dear President Bush:

We, the undersigned members of the United State Senate call on you to specifically condemn the recent attack ads and accompanying campaign which dishonor Senator John Kerry’s combat record in the Vietnam War. These false charges represent the worst kind of politics, and we agree with both Senator John McCain and Senator Kerry that a firmly established service record in the United States Military is fully above reproach. As veterans of the armed services, we ask that you recognize this blatant attempt at character assassination, and publicly condemn it.

Our outrage over these advertisements and tactics has nothing to do with the tax code or campaign finance reform efforts of this nation. Our pain from seeing these slanderous attacks stems from something much more fundamental, that if one veteran’s record is called into question, the service of all American veterans is questioned. This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot. The veterans serving today should never have to expect this kind of treatment, when the wars of their generation have passed into history. We brothers and sisters in arms expect our Commander-in-Chief to stand up and reject this assault upon John Kerry’s honor, the honor of American veterans and that of the United States Navy.

As you yourself have said, there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops. The leader so of this nation should make it clear that the members of our military will not only be supported when they wear the uniform, but also when they return home to the land they fought to defend. Their valor and their wounds, both physical and psychological, make them heroes for as long as they live, a status which should not and must not change simply because they seek to enter public service. We who wore the uniform, served in different branches of the military join together today to defend a fellow veteran from attacks we know to be false, and politically-motivated slander. Such attacks have no place in our democratic process.

Mr. President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, we believe you owe a special duty to America’s combat veterans when they are under false and scurrilous attacks. We hope you will recognize this duty, and speak out against this group and their efforts to smear the reputation of a man who has served this country nobly.

Call on this group to cease and desist. We can return this campaign season to a discussion of the issues on either side, and restore faith in the political system. As Americans, we should expect nothing less.


Daniel Inouye
Ernest Hollings
Tom Harkin
Frank Lautenberg
Tom Carper
Jon Corzine
Daniel K. Akaka
Jack Reed
Bill Nelson
I think it's more likely that Bush will run back to the hidey-hole he was in right after 9/11.


The Freeway Blogger. Always.

Why they lie

An interesting exchange from last weeks NOW with Bill Moyers:

BRANCACCIO: And normally we would chide the media for not trying to get to the bottom of these ads. What is the truth here? But I'll tell you, in this Swift Boat case, that's a toughy. I mean, people have tried. And the fact is the information from so many years ago is uneven, is sometimes contradictory. It's hard for a newspaper or a broadcast like this to say, all right, here's really what happened.

JAMIESON: THE WASHINGTON POST and NEW YORK TIMES have done a very good job at getting to what we can reasonably get to in the record. What interests me about it is that you have people on both sides who seem to genuinely believe conflicting accounts. And I think there's an explanation for it.

We know that human memory is fallible. And anybody can go back in their own past and say, there are times when I was so sure this is what happened. And then I talked to other people who were there, and they didn't remember it the same way. I don't think that the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth had any idea who Kerry was when Kerry was on those boats.

He wasn't Senator Kerry or President Kerry, he was just one more person on the boats. I think they went back and recalled their memories of Kerry when he came and protested the war. And I think they were very angry. They came back and thought they heard him accusing them of atrocities. I think this is the explanation for why it is that they believe that he must not have earned his medals even though the evidence would suggest that he did. In order to make their own internal story coherent about Vietnam, they have to somehow reconcile what they heard as an attack on them, what they heard as allegation of atrocities that they had committed, which is different actually I believe from what Kerry said.

But, nonetheless, what I believe they heard and the ads suggest what they heard. They had to reconcile that with Kerry the hero who earned the medals. I believe to make their own story consistent for themselves they believed he couldn't have earned those medals. Hence, he was a liar then. He was a liar when he protested the war. He must be unfit to be President. I think this is an exploration in the process about human memory requires us to create a consistent story, particularly about people we intensely dislike.


527 Lesson

Dionne writes in Wapo today:
If all the stories about what Kerry did in Vietnam are not balanced by serious scrutiny of Bush in the Vietnam years, the media will be capitulating to a right-wing smear campaign. Surely our nation's editors and producers don't want to send a signal that all you have to do to set the media's agenda is spend a half-million bucks on television ads.

Duh! Of COURSE the media will capitulate to a right wing smear campaign. That's a big part of the media's job, here in the USA. That's the bad news. The good news is that Dubya's sleazy past is red meat for a scandal. The SBVFT ruckus means the dirty Bush needs to lap dance for the American public and the Kerry campaign can't set this up -- they'd be caught in the dirtstorm. The Karl Rove playbook would be to orchestrate the sleaze campaign but keep your finger prints off it. The 527 removes the need for any campaign orchestration at all. Just a few big donors, that's all that's needed. Are there any out there who want to tear Dubya a new one? There's just SO much to work with now. For example, this post from juan cole was quite fascinating.

Republicans for Kerry 2004

Republicans for Kerry 2004

The Spite Vote

Digby found this, and I think it just NAILS why a lot of non-rich white males vote Republican and listen to Limbaugh. Just nails it. It's kind of long, but you'll enjoy every line.

Soros vs. Scaife

The Bush team has very deftly redefined the debate over his discredited Swift Boat Liars as a debate about soft money and 527s, and the media seem to be buying his line of bullshit. One name that comes up a lot in the debate is the sinister billionaire George Soros, who (as fully disclosed) has given a lot of money to Move On, an independent group which supports Kerry the way the Swiftboat Liars support Bush (albeit more honestly).

Republicans seem to think that Soros is a villain, and they use his name that way in speeches, but Soros is actually a good guy in a very big way. Like the Republican sugar-daddy Richard Mellon Scaife, he's a billionaire, but the comparison ends there. Soros earned his money, whereas Scaife inherited his, and Soros, unlike Scaife, is mentally stable.

So let's compare the two. Scaife's one accomplishment in life has been the Clinton impeachment. He gave millions of dollars to various slanderers and to investigators who ultimately came up with very little that was solid, but his investments in publicity and propaganda succeeded in keeping the fake scandals alive and almost succeeded in toppling Clinton. He apparently (according to David Brock) had an unhealthy interest in Hillary Clinton's supposed lesbian relationships, and one of the few reporters ever to succeed in talking to him left hurriedly after he called her a "Communist cunt" and threatened her.

But for all his looniness, Scaife has been a powerful force in American politics for well over a decade. A high proportion of America's most noxious right-wing disinformation is produced on his dime, and most of the important contemporary conservatives of our time are deeply in Scaife's debt.

Salon Scaife links / Washington Post on Scaife / Scaife foundations / Scaife bio

George Soros grew up very precariously in WWII Hungary (ruled by a Fascist allied with Hitler), and after the war escaped from Communist Hungary to live in London. He studied there under Karl Popper, his hero, but was not able to continue his studies and went into finance. He has been very successful, turning a few hundred thousand dollars into billions.

Over the last two decades, starting in Poland well before the Berlin Wall fell, he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Open Society Foundation, the purpose of which was to help the ex-Communist world to develop democratic institutions. Soros is anti-Communist, anti-Fascist, and pro-democracy, but he also fears the Christian nationalist free-market fanaticism which dominates the Republican Party.

Soros bio / Soros bio / Soros in Fascist Hungary (search "Soros")

So his new project is to get George W. Bush out of office. The Republicans think that we should be ashamed of Soros' involvement, but we should be proud instead.

Soros is a billionaire, but how can the Republicans possibly complain about that? When he compares the present moment to proto-Fascist Hungary, he isn't just blowing smoke -- he's talking about something he remembers and was lucky to survive. We're in very good company with Soros at our side, and (as you can see below) Soros' Republican critics are in very bad company indeed.

Soros' political activities / Soros' Open Society efforts / Open Society Institute site / Defence of Soros (Eric Alterman, The Nation) / Defence of Soros (Matt Welch, Reason)

Soros' Enemies:

Soros has enemies to be proud of: post-Communist dictators, neo-fascist nationalists, anti-Semites, Likudniks, LaRouchies, and miscellaneous wackos. Here are a few of the dozens of links I have seen.

Especially creepy guest attacks Soros on O'Reilly / Long, creepy American attack on Soros / Uzbek attack / Soviet attack and defence /Ukrainian attack / Macedonian / Serbian attack / Muslim anti-Semitic attack (Mahathir) / Likudnik attack I /Likudnik attack II -- weird accusations / Wacko attack I / Wacko attack II / Wacko attack III / Freeper / Ukrainian attack / Anti-semitic attack I / Anti-semitic attack II

O'Neill Was In Cambodia

O'Neill in Cambodia. This is the guy who has been saying that Kerry is a liar for saying he was in Cambodia and that if Kerry WAS there he should have been courtsmarshalled.

So, of course, now they found a tape of O'Neill, from before all of this Kerry smear stuff, saying he was in Cambodia.

But I'm not pasing this along to refute the Swift Boat liars. I'm passing this along to remind you of the bigger picture: THEY JUST LIE!

THAT is all you have to remember when dealing with the Right. THEY JUST LIE!

From March:
Listen, there is something we all need to get through our heads. They just lie.

If the Bush people did a focus group and found out that people would vote against him [Kerry] because he owns a miniature green Chinese monkey with an earring, THEN WE WOULD BE HEARING THAT KERRY HAS A MINIATURE GREEN CHINESE MONKEY WITH AN EARRING! They are making it up, they are lying, they are going to say and do ANYTHING. OK? They just lie. Get used to it.

They just lie. So don't be surprised and don't be shocked. And most of all, don't start responding by trying to disprove their charges and going through all the points and specifics and particulars! YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT THE CHARGES THEY WILL MAKE TOMORROW AND NEXT WEEK ARE FALSE. OK?

They just lie. What have I been telling you since day one of Seeing the forest? THEY JUST LIE. See the Forest, don't get bogged down with trees. See the bigger picture. If you get all bogged down trying to argue each point or disprove each lie you are going to be 100 lies behind by the time you refute the first point of the very first lie.

They just lie. Remember the lead-up to Iraq, all nicely timed for the 2002 election? They just lie. Remember what they said about why we need tax cuts? They just lie. Remember what they said about Al Gore? They just lie. Remember what they said about Clinton?

They just lie. We know it. So when do we figure out that they just lie? When we do figure it out, THEN maybe we can start responding effectively, instead of getting all bogged down in the lies each and every time. The public needs to understand that they just lie, and the things they say should just be ignored. THAT is where we should be spending our time.

(Does repetition work? Tell me what they do.)
In March I said everything you needed to know to be ready for this current smear. "YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT THE CHARGES THEY WILL MAKE TOMORROW AND NEXT WEEK ARE FALSE. OK?"

Maybe I could put a tune behind that. What would I name it? How about ... wait for it ...


Rules for Being a Republican

At the Daily Weasel

See ya after the game

I posted the message below on our comments in response to a well-intended undecided visitor who thought we were acting a little hostile:

"One thing you should remember is that we're in approximately the middle of the third quarter, and we're two points ahead of a team that we think won by cheating the last time we played, and we are worried that the referees are siding with the other team.

So if we seem a bit touchy, it's because we are.

And I think that most of us think that this is the most important election since at least 1980."

As Newt Gingrich explained long ago, we're in a war. In the heat of battle sometimes we snap on people a bit more quickly than we should.

I snap on people a LOT, and I suppose I'm wrong 5-10% of the time. As Newt Gingrich explained long ago, we're in a war. I try to avoid collateral damage, but now and then I screw up.

Daily Summary E-Mailed to You

You can have a daily summary of Seeing the Forest e-mailed to you. In the right-side column, scroll down until you see "Enter your email address below to subscribe to Seeing the Forest!", enter your e-mail address into the text-entry area, and click the "Subscribe" button.

"Smearing the President"

On radio and cable TV all the Republicans are repeating today's talking point -- Kerry is "smearing the President."


Look What I Found

I just came across a site called Exxon Secrets, How ExxonMobil funds the climate change skeptics.
Here's an August 10 op-ed, In the Cold War, Kerry Froze, implying Kerry committed treason:
"Reagan also put the U.S. on the ideological offensive when he branded the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But Kerry's harshest words were reserved for our own country, which he accused — during his years as an antiwar leader — of "crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

He is on the faculty of the Institute of World Politics. Funded by, of course, the usual suspects..

Smearing George Soros in the Wall Street Journal,
"Cold as he is toward the Jewish people, Mr. Soros is not much warmer toward his adopted country. [. . .] This self-imagined messiah has now come to save the world from the America of George W. Bush and its war against terrorism."

adjunct scholar The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Some of their fiunding is shown here.

Let's Review the Big Picture

Let's see the forest, instead of nitpicking the trees for a minute, and look at some of the bigger pictures.

Kerry volunteered to serve, volunteered to go to Vietnam and then volunteered for Swift Boat duty. Bush's view of service was, quote, "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

Republicans smear people.

The Daily Kerry


When John Kerry decided it was time to do his first national TV interview since the Swift boaters for Bush launched their attack on the senator's Vietnam War record, he did not choose CBS's "60 Minutes," ABC's "Nightline" or "NBC Nightly News."

Kerry picked Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," where he will appear tonight in an extended interview.

Now I bet you feel terrible that you dismissed as fools those TV critics who, back in July, collectively crowned "The Daily Show" the year's best news and information program. I know I do.


Unfortunate headline,over at South Knox Bubba

An E-mail

An e-mail I received:
Bill's cuckoo clock stopped keeping time correctly, so he took it to a repair shop. The old shopkeeper asked in a heavy German accent, "Vat sims to be ze problem?"

Bill replied, "It doesn't work right. Instead of going tick tock tick tock, it just goes tick tick tick."

The old German rummaged behind the counter. He pulled out a flashlight and walked over to the clock. Shining the beam directly on the clock face, he said in menacing tones, "Ve haff vays of making you tock!"

Soros, Scaife, and 527's

The Swift Boat Veterans's initial foray was not really well recived, mostly because it was full of lies and because and number of new witnesses (not just the Kerry people) have come forward to denounce it. The Bush administration have has responded by making a generic attack on 527's and "soft money" -- without criticizing the SBV's. This is pure deception -- the Republicans like soft money just fine -- but a lot of the media swallowed it, so many people now believe that Bush has distanced himself from the Swift Boat Liars.

P.S. The attacks on Kerry's medals, etc., were just round one, of course. They were only intended to set up the attack on Kerry's post-service opposition to the Vietnam war (which Sen. Dole recently kicked off). This is a legitimate political issue for a change, though we can still expect gutter politics from the Bush team.

I also think that this is an issue which could blow up in Bush's face. The people who hate Kerry for his opposition to the Vietnam War are mostly over fifty, and almost all of them are already in Bush's camp. Kerry's anti-war activity is something he can be proud of, and now that the war fever has died down and we can see what a failure Bush's Iraq War is, it seems to me that Kerry can turn this one around too.

Update on Protest Plans for the Convention

If you're here for the convention and need a break, check out this show:


The Anti-War Movement Illustrated

Chisholm Gallery
56 West 22nd Street, 2nd Fl.
New York City, NY 10010

Opening Reception August 24th, 7-9 PM
August 24 - September 3

An exhibition of more than 40 images, including international poster art from the book "Peace Signs: the Anti-war Movement Illustrated.

I'll post more about what's happening later. Meanwhile, however, I promised that I'd say something about the New York City police department. Having already been intimidated by vivid news reports of drills to prepare for breaking heads, we're now being intimidated by news reports featuring an army of police that has already been assigned to the area around Madison Square Garden. This doesn't exactly make the NYC department look particularly benign or helpful. This is not their fault. They have to go where they are assigned -- and do what they are assigned to do.

In spite of this, it's quite safe to ask a NYC policeman for help or directions. The department has certainly had its bad moments, but the police here are the best educated, the best trained you'll find anywhere. Right now they are serving in spite of the fact that they haven't had a contract for two years. Neither has the fire department. This is how we treat our heros! Considering their service and sacrifice on 9/11, they deserve a lot better treatment than they are getting. This city got through the period immediately after 9/11 largely because of the calm, professional -- and remarkably helpful -- service of the police department, in spite of their terrible, unnerving losses on that day. There was no panic and no looting. We were living in wartime conditions, especially down here where i live, and we wouldn't have made it through without their help.

I lost a good friend on 9/11, an upstairs neighbor, a policeman who, among other services, had served for a year in Special Forces in Bosnia, returned home, and was on the bomb squad, about the most dangerous job available. We were evacuated and the super said don't worry, Danny will take care of us, he'll be back soon, but of course he never came back. We still all miss him and feel a lot less safe without him here. I've never met a sweeter, nicer guy -- but I do know others on the police force who are just as good as he was.

So be nice! Instead of deliberately antagonizing the police here, try talking to them. They're not the enemy. They're just people, just like the rest of us. And like the rest of us, they're being used as pawns in this political battle.


Best Blog Nominations

The Washington Post is taking nominations for Best Blog, in a number of categories.

Click here:

Headline of the Week!

A great headline over at BuzzFlash: "Senate Republicans Weigh Dismantling CIA. Last Week, They Were Going to Dismantle the IRS. Hey, How About Dismantling the Republican Party. "

Not Yet

I left a comment somewhere, about the Swift Boat stuff. I think we're all being a little bit too self-referential here in the blogosphere when we think we're making headway against this smear. This is not how I felt listening to the radio over the weekend. Anyway, here's the comment:
I'm surprised how few on "our side" understand what is happening here. We are still losing this.

Tune in your AM radio today and see what I mean. It DOESN'T MATTER what editorial writers say. It DOESN'T MATTER what mainstream press people write. This is not where the people who are Bush's TARGET AUDIENCE are getting their info.

Remember, a poll LAST WEEK showed that 50% of the public still believes that Iraq was either behind 9/11 directly, or was a principal partner with al-Quaida. This demonstrates that we are not understanding the channels through which about half of America is getting its information, and the Republicans do.
Half the public thinks Iraq was behind 9/11. (Another poll last week - the same poll? - also showed that half the public believes that Iraq HAD weapons of mass destruction before the war.) This should tell you that half of the public not only is not getting their information from the same sources as you and me, they are not even getting their information on the same PLANET as you and me!

Do you think the veterans, who have shown a 24-point swing away from Kerry in the polls in the last couple of weeks, are even hearing ANY of the counter-smear stuff we are all so happy about? Or the swing voters in swing states? Not many.

I think the "Democratic Establishment" have failed to address the real problem -- that the Right has spent decades learning how to influence and persuade large segments of the public. I think this happened "under the radar" of the Washington Democrats, and they still do not understand why they have been losing elections. They do not understand how thoroughly much of the public has bought into the Right's ideology.

Taking this beyond the current swift-boat smear and into the broader context of the problem the Democrats have been having reaching the public -- when you appeal to people's desire for "fairness," "equality," "Democracy" and "sense of community" you had better first be sure that they understand and WANT these things. I think that the Right has changed the equation. It is no longer a safe assumption that Democracy, community, fairness and equality are basic, common, shared values in America. It is no longer safe to assume these are shared premises upon which you can base your arguments.

Meat-Eaters Soak Up the World's Water

Meat-Eaters Soak Up the World's Water:
"Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 liters [1,100 gallons] of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 liters used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries. All that water has to come from somewhere.

The consensus emerging among scientists is that it will be almost impossible to feed future generations the typical diet eaten in western Europe and North America without destroying the environment. "
And never forget the cruelty with wchich we raise and kill the animals in our factory farms.

The Republican Party as a Cult

Ideology -- following any ideology -- is, to some extent, a retreat from reality.

Have you ever tried to argue with a neo-conservative? It's hopeless. Utterly hopeless. It's possible to argue with Roman Catholics, even about touchy subjects like abortion, and get reasonable explanations. It's possible to argue with even the most devout members of other mainstream religions, to argue with members of the various New Age groups. But don't bother to try arguing, or even discussing, anything with members of the more extreme evangelical groups. It's like talking to the Living Dead. I don't know where the figure "40% of the population" comes from, but this is being used for the number of people in the US who now belong to these groups, and they are assumed to be the Republican base. If this is correct, we're in real trouble, because there's no rational way to get through to them without deprogramming them.

What are the characteristics of cult members? Using the members of the extreme evangelical groups as the primary example, above all, a self-justified feeling that everyone else is wrong and they are right. They know the truth, the whole God-given truth, and those who don't believe them are going to Hell or worse. Thus they withdraw as much as possible from the rest of society because society is corrupt and may corrupt them. These are the home schoolers whose children must not be exposed to corrupt society, and they have established their own colleges and universities, so generations of them have no idea how the rest of society functions. These are usually very nice people, extremely helpful because being helpful is usually part of their belief system, kind to their families and friends -- but God help you if you inadvertently trample on any of their beliefs or refuse to be converted. You have shown that you are one of the Damned, worthless, to be despised and exploited.

At various times and places spirituality has included, and can still include, such practices as human sacrifice, using the sacrificed as fertilizer, murder, suicide, suicide and mass murder by crashing planes into buildings, cannibalism, animal sacrifice, various forms of physical mutilation including circumcision, castration, burning oneself alive, walking across burning coals, whipping oneself until one bleeds, ritual bloodletting often involving tongue or penis, sleeping on a bed of nails, lust for apocalyptic end times, martyrdom, being joyfully fed to lions, disposing of one’s possessions, becoming a beggar, purposefully living in total isolation under extreme conditions in caves, on top of poles, in cells, in the desert, living with lions or other dangerous wild animals, identification with wild animals or birds, becoming a hermit, not speaking for the rest of one’s life, sitting in one spot for days, extreme self-denial, fasting to the point of death, banning particular foods, sexual abstinence, sexual excess, sexual ecstasy, various forms of intoxication, exorcism of various kinds of demons or spirits of the dead, and the list goes on and on. Make no mistake about it; however crazy these practices may seem to us, many of these practices continue in various societies, including ours, to this day, and vestiges of them continue in even the most civilized spiritual practices, often barely noticed and rarely commented on. Also, make no mistake about the fact that all these practices have been considered to be of extreme spiritual value, many still are – and, within the context in which they were experienced, they probably did have extreme spiritual value. One could argue that religion exists as a means of controlling the irrational -- and, at other times, for making expressing the irrational socially acceptable.

So -- what is the relationship between the Republican Party and this particular kind of religious group? Those of us who don't belong to groups of this type, and have little contact with them except to be occasionally baffled, have no idea what's really going on. G.W. Bush himself was converted by such a group and attributes his sobriety to them. What does this mean for foreign policy? I haven't read any of the popular novels about the Rapture, with a macho Christ vengefully punishing the Unbelievers while the Believers blissfully float heavenward, but I do know that one of the main tenets of belief in the End Times is that the Jews must be in Israel. We are still so close to the year 2000 and its irrational expectation of the End Times that apocalyptic visions as the basis for foreign policy are especially dangerous. NYC's democratic ex-Mayor Ed Koch is planning to vote for Bush because he believes that Bush will stand firmly behind Israel. Perhaps he should look into the reasons why Bush is likely to do this and consider the value of a more rational approach to solving the problems of the Middle East than the beliefs of those who are capable of blowing up the world, not just the Middle East, thinking they are bringing about the Rapture.

An equally dangerous aspect of the attitude of G.W. Bush and his fellow believers is that they are convinced that they have the TRUTH, and that if they have any doubts they have only to use their direct pipeline to God to get the TRUTH. Anyone who disagrees with anything they believe, no matter how minor or silly, is thus absolutely wrong, an unbeliever, and damned. Thus their total vindictiveness. This attitude allows for no correcting errors, no reality testing. The fact that other members of the administration are not members of evangelical groups makes little difference. Many of them are firm believers in the philosophy of Leo Strauss and thus cynically believe they should encourage and exploit the "believers" because, to them, religion IS the opiate of the people, and the "masses" should be kept sedated so they will be easier to manipulate. And just who are the "masses?" That's us, folks, you and me, and everybody we know who is not a member of that select elite. On the one hand despised as damned if we don't "convert," and on the other hand cynically manipulated.


Did the Swiftboat story get turned around?

Granted that TV and talk radio are more important than print, and granted that some of the mud always sticks, tonight's Google News front page Kerry headline group is mostly pro-Kerry / anti-Swiftboat Vets. If the story can be turned around -- "Attempt to Slander Kerry Fails" rather than "Questions Raised about Kerry's Record" -- then Kerry wins.

There were a handful of neutral and negative headlines, but here are twelve of the first fifteen stories (about 7:30 PM PDT, August 22nd):

Kerry accuser 'has no proof'

Eyewitnesses only proof for claim Kerry lied - Vietnam vet

Fellow skipper throws Kerry lifeline

Bush campaign denies 'smear tactics'

Bush campaign aide resigns amid controversy over campaign ads

Kerry ad calls on Bush to 'denounce the smear'

Vietnam Vet Says Has No Proof for Claim Kerry Lied

Vietnam vet rises to defend Kerry

Dallas PR maven helps vets make case against Kerry

Comrade vouches for Kerry valor in Vietnam

Volunteer aide to Bush campaign quits

Kerry Challenges Bush to Halt `Smear Campaign' by Vietnam Vets

Google News: Kerry Story

(P. S. I unconsciously plagiarized the concept of this post from from Digby.)