Thoughts on the Debate

I'm not sure what else there is to say about the debates, other than the fact that I thought Kerry was far and away more "Presidential" than Bush. I felt that Kerry had a much better grasp on some of the issues, particularly North Korea and nuclear proliferation than Bush. He answered confidently and looked good. Bush, on the other hand, didn't seem to know where he was going when he started an answer--lots of awkward silence. Oh, and "It's hard work" is not an appropriate response, nor is it an excuse, for the problems we are facing in the world today. I don't know how many times Bush said, "Hey, it's hard work"--at least a dozen. Seems like most people agree Kerry won, at least in the initial, unscientific polls thus far released. I think that this a big shift for the Kerry campaign, especially considering this was supposed to be Bush's strong point. I hope that most people will see what I think is obvious: John Kerry is a better candidate that George Bush.

Up is Down

This is ridiculous. The headline reads, "Poll Finds Support for Bush's Handling of Iraq." Here are the poll results:
Of 508 state residents polled Sept. 15-21, 43% said Bush was doing an excellent or good job dealing with Iraq, while 56% said his work was fair or poor. In June, 39% said Bush was doing an excellent or good job; 60% chose fair or poor. Since last October, those figures have not changed much.
The first two paragraphs of the story bury the fact that the majority of people polled disapprove of the President's Iraq policy, opting instead to focus on the fact that slightly more people support his policies now than from a few months ago. In the second paragraph, we are presented with this gem of distortion:
The poll also found strong belief that America would not have gone to war in either Iraq or Afghanistan if Democrat candidate John Kerry had been president. Just 15% said the United States would have invaded Iraq and 29% said it would have warred with Afghanistan.
WTF is this? A strong belief is now constituted by 15% or 29% of the population believing something? Finally, there is this:
If anything, the results show the public has not turned its back on the war in Iraq. Plenty of people support its basic principles, although there is discontent over its progress. That complicates Kerry's efforts to convince voters that Bush should be tossed out of office for pursuing the "wrong war" in Iraq, said pollster G. Donald Ferree Jr. of the University of Wisconsin Survey Center in Madison.
If anything? Plenty of people? Are we talking about the same poll? It is true that the approval for Bush's handling of the war increased from June (ed. note: Earth to Wisconsin??!!). However, a majority (56%) of people still feel Bush's policies in Iraq are fair or poor. So why is the headline and lead of the story positive for Bush? Since when is it good for Bush that a minority of people in WI believe he is handling the war well, and a majority think he is handling it bad?

The Reality of Iraq

Since we are likely to be presented two different pictures of Iraq during this evening's debate, I thought it would be interesting to highlight a journalist's perspective of everday living in post-war Iraq.
Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second. It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.
The author writes for The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper largely supportive of the war and the Administration's policies in Iraq.

My Yahoo! - New and Improved

I'd like to recommend the new and improved My Yahoo!, which now offers blog feeds and much greater content options. New colors, too.

Bush Supporters Don't Know Bush

This Administration often pushes policy by misinforming the public about a) their real intentions, and b) the real outcomes. As a result, its not a surprise to readthis.
As the nation prepares to watch the presidential candidates debate foreign policy issues, a new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll finds that Americans who plan to vote for President Bush have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions. Kerry supporters, on the other hand, are largely accurate in their assessments. The uncommitted also tend to misperceive Bush’s positions, though to a smaller extent than Bush supporters, and to perceive Kerry’s positions correctly. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: “What is striking is that even after nearly four years President Bush’s foreign policy positions are so widely misread, while Senator Kerry, who is relatively new to the public and reputed to be unclear about his positions, is read correctly.” Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%). They were divided between those who knew that Bush favors building a new missile defense system now (44%) and those who incorrectly believe he wishes to do more research until its capabilities are proven (41%). However, majorities were correct that Bush favors increased defense spending (57%) and wants the US, not the UN, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (70%).
These are probably the same people, by the way, who still believe Iraq had something to do with 9/11. (via daily kos

How to Debate George Bush

Al Gore writes in to today's Times, offering John Kerry advice about How to Debate George Bush. Let me summarize it for you in my own words. 1) Don't sigh loudly and frequently whenever George Bush gives his answer (no matter how bad you want to). We all feel the same way you do, but its unbecoming. 2) Don't look stiff and awkward in one debate, and then too angry in another, and finally act just right in the last debate. Consistency is key. 3) Don't assume that just because George Bush doesn't have to tell the truth about his policies, that you don't either. The media and the Republicans won't let you get away with it. Actually, Gore didn't mention any of these things, but he should have. If he wouldn't have sighed too much in the first debate of 2000, and had not presented three different personas in three different debates, he very well might have become President. Alas, he didn't, and isn't. Nevertheless, if I were John Kerry, I'd read what he has to say anyway.

Crawford, TX Paper Endorses Kerry

Ooh. This stings:
CRAWFORD, Texas - A weekly newspaper that bills itself as President Bush (news - web sites)'s hometown paper endorsed John Kerry (news - web sites) for president, saying the Massachusetts senator will restore American dignity. [...] The Iconoclast, established in 2000, said it endorsed Bush that year. It also said it editorialized in support of the invasion of Iraq, and publisher W. Leon Smith promoted Bush and the invasion in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview, believing Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) possessed weapons of mass destruction. "Instead we were duped into following yet another privileged agenda," the editorial said. The newspaper praised Kerry for "30 years of experience looking out for the American people" and lauded his background as "a highly decorated Vietnam veteran."

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

From Time Magazine:
President Bush and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insisted last week that Iraq would go ahead with elections scheduled for January, despite continuing violence. But U.S. officials tell TIME that the Bush team ran into trouble with another plan involving those elections — a secret "finding" written several months ago proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favored by Washington. A source says the idea was to help such candidates — whose opponents might be receiving covert backing from other countries, like Iran — but not necessarily to go so far as to rig the elections. But lawmakers from both parties raised questions about the idea when it was sent to Capitol Hill. In particular, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi "came unglued" when she learned about what a source described as a plan for "the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections." Pelosi had strong words with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a phone call about the issue.
It's no wonder Rumsfeld had this to say about the prospects for elections in Iraq:
"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said Thursday, hours after the leaders of the United States and Iraq met in Washington. "Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.
This wouldn't be the first time that the CIA has influenced an election to Washington's advantage. The big problem in Iraq, though, is that we have overused the democracy rhetoric so much, that Bush talks about Iraq as though it were the Platonic Ideal of a democratic country. Sure, people in this country eat it up, but the rest of the world is not fooled. More importantly, the Iraqis are especially not fooled. Rumsfeld's comments were bad enough, but when taken together with this story it is virtually impossible to win the hearts and minds of the Middle East. And we were already in a huge hole thanks to such gems as Abu Ghraib! I think Bush has talked himself into a corner. The democracy/freedom/liberty rhetoric was always meant for us, anyway. The problem is that the rest of the world was listening, and the Iraqi's now have expectations of democracy/freedom/liberty. Realistically, this was never a viable outcome in the first place, which Bush knew, but it was the best way to sell the carnage back home. Unfortunately, it is the Iraqi's who are left out to dry--their democracy was never going to be anything other than smoke and mirrors. Juan Cole has some thoughts on this, too, especially on who Iran might influence in the election.

Thoughts on the Election

Heraldblog points out that an overwhelming number of American-Muslims support John Kerry (76%) over President Bush (7%). This is big news when you consider:
“This contrasts sharply with the 2000 election, when Mr. Bush garnered 42% of the Muslim vote versus 31% for Democrat Al Gore,” said Dr. Zahid Bukhari, director of Project MAPS.
In other words, a significant portion of the electorate that voted for Bush is not supporting his re-election by an overwhelming amount. Considering how close the last election was, and how close this election appears to be, this is quite significant. It is numbers like these that make me confident that John Kerry will still win on November 2. If Bush wins, he will have to sneak in again. I think Kerry will either win by a small margin or he'll win comfortably. Why? Because a greater percentage of the population does not believe this country is headed in the right direction, and more people disapprove of the President than approve. These reasons, along with the fact that the President has lost the support of the Muslim vote, and has not overwhelmingly secured the Latino vote make me think that Bush is really vulnerable. And if you consider these numbers on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the evidence is even more convincing. But why aren't these trends showing up in the head to head national/state polls? I'm not sure...I think at this point it is too early to get an accurate indication from the polls, which have proven remarkably inconsistent--a sign I think illustrates how close the race is right now. This is not to say Bush will definitely lose. I'm just pointing out that Kerry, in my opinion, still has the advantage. After the debates, it might be smart to re-examine these numbers and see how they change based on the impressions voters have of the two candidates.

Live Message Alerts

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Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail

You might have seen or heard about The New York Times Magazine's recent look at liberal bloggers and their growing influence on politics. If you haven't read it, I think you'll find it really interesting, especially if you read blogs like daily kos, Talking Points Memo, and Wonkette. Overall, I found the article entertaining, mostly because I found it interesting to read about the personalities behind the words I read every day. From the standpoint of how blogs were depicted, though, I think the article could have been a little better. Klam likens the influence of liberal blogs to the influence of AM talk radio for the right. While this is probably an apt comparison from the standpoint that both embolden political support, it is not true on a very important point--backing up allegations. Rush Limbaugh can say whatever he wants on the radio and his listeners have no way of verifying the veracity of his statements. Bloggers, on the other hand, usually link to the story they are commenting on. In many cases, I have read commentary about an article in a blog only to disagree with it after actually reading the article. I think this is an important feature of blogs as a tool for proliferating news that is sorely lacking in AM radio. The other thing I haven't agreed with in the recent spate of mainstream coverage on blogs is the emphasis placed on their "gossipy" nature. Sure, Wonkette is fun to read, but it is mostly entertainment. It is certainly an element of the political blogosphere, but it is far from the most important development of political blogs, in my opinion. The most important development, I believe, is the way that blogs like kos and atrios have raised large amounts of money for underfunded candidates across the country. People may not realize that a small Congressional election in Ohio makes a difference nationally, but it does. It might dictate who controls the House or Senate, which is a major part of this election cycle. By drawing attention to these types of races, blogs have allowed underfunded opponents to be competitive. Blogs have also helped with federal elections. For example, Howard Dean owes the fact that he is a national figure to blogs, and Atrios has raised over $250, 000 for the Kerry campaign! For me, this is the way blogs are revolutionizing politics. As more and more money gets poured into the blogosphere, enabling people like Josh Marshall, Markos, and Duncan Black to blog professionally, I think we will continue to see blogs increase their influence in the political process. With more legitimacy, blogs will be able to be a more effective check on the mainstream media, as well as a source of attention for important issues. I think that we'll continue to see an increase in political donations from the blogosphere, as well. Some people believe that blogs are at the height of their popularity and influence, but I tend to disagree. I think that the blogosphere still has a lot of room to evolve, and the only question is how fast and in which direction will develop.

Good Reads

The Far East links to "The Long Hunt for Osama", an article in this month's Atlantic Monthly. The article is written by Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert that interviewed bin Laden in 1997, and it details our efforts to find the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, as well as why it is so difficult to find him. According to Bergen, bin Laden is likely alive and well somewhere in the Northwest Tribal Provinces of Pakistan. If this is the case, it will likely take a lot of luck to find him. What I found really interesting is what might happen if we do catch him:
Osama bin Laden may eventually be apprehended, or he may eventually be killed. A U.S. intelligence official told me that little thought has been given in Washington to what happens next. Which outcome is more desirable? What are the implications of either of those outcomes? If bin Laden is captured alive, for instance, where should he be put on trial? A case could be made that he be tried by an international tribunal, similar to those set up for crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. And a useful precedent exists for handling a captured bin Laden: the pictures beamed around the world after Saddam Hussein's capture, of Saddam submitting to a doctor's probings, did more than anything else to puncture the Iraqi dictator's mystique. Similar pictures would do much to deflate bin Laden's mythic persona. Of course, on several occasions bin Laden has said that he's prepared to die in his holy war—a statement that should be taken at face value. Khalid Khawaja, the former Pakistani military-intelligence official who has known bin Laden for almost two decades, told me, "He will never be captured. He's not Saddam Hussein. He's Osama. Osama loves death." In the short term bin Laden's death would probably trigger violent anti-American attacks around the globe. In the medium term it would be a serious blow to al-Qaeda, which depends to a critical degree on the charisma of its leader. But in the long term bin Laden's "martyrdom" would most likely give an enormous boost to the power of his ideas. Sayyid Qutb, generally regarded as the Lenin of the jihadist movement, was a relatively obscure writer before the Egyptian government executed him, in 1966. After his death his writings, which called for offensive holy wars against the enemies of Islam, became enormously influential. The same thing would happen after bin Laden's death, but to an infinitely greater degree.
Great. This is just one of the many great articles in the last couple Atlantic Monthly's. In the current issue, James Fallows examines "Bush's Lost Year", which is the year after 9/11 when the planning for the Iraq War diverted our attention from bin Laden and al Qaeda. I though this was really interesting:
As a political matter, whether the United States is now safer or more vulnerable is of course ferociously controversial. That the war was necessary—and beneficial—is the Bush Administration's central claim. That it was not is the central claim of its critics. But among national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy. Except for those in government and in the opinion industries whose job it is to defend the Administration's record, they tend to see America's response to 9/11 as a catastrophe. I have sat through arguments among soldiers and scholars about whether the invasion of Iraq should be considered the worst strategic error in American history—or only the worst since Vietnam. Some of these people argue that the United States had no choice but to fight, given a pre-war consensus among its intelligence agencies that Iraq actually had WMD supplies. Many say that things in Iraq will eventually look much better than they do now. But about the conduct and effect of the war in Iraq one view prevails: it has increased the threats America faces, and has reduced the military, financial, and diplomatic tools with which we can respond. "Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If I can be blunt, the Administration is full of shit. In my view we are much, much worse off now than when we went into Iraq. That is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are incompetent, and I have had a very close perspective on what is happening. Certainly in the long run we have harmed ourselves. We are playing to the enemy's political advantage. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this will prove to be a strategic blunder."
Wow. Even though I think Bush doesn't deserve re-election regardless of what he did in Iraq, the fact is, I think, that had Bush not gone to war in Iraq (or even planned it better) he would be sleep walking to re-election. The other article I strongly recommend is also by Fallows, although it is in last month's edition of the magazine. Its called, "When George Meets John", and it looks at the debating history of the two Presidential candidates. Fallows does a pretty good job of sinking the stereotype that Bush is a horrible debater, and anyone who thinks that Kerry will talk circles around Bush should really read this article. That being said, Kerry is a pretty formative opponent, too. I think the major difference in these debates for Bush, is that he is running on a record, where as in 2000 and in 1994, he ran as a reformer/outsider. It is much easier to debate in that context than when you have four years of baggage around your neck (in 1998, Bush won reelection as Governor, but his opponent was not that good so I don't really count those debates). Thursday's debate is on foreign policy, which means Iraq will be the center of attention. I'm probably biased, but I can't see how Iraq is defensible at this point. If Kerry can keep his attacks succinct and persuasive, and look like he knows what he is doing, he should be able to make a pretty strong case that Bush has f'd things up badly. That being said, there are a number of X factors that might turn the tide of the debate. Will one candidate look sluggish? Will someone glance at his watch or sigh? Who will have the best soundbyte? These things aren't as important as the actual issues of the debate, but are usually the things that turn voters on or off to a particular candidate.

Cole: What if America were Iraq?

A must read:
President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country. What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number. Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll. And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco? What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria? What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units? There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities? What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?
There is more...check it out for yourself.

It's a Wild World for Cat Stevens, who is in Trouble and Miles from Nowhere.

Maybe they wanted an autograph:
A London-to-Washington flight was diverted to Maine on Tuesday when it was discovered passenger Yusuf Islam — formerly known as singer Cat Stevens — was on a government watch list and barred from entering the country, two federal officials said. United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport when the match was made between a passenger and a name on the watch list, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. The plane was met by federal agents at Maine's Bangor International Airport around 3 p.m., Melendez said. The two federal officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the passenger as Islam. They said Islam was denied entry on national security grounds, but had no details about why the peace activist might be considered a risk to the United States. [...] The second official, who is in law enforcement and spoke anonymously because of agency policy, said Islam was questioned by FBI (news - web sites) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. After the interview, Customs officials decided to deny Islam entry into the United States. He was expected to be returned early Wednesday to London, the official said. [...] He has criticized terrorist acts by Muslims, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the school seizure in Beslan, Russia, earlier this month that left more than 300 dead, nearly half of them children. In a statement on his Web site, he wrote, "Crimes against innocent bystanders taken hostage in any circumstance have no foundation whatsoever in the life of Islam and the model example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him." After the Sept. 11 attacks, Islam issued a statement saying: "No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: The Quran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity."
Cat Stevens was denied entry to the United States as a threat to national security. Do you feel any safer now? Two things: First, the man who wrote Peace Train and Morning Has Broken is not a terrorist even though his name is Yusuf Islam. Secondly, why did it take until the plane was half way over the Atlantic to determine that a passenger on the no-fly list was on board? I thought the whole point of the no-fly list was, you know, to not let certain people fly!! Jesus. Cat Stevens is one of my all time favorite musicians. I highly doubt he posed any threat to anyone. Sure, there was that ignorant backing of the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie a few years ago, but he later admitted that he was ill informed about the whole thing. These days, he writes children's music and donates his royalties to charity. And now, apparently, he's doing some jihad on the side. Right. P.S. One of the best Onion pieces I've ever seen was when they had a headline reading: "Cat Stevens declares jihad on James Taylor."

Cynical electorate? never.

Juan Cole has a sinking feeling:
I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place. How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?
Unfortunately, I think Cole might be on to something. It also might explain why so many people don't seem to have a problem with a President unwilling to admit mistakes, while everything he enacted falls apart.

Kerry on Iraq

I strongly suggest you take a few minutes to read John Kerry's speech today on Iraq. It is the clearest indication of what Kerry will do with this mess, and it also provides an important run-down of the mistakes and miscalculations the Administration has made over the course of the last two years.

Packers vs. Bears

So far I have really enjoyed living on the West Coast, and I'm sure it will get better once I am completely settled. One thing that will take a lot of getting used to, though, is the fact that football games start at 10am on Sunday mornings. On the one hand, I have to get up and find a bar earlier than I might on any other day of the week. On the other hand, it means a good brunch and Bloody Marys. In the end, it isn't that big of a deal. Tomorrow morning, assuming that the Packer-Bear game is not the local game in Oakland, I'll be heading to a local establishment, bright and early, to secure a seat for the game. I found this handy resource that every Packer fan should know about. Don't leave home without it. The Packers vs. Bears games are always the highlight of the schedule for me. In recent years, it has usually meant easy wins for the Pack. Given southeastern Wisconsin's close proximity to Illinois, there are a good number of Bears fans to kick around. I remember when I was younger, when the Bears usually beat the Packers, we would have Packer-Bear day at my grade school. On this day we were able to wear Packers or Bears clothing. It was one of the only days all year that we could wear something other than our school uniform. You get the picture, its a big rivalry.

GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles

Beware of liberals:
WASHINGTON - Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee (news - web sites) warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November. The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda." Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Friday that he wasn't aware of the mailing, but said it could be the work of the RNC. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were mailing voters on the issue of same-sex marriage," Gillespie said. [...] The RNC also is running radio ads in several states urging people to register to vote. "There is a line drawn in America today," one ad says. "On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture. They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial birth abortion, and working to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America." "Are you on their side of the line?" the ad asks before making the plea to "support conservative Republican candidates."
Frankly, I'm not too surprised that the RNC has stooped to this level. After all, this is the same party that smeared John McCain in 2000, by insinuating in South Carolina that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was really his illegitimate black child. And he was a Republican! Nevertheless, at some point you have to ask yourself whether we are better off as a nation if people who actually believe that "liberals" might ban the Bible should even vote. Seriously, how gullible do you have to be? On a more serious note, the use of anti-gay rhetoric as a wedge issue is just another reason why this Administration cannot be re-elected. This is bigotry, pure and simple. The irony of these radio ads is that it is the Republicans who are trying to "hijack the institution of marriage," by wanting to constitutionally define what marriage should be for all Americans. Nevermind that their reasons for this are irrational and easily refuted. Nevermind the fact that Britney Spears is working on her second marriage in a year, or that the Littlest Groom was actually a television show!! No, the real threat to marriage is the homosexual agenda!, sez the RNC. Its mean-spirited, bigoted, fear-mongering at its best. These are the guys in charge, and they want four more years?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Polls

Yahoo News reports that both candidates are claiming momentum based on two polls, which show two different pictures of the current presidential race. The Bush campaign is propping up the latest Gallup Poll, which shows Bush up by 13 points among likely voters. The Kerry camp has been boasting about the latest Pew Research poll, which shows the race in a statistical dead heat. Ever since the Republican National Convention, the media's narrative has been that Bush is pulling away from Kerry. This assumption was based on one or two polls that showed Bush enjoyed a relatively substantial convention bounce. Rarely was it mentioned, though, that many other polls showed the race to be extremely close. If you closely follow sites like Electoral Vote Calculator, Political Wire, and MyDD, you'll notice that every day seems to bring new fluctuations in the race. These sites are particularly helpful for sorting out the various state polls released multiple times a week. The state polls are probably the most important of all polls because of the Electoral College. Nevertheless, in many key states, the race is still so close that Kerry could be up by 4 one day, and down by 5 the next. As a result, the polls are really not that helpful for gauging anything other than what is obvious to most people closely following the election: it is up for grabs. Jimmy Breslin also advocates taking these poll results with a grain of salt. His reason is one that I hadn't thought of before:
Any editors of newspapers or television news shows who use poll results as a story are beyond gullible. On behalf of the public they profess to serve, they are indolent salesmen of falsehoods. This is because these political polls are done by telephone. Land-line telephones, as your house phone is called. The telephone polls do not include cellular phones. There are almost 169 million cell phones being used in America today - 168,900,019 as of Sept. 15, according to the cell phone institute in Washington. There is no way to poll cell phone users, so it isn't done.
I used to only have a cell phone, and I know many friends who have done away with the extra costs of having a cell phone and a landline. It makes sense that it is likely that a large percentage of people ( most likely in my generation) are being ignored in these telephone polls. John Zogby won't even use them anymore:
"I don't use telephones anymore because there is no easy way to use them," John Zogby was saying yesterday. It was the 20th anniversary of the start of his polling company. He began with what he calls "blue highway polls," sheriffs' races in Onandaga and Jefferson counties in upstate New York. "The people who are using telephone surveys are in denial," Zogby was saying. "It is similar to the '30s, when they first started polling by telephones and there were people who laughed at that and said you couldn't trust them because not everybody had a home phone. Now they try not to mention cell phones. They don't look or listen. They go ahead with a method that is old and wrong." Zogby points out that you don't know in which area code the cell phone user lives. Nor do you know what they do. Beyond that, you miss younger people who live on cell phones. If you do a political poll on land-line phones, you miss those from 18 to 25, and there are figures all over the place that show there are 40 million between the ages of 18 and 29, one in five eligible voters.
Zogby goes on to say that Internet polling is the wave of the future. It certainly has some advantages, especially with the potential of RSS feeds to reach people just about anywhere. Although, as electronic voting illustrates, there are potential concerns that need to be addressed before Internet polling can really become a viable and reliable source.

Best case, worst case scenario in Iraq

The National Intelligence Estimate hates America:The Reconstruction: U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's Future:
A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday. The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms. "There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments - concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions - included in the document.
This isn't particularly groundbreaking, since the British came out with a report a few weeks ago with similar conclusions. The difference is that the British report was hardly given any coverage in our media. It will be interesting to see to what levels this Administration will stoop to keep Iraq out of the headlines over the course of the next 45 days.

Putin's power grab

I think it is fair to say that Putin has crossed the line.
President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a stunning overhaul of Russia's political system on Monday in what he called an effort to unite the country against terrorism. If enacted, as expected, the proposals would strengthen his already pervasive control over the legislative branch and regional governments. Mr. Putin, meeting in special session with cabinet ministers and regional government leaders, outlined what would be the most sweeping political overhaul - and his most striking single step to consolidate power - in Russia in more than a decade. Critics immediately said it would violate the Constitution and stifle what political opposition remains. Under Mr. Putin's proposals, which he said required only legislative approval and not constitutional amendments, the governors or leaders of the country's 89 regions would no longer be elected by popular vote but rather by local legislatures - and only after the president's nomination. Seats in the lower house of the federal Parliament, or Duma, would be elected entirely on national party slates, eliminating district races across the country that now decide half of Parliament's composition. In elections last December, those races accounted for all of the independents and liberals now serving in the Duma.
This will have no effects on Russia's ability to fight terrorism. Imagine if after 9/11, Bush declared that state governor's would no longer be democratically elected because he felt it was the best way to fight terrorism. It would have been a ridiculous assertion, and the only thing it would do is centralize Bush's power and give him carte blanche for all of his policies (which is pretty much what happened anyway). Putin is making a power grab and using the Chechen terrorist attacks as political cover. He probably figures that keeping Russia a valuable ally in the War on Terror will keep the US and Europe from voicing too much dissent. He's probably right, and any dreams of a democratic Russia have just taken a serious blow.

Zell Miller She Ain't

A friend forwarded me this story about a lifelong Republican woman from New Hampshire who is voting for John Kerry in November. Her husband is a former Republican congressman, and she is close friends with the first President Bush and his wife, Barbara.
''George and Barbara are very dear friends. But this war, so wrong to begin with, is destroying the image of America as a peace-loving country in the world," she said. ''I know the president would say that he is 'liberating' Iraq but I don't think that Iraqis who don't have running water, electricity, a job, or safety on their streets would agree with him. It's fair to say he has disappointed me." Hilary Cleveland had expected to be as supportive of George W. Bush's presidency as she had been of his candidacy in 2000. She organized vigorously for him then, hosting his mother on a campaign swing through this bucolic village in the shadows of Mounts Sunapee and Kearsarge. She was finance chairwoman of the senior Bush's presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire in 1980. In 1990, President Bush appointed her to the International Joint Commission, which acts as an intermediary in boundary water and air pollution disputes between the United States and Canada. [...] As an adjunct professor of political history at Colby-Sawyer, a small liberal arts college just down the street from the Cleveland homestead, Hilary Cleveland talks and thinks a lot about politics at an age when others might be content to enjoy a quiet retirement. ''We have the future to think of," she said, citing her urgent concern for the threatened environment, the ballooning deficit, and the faltering status of the United States in the international community. ''Jim would be horrified," she said of her late husband's likely reaction to Bush administration policies that have created record $400 billion deficits. ''Republicans are fiscal conservatives. Cutting taxes at the same time you are spending billions for this war makes no sense. My father used to say, 'When the going gets tough, tighten your belt; you can't spend what you don't have.' That's always made sense to me. It's really a Republican idea." But, mostly, it is Bush's doctrine of preemptive war that pushed Hilary Cleveland into the camp of Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee. She supported Bush's military action in Afghanistan, just as she supported his father's Gulf War in 1991. ''The goals were clear and limited and the threats were real; Afghanistan was harboring terrorists and Iraq had invaded Kuwait," she said. ''This war is very different. I think he is usurping an authority he does not have. He has alienated our allies, destroyed our relations in the Muslim world, and actually invited terrorists into Iraq. I think Kerry is our best hope to get us out of Iraq and reestablish our diplomatic relations in the world." She has not spoken to her friends in Kennebunkport about her change of mind. ''I should write them a note," she said. ''It's awkward. Parents, of course, are so proud of their children."
If only Zell Miller would have been so articulate. I think it goes without saying that Hilary Cleveland and people like her will play an enormous role in this election. Furthermore, the importance of their role will likely increase if things in Iraq keep going the way they are going. The Administration has been trying to keep Iraq out of the headlines, and for good reason. They bungled the occupation and now many are questioning the legitimacy of the entire endeavor, which has left many people like Hilary Cleveland rethinking their votes this fall.

The Impending Debt Disaster

Check out this disturbing article in today's SF Chronicle. It is about the fact that neither candidate has discussed the impending fiscal nightmare of huge deficits and the first stages of Baby Boomer retirements.
Astronomical federal debt, coming due as the Baby Boom generation collects Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, is enormous enough to swamp the promises both candidates are making to voters, whether for tax cuts, health care, 40,000 more troops or anything else. "Chilling" is the word U.S. Comptroller General David Walker uses to describe the budget outlook. "The long-term budget projections are just horrifying," added Leonard Burman, co-director of tax policy for the Urban Institute. "I've got four children and it really disturbs me. I just think it's irresponsible what we're doing to them." What these numbers portend are crippling tax increases on workers, slashed benefits for retirees, gutted budgets for homeland security, highways, research and everything else, and an economic decline or a financial collapse that devastates the middle class, as happened recently in debt-strapped Argentina. Eventually, analysts insist, someone -- today's children or tomorrow's elderly or both -- will pay this debt. [...] "To give you idea how big the problem is," said Laurence Kotlikoff, economics chairman at Boston University, who has written extensively on the subject, to close a $51 trillion fiscal gap, "you'd have to have an immediate and permanent 78 percent hike in the federal income tax." These obligations are not imaginary. And unlike the 1980s and 1990s, economic growth cannot bail out the government because the Baby Boom retirement is at hand. Those born in 1946 will reach age 62 in 2008, allowing them to take early retirement and receive Social Security benefits. "It's a number that's so large that people find it implausible, and so they don't think about it," said Alan Auerbach, a UC Berkeley economist who studies the issue and consults for the Kerry campaign. "But it's based simply on the projections we have for Social Security and Medicare. People aren't making these numbers up." [...] But early signs of a problem are now appearing, analysts said, starting with the mounting deficits under Bush caused not just by the recession and terrorist attacks, but also by enormous spending increases and tax cuts. The brief window of surpluses that appeared during the late 1990s economic boom offered a chance to address long-range liabilities, but those surpluses now are gone. "Maybe the public doesn't want to hear it," Kotlikoff said. "Maybe politicians think ... the American public can't understand the truth or hear the truth or bear the truth. I think this is garbage. I think that people care about their kids and grandchildren and need to know the dangers facing them --and us."
Even though the article states neither candidate has adequately addressed this problem, I think it goes without saying that permanent tax cuts are not going to help this situation. Moreover, I think even the suggestion of permanent tax cuts is irresponsible, especially when you know what it means in the long run, as I am sure someone in this Administration does. Kerry's policies may not directly address the problem, but at least he understands the basic concept that we can't cut everyone's taxes if we are going to increase our spending for a war and try to reduce the deficit. I don't necessarily blame either candidate for not talking about this coming nightmare, after all, it is an election year and campaigning for a 78% hike in the federal income tax isn't going to win any votes. Nevertheless, it is important to realize the path we are on, and that path, financially speaking, is not good.

Assault Weapon Ban Expires Monday

This Monday, the 10 year old ban on assault weapons will expire. This means that come Tuesday, it will be legal to buy/import/sell Uzi's, AK-47s, and other superfluous weapons in the United States. Of course, this being the political season, there are political repurcussions for both candidate. Bush, under pressure from the NRA, will allow the ban to expire in order to secure their valuable endorsement and not piss off his increasingly valuable base. Kerry, sensing a political opening, is arguing that allowing the ban to expire will aid al Qaeda. That might be a little extreme, but the gist of the point is relevant. I do not think that banning assault weapons are a threat to the 2nd Amendment. There have to be limitations on what is considered "arms." Surely, it is not logical to allow any American the right to own a nuclear weapon or another type of WMD. Aren't these "arms", too? Yes, and it makes no sense to legalize them because there isn't a need for American citizens to own them. And not only is there not a need to own them, but also, they exceedingly threaten the lives of those who don't own them. In much the same way, there are no reasons why an American citizen should own an AK-47 or an Uzi when there are plenty of legal guns readily available. I think most Americans will agree that it is entirely reasonable to place limits on the types of weapons people may legally own. Compare this issue to the debate about whether to legalize drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and many other drugs are not legal because of the alleged threat they pose to society and to individuals who use them. Yet assault weapons, even though they pose the same types of threats as illegal drugs, are legal under the 2nd Amendment. To me, there is a great hypocrisy in allowing one type of threat, but not the other. I wonder how many pro-assault weapon advocates are also advocates for the legalization of drugs? My guess is probably not many, but I'd like to hear someone ask them this question. I'd also like someone to ask Bush and Kerry, too.

Bush and TANG

I think kos has the best rundown of the Bush National Guard Story. Here is a teaser:
The Ben Barnes thing is subject to debate, and partisans will line up on the obvious sides (like they have with the Swift Boat Liars). But the official documents uncovered by 60 Minutes (despite the White House's attempt to cover them up)? There's no way to spin those away. The facts are there in black and white.
Also, at the Political Animal:
This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.
This is not rocket science. The records clearly demonstrate that Bush skipped his National Guard obligations. Is this relevant? Well, I know arguments will be made to answer both sides of this question, but I do think they are relevant, if only because the White House has been misleading the public on this for so long. Bush prides himself on, and in fact campaigns on, his image as a straight-shooter who doesn't go back on his word. The White House cover-up of Bush's records, and not to mention Bush's own lies on the subject (see Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert) should be pretty damaging to Bush's cred. I say should because we've all been down this road before. Bush has been lucky to get through many sticky situations, and I hope this time it is different. One last thing. I've heard many Administration and Bush Campaign officials try to dismiss this because Bush was honorably discharged. This may sound good, but it doesn't hold up (under these new records) that Bush should have been honorably discharged. I've read a few people who claim that it was not unusual for people to be honorably discharged, even if they don't deserve it. Clearly, the records demonstrate there was some political pressure on the TANG to handle Bush with kid's gloves. That isn't in dispute anymore (e.g. pressure to "sugar coat Bush"). From this, it doesn't take too big of an imaginative leap to connect the dots that Bush's honorable discharge was political.

shove your courtesy up your ass

I am evolving into a more hardened and jagged version of my former self. Why? Job searching. One of the most surprising things about looking for a job has been the realization that people will not go out of their way to give you a break. In the early stages of my job searching, I naively believed that if I emailed/called somebody about a position, I would get an email back. Not so. I also believed that if I had interviewed for a position, I would receive the courtesy of knowing whether I got the job or not. Not so. I had thought it was a simple request, you know, simply acknowledging my existence. Not so. As a result, I've learned to be more cut-throat, and not worry about anyone but myself. I feel a little guilty about entertaining multiple positions, telling each person I talk to, "I'm primarily interested in this position." Yet, I realize that this is the only way that things will get done. If I take one job, but am offered a better one, I'll quit and take the better one. Why? Because in the immortal words of Billy Corgan:
The world is a vampire, sent to drain secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames and what do i get, for my pain betrayed desires, and a piece of the game even though i know-i suppose i'll show all my cool and cold-like old job despite all my rage i am still just a rat in a cage
The world is a vampire, indeed.

Russia prepared for pre-emptive strikes on 'terror bases' worldwide

Bush Doctrine, v.2.0
MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia is prepared to make pre-emptive strikes on "terrorist bases" anywhere in the world, the Interfax news agency cited the country's chief of staff as saying. "With regard to preventive strikes on terrorist bases, we will take any action to eliminate terrorist bases in any region of the world. But this does not mean we will carry out nuclear strikes," General Yuri Baluyevsky said Wednesday. Baluyevsky added that Russia's choice of action "will be determined by the concrete situation where ever it may be in the world. "Military action is the last resort in the fight agaisnt terrorism."
Sweet. Before we know it, China will be using their own pre-emptive strategy on Taiwan, North Korea will pre-empt South Korea, Israel will pre-empt Iran, and India will pre-empt Pakistan. Did I forget anyone? Oh yeah, we'll pre-empt Syria and/or Iran. In all seriousness, though, this is why I didn't like the policy of pre-emption in the first place. It is a dangerous policy with an extremely slippery slope. If you allow any nation-state to use pre-emptive force, you lose all illusions of international order, which itself should be used to determine the conduct that necessitates military force. Certainly, there is a problem between Russia and Chechnya, but that is an internal problem. Pre-emptively attacking terrorist bases around the world will do nothing to alleviate the very real problem between Chechen rebels (terrorists, whatever) and Moscow. It will just continue a bad precedent, which will give further confidence to countries we don't want using pre-emptive attacks. And it isn't like we weren't warned about this possibility: Bill Clinton, February 12, 2003:
Reason number one is, no matter how we cut it, if we go in alone, or even with a lot of allies, but with substantial opposition in the UN, then our critics will say this is a preemptive attack, not a police action to enforce the UN resolution. Then have we set a precedent we'll hate to live with. What if Russia says, "I want to go into Georgia to get Chechen terrorists." Or China says, "I'm worried about separatism in Taiwan. Even you admit it's ours. I think I better shell them." Or India says, "I'm worried about the Al Qaeda getting a hold of the Pakistani nuclear forces, so I think we better take them out." So it's very important that we get as close as possible, if God forbid we have to have military action, to looking like we are the police enforcers of the United Nations Resolution to spread the risks of this.

Bush Likely To Bow Out Of One Debate (

Unbelievable. Like I wrote earlier, I would love to see Kerry show up anyway, invite the media, and take questions, by himself for an hour and half. Hell, put an empty chair up there, too. Three debates is not asking too much, especially with all that is at stake in this election. Count me interested to see how this is spun. update: The blogger server has been out for the past 12 hours, and since I originally wrote the post (last night), Atrios has weighed in on the subject.

To the Moon!

This is an interesting proposal:
The European Space Agency's chief scientist has said that there should be a Noah's Ark on the Moon, in case the Earth was destroyed by an asteroid or nuclear holocaust. Speaking exclusively to BBC News at the British Association Science Festival, Dr Bernard Foing said that the ark should be a repository for the DNA of every single species of plant and animal. [...] He is concerned that if the Earth were destroyed, there would be little or nothing left of the rich diversity of life on the planet. His solution is to build a DNA library on the Moon. "If there were a catastrophic collision on Earth or a nuclear war you could place some samples of Earth's biosphere, including humans, [on the Moon]," he said. "You could repopulate the Earth afterwards like a Noah's Ark," he said.
The only problem I can see with this idea is evident upon a quick glance of the picture accompanying the story. The moon is even more susceptible to space debris because it does not have as stable an atmosphere as Earth. It would be a shame to build a DNA library on the Moon only to have it destroyed by the very thing it is suppossed to be protecting itself from. I say we put the DNA in a satellite and just let it go. If you really love something, let it go. Someone will find it and will be able to grow humans. It will almost be like a virus.

Surely, you can't be serious?

"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."
DES MOINES, Iowa Sept. 7, 2004 — Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack. [...] "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city. If Kerry were elected, Cheney said the nation risks falling back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that terrorist attacks are criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he said Bush's offensive approach works to root out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressure countries that harbor terrorists.
Hey, for all Dick Cheney's faults, of which there are many, at least he's consistent! Fortunately, his track record on these types of things is Miss Cleo-esque. I think at some point the American people are going to see this Administration for what it really is: a bunch of fear-mongering, old white men, desperate to maintain their stranglehold on power. Hopefully, its before November 2.

1001 killed

1,001 soldiers have now been killed in the Iraq War. Who knows how many thousands of Iraqis have been killed since last March, and Lord knows how many civilians and soldiers have been seriously injured, as well. There are wars worth fighting. Iraq, in March 2003, within the context of the broader threat of terrorism posed by al Qaeda, was certainly not one of them. update: Josh Marshall notices a strange coincidence. update:: According to this blog, it took 8 years for us to get 1,000 combat deaths in Vietnam.

NewsFire. Mac RSS with Style.

I've just recently discovered the beauty of RSS readers. The sites that I read daily, or multiple times a day, seem to be constantly increasing, and in order to be able to get other things done during the day, it helps to have the aggregating possibilities of an RSS reader. The one that I had been using, and recommended on the left, is Net News Wire. Its pretty nice, but the price will be steep once the demo expires. However, I just recently discovered NewsFire, which although in its early beta release, looks to be very promising. I've been messing around with it for a little bit, and really like the way it feels. If you have a Mac, and really, why wouldn't you? :), check it out. If you've never used an RSS reader before, I also suggest you look into them. They make my reading and information gathering much more centralized and quicker.

US School Budget Woes Trim Teacher Ranks

If you saw, heard, or read the President's speech at the RNC ((full text here), you will remember this:
"I believe every child can learn and every school must teach - so we passed the most important federal education reform in history. Because we acted, children are making sustained progress in reading and math, America's schools are getting better, and nothing will hold us back."
Unfortunately, like many other claims in the speech, the opposite is actually true. Take, for example, this article from Reuters, "U.S. School Budget Woes Trim Teacher Ranks":
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Many U.S. public school districts are starting a new school year with fewer teachers as less state funding and other factors leave them with gaping budget holes and nothing else left to cut but instructors, school and teachers union officials say. Some states, still struggling to leave the economic slowdown behind them, have reduced funding to schools or shaved promised funding increases because of their own budget troubles, the officials said. Schools also blame the teacher layoffs on inadequately funded federal educational mandates, soaring health care and utility costs, competing charter schools and reluctance by voters to boost local funding. Fewer teachers could boost class sizes and eliminate programs not considered to be core subjects for students like art and music, education advocates said. The National Education Association has seen tens of thousands of teacher layoffs with some due to state budget cuts dating back to last year, according to Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the union, which represents more than 2.7 million primary and secondary school teachers. "The last two years have been a very difficult time for public schools," he said. "Many tried to avoid cutting teachers and cut in other areas." The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is another problem, Kaufman said, contending the program was inadequately funded and hurting school finances. "They are required to do more without the funding they need from the federal government," he said. The federal law requires annual student testing, training and hiring of qualified teachers and school accountability measures that allow students in failing schools to move to better schools. In Ohio alone, the shortfall for implementing the federal program has been pegged at $1.5 billion a year.
At issue here is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Bush often repeats this as something notable he has done for education reform. However, talk to anyone involved in education, and they will tell you that the program sounds great, but it is a pie in the sky until we budget enough money to fund the programs that the Act initiated. We haven't budgeted the requisite money because, frankly, that money isn't there. Why? Because this President has institutionalized a Pavlovian response of "blah!" to anything that requires taxes. In in some cases this might be good, but when vital programs like education are not being adequately funded, it is necessary to fund them with more tax revenue. In these cases, people have to know the truth. Either they cut their taxes, and have worse schools, or they raise taxes a little (to pre-Bush levels), and have adequate funding for school. Kerry and Edwards have made funding education an important part of their education proposals. They will not produce the funds, as the Republicans claim, by raising taxes on everyone. They have been clear on this from the beginning, they will keep the tax cuts for the middle class, but repeal the tax cuts on individuals and families that make more than $200,000/year. It may not be perfect, but it is at least realistic.


Check out this profile on Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist. I've used craigslist many times, most recently to search for jobs and sell furniture, and have found it to be awesome. I am still amazed at how quickly I was able to sell my furniture after posting on craigslist boston. CL is expanding into more markets, so check to see if it is coming near you.

1,100 in August

Nothing to see here, move along:
BAGHDAD, Sept. 4 -- About 1,100 U.S. soldiers and Marines were wounded in Iraq during August, by far the highest combat injury toll for any month since the war began and an indication of the intensity of battles flaring in urban areas. U.S. medical commanders say the sharp rise in battlefield injuries reflects more than three weeks of fighting by two Army and one Marine battalion in the southern city of Najaf. At the same time, U.S. units frequently faced combat in a sprawling Shiite Muslim slum in Baghdad and in the Sunni cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra, all of which remain under the control of insurgents two months after the transfer of political authority. [...] More and more often, children are lobbing the grenades, Ford said. Insurgents offer boys of 10 or 12 years old $150 to toss a grenade at a U.S. patrol, the captain said. "For the longest time, we've had a good relationship with the children," Ford said. "Now this. Who enjoys putting a bead on a kid? "Nobody. That's why they paid them."
No WMD. No ties to September 11, 2001. No ties to al Qaeda. No bin Laden. update:7 Marines killed in car bomb.


Given the horrible recent events in Russia, I think it is especially important to read this, which provides decent historical background on the problems between Russia and Chechnya. Here is a snipet on the likelihood of a relationship between teh Chechen rebels and al Qaeda:
So, what does al-Qaida and international Islamic terrorism have to do with any of this? Probably very little. Chechens have plenty of reason to do what they do without outside inspiration. In addition, their tactics are very different from al-Qaida's. Osama Bin Laden's group generally aims for maximum casualties; the Chechens, at least when they have staged hostage-takings, have not seemed to have that goal. Al-Qaida explicitly targets Westerners; the Chechens, on the other hand, explicitly exclude Westerners from their list of targets; they target Russians and Russia-sympathizers. Finally, the Chechens' demands, when they have made them, have always focused on the war in Chechnya to the exclusion of any religious or international agenda. They have consistently demanded a the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya—an unattainable goal in the current Russian political climate, but one that may look plausible to the Chechens because it worked after Budyonnovsk.
The article provides what I think to be an objective historical account of the last 13 years of conflict. I think the Chechnya situation is about to intensify, so its a good thing to read.

Weekend Reading

Far_east pointed me to a series of articles in the Washington Monthly about what will happen if Bush wins. I haven't read any of them, but they'll be my weekend reading. They do look int. Have a nice Labor Day weekend. Not sure what I'm going to do, but I think I'm going to go and explore my new surroundings. Oh, and check out this new blog. Wolcott is a writer for Vanity Fair.

Where are the jobs?

Mark Kleiman wants us to keep something in mind:
This comment from John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO hasn't gotten as much attention yet as I think it deserves: He promised to create five million new jobs, and so far he's six million short. Just remember: President Bush, who doesn't think American can win the war on terror, has dismally failed to keep his promises on the economy. (And let's not hear any alibis about how the President doesn't really control the rate at which jobs are created. Of course that's true, but it was just as true when Mr. Bush [WDTACWTWOT] made the promises he has failed to keep.) The President's evident satisfaction with the mediocre performance of the economy on his watch must be the product of the soft bigotry of low expectations.
We aren't hearing enough about this stuff. Sure, today's job numbers were better than the last few months, but we are still far, FAR short of what we were told to expect from Bush's tax cuts. Will Bush be held accountable for anything?

Political Wire: New Polls

Political Wire has the latest presidential polls, post-RNC. Zogby has the race still pretty close: Bush 46%, Kerry 44%. Time has the race much less close: Bush 52%, Kerry 41%. The Time poll has been getting a lot of press on CNN today, and they haven't mentioned much about the Zogby or the ARG poll, which shows a one-point lead for Bush. Hopefully the Time poll is an anomaly.

Geography Quiz

book of joe links to the Geography Olympics. You get 200 seconds and must locate 10 countries in the world. I got 9 out of 10 (confused Nicaragua for Honduras).

Voter Fraud in Afghanistan

AmericaBlog points out that Bush has recently been promoting voter fraud, when he talks about the number of registered voters in Afghanistan:
"In Afghanistan, terrorists have done everything they can to intimidate people - yet more than 10 million citizens have registered to vote in the October presidential election-a resounding endorsement of democracy."
According to the UN, though, there are only 9.8 million eligible voters in the entire country.
On 17 August, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that the high rate of voter registration - more than 9.9m already enrolled - showed the political isolation of groups responsible for violence. What he did not mention was that the number registered already exceeds the estimated total of eligible voters for the whole country. Originally UN officials estimated there were 9.8m eligible adults, and as the percentage registered climbed ever higher, the Afghan government and US leaders loudly praised this as an achievement for democracy. When the total reached 9.9m UN officials in Kabul hastily upped the estimated total of voters to 10.5 million, arguing that, with no accurate census, the original figure could be up to a million out - due to the effects of war, civil strife and mass migration. But the figure is still increasing. UN Kabul spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said on 23 August that the total after registration was more than 10.35m, and data was expected to continue arriving for at least a couple of weeks. Only a little arithmetic shows the figures are dubious. Only 42% of those registered are women. That means some 750,000 women are not registered. The shortfall of women means the only way the 10m-plus figure for registered voters can be accurate is if every single male in the country has registered - at least once. And that ignores an estimated one third of a million unregistered people in conflict-ridden parts of the south and south-east of Afghanistan. So it is painfully evident that the registration process has been seriously flawed.
Matthew Yglesias opines, "What we're seeing isn't an unprecedented outpouring of democratic enthusiasm, it's massive fraud." I highly doubt (cough) that Bush would lie about this (cough).

Cole on Bush's Speech

Juan Cole offers a critique of the Bush as CEO meme:
Let us imagine you had a corporation with annual gross revenues of about $2 trillion. And let's say that in 2000, it had profits of $150 billion. So you bring in a new CEO, and within four years, the profit falls to zero and then the company goes into the red to the tune of over $400 billion per year. You're on the Board of Directors and the CEO's term is up for renewal. Do you vote to keep him in? That's what Bush did to the US government. He took it from surpluses to deep in the red. We are all paying interest on the unprecedented $400 billion per year in deficits (a deficit is just a loan), and our grandchildren will be paying the interest in all likelihood. And what if you had been working for America, Inc. all your life, and were vested in its pension plan (i.e. social security)? And you heard that the company is now hemorrhaging money and that the losses are going to be paid for out of your pension? What if you thought you were going to get $1000 a month to retire on, and it is only going to be $500? Or maybe nothing at all? Because of the new CEO whose management turned a profit-making enterprise into an economic loser? Would you vote to keep him on?
Read the whole thing.

2 debates?

I would be surprised if Bush only commits to two debates this fall. First of all, there have traditionally been three Presidential debates, or at least for as long as I can remember. The debate which the Bush campaign is considering ditching, would be the townhall-style meeting, where random American's would have the opportunity to ask each candidate questions (presumably) of their choice. I don't see how Bush could spin this and come out favorably, although I've said that before about a few other things, too. The American people aren't stupid, and will see right through any explanation the campaign gives. If I were Kerry, I'd stick to the original plan, show up in Tempe, and take questions alone. (via Josh Marshall)

Bush's RNC Speech

I think the AP pretty much sums it up: "Bush Leaves Out Complex Facts in Speech":
President Bush's boast of a 30-member-strong coalition in Iraq masked the reality that the United States is bearing the overwhelming share of costs, in lives and troop commitments. And in claiming to have routed most al-Qaida leaders, he did not mention that the big one got away. Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night brought the nation a collection of facts that told only part of the story, hardly unusual for this most political of occasions. He took some license in telling Americans that Democratic opponent John Kerry "is running on a platform of increasing taxes." Kerry would, in fact, raise taxes on the richest 2 percent of Americans as part of a plan to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone else and even cut some of them more. That's not exactly a tax-increase platform. And on education, Bush voiced an inherent contradiction, dating back to his 2000 campaign, in stating his stout support for local control of education, yet promising to toughen federal standards that override local decision-making. "We are insisting on accountability, empowering parents and teachers, and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools," he said, on one hand. Yet, "we will require a rigorous exam before graduation."
Additionally, Bush proposed a few ambitious domestic programs, such as more funding for community colleges and rural health care centers. He also discussed his plans to make his tax cuts permanent. Of course, he failed to point out that it would be virtually impossible to fund these domestic programs if we didn't have the tax revenue to pay for them. Nevermind the fact that it makes no sense to have permanent tax cuts in a time of perpetual war. I fear, though, that the "say it, explain it later" theory will be in effect, and people will eat this shit up.

who said what and how many times

Last night I made a vague threat to compile a word count of the number of times Kerry was invoked during an RNC speech. Thankfully, The New York Times beat me to it. I notice that neither side thought Osama bin Laden warranted any mention. (via Pandagon)

The Daily Show

Somehow, The Daily Show got a hold of the RNC video to be shown tonight before President Bush's speech. You can watch it here. Its called, "George W. Bush: Because, I said so." I think it will really speak to the swing voters.

President Bush, July 12th, 2004:
Today, the governments of the United States and Pakistan are working closely in the fight against terror. President Musharraf is a friend of our country, who helped us capture Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner behind the September the 11th attacks. And Pakistani forces are rounding up terrorists along their nation's western border. Today, because we're working with the Pakistani leaders, Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror, and the American people are safer. (Applause.)
Pakistan Found To Aid Iran Nuclear Efforts, New York Times, September 2, 2004:
A new assessment of Iran's nuclear program by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency says that, as early as 1995, Pakistan was providing Tehran with the designs for sophisticated centrifuges capable of making bomb-grade nuclear fuel. It also finds evidence that, as of the mid-August, Iran had assembled and tested the major components for 70 of the machines, which it showed to inspectors from the agency. [...] Though the report does not cite the source of the purchase, it is now known to have come from the laboratories of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb. Pakistan's government has argued that it had no knowledge of Dr. Khan's clandestine activities, which included sales to Libya and North Korea starting about the same time. "What Iran got came almost entirely from one country,'' said a senior international diplomat who had been briefed on the findings. "And it seems to point directly back to Pakistan's own laboratories.''
I'm beginning to notice a trend. Whenever President Bush says, "Because of X, the American people are safer," there is a pretty good chance it is BS .

So I lied...

Fred Kaplan writes in today's Slate:
Still, it is worth setting the record straight. The main falsehood, we have gone over before (click here for the details), but it keeps getting repeated, so here we go again: It is the claim that John Kerry, during his 20 years in the Senate, voted to kill the M-1 tank, the Apache helicopter; the F-14, F-16, and F-18 jet fighters; and just about every other weapon system that has kept our nation free and strong. Here, one more time, is the truth of the matter: Kerry did not vote to kill these weapons, in part because none of these weapons ever came up for a vote, either on the Senate floor or in any of Kerry's committees. This myth took hold last February in a press release put out by the RNC. Those who bothered to look up the fine-print footnotes discovered that they referred to votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995. Kerry voted against both bills, as did 15 other senators, including five Republicans. The RNC took those bills, cherry-picked some of the weapons systems contained therein, and implied that Kerry voted against those weapons. By the same logic, they could have claimed that Kerry voted to disband the entire U.S. armed forces; but that would have raised suspicions and thus compelled more reporters to read the document more closely. What makes this dishonesty not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these votes, Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's father—was truly slashing the military budget. Here was Secretary Cheney, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31, 1992: Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. … And now we're adding to that another $50 billion … of so-called peace dividend. Cheney then lit into the Democratic-controlled Congress for not cutting weapons systems enough: Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. … You've directed me to buy more M1s, F14s, and F16s—all great systems … but we have enough of them. I'm not accusing Cheney of being a girly man on defense. As he notes, the Cold War had just ended; deficits were spiraling; the nation could afford to cut back. But some pro-Kerry equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Zell Miller could make that charge with as much validity as they—and Cheney—make it against Kerry. In other words, it's not just that Cheney and those around him are lying; it's not even just that they know they're lying; it's that they know—or at least Cheney knows—that the same lie could be said about him. That's what makes it a damned lie.
Dishonest hacks. This is, of course, the same pattern used by the Swift Boat Vets. They are willing to take the chance that nobody will call them on the fact that many were awarded medals for the same disputed events for which Kerry was awarded medals. It is actually very canny, politically speaking. By the time someone in the media brings this up, or points out that Cheney slashed the military budget, it is too late. We've already heard that Kerry has cheap medals and voted to eliminate the military. Politics 101, and people are still falling for it.

Homeland Security

I heard Matthew Brzezinski interviewed on Fresh Air yesterday afternoon, and was struck by what he said about the Department of Homeland Security. He wrote the cover story for the latest Mother Jones about the disconnect between what the DHS was charged to do, and what it has the ability to do. Basically, Brzezinski warns that we haven't put nearly as much money and resources into DHS as we need to if we have any illusions of effectively preventing major terrorist attacks. He points to two reasons for this. The first is that DHS was quickly put together to alleviate concerns that we weren't doing anything to prevent future terrorism. The problem, though, is that it instantly created the largest government agency (composed of 22 former government agencies 186,200 employees, and a budget of $27 Billion), and we all know what that means: bureaucracy. Thus, the sheer size of the DHS makes it less capable of quickly responding to the needs for which it was created. The second problem that Brzezinski warns about is the war in Iraq. His contention is that both financially and imaginatively, the war in Iraq has diverted resources from homeland security. He doesn't buy the argument that we don't have to spend as much money on homeland security because we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq, and not NYC and Nebraska. The billions of dollars spent so far on Iraq have taken away valuable finances from homeland security, which is already strapped for cash like so many other government agencies. Imaginatively, he argued that "a firefight in Fallujah" has captured the imagination of the White House more than defending the homeland. In particular, he noted that not nearly enough has been done to make sure that cargo screening on airplanes is up to the task of detecting bombs or WMD. He also pointed out that Wyoming receives more federal dollars per capita for homeland security than California, and Alaska and (one other rural state I have forgotten) receive more than NY per capita. (My opinion is that homeland security dollars should not be subject to egalitarian distribution. NYC is much more likely to suffer a terrorist attack than Casper, Wyoming.) Check out the article. The link only has a preview, but if you see Mother Jones on the newsstand, you'll be able to read the whole thing. The Republicans have been making the argument this week that they are the only ones who can keep us safe. Unfortunately, they control all three branches of government, and have for some time. They are largely responsible for the lack of funding and imagination when it comes to Homeland Security.

From the Mouths of Zell

Sorry, I've become a bit obsessed with the Emperor from Star Wars and his speech tonight at the RNC. Atrios points to this, which is interestingly still on Miller's Senate website, but probably will be taken off tomorrow in the interest of not looking like an asshole. The date of this speech was March 1, 2001:
My job tonight is an easy one: to present to you one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders – and a good friend. He was once a lieutenant governor – but he didn't stay in that office 16 years, like someone else I know. It just took two years before the people of Massachusetts moved him into the United States Senate in 1984. In his 16 years in the Senate, John Kerry has fought against government waste and worked hard to bring some accountability to Washington. Early in his Senate career in 1986, John signed on to the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Bill, and he fought for balanced budgets before it was considered politically correct for Democrats to do so. John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment. Business Week magazine named him one of the top pro-technology legislators and made him a member of its "Digital Dozen.
Yes, that is the same Zell Miller. Now, I'm sure he'd say 9/11 changed everything. But did 9/11 retroactively change this: "John has worked to strengthen our military." Last thing I have to say about the speeches from tonight, I swear. I think it is revealing how they spent so much time bashing Kerry, as opposed to praising Bush's record. If I were a Republican, I'd probably do a word count analysis to demonstrate that the speakers talked about Kerry more than Bush. But I'm not, so I won't. On MSNBC, a talking head noted that there have been two conventions about Kerry. This talking head went on to question, rhetorically, of course, what does that say about the record of George Bush that he is afraid to put it in the spotlight and opt instead to bash his opponent? I am anxious to see how the public responds to these speeches, especially Miller's. I think the public will be smart enough to take them both with a grain of salt.

Zell Miller, rebutted.

As promised, here is the transcript from Zell Miller's speech tonight. Below, I've examined a little closer some of the factual liberties he took against John Kerry. Miller's speech is in italics... I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny. It was Democratic President Harry Truman who pushed the Red Army out of Iran, who came to the aid of Greece when Communists threatened to overthrow it, who stared down the Soviet blockade of West Berlin by flying in supplies and saving the city. Time after time in our history, in the face of great danger, Democrats and Republicans worked together to ensure that freedom would not falter. But not today. Did Kerry not vote for the war in Iraq? Did Clinton not attack Serbia to defend them from the tyranny of Milosivic? Did Kerry not fight in Vietnam? Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators. Where and when did Kerry or Edwards declare American troops occupiers than liberators? They never did. No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home. But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy. Again, where and when has Kerry or Edwards declared American troops to be occupiers and not liberators? They didn’t. When have either of them said America was the problem and not the solution? They haven’t. They don’t believe there are any real dangers in the world expect that which America brings upon itself? Again, Kerry VOTED for the war in Iraq BECAUSE he thought Iraq was A REAL DANGER. Ugh. And, no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Together, Kennedy/Kerry have opposed the very weapons system that won the Cold War and that is now winning the War on Terror. Is Kennedy running for President? The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40% of the bombs in the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom. The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq. The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadifi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora. The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War. The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11. I could go on and on and on: Against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel, Against the Aegis air-defense cruiser, Against the Strategic Defense Initiative, Against the Trident missile, against, against, against. These are all misleading and taken out of context. does a good job of providing a fair analysis of the context of these votes. This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs? Tool. Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide. John Kerry, who says he doesn't like outsourcing, wants to outsource our national security. That's the most dangerous outsourcing of all. This politician wants to be leader of the free world. “I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.” Straight from the horses mouth. For more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure. As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military. We are also here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We are here to ask where are McNamara, Rostow, Bundy, Gilpatric and so many others. Where are they now that we, the men whom they sent off to war, have returned? These are commanders who have deserted their troops, and there is no more serious crime in the law of war. The Army says they never leave their wounded. [...] Finally, this administration has done us the ultimate dishonor. They have attempted to disown us and the sacrifice we made for this country. In their blindness and fear they have tried to deny that we are veterans or that we served in Nam. We do not need their testimony. Our own scars and stumps of limbs are witnesses enough for others and for ourselves. Again, straight from the horses mouth at his Congressional Testimony. As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away. See, again. John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war. George Bush believes we have to fight today's war and be ready for tomorrow's challenges. George Bush is committed to providing the kind of forces it takes to root out terrorists. No matter what spider hole they may hide in or what rock they crawl under. George Bush wants to grab terrorists by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip. From John Kerry, they get a "yes-no-maybe" bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends. How is this so, if Kerry VOTED FOR the Iraq War? He [Bush] is not a slick talker but he is a straight shooter and, where I come from, deeds mean a lot more than words. It is true that he is not a slick talker. Miller should just switch parties. His speech was pretty sickening, especially on a stage like the RNC. He should be ashamed of himself.