ambivalent imbroglio home
September 16, 2005

Reality Testing Yubbledew: Election '04 to Katrina

Recent polls show that a majority of Americans are not satisfied with the Bush administration's response to hurricane Katrina. Some are saying that the response was so bad it's caused some sort of crisis of confidence in the ability of our government to do the right thing and protect American values and interests in times of great stress.

Of course, I'm thrilled that my fellow Americans are finally waking up to the fact that this administration is not only incompetent but nearly pathologically focused on its own agenda and interests at the expense of what's best for the American people and the rest of the world. Thank goodness people are finally waking up!

But, um, how is it that an administration can start a war based on lies, send thousands of American soldiers to their deaths, be responsible for killing thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, and increase hostility against the U.S. all around the world because of all this aggression—how is it that this administration could do all this and still win the 2004 election!? And why now, after the tragic lack of response to hurricane Katrina, are Americans finally saying “enough!”?

I think I understand this apparent mystery, but I'm not sure. First, a little psychoanalysis for you:

When people of normal intelligence behave in a way that rejects what they experience as real, it requires some explanation. Psychoanalytic theory assumes that inadequacy in reality-testing fulfills a psychological function, usually the preservation of an attitude basic to the individual's makeup. If inadequate reality-testing threatens to undermine such [a] functionally significant attitude, it is avoided.

Charles R. Lawrence III, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning With Unconscious Racism, 39 Stan. L. Rev. 317, 332 (Jan. 1987).

This is basically what I said after the 2004 presidential election—the horror of what the Bush administration had done in its first term was so great it created a sort of paralysis on the part of those who could sort of see what was going on. If there's a silver lining in the federal government's completely inept response to hurricane Katrina, it's that a majority of Americans finally became—at least for a few days—so shocked, so appalled, so horrified that the defensive mechanism that had previously forced them to deny how awful this administration is turned around and urged them to demand some accountability.

Bush's approval rating is now at an all-time low. How long will it be before our overly-developed psychological coping mechanisms overcome our critical faculties once more? Bush has now promised to spend “unprecedented amounts” of federal money to help rebuild the region affected by the hurricane. Can he buy his way out of this? And do we really want that, knowing that this administration has demonstrated that its number one spending priority seems to be to transfer as much federal money as possible into the hands of private corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel? In addition, it has already said that workers hired in the rebuilding effort will have to work for substandard wages. From where I sit, Bush's speech last night can do nothing to change the fact that this administration doesn't care about the average American; it cares about the corporate American, the only “person” it will ever love.

Be that as it may, the question remains: Why did Katrina wake a majority of Americans up when the Iraq war didn't? Does it have anything to do w/coping and repression? Was the horror of the lack of response to Katrina somehow greater than the horror of waging a war of aggression based on lies? If so, what would that say about our country? Or is it simply that the horror of the lack of response to Katrina was so immediate and obvious and unambiguous, whereas people were able to construct some sort of plausible rationale for accepting Bush's war?

Posted 09:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 05, 2005


So I'm researching this damned DOMA business and I'm reminded that in February 2004 Yubbledew called for a Constitutional amendment to “protect” marriage. He used very strong language to let us know he meant business:

An amendment to the Constitution is never to be undertaken lightly. The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern. And the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoring -- honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.

Sounds pretty serious, doesn't it? I guess this should be a major part of his agenda in his second term, then, shouldn't it? But wait, I've heard absolutely nothing about it since last November's presidential election. Have I missed something, or is “the union of a man and a woman” no longer so important? Don't we care anymore about the welfare of children and the stability of society?

If I was cynical I'd say that Karl Rove timed that February 2004 announcement perfectly to get Christian fundamentalists all worked up in a frenzy so that gay marriage would be a big “values” issue in the November election. That would make Yubbledew's call for a Constitutional amendment seem pretty hollow and manipulative, wouldn't it?

Good thing I'm not cynical.

Posted 08:07 PM | Comments (9)

January 20, 2005

Shut Out

Whoa. I just got out of jail! Not. Had you going there for a second, though, didn't I? Ok, maybe not. Anyway, as expected, I didn't get arrested or have any cop trouble. I walked. A lot. And carried a sign all over. Someone gave me a sign from Not In Our Name that said “Not Our President!” so I carried it around all day. That was find during the anti-war march, but once I got down around Pennsylvania Avenue and the big parade route, the fur coats and cowboy hats started telling me I was wrong, he just got sworn in, and if he wasn't my president I should leave the country, yadda yadda yadda. Really only about a half dozen people actually said anything; many more just gave me dirty looks. But they were right. He is my president. The part of the sign I liked was the middle (“NO”) and bottom, which said “Not In Our Name.” That seemed like a good message for today: I don't want these things (war, privatization of social security, torture, flouting the Geneva Conventions, destroying the environment, doing nothing to fight poverty and everything possible to make the rich richer, etc—I don't want these things to be done in my name. I know that they are being done, so the only thing I felt able to do today was express my disagreement with them, and I think my sign did that. Anyway, I marched and chanted and it was good. The parade route was as I figured—locked down. They broke Penn Ave. into “zones” so if you entered at one checkpoint you couldn't move down the street more than a block or two. This meant that if you wanted to enter the “protest zone” (at 4th and Penn next to the Canadian Embassy in John Marshall Park), you had to enter.... where? I couldn't figure it out. You certainly couldn't get there from the 14th street checkpoint, and the 7th street checkpoint was shut down when I was there (police going nuts, pepper spray, full riot gear with sticks drawn, etc.), and I couldn't get there from the 3rd or 2nd street checkpoint (near the D.C. courthouse), either. So as far as I was concerned, the parade was a shut out. I could have hung out behind the bleachers somewhere to watch it go by, but I wasn't really interested in seeing the parade, I was interested in being part of protest that the parade would see. Anyway, after walking around for four hours, I was hungry and tired and decided I'd just head home. I didn't want to spend one damn dime today, so rather than buy a hot dog and keep trying, I just headed home. Oh, I did have one fun exchange with some men in suits and trench coats. After I got through the security checkpoint at 14th street, I had my camera in my hand and I turned to take a picture of the security screeners. As I did so, a hand grabbed me and turned me around, telling me I couldn't take pictures of the security. So I said, “why not?” Suit: It's the rules. Me: What rules? Suit: The rules. Me: Who made those rules? Suit: (confused pause) The secret service. Me: Are you secret service? Suit: (more confused pause, looking at suit partner who is no help) I, uh, I'm working for the secret service, yeah. I really didn't want any trouble, but the guy just seemed so clueless and shocked to even be asked any questions I could hardly resist. Still, I was about to go on my way when a riot-gear wearing law enforcer stepped right up to me with German Shepard lunging at me on the end of its leash. “There's no reason for you to be taking any pictures of security,” the guy shouts in my face. My first thought was, 'well, actually, there's a good reason for me to take pictures of this and that is to document any potential violation of my rights.' But hey, I wasn't going to argue with the riot gear and the big doggie, so I just said “ok” and walked off. Not that exciting, really. It gave me the distinct feeling that it would be pretty easy to get arrested around there, but like I said, that wasn't really why I was there. So that's it. G.W. Bush has been inaugurated for a second time after being actually elected for the first time. Hoo-freakin-ray. Pictures here. UPDATE: I finally got through to the DC Indymedia site, where you can read a blow-by-blow of their view of the day, a sort of editorializing summary of things, and more details about the pepper spray party the police hosted downtown. Apparently a group of “anarchists” got a little rowdy around Adams Morgan early this morning, as well. NPR is reporting about 16 arrests, windows broken in businesses and a bank, etc. UPDATE II: A “mainstream media” article about counter-inaugural activities around the country.

Posted 10:56 PM | Comments (2)

It's On

So this is the inauguration day that I still can't believe is happening. Check out these 34 scandals from the first four years of Bush II (and another take on that theme), then explain to me why this man is being inaugurated today. There are many reasons, I know; unfortunately, none of them give me much hope for the future of the U.S. or the world. But hey, I'm used to being wrong, so here's hoping that I'm “the opposite of correct” (as Prof. CrimPro is fond of saying) about how much damage the Bush administration will do in the next four years. That said, this isn't a fun time to be in D.C., what with all the men in cowboy boots and tuxedos topped with cowboy hats and the women running around in their full length furs—on the metro, no less! Last night I had to stand still for the whole ride up the escalator from the metro b/c I was surrounded by these people who didn't understand or give a damn about escalator etiquette. I wanted to shout “stand right! walk left!” until they got out of the way, but instead I just stood there and listened to them talk about how great this whole inauguration party is turning out. Yay yay. So I can see why some people are going to Vegas for the weekend. There's so many stimuli there to overwhelm your senses maybe you could just forget about what's happening here. But I won't be in Vegas. Instead, I'm heading downtown to see what new and dubiously constitutional ways the D.C. Metro Police, the Secret Service, the FBI, the Capitol Police, etc. have dreamed up to make sure protesters stay invisible. GW is closed today (as is most of downtown D.C.) so instead of doing homework, I'll be observing what passes for representative democracy in action. I took some photos of the pre-inaugural set up in the last few days, and I'll be taking some more photos of the actual event (at least what I can see of it) today. If I don't post later today, please come bail me out of jail.* If you haven't already, you might want to check out the Counter-Inaugural 2005 site to see what's going on along those lines. * I'm kidding. I have no plans to be involved with the police except through the lens of a camera.

Posted 08:54 AM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2005

Bush Gives World Finger, Again

Last Wednesday the U.S. officially gave up the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. After at least one and a half years of searching, the search teams found nothing. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said:
“After a war that has consumed nearly two years and millions of dollars, and a war that has cost thousands of lives, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor has any evidence been uncovered that such weapons were moved to another country,” Pelosi said in a written statement. “Not only was there not an imminent threat to the United States, the threat described in such alarmist tones by President Bush and the most senior members of his administration did not exist at all.”
That's all true; it's just a restatement of what the Bush administration has already admitted. Pelosi called on President Bush “ to explain to the American people why he was so wrong, for so long, about the reasons for war.” Here's a better idea: Instead of demanding an explanation (which has been a fruitless demand for nearly two years now), why not demand impeachment? Presidents have obviously faced impeached proceedings for far, far, far, far, far less. Oh, but no need, because the president “knows” he did the right thing:
“Nothing's changed in terms of his views when it comes to Iraq, what he has previously stated and what you have previously heard,” McClellan said. “The president knows that by advancing freedom in a dangerous region we are making the world a safer place.”
Awesome. I'm so glad the president “knows” this, despite all evidence to the contrary (even assuming, for the sake of argument, that “advancing freedom in a dangerous region” is what the U.S. is doing). His administration's own statements tell the story of how much reality matters to them. But accountability? Fuggedaboudit. Anyway, it's already taken care of. The president says so:
“We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”
An “accountability moment.” Beautiful. I mean, as infuriating as this statement sounds, I hope Bush is right. Unfortunately, I fear there are going to be many more “accountability moments” in the years to come (some of them may also be called “blowback” or “unintended consequences of absolutely criminal foreign policy decisions”), but for the world's sake, I hope I'm wrong.

Posted 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

January 12, 2005


FYI, if you'll be in Washington, D.C. for the Counter-Inaugural Protests on January 20:
The J20 Legal Support Team is pleased to announce the launch of your support website This website includes our legal manual in both .pdf format for easy download and reading as well as .html format in case you need to read the manual at a computer in which you cannot download or print the manual. We also have Affinity Group Support Forms, Police Misconduct Forms, and will soon have a Know Your Rights handbill. The front page of the website will be updated as we add more information to the website and when news related to the protests is reported. Do not forget to check the website later in the day of January 20 to find out about jail and court support if people are arrested. And after the protests, check back for updates regarding court dates for arrestees and how arrestees can join a list serve and communicate with each other.
When I mention stuff like this, people generally ask: What's to protest? Short of convincing evidence that the election was stolen, some people think protesting an inauguration is pointless, or sour grapes, or even somehow disrespectful of our democracy and electoral system. Maybe. There's also the argument that protest is patriotic and a vital part of our democratic system, that the electoral process is broken (see, e.g., gerrymandering), and that the 49% of voters who did not support Bush/Cheney last November have a right (perhaps even an obligation) to voice their continuing opposition to this administration's policies and ideology. Whatever your thoughts, here are a few more counter-inaugural resources: If you still aren't sure what to protest, how about the fact that the cheapest tickets to the parade are now going for $150!? Is that for real? It looks like yes; if you're connected or acted early you could get free tickets from your federal representative, but at this point, it's pay or... What? I don't see any information for those of us who aren't going to have tickets? I won't be surprised if many of the 23 state (as in sponsored by gov't in some way and as opposed to private) police agencies in D.C. will have plenty of chain link pens at the ready for our inaugural pleasure. All the security and hoo-ha for the inauguration is costing D.C. nearly $12 million; it sounds like that's on top of millions being spent by the federal gov't. More information (not about costs, obviously) is available from the Joint Congressional Committee On Inaugural Ceremonies.

Posted 12:09 PM

December 18, 2004

CounterInaugural Constitutional Issue

A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), one of the big anti-war organizers, applied for a permit to occupy space along the route of the presidential inaugural parade on January 20th, but apparently the National Park Service is stalling on that permit. According to A.N.S.W.E.R., the Park Service is giving permits to Bush supporters first, and if there's anything left over at the end, maybe protesters will get it. Hmm. Sounds like a bit of a problem with “constitutionalizing the gatekeeper,” meaning making sure that the permit process is fair, equitable, and consistent with the demands of the First Amendment. According to “Constitutional Law in a Nutshell (Nutshell Series)” by Jerome A. Barron, C. Thomas Dienes, “[b]road delegations of authority, even when cast as content-neutral, indirect controls, invite censorship of unpopular views” (427). I wonder if A.N.S.W.E.R. will be able to argue that the National Park Service has an overly broad authority in the protest permit process, and that by denying protesters permits while granting permits to supporters, the Park Service is censoring “unpopular” views. (Putting aside for the moment that some 49% of the country voted against Bush, which hardly makes expression of protest against Bush “unpopular.”) In City of Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co. (1988), the Supreme Court said that “a facial challenge lies whenever a licensing law gives a government official or agency substantial power to discriminate based on the content or viewpoint of speech by suppressing disfavored speech or disliked speakers.” (Barron 428). Here, it appears (from the little I know) that A.N.S.W.E.R. could bring an “as applied” challenge to whatever permitting statutes or procedures the Park Service is supposed to follow, arguing that, regardless of how those rules are worded, they give the Park Service substantial power to discriminate, as applied. Of course, by the time such a legal claim came before a court, the inauguration might be long over, so this strategy may be pointless. And I'm sure A.NS.W.E.R.'s lawyers know all of this much better than I do, and I'm sure they know even better strategies for challenging the permit process. I'm just saying, maybe I learned something this semester after all. Maybe.

Posted 08:26 AM | Comments (5)

Moving On

Now a full month after Election 2004, the future of the Democratic party remains unclear. Move left? Move right? Fight fight fight? The fighting is in effect. According to this story, Peter Beinert wrote a popular analysis of what went wrong in which he bashes groups like, but MoveOn's not backing down. It sent a letter to its members saying:
“We can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers. In the last year, grassroots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the Party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive. Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back.”
By “we” MoveOn meant the grassroots supporters who gave time and money to help defeat Bush. And that's the most startling and meaningful thing to come out of this so far, as far as I'm concerned—the size of that grassroots base. Get this:
Financially, the DNC has not suffered terribly under this new regime -- it raised $309 million this year, compared with the Republicans' $385 million. As Arianna Huffington has pointed out, however, the DNC raised its money from a much wider pool this year. In 2000, its donor base was 400,000, while in 2004, 2.7 million people gave to the party.
2.7 million donors, up from 400,000! That's incredible. Maybe the DNC should organize a donor poll and ask all those 2.7 million donors to vote on the direction of the party. At least then it couldn't be accused of ignoring its members. How many donors gave to the RNC? According to the FEC, it looks like the Bush campaign had 210,109 individual donors; however, the number may not be directly comparable to the DNC's 400,000 because many more people may have donated to the RNC generally. The directly comparable number for just the Kerry campaign (not including donations to the DNC as a whole) is 219,493. Pretty similar. Meanwhile, another volunteer inside the Kerry campaign says the campaign itself was utterly incompetent, badly organized and badly run. I don't have much commentary to make on this; I'm just noting it for the record.

Posted 08:01 AM

November 10, 2004

Fear Breeds Repression

Still a little down after the election last week? Well, let's get over it, shall we? We've got some work to do, people! In that spirit, please read the following rationale for the First Amendment from Justice Brandeis writing in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927) (emphasis added):
Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law—the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Brandeis was concurring here w/a majority opinion that has since been overruled by Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). However, Brandenburg implicitly endorsed Brandeis' opinion, so it's still more or less “good dicta,” and hey, we'll work for that, right? So here's to speaking up, and speaking out! Here's to Sonnets for Democracy! And here's hope “those who won our independence” were right, that “the power of reason as applied through public discussion” will be enough to overcome the tyranny of a certain majority that reared its ugly head one fateful day in November, 2004. The Counter Inaugural might be a good place to begin.

Posted 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

November 08, 2004

Quickly Now

Heidi's maps of how the electoral vote went down do an awesome job of putting the supposed “mandate” in perspective. UPDATE: More map madness to make sense of the mayhem. Oh, and if you want a copy of the Daily Mirror's memorable post-election cover for posterity, you can get one here. After missing tons of class and reading this semester, I'm going to try to start being a law student again for a while. In the aftermath of this election, I'm less convinced than ever that some kind of legal career is even worthwhile, and still less sure of what direction I should take in such a career. But the question seems to be: Do we need good progressive legal activists, or do we need militant revolutionary leaders? Since I just don't think I'm cut out for the truly radical fight, maybe being a lawyer is my only option. Speaking of revolution, Happy Bolshevik Revolution anniversary, one day late. Do you know how hard it is to read U.S. labor law with the Bolshevik Revolution in your head? Is it just me, or is the world a really sad place right now?

Posted 10:40 AM | Comments (5)

November 07, 2004

Golden Rule Politics

A proposal for the Democrats: Starting today, start preaching the gospel. Adopt a simple theme, and apply it to every possible issue. I'll make it easy for you: The Golden Rule. As I learned it, the rule is very simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or, even simpler but less mantric: Treat everyone else like you would like to be treated. Therefore:
  • If you'd like health insurance, you need to help others get health insurance.
  • If you would like to know that your children are going to be able to grow up in a world with plenty of clean air and water, you're going to have to start taking better care of the environment.
  • If you want social security benefits, you have to be willing to continue paying into the system, and you have to support measures that will keep that money safe for future recipients.
  • If you want the right to marry the person you love, and to enjoy all the legal benefits that are attached to such a union, you have to be willing to grant the same to all other Americans.
  • If you want a decent wage and some sense of job security, you have to support increased minimum wages, living wages, and other measures to make employers more responsible to their employees.
  • If you don't want to have to work in a sweatshop, you're going to have to support trade policies that prohibit sweatshop labor—and you're going to have to stop shopping at Wal-Mart!
  • If you would like to know that you'll be able to safely and legally get an abortion if you became pregnant and did not want or could not afford to have a child, you need to support and preserve a woman's right to choose.
  • If you want your kids to go to good schools, with good teachers and rich, diverse opportunities, you have to support school funding measures to ensure these schools have the resources they need. (Voucher programs do not qualify here, since they allow people to be selfish in making sure their child gets a good education, while leaving other children and parents to cope with failing schools. Is that how you'd like to be treated?)
  • If you want to be free from terrorism and the fear of outside forces trying to control the way your country governs itself, you have to support the autonomy and security of all other nations around the world. Admit that the so-called “American exception” is a cruel hypocrisy that you only tolerate because you're an American, and which you would not tolerate if you were an Iranian, an Iraqi, a Venezuelan, etc.
I could go on, but you get the idea. It's strong, visionary, yet simple. Sure, there is more nuance and complexity to each of these issues than the simple application of the “golden rule” can capture, but that can all be fleshed out as we go forward. The magic is the apparent simplicity of Golden Rule Politics. Most people will just “get it.” It will help the Democrats speak to the millions of Americans who see faith and values as their most important issues, and it will play equally well with more secular voters. Golden Rule Politics is nondenominational; every major world religion I know of has some form of the Golden Rule within its most basic teachings. (Are there any religious scholars out there who would provide textual support for that?) Golden Rule Politics has the added advantage of exposing the Republican view of morality and values for the hypocritical sham that it is. If anything, Bush-type religion may find support in the Old Testament's “eye for an eye” kind of thinking, but it displays little of the moderation and tolerance added by the New Testament. Golden Rule Politics could remind religious conservatives of the values many if not all of them were probably taught as children, and should create common ground between them and the rest of the planet. Disclaimer: I'm no religious scholar, but the beauty of Golden Rule Politics is that it doesn't require any particular religious knowledge or affiliation. If you have those things, you get the history of the ideas, but w/out that background, the rules are still simple and clear. Anyway, it's an idea....

Posted 01:45 PM | Comments (8)

A Partial Explanation

I've heard talking heads say, and I agree, that many Americans have long supported Bush because they simply can't bring themselves to believe that he could have done all the bad things his critics say he's done. And really what we're talking about is this: Many Americans are simply horrified by the thought that their president, the “leader of the free world,” could take them to war and send more than a thousand American soldiers (and counting) to their deaths—on a stack of lies, exaggerations, and intentionally misleading innuendo. For these people, voting Bush out would have been an admission that they were wrong, that their president was a liar, and worse, that he was such an abominable person that would put greater value on oil or global power than he put on the lives of their loved ones and the peace and stability of the world. In this view, voting for Bush was a defense mechanism, a way for people to protect their minds and preserve their basic hope and belief that human beings—Americans, especially, and American presidents even more so—are good, trustworthy, and would never, ever, send thousands of people to their deaths without damn good reasons. Oh, and on a more basic level, voting against Bush would also be potentially admitting that we are not safer since invading Iraq and removing Saddam from power. In fact, it might be an admission that we are less safe because by doing this we have created more terrorists, not fewer, more hatred for America, not less. If you're kind of worried about terrorism to begin with, afraid that there really are shadowy armies of militants around the world who would like to see you or your country suffer, well, wouldn't it just freak you right out to admit that a huge part of what your country had been doing to supposedly make you safer was actually making you more vulnerable to terrorism? The mind recoils, then hand pushes the button for Bush. So yes, this election was about values. People did vote based on their core beliefs of right, wrong, good, bad. But this is not to say that more Americans agree with the republicans or Bush on these things; only that their basic beliefs in the good and the true made them utterly incapable of facing the horrible truth they would have to acknowledge if they decided to vote against Bush. Yes, Bush and Co. are winning the culture war—by bludgeoning the hijacking the basic goodness of Americans and turning it against us. By the way, if you're baffled by the vehemence of the anti-Bush sentiment in the country, look no further than the simple fact that loathing and even hatred are almost unavoidable responses for those who see the Iraq war as a mistake. Many of these people, myself included, really do believe that Bush and Cheney and the whole gang lied, manipulated, and intentionally mislead in order to get the authorization and support they needed to go to war. Exactly why they did this is the subject of some disagreement, but that they actually did it is not in doubt for these people. Can Bush “reach out” to these people who voted for Kerry and “heal the division” in the country? Yeah, sure. But first he'd have to publicly admit he'd lied, apologize for taking us to war on false pretenses, renounce all future interests in Iraq and Iraqi oil beyond a basic desire to see an autonomous and more or less democratic Iraq, invite the U.N. to take over control of all peacekeeping and rebuilding in the country, and maybe revoke every contract given to Halliburton since Bush/Cheney took office and get his Justice Department to bring suit against that company for stealing millions of dollars from the American people. Is any of that going to happen? Ha.

Posted 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2004

Another Post-Election Collection

People will be talking about this election for four more years, and maybe long after that, and while I won't be one of those people every day, it's still far too early to move completely on to other things. So first, this awesome map of the vote by county makes the country appear more divided than ever. Perhaps that's why some people are starting to talk less in terms of Red and Blue states and more in terms of a Purple Nation. Still, even though Kerry's support was concentrated in a few small geographic locations, that doesn't make it less significant. This is especially true when you consider that Kerry may actually have won—in a sort of hypothetical sense. Of course, he didn't win, but Greg Palast explains why the discarded and uncounted votes would very likely have put Kerry in the White House. Is this just the talk of sore losers? Perhaps, but we do know that at least one voting machine gave Bush nearly 4,000 votes that didn't exist, and if that happened, oh, about 40 times across Ohio (whether by accident or some other means), the margin of victory is suddenly gone. (A bit more on the evoting problems here and here.) Some Democratic congresspeeps are calling for an inquiry into evoting “irregularities.” With both the executive and legislative (and arguably the judicial) branches of gov't locked up by the Repubs, don't hold your breath on that investigation. The truth may want to be free, but for stuff like this, it's probably going to have to just keep wanting for at least four more years. And it's going to be a long four years; Republican gloating is so not pretty. Meanwhile, lots of people will be talking about how the vote broke down—who really voted for Bush? Sadly, it appears the working class has decided that trickle down economics and other economic policies destined to destroy the middle class are actually good for them. Maybe they appreciate the morbid spectacle, like some kind of sadistic circus act: Come one, come all! Watch as the gap between rich and poor gets wider! step right up folks, to see the gross inequality become even more appalling! I thought we'd all figured out that trickle down economics was just a nice way of describing how the rich piss on the poor, but I guess not. Is this What's the Matter with Kansas? Optimists are speculating that Bush might be more centrist in his first term as elected president/second term serving. Michael Hirsh makes a good point: It would seem difficult for Bush's second term to be more radical than the first, so moving more to the center may be his only option. But no, I don't think so. Bush and Rove etc. are good at what they do; every time you think they've gone as far as they can go, they go farther. I'd like to be optimistic, but we tried that in 2000 and it failed. I'd rather prepare for the worst. Bush's arrogance was on full display in his rare press conference as he admitted that he didn't have the support of the nation before this election, but said that now that he has “the will of the people behind him” he's going to start enforcing rules on the press. That's just the beginning, we can be sure. If you live in a blue state, get your Don't Blame Me t-shirts today. “Responsible clothing for the politically frustrated.” Yeah, but what about D.C.? You can also get a Blame Ohio t-shirt there, and elsewhere you're invited to say Sorry Everybody. All of that is great, but maybe we should start a site called “The Next Campaign Starts Today” because while it's nice to be sorry, it's better to work for positive change. This Ohio mother captures that pretty well:
So what am I going to tell my kids? I'm going to tell them that Bush won. I'm going to tell them that the electoral process worked. I'm also going to remind them that voting is only part of the process. The next part is to do everything we can as citizens and activists to reign in the havoc that Bush and his cronies are prepared to wreak, to find strong progressive candidates who will win the next elections, and to remind the world that here in Ohio, as in the rest of the country, there are lots of people -- half of us for sure, and probably more -- who want our country and our world to be different. We're here, we voted, and we're not going away.
In that vein, Kos says here's to hope, and don't mourn, organize. Cass Sunstein agrees, arguing that “healing” means surrender:
Critics of the Bush presidency do not need to heal our divisions but to insist on them. President Bush has presided over an extraordinarily divisive and polarizing administration. The suggestion that we should now “heal our divisions” is really a suggestion not for unity but for capitulation.
My sister agrees. Story: Someone came into her office and started moaning about how she hoped we could all put down our swords and come together as one nation. My sister called BS on that and said, “Americans don't need to put down their swords they need to pick them up so they don't get slaughtered by the Bush administration!” Yeah, my sister rocks. So as long as we're picking up the swords, Salon collected some “what to we do now?” thoughts from prominent pundit types, and I obviously agree w/what Arianna Huffington had a to say:
Already there are those in the party convinced that, in the interest of expediency, Democrats need to put forth more “centrist” candidate -- i.e., Republican-lite candidates -- who can make inroads in the all-red middle of the country. I'm sorry to pour salt on raw wounds, but isn't that what Tom Daschle did? He even ran ads showing himself hugging the president! But South Dakotans refused to embrace this lily-livered tactic. Because, ultimately, copycat candidates fail in the way “me-too” brands do. Unless the Democratic Party wants to become a permanent minority party, there is no alternative but to return to the idealism, boldness and generosity of spirit that marked the presidencies of FDR and JFK and the short-lived presidential campaign of Bobby Kennedy. Otherwise, the Republicans will continue their winning ways, convincing tens of millions of hardworking Americans to vote for them even as they cut their services and send their children off to die in an unjust war.
Camille Paglia offers some good advice, as well:
Progressives must do some serious soul-searching. Too often they are guilty of arrogance, insularity and sanctimony. They claim to speak for the common man but make few forays beyond their own affluent, upper-middle-class circles. There needs to be less preaching and more direct observation of social reality. America is evolving, and populism may be shifting to the Republican side.
Paul Waldman, editor of The Gadflyer, joins the chorus of those calling for energy and activism in the face of defeat:
So where do progressives go from here? First, they should spend the next four years fighting. If Kerry had won, there would be Republicans drafting articles of impeachment at this very moment, ready to fill in the blank of an imagined crime in January. As I did in the article I wrote for the launch of this magazine, I offer the movie quote that best describes today's Republican Party, from The Terminator: “It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop – ever – until you are dead.” There are a lot of very bad things George W. Bush is going to try to do over the next four years, but they can be stopped.
Of course, organizing and continuing the fight doesn't have to mean increasing division in the country. As Maureen Dowd suggests, “ W. doesn't see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.” Somewhere there must be a balance between fighting for what we believe is right, and completely alienating those who don't agree or don't understand. I don't think the balance needs to be that difficult to strike, but obviously we haven't reached it yet. Here's to trying.
Miscellaneous other post-election hoo-haw: Why Americans Hate Democrats, a collection of opinions from prominent Democrats that I haven't really had time to digest yet. Still thinking about moving to Canada? Get in line. The last word on Bush's bulge? The SS says it was a bulletproof vest. Ok, thanks. But um, how, exactly, would you have compromised the president's security by admitting that a month ago? One of Newsweek's election post-mortems summarizes the whole Kerry campaign, from the moment party leaders annointed him as their nominee (long before a single primary vote was cast), to getting his ass handed to him by Howard Dean, to being “electable,” to being ultimately defeated. Wow, what a great story. Not. But it is consistent with the idea that Kerry just was never a very good candidate. Do people in red states have a lower average IQ than those in blue states? Probably not (the data in that table appear to be unreliable), but... Alabama vote shows some Old South sympathies. Yay. Ha.

Posted 08:07 AM

November 04, 2004

Post Post

Ok. Let me get this out of the way. George W. Bush was elected President of the United States for the first time two days ago. There were, um, a few problems, but the outcome appears to be undisputed. Conservatives are ecstatic and some are plotting “revolution.” Many other people think this is bad news. I spent yesterday thinking all kinds of uncharitable thoughts and trying to avoid talking to people so that they would not be infected by my rage, despair, frustration, utter bewilderment, etc. What's there to say? Some people are saying “I'm moving to Canada,” so here's a reader's guide to leaving the country from Harper's Magazine, if you're among those who feel that's the only or best option. Here's why you might want to leave (link via Actus Reus). Mark Schmitt (via Cooped Up) says the Bush administration will now be held to the “break it you buy it” rule because they'll have no one to blame for the problems they create. Let's hope so, but voters didn't seem to care about holding their leaders accountable for their mistakes in this election—why will they do so in the future? William Saletan thinks he knows why the Dems keep losing to this idiot: he's simple, and voters like simplicity.
If you're a Democrat, here's my advice. Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance, and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry. You already have legions of people with preparation, stature, expertise, and nuance ready to staff the executive branch of the federal government. You don't need one of them to be president. You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesmanship, and easygoing humanity they don't have.
Saletan thinks that simple leader is John Edwards. Maybe, but if he's right about the simplicity message (which has a lot going for it), it seems less important to find that simple leader today than to figure out what the simple message is going to be. How about this: “Democrats: People who care about each other, our neighbors, and the future of the planet and human life on it.” Damn, is that too complicated? Hollywood Phil has a great postmortem roundup of what actually happened in the voting and possibl resons why. In contrast, Atrios isn't interested in thinking or talking about what went wrong with this election. “What matters isn't what was done wrong, but what needs to be done right for the '06 elections.” Well, maybe, but there are lessons to be learned from the Democrats' losing streak, and one way to figure out what needs to be done right for the future is to figure out what you did wrong in the past. In my opinion, the biggest lesson is that pandering to the “center” is a plan for failure. I'm sure there are many more lessons to be learned, but that covers a lot of them. Finally for now, Howard Dean says look on the bright side, and he's right.
Regardless of the outcome yesterday, we have begun to revive our democracy. While we did not get the result we wanted in the presidential race, we laid the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leaders. . . . That process does not end today. These are not short-term investments. We will only create lasting change if that sense of obligation and responsibility becomes a permanent part of our lives. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We will not be silent. Thank you for everything you did for our cause in this election. But we are not stopping here.
We have to remember that. If all of those who have opposed Bush for the last four years continue working, there's not telling what we can do. If we can start now with the level of passion and organization and activism that we've seen in the last six months, and build on that, the Republicans don't have a chance in 2006 or 2008. But if we fall apart, become demoralized, tune out, drop out, give up . . . if we do that, then we'll lose yet again, and we'll keep losing. Come on people, take the red pill! The rabbit hole is very, very, very deep.

Posted 09:36 AM | Comments (6)

Fun and Games

At the right you'll find a new countdown to Inauguration Day 2009. See, on the bright side it's only 4 years, 11 weeks, 1 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, 29 seconds until George Bush is no longer president! And here's a great game: Ponder all the possibilities!
  1. What is the worst thing that's going to happen in the next four years because of Bush's election?
  2. What is going to be the worst long-term consequence of nearly a decade under Bush?

Posted 08:19 AM | Comments (11)

Center? No. No. No!

Ok, really, I'm going to think and write about something other than the election someday soon. But not yet. First: The results of this election do not show that the Democrats need to move further to the center. No no no! Bush-light has failed for the past three elections—it has failed miserably! Yet I keep hearing pundits claim that this is the message to the Democratic party—you've got to move to the middle. Are these people insane!? The Democratic party needs to provide a real alternative to the Republicans, not try to be more like them! How many people did you know or hear about who said prior to this election that they didn't really care for Bush but they didn't really know what Kerry was about or how he was different? I know of many, and many of those people apparently voted for Bush. And the reason they didn't understand what Kerry stood for or how he was different is because he was too afraid to take real stands on issues to set himself apart from Bush. He was playing for the center, and he lost the whole field. And that's exactly what Gore did, too. And that's what happened to most of the mid-term races in 2002. Lots of people felt it was time for a change this year, but they didn't see how Kerry would give that to them. So they decided to stick with the devil they know. Democrats! Wake up! Stand up for what you believe in and tell the mythical “center” (which is moving further right every freaking day!) you're not going to pander to it anymore! Show the world what a farce the Right's “moral values” are by standing up for your own values—peace, equality, justice, environmental conservation, sustainable economies, living wages. . . basically, humanity before profit. There's a winning ticket waiting at this station and it's just sitting there. If the Democrats claim it, there will be no stopping them. But if they continue to play the Republican game and pretend to care about the “center,” they're going to lose lose lose lose lose. Leadership does not go to where it thinks the people are and try to convince the people it agrees with them. Leadership goes where it thinks the people ought to go, then it shows the people why it thinks they ought to go there, and asks them to join together to help move that direction. Democrats have to lead or lose, that's all there is to it.

Posted 08:15 AM | Comments (9)

November 03, 2004

The Day After

Very-Bad-Day !#?@*(^$!@*)$@%T#!!????????!!!!??????

Posted 07:57 AM | Comments (4)

November 01, 2004

See you on the brighter side

So I'm off to help out Impact 2004 protect the election in Philly. I hope there's no election fraud and the trip turns out to be a total waste. The good thing is, at least it will distract me from surfing the web for news for the next 30 hours or so until we know that John Kerry won, for sure. So I hope everyone who reads this votes or has voted. Find your polling place and do your little democratic thang. And If you have any problems voting please report them to: 1-866-MY-VOTE1 or 1-866-OUR-VOTE. But yeah, so barring massive election fraud or some other catastrophe, the next time I post here John Kerry will be president-elect and everyone will be scratching their heads wondering how the hell George Bush ever got appointed president in the first place. ;-)

Posted 05:10 PM | Comments (4)

Positives for Kerry and final pre-election craziness

We all hope that within 48 hours we'll know who the next president will be, and I can't imagine there are really that many people who have not decided how they plan to vote. (Although I've heard pundits saying that many “undecideds” claim they decide at the last minute, either on their way to the polls or even in the voting booth.). Still, if you're one of those who is still looking for reasons to vote for Kerry, don't miss Half-Cocked's megalist of reasons why he's voting for Kerry—and why you should, too. Here's another “Why for Kerry” from blogger Ed Cone. Also, if you haven't yet read the Kerry campaign's own description of Kerry's record, you really should. Sure, you can expect it to be biased, but after all of the Bush campaign's rhetoric about how Kerry's a flip-flopper who's got nothing to show for 20 years in the Senate (which is just flatly untrue), it's only fair you know Kerry's side of the story before you make up your voting mind. I heard Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning saying something like all the issues are breaking in Kerry's favor, but now there's a new category that voters are considering, the “other” category for issues like “leadership” and “security,” and that category is starting to break for Bush. Hype! Don't you believe it! Every time I hear Cokie Roberts it's like fingernails on a chalkboard; she's a Republican spinmeister in the guise of an NPR commentator (which is a lot like a wolf in sheep's clothing) and I long ago learned not to trust a thing she says. This spin has Rove written all over it. But that's nothing. It's down to turnout, and the Dems have the lead there. Polls of the huge numbers who have already voted give Kerry a big lead in Florida and Iowa. Of course, there's no way to predict how the widespread and growing voter suppression efforts will affect the outcome. It seems an Ohio judge is trying to limit some of those efforts by ruling that challengers won't be allowed at all in Ohio:
A federal judge issued an order early Monday barring political party challengers from polling places throughout Ohio during Tuesday's election. State Republicans planned to appeal. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott found that the application of Ohio's statute allowing challengers at polling places is unconstitutional. She said the presence of challengers inexperienced in the electoral process questioning voters about their eligibility would impede voting. . . . Dlott ruled on a lawsuit by a black Cincinnati couple who said Republican plans to deploy challengers to largely black precincts in Hamilton County was meant to intimidate and block black voters. Republicans said they wanted to prevent voter fraud. Dlott said in her order that the evidence “does not indicate that the presence of additional challengers would serve Ohio's interest in preventing voter fraud better than would the system of election judges.”
It's hard to believe the ruling will exclude all challengers, but would it be a bad idea if it did? Why don't we leave it up to the poll workers to determine who's registered, who's not, and who should be put in the question (provisional) pile? But nevermind, no need to worry. The Redskins lost yesterday, which means Kerry will win tomorrow, game, set, match.

Posted 08:49 AM | Comments (1)

October 31, 2004

Kerry not Scary

For a good number of people, it's really not hard to figure out why to vote against Bush. For example, here are 100 reasons and Bush by the Numbers has more, just for a start. But some people seem to have greater trouble finding reasons to vote for Kerry (rather than simply against Bush). If you're among those, I suggest you watch “Going Upriver”, a short documentary about Kerry's service in Vietnam and his role in the anti-war movement when he returned to the U.s. The film is available to download from Internet Vets for Truth, or you should be able to find it at your local movie rental shop. I watched it last night and was extremely impressed with the courage Kerry showed both in going to Vietnam and in trying to end American involvement there. The film shows us a Kerry who was never really radical in any way. He went to Vietnam because he thought it was the right thing to do to serve his country. While there, he learned that wasn't necessarily so. He saw lots of senseless death. He came back to the U.S. and acted very reasonably and deliberately, and with restraint and caution, to convince U.S. people and leaders to end American involvement in Vietnam. Apart from “Going Upriver” and Kerry's Vietnam-related record, you'll find more reasons to vote for Kerry if you read the Rude Pundit's endorsement, and look at Kerry's long record of support for progressive issues. Of course, as Time wrote:
Friends and enemies alike can find in his 19 years and 6,500 votes in the Senate whatever they are looking for: bold words that suggest fresh ideas but a lack of follow-through that suggests political caution; shifting positions on education, welfare and affirmative action that show either a capacity for growth or an absence of core beliefs.
Perhaps that's why the Kerry campaign has done such a poor job of using that record to Kerry's advantage. Other people have made important distinctions between the candidates' positions, and it's not hard to find summaries of where Kerry stands. In this comment thread on Three Years of Hell, someone named Martin argues that what defines Kerry is a continuous effort to do the right thing, even when it's unpopular:
John Kerry spent twenty years in the senate, and while he was there he did his damndest to make each vote count. This has got him attacked for flip flopping, but I'm telling you that those votes were about trying to do the right thing, each time even when it didn't matter. He wasn't voting against weapon systems, he was voting against pork. He wasn't voting against $87 billion for the troops, he was voting against $87 billion without a budget or a plan attatched. Things in retrospect that seem like a good idea. Those votes are hard to explain on the campaign trail, but I don't care. This was a guy who tried to do the right thing.
The rest of Martin's brief comments are worth reading as a concise list of reasons to vote for Kerry. As the Bush campaign points out, Kerry has a “liberal” record. Bush wants you to think that's a bad thing, but I'd encourage you to look past the label and the rhetoric. Kerry has shown good judgment, real concern for the environment, for the poor, for promoting peaceful and mutually beneficial solutions to both America's problems and those of the larger world. My read of Kerry's record shows someone who has always been drawn to big ideals, and who has had impressive successes and failures in pursuing those ideals. Kerry has spent his life working to make the world a safer, more peaceful, more fair and equal place for everyone. He's also frequently focused on the responsibilities of elected representatives to their people; time and again he's investigated and tried to end corruption, abuses of power, injustices perpetrated by leaders but paid for by the powerless. If you find that record objectionable, by all means, vote for someone else. But if that sounds more like the goals and values and priorities of the country you'd like to live in, vote for Kerry.

Posted 09:54 AM | Comments (4)

October 30, 2004

Osama bin unforgotten

Top of the news is the Osama video. His major point? We don't hate freedom, we want to be free:
“Your security is not in the hands of (Democratic candidate John) Kerry or Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands,” bin Laden said. “To the U.S. people, my talk is to you about the best way to avoid another disaster,” he said. “I tell you: security is an important element of human life and free people do not give up their security.” “If Bush says we hate freedom, let him tell us why we didn't attack Sweden, for example. It is known that those who hate freedom do not have dignified souls, like those of the 19 blessed ones,” he said, referring to the 19 hijackers. “We fought you because we are free .. and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours.”
Of course, he has a point, and neither candidate is really addressing his complaints; neither seems able to say anything other than “terrorism bad.” But regardless of the content of Bin Laden's message, I agree with Dave Winer about how the pundits are spinning this—the bias for Bush is incredible. But even NPR's Daniel Schorr took that spin (that the video helps Bush more than Kerry), and he's usually fairly critical on these things. Sorry, but the fact that Osama's still free to release videos whenever he wants only means Bush's much-vaunted “war on terror” has failed in major ways. Call that spin if you want, but that's how I see it. Elsewhere in the election-related grab bag: Bush's war has killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, a large majority of them the result of coalition airstrikes. Here's an enblogment for Kerry. The Electoral College Meta-Analysis provides yet another way to speculate about how the vote might go. [link via John's Ponderings] along with Electoral College Predictions (which has shifted decisively for Bush today) this seems a good way to sort through the polling madness. The Pentagon is saying maybe the military destroyed and/or moved some of the munitions that are missing from Al Qaqaa. Hmm. John Stewart made an excellent point the ohter night on The Daily Show when he ran a clip of Bush saying this about the Al Qaqaa munitions:
[A] political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not the person you want as the Commander-in-Chief.
All Stewart had to say is, “that's true.” Can you say Iraq, WMD, links to Al Qaeda, and more? I knew you could! In more good news for Bush, imaging experts confirm, the Bush Bulge was not bad tailoring. Jesse Ventura is campaigning for Kerry. He's not pulling any punches:
“To me, a president should not put his personal spiritual beliefs in front of science. If we had that type of attitude, we'd probably still have polio today, if we had beliefs that didn't allow scientific discovery. Now, people may say you're not very religious -- yes, I am. I believe God gave me a brain to use,” Ventura said. Ventura also criticized Bush for the growing federal deficit, saying Bush paid for tax cuts by racking up debt on the nation's credit card. And he had harsh words for the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Ventura says Bush has alienated the rest of the world, and the war has not made the U.S. safer. He says Bush invaded Iraq when he should have been focusing on Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. “I would have hunted down Osama Bin Laden 'til he was dead, before I would have ever entertained anything about Iraq. My parents taught me (to) finish the job at hand, finish the job you got in front of you, before you worry about the other job down the road,” he said. Ventura says leaders shouldn't ask troops to do something they didn't do themselves. He says Bush did not serve with honor when he was in the National Guard, and received preferential treatment.
Sounds like Ventura might like Internet Vets for Truth. So is anyone polling whether Americans think this election will be over next Wednesday? I'm predicting a decisive win for Kerry with 294 electoral votes. In my world he gets Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and all the other states he's basically wrapped up. What's your prediction?

Posted 10:36 AM | Comments (6)

October 29, 2004

Holding Pattern

Is anything happening with this election? We wait wait wait for next Tuesday. Meanwhile... A Minneapolis ABC affiliate broke big news yesterday, saying it had pictures of the weapons at Al Qaqaa that were after the Americans moved in there. The NY Times has picked up the story. Again, I don't see that it matters whether the weapons were there when U.S. forces arrived. Sure, it's worse if they were, but the fact that the weapons are missing is what's telling as far as this administration's priorities and lack of planning. Pushing to decrease the third-party factor, a group of international Greens implore Americans to vote for Kerry, and basically sum up the position of many Kerry voters:
The Bush administration has acted with a unilateralism that discounts the opinions of, and demeans the humanity of, non-Western peoples. Though John Kerry is far from the ideal candidate, he will in most respects be a significant improvement to Bush.
Speaking of third parties, NPR is airing part of an interview w/George Bush 41 (the former president) where he says third parties always fizzle "and rightly so," as if the fact that third parties have never achieved strong support in the U.S. is some sign that people prefer a two-party system or that the two-party system is better. Bollocks! When you've got two parties w/massive organization and resources combining to marginalize and destroy third parties, the fact that no third ever grows very large shows nothing more than that the two existing parties don't want any competition. Come on, do you really want to vote for this guy? And since it's almost Halloween: Did you ever consider carving your pumpkin with a Dremel tool? They even provide patterns, but these are still better, I think.

Posted 09:12 AM | Comments (2)

October 28, 2004

Spin Spin Sugar

I admit it. The Bush team is good at what it does, and if there's one thing this administration has done a lot of, it's spinning. The Bush tactic, which is probably really the Rove tactic, seems to be to know your own weaknesses well enough to pin them on your opponent. IOW, accuse your opponent of doing exactly what you're doing. That's what Bush is doing with the spin on the 380 tons of missing munitions—he's making wild claims by accusing Kerry of making wild claims. He's also saying anything to get elected by saying that Kerry will say anything to get elected. Talking Points Memo has the comments I'm talking about. I wish I had the time to examine all the speeches both candidates are giving in this last week of the campaign and compare the claims each is making to see which is lying the most. Of course both of them are spinning, but I'd like to know it's more than my own partisanship that makes me think Bush is spinning harder (aka, lying more). That aside, it's still funny to hear Bush tell audiences that if Kerry had been president for the last three years Saddam would still be in power and he could be giving weapons to terrorists to attack the U.S. Seems like might have been the Bush administration that gave weapons to terrorists, doesn't it? Salon's War Room has even more on that story. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said:
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.
Maybe the Bush campaign never got that memo. But hey, you gotta believe! In the theme of laughing in the face of disaster, Get Your War On continues its ever-brilliant satire of current events:
Do you think Mohamed ElBaradei is currently running around with 380 tons of Schadenfreude?
Elsewhwere in humorpolitik, a campaign to support Bush has decided to support Kerry:
Before breaking with Bush, the Yes, Bush Can team worked earnestly to support him. They went to the Pacific Northwest to promote Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative--and discovered it was enabling the logging industry to cut down our last old-growth forests. They visited a nuclear power plant in Ohio to promote Bush's domestic security policies--and found no one in the guard booth to meet them. In western Pennsylvania, while promoting the President's energy policy, they learned that it allows coal emissions which kill 23,000 people a year. Finally, while defending Bush's war on terrorism, they found out that even Donald Rumsfeld feels the Iraq War has made the world a more dangerous place.
All right, although the depiction of Bush's policies appears accurate, the rest is a joke. But still, their Patriot Pledge is pretty good. Question: Why is the Bush campaign blocking non-U.S. web visitors?

Posted 08:44 AM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2004

Fool Me Once...

So about those 380 tons of munitions that are missing in Iraq. Some people are saying that the weapons may have gone missing before American troops entered Iraq, that Saddam Hussein's troops removed them sometime after the U.N. weapons inspectors last checked on them and found them secure, but before the U.S. could have had a chance to secure them [link via JR]. As I mentioned in a comment here, that's possible. Yesterday's Talking Points Memo argued that that story was bunk (see also many other posts at TPM from the last few days), but who knows? The point is that even if that proves to be the case, we still learn two things from these missing weapons. First, we learn yet again that the planners of the U.S. attack on Iraq put oil at the top of the list, and thought of little else. Securing weapons was not on their agenda, just like securing Iraq's cultural heritage was irrelevant. They secured the oil ministry and the oil fields first and foremost; everything else was an afterthought. Second, we learn yet again that we really may not be more safe now that Saddam is in jail. When Saddam was in power, these weapons were controlled and contained by the U.N. inspectors. Saddam could not have used them against Iraqis, or American soldiers, or anyone else. Now that Saddam is out of power, these weapons are gone, and most likely they have been and are being used to kill Iraqis and Americans. So yeah, thank goodness we removed Saddam from power. But the weapons inspectors were standing in the way of war; they said and still say it wasn't necessary, and Bush was determined to prove them wrong. Over time, it's still possible that Iraqis will be better off thanks to our invasion of their country. It's possible. But it's also possible that leadership far worse than Saddam—and far more dangerous to the U.S. and Iraq's neighbors—could be elected or could come to power some other way. We just don't know what's going to happen. But my point was about that 380 tons of missing munitions, and the bottom line is: Whichever way you slice that story, it's bad for Bush. He led us into this war against the wishes and advice of the rest of the world. And although he likes to say that everyone was misled by faulty intellignece, that's just not true. Oh, and by the way, that 380 tons of missing munitions may just be the tip of the iceberg. In other election-related bits: 100 Facts and One Opinion: The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration. Of course, we know Bush supporters don't care about about facts, but still, it's a pretty damning list. And the opinion?
If the past informs the future, four more years of the Bush Administration will be a tragic period in the history of the United States and the world
That's what Molly Ivins and others said in 2000—Bush's record in Texas showed he'd be a disastrous president. Now his record as president has proven that. And still he polls at 50%? How!? Why!? Elsewhere, Greg Palast reports on a new potential Florida vote scandal—are Republicans planning mass voter challenges on Nov. 2? The law says any voter can challenge any other voter for any reason, which effectively means that any voter could bring voting to a complete halt at any polling location in the nation. If Republicans stationed challengers at majority Democratic polling places, they could easily suppress a lot of Democratic votes. Of course, the Dems could do the same, or some malicious third party could play the spoiler for all. Palast is basing his report at least partially on some “caging” emails via which Republicans have exchanged lists of voters. I guess we'll know soon enough wether this is anything but speculation. More from Salon's War Room. The War Room also suggests that Justice Rehnquist's condition may be more serious than we're being told. The stakes just get higher and higher. For your audio-visual election-related pleasure, Eminem, now a political activist, suggests we mosh for the future. Errol Morris has also released a cornucopia of Republican-to-Democrat “switcher” vids. For your old-school gonzo journalism take, Hunter S. Thompson is still fighting the good fight. As far as the horserace aspect of the election goes, this electoral college predictions site is rather fascinating. Depending on which numbers you consult, Kerry has a 74% or a 28% chance of winning. Yeah, I'm thinking polls are pretty helpful at this point. Not! And don't forget to download your Kerry or Bush jack-o'-lantern carving templates! Whichever one you find more scary could make a great halloween decoration!

Posted 07:47 AM | Comments (6)

October 26, 2004

Election Protection

By the way, although my last post suggests this, let me be more explicit: If you're a lawyer or law student and you'd like to help make sure voting is free and fair next Tuesday, get in touch with your local Impact coordinator to see how you can help. Impact is non-partisan, so this is a great way to help out, regardless of your political views. If you'd like to be more activist and partisan about your election protection and you live in or near a swing state, I'm betting ACT can set you up with ways to help out. Does anyone know of other cool election protection opportunities out there?

Posted 01:27 PM

Laughing in the face of disaster?

It's good to know I'm in good company in being unable to focus on much besides the election. Half-Cocked (and others) might be interested to see this little Nebraska tidbit from Electoral Vote Predictor:
A new poll in Nebraska answers that age-old question: could Nebraska split its votes in the electoral college with a resounding: NO! Bush has huge leads in all three congressional districts. Similarly, Kerry is way ahead in both of Maine's congressional districts and the Colorado referendum is behind. Looks like it is going to be winner-take-all in every state.
It's a shame about the colorado referendum which would split electoral votes among candidates according to their percentage of the total vote. We need electoral reforms like this, but it's not surprising that Colorado isn't going to be the state to lead here. Other numbers on Electoral Vote are also somewhat depressing. Right now it predicts a Bush electoral college win of 285 to 247, and continued Republican domination of the Senate. People should think about that when they go to vote: Do we really want Republicans controlling every branch of government for another four years, or would a little balance maybe be a nice change? So the question of the day: Are negative developments in Iraq and Chief Justice Rehnquist's hospitalization a combined “October Surprise”? While you think about that, have you thought about voting absentee? If you need to vote absentee in D.C., MD, or VA, this article will tell you basically what you need to do. For my own record:
District absentee voters also can cast their ballots in person at the Fourth Street office, above the Judiciary Square Metro station, through Nov. 1. Voting hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, voters can call 202-727-2525.
And the DC Board of Elections (or the site of your local election board) might be a good site to check out in the coming days you can be sure of your polling place, ID requirements, etc. Try My Polling Site to find the details you need. [link via Letters of Marque] I spent a couple of hours last night at a training session with the President of IMPACT 2004, which has led one of a couple nationwide efforts to protect the right to vote on Nov. 2. I'm currently signed up to hop a bus to Philadelphia Nov. 1 so I can be there all day on the second watching the polls in a non-partisan way. But I'm kind of torn. I could also go to Ohio starting Saturday and returning after the polls close. I wonder which would be more valuable? Will all those partisan ACT volunteers descending on Ohio be like the orange hats for Dean in Iowa? Some people argue that the huge influx of out-of-state partisans knocking on doors and trying to turn out the vote in Iowa caused Iowans to vote against Dean, rather than for him, because they felt invaded and overwhelmed. I'd hate to see something like that happen to Kerry in Ohio. But hey, that's all like serious and stuff. It's just an election, right? So here's Monster Slash, a funny little flash video highlighting the Bush administration's stellar environmental record. Is it good to be able to laugh at the folly of our supposed leaders? And here's a demo of Diebold's new voting machines. Is it good to be able to laugh at the potential implosion of democracy?

Posted 08:16 AM | Comments (1)

October 25, 2004

Concentration Impossible

Ok, it's official. There's just no way I'm going to be able to concentrate this week. Did you see this about the 380 tons of weapons we “lost” in Iraq? And these most excellent numbers showing Bush's chance of winning plummeting? Yeah, ok, those numbers might be out of date as the disclaimer at the top of the page says, but they're still way more interesting than anything I could possibly be reading about closely held corporations right now. Tell me again why I took corporations law? Stupid stupid stupid. It's going to be a long week.

Posted 03:42 PM | Comments (2)

Reasons 1-2 to vote for Kerry

There are so many reasons to vote for Kerry (all of which are reasons to vote against Bush), I don't know where to begin, but since the election is so close I might spin every post this week into a reason to get to the polls and get us some regime change. Then again, I might not. But today I am, and the first two reasons are two overlooked news stories that should convince anyone that this administration is not good for America. First, the ongoing scandal of sweetheart deals for Halliburton. Billions of dollars in giveaways to the vice president's former company, the company from which he still receives benefits, and very few people seem to care. In another day, something like this would have been enough to bring down an administration all on its own. Unfortunately, the Halliburton scandal is far from the only blight on the Bush administration; we also have the backdoor draft. Two members of the National Guard have sued the military, claiming that the so-called “stop-loss” policy that extended their enlistments was illegal.
Attorneys for the soldiers, citing the report of the Sept. 11 commission that found no evidence of any “collaborative operational relationship” between Iraq and al-Qaida terrorists, say the executive order did not cover “nation-building service in Iraq.” In the absence of any declaration of war by Congress, the soldiers say the involuntary call is a violation of their enlistment contract. “This is not a frivolous lawsuit,” said Michael Noone, a military-law specialist at Catholic University of America and a former judge advocate in the Air Force. “I had assumed the government had an ironclad case, but the complaint looks valid on its face. I'm really curious how the government will respond.”
The fact that I only heard yesterday about this lawsuit means it's just not getting enough coverage in the media. Oh, and look, here's another one. Why isn't Kerry talking about this every day? Of course, the lawsuit also raises the whole issue of the so-called “war on terror,” which can't be a war because war never declared. Nor can Bush be a “wartime president” as he and the media like to say. Sadly this is almost as much a failure of Congress as it is a failure of the Bush administration or the media. I could probably go on all day about reasons to vote for Kerry all day—and I could even talk about some positive ones, rather than just the “reasons to vote against Bush” variety above—but I probably better go to class. Class blows, but it's better to go than to miss. P.S.: Unless you'd like your dreams to be scary, haunting, and traumatic try to avoid researching the death penalty in the wee hours of the morning just before you go to sleep. Of course, maybe dreams like that would be good preparation for a halloween or the prospect of four more years of Bush, but still, I don't recommend it.

Posted 08:13 AM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2004

Nine More Days?

I don't know if I can take it. The election is only nine days away but I fear they're going to be the longest nine days of the whole darn odyssey. I'm not concerned about the polls so much, both because they're not really changing much and because they may not be measuring a pretty large number of newly-registered voters and cell phone users who could swing the election either way, although they're perhaps more likely to break for Kerry. Still, even if you're not hanging on the polls, there are little bits of news every day that could change the race. For example, how will Wolfpacks for Truth skew the results? ;-) Probably not much, since, according to a new survey, Bush supporters live in a fantasy world. The summary of that survey's results shows that Bush supporters stubbornly refuse to believe findings of the 9/11 Commission or dozens of other experts on issues related to Iraq and terrorism. According to Steven Kull (via Alternet), director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which conducted the survey, this is classic cognitive dissidence:
“To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq,” Kull says. He added that this “cognitive dissonance” could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey. The poll also found a major gap between Bush's stated positions on a number of international issues and what his supporters believe Bush's position to be. A strong majority of Bush supporters believe, for example that the president supports a range of international treaties and institutions that the White House has vocally and publicly opposed. In particular, majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assume that he supports multilateral approaches to various international issues, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (69 percent), the land mine treaty (72 percent), and the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (51 percent). In August, two-thirds of Bush supporters also believed that Bush supported the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although that figure dropped to a 53 percent majority in the PIPA poll, it's not much of a drop considering that Bush explicitly denounced the ICC in the first, most widely watched presidential debate in late September. In all of these cases, majorities of Bush supporters said they favored the positions that they imputed, incorrectly, to Bush. Large majorities of Kerry supporters, on the other hand, showed they knew both their candidate's and Bush's positions on the same issues.
So there you have it: Kerry supporters are more well-informed and have a more realistic view of the world than do Bush supporters. Isn't “faith-based” government a wonderful thing?

Posted 02:28 PM | Comments (4)

October 21, 2004

Eerie Sports Analogies

Congrats to the Red Sox. Since I know nothing about baseball and pay zero attention to it normally, I am shocked to learn that Boston might face Houston in the World Series. Another way to put that: Massachusetts might face Texas in the Series. Is it just me or would that be an incredibly eerie coincidence? And the Series starts Saturday. Which will be over first: The World Series or the presidential election? Oh, and do you really want a president who feels threatened by people asking him silently to protect civil liberties? Or how about a president who suppresses CIA reports he doesn't like? Houston, I think we have a problem. Is Bush a pirate or an emperor? UPDATE: About the potentially eerie symbolism of a Massachusetts v. Texas World Series? Nevermind: Cardinals 5, Astros 2.

Posted 09:20 AM | Comments (6)

October 16, 2004

Stewart Stuffs Crossfire

Jon Stewart said yesterday on CNN's Crossfire that the show is hurting America. Get a transcript, download an mp3, and if you can figure out BitTorrents, you can get the video, too (all links from Scripting News). Wow. I didn't see it, but I listened to it and it's incredible. Tucker Carlson told Stewart he should get a job at a journalism school; Stewart replied seriously: “You need to go to one!” Salon's Charles Taylor says Stewart's appearance was completely consistent with his stance on his own show and I tend to agree:
Stewart's “Crossfire” appearance is going to generate talk about how prickly he was, how he wasn't “nice” like he is on “The Daily Show.” But prickliness is just what was needed. If you've built your reputation as a satirist pointing out how the media falls down on the job, you're not going to make yourself a part of their charade.
Will this cause mainstream journalists to do a serious gutcheck? Probably not, but maybe a ball is now rolling that will lead there eventually. Thanks, Jon. Early stories about this elsewhere:

Posted 06:34 AM | Comments (4)

October 14, 2004

Post Debate Hurry

This would be me having no time to say anything more than I thought Kerry did a great job last night, Bush did much better than in the first two debates, and Bush really did say he wasn't worried about and no longer thinks about Osama bin Laden. That's the only little “fact check” I have time for, but if you spot good bits that expose the mistatements or misrepresentations of either candidate, I'd love to hear about them.

Posted 09:03 AM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2004

Pre-Debate Thoughts

Ok, so the final debate is tonight and it's pretty important. Here are a few tidbits for your brain to kick around as you watch.

One: Get your debate bingo cards here or here.

Two: Bush's Court Picks: Be Afraid. Very Afraid.

Three: From the GW Bush Flip Flop Catalog, something to consider while you listen to Bush talk about putting money in your pocket and neglect to mention any plan for paying for his massive tax cuts:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.” — Alexander Tyler, 1778

Four: The following is a transcription of a scene in a 2000 episode of The West Wing entitled “The Midterms.” At least that's what TiVo says; I can't find it on the episode guide. Anyway, it's directed at those who think U.S. public policy should be based on literal readings of the Bible, and might be food for thought when Bush talks about how he's guided by god. Below, President Bartlett is speaking to a right-wing talk radio host:

President Bartlet (PB): I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an “abomination.”

Host (H): I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President, the Bible does.

PB: Yes, it does. Leviticus.

H: 18:22

PB: Chapter and verse! I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you hear. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:07. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?

H: Silence.

PB: While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarrity, insists on working on the sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it ok to call the police?

Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean -- Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?

Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building when the president stands, nobody sits.

UPDATE: The Unreasonable Man writes to note that the above quote from Tyler may be a hoax. Also, here are two more pre-debate nuggets for you. The first is from an open letter to Bush and Rumsfeld:

Under the military way of life and thought, a commander is responsible for errors that occur under his command whether he knew about them or not. Secretary Rumsfeld and President Bush, you are responsible for the inaccurate intelligence assessments, inadequate troop strength, Iraqi prisoner abuses, inadequate logistical support for U.S. forces, and fraudulent contracting billing for the Iraq reconstruction. And you should care about every combat death or injury that occurs.

The second is simply the latest on the Bush bulge. L. and others have speculated that after all the attention the back bulge got in the first debate, Bush moved the radio device from his back to his front. Was he looking quite a bit thicker around the middle than usual? Did his coat appear to fit rather poorly for a man who probably has custom-tailored suits? Will this be one of the mistakes left for historians to decide?

Posted 11:23 AM | Comments (17)

October 11, 2004

Two Years Ago Today

As noted here one year ago, Congress authorized the use of force against Iraq on 10/11/02. Such a sad and tragic mistake, but maybe next time they won't be so quick to do it. Nah, I didn't think so either. Another sad thing: So many of the links in that post from a year ago are broken. What good is the web when its links are so tenuous the cannot even last a year?

Posted 11:27 AM

Dred, Electoral College, Alternatees...

One: Could it be that Bush's mention of the Dred Scott decision in last Friday's debate was some coded red meat for the anti-abortion crowd? Wow. That's some serious rhetoric going on. More here on judicial nominations as an election issue. The ACS Blog has also picked this up, as did Fables of the Reconstruction, and now Salon, too. Two: According to a U of Minnesota economist, Bush currently has a 55% chance of winning the electoral college. The page is constantly updated, so it's a good resource to continue checking as the election closes in. Three: Today is Columbus Day. While celebrating the “discovery” of America seems a little perverse, until 5 p.m. last night, I still thought we had the day off from school today. Woops! I was so wrong. Good thing I didn't do a single bit of homework all weekend since I was planning to do it all today on my day off. Yeah, good thing. Four: Shopping for a law student or law-type person? Check out Law School Stuff, featuring shirts w/slogans like “gunner,” “working hard to be average,” and my personal favorite, “Public Interest Law: Twice the schooling, half the pay.” Now if we could just get them to use sweat-free shirts... Five: Speaking of sweat-free shirts, an Alternatee would make a great gift for the progressive politico on your gift list this season. Try the Bar Code Prison or the U.S. World Domination Tour to make some serious statements. All Alternatees are printed on gear from American Apparel, which means means it's sweat-free, but unfortunately not union-made. I disagree with their choice to shun unions, but the fact that they treat their workers so well makes up for that somewhat. Six: I seem to have become a sort of gunner pariah in my labor law class, mostly b/c the law we're learning could be more appropriately termed “anti-labor law.” It all makes me so mad I just can't keep my hand down, and then when I ask a question Prof. Labor Law goes off on a lengthy answer that's generally fascinating but doesn't really respond to my question and tends (I think) to bore most everyone else who's not as fanatical as I am about the subject. To my classmates: I'm sorry. I don't mean to do it. I will try to keep my mouth shut. I promise.

Posted 10:33 AM | Comments (1)

October 09, 2004

Post-Debate 2

Ok, so I'm beginning to accept that not everyone saw the same debate I did, or at least it didn't leave them with the same decisive impression. Whatever the press consensus is, I thought Kerry was incredibly strong, and Bush was just frightening misleading, angry, and incoherent. Of course, you'd expect little else from me, wouldn't you? But remember, I have never been a strong Kerry fan. The truth is, with his performance in these debates I feel like he's finally earning my support rather than just getting it by default. Here's a roundup of some good bits I've seen about the debate so far: has already fact-checked both candidates' performances last night, and it's pretty much what you'd expect—they're both full of it. Watch Bush flip out on Charlie Gibson. Read how Bush bungled one of the few references to authority he even attempted when he tried to talk about the Dred Scott case. Scott Rosenburg hits Bush hard on his infallibility and the condescension he continues to express for the rest of the world ("I know how these people think!"). Josh Marshall also has good thoughts on the godlike president and he's going with the center spin that the debate was a draw. The AP's summary said "Bush Fights Emotion, Scowls In Debate." That's true. He seemed to have a perma-fake smile pasted to his face and every once in a while his jaw clenched as he fought to avoid showing his petulance. I recommend regular readings of Salon's War Room these days for great quick commentary on the election as it develops. Finally, have you heard about Bush's mysterious back bulge? Salon picked up the story from blogs, and the NY Times follows up today. New blogging rockstar (at least in my own little pantheon of blog rockstars) thisdarkqualm covers the story and includes a picture of Bush at the ranch w/the same bulge. So what the hell is it? Check out Is Bush Wired? for ongoing speculation, including links to real devices that may have turned Bush into Rove's remote-controlled toy. Also comments from Andy Card and some strong denials from both campaigns. You think this is just nutty crazy, right? Perhaps. But look at the record of this administration; I wouldn't put anything past them. And apropos of the brave new world of remote-control presidents and Bush as "a good steward of the land" (I can't believe he had the nerve!): I love it when I get email asking me to buy "Soma." If only....

Posted 09:36 AM | Comments (10)

October 08, 2004


Just finished watching the second presidential debate between Bush and Kerry and to me it looked like Kerry delivered a knock-out blow. I'm not just saying that to join the post-debate spin machine; that's really how it looked to me. I think Bush lost it when he shouted down Charlie Gibson in his rush to say basically nothing in response to a Kerry answer. Kos already has the factcheck smackdown on Bush's “I own a timber company” smirky retort. I'm sure there's more of this to come. I can't wait to hear what the fact-checkers have to say about Bush's response to the question about the environment. It sounded like complete BS to me. There's more, and you'll be getting it elsewhere, so I'll let the spinmeisters go to work...

Posted 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2004

Veep Debate

Political Wire has a good little roundup of post-debate topics. Grouchy Cheney told us to visit to see the truth about Halliburton. Funny, that link takes me to “a personal message from George Soros” entitled “Why we must not re-elect President Bush.” Cheney obviously meant to send people to, which seems to be getting slammed this morning, judging by how difficult it is to load the page. I haven't been able to access it yet, but they have a piece up claiming that Cheney & Edwards Mangle Facts. Also not-to-be-missed is Josh Marshall's coverage of how Cheney in particular mislead the world into thinking there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Scott Rosenberg thought Edwards cleaned Cheney's clock, but that's not exactly a unanimous opinion, as he notes. Oh, and don't worry about the election this year—the Florida ballot is completely fixed. [Link via Political Wire] Briefly, since this is getting out late and there are already plenty of opinions afloat on the whole thing, I thought Cheney was grouchy, mumbled a lot, and outright lied several times. Still, he did a heckuva lot better than his running mate. I think if the Republicans had chosen Cheney for Pres instead of vice, Kerry might be in serious trouble. ;-) Edwards did well in answering Cheney's dissembling accusations, and he got some good points across. However, he missed some great opportunities to turn Cheney's criticisms back at him. For example, Cheney kept saying Kerry/Edwards don't have the “judgment” to lead. You want to talk about judgment? Bush claims he agrees that nuclear proliferation is a number one security threat to the U.S. and world, and he's spending millions to research and build more nukes! Does that sound like good judgment to you? There were other examples, but it's easy to armchair-quarterback after the fact. Friday looks to be as important as ever, or more so.

Posted 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

Veep Debate

Political Wire has a good little roundup of post-debate topics. Grouchy Cheney told us to visit to see the truth about Halliburton. Funny, that link takes me to “a personal message from George Soros” entitled “Why we must not re-elect President Bush.” Cheney obviously meant to send people to, which seems to be getting slammed this morning, judging by how difficult it is to load the page. I haven't been able to access it yet, but they have a piece up claiming that Cheney & Edwards Mangle Facts. Also not-to-be-missed is Josh Marshall's coverage of how Cheney in particular mislead the world into thinking there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Scott Rosenberg thought Edwards cleaned Cheney's clock, but that's not exactly a unanimous opinion, as he notes. Oh, and don't worry about the election this year—the Florida ballot is completely fixed. [Link via Political Wire] Briefly, I thought Cheney was grouchy, mumbled a lot, and outright lied several times. Still, he did a heckuva lot better than his running mate. I think if the Republicans had chosen Cheney for Pres instead of vice, Kerry might be in serious trouble. ;-) Edwards did well in answering Cheney's dissembling accusations, and he got some good points across. However, he missed some great opportunities to turn Cheney's criticisms back at him. For example, Cheney kept saying Kerry/Edwards don't have the “judgment” to lead. You want to talk about judgment? Bush claims he agrees that nuclear proliferation is a number one security threat to the U.S. and world, and he's spending millions to research and build more nukes! Does that sound like good judgment to you? There were other examples, but it's easy to armchair-quarterback after the fact. Friday looks to be as important as ever, or more so.

Posted 11:54 AM

October 04, 2004

Focus Grouping

I just got an email from someone connected to Frank Luntz, who is sometimes referred to as “Bush's pollster.” Not surprisingly, the Luntz folks will be focus-grouping the vice-presidential debate next Tuesday, and they're looking for people to be part of their “mini-America.” If you're in the D.C. area and would like to be part of a focus group for the VP debate on Tuesday night, fill out this form and maybe they'll call you. If they do, they'll pay you $50 to watch the debate and answer questions about it, and your opinion could represent the opinions of millions! (Insert evil laugh here.0

Posted 12:34 PM | Comments (5)

Republican Canards

The new Republican spin on last week's debate is just too much. Kerry said Bush failed the global test for offensive military action when he failed to convince the U.N. and our traditional allies that a massive invasion and occupation of Iraq was necessary or wise. That's why this is Bush's war—he chose to fight it, and has basically been giving the finger to the global community (and a large percentage of Americans who opposed the war from its first mention) ever since. So now the Republicans are saying that Kerry said he would let U.S. foreign policy decisions be made in foreign capitals, that under Kerry, “the use of troops to defend America” would be “subject to a veto by countries like France.” Sorry, but that's just not true, and the only reason they're saying that is because they'd rather spin than try to defend their record because, frankly, they made a mistake. We all know there's a big difference between working with others and letting them tell you what to do. Since Bush became president, I've often felt the urge to compare political situations to playground etiquette. Here, Bush appears to see only two options for the U.S. on the global playground: we can either be the bully, or we're going to get beat up. But history shows that there's another option that has worked really, really well, and that is to hang out with a bunch of friends on the playground, standing together against the loner bullies and convincing them by example that they're going to have more fun on the playground if they accept the rules that most everyone but them agrees on. Sure, it's possible there will be times when the rest of the world is just wrong and the U.S. has to go it alone on something, but invading Iraq was so not one of those times. The Republican rhetoric is both wrong and dangerous because it's basically trying to convince Americans that global cooperation is unacceptable, that no one can tell the U.S. what to do, but that every other country should do whatever we say. If Americans really accept these ideas, where will it end? Why would any other country ever want to work with us on anything again? And while we're debunking Republican canards, how about we look at the one that says that “No one can seriously suggest that the world is not a better and safer place w/out Saddam in power.” Um, I can. What would have happened if we hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003? What if Saddam was still in power and we had continued with the most invasive inspections regime ever, and the sanctions and the global scrutiny and diplomacy? Very possibly something like this:
  1. Thousands of Iraqis and over a thousand Americans would still be alive
  2. Saddam might be a laughing-stock in his own country and in the world because the inspections would have shown by now that he had absolutely zero in the way of “WMD”
  3. The U.N. would have been strengthened and gained credibility through its patient, determined, and peaceful resolution of a dangerous international issue
  4. Iraq would have remained stable (if depressed) and would most likely have remained largely free of Al Qaeda-type terrorists (instead it has become a haven for them)
  5. American prestige, power, and influence would be stronger than ever because the U.S. would still be acknowledged as a visionary moral leader in the world; the global goodwill the U.S. enjoyed after September 11, 2001 would only have been strengthened as the world saw that the world's most powerful nation was not just strong, but also wise.
Instead, Bush refused to work with anyone; he was right, everyone else was wrong, and consequences be damned. The consequences?
  1. Thousands of Iraqis and over 1,000 Americans are dead
  2. Saddam is a laughing stock, but so is the U.S. because it used its massive military strength to “protect the world” against WMD that didn't even exist
  3. The U.N. has been relegated to a bit player, just where the Republicans want it to be, and the U.S. appears opposed to the idea of non-violent resolution of conflicts
  4. Iraq is highly volatile, filled with anti-American terrorists, and there's no real end in sight
  5. American has become a global pariah and to some extent a laughingstock; every ounce of respect and sympathy the world had for us after 9/11 has been squandered. Now when the U.S. says “we should do X because it's vital to global security,” the rest of the world laughs and gives us the finger.
So yeah. The world is so much better, and Americans are so much safer now that Saddam's not in power. Right. Gotcha. The fact that this is just taken for granted and simply cannot be challenged shows how good Americans are at managing cognitive dissonance, but also how dangerous Republican spin can be: It spun us into this war against Iraq, and if we buy the whole “global cooperation really means becoming enslaved to France's will” spin, god only knows what kind of tragic debacle we'll end up in next. People: Vote for Kerry. He understands both diplomacy and force, because really, can you understand the latter if you don't understand the former? I think not, but I'll save that for another day... Note: This post has been edited slightly to ad links to the AP story showing the Republican spin on the “global test.”

Posted 10:25 AM | Comments (7)

September 25, 2004

Arresting Protesters: Neiderer

Since they don't allow comments at the Volokh Conspiracy (a mistake, IMO), I'm commenting here on this brief post from Orin Kerr about recent arrests of Bush protesters. It's a followup to a longer piece that criticizes a Maureen Dowd editorial about the arrest of Sue Neiderer because Dowd failed to mention that the charges against Neiderer were dropped and she was released. The suggestion is that Dowd somehow failed by not mentioning this. Perhaps. But isn't the issue here that the damage was already done at the point of arrest? I mean, it's great the charges were dropped, but the fact that Neiderer was arrested in the first place is what's offensive, isn't it? It's much like police rounding up protesters at mass demonstrations for little to no reason, holding them until the protest is over, then releasing them w/no charge. “Oops! Sorry! We don't want to prosecute because we already accomplished our goal, which was to violate your right to express yourself when and where it might have made a difference.” So while Professor Kerr says Neiderer's case “looks kind of bogus,” I beg to differ. The police (or secret service) should not have such unfettered freedom to arrest people who say “disagreeable” or “controversial” things in public places. The fact that those people are later released w/out being charged does not in any way reduce the fact that the police violated their rights to express themselves. I haven't studied First Amendment law yet. From the little I understand at this point, the state has the right to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of expression. Does this kind of police conduct fall within that sort of regulation? And if so, am I the only one who thinks it should not?

Posted 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

September 23, 2004

Behind the Curtain in Bush v. Gore

The ACSBlog links to an article at the SCOTUS Blog about:
the lengthy October 2004 Vanity Fair article by David Margolick et al. on the 2000 election litigation, with a focus on never-before-reported details about what happened inside the Supreme Court. The piece has received a great deal of attention inside the Court because, as the article details, “[a] surprising number of [law] clerks [from that term] talked to Vanity Fair.”
Vanity Fair generously allowed SCOTUS Blog to post a PDF version of the article online. Get it while you can.

Posted 07:45 PM

September 09, 2004

OB-GYNs Practice Love?

Hey look, tort reform with a bizarre new twist:

U.S. President George W. Bush offered an unexpected reason on Monday for cracking down on frivolous medical lawsuits: "Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

But that's not all. Check out the video clip of the statement. Is it just me, or are Bush's hand gestures even more inappropriate than his choice of words?

Posted 06:40 AM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2004

RNC Convention Wrapper

The Republican Convention is over. Bush has given his speech, a speech which glossed over important facts and trotted out the compassionate conservatism in time to court women voters just before the election.Yay. Now perhaps the campaigns will get serious? I hope so. The first of four scheduled debates is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30. By the way, whatever became of Kerry's challenge to Bush to debate weekly from here on in? Did the Bush campaign just ignore it? Earlier this week, William Saletan wrote a devastating indictment of the Bush Administration the other day for Slate, using VP Cheney's own words against the administration to great effect:
"A senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation," said Cheney. "But a president always casts the deciding vote." What America needs in this time of peril, he argued, is "a president we can count on to get it right." You can't make the case against Bush more plainly than that.
He also claims "the case against President Bush is simple":
He sold us his tax cuts as a boon for the economy, but more than three years later, he has driven the economy into the ground. He sold us a war in Iraq as a necessity to protect the United States against weapons of mass destruction, but after spending $200 billion and nearly 1,000 American lives, and after searching the country for more than a year, we've found no such weapons.
Saletan's essay was a response to Zell Miller's vicious speech (and, of course, the subsequent interview w/Chris Matthews in which Zeller effectively challenged Matthews to a duel), which Saletan says was full of charges against Kerry that a are "demonstrably false," and which pointed out that Zeller was saying in no uncertain terms that if you don't agree w/the President on everything you are weakening the country and effectively aiding our enemies. Again, one more simple reason it should be impossible to vote for Bush: His "team" has said again and again and again that dissent is unpatriotic, when dissent is what this country was built upon. (Scott Rosenberg points out much the same thing.) I just heard a Republican spinster on NPR say that if the Democrats can have six months of Howard Dean, the Republicans deserve at least one night of Zell Miller. Whatever. The difference is that Dean was speaking truth to power, while Miller was speaking lies to the powerless, which is probably why the Republicans are now running away from Miller. But while the case against Bush sounds exceedingly simple to me, how it is that half the country is still planning to vote for him? Oh, no need to explain, just watch The Daily Show, which had a terrific piece Wednesday night about how Bush "has used the power of words to overcome insurmountable facts."
Don't listen to the filter or the facts, listen to the Words. George W. Bush: Because he says so.
In other "highlights" related to the RNC "Con": Michael Moore praised the Bush daughters as an example of how children can please parents, then he says don't send more kids to die. Other people aren't so happy with the Bush twins. Half of New Yorkers Believe US Leaders Had Foreknowledge of Impending 9-11 Attacks and “Consciously Failed” To Act; 66% Call For New Probe of Unanswered Questions by Congress or New York’s Attorney General, New Zogby International Poll Reveals. Salon says the Republicans never "let the facts get in the way of their partisan ferocity." A Columbus, Montana swift boat veteran is angry that the Swift Boat Veterans for Rewriting History (er, I mean, "Truth") used his name w/out his permission:
"I'm pretty nonpolitical," the 56-year-old [Bob] Anderson said Tuesday. So, when he found out last week that his name was one of about 300 signed on a letter questioning Kerry's service, he was "flabbergasted." "It's kind of like stealing my identity," said Anderson, who spent a year on a swift boat as an engine man and gunner.
And so the circus continues... UPDATE: No wrap-up of the RNC convention would be complete w/out at least some mention of the huge protests that marked the week, as well as the violations of civil liberties that caused a judge to order "the release of hundreds of Bush protesters Thursday, ruling that police held them illegally without charges for more than 40 hours":
Hours before President Bush made his speech to the Republican National Convention, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge John Cataldo held city officials in contempt of court for failing to release more than 500 detained demonstrators by 5 p.m. The judge said that the detentions violated state law, and he threatened to impose a fine of $1,000 per day for each person kept in custody longer than 24 hours without being arraigned.
The irony here is that any money the city pays in fines comes from where? The taxpayers who were jailed and whose rights were violated. I've got a better idea: Instead of handing out fines, how about we throw the police in jail and hold them under the same conditions the protesters were held under, and for the same length of time, plus a little for good measure. The NY Chief of Police should join them. That would give these fine officers a chance to really think about civil liberties and why they should take them more seriously. Also: Why Democrats shouldn't be scared, by Michael Moore

Posted 04:48 PM

September 02, 2004


Whoop! There it is:
A day after telling NBC's Matt Lauer that "I don't think you can win'' the war on terror, he told a veterans' group in Tennessee that "we are winning, and we will win.''
So which is it, Mr. Bush? Maybe you should stick to your cue cards next time, huh? As the news drones on about the Republican Convention I'm reminded again of how the Republicans have operated for the last four years, which is basically to say one thing and do another. Go back to the 2000 campaign and look at the promises of "no nation building" and "compassionate conservatism" and moderation and whatever. What's happened? Lots of nation building and zero compassion and zero conservatism—how can it be "conservative" to run up huge debts and destroy the environment, jobs, social security, etc? But the Bush Administration takes flip-flopping to a more sinister level. Rather than taking "Position 1" for some good reason, then later switching to "Position 2" in light of new evidence or developments, the Bush Administration starts from "Position 2," all the while maintaining it supports "Position 1." Then when it's shown that "Position 2" has actually been achieved, Bush says "no, that's not Position 2—that's Position 1." Example: The Clear Skies Initiative. Bush says he wants to improve the environment (Position 1). His policies create more environmental deterioration, showing deference to the profit-motivated desires of big business (Position 2). We know he wanted to help big business all along (Position 2), and when you point out that the environment has gotten worse, not better, Bush just repeats like a machine his desire to improve the environment (Position 1). In another example, Bush says he wants to help senior citizens get cheaper prescription drugs, then he passes medicare "reform" that makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices and effectively (though not technically) prohibit individuals and states from getting cheaper drugs from Canada. Of course, Bush continues to claim he really cares about senior citizens and reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Doublespeak, much? Even more ingenious is the way the Republicans attack their opponents for the Bush's own weaknesses. Bush has a horrible record of military service (read: virtually none), so what do the Republicans do? Attack John Kerry's military service. Bush campaigned in 2000 as a moderate but his administration has been the exact opposite—extremely right wing. He's saying one thing and doing another (see above), so what do the Republicans do? They attack John Kerry as a "flip-flopper." Bush did nothing worthwhile with his life before becoming President, so what do the Republicans do? Attack John Kerry's lifetime of public service and claim he's done nothing in his decades as an elected representative. It's sick. It's scary. And it's incredibly effective. Bush is now leading in predicted electoral college votes for the first time in a while. Great.

Posted 07:44 AM | Comments (2)

August 31, 2004

The Only Reason You Need

The Republican Convention is underway and it seems the news is all Bush, all the time. I'm too busy to follow any of it in much detail, but yesterday I heard possibly the best reason yet why Bush has no business being president (if I wasn't certain of that already, that is). The reason? He admitted he's begun an endless war. Of course, I agree with those who argue that you can't have a war on an idea, like "terror," and I agree that war is terrorism, so Bush is creating terror by waging his so-called war. So I don't agree that we've ever been "at war" against terror. We've been "at war" in Iraq, but that's been a war of choice, not necessity, and I'm confident it will have an end. It must. So basically I disagree with Bush on about every level of his approach to the world we live in today. However, even if I agreed that we've been "at war" against terror, even if i accepted the Bush administration's claims on these issues, I can't see how anyone could accept or support a leader who plans to keep the United States "at war" forever. Is that what we want—to live our entire lives in "wartime"? is that what we want for future generations? To decide that they will be born into and grow up in a warring nation, a nation perpetually and endlessly "at war"? This is not the only option. It's a bitterly cynical condemnation of America and Americans, and expresses a hopeless vision of the future—President Bush's vision of the future. Is that really what you want to vote for? Is that the future you want? So while the Republicans try to transport you back to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and play on your fears and emotions stemming from that day, don't forget what happened the next day, and the next, and for several days following 9/11. What happened in those days? The world came together in support of America, and Americans joined together in support of each other, and for a few days it seemed that we we really going to turn our incredible creativity, our massive resources of money and time and human energy toward figuring out why someone would attack us in this way, and toward resolving the problems that create terrorism. For a moment it seemed that instead of lashing out with bombs and bullets, we would bend our nation and all the nations of the world who sympathized so strongly with us in that moment toward creating a better, more peaceful, and secure futurue, a future with less killing and more cooperation and creativity and compassion, a future based on our American idealism and our conviction that peace is not only possible, but that it's better than war and that it always has been and always will be. The Republicans are asking you to think about Sept. 11, 2001, but don't stop there. Think also about that brief moment of hope after the tragedy, that moment when anything was possible, and remember that we don't have to be at war forever just because some regime of cynical warmongers says we do. Bush has made it clear: If you want to be at war forever, vote for him. If you think there's a better way, vote for Kerry. I guess the bright side here is that the choice is very clear. Thanks, President Bush!

Posted 06:39 AM

August 30, 2004

RNC No Thanks

The Republican National Convention starts today. Get your posters here, here, or here. And here's a little bit about some of the fine folks responsible for these posters. Meanwhile, this week in NYC there are better things to do than pay attention to the Republicans. Check out the Bike National Convention, for example. Last week you could have checked out Life After Capitalism 2004, but they've left some good resources online for those of us who missed it, including links to Counter and RNC Not Welcome in NYC! I'm not sure what the latter group hopes to accomplish by harassing Republican theatre-goers, but, well, not all forms of protest are effective or fully consistent with other long-term goals the protesters might have. For a perhaps more positive outlook check out the Still We Rise march tomorrow (Aug. 30) or the A31 Non-Violent Direct Action the next day. Man, I bet legal observers in NYC are going to be busy this week! Thanks to the National Lawyer's Guild, of course.

Posted 07:54 AM

August 25, 2004

Swift Boat Vets for Rewriting History

Now that we've learned that the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Vets for "Truth" share the same attorney, what's next in this debacle? Oh, it looks like a Democratic lawyer is working for both the DNC and Great. This is all so ridiculous I've been loathe to comment, but for the record: While the Repubs are wrong to try to smear Kerry just as they did McCain in 2000, they're right that Kerry has made too much of his Vietnam service and should focus more on the rest of his record and his concrete and detailed plans for the future. They're also more or less right that the 527s are fighting hard on both sides. Truth Laid Bear notes that, according to, the 527s on the Democratic side have all the marbles. What's to be done about the 527s? How do we allow people to join together to make their voices heard in a way that we can all agree is good for democracy? Conundrum.

On the other side, Kerry is right that this is a smear campaign (Snopes even says Kerry's medals are all legit), and he's right to fight back on it, but he's wrong to focus so exclusively on it. He's got so much more to run on; squabbling about his war medals is making him look petty and is allowing the Repubs to reduce him to nothing more than that. And why isn't Kerry making a bigger deal out of Bush's war medals?

And yet, the controversy rages. The best overall summary I've heard of what is going on with the Swift Boat Vets comes from Kathleen Hall Jameison who spoke last week on NOW:

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

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

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

As Lisa Rein noted last week, "The Daily Show"d has pointed out that few if any of the Swift Boat Vets actually served "with" Kerry (as in, going on actual missions with him so they could see how he got his injuries and how he performed in the field), so the best what they're saying now can be is second- or third-hand memory distorted by time. In other words, regardless of their ties to the Bush campaign, the Swift Boat Vets aren't very credible.

Kerry was actually on "The Daily Show" last night, and Stewart put things into perspective immediately:

"I watch a lot of the cable news shows, so I understand that you were never in Vietnam," asked Stewart . . ..

"That's what I understand, too, but I'm trying to find out what happened," Kerry joked.

All this Vietnam talk has reminded me of an "old" Lou Reed song, Xmas in February. I wonder if there will be songs written like this about the troops serving in Iraq. War, what is it good for? Not for people, that's for sure.

And speaking of the "Daily Show," Monday's episode also had a terrific bit w/Rob Corddey about how utterly worthless the mainstream media have been throughout this campaign, but I can't find it online. The point was that the media just give a "he said/she said" near-verbatim report of what the campaigns are saying w/very little (relatively speaking) investigation as to the value or credibility of each side's claims. They report all right, even if what they're reporting is complete crap. Makes you proud to live in a country w/such a free press, doesn't it?

Posted 02:35 PM

August 15, 2004

Campaign Dashboard

Check out the Campaign Dashboard. I haven't had time to really analyze it, but it looks like a cool tool for tracking a bunch of different aspects of the presidential campaign.

Moving. Fun. Too much stuff. Must move boxes.

Posted 05:44 AM

August 09, 2004

Two Questions:

1) Why is the Bush campaign requiring people to sign "a pledge to endorse President Bush" in order to enter campaign events?

2) Why do our "terror alerts" always seem to come within days of other news that could damage the Bush administration? Is there a pattern here?

UPDATE: See also:

Posted 06:59 AM | Comments (5)

August 07, 2004

Notes for Votes

"Let no medium go unsaturated" seems to be the motto of this year's election season. First it was the web w/the campaign blogs, flash animations, dueling videos, and convention bloggers, and now it's all about the music. First there's the Future Soundtrack of America from the MoveOn PAC featuring 22 big songs for only a $25 donation to the MoveOn PAC. Then there's Rock Against Bush, Volume II, featuring 28 crazy punk rockers for only $6! I hope this kind of thing catches on; I could get used to this.

Posted 07:54 AM | Comments (1)

August 06, 2004

Voting Rights Volunteer Opportunity

Ed. note: This just in via email:


We are compiling a list of attorneys throughout the nation who would like to volunteer to help with the DNC Voting Rights Institute's efforts to ensure that all votes are counted this November. We envision an army of "field attorneys" roving the precincts of the battleground states, ready to advocate on behalf of voters who are turned away or wrongly denied the right to vote. If you are interested in helping with this effort -- either as a field attorney who can travel to a battleground state for Election Day, or by taking calls in our attorney "war room" -- please sign up now!

Also, please pass this message on to any other attorneys who may be interested.

For those of you who are law students, we also are assembling teams of law students as "research strike teams."

Thanks for your time and energy. Even if you can't join us on Election Day, sign up to help the effort! And sign up others too!

Posted 06:56 AM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2004

Hope Is On the Way?

John Edwards gave a pretty fine speech last night (text of speech); I watched the last half or so and I'll admit he had my attention. A lot of it was simply style; the man knows how to captivate an audience. But he said many things that I do hope we'll have a chance to hold him and John Kerry to beginning next January when they're sworn in as the next President and Vice President of the U.S. One of those things was about health care:

We can build one America where we no longer have two health care systems. One for people who get the best health care money can buy and then one for everybody else, rationed out by insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs — millions of Americans who don't have any health insurance at all.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We have a plan that will offer everyone the same health care your Senator has. We can give tax breaks to help pay for your health care. And we will sign into law a real Patients' Bill of Rights so you can make your own health care decisions.

This had special resonance for me because I'd just gotten off the phone w/L., whose father is currently in the hospital. It looks like he's going to be ok, no thanks to our brilliant system of "managed" care. Long story short, he came much too close to dying Tuesday when his HMO tried to tell his doctor how to care for him. The doctor said L.'s dad needed emergency surgery, and that he needed to do it at a larger, nearby hospital. The HMO said, no, that hospital is not part of our network; you'll have to ship him 50 miles away to another hospital where he'll be assigned a new doctor not familiar w/the case. The doctor argued w/the HMO and finally told it, "Fine, I'll move him where you want him to go. But he's going to die on the way and I'm going to help his family sue you."

The HMO backed down. The doctor moved L's dad to the closer hospital, did the surgery, and L.'s dad is now recovering—finally. He's not out of all danger yet, but things are looking much better.

I'm tell this story because it's shocking, horrifying, and absolutely common. People are dealing with this kind of obscene greed from HMOs every single day, and I'm sure people die or suffer needlessly every day because they're not lucky enough to have a doctor who will stand up to the HMO, or because the HMO won't bend no matter how livid the doctor gets. I'm sure all too often the HMO does its cost-benefit analysis and decide, hey, the chance this patient will die is X, and even if this patient dies and we get sued, that will cost less than if we had to do this doctor-recommended procedure for every patient who needed it; therefore, lets gamble w/this patient's life and we'll make more money in the long run. That's the bottom line: Your HMO will murder you if there's money in it. Can you say "pathological pursuit of profit"? If you weren't yet sure what "purely self-interested, incapable of concern for others, amoral, and without conscience" meant, now you know.

And this kind of obscene immorality is happening to everyone—it's probably happened to you, or to someone you know and love. And we put up with it. We swallow it. We complain about it, but we don't demand change. Aren't you proud to be an American?

But it's even worse than I ever knew because this isn't a story about someone w/out a health care plan, or a story about someone w/a low cost, bare bones plan; L.'s dad has (or was supposed to have) one of the best health care plans in the country. He was a lifetime employee of a major corporation and he's got "great" insurance. So we have millions of Americans w/out health care of any sort, we have more millions with really bad budget plans, and now even if you have money, if you have top-of-the-line insurance, you're still not safe from HMOs.

So John Edwards is promising that hope is on the way. He and John Kerry have a plan for health care; they claim they will:

lower family premiums by up to $1,000 a year, cut waste from the system, lower the cost of prescription drugs to provide real relief to seniors, and use targeted tax cuts to extend affordable, high-quality coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including every child.

I don't see how any of that will change the control HMOs have over care or reduce their incentives to trade my health for their profit. Yeah, maybe the Kerry/Edwards plan would make us better off than where we are now, but it seems to me that health care in this country will remain tragically unjust until we put doctors back in charge of health care and take the profit out. Hope may be on the way, but real hope for a real solution still seems a long way off.

Posted 07:00 AM | Comments (8)

July 28, 2004

Quick Democratic Nation Notes

CSPAN is calling its Democratic convention coverage "Democratic Nation." A few quick convention highlights from where I stand:

  • A star is born: Barack Obama delivers a huge speech
  • Howard Dean Takes Back the Scream
  • Michael Moore Raises Democrats' Temperature
  • Everything Joshua Micah Marshall is writing at Talking Points Memo, especially this little snapshot:

    Among Democrats, the rejection of this president is so total, exists on so many different levels, and is so fused into their understanding of all the major issues facing the country, that it doesn't even need to be explicitly evoked. The headline of Susan Page's piece in USA Today reads: "Speakers offer few barbs, try to stay warm and fuzzy." But the primetime speeches were actually brimming with barbs, and rather jagged ones at that. They were just woven into the fabric of the speeches, fused into rough-sketched discussions of policy, or paeans to Kerry.
    I think that's true. I hope it is.
  • And of course there are always the aggregators if you have time to sift through the snippets at Technorati, CNN Blogwatch, and Convention Bloggers
On one hand, the convention is so meaningless as to be absurd, plus it verges on some sort of demagoguery to have such an expensive, elaborate, and lengthy rah! rah! event focused so much on one man (Kerry). Wouldn't it be great if the convention was a four-day national discussion about how to improve health care, protect the environment, improve the lives of workers, and create real peace in the world? Oh yeah, that would be great. Wouldn't it be great if we could just hop into a parallel universe anytime we wanted to? Yeah, it sure would.

Posted 06:15 AM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2004

Shove It

You know, I'd sort of like to watch the Democratic Convention, but CNN and MSNBC are far more interested in talking about Theresa Heinz Kerry telling a reporter to "shove it!" last night.

Yeah, that really matters. How about this: F#^% yourself, CNN and MSNBC.

If you, too, tire of the tv coverage, you might get more from Convention Bloggers.

Posted 08:46 PM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2004

No Change

Sad. While Bush attacks Kerry for "values" and continues trying to say his war was justified, it's very disheartening to note that this post from a year ago could almost have been written today:

Yubbledew and Co. are still on the loose trying to salvage and extend their "scare and plunder" methods of governance. Currently they're trying to squirm out of the mess they're in by blaming George Tenent and by asserting that they didn't, technically, lie. "We got the info from Britain, and Britain did put that info in a report, which is all we said. We didn't say it was true, we just said it was a claim made by British intelligence." So why does that make it any better?

Lies upon lies upon lies. Oh, but not technically, in the strictest sense, lies. They haven't gone so far as to ponder what the definition of "is" is, but they've done everything but. And again, who died when Clinton lied?

Oh, and while I'm on the general subject of our fearless leader and his war: Advocates of War Now Profit from Iraq Reconstruction [thanks to the new blog for the link]

Posted 06:38 AM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2004

F#@& Yourself

So you heard that Dick Cheney told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to F#@& himself the other day, right? Yeah, that's right:

A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Hm. Interesting. Even better, Cheney said yesterday he has no regrets:

Cheney said he "probably" used an obscenity in an argument Tuesday on the Senate floor with Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and added that he had no regrets. "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," Cheney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News. The vice president said those who heard the putdown agreed with him. "I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue."

So just so I can get this straight: Janet Jackson's boob on tv is cause for huge concern, but the Vice President of the United States stands on the Senate Floor and tells a United States Senator to f#@& himself, and it's "not an issue"? Nice. (Note: I just saw Musclehead pointed this out first. I'm always late to the party.)

Apparently, Leahy had touched one of the Veep's nerves—he doesn't like people pointing out his cozy connections to the administration's number one defense contractor pal:

Cheney said yesterday he was in no mood to exchange pleasantries with Leahy because Leahy had "challenged my integrity" by making charges of cronyism between Cheney and his former firm, Halliburton Co. Leahy on Monday had a conference call to kick off the Democratic National Committee's "Halliburton Week" focusing on Cheney, the company, "and the millions of dollars they've cost taxpayers," the party said.

"I didn't like the fact that after he had done so, then he wanted to act like, you know, everything's peaches and cream," Cheney said. "And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms. And as I say, I felt better afterwards."

The Washington Post calls this "conduct unbecoming" to a Vice President, but really, I appreciate Cheney's candor. Perhaps this is part of a new strategy of honesty. For example, the Bush/Cheney campaign is also using images of Adolf Hitler in its official campaign videos. Perhaps we're finally getting to see Bush/Cheney in all their crass, hateful, and antisocial glory. It's really very refreshing. After all, we've all known that "f#@& yourself" has been the basic attitude of the Bush administration since day one. A few of the most obvious examples of this:

Bush/Cheney to America's public schoolkids, their parents, and local school boards: F#@& yourself. Of course, Bush/Cheney didn't say that exactly; instead, they said something about "No Child Left Behind."

Bush/Cheney to the environment, environmental activists, the Kyoto Protocol, and experts in global warming: F#@& yourself. But again, Bush/Cheney didn't say that exactly; instead, they said something about "Clean Skies and Healthy Forests" and voluntary pollution-reduction programs, etc.

Bush/Cheney to dozens of world governments and the people (if not always the leaders) of Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain and others: F#@& yourself. Of course, Bush/Cheney said something about "weapons of mass destruction" and "terrorism" and "liberating Iraq."

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. See, isn't candor great? I can just see the t-shirts and bumper stickers now:

"Vote Bush/Cheney '04. And F#@& Yourself."

Posted 08:13 PM | Comments (7)

We Sure Do Need Some Water*

We saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" last night and it was ... a great film! (I know you're all shocked that I liked it. You can pick your jaws up off the floor now.) In many ways, typical Moore. In at least one way, not quite so typical—he wasn't in it that much (except as narrator and commentator throughout, of course). After seeing it, one thing seems certain: The barrage of pundits speaking out against the film (and Moore personally) in the last 1-2 weeks were designed to do one thing: Make people decide in advance they don't want to see the film. I say that because I think almost anyone who sees this movie—all but the most Republican partisans—will have to think very very seriously about voting for Bush this November. You may find much to quibble with in the film, but its most damning underlying argument is pretty unassailable. Therefore, the Republicans' best hope to reduce the damage the film might do to Bush's chances is just to go all out to try to keep people from seeing it at all. And I'm not talking censorship. The strategy is to make those who haven't seen the film think Moore is a crazed lunatic and perhaps a traitor, and to make the film seem like one big fat lie.

There's just one problem with that, Moore's not crazy, and, while the film's analysis of recent history might be hyperbolic or facile at times, in its biggest theme, it does not lie. Despite that, the "don't see it!" strategy may be working. One of my co-workers yesterday declared she has no desire to see the film because Moore's a crazy liar, and at least one other person I know (who is a dedicated Fox "news" watcher) has decided he won't be seeing it either, for the same reason.

<snark> It's a good thing people make up their own minds in this country, don't you think? </snark>

I don't want to spoil the film for those who haven't seen it yet, although I'm not sure I could even if I wanted to; if you've been following any coverage of it, you know what it's about already. It seemed to have a prologue and two parts. The prologue how Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court after thousands of voters were disenfranchised in Florida. Part one is about September 11, 2001 and the immediate response to it—the fact that leading up to it the Bush administration seemed not very interested in Bin Laden or Al Quaeda or terrorism, the fact that Bush just sat in a schoolroom in in Florida for seven minutes after he was told that America was "under attack" (Moore's critics seem to really dislike what he does with this), the fact that the Bush administration helped 142 Saudi Arabian nationals—including many members of the Bin Laden family—leave the country on charter flights w/out being asked any questions, etc. (Moore's also been challenged on this, since the 9/11 Commission said that, in hindsight, it looks like none of the Saudis who were allowed to leave were likely terrorists or anything. This misses the point, which is simply: Why were these people, of all people, given special treatment? No one is saying they were terrorists, only that it was improper to give them any advantages over anyone else at that time.)

There's a lot packed into the first half of the movie, including interesting little details about the deep connections between the Bush family and Saudi Arabian oil bigshots and royalty. I'm sure Moore's critics are busily explaining away all those little details in their arguments that they all add up to nothing. The big point here was not incredibly clear to me. It's definitely not that Saudi Arabians are secretly running U.S. foreign and domestic policy or anything like that. Part one simply points out that there's deep ties between the Bush family (and others in the Bush administration), and Saudi interests, and that there's big money involved, and that that Saudi interests have received very good treatment from the U.S. for some time.

Part two was, for me, more effective. Part two is more about the buildup to Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, all the lies that went into getting Americans and the world to buy that debacle, who is getting rich off the war (e.g., the Carlyle Group and Halliburton) and who is paying the price for Bush's lies. I'm sure many people are trying, but just can't imagine how anyone could argue that Moore is wrong here. The companies and people profiting from the war can't deny that they're doing so. They can argue that "somebody's gotta do it," but that's no excuse; no one would have had to do it if Bush hadn't invaded in the first place. Also, how can Bush and Co. defend the fact that ten times more taxpayer dollars go to a private Halliburton-employed truck driver than to a member of the U.S. armed forces who's basically doing the same job? I don't see the defense, the logic, the argument. The war was unnecessary, and now it's created countless opportunities for corporations to steal from American taxpayers with the blessing and active assistance of the U.S. government. Hooray.

And that's Moore's biggest and strongest argument, as I see it: The big losers in the America created by the Bush administration are those with the least to begin with—the poor and marginalized Americans who are losing social services because so much of the federal budget has to go to Iraq, and who are losing their lives because they are the people who make up the vast majority of the U.S. armed forces. It's not a fun message. In fact, it's very very sad. But it's true.

And in this respect, I 'd argue that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a great film. I disagree with Moore's critics, those who try to dismiss him as a lunatic who "rewrites history" or reduces it to simple a black/white binaries. In "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," Moore attempts to connect current American problems of poverty, racism, and other social inequalities with American history in an attempt to understand -- and to help viewers understand -- how we might have come to where we find ourselves today. No, he can't resist the facile jab here and there that tends to reduce his larger analysis to a simple theory of cause and effect. For example, in "BFC" he says that the NRA was founded the same day the KKK was officially disbanded. This implies that the NRA is just a front for the KKK -- he never says that in "BFC," but he juxtaposes those two facts in a way that makes suggests the connection and encourages viewers to make it for themselves. Is something like this mere coincidence? Perhaps. And if so, if there's nothing to it, then Moore comes off looking like he's reducing a complex history to a bunch of simple comparisons, connecting things that just aren't connected. But his larger points don't depend on such coincidences; instead, they're based on a reading of the factual record that is not usually flattering to the wealthy and powerful in the U.S., but which is, nevertheless, true.

That's my take, anyway. As always, I look forward to hearing what others think.

See also:

* The title of this post responds to one of the song's on the soundtrack to "Fahrenheit 9/11." The soundtrack is great, by the way—a brilliant use of popular music as social satire.

Posted 07:46 PM | Comments (11)

June 24, 2004

Attack Mode: Engaged

It looks like Christopher Hitchens is trying to lead the charge against "Fahrenheit 9/11", another movie with its own (unofficial) blog. Hitchens brazenly displays one of the fundamental disagreements between the left and the right in America today. The left says the world is complicated, and there's no simple "good v. evil" or any other binary, but complex spectra of interleaved causes and effects. The right says no, it's good or evil, black or white, either or:

Either the Saudis run U.S. policy (through family ties or overwhelming economic interest), or they do not. As allies and patrons of the Taliban regime, they either opposed Bush's removal of it, or they did not. (They opposed the removal, all right: They wouldn't even let Tony Blair land his own plane on their soil at the time of the operation.) Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few.

Oops! Excuse me, Mr. Hitchens, but I'm afraid that last binary got a little mangled—you've suggested there are more than two options and that just cannot be!

To be fair, it's possible to argue that Moore's worldview is no more complex or nuanced than the one Hitchens describes (also: I think Hitchens is just playing the role of sensational provocateur here, a role with which he's apparently familiar). According to the Washington Post:

In this latest movie Moore has been praised for having matured as a filmmaker, but his worldview hasn't changed much since "Roger and Me" -- history can be explained by tracing connections between rich people and their friends.

That may not be wholly inaccurate as far as what Moore thinks. It also wouldn't be wholly untrue. But whatever.

Apparently the movie had its U.S. premier last night at the Uptown, here in D.C. L. and I have tickets to a Friday showing, so I'll have a better idea of what to make of it after that.

See also:

Posted 05:20 AM | Comments (5)

June 23, 2004

Remembering Hope

One year ago today, Howard Dean announced he was running for President of the United States. He called his announcement speech "The Great American Restoration" ; it was a great speech. After outlining the many problems he saw with politics as usual in the U.S., Dean declared the mission of his campaign:

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

The history of our nation is clear: At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people.

And so, while the President raises $4 million more tonight to maintain his agenda, we will not be silent.

He calls his biggest fundraisers Rangers and Pioneers.

But today, we stand together with thousands in Burlington, Vermont and tens of thousands more, standing with us right now in every state in this nation. And we call ourselves, simply, Americans.

And we stand today in common purpose to take our country back.

I stood in a brewpub in Shirlington with around 100 others watching the speech on video, and after hearing that speech, I made my first-ever contribution to a political candidate. Dean wasn't my dream candidate, and in many places I disagreed with his agenda; to me, Dean was too centrist. But that didn't matter, because finally here was a politician who was describing the world I lived in, rather than some fantasy world I'd never seen or visited. Finally, here was a politician who gave me hope that maybe my vote would matter, maybe my voice and my actions could matter, and maybe we, as Americans, could turn this country around.

One year ago today, I started hoping again. For the next six months, Howard Dean offered honest, frank, specific, pointed, fact-based critiques of the current administration, Congress, corporate America, and politics as usual in the U.S. He had everyone running for cover, and by January 2004 he had everyone believing that he would at least get the Democratic nomination, if not the presidency. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and a beautiful thing to be a part of. I gave money, I set up and staffed information tables at street fairs, I attended rallies, I held a house party, I collected names to add to the email list. I had hope, and it felt great to back that hope with action (even when I could and should have done much more).

And then something happened. What was it? I still can't say, but I do know it had a lot to do with a politics of fear, the fires of which were stoked by all of Dean's many opponents, both Republicans and Democrats alike. Dean offered hope, his opponents offered fear, and fear won. Too simplistic? Sure. But that's what it looks like from here, one year later. I look forward to seeing how history describes the rise and fall of the Dean campaign. Perhaps history will prove me wrong.

Today, a year after "The Great American Resotoration," I still hope that Bush will not be reelected, but that's about it. And if that happens, the presidential administration will change, and yes, many things will get incrementally better under Kerry, but politics will continue as usual. It's sad, thinking of what might have been. And yes, we can still hope that a Kerry presidency will be better than anything so far would give us reason to think it will be, and we can hope that beyond Kerry, beyond the presidency, there are still ways to change America for the better. After all, hope dies last, right?

Posted 05:59 AM

May 23, 2004

Save us from the innocent and good

On L's recommendation, and because it's small and easy to read on the train, I picked up The Quiet American by Graham Greene last week. Set in 1950s Vietnam, it's a short but complex novel that resonates eerily today. The major theme is neatly summarized in the first chapter by the narrator's response to Vigot upon learning that Pyle is dead: "'God save us always,' I said, 'from the innocent and the good.'"

And why do we need to be saved from the innocent and the good? Perhaps because "innocence" is too often a polite description of what could less charitably be called "stupidity." Take our current president, for example. Many people believe he and his buddies have a sincere desire to do good in the world; supporters argue that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was intended to make the world a better, more peaceful place. That may be true; innocents often have only the best of intentions (not that I would accept the notion that Bush, Cheney, et al, are the least bit innocent, but they do pretend to be "good.") However, good intentions are small consolation to the families of all the people—soldier and civilian—who have died in this war, and great intentions do little to repair our shattered relationships with many countries around the world. If we grant that Bush and Co. thought they were doing good by invading Iraq, it's easy to see why Greene's narrator invokes God's protection from people like them.

The "quiet American" of the book's title is Pyle, a young, "innocent" American sent to Vietnam on an "economic" mission. Describing Pyle in Vietnam, the narrator gives would could also be a fair description of G.W. Bush as President:

He looked more than ever out of place: he should have stayed at home. I saw him in a family snapshot album, riding on a dude ranch, bathing on Long Island, photographed with his colleagues in some apartment on the twenty-third floor. He belonged to the skyscraper and the express elevator, the ice-cream and the dry Martinis, milk at lunch, and chicken sandwiches on the Merchant Limited.

Of course, Pyle the "innocent" doesn't care if he's out of place—he has big plans to do "good"! While in Vietnam, Pyle secretly works to prop up a local "gang" leader to be a "third force" to combat the Communists. Of course, Pyle's efforts have horrific effects right from the beginning, and although Greene wrote the book in 1955 and couldn't have known he was being so prophetic, the disaster that is Pyle's plan to involve American forces and ideas in Vietnam foreshadows the much larger disaster that American involvement in the region would become in the next 20 years. It also eerily foreshadows current events, with U.S. forces again meddling where they're not wanted.

That's the simple, superficial stuff that resonated with me as I read, but there's much more to this novel. It's so prescient because it's so smart about colonialism. Academics probably call it a postcolonial novel because it's already cynically critical of the "new" colonialism we see today (e.g. in Afghanistan and now Iraq and countless other countries where the U.S. and other wealthy (mostly Western) nations have propped up warlords in the hope of making them puppets). It's somewhat in the tradition of Heart of Darkness, but as L said it doesn't dehumanize the colonized people like Conrad does. Instead, it problematizes that kind of colonist tendency-to-dehumanize by having its narrator struggle over his own relationship with the Vietnamese people with whom he lives, as well as the Vietnamese woman with whom he falls in love. In fact, one of the subplots is a contest between the narrator and Pyle over Phuong, a Vietnamese woman whom both the men "love." L could provide a fascinating account of how this relationship struggle symbolizes the colonial/post-colonial relationship with the colonized, but I'll let her explain that for you, if she so desires.

(I've been trying to get L to start her own blog so she can at least share her brilliant readings of books and movies with the world, but so far, no dice. Unless she has a blog and she's just not telling me, which is always possible....)

UPDATE: In a short article entitled "History's Fools," Jack Beatty echoes the gist of what I've said above, comparing our current crop of neo-conservatives (esp. Paul Wolfowitz) with the type of "innocent" we see in Pyle, the so-called "quiet American":

Paradoxically, the very scale of the debacle in Iraq may yield one long-term good: the repudiation of neo-conservative "democratic imperialism." The Americans killed in Iraq will not have died in vain if their sacrifice keeps other Americans from dying in neo-con wars to "remediate" Syria, Iran, or North Korea. After Iraq, "neo-conservative" may achieve the resonance of "isolationist" after World War II—a term of opprobrium for a discredited approach to foreign policy, shorthand for dangerous innocence about world realities. Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.

It's possible the so-called "innocence" of people like Wolfowitz could more accurately be described as willful ignorance verging on sociopathy, but the result is the same when people like this get a bit of power: danger for the rest of the world.

Posted 05:51 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2004

Marriage is so overrated

No time for more than just a quick pic from some of yesterday's big events at GW -- Dean endorsed Kerry. As Scott at L-Cubed notes, Dean still knows how to work a crowd better than Kerry ever will. I also agree with Scott that this was the best sign in the crowd yesterday.

Posted 08:28 AM | Comments (3)

March 20, 2004


One year ago today the U.S. launched a unilateral war of aggression. That action alone should be enough to hand this fall's Presidential election to the Democrats on a silver platter. But guess what? The Democrats are continuing to squander prime opportunities to make their case against Bush. Making that point, Salon's "War Room" writes:

Particularly on national security, Bush was vulnerable this week, with stepped up bloodshed in Baghdad, the aftermath of a terror attack in a Western capital, a European ally thrown out of office, and a poll showing we're alienating the world. A unified, on-message Democratic Party would have seized the opportunity to show America how they'd lead differently. But just in time for the anniversary of the Iraq invasion -- a critical moment for Americans to hear from their leaders -- and as his conservative critics go to town, Kerry is having downtime on the slopes in Idaho. Everyone needs a break, and no one knows that better than our vacationer-in-chief George W. Bush, but maybe this isn't the time. (Is this really the kind of photo Kerry wants publicized right now? The world remembers the Iraq invasion and ponders the state of international security, and Kerry jumps on a snowboard ... )

That's right. A year ago today Bush started a war that has become a quagmire, at best, and instead of making sure voters understand why the war was such a mistake, Bush's opponent in the campaign for the White House is snowboarding. Sure, it's cool to think our next President can snowboard. Neat. But right now?!?

It's times like this I think Democrats deserve to be the minority rather than the majority party. Sheesh.

Posted 10:54 AM

March 19, 2004

Democracy for America

Yesterday Howard Dean announced what he plans to do to continue moving his campaign agenda forward. It's A New Day, with some great pictures reminiscent of the good old days (not so long ago) when Dean was still actively running for the Democratic nomination. Oh yes, those were the days.

Also of interest for a sort of big-picture look at why it's important this new venture succeed: Onward Deaniacs. (FWIW: I never liked that "Deaniac" term too much myself — I prefer Dean Democrat, or just plain old "progressive.")

Posted 05:29 AM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2004

Political Madness

Today the Dean campaign will announce what comes next, and it looks like it will be called Democracy for America. And not a moment too soon, either.

We need all the tools we can get to get the word out about why the world can't afford to have another term of Bush. Along with the new Dean effort, the Committee on Government Reform has created Iraq on the Record, a searchable database of infamy:

This database identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials [Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rummy] in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. The search options on the left can be used to find statements by any combination of speaker, subject, keyword, or date.

Oh, and MoveOn has a great clip of Rummy playing what has become the Bush administration's near-constant liar's game. So when do impeachment proceedings begin? Do we really have to wait for November?

Coming from somewhere deep in right field, Hot Ambercrombie Chick (HAC) has begun a write-in candidacy for President, complete with a serious defense of t-shirts saying "Voting is for Old People." The fact that so many people can reach age 19 and be so ready to throw their votes away is Exhibit A for why improving public education is so vital in a democracy. Someone should tell HAC that the store selling her beloved t-shirts -- Urban Outfitters -- is owned by a right-winger:

While the typical Urban Outfitters shopper is likely to be liberal-minded--as is the province and privilege of youth--the fiftysomething Hayne is mom-and-apple-pie conservative. He and his wife Margaret have contributed $13,150 to the campaign coffers of Paleolithic right-wing Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and his Political Action Committee over the years.

Oh, and someone should also tell HAC this: Not voting is just as much a statement as voting, and the negative act does nothing to reduce your responsibility for policies you don't like, but in fact may increase your responsibility.

In the land of people who are more likely to be taken seriously, DG points out that the Bush campaign is distributing desktop pics that feature a quote from Bush about creating jobs. The funny thing is, the quote appears beneath a photo of workers holding pink slips. Yet another great reason to Pink Slip Bush!

But here's where the serious craziness is: The House debate over whether to officially declare that removing Saddam Hussein from power made the U.S. and world a safer place. Oooh. I feel so much safer! (The resolution apparently passed.) But this is related to the right's apoplexy over the defeat of their conservative friend, Aznar, in Spain. As Scott Rosenberg notes, those darned Spaniards are just refusing to follow the Bush party line! It seems pretty clear that Spanish voters were declaring their dissatisfaction with Aznar's alignment with Bush and support of the Iraq war, so why do people get all uptight when Howard Dean says just that? Zapatero, Spain's new Socialist leader is calling it like he sees it, calling the Iraq occupation a "fiasco":

The International Herald Tribune recently quoted Zapatero as saying, "We're aligning ourselves with Kerry. Our allegiance will be for peace, against war, no more deaths for oil, and for a dialogue between the government of Spain and the new Kerry administration."

Yes! A breath of sanity in a world of political craziness! But U.S. Republicans aren't listening. Instead, U.S. Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, has to go and say that in voting for Zapatero, Spaniards voted to appease terrorists:

"Here's a country who stood against terrorism and had a huge terrorist act within their country and they chose to change their government and to in a sense appease terrorists," Hastert said.

Hey Dennis? Have another plate of "freedom fries," will you? In fact, have a few dozen plates. And remember, it's not polite to talk with your mouth full.

Posted 06:42 AM | Comments (2)

March 13, 2004

Run for President Yourself

Nearly two years ago I heard about an idea for a "reality" tv show called "American Candidate," where contestants would somehow compete to become "the people's candidate" for POTUS. For a while, it looked like the show was really going to happen, but then I didn't hear anything more and figured the producers or networks or whomever had changed their minds. I was wrong.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself an application and apply to be the people's candidate! According to the FAQ, the candidates will not actually run for president (obviously), unless they choose to after the show:

What the participants decide to do with the visibility and momentum they will have at the conclusion of the series is entirely up to them. If a participant in American Candidate chooses to run for president, he or she will have to follow the same process and operate within the same laws and regulations that govern all presidential candidates. We anticipate that if a participant does run, he or she would be doing so on a write-in basis. Of course, with the publicity and attention the candidate will have received, it is feasible there could be a substantial amount of public support for him/her.

Interesting, no? Theoretically, something like this could throw a huge curveball into what otherwise promises to be a mean and dispiriting general election. Of course, (and probably more likely) the "American Candidate" could also be a big flop and have no effect on anything whatsoever. Also, the show is allowing anyone 18-yrs-old or over to apply to compete. If anyone under 35 "wins," it won't matter if he/she gets "a substantial amount of public support" because he/she won't be eligible to actually be POTUS. (See U.S. Const. Art. 2, § 1, clause 5.) But then, maybe the kiddies will be eliminated in the early rounds...

Posted 07:14 AM

March 10, 2004

Ego for President

Over the weekend, CNN ran an edition of "CNN Presents" called True Believers: Life Inside the Dean Campaign. The title says a lot about what the program was trying to convey, suggesting perhaps that the Dean campaign was some kind of cult or something. In other words, the goal was not to spin the campaign in a positive way. It wasn't overtly negative, either, though.

So what was it? This reaction from Mike Walsh boils it down pretty well, although instead of calling it "The Rise and Fall of Howard Dean as Seen Through the Eyes of Joe Trippi," I think I would have called it "If Not for Trippi's Ego." That's what I was thinking as I watched it—if not for Trippi's ego, maybe the campaign would have been better prepared to react quickly and positively to adversity in Iowa. But it wasn't just ego, it was also management style (of which ego can be a big part)—Trippi comes off as such a force and a personality and so temperamental and moody that people seemed reluctant to tell him when they had bad news or to have serious and frank conversations with him about doubts they may have had. If people waited to discuss or deal with bad news or doubts until they became too large to ignore, by then it was far too late.

That's at least one potential version of what happened in Iowa and New Hampshire—the campaign refused to see/admit/discuss its loss of support, and once the problem became too big to ignore, it was so bad that there wasn't anything anyone could do. But then, looking back at how the campaign handled "the scream," I'm not sure what more anyone could have done.

At any rate, I certainly don't blame Trippi for the fact that Dean didn't get the nomination. In fact, there's no doubt Trippi was a (if not the) decisive factor in taking Dean "from asterisk to frontrunner." In the end, the Dean campaign was not about Dean, but it wasn't about Trippi either. As Trippi said: It's the people, stupid. But while Trippi has the vision, it does seem likely that that vision needs to be coupled with some disciplined management in order to be most effective. Was it Dean's responsibility to provide that discipline (either personally or in the form of a strong assistant for Trippi)? Perhaps. As I've said before, I look forward to the book(s) about the campaign in the hope that some insider(s) can offer some better perspective on what happened.

Best line from "True Believers": In the meltdown between Iowa and New Hampshire, Trippi retreated from the campaign trail and "hunkered down" in Burlington. As things got worse, he just wanted to "not think about anything Dean for a while" (that's a paraphrase) so he went to see "LOTR: The Return of the King." When he got back, he seemed in slightly better spirits and joked that the Dean campaign was like the final battle in the movie: "Certain death? Small chance of success? What are we waiting for!?"

Of course, in "The Return of the King" (which I just saw last night for the first time—yay spring break!), the good guys won. Now why can't real life be more like the movies?

FWIW: Change for America, Trippi's new blog, talks about the show here and here, while Blog for America talks about it here and here.

Posted 07:18 AM

March 03, 2004

Kerryyyaaaaaawwwwwwn wins

Subject line of today's email from the MoveOn PAC :

Urgent: Kerry Needs Our Support

Taste in my mouth: Bitter. Disappointed. Moving toward resigned, I guess. I see what MoveOn is doing, and it's great. I just wish all that money and effort was going to go toward more significant changes than Kerry will ever be able to represent.

But, and so, Super Tuesday is over, the votes are counted, Edwards is calling it quits, and Kerry's now all set to start choosing a running mate. Can you say "politics as usual"? I just can't understand how anyone could get excited by this.

In better news, Dean crushed all opposition ... in Vermont, where he won a fat 58% of the vote. Yeah, so it doesn't mean much, but it's great to see Dean get at least one win, anyway.

Kucinich also won a primary yesterday -- the primary for his congressional seat. He claims he's going to stay in the race, and Sharpton says the same. Note how coverage of these campaigns is only showing up at small, local news outlets. It's a shame, but now that Kerry has locked things up, it's probably going to be nearly impossible for any other Democrat to get any attention for the next year or so. Perhaps Ralphie's got something, after all...

The current situation gives me an idea: Voters in the rest of the primaries should vote for Howard Dean. Crazy? Sure, but listen, lots of people (at one time, huge majorities) claimed they supported Dean, but then they changed their minds for a lot of reasons. One of those was that people decided that they liked Dean's message, but they didn't want him to be President. Fine. Now they can vote for his message and not have to worry that he'll actually win. So voters can now start giving Dean delegates, not so that he can get the nomination, but so he can go to the convention in July with enough support to make Kerry accountable.

But how would that work, exactly? I mean, now that Kerry's locked up the nomination, if Dean or Edwards or anyone else continues to pick up delegates, is there any way those delegates could make a difference? IOW: How the heck does the convention work?
Posted while listening to: 3rd Planet from the album "The Moon & Antarctica" by Modest Mouse

Posted 02:30 PM | Comments (4)

March 02, 2004

Duper Tuesday

Today is "Super Tuesday," but somehow it doesn't seem so super. The last debate among the Democratic candidates was mostly annoying squabbling over trifles, as notable for the poor performance of the journalists as for anything the candidates said. Not so long ago it seemed like there was a lot at stake in this Democratic nomination race, but now the headlines say this could be "Edwards' last hurrah" and "Kerry hopes for knockout blow."


Howard Dean's candidacy is what made the nomination race interesting for the last year, and it's still making headlines. Political Wire has a roundup of the different takes on whether the campaign disintegrated because of infighting. Dean says no, Howard Kurtz says yes, and Matthew Gross, Dean's former chief blogger who is now working for Joe Trippi, says yes, too, but sort of moderates that position here. The worst accusation is that Dean never wanted to actually get elected, but I find that very hard to believe. He certainly didn't look or sound like someone who didn't sincerely want to win; in fact, until now, everyone seemed to think his desire to win was too intense, and that's one of the things that brought him down. But whatever the case, I hope Trippi's "people" and Dean's "people" can come together or at least cooperate on their mutual goals. A lot of good could come from what they started, and it would be a shame to waste all that potential on battling egos and hurt feelings.
Posted while listening to: Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors from the album "Amnesiac" by Radiohead

Posted 06:59 AM

February 27, 2004

Give'Em Enough Rope

One piece of advice I got in my mock trial competition last weekend was to play nice with uncooperative witnesses. Don't press them on their evasiveness or implausible answers. Instead, give them a couple of chances to come clean, and if they don't, just keep moving. The idea is that if you just give some people enough rope, they'll hang themselves.

The same may be true of the Bush administration. Since day one, beginning around the time of its abrupt withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty, I've been thinking/hoping the Bush administration would press its perceived advantages too far, doing things so outrageous that even its staunchest supporters would be forced to withdraw their support. So far, it hasn't happened. No matter what awful new outrage the administration propounds, it still seems to maintain support from around half the country. However, in just the last few days it's been piling outrage on outrage:

Secretary of Education Rod Paige called the National Education Association (NEA) -- the teacher's union -- "a terrorist organization."

Bush''s chief economic advisor thinks jobs at McDonald's should be reclassified as "manufacturing jobs":

In [Bush's annual economic] report last week, Bush's chief economic adviser N. Gregory Mankiw called the definition "somewhat blurry" and asked whether it should be changed. "When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a 'service' or is it combining inputs to 'manufacture' a product?"

Yeah, right.

And now Bush is backing a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Of course this is a political ploy. One of the best things I've heard from John Kerry is that Bush is "playing politics with the Constitution." But why Bush is taking this position is not as important as the simple fact that he's taking it. The POTUS is asking that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation be written into the Constitution.

Again I say: Yeah, right.

All of this has caused L's dad to write to our dear POTUS to complain. The last line of his letter pretty much says it all:

President Bush, even if you personally shot Osama bin Laden tomorrow, I still would not vote for you in November.

And this from a man who voted Bush/Cheney in 2000. You gotta love that.

Posted 06:55 AM | Comments (8)

February 24, 2004

Forget Nader. Draft Moore!

While everyone's in a tizzy about what Nader's candidacy might mean, Howard Dean says don't be tempted by Nader:

Ralph Nader has made many great contributions to America over 40 years. But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental, and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined. George Bush's right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges fifty years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of, and for, the corporations - exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against.

Those who truly want America's leaders to stand up to the corporate special interests and build a better country for working people should recognize that, in 2004, a vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush. I hope that Ralph Nader will withdraw his candidacy in the best interests of the country we hope to become.

Timothy Noah on Slate says Forget Nader. Draft Moore. [link via Scripting News] Sounds like a brilliant idea to me.

Of course, if we'd just follow some of the suggestions at The Center for Voting and Democracy we wouldn't have to worry so much about how a random third candidate could be a kingmaker. Can you say instant runoff voting? I knew you could. Now if that wouldn't give people a great incentive to vote, I don't know what would. Proportional representation would also be a great step in the right direction.

p.s.: Is it just me, or is Nader's website broken in Safari? For me, the header at the top of the page loads as it should, but I have to scroll down about 30 screens to see the rest of the content on the page. It looks fine in FireFox, though. Hmph. Whatever else I might have thought of Nader, I just can't vote for him now. Any candidate who can't make their pages Safari-friendly just won't be getting my vote, simple as that. ;-)

Posted 05:57 AM

February 23, 2004

Dean Takedown Update

As a followup to last week's summary of how prominent Democrats helped destroy the Dean campaign, check out Centerfield's, um, inside baseball analysis of the whole deal: A company controlled by NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave $100,000 to the anti-Dean smear campaign.

Worse, according to this PDF file, organized labor (Laborers Int'l Union, Longshoremen, Machinists, and Ironworkers) gave $200,000 all together. It's heartwarming to see this kind of solidarity, isn't it? [link via Scripting News]

Posted 09:33 PM

February 22, 2004

Nader's In

So he's doing it. Nader has officially begun his campaign for the White House as an independent candidate. Okey-dokey.

Here's a thought on that. And here's another.

I agree with Nader on many things, including the fact that the two-party system is broken and undemocratic. However, isn't a run as an independent this year only going to hurt the long-term chances that a third party will ever be taken seriously? I mean, just about any other year, I might support something like this, but this year!? Right. There's always the nagging voice of the revolutionary whispering in my ear: "If not now, when? If not us, who?" But when it comes to whether a third-party lefty should run for President of the U.S. the answers to those questions are clearly: "Any other year" and "Maybe us, but any other year!"

But maybe this will turn out to be a good thing:

Asked if he would withdraw if he concluded his candidacy would merely ensure President Bush's re-election, Nader told interviewer Tim Russert, "When and if that eventuality occurs, you can invite me back on the program and I'll give you the answer."

So do you think Ralph's so sure the Democratic nominee is going to kick W's ass so hard that a lefty independent candidacy won't give the election to the W? Or here's another scenario:

Ralph can just stir the pot, continually reminding everyone how corrupt Washington is and how the two-party system does not work, etc. That's all great, so long as he withdraws and emphatically supports the Democratic nominee by, oh, let's say Oct. 15th. That could be a win win for everyone. Please Ralph, only run 'till October!

Posted 09:24 AM | Comments (2)

February 19, 2004

Shifting Gears

What is there to say that hasn't been or isn't being said? The Columbia-Union rounds up a number of responses to Dean's withdrawal from the race, and here's the actual withdrawal speech where Dean asks supporters to stick together and do whatever it takes to get Bush out of office. At least two publications (here and here) have published stories entitled "Howard's End." The latter editorial is from John Margolis, who writes:

In Vermont, Dr. Dean was never a very good politician. He was quite a good governor. He was a prudent steward of the state's finances. He expanded social services while reducing taxes. During the debate over civil unions in 2000, he not only kept his word but he also kept his cool.

On the campaign trail, though, Dr. Dean was a dud. Here was a man with neither a thirst for the political jugular nor a sense of timing.

I understand that to some people, this is what made Dean "unelectable" in this race -- he's just not a very good politician. The irony is that this is exactly why so many people like me supported him. Imagine: A politician who's not a politician, but a person. Yeah, imagine that.

I voted Nader in 2000. I never registered as a Democrat before this year. Prior to Dean's candidacy, I detested the Democratic Party only slightly less than I abhored the Republican Party. I thought a third party was the only solution to the hopeless mess that is national politics today. Dean and his campaign made me rethink all that; I started to hope again that maybe, instead of having to rely on something entirely new, we could just fix what was broken -- the Democratic Party -- and get American politics back on a sane path again.

And perhaps we can. Should Kerry get the nomination, I'll certainly vote for Kerry as a lesser evil than Bush. And should Edwards get the nomination, I'll vote for Edwards as a lesser evil than both of them. Neither offers much hope for real change in the Democratic Party, but hey, I guess we'll have to worry about that later. Right now it's back to the bottom line: (all together now) Redefeat Bush.

Posted 06:46 AM

February 18, 2004

Dean Bows Out

We knew it was coming, now here it is:

Today my candidacy may come to an end--but our campaign for change is not over.

From the AP coverage:

Dean exits the active race certain in the knowledge that he will live on in the annals of U.S. politics for shattering Democratic fund-raising records with $41 million collected in a single year — as well as on late-night television and Internet parodies for a high-octane concession speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses that he's likely never to live down.

The former Vermont governor is the political equivalent of a supernova. Once a long-shot candidate, the Internet phenomenon filled his campaign coffers and attracted thousands of supporters through the spring and summer, pushing him to the head of the crowded Democratic field.

The leader in national polls — and more important state polls in the first states of Iowa and New Hampshire — Dean seemed poised to win the nomination in a runaway. In the end, he never won a single state through 17 contests.


Posted 11:19 AM

Wisconsin Wrap

Whoop! There it is:

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting in Tuesday's primary, Kerry had 40 percent of the vote, followed by Edwards at 34 percent and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at 18 percent.

A big strong second for Edwards. Wonkette sums it up and offers the best line of the night:

Edwards: Still grinning, we're sure. Will this stunning surge break the dread "electability" meme that's propped up the lifeless corpse that is John Kerry? Let's hope. Also the best line of the night: "The voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message -- Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear."

The lifeless corpse that is John Kerry. Gotta love that. Oh yeah, Edwards' mirror line was good, too, except he's already got the pretty-boy thing to live down -- maybe he should avoid comments that could be read as narcissistic. I mean, the line is "objects in your rear view mirror may be closer than they appear," right?

Kerry's still the only Dem who beats Bush in nationwide polls, but that could easily change. Perhaps Edwards' strong second last night will tip the "electability" scales in Edwards' favor.

So Kerry and Edwards will battle on, while something ended last night for Howard Dean. Was it his campaign for the Democratic nomination? Probably. Last night he told his supporters to maintain perspective:

"I know that some of you are disappointed because we didn't do as well as we had hoped we would do in Wisconsin. But I also want you to think for a moment about how far we have come," Dean said. "Change is tough, and there's enormous institutional pressure in this country against change."

And as the cliche goes, in every end there's a beginning. What will Dean do next? There's lots of speculation, and he's planning an "event" for 1 p.m. this afternoon to put an end to most of it (I hope).

Perhaps the best news of the night for Democrats didn't have anything to do with the presidential election, but instead focused on the special election in Kentucky:

Soundly defeated in last year's governor's race, former state attorney general Ben Chandler on Tuesday easily won the House seat of the man who beat him, ending a long Democratic losing streak in congressional special elections.

Can the Dems win the White House and take back a house of Congress? Kos breaks down the numbers for the House. This Dem turnaround is a realistic possibility, a fact for which we should all thank Howard Dean and his campaign. He won't be our next President, but I don't think history will soon forget what he's done for national politics. I know I won't.

Posted 06:50 AM | Comments (3)

February 16, 2004

Not Mincing Words

Last night in Wisconsin, in what may be the last presidential debate for several candidates (who knows?), Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich showed again why they're still in the race: They say a lot of what the other candidates are too afraid to say.

The following is the complete transcript of Sharpton's response to the question of whether Bush lied about the threat posed by Iraq, WMD, etc:

HOLT: I'd actually like to let Reverend Sharpton follow up on that very question. Do you think that the president knowingly lied, and if so, why?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think that if he did[n't] know he was lying and was lying, that's even worse.


Clearly, he lied. Now if he is an unconscious liar, and doesn't realize when he's lying, then we're really in trouble.


Because, absolutely, it was a lie. They said they knew the weapons were there. He had members of the administration say they knew where the weapons were. So we're not just talking about something passing here. We're talking about 500 lives. We're talking about billions of dollars.

So I hope he knew he was lying, because if he didn't, and just went in some kind of crazy, psychological breakdown, then we are really in trouble.

Clearly, you know, I'm a minister. Why do people lie? Because they're liars. He lied in Florida he's lied several times. I believe he lied in Iraq.



HOLT: And Reverend, you'll recognize, obviously, calling someone a liar is a very serious charge. So it does lead to that question...

SHARPTON: I think he lied.

HOLT: So it does lead to the question: Why would he lie?

SHARPTON: Why do people lie? I mean, if in my judgment...

HOLT: I mean, knowing he would be in the position that you're putting him in now, why would he...

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, Lester, let us look at the facts. The facts are that what they presented to the United Nations, what they presented to the world was not so. You can only assume that they had to know if they said that they knew where the weapons were, that they knew they didn't know where they were.

And now to come back and tell us that Saddam Hussein is a cruel, despicable person, which we all agree, but we believed him when he told us he had them. Can you imagine me telling you that I believe somebody that you should never believe, and I brought 500 people to their deaths believing in a man that was as despicable as Hussein, and this is who we're going to have over the troops' lives in this country?

I think that this is absolutely outrageous. Why he lied? I think we should give him the rest of his retirement to figure that out and explain to us.



I realize there's a lot of controversy over Sharpton's relationship to Republican dirty-trickster, Roger Stone. It's possible that the kind of radical candor Sharpton displayed at last night's debate will work in Bush's favor by giving the GOP a way to paint the Dems as outrageous or unpatriotic or something, but I doubt it. Besides, Sharpton had a great response to the question of patriotism, as well, this one on the subject of the so-called "free trade" policies that destroy the environment and ignore workers' rights:

And the argument used that if you protect American workers it's protectionism, but if you protect American corporations it's patriotism -- I think it's patriotism to protect American workers.

Preach on, Al, preach on.

Posted 09:23 AM

Thanks Mr. Gross

Matthew Gross, "the first blogger-in-chief in presidential campaign history," has left the Dean campaign for family medical reasons. In an interview Gross said his experience with the Dean campaign hasn't made him more cynical, but more hopeful:

Obviously it changed my life in ways that I could not have forseen a year ago. But cynical? Not at all. Disillusionment was pulling the lever for the Democratic Party in November of 2002. Cynicism was the leaders of my party voting for George Bush's war in hopes that it would improve their electoral prospects. But look at what people have accomplished. They've transformed the Democratic race. They've put Bush on the ropes. They've given the Democratic Party a spine. And the amazing thing -- the thing I still have yet to see a single pundit get -- was that only 600,000 people in a nation of 300 million did that. 600,000 people shook the very foundation of political power in this country. It was an earthquake felt by both parties, the media, and the special interests. That feeling scared the hell out of a lot of people in Washington D.C. But you know what it felt like to the rest of us? It felt like hope.

Hope dies last. (Gross offers many more thoughts on the Dean campaign on his own blog.)

Posted 08:36 AM

Democrats Helped Bring Down Dean

Remember the Club for Growth? That's the anti-Dean "527" political organization that ran the tv ad in Iowa saying that Howard Dean should get his "latte-drinking, Volvo-driving," etc, etc, self back to liberal Vermont where it belongs. (More here on that ad.) That was the "Club's" second ad; the first compared Dean to Mondale and Dukakis as a tax-and-spend liberal.

Those ads probably didn't help Dean's campaign too much, but they were paid for by a self-confessed Republican organization, so they weren't all that surprising. The big question was: Why were the dirtiest anti-Dean attack ads paid for by Democrats?

That's right: According to this story on NPR, monied Democrats helped take down the Dean campaign. The so-called "Americans for Jobs, Healthcare, and Progressive Values," is another "527" group, and its anti-Dean ads were far worse than those funded by Dean's Republican opponents. One of the "Americans for Jobs" ads focused on Dean's gun control positions. But the worst was the one that tried to link Dean w/Osama bin Laden. The idea seemed to be: If you vote for Dean, Osama will get you! (Here's a Windows Media version of the attack ad.) Politics don't get much dirtier than that -- especially when a (hopefully) more subtle version of this line attack will be the main argument Bush uses to try to be reelected.

Which Democrats were funding these ads? On December 16, 2003, the Washington Post connected the dots between the ads and the money:

The machinists union endorses Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.). The machinists union makes a "significant" contribution to Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values (AJHPV), according to union political director Richard Michalski. The same AJHPV, a new organization, runs television ads in Iowa and elsewhere attacking former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Mr. Dean is Mr. Gephardt's leading rival for votes in the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

With us so far? Then continue: Leo Hindery, a cable television executive, is a national finance co-chair of the Gephardt campaign. Mr. Hindery is also a backer of AJHPV. The organization's chief fundraiser is a former Gephardt fundraiser, David Jones. Its president, Edward F. Feighan, a former Ohio congressman, has given the maximum $2,000 to the Gephardt campaign.

Is a picture beginning to emerge?

Did Gephardt or his campaign really have anything to do with AJHPV? We'll probably never know, and now that Geppy's out of the race, it doesn't matter all that much. Today a slightly more relevant question is: Did Kerry or his campaign have anything to do with AJHPV? Another perspective from last December:

AJHPV's new spokesman is former John Kerry press secretary Robert Gibbs, who left the Massachusetts senator's campaign when his boss, Jim Jordan, was fired. The Kerry camp also denies any connection with the 527 group. Both the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns have gone on the air with positive ads this week, leaving the Dean bashing to AJHPV.

That was December, and much has happened since then, none of which was good for the Dean campaign. Now we learn from AJHPV's recently-released records that a major donor to the group is also a prominent (and ethically-challenged) fundraiser for Kerry -- former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli:

The website "" first reported that Torricelli, who abandoned his reelection bid five weeks before the 2002 election amid a fund-raising controversy, donated $50,000 in November from his leftover Senate campaign account to Americans for Jobs & Healthcare. The group ran more than $500,000 in ads against Dean this winter. One ad questioned Dean's foreign policy credentials while displaying an image of terrorist Osama bin Laden.

At the time, the group was suspected of having ties to Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who was clashing with Dean for primacy in the caucuses. The group was run by a pair of past Gephardt supporters and had a spokesman who once worked for Kerry, but it refused to release its list of contributors. The group's executive director, David Jones, released the list Tuesday.

The Boston Globe story goes on to note that AJHPV also got money from Clark supporters, and also from at least one donor who had previously given the Dean campaign $2000. The suggestion seems to be that the group's donors supported all the candidates. That's ridiculous, considering that Torricelli gave $50k to AJHPV and is raising over $100k for Kerry, but whatever. The point is not to pin AJHPV's nastiness on Kerry or Gephardt or any other campaign, but to point out that:

1) Now that Kerry has taken over the "frontrunner" position, he isn't getting any of this kind of nasty treatment from fellow Democrats, and

2) Dean didn't lose "frontrunner" status because his campaign "imploded" or "self-destructed," he lost that status at least partly because his opponents assassinated his character and terrified voters.

Yes, I'm becoming bitter about the fact that Dean's campaign has come to this point. You can say I "blame the media" for what's happened, and you won't be wrong, but you won't be completely right, either. The media has a great deal to answer for when it comes to their coverage of the Dean campaign, but that will be for the historians to sort out. More important is why and how the DNC, the DLC and supposedly "Democratic" groups like AJHPV tried to stop Dean. And just as important and closely-related, why and how has the Dean campaign so far seemed unable to overcome or break through all of that resistance to reach the people it's been fighting for -- the voters? History will also judge all of that.

Meanwhile, the latest (and only) Zogby poll from Wisconsin shows Dean with double the support indicated by other polls. And regardless of what happens tomorrow in Wisconsin, we gotta do what we gotta do: Re-Defeat Bush.

Posted 08:03 AM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2004

2000 All Over Again

Kerry won big in D.C. and Nevada yesterday:

With almost all precincts reporting in Nevada, Kerry had about 63 percent of the vote, with Dean at 17 percent, Edwards at 10 percent and Dennis Kucinich (news - web sites) at 7 percent.

Across the country, the full results in the D.C. caucuses showed Kerry with 47 percent; Sharpton, 20 percent; Dean, 17 percent; Edwards, 10 percent; and Kucinich, 3 percent.

Chalk up another big win for bandwagonism and so-called "electability." Walking over to the polling place yesterday I saw a few people with Kerry signs and buttons and I just wanted to ask them: What do you see in this guy that could make you want to carry a sign for him? How is this guy any better than Gore was in 2000? How is a Kerry/Bush matchup going to be any different from a Gore/Bush matchup?

[Tangent: You notice how "Gore/Bush" doesn't sound right? That's because you always hear "Bush/Gore" or "Bush v. Gore." Does it matter that everyone (the media) always puts Bush first?]

If there are any Kerry true-believers out there, perhaps you should be thanking Dean and Edwards for staying in the race. According to the New York Times, they're only helping Kerry build "momentum."

But whatever. If Kerry gets the nomination, I see this fall being much the same as the fall of 2000. Lots of Democrats will have to struggle to vote for Kerry because he's such a complete compromise. They'll do it (I hope) by reminding themselves over and over again of one simple truth: He's better than Bush. But will we ever get beyond having to choose the lesser of two evils?

And if you need another reason why Kerry is the Compromise Candidate, here you go: Rather than using Quicktime or Realplayer or even offering a choice, Kerry uses Windows media to stream video from his campaign. George Bush recently released an ad attacking Kerry -- an ad that's, not surprisingly, misleading. Kerry put out a decent response, but just like the Bush campaign video, you have to watch the Kerry campaign video via Windows media. So what? So it's just more evidence of the kind of inside-the-box, establishment, status-quo, follow-the-polls, everybody-else-does-it-that-way-so-I-will-too kind of politician Kerry is. So yeah, vote for Kerry, because, well, everyone else is doing it.

On the flip side, the Dean campaign and its supporters make video available via Quicktime (as well as Real and Windows media formats). That's different, better, more inclusive. But more important are the more substantive reasons why Dean is a better candidate, such as:

As he unapologetically confronts what could be the last weeks of his political career, Howard Dean has not mellowed. The former Vermont governor and defrocked Democratic front-runner still refuses, for the most part, to resort to the insincere platitudes that help other candidates survive their campaign days without uttering an unexpected syllable.

You want insincere platitudes and business as usual? Vote Kerry.

Note: I fully admit that if Dean were in Kerry's position right now, I wouldn't care too much that he was getting a large percentage of votes simply because people were playing empty-headed me-too politics. If that were the case, I'd maintain that it was ok, because Dean offered a real alternative to Bush and therefore all those bandwagon-jumpers would be helping to do something truly new and good for the country. I just hope there are Kerry supporters out there who sincerely believe that Kerry's not just the one getting the most votes, but that he's also the best candidate. I also hope Kerry will work to convince people like me that we're wrong. If he gets the nomination, I'll be ready and waiting to be convinced.

Posted 07:08 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

DC Primary

DC had a first in the nation "preference poll" on January 13th, which Howard Dean won by a mile. Unfortunately, that didn't really count for a whole lot, so tomorrow DC has its real caucus, which does count, albeit for very little (three delegates, I think). Anyway, find your polling place and please vote!

Better still, vote for Dean! Here's why you should: You gotta believe.

UPDATE: After you vote, why not sign the Million for Marriage petition? It's an easy and painless way to show that the Constitution doesn't need any "marriage protection" amendments, thanks.

UPDATE II: Vote for Dean, Punk.

Posted 12:04 PM

February 09, 2004

Maine Caucus: First Person

Sherry offers a great first-hand account of at least one of the caucuses yesterday in Maine. Plus, she's going to be a delegate for Dean at Maine's state convention in May. Although I can understand there are plausible reasons for others to abandon Dean, you can still call me mad cow.

Posted 02:26 PM

February 05, 2004

Call Me Mad Cow

Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Dean's Dead. Everyone keeps almost saying it, so it must be almost true, right? Well, listen to Jeff Greenfield:

Call me Mad Cow, but suppose you went to these big states and said "isn't it time that the larger states help pick a nominee? Aren't you tired of letting Iowa and New Hampshire run your campaign? You, California, New York, Ohio, Georgia, you never have any power. This is your chance to say to the democratic party, all right, we're going to help pick the nominee." We're talking about a long shot strategy for Howard Dean. But it doesn't seem to me impossible. When people say he's toast, he's finished, forget it, it's the same people often who said he's the definite nominee two months ago, and maybe we ought to look at what the possibilities are rather than saying, "Oh yeah, I know what the future is."

Posted 04:54 AM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2004

That Primary Thing

Kerry wins, yadda yadda yadda. (Full results.) Hooray for Kerry! Hooray for mediocrity and the status quo!

The pundits are singing choruses of "Dean's dead," but according to Open Secrets, Dean's got much more cash on hand than any other candidate, meaning he's well-positioned to carry through with his plan to make a stand in a later state (Washington, Michigan, or Wisconsin). His strategy is definitely risky, and heavily dependent upon other candidates dropping out of the race so that Dean can draw clear distinctions between Kerry and himself. Of course, that's what Edwards and Clark would like to do, as well, so Kerry's got to be loving the fact that more candidates haven't dropped out. It's time for Kucinich and Sharpton to bow out and throw their support to Dean; Dean's the only candidate whose platform even comes close to synching with theirs. Of course, that's not going to happen, but it would be nice.

Posted 06:52 AM | Comments (2)

February 01, 2004

Why do you support __________?

I have an open question for anyone who supports anyone besides Howard Dean for the 2004 Democratic nomination: What evidence do you have that your candidate will keep his promises? Now that all the candidates are repeating themes that Howard Dean established over the last year, what makes you think any of them are doing more than mouthing what the people have shown they want to hear?

Here's another piece of information to consider: On his Sunday morning talk show, George Stephanopolous was interviewing Terry McAuliffe and both agreed that "Washington insiders breathed a huge sigh of relief when Kerry won again in New Hampshire." Now why would "Washington insiders" be so relieved to see Kerry doing well? Do you want a candidate that pleases the "insiders" and is himself the consummate insider)? Have the "insiders" been doing such a great job for you?

Again I ask: If you're not supporting Howard Dean, what evidence do you have that your candidate will do, or even really try to do, anything he has promised?

Posted 11:07 AM | Comments (6)

January 31, 2004

Campaign bits

While the pundits and polls rev up to Tuesday's primaries, the Dean campaign's new strategy goes way beyond them. According to Roy Neel, the new campaign manager:

Our goal for the next two and a half weeks is simple—become the last-standing alternative to John Kerry after the Wisconsin primary on February 17.

Why Wisconsin? First, it is a stand-alone primary where we believe we can run very strong. Second, it kicks off a two-week campaign for over 1,100 delegates on March 2, and the shift of the campaign that month to nearly every big state: California, New York, and Ohio on March 2, Texas and Florida on March 9, Illinois on March 16, and Pennsylvania on April 27.
. . .
Has such a strategy ever worked before?

No. It's never been tried.

It's risky, but just about everything about the Dean campaign has been risky. A major theme of the Dean campaign has been: this candidate is different, this campaign is different, and those differences are the evidence proving that, unlike the politics-as-usual candidates, Dean will do everything he can to keep his promises.

Two other campaign developments: First, this report from the Washington Post:

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made a fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show.

Hmm. Politics as usual, anyone? Kerry's campaign was crashing last fall; he turned it around by turning up the rhetoric and stealing lines and themes from Howard Dean. One of those themes was "fighting special interests." However:

The note of reality is [Kerry] has been brought to you by special interests," said Charles Lewis of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group that has closely studied the senator's relationship with special interests. "It's very hard [for Kerry] to utter this rhetoric without some hollowness to it."

Will voters agree? Will they appreciate this "hollowness," or will they continue to vote for Kerry as the "safe," default choice? Remember: We went with "safe" Gore in 2000—Democratic primary voters figured Gore was just boring enough not to offend anyone, but her turned out to be so boring he put everyone to sleep. Gore's changed; Kerry is now taking his former role.

The other campaign development comes in the form of a speculation about where the Dean campaign's money went. Thanks to a couple of lines in the NY Times, some are asking if Joe Trippi abused his position for personal gain. The Times wrote:

Tricia Enright, the [Dean] campaign's communications director, said Dr. Dean was forming "a new creative team" to overhaul its television advertisements. She said the campaign was not firing its media firm, in which Mr. Trippi is a partner. Many Dean supporters have been critical of the ad campaign, particularly in Iowa. Some questioned the arrangements by which Mr. Trippi forfeited a salary as a campaign manager but collected commissions — said to be as high as 15 percent in some cases — based on advertising buys.

Something to think about, certainly. The above article was written in part by Jodi Wilgoren, whose coverage of the Dean campaign has been so negative it inspired its own blog to call her on her most egregious slants. Still, since the Dean campaign has relied so heavily on "regular folks" for its financing, it has a special burden to account for how it spends those funds. The campaign has raised nearly $2 million since Iowa, so it doesn't seem like Dean's supporters are too worried about this yet, but it's something the campaign will definitely need to address at some point.

Posted 06:55 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2004

Dean Machine Retooling

One way to describe Roy Neel, Dean's new campaign manager, is as "something of an old hand", but another way is simply "Washington Insider." It's that latter description that has some people ready to give up on Dean (cf, David Corn), and while jumping the "dis-endorsing" wagon might seem tempting, I'll let the option pass, joining other Dean supporters who are accepting the changes "wistfully":

"People working for the Dean campaign might be somewhat demoralized that he picked this Washington insider," [anderbilt University professor Bruce] Barry said, "but they might be energized by the fact that he's reinvented his campaign. He's not standing still."

The L.A. Times provides a few more details on the staff change, and the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz rounds up a bit of the reaction to the change, while the Daily Kos thread on the subject generated more than 400 comments from all over the map.

In Dean's new strategy, it appears he'll largely be skipping the Feb. 3 races, hoping to get wins in Washington, Michigan, and Wisconsin, instead. (Does it make any difference that the Detroit Free Press appears to have endorsed Kerry?) It appears the Dean money advantage is more or less gone, but the campaign took in over $250,000 Wednesday alone in online donations. According to Blog for America:

This race is about the next seven weeks, not the next seven states. We will not let the pundits call this race, the people will, and that means this race comes down to winning delegates. Today, Howard Dean is winning the nomination fight with 114 of the delegates.

We are set to win the nomination because we have two things our opponents don't have and cannot build in the next six weeks:

1) Over 620,000 people who have invested their time and money into our campaign and who if anything are recommitted after Iowa and New Hampshire.

2) The ability to replenish. We raised $2.2 million since the Iowa Caucuses, including more than $480,000 raised online since the New Hampshire Primary.

And perhaps more important is the media's ongoing fascination with the Dean campaign:

John Kerry may be the front-runner, political analysts say, but Dean is the story.

Walter Shapiro agrees. Why the fascination? Because Dean is different. He's a different candidate who has run a different campaign. And that difference, as Martha used to say, is a good thing. The media attention can be a less good thing, but it may prove ok in the end. The major networks are now admitting that they blew "the scream" way out of proportion.

The Democratic establishment is loving Kerry right now—even Clinton is saying positive things about Kerry today, although he didn't give a formal endorsement. But the question voters should ask remains: What has the Democratic establishment produced in the last four years? Nada.

So Switch to Dean (it's cheaper than switching to a Mac and, difficult as it might be to imagine, the payback will be even greater).

Posted 05:11 AM

January 29, 2004

Thank you, Joe Trippi!

The big news on the Dean campaign trail today:

Campaign manager Joe Trippi resigned after Dean promoted Roy Neel, a longtime aide to former vice president Al Gore, to chief executive officer. Trippi had been credited with organizing the 2003 drive that brought the former Vermont governor from obscurity to a temporary position atop the polls.

Although I have mixed feelings about Trippi leaving (especially considering his replacement is the consummate "Washington insider"), but one thing is certain: For the past year, Trippi has been the most important person in the campaign besides Dean himself, and America owes him a great deal of thanks for having the faith and vision to plant and grow a real, decentralized, grassroots campaign. Chris Lydon (whose reaction to NH is brilliant: "In his confused reiterations, his no-apology apologies about an unpopular war in Iraq, Kerry has conceded a point to Dean, not won one.") interviewed Trippi back in November and that interview captures Trippi's brilliant vision. Trippi may be out of this campaign, but his vision need not die, nor has it been discredited. It almost worked, and what it started may work yet. There's still time, and hope.

Of course, Dean has a lot of work to do. The campaign is saying it has to win at least one state to stay viable, so it's focusing on the "delegate-rich states most likely to determine this year's Democratic presidential nominee": Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Some Dean supporters have taken the first week of voting especially hard, saying things like they'd rather vote Bush than Kerry, or not vote at all if Dean doesn't win. I do hope these people will eventually come around to see that even Kerry would be much better for them and our world's future than Bush. But while it may be fun to mock the disappointment of "Deaniacs" right now, it seems only fair to point out that Dean has done more than anyone in this race to bring new people into the electoral process. This means a certain percentage of his supporters only care about this election because of him -- many of them have never voted before, or not in a long time. I suspect it's mostly those political neophytes who are packing up the toys. Dean has inspired people, but it's too much to ask for him and his campaign to also have taught them -- in such a short time -- how the political roller-coaster works and why they need not tear out their hair just because he hasn't won the first two contests (and may not win the nomination). Still, fun as it is, rather than ridicule these people, I think we ought to be concerned about them. If Dean doesn't win (and I still have hope he can), we may end up with an even more cynical, embittered, and apathetic electorate than we started with, and that won't be good for anyone (except, of course, G.W. Bush, and since he's not good for anyone but corporations, that's not really an exception with any meaning).

Thanks largely to Trippi, Dean's campaign has become a movement, and I hope, whatever happens, that movement will live on somehow so that all the energy and talent and passion that has taken Dean so far can continue to lead the Democratic party and/or America more generally in positive, more hopeful, more socially just directions.

Posted 06:39 AM | Comments (1)

January 28, 2004

Thanks, NH

Congratulations to John Kerry, but also to Howard Dean who came back from a pretty serious pummeling to take a strong second. You gotta love this: The only thing positive the AP can find to say about Dean is that he kept his cool after his "loss." That takes for granted that he somehow lost his cool sometime, but I'll leave that argument for the history books. I predict it won't be more than a year or two before we see the books analyzing what happened in the 2004 primaries, and regardless of who wins, when the dust settles even Dean's staunchest critics will be forced to admit that the media's treatment of Dean in the last week was among the least professional, most sensational, and most unfair coverage of a presidential candidate of this race.

Is Dean angry? Brent Simmons and his many readers offer a great discussion of that question with opinions from all sides [link via Scripting News.] Why haven't we seen more thoughtful analysis like this in the mainstream media?

But like I said, it's time to move forward. Dean still leads in delegates and the next few weeks promise many more opportunities for voters around the country to choose who they want to be the next President. Another plus: Bush remains under pressure over the fact that Iraq was not an imminent threat when Bush went to war.

The conventional wisdom is that Kerry's got the best chance to beat Bush. Although I don't understand why people think that, if it turns out to be true -- if Kerry gets the nomination and then wins the White House -- I'll be fairly glad to be proven wrong. My hope has been, and remains, that in Dean we have a candidate who can both beat Bush and really start fixing the things that are broken in American politics. If beating Bush is all we can get, I'll take that, sure; but I still hope for more.

Posted 06:54 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2004

An open letter to voters:

This is what a U.S. President ought to sound like:

I'm a doctor, and I was proud to be governor of Vermont, where we balanced our budgets, where we made sure every single child in our state had health insurance, where we are proud to be stewards of our natural resources, where we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are created equal, that all are endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And where we, like all Americans, love our country and want our flag to stand for freedom and justice for all. And where our flag is not the property of either party, that flag belongs to every single American.

We seek the Great Restoration Of American Values. I'm tired of being divided. I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore. I want an America that looks like America, where we're all included, hand in hand, black and white, gay and straight, man and woman. America! Stand up for America!

We seek to build a community of millions. And strengthen the voice of our people. And like the founders of the Republic, we seek change. I ask all Americans, regardless of party, to meet with me across this nation to come together in common cause to forge a new American century. Help us in the quest for a return to greatness and a return to high moral purpose to the United States Of America.

The truth is, the future of our country lies in your hands not mine. You have the power to reclaim our nation's destiny. You have the power to rid Washington of the politics of money. You have the power to make right just as important as might. You have the power to give America a reason to vote again. You have the power to restore our nation to fiscal sanity and bring jobs back to our people. You have the power to take back the Democratic party. You have the power to take our country back. And you have the power to take the White House back in 2004. You have the power!

Download the remix. Read the speech. Think. Does that sound like the usual empty rhetoric you usually hear from politicians? Are you happy with what professional politicians have been doing with your money and your country in recent decades?

Listen. Read. Think. Vote. Use your power.

Thank you.

Note: As mentioned below, Musclehead also quoted from this remix in a post yesterday, and I originally saw some of these lyrics printed in a comment on Blog for America.

Posted 06:57 AM

From the Frothy Lips

Musclehead, who beat me to the next post about the "Faulkner Remix", has been thinking out loud a little about Howard Dean. It's nice when people acknowledge the quality and value of Dean's message, but it's incredible to hear the news recently with so many people saying things like this: "I like what Dean has to say and the fact that he breathed life back into a Democratic party that seemed to be in something like a terminal coma, but now that all the candidates have adopted his best ideas, I'm supporting Kerry (or Edwards)."

How does that work? Why? Dean's got the best message, but we're going to vote for someone else?

Dean's message is the antidote to the politics of the last 25 or 30 years where citizens have been reduced to passive recipients of a "message" and where the only thing that's asked of them is a check and a vote. Kerry's asking people to be consumers—to consume his campaign, just like they consume their fast food dinner and their new outfit from the mall. A campaign like Kerry's offers absolutely nothing new, nothing that we haven't seen a dozen times before in Democratic campaigns. Dean, on the other hand, is all about making a new start, doing things differently, better. Dean's asking people to stand up, to work for change, to make things happen for themselves. Is that what people are afraid of? Do people support someone like Kerry because he says nice things but asks nothing from them other than for their vote (and maybe some cash)?

I don't know. But I do know that not all of Dean's supporters tend to shoot from the "frothy lips," and neither does Dean (at least not all the time). The Dean tent has never included only "Bush-bashers" or "radicals"; there's always been and there remains an abundance of room for the many moderates and centrists out there. Read the Blog for America comments and you'll see a lot of this, especially recently.

Here's a theory: So long as Democrats shy away from the passion and the vigorous activism that many of Dean's supporters have shown in this campaign, the Democrats will lose to those who have embraced passion and who have far more money and resources than Democrats -- the Republican far right and corporate America.

Just a theory...

Posted 06:53 AM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2004

The Day Before NH

Today is a Snow Day here in D.C. and it would be hard for me to be more pleased since I spent too much time this weekend watching the news that wasn't, and too little time writing the brief that isn't. (If anyone wants to send me a nice, tidy, post-trial motion to acquit on charges of "using" guns in connection with a drug trafficking crime after the D accepted a gun as payment for marijuana, just let me know.)

In 36-40 hours, we should know what NH voters think of the Democratic candidates, and that may or may not mean much for what happens next week in the overall race. In their most recent poll (released this morning) Zogby's calling it a statistical dead heat between Kerry and Dean (more info), while yesterday's polls show wider margins.

Of course, NH is supposedly "the graveyard of pollsters," so who knows? Whatever happens, the Repubs are looking forward to running against a "liberal, liberal, liberal." It's telling that Republicans say that Lieberman would be the biggest threat to Bush; they're just spinning. Most of the 2002 Dems took the Lieberman "centrist" approach and were beaten soundly. If it comes down to Kerry, he'll lose for the same reasons Gore lost—he's easy to lock up in a "boring liberal" box. If it comes down to Edwards, he'll have a challenge to stay out of the "eager and energetic but too young and inexperienced" box. And, of course, if it comes down to Dean they're already trying to lock him into the "angry and unpresidential" box, but that's the becoming a huge strength for Dean: If he beats that rap with a comeback in the next few weeks, the Republicans will have to come up with a new weapon against him because the "angry" one will be pretty well defused.

Bush got into the act yesterday with jabs along the above lines at both Dean and Kerry. About "the speech," Bush said:

Boy that speech in Iowa was something else," a guest at the no-media-allowed Alfalfa Club dinner Saturday quoted Bush as saying, The Washington Post reported.

"Talk about shock and awe. Saddam Hussein felt so bad for Governor Dean that he offered him his hole."

Ha ha ha. Very nice. Of course, if the Dems compared Bush to Saddam in this way, we'd probably hear indignant outrage from the Right, but whatever. Bush wasn't finished:

Then we have Senator (John) Kerry. I think Kerry's position on the war in Iraq (news - web sites) is politically brilliant. In New Hampshire yesterday, he stated he had voted for the war, adding that he was strongly opposed to it," Bush reportedly said.

At least Bush is sticking to the facts on this one. I saw an interview yesterday where Ted Kennedy tried to explain how he could support Kerry, despite the fact that Kerry voted for the most recent Iraq war, while Kennedy has been staunchly against it. Kennedy said that he and Kerry were actually of like mind about the war, they just voted differently. Hmm. And that makes sense how?

But the Republican's can also attack Kerry for other reasons, including the fact that he's got a seriously questionable record on important votes, including the fact that in 2003 he only managed to be present for 28% of his Senate votes. Wow, that's certainly the record of a dedicated representative. Not. But he can ice-skate, windsurf, and ride a Harley, so who cares about his record, right?

I think the Washington Post's John Harris sums up the last week pretty well when he writes:

Tuesday's vote has come down to a classic contest of novelty vs. convention.

It's exactly what Dean has been saying for the last year. Now the question is: Will primary voters (the "base" of the party) give general election voters a candidate they can be excited about and find a reason to vote for (Dean) or a candidate who will bore them to death and encourage them just to continue their pattern of not voting (Kerry)?

Dave Winer has been making some great comments on the media circus, the Democratic primaries and the, Dean campaign. See most of Saturday's posts, and several of yesterday's, including this gem:

Watching Tim Russert interview Wesley Clark this morning, it occurred to me how dysfunctional the system is. I saw the Great Dean Scream another dozen times. I heard the chief of the Democratic Party asked if he thought it was the end of the Dean campaign and he said the obvious -- it wasn't, and it should't be. Then they asked if Clark had screwed up by letting Michael Moore call the President a deserter. Later Russert repeatedly asked Clark to denounce Moore for saying that, but he wouldn't. The system is so perverse that Clark just danced instead of coming out and saying the obvious, yes, he's President, and yes, he got elected without his character getting the kind of examination the Democrats are getting. "So Tim, let's turn it around," Clark might have said, "Why didn't you grill Bush on that during the 2000 election? How did he become President without that getting vetted?" I might go further and wonder how he got the nomination without his military service being fully examined. And then to nail it, ask Tim to play the Dean Scream a few more times. (I'm starting to like it.) If the Republicans cry bloody murder, let's go back and figure out who painted Dean with "angry" label. Yeah, it was the Republicans, in case you were wondering.

With brilliant concision, Winer hits the nail on the head. We need candidates who approach the media with precisely this sort of aggressive quick thinking that turns their questions right back on their hypocrisy and failures—not to pick on the media, but to force them to do a better job, for all our sakes.

(BTW, I also saw that Russert interview with Terry McAuliffe and I was glad to see him standing firm on the fact that Bush went AWOL in 1972 when he simply didn't show up for a year of Air National Guard service. Maybe "deserter" is the wrong term; I don't know. What would be more appropriate?)

Posted 07:05 AM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2004

If Chewbacca Lives on Endor...

Although a few days ago many were mourning the demise of the Dean campaign, that campaign is far from over. For several days last week the media—intentionally or not—almost assassinate Dean's campaign with a variation on the Chewbacca Defense, which was more like a Chewbacca Indictment and went something like this:

Voters of this supposed America, Howard Dean's supporters would certainly want you to believe that he is a great candidate for president with the best vision for America's future and the best ability to realize that vision, and they make a good case. Hell, I almost supported him myself. But Voters of this supposed America, I have one final thing I want you to consider.

[Roll tape of Dean's post-caucus Iowa speech.] Voters, this is Howard Dean screaming at the top of his hoarse voice. Howard Dean is not a plastic person who has compromised with special interests for decades and missed a majority of his Senate voites. And Howard Dean is not a cipher who's not sure from day to day where his loyalties lie. Now think about it. That does not make sense. Why would Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont, yell at the top of his hoarse voice to be heard over a cheering, raucous crowd? That does not make sense.

But more important, you have to ask yourself what does this have to do with whether Dean would make a great candidate, and whether he could defeat Bush. Nothing. Ladies and Gentlemen, it has nothing to do with your decision about who to vote for. It does not make sense. Look at me. I'm the media working for a major communications conglomerate that benefits from the most sensational news we can find or create, and I'm talkin' about someone screaming to be heard at a raucous rally. Does that make sense? Ladies and Gentlemen I am not making any sense. None of this makes sense.

And so you have to remember when you're in that voting box deliberating and conjugating the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No. Voters of this supposed America, it does not make sense. If Howard Dean screamed in Iowa, you must not support Howard Dean.

I know he seems like a terrific candidate, a fresh face with courage and conviction and great ideas and the most inspirational and populist campaign in modern history. But Voters, this is him screaming. Now think about that for one minute. That does not make sense. Why am I talking about screaming when the future of the United States is on the line? Why? I'll tell you why. I don't know. It doesn't make sense. If screaming does not make sense you must indict. Here look at the monkey , look at the silly monkey.

The media never rests.

But hey, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me—we've seen this tactic before, and most of us aren't falling for it this time. Thanks largely to Thursday's New Hampshire debate, followed by the homerun Dean and his wife hit in their interview with Diane Sawyer, Dean's back in the hunt.

Already beginning yesterday morning, Dean's Monday night, post-caucus speech began being referred to by some as only a "memorably loud speech," rather than a "screech" or a "yowl" or whatever. See the speech for yourself, in context, in this video shot from down in the crowd. Also check out Dave Winer's explanation of the speech:

So Dean gets a bit whacky, but after seeing it so many times, the shock value is fading. Taken at face value it wasn't anger, it was a steam-letting, and an attempt to rally the troops, and totally understandable. The press, as usual, is making a big deal of catching a candidate being a human being. But that's what he is. He's not an actor, he's not a commercial, he's not a deodorant, he's not a product, and I'm glad we have a chance to have this discussion. I'm not a Dean supporter (yet, but I'm getting there) and they didn't ask me to say this, but please, it's time for the press to let us have an election, or maybe it's time for us to have an election without them.

So yeah, Dean gave a rousing speech, but I simply don't understand why it was remarkable in any way except to show that Dean and his supporters were undaunted by the results of the Iowa caucus. Look at the definition of campaign—"An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose"—and then explain how and why people made such a big deal over this.

But as we put this behind this behind us, it's worth taking a look at the bright sides, and there are many. First, among the many, many audio remixes of the so-called "I have a scream" speech, a few are actually pretty good.

Another bright side: Now that Dean supporters have seen such a vivid example of how the media can twist and blow up any single image and soundbite to destroy a candidate, those who stuck with Dean, and even those who wavered and returned, as well as those who come to support him in the future—all of us have been handed a great lesson in what it will take to win the nomination and the White House. We need not excuse every foible or mistake, but we can't rely on the media to tell us what to think of what happens on the campaign either. Like Winer said, perhaps it's time to have a campaign without the media.

Final bright side: The inspiration of those who didn't let all the spin get to them, but spun right back to turn the speech into a great thing for the campaign. On the official Dean Campaign blog, one person who was at the post-caucus party in Iowa where Dean made his infamous speech describes what it was like to be there (the comment is about a dozen from the top):

I was there, and when I first heard the crowd, I wasn't in the mood. I was tired, I was depressed from watching the returns, and I felt like my effort was for nothing.

And then Howard took the stage, and I started to get more pumped. I remembered why I'd come to Iowa. And I don't care what the pundits say about that yawp. Man, that was what Walt Whitman talked about. "I sound my barbaric yawp from the rooftops of the world." We needed to hear that yawp.

I can't think of anything Howard could've said that would've pleased the crowd, the pundits, and the people watching on tv. I'm glad he spoke to us. He'll be speaking with the rest of the country all this week. That night, he was looking out for the people who'd given their time and energy for him.

And that's why I'm a Dean supporter. On to California!

Posted by [removed] at January 22, 2004 01:35 AM

(The commenter seems to be affiliated with Cyclists for Dean, which is planning a coast-to-coast Ride to Take Back America! Now that is my kind of campaigning. Do I really need legal experience this summer? Can't I just ride my bike across the country with a bunch of Dean supporters? ;-))

From another comment, a little further down in the thread, comes a well-written version of the best take on the speech:

It's our democracy he's fighting for, damn it.  Being emotionally engaged in something of such high stakes is no flaw, in my opinion.  There's a time to be deliberative and detached... and there's a time to be activated and engaged. Among his supporters, after such a blow, he became as impassioned as many motivational speakers I've seen... and more authentically so because it was spontaneous.

At the risk of sounding "intemperate" myself: If you're not angry about what Bush has done to the environment, education, foreign relations, U.S. workers, our judiciary, and on and on; if you're filled with passion to send this administration packing and get the U.S. back on a sustainable and sane path, you're just not paying attention.

Posted 09:43 AM | Comments (6)

January 22, 2004

The Changing Race

If you had any doubt that the media was dead set against Howard Dean, just look at what they've done with his post-primary speech Monday night—calling it a "yowl" and a "howl" , "overheated" and "screechy." Give me a break! I saw the speech live when he gave it, and I thought it was an energetic and passionate thank-you to his loyal supporters, and an admirable attempt to encourage their continued support. If the media was going to be fair to Dean, all of these stories would recognize that, rather than how "bizarre" the speech was, or rather than characterizing it as yet another "gaffe." The guy probably hadn't slept much in a few days, he was obviously losing his voice, and he just wanted to show the gathered crowd of thousands that his 3rd-place showing in Iowa, his campaign was going to move confidently on to the next primaries. Why can't the media say that? It's not because it's factually untrue; it's because they've chosen another spin. They've declared Dean to be angry and gaffe-prone and unpredictable, and they're making sure their predictions turn out to be true by seizing every opportunity to spin things in that direction and say, "See, I told you so." Now they're already writing Dean's obituary.

Why does this matter? Is this just the boohooing of a disappointed Deaniac? Perhaps. But I'm not the only one who thinks that the Dean campaign has become more than just a campaign for president—it's become a test of whether internet organizing, coupled with grass-roots, on-the-ground organizing, can have any real effect on the status quo in the U.S. If Dean simply gets crushed in the rest of the primaries, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to consider giving up hope in their ability to affect the democratic process in this country. Not least among these people are those in the progressive wing of the Democratic party, many of whom chose not to support Kucinich or to press for some 3rd-party alternative in the hope that their support of Dean would ensure he could beat Bush. They and many other Dean supporters have dedicated massive energy and time and other resources to building Dean's campaign, and it's that kind of public-spirited dedication, that kind of community-building, that kind of hope for a better future that this country really needs. If Dean gets crushed and even a small percentage of those people give up the fight, the U.S. will have lost a lot more than a presidential candidate.

Michael Moore is among those who has recognized this problem. In another somewhat inexplicable message (following his endorsement of Clark, I mean), Moore tells Dean supporters: Don't give up. He's not clear what it is we're not supposed to give up, but the implication is we shouldn't give up hope that a good candidate will defeat Bush or the fight to make that happen. Moore writes:

As one who does not support Dean, I would like to say this to you: DON'T GIVE UP. You have done an incredible thing. You inspired an entire nation to stand up to George W. Bush. Your impact on this election will be felt for years to come. Every bit of energy you put into Dr. Dean's candidacy was -- and is -- worth it. He took on Bush when others wouldn't. He put corporate America on notice that he is coming after them. And he called the Democrats out for what they truly are: a bunch of spineless, wishy-washy appeasers who have sold out the working people of America. Everyone in every campaign owes you and your candidate a huge debt of thanks.

Moore goes on to detail the contributions the Dean campaign and its supporters have made to the election process already. It's good stuff, all true, and worth a look—especially if you're a Dean supporter. Sure, it all seems a little backhanded coming from someone who doesn't support Dean, but, well, Michael Moore is just like that, I guess.

Here's hoping Kerry and Clark will beat each other up in New Hampshire over who's the most kick-ass big bad military man and Dean's new focus will be what Granite Staters want to hear. The debate tonight will be crucial. Dean's never been stellar in the debates as far as I'm concerned, so we'll see how it goes...

I can't even get started with the SOTU address except to agree with this Canadian writer who said it was:

riddled with disingenuous, at times dishonest, formulations as well as logical inconsistencies.

For a little perspective on the heavily saturated spin Bush smirked at us all on Tuesday, read this annotated critique of the speech's foreign policy aspects. If you find other good critiques and analyses of the speech, please point to them in the comments.

Posted 06:41 AM | Comments (4)

January 20, 2004

So it begins....

Congratulations to the Johns, Kerry and Edwards, winners by a mile in the Iowa caucuses. Meanwhile, Dean finishes a fairly distant third. Gephardt will bow out today.

The pundits are all asking: What happened to Dean? Can he recover? Dean's response is that he lost support because he was the focus of everyone's fire. Salon's Josh Benson cautions against reading too much into these results:

Tonight's results are going to be imbued with all sorts of meaning over the next week that they may not deserve: Just as the consensus drumbeat for the last several months was that the contests will be Dean's to lose, his rejection by Iowa voters will doubtless be overinterpreted as a sign that he can't win anywhere. He told supporters last night that he would press his campaign in every state of the nation -- and, perhaps more than any other candidate, he has the money and the organization to do so.

About those pundits who are saying that Iowans got cold feet about Dean because, in the final analysis, they worried he wouldn't be able to beat Bush: Perhaps they're right. Of course, an idea like this can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Kucinich said to people who said they like him but worry he's unelectable, "I'm electable if you vote for me!"

Speaking of Kucinich, part of Edwards' big gain may have come from Kucinich supporters after the two candidates made a pact to get their supporters to support each other if one of the candidates wasn't "viable" in a particular caucus. Why Kucinich would make a deal like this with Edwards is baffling. Was Kucinich's anti-war rhetoric completely empty?

The silver lining in the Iowa outcome for a Dean supporter is that from now on the media's focus should be on Kerry and Edwards at least as much as it's on Dean. This should mean Dean can spend less time defending himself against charges of being "too angry" or whatever, and spend more time talking about how he plans to improve foreign relations, dramatically decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improve education, provide healthcare for everyone, etc.

The media frenzy over the Iowa outcome has already begun with a story suggesting that the boost from Iowa may be short-lived. Will Kerry and Edwards be able to withstand that "frontrunner" scrutiny? We'll see. I think Edwards is a fine candidate (so does Cicero's Ghost) and he's saying many of the right things, but Kerry worries me more, for reasons related to why Clark bothers me. I suspect a lot of support for Kerry and Clark comes from their military background, and that just seems a poor qualification to vote on. We don't need someone in the White House with more experience fighting other nations and other soldiers , we need someone in the White House with more experience fighting for health care and civil rights and the environment.

One other campaign note: Clark won McGovern's support today, which may or may not be a good thing for Clark in New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Bush gives his State of the Union address tonight where he'll almost certainly tell more lies and make more empty promises. How can this guy have a 58% approval rating?

Posted 05:35 AM | Comments (7)

January 19, 2004

MLK Jr. & Caucus Day

Unless you've been living under a whole pile of rocks, you probably know that the Iowa caucuses are tonight, the first binding vote in the nation for the Democratic nominee for president. Bitter cold, record turnout, close 4-way race, etc. In the headlines, Dean got some kind words (but no endorsement) from former President Jimmy Carter, and Dean's wife, Judy Steinberg Dean, has joined Dean at some campaign appearances. I swear Dean simply looks happier and more relaxed in the pictures with his wife. Sometimes Dean's smile looks a little forced and awkward, but in most of the pics with his wife, he looks as happy as a kid in a candy store.

Question: Why does this story refer to "Judy Dean" instead of "Judy Steinberg Dean"? Previously I'd always heard the longer name, and sometimes simply "Judy Steinberg," dropping the "Dean" part altogether. Is this something the Dean campaign wanted, or is the press just doing this on its own? Curious.

There's not much more to say about the caucuses tonight that you can't see on every media outlet around. For once I'm not complaining about the media's saturation coverage of an event; the presidential race deserves a media orgy, because what's more important in a democracy than elections?

Musclehead has made it clear that I've done enough whining about the negative coverage of Dean, and I agree—it's not like any of this was unexpected, or that Dean didn't, to some extent, throw down the gauntlet and ask for it. That's why he's my choice, by the way—because he was willing to say bluntly that the cowardice that reigned among Democrats for the past four years was a loser's game. I think Dean may have lost momentum when he began retreating from that blunt, challenging position, and started trying to sound more "moderate" or "reasonable" or whatever. Not to malign Al Gore, but is it any coincidence this shift became really pronounced around the time of Gore's endorsement?

However, the problem with the media is not so much what the negative coverage has done to Dean's campaign, it's what it did to Al Gore's campaign in 2000 and what it will likely do to the Democratic nominee's campaign this fall if something doesn't change. Will the media give Bush a pass on all the negatives of his administration, while beating the Dem's negatives like dead horses? I guess we'll see.

But before that, Musclehead's gone out on a limb with some predicted results, and the Daily Kos is having a contest for predictions. The prize is a set of really cheesy but really cool buttons, which if you really loved me you'd buy for me. ;-) Everyone is still picking Dean as the winner, possibly because he's got such a great "ground game". And regardless of what you think of Dean, the support he's getting in Iowa from people around the country who have travelled there to help is pretty phenomenal. The campaign is calling it the "Perfect Storm" and Blog for America (the official Dean campaign blog) has a fun little anti-FAQ about all those volunteers, answering questions with questions instead of answers:

Your Question: Are all our Perfect Storm volunteers more of those sushi eating, Volvo driving, latte sipping, body piercing, New York Times reading kind of kids?  Our Question: Will any of you dare pose that question to one of the 180TEXANS who arrived Friday on 3 Big Buses?  Will any of us be lucky enough to be there if you do?

Your Question: Would some kid riding the train from California to Philly who encountered 20 Californians on their way to Iowa really be so inspired that he would change his plans and get off the train in the Hawkeye State? 
Our Question: Could we make this stuff up if we tried?

But while the Iowa caucuses are important, today is also the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, meaning lots of people (L and myself included) have the day off, but also meaning it's a good time to give some thought to why we have such a holiday in the first place. According to Julian Bond, a professor at the University of Virginia who worked beside King in the civil rights movement:

"It's a day that we're not working but we do something he would have done -- help clean a neighborhood, work in a soup kitchen. That's the upside."

The downside, Bond said, is the evidence of what people have forgotten. The last five years of King's life -- when he opposed the Vietnam War and advocated the redistribution of wealth so more people could enjoy prosperity -- are hardly mentioned, he said. Memories seem to stop in 1963 at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, where King said, "I have a dream" and so much more.

"It's as if he gave the speech on Aug. 28 and died on Aug. 29," Bond said. "It's a shame -- we only celebrate half the man."

It's almost painful to think about King's life and work, and then to read President Bush's official statement about the holiday, in which Bush says:

America has come far in realizing Dr. King's dream, but there is still work to be done. In remembering Dr. King's vision and life of service, we renew our commitment to guaranteeing the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.

Oh yeah, that must be why Bush is fighting so hard to ensure he's got the power to imprison U.S. citizens indefinitely and without charges. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, justice for all, etc. Right.

Regardless of who eventually wins the Democratic nomination this year, one thing is certain: That person will do infinitely more than Bush to carry on the kind of work King gave his life for.

Posted 08:40 AM | Comments (6)

January 16, 2004

Upside Down

What a week. Up is down, down is up. I do not like green eggs and ham. Going to the moon and Mars? Sure, but only if we spend twice as much money immediately on research and development efforts for sustainable energy—wind, solar, biomass, etc. If we don't get serious about developing and using sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, we won't have a planet to live on. Energy and environmental policies have become matters of national security. Just ask Al Gore, who said yesterday in a major speech on the environment:

Instead of spending enormous sums of money on an unimaginative and retread effort to make a tiny portion of the Moon habitable for a handful of people, we should focus instead on a massive effort to ensure that the Earth is habitable for future generations.

If we make that choice, the U.S. can strengthen our economy with a new generation of advanced technologies, create millions of good new jobs, and inspire the world with a bold and moral vision of humankind’s future.

Links to streaming video of Gore's speech are here. Gore used the subject of the environment to illustrate how the Bush administration is the willing puppet of corporate America:

The Bush White House represents a new departure in the history of the Presidency. He is so eager to accommodate his supporters and contributors that there seems to be very little that he is not willing to do for them at the expense of the public interest. To mention only one example, we’ve seen him work tirelessly to allow his friends to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Indeed, it seems at times as if the Bush-Cheney Administration is wholly owned by the coal, oil, utility and mining companies.

While President Bush likes to project an image of strength and courage, the truth is that in the presence of his large financial contributors he is a moral coward – so weak that he seldom if ever says “No” to them on anything – no matter what the public interest might mandate.

Ah, but Bush is strong and courageous. I mean, he's defending (heterosexual) marriage, isn't he? What absolute crap. You can talk all you want about "strengthening families" or whatever, but if you'd like to reduce the rate of divorce, reduce domestic violence, reduce youth (and overall) crime rates and give children more secure and stable platforms from which to become happy, healthy, productive citizens, then put $1.5 billion into the war on poverty.

And what's this? Kerry and Edwards are now "surging" in Iowa?

A Research 2000 poll released Thursday showed Dean at 22 percent, Kerry at 21 percent, Gephardt at 18 percent and Edwards at 18 percent. The undecided vote was at 13 percent and other candidates were in single digits.

Here's an even more astonishing poll. Gee, I wonder if the media's demonstrable bias against Dean could have anything to do with this.

Howard Dean received significantly more criticism on network newscasts than the other Democratic presidential contenders, who were the subjects of more favorable coverage, according to a study released Thursday.

More than three-quarters of the coverage of Dean's foes by the nightly news programs was favorable, while a majority of attention to Dean was negative, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found.

It's certainly something to consider the next time you hear a constant drumbeat of news against Dean.

Related: What the hell is Michael Moore doing promoting Wesley Clark? Apologies to Musclehead, who's also supporting Clark, but Clark gives me the heebie jeebies. The guy's a cipher, an opportunist, he whines, he "consulted" with the media on the war while at the same time lobbying for the defense industry in congress. He's proven himself to be an establishment compromiser in the same league with Kerry and Gephardt. But what really gets me about Clark is not the guy himself, but what I fear animates too many of his supporters, namely the same fear that keeps so many in Bush's thrall. "He's a General," they say, "so he can protect us." Whatever. We're not going to make the world a better place if we start from fear. As cliche as it sounds, we have to start from hope. And yeah, ok, I understand there may be a thin line between fear and hope, and that his supporters may believe that Clark offers hope for a better future. However, I just don't see what he's done to support such a belief. But hey, he's got the support of Madonna, and now Michael Moore. Yay. The real question is: Does he have a car like this?

And speaking of endorsements: Thank you, Carol Moseley-Braun. I, too, hope the "Men Only" sign on the White House comes down soon, but first we need to get the "President Bush" sign off of the Oval Office door. In addition to the fact that she made a valiant effort against immense odds, I'll remember Moseley-Braun's campaign for the great story she told in a couple of debates about a time when she was young and the toilet was overflowing. Her mom sent her dad to the hardware store to get something to fix the toilet, and her dad brought back a lawn mower. The story illustrated what Bush does with every problem. If terrorism's the toilet, Iraq is the lawn mower. Get it?

Posted 06:01 AM | Comments (2)

January 14, 2004

Dean wins D.C.

The results are in from D.C.'s first-in-the-nation, nonbinding, protest primary designed mostly to bring national attention to the problem of lack of congressional representation for District voters. With 16% of registered Democrats voting, the totals were:

  1. Dean: 43%
  2. Sharpton: 34%
  3. Mosely-Braun: 12%
  4. Kucinich: 8%
The other major candidates did not participate in deference to the whines of the DNC, which was miffed because D.C. was usurping its role as the supreme authority in the Democratic party by holding the D.C. primary before New Hampshire's. Whatever. It's still a good thing for Dean:

Dean thanked his campaign workers in a speaker-phone call from Vermont that was amplified to about 150 supporters in a Connecticut Avenue bar. He reiterated his support for giving the city voting rights in Congress and called it wrong that five of his rivals opted out of the contest.

He also said he won the vote among an electorate with a majority of African American voters -- defying critics and some political analysts who questioned his appeal to this historically crucial voting bloc for Democrats. Vermont has few minorities and little representation of blacks in its state government, as Sharpton has pointed out in recent days.

"We're going to build a rainbow coalition to take over this country for the people who own it," Dean told his supporters.

In Iowa, where the votes will count next Tuesday, the campaigns are trotting out new ads against each other and trying to solidify whatever support they've got. A lot of Iowans probably won't be too sad this time next week when all the hullaballoo is over. Neither will I.

Dean may get another little boost when he gets some words of praise (but no actual endorsement) from Jimmy Carter on Sunday. Will this help or hurt in New Hampshire, where Dean's been slipping and Clark's been gaining?

On the other side, Bush still trusts his teflon—no matter what happens, Bush can count on the love, affection, worship, and positive spin he's gotten from the media since, well, forever. Still, almost everyone seems to be pointing out the sharp contrast between the administration's response to recent criticisms from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and its response to an earlier scandal:

The administration responded with alacrity [to O'Neill's allegations]. Only a day [after the allegations went public] it called for a probe into how government documents labeled "secret" could be aired on the O'Neill interview on national network TV in prime time.

But this response contrasted strikingly with the far slower response the White House had in approving a probe on who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak last July. The issue flared again last week when Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York claimed the White House had so far only "partially cooperated" with a Justice Department probe into the affair.

Perhaps Wes Clark had the best spin on it:

"They're not concerned about national security, but they're real concerned about political security," Clark said.

Thank goodness for teflon, huh?

Posted 05:09 AM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2004

The Nation's First Primary: DC

D.C.'s "nonbinding" Presidential Primary is today. I encourage you to vote if you're registered in the district. The First Primary Blog offers arguments about why you should vote for Kucinich, Sharpton, or Dean, and DC First offers a Voter Guide where you can compare the candidates with respect to DC issues.

The DC primary is intended to bring national attention to the fact that DC residents have only a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives, and no representation in the Senate. Before I moved here I knew nothing about this, and when I first heard about it I thought perhaps people were making a mountain out of a molehill. However, if we believe that we should make our representative democracy as much "one person, one vote" as possible, then there's really no way to justify the current situation in D.C. What should I do if I want to affect federal policy? Who is my representative? To whom do I petition my grievances? If you're pretty cynical, you may believe that personal calls, letters, and emails to elected Reps. and Senators is not really effective, however, at least if you live anywhere but D.C., you have the option. It's sort of the principle of the thing. Why should D.C. residents be treated differently from any other U.S. citizen?

Finally, although it's true that the D.C. Primary is, technically, nonbinding, it could give a small boost to its winner in Iowa and Newhampshire. So vote if you can, will you? The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics can tell you where to vote, and here's a sample ballot.

Your humble blogger stupidly missed the deadline to register and won't be voting, so will someone please cast a vote for Dean or Kucinich for me? Thanks! D.C. will also have a caucus on February 14th to choose its delegates for the National Democratic Convention. I've now registered, and I should be all set for that.

In other campaign news, Dean is supposedly going on the offensive in Iowa:

"I'm tired of being a pincushion here."

Dean may or may not be doing the right thing—he may convince supporters that his opponents are being unfair or inaccurate, but he may also just increase the material the press will then use to caricature him. Salon describes that process in a detailed report of how the media has been a mouthpiece for Republican talking points against Dean:

The former Vermont governor remains the front-runner among Democratic voters, but he's gotten increasingly caustic treatment from the media, which has dwelled on three big themes -- that Dean's angry, gaffe-prone and probably not electable -- while giving comparatively far less ink to the doctor's policy and political prescriptions that have catapulted him ahead of the Democratic field. Newsweek's critical Jan. 12 cover story, "All the Rage: Dean's Shoot-From-the-Hip Style and Shifting Views Might Doom Him in November," achieved a nifty trifecta that covered anger, gaffes and electability, all three of the main media raps against Dean.

The story goes on to argue that Dean is nowhere near as angry, gaffe-prone, or unelectable as the media suggests, just as Al Gore was nowhere near as untrustworthy, stiff and unlikable as the coverage of him in 2000 suggested. As a Dean supporter I'm obviously biased, but why must the media hammer the Democratic frontrunner so hard?

Speaking of caricatures, Dean supporters are fighting back against the attack ad that says they're all freak shows. (People, just own your freak showness! Freak Shows for Dean!) You gotta love this one and this one.

There were probably a few Dean supporters in the audience last night when announced the winners of its Bush In 30 Seconds ad contest. Child's Play was the big winner overall; a great choice, in my opinion. Look for it on your tv sometime in the next year.

Meanwhile, the NY Times reports on the dark art of caucusing [link via Political Wire]. MSNBC also tries to explain how caucuses work:

Caucuses begin with supporters of candidates clustered in corners of middle-school libraries, courthouse hallways or kitchens and living rooms. Space is designated for uncommitted voters.

Democrats have a complex system, one that uses a mathematical formula to calculate support — and ultimately award delegates to county, state and national conventions — based on percentages.

For a candidate to be considered viable, he or she must have the support of at least 15 percent of the meeting’s participants, party rules state. Those lacking often are lobbied to join with neighbors supporting more popular candidates.

“That’s when it gets kind of crazy,” said Mark Daley, spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party. “There will be people screaming back and forth ... and senior citizens with calculators trying to do the math.”

Reassuring, isn't it?

Posted 06:37 AM

January 11, 2004

Freak Shows for Dean

The Club for Growth has been airing a second ad in Iowa attacking Dean. According to the Washington Times:

In the ad, a farmer says he thinks that "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..." before the farmer's wife then finishes the sentence: "... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."

So what is that ad saying? Is it trying to imply that people who do these things aren't welcome in Iowa? Is this directed at Dean or his supporters, or both? And since when are balancing budgets and getting perfect ratings from the NRA "left-wing"?

Whatever the ad's trying to say, it's brilliant. I mean, they got me. Ok, they didn't get it perfect, but close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades. I don't want to hike taxes, but I do want to redistrbute the tax burden. I don't want to expand government, but would like it to work better (more efficiently, to use the language neocons can understand), and for the benefit of citizens rather than for the benefit of corporations. I drink lattes occasionally, but mostly I'm just a coffee w/a bit of milk kind of person. Sushi's great, but I eat it rarely. I've never driven a Volvo, but I do think the new Cross Country is an awesome vehicle. Volvos are also infamous for being among the safest cars on the road, so is the Club for Growth trying to say that wanting to be safe is some kind of freak-show thing? I used to read the New York Times online fairly regularly, but have tried to avoid it since it started charging for access to articles older than a few days. I don't love Hollywood—but I do enjoy watching movies (who doesn't)? And left-wing? Yeah, sure. Freak show? You got me.

Freak Shows for Dean!

Now, will someone please make a t-shirt of this? (The URL is available, too!)

You could probably also sell a few of these shirts to the folks at Wyoming for Dean, too. Not a lot of sushi in Wyoming, they're not much into tax hikes or big government, nor do many people I know there read the New York Times. But one thing Wyoming-ites love to do is to give the "Eastern establishment" the finger, and what better way to do that than to support the candidate the establishment seems intent on discrediting?

In other election news, the first "primary" in the nation is this Tuesday, right here in DC. No, it's not binding, but it's still worth the effort to vote for your candidate just to give him/her that extra little boost to take into Iowa and New Hampshire. Besides, a bigger turnout will help D.C.'s cause, and all D.C. wants is equality. Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers are descending on Iowa in preparation for the Jan. 19th caucus, and Clark is supposedly surging in New Hampshire.

It should all be very interesting, but you know, I'm ready for a decision. Time's a-wasting kids. It's time to get a Democratic nominee chosen so the Democrats can start fighting the real battle—against the Bush Republicans.

Posted 09:24 AM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2004

Good Start

"There is never a deed so foul that something couldn't be said for the guy; that's why there are lawyers." —Melvin Belli

For Christmas my mother bought me a "Lawyers Jokes Quotes and Anecdotes 2004 Calendar," from which I took the above quotation. Excerpts from the calendar may become a regular feature. We'll see.

But this quote is appropriate for the moment, since I've been thinking a bit about what it would be like to be a criminal defense attorney. Another Christmas gift (I had an incredible Christmas), this one from L, was How Can You Defend Those People? by James S. Kunen. The book details his experience as a public defender in DC for 2.5 years in the late 1970s. So far, it's quite compelling and makes me think I'd fit as a PD better than I would in many other types of practice. One thing I certainly seem to have in common with Kunen is a lack of respect for law school. Here's how Kunen describes it:

School is school. You sit in chairs that are attached to the floor. You write down what the teacher says (or borrow the notes of someone who did). When the time comes, you memorize it and spit it back out. . . . Law school is not, contrary to the mystification heaped around it by people who have done time there, difficult. Boring would be a better word, but not tremendously or profoundly boring, just boring in the ordinary, everyday sense, which leaves room for the occasional peak of interest by which the valleys of torpor are defined (25).

I'm not sure about the boring part. It's hard to nail down what it is I feel sitting in class with a hundred students, watching the time tick by and knowing that there's absolutely no way we're going to talk about more than one (if even that) of the interesting questions I thought were raised by the previous night's reading. It's boring, but it's also frustrating, disappointing, discouraging, even aggravating because it seems destined to end up doing a disservice to society by producing lawyers who think well in terms of the formal and technical aspects of law, but not necessarily so well in terms of people and reality. Kunen has something to say about that as well, noting that the reading in law school covers every kind of human behavior, but does so in a horribly detached way:

No one seems to suffer in all these tales of woe, the pain having disappeared with the people who felt it. One gets the impression that human life is like nothing so much as an unending Saturday morning cartoon—woops! pow! oof! (26)

I'll get you, you wascally wabbit!

But really, the failures of law school and the law are almost infinite. One of my goals for this semester is to watch for the brighter moments and make the most of them, and after the first two days of class, I remain very hopeful that ConLaw will provide plenty of bright spots. It certainly started off well. Here's how ProfConLaw introduced the course:

The guardians of our liberties are lawyers. There's always been some kind of crisis (right now it's terrorism) and liberties are placed under pressure. The reason liberties withstand this pressure is because of lawyers. Learning constitutional law is almost a duty, an obligation you take up when you become a lawyer.

It's an obligation I'm glad to take up. Can you think of a better epitaph than "Guardian of Liberty"? Yeah, probably, but you could do worse.

Outside the mystified halls of law school, tonight is 2004's first Meetup for Dean, and as Jim Moore says, if you haven't done it already, there's no better time to pick a campaign and get involved. If you don't, the choice will be made for you, and why would you want that?

Also, don't miss the 15 final contenders in the Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest. They're all very impressive and I can't wait to see any one of them on national tv, but my favorites are probably "In My Country," "Polygraph," and "Gone in 30 Seconds." And, of course, the absolute minimalist, Mac-loving best: "Desktop"! (All links are to "high bandwidth" versions; lower bandwidth versions are available at the Bush in 30 Seconds page.)

Posted 06:52 AM | Comments (3)

December 17, 2003

Post-Crim Stuff

CrimLaw is history. For now. Although the exam was no picnic (6 questions, 5 of which had two parts each), it didn't feel quite as onerous as torts and contracts. Now, like Transmogriflaw, only one exam remains: CivPro (a.k.a. "that juris-my-diction crap"). By noon tomorrow, it's all over.

Meanwhile, there are many more interesting things in the world than Civil Procedure, don't you think? For example, following up on last weekend's big news:What does the capture of Saddam mean? Alternet has a bunch of good articles on the subject, including an argument that the media orgy (Saddamania!) was obscuring a lot of other important news, like the Halliburton fraud scandal, for example. William Rivers Pitt voices the sentiments of many when he says we caught the wrong guy: Where's Osama? But Pitt's bigger point is that the current instability in Iraq and the fact that all those American troops are there makes the place a playground for anyone who would like to attack the U.S. by killing Americans; Saddam's capture doesn't really change that. And Robert Scheer basically sums things up:

As far as I can tell, catching Saddam is not going to fix Iraq's economy, build a functioning democracy, prevent a Sunni-Shiite civil war, or bring back the Americans and Iraqis who have died and will continue to die at the checkpoints, home invasions and while driving their Humvees down the nation's roads.

This was the basic gist of Howard Dean's comments on the matter in his national security address, delivered Monday in California. Dean said the capture of Saddam is a great thing, but it doesn't change the fact that Bush's unilateral foreign policy has angered and frightened the world, making the U.S. less safe, not more. It sounds like some people don't like hearing this (no permalinks, look at entries for 12/14-15), and Dean's opponents continue to try to tar him with the "irresponsible" or "incompetent" or "unrealistic" or even "delusional" brush. Lieberman's got the best soundbite with the accusation that Dean's fallen into a "spiderhole of denial" if he doesn't think Americans are safer w/Saddam in custody. Howard Kurtz rounds it all up in depth (again, no permalinks so look for today's looong entry).

Only time will tell who's right. I think Dean will again be proven correct in the long run, but it may not have been wise to make this question ("Is America safer w/Saddam imprisoned?") an issue. The real issue is whether America is safer in the long run as the world's bully, or if it's safer as the world's leader and peace-maker through dipolomacy and international cooperation. The funny thing that Dean's critics seem to want to ignore is that Dean isn't necessarily saying we should not have gone into Iraq, or that we should not have captured Hussein; he's simply saying we did it in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, and that's why all this violence isn't accomplishing the goals it's supposed to accomplish.

Enough with the political analysis, already. There are other important things going on. For example, Sandra was the Sole Survivor—hooray! Did she tip off her friends that she might be the winner so they could make money betting on her? We'll probably never know. Once thing we did learn from this season (something that diehard discussion board readers probably already know) is: There are really only two rules in Survivor: 1) You can't hit anyone. 2) You can't conspire to share the money. That last one explains everything; the show really is like "real life"—there are lots of structural barriers to cooperative action.

In the "there's still hope" file, did you hear about the shoe company that gave its employees a Christmas bonus of $1,000 for every year they've worked at the company? That would be SAS Shoemakers, which doesn't have a website that I can find. Why can't more companies be like this? Treat employees well, produce a good product, share the profits with the workers and the community—it's not so hard, is it?

Ok. Must think about CivPro.

But then, what's the point? Mixtape Marathon says law professors seem to let their satanic tendencies loose when grading law school exams, leading to a situation where students get bad grades when they think they performed well on an exam, and good grades when they think they performed poorly. So MM has a question for law professors:

Query (to use language to which your kind is accustomed): Given this information, how can it possibly be said that law school exams are an accurate measure of a student’s knowledge? How is a legal “education” accomplished if students can never be sure whether or not they actually understand the material? Let me explain. In law school, a student can make it through the semester, really feeling confident about his coursework, only to discover, by proclamation of one grade, that he did not understand anything after all. Conversely, someone may think, “Golly gee, I don’t get this stuff and I didn’t really work at all in this class. I’m screwed,” and end up with an A. What, may I ask, is the function of such an academic system? And where might a student who is rewarded for studying less and punished for studying more get the motivation to study at all? Might she rather decide to watch Joe Millionaire and alphabetize her cd collection? (Don't strain yourself. The answer is: yes, she might).

So aren't I better off not studying? No, probably not.

But one more thing before I go: Yesterday JD2B posted links to some new blogs by Michigan law students, and while I don't have time to check them all out, at least one is definitely worth repeat visits. Glorfindel of Gondolin is an MD working on a JD who supports Dean, registers as left-liberal on the political compass, and links to this cool political map with fascinating analysis of how the 2004 election might shape up. Great reading.

Oh, and Think Inc. is a philosopher who doesn't like capitalism, so you know she rocks.

I think I went to the wrong law school. If I'd studied harder for exams I might have a chance of transfering to Michigan (or Temple or Columbia). It's certainly a thought. But now: Personal and subject matter jurisdiction, venue, pleading, and joinder. This is doable. By noon tomorrow, it will all be over.

Posted 09:17 AM | Comments (4)

December 10, 2003

Gore's Endorsement of Dean

Of course I think this is a great thing. It may not quite be worth $100 million, but I doubt it's going to hurt. Some people are saying it means bupkis, and if Gore had been sitting around doing nothing since the 2000 election debacle, I'd be tempted to agree, and even to fear that Gore's endorsement might hurt Dean. However, as Joe Conason notes, Gore's thinking seems to have changed since the 2000 election debacle. If you don't think so, check out the speeches he's given in the last year (one in September 2002, another last August, and another just last month which I attended).

Scott Rosenberg has a good response to those who say that Dean simply isn't electable : they were wrong before when they said Dean had no chance of winning the nomination, so why should we listen to them now?

Some people seem to think the race for the nomination might be over—and that was even before Gore's endorsement. They might be right, but it would certainly be foolish for the Dean campaign to start working on that assumption. As everyone kept saying at last night's debate, nothing's over until the votes have been cast; even if Dean wins Iowa (possible) and New Hampshire (seemingly certain), he's looking a bit sad in South Carolina, and there are many more races he needs to win before he could take the nomination. Check out the most recent Pew Poll for a breakdown of the early primary numbers by race, class, gender, and education, among other variables.

FWIW, I think Kucinich was the hands-down winner of the debate last night. (Of course, his campaign thinks so, too.) Kucinich clearly nailed Koppel and ABC on their deliberate strategy to focus the debate on the process of campaigning rather than the issues. That process is important and certainly a worthy debate topic; one of the reasons Dean is getting so much support (I believe) is that he's saying that the way we elect leaders in this country is broken because elections are merely sold to the highest bidders, which are always corporations and special interests. See, for example, today's announcement that only countries that supported the war in Iraq will be allowed to bid on contracts there—that's not a move that's good for America, it's a move that's good for the corporations that put Bush and Co. in the White House. The medicare "reform" package that just passed is another, just as blatant example: HMOs will begin getting billions of dollars in payments from the federal government almost immediately, while the much-hyped prescription drug benefit—supposedly the reason for the whole bill—won't even begin for two more years. Can you say "pay-offs to corporate donors"? I knew you could. Oh, and don't forget the revolving door between government and industry—another way the money flows to control public policy.

Sorry. Tangent. The point is, if we hope to break the stranglehold those corps and interests have over politics, then yes, we need to reform the election process, and Dean seems to be doing that, so making the process at least some part of the debate was worthwhile. However, Kucinich's bigger score was to point out the way the media can manipulate campaigns through the questions they ask or don't ask, the things they emphasize or ignore. Kucinich showed he wasn't afraid to offend Koppel or ABC, and that willingness to stand up to the media is something we certainly need in a president. Finally Kucinich delivered a terrific little manifesto (near the bottom of the page) with his last comment linking the Iraq quagmire with problematic domestic issues:

I would suggest that Iraq is actually what this debate is about. And if you don't make the connection between the $155 billion we've spent in less than a year, the $400 billion in the bloated Pentagon budget and the fear that's driving this nation into greater and greater involvement in Iraq, if you don't make that connection, then you're never going to understand why we don't have money for health care and housing and education.

Our entire domestic agenda is at risk because of our occupation of Iraq. That's why I suggest it is urgent to put this on the agenda, to end the occupation, to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out. We want this country to be safe. We want this country to be secure. Our presence there is leading to greater instability. My administration, my election will be about the end of fear and the beginning of hope in America.

Yeah, I support Dean because I think he has the best shot of winning. But my real hope is that a Dean presidency will simply be a good step closer to the day when a candidate like Kucinich could actually be elected. That day just isn't here. For now, we've got to work with what we've got, and that's a front-running Dean who is saying many of the right things and, so far, is not prostrating himself before the altar of corporate financing, which is great. Today's Washington Post suggests the race might come down to a battle of Dean v. Clark. Part of the theory being that Gore has made a play to create a new "wing" of the Democratic party separate from the so-called "Clinton wing," which is thought to back Clark. And the race continues...

Posted 09:29 AM | Comments (3)

December 04, 2003

Common Sense

In today's news, the Dean campaign is going old school. Following the lead of Thomas Paine who helped inspire the American Revolution with his pamphlet, "Common Sense," the Dean Campaign has produced "Common Sense for A New Century." It's online at that link, but it's more fun if you print it (sheet 1 and sheet 2), read it, then pass it around, to other people. The pdfs were designed for print, using a classic, heavy serif typeface and traditional typographic tricks, like woodcut-esque initial caps and dingbats for organization. See? Old school. Cool.

But "Common Sense for A New Century" is not just cool because someone took the time to design it well. For the past three years I taught Paine's version of "Common Sense" to several intro to American literature classes, and each time it seemed more relevant than the time before. I loved teaching it, because it gave my classes the opportunity to talk about the ideals of justice and equality on which the U.S. was ostensibly founded. Students generally found it easy to see how far we've strayed from those ideals, but just as important, they quickly saw the gap between the kind of activist citizen who would write and distribute a pamphlet like "Common Sense" (and thereby help effect a revolution), and the kind of passive citizens most of us are today (who wouldn't know a revolution if it hit us over the head). The first few sentences alone are brilliant:

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

What could be more true of our current situation? "Our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." In much of its approach, but especially in its release of this newly updated "Common Sense," the Dean campaign seems to understand both what Paine was saying and how it applies today. They understand at least well enough to make it a selling point of the campaign. Are they cynically manipulating the activist passion that motivated Paine and which today motivates many Americans? Perhaps, but if they are, I hope they're ready for what could come of that. The Dean campaign seems to be waking people up from an extended slumber of ambivalence and inaction; what will they do once they've had their morning coffee?

There's some irony in the fact that this new "Common Sense" comes at the same time as this headline in today's Washington Post: Dean Now Courting Party Insiders. If Dean's the "revolutionary" candidate who wants to get back to America's core values, what's he doing cozying up to the establishment? The Post sums it up like this:

Dean derives most of his support, energy and money from grass-roots activists, many of whom are new to politics. His cutting-edge Internet campaign is shattering expectations and revolutionizing presidential politics.

But Dean, a savvy strategist and tactician, knows that the road to the nomination and the presidency is much more treacherous if he continues to alienate lawmakers and party insiders the way he did early on, several supporters said. A few veteran Democrats have pulled him aside in recent months to deliver that message.

The trick for Dean is to rail against Washington in public and rally insiders behind the scenes, party strategists say.

"There's a danger some will call it hypocritical . . . or some of his original Internet warriors won't understand he needs to consort with those they feel are the enemy," said Democratic strategist Jenny Backus.

The strategists are right—Dean is going to have to walk a thin line here. Still, it's true that Dean is going to need as many friends as he can get if he's going to win, and even if he is courting the insiders, he's doing too many new and different things to be considered just like every other politician. For example, his campaign seems to be expanding to help elect a Democratic congress, as well. As the Post says, "A non-incumbent presidential candidate raising money for members of Congress this early is unprecedented." Many things about the Dean campaign are unprecedented; let's hope one of them is this: Dean will keep his campaign promises to (borrowing from Paine) take the necessary evil of government out of the control of special interests and give its power to punish back to the society it was designed to serve.

Sidenote: Is the Gephardt campaign playing dirty by trying to create bad blood between unions?

Posted 08:04 AM

December 03, 2003

Dean's Records

Taking a break from studying contracts (where's the consideration!?), I scanned this transcript of Howard Dean's appearance on Hardball (last Monday night, I believe). Here's how Dean explained the sealed records I mentioned yesterday:

Every governor in Vermont and most governors around the country, maybe every governor for all I know, has a process by which certain records are sealed and certain records are left open. The vast majority of my records are open. You are welcome to go, as ever opposing campaign has done, and rummage through them for the next six months. There are some that are left private, and I don’t exactly know all the things that are in those because those are attorney to secretary of state negotiated. But some of the kinds of things might be a letter from a constituent saying, dear governor, I am an HIV, AIDS victim, can you please help me?        Now, those kinds of letters do not belong in the public, and they’re not. That’s why some records are sealed, and governor’s offices throughout the country.

Of course some records will be sealed, and there's no way for the average media consumer to know whether Dean really sealed more records than "normal" or whether opposition campaigns are simply trying to blow this up into an issue. After reading the rest of the Hardball interview, I'm still ready to give Dean the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time, he doesn't talk like a "normal" politician, and that's a good thing. Check this out:

We have got to stop having the campaigns run in this country based on abortion, guns, God and gays, and start talking about education, jobs and health care.

It's true, isn't it? But would you ever hear this from Bush or Lieberman of Kerry or Gephardt?

William Greider also has a nice piece in the most recent issue of The Nation: Why I'm for Dean.

Ok. Back to contracts: A contract is a promise or set of promises that the law will enforce. No promise is enforceable unless there is a basis for enforcement. The three modern bases for enforcement are consideration, reliance, and, in a few special cases, "moral obligation." Consideration is a promise or performance bargained for (sought and given) in exchange. To enforce a promise based on reliance, the plaintiff must show not only reliance, but also that (1) the defendant made a promise; (2) the defendant could reasonably expect the plaintiff to take an action; (3) the plaintiff took an action; (4) the action was induced by (i.e., taken in reliance on) the promise; and (5) enforcement of the promise is necessary to prevent injustice. Enforcement on the basis of moral obligation is rare, but a court will enforce a new promise by the defendant to reaffirm an old obligation that was (1) discharged by a statute of limitations; or (2) discharged by bankruptcy proceedings; or (3) voidable because of infancy. Restitution can sometimes be a substitute for enforcement: When the plaintiff cannot prove that the defendant made an enforceable promise, the plaintiff may seek "restitution" from the defendant if the defendant has been unjustly enriched at the plaintiff's expense.

Doesn't that sound like great fun!?

Posted 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

December 02, 2003

December Already

December already. Hard to believe, isn't it? Where did November go? For L, it went into writing a novel—congratulations, L!
L wrote a novel!
Fifty thousand words (approx. 200 pages) might not sound like much, but try pulling 50,000 words out of your head in 30 days or less and you may find it's not as easy as it sounds. I stalled out at almost 28,000 words, but I did find some interesting characters and an interesting story I might come back to someday. Perhaps I'll return to it in March for NaNoEdMo.

The campaigns for president are heating up. Bush is raising money like crazy and his campaign claims it wants to build the biggest grassroots organization the U.S. has ever seen. That's a scary thought. Dean and Gephardt are locked in a tight race for Iowa. Meanwhile, continues to grow and gain attention—both positive and negative. This weekend, MoveOn is sponsoring nationwide screenings of the new film, "Uncovered: The whole truth about the Iraq war."

The Dean campaign continues to grow; however, the dirty laundry is beginning to come out. Apparently, Dean sealed his records last year to diminsh the amount of ammunition his opponents will have against him. One source of ammunition may be statements he made about judicial appointments. Hmmm.... This appears to be politics as usual, which is what makes it so disturbing. The big advantages Dean has as far as I'm concerned is that he seems to be doing something unusual with his campaign—he appears much less compromised by special interest money than the other candidates, and he appears willing to stand behind his ideas and actions. So why seal his records? I understand his fear that his opponents won't play fair with whatever they might learn about his past, but the idealist in me would have more respect for him if he'd simply say, "Hey, I've done things that people are going to say were wrong and bad. I'm human, and I learn from my mistakes, just like everybody else." The idealist in me says Dean should believe in voters enough to trust that we'll be able to tell when his opponents are unfairly smearing him, and when a past mistake really does matter. But, of course, we don't live in my ideal world, do we?

Another election development I just learned about: America Coming Together plans to campaign to defeat Bush in 17 swing states. Great idea, no? One problem: their website only offers one way I can help—they, like everyone else, want me to give money. I don't have money. I don't even have time. But I coulde "make" time, and I do have skills and energy they might use if they'd provide a way for me to do so. This really is one thing that has made the Dean campaign very different—it says "help us," then it provides the tools for you to help in whatever way you can. Just about every other political group that would like to change U.S. policy on some issue would do much better if they'd stop simply asking people for money and start giving them ways to take action for their cause.

Oh, and Dennis Kucinich hasn't found love yet, but it sounds like he's having fun looking.

I'm supposed to be thinking of nothing but finals, but I'm having trouble focusing. Stay of Execution has some good, practical, and calming study tips for 1Ls, although it feels a little late for making posters. Still, posters would be better than outlines; Mixtape Marathon has restored my faith in the humanity of law students (a faith I think I pretty well lost somewhere in November, but that's another story) by noting that law school outlines are evil. Some of my professors have sometimes sounded as evil as the outlines we're supposed to create for their classes, so I fear section IV of Bekah's wonderful outline could begin: "Many law practitioners transfer the soullessness of their outlines and exams straight into practice." I guess we'll see.

Posted 07:31 AM | Comments (2)

November 17, 2003

Happy Birthday Howard!

Today is Howard Dean's 55th birthday. I'm sure he'd be thrilled with a gift of any size.

p.s.: How cool is Check out this trend. Wow. That stat may just be its own kind of birthday present for Dean...

Posted 06:11 AM

November 13, 2003

Politics of Fear

It has begun. As the pundits begin to talk of Dean consolidating his lead in the field of Democratic candidates for President, they've also begun to stoke the fires of fear against him. The pundits are probably getting plenty of help here from the Republicans and from the other Democratic candidates, but the fearmongering seems go like this: Dean's got a bad temper, and that's going to make him a bad leader.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the politics of fear. I'm tired of Democrats who are so afraid of offending anyone that they'll compromise with everyone and everything. I'm tired of Democrats who pretend that the current Administration and the Republican leaders in Congress are anything other than extreme ideologues who are quite simply destroying out country. There are plenty of reasons to be angry with them and their policies, and Dean certainly is. Does this mean he'll turn his anger on foreign leaders and diplomats, despite the fact that he's always said the first thing he wants to do as President is restore the U.S.'s relationship with the world? I don't think so. Dean is not the Cowboy that Bush is; Dean is angry at the things all Americans should be angry at, and I—along with over 3 million union members—am willing to give him the chance to show that he can put that anger to good use as our next President.

Update: Salon recently ran an article about Dean as "angry man", and now their readers weigh in. Good stuff.

Posted 05:49 AM | Comments (2)

November 10, 2003

Give 'Em Hell, Gore

Yesterday, Al Gore gave another in his continuing series of speeches condemning the Bush administration for its so-called "war on terror." I spent the day volunteering at the event, which was sponsored by and the ACS. It looks like the speech is beginning to get decent coverage from the press, but you can also read the full text here.

Although the major press seems to be focusing on the sensational comparison of the Bush Administration to Big Brother, the real crux of the speech for me was the way Gore explained that argument. Gore said:

I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists. 

Because it is simply not true. 

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy. 

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America.

In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy and deception in order to avoid accountability to the Congress, the Courts, the press and the people.

Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head.  A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people -- while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion. 

But instead, this Administration is seeking to conduct its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered access to personal information about American citizens.  Under the rubric of protecting national security, they have obtained new powers to gather information from citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they themselves refuse to disclose information that is highly relevant to the war against terrorism.

Funny, isn't it? One of the most secretive (if not the most secretive) administrations in American history is also the most eager to rewrite laws to enable government agents to pry into our private lives. Again I wonder, why would anyone even consider voting for Bush in 2204?

Posted 06:55 AM

October 30, 2003



Happy Halloween!

Posted 09:13 PM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2003

Media: Big v. Little

The cover story on today's USA Today shouts, "Wesley Clark's fledgling campaign hits its stride."

Funny how different that BigMedia noise sounds from the LittleMedia version of the current state of the Clark campaign (also lots more inside detail here, and of course, there's always the letter from the leader of the Draft Clark movement that begins, "By the time you read these words, the bell will be tolling for Wesley Clark's candidacy."

Has the DNC exercised some influence at USA Today, or are this writer and her editors just not doing a very good job researching? Or are the bloggers just wrong?

Posted 06:13 AM

October 13, 2003

Quick Campaign Update

The Kerry and Gephardt campaigns are ganging up on Dean.

Wesley Clark's campaign is having growing pains, and that's putting it nicely. Jim Moore has been tracking this well, and he's also got some great thoughts and a link on what the Dean campaign could still do better.

Posted 05:16 AM

Lying About War: A Strict Liability Offense

So far in Torts we've covered intentional torts (i.e.: assault and battery), and whether liability for unintentional torts should be decided on the basis of negligence or strict liability. The question is: Should we make people pay for damages they cause to others only if those damages were the result of their negligence, or should we make them pay no matter what (strict liability)?

I thought of this distinction yesterday morning when I caught an interview w/John Kerry on ABC's "This Week" (the one hosted by former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos). George Will was grilling Kerry on wether he'd agree w/Ted Kennedy that the most recent war against Iraq was a "fraud" "made up in Texas." Will wanted to pin Kerry down on this; he was trying to argue that calling the war a "fraud" goes beyond the question of whether Bush and Co. mislead the world about the need to go to war. I believe the way Will put it was "fraud goes to intention." So Will was essentially asking Kerry to say whether Kerry thought Bush and Co.'s intentions in going to war were fraudulent. Kerry would neither say yes or no, only that he's said clearly that he believes the President mislead the world.

And that's the bottom line: Lying to start a war is (or should be) a strict liability offense. Bush did it, now he should have to pay—by being voted out in Nov. 2004, and by having his legislative and social agenda shut down for lack of support until then.

Our legal system decided long ago that when you do something that's inherently dangerous to others, no amount of care or good intentions on your part will place you beyond accountability for your actions. When you keep an animal known to be "accustomed to biting mankind," it doesn't matter how careful you are in keeping the animal locked up; if it bites someone, you're liable and must pay for damages. When you set off explosions—as when blasting a highway tunnel, for example—it doesn't matter how careful you are in blowing the charges; if someone is injured or someone else's property is damaged by your blasting, you must pay.

Lying to get us into war is an inherently dangerous activity. By definition, it threatens the lives of every American service person, and it inevitably threatens the health of the nation (via loss of standing with the rest of the world, for example, not to mention the budget and other problems it causes). Therefore, Bush and his entire administration must pay for what they've done. We, the American people, should make them pay by withdrawing any faith we formerly had in them, by distrusting every single thing they say, and by demanding that our legislators stop supporting their failed policies.

Sure, it would be nice to understand what Bush and Co. were thinking in starting the war. Did they really think Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat? Had they drunk their own kool-aid? Maybe, the fact that Woflowitz and Pearle had been planning this war for a decade makes that seem pretty far-fetched. Did Bush and Co. really think they could waltz into Iraq, take over the oil production, and start reaping the windfall w/out any trouble? Maybe, but again, that seems pretty unlikely. Did Bush and Co. see a war against Iraq as a brilliant way to funnel what was once the largest budget surplus in history away from the public and into the hands of private corporations like Halliburton? Again, it's hard to say, but this seems the most likely explanation, since this is, in fact, what happened. (And why would Bush and Co. want to push the U.S. government closer to bankruptcy? Well, gee, Bush and Co. have always hated the "social safety net" of so-called government entitlements like social security, medicare, etc. And what better way to get rid of them than to simply say, "oops, sorry, we don't have any money to pay for them"?)

Frontline has a big special report on the possible reasons we went to war and what went wrong. However, Bush and Co's intentions in going to war will be something for history to determine. What matters now is that they lied, and for that they're strictly liable.

Posted 05:05 AM

October 11, 2003

Blank Check

One year ago today, the House and Senate voted to give President Bush blank check authority to use military force against Iraq. In infamous Harper's Index fashion, the Dean for America campaign gives us the last year by the numbers. It's not a pretty picture, and it's not getting any better. Is Bush PR spinning right out of orbit? Um, yeah, that happened several years ago, but finally people are starting to notice.

In the race to decide who's going to replace Bush, the Kerry campaign is rumored to be having troubles, and the trouble in the Clark campaign is more than a rumor. Those links come from Scripting News, where Dave Winer is trying to get the campaigns to blog. I think it's a great idea.

Posted 06:17 AM | Comments (1)

October 09, 2003

The Recall's Silver Lining

So yeah, California now has a governator, or something. And in a lot of ways it seems like this cannot be a good thing. However, the folks at Bush are letting the Republican logic for the recall speak for itself. Their statement on the recall results (which I got in email) is terrific:

"California voters wanted a change. They were tired of surpluses being turned into deficits, a weak economy shedding jobs, working families losing their health insurance, and skyrocketing energy prices. And they held their state's chief executive accountable.

"We were opposed to the recall process being used for such blatant political ends. We have grave doubts about Schwarzenegger's ability to solve California's problems. And we know that governors all across the nation, Republican and Democrat, are faced with severe budget and economic problems caused by the poor national economy. But the voters have decisively sent a message that they aren't happy with poor results from their elected officials.

"Even though they won this election, Republicans should be very nervous today, because all of the problems voters rebelled against in California have been produced in abundance by President Bush. And the results will be the same in November 2004. Voters will rebel against yawning deficits, a bad economy, and out of control energy and health insurance prices. Voters will kick the chief executive out for his failures in 2004, just like they did yesterday."

Here's hoping they're right. It's looking better all the time. The next Democratic party debate is tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Invite your friends and play the Democratic Debate Drinking Game! (Who says politics is no fun?)

Posted 10:44 AM

September 29, 2003

Does Clark hurt Dean?

According to the Washington Post, some Dean supporters are changing allegiances since Clark joined the race. I'm still trying to figure that out, and the only reason I see to prefer Clark is his military background. However, I still question the basic assumption that someone with experience as a warrior would make a good President. I just don't think people have thought this through very well. For example, the Post article says:

Lynne Pedersen of Meredith, Mass., was holding Draft Clark signs when the novice candidate arrived in Manchester [NH] on Friday. A registered independent who usually votes Democratic, she said, "I'm looking for a security blanket for our country, and I don't think any of them [the other Democrats] represent it, but Wesley Clark does."

Now think about that for a minute. What is a "security blanket for our country"? Isn't a security blanket something very young children cherish because they believe it somehow protects them or makes their lives better? In other words, isn't a security blanket merely a false sense of security? Why do we want a false sense of security for our country? No thanks. I'd prefer someone who's spent his life helping people and who has a proven track record to back up his policy positions. At least until we see more from Clark about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. I mean, the guy does come across amazingly well on tv, but that's not all that's necessary to be a good President, nor is being able to fight wars.

Meanwhile, it looks like Dean is ready to take Clark on. Yesterday on CBS Dean said:

"I think that Wes Clark is, first of all, a good guy," Dean told CBS's "Face the Nation." But Dean added, "I think what you see in the Wes Clark candidacy is a somewhat of a desperation by inside-the-Beltway politicians."

"You've got a lot of establishment politicians now surrounding a general who was a Republican until 25 days ago," said Dean.

Hmm. So does this mean all hope is gone for a Dean-Clark ticket? Perhaps, but I'm pretty sure neither of them was ever too interested in playing second fiddle, anyway.

Posted 06:16 AM | Comments (2)

September 28, 2003

Say No to Bush Hatred

It seems that as Democrats start to see their fortunes waxing, some are venting their frustration at the last few years of Republican excess by declaring their hatred of George W. Bush. The editors of The New Republic and The National Review recently engaged in an extensive debate on the subject, and while I haven't read all they've said, I can say that I think hatred, and particularly personal hatred, is the wrong channel for the Democrats' anger and resentment.

Bush is merely an exponent of an agenda that is antithetical to both democracy and to Democrats—the conservative agenda that values personal profit above all else. In this way, today's conservatives (who are very different from conservatives past) are simply antisocial; they oppose society's best interests because they see those interests as conflicting with their own. Democrats (or liberals or progressives or whatever term you want to use) see this as a myopic view, to say the least, and yes, it can be infuriating.

What's more, Bush lied and is lying. That's enough to make anyone mad. Even Congress is finally admitting there wasn't enough evidence to go to war in Iraq, although admittedly Congress is trying to blame the "intelligence community" for Congress's own failure to exercise its Constitutional responsibility to put a stop to the executive's war madness. But that only emphasizes the fact that we should never trust our elected officials—not a single one of them. Rather than trust them to do the right thing, we need to actively ensure that they do the right thing by being more active and vocal in the political process and by voting them out when they don't. Today's conservatives have a nice gimmick about trust, though. They say socialism is inherently doomed to failure because human beings are inherently self-interested. This isn't true, but it's one of America's cultural fictions and the vast majority of Americans believe it. And yet, if human beings are inherently self-interested, then we have to assume that politicians, including Bush, are also inherently self-interested; therefore, when they say, "trust us, we're doing what's best for you," we have to assume that they're lying, because they've already told us that they're only going to do what's best for them.

Anyway, all of this is enough to make a more liberal thinker's blood boil, but hatred is a poor solution. Instead I recommend we channel our energies in better directions. Let's start with determination to elect better leaders, and to ensure those leaders are accountable to the people who elected them. This may not solve all our problems, but it's a start.

Posted 07:29 AM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2003

More Hope for 2004?

Almost lost in the hoo-haw about Clark leading Bush in the most recent poll was the fact that the same poll also said Bush's overall approval rating is at its lowest point since he became President. This means there's more hope than ever that whoever ends up as the democratic nominee will actually beat Bush. And according to Richard Goldstein, increasing numbers of liberals and progressives agree: We'll do whatever it takes to get Bush out of office:

For the first time since the '60s, radicals are willing to break bread with the Democratic mainstream. What accounts for this change? In a word, experience. The coalescing of free marketeers and fundamentalists into a potent right-wing political force has driven the left to reconsider its usual strategy of divide and be conquered. "Too often, progressives were unwilling to act together on anything until they agreed on everything," says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation . "That is gone. We can hold two visions in our mind. There's the long-term building of a movement, but in the short term this is the worst government the country has ever had. Imagine what Bush would do with even a tiny mandate. We've seen what he can do with no mandate. We've got to move on that basis."

Clark, Dean, even Kerry—all fine with me, I guess. None are perfect, but all are better than the Dismal Failure. Ridgeway's article gives a good overview of the campaign field at this point, including some insight into how the Democratic "party establishment" figures in the whole circus. (Lame ending, though.)

On the darker side, it could be argued that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just gave the finger to equal protection by saying that it's just fine for less wealthy voting districts to lose more votes than more wealthy districts. Worse, some have been arguing for some time that the end of exit polling and the rise of electronic voting machines spells the end of democracy because these developments leave us with no way to assess the validity or accuracy of election results. Now, Salon's Farhad Manjoo is calling optical scanning and touch screen voting systems "an open election to fraud." For one thing, it seems the CEO of Diebold (one of the leading manufacturers of these voting machines) is a staunch Bush supporter and fundraiser. For another, researchers have found "that Diebold's voting software is so flawed that anyone with access to the system's computer can change the votes without leaving any record." And apparently gaining access to the system's computer is fairly easy—not just for elections officials, Diebold employees, or "the janitor," but also for anyone with an internet connection and some mad hacker skilz. According to the researcher, the Diebold system is basically swiss cheese:

I got a call from one of our more brilliant computer programmers -- he's got quite a few advanced degrees -- and he called me on a weekend and he said, "I want you to go to your computer." And he walked me through it just like a support tech does -- open this panel, click this, do this, do that. And as I'm doing this it was appalling how easy it was. Once you know the steps, a 10-year-old can rig an election. In fact it's so easy that one of our activists, Jim March in California, put together a "rig-a-vote" CD. He's been going around showing it to elections officials, and now this CD has been making its way to Congress members.

It's shocking. All you do is double-click the icon. You go backwards through the Internet to that county computer, and if you have Microsoft Access on your machine you can walk right into that election database while it's open. It's configured for multiple access at the same time. You can be in there changing things and you can change anything you want.

Does democracy have any meaning when a 10-year-old could rig an election? I mean, Diebold is one of the largest providers of touch-screen voting systems, and their systems have so little security it almost sounds like they were designed to be easy to hack.

So we know punch cards lose a far higher percentage of votes than these other systems, yet we also know that Diebold's systems are completely insecure and provide no paper trail or any other check on their accuracy. So tell me again, what's the point of voting?

Posted 06:07 AM

September 15, 2003

Now Live from Dupont Circle

Ok, so we've moved. Last Saturday we went from zero (nothing packed) to completely moved in 18 hours or less, which was a new record for me. It's great fun. If you get tired of your job or law school or would just like a change of scenery, I highly recommend just picking up and moving across town. You'll be so busy sweating your ass off, you won't have time to think about anything else. I really have no intention of passing my classes this semester, anyway, so it's all good.

But yeah, ai is now coming to you live from just outside Dupont Circle, which I like to tell people is the heart of the heart of the heart of the ____________ here in D.C. You can fill in the blank w/just about whatever you want—museums, coffee shops, book stores, live music, political activism, good restaurants, cool movie theatres, and on and on—it's all here or a short walk or metro ride away. Now my stroll to school is about 20 minutes, and by bike it's like I blink and I'm there. Life is good.

Bonus: We moved in to find full cable already in effect, including wireless internet access! I don't know who's paying for this, but I'll be happy to make use of it while it lasts. The only problem with the cable is that it includes HBO, which is basically video crack—like playstation, but maybe worse because it calls you at regular intervals to say "watch me, your favorite show is on! you can't miss this! drop everything and watch watch watch!" Last night featured a HBO-crack binge of epic proportions, beginning at around 8 p.m. with reruns of the Sopranos, followed by some SITC action (I've always loved Steve, too), and then we had to check out Carnivale (trippy—by far the most Twin Peaks-ish tv since Twin Peaks), and we just couldn't tear ourselves away from K Street. Holy firetruck, after all that, I practically had to be peeled off the couch, not only because all that programming was such an mental overload, but because well, what the heck is up with Howard Dean being on K Street and what the hell are he and HBO trying to do!? If you didn't see it, Salon summarizes most of the Dean part in its coverage:

In a debate prep with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean -- which Dean agreed to partially because he was thrilled to get some free advice from two of the highest-profile political strategists in Washington -- Begala comments on one of the current president's strengths: "One of the ways that Bush is an enormously disciplined politician is he never answers hypotheticals. He doesn't entertain that option." Begala also says that the best way for Dean to "chip Bush down" is with humor. It's tough not to be interested and engaged with such slices of strategy-building.
What that summary doesn't tell you is that during this fictional? real? debate prep, one of the K Street characters fed Dean one of the big jokes he used in the Baltimore debate, which was:
Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

After watching the K Street, I couldn't decide if James Carville, et al, really fed Dean that line, or if the show's editors had just made it seem that way. Salon seems to think it wasn't just the magic of editing. I don't know. Does it matter? I don't know. Dean's blog went wild with comments after the show; I think they mostly liked it. The Washington Post seems a little baffled by the show. Ah well, it certainly entertained me.

And now CivPro beckons. Do you think 10 hours of homework/reading time/week is sufficient to achieve success in law school? ;-)

Posted 04:44 PM | Comments (4)

September 08, 2003


Trudeau strikes again. Flash mobs for dean. (Dean's also going to be in MD and DC tonight, so if you're interested in seeing him, check the blog, Maryland for Dean, or Dean for America.

Posted 06:13 AM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2003


Things I wish I had more time for at the moment:

And I'm sure there's lots of more greatness out there I'm missing or forgetting, but see, I don't have time, because of Torts. Torts requires too much reading, dammit. I'm off to Mohr v. Williams: ears, doctors, what fun!

Posted 06:33 AM | Comments (4)

August 11, 2003

Kucinich via Lessig

FYI: Dennis Kucinich is guest blogging on Larry Lessig's blog this week, as Lessig announced here. I'll be curious to see whether Kucinich comes across as more friendly and approachable in writing than he does when speaking.

Posted 09:22 PM

Yes We Can!

If you don't have kids or friends with kids, you may not have heard of "Bob the Builder." Bob's a cartoon construction worker/handyman who works with his team of animated tools to, well, fix whatever needs fixing. Bob's theme song is called "Can we fix it?", and the song's chorus answers that question with an exuberant, "Yes we can!" (Click here to hear the song.)

I think of that song sometimes when I read transcripts of speeches by some of the Democratic presidential candidates, or when watching them respond to questions at various forums, such as the one that just finished tonight in Philadelphia. Listening to these Democrats fall over each other to demand universal health care and to condemn "right to work" laws as anti-union, "right to be exploited" laws is like taking deep breaths of fresh air after being under water for way too long. For the last three years Bush and Co. have made all kinds of noises, but most of them seem to have been either lies or attempts to scare their audience, or both. Now, instead of fear mongering and nothing but rhetoric designed to strengthen the corporate class, the Democrats are touring the country talking about ways to take care of all Americans, not just those who are already plenty taken care of. Democrats like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, and even John Kerry have given me a great deal more hope in the Democratic party and also in the prospects for the future. Can we really do something about the problems in our world? These candidates are standing up and saying "Yes we can!"

For example, at this most recent forum, the candidates addressed the question of global trade justice, and most of them said something along the lines of: we need to have smart trade that puts workers first. Of course, this is what you'd expect them to say when speaking to the Sheet Metal Workers International. But some of them went beyond the empty rhetoric of "we need to take care of workers" to talk about specific ways to do that, and just hearing their ideas made me think for the first time about the possibility of making trade fair via treaties and governmental regulation rather than via grassroots activism. Sure, college students can get together to demand their schools buy only sweat-free products, but progress by such methods is slow, at best. In addition to such efforts, why not build social justice into our trade agreements? As one of the candidates said, we shouldn't allow any products to be sold in the U.S. that are made by child labor, or by any workers without basic human rights, such as a reasonable wage, health care, reasonable working hours, real and enforceable workplace safety, etc. Nor should we allow the importation of any goods made in countries where manufacturers do not use sustainable environmental protections. If the U.S. built these kinds of regulations into its trade policy, the rest of the world would quickly follow suit and the entire world—both humans and their environment—would reap the rewards for generations to come. Under the reign of Bush, the idea of building social justice into trade policy is a farce. Under one of these Democratic presidents, the issues will at least be on the table, and that's a start.

Can we live in a better world with less inequality, less human suffering, and a healthy environment? Keep listening to the Democratic candidates and remember what Bob the Builder says: "Yes we can!"

Just a couple more random thoughts from the SMWI forum:

  • Gephardt is not electable for one reason: He doesn't use active verbs. That may sound silly, but language matters and Gephardt's language is all half-measures. Listen to him and you'll hear "I tried," "I worked," "I think," etc. Those verbs don't show confidence or achievement, they only show effort. Do you want a president who can get things done, or one that tries hard? Gephardt would be more convincing if he used verbs like "I did," "I built," "I succeeded," "I know," etc. But he doesn't.
  • Moseley Braun needs to address the audience and not the moderator at forums like these.
  • Lieberman is all jowls. The poor man is like a poster-boy for a face lift.
  • Dean may be the most electable simply because he's really the most handsome. L. thinks so. I think he also comes across as the most trustworthy straight-talker, but the handsome thing is probably more important.
  • Kucinich would reach orders of magnitude more voters if he'd just relax a little and concentrate on sounding reasonable and measured. He's got beautiful ideas, but he seems unable to convey them at anything but a fever pitch. A fever pitch is great for emphasis, but it gets tiresome pretty quickly when it becomes your primary means of communication.
  • Kerry looks and sounds presidential, but the way he loses me when he dances around the question of why he joined his fellow Senators in abdicating Congress' constitutional responsibility to decide whether to use military force. Kerry and Gephardt (and Lieberman, but he's not a serious contender) are compromised on this issue and the only way they could plausibly get around it is to make the case that they were mislead by the Bush administration, right along with the rest of us. Instead, both echo Bush and Co. about Saddam's history of being a bad man. Sorry, that's not good enough when soldiers are dying every day.

  • Sharpton just rocks the house every time he speaks. He kicked off with a jab at Ah-nold: "Schwarzenegger is an impostor. I'm the real terminator: I want to terminate the Presidency of G. Bush, terminate John Ashcroft, and all the people who are taking away our democracy." (That's a paraphrase.) He also whipped out a great analogy to explain how Bush and Tony Blair convinced their countries to commit troops to go to war. Again, I'm paraphrasing, but Sharpton said something like, "What Bush told us about Iraq is like me telling you we have to get out of this building because it's on fire. So we all get outside and you say, 'Where's the fire?' And then I get my friend Tony Blair to come by and say, 'The fire doesn't matter; you needed some fresh air anyway.'" Sharpton's closing statement was priceless—you should be able to access it from a link here, but it involved a story about his grandmother telling him that the only way to get a donkey to move is to slap it, and ended with Sharpton saying "I'm going to slap this donkey all the way to the White House" (or something to that effect). Trust me, it was brilliant.

Posted 09:15 PM | Comments (3)

August 07, 2003

SelectSmart Fun

If you're a little overwhelmed by the number of candidates running for President in 2004, try the SelectSmart Presidential Selector. Just answer a few questions and the selector will try to tell you which candidate has views most similar to yours. It even ranks, on a percentage basis, how much you agree (or disagree) with all the other candidates in the race.

My own results weren't wildly unexpected. Selectsmart says my top ten candidates would be:

  1. Green Party Candidate   (100%)
  2. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat   (93%)
  3. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat   (90%)
  4. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat   (83%)
  5. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat   (83%)
  6. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat   (75%)
  7. Socialist Candidate   (75%)
  8. Leahy, Patrick Senator, Vermont - Democrat   (75%)
  9. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat   (74%)
  10. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat   (73%)

I'm surprised to see Lieberman rank higher than Sharpton, but whatever. And since the Green party hasn't even fielded a candidate (that I know of), and since neither a Green candidate nor Kucinich has a realistic chance of winning, it looks like my top choice is Dean, which is what I was thinking anyway. He's not ideal, but hey, if this SelectSmart thing is right, he's at least 90% ideal (for me), which is pretty darned good.

What does your top candidates list look like?

Posted 08:42 AM | Comments (1)

August 04, 2003

A different kind of Trifecta

Howard Dean gets a big publicity boost this week—he's on the cover of the three major news magazines, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. I haven't had a chance to read any of the stories yet, but if it's true that there's no such thing as "bad press," this coverage should give Dean another boost.

(If you missed the whole Trifecta "joke," you can read more about it here and here, or just Google for "trifecta Bush".)

Posted 12:40 PM

July 16, 2003

Primaries and Presidents

Yesterday's Human Rights Campaign Presidential Forum was a bit anti-climactic. I'd been hoping to see some sparks fly between some of the more conservative and progressive candidates, but it was not to be. The forum was highly structured, with only one candidate appearing on stage at a time so that there was no dialogue between the candidates. Each candidate gave an opening statement, answered two questions (and whatever additional related questions moderator Sam Donaldson decided to put to them), and gave a closing statement. To control things further, the candidates knew the questions in advance so they had prepared answers to make them look as good as possible. You can see the archived webcast of the forum here, but the bottom line was that what the candidates had to say was fairly empty—for the most part they just rehashed statements you can find on their websites. What was important about yesterday's forum is that it happened at all. The fact that the HRC could get seven presidential candidates (all except Edwards and Graham) to speak at their event—even in such tightly controlled conditions—shows that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues have come out of the closet, so to speak, and are finally legitimate topics for national public debate.

But now that the first-quarter money race is over, the top candidates are really starting to look toward the primaries. According to Politics1, Presidential politics will start getting at least a little hot on January 13 when the District of Columbia holds its "Presidential Preference Primary." That's followed on Jan. 19 by the Iowa Caucuses, followed on the 27th by the New Hampshire Primary. (I've heard rumors that some people in New Hampshire are angry at DC for trying to steal the title of "nation's first primary," so some New Hampshire-ites have vowed to vote against anyone who campaigns in DC. I hope that's just a rumor, 'cause that's just nuts.)

But since I'm actually living in a suburb of DC, I'm supposed to be interested in the Maryland Presidential Primary on March 2, which appears to be "super Tuesday." The Maryland process for getting a candidate on the ballot looks a little sketchy. According to the Maryland Secretary of State, the ballot is up to him or her, in conjunction with the state and national media:

The Office of the Secretary of State is responsible for designating the people whose names appear on the ballot for each primary election. This is done when the Secretary has determined that the candidate's candidacy is generally advocated or recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in Maryland and in accordance with party rules.

Wow, sounds democratic, doesn't it? Not.

Meanwhile, factions of the Democratic party are going on about some huge battle between the left and right wings of the party, which to me only highlights how successful the Repubs have been in shifting the terms of debate to their end of the spectrum. The only candidate to mention this "division in the party" at yesterday's candidate forum was Lieberman, which isn't really surprising since he would definitely be one of those in the right wing. But this little battle could be troublesome for someone like Dean, who is rising in the polls primarily because he's doing a better job than anyone else of straddling this little divide. Although Dean's image as too liberal is fading, he'll still have to work hard to sell his definition of "center" to the nation as a whole. Steve Snyder, in a letter to Salon, does a beautiful (if highly cynical) job encapsulating the challenge facing the "democratic wing of the democratic party" in politics today. Snyder writes:

What we Democrats fail to realize is that at some fundamental level the triumph of popular conservatism in our politics represents the interaction of basic human nature with the changed reality of life in our advanced society. Ultimately, the Republicans win -- and continue to win -- because the rhetoric of "serve yourself" beats "let's work together" in all but truly dire times. Let's face it: Community is hassle. You have to deal with disagreeable neighbors and you can't always do what you want. And the Republicans understand this. Their rhetoric is always based on the idea that you shouldn't have to be bothered by anything unpleasant: Taxes are annoying, so get rid of them. Zoning ordinances, environmental laws, nagging labor unions, affirmative action to rectify past injustices -- all are a drag.

This rhetoric proves even more appealing when the circumstances that necessitate living in a community recede into the past. Most of the people who bother to vote today grew up in middle-class suburbs and segued fairly smoothly into their careers, homes and money. In fact, most of those likely to vote have never known really hard times. Americans once lived their entire lives with the knowledge that they were only a drought away from starvation. For them, accommodating the demands of annoying neighbors wasn't just a lofty idea; it was a survival strategy.

But today -- as the Republicans recognize -- those most likely to vote have reached a level of affluence that evokes the illusion they can buy their way out of the inconvenience of community altogether. That leaves the Democrats to make the rather joyless argument that "we're all in it together," which, unfortunately, will necessitate paying some taxes and doing the hard work of learning to live with one another.

In the end, the Republicans will keep winning because they champion what we secretly desire: a world where we can have all the goodies with none of the larger responsibilities. Their policies are an adolescent's wet dream, and, sadly, we are a politically immature nation.

I think Snyder's got the issue right—it's a self-centered worldview that sees society as the enemy vs. a bigger picture worldview that sees society as the whole point of existence. The "we're all in it together" ethos underlies the most biting critiques of recent U.S. foreign policy, but it also lines up behind critiques of "globalization" and "free trade" schemes that sacrifice human needs for balanced budgets and corporate profits. And yeah, that's a hard sell to people who see so many short-term benefits from the "server yourself" way of doing things. But that doesn't make those benefits last any longer.

Posted 04:13 PM

July 14, 2003

Fearing Fear Itself

Are you more afraid now than you were in 2000?

The Democratic presidential candidates finally start attacking Bush's credibility for lying to get us into war. Apparently Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman and Gephardt—who both all to give Bush permission to attack Iraq—have finally found a way out of the dilemma they've been in as that pro-war stance made them increasingly unpopular with Democratic voters; now they can just say that the reason they supported the war is that they believed Bush, but now that they know he lied, they can vehemently condemn both Bush and the war. Lucky for them. Will this reduce Dean's lead? As the most "mainstream" candidate who has opposed the Iraq war all along (although he says the invasion of Afghanistan was the right thing to do), Dean was able to distinguish himself on this issue, but that distinction may now become less clear.)

This comes at a time when I'm just baffled that more people aren't just irate about this issue. Why do the same people who got upset that Clinton lied about a blow job (which hurt no one directly besides Clinton, Lewinsky, and Clinton's family) seem so unconcerned about Bush's lies, which have effectively killed thousands of people? Some analysts seem to think the answer is fairly simple: Americans are just scared silly. In fact, it seems we've been whipped into such a frenzy of fear that we'll accept just about anything. For example, in "Trading On Fear", PR analysts Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber look at how Yubbledew and Co. (the Bush administration and corporate America) have stoked the fears of the average American and then profited from those fears. And in "A Nation of Scared Sheep" Louise Witt looks more closely at the fears driving Americans to give Yubbledew and Co. a pass on the lies it told to get support for an invasion of Iraq. Very simply put, it seems we are being manipulated, and apparently it's working.

First Rampton and Stauber explain how television propaganda was used to sell the Iraq war to the American public, but they also debunk the idea that the crap we see on television is just the networks and studios "giving the people what they want":

Fear is one of the most primitive emotions in the human psyche, and it definitely keeps us watching. If the mere ability to keep people watching were really synonymous with "giving audiences what they want", we would have to conclude that people "want" terrorism. On September 11, Osama bin Laden kept the entire world watching. As much as people hated what they were seeing, the power of their emotions kept them from turning away.

Fear is an awesome force. Its power is obvious since even though we can all say intellectually that fear was what caused the Red Scare or the Salem Witch trials or whatever, we still can't seem to help ourselves when someone tells us to be afraid and to do stupid things because of our fear. It was 1933 when Ike said:

first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Ike may have overstated the case a bit—surely there are some things we should fear besides fear itself—but we really don't have much room for such quibbling at the moment. Yubbledew and Co. are still on the loose trying to salvage and extend their "scare and plunder" methods of governance. Currently they're trying to squirm out of the mess they're in by blaming George Tenent and by asserting that they didn't, technically, lie. "We got the info from Britain, and Britain did put that info in a report, which is all we said. We didn't say it was true, we just said it was a claim made by British intelligence." So why does that make it any better?

I'm sure tomorrow will bring new developments. Meanwhile, the good news is that the most recent polls show that the Yubbledew teflon is cracking. Happy Monday!

Posted 09:25 AM

July 12, 2003

NOW Presidential Forum

Will Lester's Associated Press story (also found here) is the only coverage I can find this morning of the NOW Presidential Forum L. and I attended last night. Lester's story hits a few of the high points, but skips over a lot of what seemed the best moments of the night. This only confirms the importance of voters getting the chance to hear the candidates for themselves so we can all make up our own minds about who to vote for (or against). If you think the media don't shape electoral politics, think again. For example, although I think Dean is probably the most viable—and therefore best—candidate, it's misleading for coverage of last night's forum to focus so much on Dean. There were four candidates at the forum last night (Carol Moseley Braun, Dean, Kucinich, and Al Sharpton), and the crowd cheered them all about equally. NOW's forum wasn't about Howard Dean, it was about women's issues, social justice issues, the more progressive factions of the Democratic party, and the kinds of things the Democratic party can do to address these issues. It's also significant that Lester's coverage didn't even mention the conspicuous absence of the other candidates. Don't Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Graham and Gephardt care about NOW's votes? Or more to the point, do they know that their equivocating about the war in Iraq and other issues has already destroyed their hopes of winning support from NOW? Lester should and easily could have found someone to comment on such questions.

Still, Lester's coverage is better than none. L. had the best take on the NOW forum when she said: "This shows how well Nader did his job," by which she meant that if Nader's goal was to move mainstream politics to the left, he accomplished that goal and then some. The evidence for this is in the kinds of things these candidates were saying, and the fact that at least Dean is being taken seriously for saying them.

Opening Statements: Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun opened the forum with a terrific quotation from William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech. Bryan said:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.

Bryan's grassroots sentiments nicely captured the tone of the whole forum, with each candidate competing to show that he or she was the most dedicated to empowering the people from the bottom up. Moseley Braun also got in some more great lines, including (the following quotes should be considered close paraphrases only; I tried to get every word but I'm sure I missed a few):

Moseley Braun on the "war against terror," and the Patriot Act:

If they spent as much time looking for Bin Laden as they do looking at what Americans read, they'd have found him by now.

Moseley Braun on her candidacy and approach to the race for the Democratic nomination:

I have no intention of dropping out. I'm often reminded of the civil rights mantra: 'If not now, when? If not me, who?'

(Moseley Braun appeared happily surprised when the crowd joined loudly in echoing this mantra. The energy in the room was incredibly positive for Moseley Braun, although, again, there was a lot of support for all the candidates.)

All of the candidates (except perhaps Kucinich, who was fairly serious and earnest throughout) tried to inject some humor into their remarks where appropriate and Moseley Braun was no exception. When forum moderator Elayne Boosler tried to cut her off for going over time, Moseley Braun said something to the effect that she always got cut short while the guys who follow her always go over time. The crowd roared and Moseley Braun got a few extra minutes to finish her opening statement. (The Washinton Post recently ran a good piece on Braun.)

Opening Statements: Howard Dean
Dean followed Moseley Braun and drew big laughs with his opening statement:

This is every politician's nightmare: Following Carol Moseley Braun at a NOW convention!

Dean was the only candidate to stand up for his opening and closing statements, which may or may not mean anything. He and Al Sharpton were also the two candidates who seemed to speak without notes, while Moseley Braun and Kucinich stuck fairly closely with prepared remarks, at least for their opening and closing statements. Perhaps that's one reason why I got fewer quotes from Dean. What follows is more a paraphrase of high points.

Dean covered a wide range of subjects and I was only able to record a few high points. He said "the President chose tax cuts, but you could have had health insurance for every American." He also noted that we could have had quality education for every American child, a strong economy, and several other things I missed, but we got tax cuts for the rich instead.

On the Bush administration's amicus brief against the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies, Dean noted that Bush used the word "quota" five or six times on the evening news, knowing that word would inspire fear in many Americans that minorities were going to steal their jobs and take over their way of life. Dean then said "the President played the race card" and said we can do better than that.

Dean drew laughs by mentioning that he'd recently spoken with Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. "See, I'm a doctor, I can get that word out," Dean said. But he became serious again when he turned to his next topic:

We're going to talk about something no one is talking about: Domestic violence.

After citing some shocking figures about the prevalence of domestic violence in the U.S., Dean noted that he hasn't heard the Bush administration say a word about the issue, then concluded:

You cannot fix a problem until you're willing to talk about it. We need to talk about domestic violence now.

In response to a later question, Dean cited impressive figures for how much levels of child abuse and domestic violence had fallen during his tenure as Governor of Vermont, thanks largely to the fact that all children had adequate health care.

Finally of note in Dean's opening remarks was the fact that in the recent fundraising quarter over 60,000 people gave the Dean campaign less than $100 each, while Bush is raising all his money from big donors at $2,000 a pop. Dean was the only candidate to appeal several times directly to his audience for their help and their votes, reminding us that we had the power to change the direction of the U.S. through our votes, dollars, and hard work. It was a populist, people-power message that apparently has resonated well with voters so far.

Opening Statements: Dennis Kucinich
Kucinich's remarks revolved around what seems to be the theme of his campaign, which he repeated several times in different ways:

We can have the America we envision. We can have the America of our dreams.

Kucinich went on to talk repeatedly about his plans for government-funded child care, pre-kindergarten education for all kids, universal health care, a U.S. Department of Peace and many other expanded social programs which he plans to pay for by rescinding the Bush tax cuts and buy slashing the Pentagon budget, which he says is full of waste. At one point he mentioned that the Pentagon has over a trillion dollars in budget items it cannot account for, and that military spending is so out of control they don't even do audits on Pentagon accounts anymore.

Kucinich on the war in Iraq:

We went to war in Iraq because of a pattern of deception from the top down.

Kucinich on WMDs:

We must recognize that poverty is a weapon of mass destruction, and we know where these weapons are, and we know how to eliminate them.

(Kucinich listed other things as WMDs, but I missed them. I think they included things like lack of health care, perhaps low wages, etc. This formulation of the issue brought lots of applause and I just missed what he was saying.)

Kucinich on tax cuts:

It's time to take back the tax cuts from the people who don't need that money and put that money toward the future of America.

Overall, Kucinich gave the impression of wanting to deliver more social services to Americans than any other candidate, but he had lots of dollar amounts and statistics to suggest he knew exactly where the money for each social program would come from. As I mentioned, Kucinich seemed sincere, earnest, idealistic. I'd vote for him in a heartbeat but I fear too many people will find him too radical. If he could do it, Kucinich should license John Lennon's "Imagine" as his theme song.

Opening Statements: Al Sharpton
Sharpton got the crowd going right away with his first sentence:

The goal must be in 2004 the unequivocal defeat of George Bush!

He went on to explain to much applause that it was important the defeat be "unequivocal" so the Republicans don't (and again, I'm paraphrasing here) "rob us again." Sharpton was, hands down, the best speaker of the bunch at the NOW forum, peppering his comments with highly quotable and crowd-pleasing soundbites that fit into more serious riffs against George Bush and the Republican agenda. As Lester's article suggested, Sharpton made the point that women, African-Americans, gays and lesbians and other minority groups are not the "special interests" Beltway insiders make them out to be. He then turned to the question of whether "fringe" (my word, not his) candidates like himself were good for the Democratic party.

They ask if we'll hurt the party. Well, I missed something. The party doesn't control the Congress, the Senate, the White House or the Supreme Court. I think they're the ones hurting the party.

Sharpton then drew lots of cheers with a reference to conservative, Bush-lite Democrats who are little more than "elephants in donkey jackets." Other crowd pleasers included:

Sharpton on abortion:

Do I believe in a woman's right to abortion? No. I believe in a woman's right to do what she wants with her own body!

(In response to a later question, Sharpton stressed that he doesn't think religion has anything to do with abortion; it's a human rights issue.)

Sharpton on Iraq and state budgetary crises around the U.S.:

It's ridiculous to me that we can't find money to save the 50 states we occupy, but we can find the money to occupy and 'rebuild' Iraq.

Sharpton gave the impression that he's very sharp, he's an incredible speaker, and he might just make one of the best presidents the U.S. has ever had. Still, his, well, mixed past (for lack of a better word) is troubling and I tend to agree w/the mainstream pundits who say he's highly unlikely to convince enough voters that his maverick ways will be the best methods to lead the U.S. for the next four years.

Boosler and the rest of the panelists (including Helen Thomas, who appeared to be wiping tears from her eyes when the crowd gave her a standing ovation) asked the candidates a series of questions on issues important to NOW members. My pen got tired before it was over, but I did manage to record the following:

Dean on abortion:

Abortion is none of the government's business. What I find most offensive the gag rule. I'm deeply offended that a bunch of theocratic politicians are telling doctors how to practice medicine.

Dean on his position on the political spectrum:

After hearing all the opening statements I hope the press will stop writing that I'm too liberal to get elected. It's nice to be the centrist for a change.

(Sharpton hissed into his microphone at this and the audience laughed and clapped.)

None of the candidates had many good things to say about the No Child Left Behind Act. Dean and Moseley Braun denounced it as an unfunded mandate, Kucinich talked about promoting a "qualitative rather than a quantitative approach to education," and Sharpton said that a quality public education for every child should be a right added to the Constitution.

The candidates agreed with varied amounts of enthusiasm that gay marriage should be fine and that who a person chooses to marry should be none of the government's business.

Moseley Braun on the Iraq war and Bush's credibility:

This is a failed presidency. We should just call it for what it is. I think this issue will be enough to shake Americans' faith in this President.

Kucinich on the same issue:

We have to take America away from domination and back to cooperation with the world.

Boosler asked what I thought was a particularly good question framed in terms of an issue that was important to many in her audience:

We can strike pre-emptively at another nation, but a battered woman can't get the police to come to her house until a guy hits her. It seems our nation is suffering from some kind of battered women's syndrome—we're showing faith in a President who keeps lying and beating us up. Ho will you break Americans' irrational loyalty to this President?

All the candidates agreed that the best strategy was to get more people out to vote. Sharpton got in a jab at Dean by saying that Democrats must reach people who aren't on the internet, while Moseley Braun said she'd motivate voters by asking Ronald Reagan's question: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

That's where my notes end. The event lasted close to two hours so there were obviously more questions and answers, but I couldn't get it all. What I took from the experience was this:

  1. Every voter needs a chance like this to see the candidates answering substantive questions. If all you know about the candidates is what you see in the newspaper or hear on the nightly news, you only know what the reporters think is important, which means you'll be missing a great deal.

  2. Sharpton is a great speaker. No news there.

  3. Kucinich is an idealistic dreamer. He has terrific ideas, but I don't see him winning a majority of votes. For example, his idea for a U.S. Department of Peace makes eminent sense, but it's too easy for fearmongers like Yubbledew and Co. to reduce it to some kind of joke.

  4. Moseley Braun is charismatic and convincing in person. She has good arguments against those who would dismiss her for lack of experience or many other reasons. If the press would stop saying she doesn't have a chance, she might really have one. (The same is probably true for Sharpton.)

  5. Dean is far more "conservative" or centrist than some of his opponents. Of course, he's probably more "liberal" or "progressive" than many of the others (see Lieberman, for example). This is why I think he's probably the best candidate: He's saying the right things to win support from those on the far left who are sick of Bush-lite Democrats, but he's also working to reassure the middle-left (and even the Bush-lite Dems) that he's really representing their values, as well. Plus, unlike some of the other candidates, Dean also has a very solid record of experience that shows he's capable of doing the things a President needs to do. As you can read in Lester's piece, Dean closed by saying he was from the "'Let's beat George Bush' wing of the Democratic party." That's the most vital and important wing of the party at the moment, and I agree with Dean (and Sharpton) that that's where our focus should be.

The candidates are keeping busy with forums like this. According to this report, Dean Sharpton, Moseley Braun, Kerry, and Graham will all speak at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention tomorrow in Miami, and Moseley Braun, Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Kucinich, Lieberman, and Sharpton will all speak at the Human Rights Campaign Presidential Forum next Tuesday in D.C. I have my ticket already for the HRC event, so I'll let you know if seeing the "left wing" candidates go up against some of the more Bush-lite candidates produces any good fireworks.

Posted 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

July 02, 2003

Dean's Progressive Cred

Michelle Goldberg got to it first, but Don Hazen has written the best summary I've seen of last week's big events in the Democratic race for president. Hazen acknowledges both Howard Dean's tremendous rise to the top of the fundraising heap in the second quarter, and the impressive success of the virtual primary. However, Hazen also discusses why "Beltway progressives" support Kerry, and why more hardline progressives (for lack of a better term) prefer Kucinich. In all, it's a must-read for progressive voters trying to get a better sense of the field.

One detail I haven't get enough coverage in all this fundraising, early money primary hoo-haw, is the fact that Dean's average contribution was $112. That's right: Dean raised $7.5 million in three months at an average of around $100/donor. That means there were somewhere around 70,000 Dean donors. Meanwhile, Yubbledew is bragging about raising $30 million in just a few weeks. But what's Yubbledew's average contribution? Most of his money is coming from $2000/plate fundraisers, which translates to about 15,000 Yubbledew donors. Think about that: Dean's got 70,000 people giving him money, while Yubbledew has only 15,000. Which of these two candidates is running a more democratic campaign?

Meanwhile, don't miss NPR's interview with Dean (transcript here). At one point, Dean goes on for several minutes about the different lies the Bush administration told in order to get its war with Iraq. Listen to that and then stop and think for a minute: When is the last time you heard Yubbledew speak in complete sentences for more than a minute without a teleprompter or other script? Yeah, that's what I thought.

You can also access NPR's interviews with the other Democratic candidates here.

Posted 08:08 AM

June 27, 2003

Virtual Results

The primary is over, and to no one's real surprise, no single candidate won more than 50%. The top three candidates were:

  1. Dean: 43.87%

  2. Kucinich: 23.93%

  3. Kerry 15.73%

The next closest was Edwards at 3.19%, which means all other candidates were in the single digits. What seems most remarkable about these results is how different they are from the "conventional wisdom" we've been hearing from radio pundits, Democratic and Republican party people, and other media sources. All of these people talk about Lieberman and Kerry as front-runners (and as Joe Conason noted the other day, Lieberman and Kerry do lead in the most recent nationwide opinion polls), yet Lieberman only garnered a paltry 1.92% of the MoveOn vote. The disparity between random opinion polls and the opinions of MoveOn's members almost certainly highlights the fact that those members are further to the left than the "average" American. However, the disparity also suggests the influence of the media on public opinion: The media have been saying Lieberman and Kerry are the leaders, the polls show them leading, the media say they're leading, the polls show them leading, etc. It's a self-fulfilling circle. So in my book, the MoveOn primary accomplished an important goal by showing the "average" voter (should he/she hear about it, anyway) that what the media is telling him/her and what he/she sees in the polls is misleading, at best.

The same Conason piece mentioned above also notes that the Wall Street Journal has recently been giving Howard Dean favorable coverage. Conason's take on that is that the WSJ thinks that if Dean wins the Democratic nomination, Yubbledew will easily win the election because Dean is too far left for most Americans. I think (and hope) that the WSJ is wrong. From my little corner of the world it looks like the strategy of being a "moderate" has failed Democrats (see, for example, elections 2000 and 2002). For example, why should we vote for a Lieberman, who seems to agree w/the Yubbledew Whitehouse on just about every issue, when we could just vote for Yubbledew? Why vote "Yubbledew-lite"? If that appeals to you, why not just vote for the real thing (in all its extremist horror)? That's why I think Dean would be a great pick for the Democratic nomination: He's clearly differentiating himself from the Republicans, and that's a lot more than can be said for many of the other Democratic candidates.

Finally, the MoveOn primary is a reminder of how important it is that we are able to trust election results. The debacle of Election 2000 has shaken many citizens' faith in our electoral system. Several months ago I noted that some people think the demise of exit polling and the rise of Republican-owned computerized voting machines have put the final nail in the coffin of democracy in the U.S. Although I'm optimistic that that's overstating the case, it seems important that we come up with a way to somehow verify the results of Election 2004 so that, regardless of the outcome, we'll all accept it a little more easily. The best way I can think of to do that is with some sort of non-partisan, non-profit nationwide exit polling. I imagine a nationwide network of registered volunteers who would conduct these exit polls and report their findings to some central authority. Preferably, the volunteers would be respected (and trusted and non-partisan) members of their communities—perhaps clergy, perhaps lawyers, perhaps ???? And the central "authority" would have to be an equally respected and non-partisan body—perhaps something like The registered pollsters would have to undergo some sort of training to make sure that the polling was done uniformly and as scientifically as possible. The point would be that if the results of the vote-count differed dramatically from the results of the exit polls, we'd have evidence of foul play.

Does this sound good to you? Any ideas on how to get this moving? Perhaps we could get bloggers to start the Foundation for Election Result Accuracy (FERA). Anyone?

Posted 01:23 PM

June 24, 2003

Get This Party Started

If you're dismayed by the direction the U.S. is heading (wretched economy, global aggressor, increasingly imperiled domestic social programs, skyrocketing budget deficits exacerbated by obscene tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, etc.), and especially if you like to think of yourself as "liberal" or "progressive," then you definitely have reason to care about who wins the Democratic presidential nomination. However, because of the way the primary system works, most of us don't have much say in which candidates rise to the top of the pack in order to be serious contenders for that nomination. Not only that, but with so many candidates running, it's going to be pretty difficult for any one of them to gain the momentum he/she is going to need to defeat Yubbledew. Now, is trying to change all that by holding a virtual democratic primary. Anyone can vote (you just have to register), so get to it! If the primary produces a clear front-runner, MoveOn plans to support him/her for the Democratic nomination and then for President. That could change the face of presidential elections forever. Don't you want to be a part of history? (Of course, if no front-runner emerges, MoveOn's virtual primary might have about zero effect, but, well, it's still worth a minute of your time to vote, I think.) And even if you don't want to vote, MoveOn is a good starting point for learning about the candidates at this relatively early stage. MoveOn has compiled a complete survey of most of the Democratic candidates' responses to seven questions MoveOn members voted most important for Democratic nominees to answer. (Lieberman refused to answer the questions; not surprising, since Lieberman is the leading contender for the title of "Bush-Lite.")

For more on the virtual primary, see "Progressive Popularity Contest" by Michelle Goldberg. She summarizes the event nicely when she writes:

Whether the MoveOn primary yields a meaningful measure of progressive support, Democratic aspirants are certainly taking it seriously -- some with grace, some with grumbling. The front-runners in the online race -- Howard Dean, John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich -- are trying to get out the vote while praising MoveOn for enhancing the democratic process. Those expected to fare poorly in the primary are attacking a process they say is skewed against their candidates, even as they urge their people to participate.

MoveOn's critics aren't wrong -- the process is tilted toward candidates favored by the group's progressive base. But MoveOn has never claimed to be a disinterested party, which is part of what makes the primary unique. It's less a survey of Democrats than a contest for the endorsement of American progressives, a group MoveOn aims to organize to balance the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Apparently, Gephardt is among those who expects to do poorly, while Dean expects to do well. (I can't find the statement that Dean is supposedly rebutting, but Goldberg mentions in her article that it came from a Gephardt "staffer.") While it's not surprising to see the candidates sniping at each other (they're competing against each other, after all), it is dismaying. If the Democratic candidates throw mud all over each other, that will just leave less work for Yubbledew when the race is finally narrowed to two.

And on the subject of divisiveness, it's anyone's guess what's going to happen w/the Green party this election. L. and I actually went to a Dean rally last night in Arlington to watch him officially announce his candidacy, and although his speech was good, it was hard to pay attention because a Green Party supporter stood behind him throughout the majority of the speech waving a giant "Vote Green Party" sign. So here you have Dean saying "Let's take our country back!", while "Vote Green Party" is bobing over his shoulder the whole time. Halfway through the speech, Dean supporters tried various antics (climbing on a large stepladder, taping together multiple Dean for America signs) to obscure the Green Party sign, but that only escalated the whole spectacle into a foreboding symbol of what could happen in the upcoming election: The conflict between Democrats and Greens will become a colorful sideshow spectacle that dominates the media coverage of the Democratic campaign. Meanwhile, Yubbledew will get a free pass on everything (like he did in 2000) and we'll end up with 4 more years of Bush—but this time, he won't be restrained by the need to run for election again. I'd call that a nightmare scenario, which only makes it more crucial that the Democratic nominee be far enough to the left to bring some of those who voted for Nader in 2000 back into the Democratic tent. The MoveOn primary could do a lot to push things in that direction. Results will be published Friday...

Posted 09:49 AM

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