Friday, October 01, 2004

Leahy says it best
"Last night, I'm afraid, the president looked like a man who showed up for a nine-minute debate and was terrified to find it was a 90-minute debate," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "After nine minutes he'd run out of Karl Rove's one-liners."

Bush's Debate Notes
From Talent Show
Why Kerry Must Win #32
caption contest countdown


Faces of Frustration

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Best Debate Coverage

Kerry kicked ass...Bush is a dipshit

And Ron Reagan Jr. looks a lot like Peter North.

Why Kerry Must Win #33
caption contest countdown

Conditions in Iraq are improving...?
Baghdad Bombings Kill 35 Children
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A series of bombs killed 35 children and seven adults Thursday as U.S. troops handed out candy at a government ceremony to inaugurate a new sewage treatment plant. Hours earlier, a suicide blast killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts.

Debate Talk
The article that Kevin Drum points out from the Atlantic Monthly is a really good read, he discusses the evolution of George W., the articulate orator to the W., the bumbling idiot... Josh Marshall talks about that here

What I also find interesting is this segment on his debate with Garry Mauro when he was already governor in regards to the cutaway rule (which holds for today's debate as well):
According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking—that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed.

Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt. "It was incredible," Mauro told me recently. "I almost can't believe it in retelling it. Because the press was upstairs, they didn't realize how aggressive he was on the stage—pulling the sleeve of the moderator, staring or winking at Laura in the crowd." The moderator of the debate, Bob Moore, of the El Paso Times, told me that Bush actually grabbed him just before the debate: "In the hallway, Bush did grab me by the lapels, pull me close to his face, and say, 'Bobby, you clean up real good.' Typical Bush." When Bush was on stage but off camera, Moore said, "there was that Bush smirk, rolling his eyes, all of which Bush is very good at."

Not that I expect Bush to do this, but I thought it was pretty telling. This next bit is pretty exciting, right now I'm planning on playing this in order to not drive myself nuts, but if this is true, it'll be a good ole time!

Sitting through the videos of Kerry's old debates and interviews produced an effect I hadn't remotely anticipated: I was sorry when they were finished, because it was a treat to see this man perform. With Bush, I developed new respect for the power of his determination to stick to his main point. But this is not something you want to watch. Kerry under pressure was engrossing in a way that reminded me of a climactic courtroom scene in a Scott Turow novel, in which a skillful prosecutor eventually traps an evasive witness. You could see him maneuvering, thinking, adjusting, attacking, applying both knowledge and logic, and generally coming out ahead. John Kerry's formal speeches often seem to illustrate the main complaints about his style: that he is pompous-sounding and stiff. But these debates mainly make you think, This man knows a lot, he is fast, and he has an interesting mind. Kerry was usually effective without being ugly or unfair. Kerry's lightness of touch, compared with Bush's relentless plodding, is a surprise considering what we all know about their backgrounds: Bush never thought of becoming President until a few years before he did; Kerry thought of it in prep school...

I was surprised to find that the more I saw of Kerry in action, the better I thought of him on both counts. He has pushed his Vietnam record so hard for so long that many people are tired of hearing about his courage and readiness for conflict. But the warrior persona that comes through in his debates is appealing. He is not a happy warrior in the political sense, like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or John Edwards. Instead, as the vanquished William Weld put it, he is "good tough." In his words and arguments Kerry is always attacking and moving forward, but in demeanor he is unruffled—like a confident detective or prosecutor relentlessly building his case.

I know people will ask, what does it matter anway? The debate format and how they will be presented and covered by the media is so flawed that it won't make a difference. Could be true. I'd like to hope that between Trading Spouses and He's a Lady the American public will situp and pay attention and recognize they're being lied to.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why I will vote for John Kerry for President

As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration’s decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance.

In the Middle East crisis of 1991, President George H.W. Bush marshaled world opinion through the United Nations before employing military force to free Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Through negotiation he arranged for the action to be financed by all the industrialized nations, not just the United States. When Kuwait had been freed, President George H. W. Bush stayed within the United Nations mandate, aware of the dangers of occupying an entire nation.

Today many people are rightly concerned about our precious individual freedoms, our privacy, the basis of our democracy. Of course we must fight terrorism, but have we irresponsibly gone overboard in doing so? I wonder. In 1960, President Eisenhower told the Republican convention, “If ever we put any other value above (our) liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” I would appreciate hearing such warnings from the Republican Party of today.

The Republican Party I used to know placed heavy emphasis on fiscal responsibility, which included balancing the budget whenever the state of the economy allowed it to do so. The Eisenhower administration accomplished that difficult task three times during its eight years in office. It did not attain that remarkable achievement by cutting taxes for the rich. Republicans disliked taxes, of course, but the party accepted them as a necessary means of keep the nation’s financial structure sound.

The Republicans used to be deeply concerned for the middle class and small business. Today’s Republican leadership, while not solely accountable for the loss of American jobs, encourages it with its tax code and heads us in the direction of a society of very rich and very poor.

Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.
As usual, it was way worse than anyone knew

The decision in Bush v. Gore, which stopped the Florida recount and essentially gave the presidency to Bush, came down about 9 months before I took my first law school class. And while most of us thought the fix was in, I reserved judgment in the legal sense because my ability to understand the reasoning behind the opinion was obviously limited. However, after reading the case several times over the course of my law school career, each time with a greater knowledge of the legal leanings of each justice, I became convinced that the conservative majority of the court knew which outcome it wanted and set out only to develop a passable legal argument to justify that end. After reading this article in Vanity Fair, (Part 1. & Part 2. ) there is now no doubt that the cynic in all of us was correct. Again. And as always, it was way worse than any of us thought possible.

So where does this get us? Well, obviously you don't need a legal education to understand that people, no matter who they are, cannot divorce themselves from their partisanship. Let that be a lesson for future Judicial confirmation hearings in the Senate. And confirmations of future CIA directors. And FCC chairmen. And FERC regulators. And...

Caption Contest #34

With just 34 days remaining until Judgement Day, Waingroh wants to do his part in mobilizing the anger on our side. So, every day until then, Waingroh will be counting down 34 revolting pictures that won't let you forget why Kerry must win. Prizes will go to the best captions for each picture (expect 6-8 weeks for delivery).

Coming in at #34:

"Thanks" to McGeggy for this vomit inducing gem. If you've got a pic that you think should make the list, send 'em to Waingroh.
I still love you, Al
How to Debate George Bush
Senator Kerry can also use these debates to speak directly to voters and lay out a hopeful vision for our future. If voters walk away from the debates with a better understanding of where our country is, how we got here and where each candidate will lead us if elected, then America will be the better for it. The debate tomorrow should not seek to discover which candidate would be more fun to have a beer with. As Jon Stewart of the "The Daily Show'' nicely put in 2000, "I want my president to be the designated driver.''

The debates aren't a time for rhetorical tricks. It's a time for an honest contest of ideas. Mr. Bush's unwillingness to admit any mistakes may score him style points. But it makes hiring him for four more years too dangerous a risk. Stubbornness is not strength; and Mr. Kerry must show voters that there is a distinction between the two.

If Mr. Bush is not willing to concede that things are going from bad to worse in Iraq, can he be trusted to make the decisions necessary to change the situation? If he insists on continuing to pretend it is "mission accomplished," can he accomplish the mission? And if the Bush administration has been so thoroughly wrong on absolutely everything it predicted about Iraq, with the horrible consequences that have followed, should it be trusted with another four years?

The biggest single difference between the debates this year and four years ago is that President Bush cannot simply make promises. He has a record. And I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: "The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined."

Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Big Lie

Readers were greeted today by the collective gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts by well-known voices of the national print media. Adam Nagourney cautioned that the debates may turn out to be judged more on fashion than on substance. David Broder waxed remorsefully over the fact that "a scurrilous and largely inaccurate attack on the Vietnam service of John Kerry " took the place of a discussion of the real issues. And over at Editor and Publisher, supposedly influential journalists piss and moan that the format of the debates is so scripted as to render them meaningless. Well, here is my question.

What fucking country have you guys been living in for, oh, say the last 25 years?

Every four years we go through the same song and dance and nothing ever changes. Remember Willie Horton? How about the secret hostage deal Reagan struck with the Iranians? Was anyone watching the debates in 2000 when Al Gore sighed defeat out the jaws of victory? The only thing different this time around is the transparency of the right wing's tactics.

Its one thing for the media to legitimately point out the flaws in our current state of politics and more importantly, be self-critical at a point in time when it matters (i.e. when public opinion is still being formed). But these jackasses facilitate the very situations they claim to abhor by "reporting the facts of both sides in a fair and balanced manner." No fact checking, no reporting designed to ensure meaningful debates. Just drunken, frenetic coverage of the horserace. And only when the mind of the public is made up, and we're past the point of no return, and most importantly, there is no risk of right-wing intimidation, they slowly regain their senses, shake off the hangover and say, "Man, I gotta stop having these hot PDX nights."

Cure for Apathy

A growing sentiment around the country by educated people on both sides is that this is the most important election of our generation. Another strong feeling that I share with other educated people on the left is that that the large majority of Americans are liberals, but are convinced that the Republican party stands for their values, for whatever reason (usually lack of education and direct misinformation). American social institutions that we take for granted today and are accepted by both sides, like women's rights, welfare, medicare, minimum wage, public schools, etc. were originally opposed by Republicans, yet the right continues to claim that the liberal thinking is "out of the mainstream" or "radical".

Yet Democrats, in general, are lazy when it comes to politics. Waingroh, for instance, will be voting for the first time this year. This apathy can be shown in the 2000 election, when only 42% of Americans voted. Why so few? A lot had to do with the fact that we were still snoozing in a sunday nap politically, with 8 years of Clinton's (in retrospect) utopian policies still in memory.

Well, nothing makes you get up from a snooze in the backyard hammock like a sudden swarm of angry bees. If anything can cure the laziness and apathy of Democrats, it's the infuriating, evil-spirited, selfish greed of a blood-boilingly pompous and humiliatingly inept administration.

One thing that Bush should not underestimate is the unprecedented amount of resentment and outright hatred for him that exists in this country. Everyday people, funny, smart, good senses of humor, will look at that man and feel their bile ducts quiver. It's never been like this on such a broad scale. This is why I think the polls and other election forecasting apparatus can be tossed out the window. This election is simply unpredictable.

According to the cable news networks, Kerry has not run a very good campaign. Pundit topics last week included "how badly is Kerry crashing?". He has also caught criticism for not talking to national media, and only local newspapers in key areas. Well, this tactic may actually be working on one level, along with other democratic "get the vote out" organizations. With a flood of new voters in key states like Ohio, Missouri, and Florida, Kerry is concentrating his efforts on just those areas that will shift the balance.
New registered voters in Miami-Dade County, a crucial Florida county in 2000, grew by 65 percent through mid-September, compared with 2000. New registered voters jumped nearly 150 percent in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) in Ohio, one of the most hard-fought states this year. In Oregon, where new registrations grew by 4 percent from January through Sept. 1, Democrats outregistered Republicans two-to-one.

Since there are more of us than them in this country, and there is a surge of new voter registration (especially in poor urban areas), one has to believe that most of those are going to be on our side. Now if we can just deal with the October surprise.....

Just in case you doubted my theory on your quivering bile-duct.

Bush V Bush

Just saw the new Bush ad, using clips of Kerry against Kerry, pretty effective. When the fuck will the Kerry people do the same? If there was ever a candidate that this would work against, it would be Bush. Or would that be to mean, maybe not fair? Wake the fuck up.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Not My Fucking Blog, Billmon You Fucking Asshole

I think the response to Billmon's article, kind of proved his point. This has been the first interesting day in the blogosphere in quite some time.

I don't agree with everything he says, but I think the main point of his article is valid. Not just that money has made bloggers sell out, but that the money has made many blogs indistinguishable from the mainstream media. In the past six months it's gotten harder to tell the two apart.

I started going to blogs to get the stories that were overlooked by the mainstream media. It was like a whole new world had been opened up to me, with thousands of others inside as well. It was a great release and escape, an assurance that everyone in this country wasn't a total ignorant asshole.

But in the last six months or so, things have changed quite a bit. I think it all started when Ben Chandler started advertising for his special election on Atrios. It was a great thing, and it could have been the deciding factor. But then the secret was out, blogs could be a great way to raise money. And almost over night, all my favorite blogs were plastered with ads.

I don't think this is a bad thing, per se, but once money starts pouring, there is no way that content won't be affected. And it has been. Most of the ads on blogs are from political campaigns or related organizations, and all you need to do is go to Atrios or Kos to see that they have become, in content, not just appearance, "Elect candidate X" blogs. Sure this is great, our side needs to find creative ways to raise money, and the right would never have a problem with this. But it's not why I originally enjoyed reading these blogs. Nowadays I can just check yahoo top stories and there is not going to be much difference than many of the top blogs. That is where Billmon is right, and why it pisses so many bloggers off.

I think once the election is over things will probably calm down quite a bit, and a lot of bloggers will be having second thoughts about quitting their day jobs once those ad dollars stop rolling in.

It's not just the ads when I say that certain blogs have turned into "elect candidate x" blog. The bloggers themselves are have realized what influence they yield and promote certain candidates they want to help. Again, not that there's anything wrong with that, it just gets a little old.
Found: Billmon

Billmon has been found, but not at his usual place. Yesterday in the LA Times
Blogging Sells, and Sells Out
By Billmon

By most accounts, blogs — web logs to the uninitiated — scored a major coup last week when CBS News admitted that it couldn't vouch for the authenticity of memos supposedly written by George W. Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. The conservative bloggers who led the charge against the CBS story were hailed as giant slayers. And yet it's the blogging phenomenon itself that may need the last rites.

That may seem a strange thing to say, given the flattering coverage of blogs triggered by the CBS affair. But the media's infatuation has a distinct odor of the deathbed about it — not for the blogosphere, which has a commercially bright future, but for the idea of blogging as a grass-roots challenge to the increasingly sanitized "content" peddled by the Time Warner-Capital Cities-Disney-General Electric-Viacom-Tribune media oligopoly.

Count me among the mourners. For almost two years, I blogged the political scene, first as a guest writer on the popular Daily Kos site, and then on my own blog, Whiskey Bar. During that time, I was able to indulge my passion for long-form writing — a relative rarity in the blogging world, which leans toward snippy one-liners and news nuggets — and to mix satirical humor with serious analysis, all without the worries of deadlines, editors and advertisers.

It was intoxicating while it lasted, as was the sense of community I found with my readers. At the peak of Whiskey Bar's popularity, I could count on receiving 100 or more comments about each post — articulate, querulous and sometimes profane voices from the Internet hinterland.

Recently, however, I've watched the commercialization of this culture of dissent with growing unease. When I recently decided to take a long break from blogging, it was for a mix of personal and philosophical reasons. But the direction the blogosphere is going makes me wonder whether I'll ever go back.

Even as it collectively achieves celebrity status for its anti-establishment views, blogging is already being domesticated by its success. What began as a spontaneous eruption of populist creativity is on the verge of being absorbed by the media-industrial complex it claims to despise.

In the process, a charmed circle of bloggers — those glib enough and ideologically safe enough to fit within the conventional media punditocracy — is gaining larger audiences and greater influence. But the passion and energy that made blogging such a potent alternative to the corporate-owned media are in danger of being lost, or driven back to the outer fringes of the Internet.

There's ample precedent for this. America has always had a knack for absorbing, and taming, its cultural revolutionaries. The rise and long, sad fall of rock 'n' roll is probably the most egregious example, while the music industry's colonization of rap is a more recent one.

When I say blogging is headed for a kind of commercialized senility, I'm talking primarily about political blogs — those that have, or claim to have, something to say about government, economics, foreign policy, etc. Not surprisingly, these are the blogs most likely to show up on the media's radar screen.

Media exposure, in turn, is intensifying an existing trend toward a "winner take all" concentration of audience share. Even before blogs hit the big time, Web stats showed the blogosphere to be a surprisingly unequal place, with a relative handful of blogs — say, the top several hundred — accounting for the lion's share of all page hits.

But as long as blogs remained on the commercial fringes, the playing field at least was relatively level. Audience was largely a function of reputation — for the frequency or quality or ideological appeal of the blogger's posts. Costs were low, and few bloggers were trying to make a living at it, so money wasn't an issue. It may not have been egalitarian, but it wasn't strictly hierarchical, either.

That world of inspired amateurs still exists, but it's rapidly being overshadowed by the blogosphere's potential for niche marketing. Ad dollars are flowing into the blogosphere. And naturally, most are going to the A-list blogs. As media steer readers toward the top blogs, the temptation to sell out to the highest bidder could become irresistible, and the possibility of making it in the marketplace as an independent blogger increasingly theoretical.

I should have seen the writing on the wall earlier this year when the World Economic Forum, the ferociously trend-following CEO club, sponsored a panel session on blogging at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The discussion quickly turned to the commercial possibilities of blogging, leading one advertising executive to wonder why the big media companies didn't swoop down and buy up the popular blogs while they were still cheap.

At the time, the idea of buying a blog struck me as funny, like trying to buy a conversation. Now, having seen blogs I admired mutate into glorified billboards, and having witnessed the emergence of the "sponsored" blog (in which the blogger is literally an employee of, or contractor to, a corporate owner), I can see who's likely to have the last laugh.

As blogs commercialize, they are tied ever closer to the mainstream media and its increasingly frivolous news agenda. The political blogosphere already has a bad habit of chasing the scandal du jour. This election season, that's meant a laser-like focus on such profound matters as the mysteries of Bush's National Guard service or whether John Kerry deserved his Vietnam War medals.

Meanwhile, more unsettling (and important) stories — like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or the great Iraq weapons-of-mass-destruction snipe hunt — quietly disappear down the media memory hole. And bloggers either can't, or won't, dig them back out again. As the convergence with big media continues, I suspect there will be progressively less interest in trying.

To be sure, there are still plenty of bloggers out there putting the 1st Amendment through its paces, their only compensation the satisfaction of speaking the truth to power. But it's going to become more difficult for those voices to reach a broad audience. If the mainstream media are true to past form, they will treat the A-list blogs — commercialized, domesticated — as if they are the entire blogosphere, while studiously ignoring the more eccentric, subversive currents swirling deeper down.Not the most glorious ending for a would-be revolution, but also not a surprising one. Bloggers aren't the first, and won't be the last, rebellious critics to try to storm the castle, only to be invited to come inside and make themselves at home.
Uh...a couple of....wavy lines?

Like the 9/11 commissions, or anything that the Bush administration is frightened will expose them for the fragile-minded lying masochistic hypocrites they are, Bushy & co. wanted to skip one of the presidential debates. The second debate is to be held as a town hall meeting, with questions posed by an equal number of "soft" supporters of each candidate chosen by the Gallup Organization. No surprise there, what with the extreme lengths they go to on the campaign trail to make sure everyone in the audience is an oath-signing Bush lover. It would be great to see real people asking real questions to Bush's face on national TV (how hard do you think the RNC is working to infiltrate and taint the Gallup Organization's "soft" choices?)

However, both sides made an agreement to keep the number of debates at 3 - the first of which is this Thursday at 9 e.t. Of course, there had to be some special provisions:

In each debate, according to the agreement, "the candidates may not ask each other direct questions, but may ask rhetorical questions." Too bad. Hopefully that wil be different for the Vice Presidential debates (a.k.a. The People vs. Halliburton).

A senior Kerry source said the Bush campaign was "hung up" over whether a light or something audible like a buzzer would be used to tell the candidates when their time is up. A Bush official acknowledged that last-minute questions, mostly over the time cue issue, held up the agreement.

Classic. Howbout some electroshock therapy? Would that be enough stimulation? C'mon Bushy, which box is the banana in? ZZZZZZZZZZZ! Oooops, wrong AGAIN! No coke for you.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Proof Bush's Rapture is coming!

Doctor Peter Venkman: This city [world] is about to face a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical?"
Doctor Raymond Stantz: We mean real wrath-of-God type stuff. Plagues, darkness--
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Doctor Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes--
Doctor Peter Venkman: Riots in the streets, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.