Bernard Weiner's Blog -- Autumn, 2004
October 2, 2004
Quick Takes on the Mauling in Miami
Everyone's writing up a storm about Kerry's "winning" the first debate --
even GOP spokesmen -- so I'll move on to other aspects:
Given Bush's barely-adequate, at times embarrassing presentation -- in
substance and style -- one would expect Karl Rove to seriously examine his
options for turning this campaign around in the last 30 days. Here are seven
possible moves; no doubt, he's got more up his sleeve not even contemplated
1. Cut and Run. Try to get Bush out of at least one of the two
remaining debates, and maybe both. The networks violated the rules, showing
cutaways from the speakers, therefore we cannot proceed -- that sort of
thing. Or, at the last minute, Bush is taken ill next week and can't appear.
2. Back to Original Plan A. Realizing that given Bush's
limitations, he can't advance his own cause, return to Plan A: tear down
Kerry. Wind up the Swift Boat guys again, or set up some new 527 front
groups, and send them out with more slime and sleaze. If there is any dirt
that's been hoarded for such an occasion, now's the time to drag it out and
use it. If any salacious rumors can be circulated about Kerry, true or not,
get them moving; Drudge is a good planter.
(Remember how Rove slandered McCain in 2000 with phony rumors -- about him
being slightly crazy from his POW experience, and his wife was addicted to
drugs, and he fathered a black baby -- and how rumors were circulated
earlier about a respected Texas judge being a pedophile.)
3. Cheat. Full bore ahead in Ohio and Florida and other key
states to knock thousands of registered voters off the rolls, to intimidate
minority voters (especially in rural areas, out of the sight of election
monitors) when they appear at the polling places, and to keep thousands of
new registrants from making their way onto the voting rolls. Wink at Diebold
and the other computer-voting companies -- the ones who tabulate the votes
with their secret, proprietary software; they know what needs to be done.
(The Senate race in Georgia in 2002 may have been a tryout; remember that
Max Cleland was a few percentage points ahead just prior to the vote and
then, lo and behold, apparently after a Diebold software engineer put in a
last-minute patch, Saxby Chambliss emerged a few percentage points ahead in
the final tally.)
4. Cheney's Heart. Dick Cheney suddenly and conveniently has a
major "heart episode" and has to withdraw from the race. The
Republican-controlled Congress passes instant legislation granting a delay
in the vote, while Bush chooses his new running mate (McCain?).
5. Attack another country. Have Israel, with American participation,
bomb Iran's fledgling nuclear facilities. An "imminent" threat was
eliminated by a "forceful, decisive" Bush -- whose military action will
dominate all the headlines. Or, maybe the U.S. will bomb North Korea with a
"pre-emptive" surgical strike, again to "protect and defend" America,
whereas Kerry would only have sat down and talked with them. (Warning: The
U.S. population might well sniff out this wag-the-dog scenario; attach to a
terror warning or attack -- see below.)
6. Pray for Terrorist Attack. Or, even better,
bunch of Arab or Arab-American terror "suspects," and proclaim that this
group was stopped from carrying out a major biochemical or whatever attack.
Thanks to the Bush Administration's vigilance, we're saved. In short, don't
change streams in the middle of a good horse.
7. Postponement. If, just prior to November 2, nothing has
worked and the polls still are not looking good for Bush, declare a State of
Emergency -- "credible" threats about a major al-Qaida terror attack -- and
"postpone" the election.
Or, better yet, have a few Republican governors -- or Republican mayors in
urban areas -- declare "emergencies" in their jurisdictions and shut
down the polls. Then let the U.S. Supreme Court handle the legal case after
Bush -- having amassed an Electoral College "victory" based on the truncated
vote -- is declared the winner on Election Day.
Now, will any of these options be exercised? I hope not. I think not. But,
with this crew, and Rove's dirty-tricks history, ANYTHING is possible. Be
alert. Be prepared.
Favorite Moments in the Debate
1. When Bush tried once again to conflate Iraq with 9/11, by saying we had
to be in Iraq because "the enemy attacked us" here on 9/11. Kerry was all
over that one like flies on a pile of cow flop, reminding Bush that it was
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida that attacked us, not Iraq. Followed by Bush's
pitiable whine that he realized it was Osama -- "I knew that." (Will be
interesting to see after Bush's remark whether Cheney, in his debate with
Edwards next week, continues suggesting that Iraq was part of the 9/11
2. The look of disgust and anger on Bush's face when Kerry quoted verbatim
from former President Bush's memoirs about why it would have been stupid to
3. You had to listen carefully, but after Kerry made some warm remarks about
Bush's daughters, Bush grinned and said he was "trying to put a leash" on
them. Not a smart thing to say, as everyone remembers the photos of an Iraqi
prisoner at Abu Ghraib with a leash around his neck. Might win some S&M
4. Bush's visible anger and unease whenever Kerry deigned to attack him
frontally. Bush lives in a world of yes-man and isolation -- to attend his
campaign rallies, you have to sign loyalty oaths -- and he simply isn't used
to being confronted by contrary opinions. The camera shots of him angry and
petulant were classic. (Credit where credit is due: the shots came from Fox
News camera operators.)
Keep the Big Mo moving!
October 5, 2004
HEARING VOICES IN HIS HEAD?
Bush, as we know, does not do well in public appearances where he cannot
control the format or the questions. He has a few set talking-points, which
can carry him through a short press conference -- always with the option of
calling upon another reporter -- but he seems lost at sea in long Q&A
sessions that require thinking and discussion on complex issues.
So the speculation about whether Bush in the first debate may have received
prompting help via an offstage voice -- through an earpiece or implant -- is
not surprising. But, regardless of whether the speculation is based on truth
or not, it is significant that the issue even is being publicly voiced.
Well, not in the mainstream press (yet), but certainly all over the
When I first read the original glimmerings on an obscure website -- John
"Bush Blows It! Exposes Earpiece in Debate" -- I thought it so much
bloggy blather and didn't pay it much mind.
But several days later, while I'm still not convinced, more and more is
being written about the issue -- and photos are being circulated -- that are
worthy of further exploration. For the integrity of these and future
debates, this kind of rumor has to be put to rest, one way or the other.
"LET ME FINISH!"
The speculation was triggered by Bush at one point asserting loudly "let me
finish!" 60 seconds into his 90-second response. Kerry was not attempting to
interrupt him, and moderator Jim Lehrer was not motioning Bush to stop. The
remark simply came out of thin air, with no logical antecedent. Elsewhere
during the debate, there were the inexplicable long pauses taken by Bush, as
if he was searching for the right way to respond.
Reynolds -- who supplies video and audio links to the incident -- wrote:
The "let me finish" quip was clearly Bush talking to probably Rove in
his earpiece -- saying let me finish before you give me the next
answer....My guess is that it's an implant, not something stuck in his
Not much to go on, but now come several newer blogs that pick up the
story, and supply more information.
OTHER SUSPICIOUS ADDRESSES
Xymphora links to three previous occasions when there were similar
suspicions expressed by observers of Bush speaking in public. Two of them
seem worthy of more discussion.
Digby, who provides links to two more suspicious interviews, thinks it
was Karen Hughes, not Rove, talking to Bush via some sort of link-up.
Digby's blog links to a
photo taken from behind Bush that shows a definite bulge under his
jacket midway up his back. (Note: According to the accord signed by Bush and
Kerry, there were to be no camera shots from behind the candidates. Another
rule broken by the Fox cameramen. Sort of like Bush unfolding a "cheat
sheet" on the lectern, also a violation of the rules. Did Kerry do the same?
I'm not sure.)
Kevin Drum writes:
The hard evidence for this is approximately zero, but it did bring back
memories of an odd incident a few months ago: Bush was at a press
conference with Jacques Chirac and really was wearing an earpiece, and it
appeared that his responses to questions were being fed to him a few
moments before the words came out of his mouth. You could hear it on every
network that carried the event.
(For more on this Chirac press conference -- including an alternate
explanation: TV reporters do something similar in preparing their reports --
see E Bradlee's entry on
Daily Kos: "I was watching CNN when all of a sudden, I heard
another voice speaking Bush's pre-scripted lines before he did. That's right
-- the other voice would be heard BEFORE Bush's voice. What was that? I
thought at the time that that may have been done to give translators a head
start on the President's words. Later, I had a call from a reader in Germany
who told me she heard the same thing on CNN International, including that
same voice telling Bush what journalists to call on before he did. We have
never heard that before. She asked: 'Is someone controlling the president
like a ventriloquist?'")
And for even more weirdness, there's the mystery of the strange lump in
the back of his jacket. It's been there before at press conferences, and
it was there again at the debate. What is it? Weird, weird, weird. But I'm
sure there's a good explanation that doesn't involve tinfoil hats.
There may be a perfectly legitimate explanation for that bulge; perhaps
both Kerry and Bush were wearing body armor, or both were body-miked so that
their remarks could be understood more clearly by the transcribers. Some
enterprising reporter needs to ask Kerry if he was wearing body armor or was
body-miked, or ask the sound people who engineered the debate if both
candidates were miked. Or ask Bush's press secretary Scott McLellan what
Bush had on his back. A clear, logical answer would remove all this rumor
We'll know a lot more if we can get those answers. Let's see if the White
House responds cooperatively or overreacts in denial. Stay tuned.
CONDI RICE STILL TELLING LIES
Time is no friend to Bush when it comes to Iraq. With less than a month to
go before Election Day, the
New York Times story -- about top Administration officials having been
warned that the aluminum rods were most likely designed not for a nuclear
centrifuge but for other purposes -- raised more questions about the
unqualified remarks by Bush and Cheney and Rice in the run-up to the war.
Instead, Congress and the American people were told time and time again
about Iraq's "active" nuclear program and the prospect of "mushroom clouds"
over major American cities -- all this in order to frighten and gain
approval for Bush's rush to war.
Rice, who appeared on several Sunday talk shows to refute the Times story,
got herself caught up in a circle-the-wagons coverup of lies about that
Times report. Ever notice that Rice gets a nervous quaver in her voice when
she's trapped and telling tall tales? Here's what Bob Somerby at
The Daily Howler writes, with
emphasis supplied by him:
As usual, Rice didn't know. On yesterday's Late Edition,
Wolf Blitzer asked Darling Condi about an unpleasant, detailed report in
that morning's New York Times:
BLITZER (10/3/04): Let's get to one final thing. It's in The New York
Times today. On this program, almost exactly two years ago [on 9/8/02],
we were talking about those aluminum tubes that the Iraqis were getting,
and you said this on Late Edition. Listen to this:
RICE (videotape): We do know that there have been shipments going into
Iran, for instance -- into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that
really are only suited to -- high-quality aluminum tubes that are
only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge
BLITZER: Now, in the New York Times today, they say that, at that time,
for a year you already knew the Department of Energy and others
in the U.S. government were suggesting they probably were being used for
small artillery rockets or other purposes, that it was a debate that was
[Sombery continues:] We've discussed this topic for the past sixteen
months. In September 2002, in the lead-up to war, Rice told Blitzer that
those aluminum tubes could 'only' be used for nuclear weapons. But that
wasn't that actual state of the intelligence, as the New Republic
reported, in a detailed study, all the way back in June 2003 (see
The Daily Howler,
6/24/03) Why, then, had Condi said otherwise? Yesterday, finally,
Blitzer asked. And he got her usual answer. As usual, Rice didn't know:
RICE (continuing directly): Well, at that time, when I came on your show,
I knew there was some debate out there. But I tell you, I did not know
the nature of the debate. We learned later, as we were going through the
NIE, the Department of Energy's objections.
[Somerby:] Of course, that's not what yesterday's Times report says. And
it's not what experts told TNR way back in June 2003.
But then, does Condi Rice ever know anything? According to the White
House, she didn't know about objections to the uranium-from-Africa
story because she hadn't read the whole National Intelligence Estimate!
And in May 2002, she said she hadn't known that terrorists might
use airplanes as missiles -- even though intelligence agencies has issued
such warnings for years. Now, she says she didn't know something
else -- she didn't know the state of a critical, year-long discussion
about those aluminum tubes. I didn't know, Rice told Blitzer. And
she was singing a sweet old refrain. Does Condi Rice ever know anything?
...But the Times seems to say that Rice did know. And the New Republic had
said the same thing. And finally, sixteen months after that first report,
two Sunday hosts dared to ask her about it. But alas, they got a standard
reply. As always, Condi Rice just didn't know. But then, does Rice ever
FRIEDMAN RAGES, STOPS SHORT
Thomas L. Friedman, who has been absent for several key months from the
op-ed pages of the New York Times, is back and
lays the wood to Bush for the thoroughly incompetent botch he's made of
Iraq. The pro-war columnist can't bring himself to say he's had enough of
these guys and they aren't worthy of anyone's electoral support, but he
comes as close to that line as he can without stepping over:
This war has been hugely mismanaged by this administration, in the face
of clear advice to the contrary at every stage, and as a result the range
of decent outcomes in Iraq has been narrowed and the tools we have to
bring even those about are more limited than ever. What happened?
The Bush team got its doctrines mixed up: it applied the Powell Doctrine
to the campaign against John Kerry -- 'overwhelming force' without mercy,
based on a strategy of shock and awe at the Republican convention,
followed by a propaganda blitz that got its message across in every
possible way, including through distortion.
If only the Bush team had gone after the remnants of Saddam's army in the
Sunni Triangle with the brutal efficiency it has gone after Senator Kerry
in the Iowa-Ohio-Michigan triangle. If only the Bush team had spoken to
Iraqis and Arabs with as clear a message as it did to the Republican base.
No, alas, while the Bush people applied the Powell Doctrine in the
Midwest, they applied the Rumsfeld Doctrine in the Middle East.
And the Rumsfeld Doctrine is: 'Just enough troops to lose.' Donald
Rumsfeld tried to prove that a small, mobile army was all that was needed
to topple Saddam, without realizing that such a limited force could never
stabilize Iraq. He never thought it would have to. He thought his Iraqi
pals would do it. He was wrong....Each time the Bush team had to choose
between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its
political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology...
TIME FOR POLITICS, NOT SILENCE
Given Friedman's extremely harsh attack on Bush policy,
Rosenberg raised the following question:
So, obviously, Bush must go, right?
No, I'm afraid Friedman's conclusion is as follows: "We're in trouble in
Iraq. We have to immediately get the Democratic and Republican politics
out of this policy and start honestly reassessing what is the maximum we
can still achieve there and what every American is going to have to do to
make it happen. If we do not, we'll end up not only with a fractured Iraq,
but with a fractured America, at war with itself and isolated from the
I'm sorry, but this makes no sense. America is already deeply fractured --
just look at the polls, or talk to your neighbors; at war with itself --
look at how insanely close this election is likely to be; and isolated
from the world. The nation's leaders gave Bush bipartisanship in the days
after 9/11, and again in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and Bush abused and
insulted those foolish enough to think he is actually the "uniter" he once
claimed to be.
There are just about 30 days to the presidential election. Politics
cannot, will not, should not stop at such a moment. Anyone who believes
all the points Friedman makes in his column has no choice but to demand
that Bush be booted out of office. Why can't Friedman bring himself to say
Time after time in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, we were subjected
to the spectacle of this columnist -- who'd made an agonizing-in-public
call to support the war, but only if it was pursued in certain carefully
defined ways -- wringing his hands: "Bush said he was going to turn Iraq
into a beacon of democracy. Why isn't he doing all the things he promised
to make that happen? Time is running out!"
At this late date, I fail to understand how Friedman thinks there is even
an iota of possibility that Bush might suddenly wake up, alter course and
salvage something out of his Iraq mess. Perhaps it is just desperately
wishful thinking, an involuntary reaction to the awful pit-of-the-stomach
queasiness of contemplating just how far off track Bush has led this
GILLIARD'S TAKE ON FRIEDMAN
Gilliard carries the Friedman charge right to the chief warmonger:
The WH [White House] would be well to understand that if Tom Friedman
jumped off the liberate-Iraq boat, that fucker is sinking.
And for once, he puts it correctly, it's about the myriad of bad choices
Bush has made in the service of politics. Many people jumped on the Dems
for supporting Bush, but it was Bush who betrayed nearly a half-century of
bipartisan foreign policy. No President used war as an ideological litmus
test. If you were for Iraq, you were loyal. If not, you had betrayed Bush
and by extension, America.
Every mistake which occurred in Iraq has been driven by politics. The
absolutely immature way the CPA was chosen. People too stupid to be hired
by the Heritage Foundation were, instead, hired by the CPA to run a
nation. People barely out of their teens were building the structure of a
nation, without the advice or consent of the people living there. It
wasn't just the robbery, rape and random shootings, but the imposition of
an alien economic ideology which sent the country into a spiral of
Bush and the neocons wanted to remake Iraq into their ideological
laboratory, forgetting that strikes in Iraq are conducted by ambush and
Friedman should have seen this coming. But I suspect John Edwards will use
this paragraph as the basis of his attack on President Cheney on Tuesday.
Because it is not only concise and to the point, but true.
KERRY PICKING UP KEY SUPPORTERS
Let's close on good news. The race is tightening, with solid momentum for
Kerry nationally, and ahead in more key states like New Jersey.
Ike's son John Eisenhower announced he's voting for Kerry.
Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee says he won't be voting for Bush,
even though he can't bring himself to support Kerry. (See Ernest Partridge's
"A Question of
Loyalty"). Kerry is starting to pick up more major newspaper
endorsements; you know about last week's stinging one from Bush's hometown
Lone Star Iconoclast; this week, major papers in Michigan and Arizona
are expected to endorse the Democratic candidate.
Finally, for more good news, check out
Kall's "Post-Debate: Canvassing Door to Door, Finding Republicans with More
Loyalty to America Than their Party,", a surprising report on what
happened when OpEdNews editor Rob Kall went canvassing in Republican
neighborhoods in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
October 7, 2004
President Cheney Meets Senator Edwards
Friday's second presidential debate -- in a town-hall setting that will not
test Bush as much as last week's more formal structure -- is the main event,
of course, but Tuesday's Cheney-Edwards slugfest deserves some commentary
before it disappears down the memory hole. So, some quick takes:
*The job of V.P. candidates in a debate is to shore up their respective
Big Dog's record, performance and possible misstatements. Edwards did this
in spades for Kerry, perhaps too much so. Cheney barely mentioned his
running mate, and certainly did not want to refer, even by inference, to
Bush's embarrassingly awful presentation at last week's presidential debate.
Instead, Cheney inadvertently demonstrated what Washington insiders knew all
along: that he is the acting president. As was woefully evident last week,
Bush is the front man -- and a rather incompetent one at that -- for the
powerful forces that stand behind him. Cheney is the mover-and-shaker in
that regard -- ideologically rabid and rigid, mean and dismissive of anyone
who crosses him, and a pathological liar.
Even on small things, Cheney couldn't stop himself from lying. He claimed to
preside over the Senate regularly; he's done so twice in four years. He
claimed Edwards' "hometown newspaper" criticized the senator; it's not in
his hometown and it's a partisan weekly, not a daily newspaper. He claims
not to have ever met Edwards before; they've been together at least three
documented times, with photos and video to prove it. What is Cheney smoking?
*Edwards is expansive, open, relates to people well, and it showed in his
body language, even while seated at a table. Cheney, the ultimate eminence grise, who prefers to rule from the shadows, was hunched over
in his seat and directed most of his remarks to his lap. By the last third
of the 90-minute debate, he clearly had run out of gas, and was hunched over
even more. Weird and off-putting.
This disconnection from the debates seems to be a Republican malady
that's affected both Bush and Cheney (and the former President Bush, during
one of his debates). The impression they exude is that they really don't
want to be there; they see themselves as privileged royalty, as it were, and
this democratic nonsense of having to appear in public to answer questions
about their policies is grudgingly agreed-to but they find it demeaning, and
They know what the truth is, their policies are the correct ones, so why on
earth do they have to abide this public torture? They just want to get out
of there and get back to ruling and looting and winning elections by
whatever shady means are necessary.
New "GLOBAL War on Terror"
* Have you noticed that the "war on terror" has morphed, with no note taken
of it, into the "global war on terror"? Doesn't seem a big difference until
you realize how Bush & Cheney, and their surrogates, have realized how awful
they are doing on the Iraq disaster. So, with this new language, they try to
tie Iraq tighter into the "global war on terror," to continue to confuse the
issue of how and why they rushed the U.S. to war against a country that was
not interested in or capable of launching terrorist attacks against us.
That's why Edwards kept pounding Cheney on the lack of a link between either
Iraq and 9/11 or Iraq and al-Qaida. But Edwards missed several chances in
this regard to absolutely demolish Cheney. For example, Edwards could have
been more explicit in responding to Cheney's biggest lie of the night, that
he's "never suggested" a link between Iraq and 9/11.
Edwards should have been prepared for that one, and thrown back in his face
the actual Cheney quotes of such conflation, and there are scads of them.
And he should have referred more to the most recent charges -- it was almost
as if Edwards had been prepping so hard that he didn't read the
reports by Bremer ("We never had enough troops on the
ground"), Rumsfeld ("To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard
evidence that links" Iraq and Al-Qaeda) ), and to the ##report
by the Administration's own Iraq Survey Group that there were and are no
WMD in Iraq, and that Saddam's regime posed a "diminishing risk," not an
GOING FOR HALLIBURTON JUGULAR
* Edwards went for the jugular early by zeroing in on Cheney and
Halliburton, and the shady practices that went on in that company while
Cheney was CEO, including doing business with outlaw terrorist states Iran
and Libya for no good reason other than greed.
Cheney was at a loss for how to combat these charges -- "I don't know where
to start," and, by and large, he never did -- and was reduced to scolding
Edwards for his poor Senate attendance records. For Halliburton facts, he
urged viewers to go to a fact-checking website -- which, it turns out, takes
one to a site run by Bush-nemesis George Soros! Now, that is funny! (Cheney
said factcheck.com when he meant factcheck.org .)
Having such success with his CEO gambit, Edwards returned to the Halliburton
sleaze several other times, with Cheney more or less trying to ignore the
entire issue in hopes that it would simply disappear. Fat chance. We can be
sure that more on this scandal will be popping up in the final weeks of the
* Speaking of ignoring issues, both candidates had no idea how to respond to
moderator Gwen Ifill's question about the striking rise of AIDS in
African-American women; instead, each pushed a mental computer button and
delivered their AIDS-in-Africa sound bites. Obvious and sad.
GAY MARRIAGE RED MEAT
* Ifill brought up the gay-marriage issue (even a second time, for no good
reason). Edwards botched it, never talking explicitly about the prejudice
behind the anti-gay rights issue, and then played to the fear-crowd by
saying he opposed such unions. Cheney behaved as if the issue was so
radioactive, he didn't want any part of it, and didn't even use up his time
with a response.
* Edwards slobbered all over Israel and offered nothing to the Palestinians.
Cheney reminded folks that the Bush Administration had called for the
establishment of a Palestinian state. Point to Cheney, even though
Administration policy in the Middle East amounts to approving of Israel
dumping gasoline on an open fire.
* Cheney had no answer for what to do about the rise in poverty figures (not
surprising, since in some ways he feels it's their fault for being poor), so
he spent his answer time talking about Bush's "no-child-left-behind"
education program. Edwards zinged him for ignoring the question.
* Cheney mentioned as a positive the Bush Administration's Medicare
discount-card for prescription drugs. Edwards never countered by noting that
seniors are avoiding the program like the plague, since the supposed
discounts are not there because the drug companies first jacked up the
prices to keep their profits stable. (Ifill didn't make health care costs
one of her questions, so Edwards had to slip in the issue inelegantly at the
last moment, and thus wasn't as effective.)
JABS, HOOKS, NO KNOCKDOWN
* Edwards responded to Cheney jumping on trial lawyers by announcing an
intelligent plan to vet cases before they can make their way into court, to
keep out frivolous lawsuits that result in higher medical-malpractice
insurance for doctors. First-rate!
* And, finally, of course, Edwards walked all over Cheney on the disaster
that is the Iraq War. That topic dominated the first half of the debate, and
Cheney's in-denial, rosy scenario was in sharp contrast to Edwards' more
realistic appraisal. But, once again, Edwards did not cite many specifics,
relying on what "we all see on our TV at night." A missed opportunity.
In general, Edwards handled himself OK -- and on certain issues really
strongly -- and thus kept the Democratic momentum going. But he could have
cornered a defensive Cheney even more on occasion by playing his own words
back at him, and didn't. Nod goes to Edwards by a TKO, but it should have
been a knockout.
THIRD RAIL ISSUE: THE DRAFT
One subject never mentioned in the Cheney-Edwards debate was the red-hot
issue of re-instituting the military draft.
The Bush Campaign was so terrified that the growing traction of the issue in
the public mind might do them electoral harm that, without hearings or
testimony, they demanded an immediate vote in the House Tuesday, in order to
get the draft issue off the table.
The GOP complied and the bill on reinstituting the draft was easily
defeated. But the haste and panic with which all this was arranged could
make voters wonder whether the Republicans "doth protest too much" about
having no plans in the works.
The right-wing, much-decorated colonel
David Hackworth thinks the draft will be coming back, has to come back,
vote or no vote. The U.S. military is simply stretched too thin for its
tasks -- and who knows what other war plans Bush&Co. might have? He
concludes that "the draft -- which will include both boys and girls this
time around -- is a no-brainer in '05 and '06."
CHENEY'S FLAWED DEBATE STRATEGY
Steve Gilliard has a devastating analysis of the Cheney-Edwards debate.
It's a long, insightful piece. Here are his concluding remarks:
The last exchange [about medical malpractice lawsuits], more than any
other, exemplified the difference between the two men. Cheney cared more
about the doctors and small businessmen, while Edwards cared more about
their victims. While Cheney tried to seem human, for a moment, Edwards was
connecting with the audience over and over, trashing Cheney in subtle,
effective ways which harped on the simple concept: Believe what you see,
not what he says. Not on Iraq, on Afghanistan or lawyers. Edwards showed
time and again that Cheney was the out of touch boss who had zero sympathy
for you and your problems.
It's not that Cheney lost badly as much as Cheney was blown away by a
flawed debate strategy and his unyielding arrogance. Only an arrogant man
could be called a liar over and over and not respond.
Edwards' last response was a breath of candor compared to Cheney. He
wasn't stupid enough to defend greedy lawyers, but he defined the problem
in a way most people would understand.
What I find amazing is that Cheney wasn't more willing to defend his
character. He could have done so. Instead, he let charges about his
fundamental honesty go basically unanswered. It was as close to the
Dukakis rape question as possible, but not in one stark moment, but piling
on, segment after segment, minute after minute.
There was no knockout blow and no sudden "oh shit" moment. Instead, there
was the steady drip of accusations going unanswered, which is either
arrogance or stupidity, but it doesn't help matters much, either way.
Cheney's attacks often bordered on dismissive snideness and rarely
connected, but Edwards was working the jury like the pro that he was. He
was not only more credible than Cheney, he went after Cheney's
It wasn't as bad as last week, but it was still a loss for Bush/Cheney. If
that's the best they can do in debate preparation, they might want to not
show up on Friday.
On the issue with which I led off my previous blog (see below) -- whether
Bush was "wired" at his first debate --
reminds us that there is now a website devoted solely to this issue:
www.isbushwired.com . Will be
interesting to see if Bush will be missing his back bulge at the remaining
two presidential debates. Even more scary for Rove&Co: Bush will be floating
out there without his tether!
Lambert reports at
Corrente that the Bush Administration released some more documents on
the AWOL matter -- documents that supposedly didn't exist but which now
magically just show up, thanks to a court-order -- that throw a bit more
light on the matter. Short version: The documents don't aid Bush in the
slightest. Maybe that's why the White House released them on the day of the
Edwards-Cheney debate, when that event would suck up all the media oxygen.
October 12, 2004
Waiting for Rove's Shoe to Drop
Assuming the election will be a fair and honest one, I'm cautiously
optimistic about Kerry winning on November 2 -- the Bush Campaign seems to
be imploding, as their two top candidates continue to embarrass themselves
in the debates -- but I'm nervous waiting for Karl Rove's other shoe to drop
with his promised "October surprises."
Bush and Cheney are barely adequate in their debate performances. Bush was a
thorough embarrassment at the first debate, and overcompensated to the point
of grotesquerie at times in the second one. (Will be interesting to see
which new version of Bush shows up Wednesday in Arizona, and whether he'll
continue wearing the back-bulge.) Cheney was so dismissive of the process in
his debate that you thought he might just get up and leave rather than have
to sit through more of these affronts to his authority.
So the question is: If Bush&Cheney don't feel they have to give their all in
the debates -- come prepared, stop the obvious lying, engage seriously on
the issues, and so on -- they must know that Unka Karl is going to pull it
out for them, so it doesn't really matter how they do. In this scenario, all
they have to do is show up and play to their HardRight/fundamentalist base,
maybe 35-45% of likely voters; they'll get the rest of the votes in other
With Diebold computer-voting machines being used in the toss-up states like
Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Florida, maybe they figure they can
count on those electoral votes. A little fiddling here and diddling there,
and the election is in the bag.
THROWING FRIGHT GRENADES
With Ridge and Ashcroft launching more and more fright bombs into the public
mind -- the terrorist boogeymen are coming to attack your kids in their
schools, or on public ferries, or at your voting precincts -- the hope is
that the old 9/11 national trauma will be re-activated. Public fear will,
they assume, work to the benefit of Bush.
(But the American public may be catching on to the endless litany of terror
warnings based on "credible" threats that, surprise, never materialize. The
school threat is a good example: It led all news media when the
Administration announced it -- all over the networks and the front pages --
but, sure enough, two days later, the CIA and FBI reveal that there was
nothing to it: The reason the Iraqi had the school maps on his computer was
because he's a legitimate educator who was researching the physical layouts
of good schools in the U.S. in order to plan for new schools in his own
country. Naturally, though, that corrective version never got the same
attention as the original scare story.)
It's all politics, all the time.
John DiIulio told us that way back in 2002. The former Bush
Administration official resigned and complained that, in the White House,
there was precious little, if any, discussion of the public welfare; rather
everything was directed by the Roves and Cheneys for the purpose of staying
So we shouldn't be surprised that the Bush Administration has
postponed major military operations in Iraq until after November 2.
Regardless of what's happening on the ground that could endanger our troops,
nothing must interfere with trying to get that disastrous war off the front
pages for the next three weeks. After that, it's full steam ahead in Iraq,
and elsewhere, whether Bush wins or loses. And the movement toward
instituting at least
a skill-set military draft, and maybe a full-scale draft, will be back
on the table.
ALL KINDS OF "SURPRISES"
So what other "October surprises" might Rove have in store for the American
body politic? Certainly we can count on the "usual": knocking thousands off
the voting rolls, making it difficult for urban minorities to get
tying up Democratic phone lines on or near Election Day to demolish
their get-out-the-vote push, intimidating and confusing many rural elderly
voters, sliming Kerry with more sleaze and innuendo,
inundating the airwaves with phony "news reports" and out-and-out
propaganda, a la Sinclair Broadcasting's showing the anti-Kerry movie on its
62 stations nationwide. But what else might Rove have up his sleeve?
Could it be that Cheney will have a "heart episode," and have to withdraw
from the ticket, forcing a delay of the vote? Might Israel bomb Iran's
nuclear facilities, with U.S. assistance, to "defend America's national
How about a major Ashcroft announcement that a dozen Arabs, here on expired
visas, have been arrested just prior to launching a "9/11-type attack on
major buildings" in New York and San Francisco? The Bush Administration got
them; we know how to handle terrorists, stick with us. (The Arabs, of
course, will be released months later, after the election, for "lack of
Or, if none of these measures brings up Bush's numbers prior to the vote,
declare a State of Emergency -- due to an "imminent" al-Qaida terror attack
-- and "postpone" the election.
Those are just the ones I've thought of. No doubt, Rove has even more
creative schemes up his sleeve. Stay tuned.
WHAT IS THE "WAR ON TERROR"?
Don's miss this super blog essay by Prof. Juan Cole,
"How Would Cheney Complete the "War on Terror"?" Here are
I have to confess that I have never understood what Bush and Cheney
mean by the "war on terror," either. It is because they use the term in
alarmingly vague and comprehensive ways.
It is clear that they do not mean a war on "terror." They are completely
uninterested in "terror" in general. What has the United States done about
Basque terrorism in Spain? About Israeli settler terror against
Palestinians? Or for that matter about Hamas terror against Israel? As I
argued Friday, Bush hasn't even bothered to do anything serious to Ayman
al-Zawahiri and al-Jihad al-Islami, which was part of the 9/11 attack and
James Woolsey and John Podhoretz have suggested that the US enter a World
War IV against the Muslim world. While this is a nice daydream for the
American Likud, it has the disadvantage of bearing no relationship to the
Almost all the governments in the Muslim world are strong allies of the
United States. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE,
Bahrain, Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, etc., etc. Even Libya has at least
correct relations with the US now. Virtually no Muslim government is in an
active posture of enmity toward the US with no qualifications. Even Iran
is divided on the issue.
So the US simply is not at war with the sultan of Morocco or the king of
Jordan or the president of Egypt.
The publics of the Muslim world have a poor opinion of US policy in the
region, especially the extreme bias in favor of Israeli expansionism
against the Palestinians, and the disaster in Iraq. But the same Muslim
publics admire America and Americans on other grounds, and express more
support for democracy than does the US public in similar polls.
So if the Bush administration is not at war with terrorists like ETA, not
at war with Muslim governments, not at war with Muslim publics, then with
whom exactly is it at war, and why?
Bush and Cheney are cynically using the trauma of September 11 as a
pretext to fight a series of elective wars against weak governments that
are inconvenient for hawkish goals and some US corporate interests. Iraq
was a poster child of this policy. It had no weapons of mass destruction,
was ramshackle, and had no significant ties to terrorism. It was invented
as a dire threat to Peoria by Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch, the latter-day
Wizards of Oz.
PLIANT OIL PUPPETS
Syria's government acts as a break on Israeli expansionism and
hegemony, and the Bush-Sharon axis would like to overthrow it. Syria poses
no threat at all to the US, and is only a minor irritant to the Likud
Party.... Bush and Cheney would like to overthrow the government of Iran.
This is not because poor, weak Iran is a threat to the US. It is not
because Iran may want a nuclear capacity, like that of its neighbors -
Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India, etc. It is because it is a major
petroleum producer and they want to get their hands on its resources and
install a pliant puppet regime there.
The scenario of Cheney, whereby "terrorist groups" get nuclear weapons, is
at the moment ridiculous. Terrorist groups do not have the capability to
build football-arena size facilities to enrich uranium. And contrary to
what Cheney keeps alleging, no government is going to give a terrorist
group an atomic bomb. Governments with atomic bombs don't like to share
with civilians, for fear of their own safety.
The "war on terror" of Bush-Cheney is a smokescreen for naked American
In actual fact, al-Qaeda is just a somewhat more successful version of
Baader Meinhoff. It is a small terrorist group that has been created by a
particular juncture in history. It is not a reason to abolish the US Bill
of Rights, as Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft are doing. It is not a reason to
invade three or four countries (precisely the few countries where it does
not operate!) It is a nuisance to a free society, and should be curbed.
Bush and Cheney keep shouting that Kerry doesn't understand the war on
terror. They mean he doesn't want to overthrow the governments of Syria
and Iran. As for themselves, if the war on terror is so important to them,
why are Bin Laden and Zawahiri at large? Why can al-Qaeda still strike at
will? We now have the worst of both worlds, with a quagmire in Iraq and
Palestine, and more quagmires planned, while al-Qaeda morphs and grows and
continues to form a threat.
Finally, a reminder to surf around the blogosphere regularly. For good
places to start with, visit our
October 14, 2004
LOTS OF BODY BLOWS, NO KNOCKOUT
Kerry won on points in terms of debating skills and factual exposition. But
in terms of convincing Undecideds, I'm not sure who won. We'll have to wait
and see; many Undecideds may have been looking for the guy who would throw a
knockout punch, but there weren't any at the final debate.
Thankfully, someone adjusted Bush's meds, and in this debate he was much
more in control of his limited energies, straining at his anger leash but
basically keeping himself in check, except for those horrible smirks and
shit-eating grins. (Inexplicably, he seems to be developing a Cheney-like,
side-of-his-mouth way of speaking.)
Bush seemed energized in the first third to half of the debate -- clearly,
this was his best outing -- but, as with Cheney in the veep debate, appeared
to run out of gas in the last third. Kerry, as is his style, remained
focused and "presidential" throughout.
Kerry was the wonk-meister, Bush Mr. Frat Boy Likeable -- though his
attempts at humor were unusually lame. It's anybody's guess whether the
Undecideds go for content or personality.
If the Undecideds were waiting to hear the candidates' positions and
approaches to health care and jobs and taxes, Kerry should have won them
over. From Kerry, they heard compassion and programs; from Bush, they got
evasion and conservative speechifying.
BUSH RETREATS TO HIS SAFE PLACE
The most telling thing I noted was that whenever Bush felt somewhat trapped
and didn't know where to go, he headed straight for his No Child Left Behind
education program, and riffed on that for awhile.
The most embarrassing moment for Bush came when he was asked to imagine a
person out of a job, what would the President say to him? After a bit of
stumbling around, Bush once again headed straight for the No Child Left
Behind corral -- as if 40-something employees recently laid off, and trying
to feed their families, were supposed to feel comforted that nine-year-olds
were learning how to take standardized tests better.
The other telling moments for me -- and these may play very potently with
Undecideds -- was when Bush talked about his faith, and the impact of the
women in his life. I think we got the real Bush right there: He would be
utterly and absolutely lost without both. His religious faith provides all
the answers he feels he needs to govern -- don't bother me with reality, my
mind's made up -- and his wife provides the emotional support he requires.
He doesn't need anything else -- well, maybe Rove and Cheney to wind him up
and push him in the right directions.
Bush committed several major-minor gaffes -- whether they were conscious
lies, I'm not sure. Bush is caught up in so many misstatements and
deceptions, he may just get confused about what is and is not true anymore.
WHERE'S THE ELUSIVE OSAMA?
The first came when Kerry reminded him that after first saying he was going
to get Osama "dead or alive," Bush lost interest in the head terrorist and
switched his attention and forces to Iraq; Bush, said Kerry, then claimed
Osama wasn't really that important anymore. Bush guffawed and denied he ever
said anything like that. But Kerry was correct, and you can be sure you'll
see the original statement run again and again on TV.
Here that money quote, from a March 2003 press conference:
don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him,
Kelly, to be honest with you. . . . I truly am not that concerned about
The other was claiming that "the veterans" know that they get great care at
VA Hospitals. Too many veterans know just the opposite, that too often the
care is lousy and they have to wait months for their treatment anyway. For a
good summing up on that veterans' question, check out
live-blogging of the debate's first hour.
As in the Veep debate -- when both Cheney and Edwards revealed they hadn't
the foggiest idea that AIDS is running rampant among African-American women
-- both Bush and Kerry danced all around Bob Schieffer's question about why
'flu vaccine was in such short supply. Bush blamed his one true ally, the
Brits. Kerry slip-slided away into a health-care discussion.
ABORTION, THE COURT, AND GAYS
Each of the two took controversial positions that could potentially come
back to bite them. Bush came out foursquare against abortion, so much so
that it was impossible to believe that he would not impose a "litmus test"
for his a appointments to the Supreme Court on this issue; Kerry said he
would indeed apply such a test, not nominating anybody who would vote to
reverse the court's Roe v. Wade decision. (Kerry also made it a point
several times to focus on "women's issues," and did so quite cogently.)
On gay marriage, Bush asserted that a constitutional amendment was necessary
to protect the "sanctity" of marriage; Kerry agreed that a woman/man
combination was his preference, but he expressed great compassion and
understanding, and said that men and women were born homosexual and it was
not a choice.
The scariest moment for me was hearing Bush admit, for the first time
openly, that his religious faith helps determine his foreign/military
policy. If he truly believes, as he said, that God "wants everybody to be
free," and as he said previously that God speaks through him, then it is his
godly duty to smite the heathens and bring democracy to them, whether they
want it or not. No accident that he used the term "crusade" when going into
Afghanistan. This is truly frightening rhetoric -- and he seems to believe
it to his core.
I'm writing this late Wednesday night, still a bit too early to hear
anything but partisan spin, but some early blogs, in addition to the Kos one
above, are well worth reading.
For example, see
Matthew Yglesias' "Kerry 52, Bush 39".
And don't miss
Josh Marshall's take on the debate, where he declares it a virtual draw
and concludes, with a solid argument, that Kerry therefore is the winner.
All for now. We'll wait and see what the weekend polls show in the swing
states, especially among Undecided voters. My gut tells me we should see a
slight, and then increasingly growing, Kerry momentum in the next week.
Which he's going to need after Rove's "October Surprise" -- the showing next
week of the anti-Kerry propaganda documentary on 62 Sinclair stations
October 19, 2004
Rove's Dirty-Tricks & Our "November Surprise"
OK, so now we have a better idea of Karl Rove's "October Surprises." Let's
examine those, and then let's get ready to dump a "November Surprise" on him
on Election Day -- a stunning Electoral College victory, a landslide so
overwhelming that post-election legal (and illegal) maneuvers by the Bush
Campaign will be made moot.
Though it's a bit surprising, it appears that Karl Rove's "October
Surprises" amount to little more than the same old dirty-tricks campaigning
he's famous for in close races:
Smearing your opponents with lies and character-assassination attacks (here
it's Sinclair Broadcasting running a 44-minute attack ad for free on 62 TV
stations nationwide, and claiming it's "news"), not providing enough ballots
in inner-city polling places, maligning your own candidate with despicable
flyers supposedly printed by the opposition, last-minute rumors and lies
that are difficult to respond to adequately in the limited time left, sleazy
whispering and push-poll campaigns, tying-up the opposition's
get-out-the-vote phone banks on Election Day, purging lists of thousands of
minority voters, intimidating elderly rural voters (especially minority
ones), helping new registrants sign up to vote and then destroying their
applications, sudden switching of polling precincts, etc. etc.
All of the above have been hauled out by Republicans around the country, or
were used in the 2000 campaign. For a mostly current dirty-tricks sampler,
THE DISAPPEARING VANS TRICK
Here's one that I hadn't heard of before (passed my way from sources I
trust) -- and, as with most of those mentioned above, designed to "suppress"
inner city, mainly minority, voting:
Kerry's get-out-the-vote folks in Pittsburgh had rented in advance about 400
vans in which they planned to transport Democratic voters who needed rides
to the polls. About 60 of those vans had been rented through a major
national outfit. The agent who had arranged the rental was very helpful and
seemed supportive of the Kerry GOTV cause.
But he called back the other day and, embarrassed and crestfallen, said that
"another group" had rented those 60 vans -- there was, he claimed, some
"computer" mistake -- and their order took precedence. Who is this other
group? the Kerry guy asked. The agent said he couldn't reveal that
information, but it was arranged by a man named "R-R-R-Rex," he said,
emphasizing the R. The Kerry guy got the message, that the
"R-R-R-Republican" Party had exercised its clout, to keep the Dems from
having the vans they need to get their troops out to vote.
These are small annoyances, but you add up those little dirty tricks --
ballots that don't show up at the polling places, or voters provided the
wrong locations and sometimes even the wrong date for voting, etc. -- and
you're talking thousands of votes, enough in tight elections to throw the
race to one candidate or another.
So, if the Bush Campaign has no legitimate leg to stand on -- no record to
boast of, no positive vision of the future, no plans for Iraq, etc. -- it's
clear that the thrust of the Rove campaign is simply to slime and connive,
while it shores up its HardRight conservative base. It will use any lie or
distortion it can get its hands on -- and pound its theme of terror-fright
to keep middle-of-the-road voters from defecting to the Democrats.
PLAYING THE "HOMOSEXUAL" CARD
So, for example, right now it's playing the "homosexual" card, but with a
spin. The GOP pundits and media whores are attacking Kerry for mentioning
Mary Cheney's lesbian status at the final debate, as if he violated all
rules of good manners by so doing. It's all so silly, since Dick Cheney
himself is the one who first "outed" his daughter in this campaign -- and,
at his vice-presidential debate, he even thanked John Edwards for his
comments about how he and Mrs. Cheney were handling the matter. And what
Senator Kerry said at his debate with Bush was most supportive of Mary
Cheney and the exact opposite of insulting.
But merely by raising the "homosexual" flag as a means to beat Kerry
senseless with his alleged desecration of "family values," Rove is hoping
that the Republican base might be energized and confused enough to throw a
few more votes Bush's way.
Another oddity is that by expressing anger at Kerry for mentioning their
daughter's lesbian status, the Cheneys get to play it both ways -- as if
there is something "shameful" about their daughter's sexual nature, even
though she's been known, and has functioned, as a proud lesbian for years.
Anyway, you get the idea. Get votes anyway you can, because this race, the
Republicans believe, is going to be a close one and they need all the "red"
states they can amass.
UNKNOWN EFFECT OF LATE REGISTRANTS
No doubt, Bush will win big or not-so-big-as-in-2000 in a goodly number of
states where he did well previously. But Kerry, as recent polls show, is
closing quickly in other areas, and is even ahead in a growing number of
vital, up-for-grabs states. Plus, several hundred thousand new voters have
registered at the last minute in many toss-up states, most of those
resulting from big-city voting drives, which could add to Kerry's chances.
So, Rove and BushCheney may very well get an unpleasant "November Surprise"
smacking them in the kisser come Election Night.
The lesson for us is not to get cocky, not to slack off, not to assume that
those you registered will show up to vote, etc. We have our last-minute work
cut out for us. Let's get it done.
THE DRAFT ISSUE WON'T DIE
Kerry is getting smacked around a bit by GOP-leaning pundits and journalists
for deigning to raise the military-draft issue. How dare he? Doesn't he
realize that Bush has denied any interest in re-instituting the draft? (As
if anybody should believe a serial liar.)
You might want to check out
Josh Marshall's blog on the draft issue. Here are some key paragraphs:
It [the fact that the military is stretched way too thin] doesn't mean
a draft is a necessity. But it does move it into the realm of serious
policy possibilities the country has to face. This is particularly so when
our military relies on regular recruitment of reservists who until now
generally assumed that deployments in war-zones were a serious possibility
as opposed to a near certainty, as they have been for the last few years.
This is also the case since the administration has said very little about
how it will confront this challenge.
In any case, it's a very legitimate issue. And anyone who thinks seriously
about military policy issues has to see that it is one of fairly few
policy options to address a looming crisis facing the US military.
Now, the youth voter participation group Rock The Vote has been pushing
this issue recently, calling for an election-year debate on the topic in
ways you can see if you do a quick google search with their name in it.
And what has the response been from the president?
This week RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie sent the group a 'cease and desist'
letter threatening legal action against the group and raising the
possibility of seeking the revocation of the group's status as a
tax-exempt 501c3 organization if the group did not cease discussing the
...This move, if you think about it, is extraordinary. In a political
campaign there are very few forms of political speech -- judged by
content -- that should ever be subject to legal proceedings. But to
threaten legal action to squelch discussion of a subject that is obviously
a very newsworthy and relevant issue -- and one the country could face in
the next four years -- is simply astonishing.
And yet, no editorial condemnations. Hardly a mention of it. These are
now, apparently, the rules of the road -- expected and calling for no
That's even more astonishing.
BUSH RUNS FROM THE "P" WORD
Another issue that's red-hot right is Kerry's charge that Bush is moving to
privatize Social Security. Here's ##Kevin
Drum on that explosive topic:
THE SOCIAL SECURITY NON-CRISIS REVISITED
So is President Bush planning a "January Surprise" to privatize Social
Security, as John Kerry says? His spokesmen say that's nonsense:
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Bush, said Kerry lifted a "made-up" quote
from a reporter hostile to Bush "to make a false, baseless attack."
Schmidt said the president never used the word "privatized" because his
plan would not privatize the system.
The president has only endorsed allowing younger Americans to put a small
percentage of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts...
Experts say this would, in essence, partially privatize the system.
I get it. He's not going to privatize the system. He's just going to
partially privatize the system. That makes me feel better.
It's a remarkable thing. Out of all the possible problems to address in
America, Social Security is probably not even in the top ten. It's solvent
for at least the next 40 years, and possibly the next 50, even if we do
absolutely nothing. Some very minor adjustments on either the
tax or benefit side would keep it solvent forever. (For example, the
Social Security Advisory Board says that even if you addressed the problem
solely by tax increases, you'd only have to raise the current payroll tax
from 6.2% to 7.1%. That's not exactly Armageddon, but of course you don't
learn that until page 21 of this report, which on page 3 talks about
Social Security's "looming financial shortfall.")
So why do Republicans waste time pushing private accounts? Because lots of
people -- especially young people -- are convinced Social Security won't
be around by the time they retire. But why are they afraid it won't
be around? Because Republicans keep peddling scare stories about how
Social Security is heading toward bankruptcy.
It's a neat circle. It's also untrue. Republicans want private accounts
for purely ideological reasons, not because they actually solve a problem.
If Democrats and Republicans really wanted to "fix" Social Security, they
could do it in about a week of good faith effort -- and then move on to
other, more real, problems. Now that would be a campaign promise
worth listening to.
Final note on this topic: Check out
James K. Galbraith's informative article on the Social Security
BEST OF THE BLOGS
Perhaps the most provocative and important article out there this week is
Ron Suskind's long, revealing
George W. Bush, in the New York Times magazine (where Bush
demonstrates how unimportant reality is to his way of thinking. Check out
Juan Cole's fascinating dissection of a key portion of that article,
"Suskind on Bush: 'I Can Fly'." Here's a key paragraph:
The above description of the way in which China fell apart under Mao
sounds eerily like contemporary Iraq under Bush, since both situations
were produced by the same mantra. Reality doesn't matter. Power creates
reality. Suskind says that a senior Bush official told him, "We're an
empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're
studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again,
creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how
things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you,
will be left to just study what we do." This official may as well have
been quoting Mao's Little Red Book: "It is possible to accomplish any task
Also, take a peek at Robert Dreyfuss'
"Fallujah and November 2," in which he writes:
The question that we ought to be asking about the current bloody
offensive in Fallujah is: Was this offensive ordered with the November 2
vote in mind? Are hundreds of Iraqis dying just to give Bush a PR victory?
Of course, the offensive may backfire, leading to a debacle for the Bush
administration. But it seems clear that the attack was ordered to
undermine the arguments of anti-war critics (in advance of Nov. 2) that
Iraq is out of control and that the January elections can't be held. It is
a completely unnecessary attack, since the terrorist-minded Islamists in
the city were increasingly isolated from the nationalist, mostly secular
resistance groups there. Had the Bush administration followed the
Franco-German lead, and told the Iraqi government to make a deal with the
Baathist-tribal leadership coalition in Fallujah, the whole crisis could
have been resolved peacefully.
Instead, innocent civilians are being slaughtered. Over the weekend, one
family of 11 was killed, then a family of five, in their vehicles, and
dead children are being dragged out of collapsed buildings. The carnage is
creating more hatred, more resistance and more terrorists.
October 21, 2004
News from the Reality-Based Community
First a worrisome observation, then some commentary on the three major
stories of the past few days: the Sinclair Broadcasting "retreat," the
likelihood of a military draft, and Bush's plans to privatize Social
The Observation: Bush is being battered badly these days, and
whenever the focus is on Bush, it's a bad day for the Republicans' chance of
winning the presidency. Rove doesn't like having his candidate being on the
defensive, so prepare yourself: Bush is going to "make some news" to change
the focus in the final days of the election campaign.
What will that be? The blogbuzz goes from helping Israel attack Iran's nuke
facilities, to a quick in-and-out
visit to the troops in Iraq, to a full-scale assault on Fallujah -- see
here -- and then proclaiming a we're-turning-the-corner military victory
in Iraq, or, my favorite, Bush and Ashcroft arresting some Arab types for
plotting to bomb a skyscraper in a large American city, or something similar
-- see, we're protecting you from the terrorists, vote for us. (The Arabs
can be released after the election, for "lack of evidence.")
In the meantime, it's full-scale "ground war" out there on the hustings,
with all sorts of dirty tricks being pulled by Rove and his minions. See
previous blog, below, for a list of some of the most notable crimes and
misdemeanors; and see also this
new version of
The aim seems to be, if not to win the vote in those key states, to create
enough electoral mayhem that the courts will have to
out the complicated irregularities. More time to fiddle with the
results, build up legal cases, mount a PR campaign, etc. -- and hope the
Bush-appointed judges on the various courts will do what they're supposed to
do for their GOP friends.
Naturally, the conglomerate-owned media are telling their readers and
viewers very little of this situation. But the winner of the previous
election isn't hanging back; check out
dynamite speech at Georgetown the other day. Obvious question: Why
couldn't Gore have been this forceful, direct and relaxed in 2000?
SINCLAIR TRIES ANOTHER DODGE
Sinclair Broadcasting, getting battered in the pocketbook -- shares
dropping, advertisers pulling out, their CEO arrested on sex charges -- is
trying to finesse its way out of its original plan to air as "news" the
entire 44-minute attack-ad movie against John Kerry on Friday. Now, it's
saying that it will air a "documentary" about liberal political bias in
advertising and include large portions of the anti-Kerry movie in that -- so
it really will be a "news" program viewers will see.
If you believe that, you don't know much about Sinclair's history of biased
and politically-manipulative broadcasting. Clearly, the Friday airing is
designed to provide Sinclair with the fig leaf of "news" programming, which
will just happen to show significant portions of the anti-Kerry movie
shortly before Voting Day. So the campaign to stop the show is continuing.
The good news about the likely showing of the Sinclair "documentary" is that
virtually every voter in America has made up his or her mind by this time.
The bad news is that, even in this truncated and obviously partisan form, it
will do some damage to the Kerry campaign among the few Undecideds still out
For more on the Sinclair feint, check out former FCC chair
Now we see that Sinclair is not going to run the smear "documentary"
after all. Instead they are going to run something they label as news, but
which according to its current description is transparently another
criticism of the Kerry campaign. What are we to make of this new tactic?
First, by backing away from their previous plan, Sinclair is effectively
admitting either that their advertisers want them to maintain the
broadcaster tradition of providing balanced and neutral coverage of
elections ( because without that advertisers risk viewer unhappiness being
directed at the advertisers), or that Sinclair in fact may face many
regulatory problems in the event that it violates that tradition. That
much at least is progress toward some recognition of reality at Sinclair.
Second, Sinclair calling their proposed new show news does not make it
news. What in fact one may think of their broadcast can and should be
judged after the fact. But since Sinclair's relationship to objectivity,
as reflected in its press statements, is rather attenuated, one should
suppose that Sinclair's new show may well be judged just as much a smear
as the so-called documentary they apparently will no longer run. As a
result, advertisers have just as much ground to be wary, and the FCC just
as much basis to do its duty, and Sinclair just as much reason to feel the
opprobrium of an aroused public, as was the case before this current and
suspicious effort to disguise the true intentions of Sinclair.
Third, the chairman of the FCC and his White House friends have nothing to
be proud of in this imbroglio, but perhaps the American people can be
happy that notwithstanding his implicit endorsement of the Sinclair smear,
at least in the first round the public has stood up to Sinclair's
unfairness with some steadfastness and coordinated purpose. On the other
hand, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, two Democratic commissioners
at the FCC, have expressed themselves forcefully on the issue of balance
and fairness. The next step either for commissioners or the Chairman, if
he were to come to a realization of his duties, would be to investigate
immediately the applicability of equal time obligations. This must be done
in a hurry, so that if the Kerry campaign were granted equal time, that
time would come before, rather than after (!) the election. If the
Chairman won't act, then the commissioners should and could investigate
without him, and make public their own conclusions about equal time. Of
course, equal time for the Kerry campaign to reach the public served by
the Sinclair use of the public's airwaves is not only a matter of specific
regulation but also an ethical and cultural value to which any public
official is empowered to speak.
THE DRAFT ISSUE STILL WON'T GO AWAY
Bush has had to devote a lot of time and energy to the military-draft
issue. No way he wants any "security moms" or younger voters to think he
would re-start the draft. But, for a lot of good reasons, a lot of people
don't believe him, given the imperial nature of his worldwide ambition,
how thinly stretched the U.S. military is right now, and that he's a
congenital liar. The first signs indicate a
of doctors, nurses, engineers and such.
Read this from
The talk of a skills draft is nonsense. There will be a draft and the
first people to go will be working teens out of school. Wal-Mart, Home
Depot, McDonalds, all will lose those young male employees, first. They
will be unprotected from the draft. And thus the first to go in the Army.
And what will they do?
Hi ho, hi ho, to Ft. Benning you will go, just like all the other 11
Bravos. Make no mistake, the draftees will get all the fun jobs like truck
driver and combat infantryman. Also, changes in the force structure mean
that you'll have a much harder time volunteering for the Navy, Coast Guard
and Air Force. Nope, it's an 11B or 0300 (Marine Rifleman) MOS for you.
And the increase will be in infantry, MP's and Engineers. All highly
dangerous, all with high risk of injury and death.
The college kids will be next, and they may get other billets, if there is
no need for more infantry. Not that driving a truck is any safer, much
less riding along in a gun truck.
Oh, and CO status? I hope your son is nimble. He'll need it as a combat
medic. The odds are high that they will take many CO's and say "you don't
want to carry a gun, fine, patch up the 11 Bravos". All that does is make
them an infantryman without a rifle. Don't feel bad, Alvin York started
out as a CO. And he won the Medal of Honor for killing a bunch of Germans.
Middle class people need to understand something. They will not be able to
get their precious children overseas to save them. Most countries will not
take our young men and even if they did, they may never come home again.
Ever. They will face felony charges if they attempt to come back to the
US. Nigeria? They may have their own civil war there sooner rather than
The draft will be targeted towards you and your kin. Everyone else joins
the military. It's the white, middle class who a new draft would seek to
scoop up. Those townies your kids sneer at will be long gone when the
You middle class people (white, black, asian) have engaged in magical
thinking for a very long time. It's not 1968. Canada sent more people to
Vietnam than accepted as draft dodgers. They will come for your children
and then make it impossible for them to escape or effectively leave them
stateless abroad or f acing either immediate induction or a felony charge
So if you think running will solve your problems, it won't even come
If you want to stop a draft, you have to fight it now, here, not run,
because there won't be a place to run and CO status just takes the gun
from your son's hand when he's in that Infantry platoon.
SOMEONE ELSE FEELS A DRAFT
Josh Marshall likewise tells it like it is on the draft issue:
Through a mix of conscious policy and mismanagement, the White House
has gotten us to the point where another major conflict would be quite
difficult to sustain for a number of reasons. The point of a debate about
a potential draft is to weigh the consequences of those policies and that
record of mismanagement.
By making categorical statements that are false on their face -- i.e.,
there will never be a draft -- the White House is trying to avoid or cut
short that debate. And that makes sense because when you have the debate
on its merits, a draft does seem like a real possibility.
Voters have a right to know that, to understand the consequences of White
House policies and what they're not being told about them.
Perhaps the president and his advisors really believe they'll never have
to consider a draft, though I doubt it. But then this White House has a
history of making bluff, confident assertions of which reality quickly
makes a mockery. Just look at Iraq.
BUSH QUOTED ON "PRIVATIZATION"
Bush has been frantically steering away from the "P" word when it comes to
Social Security. But Kerry has been feeding
Bush's own use of the "privatization" term back to him -- and to anxious
seniors on the campaign trail:
Kerry's new offensive is based on an article Sunday in The New York
Times Magazine. In it, Bush is quoted as telling major donors at a lunch
that in his second term, he would "come out strong after my swearing-in on
fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security."
Bush can run, but he can't hide. Seniors, already anxious and cynical
about higher Medicare premium's and Bush's phony Medicare "discount" cards
-- the drug companies jack up the price and then give them a puny "discount"
-- are examining Bush's words about Social Security more carefully now. And
they're aided by
BUSH AIDS MUSLIM EXTREMISTS
Bush is so desperate to get the Iraq issue out of the daily news cycle that
he even said he'd be willing to accept an Islamist Iraqi government, if it
came to that.
Juan Cole, skewers the GOP candidate on that claim:
Really, the president cannot help patronizing the Iraqis. A while ago
he talked about them taking off their "training wheels," as though
high-powered Iraqi physicists, lawyers and physicians were somehow reduced
to little children just because the US has 138,000 troops in their
I think it can be fairly argued that the Bush "war on terror" has
actually spread Islamic fundamentalism. (Bush coddling of Ariel Sharon's
harsh policies in Palestine has also contributed).
...The real legacy of Bush to the Muslim world will likely not be secular
democracy, but the provocation of Muslim publics into voting for the
Muslim fundamentalists on a scale never before seen in the region.
Finally, check out
Digby's "Reality-Based Torture" on how the U.S. has been seriously
maltreating the detainees in its charge:
One regular procedure that was described by people who worked at Camp
Delta, the main prison facility at the naval base in Cuba, was making
uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a
chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing
them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music
played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was
turned up to maximum levels, said one military official who witnessed the
procedure. The official said that was intended to make the detainees
uncomfortable, as they were accustomed to high temperatures both in their
native countries and their cells.
Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks, said the official,
who described the treatment after being contacted by The Times.
Our tax dollars at work. Yet another reason to try to reclaim our
morality by getting rid of this torture-prone administration.
October 26, 2004
380 Tons of Missing High-Explosives in Iraq
In an attack ad running in some toss-up states, the Republicans display a
pack of wolves (well, wolf-puppies) in their hope that the wolf images will
frighten voters away from John Kerry. Meanwhile, the Democrats bring out the
Big Dawg to give people hope that change is on the way.
You didn't see the ad, or Clinton introducing Kerry yesterday to about
100,000 Pennsylvania citizens crowded into downtown Philly? The enormous
crowd and Clinton's appearance -- only seven weeks out from major heart
surgery -- was quite something, and spoke volumes about the dynamic and
momentum that Kerry is generating as the final days click off.
Meanwhile, sometimes it doesn't even matter if you're a 27-year-old
Republican soldier in uniform with a ticket to attend a BushCheney rally in
The soldier got thrown out anyway because he was standing next to
a known Democrat.
Anyway, that's not really want I want to blog about, as significant as those
two different ways of campaigning -- and what each says about a commitment
to our democratic institutions -- may be.
The key stories remain Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. Not even the most dedicated,
Bush-supporting Republican can view with anything but alarm the major story
dominating the news cycle right now: the revelation that 380 tons (TONS!) of
high-explosives were left unguarded by the American occupation army in Iraq
in the early days of the Occupation, and those explosives are now missing,
presumably in the hands of the Iraqi insurgents currently bombing and
killing our troops and Iraqi citizens all over that country.
In other words, while the Occupying Authority made sure to dispatch soldiers
to protect the Oil Ministry from looters, nobody was sent to check out and
guard the 380 tons of dangerous high-explosives (useful for making
car-bombs, roadside improvised bombs, suicide truck bombs) that supposedly
were just sitting there under seal from the International Atomic Energy
If that doesn't give you some insight into the priorities of the Bush
Administration in Iraq, nothing will. Well, maybe
this one: The Bush Administration had the psychopathic terrorist
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in its sights three times, and could have taken him out
-- attack plans were drawn up in 2002 and 2003 and were ready to go -- but
chose to wait until the U.S. invasion of Iraq had begun. In other words,
Bush and his generals had a marketing campaign in mind, called "shock &
awe," and didn't want anything to distract from their plans and the desired
ADMINISTRATION'S SKETCHY RESPONSE
But let's return to the 380 tons of high-explosives at Al-Qa-Qaa. Here's
with a good summary of the salient points:
The Times story treads lightly over the question of whether the
explosives in question have played a substantial role in the various
suicide bombings, car bombings and sundry other attacks in Iraq over the
They also say little about Pentagon pressure on the Iraqis not to
report the disappearance of the explosives to the IAEA.
In its place seems to be an administration version of events in which no
one was put in charge of ascertaining what happened to the al Qa Qaa
materials, then Iraqis mentioned it to Bremer in May but he seems not to
have passed on word to anyone else, then Condi was told "within the past
month" but it's not clear whether she told the president.
If that's true, you've really gotta marvel at the chain of command this
crew has in place. The whole thing is "I forgot", "I didn't know", "I
didn't tell anybody", "It wasn't my responsibility", "What?" and so on.
There are even moments of refreshing candor like this line:
"Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives
were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was
overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country."
As I wrote earlier, there are very good reasons to disbelieve this
Keystone Cops explanation for what happened. There was a much more
concerted effort to keep hidden what had happened here, including pressure
on Iraqi officials not to report the disappearance of these materials to
But even if you accept this explanation on its face, I think it's almost
Think about it ...
The explosives at al Qa Qaa were one of the primary -- and much-publicized
-- concerns of non-proliferation officials at the IAEA and elsewhere prior
to the war. During and after the war there was apparently no effort to
secure the facility or catalog its remaining contents. Then no one
realized there was a problem until more than a year later when someone
told Jerry Bremer. But he didn't tell anyone in Washington, or at least no
one remembers. And then Condi Rice only found out about it within the last
month, but it's not clear she told anyone (i.e., the president or other
THE COVERUP CONTINUES
Memo blog is filled with stories illuminating various aspects of this
enlarges on the above:
Definitely take a moment to skim over Scott McClellan's remarks today
in the press gaggle about the al Qa Qaa debacle. It's a brazen effort.
McClellan's key point is that the US knew nothing about any of this until
October 15th, ten days ago.
That contradicts what the Times says, which is that Iraqis claim they told
Jerry Bremer about this last May. It contradicts what the Iraqis have told
the IAEA, which is that the US pressured them not to report the
disappearance to the IAEA.
It also stands in what I guess you'd have to call simple defiance of the
fact that the US had formal charge of these facilities for more than a
year ending in late June of this year.
To say that we knew nothing about the theft of these materials during that
entire time is simply not credible. And if it's really true, it's
considerably worse than if it's a lie.
Asked whether securing a facility like this wasn't a key priority of the
occupation forces, McClellan responded: "At the end of Operation Iraqi
Freedom there were a number of priorities. It was a priority to make sure
that the oil fields were secure, so that there wasn't massive destruction
of the oil fields, which we thought would occur. It was a priority to get
the reconstruction office up and running. It was a priority to secure the
various ministries, so that we could get those ministries working on their
priorities, whether it was ..."
And then one of the key questions from one of the reporters ...
Q: Scott, did we just have enough troops in Iraq to guard and protect
these kind of caches?
MR. McCLELLAN: See, that's -- now you just hit on what I just said a
second ago, that the sites now are really -- my understanding, they're
the responsibility of the Iraqi forces. And I disagree with the way you
stated your question, because one of the lessons we've learned of
history is that it's important to listen to the commanders on the ground
and our military leaders when it comes to troop levels. And that's what
this President has always done. And they've said that we have the troop
levels we need to complete the mission and succeed in Iraq.
Q But you're saying this is the responsibility of the Iraqi forces. But
this was our responsibility until just recently, isn't that right?
Weren't these -- there is some U.S. culpability, as far as --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're trying -- I think you're taking this out of
context of what was going on. This was reported missing after -- when
the interim government informed that these munitions went missing some
time after April 9th of 2003, remember, that was when we were still
involved in major military action at that point. And there were a number
of important priorities at that point. There were munitions, munition
caches spread throughout Iraq. There were -- there was a concern that
there would be massive refugees fleeing the country. There is concern
about the devastation that could occur to the oil fields. There was
concern about starvation that could happen for the Iraqi people.
So -- and obviously there is an effort to go and secure these sites. The
Department of Defense can talk to you about -- because they did go in
and look at this site and look to see whether or not there were weapons
of mass destruction there. So you need to talk to Department of Defense,
because I think that would clarify that for you and set that record
Did you understand his answer? Or the proper 'context' he was saying it
needs to be seen in? As nearly as I can tell his explanation is that there
was a lot of stuff going on during the early occupation and that this
wasn't that high on the priority list.
And even this explanation, if accepted at face value, doesn't get at the
real issue. Let's say things were just too crazy in the first month or
more of the occupation to secure the al Qa Qaa facility. What about the
period of relative calm between spring 2003 and the end of the year.
Didn't anybody go out and see that the place had been swept clean?
Not only are McClellan's explanations not good ones, most of them don't
even make any sense. And they all hang on the palpably false premise that
the US knew nothing about this until little more than a week ago.
"LETTER TO A SECURITY MOM"
Steve Gilliard takes the Al Qa Qaa story into today's campaign and
political context in his "Letter to a Security Mom". Here are some excerpts:
Have any relatives who are voting for Bush because of the war? Send
Dear Security Mom,
I know you've been thinking about keeping your kids safe, and in your busy
lives, you think the Bush Administration has done a good job so far.
George Bush has failed to protect this country, first on 9/11 and then by
President Bush remained frozen for 20 minutes as I watched my fellow
New Yorkers die live on television. He then ran around the country while
others, like Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki spoke to the
nation. The president was then so out of touch, the Vice President had to
give the Air Force orders to shoot down any hijacked airliners without
consulting the president. Vice President Cheney simply had no
choice, and it was his judgment, not the president's, which defended the
country in those crucial minutes.
Then, after knowing the threat came from Osama Bin Laden and his
terrorists based in Afghanistan, he immediately wanted to tie Saddam
Hussein to the murder of 3,000 Americans. Why? For his revenge and the
plans of a few men around the White House. They were not thinking of
making you or your family safer. They had Iraq in their sites, and even
wanted to bomb Iraq on September 12, even as their own experts said Iraq
had no involvement in the attack.
If that was the only failure of the Bush Administration, it would be bad,
but is not. The illusion of safety Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have tried to
create is a cruel joke. Not one Al Qaeda terrorist has been caught in the
US. Most of the arrests and prosecutions of Muslims are of people with
only the smallest connection to anything dangerous, and many of the cases
have been tossed out of court. Meanwhile the Justice Department plans to
spend millions to prosecute pornographers. While you worry about your
local shopping mall being blown to bits, the people in charge of
protecting you are worried about dirty pictures.
...You may also think George Bush is a strong, decisive leader. Well, you
know, when you go on that trip and your husband refuses to ask directions
and when he figures things out, he picks a fight to cover his
embarrassment, only to admit it a few days later, well that's Bush's
foreign policy, but without any admission of error.
Why didn't the French and Germans support us in this war? It was not
cowardice. The French and Germans have battled terrorism at home for two
decades. Paris subways and German businesses have been blown up by gangs
of terrorists in the last 20 years. They understand terrorism very well
and have police forces dedicated to handle them, unlike the United States,
which must rely on an overworked FBI to protect a nation of 300 million
They simply didn't trust the people around the President to be honest. And
time has sadly proven them right. The men around the president want a new
American empire, but the reality is that without the help of other
nations, we are doomed to isolation and failure.
We are not fighting terrorism in Iraq, we are making terrorists.
The letter goes on with the effect of U.S. occupation on ordinary Iraqis
in breeding new terrorists, then moves on talking to the "Security Mom"
about the missing 380 tons of high explosives:
THESE ARE NOT ORDINARY MUNITIONS
Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), told CNN the interim Iraqi government reported several days ago
that the explosives were missing from the Al Qaqaa complex, south of
The explosives -- considered powerful enough to demolish buildings
or detonate nuclear warheads -- were under IAEA control until the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. IAEA workers left the country
before the fighting began.
"Our immediate concern is that if the explosives did fall into the
wrong hands they could be used to commit terrorist acts and some of the
bombings that we've seen," Fleming said.
She described Al Qaqaa as "massive" and said it is one of the most
well-known storage sites. Besides the 380 tons, there were large caches of
artillery there. Fleming said the IAEA does not know whether some of the
explosives may have been used in past attacks.
....There are hundreds of tons of other weapons and munitions missing
around the country, and it is impossible for the United States to track
down all of them, the official said.
A clear and present danger to Americans in Iraq and that is their
repsonse. They never accept blame for anything, ever.
Now, you've heard rumors about the draft and the president's confident
denials. But that doesn't stop the worry in the back of your mind, does
it? You hope the President is telling the truth, but you know things in
Iraq aren't going well. More of your neighbors in the Reserve and Guard
are going to Iraq every day, while the Army needs more troops in
Afghanistan. Some units may go back to Iraq for a third time. They are
taking retired soldiers in their 50's, men who fought in Vietnam, and
sending them to Iraq.
How long can that last? What day is it when they look at your 20 year old
children and say they need them for Iraq. The President says many things,
many of which later turn out to be quite wrong. Are you going to bet the
lives of your children that he'll be right about this? This is a man who
refuses to admit mistakes, even when asked directly. Can you say the same?
The President is not fighting an effective war on terror. He has left
America more dangerous than how he found it. From ignoring the warnings of
an attack before 9/11, to the war in Iraq, President Bush has let your
family down and placed them in more danger. Not only from terrorism at
home, but in fighting his war in Iraq, a war which has not made one
I know you're busy, but instead of giving you a bunch of links, google
the topics here, get your own information and make up your own mind. You
will be surprised at what you aren't seeing on the nightly news and on
GOP PLANS FOR STEALING OHIO VOTE
Finally, on the domestic side and how elections get stolen, check out
Digby's blog, "Premeditated Theft," about what the Republicans are doing
in Ohio, and probably other states, to fraudulently interfere with a
democratic election. After quoting key sections of
the New York Times story about the GOP tactics, Digby concludes:
If anyone wonders why the Bush campaign doesn't feel the need to do
much campaigning in the essential state of Ohio, you don't need to look
any further than this. They have plans in place to ensure he wins no
This tactic is based upon the same one by which they "won" the election in
2000. They are using it not so much to intimidate voters, although I'm
sure they will do that also. The main purpose, as it was when the
Republican "challengers" in the recount questioned many more ballots than
necessary, is simply to run out the clock. And if anyone tries to hold the
polls open longer to accommodate long lines as they did in St Louis last
time, they will scream bloody murder about the Democrats "changing the
rules" after the game has been played.
This is a big deal. If anyone can get to the swing states for election
day, they should do it. Check out ACT for Victory for instructions on how
you can help. The Republicans have put together an organized effort to
suppress the vote. The only thing that will stop it a huge turn-out and
people willing to help at the polling places and report the atrocities.
October 28, 2004
Voting Tips & Dealing With Election Fraud
Eyes on the ball, eyes on the prize. We should not permit ourselves to be
distracted by anything coming out from the GOP in these final pre-election
days, including the Bush Campaign's obfuscations with regard to the 380 tons
of pilfered high-explosives in Iraq. (See the closing items in this blog)
The ball right now is getting voters to the polls, and getting their ballots
counted honestly and accurately. The prize, obviously, is to send Bush and
his corrupt, incompetent cronies packing.
So, if you can volunteer to make reminder phone calls to likely Kerry
voters, and to drive folks to their polling places on Election Day, that's
the ticket. Think of it as an extra contribution to democracy. A few hours
of your time for four years of hope. (Contact your local
Kerry Campaign HQ, or
or Americans Coming Together
Let's face facts. The Bush Campaign can't win on the issues, and on their
candidate's record, so they'll just have to steal the election (again).
Their strategy is simple: energize their fundamentalist/rightwing base, and
utterly suppress the Democratic vote, by crook or by hook.
They're not even trying to hide their tactics. Under Jeb Bush, Florida is
still Florida in this election, but
Ohio is also a new Florida. The GOP is sending 3000 "pollwatchers"
to challenge mainly first-time minority voters when they show up to vote in
Ohio. This tactic is reminiscent of the old Jim Crow days in the South, when
white voting "monitors" would confront and intimidate African-American
voters, trying to scare them away from the polls. It's a bit
subtly played in 2004, but the object is the same.
KEEP THOSE LINES SHORT
In Ohio -- which, surprisingly (unless you believe the fix is in) Bush
hasn't visited all that much -- you may remember that rabid Bush-supporter
Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold, the computer-voting company, wrote Bush that
he was committed to
"delivering" Ohio for the GOP. The associate chair of the
Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio is J. Kenneth Blackwell, who (like Katherine
Harris in 2000 Florida) just happens to be the Secretary of State in charge
of elections. Blackwell said he would block voters from casting Provisional
ballots in their old precincts when those precincts have been moved --
mostly in African-American neighborhoods. A
judge slapped him down, saying that Blackwell
''apparently seeks to
accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in
These, and other reprehensible, vote-suppression and voter-challenge tactics
are not confined to Florida and Ohio. In terms of the voter-challenges, the
Bush strategy seems to be that even if the GOP is able to knock off just a
few from the voting rolls, many more may choose to avoid the confrontation
-- and, best of all, by issuing so many challenges, they tie up the
precincts, and make the lines humongously long and slow. In the evening,
when polls close, there may be tens of thousands of voters denied their
right to cast their ballots. (This tactic was used in St. Louis in 2000.)
This is the best reason to "bank your vote." That is, cast an absentee
ballot or, if your state permits it, by voting early at special polling
places in the next few days. Also, if you're voting on November 2, try to
vote in the early-morning hours. Anything to avoid the long lines and chaos
on Tuesday evening. If your right to vote is challenged, step aside with the
challenger and inspector, so that the line can keep moving.
In state after state, already we are getting reports of missing ballots
(58,000 in one
Florida county), computer-voting machines that don't work or that
clearly are programmed to give Bush votes when Kerry's button was pushed,
"official" phone calls telling voters they should
throw away the absentee ballots mailed to them, etc. etc. Plus, it's
clear that the
votes of Americans overseas are being suppressed, and that votes by
serving military abroad may be compromised.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS LIST
In sum, voters need to be extra savvy about the process, and do everything
to enhance democracy and stop fraud. The League of Women Voters and
MoveOn.org have supplied a number of helpful hints. You might want to print
out the suggestions below and keep them with you when you go vote.
Here's The League's
1) Your Ballot, Your Vote
Don't panic if you registered to vote but your name is not on the list.
Get help from a poll worker to make sure your vote is counted. You may be
directed to another polling place or given a provisional ballot.
Provisional/interim/conditional ballots are intended as a safeguard for
voters whose eligibility is in question on Election Day. These include
those whose voter registration is in doubt, those who may have been
erroneously purged, or first-time voters who registered by mail and have
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that provisional ballots be
counted if the voter is eligible to vote by state law. However, some
election officials have chosen to apply standards for counting provisional
ballots that are unrelated to voter eligibility, such as casting the
provisional ballot in the proper polling place and filling out the
enclosing envelope correctly. Provisional ballots are the safety net so
that no voter coming to the polls will be turned away.
However, provisional ballots should not be considered a backup for poor
polling place operations or a catch-all for all problematic situations.
Election officials should make every effort before the election to reduce
the need for numerous provisional ballots, by improving the registration
system and by other means to allow the voter to cast an ordinary/regular
ballot. Too many provisional ballots will increase the post-election
administrative burden on election officials and delay election results.
2) ID - Don't Go Without It
You may need to show ID. To be safe, bring your driver's license, or a
paycheck, utility bill or government document that includes your name and
HAVA requires that first-time voters who register by mail present ID prior
to voting on Election Day unless the state has already verified their
identity. Unfortunately, many states have gone further, and are requiring
all voters or all first-time voters to present ID. In addition, while HAVA
says that the application of the new requirement must be "uniform and
non-discriminatory," many states have neither established mechanisms for
ensuring uniform and non-discriminatory application, nor informed the
public as to what forms of ID are acceptable in their state. Because this
is a new requirement, it could lead to problems such as unequal and
discriminatory treatment, and ultimately lead to wrongful
disenfranchisement on Election Day.
3) Writing on the Wall
Look at the signs at the polling place for directions on how to use the
voting machines, a list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing
a complaint if your rights have been violated.
Voters will face many changes in the polling place this year. Many will
experience new procedures, some will see new equipment, others will see
the same equipment as before but now wonder if they failed to cast their
vote properly, and many will be first-time voters. To address these
realities, HAVA also requires that basic voting information be posted in
the polling place. Election officials should work with design and
usability professionals to ensure the readability of the information
they're providing in the polling place. Information/instructions should be
written clearly and simply and provide illustrations. Voting machine
instructions should include how a voter can review his or her ballot, and
how to check for overvotes and undervotes. And, information regarding what
constitutes a spoiled ballot and instructions for securing a new ballot
should be provided.
4) When in Doubt - Ask
Poll workers are there to help you. They'll show you how to work the
machines and give you a provisional ballot if you need one. If you're at
the wrong polling place, they should tell you how to get to the right one.
Poll workers are volunteers from the local area, who are committed to
helping voters. Ultimately, the successful administration of elections
lies in the hands of poll workers. However, in too many cases, there are
too few of them and/or they have not received the necessary tools from
election officials. Such tools include appropriate training, easily
searched reference information to answer questions, and the official list
of all voters, with their polling place identified, for the election
registrar's entire jurisdiction.
5) In and Out
You probably won't have to wait too long. But even if the line is long,
don't leave without voting. The outcome of this election will be
Many voters state that they don't have time to vote and that's why they
haven't participated in the past. Creating a sense of a positive voting
experience and giving voters the tools they need to achieve this - such as
the League's 3 Ways to Make Voting a Breeze - will go a long way in
increasing voter turnout. The League is urging TV and radio stations to
help with this by giving regular updates on Election Day on wait times at
polling places in their area.
6) Know What to Do if You Experience Election Day Problems
Call toll free --- 1-866-Our-Vote --- to report problems and to receive
advice on what to do. This hotline is being operated by the Election
Protection Coalition, which is composed of many organizations, including the
League of Women Voters. Another great resource is
www.ourvote.com where you can
access specific rules for your state.
MOVEON.ORG'S VOTING ADVICE
And here's MoveOn's list of helpful voting advice:
In a great majority of polling places, of course, voting will be very
efficient -- even fun. Poll workers will guide you through the process.
They're non-partisan, and they are there to help.
But it's likely that some precincts will be targeted for vote suppression,
and that's what we have to be on the look-out for. Since one key
suppression tactic is slowing down the voting process, we have to be
careful not to fall into that trap. Don't obstruct: just demand that
whoever is giving you trouble step aside with you and let the voting
But before we get into what you should do if things go wrong, here are a
few pointers to help make sure your voting experience is a good one:
* Find your polling place ahead of time. Having this information ahead of
time will help make sure that you can zip to the polls and back during
that half-hour lunch break. You can locate your local polling place using
your zip code at http://www.mypollingplace.com . In most cases, the site will tell you
what kind of voting machines to expect and how they work. (By the way, if
conflicts with information you've received from your county or state
election officials, use the official information.)
* When in doubt, ASK. Poll workers are there to help you. They'll show you
how to work the machines, and if you're at the wrong polling place, they
should tell you how to get to the right one. Every polling place should
also have a posted list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing
a complaint if your rights have been violated.
* Know your rights. If you're an eligible voter, you have the following
--If your name is not on the official voter list but you believe you
are eligible to vote in that precinct, even if an election official
challenges your vote, you have the right to cast a "provisional ballot."
--If you're in line when the polls close, you should stay in line
because you're entitled to vote.
--In many states, your employer must allow you time to vote at some
point during the day. You can't be fired for being late due to long
--You have the right to vote without being intimidated by anyone.
--For your rights in your own state, check out this website:
* Bring photo ID, preferably government-issued ID or a utility bill,
phone bill, or paycheck with your name and current street address. If
you're a new registrant, it may be required.
* Vote in the morning. In a great majority of polling places, everything
will go smoothly, but by going early you can help prevent lines later in
* A regular ballot is better than a provisional ballot. If your
eligibility to vote is questioned, ask if you can cast a regular ballot
by providing additional ID or by going to another polling place. Only
cast a provisional ballot if there's no alternative available.
WHEN SOMETHING GOES WRONG
So, what if something does go wrong?
First, document it. If there are specific individuals involved who are
challenging your right to vote, intimidating voters, or interfering with
the process, try to get their names. Write down exactly what happened,
including the time of day, descriptions of the people involved, and any
other details you can remember.
Then, report it. There are lots of organizations that will be working to
respond quickly to complaints of voter intimidation, suppression, and
fraud. Here's who to call:
* Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. Common Cause has set up a hotline that
you can call to report any problems you have voting. They'll document
where problems are occurring, watch for wide-spread voter suppression, and
provide real-time legal help to the hot spots.
* 1-866-OUR-VOTE. This hotline has been set up by a coalition of
nonpartisan groups to deal with the most serious problems on election day.
They have hundreds of lawyers standing by to immediately respond to the
most egregious problems. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the "911" of voter suppression
hotlines. Please don't call unless your problem is serious enough that you
have to talk to a lawyer immediately.
* MoveOn PAC: Go to
http://www.moveonpac.org . On election day, we'll have a form where
you can post any problems you encounter and get help.
Again, to download a wallet-sized card with all of this information that
you can bring with you to the polls, go to:
As Bill Clinton said at a rally with John Kerry on Monday, "They're
trying to scare the voters away from the polls. It worked so well in
Florida, they seem to be trying it elsewhere." We're not going to let them
get away with it. And with your help, we'll make sure that anyone who
tries to stop people from exercising their right to vote ends up behind
Finally, here are three current articles about hot-button topics that
provide even more reasons for a Kerry vote:
CHENEY GOES BALLISTIC
You may remember that prior to the launch of the Iraq invasion, Cheney made
himself a constant visitor at the CIA, trying to get the analysts there to
cherry-pick the WMF "evidence" that would justify the attack. He's still
doing it. Check out this item from
...An interesting piece today by Philip Giraldi in the print edition of
The American Conservative. Giraldi claims that when the CIA's Counter
Terrorism Center provided Dick Cheney with a special briefing on Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi's prewar ties with Saddam Hussein last month,
Cheney was a wee bit unhappy with their conclusions:
The CTC concluded that Saddam Hussein had not materially supported
Zarqawi before the U.S.-led invasion and that Zarqawi's infrastructure in
Iraq before the war was confined to the northern no-fly zones of
Kurdistan, beyond Baghdad's reach. Cheney reacted with fury, screaming
at the briefer that CIA was trying to get John Kerry elected by
contradicting the president's stance that Saddam had supported terrorism
and therefore needed to be overthrown. The hapless briefer was shaken
by the vice president's outburst, and the incident was reported back to
[newly appointed CIA director Porter] Goss, who indicated that he was
reluctant to confront the vice president's staff regarding it.
I don't know who Giraldi's source for this was, but it's a sadly familiar
MO for this administration: shoot the messenger, refuse to believe
anything you don't want to believe, and treat everything first and
foremost as an excuse for partisan bludgeoning, not as a serious problem
that requires serious analysis and a serious solution.
You can't excise a cancer if you spend your time screaming at the lab
because the biopsy report isn't what you expected. Why would anyone think
that Bush and Cheney can successfully fight terrorism if they willfully
refuse to understand the true nature of the threat?
BUSH LIED ABOUT GO-DATE FOR WAR
Remember Bush in the final run-up to the Iraq invasion saying no firm
decision had been made to go to war, he wanted to see what the U.N.
inspectors came up with, etc. etc.? The U.N. feint was a total dodge; the
decision had been made long before, perhaps as much as a year before when
Bush told several U.S. Senators in March of 2002:
we're taking him out."
this October 27 story from the Independent in the U.K., "US Gave Date of
War to Britain in Advance, Court Papers Reveal," provides more evidence of
the Bush-Blair duplicity:
Secret plans for the war in Iraq were passed to British Army chiefs by
US defence planners five months before the invasion was launched, a court
martial heard yesterday.
The revelation strengthened suspicions that Tony Blair gave his agreement
to President George Bush to go to war while the diplomatic efforts to
force Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions were continuing.
..Alan Simpson, the leader of Labour Against the War, said the documents
were "dynamite", if genuine, and showed that Clare Short was right to
assert in her book, serialised in The Independent, that Mr Blair had
"knowingly misled" Parliament.
The plans were revealed during the court martial of L/Cpl Ian Blaymire,
23, from Leeds, who is charged with the manslaughter of a comrade while
serving in Iraq. Sgt John Nightingale, 32, a reservist from Guiseley, West
Yorkshire, died after being shot in the chest on 23 September last year.
The court, at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, heard that contingency
plans were drawn up by Lt Col Christopher Warren, staff officer at Land
Command, Salisbury, Wiltshire, who was responsible for operational
Lt Col Warren said US planners had passed on dates for which the invasion
was planned. The hearing was told Army chiefs wanted the training for the
Army to start at the beginning of December 2002. However, due to
"sensitivities" the training was delayed.
The court heard the training for the TA began two months late and for the
regular Army one month late. Lt Col Warren was asked what the
sensitivities were. He replied: "Because in December there was a world
interest. If the UK had mobilised while all this was going on that would
have shown an intent before the political process had been allowed to run
TIP OF THE MUNITIONS ICEBERG
All attention is focused on the Al Qaqaa compound in Iraq, where the U.S.
military never really examined and audited the now-missing 380 tons of
high-explosives locked up there under international seal. But that's just
the most glaring example of Bush Administration incompetence with regard to
the huge stores of Iraqi armaments left unguarded for the past year.
Check out David Morris' story in Salon,
"The Tip of the Iceberg". Just two paragraphs as a teaser:
However disturbing this story, what the New York Times and CBS News
have overlooked so far is that the missing munitions at Al Qaqaa are only
the tip of the iceberg and in all likelihood represent a mere fraction of
the illicit explosive material currently circulating in Iraq. Having
personally toured weapons caches comparable in scale to Al Qaqaa and seen
similar ordnance in the process of being converted into roadside bombs at
an insurgent hideout, I believe that the theft and redistribution of
conventional explosives and weapons represent the largest long-term threat
to American troops in Iraq.
Strangely enough, it is likely that dealing with this conventional weapons
threat, rather than eradicating the mythical unconventional WMD threat,
will be the U.S. legacy in Iraq.
October 30, 2004
The Tale of Two Tapes
What are we to make of the "terrorist tapes" that surfaced in the past two
days, not just their content but their origins, their content, and their
timing the weekend just before Election Day?
I'm referring not only to the Osama bin Laden videotape that was broadcast
Friday, but also to the more mysterious
"Azzam the American" tape that ran the day before.
The OBL tape is the most important of the two, in which the Scarlet
Pimpernel of terrorists bashes both Bush and Kerry -- although he did say
that Bush's strange behavior on 9/11, not taking charge of the situation
until it was too late, provided more time for his boys to carry out their
attacks. But who resides in the White House matters little, said OBL; you'd
better understand that it is U.S. policy that is causing Islamist responses
like 9/11. Either change those policies -- especially with regards to the
Israel/Palestine situation -- or prepare for more, and bigger, attacks.
Unless your country stops supporting corrupt Arab rulers, said Bin laden,
and stops giving Israel whatever it wants and manages to engineer a just
settlement of the Palestine situation, you can expect more 9/11s.
Clearly, OBL issued this tape for a wide variety of reasons, not the least
of which is his attempt to step into what amounts to a political vacuum in
the Arab Middle East. Saddam Hussein is gone, Yasser Arafat is near death's
door and is neutered politically anyway, Moammar Qadaffi has shrunk in
strength, the Egyptians and Jordanians are regarded as much too tied to
American policy, Syria's Bashar al-Asad has yet to assert himself. Why
shouldn't that leadership fall to me?, he might have thought.
So, Osama bin Laden, who barely mentioned the Palestinian cause in his early
pronouncements in the mid- and late-1990s, has picked up the banner and is
going to run with it, as a rallying point for those Arabs and other Muslims
who feel powerless, humiliated, generally abused by the Christian-Jewish
West. Bin Laden thus becomes the spokesman of the Arab "street," and, even
in hiding, becomes one of the, if not the, symbolic figure of Arab
resistance to the Western infidels.
WILL OSAMA TAPE AFFECT ELECTION?
How bin Laden's attempt to intrude into the U.S. political scene will be
read by the American voter is unknown. On the one hand, his appearance --
looking healthy, spirited, and determined -- might well remind voters that
Bush could have taken care of him when U.S. troops were on the hunt in
Afghanistan, but Bush decided to go after Saddam Hussein instead, a weakling
who had no ties to 9/11 and no way to hurt the U.S.
On the other hand, some voters, reminded that Osama is still threateningly
out there, may choose to stick with Bush, who, for unknown reasons, is still
regarded in the polls as tougher on terrorists.
Or, Osama could be a wash, and his appearance could have no impact
whatsoever, the name of the game at this late date being to mobilize your
voting base and get them to the polls on Tuesday. We shall see.
"AZZAM THE AMERICAN"
The other tape mentioned, aired by ABC TV Thursday, featured a man calling
himself "Azzam the American," claiming to be from an Al Qaida-affiliated
extremist group, and who spoke English with an American accent. He concealed
his entire face and issued denunciations not unlike those from OBL, except
that the venom was directed almost exclusively at Bush.
Nobody has been able to authenticate this tape, or to identify this man,
which had led to
speculation that the whole thing might be a Karl Rove Production.
[Late Flash: The FBI thinks it knows who this Azzam fellow is, an Islamic
convert in Southern California. Still no word, as I write this late Friday
night, where he is, where the tape might have been made, how it got to
Pakistan and back again, who is behind him.]
If you accept this scenario, either Rove didn't anticipate the OBL tape and
so decided to make one of his own, to scare the bejusus out of the American
citizenry by threatening murderous mayhem in our streets, or Rove
orchestrated the one-two punch on two consecutive days, first "Azzam the
American" and then Osama bin Laden. What an "October Surprise" that would
be, if true. On the other hand, if the two tapes are totally genuine, with
no ties to American handlers, the "October Surprises" are total shockers to
If engineered by Rove, the hope would be to make voters angry that their
President was being verbally abused and threatened by an Islamic terrorist
who promised to unleash bloody retribution on Americans.
such stunts in tight races. He has some shadowy, Democrat-sounding group
or individual come up with a flyer or sign that attacks Rove's own candidate
in crude ways; Rove then blames the attack on his candidate's Dem opponent.
The charge may be untrue, but there still is a taint of suspicion associated
with the opponent, and that's all that counts. (Rove once bugged his own
phone, and accused Democrats of doing so, in order to slime the opposition.)
I'm not saying that "Azzam the American" is necessarily a Rove operation --
we may know more in a few days -- but the convenient timing, and Rove's past
behavior and sleazy tactics, lend credence to the possibility that he's
associated with it. That's what a bad rep does for you.
BUSH SPINS THE MISSING EXPLOSIVES
So, after being stunned into silence for two days about the missing 380 tons
of high-explosive material in Iraq, the Bush Campaign finally responded,
mostly with fog and spin and wildly trying out one story after another. None
of their explanations seems to accord with the facts.
But who knows? By making the story "when" the explosives disappeared rather
than that the deadly stuff went missing under Bush's command -- along with
several hundred thousand tons of other munitions -- (
www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/10042037.htm ) he may just fog his
way through November 2.
And, surprise -- there's that word again -- Osama bin Laden, formerly in the
pay of the CIA in Afghanistan, arrived just in the nick of time to change
the media's attention from Bush's failures to the subject of terrorism and
security. Oh, happy day!
"SUPPRESSING" MINORITY VOTERS
Rove and his minions are going full bore to "suppress" the Democratic vote
especially the minority vote in Florida and Ohio -- with the aim of
tying up those two states on November 2, and perhaps forcing the election
into the courts, where Bush has appointed numerous HardRight appellate
judges. It's an outright attempt to steal an election, carried out by
numerous GOP officials around the country.
The only way to defeat these approaches is to flood the ballot boxes with
votes for Kerry. In other words, Kerry needs something of a close-vote
landslide, maybe a 5% victory cushion. Will he get it from young voters,
minority voters, cell-phone voters -- those not contacted by the traditional
poll-takers? I think so, but we shall see.
My gut tells me that Kerry will win a lot more toss-up states than he's
expected to, and take the victory lap -- but that's said on Friday night,
three days out from Election Day. Anything can happen before the voting
ceases Tuesday night, including the bombing of a polling place early in the
morning of November 2, by "terrorists," and computer vote-counting software
rigged to alter the tallies in several key states.
In short, it's time to work our asses off over the weekend, and on Monday
and Tuesday, to get all potential Kerry voters to the polls, and to get
their votes counted honestly. Stay tuned. The qaqaa is about to hit the fan,
November 9, 2004
Kerry to "Unconcede" If Vote-Fraud Evidence Is Overwhelming?
(Updated November 11,2004)
It was about 2:30 p.m. Election Day on the West Coast. My pulse started
racing when I read the early exit polls on the internet pointing to a clear
Kerry victory. Then I read the final Zogby survey, which paralleled those
exit polls, and which predicted 300+ Electoral College votes for Kerry.
Then, I kept hearing about the expected high-turnout, between 115-120
million, including millions of young voters. Oh, this was going to be good!
As I was cruising around the tube, I caught interviews with Ralph Reed
(former head of the Christian Coalition, now Bush-Cheney chair in the
Southeast) and George W. Bush, at an airport stop on his way to yet another
Both looked very uncomfortable and very depressed. They spouted their
positive spin points, but their body language and demeanor said otherwise,
that they knew they were going down to defeat. Obviously, their internal
polling during the past several days had revealed the trouble they were in,
and this exit-polling information was hard-to-take confirmation. Karl Rove
was saying nothing.
So when all those red Southern states started popping up on the screen a few
hours later, as returns started coming in, I wasn't that upset. This was to
be expected. Kerry just needed to take Pennsylvania and one other big state,
either Ohio or Florida. He got Pennsylvania, but Jeb Bush made sure (again)
that his brother kept Florida. So it came down to this year's Florida, Ohio
-- once again with a rabid Bush supporter, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell,
in charge of elections.
By the time everyone at my house went to sleep last Tuesday night (1:30 a.m.
West Coast time, 4:30 back East), Kerry had said he would make no statement
that night but would see how Ohio and the other undecided states looked in
the morning. John Edwards' statement said that the campaign would fight for
the concept of all votes being counted. I felt encouraged that the Dems
weren't going to do another Gore capitulation on Election Night. They had
the guts and they were ready to slug it out.
OH NO, THIS IS NOT A SATIRE
The next morning, out of the corner of my eye on the internet, I saw a
headline that said that Kerry had called Bush and congratulated him, and
would be delivering his concession speech shortly. I thought that headline
was a satire of some sort.
Kerry's concession speech was pretty awful, disconnected fragments,
containing no larger vision, no rousing call to continue the struggle in
other ways. Just let the healing begin and unite behind Bush as our
president. I couldn't believe my ears. The war hero who had not backed down
in the face of an enemy assault, the guy who had so criticized George W.
Bush for "rushing to war" without having all the facts in hand was "rushing
away from war," the battle to preserve the integrity of the presidential
True, he said he was conceding because his staff had crunched the numbers
and told him that even if he won a high percentage of the outstanding
provisional ballots in Ohio, he could not take that state. And without Ohio,
he could not win.
KERRY RETHINKING HIS CONCESSION CALL
So he called it quits, even while late vote-counting in Florida and Ohio and
several other states was still in process. Unlike Florida in 2000, there was
no need to rush, there was no immediate deadline forcing a decision. Without
doing major damage to the electoral process, a few more days easily could be
taken, to see how things were shaking out -- and, most importantly, to get a
clearer sense of the enormity of possible voter fraud around the country.
There were increasing reports of such fraud in a wide variety of states.
Bush inexplicably was racking up thousands of votes in key precincts and
districts that didn't seem to accord with either political logic, historic
expectations or the exit-polls. For example, there appeared to be tampering
with the optical-scanner voting machine tabulations. (See
blog about a possible smoking-gun, from "The Squanderer.")
A "concession" by one candidate to the other has no legal binding force. It
is a traditional courtesy call. If the final vote counts proves otherwise,
the concession means nothing.
Five days after Kerry's concession call to Bush, with more and more evidence
of vote-tampering, voter suppression, dirty tricks and other potential
crimes against democracy, comes a letter from an attorney friend of John
Kerry's brother, Cameron, saying the Dem candidate is willing to consider "unconceding"
the election if enough solid evidence is produced to justify such a move.
That letter, from D.C. attorney Cynthia Butler, which supplied Cam Kerry's
email address, went all over the internet -- including here in our Crisis
Papers Blog -- and Cam Kerry's law office was swamped with stories of voter
intimidation, fraud, suppression and so on.
Without commenting on the Butler letter per se,* Cam Kerry got the word out
on the internet to all those trying to reach him through his law office to
instead contact the Voting Rights Institute ( >>email@example.com << ), a legal
arm of the Democratic National Committee, and supply that legal team with
all the election information.
(Shortly after receiving the Butler letter, I contacted Cam Kerry's office
to try to find out if the Butler letter was accurate and that he was indeed
accepting such citizen reports. His mass-mail reply the next day was to urge
folks to write the VRI, and we and other internet writers later removed Cam
Kerry's email address and supplied the correct VRI one.)
Whether the Democratic Party and its VRI legal team are interested in
pursuing the matter into the courts, or in demanding recounts in Ohio and
Florida and elsewhere, is unknown at this stage. But it doesn't look good;
there isn't a large amount of energy and publicity being put into this
information-gathering campaign, at least not from the DNC.
In short, it looks like Kerry's concession will not be rescinded. But you
Other actions are being taken by other candidates (Nader and Cobb, among
them), by members of Congress, and by citizen action groups, to try to get
to the bottom of the vote-fraud issue. So the slight possibility of
overturning the announced November 2 election results still exists, though
the clock is running, with not much time left. Stay tuned.
*Note: This story has taken all sorts of twists and turns in the past day or
two, including some speculation that the Cynthia Butler letter may have been
a GOP hoax, to create a "denial of service" snafu at Cam Kerry's office. But
the original Butler letter appears to be genuine. At least as of Thursday
night, November 11 2004.
November 11, 2004
The Falluja Fallacy/The Alberto Gonzales Insult
While the U.S. was preoccupied with the presidential election and the
attendant fallout, the Bush Administration was readying its Fallujah warplan
and now is in the midst of its unfolding. That warplan reveals all that we
need to know about why the U.S. adventure in Iraq is such a thorough
military disaster, why it is losing the political battle there, and why the
situation is only going to get worse.
First, there was the long advance buildup required by the huge American
military force making the assault on Fallujah -- whereas guerrillas are
free to pick up and move in an instant. So it's no surprise that the main
body of insurgents wasn't in Fallujah when the U.S. forces entered; instead,
insurgent attacks were widespread throughout Iraq against U.S. troops and
the Iraqi security forces. (Reminds one of how the U.S. entered Iraq a year
ago, rushing toward the military objective of taking Baghdad, but neglecting
to guard the abandoned ammo dumps all around the country.)
The Americans seem to see everything in Iraq through a military lens -- that
use of its huge technological/firepower advantage is the answer to most
everything -- even though the military aspect of this war is only one, and
perhaps the least important, component.
In Wednesday's New York Times, we read:
"American and Iraqi officials approved the Falluhah invasion with the
understanding it could provoke political problems."
The key here is that word "could." If U.S. civilian and military
authorities didn't see or understand what was about to happen -- didn't
realize that they were playing with political fire and that invading
Fallujah was like pouring gasoline on that blaze -- then there is little
hope for a realistic policy in Iraq in the slightest.
SEEDING THE INSURGENT GARDEN
The Americans, and their few Iraqi troops, wanted to "take" Fallujah as an
object lesson to other insurgents in the Sunni Triangle, and so large
sections of the city were leveled (remember the U.S. major in Vietnam who
said they were "destroying the village in order to save it"?). This will
happen to your town as well, the U.S. wants other insurgents to know, so
give in now before it's too late.
The exact opposite will occur, of course. More nationalist rebels will join
the battle against the American Occupiers.
And now the Sunni political leadership has pulled out of the central
government coalition, and the Sunni religious leadership has announced that
it will boycott the scheduled January elections. In short, again, the exact
opposite of what was hoped for by the U.S. planners.
YOU CAN "TAKE," BUT CAN YOU "CONTROL"?
Two things, both reminiscent of the same deficient thinking of U.S. leaders
in the Vietnam War:
1). The U.S. continues to believe that, at bottom, this is mainly a military
war and military force will prevail. And, as in Vietnam: most military men
don't know much about Iraqi social/cultural/religious history, or know the
2). "Taking" a city doesn't mean you "control" it once you leave --
especially since the bulk of the insurgents disappeared from Fallujah days
before the invasion of the town. Since the U.S. is stretched way too thin in
Iraq to control every city (or ammo dump) it "takes," the logical conclusion
is that the insurgent forces will return later.
Those insurgent forces will re-establish its old use of the city as a
refuge. The local Iraqi "friendlies" left in charge -- the Iraqi police and
guards as well as local officials put into power by the U.S. military --
will be attacked and bombed and, within a short time, Fallujah will once
again be what it was.
BUSH DOESN'T "DO" MISTAKES
The madness. The madness.
But Bush doesn't admit mistakes. He and his generals are rolling all the
Iraq-war dice on Fallujah, as they are rolling all the Middle East dice on
Iraq. The U.S. will fail in both cases, because its policy does not match
reality on the ground, and thousands of dead bodies, of U.S. forces and
Iraqi civilians, will wind up in shallow graves, and perhaps over time even
more will wind up in amputation wards in hospitals.
But Bush doesn't admit mistakes. It's full steam ahead, straight over the
cliff. And, unless a miracle occurs -- the smoking gun conclusively proving
electoral fraud -- this man will remain our Commander-in-Chief for another
term. Four more wars. Makes one want to retch at all the death and
destruction and social mayhem that are heading our way.
ASHCROFT "OVERSTATES" JUST A TAD ON HIS LEGACY
Good news: Ashcroft has resigned. And, as is typical in this
administration, delusion holds sway over reality. Ashcroft claims that as a
result of his tenure, "the objective of securing the safety of Americans
from crime and terror has been achieved." What is that guy smoking? With
Panglossian dementia, he truly believes we're free from crime and terrorism,
and this is the best of all possible worlds. And he managed to make it
Good riddance to bad rubbish. Ashcroft has set back at least 20 years a
decent respect for Constitutional protections of due process, civil
liberties and civil rights.
Bad news: Bush, giving no quarter to the half of the country he did
not win, is steamrolling ahead with his extremist nominations. He's chosen
White House counsel ##Alberto
Gonzales, a Bush toady for decades, to succeed Ashcroft.
In his remarks after Bush announced the nomination, Gonzales sounded more
like a puppet pledging fealty to The Leader than an Attorney General who
will divorce himself from politics and administer a Justice Department based
on respect for the Constitution.
"SETTING ASIDE" THE CONSTITUTION
This is the same White House Counsel who devised sneaky, and clearly
unconstitutional, rationalizations for incarcerating suspected "enemy
combatants" at Gitmo, with no recourse to the courts. (His point of view was
harshly slapped down by the U.S. Supreme Court). This is the same White
House Counsel who in a memo described the Geneva Conventions on protection
of prisoners of war as outdated in a time of terrorism, "quaint," to use his
famous adjective. This is the same White House Counsel who came up with
legal rationales that would give Bush dictatorial powers whenever he says
he's acting as "Commander in Chief" during "wartime."
This guy is bad news and deserves to be verbally pilloried during his
upcoming hearings, for his willingness, indeed eagerness, to do his boss'
unconstitutional bidding whenever BushCheney snap the whip. He should be
bounced from consideration forthwith, and perhaps be the subject of a civil
suit for sacrificing the Constitution on the altar of political expediency.
The larger issue that needs to be debated: Time after time, the appointment
of an Attorney General beholden to the President yields bad law and bad
politics. Yes, I know how great Robert Kennedy was under his brother Jack.
But think of John Mitchell under Richard Nixon, Ed Meese under Ronald
Reagan, John Ashcroft under George W. Bush. The only way one can get fair
and impartial justice, for all Americans, is to name an independent Attorney
General who has his own power base and is not dependent on presidential
largesse for his job.
December 16, 2004
A MATTER OF GREAT GRAVITY
The influential, far-right Christians for God organization, led by Rev.
Gerald Fellwall, has launched a new campaign, to get science teachers in
public schools to treat the law of gravity as an unproved theory and to
replace it with "intelligent design" weightfulness.
"Gravity is not mentioned in the Bible," said Rev. Fellwall, "and nobody has
ever seen gravity. It's just those liberal professors who claim its
existence, and who got the law passed based on their phony evidence.
"When Adam & Eve ate from the Forbidden Tree," said Rev. Fellwall, "they
brought a heaviness to the world, and we're still dealing with it today. God
created gravity as a punishment for human sinning.
"Those without sin are not bound by the so-called law of gravity. That's why
angels have wings," he said.
Fellwall said his organization is mounting a nationwide campaign to put
stickers in all science textbooks indicating that gravity may not exist,
that it's just a theory of science.
"Some people believe the world is round," he said, "but the Bible does refer
to the 'four corners of the earth.' We're working on that next."
Excuse that. My jet-lagged brain (see my
explaining what I've been up to recently) spat that one out, without my
But it did remind me of an informative piece in the Wall Street Journal:
Sharon Begley's "Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution to Fundamentalists." A
biology professor at a fundamentalist Christian college in Illinois tells
how he, a devout Nazarene, deals creatively with the subject of evolution.
Prof. Richard Collins decries his fundamentalist brethren claiming that
there is widespread skepticism about evolution among scientists. "Such
statements are blatantly untrue. Evolution has stood the test of time and
"His central claim is that both the origin of life from a primordial
goo of nonliving chemicals, and the evolution of species according to the
processes of random mutations and natural selection, are 'fully compatible
with the available scientific evidence and also contemporary religious
beliefs. Denying science makes us [Christian conservatives] look stupid'."
Worth reading the whole thing.
Feels strange. I haven't blogged since late-November. Thought I'd mention a
few of the best items out there by my blogging colleagues.
Sliding from the above to
"Evolutionary Theology", blogger Digby begins by quoting liberally
from a fascinating article by Davidson Loehr,
Agenda," parts of which he summarizes thusly:
From 1988 to 1993, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences sponsored
an interdisciplinary study known as The Fundamentalism Project, the
largest such study ever done. More than 100 scholars from all over the
world took part, reporting on every imaginable kind of fundamentalism. And
what they discovered was that the agenda of all fundamentalist movements
in the world is virtually identical, regardless of religion or culture.
The five characteristics are:
1) Men rule the roost and make the rules. Women are support staff and
for reasons easy to imagine, homosexuality is intolerable;
2) all rules must apply to all people, no pluralism;
3) the rules must be precisely communicated to the next generation;
4) "they spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a
golden age that never really existed. (Several of the scholars observed a
strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have
almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is
one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them,
and education is tightly controlled by the state. One scholar suggested
that it's helpful to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and
fascism as political fundamentalism. The phrase 'overcoming the modern' is
a fascist slogan dating back to at least 1941.)";
5) Fundamentalists deny history in a "radical and idiosyncratic way."
Then Digby moves on to how to combat the worst aspects of fundamentalism:
...In order to pave the way for change, liberals have to first be aware
of the sacred symbols and rhetoric of traditionalism and then attempt to
harness those symbols to advance our cause. I think there is some truth in
The Bible is one, of course, but so are the "sacred" texts of our
nation, those that outline the rules and beliefs of our territory and
tribe. Those symbols and totems are powerful mojo for the other side if we
don't lay claim to them. They mean more than just surface martial
nationalistic nonsense --- indeed, if this thesis is true, they may be
more powerful than Christian fundamentalism. At the very least, liberals
should embrace the symbols like the flag and the constitution and all the
apple pie traditions with the knowledge that if we don't, a more
pernicious force will. It's about the power of deeply held territorial
impulses. Christianity and Islam are only a couple of thousand years old.
As the author says, the [fundamentalists] have "severely understated the
authority for their position." Perhaps we should stake that authority for
our side in service of our ideals.
I can think of a few ways we might do this. The first that comes to mind
is to pit fundamentalism against territory. If this retreat to
fundamentalism is really a default to primitive biology, then we can frame
this as America vs the fundamentalists. And lucky for us, it's easy to do
and will confuse the shit out of the right. We have a built in boogie man
fundamentalist named Osama on whom we can pin all this ANTI-AMERICAN
fundamentalist dogma while subtly drawing the obvious parallels between
him and the homegrown variety.
We start by having the womens' groups decrying the Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST
view of womens' rights. These FUNDAMENTALISTS want to roll back the clock
and make women answer to men. In AMERICA we don't believe in that. Then we
have the Human Rights Campaign loudly criticizing the Islamic
FUNDAMENTALISTS for it's treatment of gays. In AMERICA we believe that all
people have inalienable rights. The ACLU puts out a statement about the
lack of civil liberties in Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST theocracies. In AMERICA
we believe in the Bill of Rights, not the word of unelected mullahs.
You got a problem with that Jerry? Pat? Karl????
DEMS ACT AS AN OPPOSITION?
While we're in Digbyland, we might as well pass on this item,
"Tie It All Together"
Wouldn't ya just know it? On the day LiberalOasis gets all mad at the Dems
for not knowing how to fight, they go and do something smart.
From the AP:
[Sen.] Harry Reid said Monday his party will launch investigative
hearings next year in response to what he said was the reluctance of
Republicans to look into problems in the Bush administration.
"There are too many unasked and unanswered questions and the American
public deserves better," the Nevada senator said...
...Sen. Byron Dorgan…said the first hearing will be at the end of January
and he suggested it might focus on contract abuse in Iraq...
They said issues that "cry out" for closer investigation...include the
administration's use of prewar intelligence and its reported effort to
stifle information about the true cost of the new Medicare prescription
Reid also mentioned global warming and the "No Child Left Behind"
education program as topics that needed a closer look.
In all likelihood, they recognized the great success Rep. Henry Waxman and
his staff had publishing their own report on federally funded
abstinence-only programs. That showed how a minority party can make news
and put the majority party on the defensive.
Now the key is to tie all of this corruption, misdirection and ineptitude
into Bush's plan to destroy Social Security. I'm more and more convinced
that this is not only necessary for its own sake, but will result in many
other political rewards for the Democrats. Bush is a lame duck. He has far
less political capital than he thinks he has. He's fucked up the War on
terror and he knows it and this is his last big chance for a "positive"
long term legacy. If we are able to stop him we may just show the American
people that we have some guts after all and position ourselves for a big
come back in 06 and 08.
The alternative is to allow him to destroy the most successful social
program in the history of this country, an act that will affect real human
beings in our towns, neighborhoods and families. If SS isn't worth
fighting for with everything we have, then we truly are worthless.
RUMSFELD THE COWARD
Kevin Drum skewers Rummy on the distance the Defense Secretary tried to
carve out between his leadership and the lack-of-armor question:
We all know that John McCain isn't a big fan of Donald Rumsfeld, and
Chuck Hagel isn't a surprise either. But Stormin' Norman? [Gen. Norman
I was angry by the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it
all on the Army, as if he, as the secretary of defense, didn't have
anything to do with the Army and the Army was over there doing it
themselves, screwing up.
Good point. Plus there's the fact that Rumsfeld was lying through his
teeth about armor production already being at capacity, and how there was
nothing more he could do about it. That was bad too.
BUSH'S ATTACK ON SOCIAL SECURITY
Josh Marshall has an important piece about the Bush Administration's
moves to weaken and destroy Social Security. I'll just quote a bit here;
worth checking out the whole article:
The Social Security "crisis" is manufactured; there is no crisis. To
the extent there are long-term financing problems, the president's plan
will gravely worsen them. The problem we face isn't over Social Security,
which continues to run up huge surpluses (just as it was intended to under
the early-80s reform), but that our non-Social Security budget continues
to run massive structural deficits. Or rather, it has returned to running
massive structural deficits after getting into the black in the late 1990s
through the combined exertions of a Democratic president and a Republican
congress. Social Security isn't the problem, but rather George W. Bush's
reckless fiscal policy.
In any case, as I say, the whole thing is lies. This isn't about the
program's problems but about its success. That's why the president and his
allies want to phase it out. It's not about financing but about ideology.
...One thing that Democrats must understand is that they cannot win this
battle legislatively. At one level what I mean by that is simply the math
we can all see. The president has comfortable majorities in both chambers
and in his first term (when he was a minority president and had smaller
majorities) he commanded historic levels of party discipline. If he can
hold those caucuses together, he can pass this and sign it and that's it.
Doesn't matter what Democrats do.
This is, of course, obvious, as simple as the math, as I noted. But the
implications for strategy are not necessarily that obvious.
As I wrote a month ago, the Democrats have to start seeing themselves as a
true party of opposition in large part because of the way President Bush
has reshaped the capital into something much more like a parliamentary
system. There's no point in Democrats trying to improve legislation at the
margins, because they won't be given any real opportunity to do so. The
logic of the situation dictates coming up with an alternative plan not
only to make the differences clear to voters now but to set the issue
stage for the 2006 and 2008 elections....
INTEL REFORM & CIVIL LIBERTIES
writes about hidden aspects of the recently passed Intelligence Reform bill:
Until now the whole debate has revolved around a three-cornered
conflict between congressional right-wingers who wanted to use the bill to
impose harsh immigration reforms (killed); pro-military hard-liners like
Duncan Hunter who wanted to protect the Pentagon's intelligence turf (they
surrendered); and the center-right coalition that backed the current bill,
which contains several awful and scary provisions.
The impact of the civil liberties advocates was barely heard.
Here are some examples of what the bill does that is terrible. First, it
dramatically increases the likelihood that intelligence will be even more
politicized than it has been. Now, of course, intelligence agencies have
always felt the pressure of politics. But by creating a National
Intelligence Director beholden to the White House—an essentially political
job—it it means that all of the agencies will get their marching orders
from a person whose main job is to carry out administration policy. The
one good thing about intelligence agencies is that they are, by their very
nature, tied to the truth by virtue of collecting facts and information.
Policy makers are free to ignore (or, in Bushs case, create) facts. Now it
will get worse.
Second, by encouraging spying on so-called "lone-wolf" terrorist suspects,
people not connected to any foreign organization or source, it means that
the CIA and FBI will have a much freer hand to spy on individual
Third, by enhancing CIA-FBI cooperation and strengthening "domestic
intelligence" forces, we will see more and more CIA spying on Americans.
Consider the case of the arson in Maryland this week, in which several
dozen homes under construction were burned. If environmental groups come
under suspicion and case is declared "terrorist related," then the CIA can
start spying on environmental action groups here and abroad, using all of
the CIA's virtually unbridled tactics and technology.
There's a lot more. Does anyone care? Not in Congress. Even the Democrats
are stupidly cheering this bill. (Sen. Rockefeller, shame on you!) The
ACLU at least is worried, noting that the bill creates a de facto national
ID card and has little or no safeguards to protect civil liberties.
DAILY LIFE IN BAGHDAD
Finally, for what life is really like for ordinary Iraqis, you've got to get
behind the smoke and propaganda fog dispensed by the Pentagon and most
mainstream media. Read the Baghdad blogger known as River; she tells it like it is:
It has been a sad few weeks. The situation seems to be
deteriorating daily. To brief you on a few things: Electricity is lousy.
Many areas are on the damned 2 hours by 4 hours schedule and there are
other areas that are completely in the dark- like A'adhamiya. The problem
is that we're not getting much generator electricity because fuel has
become such a big problem. People have to wait in line overnight now to
fill up the car. It's a mystery. It really is. There was never such a
gasoline crisis as the one we're facing now. We're an oil country and yet
there isn't enough gasoline to go around...
Oh don't get me wrong- the governmental people have gasoline (they have
special gas stations where there aren't all these annoying people, rubbing
their hands with cold and cursing the Americans to the skies)... The
Americans have gasoline. The militias get gasoline. It's the people who
don't have it. We can sometimes get black-market gasoline but the liter
costs around 1250 Iraqi Dinars which is almost $1- compare this to the old
price of around 5 cents. It costs almost 50,000 Iraqi Dinars to fill up
the generator so that it works for a few hours and then the cost isn't so
much the problem as just getting decent gasoline is. So we have to do
without electricity most of the day.
Cooking gas has also become a problem. The guy who sells us the gas
cylinders isn't coming around because apparently he can't get the used
cylinders exchanged for full ones. People are saying that it costs around
10,000 Iraqi dinars to buy one on the street and then, as usual, you risk
getting one that might explode in the kitchen or be full of water. We're
trying to do more and more of our 'cooking' on the kerosene heater. The
faucet water is cold, cold, cold. We can't turn on the water heater
because there just isn't enough electricity. We installed a kerosene water
heater some time last year but that has also been off because there's a
kerosene shortage and we need that for the heaters.
I took my turn at 'gasoline duty' a couple of weeks ago. E. and my cousin
were going to go wait for gasoline so I decided I'd join them and keep
them company. We left the house at around 5 a.m. and it was dark and
extremely cold. I thought for sure we'd be the first at the station but I
discovered the line was about a kilometer long with dozens and dozens of
cars lined up around the block. My heart sank at the discouraging sight
but E. and the cousin looked optimistic, "We just might be able to fill up
before evening this time!" E. smiled.
I spent the first hour jabbering away and trying to determine whether or
not gasoline was actually being sold at the station. E. and the cousin
were silent- they had set up a routine. One of them would doze while the
other watched in case a miracle occurred and the line actually started
moving. The second hour I spent trying to sleep with my neck at an
uncomfortable angle on the back head rest. The third hour I
enthusiastically tried to get up a game of "memorize the license plate".
The fourth hour I fiddled with the radio and tried to sing along to every
song being played on air.
All in all, it took E. and the cousin 13 hours to fill the car. I say E.
and the cousin because I demanded to be taken home in a taxi after the
first six hours and E. agreed to escort me with the condition that I would
make sandwiches for him to take back to the cousin. In the end, half of
the tank of gasoline was kept inside of the car (for emergencies) and the
other half was sucked out for the neighborhood generator. People are
wondering how America and gang (i.e. Iyad Allawi, etc.) are going to
implement democracy in all of this chaos when they can't seem to get the
gasoline flowing in a country that virtually swims in oil. There's a rumor
that this gasoline crisis has been concocted on purpose in order to keep a
minimum of cars on the streets. Others claim that this whole situation is
a form of collective punishment because things are really out of control
in so many areas in Baghdad- especially the suburbs. The third theory is
that this being done purposely so that the Iraq government can amazingly
bring the electricity, gasoline, kerosene and cooking gas back in January
before the elections and make themselves look like heroes.
We're also watching the election lists closely. Most people I've talked to
aren't going to go to elections. It's simply too dangerous and there's a
sense that nothing is going to be achieved anyway. The lists are more or
less composed of people affiliated with the very same political parties
whose leaders rode in on American tanks. Then you have a handful of tribal
sheikhs. Yes- tribal sheikhs. Our country is going to be led by members of
religious parties and tribal sheikhs- can anyone say Afghanistan? What's
even more irritating is that election lists have to be checked and
confirmed by none other than Sistani!! Sistani- the Iranian religious
cleric. So basically, this war helped us make a transition from a secular
country being run by a dictator to a chaotic country being run by a group
of religious clerics. Now, can anyone say 'theocracy in sheeps clothing'?
Ahmad Chalabi is at the head of one of those lists- who would join a list
with Ahmad Chalabi at its head?
...The assault on Falloojeh and other areas is continuing. There are
rumors of awful weapons being used in Falloojeh. The city has literally
been burnt and bombed to the ground. Many of the people displaced from the
city are asking to be let back in, in spite of everything. I can't even
begin to imagine how difficult it must be for the refugees. It's like
we've turned into another Palestine- occupation, bombings, refugees,
death. Sometimes I'll be watching the news and the volume will be really
low. The scene will be of a man, woman or child, wailing in front of the
camera; crying at the fate of a body lying bloodily, stiffly on the
ground- a demolished building in the background and it will take me a few
moments to decide the location of this tragedy- Falloojeh? Gaza? Baghdad?
December 30, 2004
The Hell That Is South Asia
The Asia quake/tsunami disaster hit too close to home: My wife had been in
southern Thailand, at the beaches, only a week before the disaster struck; I
had been in Southeast Asia a week before that.
Watching the horrific images on CNN and the other news channels had put me
in a state of shock; watching parents shrieking as their children got swept
out to sea, I was wracked by sobs myself, and turned into a sack of torpor.
This was just too awful for words. I couldn't sit down and write anything,
not even the most rudimentary blog.
As I compose this now, the death toll is way over 100,000, and climbing
almost exponentially by the hour. A half-million are wounded. Thousand upon
thousands are missing. Many outlying villages haven't even been checked yet.
More than three million are homeless. The largest relief campaign in history
My wife and I had seen first-hand how so many Asian villages existed in
symbiosis to the water, dependent on the easy access for their simple boats
to the fish that was their livelihood. We had seen evidence of homes built
on raised blocks along the rivers, because of the periodic flooding.
But we had seen nothing like the images pouring out of our TV: walls of
water crashing through beaches and towns and, with nothing to stop them,
continuing across the flat land, crushing everything in their path.
POVERTY ON TOP OF POVERTY
The saddest realization was that these people were desperately poor to begin
with, living day by day from fishing or service work or in low-paying jobs
provided by tourism. And now, not only had the survivors lost spouses and
children, but so many had lost their homes, their villages, and their
Who knows what will take the place, if anything can take the place, of what
they have lost? Who knows, for example, how long it will take before foreign
tourists will want to return to this scary, battered area of the world? (It
took five to 10 years for Hawaii to recover its tourist trade in Kauai in
the '80s after a devastating hurricane that ruined so many of the hotels and
beaches and vegetation. Thailand, for example, figures it will lose $750
million in tourist revenues in the next few months.)
It was precisely those anticipated tourist revenues that kept an
early-warning about possible tsunamis from going out to the resorts in
Thailand. The government didn't want to scare tourists away. Read
Keith Olbermann's blog.
How do the residents of Thailand and Sri Lanka and Indonesia survive in the
meantime, even if disease epidemics do not add to their ongoing tragedy?
These are kind, hard-working, warm people. Yes, they have their religions to
sustain them (mainly Buddhism in Thailand, Islam in Indonesia, Hinduism in
India), and there is the beginning of an immense international relief effort
to aid them through this immediate crisis, but so many are broken by their
losses and faced with the daunting task of starting over, from scratch.
And this assessment doesn't even take into account the ecological damage
wrought by the salty water to the croplands and rice paddies and vegetation.
One survivor described the situation in which he found himself simply as
"Hell." Nobody around him disagreed.
BUSH WAS "ON VACATION"
While other world leaders began to address the calamity quickly -- speaking
openly to their citizens and to the victims of the Asia tragedy, promising
huge amounts of money and other aid -- a vacationing George W. Bush, lost in
the solipsistic vision that protects him from reality, did and said
virtually nothing. A deputy press secretary issued the first generic
expression of America's sadness. Fifteen million dollars were pledged.
Only when the outcry against this cold-hearted behavior grew loud -- a
United Nations official, for example, calling some of the developed
countries "stingy" for their meager initial promises of aid, when billions
are needed -- did Bush emerge, five days into the developing story, to
express his personal sadness, and the promised relief aid was upped to a
miserly 35 million. (By comparison,
estimates that the U.S. is spending about $9.5 million PER HOUR in Iraq
The American people, always generous and warm-hearted, immediately inundated
non-governmental relief agencies with millions and millions of dollars and
offers of help, putting into stark relief the grudging, parsimonious
"compassionate conservatism" of their governmental leaders. (For a list of
relief agencies accepting donations, see below).
Once again, the Bush Administration misread Asia, and ignored a chance to
try to gain some good P.R. in an area of the world already very suspicious
of U.S. intentions and policies. As I wrote in my recent
report, not one person who spoke to me in Thailand, Laos and
Cambodia had a positive thing to say about Bush and U.S. policy.
This was not damage in Asia from an ordinary monsoon or typhoon or flooding.
This was calamity on a scale the world had rarely seen. The response should
have been commensurate with the enormity of the problem. But Bush and the
tight-knit coterie around him sat silent for days -- was it ignorance? lack
of caring? confusion? -- and their response to an extraordinary event was
embarrassingly ordinary and generic.
HOW TO SEND AID TO THE AREA
For those wishing to join their fellow citizens in sending what those
devastated countries need most right now -- funds for immediate help, and
for the coming reconstruction projects -- below is the Associated Press
list, posted on DemocraticUnderground.com.
Also check out internet activist Daniel Patrick Walsh's note:
The Greenhouse School community has connections to many countries, and
it is no surprise that the recent devastation in the coastal countries of
the Indian Ocean is no exception. Our parents Hong and Tharva Net have a
good friend in Phuket who has gone missing, and our prayers are with them
for her safe rescue. The children are of course affected by the tragedy,
although they are a bit young to grasp its enormity. We have decided to
interrupt our own holiday appeal and expand and redirect our efforts to
raise a supplemental amount of money we can for relief efforts.
One of our trustees, Jessica Stevens, has a contact on the island of Koh
Phra Thong, in Phang Nga, Thailand, who is setting up a relief fund. We
would like to collect donations for this purpose. Koh Phra Thong (which
translates as Golden Buddha Island) is in a small chain of islands which
have been devastated by the tsunami. Three fishing villages are in almost
complete ruins, and even a small donation may have a significant impact.
It is important for GHS as a community, even in the midst of struggling
through our own budget, to teach our students to reach outside themselves
to the larger world community. We will begin accepting donations
immediately, and the children will participate in activities to raise a
small amount of money toward this relief effort. Thank you for your
thoughts and your participation. If you are already giving to Doctors
Without Borders, the Red Cross or other efforts, we do not want to divert
funds from those. However, if you would like to be part of our effort,
send a check to the school. (Please write "disaster relief" in the memo of
the appropriate check) Send donations to us at:
The Greenhouse School
145 Loring Avenue
Salem, MA 01970
(or use PayPal through our site,
and we will combine donations to make one larger payment to efforts on the
island. We have no illusions about the limits of our ability to help. We
will, however, try to do our share as world citizens.
Thank you for joining us.
ADMIRABLE RELIEF AGENCIES
List of agencies helping quake/tsunami victims (from
Among my favorites are Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, and
Action Against Hunger
247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201
New York, NY 10018
American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10018
12501 Old Columbus Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund)
1501 Cherry Street
Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
PO Box 2247
New York, NY 10116-2247
International Medical Corps
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard Suite 300
Santa Monica CA 90404
800-481-4462 FAX 310-442-6622
1600 K St. NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
PO Box 372
CH-1211 Geneva 19
International Orthodox Christian Charities
Middle East Crisis Response
PO Box 630225
Baltimore, MD 21263-0225
Lutheran World Relief
PO Box 17061
Baltimore MD 21298-9832
2200 Glynco Parkway
PO Box 215000
Brunswick, GA 3121-5000
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208
Northwest Medical Teams
PO Box 10
Portland, OR 97207-0010
8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200
Los Angles, CA 90069
11965 Venice Blvd.¥405
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Save the Children
Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
US Fund for UNICEF
333 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
19303 Fremont Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98133
7 E. Baltimore St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
PO Box 70288
Tacoma, Washington 98481-0288