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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 here.

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, arrest a 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 scenario.)

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 occupy Iraq.

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 votes, though.

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 internet.

When I first read the original glimmerings on an obscure website -- John Reynolds' "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 ear.

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?'")

Drum continues:

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 and speculation.

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 programs.

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 ongoing.

[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 know anything?


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, Salon's Scott 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 world."

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 that?

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 still-imperiled nation.


GILLIARD'S TAKE ON FRIEDMAN

Steve 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 anarchic violence.

Bush and the neocons wanted to remake Iraq into their ideological laboratory, forgetting that strikes in Iraq are conducted by ambush and rocket fire.

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 paper, The 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 Rob 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 dangerous.

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 current  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 imminent one.

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 campaign.

* 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 credibility.

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.


STORY UPDATES

On the issue with which I led off my previous blog (see below) -- whether Bush was "wired" at his first debate -- Xymphora  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 ways.

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 in power.

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 registered,  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 security"?

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 evidence.")

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 some excerpts:

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 hit Taba.

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 real world.

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 imperial aggression.

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 Recommended Blogsites.
 


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:  "I 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 him."

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 Kos' insightly 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 nationwide.#


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, see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.


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 draft issue.

...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 particular comment.

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 "non-crisis."


BEST OF THE BLOGS

Perhaps the most provocative and important article out there this week is Ron Suskind's long, revealing profile of 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 whatsoever."

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 Security.

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 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 voter-registration.

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 sort 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 Al Gore's 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 there

For more on the Sinclair feint, check out former FCC chair
Reed Hundt's letter:

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 "skills" draft of doctors, nurses, engineers and such.

Read this from
Steven Gilliard:

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 later.

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 draft comes.

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 at home.

So if you think running will solve your problems, it won't even come close.

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 new Kerry ads.


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 country.

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 Wilkes-Barre, PA. 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 Agency.

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 impact.


ADMINISTRATION'S SKETCHY RESPONSE

But let's return to the 380 tons of high-explosives at Al-Qa-Qaa. Here's Josh Marshall
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 last year.

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 the IAEA.

But even if you accept this explanation on its face, I think it's almost worse.

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 principals) either.


THE COVERUP CONTINUES

Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo blog is filled with stories illuminating various aspects of this unfolding scandal,
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 straight.

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 them this.

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.

They haven't.

George Bush has failed to protect this country, first on 9/11 and then by invading Iraq.

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 people.

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 Baghdad.

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 American safer.

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 cable.


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 matter what.

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 MoveOn.org  or Americans Coming Together for instructions.)

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 more 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 2000."

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 list:

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 ID problems.

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 street address.

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 important!

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 continue.

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 www.mypollingplace.com  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 rights:

--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 polling lines.

--You have the right to vote without being intimidated by anyone.

--For your rights in your own state, check out this website: http://www.ourvote.com/

* 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 the day.

* 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:

 http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/pdfs/ep_card.pdf  <<

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 bars.


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
Kevin Drum:

...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: "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out."

Now, 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 training.

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 its course."


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 all concerned.

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.

Rove has pulled many 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.  See here,  here,  here, and here.

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, big time.


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 rally.

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 voting process.

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 Ernest Partridge's 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 ( >>vri@dnc.org << ), 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 never know.

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 language.

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 happen.

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 Asia travelogue explaining what I've been up to recently) spat that one out, without my permission.

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 considerable scrutiny."

Begley writes:

"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.


UNIVERSAL FUNDAMENTALISMS

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, "The Fundamentalist 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 that.

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 drug benefit.

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 Schwarzkopf]

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

Robert Dreyfuss 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 Americans.

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 has begun.

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 livelihoods.

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, one writer estimates that the U.S. is spending about $9.5 million PER HOUR in Iraq alone.)

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 Southeast Asia 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, www.greenhouseschool.org, 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.

Peace, Danny


ADMIRABLE RELIEF AGENCIES

List of agencies helping quake/tsunami victims (from Democraticunderground.com).

Among my favorites are Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, and World Vision.

Action Against Hunger
247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201
New York, NY 10018
212-967-7800
www.aah-usa.org 

American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10018
800-889-7146
www.ajws.org 

ADRA International
9-11 Fund
12501 Old Columbus Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
800-424-2372
www.adra.org 

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund)
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA
215-241-7000
www.afsc.org 

Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
800-736-3467
www.catholicrelief.org 

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117
805-964-4767
www.directrelief.org 

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
PO Box 2247
New York, NY 10116-2247
888-392-0392
www.doctorswithoutborders.org 

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
202-828-5155
www.imcworldwide.org/index.shtml

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
PO Box 372
CH-1211 Geneva 19
Switzerland
41-22-730-4222
www.ifrc.org 

International Orthodox Christian Charities
Middle East Crisis Response
PO Box 630225
Baltimore, MD 21263-0225
877-803-4622
www.iocc.org 

Lutheran World Relief
PO Box 17061
Baltimore MD 21298-9832
800-597-5972
www.lwr.org 

MAP International
2200 Glynco Parkway
PO Box 215000
Brunswick, GA 3121-5000
800-225-8550
http://www.map.org 

Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208
800-852-2100
www.mercycorps.org 

Northwest Medical Teams
PO Box 10
Portland, OR 97207-0010
503-624-1000
www.nwmedicalteams.org 

Operation USA
8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200
Los Angles, CA 90069
800-678-7255
www.opusa.org 

Relief International
11965 Venice Blvd.¥405
Los Angeles, CA 90066
800-572-3332
www.ri.org 

Save the Children
Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
800-728-3843
www.savethechildren.org 

US Fund for UNICEF
333 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
800-FOR-KIDS
www.unicefusa.or

World Concern
19303 Fremont Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98133
800-755-5022
www.worldconcern.org 

World Relief
7 E. Baltimore St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
443-451-1900
www.wr.org 

World Vision
PO Box 70288
Tacoma, Washington 98481-0288
888-56-CHILD
www.worldvision.org 

 


More Bernard Weiner's Blogs

Spring, 2004 -- Summer, 2004 -- Autumn, 2004

2005 -- 2006 -- 2007 -- 2008 -- 2009 -- 2010


 


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances