Thursday, September 30, 2004

"Senator Kerry has momentum coming out of here." --George Stephanopoulos on ABC just now.

Hell yeah.

A poll on ABC showed Kerry as the clear winner, and Stephanopoulos said a CBS poll showed him a "significant" winner. Nice.

UPDATE: MyDD has the numbers: ABC -- Kerry 45, Bush 36, unsure 17; CBS -- Kerry 44, Bush 26, unsure 30.

That was as good as I could have hoped. Kerry looked and sounded clear, direct and presidential. Bush seemed both snappish and fuzzy-headed (those senior-moment pauses!); by the end, he seemed reduced.

Jeff Greenfield on CNN just said, clearly in agony, that Kerry looked almost as presidential as Bush. What Greenfield means is that Kerry looked as presidential as the myth of Bush. We saw the real Bush tonight -- a sullen brat in an adult's job who's clearly out of his depth. He was awful.
Kerry is doing a great job.

Bush ... well, I've said over and over that he frequently adopts a "you'd know this if you weren't such an idiot" tone. For some reason, he's decided to do this entire debate using that tone. I don't know how swing voters are reacting to that, but to me it sounds awful. Certainly unpresidential.
When I look at the horror in Iraq today, I can't fight off a political thought: "Security moms," if you're planning to vote for Bush because his tough talk has persuaded you that he can prevent another Beslan, well, Beslan just happened in Baghdad, on Bush's watch.
For the last month, we've heard that bloggers are the future of media, that the "old media" are dead, that Dan Rather signed the death warrant because he was too arrogant to check his facts. So The Guardian gives a weekly column to right-wing blog god Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, and right off the bat he gives us two whoppers.

...many have concluded that it's impossible for a Democrat to win the south unless - like Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter - he has southern roots....

But why would that be? It can't be because southerners won't vote for people from outside the south. After all, they happily voted in droves for Ronald Reagan, a Californian transplanted from the midwest. Nor is it likely to be because of "traditional values", since southerners also voted for Bill Clinton, a Democrat whose commitment to monogamy was famously shaky.


Here's the 1992 electoral map. Here's the 1996 electoral map. Southerners voted for Clinton? Er, no, they didn't. Clinton won some Southern states (probably because he's, y'know, Southern), but the GOP dominated the South twice. In his two three-way races, Clinton won a majority (rather than a plurality) of the vote in the South only in his home state of Arkansas (twice) and in Louisiana in '96. (Source.)

...the south's commitment to traditional values is, like Bill Clinton's, less strong than many might believe. Dayton, Tennessee - home of the Scopes "monkey trial", depicted entertainingly in Inherit the Wind, and more accurately in Ed Larson's book, A Summer for the Gods, - recently sponsored a "Gay Day" after overturning local anti-gay legislation.

Did Reynolds even read his own link? Let's start at the end: Yes, county commissioners overturned anti-gay legislation -- but what they overturned was legislation

to ban homosexuals and have them arrested for "crimes against nature." ...

Although commissioner J.C. Fugate clearly explained his motion to ban gays in March, members of the panel have since said they thought their first vote was only to show support for state lawmakers banning same-sex marriages.


Very pro-gay of them.

And did the local government actually sponsor Gay Day? Hell, no -- as this story notes, it was put together by a local lesbian and a team of volunteers. (The story also makes clear that the county commissioners almost certainly overturned their own vote only because they were embarrassed by the bad publicity.)

If the gate-storming Rather-haters can't do better than this, I think we're going to need the old media a little longer.
President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, said Wednesday that the Bush-Cheney campaign is planning some October "surprises" for challengers John Kerry and John Edwards.

"We've got a couple of surprises that we intend to spring," Rove told ABC radio host Sean Hannity...


--NewsMax story, 9/29/04

A man called Sean Hannity after 4 PM ET today. Said he lived in Naples, FL, but originally lived in MA. He said that Kerry lost his first congressional race when networks aired a film of Kerry (in uniform) burning & urinating on an American flag. Sean was skeptical. The guy suggested checking with possibly John O'Neill or Howie Carr in MA. Anyone ever hear about anything like this?

--Free Republic discussion thread, 9/29/04

Coincidence?

An isolated event -- or the start of the next phase of Bush's sewer campaign?

Even Hannity expresses skepticism about this rumor, but that may be beside the point. In 1988 there were completely unsubstantiated rumors that Kitty Dukakis had once burned an American flag, rumors to which Bush the Elder made an oblique but pointed allusion while talking about running mate Dan Quayle.

Meanwhile, another FR thread notes that Bob Dornan tried to link Kerry to flag-burning in the '70s on Hannity's TV show in August:

Bob Dornan went on a savage attack, showing burned US flag and VC/Communist flags that were burned by Kerry's anti-war group in 1971.

The Freeper who describes this Dornan appearance goes on to say,

Dornan also wanted Fox to have anti-Kerry widows from the Vietnam war.

Which brings us back to the latest ad by the Swift boat Kerry-haters, which -- yes -- features wives of Vietnam POWs.

Oh, and, of course, Congress is about to take up a flag-burning amendment.

Is Rove delicately orchestrating this? Hard to say. Color me suspicious.
Today, in most of Iraq, children are about to go back to school...

--George W. Bush, radio address, 9/25/04

In this second school year since the United States deposed Saddam Hussein, Iraqi education officials have twice put off the start of classes, citing instability in the provinces....

Education officials said the start of school had been postponed from Sept. 11 to Sept. 18, then to Oct. 2. The timing is still not entirely clear, with some children saying they were told Oct. 15. Other ministry officials said that because of a delay in financing, new textbooks would not be printed and fully distributed for another month or more....


--New York Times
Is there an echo in here?

Despite all their sparring over the war in Iraq, President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry have one thing in common when it comes to foreign policy: Neither wants to draw attention to how much they actually agree.

--Los Angeles Times

How and why the United States went to war with Iraq will be debated for years. How the United States can get out, however, is a far more urgent question. On that topic, the candidates have remarkably similar answers.

--ABC

...for all the talk about stark differences - on many foreign policy subjects... the two differ only slightly, if at all.

Even on Iraq, the candidates' sharpest stated differences are retrospective, rather than prospective. Mr. Bush defends the war as central to the struggle against terrorism; Mr. Kerry criticizes it as a diversion. As they look ahead, though, neither man is calling for the immediate departure of American troops; both advocate accelerating the training of Iraqi forces.


--New York Times

Gee, when have I heard this before? Could it have been just after Kerry's NYU speech?

"Forty-three days before the election, my opponent has now settled on a proposal for what to do next," Mr. Bush said there, "and it's exactly what we're currently doing."

Why is this the lead? Shortly after the NYU speech we had, in The New York Times, "2 Iraq Views, 2 Campaigns":

To hear President Bush and John Kerry argue bitterly in the past two days about the American mission in Iraq is to wonder if they are talking about the same war, or even the same country.

Is this new emphasis on the candidates' similarities -- which comes at a time when Kerry's statements and ads on the war are becoming much tougher and more pointed -- just a Truth that's slowly dawned on all these reporters at the same time? Are the reporters parroting GOP spin? Or is it that, after so many years in which the GOP has set the terms of one debate after another, Beltway reporters don't even know the difference anymore between what they hear from Republican spinners and what they actually think?

Remember: These are the same people who told you four years ago that you'd barely be able to tell a Bush and Gore presidency apart.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Is this thing tightening again?

Bush is up by just 2 in Ohio, per CNN/USA Today/Gallup. (Early in the month, Bush led by 8 in the same poll.) If Gallup's oversampling Republicans, who's really winning?

The Electoral-Vote.com composite has Bush's EV lead narrowing to 273-241. (Bush has recently been over 300.)

Meanwhile ... yeah, the International Communications Research (who?) poll has Bush up by 10 (likely voters)/8 (registered voters), but the L.A. Times has a Bush lead of 5 (likely)/4 (registered) -- both per Polling Report.

UPDATE: From the L.A. Times story on its poll:

Nineteen percent of likely voters said the debate could affect their vote, whereas 79% said it was not likely to. One good sign for Kerry: 63% of those who said the debate could change their mind now support Bush, and 27% back the Democrat.

Am I doing the math right? Does that mean nearly 12% of surveyed voters are Bush supporters who might switch? That's a real opportunity.
In the wake of CBS News' "60 Minutes" controversy, an influential Republican on Tuesday said he wants to convene a Capitol Hill hearing on TV news operations after the Nov. 2 election.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Commerce Committee, told a meeting of the TV engineering trade group MSTV in Washington that broadcast network news divisions "need to have safeguards to prevent reporters from infusing their opinions into news reports."

The lawmaker said he wanted to hear from execs of all the nets -- not just CBS -- and threatened to introduce legislation requiring TV news operations to impose safeguards against partisan bias seeping into reports....


--Variety/Yahoo News

I don't care that, as the story goes on to report, Barton "backed off the threat of legislation when pressed for specifics." I want to know why the hell he wants to waste my tax dollars and yours with this crap in the first place.

It apparently has escaped Barton's notice that for more than a decade "partisan bias" has literally been the only item on offer at most AM talk radio stations in America. Or perhaps Barton's definition of "nonpartisan" is the same as the Fox News definition of "fair and balanced": biased to the right in a way we think everyone else is biased to the left.

The U.S. once had a "fairness doctrine" that required broadcasters to provide a balance of viewpoints, on the principle that you can't truly have free speech on TV and radio because the broadcast spectrum is limited -- which it unquestionably was for decades. Barton apparently forgot that it was Saint Ronald Reagan who got rid of the fairness doctrine, on the principle (pre-Internet) that cable TV expanded the opportunity for opposing views.

I'd say we don't need a fairness doctrine these days -- broadcasting is still in the control of a few Goliaths, but broadcasters and print publishers are now too tied to the Internet to be unreachable by the hoi polloi. But I'll support government reregulation of CBS's bias if Joe Barton will support reregulation of AM radio's.
BlogBites directs me to this post at Obsidian Wings, which expresses entirely justified horror at an open letter calling for genocide against Arabs and Muslims. The author of this letter has identified himself as Martin Kozloff, an education professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (and author of, among other books, Reaching the Autistic Child and Improving Educational Outcomes for Children with Disabilities).

...Like most Americans, I knew little about arab-muslim culture and believed that the developed nations were partly responsible for the poverty and authoritarian regimes that infest the middle east.

Things changed on 9/11/01 when you ruined the lives of at least 10,000 Americans
[sic].

These people instantly became my countrymen and you became my mortal enemy.

Ordinary Americans are arming themselves for war with you. I and many of my friends have closets full of handguns, rifles, shotguns and thousands of cartridges.

If we had enough ammunition and time, we would kill every last one of you.

...One day soon, our planes and missiles will begin turning your mosques, your madrasses, your hotels, your government offices, your hideouts, and your neighborhoods into rubble.

And then our soldiers will enter your cities and begin the work of killing you, roaches, as you crawl from the debris....

And if you come to this country and harm a child, shoot a mother, hijack a bus, or bomb a mall, we will do what we did in 1775. Millions of us will form militias.

We will burn your mosques.

We will invade the offices of pro-arab-muslim organizations, destroy them, and drag their officers outside....

We will transport arab-muslims to our deserts, where they can pray to scorpions under the blazing sun.

You have fucked with the wrong people.

We will rid the world of your foul breath.

Your caliphate will be your grave.


George W. Bush on October 12, 2001:

"Ours is a war against terrorism and evil, not against Islam.  Americans respect and admire that religion of peace.  And I'm proud our country is home to many followers of the Islamic faith.  Those who hijacked four airliners on September the 11th are also trying to hijack Islam."

Professor Kozloff, although he backs Bush ("We completely support our President and our armed forces. We only wish they would destroy you faster, but we are certain that they will") and, naturally, loathes Democrats ("We no longer listen to the insane words of Kerry, Harkin, Kennedy, Clark, and others whom we now see as ideologues who would sacrifice our country and our lives on the alter of their vanity and desire for power"), apparently didn't get the memo.

If a man believes in Muslim blood guilt, is it appropriate for him to be teaching young people, some of whom may well be Muslims?

*****

UPDATE: Atrios follows up:

...various people are saying the guy wrote them and his response included this sentence, which is his basic claim:

The letter was sociological in intent. It was a literary device to get readers to examine their own assumptions.

And denies actually believing most of what was posted, and claims he didn't sign his name to it.


Man, Ann Coulter needs to give this guy a few pointers. When you publish a rant that calls for the extermination of Arabs and Muslims, you can't be solemn and self-righteous -- you need to be sarcastic so when people call you on it you can say, "It was a joke. Can't you take a joke? Boy, you liberals are really humor-impaired." But judging from this page on Kozloff's own site, Kozloff's pretty solemn about the vicarious war he's conducting from his desk chair.

"[Kozloff] claims he didn't sign his name to it." Well, no, not exactly -- but, as noted above, Kozloff identified himself, or at the very least allowed himself to be identified, by a blogger with whom he clearly has a fairly comfortable relationship, a blogger who posted this under Kozloff's byline.

Most days I wake up, stagger out of bed (which is hard to do, since the bed's six inches off the ground), pick up the loaded Smith and Wesson .357 magnum from the nightstand, fumble in the pewter bowl for the empty can of jock itch spray (where I cleverly hide the key to the arsenal—or closet), and put away the revolver—alongside the M1 30.06 Garand, the Ruger .44 magnum, the 12 gauge six-round pump, and the 1500 or so rounds of full metal jacket and semi-jacket hollow point ammunition.

Since 9/11, I have gotten the family prepared. For what, and when, I’m not sure. But just as I fear and prepare for the hurricanes that rip through here, so I fear and prepare for Islamo-Nazi violence. I may not live to see it, but I want my wife and kid to be armed.


I love this guy -- the 9/11 terrorists flew planes into buildings eighty stories above the ground and he thinks he's going to beat them with a frigging handgun.
The good news for John Kerry in tomorrow's debate is that he's the underdog. That wasn't supposed to happen. The Bushies have been trying to lower expectations -- Scott McLellan has described Kerry as "the most skilled debater" Bush has ever faced -- but they can't pull that off because they've spent months telling us that we can't trust anything Kerry says. Some in the press are returning to old truisms about Bush's struggles with public speaking, but that's not enough to offset months of media snark about Kerry's syntax (some of it fictional). Throw in the many recent stories about Bush gains in the polls and swing-voter wariness about Kerry -- and add in Bush's rampaging ego, on display throughout his term (he certainly acts as if only an idiot would prefer Kerry) -- and the president is the clear favorite, the guy who really might get hurt by a couple of noticeable gaffes. And that's good for Kerry.

On the other hand, the conventional wisdom -- that the first debate is the most important one, the debate that will sway the most votes -- isn't always accurate. Remember 1984? Ronald Reagan stumbled badly in that year's first debate. Here, from Paul Slansky's The Clothes Have No Emperor, is a description of the most shocking moment from that debate; this doesn't show up in the transcripts, but it jibes with the way I remember it:

[Reagan] blanks out completely in the middle of an answer, stalling for a mini-eternity -- "The system is still where it was with regard to the ... uh ... the ... uh ... the ... uh ... the ... uh ..." -- until he comes up, who knows how, with the missing word, "progressivity."

Reagan made errors of fact in that debate, referred to military uniforms as "wardrobe," and said, just before his closing statement, "I'm all confused now."

Spin ensued. Slansky notes that Reagan challenged Mondale to arm-wrestle, and that the president claimed Mondale seemed younger in the debate because he was wearing makeup (Reagan denied wearing any). Reagan's doctor called him "mentally alert." Republican senator Paul Laxalt blamed the briefing process.

That was October 7. Slansky writes about October 21:

At the second Reagan/Mondale debate in Kansas City, the President successfully delivers an obviously rehearsed one-liner -- "I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience" -- and thereby puts an end to fears about his recently displayed senility.

So determined are voters to ignore his flaws that not even his observation that Armageddon could come "the day after tomorrow" (a commnt that prompts Nancy to gasp, "Oh, no!") or his almost incoherent closing statement (something about a time capsule and a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway) can dissuade them.


The moral of the story: Even if Bush screws up tomorrow night, Kerry may not benefit. George W. Bush may not know much about "winning the postwar" in real life, but Republicans are experts at "winning the postwar" after a debate. There's nothing dishonest in this -- every four years I ask myself when the hell the Democrats are going to learn what Republicans know about campaigning -- but just keep in mind that the GOP will do whatever it takes to "win" the first debate ... even if takes weeks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bush up by 8 in the new Pew poll -- but Kerry up by 1 in the new Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll.

These polls seem to be going in opposite directions: Roughly two weeks ago, the Pew poll had Bush and Kerry tied; a little more than a week ago, the IBD/CSM/TIPP poll had Bush up by 3.

Weird year.
30 PIECES OF SILVER

GOP takes care of Zell for taking care of Kerry

The Republicans are making sure that Sen. Zell Miller, who launched a withering attack on presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry last month, gets his pet projects paid for in appropriations legislation.

Miller, the Georgia Democrat who was the keynote speaker at the GOP convention in New York and who alienated his party by excoriating Kerry, has been told not to worry about losing his earmarks in the new fiscal year, which begins Friday.

The week that Congress returned after the GOP convention, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) grabbed Miller’s arm outside the Senate chamber and assured him, "Don’t worry about appropriations, I've already put that stuff of yours in there."

The New Mexico Republican is chairman of the Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, a panel that small-government advocacy groups say doles out far more pet projects than most other spending subcommittees.

Domenici later explained, "He left me a note telling me he had a project, and I wanted to tell him it was in." ...


--The Hill
Federal Review has some thoughts about those varying poll numbers:

Could it be that pollsters who push "leaners" to answer get better numbers for Bush [while] pollsters who are content to find undecided voters show a closer race? ... I reviewed all polls for the last three weeks and compared the number of undecided voters to the level of support for each of Bush and Kerry.... as undecideds decrease in a poll, both Bush and Kerry's support increases - as you might expect. But Bush's support increases more rapidly....

What does this tell us about undecideds and how they may break? Well, the Republican spin is clear - the undecideds are showing a tendency to break heavily for the President. But the spin you might expect from Democrats is probably more accurate and more relevant to campaigns trying to figure out where the race stands today. "Leaners" are both less solidly behind their candidate and, probably, less likely to vote. Thus, a greater proportion of Bush's voters in the latest polls may be soft.

While that should give some hope to Democrats, they should still be concerned that Bush still holds a lead even when poll victims aren't pressed for whom they lean toward. At the same time, Democrats can hope that this soft support can be turned.


There's an opening for Kerry in this.
Oh, well, that's it -- it's over. I just read this in The Washington Times:

Psychic dogs smell Bush victory

Psychic dogs belonging to actor Sylvester Stallone's mother have projected President George Bush the winner in November, the Los Angeles Times said Monday.

The paper said the dogs foresee the president will beat Democratic challenger John Kerry by 15 percent....

The Times said Mama Stallone's dogs correctly predicted in July 2000 Bush would capture the White House that year....


Which is true -- although the dogs also miss a few:

In October 2002, Jackie told MSNBC's Jeannette Walls that the Maryland sniper would strike again before being caught. The shooter, she added, was "a light-haired person, in his 20s or 30s, from a good family, though he's not that close to them."

Er, not exactly.

My marvelous, extraordinary, irrepressible, unpredictable Mother. Gifted with a facile mind, she has a vast array of talents, but without question her greatest talent is to foresee the future... [T]he truth is the only thing that matters to her, and to tell the truth is the only thing she knows how to do.

--Sylvester Stallone, from the back cover of Mom's book Starpower

I guess that settles that.
Remember the long-ago era when even the soldiers hated the war America sent them to fight? Well, welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President:

Fewer than two-thirds of the former soldiers being reactivated for duty in Iraq and elsewhere have reported on time, prompting the Army to threaten some with punishment for desertion.

The former soldiers, part of what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), are being recalled to fill shortages in skills needed for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 1,662 ready reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sept. 22, only 1,038 had done so, the Army said Monday. About 500 of those who failed to report have requested exemptions on health or personal grounds.

"The numbers did not look good," said Lt. Col. Burton Masters, a spokesman for the Army's Human Resources Command....


--USA Today

And remember how, a few years back, certain right-wing commentators would blame this or that ordinary citizen's (or corporate CEO's) ethical lapses on a "moral climate" allegedly set by Bill Clinton? Well...

Several of those who received recall notices have already been declared AWOL (absent without official leave) and technically are considered deserters. "We are not in a rush to put someone in the AWOL category," Masters said. "We contact them and convince them it is in their best interests to show up. If you are a deserter, it can affect you the rest of your life."

Or, as we now know, maybe not.
The Washington Post/ABC poll isn't particularly good news for Kerry (7-point Bush lead among registered voters), but there are bits of silver around the clouds -- several voters express serious doubts about Bush and are begging Kerry to close the sale ("His biggest card right now is the 'anybody but Bush' card, and I'm not there yet....We'll see how it sorts itself out"). There's more in this Post story, "Anti-Bush Voters Seek Reasons to Back Kerry." Come on, John -- bring it on.

Beyond that, though, I think the flip-flop thing is killing Kerry: "Voters routinely describe Kerry as wishy-washy, as a flip-flopper and as a candidate they are not sure they can trust, almost as if they are reading from Bush campaign ad scripts." Bush has branded Kerry with that. It's a hook for Bush's ads, and for ads by right-wing 527s.

Meanwhile, when did Kos post this list of flip-flops by Bush? Back in March.

I still say the Kerry campaign, or the Kerry-friendly 527s, could have neutralized this line of attack, or at least weakened it, by creating a duel of flip-flop ads. It's probably too late, but, hell, it can't hurt -- do it, please. Now.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Fox tries to suppress the vote in a swing state; news media yawns (except for Katha Pollitt in The Nation):

Juliana Zuccaro and Kelly Kraus thought they were exercising their civic rights and responsibilities on August 31 when, as officers of the Network of Feminist Student Activists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, they helped set up a voter-registration drive on the UA mall. Imagine their astonishment when the local Fox affiliate news team showed up and lit into the young women. "The reporter asked if we knew that we were potentially signing students up to commit felonies," Juliana told me--by registering out-of-state students to vote in Arizona. When Kelly then asserted that Arizona law requires only that those registering be resident in the state twenty-nine days before the election, Natalie Tejeda, the Fox reporter, insisted it was illegal to register students. On the news that night, student voter registration was the crime du jour....

When an urgent e-mail from UA professor Laura Briggs about the Fox broadcast flashed across my screen a few days later, I assumed that such an egregious example of voter intimidation by proxy--with GOP TV standing in for, well, the GOP--would be all over the media by the time my next column deadline rolled around, so I passed on it. Silly me. As I write three weeks later, almost nothing has appeared outside the local press....


Pollitt points out that the students absolutely have the law on their side -- "a 1979 Supreme Court ruling affirming their right to vote where they attend school."

The Fox report quotes a local election official:

Tejeda: What many don't realize is that legally, students from out of state aren't eligible to vote in Arizona because they're considered temporary residents.

Chris Roads [Pima County Registrar's office]: If they are only here to attend school and their intention is to immediately return to where they came from when school is over then they are not residents of the state of Arizona for voting purposes and they cannot register to vote here.


Turns out Roads was brazenly quoted out of context:

When I spoke to Chris Roads, the official quoted in Tejeda's story--yes, he's a Republican--he claimed that Fox had quoted him out of context. His mention of "felony" was originally addressed to a "hypothetical" posed by Tejeda: What would he say to someone who planned to flat-out lie--who said, "I don't live here, can I fill out the form?" Roads says he was "shocked when it blossomed into a story about prosecuting people" for registering....

It's deceptive, partisan, and shameless. It's Fox. But I repeat myself.

******

(To be sure, this isn't as bad as the Republican registrar in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, throwing out new registrations because they're on the wrong paper stock, a blatant violation of the law.)

******

UPDATE: A New York Times editorial cites the Fox report in Arizona as part of a pattern of impediments to student voting.
CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED...

...but you'll never hear a word about from this guy, or from the folks who usually complain about the persecution of Christians, because, well, it's happening in the epicenter of goodness and freedom -- Iraq:

Thousands of fearful Christians fleeing Iraq

...Fearing lawlessness and rising Islamic fundamentalism in their own country, large numbers of Iraqi Christians are fleeing to neighboring Jordan and Syria. No one knows for certain how many of Iraq's 750,000 Christians have left the country since the removal of Saddam Hussein, but estimates are in the tens of thousands.

...One Christian ..., Samir, requested that his full name not be used because of fear of reprisals against his family. A businessman from Baghdad, he recounted how militants linked to renegade Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al Sadr recently kidnapped and tortured him until his family paid ransom money.

..."They repeatedly hit me and poured boiling water all over my body. I was held hostage until my family paid them $50,000 to finally get me released."

...The synchronized bombings of five churches in recent weeks and another car bombing at a Baghdad church on Sept. 10 have sent further shock waves into the Christian community. The blasts killed 11 people and wounded more than 50 in Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul....

The priest of the Latin Catholic church in Amman's Hashimi district, the Rev. Raymond Musili, has put the figure of recent arrivals from Iraq at about 7,000 at his church alone.

In Syria, the U.N. refugee agency operating in Damascus reports that some 4,000 Iraqi Christians have sought refuge in the country....


President Gore never would have responded to 9/11 by trying to overthrow a guy who had nothing to do with it, but imagine if he had -- and if this were happening now. For a significant percentage of Americans, it would be incontrovertible proof that Beelzebub is a Democrat.
Why do American corporations hate America? The New York Times reports:

America's biggest corporations are increasingly funneling profits earned in the United States to tax havens around the globe, depriving the United States Treasury of anywhere from $10 billion to $20 billion in lost tax revenue each year, according to a new study.

The study's author, Martin A. Sullivan, ... said yesterday that at least some of the transfer probably occurred through questionable tax shelters.

In a related study, published by Tax Notes earlier this month, Mr. Sullivan concluded that that profits reported by American multinational companies from their foreign subsidiaries, and not from their operations based in the United States, soared 68 percent since 1999, to $149 billion last year. The earlier study said that the rise in foreign earnings was not accompanied by any gain in real economic activity in the tax havens, suggesting that multinationals were increasingly using offshore tax shelters to shield earnings.


Here's my favorite detail:

Mr. Sullivan's new study did not mention any companies by name. He has previously cited the pharmaceutical industry as a leading shifter of domestic profits to overseas havens....

So you and I can't save money by legally buying prescription drugs from overseas, but big pharmaceutical companies can save money by shifting profits overseas. Nice.

An earlier Times story notes that this is a new development:

According to Commerce Department data not cited in the study, American companies took 17 cents of each dollar of worldwide profits in tax havens in 2002, up from 10 cents in 1999.

Mr. Sullivan noted in an interview that in 1991, when he first seriously examined the issue, only a small part of profit was taken from tax havens....


But isn't this just an inevitable result of globalization? Maybe not:

The figures also show how Congress, by eroding the capacity of the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws and through laws and treaties that favor the use of tax havens, is shifting the burden of taxes from multinational companies to individuals and purely domestic companies.

Some members of Congress, Mr. Sullivan said, will take comfort in his findings because "they believe in tax sabotage, the idea that we don't care if the I.R.S. can't enforce the laws because it means less taxes."...
Pathetic. Desperate. What you're reduced to when you never had an adequate plan:

Army Sends Weaponless Reserve Unit To Iraq

About 800 members of the 98th Army Reserve Division from Rochester, New York will begin a year-long mission in Iraq next month.

The unit, which normally trains reserve and active-duty soldiers in the U.S., will find itself training Iraq's new army.

The 98th is a non-combat unit that doesn't even have its own weapons or vehicles.

"This is a hard war and we, frankly, inside the Army Reserve have been not properly prepared for it," said Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the U.S. Army Reserve.


More from The Washington Post here.

(First link via the Raw Story.)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

A million bloggers have already commented on the big blogging article in The New York Times Magazine, and I don't have much to add except this: With all of its newsgathering resources, couldn't someone at the Times have ascertained that "Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon," "Jeralyn of Talkleft," and "Zoe of Gadflyer" have last names -- last names that can easily be determined by going to the blogs and looking them up?

*****

(The funniest gloss on the Times article is here.)
Bushies say: It's not our fault!

Administration officials remind audiences constantly that the federal deficits are largely a result of economic shocks: the collapse of the stock market bubble, which wiped out trillions in stock market value; the recession of 2001; and the plunge in business investment that lasted until this year.

Objective reality responds: Er, yes it is (at least now)...

The Congressional Budget Office estimated this month that cyclical economic problems contributed only $47 billion of this year's anticipated deficit of $422 billion. Next year, cyclical economic problems are expected to have almost no impact on the budget, but the deficit is expected to be $348 billion.

Going forward, virtually the entire federal deficit will be a result of structural causes - tax and spending policies set down by the president and Congress.


Oh, and by the way, we're not overtaxed:

Tax revenues in 2004 are expected to make up only 16.2 percent of gross domestic product, the lowest share in more than four decades. Although the share is expected to climb to 17.6 percent over the next decade, it would still be lower than it was in the 1960's.

(Source.)
Two weeks ago, Bush had a 12-point lead in the Time poll.

That lead has shrunk to 4 points.

And in swing states, new voters are being registered in heavily Democratic counties at a much faster pace than in Republican-leaning counties.

So how close is this race, really?

And if Bush isn't winning, why did I spend the morning reading article after article after article in my New York Times suggesting that awkward, tentative lousy manager Kerry needs to make major changes to save his struggling campaign?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The right-wing Internet community can't get enough of stories that make Dan Rather look bad, but, curiously, I'm not seeing many gleeful links to this New York Observer story.

The reason is obvious: the story doesn't fit the Right's narrative. It says that there may have been links between Rather and a guy who's hardly a candidate for lefty heroism: Jonathan (Jack) Idema, the American bounty hunter and war-hero wannabe who was recently convicted of running a torture prison in Afghanistan. (Video footage of Idema in Afghanistan bore a CBS "watermark," and a 60 Minutes spokesman confirms that the footage was transmitted by a CBS technician; Idema's lawyer says Rather's voice can be distinguished clearly in a taped phone conversation with Idema. Oh, and Idema's been a source for a couple of previous 60 Minutes stories.)

A producer for a rival network says in the Observer story that he found Idema untrustworthy and didn't want to work with him, even in order to get a scoop. Similarly, USA Today got the Burkett National Guard documents and didn't think they were trustworthy.

Is that the common thread -- that Rather and CBS News, perhaps because they're foolhardy and irresponsible, perhaps because they're just journalistically aggressive, are more willing to trust suspect sources in pursuit of a story?

Seems reasonable to me -- but I'm not a right-winger. The right-wingers have an idee fixe -- that Rather is an agent of the Left -- and evidence to the contrary just doesn't concern them.

******

(Oh, and for what it's worth, the Observer article reminds us that Idema claims to be working in cooperation with the Pentagon -- and says one of his contacts is General William G. Boykin, of "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol" fame.)

******

(Link updated.)

Friday, September 24, 2004

BUSH: THE REMIX

A sliced-'n'-diced Bush State of the Union address gets a dance remix (really) in the first post here. More cheap MP3 laffs here and here.
Stanley Fish has written a New York Times op-ed piece that's gladdening right-wing hearts:

In an unofficial but very formal poll taken in my freshman writing class the other day, George Bush beat John Kerry by a vote of 13 to 2 (14 to 2, if you count me). My students were not voting on the candidates' ideas. They were voting on the skill (or lack of skill) displayed in the presentation of those ideas.

The basis for their judgments was a side-by-side display in this newspaper on Sept. 8 of excerpts from speeches each man gave the previous day. Put aside whatever preferences you might have for either candidate's positions, I instructed; just tell me who does a better job of articulating his positions, and why.


Fish and his students at the University of Illinois have a point about John Kerry's indirectness and George W. Bush's directness. But it's interesting to read this back to back with a Web posting found by Ezra Klein at Pandagon; it's from the parent of a middle-schooler who just attended a meeting with the kid's teacher:

The teacher told of an exercise wherein he read from both the Bush and Kerry websites.  He read where each of the candidates stood on the main issues of the campaign.  He didn't say who was who...just "this is what candidate one says, this is what candidate two says".

The kids made tally marks about each thing they agreed with from each candidate.

Then the kids voted on the issues.

Four kids voted for Bush.  26 kids voted for Kerry.

You have to realize the significance of this.  We live in Eden Prairie, MN....

...Eden Prairie has grown a crop of Bush/Cheney yard signs that rivals the corn crops of neighboring rural towns.  This is Bush country, make no mistake about it....

...as illustrated by the fact that most of the kids who voted for John Kerry were greatly upset by it.  They booed the results of their vote.  They were upset that they had voted for the "wrong guy"....


It's discouraging, because it's obvious that Democratic ideas are winners, even if Democratic rhetoric falls flat.

But do you know what else is discouraging? Fish's article is in The New York Times -- and in all likelihood nothing about the Eden Prairie results will ever get similar wide exposure. If the "liberal media" really were liberal in the way that Fox and The Washington Times and the Murdoch press and talk radio are conservative, the Times and papers of a similar bent would commission articles and op-eds about Eden Prairie -- while Fish, well respected as he may be in liberal/left circles, would be told to take his op-ed to The Wall Street Journal or the New York Post.

I respect the attempt to be evenhanded -- but I resent it as long as it's not reciprocated.
A couple of days ago I wrote about Scott Taylor, a Canadian journalist who was captured, beaten, threatened with death, and then released by insurgents in northern Iraq. Zeynup Tugrul, a Turkish journalist who was captured with Taylor, tells a harrowing story of the ordeal in today's New York Times. As she tells the story, she makes a point about the nature of the insurgency, at least in and around Mosul, that doesn't exactly jibe with the Bush administration's happy talk:

Everywhere they were taken, she said, people appeared eager to help anyone they thought was part of the resistance.

"I saw that around Mosul, everybody is the resistance - not terrorists, but not civilians really either," she said. "They used the small kids to bring them water, and nobody treated them like children. They'd be with the men who were talking about cutting heads, and the kids would be standing guard, like little men, so you become afraid of the children too."


Taylor said something very similar in an interview he gave after his release:

When we were imprisoned, we were housed by local people, in their own homes. Their mothers and wives were doing the cooking and exhorting their sons to go out and die as martyrs. It's hopeless for the U.S.

We're not winning.
You know what I'm sick of hearing? "Where's John Edwards?"

John Edwards in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday.

John Edwards in Davenport, Iowa, on Thursday.

John Edwards in Miami on Wednesday.

John Edwards in Columbia, South Carolina, on Wednesday.

John Edwards in Tampa on Tuesday.

John Edwards in Cleveland on Tuesday.

John Edwards in Cincinnati on Monday.

John Edwards in Raleigh on Monday.

Shall I go on?

Don't blame the Kerry campaign. Edwards is out there, doing just what Cheney and Bush and Kerry are doing -- making speeches, working up crowds.

You know where the blame lies -- with the press. If it seems that Edwards is invisible, it's because the press -- particularly the elite national press -- has made him invisible.
In The New York Observer, Tom Scocca claims to have gotten to the bottom of the story of Phil Parlock, the Republican who says he was attacked by Democrats at rallies in three separate presidential election years:

Mr. Parlock's overall public record is less that of a G.O.P. operative than of a run-of-the-mill publicity hound, a quote machine who's gotten his name in print for stories about cell phones, a new Boy Scout climbing tower and his candidacy for school-board elections.

The conspiracy theories about a Republican agent provocateur tearing up the sign don't hold up very well. Bloggers have been speculating that an unidentified man in some of Mr. Snyder's photos -- wearing a T-shirt from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and holding scraps of little Sophie's sign -- could have been one of Mr. Parlock’s older sons in disguise.

But IUPAT spokesman Gavin McDonald said that the union has recognized the mystery figure as one of its members from West Virginia. "We're taking the appropriate steps within our union rules and regulations to deal with the matter," he added.


Well, OK. Maybe he really was subject to rough treatment this year and four years ago and eight years ago. Right-wingers who saw this story thought that was the case, and said it just showed what awful people Democrats are.

But Sue Niederer recently tried to interrupt a Laura Bush speech to talk about her son, who was killed in Iraq, and was drowned out by counter-hecklers shouting "Four more years!" -- and who knows what else the crowd would have done to her if she hadn't been carried away in handcuffs. And another woman who interrupted a Bush speech had her hair pulled by an audience member. Maybe this is just what happens when you make your way into the thick of a political rally with the wrong message. In which case, Phil, why go looking for trouble -- with your little girl on your shoulders?

By the way, I never thought Parlock was an "operative" -- I thought he was a freelance zealot. Every four years, at least, I still think that's what he is. A lot of zealots have a martyr complex.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Fox News poll: Bush 45%, Kerry 43%.

Time and Gallup look sillier and sillier.
Repeat after me, John Kerry -- and all Democrats: This is a Republican tax increase.

Bid to Save Tax Refunds for the Poor Is Blocked

Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today.


Bear with this -- it's a bit complicated:

...The dust-up centers on an obscure provision in the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut that Congress passed in 2001. That tax cut expanded the $500-per-child tax credit to $1,000, but it also made another child credit available as a tax refund to some poor families who pay little or no federal income taxes.

Such families were allowed to claim a child credit worth as much as 10 percent of their earnings over $10,000. But the 2001 law stipulated that the $10,000 threshold would rise with inflation, effectively slicing into or eliminating refunds for families whose income does not keep up with inflation....


But the result isn't complicated at all:

Because incomes at the bottom end of the workforce have largely stagnated, the rising threshold has had a significant impact, said Leonard E. Burman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Of the 11 million families claiming the child tax refund, more than 4 million -- with 9.2 million children -- will see their credit shrink or disappear in 2005, Burman estimated.

Here's what Republican negotiators thought was more important than helping poor families get by:

Instead, they focused on a package of 20 expiring business taxes worth $13 billion, including a research and experimentation tax credit worth $7.6 billion through 2014, a $700 million tax credit for hiring welfare recipients, and smaller breaks to help Caribbean distillers, clean-fuel vehicle manufacturers, environmental remediation and wind energy, among others.

Message: Caribbean distillers get a tax break. Poor American families get a TAX INCREASE.

(If the parties were reversed, isn't that what the Republicans would say?)
Is it really a terrible idea to respond to the Bush campaign's windsurfing ad by reminding voters that Kerry is a grown-up who doesn't live in Fantasyland? I think it might be an adequate response -- but I'd enjoy a nastier one:

The key is the background music -- Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." What song better encapsulates the Bush reelection message? Over that, layer clips of Bush in his most unbearable pleased-with-myself mode. Throw in the "Mission Accomplished" clip and one or two other premature declarations of victory. Intercut car bombs, bin Laden clips, and other evidence of the chaos. Oh, and you could easily do an economic version of this as well, or combine the two.

I don't know if there'd be resistance to politicizing that song -- but it was written by Eric Idle, whose opinion of the current U.S. regime can probably be surmised from his recent "FCC Song."

Hell, I just want to see an ad like that.
From the L.A. Times today:

U.S. Hand Seen in Afghan Election

Mohammed Mohaqiq says he was getting ready to make his run for the Afghan presidency when U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad dropped by his campaign office and proposed a deal.

"He told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to put pressure," Mohaqiq said. "It was like a request."   
 
After the hourlong meeting last month, the ethnic Hazara warlord said in an interview Tuesday, he wasn't satisfied with the rewards offered for quitting, which he did not detail. Mohaqiq was still determined to run for president — though, he said, the U.S. ambassador wouldn't give up trying to elbow him out of the race.

"He left, and then called my most loyal men, and the most educated people in my party or campaign, to the presidential palace and told them to make me — or request me — to resign the nomination. And he told my men to ask me what I need in return."

Mohaqiq, who is running in the Oct. 9 election, is one of several candidates who maintain that the U.S. ambassador and his aides are pushing behind the scenes to ensure a convincing victory by the pro-American incumbent, President Hamid Karzai....


Sound familiar? This is from The Hill back in January '03:

White House seeks to steer Senate races

White House officials have put pressure on at least two House Republicans to put their Senate ambitions on hold and leave the way clear for the administration's favored candidates, Republican sources say.

To engineer victories in South Dakota and Washington, Reps. William Janklow (R-S.D.) and George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) have been asked to let former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) weigh their options first.

The White House operatives have also played up preferred candidates in the Carolinas, North Dakota and Nevada. Some Republicans are holding back for fear of taking on the White House.

The White House apparently seeks a repeat performance of the 2002 midterm elections, when President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, persuaded several Senate hopefuls not to run....


Yeah, it sounds a bit familiar.

Now, in Iraq the election rules are somewhat complicated, as today's New York Times reports:

Under the electoral system, drawn up by the United Nations, voters will select not individual candidates but lists, whose members will take a number of seats in the National Assembly roughly proportional to the shares of the votes their parties receive.

Nevertheless, there are signs of election scheming, at least according to the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani -- and, curiously, the scheming involves U.S.-affiliated parties:

Ayatollah Sistani is concerned that the nascent democratic process here is falling under the control of a handful of the largest political parties, which cooperated with the American occupation and are comprised largely of exiles.

In particular, these sources say, Ayatollah Sistani is worried about discussions now under way among those parties to form a single ticket for the elections, thus limiting the choices of voters and smothering smaller political parties.


The Bushies couldn't successfully run a two-car parade, but they know how to game an election.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

NBC/Wall Street Journal: Bush 48%, Kerry 45%.

"The difference between those couple of points and being in a dead-even race is modest," said GOP pollster Bill McInturff. "This is not a difficult race [for Kerry] to get quickly back to being functionally tied."

In fact, the results among registered voters are virtually identical to the results from past NBC/Wall Street Journal polls — even though many experts claim that Bush had a resoundingly successful convention, and noted that Kerry (dogged by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who attacked his Vietnam record, and Democrats who questioned whether his campaign had a concrete message) had a dreadful August....


We're still in it.

Just got the new New York Times bestseller list, and yes, it's true -- the Swift boat book has been knocked out of the #1 spot by Kitty Kelley's The Family. 'Bout time. Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command is #5.
COMPARE & CONTRAST

While Mr. Kerry has certainly lost support among women, some polls show he is still slightly ahead of Mr. Bush.

--Katharine Q. Seelye in today's New York Times

Among women nationwide, 42% say they would vote for Bush and 50% say they would vote for Kerry.

--poll results released today by the American Research Group


I have two reactions when I hear about Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens. One is a bit embarrassing: I still like some of his songs, which I think hold up a lot better than those of other '70s soft-rockers. The other has to do with the Salman Rushdie fatwa: He supported it, and I can't forgive him for that. So when I read that a London-to-D.C. flight on which he was a passenger was diverted to Maine because he was onboard and that he's now going to be deported, I have trouble working up outrage.

You may have heard that he didn't really call for Rushdie's death. But here's the 1989 press release in which he attempted to correct what he saw as misleading press accounts:

Yusuf Islam Issues A Formal Statement On The Rushdie Affair

Under Islamic Law, the ruling regarding blasphemy is quite clear; the person found guilty of it must be put to death. Only under certain circumstances can repentance be accepted.

...However, that is not to say I am encouraging people to break the law or take it into their own hands: far from it. Under the Islamic Law, Muslims are bound to keep within the limits of the law of the country in which they live, providing that it does not restrict the freedom to worship and serve God and fulfil their basic religious duties (fard'ayn). One must not forget the ruling in Islam is also very clear about adultery, stealing and murder, but that doesn't mean that British Muslims will go about lynching and stoning adulterers, theives and murderers. If we can't get satisfaction within the present limits of the law, like a ban on this blasphemous book, 'Satanic Verses' which insults God and His prophets - including those prophets honoured by Christians, Jews as well as Muslims - this does not mean that we should step outside of the law to find redress. No. If Mrs. Thatcher and her Government are unwilling to listen to our pleas, if our demonstrations and peaceful lobbying don't work, then perhaps the only alternative is for Muslims to get more involved in the political process of this country. It seems to be the only way left for us.


So in his clarification he said death was the proper punishment for Rushdie, if only the law permitted it, and at the very least he wanted the book banned under Britain's blasphemy laws.

Hey, but it's all academic, right? Rushdie's alive and well, and Khomeini's dead. Yes, but:

In 1989, two bookstores in Berkeley, California were firebombed [for selling the book]. That same year, two moderate Muslim leaders, after publicly expressing opposition to the censorship of the book, were murdered in Brussels, Belgium. In July 1991, Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator of The Satanic Verses, was stabbed by an assailant who demanded Rushdie's address. That same month, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was found stabbed to death at Tsukuba University. In October 1993, publisher William Nygaard, whose firm published a Norse translation of The Satanic Verses, was seriously wounded by gunshot outside his home in Oslo.

These are people very much like the people I work with, and like the people I worked with at the time. So I'm a bit sensitive about this subject.

I loathe Bush and Ashcroft, but many years ago Stevens/Islam poured a few drops of gasoline on a fire that really did burn some people. He may not deserve to be treated as a current threat to American society, but what he said in '89 was not harmless.
In two posts (here and here), Fubar at Needlenose discusses the story of Scott Taylor, a Canadian journalist who was recently kidnapped in northwest Iran by resistance fighters, then released. Fubar draws on Taylor's account of his ordeal and a subsequent interview at Antiwar.com. If what Taylor says in the interview is correct, we shouldn't expect too much help in defeating the resistance from Iraqi cops:

Everywhere we went, it was obvious that the militants had the full cooperation of the U.S.-trained Iraqi police. Whenever we transited outside the city, to the corners of Mosul or the checkpoints, the cops would see us bound in the back seats -- and offer cigarettes to our captors! ...

I learned that the Iraqi police on the checkpoints were contributing part of their salary to the resistance's local leader, the emir. After all, they're whacking the crap out of these police recruits all over the place throughout Iraq, so it's partially protection money.

One guy was laughing at me and saying how ironic it is that the Americans are being attacked with RPGs purchased with their own money. Sad to say, the U.S. taxpayer is actually funding the Iraqi resistance. By paying these cops' salaries, U.S. taxpayers are actually helping to buy the weapons that are killing American soldiers every day.


Wait -- it gets worse:

...my mujahedin captors told me in advance the exact time the U.S. air strikes would hit them. I said, "How the hell you know?" To which the guy laughed and said, "Don't be stupid, of course we know." They have infiltrated U.S. command even.

And then there's this gloss on U.S. forces, from Taylor's account:

Around 2 p.m. we had stopped near a remote desert house. The nearly 30 fighters had assembled around our car and began to conduct a mass prayer. Zeynep and I were instructed to remain in the car. It was as they were engrossed in their prayer that I spotted the two American helicopters coming out of the south – low and fast and headed straight towards our parked convoy. I cried out in alarm. At first the mujahedeen were angry at the interruption until they too spotted the approaching threat. Caught out in the open, they were sitting ducks. Nobody could move; they simply watched the helicopters steadily bear down on us.
 
At about 800 metres distance, the gunships inexplicably banked away to the east without so much as a reconnaissance overpass of our mysterious group of vehicles in the middle of the desert. We had to have been in plain view, but the Americans turned away. "They always fly the same patrol routes" explained one of the fighters, "They see nothing."


Victory is not in sight.


Dr. Rihab Taha, aka "Dr. Germ," is being released
after a second beheading this week of an American hostage. ("The United States sent Taha her first bugs in April 1986," the New York Daily News noted drily in 2002.) When the Bush invasion of Iraq was imminent, she gave an interview to ABC:

Although U.S. Seceteray of State Colin Powell says Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons, Dr. Rihab Taha says the weapons, including 2,200 gallons of anthrax, were all destroyed over a decade ago.

"In summer of 1991, the whole quantity was completely destructed by [the] Iraqi side and the bombs and the warheads, and UNSCOM [United Nations Special Commission] themselves verified this matter," Taha told ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer.

In Iraq's declaration to the United Nations in December, the country rebutted claims it has nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The U.S. and Britain dismissed the 12,000-page declaration and United Nations weapons inspectors reported a discrepancy between the amount of anthrax Iraq produced and what it had accounted for. However, Taha said the biological section of the report, which she said she helped compile, was honest and transparent.

"We spent a lot, hundreds of hours with them, clarifying these things to them. If they are fair, they should close this matter," she said.


At the time, that was seen as outrageous. It doesn't seem quite so outrageous now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Saint Clinton? I love it.

(Thanks to Hard Attack News for the link.)
Kerry has at least one right-winger (at National Review Online's Corner) worried:

REVEILLE [Rick Brookhiser]

Yut-dut-dut-dut-da-da! Yut-duh-duh-dut-dut-daaa!

Wake up! Put down your Dan Rather teddy bears! The election is not going to be a smooth coast home, flipping through memos from Burkett to Barnes to Lockhart to Dan. As Rich says, Kerry has engaged the main issue.

The Nader vote, which was showing signs of life, will disappear again. Kerry has a position, finally, and the flip flop meme is about as valuable as mulch. Who cares what he said yesterday, if what he says today seems to make sense? A foolish consistency, etc.

...Bush will have to explain why Iraq was right, why it is better to have Saddam gone, and how we are going to prevail there; and how we intend to prevail over all. He will have to say it in big speeches, and he will have to say it in sound bites. It won't be Lincoln Douglas or the Federalist Papers, but it will be as close as we come.


I like it when they worry.
So who has the "September 10" mentality now? Who cares more about America's security? The people who were cheering Kerry's speech yesterday -- or the people who talk as if we've already won the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now seem to be spending all their time trying to turn Dan Rather into this year's Gary Condit?
Everything is wonderful. Freedom is everywhere. Freedom is good. Bush is good. Pay no attention to this:

Afghanistan's vice president is ambushed

A convoy carrying Vice President Nematullah Shahrani was attacked by remote-control explosives Monday in northern Afghanistan, just four days after President Hamid Karzai's helicopter was rocketed as it attempted to land at a school in southern Afghanistan....

The incident coincided with the deaths of two U.S. soldiers in a gun battle with Islamic militants in Paktika province, with reports that three Afghan soldiers were beheaded in Zabul province, and with warnings from a renegade Afghan militia leader in Pakistan that Afghan refugees there will be at risk of attack if they attempt to vote [on October 9]....


An American was beheaded in Iraq yesterday, and the news is barely causing a ripple.

It's the subject of a below-the-fold story on the front page of The New York Times. It's not currently the subject of any of the "Top Stories" at Google News. Over on the right, the New York Post keeps it off the front page (where the top story is "MOMSTERS -- Lesbian duo beat son to death: cops"). And as I write this, none of the 25 most-blogged-about stories, as surveyed by Memeorandum, concern the beheading (12 of the 25 concern Dan Rather and the National Guard documents).

Back in May, right-wingers -- William Bennett and Jonah Goldberg, for instance, in National Review -- argued that the press was paying too little attention to Nick Berg's beheading. Funny -- I'm not hearing anything like that now. Could it be because the story that dominated the headlines back then was Abu Ghraib, which was embarrassing to Bush, and the story that tops the charts now is CBS's documents blunder -- an inadvertent gift to the Bush campaign?
I'm genuinely sick of this story, but I see that USA Today is reporting that CBS agreed to put Bill Burkett, source of those National Guard memos, in touch with Kerry aide Joe Lockhart as a condition of Burkett's cooperation with CBS.

Now, what does this tell us? It tells us that the Democrats weren't giving Burkett the time of day, and he needed help to get in touch with them.

If the story is accurate, isn't it a strong indication that the the Kerry campaign wasn't involved in the dissemination of the documents, no matter what the Republicans might insinuate?

******

Meanwhile, there's this, from another USA Today story:

Burkett now maintains that the source of the papers was Lucy Ramirez, who he says phoned him from Houston in March to offer the documents. USA TODAY has been unable to locate Ramirez....

Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted....

An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.


Farfetched, right? Burkett's just making up an absurd story to conceal the fact that he forged the documents, right?

Oh, don't do this to me. Don't pique my interest. I'm really, really ready to turn the page. Don't make me think he might be telling the truth about this. Don't make me think there are mysterious, shadowy figures setting him up.

Well, that's what I said way back. And Atrios, citing Bush's Brain coauthor James C. Moore, is speculating about Rove's involvement right now.

I suspect Burkett foolishly generated the documents himself, and is now afraid he'll face a forgery prosecuting for it -- but it would certainly be interesting if Moore, or someone else, demonstrates otherwise.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I posted a link last week to Rising Hegemon's story about Phil Parlock, who's charged Democrats with roughing him up and/or destroying his pro-GOP signs at campaign rallies in 1996, 2000, and this year. Hard News Now has also looked at this and finds that the "union thug" who allegedly destroyed Poppa Parlock's Bush sign looks suspiciously like a member of a barbershop group at nearby Marshall University -- a barbershop group that includes a member named Phil Parlock (Junior?). And the backwards green hat worn by the "union thug" has a logo that just might be the logo of Marshall University.

Parlock continues to deny any wrongdoing, per AP (yeah, the story's inching up the media food chain).
John Kerry gave a hell of a speech today.

...the President rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work.  He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies.   He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor.  And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way.  How can he possibly be serious?  Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq?  My answer is no – because a Commander-in-Chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

Now the president, in looking for a new reason, tries to hang his hat on the "capability" to acquire weapons.  But that was not the reason given to the nation; it was not the reason Congress voted on; it's not a reason, it's an excuse. Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003.  Is President Bush saying we should invade them?

I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.  I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein – who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.

The President's insistence that he would do the same thing all over again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future.  And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer.  It is time, at long last, to ask the questions and insist on the answers from the Commander-in-Chief about his serious misjudgments and what they tell us about his administration and the President himself.  If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the same failed policies in Iraq -- and he will repeat, somewhere else, the same reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should be.


Maybe it's the Hail Mary pass some people have been hoping for. On the other hand, maybe it'll just be described as a flip-flop. In any case, read it. If you've been lukewarm in your support for Kerry, it really might inspire you.
Oh, all right -- so the National Guard documents came from Bill Burkett.

CBS said Burkett acknowledged he provided the documents and said he deliberately misled a CBS producer, giving her a false account of their origin to protect a promise of confidentiality to a source.

Damn, I really liked my Karl Rove theory. And I was probably the first lefty blogger to bail on the documents, so I could've been Mr. Credibility.

So ... has anybody come up with proof that Bush fulfilled his duties in Alabama? Anyone collect the reward yet?
Gee, just yesterday I was reading on the front page of The New York Times that however dire things may seem in Iraq now, as soon as the election is over we're going to give those nasty insurgents in Fallujah a good, satisfying ass-kicking.

Today, though, I'm getting a different message from Robert Novak: however dire things may seem in Iraq now, as soon as the election is over we're going to get the hell out of Iraq.

Surely both of these things can't be true.

Let's see: Voters tell pollsters they don't feel they know what Kerry plans to do about Iraq. Voters don't know what Bush plans to do, either -- but they haven't called him on it yet, nor has the press. Still, what does Bush do if that changes -- wht does he do in the unlikely event that he's actually held accountable for once in his life? Well, he could float one of these two scenarios as a trial balloon -- but one makes him look bellicose to soccer moms, while the other makes him look weak to NASCAR dads. So why not float both? And, just to make both seem plausible, why not have "senior officials" whisper the macho one to the "liberal" East Coast paper of record, while the peacenik one goes to a GOP apparatchik? Then all voters hear what they want to hear, and it seems that Bush has a plan. (Whichever one it is.)

(Novak column also available here.)
One month ago, Kerry enjoyed a wide margin among women, leading the president by 14 points in a Time magazine poll. As Bush pulled ahead in several state and national polls after his convention, Kerry fell below the president among women voters by 1 point in the Time survey and clung to a narrow advantage in other polls....

--Chicago Tribune

Even odder, perhaps, was the gender gap on a question in the Times poll asking whether Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Twenty-nine percent of men said he was, versus 47 percent of women, putting them 18 points ahead - or maybe behind.

--John Tierney in The New York Times discussing his paper's recent poll

Coincidence?

Bush & Co. suggest a connection between Saddam and 9/11 every chance they get, segueing from one to the other in speech after speech. The fact that this is a Big Lie is not getting through to female voters, and that's really hurting the Kerry campaign. I don't know whose fault this is, but something needs to be done.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

NOT FIT TO PRINT

Did anybody read today's front-page New York Times story about Tom Coburn, the GOP's wingnut candidate for Senate in Oklahoma, and wonder about this unexplained passage?

While criticizing state legislators in Oklahoma City, he used what he called "an inappropriate word" that even he conceded had gotten him in trouble.

Golly -- this is a guy who loves Jesus and calls for the death penalty for abortion providers. What on earth could he have said about those legislators that was so awful the Times wouldn't print it?

Here's your answer:

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Parmley on Thursday called for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Coburn to apologize for comments made during an Altus Town Hall meeting.

Parmley said Coburn told supporters Aug. 21 that "you have a bunch of crapheads in Oklahoma City that have killed the vision of anybody wanting to invest in Oklahoma."...

Stumping in Stillwater on Thursday, Coburn told The Oklahoman that he wouldn't respond to Parmley's calls for an apology.

"Did I use an inappropriate word? Maybe ... "


"Craphead." He said "craphead."

That's too racy for the Times.

Also today, a review appeared in the Times book section of a memoir by Nick Flynn that focuses on Flynn's work at a homeless shelter and the time Flynn's father spent living at the same shelter; the book is entitled, as the Times puts it, Another Bull____ Night .... So what's that really supposed to be? Cover your eyes if you've got a delicate sensibility: The real title of the book is Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. OK -- I can see not wanting to print "Bullshit" in a "family newspaper," but "Suck City"? Is "suck" any more than a mild, TV-friendly vulgarism these days?

Incidentally, the fastidious nannies of the Times still offer the complete text of the Starr Report on the paper's Web site.

******

Speaking of books, I'm glad to see the Daily Howler saying this about Unfit to Command, the Swift boat book by John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi:

This summer, the overwrought pair published a book which may have transformed this White House campaign. But very few newspapers have dared to review it, and one thing readers are not being told is how kooky this important book is.

The New York Times is one of the papers that haven't reviewed the book -- in fact, since 1996, the Times has reviewed only 17 Regnery books, and that total includes A Prima Donna's Progress: The Autobiography of Joan Sutherland and Ross Leckie's historical novel Hannibal. When lefty Nicholson Baker wrote Checkpoint, a novella about a yammerer who wants to kill Bush, the Times leapt on as soon as it was published -- and gave it a vicious pan. But Regnery's right-wing attack books go unreviewed in the Times year in and year out -- High Crimes and Misdemeanors, by Ann Coulter, Hell to Pay by Barbara Olson, Unlimited Access by Gary Aldrich, Betrayal by Bill Gertz, Dereliction of Duty by Robert "Buzz" Patterson, and Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson by Kenneth R. Timmerman, to name a few. Most of those were big Times bestsellers. They help set the terms of America's political debate -- yet no one at the Times bothers to engage them. Unfit to Command is just the latest in a long series of Regnery stink bombs that were able to do their damage in part by getting under the elite media's radar.
Here's my favorite passage from the lengthy Washington Post story on CBS's decision to include the Killian memos in the Bush National Guard story. It's from a document expert CBS consulted, one who raised objections early on:

Emily Will said she called the network that Tuesday and repeated her objections as strongly as possible. "If you air the program on Wednesday," she recalled saying, "on Thursday you're going to have hundreds of document examiners raising the same questions."

Oh, really? Gee, I thought Truth was suppressed in this case until The Power Of A Thousand Mighty Right-Wing Bloggers brought it to light. Is Will making the heretical suggestion that even without the existence of the right-wing Net commentariat these documents might have been discredited anyway, by experts, some of whom might even be liberals? Perish the thought!

Meanwhile, there are now AP and New York Times stories about a phone conversation between Bill Burkett, suspected source of the Killian documents, and Max Cleland. It sounds as if no one in the Kerry campaign really wanted to deal with this guy -- he complains in an e-mail of having to go through "seven layers of bureaucratic kids" before he could talk to Cleland and about not hearing back after talking to Cleland -- yet the Bushies are cranking up a dry-ice machine next to a gun and insisting that the gun itself is smoking ("The trail of connections is becoming increasingly clear").

Now, I've enjoyed advancing the theory that Burkett was hawking this story but Karl Rove actually produced the fake memos and faxed them from a Kinko's near Burkett's house -- but I'm not going to stick with this theory if all the evidence continues to point to Burkett.

Look, CBS got fished in -- there's the problem. It's not the Democrats or Kerry or "the liberal media." (What liberal media?) An interesting tidbit in the Post story is that the White House saw the memos before CBS aired the story and no one there questioned their authenticity. Not enough time? That's White House spokesman Dan Bartlett's excuse: "How am I supposed to verify something that came from a dead man in three hours?" Well, Dan, you aren't -- you're supposed to say you don't know for sure and you have your doubts. Unless you know the documents are fake and you want CBS to embarrass itself.

OK, that's another conspiracy theory. The more likely explanation, of course, as others have noted, is that the White House didn't question the authenticity of the memos because what the documents said was accurate.

****

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago the L.A. Times ID'd "Buckhead," the Free Republic poster who first questioned the Killian National Guard documents, as Harry MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer who's a member of two right-wing lawyers' groups, the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Federation.

One last time, just for fun, a little utterly irresponsible idle speculation: Do you think Harry MacDougald is any relation to Jim MacDougald of St. Petersburg, Florida, the former president of Ceridian Benefits Services who retired in 2000 and attended this Florida confab with Karl Rove in 2003? (Nah -- probably not, right? And, as noted above, questions would have been raised about these documents in any case -- though it was awfully helpful to the White House to have them raised within hours, no?)

By the way, chrishardcore.com has collected some of Buckhead's non-pseudonymous writings. Typical right-wing blather, if mustily florid ("...one of the grand pooh-bahs of the chattering class in Washington is utterly bereft of any moral discernment...")