Sunday, October 31, 2004


So remind me again: What exactly has Nader been doing to advance progressive causes in the four years since he last ran for president?

And what did he do in the four years before that?

Or in the four (ten? twenty?) years before that?

I'm asking because this is such a tight race and, according to the polls, he's still drawing about 1% or 2% of (presumably progressive) voters. And I know their explanation, because I heard it over and over from Nader voters in the last election: The Democrats think I owe them my vote, and they've done nothing to earn it.

Yet when I try to figure out what Nader's done to earn progressive votes, I hear a lot about seat belts, and about activism decades ago. Well, John Kerry was pretty hot stuff decades ago, too -- an extraordinarily articulate wounded veteran denouncing the war. Understandably, a lot of people think that was Kerry's finest hour, even though he's had decades to top it.

But whether or not that's true about Kerry, isn't it true about Nader?

I look at this biographical sketch of Nader. He has quite a record -- up to 1980. But in that year -- when he was only 46 -- Nader "resigned as director of Public Citizen in order to devote his energy toward other projects." Apart from the founding that year of a magazine called Multinational Monitor, it's not clear what those "projects" have been. The rest of the bio deals largely with Nader's "overriding concern and vision," his "agenda." Of his accomplishments since 1980, it says, essentially, nothing.

Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980; American politics has been dominated by conservatives ever since. That's nearly a quarter of a century in which Ralph Nader could have make a big difference. And, unlike Kerry, Nader was independent of the system. He was free to do what he wanted all that time without having to worry about displeasing this or that voting bloc.

So what's the result?

For Reagan, Nader was a non-issue. For Bush the Elder, Nader was a non-issue. For Gingrich, Nader was a non-issue. Nader has been a non-issue not only for George W. Bush as president, but for Republicans in Congress, particularly lobbyists' friend Tom DeLay.

Now, let's think about the last four years -- and the Iraq war in particular. The president of the United States spent months building up to a war that was a colossal blunder ... and in response, the Great Progressive Hope of 2000 did -- what exactly?

I know -- war is not his big issue. His big issue is government largesse to corporations and the rich. Well, I seem to recall there was a fair amount of that in the past four years. A big tax cut. Then another. A big bundle of corporate tax breaks just a few weeks ago.

Was there a peep from Nader? If so, I missed it.

Patriot Act? Federalist Society judges? Abu Ghraib? Nader, any thoughts from you?

I know I'm exaggerating somewhat. I know Nader gives interviews and says that, yes, these things are very, very bad. I know he touches on these and similar subjects in campaign rallies every four years. But where's the leadership? Was he the public face of the opposition on any of these issues? Or even one of the public faces?

He did less to try to stop the war than Janeane Garofalo, fer crissakes. Four New Jersey widows who reportedly started out not knowing the difference between the House and the Senate did more to break the veil of government secrecy on 9/11 than Nader.

And that pattern goes back years. A right-wing Texas billionaire did more to try to stop NAFTA than Nader did. A right-wing Arizona senator and a New Hampshire woman in her 90s worked harder for campaign finance reform.

I look at Al Sharpton, a deeply flawed man, spearheading a movement to oust New York City's police commissioner after the killings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond and the police torture of Abner Louima. I think of GMHC, ACT UP, and other organizations working to reset the terms of the debate on AIDS at a time when there was talk of tattoos and quarantines. I think about MoveOn, before and after Soros. And I see no comparable leadership on Nader's part, nothing that shifted any significant part of the public's thinking on any issue, in the past quarter-century.

You want to turn the tables on me and say that the real issue is John Kerry's record? I'd respond that in one speech Kerry gave last month he did more to rattle the cages of the conservative movement than Nader's done cumulatively in a generation. Kerry shook the SOBs up more by nailing the first question in the first debate than Nader's shook them up since Reagan took the oath of office. And Kerry's continued to unsettle the right every day ever since.

Decades ago, Nader left the fray. Now every four years he wants back in -- and as soon as the votes are counted he disappears again.

Ralph, either retire or rejoin the fight -- for real this time, not just for ego gratification.
Do locally based pollsters know best? Well, if so:

Des Moines Register: Kerry leads by 3 in Iowa.

Concord Monitor: Kerry leads by 3 in New Hampshire.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Kerry leads by 8 in Minnesota.
"There will still be an insurgency; it's not going to go away. But we're trying to get it down to a lower level, where the Iraqi security forces can deal with it."

--senior U.S. commander quoted in The New York Times, October 31, 2004

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

--The New York Times Magazine, October 10, 2004

So does this mean that, by the Bush campaign's standards, this commander in the field is unfit to command?
Reuters/Zogby Daily Tracking Poll: Kerry Moves in Front; Kerry 47%, Bush 46%

AP Analysis: Electoral Race Virtually Tied

Kerry just reversed Bush's 2-point lead in Rasmussen's battleground-state poll

Kerry has apparently erased Bush's 5-point lead in the Fox News tracking poll in two days (UPDATE: here it is straight from the Fox's mouth, and the tie is among likely voters, while Kerry has a two-point lead among registered voters)

Latest numbers: Kerry 283, Bush 246

So please, don't let yourselves despair (and don't let your pro-Kerry friends and relations despair), no matter how many times lazy reporters try to suggest that Newsweek's scenario ("Breaking to Bush?") is the only one in town.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

2004's Scariest Halloween Costumes

Tasteless. And hilarious.

(Link via Alicublog.)
Frankly, if I'd been John Kerry, I would have said immediately, in reaction to the bin Laden tape -- no focus groups, no consultation with aides -- "See? This proves what we've been saying all along." But he's the guy who's gone 15 rounds with Bush/Rove/Cheney and I'm not, so we'll see. Meanwhile, in contrast to the Bushies' glee at living proof of their failure ("A senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush"), there's this New York Times story:

Enemy Rears His Head, but Can't Shake Opinions Set in Stone

DENVER, Oct. 30 - If Osama bin Laden imagined, in releasing a threatening new videotape days before the presidential election, that he could sway the votes of Kerry supporters like David and Jan Hill and Bush supporters like Paul Christene, he has another thing coming.

"We're dug in," said Ms. Hill, an accountant in Denver who said she would vote for Senator John Kerry. "People I know are so polarized, it doesn't make any difference."

Her husband, a musician, added that having been subjected to a constant barrage of commercials from the candidates, and a flood of news reports about the election, the bin Laden tape was just another note in the cacophony. "I don't think people are really responding anymore," he said. "We're shellshocked."

Many supporters of President Bush seemed equally unfazed.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the election," said Mr. Christene, an aircraft supervisor from Walford, Iowa. "I will stick with Bush."

In dozens of interviews on Friday and Saturday in five hotly contested states, such steely sentiments were echoed again and again. Supporters of Mr. Bush said the bin Laden tape had strengthened their resolve to vote Republican by reminding them of the grave threats still faced by the country, while Mr. Kerry's supporters said the tape was yet another reminder that the Bush administration had failed to catch Mr. bin Laden. Even the undecided said the tape would not influence their decision....

I haven't posted anything about the bin Laden tape because I was baffled that it was being treated as big news: He's alive? He hates us? He's taunting us? Duh. If this Times story reflects opinions nationwide, then Americans agree with me, and only their alleged betters in the political establishment regard this all as a big shock.

Bin Laden tape? Nawww.

U.S. gears up to invade Fallujah

But an attack isn't expected before Tuesday

Tuesday? Tuesday?

There it is -- they're timing the Fallujah attack so it'll be on the morning news just as people are going to vote.

Karl Rove is running the goddamn war.

There is nothing these people won't politicize.
One last post about Jonathan Keith Idema, the freelance torture-prison operator in Afghanistan who was a source for Dan Rather and Mary Mapes of CBS. I received this e-mail, which bore the signature Lucian V. Truscott IV, in response to my last Idema post:

I was in Afghanistan in April-May of this year and met Idema in the bar of the Mustafa Hotel, where I was staying, and where Idema regularly hung out. He was outfitted like a big-time "contractor," -- cargo pants, black t-shirt and shoulder holster with 9 mm, wearing shades in the dimly-lighted bar (when it was lit at all -- the electricity went off every hour or so, plunging the place into darkness until the hotel generator kicked in). One night Idema showed me excerpts from his famed CBS tape of al Qaeda training. It was obviously, patently, plainly, clearly bogus -- an real amateur attempt at showing bad guys doing bad things. So-called al Qaeda operatives charged into a typical Afghan house, assuming the sort of "at the ready" cop positions you might see on NYPD Blue -- guys slamming backs against the wall, weapons at the read as other guys charge through the room pointing weapons at doors, windows, etc etc. It wasn't even the sort of Afghan dwelling you'd find out in the boonies where the al Qaeda training camps were. It was obviously a house somewhere in Kabul. The Afghan houses out in the boonies are mud-brick or stone dwellings, many with thatched roofs, with hard dirt floors and hand-made furniture -- typically, a hand-crafted kind of bench with a rope seat on which are placed hand-made pillows. Not the sort of cheap factory-made stuff you'd find in Kabul.

A grade D straight-to-video Hollywood movie would have appeared 10 times more authentic. It was hard for me to believe that Rather and CBS bit when approached by Idema. Forget about his ex-con past. Idema himself was so obviously a phony-baloney play-acting Rambo, it was hard being around him and listening to his horseshit for more than 5 minutes or so. Not one journalist in Kabul paid him any attention, which drove him up the wall. He wanted everyone to believe that he was on the "inside" of everything, and it would be just a matter of a few weeks before he, Idema, personally marched Osama into town in chains. I didn't see anyone laugh in his face, but then, I didn't see anyone in his face at all, because no one even got near enough to him to listen to his line of horseshit.

It was hard for me to understand how he was going to accomplish this, since he appeared never to leave Kabul, partying everynight at the bar of the Mustafa.

Not a lowpoint for CBS news. THE lowpoint.

If this is the case, then, as I've said before, Rather and Mapes aren't sinister left-wing disinformation peddlers -- they're just suckers for a juicy story who really need to take their bullshit detectors into the shop.

(Lucian Truscott IV is a journalist and the author of Dress Gray and other military-themed novels.)

Friday, October 29, 2004


Huge Democratic turnout in early voting in Broward

...Although Democrats account for half of all registered voters in the county, they comprise more than 60 percent of the 95,000 people who have voted early....

Jim Kane, a bipartisan local pollster and editor of the Florida Voter newsletter, sees the trend as an early indicator that Kerry is on track to get the numbers he needs out of Broward.... "The Republicans are getting their butts kicked on getting out the vote," Kane said. "The Democrats are doing a much better job, and that doesn't bode well for Bush on the day of election."...

--Florida Sun-Sentinel

Among 16 percent of Florida voters who said they had cast early ballots, Kerry received 56 percent of those compared to Bush's 39 percent.


My new Reuters numbers will show Kerry moving into the lead in Florida.

--pollster John Zogby, Washington Post online chat

(Links via Democratic Underground and MyDD.)

I haven't read through the whole thread, but the folks at Free Republic are bouncing off the walls because they read that the Swift Boat Liars for Truth had confirmation of a charge they've been making for a while now -- that John Kerry's discharge was less than honorable. But the Freeper thread links to this thread at the Swiftees' site -- which, fifteen minutes ago, said that a former Navy Secretary was confirming the story but now says

Content removed at the request of the author.

Stay tuned for updates. Will re-open the topic when we have further info.

Yes, stay tuned. They really want this one.

I have no idea if this is true, but if so, holy crap. From Publishers Lunch (emphasis mine):

Penguin's Riverhead imprint has acquired a book that tantalizingly hints at what it calls a thwarted "plot to disrupt the presidential election." But like the missing explosives in Iraq, the full details of this story may well not emerge until long after the election is history, with publication not scheduled until fall of next year.

Author Larry J. Kolb promises to reveal the full details of a sensational case in which he says one American citizen has already been arrested, with the other still being sought by law enforcement authorities. The men, both described as "rogue former CIA agents with long ties to the Republican National Committee," concocted a scheme to create the appearance of "a trail of money -- contributions -- from Al Qaeda" directly to a high-ranking Kerry campaign official.

Kolb is still in the early stages of preparing a detailed account of the case in his manuscript. He is not prepared to release additional details yet, and underscores that he does not want to hinder the ongoing efforts to capture the suspect still at large.

Kolb discovered the plot while performing some related consulting work for the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year. He also plans to describe a Byzantine set of barriers and narrow perspective still very much in place within the many separate components of U.S. security agencies and intelligence bureaus that echo some of the fateful pre-9/ll flaws recently identified by the 9/11 Commission. Thus his book is titled "Mending Wall," as he points to ways of mending the wall of security that is supposed to keep us safe from future attacks.

Kolb suggests his new book is directly related to threads in his first book, "Overworld: The Life and Times of a Reluctant Spy," acquired for a significant six figures and just released by Riverhead earlier this month. That book describes a wide-ranging set of covert adventures, including "secret negotiations with the Ayatollah Khomeini and a covert mission to Beirut to negotiate the release of an American hostage," personally initiated by then-Vice President George Bush. That scheme is also described as involving a CIA agent connected to Mr. Bush, who reportedly worked directly with CIA director Bill Casey, but also identified himself as working for the Republican National Committee.

Here's the Amazon page for Kolb's Overworld. I get the impression from this that Kolb is a tale-teller, but even his wilder his tales may very well be true.

This needs to get more attention: One of the writers of the Bush memoir that was published five years ago now says that Bush wanted to invade Iraq as far back as 1999, according to journalist Ross Baker:

Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz.

So why did he want to do this? For geostrategic reasons? Out of deep love for freedom and democracy? Nope. He wanted power and he wanted love:

“It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade... if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow....

According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

Yup: Iraq -- a "small war."

Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.” ...

Conclusion: Apparently eleven hundred U.S. troops died so W. could get strewn with rose petals.

Baker also notes that Bush threatened Saddam in a December 1999 presidential debate: "I’d take 'em out, take out the weapons of mass destruction.... I’m surprised he’s still there.” (The run-up to the war started in 2002. Why is this the first time I've run across this quote?)

(Link via BuzzFlash.)
Shouldn't the Kerry campaign consider running some ads in Florida featuring Rudolph Giuliani's troop-bashing comments? That's where the Bush campaign is running radio ads featuring Giuliani and Ed Koch. The Bush campaign assumes that a lot of Floridians are retirees from New York who admire the two egomaniac ex-mayors. Isn't it also reasonable to assume that many of those retirees are World War II- and Korea-era veterans, or the spouses of veterans?

Thursday, October 28, 2004


From an article on early voting in tomorrow's New York Times:

"It's certainly altered our campaigning," said Matthew Miller, Florida spokesman for the Kerry campaign, citing special "early voting rallies" both Mr. Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards, have held. The rallies often end with offers of a free bus ride to the polling site.

William R. Scherer, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer working for the Republicans, said that his party had no need for such stunts. "We don't need to bus," he said. "Most of our people have cars."


The Christian Science Monitor has a few details about the October surprise terror tape (featuring an American-accented English speaker) that strain credulity just a wee bit:

The tape's speaker references the conflict in Darfur, the 9/11 commission, Massachusetts same sex legislation, and the upcoming US presidential election....

Al Amriki issues several bursts of Arabic, mainly from the Koran, speaking the language well, but not as a native, say Arabic speakers who've heard the tape. And he's clearly a sophisticated news consumer - quoting sources ranging from BBC's Arabic language radio to US comedian Bill Maher.

What? Nothing about Britney's wedding? Or the Ashlee Simpson lip-sync?

Fox has now shown parts of it, and even at Free Republic there's skepticism:

just saw it, seemed eerie, kinda fake?


I thought it looked fake, but what do I know?

But the Monitor says experts think it's genuine. The speaker, whose "face is masked with a Palestinian scarf and sunglasses," "appears to be fair-skinned," yet the principal suspect is supposedly this guy -- Adam Gadahn, who is not at all fair-skinned.*

In any case,

Analysts at Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, say the tape is genuine, explaining the material bears the same "signature" as previous As-Sahab video releases, which are unique in the world of jihadi video for their sophisticated editing techniques....

"For someone to put that amount of advanced effort into fabricating an as-Sahab video sounds a little far-fetched," [terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann] says....

Really? Maybe not.... the hard-fought 1996 race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court between [Karl] Rove's client, Harold See, then a University of Alabama law professor, and the Democratic incumbent, Kenneth Ingram ... Rove, dissatisfied with the campaign's progress, had flyers printed up -- absent any trace of who was behind them -- viciously attacking See and his family.... The ploy left Rove's opponent at a loss. Ingram's staff realized that it would be fruitless to try to persuade the public that the See campaign was attacking its own candidate in order "to create a backlash against the Democrat," as Joe Perkins, who worked for Ingram, put it to me....


*UPDATE: Sorry, this was a bit dumb -- in Pakistan, anyone white is fair-skinned.

I've now seen part of the video on ABC. The Freepers are right -- it does look fake. I can't tell if it's a fluent English speaker with a mild accent or a native English speaker doing a fake accent that's really bad. To my ears the guy nails the pronunciation of "Zawahiri" -- he doesn't say it at all like an American -- but I'm originally from Boston, so what the hell do I know? (In any case, it's a pretty odd accent for someone who was born in Oregon and raised in California; the ABC story notes that "U.S. intelligence officials say the voice on the tape does not match Gadahn's or that of any Americans suspected of being part of al Qaeda." The speaker's spiel also sounds like what you'd say if you were making a bad fake jihad tape and your script hadn't gone through more than one rewrite, tops. If Rove paid to have this done, he did not get his money's worth.
Rudy Giuliani on the disappearance of explosives from Al Qaqaa:

The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?

Needless to say...

Rudolph Giuliani

Ex-mayor, business consultant

Born: Brooklyn, New York, May 28, 1944

Military service: None

Reason: Student deferments (Manhattan College 1965; NYU Law School 1968); special deferment at request of federal judge for whom he was clerking.

That's a misleading headline -- it's a free country, so I really don't have a problem with this:

Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America," said, "Tell everybody to vote. And vote Bush next week."

But I'm sick of hearing that entertainers have no business talking about politics while athletes -- who skew right-wing -- get a free pass.

Back in September I told you about a New York Observer story that said Dan Rather appeared to be working with Jonathan Keith Idema, the gung-ho bounty hunter and wannabe terror warrior who was recently convicted of running a torture prison in Afghanistan. Last week, New York magazine made CBS's connection to Idema even more explicit, and explained that Idema was peddling not-exactly-liberal nonsense to the eager network:

In January 2002, As U.S. Forces in Afghanistan were hunting down Al Qaeda suspects, the CBS news show 60 Minutes II got its hands on some sensational footage: seven hours’ worth of videotape showing Al Qaeda terrorists training in an Afghan camp. The source of the tapes, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier named Jonathan Keith Idema -- known familiarly as Keith -- was more than a little dubious. Idema claimed to be working as an adviser to the Northern Alliance, but he was also an ex-con who had served three years in federal prison for wire fraud and had a criminal record in three states. He was, in addition, a serial litigator who had once sued CBS. But the tape’s content -- featuring masked men in a bullet-scarred compound training to assassinate and kidnap world leaders -- proved a TV producer’s dream.

It may have also proved too good to be true. Mary Mapes, who famously vouched for the documents purporting to show that George W. Bush was given preferential treatment by the Texas Air National Guard, was the producer of the segment. CBS News arranged for Dan Rather to fly to Kabul for an interview with Idema. 60 Minutes II touted its footage with the promise that it was “the most intimate look yet at how the world’s deadliest terrorist organization trains its recruits and what it wants them to do to the West.”

Special Forces soldiers, other journalists, and Army Intelligence immediately questioned the tapes’ authenticity. Tracy-Paul Warrington, formerly a chief warrant officer with U.S. Special Forces who now advises American police forces on counterterrorism, says the tapes are not an intimate look at anything -- except clumsy military playacting. “Eighty-five percent of terrorists’ attacks in the last decade have been bombings,” Warrington says. “In this film we see raids. This was a method that went out in the seventies, when Idema was in the Army. I was looking at seven hours of tape of something that Al Qaeda doesn’t do.” Another retired Special Forces soldier, and a longtime acquaintance of Keith Idema’s, contacted CIA sources and learned the agency had similar concerns about the tapes’ authenticity. “The CIA ran voice analysis on the tapes and concluded they were staged,” he says, adding that the agency didn’t publicize its findings because it “didn’t want to waste its time on someone it considered harmless.” Contacted about this claim, CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said the network “showed the tape to three former British Special Forces officers, who verified the tactics being practiced in the video were consistent with those of Al Qaeda, and to a top U.S. military official in Aghanistan, who told us that, in his opinion, the video was authentic.” In the terror-charged atmosphere of early 2002, in any event, there was no public outcry over the piece’s authenticity.

So there you go: The big liberals -- not just Dan Rather but Mary Mapes -- were working with this guy and retransmitting his nonsense. As I said a month ago, if you think their ongoing mission is to fight for the Left, this makes no sense. But if you think they're just more eager for scoops and thus more susceptible to bullshit, then their willingness to believe both Idema and the Guard documents makes perfect sense.

And lest you think Idema might be a Michael Moore fan under all that camo, there's this from New York:

According to [reporter Gary] Scurka, Idema called him a few weeks after the [9/11] terror attacks and announced he was going to Afghanistan to do humanitarian-aid work. Idema was intending to work with Knightsbridge International and the Partners International Foundation, two aid groups run by former military personnel...

Idema ... arrived in Afghanistan in November 2001.... According to Ed Artis, the former Army sergeant who heads Knightsbridge, Idema curtly announced on his arrival that he wanted “to kill every fucking Afghan I see.”
Anyone care to venture a guess as to what Ralph Nader is planning to say at his press conference this morning? "It will be covered by CNN, NBC, and C-Span 2 live among others," we're told.

Dropping out? Not bloody likely. Probably the same-old-same-old about evil Democratic ballot-access Nazis. (I've actually thought for a while that fighting Nader on ballot access was a bad idea, but enough already, Ralph -- the world is on fire and this has become the main issue of your campaign?)

UPDATE: Huge surprise -- he's staying in. So he got the media to show up for a news event with no news. Sort of like when a certain major-party presidential candidate from Texas adds a few new attack lines to the same old stump speech and gets the press to call it a new speech. Birds of a feather....

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

You can't get into a Bush rally if you're wearing a T-shirt that's anti-Bush, pro-Kerry, or even pro-choice, but it's nice to see that the Party of Traditional Values won't block your way if you're wearing a shirt that says HUNG LIKE A REPUBLICAN.

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 while explaining that he intends to wage an aggressive campaign no matter what the polls show.

--NewsMax, 9/29/04

In the last week before the election, ABCNEWS is holding a videotaped message from a purported al Qaeda terrorist warning of a new attack on America, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

The terrorist claims on tape the next attack will dwarf 9/11. "The streets will run with blood," and "America will mourn in silence" because they will be unable to count the number of the dead. Further claims: America has brought this on itself for electing George Bush who has made war on Islam by destroying the Taliban and making war on Al Qaeda....

The terrorist's face is concealed by a headdress, and he speaks in an American accent, making it difficult to identify the individual.

US intelligence officials believe the man on tape may be Adam Gadhan - aka Adam Pearlman, a California native who was highlighted by the FBI in May as an individual most likely to be involved in or have knowledge of the next al Qaeda attacks....

--Drudge Report today

Too perfect, just too perfect.

Here's a May San Francisco Chronicle story about this kid (who is, of course, a suspect even though his face conveniently can't be seen on the tape). The article says he's a metalhead-turned-Muslim child of parents who raised him in a hippieish way in, yes, California. What a gift for Karl Rove -- the culture war and the war on terror in one neat package, and, unlike Lindh, he's at large. And his terror tape arrives the last week in October. What luck!

I know that somewhere this story takes a sinister right turn from reality into election-year propaganda mapped out months ago on Rove's laptop -- I just can't pinpoint where. Sorry -- I don't buy it for a second.


...the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically.

--George Orwell, 1984


UPDATE: Josh Marshall quotes an NBC report that strongly suggests that this is no more alarming that the previous bits of hyped booga-booga the Bushies have sent out when W. is behind in the polls (headline: "CIA can’t authenticate taped threat to U.S.; NBC: Analysts cite 'low' concern").
Hats off to Atrios for spotting the self-canceling presidential endorsements of Christopher Hitchens. I'm sure Hitchypoo will dismiss this with airy and arrogant words of contempt: we blinkered simpletons can't properly appreciate the breathtaking complexity of his reasoning; he is Hitch, ergo this was not what any fool can see it actually was -- a screw-up.

In the longer endorsement (the one in The Nation, for Bush, as opposed to the Kerry endorsement in Slate), Hitchypoo pulls off something remarkable: He constructs a Guinness-world-record straw man, something so monstrous it should be displayed at a Midwestern state fair, next to a fifty-foot-high cow carved out of butter:

"Anybody But Bush"--and this from those who decry simple-mindedness--is now the only glue binding the radical left to the Democratic Party right. The amazing thing is the literalness with which the mantra is chanted. Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr? The chilling answer is, quite often, yes. This is nihilism. Actually, it's nihilism at best. If it isn't treason to the country--let us by all means not go there--it is certainly treason to the principles of the left.

What the hell?

This is a joke, right? Is he actually saying that when we use the word "Anybody" -- knowing full well that it means "Any of the tiny number of U.S. citizens who can survive the nominating process" -- we mean "Anyone on the face of the earth"? Is he serious?

Flashback: It's 1976. An unknown governor is on his way to the Democratic nomination for president, and those in the party who are wary of his candidacy try to stop his momentum by mounting a campaign known by the acronym ABC -- "Anyone but Carter." In the previous year the sitting president, Gerald Ford, has been the target of two assassination attempts.

Now, I don't want to claim that the 1970s were a simple, folksy time, but it's simply unimaginable that a political commentator could have cashed a paycheck for suggesting in print that Carter's Democratic opponents would have supported the nomination by their party of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. But that's the equivalent of what Hitchens is saying here.

What's ironic is that it would be entirely appropriate to say about Hitchens what he says about the left -- there wouldn't be a bit of hyperbole in it. That's because he has been an unswerving supporter of Bush's war in Iraq from the start, and among the consequences of the war is precisely the rise to power of Sadr:

Mr. Sadr's stated intention [is] to form a political party...

Mr. Sadr's new party and the older Shiite groups are likely to form the basis for a unified list of candidates that should capture at least 55 percent of the vote in January - and possibly more if Kurdish and Sunni groups can be brought into the fold.

Hitchens's position, in other words, has been "Anybody but Saddam." And if he were to be asked, "Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr?," his continued cheerleading for the war makes clear that his answer would be yes.


There are times when Hitchens reminds me of George W. Bush -- the history of drinking, the belittling self-righteousness. But he's no George Bush, really -- in fact, I think he's the new Camille Paglia.

First off, there's the narcissism. Paglia as egomaniac we all know about; regarding Hitchens, consider this: In David Corn's Nation endorsement of Kerry, which bookends the Hitchens endorsement of Bush, there are 1020 words; the personal pronoun appears 5 times. The count for Hitchens? Words: 1314. "I": 36.

And the Hitchens message is almost indistinguishable from the Paglia message. The point of much of Paglia's writing is: Millions of people imbibed 1960s values, but I alone embody those values now. Everybody else's version of the 1960s is a grotesque distortion. Substitute "Left" for "1960s," and that's essentially what Hitchens says in everything he writes now.

Here's Hitchens in 1999 hanging out with the Free Republic crowd; here's Paglia in 1999 chatting up Rush Limbaugh.

Madonna? No musical talent, but boy, could she concoct a media stunt and get the public to sit up and take notice. Paglia swooned. Bush? No talent for governance, but boy, did he make the puyblic believe that Iraqi mushroom cloud sounded scary. Hitchens continues to swoon.

That's the weakness Hitchens and Paglia have in common: They're both idealists, but they're both willing to fall for whoever most cleverly packages snake oil as idealism. Thus Madonna becomes a hero of feminism and Bush a champion of human rights.

Paglia, thankfully, is not so much with us these days -- she seems to be retreating to plain-vanilla literary criticism. Maybe Hitchens will go back to grousing about Princess Di and Mother Teresa.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

If you've seen (and been discouraged by) the ABC News story that says Bush has been the choice of a majority of early voters (51%-47%), take heart in this assessment by Chris Bowers at MyDD:

Sound like good news for Bush, right? I have done some quick analysis of the states where early voting at polling places (not no fault absentee balloting) is taking place, plus Oregon where all voting is early via mail, and the opposite appears to be true. Twenty-five states fit this category: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, IN, IA, KS, ME, NE, NV, NM, NC, ND, OR, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT and WV. According to Dave Leip, in 2000 Bush received 24,464,219 votes in these states, while Gore received 21,029,384. In other words, Bush won 54.0% of the two-party in these states, while Gore only won 46.0%. Thus, if the ABC poll is accurate, Bush is under-performing his 2000 levels by 2-3 points, while Kerry is over-performing Gore’s level by 1-2 points. This is actually horrendous news for Bush. If Kerry is losing in Republican areas by four points less than Gore was in 2000, then things look very good for Kerry indeed.

Feel better now?
Washington Post tracking poll: Kerry up by 2!

..."We began with the Star Spangled Banner blaring across the airways, saluting the U.S. flag flying high above the station, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a very appropriate prayer for our nation, our Constitution and the Republic," Stokes explained.

"Then the volunteers provided the pole and gas, and I provided the despicable U.N. flag."

The crowd shouted out a verbal countdown before the flag was torched.

Said Stokes: "Whoosh. It was completely gone in seconds. I hope it was an omen."

Story and photos here.


Steve Dunleavy in the New York Post today (lead story with tearjerking cover photo):


...In the next few days, there will be a person reporting for duty in Iraq. His name is Army Capt. Peter J. Dunleavy....

He is special to me, as are all the thousands of boys and girls who serve this country, because he looks at fear as a headache and duty as the ultimate.

And yet, John Kerry makes it look like those guys and gals are just victims -- wrong war, wrong time, wrong place.

How dare he say that to our brave boys and girls? How dare he whisper it -- let alone shout it to the whole world?

In my book, Kerry is giving comfort and succor to the enemy...

When John Kerry says wrong war, wrong time, wrong place he undermines not my boy, but
our boys. He embarrasses the United States abroad and he saps morale....

Steve Dunleavy in the New York Post, March 24, 1999:


...I do not know more than two human beings who know where Kosovo is...

Why are we beating war drums over a place where nobody knows where it is.

In 1968, when there were considerable body parts left in paddy fields in Vietnam only 5 percent of college students could tell you where Vietnam was.


...if, we are going to Kosovo for humanitarian purposes, that is fair. The Serbs have had an awful lot of time to make Kosovo a mass grave.

But if we are going into a civil war, where we don't only know how to get into, how to get out of, but we don't even know where it is.

Well, partner, think again.

(For more on Dunleavy's background as a checkbook journalist, self-mythologizing aging adolescent, and proud drunk -- no that's not slander, it's fact -- go here, here, here and here. He wrote this literary masterpiece and is actually angry that he doesn't get credit for his wife's work on this book.)

Esther Kaplan's Nation article about the Bush administration's efforts to channel money to far-right organizations (while defunding "radical" "left-wing" organizations such as the Audubon Society and Planned Parenthood) points out something I didn't know:

... Bush has sent ... $6.1 million in grants--some as large as $800,000--to "crisis pregnancy centers," which counsel young women not to abort. These abstinence grants have taken small, volunteer-run organizations and turned them into substantial institutions; one crisis pregnancy center in Boston, A Woman's Concern, received a $488,000 grant that allowed the group to bump its staff up from two to twelve. (By contrast, one lone federal abstinence grant has gone to a Planned Parenthood clinic during Bush's reign, for $127,000.) "Basically, they have created an industry," says SIECUS spokesperson Adrienne Verrilli.

A Woman's Concern has a pretty slick Web site -- so slick you might not spot the agenda at first (which is clearly the point). In addition to steering women away from abortion (and warning women about something called Post Abortion Stress Syndrome -- a link is provided to this "fact sheet" on the syndrome, sponsored by Heritage House, purveyor of religious-conservative products such as little rubbery-looking fetal model sets), A Woman's Concern also spreads lies about STDs ("Condoms only protect against HIV/AIDS 85% of the time," a "fact" even the Bush-era CDC debunks).

Meanwhile, Alas, a Blog and Body and Soul recently quoted this recent op-ed piece -- by Glen Harold Stassen, an abortion opponent -- which notes that the number of abortions has actually increased in the presidency of W., God's Other Son:

In the decade before Bush became President, the number of abortions in the United States fell from 1,610,000 to 1,330,000. That is a decline of 17.4 percent over the 1990s, an average decrease of 1.7 percent per year. (The data come from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.)

Enter Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its course downward. Instead, the opposite happened.

Three states have posted several years of recent statistics through 2003: Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Here's what happened to their abortion rates: Kentucky's increased by 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Michigan's increased by 11.3 percent from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9 percent from 1999 to 2002.

I found 13 other states that reported statistics allowing comparison of abortion rates in 2001 and 2002. Here's what happened: Eight states saw an increase in their abortion rates: Arizona (+26.4 percent), Colorado (+67.4 percent), Idaho (+13.9 percent), Illinois (+0.9 percent), Missouri (+2.5 percent), South Dakota (+2.1 percent), Texas (+3.0 percent), and Wisconsin (+0.6 percent). Five states saw a decrease: Alabama (-9.8 percent), Florida (-0.7 percent), Minnesota (-4.4 percent), Ohio (-4.4 percent), and Washington (-2.1 percent).

In total numbers, 7,869 more abortions were performed in these 16 states during Bush's second year in office than previously. If this trend reflects our nation, 24,000 more abortions were performed during Bush's second year in office than the year before (or three years before in the first three states). Had the previous trends continued, 28,000 fewer abortions should have occurred each year of the Bush era. All in all, probably 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than expected from the earlier trends. ...

What's up? More poverty, more joblessness, less health care. And more abortions follow? That's Stassen's theory, and I agree.


Kaplan's Nation article cites a lot of far-right organizations that have received federal funding on Bush's watch (Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation got a sex-education grant? Yup), but she apparently wrote before this happened:

The State Department has awarded an explicitly anti-feminist U.S. group part of a US$10 million grant to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy.

The group, the Washington-based Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), will help implement the administration’s “Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative” ...

The organization was founded in 1991 by a number of prominent right-wing Republican women to act as a counterpoint to what they called the “radical feminism” of the National Organization for Women (NOW)...

Among the founders were Lynne Cheney, the spouse of Vice President Dick Cheney and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; Kate O’Beirne, Washington editor of the right-wing “National Review” and a former senior vice president at the Heritage Foundation; and Midge Decter, the former co-chair with Donald Rumsfeld of the Committee for the Free World and one of the founders of neo-conservatism along with her spouse, former “Commentary” editor, Norman Podhoretz...

(More on IWF at the story link and also here and here. If you want to watch a recipient of your tax dollars engage in Kerry-bashing, try this and this. Thanks to Robert Sam Anson at the New York Observer for the tip.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

One more poll: L.A. Times. And it's tied: 48%-48% (likely voters, 3-way race), 47%-47% (registered voters, 3-way race).

Gallup? Feh. Over at MyDD, ProfAlan calculates that if you take the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in Gallup's polling sample and rejigger the numbers based on the actual breakdown of voters by party in the 2000 election, Kerry's 5-point deficit turns into a lead. (Albeit a tiny one.)

The article on John Zogby in the October 18 New Yorker talks about Gallup's thinking:

Figuring out who is likely to vote is difficult.... Gallup, for instance, asks respondents seven questions, such as: "Do you happen to know where people in your neighborhood go to vote?" and "In the election for President in November of 2000, did things come up that kept you from voting, or did you happen to vote?" ... Gallup then assumes that only fifty or fifty-five per cent of the population will vote in the election, since that is historically the case, and counts only the fifty or fifty-five per cent of its sample that scored the highest on the likely-voter questionnaire. This method of calculation means that Gallup is throwing out half of its sample (rather than, say, weighting the whole sample), and that is risky ...: it means that Gallup is relying on a key variable in the election -- in this case turnout -- remaining unchanged.

So Gallup thinks every year the same people who always vote will vote, and no bloc of voters -- blacks angry about 2000, say, or young people worried about a draft -- will improve their rate of participation. Does that make any sense?
I just want to remind poll obsessives that from October 27 through November 6, 2000 (the day before the election), not one poll of the many recorded by Polling Report showed Gore in the lead. In fact, from October 7 on, Gore never registered a lead larger than 3% in any poll, while 27 polls showed Bush with a lead of 6 points or better -- and sometimes that Bush lead was in double digits (Bush led by 13 in the Gallup poll on October 26, as I've noted earlier).

For what it's worth, the new TIPP poll has Bush with a 7-point lead -- but in Rasmussen's tracking poll, Kerry has his first lead since August 23.

UPDATE: Kerry passes Bush for the first time in the Washington Post tracking poll. It's 49%-48% Kerry; he's turned a 6-point deficit into a 1-point lead in four days. Undecideds breaking for the challenger?
So we didn't secure the al-Qaqaa site from which massive amounts of explosives subsequently disappeared even though before the war the British thought nerve gas was being produced there?

The British dossier, released in September, alleged that parts of a phosgene production plant at al QaQaa had been rebuilt after being dismantled under U.N. supervision in the 1990s. Phosgene, the dossier said, has industrial uses, but "can also be used by itself as a chemical agent or as a precursor for nerve agent."

(Phosgene, of course, killed a lot of soldiers in the First World War.)

And the site wasn't secured even though it was believed by some to be connected to a Saddam missile program?

Iraq's forces still have potent weapons for delivering biological and chemical warheads such as the Scud B missiles used against Saudi Arabia and Israel during Desert Storm in 1991 and the longer range Al Hussain missile fired against Iran in the Gulf war from 1980 to 1988....

Most of the functioning missile sites are now believed to be around Baghdad at Qa Qaa, Yawm al Azim, Taj al Marik and Thu al Fiqar....

I know skepticism about prewar tales of Saddam's danger was rife among us peaceniks, but didn't the hawks believe their own scare stories?
We all remember the key line from the famous sign in the Clinton campaign's '92 war room: The economy, stupid. But do you remember the first line? It was

Change vs. More of the Same

I find the handwringing of the undecideds maddening, but I sometimes wonder if Kerry could have closed the sale with a number of them by making a simple point: If you want to change what's going on, you have to vote for Kerry. If Bush wins, what you're getting is what you're going to get.

I know the conventional wisdom is that that's precisely Bush's pitch -- Whatever you think of me, at least you know where I stand -- but is that enough when the majority of voters think things are going in the wrong direction?

Here's the pitch: Are you happy with the way the war in Iraq is going? Are you happy with the cost of health care? Are you happy about the availability of jobs? Are you happy about bigger and bigger budget deficits? George W. Bush can't name a single thing he's done in four years that he'll admit was a mistake. That means that if he wins, the next four years are going to look just like the last four. And that means that the only way we'll get change is if we vote for change.

John Kerry. A fresh start.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

It's astonishing, really: The Republican Party's presidential candidates have lost the popular vote to Democrats in three straight presidential elections, yet if this happens a fourth time on November 2, Republicans are still going to insist they aren't doing anything wrong and don't have to make any changes in the future. That's what Elizabeth Bumiller says in this article in today's New York Times.

A couple of days ago, David Brooks said in the Times that

Some Democrats have been unable to face the reality that people have been voting for Republicans because they agree with them....

According to this theory, Republicans - or usually some omniscient, omnipotent and malevolent strategists, like Lee Atwater or Karl Rove - have been tricking the American people into voting against their true interests....

The truth, at least in presidential elections, is the exact opposite: Republicans think everyone in America is a Republican except for small contingents of Brie-eating coastal elitists and throwback sandal-wearing peaceniks, but every four years we hold a presidential election and more Americans vote for the Democrat. And it could very well happen again. So when we mock George W. Bush's inability to admit he's ever made a mistake -- which we should do as often as possible -- we should remember that it's a fault he shares with his entire party.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A 21-year-old woman named Victoria Snelgrove died after being shot by cops during the celebration of the Red Sox playoff victory ... and a Boston paper had the unbelievable bad taste to publish graphic photos of her wounds (for which it has now had to apologize).

Is it surprising that the paper in question is the right-wing, Kerry-hating Boston Herald? (For that matter, was it surprising that John Lennon's morgue photo wound up on the front page of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post?)

These are the papers we can always turn to for prattle about "traditional values." Apparently, "traditional values" don't include refraining oneself from making a cheap buck off a corpse.

Republicans again:

If you didn't know where the new film "Celsius 41.11" was coming from you certainly get the picture when the filmmakers cut from an image juxtaposing Michael Moore with Hitler straight to an image of John Kerry and John Edwards.

And this isn't coming from some anonymous person waving a sign at a demonstration or trying to win an online ad contest -- it's coming from Citizens United, home base of full-time sewer-dweller David Bossie, whose fingerprints are on the '88 Willie Horton ads and on tapes of Hillary Clinton maliciously edited to suggest self-incrimination on her part in the Whitewater years.

(Oh, and one of the writer/producers is Lionel Chetwynd, who put the line "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!" in George W. Bush's mouth in the TV movie DC 9/11.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Is it stating the obvious to point out that Stolen Honor, which accuses Vietnam War opponents of creating and perpetuating a stereotype of Vietnam veterans as psycho war criminals, is being excerpted on Sinclair stations tonight on behalf of a man whose 2000 campaign hinted that a certain Vietnam veteran had a screw loose?

AMY GOODMAN: Let's explain South Carolina. New Hampshire happened and McCain won, Bush came in second. So then, the primaries, South Carolina. Bush is behind.

WAYNE SLATER: Absolutely he's behind. And the campaign is worried, that, wait a minute, this McCain juggernaut may be real. So what we first saw was the emergence of this suspect veteran's group, that stood up on the stairs and basically raised questions about McCain's abilities. It said does he have the temperament to be President? That's code for: "He was a P.O.W. so he may be crazy." Where did this suspect veteran's group come from?...

Meanwhile, whatever some war opponents may have said a generation ago, it's Kerry supporters who cheered a crowd of Vietnam vets at this year's Democratic convention. And let's not forget that in this war even Abu Ghraib hasn't been enough to turn war opponents against the troops -- we blame the higher-ups, while Bush cheerleaders blame the moral character of the abusers.
Well, this could be fun:

The shadow campaign for US Senator John F. Kerry's seat saw light yesterday, with US Representative Barney Frank blanketing the airwaves of Eastern Massachusetts with television ads aimed at boosting his profile for the race that would occur if Kerry wins the White House.

Frank, a Democrat whose district spreads from Newton to Fall River, has purchased $350,000 of air time, mostly on Boston television stations. He faces a challenge for his House seat from a little-known independent candidate whose campaign adviser all but concedes he can't win.

In an interview yesterday, Frank acknowledged that the advertising blitz, the first he has launched since a reelection battle in 1982, is designed in part to lay the groundwork for a potential race for the US Senate seat that Kerry would vacate.

"The best way to win any campaign is before the campaign begins," Frank said....

--Boston Globe

There are other good Democratic candidates -- Congreessmen Ed Markey and Marty Meehan, to name two. (In fact, there might be too many Democratic candidates, a problem that's long plagued the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, which, in statewide races, often can't manage to elect the winners of bruising primary contests.)

But just imagine: John Kerry beats God's Messenger on Earth, George W. Bush. Then shortly afterward, a special election is held, and the winner is Barney Frank. Now Saint George is out of a job and the Bay State's Senate delegation is Ted Kennedy and a gay man. There are parts of the country where people would just be freaking. That would be fun.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

So I'm hanging out reading last week's New Yorker, which has a story about pollster John Zogby. In it, Zogby tells this story:

"I asked one question the Saturday before the election in 2000. I called my call center in Utica and said, 'Put this in the poll: "You live in the land of Oz, and the candidates are the Tin Man, who’s all brains and no heart, and the Scarecrow, who’s all heart and no brains. Who would you vote for?"' The next day, I called Utica and said, 'Whaddaya got?' They said, 'Well we've got Gore--,' I said, 'I don't care about Gore. What's Oz?' It was 46.2 for the Tin Man and 46.2 for the Scarecrow. It was right there that I knew I wasn't going to know what was going to happen. But I asked this question again two weeks ago and the Tin Man led by ten points."

I'll call that a hopeful portent.

"Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

--Alessandra Stanley, media critic, in today's New York Times

The film is rife with out-of-context and incomplete quotations from Mr. Kerry and other antiwar veterans. Several historians said many accusations in it were not provable or stretched far beyond reality....

Historians not connected to the Kerry campaign dispute the central assertion of the film, that Mr. Kerry was responsible for prolonging the war and the prisoners' torture....

Other veterans appear, saying Mr. Kerry wrongly accused them of war crimes....

Several historians said yesterday that Mr. Kerry's testimony could be legitimately criticized for greatly exaggerating the frequency of atrocities but that atrocities did occur.

"They didn't happen with the frequency with which John Kerry talks about them in the truncated comments we've all heard," said Gary D. Solis, a former marine who is a law professor at West Point.

But, Professor Solis said, "All the things that Senator Kerry described did happen, no question."

He said My Lai was unparalleled in ferocity, and in the number of Vietnamese killed and raped.

"Were there things like cutting off ears and war crimes?" he asked. "Sure there were."...

--Jim Rutenberg and Kate Zernike, political reporters, in yesterday's New York Times

Argh -- The New York Times: a do-over and a money quote (which I'm sure will be splashed across Carlton Sherwood's ads and sponsorship solicitations any minute now...).

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


"We're just following the traditions of our forefathers," said Paul Gilman yesterday as he brandished a copy of the United States Constitution under the inflated green alien hanging from the dome light in Ralph Nader Corporate Crime Fighting Unit No. 4.

"And our foremothers," corrected his partner, Don Hickok.

"Right, our forefathers and our foremothers, and since this is New Jersey, it's in the spirit of Molly Hatchet, err, Molly Pitcher," Mr. Gilman said, substituting the revolutionary heroine for the Southern rock band. "Sorry. I'm a metalhead."

Heh-heh. Heh-heh-heh.

Read more in this New York Times story.

Yeah, these are the guys who are going to transform American democracy. Oh, and by the way, Hickok, who is 39 years old, thinks Nader has a chance to win.

I've been saying that we weren't going to stop Sinclair's airing of Stolen Honor with advertiser boycotts and other attacks on Sinclair, and I'm delighted to learn that I've been proved partly wrong -- hats off to everyone who kept the pressure on.

Still, as this L.A. Times/Yahoo News story notes, some portion of the film will be broadcast

on 40 of Sinclair's 62 stations, including three each in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Florida....

Critics said the new program would probably still represent a wide airing for the charges that Sherwood made in the 42-minute "Stolen Honor" — namely that Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities prolonged the ordeal of American prisoners.

That's still a bit worrisome.

On the other hand, when we're told that the title of the broadcast is "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media" and the company's press release quotes Sinclair's CEO as saying,

The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock. In addition, and more shockingly, we have received threats of retribution from a member of Senator John Kerry's campaign and have seen attempts by leading members of Congress to influence the Federal Communications Commission to stop Sinclair from broadcasting this news special. Moreover, these coordinated attacks have occurred without regard to the facts ...

We cannot in a free America yield to the misguided attempts by a small but vocal minority to influence behavior and trample on the First Amendment rights of those with whom they might not agree....

I have to assume that the point of the broadcast is going to shift -- from That Indirect POW Torturer Kerry to Those Jackbooted Liberal Censors. That's an improvement -- who the hell's going to want to sit around on Friday night and watch that, other than the hardcore Bush crowd?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Give this man a political Silver Star for valor in the face of an evil enemy:

A Vietnam veteran shown in a documentary criticizing Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activities filed a libel lawsuit against the movie's producer Monday, saying the film falsely calls him a fraud and a liar.

Kenneth J. Campbell, now a professor at the University of Delaware, said in the suit that "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" combines footage of him appearing at a 1971 war protest with narration that claims that many of the supposed veterans who took part in the event were later "discovered as frauds" who "never set foot on the battlefield, or left the comfort of the States, or even served in uniform."...

Campbell attached copies of his military records to the lawsuit, showing he received a Purple Heart and eight other medals, ribbons and decorations for his service in Vietnam....

The segment involving Campbell shows him speaking with another Marine at a 1971 gathering in Detroit, during which Kerry and other servicemen shared stories about horrific acts they had committed or witnessed during the war.

Campbell asks whether the Marine recalls an assault on a Vietnamese village; the Marine offers to provide more detail. Neither man is identified. Sherwood introduces the conversation by saying, "Many of the horror stories seem made up on the spot," but does not elaborate as to why he believes that to be the case....


The New York Times adds this:

A lawyer for Mr. Campbell, a decorated marine who is now a professor at the University of Delaware, said the film was edited to take out footage in which Mr. Campbell made clear that only soldiers who witnessed the atrocities firsthand would be allowed to testify at the hearings, and footage in which he recounted his military superiors ordering him to kill innocent civilians.

Campbell may also sue Sinclair, and has told a movie theater in Philadelphia that the movie is defamatory. The theater canceled a showing of the film. (Unless you consider libel to be protected free speech, I don't think this should set off civil-liberties alarm bells.)

I don't want to take anything away from Jon Lieberman, the Sinclair D.C. bureau chief who was fired for truthfully telling the Baltimore Sun that Stolen Honor is propaganda, but what Campbell is doing is absolutely essential, because it attacks the content of this film, which, once it's been aired, is all that's going to matter to voters.
This is almost too easy:

Some Democrats have been unable to face the reality that people have been voting for Republicans because they agree with them....

According to this theory, Republicans - or usually some omniscient, omnipotent and malevolent strategists, like Lee Atwater or Karl Rove - have been tricking the American people into voting against their true interests.

--David Brooks in today's New York Times

The poll underlined the extent to which Mr. Bush has succeeded in raising doubts about Mr. Kerry. In addition to the perception of Mr. Kerry as a liberal, 60 percent said that he told people what he thought they wanted to hear, rather than what he believed....

The Times/CBS News poll found indications that voters were listening to Democratic attacks against Mr. Bush, even if they had not embraced the candidate making them. Nearly half said that Mr. Bush's policies had increased the cost of the prescription drugs for the elderly, while 60 percent said that his policies had benefited the rich, compared with 8 percent who said they benefited the middle class.

In addition, nearly half said that Mr. Bush's policies were cutting the number of jobs in the United States. Sixty-five percent said that Mr. Kerry's policies favored "ordinary Americans" rather than large corporations; 59 percent said Mr. Bush's policies would protect corporations.

One-quarter of respondents said that Mr. Bush's policies had resulted in their taxes going down, while 28 percent said that they had resulted in their taxes going up. And 61 percent said Social Security benefits would be available if Mr. Kerry won; 43 percent said that about Mr. Bush.

On Iraq, Americans no longer see the war as Mr. Bush does. A majority now say the war is either a minor part of the war on terrorism or no part at all. Only 37 percent say the war in Iraq is a major part of the war on terrorism.

--Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder, a few pages back in the same edition of the Times

Monday, October 18, 2004


Rove's work. Very little doubt in my mind. Or the work of a Rove wannabe. Are you kidding me? This sort of scandal, in the #1 swing state, and seemingly tainting the NAACP (although the only person tying it to the NAACP is the crack supplier herself)? Come on, give me a break -- this is a classic dirty trick.
I'm on a vacation rhythm, which is nice. Every so often I'm read a few more bits of the Sunday Times. I thought by now I'd have something clever to say about the Ron Suskind article on Bush in the magazine -- it seemed appalling when I read it yesterday, but I realize that most of what Bush says in it, and what Suskind says about Bush, is no more alarming that what I already knew or suspected about the son of a bitch. The quote that stuck with me most was the arrogant attack on Suskind by Bush adviser Mark McKinnon:

"You think he's an idiot, don't you?" I said, no, I didn't. "No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community.

Wow, there's a lot in that. Start with that careful inclusion of "a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street." Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but is that an extremely roundabout way of saying Jews? You know, Sodom-dwelling international moneylenders? (Never mind that the average thick-necked young lout on a Wall Street trading floor is a Bushite, as is whoever signs his checks.) In fact, I'm not sure about Suskind's interpretation of the word "you" -- I think he means coast-dwellers, which, to him, surely means "liberals, an awful lot of whom are Jews."

Then there's McKinnon's list of what real Americans appreciate about Bush that coast-dwellers don't understand: "They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence." See, it doesn't matter that we're losing in Iraq -- what matters is that Bush points in a really macho way! We girlie-men just don't grasp that you can't be a good leader if you're not a truly manly pointer.

But it's McKinnon's overarching disgust that's most significant, and to some extent I'm sure it reflects Bush's thinking. People scratch their heads and ask why Bush got us into Iraq, and sometimes I think the principal reason was that he was sure it would piss off coastal elitists (all presumed, of course, to be liberals and peaceniks).

In earlier posts I've mentioned an encounter that reportedly took place at Yale between Bush and the lefty minister William Sloane Coffin: After a Democrat beat George H. W. Bush in an election, Coffin (if the story is accurate) told the younger Bush, "Your father was beaten by a better man." According to Bill Minutaglio's Bush biography, W. was still bringing this comment up resentfully decades later. (Coffin insisted he never said it.)

Did we go into Iraq because Bush believes in a "reverse domino theory"? Probably -- and maybe for him the last domino is the Upper West Side.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

So we're here for the week at the Cozy Little Getaway, and over the weekend we had visitors, one of whom (a man after my own heart) grabbed the computer this morning for a poll fix -- and when he saw the Newsweek numbers, he concluded that there simply had to be a flaw in the methodology, because it's just impossible that Kerry is leading among men and Bush is leading among women.

I'm not so sure. Bush on the stump these days seems like the last panel of a Charles Atlas ad in a comic book -- chesty, puffed-up, and determined to be noticed by the ladies. People think of Clinton as the guy who campaigned as a seducer of female voters, but Clinton tried to seduce every voter, male and female -- and he used two things Bush never uses, intelligence and need. He tried to make voters feel safe. Bush seems to be trying to make voters feel unsafe. He wants them to think about danger. He's a fifth-rate James Dean, but, by seven o'clock news standards, even fifth-rate James Dean might looks sexy to a certain percentage of women, especially in this era, which is a lot more pre-feminist and post-feminist (The Bachelor, Sex and the City) than feminist.

On the other hand, for men, or at least for some men, maybe Bush has pushed it too far. He seems like a type that's familiar to men: a guy who picks bar fights, a guy who wants you in on "the action" even after you've figured out that "the action" is likely to take your life savings, get you arrested, or put you in the hospital in critical condition. You don't want to get in the car with him because you know that not only will the state troopers pull him over for driving 95 with a blood alcohol level way over 0.8, but he might react to being pulled over by pissing on the cop's shoes.

That's what the war is now, and that's what the tax cuts are -- benders gone amok, manic schemes it's crazy to go along with. Bush is what guys look like when they have a screw loose, and maybe a few more guys in America are starting to get it.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I'm taking a little time off. I won't be unplugging completely -- I'll have Net access (dial-up) where I'm staying, so I'm sure I'll still be posting (especially if the weather turns as crummy as it did last year when I took time off in the same location), but it'll be a change from my usual blogging frenzy. I'll be back to my normal life and excessive blogging on October 25.

Meanwhile, I want to thank everyone who's been reading the blog and everyone who's written to me (yes, I read the e-mails, though I know I'm really bad about responding). I find that the hardest e-mails to respond to are the ones that say, "You have a great blog" or "That was a great post" -- but I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing those things.

On the flip side, feel free to keep sending critiques, but try not to hate me for saying, a couple of posts back, that it might be good for Kerry to apologize to the Cheneys for mentioning Mary in the debate. I'm a great believer in purely strategic apologies -- I say Kerry should go out of his way to try to mend fences, get a little media goodwill for making the effort, beat Cheney and Bush on November 2, then, once he's in office, press the Justice Department to indict Cheney on (at least) racketeering charges.

If you get a chance, check out the free online video and audio clips from Stolen Honor. This is what we're going to be up against in a matter of days. I haven't written about them because I just don't feel I'm the best person to do point-by-point critiques of what's said in the clips. If you have a blog and you feel you've got something to say in response, say it. The movie's going to air. Sinclair won't be stopped. We have to respond to the movie.

On that grumbly note, I'm out of here.

Friday, October 15, 2004

This scummy little book...

--Leon Wieseltier in The New York Times, writing about Checkpoint, Nicholson Baker's novel about a man who wants to assassinate President Bush

...[a] small masterpiece of erotic writing.

--Leon Wieseltier quoted in The New York Times about The Surrender, Toni Bentley's paean to anal intercourse

Gee, maybe Wieseltier would have been kinder to Baker's book if it had been about a man who wants to bugger the president.
Just to put this to rest, I say Kerry should announce that he wants to meet personally with the Cheneys, to apologize in person. Screw it -- it's just an apology, not a pound of flesh, and it will get his campaign past this.

Of course, the Bush team wants it to go on as long as possible, so maybe Cheney will tell Kerry, in effect, to go fuck himself. If that happens, it's a huge Kerry win.

If we face nuclear terror, it's entirely likely that George W. Bush is to blame:

Nuclear material taken by experts not looters, say diplomats

The removal of Iraq's mothballed nuclear facilities took about a year and was carried out by experts with heavy machinery and demolition equipment, diplomats close to the United Nations have said.

The UN nuclear watchdog, which monitored Saddam Hussein's nuclear sites before the US-led invasion last year, told the UN Security Council this week that equipment and materials that could be used to make atomic weapons had been vanishing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington had noticed.

"This process carried on at least through 2003 ... and probably into 2004, at least in early 2004," a Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

US, British and Iraqi officials have downplayed the disappearance of the equipment, saying it was part of widespread looting after the March 2003 invasion, which the US, Britain and Australia said was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

However, several diplomats close to the nuclear agency said on Thursday that this was not the result of haphazard looting.

They said the removal of this dual-use equipment - which until the war was tagged and closely monitored by the agency to ensure that it was not being used in a weapons program - was planned and executed by people who knew what they were doing.

"We're talking about dozens of sites being dismantled," one diplomat said. "Large numbers of buildings [were] taken down, warehouses were emptied and removed. This would require heavy machinery, demolition equipment. This is not something that you'd do overnight."

Diplomats in Vienna say the agency fears these facilities, part of a pre-1991 covert nuclear weapons program, could have been sold to a country or militants seeking nuclear weapons.

Among the sites stripped were a precision manufacturing plant at Umm Al Marik, a site connected with nuclear weapons activities at Al Qa Qaa, and an engineering facility at Badr.

--Sydney Morning Herald

I posted the whole thing because it's behind a registration firewall, and because it makes me absolutely furious. I'm a Manhattanite -- if a terrorist wants to kill people with a nuclear weapon, there's a better-than-average chance that I'm going to die and so are a lot of people I care about. And if that happens, the only satisfaction I'll have is knowing that history might damn George W. Bush for all time as the incompetent who allowed it to happen.
An new Scripps/Ohio University poll has three results:

Kerry 50%, Bush 44%

Kerry 50%, Bush 45%

Kerry 47%, Bush 48%

The Votemaster at explains:

The first poll came from calling households at random and asking if the respondent was 18 or over and a resident of the United States. This filter resulted in telephone interviews with 1022 people. Among this group Kerry has a lead substantially outside the poll's 3% margin of error. After asking about who the respondent planned to vote for, the interviewer asked: "Are you registered to vote at your current residence?" It turns out 15% were not. Once they were removed from the data, we get line 2, the registered voters, where Kerry is still ahead outside the margin of error. Next question was: "Are you certain or almost certain to vote?" Counting only the people who said yes, we get line 3 in the table, what are often called "likely voters." In short, in the adult resident population at large, Kerry is way ahead, but among likely voters it is a statistical tie.

So if we get out the vote, we win.
The Washington Post says that Major General Barbara Fast, "the highest-ranking intelligence officer tied to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal," has been rewarded for her fine work by being chosen to lead the Army's intelligence school.

And a New York Times op-ed piece says that Moktada al-Sadr and Ahmed Chalabi -- a killer of our troops and the guy who suckered us into the war in the first place -- are pretty much going to be running Iraq soon, and we should just embrace them.

Tell me again why half the country wants to reelect Bush? Oh, yeah, right: the moral clarity.
Barbara O'Brien at the Mahablog says:

The fact is that it's the Cheneys and the rest of the Bush campaign who are exploiting Mary Cheney. They're trying to spin Kerry's debate remark the way they spun the Wellstone Memorial. They hope to stir up outrage against Kerry and thereby get back some of the post-debate spin and stop Kerry's climb in the polls....

If Lynne and Dick had just expressed dismay over Kerry's remark
once and then let it drop, I'd have called it an honest if unfortunate reaction. Continuing to club Kerry with his debate remark is exploitation on its face. 


(She's got a good roundup on the subject, if you're coming to it late.)

This (from the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi) is surprising:

Platoon defies orders in Iraq

A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq -- north of Baghdad -- because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.

...The platoon could be charged with the willful disobeying of orders, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and up to five years confinement...

The platoon being held has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina, said Teresa Hill of Dothan, Ala., whose daughter Amber McClenny is among those being detained....

McClenny told her mother her unit tried to deliver fuel to another base in Iraq Wednesday, but was sent back because the fuel had been contaminated with water. The platoon returned to its base, where it was told to take the fuel to another base, McClenny told her mother.

The platoon is normally escorted by armed Humvees and helicopters, but did not have that support Wednesday, McClenny told her mother.

The convoy trucks the platoon was driving had experienced problems in the past and were not being properly maintained, Hill said her daughter told her....

Hill said the trucks her daughter's unit was driving could not top 40 mph.

"They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were going to get ambushed or fired at," Hill said her daughter told her. "They would have had no way to fight back."...

Meanwhile, Bob Herbert writes about a paralyzed vet today -- and what he says about our war planning is something the defiant platoon undoubtedly knows too well:

Sergeant Simpson's expertise is tank warfare. But the Army is stretched thin, and the nation's war plans at times have all the coherence of football plays drawn up in the schoolyard. When Sergeant Simpson's unit was deployed from Germany to Iraq, the tanks were left behind and the sergeant ended up bouncing around Tikrit in a Humvee, on the lookout for weapons smugglers and other vaguely defined "bad guys."

He said he felt more like a cop than a soldier.

And ABC News reminds us how much the U.S. government cares about the troops when they're injured:

Injured Iraq Vets Come Home to Poverty

Injured Soldiers Returning from Iraq Struggle for Medical Benefits, Financial Survival

...Army Spc. Tyson Johnson III of Mobile, Ala., who lost a kidney in a mortar attack last year in Iraq, was still recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he received notice from the Pentagon's own collection agency that he owed more than $2,700 because he could not fulfill his full 36-month tour of duty.

Johnson said the Pentagon listed the bonus on his credit report as an unpaid government loan, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment or obtain credit cards....

Pentagon officials said they were unaware of the case until it was brought to their attention by ABC News....

The Department of Defense and the Army intervened to have the collection action against Johnson stopped...