Friday, July 30, 2004

Blogging from Boston here, I noted a couple of things about Kerry's speech (side note: by "blogging from Boston," I mean to say sitting in an office in a major metropolitan city within 300 miles of Boston, and by "not[ing] a couple of things about Kerry's speech," I mean to say listening to the excerpts on the radio this morning and reading about it, since during Kerry's speech I'm pretty sure I was dancing my ass off at a gentrified "dive bar" on the Lower East Side -- er, I mean, South Side of Boston).

At any rate, regarding the question-response line, "Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in?" both Jen and I thought "Left wing?" I didn't actually think of "West Wing!" Andrew Sullivan called this arrogant . . .

Sullivan loved this response: "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." But that was actually John Edwards' masterful response to a question during the debates -- and if you remember, at that point Kerry hemmed and hawed about spirituality in a way that made him seem anything but spiritual. Which is to say, I guess he's learning here . . .

Thursday, July 29, 2004

James Lileks:
And spare me the Ann Coulter parallels. The day Ann Coulter shows up in the presidential box with a former POTUS, like Moore showed up with Jimmy Carter, we can talk.
Then again, as Peter Beinart writes, with the networks' thin coverage of the DNC, Kerry's been lucky that Moore, Kennedy, Sharpton, et al. have gotten little primetime attention.
I think what bothers me so much about the throwaway line, "This is the most important election of our time" is that it was cherry-picked from the anti-war crowd, who -- for whatever reason -- feels like Bush is the worst thing ever. This is absurd on many levels, not least of which being that Kerry has pledged to stick it out in Iraq and, if anything, be tougher against terrorism.

Read Andrew Sullivan for a taste of Kerry's hawkishness -- start here and scroll down -- that Sullivan is so comfortable with Kerry and Edwards speaks volumes.

So if, for all intents and purposes, Kerry is for the war -- which is what I'm assuming most feel is the most important issue of our time -- then how would Kerry's approach differ to the point where this election really does rise to the level of "the most important of our time?" And "fixing alliances" does not an important election make.
Now what did I say yesterday about "this is the most important election of our time?"

So along comes Theodore Sorensen, President Kennedy's speechwriter, who opines what Kerry should say tonight in the New York Times:
Let no doubt remain; this is the most important election of our time. Either we take the road forward to national unity and international cooperation, or we fall further into despair, division and dangerous isolation.
Grrrr . . .

And let's just be clear what I mean here -- it's not that the issues facing us during this election are not important but rather that when you oversell its importance you run the risk of people not believing you. I feel it with the ACLU and the Patriot Act, with Planned Parenthood and the camel's nose under the tent and Supreme Court Justices -- really, every lobby is always making it seem like we're this close to tyranny. And it's not just the left, either -- read some of what the social conservatives are saying about how gay marriage will destroy Western Civilization.

Like I said, they all run the risk of us not believing them. That's the problem with calling this "the most important election of our time."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I'm guessing that both Bush and Michael Moore would prefer to avoid this kind of vindication:
A half-brother of Usama bin Laden says he enjoyed most of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," except for what he called "inaccuracies" about his family.

"It's a moving film," Yeslam Binladin, a Geneva-based tycoon and one of the al-Qaeda leader's 54 siblings, said in an interview with the French magazine VSD.

"I even laughed at times," said Binladin, adding, "but a lot less when he states errors or inaccuracies about my family, knowing perfectly well that he's deceiving the public."
For some reason I don't see either Scott McClellan or Michael Moore using these quotes!
I don't know how much longer I can stand hearing someone say how "This election is the most important in our lifetime."

Please, make it stop! Unless you're John Kerry, this election is actually not the most important election in our lifetime. It's just one of many that will occur every four years -- and if you're a citizen with even a halfway decent voting record, more frequently than that.

That's right -- unless you're John Kerry, this election actually means very little -- what happens, for example, if he's actually elected? Will 2008 then be unimportant?

Did I say, "unless you're John Kerry?" Now I know where this hollow cliche came from:
I know that every four years people who are running for president tell you that this is the most important election. Well this one is different: It's the most important election in our lifetime. Today, we confront challenges as great as any in our history.

If you don't believe that this is the most important election in our lifetime, then all you have to do is look at your front pages. We see the haunting images of our soldiers loading flagged draped coffins. . . .

If you don't believe that this election is the most important in our life time, then all you have to do is look at the stories about the millions of middle class families who are struggling to get ahead. There are record bankruptcies, record foreclosure rates, and Americans owe more than $750 billion in credit card debt. . . .

If you don't believe that this election is the most important in our lifetime, then all you have to do is look at the story about Iraq. . . .
Like I said, please -- please! -- make it stop.
Will Saletan's stuff from the DNC is really good, too.
When NPR's Scott Simon -- in my Weekend Edition mindset, a paragon of Northeastern tolerance and virtue -- slags your film, it's a problem.
I haven't been paying much attention to the Democratic National Convention but I did catch a little of Ted Kennedy and Teresa Heinz-Kerry (or is it "Teresa Heinz Kerry" without the hyphen?) and I have to say that I agree with Andrew Sullivan about them:
Heinz-Kerry's speech obviously should not have been given. Until now, I've never worried about Teresa in any substantive sense. I love her freshness, her attitude, her difference, and the fact that she is a multi-lingual immigrant. But we won't be electing her and I have no interest in her half-baked political pablum. It is not a feminist achievement to use your marriage as a device to gain political power. Hillary is now a respectable pol because she got elected. H-K's lecture was condescending, unnecessary and pointless. We needed to know who she is. We only know a bit more than we did. We found out nothing about her husband. She was also dull - in the way that very rich people often are. It's been so long that they ever really needed to worry what other people think that they lose the capacity for caring. I just hope to God that Teresa will not be running the White House. For the first time, she's a net negative in my view of whether Kerry could be a good president.
It struck me as all of that, plus it evoked a sense of tedium that can't be positive. I'm sure people will forget about it tomorrow -- unless, of course, Martin Peretz is right and it portends how she see's herself as Kerry's "second running-mate." "This is fair warning of how she sees herself as first lady," he added. That kind of stood out for me as I watched her.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Happy Birthday, Bruno!
My apologies to Bob "Cat" Goldthwait, who is in fact not dead.
My MTV "Choose or Loose" Campaign would feature some "provocative" "in your face" type of celebrity -- Denis Leary or Dennis Miller . . . or Bobcat Goldthwait . . . or is he dead? Anyway, the campaign would be simple: "Don't Vote? Don't Bother!"

You might think it's ironic to use this tack with today's apathetic youth, but I actually see this as post-ironic: I really don't want them to vote. The thought of uninformed, idiotic 18- to 29-year-olds charting the course of the country and perhaps civilization is frightening. The country -- really, humankind -- is better served by these twerps just staying home.

Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell came close to how I'm feeling in this 2002 column:
One of the most common laments in letters from readers is a sense of helplessness to do anything about the negative trends in politics and society. Yet the people who make those laments have the ultimate power in the most powerful nation on earth. All they have to do is exercise that power in the voting booth.

To exercise power effectively, it is necessary to have more than power. It is necessary to have knowledge as well. Otherwise, the voter is like a blind Samson. . . .

You have to find out what laws and policies do, not what politicians say they do. If that is too much trouble, then don't bother to go to the polls on Election Day. If you can't do the country any good, then at least don't do any harm with uninformed votes.
There must be a left-leaning columnist who says similar stuff . . . more research required.
Are you sick of the sanctimonious "Choose or Lose" messages on MTV? Why shame people into voting when they could give a fuck?

How good is it for democracy when people who barely care end up voting? I'm starting to think that low voter turnout is actually not that big a deal.

In fact, I remember recently reading this somewhere and I'm having a hard time remembering where it was. Searching online (I guess mydoom was off today), I found this, which makes the point short and sweet:
This may be a provocative premise, but maybe it is not a bad thing that indifferent citizens fail to vote. An uninformed vote is not a good thing in a democracy.
The last thing I want is a bunch of dipshits "informed" by Fahrenheit 9/11 going out and voting. And if that sounds extreme, think about the stereotypical opposite -- chaw-gummed yokels loading up on Bill O'Reilly in the motor home, etc., etc. -- and tell me how badly you want uninformed people to vote.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Believe it or not, I consider my vote still in play here, so feel free to continue to muzzle Al Gore.

In his place, I'd suggest something along the lines of Tom Friedman, if you don't mind, or even Bush himself: the 2003 State of the Union is a perfect Friedmanian blueprint -- hydrogen energy, AIDS money, a democratic Palestine (yes, he even used that word for it!).

To paraphrase Mickey Kaus, Remember Pedro, Remember Pedro and you're in the game . . .
Samuel Huntington's controversial thesis is intended to be applied to the margins of the third world where Islam and other religions meet, e.g., Nigeria, Pakistan/India, etc.

Lawrence Wright's new New Yorker article, "The Terror Web," has a different take, highlighting how Al Qaeda and the threat of Islamic terrorism is working its way into Europe, taking advantage of technology, liberal immigration policies and, in Spain, a historical connection with "Al Andalus." To terrorists, the clash of civilizations is real -- it's just not happening where you'd expect.
Reason.com has a great Convention Blog, too; Tim Blair and Matt Welch are really funny, perceptive writers . . .
The New Republic's group blog for the DNC is good so far. Some highlights:
-Peter Beinart on the difference betweeen the NDN and the DLC: "Ideas have consequences, and so do their absence."

-Ryan Lizza quoting Michael Moore: "A lot of our kids are dead because those fuckers haven't done their job." (What is Moore doing there anyway?)

-Democrats grousing about Barack Obama's primetime slot.
Keep checking back . . .
In the midst of news about Google's initial public offering, the site mysteriously malfunctions. Crazy.
The 9/11 Commission's report seems to be doing what it can to debunk the most pernicious Sept. 11 rumors, including the evil-sounding one involving UBL manipulating the stock market:
Conspiracies do exist in this world but the UAL and AMR affair was not one of them. Sometimes, the most complex events have deceptively simple causes.
This rumor in particular was one of the more pernicious ones that seemed to hang there unresolved until now. Now what about that Saudi airlift?
Ken Jennings, otherwise known as the story of the fucking century, ended Jeopardy's season on Friday night with an all-time Jeopardy one-day haul of $75,000. After Jeopardy's summer hiatus, Jennings' torrid streak will continue in September, and frustratingly, the man remains a mystery:
“Tell us some deep, dark secret about yourself,” Trebek implored somewhere in the seventh week, after exhausting his supply of cue cards listing Jennings’s hobbies and amusing anecdotes.
“You know,” Jennings deadpanned, “I killed a man down South once.”
While "smart" pundits speculate about the Presidential race and all that goes with it, anyone worth his salt knows that the real news is KenJen.

Friday, July 23, 2004

A couple of nice moments that Mickey Kaus refers to as Jo Moore stories today, e.g., things you'd like to bury on a big news day like today's:
1. The Army releases its report (early, I heard) about prison abuses; the number is higher than previously thought.

2. The Pentagon releases President Bush's missing National Guard records, saying that earlier claims that they had been inadvertently destroyed were incorrect.

3. And don't forget Sandy Berger . . .
Will there be Moore to come?
After you're done reading the post below feel free to take a look at Al-Jazeera's coverage of the incident:

Palestinian teenager Hasan al-Zaanin was killed on Friday morning in the besieged northern Gaza town of Bait Hanun.

Security sources said he was shot dead by Israeli occupation troops that indiscriminately opened fire at Palestinian resistance fighters who were allegedly planting a roadside bomb.

Some witnesses said that al-Zaanin was killed when he tried to stop the fighters from planting the bomb. However, there are no independent reports to confirm this.
(Original link found here.)
Palestinian terrorists standing firm with the people they're fighting for:
In recent days, the members of the Al-Za'nin clan have seen members of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, an armed branch of Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization, using their olive and orange groves and the roads nearby for [missile] launching sites. This morning, when the four brigade militants returned to try to set down a launcher along the road running in front of the Al-Za'nin house, the family members spoke up in anger. . . .

According to Amna Al-Za'nin, the 35-year-old aunt of the boy who was killed, members of the family including three of her nephews argued with four militants, but the militants ignored their appeals. As the argument grew more heated, she said, three of the militants started firing in the air. One though fired off several shots directly at the family.

Miss Al-Za'nin herself was struck in the back, an 18-year-old nephew was struck in the ear, and a 20-year-old nephew was struck in the hand. But one nephew, Hassan Al- Za'nin, 15 years old, was hit in the back and taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where he died. Doctors at the hospital said the bullet penetrated the boy's heart.

"Even if we ask them not to fire from our land, that doesn't give them permission to shoot at us," Miss Al Za'nin said in a telephone interview from her bed at Alawdah Hospital in Jabalia in the northern Gaza strip. "It's very painful that a Palestinian bullet was directed toward a Palestinian chest." She described Hassan as the best student in his grade and said he was supposed to attend a party tomorrow where he was going to receive an award for academic excellence.
Smart strategy, boys.
A reasonable explanation for why 14 Syrian guys are on a plane together emerges but check out all the other extra sketchy stuff going on:
*** "A second pilot said that, on one of his recent flights, an air marshal forced his way into the lavatory at the front of his plane after a man of Middle Eastern descent locked himself in for a long period. The marshal found the mirror had been removed and the man was attempting to break through the wall. The cockpit was on the other side."
*** "'It's a probe. They are probing us,' said a second air marshal, who confirmed that Middle Eastern men try to flush out marshals by rushing the cockpit and stopping suddenly."
*** "a flight attendant reported that a passenger was using a telephoto lens to take sequential photos of the cockpit door. The passenger was stopped, and the incident, which happened two months ago, was reported to officials. But when the attendant checked back last week on the outcome, she was told her report had been lost."
And keep in mind that they're determined to strike again:
American officials have warned for the last two weeks about such an attack, but have refused to describe the source of their information. But with the release of the report by the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said they wanted to be as precise as possible about the foundation for the current concern.

"I wouldn't characterize what we have now as chatter," a senior Central Intelligence Agency official said. "I think we have some fairly specific information that Al Qaeda wants to come after us." The senior C.I.A. official, a counterterrorism expert, added, "This is serious."
I kind of see this as being about more than CYA . . .

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I totally buy this bit of irresponsible speculation. Biden seems like that kind of guy -- the kind of guy who likes to protect his son.
To expand on what I wrote below, I think both stories -- apparently false alarms -- highlight the elevated level of stress the public is under.

And stories like this just add to the stress.

Just last night I free associated for a while in my mind about possible scenarios. Without going too deeply into it, it ran the gamut from machetes to ransom demands to making the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area inhabitable to special operations forces to Peter Luger steaks (don't ask). Not a new thing for me, as you've probably figured out, but I've noticed that I've been more preoccupied by it than normal. Obviously, it's just what John Ashcroft intended.
Remember that freaky 14-member Syrian band freaking out air passengers in the story the other week? It turns out they were musicians after all.

So with no pipe bomb and no Syrian suicide bombers on a "dry run," does it mean we'll soon be settling back into normal Al Qaeda Fatigue patterns? Or is this what life would have been like in the summer of 2001 had Bush taken fewer vacation days? Or are we -- meaning the non-involved public -- just missing the big stuff completely?
I know "Fuckin' A" has been a fairly constant refrain around here recently, but New Republic Editor-in-Chief Martin Peretz's latest (linked to prominently on Drudge, of course) is worthy of the interjection:
*** Joe Wilson's claims are "unraveling" and the "phalanx of anti-war journalists is desperately trying to stop the bust-up."

*** He cuts to the chase, noting that Sandy Berger's ambitions "clash with those of Richard Holbrooke and Joe Biden."

*** The real reason France opposes Israel's security fence "is that it works."

*** The Presbyterians have "turned the other cheek by siding with those who torment their own."

*** And he noticed Teresa Heinz Kerry calling John Edwards her husband's "second running-mate." "This is fair warning of how she sees herself as first lady," he writes.
It's a brilliant column, actually.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Someone more knowledgeable than I am should discuss whether Microsoft's massive $75 billion dividend payout is related at all to Bush's dividend tax cut.

And if it's unrelated -- and believe me, I have so little knowledge of this area that it very well could be totally unrelated -- does it at least show that Bush was perhaps on the right track with the tax cut in terms of stimulating the economy and encouraging publicly held companies to be more accountable? Note in particular the massive -- and I mean massive -- boost to shareholders' incomes:
But even if Microsoft continues to sit on a large cash pile, the disbursement unveiled this week will ripple through the stockmarket and beyond. More than 1,350 mutual funds hold Microsoft shares. And Microsoft is also widely held by individuals: strip out Bill Gates and other large shareholders, and they hold 30% of its stock. The December special dividend will deliver $9 billion to thousands of people just ahead of Christmas. As a comparison, President George Bush’s expanded child credit amounted to a $14 billion windfall to American families.
So let me ask again, if cutting taxes on dividends eliminates tax distortions, helps companies be more accountable to shareholders and pumps billions into the economy, then Bush's plan looks pretty good, doesn't it? The problem I have -- and you see it with Iraq, too -- is that nuanced ideas turn into mush when policies are sold like products to the lowest common denominator. That's when all of us need to dig a little deeper to learn the full story . . .
The news today is that Bush's 12-point lead over Kerry in Arizona has evaporated. Well, basically that.

Yesterday I wrote about polls, differentiating those using registered voters and likely voters. The Arizona polls go one further, adding nonvoters to the mix.

Polling nonvoters strikes me as an obviously flawed indicator of how people will vote, but it's worth noting how the methodology affects the headlines. Let's parse the methodology a little.

The recent poll by the Behavior Research Center in Phoenix had Bush ahead of Kerry by 12 points, 48 to 36 percent. As the news report states, "The poll was based on a telephone survey of 670 adults, including 515 registered voters." That means that 155 people they talked to aren't even registered.

Yesterday, the numbers from an Arizona State University poll were released, and it shows Kerry actually overtaking Bush, 42 to 41 percent. This poll used 387 registered voters -- and no nonvoters.

But how to explain an earlier ASU poll using the same methods showing Bush ahead by 12, apparently confirming the Behavior Research Center poll? A statistical anomaly, of course.
That pipe bomb in the Times Square station now appears to have been a Hatfillian maneuver by a disgruntled cop.

There's always the chance this twist could turn out to be a Jewell-esque misunderstanding. Then of course it's always possible that what was once Hatfillian eventually becomes Jewell-esque. Or does it?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Yes, Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, of course! Slate has a Ken Jennings Jeopardy drinking game! The most lyrical angle is that you drink when he misses a question -- hilarious concept because Ken's a Mormon.
Entertaining, if unsubstantiated, conspiracy and rumor mongering regarding Sandy Berger here:
I have a reader who is involved with the government’s efforts to fight terror, and he has connections who tell him the big suspicion is that Berger took things he thought would help Kerry in the Presidential campaign. Also, the grapevine says not all of the documents taken were copies. Furthermore, I am told that an FBI agent described Berger as “a total asshole” who is not as cooperative as he claims.
And here:
According to DEBKAfile’s sources, Berger removed his notes from Middle East peace talks from the National Archives in view of the unfortunate sequels of the Clinton presidency’s two central, mutually supportive policies. On the one hand, Clinton pushed hard for accommodations between Israel, the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors, while at the same time nurturing American ties in the Arab and Muslim world. He hoped to gain the trust of Arab and Muslim leaders for peace with Israel while persuading the Jewish state to be forthcoming with concessions. However, Clinton’s expectation of a Middle East peace triumph at the White House in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords melted down in the ensuing blight of the Palestinian suicide terror confrontation that continues to beset the region.

The consequences of his second policy line were still more sweeping.

In deciding to go to war in 1998 on the Muslim Albanian side of the Balkans against the Christian Serbs, Clinton may have been influenced by the atrocities committed there but he was in essence pursuing his global strategy. He chose to elide the fact that Iranian Revolutionary Guards and al Qaeda cells - most Saudi-dominated - were fighting alongside Albanian and Bosnian Muslims – as did his advisers, especially Berger and secretary of state Madeline Albright. Islamic extremists and Arab terrorists as well as the Saddam regime prospered unnoticed in the Clinton years. Al Qaeda was allowed to build up in the Balkans a central logistical base for operations in Europe, from which the Hamburg cell later derived back-up for plotting the 9/11 attacks against America.
But not here:
There is a possible, relatively innocent, explanation of why Berger stuffed his notes in his pants or jacket. I have been to lots of classified meeting (work as a DOD contractor) and have taken notes. The usual procedure is to hand in your notes to the security officer on the way out. He reviews them and classifies them, if appropriate. If the notes contain secret material, they are made into a new secret document with a sequence number and scary red cover. If, as I often do, you have “mentally redacted” the secret stuff while you were writing, the notes are unclassified. For example, someone in the meeting says, “Our agent in Beirut, Ahmed bin Adhem Finster, informed us of the pending attack”. You write: “An agent informed us of the attack” – that wouldn’t be classified. If you wrote the guy’s name, or perhaps even just the location, it would be.

OK, back to Berger. He may have mentally redacted the notes, and said to himself “Dammit, I used to be NSA; I know there’s nothing classified in these notes, and I don’t want to wait a week while somebody reviews them. I’ll just smuggle them out right now.” Definitely against rules, but not sinister. On the other hand, it’s very hard to see how he could have “inadvertently” removed the classified documents themselves. You’d get shot for that where I work.
It's just a weird story all around, though. I read the Times' underreport (though the link seems longer than what was in the paper version this morning . . .) of what happened this morning and thought that it was no big deal, but that was before I read that he stuffed documents in his socks. His socks! What's up with that?
That backpack filled with fireworks that went off in the Times Square subway station? It turns out that it may have been a pipe bomb:
Police at first said they believed fireworks caused the blast. But investigators said they later discovered pieces of plastic pipe, traces of black powder and ball bearings at the scene.
And DO NOT FORGET the empty suitcases dry run back in April.

Now, having said that, unattended packages seem a lot less of a concern than suitcase nuclear bombs, smallpox or any of a number of chemical offerings you sometimes read about. Until you stop to think that they may be purposely trying to throw off the cops.

And while we're at it, the news about the false-alarm triggering anarchists just really pisses everyone off. I know that responsible anarchists think that the fuzz purposely stirs up law-abiding citizens' anger at such groups in order to keep control over the masses, but if shit like this is true then they should go fuck themselves -- Cheney style.
A while back I heard the surprising news that Bush was doing better than anyone expected in New Jersey, and apparently the numbers have held up. A big caveat is that the polls appear to be asking registered voters rather than likely voters, which means that the numbers would be skewed. Although, if I'm not mistaken, polls of registered voters -- in other words, all voters instead of those likely to vote, usually meaning people who have voted in the last couple of Presidential elections (or some such marker) -- skew slightly in favor of Democrats, since registered Democrats tend to vote less regularly than Republicans.

A while back I predicted that Bush would do better than expected in New York because of the war on terror, but I should have also said New Jersey. In fact, I should have just said New Jersey. Sept. 11 is still having an impact, especially for those in the outer rings of the New York Metropolitan Area -- watch for this dynamic as the election nears.
Spending the weekend in a swing state (Pennsylvania) made me interested in the election again! I got to get a sense of what true swing voters thought (I'm being half serious here) and it did seem that people who fit into Ryan Lizza's "appeal gap" were talking about the election in some interesting ways.

It seemed that people brought up the election in conversation, if only when the conversation lagged a bit. This was an important point to me -- the idea that as a topic of conversation, it rises to some sort of critical mass is telling. Also telling, of course, is what people are saying.

Basically it amounted to credibility, obviously as it relates to Iraq. That could and probably will be the issue for swing voters or those who plan to vote for Kerry who fall under the "appeal gap" category.

One person said something funny about Kerry -- basically, that Kerry was better the more he keeps his mouth shut. And it's important to note, that this person appeared to be leaning towards Kerry -- provided he didn't say much!

Visits to Pennsylvania also involve access to cable television, so it was interesting for me, in light of the Kerry-should-keep-his-mouth-shut comment, to see images of Kerry on vacation. Jen and I both remarked that Kerry looked like a pretty solid kite surfer. Jen was impressed. Obviously that image worked extremely well in projecting Kerry as a likeable guy. That, I've said over and over, will be the key: people -- even those who I project to be the "true voter" -- vote with their gut, and not because they're shallow but rather because they're comfortable with both paths the opposing parties choose.

That's what made Matt Drudge's snarky link today make so much sense: Kerry's positive image is so clear in the pictures. The idea that a politician actually can be doing work -- substantive work -- by engaging in recreational activities is great. Almost as good as Ralph Nader's trip to Hawaii!

Friday, July 16, 2004

So it should come as no surprise that unapologetic partisan Rupert Murdoch contributed -- actually, maxed out his contribution -- to a Presidential candidate. But as Kausfiles reports, it's not to the candidate you'd expect Murdoch to support:
That must be how he got that big Gephardt scoop!
Weird . . .
Again, if you're the type of person who can't bear not to read this kind of stuff, this out-of-place anecdote about flying with 14 suspicious Syrian guys is really terrifying.

This makes Abu Ghraib look a little less severe:
Um, after a tour of the complex, the sort of official party, if you like, arrived in a courtyard where the prisoners were lined up against a wall. An exchange is said to have taken place between Dr Allawi and the Interior Minister. The Interior Minister lives to the north of Baghdad, and on June 19, four of his bodyguards were killed in an attack on his home. He expressed the wish that he would like to kill all these men on the spot. The PM is said to have responded that they deserved worse than death, that each was responsible for killing more than 50 Iraqis each, and at that point, he is said to have pulled a gun and proceeded to aim at and shoot all seven. Six of them died, the seventh, according to one witness, was wounded in the chest, according to the other witness, was wounded in the neck and presumed to be dead.
Then again, it would be advantageous for Allawi to make Iraqis believe he's a bad ass -- Iraq, they say, is a place awash with rumors, so maybe there's a purpose in spreading such a rumor . . .
The self-critical Times editorial about what they feel they got wrong about Iraqi WMD made me think again about this idea of "groupthink" being the cause of what could be one of the larger intelligence failures ever. I just don't buy it.
I've said in the past what a weird thing it would be for Bush to lose the election and then they find WMD. Today, however, I thought of a twist: What if the CIA really is pushing back and trying to influence the election? What if it's a Democratic version of an "October Surprise"?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Just caught a story on NPR about Open Source Intelligence. I don't know if the scary posting below about Italy qualifies as OSS, but it got me thinking about the concept of transparency in information/intelligence. (I think the Iowa Presidential Markets and that spooky DARPA project they abandoned are a variant of this idea.)

An explanation of Open Source Intelligence is here. See also OSS.Net -- the site seems sort of opaque, though, and I'm not sure I'm navigating it correctly.
Is Ted Nugent considering running for Senate in Illinois? I thought he was from Michigan . . .
I missed a small detail from the story this weekend that the American Media, Inc. facility in Florida (the site of the first anthrax attacks in 2001) is being decontaminated.

AMI evacuated the facility and it has stayed sealed off since then. A company called BioONE started to decontaminate the building and their plan is to use it as its headquarters. The article notes that an investor bought the building "for a paltry $40,000."

I guess it goes without saying that they didn't do a walk-through before the deal closed . . .
Ken Jennings' amazing 31-day run is reaping benefits for Jeopardy's ratings, too. If you're home, you watch -- he's got an encyclopedic grasp of cultural minutiae. If you still haven't seen it, watch it -- it makes for great television.
If you find yourself drawn to following stuff like potential terror threats, this is a big "yeesh." (Original link found here.)
This Ryan Lizza post is the most interesting thing about the Presidential election that I've read in a while:
In a memo released today but not yet posted on the Web, [Republican pollster Tony] Fabrizio looked at a polling quirk I've been wondering about for a long time. Why is it that in many polls, Bush's job approval rating is higher than the percentage who say they will vote for him? Fabrizio calls this difference the "approval gap." In his 19-state poll the percentage of people who approve of the job Bush is doing but say they will vote for Kerry is 8.6 percent.

Approval-gap voters seem to be the great anomaly of American politics. Kerry voters tend to intensely dislike Bush, and Bush voters seem to intensely dislike Kerry. Undecided voters often get tagged as wishy-washy, but secretly they seem to be just as polarized as everyone else about Bush and Kerry. Approval-gap voters, by contrast, are the true equivocators. They are both pro-Bush and pro-Kerry. They just happen to be a little more pro-Kerry. They have a net favorable opinion of Bush (48 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable), but an even higher net favorable opinion of Kerry (54 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable).

Based on the analysis of these two groups, Fabrizio's counter-intuitive advice to the Bush team is to forget about the undecided voters--who are really just future Kerry supporters--and to concetrate on the approval-gap voters, many of whom say they are voting for Kerry but are actually still open to Bush. . . .
What Fabrizio suggests that the Bush campaign do about it is exactly what they seem to be doing about it:
Fabrizio thinks the key for Bush is to increase his approval rating by emphasizing positive economic news while pounding away at Kerry with negative ads, and that seems to be exactly what Bush has been doing lately.
This has been my personal feeling for a while, and, if you pay attention, I often project that "most of the country" feels this way. Basically, I've felt for a while that most people buy into the idea that government is too big, too intrusive and that taxes are too high while at the same time they are perfectly comfortable with an expanded government role in education, health care, job training and they probably feel that their taxes are just about where they should be. Which is to say, they are comfortable with either a Democrat or a Republican in office (especially if Congress is divided). Fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Thank the Great Lord Jesus Christ Our Savior the Senate effectively voted down the Federal Marriage Amendment today. Bush lamely advocated for it to pander to the base; maybe now the country can move forward on pertinent issues.
The cool thing about running for President isn't that you get to trot around the country acting as if you are President (as Gregg Easterbrook deftly explained a while back) but rather that you get to go to Hawaii! If I were running, I'd probably be doing meetups on cruise ships, too.
The FBI announces that "al-Qaeda is in the operational phase of an attack and may have already introduced people into the U.S.” and a guy packing a suicide note is pulled off a plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
The story of the summer is Jeopardy uber-stud Ken Jennings. On last night's episode Jennings reached a milestone: over $1 million in winnings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Really interesting piece on the Times' ombudsman and how that's all working out. Worth it if you're sitting around doing jack shit.
John Derbyshire is a big pain in the ass who sometimes seems only to enjoy blogging about math and how homosexual marriage will destroy us. Check out this cloying anecdote about how his daughter thinks sex ed is "eiuw" science. His response? "I sort of see her point." Talk about an enlightened household . . .
I respectfully disagree with the argument that goes, generally, Michael Moore is no different than politicians, who similarly obfuscate, mislead and perhaps lie (as in "BUSH LIED!").

One, politicians have "lied" for years. And it's totally unpersuasive to argue that because Bush lies it somehow excuses Michael Moore for misleading his audiences (dating all the way back to 1989's Roger & Me!).

Two, politicians worth their salt know that it's political suicide to actually lie -- think Bill Clinton, for starters. That's the built-in check and balance -- if enough voters decide a politician is untruthful, then they'll vote him or her out of office.

Which is to say, elected officials freely engage in the debate-style highlighting of certain facts at the expense of being balanced. In this way, when one hears an elected official argue that cutting taxes stimulates the economy he or she does not really expect to hear the same elected official concede that in doing so, the government risks budget deficits. Bruno is right that the savvy citizen instinctively knows the arguments and unspoken counter-arguments.

Furthermore, we know generally where elected officials stand because every time they are quoted in the paper or on television, the media add a (D) or a (R) after their name. People like Moore don't tote around a similar branding. Even liberal or conservative voices -- say, from the ACLU or Heritage Foundation -- are usually clearly identified as well.

Can you imagine what people would say if the RNC released a Fahrenheit 911-style movie? It rightly would be called propaganda. And I don't understand why it's somehow unfair to call out Moore on his work when political ads elicit the same kind of scrutiny.

In short, it could be said (OK, it is being said -- I'm saying it) that at the very least, Bush is contributing to the public debate. Is he lying? It's up to us -- citizens, op-ed writers, the opposing party -- to evaluate what he says. But equating Bush's prewar statements with Michael Moore's outright propaganda -- that's kind of a stretch.
In case you were wondering, it's raining cats and dogs out here!
I guess the flypaper theory about terrorists flocking to Iraq where the U.S. military can take them on out in the open is now discredited? (Safiristic Aside: Did you notice that I just used three prepositions in a row!? "On out in." Heh.)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Al Qaeda chatter hinting at an attack on or near Election Day. Sounds good to me; they can have the fall as long as I my summer stays free.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I have to say, House of Bush, House of Saud author Craig Unger doesn't come off too well in this week-long Slate discussion with Rachel Bronson from the Council on Foreign Relations on the subject of Bush's ties to Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The odd thing about the story of the summer is that it is discussed in polite company hesitantly, only after some time, as if the participants are exposing a dirty little secret. This is so because when one discusses the story of the summer, one reveals that he or she actually watches Jeopardy.

And if you watch Jeopardy -- even only off and on, not necessarily religiously -- you would know that Ken Jennings has won on Jeopardy 25 days in a row, taking in over $788,000:
Watching Ken Jennings play is like witnessing any great athlete in top form: He's the Michael Jordan of trivia, the Seabiscuit of geekdom. Note his systematic habit of moving down the categories vertically, one by one, rather than skipping around the board. His nearly preternatural ability to land on the hidden Daily Doubles. His obscure betting tactics, which, as near as I can divine, are inspired by an obsessive-compulsive need to end each day's winnings with a round figure. His habit of adding some thematic je ne sais quoi to his answers (which, this being Jeopardy!, are of course phrased as questions.) If the topic is a foreign country, he'll answer in that country's accent, and in answer to one clue about hip-hop music, the ultra-white Ken memorably responded, "What is rap, yo?" Like a hot-dogging ball player insisting on his special end-zone touchdown dance, Jennings will no doubt take heat from some viewers for these stylistic quirks, but what the hell? It's show business, of a sort, and KenJen's antics have once again made Jeopardy!—which I hadn't watched regularly since matching wits with my Dad in high school—required viewing.
Seriously, it's something to behold. Five weeks so far. Five weeks!
The good news is that two tons of nuclear material was removed from Iraq to safety in the U.S. The bad news is that 400 tons remain! (Original link found here.)
High school students are great but sometimes they can be such a pain in the ass. (Original link found here.)
You know, I just checked the TNR website again and I noticed that their teaser paragraph is actually more provocative than I remembered: "Bush officials are pressuring Pakistan to catch Osama bin Laden or his top deputies before the election. Some even have a specific date in mind--the middle of the Democratic convention." It's like the Michael Moore-ization of the left-leaning media!
Some sobering news -- truly frightening news, actually -- regarding security issues in the march up to the elections. Let's hope -- pray -- it doesn't come to this.
Wow, what a Moore-like claim -- which is why I was surprised to see the New Republic suggest this today. The allegation is that the U.S. is pressuring Musharraf to capture Osama bin Laden before the election -- and they have gone as far as suggesting possible dates to announce the news, specifically, during the Democratic convention at the end of the month. As a Pakistani general is quoted in the piece, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole."

Problem is, the only sources for these provocative claims are Pakistani -- and two of the three are members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) -- the same organization that has been accused of shielding the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

I'm surprised the New Republic is publishing stuff like this -- "Hack Heaven," anyone?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

He of the 150-plus mile-an-hour serve rejects the best-seen-and-not-heard celebrity M.O. Good for him.
Christopher Hitchens puts the F-word in some historical perspective.

By the way, America needs a new Alistair Cooke. Christopher Hitchens could fill that need.
Good catches regarding the Bush-Cheney campaign's new ad poking fun at Kerry's first choice of McCain: Cheney was Bush's second choice! You begin to think that McCain is having fun with all this stuff.
Someone I know saw that one movie the other day -- she said it was worth seeing, so we started talking about it. She admitted it was flawed, but it wasn't purporting to be a documentary anyway and besides, parts were powerful.

So I asked her if some right-wing crackpot made a similar movie, whether would she see that, too. As it turns out, there was such a movie!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

"Normally I'm against militias. For Zarqawi, I'm happy to make an exception."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Dennis Kucinich is still in the race? The CNN Morning Grind Campaign Daybook still lists him. When will he drop out?
Stuff I wish I didn't have to read includes this:
The Nigerian state of Kano, the centre of a polio outbreak in Africa, has pledged to resume vaccinations against the disease after accepting that immunisation was not a western plot to harm Muslims.
God help us.
Colin Powell sings a version of the Village People's YMCA. Maybe Michael Moore can use the footage for a Fahrenheit 9/11 sequel . . .
Like I always write, if John Ashcroft is purposely yanking our chain in order to pave the way for Unocal to build a pipeline through Afghanistan, then we should be so lucky. I'd gladly take fear and passive acceptance of a multinational cabal of oilmen over the real thing any day!

That said, on the off chance that there is a real threat of a terror attack, stuff like this story is spooky. Highlights include, for example, signs of suicide bombers:
Irregular, loose-fitting clothing not appropriate for warm weather, possibly with "protruding bulges or exposed wires" or a noticeable chemical odor.
Believe me, if I smell gasoline and see some dude with wires sticking out, I'll say something.
"Sweating, mumbling (prayers) or unusually calm and detached behavior." In addition, people who refuse to show their hands, possibly to conceal a detonator.
Just so you know, today in New York it will be 87 and humid, so I'm not sure how effective noticing "sweating" will be. And as Jen points out, some kook mumbling on the subway is not exactly out of the ordinary . . . This, though, caught my eye:
Terrorists may also make anonymous threats to observe how security reacts and may attempt surveillance disguised as homeless people, shoe shiners, street vendors or street sweepers, the FBI said.
I've thought for a while that posing as a homeless person would be a great way to sneak in under the radar. Not only to they carry around a bunch of shit (which was one of the other danger signs -- big duffel bags, in particular) but people tend not to pay much attention to them. It's so classically Al Qaeda -- making some grand statement about Western values while killing mass numbers of people! I can see UBL listening to the plan and crying, "That's genius!" At where I work, we have a lot of homeless people who use the bathroom -- I recognize most of them, but I can see this being a perfect strategy.

In case you're wondering, security in New York seems like it's getting tighter. After Yassin got killed, you saw some police outside the subway stations or by the token booths. Gradually they began getting out onto the platforms and this morning I noticed a policeman look into the car when the train pulled up and check if anything was under the seats.

Finally, you do realize that Madrid-style bombs couldn't be used on the subway, right? Madrid, if I'm not mistaken, consisted of cell phone-detonated bombs. And cell phone users in New York know that they don't get reception underground. So watch out on the elevated subways in the outer boroughs -- or look for suicide bombers.

Besides that, have a pleasant Fourth!
The funny thing about Paul Krugman's recent columns, if you read them, is that he seems to be trying to soften their edges. He equivocates more and has generally been more balanced (if you can believe it).

This makes his apology today for Michael Moore that much more ridiculous -- and not even because he unironically follows a section discussing how "Mr. Bush's carefully constructed persona is that of an all-American regular guy . . . . The news media have cheerfully gone along with the pretense" with "Mr. Moore's greatest strength is a real empathy with working-class Americans that most journalists lack."

No, it's this dissembling, which you see a lot in reviews of the film -- basically, that of course Moore makes up shit, but the message is so important that it trumps the details:
Someday, when the crisis of American democracy is over, I'll probably find myself berating Mr. Moore, who supported Ralph Nader in 2000, for his simplistic antiglobalization views.

But not now. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.
Such CYA! Of course I'll call him out on the details, just not now! It's too important!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Just what is Chris Lehane supposed to be doing anyway?
Yes, it's true -- and to his own wife, no less:
I pull off the road in Winslow, Arizona, and tell Kathleen I want to get a picture of her on a corner. She doesn't know why and, knowing her intense dislike of The Eagles, I tell her it's a song by Jackson Browne (which is technically true; he co-wrote it). She obliges, but when she reads this I'll be in big trouble.
Well, I guess he didn't actually lie, but he sure did stretch the truth . . .
Lots of folks have chided the right-wing nuts for claiming that commercials for that one movie violate the new campaign finance laws, but there are some interesting issues to consider. And the NRA is involved, so don't get all huffy that I'm bringing it up!
This seems more like an example of good cop/bad cop than Dr. Strangelove-like warmongering, but I'd be interested to read more when the history is written about this war. Of course, if you're prone to assuming we are a war-like people, feel free to hammer away at American aggression . . . grrr!
I'm starting to believe that Howard Stern will be a bigger factor in the election than that other guy -- his gripes, his stances and his credibility are just more pertinent to the kind of voter you'd expect would be supporting Bush, e.g., the 18 to 34 male. (I'm taking for granted that I remember what his true demographic is, but I seem to remember it's this one.)
Speculation today is that Kerry soon will announce his pick for Vice President. One report says Tuesday while another says Wednesday. Wednesday sounds like the right day -- better then to avoid Fourth of July slow news and/or terrorist attacks (just kidding).
Congratulations to the Liberal Elite, who, after so many years in the political wilderness, finally come to the table with their own version of Rush Limbaugh.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?