Archive for August, 2004

NYT Does the Swifties. McClellan Doesn’t.

Friday, August 20th, 2004

The New York Times offers a thoroughly damning assessment of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth today: Friendly fire: The birth of an anti-Kerry ad.

Mr. Kerry called them “a front for the Bush campaign” – a charge the campaign denied.

A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush’s chief political aide, Karl Rove.

Records show that the group received the bulk of its initial financing from two men with ties to the president and his family – one a longtime political associate of Mr. Rove’s, the other a trustee of the foundation for Mr. Bush’s father’s presidential library. A Texas publicist who once helped prepare Mr. Bush’s father for his debate when he was running for vice president provided them with strategic advice. And the group’s television commercial was produced by the same team that made the devastating ad mocking Michael S. Dukakis in an oversized tank helmet when he and Mr. Bush’s father faced off in the 1988 presidential election.

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the “baby killer” and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’ prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men’s own statements.

Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry “unfit” had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year.

The article has lots more detail. So the question before us now is, in the presence of a bunch of made-up shit that smears one candidate, but which plays well in 30-second attack ads, despite being transparently false to anyone who analyzes the charges with anything approaching a critical eye, how will the voting public react?

Truly, this election is going to be vitally important in defining what kind of government we’re going to have. Whichever choice we make, we’re going to get exactly what we deserve.

On a related issue, be sure to check out Joshua Micah Marshall’s excerpt from yesterday’s press gaggle with Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, conducted at the Crawford Middle School. (Yes; fearless leader is on vacation again.) Anyway: Amazing. President Bush isn’t even man enough…

The Iraqi Soccer (Football) Team at the Olympics

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

I don’t normally watch soccer (what the rest of the world calls football). But when a high-profile game comes along (the US-hosted World Cup a few years back, the Olympics, that sort of thing), I’ll check it out. I’ve come to appreciate the way it can be interesting even without constant scoring; there’s an ebb and flow to the game, a continuous movement favoring one side and then the other, punctuated by the sudden excitement of an attack or counter-attack.

Anyway, I’ve been sucked in by the gutsy play and human-interest back-story of the Iraqi men’s team at the Olympics, which made this article from Sports Illustrated a must-read for me: Iraqi soccer players upset about Bush campaign ads using team.

Thanks to John F. of the Stonegauge for the link.

FBI Keeping Us Safe from… Dissent

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

Susan of Suburban Guerrilla passes along a fun email she received from a playwright who lives about four blocks from Madison Square Garden. (Update: Um, no. It was’t emailed to her; it was received by someone else, who posted it in the comments on Atrios’ weblog.) The woman (update: nope; man) was recently visited by a pair of FBI agents who allegedly threatened her with arrest (er, threatened him with arrest) for putting a “Dump Bush” sign in her (his) window: Protecting American values.

I’m glad to see that John Ashcroft has the Bureau’s priorities straight.

More on Swifties Versus Kerry

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

Your daily round-up of items on the Swift boat ad:

From Joshua Micah Marshall: “Let’s get some things straight here…”

From Slate’s William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg: Unfriendly fire.

From the Washington Post: Records counter a critic of Kerry.

Finally, from the New Republic’s Kenneth Baer: Frontal assault. Baer argues that rather than following the traditional political wisdom of simply ignoring an attack based on lies, Kerry should counter-attack by initiating a libel suit against the sponsors of the ad.

Oh, and I may as well throw this into the mix: Kevin Drum summing up the whole “Christmas in Cambodia” thing that has the “Kerry must be defeated at any cost” crowd in a tizzy: Kerry in Cambodia.

The Material-Witness Black Hole

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

This article from the New York Times highlights our current leadership’s willingness to casually engage in profoundly un-American activities. In this case, that means perverting the ‘material witness’ statute into a tool for locking up, and then keeping under severe travel restrictions, for more than a year, a US citizen not even suspected of having any complicity in a crime: For post-9/11 material witness, it is a terror of a different kind.

McClellen Makes Shit Up

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

From the fine people at Sadly, No! comes this wee math lesson, courtesy of Presidential Spokesmetician Scott McClellen: * (yeah, just *).

Ad Wars: MoveOn Versus the Swifties

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

From Paul Waldman at Fly Trap, here’s a nice, succinct analysis of the truth content of the two non-campaign campaign ads currently showing on a swing-state TV near you: I denounce your non-denouncement.

Stupid Olympics Linking Policy

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

With this posting I am violating several of the extremely stupid provisions of the hyperlink policy. So there.

Ferguson, Halberstam on Bush in Vanity Fair (but Not on the Web)

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

The other day, while watching my 13-year-old surfing and my 6-year-old appeasing his inner Xerxes by flogging the waves with a strand of kelp, I lounged under an umbrella with my wife’s copy of the September, 2004, issue of Vanity Fair.

I don’t read the magazine all the time, partly because it’s so much work to page through all the advertising showing fashionable young people who are supposedly fabulously good-looking, but who look to me more like a vaguely bored army of undead anorexics. But the September issue is worth the effort because of two articles.

The first is “The Monarchy of George II.” It is be-blurbed in the magazine’s web-based TOC thusly:

Reformed ne’er-do-well, reckless warrior, profligate spender — George W. Bush bears an uncanny resemblance to Shakespeare’s Henry V, who also launched an invasion that turned out badly. As the president awaits the voters’ verdict, acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson warns that time’s judgment may be exceedingly unkind. Illustrations by Paul Davis, Brad Holland, Gerald Scarfe, and Edward Sorel.

The second good article in the issue is “Of War and Presidents.” Blurb:

Another election year, another descent into the patriotic fault line left by Vietnam. As Republicans who avoided military service question John Kerry’s valor, David Halberstam explores a cultural divide that confuses warriors with wimps and courage with blind aggression.

So, in keeping with the apparent wishes of the corporate owners of those pieces, I hereby encourage you to go out and buy that issue in dead-tree form. Here’s a link to their TOC-cum-subscription-come-on, complete with stolen image of an improbably dressed Reese Witherspoon:

Reese Witherspoon

As long as I’m encouraging people, though, I’m compelled to encourage said corporate owners to reconsider their silly anti-Web policy. These are important pieces; they should be part of the public debate surrounding the election. If you’d put them online, I could link to them, rather than just linking to your TOC. People would follow those links, and read the articles. Many of those readers would be impressed. Some of them would go out and buy your magazine in order to have access ot that information in a more-convenient form (albeit with anorexics).

Note that none of your advertisers would be hurt by this. They would, in fact, be helped by it. Your antediluvian judgement that this web thing could be safely ignored, keeping your cherished words safely segregated from its piratical masses, has been proven wrong. Get with the program.

Yglesias on Bush’s Brains (or Lack Thereof)

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

Matthew Yglesias has a really good opinion piece that reviews the history of our collective love-hate relationship with Bush’s intellect: The brains thing.

A Tale of Two Candidates

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

Kos has a nice juxtaposition of a pair of images from last week’s campaigning in Portland, Oregon: Compare and contrast: Bush and Kerry rallies.

Again, it’s hard to be sure, with both sides doing their best to obscure reality, but I think there’s a real difference here. Bush’s entire presidency has been about working very, very hard to maintain the illusion that he is qualified for the job. They’re still doing that, and it’s still working about as well as it ever did, at least for those willing to suspend their judgement in the name of ideological predisposition.

But Kerry’s campaign is something different. It’s actually the real thing. Or at least, behind the artifice that they also bring to the task of portraying their guy in the best light, there’s an actual groundswell of support, and real excitement, and big (actually, huge) crowds. If you look at those two pictures, and assess them in the context of the hundreds of other similar pictures (and descriptions) that have been floating by of the two candidates’ campaign events, the difference is really quite striking.

It will be interesting to see if and when the mainstream media take note of this difference.

Broder Turns the Corner on Bush

Monday, August 16th, 2004

Josh Micah Marshall speaks today of a David Broder column in which Broder points out the obvious about Emperor Bush’s new clothes: Bush’s two albatrosses.

The factors that make President Bush a vulnerable incumbent have almost nothing to do with his opponent, John F. Kerry. They stem directly from two closely linked, high-stakes policy gambles that Bush chose on his own. Neither has worked out as he hoped.

The first gamble was the decision to attack Iraq; the second, to avoid paying for the war. The rationale for the first decision was to remove the threat of a hostile dictator armed with weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found. The rationale for the second decision — the determination to keep cutting taxes in the face of far higher spending for Iraq and the war on terrorism — was to stimulate the American economy and end the drought of jobs. The deficits have accumulated, but the jobs have still not come back.

Marshall’s commentary on Broder is basically to wonder how long it will take before the “conventional wisdom” represented by Broder’s analysis takes hold in the media.

A Quartet of Iraq Stories

Friday, August 13th, 2004

Here’s a quartet of interesting Iraq stories I’ve seen in the last day.

First, Scott Forbes considers how the neocons’ vision of a wave of democracy that would sweep the region have largely come unraveled: Domino theory.

My sense now is that George W. Bush has neither the political capital nor the international prestige to follow through on the neocon vision, if indeed that vision was ever possible. In fact, I suspect that no Republican, in the present circumstances, can lead us to victory in the so-called War on Terror: It’s an “only Nixon can go to China” problem, but in reverse. Only a Democrat can now argue the case for democracy without getting tangled up in doctrines of pre-emption and intelligence failures; Bush and his GOP colleagues can’t make the argument effectively.

Next, Fred Kaplan has an interesting, if depressing, piece in Slate: No way out.

This is a terribly grim thing to say, but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq. There might be nothing we can do to build a path to a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there’s no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster.

Joshua Micah Marshall is afraid that Kaplan is right, and offers additional commentary: Fred Kaplan has a bleak but, I fear, quite possibly accurate piece on Iraq today…

As the shrewdest thinkers on the left and the right concede on this issue, our true strategic challenges in the Muslim Middle East are not conventional military ones, but hearts-and-minds challenges. The trick is to figure out how we can solve or ameliorate that hearts-and-minds problem while simultaneously destroying the relatively small (in numerical terms) but highly lethal groups that constitute an imminent danger. Or, to put it more crisply, how do we wipe out al Qaida (and al Qaida-like groups) without generating so much bad blood in the Islamic world that the Islamic world keeps producing new al Qaidas faster than we can destroy them?

It’s not clear to me necessarily what the best way to strike that balance is. But I think this is probably the worst way — engaging in pitched battles with fighters who pose no direct danger to the US whatsoever in a way that does profound damage to our standing within the population that al Qaida and other similarly-inclined groups hope to do their recruiting.

Finally, as the death toll (on all sides) continues to climb, here’s another one of those depressing reminders of the still larger number of lives being blasted by horrific injuries: A purple heart for Jessica.

Bush’s Rugby Suckerpunch

Friday, August 13th, 2004

In honor of the hay the righties are making with Kerry’s statements about being in Cambodia at Christmastime in 1968 (which I, for one, am inclined to believe; illegal incursions being, well, illegal, I don’t consider the lack of confirming evidence especially suggestive), here’s an item on what George Bush was up to around the same time: George W. Bush sucker-punches a rugby opponent at Yale.

That Bush managed to raise eyebrows for playing dirty during a rugby match is actually pretty impressive, on some level. As the original op-ed piece in the LA Times indicated, dissemination of this photo might well help, rather than hurt, Bush’s election prospects. Americans love a bad boy, and all that.

Doherty on Barlow in Reason

Friday, August 13th, 2004

I got tired of the Kevin Kelly/Wired magazine-style of breathless technological optimism pretty early on. “The future’s here, and it’s amazing!” To a certain extent I’ve let my disdain for the stylistic approach those folks use spill over into a generalized dislike of the whole Bay Area techno-libertarian scene. But having put my wank-o-meter in neutral long enough to read this John Perry Barlow interview by Brian Doherty, I found that it’s actually pretty interesting.

I especially like the discussion of his fight against a misdemeanor drug bust. (He had a small amount of marijuana in his checked luggage while flying; it was found during a Department of Homeland Security search and they pulled him off the plane before departure and arrested him. He’s fighting to exclude the evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds.) I also like his take on John Kerry; it matches up almost exactly with my own.

Anyway, from the latest issue of Reason magazine: John Perry Barlow 2.0: The Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace reinvents his body — and his politics.


Thursday, August 12th, 2004

Proving once again that I get all of my news from the Daily Show, I’d like to point out the following “blog” (god I hate that word): SpinSanity

Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer, and Brendan Nyhan are young writers who edit Spinsanity, the nation’s leading watchdog of manipulative political rhetoric. Since founding the site in 2001, their award-winning analysis has been cited in scores of national and international media outlets, including CNN, Fox News Channel, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and they have appeared on numerous radio and television shows. In 2002, they were featured in a regular column on Salon, and they can currently be found every Thursday on the commentary page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Who Wants to be a Citizen?

Thursday, August 12th, 2004

On one hand I’m a firm believer in the oncept of “earning citizenship” — but this isn’t what I had in mind: “Gana la Verde” is a spanish langauge game show modeled after Fear Factor, in which contests compete for a Green Card … except they don’t raelly. What they compete for is the promise of a team of Lawyers to work hard at getting them a Green Card for one year. As you can expect many Immigration Lawyers and Rights Activists are a little displeased. What I want to know, is how you justify giving someone a prize of “good intentions” — especially given that by going on this show, illegal immigrants draw attention to themselves.
(Thanks to Back In Black for brining this to my attention)

Rassmann on Swift Boat Veterans for Bush

Thursday, August 12th, 2004

I have to give the folks at the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal credit for being willing to provide a forum for Jim Rassmann to rebut the lies of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: Shame on the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush.

Josh Micah Marshall says that he’s seen a preview of a study showing that the ad has been effective with independents, which means we can look forward to lots more blatant, shameless lying of this sort. I wonder how long John McCain can continue talking out of both sides of his mouth on this, condemning the ad as dishonest and dishonorable, while campaigning on behalf of the person behind it.

Plaid Adder: We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

From Plaid Adder of Democratic Underground comes one of the best essays I’ve read in a while: Panic Button. I heartily recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt from his conclusion:

It’s been almost three years since the towers came down. If we really don’t want the terrorists to win, then it is about time that we stopped letting our own government jerk us around. Al Qaeda’s primary weapon is not the box cutter, the airplane, the unidentified white powder or the bomb: it’s fear. In the war on terrorism, the one damn thing that we as average Americans can do is to refuse to be terrified. Even and especially when our own government tells us to.

In the end, death is going to come for us all like a thief in the night, no matter how prepared we think we are. Till that time, all we can really do is live as well as we can. Eventually, fear kills all the things that make life worth living – love, joy, compassion, community, desire, creativity. It’s up to us to protect ourselves from this death of the heart, even if we can’t do anything to protect our bodies.

Cool Aerial Photos

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

From some web page in a language I can’t understand, a collection of really cool-looking aerial photographs: Link.

Update: Per commenter Daniel, these images are actually the work of French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Many more images, and different-sized versions, are available from Arthus-Bertrand’s Earth from above site.