Archive for September, 2004

Debate Reaction

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

I was expectinng better from Bush. It’s not so much that Kerry’s points were stronger, and that Bush’s responses were factually weak; I expected that, since the facts actually are on Kerry’s side. But in trying to put myself in the position of a hypothetical swing voter, someone who has managed to get this deep into the process without knowing who to vote for, and who presumably is going to vote based not on policies and track records, but on which candidate makes him or her feel better, Bush came out behind.

It’s not that he lost to Kerry on substance (though he did, dramatically). It’s that even without trying to evaluate the substance, Bush sounded weak. He was whiney. And up against Kerry, the contrast was dramatic.

Bush lost big tonight.

The Kenneth Cole Movie

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

It’s been a while since I ran a nice business lie, and along came Danthar with this prime example, so here you go: The birth of a shoe comapny, as told by Kenneth Cole.

Marshall on the Iraq War Reality

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Joshua Marshall has an excellent summing up of the issue I was griping about earlier today (the way Bush is pretending everything is going great in Iraq, while the situation actually is spiralling out of control): Juan Cole picks up on a key development…

Saletan on Bush’s No-Lose Scenario

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Slate’s William Saletan posted a great piece the other day on the profound unseriousness of Bush’s public response to, well, everything. But in particular these days, to the expanding insurgency in Iraq: Catastrophic success – The worse Iraq gets, the more we must be winning.

Polls say that more than half the voters in this country (well, barely) currently intend to vote for Bush. Some of them can read, and a few (okay; a very few) read So my question to them — both of them — is this: How do you respond to this? How do you justify voting for a president who is so profoundly dishonest, so willing to cloak abject failure in the trappings of success?

Lorentz Faces Disloyalty Charges

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Apparently wingnut Libertarian, 20-year Army veteran, and recent critic of Bush’s Iraq strategy Al Lorentz is in some hot water with his military superiors. From Slate’s Eric Boehlert: Operation American repression?

I figured this might be of interest, at least to those of you who know a whole lot more about Lorentz than I do.

McClellen on Bush’s Non-Apology Apology

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Being president means never having to say you’re sorry: Press gaggle by Scott Mcclellan.

(Thanks to Holden at First Draft for the link.)

The Rude Pundit Gathers Readers’ Debate Questions

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

In the alternate universe I wish I lived in, Jim Lehrer would actually ask some of the following questions of Bush tonight (from the Rude Pundit’s What a desperate nation wants to know…):

Are your daughters excited about joining the military?

Do you believe that God loves non-Christians with oil reserves more than non-Christians without them?

Do you believe that Jewish, Muslim, agnostic and other American soldiers who have not accepted Jesus as their personal savior and that have been killed in Iraq will be allowed into Heaven?

Since you are a man of faith and certainly must find much guidance in the practice of the Ten Commandments, which Commandment do you find the most difficult to obey and which one do you most regret breaking?

Can you explain why Americans are safer with Saddam in prison?

What is the moral of My Pet Goat?

Sigh. A man can dream, can’t he?

Debate Day

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Well, by the end of today we should have a better idea of where this election is really going. Despite all the aggressive raising and lowering of expectations that the two sides have been doing, I actually think this is going to be a pretty even matchup.

If you’re obsessively interested in the debates, this article by James Fallows in the August Atlantic is very much worth reading: When George meets John.

The upcoming debates between Bush and Kerry will in an odd way be a contest of unbeaten champions.

Neither George Bush nor John Kerry has suffered more than an occasional lapse or setback in a debate. Neither has “lost” a contest in the only way that matters: a serious post-debate decline in the polls or an electoral defeat.

Also, via Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz: The presidential debate drinking game.

Windsurfing Ad Was Photoshopped

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Here’s a silly but vaguely interesting item, at least on a symbolic level, from the Mobjectivist weblog: Forgery exposed! Basically, he shows that the footage in the recent Bush ad showing Kerry windsurfing back and forth has been flopped, with the same footage being shown both correctly and mirror-reversed, to create the “flip flopping” imagery that the ad mines for laughs.

No, I’m not saying this is some huge scandal, or even particularly dishonest. But it’s an interesting symbol to me of the way the Bush team massages reality in conveying their message.

Chris vs. Co-worker B’s Farts

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Chris of NotMyDesk is still a Very Funny Guy. Though this time, I’m perfectly content to have had him be funny in someone else’s office: The stank prank.

Beinart on Dean vs. Bush

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

I’ve been wondering for a while about whether it will turn out to have been a mistake for Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire to have jettisoned Howard Dean in favor of the “more electable” John Kerry. Now Peter Beinart, writing in Time, has an essay that examines that notion in detail: If Howard Dean were the candidate.

If Dean were the nominee, flip-flops wouldn’t be the issue; Iraq would. The former Vermont Governor opposed the war from the start, and his rationale was as simple as Kerry’s was convoluted: Saddam was not a threat. Of course, Dean would have had other general-election vulnerabilities. Republicans would have branded him the second coming of peacenik George McGovern. But Dean could have retorted that he (unlike Kerry) backed the first Gulf War. They would have ridiculed his lack of foreign policy experience. But there’s an advantage to not having 20 years of Senate votes to defend, as Kerry has learned. (That’s part of the reason Governors usually make stronger presidential candidates than Senators.)

There’s lots more, and he makes a strong case.

E.L. Doctorow on Bush’s Lack of Feeling

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Novelist E.L. Doctorow puts into words what many of us feel about Bush: The unfeeling president.

Driving Across the Country

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Here’s an interesting time-lapse movie of someone taking his convertible from LA to NYC: Lacquer.

Lynn on Remote-Control Sex

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

From Gina Lynn writing in Wired comes this interesting item: Ins and outs of teledildonics.

Cybersex gets blamed for a lot of things, including social isolation, infidelity and divorce. It’s a temptation previous generations of lovers didn’t have to face, and it’s technology, and therefore it’s scary for a lot of folks.

Yet remote interaction technology — or, as I like to call it, teledildonics — has as much potential to bring people together as it does to drive people apart. If you travel often, or if you’re in a long-distance relationship, this technology provides another avenue for intimacy, especially if it’s harder for you to use toys with a partner than have sex au naturel.

LA Times Editorial: Bush Is a Coward

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

The LA Times has a really excellent editorial today that nails exactly what is so despicable about Bush’s campaign strategy: How dare Kerry speak up.

Update: The LA Times persists in being Web-hostile. The access credentials cypherpunk98/cypherpunk work for the moment.

Dowd on Bush, Allawi

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

From Maureen Dowd in the New York Times: Dance of the Marionettes:

It’s heartwarming, really.

President Bush has his own Mini-Me now, someone to echo his every word and mimic his every action.

For so long, Mr. Bush has put up with caricatures of a wee W. sitting in the vice president’s lap, Charlie McCarthy style, as big Dick Cheney calls the shots. But now the president has his own puppet to play with.

Why Haven’t They Asked Jon Stewart?

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

From Dail Kos: Sunday Morning Talk Show Open Thread – The Debate Debate

The debates should be moderated by someone of stature, probity and gravitas. Someone objective, fearless and decorated in the service of his craft. Why have they not asked Jon Stewart?

Homesick for the Country I’m Living In

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

How is it, do you suppose, that a couple of nice Kiwi lads are able to express the precise mix of hope, fear, nostalgia, and regret that the final phase of the 2004 presidential campaign is inspiring in me? From the Finn Brothers’ new Everyone Is Here comes Homesick (4.4 MB mp3 file):

At the shopping mall
I’m surrounded by a parking lot
Walking down the aisle
I was thinking about what I had lost

On a Sunday morning
My hometown is feeling strange to me
In the stadium
Dark forces are gathering

For the people that I live with
For the spirit I’m missing
For the country that I’m living in

What kind of country am I living in? Is the willingness of half of it, more or less, to vote for Bush actually, in Janeane Garofalo’s words, a national character flaw?

Dishonesty is rampant. Joshua Marshall talks about the supreme wackiness of Allawi’s performance on the Newshour tonight: An amazing exchange… The “votemaster” at points out how polls are swinging wildly, sometimes by 10 points or more, for no particular reason. “Such wide swings are just not believable in the absence of major news. The only variable being changed is which pollster is doing the reporting.” Indeed.

I also really liked this cartoon from Jeff Danziger:

danziger cartoon

So if this kind of dishonest politicking can work, what does it mean about the state of democracy in this country? I know there are thoughtful, informed voters who nevertheless intend to vote for Bush, but I’m not really worried about them, and Bush isn’t focusing on them. No, as throughout his presidency, he’s taking the low road, focusing on voters who can be misled with an appeal to their gut, as long as they don’t bother doing any fact-checking. Ted Rall wrote a piece recently where he talked about the triumph of the stultocracy, and proposed that the ignorant be required to pass a basic political literacy test before voting. The idea has a certain appeal, I admit, but in practice it wouldn’t solve anything; once started down the slippery slope of limiting which citizens were worthy of the franchise, it would just be a matter of time before anti-democratic forces were rigging the tests to guarantee their own side’s success. No, this is just an inherent risk of democracy: you let the people get too complacent and ignorant, let them be raised on television while letting public education atrophy, and you get the government you deserve. This is the electorate we’re stuck with; the nation will rise or fall based on the quality of its collective judgment.

But it isn’t a foregone conclusion, at least at this point, that the electorate will prove inadequate in the face of Bush’s dishonesty. In a little over a month the election will be over, and based on the outcome I’ll be telling myself one of two things: that the American democracy really does work, or, if a few votes go the other way, that it is in fact thoroughly broken, and we’re doomed.

But the country will actually be pretty much the same country either way. Maybe Jeb will (or won’t) be able to use assorted skullduggery to deliver Florida. Maybe the Supreme Court Five will reprise their role of leaning on the scales. Maybe we’ll even end up having the election decided by a state-by-state vote in the House of Representatives.

But whatever happens, whichever way the ball bounces, the United States will remain the same thing it was before: at once familiar and strange, depressing and inspiring. It’s my country, for better or worse, and it is what it is.

First you make me hungry
Then you feed me something I don’t want
There’s no satisfaction
For an aching heart
But life goes on


Kos, Lead Balloons on What to Ask Bush at the Debates

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

A while back, Kos of Daily Kos asked for readers to suggest debate questions for Bush. Now he’s picked out a few of them. Kos writes, “These are all tough questions, so I don’t expect anything like them to be asked at the debates.”

But the ones he’s picked, for the most part, aren’t that tough. Bush would have relatively little trouble spinning them back at Kerry, making himself out to be compassionate and sympathetic, Kerry as crude and scary. Here’s an example, along with my hypothetical Bush response:

Mr. President, in July of 2003 you said if anyone wanted to attack our troops in Iraq, they should bring it on. In March of this year you appeared at a reporters’ dinner and ran a video in which you jokingly stumbled around your office looking for weapons of mass destruction. Can you explain this behavior to the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq?

Heartfelt pause. Thank you for asking that. You know, being a president can be stressful. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood when I probably shouldn’t. But let me say this: No one feels more deeply than I do about the noble sacrifices made by our military families… (Followed by 90 seconds of trademark Bush hokum.)

Kos’ readers are informed, passionate partisans; they’ve offered questions that speak to the true sources of their animosity toward Bush. But that’s not what these presidential “debates” are about.

If you want to “win” in this venue, you have to play a different game. It’s a subtle, tactical battle. Let’s turn to Bad Attitudes’ Lead Balloons for an example of how it should really be done. From How Kerry can win the debates:

Kerry speaking: Yes, I’m for the Bush foreign policy — the foreign policy of George Bush Senior.

What is presidential leadership? Presidential leadership is being able to do the tough, patient work of forging a coalition for war — the way your father did, and the way you didn’t have the strength or patience for. Your father had the strength, wisdom, and courage to be commander-in-chief. He could’ve invaded Iraq, but he had the strength to show restraint and the wisdom to know it would have been a disaster.

Now, his own son has made that very mistake and proved the father right. I commit here to the American people that if I win this election, I will reach out to former President Bush, and seek his wise and strong counsel. Sir, your father was a big man who had the wisdom to know when to fight, and the strength to know when to show restraint. He was strong and wise, you are strong and wrong. You had the chance to measure up to that legacy, and you failed.

Man, I’d love to see that.

Yesterday’s Computer of Tomorrow… Today!

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

A fun illustration from an old magazine article: How a “home computer” could look in the year 2004….

Damn. Now I want a dual steering wheel for my Powerbook.

Update: See Snopes for the definitive debunking.