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Friday, September 03, 2004

OK, Maybe They Were Toy Tanks... 

On the RNC’s “softer side” night, Arnold Schwarznegger, in a twist of historical fiction, reminisced of seeing Soviet tanks rolling through his hometown in Austria. "I saw tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes," Schwarznegger reported to the assembled right wing.

Apparently he’s remembering something from an action film he was once in, say Austrian historians.

"It's a fact -- as a child he could not have seen a Soviet tank in Styria," the southeastern province where Schwarzenegger was born and raised, historian Stefan Karner told the Vienna newspaper Kurier.

Oops…

Speaking of Free Elections... 

Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai, faced questions during a news conference with Rumsfeld about the legitimacy of that election in light of reports that many voters have registered multiple times and may try to vote more than once.

"This is an exercise in democracy. Let them exercise it twice!" Karzai said. "We cannot be perfect."

- AP

Sunrise in NYC 

As the sunrise comes and the sound of helicopter blades fades, the RNC leaves our city. I’m breathing easier. The RNC was one long Attack-a-thon, including the address by its standard bearer, setting the visible tone for the campaign ahead. It was short on specifics, as noted by today’s Times, but long on personal and often misleading jabs at the opponent. Cheney, Miller, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger laid the groundwork and surprisingly, President Bush climbed on board to attack John Kerry. The appropriation of September 11th was ubiquitous and repetitious; as if anyone could possibly miss what was going on with the attempt to associate firefighters rushing the burning towers downtown with the Republican President on whose watch the tragedy took place.

Across the city, almost without notice, people from Darfur marched on the UN, demanding that someone pay attention to the continuing genocide that is taking place in their region of the Sudan.

We should now all hunker down for the next 90 days, during which we'll see precious little of the real issues and needs of the country and planet, but more than enough of the ephemeral and scurrilous.

Double Standards 

The Independent in London is following our campaign more closely than many US news outlets, at least in the sense of actually looking beneath the campaign rhetoric. Today's article by Graydon Carter outlines the statistics behind the rhetoric.

Toughness 

Jonathan Alter has a piece on toughness up on MSNBC's website that should be instructive to progressives after witnessing the spectacle of mudslinging here in New York.

Guantanamo on the Hudson 

Listen to Brian Lehrer's WNYC radio interview with Donna Lieberman from the New York Civil Leberties Union about protests and police here during the convention. Under current episodes, it's at the bottom of the page. If the link becomes outdated later, try to find it in the the archives under On the Waterfront. It refers to the city's "Guantanamo on the Hudson", set up on Pier 91 to house protester arrestees for the duration.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Surreal 

Having just returned home from an entirely surreal experience on the streets of New York, I’m experiencing an equally surreal moment in front of the television.

The peace and security President Bush is currently congratulating himself for preserving looks like a police state on the streets of New York. On the corner of 29th and 7th Avenue, phalanxes of undercover motorcycle squads, dozens of galloping horse patrols, and hundreds and hundreds of uniformed police with shields, riot helmets, barricades, saw horses, cameras, billy clubs, bicycles, trucks, and command vehicles, are securing a six block radius around every side of Madison Square Garden.

I was asked why I wanted to walk west to Eighth Avenue. Why? Young people with signs bearing slogans like “No to the Bush Agenda” and “The Price of Oil” were told to leave even this distant point from the Garden. Police were randomly clearing people further back if they looked like they were there to express their displeasure at the RNC.

Now I come home to listen to the President revile others for a lack of courage while security guards carry off protesters who actually made their way onto the floor through this unprecedented army of police. I’m more angry and determined to write about the reality I see on the ground here than ever before. This is not the courage of great leaders; this is the cowardice of liars and thieves.

I’m shocked at the level of effort spent to prevent citizens from expressing their freedom of speech and at the attempt to paint this kind of repression as patriotism. I’m shocked at the attempt to associate criticism of this administration’s failures with surrender of our freedoms by the very people who would deny freedom to Americans.

When Bush says that millions in the Middle East plead silently for freedom, does he refer to those in Afghanistan, where he has turned his back on building the world of “safety and peace” to which he is now referring? Or does he refer to the millions in Iraq, who now flounder under the postwar violence that continues in the aftermath of his misbegotten invasion?

I object to the smart mouthed, “folksy” embrace this Yalie man makes of the yahooism that he finds helpful to hold close publicly, all the while hiding his real embrace of corporate energy executives, military industrialists, right wing enemies of freedom and privacy, and centurions of the wealthy and powerful.

Your speech and your party here is over. Our work begins anew.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Many Allies 

... Cheney says there's a difference between leading a coalition of many and submitting to the objections of a few.

So I guess the massive coalition he and W amassed in Iraq has really steamrollered it's way to victory over the objections of those few countries that didn't like the unilateral approach... what, us worry? We must be girliemen.

And if they really want to play this game of courage under fire, let's find the records on Bush's missing year in the National Guard and start talking about Cheney's five deferments during Vietnam. If it's really about two-faced politicians, who's more hypocritical, the guys who support wars they won't fight, or a guy who fought bravely in a war he realized was wrongheaded and came home to say so?

If Cheney wants to make this about good and evil... he's really asking for it.

Already Been Attacked 

... Cheney notes that we've already been attacked. On his watch.

..and North Korea? 

...yeah, THAT country really slowed down THEIR nuclear program on Bush's watch.

This stuff is rich.

Nuclear Threat 

Can Cheney really get away with this stuff about ending the nuclear threat? This Administration cut funding for the program that bought fissionable material from former Eastern bloc countries and wooed away their unemployed scientists, has allowed the Iranians to continue to build their nuclear capability, and fought one, solitary battle against WMD-- in country where they don't exist.

Do you feel safer?

Skipping a Generation 

Cheney went straight to his grandaughters' future. Did I miss him mentioning his lesbian daughter's right to a present life or right to a full and free relationship? Maybe I went to the kitchen for more cheese then...

Backdrops... 

Am I the only one who thinks these backdrops at the Garden are reminiscent of the slogans from "Animal Farm?"

"Land of Opportunity" ... Rings of Flags... Petals of Flowers behind the female speakers... man, my computer desktop cranks out less cliche'd art than these guys.

Give Zell a Ticket to Europe Now... 

Apparently Zell Miller hasn't been to Europe lately. He wants to be a Democrat like the Democrats who liberated Europe. But if he were to travel there now, he might see a different picture than the one of the grateful masses he remembers the last time he visited Paris or Berlin. Having just returned, I can tell him he has been asleep for far too long.

If he thinks there's a reservoir of good will just waiting to be tapped by the next version of Bush II over there for his unilateral war against Iraq and uncompleted war on Al Qaeda, he better think again.

When he refers to the "spider holes" that terrorists hide in, he must not mean the ones at Tora Bora, where the Bush Administration pulled back from sending American troops in, favoring a tactic of allowing Afghan warlords who had allied with Al Qaeda only weeks before to root out Osama's gang of thugs. Not surprisingly, they are still at large.

Oh he's mad at Kerry and the Democrats... but he's pointed his anger in the wrong direction. Democrats unpatriotic? No, they're just pissed off at the ineptitude of this bunch that he's thrown in with.

Zell's thrown out red meat alright, but let's see who's gonna be madder after this...

Happy Days Are Here Again... 

Stand back for the "Bush Prosperity." Let's just hope it looks better than the Bush recovery. We're still down over a million jobs since January 2001.

But the Washington Post reports that there's a wave of down-home optimism in Madison Square Garden not seen here in NYC since John Voight arrived as Joe Buck in 'Midnight Cowboy.'

"...thousands of people formed a symbolic unemployment line stretching from Wall Street to the convention site to protest Bush administration economic policies and job losses.

Previewing the daily theme of economic opportunity, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and Republican governors contended that the economy -- a subject of attacks by the Kerry campaign -- now is stronger than it may appear.

"This president inherited a Clinton recession and turned it into the early stages of Bush prosperity," Evans said. "

...yeah, those Clinton years were really tough on the pocketbook, huh?

Letter from A Friend 

I cracked up reading this e-mail from a friend, whose last name we'll withhold to protect the guilty (Bob, I hope you don't mind seeing this up here). Please put your hands over the eyes of young children near the computer now:

Hi Bill,

Holy Shit, Watching the RNC I don’t know whether to throw stuff at my TV set or throw my TV set out the window.

They all speak like disciples of a savior and conduct themselves like a cult of followers lining up to drink the Kool-Aid.

Guiliani looked like he was about to shit a coconut and besmirched John Kerry endlessly.

Arnold taught us all that if you like the stuff that everyone is supposed to like then “you are a republican” as if non republicans don’t like fiscal responsibility, safety on our shores and equality for all people; all traits that the republican right wing have shown, by their actions, time and time again, that they hold contemptible.

My blood is boiling; and I’m beginning to feel like that guy in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” who is trying to get people to safety while not knowing who the “Pod People” really are.

I have a deep fear for this country. Just knowing that the outcome of this election is going to be decided by merely a squeak is frightening; as I cannot find words or logic to explain why people are buying this charade hook, line and sinker.

I should have contacted you regarding the big Protest. I read your blog entry and felt kinda stoopid for staying home instead of witnessing this first hand.

Woefully yours,

Bobby

Police Tactics May Cause Disorder 

In today's New York Times, New York Civil Liberties Executive Director Donna Leiberman pointed out that yesterday's bait and switch tactics may cause more confrontation as the RNC goes forward.

"It's an example of the police suckering the protesters," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to the arrest of some 200 protesters who said they thought they were abiding by an agreement they had negotiated with the police as they marched from ground zero on Fulton Street.

"It was a bait-and-switch tactic," she added, "where they approved a demonstration and the protesters kept up their end of the bargain. They undermined people's confidence in the police, and that's a serious problem as we go forward."

Baseball Update 

Even in the midst of the convention, we should really take a break to report the following score- Cleveland 22, Yankees 0.

The General Motors of the major leagues lead is down to 3.5 games.

Poverty Rise Sharp Under Bush 

Here's a shout-out to Arnold...as much as I loathe to give succor to "economic girliemen," I gotta point out that the Chicago Tribune just reported a sharp rise in poverty under the current administration.

Hundreds Arrested in NYC 

Hundreds were arrested in New York yesterday in tense confrontations all over Manhattan. On several occasions, protestors claimed they had complied with police orders and instructions, only to be arrested anyway.

My favorite action was the one outside the hotel where the Texas delegation is ensconced. Demonstrators bathing in play money and wearing pig snouts shouted, "Halibacon!"

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Party of Inclusion? 

OK, I've seen every Republican immigrant, African American, and beneficiary of stem cell research tonight. But when did Vaclav Havel sign up?

And when Jenna Bush calls it a party of inclusion, you really know she means party!

It's the softer side of Republicanism on display, so hey, chill.

What a show...God Bless You, and God Bless America!

Electoral Vote.com 

For you moment-by-moment politics junkies, this is great. Check out Electoral Vote Predictor for the latest polling results in each state.

Medialog Notes 

Dan Kennedy's Medialog in the Boston Phoenix has a couple of pearls about the Republicans lately. He notes that President Bush’s recent attack of candor about terrorism on the Today Show was quickly papered over as unwise.

Kennedy quotes Bush from the Matt Lauer interview:

"I don't think you can win it (the war on terror). But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world - let's put it that way."

Kennedy himself goes on to point out:

“It was a good, honest answer. Unfortunately, it was also at odds with the triumphalism of his past remarks… Rarely has he been so honest and coherent.”

If Bush started speaking with this kind of nuance all the time, we wouldn’t know WHAT to think. Neither, of course, would the yahoos who he panders to to justify his war on Iraq.

Another item from Kennedy’s blog worth noting about last night’s McCain convention speech is interesting to me, as I’m still trying to figure out if Bush has naked pictures of John McCain to explain why he sounds so cozy to W lately…

Kennedy describes McCain’s speech this way:

"Rather than coming off as a Republican partisan, McCain projected an image as a truly independent politician who's chosen a man he dislikes over one he likes strictly as a matter of principle. Just as Giuliani thanked God for Bush, Bush ought to thank God for McCain. If McCain managed to help himself in the process, well, what of it?"

When is it Genocide? 

A few weeks ago, I chatted with a NY City cabbie, which (when it gets beyond “which side of the street,” and, “which way do you want to go”) is sometimes a broadening experience. He was from the Sudan, in Darfur. The ethnic rivalries we are reading about today, he said, are not usually so bad.

“Everything is personal there,” he said. “One family has a grudge against another family in a different tribe and it gets settled violently.”

The difference now, is that these simmering personal grudges have the Sudanese state’s approval to escalate into midnight rides of killing, raping and looting. The African and Arab tribes, which would make treks together across the desert, are now separated by a lawless wave of vengeance, supported by tacit government backing from Khartoum.

The question of whether this wave of violence, having taken 50,000 of the most vulnerable Africans in Darfur, can properly be called genocide seems to be tying the hands of lawmakers and diplomats who could be putting peacekeepers, or at least the credible threat of peacekeeping troops, on the ground. The UN doesn’t want to be forced to rally the Security Council around sanctions and the Europeans don’t want to do more than blame the African nations for their inexcusable inaction. Meanwhile, the slaughter continues.

Here in the US, neither Presidential candidate wants to discuss commitment to another international crisis while the Iraq war predominates the campaign. It seems to be the sad lot of the people of Darfur that they have no oil or strategic resources, which might make their plight significant to people in the developed world.

Perhaps they’ll need to become a classically failed state, like Afghanistan, before anyone realizes how quickly and unpleasantly connected the world can become in our era.

Jon Stewart 

I can't figure out a way to link to it, but if you can get a copy, you gotta check out the Jon Stewart Show's welcome to the RNC in New York on the Op Ed page of today's NYTimes. It's an ad on the page.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Darfur Deadline Passes 

While we argue over decades-old war medals here in the US, people in the Darfur region of the Sudan are dying in droves, killed by their government and it’s surrogates and left unprotected by African governments, the UN, European officials, and the United States.

Despite a UN-imposed deadline to protect African civilians in the region running out, Nigerian President and African Union Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo say that monitors have confirmed allegations that the Sudan government launched fresh attacks on civilians there as recently as last week.

Up to 50,000 people have died since conflict began in Darfur in February 2003 and more than a million refugees have been made homeless by the troubles in the region.

Darfur rebels and rights groups say Arab militias called janjaweed have been mobilized by the Khartoum government to help crush rebels there and have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing of African villages.

Meanwhile, a general lack of interest and the ethnocentric devaluation of lives that are at risk outside of the developed world are keeping this issue off the foreign policy debate in the US election. What worse catastrophe will have to occur before we discuss Darfur?

Full (and proud) Disclosure 

I should disclose that my daughter is working for a 527 this summer, 2004orward, a group organized out of Connecticut that's registering new voters in swing states. They even register Republicans. I wonder if the Swifties would register Democrats?

David Corn.com 

David Corn's blog is a good RNC convention blog to check out...

Party of Inclusion? 

I listened this morning to the Republicans being beaten up on the BBC for attempting to hide a failure to address issues of war, security, and the economy by promoting a social agenda in the platform.

No, it wasn’t Michael Moore speaking; it was the Republican mayor of Plattsburg, NY, Daniel Stewart. Stewart is NY State’s only openly gay mayor and he’s also an economic conservative, and he’s ticked off about his party being dominated by the religious right. He remembers that the Republican Party has roots that go back to Lincoln and to a philosophy of inclusion, but social conservatives who want to promote a platform that fights against gay marriage and stem cell research vastly outnumber him here in New York.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

527's and Slime... Not Synonyms 

This is posted just in case anyone hadn’t already noticed the difference between a legitimate, issue-oriented 527 and a financial subterfuge intended to slime the Presidential campaign of a foe.

Now that the Bush campaign has decided to react to being caught red-handed in the middle of the Swiftvets slime campaign by pretending to be against ALL 527 soft money spent this year, it’s time to spell out what 527’s do and how they differ from one another.

Under the tax code, a 527 (named for the chapter in the tax code regarding these “issue” groups-- groups that raise and spend money to push their point of view in campaigns) is allowed to run advertising and to campaign-- as long as they aren’t being coordinated with or run by the campaign of any candidate. The two most talked about 527’s this year are Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and now, thanks to President Bush, Moveon.org.

Moveon is a group that was founded during the Monicagate scandal by a few Berkeley internet-savvy lefties to propose that the Congress censure then-President Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes and then “move on” to the real business of the nation. Unbeknown to the organizers, they’d hit a mother lode of progressive anger and grass-roots political hunger for involvement. Soon, these folks were swimming in small contributions and requests by citizens to become part of a group that wanted to make a difference in politics. Moveon.org went on to become a political action group that conversed with its members, organized against the war in Iraq, and took stands on most issues of the day,

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is also a 527. The difference between them and Moveon abound. Swift Boat VFT was quietly built around large contributions by developers associated with the Texas Republican Party and a small group of veterans, some of who never saw a swift boat until they were pictured in their ads. Their main spokesman, John O’Neill, is a fellow who was originally recruited (and financed) by Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks squad in 1971. His job was to debate and follow John Kerry around when he came home from Vietnam... yes, way back then. This goes back to a pre-Watergate campaign reaction to the problem that Kerry and other veterans got traction in the media opposing the war that wild-eyed protesters couldn't get. O’Neill was brought out of mothballs (in Texas) to do a debate redux this year.

Other coincidences between Bush campaign tactics and Swifties pop up daily. The Swifties’ ads were coordinated to run prior to publication a book smearing John Kerry’s war record. The ad agency recruited to make their commercials just happens to be the same agency hired to smear John McCain in South Carolina back in 2000 by another “nonaffiliated” veteran’s group aiding the Bush campaign then. One of the people appearing in the Swifties’ original ad was a veteran’s coordinator for the Bush/Cheney campaign, who happened not to be a swift boat veteran at all. Their lawyer was the Bush /Cheney campaign’s lawyer. This is legal, but it makes you wonder how easy it might be to run messages through him to the Swiftvets. Their biggest contributor is a close friend of Karl Rove.

Now the Bush campaign wants to ban ALL 527 advertising. Anyone smell a distraction here? The problem, totally outside of soft money, is that the Swifties are a CREATION of the Bush campaign. Let’s put first things first. The issue should be whether the Bush campaign is willing to give up on smearing their opponent through a surrogate organization, not whether soft money is all of a sudden a bad thing in Bush’s eyes. Let’s not forget, soft money never was a bad thing to Bush when McCain proposed banning it four years ago…

Straight Talk Express Missed 

Remember when Senator John McCain ran his campaign bus with the moniker "Straight Talk Express?" I miss those days.

This morning I saw McCain on the tube, pretending that his campaign to eliminate soft money from Washington had a new ally in George Bush. He was quite the spin doctor, turning every question about whether Bush should emphatically disavow the Swift Boat smear campaign into a sidelong discussion about how he and Bush will be in court, suing to stop all 527 dollars from flowing into the campaign. This should be accomplished sometime before hell freezes over, but certainly not in time to affect the 2004 election, a timetable not lost on the senator from Arizona.

Does anyone wonder what happened to McCain during the last couple of weeks, since W put his arm around him? I do...


Bicyclists Arrested 

About 50 cyclists have been arrested as they accompany the giant march past Madison Square Garden. Police have no comment on what the charges will be... march is very festive and peaceful-- and huge.

Ellis Island 

Republicans have discovered Ellis Island! Always one of the best spots and most politically relevant parks in NYC, Ellis Island is being visited by the Republican Party. The fact that it is the most defensible of locations today in the city for a group looking to put lots of water in between themselves and some 200,000 protesters makes it all the more enticing for Pataki, Cheney and Co...

Protesters who've been told they can't use Central Park for a rally by the always environmentally friendly Republican mayor (he suspended recycling for a year, but is protecting the grass in the park today) are having a fine time as they peel off of the march past Madison Square Garden at impromtu Central Park "picnics." Not rallies, mind you, picnics...

Penn Station and environs are incredibly barricaded.

Demonstration Growing in NYC 

It's an hour before the kickoff of the giant demonstration against the RNC here in the West Village and already there are thousands of people lining the streets. It's a festival atmosphere. Locals are all showing supportive attire.

Shirts seen so far: "Got WMD?," "Keep Off the Grass" (referring to the Central Park ban), and "I Just F*cked Your Girlfriend" (worn by a young woman).

An elderly woman had a walker festooned with "RNC Out of New York!" signs and younger helpers on either side of her. Another protester was seen on Seventh Avenue, coming off a city bus in her wheelchair early in the morning to beat the crowds.

The police are stretched out thinly but massively. Many of the cops look to be 16 or so.

RNC in New York Unwelcome 

Apparently, the plan to turn New York City into a patriotic backdrop for the RNC isn't working. 71% of New yorkers oppose the city's ban on a massive demonstration in Central Park. Even more interestingly, half of 9/11 Kin think the RNC shouldn't be here.

Mayor's Stats 

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's administration has optimistically estimated that 50,000 visitors to the Big Apple will be drawn by the Republican National Convention this week. They estimate 5,000 delegates and 15,000 journalists. I guess the other 30,000 are protesters, although that seems low to me.

New York City 

...just like I pictured it- full of protesters!

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