Saturday, October 09, 2004

Turning What Over to the Iraqis? 

If you were wondering how far we are down the road of turning security in Iraq over to the Iraqis, check out the report done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces. It's entitled, "Inexcusable Failure: Progress in Training the Iraqi Army and Security Forces as of Mid-July 2004."


If you're looking to uncover factless factoids from last night's debate, you can click the link or try factcheck.org, remember, not .com

Just the Facts 

I'm not sure the debate review below means a thing...I just would've loved to see something less staged than the debate turned out to be. I'm also stunned that Bush's antic yelling for 90 minutes doesn't seem to warrant much media comment on his fitness, given how much coverage Howard Dean's five second scream got...

Meanwhile, it was really on-point to hear that the timber company the President knew nothing of in last night's debate turned up on his tax return as exactly the $84 income Kerry had cited. It's not that anyone with the kind of assets Bush has would be expected to remember every item on his return, but it's just the sort of tax dodge that the "small business" advantage Bush likes to talk about often ends up being for the super rich.

It would be great to really get into a discussion about economic fairness and the tax code instead of the parade of one-liners we're treated to in place of real debate.

Debating Points 

OK, debate number two… the scripted and sanitized “Town Hall” is done.

President W was obviously prepped by handlers who insisted that he be a prizefighter, funneling all that angry defensive energy into sauntering quickly and speaking forcefully, instead of smirking and simmering like a preppie who’d been caught unprepared for an Andover exam. They said, “See if you can slip in this and that zinger as well, if Kerry gives you an opportunity.” (Kerry didn't, but the Prez used them anyway, to flatline responses)

Kerry had been prepared to press his advantage, stay on the attack, and to be relentless. “Show The Prez up every chance you get, point out every misleading statement and underline it with a factoid. Don’t let any charge go unanswered,” he was clearly told. Apparently no one said, "Loosen up, go with the flow, use your instincts, you're in the driver's seat."

The result was that Bush screamed for most of ninety minutes and pounced around like an awkward cat, spewing testosterone in a relentless effort to show how indignant he could be. The effect was to unintentionally strike a dark and defensive posture unbecoming to a sitting President, but all the same to avoid the “deer in the headlights” appearance he gave off in debate one. Kerry, on the other hand, stuck to an original game plan that left him looking unable to rise above the opponent’s unraveled lack of calm reassurance. While Kerry looked better than the President, it wouldn’t have taken too much spontaneous charm to kick back a little and realize that the country would have been grateful for someone to really address the average person with just a little less of the careful dance these guys do so clumsily.

When a woman in the audience asked the President to name not one, but three mistakes he could reflect on out of the thousands of decisions he’s made in office, only to receive Bush’s ranting defense of the war in Iraq instead, many would have wanted to hear Senator Kerry respond with an offhand comment along the lines of, “don’t expect that kind of self examination from this Presidency, ma’am,” and a short discourse on the nature of political life and mistakes. This was not to be. It’s too much to ask, but in these moments, citizens are searching to see if the guys standing there are able to respond to the average person while remaining themselves, not just whether they’ll parrot their strengths and the other’s fellow’s weaknesses better.

Despite opportunities missed, it seemed that Kerry came off as more capable, more calm and intelligent, and more able to handle himself than Bush. His responses on prescription drugs and the window-dressed nature of the coalition in Iraq were clear and direct. Bush did, however, avoid the kind of disaster he wandered into in the first debate, largely by making up in bravado what he lacked in self-control and command of the facts. He sounded a facile, rather harsh, but seemingly sincere note in his stand on abortion, which should reinforce his stature as a true believer. He seemed to slow the bleeding, but not to turn the tide. Probably Bush helped himself more by improving in the second event than Kerry did by remaining much the same as in the first debate.

Still, after watching the events of the week, it’s hard to imagine Bush was reassuring to many in the face of a barrage of disastrous news about the missing WMD, the continued violence in Iraq, and the huge voting problems in Afghanistan by vowing to do more of the same if re-elected. I guess we’ll see how it played soon enough.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Convention Aftermath 

As promised, we're updating you about the cases of political protesters rounded up here in NYC during the Republican National Convention in August. Wednesday, prosecutors announced thay wouldn't pursue cases against 227 people rounded up at a march on August 31. This was the march where leaders negotiated with police officials, gained their agreement to a route and groundrules, then walked into a massive roundup immediately after the march began, with police using large plastic nets to wrap protesters up.

Yesterday, the NYCLU filed suit against the city regarding wrongful arrests, improper fingerprinting and lengthy, harrowing detention. More to come.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bush and Saddama 

Welcome to the world of George Bush, where the face of terrorism is a fictional character-- Saddama Bin Laden, an amalgam of every difficult Arab, from heads of state to rebel leaders to fundamentalist killers. All Middle Eastern opponents have melded into one for the President since September 11. Either “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists,” he posits, and you’d better answer which you are quickly and correctly.

Bush became a leader who would rather not waste the effort needed to distinguish between Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, which killed over 3,000 Americans and whose leader remains at large, and Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Army, half a world away, which was already contained and repeatedly inspected, without the means to become a threat to the US. Nonetheless Iraq evoked a total war response from Bush, while Al Qaeda reassembles.

Because our President has developed these undifferentiated and disproportionate reactions to threats and opponents, small and large, we as a nation are bogged down in a war and a morass without an obvious clearly achievable goal or an exit strategy. Because the President can’t find his way to accepting that his logic and policy has been mistaken, there is no backtracking, no adapting, no evolution of strategy to change with new information and changing conditions.

Instead, in the face of rising opposition to the Bush foreign policy, the Administration only attacks the messengers as dangerous or as less patriotic. Again, the faceless Democratic challenger-peacenik-protester-flamethrower opponent, John Kerry is a “danger to world peace,” so a reasoned debate over policy differences with him takes second chair to a proxy smear campaign, employed though surrogates and backed by Presidential posturing.

The new reality here at home, however, is that just as conditions have changed abroad, demanding new responses, the dynamics of Bush’s race for re-election have now turned against him. We can only hope that if the campaign to re-elect finally learns to adapt to a newly skeptical electorate, that voters will demand a greater depth of change than simple window dressing will afford. New polls show that voters now view the President more unfavorably and trust him less. It is hard to imagine that he’ll be able to avoid answering some hard questions while the demands for new responses continue to build. Whether those answers will be convincing is doubtful.

Afghan Voting Under Difficult Conditions 

Amy Waldman's article in today's NY Times not only covers the bomb attack on the Vice Presidential candidate in Afghanistan, but illustrates the very insecure nature of the vote in the huge Afghan countryside. With half the rural observers representing only one candidate out of 17 and the foreign observers contained in the secure cities, it will be hard to certify the results as fair.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Cheney/Edwards Moments He Forgot 

Check out pics on Jesus' General of moments that "let the record speak for itself."

Uniter, Not Divider 

The Detroit Free Press published an editorial endorsement of John Kerry this week. It's rationale is about uniting the country and is worth a read, especially so as I listen to the latest Swift Boat ad playing in the background on cable...

Thanks to Bill Brugger for sending this.

Go Ahead, Try it 

One other somewhat more humorous inaccuracy in the Vice President's performance has been pointed out by Kevin Drum at Political Animal. When the veep tried to direct viewers to a source that would back him up on Halliburton's flouting/not flouting the law while dealing with the "Axis of Evil" during Cheney's tenure as CEO, he suggested going on the internet to factcheck.com. The owners of the site, Drum reports, quickly redirected the traffic on the site to...if you tried, now you know.

The folks at Soros have posted a note on their site that explains both that they were not responsible for the change and that the Vice President got it wrong. He was probably hoping to direct viewers to factcheck.org.

Both Sides, At Once 

Dick Cheney, at last night's debate, said two things which qualify as both mutually incompatible, and at least in case of the first, outright false.

In sniping back at Senator Edwards over whether the Vice President has misled the public over a Baghdad "nexus" for the 9/11 terror attack on the US, Cheney said, "...I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11." Then, later in the debate, regarding why people might think there is a connection, Cheney responded, "...I think it's not surprising that people make that connection."

Apparently Cheney has decided no one will notice is he talks out of both sides of his mouth simultaneously. After playing the evil twin on the issue for President Bush for over a year, Cheney believes he can deny having done so while at the same time implying his earlier charges are true, if not provable.

Electoral College Map Tracker 

OK, so everyone's weighed in on the veeps, but how many of you have played with the LA Times Electoral College Map Tracker? It's fun, it's informative, and it allows you to make your own combos of red and blue states to elect a Presdent. It even plays "Hail to the Chief" when you hit 270 electoral votes. Try it!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A "danger to world peace..." 

In the Red is Blue department, straight from Animal Farm to you, President Bush plans a last-minute schedule change to deliver a speech tomorrow night that will reputedly call Senator Kerry a "danger to world peace."

This will be followed by an ecumenical service where ploughshares will be beaten into swords to protect the little lambs and doves. Check your calendar.

RNC Arrests Follow Up 

Following up on our coverage of the pre-emptive dragnet on political dissenters employed by the NYPD during the RNC in August:

Protesters were rounded up and kept for the duration of the convention on Pier 51 in massive arrests that appeared to be a coordinated effort by prosecutors and police under the Bloomberg Administration to slow down releases until after the Republicans left town (see blog September 18 entry- "Free Speech Zone" Excludes Manhattan).

One of the arguments given by NYPD spokespeople for the long delays in releasing protesters, many of whom were held on minor charges, was that fingerprinting took time, even though it was extraordinary that fingerprnting was being done for such offenses.

Well, today WNYC reports that the fingerprinting of minor offenders actually violates NY law. So much for the last shred of veneer on what was going on...

Don't Mean a Thing... 

... if it ain't in that swing state.

As my California pal Bill Brugger says, it's like he's watching the election from New Zealand.

That's why there are all those buses leaving Manhattan for PA and OH. Read a transcript of Beth Furtig's NYC radio story about one recent trip, or check out the WNYC streaming link on the top right of this page in the hope they'll rebroadcast it...

Spin Cycle 2 

Paul Krugman is great today in a Times column about the debate and the spin afterwards. As speculated here last week, Bush is using the phrase "global test," taken out of context from the debate, to spin Kerry's national defense posture into a pretzel and then attack it.

Krugman points out that Bush's Homeland Security posture is the most substantive issue not being discussed after the debate. If we are hit again, it'll likely be because he'd rather give tax money back to the super rich than spend it on unsexy ways to make our cities and ports more secure.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Best Part 

...about the big bubble in voter registration is that it speaks well of the American people, not the parties or the leadership, but the people, who realize, win or lose, that we have a serious role to play in what our country represents and does in our name.


Florida Electronic Ballot 

As an aside, let's hope Florida's efforts to let hurricane afflicted voters send in faxed ballots and other changes in the Sunshine State don't result in chaos and disruption once again this year... the Florida ballot might not work look like this, but it will be closely scrutinized.

(Thanks Jim)

Not So Secret Weapon...Voters 

Well, the news is beginning to come in about the registration efforts that are quietly transforming the race for the Presidency (see this blog on Sept 26). Today’s Times reports that the numbers are overwhelming in swing states and people should know that they are mostly on the left. Montgomery County, PA where the SEIU, the League of Conservation Voters, and America Coming Together have been working all spring and summer, is mentioned in the Times piece , written by Kate Zernike and Ford Fessenden. In that county alone, 32,000 new voters have been added to the rolls since May.

I’ve seen bus after bus pull into the AFL-CIO hall there on a Saturday morning, emptying New Yorkers out to work side by side with local labor organizers going house to house, then coming back to the hall in the afternoon to complain that the sessions on the ground weren’t long enough. This is coming as a bit of a surprise to the media and to polling organizations, who are used to polling “likely voters,” not new voters who are are high motivated and being pulled out on Election Day. It won’t be a big surprise here if the polls undercount these voters.

One concern is that if there is an attempt to steal this election through the aggressive use of legal challenges to new voters’ registration or eligibility, or to dissuade voters from going to the polls (as was done in African American counties in Florida in 2000), there will be a fury unlike any prior backlash, even in 2000. Local authorities may be overwhelmed, but the consequences of failing to rise to the occasion will be huge for the legitimacy of the next President.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Talk About Universal Registration... 

A fact note: When challenged during last Thursday’s debate about progress on the war on Al Qaeda, the President mentioned the massive voter registration numbers in Afghanistan.

The 10 million-plus voter registration total quoted by the President Bush as a reason to celebrate the Administration’s democracy-to-come in Afghanistan is taken by most third party observers instead to be a sign of failure. Why? The number far outstrips the acknowledged possible number of actual potential voters in the country, indicating multiple registrations and probably organized fraud.

Independent observers believe that conditions in Afghanistan do not bode well for fair elections being held this fall. The countryside is still terrorized by warlords, Taliban, and Al Qaeda not eliminated. Peacekeepers hold sway in the Kabul area and in some population centers, but not in the majority of the country’s areas.

But let's not let these factual problems get in the way of declaring Mission Accomplished...

Sox Talk 

At the close of the regular season, it’s a good time to checkout the bounty of baseball news in the Boston Globe about the Olde Towne Team, the bold move to shed Nomar Garciaparra, and the Sox chances in the postseason.

First, the Sunday Globe carries an excellent feature by Kevin Paul Dupont about GM Theo Epstein sings his praises and details his rationale for trading Garciaparra. Partly, Epstein was influenced by the backlash after the free agency departures of Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens, both of whom had contentious relationships with management over contract talks and then left the Sox with nothing in return. Looking down the line, Epstein saw, according to Dupont, “a commodity was falling. A season was sinking.”

It’s hard to argue with the deal in retrospect. Bringing in two barely visible players in return for Garciaparra, Epstein now looks like a genius. While formerly light-hitting shortstop Orlando Cabrera was, last time I looked, hitting .296 since the move to Boston and both Roberts and Mientkiewicz have produced while shoring up a formerly hapless Sox defense, Nomar has gone flat for the Cubs. Garciaparra’s post-Sox average is .294 as of yesterday. Globe baseball scribe Gordon Edes notes in another article that Garciaparra, while missing a dozen games in September, drove in only three runs for the Cubbies, who were eliminated from playoff contention yesterday.

How do the Sox look for the postseason? Well, the Maniacal One, Chuck Waseleski, in yet another Globe note, posts that, as of Friday, the Red Sox are 30-22 against teams that were in playoff contention, the best record among all of them.

Meanwhile, in the guys-you-feel-sorry-for department, there’s Todd Walker, struggling to make sense of a Cubs season that landed flat after they lost six out of seven to fall out of playoff contention at the very end of the season (as only the Cubs can). Walker was a crucial driver of the Red Sox near-miss team last year, especially strong during the playoffs. Hats off to Walker and hopes he has a high pain tolerance.

Fair, Balanced, and Freshly Scrubbed of Content 

Fox News retracted an article posted on it’s web site that used made up quotes from Senator John Kerry, supposed to have been uttered after the debate on Thursday night. Lines like, “I’m a metrosexual—he’s a cowboy.” were admitted to be completely fabricated, along with comments about the candidate having had a fresh manicure.

Fox News contends that the article was intended to be jest. “We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice.”

Apparently comments before the debate by Fox commentators about Kerry having gotten a manicure that day were not intended to deride or belittle the candidate either.

We report, you decide.

If you want a challenge, try finding this retraction on the Fox web site.

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