Friday, October 29, 2004

Four days to go...

Will be away for the weekend, hopefully exchanging some of the ceaseless brain-buzz and election stress for some fall leaves, a little wine, and some time by the fire. Then, of course, the final sleepless onslaught. Let's hope for a little sunshine on all counts.

leaf in grasshope
without knowing what for
autumn colors

John Stevenson

Second-hand blather

There are two places where I feel assaulted by the television: when I'm at an airport and when I'm waiting for my car at the dealership. These situations share several characteristics, including that I am trapped, that I have brought things to do, and that few if any of the people around me are listening to the perpetual TV blaring.

Well, I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed. Now there's a keychain-sized universal remote called TV-B-Gone (story here) that allows you to turn off any TV, anytime, anywhere. You might be applauded or attacked, but at least you have some say in the matter.

This is going on my Christmas wish-list for sure!
(apologies for my having lost the source for this link!)

Some folks aren't having a good week...

Digby has a nice list of all the gaffs, blunders, and scandals around the Bush campaign (as well as a few unexpected winds blowing in Kerry's direction) in just the last week. Quite impressive, and all nicely packaged for those who might have slept through the more dire list of the last 4 years . . . (The AP has a story on this too, if you prefer text in paragraphs)
head to head

Uh-oh, it's the men in black

The F.B.I. has decided to look into Haliburton's tony deal in Iraq (all that no-bid contract fun).
The FBI has already investigated some of Halliburton's Iraqi activities, but it is now treating the defence department's dealings with the vice-president's old company as a potentially criminal matter.
Oh dearie me, do you think some mischief might have gone on over there? imagine!
Part of the evidence Ms Greenhouse submitted in her formal complaint was a Pentagon email in which an Iraqi contract is described as having "been coordinated" with Mr Cheney's office at the White House.
What? That nice grandfatherly VP?

(via Follow Me Here)

This just sickens me

Voter intimidation in Milwaukee that is like something from another era . . . (I sort of expect pictures of riverboats at the margins of this flyer)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The positives

Much of the nation has been energized this year by the prospect of a presidential election, in large measure because they have such strong feelings (put me down for outrage exhaustion) about President Bush and his record. But it will take more than an "anybody but Bush" mentality to get out the vote on Tuesday. Just like in 2000, there are voices saying that this is a "choice of the lesser of two evils," but I just don't agree. Pandagon puts it well:
Why are people so down on Kerry? Maybe it's because I've never been politically conscious through a Democrat's term and have thus missed the sort of dashed hopes that inspire total cynicism in a well-resumed workhorse like Kerry. Maybe it's because I was looking for a president and not a candidate. Whatever it is, it makes comments like those above seem absurd. Kerry is probably one of 50 people in this country actually qualified to be president. He brings quite a bit more to the office, experience wise, than Clinton, Carter or Reagan did. He's got a history of fighting and unearthing the wrongs of government, proving himself, again and again, a man passionate about the rule of law and the role of honesty in our public life. Anyone who watched him in those debates saw that he possesses more than enough poise, knowledge and grace to deal with the job donkey kick(and having done some candidate forums, let me assure you, it's a tough format). Anyone who's glanced at the advisors around him knows he's willing to learn and prizes truth over assumption. Anyone who watched him pivot in Iowa or August knows he's able to recognize when a policy or approach isn't working and swap it out for one that will. Anyone who's glanced at his Senate record, whether it be the BCCI, closing the book on Vietnam or ferreting out Iran/Contra, knows he's willing to do the hard work and heavy lifting in service of what's right.
I wish people would stop listening to the hype and take a look at what this guy has actually been up to for most of his life. It's one of the more promising resumes we're likely to see for some time.

Power from the people

An interesting discussion from Ms Magazine, of all places, about the a-religious nature of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers' intentions to keep it that way, no matter what the religious right may say.

To quote Adams on the Constitution:
… It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [forming the U.S. government] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. …Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery… are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind
John Ashcroft might learn something by dipping into these writings, or even the Constitution itself, from time to time.
(via LaDiDa)

Terminology suggestion of the day

From Unqualified Offerings:
The term "modern-liberal" has been the libertarian term of disdain for the managerialist philosophy that conquered the Democratic Party between the Progressive Era and the New Deal.modern elephant The time has come to add "modern-conservative" as a description of the guiding philosophy of the Republican Party, a philosophy that replaces the defense of markets with crony capitalism, personal responsibility with theocratic injunction, patriotism with the most cartoonish possible nationalism, prudence in international relations with reckless and unending adventure.
Very well said.

A personal aside

Happy birthday, cuteness!

Update: Blogger has been fighting me a bit today, so belatedly posting this poem fragment for R, taken from "Poem in October" by Dylan Thomas (but with line indentations a bit ruined...):
...I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Through the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.

(via wood s lot)

Shirt-tail relatives...

Scientists have discovered a miniature human species that existed on some remote Indonesian islands for a while. Seems like big news for the anthropology world, and possibly for fans of hobbits...

dwarf cavewoman

The big news is that this species existed relatively recently (less than 20,000 years ago):
It smashes the long-cherished scientific belief that our species, Homo sapiens, systematically crowded out other upright-walking human cousins beginning 160,000 years ago and that we've had Earth to ourselves for tens of thousands of years.
Pretty exciting! The scientists can barely decide what to think!

(via boingboing)

I can't applaud loudly enough

Oh man, this is really well done! Simultaneously a send-up of political assurances and of hokey image-selling catalogs (of which I get way too many).

The GW & Crew Autumn Flip-Flop Catalog.


(via XOverboard)

Who are you for again?

I can't top this post from Rafe, who notes that Bush seems to be endorsing his opponent . . .

Update: Wes Clark spells it out, for those in need of a road map...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

El Cid

Because no blog can ever have too much Sid, here he is!
Hi, Sid! :))

The tide is rising . . .

Everybody's been touting Eminem's new video, but man, I can see why: it's anger and frustration channelled into voting. amen.

(yay! one of the links there has RealAudio versions in addition to Quicktime)

Drink me, eat me...

smilieThe winelover's guide to politics:

Cuban-style democracy is apparently good enough

The U.S. is now trying to convince the various Iraqi political parties to combine forces and present a coalition ticket in the Jan elections (uh, referendums?) -- I guess we wouldn't want them to get too much of a sense of democracy in action! what next -- thinking for themselves? debating ideas? freedom of speech and religion???

From the LA Times:
One U.S. official in Washington said the administration now believes Iraq needs a "negotiated resolution … a scaled-back democratic process."

Between the two conflicting key goals, "I see the arguments for stability now outweighing the calls for democracy," said the official, who declined to be identified. The formation of a unified slate would further entrench the U.S.-allied parties, which are mostly led by longtime exiles with dubious popular support and are still viewed with suspicion by many Iraqi citizens.
As Rafe at rc3 says of the new plan: That may be the right answer, but they really shouldn't have teased the Iraqis with the idea that they'd get to choose their own leaders for all these months. Sigh.


Blogger is in and out today, so trying to post when I can. Have a bit of a backlog already...

Just a little painful humor: the Onion's headline piece is "Countdown to the recount" heh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The New Yorker weighs in

For the first time in its 80-year history, they choose to endorse a candidate in the Presidential race.
The damage visited upon America, and upon America’s standing in the world, by the Bush Administration’s reckless mishandling of the public trust will not easily be undone. And for many voters the desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry. But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery. Pollsters like to ask voters which candidate they’d most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the governance of our nation.
. . .
[Kerry] is plainly the better choice. As observers, reporters, and commentators we will hold him to the highest standards of honesty and performance. For now, as citizens, we hope for his victory.
parties butting heads

Humans, the superorganism

Via Follow Me Here, this interesting scientific note: our bodies contain hundreds of species of bacteria and other microorganisms that we peacefully coexist with; in fact, on a cell-by-cell basis, they outnumber our actual human cells. Some British scientists are arguing that we need to start taking this situation into account when thinking about medical interventions. For one thing, some bacteria make us less susceptible to certain diseases, so killing them indiscriminately could be a problem; furthermore, their presence can affect how we digest medicines and how effective they are systemically.
The Imperial College research demonstrates what many -- from X Files stalwarts to UFO fanatics -- have long claimed: We are not alone. Specifically, the human genome does not carry enough information on its own to determine key elements of our own biology.
Should be an interesting avenue of future research! The superorganism!

Even the right wing may someday see the light

Bush, great sponsor of constitutional amendments to protect marriage, now defies his own party platform to claim that he supports civil unions. Is this last-minute about-face really likely to convince any moderate undecideds?

I agree with kos's sentiments on the symbolic meaning here:
Remember, it was just a year ago that Howard Dean was a far-left crazy wacko for daring to defend civil unions during the primary campaign. It was one of his stances that allegedly made him "unelectable". Now, it's the default position for even those who would seek to deny gays the right to marry.
There's hope yet for reason and humanity to win out over misunderstanding and fear . . .

On TV tonight

Frontline: Rumsfeld's War:
With the United States Army deployed in a dozen hot spots around the world, on constant alert in Afghanistan, and taking casualties every day in Iraq, some current and former officers now say the army is on the verge of being "broken." They charge that the army is overstretched, demoralized, and may be unable to fight where and when the nation desires. This fall, FRONTLINE and the Washington Post join forces for an in-depth assessment of the state of the American army and the nation's military establishment. The program digs into the aggressive attempts to assert civilian control and remake the military by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his allies.
I guess if the Whitehouse refuses to hold anyone responsible, somebody in the press just might. This is long overdue.

(via This Modern World)

Monday, October 25, 2004


Here's the artwork of a guy who creates magical creatures from colored drinking straws. They are charming and beautiful. Go, quick! (the photo is the link)

straw sculpture

(via boingboing)

Pushing Iraq uphill . . .

I am increasingly getting the impression that the Iraqi insurgents have changed their focus, from attacking us to wiping out all Iraqis that try to collaborate with us. sorrow Specifically, new reports increasingly show attacks against Iraqi police, police academies, and now some newly minted soldiers. The message seems pretty clear: if you're training to be part of the solution, you are under threat. I can't imagine that the Iraqis aren't hearing it. Now we have to hope that they're either hopeful enough to try anyway or desperate enough to have no other employment options. Great.

So far, the press are not identifying this as a pattern. I wonder whether they will. A row of bodies killed execution-style would raise questions in Annapolis! News as it arises...

What conspiracy?

Tom DeLay (majority leader in the House) is pretty clear about his agenda:
It's time now for the American people to understand that we (the GOP) are a permanent majority.
classic elephant(You can see the video yourself at

Well, now we know the ends, and the means seem pretty clear too. Why are these guys so afraid of our system of government? Debate = treason, voting should be minimized, party competition should be replaced by oligarchy of the Us. Have they no civic pride at all?

(caught by TexasNate at dailyKos)

Remind me why we're safer with Bush...?

Top story in the news today is that huge amounts of explosive were allowed to wander off when we invaded Iraq.
Some 350 tons of high explosives (RDX and HMX), which were under IAEA seal while Saddam was in power, were looted during the early days of the US occupation. Like so much else, it was just left unguarded.

Not only are these super-high-yield explosives probably being used in many, if not most, of the various suicide and car bombings in Iraq, but these particular explosives are ones used in the triggering process for nuclear weapons.
Better yet, the Department of Defense has been trying to suppress this story for some time.

This joins the cheery news that nuclear materials from Iraq disappeared as we also left those facilities unguarded to go off and be pelted with flower petals. (Of course, we haven't secured our nuclear and chemical facilities at home against terrorism either, so maybe Bush "just isn't that concerned" about such things...)

And we also shouldn't forget that the Pentagon had Zarqawi's location in their sights more than once, but the Administration politicos put strikes on hold until they could build momentum for action in Iraq. Good show of priorities there...

Calling all geeks!

Want to help out with the election but not up for door-knocking and phoning? MoveOn is looking for some computer-savvy folks to act as tech support for their volunteer activists on the ground. Make a difference however you can!Leave No Voter Behind logo

(via Alas, a blog)

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean...

FBI letter guy There are folks who sneer at suggestions that the Feds under Bush are turning this country into a police state. Some sort of liberal paranoia, I guess. For my part, I think it's a justified paranoia based on stories like this one (wait for it to jump down within the page), in which a writer had the feds break into her house and take all of her office contents because of research she'd been doing for a new novel. This is an established author, whose most egregious crime appears to have been borrowing library books about Cambodia.

Nah, nothing to be paranoid about...

(via Medley)

Animal backlash

Many folks are having a good time at the expense of the latest Bush ad (featuring a supposedly menacing pack of wolves about to attack us, very subtle). "Oh no, the puppies!" and the like. Now there is, of course, a website in which the wolves proclaim that they were tricked into agreeing to make the ad, not realizing that they'd be playing the bad guys...


(via LaDiDa)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Closing the barn door after the horse is gone, gone...

It's heartening to know that the Bush Administration has been working so hard on closing up those security loopholes revealed by 9/11. Why just this week they figured out to require background checks for foreigners wanting pilot training. And that follows on last week's decision to crack down on the finances of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist organization. Um, hello? What have our National Security guys been doing for the last three years?

Friday, October 22, 2004

An image to stick?

The DNC has just released a new ad, which compares "the eagle that soars" to "the ostrich with its head in the sand." That feels to me like it captures much of the recent discussion about Kerry's flexible/informed approach to world events, contrasted with Bush's immunity to input. But it could be effective only for those who already hold those views, dunno. (I'm still amazed that the "this is your brain on drugs" ads were incomprehensible to much of the nation.)
donkey kicking

Let me know what you think. (there's a comment function! really, right down there!)

(tip via Political Wire>

Cough, hack...

Political activism meets infantile Japanimation aesthetics here. eep.

(via Pandagon)

Ok, I held off as long as I could...

elephantBut then Bob Harris did a nice gloss on the results of the survey showing that Bush supporters are (1) disproportionately misled as to facts that are well-established, and (2) completely off-base as to what Bush's positions are on a wide range of issues. It seems clear to me that it takes a lot of self-delusion to support this guy.

Quote of the day

Via whisky river:
"Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.candle It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-- Nelson Mandela

Framing (an overview)

There's been quite a bit of discussion this year about framing, a way of setting up the context in which concepts or ideas are viewed. This is fundamentally a contribution of George Lakoff, who excels at picking out implicit assumptions in the use and structure of language. It comes up right now in the political context, where it can have huge effects on how policy proposals are viewed by the public -- take "estate tax" versus "death tax," or "pro-choice" versus "pro-life" as examples of ways that different groups can establish entirely different language frames for discussing an issue.

Anyway, if you haven't bumped into this already, and/or are interested in ways to break out of the preset frames in which issues are being presented, here's a good quick overview of the idea and practical examples by Lakoff himself.

(thanks to Medley for noting this even without having time to write it up)

Opiate of the masses?

A very interesting interview with Chomsky about the role of sports in our society -- he argues (as does my lapsed-socialist friend Roddy) that interest in sports diverts energy from other areas over which we feel less control (e.g., politics, or a crummy job), teaches us about irrational loyalty, and is part of other social programming.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything that contributes more fundamentally to authoritarian attitudes than this does, in addition to the fact that it just engages a lot of intelligence and keeps people away from other things.
(via Medley)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Beautiful, and well-argued

A defense of structured procrastination...
All procrastinators put off things they have to do. . . . Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.
There's an old saying, "if you need something done quickly, give it to a busy man." The above would fit with that (and with my experience). In fact, Perry argues that clearing your decks of all but the important tasks is the surest route to couch-potato-hood. too great.

(via Frogs and Ravens)

In honor of history

. . . and particularly of 1986 and 2004
(on personal as well as sports-related fronts)

feet of Schilling

Here's to hope, and all good things.

(photo by Jim Davis, Boston Globe)

Cross-over opportunity

JossWow, my closet TV habits and my political leanings have just found an opportunity to merge. It's probably too late for me to host a Buffy/Angel/Firefly party for Kerry, but those who do might hope for a call from Joss himself and the chance to ask him a question...
classic donkey
(link via Pacific views)

Shed a little light...

To each their source of illumination! A transparent toilet seat with imbedded LEDs... (full info and many photos here)

(link via LED-crazy coworker B.F.)

A quiet thought...

brown oak
...about fall, and its beauty, and the distance between words and experience.

Happy fall, y'all.

(via A blog is happening)

A fight for the soul of the GOP

kos has a list of Republican former heavyweights (governors, etc.) who have come out in favor of Kerry. The Wiki server's dKosopedia has an expanded list of entries, including people who once held such exalted positions as EPA chief and Secretary of State in other Republican administrations but now feel unable to support their party's ticket -- also linked there are other groups, such as diplomats, scientists, and economists who have stated their opposition to Bush and his policies. They all feel that the current administration is no longer serving the principles that their party used to stand for, and they fear the repurcussions for both that party and the nation.
classic GOP pachyderm
I think Ron Suskind captures it right here:
Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.''
I'm glad that this many serious players realize that it isn't about political power anymore, but about the fate of our country. (Of course, I'm hoping that we give them the opportunity for self-examination on the sidelines.)

Environmental fishiness

According to a recent study, about 20% of folks across the country are showing higher levels of systemic mercury (as judged by hair samples) than the EPA considers safe. This is double the rate from 4-5 years ago. The recommendation was that young children and women of childbearing age (and intent) should avoid eating more than two servings of fish per week, as that's the step in the food chain that becomes affected by excess environmental pollutants. [Right, let's work from the consumption end, rather than worrying about where it's all coming from...]

(link via DangerousMeta)

Go, Grandma!

My grandmother is in her late 90s and still, as my spouse avers, "a pip." I think she'd be right at home with these retirees in Florida putting in 12-hour days to make sure that all their peers vote this year. They're working phone banks, signing up drivers, pestering shoppers. When I have people in their 80s and 90s tell me they think it's the most important election of their lives, I think maybe that my own instincts aren't that far off-base . . .classic donkey

(story via TalkLeft)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Out of the mouths of babes...

A Nickelodeon poll of kids shows a resounding Kerry victory. (These results are thought to reflect their parents' true leanings better than direct polling.)
Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom Inc., has organized its poll every election since 1988, and has a 100 percent record of picking the winner.
(via Katerina at dailyKos)

Quote of the day

Comes via Kathryn at A Mindful Life:
Reverence the highest, have patience with the lowest. Let this day's performance of the meanest duty be thy religion.carved pebble Are the stars too distant, pick up the pebble that lies at thy feet, and from it learn the all.

--Margaret Fuller

[related in-quote: "Act glocally!"]

It was a game of two halves...

onion logoSports chat meets political parody at the Onion, in this week's headline:

U.S. Finishes A "Strong Second" in Iraq War

I guess I'm a basket case

It must be a measure of four years of pent up frustration, anger,shame, and hopelessness that this little video trying to help visualize a Kerry victory actually choked me up. (I suppose it might give the superstitious stomach aches.)

(via kos)

Well said

This line from Steven Clemens seems to sum up my feeling (as explored in my prior post) about where we stand on November 2:
This election is increasingly about not letting Medievalism conquer the Enlightenment. It's a head-to-head contest between rationality and dogma.
head to head
(link via Medley)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Science -- not just for fact-believers anymore?

The NYT reports that a group of scientific Nobel laureates, including members of prior Republican administrations, have joined the rising swell of intellectuals who oppose the Bush administration's immunity to facts.
For nearly four years, and with rising intensity, scientists in and out of government have criticized the Bush administration, saying it has selected or suppressed research findings to suit preset policies, skewed advisory panels or ignored unwelcome advice, and quashed discussion within federal research agencies.
Under the Bush administration, he said, "they're picking and choosing information according to the answer that they want to get, and they've appointed so many people who are just focused on this that they really are having an impact on the day-to-day flow of information."
Poor information cannot help but lead to poor decision-making. This administration has a consistent record of suppressing information that contradicts their propaganda (in defense, environmental, economic, and other realms), and it's undermining the deliberations of Congress and the understanding of the nation as a whole. We can't afford the luxury of keeping these guys around. They're not letting any of the rest of us do our jobs.

Um, what he said.

In the Department of Cheney Doom Predictions...

Vote For Me Or Die! Die! Die!

I'm with Bob on this one.

Gore on fire

Gore speech
10/18/02 at Georgetown
sponsored by MoveOn (in part)

This is long -- about an hour. But it's really a review of the entire Bush record by the Gore who has become the fetterless voice of the left (the resistance?) in the last two years. I'd pick some clips if I could find a transcript, but I can't, and I got tired of trying to note down great lines and points covered. Let's just say that it's everything in one place -- I've seen pretty much every claim in this speech verified by the players (intelligence people resigning, internal memos, independent reports) -- and it covers every failure and major deception from 9/11 until this past weekend. Quite impressive.

The speech can't be linked directly, but it's at the top of the queue on the C-Span site:

He claims that his goal is "trying to get at what it is that makes people in this country feel uneasy about the state of our democracy." Interestingly, Gore dismisses the claims that Bush is motivated by his religious beliefs, and argues that he is driven instead by "his belief in the infallability of the Republican ideology." Then he spells out what that means and the consequences that it's had. I wish I could print this out for a few folks I know who have been in the talk-radio bubble of disinformation for several years...

Update: For those who can't invest the time for the video, The Nation has compiled a list of 101 Facts that reveal all the lies and missteps of the Bush administration, each with a link to the report that documents the truth. Quite a wide range of arenas, from National Security to the Environment . . .

What constitutes an insult?

I've generally tried to stay out of the pseudo-furor over Kerry's mention of Mary Cheney in the last debate, since I think it was basically a well-deployed Rove distraction strategy to take the public eye off of Bush's more substantive gaffs (the lie about dismissing Osama, the "I hope it's not the Administration's fault, heh heh" joke). But the fact of the matter is that the level of professed outrage demonstrates only that "gay" is viewed as an insult, precisely (and only) by those claiming to protect Ms. Cheney. If Kerry had referred to the Bush twins as college students (as factual as that Mary is a lesbian, has been out, and has worked as a gay advocate in the corporate sector), would that have been a matter for all the finger wagging? Please. Anyway, I decided to acknowledge all of this because Andrew Sullivan, conservative megaphone, summarized the point quite nicely thus:
Alan Keyes goes on the attack again, saying children of gay parents will live in families where "incest becomes inevitable." I await the outrage of Matthew Dowd, Lynne Cheney, Bill Kristol, Bill Safire, Mort Kondracke, Maureen Dowd, and on and on. Oh, wait. It's only if you say a positive thing about gay people that you're a homophobe.
Quite so. On to reality-based news!
(link via Matthew Yglesias)

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen...

While Bush is busy insisting that there will be no draft, the Selective Service is drawing up plans to, um, draft medical personnel as needed in case of emergency.
Richard S. Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said Monday: "We have been routinely updating the entire plan for a health care draft. The plan is on the shelf and will remain there unless Congress and the president decide that it's needed and direct us to carry it out."
But all that military activity, and the plan to extend maximum reserve mobilization tours from 2 to 5 years, shouldn't make you think that any of this means anything. No siree, we just like keepin' busy!

Update: Also being sent to Iraq are the troops we usually use to train our other guys (they play the "enemy" in field exercises and the like). As Intel Dump puts it, "deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn." These are the guys who make it possible to get other troops battle-ready.

Lessee, we already called guys out of retirement, wouldn't let current troops take leave, are extending commitments of volunteer forces, and are pillaging our training forces for pure numbers of bodies to deploy. But we're not desperate enough to consider a draft! Of course not!

For you poll addicts

Here's a fascinating site from Princeton that's doing meta-analysis of current election polls. They summarize the daily data, but also provide discussion of poll reliability, how the undecideds factor into reading the statistics, some history, and even the relative value of various places you could spend your volunteer time.

I need to go back and dig around there a bit during lunch, but it's definitely worth some time, especially if the swings and margins of error are making you pull your hair out . . .

(thanks to Rob Geen for the link)

Update: It turns out that Salon is also trying to do some analysis with their poll presentation. They have the requisite colored map, but down below they list a clump of recent polls for each state and give the reasoning for their summary read. Quite nice.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Attention Philadelphia canvassers!

Republicans have put in a last-minute request to move polling places in several wards (surprise: mostly minority areas of the city). If you're getting out the vote, you may need to get back in touch with people about any changes that occur, especially in areas where the polling places have been the same for many years. More as I hear more.

(thanks to BookNotes for the catch)

Because we wouldn't want things to go too well

Bush nixes a plan to have a Muslim peacekeeping team help with organization for the Iraqi election -- not because it's a bad idea (we need help! especially folks the locals will trust!) but because it didn't leave the US in control...
For the Saudi official, the UN's limited presence in Iraq is a missed opportunity. "If our peacekeeping initiative had been adopted," he said, "the UN would have a much more active role in Iraq today."
Stay the course, stay the course! [sounds of splintering wood]


To the New York Times, classic donkey in their endorsement, for acknowledging that while this election is to a large degree a referendum on Bush's tenure, Kerry is "better than a modest improvement" and could actually be a great leader.
We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.
(emphasis mine) This is my impression too. I think Kerry might actually have the capability to return the country to civil debate about the issues that face us, a nontrivial gift in light of the bitter divisions and deaf partisanship that seems to have taken hold, from Congress down to our very neighborhoods. I'd sure like to give him the chance.

Let your geek flag fly!

geek flagThe twenty greatest equations of all time, as determined by the readers of PhysicsWeb. Maxwell and Euler take top honors, of course . . .

(link via Follow Me Here)

Have I mentioned Jon Stewart?

He is much tougher on the news (in his comedy show) than most news programs and talking head shows. He's hard on the politicians, but recently at least, even harder on the media, who he thinks just aren't doing their job to help the American people become informed. Crossfire had him on to plug his book, but he had other ideas...

Watch, don't read.

STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.

The faith-based Presidency

Here's quite an unnerving article at dailyKos summarizing a longer piece from the weekend's New York Times ("Without a doubt") about Bush's sense of having a mission from God (which thus explains his unwillingness to let facts interfere with his faith in his own direction).
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Those of you who think that Bush's approach to religion goes beyond the piety of former Presidents are not alone. This article looks at the relationship of American Presidents to religion through history and finds a real change in the current administration. As they put it,
The key difference is this: Presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have spoken as petitioners of God, seeking blessing and guidance; this president positions himself as a prophet, issuing declarations of divine desires for the nation and world. Most fundamentally, Bush’s language suggests that he speaks not only of God and to God, but also for God. Among modern presidents, only Ronald Reagan has spoken in a similar manner -- and he did so far less frequently than has Bush.
I find this terrifying. With a messianic level of certainty about your own mission, what other principles won't you throw aside? Why should you be constrained by a pesky elected of government? Why shouldn't it be right to concentrate power as much as possible, so that you can fulfill your historic aims (which can't be other than correct)?
classic pachyderm
(links via kos and other sources; all emphasis mine)

Update: leave it to Internet commerce to capitalize on anything. You can get T-shirts that proclaim your membership in the "reality-based community" . . .

Why not just hand over the electors now?

I mean, Jeb and his pals are doing everything they can to "deliver" Florida to Bush, including keeping Nader on the ballot despite his disqualification, and now using discredited lists of felons for election disqualifications. Looks like he's running a banana republic indeed....

Sunday, October 17, 2004

What will it take?

Just a rare weekend post to point out this interesting note: Repubs think they need a 4% lead going into election day to offset the way that undecideds tend to break in the voting booth. A different lens to use to view the polls...

(thank to kos for keeping an eye on things)

Friday, October 15, 2004

And so it begins...

Everybody has been predicting that Karl Rove would pull out his bag of dirty tricks in the final approach to the election, and sure enough, the first bizarre smear attempt has surfaced already, a bit outside the main spotlight. It's beneath contempt, this kind of thing, but campaigns have to be on the look-out; diffuse it by anticipating it. eesh., it can be hard to think that warpedly.

(those TPM links take a second to load and then move down to the intended post)

Always looking for ways to keep An Eye on you . . .

More from the Big Brother department: Legislation is in the works to design a standardized nationwide drivers license. So logical, so convenient, right?
The Senate version of the intelligence bill includes an amendment, passed by unanimous consent on Oct. 1, that would let the secretary of homeland security decide what documents a state would have to require before issuing a driver's license, and would also specify the data that the license would have to include for it to meet federal standards. The secretary could require the license to include fingerprints or eye prints. The provision would allow the Homeland Security Department to require use of the license, or an equivalent card issued by motor vehicle bureaus to nondrivers for identification purposes, for access to planes, trains and other modes of transportation.
The House's version of the intelligence bill, passed Friday, would require the states to keep all driver's license information in a linked database, for quick access. It also calls for "an integrated network of screening points that includes the nation's border security system, transportation system and critical infrastructure facilities that the secretary determines need to be protected against terrorist attack."
Uh, can anybody say, "controlling the flow of citizens within their own country"??
Civil liberties experts are practically speechless.

(via Pacific Views)

Update: of course, the Pentagon won't be satisfied until they're spying on everyone all the time. I just couldn't find these ideas more reassuring. [uh, what's that quote there at the bottom of the right column of this blog?]

In the company of thieves

Anybody who feels that Bush represents their values should consider the fact that he seems more than happy to hire and rehire folks accused and/or convicted of election fraud. There's good ol' Larry Russell, who had to resign due to a scandal in SD (investigations still underway) and is now heading up Bush/Cheney get-out-the-vote activities in OH. Then there's Jim Tobin, who is at the heart of a 2002 voter fraud case (several coworkers already convicted of felonies) involving jamming the phones of a Democratic phone bank, but is now the regional chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign in New England. Is the Administration appalled by these antidemocratic activities? Well, they're trying to get investigations pushed back until after the election, and they've promoted these guys to key organizational positions, so you make the call!

Update: Krugman summarizes all the foul play by Republican operatives in the last few years. (NYT registration [or BugMeNot] required.)
The important point to realize is that these abuses aren't aberrations. They're the inevitable result of a Republican Party culture in which dirty tricks that distort the vote are rewarded, not punished. It's a culture that will persist until voters - whose will still does count, if expressed strongly enough - hold that party accountable.
Reality check: I guess that election fraud is small potatoes, relatively, when you realize that these guys are also rewarding the man in charge of Abu Ghraib at the time of the torture abuses . . .
Oh, and the officer who was in charge of that prison is being made head of the Army's intelligence school. What are they teaching these days, eh?

What an example we set

The U.S. has refused to sign on to a UN 10-year plan to improve the lot of women around the world.
October 14, 2004

UNITED NATIONS — The United States has refused to join 85 heads of state and government in signing a statement that endorsed a 10-year-old U.N. plan to ensure every woman's right to education, healthcare and choice about having children.

The Bush administration said it withheld its signature because the statement included a reference to "sexual rights."

Kelly Ryan, deputy assistant secretary of State, wrote to backers of the plan that the United States was committed "to the empowerment of women and the need to promote women's fullest enjoyment of universal human rights."

"The United States is unable, however, to endorse the world leaders' statement," Ryan said, because it "includes the concept of 'sexual rights,' a term that has no agreed definition in the international community."

Ryan did not elaborate. At previous U.N. meetings, U.S. representatives have spoken out against abortion, gay rights and what they see as the promotion of promiscuity by distributing condoms to prevent AIDS.

The statement was signed by leaders of 85 nations, including those in the European Union, China, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and more than a dozen African countries, as well as 22 former world leaders.
(quoted because of the LA Times registration requirement; link via Booknotes)

Hmmm, I wonder whether choices like that could be linked in any way to this finding that the world reputation of the United States has undergone a sharp decline in recent years . . .

This is either genius or wrong, wrong, wrong...

Peanut butter now available in a squeeze tube.

(via GirlHacker)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Nader's out of PA

The court strikes down his attempt due to fraudulent name-collection (much of it being done by the same firms now committing anti-Democratic voter fraud in several states -- hmmm). Every little bit helps. We're going to deliver this state!

(apologies for the registry-required NYT link.
thanks to The Hamster for the news)

Oh sure, if you put it *that* way...

We all knew that Bush was lying when he said he'd never dismissed Osama bin Laden with "I'm just not that concerned about him." But apparently he was also not being entirely up front when he claimed to have met with the Congressional Black Caucus -- he did meet with them once, but only because they dropped in uninvited as part of a guerilla campaign to raise awareness about Haiti. In fact, Bush has been declining requests to meet with the CBC for years . . .

Final debate recap

This one a bit anticlimactic -- didn't even have anybody stop by to watch it with us. Much of the ground had already been covered, so little room for innovation. Probably Bush's best performance overall, and yet substituting a plastered smile-ette for his prior scowls didn't save him from looking just as piqued. Kerry managed to point out differences with his opponent that hadn't been addressed previously, as on protecting choice, restricting sales of assault weapons, rationalizing immigration, but Bush probably scored a few points with his "bait-and-switch" suggestion that K couldn't pay for proposed programs. Nothing here to change the overall momentum, which is all Kerry right now.

The news polls after the debates gave the win to Kerry. A quick Gallup poll said Kerry 52-39 (with a balanced sample). QWQ got this from the Times:
Wednesday night's was his most appealing presentation so far, but it was so at odds with his others that some voters might be left puzzled by the inconsistency.
DemfromCT over at Kos has a good wrap-up of the view from the talking heads, which resonates with my take. That is to say, Kerry is Presidential material, and Bush is hiding from questions about what he'll do differently.

Now it's all a war on the ground. Make sure that nobody that you know decides to stay home on November 2! As digby says,
The next two weeks are going to be a wild ride, but the wind is at our backs.

Update (10/15): DemfromCT over at Kos has a nice wrap of how the total effect of the debates is being played, now that the press has had a chance to mull it all over. Let's just say, the Conventional Wisdom has been successfully redirected!

Hey, he scares me already!

Nice one from the Onion:
In an announcement that has alarmed voters across the nation, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he will personally attack the U.S. if Sen. John Kerry wins the next election.
(and, of course, kos makes the link to this other related classic)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A few jabs...

Edwards was on Leno last night and got in a few jabs at Bush, including his own contribution to all the speculation swirling around the square lump on Bush's back during the first debate (was he wired for prompts?). Quips Edwards: "I think it was his battery."

more Florida-style hijinks

Much as I hate governmental disinformation, it's stories of voter disenfranchisement that really give me concern for the future of our nation. Apparently a firm hired for voter registration in Las Vegas has been throwing out Democratic forms . . .

Update: dailyKos has the story that this firm is (1) operating in a number of states (including PA), and (2) funded by the RNC. Call me Dr. Schadenfreude, but I hope this makes the news; it's really inexcusable.

Yes, things are swell in Iraq

This is a sobering account of a soldier who watched another platoon gun down a bunch of folks they'd been working alongside for weeks, so that they could up their "insurgent kill count" . . .

It's great to think we learned so much from Vietnam. Let's go back to 1970 and find those guys who were always accusing Kerry of making up that his unit had committed crimes, that everybody had. (Oh wait, those guys are busy making documentaries for Sinclair.)

A battle between fury and sorrow, just reading the news. Who will restore these guys' faith in their country? Who? And if not now, then when?

(thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the link)

The fight never ends...

It's bad enough that 80% of Ob/Gyn doctors now opt not to be trained in providing abortions (removing choice by lack of capability), but there have been a number of cases in which hospitals refused to provide the "morning after pill," and now this case of a pharmacist refusing to fill a prescription for birth control (or transfer the prescription to another pharmacist).

Young women of today, don't assume that your rights are a given!
Pay attention to the news, and get out and vote!

Well, that pretty much says it, doesn't it?

On Saturday Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to the Al Asad Air base in Iraq to meet U.S. troops. He met with 1500 (fifteen hundred) Marines for a question and answer session, but military commanders warned the soldiers there was one question they couldn't ask. Sgt. Major Dennis Reed instructed troops, "Don't ask when you're going home. We'll tell you when you're going home."
(thanks to LaDiDa for the link to Democracy Now)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fake news trumps real news every day

John Stewart is on the cover of Rolling Stone. The article (only partial online) does a good job of capturing both his personality and why The Daily Show is such a success. Night after night, when the media drops the ball on fact-checking government spokespeople or makes news out of fluff stories, Stewart is there to play the damning clip ("uh oh!") or deflate the celebrity balloon ("yeah, because this is the big story of the month"). It's scary that people who get news from Comedy Central are better informed than those who watch the nightly news, but there it is... (are they getting more news, or just less disinformation? how could one say??)

Ok, I'm feeling a little cranky

Just sent to
Dear Sinclair Broadcasting --

The public is becoming concerned about your station priorities; recent actions seem to indicate that you place your political views above the public interest and FCC guidelines. First, you demanded that your subsidiaries not run the episode of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read a list of war dead. Now, you have announced plans to force your stations to preempt their usual programming on the eve of the election in favor of a Vietnam "documentary" being billed as news despite its dubious provinance and clear partisan bias. How can you justify the timing of this broadcast? Either it is news, and should be run now, or it is simply a plan to run a last-minute smear of one of the candidates in order to bias voters as they go to the polls.

I am not fooled by your labeling of propaganda as news. I not only request that you rescind the order for broadcast of this program, but intend to follow up by contacting stations in my region to let them know how little I think of their "balanced reporting." If no action is taken at Sinclair headquarters, I and many of my fellow citizens will start to boycott companies that advertise on local Sinclair affiliates -- they should be spending their advertising dollars on stations that are able to distinguish editorial content from news programming, and that inform, rather than mislead, their viewers.

If you can send a civil letter to advertisers, you may find some near to you here.

Sinclair update

[see "October surprise" below for background]

From the LA Times:
The DNC said it would file a complaint today with the Federal Election Commission, charging Sinclair with making an illegal in-kind campaign contribution by running the film.
An interesting approach. The folks at are still coordinating a massive campaign to complain on multiple fronts -- to the stations, advertisers, large investors, the FCC licensing office, and anybody with ears.

My concern isn't that the Swiftboat stuff will stick more this time (although more exposure always risks more sticking), but that the national dialogue will get hijacked. Currently, the press and the lunchrooms are talking about issues, about the debates, about the policy plans and leadership abilities of the two candidates. I dread a return to August and the mire of Vietnam charges and counterclaims . . .

Update: also this, from USA Today -- guess the ruckus is having an impact:
"I don't want my media companies that cover the news to be making news," says Barry Lucas of Gabelli & Co., which owns about 4% of Sinclair

Update 2:
perhaps the protests are having an effect? Sylvan Learning Center pulls its ads from Sinclair affiliates

Monday, October 11, 2004

Great resource site for undecideds

Compare, Decide, Vote -- they go through 20 issues, providing the two candidates' positions on each, and you can click which one more closely agrees with your thoughts. Then it will summarize your leanings, and provide state-specific information about voting. (This is intended particularly for young voters who may not be getting good information, but send the link to anybody who needs guidance!)

A great service!
(thanks to commentor blogswarm at Kos)

Phila Inquirer endorses Kerry

Not a given, but not a surprise. The surprise is the dire language they used....

"The choice is vivid. The stakes are vast."
(via Atrios)

Our elections are more important!

Military actions in Iraq being put on hold until after the US election:
The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.
Huh, ya' think? Nah, we love body bags. But there's that other pesky thing:
Still, Pentagon officials say that it may not be militarily feasible to bring every Iraqi city in the Sunni Triangle under the control of U.S. forces and the Iraqi government in time for the January election.
eh, well, we only need a handful of Iraqis voting in that election anyway, to hear the State Department tell it...


First it was "Survivor."
Then "Temptation Island."
Then it was "Lost."
Now, Playdoh has gone to the islands...
(and what is with all those mutants??)

(via boingboing)

October surprises?

Apparently, Sinclair Broadcasting (which has a bunch of Fox and WB stations across the nation) is demanding that all of its stations air a program that is essentially a feature-length Swiftboat-style lie. TPM tells the tale, and points out that this is classic Rove. Tom Tomorrow provides this protest link, where you can find out what stations may appear in your area, email the heads of Sinclair, and/or threaten their advertisers with a boycott. More rant and links at Kos too. Maybe we can manage to head this one off with enough noise...

This year's Peace Nobel

There's been some criticism of the Nobel committee for picking "an environmentalist" for this politically charged prize. But it seems that such criticism is misplaced, for Wangari Maathai is really an "ecofeminist" who has been motivated by the plight of women in Kenya and its relationship to deforestation there. She's the kind of trouble-maker working for huge systemic change that is exactly up the alley of Peace Prizes to date. Alas has a nice summary of her work compiled from several sources -- it's hard to pick an excerpt, but this one is pretty sweet:
I'm sick and tired of men who are so incompetent that every time they feel the heat because women are challenging them, they have to check their genitalia to reassure themselves. I'm not interested in that part of the anatomy. The issues I'm dealing with require the utilisation of what's above the neck. If you don't have anything there, leave me alone.'

Frustrated conservatives

Via Medley, this article by conservative Bob Barr venting the frustrations of many longtime conservatives, who feel betrayed by Bush on the fronts of fiscal responsibility, real security, and civil liberties.
Bush's problem is that true conservatives remember their history. They recall that in recent years when the nation enjoyed the fruits of actual conservative fiscal and security policies, a Democrat occupied the White House and Congress was controlled by a Republican majority that actually fought for a substantive conservative agenda.

History's a troublesome thing for presidents. Even though most voters don't take much of a historical perspective into the voting booth with them, true conservatives do.

Hmmm. Who's the Libertarian candidate again?
Wow. This could be very telling, come election day...

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Second take on second debate

ABC had a poll with 33% Dem/Repub respondents and the rest undecided. Apparently they gave the debate to Kerry 47% to 41%. That sounds about right to me.

also, Kos has some positive pundit spin from the first hour post-debate...

Update: Conventional wisdom (as of Saturday) now puts it at a slight Kerry victory. 'Dem from CT' over at Kos has a nice summary of what this means for the state of the race (and how that has changed in the last couple of weeks), complete with good analysis of what has happened to the perception of the candidates strengths and weaknesses. Another poster ('thirdparty') gives a wrap-up of sound bites from around the press that depict Bush as shrill.
Two words for President Bush: anger management.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Quick post-debate response

Bush managed to look marginally better, but Kerry still outshone him on poise and policy. Our crowd watching thought it went well -- certainly no change to the direction of momentum, which means it cements the impressions from Debate #1. Online polls giving Kerry a wide victory, but the pundits seem to think that Bush pulled it out -- perhaps because he didn't seem as petulant as he's now shown he can... Anyway, nobody is doing immediate polling tonight, so will have to wait to see what impressions are nationwide.

Favorite quotes of the night:
  1. On the coalition: if the troops from Missouri were taken as a group, they'd be the third largest country in the alliance, by level of involvement. ouch!
  2. "It's the job of the military to win the war; it's the job of the President to win the peace." well put.
More when I've had some sleep!

Somehow I missed this (Avedon)

Richard Avedon passed away a week ago. The New York Times describes him as a "fashion photographer," but I know him primarily from The New Yorker, where his were the first photographs used in that venerable publication (replacing line drawings and the like) and matched its highbrow aesthetic perfectly. I could almost always recognize an Avedon photo (the studio shots at least), not just in the trademark way that he printed the shots with the edges of the negatives included, for a rough-proof look, but in the way his pictures captured not just the textures of his subjects but their personalities, their self-images. People would pose doing remarkable things, for photos worth collecting into an album, and they were fully present in the frame, warts and all.

The LA Times write-up includes a gallery of some of his work. Whew! check out George Wallace "and his valet" below (click for whole photo)...
"Avedon gave us the pared-down study of the famous person, a stripped-away look at their humanity," said Arthur Ollman, director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, in an interview earlier this year with The Times. "It is portraiture as interrogation."
Wallace photo snippet
Adam Gopnik, for The New Yorker:
As long as people remain curious about life in the twentieth century, they will turn to Avedon's photographs to see how it looked, and what it meant.

Rebuilding Iraq

Billions allocated for rebuilding Iraq is not getting spent (or not as intended). And here we invaded them over misusing those food-for-oil funds... (according to Cheney's Rationale of the Day)

Big Brother, ever wise...

HUD is trying to collect numbers on homeless folks by creating a huge database of everybody that's staying in a shelter or other temporary residence, including women escaping domestic violence. Of course the data would be shared among all the service providers, to avoid duplication. Hello? Do you know why those women have gone into hiding, and how hard they work to keep their locations secret? Ampersand suggests putting in a call to the White House on this one: see the above link.

Why *would* we believe you?

OH representative Tim Ryan took the floor this week to help explain to Republicans why it might be that today's young people are worried about the draft, despite Administration assurances that it's not on the table. This is a great short speech, pointing out that, um, the Bush Administration hasn't been all that credible to date...

You can get to both Windows and Mac versions of the video at this link (thanks, Kos).
Go, watch.

(hmm, I wonder if he didn't also consider all this evidence that draft board openings have been quietly filled during the last year, and that the Selective Service is looking to broaden eligibility for the draft by raising the max age and including women...)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Why the airwaves seem so crazily biased

Via Echidne, this fascinating bit of information: the FCC used to require that the airwaves operate according to a Fairness Doctrine, meaning that they would not take a partisan position on the news. However, apparently in 1985 the FCC (unsurprisingly, under Reagan, who advocated removing educational requirements from Saturday morning TV) decided that the fairness doctrine "no longer served the public interest" and did away with it. Congress passed a law to reinstate it (and even Gingrich and Helms were on board), but Reagan vetoed it. In 1989, they tried again, but Bush the First managed to threaten the bill out of existence.
The impact of the elimination of the fairness doctrine was immediate and significant. In 1980 there were 75 talk radio stations in the country. By 1999 there were more than 1300. The conservative Weekly Standard recently summed up the landscape, "… 1300 talk stations, nearly all born since the repeal of the fairness doctrine and nearly all right-leaning…"

Today there are few if any public interest conditions for broadcast licensees. They can be as one-sided and contemptuous of people and issues as they desire. So long as they don't use obscenities they can vilify individuals, candidates and political positions without ever letting their audience hear from the other side.
Who knew. Explains a lot. I'm going reading, and will add to this post as I find more info...

Update 1: Here's an interesting article that includes some of the court cases that spurred the FCC to change it's mind in the 1980s -- opponents of a nuclear plant wanted time to counter a TV campaign promoting clean nuclear fuel, a supporter of bottle deposits wanted time to counter the beverage industry's huge ad buys against the deposit referendum, etc.

Update 2: It seems that another force at work was the huge proliferation of stations, especially on cable, during the 1980s, which in effect led to the belief that balance would be found between channels rather than within them. In fact, many stations were feeling that they couldn't even include editorials without trying to come up with "equal time." (See such arguments here and here.) You can certainly imagine the screaming if editorials were banned at most newspapers, but those publications do try to provide a balance of views elsewhere (as on their Community or Letters pages).

I'm just not sure that most people channel surf for news or opinion enough to find their own balance, especially once particular corners become defensively armed against the "spin" from the other side. The resulting insulation is what can make even so banal an event as the debates a revelation for some people (as when Andrew Sullivan says that the Haliburton accusations against Cheney were "news to him"!).

Molly Ivins asks:
Is the free market not supposed to encourage competition rather than lead to its disappearance? The U.S. now ranks 17th, below Costa Rica and Slovenia, on the worldwide index of press freedom established by the Reporters Without Borders.
It makes one so proud to feel like a third-world nation . . .

Hoeffel closing in!

Here's the first promising thing I've seen. Hoeffel has problems with name recognition across PA, but he's already closed the gap from 53/25 in September to 44/39 with almost a month to go -- Arlen is unpopular with both sides of the aisle right now, and that may be a window of opportunity.

Update: more of the same here with a bit more context.

This looks like a campaign that could do a lot with a few donations . . .

More defections among the intelligentsia...

Medley has a good post on the ever lengthening list of professional and academic organizations that have come out against Bush -- from economists to national security experts to scientists. Anybody who ignores the analysis and advice of the top people in just about every field (and is proven wrong in having done so, again and again) doesn't deserve to keep his job.

As Medley says, "People who know stuff are opposed to the current Administration."

Yes, sunny days are right around the corner...

Afghanistan is almost a western democracy, right? Women walk the streets proudly, blah blah blah? Well, tell that to this woman who was nearly beaten to death by her family for wanting to choose what to do with her life.
Inequality is so deeply embedded in this society that there are no easy solutions. In a new opinion poll in Afghanistan, 87 percent of those surveyed said women needed to ask their husbands' permission to vote. There was little difference in the answers of men and women.
mmm, great. Those initial stories of women and girls throwing off their burkas were short-lived. Most quickly decided that it was better to play it safe and stay indoors than risk retributive rape or imprisonment by those angered by their attempts at freedom. Women are registering to vote, but it's under death threats from the Taliban, so who knows whether any will turn out.

Of course, when Safire looks over there, he sees an Afghan miracle. Perhaps his binoculars come with built-in sunshine . . .

More debate noises

Well, a cover is sure worth a thousand words... The story that goes with it (Newsweek via MSNBC??) is here. Nothing new except the exposure it's getting. Suddenly it's ok to say that the emperor has no clothes? Whoot!

(via Lud's comments in a Kos thread)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Need a breather?

Then take a look at the unbelievable nature photos at this nature blog:

Plants I've never seen, or maybe have, and shots of a dragonfly in which you can see every wing vein. Site is very photo-dense, so may not be dial-up-friendly.

What he's doing with the camera is much like what I try to do with haiku. The everyday, but so much more so that you want to look again and again...

(found via Paula's House of Toast)


Cheney blasted Edwards' attendance record in the Senate, saying specifically "I'm the President of the Senate, and I'm there every Tuesday..." But, um, it looks like that claim was pretty far afield! He showed up for a total of two Tuesdays in all of 2001-2004! wow!

Edwards even filled in for him once!

daylight debate recap

Those of us watching at my house felt it was about a tie, although I thought that Edwards' bluff-calling gave him the edge, not to mention that brutal laundry list of great programs (like Headstart) that Cheney voted against through the years. Of course, Edwards also dropped the ball on the chance to distinguish himself from his opponent, and even muffed the softball about "flip-flopping" that could have been a chance to say "Changing your position in response to new facts is just intelligent. To do otherwise is stubborn shortsightedness." What are the responses around the web?
  • The polls:
    1. Quick web polls: AOL shows a tie; MSNBC shows Edwards 60%; CBS shows Edwards 80%; Fox shows a tie; CNN avoids the "win" issue by asking whether it changed your vote... (apparently they switched after their first poll showed a large Edwards lead)
    2. More serious polls: Kos summarizes the good news, but let's just say that both CBS and ABC conducted quick phone polls post-debate that gave Edwards or Cheney, respectively, a 10% margin. So call it a tie; however, Andrew Sullivan (rabid on the right) said he had to turn away from the TV screen, so there's good karma out there.
  • Kos catches Cheney in a lie on his "I run the Senate and I've never met you before" zinger, with a photo of the two at a National Prayer Breakfast. oops!
  • A lot of people are noting that Cheney hardly mentioned Bush at all. Perhaps he's forgotten that the audience always watches the puppet...
Seems pretty good. Lots of discussion of the amazing rate of Cheney lies, and even the mainstream press seems to have felt that some fact-checking was in order: the Washington Post documents Cheney's making the connection between Iraq and Al Quaida on numerous occasions (and it also corrects other misstatements by both candidates). At the very least, Edwards showed that he had dignity and a grasp of the issues; at best, he scored some good blows against the Bush-Cheney disinformation factory and got a few zingers on Cheney himself.

I'm happy with this. Bring on the next round!

Update: my lunchtime reading hit this nice roundup by Kos of the general media take on the debates. Looks like Edwards got done what he needed to -- showed his serious side and brought out Cheney's inner grouch.

For the hard-core, you can get a blow-by-blow analysis of the whole debate by a columnist at the National Review. He's rooting for the incumbents, but assesses the effectiveness of various lines and points with a great deal of insight, and concedes that the new guy looked pretty good, maybe better...

Update 2: heh, can't resist a pointer to this gem, for Simpsons fans....

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

PoMo flourish: art + politics

the Two Faces of Bush mini two-faces

is this via the DNC? can't really tell. contradictory Bush quotes with a trendy techno backbeat and the odd TwoFaces icon that's been appearing all over the place in the last couple of weeks...

(link most recently via Hullabaloo)

Who are we anymore?

Just in case anybody missed it, Congress is trying to get an amendment into the 9/11 Commission legislation (because who could vote against that?) which would legitimate torture. Specifically, the provision would authorize extraordinary rendition, which means that we could export our prisoners to countries where torture is legal.

Clearly this is against everything that America has tried to stand for. It is also in conflict with such pesky constraints as international law and the principles of human rights.

Needless to say, this amendment is opposed by the 9/11 Commission, the American Bar Association, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (links to those and much other information here). However, the Justice Department supports it. eesh.

This bill, and this amendment, are in the midst of fierce debate, largely along party lines (and largely under the media radar). Act now! If you place any value on civil liberties and human rights, write your representative! If you need a sample letter, here's one from Obsidian Wings:
I am writing to you to express my strong opposition to Sections 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act." Section 3032 and 3033 would make it legal for the Secretary of Homeland Security to deport people to be tortured in other countries. We call this "extraordinary rendition", but a more accurate term would be "outsourcing torture." The 9/11 Commission itself opposes Section 3032 and 3033.

Please vote in support of Representative Edward Markey's amendment to remove Section 3032 and 3033 and replace them language outlawing "extraordinary rendition" from his bill, HR 4674*.

Your vote on this issue will strongly influence my vote on election day.
Go, go!
And don't forget to vote these bastards out of office in November!!!

I'll take white elephants for $100 billion, Alex...

The largely functionless Star Wars system goes up, accompanied by more stupid Bring It On rhetoric... Can we get these guys out of office, already?!?

(via Medley)

Monday, October 04, 2004

fun with domain registration

in the post-debate reveling...

(via a comment deep in a dailykos discussion)

Update (Oct. 5): Apparently, despite the glory, Poland is leaving the coalition in Iraq . . .

(thanks to Follow Me Here for the link)

Friday, October 01, 2004

Testing . . .

I always meant to have a blog with this title.


Certainly after the election, probably at some abstract future date when I felt like I had something to say and the time to maintain it. But then Blogger insisted that I log in before leaving a comment elsewhere, and here I am...

And lots of thoughts. But I see that I have a book manuscript sitting on my desk at work, and that must go out on Monday, so things will have to wait. Let's just see how it looks to really have this blog exist...

"See" ya' later...