So, Hitler and Gandhi are running for president. Gandhi reports that Hitler is a madman, a viscous anti-semite and a hateful misanthrope. Hitler retorts that Gandhi is a weak sister, a flip-flopper, dresses funny and looks French.
The media reports that it's the most virulently negative campaign in American history, and wonders if the American people will stand both sides slinging such copious amount of mud.
What's missing [from the public posturing of the neocons and the right] -- intentionally, I think -- is any acknowledgement of how we got from a place where Le Monde could declare Nous sommes tous Américains, to a place where being seen as a U.S. ally has become a serious political health risk across most of Europe.
From day one of the war against Al Qaeda, the Bush administration has treated "old" Europe with a barely (if that) disguised contempt. It refused to give NATO a meaningful role in the war in Afghanistan -- even though such support was offered immediately, and unconditionally, in the aftermath of 9/11. Following the the fall of Kabul, it resisted efforts to expand and internationalize the peacekeeping force, and gave only tepid support to European efforts to strengthen the Karzai government, at the expense of the regional warlords with whom the Pentagon prefers to do business.
Then came the administration's decision to invade Iraq, taken with out any consultation with the Europeans whatsoever -- even though they had significant economic and strategic interests in Iraq (just as America does in the Saudi theocratic police state) and were far more exposed to the potential fallout (oil shocks, refugees, etc.) than the United States.
Then came Bush's imperative demands to the U.N. Security Council, and his absolute refusal to compromise -- even slightly -- on his timetable for the invasion, despite strong hints from the French and the Germans that they would be willing to vote for a war resolution if the administration would just give the U.N. inspectors a little more time in country, if only for appearances sake.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski put it in an interview with CNN shortly before the invasion:
We have in effect said to them, "Line up." We have treated them as if they were the Warsaw Pact. The United States issued orders, and they have to follow.
Then came the war, the inexplicable incompetence of the occupation, and Donald Rumsfeld's scramble to assemble his multinational (read: Eastern European) division, which generated a lot of unnecessary and unwelcome tension between old and new Europe -- at a time when both sides were trying to negotiate the tricky business of expanding the European Union.
Then came the Bush administration's repeated refusal to accept a U.N. resolution that would have diluted absolute U.S. control over Iraq -- until it became clear to everybody that the U.S. had very little control over anything in Iraq, at which point the administration came back demanding both a U.N. resolution (on its terms) and some hefty euro donations for Iraq's reconstruction.
Then came the fiasco of the U.N. bombing in Baghdad, the Najaf bombing, the Italian barracks bombing, followed by the utter futility of Operation Claws and Teeth (complete with Israeli-style home demolitions) -- until it was abundently clear to every sentient creature on the planet, and even some Americans, that the war in Iraq had turned into a full-fledged quagmire.
Did the administration fundamentally change its approach? Did it seek a reconciliation with the French and the Germans? Did it make it easier, politically, for Chirac and Shroeder to buck their own voters and step down into the Iraqi mud? No. Instead it sent the Jim Baker -- asshole king of the universe -- over to haggle some more money out of them.
And all this time, the conservative claque back home has kept up its steady drumbeat of hatred and childish insults -- as if the Europeans could be taunted into ignoring their own national interests and enlisting as buck privates in Shrub's Middle Eastern crusade.
And of course, now that the bottom has fallen out of the Coalition of the Willing, now that the Spanish electorate has finally risen up and said, "we want out of this clown posse," now that the rest of Bush's "new" Europe allies are scurrying for cover, the conservatives are cranking up the invective, in hopes it will drown out any hard questions about how this fiasco came to pass.
For the meat of his argument, the parallel between Bush's actions and Wilhelm's, read the rest here.
[W]hat was so weird about it was how professional it seemed until I finally sat down with Miller. It was set up long in advance by the book’s publicists. The car came on time. In my dressing room, which was pretty elaborate as such things go, I met with a series of staff members who informed me that Dennis would be wanting to discuss topics such as George Soros and the funding of 527s; whether Bush was exploiting the 9/11 families, and I forget what else, just like a real talk show. Then I go out there and what? I’m talking to a stoned teenager, who can’t be bothered to say more than, “Whoh, man, you are so totally screwed up. Like, you really believe that stuff, dude?” I paraphrase, but really, Dennis did not say much more than that. Everyone on staff was extremely apologetic afterward and the word “unprofessional” was used over and over.
I try to avoid most of these guys, though I’ve been on O’Reilly, and Scarborough and Michael Medved’s silly radio program a couple of times but never have I encountered a guy who could not be bothered to make his own case on his own show. Really, what can CNBC be thinking with this guy? His ratings are not just in the toilet they have traveled all the way to the septic tank. And as we all know, they need to pay audience members to show up. It has got to cost more than the Phil Donahue show to produce, given the size of the audience and the set and that was yanked even though it was then the highest rated show on MSNBC.
I have to tell you, if reading John McPhee's The Curve of Binding Energy in 1973 when it was first published was scary, how much more so today? Reading physicist Ted Taylor's speculations on how easily a small (500 lb.) 1 kiloton fission bomb could be whipped up in someone's basement is enough to give you nightmares in post-9/11 America (especially if it's your bedtime reading, as it has been for me in the last week or so), and the fact that one benchmark for his estimations was how powerful a bomb would need to be to take out the World Trade Center (perhaps as little as a tenth of a kiloton) is extremely eerie. According to Taylor, even a "fizzle yield" from a poorly constructed bomb would do considerable damage from radiation.
Compound that with McPhee's reportage on how easily weapons-grade uranium and plutonium might be obtained by pilferage or hijacking, combine it with Senator Schumer's concerns about our lax port security, and it should be enough to raise the spector of an atomic explosion in the harbor of any major American seaport at any time.
"Unsettling" hardly covers it.
Perhaps things have changed, and there are better and stricter safeguards in place now, 30 years after McPhee wrote the book, but given the lack of attention by the Bush administration to practical solutions that aren't driven by ideology or corruption, I'd tend to think that it they weren't in place on 9/10/01, they aren't in place now.
An e-mail friend of mine, a scientist at a national laboratory (not one of the weapons labs), reports that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many scientists and engineers answered the government's call for fresh solution to the many vexing difficulties inherent in overcoming the threat of terrorism, but that even now, 2 1/2 years later, they still wait for any concrete action to adopt their ideas.
So far as we know, everybody in the world who has tried to make a nuclear explosion has succeeded on the first try.
Theodore B. Taylor
Update: Judging by this NY Times article, ("U.S. Lags in Recovering Fuel Suitable for Nuclear Arms") things haven't gotten much better.
Am I mistaken, or was there a time when the Secretary of State attended to things like the relationships between the United States and other countries, and wasn't simply a political shill for the administration? That did happen, didn't it? No evil scientist implanted those memories in my brain to deceive me, right?
Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the fray over the weekend.
"I don't know what foreign leaders Senator Kerry is talking about," he told "Fox News Sunday."
"It's an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about."
I also recall a time when Colin Powell was widely respected, and probably could have won the Presidency in a walkover if he had wanted it.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
(This is your brain. This is your brain on neo-con ideology.)
The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will - prisoners - develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.
Maybe it's not too late. Maybe there's still a possibility that we can deprogram Powell and restore his mind before it's all turned into mint jelly. Our only chance will be to throw out the Bush/Cheney regime and immediately whisk Powell away to a remote and isolated farm somewhere in middle America where our experts can do their best to rescue this once-proud man.
FREE COLIN POWELL!!
Postscript: A number of bloggers have pointed out the irony that Powell piled on to the Bush administration dissing of Kerry for not specifying which foreign leaders he was referrring to, but just about a year ago he himself was unwilling to specify some of the countries which were members of the "coalition of the willing" which invaded Iraq.
A coalition is always a coalition of the willing. And this particular coalition of the willing now has 47 nations; 47 nations are openly members of the coalition, and have asked to be identified with this effort. And there are many other nations that for a variety of reasons don't want to be publicly identified, but are also a part of the coalition of the willing.
So, apparently, Powell really does understand that some information is said in confidence and cannot be specifically revealed for any number of reasons -- but, of course, if he didn't understand that, he couldn't function effectively as the Secretary of State, could he?
But here's my question -- why is it that when Powell was "joining in the fray" none of our nation's crack political reporters confronted him with that obvious bit of contradiction and hypocrisy?
There's absolutely no sign that the economy is planning on getting better any time soon, so Bush is not going to be running very much on that record. Instead, he's clearly going to be the "War President", that's how he's positioning himself.
In any other year, with your typical Democratic candidate whose national security credentials can be cartooned as somewhat suspect, such a move would be difficult if not impossible to counter, but this year, with a candidate who is a decorated veteran, we have the opportunity to successfully undermine that branding, by actively taking up the defense issue and hitting back hard.
And even more than that, really. In actuality, Kerry would be best advised to run as far to Bush's right on defense as it's possible for him to do with a clear conscience. Obviously, that doesn't mean that Kerry should go around announcing his plan to invade every country on the face of the earth, nor does it mean that he has to buy into the "Bush Doctrine" of preventitive war (which is not the same things as pre-emptive war -- every nation on earth has the right under the U.N. charter to move pre-emptively against an imminent enemy attack, no doctrine requires that any nation has to sit still and wait to be invaded before it does anything to protect itself), but it does mean that Kerry should be announcing a strong, active program of policies designed to protect us from terrorism and other threats.
He's done this to a certain extent, by announcing his plan to increase the size of the standing military, so that we don't have to rely so much on the reserves and the National Guard, as we do now, but he needs to do more, and he needs to do it soon.
And if and when he does make that move and tries to out-maneuver every anti-war liberal in America would be advised to suck it up and let it pass, and remember there's a hundred or more damn good reasons we say "Anybody But Bush Again." In the circumstances were in, frankly, almost anything that will serve to stop Bush from returning to the White House is legitimate and necessary, in my opinion. Morality should be maintained and ethical standards upheld, but anything else is fair game.
This time around, I'd rather win than be right, because winning and dumping Bush would be the rightest thing of all.
Update: On re-reading this, I see that I failed to make an important point, that this is to a large extent a battle waged on rhetoric grounds. Bush's policies and actions are objectively weak against terrorism, but he's been somewhat effectively branded as strong because that's how he presents himself. Kerry needs to undercut this position by branding himself as stronger and more effective against terrorism than Bush, and he can do this without compromising his beliefs.
For better or worse, we have John Kerry, decorated Vietnam veteran as our candidate, not Howard Dean or John Edwards, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity that presents to overwhelm Bush from behind.
Update: Jeff Alworth weighs in on this subject on The American Street:
To win the presidency, Kerry may not have to get a majority of Americans thinking he's better on terror than Bush, but he's going to have to close the gap. From where I sit, he's got three choices. He can follow the Bush prescription and try to out-scare the public; he can make logical arguments about the actual state of security in America and point out Bush's failures therein; or he can offer specific plans that will convince voters that his alternative terrorism plan is adequate.
The first two choices are losers. He can't play the fear game because he won't convert the truly terrified, and everyone else will see it as desperate. So far, he's pursued the second course -- seemingly baffled by the fact that a lying president who hasn't done much on the terrorism front is whooping him. But this one's a loser, too. People are scared, and fear is irrational; he can't provide logic and hope to combat it.
That leaves the third option, which is his only real hope. The good news is that he has a plan. The bad news is that no one knows what it is.
Focusing on what he will do--and what Americans can do--is the only shot he's got. I don't think he'll ever fully overcome the Bush advantage here, but he doesn't need to. The war on terror is Bush's only winning issue; if Kerry can cut into it significantly, issues like jobs and the economy will decide the election.[Links in original -- Ed]
Bush is running perhaps the most partisan and ideological White House in the modern era. His party's longstanding fondness for tax cuts has evolved into a pathological need to reduce every remaining burden on the wealthy. But the longer I watch this White House, the more convinced I become that ideology is just a convenient rationalization for why the president's agenda isn't working. The real reason is darker and more disturbing: The Bush White House is so obsessed with the politics of its agenda that it never even asks whether it will work.
He boils down the problem to the ultimate Washington dichotomoy -- political hacks and policy wonks -- and the fact that the hacks of the Bush administration have declared war on wonks, making decisions almost entirely based on political reasoning, without regard to whether they make sense from a policy standpoint.
(This very fact, confirmed by Paul O'Neill and John DiIulio in their descriptions of the inner workings of the Bush administration, is why Bush is vulnerable to the incompetency gambit. Old-line Democrats are wary of the argument because it was used by the Dukakis campaign and clearly that didn't work out so well, but the glory of the incompetence charge is that it can make sense out of a vast confusion.
Take Iraq, for instance: Reasonably intelligent and persuasive arguments can be made for why an invasion might have been a good idea as well as for it being a totally bad idea, and people on both sides of the political spectrum can conceivably adopt either argument -- in somewhat different forms, to be sure. But there's no doubt about the question of whether the totality of the Iraq operation has been handled well or not by the administration, and every day that passes in Iraq simply brings more and more evidence that, regardless of whether going in was a good idea or not, the thing has not been done well.
The bottom line is, they've fucked up, and it's to our advantage to keep pointing it out. That's what the incompetency argument is all about.)
Reed thinks that there's hope, and I agree:
The American people are a lot smarter than either the hacks or the wonks give them credit for. For all the talk in both parties about the urgent need to win one constituency or another, most Americans apply the same political yardstick: They vote for what works. There aren't enough hacks, even in Washington, to sell a policy that doesn't. [Emphasis added -- Ed]
Postscript: Go and take a look at the article if only for Reed's description of the differences between hacks and wonks, which is pretty funny.
Incidentally, Kevin Drum is now blogging for Washington Monthly, under the title Political Animal.
Steve Gilliard seems to be getting back to his previous form, for which we can all be thankful. Here an observation about the veepstake:
If anyone has noticed, Rove is trying to portray the Dems as angry and bitter and Bush as an optimist. Which must make John Edwards gleeful. Because it ensures his VP bid. You're going to need a happy warrior on the trail and he's it. The fact that he looks like Bobby Kennedy doesn't hurt. But Edwards is an upbeat man and his campaigning style will work well with Kerry's more dour, intellectual style.
I've made exactly this point before, so of course I agree with it.
In this circumstance, Kerry cannot afford to entirely devolve onto his running mate the chore of being the heavy and striking back when Bush attacks. He must show that he is strong and not willing to be Rove's punching bag, and this is exactly how he's running things right now, being aggresive in responding to every move Bush makes. A certain amount of responding can be done by surrogates, but not a lot.
But that means that Kerry will have less time to present the ticket's positive plan for the country, and that slack will have to be taken up by the running mate. Edwards is certainly not the only person who can do that, but he's the only one who's as well known at the moment for presenting just that kind of vision. He fills the bill.
(It also occurs to me that if it's going to be Edwards, Kerry doesn't have a lot of time to announce him if he wants to get maximum advantage of the benefits that Edwards brings. Already, memories of why the media loved Edwards so much are starting to fade, so he has to be brought onboard pretty soon. Two weeks ago I thought that Kerry had a month to six weeks, but now I think perhaps the former rather than the latter.
Not only will they be able to capitalize on Edwards' status as the media's fair-haired boy, but it will enable the campaign to start being positive in a big way just when the Bush attack/Kerry respond, Kerry attack/Bush ignore routine is going to be getting pretty stale for a lot of people. We're already getting media reports concentrating on how negative the campaign is -- ignoring the fact that the way the media plays things is a big reason why negativity works -- and that will start to trickle down to people's consciousnesses soon.)
Update (3/17):Kos reports that the Bush/Rove post-Madrid smear campaign is getting some traction, and prescribes that Kerry needs to go on the attack again.
I think that's true enough, and the Kerry campaign has been somewhat missing in action in not commenting on Madrid, but what Kerry also needs to do is to change the subject a bit. He should announce very soon (like this week or next) that he's close to picking his veep. This will get the media talking about who it will be and decrease the amount of airtime given to Bush's silly smears.
Then, in my opinion, he should announce Edwards as the running mate, and we'll get a week to 10 days out of that, maybe more. Certainly it'll dominate the coverage.
As far as I have been able to determine, these 19 states are the battleground:
(This Washington Post article has only 18 states. I included Colorado here as one of the 8 states the Democrats lost by the closest margin.)
Take a good look at them. If you don't live there, you're probably not going to be seeing a lot of Bush or Kerry events being staged in your area and you probably won't see the big ad campaigns. Your state is probably considered "safe" for one guy or the other, and neither one is going to waste a lot of money, time or effort trying to get your vote.
(Except, of course, with $200 million to play around with, maybe Bush will think that he can afford to extend the parameters somewhat and do some advertising, and maybe even some campaigning, in states that are nominally Democratic but in which the winning margins in 2000 and 2002 were in the intermediate range -- not as solid as the "safe" states, but not as borderline as the "swing" states. Doing so might force Kerry to campaign in places he otherwise wouldn't, thereby spending less time and money elsewhere. If Bush wants to throw away his money like that, it's OK by me, as long as Kerry ignores the threat, allows surrogates to represent him in those states, and keeps on with the main thrust of the campaign.)
If you do live in these states, things might get a little crazy before the end.
Postscript: In his analysis on The American Street, Kevin Hayden lists 20 swing states: all of the above except Maine, with the addition of Virginia and Louisiana. Being as inclusive as possible, that gives us 21 "battleground" states.
A friend brought this 3/14 report, from the "Mehr News Agency" -- an Iranian news source -- to my attention:
Over the past few days, in the wake of the bombings in Karbala and the ideological disputes that delayed the signing of Iraq's interim constitution, there have been reports that U.S. forces have unloaded a large cargo of parts for constructing long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the southern ports of Iraq.
A reliable source from the Iraqi Governing Council, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Mehr News Agency that U.S. forces, with the help of British forces stationed in southern Iraq, had made extensive efforts to conceal their actions.
He added that the cargo was unloaded during the night as attention was still focused on the aftermath of the deadly bombings in Karbala and the signing of Iraq's interim constitution.
The source said that in order to avoid suspicion, ordinary cargo ships were used to download the cargo, which consisted of weapons produced in the 1980s and 1990s.
He mentioned the fact that the United States had facilitated Iraq's WMD program during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq and said that some of the weapons being downloaded are similar to those weapons, although international inspectors had announced Saddam Hussein's Baath regime had destroyed all its WMD.
The source went on to say that the rest of the weapons were probably transferred in vans to an unknown location somewhere in the vicinity of Basra overnight.
Most of these weapons are of Eastern European origin and some parts are from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. The U.S. obtained them through confiscations during sales of banned arms over the past two decades, he said.
This action comes as certain U.S. and Western officials have been pointing out the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered in Iraq and the issue of Saddam's trial begins to take center stage.
Now, there's no particular reason to put much credence in this particular news source, but there's also no harm in keeping an eye out to see if any other evidence of this pops up elsewhere. Obviously, the concern is over a possible "October Surprise" in which WMDs are suddenly discovered in Iraq. (We also have Rumsfeld's recent comments to arouse our suspicions.)
Unlike the "capturing Osama bin Laden" October Surprise scenario -- which I think is moot because there's good circumstantial evidence that OBL is dead -- this is the kind of thing that Bush might well be tempted to pull, and against which the Democrats had better be prepared. But I have to wonder how effective such a gambit on Rove's part would really be.
Consider that Bush was the recipient of a very large bump in his approval ratings right after 9/11, but it eventually died down over the course of a year and a quarter. Then he bumped up again, but not nearly so far, after launching the Iraq war, but that increase starting falling off almost immediately, and at a far faster rate. (See graphs here and here.) What about Bush's bump on the capture of Saddam? There was one, but it was small, and dissipated very quickly.
What, then, would be the bump Bush would receive from a "discovery" of WMDs in Iraq? The pattern would indicate that it would be quite small and last only a very short time.
Which creates a dilemma for Bush -- or, rather, for Rove. There's no point in going through the bother (and risk) of staging an October Surprise if it doesn't serve to win you the election, but if the expected bump is small and ephemeral, it means you have to make it happen as close to the election as possible, but the closer you get to the election, the more that people are going to suspect that it's a fake, because the timing is just too damn convenient.
And there's another thing, which relates to the probable reason why Bush didn't get a real significant bump from the capture of Saddam. Finding WMDs in Iraq doesn't do anything except provide an apparent justification for the invasion of Iraq, but Bush has already received his cheers for that, in the approval spike he got at the time, and after the "Mission Accomplished" flattop landing fiasco (which is the little bump in May of 2003). He can't keep going to the well again and again and expect the result to be significant each time he does, all he'll get is diminishing returns. It's a definite case of "What have you done for me lately".
Altogether, I think that adds up to a "discovering WMDs" October Surprise scenario being a big bust for Georgie and Karl. The Democrats should certainly be investigating any evidence that it's being planned, but I don't think they, or we, should fear it all that much.
In a piece in The Gadflyer analyzing why Bush's attacks on Kerry's defense credentials won't work, Paul Waldman points out that Kerry is not shy about bringing up the subject of Vietnam:
If you ask George W. Bush what his favorite food is, he'll say, "In the wake of September 11, I enjoy a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich." Asked the same question, Kerry's response will be, "One thing I learned in Vietnam was how tasty lobster is."
And there you have a major reason why, for all his drawbacks as a candidate, Kerry is well-positioned to take on Bush.
Progressives had a lot of reasons to be disappointed with Bill Clinton, not least of which was all the ammunition he gave his enemies. But one thing for which Clinton should be celebrated is that he never stopped fighting. They threw everything in the world at him, up to and including impeachment, and he never for a moment did he stop looking for ways to hit back or consider giving up. And because he never stopped fighting, he beat them nine times out of ten. It's a lesson progressives need to learn.
A famous quip defines a liberal as someone who won't take his own side in an argument. But history is full of tough progressives, people who even when they worked for peace, justice, and other ideas that some on the right deride as fuzzy-headed, did so with strength and courage. Martin Luther King was a tough progressive. Mother Jones was a tough progressive. So was Robert Kennedy, and Paul Wellstone. Their heirs are ready and waiting to fight.
Laying the foundation for future victories will require money, energy, thought and patience. But if they want to help make our nation a truer reflection of the noble ideals on which it was founded, progressives will have to strap on the chain mail, jump on their horses, and ride into battle. If they do it right, the first years of the 21st century may be remembered as the end of the age of the wimpy liberal ? and the beginning of the age of the progressive warrior.
The key is building (and rebuilding) a liberal infrastructure to counter the work that the post-Goldwater infrastructure of the right does so well. In my opinion, one of the first steps might be to liberate academia from the nefarious influence of post-modernist thought. (I'm not referring here to postmodernism as a style or method of artistic investigation, but to profoundly anti-scientific modes of thought which have raised relativism to a fetish, and some of which deny the very possibility of the existence of a physical reality which can be investigated and understood.)
Update: I did a little rewriting of the hastily penned final paragraph to make my point a little clearer (I hope).
I haven't been moved to post lately, for a variety of reasons, but here are a few quickies anyway:
I know that it's perilous to judge the actions and thought-processes of terrorists by normal standards (and it's still uncertain whether ETA or al-Qaida was reponsible for the Madrid bombings), but I can't help but think that if al-Qaida was responsible, it makes a possibility of a near-term event here in the U.S. less probable and not more.
What happened immediately after the bombing? We stepped up security all over the place, making it even harder to carry off an attack here. What will happen if we believe it was al-Qaida and not ETA? Security will get even tighter. What's the best way for al-Qaida (or whoever) to disrupt our lives as much as possible with the lowest possible cost? Announce that they're coming, that they're just about ready to hit us again.
To my mind, the very fact that they said that is a good indication that they can't do it.
Reading an article about Iran in the New York Review of Books recently, I came across a reference to the Bush administration's "distaste for Iran's theocracy." If so, then it's only because it's a non-Christian theocracy, because they continually support measures which move us towards a Christian theocracy back home.
The Department of Homeland Security has been in existence for over a year now, and the name hasn't grown any more on me in that time -- it's still as redolent of Nazi Germany now as it was then. Unfortunately, I think the problem is that it should be called the Department of Defense, which describes its function fairly accurately - only I believe that the name's been taken. Maybe they can drop the Orwellian b.s. and re-name the DOD the Department of War and free up the name.
And while we're on the subject, it's always bothered me that there are so many departments in the Federal government that the resulting Cabinet is so large it cannot be an effective body of advisors for the Executive. Does anyone really think that the Secretary of Transportation, for instance, or the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs are in any way equal to the Secretaries of State or Defense?
What I'd like to see (and I fully admit this an impractical suggestion) is a Cabinet of six people at most, each responsible for groups of departments. I don't know what names they would be called, but one super-department head would be responsible for external affairs (State, Defense, some aspects of Commerce), one for internal affairs (Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, EPA), one for monetary affairs (Treasury, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Transportation), one for the well-being of the citizenry (Housing and Urban Development, Human Services, Education, Veteran's Affairs), and one for matters of Science (Energy, Health).
OK, on writing it all out, it doesn't make much sense after all, it's just a manifestation of my desire for tidiness.
Writing in the New York Review about a month ago (before Clark, Dean and Edwards dropped out), Elizabeth Drew has an evaluation of the effects of the front-loaded primary schedule which is not at all positive, just about the opposite of Kevin Drum's.
Not only have most of the candidates, abetted by the press and television, misrepresented themselves and their records, but much about the process of choosing the next nominee of the Democratic Party has gone seriously wrong, largely owing to mismanagement on the part of the Democratic National Committee and the treatment of the candidates by the press.
The idea behind bunching up the primaries within a few months, the brainchild of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, was that the Democrats should select a candidate as quickly as possible, giving the nominee more time to raise the enormous amounts of money needed to respond to the heavily funded Republican advertising campaigns that have already begun. But what if the primary voters haven't had enough time to learn about the candidate they select? What if there could have been a better decision? Even with more time the Democrats have in the past made some weak and even preposterous choices of nominees, as they did with Michael Dukakis in 1988. The nominee could possibly govern us for the next four or eight years. In view of what's at stake, why should it be so important to complete the process so early?why not take two or three more months?
Under the new, compressed calendar, the nomination battle whooshes from state to state without giving the voters much time to reflect on the candidates and to take account of what has happened in the most recent contest, or contests. Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, has found that Kerry's Iowa victory gave him an additional twenty to thirty percentage points virtually overnight in New Hampshire and several other states. The pollster John Zogby has said, "This year's front-loaded primary schedule appears to have worked well in favor of the front-runner?as it apparently was intended to." In previous nomination fights, a two-week gap occurred between Iowa and New Hampshire (this year there was just one), and that gave the voters some time to distance themselves from the hyperbolic television coverage and consider what they'd heard. Citizens in seven states voted on February 3, requiring a frenetic dash from state to state that left the candidates as dizzy as the voters. This is no way to pick a possible president.
It's worth reading, even though I get the distinct impression that Drew's take is somewhat based on her dislike of Kerry as a candidate -- she seems to have favored Clark.
Pushing nationally unknown politicians like Tom Vilsack as Kerry's best choice for v.p. is, I'm afraid, an example of a tired solution of a kind of politics that just isn't very relevant anymore. I'm not saying that counting votes in the Electoral College isn't important, obviously it remains vitally important, I'm just saying that picking a regional somebody who's a national nobody because he can "deliver" one state or help with others or pander to one specific interest or another is just not the optimum strategy in 21st century media-saturated America.
Like it or not, John Edwards is the closest thing that the Democratic party has to a superstar. In normal circumstances saving him for the next go-round would be a reasonable thing, in normal circumstances no one would blame Kerry for not taking the chance of being upstaged by his running mate, in normal circumstances not fielding the absolutely best team possible wouldn't make much difference as long as the head of the ticket was good enough.
It's not normal circumstances, and Kerry, while good, is not good enough to guarantee a win. He needs Edwards, not someone about whom people are going to say "Who the heck is that?"
Jules Henry Poincare wrote:
Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is not more a science than a heap of stones is a house.
Having a multiplicity of facts at your command is a good thing (certainly better than having a multiplicity of errors available), but facts are worthless if the framework you use to evaluate them isn't in accord with reality, especially if it's warped by dogmatic considerations generated by ideology. When that happens, you can have access to all the facts in the world, and the conclusions you come to are going to be suspect, and will ultimately prove to be incorrect.
Which is to say that the world, especially the social world created by man, is complex enough that a good theory which organizes the facts is more important than the facts themselves. Bad theory -- garbage in, garbage out.
I like this quote:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
I would love a definite citation of where it came from if anyone has it.
Interestingly, in Googling it I came across someone who cited it in skepticism of global warming!! I guess it all depends on what you mean by "absurdities." If you define them before the fact by ideological prediposition, that's not so good. My preference is to define what is absurd by an absence of supporting facts.
I don't know if they run them in other cities, but here in Manhattan, the AIDS research organization AMFAR runs ads on the sides of city buses which say
1 in 250 Americans is HIV positive.
1 in 500 knows it
These ads bother me, because of their lack of clarity I don't understand exactly what they're saying. Do they mean that only 1 in 500 of the Americans who are HIV positive know about it? Or do they mean that 1 in 500 of all Americans know that they are HIV positive? If the former, that's really difficult to believe. If the latter, then it would be much stronger to say
1 in 250 Americans is HIV positive.
Only half of them know it.
On C-SPAN I watched a bit of a symposium (which took place on the 8th) organized by True Majority which featured Joe Conason, David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, all authors of anti-Bush books. It was great to hear what they had to say and to listen to the applause of the audience. I especially liked when Green described Bush as the "flat earth president", comparing him to someone in the 15th century whose beliefs don't allow them to accept the evidence that the earth is a sphere. He also pointed out that by squandering the trust other nations had in us (what trust they had to begin with) by crying wolf over Iraq, Bush has actually put us in more danger than when we started out. I think that's true.
Finally, and most trivially, I've been in several cities in which an attempt has been made to duplicate the experience of the New York hot dog bought from a street vendor, and it's never quite the same. The problem is that they expend too much effort on the hot dog -- big, highest quality, all beef, etc -- and not enough on the condiments. The New York hot dog itself is nothing particulary to rave about in its naked form (although my almost-5 year old son loves them that way), but it is an excellent carrier for the yummy stuff you put on it. (In my case, that's mustard, onions and relish.) You can't eat that stuff by the spoonful, it has to go on something, which is the entire purpose and function of the hot dog and the bun.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.