Saturday, May 15, 2004

Ad placement

I can't be certain, and Googling didn't turn up any evidence one way or the other, but it seems to me that the TV advertisement I've seen recently for the New Jersey Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (which features a car pulling the dead weight of people who are living it up after filing fraudulent claims) was filmed in New York, on the east side of the Hudson somewhere across from Bear Mountain.

At least, that's what it looks like when watching the ad, from the view behind the action.

There's no scandal, of course, and nothing particularly wrong with not filming the ad in New Jersey (if that's what happened), but it does seem odd (if it happened) that New Jersey didn't insist that it be filmed in-state.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/15/2004 10:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, May 14, 2004

The path better not taken

Just a reminder to all you folks who support the idea that we should pull out of Iraq immediately, if not sooner: remember what happened the last time we withdrew our support from a failed state in the region? (Hint: think Afghanistan, the Taliban, al Qaida and 9/11).

There's no one on this side of the aisle who isn't going to agree that Iraq is a complete and utter mess, that Bush has fucked up the entire thing and put us into a terrible and untenable situation, that the administration is dealing fast and loose with the lives of our sons and daughters, but it's got to be remembered (by us as least, since Bush & Company don't understand it at all) that our actions have consequences, and some of those consequences can end up being very harmful to us.

"Blowback" begin comes in all shapes and sizes, and I shudder to think of what can go on in an Iraq embroiled in a bloody civil war among different flavors of Islamists.

Instead of thinking pullout, we should be think regime change in the USA. Only then is there the least possibility of changing the dynamic in Iraq -- and even then it's going to be extremely difficult.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/14/2004 10:11:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Crunch time

This weekend's rather crunchy for me, with a performance as part of the Dance Sampler at Symphony Space on Saturday, a day of rehearsals on Sunday for the MTC Spring Gala, then a performance of Art, Life and Show Biz on Sunday night, followed by another day of rehearsals and the gala itself on Monday. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the only day available for laundry, errands and grocery shopping for the week, so I've got to cram all that in along with catching up on sleep. (Fourteen or fifteen hours should do it.)

Things ease up on Tuesday, so I should be back and posting then.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/14/2004 09:39:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A screed

I got a post card in the mail today, from the U.S. Postal Service, asking me if I had filled out and returned the survey they had sent me a few days ago about the quality of postal service in my area. As it happens, I had received the survey, and was about to fill it out (doing my civic duty) when I noticed that there was no return envelope enclosed. The Postal Service had sent me a survey to fill out, asking for my help in improving their service, and they expected me to pay the cost of mailing it to the company that was doing the survey.

So I threw it away.

But before one starts to rag on governmental (or quasi-governmental) inefficiency, let me also note that after my cable TV provider, Time-Warner, told me that I needed to swap out my converter box for another because after the 18th they were converting to a digital signal and without a new box I would no longer receive some of the channels I pay for, I spent over an hour cooling my heels at the local Time-Warner office. About 45 minutes of that was spent waiting (when I walked in, I received #353, and #328 was being served at the time). So inefficiency seems to be more about the nature of monopolies (or quasi-monopolies) than it is about government vs. private enterprise.

Of course, that's not the end of the Time-Warner story. My cable box was a "watch-and-record" box, which meant I could watch one channel while recording another (it's actually two boxes joined together), but they don't offer that service in a digital box, so in order to keep all the channels I was getting and the functionality I was used to, I had to get a box with a built-in DVR (digital video recorder, similar to a TiVo), which would, of course, cost more money, an additional $10 a month. I'd get some additional channels as well, said the customer service person. "But I don't want any additional channels, all I want is exactly what I have now," I responded (in a tone that was considerably less controlled as the conversation went on). But they don't offer that, I was told. "So," I said, "in effect you are raising my rates." Well, yes, she finally agreed.

But it didn't end there. After getting the box set up, I found there was no online guide. My old analog box had an online guide, and I'd gotten quite used to using it. And the DVR is very much less functional without the guide, which is used to mark programs to be recorded. Another call to Time-Warner today, and I found that it would cost another $10 a month to get the online guide plus the additional digital channels which I apparently wasn't supposed to be getting, but which I was getting. (I could have opted for a $3 a month guide, but turning it on would probably have turned off the digital channels that were supposedly coming in on a, ha-ha, "stray signal.")

The upshot of all this is that to get the exact same service I had been getting, and the same functionality, I had to pay $$156 to $240 a year more than what I had been paying. That may not seem like a lot to most people, but we count our pennies in this household, to the extent that I'm still using a dial-up service because I really can't afford or justify the additional expense of high speed. A couple of hundred dollars makes a big difference to us, which is the reason that tomorrow I plan to put in a call to the New York State Public Service Commission and complain abotu Time-Warner's bait-and-switch techniques and their hidden rate increases.

I don't plan to do anything about the Postal Service.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/12/2004 11:44:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Blogs, the nature and value of

Three bloggers have interesting takes on blogging, what it is and what it means.

First, Political Animal Kevin Drum details the merits of blogging in a "very bloglike bullet list" which I'll reproduce rather than attempt to synopsize:

  • The first person style of blog posts often allows bloggers to do a better job of explaining complex subjects than the odd, almost Victorian style of newspaper and TV writing. Blogs can simply say, straight out, "here are the three main points and here's how they affect the argument at hand." Newspaper articles, by contrast, are often so laden down by superflous quotes and faux objectivity that by the time you're finished you're still confused about what's really going on.

  • Blogs can aggregrate information from a lot of different sources. The conventions of mainstream journalism don't really allow this. A Washington Post story, for example, might mention a single outside news source that's broken a story or has a unique fact, but that's about it. Blogs, by contrast, can collect half a dozen points from half a dozen different sources and quote them directly. There's no institutional loyalty to defend.

  • Blog posts can be any length. If a thought only deserves a couple of sentences, that's what it gets. If it deserves a thousand words, it can get that too. When was the last time you saw a 200-word op-ed or a 20-minute segment on the evening news?

  • Bloggers don't have sources. That means there's very little original reporting in blogs, but it also means bloggers don't have to worry about either protecting sources or protecting access to sources. That makes a difference in how openly they can criticize newsmakers.

  • Blogs don't have to maintain the same standards as mainstream journalists. They can toss out ideas and rumors in a way that's genuinely valuable but hard to do in the mainstream media. I think this quality is essential to blogs, and it's one of the reasons I suspect that mainstream journalists will never truly become bloggers. Newspapers legitimately have high standards for what they're willing to report, and these high standards simply don't fit in with the anything-goes atmosphere of the blogosphere.

  • Blogs allow unapologetic passion. Even on the op-ed page, convention dictates a sober, clinical style that makes it hard for writers to really say what they mean and for readers to figure out what axe the author has to grind. With blogs you're never in doubt about the author's point of view.

  • Blogs can obsess over a single topic in a way that's hard for newspapers. This is sometimes a great weakness, of course, but it can also be a great strength at times.

  • I happen to dislike the typographical constraints of newspapers. Blogs, by contrast, can use bullets, blockquotes, and hyperlinks in ways that genuinely aid in making complex information more accessible.

  • Finally, blogging is a two-way street. Blogs respond to each other and commenters respond to blogs. Blogs are a great way to get a quick read on what topics are really raising the blood pressure among that small group of people who really care passionately about politics.

Then Chris Bowers, of the Swing State Project and MyDD speculates that blogs are a sort of "avante-garde of political and opinion journalism" with Kos and Atrios as "the Ginsberg and Kerouac of our generation."

While the corporate funded Political Opinion Complex seeks to distribute information primarily for the purpose of consumption, the primary goal of the Blogosphere is to distribute political information for the purpose of agitation / direct action. The POC only wants you to consume what it produces. The Blogosphere seeks for its consumer to act after, or even as a result of, consumption of its product. To put it another way, The Blogosphere is a counter-institutional formation that seeks to relocate the primary purpose of political and opinion journalism in agitation toward action rather than in profit-based consumption.

If that ain't Avant-Garde, then I don't know what is.

Baby, welcome to the revolution.

Finally, David Neiwert (Orcinus) offers "The Media Revolt Manifesto":

The Internet -- and in particular, blogs -- will be the cornerstone of the strategy this media revolution will follow, though of course all means are important participants. Indeed, the reforms are intended to reach every facet of American mass media: newspapers large and small, television, film, radio, books, and of course the Internet.

For that matter, blogs themselves are odd creatures in that, except for the handful who actually engage in original reporting themselves, they are almost entirely dependent on other media forms, particularly print and Internet journalism. But part of what makes them unique is that they synthesize and contain information from all these other sources.

Blogs are, above all, uniquely democratic in nature. Anyone can blog. Supposedly serious "name" journalists ultimately have no more real value in the blogosphere than pseudonymous gym teachers who reveal a knack for being in touch with the larger populace. The value of what you write about, and how well you do it, is all that finally counts.

Blogs are also uniquely self-correcting in a way that eludes most other media; if false information is disseminated, it doesn't take long before it's eviscerated by other bloggers. This function, indeed, forms the backbone of its larger role as a media watchdog; just as blogs will "out" bad blogging, they also have been shown to expose false reporting, as well as malicious behavior on the part of both politicians and the press that might otherwise be buried in the "mainstream."

Because the blogosphere is still more or less in its infancy, it remains somewhat indistinct in shape, though a larger architecture is already beginning to emerge. There are inherent flaws, not the least of which is that a consistent blogger ethos seems not to have emerged fully but has remained formative; at some point, a sense of journalistic ethics ought to take root in the name of establishing credibility.

Nonetheless, blogs can and should play the role of central clearing-house for information in the Media Revolt. As the general public realizes that blogs can provide them with vital information they're not getting anywhere else, the audience will build. This includes the whole gamut of information: the factual news about the world, as well as reports on who's misbehaving or committing political atrocities or simply being incompetent; analysis of this information that would be suppressed in mainstream reports; information about planned actions to protest misbehavior; and action and funds needed to enact the needed legislative and structural reforms.

Blogs, in other words, can and should play the role abdicated by the mainstream media both in monitoring their own behavior and ethics, and in providing enough diversity that a wealth of viewpoints are given fair treatment, as in any healthy democratic society, and the public properly served.

Blogs will not and cannot do the job alone, of course. The whole purpose of the revolt is to foster an environment in which mainstream journalists, from the lowly ink-stained wretch to the well-coiffed network anchor, are both allowed and positively encouraged to provide truthful and meaningful journalism that provides vital information to the public and does it responsibly and thoroughly. So that will mean recognizing and positively celebrating when superior journalism does its job well; such reporters and truth-tellers should be lauded, promoted, and in the end well remunerated for their work. It will mean channeling the marketplace to reward organizations that do their job well, too.

Finally, the Media Revolt will tap the energy of the citizenry through traditional means as well: Letter-writing campaigns, voting with our pocketbooks, organizing politics and funds on the ground -- without which, in fact, anything that occurs on the Web may prove meaningless. The idea is to turn from simply critiquing the media to taking concrete action.

I have nothing of real value to add to the thoughts these folks have shared with us, as befits someone whose primary reason for blogging was expressed well by Atrios some time ago: it beats yelling back at the TV.

While I am not entirely convinced about some of the more grandiose claims made for the value of blogs and the blogosphere in general (I'm not necessarily referring to the things Drum, Bowers and Neiwert are saying in the above entries), especially when weighed against the power of the handful of giant corporations that essentially control the mediasphere (corporations which for the most part share an agenda palpably different from and opposed to mine and that of the liberal/left bloggers I read), and I'm acutely aware of the addictiveness of blog-consumption and the time it tends to suck up (to the detriment of other activities, especially book reading -- testimony for which is the shelves full of unread books awaiting my attention), I also feel vastly more informed and connected than compared to my pre-blog days -- at least in certain areas of knowledge, particularly current political events and foreign policy.

Nothing comes without a price, of course, but overall blogging has enriched me, I think. Whether my wife and children feel that way, I don't know -- perhaps they'll need to start their own blogs to let me know.

Update: Must be a meme! Publius of Legal Fiction weighs in with some more interesting thoughts about the role of blogs in a creating a new order:

I think that the blogosphere, and the Internet more generally, has the potential to usher in something equally great; a New Renaissance, if you will. It’s similar to the old trade networks of Italy and the Middle East in that it allows ideas to be carried across the world at high speed. And like the printing press before it, the Internet allows the most innovative and revolutionary ideas to spread quickly at little cost. Hell, Howard Dean essentially created a new political party through the Internet.


The progressive blogosphere is obsessed with tearing down Republican positions, just as Lefty English majors are obsessed with tearing down (or deconstructing) religion and family structures. But, attempts to tear things down are admissions of inferiority. You tear down that which you fear, and that which you think is stronger than you. Instead of using our collective energies to destroy conservatism, progressives should construct new ideas. Imagine there’s a bar on the street that you hate, but tons of people keep going into the bar and getting drunk on the cheap, watered-down beer. Instead of standing outside and denouncing the bar, and throwing sticks at it, why not build a better bar down the street? Give people a place to go, and then you can ignore the crappy bar. One of the reasons Republicans have been so successful is that, for nearly 20 years, they’ve been cultivating an intelligentsia in think tanks and foundations. As flawed as their vision is, their collective energies have constructed a positive vision (in law, economics, foreign policy, etc.). The Left, by contrast, is vision-less.


The Left’s problem isn’t that they lack good policies. We’re right on the issues. Our problem is one of narrative and rhetoric. All we need is a new way to sell these ideas. Many people are simply scared that the Left is going to undermine what they hold most dear – God, America, and traditional family. Instead of destroying these concepts, we can use those concepts to persuade. In short, we can construct a new progressivism using these very concepts. Obviously, my ideas will need to be worked out, but we’ve got to start somewhere. And what better place than the blogosphere – the printing press of the 21st century.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/11/2004 11:24:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Geffen's Bonassus

Political scientist Daniel Geffen has an interesting blog which is worth taking a look at, The Bonassus. I've added a link to it on the right.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/11/2004 02:15:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, May 10, 2004

How it might end

Wesley Clark sees a significant possibility of a catastrope ending Bush's adventurism in Iraq:

I think there's a greater than 50/50 chance, let's say a 2:1 chance, of a catastrophic early end to this mission. [...] That means the Iraqi people will simply say, "We want the Americans out of here." You'll see a large outpouring of public animosity in Baghdad and elsewhere, a million Iraqis demonstrating in the streets of Baghdad against us. And [...] we're only going to be there and be effective if the majority of the Iraqi people want us there. That's what this mission's success hinges on.

[via Digby]

I think Gallup polled Iraqis as 57% in favor of the US getting out now, and 71% saw the US as "occupiers" instead of "liberators". And this was, I believe, before the revelations about Abu Ghraib came out.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 09:37:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Zogby: It's Kerry's to lose

Zogby prognosticates:

I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.

Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he doesn't, it will be because he blew it.

Zogby cites four reasons:

  1. Bush's re-elect [sic] numbers are bad

  2. "[T]here are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign."

  3. The economy sucks. And Iraq is a mess.

  4. Kerry's historically a good closer.

I don't quote know how to take this, given suspicions about Zogby's methodology and ideological leanings -- could this be an attempt to cast Bush as the underdog?! -- but that's what the man says, it's Kerry's to lose.

[via Cursor]

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 09:13:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Objectives achieved -- but whose?

"The Story of Little George" (see below) was from The American Street, and so is this, Kevin Hayden's summary of whose objectives have been met in Iraq.

First, Bush's objectives:

  • Remove WMDs (There were none>
  • Topple Hussein (Accomplished 1 year ago)
  • Make Iraq an example so other rogue nations will be intimidated (Enraged is more like it)
  • Bring democracy to Iraq (A puppetocracy for the foreseeable future)
  • Establish independence from UN constraints (Accomplished)
  • Protect our energy supply (Hardly)
  • Use Iraq's oil to fund a major share of the cost of the war (In your dreams)

Missing five of seven suggests we aren't getting much bang per buck for our efforts.

Now let's view Bin Laden's objectives:

  • Frighten Americans by attacking symbols of their leadership, commerce and military might. (2 of 3 targets hit.)
  • Get Americans out of the sacred land of Saudi Arabia. (Bingo.)
  • Dump the secular government of Saddam Hussein. (Is Osama lucky or what?)
  • Unite the Muslim world against the US. (The streak continues).
  • Drive the Israelis into the sea. (Finally, a strikeout).
  • Drive out the House of Saud, to control the oil spigot - and wealth - of the world

In short, 5 of 7 Bush's objectives in Iraq have failed, while Osama has won 4 of 6, and 3 of those 4 would not have been possible without the Bush Blunders that turn mainstream moderate Muslims against us.

That's quite a record.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 09:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Burka's Story of Little George

Tom Burka spins a yarn:

The Story Of Little George

When George was little, his father put him in charge of the garden in the back yard.

"Now, George, the gardeners are going to make this garden nice. All you have to do is make sure that they do a good job."

"Yes, Daddy," said George.

George had some other things to do, so he put his dog in charge of the gardeners.

When the gardeners came, they burned down the toolshed, destroyed the garden, trampled the yard, and demolished the neighbor's house.

When George's father came back, he was stunned.

"How did this happen?" he asked George.

"Dad, I cannot tell a lie," George said. "I am disgusted by what I see here today. I am as surprised as you to see this devastation. Rest assured that investigations into this disaster will begin immediately."

"Don't you have something to say to me?" said George's father.

"I told the neighbors I was deeply sorry that their house burned down," said George.

"Don't you think you better get rid of that dog?" said George's father.

"No, father, he's a good dog, and I'm going to keep him."

George put the dog in charge of the investigation.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 08:55:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Electoral vote status

I had hoped to set up something more permanent for presenting my tracking of electoral votes, but until I do (not until mid-June at the earliest, at this point), here's the status of my current estimation (270 needed to elect):

DEM 238 / GOP 227 / IN PLAY 73

The breakdown is :

DEM: IA-7, ME-4, MI-17, MN-10, NH-4, OR-7, WA-11, WI-10
(70 + 168 safe = 238)

GOP: AZ-10, AR-6, CO-9, LA-9, MO-11, NV-5, TN-11, VA-13, WV-5
(79 + 148 safe =227)

IN PLAY: FL-27, NM-5, OH-20, PA-21 (73)

(Chris Bowers, who's tracking electoral votes on the MyDD weblog, has the same results as mine, except that he has Iowa in play, so his totals are DEM 231 / GOP 227 / IN PLAY 80. On the basis of the Iowa data I have, I disagree:

Iowa (7) - was DEM by 0.31% \\ DesMoines Reg 2/11 K49-B42 moe 3.5 \\ Zogby 2/26 EV DEM \\ Ras 3/23 K51-B41 moe4.5 \\ ARG 4/21 K47-B46-N3 moe4 \\ Bowers 5/7 TOSS-UP, sliding GOP)

Clearly, there are some really BIG states still to be had. I wouldn't be at all surprised if these three states determine the election:

Pennsylvania (21) - was DEM by 4.17% \\ Franklin&MarshallColl 2/22 K47-B46 moeNONE REPprob 4.1 \\ Zogby 2/26 EV DEM \\ Cook 3/2: lean Dem \\ Ras?QPoll? 3/19 K45-B44 \\ F&MColl 3/29 K40-B46 moe4.1 \\ IssuesPA-Pew 4/25 K42-B42-N5 moe4 \\ Bowers 5/7 lean DEM, slide to GOP staved off & reversed?

Ohio (20) - was GOP by 3.51% \\ Zogby 2/26 EV in play \\ Ras 3/19 K45-B41 \\ UofCin 3/22 K46-B44-N5 \\ ColumbusDispatch 4/4 K45-B46 or K45-B43-N3 moe2 \\ Bowers 5/7 lean GOP, static

Florida (27) - was GOP by 0.01% \\ MHerald Nov03 K38-B51 moe3.5 \\ MasonDixon Nov03 K34-B57 moe4 \\ Zogby 2/26 EV in play \\ MHerald 3/4 K49-B43-N3 \\ ARG 3/4 K45-B44-N4 \\ Ras 3/13 K48-B45 \\ MasonDixon 4/1 K43-B51 moe4 \\ Rasmussen 4/14 K47-B46 moe4.5 \\ ARG 4/21 K45-B46-N3 moe4 \\ Bowers 5/7 TOSS-UP, sliding DEM

Pennsylvania looks like the place where Kerry could gain some ground, and I'm perplexed that Ohio, which has been hard-hit by Bush's economy, isn't moving more towards the Dems. Florida is a toss-up, but the Bushes obviously have a large positional advantage there, and more than a few ways to influence the results. Still, if Kerry can take PA and OH, he should win.

Update: On the Swing State Project blog, Chris Bowers eschews labelling states as "too close to call" and his current projection for the election is:

National Two-Party Vote Projection
Kerry: 50.2
Bush: 49.8

Electoral Vote Projection
Bush: 275
Kerry: 263

I'll have to dig deeper into the blog to see what Bowers' methodology is, but I can already tell it's significantly more precise than my own, which consists primarily of staring at the poll numbers and waiting for an insight to pop into my head. I'm glad that Bowers is projecting Kerry to win (although, like him, I find it disconcerting that he might do so without also winning the popular vote), but for the moment I think I'll continue to carry Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida as toss-ups until I see some more poll results.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 05:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Me, I'm a moderate... You?

Chris Bowers thinks we should all call ourselves "moderates":

[O]ne of the dirty secrets about the term "liberal" being a supposedly negative term is that the amount of self-identified liberals in this country has not actually changed in at least thirty years.

The second, far dirtier secret, is that terms such as liberal, conservative, radical, moderate, progressive, neoconservative---or any other sweeping political abstraction you can name---have become entirely devoid of fixed ideological signification. Since usage determines grammar, and since all of these terms have been repeatedly and frequently used in thousands of different contexts, each connected to almost every political stance imaginable, all of these terms have been freed from their moorings. Each term is so overflowing with signification that meaning has been all but emptied from them.

With all of this in mind, I'd like to make a proposal. Everyone on the "left," no matter what ideological stances s/he holds, should call herself a "moderate." Since the abstractions themselves are completely meaningless, the only advantage I can see is to use the most popular meaningless term (and then, possibly, to demonize "conservative" as a concept for not being moderate enough).

Fight the battles you can win.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 03:26:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


It's the incumbency, stupid!

Ruy Teixeira wants us to keep in mind fundamental truth abut this election: it's a referendum on the incumbent, as Chuck Todd reminds us, not John Kerry. So the key thing at this state of the campaign is how voters feel about the incumbent. If it's negative, then Kerry is likely to win if he can convince voters he's an acceptable alternative. But that is a process that will take some time, since voters who are thinking of abandoning the incumbent for his opponent are unlikely to do so all at once. Instead, that change is likely to happen in increments as Kerry makes his case and voters get to know him better. In short, the sudden 10 point leads that some Democrats appear to be looking for are unlikely and their current absence is no cause for panic or even much serious worry.

Rather than rending their garments about how close the horse race currently is, Democrats should be taking heart from the continued growth of negative feelings about Bush. The latest Quinniapiac University poll has Bush's approval rating down to 46 percent approve/47 percent disapprove--their first net negative rating for Bush and well into the incumbent danger zone. The also have Bush's approval rating on the economy at 41 approve/52 disapprove, on Iraq at 42/51 and even his rating on handling terrorism at just 54 percent.

Voters just don't think Bush is doing a good job. And that's great for Kerry. So, relax, take a deep breath and try to stay calm. The fundamentals of the race are very promising. And the last thing Kerry needs is for Democrats to go wobbly on him just because he doesn't already have a big lead.

He also refers to Tim Grieve's article in Salon on the same subject.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 03:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Unworthy sacrifice

Eliot Gelwan, from Follow Me Here:

It is tragic, not heroic, to die for the neo-conservatives' delusions of grandeur. They have shown in spades that they are willing and eager to sacrifice Americans of all walks of life for their misguided aims — the GIs dying in a war based on lies as well as all US civilians, who are exposed to vastly heightened risk of terrorist attacks because of the rage the US has engendered in the eyes of all the angry dispossessed of the Third World, the monumental squandering of any good will and credibility the US had by one deceitful, intellectually crippled, morally decrepit and grossly incompetent leader. The adulation of every hapless American victim — from 9/11 onward — as a hero is a malignant effort by the leadership of the country to absolve itself of its responsibility for the pointless deaths.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 02:54:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Rumsfeld in or out?

Under ordinary circumstances, I'd be joining with those calling for Rumsfeld's resignation (or, preferably, his firing), but Rumsfeld will stay because losing Rumsfeld will be extremely damaging to Bush's hopes for being elected to the presidency, and would subject the administration to confirmation hearings for a new Secretary of Defense which would undoubtedly turn into a dissection of all the myriad errors of the last 3 years. We already know that Bush's primary criteria for almost every decision is how it will effect the election, so the only conclusion we can reach is that Rumsfeld won't be fired or forced to leave. (The same doesn't go for lower level officials, and we may see some of them -- Wolfowitz and Feith come to mind -- scapegoated and cut loose.)

So, given that Rumsfeld won't go, the thing to do is not necessarily continue to call for his removal, because that's just perceived as partisan politics, but to continue to bring to light and emphasize as much evidence as possible for all the things that Rumsfeld has done wrong -- really pile it on, but legitimately. The idea is that Rumsfeld is already something of an albatross around Bush's neck, so why not make that albatross as heavy and unwieldy as possible? Remember, before September 11th 2001, he was widely seen as on his way out the door already, and it was only his behavior in regard to the apparently succesful -- at the time -- invasion of Afghanistan which raised his status from potential goat to media hero.

(A correspondant of mine advocates continuing to call for Rumsfeld's ouster because she sees it as a win-win situation. According to this thinking, if Rumsfeld stays, Bush looks -- again -- as if he's ignoring the will of the people, and if he goes, Bush's election bid is hurt. There's some value in this idea, but I feel it ignores the reality that the people calling for Bush to get rid of Rumsfeld are all people who are clearly anti-Bush to begin with and therefore their calls will be seen as being strictly partisan, regardless of their merits. Just look at the recent polls in which a large majority of those questioned thought Rumsfeld should stay, which is an indication that the calls for removal haven't -- yet -- crossed partisan lines.)

Update: Jeff Alworth agrees that we should keep Rumsfeld around.

Update: (5/11) On the other hand, America Coming Together has put together a list of publications calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 02:27:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Arrogance and Incompetence

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek:

The basic attitude taken by Rumsfeld, Cheney and their top aides has been "We're at war; all these niceties [such as the Geneva Convention] will have to wait." As a result, we have waged pre-emptive war unilaterally, spurned international cooperation, rejected United Nations participation, humiliated allies, discounted the need for local support in Iraq and incurred massive costs in blood and treasure. If the world is not to be trusted in these dangerous times, key agencies of the American government, like the State Department, are to be trusted even less. Congress is barely informed, even on issues on which its "advise and consent" are constitutionally mandated.

Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe.
I'm sure he takes full responsibility.

[Emphasis added. -- Ed]

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/10/2004 01:06:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Why Bush?

Why was Bush chosen to be the GOP's candidate in 2000, when there were so many others who were clearly better qualified? Kevin Drum asks that question, and commenter Tom (not "Ben," as I originally wrote) has what I think is the right answer:

He was chosen by a consensus of wealthy and well-connected movers and shakers in the GOP establishment as someone who could

1) connect the religious and business bases
2) have a familiar name
3) have automatic credibility as governor of a large state
4) and most importantly was pliable to and comfortable with their commands

Cheney was chosen for him as vice president to make sure he did what they expected

Once a candidate, an undemanding media conveyed him mostly as his handlers wanted him to be seen, and when the going got tough he had the money and the political brain trust (plus in South Carolina the right state) to push to the nomination

Then he had the luck of a combination of circumstances (including an underwhelming Al Gore and the presence of Ralph Nader; the Supreme court; his brother as governor of Florida) to get to the White House.

Except for the invocation of "luck" in the last paragraph (it certainly wasn't luck of any sort that conservative Republicans dominated the Supreme Court, and we've seen that Nader receives funding from the GOP), I think that's pretty accurate. My recollection, which I haven't so far been able to verify via online search, is that very soon (very soon) after Bush started being bruited as a possible candidate, he had a warchest that was extremely large, an unprecedented amount of money. For that to happen, people had to have agreed in advance that Bush would be their man, in my opinion.

Incidentally, Kevin's question comes in connection with Jacob Weisberg's article about Bush in Slate, The Misunderestimated Man. I'm sure most people will have already read it, but, if not, here's your chance.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/09/2004 12:48:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

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Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
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