Saturday, May 22, 2004

Is Iran behind the War in Iraq?

Is it possible, given the strong links now being reported between Chalabi and the Iranians, that the Bush administration was suckered by the Iranians into bringing down their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, and weakening the country in the region which has been their rival for hegemony in the Persian Gulf?

(If Bush & Company were suckered by Chalabi's "intelligence", it's only because their ideology predisposed them to believe what they were being told, but as we learn more and more about the amount to which the invasion was based on Chalabi's information and assurances, and looking at the result, then factoring in the strange lack of public comment from Iran, it really does have to be considered that Iran has utilized the United States to get done what it couldn't do itself.)

I have no real idea if this is true or not, but it is interesting that when you look back at what's happened in the last couple of years with this new thesis in mind, a lot of things seemingly fall into place. Like a new "paradigm" in the sciences, the idea that Iran is the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam illuminates and explains data that only vaguely makes sense without it. Unfortunately, the same is true of many conspiracy theories (which is why they are so seductive: their apparent explanatory power makes sense of a non-sensical world), so it's difficult to know which it is, a tin-foil hat theory or a powerful geopolitical explanation.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/22/2004 05:50:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, May 21, 2004

Cracking the egg

I wonder if it's possible that after the election, when Bush is not elected (an outcome I'm more and more comfortable in predicting), if the GOP is going to hang together much longer as a major party?

I wouldn't be surprised to see fracture lines start to appear in the Senate, especially if the Republican lose their majority (a not impossible, but not highly probable, event). We might then see McCain join with true moderate Republicans (Snowe, Chaffee, Collins, Alexander) and Jim Jeffords to form the core of an independent caucus which might eventually transform into a party which would essentially replace the failed and fractured Republicans.

Not very likely, perhaps, but, as I said, if something like it was to happen, I wouldn't be surprised. I'm more than a little perplexed by the willingness of intelligent, non-dogmatic moderate Republicans to put up with the right-wing ideologues, fundamentalists and corrupt businessmen who now run the party.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/21/2004 03:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Use the incompetency gambit

Nancy Pelosi has taken up an issue that I've long thought is a major winner in the battle againat Bush: the utter and total incompetence of himself and his administration:

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco offered her strongest condemnation yet of President Bush on Wednesday, assailing him as incompetent and declaring that the only way for the United States to triumph in Iraq is to replace him as commander in chief.

"Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader,'' Pelosi said. "He's a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon."

Some have encouraged the Democrats to stay away from the incompetence issue, seeing it as a reprise of Dukakis' strategy in his failed presidential bid, but I disagree, for a number of reasons:

  • It was Dukakis' personal deficits (he was a terrible candidate, in a different league entirely from John Kerry, whatever Kerry's faults may be) that accounts for his electoral rout, not necessarily the incompetency strategy.

  • Dukakis made the competency issue the central theme of his campaign. I don't think anyone's urging that on Kerry -- and why should they, since the incompetency of Bush & Company has created numerous issues (Iraq, the economy, the future of the country, etc.) which Kerry can latch onto.

  • The incompetence of the George W. Bush administration is so gross, general, and widespread, that on the scale necessary to graph it, the incompetence of the George H.W. Bush administration wouldn't even be visible.

  • As many people have noted, attacks against politicians don't take hold in the popular imagination if they go against the image of that politician held by the public. Bush senior may not have been a popular man, or trusted a great deal, but he had held numerous responsible positions (head of the CIA, ambassador to China, head of the RNC, member of Congress, etc.) which made it hard for a charge of personal incompetency to stick.

  • Also, despite his unique semaphoric style of speaking, Bush senior was clearly an intelligent man, something that few people would say about his son. Given this perception, the incompetency charge will certainly have more sticking power used against our current Bush that it did when applied to his father.

Pelosi's on the right track, I think, and Democrats in general (not just the Kerry campaign) need to hit this meme hard.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/21/2004 02:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Chalabi raided

When I heard on the radio this morning that we had raided Ahmed Chalabi's residence and the Iraqi National Congress compound to get files (and whatever else), it first occured to me that by doing so we had handed Chalabi the perfect device he needed to improve his extremely poor standing with Iraqis. His spokesperson immediately began repositioning Chalabi as a victim of the CPA:

Chalabi aides said its part of a "smear campaign by the CIA" and U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer is trying to intimidate Chalabi because of his call for full Iraqi sovereignty and his insistence that the United Nations Food for Oil program be investigated.

Chalabi's nephew, Salim Chalabi, said the forces entered his uncle's home, put a gun to Chalabi's head and threatened him.


"This is an act of aggression, politically motivated against a person who's an Iraqi national, an Iraqi patriot, who's defending the rights of the Iraqi people, who's standing in the face of occupation to have full sovereignty to Iraqis."

"He's defending the issue of pursuing the Oil for Food program investigation," Qanbar said. "He's defending the full sovereignty. There are attempts to undermine sovereignty in Iraq. He's defending the issue of not accepting any ruling by any foreign entity inside Iraq. And he's been targeted for doing some things good for the Iraqi people."

"The U.S. military went on an order by Bremer," Qnabar said. "They wanted to intimidate Dr. Chalibi for defending things that Bremer did not like, such as sovereignty, such as oil for food program. They want to whitewash it because there is political motivation to bring the U.N. to Iraq."

Qanbar said the raid was part of a "smear campaign by the CIA," and not related to any investigation into what happened with money the Pentagon has given to the INC. "The funding of the Iraqi National Congress was audited many, many times and the auditing came in our favor," he said.

It next occured to me that the Bush administration has at last settled on a scapegoat for the entire Iraq debacle. Having tried to pin moral responsibility on liberals and Democrats for not being sufficiently supportive of the war, but failing to get much traction on that except among their hard-core loyalists, it looks now, perhaps, as if Chalabi is going to be blamed for giving us false intelligence and for manipulating the situation for his own gain.

The problem is that Chalabi isn't the patsy type, and is not going to sit still for being put on the spot. The open question is whether the people of Iraq will be as gullible and susceptible to his bullshit as the neocons in the Bush administration were.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/20/2004 11:46:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Unleashing the beast

Also, be sure to read Digby's post about Robin Wright's analysis of why the failure of the war in Iraq may be even more disastrous than we think. Wright says:

Over the past quarter-century, I've covered the rage of the Islamic world, witnessing much of it up close, losing friends who became victims to its extremist wings and watching its furies swell. But I've never been scared until now.

The stakes in Iraq -- for which the Abu Ghraib prison has tragically become the metaphor -- are not just the future of a fragile oil-rich country or America's credibility in the world, even among close allies. The issues are not simply whether the Pentagon has systemic problems or whether Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon brass or even the Bush administration can survive The Pictures. And the costs are not merely the billions from the U.S. Treasury to foot the Iraq bills today or the danger that Mideast oil becomes a political weapon during tumultuous days down the road.

The stakes are instead how the final phase of the Modern Era plays out.

That 500-year period, marked by the age of exploration, the creation of nations and the Enlightenment that unleashed ideologies designed to empower the individual, faces its last great challenge in the 50 disparate countries that constitute the Islamic world -- ruled by the last bloc of authoritarian monarchs, dictators and leaders-for-life. The Iraq war was supposed to produce a new model for democratic transformation, a catalyst after which the United States and its allies could launch an ambitious initiative for regional change.

But now, whatever America's good intentions may have been, that historic moment may be lost for a long time to come.


The worst-case scenario is that the Cold War of the 20th century is followed in the early 21st century by a very warm one, with no front lines, unpredictable offensives and a type of weaponry from which we're not yet sure how to protect ourselves. This time the majority could become involved, either by empathizing, sympathizing or actively participating in a cause they see as righting a wrong against them.

The unintended consequence of the Iraq experience could well produce a third generation of militants -- a cadre that didn't fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s or train in bin Laden's camps in the 1990s -- who will launch a conflict whose tactics, targets and goals will be even more amorphous. Their conflict will be more than an intensified or expanded war on terrorism. And, I fear, we'll be groping for a long time to figure out how to counter it -- and how to get back to finishing that final chapter of the Modern Era.

Digby comments:

We find today that the Bush administration is making policy based upon the apocalyptic fantasies of a bunch of crazed American fundamentalists . And on a political level, rejection of the Enlightenment has been in the works in the Republican Party for a long, long time. I doubt they quite had this in mind, however.


I've always maintained that we couldn't have designed a better recruitment plan for bin Laden than invading Iraq. It looks as if it's working. And, like Robin Wright, for the first time I feel truly scared.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/20/2004 12:53:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Your modern GOPist

Digby analyzes the GOP:

[M]odern Republicans are demented children. They have two modes --- smug and rabid. When things are going well for them politically, they are unbearably arrogant, shoving it in everyone's faces, ungraciously lording it over all concerned. When things go badly they instantly begin foaming at the mouth and escalate rapidly into a psychotic break.

The thing to remember is that their threats and tantrums are real but usually ineffective in the long run --- but they often have the unfortunate salutary effect of cowing the press, who are a bunch of prissy little sissies.


One perfect of example of this phenomenon is the Florida Recount. Underlying all the legal mumbo jumbo and the behind the scenes maneuvering, lay a palpable nervousness in the media. Their daily refrain was, "hurry, hurry, hurry --- the country is getting impatient," "so far, there are no tanks in the streets, so at least we can be grateful for that," even though polls showed that the people weren't particularly in a hurry and were too riveted to their televisions to contemplate revolution. But the Greenfields's and the Williams's and the Matthews's were constantly referring to some dark possibility of civil insurrection if things didn't wrap up quickly.

They weren't dreaming, they were just taking Republicans at their word. Bush's team was down there in Florida ginning up the emotion, hysterically accusing little old ladies of "diviiiiining the will of the voters," pounding down doors in mock riots, appearing on television shows and ranting delusionally about the Democrats stealing the election. (William Bennett on Capital Gang became so red-faced I thought he was having a heart attack.) The freepers sent in their goons to shout at the VP residence to "get out of Cheney's house!" Tom DeLay said quite openly that he would not allow Al Gore to take the presidency. Justice Scalia hinted darkly at civic upheaval if Bush didn't get his way.

The public, reasonably, were unimpressed. After all, the Republicans had been in high dudgeon over something or other for years. From haircuts to travel agents to Chinese espionage to Lincoln Bedroom to cattle futures to blowjobs and state troopers and wagging the dog, Republicans were always foaming at the mouth. What wasn't a threat to the republic with these people?

But, the press continued to respond as if each GOP meltdown means that there are going to be riots in the streets, apparently led by a bunch of paunchy middle aged men in ill fitting suits who never got laid when they were young, never went to war, never made a team or played in a rock band so their dreams of masculine glory remain unfulfilled well into their 50's.

Whether it will work again is up for grabs. After suffering under more than three years of smarmy, unctuous GOP "success" even the media may have reached a point where they find it preferable to have these people raving from the sidelines. Their impotent threats of revolution are clearly far less harmful than their proven incompetence at governing.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/20/2004 12:40:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Variety: No distro yet for "911"

According to this piece in Variety, Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 911 still doesn't have a U.S distributor. (At least as of Sunday -- another more recent Variety news article says that the film received a 20 minute standing ovation in its premiere at Cannes, so perhaps a deal will come out of that.)

Michael Moore admitted Sunday that his "Fahrenheit 9/11" still does not have a distrib -- "Maybe some distributors are afraid of the film" -- but vowed the film must open in the U.S. before the election. "George W. Bush has to be removed from office," he declared.


Referring to the pic, which bows tonight in competition, he said, "From the beginning, there was pressure to try to stop it." Though Icon had originally agreed to finance the docu, Moore was told that Icon topper Mel Gibson got a call from a honcho in the Republican Party who said, "Don't expect any more invitations to the White House if you fund this movie."

Harvey Weinstein and Miramax agreed to distribute the film ("Same deal, same money, same everything"). But Moore said that on April 23, Disney senior veepee of production Brad Epstein viewed the pic and reported back to Eisner: "One viewing from a low-level production exec" was enough to end a firm deal for distribution, he said, apparently because "the potential of this film to have an impact on the election is greater than they thought."

Disney's official explanation is that it doesn't want to do political entertainment in an election year, though Moore pointed out that Disney and its various channels and programs air Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson.

The distribution problem "is intended to stop this film and make sure Americans don't see it," helmer said.

Taiwan and Hong Kong have no deals for the pic, but otherwise it has a distrib everywhere in the world except the U.S.

One of the sticking points with a distrib is the insistence on opening the July 4 weekend: "We won't accept a release date that conveniently pushes the film past the election."

Distribs have been mum on whether they're in talks to handle the pic.

Referring to Bush as "the dumbest man who ever ran for the presidency," Moore said Al Gore and the Democrats were unable to inspire voters to turn out for the 2000 election. So the film is important: "We decided we were not going to leave it up to the Democrats to fuck it up again and lose it."

Promising "you will see things you have not seen before and learn things you have not learned before," Moore said the film evolved during its making and now is half about Iraq. He had crews working on the docu who were embedded in Iraq who uncovered great stuff. Talking of the forces behind the war, he exclaimed, "They are totally fucked! And that's all I want to say."

The DVD release is targeted for October, and Moore said he plans to include commentary and include info on the problems of distribution.

Asked [...] if people will view his attacks on the administration as unpatriotic, he said, "I'm the most patriotic American who believes the principles of his country." Saying America had created a lot of global havoc, he added, "My job is to be an American and try to turn things around."

On a lighter note, Moore said he has ideas for both fiction and nonfiction films. "I'm already down the road on a few of those." Among his potential docu targets: U.S. health care, Israeli-Palestinian relations and an impending oil crisis.

I guess I have to take minor issue with Moore's memory when he says "We decided we were not going to leave it up to the Democrats to fuck it up again and lose it." Has he conveniently forgotten that he was a very visible public supporter of Ralph Nader in 2000? There's no doubt that Gore did not run the best campaign, or make the best decisions as a candidate (running away from the Clinton/Gore legacy, not utilizing Bill as the big gun he could have been, etc.), but surely Nader's candidacy played some part in the loss to Bush? One word -- "Florida".

Update: According to Reuters via Kos, there's a "911" distribution deal brewing:

In the wake of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" world premiere Monday, a new drama is developing behind the scenes as Miramax chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein set about locking down a new distributor for the film, which their Disney parent has forbidden them from releasing.

According to sources close to the wheeling and dealing, the pact the Miramax co-chairmen are seeking is a complex one that could very well include multiple parties in an effort to split up theatrical, home video/DVD and TV rights.

That strategy could work for Moore and the Weinsteins in several ways.

Moore wants to see the film released as early as the Fourth of July weekend to expose audiences to its anti-Bush message well in advance of November's election. That could prove problematic for one of the larger specialty film distributors, which might find it difficult to accommodate a new film on their ambitious slates on such short notice.

But if the Weinsteins opt to go with a leaner unit that can mobilize quickly and has no competing films, they may want to find a different home for "Fahrenheit's" DVD and TV rights. A bigger player with more distribution clout in the ancillary market could serve that need.

At a smaller, indie distributor, the Weinsteins -- who have indicated that they want to have a hand in the film's publicity and marketing -- could exert more control over the film's path. Although Lions Gate ended up getting much of the credit for Kevin Smith's "Dogma" -- an earlier Miramax film that Disney forced the Weinsteins to take to another distributor -- Miramax actually was deeply involved in the movie's release plans. The "Dogma" deal was similar to "Fahrenheit's" in that the Weinsteins are effectively buying the film from Disney.

There are several players still circulating in the talks, according to sources. But one factor affecting the closing of a distributor deal is that the Weinsteins have not yet concluded their pact with Disney to buy back the film, a move that must be completed before a new deal is struck.

If the Weinsteins do dole out "Fahrenheit's" rights to several buyers, it could work to their financial advantage.

"Pricewise, if you have something valuable and you split it into parts, you can get more than if you sold it all together," said one insider familiar with such strategies.

A further complicating issue is that not every distributor interested in the film is eager to take on the Weinsteins as partners. Add in Moore, and any potential distributor has to be willing to wrangle the three outsized personalities that make up the "Fahrenheit" troika.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/19/2004 11:32:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


EC look ahead, updated

This page on the Real Clear Politics site had a round-up of polls in swing states, some of which were new to me. I also realized that I had transcribed the results of a couple of polls incorrectly, so I've fixed that in my records.

On the basis of this new information, I've adjusted my current projection for the Electoral College results for the upcoming election, unfortunately not in Kerry's favor. On the positive side, those states I've moved out of the Democratic column (Oregon and Wisconsin) went into the "toss-up" or "in-play" category, and not into the GOP's.

Here's where I think things project to currently (with 270 votes needed to elect):

DEM: IA-7, ME-4, MI-17, MN-10, NH-4, WA-11 (53 swing state votes + 168 safe = 221)
GOP: AZ-10, AR-6, CO-9, LA-9, MO-11, NV-5, TN-11, VA-13, WV-5 (79+ 148 = 227)
IN PLAY: FL-27, NM-5, OH-20, OR-7, PA-21, WI-10 (90)

DEM 221 / GOP 227 / PLAY 90

Chris Bowers, on MyDD, has a much more optimistic projection:

National Two-Party Vote Projection

Kerry: 52.74
Bush: 47.26
Status: Lean Kerry

Electoral Vote Projection

Kerry: 348
Bush: 190
States Changing Hands: AZ, AR, FL, MO, NH, NV, OH and WV

Now, some people may object to the states I have projected for Kerry. They may point out that recent polls from Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and West Virginia actually show Bush leading Kerry by a few points. While I am aware of these polls, I need to point out that my state-by-state projections are based on a variety of indicators, including the national two-party vote projection, the partisan index for each state, recent state trial heats, long term-state voting trends, state-by-state approval ratings and state-by-state negatives. All of these indicators provide a more complete context in which I can make state-by state projections, rather than just the twists and turns of random state-by-state trial heats.

Kerry is up by 5.48% now, and he is starting to knock on the door of a "solid" lead (7.01%+). Breaking the seven point barrier is huge, since it means that the election would be out of the reach of GOTV efforts, Florida voter purges, and any possibility of the national vote loser winning the electoral college. If Kerry is up by seven or more on the morning of November 2nd, then it will be time to call in sick to work on November 3rd and party like its 1992.

As I've written before, I think Chris's projections are based on a methodology that's a lot more systematic (and based on more factor) than my own, so I take his numbers seriously. I'll be glad when I can convince myself to move some more states into Kerry's column.

Update: When I checked, Chris has posted a new projection on the Swing State Project, the notes for which make a little clearer what his methodology is:

(May 17 results in parenthesis)

National Two-Party Popular Vote Projection

Kerry: 52.4 (52.9)
Bush: 47.6 (47.1)
Status: Lean Kerry

Electoral Vote Projection

Kerry: 337 (348)
Bush: 201 (190)

States changing hands: AZ, FL, MO, NH, NV and OH

The new Christian Science Monitor / Investor’s Business Daily poll, combined with the new Rasmussen approval ratings, have allowed Bush to close the gap on Kerry. However, from what I can tell, Kerry still holds a lead outside of the margin or error.

Here are all twelve data points used in the national two-party popular vote projection:

The Four Most recent Bush-Kerry-Nader trial heats: TechnoMetrica, Princeton, Harris, and Zogby

The Four Most Recent Bush Approval Ratings: Princeton, Harris, Zogby and Rasmussen

The Four Most Recent Bush and Kerry Unfavorable Ratings: Harris, Zogby, Opinion Dynamics, and Hart / Teeter

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/19/2004 09:39:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Huffington's Plan

I've been one who's been relatively suspicious, and dismissive, of Arianna Huffington, because of her past as a conservative, seeing her as something of an opportunist, But recently I've started to think that I've been unfair to her. Specifically, when David Brock -- the former conservative journalistic hit-man who revealed his past indiscretions when he confronted his inner deamons and came out as a liberal -- started up his new organization, Media Matters for America, I realized that to be consistent, I should be a suspicious and dismissive of Brock as I had been of Huffington, and that just never was the case. Well, that led me to thinking that maybe I was poo-pooing her and accepting him because he is a man and she is a woman, and it was disconcerting (to say the least) to realize that there might be some truth in that.

I don't know to what extent it's true, but finding bias in oneself, even unconcious bias, is disturbing. All I can say it that I intend to keep an eye on myself (or, rather, an ear on my inner monologue) and do what I can to avoid falling into that trap again.

But, from the personal to the political -- this is an excerpt from Huffington's new book, Fanatics & Fools, which I have not read. According to Kos (here
and here), the "fanatics" of the title are Republicans and the right-wing, and the "fools" are Democrats and liberals, and this is her attempt to help define what the Democratic party should be about, to "brand" it in the same way that the right has so successfully (and deceptively) branded the GOP.

The New Contract For A Better America

For government to do its part in turning this moral vision into reality, the Democratic nominee must flesh it out with a comprehensive agenda that resets the country's priorities. Here's my suggestion: Let's take a page from the GOP playbook of 1994 and offer up not a "Contract with America" but a "New Contract for a Better America." Here's a draft:


America must have a sane energy policy that protects the environment, stresses fuel efficiency, and invests in clean and renewable energy. Forty-two years ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged America to realize its greatness, calling for the Apollo Project to put a man on the moon in a decade. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong bounced across the lunar surface. The Democratic nominee must promise that, as president, he will use the unique bully pulpit of his office to call on all Americans to commit themselves to the goal of achieving energy independence in a decade--with no more environmentally destructive drilling and no more unsafe nuclear waste.

At the Massachusetts State Convention in July 2003, John Kerry was unequivocal about the importance of this: "Now we must engage in the greatest challenge of all. We must decide that just as President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon in the 1960s, we will 'go to the moon' right here on earth by declaring that never again will young American soldiers, men and women, be held hostage to our dependency on Middle East oil. We need a president who will boldly set America on the path to energy independence. God only gave us 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no metaphysical or miraculous way for us to drill our way out of a 60 percent foreign oil dependency. We have to invent our way out of it and I want American jobs and American ingenuity leading the way." We can do this by investing in energy efficiency, modern electric infrastructure, and renewables like solar and wind, and by putting an end to the corporate welfare that subsidizes obsolete technologies. A great model is the new Apollo Project, a $300 billion program proposed by unions and environmental groups to create 3 million new jobs while reducing America's foreign oil dependence over the next ten years.

We can do it by investing in technologies that bring us closer to realizing the hydrogen future, the next generation of hybrid cars, mass transit options that are clean, fast, and more convenient, and "green buildings"--energy-efficient homes and offices. We should also make LEED (the environmental standard by which green buildings are designed) the standard for all new buildings, which would result in huge energy savings and an enormous improvement in urban environments.

It surely does not make any sense that China's fuel economy standards exceed our own, or that Congress has actually undone energy efficiency standards, leaving us more firmly than ever in the clutches of imported oil. The Democratic nominee must promise not only to make us oil-independent from foreign countries harboring terrorists, but also to make our government independent of the interests of Big Oil and the outmoded policies crafted to serve it.


America is on the brink of a health care disaster. We have 43 million Americans uninsured and millions more facing a black hole of inadequate coverage as increasing numbers of employers scale back on the benefits, if any, they offer workers. In order to address the crisis, the Democratic nominee has to establish three bedrock principles: 1) Health coverage has to be universal. 2) It has to include preventive care. 3) It has to put an end to the economic tyranny of the pharmaceutical industry, which, with its massive lobbying and campaign contributions, has succeeded again and again--including in the latest Medicare bill--in buying protection from sensible cost-cutting measures.

Of all the Democratic candidates, Wesley Clark laid out the clearest rationale for a health care safety net--one based on the military model. Over the course of thirty-four years in the military, he learned firsthand that those who don't receive adequate medical attention don't live up to their abilities. As Clark put it on the campaign trail, "We should be doing much more with preventive and diagnostic care. We need a comprehensive preventive medicine program for this country. We call it 'executive fitness' in the army. It's an executive wellness program. Why isn't there an American wellness program?"

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then a few pennies of prevention could save some of the $1.55 trillion that Americans are currently spending on health care. Studies by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute show that simple lifestyle changes like a healthier diet and moderate exercise can reduce the need for expensive treatments like heart bypass surgery and angioplasty by up to 80 percent, with immediate cost savings per patient of approximately $30,000. But the seemingly obvious strategy of improving the health of Americans by preventing them from becoming ill in the first place remains largely untried. Public education to encourage people to reduce their cholesterol level by making simple lifestyle changes rather than taking a pill could save a large portion of the $15 billion spent every year on cholesterol-reducing drugs, not to mention the cost of the ailments caused by high cholesterol. Sure, the makers of Lipitor won't like it--disease is their business--but a healthier America means providing our citizens with the information and the encouragement they need to increase their chances of staying out of the hospital--and the disease economy--in the first place.

This is not bleeding-heart liberalism, it's pragmatic leadership that ultimately saves money as well as lives.


Three million jobs have been lost in the last three years. Let's try for three million and one--George Bush's. Instead of celebrating every tiny percentage increase in the GDP, even when there is no real increase in jobs to go with it, we need to redefine our idea of national economic health. And it should start with recognizing that when a great number of Americans are out of work the economy cannot be called "healthy." The crippling effects of unemployment extend well beyond unemployed workers' dwindling bank accounts. Child abuse and neglect, divorce, crime, poor health and drug addiction are often the devastating side effects of lost jobs.

If the Democratic nominee is to return the country to an era of job creation, he must initiate a threefold plan.

First, he must propose, as Wesley Clark did, a $100 billion "Restore America" plan. Some of the money will be used to improve homeland security by hiring and training first responders, public health personnel, and security providers for critical installations and ports. Other funds will be paid out to states and cities to finance the hiring of workers to repair and rebuild crucial civic infrastructure like roads and schools.

The second job creation measure has to be a comprehensive package to plug the drain of jobs overseas. It must include tax credits for companies that keep and create jobs for

American workers and must close loopholes that encourage employers to ship jobs abroad. It is estimated that at least 15 percent of the jobs lost since the Bush recession began have been lost due to corporations outsourcing jobs to lower- paid foreign workers. And these are not just blue-collar manufacturing jobs; experts predict that by the end of 2004, one in ten U.S. technology jobs will have been shipped overseas.

Finally, in keeping with a forward-looking energy policy, investing in renewables will not only be good for the environment and for oil independence but it will also tap into a multibillion-dollar world market, creating an explosion of well-paying high-tech jobs and nurturing the next generation of job-creating entrepreneurs.


The Democratic nominee must put children at the top of his agenda. Not merely to leave no child behind but to put every child first.

Our nation's children continue to get the short end of the policy stick because they have no powerful lobby to make sure they are not always the first to be targeted by budget cuts. After all, they can neither vote nor contribute. Maybe the answer is for poor, uninsured kids to organize and create a junior version of the AARP--the FVA (Future Voters of America).

The president made his No Child Left Behind Act the heart of his domestic agenda. It turned out to be another broken promise, this time to our children. During the Bush years we have moved further and further away from the fundamental principle that every child should begin life on an equal footing when it comes to the basics: a good school, access to health care, and clean air and water.

Indeed, the supreme irony is that we are now willing to invest tens of thousands of dollars a year on a child who goes wrong and winds up in the criminal justice system but are begrudging the far smaller amount it would cost to help these kids lead the kind of productive lives that would keep them out of jail in the first place. We can pay now, or pay later. The problem is, later is much more expensive--and not just in dollars. "What genuinely Judeo-Christian society," asks Jonathan Kozol, who has written extensively about children growing up in poverty, "would ever spend more than ten times as much to incarcerate a child as it would to educate him?" Yet New York City now spends as much as $130,000 a year per child in a secure juvenile detention center. In California things have gotten so bad that a class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of one million poor children forced to attend crumbling schools with no books, no chalk, no working bathrooms--but plenty of rats and roaches.

To make this case, and reverse this inequity, the Democratic candidate will have to use not just specific policy proposals but powerful imagery and compelling language to capture the public's imagination about the tragic circumstances that millions of children find themselves in. There is no excuse for the richest nation in the world to have one million homeless children. Or three million reported cases of abuse and neglect. Every year we hear the horror stories that touch our hearts and prick our conscience for a few moments: children chained to bedposts, foster kids starved by greedy parents, a little boy burned every day with an iron. But by calling these things "abuse," we begin to see them as an inevitable aberration in society. Little by little, we become inured to the reports. So instead of "neglect and abuse," I suggest we call them "torture." And that we refuse to accept it.

George Bush told us again and again that we invaded Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from torturing his own people. Well, a million children are tortured in this country every year. Do we need satellite photos and intelligence reports before we stop leaving them in imminent danger of being tortured again? George Bush spent billions of dollars to stop torture in Iraq. But he hasn't done anything to stop the suffering here. His opponent must.


John Edwards has said, "At the heart of the American dream there's a simple bargain: if you work hard and play by the rules, America will give you the chance to build a better future for you and your children. Now as never before, education is the key to that opportunity." The greatest betrayal of the Bush years is that this promise has been broken; government is not holding up its end of the bargain.

Bush's opponent must make a full frontal assault on the deeply fraudulent No Child Left Behind Act. The problem is not, as some have said, that the act needs more funding to be properly implemented, although the administration's scheme to take credit for the bill without providing the funds to pay for it is another example of the classic Bush bait and switch. The problem is that the No Child Left Behind Act is rotten at its core because it is based on false assumptions.

The bill requires that all children attending schools that have been failing for two years be given the chance to move to a better school. But good public schools are bursting at the seams. And even before the president underfunded the act by $9.4 billion, there were no provisions in the legislation to fulfill the promise of parental choice that was at the heart of the bill. Parents have been given a choice but nothing to choose from.

The fallback is itself another false promise. After a student has been in a failing school for three years, the act makes federal money available to the child's parents for "supplemental education services" such as private tutoring. The idea, I guess, is "If our schools can't teach your kids, maybe you can find somebody who can." But with the resources the bill provides the student would only be able to see a tutor less than once a week--hardly enough to offset the flaws and weaknesses of a failing school. Yet the bill does demand that schools spend their resources to test students again and again and again so that each year both the child and the parents will be painfully reminded just how badly the child is failing--and being failed.

That's pretty much the extent of the impact the No Child Left Behind Act will have on the lives of millions of children. But at least the Washington establishment can move on, satisfied that they've "done" education.

We must reverse the slide of resources away from the areas of greatest need, both in K-12 schools and college education. In his 2005 budget, Bush freezes Pell Grants for our nation's poorest college students and completely eliminates funding for thirty-eight education programs. This administration has been punitive toward afterschool programs for lowincome children, Even Start (a program that provides literacy help to at-risk children), mentorship programs, the Dropout Prevention Program, and programs providing rehabilitation for juvenile offenders. Even though the president has been stressing the goal of closing the achievement gap between low- and high-income children, his administration has cut programs intended to improve teacher quality in low-income neighborhoods. The bitter irony here is that federal money invested in teacher education pays enormous dividends in the near and the long term. The government should pay the entire tuition of any student who will train to be a teacher and then commit to working for five years in a community with a teacher shortage. It will be worth every penny.

While the oxygen of the reform debate is being absorbed by the flashy sideshow of the controversial issue of vouchers, almost 600,000 students nationwide are taking part in an education innovation that is flourishing across the land: public charter schools. The nominee needs to make the expansion of these schools central to his education agenda, especially since they are proving particularly successful in helping lowincome, at-risk students and bringing much-needed innovation to a calcified public education system.

Part of the ongoing War on the Poor (did I mention that the rich are winning?) is the dispiriting fact that cuts in higher education are much deeper in community colleges-- which primarily serve lower-income Americans--than they are in the wealthiest private colleges. Ivy League schools, for instance, receive between five and eight times the national average in public funds to pay for work/study programs-- ridiculous when you consider how many fewer members of the Yale student body need work/study aid than students at a two-year college serving low-income communities.

In California, students at Stanford, one of the most richly endowed universities in the country, receive almost one hundred times as much federal money to help them through college as students at the California State University at Fresno, many of whom are children of local farmworkers. This kind of disparity too often makes a community college degree--the only opportunity for higher education for millions of Americans-- prohibitively expensive.

There's certainly no shortage of talk about education. Politicians and bureaucrats seem willing to endlessly tinker with our education system, making small, incremental changes. But parents and their kids have a vastly different timetable. Rochelle Mackabee, a mother who moved her son to View Park Preparatory Charter School in Los Angeles, put it this way: "I was sitting in a school meeting, listening to teachers and the principal talk about how they weren't going to be able to improve reading and math scores until years down the road. And I turned to a friend of mine and said, 'Our kids will be in high school before they turn things around. We have to get out of here.' And we did."

The American Dream tarnishes when the most basic tool for advancement is effectively out of reach. While education is primarily a state issue, the Democratic nominee must use his bully pulpit to set priorities and commit to fighting any cuts in spending that disproportionately affect poorer Americans.


The question of how to handle the racial and economic injustice of our government's failed war on drugs has become an electrified third rail of American politics--a subject neither party is willing to touch for fear of being incinerated on contact. Meanwhile, the drug war's distorted priorities are playing a major role in the division of America into two nations: one getting away with so-called youthful indiscretions, the other locked away, disenfranchised for life. One primarily white, the other largely black and brown. One affluent, the other shut down and shut out from living the American Dream.

The consequences of a drug policy driven by fear and denial are alarming: America now has more people living behind bars than any other country--over 2 million crowd our nation's jails and prisons (an additional 4 million are under some form of correctional supervision, including probation and parole). A disproportionate number of these Americans are people of color. Despite the fact that the same percentage of whites use drugs as blacks, black men are jailed ten times more often than white men. As a result, one out of seven black males in their late twenties is sitting in jail right now. This sorry state of affairs will never change until our political leaders stop trying to score easy PR points off the drug war--at the expense of the poor and minorities--desperately vying to be seen by voters as the toughest on crime.

The Democratic nominee must take the lead on this issue. He must promise to put an end to America's crippling addiction to the war on drugs and to put those resources to work where they're desperately needed--in protecting our innercity streets from random violence. By doing so he will show that the Democratic Party has finally come of age, and he will put President Bush squarely on his heels--forced to defend the drug war's hypocrisy, its far-reaching injustice, and its disgraceful waste of time, talent, and treasure.


Homeland Security has become the Bush administration's ugly stepchild compared with favored son Iraq. The White House has put the safety of all Americans at risk while claiming to hold our security as its highest priority. It seems elementary that, after September 11, security measures would have been instituted to create a safety cordon around vulnerable ports, airports, and nuclear facilities. Instead, a muckraking college student was able to plant box cutters, modeling clay, bleach, and matches on two airliners in September 2003.

Meanwhile some intrepid ABC News reporters were able to ship fifteen pounds of depleted uranium (the fact that they were able to obtain depleted uranium is alarming in and of itself) to Los Angeles from Al Qaeda�infested Indonesia without detection. The response of the Homeland Security Department was to threaten ABC with smuggling charges.

And experts from the Department of Energy report that sensitive nuclear facilities like the Los Alamos National Laboratory have repeatedly proven vulnerable to mock terrorist attacks, despite having received advance warning of the impending assaults. "In more than 50 percent of our tests at the Los Alamos facility," Rich Lavernier, a Department of Energy security specialist, reported, "we got in, captured the plutonium, got out again, and, in some cases, didn't fire a shot, because we didn't encounter any guards." Some of the homeland security gaps verge on the comical--at least for those with a morbid sense of humor. Keys, not metaphorical ones, but actual keys, to sensitive facilities across the country are missing or lost and no one seems to know if they have fallen into the hands of Al Qaeda or just between the couch cushions. Among the lost keys are those that open doors at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, the Sandia National Labs in New Mexico, and the secret installation in Tennessee known as "Y- 12" where bomb-grade uranium is processed. The managers of "Y-12," the "Fort Knox of highly enriched uranium," have reported that more than 200 keys are missing.

Seaports and commercial ships continue to remain wide open to terrorists along with the millions of tons of cargo that pass through them daily. By the deadline of December 31, 2003, only half of the ships and a quarter of the ports required by the Coast Guard to submit security plans had done so. To implement these plans when and if they are ever finalized, will cost, according to the Coast Guard, more than $7 billion. But, up through the end of 2003, the Bush administration had spent less than $400 million on port security.

The Environmental Protection Agency has listed 123 chemical manufacturers, users, and storage sites that, if attacked, could produce a death toll of over 1 million people. There are another 700 sites with the potential to cause a death toll of more than 100,000. All of these are woefully undersecured. John DePasquale, the former head of security for Georgia Pacific, offers this pungent analysis, "Security at a 7-Eleven after midnight is better than at a plant with a 90-ton vessel of chlorine. A guy with a suitcase full of explosives can kill tens of thousands of people and we're not doing anything about it." These failures have to be contrasted with a homeland security strategy that really protects the homeland, starting with a multibillion-dollar homeland security trust fund to provide state and local governments with the resources they need to keep our people safe.

First, the ridiculous color-coded defense alert system must be drastically overhauled so that it does something more than efficiently terrify the public. People need to be told what they can do when the alert status changes so that our ever-growing sense of anxiety does not afford the terrorists even a small victory. (Shared intelligence, improved by rebuilding our relationships with new and old allies, is another key to our security, lost like those at Lawrence Livermore.)

Equally important to our security is stopping the ongoing civil war being waged in the streets of our inner cities. Homeland security must be more than just an antiterrorist grab bag. It must also acknowledge the mayhem being perpetrated by evildoers here at home. We need more funding for neighborhood watch groups to increase their number and improve their training. And we need to recognize that gang violence is a byproduct of our failed drug policy and our failing criminal justice system, which returns prisoners to the streets more calloused and dangerous than when they were incarcerated.

While the macho view of leadership takes us on distracting and destructive adventures abroad, the Democratic nominee must put forward a different vision that starts with our safety here at home.


Wesley Clark described our current foreign policy low this way: "The Bush administration has squandered in two years the moral authority America spent generations building. It started when President Bush said to the world, 'You're either with us or against us.' As a result, even some of those who were with us are now against us. And those, like Tony Blair, who are still with us pay a political price for it. America is hurt as well. We are less secure when our friends suffer for standing by our side. With fewer partners, we are left to meet dangers alone."

But it's not just the opposition party that's questioning the president's prosecution of the war on terror. A report published by the Army War College in January should be required reading for every voter who is still under the illusion that Bush is the answer to our national security concerns: "The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security. . . . The United States may be able to defeat, even destroy, Al Qaeda, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil."

To counter the Bush administration's unilateralism and preemptive defense strategy, the Democratic standard-bearer will have to strengthen old alliances and build new ones by consulting and acting in concert with other countries and the United Nations. He must promise to honor and abide by international laws and treaties. And, in the hope of being respected in return, must respect other nations and cultures.

While this may sound like an invitation to share an international group hug, it is, in fact, the smartest way to fight terrorism when the most potent weapon we have against it is information. And nothing shuts down channels of information more quickly than the hostility toward America that is festering around the world. As Secretary of Offense Rumsfeld has acknowledged, the danger at the moment is that for every terrorist we eliminate, we create ten more to take his place alongside those minted afresh every day by the madrassa schools. We don't need to give the sponsors any unnecessary recruiting help. We must lead the world, not bully it, and part of our leadership must be honoring international treaties, like Kyoto and the international trade agreements that determine behavior for nations the same way laws do for individuals. America's word must be good.

A truly strong America can afford to recognize the value of allies. It's only the blustering America of George Bush that, as Dick Gephardt put it, treats "our own allies like so many flies on the American windshield" and tries to convince the world we can go it alone.


The American political system has turned clinically dysfunctional. Both parties are in deep--but very well funded-- denial about the state of modern America. Their addiction to ever-greater doses of campaign cash clouds their ability to discern the true crises in the society they claim to lead. And while both Republicans and Democrats pay focus group�tested lip service to campaign finance reform, they collude and conspire not only to defend the corrupt status quo but to break new records in gobbling up money and undermining our democracy.

Even as less than one percent of the population, the wealthiest among us, now provides most campaign contributions, our mainstream politicians continue to deny that a leveraged buyout of our political system is well under way. The truth is that our representative republic has been supplanted by a permanent and unaccountable government of powerful special interests.

The only tool we have to fix the problems of this country-- the democratic process--is itself broken. Which is why nothing will fundamentally change until we solve the problem of money in politics. We must break the grip of what campaign finance reform champion John McCain has called the "iron triangle" of lobbyists, big money, and legislation, and the only way to do that is to overhaul the way we finance our campaigns. The most effective means for restoring the integrity of our electoral process, and repairing the public's tattered faith in its elected representatives, is through the full public financing of political campaigns. It's the mother of all reforms: the one reform that makes all other reforms possible. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. If someone's going to own the politicians, it might as well be the American people.

There are three recurring complaints you hear about our political system: campaigns cost too much; special interests have too much influence; and far too many good people choose not to run simply because they don't want to spend hours each day begging for money. Full public financing of elections addresses every one of these core problems: it lowers campaign spending, it breaks the direct link between special interest donors and elected officials, it levels the playing field so that good people have a viable chance of winning, and it ends the money chase for those running and those already in office. Think of it: No hard money, no soft money, no endless dialing for dollars, no quid pro dough deals. No more lobbyists sitting in House and Senate offices literally writing their own loopholes into law. No more hidden corporate welfare surprises buried in huge spending bills. No more dangerous relaxation in safety and regulatory standards that can be--but rarely are--traced to campaign donations. Just candidates and elected officials beholden to no one but the voters. The good news is, the Clean Money/Clean Elections concept is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy. It's already the law in five states, and in the two states where it's fully implemented, Maine and Arizona, the results have been inspiring: more people running for office, more competition, more contested races, more women and minorities running, and a more independent pool of legislators elected.

In Maine, 55 percent of the state house and 77 percent of the state senate were publicly financed candidates. As a result, the people of that state are getting more independent leadership: Maine was the first state to pass universal health care and the first to win a major victory over the drug companies on the issue of bringing down exorbitant prescription drug prices. In Arizona, nine out of the top eleven statewide officials, including Janet Napolitano, America's first-ever Clean Money governor, were elected in 2002 without a single special interest donation. It's time to unprivatize our public policy. Especially now that the relationship between those in power and those seeking to influence them is becoming cozier by the day as more and more public servants pass through the revolving door connecting Capitol Hill and K Street. Howard Dean laid out a detailed menu of po-

litical reforms, including a promise to fix the presidential public financing system by increasing the amount in public funds candidates can qualify for and raising the spending limits for primary candidates, who often need more resources to introduce themselves and their positions to voters. He also proposed a public financing option for all federal campaigns, not just presidential elections.

In addition, TV and radio stations must be required to offer free air time to candidates and the toothless Federal Election Commission must be made more muscular and more independent. Instant runoff voting, Internet voting and nonpartisan redistricting legislation are all essential reforms if we are to put our democracy back in the hands of the people.

If the Democratic nominee really wants to show that he is on the side of the people--not the moneyed interests that currently dominate our politics--he must remind our nation that if you have a lot of money, you should be able to buy a shiny new car, a cool flat-screen TV, or a vacation home in Aspen. But you shouldn't be able to buy political power. Democracy should be a marketplace of ideas, but it should not be for sale.


Despite a tidal wave of corporate scandals, trillions of dollars in market value lost on Wall Street, and hundreds of thousands of jobs shipped overseas never to return, the corporate- financed fanatics of the GOP have somehow managed to convince the nation that whatever is good for business is good for America because--all together now--businesses create jobs. That's why, the reasoning goes, we can't afford to upset corporate America by closing tax loopholes, putting an end to outrageous offshore tax shelters, or even punishing those found guilty of fraud and abuse. Instead, we've been terrified into timorously accepting that the road to prosperity must, inevitably, be paved with craven concessions to companies that too often reward us with nothing more than rapacious greed and corruption. On top of it, as we've learned, especially in the Bush years, not all jobs are created equal and not all jobs are created here.

The Democratic nominee has got to stand up and say, "Enough is enough." This is exactly what John Kerry did in his stump speech: "I have a message for the influence peddlers, for the polluters, the HMOs, the drug companies, big oil, and all the special interests who now call the White House home. We're coming. You're going. And don't let the door hit you on the way out." And he went on to be specific about building a prosperity "where we shut down every tax loophole, every benefit, and every reward for any Benedict Arnold CEO or company that sends jobs and profits overseas." Putting an end to offshore tax havens is a perfect issue for Kerry to spotlight and use to capture the backing of the largest possible body of supporters, namely taxpayers.

In this time of soaring deficits, corporations use shelters to continue to cheat the government and the public out of $70 billion a year, while hardworking Americans are forced to dig deeper and deeper into their own pockets to make up the difference. It's the kind of issue that so epitomizes the unfairness of the current system, it sticks in people's throats. You want to talk to people about being unpatriotic, Mr. President? This is it.

The Democratic nominee should make an unequivocal pledge: "It will be a hard and fast rule of my administration that any company that reincorporates offshore or makes use of offshore tax shelters in order to avoid paying its fair share will not be able to do business with the U.S. government. Period." You want to move your "headquarters" to Bermuda? Fine. Enjoy the trip. But don't continue to use our tax dollars and infrastructure to pad your bottom line.

That means that a company like Halliburton, which has forty-four subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, would not have been eligible to receive those multibillion-dollar, no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq. Putting this issue on the front burner would certainly make for a wonderful talking point during the upcoming vice-presidential debates with Dick Cheney.

Update: In an article in The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner and Will Marshall lay out a course of action for a newly united Democratic party, which Ruy Teixeira summarizes as:

1. Return fiscal sanity to Washington;

2. Don't starve government, feed innovation;

3. Reform the tax code for the benefit of working families; and

4. Expand the economic winners' circle.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/19/2004 09:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Escape hatch

I've written before, and I still believe it to be the case, that Kerry doesn't have to provide a detailed plan for what we should so in Iraq, that, in fact, the situation is so complex and can conceivable change so drastically before he took office that he would actually be a grave mistake to do so, since it would only give the Republicans something to hang around his neck when his plan turns out to be untenable or unsuitable, as it would most probably turn out to be. I still believe that's the case.

I've also written before, and I still think, that Democrats need to lighten up, take a chill pill, and stop beating up Kerry for not being more activist in this part of the campaign. I think that, so far, the balance that Kerry has struck between being visible and letting events play out to his benefit has been just about right, and he doesn't deserve the sense of near-panic that seems to come from some quarters of the party.

There is one thing, though, that I think the Kerry campaign should give a little more attention to, and that is providing for the people who support Bush and support the war, but who may be feeling some doubts right about now, an escape hatch, a way to allow themselves to back off of their previous commitment without forcing them to totally re-evaluate why they took that stand in the first place.

Clearly, the polls are showing that support for Bush, for his handling of the war, and for the war itself is declining, and I presume that some of the support that's left has got to be relatively soft. But backing away from one's approval is only the first step, the next step is to convince people not to vote for Bush, and the step after that is to bring them into the fold to vote for Kerry. To do that, you have to give people a way out, in order that they both save face and can make the change without having to admit to themselves that they were totally wrong to begin with.

There seems to be, amongst my fellow liberals, a certain amount of gloating about war-supporters who are now turning against Bush or the war or both. "Why should we take what you say seriously now," they ask, "when you were so completely wrong before?" Now, it's one thing to ask that question of high-profile pundits and politicians, but quite another thing to carry the same stance into a campaign in which winning the votes of as many people as possible is the ultimate goal, not being proved right, or scoring debating points. It goes back to a question I keep returning to over and over again: Is it your goal to get rid of Bush, or simply to make yourself feel better? Sometimes all we can hope for is the latter, but in this case, the stakes being so high, we really cannot afford to do anything except strive for the whole package and rid this nation of the Bush administration's mismanagement, incompetence, corruption and malfeasance for good.

Unfortunately, the way to do that isn't to shove people's faces into their mistaken positions, or to attack them as "stupid" or lacking in IQ. What possible good can it do to think of them in that way, when what they are is a precious resource that we need to do everything we can to tap?

So Kerry needs to provide a pathway for people to, slowly, at their own speed, and (apparently) at their own prompting, migrate from supporting Bush to supporting Kerry. He can't say "The war was totally and utterly wrong, a god-forsaken mistake from the very beginning, and anyone who was taken in by the phony 'evidence' that Bush provided should have their heads examined." Such a stance might be to the liking of most liberals, and may accurate reflect what we feel in our heart of hearts, but it's unlikely that anyone wavering in their support of the war is going to hear that and throw up their hands, saying "You're so right, and what a fool I've been." People just don't work that way. If they're challenged, they're most likely to dig in their heels and give the other guy the finger, in which case you've not only lost a possible vote, you've firmed up the support of the opposition.

Instead, Kerry should provide a narrative which is more along these lines: "We know that people supported the war in Iraq from the best possible motives, to remove what they saw as an eminent threat to this country, to rid Iraq of the humanitarian horror that war Saddam Hussein, and to replace his regime of terror with a stable, democratic government which would not only be better for the Iraqis, but for Americans and the rest of the world as well. Unfortunately, it's turned out that Bush lied about the evidence of the threat, and then so badly mismanaged the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq that it's unlikely that any of our goals will be met. The only thing we did right was to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that's just not enough if we don't leave a better country behind once we leave. With so much that could have been done, if it was done right, Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney have managed to do almost everything wrong. They don't deserve your support, and they haven't earned your loyalty with their incompetence."

I'm not saying that Kerry should literally say that, such a blatant appeal would be seen through and probably rejected, but something along those lines should be the unspoken subtext of everything Kerry says about Iraq. People who have been mislead, and lied to, and who've had their trust returned with mismanagement and rank incompetence are people who can start looking around for somewhere else to go, someone else to latch onto. By letting them know that it's not their fault that things have gone so wrong in Iraq, they can safely remove themselves from their supportive stances and reposition themselves as parties who have been unjustly harmed. That's the escape hatch they need, and which Kerry should be spending a little more time providing.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/16/2004 01:42:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Body armor

A friend of my wife leaves for Iraq soon, and he told her that he had to pay $1500 for personal body armor, because it's not supplied for him.

I told my wife that her friend must be mistaken, because our Secretary of Defense, who George W. Bush says is "superb," has told us that all the troops going to Iraq have the body armor they need -- or, I suggested, perhaps this her friend is a liberal or a Democrat, trying to undermine our war effort with unfounded rumors that our troops aren't properly equipped.

That would be typical, Democrats using the war for political purposes -- you really can't trust them.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/16/2004 12:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Smash Mouth - Summer Girl

Poulenc - Piano Music

Pop Ambient 2007
John Adams
Laurie Anderson
Aphex Twin
Isaac Asimov
Fred Astaire
J.G. Ballard
The Beatles
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John Cage
Raymond Chandler
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Elvis Costello
Richard Dawkins
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Kevin Drum
Brian Eno
Firesign Theatre
Eliot Gelwan
William Gibson
Philip Glass
David Gordon
Stephen Jay Gould
Dashiell Hammett
"The Harder They Come"
Robert Heinlein
Joseph Heller
Frank Herbert
Douglas Hofstadter
Bill James
Gene Kelly
Stanley Kubrick
Jefferson Airplane
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
John McPhee
Harry Partch
Michael C. Penta
Monty Python
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Prisoner"
"The Red Shoes"
Steve Reich
Terry Riley
Oliver Sacks
Erik Satie
"Singin' in the Rain"
Stephen Sondheim
The Specials
Morton Subotnick
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Tangerine Dream
Hunter S. Thompson
J.R.R. Tolkien
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
Kurt Vonnegut
08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003
09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003
09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003
09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003
09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003
10/05/2003 - 10/12/2003
10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003
10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003
11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003
11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003
11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003
12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003
12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003
01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004
01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004
01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004
02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004
02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004
02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004
03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004
03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004
03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004
03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004
04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004
04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004
04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004
04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004
05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004
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05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004
05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004
06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004
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06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004
06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004
07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004
07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004
07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004
08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004
08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004
08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004
08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004
08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004
09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004
09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004
10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004
11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004
11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004
11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004
12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004
12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004
12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005
01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005
01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005
01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005
01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005
01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005
02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005
02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005
02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005
02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005
03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005
03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005
03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005
03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005
04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005
04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005
04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005
04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005
05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005
05/08/2005 - 05/15/2005
05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005
05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005
05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005
06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005
06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005
06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005
06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005
07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005
07/17/2005 - 07/24/2005
07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005
07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005
08/07/2005 - 08/14/2005
08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005
08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005
08/28/2005 - 09/04/2005
09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005
09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005
09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005
09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005
10/02/2005 - 10/09/2005
10/09/2005 - 10/16/2005
10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005
10/23/2005 - 10/30/2005
10/30/2005 - 11/06/2005
11/06/2005 - 11/13/2005
11/13/2005 - 11/20/2005
11/20/2005 - 11/27/2005
11/27/2005 - 12/04/2005
12/04/2005 - 12/11/2005
12/11/2005 - 12/18/2005
12/18/2005 - 12/25/2005
12/25/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 01/08/2006
01/08/2006 - 01/15/2006
01/15/2006 - 01/22/2006
01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006
01/29/2006 - 02/05/2006
02/05/2006 - 02/12/2006
02/12/2006 - 02/19/2006
02/19/2006 - 02/26/2006
02/26/2006 - 03/05/2006
03/05/2006 - 03/12/2006
03/26/2006 - 04/02/2006
04/02/2006 - 04/09/2006
04/09/2006 - 04/16/2006
04/16/2006 - 04/23/2006
04/23/2006 - 04/30/2006
04/30/2006 - 05/07/2006
05/07/2006 - 05/14/2006
05/14/2006 - 05/21/2006
05/21/2006 - 05/28/2006
05/28/2006 - 06/04/2006
06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006
06/11/2006 - 06/18/2006
06/18/2006 - 06/25/2006
06/25/2006 - 07/02/2006
07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006
07/09/2006 - 07/16/2006
07/16/2006 - 07/23/2006
07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006
08/06/2006 - 08/13/2006
08/13/2006 - 08/20/2006
08/20/2006 - 08/27/2006
08/27/2006 - 09/03/2006
09/03/2006 - 09/10/2006
09/10/2006 - 09/17/2006
09/17/2006 - 09/24/2006
09/24/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 10/08/2006
10/08/2006 - 10/15/2006
10/15/2006 - 10/22/2006
10/22/2006 - 10/29/2006
10/29/2006 - 11/05/2006
11/05/2006 - 11/12/2006
11/12/2006 - 11/19/2006
11/19/2006 - 11/26/2006
11/26/2006 - 12/03/2006
12/03/2006 - 12/10/2006
12/10/2006 - 12/17/2006
12/17/2006 - 12/24/2006
12/24/2006 - 12/31/2006
12/31/2006 - 01/07/2007
01/07/2007 - 01/14/2007
01/14/2007 - 01/21/2007
01/21/2007 - 01/28/2007
01/28/2007 - 02/04/2007
02/04/2007 - 02/11/2007
02/11/2007 - 02/18/2007
02/18/2007 - 02/25/2007
02/25/2007 - 03/04/2007
03/04/2007 - 03/11/2007
03/11/2007 - 03/18/2007
03/18/2007 - 03/25/2007
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04/01/2007 - 04/08/2007
04/08/2007 - 04/15/2007
04/15/2007 - 04/22/2007
04/22/2007 - 04/29/2007
04/29/2007 - 05/06/2007
05/13/2007 - 05/20/2007
05/20/2007 - 05/27/2007
05/27/2007 - 06/03/2007
06/03/2007 - 06/10/2007
06/10/2007 - 06/17/2007
06/17/2007 - 06/24/2007
06/24/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 07/08/2007
07/08/2007 - 07/15/2007
07/29/2007 - 08/05/2007
08/05/2007 - 08/12/2007
08/12/2007 - 08/19/2007
08/19/2007 - 08/26/2007
08/26/2007 - 09/02/2007
09/02/2007 - 09/09/2007
09/09/2007 - 09/16/2007
09/16/2007 - 09/23/2007
09/23/2007 - 09/30/2007
09/30/2007 - 10/07/2007
10/07/2007 - 10/14/2007
10/14/2007 - 10/21/2007
10/21/2007 - 10/28/2007
10/28/2007 - 11/04/2007
11/04/2007 - 11/11/2007
11/11/2007 - 11/18/2007
11/18/2007 - 11/25/2007
11/25/2007 - 12/02/2007
12/02/2007 - 12/09/2007
12/09/2007 - 12/16/2007
12/16/2007 - 12/23/2007
12/23/2007 - 12/30/2007
12/30/2007 - 01/06/2008
01/06/2008 - 01/13/2008
01/13/2008 - 01/20/2008
01/20/2008 - 01/27/2008
01/27/2008 - 02/03/2008
02/03/2008 - 02/10/2008
02/10/2008 - 02/17/2008
02/17/2008 - 02/24/2008
02/24/2008 - 03/02/2008
03/09/2008 - 03/16/2008
03/16/2008 - 03/23/2008
03/23/2008 - 03/30/2008
03/30/2008 - 04/06/2008
06/01/2008 - 06/08/2008
09/21/2008 - 09/28/2008

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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

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I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

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the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
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.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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