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August 14, 2004

O'Reilly's really nuts

Catch the Krugman/O'Reilly thing on Russert's show on MSNBC CNBC if you get the chance. Krugman looks vaguely uncomfortable, as anyone who doesn't spend a lot of time in front of the camera tends to--but O'Reilly's just nuts. Over the top bully boy crap. I don't know what form it will eventually take, but he's a meltdown waiting to happen.

--------------------

August 13, 2004

Memo to Kerry campaign

I met enough people at the Democratic convention who read this blog to feel fairly confident that there's somebody reading this who knows somebody who knows somebody at an upper level in the Kerry campaign. So whoever you are--please, for the love of god, make them read this post. And be sure they follow the links.

Reading comprehension

Bob Harris, below:

Finally, no, of course this isn't supposed to be more important than other issues like the War On Tara, "voting" machines which are anything but, the slow Guantanamization of American life, or the rest of our impending doom during the incompetent reign of a corrupt alcoholic chimpanzee who thinks he talks to God. September, as described below, is National Frighten The Children Just Before The Election month. That alone is way more a part of our future than whether or not Bush slugged a guy, drove drunk, dodged Vietnam, profited from insider trades, took sadistic delight in executing people, or ignored repeated warnings about Al-Qaeda until it was too goddam late.

Any number of conservatives who have emailed me instead of Bob:

Are you kidding? A rugby game? Ha ha ha! Is that the very worst you can come up with?

Well, no. And if you go a little slower, and maybe work on sounding out the syllables the way Hooked on Phonics taught you, you might have a better shot at understanding the actual meaning of the words Bob has written.

And that Bob is not Tom.

--------------------

August 12, 2004

Coming soon: the al Qaeda/swift boat connection!

So. You think this...

"Cues from chatter" gathered around the world are raising concerns that terrorists might try to attack the domestic food and drug supply, particularly illegally imported prescription drugs, acting Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) Commissioner Lester M. Crawford says.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Crawford said Wednesday that he had been briefed about al-Qaida plans uncovered during recent arrests and raids, but declined further comment about any possible threats.

"While we must assume that such a threat exists generally, we have no specific information now about any al-Qaida threats to our food or drug supply," said Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department.

Crawford said the possibility of such an attack was the most serious of his concerns about the increase in states and municipalities trying to import drugs from Canada to save money.

...has anything to do with this?

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Wednesday that President George W. Bush is standing in the way of bipartisan efforts in Congress to allow drug imports from Canada.

He compared the prices of popular drugs in the United States and Canada, noting they are close to more than twice as expensive in the United States. "George Bush stood right there and said: 'Nope, we're not going to help people to have lower cost drugs in America, we're going to help the big drug companies get a great big windfall," Kerry said, campaigning in Henderson, Nev.

Nah. Couldn't be. That would be playing politics with terror--and Tom Ridge assured us the administration doesn't do that!

...right before he said, "We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror."

Hat tip...

...to my pal Bob Harris, who's not only been keeping this site alive as I struggle through the Sisyphian task of re-creating my life in an entirely new setting--but actually making news while he's at it. He broke the story of "Preparedness Month," which is now getting wider media attention, and drew further attention to that telling photo of Bush playing rugby--and is credited for the latter in this Boston Herald article.

Rumor has it, we may be getting some firsthand reports from Athens out of our boy Bob, but that has yet to be confirmed.

No shit, Sherlock

The Washington Post acknowledges that it could have done better:

As violence continues in postwar Iraq and U.S. forces have yet to discover any WMDs, some critics say the media, including The Washington Post, failed the country by not reporting more skeptically on President Bush's contentions during the run-up to war.

Follow the link; there's a lot more. Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, this pisses me off. I can't even begin to tell you how many morons wrote me before the war and said, how can you possibly oppose this war? We KNOW Saddam has WMD's! Let alone all the gloating triumphalism on Pulling-Down-the-Statue Day. They say the US is polarized like never before--well, I swear, sometimes it seems to me that the only real polarization is between smart people and stupid people. And by "stupid," I don't mean unintelligent--there are plenty of stupid people with advanced degrees and high paying jobs in this world. No, by "stupid," I mean people who are apparently incapable of comprehending one of the basic truisms of human history: politicians do not always tell the truth. The smart people understood from the start that this war was predicated upon a pile of bullshit so deep, you'd need one of those special pressurized deep sea diving bells to find your way to the bottom. And as for the Post, and others who have subsequently figured out the difference between their own anus and a hole in the ground--well, don't expect any accolades from me. I'd suggest they try to do better next time but I know they won't. If, god forbid, Bush manages to secure a second term, and whips up another jingoistic pro-war frenzy to invade Iran or Syria or France or Canada, you can just damn well bet all these self-flagellating media types will be right there at the forefront, waving their little flags and dutilfully fulfilling their function as stenographers to power, desperately afraid of being labeled "unpatriotic" by a handful of fringe lunatics who not only don't deserve the attention they get, but in a sane world, would not deserve to be pissed upon if they were on fire.

Oh, by the way, here's the kicker:

"Do I feel we owe our readers an apology? I don't think so."


--------------------

August 11, 2004

Reliable sources

Yahoo runs a story from the official newsletter of the Republican party, the Washington Times, which in turn quotes an unnamed official who tells us that al Qaeda plans to disrupt the election because "the view of Al-Qaeda is 'anybody but Bush.'"

Interesting choice of words, isn't it--given that the view of the Democrats this campaign season is often described, rightly or wrongly, as "anybody but Bush."

It's a not so subtle way of suggesting that a vote for Kerry is a vote for al Qaeda. Which is what the Republicans would like us to believe. They sure don't have much else to run on.

And of course, for whatever it may be worth, al Qaeda has reportedly said exactly the opposite.

Look, I have no doubt that al Qaeda wants to hurt us again. But as I've tried to point out before, trying to figure out what al Qaeda wants or doesn't want us to do is really a fool's game.

Update on National Preparedness Month

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Less than 48 hours after my original post went up -- the first article anywhere on the subject, to my knowledge -- the Department of Homeland Security issued its first press release on their quietly-organized month of training us to focus on our mortal danger.

While the timing is almost certainly coincidental, nothing else about this exercise seems to be. I've updated the post below extensively.

Looking backward, and then forward

Matt Welch has a nice little summary of what it was like to be a blogger at the Democratic convention. Me, I only took part in one interview, with the New York Times, and that was only to set the record straight on this site's often-overlooked but rather crucial role in Trent Lott's downfall.

Other than that, I tried to stay pretty low key. On my first or second day in Boston, I read a feature story in the Boston Globe about some kids who had been credentialed to cover the convention for the Weekly Reader, and it suddenly hit me--that's what the bloggers were. A novelty act, like the kids from the Weekly Reader. If there had been a talking dog at the convention (outside of last week's TMW, I mean), or maybe a horse that could do arithmetic, we would have all been lumped into the same category.

As for New York...as it turns out, I've got some fairly non-negotiable obligations which are going to make it extremely difficult for me to get away from home that week. So chances are, I'll be watching the convention on television--which, as I noted in a previous post, has its own advantages. What I'm mostly going to miss out on, I think, is the action outside the convention center--so I'm putting out an open invitation to those of you who will be on the ground. Send in your updates, your eyewitness reports, and I'll try to post them here. I'd like to post your photos as well, but I'm bumping up against my server's bandwidth limits lately, so I'm not sure about that. (If anyone has some extra server space to donate for image hosting, shoot me an email.)

--------------------

August 10, 2004

George W. Bush sucker-punches a rugby opponent at Yale

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

As long as we're re-examining the 1960s, looking for signs of character, trying to decide if a man who volunteered for combat and was decorated five times was more or less courageous than a guy who didn't even show up for his own medical exam... here's George W. Bush during his college days, hitting a fellow sportsman in the face.

The above photo, credited to the Yale yearbook (the caption is in the original), appeared in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, alongside a story on the appeal of "bad boys" in American politics. It's not in the Times' online version, and the rest of the country should see it, I think.

Incidentally, while rugby is a contact sport, every player knows that tackling above the shoulders is a foul. So is leaving your feet during a tackle. Either of these is serious enough that the other team is immediately awarded a penalty kick, often directly resulting in points for the other team.

So even without throwing a punch, Bush is already well outside fair play.

Grasping an opponent by the back of the head and punching him in the face is beyond the pale -- I've watched rugby avidly for years, and I've never seen it during an open-field tackle like this, honest -- and will typically result in a player being immediately sent off.

I'm sure by next week Karl Rove will have a collection of rugby players claiming that John Kerry was even worse...

UPDATE: Had a delightful email exchange with Jim Sleeper, the Yale political science lecturer who wrote the L.A. Times piece and recently found the above photo in his own Yale class of '69 yearbook. Go click over to Jim's article at the link above; it's good. Several other newspapers will apparently be running the photo and story in their print editions in the next few days. Good news for Jim, us, and the republic.

As to why nobody seems to have noticed this photo before, Jim thinks it's because Bush had already graduated a year earlier, and so nobody looked past the '68 book for Bush stuff.

Strange, then, that this photo would be in the '69 book -- unless Bush was well-known as a thug, and thus it wasn't considered out of bounds to print such a thing about a guy who wasn't there anymore.

I've heard from a few rugby players who conjecture that what we're seeing, while unsportsmanlike and a clear foul (Bush has left his feet and made contact above the shoulders), might be the moment immediately after a incompentently-made dirty tackle, with the arm coming down, instead of the moment before an incompetently-thrown dirty punch, with the arm coming up. But I've also heard from a few who think it's exactly what Yale's yearbook staff said it was. We'll probably never know.

Decide for yourself. Either way, both incompetent and dirty.

As Jim points out in his email... character really is destiny, ain't it?

FURTHER UPDATE: This has generated more email than anything else I've ever posted, scrutinized as if it's the Zapruder film of men in knickers.

A few new tidbits: several sources, including this article, say Bush's position was a wing (make up your own right- or left- jokes), a position that requires more sprinting speed than tackling skill. Gee, um, no kidding.

For the truly curious, Yale has a photo of the full team; Bush is in the back row, center, two guys down from a fellow who seems to have undergone some sort of Manchurian Candidate surgery. Of course, rugby truly can be considered a form of trepanation by other means...

As to the photo appearing in the yearbook after Bush's graduation, apparently that happens fairly frequently with sports photos. That's nothing unusual, although the choice of photo and caption, a year later, still seems pretty wild.

Finally, no, of course this isn't supposed to be more important than other issues like the War On Tara, "voting" machines which are anything but, the slow Guantanamization of American life, or the rest of our impending doom during the incompetent reign of a corrupt alcoholic chimpanzee who thinks he talks to God. September, as described below, is National Frighten The Children Just Before The Election month. That alone is way more a part of our future than whether or not Bush slugged a guy, drove drunk, dodged Vietnam, profited from insider trades, took sadistic delight in executing people, or ignored repeated warnings about Al-Qaeda until it was too goddam late.

But the past is prologue.

I again applaud Jim Sleeper for surfacing this tiny bit of it.

--------------------

August 08, 2004

Using the threat of terrorism to scare voters: all of September will be "National Preparedness Month"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I haven't seen any news stories about it, but I just got tipped by a guy who works in Washington, and this GSA page confirms: September is about to become "National Preparedness Month."

Heck, this Red Cross page flatly states that Tom Ridge will make the official announcement on September 9th.

Whoa.

(Why September 9th? That's awfully late, if it's supposed to be the entire month. My guess, thinking like Karl Rove: this year's 9/11 anniversary falls on a Saturday, so an announcement on the date or even Friday would only get a burst of free media on a weekend. But by timing it for the 6 pm news on Thursday, it'll reach the Friday papers, and thus be fully-injected into all of the emotion-laden anniversary coverage, plus the Sunday morning talk shows.)

The idea, obviously, is to throw a large amount of focus, possibly for weeks on end, on the only issue on which Bush outpolls Kerry. And of course this will come on the heels of the GOP convention. So where the Democrats' post-convention media got blitzed with terror warnings based on years-old intelligence, the Republicans' afterglow might well be favorably extended, implied message being:

"Why, with George Bush and enough shovels, we'll all be just fine."

Let's see... searching further... can't find anything about it on the Dept. of Homeland Security site. (No surprise; you want to maximize media impact, not piss it away with a bunch of pre-announcements. Hint to readers: letters to the editor, now, won't diminish any actual security value, but they will defuse the propaganda effect.)

However -- aha! -- the "America Prepared Campaign" has a downloadable .pdf calendar of events.

Fascinating stuff.

The very first scheduled event is an August 30 "preparedness quiz" in Parade magazine, coinciding with the kickoff of the GOP convention.

(Parade, incidentally, is a flag-waving Sunday supplement to over 340 newspapers, with a readership of (seriously) almost eighty million people; purchasing a full page costs over $800,000. As I write this, they're running an interview with Dick Cheney, in which he repeats, unopposed, a series of obvious distortions if not outright lies.* Nice. And they're plugging the GOP's key issue on the opening day of the convention, probably with a cover story, free of charge... sweeet deal.)

Other September Surprises: a whole "educate the family" campaign, with kits available at various retailers; an in-school "Ready Deputy" duck-and-cover training program; and a website called Readykids.gov (not yet online), all launched in the first week.

Brilliance. Tie the concept of Bush's only winning issue to family and children. Unspoken, deniable implication: "vote for Bush if you want your kids to live." Nice.

On the 7th, there's another newspaper supplement, then -- yep, the official announcement on the 9th. Look for Tom Ridge, possibly flanked by tremulous herds of frightened waifs, sometime around noon EST.

On 9/11 itself, there's a "NASCAR race in Richmond" listed. This would be the "Chevy Rock 'N' Roll 400" at the Richmond International Raceway. Obviously, a NASCAR race has nothing -- nothing -- whatsoever to do homeland security. It is, however, a GOP-friendly event in Virginia, a battleground state where Bush's lead is within the margin of error.

Hmm. There are two other NASCAR races in September: one in New Hampshire, the other in Delaware. Both are solidly in the Kerry camp. And, gosh, nothing is scheduled. Apparently non-swing state voters just don't need to be quite so, ahem, "prepared."

If we don't see "preparedness" rallies at the other two races -- and they ain't scheduled, folks -- that certainly suggests Bush et al are using fear as a political tool.

This is transparently a continuation of the Bush campaign by other means, financed with everyone's tax dollars, out of funds that could be used, say, to hire more actual first-responders, Pushtun translators, or troops to replace the exhausted guardsmen.

Bush should be called out on this, and now, by journalists, by the Kerry campaign, and by everyone who prefers actual security over campaign propaganda.

Our tipster said something I want to share:

Those of us who actually work on this sort of thing, in addition to wondering what the other 35 months since 9/11 have been, are of course not thrilled that this is so obviously being politicized.

Yes. Exactly.

It's three years after 9/11, and less than three months before an election, and now we get a National Preparedness Month.

And yes, let's ask Bush and Tom Ridge the simple question: what the hell do these people think the previous 35 months were?

*Cheney distortions published by Parade: Cheney bizarrely straw-mans all opposition to Bush's military policies as a return to "Cold War" strategies (huh? Mutual Assured Destruction?), a non-sequitur irrelevant to either the anti-war position or Kerry's suggestion that an ally or two might be nice; Cheney repeatedly implies the discredited notion that Iraq was allied with Al-Qaeda; and Cheney repeats the absolute falsehood that Iraq kicked out UN weapons inspectors in 1998 (they were withdrawn after a phone call from the U.S. rep to the UN, in advance of a U.S. attack).

UPDATE: less than 48 hours after this post went up, the Dept. of Homeland Security issued an official press release announcing September as National Preparedness Month. The timing is probably just a coincidence.

Still, they've confirmed damn near everything here. The "official" announcement really is on September 9th. They're really that brazen.

As far as this being a partisan enterprise, targeting the self-avowedly pro-Christian, pro-family, pro-business GOP base: the groups they've signed up to participate are really quite telling. Look at the list. You'll find the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, something called "The National Fatherhood Initiative" (which, one presumes, is courageously taking on the powerful anti-fatherhood lobby), the American Legion, the VFW, the USO, the Points of Light Foundation, and a whole slew of various military, religious, law enforcement, and business lobbying organizations.

Aside from the obvious inclusion of emergency health organizations like the Red Cross, there are only a handful of other listings (the DC Metro Transit Authority, for example). And while many of these groups are expressly conservative, you won't find a single group -- not one -- with a progressive agenda. Not one. Was the ACLU involved, to make sure that our civil liberties are factored into emergency discussions? Nope. Obviously, that's not part of the equation here.

This is, in short, a partisan, deeply politicized, Republican deal. On its face.

What troubles me most of all, really, is the one other set of groups pledged as active participants -- the media, in the form of the Ad Council, the NAB, the Outdoor Advertising Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

... and then the deluge.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

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