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October 29, 2004

Family in town

So, probably no more posting today. Go read Atrios. He's on a roll with the missing weapons story, among other things. And be sure to catch Jack Hitt's voter suppression piece on This American Life this weekend (whenever it runs in your area).

Update: at least partly at the urging of your humble host, TAL has put Jack's piece online earlier than usual. Click here, scroll down to the Jack Hitt story. Seriously, do this now. Especially if you are a Republican--listen, and ask yourself if this is really the sort of behavior with which you would like to be associated. (Not to mention this.)

Meanwhile, Bob informs us that the Bush/Cheney 2004 website is blocked to anyone attempting to access it from outside the United States. Fortress America, indeed...

Confused correspondent

I'm not sure why the author of the email below included me on the cc list (which otherwise consisted of partisan Republican bloggers, from what I could tell), but I'm happy to share it with you (in full). Always important to keep up with what the other side is thinking.

we are sending you this e-mail to ask for your support in breaking the story about joh kerry, being direcdted by hanoi, the msm is not covering it, and the american people need to be told about this before the elections, it will be a tradgety if kerry is elected, please do you best to break this story

Consider yourself, um, warned.

(..."msm", for those of you not up on these things, is right wing goofball slang for "mainstream media," i.e., any source of information other than Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Republican blogs.)


October 27, 2004

A bonus for you

Occasionally, I end up with a cartoon that never runs--because I was saving it for backup, or because it somehow got bumped by breaking news and was never rescheduled, or something like that. Found one on my hard drive tonight, a follow-up to a cartoon from a year or so ago that a lot of you seemed to enjoy--"Outrage Overload". Anyway, since John Kerry's going to win decisively in six days and I'll never get a chance to use this one anywhere else, here's the never-before seen sequel.

And to think we knew him when

Kos has hit the big time--Tom Delay is spreading lies about him.

"LaRouche is a con felon and all I can tell you is that Mr. Morrison has supported and campaigned with LaRouche followers and Mr. Morrison also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters against the U.S. in Iraq," said DeLay.

Wow. What a fucking moron.

Kos does raise a lot of money, of course--for Democrats, none of whom are fighting against the US in Iraq, to my knowledge.

I think DeLay owes Kos an apology. And I think if it's not forthcoming, Kos should sue the sonofabitch for defamation. Just my two cents, of course.

"John Kerry thinks Osama is good!"

This cartoon was, of course, inspired by the Republican penchant for taking snips and phrases completely out of context and whacking Kerry over the head with them. Here's the latest example:

Bush did bring up the matter a few minutes later, in a speech in Lititz, Pa.

"Now the senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser admits, quote, 'we do not know the facts."' Bush said. "Think about that -- the senator's denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts. Unfortunately, that's part of a pattern of saying almost anything to get elected."

Here's what Holbrooke actually said:

AMBASSADOR RICHARD HOLBROOKE, KERRY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: I just read the NBC story while sitting in your green room and that's not what I read it saying.

The embedded reporter said that when she and the unit went through, they didn't look very hard and then they moved on, and she didn't see anything, and that was three weeks later.

You and I don't know what happened. We do know one thing: the U.N. inspectors and the IAEA inspectors had told the American military this was a major depot.

Everyone knew it was, and it wasn't clarified. Now the thing has been looted. I don't know what happened. I do know one thing: in most administrations, the buck stops in the Oval Office.

And when I read in the newspapers this morning that the White House Press Spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush was only aware of this issue 10 days ago, I'm a little troubled by that.

And here's what Bush has to say to, you know, reality:

(Animated gif via Bob, who encourages you to spread it around.)


Had some problems with bandwidth leeching a couple of months ago, and had to take down some of the various archives while I sorted it out. Well, the problem has been resolved, and I've just spent the last couple of days getting everything cleaned up and back online. As of today, the site is once again fully operational. Enjoy.

Political pumpkins

Carve your own John Kerry or George Bush jack o'lantern. Patterns here.

Hey kids...

Enjoy the Draft!

Proof the system works

That was the refrain in 2000--the more ridiculous things got, the more the talking heads on tv insisted that it was all "proof the system works." I literally heard one of the CNN biggies declare that the lack of rioting in the streets was, yes, "proof the system works." It's the same thing that happens whenever the stock market goes into a decline and the various financial "experts" are all over the cable nets "talking the market up," reassuring investors that everything's fine, there's no reason to worry--when in fact there's probably very good reason to worry. In the same way, Wolf and Judy and the gang seemed to feel it was their duty to talk democracy up--to reassure voters that we'd just hit a little snag in the road, but there was no real cause for concern. At the same time, though most attention was focused on Florida, reports of voting irregularities started coming in from all over the country, and I got to thinking about just how approximate our democracy is, and wrote the cartoon below.

I intended this one as over-the-top satire, but as so often has been the case these past few years, reality has surpassed my feeble efforts, and I fear it may turn out to be a fairly accurate representation of Election Day, 2004. (Well, maybe not the part about eating live hamsters, but you get the idea.) We've been hearing disturbing reports of attempted voter suppression for weeks now, and I suspect the fun is only beginning. (An advance heads up, incidentally: my friend Jack Hitt is working on what sounds like an extraordinary piece on voter suppression for This American Life, which is set to air this weekend. I'm probably not supposed to say too much about it, but he has some really astonishing interviews, and I strongly recommend you make a point of listening.)

Anyway, we'll probably be seeing quite a lot of "proof the system works" over the next six days. Here's the latest, from this morning's Tampa Bay Tribune:

The Republican Party said Tuesday that it may equip its Florida poll watchers with lists of voters whose registrations appear fraudulent, then use a little- known section of state law to try blocking them from voting as they arrive at the polls.

Democrats quickly denounced the unprecedented tactic but did not rule out the possibility that they, too, may file eligibility challenges next week.

With both sides amassing armies of lawyers, the prospect of the fight working its way into neighborhood polling stations is frightening county elections supervisors because the arcane procedure is so unwieldy it could shut down entire stations each time it is exercised.

...More here:

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."

Not exactly proof that the system works...but it is proof that Republicans know how to work the system.

Rehnquist watch

Bob suspects the Supreme Court may be going through some changes sooner rather than later. I don't know about you, but the words "Chief Justice Scalia" scare the shit out of me.


October 26, 2004

Set your Tivo

This looks like a must-see.

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

Reign of incompetence

Krugman, this morning:

Yesterday we got two peeks under that shroud. One was The Times's report about what the International Atomic Energy Agency calls "the greatest explosives bonanza in history." Ignoring the agency's warnings, administration officials failed to secure the weapons site, Al Qaqaa, in Iraq, allowing 377 tons of deadly high explosives to be looted, presumably by insurgents...

Informed sources quoted by the influential Nelson Report say explosives from Al Qaqaa are the "primary source" of the roadside and car bombs that have killed and wounded so many U.S. soldiers. And thanks to the huge amount looted - "in a highly organized operation using heavy equipment" - the insurgents and whoever else have access to the Qaqaa material have enough explosives for tens of thousands of future bombs.

So, to summarize: Iraq had no WMDs, no nuclear weapons or biological agents with which to wreak havoc on far away lands. But there were large stockpiles of conventional explosives, and because the Bush administration ignored the warnings of weapons inspectors, they ended up in the hands of terrorists who are using them against US troops who were allegedly sent to Iraq in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. With us so far?

And then there's this:

An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal confirmed and expanded on an "NBC Nightly News" report from March that asserted that before the Iraq war, administration officials called off a planned attack that might have killed Mr. Zarqawi, the terrorist now blamed for much of the mayhem in that country, in his camp.

Citing "military officials," the original NBC report explained that the failure to go after Mr. Zarqawi was based on domestic politics: "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq" - a part of Iraq not controlled by Saddam Hussein - "could undermine its case for war against Saddam." The Journal doesn't comment on this explanation, but it does say that when NBC reported, correctly, that Mr. Zarqawi had been targeted before the war, administration officials denied it.

I watch these guys claim that John Kerry isn't fit to lead the war on terror, and I just keep thinking of that line from The Usual Suspects: the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. The greatest trick these guys ever pulled is convincing the country that Bush is fit to lead. Things aren't going to get better right away--when John Kerry wins, he's going to inherit a real mess. Nonetheless, this blogger has it exactly right. It's a very simple choice next Tuesday--you're either for this or against it:

Obligatory Brooks post

So. Let's take a quick look and see what David Brooks is writing about this morning. Why, it's a witty look at inside-the-Beltway dinner party know-it-alls! He describes the behavior of these insufferable boors:

He begins his dinner party performance with a combination of impressive name-dropping and crushing banality: "I was talking to Karl the other day - Karl Rove - and he mentioned that winning the most electoral votes is the key to winning the election. And when I bumped into Tim - Tim Russert - at Colin and Alma's place, he agreed."

Boy, don't you just hate that? When you're at a fabulous dinner party and some tedious name-dropper starts recounting his conversations with Karl and Tim? Talk about a universal, shared experience to which we can all relate! Hoo, boy!

Or maybe not.

Sarcasm aside, the column veers into such apparently unselfconscious self-parody, you really have to wonder if somebody hacked the Times' computer system before the paper went to press. Consider the following:

Now dominating the table, the pundit should indulge in the sort of storytelling beloved by swing-state-travel braggarts. He should speak in counties, about his trips through Cuyahoga, Macomb, Muscatine and Broward. If somebody mentions she has an aunt living in Ridgeville just south of Dayton, he should fondly recall the exceptional Waffle House there.

Donning the false modesty worn by Those Who Talk to Voters, he should describe how he humbly listens to the volk, while making it clear that only someone as brilliant as himself could discern national trends from 13 conversations.

Now, remember, this is David Brooks writing this stuff. David Brooks is denouncing pundits who make quick forays into the hinterlands in order to draw facile conclusions about Real Americans. David Brooks, who famously took a journey to Franklin County, PA, in order to compare and contrast the many differences between red states and blue states--and just as famously got it all wrong, as writer Sasha Issenberg discovered:

As I made my journey, it became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home. "On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu -- steak au jus, 'slippery beef pot pie,' or whatever -- I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most-expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee's," he wrote. "I'd scan the menu and realize that I'd been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and 'seafood delight' trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it."

Taking Brooks's cue, I lunched at the Chambersburg Red Lobster and quickly realized that he could not have waded through much surf-and-turf at all. The "Steak and Lobster" combination with grilled center-cut New York strip is the most expensive thing on the menu. It costs $28.75. "Most of our checks are over $20," said Becka, my waitress. "There are a lot of ways to spend over $20."

The easiest way to spend over $20 on a meal in Franklin County is to visit the Mercersburg Inn, which boasts "turn-of-the-century elegance." I had a $50 prix-fixe dinner, with an entrée of veal medallions, served with a lump-crab and artichoke tower, wild-rice pilaf and a sage-caper-cream sauce. Afterward, I asked the inn's proprietors, Walt and Sandy Filkowski, if they had seen Brooks's article. They laughed. After it was published in the Atlantic, the nearby Mercersburg Academy boarding school invited Brooks as part of its speaker series. He spent the night at the inn. "For breakfast I made a goat-cheese-and-sun-dried-tomato tart," Sandy said. "He said he just wanted scrambled eggs."

I'll bet David Brooks is familiar with the sort of crushingly banal pundit he describes. Very, very familiar.


October 25, 2004

Cartoon archive back online

Hoping to have everything else back up in the next day or so. Blogging may be light as I remain immersed in html hell.

Richie Bush

My pal Peter Kuper has a new animated short that you really must go watch now.


October 24, 2004

Health care

I haven't done much on it lately, but longtime readers of my strip will remember that the American health insurance system, and the inevitable necessity of a single-payer system, have been ongoing themes of mine for many years. It's an obsession borne of personal experience--I haven't had a "real" job since 1989 or so, and given the peculiar American linkage of health care with employment status, there have been long periods where finding health insurance was rough going.

These days, of course, businesses are starting to balk at the unreasonable costs of health insurance. The irony there is that--as I understand it--business fought labor to retain its status as the primary provider of health benefits some sixty or seventy years ago, in order to maintain greater control over the workforce. At any rate, the notion that the free market is the best system under which something as basic and necessary as health care can be provided is utter and demonstrable nonsense, even as George W. ("W" is for "Who the hell cares what happens to you?") Bush continues to bring up the hoary old canard of "Washington bureaucrats" deciding what health care is right for you. Donald Bartlett and James Steele explain it all in today's New York Times:

The explanation for this abysmal record is one that politicians decline to discuss. The market functions wonderfully when we want to sell more cereals, cosmetics, cars, computers or any other consumer product. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in health care, where the goal should hardly be selling more heart bypass operations. Instead, the goal should be to prevent disease and illness. But the money is in the treatment - not prevention - so the market and good health care are at odds. Just how much at odds is seen in the current shortage of flu vaccine, as men and women in their 80's and 90's line up for hours at a time, hoping to get the shot they have been told they need, but may not receive because not nearly enough has been manufactured.

The reason for the shortage is this: Preventing a flu epidemic that could kill thousands is not nearly as profitable as making pills for something like erectile dysfunction, a decidedly non-fatal condition. Viagra, for example, brings in more than $1 billion a year for its maker, Pfizer. The profits to be made from selling flu vaccine are measly in comparison. If selling flu vaccine were as lucrative as marketing Viagra, sports broadcasts and the nightly news would be flooded with commercials warning that "winter is almost here; ask your doctor about flu vaccine" - and it would be available to anyone who wanted it. Instead, while many of those at risk of the flu go without the vaccine, primetime programs are sponsored by the makers of Viagra ("Get back to mischief"), Cialis ("Will you be ready?") and Levitra ("Stay in the game").


What's needed to control the costs and to provide basic health and hospitalization coverage for all Americans is an independent agency that would set national health care policy, collect medical fees, pay claims, reimburse doctors fairly and restrain runaway drug prices - a single-payer system that would eliminate the costly, inefficient bureaucracy generated by thousands of different plans. It's not such a radical idea; a single-payer system already exists for Medicare.

Much more here. Go read.


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