The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, March 06, 2004


My sister's former public policy professor has a fascinating idea for how to get Bush to agree to speaking with the 9/11 commission for more than a mere hour.
So here's a modest proposal: Since the President obviously has many hours to spend at fund-raising events, let's combine the hearing with a fund-raiser. Sell seats at, say, $1000 per hour per seat, with the proceeds going to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and let the hearing go on for as long as there are at least 100 paying guests in the audience.

That way the public interest in knowing in some detail about the President's performance before and after the crash and the President's interest in having enough money on hand to tell convincing lies about that performance can be satisfied simultaneously.

There! Now who says I'm unreasonable?
Hehehe. Plus it all would be held in one place, which would allow Bush to actually curb spending somewhere.

But in making this joke, Kleiman makes an interesting point... well, he makes it in the paragraph prior to making the joke:
Given the President's documented capacity to pack enormous numbers of words into tiny amounts of meaning, he will probably have exhausted sixty minutes by the time he finishes answering the question, "Where did you go and what did you do immediately after hearing the news of the second WTC crash, and for the rest of that day?" which will leave him no time to answer the next question: "Who authorized the evacuation of all bin Laden family members and other prominent Saudi citizens from the United States before the FBI had a chance to interview any of them?"
Anybody who watched Bush's Meet the Press interview knows that his extravagant, long-worded, overly-broad answers to Russert's questions were designed to squeeze out a minute here, a minute there, and eliminate any possibility for Russert to follow up on any one point to any necessary extent. Surely he would attempt the same method with the 9/11 commission.

But doesn't this put Bush in bad company? Yes, because this was Gary Condit's strategy. Back in August of 2001, there was mounting pressure on the former Congressman to tell his side of the story, problematic as that may have been for him. He settled on ABC's Primetime Live, where he would be interviewed by Connie Chung. But there was a catch: He would only allow himself to be interviewed for one hour (perhaps less), and the interview would have to be aired unedited. The result was that in his interview, he babbled on and on, offering the same platitudes numerous times, and giving excessively long, but content-free answers to the interviewer, quickly exhausting all available time.

Now Bush wants to use the very same strategy, but this time related to a much more trivial, unimportant topic: The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
In reviewing Bush's first round of 2004 commercials, Slate's Jacob Weisberg catches Bush lying:
The text of "Safer, Stronger" begins: "January 2001, The challenge: An economy in recession. A stock market in decline. ..." In fact, as Bush acknowledged quite recently in his Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert, he did not inherit a recession from President Clinton. The recession began two months after he arrived, in March 2001.

This is the only demonstrably untrue statement to be found in these three ads. Tellingly, it is also nearly the only statement of fact in any of them.
Saletan's take, in response to Weisberg in the same link, is also quite interesting. And speaking of Saletan, I'd be remiss if I didn't link to this piece of his, on how Bush's campaign slogan -- "Steady leadership in times of change" -- is all too accurate.
From foreign to economic to social policy, Bush's record is a lesson in the limits and perils of conviction. He's too confident to consult a map. He's too strong to heed warnings and too steady to turn the wheel when the road bends. He's too certain to admit error, even after plowing through ditches and telephone poles. He's too preoccupied with principle to understand that principle isn't enough. Watching the stars instead of the road, he has wrecked the budget and the war on terror. Now he's heading for the Constitution. It's time to pull him over and take away the keys.

I have a concert coming up! Hear me rock! Deatils:
Brendan Getzell
Featured Performer
Java Jones
6560 Pardall Road
Isla Vista CA (Map)
Friday, April 2nd, 2004
8:00 PM
I'll be playing 7-8 songs, and everyone within a radius of, well, earth, is invited. I got the gig last night after performing at an open mic at the same venue last night, they guy who ran it asked me right after I finished! My setlist last night, for those of you who are familiar with my music, was a new untitled song, then "Refs Unpersons", "Re-Entry" and "A Dreamless Sleep".

Please do come and check out my energetic, textured acoustic stylings on April 2nd!

Ezra has a plan for how Kerry should deal with Nader:
It strikes me as a potential opportunity. By using Nader as the extreme liberal foil and Bush as the extreme conservative, Kerry can paint himself as the mainstream candidate. Running against both Bush and Nader and equating them in every speech creates the potential for Nader to actually help offset Kerry's perceived liberalism while highlighting Bush's extreme right-wing ideologies.
Attacking Nader sure sounds like a juicy way of going about things for Kerry. But is it really necessary?

The available polling out there has Nader at 4 (ARG in Florida) and 6 (Ipsos Nationally) percent, respectively. Those numbers are a mirage for a couple of reasons.

The first, important reason is that Nader is running as an independent, and without a party apparatus, he will be lucky to get on the ballot in 30-40 states. (With the Greens, he was on the ballot in 43 states.) Ipsos polled likely voters across the country, so they certainly polled voters in states where Ralph will not make it onto the ballot. That may take a couple percentage points away from Nader to begin with.

In 2000, Nader finished with 2.74 percent of the total vote. Did real support for Nader jump all the way up to 4-6 percent since then? It would be ironic, because now that he doesn't have a party, Nader would be able to receive "Ralph Nader Party" matching funds with vote totals like that in November.

But all kidding aside, I don't think those numbers reflect an actual upswell of support for His Holiness Saint Lazy-Eye. If I had to bet, I'd say there was a near-reflexive short-term revulsion to the prospect of a Kerry nomination in the minds of a segment of left-Democrat voters who flirted with Nader in 2000, and supported Dean and Kucinich in the primaries this year. However, I think that contingent of voters is very likely to return to the flock once their initial reaction to the less-than-perfect-and-pure Kerry candidacy fades, and the more critical objective -- sending Bush back to Crawford/Connecticut -- becomes clearer. They constitute the gap between Nader's 2000 support and current polls (along with those who wont be able to vote for him due to what was described two paragraphs ago), and with noses held or not, they'll pull the lever, touch the screen, flush the toilet, whatever, for Kerry. This probably accounts for the increase to 4% in Florida that the ARG poll found, along with whatever buzz was generated by the lead-up to his decision to run.

The idea of attacking Nader and Bush simultaneously to paint both of them as extremists while casting Kerry as the mainstream candidate sounds really good, but it's not necessary yet. Aside from his post-announcement flurry, we don't know yet how much actual electoral impact Nader is going to have in November, so it would be better to wait a period of weeks (months?) to see how much of a dent he actually makes. Sure, Al Gore didn't attack Nader and we know how that election turned out. But the bigger deal was that Al Gore didn't attack Bush nearly as much as he needed to. If he had "let 'er rip", to use his words in 2002, Nader's numbers might not have been statistically significant compared to Gore's margin of victory.

If in May or June polls continue to show Nader hovering around 4-6 percent, then Kerry should definitely roll out the suggested strategy. But in the meantime I'd rather wait and see: My gut tells me that Nader won't top 1.5-2% this time around.

(Note to those who think a Nader run would push Kerry, and the Democrats, to the left: If he adopts this strategy, then Nader will have pushed Kerry to the center -- at least rhetorically -- for better or for worse.)

(highlight the area below to reveal)

I wonder if Martha Stewart will soon have her salad tossed. Heyo!

(don't you feel better now?)

Friday, March 05, 2004

Today's Paul Krugman is important in that it does away with a bit of dishonest spin from the right, that being attempts to lump Medicare in with Social Security to manufacture the notion that Social Security is in much worse shape than it actually is.
...[W]hile even right-wing politicians insist in public that they want to save Social Security, the ideologues shaping their views are itching for an excuse to dismantle the system. So you have to read alarming reports generated by people who work at ideologically driven institutions -- a list that now, alas, includes the U.S. Treasury -- with great care.

First, two words -- "and Medicare" -- make a huge difference. According to the Treasury study, only 16 percent of that $44 trillion shortfall comes from Social Security.
He goes on to elaborate on this point.

Perhaps he makes this point because some conservatives are just too eager to push a non-truth. Sully has yet to recognize his error in this matter.
I don't often read MoveOn's "Daily Mislead", mostly because it often ends up in my spam folder and it gets deleted. But after weeks of insisting and re-insiting that "this is not spam", I got a look at today's, and they make a good point about the first round of Bush ads that nobody else has made so far.
As the nation headed for war last year, President Bush "clamped down" on the media, extending and expanding a controversial policy that banned reporters from photographing flag-draped caskets of soldiers killed in combat. The White House said the policy was enforced to "spare the feelings of military families." Yet, in the very first television advertisement of his 2004 campaign, the president has blanketed the nation's airwaves with an image of "firefighters carrying a flag-draped body" from the 9/11 wreckage at Ground Zero.

The hypocrisy of preventing Americans from receiving a "reminder of the toll of war" at the very same time the president exploits an image of a dead body for his own political gain has caused an outrage among victims' families. Chris Burke, whose brother Tom died in the attacks, said, "Using my dead friends and my dead brother for political expediency is dead wrong. It's wrong, it's bad taste and an insult to the 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11."
Got that? The administration wont allow pictures of the flag-covered dead Americans coming back from Iraq, but they happily include pictures of flag-covered dead Americans at Ground Zero in their campaign ad. Since we're on an Orwell theme today, it would appear that "some dead bodies are more equal than others".

The common denominator of Bush's exploitation of flad-covered dead Americans? Cold political gain.

Again, I don't care. When's the Ken Lay trial starting?

The Bush administration forecasted 300k/month job growth when it pushed the 2003 tax cuts. They predicted 300k/month job growth in their economic forecast early last month. (though in the meantime, as DeLong puts it, "administration officials have fled from the employment growth component of their own forecast as if it were some ravenous carniverous monster from a horror movie")

The job numbers for February? Just a wee bit shy.
America's unemployment rate remained stuck at 5.6 percent in February as the economy added a paltry 21,000 positions. The figures dramatized the relative scarcity of new jobs in a week in which President Bush shoved his re-election campaign into high gear.

The latest snapshot of the employment climate released by the Labor Department today depicted the painfully slow job growth the country has been enduring. The net gain in payrolls in February fell well short of the 125,000 jobs that economists had been forecasting.
Ouch! Even the figure forecasted by "economicsts" would have been disappointing, because it falls 20-30k jobs below what we would need to merely keep up with population growth. So 21,000 is downright dismal.

Also, if you remember, in early February Bush celebrated the release of the January job figures, which showed the US adding 112,000 jobs -- still a pretty paltry number -- saying that 366,000 jobs had been created "since August". (Of course, he said it as if it were a good number.) But even that 112k number is out the window:
Moreover, the job gains in January were revised to show a pickup of just 97,000 positions, down from the 112,000 first estimated a month ago.
And Bush can't earnestly trumpet the fact that unemployment didn't go up, because:
Nevertheless, the overall seasonally adjusted civilian unemployment rate stayed at 5.6 percent in February as thousands of prospective workers gave up looking for a job. Approximately 392,000 people left the civilian work force in February from January.
And those 392k are no long part of unemployment statistics.

So where's John Kerry on all of this? Has he grown "cautious"?
Slow job growth has been a sore spot for Bush. Presumptive Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry has seized upon this as evidence of what he contends is Bush's poor handling of the economy.

"At this rate the Bush administration won't create its first job for more than 10 years. Americans have a clear choice in this election,'' Kerry said. "They can either suffer with more and more job losses that rip the heart out of our economy or they can give George Bush a new job.''
Great line, and on short notice too. We need more good lines in this campaign, and this is a good start. Sure beats "lockbox".

And why is Don Evans promoting communism?
Commerce Secretary Don Evans said Bush "won't be satisfied until every American seeking work finds a job.''
But I kid I kid. Yes, "every American seeking work". Does that mean he has decided not to have any compassion for those who have become so frustrated in their search for a new job that they have left the work force altogether? Does this jive with the fact that the average period of unemployment per person is at its largest duration in 20 years?

Nevertheless, another Bush spokesman continues to place his rectum behind the microphone:
But White House spokesman Trent Duffy was more upbeat about the latest employment report. "This is a continuation of good news that the economy continues to grow and build new job creation,'' he said.
Did the Ministry of Plenty just say chocolate rations were being raised from 30 to 20? Duffy is trying the "greater than zero" strategy for trumpeting job figures.

Am I being an angry liberal who seeks to do a rain-dance on the economy because I am so blinded with hatred for Bush that I want to see him fail politically no matter what the cost?

No. So don't bother trying that.

UPDATE: It gets worse. Virtually all of the 21,000 new jobs were government jobs, meaning that private sector growth was just about zilch. And it gets even worse, as Kevin points out, when you look at the Household Employment Survey:
Oh, and remember the Household Employment Survey, the one that conservatives have all been claiming we should pay more attention to? (Not for any special reason, mind you — although they've invented a thousand and one ingenious theories to explain why we should — but simply because it shows a rosier job picture.) Well, according to the Household Survey we didn't even gain 21,000 jobs. Instead we lost 265,000. What's more, 588,000 more people dropped out of the labor force completely. Something tells me we're not going to be hearing much about the Household Survey for a while.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Bush leading Kerry, 52 to 45.
Via Not Geniuses, make sure you read this Jonathan Chait piece on Ralph Nader and how both his conspiratorial paranoia and his jihad against the Democrats go back decades, showing that his 2000 and 2004 candidacies represent a continuation of his character, rather than a departure from it.

Of course, this came from the "liberal intelligensia". I don't know if I can believe it!

He knows how to beat Kerry:
First, his paid media must attack Kerry’s voting record to define him as an ultraliberal. There are likely those in the White House who are urging Bush to run positive ads. That won’t work. Even if positive ads produce a small, short-term bounce for Bush, events soon will come to dominate, and the impact of those ads likely will evaporate.

But if Bush uses the next eight months to educate voters on Kerry’s opposition to the death penalty, his vote against the 1991 Iraq war, his poor attendance record in the past year and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, he could put this election away by defining Kerry right now.
Two things. First of all, from the first round of ads, it looks like the Bushies aren't listening to Morris, and are trying the Reaganite "morning in America" template.

But second of all, does Dick Morris really think Bush should emphasize Kerry's "poor attendance record in the past year"? Gee, remind me, isn't there something regarding Bush and his "attendance record" that Kerry could talk about if the issue came up?

Furthermore, my sense is that the public is pretty forgiving about the long campaign process.
Kerry has not been tested. He was nominated by running in the shadow of Howard Dean. Throughout the fall, all eyes were on the former Vermont governor. When he crashed and burned in late January, Kerry, as the liberal heir apparent, inherited his disappointed voters.
Kerry's been the frontrunner for a month and a half. Everybody was gunning for him. He supposedly had both botox and an intern affair, if you were reading Murdoch publications. And Kerry's initial boost of support came from Gep, Lieberman and Clark voters, as much as it came from Dean voters.
Second, while his anti-Kerry ads are running, the president himself needs to make Americans understand that the war on terror is still atop our national agenda. He needs to elevate the sense of threat so that his advantage as a war president begins to count.

Kerry has also made a big mistake in backing the criminal-justice approach to terrorism, seeking to transform the war on terror into a series of DEA-style busts. Voters recognize that Bush is right when he says that this is a war against nation-states that sponsor terror, not a hunt for criminal bands in the mountains.
Morris fails to mention that it is John Kerry who is proposing adding 40,000 troops to the military, and seeing Iraq through. But who needs facts like those?
Pundits say that Kerry’s admirable war record makes national security irrelevant as a campaign issue. They couldn’t be more wrong. His efforts to defund the CIA and his opposition to the funding of the Iraq war are all key targets for Bush.
Well, his opposition to an accountability-free blank check.

The rest of the column is the usual blather. Unfortunately for Morris and Bush, they're operating under the assumption that Kerry going to run the Gore 2000 campaign all over again. Good luck, guys...
Bush said he wouldn't play politics with 9/11, saying he had "no ambition whatsoever to use this as a political issue."

But in his very first set of 2004 campaign ads, there were the towers and the firefighters.

Just so happens that firefighters and the families of the victims are a bit peeved about this.
Monica Gabrielle lost her husband on Sept. 11, 2001. She told the New York Daily News that the ads are "a slap in the face" to the victims and "unconscionable."

One woman whose brother died in the attacks say the ads make her "sick." A man who lost his brother in the twin towers says using the images in a campaign ad is an "insult.


The International Association of Fire Fighters said the ads are disgraceful and should be taken off the air. They say the ads are in poor taste and accuse Bush of exploiting the attacks.

David Potorti, an independent from Cary whose brother Jim died in the north tower of the World Trade Center, called the campaign's use of the images audacious.

Potorti said it's an insult to use the place where his brother died in an ad. He said he'd be just as outraged if any politician did it.

Tom Roger's daughter died on American Airlines flight 11. He says the ads are an offensive attempt to "grab people by the throat."

But Bush campaign adviser Karen Hughes disagrees. She told "The Early Show" on CBS that 9/11 is a "defining event" for America's future and it's "vital" that the next president recognize how it has changed public policy.

Bush's campaign is defending the commercials as appropriate for an election about public policy and the war on terror.

Queens firefighter Tommy Fee also blasted the ads, calling them "as sick as people who stole things" out of the World Trade Center.
The "Vote for me: I was president on that particular day" strategy is in full force.
Via Kos, this is one for the "Clinton wasn't serious about terrorism!" crowd. From NBC's Jim Miklaszewski:
With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.
Why didn't they pull the trigger, you ask?
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. (emphasis mine, naturally)
The administration wouldn't, you know, want to let the truth get in the way of their splendid war. Just ask the couple hundred Iraqis whose lives were just "undercut", if you will. Not to mention the young servicepeople of the US, UK, and elsewhere who gave their lives for such fascinating priorities.

$2 million in just over a day and a half since Super Tuesday polls closed. Keep giving.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

As a romantic, an internationalist, and a librul, I have to say I can understand this sentiment from the Guardian, though I can bet they're being belittled by plenty of across-the-aisle bloggers for this.
The 2004 race will be watched with more than usual attention around the globe. But overwhelmingly the most important reason for that interest is the possibility that it may produce a different outcome from last time. There are, of course, eight stretching months to go, millions of dollars still to be spent and countless hours of campaigning ahead. Mr Bush remains the favourite to win re-election.

But the consensus of current polls is that this is now a genuine contest. It is clear both that Mr Bush is beatable and that Mr Kerry is the best choice that the Democrats could have made to beat him. America's voters have done themselves a great favour. If they had picked Mr Dean, Mr Bush would have made mincemeat of him. By picking Mr Kerry, they have given the Democrats their best chance of recapturing the White House. That is something for Britons to welcome too. Nothing in world politics would make more difference to the rest of us than a change in the White House.

The free world has never had a stronger interest in the result of a US election than it has in the defeat of Mr Bush. Senator Kerry carries the hopes not just of millions of Americans but of millions of British well-wishers, not to mention those of nations throughout Europe and the world.
The title of the column? "The Hope of the World". And why not? After all, the Senator looks pretty damn good throwing a football. He has a good release point, at the top of his throwing arc, very Montana-ish if you ask me.

Okay, so that's an American football, but anyway...

Rest assured, earth, that I'm going to do everything in my power to give promise to your wishes.

Bush's first set of TV ads is out, and the reviews are in.

Could "Today America is turning the corner" be any closer to "It's morning again in America" without triggering a copyright infringement suit? Hell, even the music of the two commercials is similar...

The other Bush ads are pretty standard issue stuff, also very Reaganesque in theme if not quite so obviously ripped off. Lots of flags being raised, images of Middle America, paeans to small business owners, "strong leadership," etc.

Will it work? Hard to say. The big difference between the Bush ads and "Morning in America" is that Reagan could genuinely cite some good statistics: inflation down, employment up, interest rates down, and so forth. Bush is limited to vague statements that, um, prosperity is just around the corner.
If you look at the TV ads the president just unveiled today, you quickly see a main -- probably the main -- theme of his reelection campaign: it's not my fault.

Yes, there are all sort of bad things going on. The economy's been rough. The deficit is deepening. Job growth is barely registering. There's all sorts of chaos on the international stage. But it's not my fault. When I got here there was a recession already, which I didn't have anything to do with. That was Clinton's fault. And the same with all the corporate scandals. And then Osama bin Laden got involved and that wasn't my fault either. And that Iraq thing didn't completely work out. But that's the CIA's fault. So if there's anything that's bad now it's not because of anything I did. It's because of 9/11. And if it's not because of 9/11 then it was already broken when I got here. So don't blame me.
and Jesse:
...a bunch of excuses for why Bush's presidency has been so underwhelming, an assurance that things will get better because of vague platitudes about good stuff (oh, and good things), and a folksy, haunting piano melody.
And just for kicks, Rea's comment on Jesse's post:
Anybody remember all the Repubotrolls telling us that the problem with the Democrats is that they don't have any real ideas, that all they have is criticisms of Bush?

Too bad we Dems can't wage a campaign of ideas like those exemplified in these ads, right? There was at least one idea in there somewhere, wasn't there?
My sense from the ads was that they were all sensible musical icing, and no cake. I have no idea if these ads are going to work -- they seem a little soft for the white-boy audiences on ESPN and other likewise channels where the ads will be featured -- but whats clear is that they have two prevailing messages.

1) "I didn't do it!" Bush wants us to know that everything that's gone wrong since he took office, from the terrorist attack to the sluggish economy, either had nothing to do with him, or actually happened before he took office (the dot-com bust is invoked). And...

2) "I know exactly where I'm going next term, but I'm not telling you". You'd think in a full minute he'd be able to elaborate on that really cock-sure "I know exactly where I want to lead this country". You'd be wrong.

Bush's ads, which will air in 17 swing states, tell us something important. We had heard from the administration that they wanted to model their campaign after Clinton's 1996 re-election effort, which sought to define Bob Dole as quickly as possible through early advertisements. Looks like that strategy is on hold for the moment, as these ads exist in a world completely devoid of John Kerry. This means that the Bush team believes its candidate is pretty vulnerable, and they must rescue him from his sluggish polls. I don't see what there is in these ads that would change people's minds, except for a scenario like, "Oh, there's a picture from 9/11. I was so scared that day! I'm voting for that guy."

And by the way, that's three new ads, and no footage from the aircraft carrier.
Toles (via hoffmania)

He said today:
WHAT BUSH HAS ACHIEVED: I've been following same-sex marriage developments for fifteen years, and I keep getting surprised. The groundswell of support - in San Francisco, New Mexico, New Paltz, and now Portland, Oregon - has stunned me. What I didn't anticipate is how empowering this issue has become for gay people and how energizing it has been for their heterosexual peers. We keep seeing straight poeple under a certain age seeing this as their generation's civil rights movement. Now we see black legislators in Georgia putting aside religious objections to stop what they recognize as an attack on a small minority by forces of exclusion and intolerance they have been attacked by in the past. Bush's religious right amendment has also united Democrats behind this issue in ways they never were before. Attacking the amendment is now an applause line in John Kerry's election speech - and he will get every gay vote and every vote from their families and friends. Meanwhile, key Republicans, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, have come out and opposed this unnecessary meddling with the Constitution. Even the vice-president cannot manage to explicitly endorse such graffiti on the founding document of this country. What the religious right amendment is doing is splitting the Republican coalition and uniting the Democrats...
Did you catch that?

Here's the sentence:
Attacking the amendment is now an applause line in John Kerry's election speech - and he will get every gay vote and every vote from their families and friends.
Isn't Andrew Sullivan a "gay vote"? (I'm pretty sure he's a naturalized American citizen, right?)
Bill Safire says today, of a Kerry move to the center in the general campaign:
In the current phase, with the nomination in his pocket, he can stop emulating Dean's anger and copying Edwards's dual-Americanism. (Where will the Deaniacs and the trial lawyers go — to Nader? No; they will swallow the old Kerry — perhaps the real Kerry — to beat Bush.)

That means he will have to cut the adopted negativist rhetoric of the early phases, like last week's "heartbreaking reminder of the millions of Americans without work" whose "mainstream values are scorned by a White House that puts privilege first."

Such red meat tastes great to the already convinced, but will come across as hot air to independents who decide close general elections — a group where Kerry is weakest.
Weakest? Did he see the Super Tuesday exit polls?

Then Safire belittles Kerry on threats from abroad:
Apparently Kerry's advisers are worried about a too timely capture of Osama bin Laden, thus: "This war isn't just a manhunt." He anticipates criticism for relying too much on the U.N.: "As president, I will not wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake." And he has a simplistic, Mr. Fixit solution to terror weapons: "I propose to appoint a high-level presidential envoy empowered to bring other nations together to secure and stop the spread of these weapons." That'll solve it.
Sooo... Bush invaded a nation that didn't have weapons and wasn't near developing them, in the process tipping our hand as to the threshold of our military capabilities, as well as hampering our intel credibility worldwide, the end result being North Korea's clearer posession of nukes? I'll take the "simplistic" strategy of that one any day of the week.
Maybe I'm disenfranchising myself from the current events process in America, but let's face it: I really don't care either way what happens to Michael Eisner, and you probably don't either.

Drudge tries to belittle the attention paid to Super Tuesday:
No, foo', Queer Eye didn't beat squat. Super Tuesday was not a Fox-only enterprise, so let's look at the rest of the ratings he posts lower on the screen:
CNN 9 PM 1.3
CNN 10 PM 1.0
CNN 8 PM 0.8
MSNBC 8 PM 0.5
MSNBC 9 PM 0.5
MSNBC 10 PM 0.3
Queer Eye is on at 10 PM. Let's see, Fox 10 PM (0.9) plus CNN 10 PM (1.0), plus MSNBC 10 PM (0.3) equals 2.2, more than half a rating point higher than the Bravo show. All three cable news networks were showing wall-to-wall Super Tuesday coverage last night.

Why didn't Drudge cite MTV's Real World XIV, which had an even higher rating than Queer Eye? Well that's easy: It's likely that the majority of the audience for that show is below voting age. Still, I'm surprised that didn't stop him...

The blowjob defense:
A woman charged with causing a fatal car crash in 1999 says that she couldn't have been behind the wheel because she was performing a sex act on the driver at the time.

Heather Specyalski, 33, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the crash that killed businessman Neil Esposito. Prosecutors allege that she was driving Esposito's Mercedes-Benz convertible when it veered off the road and hit several trees.

But Specyalski claims that Esposito was driving, and she was performing oral sex on him at the time, said her attorney, Jeremiah Donovan. He noted that Esposito's pants were down when he was thrown from the car.

Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg ruled Tuesday that Specyalski can proceed with the defense, despite objections by the prosecutor.

"A defendant has a right to offer a defense no matter how outlandish, silly or unbelievable one might think it will be," Holzberg said. He added: "No one ever told me in law school that we'd be having these kinds of conversations in open court."

Assistant State's Attorney Maureen Platt said the defense is flawed.

"His pants could have been down because he was mooning a car he was drag racing," Platt said. "His pants could have been down because he was urinating out of a window. His pants could have been down because he wasn't feeling well."
Platt is making the defendant sound mighty reasonable. But yeah, I know all about cruising around town commando when my head hurts.

That said, there's no doubt Specyalski has seen Parenthood.

I'm a nerd, and a huge fan of both Tool and musical theatre, so I have to do this.

Tbogg posted a hilarious hypothetical tracklisting for the soundtrack to Mel Gibson's Battlefield Jesus, which is currently #2 on the charts (go Norah!). Among the amusing set of choices ("Whipping Post", "Beat It", and "So Long, Farewell") he includes the 1996 Tool masterpiece "Forty Six and 2". He does so presumably because of the lyrical content, which deals largely with the destruction of skin and muscle tissue. It's also relevant because the song is about a transformation, or better yet, an evolution (a human cell has 46 chromosomes, and Maynard is adding 2). And in a Biblical sense, the song could vaguely approximate the thoughts running through Jesus' head as he prostrated shortly before he got into the white Ford Bronco and dozens of JPD officers on horseback followed him on a slow-speed chase to Galilee, where he finally surrendered peacefully to the authorities.

But there's more to this, whether Tbogg intended it or not, and the key to understanding is in the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.


For this portion of the exercise you will need to be familiar with both the Tool song and the "Trial by Pilate" song from Jesus Christ Superstar. "Heaven on their Minds" would also help.

In "Trial by Pilate", there is a segment in which the famous 39 lashes are administered (This was something I was fortunate enough to do on stage 3 and a half years ago). The music during that segment features the guitar riff from "Heaven on their Minds", the song Judas sings at the beginning of the rock opera. Tool/Webber fans, though, know that this riff is strikingly similar to both main guitar parts from "Forty Six and 2". And it gets better: The long instrumental section of the Tool song that follows Maynard's "do... what it takes to step through" features the riff being played about 39-40 times.

To nerds like me, this is an obvious connection. To sane people, on the other hand...

(note: For those of you who have yet to see Gibson's flick, you should know that there are a wee bit more than 39...)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


First it was Gavin Newsom in San Francisco. Then New Mexico, then upstate New York, and now Oregon's largest county is about to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Multnomah County, Oregon's most populous and liberal county, is going to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Wednesday, joining San Francisco in sanctioning same-sex marriages.

Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn has directed the county to begin issuing the licenses, after consulting with the county attorney -- but without an official vote from the four other county commissioners.

"She did it without a vote, but she doesn't need it. She has majority support," said Commissioner Serena Cruz.

Like San Francisco, Portland -- the largest city in Multnomah County and in the state -- has long been viewed as a bastion of liberalism. It's an image that stands to be reinforced if same-sex couple here are issued marriage licenses.

But, as in California, opposition from Oregon's Republican leadership was swift.

"I'm very upset that this travesty is taking place in Oregon. It definitely is an insult to the voters and to the people," said Kevin Mannix, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, who called for the attorney general to put a halt to the marriages immediately.

Meanwhile, at Portland oldest lesbian bar, long-standing couples began planning their bridal wear.

"It's history in the making," said Heather Spotts, 32, the bartender of the Egyptian Club. "Me and my partner are going to go down tomorrow. Even if the certificate doesn't hold up, we'll give to our little boy to put up on the wall."
Please do not make a joke about that last quote, thanks!

Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus was an "insult" to the people of Alabama. Right, Mr. Mannix. Dude, I'm sorry to see that your marriage has been absolutely destroyed by this. That's too bad, you and your wife had a very good run.

Looking at the Green Party primary in California, I see that Peter Camejo got around 73 percent of the vote, and no other candidate topped 15 percent.

Golly, why do the Greens all bandwagon to the frontrunner? Just because he has name recognition? Or because the party rank&file think he's the one with the best chance of beating Nader? Is this real democracy, guys? (-:

All kidding aside, let's look at the numbers, using the Secretary of State's site with its purty lil' color-coded state maps.

Kerry won every county, and only in Mendocino did he even finish under 55%, and in that county -- with the finest pipeweed in Northfarthing, so to speak -- it was Dennis Kucinich who made the big dent, at about 15%, his best county performance.

Edwards is in a distant second, under 20%, and Dean and Kucinich are battling it out for 3rd place, each at just under 5%.

At this hour, the education bond initiative, Prop 55, is passing by .4 percent, but full results might not be in for a while, so we'll have to wait and see.

Prop 56, which would lower the bar for budget passage to 55%, is getting steamrolled.

And Props 57 and 58, the Ahhnuld budgetary 2-pack, seem headed for easy victory.

The U.S. Senate in a surprise twist on Tuesday killed popular legislation to shield the firearms industry from lawsuits after gun control advocates successfully tacked on their own top priorities and drew the ire of the powerful gun lobby.

Overcoming intense opposition from the National Rifle Association, gun control advocates passed amendments extending the 1994 assault weapons ban for another decade, instituting criminal background checks at gun shows and requiring trigger locks or similar safety devices to be sold with all handguns.

But shortly before the final vote, the NRA in an e-mail to senators repudiated the amended bill, and said senators' vote on it "will be used in our future evaluations and endorsements of candidates."

The legislation's chief sponsor, Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, urged colleagues to vote against it. "I believe it is so dramatically wounded that it should not pass," said Craig, who serves on the NRA board.

Craig later acknowledged to reporters that the bill was most likely dead for the year -- although he also vowed to block any attempt to revive the assault weapons ban, which is supported by many law enforcement groups and big city mayors.
Oh boo-hoo, Larry. This concludes my insightful political analysis.
CNN: Edwards is out:
Sen. John Edwards decided to quit his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, following projected victories by front-runner Sen. John Kerry, according to sources.

Edwards will announce his decision Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina, according to a campaign aide. In Atlanta, Georgia, Edwards was addressing supporters, and he had words of praise for Kerry.

Edwards' departure clears the way for Kerry to claim his party's nomination in July. While two other candidates remain in the race, they have never figured in the fight.
Don't worry Edwards, in 2012 you'll be inheriting 8 years of prosperity from President Kerry. Just don't let yourself get Gored when your time comes.

John Edwards for President . . . of the Senate!
The General JC Christian, Patriot, gives us a theology lesson.

I go back and forth on the "only Southern Dems win the White House" argument, especially this year in an election that could be more policy/experience-based than character/accent-based. But the south is, indeed, part of the USA, and irrevocably part of the presidential campaign.

This got me thinking about the primaries next week, which will be in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. All indications are that Kerry has the nomination wrapped up, particularly if reports of an all-but-Vermont sweep for him are accurate.

So my question is this: By scheduling a big chunk of southern primaries after the nomination will have been decided (not to mention Georgia which missed out on most of the candidates), isn't the Democratic Party de-emphasizing the South? If Edwards gets out this week, certainly turnout in next tuesday's primaries will head downward.

It is true that the electoral map shows that a Democrat can win without a single Southern state (if a combined 7,000 Californians and New Yorkers had "traded" their votes with New Hampsire Greens...). And I agree with the basic premise of this Tim Noah piece calling the South "the spoiled brat of presidential politics". But taking a big chunk of the South and sticking it after the contested primaries are essentially over (the accelerated schedule created by the DNC was in the interest of a quick nomination) doesn't seem like good politics to me. Sure, we're not going to win Texas and Mississippi, and Flordia will probably go to Bush for the first time. But we have a Senate seat to hold in the Sunshine State, and some crucial House battles in Tex, so we shouldn't shortchange these races by removing the enthusiasm from the Democratic electorate in those areas.

The effect of this scheduling will probably be negligible by the time the general campaign really heats up. But in the meantime, I don't know about this timetable. TFM would like to see a randomly-ordered regional primary campaign develop, as opposed to the current system.

(Speaking of good ol', I wonder how many Greens who traded their Nader votes from Florida to Cali or Texas went ahead and voted for Ralph anyway. Would that be the Greens' faults for being liars or the Dems' faults for being gullible?)

Slate's Jack Shafer has them. Click at your own risk, if you have yet to vote today, and you're one of those impressionable, anti-democratic types who responds to success. Shame on you.

I'll only give away one bit: Exit polls show that the Vermont primary will probably go to you-know-who. Guess he had to quit to win. Of course, if Dean made television ads anything like those of South Dakota congressional candidate Stephanie Herseth, he might still be around.
As a blogger, one of the consequences of being away for a weekend is that if an ongoing news story breaks and develops over the course of said weekend, I don't like trying to begin covering the story midstream. Case in point, Haiti. For some in-depth blog coverage of the rebellion in Haiti, Aristide's resignation/kidnapping/whatever, and the self-procalimed rule of the rebel opposition's leader, head over to Jeanne d'Arc's Body and Soul, and scroll down. This particular post has a lot of useful links.

(And by the way, the answer to the riddle from this post from Sunday is: San Diego. Get it? A "sandy Eggo"! Nevermind.)

It appears that Barry Bonds did indeed get steroids.
San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, New York Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and three other major league baseball players received steroids from a Burlingame nutritional supplement lab, federal investigators were told.

The baseball stars allegedly got the illegal performance-enhancing drugs from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative through Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal weight trainer and longtime friend, according to information furnished the government and shared with The Chronicle.

In addition to Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield, the other baseball players said to have received steroids from BALCO via Anderson were two former Giants, outfielder Marvin Benard and catcher Benito Santiago, and a former A's second baseman, Randy Velarde.
Marvin Benard? Randy Velarde!?!? Haha, a lot of good that did. Are they in trouble if they took the drugs but they didn't actually enhance their performance?

And on top of that, Barry received HGH.

Oh no... what's happening to Barry?



Uh oh.

Monday, March 01, 2004


No no, I don't mean Michael. I'm talking about former judge Roy Moore. Yes, the 10 commandments guy. The skinny? Moore sees this as a state issue, and has problem with the constitution being amended "by men".

In the previous post I gave a partially-informed overview of the propositions on the California ballot tomorrow, and what I intend to do with them electorally. Now we move on to actual people who are in actual campaigns for actual offices.

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: There are very valid reasons to vote for each of the remaining Democratic candidates, as well as one of them who is no longer running.

You could vote for John Kerry because he has run a very strong campaign that has weathered both adversity and stagnation, he has taken on the best elements of its competition (i.e. Dean's spine), and he will be strong against Bush on national security (in both policy and certainly experience) in ways that the other candidates aren't.

You could vote for John Edwards because of his positive vision for America, his uncanny ability to connect with everyday American people, his great ability to tap into an economic populism that the Bushies must see as a danger given their awful economic record, particularly on jobs, and certainly because of his good looks, and no doubt because of of his ability to communicate with the dead.

Oh wait, that's John Edward.

You could vote for Dennis Kucinich essentially as a protest vote (given the media's refusal to actually cover the man) to try to get the more center-left flank of the party to acknowledge and incorporate the stances supported by the man from Ohio.

You could vote for Howard Dean in thanks and acknowlegement that he has given Kerry and the rest of the Democrats some much-needed backbone, and that he was willing to strongly attack Bush when virtually none of the other Democratic candidates even dared to do so.

And you could vote for Al Sharpton because for the most part he has not been the divisive element in the campaign that many Dems feared he would be and many Repubs jumped for joy hoping he would be. That is, aside from his somewhat counterproductive sniping at Dean.

So do whatever you want, and I'll be mighty proud of ya. As for me, I'm voting for John Kerry, and doing so for a variety of reasons. This election will be less about lazy likability issues than 2000 was, and while I think Kerry has the ability to come off as likable (contrary to conventional wisdom, perhaps), he definitely has experience up the wazoo, and that will count more this fall than four years ago. Edwards would make a great president, but he has as much political experience as Bush did in 2000. (Okay, so it ain't like Edwards "failed upward" in his legal career like Bush did in business)

Some are beginning to make a big deal about how Kerry's primary campaign has grown cautious. Of course, we should also remember that Kerry is the clear frontrunner, and there's nothing that could backfire worse for a frontrunner than to attack someone who's viewed pretty much universally as a likable guy, in John Edwards. It's pretty hilarious: The media covers the primary campaign like it's nothing more than a horse-race, free of expansive policy debate, and then they get all shocked when the frontrunner tries to keep his/her lead by being cautious. Seabiscuit didn't blow his wad around the first turn, so why should John Kerry?

It is, though, valid to ask whether Kerry would then get "cautious" in the general campaign should he find himself with a lead over Bush in the weeks before the election. I doubt he'll be cautious in the Gore-ian fashion, and the reason is pretty simple: Whenever Bush's critics keep the pressure on, Bush's polls go down. Nobody has really attacked John Edwards yet, so it's hard to know what would happen. What we've seen with Bush is that his bark is worse than his bite, and that whatever Midasesque golden touch he has, has been misplaced, between the aborted good-cop, bad-cop game with Hastert on the 9/11 commission, and the clumsy lurch to support the FMA (which appears DOA.

Also, Kerry declined federal matching funds (as did Dean), so he wont be held back by spending limits in the period after the primary dust has settled and before the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer. If he had entered the fund system, Bush would have hammered him, pretty much unchallenged, for a period of a couple months with that $200million warchest, through ads and so on. With Kerry, we can support our guy and give him enough to attain relative parity with Dubya.

I remember a conversation I had with a former editor of the Patriot, back in early 2002. If memory serves, it went something like this:
Him: Who do support for the 04 dem nomination?
Me: I'm thinking about John Kerry.
Him: Tool!
Tool is right. I would be very happy to be a cog in the Kerry machine. Anyway, let's move on.

SENATE DEM PRIMARY: Obviously, Boxer. Next?

SENATE REP PRIMARY: This is the part where I'm supposed to express hope that California's Republicans "pull a Simon" and neglect the moderate right candidate, former Secretary of State Bill Jones, in favor of one of his further-right opponents. But hey, I'm not gonna do that, I don't think Jones has a chance in hell of unseating Boxer, and the only possible Republican who did have a chance -- congressman David Dreier -- isn't running.

3RD DISTRICT SUPERVISOR, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY: Obviously, everyone who isn't within arm's reach of me is free to read something else. But if you're an Isla Vista-inhabiting student like me, and you want a supervisor who will stand up for your rights as renters and citizens of the community, as well as protect the environment, then your man is John Buttny (pronounced "butt-knee"). The State Assembly voting record of his opponent, conservative Brooks Firestone, raises serious questions about his willingness to stand behind laws involving guns, education and the environment. Vote Buttny!

Tomorrow is the day when all (and by all, we mean "a non-zero percentage of voters") head out to the various polling places of California to do our part to shift around whatever pieces of the governmental machine we can, at least the ones the corporations don't firmly control and such and such.

Let's do the propositions first:

(For your informative pleasure, here's the voter guide, directly from Sec State Shelley)

Proposition 55: The school money thingy. Given that I intend to vote against a certain ballot initiative later on the ballot, I shall vote for this one in tandem, just so I know that if the Gropinator intends to play chicken with the legislature, at least some new money will be going towards fixing our schools. TFM votes Yes.

Proposition 56: The 55 percent solution. Would I feel differently about this initiative if there were Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate? Uhh, come back to me on that one. One thing the proposition would stop, or at least slow, is the cycle of blame promoted by our plucky conservative minority. They block pretty much any new spending or any new tax (despite our budget deficits) by keeping there from being a 2/3 majority. Budget gridlock follows, and then ol' Gropey gets to pretend to be above the fray, and criticize the legislature -- the Democratic legislature -- for being inefficient. And tax scare-tactics promoted by the groups opposing this initiative don't particularly grab me, given what has happened to my tuition under Ahhnuld, god forbid I go into grad school anytime soon. TFM votes yes.

Proposition 57: The big $15 billion enchilada. I'm pretty convinced that Schwarzy is not a right-wing ideologue of the Bush nature (an ironic comment to make, given Bush's handling of the deficit). After all, he's a movie star, and movie stars want to be loved. Cutting education, health care, police officers, etc, is not the way to be loved. With that in mind, I have a serious urge to call the Governor's bluff on this one. Politically, it puts him in a tough position, having to either cut spending (and piss off the left and much of the middle) or raise taxes (pissing off the McClintock right and maybe some of the middle, though they didn't revolt against Pete Wilson).

From a short-term policy standpoint, on the other hand, it will keep California relatively solvent, and those spending cuts we'd otherwise be daring Arnold to make wont happen. Then again, next year we'd come back with the same problems, if not more. And hey, everyone talks about character in our leaders these days, this would be a nice test for the Grope-ster. If Warren Buffet still has Arnold's ear, things could be okay. TFM will probably vote no, but will be happy whatever you do. Also consider that Arnold wants to deliver California to Bush in November. With that in mind, a yes-vote isn't that bad, because it highlights the varying ways that an executive can deal with a budget deficit. It will make Dubya impotent by comparison. Then again, I'm not worried about Cali going for Bush anyway.

The bottom line, of course, is that at some point, whether now or a year from now or after that, some spending will have to be cut, and some taxes will have to be raised. Prop 57 is a holiday from that reality, and the choice is either to vote for it because you want a holiday, or against it because we need to get the "tough love" over with.

Proposition 58: Balance this! Just as with 57, its sister proposition, 58 pits the Schwarzenegger center-right against the McClintock far right. I like fiscal discipline in general, but I've never been big on balanced budget amendments. TFM will probably vote no.

I'll be back with my presidential voter guide later in the day.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Patriot has some hilarious gay marriage pieces this month, and I'm on the case.

Gee, I wonder why. (:

And by the way, I'm back. In case you were wondering, I was in a city in California this weekend. To find out which city, you must answer this riddle:

What do you call a waffle on the beach?