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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Did you notice... 

... that when Bush was just speaking on the monitor, there was a softball game in the background ... and two batters came up ... and they were both left handed ... so you could see the back of their jerseys ... and if you squinted, you could see that they were both wearing number "43".

Talk about carefully managed....

UPDATE: Shystee in comments asks for video. The video is available at this site. Go to the video titled, "Republican National Convention: Day 2, Part 2". Bush's appearance starts at about 1:36:30. Not sure you can really make out the "43" on internet media if you don't already know what it says, but you can see the two lefty hitters and possibly make out the numbers.

FURTHER UPDATE: True to its name, Three Guys points outs there is a third guy at the end of the video segment. This one is right handed, but does enter in such a way that his number (also apparently 43) is visible for a moment as he comes to the plate.

STILL FURTHER UPDATE: C-SPAN has changed its video titles. You can still use the link above, but right now you need to go to the video named "First Lady Laura Bush" and start at around 7:00. In comments on Atrios, someone suggests that the first batter hit a foul and then came back to hit again. That is not the case -- the first lefty has black shorts, while the second lefty has dark shorts with a white stripe.

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Equal Coverage... 

...Not.

Frist just finished up at the RNC, and what does PBS do? Maybe have Hillary Clinton, or Howard Dean, or some other Democrat associated with health care come on and comment on what he said about the Bush Medicare prescription plan?

Nope. Gwen Ifill is interviewing TWO REPUBLICANS to get THEIR views on the healthcare issue--the governor of New Hampshire and some guy from Ohio.

Nice.

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Courage and Character 

When Clinton cheated on his wife, that indicated something bad about his character (or indicated that he lacked a certain kind of character). While I don't agree with the Republicans that it was impeachable, or even particularly related to whether or not he was a good President (except to the extent that he should have known it was a bad idea, given the scrutiny he was under from the beginning, and would jeopardize his ability to put forward his policy agenda), I am perfectly willing to agree that it wasn't exactly a character strength.

According to David Brooks today, though, among Republicans, that's not the case. What do John McCain (scroll down), Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? Brooks says it's courage and, yes, character:
Third, they are obsessed with character. When they talk about problems, they talk about selfishness and dishonor. Mayor Giuliani was never so aggressive as when somebody had violated his sense of decency. Once McCain finds corrupt malefactors - like the people who concocted an outrageous Boeing defense contract - he latches onto them with his teeth and he will not let go
First, note that he couldn't think of anything to say about Arnold that was any kind of indication of character. Maybe the groping and sexual harassment caused even Brooks to show some restraint there.

Second, remind me how it's an indication of character to shove your mistress in your kids' faces while you're doing everything you can to screw over their mother? Ah, Giuliani and his sense of decency--I remember them well!

As Brooks goes on to say, "There is something chivalric and archaic about this form of political courage." It's just that these guys are on the wrong side of the whole archaic chivalry thing.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Government-Based Solutions 

Larry Ribstein asks for explanations of Australia's dominance of the Olympics (on a medals per capita basis).

I think the answer here is good old-fashioned big government. While I actually think that sports is an area that should be left to the market, there is no doubt that Australia's government has invested more in its Olympic athletes than most other countries (see here comparing its spending to the U.K. and Canada), and that investment seems to have paid off.

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Photographic Proof 

Despite conservative efforts to claim Barack Obama as one of their own, new photos (here and here) offer definitive proof: Obama is a lefty.

For those of you dreaming big for Obama, this bodes well. Four of the last six Presidents have been left handed. (And if you base it on who actually won the elections, it's five out of six.)


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Friday, August 27, 2004

And God Said, Let There Be Crime 

If you type www.thurgood.blogpot.com (leaving out the "s"), or indeed anything at blogpot.com, you get directed to a "mega-site of Bible, Christian and religious information & studies". I won't give a link, since they already have over a million hits through their own dishonest scheme.

So-called "typo-squatting" violates the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

"Typo-squatting" for the Lord must violate something worse.

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

It Depends on What the Meaning of In Is 

Remember when lying was bad?

"I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border," O'Neill is heard telling Nixon in a conversation that was taped ....

"I think I made it very clear that I was on the border, which is exactly where I was for three months," O'Neill said of the conversation. "I was about 100 yards from Cambodia."
Jennifer Kerr, Swift Boat Author Addresses Contradiction, Aug. 26, 2004 (AP) (emphasis added).

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Benjamin Ginsberg 

The Times (among others) reports that Benjamin Ginsberg, the "Bush campaign's top outside lawyer", is also representing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack group.

While this "coincidence" is not a per se violation of the prohibition against "coordination" between a campaign and a 527 organization, the fee arrangement raises some additional concerns. In particular, the Times reports: "[Ginsburg] said the group ... called him last month to ask for his help and he agreed. Mr. Ginsberg said he had yet to work out payment details with the group and he might consider doing the work pro bono."

As it happens, the Rules of Professional Conduct for the District of Columbia (where Ginsberg practices) address this sort of thing:

When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.
D.C. R.P.C. 1.5(b).

Ginsberg is not necessarily in violation of that provision, if a month is a reasonable time to wait under the circumstances (and obviously we don't know all the circumstances). However, I would think that most clients would want to know before the work was done whether it would be pro bono or $500 an hour, especially given the necessarily short term of the representation (through November 2 at latest). And, if Mr. Ginsberg really expects to get paid by the Swift Boat Veterans (since getting paid by Bush-Cheney would be a coordination problem), the fact that the client has no prior existence and no source of future revenues (other than discretionary contributions) would seem to be all the more reason to provide the fee information at the outset (and probably get a written retainer agreement).

I suppose that making the matter pro bono would make the issue moot, but I'm pretty sure most big firms have procedures beyond one partner's say-so for accepting pro bono matters -- and somehow representing this group just doesn't seem like the kind of matter Ginsberg's firm touts in its "Pro Bono Practice" ("Patton Boggs has a longstanding and broad commitment to providing legal services to persons unable to afford them. Each of our lawyers understands and embraces the concept that with a license to practice law comes an obligation to assist persons with legal needs, but without the financial wherewithal to pay for effective legal assistance. ... We offer an array of opportunities for pro bono work so that our lawyers, no matter what their areas of expertise or political or philosophical beliefs, can find opportunities to help those in need.")

Finally, of interest in assessing whether there is any improper coordination is Mr. Ginsberg's Senate testimony on the subject given in July 2004 (the same month he says he was contacted by the Swift Boat Veterans):

In Advisory Opinion 2004-1 requested by the Bush-Cheney campaign and a Kentucky congressional candidate, the Commission interpreted BCRA’s coordination rules to bar the traditional candidate endorsement spot by a Presidential or other federal candidate within 120 days of an election. But in interpreting these new “coordination rules”, the Commission refused to address some important questions in this new and confusing area of the law. What precisely is the “material involvement” by agents of the President that triggers improper coordination? Is there a distinction between political review for content and legal review to be certain that the President is complying with the laws? Is there a distinction between editing for political content, which would trigger coordination, and reviewing for: factual accuracy? quality? consistency with the candidate’s positions? These questions, asked specifically because of their importance to the regulated community, were not addressed by the Commission.
UPDATE: Via Atrios, Tim Francis-Wright reaches a similar conclusion about Ginsberg -- as does Bob at Unfogged.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Literary Criticism 

Mary asks a good question: What's up with the Bush reading list, and why is John Kerry's book (The New War : The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security) on it?

As to Kerry's book, I think the answer is in the Amazon comments on the book, which currently include the "Spotlight Review" of "A Reader" titled, "Kerry fails to mention Bin Laden in his terrorism book". Another review, by Judit Rassmussen, states, "When I saw the Bush tv-ad claming that John Kerrys 'Great plan on Terror' was on the Japanese yakuza ! I was sceptic, so I read the book. The tv-ad was right !!!" (Interesting that she was such a "sceptic" of Bush's ad, since Rasmussen has made something of a career out of pro-Bush and anti-Kerry book reviews.)

Of course, the charge is complete nonsense.

Kerry's book makes clear that, in 1997, he was very concerned about terrorism. Consider Chapter 6, titled, "The Globalization of Terror". Consider page 111: "We were not sufficiently prepared for the first real wave of terror that broke out in American and we are not yet prepared for the next.... The terrorists of tomorrow will be better armed and organized. It will take only one mega-terrorist event in any of the great cities of the world to change the world in a single day." Or page 117: "It is, however, more likely that a small collection of angry souls with a mission, grievance, and burning faith, will be the first to privatize nuclear violence."

Nor does he spare Islamic extremism. Page 97: "In the autumn of 1996, Taliban fighters, Islamic fundamentalists who had taken over Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul, executed the last Soviet-installed leader of the country and called for a return to Islamic purity and a repudiation of opium trafficking. But ... the public statements were a sham ...." (Kerry also links drug trafficking and terrorism on pages 97-98.) Of course, though Bin Laden was not a household name in 1997 (his infamous fatwa against Americans came in 1998), we do know that it was Bin Laden who moved to Afganistan in 1996 and was behind the very actions Kerry found alarming.

I'd say that record of a Senator's anticipating the terrorist threat in 1997 compares favorably to a sitting President's lack of action in the face of the famous August 6, 2001, PDB ("Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"). Wouldn't you?

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Monday, August 23, 2004

And, in the Compassion News*... 

Under the headline, "President Bush Focuses on Protecting Lives and Dignity of Innocent Women and Children," which turns out to be about human trafficking, we have W. saying,
Sex tourism is an estimated billion dollar a year business worldwide. No American should have any part of it. We're working with governments in Southeast Asia to crack down on pedophile sex tourism -- and many nations in that region have made substantial progress.
Um, George? Are you your brother's keeper? 'Cause if you're really serious about cracking down on sex tourism, you might want to talk to Neil.

*Yes, it really is in a category they call "compassion news." I'm not kidding.

** And apologies for linking twice to the BC-04 website, but there's just so much to mock there...

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Suggested Reading... 

...from the Bush-Cheney campaign. This is strange. The Bush campaign website includes the following "suggested reading list":

A Matter of Character
by Ronald Kessler

Misunderestimated
by Bill Sammon

The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security
by John Kerry

Plan of Attack
by Bob Woodward

Ten Minutes from Normal
by Karen Hughes

Letters to My Daughters
by Mary Matalin

America: A Patriotic Primer
by Lynne Cheney

Bush Country
by John Podhoretz

The Right Man
by David Frum

Deliver Us from Evil
by Sean Hannity

A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush
by Ronald Kessler

The links take you to Amazon pages for the books themselves. I'm surprised they linked to the Woodward book, since that had some pretty damning stuff in it, but why in heaven's name do they link to Kerry's book?

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Friday, August 20, 2004

Manufacturing Acts of Self-Victimization 

Via Atrios, we learn of Michelle Malkin's outrage at her "ambush" on Chris Matthews.

Malkin's response is long, but let me focus on one item:
As I am seated at the table with Matthews, who I am meeting for the first time, he cracks a joke--and not in a well-meaning way--about how I look. (There are quite a few people who are hung up on this.) "Are you sure you are old enough to be on the show? What are you? 28?" I grit my teeth. He badgers me again with the same question. I politely answer his question and supply my age.

(I wonder how Matthews' wife, the respected TV journalist Kathleen Matthews, who hosts a show about working women, would react if informed about her husband's treatment of a fellow female journalist. I've been in the business a dozen years and would be happy to talk to Mrs. Matthews about my firsthand experience with Neanderthal chauvinism in the workplace.) (Emphasis added.)
Malkin may be right that Matthews was out of line, but doesn't the complaint about workplace chauvinism sound a bit odd from someone who's on the show in the first place to tout a whole book in favor of racial profiling and who's condemned "[a] lively discussion ... about sexism, racism and how degrading terms such as 'ho' -- slang for whore -- can be used to dehumanize and divide people" as "hip-hop hogwash"?

She has turned comments that implicitly compared her youthful appearance with her supposed expertise, and found "Neanderthal chauvinism". If anyone else did that, Malkin would condemn it as "manufacturing acts of self-victimization, squandering precious time, and feeling sorry for our poor young selves".

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Agenda Set 

This morning, I hoped that the Kerry campaign would become more aggressive in setting the news agenda. At about the same time, they were doing just that.

It is already paying dividends. At the gym tonight, I caught the end of Chris Matthews, who was interviewing David Gergen and Dana Milbank about the swift boat ads. The tone was decidedly more skeptical about the veracity of the ads than I have seen from prior reporting. Instead of "nobody knows the truth, it's equally likely that Kerry was a hero or a scumbag", which was the tone last week, it was much more, "we won't outright say these charges are false but they're certainly stretched pretty thin". After that, Keith Olberman led with the same story, with the theme that the ads received two blows to their credibility today: Kerry's counterattack and (the bigger one) the documents obtained by the Washington Post contradicting the lies about Kerry (does the Times ever break an anti-administration story any more?). Obviously, the Post piece was a big part of the change, but the change was palpable. Taking the initiative works.

On a separate point, between shows, MSNBC had a short clip comparing Democrat Jim McGreevey to Tony Soprano, complete with "The McGreeveys" written in Sopranos font. In June, Larry Ribstein posited that comparisons of Bush to Tony Soprano were evidence of liberal media bias. So much for that. (See also my response on the merits here.)

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This Morning on NPR 

The transcript isn't available yet, but I found NPR's coverage this morning of the presidential race very depressing.

First, they covered Bush's trip to Minnesota, which they pointed out that he had lost only narrowly in 2000 despite not campaigning there. They dramatically described a cheering and enthusiastic crowd of 15,000, without mentioning Bush's practice of allowing only supporters into rallies, and finally (and I wish I had the exact language here), said that he was campaigning as a strong leader, commander in chief, and regular guy, without in any way questioning the applicability of those descriptions to Mr. Bush. If there was a single negative word about Bush in the piece, I missed it. Then, Juan Williams (of FOX fame) covered the Kerry campaign. The whole tone was negative. He started by saying Kerry was "dogged" by allegations relating to his Vietnam service (without mentioning that those charges are completely without evidentiary support). He then continued by quoting a Vietnam veteran saying he couldn't vote for Kerry because of Kerry's association with Jane Fonda, without mentioning that this is another urban legand, thus republishing the falsehood.

Listening to the two reports together, you would never guess who is actually ahead. Now, I suppose at one level this is just another nail in the coffin of the myth of the liberal media. But whining about media bias doesn't do much good. My sense of the electorate right now is that it can be moved, but will not move as quickly as it has in the past. So the bad press we are getting now (and I think these NPR pieces were no worse than what comes through on the mainstream networks) is very likely to start showing up in the next couple of weeks (with the Republican convention being an additional wildcard).

The Kerry campaign has to be more aggressive about setting the agenda.

UPDATE: Ask, and ye shall receive.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Dumbbells 

Blogs for Bush is thrilled that the Bush campaign is "leav[ing] no stone unturned in reaching every available voter" by broadcasting "on ClubCom, a specialized TV network seen in about 250 fitness centers in New York and Washington, as well as eight battleground states". According to the New York Daily News:

"Team Bush is hoping to win over gym rats and armchair athletes with a targeted ad released yesterday that links feel-good Olympic imagery to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The ad paints Iraqi and Afghan athletes' participation at the Athens Olympics as a victory for democracy, and includes a reference to the 1972 Munich Games, where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists."
Unfortunately, this is typical of Bush's worldview -- that pride in America is somehow a Republican virtue and that war is a "feel-good" experience. I favored invading Afghanistan (though not Iraq), but decisions to go to war (or support a war) should be made with sober appreciation of war's terrible cost, not on the basis of the "feel-good" spirit that is properly in the realm of sport.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Is That What We Call It Now? 

Last night, the Daily Show re-ran the Clinton episode (Damn you, Jon Stewart!), so Mary and I flipped on Lou Dobbs and got to see this exchange with CNN military analyst Brig. Gen. David Grange (Ret.):
DOBBS: Moving troops back from the DMZ and South Korea, nearly everyone, at least with whom I've spoken, says that's a good idea. In point of fact, having those troops there militarily is a bad idea, is it not?

GRANGE: Well the problem is, and having served there, I felt this way in Korea. And that is, when you're right up on the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, you have no ability to maneuver out of a fight. You're fixed immediately. And so redeploying south or redeploying out of Korea and then re- deploying for a war where you can hit the enemy's rear or flanks makes a lot of sense.

DOBBS: You give the administration then, I take it, high marks for announcing this deployment and moving some 150,000 troops, their families and civilian employees back to the United States or elsewhere within the global theater of terror, if you will. It is global in its entirety. (Emphasis added.)
At that point, Mary asked a good question: "The global theater of terror. Is that what we call the world now?"

In looking back at this transcript, I also noted that, while Dobbs went on to praise Grange's expertise for "help[ing] us put some of the parts and pieces together, as always", Dobbs actually seemed fairly certain on his own where he wanted the interview to go. Quoted above are two of the four questions Dobbs asked of Grange, and each was a leading question praising the Administration's decision ("[N]early everyone ... says that's a good idea. In point of fact, having those troops there militarily is a bad idea, is it not?"; "You give the administration then, I take it, high marks ...?").

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Illinois State Legislature Wouldn't Pick You Either, Alan 

This is priceless:
Alan Keyes said Friday he would like to end the system under which the people elect U.S. senators and return to pre-1913 practice in which senators were chosen by state legislatures.
... And Obama takes a graceful, almost effortless-looking swing to hit it over the fence:
Keyes' Democratic rival, state Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago, issued a statement saying he supports popular election of U.S. senators.

"I certainly trust the people of Illinois to choose who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate," he said. "That is the very basis of our democracy."

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Putz? 

Professor Bainbridge takes Kos to task for criticizing Louisiana Rep. Rodney Alexander for switching parties minutes before the filing deadline, so no Democrat would have a chance to run against him, but for not commenting on the fact that New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey is resigning effective November 15 to avoid a special election this fall in which a Republican could run for the rest of McGreevey's term: "I guess Kos thinks deliberately manipulating the timing of your decision for partisan advantage is only a problem when its done by a Republican. Putz."

Putz?

Kos makes no secret of being a partisan, so even if the situations were similar, I'm not convinced that simply emphasizing one over the other would be hypocrisy (unlike taking inconsistent positions).

But the situations are not remotely similar:

- Congressional elections take place every two years. But for Alexander's maneuver, this would have been a contested election in which both parties could have fielded a serious candidate. The Democrats in Louisiana relied on Alexander's word. ("Although I am flattered by the offers of the Republicans to join their ranks, I am deciding to stay where I am"). New Jersey has no gubernatorial election scheduled this year. The election was held in 2001, and the Democrats won, so the Republicans will not have been deprived of a thing if the entire term is filled by a Democrat (any more than the Dems. are deprived in CT, where a Republican is serving out John Rowland's term). The Republicans didn't rely on McGreevey, because there was nothing to rely upon; they knew that he had the right to resign effective whenever he chose and could have taken whatever actions they deemed appropriate. What McGreevey did is not an underhanded trick, like Alexander's, but simply the common practice of timing one's resignation to influence the choice of successor -- akin to a Supreme Court Justice deciding when to retire based on the identity of the President.

- It appears that Alexander solicited funds from contributors, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), while already intending to switch parties. If true, this is fraud. (After an initial refusal, Alexander has agreed to return the DCCC's money, but he admits he's already spent and has no idea how he'll repay the money, and I don't believe he's agreed to return contributions of individual Democratic contributors.) The timing of McGreevey's resignation is not remotely fraudulent -- to the contrary, he seems to have disclosed the intention to resign as soon as he decided to resign. (The scope of McGreevey's underlying wrongdoing, related or unrelated to his stated reasons for resigning, is a separate issue, and I don't read Kos as in any way endorsing that.)
To be fair, I suppose Bainbridge used the word "putz" because Kos called Alexander an "asshole". OK, I'll give him that one on poetic license, but on its merits the comparison just doesn't fly.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

Pathetic 

This is just pathetic. According to NPR, Arash Miresmailie, star of and likely medalist from the Iranian Olympic, refuses to compete because his first match is against an Israeli. (I have not been able to confirm this in print, but this article reports on two other Iranian judo athletes refusing to compete against Israelis in last weekend's international competition).

If this is true, it is an affront to the Olympic Charter (e.g., Chapter 1, Section 3.2 ("Any form of discrimination with respect to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.") (athletes are bound by the Charter pursuant to Chapter 1, Section 1.2); see also Fundamental Principles 3, 6, 8).

Beyond that, I must comment on the obvious irony here -- Miresmailie's hatred of Israelis is apparently so great that he won't even throw one onto his back with speed and force.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Donkey Flying 

How good do Kerry's numbers look right now?

So good that, since promising a week ago to "see [us] at the end of August" due to the Teixeira family vacation, Donkey Rising has had no fewer than fourteen posts documenting how strong a position Kerry is in. (A fifteenth focuses on opportunities for improvement, so it arguably fits that description too.)

Professor Teixeira just couldn't resist -- and who can blame him?!

UPDATE: Mary points out that EDM is posting to the site while RT is away. So either RT is phoning in, EDM is a big optimist, or there's a slew of good news. I'll go for "c".

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Osama Loves John Kerry -- Or So the Government Would Have You Believe 

According to an unnamed "U.S intelligence official":
"The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the U.S. economy and to undermine the U.S. election," the official said. "The view of al Qaeda is 'anybody but Bush.'"
Bill Gertz, Bin Laden Hints Major Assassination, Washington Times, Aug. 11, 2004 (emphasis added).

Who is this "intelligence official"?

How does [s]he know who Al Qaeda wants to win the election?

Is it a coincidence that this anonymous source dropped this quote on the right-wing Washington Times?

Is it a coincidence that this official has al Qaeda using a Democratic rallying cry.

The Republicans have been working hard since the Madrid train bombings to pre-spin any attack as proof that al Qaeda wants Kerry to win. But as far as I know this is the most blatant they have been about it.

Obviously, we can't know who Osama really wants, and if I were a real intelligence official, I would just avoid speculating on nonsense. But since I'm a blogger, let me point out that the evidence suggests that Osama (if he cares) might prefer Bush:

- al Qaeda is using Bush's War for recruiting.

- Bush's popularity sky-rocketed after the last al Qaeda attack in the United States. Might it go down the next time? It might -- but is it so certain happen that Osama could rely bank on it? I didn't think so.

- The Bush campaign clearly believes that focusing on terrorism is the key to Bush winning. Why are we to believe that Osama has concluded exacttly the opposite?

- al Qaeda attacked the Cole weeks before the last election. If terrrorist attacks were meant to undermine the party in power, are we to conclude that Osama wanted Bush to win in 2000, but now wants him to lose in 2004? Of course not.
So maybe Osama wants Bush to win, and maybe he wants Kerry. More likely, he doesn't care, as he believes his movement is doing Allah's will and, therefore, will prevail regardless. If the "chatter" says they want to "interfere" with the elections, I suspect it means just that -- al Qaeda is hunting much bigger game than Bush or Kerry; its target is the election, and democracy, itself.

Let us hope that the media does not buy this self-serving Bush talking point.

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Tidal Wave 

Last night, Mary and I went to the local Dems' bi-weekly meeting. There were about 65 people in attendance, compared to fewer than 10 typically, and just about everyone there introduced him or herself and expressed a strong commitment to get rid of Mr. Bush. When someone asked for a show of hands, over half the people indicated that they had not been involved in politics before. We live in a college town, but the group was not just students; it included local professionals, union members, veterans, etc.

I am pretty sure this meeting was typical of what is happening across the country. For every person who actually came when they haven't came before, there are others who are just as angry with Bush and still others who may be less angry, but still concerned enough to get to the polls. And, as Mary pointed out, many of these people will be persuading their acquaintances. Of course, the Republicans have partisans too, but I don't believe that regular Republicans are as motivated as this -- regular Dems sure weren't in 2000.

This reminds me of the below-the-radar energy of the Christian Coalition in 1980. It was being reported. We knew it was out there. But we didn't know how effective it was until the landslide was unstoppable. Of course, I agree with Ruy Teixeira that to "vest your hopes in new voters is a serious—albeit common—mistake", but in this race the fundamentals are good and the polls are good (albeit before the Republican Convention). And, there are cases when a highly-charged race can change turnout dynamics -- turnout was close to 80% in Louisiana when David Duke ran for governor.

I'm still very worried about voter fraud. I'm concerned that Kerry hasn't hit back hard enough on the Swift Boat liars. But on the whole, I think last night's meeting was a distant rumble of something -- earthquake, tidal wave, or landslide -- that, like Jimmy Carter, Mr. Bush may not see until it is upon him.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has seen data confirming that I'm right to worry about the Swift Boat ads.

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Monday, August 09, 2004

Bush Admin Wants Hospitals to I.D. Illegals 

This is a really bad idea, for reasons that are covered pretty well in the article:
The federal government is offering $1 billion to hospitals that provide emergency care to undocumented immigrants. But to get the money, hospitals would have to ask patients about their immigration status, a prospect that alarms hospitals and advocates for immigrants.
[snip]
Marcela G. Urrutia, an analyst at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, said: "We are extremely concerned about this requirement. It will deter Latino communities from seeking emergency care. That could lead to serious public health problems, including the spread of communicable diseases.''

The Bush administration officials in charge claim that they issued the new rules because it's the only way they can be sure the money they're giving the hospitals is really being used as Congress intended, to provide emergency health services for undocumented aliens.

I have some trouble buying this. If the only reason were to make sure that the money is being spent as intended, why would they do this:
Hospital employees would have to sign forms certifying that the immigration information for each patient was "true and complete'' to the best of their knowledge. Hospital administrators who knowingly submit false information to the government would be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Under the new guidelines, photocopies of passports, visas, border crossing cards or other documents that establish the patient's status should, if available, be included in the patient's file.
[snip]
Federal officials emphasized that data on individual patients would not ordinarily have to be submitted to the government, but they also said that hospitals must keep it on file so federal auditors could check the information.
Don't worry, folks--John Ashcroft won't be digging into those files... Unless he needs them to try to ban an abortion procedure...

I particularly enjoyed the administration spokesman saying that hospital officials "could ask the questions in "an unobtrusive way'' that would not discourage immigrants from seeking care." When was the last time this guy had to experience an emergency room firsthand? Has he ever tried to get emergency care when he was uninsured?

This rule will affect citizens as well as non-citizens, both because in many cases undocumented adults have citizen children (and, as Ms. Urrutia goes on to point out, these parents may be afraid to bring their children in for care) and because germs don't care whether you've got a green card or not and they'll gladly spread from untreated immigrants to those they live, work, and go to school with.

Why not let the hospitals use some kind of formula for estimating what proportion of the uninsured they serve are undocumented (it shouldn't be too hard to get a reasonable approximation)?

If the administration is really so concerned about making sure that money Congress appropriates for a particular purpose gets used for that purpose and that purpose only, maybe they should start here.

UPDATE: Rivka and Body and Soul have more...

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Bush Talking Points Watch, Part IV 

Remember when Iran's agreement to let in nuclear weapons inspectors proved the success of the Bush doctrine?
"Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better," the president declared to the joint session of Congress. He said the resolve shown in the Iraqi campaign had persuaded Libya to renounce weapons of mass destruction. ...
"White House officials also pointed to increased cooperation from Syria in stopping Islamist guerrillas crossing its borders into neighbouring Iraq, and Iran's agreement to accept more intrusive United Nations inspections of its nuclear programme, as key examples of Bush successes."
J. Borger, War "Making World Safer", The Guardian, Jan. 21, 2004.

Iran's not so cooperative any more:

"The world finally is "worried and suspicious" over the Iranians' intentions and is determined not to let Tehran produce a nuclear weapon, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.

"In appearances on two television talk shows, Rice would not say whether the United States would act alone to end the program if the administration could not win international support."
W. Mann, Rice: Iran's Nuclear Intentions Worrisome, AP, Aug. 9, 2004.

Thank goodness the Deperatment of Defense reports that's still a success for Bush:
"[Rice] said the United States is actively and aggressively involved in a diplomatic strategy to deal with the threats of nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea. Rice said President Bush put the problem on the agenda during his 'Axis of Evil' State of the Union address.

"'Our allies have really begun to respond,' Rice noted. 'For a long time, we were the only ones who seemed to think that Iran really did have an aggressive program to try and acquire nuclear weapons. We are now getting stronger (International Atomic Energy Agency) action against them.'"
R. Williams, Rice Cites Successes in Stopping Nuclear Arms Development, American Forces Press Service, Aug. 9, 2004.

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Friday, August 06, 2004

Liberal Oasis has an excellent post today pulling together the various strands of Bush Administration incompetence that have created the current high oil prices, including misguided policies in Russia, Iraq, and Venezuela and its ham-fisted handling of the current terror alert. (Of course, increasing world demand is the backdrop here, though given the Administration's hostility to conservation and international environmental action, they bear some responsibility there as well.)

I'd like to add that the markets don't see much relief for Mr. Bush by election time. The current NYMEX prices (WSJ subscription) for oil are $44.35 for prompt (September) delivery, $43.18 for November, and even $38.10 for March 2006. It is typical that oil prices will decline over time (commodities folks call it "backwardation"), but the current decline is relatively flat for a time of high prices and uncertainty caused by short-term market shocks. For example, back in September 1990 during the first Gulf Crisis, prompt prices got up to over $40, but prices eighteen months out remained in the mid-20s -- i.e., the market expected things to get back pretty close to normal in not that long.

Now, the market is expecting things to stay pretty rough through Election Day and beyond.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery ... 

and Ignorance is Strength:
"When you look at the record, a quick summary is this: President Clinton inherited prosperity; President Clinton bequeathed recession.... [T]he recession President Clinton left behind has turned into prosperity under George W. Bush."
George P. Shultz, N.Y. Times, August 4, 2004.

It's a theory.

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Probabilities 

Number of Republican Senate Candidates outside of Illinois who are African American:

1 out of 33
Number of Republicans being considered to oppose Barack Obama who are African American:
2 out of 2

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Speculating 

Emphyrio reports being underwhelmed by the likely political implications of Josh Marshall's big story, which turns out to relate to establishing that SISMI (the Italian CIA) is the source of the forged Niger uranium documents.

Well, what are blogs for if not to speculate? Where is Marshall going with this?

Here are some thoughts:

1. What Marshall gives us now is only "one part of the story", which he has chosen to reveal because he was scooped by the Times of London. Thus, Marshall is still promising that there is more to come.

2. What jumps out at me about Marshall's summary is that the channel for forged intelligence was set up in early 2000 and, initially, related mostly not to weapons of mass destruction but "primarily with immigration into Italy and Islamist activities in North and Central Africa -- topics of concern to at least one of the 'security consultant's' longstanding clients." Who might that be?

3. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the client was Silvio Berlusconi, then the leader Italy's opposition -- and now Italy's prime minister and a key element of the "coalition of the willing"? Immigration and Islam have certainly been defining issues for Berlusconi. Moreover, Berlusconi has a past criminal conviction for lying about his membership in Propaganda Due, an organization that is reported to have "high-level connections to Italian intelligence agencies", as well as connections with the Republican party.

4. If it's correct that Berlusconi is the middleman's client, then it is easy to imagine Berlusconi or his people being behind the creation of the fake Niger documents for the very purpose of pumping up the case for war against Iraq.

5. Misconduct by Berlusconi, though, is hardly news -- and certainly not enough to shift tectonic plates here. Marshall must have evidence of a U.S. connection. That's not hard to imagine. After all, Berlusconi was a proponent of the war, but he certainly wasn't the driving behind it.

6. So the question is: Who is the U.S. connection? At this point, we really have to pile speculation upon speculation. Wolfowitz is an obvious suspect, given his role in manufacturing the case for war and face time with Berlusconi.

7. On the other hand, given Marshall's excellent work in exposing the "manifest incompetence of the vice president", and Cheney's office's apparently central role in outing Plame as payback for her husband's debunking the Niger story, I think we have to assume that the Office of the Vice President is in play here as a possibility. Maybe the tectonic shift will end up being the much anticipated "announcement that Cheney's heart problems have suddenly gotten much worse".

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Monday, August 02, 2004

You're Kidding, Right? 

David Bernstein has to be kidding that Al Sharpton's speaking at the Democratic Convention proves Democrats cannot be taken seriously:
Am I really supposed to take seriously a party that not only gives dangerous loathsome ex(?)-anti-Semitic demagogue (and Tawana Brawley hoaxer) Al Sharpton a prominent forum at its convention, but then rewards him with a standing ovation at the end of his speech?
Isn't there an obvious Republican parallel for Sharpton in Pat Buchanan in 1992? Like Sharpton, Buchanan was a defeated vanity candidate with a history of anti-semitic comments who was given a prominent speaking role at the convention. (Remember Pat's contempt for "homosexual rights" and his linking the election to a "religious war going on in our country for the soul of America"?)

Did Bernstein stop taking the Republican Party seriously in 1992? When did he start again?

Was it when they invited a man who allegdly admired Adolf Hitler to speak in primetime this time around? (Now I suppose Bernstein will reply that the allegations of anti-Semitism against Arnold are far thinner than those against Al, but what about the serial sexual harassment, which Arnold essentially admits?)

Of course, the debate over whether Al, or Pat, or Arnold has the most wicked heart is really pointless, as Bernstein knows. But I suppose it's easier to score some quick points attacking an easy target than dealing with Sharpton's themes -- that the Republicans have been bad news for civil rights, poverty, and civil liberties, that Iraq was a misguided and dishonest disaster, and that black voters are right to be loyal to the Democratic Party.

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