Thursday, September 30, 2004

Good Job

No matter what the papers say in the morning, I was impressed by Kerry's performance. I took lots of good notes, prepared a lot of juicy retorts - but I have to be back in the office in a frighteningly few number of hours. So I'll have to do it later - after the pundits have tained the world. Sigh . . . .

Any thoughts from anyone?

Ground Force Grandstanding

Blogger NewDonkey.com takes issue with some aspects of Sunday's NYT piece on new swing state voters - specifically, with the article's argument that despite overwhelming upticks in Dem numbers, the Reeps somehow have a ground force structure that will take the day. New Donkey is Georgia-savvy and does a good job looking at all the factors that led to recent Reep GOTV success there. (link credit to TPM.)

When it comes to ground efforts - I can't help but think more highly of Dem efforts (and efficacy). Especially now . . . .

Pay No Attention To That Camera Man Behind the Curtain

So, it's Fox's turn to direct the camera during tonight's debate, according to this Reuters article.

Networks, however, are apparently balking at the candidates' MOU item prohibiting reaction shots or audience cutaways. The audience shot prohibition I'm fine with - it's always condescending anyway to see who they choose to pair with what key word.

What good, however, is an agreement between two people who aren't actually in charge of the event - when everyone else has agreed to disagree? While I don't trust Fox's hand on the lens, I do support the networks' collective decision to retain control of the images. Maybe. Sorta. What if we got C-SPAN to do it? Wait - they don't have cutaways either. From the article:

"I think the campaigns and candidates should do the debating and leave the television and the journalism to the networks," said one broadcast news executive.

In addition, all four broadcast journalists chosen as moderators for the debates -- Charles Gibson of ABC and Bob Schieffer of CBS, and Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill of the Public Broadcasting Service -- have refused to sign the 32-page agreement governing conduct of the events.

"That's an agreement between the candidates. It's not an agreement between the moderators, who are independent journalists," said Frank Fahrenkopf, Republican co-chairman of the debate commission.

He also said the commission has declined to sign the document on grounds that doing so would jeopardize the tax-exempt, nonpartisan status that allows his group to sponsor the debates.

While the commission will enforce "what we can enforce" under the ground rules, Fahrenkopf acknowledged, "there are certain things in that agreement that are beyond our control," such as the networks' use of "cutaways" and reaction shots.

So, according to that first graf, then, should networks stick to television and journalism and leave the campaigning to the candidates? (Fox News, I'm looking at you . . . .) Of course, this article's greatest unasked question is what will happen if a moderator wants to change the thermostat.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Meet Mason County

On the Ohio border, this is one county that will go Kerry if this blogger has anything to do with it.

And she does.

Also of note: Point Pleasant and this tourism video about the Mothman. Yeah, like the movie.

But wait, there's more:



Betcha didn't know West Virginia went all the way to Ohio, didja? Oh. Well, fine. Good for you.

And yet more, from wordiq.com:

Mason County is a county located in the State of West Virginia. As of 2000, the population is 25,957. Its county seat is Point Pleasant6.

Geography
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,152 km² (445 mi²). 1,118 km² (432 mi²) of it is land and 34 km² (13 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.91% water.

Demographics
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 25,957 people, 10,587 households, and 7,569 families residing in the county. The population density is 23/km² (60/mi²). There are 12,056 housing units at an average density of 11/km² (28/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 98.37% White, 0.50% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.11% from other races, and 0.56% from two or more races. 0.47% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. [Ed. Note: So with me here, that last percentage goes up how much?]

There are 10,587 households out of which 30.60% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.60% are married couples living together, 10.10% have a female householder with no husband present, and 28.50% are non-families. 25.50% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.50% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.42 and the average family size is 2.89.

In the county, the population is spread out with 22.70% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 27.70% from 25 to 44, 26.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.20% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 96.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 92.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $27,134, and the median income for a family is $32,953. Males have a median income of $32,382 versus $17,074 for females. The per capita income for the county is $14,804. 19.90% of the population and 16.60% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 27.30% are under the age of 18 and 14.50% are 65 or older.

Cities and towns:
Hartford City
Henderson
Leon
Mason
New Haven
Point Pleasant

You want MORE fun facts? Wow, you're studious readers. Okay, here you go: MapStats links for Mason County West Virginia.

By the way - what did I have for my first West Virginian meal? Some regional specialty? Something southern? Nah. Sushi. Go fig.

This State Is THE Place to Be

I heard one radio station call it "Camp Cup Cake:" Stewart Will Serve Time in W.Va. Prison

Update - from a local paper:



It stresses industrial education, eh? Well, at least she's been assigned to a classy, historical facility - probably shabby chic . . . .

Second Rule of Politics

The First Rule being, never leave the originals in the copier (and the Third Rule being, make sure the mics are off).

From yesterday's Washington Post, a story about some lobbyists who made bank shutting a casino and then tried to make bank to open it again - their gleeful attitudes over the economic plight of the Texas tribe with the casino woes artfully captured in a series of emails obtained by the Post.

Sigh. Let the headshaking begin.

Winning quotation: "Fire up the jet baby, we're going to El Paso!!"

Oh - and when reading the article - take note of Bible Boy Ralph Reed (a dud on last night's Daily Show, by the way) and his lucrative role in the efforts.

To be clear - the Second Rule is: Don't write it down, moron! The world loves nothing more than a black and white record of hubris.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Audience Is Listening

A study has proven that, despite Bill O'Reilly's joking about "stoned slacker" viewers, Daily Show viewers are more educated than O'Reilly Factor viewers.

The Nielsen Media Research study concluded that TDS viewers are more likely to have completed 4 years of college (the retort to which must surely be - sure, they've completed 4, but they're on the 6 year plan. yuk yuk yuk). TDS watchers are also more likely to answer political questions correctly.

Frankly, even without statistical analysis, I'd think Stewarts's guest list offers clues about audience demographics. Those high profile folks are appearing because they think either no one is watching, or - more likely - they know that everyone (including other high profile types) are.

We've been saying this for ages, of course. But we're still glad to see everyone catching up . . . .

I can only assume that, somewhere, Craig Kilborn is weeping.

Wheels Down

After a blessedly uneventful flight (shout out to the nice folks at JetBlue and my pharmacist), I am safely in Virginia - not yet West, just regular, confederate Virginia.

It's raining here. And let me take a moment to explain the statement that it is "raining" to my California readers. You know, how, like, it rains, and sometimes it rains hard, and everyone yaps about rain? They're all stupid. This here, this is RAIN. Fat, angry, rotund drops plopping everywhere - especially in my unhappy-with-humidity hair and all over the ground leaving me without any wise shoe option. The winds aren't bad - but they are bad enough to have snapped my umbrella inside out already. This could be a long trip . . . . .

Between now and tomorrow morning, I'll be rushing to catch up with DC-based friends (some of whom are undoubtedly thinking "you haven't called me, inconsiderate blogger. to them, I say, you're probably a Dem, in which case, I expect you to be in WV sometime in the coming month).

For now, I'm going to use my remaining wifi time to catch up on the news. Keep checking back - the interesting events are just getting started, I'm sure.

Who's ready for some debatin' fun!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Brave Little Blogger

Uh - at least that's what I'm trying to be.

Anyway - I'm in a rush - packing, cleaning, sorting, stacking, cramming, spazzing. The usual pre-flight jitters.

I'm not sure what kind of web access I'll have over the next few days as I travel and get settled. So bear with me. I'm behind in all my news reading today - naturally. And probably will be for a day or two. As ever, you're welcome to email things to me for consideration (use the link in the sidebar).

Wish me luck.

From Sir, With Truth

Go Stags.

CMC Government Professor, Phoblog mentor, and generally brilliant guy John J. Pitney, Jr. has an article in today's Chronicle offering a controversial confession:

I doubt that all wisdom lies on my side of the political spectrum. I do not think that all the people who disagree with me are crazy, stupid or evil. Though I'm voting for President Bush, I hardly believe that the election of Sen. John Kerry would bring on the end-times.
What? Excuse me? Is that - dare I say it - reasonable deliberation I sense there? Shoot, even I fly off the handle on my side these days. He is right, however, to mourn the loss of national discourse in this cycle:

The eruption of political bile would be less annoying if it were intellectually stimulating. When Lincoln and Douglas debated in their 1858 Senate contest, they stoked a lot of heat but also cast a lot of light. At the moment, though, the intellectual lamps are dim.
Pitney also highlights the danger in pointing out your own side's shortcomings - labels like "squish" and, increasingly, "traitor" are tossed out like so many hand grenades.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Especially in light of the recent Dreier discussions. I remember thinking that there weren't any "bad guys" when I was working on the hill - just people with similar goals and different ideas for achieving them. These days, though, I don't feel as generous when it comes to assuming purity in politicos' motives and tactics.

I guess the challenge is going to be emphasizing what is important without going off the deep-end. I'm not sure I can do that on Republican - or at least Bush Administration - foreign policy, but I'd be willing to have a discussion about domestic policy.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Things I'm Going to Miss, Vol I

Political ads.

Sure - I'll get to see the good presidential ads that aren't run in California - but how will I know how to vote on California's important initiatives without advice from "Californians for Fairly Stealing from Wealthy Indians," or "Poor Indians for Protecting Their Slot Money," or "Californians for Puppies and Kittens Against Shakedown Lawsuits?"

Friday, September 24, 2004

'The Politics of Funny, or Vice Versa'

Phoblog reader JG drew my attention to this article on politics and comedy - an area right up our alley.

And if I weren't rushing to the wedding of two close friends and trying to, you know, get ready to move all the way across the country - I'd have something funny to say about the funny. But that has to wait.

More later.


And It's STILL Bad Policy

So what if his Solar Initiative blacked out? So what if he sold out to many apparently-no-longer-special interest groups? Schwarzenegger signed the bill allowing hybrids' use of carpool lanes.

I've said it before (too tired to find the link), and I'll say it again, diamond lanes are for decreasing congestion - air quality improvements are a fortunate side-effect. Some say this carrot will encourage hybrid purchases. It won't. There are already waiting lists for the few that qualify. Several Hollywood stars made calls in support of the bill - like Larry David.

Debra Bowen said it best, however - "I know I'm going to sleep better at night knowing Leonardo DiCaprio won't be stuck in traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway." She was one of a few Dems to stay off the bill.

Here's the other thing - the bill is COMPLETELY USELESS unless the feds alter their laws. HOV lane occupancy rules are set by Congress and the awarding of much-needed federal highway funds is contingent on state compliance with HOV lane rules.

Congrats Sacramento! Once again you've done . . . Nothing! Which in this case is good, I guess, since the law is dumb.

There was one bill that was okay - one that ended the long standing tradition of allowing cars over 30 years old to avoid smog checks. When I was last in Sacramento, because I was handling trans policy, I met with both sides of this bill. The classic car people freaked out. Because they never learned to read, apparently. This law doesn't mean your classic 'vette or 55 Thunderbird are no longer exempt. They stay that way. It does mean, however, that in 2014, had by Mercury Marquis lived that long, it wouldn't have gotten away with polluting freely.

Few post-1975 cars are ever going to be "classic," right? And those things really are lil'refineries on wheels - pumping out 155 times the lung killing crap as younger vehicles.

Maybe if you take that 1977 Monte Carlo and dump a hybrid engine in it you wouldn't have to worry.

And you'll have plenty of time to appreciate the cleaner air as your trapped in the 5th lane of congestion that used to actually serve a purpose.

The Science of News Linking

An interesting piece from USC's Annenberge Online Journalism Review delves into the scientific world of Google and Yahoo News' methods. Google uses algorithms, Yahoo uses people. Google yields more second-tier, screed-ish results, but it's all a language game. Yahoo is a one-stop, content site. Either way - this piece is an interesting peek at what exactly happens when you click "search."

(via TPM)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Montani Semper Liberi

Mountaineers Are Always Free . . . .

You might want to sit down for this.



The handful of readers who have been with me from the beginning know that John Kerry wasn't my guy in January. My guy was Howard Dean. More plain spoken, different, anti-war, passionate - he was the one I voted for in the California Primary in spite of his "no longer actively pursuing the presidency" at that point. John Kerry didn't move me as I watched him in cramped firehouses, large school gyms, working the crowds, and stumping. Disgruntled, I frequently criticized the campaign, frustrated more with the shortcomings of my party than with the shortcomings of one man - but making him pay for it anyway. Why isn't John Kerry making Democrats come together? Why doesn't he fight harder to save the world? Then I realized something.

I, like so many Americans, Democrats in particular, had long ago stopped asking what I could do for my country - or my candidate. I only wanted to know what John Kerry was going to do for me. Multiply that by the millions of loudly whining Democrats and you have all the reason you need for lousy polls and lackluster performances. Do for us, John Kerry, but don't expect us to do much for you. We'll play the victim, and leave you hanging.

When I shook Kerry's hand last month, I thought later of the many questions I'd wished I'd asked. Foremost among them: how does it feel to know we're counting on YOU to save the world. How foolish a question. I hope, if I had asked, he would have replied, "how does it feel knowing you must help."

This election is about more than one candidate. It's about more than the man we've allowed to be painted into a corner by savvy foot-wear wavers to the point where he can't unspool his Iraq war vote. It's about more than our parents' generations fighting out their 1968 anger or re-fighting Vietnam and its aftermath.

It's about the thousands of lives lost, impaired, wounded, or imperiled by President George W. Bush - and the thousands more he'll happily hang like fly-paper, twisting in the desert, while we hang out to dry here at home. It's about lost capital, good will, cooperation, and diplomacy. It's often said that you can't win an election based on voting against the other guy - fine. I'm voting for someone - John Kerry, and for myself.

I, a former Dean voter, will vote for Kerry because I believe he will not lead us unnecessarily into war with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or North Korea (though war with those countries may have been more necessary, and may be more necessary now than pre-Iraq). I will vote for Kerry because, as a Democrat, he still represents the party of the poor, the working and middle classes, the underrepresented, the truthful, and the hopeful. Irony and cynicism are soooo Pre-9/11 - I choose to believe in the American Dream: hard work and one vote can save the world.

Therefore, as of Monday, I will no longer be silent about the things that matter.

I'm moving to West Virginia for the remainder of the campaign, to be a field organizer for Kerry/Edwards. As I've told people today, as my plans went from semi-sure to definite, almost all were supportive, saying they wished they could do something like this. To them, I say two things: 1) You can. Though it's a bold, and some will surely say, foolish move. 2) There's a lot you can do here. Think of me and what I'm doing when you think you just CAN'T take 3 hours to work a phone bank - when you just CAN'T spare $20 for a low-dollar fundraiser, when you just CAN'T take a weekend to drive to Reno or Vegas or New Mexico to work where it really counts.

This is the first time in my life I've strayed from a very linear, sensible path. But if you're going to go - go big, I suppose. I'm terrified of moving to a state where I know no one to do a job I've never done (at least not in that particular role) for people I don't know. But it's also exciting. If everyone who thought "no, no, I couldn't possibly" take time/volunteer/go vote/tell their friends why this is so damn important just did so - we'd win handily.

In the end, no matter how things turn out, I wanted to wake up on November 3 and not wonder what I could've done differently, what I could've done more. And so, though it really changes things, delays them, reorganizes them, alters them forever, I'm going. I can no longer ask of others what I'm unwilling to do myself.

"In the end," the quotation goes, "we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

If Bush is reelected in November, what could be truer than that.

Wish me luck, pray for peace, and get your ass to a swing state at least for a few days.

A Quick Follow Up

To the David Dreier story: both this story and yesterday's (all of them draw from the same material) have Dreier's 98/00 challenger Janice Nelson claiming the Representative's Chief of Staff Brad Smith was rarely seen publicly with Smith - like he was "an invisible presence."

I'll admit that I didn't see Dreier around the district much - except at CMC events - my world was limited to Claremont. But in DC, I saw Smith with Dreier all the time. That was 1999, and I was just an intern, but that's what I remember. He's the Chief of Staff - not exactly a backroom role.

Also - Nelson shows much class when she says her campaign "knew" the two lived together, but opted against making an issue of it.

Let's see - a Democrat making an issue of her opponent's sexuality. Her possibly gay opponent. Right. That's our party - calling out those gays where we find them. A winning strategy true to our members.

On charges of local papers trying to keep questions about Dreier's sexuality quiet . . . well, great. Maybe it was just for Republican reasons, but the effect - keeping personal information off the front page - hey, I'm all for it.

I acknowledge that if Dreier is, in fact, gay, maybe he should vote more - I dunno - in his self-interest, I guess. And like I said, check the archives, my views on gay rights are pretty straight forward.

But it still sets me a bit on edge to go happily after an elected official on the most personal of matters, wrapped in a safety blanket of "hypocrite hunting."

“The people in Dreier’s district have to ask themselves: have they been served by their newspapers?” asks a Hustler editor. Well, unless there is something questionable in Brad Smith's wages (which are always public, published yearly, and long available), perhaps the paper could've poked around - if anything alerted them to the problem. But should the hometown paper be questioning sexualities? No. Did they ask Janice Nelson what she is? Probably not. Who cares? I really don't want to know what she does behind closed doors.

Don't get me wrong - I still wouldn't vote for him. I disagree with his voting record, policies, etc. But I really don't care if he's gay. I don't care if he loves his Chief of Staff - that's a workplace hazard of Hill life.

The Changing Face of the VRA

Interesting NYT column on the evolving effect and use of the Voting Rights Act. The VRA, representation, and redistricting happen to be specialty areas of mine - so I love a good discussion . . . .


The creation of black-majority districts was necessary when the Democratic Party had a monopoly in the South, and whites would almost never vote for blacks. But since 1990, districting deals between Republicans and black Democrats have led to political mischief. Shepherding black voters into black districts left other districts lily-white - and skewed to the right. You saw the consequences in 1994, when the House came under Republican control.

In Georgia and elsewhere, there has been a clash between what the constitutional scholar Richard Pildes calls "descriptive" and "substantive" representation. Descriptive representation is centered on the symbolism of skin: a black face for a black constituency. But it came at the cost of substantive representation - the likelihood that lawmakers, taken as a whole, would represent the group's substantive interests. Blacks were winning battles but losing the war as conservative Republicans beat white moderate Democrats.

Still, Georgia v. Ashcroft - finally settled in favor of the Georgia Democrats by the Supreme Court - is really a symptom of a bigger problem: not racial districting but partisan districting. "The United States is the only country that places the power to draw election districts in the hands of self-interested political actors," Mr. Pildes says. "The joke is that the voters don't really choose the candidates; the candidates choose their voters." . . . .

In 2007, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is set to expire and Congress will have to decide how to respond. After years of race- and party-based redistricting, two things seem likely. There'll be many black faces in the House - and the Republicans will be
running the place.
He's right about the changing use of the VRA. It's less about color and more about party - and, though not mentioned here, increasingly about party framed by different colors. It's not a stretch to say that some of the groups traditionally protected by the VRA are none too happy to see it used for the benefit of emerging minority powerhouses.

Redistricting reform - that is, real reform, not Ted Costa reform - is the key to restoring moderate, deliberative, reasonable government at the state and federal levels. I used to be a gung-ho supporter of political redistricting. Until I worked for the Legislature. Now I get it. It protects not just the voters, but the parties from the worst of their own.

The column is fairly, uh, fair in showing how all sides use the VRA to their advantage: either protecting the status quo or growing your ranks.

It may be time to look closely at the intentions and the realities of the VRA and its most powerful sections. Over time, most legislation can transform from a defensive weapon to an offensive one.

A Taxing Vote

Or a non-taxing vote, I suppose. Congressional leadership on both sides agreed to keep Bush's tax cuts without even trying to pay for them. The article effectively describes the political pressures acting on both parties to force this agreement - but I have to wonder why hard-core Republicans and actual conservatives still support Bush? I'm not pulling blame from the Democrats here, but why doesn't America's top Republican care more about an out of control deficit? It's not enough that we'll have to deal with an unstabble world, but we'll have no money to deal with it?

Not very Republican of him. And as he makes so clear in what he says and does, he's in charge here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

So That Flip-Flop Thing. Not True?

"[A]n examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation."

You don't say.

Out and About

L.A. Observed points to The Raw Story, a liberal news site, with a story on what it claims is the upcoming outing of California Congressman David Dreier. He's a very powerful member of congress and a fellow CMC alum.

The site links to an LA Weekly article. Unsurprisingly to me - and any other active Claremont politico, the Raw Story site contacted perennial Dreier opponent, Dr. Janice Nelson - an embittered, ill qualified woman with a penchant for attacking 20 year old college interns who interact with high profile alums.

The good doctor says she "knew" Dreier to be living with his Chief of Staff, Brad Smith. He's very highly paid, the story notes, drawing a connection to the recent McGreevey controversy in New Jersey.

The Weekly piece's author argues that outing someone is only appropriate when they use their power to hateful, anti-gay ends. He then cites a string of votes against employment discrimination legislation, for DOMA, and against hate crimes legislation.

Some of his votes, I can understand, given our similar education background. If you're a CMCer, you know what I mean. It has zero to do with hating gays, and everything to do with a very particular sense of the proper role of government and legislation.

Aside from most Bush policies (foreign, especially), I am still willing to give at least some Reeps the benefit of the doubt when it comes to many votes - knowing full well the gamesmanship that goes on in Congress.

I also know David Dreier, however. When you're an intern, for the minority part at that, and the Chairman of the House Rules Committee goes out of his way to say hello in the hallway, that counts for something. I also know Brad Smith, having sat next to him at a lunch the Congressman invited me to attend (policy, not fundraiser, thank you). Brad is also a nice guy. Would I do everything in power to kill 99.9% of any legislation Dreier introduced? You betcha. Do I think he's an evil homophobe? No. Do I think it sucks the way Republicans devour their own? Yes, and Reeps should demand more from their leadership.

That lunch, by the way, included a photo that went onto the Congressman's website in the "constituent photo album" area.

The morning after it posted, I received a handwritten fax from one Dr. Janice Nelson saying - granted with a bit of humor, but if you know her, plenty of honesty - that she was surprised to see me with Dreier, that she hoped I hadn't changed sides, that she hoped I'd taken a decontamination shower, that she couldn't believe I'd talk to him, etc. I should find it and scan it in.

She took the time, not only to watch his website that carefully, but to write a bitter missive to a 20 YEAR OLD INTERN. It would be easy for her today to explain it away as a harmless joke fax from a candidate to the leader of the local Democratic club, but it was something my whole office saw and didn't understand. That district itself won't flip anytime soon - but I sure think we coulda found someone a little better to run.

I would vote differently than Dreier on most legislation - and I'm absolutely in support of full rights for homosexuals - marriage, whole 9 (doubters, check the site archives). But I won't applaud his being torn down. He's a Stag and a friend to the college. He's well educated and though mistaken on positions, I don't think he's a "heartless AIDS-phobe" or homophobe.

I'm not saying I'd vote for him (I don't vote for Reeps, as a general rule, and as you'll soon find out, I'm as Blue as they come right now) - but I'd still exchange hellos with him in a hallway. And leave his staffers alone.

Continue Keeping These Things in Mind

To repeat - both from MLK, Jr.:

  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.

I'll explain later . . . .


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics

The three are not interchangeable concepts.

I get especially angry with the American public for accepting Bush's campign creativity when I hear statements like this one from this morning's address to the U.N.:

The work ahead [in Iraq] is demanding, but these difficulties will not shake our conviction that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat; it is to prevail.
THAT'S the solution? "Prevail?" Let's see, Kerry lacks a sound plan on dealing with Iraq and Bush's grand strategic response to insurgenge, and Bush can get away with saying the right response to difficult is not to retreat, it's to "prevail?"

That's like a coach at halftime saying that every time the other team makes a touchdown down, his team's response will be to win the game.

Bloggers v. Mainstream, Round 2

Phoblog convention blogger Jim Pinkerton, bucking for a new title as patron saint of bloggers, fires another round across Mainstream's bow in the wake of the Rather memo mess:

The two key concepts in this never-ending techno-saga are the increasing ubiquity of Internet-based technology and the decreasing barriers to entry into a public forum. That is, anybody with a computer and a modem can be a blogger, and any blogger can be a media-player.
When the handwriting is on the wall, you can go one of two ways. Rush to embrace what's next, as Pinkerton is doing, or freak out and minimize the newbies. Sometimes those choosing the latter are successful - but usually the ones opting for the former live longer and richer too.

Because they'll be the fist on-hand to erect new entry blockades. Bloggers are doing it already . . .

Good News in AD 30

In probably the tightest seat in the state, Democrats have been making registration gains despite a run of Republican growth, reports the Fresno Bee. And challenger Gardner's troubles continue:

In the 30th Assembly, which runs from Fresno to Kern counties, both parties gained registrations, but Democrats gained more -- 3,154 vs. 2,484.

It is now 47.5% Democratic and 39.8% Republican.

This heated race features Democratic incumbent Nicole Parra against Republican Dean Gardner in a rematch from 2002 . . . .

Speaking of Gardner, some Fresno Republicans want him to lose this fall, even if it means handing Parra a second Assembly term.

Party activist Tal Cloud is one.

"I think he's the wrong candidate," Cloud says, pointing to information made public last week that Gardner has gone by seven different names and has declared bankruptcy six times.

Cloud is no fan of Parra's, but he questions Gardner's ability to be a good legislator. If Gardner comes close to beating Parra, as he did in 2002, Cloud says he may want to run again in 2006, scaring off qualified Republicans.

He's telling local Republicans to stop giving Gardner money.
Aside from the Karnette race in the 54th, this is the most loseable seat for Dems - there are other true contests, but none as every-vote-counts-y than these two.

Monday, September 20, 2004

A Quotation for Our Times

From the always well-quoting LJ - something from Kurt Vonnegut that adds a special bitterness to news over the past year or so:

One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.

Fun With Mapping



I've been saying this all along (click on the image to enlarge it - I don't know if it's an accurate reflection of the storm's truth path - but it makes for great visual humor).

And if the other side can peg world events on God, use God as the source of bad decisions, then why not use him to put a political spin on foul weather. Seems just as fair.

Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Unbunch Those Panties

Uh-oh seems like some mainstreamer is a little worried. What else explains this tersely worded missive seeking to roll clouds over the recent minor blog victories. We aren't coming after your jobs. We just want you to do them better.

First, it's worth remembering how many other news stories — basically, er, all of them — have not been broken by the blogosphere. The obvious analogue to the suspicious memos about Bush's National Guard service was last month's spurious attacks on Kerry's military service in Vietnam. Though decried by leftie bloggers, the charges were not adequately debunked until newspapers like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune reaped the reward from Freedom of Information Act searches of decades-old military records and published eyewitness testimonials. Old-fashioned reporting won that round. . . .

In the days that followed, newspapers and television programs moved the story along by cross-checking the memos against contemporaneous National Guard records, interviewing witnesses and family members, and again questioning the network's experts. The blogs picked up the story, but they couldn't carry it to the finish line alone. They were complemented by traditional media but never came close to supplanting it.

The bloggers who first cast doubt on the CBS memos deserve congratulations, gratitude and, of course, their time in the sun. This has been another moment of triumph for this dynamic and emerging field, and it will surely not be the last. But it has been a moment, not a revolution.
I think bloggers everywhere thank you for your generous head pat. And as a left leaning blogger - thanks especially for your calling out our failure to fix Kerry's Swift Boat woes. It's much easier to debunk objective evidence (document is either real or forged) than it is to debunk subjective opinion (Kerry was brave, no he wasn't). It seems the substance of the memos matters little - though it has been called accurate, at least on CBS - for whatever that's worth now. [Update: What you knew was coming seems to be here: CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on National Guard Memos, Network Officials Say, via the journo refereced below.]

Some bloggers do report. Especially the ones who are, you know, like journalists. The bottom line is that you can't say we all intend to report. Some do, some don't. Some comment, some bitch, some whine, many do a bit of everything. But as a life in politics has taught me - a hit piece means you're a threat. So - good job, kids.

Congratulations

To Phoblog favorite The Daily Show - not only have they provided the best comedy on the Emmys so far tonight (we'll find and link when it goes online somewhere - for now, just know it was an ad approved by "Continental Skiff Boat Oarsman for Veracity?) - but they just pulled in their second consecutive best writing Emmy.

Jester hat or not - the truth wins.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

For Those of You Still Keeping Count

I'm running around on the Karnette campaign today - but in the meantime:

Here are some more numbers to addd to the growing list of war casualties. Iraqi casualties - so maybe they count less.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Who's Hungry?



That dancing lobster in the Port of Los Angeles can only mean one thing . . . .

It's Lobster Festival time!

I'm a hometown booster - so if you're an LA reader and you don't have dinner plans, hop on the 110 South and head on down for some murdered crustaceans drowning in drawn butter. I'll be the one in the bib.

You gotta love an event billing itself as "Shell-a-bration 2004."

Oh Dad, That Was SO Pre-9/11

A reader pointed us to this Daily Kos post - a quotation from a George (H) Bush speech in 1998 to Gulf War Veterans:

Had we gone into Baghdad -- we could have done it, you guys could have done it, you could have been there in 48 hours -- and then what? Which sergeant, which private, whose life would be at stake in perhaps a fruitless hunt in an urban guerilla war to find the most-secure dictator in the world? Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

And If I Awoke Tomorrow With Wings,

I'd save a lot on gas.

So a new report says Iraq had a clear intent to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons if the U.N. sanctions were lifted.

Seriously?

Fortunately, there's a "but" - the report finds no evidence that Iraq had begun any large-scale program for weapons program.

Unfortunately, Bush has all he needs in the sentences that come before the "but."

Before it's tomorrow and we have the official talking points on this, let's consider reality for a moment. You're the leader of a country targeted by the United States. The U.S.'s leader has said, unequivocally, that he's going to come after any perceived threat. The moment the U.N. backed off - guess what - I'd probably arm the hell out of myself too. Hey - notice that the article (I wrote "report" originally, but I haven't read the actual document - so I'm trusting the NYT on this) says their plans were to act "if" sanctions were lifted.

"If." Not "in spite of."

The NYT article includes this bit of insightful analysis:

With the presidential election campaign in its final weeks, Republicans and Democrats are likely to seize on separate aspects of the report in an effort to score political points.

President Bush, who has said Iraq posed a threat to the world whether or not it possessed illicit weapons, will probably draw attention to the conclusion that Mr. Hussein sought to acquire illicit weapons. His political opponent, Senator John Kerry, who has accused Mr. Bush of misleading the country into war, will probably highlight the conclusion that Iraq had not begun a large-scale production program.
Uh-huh. Thanks, we kinda figured . . . .

But here's where we make the leap from reason to wishful:
In trying to untangle the mystery of why no illicit weapons have been found in Iraq, Mr. Duelfer's report is expected to look more closely at the issue of Iraq's intentions. The document will stop short of offering a final judgment about Iraq's weapons program, the officials said, and will not completely close the door on some possibilities, including the still unsubstantiated theory that illicit weapons may have been moved to other countries.
I am willing to allow for a later discovery of sand-covered silos, racks of scary test tubes, etc. I also know that much information exists about which we may never know. However, it seems fairly safe to say right now that - regardless of intent, or possibility - Iraq has no illicit weapons. So that first sentence there - about untangling the mystery of why no weapons have been found - they haven't been found because they aren't there to find. So, please, look more at "intentions." Let's get 'em on thoughts. (I knew I should've paid more attention during the inchoate crimes part of crim law).

The "report will not completely close the door" on the great WMD search. Good. I was worried about running out of material . . . .

Word of the Day

Neo Tokyo Times offers a treatment on the election via the word "heresthetics"

A theory developed by William Riker, Heresthetics, NTT explains, is the framing of a debate or issue so that one is on the superior or winning side, or so that one’s choices are better-received by others.

More directly: structuring the world so you can win.

(there's always a word for everything, isn't there?)

“Of heresthetics, Riker says it is true that people win politically because they have induced other people to join them in alliances and coalitions. But the winners induce by more than rhetorical attraction. Typically they win because they have set up the situation in such a way that other people will want to join them--or feel forced by circumstances to join them--even without any persuasion at all. And this is what heresthetics is about: structuring the world so you can win.” (Emphasis added.)
NTT goes on to compare the Iraq resolution with questions Lincoln posed to Douglas during their great debates.

It's an interesting analysis, and though I'm not sure I agree with his concluding paragraph it's definitely worth a read. At the very least, we have another word to help describe what's happening in the world and what's happening to us.

ID-ing the problem is half the battle. A name always gives power.

Yet Another Phoblog Job Scratched from the List

On those rare occasions when the career services memo includes a job that brushes against government service, I generally jump at the chance to learn more.

I don't know if I actually could spend my days writing federal legislation (they ask for concise, clear writing, but I'm wondering for which Senate they write laws), but I certainly have the ability to do so given my background and recent education. So when I read a listing for the Senate Office of the Legislative Counsel, I thought, hey, alright, cool, may as well cast as wide a net as possible.

Here's the blurb:

The Office offers an exciting opportunity to assist Senate Committees ad senators in drafting legislation at all stages in the legislative process. Attorneys in the Office draft legislation that carries out the policy of clients, while ensuring that drafts are technically correct, are as explicit and readable as possible, and are properly integrated into Federal Law. Seeking applicants with the following qualities: (1) a record of academic excellence, evidenced by ranking in the upper third of a law school class, (2) an ability to write clearly and concisely, (3) no substantial participation with any political party or cause, and (4) a beleif [sic.] that public service can be interesting and challenging and offers the opportunity for a rewarding lifelong career. Please send a Resume, Transcript, Actual or estimated class standing, a legal writing sample (10 pages or less) that is written solely by the applicant and is not published under the name of any other person.

Okay, I'm the first to admit that on item (1), it would be a bit of a battle (yeah, yeah, I shoulda studied more first year - and not elected to take Fed Income Tax and Corporations with two of the toughest profs. Sue me. Or more to the point, don't hire me. But I digress).

On points (2) and (4) I'm a a shoe-in (rambling posts aside).

Then there's item (3).

Uh, define "substantial participation."

Frankly, the fact that I demand such a definition is an indicator of exactly why I do the legislation thing well. A blog isn't a cause, is it? I tried to ask one of the career services staff members if she knew what item (3) meant. She said, "well, unless you were like the head of the Hastings Democratic whatever you'd probably be fine."

[insert sound of crickets chirping here]

I don't know if that really rises to the "substantial participation," but you have to agree - it was pretty funny.

I have a lengthy philosophical view on why outside partisan activity most likely bears not on professional performance, but for now, lets just soak up the humor for a bit . . . .

B-MA

This post is rated "B-MA" for mature content including sexually explicit links and humor.

A Phoblog reader (with too much google-time on his hands, apparently) submits following site for consideration. It's a voter, uh, outreach site that calls upon patriotic Americans to take drastic steps to ensure civic participation this November 2.

Wait - watch me save this post from base-humor level.

The requested pledge is based in a classical strategy for ending war - as humorously depicted in Aristophanes's Lysistrata. (non lit majors - look it up).

See - it's funny AND educational.

No need to thank us - it's just what we do.

Wait, Jay Leno is Funny?

That IS news!

Phoblog's funniest friend, Sanjay (go check out Badmash), passes on this Nikki Finke article from the L.A. Weekly on Jay Leno: Does Mr. Middle-of-the-Road Lean Left?

The piece opens with a laundry list of lefty indicators Leno possesses: no Reep staff writers, thinks Iraq was bad, thinks Bush is a moron, has tips for Dems, his joke-writers are all Dems. Then Finke asks, "Could it be? . . . Is Leno, "the right comic," really a closet lefty?"

The interview was born of a phone call from Leno to Finke following her (totally justified) ripping of Leno's Schwarzen-pandering and apparent selling out to one side (which, to be fair-ish, is fine since Letterman hates Bush. of course, most thinking folks should, so nevermind, I revoke any sorta-credit given to Leno).

Finke had a problem with Arnold announcing on Leno's show. She thought it "hurt [his] objectivity."

Objectivity?

Here's my objective analysis of objectivity in humor. Or maybe it's my subjective analysis. Or both. Or neither. You decide.

As I've cited frequently over the life of this blog, during periods of intense political disquiet, rancor, and fear, comedians end up the only truth-tellers to whom we can turn. Not all comics are "true," but some do hit equally at all sources of incongruity (read: "hypocricy" in the political word) which is the bedrock of funnyism from a theoretical point of view. Finke's question, however, imparts to the comic the same ill-conceived definition of "journalism" or "reporting" that threatens the safety of Americans today. Namely - a need to be "objective" is realized in an equal treatment of both sides' talking points. Not what the facts might be - but what each side says the facts are. See the difference?

Leno, as a comedian, is not a journalist bound by any code of "objectivity" no matter how defined. I mean, look at Sean Hannity - he's funny, and no one doubts who he champions (what? he's not a comedian? oh, he's serious . . . . hmmmm).

Leno, buying into the premise and assigning to himself much more credit than he is due, fires back that during the Clinton years he was "so Mr. Democrat" - so much so that he wrote jokes for them and is thanked in Hillary's book. Wow, but is that not what I remember from the Lewinsky years . . . .

Leno then riffs on "bashing" as a comedian - who he bashes, who he doesn't, and how he may or may not bash. Debbie Allen couldn't choreograph such intricate responses.

When Finke calls him on his Clinton record - saying many journos thought he was Clinton bashing - his response is the funniest thing I've heard out of him in years - unintentionally, though:

Now when you say bashing Clinton, I never questioned his patriotism. If you take doing the occasional sex joke, to me that’s not bashing. I will never denigrate or make fun of John Kerry’s service record. He is a true hero who served his country. I may make fun of the fact he mentions it a lot. But I will never call his character into question. I heard some guy on talk radio the other day going on about Kerry’s medals being phony. Now, I won’t even do jokes about that because I don’t want to plant that seed.

You’ve done jokes about him allegedly throwing the medals.

But that was harmless. It’s not as if he didn’t earn them.
Finke eventually returns to her all-consuming quest to preserve objectivity in humor by asking how Leno ensures his political comedy is evenhanded.

There are, to be fair, many effective strategies for being funny. There's the Daily Show's method - incisively pointing out rampant incongruity with an eye toward the greater good (that is, smaller hypocricies take a back seat to, say, most of Bush's record. Things that could end with us all blowed up, rightfully, get more attention). . . .

And then there's Leno's method - a lower-brow, yukka yukka, everyone's-a-moron technique that should be played infront of a brickwall next to a stool instead of on national television where Leno should acknowledge that his encouragement of national head-nodding is engendering a comic-induced forgiveness of Bush's idiocy while indicting Teresa Heinz Kerry for being rich.

A hint of intellectual honesty comes through when Leno talks about Letterman:
Does he show his dislike maybe a little more than I do? Probably. But to me, Dave is a TV broadcaster. I am a comedian. It’s just different. My job is to get laughs. For what I’m doing, sometimes sarcasm and irony do not work as well as a joke. But I don’t think our politics are probably much different. I’m also at a disadvantage. Because you know you can never ask Dave to answer any of these questions.
So at least Leno admits there are different forms of funny. But I'm not sure there's much of a distinction between his job and David Letterman's - aside from what he's created to continue swaying the electorate while disavowing any responsibility for his influence.

I just don't buy most of Leno's arguments. In my opinion - and remember, I almost minored (yeah, CMCers, I mean "sequenced" but who knows what that is outside of our cult?) in comedy (no, really) - Leno isnt funny. Or, if he is funny, it's rudimentary, inelegant, spiteful, and geared toward gafaws. Irresponsible comedy - especially when used to convey opinions on politics - isn't harmless fun. A laugh creates a connection, engenders support, agreement - makes an in-group and, necessarily, an out-group.

Leno owns up to his agenda (may be too harsh a word) here:

You went totally hog-wild with the French jokes.

Well, there’s nothing funnier to me than the French. The French Resistance is probably the biggest mythical joke that ever existed. There were four guys in the French Resistance. They couldn’t hand over the Jewish people fast enough. Oh, please, don’t tell me about the French. The French have all sorts of secret deals with Saddam and everybody else for two cents a liter. It’s an easy target.
An easy target.

That's Leno's comedic philosophy in a nutshell.

Leno is right and wrong when he says "you don't change anybody's mind with comedy. You just reinforce what they already believe." In the short-term, that is true. Minds aren't changed in one joke (unless it's a damn good joke). But over time, it can, and does change mind. It makes otherness acceptable.

The thing is that I’m just here to tell the joke. I really don’t have any personal ax to grind. And I try to keep a sense of fair play. This is not a bully pulpit. You try to do what reasonably fair people would think of as a fair joke. . . . .

The ratings are laughs . . . if it got a big laugh. I always say comics make the mistake that they start off as comedians, then they become humorists, then they become satirists, then they become commentators, then they’re out of show business. That’s sort of the way it goes. I don’t want to be preached to as a member of the audience. I like to hear a joke. And if I’ve learned something after I’ve laughed, well, that’s pretty good. And if I’ve learned something before I’ve laughed, I don’t enjoy it as much . . . .

The White House strategy is to ridicule Kerry every single day of the campaign. And obviously The Tonight Show will be the first to pick up on that. How do you decide if you’re being used to further some political party’s ends?

Nobody from the White House calls or leaks us stuff. You see a picture that appears in the paper, like Kerry at NASA, and you roll with it. If it’s something funny, like Dukakis in a tank, Bush with a sombrero, Kerry in that colonoscopy suit, you use it.

Do you personally think this is a more important election than some of the others?

[Sighs.] Yeah, it is. I remember in college, and up until recently, I could have a political discussion without people walking out of the room, or telling me to screw off. There’s hostility now. I mean, it’s literally brother against brother. I have friends who won’t even speak now because one is a Bush guy and one is a Kerry guy. And I say, “You really think there’s that big a difference between these two parties?” Okay, obviously there is. When it comes to Supreme Court judges, yeah, I really worry. But I’m not sure what Kerry is going to do that much differently in Iraq. He says today he has a plan, but he doesn’t want to say what it is. Hello. I remember Nixon was going to end the war. . . .

I think that having grown up in Boston, having been in a middle-class family, and having been active on behalf of unions — I know about that — I actually think you’re probably left of center. But I think there’s a fear inside of you that you don’t want to piss off authority. It comes from your mother, this don’t-rock-the-boat mentality.

Is there anything wrong with making authority laugh at themselves?

The current crew in the White House doesn’t seem to laugh much at themselves.

The interesting thing is, I have found that the Republicans respond much more to jokes about themselves than the Democrats do. Democrats take it very, very seriously. You know, when Al Gore was here in 2000, we said we want to do this bit, and then it was, “Can we run it past our people?” “Can we make these changes?” Then the day of the show, “We’re going to pass.” Bush shows up. We had a bit where we’re playing Jeopardy, and he’s going to look kind of stupid. But then, in the end, the joke’s on me. “Yeah, fine, whatever you want.” It couldn’t have been easier.
He's right that Dems need to be more open to laughing at themselves. And Dems have fallen into the "that's not funny" trap. Remember - you'll NEVER win with the statement "that's not funny." Once you're mad, you're theirs, every time, without fail. And the more you have to insist the lack of humor in a situation, the funnier the situation gets. Bush et al have managed humor brilliantly in this camapaign - as evidenced by the way jokes creep out of Reep stories, reported Reep talking points (which are funnier, and what gets reported because that's what reporting is these day).

Leno is a cynic. Removed from the world to a place where he can choose when to care and when not to care. He has the luxury of a mouth heard 'round the nation. He presents his reality and everytime you laugh at it, you agree with it, it gets in you and you're likely to use it to make your own joke later. Rinse, Repeat. And as to the consequences of lowest-common-denominator humor:

But surely “Jaywalking” [Leno’s man-in-the-street segment] shows you what morons Americans are.

You get the government you deserve.

Heartwarming.

Perhaps we demand too much from Leno. After all, by taking him on, am I not also falling into Finke's theory that Leno should be living up to some level of objectivity? Maybe. But then again, we can't deny the persuasive power of humor - in politics, pop-culture, pretty much everywhere. Its undeniable and when used well can foreclose rational discourse framed in non-funny terms( See also: Presidential election, Bush v. Kerry (2004)). So while I still take issue with a demand for "objectivity" - when defined as "evenhandedness" - I encourage calling out Leno on what he does. (note also in the article his government-owns-media statements and contrast that with how much he's owned by corporate America. Judge the level of selling out as you will - he is hamstrung by his job. Small cable channels, not so much).

If you think about it - since comedy is incongruity, hypocricy, Leno's interview is rife with opportunity. But I'll leave to to The Daily Show - they get it.

Headline Trends I'd Like to See Bucked

Dems ask: Where's Edwards? / Party insiders worry telegenic candidate is being held back

What's wrong with that headline?

Like so many others in the past few weeks, it focuses on the Dem ticket's troubles - as highlighted by Dems.

I've been guilty of the same thing, I know - picking at what I want Kerry to do better, what I think he should be doing, etc. I can't say I'll stop expressing frustration - but I think it may be time to admit that I'm - we're - being used by the other side. We're so scared - we've been scared since 9/12/01 - since we started voting for bad laws and bad wars, and since we lost the ability to admit mistakes and ask forgiveness.

So headlines like these aren't likely to stop until we turn around and starting beating on them like they've been beating on us. Enough is enough. Hit back, hit back already! No more self-abuse. Let's find a message and stick to it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

'Metro Blogging becomes largest network of local blogs'

The other blog for which I write hit a milestone (at least according to the blogger here who said so).

It's a vastly different endeavor than this blog - but it's a fun cyber-cise. If you haven't checked it out, it's over at Metroblogging San Francisco - and it's one of a world-wide family of local blogs. Be sure to check out the whole Metroblogging fam. Think Global. Blog Local. That's us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Meet The Phoblog Family's Newest Member



Isn't she pretty?

Readers - meet my Sony VGN-S150. Yes, as guilty as I feel for ditching the machine that's brought you most of the fine content you've been enjoying, this new machine is shiny and pretty and small and fast and brand spanking new. I'm still getting used to it - the keyboard is a touch different (I'm missing my dedicated "page up," "page down," "end" and "home" keys) and the screen resolution isn't quite as good as the old one (though this xbrite is x-cellent - and, frankly, the larger resolution is probably much healthier for the eyes). The battery life is practially endless compared to the old one and this thing is so light it's ridiculous - at about 4 pounds I can easily life it with one hand without fearing a snapped wrist. And - the wireless card is built in.

This may be love . . . And if it doesn't crash multiple times a day and corrupt my documents, well . . . . I'm one happy blogger tonight.

I Am Compelled By My Office To Blog The Following

Vote Drives Gain Avid Attention of Youth in '04

Blue In The Face

As in "arguing until he is" - which I can assume Krugman hopes will lead to the country turning blue in the states.

Krugman, again, concisely lays out Bush's failures and offers Kerry some message suggestions . It's nothing new - yet seems lost on many voters. So read it, pass it along, and fight like hell between now and November 2.

Now, I Got An A in Remedies, But

I don't recall there being a foul weather exception to hearing procedures for injunctions:

From Reuters (via TPM):


MIAMI (Reuters) - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act.

The action came in an ongoing legal battle over whether Nader should be allowed on
the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

Nader, an independent nominated by the Reform Party, was a presidential candidate in 2000 when Bush won Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes over then-Vice President Al Gore. Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary injunction last week preventing the state from putting Nader on the 2004 ballot, siding with a Democratic challenge that the Reform Party did not qualify as a national party under state law.

A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But Roberts said
Hurricane Ivan, which is headed for Florida's Gulf coast, had raised "a substantial question as to when such a hearing" will be held.

'PARTISAN MANEUVERING'

As a result, she said, Florida's Department of State had filed an appeal against the temporary injunction. The appeal application automatically lifts the injunction, allowing the counties to put Nader's name on overseas absentee ballots, which must be mailed by Saturday.

"I'm in disbelief," said Scott Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. "This is blatant partisan maneuvering on the part of Jeb Bush to give his brother a
leg up on election day."

"They are trying to get ballots printed with Nader's name on them," said Maddox. "I am astounded that Jeb Bush is willing to defy the judiciary to help his brother."

Maddox said if Nader drew votes away from any candidate it would be Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Gov. Bush said he agreed with Roberts' decision.

"It's up to the judge to determine, based on the law, whether Nader should be on the ballot or not," Bush said. "But while that process goes on, we cannot put ourselves in the position where the ministerial role of the supervisors cannot be fulfilled."

Maddox noted that Tallahassee, the state capital where Davey sits, is not expected to be directly hit by the hurricane. He said the circuit court could hear the case as scheduled on Wednesday and rule immediately.

In addition, the case is before the Florida Supreme Court, which could also rule at
any time, he said.
Okay, now, pre-2000 I would say that any court, generally, would hesitate to step in given the "political question" in controversy. Courts used to be reticent to much with elections because there aren't really do-overs and you don't want to keep re-contesting things (bad for public policy, public confidence in legitimacy of their electeds, etc). But now - especially give THIS STATE's sketchy electoral history (recent history involving the same players at that), you'd think there would be cause for a bit more, I dunno, deliberate consideration of these sorts of capricious decisions.

I know there are exceptions for issuing TROs or other emergency injunctive orders ex parte or without adequate notice - under extreme circumstances. But as for allowing a party to ignore an order . . . . the article mentions that the appeals process lifts the issued order - but still - I'm thinking this kinda makes the party with the order feel a little like they just spent a LOT of money on attorneys for no good reason.

You wonder what Florida did to deserve all this foul weather? Hmm, I don't know, but maybe God is a democrat (or just a lover of legitimate election procedure).

(phoblog doesn't really endorse the use of theological arguments as the basis for policy. in fact, that's one of the scariest things about GWB, just like jihadists. as the basis of a joke, however, we're all for it).

Monday, September 13, 2004

Just 47 Minutes Until . . . .

You can break out those AKs you've been hiding all these years. Hooray! No more assault weapon ban!

Finally kids will understand why Ice Cube gotta say it was a good day.

Also:

The Daily Show addresses the memos. Word of the day - helveticologists.

Two questions posed in support of Bush through these trying times:

"What difference does it make how well he avoided combat?"

"In these difficult times, do you really want a President who wasn't smart enough to get out of Vietnam?"

Well, good point I, uh, guess . . . .

They also awarded Robert Novak a congressional medal of - well - something unflattering - showing a clip of his completely unhypocritical demand for Rather/CBS to reveal the source of the memos. Riiiiight.

Somewhere, a kettle is boiling in righteous indignation at such name calling.

Bloggers Getting Their Due

While at first the mainstream media didn't give credit to bloggers for the perfect storm of memo discrediting information they pumped out (citing instead, passively, "doubts were raised"), they are now running to embrace the alt.medium - much as they did during the DNC with everyone and his mainstream brother opening a "blog" for additional coverage. Some mainstreamers are more appreciative than others - but they're taking note.

To wit:
TCS: Tech Central Station - Blogs v. 60 Minutes;

New York Times's Safire with "Those Discredited Memos";

And, even guest Phoblogger Jim Pinkerton.

The Tech Central article is a nice gathering of some of the named blogs first to the scene - and in fact, one of the nice things about blogs themselves is that the are a realtime record of unfolding stories - permanent marks - the authors thoughts at each turn laid bare for analysis - frequently making for a compelling narrative. What otherwise might have taken place around a water cooler or through a series of phone calls is instead digitized, broadcast, and etched in as much permanence as the 'sphere can muster.

I believe one interesting and not yet noted, however, that I'll be watching, takes us back in a more substantive direction on the blogger angle - yet still in a procedural way, I guess (dizzy yet?).

Blogs of the "citizen journalist" variety can lean many ways: liberal, conservative, the outer fringes of both parties or no parties. I'd argue a majority of bloggers, regardless of their reported bias, seek truth above all else. The anti- and pro-Bush bloggers latch onto what they see as unjust, untrue stories and seek to bash the hell out of them. They are reactionary - though, in this case, we can see how they quickly moved from being pushed by the news cycle to pushing a cycle of their own.

In this case, it was conservative blogs witnessing something damaging to their team. Even liberal bloggers, however, support the truth - though we may try to redirect to other topics (ie: I would've LOVED those memos to be legit - but since they probably aren't, I'm happy to continue to point out Bush's spoiled rich-kid-edness lives on).

Mainstream media and those unfamiliar with the blogosphere tend to think of it as wacky, probably progressive (in the Dem or liberal sense, not a classical way), Michael Moore controlled landscape of Bush bashers and lovers of liberal media bias.

So who makes headlines that might help blogs jump from pet rocks to legitimate change agents? The conservative blogs. This probably simultaneously stregnthens notions of liberal media bias and throws a curveball at 'net mockers. Never saw that one coming did you, guys?

We'll be tracking this story - obviously - if for no other reason than second only to the promotion of truth, most blogs seek to promote . . . . themselves, duh.

Update: Sometimes I post before whatever I've read prompting me to post has sufficiently sunk in.

The Tech Central piece closes with a series of questions on how CBS could muck up so badly. Then says:


The more basic question is how could a rabble of bloggers, in one day, provide hard core proof of forgery when major news organizations took those documents at face value? Most fundamental of all, why did the New York Times, the Boston Globe and CBS allow themselves to be used for such a transparent attempt to slander President Bush? Out in the blogosphere there are a swarm of people rooting for the answers.
A rabble of bloggers? From what I know, Power Line is a couple a lawyers (now, okay, I think most lawyers are rabble, but you're missing my point). Lots of blogs are professional journalists or professional whatevers outlets for craft-related discussions. These aren't 3d graders with class projects or uneducated slobs trying hard to spell correctly. They could do it because, like NYT readers or WSJ readers or other learned, civic-minded folks they were on their toes and asked questions outloud at a time when technology allows for quick and expert answers. I remember being told several times during high school and college when pondering a career in journalism that a degree in journalism was seldom as valuable as practical experience in a subject area or profession. And of course, as blogs show, that's true - you don't need a recognized byline to qualify you to find truth and get it out there for the consideration of others. Clearly, you don't even need a paycheck to do this (though, readers, if anyone out there wants to pay me, I'll take it, I'm not stupid). Were I the mainstream media, yeah, I'd be concerned - when you aren't doing your job well, others step in to do it. I'm sure they've been trying for years. Now, however, the nice folks at Blogger and Movable Type have just made it SO easy.

I'll leave aside the partisan implications of the second "slander" question, but on the first "basic" question, the answers are clear: this is what smart people do when they can talk freely, easily, and immediately. It's the ultimate free market of ideas - a barter system even - you lend your expertise here, I'll help you there.

Some bloggers are techno-geeks who'd notice type discrepencies. But in this case, I think the tech-angle is second to the partisan angle. They knew the politics of what was happening and needed the technical support to prove their point. That's what they did. It was swift. It was brilliant. It was technologically and politically savvy. And it was potentially a watershed moment for the New Media.

Ideas want to be free. Truth wants to be free. Blogs are free. That the 3 have come together - well, that was just a matter of time . . .

Still Stuck on Flypaper

I've mentioned before the surprising frequency with which those readers I usually respect as being rather well-reasoned intellectuals embrace the "flypaper" view of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Josh Marshall (having an especially estute day) highlights just a few of the problems with the argument: "logically it is nonsensical; strategically it is moronic; morally, it is close to indefensible." He closes:

Knocking holes in this argument is really too easy and after a bit beside the point. The real problem with this argument is its proponents -- folks who seem inclined to put insipid wordplay above the lives of American soldiers and marines, indeed, above against the future security of the country itself.
Yup.

It's NIMBYism followed to its logical, horrific, conclusion.

Tocqueville Is Great Because Tocqueville is Good*

If I were asked where I place the American aristocracy, I should reply without hesitation that it is not among the rich who are bound by no common tie but that it occupies the judicial bench and the bar.

The more we reflect upon all that occurs in the United States, the more we shall be persuaded that the lawyers, as a body, form the most powerful, if not the only, counterpoise to the democratic element.


- Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America

*Inside joke for my fellow Pitney-ites.

Calvin, Hobbes, and American Foreign Policy

In repsonse to my concern over our lack of attention to potentially real enemies, LJ offers a helpful illustration via Bill Watterson's Calvin And Hobbes:


Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Off the Table

Josh Marshall has some scary words for Democrats and those who remain concerned about Iraq and the ME generally: Iraq is already off the table in terms of this election debate.

"President Bush has been able to mobilize his manifest failure as a political asset, and the Kerry campaign has allowed him to do so," he says. There were many points at which this war could've been a "success" (under several definitions) - but now, "thinking people," he argues, can't really call the war anything besides an unmitigated failure. And the failure is working for Bush because:

Recently, President Bush has sought -- with real success -- to edge Iraq out of the campaign dialogue by putting the issue back on to Kerry, asking what he would do differently and how it would produce a better result.

This puts Kerry in a bit of a bind because the politically-unspeakable answer here is that there are no good solutions anymore. A year ago, even six months ago, there
were. Now, there really aren't.

President Bush at least has a straightforward approach: denial. Pressed to come up with a soundbite-able and practical policy, Kerry is, well ... hard-pressed.

(As I said, President Bush, in this way, has managed to derive political advantage from the magnitude of his own failure.)

Politically, Kerry needs to ignore the commentators who will press him to come up with a twenty point plan that will immediately rectify the situation in Iraq. Yes, he needs to give an idea of what he'll do if and when he takes over. But the emphasis should be on the undeniable fact that though the way forward may be murky, the last person you want to lead the country down that foggy path is the guy who screwed everything up so badly in the first place.

As my friend John Judis noted recently, the key to winning an election is often simply a matter of bringing to the surface of the public consciousness what voters already really know. They know Iraq is a disaster. They know it's President Bush's fault.
I would insert a "should" in the last sentence because I don't think Americans know it's Bush's fault. They don't seem to call him on it, anyway. Part of me can't wait for 20 years to pass so this election really can be studied in a less passionate way. But it's those 20 years that make me passionate now. For whatever criticisms Dems and Reeps have of Kerry, the fact remains this election is about so much more than just one man. It's about 1000 and rising in Iraq; 3000 in New York and Washington,DC; 10,000 more in Iraq (not in U.S. uniforms); it's about unexplained explosions in North Korea; heavy-water factories in Iran; lost friends in Europe; and the world's tenuous hold on peace. And why on earth would we leave even four of those next 20 years in the hands of the man who got us into this mess to begin with? If someone can give me a good reason - and no horses-in-midstream or they'll-come-after-us-more reasons will do, thanks - to give Bush one more chance with my personal safety, I'll gladly listen. But save the fear tactics for someone less thoughtful. I'm not buying it anymore.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Well, One Has Bad Weather . . .

But the other one is still Ohio.

Kerry may be down to a two-state battleground, Florida and Ohio.

But there's still an eternity between now and November 2 - and at this point, I don't think the biggest bombshell revelation ever would be much of a surprise to anyone (and N.K.'s potential big bombshell might be an issue). I know there's a noir-esque "this election has gotten closer than" idiom here - but not being Dan Rather, I just can't come up with it quickly enough.

Potential Mushroom Still a 2d Page Item

This morning's NYT article on North Korea's questionable activities isn't vastly different from last night's. The potential mushroom cloud - still unconfirmed - is still toward the end of the article. No more brackets, though.

From today's LAT: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday's explosion was not a nuclear test but that it was not known yet what caused it.

"There was no indication that was a nuclear event of any kind. Exactly what it was, we're not sure," Powell said on ABC's "This Week."

Interesting Use of Brackets

11:54pm PDT - I checked the NYT site and found this article as the top story. It begins and focuses primarily on U.S. inter/intra agency discussions about what exactly recent North Korean activities mean. The two screen article didn't have the word "mushroom" on the first page. Then, in the 4th to last graf on page two was this:

Senior officials in South Korea and Japan did not appear to have been briefed about the new evidence, beyond what one called "a nonspecific warning of a growing problem" from American officials. But it is a measure of the extraordinary nervousness about the North's intentions that earlier this week, South Korean intelligence officials who saw evidence of an intense fire at a suspected nuclear location alerted their American counterparts that a small nuclear test might have already occurred. American officials reviewed seismic sensors and other data and concluded it was a false alarm, though the fire has yet to be explained.

[A huge explosion rocked an area in North Korea near the border with China on Thursday and appeared to be much bigger than a blast at the Ryongchon train station that killed 170 people in April, Reuters said, citing a report by the Yonhap news agency of South Korea. The United States "is showing a big interest because the blast was seen from satellites,'' Yonhap quoted an unidentified official in Beijing as saying.

[The cause of the blast has not been determined, but the Beijing official said Washington was not ruling out the possibility that it may be linked to a nuclear test. Yonhap reported that a mushroom cloud up to 2.5 miles in diameter was spotted after the blast in remote Yanggang province in the far northeast.] North Korea has declared several times in the past year that it might move to demonstrate its nuclear power. It is impossible to know how such a test might affect public perceptions of how Mr. Bush has handled potential threats to the United States. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has already accused President Bush of an "almost myopic" focus on Iraq that has distracted the United States while North Korea, by some intelligence estimates, has increased its arsenal from what the C.I.A. suspects was one or two weapons to six or eight now.
The brackets are original to the article. I can say it's punctuation I'm used to seeing outside of directly quoted source material. Maybe I'm wrong - but it seems a clumsy meshing of two concurrent stories. Wonder how much of this was known and embargoed. Or known and developing. Or what exactly the story was that made this other material seemingly prepared separately and added at the right moment. Perhaps it's nothing - but no character is really accidental - they're not typos, but maybe they are editorial marks meant to have been removed before going live on the article.

I wondered for the first 3/4 of the article why there wasn't a mention of this latest evidence of possible move toward testing (though, in my non-expert opinion, if it was indeed a "mushroom cloud," I'd say it's safe to assume we've passed the "moving toward" stage of things.)

(The last graf has an interesting quote from Bush from 2 weeks ago on his disbelief in giving "timelines to dictators or tyrants." I guess "timeline" and "ultimatum" ARE different. So that Saddam order was, you know, like, different. )

Update:

Suspicious Blast Seen in N. Korea (washingtonpost.com)

Report: huge explosion in North Korean province (sfgate.com/AP)

Nothing at the LA Times.

And, just to be different, CNN with: North Korea cloud 'not nuke blast' - Sep 12, 2004 posted at 3:06am EDT.

Most sites note that the blast occurred on the anniversary of North Korea's founding - September 9th. Apparently, it's common for them to use notable historical dates to demonstrate national power, etc.

The CNN article's lede says a U.S. official says the blast wasn't the result of a nuclear explosion. Same official also said the cloud could be the result of a forest fire. The South Korean official interviewed said he had no information on the size of the damage or explosion and that he believed there was no correlation between the explosion and reports of North Korea preparing for a possible nuke test.

Bloggers seem to be in bed. As I should be. As I am going to be.

I'm sure there'll be more news in the morning. Just fun - eh, sorta - to watch these things unfold. And half - okay, more - of the fun of the 'sphere is trying to be the one catching something as it happens. Or at least an aspect of it.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

E tu, N.K.?

It's the end of the world as we know it, And I feel fine.

Answer me, Mr. President, are we safer today?

There were real threats in the world. Real, scary, prepared enemies whom it may or may not have been wise to engage. But we didn't go there. Maybe because we weren't assured victory (or whatever Iraq is, exactly). Maybe because . . . well, a 1000 third-rail reasons. And now, regardless of how reasonable, valid, or right action elsewhere in the world would be - we're strategically sunk.

But maybe these guys might have needed the smackdown a wee bit more.

I'd say a MUSHROOM CLOUD is a pretty good indicator of WMD. Ya think? And we've known for awhile. We blew it on the short-bus country. The easy mark. The dorky, mean kid no one liked, but who wasn't the bully he once was. And now, this.

This story is developing, clearly. Maybe it won't be tomorrow's big story. In fact, I hope it's not. But if it is . . . if it is, well, welcome to our world.

Three Years Later

Everyone has their story for today. Most channels are running their 9/11 themed programs. And everyone tells their "what I was doing when" stories.

I've put my story in the comments section, below. And you're welcome to add your story as well. I knew no one who died that day. I wasn't in New York, nor in DC. I wasn't supposed to fly anywhere. Wasn't in anyway touched by the attacks, except by virute of my nationality.

Maybe that's why I have a only story to share, instead of an "experience." I think part of the reason the malls in Wichita have their terrorist attack plans in place is because they aren't New York. Because they share pain but not source. Because we all want a piece of that pain - the tragedy felt by many people whose lives changed that day because a loved one died.

We're a country of narratives - American Dreams stored in American fables. Tall tales and short stories. What's yours?

Expert Commentary on Memo Content

I asked Phoblog Special Military Analyst JW (a uniformed military officer whose name I will protect since he has a job to do and rules to follow - but be assured, Phoblog knows her sources and only accepts the best) for some commentary on the controversy underlying the memos. The substantive questions they raise: how much insubordination or how much "input" is put up with by superior officers? What about disobeying orders, chains of command, etc.

This is what our Special Analyst had to say:

I'll probably get "whacked" for this, so if I show up dead somewhere and the military hides the true reason of death as either MIA or KIA, don't believe it, it is because I am speaking out about Bush and how he is a horrible Commander in Chief.

Probably the most absurd thing about all of this "controversy" is when his press guy looks into the camera and says that Bush must have done the right thing, after all he did get an "honorable discharge." Every time he says this, I find myself dying of laughter. Let me tell you civilians something, (and this is what I might show up as MIA for) everyone gets an honorable discharge. People that get kicked out for disobeying orders, for being continually overweight, for failing drug tests, etc. etc. etc. all end up getting honorable discharges. The kids that took pictures of themselves next to naked Iraqis are the only people I have ever heard of to get dishonorable discharges. And even they are going through a huge trial where the level of discharge is one of the things in question. So the next time that press dude looks in the camera and says, "Bush got an honorable discharge, so therefore he must have been at duty," start laughing.

As far as everything else goes, like his status for duty, and his requests to not show up, I find that all to be pretty ridiculous as well. I'm sure the National Guard is different than the real army, but do feel for the LTC and his situation. He was trying to get a super protected son to come to work and that son did not want to. The amount of paperwork hassle and time it takes to get one soldiers out of the army for something like that takes literally forever. I came in on the tail end of processing a soldier out when I first got here. That soldier basically didn't want to come to work and she didn't care what happened to her. It took a solid year and half to get her out. She still got paid during that time, she still lived in the Army quarters, and she still received all the health care and other benefits during that time. And guess what folks, once that year and a half ended and the Army finally kicked her out, what kind of discharge do you think she got?


Are you laughing. I am.

It is said that as a leader in the army, your time will be split in three ways.
10% of your time dealing with 90% of your average everyday soldiers.
10% of your time with about the 5% that excel and do great things.
And then 80% of your time is spent dealing with the slim 5% of soldiers that mess up and do what they are not supposed to be doing.

To me, it looks like Bush was part of the bottom 5% that his LTC was spending 90% of his time on. The LTC probably didn't what to spend anymore time messing around with Bush, so he just passed him over for awhile and then ended up pawning him off on someone else to deal with.

I don't know if this is what you were looking for, from my experience in the Army, this is how I have interpreted this "controversy".

Let me know if I can be any more of a help. And if I show up unaccounted for in the next week or so, just say that I was a nice guy who searched for the truth in life.


We will, JW. We're on the same search.