Thursday, September 30, 2004

Watched the debate at the local coffeehouse/bar where my wife's knitting roup meets. Kerry looked like the President of the United States. Bush looked like the ADD kid who can't sit still in class. And he kept doing that thing with his eyes and that other thing with his mouth. So Kerry will probably be declared the "winner."

Kerry also happens to be right on the merits, and to have a better grasp of the global security situation, but that won't matter so much in spinland.

I wonder if Kim Jong Il was watching?

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Baseball in Washington!

Now if we can just get a team back in Brooklyn the world will be set right again.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Spin is the New Truth

This piece at truthout is informative. It is a history of the Iraq war composed entirely of lies told be members of the Bush Administration (some of the tenses have been changed for consistency and clarity). Every statement was false, and could be documented as false. If you believed any of these statements were true, you've been had, you sap.

I've been having a number of political conversations recently as voters start to perk up. It is amazing how well negative advertising works - I've heard a lot of criticism of Kerry, recently, from other liberals (not surprising), using the same talking points and language used by Republican attack ads (surprising, to me). I didn't think this stuff worked anymore on informed citizens, and I guess I am wrong. I am referring particularly to "character" defamation charges - from the ubiquitous "Flip-Flopper" and "indecisive, wishy-washy" and "I don't know where he stands on . . . " to "voted for the war, then opposed it" to "probably hiding something about Vietnam" to "scumbag" - twice, from two people who are voting for him anyway!

These people think they are independent-minded people who are making their own judgements about a man's character from the evidence, but they aren't. They can't be, since they don't have any evidence. Instead, they have been influenced by a very disciplined, very effective propaganda campaign designed to distract attention from Bush's failed record and depress turnout among progressives in November. So let's look at these charges, shall we?

Flip-flops. Where do people talk like this but politics? If at any point you have said, "I voted for Gore/Bush/Nader in 2000, but I'm not sure who I'm voting for this time," doesn't that make you a flip-flopper? Real people change their minds when they are wrong. Politicians, apparently, are expected to hold the same opinion forever even if the facts have changed. It is perfectly reasonable, for example, for someone to have argued last October that more troops were needed in Iraq and to now be arguing for withdrawal. After all, more troops last year might well have helped establish some sort of stability. That seems less likely today. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.- Emerson Following the political wind is not the greatest sin in the world, especially not in a democracy in which the people's desires are supposed to determine policy. Why does Bush make us so angry? Because he doesn't care what we think!

Voted for the war. One thing that has gone little noticed in the debate over Iraq is how effective the Security Council was in containing Saddam Hussein. In October 2002, Bush obtained approval from Congress to use force, if necessary, to deal with SH. He went to the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 1441, demanding that Saddam comply with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire by permitting weapons inspectors to enter Iraq and verify his complete disarmament. Saddam caved in and allowed Hans Blix and the inspectors to enter Iraq. They searched the country, found nothing but a few long-range missles, which they destroyed. Had Bush declared victory at this point it would be remembered as an important foreign-policy success, correcting one of Clinton's worst failures (the expulsion of the inspectors after the misguided 1998 bombing of Iraq). At this point, Bush demanded the inspectors leave Iraq and invaded anyway, with no reason. He did not return to Congress and ask for an endorsement of this decision, even though, since Iraq wasn't threatening us at all, an invasion would constitutionally have required a Declaration of War by Congress for it to be legal. The October 2002 vote was part of a strategy for dealing with Saddam through the UN - a strategy that worked.

Vietnam: For chrissakes already. Kerry fought with distinction and earned medals for chasing down and killing a guerilla with a rocket laucher who was threatening his boat, and for going back into hostile territory to rescue a Jim Rasmussen, a Marine who had been knocked overboard by an exploding mine. He returned to the states after receiving three injuries, none life threatening, as per Navy regulations at that time. He still has shrapnel in his ass. After returning he spoke out against the war, most notably in a 1971 appearance before Congress when he testified to hearing about atrocities committed by American forces. Many people felt that such testimony undermined morale, but no one seriously denies that these charges were true. Follow that last link and weep. Rape? Check. Massacred civilians? Check. Ears taken as trophies? Check. These things were not "allegations." The Pentagon investigated and determined that they did in fact happen. Deal with it.

I don't know where he stands . . . Radio and TV sound bites are not the best way to find out where a candidate stands on a particular issue. If you actually care, most candidates these days have web sites where you can check out their position papers. Check out www.johnkerry.com if you really want to know. If you don't, then quit bitching. It's called "due diligence."

He's not liberal enough/he's not focusing on my issues. I wish people would stop waiting for a saviour to ride in on a white horse, take power and make everything right while you sit at home and watch on TV. That way lies fascism. If you have issues that are important to you, get off your ass and do something about it. Getting the right person in office is only the first step. After that, pay attention, write your Representatives and your local paper, organize and stuff! If you are a Kucinich leftie, you must realize that most of the country disagrees with you and the only way to have any influence on policy is to come to a reasonable accommodation with moderates and try to convince them that your ideas make sense. Ask your self this: why should a small minority be able to impose the nifty-sounding ideas it read in cool books on the country? One word for you: NEOCONSERVATIVES.

Speaking of Kucinich lefties, Eric Nassau was in town this weekend for his 29th birthday. It was cool. He played with our own Jaik Willis as well as this guy Cody who plays Mondays at the Wrightwood Tap, think I'll check him out next week, come along if you're in the area.

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Saturday, September 25, 2004

War is the New Peace!

Akron Beacon Journal reports that "Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry."

This might explain why the US is viewed with such hostility in Iraq and why Iraqi National Guard recruits are refusing to fight for us.

Just a thought . . .

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Ashcroft Punts

Forced by the Supreme Court to charge Yaser Hamdi or release him, Ashcroft lets him go. I guess he wasn't such a dangerous terrorist after all?
Suspected terrorists detained: 5000
Terrorists convicted: 0

Hey, at least they have the Cat Stevens problem in hand: today a flight from Heathrow to Washington was diverted to Maine to protect our capital city from being annoyed by yet another annoying "Peace Train" remake. Another close call, averted by the wisdom and courage of our protectors at Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, back in hell, the real news makes me want to puke. Another guy about to die, nothing we can do about it. His name is Ken Bigley, from Liverpool, England. He's married and has a son. Everybody's favorite sociopathic monster, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says he'll kill Mr. Bigley unless the US releases all the Iraqi women we have in custody. Trouble is, we only have two women in custody: Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax, both of whom are specialists in biological warfare.

Hm. I wonder why Zarqawi is so keen to spring them from jail? This is like a nightmare set in an episode of "Batman" with Zarqawi as the Joker, cackling at his evil plan to poison the good citizens of Gotham . . . only this is the real world, folks.

Anybody who still believes we are "Winning the War on Terror" put your hands together. Now repeat after me:

"I do believe in faeries! I do believe in faeries! I do believe in faeries!"

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Election Analysis: Crazy People
What’s wrong with Kansas, and America

So, what the hell’s really going on in this country? There are some underlying political dynamics that I think would be generating a lot of interest this year, if the media actually pretended to live in the same country as we do and stopped talking about f***ing Vietnam already.

1. Neighborhood Swap! Tuesdays on ABC! Educated young people from established suburbs move to the city to “hive,” displacing working-class blacks and Latinos who end up . . . in the old inner suburbs.

Wackiness ensues. While it’s all trendy and PC to be down on “gentrification,” politically the results have favored Democrats. The influx of minority voters has turned formerly red suburban districts blue, while new yuppies, as soon as they get acclimatized to the city, become reliable Democratic voters too. Since Dems dominate urban areas, expanding the sphere of urban-ness has helped Democrats. Think about it – what would happen if more professionals who work in DC moved there, while Marion Barry voters relocated en masse to Virginia? D.C. would stay blue, while VA got more competitive.

Also, the tired suburban Republican line of blaming liberals for the horrible state of cities is losing its power, since most American cities are in pretty good shape, and many of their kids have moved there. Suburbs that want to keep their kids and their tax base are responding by getting more citified, with condos and sushi bars Trader Joe’s.

Gentrification, more than anything else, has turned former swing states in the Northeast and West Coast (and Illinois) into Democratic strongholds. Overall, this is good for Democrats but with some scary implications: If Detroit doesn’t start gentrifying soon, we lose Michigan. Ditto Milwaukee - and look what’s happened with Cleveland. These Democratic powerhouses have lost their clout because they are outnumbered by a ring of Republican dominated suburbs. Sprawl is the opposite of gentrification – it increases segregation, and people who move there rapidly turn Republican.

Implication: Environment matters. Where Democrats are in power, they will promote gentrification. Where Republicans are in power, they will promote sprawl. Zoning may be an even better tool than gerrymandering for influencing elections long-term.

2. Desperate Housewives! Moms by day, commandos by night, these “Security Moms” will do anything to defend their children!

Yes, the media have been yammering about Security Moms, but they don’t get it. These women seem to have shifted from Kerry to Bush over the last few weeks. What they are missing is, that shift has nothing to do with the GOP convention. It was the Beslan massacre. In the aftermath, my extremely liberal wife was basically calling for genocide in Chechnya. Blow up the whole country, she says. (I pointed out that’s already been tried, twice). She’s not about to vote Bush, but many more moderate women are convinced that Bush’s “wipe out the terrorist evil” rhetoric will make them safer.

This of course is nuts. Asymmetrical warfare is an inevitable response to US military power (and we have killed WAY more than 350 children in Iraq, why do you think they hate us?). We seem to think that if we have enough tanks and bombs, we won’t have to negotiate with anyone, ever, and only our views matter. It just doesn’t work that way. We can label people as evil terrorists as much as we want, but the only way to resolve things in Iraq, in the West Bank, in Chechnya is politically.

The right’s rhetoric implies that it is wrong to negotiate with murderers, and that only complete military victory is morally acceptable. Yes, this is madness – you make peace with your enemies, not with friends, by definition. And you wouldn’t be enemies if you didn’t think the other guy was wrong. But the fact that it doesn’t work doesn’t matter in domestic politics – it feels right, and as long as the violence continues and keeps people scared, it benefits the Bushies.

(Note that the Islamists know these terror tactics are not helpful for anyone but Bush – the alleged head of the Chechen rebels condemned the attacks, known beheaders in Iraq have demanded the release of the French hostages, etc. They know that killing children and potential allies doesn't sell. (Thank you for making us all look like crazy people - Jenny Calendar) But the problem of using conventional military tactics to fight insurgents is that you tend to capture, kill, or isolate any strong leadership, which leads to resistance by atomized cells, which answer to no one.)

3. Enlightenment vs. Animal House: Rebellious students challenge the dogma of their hidebound professors and engage in wild hijinks on campus!

At one point I got a lot of e-mail forwards from a relative that really got me thinking about the mindset of Christian Conservative/Evangelical voters. The most interesting was a fictitious conversation in which an Evangelical college student stands up in class and debates his fuddy-duddy professor on evolution vs. creation and wins. Obviously the student’s “logic” isn’t that great and his facts are wrong, but that’s the point – the essential conflict here is Faith vs. Reason, Great Awakening vs. Enlightenment. The old, settled debate has flared up again because of class divisions. The scientific method, evidence based debate, and logic are learned skills, associated (although not exclusively) with the educated elite. People who have been cut off from the upper rungs of society feel resentful about it, and since our social and economic system is no longer allowing them to move up the ranks, they need to find a way to convince themselves that they are really better than these people, anyway. Religion has given them this opportunity – they can claim that all the things you think you know are false, the truth is available to anyone in the Bible, etc. Knowledge, skill, and accomplishment can thus be replaced by beliefs and moral values as the measure of an individual’s worth (which, frankly, is a perfectly “reasonable” position to take). As science increasingly reveals mind and body as one, the soul as myth and life after death as wishful thinking, the anti-Enlightenment point of view becomes increasingly attractive beyond Evangelical ranks - to those of us who fear death, or, like George W Bush, who’s a Methodist but who has adopted parts of the Evangelical worldview, I believe, because he needs the moral certainty to help him stay sober.

4. Jackass: The Protesters: On a dare, contestants infiltrate the Republican convention and start yelling at speakers! If Bush had a convention bounce, it was the protesters that gave it to him, not the Governator's speech. Thanks guys, for making us all look like crazy people.

There was more, but it will have to wait. I have actual work to do.

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Notice anything missing? As of 9:57am on Monday, September 20th, Iraq is distinctly NOT on this list.

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Friday, September 17, 2004

Update on my fallen soldier:

His name was Private 1st Class Devin J Grella, of Medina, OH. He served with the 706th Transportation Company, US Army. He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 6 - the Pentagon is still not saying where. He was 21 years old.

I was in Medina in May, I was best man at my friend Will's wedding. Medina is one of these classic Ohio small towns, it has an honest to God town square surrounded by Victorian-era commercial buldings housing a pretty good family restaurant and a coffee shop, as well as more practical businesses. I liked it there, although I'm not about to move there - I find the slow pace of such places brings out something ugly in me, turning me into a depressive couch potato. But it's a decent place nonetheless, and seemed to have escaped the boarded-up decay that has plagued so much of small-town Ohio as the factories have shut their doors over the past two decades. Soon it will be just another far, far suburb of Cleveland.

The rehearsal dinner was held at the Medina Inn, the restaurant on the square. It was a big, open kind of place, the kind where a large party like ours could actually hear each other talk. I imagine the whole Grella clan gathering around one of the long tables in the back when Devin came home after Basic Training. I imagine they were proud of him, but worried, the world being what it is.

He is dead today because the George W Bush decided to invade Iraq. He claimed that Iraq was in "material breach" of UNSC Resolution 1441 because a document submitted to comply with that resolution, Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Disclosure, which claimed that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, "fails to acknowledge or explain procurement of high specification aluminum tubes...[and] fails to acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger.... " As we now know, Iraq did not attampt to procure uranium from Niger, secured the aluminum tubes to make conventional rockets, as they would have been useless as centrifuge components, did not posess significant stockpiles of WMDs and had not produced such weapons since the end of the 1991 war. Bush lied - Devin died. How's that for a bumper sticker?

The results of this invasion? Iraq today is not a democracy. US right-wingers claim that removing Saddam was worth it, and point out that by some estimates the Baathist regime killed 300,000 of its own people over 30 years. But the US has killed perhaps 30,000 Iraqis - soldiers, civilians, and insurgents - since March 2003. So far, we have killed more Iraqis in an average month than Saddam did! Indeed most of the Baathist death toll was racked up putting down Shiite insurgencies - a task at which the US Army is gaining a great deal of experience as well. We are killing the same people, for the same reason, as Saddam! Meanwhile, the streets are lawless and dangerous, the infrastructure is deteriorating, we "built new schools" but the majority of high school aged Iraqis are kept out of school - probably out of fear for their safety.

Perhaps no one could have succeeded at the thankless task of nation-building in Iraq. But Bremer's CPA ("Cannot Provide Anything" according to the locals) didn't even try. Its staff of political hacks and Heritage Foundation rejects ("According to the Post, the threesome, who included the daughter of a prominent conservative activist, had never applied to go to Iraq and could not figure out how they were selected. Finally they realized that the one thing they had in common was that they had applied for jobs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which had kept their resumes on file.") was so incompetent that they failed to spend 90% of the money Congress appropriated for reconstruction in the invasion's aftermath. My favorite anecdote:
The privatizing of Iraq's economy was handled at first by Thomas Foley, a top
Bush fund-raiser, and then by Michael Fleisher, brother of President Bush's
first press secretary. After explaining that he had got the job in Iraq through
his brother Ari, he told the Chicago Tribune—without any apparent sense of
irony—that the Americans were going to teach the Iraqis a new way of doing
business. "The only paradigm they know is cronyism."
Someday this will be fodder for some really funny satire. I'm sure Second City is having a field day in their latest show . . . but I'm not laughing. I'm fighting mad, aren't you? Then do the right thing. Hold Bush accountable Nov. 2. Fire him.

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Here is the official link to the NAAS Personal Petition Page on tomspetition.org

The federal ban on assualt weapons applies to dear hunting guns like this Uzi:

and to skeet shooting guns like this Tec-9:
God, aren't they ugly? Guns, I guess, are just like fucking Hummers. They both make you feel better about your tiny penis, but they look like steaming piles of shit.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2004


All right, I'm back, and I'm going to post regularly through election day, anyway, in case anyone still checks this page.

I've been checking www.icasualties.org/oif regularly recently, which is bad for my mental health. When I left the house this morning the US body count was 998, now it's 999. (The page runs a little ahead of the "official" count because the Pentagon informs families before releasing information to the public). That means, somewhere in Iraq, the 1000th fatal casualty is finishing his day now, getting ready for bed probably. He's laughing with his comrades now, more likely, or bitching about the nasty Halliburton food. I can almost see him. More than anything he wants to go home. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, he's going to die in this catastrophic occupation. I've been thinking about him all day.

Yeah, yeah, he could be a woman. He could also be one of the Marines wounded by that big bomb in Fallujah the other day, suffering through his last few hours on life support. But I'm trying to get a simple, clear vision here even if it's not entirely accurate. The political debate here has gotten too symbolic, too abstract, too full of BS. The fact is, we are losing a war. Block by block, town by town, Iraq is falling under the domination of Islamic fundamentalism. A country which posed little threat to us has become the focus of a new movement, one that will lead to the establishment of a hostile fundamentalist order through out the middle east unless someone finds a way to effectively counter it.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan sinks back into warlordism and corruption. Pakistan teeters on the brink. At home, our basic freedoms are put at risk in the name of "Homeland Security." Our fearful leader puts on a smoke and light show and spends a week repeating the same vicious lies about its opponents, and not a word indicating he has a a clue how to get out of this mess we're in. The press is too lazy to do basic fact checking, and has stopped covering Iraq since, without Bremer there to pester, the don't know who to talk to for the good quotes. I mean, you can't find out for yourself, you might get beheaded . . .

So our young soldier eats his last dinner and goes to bed for the last time. I wish we could have stopped this, but we couldn't. The entire system - politics, government, the media, the military - seems to have suffered a catastrophic breakdown. The question that should be on our minds is, what do we owe this soldier and his family? He's doing what he can to try to serve his country. Am I? Are you? Can America be saved?

Update: My soldier didn't last the day, in fact was probably already dead when I wrote this post. The 1000th US casualty was a US Army solidier attached to Task Force Baghdad, killed by enemy fire in eastern Baghdad earlier today. When I find out more information, I will post it here.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

This audio clip from yesterday's Talk Of The Nation features a sizable chunk of Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, APRIL 22, 1971. I think that Kerry was a better public speaker then than he is now, but beyond superficiality, Kerry was telling the truth and what he said then is very appropriate now.

Unfortunately, the Kerry clip is towards the middle of the full NPR clip. If you can skip to 14:30, you can hear some of Kerry's testimony. I think it is worth listening to.

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We need to get this blog started again. It is time.

The President speaks tonight at the RNC. 60 days from today, we will hopefully redefeat Bush. I say "hopefully" because I am scared and pessimistic. That's not the right attitude, I know, but I can't help it.

These conventions are ridiculous to me. From my point of view, the DNC was nothing more than a bunch of people blowing smoke up my butt and the RNC is just a bunch of fucking liars. I think the real event to look forward to is the first of the debates. Kerry v Bush and Edwards v Cheney. But for some reason the Bush campaign won't debate Kerry.

If there is one thing I would like to see happen and one thing I would like to spend energy trying to accomplish, it is to apply pressure to the Bush campaign to get these debates going. Kerry and Bush standing next to each other will be such a powerful scene.

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