Sunday, October 31, 2004

Early Voting Trends

News in this a.m.'s Raleigh N&O says that the number of North Carolina citizens who took advantage of early voting may hit 1 million. That raw number, astounding as it is, conceals something else of far greater significance: Democrats came out for early voting in far greater numbers than Republicans, a statistic that, if it holds true on Tuesday, will make North Carolina a surprise swing state Tuesday night.

We received word this a.m. from Mecklenburg County that Democrats out-polled Republicans in that county by some 6,000 voters. Mecklenburg County! We know the numbers are similarly lopsided in Durham and Wake counties. We'd love to hear from operatives in Forsyth and Guilford, and New Hanover, about what the early trends look like there.

If the Republicans are in a hole after early voting ... well, YOU do the math.

We aren't prepared to divulge the exact numbers from Watauga County's early voting -- not who anybody voted for but the total numbers of Ds, Rs, and Us that voted -- but let's just say the Republicans go into Tuesday's turn-out with a decided deficit. How anyone can look at those numbers and talk about a Republican sweep in North Carolina is smoking some wacky-baccy.

Oh, Republican operatives and mouth-pieces are talking about the untold numbers of conservative Democrats who support Bush, and no doubt there are some. But we know of plenty of Republicans who are either (a) voting Bush and then straight Democrat or (b) voting straight Democrat, period. And those same Republican pooh-bahs are also ignoring the Unaffiliated vote, which in Watauga County in early voting totaled some 22 percent of all those who voted. Let's be conservative -- oh, let's! -- and assume that only 55 percent of those Unaffiliated citizens voted Democrat (most wise men and women think 60 percent of the Unaffiliated will go to the Dems, at least). With the Republicans mustering only 38 percent of the total in early voting in Watauga County, what other outcome do you imagine? It's IN the numbers, and the numbers are SO against them!

UPDATE: I missed this tidbit in my first perusal of the N&O today:

"[Democratic Party executive director Scott] Falmlen said numbers showed early last week that Democrats accounted for 50 percent of early voters, higher than the party's share of overall registration. Republicans accounted for about 37 percent of early voters at the same point, also slightly higher than their total registration."

FURTHER UPDATE: Thanks to Hayes for these figures, which were current through last Thursday (except where otherwise noted):

Orange County early voting:
D 15,000 (62.3%)
L 79 (0.3%)
R 4,288 (17.8%)
U 4,725 (19.6%)
TOTAL 24,092
This is 48.8% of the 2000 turnout in Orange County

Durham County early voting through last Wednesday:
D 22,791 (66.1%)
L 86 (0.3%)
R 6,689 (19.4%)
U 4,890 (14.2%)
Total 30,533
This is 40.7% of the total 2000 turnout in Durham County

Guilford County early voting through Thursday:
D 29,808 (50.8%)
L 65 (0.1%)
R 22,240 (37.9%)
U 6,557 (11.1%)
Ttotal 58,670
This is 35.3% of the total 2000 turnout in Guilford County

Friday, October 29, 2004

UNPACKING THE GALLUP POLLS. Here's a wonderful deconstruction of why the Gallup polls have become such out-liers in this current political season. Thomas Lang, a 20-something reporter for the indispensible Columbia Journalism Review's "Campaign Desk," gives himself the same test that Gallup gives to the people they reach via telephone to screen for "likely voters." And though he is certain to vote this year, Lang flunks Gallup's test as a "likely voter." And exposes the Gallup's prejudice against first-time (i.e., young) voters.
ABOUT TIME SOMEBODY SAID IT: From Eric Alterman's "Altercation" blog -- "It's time to stop calling Karl Rove a genius. He is a second-rate hack. He is about to become a two-time loser. I knew Rove, Matthew Dowd, and Mark McKinnon when we were all back in Austin in the 1980s and 1990s. Dowd and McKinnon were big Democrats then, McKinnon particularly liberal. None of them were considered 'geniuses' back then. In fact, Dowd was pretty much a dependable functionary who didn't make much of a difference for Lloyd Bentsen, Ann Richards, and other Dems he worked for. McKinnon did clever work back then when he was a long-haired, guitar-playing liberal. But this 'Wolves' thing? Come on, Mark. Rove gets far more credit than he deserves. Too many pundits conflate brilliance with ruthlessness. Rove will say or do anything to destroy his opponent. But that's not genius. Having your soul removed does not increase the power of your brain. Let's face it: Rove lost a winnable election in 2000 and is about to lose another one with an incumbent during a war. I hope that after Tuesday we see the last of Rove-worship."
PARAGONS OF VIRTUE who pay off their accusers ... Profiles in Courage? Bill O'Reilly, swordsman of God? Howard Kurtz has the details here of the deal that makes O'Reilly $2 million poorer (at least?) and shuts up the woman who had the goods (so to speak) on the blow-hard (maybe they'll call the movie version "Blow-Harder" and find an ex-porn star to play O'Reilly). Last night on Fox, O'Reilly told the faithful, "Some of the media hammered me relentlessly because, as you know, I am a huge target." That O'Reilly ... can't stop bragging about his sexual endowment.
Ruy Teixeira has posted a discussion of a demographic sub-set we haven't heard much about during the Year of the Security Mom ... college-educated white men, part of Karl Rove's supposed Republican base who gave their votes to El Presidente over Gore in the 2000 election by a whopping 25-point margin. According to analysis by Stan and Anna Greenburg, that group has been defecting in great numbers to Kerry. Kerry is currently losing this group by only about 6 percentage points, a dramatic reversal.

They say a little education is a dangerous thing. Which explains why Republicans have never been all that hot for public education. Just screws up people's heads, obviously.

The President as Stand-Up Comedian

In Pontiac, Michigan, on Wednesday, El Presidente actually said, without a trace of irony, "A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as commander-in-chief."

What about a commander-in-chief who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts? "Sorry-assed little Iraq is a place we NEED to preemptively invade because of its WMD, its nukular program, and its close ties to Al Qaeda. Yes, God! I hear you calling!"

Jon Stewart featured the videotape of El Presidente actually saying the "jumping to conclusions" line last night on "The Daily Show." That's a joke that writes itself.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Some N.C. Early Voting Stats

Some NC stats just in ... for specific days, note:

Early voting counts at all Wake County sites, Tuesday October 26:
D 5,351 50.4%
L 18 0.1%
R 3,604 34.0%
U 1,641 15.5%
Total 10,614

Early voting counts at all Wake County sites Wednesday, October 27:
D 5,409 48.5%
L 18 0.1%
R 3918 35.2%
U 1,801 16.2%
Total 11,145

Cumulative early voting, 14 days through 10/27 for Wake County:
D 27,279 51.1%
L 49 0.1%
R 17,639 33.1%
U 8,392 15.7%
Total 53,359

The 53,359 figure is 19.8% of the total voter turnout in 2000. It represents 13.8%
of all the registered Ds having voted early compared with 11.3% of all registered voters.

Yesterday in Watauga County, over 1,000 people voted.

Let freedom ring.
One grabs hold of anything in these last five days that induces a smile, and so here comes Joel Achenbach in the WashPost with a full dissertation on a new medical condition, Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder (or PEAD) (not to be confused with Pre-Erection Anxiety Disorder, which Bill O'Reilly evidently suffers from, in spades!).

Achenbach: "No one is talking about voter apathy anymore, because the opposite is more likely the case. People care too much. They're losing sleep. They're having bad dreams about unfavorable tracking polls .... It's a bipartisan disorder, but Democrats are struggling the most, haunted by what happened last time. Republicans, though guardedly optimistic, are still supremely frustrated by the way this thing is dragging out and staying close...."

But at least an Ohio judge has killed the gambit by the Ohio GOP to challenge in advance the eligibility of some 35,000 Ohio voters, their last-ditch effort to turn back a tidal wave of Kerry support in that state. What the Ohio GOP now plans is to challenge those 35,000 -- mostly black voters in urban areas -- on election day itself by means of some 3,400 paid "monitors" whose job description includes disruption of the democratic process.

It's stuff like this crap in Ohio -- not to mention our own brand of A-number-1 crapola locally -- that'll bring on bouts of PEAD. That's if you're a Democrat. If you're a Republican, your main worry appears to be whether the Divine Being is paying close enough attention to intercede on El Presidente's behalf.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Let's All Swing Like the Swingers Swing!

The Raleigh N & O is reporting this a.m. that early voting across North Carolina has topped 400,000 people. Stunning. Unprecedented. Are those citizens grappling nature itself to get to the polls early because God told 'em that He wants El Presidente reelected? Is that what it feels like to you?

No? Me neither.

Locally, early voting in Watauga County has already passed the six thousand mark, with almost a thousand voting every day. The local total could be nudging 10,000 early votes by the time early voting closes this Saturday at 1 p.m.

In urban counties, like Wake, voters were standing in line sometimes up to two hours for their chance. Standing in line two hours to reaffirm this present government and its failed policies? We don't think so.

Get ready for surprises on November 2nd. States no one thought had a chance of swinging are going to swing. Including, just possibly, the Tarheel State.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Early Voting Across N.C.

What did young Ron Reagan say about feeling a tidal wave?

The anecdotal news from across the state is that early voting is pulling out an unprecedented number of voters. That's certainly true in Watauga County, and the trend in other areas of the state, as here, is that Democrats are out-polling Republicans by an interesting margin. Unprecedented, I tell you. And then factor in the healthy Unaffiliated vote -- which we don't believe is breaking in El Presidente's favor -- and you have the beginnings of what certainly feels like what Ron Reagan said he had intimations of ... a tsunami of decisive change, one of those crashing waves in political history that sweeps away old regimes and reorders the landscape. And the polls are totally missing it, because the pollsters haven't got a clue who's a "likely voter" this year.

What becomes of the Republican Party? Dunno, but I want my ringside seat for watching it all unfold. Guiliani might be well positioned to lead the "moderates" back into power, along with Schwarzenegger and John McCain.

Locally? It'll take them a couple of cycles to accept the new realities, just as it took the Democrats a couple of cycles after 1994. It's all evolution, which I realize the fine godly brethren don't believe in, but they might well give it a glance. Or else they could take the easy path and put Deborah Greene in charge. Oops! Already happened.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Media Types Getting Uppity?

As Jon Stewart says tonight on C-SPAN, the media's not liberal; it's lazy. Satisfied with scream-fests between political slap-stick clowns mouthing "talking points," the cable media (at least) has been a long time away from asking and answering the simplest of questions: who's telling the truth and who isn't?

There is apparently, however, a recent increased level of fact-checking among isolated pockets of the media of what Bush/Cheney, particularly, have been saying ... if we're to believe a piece in The New Republic (excerpted in the Columbia Journalism Review's blog "Campaign Desk").

The heightened level of Rovian "push-back" against any media types who dare to raise a glass to truth ... was news to me, the best proof that there may actually be a stirring of wakefulness among the Fourth Estate:

"On October 6, the RNC put 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews, a former staffer for House Speaker Tip O'Neill, in its sights. 'Democrat Chris Matthews's Selective "Analysis," ' read the headline on a three-page press release that accused Matthews of erroneously claiming Cheney had contradicted himself during the debate when he denied tying September 11 to Saddam Hussein. Accompanying the release, the RNC posted online a video attacking Matthews. A few days later, Republicans took issue with The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller's accurate statement that, despite Bush's claims, Kerry 'essentially voted for one large tax increase, the Clinton tax bill of 1993.' 'The New York Times Shades the Truth,' read the headline of a press release the RNC quickly put out. Next up was Ron Suskind, who wrote a critical piece in The New York Times Magazine. 'Liberal Democrat Suskind has creativity but not facts,' the RNC declared. A few days later, [Times op-ed page columnist] Paul Krugman became the RNC's target. In Suskind's and Krugman's cases, the oppo was unusually personal and included unflattering pictures of the men, the kind that candidates dig up of their opponents, not of journalists."

When truth itself is under assault, democracy is under assault. And if they're willing to take down the disenfranchised seeking to vote for a change in Ohio, they'll take down Chris Matthews. (And welcome to him.)

Republicans Plan to Disrupt the Voting Process

When you can't win fair and square, you flummox the system. News out this a.m. in the NYTimes, says the Ohio GOP has recruited 3,600 poll "observers" at $100 a pop to stand in mainly urban polling places in that state and "challenge" voters they don't think are eligible. Sounds like a plan. When "challenging" them doesn't work, maybe they can try knee-capping.

There are four main grounds on which a voter in Ohio can be challenged: whether the voter is a citizen, is at least 18, is a resident of the county and has lived in Ohio for the previous 30 days. All of it perfectly manifest in a person's mere appearance. A good Republican can spot an "outsider" at a thousand yards.

The real goal of these tactics is not knocking legitimate people out of voting. It's to DELAY the process so that pansy Democrats will get discouraged and go on home to their brie and crack cocaine. Republicans have that basic view of anyone who would actively choose NOT to vote for El Presidente ... easily broken, those little bleeding hearts.

Bottom line: Republicans, like the leaders in Ohio who organized this obstructionism, are basically uncomfortable with democracy. They don't like seeing a whole bunch of people not exactly like themselves swarming into polls to exercise their right to throw the bums out.

Jon Stewart Watch

Tonight at 9, he'll be on C-SPAN's "American Perspectives." And Sunday night, he'll be the subject of a segment on CBS's "60 Minutes" at 7 p.m. Oh goody goody.

The boy is everywhere! From an article in this a.m.'s WashPost:

"Jon Stuart Leibowitz, who grew up in suburban New Jersey, is a physicist's son who found himself tending bar and doing puppet shows for schoolchildren after graduating from Virginia's College of William and Mary. He dropped his last name when he started doing stand-up at Manhattan comedy clubs, waiting tables to get by."

You can read more, if you're a mind to.

Another Reason I'll Never Use "Touch-Screen" To Vote

The anecdotes flow in about the brave new world of electronic voting, this one from Albuquerque, N.M. Far as I'm concerned, transferring to those unholy screens the power of my vote will be tantamount to giving up the struggle.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Watauga Republicans Get Their Story Straight (Like a Dog's Hind-Leg)

We posted here several days ago a letter by an ASU student, Tyler Patrick, about a class project he filmed in which he entered the Watauga County Republican HDQ in the Boone Mall wearing a Kerry/Edwards T-shirt. The Republican Party has now evidently gotten its story together, floated first in the Mountain Times yesterday in a letter signed by Donald Clark. That same version of events is also being promoted by Watauga County Commissioner James Coffey, a grandee in the local GOP, who told a Republican office-holder (and friend of mine) yesterday the exact same version promoted in Clark's letter ... that it was complete strangers, mall strollers, not GOP HDQ staff who were rude to the boy, etc.

Well, now! We finally got a copy of the videotape yesterday, and Republicans really ought to learn not to lie about the facts when there's a camera running to record the truth.

First off, neither Don Clark nor James Coffey were present for the confrontation. In fact, there were no men present at all, except for the mall security guard. Rather than running away from the young man with grandmotherly reticence, the all-woman staff stood their ground and confronted Tyler, two of them with discernible anger, one of them with much discernible anger. (One woman is seen retreating toward the back of the HDQ, but most stood their ground in confronting the young man in the Kerry/Edwards T-shirt.)

By far the most obnoxious participant in this mini-tempest was the mall security guard, who evidently felt his political persuasion far more endangered than mall property. He lectured Tyler on God and truth and the sacred Republican Party and can be heard making the "half-a-brain" comment, as in it would take someone with half-a-brain to realize that God had ordained Bush/Cheney to lead us to war in Iraq.

As an experiment in political communication, Tyler Patrick's video was a raging (yes) success. And our local GOP HDQ staff failed the test (or actually passed, depending on your expectations, which in my case are admittedly rather low).

How Do We Even Keep Up With This Crap?

We've been overwhelmed in recent days by the flood of new evidence about the mendacity of El Presidente and his handlers. Mendaciousness, incidentally, is a Latinate way of avoiding certain less pleasant labels about people who habitually lie, so let me give it to you in straight Anglo-Saxon: These people running this country are goddamn liars.

To wit, from this a.m.'s NYTimes: "As recently as January 2004, a top Defense Department official misrepresented to Congress the view of American intelligence agencies about the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda .... Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, not only asserted that there were ties between the Baghdad government and the terrorist network, but also did not reflect accurately the intelligence agencies' assessment -- even while claiming that [he] did."

The "continuing deception of Congress" by Mr. Feith, Don Rumsfeld's top assistant at the Pentagon, is part & parcel of the continuing deception of the good people of the United States, who dedicated their lives and their fortunes to prosecuting a war, the causes for which they were lied to about from the beginning and consistently.

Since no heads have rolled in this administration for ineptness, colossal blunders, and deliberate untruths, we trust the head war-head in the White House will roll in now a little over a week.

We thought we were fed up about as far as a body could be fed up, oh, since approximately January 1st, but every day now we have to stuff a little more rancid food-for-fury down that hole. When is enough enough?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Hypocrisy Central

Frank Rich has an interesting column in today's NYTimes about the Republicans' playing the ace of high moral dudgeon over John Kerry's mention of Mary Cheney's sexual preferance in the third presidential debate. Rich points out that Karl Rove's history as a political manipulator includes several campaigns in which his candidate's opponent was rumored to be gay, including the notorious whispering campaign against Texas governor Ann Richards in 1994.

Rich says Rove's big problem is with some 4 million fundamentalist Christians who Rove himself said didn't vote for Bush in 2000. They sat at home, Rove apparently believes, because they had found out just prior to the election that Georgie Boy had a drunk-driving charge that had been covered up.

The Republicans were so outraged by Kerry's reference in the last debate to VP Cheney's lesbian daughter because they figger Kerry is doing what THEY would do under similar circumstances ... make sure those 4 million fundamentalist Christians knew there was a LESBIAN in the ranks.

Problem is, according to Rich, while none of the rumors of homosexuality Rove has used against his opponents in the past were, in fact, true, "Mary Cheney is unambiguously and unapologetically gay. For a campaign that wants to pander to the fringe, that makes her presence in the Bush-Cheney family a problem -- just how big a problem can be seen by its disingenuously hysterical reaction to Mr. Kerry's use of the L word. But Mary Cheney isn't the only problem for Mr. Rove as he plays this game. The Republican establishment is rife with gay people -- just ask anyone in proximity to its convention in New York -- and the campaign doesn't want the four million [non-voting fundamentalists] to know about them, either. But in this election season, actual outing has begun to creep onto the Internet, where the names of closeted Republican congressmen and aides who support anti-gay policies are a Google search away. Some named so far -- one of whom dropped out of his re-election campaign in August -- hail from districts where some of those four million live.

"Sooner or later this untenable level of hypocrisy is going to lead to a civil war within the Republican party. But this hypocrisy is not just about homosexuality -- it's about all sexuality, as befits a party that calls for the elimination of Roe v. Wade and the suppression of candid sex education that might prevent teenage pregnancy and AIDS alike. Should Bill O'Reilly-Andrea Mackris tapes exist, as many believe they do, we will learn graphically where the right's most popular cultural defender of G-rated values stands not only on lesbianism but also on extramarital sex, sexual tourism in Asia and masturbation -- which all figure in the complainant's detailed description of her alleged conversations with her boss. But anyone who fears that Mr. O'Reilly has completely abandoned his political faith need not worry. According to Ms. Mackris's account, the one time this would-be Lothario succeeded in luring her to his hotel room alone it was not by offering to show her his etchings, or even Spectravision, but a televised news conference by President Bush."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

As if we didn't already love Jon Stewart practically past all reason, there's a piece in today's NYTimes on his famous "I'm not your monkey" face-off with Tucker Carlson last Friday on "Crossfire."

"What distinguishes Mr. Stewart," opines Alessandra Stanley, "is that the Comedy Central star mocks the entire political process, boring in tightly on the lockstep thinking and complacency of the parties and the media as well as the candidates. More than other television analysts and commentators, he and his writers put a spotlight on the inanities and bland hypocrisies that go mostly unnoticed in the average news cycle."

What did the Irish 'tater say to the sweet 'tater? "Better listen to Jon Stewart, 'cause he ain't no common 'tater."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Gallup Polls ... Into the Matrix

The buzz about the newest Gallup Poll showing Bush up by 8 percentage points is most instructional. The demographic breakdown of the sample that Gallup used to reach their conclusions -- not a huge secret but also not generally known to the public -- is discussed here and breaks down like this: George W. Bush will win by 8 percentage points, assuming that the people who go to the polls are 85% white, 41% conservative, 19% liberal, and 33% make over $75,000 per year. (Frankly, we're surprised that an electorate made up of those demographic factors would elect Bush by ONLY 8 percentage points!)

Among all the bizarre polls in a season that has produced a plethora of them, the Gallup, under new born-again ownership, requires a lot of salt.

If it's "Gallup," how can it be right?

"Beyond Incompetence"

Excerpts from Al Gore's speech yesterday:

"...Most of the problems President Bush has caused for this country stemmed not from his belief in God but his belief in the infallibility of the right-wing Republican ideology that exalts the interest of the wealthy, and of large corporations over and above the interests of the American people. It is love of power for its own sake that is the original sin of this presidency...."

"...The essential cruelty of Bush's game is that he takes an astonishingly selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals, and then cloaks them with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world. And in the process he convinces them to lend unquestioning support for proposals that actually hurt their families and their communities...."

"...It has also become common for President Bush to rely on special interests for his basic information about the policies important to them. And he trusts what they tell him over any contrary view that might emerge from public debate. He has in effect outsourced the truth...."

"...Most disturbing of all: his contempt for the rule of reason and his early successes in persuading the nation that his ideologically based views accurately describe the world have now tempted him to the hubristic and genuinely dangerous illusion that reality is itself a commodity that can be created with clever public relations and propaganda skills...."

"...This is not negligence. When the administration is told specifically and repeatedly that there is no linkage [between Saddam and Al Quaeda], and simultaneously makes bold assertions in a confident manner to the American people that leave the impression with 70 percent of the country that Saddam Hussein was primarily responsible for the attack, this is deception. This is deception...."

"...It is clear that President Bush has absolute faith in a rigid right-wing ideology and does not feel the same desire that many of us would in gathering facts relevant to the question at hand. He ignores the warning of his experts, he forbids any dissent, never tests his assumptions against the best available evidence. In fact, he is arrogantly out of touch with reality. He refuses to ever admit mistakes, which means that so long as he is our president we are doomed to repeat his mistakes! It is beyond incompetence! It is recklessness that risks the safety and security of the American people...."

"...there are many other cases where subsequently available information shows that the president did actually have analyses he was given at the time from reputable sources directly contrary to what he was telling the American people. And in virtually every case, the president, it is now evident, rejected the information that later turned out to be accurate, and instead chose to rely on and to forcefully present to the American people information that subsequently turned out to be false. And in every case, a flawed analysis was provided to him from sources that often had a direct interest, financial or otherwise, in the radically new policy that the president adopted. And in those cases where that policy has been implemented, the consequences have been to the detriment of the American people, often catastrophically so...."

"...The Bush-Cheney administration is a rarity in American history, it is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent...."

"...Massive incompetence, endemic corruption, official justification for torture, wholesale abuse of civil liberties, arrogance masquerading as principle -- these are new, unfamiliar and unpleasant realities for the United States of America. We hardly recognize our country when we look in the mirror of what Jefferson called the 'opinion of humankind.' How could we have come to this point?..."

"...the last feature of Bush's ideology involves ducking accountability for his mistakes. He has neutralized accountability by the Congress by intimidating the Republican leadership and transforming the Republican majority into a true rubber stamp, unlike any that has ever existed in American history. He has appointed right-wing judges who have helped to insulate him from accountability in the courts. And if he wins again, he will likely get to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. He has ducked accountability from the press with his obsessive secrecy and refusal to conduct the public's business openly. So there is now only one center of power left in our Constitution and in our country capable of at long last holding George W. Bush accountable, and it is you, the voters."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Al Gore Speech Transcript

Sorry, no time to cull out juicy quotes from Al Gore's speech today at Georgetown University, but here's the transcript. It's well worth reading.

And savoring.

Al Gore Gives It To Us Straight

Boy-O! Al Gore just gave the speech of his life, live on C-SPAN (did anyone else carry it?). I'm looking for the transcript and will post highlights as soon as it's available, but in the meantime, Gore said that "the Bush-Cheney administration is a rarity in American politics, in that it is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent." The whole speech, which ran an hour, was the calmest, most comprehensive recitation I've heard so far of the multiplicity of examples of both Bush's dishonesty and Bush's incompetence. Perhaps the most significant interpretation of recent events Gore offered us: a stout denial that the Bush record has anything at all to do with religious conviction. Religious faith is a smoke-screen, Gore alleged, for Bush's adherence to a right-wing ideology and a corporate power-base that holds "the public good" in contempt. Stand by for excerpts.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Jon Stewart Guts Tucker Carlson

Naturally, the one day I miss Crossfire all week, Jon Stewart was on and absolutely refused to be Tucker Carlson's "monkey."

The blogosphere is positively vibrating this evening with gossip about Stewart's refusal to play the game, and maybe it's all getting blown way out of proportion, but judge for yourself: here's the transcript and here's a Salon "take" on the confrontation (don't have the link, since this came pasted to me into an e-mail -- and my thanks to Irmaly!):

Jon Stewart: Crossfire "hurting America"

"I think you're a lot more fun on your show," said Tucker Carlson to
"Crossfire" guest Jon Stewart this afternoon. "And I think you're as much of
a dick on your show as on any other," Stewart shot back. It wasn't the faux
avuncularity we've come to expect from Stewart on "The Daily Show" but
there, of course, he's playing a role. Here he was himself -- and he wasn't
buying any of it.

From the moment Stewart sat down he made no secret of how repugnant he found
the show. In fact, he said to Carlson and co-host Paul Begala that he had
been so hard on the show he felt it was his duty to come on and say to their
faces what he has said to friends and in interviews. What he said was that
their show was "hurting America," and he was being only slightly hyperbolic.
Stewart told them that when America needed journalists to be journalists
they had instead chosen to present theater.

Carlson, trying to affect an air of dry amusement that a comedian would
presume to lecture him, important pundit that he is, but looking as if his
bow-tie were about to start spinning, could barely contain his outrage. In
an absolutely mind-boggling moment, Carlson tried to counter Stewart's
criticism by pointing out that during John Kerry's recent appearance on "The
Daily Show," Stewart asked the candidate softball questions. "If you want to
measure yourself against a comedy show," Stewart said, "be my guest."

Paul Begala tried to put a more conciliatory face on things by pointing out
that theirs was a "debate" show. Stewart was having none of it. "I would
love to see a real debate show," he said. And went on to tell them that
instead of holding politicians' feet to the fire by asking tough question,
"you're part of their strategy. You're partisan -- what's the word? -- uh,

It's almost a cliche by now to talk about "The Daily Show" being more
trusted than real newscasts, but Stewart showed why. He pointed out to
Carlson that he had asked Kerry if he really were in Cambodia but "I don't
care," and when Carlson asked him what he thought about the "Bill O'Reilly
vibrator flap," Stewart said, "I don't." It was as concise a demonstration
of the triviality of the media as you could hope for.

"I thought you were going to be funny," Carlson said toward the end of the
interview. Stewart responded, "No, I'm not going to be your monkey." And
that was what was so bracing.

Stewart's "Crossfire" appearance is going to generate talk about how prickly
he was, how he wasn't "nice" like he is on "The Daily Show." But prickliness
is just what was needed. If you've built your reputation as a satirist
pointing out how the media falls down on the job, you're not going to make
yourself a part of their charade.

I've heard people talk about "The Daily Show" as an oasis of sanity, a
public service. I couldn't agree more. Stewart's appearance on "Crossfire"
was another public service. He went on and acted as if the show's purpose
really was to confront tough issues, instead of being the political
equivalent of pro wrestling. Given a chance to say absolutely what he
thought, Stewart took it. He accomplished what almost never happens on
television anymore: He made the dots come alive.


Let's see ... Rush Limbaugh, an admitted drug addict. William Bennett, an admitted gambling addict. Bill O'Reilly ... an alleged phone-sex aficionado. Fox News ... "fair and balanced." We've got the picture now.

The Elephant in the Parlor

Benjamin Wallace-Wells has a most interesting assessment of the current Republican power-structure in the October issue of The Washington Monthly. The title of his article -- "Party Down" -- gives an inadequate foretaste of what it contains. The subtitle does better: "Like the Democrats during the 1970s, today's GOP is hidebound and out of touch." The gist: just as the Democrats of the Carter years lost touch with America and went through the wilderness of the 1980s lost and rudderless, the Republican Party of 2004 -- in control of EVERYTHING -- is driving by sheer habit, hopped up on the powerful narcotic called POWER, straight over a cliff of their own making. We recommend the whole article (and thanks to Andy for providing the link), but here's just a salient paragraph:

"Two decades ago, Democrats granted moral authority to identity-group liberals, who, in their admirable zeal to fight discrimination, soft-peddled evidence that the country was growing more tolerant, and refused to consider that factors other than racism might explain, say, lagging minority test scores. As a result, Democrats defended unpopular quota-style affirmative-action programs and bilingual education. Today, Republicans bow to the supposed moral superiority of Christian conservatives, who, though living in the most religiously-minded and tolerant country on earth, persist in feeling persecuted. The GOP lets these groups lead them by the nose -- even when, as on stem cell research, it puts them in the position of defending the unpopular and morally dubious argument that millions of Parkinson's patients should be denied a major hope for a cure in order to prevent the destruction of a few zygotes with zero chance of ever becoming humans. Two decades ago, Carter's overly cautious foreign policy helped convince millions of security-minded Democrats to abandon the party. Now, Bush's incautious foreign policy may be driving millions of Republicans the other way."

Termite Terrace

An article in this morning's NYTimes says Ralph Nader could help reelect George W. Bush by pulling votes off Kerry in the following swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Six of those states -- Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Wisconsin --were "among the top 20 where Mr. Nader drew his strongest support in 2000. If the vote for Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry is as evenly divided as the polls suggest, the electoral votes in any one of those states could determine who becomes president."

'Miss Congeniality' -- Watauga Republicans Take the Cake

Since the Mountain Times does not post letters to its web site, I've reproduced the following verbatim and in its entirety, to prove once and for all that Watauga County Republicans really DO practice their values, since we already know theyVoteValues: (MEMO: Maybe it's best not to act like jerks when there's a video camera pointed in your general direction)

Dear Editor:

The level of politicial division in this country is becoming more and more apparent as election day draws near. I'm a student at ASU, a few weeks ago one of my professors assigned a project in which we had to create a silent film that taught the rest of the class a lesson. My group decided to create a film which taught how local people become active in the election process. We ventured to the Democratic Headquarters, and the lady welcomed us inside and allowed us to film her making phone calls, and writing letters.

Although there were diverse political opinions in the group, the lady remained very helpful and polite throughout the entire process. We then decided to go to the GOP Headquarters to make similar footage. I had this wonderful idea that my group members could film me walking into the building with a Kerry/Edwards shirt, talking to the Republican Party volunteers, and walking out with a Bush/Cheney shirt. This would be a great way to show how local people sway public opinion. Boy was I wrong ... I didn't even get into the door until the people working there began snapping at me as to why I was wearing that shirt in there "without your flip-flops." The more I tried to explain to them that I was only there to do a school project, the more upset they became. I couldn't believe they were this upset with me.

The mall security cop informed me that he would be glad to tell me why I should support Bush, but that I'd need half a brain. After this, they began the typical election year name calling when they started saying I was a "liberal" and a "hippie." After trying to reason with them for twenty minutes, it was quite obvious they were not interested in helping me with my project.

While I understand that political opinions run very deep with people during election years, I did not appreciate having my intelligence insulted by people who did not know me. The funny thing is that I have all of this on camera, and I'm sending a copy to the Democratic Headquarters for anyone who would like to see how the Watauga County GOP acted towards me. I have always believed that political oppoinents don't have to be personal enemies. I just wish the Republican Party in Watauga County felt the same way.

Tyler Patrick

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"Radical Moderate" Says Repubs. Taken Over by Hard Right

An item in the New York Post says Christine Todd Whitman has written a book scheduled for publication during January, when John Kerry might be sworn in as President of the United States -- "It's My Party, Too: Taking Back the Republican Party -- and Bringing the Country Together Again." Whitman, who kept her moderation very much to herself while she was helping El Presidente gut environmental regs as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has had some sort of conversion experience, evidently. "My party's made a hard turn to the right and this is a call to arms," Whitman told the Post.

Yeah, Whitman will soon be featured as the shish-ke-bob du jour at a Republican clambake near you!

Behind the Scenes at Fox News

Joe Hagan has a fascinating inside look at the machinations over at Faux News, as the network cranked up its assault on the "liberal media" on the night of the second presidential debate, forcing its own compromised White House correspondent Carl Cameron on air to talk about bias at ABC News, when Cameron's own notorious incidence of bias against John Kerry was still only days old.

Some day we'll be looking back at these events and sighing, "That's when corporate thought-control really took hold in our democracy!"

Vaccine-Gate II

The NYTimes says this a.m. that people are getting "desperate" for the highly scarce flu vaccine: "At one pharmacy, there were so many people that ... nurses kept what was supposed to be a three-hour clinic open for seven. At another, the store lost electricity in a power failure, but the nurses kept the injections coming. And with clinics trying to make sure that the most vulnerable people are getting the vaccine first, [nurses] have had to turn people away: middle-aged men who have wanted a flu shot in an effort to protect their children from the illness, mothers who want to keep themselves healthy to care for their families."

There's a whiff of panic in the air. You could see it in El Presidente's eyes last night at the third debate, when he did the bug warrior bit and volunteered that he wouldn't get a shot and hoped that other "healthy" people would follow his lead. 'Course, that might be because he understood they were talking about the "flue," and he figgers he's got people on the payroll who keep his chimney clean.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Democrat Voter Registrations Trashed in Nevada

This story we first saw on Daily Kos last night. It appears to have been broken by an investigative reporter for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.

The gist: A Republican-financed private company, Voters Outreach of America, a.k.a. America Votes, was supposedly conducting a non-partisan voter registration drive in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, but company employees have said that company officials were routinely trashing any forms by people checking the Democrat box for party preference. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of such forms were destroyed.

This is the same company, according to Daily Kos, that was employed by Republican operatives to secure petition signatures to get Ralph Nader on state ballots.

Is this part of El Presidente's I'm-Chosen-By-God-so-anything-we-do-is-okay-by-Him campaign?

Challenging Bush's Theology of War

A movement among some evangelical Christians is circulating a document that opposes "President Bush's attempt to converge God, church and nation and what they call his 'theology of war.' "

The document appears to have originated at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, which bills itself the "largest evangelical seminary in the nation." (Thanks to Don for the link.)

Joining with Fuller theologians are George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary, Richard B. Hays of Duke Divinity School, Richard Pierard of Gordon College, and Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine.

The document being circulated tries to throw off the yoke of the Republican Caesar: "There are times and places in human history when political powers attempt to claim the loyalty of the church of Jesus Christ. In those times, the church is called to reaffirm its fundamental beliefs. We believe that 2004 in the United States is one of those times and places. We have come to the conviction that as followers of Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to affirm a new confession of Christ."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Honk If You're Holier Than Thou

Here's a sentence we might have expected in the newspapers this year, and sure enough! "...never before have so many bishops so explicitly warned Catholics so close to an election that to vote a certain way was to commit a sin."

Big article in today's NYTimes about how certain Catholic Bishops are preaching that a vote for John Kerry this year is a vote for Satanic rule over the United States. The Southern Baptists aren't the only church to sell out to Caesar.

It's all about abortion (natch!) and homosexual marriage (big irony, that, considering recent scandals in the church over boy-buggery) and some bishops are throwing in stem-cell research for extra measure. Meanwhile, nothing gets said about preemptive war and the death penalty, from the church that preaches that all life is sacred in God's eyes.

James Coffey, Hypocrite

My mother always said, "Beware of a man who can't be embarrassed." Her meaning? Hypocrisy without a conscience is a threat to every living soul.

So there was the chairman of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, James Coffey, running for reelection, sitting up there with all the other candidates last night at the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce's candidate forum, and when asked what he perceived to be Watauga County's greatest problem, he says, "Growth."

He didn't seem embarrassed at all to be such a grade-A hypocrite.

"Growth." Big problem on October 11, 2004, according to Mr. Coffey, who on every other calendar date in this or any other year has failed to see any problem at all with "growth." Which Sue Sweeting and Pat Wilkie worked tirelessly on for years, advocating the merest baby steps to deal with it, which proposals Mr. Coffey opposed, subverted, whispered negatively about, and outright slandered during that same time.

Take the County's "zoning committee" as just one notorious example. Mr. Coffey served on that panel as a "no-zoner" to study what might be done to regulate the GROWTH of polluting or "high-impact" developments in the county. When the panel of equal numbers of pro-zoners and no-zoners actually finally AGREED that the citizens ought to be given the right to be heard in a "conditional use" permitting process for any new polluting or high-impact developments coming into the county, Mr. Coffey managed to miss that meeting when the unanimous vote was taken. Why? So he could later vote against it. (So he was also lying last night when he bragged that he had a 100 percent attendance record. Perhaps he meant 100 percent attendance at meetings where he was guaranteed to be in the majority.)

Indeed, after the 2002 elections, Mr. Coffey and his new Republican fellow commissioners voted to gut the "High-Impact Development Ordinance" of any provisions that would have given citizens the right to be heard.

Want more hypocrisy? Coffey is pushing Boone to give up its water & sewer to county developers so that the "growth" he said he was so worried about last night can rage on at an accelerated pace. Meanwhile, he's also against ANY controls on that growth. (Maybe he meant the problem with GROWTH is that we haven't yet hit our saturation point, reckon?)

Jesus Christ railed against Pharisees and hypocrites and often conflated the two as the same thing. That is, if you're a Pharisee, in Jesus' eyes you're also automatically a hypocrite. Mr. Coffey just raised his rank among them both.

Monday, October 11, 2004

First We Count the Votes, and THEN We Count the Bodies!

This lead in today's Los Angeles Times might give you pause if you weren't already a cynical s.o.b.: "WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race."

Translation: "My reelection is more important than that war," explained El Presidente.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


According to British health officials, the Bush administration has known since mid-September that the supply of flu vaccine was going to be seriously compromised. They did nothing. Instead, they were acting last week as though this were the biggest surprise imaginable. Their solution took the form of advice: don't get sick. 'Cause chances are very good that half of us are not going to get the vaccine.

Yesterday, John Kerry spoke about this on the campaign trail, as well he should: "The administration, we've learned today, is playing fast and loose again with the facts and the truth to the American people because they pretended and they've acted surprised that we didn't have the vaccines," Kerry said at a nursing school.

"Rather than tell the truth to the American people, they've acted surprised and pretended it just sort of happened on their watch."

At the least, many more Americans are going to get sick this winter. It's an ineptitude that will keep on giving.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bubble Boy

Consensus seems to be that El Presidente did poorly in his first debate with John Kerry because he's been living in a protective bubble for going-on four years. In short, he's totally out of practice. He seems not to know that there are other points of view -- not to mention hard questions -- about his conduct in office.

To wit:

His campaign events are as tightly controlled as the guest list at a Trump wedding reception. The town-hall type events he's been holding -- which look on TV like he's conducting a free-wheeling give-and-take with a random audience -- are (as they might say in Texas) "all boots and no cattle." Participants in these events are carefully screened. You've heard of the presidential loyalty oaths to get into these events? Well, once you're in, you're further segregated, with the most super-duper fawners getting seated in the section from whence he taketh his questions. So you get powder-puffs like this: a veteran recently asked whether Bush would permit him "the honor of giving our commander in chief a real Navy salute, and not a flip-flop."

To wit:

El Presidente's last prime-time news conference was April 13. He's allowed the press to ask questions at photo ops only twice since August 23rd, both times with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side. Otherwise, he has stopped taking questions from the small pool of reporters who cover his photo opportunities. His staff typically sets up events so he does not have to walk near reporters. He has granted three interviews in the past five weeks, to conservative Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, to the arch-conservative Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader and to WMUR-TV in New Hampshire.

As Mike Allen writes in this a.m.'s WashPost, such royal isolation ends up bearing a grand price tag, when the isolatee looks like a petulant spoiled brat in front of 60 or 70 million adult voters:

"Although all presidents are kept somewhat removed from reality because of security concerns and their staffs' impulse for burnishing their image, Bush's campaign has taken unprecedented steps to shield him from dissenters and even from curious, undecided voters .... Bush's handlers have pulled the presidential bubble especially tight during the campaign, but he often has kept his distance from the public and the media throughout his term. He rarely plays tourist on trips, and has held the fewest solo news conferences of any president since records were kept."

So tonight's unscripted town-hall debate with Kerry is a field of potential land-mines he's got to walk through alone. No, wait, Jesus Christ will be guiding his every step.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

"Faith Community" Alternative to iVoteValues

Someone sent me this link to a web-based campaign to "vote ALL your values" rather than the narrow bigotry of the Southern Baptists' iVoteValues effort. "Some vocal religious groups claim that people of faith must vote on the basis of a narrow set of issues and values. As people of faith, we are here to call Americans to vote ALL their values, including truth at all times, justice for all people, and community among all nations and faiths."

They are labeling their get-out-the-vote drive non-partisan, and their website certainly doesn't plant a flag for either national candidate. 'Course, to our Southern Baptists, failure to be FOR El Presidente is evidence that you're a dangerous subversive.

House Ethics Committee "Admonishes" DeLay 2nd Time

By the ethics rules of the U.S. House, I believe three "admonishments" equal one light tap on the wrist, so Tom DeLay had better tread lightly!

Last night (the Ethics Committee always seems to prefer the deepest dark to collectively clear its throat), the House Ethics Committee (five gutless wonders from each party) "admonished" Tom DeLay for the second time in a week, "this time for appearing to link legislative action to political donations and for sending federal officials to search for Texas legislators during a fracas over redistricting in that state." (NYTimes article today.)

Here's what passes for a "stern warning" from the House Ethics Committee: "In view of the number of instances to date in which the committee has found it necessary to comment on conduct in which you have engaged, it is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions," the panel wrote.

When we were in second grade, we could have figgered out the meaning of that. "Don't get caught again."

There's a third allegation against DeLay pending in the Ethics Committee, but the committee will probably wait for a federal grand jury, also looking into the matter, to go first. At least the federal grand jury isn't constrained by the back-scratching practiced by our esteemed legislative guardians.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Cheney's Lies

Dick Cheney dramatically made a point last night that when John Edwards first walked onto the debate stage, it was the first time that he, Cheney, had ever met him, despite being the "presiding officer" over the Senate -- by way of underlining Senator Edwards non-attendance in that body.

Turns out that was a big fat lie. There are pictures all over the Internet today of the two of them sitting side-by-side at the National Prayer Breakfast and at the swearing in of Elizabeth Dole to the Senate in January 2003. Go to Drudge for a sampling. Why didn't Edwards point this out last night?

And Josh Marshall has quite detailed proof of Cheney's lie that he'd never connected Saddam and the 9/11 attack.

The V.P. Debate: Luke vs. Darth

Some wag in the blogosphere yesterday forecast the vice presidential debate last night as "Heart Throb vs. Heart Disease," but it was nothing one could smile about.

It reminded us of nothing so much as an old Popeye cartoon, one of those sequences where Bluto and Popeye pound one another into the dirt like pilings, each going down equally and at the same rate of descent under the WHAM WHAM WHAMing of big meaty fists.

One of the NYTimes reporters called the debate "grim." The first 50 minutes were especially tense, when the topic was Iraq. When the subject moved to domestic issues, Cheney seemed to lose interest a little. He certainly wasn't much up for debating a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.

We watched it on C-SPAN, which does not interrupt the live feed with any voice-over blather. So Gwen Ifil was sitting there on the stage by herself for what seemed like hours, and then she brought Cheney and Edwards on stage, and the collective silence continued for several more minutes, the candidates not looking at one another though they were only inches away, and nobody saying anything. The tension was palpable. And it only got worse once the talking started.

Cheney was at a tremendous disadvantage. He had to recover from his boss's poor showing last week while not revealing too much about who's really running things in this administration. But he couldn't help overshadowing El Presidente. Plus the news cycle was against him, and Gwen Ifil immediately asked about the Paul Bremer speech criticizing his conduct of the war. Cheney's stone-walling had developed a bit of a chink about Saddam's imaginary connections with Al Qaeda, as yesterday had also brought news that the CIA (damn you, CIA!) had failed to find any connection which has been the cornerstone of Cheney's little temple of self-delusion for months. I never said there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, Cheney averred at one point, apparently under the impression that we're all blithering idiots out here in TV-Land.

Edwards was on the attack from the beginning. When scolded for his own "undistinguished" Senate career -- which IS his Achilles heel -- Edwards got right back up in Cheney's face with a litany of nay votes from Cheney's own days in the U.S. House, including no votes against Head Start and the Martin Luther King holiday.

Edwards did well. He did very well against an old pro with ice water in his veins. He stood up, and he gave as good as he got. Not that it matters much.

We look forward to Jon Stewart's "take" on the debate tonight on "The Daily Show."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Coming Draft

Col. David Hackworth has written a thoughtful discussion of the coming draft. This from an experienced military man and Senior Military Columnist for DefenseWatch magazine. Read and consider:


Most of our warriors -- who are mainly from blue-collar families from Small Town, USA -- have few political connections and few conduits though which they can effectively sound off. So when they get screwed over by a desperate Pentagon's makeshift policies -- such as the "Stop Loss" program that's holding over large numbers of our servicemen and women well beyond their contractually agreed-upon terms of enlistment, or the widespread calling up of out-of-shape, ill-trained citizen soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve -- these "volunteers" salute, suck it up and lay their lives on the line.

But like elephants, they won't forget that they are "backdoor draftees," as Kerry and John McCain call them. Which means that when their hitches are up, they won't be rushing to re-enlist. And they're also warning their younger brothers, sisters and pals to stay away from recruiting stations.

Although Pentagon puff artists insist they're making quota, recruiters are already saying it would be easier to find $100 bills on the sidewalk outside a homeless shelter than fill their enlistment quotas, even with the huge bonuses now being paid.

So the draft -- which will include both boys and girls this time around -- is a no-brainer in '05 and '06.

Media Whores

At last Thursday's debate, John Kerry said "I'll never give a veto to any country over our security" and then told Jim Lehrer that he would never involve the country in a pre-emptive war without first making sure that Americans "understand fully why you're doing what you're doing" and without passing "the global test" of being able to "prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Didn't take El Presidente 24 hours to begin distorting "the global test" into a "We'll ask France's permission" caricature of what Kerry said.

Campaign Desk (of the Columbia Journalism Review) has a report card on how the TV networks have done in reporting Bush's distortions. Mainly, they haven't done any contextualizing at all, just repeating Bush's charge without bothering to point out the distortion. (All together again: WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA!)

Republican Voter-Registration "Stagnating"

This analysis from the Granite State of New Hampshire, but still ... it's clearly part of "The Trend" we've been talking about for days of surging Democratic voter registration and trailing Rs.

Paul Bremer Criticizes Iraqi War

Former Bush viceroy in Iraq Paul Bremer yesterday criticized El Presidente's conduct of the war, saying two fatal mistakes were made (gee, only two): not enough troops deployed and the failure to contain lawlessness immediately following the capture of Baghdad (a result of too few troops, incidentally). Read all about it here.

What makes this Bremer utterance delicious is that an aide of his protested that his remarks were supposed to be "off the record" and not distributed to the news media. The speech was made at the Greenbriar to a group of insurance agents apparently looking for negative examples of risk assessment.

When Irony Becomes Hilarity

Headline today in NYTimes: "Bush Calls Kerry's Policies a Danger 'for World Peace.' "

The Warmonger-in-Chief, the author of the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive warfare, fingers the other guy as a threat to world peace?

Soon's we recovered from our laughing fit, we realized how contemptuous that statement was of the intelligence of the American people.

A spokesman for the Kerry campaign, Phil Singer, responded to El Presidente's charge: "If George Bush thinks John Kerry's plans to strengthen the military, build alliances and implement the 9/11 commission's intelligence reforms will make the world a more dangerous place, he's even more detached from reality than he demonstrated at the debate the other night."

Detached from reality and swinging wildly.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Safire Loses His Grip

William Safire, NYTimes right-wing columnist, was evidently so rattled by El Presidente's performance last Thursday that he's now accusing John Kerry of being a "neoconservative," a howler of a charge in a season full of screaming monkeys in the treetops.

This kind of does-not-compute mental leap-frog is perhaps a foretaste of the collective psychic aneurysm some have suggested will convulse the Republican Party when George W. loses this election.

At any rate, can't tell you how long it's been since I've so enjoyed the appalling hoard of sapience being offered forth by the Right-Wing Brethern & Sistern, from Kate O'Beirne to Pat Buchanan to Robert Novak to (now) William Safire.

Analyzing the (Darn) Polls

Guy Molyneux, pollster and analyst of polls, has a fascinating discussion that was obviously written before last Thursday's presidential debate, wherein he finds plenty of evidence that Kerry is winning and Bush, losing, even (as we say) before the turn-around this past weekend.

For Molyneux, the key is not in "the spread," the difference in percentages declaring for Bush and for Kerry, but in the incumbent's percentage of the vote, which for Bush has been consistently below 50 percent. An incumbent scoring at 49 percent or less among registered voters is in deep doo-doo (as W's father used to say).

Wrote Molyneux, "...the percentage of the vote an incumbent president receives in surveys is an extraordinarily accurate predictor of the percentage he will receive on election day -- even though the survey results also include a pool of undecided voters. Hence the 50-percent rule: An incumbent who fails to poll above 50 percent is in grave jeopardy of losing his job."

Molyneux cites very compelling comparisons of how incumbents Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter were polling shortly before their individual reelection contests. In every case, each of those incumbents finished the election within 2 percentage points of where the polls said they stood with voters.

"This happens because elections are fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent. The first step in voters' decision-making process is to answer the question 'does he deserve re-election?' Undecided voters have basically answered that question in the negative, and their undecided status reflects the fact that they don't know enough about the challenger (yet) to feel comfortable stating a public preference."

Most "undecided" voters, Molyneux claims, end up breaking for the challenger. Not all, but most, by a wide margin.

Molyneux's key paragraph: "Think of it this way: The percentage that Bush receives in polls represents his ceiling of support; he may get a little less, but won't get more. In contrast, Kerry's percentage represents his floor, and he will almost certainly do better on election day. Assuming that Ralph Nader and other minor candidates will receive about 2 percent -- which is what current surveys suggest -- 49 percent becomes the critical line of demarcation in this election. If Bush can get to 50 percent or above in the polls, he should be able to win. At 49 percent -- where he is today [before the 1st debate] -- we're probably looking at another photo finish, lots of recounts, and narrow state-by-state victories dictating the Electoral College outcome. And below 49 percent, Bush is almost certain to lose."

And my absolute favorite paragraph: "You may also have heard that Bush is surging ahead in the crucial 'battleground states' that will determine the Electoral College outcome. However, polls in these states actually reveal an even more precarious position for the president. Taken together, Bush receives a bit less support in these critical states than in the nation overall. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Bush receives 49 percent support nationally but only 47 percent in the battleground states, a typical finding."

Now maybe that'll help you sleep better.

Novak Criticizes Bush

Bob Novak, whom Jon Stewart has famously dubbed "The Scumbag for Freedom," has a new column out today saying last Thursday's debate exposed El Presidente's "flaws" as a candidate, a wound he might not recover from, and confirming that Republicans are in a massive funk over their standard-bearer.


"The Trend" Becomes a Freakin' Tidal Wave!

The NYTimes is reporting today that a "record surge of potential new voters has swamped boards of election from Pennsylvania to Oregon." We know. Locally, the Watauga County Board of Elections is dealing now with some 700 new registrations a day!

Now, ask yourselves: "Is all this passion for voting motivated by a burning desire to return El Presidente to the Palace Royal? Or is something else at work here?"

We repeat: these new voters are also largely below the radar screen of national polling. Whatever this surge means, Gallup is probably not in the loop for understanding it.

"Registration numbers are impossible to tally nationwide, and how many of the newly registered will vote is a matter of some debate. But it is clear the pace is particularly high in urban areas of swing states, where independent Democratic groups and community organizations have been running a huge voter registration campaign for just over a year."

Oh my, oh my! On the right, the only blow-hard talking nervously about this trend (that we've actually heard or read) is Rush Limbaugh. He recognizes it as trouble.

Voter registration ends locally this Friday at 5 p.m. sharp. Your application has to be complete and in the hands of the Board of Elections by that hour.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bush Lied About Iraqi Troops -- Imagine That

Thanks to Josh Marshall for putting these figures together:

El Presidente claimed in the first debate last Thursday that there are already 100,000 trained Iraqi troops on the job, and "there's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of the year" ... all by way of proving how successful his policies were turning out to be.

But Reuters reports today:

"...of the nearly 90,000 currently in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy training. Another 46,176 are listed as 'untrained,' and it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its new goal of a 135,000-strong, fully trained police force.

"Six Army battalions have had 'initial training,' while 57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being recruited or 'awaiting equipment.' Just eight Guard battalions have reached 'initial [operating] capability,' and the Pentagon acknowledged the Guard's performance has been 'uneven.'

"Training has yet to begin for the 4,800-man civil intervention force, which will help counter a deadly insurgency. And none of the 18,000 border enforcement guards have received any centralised training to date, despite earlier claims they had, according to Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

"They estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough basic training to make them 'minimally effective at their tasks,' in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush."

Burr Gaining on Bowles?

A Mason-Dixon North Carolina poll of 625 voters statewide found Burr trailing Bowles by just a single point, 44 percent to 45 percent. The reason, supposedly? Conservative eastern Carolina Democrats siding with Burr. But when have conservative eastern Carolina Democrats voted Democrat? Back in 1960, maybe? Or 1948?

But evidently this particular demographic is so important to Erskine that he has gone to great lengths to deny the Democratic Party, yeah, even thrice before the cock crows.

Not that it gained him a damn thing.

When Does Love of the Military Look Like Neglect?

George W. Bush, who flew to Baghdad last Thanksgiving to hold a plastic turkey for the cameraman, in his high-stakes PR gambit to show how much he cherishes our fighting men & women, has in the meantime recommended cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs staff that handles benefits claims. An important article in today's WashPost details that some 26,633 veterans have filed claims with the VA for service-connected disabilities occasioned by service in either Afghanistan or Iraq, yet the processing of those claims is hopelessly backlogged. Less than two-thirds of those claims have been processed.

More C.I.A. Leaks: WHAT Iraqi Nuclear Threat?

A huge story in today's NYTimes today -- both in terms of length and in terms of potential impact -- that exposes the Bush administration for its lies about the supposed nuclear bomb program Saddam was supposedly pursuing. Source of much of this information? Unnamed officials in the C.I.A. Bottomline: The Bush administration's own experts told the administration MONTHS before our invasion that those notorious aluminum tubes, which Condoleezza Rice warned would surely lead to a mushroom cloud, were much more likely intended for use in small artillery rockets.

Today on ABC's "This Week," George Will smugly commented that he didn't think the voters would be able to make any sense out of the relative diameters of aluminum tubes, and so he thought this story would have no impact. So much for Will's belief in the basic intelligence of the American voter.

On the same show, Condoleezza Rice stubbornly stuck to her talking points from two years ago. What else could she do? Admit that she was in on the warping of facts to justify a preordained war?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Bush/Cheney Staffers Pulling Out of N.C.?

Small item in today's N&O suggests that the Bush/Cheney may pull their staff out of North Carolina ... not out of any crisis in this state, we gather -- since they think they've got N.C. locked up, tied & trussed like a pig bound for market -- but out of a swaggering belief that they might, just might also take New Jersey. Or at least make Kerry fight for that state.

Whatever. We don't mind lightening the state with the absence of such sapience.

The Trend

Another article, this one in today's WashPost, charting the astounding surge in new voter registrations, this time in Virginia and Maryland, though the WashPost doesn't break down the new voters by party.

Anecdotally, we don't believe formerly disaffected non-voters are suddenly rushing to register because they like the way the country has gone during the last four years. This almost baffling tidal wave of interest in this election, and the fact that these new voters are NOT included in most national polls, could be setting up a dynamic for Kerry that will catch the media pundits with their pants down. They've had their noses buried in polling results through August & September that showed Bush winning, maybe by a landslide, when we suspect that the landslide could go down the other side of the mountain this year. Young people ... a large portion of the new registrations ... might well end up saving this nation from an even more nighmarish four years.

"Republicans," reported the WashPost, "said the trends reflected enthusiasm for President Bush." Yeah, right. You cling to that interpretation, guys. You hold on for dear life!

C.I.A. to White House: Drop Dead

Analysis in this a.m.'s NYTimes says that "tensions" between the Bush White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have reached the point where there's barely any attempt to disguise the disdain each feels for the other. "Viciousness and vindictiveness" were the words used by a recently retired CIA official to describe the current state of the relationship.

And why would the CIA be feeling snappish? Could have something to do with El Presidente's campaign to finger the agency's estimates of Saddam's WMD as the proximate cause for his going to war. (Never mind that Bush had been purposed on war with Iraq from Day One.) The implied scape-goating of the CIA continued apace at last Thursday's presidential debate: "My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at," President Bush said several times in the debate, implying about as much negative import to the CIA that produced that intelligence as to Kerry, who read it.

The rest of us peons out here in the deliberate dark can benefit from the bad relationship. If we pay attention. Because there's been a fairly steady drip, drip of leaked documents showing the mendacity of the Bushies, and those leaks appear to be coming from the CIA. For example, the recent disclosure of details of a classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in July 2004, saying that about the best we could hope for in Iraq through the end of 2005 would be a "tenuous stability." The worst we might see? Well, we're kind of already seeing it, aren't we?

Other disclosures have included specific new details contained in two other classified documents, prewar assessments on Iraq done in January 2003 warning of "a surge in anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and the possibility of an anti-American insurgency in Iraq. The intelligence warnings appeared to have been much sharper than was acknowledged in the more upbeat forecasts provided before the war by Mr. Bush and top deputies including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary."

We can only hope we'll learn more in the next 30 days about what we've suspected all along.

The CIA leaks have rattled the Bushies enough for their great defender, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, to publish an editorial last Wednesday under the headline, "The C.I.A.'s Insurgency." It opined that Mr. Bush "now has two insurgencies to defeat: the one that the C.I.A. is struggling to help put down in Iraq, and the other inside Langley against the Bush administration."

Never suspected I'd reach the point where I would actually be rooting for the CIA.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Writing On the Wall

There WILL be a draft.

From today's NYTimes: The Army, because it's encountering "problems" in the recruiting and retaining of new soldiers, is lowering its standards. You might want to read all about it. Me? I predicted this particular kind of animal feces months ago.

If I were a college man these days, I would be clutching my huggie and checking on the validity of my current voter registration.

Maybe study a little Arabic too, while I was at it.

DeLay "Admonished" By House Ethics Committee

Last night, apparently while everyone was glued to their TVs for the Kerry/Bush debate, the U.S. House Ethics Committee "admonished" Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay for committing what any fair-minded observer would call political bribery ... strong-arming another Republican member of the House last November 22nd by offering to help the congressman's son if the congressman would in turn vote for the President's prescription drug bill. That bill passed the House by the smallest of margins.

"Admonished" in this context means the Ethics Committee had so much dirt they couldn't just file the complaint in a government-issued garbage can without bringing opprobium on themselves. But "admonished" means approximately the same as "Would you lower those Venetian blinds, please?"

Not only is this a whitewash, it must have been an inside deal as well, with DeLay agreeing to plead guilty, as it were: "In a statement, Mr. DeLay said that he had not meant to violate House rules and that the panel had never ruled on this type of activity before." For its part, the Ethics Committee "recommended no further action against Mr. DeLay."

So much for ethics in the modern, Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The most despicable "players" in all this ethics whitewash, though, are the Democrat members of this committee. They are the poster boys for all we find laughable in Congressional Democrats (which is a lo-o-o-ong list), and for their moral clarity, may Howard Dean serve them canapes forever in hell.

The Ethics Committee is also "now weighing whether to pursue an inquiry into another complaint against [DeLay}." Yeah. We're holding our breath.

George Bush Runs for SGA

Long live C-SPAN, for its split-screen presentation of last night's presidential debate between George W. and John F.!

The smirk was back! Yes, ladies & gents, the frat-boy made his triumphal reappearance, and you could have sworn you were sitting in the gymnasium bleachers watching an adolescent contest for school body president -- the nerdiest member of the chess club facing the coolest and most popular boy on campus.

George W. never stopped chicken-neckin' all night, pursing his mouth, snorting out of one nostril, squinting at his opponent, winking at the moderator, rolling his eyes at what the Big Tall Geek was saying on the other side of the stage, flashing those same eyes in derision, in rage, or in hopeless merriment at what The Geek just said. Bush's body language spoke volumes about how he regards himself as opposed to his opponent. He was, like, signaling the other cool kids in school that he thinks his opponent is a Huge Joke.

I rewatched the tape to confirm that the initial handshake between Bush and Kerry was cut short when Bush turned away from Kerry in mid-shake and wrenched his hand away from the man he can't bring himself to respect. The 90 minutes which followed was the fidgety-est performance I've ever witnessed from a Leader of the Western World, albeit from a president trying to pass himself off as an adult.

Most of the time, George just seemed miffed, like he was surpressing an overwhelming urge to run over and pants his opponent. There was such derision in his eyes, in the perpetual pursing of that little mouth -- which looks like this most of the time: )---( ... a tight little straight line flanked by backward parentheses. That mouth contorts into a left-side-down, right-side-up slant when he's feeling (or merely showing) his superiority to the question.

And there was such an air of entitlement about his demeanor, as though he thinks everyone ought to know that he's the ONLY viable candidate for student body president, and this other guy, this gawky NERD, is purely laughable. It all came clear to me on the second viewing of the videotape, when George said of Kerry, dismissively, "He's trying to be popular in the world." Get the import of that "trying to be popular"? ... from the arrogant little son of privilege who's always just been popular by nature, by birth, by family wealth and privilege.

Number of times George Bush referred to terrorists as "a group of folks": 1
Number of times he referred to terrorists as "evil-doers": 0

Number of drinks of water taken by Kerry during the 90 minutes: 1
Number of drinks of water taken by Bush during the same time: 16
Number of attempted drinks of water taken by Bush from an empty glass: 2

Number of times Bush referred to how "hard" or "tough" his job is: 16

Number of Bush references to God or praying: 3
Number of Kerry references to God: 1

The score over-all? It doesn't much matter that I thought Bush's relentless iteration of the rehearsed message ("Kerry is soft, can't be trusted, isn't resolute") was delivered much more strongly to the masses in TV-land than Kerry's nuances, and it doesn't much matter that I thought Kerry missed opportunity after opportunity to knee-cap the president ... the spin today is that Kerry won. I'll take the spin. Though I would have much more preferred the reality.