Saturday, July 31, 2004

Spanish Language Ads

One of the people I had a chance to talk to during convention week was Maria Cordona, head of the New Democrat Network's Hispanic Project (well, at least, I remember meeting the head of the Hispanic Project and according to their staff list, that's the name of the person. I can never remember names.) One of the things they're doing is producing and running Spanish language ads. It's shocking how the Dems just haven't been doing this themselves until just recently, but the NDN has produced some slick ones. You can watch the TV ads here.

Republicans have been running them for years, largely under the radar of our mainstream media.

Eastercrapp

It's been awhile, but wow this one's a doozy...

Drudge Rips of Tom Tomorrow

This happened during the convention, but just in case you missed it...

Loyalty Oaths

Josh Marshall discusses the loyalty oaths one has to take in order to attend a Cheney rally. I'm too lazy to hunt it down, but one of my many brilliant blog posts sometime back raised this exact question - how the hell are Bush/Cheney going to campaign seriously given the extreme private nature of all of their events and the extreme security associated with them? I guess we have our answer - they aren't planning to. It's interesting -- I guess their plan is to screw the personal touch and hope that positive local news coverage of their fake campaign rallies brings some more people aboard.

Good. It's a huge mistake they're making.

Go Karl!

I went to a Clinton rally in 1996. One had to go down to the local Dem headquarters to pick up tickets and I believe sign your name, but that was the extent of the barrier to entry.

Can I Have Some Apples With These Oranges?

This is really pretty incredible. Newsweek calls it a "Baby Bounce," and says "Kerry’s four-point “bounce” is the smallest in the history of the NEWSWEEK poll." No shit, idiots, because then it goes on to say:

There are several factors that may have contributed to the limited surge, including the timing of the poll. On Thursday, Kerry had just a two-point lead over Bush (47 percent to 45 percent), suggesting that his Friday night speech had a significant impact.


So, Kerry had a tiny bounce from the convention, a record small bounce, except, well, half of the poll was taken before he gave his speech, unlike all those other polls, and, okay, well, if you only include the part taken after the speech he got a really big bounce, but that's not the headline we want to write...


...oy, as people like dr. laniac have pointed out, I failed to notice it says Kerry gave his speech on !@$#$@#% Friday night. Good enough for Newsweek.


editors@newsweek.com

Fafblogging

The convention coverage I missed. Make sure to check out the interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Turning the Corner

I know that the good old days of Herbert Hoover no longer exist in the minds of most people, but I'm glad John Kerry is there to remind them what a dumb slogan Bush is using:

"The last time we had a president who ran on a slogan of turning the corner was Herbert Hoover, and he ran on the prospect that prosperity was just around the corner," Kerry said. "I don't want to run talking about turning the corner. I'm running to climb the mountain and get to the top."

54-41

Kerry/Bush in 2 way competition. 50-40 with Ralph in the mix. . Both numbers from a poll taken on Friday.

Saudi Royal Family

Kerry's repeating that line in his stump speech. It's odd that such a line has become controversial. The reason one doesn't want to depend on Saudi Oil is the same reason one doesn't want to depend on the bond-buying activities of the Chinese government. It 's simple -- both of these entities have a big influence on the world economy, and both entities face considerable non-purely-economic incentives which will affect how much oil they pump, and how much they're willing to buy T-Bills. And, in both of those cases there are plenty of reasons to believe that there could easily come a time when the political interests of China/Saudi diverge sufficiently from ours, and both entities, at least over the short/medium term, have the power to wreak havoc on our economies.

15,000 in Scranton

Wow.

Obamarama

Needless to say, his speech went over great in the convention, but watching it on TV I realize it probably came across even better to people at home. I forget who told me this when I was there, but IIRC I was told that after his speech the website was getting 18,000 hits per minute.

Daily Show

I thought the best bit on the Daily Show, aside from the beautiful images of Jesse and Markos, was when Jill Abramson of the NYT actually said on camera something like "We don't make things up." And, when, uh, called on it when the Daily Show person sort of hinted at that Jayson Blair thing, she deflected it by saying it didn't happen on her watch.

I know journalists have standards and ideals that, as a profession, they like to think they should and do live up to. But, it's that kind of smugness which drives me absolutely crazy. Abramson didn't say "I don't make things up," or "We don't believe in making things up," she said "We don't make things up." In the wake of the recent scandals, it's incredible that she could say such a thing with a straight face.

Journalist and editors are only human, and no matter what ideals they claim to or even genuinely aspire to, they don't always conform to them. This tendency to equate the ideal with the reality (If we want it to be so it is so!), is really a manifestation of their underlying smugness and overall sense of personal infallibility.

To some degree, I'm not entirely sure why there's such a hesitation to admit a vulnerability to screwups. Obviously Glass or Blair-level screwups are an embarrassment, but the day-to-day screwups are understandable. I'd would like the quick and, more importantly, prominent acknowledgments of error to become a badge of honor, instead of the current state of affairs which involves a lot of rationalization and ass-covering.


...note, also, that as I've said many times, Blair's screwups, while embarrassing, were harmless relative to the many other profound bits of malfeasance in the Times and elsewhere. And, also, that the unwillingness to confront mistakes head on is evidence that many such "mistakes," derive from deeper corrupt practices. Acknowledging the mistake would acknowledge the practices...

CSPAN

Re-running convention speeches. Guess I'll see what I missed...

Saint Ralph

Oops.

Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.

The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before. Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.

Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures.

"A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.

Sure Sounds Furrin

From the AZ Daily star:

President Bush's re-election campaign insisted on knowing the race of an Arizona Daily Star journalist assigned to photograph Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Star refused to provide the information.

Cheney is scheduled to appear at a rally this afternoon at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

A rally organizer for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign asked Teri Hayt, the Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. After Hayt refused, the organizer called back and said the journalist probably would be allowed to photograph the vice president.

"It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," Hayt said later.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the president's re-election campaign, said the information was needed for security purposes.

"All the information requested of staff, volunteers and participants for the event has been done so to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the vice president of the United States," he said.

Diaz repeated that answer when asked if it is the practice of the White House to ask for racial information or if the photographer, Mamta Popat, was singled out because of her name. He referred those questions to the U.S. Secret Service, which did not respond to a call from the Star Friday afternoon.

Hayt declined to speculate on whether Popat was racially profiled, but said she is deeply concerned.

"One has to wonder what they were going to do with that information," Hayt said. "Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access? I don't know."

Journalists covering the president or vice president must undergo a background check and are required to provide their name, date of birth and Social Security number. The Star provided that information Thursday for Popat and this reporter.

"That's all anybody has been asked to provide," said Hayt, adding that this is the first time in her 26-year career that a journalist's race was made an issue.

Organizer Christine Walton asked for Popat's race in telephone conversations with two other Star editors before she spoke to Hayt. They also refused to provide the information. Walton told Hayt that Popat's race was necessary to allow the Secret Service to distinguish her from someone else who might have the same name.

Fence Sitters

It's the season. I'm sure we'll see a bunch of "reasonable" conservatives writing that if Kerry could just somehow say the magic combination of words, appealing to their idiosyncratic sense of what the Democratic should be (regaining what it has lost, blahblabblah), that they'd support him. Here we have Bobo being upset that Kerry's convention speech wasn't an elaborate foreign policy document. Kaus (who I met, annoyingly), is apparently voting for Kerry even though he hates him, and Crazy Andy has apparently sort of maybe said the same.

One thing it's important to remember with all of these people - their public personas, their public writings, are to a great degree a pose. The only way to hold onto your reputation as being something other than a partisan hack is to make sure to provide enough public statements to back that up. Similarly those who really are supposed to be partisan hacks are only "allowed" a few chances to stray from the reservation, particularly on the conservative side of things. Ostracism from the movement can be quick and painful.

But, the truth is a this point anyone who pays attention (as it's their job) should have a very good idea what a 2nd Bush administration would be like, and a pretty good idea how a Kerry administration would differ. They should also understand that campaign rhetoric is what it is, and has little bearing on how a Kerry administration will actually govern, relative to what we already know about the guy.

So, "conflicted conservatives" and faux-moderates can have their fun. But, pretending to support Kerry while doing little but bashing him, or supporting Kerry with the caveat that "we may all die if he's elected!!!" is mostly a way of preserving your street cred on both sides...

More CBS Inanity

FAIR takes a look at one of their other recent "issues" coverage. They really are so utterly devoid of meaingful content, at best, and utterly misleading a worst.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Final Metablogging

The reviews are in, and blogger convention coverage sucked. That's fine by me, really, I never expected to go to the convention and revolutionize convention coverage. I wanted to go have some fun, learn some things, maybe meet a few people, and get a bit smarter.
One part of the convention is what's on TV. If you had time to watch it, CSPAN or at the very least PBS was there for you. If you didn't have time to watch it, you could read the speeches yourself or get the spin from either the talking heads, radio, or, yes, blogs. I say spin because there's almost no such thing as "neutral" coverage of an event like this, except maybe very dry speech summary pieces. But, the spin, from whatever source, is no substitute for actually watching the event anymore than reading the sports page is a substitute for actually watching a game.

Much of the complaints seemed to involve the "personal" nature of blog coverage, which I found odd. I mean, sure, "I saw Al Hunt walking by!" isn't particualrly interesting, but I'm not sure why people expected blogs, which are always quite personal, to suddenly switch gears. The personal experience of being at a convention - trying to describe what it's like - isn't something mainstream media generally provides, as the reporters are observers rather than participants. I considered myself to be the latter.

Frankly, I wasn't interested in sitting down and doing formal interviews or things like that. It isn't what I do.


But, I think if you were reading a bunch if blogs covering the convention and weaved them all together you probably got something out of it. No one particular blog could duplicate the efforts of a well-funded and well-staffed media outlet. But, blogs can do what they normally do, which is provide personal commentary, a bit of original reporting of not necessarily earthshattering things, and react to the other media . And, that's not all that much different from what CNN and MSNBC were doing .

Also, unlike Greenfield and Matthews I'm not forced to come up with enough inane analysis and to fill the time. If I don't have something at least mildly interesting (to me) to say then I don't have to bother...

New Daily Show Tonight

Rare new Friday night edition. I hear it covers the blogger extravaganza. I hid from the cameras when they showed up (well, remained in my high perch away from where they were filming) so I could avoid looking silly, but some other bloggers may be getting the treatment...

Factacular

Here we have another example of the media titans misrepresenting the content of media criticism in order to deflect it. From the letters section of romenesko:

From JIM MURPHY, executive producer, "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather": The entire staff of the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" was pretty miffed after reading Paul Krugman's column today that claimed not a SINGLE issues piece has aired on the big newscasts in the past two months. He must have missed the SIXTEEN different "issues" pieces we did over a four week period during that time, part of a series that will continue until the election. With the resources of the New York Times you would think that would be kind of difficult to miss. The Washington Post's media critic found the series so intriguing amid all the debate over campaign coverage he actually wrote an article about it. How can anyone take an editorialist's arguments seriously when he ignores some FACTS completely?

> GREG MITCHELL RESPONDS: For the life of me, I can't find in the Krugman column what Jim Murphy claims it says: that Krugman charges that "not a SINGLE issues piece has aired on the big newscasts in the past two months." The offending paragraph, disclosing Krugman's study of two months of transcripts, seems to be confined to ONE issue only -- Kerry's call to roll back taxes on the wealthy and re-direct that money "to cover most of the uninsured."


Mitchell is right, Krugman never claims that the media has produced no issues segments. Was Krugman unfair because he cherrypicked an issue? He would have been had he focused on only one network, but since he was covering the networks and cable news nets, it seems to be a fair criticism.

And, I read some of CBS's "issues" coverage - it's pretty vapid. A quick backgrounder with an undecided voter or someone not completely happy with either candidate, a one sentence summary of each candidate's proposal combined with one quote from them. Example, from 7/15:

OHN ROBERTS, anchor:

Jobs and the economy are much on the minds of voters this election year. So the Bush and Kerry plans to create good jobs for American workers are in the spotlight tonight, as Jim Axelrod continues our special Eye on America series, What Does It Mean To You?

IM AXELROD reporting:

This is not how Richard Sterner expected his life to turn out: dumping gravel and earning just about half of what he was making 10 years ago.

Mr. RICHARD STERNER (Laid-off Steel Worker): When I first started at Bethlehem Steel, the first thing that k--people would tell me, 'Don't worry, man. You're set for life.'

AXELROD: But those high union wages were one of the things that kept the steel industry from competing with less expensive foreign imports, and Bethlehem Steel was finally forced to shut down the furnaces, lock the gates and lay off thousands, including Sterner.

Your standard of living really changed when this place closed?

Mr. STERNER: You betcha.

It looks like the ruins from Rome or something.

AXELROD: And now, with so many industries moving their operations overseas, Sterner worries about future generations.

Mr. STERNER: Where are they going to work? All our young people in the United States right now, are they going to go to India to work? They can't work here. There's no jobs.

AXELROD: Richard Sterner is working; he's just not making much of a living. And what he's looking for is not only a candidate with a plan to create jobs, but the kind of jobs that can support a family, the kind of job he used to have.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: (From June 1) The economy is moving into high gear. The tax relief we passed is working.

AXELROD: President Bush's plan to create the kinds of jobs Sterner wants rests on continuing his tax cuts, which the president says will encourage business investment.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): (From April 9) When I am president, I promise you I am putting jobs first in America.

AXELROD: Senator Kerry's plan would end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas and use that money to cut the corporate rate for companies that create jobs at home. Sterner is on the fence, but leaning toward Kerry.

Mr. STERNER: If you want to give a company tax credits, give them a cr--a credit for starting more jobs here, building plants here, not in India.

AXELROD: But less than four months before the election, Sterner's choice is still not a done deal. He's willing to be convinced.

By either one of these guys?

Mr. STERNER: By either one of these guys.

AXELROD: The flames are out for good at Bethlehem Steel, but Richard Sterner's vote will go to the man with the plan to reignite the fire of American industry. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I'm Jim Axelrod for Eye on America.
facing, next.



...Ignatius leads us to some more recent CBS coverage. Here there are two obvious things wrong. First, they didn't bother to mention that the person profiled was the president of the New York Young Republicans (which they eventually changed).


But, more importantly the information about taxes is completely contentless. We have this couple who expected to have to write a big check for their taxes after getting married due to that horrible "marriage penalty." But, we're not told how much money they make. The marriage penalty doesn't hit every couple - in fact, only about 42% of couples pre-Bush tax cuts had to pay more taxes than they would if they were single. In addition, about half of married couples got a marriage bonus -- paying less in taxes than they would have if they were single. Since we don't know how much money this couple makes, we have no way of knowing if they would have been affected by the marriage penalty. We sure do hear a lot about that "singles penalty," don't we? In addition, we're told that they got a $4000 refund, which tells us nothing about whether, overall, they paid more or less in taxes post marriage than they did pre-marriage due to the change in their marital status, or even if they paid more or less taxes overall. It could just be a withholding issue. We don't even know what kind of tax refunds they had gotten in the previous year. All we know is that after hearing about the "marriage penalty" they expected to write a big check in April and they didn't.

CBS--truly craptacular.

Sick

I hobbled through the week flirting with illness and with minor to midlevel laryngitis. No longer flirting, with a fever, now barely able to talk. That'll teach me to not go eat Chinese food at 3AM when I have an 8:30 flight...

$8.9 Million in Two Days

The Kerry campaign pulled in $8.9 million over the internet in 2 days. That's pretty impressive. I do think one of the main advantages of collecting donations over the internet is that it faciliates people doing "impulse buying." For net-savvy people, at least, a couple clicks and a credit card number is much easier than writing a check, addressing and stamping an envelope, etc...

Applause Lines

A lot of people are remarking on the fact that Kerry tended to rush through applause lines and actually actively discourage applause on many occasions. It's fairly possible the the two standard explanations - a) he's not quite as skilled a public speaker to know how to handle such moments and b) he was rushing to finish by 11 so Dan Rather didn't get cranky - are the correct ones. But, when I was watching the speech I had a slightly different impression. His tendency swat away applause was so consistent throughout the speech that when I was watching the speech another option occurred to me. It seemed to me that he was trying to say - hey, no, wait, I'm giving a serious speech here. Applause is fine, but not the whooping-shouting-over-the-stop-we're-cheering-at-a-rock-concert applause . A strong speech, but a strong speech meant to be listened to, not whistled at.

Well, that was my take anyway.

Shorter John Zogby: Give It Up, George

The results from the latest Zogby Poll are in, and Dubya is in a heap o' trouble:

The most recent Zogby poll shows deeper trouble for President George W. Bush beyond just the horserace. Mr. Bush has fallen in key areas while Senator John Kerry has shored up numerous constituencies in his base. The Bush team's attempted outreach to base Democratic and swing constituency has shown to be a failure thus far, limiting his potential growth in the electorate.


The ugly details-

Among Hispanic Voters:
Kerry 69%
Bush 19%

Among Southern Voters:
Kerry 48%
Bush 46%

Viewed Favorably in the South:
Kerry 55%
Bush 55%

Approve of Bush's Job Performance in the South: 44%

US Headed in the Right Direction in the South: 43%

Among Young Voters (18-29) :
Kerry 53%
Bush 33%

Among Single Voters:
Kerry 69%
Bush 19%

In the Red States:
Kerry 46%
Bush 48%

In the Blue States:
Kerry 50%
Bush 38%

Among People Who Did Not Vote in 2000:
Kerry 50%
Bush 25%

Kerry speaks. Bush listens.

John last night:

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.

My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, group from group, region from region. Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America red, white, and blue. And when I am President, the government I lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground so that no one who has something to contribute will be left on the sidelines.


The Bush campaign today:

Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director, said the president will deliver a retooled stump speech during stops in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio that will pivot away from tough rhetoric against Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry and focus more on "laying out a vision" for the next four years.

"Strategically, it is an important month for us," said Devenish, who said this has been a long-planned strategy.

"We started the campaign by talking about what the country has been through, the war on terror and the economy, and now we'll talk about the vision for the next four years and the difference in visions for the future."

Bush's new refrain during this time will be "we've turned a corner, and we're not turning back," Devenish said.

My emphasis. Thanks, chica toxica.



Want to See Your Vice Preznit? Sign Here.

If you happen to be in New Mexico this weekend and you want to see the man who is paid with your tax dollars to be your Vice President you must sign this loyalty oath:

"I, (full name) ... do herby [sic] endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States." It later adds that, "In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush."


The response from you average New Mexican on the street: "I'm pissed."

"I'm outraged at this. I'm being closed off by my own government. It's crazy," said East Mountains resident Pamela Random, who added that she is an unaffiliated voter.

John Wade of Albuquerque said he initially signed the endorsement but was having second thoughts before he even left the office. Wade, a Democrat, said he returned his tickets and demanded to get his endorsement form back."It's not right for me to have to sign an endorsement to hear (Cheney) speak," Wade said. "I'm still pissed. This just ain't right."


Link a la Dan Froomkin.

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Meryl Streep wants to know:

At the Golden Globes in January, accepting an award for her work in Angels in America, she attacked President Bush's position on gay marriage; backstage afterwards, when asked what the biggest problem facing America was, she said, "It has three initials." Toning it down for the New Dramatists luncheon in May, she merely took a swipe at Bush's famous word-mangling. But at a Radio City Music Hall fundraiser for Senator John Kerry earlier this month, she pulled out the rhetorical stops. "During shock and awe, I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's personal saviour, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families of Baghdad," she said. "I wondered, 'Does Jesus understand collateral damage?' "

Berger

So, I've been watching CNN for a couple of hours and at least as far as I've seen they haven't yet mentioned that Sandy Berger was "cleared of all wrongdoing."

Back Home

Thanks to the gang for helping out while I was away. I'll have some more convention stories eventually that will at least be of minor interest.

Bush Ads

Someone told me about these awhile ago but I hadn't seen them yet. For quite some time the Travel Industry Association of America has been running ads - they're on about every break on CNN's Airport Network - with Bush in them. It's really almost impossible to tell that they're anything but Bush campaign ads until the end. Richard Roeper describes the ads here -- they've been running since 2001. The Dems really need to figure out if this is an FEC violation. If not, it's a big loophole.

Michael Savage says that Bush is "worthless"

Also, the former MSNBC host says that he spits on people like Bush. Okay, not exactly -- he's saying some delightful things about Maya Angelou. It's all really lovely, as you might imagine, but this jumped out at me:

They granted her a fake degree, an honorary deg -- an honorary degree you buy. They give you one, I earned a real one from a great university, so I know what it is to earn a real doctorate, and I respect 'em. But I spit on people with honorary degrees. They're worthless.


Who am I to argue with him?

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) -- President Bush returned to his old college stomping grounds and the city of his birth Monday to receive an honorary degree and address graduates at Yale University's commencement.

Berger Cleared of Withholding Material From 9/11 Commission

Covington heard it first on NPR, but there's nary a peep from major news sources, not yet anyway. But I just found it in a SCOT J. PALTROW WSJ article which was printed on page A6. The story's been out there. Where's the coverage?!!!!

Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

...

The conclusion by archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the commission.

Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said officials there "are confident that there aren't any original documents missing in relation to this case." She said in most cases, Mr. Berger was given photocopies to review, and that in any event officials have accounted for all originals to which he had access.

That included all drafts of a so-called after-action report prepared by the White House and federal agencies in 2000 after the investigation into a foiled bombing plot aimed at the Millennium celebrations. That report and earlier drafts are at the center of allegations that Mr. Berger might have permanently removed some records from the archives. Some of the allegations have related to the possibility that drafts with handwritten notes on them may have disappeared, but Ms. Cooper said archives staff are confident those documents aren't missing either.

Daniel Marcus, general counsel of the 9/11 Commission, said the panel had been assured twice by the Justice Department that no originals were missing and that all of the material Mr. Berger had access to had been turned over to the commission. "We are told that the Justice Department is satisfied that we've seen everything that the archives saw," and "nothing was missing," he said.


Come on, media. Let's hear from the rest of you.

Economic Growth Slows During Second Quarter

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of just 3% during the second quarter of this year.

The size of the slowdown caught economists by surprise. Many had been looking for GDP growth to come in around 3.8 percent in the second quarter. Even that would have been a sharp deceleration for an economy that had been growing at a 5.4 percent annual rate through the year ending in March.

It raised the issue of whether the economy, which Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said last week had encountered a soft patch in June, could be in danger of seeing growth falter even more in coming quarters.



The timing of this report is extremely poor for the Flightsuit President, since his administration delayed reporting that the federal deficit ballooned to a record $450 billion until today so that John Kerry could not mention it in his acceptance speech.

The administration was set to spin the record budget deficit figure by saying it was less than the amount they projected last February because of our robust economy.  Today's second quarter GDP figures shows that spin to be the lie that it is, but don't expect that to change their story.




How the Post Spins Massive Corruption

Earlier this month I cited Seymour Hersh's statement that the Coalition Provisional Authority had lost $1 billion.  The story hit both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post today.  Although both newspapers reported specific examples of massive corruption by high-level CPA officials, the Los Angeles Times' T. Christian Miller [my link is to the subscriptionless San Francisco Chronicle] pulled no punches:


A comprehensive examination of the U.S.-led agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars’ worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s inspector general.

The report is the most sweeping indication yet that some U.S. officials and private contractors repeatedly violated the law in the free-wheeling atmosphere that pervaded the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild the war- torn country.

[snip]

The report raises anew questions surrounding the occupation government under Paul Bremer, who turned over control in June to an interim government led by Iraqis.

Besides the more than two dozen criminal cases under investigation by the inspector general, approximately 35 others have been referred on to other U.S. agencies for further investigation, said James P. Mitchell, an inspector general spokesman.


 
How does The Washington Post's Ariana Eunjung Cha's story compare?  Punches were pulled:


Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr., in a letter accompanying the report, said the findings should be looked at in the context of the volatile environment in Iraq.  "The CPA faced a variety of daunting challenges, including extremely hazardous working conditions," he wrote, adding that he believes that the occupation authority’s "many successes" should also be recognized.

[snip]

The report said that the CPA comptroller created polices and regulations—"although well intended"—that did not ensure effective control over $600 million in Iraqi funds held as cash.

[snip]

The audit report highlighted some progress. It noted that the CPA had made tremendous strides in opening up the contracting process to competition. In 2003, the CPA awarded 66 percent of contracts on a no-bid basis. In 2004, less than one percent of contracts were in that manner. Meanwhile, those awarded contracts through full and open competition increased from 25 percent in 2003 to 99 percent in 2004.


 
The CPA lost $1 billion of your money, but - hey, they had the best of intentions!

UPDATE:  smarty jones reminds me that Atrios gave a pretty good accounting of the lack of accountability at the CPA [which ironically is the acronym for both the Coalition Provisional Authority and Certified Public Accountant].

Final Sightings

Joe and Francesca Hoeffel are currently sitting right in front of me as we await our flight back to Philadelphia. I'm sure they've had enough chit-chat for one week so I'll leave them alone. I'll also resist the temptation to reveal to the world whether they're flying in 1st or coach...

On the Ground

One thing that was apparent at the convention broadly defined, that is the convention plus the convention-week events that were going on throughout the week, is that people are mobilized and organizations are mobilized. For example, the League of Conservation Voters is organizing a massive canvassing project. Click here to sign up.

Morning After

Obviously I can't speak about how it played "out there," but it played really well in the hall. I think the media has exaggerated the degree to which people aren't thrilled with Kerry as a candidate. Consider Gail Collins, the liberal editor of the liberal New York Times's liberal editorial page:

Despite the fact that Mr. Kerry's great selling point was being a winner, the Democrats now regard him as, at best, a non-loser who can, with great effort, possibly be dragged across the finish line ahead of the other guy.


I think Democrats recognize that the polls are fairly close and elections are hard work. These Democrats are unspecified, but the ones I've talked to wouldn't characterize Kerry as a "non-loser."

But, to the extent that there was some trepidation by convention-goers about whether Kerry had the stuff, it was pretty much melted away by the speech.

It was interesting -- excerpts of the speech were released at about 5pm or so, and they definitely portrayed a very different speech than the one that was given. I got a copy at about 7:50 (even before Drudge!), and while I just gave it a quick skim, wanting to see it mostly fresh when he delivered it, I noticed that Kerry was taking a few risks -- it wasn't going to be a night of bland inoffensive platitudes.

To me, the whole thing was the ultimate judo move. What Kerry did was take everything the Republicans had been throwing at him and Democrats over the past few years, grab it and flip it over, including throwing their 2000 election campaign refrains back in their faces ("help is on the way", "restore honor and dignity"). It was particularly impressive how he managed to seize on the issue of "optimism" that the Bushies have been pushing and completely redefine it, to remind people what the concept of American optimism really is.

It was a strong speech. It was a proudly liberal speech. It laid out Kerry's policy ideas in general terms, though judging from the CNN coverage I'm watching the important issue is the length of the speech (shorter than had been advertised).

Good job.


...The Times actually gives some pretty good coverage for once, without Nagourney's snotty incoherency or Wilgoren's venom.

Reviews start coming in

From Dayton, OH:

Sipping Budweisers from plastic cups, the union crowd applauded when Kerry talked about creating more jobs and losing fewer to other nations. They winced when Kerry talked about a steelworker in Ohio who lost his job to outsourcing abroad. They nodded when Kerry talked about getting American workers a "fairer playing field."

"That's good, that's good," they said when Kerry talked about cutting taxes for the middle class. "He's defined himself to us in his speech."

"Talking about taxes and jobs, that's where it's at," said Wesley Wells, executive secretary director of the regional labor council here.


And yeah, you'd think a union hall would be a friendly place for Kerry, but as the story points out, he had to earn it from this crowd:

"While labor supported Democrat Al Gore in 2000, it was lukewarm at best. Of the 68,000 members tied to this AFL-CIO chapter, as many as a third of them voted for Bush in 2000 because of his stance on conservative issues such as guns.

"I think people got spoiled by prosperity under Bill Clinton," Wells said. "So they voted for Bush. Many of them are the younger ones who lost their jobs under Bush."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Open Thread 4

I was just thinking that 600 plus comments was enough for one thread

Kerry: energetic, optimistic and persuasive

And our next president.

Thread 3

Enjoy. Big John's Up...

...don't forget DNC Thursday!

Thread 2

Place is overfull, as it was yesterday. Stuck in my seat because they'll probably lock the place down soon, if they haven't already. Can't miss the balloon drop...

Convention Thread I

chat.


...shocked at how quiet things were for Lieberman. I don't much like the guy, and I know most of my readers don't either, but I thought he had more support out there generally. Obvious applause lines fell flat or were met with polite applause.

Spicy

Great moments in punditry, courtesy of Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Richard Holbrooke.

You have dealt with a lot of different cultures in the world. You know our own. Do you think the American people have an appetite for a spicy woman of a Latin background from Africa?

...


MATTHEWS: Well, I have to tell you, I personally—of course, I don‘t mind saying it. I find her very attractive. She‘s a European film star in the Jeanne Moreau mode or Anouk Aimee.

But I don‘t think everybody likes foreign movies like I love do. I

love the fact she paid tribute to the Peace Corps, especially where I was

in the Peace Corps right next to her country while she was still there in

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and right next to Mozambique. I love the fact she went to Witwatersrand, a liberal university, and fought against apartheid. It‘s all great stuff.

But coffee—you remember your first cup of coffee, how it was bitter. And then after a couple months, you go, I really can‘t live without this stuff. Is she an acquired taste?

...

HOLBROOKE: Kati came from Europe. My parents from Russia and Hitler‘s Germany.

MARTON: With nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your actual parents, not your grandparents?

HOLBROOKE: No, no, my parents. My father was a refugee from communism, my mother from Hitler.

MATTHEWS: I thought you were kind of a Waspy guy. I didn‘t know this

The Great White Hope

One of the media conversations I'm peripherally aware of (again, in this bubble I don't have the omniscient view of the media borg I usually do) is the "why do people call Obama black?" It's quite fascinating, really, that this is an issue. The same issue was raised when Halle Berry won her Oscar. I'll try to be kind to those raising the it, but they really seem to have a view of race as being genetic or "in the blood," which is, uh, a rather interesting view of race. The "one drop rule" still exists -- not because it's government imposed, but because if you look black people categorize you as black. Now, I look forward to a colorblind society but it doesn't exactly exist right now. Obama is black because people see him as black. The content of "black blood" in him is irrelevant. I highly doubt any of the people saying this didn't think of Obama as a "black man" before they discovered that one of his parents was white.

Look, this is why silly liberals like me say things like "race is a social construct." That isn't to say there aren't some persistent genetic differences between populations, but those populations don't match up very well with what we, as a society, call "race." And, those conceptions of "race" differ quite a bit from country to country.

But, as for why this issue is coming up now specifically, Obama himself says it much better than I ever could:

If I was arrested for armed robbery and my mug shot was on the television screen, people wouldn't be debating if I was African-American or not. I'd be a black man going to jail. Now if that's true when bad things are happening, there's no reason why I shouldn't be proud of being a black man when good things are happening, too.



I've never been a big fan of the term "African-American" as it ties a race into a geography, and it becomes increasingly confusing as immigration patterns become more complex. I'm happy to identify people in any way they want to be identified, but I do think the adoption of the term has been counterproductive in a number of ways. Is Theresa Heinz Kerry an African-American? Would an Afrikaaner immigrant to the US be? What do we call black Hatian immigrants, or black citizens of Britain? Once it becomes complicated, we default to the term which is really the primary issue - skin tone.

New Bush Plan for Unemployed

"Take a Prozac."

If You're Going to Fight With Those Things, You Better Use Some Protective Headgear

Another Republican in trouble:

South Carolina's agriculture commissioner was arrested Thursday on charges of taking at least $20,000 in payoffs to protect a cockfighting ring from the law.

Charles Sharpe, 65, was indicted on federal charges including extortion and money laundering. He was accused of accepting the money from an organization involved in breeding and raising birds for cockfighting in exchange for helping the group avoid legal trouble. Cockfighting is illegal in South Carolina.

Sharpe, a Republican, served in the state House from 1985 until 2002 and was chairman of the Agriculture Committee. In 2002, he was elected agriculture commissioner.

[snip]

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, called cockfighting barbaric and demanded Sharpe resign immediately.

``In exchange for thousands of dollars, he has allegedly used his connections and his stature not only to enrich himself, but also to provide protection for an organized criminal network of cockfighters,'' Pacelle said.
 

Brits Raise Warnings on Iraq and Afghanistan

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has issued its fifth report on the “war against terrorism”, warning that both Iraq and Afghanistan are on the verge of becoming failed states:

“Iraq has become a ‘battle ground’ for al Qaida, with appalling consequences for the Iraqi people. The coalition’s failure to bring law and order to parts of Iraq created a vacuum into which criminal elements and militias have stepped.”

“The insufficient number of troops in Iraq has contributed to the deterioration in security.


“The failure of countries other than the US and the United Kingdom to send significant numbers of troops has had serious and regrettable consequences, not only for the Iraqis but also in terms of the burden placed on UK resources and perceptions of the legitimacy of operations in Iraq.”

[snip]

“The alternative to a positive outcome in Iraq may be a failed state and regional instability.”

[snip]

“Fine communiqu├ęs and ringing declarations are no substitute for delivery of the forces and equipment which Afghanistan needs on the ground.”

“There is a real danger if these resources are not provided soon that Afghanistan – a fragile state in one of the most sensitive and volatile regions of the world – could implode, with terrible consequences.”

[snip]

At a news conference to launch the report, the committee chairman, Labour MP Donald Anderson, conceded that the invasion of Iraq had resulted in a heightened terrorist threat.

“It would be difficult to resist the argument that the threat has increased,” he said.




Reading around, I discovered another little Iraq info tidbit:  200 Jordanian truck drivers have been killed in Iraq by armed thieves or U.S. forces since the war began.  I wonder, are the number of foreign workers' deaths in Iraq compiled anywhere?

UPDATE:  The Pakistanis came through on the July Surprise.  Unfortunately for Bush, they appear to have captured Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in the Africa embassy bombings, rather than Osama bin Laden.  If the report is true, I'm happy to hear that another alleged terrorist has been taken out of circulation.  But I don't see this bumping Big John's speech off of the unseeing eye.

Thanks to bo for the link.

DNC Thursday

It's Big John's day. Let's read some "record for donations" headlines tomorrow. The DNC is the only group that can spend coordinated money on the Kerry campaign, and they can also make "independent" expenditures . Give them a warchest -- Kerry's on the public dole starting now. And, you know the Bush administration is going to take advan tage of their extra month of Bush campaign private expenditures.

Random Environment Thoughts

Wrote the following while attending an Enviornment Votes 2004 event....

"Worst administration ever" was Carol Browner's assessment of the Bush administration on the environment. It's hard to argue with that, though they haven't yet had a chance to do quite as much damage as they'd like. I don't talk about environmental stuff much, other than the basic "Bush is bad," because serious discussion is rather wonky and there really isn't much point of doing that. But, rhetorically I think there is an opportunity to reframe the issue in a way that can appeal to a broader chunk of voters.

At heart, most (though not all) environmental issues can be reframed as property rights and personal health issues. Do firms have the right to pollute your air, water, and soil or not? For various reasons (somewhat their own fault, probably, but largely due to the spin machine), the environmental movement has become associated with things that people don't perceive as affecting them personally - endangered species that they've never heard of, clumps of trees in countries they don't care much about, etc... I'm not trying to diminish the importance of any of these issues, I'm just pointing out that it's easier to get people to care about things which do affect them personally..

While Rush Limbaugh's listeners are probably convinced that mercury is good for you, most people don't really want their kids to be exposed to it. People like Big Media Matt don't really care about pristine landscapes, but they do care that they can't drink their tapwater.

Make people understand that it isn't just about abstract natural beauty, endangered insects, or the abstract if possibly very real coming global warming catastrophe. It's about cancer, asthma, and kids getting brain damage. Environmental issues have broad general support by people, but the specifics are too often associated with things which are too far removed from them. Find a way to bring it home.

Another point that Robert F. Kennedy frequently makes (and just did again), is that part of the problem is that we don't really have a "free market." He passed on a quip from Jim Hightower, "A free market is nice, we should try it some time." Now, this is a bumper sticker way to frame the issue which is slightly misleading under the rules of standard acceptable discourse about economic issues, but it's actually quite true. A true "free market" requires people/firms to pay the full costs of their economic activities. Polluting companies are getting something for free. In an alternative universe where issues actually mattered we could have a sensible debate about the appropriate means for dealing with this - regulations, emissions taxes, fake market-based "cap and trade" systems, etc... All of those methods have their imperfections, but the answer isn't "no government intereference." Even the conservatarian fantasy of Coase-theorem based solution of assigning property rights clearly and letting individual actors bargain was practical in more cases, it would still involve very costly enforcement and court fights over what would need to be incredibly complicated contracts (conservatarians frequently ignore the fact that people don't always honor their contracts, and costly legal battles then follow...) Government of a different sort, but still government.




Robert Kennedy just contrasted the press's treatment of the Mark Rich pardon with their lack of interest in the fact that the Bush administration has thrown out dozens of criminal cases against big donors related to violation of environnmental laws .

Elliot Spitzer said a couple of things which were interesting. He said they've "turned federalism against this administration," and informed the audience that during a speech to the Federalist Society he told them, "You've let a genie out of the bottle and you're going to live to regret it."






Department of Amusing Nitpicks

In a typically patronizing article about bloggers and blogging and that whole Internet publishing thing we're all so threatened by these days, CBS columnist John C. Dvorak allows that:

"... like the legions of Star Trek fans who pour over every episode frame-by-frame to find flaws, bloggers will, in fact, become the watchdog of the media, combing news reports, and keeping everyone honest. What's more important than that?"


Well, John, for starters, it's "pore over" not "pour over." Now, where did I put my Spock ears?

Prisoner Abuse: Interrogation, Torture, and the Law

The Crimes of War Project has announced the creation of a new series on abuse of prisoners detained by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq called "Prisoner Abuse: Interrogation, Torture, and the Law".  The new series includes:

  • A report card on U.S. policy as graded by leading international humanitarian law scholars from around the world. The evaluation will look at how U.S. actions in response to the war on terror have (or have not) complied with international standards.
  • An in-depth, on-the-ground investigation in Afghanistan and Pakistan into the conditions at U.S. detention facilities with first-hand accounts from released prisoners.
  • A timeline of events to determine who knew what when focusing on the reporting of allegations of wrongdoing compared with actions taken to investigate or remedy the situation.
  • Basic Q&A on the implications of humanitarian law on current events, including Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, zeroing in on the questions that remain outstanding.
  • A legal analysis of the photographs that have been released.
  • A map of detention centers around the world tracking allegations of abuses.

Check it out [click on Prisoner Abuse once you get to the Crimes of War site].

Press release link.

Lost Voice

I think Josh Marshall gets it just about right here. The truth about "anti-Bush rage" is, as he says, that it was an anger born from powerlessness. It was anger at Bush, sure, but more than that it was anger at the lack of representation in the political discourse - from politicians or from members of the media - for a large chunk of the population who never particularly felt themselves to be "radicals" or "on the fringe" or, hell, even "angry."

Since few with a prominent voice were taking Bush on, those with less prominent voices were doing it themselves. Without the megaphone that the mainstream media provides to amplify their sentiments, all that was left was turning up the volume .

People were trying to give a wake up call to the powers that be. And, until they started to listen (some), anyone who threw out a bit of red meat was seen as a breath of fresh air.

I think the speakers at the convention have, by and large, done an excellent job doing exactly what challengers need to do - making the case for change. The criticisms have been strong, but not over the top, and at this moment that's exactly how they should be.

Sorry for light posting, but just getting from place to place is taking forever right now and I have to go to lots of places...

Today on Holden's Obsession with the Gaggle

Trent Duffy subbed for Little Scottie (seen here playing golf with the boss) yesterday.  First, an update on the preznit's activities:

The President then taped some new ads for his reelection campaign, and for more details on that, I would refer you to the campaign headquarters in Arlington.

Following that, he went mountain biking for roughly one hour and 19 minutes, according to the President, and the ride was for about 18 miles.

 
So, according to the President, the President rode his bike for one hour, 19 minutes.  That means he rode for five minutes, fell off, then went back to his den to watch Sponge Bob, right?  [anonymous in nc provides Tom Toles' take on the ride.]

After his "bicycle ride", the preznit placed a call to one of his good buddies:

I have one international call to read out to you. The President today spoke with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for roughly 10 minutes.


Following that, a preview of the next Friday Night Surprise:

Q Trent, when do you expect to release your new budget deficit numbers? The congressional numbers suggest that the deficit could be $420 billion, which Gene Sperling says is a new record for fiscal mismanagement and deficit spending.

MR. DUFFY: Well, let's remember what caused the deficit. The economy and the recession took a great toll on federal revenues. Obviously, the President's response to that recession was an aggressive economic program based on tax relief. And then the terrorists hit us, and that required some appropriate spending increases, not only to fight the global war on terror, but to protect the homeland.

[Duffy-fluffing editted out]

But the President is on track to cut the deficit in half over the next five years through a combination of continued economic growth, as well as serious spending restraint.

Q Trent, when do you expect to release those numbers?


MR. DUFFY: You can talk with OMB for an exact date. I know they're going through the final preparations now.

Q Trent, there are some who say the numbers have been delayed in their release -- I guess they were due on the 15th -- so as not to give the Democrats any more fodder during their convention.


 
A question to which Mr. Duffy responded with the understatement of the centruy:

MR. DUFFY: I think the Democrats have shown that they have lots of fodder for their convention.


New Jobless Thursday

Add 345k to the New Jobless rolls, up 4k over last week:

In the week ending July 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 345,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000. The 4-week moving average was 336,250, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average of 337,250.


Consumer spending, which drives our economy, is down for the second straight month:

The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that the U.S. economy cooled off in June and July as consumer spending, especially on autos, slowed significantly after a big surge in early spring.
It's time for some new economic leadership in this country.  Shoot, I'd settle for any leadership at all.

Income Falls 9.2% During First Two Years of Bush

This is not too surprising, the dotcom bubble burst and many people lost high-paying jobs.  But what has George Bush done to alleviate the situation, other than tax cuts for the rich?  Two unprecedented years of falling incomes elicited no response from the administration.  As far as the economy is concerned, he's still reading My Pet Goat.

The total adjusted gross income on tax returns fell 5.1 percent, to just over $6 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average incomes declined even more, by 5.7 percent.

Adjusted for inflation, the income of all Americans fell 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2002, according to the new I.R.S. data.

[snip]

Before the recent drop, the last time reported incomes fell for even one year was in 1953. The only other time since World War II that the I.R.S. reported an interruption in income gains was from 1947 to 1949, but that was because of changes in the tax law at the time that affected how income was reported rather than an actual fall.


Coolest Celebrity Sighting

The number of celebrities I've seen over the past few days is quite stunning (both political and "hollywood.") But, seeing Steve Buscemi cruising around the convention was truly cool.

Surreal Moment of the Night

So, there was a "blogger party" tonight which was actually pretty cool. Some of the organizers thought it'd be cute to slap "Atrios" nametags on many of the attendees. The surreal moment was seeing James Taranto wearing one...

But, anyway, I was locked out of the hall for the Edwards speech. The place was overcrowded and I was out in the perimeter on the Majority Report. Saw about 2/3 of it on a monitor. I wouldn't say home run, but almost a triple.

Open Thread

For the love of John Edwards, keep the party going ...

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Hope is on the way

John Edwards hit a homerun!

"This is America where everything is still possible." One America.

Edwards is up

Send it out of the park, John.

Not for the Media

Jesse has a post which you should go read and then come back.

One thing that I really want to stress is just how much this event is not a canned television event. It's one of those things you always hear about conventions, that they're just a canned event, that they're a show put on for the audiences at home. It's shocking how not true that is. Sure, they're timing the event to fit in with the hour or so of network coverage that they've been granted, because while a football game can cut into the Sunday night lineup, something stupid like this can't. But, otherwise this is a show for the people who are here. And, if the media don't like the "canned" version, they're free to cover it any way they want, which appears to involve interviewing people in funny hats.

Rumor

I might as well report one since that's what we do supposedly. I hear Falwell may be giving the opening invocation at the RNC hatefest...

...oops. I did indeed hear it from John Aravosis. I didn't see it on his blog when I checked before. Must have missed it (thanks to penalcolony).

Mainstream Bloggers

I know there's nothing more boring than blogging about blogging and blogging about the media covering the bloggers covering the media covering... well, you know.

But, still, this is really about the media and not the meta-meta-blogging.

It's really quite fascinating how the media is treating the bloggers and blogging. First, they spend a lot of time talking about how we don't have "editors" or "fact-checkers" and how you just can't reusr that stuff you read in the internet, especially from those pesky bloggers. Who remembers this from Judy Woodruff?

WOODRUFF: Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode. His office says the senator does not pay $150 to get his hair cut, as claimed by Matt Drudge on the Internet. The Boston Herald quotes a source as saying that Kerry pays more like $75 to get what some have called the best hair in the Senate.
The Drudge Report, which we’ve not yet confirmed, says Kerry’s do is the work of a stylist at the chic Cristophe salon. And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles. Clinton learned then what Kerry may know now. Even hair can be a cutting issue when you are or want to be president.

So, Judy feels free to push unconfirmed information from Drudge, and remind viewers of the time that Clinton held up traffic at LAX for hours. She didn't say that he held up traffic, of course, but that's the only reason it was a story at the time. Except that, it wasn't actually true.


Then, of course, we're chastized for spreading rumors. Who remembers this?

BLITZER (question to King, Wednesday, 3/24/04): What administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president. Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?

Blitzer later offered up a bullshit non-excuse excuse for that, which you can read about at the link.


So, what's the media's next step? Well, shower a lot of attention on a self-described gossip blog which sometimes makes things up (Wonkette). Look, I like Wonkette and enjoy reading it, and given the many many media interview requests I've blown off trust me I'm not envying the attention. It's just Wonkette isn't really representative of blogs in any meaningful way. Happy for Wonkette getting attention as Wonkette, rather silly that she's getting attention as a "blogger."


And, then, they start their own blogs which have only the absolute worst aspects of blogs -- overly self-referential, no original content, an obsession with unfunny snark, and an adulation of uber-hip cynicism.. You know, sort of like Kausfiles. See CNN and MSNBC.

It's sort of funny seeing the media try to grab a medium, insult all the people who are currently doing it, and then turn around and do it really really really badly themselves. But, hey, I'm not sure why blogging should be much different...

(sightky edited, 7/28)

Edwards Speech Story

Only posted about 7 hours early.

Mohamed El Baradei Returns to Iraq

IAEA head returns to complete his mission, which had been so rudely interrupted by Bush's bombs:


Agence France-Presse quotes ElBaradei as saying the IAEA's return "is an absolute necessity, not to search for weapons of mass destruction, but to draft the final report on the absence of WMDs in Iraq so that the international community can lift the [remaining] sanctions on Iraq." The director general also stated that inspectors "will complete the mission [the UN had] assigned to them before the invasion."


But what's this?  Remember reports earlier this month concerning the removal of uranium from Iraq by the US of A?  Looks like that action may have violated international law:


Questions have also been raised about the legality of last month's transfer of low-grade uranium and other radioactive materials, airlifted from Iraq to the United States.

Confirming the transfer in a July 6 statement, the US Department of Energy asserted the mission was "consistent with [US] authorities and relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions."

However, the Associated Press reports that an unnamed UN official questioned the legality of the move, saying the nuclear material belonged to Iraq and was under the control and supervision of the IAEA. The United States did not notify the UN Agency of the transfer until June 30, after the joint effort between the US departments of Defense and Energy was completed and the materials secured at undisclosed locations in the United States.

''The American authorities just informed us of their intention to remove the materials, but they never sought authorization from us,'' IAEA official Gustavo Zlauvinen told the AP. 


IRAQ UPDATE:  Saddam's lawyers say that their client has suffered a stroke:

"Our information is that he's in very poor health. We understand from the International Committee of the Red Cross that our client has had a brain scan to discover how badly he has been affected by the stroke. We believe he could die because of his health problems."

Who knows if this is true.  Ahmed Chalabi's nephew Salem has not allowed Saddam's lawyers to visit him, so perhaps they hope some additional attention will help them to gain access to their client.  I can think of at least one president and one prime minister who may hope that Saddam never has his day in court.




Hold On Chimpy, Friday's Coming

I smell a Friday night press release coming:

The White House will project soon that this year's federal deficit will exceed $420 billion, congressional aides said, a record figure certain to ignite partisan warfare over President Bush (news - web sites)'s handling of the economy.

[snip]

White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton said the report will be issued when it is ready, and offered no date. Friday will be a day after the Democratic National Convention ends — a release date that would prevent presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites), D-Mass., and others at the gathering from citing its figures to criticize Bush.

 
Hmmmmm.  Record deficit revealed just over four months prior to an election.  How can you spin that, spokesman Kolton?

[T]he White House was ready to emphasize that the figure is well below the $521 billion it projected for this year last February, and tie it to improvements in the economy.

"It is hard to disregard the strong progress made on the economy and our fiscal situation," [White House budget office spokesman Chad] Kolton said Tuesday.


Clever boy, claim that the record deficit is less than what you said it might be five months ago.  Think that will work?

Democrats have said Bush purposely overestimated this year's budget gap so he could take credit for improvement when the real figures came in.

"The new estimate ... will set a new record of fiscal mismanagement and deficit spending," said Kerry economic adviser Gene Sperling.


 

Oh, well.  At least the price of oil is coming down like Bandar Bush promised, right?

Crude prices shot to a 21-year high Wednesday as markets reacted to a threat by Russian authorities to shut down most of the production from that country's largest oil company.

D'oh!!

The G-8 Follies: Is We Safer Yet?

Surprise, surprise. Government agents infiltrated protest groups at last month's Group of 8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia:


In a formal post-G-8 security briefing Monday at a meeting of Georgia police chiefs in Savannah, state Homeland Security Director Bill Hitchens said as many as 40 undercover officers infiltrated the protest groups and posed as demonstrators.


Unfortunately, the 40 undercover officers selected for this vital mission were all named Clouseau:


"There were a few people at the rallies and marches that looked like law enforcement," [protest organizer Robert Randall] said. "The handcuffs tucked into their back pockets was a pretty good indication of who they were."


Then there was that little lack of authority problem:


Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said at the meeting that security plans hit a snag June 10 when about 70 protesters marched on the 4-mile F.J. Torras Causeway linking St. Simons and Sea islands to the mainland. The summit lasted from June 8-10.

Federal officials told police to keep pedestrians off the causeway and posted signs saying none were allowed. The problem, Doering said, was he had no authority to prohibit walkers unless they blocked traffic.

"A lot of people including the Secret Service and State Patrol assumed ... that the causeway was closed to pedestrians," Doering said. "Even though signs were actually posted, well, legally it wasn't."


All told, we had an estimated 20,000 security officers surrounding Sea Island, protecting the G-8 participants from 350 protestors. Our national security depends upon our ability to shield Dear Leader from these dreaded t-shirts [note: anti-Bush wear may not be workplace-safe].

Hemmer

Interviewing Michael Moore on CNN:

HEMMER: I've heard people say they wish Michael Moore were dead.

Shove It

The fact that the media covers for Scaife's ridiculous little Western PA rag while professing shock and horror that Theresa Heinz Kerry showed more restraint than I would have when she told their guy to "shove it" is yet another example of how morally bankrupt they all are. Conason:

A few days after the Massachusetts Senator and his wife celebrated their second Christmas together, the Tribune-Review ran a column suggesting that Mr. Kerry had been enjoying a "very private" relationship with another woman. There was no byline on the story and no evidence to support the salacious insinuation. There was nothing to it, in fact, except pure malice.

When fresh accusations about her husband’s fidelity erupted earlier this year in the right-wing press, Ms. Heinz Kerry could scarcely have been surprised that the smear’s most eager purveyors included Internet sites financed by Mr. Scaife and his family foundations. Those "news sources" have also impugned Mr. Kerry’s patriotism, maligned his military service and distorted his voting record. They happen to be operated by the same discredited scribblers who once tried to convince America that Bill and Hillary Clinton were murderers and drug smugglers.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kerry herself is hardly exempt from the angry fantasies emanating from Mr. Scaife’s strange universe. Last spring, a Scaife-funded "research group" sent out a study that accused her of covertly financing violent radicals of various kinds, including Islamists, through the straitlaced Heinz foundations that she controls. There was absolutely no basis for that tale—as the right-wing sleuths could have learned by making a single phone call. The Heinz money they had "traced" through a San Francisco group had actually gone in its entirety to support anti-pollution projects in Pennsylvania.

Those are only a few brief examples among dozens. The Scaife disinformation conglomerate has churned out nastiness about Ms. Heinz Kerry by the carload for years, and finally she talked back. The guy she scorched last Sunday was meant to take that message back to his boss in Pittsburgh—a man who has deserved the brunt of such refreshing candor for a long, long time.


Of course, many Scaife-stories end up bubbling up into the mainstream press, who happily report them while chastizing bloggers for spreading "rumor" and not "fact-checking."

Unbelievable.

Pens

Awhile back, responding to a request by a former blogger who is currenty in Afghanistan, a bunch of you generously sent many pens to be distributed to children there. An emailer just wrote in to tell me that he just received a credit from Office Max, though which many of us ordered the pens, for the amount and he's wondering if this is some odd error or if Office Max has done this for other people as well. Anyone?

CNN's Truth Squad Lies

CNN says Brent Bozell is "part of the truth squad," and then lets him lie and say that Ken Lay slept in the Clinton White House. 13 times.

Here's a little truth squad for CNN: Number of times Ken Lay slept in the White House when Clinton was in office? 0.

Spending Your Money in Iraq

Yesterday I wrote a little piece about Iraq in which I briefly mentioned that the U.S. is planning to spend $60 million dollars to get 30,000 "corrupt, violent or useless" members of the New [and Improved] Iraqi Police Force to resign.

This left me to wonder about what other creative ways the Bush administration might develop to spend our tax dollars in Iraq.

Well, how about that bribery program?

Even patrol leaders now carry envelopes of cash to spend in their areas. The money comes from brigade commanders, who get as much as $50,000 to $100,000 a month to distribute for local rehabilitation and emergency welfare projects through the Commanders Emergency Response Program.

There are few restrictions on the expenditures, and officers acknowledge they consider the money another weapon.

[snip]

"I'm trying to give them something to do rather than take shots at someone," said Sinclair, who said he gets $50,000 every three or four weeks to distribute. "It's not bribery. It's priming the pump. And it works well."


 
Pretty cool, huh?  I'm sure that none of that easy cash winds up in the black market or in the hands of the insurgents our men and women are fighting, aren't you?  I imagine a portion of this slush fund finds it's way into the pockets of our underpayed and overworked soldiers, so it's not all bad.

Oh, and let's not forget Halliburton.  Looks like Dick Cheney's company is as careful with government equipment as, say - Florida is with their electronic voting records:

Halliburton Co. has lost $18.6 million of government property in Iraq, about a third of the items it was given to manage, including trucks, computers and office furniture, government auditors claim.

[snip]

"This occurred because [Halliburton subsidiary] KBR did not effectively manage government property," Bowen wrote. "As a result, we projected that KBR could not account for 6,975 property items from an inventory of 20,531 valued at $61.1 million."
Kudos to rorschach for being the first one on the bribery story.

Florida May Be the Next Florida

Oops!  Florida election officials have lost nearly all the electronic voting records from their 2002 gubernatorial election:

Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

[snip]

"This shows that unless we do something now - or it may very well be too late - Florida is headed toward being the next Florida," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the [Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition].

Hey, Florida - ever hear of backing your data up on CD?  Coupled with Jeb's new law prohibiting manual recounts of electronic votes and his continued attempts to disenfranchise non-Hispanic felons and - well, I think you can see where this is going.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Langevin

Okay, now that we have an anti-choice speaker in primetime, can we stop spreading the "democrats won't let anti-choice people speak!!!" nonsense?

Obama

Well, I'll just state the obvious -- the rising star is exceeding even the inflated expectations.

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that's what this election is about.

(quote corrected, thanks to jeff. That's what I get from stealing stuff off of Kos's site...)

Here's his site. He probably doesn't need the money to win this campaign, but it will make him a kingmaker.

Dean Speech

Now I feel like a real journalist. I've read the speech, before he's even given it! Maybe I should write up an advance story about it, as the wire reporters are no doubt doing write now. Let's try it...

July 26 (AP) -- Extreme left Bush-hater Howard Dean, addressed the delegates at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Continuing with the Bush-bashing theme set early by the very liberal Hillary Clinton, Dean, clad in a Che Guevara T-shirt, declared that Bush is "The Great Satan," and called for the immediate nationalization of the means of production...

Popping Ballons

So, the convention ceiling is of course filled with the customary balloons, awaiting their drop. I hear Ralph Nader is going to sneak in and trigger them early (joke). But, the disconcerting thing is that occasionally they pop, just loudly enough to sound like something other than a balloon popping...

Dean to Hannity

Last night:

[Y]ou should watch "Outfoxed." It's a great movie that says why people like you say things like that on this television station.

What's the Story

One question the media seems to shy away from is this: What makes about 20,000 people (excluding the media) people attend this thing for 4 days. What makes people get excited about this? What makes this fun for people? While we hear a lot about people being turned off about politics, a lot of people are actively engaged. A lot of people are giving money. A million people have donated to John Kerry. A small percentage of the population, sure, but still a lot of people. You can't say people are donating out of some narrowly defined perception of self-interest -- people are donating because they want to feel involved.

Here, people are excited. Sure, there's the usual layer of cynicism and a lot of celebrity spotting. But, remember that most of the celebrities are politicians. They're the rock stars here.

There does seem to be a sense here that everything is coming together in the right way. People expect to win. I know the theme of the week is "we are so damn united!" but there's something genuine about it. It isn't the "anybody but Bush" idea that people keep pushing either.

About 14 months ago it was probably CW that the candidate would be Kerry. It was what I thought, anyway. Then the Iraq war came along and messed things up, Dean roared his might roar, and Kerry was in the single digits. I think I declared him toast at some point in December.

Overall, there's a greater sense that the details matter less than the big picture. And, the big picture is that Kerry is a candidate who can win, and he'll be a pretty damn good president. Optimism is spilling over in other places -- the NC Dems were convinced that Erskine Bowles will take the Senate seat there, which would be a big coup.

On the whole, things feel pretty okay. But, maybe that's because I've read/watched almost no media since I've been here.

Kerry/Hoeffel Rally

Rally on the Art Museum steps today. Donate some scratch!

Inside the Mind of Bill O'Reilly

The guy is fascinating, really. I went to an even sponsored by The Creative Coalition at which O'Reilly was on a panel with some celebrities, members of congress, etc..., discussing what to do about funding for arts in education in the country. Listening to O'Reilly talk is just fascinating. He is 100% convinced of everything he says, even when he's just pulling things out of his ass. It's almost impossible to argue with him, because there's virtually no logical connection between one statement and the next.

By the end, I think a reasonable summation of his final argument was: The reason there isn't enough education funding for the arts is that celebrities have shamefully failed to use their powers of public persuasion to convince people to support more arts funding, and this is a travesty about which they should be horribly ashamed even though more federal arts funding would be a bad thing.

What a Load

Jesse's right. John King's full of it. Gore's speech was very well-received.

The Enemy of Thoughtfulness

Tired of playing nice with Georgie and his Band of Thugs?  So is Richard Dreyfuss:

In a speech that went on so long that California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres began to hover nervously at his side, Dreyfuss called Bush ``arrogant and incompetent'' and said ``his appeal to patriotism is simplistic and thuggish.''

Dreyfuss added, ``He is the enemy of thoughtfulness.''

``I wasn't raised in George Bush's America, and I wouldn't be comfortable in it,'' Dreyfuss said. ``In this America, you point toward a sin and you are pointed at. You are the irritant not the gatekeeper. You smell funny -- sinister funny. Terrorist-friendly. You mention due process and the silence is not respectful, it is ominous.''

The delegates gave him a standing ovation, which led Dreyfuss to give a few last remarks, urging them to counter the Republicans' every attack and ``be consistent and in their face.''

Iraq Update

Atrios forgot to re-key the locks, so how about some rapid-fire blogging until 5?

Looks like the hostage is now the weapon of choice in Iraq:

A Jordanian company working for the U.S. military decided Tuesday to withdraw from Iraq, complying with demands of kidnappers threatening to kill two employees, even as a senior Egyptian diplomat returned to work a day after being released by militants.

We're going to need a scorecard with groups like The Lions of Allah Brigade, Group of Death, Islamic Army, and The Holders of the Black Banners grabbing any foreigner they see.

Meanwhile Muqtada al-Sadr is flexing his muscles in the south:

In the southern city of Basra, about 50 armed members of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's personal militia snatched about 20 people Monday during raids against people selling and drinking alcohol, police said. The detainees were later handed over to police. During the raids, militiamen dragged men out of their houses and smashed cartons of canned drinks, apparently beer, Al-Arabiya TV showed in broadcast footage.

The US Army is trying out a new strategy in Fallujah:  extortion.  They're dropping leaflets over the city that say:

If the security situation does not improve you will lose $102-million, which is already allocated and approved. This amount of money will be transferred to peaceful and open towns.

We ask the citizens of Fallujah to make way for multi-national forces to start the rebuilding of Fallujah, and to make way for American forces to move freely in the city and make real estimates for construction.

And why not?  We're already planning to pay 30,000 "corrupt, violent or useless" members of the New Iraqi Police Force $60 million to go away.  Your tax dollars at work.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home