2004/11/29

A film review - the TV movie The Reagans

The Reagans – the TV movie

Actress and activist Barbra Streisand, whose husband James Brolin plays President Reagan in the movie, responded to a report by Drudge that she had a hand in its purported anti-Reagan slant.

On her official website she insists she has had nothing to do with it and spent only four hours on the set.

"What is going on . . . is that the Republicans, who deify President Reagan, cannot stand that some of the more unpleasant truths about his character and presidency might be depicted in the movie, along with his positive actions," Streisand says. "This is what the Right Wing does when they are faced with a truth that is not 100% positive for their side — they spread vicious lies and attacks and scream and yell until they get their way."

Hmm, so Streisand responded to a report in the famously inaccurate and unreliable Drudge Report by stating that she "had a hand" in making "The Reagans" a supposedly anti-Reagan movie, but of course we don't get an exact quote and naturally she and her website say no such thing. Most interesting. The Drudge Report is an Internet site, meaning any comments are likely to have been typed, so I wonder if someone calling "herself" Barbara Streisand made this mysterious and oh-so-convenient statement.

Scenes where Ronald Reagan declares himself to be the Anti-Christ (After the killing of 262 Marines in Lebanon) and declares that he is not concerned about AIDS because “they that live in sin shall die in sin.” either do not sound credible to my ears or have been admitted to have been fabrications. Neither scene appears in the DVD of the movie

Scenes where Nancy Reagan is seen as a control freak and where she consults an astrologer for all sorts of decisions were things I heard about at the time and which seem accurate to me. Ronald Reagan getting the idea for Star Wars from a 1940 movie “Murder in the Air” does repeat a story I heard at the time, but appears only partly right. The idea of shooting down a missile with a missile goes back to the Eisenhower Administration, was seriously debated in the 1967 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and was finally dropped by the Nixon Administration and the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972. I remember a college textbook in 1978 covering the ABM idea as a system that was feasible, but being held back because it wasn't considered worth the cost of building it. I read a pamphlet in 1982 advocating a return to the ABM idea and Reagan announced the return of the notion in 1983. So “Murder in the Air” may have inspired Reagan personally, but the missile defense idea is one which promises decades of research contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars to lucky arms manufacturers, which explains why it's still going despite the disappearance of the Soviet missile threat.

The Washington Times declares that

For years, liberal academics have tried to explain how the Soviet Union collapsed without giving credit to the U.S. president who challenged communism head on and won.

They also complain that:

...the movie does not give [Reagan] due credit for reversing the ascendancy of the Soviet Union...

I disagree with this assessment as the movie shows Reagan dealing with an apparently evil Gorbachev (Who was really the guy who made the Soviet Union collapse) and then has a scene where Reagan is informed that Gorbachev “blinked” and decided to allow the development of “Star Wars” and sign an arms-control treaty. As this is really the only time the movie goes into the end of the Cold War, I'm not sure why it doesn't count as giving “due” credit. The movie could have lied and said that Reagan's arms buildup had something to do with the collapse, but it doesn't give us any particulars.
The Washington Times also complains that Reagan is not given credit for the "good" economic times during and after his administration. The economists at CEPR disagree that Reagan brought in good times for America. They point out that the twenty-year period 1980-1999 lagged significantly behind the earlier twenty-year period of 1960-1979. Reagan ushered in a period of much higher inequality and much lower growth whose negative effects can be felt to this day.

Of course, as the Television Academy nominated the TV movie for seven awards and noted archly that:

Critics charged, before having seen the project, that it cast the former president as being overly influenced by the first lady, that Reagan turned his back on the AIDS crisis, and that the couple had little time for their children. (italics mine)

All of which had been alleged by other news accounts during Reagan's two terms in office. These allegations were not made up out of thin air. It is a well-documented fact that Reagan did not mention AIDS even once, even though many thousands of people died from it during his time in office. The family headed by Ronnie and Nancy was a certifiable mess. A bigger bunch of screw-ups and whiners and losers is hard to remember. I remember the comment on Nancy's discussion of her daughter Patti Davis in My Turn. The comment was in the nature of: "Good Lord! How can a mother talk about her daughter in such a manner?" Granted, Patti was apparently quite a handful and their troubles with each other started way back when, but there's still a concept of blood loyalty. A parent should never badmouth her child in such a manner.

What really bothers me about the movie is that the wars in Central America, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, took up a huge amount of the Reagan Administration's time and attention, yet are mentioned only glancingly as the other part of the Iran-Contra scandal.
The scandal is described as Oliver North having gotten Robert McFarlane to take a cake over to Iran during a Muslim holiday that calls for fasting during the day. First off, McFarlane was North's supervisor, not the other way around. It is never the fault of a junior person when a senior person takes their advice. Second, the scandal, as far as Congress was concerned, was neither the Reagan Administration's Iranian policy, nor their Nicaraguan policy, but the connection between the two, the mixing of cash and personnel between the two covert operations. Congress was also unhappy about the Administration getting and spending money without Congress' approval, a direct violation of the doctrine that Congress exercises the "power of the purse". Those who know British history know that taking the power of the purse away from the King was the major element in the rise of Parliament.
The October Surprise investigation was canceled not when the evidence revealed that it was all a big fuss over nothing, but when Bill Clinton came into office and presumably wanted to make peace with the people who had just lost the election. The October Surprise was the allegation that Ronald Reagan, the elder George Bush, Bill Casey (Later to be made head of the CIA) and many others communicated with members of the Iranian government to hold back the hostages until Reagan was able to win the 1980 election and take the oath of office. The movie describes Reagan's feelings as "The Iranians have humiliated both Carter and me." An odd assertion as I was in Washington DC then and I don't remember anyone making any comments to that effect.
The timing of Reagan's oncoming senility is also a most interesting coincidence. He starts losing it right before people in Reagan's cabinet begin plotting the second contact with the Iranians, the hostage exchanges of the late 1980s. This very conveniently exonerates him from any involvement with the scandal. The movie quite accurately shows that Reagan's speechmaking ability was the last to go. He was able to make good, clear, humorous speeches right up until the end.
In Robert Scheer's book, With Enough Shovels, Scheer details the many horrifying statements Reagan made about nuclear war being winnable and survivable. Yes, Reagan came out after that and made unequivocal statements about how nuclear war was something to be avoided, but I suspect that his own loose statements were the major motivation behind the Nuclear Freeze Movement.

Garrison Keillor (Lake Woebegone, A Prairie Home Companion) has made a career out of talking about the simple, earnest rural folk who may not be as smart as the fancy city-slickers, but whose hearts are pure and intentions good. Bob Newhart's second series (1982-1990) also focused on the simple but good-hearted New Hampshire folks who generally had more common sense than fancy city folks did. If the writers of The Reagans had been intentionally trying to make Reagan resemble Keillor's and Newhart's simple, earnest, rural-type person, they clearly didn't really "get it" as they had Reagan make that mean comment about people suffering from AIDS deserving their fate.
But as 1. Their Reagan is presented as not terribly bright 2. Is nevertheless sincere, honest and good-hearted 3. Surrounded by cyncial city-slicker types (The Republicans, who have to work to get him away from the Democrats and who succeed because they have a better philosophy of government) 4. Makes Forrest Gump-style simple pronouncements that usually turn out to be wiser than even he suspects and 5. Who usually turns out to be right.
As I've pointed out, making Reagan fit this archetype requires that Americans forget an immense amount about Reagan's governance. It's also necessary to maintain the illusion that his policies usually turnd out right. They didn't, but the Cold War did end around the time his presidency did. As the Washington Times suggests, I have to go into a good bit of detail to convince someone that the Cold War would have ended about then anyway. It's not all that hard to convince folks that only Reagan's policies could have accomplished that, especially as memories fade in our a-historical society.

It's these omissions and the Keillor-Newhart-Gump themes that make me strongly suspect that Barbara Streisand is telling the truth, that she had no influence whatsoever on the movie and that her husband James Brolin was given the script on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.


2004/11/28

Bizarre statement from our president

I gotta say, my reaction to this was “Whuuh?” At the opening of the Clinton Library:

Bush appeared distracted, and glanced repeatedly at his watch. When he stopped to gaze at the river, where secret service agents were stationed in boats, the guide said: "Usually, you might see some bass fishermen out there." Bush replied: "A submarine could take this place out."

What the #$@%?!?!?! What is with this guy? This is not a military man's mature, considered assessment. This is the assessment of a teenager with a smattering of military knowledge. It strikes me more as the paranoid delusions of raging drunkard than the careful, measured estimates of a responsible adult. How in the heck is a submarine supposed to get all the way up the Mississippi, a journey of about 700 to 800 miles along one of the most heavily-traveled rivers in the world? If one looks at a Mississippi Riverboat, one might notice something interesting about the hull, it's flat!! Why would that be? Perhaps because there are a great many sections where the river is shallow, where a boat with a deep draught can't go. The Wikipedia makes it clear that the river has undergone extensive renovations streching back to the early 1800s and that there is a mandate to keep a nine-foot-deep channel open for commercial traffic. Yes, that means that for a grown man to expect a submarine to travel up the Mississippi to take out a library would indeed, be completely insane.

2004/11/25

DNC Chairmanship & Democratic Party

Senator John Kerry surprised Democrats today by aggressively lobbying for Governor Tom Vilsack to be the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The post for which elections will be held in February, seems a shoo-in for former Governor Howard Dean. Kerry's opposition appears to be about the only thing that could keep Dean from the DNC leadership.

The reason why this is important is that the DNC for the next four years can be one of two things. It can be a general platform for reviving the Democratic Party and bringing them back to their grassroots, fundamental purposes or it can just be a re-election vehicle for one man, however good a candidate that man might be. Note that if it does the first, it can very well be an effective vehicle for electing Kerry to the presidency anyway, but if it's the second, it will only serve a very limited purpose and will be using the same-old, same-old Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Joe Leiberman-type strategies of trying to out-Republican the Republicans.

As progressives have noted over the last 20-30 years, these DLC-type tactics have had a very unimpressive record of success. Sure, Clinton won two terms, but as conservatives never tire of (correctly) pointing out, Clinton was a minority president who never would have won without Ross Perot taking votes away from Bush I and then Bob Dole. Furthermore, Clinton had no “coattails”. Congressional candidates could not win by saying they were followers of Clinton. Democrats lost Congress quite some time ago and don't appear to be able to get it back.


What Howard Dean offers the DNC is to get progressives back into the driver's seat of the Democratic Party. Kerry seems to prefer more of the same tired, old, failed DLC-type tactics that even lost seats during the 2002 mid-term elections. For an opposition party to lose seats during mid-term elections is so rare that all of those times can be counted on one hand.

Dean was clever enough to recognize the importance of language. The Republicans liked to call it “Tax Relief”, implying that taxes were at unbearably-high levels. Dean called it simply “Tax Cuts”, implying that something legitimately defensible was being reduced. Sounds simple once it's been pointed out, but many Democrats continued to attempt the losing strategy of using Republican language to oppose Republican policies.

It was apparent during the attack of the Swift Boat Veterans in August that the Democratic Party urgently, desperately, critically needs to find some way to counter what some call the Republican Noise Machine. With Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, the Washington Times, all of talk radio with the exception of Air America and a few other stations, the media arm of the Republican Party can get their stories, unchallenged or with very little challenge, into the national conversation.

Dean has promised to pump up the Democrats' communications strategy and showed his commitment to the new media capabilities by making good use of the Internet in his own campaign. One of the largest progressive Internet sites, www.DailyKos.com has been strongly pushing for Dean to get the DNC Chairmanship.


Here are the snailmail addresses of the two Philadelphia electors to the DNC that progressive, pro-Dean people can write to:


Carol Ann Campbell

236 N. 59th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19139

Hon. Ronald R. Donatucci
2336 S. 21st St.
Philadelphia, PA 19145

The Howard Dean website has a petition to sign at

http://drafthoward.com/click/petition/sign/qwkdc


The DNC has a comments section to their site:

http://www.democrats.org/feedback/


The New Democratic Network blog has numerous ideas on how to push Democrats to a better electoral position:

http://www.ndnblog.org/


Many years ago, I heard a marvelous story about Franklin Roosevelt. He was meeting with a group of progressives who had good ideas, but their ideas weren't all that popular. He listened to their pitch and said “Great idea! Now go on out there and make me do it!” We can make it a better future by making the Democratic Party adopt better positions!

Happy Thanksgiving all!

2004/11/22

Rush Limbaugh and stupid statements

I was reading quotations from nutty right-wingers on one of my favorite comic-relief-type blogs World O' Crap when the blogger included a transcript of a Rush Limbaugh show. I read along for awhile as Rush referred to the "incident involving a Marine and the shooting in Fallujah", as he then tried to draw a moral distinction between the Iraqi resistance and what Americans would do if say, Canada invaded the US and occupied Detroit (Hint: Americans would do everything that the resistance in Iraq is doing and probably then some.), as he then trashes lefties who idolize Yasser Arafat (I'm no fan of his myself, as a matter of fact, neither are any of the bloggers or other leftists that I read. Maybe I just read the wrong sources.), as he talked about the Blue States wanting to secede from the Red States (Funny, I remember seeing comments suggesting just the opposite, I thought Blue Staters were looking at immigration brocures for New Zealand while the Red Staters appear to want to re-do the Civil War.).

Limbaugh suggested that Blue Staters are anti-military because "Eighty percent of the armed forces come from the red states" which might be entirely true, I haven't looked it up, but I am aware that Stars & Stripes surveyed our troops back in August 2003 and found that 34% of the soldiers rated their morale as "Low" or "Very Low". Yeah, sure, okay, 80% of the Army may be from rural areas, but that doesn't mean they're happy about serving over there, nor does it mean that anti-war people are in some way impugning the soldiers who are doing the fighting. Limbaugh then goes on to accuse lefties of thinking that "The terrorist is just some little lonely guy defending his country." First off, in our hypothetical example of Canada occupying Detroit, international law recognizes various righs and privileges that may be claimed by an occupying power, but a native resistance movement is permitted to do everything that the Iraqi resistance is doing today. Just because Amercans don't appreciate the fact that, consequently, it's American soldiers who end up getting killed doesn't mean it's okay to apply the overly broad and insulting term of terrorists to Iraqis. For an Iraqi resistance fighter to see himself as "defending his country" is precisely what he's doing. We Americans may not like his cause, but our opinion is neither here nor there.

The comment that provoked me to write this and what I couldn't help but comment on was this:

Violation of Geneva Conventions? These people aren't subject to the Geneva Convention. This is war, for crying out loud. What do they think this is, romper room in the sandbox?

Wow. How do I even begin deconstructing such an incredibly stupid statement? President Bush could very easily have gone to the world community and have proposed that "September 11 changed everything" and that serious changes needed to be made to the Geneva Convention. He did not. Bush could have asked an internationally-legitimate authority to rule on whether Iraqi POWs were subject to the Geneva Convention. He did not. My own interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 3, paragraph 1, is that the captured Iraqi killed in a place or worship by an American soldier was indeed covered by the Covention. As a matter of fact, the US has apparently violated several articles of the Fourth Convention, Section III. The US is in no position whatsoever to interpret the Geneva Convention in order to rule on the legality of its' own actions.

The main problem is not the American Left here at home. The main problem is in the Middle East. Footage of the execution has been played over and over, to the shock and horror of the people there. The difficulty there is that the US may be the big kid on the block now, but it is not in the nature of human affairs for that condition to last. Portugal was the big kid once, as was Spain, as was France, as was Germany. China used to be without peer, Islam used to tower over the West and the Vikings of Norway used to roam and pillage wherever they pleased.

For the US to act as though international law was too much of a bother to deal with, in my humble opinion, is an absolutely guaranteed disaster. Years or tens of years or even hundreds of years from now, the US will sorely regret having treated internatioal law with such contempt as the Bush Administratin has treated it. Even if America doesn't need the Convention now, it assuredly will in the future even if we have no idea of when that future will arrive.

The Geneva Conventions were composed and were agreed to by the United States by 1949, four years after the close of World War II, a conflict that, according to the Wikipedia:

...was the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world, involving the great majority of the world's nations, being fought simultaneously in several major theatres, and costing tens of millions of lives.

So the idea that the writers of the Geneva Convention were naive or unfamiliar with war is completely ridiculous. The Convention was not composed by a bunch of radical peaceniks (Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were.) but by warriors who took a mature and farsighted view of the situation that our nation was in and would continue to be in far into the future.

If anyone needs to go back to the sandbox, it's Limbaugh and the folks who listen to him.

UPDATE: I spoke with Mike Hoffman of the Iraq Veterans Against the War last night about Limbaugh's theory of the Red/Blue divide among attitudes towards the war among soldiers in Iraq. He considered the theory completely ridiculous and pointed out that a very a large chunk of the IVAW membership comes from Texas. So rest assured, if you hear anything about Red-Stater soldiers in Iraq being any more gung-ho about the war than Blue-Staters, it's complete nonsense.

UPDATE II: A truly disgusting picture that Limbaugh posted to illustrate a rant of his. A sad look into a badly diseased mind and a criticism that says a great deal more about the critic than it does about his subject.

2004/11/16

A right-wing insult

Doug Giles, a writer for the right-wing website Townhall.com, writes a long, hysterical rant against everyone who thinks they know better about anything than Dear Leader (That's a leftist insult for Bush, comparing him to Kim Jong Il.) Somehow, Doug confuses being a leftist with being anti-military and anti-military-type virtues such as cleanliness, love of country, etc. He criticizes Fahrenheit 9-11, but having actually seen that film myself, I'll be darned if I can remember any scenes such as the ones he describes. Seems to me he didn't see the film at all and is just guessing or relying on third-hand reports as to what was in it. The part of his column that really got to me was this though:

And lastly, for all the metrosexuals in Hollyweird and all you anti-American imbeciles blogging away on your computers, sitting in your tattered underwear drinking Mountain Dew and eating Domino’s Pizza

What? I say WHAT? Moi? Drink Mountain Dew? Me? Eat Domino's Pizza? Sitting in tattered underwear? Huh?
Obviously, this guy has lefty bloggers confused with right-wing bloggers. Lefty bloggers, as we all know, drink green tea or dark mountain shade-grown coffee or Perrier. Mountain Dew? Horrors! I retch at the very thought!
Lefty bloggers eat brown rice and stir-fried broccoli and stop off at the grocery store salad bar for their evening meals. Poison our systems with greasy Domino's Pizza? Ugh!! First off, Dominos has contributed to anti-abortionist groups, making them utterly non-PC. Second, having once been a pizza delivery guy (As well as having served two years of my Navy time in Italy), I've tried a number of take-out pizzas and Dominos isn't horrible, but it's not at the top of my list in terms of taste.
The rest of Doug's column reprints Zell Miller's idiotic poem about the soldier heroically "giving" us freedom. Doug, the soldier doesn't "give" us anything! The soldier defends freedom! He makes it possible to keep what we already have and to continue doing what we were already doing. The soldier has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with poetry or political agitation.

2004/11/14

Voting Parts I & II

Voting Part I

So far, the consensus on the blogs appears to be that we lefties, liberals, progressives and Democrats can't prove that the vote of Nov 2nd was rigged or gamed. Our concerns, however, are quite legitimate and deserve to be taken seriously.

  1. The voting machines use software that is closed-source (We can't see the code) and to my knowledge, only Republicans and Republican-leaning voting machine company employees have been able to examine the code. Having taken a COBOL programming course back in the late 80s, I can testify that it was entirely possible to code a computer so that it appeared to post a vote for John Kerry while it was actually posting a vote for George Bush. Back in the old days with an Underwood typewriter, if you pressed the “A” key, you'd get an “A” on the paper, guaranteed. That's because the connection between the key and the item that strikes the paper was entirely mechanical. With a computer, the connection involves software. Everybody has entered passwords into computers, whether it's into an ATM for cash or into an email account for access. The information is interpreted differently on the screen and by program that needs the password. The screen shows a series of asterisks, the program receives the appropriate combination of letters and numbers. If that was easy to program in the late 80s, and it was, it wouldn't be any difficulty nowadays.

  2. The Secretaries of State for both Ohio and Florida are both staunchly loyal Republicans. Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell tried to demand that all new voting registrations be printed on 80-lb stock paper and that all of the new registrations (Overwhelmingly Democratic) were unsuitable and had to be done over. This move was ultimately ruled unnecessary. Florida's Secretary of State Glenda Hood, resisted releasing Florida's 47,000 name felon list, i.e. The list of people legally barred from voting. When a judge finally got to examine the list, the irregularities were so great and so heavily weighted against Democrats, the list was simply scrapped. In neither case has either Secretary of State proven to be worthy of trust.

  3. In both cases a paper trail, a system that produced a sheet of paper marked with the voter's choices, would solve most, if not all, counting and re-counting problems. Neither state has instituted policies demanding that voting machines have paper trails.

  4. Personally, I very strongly oppose giving private, for-profit companies any say in something as crucial to democracy as to how we vote. If we're going to have them involved at all, it should be with extensive oversight, elaborate cross-checks and intrusive safeguards. The code for the voting machine computers should be open-source and thoroughly tested and examined by all interested parties, Republicans, Democrats, Greens, LaRouchites, Naderites, Communists, everybody. There should also be a paper trail, every vote should result in a sheet that can be counted and re-counted, so that there's no question as to how each citizen voted.


Voting Part II


Writer and world traveler Tariq Ali was a strong opponent of Bush in the 2004 election but gave a reasonably good summation of why some leftists preferred that Bush win instead of Kerry. A Naderite disagrees with how Nader supporters are characterized, but does not disprove Democrat's assertions as to why they opposed Nader's run, i.e. Nader took votes away from Kerry, thereby helping to ensure Bush's win. Bush won by a large enough margin and Nader's share of the vote was so small that Nader can't be blamed for Bush's victory. Nevertheless, Nader caused the Democratic Party to waste time, money, attention and resources that could have been put to better use opposing Bush.

I've been reading Z Magazine since it was first published in 1989. Edward Herman has been one of my favorite writers on that and he gave a talk on Nov 14th at the Brandywine potluck supper. He also went through the reasons why some leftists preferred Bush over Kerry. But his final argument was, for me, the clincher.

United States citizens are also citizens of the world. The world was deeply interested in the outcome of this last election and very strongly preferred Kerry over Bush. As proper citizens of the world, Americans should have put their private, parochial interests aside and voted in favor of the world's clearly expressed preference.

2004/11/13

Some Democrats look wistfully to old, tired solutions

Now we have a group calling itself Third Way that seeks to re-create the glorious days of....well, Democrats ever since Democrats undercut and finked out on George McGovern back in 1972. Democrats grudgingly supported Jimmy Carter's presidency and yes, Clinton's was more-or-less a success, but as Republicans never tire of (correctly) pointing out, Clinton was a minority president who would have lost to either the Bush I-Perot combination or the Dole-Perot combination. Clinton's running the country sans a strong mandate meant that we progressives couldn't mount the defense of "We have to leave this Monica Lewinsky/Whitewater/Paula Jones nonsense aside and get back to the important issue." There were simply no compelling issues that Clinton had been pushing that we could seized upon.
The Third Way is a group pushing a tired, worn-out, exhausted set of ideas that proved themselves utterly incapable of succeeding in the midterm election of 2002. Electorally, Democrats didn't do much better in 2004, but at least in the last election, there was a real spirit and determination that the Democratic had never managed to summon forth in all the years since McGovern.

The following is a part of the letter I wrote to my incoming Congressperson Allyson Schwartz:

General recommendation on overall strategy for the next several years: I noticed with dismay that Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council is calling for Democrats to go backwards and to use his old 1990's Clintonian strategy of Triangulation. This was a perfectly adequate strategy for its time, but it miserably failed in the Congressional mid-term election of 2002 and is highly unlikely to be successful ever again.



The major problem with it is the rise of what we call the Republican Noise Machine, composed of. Fox News, the Washington Times, conservative bloggers, radio commentators, etc. Since the years when this machine forced the impeachment of President Clinton, it's only gotten louder and stronger. In order for a Democratic president to get anything done during all the noise, he'll need a Democratic machine of equal strength and intensity. Obviously, being lefties and liberals and progressives and Democrats, we're a lot more comfortable with telling the truth and being fair. Simply using a lot of invective or making unsubstantiated charges has no appeal for us. To use the military term, someone suggested that liberal bloggers, Air America, etc., could act as skirmishers. When we see a wild accusation arise on the Drudge Report or hear something on Rush Limbaugh, we can jump on it immediately and force the mainstream news media people to deal with both the initial report and the Democratic challenge to it in the same news cycle.

We can get the skirmishers to be taken seriously as Democratic spokespeople by having Democratic Party officials say things like “Well, as the blogger Atrios said...” or “As the Air America radio announcer Jeaneane Garofalo pointed out...”



In order for the skirmishers to be successful, the one thing we liberal citizens need is consistency from the Democratic leadership. We need to know that the position on, say, sanctions on Cuba is not going to change with every passing shift in the breeze. We need to know that the party position on gun control is consistent with what the party said a year ago. The Al From Triangulation strategy requires far too many twists and turns and reversals and backflips for anybody to follow with any success. We skirmishers have to have the feeling that every strategy has some real thought behind it and we have to have some idea as to what that thought is.



Terry McAuliffe of the Democratic National Committee has done a perfectly adequate job as a financial guy, but the campaign of 2004 shows us that money will take care of itself if the overall strategy is sound. I heard that Howard Dean is being recommended as the replacement for McAuliffe. I think that's a great idea! Let's replace the financial guy with the message guy!


Diversions from Fallujah

The Second Battle of Fallujah appears to be going well. The American generals are predicting victory within days. Violence elsewhere however, appears to be flaring up. The city of Mosul is now either occupied by the Iraqi Resistance or is so chaotic that forces have to drawn from elsewhere in order to put down the uprising there.

2004/11/10

Bush gives opponents the middle finger

In his acceptance speech, Bush said:


BUSH: With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans.

And

BUSH: Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans.

So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent.

To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust.

That was on November 3rd. On November 10th, Bush anounced that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales would be the new Attorney General. I supposee we can be impresssed that Bush waited a whole seven days to give his political opponents the middle finger and to add “And yo' mama too!!”

Alberto Gonzales is the fellow who wrote the memos that justified torture and were later awaiting citaton had Gonzales been called upon to justify the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Having read chunks of these memos in detai and having taken a few courses in college that dealt with law, I can testify that Gonzales has absolutely no respect for the law or justice or humanity whatsoever.
The author(s) of these memos is a monster, pure and simple.

Update: Gonzales' record with Bush goes back much further and is even worse than I thought. I realize that there are squishy, sort-of, kind-of liberal-ish people who won't look past the fact that Gonzales is of Latin American heritage before pronouncing him fit for the post of Attorney General. These are the same idiots who can't look past Condoleezza Rice's being an African-American to see that she's completely incompetent to be our National Security Advisor or who can't see past Colin Powell's heritage to see that he's shamefully covered up war crimes back in the Vietnam War and betrayed his reputation and own announed principles in order to support the Iraq War.
As Martin Luther King has said, we need to judge people by the content of their character. The character of these three minority-heritage people is grossly inadequate for their positions and their holding of their respective offices does a dishonor to America.

Update II: The anti-abortionists are all atwitter about how Gonzales is insufficiently hateful towards women. Imagine! Thinking that a woman has any business having a say in what her own reproductive organs are up to. Oh, the scandal!
Bwah-hah-hah-hah!!! Ahh, conservative infighting. Gotta love it!

2004/11/04

Election Post-Mortem

First off, we can dispense with the right-wing talking point that I saw on Fox News while channel-flipping this morning, no John Kerry was not "€œtoo liberal"€ and no, he did not fail to be "€œcentrist enough"€ (Read "€œright-wing enough"€).

The Kerry campaign survived the Republican dirty tricks and was good enough that a wartime, incumbent candidate had to settle for a mere 51% of the vote. Bush has no discernable mandate other than "€œLet'€™s not allow gays to marry"€ as that was about the only publicly-declared difference between the campaigns that worked to get the Christian Right to the polls. The rest of the Bush supporters seem to have been voting out of fear and the old "don't change horses in the middle of the stream" idea.

Was Kerry our "€œgreat leader"€? Did he run a "€œcandidate-centric"€ campaign? Did he run his campaign so that it was all about him and his personality? Personally, I don'€™t feel that he did. I felt this last campaign was very unusual in that Kerry was not the leader so much as he was the standard-bearer. He was the guy that "€œWe The (liberal, leftist, progressive) People"€ handed off our standard to, the guy we entrusted with our flag to carry with him onto the field. Kerry was not our knight in shining armor, but our chosen champion, the fellow who represented us. I remember hearing lots and lots of complaints about him, but I heard very few ideas about how he could be doing a better job.

By far the most useful and profitable line of inquiry is "€œHow could the campaign have done a better job of presenting our case"€? I attended the big Kerry rally in Center City a few days prior to the election. It sounded okay to me and I cheered along with everybody else. Reading over various critiques, I can see now that Kerry's criticisms of Bush were scattershot and not very focused. As the German generals used to say: "€œBut what is the schwerpunkt of the campaign?"€ That is, what exactly was our central point? What was our main critique? What was the one, burning question we could bring to our friends and co-workers and neighbors who claimed that Bush was the better candidate? Personally, my critique of the Bush Administration could be reduced to a sentence "€œNot only are these guys evil, not merely are they out to do awful things, they'™re incompetent on top of that!"€ Hmm, yeah, I can see how that particular sentence might not be a great talking point to bring to Mr & Mrs Joe Average.

One thing we can pester our politicians about is that we need to replace Terry McAuliffe, the money guy, with Howard Dean, a message guy. Once Bush had provided Democrats with a powerful set of messages (about what not to do), the money flowed in. Message is everything, money will take care of itself.

2004/11/02

Ashley's Story - What it tells us about how Bush thinks

Well, I finally saw this pro-Bush commercial Ashley's Story. It took awhile because I watch what's called "appointment TV". For instance, Jon Stewart's Daily Show comes on at 11:00pm. If I'm going to want a cup of tea with it, I'll get up around 10:55pm and make it. If I want a bowl of ice cream, I like to let it melt a bit first, so I'll get up at 10:45pm and make that and go back to what I was doing (usually surfing about on the internet) until 10:58pm to pour some ice water and start watching. At the end, I'll usually turn it off and do something else.
In any event, it's an interesting video, but I sincerely hope that Bush and Bush-supporters don't attach any symbolic significance to it. I really hope that Bush sees Ashley as simply a young girl in need of a hug and not as the USA in need of a strong, manly man to enfold it and guide it in his strong, capable arms.
Speaking as a veteran sailor, I want the captain of whatever ship I'm on to be a competent and capable commander, who knows the tides and shallows and star charts and currents and knows how to steer clear of the shoals and the breakers. I don't need someone who wears an eyepatch or says "Avast, me hearties!" or uses salty language in the presence of women because he likes to see them turn red with embarrassment.
I don't need a daddy or a drinking buddy, I want someone who can steer the ship.
When people were talking about the President's refusal to allow photographs of returning body bags or transfer tubes or whatever they're called, some of Bush's aides described Bush as understanding that hysterical widows needed someone to hold them and still their wracking, sobbing selves. The poor women needed his manly, masculine presence to calm themselves with. His argument was that he just didn't have enough manliness for all of them.

I think this image hugely misunderstands what being there for the dead is all about. The point of being there when the bodies come home is not to be all manly and grave and stoic, to stand there with furrowed brow and to still the sobbing hysterical women, it's to honor the sacrifice that the newly-dead have made. It's to recognize that war is not a game. It's to say, hey I appreciate what you've done for this country and I honor the sacrifice you've made. It's to acknowledge that as the soldier has given his life for this country, the President has an equivalent responsiblity to see to it that the war-plans are as good as they can be, the paperwork is done so that the supplies flow smoothly, the diplomacy is done so that our allies have our back.
The last thing we need is a president who runs around wearing a cowboy hat or spends time at a ranch or gets pictures taken of himself staring out over the Grand Canyon. Personally, I've always pictured Bush as wearing a three-piece suit with a watch on a gold chain. I have simply never seen Bush as being a cowboy because that's not the station he was born into and that's not how he thinks. I prefer my presidents to be like John Kerry because Kerry will take his job seriously and will steer the ship of state safely past the obstacles that his learning and experieince says are there.
Kerry for President!