Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debate thoughts:

From the transcript.

  • The word not spoken even once: "evil"
  • KERRY: ... smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq ...
    BUSH (speaking several minutes later about consoling the widow of a soldier): Her husband PJ got killed. He'd been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.
  • Number of times the word "smart" was used: Kerry:2     Bush:0
  • Number of times "hard" was used: Kerry:0     Bush:20 (of those, 11 were "hard work")
  • Number of times "I have a plan" was said: Kerry:3     Bush:0

Our overall impression: Kerry was solid. Bush was a 50/50 mix of substance and platitudes.

Kerry did much better against Bush than Gore in the last campaign. This debate should be chalked up as a Kerry victory.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The debate will hinge on ...

Everybody is talking about what Kerry should say, how he should conduct himself, what body language to use, and so on. We also hear about how Kerry should "go after" Bush.

We think that due to the debate format (no candidate-to-candidate exchange), whether or not Bush does well or not will depend on what the moderator does. The moderator for the first - and most important debate - will be Jim Lehrer. The next two are Gwen Ifill and Charles Gibson.

We weren't impressed by Lehrer's performance in the 2000 debates, but maybe he will be different this time. The moderator is the one with the ability to press hard on a point of issue - the sort of thing that Bush doesn't handle well. If Bush is to be held accountable for his record and pronouncements, the moderator, alas, is probably the only one that can do it.


Half right:

Mark A. R. Kleiman has a post suggesting that people should start calling Bush a "wishful thinker". That it correctly describes the man, isn't a slur (e.g. Fascist), and opens the door to examining Bush's policy failures.

All good points. But since when was Bush ever a "thinker"? Even he says he distains nuance and all that book learnin'.

We'd say Bush is "wishful", but that doesn't sound quite right. So maybe Kleiman is correct to push for the two-word description.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

No surprise here:

Kevin Drum (aka Political Animal at the Washington Monthly) brings us up to date on the Florida election situation. Bottom line: Officials rigged the election in 2000 and tried to do it again in 2004.

The key point to remember is this:
Any time you have provisions that exclude some people from voting, you are providing an opportunity for mischief.
Beyond minimal checks (citizen, age, residence) any additional criteria allows the process to be skewed. Florida is using past felon status as a proxy for the old-time literacy tests. It should be stopped.


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Everything is good:

Remember June 28? Here is how PBS' News Hour reported what happened that day: (emp add)
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government two days ahead of schedule, in an effort to avert possible insurgent attacks.

The unexpected handover ceremony came at mid-morning Baghdad time, the middle of the night in the U.S. The event was convened hastily and secretly inside Baghdad's heavily guarded green zone.
Sounds grim, doesn't it? But here is what Bush had to say about it in today's radio address: (emp add)
We're making steady progress in implementing our five-step plan toward the goal we all want: completing the mission so that Iraq is stable and self-governing, and American troops can come home with the honor they have earned.

The first step was achieved on June 28th, not only on time, but ahead of schedule, when the coalition transferred full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens.
Not only was it "ahead of schedule" but it was done in such a manner that the people in Baghdad were not inconvenienced. Since the handover was performed "secretly", that meant no traffic jams or other problems that a public event would have caused. But somehow Bush failed to mention that this morning.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Who voted?

Wondering who voted against the tax cut extension? In the Senate, it was:
Chafee (R-RI)
Hollings (D-SC)
Snowe (R-ME)
In the House, there were 167 votes against - all Democrats + Bernie Sanders.

For some comments on this phenomenon, we suggest you read this post over at TAPPED.


Completely forgotten after five months:

Remember when a new Iraq flag was announced in late April?
Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council has approved a new national flag for the embattled country, officials said.

The design consists of a pale blue crescent on a white background, with a yellow strip between two blue lines at the bottom.

But that's not what was on display during Allawi's visit to the White House yesterday.

It's the old one:

That's why we are having trouble in Iraq. They're still using the old flag! No wonder the insurgents are on a roll. Tell Condi Rice and the braniacs in the Pentagon - there's not a moment to waste on this critical issue.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


Kerry has (among other things) proposed to address catastrophic care with his health plan. From the website:
Cut Premiums By Up To $1,000 For America's Workers. Paying for catastrophic care can pose enormous problems for businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones. Catastrophic injuries and illnesses are impossible to predict, and caring for them is extremely expensive. As a result, a single catastrophic case can drastically raise the price of health insurance for all the employees of a small business. To ease the burden of businesses in caring for catastrophic cases, the Kerry-Edwards plan will reimburse businesses for 75 percent of the cost of catastrophic care.
We heard on the radio that "catastrophic" would be defined as costs exceeding $50,000, but can't confirm that yet. In any event, this aspect of Kerry's plan has an interesting advantage. It makes fraud very difficult. How does one fraudently rack up huge medical bills? It's not easy. What is easy, is to have a program that reimburses lots of small medical bills. Then the fraudster can slip many hard-to-challenge cases into the mix. It's far easier to lie and say somebody suffered from a sprained muscle and needed some pain killers than it is to get a healthy patient (undeservedly) into the ICU.

Attacking the health care issue from "the top" of expenses is a clever way to have a program that minimizes fraud.

NOTE: Yes, we are aware that there can be some instances where a doctor and co-conspirator patient can test and medicate so much that the bills get really big, but on the whole it's a hassle to create that scenario.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004


A few more words about Nicky Kristof's Op-Ed complaining about the presidential campaign. He writes:
... Republicans should be denouncing the smear against Mr. Kerry's war record, and Democrats should be denouncing their candidate's protectionist tone on trade.
Kristof is asking Republicans to denounce an independent group for campaign tactics.
He is asking Democrats to denounce their own candidate on policy grounds.




From TPM:

"A year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

Richard Perle
AEI Keynote speech
September 22, 2003

PS. Note of thanks to reader MW for the heads up.

        -- Josh Marshall
They already put one up, but now they're pulling it down.

[Simulated image]


National Intelligence Estimate = "just guessing"     G. Bush     21 September 2004

You've not doubt heard about the July NIE that looked into the future prospects of Iraq.
The acute difficulties in Iraq are highlighted in the National Intelligence Estimate, drawn up in July and representing the distilled wisdom of the entire US intelligence community.

It sketches out three scenarios for Iraq. The grimmest is a descent into civil war; the second is understood to be a continuation of the current disorder. Even the most favourable of the three holds out no better prospect than a precarious stability, under constant threat.
On Tuesday, in a session with the Iraq prime minister, there was this exchange with a reporter: (emp add)
Q Why do you think the CIA's assessment of conditions in Iraq are so much at odds with the optimism that you and Prime Minister Allawi are expressing at the moment?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The CIA laid out a -- several scenarios that said, life could be lousy, like [sic] could be okay, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.
Which is typical Bush. Why pay attention to the experts? Same with global warming. Same with economic policy. This is an ideological administration that ignores reality.


Here is how Bush characterizes things:
  • descent into civil war = "lousy"

  • a continuation of the current disorder = "okay"

  • a precarious stability, under constant threat = "better"
With that in mind, let's review what Bush said to the United Nations on Tuesday:
Our great purpose is to build a better world ...

The longsuffering Palestinian people deserve better.
In other words,:
Our great purpose is to build a world under constant threat.

The longsuffering Palestinian people deserve a precarious stability (under constant threat from you-know-who).
Sounds about right.


You can't make ithis stuff up:

In today's Op-Ed about the CBS/memo story, William Safire decries the fact that:
"a national election could have been swung by a blatant falsehood"
with nary a mention of the Swift Boat boys.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

But wait, there's more! Nicky Kristof - disturbed about all the mud in the campaign this year, says that:
The only hope for stopping the mudslinging is if well-meaning people try to police their own side.
Which is an echo of David Broder's view (27 Aug):
And the candidates who benefit from the ads are the ones who have the first responsibility -- along with the media -- to police them.
Broder does mention the media, but the overall tone of both these pundits is that the media can't do the job. One has to depend on the integrity of the candidates. Fat chance (especially with people like Tom DeLay).


Monday, September 20, 2004

Great questions!

From today's Remarks by the President at "ask President Bush" Event transcript: (excerpts, emp add)
THE PRESIDENT: Now, let me answer some of your questions, and then -- yes, sir?


AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, President Bush.

Q ... I just want to say, thank you, as being a beacon of strength at a time of need for our country.

Q ... I hear a lot of things in the press in regards to what's happening in Iraq. I don't appreciate the fact that the press only presents a certain point of view.   ...   I watched a special on Fox News last night on the U.N. -- the oil for food scandal. And the thing is, is that when it comes down to the oil for food scandal, we have a lot of countries that opposed us at the very beginning of the war that have a lot of money staked in with Saddam. And I was just wondering if, when you address the U.N., do you plan on bringing it up to these countries?

Q ... why don't either the Defense Department or the State Department provide a weekly briefing on all the good things we're doing in Iraq? (Applause.) It's not just fighting over there.

Q We can't leave Iraq on a timetable that Senator Kerry says. We have to stay there until the job is done.

Q I'm a retired Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy. (Applause.) And I can tell you from the observing of your unworthy opponent, I would not want to serve under him as Commander-in-Chief.   ...   My heartfelt prayer to you, sir, is, stay the course and win the election in '04.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. I can't conclude on a better note. Thank you all for coming. God bless.
And you thought Gary Trudeau was exaggerating. (These cartoons are from last week.)


Being e-mailed around:

Subject: FW: show your support

There are less than 3 months until the election, an election that will decide the next President of the United States. The man elected will be the president of All Americans, not just Democrats or Republicans.

To show our solidarity as Americans, let's all get together and show each other our support for the candidate of our choice. It's time we all came together, Democrats and Republicans alike.

If you support the policies and character of John Kerry, please drive with your headlights ON during the day.

If you support the policies and character of President George W. Bush, please drive with your headlights OFF at night.

Thank you


Bored and bummed:

Light blogging is expected this week. We can't say why, but we are disinterested in the news lately. Is it:
  • Unhappiness with the Burkett/memo story?

  • The horrible poll numbers?

  • Post Swift Boat burnout?

  • A sense that things are falling apart politically? (Kerry seemingly adrift. Edwards hidden away in the Witness Protection Program. Right-wing triumphalism.)
Maybe we need a week to recharge our batteries. Maybe the debates will be stimulating. Who knows?

Right now we are focusing on the Detroit Lions football team. We liked them last year (as a team rebuilding) and they have won two games in a row so far. It's all we care about these days.


Sunday, September 19, 2004


In a Pittsburg Post-Gazette report, Democrats push hard to neutralize Nader, we read the following remarks by Ralph Nader:
"Anybody-but-Bush liberals should realize that their brand of support for [Democratic presidential challenger] John Kerry is only serving to make the Massachusetts senator into a weaker candidate. While Kerry is being pulled by the commercial interests who fund his campaign, progressives are giving him their vote for free -- making no demands on him whatsoever.

"Thus, the only pull on Kerry is toward the interests of big business," Nader maintained. "This reduces Kerry to the status of a candidate that is standing for corporate interests before the interests of the people."
Nader asserts:
Kerry is being pulled by the commercial interestsSomewhat true
Progressives are making no demands on himEssentially true
Kerry is "reduced to" a candidate for corporate interests before the interests of the people
Not true.
Sure, Kerry may well be pulled towards commercial interests, but that doesn't mean that he is 100% aligned with those interests, but Nader wants you to think so. Nader is preaching purity in politics - and selectively as well. When Nader gets support from right-wingers, he says they won't influence him, but he doesn't grant that sort of integrity to Kerry. Nader is misleading the voters - something that Bush is doing as well (but in different areas of politics and policy). Bush and Nader are preaching to their own choirs.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"The second biggest media market in the country is radio hell." - cc

Yesderday, Eric Alterman posted a letter from Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture where he noted that, indeed, the death of radio continues apace. He cited a post over at TBP from July 20 on that topic, and there has been more news since (Barron's has looked into the phenomenon).

Some time ago we looked at the state of FM radio in Los Angeles, and it is dismal. Here is a rundown.

"Public Interest" frequencies: NPR, colleges
Spanish language
classic rock, oldies
Hip-hop, R&B

From LA Radio Listings and The Golden State Radio Guide, we get the following information about FM stations:

freq call letters owner format
88.1 KKJZ public, member-supported jazz
88.9 KXLU Loyola Marymount University College-oriented
89.3 KPCC NPR Pasadena Current events
89.9 KCRW NPR Santa Monica Current events; some music
90.7 KPFK Pacifica Current events; some music
91.5 KUSC NPR University So. Calif. Classical
92.3 KHHT Clear Channel "Forever Old Skool and Today's R&B"
93.1 KCBS Infinity Classic rock
93.5 KZAB SBS Spanish Tropical
93.9 KZLA Emmis Country
94.7 KTWV Infinity Smooth Jazz
95.5 KLOS ABC Classic rock
96.3 KXOL Spanish Broadcasting Corp. Spanish adult contemporary
96.7 KWIZ Liberman Spanish Cumbia
97.1 KLSX Infinity FM Talk (H. Stern)
97.5 unk unk Spanish
97.9 KLAX Spanish Broadcasting Corp. Regional Mexican
98.7 KYSR Clear Channel Modern adult contemporary
99.5 KKLA Salem Religious talk
100.3 KKBT Radio One Hip-hop, R&B
101.1 KRTH Infinity Oldies
101.9 KSCA Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. Regional Mexican
102.7 KIIS Clear Channel contemporary (B. Spears)
103.1 KDLD Entravision (joint sales agreement w/Clear Channel)* "indie" alternative
103.5 KOST Clear Channel Adult contemporary
103.9 KCRD Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. Spanish oldies
104.3 KBIG Clear Channel Hot adult contemporary
105.1 KMZT Saul Levine Classical
105.5 KPWR Emmis Hip-hop, R&B
106.7 KROQ Infinity Alternative
107.1 KSSE Entravision Spanish contemporary
107.5 KLVE Spanish Broadcasting Corp. Spanish adult contemporary

* Clear Channel can’t own Indie outright because it’s already at the Federal Communications Commission-imposed limit of seven stations in the LA basin.Clear Channel owns many stations throughout the Southern California region. Here is a list of AM stations they own:

570 KLAC Adult Standards
640 KFI Conservative talk (Limbaugh)
1150 KXTA Sports talk
1190 KXMX "ethnic"
1220 KIIS Contemporary (twin of KIIS-FM)
1290 KKDD Radio Disney (San Bernadino)
1350 KTDD Classic country (San Bernadino)
1450 KDIF Spanish (Riverside)

Back to the FM music stations. Stripping out Spanish-language, talk, hip-hop, classical, jazz, NPR, and classic rock, we get the following stations broadcasting contemporary music:

freq call letters owner format
98.7 KYSR Clear Channel Modern adult contemporary
102.7 KIIS Clear Channel contemporary (B. Spears)
103.1 KDLD Entravision (joint sales agreement w/Clear Channel)* "indie" alternative
103.5 KOST Clear Channel Adult contemporary
104.3 KBIG Clear Channel Hot adult contemporary
106.7 KROQ Infinity Alternative

Look at how Clear Channel dominates. Radio Hell indeed.

Also, it's interesting to note in the first table, the large number of stations devoted to Spanish music. That's understandable, considering the demographic changes taking place, but it's somewhat distressing that there hasn't been much assimilation. How else to explain the fact that one third of the FM music stations are Spanish language?

NOTE: There are some other low-wattage FM stations in the LA area, but they are not included since their range is limited. (Deciding factor: could our radio get the station?)

FINAL GRIPE: We have been listening to KROQ for many years and they have gotten steadily worse since their glory days in the early 80's. There is lots of talk now (mostly about sex). The days of two or three songs, back-announcing the artists, and then a couple commercials is long gone (everywhere, not just at KROQ).


Monday, September 13, 2004

Woodward tips his hand:

Bob Woodward was one of the journalists on Meet the Press this weekend. At one point he said: (emp add)
MR. WOODWARD: One of the common themes you find in talking to people in the White House and in the government here at all levels is, if you want to understand Bush, look at this decision. It defines him, and he knows that. What interests me, from the point of view of our business, the news media, is we have not found a way--we know how Bush operated. I mean, to his credit, he was willing to sit for three and a half hours and answer questions about how and why he made these decisions. We have not found a way to go to the political opponent, Senator Kerry, and say, "How would you deal with these things?" Not with sound bites, but in a long, detailed excavation of how John Kerry would be commander in chief. That's the missing piece in this political campaign.
The "three and a half hours" Woodward is referring to is the Cheney-accompanied, secret, no-transcript, long-resisted, initially-only-agreeing-to-meet-with-the-two-chairmen, accompanied by two White House lawyers, and not-under-oath interview. Which Bush finally sat down for, "to his credit".



William Safire weighs in on the document forgery issue. We thought this passage he wrote to be of interest:
The L.A. Times also checked out a handwriting analyst, Marcel Matley (of Vincent Foster suicide-note fame), who CBS had claimed vouched for the authenticity of four memos. It turns out he vouches for only one signature, and no scribbled initials, and has no opinion about the typography of any of the supposed memos.
How about that? A handwriting expert has no opinion about the typography. Alert the media! Spread the word! Tell your friends!


The Ego-Meter: has a set of short interviews with nine authors about current events (mostly related to the election). We took a look, paying attention to which authors recommended their own books (and how many). Here are the results. Self-recommended books are in yellow boxes.

Author Q: What are the top five books you'd recommend to become an informed voter? And what can your new book contribute?
Patrick Buchanan Where the Right Went Wrong The Great Betrayal Pete Peterson's
Running on Empty
James Bamford's
A Pretext for War
John O'Neill's
Unfit for Command
Ann Coulter High Crimes and Misdemeanors Slander Treason How to Talk to a Liberal The Bible
Al Franken Molly Ivins'
Paul Krugman's
The Great Unraveling
Ron Suskind's
The Price of Loyalty
Joe Conason's
Big Lies
The South Beach Diet
David Frum The Right Man Bernard Lewis'
What Went Wrong?
Richard Miniter's
Losing Bin Laden
John Kerry's
The New War
Kanan Makiya's
Republic of Fear
Arianna Huffington's 50 Ways to Love Your Country Bill Maher's
When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden
Bob Woodward's
Plan of Attack
Joe Palermo's
In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
The 9/11 Commission Report
Molly Ivins Who Let the Dogs In? David Cay Johnston's
Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign
to Rig Our Tax System ...
Hendrik Hertzberg's
Politics: Observations and Arguments
Thomas Frank's
What's the Matter with Kansas?
Paul Krugman's
excellent The Great Unraveling
Jon Stewart Gabriel Garcia Marquez's
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Thomas Pynchon's
Gravity's Rainbow
Leonard Nimoy's
Warmed by Love
Thomas Mann's
The Magic Mountain
James Joyce's
Finnegans Wake by
Gore Vidal Burr Lincoln Inventing a Nation United States Constitution  
Bob Woodward Plan of Attack Bush at War John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by The Boston Globe Reporters John Kerry's
A Call to Service
The 9/11 Commission Report

For a while it looked like conservatives were much more likely to flog their own works when compared to liberals. But Gore Vidal, to nobody's surprise, came in second to Ann Coulter and, just to be different, decided only to recommend four books - the last "book" being the United States Constitution (similar to Coulter's last choice of the Bible).

Thanks Mr. Vidal, you've done it again!


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Visualize this:

Reader Mark alerts us to a superb visual representation by Simon Woodside of Bush's National Guard service. We are very impressed.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Here we go again:

The Alger Hiss case - 1948:
The defense did not mount a challenge to the prosecution’s contention that the Baltimore documents had been typed on the machine that had been owned by the Hiss family...

...experts testified that the homely machine brought into court as a defense exhibit had produced both the Hiss specimens and the Baltimore documents.

... the defense argued that a different typist must have done the typing ...
And on and on it goes.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Simple, clear, devastating: (okay, maybe not devastating, but pretty bad none the less)

Via Mark A. R. Kleiman we learn about a finding by Max Sawicky that shows Cheney is talking nonsense. Here it is: (emp add)
The latest Congressional Budget Office report on the deficit shows a positive correction of about $56 billion (a lower deficit) from the January 2004 forecast. (Note: the new, revised level is still a record high in terms of absolute dollars.) "Dick" Cheney says this is a "direct result" of the tax cuts inspiring more economic growth than heretofore imagined.

The problem is that the change in the economic forecast for 2004 since January is for less real GDP growth, not more. The January forecast was for growth of 4.8 percent (p. xvii) this year. Now CBO says 4.5 percent (p. 24). So by "Dick" logic, this shows the tax cuts are not working.

The main difference in forecasts is that now more inflation is predicted -- an extra percentage point. One effect of inflation is somewhat higher tax revenues, because inflation pushes more people into the Alternative Minimum Tax.


The reddest part of a red state:

Over at the website we read about an "ask President Bush" event. This one took place yesterday in Sedalia, Missouri, and the focus was on small businesses. We thought this exchange was of interest:
THE PRESIDENT: We've got another person who saved money on her taxes: Ellyn Wilson, Thanks for coming, Ellyn. Tell us what you do, Ellyn. Interesting job she's got. Interesting jobs she's got.
MS. WILSON: Mr. President, I work three jobs. I'm a single mom, which is a full-time job, anyway.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that your daughter?
MS. WILSON: Yes, this is Hannah.
THE PRESIDENT: Listen to your mom. I'm still listening to mine. (Applause.) Most of the time. (Laughter.)
MS. WILSON: And this is my son, Caleb Wilson. He's eight.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. What do you do, Mom?
MS. WILSON: I am a music teacher. This is my 14th year starting. That's my full-time position.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for teaching. (Applause.)
MS. WILSON: And I made a change this year, and I'm presently at Pettis County R-12 Dresden School District, one of the best schools in the state of Missouri.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. She's a marketer. (Laughter.)

MS. WILSON: And my part-time job is out of my home. I'm a Mary Kay consultant, and I'm working my way up to a star recruiter, and working my way up in the business.
THE PRESIDENT: Running her own business. She's a soul [sic?] proprietor. Got her own business -- kind of the American way, isn't it? Started her business out of her own home. Keep going.
MS. WILSON: And I love to serve the Lord at what I do, and I'm church pianist at First Baptist Church, Sedalia, Missouri. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: There you go. She saved $1,000 on tax relief. A single mom -- by the way, being a single mom in America is the toughest job in our country. (Applause.) It's incredibly hard work to be a single mom. The tax relief helps single moms -- $1,000.
MS. WILSON: And I got braces for my kids. It's helped a lot.
THE PRESIDENT: Let's see -- oh, yes. (Laughter.) Did you ever. (Laughter.)
MS. WILSON: With my Mary Kay supplies, as well. So it really helped out tremendous, and I'm very thankful.
THE PRESIDENT: Helped her small -- helped with the kids. She's doing her job as a mom, to take care of her kids. And then she's got a little business going. And that money helps. Someday you'll be driving that pink Cadillac. (Laughter and applause.) If they don't make the tax relief permanent, $300 goes out of her pocket. That's $300 she can use. Remember the tax relief, how it works? Not only did we reduce all rates, which helped everybody in our small businesses, we raised the child credit to $1,000, and we reduced the marriage penalty, so it ought to be encouraging marriage, not discouraging marriage. (Applause.)

We created a 10 percent bracket, which helps Ellen. In other words, we've just got to keep this in mind, our country's got to keep in mind, what tax relief has meant to working people, to people are trying to get ahead in life. This is a perfect example of a soul who is working hard to do her duty as a mom, and to realize her dreams as a small business owner. The tax relief has helped. I appreciate you coming.

I hope you get what I'm trying to say here. See, we can get people like me running for office, and we talk about numbers and this, that and the other. The most effective way to explain the effects of tax relief on our society is to ask people like Ellen come and tell you why tax relief was effective. I'm honored you're here, Ellen. Great job. Thank you.

MS. WILSON: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
Some observations:
  • Ms. Wilson was pre-selected and not called upon randomly. Note that Bush knew that she saved $1000 without her telling him.

  • We congratulate Ms. Wilson on trying to get ahead, but selling Mary Kay cosmetics is not the same as a good paying job with benefits. Bush likes to say that his tax cuts are going to enable small businesses to revitalize this economy, but that's not true. In the case of Ms. Wilson, she will have more money to spend, but her business isn't really affected.

  • Bush said "We created a 10 percent bracket, which helps Ellen." It's true that "The ten percent tax bracket has increased from the first $6,000 in taxable income to the first $7,000 for single filers and from the first $12,000 to the first $14,000 taxable income for married couples and qualifying widows/widowers." But, "The current ten percent bracket for head of household filers remains unchanged." And Ms. Wilson is presumably a head of household who didn't benefit from the tax cut - so what gives?

    Is this another example of a Bush misstatement? (It appears that Ms. Wilson only benefited from the child credit.)

  • No matter how you slice it, Ms. Wilson isn't making much money. That Mary Kay gig is nowhere near a solid income stream.

  • As a pitch to the red-staters, it was a pretty good choice: Mary Kay cosmetics, loves to serve the Lord, is the pianist for the First Baptist Church, "a perfect example of a soul who is working hard".


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Right on schedule:

From our post of August 18:
... it appears that 20 days from now the total US casualties will have reached 1000 (1000 - 953 = 47 / 2.3 per-day = 20 days). Twenty days from now is September 8 - right in the middle of the week after the Republican convention ends.
Today's news: (ABC)
More Than 1,000 Military Deaths in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq Sept. 7, 2004 — U.S. military deaths in the Iraq campaign passed 1,000 Tuesday, an Associated Press tally showed, as a spike in fighting with both Sunni and Shiite insurgents killed seven Americans in scattered clashes in the Baghdad area.


Bumper sticker:


Voter logic:

Wondering why Bush has high approval numbers with some voters? This Voice of America news item, Republican Voters Speak Out About Bush, Iraq War, should give you an idea: (emp add)
Scott Stearns
Erie, Pennsylvania
07 Sep 2004, 14:11 UTC

No issue more sharply divides American voters this election year than the war in Iraq. The immediacy of the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was the president's biggest justification for invading the country. Democratic challenger John Kerry says the failure so far to find any of those weapons means President Bush misled the country into war. President Bush says the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. Correspondent Scott Stearns has spent the last week covering the president on the campaign trail and asking Republican voters what they think about Mr. Bush when it comes to Iraq.

Bush: "I appreciate you all coming out. There's nothing better than taking a bus trip on a Saturday with your family. Nothing better than ending the bus trip in Erie, Pennsylvania."

Stearns: "Some critics of the president say that because we haven't yet found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that that was a mistake. What do you feel about that?"

Voter1: "Well, the intelligence said that they were there. And I remember watching television news reports with Colin Powell showing these trailers and things that the intelligence said that was there. And when they get there, they are not there. So where did they go if they were there?"

Voter2: "First of all, there were weapons. They are in parts unknown. They were there, and I believe what he did, he did with conviction."

Voter3: "I believe that there are things that will be found buried in the sand. And I think they are getting closer. And I believe that Saddam Hussein was such a devious person, a man who killed his own people, that it's time to rid the world of that type of pest."

Voter4: "I think I believe like him that there were weapons but they were hidden. And I believe they were hidden maybe in Syria."

Voter5: "Oh, I believe it was a mistake. I believe it was spin. I believe it was spin away from the economy, that diverted attention away from the economy. And I think that's why his popularity is so high right now because everybody is waving the American flag, but nobody is looking at the innocent loss of life over there right now. And it's going to continue."

Voter6: "There's a lot of evidence that proves that they did have them. We even have the sheets from Saddam Hussein saying that he did have them. So it's not an issue. I think they are misinformed. And it doesn't matter to me. That's not the only reason we were there anyway."

Voter7: "We got rid of Saddam Hussein anyway. And he was nothing but a bad dictator, and I think we are doing the right thing."

Voter8: "I believe we should have gone to war. We need to put to rest all the bad people in the world trying to attack us. So I'm glad we went to war."

Voter9: "Yeah, that maybe was a mistake to go there because there was supposedly weapons of mass destruction but they really weren't there. But look at what happened in that country. They are going to be a free country. And I think that means a lot to us here, and I hope it does to the Iraqi people too."

Voter10: "We need to stabilize it over there. It was just a time bomb waiting to happen."

Voter11: "The campaign is way too much focused on 9/11, and the war, and he's really trying to use that. And they should focus on other policies because in four years, hopefully we are going to have some other issues to deal with other than the war itself, and I'd like to see what he is going to do."

Voter12: "I don't think he made the connection between Iraq and nine-eleven. I do support the president, but that's one of his policies that I don't support. And I'm interested in it because I'm a supporter of the military, but I don't think he is using them for the correct reasons."

Voter13: "The people there are obviously living much better lives than the dictatorship before, so wasn't it worth it?"

Voter14: "I think he is a good commander-in-chief and he does an excellent job in that. I know that Kerry probably could be a good commander-in-chief too. And the question is: Do we want to change horses in the middle of the stream? And I think that is a big issue, so that is why I'm for Bush. I don't think we should right now."
For what it's worth, a substantial fraction of Republicans think that there were WMD, but that they are now hidden, spirited away to Syria, or yet-to-be-found. Doesn't matter what David Kay or the inspectors report. It's a given for these folks that Bush was telling the truth.


Sunday, September 05, 2004

Dirt, mud, and more mud:

Well, it's come to this. Mark A. R. Kleiman has a post, Susan Estrich goes nuclear. where he says:
Bush's return to drinking is apparently common knowledge in DC, though it seems unlikely anyone will talk on the record.
But his post is pretty much a reproduction of Susan Estrich's column entitled Lies move Democrats to dig up dirt.

In the same vein, Digby has penned an entry, Diving Into The Mud, where he says:
Dirty, hate filled, testosterone fueled, phony political spectacle is what the public wants to buy. They are not going to turn off their car radios and TVs and suddenly reject the entertaining pageant they are enjoying so much. They will continue to assure pollsters that they hate all this negativity, but they will tune in to absorb the bloodlust and feel vicariously empowered by this show of masculine prowess. They want action. They will vote for the one who gives it to them.
And that elusive species, The Daily Brew, rolls out an essay, Throwing Mud, where it is written:
To beat Bush, John Kerry is going to have to go profoundly negative. And while a general consensus has been reached that the time has come to throw down the gauntlet, in my humble opinion, no one (at least no one that I have read) has put their finger on which attack will actually work. So let me repeat another observation I made three years ago.

Bush must be attacked for his chicken-shit response to the attacks of September 11.
As Richard Nixon once said, "Fasten your seatbelts!"


It was twenty-seven years ago today:

From Today in History:
In 1977, the U.S. launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft two weeks after launching its twin, Voyager 2.
Still going strong, according to JPL/NASA. We read:
At the outer limits of our solar system, a solar shock wave is about to overtake NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

July 13, 2004: When Voyager 1 signals NASA, which it does almost every day, there's usually not much to report. The spacecraft is nearly 9 billion miles (14.5 billion km) from the sun, at the edge of our solar system. It's quiet out there, dark and uneventful.

Voyager 1, prepare for action.

A solar blast wave is heading for the spacecraft, and "it could arrive at any moment," says Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Mega cool.


Over a year old:

Mark A. R. Kleiman posts the following:
Graham speaks out
Sen. Bob Graham's new book raises the Saudi-9/11 question, charging a cover-up by the White House.
I hope the press covers this, and that John Kerry starts to pick it up.
It's good that the issue be examined, but we remind our readers that it was a story one year ago. We posted on the topic, and diagrammed the connections, as shown below.

To be fair, there is something new from Graham: (emp add)
When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.

The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.

Bush had concluded that ''a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,'' Graham wrote. ``It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety.''
NOTE: This diagram is from the time when we had large images which affected the blog's dimensions (the width). Since July of this year, all new diagrams are restricted in size.


Saturday, September 04, 2004

Forget about Zell Miller, what about George Pataki?

Did you catch this part of Pataki's speech on Thursday at the RNC (just before the video and Bush speech): (emp add)
The president took strong action to protect our country. That sounds like something any president would do. How I wish that were so.

You know the history. Osama bin Laden declared war on America -- and then came the attacks -- the first World Trade Center, the embassies, the USS Cole, hundreds dead, thousands injured.

How I wish the administration at that time, in those years, had done something.

How I wished they had moved to protect us. But they didn't do it.
Clinton didn't do anything to protect the country?   Not true.

One thing we know for sure is that Bush didn't do squat his first eight months in office.


Food fight!

Matthew Yglesias
Not Good...
... busy as I've been with the convention, I haven't been following the story of the Russian kids held hostage that's now reached its awful conclusion. Worse, even, than the reality of the crime is the knowledge that things will get worse. The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya. At the same time, in the wake of this sort of outrage there will not only be no mood for concessions, but an amply justified fear that such concessions would only encourage further attacks and a further escalation of demands. I don't see any way out for Russian policymakers nor any particularly good options for US policymakers. Partisanship and complaints about Bush's handling of counterterrorism aside, this business is a reminder not only of the horrors out there, but also that terrorism is a genuinely difficult problem -- I think we've been doing many of the wrong things lately, but no one should claim it's obvious what the right way to proceed is.
Glenn Reynolds:
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Don't worry -- there's a solution: "The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya."
Matthew Yglesias:
Fuck you, Glenn. The entire item I wrote was one goddamn paragraph long would it have killed you to accurately reproduce what I wrote?
Matthew Yglesias emails Glenn Reynolds:
Text not available.
Glenn Reynolds:
MORE: Matthew Yglesias emails to say that I've misquoted him above, and demands an apology. Er, except that the quote -- done via cut-and-paste, natch -- is accurate. Here it is again, cut-and-pasted, again. "The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya."

I guess that Matthew means it's out of context, or misrepresents his post. Maybe it misrepresents what he meant to say. Follow the link and decide for yourselves. But I can't figure out what Matthew could have meant that would make the statement above a misrepresentation of his meaning.

Chechnya, of course, is a mess, and there's lots of blame to go around. But the news reports are that quite a few of the terrorists in this incident were Arabs, not Chechens, and this seems to me to fit quite well into the general Al Qaeda assault on, well, everybody else -- especially after the two airliner bombings, etc. Does Matthew really think that this is something that can be negotiated away via Russian concessions to the Chechens? Judging from his email, I guess not. So why did he write the above? I guess you'll have to ask him, as his email didn't provide any guidance on what he did mean.
Matthew Yglesias:
UPDATE: Via email:
Misquote you? I cut and pasted. And it seemed like what you meant, judging by the post and your comments. If it's not what you meant, I'll happily mention that -- but it was Armed Liberal who sent me the link, and *he* certainly read it that way, too.
I'll reproduce the post in question, this time with italics for added emphasis:
What I was saying, in case this is for some reason genuinely unclear, is that to get Chechens to stop making war on Russia requires Russia to do something to resolve the underlying grievance -- Russia's mistreatment of Chechnya. At the same time, taking steps to resolve the underlying grievance would, under the circumstances, be just the sort of appeasement that would invite further attacks. Therefore, it's not clear what the Russian government can or should do in order to prevent future massacres like this.
Glenn Reynolds:
In a later post, Yglesias writes "Fuck you, Glenn." And he still says I misrepresent him. I don't think I did -- at least, it's hard for me to figure out what he meant that would have made my (accurate) quotation misleading. And Yglesias doesn't tell us, preferring to substitute profanity for clarity, I guess.

I will note, however, that I managed to respond to Yglesias' implications that I was a Nazi who was inciting "mob violence" against the New York Times without resorting to profanity.
He Glenn! If the shoe fits...


Friday, September 03, 2004


From Zell Miller's speech at the Republican National Convention:
Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home. For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by WIlliam Shirer: (page 90)
In the delirious days of the annual rallies of the Nazi Party at Nuremberg at the beginning of September, I used to be accosted by a swarm of hawkers selling a picture postcard on which were shown the portraits of Frederick the Great, Bismark, Hindenburg and Hitler. The inscription read: "What the King conquered, the Prince formed, the Field Marshal defended, the Soldier saved and united."


How they did it:

There has been much talk about how Kerry, by bringing up his military service, deserved the attacks he's been subjected to over the last month.

Sounds fine to us. An examination of the record shows that Kerry merited all his medals and his reputation by commonly accepted criteria. But the Swift Boat Veterans and others, were able to make an "issue" out of Kerry's service by redefining the criteria. Redefining criteria so that Kerry either doesn't meet it (e.g. getting severely wounded) or so that it falls into an area of dispute (e.g. under gunfire). The press fell for it, as did many other commentators. This sort of thing, in a presidential election, is a serious failure.

Issue Accepted criteria Met criteria? New criteria Met criteria?
Purple Heart Being injured, no matter how slightly;
shows individual was in life-threatening situation
yes Must be severe wound no
Bronze Star Act heroically while under attack yes (mine blew up PDF) Must be under gunfire yes - but can be disputed (SBV claim no enemy fire)
Silver Star Act heroically while under attack yes Must fight adults yes - but can be disputed (SBV claim shot "fleeing teen")
Soldier in Vietnam A tour of duty with significant combat experience yes Must be there for a year no


Thursday, September 02, 2004

We like:

This week's Troubletown cartoon is pretty good.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Mad Man Miller:

We didn't get to listen to the speeches at the RNC tonight, but we did manage to see Zell Miller (we were working on a computer and didn't want the distraction of audio). Boy, he looked angry and pissed. It's hard to believe that his appearance will sway anybody - especially the moderates and undecideds.


Daddy defends Dubya:

Bush's Father Dismisses Vietnam Claims:
President Bush's father says claims he used his influence to keep his son out of the Vietnam War are "a total lie."

In an interview aired Wednesday on CBS's "The Early Show," the president's father dismissed claims that he helped his son stay out of the conflict.

"They keep saying that and it's a lie, a total lie," former President George H.W. Bush said. "Nobody's come up with any evidence, and yet it's repeated all the time."
How then to explain this? Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the guy who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard:
"I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard ..."

Simulated picture.


How low can they go?

You've heard about the delegates at the Republican National Convention sporting bandages with purple hearts, mocking John Kerry's military experience.

But why stop there? We think the Republicans should make fun of all soldiers who've suffered in war. How about a t-shirt that trivializes John McCain's torture while a POW?

Or maybe give away skateboards so that you can "Roll like Max Cleland?


Cheap shot of the week:

Nicholas Kristof writes about how Shakespeare's plays (especially Henry V) contain lessons George Bush could use. For example:
  • ... the world is full of nuances and uncertainties ...
  • ... the brutality and inevitable excesses of war ...
  • ... the inevitability of intelligence failures ...
And towards the end, Kristof says: (emp add)
Indeed, the only person who seems to provide Shakespeare's kings with sound advice is the court fool, who cannot be punished for saying unpalatable truths because jesting is his job. I urge Mr. Bush to appoint a White House fool.
Hey, Nick! They already got one!


The reason for the problem is that we're so good:

Recently we have heard the following explanation for Bush's remark that the problems in post-war Iraq are due to the "catastrophic success" of the military: (emp add)
"Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success – being so successful, so fast, that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in, escaped and lived to fight another day"
That reminded us of a similar explanation for when Bush fell on his face from eating a pretzel: (excerpts, emp add)
The medical term for Bush's episode is vasovagal syncope, or vasovagal fainting ... In such cases, the body sends a signal to the heart via the vagus nerve that slows the heart rate enough to cause a brief fainting spell.

A vasovagal episode isn't the only possibility, Skibbie said. Somewhat less common is cough syncope, where a coughing episode — similar to what Bush reportedly had — can increase pressure in the chest enough to momentarily lower blood pressure. It, too, is benign. Both types of fainting actually can be common among the physically fit because their blood pressure and pulse already are at nice low rates ...
It all makes sense now. People fall down because they are physically fit, and the military campaign was so successful that it failed to capture the enemy.