Saturday, December 28, 2002

More interesting polling data:
Concerns Over Economy Halt Bush Approval Rating Gains December 20, 2002 While George W. Bush's overall job approval rating remains unchanged since November, Bush's disapproval rating for his handling of the economy has returned to a level last seen in September as concerns over the condition of the national economy continue to grow according to the latest survey by the American Research Group. Among all Americans, 57% say they approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 30% say they disapprove. In November, 58% of Americans approved and 27% disapproved of the way Bush was handling his job. When asked about the way Bush is handling the economy, 39% of Americans approve and 47% disapprove. In November, 47% of Americans approved of the way Bush was handling the economy and 37% disapproved. Among Americans registered to vote, 58% approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 29% disapprove. A total of 37% of Americans registered to vote approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 50% disapprove.
Minor quibble on the above: Bush's approval rating gains haven't been halted. They've been completed eliminated. There's a lot more interesting numbers at this site.

Rightwing Slayer has an interesting comparison between the poll I posted below and Clinton's approval ratings at the time he left office and on the day he was impeached. Needless to say, the big dog leaves the little pup in the dust.

North Korea: Calling Dubya's Bluff ... Either Bush talks, or takes out the nukes in unabashed Israeli fashion. If he talks, the neocons will accuse of him of betraying his principles -- which are, in fact, the principles of the neocons. If he attempts to take out the nukes and depose Kim Chong-il, missiles may very well rain down on South Korea. If he follows the latter course, he will have to fight two simultaneous wars -- and imperial overreach will stretch the US military at the seams. Dread the thought, the use of "mini-nukes" on Pyongyang and the people of North Korea may then actually become an option, as spelled out in the ruthless NPR document which Bush and his cronies in the Pentagon have taken to heart. No matter how you cut it, Dubya has painted himself into a corner. He may yet go on record as the most ill-advised and murderous US president.

Gee, the Bushies had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the UN when the subject was Iraq. But when Korea: (1) admits it has been developing the bomb, (2) shuts down monitors on nuclear facilities, (3) kicks out IAEA inspectors and (4) violates the DMZ, well then the Bushies go running to the UN looking for help pulling their fat out of the fire. Is that what you would call a vote of confidence from them on the UN's relevancy? What a bunch of arrogant pricks these people are. I just wish I wasn't riding on the same bus they are driving.

Been thinking about Korea tonight. I think that the current problems with North Korea are the first foreign policy mess that can be truly and completely laid at the feet of Bush and his mis-administration. Consider the following: 1) Bush stomps all over a multi-year effort to resolve the conflict between north and south with little thought to blow this would be to the Korean leaders who stuck their necks out to get it done. 2) Bush throws North Korea into his "Evil Empire" diatribe for god only knows what reason (most likely because he needed someone to avoid making it look like he was only going after Islamic countries and he needed a convenient boogieman in order to sell Son-o-Star-Wars). 3) Bush focuses all of the attention of America (and the world) onto the uncertain threat that is Iraq. 4) At just the moment when he is ready to make the final push for Gulf War II, North Korea kicks out the UN inspectors and declares that they are removing all the monitors on their nuclear processing capabilities. Gee, do you think the Koreans, maybe, just maybe, decided to take advantage of our being distracted by other matters to pull a stunt like this? No matter which way you paint this it was a monumental screw up for the vaunted Bush foreign policy team. They make O'Neill and Lindsey look like Nobel Laureates.

Thanks to Atrios for the link, again.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Okay, here it is: Update: I've shrunk the image a little due to complaints about its width screwing up some people's displays.

Pandagon is out with his list of the 20 Most Annoying Conservatives. As with all things of this sort, your sentiments may vary.

I went out and bought a copy of TIME. It does indeed contain the results of a poll that shows Bush's approval level at 55%. That's about equal to where he was on Sept. 10th, 2001. Which means, a little over one year later, Bush has squandered ALL of the positive feeling he got from his handling of 9/11. I'll be scanning in the graph later tonight when I get home.

A history lesson, via Usenet, courtesy of google. 20 Year Usenet Archive Now Available

Thursday, December 26, 2002

PLA provides a comprehensive summary of the politics of Jim Crow and the Southern Strategy and how the Democrats chose morality over expediency by rejecting the former while the Republicans did the opposite by embracing the latter.

Ha! Now this is the kind of enterprising journalism I would like to see more of...
RUBBISH! Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs. It's past midnight. Over the whump of the wipers and the screech of the fan belt, we lurch through the side streets of Southeast Portland in a battered white van, double-checking our toolkit: flashlight, binoculars, duct tape, scissors, watch caps, rawhide gloves, vinyl gloves, latex gloves, trash bags, 30-gallon can, tarpaulins, Sharpie, notebook--notebook? Well, yes. Technically, this is a journalistic exercise--at least, that's what we keep telling ourselves. We're upholding our sacred trust as representatives of the Fourth Estate. Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable. Pushing the reportorial envelope--by liberating the trash of Portland's top brass. We didn't dream up this idea on our own. We got our inspiration from the Portland police.
The Willamette Week reporters went on to rifle through the trash of Mayor Vera Katz, Police Chief Kroker, and DA Mike Schrunk and report on their findings. The Mayor and the Police Chief were not amused (Katz is threatening legal action) while the DA seemed to laugh it off.

Ampersand takes up the debate I pointed to earlier (the discussion between Hesiod and Atrios about what to do next with the Lott matter). Ampersand does an excellent job of both summarizing what has gone before and putting forth a point of view that does not call into question the motives of those who may disagree. I was pretty much of the same mind as Hesiod on this issue when I first read his post. I think the Democrats need to focus on the sheethead-pandering tactics of the Republicans to make it clear that Lott is not an isolated situation but is, instead, indicative of a disease that is destroying a great political party (and our country along with it). But Atrios and Ampersand have helped me to realize that this issue goes beyond simple party politics. Put simply, just because a certain strategy for the future may be the best for the Democratic party does NOT mean that it is the best for Kweisi Mfume and the NAACP. I made the mistake of thinking of the NAACP as an adjunct of the party instead of an equal partner and it is that which I think caused Atrios to have such a negative reaction. Mfume is looking out for what is best for the people he represents and should be applauded for it. The fact that part of his focus may not be the most beneficial for the Democratic party should not play into it (unless he decides that, for the moment, what is the best for the Dems is the best for the NAACP).

Antidotal has some interesting comments on the attempt by some to read a pro-war agenda into the Lord Of The Rings movies:
If, regardless of the disanalogies, we do decide to pursue the risky business of attempting to draw themes from fantasy worlds that can be applicable to ours, I should note that such hermeneutics can cut many ways. It’s just as easy to draw heavily anti-war themes from Tolkien as it is to draw the hawkish themes that Instapundit wants to see: war is only tolerable if it is absolutely and truly inevitable (i.e. when it is carried by the soulless forces of ultimate, unwordly evil); evil is characterized by imperialistic, expansionist aims and the desire for (or current possession of) overwhelming force. Evil also always strikes first. The most dovish symbol of all is perhpas the central trope of the One Ring, a good example of WMD if there ever was one: it can only be handled safely (and even then only temporarily) by an intensely pacifistic, agrarian, inward-regarding, and unambitious people who have no aspirations whatever for shaping the world in their image or for spreading their culture. The only safe way of dealing with the Ring is not to insure that it is in the hands of trustworthy people with good intentions, but rather to destroy it utterly, for its power inevitably corrupts even the purest of heart.
I, like Eric Tam, hold LOTR close to my heart. It was the first book I remember reading from cover to cover. It was probably one of the top five influences on the person I turned out to be. And I, similarly, am offended by those who try to use its message of resistance to evil and the power of the individual to make a difference in the world as justification for the current actions of the Bush administration. LOTR might be a good counter to extreme pacificism, but it is not and never will be a call to pre-emptive aggression against potential enemies. To suggest that the plight of Rohan is akin to that of the United States is as gross a misreading of the story as I can imagine.

A story about true heroism.

Liberal Oasis points out a story that the establishment media is ignoring:
Dubya’s Approval Rating Plummets And No One Notices The current Time magazine offers this from a Dec. 17-18 Time/CNN poll: In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job as President? Approve -- 55% Disapprove -- 37% That’s the lowest approval rating, and the highest disapproval, for Dubya in the Time/CNN poll since 9/11. His approval has sunk 9 points from just one month ago -- a stunning drop considering he’s coming off of a big election victory. But amazingly, no other media outlet has picked up on the poll. No wire story. No analysis. No pundits pontificating. Nothing. Not even Time or CNN offers a link to it on their respective web sites. You need to get the print version of Time.
Note: even doesn't have these poll results.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

There's a big debate going on over in the comment section of Atrio's blog on the topic of over-reaching while pressing the GOP on the issue of its racial policies. I just posted the following comment there:
I've read over the comments in this thread and I really don't see as huge a gulf between Hesiod and Atrios as others seem to see. They both want the advantage to be pressed against the Republicans and to force them to come to a long-overdue purge of the sheethead element in their midst. But Hesiod expresses a concern that is common in these kinds of battles: that some will overreach and try to label all legitimate policy differences as equivalent to racism and, by doing so, push the fence-sitters once again back into the clutches of the cockroaches. Is this not a legitimate concern? I see no reason to start pushing Hesiod into the same camp as the appeasers just because he worries about overreach. It's by their actions that you will know them.

CalPundit on the value of reasonable discourse:
I'd like to add one comment to Matt's. As much as I appreciate reasonable discourse, there is sadly little evidence that it is of any use. Most progress is made by outraged people yelling at the tops of their lungs and fighting for change, the completely unreasonable people who are willing to sacrifice everything to their beliefs. This can be both good and bad, of course, but there you have it. Historically speaking, we moderates are but spear carriers for our louder, brasher betters.
The screamers may be the straw-that-broke-the-camels-back, but would they have succeeded as well in the absence of the reasonable discourse of others? Put another way, the fact that Sullivan and others piled on to the boot-Lott bandwagon was an important part of removing him from power. But would they have done so without others pushing them in the background? Don't underestimate the utility of reasonable discourse. It may not tear down the palace walls, but it may inspire those who will lead the uprising.

'Tis the season...
U.S. retailers face grim holiday sales CHICAGO, Dec. 24 — U.S. retailers, reeling from a lackluster holiday season that is forecast to be the weakest in more than 30 years, may ring in the new year with steep markdowns on clothing, accessories — and profit forecasts.

Could this be the next health craze? (courtesy MaxSpeak)
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY. [from Yahoo!] Protesting "is good for you" Group protests, or "collective action", may have health benefits for participants, according to research by UK psychologists. A study by Dr John Drury, a lecturer in social psychology at the University of Sussex, suggests that group protesting and demonstrating is good for people's health because it encourages a sense of empowerment, mutual support and unity. "Many published activist accounts refer to feelings of encouragement and confidence emerging from experiences of collective action," said Dr Drury. "It's similar when people come out to welcome home a winning football team, go to Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve or go to a rave. They have a sense of community - but with protest, people have the addition of a sense of changing the world." The study involved more than 40 in-depth interviews with activists and protestors from a variety of backgrounds. Participants described more than 160 experiences of collective action, including raditional marches, fox hunting sabotages, anti-capitalist street parties, environmental direct action and industrial mass pickets. "The main factors contributing to a sense of empowerment were the realisation of the collective identity, the sense of movement potential, unity and mutual support within a crowd," explained Dr Drury. He found that the protestors experienced events as joyous occasions, almost without exception, and that they felt a deep sense of happiness and even euphoria at being involved. Simply recounting events in interviews brought a smile to their faces, Dr Drury added. Even when demonstrations involved violent clashes with the police, protestors tended to feel good if they thought they had won the battle. If the police were seen as the victors, less experienced demonstrators had negative feelings, while veterans were able to put events into context and deal with their emotions. Over the last few years, psychologists have become more interested in how psychological and physical good health can be improved by positive experiences, which improve the speed of physical recovery, the ability to cope with stress and a reduction in pain, anxiety and depression. "The take-home message from this research, therefore, might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements," said Dr Drury. "Not only in the wider interest of social change, but also for their own personal good."
I've only participated in one protest so far and I can attest to the feelings of euphoria given by the experience of being surround by thousands of fellow travelers.

Charles Dodgson has a good rundown of foreign threats to the United States.

Hesiod recapitulates my position on Gulf War II:
In the end, I'm intellectually opposed to an Iraq invasion for a lot of different reasons. But, as important as those are, I might be persuaded, if I had confidence in the people making the decision to attack. a gut level, I'm opposed to it for one basic, unassailable reason: I don't trust the Bush administration.
It really does come down to that for me. I am in a position similar to Josh Marshall: I can see plenty of good reasons to put the hammer to Iraq, but none of them have anything to do with what the Bushies are doing and I don't trust any of them to do it right even if they were talking the way I would like them to talk.

Update: Mark Kleiman has more on Eli Lilly's purchase of 5000 copies of Frist's book. It turns out the profits will go to charities of Frist's designation as required by Senate rules.

Leave it to the Bushies to focus their attention on an evil, but sane, dictator in one part of the world while essentially ignoring, if not outright agravating, an evil AND insane dictator in another part of the world. Which do YOU think is the greater threat? But then, we all know that the Bushies foreign policy has nothing to do with who represents the greatest security threat to the United States. Osama who?

I was watching the news channels a little last night. They were talking about the election of Frist for Senate Majority Leader. The talking heads went on to say something about how Frist had to work to repair the damage caused by Trent Lott's remarks. Excuse me, but the damage was not caused by Lott's remarks. The damage was caused by the GOP willingly courting the sheetheads for political power. The only damage caused by Lott was the damage done to that program. You'll forgive me if I see that damage as not but a good thing.

What would Lord Of The Rings had been like if other author's had written it? My favorite so far:
LotR by George Orwell: "I cannot read the fiery writing," said Frodo. "There are few who can," replied Gandalf. "It is the language of Mordor, which I will not speak here. Translated into the common tongue, it reads: 'All rings of power are equal, But some rings of power are more equal than others.'"

Something to keep in mind as the GOP and the establishment media try to put the topic of racism back in the bottle: why did Lott think he could get away with making the kind of comment he did at Strom's birthday? Because the media and the GOP usually did let him and others get away with it. Don't be fooled.

When it happened to Jim Wright, he had to resign:
(courtesy Atrios) Interesting. Bill Schneider just said that Eli Lilly had purchased thousands of copies of Frist's book to distribute to their clients.

The Washington Post brings some important point about the Bush pardons:
CHRISTMASTIME is the traditional season for presidential clemency, so it's no particular surprise that President Bush has belatedly issued the first pardons of his term. But the churlishness with which he finally exercised this most magnanimous of presidential powers deserves note. Mr. Bush pardoned only seven people, each of whom, a White House spokeswoman said -- as if to play down the importance of the action -- "committed a relatively minor offense many years ago, completed his prison sentence or probation and paid any fine, and has gone on to live an exemplary life." The message: No Marc Riches here. . . . Not even a story (the White House let the Justice Department announce the pardons). . . . Just some seasonal symbolism. . . . Now can we talk about Iraq, please?
The pardons were all for people who (1) committed mild offenses, (2) completed their time, and (3) had gone on to live good lives. In other words, these pardons were all about symbolism and had nothing to do with correcting potential injustices. For, after all, Bush doesn't believe it is possible for the criminal justice system to be wrong.
The federal inmate population today is larger than it has ever been; the role of pardons should be bigger than ever. Yet Mr. Bush could not find a single inmate who deserved clemency. By issuing an average of 3.5 pardons a year -- none of which carries consequence other than forgiveness for individuals who long ago served their time -- he announces, in effect, that the American justice system requires no check, just a Christmas card.
Have a happy new year!

The Good Guys By PAUL KRUGMAN Time magazine's persons of the year are three whistle-blowers: Sherron Watkins of Enron, Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom and Coleen Rowley of the F.B.I. They deserve to be celebrated. After all, thanks to Ms. Watkins and Ms. Cooper, Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers have been indicted, and the politicians who did their bidding have been disgraced. Thanks to Ms. Rowley, incompetent officials at the F.B.I. and C.I.A. have been removed from their posts, and we've had a searching inquiry into what went wrong on Sept. 11. Oh, I'm sorry. None of that actually happened. The bravery of the whistle-blowers was real enough, but Time seems to be celebrating what should have been, not what was.
Time is telling a story that people want to hear: these three women blew the whistle and justice was done. Right? Right? Well, at least the whistleblowers got their pictures on the cover of Time. Isn't that enough for you people?
During the late spring and summer, amid corporate scandals and tales of F.B.I. ineptitude, Americans received many promises of reform. But once the political danger had passed, all those promises — even, incredibly, the promise that families of victims would get to choose one member of the Sept. 11 commission — became non-operational.
And nary a squawk from the establishment media or the Democrats at the monumental way the 9/11 families have been screwed repeatedly by this administration. Krugman goes on to identify an even better candidate for person of the year: Eliot Spitzer, New York state Attorney General. Spitzer is deserving because, unlike the whistleblowers, he actually got some people to pay for their actions.
If truth be told, 2002 was a very good year for cynics. But it's the day before Christmas, so let's be thankful for our gifts: the good guys who made a difference.
A cynics work is never done Paul.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Damned if I can see any rhyme or reason to this list, nor why Bush thought they were worthy of a Presidential pardon:
The seven people Bush pardoned: * Kenneth Franklin Copley of Lyles, Tenn. Sentenced to two years probation in 1962 for manufacturing untaxed whiskey. * Harlan Paul Dobas of Portland, Ore. Sentenced to three months in jail in 1966 for conspiracy involving the sale of grain stolen from his employer. * Stephen James Jackson of Picayune, Miss. Sentenced to three years probation and fined $500 in 1993 for altering an odometer. * Douglas Harley Rogers of Brookfield, Wis. A Jehovah's Witnesses minister sentenced to two years in jail in 1957 for failing to report for military induction. * Walter F. Schuerer of Amana, Iowa. Fined $15,000 in 1989 for making a false statement to the Social Security Administration regarding his employment. * Paul Herman Wieser of Tacoma, Wash. Sentenced to 18 months probation in 1972 for stealing $38,000 worth of copper wire. * Olgen Williams of Indianapolis. A postal worker sentenced to one year in jail in 1971 for stealing $10.90 from the mail.

John Conyers understands that the best defense is a good offense. To bad Daschle never learned that lesson:
Plan by Conyers aids working poor Federal money to boost training, housing in jointly sponsored bill The most comprehensive bill ever to address U.S. homelessness will be introduced in the 108th Congress in February. Democratic representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Julia Carson of Indiana have collaborated on legislation they idealistically dub the "Bringing America Home Act." The bill proposes funneling federal funds to local governments to assist in affordable housing for the working homeless, job apprenticeship programs, child care vouchers, public transportation, emergency funds for working families on the brink of eviction and one-stop homeless centers to streamline the social service bureaucracy. "You can provide soup kitchens and homeless shelters, but the hardest thing to do is find affordable housing and permanent jobs," said Conyers' aide Joel Segal, a 1989 law school graduate who was once homeless for four months. ... The bill, however, will face a tough sell in a Republican-controlled Congress that must figure out how to finance the war on terrorism and a possible war with Iraq even as some Republicans push for more tax cuts.
It doesn't really matter if the bill doesn't have much chance of passing. The point is to put the GOP on the spot and force them to vote on the issue. You see, it is only through the voting record that you can really start to hurt the bastards (see how it was used effectively against Lott). Democrats seem to think that they can't win the fight so they shouldn't even bother trying. But, if the never bother to try, then how are they to convince others when they say that Republicans aren't willing to help them? You've got to force them to state their beliefs in black and white terms and you don't get much more black and white then their voting record.

Russia Says Bush to Blame for North Korea Crisis MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused President Bush (news - web sites) on Monday of having ignited a crisis over North Korea (news - web sites) by antagonizing the nuclear-capable Stalinist state and playing on its dire economic situation. Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said Bush was to blame for North Korea's erratic policies, including steps to unfreeze its nuclear program, because of his decision to brand it part of his "axis of evil" of hostile nations. "How should a small country feel when it is told that it is all but part of forces of evil of biblical proportions and should be fought against until total annihilation?" Mamedov told the Vremya Novostei daily newspaper.
I can remember in the early days of Bush's administration the shocking incident of Bush embarassing the South Korean leader in the photo-op room of the White House. The South Korean president had just spent several years of his life and quite a lot of political capital to try and produce some kind of long-overdue rapproachment with the north. Then, the first time he appears in public with Junior, Dubya simply blows off all the man's hard work and says that things are going to be different now (sorry, I don't remember the exact quote at this time). My god was I embarassed to be an American that day. Is Bush responsible for the impending disaster that is North Korea? You bet he is. It's exactly what he wanted. He represents a group of people that have always been more comfortable in a world where chaos reigns and everyone is shooting at everyone else. That way, they think, the ones with the biggest guns will get to dictate what will happen. Life has a way of knocking such hubris on its back. Unfortunately, it's like to take the rest of us with it when it does.

I don't think I'll be buying this for my daughter this Christmas (courtesy MaxSpeak).

Bob Herbert joins the chorus of those who are saying, "not so fast," in response to the GOP efforts to paint Lott as an isolated problem.
The Other Trent Lotts By BOB HERBERT Having thrown Trent Lott overboard, Republican leaders seem to think they are now absolved of any further responsibility for the racism and ethnic insensitivity that have tainted their party. The problem is now supposed to go away. They are deluded. The problem isn't going away because Republican leaders haven't rid themselves of the habit of playing to the closet racists and the Confederate flag-waving yahoos who mean so much to the G.O.P. For 40 years the party has gone out of its way to court the enemies of black people. It's an offense for which it should be begging forgiveness.
As an example, Mr. Herbert describes the man who has been chosen to replace incoming Majority Leader apparent as the head of the Republican's Senatorial campaign committee: George Allen of Virginia:
A few years ago, when he was governor of Virginia, Mr. Allen issued a proclamation declaring April "Confederate History and Heritage Month." From Mr. Allen's pro-Confederate perspective, the Civil War was a struggle for "independence and sovereign rights." Independence, in this case, does not refer to the independence of black slaves. I'd like to know if Senator Allen feels we'd all have been better off if the South had won the Civil War. It's a fair enough question. Mr. Allen loved the old Confederacy so much he displayed the Confederate flag in his living room. He was a little touchy about it, though. When someone accused him of flying the flag in his living room, he took umbrage. "It was never flying," he said. "It was nailed to a wall."
Every Republican should be asked the question hilighted above. How many do you think will be?

TIME gives honors to the whistleblowers. The Bush administration gives them to their bosses. (courtesy CalPundit)

CalPundit on the question of questioning motives:
HUMAN MOTIVATION....I think Matt Yglesias is seriously wrong when he says this:
It just doesn't matter why Bush does what Bush does or Frist does what Frist does or Matt does what Matt does. What matters is what we do and whether those are good or bad things.
Trying to deduce people's real motivations is absolutely central to all human activity. We talk about it, we think about it, we argue about it, and we make most of our decisons based on it. We fight or follow people based on our assessment of what they really think. We applaud or denigrate the exact same actions depending on whether we think they were made for the right reasons. Motivation is the key to everything. Actions come in a poor second.
Allow me to be the synthesis to Cal and Matt's thesis/anti-thesis by saying that both are right and both are wrong. Matt is right that, ultimately, what people do is more important then why they do what they do. However, Cal is right that you cannot ignore the question of motive in deciphering people's actions, especially when it comes to the question of what you can trust them to do in the future. Bush makes a lot of noise about caring and compassion and being a good person. But his actions often contradict what he says. His actions give us a better clue as to his motivations and thus a better clue as to what he will do in the future. The lessons learned: never take him at his word and always assume that he will do whatever is most politicially expedient for himself since, after all, it is all about him (that is his motivation). My take on this is that, while questioning motives is often an interesting excercise in understanding human nature, it can often get in the way of discussions about what is really going on. The establishment media is especially guilty of this offense. They spend so much time talking about why a particular politician, especially a democrat, does something ("what kind of political advantage is Gore/Clinton/'Daschle/Lott/Bush/blah/blah/blah trying to gain by this action") that they miss the story on just what it is they are doing and how it effects real people. For modern journalism, the question of Why has supplanted the questions of Who, What, Where, When and How. As The Daily Howler so aptly demonstrates, the supremacy of Why has lead to a journalism characterized more by psychological analysis then the investigation of the impact of specific actions on the welfare of the nation. This allows lazy journalists to reign supreme in the pundit field: whoever can come up with the most witty explanation for Why some politician did something will get the most calls from TV show bookers. It is why Maureen Dowd can win a Pulitzer and Gene Lyons and Joe Conason are consigned to backwater publications. I am as curious as anyone as to Why someone does a particular thing. But, in the immediate, the question of Why someone is running my nation into ruin and disgrace pales in comparison to the fact that they are doing it at all.

Eat The State is out with their 7th annual compilation of the most over-hyped and under-reported stories of the year. A couple of hilights from both categories:
The Most Overrated Stories of the Year Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Nobody -- except the Bush Administration and Tony Blair -- believes they exist. Seldom have so many words been wasted on weapons that, if they did exist, would be few in number, poorly made, and impossible to deliver more than a couple hundred miles. Instead, Bush's obsession becomes our obsession. Worse, constant repetition of "Iraq = Saddam = Terrorist" has successfully shifted post 9/11 focus -- and blame -- away from the very real threat posed by Islamic terrorists, most of whom seem to come from countries we consider allies. The Most Important Underreported Stories of 2002 White House Propaganda: Particularly while justifying its Iraq obsession, the Bush Administration told one whopper after another this year -- exaggerations or outright lies not even consistent with each other, let alone reality. The individual statements are rarely challenged, and the Bush Administration's overall pro-war propaganda campaign -- one of the most effective in a half-century -- is itself rarely acknowledged by media that instead willingly participate.

Sean Wilentz says the Democrats and the media need to go beyond Lott and focus on the broader issue of the GOP's love affair with neo-confederates:
Inveterate Confederates The southern skeletons in the Bush administration's closet By Sean Wilentz Trent Lott's sudden ousting as Senate majority leader seems part of a calculated effort by Republicans, led by the White House, to kill the controversy over the party's alliance with neo-Confederate forces as quickly as possible. But like some sort of shameful partisan ghost, the spirit of that alliance still haunts the Republicans, and will continue to for a long time to come. The careful maneuvering by Karl Rove and the White House political team, in their efforts to disavow Lott without angering the party's neo-Confederate constituency, shows that the party's basic character has not changed. The Republicans' coded appeals to "states' rights" may grow a little muted for a time, but the GOP will remain the party of the neo-Confederates. And that connection will remain unchallenged until and unless the media, prodded by the Democrats, insist on looking into a great deal more recent and not-so-recent history, including how George W. Bush gained the Republican nomination in 2000, the neo-Confederate background of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the dark past of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whose vote on the Supreme Court installed Bush as president.
Wilentz names names and outlines the many connections the Bush administration has to the cockroaches. He has provided plenty of ammunition for anyone who wants to continue the fight. Don't let this die folks. The soul of a great political party is at stake.

Hesiod makes a point that I think needs repeating:
ACCOUNTABILITY: Civil Rights organizations are going to hold the GOP's feet to the fire on racial issues. I understand why they want to push a policy agenda. But, I think the better strategy would be to go after the questionable race-baiting practices of the party, such as voter intimidation, and neo-Confederate apologisism, first. I say that because, on issues such as affirmative action, there are legitimate philosophical and policy arguments against those policies that don't anything to do with appealing to, or winking at, racist elements within the GOP. By pushing action on thos issues, these groups are overplaying their advantage, and will inevitably cause a backlash. Any good-will generated will be quickly dissipated, and will actually play into the hands of the very people Civil Rights activists are trying to expose. If you turn legitimate policy differences into racial issues, you give fodder to the dishonest Andrew Sullivan's of the world.
The Democrats have been given an ideal opportunity for political advantage with the Lott situation. But the issue needs to be the political practices of the party, not their policy differences with Democrats when it comes to racial issues.

This comes from a posting I just made in the comment's section on Atrios' blog. Yet another instances of the endless Bush v. Gore debate had reared its ugly head. This gives me my first opportunity to put my opinion on this matter into this blog for posterity. For me it has nothing to do with which of them, Bush or Gore, had the right to the office. Neither of them did. No one does (despite what the GOP thinks). To me it has everything to do with the short-circuiting of the constitutionally mandated process. You see, one of the greatest myths of the 2000 election was that the Supreme Court had to intervene when it did. This is a lie. The Constitution had a process outlined for exactly what was supposed to happen in rare situations like the 2000 election. Here's what should have happened: 1. The vote counting process should have been allowed to continue in Florida as dictated by Florida procedures as interpreted by the ultimate legal authority in Florida, its Supreme Court. If Bush came out ahead, Gore would have conceded and Bush would be the legitimate President. 2. If Gore came out ahead, the Florida legislature, dominated by Republicans, would have voted to submit an alternate slate of electors for Bush. 3. The process would have then moved to the Congress, where the elected representatives of the people would have had to vote on which slate of electors to accept (this is the constitutionally mandated part). Since the GOP had the majority in both houses this means the Florida slate would have been accepted, Gore would have conceded, and Bush would be the constitutionally legitimate President. I voted for Gore. I did not want Bush to be President. I consider him to be the worst President in my lifetime, quite possibly the worst President this country has ever had, and a greater threat to our health and security then Osama bin Laden could ever hope to be. But, if the GOP had simply allowed the constitutionally mandated process to complete I would have conceded that he was the constitutionally legitimate President. (yes, there might have still been some argument about whether the Florida legislator had the right to submit an alternate slate of electors. But the ultimate decision on all of this resided in the halls of Congress, not the Supreme Court). But the Republicans simply weren't willing to let the mandated process complete its course. Why? Because they knew that, even if they were 99% likely to win(*), the members of congress who voted to seat Bush would have to answer for their vote two years later. (* I concede the outside possibility that some Republicans might have balked at overriding the will of the Florida voters.) In other words, the Republicans were and are cowards. They were afraid to put their positions on the line in order to defend their preferences. Instead, they hid behind the cloaks of the felonious five and let them take the brunt of the heat. After all, Scalia et al. don't have to face re-election. Legitimacy has nothing to do with it. Cowardice is the key word here and the GOP is nothing but a party full of cowards.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) shows how to respond to a smear campaign from the GOP. She recently made some comments about how bin Laden was popular in the middle-east, in part, because he provided money to build schools and help the impoverished. She said that there was a lesson to be learned here about how America should go about winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. It will require more then just a PR effort (especially one tainted with deliberate lies). The GOP's response was to suggest, in their typical, underhanded way, that Murray was saying we should become more like a man who murdered 3000 Americans. Here was Murray's response (in full):
Sen. Murray Statement on America's Role in the World Having a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America's future reflects the best values of a free democracy; To sensationalize and distort in an attempt to divide does not
For Immediate Release: December 20, 2002 Osama Bin Laden is an evil terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. Bringing him to justice, dismantling his terrorist network, and protecting our nation from further attacks must continue to be our government's highest priorities, and I continue to vigorously support those efforts in the Senate. While we continue to search every corner of the globe to destroy Osama bin Laden and his al Quaeda network, should we also consider the longer-term issue of what else can be done to improve relations with all nations including the Arab world? How else can we bring America's values to those who do not understand us? And while there are some whose hearts and minds may never be won, should we try to reach those who can? The White House believes that we can do more, and has devoted an entire department to improving America's image in the Arab world. Having a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America's future reflects the best values of a free democracy; to sensationalize and distort in an attempt to divide does not. While there are some on the extreme fringes of society who try to exploit fear and uncertainty for political gain, there are many more who understand that the best value of our democracy is the freedom to think and to secure a better future.
The only quibble I might have with this is that those who want to "exploit fear and uncertainty for political gain" are not on the extreme but are, today, working in the West Wing of the White House. Perhaps Murray knows this and is going for the shame angle, "This is an extreme attitude Mr. President. If you don't want to be associated with extremism, don't do it." I don't hold out much hope for shame getting through to Dubya. I'm not even sure he knows what the word means. Liberal Oasis points out a prime example of how Democrats typically respond to smear campaigns like this:
By not giving the charges any credence, she minimized the amount of coverage and helped shape the quality of coverage. As a result, none of the Sunday shows mentioned the flap, except for Fox. Though the big disappointment was not that Fox made a big deal about it. It was Sen. Joe Biden’s (D-DE) weak defense of her. Well, knowing Patty, I know she didn't mean it the way that came out. I assume what she was trying to say to those high school students was that the reason he's popular in various parts of the world is, along with the Saudis, they built 70,000 madrassas and they did go in there -- he did go in there, with our help and millions of dollars, to, you know, kick out the Russians, et cetera. But I think it was -- I would hope if she had a chance to rephrase it, she would change that. The idea that Patty Murray thinks we should pattern ourselves after bin Laden is not -- I don't believe she thinks that at all. I think it's a very bad choice of words. Except that it wasn’t a bad choice of words. It was an intelligent choice of words, and Murray ain't apologizing.
Amen to that. Biden's comment is full of truly ridiculous qualifying words that just legitimize the smear tactics. Biden says, "I don't believe she thinks that at all". It's not a matter of belief Joe. Of course she doesn't believe that, and you should say so clearly and call on the carpet those who make the ridiculous suggestion that she does. Instead, he concedes the smear's main thesis by saying that Murray would say it differently if she had another chance. Biden needs to learn that it doesn't matter how carefully you phrase your words, the GOP smear machine will find some way to distort it in order to make you sound like you are bin Laden's biggest buddy and that you hate all things American. This is the way they operate Joe. Wake Up!

Sunday, December 22, 2002

How apt:
Hickory congressman uses paint job to whitewash racially charged comments U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger, anticipating fallout from a newspaper interview in which he said he had “segregationist feelings” after conflicts with a black colleague, decided to have his yard's black lawn jockey painted white Friday. “It was painted with the knowledge that he was attacked in the past for it, and it was likely to come up again,” said Dan Gurley, Ballenger's chief of staff. The 3 1/2-foot tall cast iron statue has been in Ballenger's family since the 1920s. It has stood on the Northwest Hickory property since the 1950s when Ballenger built a house there. The lawn jockey issue comes up every election, Gurley said.
It is not surprising that Ballenger thinks that painting a lawn jockey white is sufficient to make up for his comments. The Republican party thinks that all they have to do is get rid of Trent Lott and everyone will think they are repulsed by the idea of racism or appeals to racism. Sorry guys, that only works with the establishment media. The jockey may be painted white, but it is still black underneath. Lott may no longer be majority leader, but the GOP is still rolling around with cockroaches under the sheets.

Some more good quotes to go along with my previous installment. Some from history. Some from people I respect. "When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right" -- Bill Clinton "Conservatives romanticize their constituencies, liberals satirize and demean their own." -- Mary Schumacher "...the idea that having a Republican in office is preferable because his supporters are more rabid is like saying Osama bin Laden should be in charge because then the terrorists wouldn't bother us." -- Ali Minai, in a letter to Howard Fineman "The obscure we see eventually. The completely apparent takes a little longer." - Edward R. Murrow "They are decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful for impotence." -- Winston Churchill "When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters." -- Adam Smith, _The_Wealth_Of_Nations_

BTW, I've been trying to get a comment system set up here but Haloscan is no longer taking any customers. Anyone know of any alternatives I can use? Thanks.

Atrios and Yglesias are both on the case of David Broder's apparent equation of a blow job with segregation. I have had a special place in my heart for David Broder for quite some time. Being "the dean of the Washington press corps" his opinion holds as much sway in the establishment media as, say, Atrios does in the blogosphere. However, Atrios, unlike Broder, doesn't think that sacrificing the truth to expediency is necessary to avoid chaos. Especially since Atrios has no vested interest (so far) in maintaining the social order that might be brought down by said chaos. For that is the essence of David Broder. During the 2000 fiasco, he might have agreed that Gore was getting a raw deal, in private. But he would have sided with those who said that the American way of life would have been reduced to chaos if Gore were chosen. Why? Because the Republicans would be much less willing to go along with such a decision (witness how they treated Clinton, a President whose election was much cleared then Gore's). This is the philosphy that states that it is better to perpetuate a lie (that Bush is the legitimate President) then to risk the chaos that would result if the real choice of the people were allowed to govern. In other words, Broder knows that the Republicans are thugs while the Democrats are not (in fact, they are quite the opposite, but that is another rant). But peace is better then dispute, so the thugs should be allowed to rule. This is the essence of the Broderization of the establishment media: it is there to protect the social order of the establishment, not to advance any idealistic cause such as truth. The fact that Broder is the dean of that establishment has nothing to do with it I am sure.