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7/29/2004

WoT White Hats

Rand Beers
Richard Clarke
Roger Cressey
Greg Thielmann
Flynt Leverett
Vince Cannistraro
Richard Kerr
Greg Terverton
Jeffrey Record
Karen Kwiatkowski
Sibel Edmonds
The Diplomats and Military Officals for Change
John Brady Kiesling
Joe Wilson
Tom Clancy
Christian Westermann
Anthony Zinni
Lawrence Korb
Eric Shinseki
Daniel Benjamin
Hans Blix
Scott Ritter
Mohammed el-Baradei
Walter Slocombe
Peter Galbraith
Steven Simon
John Deutch
Brent Scowcroft

There are numerous others. Obvious oversights should be mentioned in comments.


Democrats are Not Assaulting Bush from the Right

I am sick of this sort of shit.

Afghanistan is spiraling back to failed-statehood. Iraq is devolving from a bad strong state to a bad failed state.

Iraq didn't need to be done, but can we at least do it right?

July Surprise

Josh Marshall and Laura Rosen, along with just about every other blogger, has commented on the suspicious timing of Pakistan's capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. The liberal New Republic reported that Pakistani intelligence was being pressured to produce terrorist leaders during the DNC convention. Ask and ye shall receive.

For the Record

I don't have much comment on any of these articles, beyond thinking they are important. To preserve them for posterity, links to several recent NYT articles.

The NYT analyzes the 9/11 Commission Report.

The Bush administration approves the use of FDA approval as a litigation shield.

Daniel Okrent misunderstands the epithet "liberal."

Miscellaneous link-dump:

Christian Science Monitor article on Iranian Nuclear intransigence.

Bloomberg article on the Zarqawi snipe hunt.

Sibel Edmonds

The 9/11 Commission gladhanded the FBI. It avoided criticism of the agency because it thought it was "doing exactly the right thing" in the aftermath of its 9/11 failures.

Yet today a Justice Department investigation revealed that whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was fired in part because of her allegations of mismanagement. Acting FBI Director Mueller thinks this is a non-issue. Her allegations about incompetence and malfeasance by FBI translators are incredibly important.

Senator Orrin Hatch has aided the poor treatment of Edmonds. Her case is a text-book example of politically motivated abuse of classification powers. Ashcroft retroactively classified all information about the Edmonds case, including common public knowledge.

Whistleblowers for Kerry

Whistleblowers are more important now than ever. They are an important stop-gap solution to group-think. Kerry supports protections. Bush blows them off. The intelligence apparatus is his toy to play with.

The National Whistleblower Center has a good website. See also the deplorable treatment of former U.S. Park Police Theresa Chambers.

Fair Use: Halliburton Loses 1/3 of Government Property

From the Houston Chronicle:

Millions in U.S. property lost in Iraq, report says
Halliburton claims figures only 'projections'
Bloomberg News

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

The auditors couldn't account for 6,975 of 20,531 items on the ledgers of Halliburton's KBR unit, according to a report by Stuart Bowen, auditor for the coalition provisional authority inspector general.

Halliburton is providing services to U.S. troops under a contract that has generated $3.2 billion in revenue so far.

"This occurred because KBR did not effectively manage government property," Bowen wrote. "As a result, we projected that KBR could not account for 6,975 property items from an inventory of 20,531 valued at $61.1 million."

Halliburton is under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly overcharging the military by $61 million for fuel purchases.

Democrats accuse the Bush administration of favoring the company because of its former connections to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Halliburton disagrees with the new audit, said company spokeswoman Cathy Gist.

"The examination simply included projections that were based on limited sample groups that were not necessarily a representative selection amount, which could have provided a more accurate measure," Gist said in an e-mailed statement. "The facts show that (KBR) has adequately managed the property for this mission by aggressively monitoring its property management functions above and beyond what is required for government approval of a property control system."
Might we want to stop giving them new contracts until we figure out how much they've taken us for?

Drivel from Will

George Will's column in today's Post is so laughably incoherent on its face that it doesn't deserve a lengthy response. But I'm up, and my brain is functioning at 25% capacity, and that is more than enough to make fun of Will.

Today's column is an exercise in schizophrenia.  The first half is dedicated to dismissing the differences between the parties, the second half atributes this to ideological polarization. 

When John Kerry speaks tonight he may promise, again, to cut corporate taxes and increase the size of the military by 40,000 people. Both ideas are sensible -- and tactical. They are supposed to blunt Republican charges that he stands on one side of a vast ideological chasm separating the parties. Democrats make similar, and similarly silly, charges about this election as the hinge on which American and world history will turn.
He wants to cut corporate taxes while closing corporate tax loopholes. I don't think the tax reductions are necessary, but as a revenue neutral change, it is still worth supporting. He wants to increase the size of the military because its current obligations have overstretched it, with the gaps filled by unaccountable private military firms and activated reservists. It is good, responsible policy. That is the greatest ideological gap separating Democrats from Republicans - one thinks government can be made to work for the people, one thinks government can be made to fatten friends' bottom lines.
What is strange about politics today is not just that it is so passionate -- particularly on the part of Democrats unhinged by their loathing of George W. Bush -- but that the passions seem displaced. They are not merely disproportionate to the parties' policy differences; they seem almost unrelated to those differences.

Would Democrats loathe Bush much less if Sept. 11 and the Iraq war had never happened? The depth of their loathing of him after the Florida unpleasantness but before his inauguration suggests otherwise. And Republicans relishing -- the verb fits -- their fear of Kerry cannot have missed the fact that, like most political careerists whose compass is caution, he actually represents a remarkably unremarkable response to Bush's policies.
There are huge policy differences between the parties, on issue ranging from environmental protection to international obligations. The policy differences alone are enough for passion. But again, Will misses the point. George Bush is not a good president, he is not and has not been up to the task. Republicans think government is something to be destroyed or taken advantage of. They treat it like a rental car. What Will mistakes for caution in Kerry is concern for good governance and good policy. He really just doesn't understand the importance of competence- he has spent too much time in the trenches of the conservative movement.
Like Bush, Kerry says that success in Iraq is necessary, and he defines success as Bush does: Iraq secure, prosperous and democratic. The drama of a Kerry presidency would not be in his attempts to enlist "the world" in helping to achieve that but in his reaction to his failure to do so.
In fact, the whole world defines success in Iraq this way. The question is who has the resolve to try to make it happen. Does anyone doubt that Bush would pull all the troops out of Iraq tomorrow if it helped in November? He has planned the entire operation around an electoral marketing scheme, everything from the "roll out" of the war to the ramping up of the WMD-intelligence commission.

Kerry stands a chance of forming an international coalition. The world wants success in Iraq, and Kerry's election will provide an opportunity for them to make good on that wish. 
Kerry says he would not rule out preemptive military action, but Bush probably exhausted presidential ability to take such action by doing so against a nation that lacked the attribute that could justify it -- possession of weapons of mass destruction by a regime likely to use them. Yes, the world is better off because Bush rid Iraq of the regime that filled the mass graves, but he does not argue that human rights horrors justify preemptive war.
Mr. Will should look up the difference between preventive and preemptive. Preemptive war may still be justifiable, just not on uncertain evidence stovepiped to eager politicians from more eager defectors. Preventive war is not justifiable, just as it wasn't prior to the invasion of Iraq. Kerry wouldn't sell a preventive war as preemptive.

This is still a pretty big admission from Will, that the "human rights" rationale for the war doesn't cut it.
The first crisis of the next presidential term probably will be Iran's approaching possession of nuclear weapons. Bush's policy already is Kerryesque: Ask "the world" to help. It is not working.
Bush's response has been to do nothing. His most recent action was to inflame the Iranian regime by absolving a group of anti-Iranian terrorists of wrongdoing. Kerry will probably form an international coalition, like the NK 94 group, that will resolve the situation. It will be unpleasant, but it will make us safer. Republicans will surely attack him for it.
Domestically, the parties differ primarily about the modalities for administering -- and expanding -- the welfare state. These are not trivial differences, but neither are they akin to those that existed in living memory when the parties differed about whether there should be a welfare state. Bush's interest in serious reforms of Social Security and Medicare has been relegated by his war preoccupations to a second term, for which they would be unsuited by his lame-duck status, even if Congress were not paralyzed by acrimony.
Republicans, perhaps the 1994 extremists aside, have never been serious about eliminating the welfare state. Bush had the chance to privatize social security, but squandered the transition costs dough on ill-designed tax cuts. His Medicare reform is a sick joke. Again, it gets back to seriousness and competence. Bush is serious about serving his donors and friends, Kerry is serious about serving the American people.  The ideology one takes in approaching government impacts one's ability to design policy.  Anti-government conservatives just don't think it matters, and it shows.  Democrats recognize that government is an obligation, a responsibility, something that needs serious commitment.
In 2000, six years after Republicans gained 52 House seats by promising, among much else, to abolish the Department of Education, candidate Bush promised to increase federal involvement in the quintessential state and local responsibility -- primary and secondary education. And he has delivered. In 2000, he, like Vice President Al Gore, promised to enrich, with a prescription drug benefit, the entitlement menu of the emblematic achievement of the Great Society, Medicare. And he has delivered. Neither Bush nor Kerry is illuminating about reducing the deficit, or about coping with something that will begin in the fourth year of the next presidential term -- the retirement of 77 million baby boomers.
NCLB is a boondoggle, another underfunded example of policy design run amuck. Bush realized it was a potent political issue and sought to defuse it, without ever caring whether he helped people or not. There are no signs that Bush ever intends to do anything to shore up Medicare, and Social Security is still relatively healthy.
So why the bitter sense, on both sides, of apocalypse soon if the other side prevails? Because at last we have the parties that intellectuals have long wanted.

Until now America has never had an almost complete congruence between ideological and party identities. A great sorting out has put almost all liberals in one party, conservatives in the other. Intellectuals, with their hankering for clarity and coherence, have long desired this condition. Europe has long had it. Now that Americans have it, their politics has become what it is.
The schizophrenia begins. Did Will mistakenly combine two unrelated columns? How does ideological polarization explain policy-congruence? Beats me. The anti-intellectualism is gratuitous, a reminder of how conservative caricatures are omnipresent, but nonsensical. Where has an intellectual ever called for greater ideological polarization?

He is, of course, also wrong on the sociology. There is no evidence that the Democratic Party has become more ideologically uniform. The Democratic Party has space for Lieberman and Sharpton, Dean and Moseley Braun. The RNC convention has space for Santorum and Scwarzenegger. Oh wait, Santorum won't be speaking.
The tone-setting activists of both parties exemplify an unpleasant product of modern government: the entitlement mentality. They believe not merely that their party deserves to govern because of the superior wisdom of its policies but that they are entitled to govern because of their moral and intellectual superiority.
This is supposed to bridge the schizophrenia? First, note again the invocation of conservative stereotypes about liberals. This piece is not bipartisan in its criticism, despite is superficial even-handedness. Conservatives think government social spending creates an "entitlement mentality," a reticence to grovel when we aren't tossed into debtor's prison.

Second, how does this relate to the belief that one's political party is morally and intellectually superior to the alternatives? What aspect of government has encouraged this insidious development? I would lay the blame for the moralization of politics squarely at the feet of conservative functionaries, who never miss an opportunity to accuse Democrats of godless heathenism, though it has a long tradition in America.  Our moralization can not compare to the conflagrations between the Federalists and anti-Federalists. 
Tonight Kerry speaks in the city where Ralph Waldo Emerson espoused a belief that much contemporary historiography, with its egalitarian bent, rejects -- that "there is properly no history; only biography." Historians may say history is made as much by the pepper trade or scullery maids as by presidents, but Kerry's biography matters greatly because presidents do. His biography suggests more banality than menace, although banality in high office can be its own kind of menace.
Complete incoherence and typical irrelevance. That historians say history is more than biography does not mean biography is not part of history. No historian would advise the erasure of people. Emerson happens to be wrong, but it is completely irrelevant.

The banality/meance line is too much. I give up. If Kerry's biography suggests banality, what does George W. Bush's suggest?

Obnoxious DLC

The Democrats go to Boston and announce their love for each other. We act for the first time in a long time like a party, the democratic wing, the liberal wing, and the center-right wing all coming together to present a unified rejection of the conservative misgovernance of the Bush administration. Politicians old and new put fourth their visions for the party, how to move forward from our national nadir. And it is all fitting together pretty well.

But the DLC just can't handle it. I'm not sure if it is just because I don't like Al From or what, but the DLC gets under my skin almost as much as Tom Delay and Halliburton. I appreciate the ideas PPI brings to the table, I receive the NDOL newsletter, hell, I've even gone to two different DLC conventions. But they just don't get what it means to belong to a political party or how to operate in a two party system.

Consider David Broder's column in today's Washington Post. The condescension starts in the opening paragraphs.

The Democrats have convinced most of the journalists covering their convention here that their party has eliminated most of its internal differences. That is true, unless you count the gap between the party's head and its heart.

The head -- the platform and the policy ideas embraced by John Kerry and John Edwards -- belongs to the New Democrats, the group that 20 years ago founded the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which became the political base for Bill Clinton.
The DLC would be the head of the party if it was capable of sophisticated political thought. Triangulation is not a heady philosophy. George W. Bush even understands this, with his "We're not going to negotiate with ourselves" approach to politics. The DLC doesn't bother to negotiate with conservatives - it concedes before negotiations begin. A triangle requires two separate points in its base. The DLC's strategy would simply produce a new line, with a significantly larger left margin of excluded policies, ideas, and people.

The most damning aspect of the DLC is that it has internalized so many of the right wing caricatures of the left. When I read our platform, I could quibble (particularly with its lack of discussion of transparency, a glaring weakness), but I thought it fairly represented my positions. Yet Broder, and I suspect the DLC itself, read it as representing their views. And it does - but not exclusively. It is an ambiguous document, well designed to incorporate many perspectives. They have no exclusive claim to it.
Kerry, who voted to give Bush authority to take on Saddam Hussein, easily dispatched the challenge of antiwar candidates Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Bob Graham. Then he filled out his ticket with Edwards, who had voted the same way he had. Unlike the delegates, they say that American troops should remain in Iraq as long as it takes to stabilize its democracy. On that -- and on a variety of domestic issues -- their policies reflect the views of the DLC and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute.

Originally, some key DLC leaders backed Joe Lieberman, a former DLC chairman, for the nomination. But when he faltered, they had no problem switching to Kerry, who had been active in their group as well. Edwards was not a DLC member, but only because he saw that Lieberman and Kerry had a better claim on its support. His policy views are perfectly compatible with the group's.
I would bet David Broder $500 that had the DLC endorsed Kerry he would not have won the nomination (knowing that Broder would welsh). Lieberman was a doomed candidate from the beginning - that the DLC endorsed him shows how addled their political mind is - but the DLC endorsement hung like an albatross around his neck. Kerry and Edwards can make a claim for the allegiance of the democratic wing of the party because they have been willing to stand up to the conservatives: they aren't members of the new Committee on the Present Danger. They don't hink labor is a dirty word. They are being attacked by conservatives as being liberals - if nothing else, we have a stake in proving that "liberal" isn;t a dirty word.

I probably wouldn't have voted for Lieberman in a general election, and I would support a Nader candidacy against him in 2006.
Al From, the longtime chief executive of the DLC, says confidently that "the debate within the party is over and we have won."
This is why I don't like Al From. He "won" the debate in the same way Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly "win" their debates - by marginalizing and excluding their opponents.

The DLC has frequently argued that liberalism just isn't politically feasible, and their mealy mouthed centrism is the best we can do - call it reluctant accomodationism. When Howard Dean offered an alternative - muscular liberalism - the DLC mocked it, despite his strong record on many of their issues. Until they recognize that activist Democrats are "real people" and not "elites," they have no claim to my head, and I question whether they have any head at all.

Supersized Insanity: Tom Delay

Subway, the sandwich chain, has advertisements for the documentary Supersize Me on its food tray liners in Germany. There is a natural tie-in, with Subway spokesman Jared appearing in the movies.

The advertisement has a picture of a plump statue of liberty holding aloft an order of french fries. Tom Delay finds this objectionable:

But the ads didn't make sense to DeLay, even if they were just catching bread crumbs and horseradish at 100 restaurants in Germany.

"I guess for some companies, corporate patriotism is as flexible as Jared's waistline," DeLay said.

DeLay objected to the ad's parody of the Statue of Liberty, "one of the most recognizable American symbols."

And he complained aboutthe flier including a quote from filmmaker and "pathological partisan" Michael Moore, whose anti-Bush diatribe Fahrenheit 9/11 has become the Democrats' choice for best picture.

Moore is quoted as saying, "The only time I have been scared for my life has been going through a McDonald's drive-through."

DeLay said, "For Subway to thumb its nose at its American customers and promote Michael Moore's blame-America-first conspiracy in a foreign country is very concerning."
Doesn't the House Majority Leader have better things to do with his time?

7/28/2004

Meet Reality

Mr. Carr, you seem like a decent guy, but your fuzzy theorizing just ran into the brick wall of reality.

Bush just exonerated an anti-Iranian terrorist group. You might want to re-evaluate this paragraph, lest we mistake Bush for a leftist:

In the intellectual arena, meanwhile, the fatuous logic that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" keeps left-leaning intellectuals away from the cause of definition. And so its promulgation continues to elude the world, even as we have embarked on a war against the phenomenon itself.
You may also want to look at the history of the IRA, Zionism and the Contras. Nonetheless, you have a point that obsessively focusing on "Islamism" risks exacerbating the "clash of civilizations" problem. A war on al Qaeda doesn't run that risk, though. "Islamism" is a fatuous phrasing.

Microsoft-Meyerson Alliance

I had a long post assembled on the 7/28 Meyerson op ed in the Washington Post. It was foiled by a computer crash, allegedly triggered by Symantec. That's life in our beautiful new age.

The short version: Democrats have been struggling with the tension between technocratic progressivism and democratic populism since the New Deal. The new economy, with its increasing economic insecurity in previously inured fields, presents a new opportunity for synthesis. And no one serious ever believed supply-side economics (not GHWB, Stockman, et al).

Junkie

What does it mean when you can't go to sleep because a Hubert Humphrey retrospective is playing on C-Span 3?

National Review: Buying its Own Caricatures of the Democratic Party

Roger Clegg, one of the National Review minions, writes this about Barack Obama's moving 7/27 keynote address:

Barack Obama gave a fine speech, but it was not a speech that reflects the current Democratic Party. It celebrated America as "a magical place"; it did not bemoan our racism and imperialism. It professed that this black man "owe[d] a debt to those who came before" him; it did not call for reparations. It spoke of an "awesome God"; it did not banish Him from public discourse. It admitted that black parents, and black culture, need to change the way black children are raised; it did not blame or even mention racism. It quoted "E pluribus unum" and translated it correctly as "Out of many, one"; it did not misquote it, as Al Gore infamously did, as "Many out of one." Most of all, the speech celebrated one America, "one people," and rejected the notion of a black America, a white America, a Latino America, and an Asian America--a notion completely foreign to the multiculturalism that now dominates the Democratic Party.
In a way, this gives me a little hope. I can never tell if Republicans are simply lying about Democrats or if they actually believe the stories they tell. Do they honestly believe that Democrats hate America, or are they just a bunch of cynical machiavellians manipulating the "rubes." I waver as to which explanation I would prefer, but today, I prefer the "honest" misunderstanding - they are incompetent, not evil. Clegg clearly believes the National Review distortions of the Democratic Party. If he thinks that what Obama said is meritorious, then there may be hope for him yet.

America is a "magical place." Racism and imperialism don't do it justice: that is the Democratic argument. Obama owes a debt to those who came before him, as we all do. Hence the need to ensure that everyone receives that credit: that is the Democratic argument. "God" in public discourse is great; in the public coffers, not so great: that is the Democratic argument. Black parents and culture needs to change; we need to ensure that efforts are rewarded and helped along the way. Multiculturalism is e pluribus unum; Black Americans are Americans. Asian Americans are Americans. Latino Americans are Americans. Arab Americans are Americans. White Americans are Americans. We are all Americans, and all equally so.

Obama's speech summed up the core of the modern Democratic Party. We are all hurt when one of us hurts, we all succeed when one of us succeeds. Republicans tend to focus on the latter and forget the former.

7/27/2004

Uniter

Kerry might not be able to unite the American people, but I sure as hell hope he can unite the executive branch.

An anti-Iranian terrorist group, the Iranian People's Mujahideen Organisation (Mujahidee Khalq ), is operating out of Iraq, where it has been based since the 80s. The Iranians have been negotiating with the American government for their handover.

Yesterday, though, the United States extended protections to them under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents their handover to Iran. They are still listed by the US as a terrorist organization.

Perviz Kharzai, a leader in the organization, explained the seeming contradiction this way:

"It looks like a contradiction. That means the American administration is split over the Mujahideen. I think the State Department is still working to appease the Mullahs. They are still hoping to strike a deal with the regime, and there are some circles in the diplomacy of the United States still hoping of reforming this regime from within, which has failed already. But also there are other sections in the American administration who think the Mujahideen have nothing to do with terrorism as they are actually an anti-fundamentalist force, using Islamic ideology against Islamic fundamentalism, and that has to be welcomed by the world community."
Even a random Iranian terrorist knows the way to the withered neocon heart is through bashing the Department of State. Seriously, this is a test of Bush's "war on terror," and he failed it.

Network Terrorism

Lawrence Wright has an article in the New Yorker about the Madrid bombings. In short, the bombings were a dramatic departure from al-Qaeda ideologically - focusing on near term political disruption, rather than a clash of civilizations - but were carried out by a closely affiliated group. Aside from the new info. on Madrid, it largely retreads the 03/04 IISS Strategic Survey. IISS, which I would generally categorize as center-right, has done some of the best theorizing on al-Qaeda, including analyzing its decentralization into networks following the invasion of Afghanistan, which counter-intuitively may have strengthened it.

New York Review on Michael Moore

Geoffrey O'Brien has one of the fairest reviews of F9/11 that I have seen.

Fahrenheit 9/11 serves as a necessary reminder that, to put it in the simplest terms, we need to see and hear more than the government and the various news channels allow us to see and hear. We need to play back the tapes to refresh our memory of what seems consigned to instant oblivion even as it unfolds. We need to see those images —of Americans and Iraqis alike wounded and dying, for example— that American television tends to withhold, as if the reality of the war could thereby be kept at bay. Michael Moore's version of what has been happening lately is only one possible narrative; but by its very existence it encourages a more active, more confrontational approach to the images that surround us, anything to break through the numbing effect of the endless flow of TV news broadcasts and official bulletins that has become something like the wallpaper of a distorted public reality, a stream of images that moves forward without ever looking back.
Moore's "stubborn subjectivity, grounded in local knowledge, and reinforced by habitual gestures and comic tics," is brought to bear on matters of geopolitical importance. Moore's story has power, not because of its analytic content, but because of its use of materials (mostly familiar) to bring back into the discussion facts and events discarded by the march of the noise machine.

Fetishizing Constitutional Power

The Administration plays a good game at invoking the separation of powers and respect for constitutional structure when it suits its purpose. But it is revealed as merely a game, just one more tool for aggrandizing Bush's presidential powers, when one examines his treatment of other branches of government. If Bush really respected the separation of powers, he would give due respect to his co-equal branches of government.

Dana Milbank, in today's Post, notes the administration's single-minded focus on increasing executive power. The 9-11 Commission recommended the creation of an executive branch counter-terrorism director that would be confirmed by the Senate. Milbank reminds us that the same proposal was floated in 2002, and the administration shot it down.

Here's what happened in 2002, when lawmakers tried -- and failed -- to get a Senate-confirmed counterterrorism director in the White House: The White House threatened a veto, saying the legislation "seeks to interject Congress into the daily operations of the Executive Office of the President by requiring the director and a senior advisor to the president, within the president's own executive office, to report directly to Congress and participate in agency budget processes in a statutorily mandated fashion that is unacceptable. The creation of this office represents undue interference with presidential prerogatives and management of his own staff and support structures."
Robert Byrd, the main champion of Congressional powers, has a new book out, Losing America, in which he gives an account of Bush's contempt for Congress. Russell Baker's review in the New York Review of Books, only available to subscribers, provides a good summary of it. Byrd highlights Congress's abrogation of its war making powers in Iraq. He recounts personal slights by Bush in the DHS "debate." He discusses the "party discipline of Teutonic severity" that keeps the Senate in lockstep behind Bush.

Bush's aggrandizement of the executive is not founded in respect for the constitution. It is about undermining both democracy and liberalism, in favor of I know not what.
If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

A Justification for Media Coverage of the Conventions

I am tired of all the bitching from media mavens about how "unnewsworthy" the conventions are. This Boston Globe piece is really galling:

Addressing the challenges of covering politics in a politically polarized environment, the anchors acknowledged the impact of criticism and pressure, often from conservatives, that pours into their networks at unprecedented levels. In a January 2004 Pew Research Center survey that seemed to reflect conservative concerns about network coverage, only 24 percent of Republicans said they relied on ABC, CBS, or NBC as a main source of campaign news, compared with 40 percent of Democrats.

Rather stated that "fear has increased in every newsroom in America," and added that reporting on explosive issues can bring a torrent of e-mails and phone calls. That can lead to a situation, he said, in which journalists conclude that "when you run this story, you're asking for trouble with a capital 'T'. . . Why run it?"

Brokaw, referring to the president of the conservative watchdog organization, the Media Research Center, said conservatives "feel they have to go to war against the networks every day." Jennings added, "I hear more about conservative concerns than I have in the past. . . This wave of resentment rushes at our advertisers, rushes at our corporate suites. . . I feel the presence of anger all the time."

Although Jennings defended ABC's coverage of the period leading up to the war in Iraq, several of yesterday's speakers agreed that their news outlets had not been aggressive enough in examining the Bush administration's rationale for the conflict.
There are two obvious justifications for covering the conventions. The first, more superficial one, is that the people speaking, and the speeches themselves, are important. The media frequently cover as news the ramblings of random administration officials - they don't report them because the content is important or even true but because of who is speaking. Covering the conventions from this perspective certainly runs risks, though - the incessant nattering mocked by Stewart:
Here is Stewart's rendition of a typical television debate about the convention's impact on Kerry and Edwards:

"What kind of bump are they going to get?"

"I think one point."

"I think five points."

"I say 10."

"Ten? You're insane!"

Wait a minute -- wasn't that just on the air somewhere?
The second justification is the real one: the conventions are one of the prime battle grounds in a struggle over ideas. The press, out of ignonimous vapidity, never bothers to cover the ideological competition between the parties, letting talking heads fill the void. Of course, Republican talking heads are movement flacks, while Democratic talking heads are Milquetoast media personalities. Movement flacks obviously have their ideological talking points down a little tighter than people that haven't seen a movement since McGovern.

For instance, last night's convention speakers had a poetic unity that hasn't been covered anywhere, to my knowledge: the revitalization of the common good. Just weeks ago, conservatives accused Hillary Clinton of outright socialism for even mentioning the phrase. From Clinton's speech:
Democrats and Republicans have very different and honestly held ideas on that choices we should make, rooted in fundamentally different views of how we should meet our common challenges at home and how we should play our role in the world. Democrats want to build an America of shared responsibilities and shared opportunities and more global cooperation, acting alone only when we must.

We think the role of government is to give people the tools and conditions to make the most of their lives. Republicans believe in an America run by the right people, their people, in a world in which we act unilaterally when we can, and cooperate when we have to.

They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America. But Americans long to be united. After 9/11, we all wanted to be one nation, strong in the fight against terror. The president had a great opportunity to bring us together under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in common cause against terror.
This is, in large part, what we stand for, Kennedy's request that we ask what we can do for our country. We reject the deplorable venality of conservatism; we hold out hope that we can actually work together to improve the future. They want to reduce the idea of democracy to participation in the market. We want to restore the idea that people have power.

America's Image in the World

3+ weeks ago, I noted that the American interim government had spent about 2% - $366 million - of the money allocated to it by Congress, while simultaneously spending $19 billion in Iraqi oil revenue.

I have still yet to see an adequate explanation for this mismanagement. Audits are opposed, books are mismanaged or nonexistent.

Here's al-Jazeera's take on it, a reprinting from the Taipei Times. Couldn't we have at least taken care of their money?

7/25/2004

Hope for Georgia?

Nothing particularly interesting in this story, just some info. on moderate/Democratic victories in Georgia elections. Electing a moderate black woman to the State Supreme Court is a good sign.

Tongue Cluckers

The media are upset about having to use port-o-lets at the convention. Luckily, their shit don't stink.

Bush's Black Outreach: Threats and Bluster

Glenn Reynolds summarizes Bush's speech at the Urban League: "Bush poses questions for black voters." Glenn lists eight reasons for black voters to support Bush.

Does the Democrat party take African American voters for granted?

Yes, perhaps the Democratic Party does. The Democratic Party doesn't work hard enough for the interests of the black community (the F9/11 opening scene comes to mind - when no Senator would sign off on the CBC vote challenges). But at least it isn't working against them.

Is it a good thing for the African American community to be represented mainly by one political party?

So Bush is admitting that he doesn't represent the African American community? Seriously, this reads like a threat: we'll keep fucking you if you don't start voting for us. He may want to consider approaching things the other way around.

This is standard operating procedure for Republicans though. They will punish businesses and lobbyists that support both parties, they will punish states and cities that are too liberal. They don't represent the American people, they represent the interest groups that vote for them.

Seriously, can anyone imagine Kerry blackballing the Chamber of Commerce? Even after the Chamber came out solidly for Bush?

How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?

See above. The black community needs political leverage to stop the Republican agenda.

Have the traditional solutions of the Democrat party truly served the African American community?

Some of them, yes. Regardless, the Democratic party has more than just "traditional" solutions - Clinton had anything but a "traditional" agenda for things like urban policy. And regardless, the "traditional" solutions are certainly better than the Republican solutions - tax cuts for the rich.

Does blocking the faith-based initiative help neighborhoods where the only social service provider could be a church?

This is perhaps the most galling argument. Faith Based Initiatives was never anything more than a political ploy and an effort to subsidize Republican party-building efforts. Former Bush administration official John DiIulio famously coined the "Mayberry Machiavelli" moniker in talking about the policy - Bush was using it to get votes, not to make good policy. In light of Bush's crass politicization of churches and religious organizations, his motives are even more suspect.

If working with churches is an effective way to implement good social policy, then by all means lets do it. Three things to keep in mind, though: 1. We need to make sure the services are available to all, regardless of faith or creed; 2. We need to preserve the integrity of religious institutions, including their tax exempt status; 3. We need to make sure that the policies are well designed, good uses of political and fiscal resources.

Does the status quo in education really, really help the children of this country?

The real question is if the pre-Bush status quo was better than the post-Bush, post NCLB era. For the amount of money we are wasting on silly testing and worse bureaucracy, so many missed opportunities. And the idea that vouchers are a solution, rather than another effort to divert money to Republican party building is a joke.

Does class warfare -- has class warfare or higher taxes ever created decent jobs in the inner city?

Lower taxes for the rich obviously haven't helped. Clinton oversaw unprecedented revitalization of central cities, much of it represented in the controversial, but undeniably dynamic, new urbanism. I don't think the rich's war on the poor has helped the central cities much.

Are you satisfied with the same answers on crime, excuses for drugs and blindness to the problem of the family?

Perhaps he's referring to gay marriage here? Seriously, what the hell has he done on crime or drugs? Democrats at least feign interest in the mattter.

Update 3:21pm EST: Bird Dog, the dim bulb at Tacitus, expands on the Bush arguments. So when did it become acceptable for someone to support another candidate solely because of a religious affiliation? Religiosity is certainly no guarantee of good policy or good politics - some of the most abominable groups in American history have been (and are) based on bastardized Christianity.

The commenter Thelonius responds well to Bird Dog's post. The guy actually thinks it is a good argument (to say nothing of a moral argument) that social security discriminates against blacks because black people die sooner. Any person with a basic sense of decency, a functioning moral compass, would try to reduce the life expectancy gap - not propose privatizing social security.

Republican policies may be "intended" to benefit all Americans. But they haven't, and they won't. Republicans think being trickled on is a benefit, but it makes most people want to take a shower.

 

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