Saturday, July 31, 2004

Cheer yourself up with these upbeat appraisals of Kerry's speech. Here's Slate's take on how Kerry hit all the right notes, unleashing the anger Democrats feel towards Bush. And here's more from Salon.com, a premium service that non-subscribers generally can't access:
No retreat, No surrender
Shedding caution, John Kerry takes the fight to George W. Bush -- and gives the speech of his life.
By Tim Grieve and Geraldine Sealey

July 30, 2004 All week long, the Kerry-Edwards campaign has tried to keep a lid on the emotion -- anger about an election stolen, sadness about an America lost -- that is driving the Democrats' desire to oust George W. Bush. Thursday night in Boston, it finally became clear why: Kerry was trying to save it all for himself.

The Democratic presidential nominee stormed into the Fleet Center to Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender," and he never did. Nearly an hour after saying, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty," Kerry was still at his post, delivering a sustained attack on the Bush administration -- and a hopeful plea for the future -- that was as passionate, in Kerry's own way, as any speech Al Sharpton could ever hope to deliver.

"Now, I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities -- and I do -- because some issues just aren't all that simple," Kerry said. "Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming 'mission accomplished' certainly doesn't make it so."

Going straight after the Republican defense of Bush's war on Iraq -- the president didn't lie, he was misled -- Kerry said he will "ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system -- so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as president, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we will only go to war because we have to."

Kerry, who had been criticized by some Democrats for what they thought was excessive caution in attacking Bush and his policies, started out slowly but electrified the crowd when he took the gloves off. "I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war," he said. "I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney general who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States."

Kerry's speech brought to a close a Democratic Convention unlike any other in recent history. While all of the usual fighting factions were present in Boston, they managed to put on a united front for Kerry. "President Bush once said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told the convention earlier Thursday. "Well, congratulations, Mr. President. You have united the Democratic Party in a way that we have not seen in a generation."
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe took it a step further. "This is the best convention we've ever had," he said in a Fleet Center hallway on Thursday afternoon. "We're more unified and energized than we've ever been. It's going great. Bush is in trouble. Bush is gone."

Karl Rove, events at home and abroad, and voters across America will all eventually have something to say about that, but here's where things stand now. On the national level, pre-convention polls show that the race is essentially tied. Kerry is up by a couple of points in polls from Time, Fox and CNN; Bush is up by a couple in polls from ABC and NBC. In each case, the lead -- be it Bush's or Kerry's -- is within the margin of error.

Ultimately, of course, the national numbers are irrelevant -- just ask Al Gore, who won the national vote and then went home. The Electoral College is what matters, and with most states locked already into one column or the other -- there's no way California or New York will go for Bush, no way Kerry will carry Texas or Wyoming -- the campaigns will spend the next three months focused on a handful of swing states.

According to a pre-convention Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll, Bush has slim leads in Arkansas and West Virginia, Kerry is up in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, and the candidates are neck-and-neck in Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida.
The Journal's analysis: If the Zogby results today are an accurate prediction of the vote counts in November, Kerry will be elected president. Events in Iraq or at home could change the political landscape in an instant, but Democrats are clearly feeling optimistic about their chances.

There's more on the Salon website itself. So maybe Kerry will win after all. If you want to make sure that happens, sign up for voter registration work with moveon.org, johnkerry.com or other groups.

Friday, July 30, 2004

President Bush's Believe It or Not! We're moving forward, he claims, and Kerry's too liberal, a flip-flopper who has done little in the Senate. In a recent speech in Michigan, he proclaimed, "It's not enough to advocate reofrm, you have to be able to get it done, because when it comes to reforming schools to provide an education for all our children, results matter. When it comes to health care reform, giving families more access and more choices, results matter...." Will this line of attack work? I hope not. MSNBC - Bush slams Kerry for few �achievements� Results do matter, and as Kerry's team points out, "A shiny new speech won't cover up Bush's failure to help middle class families." Kerry fact sheet notes, "Out of Pocket Health Care Costs for Workers Have Risen 50 Percent Under Bush" -- and there is that pesky problem ignored by Bush of 44 million people without health insurance. And as for education, well, the "No Child Left Behind Act" reforms have been underfunded by about $23 billion, leaving states and lower-income communities without the resources needed to meet the educational standards the Bush Administration imposes . So much for a reformer with results.

Did the Democrats sell out to militarism? Will the 9/11 reports recommendantions lead to more intelligence screw-ups? These and other contrarian points -- drawn from publications as varied as Salon and The Washington Post -- are available on line at this left-wing website. TomPaine.com - Home

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Has all the positive happy-talk gotten out of hand? The pundits are liking the upbeat tone at the convention, but is it too bland to rally the faithful while not necessarily winning over the undecideds?Tom Shales weighs in with a corrective column. Too Nice For Their Own -- and Our -- Good (washingtonpost.com)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Miami-Dade's entire electronic voting records have been lost. Sign the petition in the previous posting from moveon.orgThe New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Lost Record of Vote in '02 Florida Race Raises '04 Concern

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

If you live in Florida (or elsewhere), your vote may not be counted. At least one other state, California, has taken emergency action by barring the use of electronic machines in a few urban counties. But here, Governor  Jeb Bush is standing by Glenda Hood, the Secretary of State who oversees elections and defends the machines, even though she already produced an error-filled list of thousands of  felons, mostly black and Democrats, who were mistakenly barred from voting while omitting any Hispanic felons (mostly Republican). She didn't back down or publicly reveal the list of names until the Miami Herald obtained a court order to get the names and found that thousands of people mistakenly listed as ineligible to vote.

She also insists that the balky electronic voting machines don't need independent auditing or any paper trails to see if they're accurate, despite already missing hundreds, if not thousands, of votes in a few smaller-scale elections. In a close election with the presidency at stake, can we afford to have voting machines that either don't work or are open to fraud (as Paul Krugman argues), abuse and mistakes? If you want to protest this burgeoning scandal ,  go to moveon.org's website for a petition to sign.

Realistically, it may be too late to guarantee the security and accuracy  of the vote, especially in Florida. John Kerry doesn't need just lawyers here, but probably U.N. election observers as well.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Why does Clinton do a better job of selling Kerry than Kerry himself? See the results here in the transcript of his speech, in case you missed it: Text of Former President Clinton's Remarks to the Democratic National Convention (washingtonpost.com)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

What do political bloggers want? Getting into good parties at the Democratic convention. With about 30 bloggers credentialed (some with mainstream media), here's an overview of all the bloggers pecking away on their laptops in Boston.DNC 2004 Weblogs: News Aggregator

Friday, July 23, 2004

A strong analysis of the 9/11 report by Slate's Fred Kaplan. As always, he's worth reading.Show Me the Money - The 9/11 commission's report is superb, but will it change anything? By Fred�Kaplan

The real story -- as far as we know it -- on Sandy Berger stuffing confidential documents in his pants and socks.Anatomy of a smear: Sandy Berger "socks" shocke ... [Media Matters for America]

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Bush didn't want the 9/11 commission in the first place, but now you can read the executive summary here:The New York Times > Washington > Text: Summary of Final Report

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MSNBC: The missed chances that could have prevented 9/11. MSNBC - Hindsight and the attacks on America

Monday, July 19, 2004

Is Fox News engaged in fraud? The movie "Outfoxed" makes a damning case about how the Fox News Network's top officials use partisan pressure, lies and video trickery to hammer home their pro-Republican case. You can see more about the movie, which costs only $10, at http://www.outfoxed.org/. I saw the movie at a moveon.org party -- one of thousands across the country -- to promote the movie and recruit signatures to challenge Fox's marketing practices. But whether Fox's bias rises to the level of consumer fraud in marketing because of its "Fair and Balanced" slogan is another question altogether. You can read the actual legal complaint at the moveon.org site. To me, it's a publicity stunt that makes the organizers, including moveon.org, appear to be engaged in an effort to halt free spech, although they claim otherwise. A better strategy would be for concerned citizens to mail copies of the film to local and national columnists, to raise awareness about Fox's trampling on standard journalistic practices. But I doubt that their core audience -- over 80% of whom believe that Iraq planned the 9/11 attack with Al Qaeda -- will be swayed by news that Fox is biased. In any case, to paraphrase Fox, I report, you decide: Yahoo! News - Advocacy Groups Challenge Fox News Slogan

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The worst news yet from Abu Ghraib: the most shocking tapes of all, according to Sy Hersh. From Salon, comes this news: 
Hersh: Children sodomized at Abu Ghraib, on tape
After Donald Rumsfeld testified on the Hill about Abu Ghraib in May, there was talk of more photos and video in the Pentagon's custody more horrific than anything made public so far. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld said. Since then, the Washington Post has disclosed some new details and images of abuse at the prison. But if Seymour Hersh is right, it all gets much worse.

Hersh gave a speech last week to the ACLU making the charge that children were sodomized in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon has tape of it. The speech was first reported in a New York Sun story last week, which was in turn posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog, and now EdCone.com and other blogs are linking to the video. We transcribed the critical section here (it starts at about 1:31:00 into the ACLU video.) At the start of the transcript here, you can see how Hersh was struggling over what he should say:

"Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

"It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we're dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there's enough out there, they can't (Applause). .... So it's going to be an interesting election year."
Notes from a similar speech Hersh gave in Chicago in June were posted on Brad DeLong's blog. Rick Pearlstein, who watched the speech, wrote: "[Hersh] said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, 'You haven't begun to see evil...' then trailed off. He said, 'horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.' He looked frightened."
So, there are several questions here: Has Hersh actually seen the video he described to the ACLU, and why hasn't he written about it yet? Will he be forced to elaborate in more public venues now that these two speeches are getting so much attention, at least in the blogosphere? And who else has seen the video, if it exists -- will journalists see and report on it? did senators see these images when they had their closed-door sessions with the Abu Ghraib evidence? -- and what is being done about it?
-- Geraldine Sealey
[09:26 PDT, July 15, 2004]


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

It's not just failed intelligence agencies: How the con-man Chalabai worked with the neo-cons to sell the phony case for war. The New Yorker gave us the inside story in June: The New Yorker: Fact Here's how Jane Mayer summarized Chalabi's pro-war schemes:

"Between 1992 and the raid on Chalabi’s home, the U.S. government funnelled more than a hundred million dollars to the Iraqi National Congress. The current Bush Administration gave Chalabi’s group at least thirty-nine million dollars. Exactly what the I.N.C. provided in exchange for these sums has yet to be fully explained. Chalabi defined his role simply. `I clarified the picture,' he said. His many critics, however, believe that he distorted it. Diplomatic and intelligence officials accuse him of exaggerating the security threat that Iraq posed to the U.S.; supplying defectors who offered misleading or bogus testimony about Saddam’s efforts to acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; promoting questionable stories connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda; and overestimating the ease with which Saddam could be replaced with a Western-style democracy.

"Vincent Cannistraro, a former C.I.A. counter-terrorism specialist who now consults for the government, told me, `With Chalabi, we paid to fool ourselves. It’s horrible. In other times, it might be funny. But a lot of people are dead as a result of this. It’s reprehensible.'"

Now the Columbia Journalism Review tells us more about how Chalabai's group conned the press with bogus defector tales.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Also worth noting: A former CIA analyst denounces corrupt intelligence.TomPaine.com - Corrupted Intelligence

Senate intel blinders: What White House Pressure? The recent Senate intelligence committee report provides cover for the White House and conservatives who have adopted a blame-it-all-on-the-CIA approach on the Iraqi blunders. But the Democrats on the committee inexplicably caved in by agreeing to the conclusion that there was no White House pressure to supply Bush and his team with the intelligence they wanted. There wasn't any pressure unless you count Vice President Cheney's repeat visits to CIA headquarters, numerous claims by the Administration's top officials that Iraq had weapons programs and other tactics designed to "hammer" CIA analysts into complying, as one CIA official told the Senate committee. As Senator Jay Rockefeller put it in a news conference reported by CBS:

[CBS]: So did the White House pressure the CIA to hype the prewar threat? The report itself says no, but dissenting views from committee Democrats call that an incomplete picture, insisting the agency was pressured.

Sen. ROCKEFELLER: A veteran of many years there said that the hammering on analysts was greater than he had seen in his 32 years of service.

Here's more on the pressure: The Progress Report - Center for American Progress

Thursday, July 08, 2004

9/ll Commission to Cheney: You lie, motherf*****! Our vice-presiden't isn't the only one who can curse over public policy. Actually, the commission's findings were more politely worded than Cheney's "go fuck yourself" comment to Senator Patrick Leahy over an Iraq policy dispute. The commission's latest finding was a surprising rebuke to Cheney -- and the continuing spin doctoring by this Administration over one of its bogus rationales for our misguided adventure in Iraq. The Progress Report - Center for American Progress

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