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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Conan the Compassionate
How did this happen? I can't believe I'm watching The Terminator give a prime-time political speech from Madison Square Garden to support the reelection of president George W. Bush. In 1989, one of these guys was trading Sammy Sosa, while the other was heading to Mars in Total Recall. Now he's the governor of California. How the hell did this happen?

Here's a European Republicans actually seem to like, imagine that. Attempting to tie his speech to the evening's theme, Compassion, Arnold played the immigrant card, which was to be expected... I mean, they can't let Teresa be the only one to pull that. Arnold's wife, Maria Shriver of the Kennedy Shrivers, seemed a little uncomfortable up in the box among the Bush, watching her husband pimp for a platform he can't even stand on himself. At one point, Schwarzenegger told a story about arriving in America and being welcomed by the words he heard Richard Milhous Nixon. Like hearing "a breath of fresh air" is how he described it. So Arnie is a Nixon Republican... yeah, that'll play well.

The California governor defended the president, continuing to paint a picture of him as a strong, resolute leader. Arnold peppered his speech with lines from his films, referencing both True Lies, The Terminator and Predator. What, no mention of Twins? The governor repeated the over-arching theme of this convention, that Bush "doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, does not back down"... unless of course he himself is faced with the prospect of going to war, in which case Bush'll use any connection he has to avoid service. Schwarzenegger spoke firmly about how Bush doesn't make decisions by listening to polls, because, let's face it, that would be too much like listening to the people.

And then, Arnie dropped his infamous remark about girlie-men on the rabid throng. The packed hall of homophobes went wild, and all of Chelsea raised a middle finger.

The Bush Twins Speak
My god, don't let it happen again.

Laura's Theme
Introduced by her husband, who was planted in an Iowa cornfield or something, Laura Bush took the stage and let the Prozac do the talking. She's like sugar cane. Measured. Relaxed. Assuring. Librarianesque. Stepford.

The first lady embodied the evening's theme of compassion. She mostly spun warm tales about her husband, attempting to make him seem as cuddly as possible. But we all know the best way to make the president seem cuddly is to stand him in between Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Against a backdrop of signs proclaiming "W Stands for Woman", a silly notion when you actually look at this administration's record, the first lady spoke of her husband's emotional struggle over the decision about Iraq. Apparently, he was weighed down as he wrestled with the notion of dropping a few cluster bombs on Paris on the way to Baghdad. He decided against it, instead flushing a cathartic bottle of French champagne down the First Toilet on the eve of the invasion.

Laura also brought up the stem-cell issue again. That's right, I almost forgot, she's a scientific expert on the subject, just like Ron Reagan Jr. I love Laura's approach to stem cell research. Essentially, she believes that early testing with stem cells haven't yielded results yet and therefore we just shouldn't explore any further. This issue is too complicated for me to get into lest I put you all to sleep, but if we went by this basic philosophy we'd still be at the mercy of polio and tuberculosis.

I don't know what to make of tonight... kind of lame really. They tried to end on a hug with Laura, but the GOP is much more effective I think when they're throwing gut shots and kicking their opponents in the crotch.

Tomorrow night, Lord Vader speaks. Gut shots and crotch kicks for everyone.

Yesterday, the president was asked by Matt Lauer if the United States could win the war on terror. Reversing what he has said time and again about winning the war on terror (see below), Bush responded, "I don't think you can win it." Today, at a speech in Nashville, Bush said, "We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war we did not start, but one that we will win."

So the argument apparently goes something like this: Bush is the best qualified to lead our nation to victory in the war on terror, yet victory in the war on terror is unattainable. Huh? This should pretty much put an end to that whole "flip-flop" line of attack, shouldn't it?

From Bush's January 2004 State of the Union address:
"Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror."
From Bush's now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech:

"The war on terror is not over; yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory."

Monday, August 30, 2004

Take No Prisoners
John McCain has already stolen the moment of the entire week, with the help of Michael Moore, no less. Bombastic filmmaker Moore, perched high atop the hall as an invited member of the press, is public enemy number one to each and every delegate on that floor, even more so than John Kerry. And tonight, three-fourths of the way through his remarks, McCain fired a direct shot at the reviled documentarian responsible for producing what most in the party consider to be a complete misrepresentation and manipulation of the truth... kind of like FOX News, but without the commercials.

The hall absolutely erupted in a booming, sustained chorus of boos and foot-stomping and vicious torrents of anger. Moore of course, loved every minute of it. He smiled wide, threw up his arms and relished in the spotlight for a few more minutes. Surely, it was a bigger response than W. will be able to muster this week. Clearly the highlight of the week, hands down. Here's the video.

The speech itself was extremely effective, but all anyone will be talking about tomorrow is that moment, when John McCain took the fight right to the pugnacious filmmaker. The speech was so good, maybe it's a godsend for Democrats that Michael Moore stole the show.

The raucous mood in the hall didn't linger long as the producers of the show immediately got their somber on by switching to a 9/11 memorial, followed of course by none other than...

Rabid Rudy
The Republicans opening one-two punch of McCain and Rudy was formidable. They got to talk about defense and terrorism, and they got to talk tough. Very tough. The Republicans have seized 9/11, it belongs to them. Rudy's turn at the podium was no doubt powerful, but please keep in mind that he is far from representative of the ultra-conservative Republican party he's stumping for.

He does seem to have one thing in common with the base however, he hates a lot of people. Rudy seems to hate Europe..."they accommodate, appease and compromise." And the media..."they misinterpret and distort." And the Democrats..."most of their ideas are wrong." And John Kerry..."a wishy washy flip flopper." At this point, the flip flopping section of his speech, Rudy turned comedian, channelling Shecky Green for a few moments before taking the gloves all the way off. Rudy mostly attacked Kerry's senate record, which is much better than continuing to argue about the Mekong delta and may take the silly fight over Vietnam off the table for good. But let's remember that all politicians, by nature, are 'flip floppers', including the president.

Overall, Rudy's speech was a winner. He was engaging, combative and funny. Thank goodness not one of the networks decided to air coverage tonight. Uh oh, liberal media conspiracy! I'm sure the conservative airwaves are ablaze with theories already... Drudge is probably tearing his skin off at this one.

This was a very effective opening night for the Republican party, but their point is simply this: Bush is determined. Bush is unflinching. Bush doesn't waver or shift positions, he stays the course. But what if the course he's taking us on drops us directly off a cliff? Shouldn't we consider another way? They say he has a vision but what if his vision is wrong? It doesn't seem to be heading us in the right direction at all right now. And what is the vision exactly? I still don't know because they won't tell us. And what about Iraq? Can you please explain the rationale for invastion to me one more time? Because I'm not getting it. And if you launch a war, shouldn't you do a little planning for what happens when that war ends? Just asking.

Tonight the GOP pulled no punches, but they also offered nothing more than tough talk and machismo. No substance at all, but incredibly effective nonetheless.

Next up, the Terminator and the Librarian... stay tuned.

The Nation's take on night one can be found here.

ONLY 41/2 OUT...
One more reason to hate the Yankees.

Moderates. That's who you're going to hear from this week at Madison Square Garden, the big tent, representative Republican party. You're going to hear from people like John McCain, who only a few months ago was seriously considering joining the Kerry campaign in order to oust the man who smeared him up and down as an unpatriotic wacko only four years ago. Now, McCain is going to fight back his urge to punch the president smack in the face and, instead, support him for re-election. Why this sudden change of heart? Because John McCain has his own self-interest in mind, just like every other politician. McCain wants to be president one day, and so he has decided to put his money on the W horse in hopes of winning the loyalty of the Republican faithful. He believes Bush will win reelection, and his support will set the stage for his own ascendency to the throne after Bush is through.

You're also going to hear from Rudy Giuliani, known to many as America's Mayor after his star turn in the tragedy that was 9/11. Why is Rudy pulling for the president? Is it because he supports the Republican platform that designates gay marriage as an unholy affront to the sanctity of the institution? No, Rudy is a supporter of gay rights. Is it because he supports the Republican stance on a woman's right to choose - or rather, her right not to choose? No, he's explicitly pro-choice and always has been. No, Rudy will be stumping for the president because he sees a cabinet position in his future should W win reelection. And the Republican party will use Rudy, just like it's using the city of New York this week, because the Republican party knows that Rudy has become a folk hero in the American mindset. But Rudy, like John McCain, has become nothing more than a tool for the Republican agenda.

Throughout the next week, the GOP will try to put on a moderate face by parading people like McCain and Giuliani, not to mention that womanizer Arnold Schwarzenegger, a washed up action hero movie star. They will try to paint themselves as tolerant and understanding, but this is a party that thinks that gender and tradition, not love, should be the deciding factor in a marriage. This is a party that believes empty bravado, machismo and tough rhetoric is an acceptable substitute for sensible foreign policy. This is a party that thinks a woman doesn't have the right to govern her own body. This is a party that doesn't care about future generations, running up a massive debt which our children will be forced to pay off and ignoring environmental concerns wholesale. This is a party that actually believes God himself has landed on the shoulder of President Bush. I saw a sign on the street during the march yesterday that actually said, "Support our President. Trust Jesus." This party believes Jesus is in the White House. But Jesus was a liberal if there ever was one.

The reason why the Republicans chose to hold their national convention in New York, one of the "gayest, jewiest, unionist, liberal cities in the country" according to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, is not a very well kept secret. The Republicans had never held their convention in the liberal bastion that is New York City before this year. They've also never pushed their nomination show back on the calendar as far as they have this year, kicking off their king's quest for another term a mere week before the three-year anniversary of 9/11.

Two years ago, when the GOP picked the Apple as its convention spot, the idea seemed brilliant to many. Karl Rove, the president's number one adviser often referred to as "Bush's Brain", was hailed once again as a genius. But things have changed quite a bit in the last two years and the idea now seems a little like insanity and a lot like suicide. For this reason, the GOP has eliminated the use of Ground Zero for photo-ops and has attempted to downplay 9/11 as a reason for staging its convention carnival here in the first place. But don't be fooled, the conservative ranks are here in this cesspool of sin and liberal debauchery for only one reason, and that is to use Gotham's terrorized backdrop to promote the idea that George W. Bush is tough on terror, unlike that mamby-pamby, French-loving atheist John Kerry. Day one of the convention, which just kicked off a few hours ago, went something like this: "Republicans referred repeatedly to the Sept. 11 attacks and praised Bush for his character, leadership and aggressive response, drawing an implied contrast with his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts." So there you go.

I, like many New Yorkers, am bothered by this exploitation, whether it's subtle or in our faces. After 9/11 I remember getting a little irrational at times when people from other parts of the country, who weren't in the shadow of the towers when they came down and didn't lose nearly two-dozen friends and colleagues, would tell me how hard it was for them to carry on in the days and weeks after the attacks. They would tell me they understood how I, and more disturbingly, the families of the victims, must have felt. I know their sentiments were genuine and they were only trying to show compassion and understanding, but ever since that day I get upset whenever people who aren't New Yorkers or didn't know someone personally who perished cite 9/11 as a reason or an excuse for their actions.

Now, obviously, Bush needs to talk about 9/11. I'm not at all saying that the Republicans should ignore the realities of that day, that would be ridiculous. But to come here, to the scene of the crime, and repeatedly dredge up the horrors of that day is abhorrent and unnecessary. He could've talked about 9/11 anywhere, but he was hoping for the photo-op that he's now not going to get. But speakers at this week's convention will talk about the president's strength and success in the war on terror, it's the number one plank in their platform.

Don't believe the hype. Just because Bush threw his arm around the shoulder of a firefighter atop the rubble that was the remains to the World Trade Center doesn't mean he's the most qualified for the job. When he stood atop that mound of twisted concrete and steel he said the "people that knocked down these buildings would hear from us very soon." But the very man responsible for the attacks remains elusive while Bush turned his attention to Saddam Hussein and launched an unprovoked war on Iraq. Meanwhile, the very city that suffered most, New York, is under a permanent Orange alert and still in the crosshairs of al Qaeda. We don't feel any safer, despite the bullshit you'll be hearing from Republican mouths this week.

Amazingly, liberals, which most New Yorkers are, repeatedly get accused by the president's supporters of not understanding what we're facing. Of ignoring the real dangers of terrorism. Of pretending that 9/11 never happened. This charge is about as twisted as it gets. Of all the people in this country who understand the realistic dangers of terrorism, you'd think the city who lost nearly 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 would understand them best. But because of this administration's constant fear-mongering and black-and-white scenarios, people in the heavily red middle of the country have been manipulated into thinking that if it weren't for Bush's tough actions and cowboy rhetoric, al Qaeda would have taken over the country by now. But it's more complicated than that. We New Yorkers know how dangerous the world is, we've experienced it first hand. We've buried our friends. We've run through the smoke and the dust and the ash. Out there, far off in the red states, their experience comes mostly from listening to the hyperbolic spin of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Who do you think has a better understanding of the dangers we face today?

Ok, good, now I know for sure that I'm not the only one who feels this way about Bush and the GOP. Hundreds of thousands of people, myself included, joined in a massive march of solidarity through the streets of Manhattan today to express disgust with the policies of the Bush administration and the GOP's exploitation of 9/11 for political gain. One thing is for sure, New Yorkers don't like to be used as props in a political campaign.

Estimates of the march's size are ranging from 100,000 (from the police, who always downplay the numbers) and 500,000 (from the organizers, who always inflate the numbers). There really isn't a way to tell how many people participated, but being in the middle of it all it felt as though the entire city and half the world were behind us. The scene was colorful, the mood was festive and peace and unity were the theme of the day. Aside from a few minor flare-ups, which will probably get more attention than they deserve, the march was almost entirely peaceful and non-antagonistic. Kudos to New Yorkers, the out-of-towners who came to join in, the city and the police. Everyone involved did a fantastic job of making the largest convention demonstration in history perhaps the most peaceful as well. I don't envy the tight spot the city and the mayor are in, having to balance necessary security with the right to assemble, but they did a fantastic job despite the pre-march fight over the right to rally in the park. Protestors weren't penned in as they were in some other convention city I can think of (hello Boston!). Marchers were allowed to walk right past the convention site, waving to and thanking police as they did. And if it hadn't been for a few yahoos who decided to torch their own float, the march would've come off without any disruption at all. New York is an amazing city, congrats all around.

Full details to come... after a thorough feet-soaking!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

"One if by private jet, two if by SUV!" That was the Paul Revere-esque call sounded by a group calling itself Greene Dragon on Tuesday evening, signaling the unofficial start of the 2004 Republican National Convention here in New York City. The group mounted “horsecycles” and raced south from Central Park to sound the alarm to a city bracing itself for anything and everything over the next week, and this was just a minor sampling of the craziness about to ensue.

Today, the protests slowly began to kick in en masse, with one group known as Act Up! blocking traffic in front of Madison Square Garden, the sealed-off site of the convention, shedding their clothes in the middle of an intersection to draw attention to the Bush administration’s failed policies on AIDS. If you don’t mind a few bare asses (and who in my audience does?!), here are a few snaps of the scene. Earlier in the day, a couple of protestors repelled down the outer-facing of the famed Plaza Hotel in midtown to drape a giant anti-Bush banner. Yep, here we go. Prepare yourself New Yorkers. And welcome GOPers. Here's a map.

The decision by the Bush administration to stage its coronation of King George here in the most liberal of cities may have seemed like a good idea three years ago, but I imagine there is a lot of second-guessing going on in Republican quarters these days. The pre-convention protest hype has been unreal. The media has been reporting story after story after story about planned actions being numerous, massive and disruptive. There is a reason the president plans to fly in, get a quick photo-op with NYC firefighters, give his speech and get out as fast as he can. Many Republicans may be wishing Tom Delay’s roundly-criticized proposal of housing delegates on a cruise ship on the East River had come to fruition.

Simply put, the battle between protestors outside the Garden and the delegates inside is a fight for attention. Will the story be the Bush mandate or will it be the massive civil disruption occurring outside? The Bush team is surely hoping for the latter because any attention giving to their actual record can only backfire.

No doubt, the Bushies are hoping for a repeat of Chicago ’68 so they can paint the rowdy and disrespectful protestors as representative of the Democratic party, turning off any undecided voters who may be leaning toward Kerry. Some have even suggested that the Bush camp may plant flag burners and other offensive protestors among the ranks of the peaceful to portray the left as nothing but loony freaks bent on total chaos. Unfortunately, eco-terrorists, trans-genders and anarchists don’t play that well in the heartland. So, on behalf of peaceful protestors everywhere, I say to the anarchists – Stay Home! You may think you’re actions are clever and useful, but you’ll be playing directly into the hands of the very people you hate so much.

The protestors are planning to voice their disgust for a variety of reasons. Some are upset at the war-mongering tendencies of the Bush administration, some at its social stances on issues such as abortion and gay rights, and some at its ties to big money, big oil and corporate corruption. And some will be protesting against the simple fact that the Republicans are exploiting New York City and 9/11 for political gain. This week’s Village Voice outlines ten ways Bush has screwed New York, while The Nation recently penned an article on how terrible the Bush administration has been to this city. As I said, there are many a reason to protest the Bush administration and what it stands for – in fact, there are 1,000 reasons.

But the lion’s share of attention leading up to next week’s show has been given to one group, United for Peace & Justice, and its well-documented fight with Mayor Bloomberg over where it could stage its 250,000-member march and rally. UFPJ wanted to conclude its march this Sunday at Central Park, New York City’s town square, but the city has denied them at every turn, primarily employing the hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn reasoning. Bloomberg even made a silly attempt to appeal to protestors last week by offering them discounts at hotels and restaurants throughout the city, a clever gesture but clearly a PR stunt. Honestly, your average protestor is hitching a ride here and planning to stay in an abandoned church or sleep at hostel due to cost constraints, $20 off a suite at The Plaza isn’t going to mean much.

Today, the city and UFPJ agreed to allow the march to proceed past Madison Square Garden and then circle back to finish where it starts at Union Square. But most activists are still planning on breaking off from the march at 34th Street and heading straight for the forbidden green zone of Central Park to, uh, have a picnic. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out on Sunday. Come back to this page next week for a first-hand account.

While I do plan to participate in Sunday’s march, wherever it ends up, and have helped to plan and promote a post-march music and politics event in my home borough of Brooklyn, I will, for the most part, be focused next week on blogging the convention itself – the speeches, the parties and the scripted disinformation. While the world around me erupts in a cacophony of civic anger, I’ll be holed up in my steamy apartment watching Arnold Schwarzenegger and Travis Tritt fire up their troops on CSPAN. So here’s a rough guide, collected from as many pinko, tree-hugging, lesbian loving, communist websites as I could find, to the action outside the convention. Enjoy.

Friday, August 27th
The aforementioned Greene Dragon group mimics George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware “to liberate New York from the Bush loyalists, and America from its corporate monarchy” by boarding the Staten Island Ferry at 2 p.m. and charging toward downtown New York. And radical bikers from the group Time’s Up take to the street to raise awareness of cyclist’s rights, because really, that’s what this election is all about. 7 p.m. at Union Square.

Saturday, August 28th
The day kicks off with a March for Women’s Lives across the Brooklyn Bridge, organized by Planned Parenthood, Code Pink and a variety of other women’s rights organizations. At the same time, women will be completely degraded when a group calling itself “Wet T-shirts for Kerry” assemble in contentious Central Park for a massive squirt-gun fight (2nd item, after the McCarthyism-esque FBI story). At 5:30, Ring Out the Republicans will stage a massive bell-ringing protest around Ground Zero to “demonstrate the solidarity of New Yorkers against the GOP.” Bring your own bell.

And RNC Not Welcome reminds us that convention delegates will be receiving complimentary tours of the city from NYC & Company. The group has also posted a full list of official RNC delegate events on their site, not that they want you to do anything with that information.

Sunday, August 29th
In addition to the previously discussed march and rally from United for Peace & Justice, the Billionaires for Bush group, perhaps the most inventive and entertaining anti-Bush group, is planning a Billionaire Croquet Party at Central Park at 10 a.m., tongue-and-cheekily claiming that “500,000 anti-Bush protestors will be barred from the park so that we can play croquet.” The Billionaires will also conduct a “Million Billionaire March” to “overwhelm UFPJ’s tiny 250,000 person march.” And following the march, the Billionaires will welcome Republican delegates as they descend on the theatre district to attend complimentary Broadway shows, although not the off-broadway production Naked Boys Singing. The Billionaires will be cheered on by the New York City Radical Cheerleaders. Also, a Mouse Bloc (whatever that is) is scheduled for the GOP’s night on the aptly named Great White Way.

If you’re not into the Broadway thing, come to Brooklyn for Bush Bash in Brooklyn, a full day of music, comedy and political thought beginning at 3 p.m. Alternatively, if you’re a Republican backer, you can attend a show at Crobar starring the sad remains of Lynrd Skynrd to honor redneck GOP senators Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss. This is what the Republicans refer to as “star power.”

Monday, August 30th
On the first official day of the convention, the Poor People’s Economic Rights Campaign, who have erected symbolic “Bushvilles” across the country, will assemble at the United Nations at 4 p.m. and proceed on a “March For Our Lives,” despite the lack of a permit from the city. The group Still We Rise will conduct a similar march, albeit with legal permission, from Union Square to Madison Square Garden. Apparently, Monday is the day for poor people to march, which makes sense considering today’s announcement that 36 million Americans are living in poverty thanks to the Bush administration’s economic policies. The day will wrap up with an effort to “Light Up the Sky.” As the organizing group proclaims, “imagine it’s 2 or 3 in the morning and our city is ablaze with a silent and overwhelming rebuke.” But how can I get any sleep with all my lights on?

Tuesday, August 31st
This will be anarchy day. The group A31 has taken the lead in demanding a series of civil disobedience acts, including impromptu alternative “free speech zones”, corporate building blockades and sit-downs. There’s no telling what this group will come up with, but if the information on its site is any indication, their actions will be intimidating. Look out Hummer.

Another group, War Resisters, will stage a “die-in” at Madison Square Garden after a march from Ground Zero beginning at 3 p.m. To add to the chaos, the Billionaires will be “flashmobbing” throughout the day and a collective group will participate in a “FOX News Shut-up-a-thon,” using conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly’s signature tagline against him from outside FOX studios in Manhattan. And look, our good friend Ralph Nader will be on a panel at The Campus Anti-War Counter-Convention. The day wraps up with a “Ring of Hope” around Manhattan.

Wednesday, September 1st
Early in the morning on Wednesday, People for the American Way will form a symbolic unemployment line from the World Trade Center site to the steps of Madison Square Garden to “represent the 1.2 million jobs lost overall since March 2001 and the more than eight million Americans currently unemployed.” Once again, the busy Billionaires will be there “to taunt the lazy whiners… Get a Job!” A group calling itself Shut it Down NYC is also urging all city “Actors, musicians, waiters and waitresses, retail salespeople, and hotel staff” to call in sick. And in perhaps my favorite protest of the week, Axis of Eve is “calling upon Eves from all over to put on your protest panties and participate in Operation EXPOSE and DEPOSE – a media spectacle to lay bare the shameful tactics of the Bush Administration and demand an end to political cover-up.” In other words, I bunch of women are going to show us their panties – now that’s a protest I can get behind! And take pictures of. Sweet.

Thursday, September 2nd
On the last night of the convention, the night the Republicans will nominate King George for four more years (of hell, as Teresa puts it), liberal posterboy Al Franken is urging New Yorkers to participate in a “great American shout out” by lifting their windows and raising their voices in a coordinated scream of “fuhgeddaboutit” to coincide with Bush’s acceptance speech. Veterans for Peace will also conduct a “Vigil for the Fallen” in Union Square at 7 p.m.

And finally, capping the sheer weirdness of some of the week’s actions, the Brooklyn Orgastic Politics Collective will be “redirecting the Orgone Energy above Manhattan, attempting to suck the fascism from Madison Square Garden as Bush is re-nominated.” Don’t ask me, I have no idea.

Enjoy the festivities everyone, and above all else, be peaceful. Please.

More information:
The Republicans Guide (official RNC site)
The People’s Guide
Site for News you won’t get from corporate media: Indymedia.org
A complete guide from New York Magazine
And a good guide from, of all places, the Fairfield Weekly

"To sin by silence, when they should protest ... makes cowards of men." – Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's extremely sad, but the Swift Boat controversy continues to boil. I ask again, would someone please explain to me why what happened 30 years ago is relevant today? The latest turn in this sorry saga has triple-amputee Kerry backer Max Cleland rolling around Bush's ranch trying in vain to deliver a letter requesting a condemnation of the ads in question. Apparently, the Kerry campaign would like America to believe that Bush hates the handicapped. Why is Kerry continuing to drag this out? These types of stunts only maintain the public's focus on this non-issue. Why is he falling into this trap? The refutation should be really simple: Kerry served. Bush and Cheney didn't. End of issue.

As frustrating as it is to watch this senseless back and forth about events that happened 30 years ago while there are real concerns in today's world that we should be discussing, at least the whole thing has yielded a few good spoofs.

Friday, August 20, 2004

ON THE TRAIL: Olympic spirit edition
The Olympics, Brought to you by George W. Bush
The Bush administration is getting better and better at this exploitation thing. Last week, the Bush team rolled out an Olympic-themed advertisement which seeks to capitalize on the games proclaiming that "in 1972 there were 40 democracies, compared with 120 today." Apparently, the Bush administration is taking credit for fostering the 80 democracies that have sprouted in the last 30 years. I suppose if John Kerry were president, the Olympics wouldn't even happen. The ad goes on to note that "freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise." Then, after you finish gagging on that phrase, the ad reminds you that today there are ""two more free nations" and "two fewer terrorist regimes." And two more hapless teams for us to bully around the, uh, softball fields.

Furthering the Olympic exploitation effort, Bush has been talking up the early success of the Iraqi soccer team, which won its first two matches and has qualified for the medal round. Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir responded yesterday to the president's milking of its success: "Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign, he can find another way to advertise himself." Yes, like spreading vicious untruths about Kerry's war record... that's another way. Teammate Ahmed Manajid had a less-finessed message for President Bush:
"How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."

Manajid added that if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance. And the coach of the team, Adnan Hamad weighed in as well, saying, "The American Army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the stadium and there are shootings on the road?" Now, I understand that it's a bit hard to swallow these types of comments when the team is playing without fear of death because of the actions taken by our military, but one has to wonder about how we're doing in that whole winning-over-the-hearts-and-minds-of-Iraqis thing when this is the overriding sentiment from the people we supposedly liberated.

What the Zell?
The GOP announced its speaker line-up for its convention at the end of this month. Along with celeb-politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, Democratic senator Zell Miller has been tapped to as the convention's keynote speaker. Miller, referred to as Zig Zag Zell by DNC chairman Terry McCauiliffe, will be making his second convention appearance at Madison Square Garden. In 1992 he stood on stage slamming W's father while introducing Bill Clinton for nomination. This year he will trade in his Dem stripes for Republican ones to praise junior Bush. God, what a flip-flopper!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

ON THE TRAIL: Attack edition
Vietnam or Iraq: Which is the Bigger Issue?
Amazingly, this Bitter Swift Boat Veterans for Payback thing just continues to spin on. Today, John Kerry finally fired back at his attackers. In a speech this morning to a firefighters group in Boston, Kerry accused the Bush campaign of allowing GOP-funded groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to do Bush's "dirty work." He said, "the president keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: 'Bring it on."

It's about time. I was getting really sick of the Kerry campaign standing idly by while these groups questioned his service record. It's ridiculous that this is even an issue in this election. Just remember, whatever the details of his time in Vietnam are, the facts are this: While Kerry was dodging bullets in Vietnam, Bush was dodging the draft in Texas... or Alabama... or wherever the hell he was. If Bush hadn't been so drunk on Schlitz, he'd probably remember where he was. Kerry served. Bush didn't. End of story.

Earlier this week, the anti-Bush group MoveOn released an ad criticizing Bush for using his family connections to avoid service in Vietnam. Once again, the enigma that is John McCain stepped forward to call on Kerry to condemn the ad, which Kerry did immediately when he said, "I agree with Senator McCain that the ad is inappropriate. This should be a campaign of issues, not insults." So there you go, immediate condemnation. And just for the record, Bush still has not heeded McCain's call from weeks ago to specifically condemn the Swift Boat ads.

McCain had the most salient quote in regard to this entire issue when he said, "I wish we would stop opening wounds from a war of more than 30 years ago and talk about the war we're fighting now." I couldn't agree more, but then McCain also said, "This is the bitterest, most unsavory campaign in the nation's history - and it's only going to get worse." ... and you know what that means? More juicy blog material for me! Sweet! Keep the dirt flying! I'm conflicted.

Mon Cherie, John Kerry
Speaking of things we shouldn't be focused on, in a GQ interview John Kerry revealed what he finds attractive in a woman. "A full woman. Confident. A woman who loves being a woman. Who wears her womanhood. Who knows how to flirt and have fun. Smart. Confident. Has a sense of self. Strong. And obviously sexy and saucy and challenging." Besides his own wife Teresa, Kerry said in the interview that he finds Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Marilyn Monroe to be extremely sexy. Or, as AOL's online news report put it, "Kerry fingers sexy celebrities." Come on AOL, nobody noticed that??

But the New York Daily News dug deeper to find Lee Whitnum, a former lover (and aspiring novelist, natch) of Kerry's who claims that the senator "would whisper French phrases in my ear. I would say, 'Speak to me in French!' and so he'd do it." Damn you Whitnum, you know the Republicans will use that!

John Kerry = Big Pussy
In a speech last week, vice president Dick "go fuck yourself" Cheney needled John Kerry for saying he would fight a more "sensitive" war on terror. This is yet further evidence that the Bush team intends to turn this campaign into a battle of who has the bigger balls. Taken in context, Kerry's comment reflects a thoughtful alternative to the Bush approach to the self-declared "War on Terror." Here's Kerry's full quote:
"I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side."
Cheney of course only wants people to hear the "sensitive" comment, attempting to make it seem as though John Kerry would fight terrorists with an offer of flowers and candy. Of course, that's not what Kerry meant. But Cheney is right, the Bush administration isn't fighting a sensitive war, they are fighting an ineffective, thoughtless, strategy-less, reactive war that ignores the rest of the world and spits in the eye of its detractors. And that seems to be working sooooo well.

Democratic senator Tom Harkin responded to Cheney's attacks thusly: "When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil. He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood."

Who's the pussy? Dick Cheney, who used five deferments to avoid service in Vietnam because he had "other priorties," is.

Bring it on indeed.

Fuck it, I'm voting for Barbie.

Fear of Death = Bush
Think the terror warnings sowing fear in the hearts of Americans have no political impact? Read this.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

OLYMPIC UPDATE: Canadian Gone Wild. GoldenPalace strikes again.

Proving that you really can't hold a bong-hit in forever, epochal jam band Phish wrapped up it's 21-year career in the wee hours Monday mornign with a farewell show in its native state of Vermont. I've never considered myself a Phishhead, as the band's legions of fans are often referred to, but over the years I've appreciated the band's quirky guitar noodling and their willingness to put on shows that last for hours, sometimes days. Phish is often compared with The Grateful Dead, primarily because their fans typically travel with them from show to show, a backpack slung over their shoulder and bag of mushrooms clutched in hand. But The Dead didn't pack it in until Jerry Garcia kicked it, so I was a bit disappointed that Trey Anastasio didn't off himself at the show's conclusion. Oh well.

While Trey may live on, one man didn't make it out of the farewell show alive. As reported by the Times Argus, a couple of Phishheads were treated to the unwelcome sight of a dead man in their tent when they made their way back after the show's conclusion. As medics packed the body up and carted him away, this transpired:
A dreadlocked male in shorts and mud-covered bare feet appeared out of the darkness in the cluster of tents and campers and stood and stared with his head cocked at an angle at the wrapped figure, earnestly asking, "Is the dude going to be OK?" When no one answered, he repeated his question. After a significant pause an EMT turned and said matter-of-factly "No, he's not."
Phuckin' Phish.

The best thing Jamal "Shyne" Barrow ever did for his career was to be in the wrong club on the wrong night. Specifically, Club New York in December 1999 alongside his former mentor P.Diddy.Puff.Daddy.Combs (or whatever) where Shyne alledgedly brandished his gun and shot clubgoer Natania Reuben in the face. If you remember, Puffy was acquitted of all charges; Shyne was not, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Despite that setback, or godsend depending on how you look at it, Shyne released his first album last week, entitled Godfather Buried Alive, from prison. The album debuted in the top five on Billboard's weekly charts. I suppose we're supposed to be impressed and intrigued by this, but I don't see why - Tupac has been putting out albums from beyond the grave for years. Oh well, beats making license plates I guess. But dammit, now he can't make phone calls!

Beloved cooking diva Julia Child passed on last week and while we we're sad to see the venerated chef enter that great skillet in the sky, we were thrilled that her demise produced the following headline: Late Cooking Diva Julia Child Loved Red Meat, Gin

Red meat and Gin? Looks like I'll make it to 92 after all.

Salem, Massashusetts resident Don McFadden received the thrill of his life the other day while channel-surfing to find a Red Sox game. While McFadden was flipping through the channels on his Comcast cable system to find the game, he unexpectedly stumbled upon hard-core porn. No doubt, the die-hard fan found more satisfaction from his discovery than he has watching the ever-disappointing Red Sox in recent years. Hope you enjoyed yourself Don, it may be another 86 years before that happens again.

From the in-case-you-missed-it files comes this story. A burglar in Shoreline, Washington, the town I grew up in, was nabbed a week ago after his 11th break-in. What makes this particular thief's crime spree interesting, and entertaining, is the fact that the only items he pinched were edible. In his final crime, the alleged snack-burglar managed to wolf down "a box of Creamsicles, six shrimp kabobs, about a dozen mini corndogs, half a large package of Costco lunch meats, two fruit drinks, a glass of milk, a dozen clumps of frozen cookie dough and several large handfuls of M&Ms" from resident Julie Sanchez's cupboards. The story says police don't yet "have a clear idea of his motive." They may want to consdier "the munchies" as one possibility. Hell, he may even be a Phishhead simply upset at the band's departure. Cut him some slack. And pass me a mini corndog.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Not that anyone has really noticed, but the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad (aka the Olympics) begin tomorrow in the birthplace of the modern games, Athens, Greece. When the ancient city was awarded the games over a decade ago, organizers probably didn't foresee that most of the hype leading up to the opening ceremonies would be about whether or not the Velodrome would be blown up. I'm an avid sports fan, and have always enjoyed the summer games, but the only thing I can tell you about these Olympics is that the security is really high and if a terror strike doesn't mar these games, a drug scandal certainly will.

The stories out of Athens leading up to these games have been anything but positive. In addition to the terror fears, critics have been saying for months that Athens - the city and the venues - would not be ready and could prove to be a logistical mess. But organizers are assuring the public that everything is ready and safe. Despite that proclamation, these games can still be considered the "hope nothing bad happens" Games.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is bidding to host the 2012 Olympics right here in Manhattan (yeah, that's all we need), has urged city residents to travel en masse to the games in Athens to "show that we are not going to let terrorists rule our lives." A nice sentiment yes, but people who aren't multi-billionaires and don't have a private jet and don't run one of the most powerful cities in the world really don't have the means to take three weeks off, hop a flight to Greece and spectate amid the ruins in order to symbolically fight terrorism. Besides, why do we have to go all the way to Greece to look terrorism directly in the eye? Don't we do that here in Gotham every single day?

Attendees to the games need not worry about terrorism, say officials. Greek security personnel at the Games will have their eyes peeled for the real terrorists: Pepsi drinkers. Yep, spectators attempting to get through the gates while clutching a bottle of the non-sponsor beverage will be turned away. And, in addition to checking for bomb belts, chemical-spreading aerosol cans and homemade explosives, staff will be "on the lookout for T-shirts, hats and bags displaying the unwelcome logos of non-sponsors." So you see, everyone should feel perfectly safe... that is, if they were worried about being attacked by a Whopper.

Not surprisingly, due to overriding world opinion of America, athletes on the US team have been told to, uh, tone down the jingoism that has become more prominent with each Olympics. As USOC president Bill Martin said, "We're not the favorite kid in the world right now." Bearing that in mind, if you are traveling to the games, it may be wise to wear a big 'ol maple leaf on your chest, carry a Labatt's at all times and talk a lot about how they should implement hockey into the summer games.

One team who will most likely wear their nationalism proudly on their sleeves is the Iraqi athletes. For once, they can actually compete without fear of death and torture on their minds. And hey, it looks like death isn't the end-all-be-all motivator, the Iraqi soccer team already upset Portugal in the first round of Olympic competition. Now I know why we went to war in Iraq! It wasn't because of WMD or ties to al Qaeda, it was to give their soccer team a shot at Olympic gold!

All kidding aside, the Olympics are something we should all be happy to have - if only because we get to make fun of them every four years. So, if you're not going to watch to find out if US swimmer Michael Phelps can break Mark Spitz record in the Olympic Pool, or if the US basketball team can avoid making an ass out of itself, at least watch for the skimpy outfits on the women's beach volleyball team... yowza! And if that doesn't do it for you, check out this month's FHM or Playboy to get the full Olympic monty.

Enjoy the Games Everyone.
Athens Official Site
Yahoo full coverage

New York Times guide

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

ON THE TRAIL, 1st edition
The campaign season is in full swing. The incumbent is spending the majority of his time out on the stump. The challenger is in the middle of a cross-country whistle-stop tour. The candidates and their surrogates are fiercely attacking one another. Supporters are clashing in the streets. And every day brings a new movement in the polls. Isn't late October great? Wait, it's only mid-August? What the hell??

Typically, August is a quiet month in an election season, but not this year. No, Kerry and Bush have been duking it out every day through the media, and sometimes, as was the case in Davenport, Iowa last week, in person. For this reason, I'm starting a regular feature here at Days to keep track of the many machinations of this campaign. Let's see what's happening On the Trail, shall we?

Your First Born? Yeah, That'll Do.
Ever watch any of W's campaign stops? Do you notice how enthusiastic the people that attend them are? At Kerry rallies there always seem to be a few dissenters in the crowd, as was the case last week in Missouri when Teresa Heinz-Kerry responded to hecklers chants of "four more years" with a tart retort of "four more years of hell!" (I'm liking her more and more every day). But not at Bush's rallies, nope. Earlier this week in Pensacola, Bush was unable to be heard (probably for the best) because the "four more years" chant was so loud. It's pretty impressive really, and great for the cameras of course. It's an overwhelming site when you watch these events on television.

So how is this possible? Are Bush supporters that numerous and that overpowering? Well, no, not exactly. The truth is, Bush's handlers 'screen out' any would-be dissenters through a variety of methods. At an event this upcoming Friday in Oregon for example, supporters who want to attend the president's speech are being asked to 'volunteer' to call voters in swing states in order to get tickets. In West Virginia on the 4th of July, a couple was arrested and dragged away in handcuffs because they were wearing anti-Bush t-shirts. And in New Mexico last week, it was revealed that people who wanted to attend the president's speech were forced to sign an oath declaring their loyalty to the Bush administration. No, really, that's what they did.

When asked about the policy and whether they would continue to ask for pledges, Republican party spokesperson Yier Shi said, "Yes, if we feel our event will get disrupted again, we will use the same method to make sure it's a positive event." When asked what the party's definition of positive was, Shi said"without interruption, without debate - just (without) disruption, period." This is democracy in George W. Bush's America folks, love it or move to Canada.

Of course, you can't take these people to seriously - here's exactly how the pledge was worded: "I ... herby endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States."

I had no idea the United States was up for reelection...

Today's To Do: Churn Butter, Raise Barn, Vote
We've all heard that this election may be as close, maybe even closer, then in 2000, (but hopefully more accurate). As evidence of this, the candidates are pulling out all the stops and going after every demographic they can. As was reported last week, the Bush campaign is courting the Amish vote. I guess touchscreen voting is out of the question for this group, eh? And since when did the Amish become so hot?? They're like the new gay! Amish Eye for the Atheist Guy.

Meanwhile, Kerry went after a different group: Cubans. Babalu!

Take This Job and -say it Teresa, say it!- Shove It!
The Bush team received some unwelcome news last week in the from of the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department. They had expected job growth of 228,000 in July. They got 32.,000. Not bad, they were only off by 200,000. Uh, how's that recovery coming George?

"Today's employment report shows our economy is continuing to move forward," the president declared at a campaign rally in Stratham, New Hampshire.
According to The Nation, a joke was circulating among Wall Street traders on the heels of last week's dismal jobs report:

"Fewer jobs were created in the US in the entire month of July than the number of people who will be inside Madison Square Garden for the GOP convention at the end of August."
And the Washington Post calls W's tax cuts into question here.

Pick a Team John!
Late last week, wildcat Senator John McCain came forth to strongly criticized advertisements from the Bush-friendly group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, (or better put, Bitter Veterans for Bush). McCain lashed out at the ads, calling them "dishonest and dishonorable." He said the ads were "the same kind of deal that was pulled on me" while he was running against George W. in the 2000 primaries. He said he couldn't believe the "president would stoop to this level," and called on W. to immediately condemn the ads. Bush has offered no condemnation.

McCain had finally had enough, thank god. It seemed as though he was through toeing the party line and publicly supporting the president and his policies, right? Wrong. Today, McCain introduced Bush at a campaign rally in Florida, saying Bush has "earned our admiration and our love." He will campaign again with the president today. Really John, take a stand. Please. We know you hate Bush, we can see the grimace on your face when you say things like "admiration" and "love" when speaking of him. Come over to this side John, please.

McCain's political dithering aside, the ads themselves show just what level Bush supporters with big money will stoop to in order to get their man re-elected. For one, none of the vets featured in the ad even served with John Kerry. Sure, they were in Vietnam, but they weren't on his boat. Keep in mind, these are the same people who attacked Georgia Democrat Max Cleland, another Vietnam vet and a triple-amputee, as being unpatriotic during his senate race in 2002. As spokesman for the group, Mike Russell, even had the audacity to say the ads "are not meant to influence the presidential election." Are you kidding me? One of the veterans featured in the ad has since come forward to say that he regretted his participation in the smear.

I have one question: Does George W. Bush really want his surrogates to take him down this road, particularly in light of his own service record, or lack thereof? As one combat veteran stated recently in an open letter, "John Kerry went, served and bled, while George Bush found himself a safe, smug and secure haven. So how do you ask any man to be the last man to die for a lie?" As we approach the 1,000th American military death in Iraq, the question seems more than appropriate.

For a more humorous take on McCain's public denouncement of the ads, (you know, without the whole 1,000 deaths thing), check out Wonkette's interpretations.

This is Your President on Drugs
Of course, the Republicans aren't the only ones who can participate in smear campaigns, the Dems do it too - it's just that the GOP is so much better at it. But the Dems are catching up, as evidenced by this story from Capitol Hill Blue, a DC-focused alternative news site. Clearly, this story is nothing but conjecture and innuendo, but when an article features the following line, it's just too good not to post:
“We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes.”

Chuckle at the full story here, and it's follow up here.

Not Strong on Crime
And perhaps the highlight of the early campaign season came last week when Kerry and Bush's paths crossed in the small town of Davenport, Iowa. It seems strange that in a country as big as America, the two men would end up in the same podunk 'burg at the same time. But that synchronous happenstance was overshadowed by a few entrepreneurial thieves who decided there was no better time for a stick-up. Perhaps they had seen this news report, which begins "Nearly every police officer in Davenport will be on the job Wednesday morning when President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, visit the town just a quarter of a mile apart," because as the candidates were speaking, three banks were robbed and a bomb threat was called in.

All I can say is, watch out Portland, and beware Seattle... both candidates are coming through the Northwest this Friday.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

President Bush spoke today at the Pentagon:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Well, at least this administration is willing to think outside the box.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

If you haven't seen this yet, do yourself a favorite and check it out now. It's hilarious. And Will, do us all a favor and come back to SNL this fall - we need you in the run-up to the election!

I woke up Monday morning to the persistent thump of military helicopters swirling overhead. I had terror on the brain. Having spent the majority of Sunday night watching news reports dissect the latest terror warning, I knew it wasn't going to be a typical week. The helicopters were hovering in order to monitor the NYPD, who were inspecting an unattended suitcase left in an intersection a mere three blocks from my apartment here in Park Slope. As I readied myself for work, I watched the news as journalists filed reports from in front of the New York Stock Exchange, a mere block from my office. As I rode the subway into the heart of all the attention, it stalled halfway between High St. in Brooklyn and my stop at Broadway/Nassau in lower Manhattan, somewhere underneath the East River. Clutched in my hand was the morning paper with the screaming headline: Terror Targets! I thought, “what could be happening? Why is there no announcement? If I’m under the river, how the hell do I get out of this tunnel? What if there is no Broadway/Nassau stop anymore?? What if there’s no Manhattan anymore??!” I had finally succumbed to Tom Ridge's fear-mongering. The entire city had.

Yes, I was full of fear riding into work on Monday morning. For once, my typical skepticism about his announcements did not prevail. Previous warnings proved to rather vague, typically saying that someone somewhere was planning something that could happen any day but maybe never and which may or may not kill us all, (Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!) No, this warning was different. For one, it contained details. They named specific buildings. They talked of new intelligence. This one felt more authentic. The script was better.

There were still skeptics however. Liberal firebrand Howard Dean immediately stepped out to publicly question the timing of the announcement, saying, "I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism." But that was to be expected. The insinuation this time was that Team Bush wanted to distract the country from the post-convention momentum gained by John Kerry. But still, I didn't buy into the skepticism this time. For once, I believed them. Helicopters were swirling, snipers were perched on the rooftops, the media was swarming, the Kevlar was out in force - hell, the Bush girls were in town! (don't worry New York, the Bush twins will save the day!)

But then yesterday I woke up to the news that the intelligence which prompted this most recent terrorist scare was at least three years old, perhaps even older. My skeptical instincts bubbled back up to the surface, and I wasn’t the only one. Over the past two days a series of questions have been raised by the president’s opponents, and a collection of rebuttals have been thrown back by his supporters. Tom Ridge spent most of Tuesday defending his warning, saying, "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security." Oh no? Then what was this line all about during your Sunday press conference?

"We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror."
Also during his defense yesterday, Ridge said, “This is not about politics. It’s about confidence in government.” And there’s the problem right there. The country has no confidence in its government anymore. Who’s to say what’s real and what’s not? What’s sad is that we have to ask. Nearly 40% of respondents in a poll conducted by Time Magazine believe the Bush administration would use terror warnings as a political tool. That's a sad state of skepticism right there, but that's what happens when a goverment loses the confidence of its citizens. How are we supposed to believe these people? Hell, we went to war and have lost nearly 1,000 soldiers either because the administration made a big fat mistake, or because it deliberately mislead us. Either way, I’ve had enough. (well, let’s be honest, I had enough a longggggg time ago) Whatever the case, this administration has a serious credibility issue.

The problem I feel lay in the delivery of the message. What is the purpose of this wildly ill-conceived color-coded terror alert system anyway? Was there a reason to alarm the entire country other than to show that the Bush team is “Tough on Terror”? Other countries, who’ve been fighting terrorism much longer than we have, don’t make these grand, public announcements, they simply tell the people who need to know and deal with it quietly. What is someone in Wyoming supposed to do when the alert level goes up, buy duct tape? They scare the bejeezus out of us and then tell us to go to work and go shopping as though nothing had changed. Why incite panic like this? I’ll tell you why, because it draws attention. And it distracts.

Let’s put it this way, this post was supposed to be all about John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the convention last week and his subsequent road trip to rally supporters, but instead here I am, talking about terror. Kerry who? Halliburton what?

On the same day the country went into lockdown due to this "new" terror warning, President Bush conveniently announced that he was following the recommendations provided in the 9/11 Commission's final report, released last week. To the casual observor it would appear that the president was taking the Commission's advice to heart and taking action to revamp the nation's woefully outdated intelligence gathering apparatus. But upon closer inspection, it's clear that Bush's intention to appoint a national director of intelligence is nothing more than an empty gesture to present the appearance of action.

The new national intelligence director will not be a cabinet level position, nor will the position operate out of the White House. Lord knows, we wouldn't want the supreme overlord of all national intelligence that close to the president and his advisors! Not only that, but the new director would have no sway over budgets and no managment power to fire and hire the people who report to him. Essentially, this is a powerless position and another layer of beauracracy. The Commission itself has already made its criticism of the president's empty announcement known.

Lastly, let's not forget that the Bush administration fought the creation of this Commission and its report tooth and nail the entire way. There's a reason it took three years for this report to be produced, and you need look no further than the Oval Office to find it. Once they finally relented and allowed the Commission to be created, they tried to sabotage it by appointing the unacceptable Henry Kissinger as its commissioner. They held back requested documents and witnesses, Condeleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and the president himself. They refused to allow the Commission more time to conduct its work. And they refused to increase funding for the Commission's work, appropriating a mere $3 million to the group; Republicans spent $40 million on the Starr Report. So really, Bush's praise for the Commission's work and his subsequent psuedo-adoption of its recommendations ring rather hollow.

We can do better.

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