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Thursday, September 30, 2004

The podiums are still warm and I haven't had much time to digest the evening, but I think the president just got his ass kicked. The winner, if there is one, won't be determined for several days based on how the media plays it, which is kind of sad. Will more focus be put on what the candidates actually said or how they said it? Will we hear more about Kerry's subway flub and W's pursed lips or will we hear about the actual positions? Who knows. To me, Kerry seemed clear, concise and presidential for the most part, while Bush seemed surprisingly unprepared, testy and even panicked at times. I really don't see how anyone watching tonight could feel comfortable giving this man four more years, but of course I'm completely bias.

What do you think? I'm interested to hear immediate reaction from all sides. Hit the comment link below and share your thoughts. More analysis in the coming days. And don't forget, Dick Cheney finally gets his chance to tell John Edwards to go fuck himself on Tuesday. Can't wait for that!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The trail has been relatively quiet this week as the candidates have sequestered themselves to prepare for tomorrow night's first debate in Coral Gables, Florida. Kerry chose to hole himself up at a "resort" (note to Kerry camp: don't ever use the word "resort," even if that's what it is) in Wisconsin where he has apparently been working on his tan. Meanwhile, Bush bunkered down in the brush of Crawford, Texas where he has spent the week working on those tricky, multi-syllabic words.

The media has labeled these debates as the one chance voters have to see the candidates in an unscripted, spontaneous light. That assertion is pretty much bullshit unfortunately. In pre-debate negotiations, both campaigns have done all they can to control each and every aspect of the debates, from the style of writing utensils allowed on the podiums to the size of each candidate's dressing room. For the Kerry camp, getting three debates instead of two, as Bush had hoped for, was a victory. For the Bush camp, raising the temperature in the hall and lowering the podiums were key.

Yes, the Bush team fought for, and won, the stipulation that the podiums be set ten feet apart and only 50 inches tall to minimize Kerry's 5-inch height advantage over the president. Call it the elimination of the "midget effect." The Kerry team also gave in to its insistence that the temperature of the hall not exceed 70 degrees, a request no doubt inspired by the notion that Richard Nixon lost his 1960 contest, the first-ever televised debate, with Kennedy because he perspired heavily under the hot lights. As one GOP operative said about Kerry, "He's a sweater, and women don't like sweaters." Thank god the important issues are finally rising to the surface. Never let 'em see you sweat.

Everyone has talked ad naseum about the importance of these debates, particularly this first one which focuses on foreign policy. There will be two more debates in the coming weeks, both of which will focus on domestic issues. But this is the one people will pay the most attention to. After the first debate, people tend to tune out. Apparently, for most of the population, 90 minutes of non-stop politics is about all they can tolerate in a single four-year span. That's why Bush and Kerry, particularly Kerry, need to shine tomorrow night. This is also why Kerry has been bombarded with advice from all ends of the political and media spectrum. The Nation suggests Kerry should hammer the president on Halliburton, while The Hill suggests Kerry challenge Bush to a windsurfing contest off the coast of Nantucket and the Boston Herald tells him to "Be Like Broccoli." Even former vice president and vanquished Bush foe Al Gore had some advice for John Kerry today. Sigh.

In his piece, Gore mentions the practice of "lowering expectations," a tried and true tactic of debate preparation. The idea here is that each candidate should set the bar particularly low so that even the most minor achievements will be seen as victory. For Bush, the expectations are exceptionally low. He pretty much just needs to get through the 90 minutes without forgetting his own name and he'll be declared the victor. For this reason, the Kerry camp has spent the last week attempting to raise the expectation bar of the incumbent by talking about how savvy a debater Bush is, pointing to the fact that he has never lost a head-to-head contest. Meanwhile, the Bush team has attempted to label the Kerry the greatest debater since Cicero. That's not an exaggeration, that's a quote. Of course, this statement from Gore is one to ponder: "If anyone truly has "low expectations" for an incumbent president, that in itself is an issue."

All this preparation and pre-debate analysis will be shoved aside at 9 pm tomorrow when "the sweater" and "the midget" take the stage. And what would a presidential debate be without some good 'ol fashioned drinking games thrown in? Yes, since these debates are really nothing but dual press conferences full of spin and scripted soundbites, we may as well lessen the torturous 90 minutes by getting absolutely schnockered while we watch. Thankfully, Wonkette has fulfilled her duty and provided us all with a few rules of the game, included among them:

Drink One Sip If:
- Anyone says "Halliburton"
- Anyone says "flip flop"

Drink Two Sips If:
- Anyone mentions blogs
- Anyone invokes the hurricane sympathy vote
- Every time you see anyone wearing the yellow "LiveSTRONG" bracelet

Finish Your Glass If:
- Bush mispronounces any word or name
- Anyone attempts to speak Spanish to pander to Latinos

Do a Shot If:
- Bush mentions the deficit
- Bush accuses Kerry of being "French on terrorism"
- Ralph Nader shows up insisting on airtime

Finish the Bottle If:
- Anyone challenges anyone to a duel
- The moderator rips off his mask to reveal his true identity is Karl Rove

I honestly don't know what to expect, but I do know my expectations have been lowered. Part of me hopes Kerry will just become unhinged, storm across the stage, grab Bush by the throat, lift him high into the air for all to see and then relentlessly pound his face until that smirk falls right to the floor. But that probably wouldn't help him in the swing states. Man, if only we had Howard Dean right now. He wouldn't give a shit. He'd just walk right over, kick Bush in the balls and give us all a victory scream to be proud of. Oh Howie, how we long for thee.

Enjoy the debate everyone. Drink up.

Voter registration deadlines are fast approaching, are you registered? Often times, people who think they are find out on election day that they're not. Believe me, it's extremely disappointing when you head to the polls all atwitter about participating in this thing called democracy only to be told by by a 97-year-old volunteer that you can't. Hey, if Drew Barrymore says its cool to vote it must be true, right? Besides, there may be hot sex in it for you this year!

Check for registration deadlines state-by-state here.
In New York, deadline 10/8, you can register here.
Everywhere else, register here, here or here.

Vote F*cker!

With so much focus recently on Florida and its chronic hurricane problems (they just looooove to grab for attention down there, don't they? such drama queens.), my native Northwest has decided to get in on the action. Props to my hometown for representing in the natural disaster wars. Hurricanes Schmuricanes, we've got volcanos biyatch! Earthquakes? Yawn. Typhoons? Weak! You just can't beat a massive lava flow and a cloud of ash covering half the country.

By the way, to my peeps back home: Don't forget to grab me some ash!

Go here for more on the history of the mountain, including the 1980 eruption.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

That disingenuous filmmaker Michael Moore had a message for all those doomsaying Democrats out there who've been fretting that Bush has already won this thing. An excerpt:
Do not despair. All is not over. Far from it. The Bush people need you to believe that it is over. They need you to slump back into your easy chair and feel that sick pain in your gut as you contemplate another four years of George W. Bush. They need you to wish we had a candidate who didn't windsurf and who was just as smart as we were when WE knew Bush was lying about WMD and Saddam planning 9/11. It's like Karl Rove is hypnotizing you -- "Kerry voted for the war...Kerry voted for the war...Kerrrrrryyy vooootted fooooor theeee warrrrrrrrrr..."

WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street -- and 54% now believe the war is wrong. You don't even have to convince them of any of this -- you just have to give them a ray of hope and a ride to the polls. Can you do that? Will you do that?

Read the rest of Moore's plea here. And buck up!

Friday, September 24, 2004

I read the news today...
JANESVILLE, Wis. - Democrat John Kerry wrongly questioned the credibility of the interim Iraqi leader, and "you can't lead this country" while undercutting an ally, President Bush said Friday.
… oh boy.

That is the definition of hypocrisy... this guy practically invented undercutting our allies. But that's not all! This entire week was filled with one head-scratching sound bite after another. It was a did-he-really-just-say-that? week. A few examples.
Bush, on Thursday: "I saw a poll that said the 'right track-wrong track' in Iraq was better than here in America."
So, let's see, the future of George W. Bush's Iraq is brighter than that of George W. Bush's America. Maybe we should just make W. president of the Iraq and hire someone else to do the job here then. Seems fair to me.

Also on Thursday: "If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq," Bush said, the "suiciders" would "plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations."
Ok, the extreme naivety of this statment and the simplistic nature of this world view is scary, but even ignoring all that, the statment has problems. Suiciders? That's not even a word.
And this from Don Rumsfeld, speaking about the likelihood of scheduled January elections in Iraq: "Let's say you tried to have an election, and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country, but some places you couldn't because the violence was too great. Well, that's it. ... So you have an election that's not quite perfect."
Because if there's anything this administration knows well, it's imperfect elections. Welcome back Rummy, glad to see they let you out of your cage.

And finally, to those of you reading these statements and still wondering what's wong with them, please don't forget to vote on November 3rd.

Sometimes, in my furious and surely flawed analysis of election issues, I forget to include some of the more entertaining aspects of the campaign season. Because of this, I feel as though I may have let my audience (all three of you) down. So, without further ado, a round-up of sorts. Enjoy.

This week, the Bush campaign unveiled another ad labeling John Kerry a flip flopper. Looking for a Dukakis-in-the-tank moment, the Bush team chose to use imagery of the senator on a windsurfer. Set to the tune of Johann Strauss' waltz, "By the Beautiful Blue Danube," the ad shows Kerry drifting one way and then the other while asking "In which direction would John Kerry lead?" Sorta clever, mostly dumb. It's kind of an attempt at clever that fails. And of course, totally misleading. The Kerry campaign immediately denounced the ad as "juvenile and tasteless" in the face of a daily mounting death toll in Iraq. True, but what the Kerry camp should've done immediately was release images of Bush on his Segway scooter a few years ago. If only someone could find those... oh, wait, what's this?

Seriously, if the election is going to be a battle over who looks the least like a jackass, Kerry will win in a walk. The hard part would be choosing which image to use... Bush and the turkey? Bush and the binoculars? Bush teaching children to read? Or how about Bush dropping his dog? Or being outsmarted by an umbrella? Take your pick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Yusef Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens (or TAFKACS), was denied entry into the US last night. His plane, scheduled to touch down in DC, was diverted to Bangor, ME, where Osama bin Stevens was held and questioned before being put on a return flight to London this morning. The reason, according to Washington Post sources, is that Cat "is on several government watch lists, including the no-fly list." Stevens can also be found on numerous iPod playlists under headings such as "Mellow 70s", "AM Gold", and "Sappy Crap From Future Terrorists." Sorry Cat, but it's a wild, wild world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ON THE TRAIL: 'I Heart NY' edition
Thank god this only happens every four years, this presidential campaign is really screwing with my commute. Yes, just when Gotham had fully recovered from last month's Republican invasion, BOTH candidates decided to drop in on the Apple this week. Random street closings, subway re-routing, general chaos, and an uptick in the number of suspected assassination plots have marked the week thanks to Bush and Kerry. But I suppose we should all be thankful we don't live in Davenport, Ia., otherwise, all of our banks surely would have been robbed by now.

Better Late Than Never
Kerry coasted into town first, opening up his tour of NYC with what was, by most accounts, his clearest and most encouraging attack on the bumbling incumbent yet. A collective sigh of relief could be heard from Democrats everywhere as Kerry delivered a harsh indictment of Bush's Iraqi adventure and offered up a sharper, more focused explanation of his record on and his intended approach toward Iraq. Kerry finally came out swinging, and the campaign suddenly seemed to find new life. During a fundraiser at the New York Hilton last night, Kerry said the speech had put him and his supporters in a "fighting mood." When we look back, should Kerry win, yesterday's NYU speech may be seen as the turning point in his campaign.

But at a fundraiser a block-and-a-half away at the New York Sheraton, Bush answered back with the familiar claim that Kerry was once again flip-flopping on his Iraq stance. In his introduction of Bush, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani oh-so-eloquently referenced Kerry's speech by saying, "Flip flop flip flop flop flip flip." Good Rudy, real mature. Is this how the Republicans plan to respond to every proposal offered up by Kerry and every charge leveled against the Bush administration? It seems to me as though this line of attack my grow stale soon, if it hasn't already. Eventually, someone is going to want to hear an actual solution to the mess the Bush camp has put us in, or at least an admission that a mess is what we have. Call me crazy.

Dueling Fundraisers
As mentioned, both candidates held fundraisers in midtown last night. Let's look at the tale of the tape shall we?

The Venue: Kerry's event was held at the New York Hilton, which I assume puts Nicky and Paris firmly in the Dem's camp, while Bush's was held at the Sheraton. I'm really not sure what the Sheraton sisters are up to these days, so I gotta give this one to Kerry.

The Menu: Bush guests were treated to a plate of beef, wild rice, mushroom salad and grilled asparagus. Kerry's guests knoshed on filet mignon, goat cheese and cranberries on mixed greens, julienne carrots and potatoes. Unless Bush's mushrooms were of the hallucinogenic variety, I gotta swing toward Kerry once again.

Attendance (i.e. $$$$): Bush drew about 750 supporters and $3 million, while Kerry took in approximately 1,000 and $4 million. I'm assuming the julienne carrots and goat cheese salad are what tipped the scales in Kerry's favor.

Star Power: As previously mentioned, Bush pulled superstar mayor Rudy Giuliani in for his fete. At Kerry's shin-dig, documentarian Ken Burns put in an appearance as did celebrated techno-vegan Moby, which I assume means there was an extra plate of filet mignon left behind. A few years ago, Giuliani's appearance would've excited me, but since I'm now convinced that Rudy has sold the soul of his beloved NYC and stomped on the graves of the 9/11 victims for his own political aspirations, I have to give it to Kerry and Moby once again. By the way, can I have that steak Moby?

Kerry Speaks to Regis
It's been a busy trip to New York, the media capital of the world, for John Kerry. Following his speech at NYU yesterday, Kerry appeared at Redbook magazine's annual "Mothers and Shakers" awards luncheon along side his wife Teresa and actress Uma Thurman, who was apparently there to represent evil, liberal Hollywood. Kerry then embarked on his own personal publicity tour appearing on Dr. Phil, Letterman and Regis & Kelly. Apparently, Kerry is promoting a movie or something.

On Regis & Kelly this morning, Kerry seemingly came out against child labor laws, relaying stories about children who have slaved away making buttons and bracelets to raise money for his campaign. I'm sure the Republicans will be all over this: "Kerry Steals From Children! Kerry supports button-making sweat shops! Call him Kathie Lee Kerry!" And on Letterman's show last night Kerry seemed relaxed and confident, frequently taking shots at Bush through humor and even his own Top Ten list. Kerry was pretty funny, even if he did swipe my joke (3rd item). Hey John, stop poaching from my blog!

Here are Kerry's "Top Ten Bush Tax Proposals", as presented on The Late Show:
10. No estate tax for families with at least two U.S. presidents.
9. W-2 Form is now Dubya-2 Form.
8. Under the simplified tax code, your refund check goes directly to Halliburton.
7. The reduced earned income tax credit is so unfair, it just makes me want to tear out my lustrous, finely groomed hair.
6. Attorney General (John) Ashcroft gets to write off the entire U.S. Constitution.
5. Texas Rangers can take a business loss for trading Sammy Sosa.
4. Eliminate all income taxes; just ask Teresa (Heinz Kerry) to cover the whole damn thing.
3. Cheney can claim Bush as a dependent.
2. Hundred-dollar penalty if you pronounce it "nuclear" instead of "nucular."
1. George W. Bush gets a deduction for mortgaging our entire future.

Bush Speaks to the World
President Bush was in New York this week as well, although he avoided Regis. No, he was here to speak to a much more important audience: The United Nations General Assembly. In front of the very audience whose leader, Kofi Annan, a week ago had deemed Bush's war "illegal," Bush was provided a chance to defend his decision to launch an unprecedented, pre-emptive strike on Iraq and to appeal to the world body for assistance in stabilizing the battered, tumultuous nation. To accomplish this, the president spoke for all of 24 minutes. Near the conclusion of his detail-free presentation about obvious concepts such as the evilness of terrorism and the virtues of liberty, Bush said, "Each of us alone can only do so much. Together, we can accomplish so much more." Too bad you chose to go it alone in Iraq then, eh Bushie? Punk-ass chump.

Damn you Dan Rather. And damn you CBS. It is now possible that John Kerry may lose this election because the clearly biased CBS was so eager to take down George W. Bush that they didn't bother checking a few facts before hitting the airwaves, and that just sucks. Let's face it, there is a liberal media and there is a conservative media. Unbiased reporting is as rare these days as a classy Britney Spears wedding. It's up to us to understand these biases and put them through our own filter to determine the truth. We have to fact check their ass, which is why we have blogs. Thank god for blogs.

Damn you CBS. I thought The Daily Show had a monopoly on fake news. But really, if we're all so worried about being lied to and misled, it's the Bush administration we should be concerned with, not CBS. Hey, they got some bad intelligence - it's not like that's never happened before.

And hey, Terry McAuliffe, shut the hell up! Let it go man, let it go...

Speaking of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart was on The O'Reilly Factor (ack! it's difficult for me to even type that) the other day for a tete-a-tete with Mr. No Spin Zone himself. Wonkette managed to recover the transcript, illegally no doubt. Some choice highlights:

O'REILLY: Puppets can't vote, but these dopey kids who watch you can.
STEWART: They actually can -- in Florida, they can.
O'REILLY: Puppets can vote in Florida.
STEWART: As long as they vote Republican.


O'REILLY: But you do have some influence. Now, how do you see that? You have influence. John Kerry bypassed me and went right over to you. You're only four blocks away. He said, "O'Reilly, I don't think so. Stewart, I'm going to go talk to you."
STEWART: Well, I have to tell you -- and again, I mean no disrespect, but the snack selection backstage, quite frankly...


O'REILLY: That's true. But what do you want the audience to get out of your discussion with Kerry? Just yucks, or anything else?
STEWART: First of all, I shall rarely refer to it as yucks, and I think you should reconsider. O'REILLY: OK, I'm sorry about that arcane term.
STEWART: "Shnicks," we call it shnicks -- shnicks and giggles.

Read the rest of the O'Stewart Factor here. So best!
And buy America (The Book) here. Study up.

The 2004 presidential election has been dubbed the most important of our generation. With so many crucial issues at stake - terrorism, the war in Iraq, the mounting deficit, health care, jobs - perhaps one has been overlooked: the candidate's knowledge of sports. In this category, John Kerry has failed miserably. At a campaign stop in Milwaukee last month, Kerry referred to famed Lambeau field, where the beloved Packers play, as "Lambert Field." This goof may prove to be Kerry's Wisconsin death knell. Packer football is the religion in that state, and now the newest 527, Football Fans for Truth, is planning to exploit Kerry's gaffe to hilt in the swing state.

And Kerry's fumbles aren't limited only to the professional pigskin crowd, they reach into the collegiate ranks as well. Earlier in the campaign, Kerry praised the Ohio St. Buckeyes football squad... during a stop in rival Michigan. On baseball, Kerry claims his favorite all-time Red Sox player is Eddie Yost. Problem is, Yost never played for the Red Sox. He says his favorite current player on the Red Sox is Manny Ortez, a player who doesn't exist anywhere in the league. Manny Ramirez? Yes. David Ortiz? Yes. But Manny Ortez? Nowhere in my Baseball Encyclopedia. Stick to health care John, please.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Last week, in Moulton, Alabama, Lynne Gobbell was fired. Lynne Gobbell worked 50 to 60 hours a week at Enviromate, a cellulose insulation company (don't ask, I don't know either). Lynne Gobbell was a good worker. Lynne Gobbell drives a Chevy Lumina. On that Chevy Lumina, a fine American automobile, Lynne Gobbell proudly displays a "Kerry/Edwards 2004" bumper sticker. And this is why Lynne Gobbell was fired. Her boss, Phil Geddes (aka: the douchebag) told her to remove the sticker. When Lynne Gobbell didn't, she was told she "could either work for him [Geddes] or John Kerry." This week, John Kerry hired her to work on his campaign.

So you see, "George Bush = Job Lost", while "John Kerry = Job Gained". Seems pretty simple to me. Oh, and I really hope I never end up working in Moulton, Alabama... I have a feeling the locals wouldn't take to kindly to my "George W. Bush is a Punk-Ass Chump" sticker.

I've been wondering for a while now about these folks, the ones most refer to as "the Undecideds." Thankfully, funnyman Larry David explored this very subject in a New York Times Op-Ed today.

The truth is, Undecideds, you're getting on our nerves. We Decideds hate all the attention you're getting and that you're jerking us around. Anyone who can't make up his or her mind at this point in the campaign should forget about the election entirely, buy a pint of ice cream and get into bed.
Enjoy the rest here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Well, George W. Bush finally reported to the National Guard today, and this time, he was sober. Yes, in the midst of a firestorm over his service record, Bush spoke today before members of the National Guard in Las Vegas. The appearance was drenched with irony as Bush thanked and praised the group for the many sacrifices they've made in his war. Charley Richardson, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, says: "We can't help notice the irony that a person who managed to avoid going to combat by joining the National Guard is now sending the National Guard into combat in a war based on lies." More than 40% of the fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are comprised of National Guard and Reservists.

Of course, W's appearance before the Guard today kept the debate about his questionable service record alive. We're all still talking about those questionable documents and that questionable Dan Rather. Can we PLEASE stop it?? It's sad, it's pathetic, and it's exactly what the Bush camp wants.

The Bush team doesn't want to talk about the furthering downward spiral toward absolute chaos that is Iraq. Instead, we're focusing on typography and font lineage and typewriters. In Congress, instead of debating the loss of nearly a million jobs over the last four years, they're debating Dan Rather's credibility. On the news, instead of talking about the massive budget deficit which could imperil us all, the talking heads are discussing the validity of a 1972 superscript 'th'. I don't mean to get all Mulder here, but I'm beginning to question whether or not it was the Bush team who provided those documents to CBS in the first place. (UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not the only one.)

Seriously, make this nonsense stop. We have real issues to address here, chief among them the disaster that Iraq has become. Bush speaks as though insurgent uprisings throughout Iraq are merely bumps in the road. But the fact is, this administration has failed. Miserably. They failed to plan for what would happen after Baghdad fell, believing their own BS about being greeted with flowers and candy. They proceeded to fight the war on the cheap, despite multiple warnings against it. They shunned allies and spit in the eye of the world, and now the burden is all ours. And they've offered no plan to get us out. Don't be fooled by their rhetoric, these are not mere bumps in the road, this is a failure of the highest degree. And all we're talking about is typewriters.

Stop. Please.

If you still believe the president when he tells you that things in Iraq are going ok, you haven't been reading the news the past few days:
At Least 73 Killed in Iraq Attacks Today
Coordinated Attacks Kill 37 in Baghdad Sunday
More Than 100 Foreign Hostages Taken
Pipelines Blasted, Power Lost
Turkey is Ready to Pull Out
The BBC Looks at the Security Problem in Iraq
And Paul Krugman Dispels the Bush Myth (READ THIS)

Secretary of State Colin Powell today expressed concern that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may be using a recent escalation of terrorism in his country as an excuse for rolling back Democratic reforms in the former Soviet Union. Following on the heels of the devastating Beslan school siege and simultaneous air disasters, Putin pushed yesterday to concentrate regional power in the Kremlin. Fellow blogger Dave Pell ponders, "It is worth asking if Putin is simply using this moment of uncertainty, fear and anger to push an agenda that has really always been part of his longterm plan?"

Hmmm, using a national tragedy to further one's own political agenda, who would ever do that?

All of London is atwitter after yesterday's security breach at Buckingham Palace. If you missed it, a man dressed as the Caped Crusader (vintage Adam West at that!) scaled the walls of the Queen's residence yesterday and perched himself on a ledge for several hours yesterday on behalf of "Fathers 4 Justice," a group dedicated to equal rights for fathers in custody cases. What's been lost in all the talk about security lapses is the fact that we nearly lost the Boy Wonder in the process:

Darly Westell, a spokesman for the protest group, told Reuters: "We created a diversion at the front gates of the palace to allow Batman and Robin to walk up to the side with long ladders and climb over the fence. Police threatened to shoot Robin unless he got down from the fence."

We're happy to report that Robin is resting at Gotham General after being treated for trauma.

Friday, September 10, 2004

How powerful is the NRA? Very. A ten-year old law banning the sale of assault weapons (Uzis, AK-47s, etc.) is set to expire at midnight on Monday the 13th, and nobody is doing a thing to stop it from happening. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said, "I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire." Apparently, when Frist says "the people" he means the NRA because polls show nearly 80% of the public support an extension of the ban. The law enforcement community, the medical and health communities, and several other groups also support the extension. Despite this widespread support, the president and the Republican-controlled congress plan to let the Brady Bill, which according to law enforcement professionals has resulted in a 66% decline in assault-weapon-related criminal acts, slip silently into the night. Why? Because the NRA says so, that's why.

The pro-gun lobbying group has said its "decision on endorsing Bush is on hold until after the ban expires," and so Bush has remained silent on the issue despite pledging in his 2000 campaign to pass legislation to extend the ban. But the president isn't the only one at fault, the entire stinkpile of politicians up and down the Beltway can share the blame. Even John Kerry waited until virtually the last minute to support an extension of the ban for fear he may piss off the hunting and fishing component of the electorate. You know, because it's so much easier to snare yourself a deer with a shoulder-fired missile launcher. But at least he finally took a stand, I’ll give him that. Bush has said nothing. Apparently, making America safer means making it easier for criminals and, oh, I don’t know, TERRORISTS to get their hands on these deadly weapons.

Perhaps the most disgusting part of this whole issue is the fact that gun manufacturers are salivating at the prospect of the ban's expiration, preparing for a surge in demand for the banned assault weapons. This from The Hill, a D.C.-based newspaper:
Armalite, a gun manufacturer based in Illinois, instructs customers on its website: “Don’t risk a delay … prepare for possible [assault weapon ban] expiration today.” The company has set up a program called the Armalite Post-ban Rifle Program that lets customers order pre-ban-configuration guns for “delivery immediately upon expiration of the current law.” Customers are allowed to order but must wait until after Sept. 14 for shipment. If the ban is reauthorized after Sept. 14, Armalite says, the customer is responsible “for disposing of the rifle properly.”
It may seem futile at this late date, but please do what you can to stop this from happening. You can petition the president and Congress here and here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

BACK ON THE TRAIL: 'Now That That's Behind Us' edition
It was bad for Broadway and bad for the NYPD's reputation, but thankfully, it's over. And hey, the grass in Central Park is still in immaculate condition, so there's that. If you're still starving for a bit more RNC coverage, see here and here, or see here for images of the most titillating highlight of the week, the Axis of Eve Mass Panty Flash. (oh come one, you know you want to...) But now that I'm fully recovered from my post-RNC hangover, I'm ready once again to hit the trail.

No More Beating Around the Bush Dick
In previous entries I've dissected the Bush campaign's strategy thusly:
1) Scare the hell out of voters
2) Make John Kerry out to be a big pussy
3) Convince voters that, if elected, Kerry the Big Pussy would let terrorists attack us at will.

Until yesterday, the Bush camp, save for Zell Miller, had been somewhat subtle about this tactic. Then, Dick Cheney said this:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
This vote-for-us-or-suffer-the-apocalypse tactic is absolutely disgusting and even a little McCarthy-esque, but it isn't surprising at all. After all, earlier this week Cheney took shots at a post-op Bill Clinton (not surprising) and a post-mortem Ronald Reagan (very surprising). Dick Cheney and his cronies are trying to make you think that John Kerry's view of the world hasn't been changed by the events of 9/11, but that's a ridiculous assertion. Everyone's views have changed since 9/11, including the Bush team's. Let's not forget that this administration pretty much ignored terrorism as a major concern before 9/11 (first meeting on the subject: September 4, 2001), choosing instead to focus on other priorities such as the war on drugs and missile defense.

Don't believe these fearmongers. Don't let them scare you into voting for them. Preying on the public's fears is a sign of desperation and evidence that they have little else to fall back on. Besides, if Cheney wants to compare records, we can do that. Who's weak on defense?

Poll Dancing
Public opinion polls are an integral component of any election campaign, and this year's contest is no different. Every day seems to bring a new poll, and every day the polls seem to change. Inexact science may be too mild a term to describe the practice of polling, but hey, it's all we've got. The New York Times poked a little fun at this obsession with polls by printing some lesser known results, including this gem, earlier in the week:
"Before the Republican convention, 86 percent of the population thought Zell Miller was a professional golfer. After the convention, 92 percent of the population would not like to be in his foursome."
Read them all here.

A Head-to-Head, Unscripted Discussion of the Issues? Who Would Want That??
Understanding that presidential debates are perhaps the best forum to give voters some true insight into a candidate's character and ability to lead, the Bush campaign sought yesterday to limit the number of debates to just two. Opponent John Kerry, who originally pushed for a debate a week leading up to election day, has already agreed to three. But that's apparently one too many for the Bush camp... heaven forbid the voting public actually find out how incompetent this boob actually is. Here's what the Bush camp had to say about the debate negotiations:
"He'll [Bush] be fine with two as long as the talks are resolved quickly and don't give the press a chance to hammer him for being chicken."
Much like W. ran from service in his younger days, he's now running from a useful discussion of the issues. I actually understand that Bush wanted the Swift Boat Veterans for Untruth to do his debating for him but the Debate Commission wouldn't let it happen. They also wouldn't let him sit on Dick Cheney's lap.

I don't really understand what the Bush people are so scared of, it's not as if he's ever misspoken before. Well ok, sure, there was that time last week when he said we couldn't win the war on terror. And yeah, he did refer to the US mission in Iraq as a "catastrophic success" the other day. And ok, yesterday he dropped these two gems during campaign stops in Missouri:

"Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

"I went to the Congress last September and proposed fundamental - supplemental funding, which is money for armor and body parts and ammunition and fuel."

But really, what do they have to be worried about?

Come on Chicken, debate!!

Remember Bob Graham?
Yeah, that Bob Graham. He was actually running for president at one point before seemingly dropping off the face of the earth. Well, the retiring senator and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee released a book, Intelligence Matters, this week. In it, he makes some pretty weighty allegations. He says the Bush administration successfully attempted to block investigations into two agents of the Saudi government who provided financial assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers. Graham writes that Bush had concluded that "a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account. It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety."

Bush opponents will no doubt point to this information as yet more evidence of the corruption seeping through the halls of the Bush White House, while ardent Bush supporters will no doubt decry Graham's allegations as yet another wild-eyed, leftist conspiracy theory. Overall, it's difficult to predict what impact Graham's revelations will have. I'm guessing zilch. I mean, who's gonna read another book on the Bush administration's failed leadership when Paris is sitting right next to it on the shelf?

A Tragic Milestone
In what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld played down as "relatively small," the US military suffered its mounting deaths in this tragic, failed war into just another number, essentially saying the 1,000th death is no more significant than the 999th death. And they're right, every death is tragic. But the reason the 1,000th death is significant is because it serves as a stark reminder of the mess this president has gotten us into. Sadly, the press and the public had begun to treat the daily casualties in Iraq as ho-hum news, relegating the stories to the back pages behind the Laci Peterson and Kobe Bryant news. But these are not just numbers, these are people, kids usually, 1 or 2 of them every day with no end in site. No matter what your politics, their sacrifices should be remembered and honored, from the first to the 1,000th. One way to do that is to attend a candlelight vigil this Thursday night. They're being held all across the country, you can find one near you here.

Some other numbers, all significant, to keep in mind:
- 859 American troops killed since Bush declared "mission accomplished" on May 1, 2003.
- 799 killed since Bush taunted the insurgents telling them to "bring it on."
- 538 killed since the capture of Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13, 2003.
- 150 killed since the handover of sovereignty, June 29.
- More than 6,900 U.S. fighters wounded or injured.
- 127 deaths among non-U.S. coalition forces in Iraq and 132 American fatalities in Afghanistan.

More "relatively small" numbers tracked here.

Friday, September 03, 2004

It appears as though the falsehoods and misperceptions emanating from the Garden this past week were too much for former president Bill Clinton. Flowers, cards and cigars can be sent to Presbyterian Hospital here in New York. Get well Bubba.

I should've known better. After RNC speakers launched three days of non-stop verbal carpet-bombing at John Kerry and his policies, President Bush put the gloves back on last night and delivered a steady, calm (and lengthy) argument for reelection. I had been so worked up by the rising anger and fear-mongering in speech after speech this week, I assumed that Bush would take the same tack. He didn't. I was Bushwhacked. On the surface, the speech was very effective, one of the better speeches of his political career in fact. But upon closer examination, it fell kind of flat.

In his 62-minute address, as thousands of protestors outside the Garden -and two inside- surrounded him, the president offered up a laundry list of domestic policy initiatives, swiping a tactic from the Bill Clinton reelection playbook (their words, not mine). Naturally though, he opened by invoking "that horrific day" (a pre-requisite for every speech this week), transitioned by drawing the inevitable comparison of himself to Ronald Reagan and then spent a good 35 minutes ticking off a full range of policy proposals. Of course, their was no plan offered on how to fund these proposals, but they sure sounded good. With the country facing the largest deficit in its history, it seems as though the only way to pay for this wish list would be to *gasp!* raise taxes. Read between his lips.

When W. finally got to his perceived strength, the war on terror, half the country had probably fallen asleep or switched over to the Weather Channel to see if Hurricane Frances had slammed Miami yet. For those who did remain tuned in, they saw Bush slip from an awkward and uncomfortable delivery during the domestic section to a hard-charging, uplifting and proud one during the war on terror segment. He spoke of his grand vision for the Middle East, saying that the war in Iraq had provided democracy with a foothold in the war-torn region. Sounds like a noble plan, in an imperialistic sort of way, but how come we didn't hear of this grand vision in the run-up to war? All we heard about was the fact that if we didn't go to Baghdad, mushroom clouds would rise above our cities.

When people say the president misled us into war, this is what they mean. The administration knew it could never rally support for a crusade to transform the entire Middle East into a bastion of democratic, and Christian, ideals ("Freedom is not America's gift to the world. It is the Almighty God's gift.") An effort such as this smacks of colonialism, will no doubt take decades to achieve, and will incur innumerable costs in both lives and money. There was no way the American people would've bought into that, and so they scared the hell out of all of us by hammering us over the head with anthrax, dirty bombs, reconstituted nuclear programs and duct tape. If these people are willing to manipulate us into war, how can we trust them on anything else?

Bush also found time in his speech to pick at his opponent, which a candidate is wont to do in an acceptance speech. Two days after Hollywood's biggest ever action hero stumped in prime time for him, Bush mocked Kerry for saying the heart and soul of America could be found in Hollywood, another out-of-context twisting of words. He once again derided Kerry for saying he "voted for the $87 billion before voting against it," once again framing the issue in simplistic terms as a vote against supporting our troops. But Bush never mentions that the $87 billion "Iraq Supplemental Bill" Kerry opposed included a provision for the use of no-bid reconstruction contracts for companies like, oh, let's just say Halliburton; the bill Kerry approved didn't. These are not simple issues, folks, and so we should not let simple rhetoric be our only guide for understanding them.

Frankly, I'm glad this week is over. I'm glad the weirdly-dressed, odd-speaking people from distant lands such as Kansas and Alabama are going home. I'm glad our hedonistic city can finally be itself once again. And I'm glad I can take some time off and focus on things that really matter... Go Cougs.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

When President Bush takes the stage tonight to accept his party's nomination he will pin his hopes for reelection on your fears. As the speakers who've come before him have done, he will vividly describe the dangers of the world around us, he will invoke the horrific memory of 9/11 and he will tell you that he is the nation's only hope to keep it from ever happening again.

Aside from a cursory mention, you won't hear much about the economic recovery we're still waiting for. You won't hear much about the underfunded No Child Left Behind Act. You won't hear much about the jobs lost, or the environment that has been ignored. You certainly won't hear the name Osama uttered, unless they plan to surprise us all by carting him out in a cage. And you definitely won't hear about the 1,000 lives that have been lost in a poorly-planned and unnecessary war with no end in sight.

What you will hear about is terror and the dangerous world we live in. You'll hear about strength and resolve. And you'll hear about how much safer we all are thanks to George W. Bush. This is all they've got going for them. They simply want to continue scaring you into believing that if you don't vote for George W. Bush, terrorists will be knocking on your door tomorrow. Their answer to his scary world? Talk tough. Bomb people. Pray.

But when the president says tonight how much safer we all are thanks to him, please keep this in mind, from a report issued today:
Of the roughly 2,929 terrorism-related deaths around the world since the attacks on New York and Washington, the NBC News analysis shows 58 percent of them — 1,709 — have occurred this year. In the past 10 days, in fact, the number of dead has risen by 142 people in places as diverse as Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel. On Tuesday, the number of civilians killed by terrorists totaled 38 — 10 at a subway entrance bombing in Moscow, 16 in a bus bombing in Israel and 12 Nepalese executed in Iraq.
The Bush administration realizes that informed voters aren't good for them, but frightened ones are. They don't want you to think. They don't want you to ask questions. They would appreciate it if you adopted the Britney Spears' philosophy: "I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that." They don't want you to investigate John Kerry's comment about "voting for the war before he voted against it," they just want you to know that it sounds like a "flip-flop." They don't want you to do the research to understand Kerry's position on Iraq, he just wants you to believe it changes all the time. It doesn't, look it up.

They are counting on the fact that we're not paying attention. Former president Bill Clinton said recently on The Daily Show that "Democrats win when people think." So get all the facts before you vote... the Republicans hate that.

"Drilling for fear, makes the job simple." - Bu$hleaguer, by Pearl Jam

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The third night of this circus began timidly, leading off with the inevitable syrupy tribute film to the throng's beloved Gipper. The film was epic folklore, I think I even saw John Wayne. But they had to use that goddam Lee Greenwood song one more time, didn't they? Yeah, we know, you're proud to be an American. So are we.

The softly-lit video footage and feel-good niceties wore off quickly however when senator Zell Miller, the Democrat from Georgia, took to the stage. That's right, the Democrat from Georgia. And that's all anyone will be talking about: "Hey, a Democrat at the convention actually spoke up for Bush. Hmmmmm, something must really be wrong with that Kerry guy..." As David Corn of The Nation points out, Miller is "the political equivalent of a Jew for Jesus."

Who knows what drove this retiring, craggy, Dixieland congressman to the dark side. Maybe the Dems took his parking spot away, or insisted he stop spitting his chewin' tobacco directly onto the floor of the Senate chamber. Whatever it was, Zell delivered some serious fire and brimstone in a unabashed, vitriolic assault on John Kerry. His fists were clinched, his eyes were wide and I think I saw smoke coming out of his ears. He was like a deranged Roscoe P. Coltrane, accusing John Kerry of everything from indecisiveness to being a sissy to outright treason, and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone watching at home. I'm just now coming out from under my desk, teeth still chattering. Really, it was frightening.

Apparently, the GOP let Zell rip into Kerry in an effort to make the next speaker appear a little less scary and intimidating... ok, dim the lights and cue the evil music, here he comes.

Go Fuck Yourself*
Next up, the Dark Overlord of All Things Unholy (that's his secret service code name) spoke to his disciples at the annual shareholder's meeting known as the Republican National Convention.

Let's see, Dick Cheney's speech in a few words: accepts the party's nomination, something about his father being a railroad cook (take that millworker's son!), a line about schools, a line about tax cuts, a line about health care and then, Terror! Terror! Terror! Yep, the bogeyman didn't hide for long, skipping quickly over substantive issues about domestic, social and economic and getting right to the heart of the matter: "We'd all be dead if it weren't for me!!! ...I mean, if it weren't for President Bush."

The vice president did what he does best actually. He scared us. He spoke in measured, sensible tones about the grave dangers mounting all around us. He constructed a terrifying picture of the world. This went on for a while until the delegates trembled thunderously and then broke into a chant of "U-S-A!" This happened several times. Cheney then spoke of the president's strength and resolve, of Bush's determination and of his faith. And how we're all "safer" because of him. This too went on for some time, the delegation frequently erupting in chants of "Four More Years!"

At some point in between the "U-S-A!" chants and the "Four More Years!" chants, two MORE protestors, this time from a group known as Code Pink, made it known that they had infiltrated the arena by standing up to shout their dissent at the vice president. Let's see, that's four breaches of security in three days at what has been touted as "the most secure location in the world." How can this party protect the country if it can't even protect its own convention? Yep, I feel safer.

But back to the speech. The vice president spent plenty of time ripping John Kerry to shreds, blasting him for his record, twisting his words and picking at specific points without any real context. During this section the delegation catcalled Kerry with sing-song chants of "Fliiiiip Floooop!" accompanied by the banging of actual flip-flop sandals they had brought with them. Flip flop this. Cheney also ridiculed Kerry's "sensitive war" remark once again, taking that out of context too and ignoring the fact that his boss has made the exact same claim. This party really likes to paint its opponents as pussies, don't they? That seems to be the only thing they have going for them.

So, in summary, Cheney's speech:
Be Afraid.
Bush is Strong.
Be Very Afraid.
Kerry is a wuss.
Be Very, Very Afraid.
Everyone will die if Kerry is elected.

And the scorecard:
6 chants of "U-S-A!"
5 chants of "Four More Years!"
2 chants of "Flip Flop!"
2 more arrested protestors.
0 references to actual policies.

But how come he didn't mention Halliburton?

On the third night of the Democratic convention a month ago we heard a lot about hope and optimism. On the third night of the Republican show we got venom, invective and spiteful rhetoric. Apparently, the GOP goal this week is to bully and sissify John Kerry, to scare the living crap out of the voters, and to avoid laying out real solutions to the multitude of problems facing the country. Good job so far guys!

Tomorrow night we all get Bushed... stay tuned.

* Trademarked by the Republican party and Dick Cheney.

This week, we've seen the Republican party trot out its moderate all-stars - Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger - in an effort to paint themselves as a party of inclusive values, open to all ideas and lifestyles. But their party platform is something altogether different.

Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania and beastiality enthusiast, tonight:
"The key to a richer culture is strong families, and the key to strong families is strong marriages. That means mothers and fathers doing what they have been doing for centuries - giving love and hope to their children." In July, Santorum pushed the Senate to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriages by calling the defense of heterosexual marriages "the ultimate homeland security."
Elizabeth Dole, last night:
"Marriage is important not because it is a convenient invention or the latest reality show. Marriage is important because it is the cornerstone of civilization, and the foundation of the family. Marriage between a man and a woman isn't something Republicans invented, but it is something Republicans will defend."
That's it! The gays are out to DESTROY straight marriage!

Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes, today:
Keyes says Cheney's Gay Daughter Is a Sinner
Yep, big tent indeed...

The streets may be upstaging the speeches. As the Republicans hoot and holler for their heroes inside the hermetically sealed bubble that Madison Square Garden has become, the streets outside the Garden have been transformed into the people's platform.

According to many pre-convention reports, yesterday was supposed to be an official day to "fuck shit up!" here in New York City. The planned actions, mostly from a, um, 'secret' group (with a website and a PR machine, natch) known as A31, were designated as peaceful acts of civil disobedience, and for the most part that's exactly what they were. But nearly 1,000 protestors, about the same number of soldiers killed in Iraq fittingly enough, we're still handcuffed and bused off to a holding warehouse on Manhattan's West side yesterday, bringing the total arrests thus far to just over 1,500.

Many will try to link these disruptive antics to the Democratic party and the Kerry campaign, some already have. Even more will disparage the protestors as nothing more than opportunistic anarchists who are trying to use the chaos as an excuse to hurl a brick through a Starbucks window. But I have yet to hear about or see one smashed window yet and I thankfully haven't seen a single molotov cocktail. Most of the offenders have been rounded up on charges such as "illegally" stepping off the sidewalk or hanging a banner in a public square. The majority of the masses raising their voices are mothers, families, poor people, women's rights advocates, AIDS awareness groups, gay rights advocates and the unemployed. These are not radicals and anarchists, these are Americans.

In addition to the numerous large marches and demonstrations, some protestors have taken it upon themselves to get directly in the faces of the Republican delegates as they attempt to tour the city. From Broadway shows to fat-cat dinners and parties, protestors have shadowed the delegates at every turn. Naturally, many people have condemned these actions as rude and unnecessary. But while I don't condone jabbing a finger in someone's face, no matter how ignorant their political views may be, these actions are actually an exaggerated extension of what many Americans feel, not just the antics of some crazy hippies. Native New Yorkers, in particular, feel as though their city has been overrun by people who typically do nothing but deride them all as sinners and godless heathens. Inside the Garden, the Bush faithful have a chance to push their beliefs on the American public. Outside the Garden, the rest of us are utilizing our only chance to let them know we disagree.

Amazingly, most of the delegates who come in contact with the angry mobs are surprised at the reception they've received. Many of these people seem to be completely unaware that there are regular Americans who disagree with their policies and beliefs. They're totally confounded by the notion that anyone would disagree with the president. For me, this uninformed reaction alone validates the in-your-face tactics being employed by some protestors. If the Republicans barricade themselves inside the protective bubble of Madison Square Garden and their only view of the outside world comes from FOX News, they may actually continue to think that the majority of Americans agree with them. If anything, maybe they'll start to realize that's not true. Besides, they're the ones who chose to stage their convention in the liberal stronghold of New York. They made their bed, now they have to get harassed in it.

"I gotta get out of here, I'm so alone. Don't you know that I gotta get outta here? 'cause New York's not my home." - Jim Croce, "New York's Not My Home"

For the third day in a row, anti-Republican protestors were able to infiltrate the blanket security around Madison Square Garden and get inside the world's most famous arena to voice their dissent. Today, just after the Bush twins bombed for a second day in a row, a group of anti-Bush activists from the group Act Up!, shed their Republican disguises and stood up to shout down chief-of-staff Andrew Card, who had just taken the podium. The 11 intrepid protestors were quickly hauled off the floor, hands twisted behind backs, as delegates cheered.

Yesterday, Medea Benjamin of the peace group Code Pink, got within steps of vice president Cheney to unveil a banner for him to read: "Be Pro Life, Stop the Killing in Iraq." On Monday, Thomas Frampton, a 21-year-old straight-A student from Yale, slipped security to get inside the arena, ten feet from Mr. Cheney, to bellow anti-war slogans in the vice president's face.

Let's see, three infiltrations in three days inside what has been touted as the most impressive display of security in recent memory. And here I thought the Republicans were making us safer.

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