not worth archiving.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
Prove to me that this is an honest mistake. The AP is reporting that in his campaign speeches, Bush has been mixing up the names of two terrorists, calling on the ghost of Leon Klinghoffer to essentially make Saddam Hussein look even worse.
Shades of 2000: Bush continues to makes these "endearing" slip-ups (they point out he's made this specific error several times, and that it's in the written copy of his stump speech). And because it's assumed he's of lower intelligence, it's assumed it just can't be deliberate. Prove it, I say.
Why does Bush make this "slip"? Because there's mileage from it, is why. Klinghoffer's death is evocative, and Bush wants to use it the same way he wants to use 9/11 at every possible step. If it's written into his speech, it's not a slip up like "nucular." This is a planned error, plain and simple. (Don't forget his repeated efforts to foist the deficit off on some legendary trifecta remark.) Disgusting and cynical: this is a horrible use of a man's murder.
UPDATE: Partial screw up on my part: the
planner of the hijacking which led to Klinghoffer's death, Abul
Abbas, was in Baghdad when US forces moved in. So Bush is only
screwing up the names of the two. But still, he is more than
happy to leverage Klinghoffer's death for his own gains.
According to this
article, in 1998 "Israeli Atorney Gneral Elyakim Rubinstein
said Abbas did not pose a threat to Israeli security and that it
would be unreasonable to prosecute him for acts committed before
Inside the minds of the wing-nuts. You might have heard there were some hurricanes recently, causing devastation in the Caribbean? Last week Teresa Heinz Kerry visited a neighborhood near here, one full of immigrants from the region. First, read how it got written up by the AP (and printed as such in many newspapers); pay special attention to what Ms. Heinz-Kerry says...
Now, that second paragraph — the one where she recommended prioritizing donations, leaning away from clothes (it's warm in the Caribbean), and towards water, electricity, and food? Oh boy, the radical right wing bloggers had a field day with that. Frequently omitting the second portion of the quotation in order to focus on "let them go naked," she was heartlessly compared to all sorts of things, including Marie Antoinette. (Which is really silly, because in Antoinette's formulation of "let them eat cake" she was ignoring providing essentials, nothing like what went on in Heinz Kerry's quotation: she most assuredly was not ignoring essentials.)
Anyway, here's a round up of bloggery at its finest...
And so on... I never saw any instances where there was any informed discussion about her point: that priorities need to be set, and that in the Caribbean, where it's not exactly snowing, perhaps clothing wasn't as important as water, electricity, and food. Is she that off-base? Well, here's the word from Oxfam Caribbean humanitarian co-ordinator Marilise Turnbull: "The first thing will be getting fresh water, and there will also be a massive need for blankets and shelter materials." No mention of clothing. Others in that article mention clothing, but...
So maybe Heinz Kerry understood the needs better than all these well-informed, rabid bloggers, who are so interested in scoring points that they can't recognize sense? Go figure.
UPDATE: An interesting thought occurred to me: Ms.
Heinz-Kerry actually reported to do public service; she helped.
The right wing bloggers who got on her case probably did far
less, and all they do is snipe at her, much like they snipe at
someone who reported for duty in Vietnam. It's sad, really.
Kerry on Iraq: "A profound diversion from the war" on terror. That was his ringing indictment of the failures of the Bush administration today at NYU. It's really a wonderful speech, hitting a lot of themes...
Ultimately, Kerry holds Bush accountable, not for a lack of foresight but a failure to use available judgment:
"This is the incompetence of this administration." (Why does Republican Senator Richard Lugar hate America?) Many of the problems in Iraq are some of our own doing, including under-spending the money for reconstruction that's been allocated. Senators from both sides of the aisle are calling for a re-think... "This has been incompetence so far," said Joe Biden; and Richard Lugar said, "This is the incompetence in the administration."
I can't help but imagine that it's costing American lives,
A uniter, not a divider. You'll recall that it was this kind
of retribution by the White House which cause then-Republican
senator Jim Jeffords to change his party affiliation to
Independent, and cost the GOP the majority in the Senate. Has the
White House learned? Not about right and wrong, of course, that's
hopeless, but about backlash? Let's get this out...
How paranoid is it to imagine that Republicans might be behind the forged documents?
Not saying it's so, but it certainly increases the possibility
that these docs were a Republican plant. If you haven't read it
yet, make sure you read this post about the
Republican heavyweight who raised key questions about the docs
within hours after CBS aired its report; how did he know so
Stupid, stupid, stooopid. But why didn't the White House challenge the authenticity? Was the content true? Were they part of some sting? What's up with that? Bartlett said he didn't have "enough time" to challenge their authenticity, but why didn't he say so? Why couldn't he have called Bush on this? (Word has it that he's paying a lot of attention to the campaign...
Seeing the Trashcan Sinatras last night here in New York City was a lot of fun, and if they're coming to your area I strongly recommend you check them out. They've been around about 15 years, and they have a strong repertoire of well-crafted, well-written pop songs that never (or rarely) creep into sentimentality. They also have the occasional hard rock tune to bring down the rafters. Their songs are so original sounding, and so interesting in their melodies (except for one that sounds too much like Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" for my tastes) that your big question will be, "why aren't these guys more popular?" Their singer Frank Reader is an evocative pop singer, with a lot of soul; the guitarists know their instruments well and get a wide variety of sounds out of them; the drummer uses sticks and brushes to great effect; their bass player lays down a firm bottom; and for a couple of numbers there are wonderful three part harmonies.
One of my few reservations — which won't apply to most of you, since I presume you don't have their CDs — is that they recreate their records a bit too faithfully, not having anyone who can really solo. All the musicians do what they do well, but no one seems capable of stretching a song into a new space. (My only other reservation has to do with stage craft: they don't have that many hard rock songs, and they ordered the set in such a way that rockers didn't follow each other and there was a loss of momentum.)
Early in the show they dedicated a new song, "It's A Miracle," to Ralph Nader. It confused some, and drew hisses from others. The song recognizes futility, and also the romantic nostalgia of trying; to me, the narrator in the song recognizes his own toying with the past:
Just a couple more bits for housekeeping. They played about a
90-minute show; Roddy Hart opened (and did sideman duty later
with the TCS), and his songs were interesting, he had great ideas
for his music and lyrics, and used his voice well, successfully
breaking into a smooth falsetto here and there.
The remnants of Ivan came through the
area last night, flooding
the subways and splitting an oak in the Brooklyn Botanic
Garden. Half of the tree still stands, and as far as I
could tell the damage in the garden otherwise was pretty minor.
But up and down Flatbush there were branches laying at the base
of trees. I was glad that the damage wasn't worse, of course, and
know full well the damage it had done elsewhere.
Today is Samuel Johnson's birthday, a
day of great significance to me. You may know him for his
Dictionary, a great poem or two, or for his essays, but an
integrated view shows him to be a truly compassionate man.
Conservatives would like to think of him as "theirs," but that
couldn't be further from the truth; if you click through to this page you can read a summary
I drew together showing both his conservative and liberal
perspectives. By all rights he was a well-rounded moderate, and
knew the value of moderating your reactions according to the
severity of the issue. (However, he did write some political
pamphlets in the 1770's which are noteworthy for their vitriolic
invective.) He was also a great arguer for perseverance, and had strong views
on the value of patriotism. The
home page to my Samuel Johnson web site is here; go feast.
Republican benefits from forged CBS documents? That was something I hypothesized last week, because you'd have to wonder why anyone would float documents which could be uncovered as forgeries so easily. The thought being that the label "forgery" would wash away all sorts of more legitimate questions about Bush's service. In an article on someone suspected of being CBS's source for the documents, the Washington Post writes:
How modest! The LA Times article is here. In it, the Times writes,
Is it fair or wild to accuse the Republicans of planting these
documents? Of course it is: McClellan accused the Democrats of
doing so first. Why would anyone try to pass off documents which
seem such transparent forgeries unless the point was to question
all the questioning?
All the idealists in Florida — somehow they are going to
have to learn that their ideals are destructive for the next four
years. Can they really think that the small hope of long term
change outweighs another Bush term? Don't they realize that he's
not on the ballot to promote change, but to promote Bush?
If it's Friday, it must be time for
another post-network-news-deadline file dump. More Bush National Guard
files. Nothing overwhelmingly significant, just pointing it
out. It deals with his early service in Texas, which by most
reports was admirable; not to be confused with his failure to
take a physical, losing flyer status, suggestions of later
absences in Alabama, and failure to report in Massachusetts.
Thank God some sense has arrived, whatever the motivation. (If
you were reading here a couple weeks ago, this was one of the many areas I cited where Bush was
risking disaster in the war on terror. Yes, let's now write a
stupid entry on the power of blogs.)
Miami Herald writer Mary Ellen Klas is awake to the irony there: if Buchanan had not been on the 2000 ballot, Gore might well have taken Florida, and be President now.
The long list of presidential candidates in 2000 spawned the complicated butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County that had thousands of voters accidentally voting for Buchanan instead of Gore and triggered the 36-day legal battle that had the presidency in limbo.
In a race this close, it could be the difference. Via the folks who bring you the Current Electoral College Vote Predictor, I read a Jimmy Breslin column which questioned the validity of telephone polls because the sample is all drawn from land-line telephone numbers, and excludes those who have a cell phone but no land-line. There's a feeling that these people skew younger and are more likely to vote Democratic, which would then call into question current projections. But I think Breslin repeatedly overstates the case when he keeps citing a figure of 169 million cell phones: this is all the US cell-phones, apparently, and includes those who have land-lines as well as those who have a cell-phone for business purposes.
It's a valid point to raise, and the polling industry should find a way to address it, but Breslin wants to throw the baby out with the bath water and call all the polls invalid. In a race this close it could make a difference, but I don't think it should call into question, say, the polling results in a deeply red or deeply blue state.
UPDATE: It's probably not a big issue this year, if this article is correct:
Between 3 percent and 6 percent of cell phone users (five to 10 million people) do not have land lines, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. That's well within a poll's margin of error.
It's wrong to compare that to "margin of error," which is due
to randomness of data and not sample design. But it's still going
to be pretty small, and not all of them are going to vote
one party or another. The 5-10 million aren't all registered
voters living in swing states. Even if it went 75-25, the impact
is going to be very slim.
More needed from journalists... Knight-Ridder does a reasonable job on the he said she said surrounding health care programs, but needs to weigh in and say what the truth is, even if it's yet to be determined.
Here's an example of the to-ing and fro-ing:
The sanctions against Iraq were
working. A draft report of the Iraq Survey Group — the
agency charged with understanding the state of WMDs in Iraq
— sounds like it will say that Saddam Hussein had the
desire and intention of manufacturing WMDs (perhaps only in small
quantities for the purpose of assassinations), but that
international trade sanctions made it impossible for
him to fulfill those intentions. No one will be surprised by
this, but the implications will be drawn differently by different
groups. For me, it reiterates the idea that our invasion was not
necessary, nor did it stop him from making WMDs (he wasn't making
them anyway!) which supports the Catholic Church position that it
was not a just war. And so far as I know no one was talking about
lifting the sanctions. I'm sure that had that question arisen
there would have been all sorts of hoops for Iraq to jump
First, he's over-simplified Kerry's position again for the
sake of sounding clever (Kerry voted to authorize force so that
Bush would have adequate leverage in getting the UN to force
inspectors back in — as a feint, but not to botch it
up as badly as Bush has). But as for sending mixed signals?
Presidents do it all the time; you know the standard line, "I
want to keep all my options open, I don't want to take anything
off the table," all the while working for a peaceful solution.
This is how you maintain your bargaining advantage, by
being non-committal. And what did he think he was doing in 2002,
by saying "there are no war plans on my desk?" when he'd already
seen presentations from Tommy Franks? What signals did he think
he was sending the enemy then?
Hopelessly splitting hairs. UN Secretary General Koffi Annan told the BBC that the US-led invasion of Iraq was illegal, and violated the UN charter. I'm sure you won't be surprised that Bush disagrees with that characterization:
Some problems with that defense:
I would be perfectly happy if this election came down to an examination of what's happened in the last four years. If Reagan could successfully ask Americans "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" and have that considered acceptable, then the same approach should be perfectly acceptable now. I thought about this when I read, with fear and disgust, that the latest assessment of Iraq from the CIA has scenarios which run from dark to darker.
When we contrast that with what Iraq was supposed to be — a beacon of democracy's promise for the region — well, you just want ask why we're spending $200 billion on this project and have already spent more than a thousand US lives. (And it helps sometimes to think about who those thousand were: you can't easily compare the value of one life to another, but many of these were young people who had 40, 50 years of life ahead of them: children, grandchildren, love and happiness, along with strife and tension and all the richness that life entails. And they were a group that believed in this country enough that they accepted the responsibilities of enlisting.)
Remember when Andrew Natsios (of USAID) was on ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel, and said the entire cost was going to amount to $1.7 billion? Remember that? USAID is a federal government agency, not some crackpot think tank; they are supposed to be working for us. We could go on and on about how wrong the $1.7 bn. figure was (I don't know how you do the grossness of that inaccuracy justice), but this week the Administration calmly told Congress it wants to shift $3.46 billion from reconstruction into security. This of course reinforces the lead note on pessimistic projections, but when you have a number like this — almost exactly twice the figure Natsios gave for the whole project, being calmly transferred from one account to another — you cannot help but remark at how blithely it's being done by the administration. Said Senator Richard Lugar (a Republican, I might add),
And why are we even in Iraq, now saddled with a $200 billion burden on the future? We're there because our president doesn't respect the concept of 'truth' highly enough to question assumptions. When he heard the CIA case on WMDs in Iraq and expressed initial skepticism, and Tenet assured him the case was a 'slam dunk,' did Bush take the additional step of asking why it was a slam dunk? No, not so far as we know. In an interesting flip on the oft-used emperor's new clothes tale, Bush saw there were no clothes and convinced himself otherwise.
And when he was able to get inspectors in (thanks to Congress authorizing force, which allowed the necessary threat which got the inspectors in), Bush disregarded what the inspectors told the world: ain't no WMDs, gang, no reason to war. At that point, if Bush had had proper skepticism, he might have requestioned the slam-dunk conclusion (second opportunity missed, showing too little value for truth). Instead, Bush foisted that silly "time is running out" formula on the world. Time was most clearly not running out.
So here we are: Powell's invocation of the "Pottery Barn" rule (you break it, you own it) has come to pass; we're stuck with Iraq, the world is not safer, the US is not safer, and I see no reason to reward this chump another 4 years of US taxpayer dollars.