Thursday, September 30, 2004

That debate was a slam dunk for Kerry

I want to publish quickly on this, since I, of course have no idea how tonight's debate will effect the polls. I've had my doubts about Kerry, despite my antipathy for Bush. Kerry crushed Bush tonight. Just on the superficial stuff -- Bush stammered, stalled for time, couldn't even continue a discussion on North Korea at one point and looked uninformed. This is not what the CNN commentary is saying, by the way. But I'm not sure how anyone could have watched that without coming away with the impression that Bush is simply uncomfortable and unable to discuss his own foreign policy over the last three and a half years. This was an objective turning point. Let's see if the media portrays this debate as the Kerry victory that it clearly was.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Wishing for disaster?

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens has a diatribe today against Democrats who are wishing for disaster -- some ill turn in the Iraq war, a stock market crash or a terrorist attack that will dislodge Bush. I don't think Hitchens is being fair here. I don't know anyone who wants people to lose their lives or even their retirement nest-eggs just so Bush will be booted from office.

The more subtle frustration, really, is with Bush's luck. The War in Iraq, for example, isn't really going well. We've lost mroe than a thousand soliders, the country is in chaos, and the prospects for demcoracy seem iffy. We were told that our soldiers would be greeted as liberators and now they're in a guerilla war. We've also alienated our the rest of the world and embarassed ourselves in the Abu Ghraib prison.

Thing is, due to the resourcefulness of the soldiers on the ground, it hasn't turned out as badly as it could have. For this, Bush gets the credit. And it is frustrating to watch Bush strut around like a hero as our soldiers make the best they can out of the cruddy situation he created for them.

Hitchens is right that Kerry supporters have been heard hoping for some disaster or speculating that Osama bin Laden will be delivered up as some sort of October Surprise and, really, they should stop saying such things because it makes Kerry look bad and makes Bush's opponents look paranoid. I think that what they're really expressing through such sentiments is a massive frustration which the fact that Bush seems to be cruising towards re-election despite presiding over a terrible economy and then swindling the nation into a a war of choice that has killed more than a thousand on our side and many more in Iraq. What's it going to take to convince America that Bush is not a good President?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Prez says "Iraq > America"

Well, here's an honest statement from Bush: "...I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America. (Chuckles.) It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future. Talk to the leader. I agree: I'm not the expert on how the Iraqi people think, because I live in America, which is nice, safe and secure. But I talk to this man."

Great. Iraq is on the right track and America... isn't? Well, America isn't. Maybe Bush sees a future where multinational corporations outsource jobs to Baghdad. Scratch the maybe. That's what he sees.

Kerry took a lot of heat for accusing Bush of building firehouses in Iraq while they close here at home. Maybe those criticisms were unfounded. Bush's father, known to us all as Bush '41, was criticized for caring more about foreign policy than domestic policy. Like father, like son, it seems, pat though the observation may be.

Sorry no posts

Busy week last week, possible major changes afoot in the weeks to come. We shall see. Posts shall resume and the grand plan shall commence. Stick with me, gentle readers.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Iraqi Democracy... Still More Cracks

Great piece in The New York Review of Books (Sep 23rd, 2004 issue) that sheds some light about Iraq's interim government and the Bush Administration's willful defiance of the will of Iraq's people, the ones we supposedly "liberated."

According to writer Peter Galbraith, who served as the first US Ambassador to Croatia and worked with the United Nations on its emeergency mission in East Timor, the US government actually polled the Iraqi population to find out who the most and least popular public figures were in the post-Saddam era. 61% of the population felt strongly opposed to Iyad Allawi. So, we made him Prime Minister of the country.

Iraq's most popular politician? Moqtada Sadr, who we cut out of the process entirely, leading him to raise an army of what, after the violent stand-off in Fallujah, numbers over a thousand.

I doubt the Bush administration cares much about what the Iraqi people want. If, given another four years to manage this situation, they will surely provide Iraq with a pro-business, pro-western government that seems democratically elected.

See the Post Below to Get Info on the Thosethingswesay action project. As soon as enough of you email, I'll send details.

Making This Blog Active

Hello all,

I have an idea that will hopefully make this blog more useful and will perhaps do some good. What I'll need is some help from my small menagerie of readers. What I'm planning is something ideally suited to a small group of people spread around the country that will take minimal effort from all of you but could, perhaps, turn into something useful.

Since it won't do to air this plan in a public forum, please send a blank email to and all will be explained.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Did Bush Help the Saudis?

I'm surprised this hasn't received more attention.

In former Senator Bob Graham's book, "Intelligence Matters" to be released today, the Senator alleges that two of the Septemember 11th hijakckers received financial and logistical support from agents of the Saudi Arabian government. By the Bush doctrine, which says that all states that support terrorists are subject to attack by the U.S. military, tanks should have rolled into Riyadh, by now. Of course, they haven't, and the official line is that the Saudis didn't have anything to do with 9-11 and that they are one of our most valuable allies in the Middle East.

Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that the Bush administration blocked a congressional investigation into the Saudi-hijcaker relationship. The Miami Herald received an advance copy of Graham's book and they summarize it this way:

"Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.

Al-Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar -- two of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, just before they began pilot training.

When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.

The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.

Bush had concluded that ''a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,'' Graham wrote. ``It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety.''"

Seems like the punisher of "evildoers" doesn't mind turning a blind eye to the actions of his old friends.


Monday, September 06, 2004

The Cracks in Iraqi Democracy

Big scoop in the LA Times this morning that calls our commitment to Iraqi Democracy into question. Some major hot spots, like Fallujah, where resistance fighters are known to hang out and which is also suspected of being the center of explosives manufacturing for rebels in the entire country, might not be allowed to vote in Iraq's January elections.

Certainly, there's some practical thinking going on here -- if the US or Iraqi provisional governments can't create order in a city like Fallujah, how can you hold an election? How will you know that voters aren't being intimidated by extremist fighters? These are good questions.

But, there are other good questions to ask: How can you call it a nationwide election if large urban centers aren't allowed to vote? Isn't it convenient for the U.S. that a place like Fallujah, which might swing toward candidates who are not exactly favored by the U.S. government, are excluded? Is this truly a security issue or is it an example of gerrymandering in Iraq?

Are we bringing democracy to Iraq or just the appearance of democracy?

The LA Times Article is here:,1,4277412.story?coll=la-home-headlines

You need to register (f0r free) but, if you don't want to, get an LA Times password from

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Chechnya and problems of crumbling empires...

You can read an excellent article about Chechnya on Slate right here

It explains the history of the troubled Russian territory and explains why the Chechens were by no means unreasonable when they first petitioned for independence in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Of course, this is in the news because a stand-off between Russian soldiers and Chechen terrorists who took over a school in Russia ended with at least 340 deaths, children and parents among them.

What is Russia to do now?

They can't simply wash their hands of the situation, declare Chechnya independent and walk away. A decade ago, they could have done that but, in an attempt to preserve an oil pipeline and to keep other regions from leaving the Russian Federation, they invaded the territory and wrecked it. If Chechnya is allowed independence now, ravaged as it is, it will become the next Afghanistan. Poverty and a lack of infrastructure will make it inevitable that terrorists from around the world will flock there and take advantage of the desperate population.

The best solution would be for Russia to grant Chechnya independence but acknowledge the criminality of its invasion and pay massive reparations, offering aid for security while it rebuilds the country. But empires, even those ailing like Russia almost never admit that they've done anything wrong and Russia's economy is still in iffy territory so there's some question about whether they could pull it off, even if they have the will (which, they don't).

So, they can't walk away and they can't leave with grace. This is what the United Nations is for. Chechnya should be granted independence and it should be rebuilt as a global project. The money the world spends now will save lives and money later.

I fear that the U.N. will not live up to that responsibility. The result, I predict, will be a war in Chechnya, fought by U.S. troops. Not soon. But, if something isn't done -- if the Chechens aren't given a chance at self government and prosperity, if the opportunities taken from its people by the Russian military are not restored, it will degenerate into a cesspool for extremism.

This is a tragedy that can be averted. If we act now. Does anybody care?

Kerry could get mauled here...

Post-convention numbers from Time and Newsweek have Bush leading Kerry 54% to 43% among likely voters. November's a long way off but the conventions are done now and these poll numbers can't be dismissed.

What's happened? One thing is that the Swift Boat Veteran ads, attacking Kerry's war record, have worked. Kerry didn't respond quickly enough and he counted on the fact that the Swifties were lying to make the whole thing blow over. Now, he's responded but, too late and it's keeping him off-message. The message should be that Bush is the most inept President in American History, bar none.

Bush has horrible record. Kerry must attack it. Kerry's the challenger, here. The challenger has to be on the offensive. It's amazing that it's come to this. Bush is the most vulnerable sitting President to stand for reelection since... well, since his father stood for reelection. Kerry really shouldn't be this far behind.

The Democrats need to ignore focus groups who say they don't like "negative" campaigns -- people actuallly do like negative campaigns, they just don't want to sound crass when they're answering questions from pollsters. Attack, get dirty. I want to hear about how Bush and Cheney have more DWI citations than Kerry has purple hearts. Kerry's 527 pals should be buing ads calling Dick Cheney an unreformed alcoholic. They should be buying ads about how Bush ued his family's political connections to get him into the National Guard and to keep him out of Viet Nam.

And, certainly, Kerry's campaign needs to respond quickly to every lie uttered by the Republicans. If they attack his war record, the charges must be answered within an hour. If they say, as Zell Miller did, that Kerry voted against the F-14 fighter and the M-1 tank, then the Kerry campaign needs to point out that it was Dick Cheney, as Bush 41's Secretary of Defense, who asked for those programs to be voted down.

Remember Dukakis. Bush's father accused Dukakis of being clinically depressed, of being soft on crime and of being married to a woman who burned an American flag at a demonstration. All lies. But they all stuck.

Kerry needs to take every charge and barb, no matter how ridiculous, seriously. And he needs to tar Bush and Cheney too.

Just a Hunch about a Second Bush Term...

If Bush is re-elected his second term will be plagued by a scandal of Iran-Contra proportions. I've been reading a bit about the first Gulf War recently and it's interesting to note that the plans for Iraq in the early 1990s never called for Democracy there. Indeed, the first Bush administration seemed to prefer a Saddam Hussein style system with some one other than Saddam in the strongman role.

This calls into question Bush Jr.'s commitment to Democracy in Iraq. There's no way, of course, that the U.S. will ever let Iraqi Democracy threaten our own interests. So, Iraqi candidates who would take a meaningful, adversarial stance towards the U.S. will have to be destroyed. It won't do, of course, for the U.S. government to simply expose credibility-threatening scandals against these people. They'll have to use clients in the region for that. Perhaps... Iran?

Currently, members of the Pentagon and of Dick Cheney's office are subject to an investigation that's looking into whether or not classified U.S. information has been passed to the Iranians (through disgraced, former Pentagon employee Ahmed Chalabi) and whether or not classified information about Iran has been passed on to the Israeli.

Are operatives in the White House and Pentagon setting up quid pro quo relationships that will eventually be useful in controlling Democracy in Iraq? Clearly, I don't have a lick of evidence or even a clear idea about what might be happening -- I'm just starting to wonder.

Thosethingswesay at the Convention

Where to begin? I guess with the stuff you probably didn’t see on television, since most of you, I’m sure, caught some of the convention coverage last night.

If you did see any on television, you might have seen people in the crowd with hand painted signs that said things like “W 2004” and “Viva Bush.” These were made, in advance, and handed out to people as they sat down. They look hand painted on television but are actually mass produced.

Sean “Puffy” Combs was there, with a security entourage that could have taken down Dubya’s forces in about three seconds in a fair fight, and probably in a fight involving weapons because they looked like they were packing heat. I didn’t scurry out of the way fast enough so as I was walking forward, passed Puffy and his security, my not exactly sleight frame collided with one of his bodyguards. This guy’s frame made mine seem, well, exactly sleight. It was very tempting to want to step back, slap my chest and ask the guy if he was “feelin’ froggy, bee-yatch?” but since I’m here the next morning writing this, you can bet that I didn’t.

We got there early. Never do this. The Garden was mostly empty during the early speeches and they were boring. They had big screens all over the arena, of course, which I’ll call the Neocontron. On the Neocontron, they had fake reporters interviewing delegates (news flash: they like Bush!) and showed endless video after endless video that told us that Bush likes his parents, his daughters, his wife and Latinos. The final video, shown much later in the night, was an atrocity narrated by some guy with a dumb cowboy accent, telling the story about how George Bush was such a hero in New York because he took care of us city-folk after 9-11.

9-11. 9-11. 9-11. 9-11. 9-11. And it struck me that 90% of the people in the Garden were in from out of town (you can tell by their big hair) and should shut the Hell up about it. Because, yes, I was here when that happened and I remember the mood of the city quite well. People were scared and angry, as you’d expect. But they still don’t agree with the current administration’s foreign policy.

Biggest pops of the night:
1) Attacking other countries.
2) Capping legal awards in civil lawsuits (what, has everyone here been sued?)
3) Defending marriage against Homer-sexuals.

Biggest heat
1) Kerry (crowd would chant flip-flop at mention of his name)
2) Hollywood. (Ron Silver always shown on the Neocontron)
3) Not attacking A-rabs.

During Bush’s speech, I counted three protesters who infiltrated the Garden. One got very close to Bush, upfront with the delegates. Bush paused three times as protesters were removed. The crowd chanted “Four More Years” as it happened, so if you were watching on television, it looks like Bush paused because the crowd loved him so much. Not so. He’s so hated that three people managed to sneak past the rather stringent security to get into the event.

Security was tight, as you’d expect. I went in through the media entrance and was still searched and X-rayed twice.

New York irony: Every cop in the City was outside MSG last night. They were weary but friendly with both Convention goers and protesters. I saw one playing with her knight stick, tossing it from hand to hand, twirling it, and then dropping it and having to chased it as it got away from her and rolled... right to my feet. I picked it up and handed it to her. First time I’m ever seen an embarrassed cop. I told her I wouldn’t tell anybody. Guess I lied. Oh, here’s the irony: After the Convention, I walked 20 blocks downtown to the Forbes offices and then caught a train home in the West Village. Not a cop in sight down there. I did, however, encounter a man asking if I’d seen a cop because he’d just seen a bicycle stolen across the street.

Okay, now we get to some of the substance of speeches:

General Tommy Frank, who led the Afghanistan operation, said of Iraq: “The President had done everything to protect our troops from the WMD we all expected to find.” Great, Tommy. Too bad he also expected our troops to be showered with flowers and candy after the invasion and did nothing to protect them from the guerilla war that followed. Now, 1,000 of them are dead and 3,000 of them are wounded. What really irks me is that Frank got up there to endorse Dubya when it was Franks who expected the guerilla insurgency in post-Saddam Iraq and asked for more troops to be sent over so they could secure the country immediately. Franks was overruled. The 1,000 dead and 3,000 wounded are a consequence of this administration not listening to Frank. And yet here’s Franks, endorsing the President at a political event. I guess the lives of those under his command don’t mean much to Frank.

Near the end of this speech, I hear “Darth Vader’s Theme” from Star Wars in my head as Dick Cheney enters the building and uses his dark Jedi powers to choke an assistant cabinet secretary. Cheney then turned to another aide and said, “Admiral Veers, you are now Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban development. There can be no mistakes this time.” Veers salutes nervously. “Yes, Lord Cheney!” Sorry, my mind wandered.

New York governor Pataki is rather at ease on the mic. He also tells this whopper about Bush: “He said he’s turn around the economy and create new jobs. He said he’d do it, and he didn’t.” I guess. In fantasyland. Let’s be clear on this. 1.2 million jobs have been lost. I can’t believe Pataki said that with a straight face.

Okay, Dubya’s speech. He didn’t blow it. And this has already been picked to death so here’s my selected commentary:

It was a decent speech. For a guy who was running for President the first time. Bush can’t really defend his record, so he barely tries. The theme is that we’ve been through tough times so things are bound to get better if we just keep doing what we’re doing.

He says he’s going to restrain federal spending, for example. But he didn’t restrain federal spending at all in his first term. That’s one of the reasons why we have a deficit. See, it’s not just that he cut taxes on the rich, it’s that the costs of his foreign invasions were never accounted for and have kept rising. He hasn’t significantly cut any government programs, either, because he knew he wanted to get reelected. Maybe he assumed his tax cuts would so stimulate the economy that the deficit problem would work itself out. It didn’t. So, now, Bush says he’s going to restrain spending. I don’t even think that’s a good thing (cut taxes on the rich and services for the poor?) but, even if you believe that’s good, there’s no reason to believe that this chump will do it.

Bush attacks Kerry for calling his “Coalition of the Willing” the “Coalition of the bribed and coerced.” He says Kerry is insulting our allies. Then he names a few. Bush names El Salvador. Nobody will pick up on this, but... El Salvador? This is one of the most coerced country’s in Latin America. We supported a brutal dictator there as it waged war on its own citizens. CIA trained assassins turned into roving death squads, using Nazi tactics, to torture, intimidate and murder clergy, students and social activists who were trying to improve the lives of El Salvador’s poor. This is a country that will now always do what we ask because they lived for a decade under a regime of U.S.-sponsored terror. News flash, Bush -- a sorority girl with twelve shots of Cuervo in her blood stream can give more convincing consent to getting in bed with us than El Salvador can. As for the other, European members of the coalition -- they’re democracies and their people were against the Iraq war. It’s hard to believe these governments went against the will of their own people without standing to gain through either coercion or bribery. Bush might have realized that Spain’s government was booted out of office by its own voters over this very issue.

In another Latin America howler, Bush mentioned Nicaragua in a list of countries that the United States has helped toward democracy. His foreign policy, see, is all about “expanding liberty.” I couldn’t believe Bush mentioned Nicaragua. We funded a terrorist war against a popular government there. We used economic sanctions to weaken that government. When that government held elections, the country had just been ravaged by a hurricane. The U.S. said, bluntly, that if the incumbent government (who we hated because they were socialists) won the election, the U.S. would continue to hold back on disaster relief aid. The government still won 40% of the vote in a fair election. That’s Democracy? It’s what Iraqi and Afghan voters have to look forward to if they don’t vote our puppets in office.

From the crowd, Bush received tepid responses for his economic program and huge rounds of applause for talk of killing foreigners.

On the domestic front, Bush supports Health Savings Accounts. You save money, tax free, to pay for your medical expenses and the accounts are portable, so you get to keep the money even if you change jobs. Sounds good? It sounds good from him, but think about it -- you already pay insurance premiums. They’re taken out of your check every two weeks. What Bush isn’t saying is that under his plan, you actually pay more! I thought the point of insurance was supposed to be, I pay premiums, the insurance company pays for my medical treatment. Bush’s plan is that I pay premiums and, oh, I also throw even more of my own money into the pile! Thanks, Dubya. And, let’s think economics here: if my insurance company knows it can count on me to start my own Health Savings Account, why wouldn’t it fatten its own profits by cutting back on what it will pay for, assuming my HSA will cover the gap? Very compassionate, George. To insurance companies!

Bush says that under his Presidency, more Americans have owned their own homes than at any point in history. I’d just point out that this was true under both of Clinton’s terms as well. Bush didn’t do this, he’s just taking credit.

I have more, and I’m sure it will filter out in the days to come, but, there’s my uncensored take on the closing night of “The Mullets Take Manhattan.”

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Don't Forget The First Big National Tragedy

I know, I know, the nation's memory seems to have started over after 9-11. But that wasn't our first major national tragedy. The first happened a few years earlier, when a popular, sitting President, elected to his second term in office, was impeached for having had oral sex. Let's never forget that the Republicans fought so dirty in those years that they tried to overturn an election in order to beat their opponent. Remember that when these dopes talk about Democracy. Remember it when they talk about how hard Bush's opponents are fighting the President.

Take this remark, from turncoat Zell Miller last night:

"While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief."

Let's rewrite that a tad:

"While young Americans are dying in the forests of Bosnia and the mountains of Serbia, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Republicans' manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief because he received oral sex, in private."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Mary Cheney, Alan Keyes and Cowardly Dick

Mary Cheney, the Vice President's out-as-a-lesbian daughter didn't show up for Cheney's post-speech photo op at the Republican National Convention this evening. I'm sure an excuse will be forthcoming, but here's my theory:

Yesterday, Alan Keyes, the Republican carpet bagger handpicked by the Republicans to lose the Illinois Senate race to Barack Obama got on Sirius satellite radio and called all homosexuals "selfish hedonists." When asked if that included Mary Cheney, Keyes said, "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

Dick Cheney didn't say a word about it. Remember, this is the Vice President who walks around the Capitol saying "go fuck yourself" to rivals. But when Alan freaking Keyes, who has no chance of beating Obama and who is a joke in the Republican party attacks Cheney's flesh and blood... Cheney goes silent. Well, no surprise that Mary didn't show up for Daddy's photo op after Daddy so bravely failed to defend her from public attack.

Here's a question, though... if Cheney can't even muster the cajones to defend his daughter, where does he get the gall to claim he's man enough to defend the country?

Tom Delay = Lunatic!

As noted by MSNBC today, "House Majority Leader Tom Delay has no speaking role at the Republican National Convention in New York this week."

Why silence the congressional leader? Because he's nuts. Meeting with jewish Republicans at the Plaza Hotel, Delay uttered the following nonsense:

"My friends, there is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There is only the global war on terrorism."

Stop and read that again. There is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Which is not to say, of course, that thousands haven't died. Delay only wants to convince a rabidly pro-Israel constituency that the Palestinians are nothing but a bunch of terrorists who need to be wiped out.

That may win votes from certain hardcore pro-Israel types but I daresay that if Delay walked around the street of Tel Aviv saying something like that, well, even most Jewish, Israeli citizens disagree. Most Israelis, outside of the extremist leadership, want some sort of compromise, two state solution. They realize that there is, in fact, a Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And they hope for a negotiated solution.

I hope the fact that most of the stakeholders in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are more thoughtful than Delay will mean that the lunatic speaker's attempt tp garner votes for his party will fail.