Saturday, October 30, 2004

Camille Paglia's Endorsement

You all msut read Kerry Lauerman's interview with Camille Paglia on, where she endoreses John Kerry but also says. among many other things:

"...too many Democrats rely on a juvenile Al Franken level of discourse -- sneer, sneer, sneer at the benighted ones. We are all so superior in our little elite enclaves. So even if Kerry wins the election, the Democrats have lost this war of ideas."

It's worth watching the commercial and the 6 pages of Q&A will go quickly. Paglia starts by making a great case for Kerry, centered on his intellect, but she'll then give you exactly the information you'll need to understand why, if Bush wins, Bush won.

It doesn't hurt that Paglia is one of the most dynamic thinkers in the country -- she was more in the spotlight a dace ago than she is now but she really knows how to offer an alamagm of academic and pop criticism, and she's entertaining, never boorish. Head over to Salon and take a read. I think her thoughts are important and prescient here.

OBL's Tape

Osama's tape has already been commented on countless times, so, I'll be quick and try to say something new:

Didn't the Bush administration fret and fret and fret and even suggest a contingency plan that involved postponing the election in the wake of a terrorist attack?

And we get... a tepid tape from Osama?

No complaint from me, let him lob tapes instead of bombs. But it makes me wonder how much (or, more to the point, how little) Bush's intelligence apparatus really knows about OBL's capabilities in 2004 and how much they're telling us. Because it's seemed to me, during the three years after the Afghanistan war, that Al-Qaeda's abilities get hyped beyond whenever it serves the Administration's purposes to have us feeling scared.

But I'm left with the impression that the Bush administration has really know idea what Al-Qaeda can and can't do at this point. And that's, perhaps, Bush's biggest War on Terrorism failure.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Saddam's Catch-22

There's an Iraq War question I've always had a hard time answering and it goes like this, "Mike, if Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, then why didn't he just come clean before the invasion? Why did he kick the inspectors out? Why did he basically act like he had the weapons?"

I thought, for awhile, that he was just afraid of appearing weak in front of his own population. Or that he was just crazy or stupid.

It turns out, according to the 1,000 page report of CIA analyst and head of the Iraq Survey Group Charles Duelfer, that he was afraid of appearing weak in front of Iran. And that makes a lot of sense.

Iran really is developing Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddam has known that for awhile. But, while under sanctions, Saddam couldn't match the threat. So his only hope, to deter an enemy who he fought for 8 years in the 1980s, was to bluff.

At the same time, Saddam remembered that he was once a US ally -- secure in his rule because of the assistance we gave him. He hoped to re-establish that relationship. Admitting he had no WMDs would have helped. But, then, IRan would have figured out his weakness.

He couldn't have it both ways. So, he took a chance and judged, wrongly, that after a decade of not invading Iraq and overthrowing him, the US was the lesser threat and he kept up the charade.

Thing is -- this is the kind of thing we should have known before the war. It seems clear to me in retrospect but it should have seemed clear, at the time, to foreign policy experts. It is, anyhow, the unexplained rationale for Saddam's pre-war decisions.

Monday, October 25, 2004

News Flash: Kerry reads newspapers!

From the fabulous "'Steve Schmidt issued the campaign's response: "John Kerry has no vision for fighting and winning the War on Terror, so he is basing his attacks on the headlines he wakes up to each day.'"

This, in reference to today's breaking story about all sorts of high grde explosives (that may have been used for car bombs by the Iraqi insurgents) being looted from an unguarded ammo-dump after we toppled Saddam's regime. Now, there's tons of interesting things to explore in this story -- including why we haven't heard about it before today when it happened over a year ago.

Kerry has rightly criticized Bush for not planning for the fall of Hussein's regime. And the Bush response is that Kerry is just reacting to the day's headlines?

I guess that the Bushies need to be reminded that the headlines are the result of the administration's policy in Iraq. Were things going well, maybe Bush's aides and campaign workers could pick up the morning paper without a sense of dread. But, this is the reality they've created. The rest of us, we just get to read about it.

Actually, the fortunate among us get to read about it. Iraqis have to live with it. And military families have to worry for their loved ones and, all too often mourn their losses.

So, sorry we have to read the papers, Mr. President. We would all prefer to see some good news. But, this is what you've wrought.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Reading the other side

I like to read articles by right wingers, especially when they're blunt. In the Wall Street Journal today, Daniel Henninger, in his "Wonderland" column argues that the election is close because American voters haven't yet faced the fact that we have to let go of the security provided to us by the "New Deal." Specifically, he means we have to not count on the government to provide our healthcare and we have to either privatize social security or give it up to inevitable failure.

Henninger says that "It's quite a lot to ask them (voters)... to step away from 50 or more years of federally guaranteed social protection."

Of course, Henninger wants us to. But I'm glad he said what he wants to clearly. Because the clear response is: "It is quite a lot to ask, and why should we yes?"

First of all, we paid for it. We all pay social security taxes right now. You propose privatizing the system and creating personal savings accounts tied to the performance of the equity, debt and currency markets? I say... I already contribute money to a 401k and that money bears those risks. I also need something to be guaranteed and I expect my government to guaranty it.

You say we need George Bush's personal savings accounts? I say, as I've said before, that I already pay insurance premiums and that they're already too high. Telling me to put more of my money aside for healthcare is not a solution to rising healthcare costs! The complaint of the American healthcare consumer is that we pay too much for too little, not that we want to pay more!

What Henninger really wants is to remove the government's obligation to help ordinary people. What he doesn't mention (and and what he leaves out is as telling as what he puts in) is that maybe our corporations should give up some of their security too. They could start by giving up the $65 billion in subsidies they collect from the government every year. They could start by giving up the right to not pay taxes on profits that they keep offshore, despite enjoying the many services and protections that the government offers them.

But those choices aren't on the table in this election. Only the protections for average folk, it seems, are up for grabs. I wonder why that is?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Maybe I'm wrong...

My favorite political blogger, Joshua Micah Marshall at says that a tie in the third debate is a narrow victory for Kerry. And... he doesn't think this was a tie. Indeed, he makes a convincing argument for a Kerry victory.

Now, I still stand by my thought that a tie is never good for the challenger.

But, Marshall and I are both journalists. He's more experienced than I am and he covers politics while I cover finance. I advise you all to give a read and, well, you decide. I really respect, and often defer, to his opinion.

Litmus Test? Litmus test? And... debate thoughts.

Honestly... pretend you're President. You get to appoint a Supreme Court justice who will be making national decisions for 3-4 decades longer than you, even if you get to serve two terms. I would have about, oh, 900 billion litmus tests for that person. I'd want to know what my appointee thought about everything. And yet, decades ago, the phrase "litmus test" became some terrible thing that a President might have for his Supreme Court appointees.

We need to get over this. Any President who nominates some one to the Supreme Court and doesn't care about their views on major issues is, at best, not a very thoughtful person.

My verdict on the debate: A draw, at best for Kerry. I really feel like Kerry needed a good zinger or two in this one. This will probably prolong the statistical tie between the two. That's bad news. This is like a sporting event. You have to beat the champ. You can't let it be close. If the race stays tied in the closing weeks, that's to Bush's advantage because he has the bully pulpit of the Presidency and it's always harder to convince people to make a change. Kerry's campaign needs to fight as if they're ten points behind, not as if they're an inch from victory.

The good news is, the debates made Kerry a contender. The bad news is, he only crushed Bush once in three opportunities.

Flu shot! A quick, intradebate entry

Real quick -- Bush was just asked about our flu vaccine shortage. He said that we relied on a company in England for our vaccinations. He used the word England as if it were pejorative. He used the word as if we were getting out vaccines from Micronesia or something. That was odd, considering his line about how John Kerry doesn't respect our allies in debate #1 and throughout the campaign.

Then, he said we're working with Canada to solve the problem. Remember debate #2? Drugs from Canada aren't safe, he said, when asked why he doesn't support drug reimportation.

Um. I sure hope somebody with a louder voice than me picks up on that.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A Note for Sam G. on lawyers and Debate #2

Sam G wrote a great comment, under Tifanie's name, in the post below about Debate #2. I checked out to see what the numbers were in terms of lawyer donations in the 2004 election cycle. They've given about $96 million to Democrats and $35 million to Republicans. Note, that's to the parties and their candidates, not to Bush and Kerry. Either way, lawyers are, and always have been rather active in the political process.

They have also, historically, given to Democrats. Now, to me, lawyers aren't the evil beings most people think they are. I mean, they're easy to hate, until you need one. But, certainly, they have an effect on the system.

Why do lawyers swing towards Democrats. I could just laugh and say that lawyers are well educated and people who spend a lot of time learning critical thinking skills tend to lean that way. But that's an alienating answer.

It's not that lawyers spend a lot of time looking out for the interests of the little guy, either. Most civil cases are between big companies suing other big companies. So, these guys are definitely part of the corporate system. But then, so is the Democratic party, they're just all we've got right now.

It might be that lawyers are more likely to be urban than not and city folk sway Democratic.

And, it might be that Republicans have been hostile to the profession with their tort reform ideas that would explicity make it harder to bring class action lawsuit, would cap lawyer's fees and would cap punitive damage awards.

But, does this mean that Democrat politicians are in the pockets of lawyers? I'd argue no. Republicans have been so extreme on the tort reform issue that the Democrats have a lot of room where they can demand reforms (Edwards' idea of independent certification before a medical suit can be brought, or his 3 frivolous suits and you're out idea) without being hostile to the profession. Ever think you're choosing between the lesser of two evils? Well, the lawyers probably feel that way too.

Sam also wrote about the debate, observing poignantly that Kerry let Bush off the hook a number of times and that he failed to really take control of the event the way he did the first time. I have no argument there. Kerry dominated the first debate. I think he won the second. Most folks call it a tie, and I think that's being really generous to Bush.

In terms of what Kerry needed -- the race has tightened since the debates. Bush's lead has, on average fallen from five percent to less than half a percent and electoral college projections have narrowed to the point where either candidate could win by stealing one or two close states from the other side.

The first debate put Kerry on the map and made him a legitimate contender. I know it's weird, but most of the country didn't get to know Kerry until that debate. Meeting him while Bush pulled his MC Stammer routine really helped Kerry along. In Debate #2, Kerry did well and didn't embarass himself. Basically, Kerry lost none of the ground he lost.

Now, we're coming to the third debate, which will be the same format at the first. One could argue that, going into the first debate, Bush could weather a screw-up. He screwed up, but he's still ahead. Edwards was good enough in the veep debate to keep Cheney from being able to save Bush. In the second debate, a town hall format that Bush excels at, he only managed to keep pace with Kerry. Now, going back to a format that doesn't serve him well, Bush can't afford to mess up. And... Kerry can't afford to not deliver a decisive blow. This is really down to the wire. But, I think Kerry can pull it off.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Quickie Post Debate Thoughts

This wasn't a disaster for Bush like the first debate, but Kerry still did a better job. In the background I'm hearing Anne Coulter say that Bush did "an amazingly good job." Is she high? He did an adequate job. Amazing compared to the first debate, maybe, but still well below what one should expect from a sitting President.

Bush lost his temper on the Iraq issue. He threw a hissy fit. He looked like a moron.

Bush said we need to "harvest" our forests. Freudian slip, maybe?

Bush asked the moderator, Charlie Gibson if he "needed wood" which has to be the, well, gayest thing ever said in a Presidential debate.

Bush was confounded about the stem cell research question. There's no excuse for not pursuing this, and he knows it. But, he's pandering to the red states.

On Iraq, Bush uttered a major falsehood. Within the last few days, the CIA released a 1,000 page report about Iraq's desire for weapons of mass destruction. I'm reading the thing for a story but I, obviously, haven't read it all yet. The "key findings" extract does not support Bush's war. The best that can be said is that, in a perfect, by Saddam's standards, world, the sanctions would have been lifted and he could have done whatever he wanted. Well... duh! The logical conclusion to draw from the report is that the sanctions worked. He wanted WMD, but couldn't make them. That was the point of the sanctions.

Kerry didn't hammer some recent news home though. Paul Bremer, Bush's appointed transitional leader of Iraq complained bitterly this week that there were never enough troops on the ground to secure the country. Kerry has a simple argument here: we might have sent enough troops to topple Saddam, but we didn't send enough to deal with the aftermath. He needs to be stronger on this.

Kerry also didn't point out that the jobs report released today said that the country created only 97,000 jobes -- less than half of what economists predicted, based on projections from the White House. He also could have pointed out that 37,000 of those jobs were government jobs, meaning that the private sector is truly still ailing. Don't know why Kerry let him off the hook there.

Ahwile back, Bush was mocked for not being able to identify a single mistake he's made in his Presidency. He was asked to name three tonight. He named none. Kerry should have been humble and named one or two misakes he's made in 20 decades as a Senator. But maybe both of these guys are too arrogant to honestly assess their careers. Too bad, I think kerry could have scored some big humanity points on that one. On the other hand, Kerry did a good job pointing out a major Bush mistake -- the war in Iraq, which never should have happened.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Thosethingswesay on television

I'll be appearing on a live "Forbes on Fox" broadcast on Saturday, sitting on three panels to discuss: 1) the friday night presidentical debate 2) tort reform and 3) whether or not Kerry's economic plan can create jobs. It airs at 11 am eastern. If It's live, that probably means 8 am in california, 9 in the mountain states and 10 in the central zone. But, you might want to check listings for Forbes on Fox if you'd like to watch. It's on Fox News. I've been drafted to participate as a liberal because... I don't think they can find any others.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Cheney's big missed moment

You know, Cheney had one chance, which he blew, to appear as something other than an evil Star Wars assassin android last night. When the debate host asked the really stupid question: "Tell us why your candidate is the best, without mentioning his name" Cheney should have demanded his thirty second rebuttal time and said, "He said Kerry. Twice. I win."

Honestly, the goon has no sense of humor.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cheney's Lies Tonight

I wasn't thrilled with Edwards but he held his own. Fortunately, Cheney really blew it through lies and obfuscations, especially on foreign policy.

First off, who believes Cheney's claim that the number of suicide bombings in Israel decreased because we deposed Saddam Hussein? First time I've heard that argument. Most people seem to think the decrease in suicide bombings has something to do with the Israelis building a huge security wall and assassinating scores of militant Palestinian leaders.

But then, Cheney often confuses one problem for another. Osama bin laden attacks the US, and Cheney argues for getting... Saddam Hussein. Actually, I guess it's that Cheney often confuses one problem for Saddam. The biggest question facing a second Bush presidency is... who will be their new scapegoat, now that Saddam is gone?

By the way, Cheney says he never suggested a link between Saddam and 9-11. That's a lie.

Cheney claims that the US hasn't suffered 90% of the coalition's casualties in Iraq. His argument: you're leaving out all the Iraqi security forces who've been killed. This is the first time the Iraqi security forces have been defined as members of the coalition that invaded Iraq, by the way. Seems to me that since the chaos there that resulted in those deaths is a result of our invasion and inability to secure the country that any Iraqi police or soldiers killed are... Iraqi casaulties. Coalition casualties would include soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Australia... and wait, I forgot about Poland.

Cheney claimed that everything Edwards said about Halliburton is false. But, Edwards told the truth. Halliburton had to pay millions in fines and to restate its financials on the orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is run by a Bush appointee. Halliburton received $7.5 billion worth of Iraq construction contracts without having to submit competitive bids to the Pentagon. Halliburton traded, through subsidiaries with Iran and Libya while Cheney ran the company. Halliburton is currently under investigation for bribing members of foreign governments. That's all true.

Edwards was fine, he's nowhere near as polished as Kerry and he did seem to stumble a bit. I thought he shuld have waited for a question about his inexperience before throwing his "a long resume doesn't equal good judgment" line. By tossing that line our early in the debate he sucked some of the power from it when it could have really counted and, by addressing the topic of his inexperience without being asked, he seemed defensive. Also, since both Kerry and Edwards have served as senators during Bush's term, they need a solid answer when the Bushies say things like "Hey, you voted for our 'No Child Left Behind Act.'" The answer should be -- "Yes, in the spirit of bipartisanship I gave some of your ideas a chance. I wish I hadn't. Now, let's try it our way."

It was a boring debate, but Cheney exposed himself as a liar. Hopefully, the Democrats won't let people forget that.

Friday, October 01, 2004

You Forgot Poland, a day later

Here's the result of the debate: Kerry massacred Bush but didn't change many minds. The instant polls merely showed that a polarized country has remained polarized. I was most annoyed, in the post debate coverage, by the media's fixation about whether or noth Kerry "connected" with people. Kerry hammered Bush on every major foreign policy issue, but the press decided to judge on that squishy criteria.

Their next debate will be a town hall format -- one of those where "regular" folks ask some questions. This will play to the strength of a sitting President who defines himself as ordinary rather than extraordinary.

Now, the truth is... both candidates are multimillionaires, they both went to Yale, both used family connections to get where they are and both have more in common with each other than with any of us who live paycheck to paycheck and worry about out credit card bills.

Those of us who would like to see Bush leave the White House and rejoin the oil industry or something need to, in all of our conversations leading up to the election, counter this notion of Bush as an average Joe. He isn't. He could buy and sell average Joe a hundred times in a month. If any of us moved to McLaren Texas, spent millions of other people's money to drill for oil and came up with nothing, we'd be ruined. In fact, we'd have a lot of trouble gtting millions of OPM in the first place. Not Bush. The guy has advantages, advantages many of us have only dreamed of having.

And the real issue about Bush is... given his pedigree, given his legacy acceptances to Yale and the Harvard Business School, the family connections who kept him out of Viet Nam while his fellows took bullets in a swamp... why is he such a stammering joke who can't even fill 2 minutes of TV time with cogent thoughts?

Kerry can't connect? That's not the issue. The issue is that Bush couldn't capitalize on a lifetime of easy breaks.

Remind people of that fact. Every chance you get.