SocraticGadfly: 2004

December 24, 2004

My rating of the Cards' free-agent, trade moves

So far, I'd probably give them a B/B-.

I agree that Renteria wanted too much. Boston is paying for hopes of getting the 2002-03 Renteria at the plate and I think he is gone for good. The Sox's Orlando Cabrera was then overpaid by the Angels. Of course, that left a cheap David Eckstein available and, as I expected, he was picked up.

Barry Larkin considered as SS? That would have been interesting. I might have said yes, if he could be talked out of retirement, considering the price.

Losing Womack? His price was a bit high, but not tremendously so. If former Card Miguel Cairo can be inked at the right price, though, the deal should be OK.

The Mulder deal with the A's? Think the Cards overpaid by putting minor league phenom catcher Daric Barton in the mix. Otherwise, Haren had shown flashes of promise, but just that. Calero, a very good setup man, but that's not all that. And, contrary to some writers, at 30 to start the new season, he's not a young pitcher any more. Barton should have been held for development, or a later trade as he showed his worth at a higher minor league level.

Part of the judgment on this trade is, of course, Mulder's health, and his mentality to be an "ace," especially since Matt Morris won't be available until May.

Biggest free-agent passed ball? Not signing former Astros mound stud Wade Miller, especially when Boston got him for the bargain basement price of $1.5 million in a one-year deal.

The Bonds-BALCO connection could get a workout this year

After the San Francisco Giants' barrage of free-agent signings this winter, they figure to field the major leagues' All-Ancient Team this year.

Here's their projected starting lineup, with player ages (courtesy of Peter Gammons of ESPN):

C-Mike Matheny, 35
1B-J.T. Snow, 36
2B-Ray Durham, 33
3B-Edgardo Alfonzo, 31
SS-Omar Vizquel, 37
LF-Barry Bonds, 40
CF-Marquis Grissom, 37
RF-Moises Alou, 38
Average age: 36

What is veritable rookie Alfonso doing in there? But, Giant fans should not despair. Perhaps they can still get Barry Larkin talked out of retirement. (Word is, the Cardinals had been considering just that thing.)

Anyway, if I see Matheny catch 140 or more games this year, or Alou steal 20 bases, I'm raising the BALCO red flag.

Why Adam Smith was wrong

First, his "invisible hand of the market" is grounded in a time-specific philosophical stance, 1700s Enlightenment Deism.

Deism, with its "clockwork God" who set the universe in motion, to run with predictable precision and exactitude, has foundered and wrecked on the shoals of quantum physics and its uncertainty principle.

Second, the rationlist mindset of Deism has been demolished in other ways. Although I think Freudianism as a working theory of psychology is thin soup, nonetheless Freud was the pioneer in looking at the emotional drives of homo sapiens, to be followed on a more scientific basis by neuroscience, then on a better-defended philosophical plane by things such as game theory and certain threads in cognitive science.

Beginning with Freud, moderns began exploring — and then demonstrating — how many human actions were emotionally driven even to the point of being quite irrational.

By analyzing brain structure, neuroscientists have shown these emotional drivers are in the most primitive parts of the brain and therefore overridden only fitfully and with difficulty by modern rationalist thought.

Smith himself unwittingly demonstrated this, as do his less-thinking devotees today, as the wants of the consumer of modern capitalism are clearly driven by greed — a base-level, primal emotion that is often highly irrational. Quod erat demonstratum, as old high school geometry tests said at the end of proofs.

Madison Avenue knows this all too well, as any advertising or marketing person today can tell you. Their job is to break down rational resistance in the brain, not build up rational analysis.

Why I contribute little to MoveOn

(Note: The following observations have at least some degree of relevance to many other activist organizations)

The reasons for my relative noncontributions were exemplified by much of its 204 political ad strategy.

The push of MoveOn and related groups was primarily against President Bush. But to the degree it and they, such as environmental groups and other activist organizations tried and continue to try to change Congressional policy as well, they took a top-down, elite-media focused strategy, one with which I strongly disagree.

These groups had the normal strategy of taking out splashy ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and network television programs. But this strategy simply does not help bolster up local grass-roots pushes for local Congressmen to change their votes.

That is especially true in trying to "move" a Republican Congress in which many members are openly skeptical, if not openly contemptuous, of "Big Media." This strategy may have worked in the 1960s for the Sierra Club in fighting dams in the Grand Canyon; it has much less value today.

MoveOn, et al, need to buy billboards in Tulsa and Topeka, local ad space in Kansas City and Kalamazoo, just as much if not more than full-page New York Times splashes.

Until groups like MoveOn learn to consider even taking this approach to Louisville and Laramie, I fear they risk becoming nearly as obsolescent as the current incarnation of the Democratic party and the Democratic National Committee.

Here's a good example of what MoveOn could do:

Let's say the war in Iraq is the issue. Buy billboards in the heartland that have, on the left-hand one-third, a gas pump price face with $1.99, or whatever per gallon gasoline, and the slogan, "the apparent price of gas." Then, on the right-hand two-thirds, have that same pump picture surrounded by pictures of dead soldiers in Iraq and the phrase "1,300 dead and counting," with the slogan, "the real price of gas." That would be bottom-capped, then, by MoveOn's relevant action campaign.

If MoveOn wants to shed elitist perceptions, that is what it will do. In the heartland.

December 21, 2004

Environmentalists can be hypocrites too.

The World Wide Fund for Nature is willing to advise Christmas shoppers to “avoid coral jewelry, crocodile skin and Beluga caviar if they want to enjoy a guilt-free holiday season,” as reported here.

But, based on my experience with wildlife and environmental organizations, if you are considering becoming a member, or otherwise making a donation, they’ll tempt you with stuff like miniature stuffed polar bears and pandas — all made in China.

So why is it OK to uphold environmental rights while ignoring human and labor rights?

It isn’t, of course, not to mention ignoring the general problem with outsourcing of jobs.

But this, in my opinion, is why the largely white, upper-middle-class and above environmental movement hasn’t reached out better to organized labor, minorities and other progressive interest groups. Their own single interest can have pretty heavy blinders on at times.

Oh, sure, the Sierra Club has outreach programs for inner-city students. And they are laudable. But even it has been guilty of lack of proper concern for the origin of its gewgaws and trinkets in the past.

So, if you want to be an environmentalist, please, only do it as part of a broader, informed progressivism.

It’s torture — no other word for it.

Who said that about Guantanamo? The ACLU?

Nope. They’re quoting the FBI, as they document here.

The FBI said Defense Department methods were “torture.” Today allegations came out about inmates made to defecate on themselves, inmates who had hit cigarettes stuck in their earholes, inmates made to fall on barbed wire and more.

It’s torture. No other word for it. Read more about it here.

Time’s “Person of the Year” cover is barf-inducing

The faux-serious, faux-aged-depth-of-wisdom airbrushing on the cover is so hagiographic it’s ridiculous. Time’s editors obviously have their collective heads buried deep up Bush’s bunghole.

December 20, 2004

Sound the China alarm

All you free-traders, Democratic Leadership Council fellow travelers and the like, who scoff at worrying about Chinese economic imperialism, take note.

When adjusted for purchasing power parity, China already is the second-largest economy in the world. Enough said?

December 12, 2004

U.S. losing grip on farming No. 1

America the breadbasket of the world? Not much longer, according to The New York Times. Brazil is expected to pass it in a decade or so.

What’s it all mean? For Brazil, a new presence on the world stage, in agricultural trade talks above all else.

But it also means continued pressure on Amazonia, as modern farm techniques allow ever-more tropical areas to be farmed.

What’s it mean for us?

Possibly more calls for protectionism just at point at which U.S. and the E.U. looked like an agreement to lower subsidies might be doable. However, the World Trade Organization has already ruled that U.S. cotton subsidies (in a case brought by Brazil) are illegal. Ditto for sugar.

Pride of place, and economic muscle, are already at stake.

The Times reports that, in June, the United States imported more in farm products than it sold abroad. And, already reportedly the world’s biggest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee and tobacco, Brazil soon hopes to add soybeans to the list. Cattle may be next after that, or hogs. Meanwhile, Brazilian agriscience is working on developing a tropics-loving strain of wheat.

In both countries, it means continued pressure to consolidate farms into ever-larger holdings. Brazilian farmers profiled in the story had 100,000-acre plus farms.

It also means continued downward pressure on genetic crop diversity, in all likelihood, and continued growth in influence of Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, ConAgra, etc. Of course, who’s to say that the South American ADM isn’t just around the corner?

Meanwhile, in the agricultural equivalent of outsourcing, some large American and European farmers are buying land in Brazil.

Finally, it probably means more worries about obesity here in the U.S., as more cheap farm products, especially sugar, followed by corn, and maybe wheat, mean more processed junk foods.

Meanwhile, that famous coffee? Only No. 7 on Brazil’s agricultural list now.

Bankruptcy possible at GM?

Could GM eventually head into bankruptcy over its unfounded pension liabilities and its ongoing sag in sales, now down to 27 percent of the U.S. market? Bloomberg analyst Doron Levin didn’t make any such explicit statement in his article, but in a follow-up e-mail, he didn’t deny the possibility, saying, “Only time will tell.”

December 11, 2004

Intelligent Design “guru” shows himself a petulant fraud

Intelligent design “guru” William Dembski is submitting vituperative critiques on Amazon of books that shred both the logical and empirical “underpinnings” of ID by using false names. Read Gary S. Hurd’s review of “Unintelligent Design,” where he spills the beans on Dembski posing as “a reader from Riesel, TX.”

Or go to his personal reviews page here on Amazon.

December 09, 2004

Scheuer's dead wrong about bin Laden getting a nuke

"Imperial Hubris" author Michael Scheuer was/is smoking crack, or blowing his own horn, or both, on al Qaeda getting an actual nuke, vs. a "dirty" conventional bomb.
For one thing, Musharraf would never let A.Q. Khan sell to somebody like bin Laden. A rogue state, to get back to the classic division of states vs. individuals in terrorism, yes. Obviously, Libya bought.
Especially when bin Laden established himself in Afghanistan, though, there was no, repeat no, chance he was going to get a real nuke from Pakistan.
End of story.

December 08, 2004

Shrub begins payback to Religious Right

It looks like the Right Rev. W. is now passing out the political baklava to the Religious Right on governmental displays of the Ten Commandments.

In today’s era of the so-called “War on Terror,” here’s how I saw to trump Bush.

Get some small conclave of Muslims to officially incorporate as a community, and then place a passage from the Quran about the duty of jihad on its courthouse walls.

We’ll see just how selective the Religious Right’s leaky wall of church and state gets.

December 06, 2004

Boomer Sooner

Stay tuned Jan. 4.

Pat Tillman and Army lies

It almost makes you think that if Tillman had not been killed in Afghanistan, the Army would have fragged him so it could ramp him up, as it actually did, as a poster-boy here.

November 29, 2004

WSJ — gays need to be more capitalistic

Only the Wall Street Journal could turn a commentary and analysis piece about whether or not the Massachusetts Supreme Court overreached judicial bounds in legalizing gay marriage into a screed contending gays, because of their lack of partnership legal rights, ought to be screaming louder than anyone else for repeal of the inheritance tax.

November 24, 2004

Old-earth intelligent design supporters? The proof’s on them

Some intelligent designers are claiming that ID is not about a young earth, etc. and should not be the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

Yet these same groups talk about “creation vs. evolution,” etc.
Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too, claiming not to be anti-science and then showing yourself to be not so prescience after all.

Besides, if pro-science intelligent design proponents do exist, it is incumbent upon them, to show how they differ from run-of-the-mill ID hawkers. It’s not incumbent on mainstream scientists to go mining for a gram of placer gold in tons of rubble.

November 20, 2004

What's dope got to do, got to do with it?

Apparently a lot, if you need to lose weight.

A new diet drug that blocks cannabinoids appears to have a two-year track record of success, according to Science News.

So, post-marijuana munchies are natural.

The corollary, obviously, is that if you’re trying to lose weight, put down the blunt or the doobie and slowly walk away.

First Democratic campaign watch 2008

First, the Democrats need to look at historical standards and recognize they need to run a governor, not a senator.

That leads to the question, of course of, “Which governor?”

Assuming an “Arnold amendment” doesn’t quickly clear 38 states, that rules out Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm.

My guessing, for demographic reasons, lists two governors at the top of the list: Virginia’s Mark Warner and Kansas’ Kathleen Sebelius. Both have demographic strong points.

Warner’s is the obvious — he’s a Southern governor. Plus, Virginia is a red state that can go blue. A home-state candidate would help that, and might give the party a shot at Tennessee and North Carolina as well.

Sebelius comes from a battleground area, as a Midwestern governor. She shows that Democrats can win statewide in a strongly Republican-leading area. And, obviously, she would give the party its first female presidential candidate.

Third on the list would be New Mexico’s Bill Richardson. Coming from yet another battleground state, and arguably a battleground ethnic group, he brings some definite pluses to the table.

However, his stewardship of the Department of Energy under Clinton — i.e., Wen Ho Lee and related fallout — could cause problems. The basic question here is, is a decade enough time for forgetfulness?

Also, if Bush winds up taking New Mexico this year, especially by any significant margin, once all ballots are counted, that might be held against him.

Excellent Kerry post-mortem

Any Democrat, or progressive who still has a reflex to vote Democrat first, should read this John Kerry post-mortem by the Boston Globe.

We all know that Kerry’s given signs and hints of wanting to run again in 2008.

Well, if you want the same train wreck twice, by all means, hang your hats on him now. As the Globe column details, Kerry is already offering up a version of early post-election excuses, leavened with pseudo-populism, that arguably makes the post-2000 Al Gore look like a piker.

Of course, the Globe sees through these, without even having to list the WTF issue of all of Kerry’s leftover campaign cash.

If you’re an independent thinker, on the other hand, this should lead you to drop John Kerry and slowly walk away.

November 16, 2004

The real Clinton legacy —

It’s called cheap crap from China

In the shadow of the opening of the Clinton Library Nov. 18, PBS took a sharp look at the baseline reason retail behemoth Wal-Mart has consistently been able to, and continued to, gin down prices from its suppliers.

It’s called “free” trade with China.

The roots of this job-slashing legacy lie in the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement that New Democrat President Clinton signed. That, of course, was followed by the World Trade Organization, extending many NAFTA principles worldwide.

Unfortunately, New Democrat Clinton didn’t see fit to include adequate labor rights safeguards in these free trade agreements. So, China can let companies there pay workers pennies and fire those who protest either wages or working conditions, knowing that strikes are out of the question.

Conscienscious American businessmen such as Tom Hopson , CEO of Five Rivers Electronics Innovations, know this too well.

That includes seeing Wal-Mart fight Five Rivers’ anti-dumping complaint with the International Trade Commission being fought by Wal-Mart. That includes Beijing “suggesting” to other television manufacturers that they not join Five Rivers’ suit.

Considering the rate at which the Chinese economy grows, this arguably could be considered a form of hostage-taking or economic terrorism.

That’s the Clinton legacy.

November 15, 2004

Out Ken Mehlman!

Supposedly the Washington Blade ran a rather bizarre article recently about a bunch of gay Republicans... and Ken Mehlman.

If they have the goods on him, now that he is the Republican National Chairman, it is more than high time to out him and his hypocrisy.

November 14, 2004

Now, it’s city slickers against the rest of the country

The Sarasota Herald Tribune appears to be putting a new spin on the old conservative idea of class warfare.

The thesis of Jim McNeil is that it’s not blue states vs. red, but big cities and New England enclaves against everybody else. Even without the soon-to-be apparent culture war slant of the editorial, I think they are a bit overstating things.

For example, even in urbanizing post-WWII America, there's not always been a rural-urban gap at the national level. The largely rural South was yellow dog Democratic, but the Midwest was then as today stereotypically rock-ribbed Republican or leaning that way.

Besides urban New York “married” the rural South 215 years ago to found Jefferson's Republican party.

In any case, what’s the semi-hysterical deal? In some of the states you mentioned, midsized cities may have voted the same direction as big cities, i.e. Youngstown and Cleveland.

More importantly, though, elsewhere, suburbia, and even more so, borderline exurbia, voted against central city areas in many of these urban conglomerates.

I have an example right here in conservative ground zero Dallas.

In Dallas County, voters elected the first Democratic sheriff in more than a generation. Democrats also picked up three state judgeships in Dallas County.

Meanwhile, Sessions beat Frost in a district partially outside Dallas County, with personal involvement by the president, etc. Smokey Joe Barton won easily in his suburban/exurban district. (It takes in a fair amount of rural territory, but the majority of voters would be demographically classified as either suburban or exurban, whether they recognize the exurban term or want to accept it if they do.)

Finally, the fact that the editorial's last graf ends by plugging Bush's “mandate” should have made people look at the whole thing skeptically.

The second-last graf ends:

”Clearly, this is not a blue-state vs. red-state issue; it is a large-cities vs. the rest- of-the-country issue.”

Can't you just see how McNeil’s setting up the culture warfare issue here? I mean, to me, it's slipping out like Ghostbusters ectoplasm.

The Morning News tries to go environmental, falls flat

The Dallas Morning News wrote an editorial Nov. 14 encouraging people to write the U.S. Forest Service to protest the Bush Administration’s plan to overturn the roadless rule.

However, the Snooze quickly shot its neo-enviro self in the foot by talking about the Tsongas, not the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, as though a former Massachusetts senator had been promoted to Agriculture Secretary or something.

In an e-mail to members of their op-ed staff, I noted this, and also asked:

"Why, if this issue is suddenly so important to the News, and it thought it was so important to its readers, did you wait until the next to last day of comment on the roadless rule to write an editorial, when environmental groups have been contacting their members for weeks?"

Why, indeed?

November 13, 2004

Hot stove league

Enough politics for now. It’s time to talk baseball.

My beloved Cardinals got to their first World Series in the Tony LaRussa era, then fell flat on their faces.

(My theory is that Tony gets too wound up in tight postseason situations, kind of like current Carolina Tar Heel hoops coach Roy Williams did at Kansas, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, it is clear the Cards need some more arms in the starting rotation.

So, trade for Randy Johnson?

I say yes, if — if the D-backs sign him to a contract extension beforehand.

I don’t want to trade for a one-year Johnson, certainly not if the D-backs want young up-and-comer Dan Haren.

Second, it’s time to re-sign Renteria. He’s the No. 1 priority. Matheny is possibly the second one. (If Tomy Womack is not re-signed at second, Placido Polanco could be landed in the free-agent market.)

But Renteria is not a $10 million a year shortstop, let alone $12 million. Certainly not on a six-year deal. I don’t care what Miguel Tejada got last year. I might give Renteria $10 mil per for four years, but no more.

Matheny? Still a good pitch caller, but getting old for a backstop at 34. Only sign him at a pay cut, and no more than two years plus an option. Yadier Molina’s ready to step up as the starter, otherwise.

Womack? Only re-sign him at no more than this last year. No more than two years.

John Mabry should be re-signed for about the same as he made this last year. He plays corner infield and outfield well enough, and has a left-handed bat.

Matt Morris? Nice guy, but let him walk. IMO, he needs or will need shoulder surgery. That’s the only thing I can think of to explain his slowly disappearing fastball speed.

Woody Williams? A cheap one-year plus option deal would be OK. Otherwise, let him go, too.

Steve Kline? A lefty spot reliever is always good to have. However, he’s pretty much a one-out guy. The Birds should let him walk if he gets pricey.

New guys

I think the Cards should take a serious look at Pavano. That’s whether or not they can swing a trade for the Unit.

Scientific theories and creationist obscurantism

Yes, evolution is a “theory” in biology.

Gravity is just a “theory” in physics. Should we place further warning stickers on high school textbooks about that, especially if this “theory” interferes with any fundamentalist Christian belief?

Better yet, quantum mechanics is just a “theory.” (Albeit one that, in its potential philosophical implications, could be seen as more radically challenging to even non-conservative Christianity than evolution.

That quantum “theory,” though, is what led to the production of silicon chips with quantum electric “holes” that allow Christian fundamentalists to run blogs, write screeds, and otherwise generally be a nuisance.

So, if fundamentalists really want to be consistent to their own beliefs, they ought to stop using computers.

Or, for that matter, anything electrical, since quantum “theory” explains atomic structure and the hows and whys of electricity.

A question for Gonzales

Concerning people who tried to cross illegally from Mexico about the time of Pancho Villa, it would be interesting to ask a hypothetical question about whether he thinks that they should have been protected by Geneva Conventions if they were available.

Just something to stir the pot a bit for our would-be first Hispanic AG.

November 12, 2004

Cockburn, Clinton, Sharon and Arafat

I don’t often agree with him, but Cockburn quotes well from the London Observer:

"If Palestinians were black, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions led by the United States.”

Anyway, we know the only reason Clinton regrets Arafat didn’t kowtow enough to Israel is because it hurt Clinton’s “legacy.”

Maybe if Clinton had blown Ariel Sharon in the Oval Office, we’d have the type of peace Arik actually wants.
I’d like to see people like Markos of The Daily Kos do better than Arafat did under Arafat’s circumstances before consigning him to one of the lower circles of Dante’s Hell.

No, Arafat wasn't a saint. He wasn't even a nice guy. For that matter, he may well not have been the best leader the Palestinians could have had. But he was certainly not the worst.

In any case, it takes two to tango or tangle; Palestinian atrocities have been worse, but Israel's hands and minds aren't blood-free either.

November 11, 2004

Give Me a Break, John Stossel, you're wrong again

In Give Me a Break, John Stossel, crusading libertarian, is back.

Actually, I agree with a fair amount of his observations about problems in the regulatory state. I especially agree on civil liberties issues.

But, on economic issues, I strongly disagree with his solution and the philosophy behind it.

Stossel’s laissez-faire view of capitalism traces straight back to Adam Smith and Wealth of Nations. Smith, a Deist philosopher writing in the midst of the Scottish Enlightenment, brought two big but usually unexamined philosophical presumptions to his economic theory.

1. An orderly, organized Deistic God created this universe to run in a mechanical, orderly, clockwork fashion.

2. As part of that organization, humans are inherently rational creatures.

Well, other than eco-libertarian like Stossel, few people believe either one of those things today.

First of all, Christians, whether conservative evangelical, moderate mainline Protestant, or Catholic, would at least question No. 1, in my opinion. Truly liberal Christians, freethinkers from other religions and most secularists reject it outright.

(I do have some atheist libertarian acquaintances; but the closest of them are even more blind-faith on these issues than people with a religious background and, as far as I know, refuse to perform such self-examination.)

Second, modern clinical study of mass psychology and related disciplines will tell us, and has shown us, that purchasing decisions are 80 percent emotion and 20 percent rational thought at best.

So, while Stossel may be right on examining some of the problems with the modern regulatory state — yes, big corporations do co-opt regulatory agencies — his solutions, and the theory behind them, are all wet.

That's because of belief 3, a subpoint of belief 1.

3. An unregulated market will naturally, logically and organizedly act for the benefit of all.

As best as I can articulate it, the wrongly-held belief here is in a Deist version of a collective unconscious or something similar; it's also why many people, including otherwise intelligent ones, falsely ascribe “purpose” to evolution.

There is no person/being/force that has built in a purpose to a market economy; there is no Aristotelean "final cause" that is built in to the system.

Instead, the biggest players in a market economy will always work to run it to their best interest.

In short, modern economic libertarianism has confounded the most unsubstantiable parts of Smith’s underlying philosophy with a 20th-century flavored Platonic-type, or Randian, idealism. Hence, libertarianism as religious cult.

November 10, 2004

Why I am an environmentalist

And why I belong to the Sierra Club

I went to the Dallas Sierra Club’s Nov. 10 meeting because of a great program about Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

The Wind Rivers are southeast of Yellowstone and a place I am considering visiting on vacation next summer. To see why they’re so awe-inspiring in their ruggedness, click here for a Google link to some great pictures.

Unfortunately, not all of the Wind Rivers are in federally designated wilderness. That’s why we have to keep fighting the Bush Administration against renewed efforts to abolish the National Forest Service’s roadless rule, against easy green-lighting of oil and gas exploration in Wyoming by the Bureau of Land Management and more.

Contact your Senators about the Gonzales nomination

The ACLU correctly calls for a:

Full and thorough Senate confirmation process that scrutinizes Mr. Gonzales’ positions on key civil liberties and human rights issues. Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr. Gonzales’ proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights.
Mr. Gonzales should be queried, moreover, on his January 25, 2002 memo, authored in his capacity as White House counsel, which described certain legal protections guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions to persons captured during military hostilities as “obsolete” and “quaint.”

November 09, 2004

Target-marketed sliced and diced, part 2

As PBS explained on Frontline (see post below), marketers and advertisers are slicing our society into ever-narrower segments.

And it is not just marketers, it is also political parties and candidates.

One of Frontline’s interview segments was with Republican pollster – and more – Frank Luntz.

Luntz has to be considered a pioneer in “phrase packaging” in politics, through such sleight of hand as relabeling the “estate tax” as the “death tax” and “global warming” as “climate change.”

But, Luntz could not have succeeded at this if the media didn’t let him, through laziness if nothing else, and the Democratic Party didn’t do the same thing.

If you can find it being rebroadcast, or take the time to go to the Frontline website, it’s well worth a look. The segment on data-mining company Acxiom is also very good.

Gay rights, moral values and the 2004 election

On the biggie, gay rights, I think it's partially a question of better “framing,” to talk about an issue that Kos blogged about, last Friday I believe.

The typical conservative probably has a stereotypical image of gays that comes straight off a Queer Nation or Act Up gay parade march. My straight person’s take is that these two groups have created far more bad PR for the issue than the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think that's part of the problem.

Target-marketed sliced and diced to death

Are we being mass-marketed to death? And at the cost of an increasingly sliced, diced, minced and julienned society?

As Wired and PBS explain, computerized number crunching, combined with ever-increasing collection of shopping information through shoppers cards, checkout address collection and other methodology.

The fragmentation worry is real, according to Wired. Data-mining company Acxiom has 70 different consumer categories such as “shooting star.”

This has political implications, too. The 2004 target-marketed political advocacy ad bombardment will get more and more focused in the future, if in any way possible.

November 08, 2004

The Dallas Morning News veers right on Cabinet ideas

The News apparently thinks Nov. 2 was a Bush mandate, based on its Nov. 7 editorial suggesting Bush second-term Cabinet picks. By starting with John Negroponte, rather than the talked-up consensus pick, John Danforth, the News showed just how Cro-Magnon it still is at times.

Here's my reply to editorial page editor Keven Ann Willey.

1. Negroponte at State? The man who says he knew nothing about Central American right-wing killers when he was down there? I'd pay a Senator to mention "School of the Americas" during his confirmation hearing.
And why, when so many people are talking more multilateralist sounding Danforth, would you even mention Negroponte, who is certainly not known as that?
2. Rice at Defense? She should, rightfully, get flayed over Iraq, and her pre 9/11 failures. She's not shown enough bureaucratic or managerial skills, either.
Your "one-two punch" would likely leave many foreign leaders shaking their heads.
3. Rudy for Homeland Security? The civil liberties minded would bring up Louima or Diallo. I'd bring up the "the troops lost the HDX" comment, too.
4. Rudman would be good as intelligence czar. Who’d be better but will never get appointed by Bush: Richard Clarke.
5. Gonzales as AG? Not after his "you can ignore the Genevas and rewrite international law" legal memos to Bush. Horrible choice.
6. Pete Peterson would be great at NEC, but his advice to Bush would go down a black hole, unfortunately, unless Senate Republicans could get him to leak enough to lean on Bush.

November 07, 2004

We’re not the elitists

Amen to Michael Kinsley.

It’s the “red staters,” not us, that are liberal and elite.

As Kinsley explains, it’s not we progressives claiming we’ve got an inerrant pipeline on moral values.

November 05, 2004

Is it time to out GOP gays?

Clearly, Rove and BushCo were strategically successful with using gay marriage fear-mongering as a strategic tool, especially in black and evangelical Hispanic churches.

I’m not gay myself, but …

I think any gay or lesbian who actively worked for Bush’s election, whether through a PAC, the RNC, RNCC, RNSC, Congressional or Congressional committee staff of GOP congressmen riding on Bush’s coattails, etc., should be outed. They aren’t in a position to object, anyway, since they just committed moral slow suicide.

This is war, and it’s year-round, not seasonal. It’s every year, not just one out of four.

If Bush and Rove want to play scorched-earth divide and conquer strategy, there’s only one way to fight back. Lincoln knew that in the Civil War, and part of why he canned McClellan, beyond the man’s slowness, was his namby-pamby ideas on how to wage the war.

I don’t have any contacts at national gay and lesbian rights organizations, nor, above all, at gay-oriented publications, but surely somebody reading this does.

And, any outings need to be done beyond these media. Folks who work for such magazines and newspapers surely have contacts in the mainstream media.

And, if the New York Times won’t run stuff like this, the National Enquirer will. Hell, somebody like Larry Flynt, just like with the Bob Livingston situation, would help stir the pot on this one.

When I tested this on Daily Kos with a poll, 90 percent were in favor of outings.

November 03, 2004

The bigotry of soft bigotry

I hope the Democrats don't fall into this mistake just because the gay marriage issue, and false phone push calls over it, were a factor in the election.

Because, if Democrats do soft-pedal this civil right too far in the name of chasing after votes from black churches, I see two problems.

The lesser, morally, is the political problem. Truly active gays and lesbians may look to Greens more than Democrats.

The bigger issue is that, in pursuing this strategy, Democrats would be participating in the "bigotry of soft bigotry," to paraphrase the Chimpster, by co-signing the refusal of many black church leaders to be honest about black male homosexuality, black sex on the lowdown, and the resultant rise in AIDS among black women.

The bigotry of soft bigotry

I hope the Democrats don't fall into this mistake just because the gay marriage issue, and false phone push calls over it, were a factor in the election.

Because, if Democrats do soft-pedal this civil right too far in the name of chasing after votes from black churches, I see two problems.

The lesser, morally, is the political problem. Truly active gays and lesbians may look to Greens more than Democrats.

The bigger issue is that, in pursuing this strategy, Democrats would be participating in the "bigotry of soft bigotry," to paraphrase the Chimpster, by co-signing the refusal of many black church leaders to be honest about black male homosexuality, black sex on the lowdown, and the resultant rise in AIDS among black women.

Post-election (Christian) triumphalism and the fourth person of the Trinity

Need I say more? It's already apparent among a couple of people at my office.

Quick Kerry post-morten

Bad candidate. Worse campaign manager. Anti-coattails drag down Dems in House, Senate.

For 2004:
• Get a governor, if one is available, or at least a senator with more of a record than BCCI.
• Social Security, Social Security, Social Security; scream it until the cows come home, both in Florida and in Midwestern states with lots of oldsters.
• Get a candidate who actually is a closer, and has a campaign manager who is one.
• Like it or not, voters vote on personality, and Kerry's didn't light enough sparks.
• DON'T be tempted to slide right, like a "rough beast, slouching toward Bethlehem."

As for me? I'm voting Green as long as the Dems don't have a real presidential candidate or a real national strategy.

October 29, 2004

My critique of Imperial Hubris

While I am more pacifistic in nature than ‘anonymous,’ I yet think he has some good ideas.

Part I – Policy
First, we either believe we’re in a war or not. We don’t fight it half-hearted or half-assed. We fight it where it should have been fought (Afghanistan – then real Middle Eastern problems not including Iraq), and we fight it without being restrained by allies.

Second, we stop playing Gulliver to Israel’s Lilliputian tie-down. Period.

I’m not saying we should abandon Israel to the Arab world, and Anonymous doesn’t get into policy prescription details.

But would could do like Bush Senior – freeze foreign aid to Israel. But let’s make the unfreezing contingent on a lot more movement than we did in the past.

Part II – errors
He’s got one minor one and one historically big one.

The historic one? He somehow claims Britain, not Turkey’s first secular leader, Atatürk, abolished the Caliphate in 1924. For someone claiming Middle Eastern CIA analyst expertise, that’s a credibility-damaging error in my book.

While as a skeptical progressive, one who rejects both liberal and conservative forms of American exceptionalism, I’m not sanguine about Muslim-world progress toward secular states or democracies, let alone a combination thereof, the fact that Turkey did it – and started the ball rolling itself – shows it can be done. Anonymous’ historical mistake, assuming he stakes some of his analysis beliefs on it, has consequences.

Second, he misspells Paul Bremer’s last name.

Part III – Critique Proper
In my opinion, to use a phrase, I’d call Anonymous an internationalist paleoconservative. Bush Senior with lots more conejos? Nixon if he’d been elected in 1960?

Support for this includes his contra-Kerry statement that, within the country's foreign-policy establishment, a sort of Euro-veto does exist.

He’s definitely religiously conservative, as he talks about “the Pillsbury Doughboy-version of Christianity now on offer from the Vatican and Canterbury.” He clearly intends the phrase to be pejorative, given that it is gratuitous.

At the same time, he skewers Zionism and American fundamentalists and allied evangelicals who support it, so he is probably from a more mainline denomination.

His American military references to Lee as well as Grant, and the valiant efforts by both Union and Confederate soldiers, without referring to the context of the Civil War, paints him as a Southerner.

A, B, and C together add up to someone who in his own way at least comes close to using Crusade-type definitions on how we should fight this war.

I have websites identifying him bookmarked at the office, but I’m deliberately writing this from home.

That said, his bottom line critique that bin Laden hates us not for who we are (secularism, short skirts for women, etc.) but what we do (imperialism, support for Israel, support for corrupt Middle Eastern states) has a lot of truth in it.

Does our war against bin Laden have to be as total as he claims? I’d like to try more guns, better used (another critique of his) andmore flowers at the same time, at least for now.

And, if we fight that ruthless of a war, can we win it without it, in fact, becoming apocalyptic? Unfortunately, Anonymous remains silent at this point.

Imperial Hubris is not pro-Kerry

People who touted this book earlier this year as a cogent antidote to the Bush foreign policy are only half-right.

The author, ‘anonymous,’ has plenty to say about what Kerry has pledged as part of his foreign-policy perspective as well.

For example, he repeatedly excoriates the idea that a criminal-justice mentality is the way to ‘attack’ bin Laden.

In essence, he says bin Laden is not a criminal thug; also, contra Kerry and Bush, he is not a terrorist.

Instead, he’s an insurgent, first and foremost, like the Viet Minh, if we want to dip back into our own history. He will use terror for psychological ends, but ultimately is a guerrilla/militia/paramilitary insurgent leader.

I believe that liberals’ embrace of their own, nonconservative form of American exceptionalism, as noted here, is part of the problem.

What's wrong with this headline?

From the Oct. 29 New York Times:

"Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache"

Doesn't anybody know how to use apostrophes?

October 25, 2004

Liberals and conservatives

Most liberals of today are wooly-headed and most conservatives are Bush cultists. See my post below for more on how this applies to American exceptionalism.

The fourth person of the Trinity?

One could be excused for thinking that about George W. Bush, the way many of his partisans blindly believe he can do, and has done, no wrong.

Liberals and American exceptionalism

Liberals generally don’t oppose American exceptionalism, just various conservative versions of it.

The Iraq war, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern affairs show liberals usually disagree on the methodology to be used, but agree with spreading not just American democracy but all of its sociological trappings. Implicit in this agreement is the common believe in American exceptionalism, namely that these ideas are worthy of being spread.

But are they? From our point of view, it might be great that women aren’t forced to wear burkhas, but here in America we went more than 130 years from the adoption of our constitution to women having the right to vote across the country, let alone the sociological changes that followed from that.

And yet, we blithely expect that we can change Afghanistan on the fly.

In many cases, it’s probably more that “they” laugh at us, or shake their heads at us, rather than, or at least before, they hate us.

October 24, 2004

Let’s remember Halliburton was Clinton’s fault too

The Clinton administration hired Halliburton — then run by Dick Cheney — as the logistics arm for the war in Kosovo. Halliburton's contract started out as a $180 million deal but soon mushroomed to more than $2.5 billion as the company built Camp Bondsteel and other military facilities on lavish, cost-plus terms. Even Mother Jones admits privatization picked up substantially under Clinton.

Clinton also signed into law the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, specifically lobbied for by Big Oil.

October 16, 2004

And Kerry still voted to use force against Iraq?

From Ron Suskind’s New York Times magazine profile of President Bush:
A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: “Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.” When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, “Look, I’m not going to debate it with you.”

And Kerry would sign off on an undebateable item?

October 13, 2004

Now our troops are murdering Iraqi civilians in cold blood

Abu Ghraib has nothing on American soldiers fragging Iraqi civilians in broad daylight, according to Seymour Hersch.
Now, it’s cold-blooded My Lai type murders by our troops in Iraq:

Hersh talked about a call he had gotten from a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.

Better-off white liberal guilt AWOL on schools?

Conservatives like to talk about real, or acted, white liberal guilt for a lot of things.
But Yale’s Stephen Carter, in the Oct. 12 New York Times, wonders when white liberals of enough means to afford private schools for their children will feel real guilt to the point of putting their children where their mouth is
Of course, I’m sure most of the Times’ editorial staff, let alone those on the Op-Ed page, are either unaware of or ignoring the irony.

October 09, 2004

A couple of further points about Robert Wright and design issues in evolution

First, in his Beliefnet post on his discussion with Dan Dennett, Wright claims near the bottom of the last page.that he’s not an Intelligent Design pusher of the William Dembski stripe.

“I’m just saying that natural selection, though able to do all the work of designing organisms, may itself be a product of design,” he states.

But for my money, that’s just taking the old “personal designer” issue and moving the “regress cutoff point” back one step. If Wright believes in the possibility of an intelligent designer having started up a neo-Darwinian framework with some intentiaonlity, then he’s an intelligent designer. To distinguish him from Dembski, I’ll keep “intelligent design” in lowercase when talking about his point of view. But that’s all.

Second, I believe his analogy between the Darwinian evolution of life (let alone the physical evolution the universe) and embryogenesis of an individual human being is, to be charitable, not very strong.

More on Wright claiming Dennett supports design

Robert Wright has claimed that atheist cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett recently agreed that evolution shows evidence of design, as I note below.

Even if that were true, by some perceptions, Dennett could have simply had a little slip of the tongue.

But he says here that it isn’t true, namely that he clearly used the word “if.”

Wright himself talks about the interview here.

As for his claim that direction in evolution (or something else) requires purpose, that doesn’t at all necessarily follow. Science is replete with organisms and systems having emergent properties.

True, a strong reductionist like Dennett, in my opinion, doesn’t like dealing with emergent properties, as they can be hard to fit into his highly reductionistic Procrustean bed. But their existence doesn’t negate reductionism as a general tool, nor materialism as a philosophical stance. They may put some constraints on the thoroughgoingness of reductionism, that's all.

Or, alternative B, Dennett, having consistently used “design” and “designer” in anthropomorphizing fashion, objects when Wright “translates” them literalistically, or sensationalizes his use of them.

Wright does offer a mea culpa for this. But, as he was posting written copy, not the original videotape, he had time to reflect as to how much context he was keeping, or interrupting, or removing entirely.

I think Wright is a thought-provoking writer with some great things to say on matters of social theory; but I still think he has played “gotcha,” at least to a degree, with Dennett.

(As a sidebar, I have no doubt Dennett was blunt at least in some of his replies; I've seen him in sharp give-and-take in the video of “A Glorious Accident’ (see it or buy the book) and I’ve had a brief e-mail exchange with him once; and while he was kind enough to reply, I have no doubt he could have been curt or more if he felt I were worth the effort. I did actually experience a bit of testiness in a conversation with Steven Pinker on some of the same issues of nature vs. nurture about which I disagree with them.)

Did Robert Wright play ‘gotcha’ with Dan Dennett on intelligent design issue?

Robert Wright, social philosopher and author of “Nonzero,” among other works, claims that he got noted cognitive philosopher — and noted atheist and naturalist — Daniel Dennett — to admit that evolution shows principles of design.

Dennett has fired back, claiming he was speaking about purely hypothetical instances of evolution in nature examined from a hypothetical point of view.

I picked this up on Andrew Sullivan’s website; Wright’s postings are on Beliefnet. I’ve skimmed them but haven’t had a chance to closely peruse his comments.

However, having read all of Dennett’s major books, and his care with at least the written word, I am highly doubtful that Wright tripped Dennett up. My guess is it’s a little spinning and blowing out of proportion by Wright.

And, given that the original debate, and the follow-up back and forth, all being on Beliefnet, that only increases my skepticism that Wright is either mightily pushing the envelope of a different perception on one point in a debate, or else he's engaged in “gotcha” polemics.

While I certainly agree with Wright’s premise of viewing human development, at the least, as a non-zero-sum game, or possibly viewing evolution in general that way somehow, that in no way logically implies a designer behind the curtain.

I grow tired of some Kerryistas ...

And their almost-Bushlike comments that “if you’re not for us, you’re against us.”

I can clearly articulate my plans to vote Green while providing other people with good reasons to do so, while still saying I think Kerry would definitely be better than Bush on domestic policy. (Excluding Kerry’s support for the Patriot Act, of course.)

But this running debate has been going on for six months. Kerryistas refuse to see that their candidate needs to do a better job of selling himself to true progressives. They don’t have the introspection to go beyond that and ask whether that’s possible. (I believe it would be, not certainly not easy as pie.)

Instead, when Kerry’s Iraq (or Patriot Act) votes, and continued support for something in the general vicinity of his original position are questioned, some Kerryistas can go on the attack with an almost Rovean, dare I say, ferocity.

Perhaps Nader wasn’t quite so wrong after all. Not on the foreign policy side, at least. And not totally on the civil liberties side.

Another reason to vote Green

The party platform’s explicit condemnation of the Patriot Act.

October 07, 2004

A secularist reason to vote Green

The Green Party platform has a plank calling for the elimination of
"religious tests" such as religious language in oaths of office and much more.

More forthcoming.

October 05, 2004

Some neocons wanted a king in Iraq

That’s part of the story from Anonymous, a State Department careerist.

“Michael Rubin, Richard Perle and Ahmed Chalabi pushed from the American Enterprise Institute (for) restoring the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq by placing Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan on the throne.”

If Bush thinks the presidency is "hard work...

Then maybe he ought to retire. Or be retired.

October 02, 2004

The hack-jobbing, crock-peddling Dallas Morning News strikes again

In its editorial the morning after the first Bush-Kerry debate, Oct. 1, the News claimed in a subhead: "Bush won debate." This despite their own news stories reporting CNN’s snap poll showing a clear winner.

But, this doesn’t surprise me. It came after three increasingly partisan Sunday endorsement editorials the News has run. The one on domestic policy issues didn’t even talk about environmentalism.

When the current editorial page editor, Keven Ann Willey, was hired away from Phoenix a couple of years ago, I had hopes the News would speed up its move beyond near-Neanderthal conservativism to something more open-minded, i.e., a "progressive conservativism." I based this hope in part on Willey’s own comments in taking over the editorial helm at the News.

Alas, the News moved about one-quarter of the way there, then dug in its heels. Now, it’s clearly spewing knee-jerk idiocy.

Or, to put it another way, the News’ editorial board is displaying cranial-rectal syndrome by proxy. That’s when you have your head buried up someone else’s posterior.

September 30, 2004

Does the Fifth Amendment guard against racial profiling?

As reported in the Harvard Crimson, Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t believe that the Fourth Amendment offers protection against racial profiling.

So what about the Fifth Amendment?

A search is, to be true, not in and of itself incriminating. But given the fear that the search process can induce, and how police in America can still subtly, or unsubtly, steer, guide or coerce investigations and interrogations, it certainly approaches putting a person in an incriminating position.

And, short of Michael Jackson medical procedures, minorities cannot change the color of their skin, so that is in and of itself testifying against one’s self.

Have any attorneys tried this?

September 29, 2004

Clinton had his eyes on Iraqi oil too

From Paul Roberts’ “The End of Oil,” page 304:

“The White House Energy Task Force was studying maps of Iraqi oil fields and pipelines as early as March 2000.”
So, let’s not blame all geopolitical oil greed on the current administration.
How much did Clinton speak against the invasion of Iraq before it was launched?
C’mon, be honest.

September 24, 2004

'Terri's Law isn't about Terri — it's about Gov. Bush'

That quote is courtesy of bioethicist Jon Eisenberg of Oakland, after Jeb's pandering to Florida's hard-core right, refuting Terri Schiavo's apparent wish to not be artificially kept alive, was unanimously rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.

Terri's husband, Michael, has had a painful personal choice deliberately politicized by people who care nothing for his personal state, while claiming to be about the rights of individual people.

Meanwhile, we have this comment on Florida GOP hypocrisy in this from the state Speaker of the House:

Speaker Johnnie Byrd, the Republican who pushed for the law last year, called the decision "tragic but not unexpected."

Some choice Kitty Kelley quotes from The Family:

”We would soon be friends no more.” — John McCain, between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries in 2000, 593
”People like [Bill Frist] … pander to the 20 percent of their base who are mouth-breahers..” — Ron Reagan Jr., 615
”The stupidest man ever to sit in the Oval Office..” — Historian Robert Dallek, 611
”I knew then Bush had no brains. Now I knew he had no guts.” — Dallek on Bush’s failure to immediately return to Washington after 9/11, 625

Politics trumped principle for Kerry in votes for war against Iraq

So says a fellow member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, quoted in the new pro-Kerry documentary.

In the film "Going Upriver," John Kerry is reported as saying that if “I do nothing else in life,” he will work to convince people that war (this war, or all war?) is a “wasteful expenditure.”

What happened to change that with his Iraq vote in 2002?
Chris Gregory, a former Army medic and VVAW member who appears in the movie and attended the premiere, objected and said, “It’s a little too broad a brush” to say that Vietnam and Iraq are one and the same. “John is very focused on winning this job,” Gregory said. “He wants to be right. But he wants to win more than he wants to be right.”

September 23, 2004

Freedom of religion should include freedom from religion

It’s old news, but in the time of the Religious Right and its minions in the House of Representatives pushing to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, this Tampa Tribune story underscores that the First Amendment should include freedom from religion among its protections.
Also, for those of you who feel pushed by the Religious Right, read down the story to note that the Supreme Court has already declared explicitly Christian prayers verboten at governmental meetings.

September 22, 2004

Points for Kerryistas to ponder about Iraq

1. First, Kerry's stance has shifted. Not as much as Rethugs claim, but it has shifted beyond "nuance." And his original votes were for 2004, not 2002, political reasons. See my antiwar POV on this earlier this week, as well as the post immediately below this.
2. No Western European government is going to help us extricate ourselves from Iraq no matter who is in the White House Jan. 21, 2005. Jacques Chirac is not as dumb as you want him to be. Pull your collective heads out.
3. International affairs, contrary to Powell, is NOT Pottery Barn. We don't "own" Iraq, so let's get the hell out ASAP.
4. How quickly that is done, and the connected figure of how many more lives are lost or saved, is a very legitimate Bush/Kerry measuring stick.
And, to the degree Kerry doesn't talk about getting us out ASAP, all other things being equal, probably the diff between him and Bush isn't that great.
Period. End of story.

Kerry has changed on Iraq

But it would be OK if he would admit it ...
admit he blew it, and come out as an antiwar candidate.
I'll even be gracious enough to let him say "he blew it" rather than the truth.
But he won't. He'll continue to fight about where Bush has gotten us now in Iraq, without doing either one of the two things that would truly appeal to antiwar voters — and journalists — like me.
The first would be to start talking about a quick, not four-year, exit strategy.
The second would be to tacitly admit he blew it in his 2002 estimation of Bush. He can do it tacitly and spin it all he wants. Until that point, a skeptical observer must wonder how much better Kerry's judgment is than Bush's.

September 20, 2004

So, is Kerry now saying we never should have invaded Iraq?

In a speech at New York University, Kerry said:

I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein – who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.

Since he didn't say anything further about what he would have done in 2003, I am taking that to mean he is now saying we shouldn't have invaded.

Well, if BushCo reads between the lines the same way, unless Kerry comes out and actually says that with conviction, he's really going to get called a flip-flopper.

Klein skewers Kerry as debater

If you expect John Kerry to mop the floor with George Bush in the presidential debates, think again.

So says Joe Klein in a Sept. 18 Time column, saying “Kerry is all oratorical flab” and predicting Kerry could lose the election if he can't nail Bush in the debates.

September 19, 2004

Maybe Kerry has some fight after all

Last week I wondered when Kerry might start making the debate over the number of presidential debates an issue, and only offering 50-50 odds he actually would hang tough.
Well, it appears all three debates called for the by Commission on Presidential Debates, including the Oct. 8 town-hall format in St. Louis, will be held.
While the Bush camp said it was concerned about the process used to screen alleged undecided voters, I believe it's more a case of being worried about how they will break.

September 18, 2004

Is Scott Rolen the MVP?

The way the Cardinals have struggled without him in the last week or so says yes.

Bonds gets my vote noway, nohow until baseball — and other American professional sports, for that matter — submit to international-level sports drug testing.

With squishes like this, conservatives’ jobs are easier

Kevin Drum at Political Animal yearns for Michael Kinsley to purge Robert Scheer from the L.A. Times editorial page as an “embarrasing lefty.”
Update: Kevin is at it again with a follow-up post.
Drum, a “liberal hawk” on Iraq in late 2002, doesn't even have the generosity, let alone the humility, to admit Scheer was right on Iraq, let alone being right on a fair amount of other things.
He says getting rid of Scheer might make the L.A. Times editorial pages as good as the East Coast establishment. Great. Although he doesn't himself use the word “establishment,” that's what would result: more establishmentarian commentary.
Maybe we ought to describe someone like Drum, still unrepentant for supporting Bush on Iraq, as the embarassing squish.

It's not just Democrats complaining about Kerry

A recent issue of Asia Times, in anointing Bush as Reagan's heir as the Teflon president, also notes Kerry's failure to gain traction:
Kerry, on his part, has thus far not focused on Bush's performance in general, and in particular on the low-gear performance of the US economy. When Bill Clinton won his first presidential term, his campaign battle cry was, "It's the economy, stupid!" Thus far, Kerry's lack of focus on a similar or the same battle cry has enabled Bush's Teflon presidency to maintain an edge over him.

Of course, as previously noted, Kerry really isn't in a good positoin to gain traction on Iraq due to his past votes. Realistically, it's going to take Bush losing traction.

Kitty Kelly, George Bush and George H.W. Bush

I've only gotten to the middle of the second chapter, but reading through the introduction and the body up to that point, I can already say it's about time.
This is the book whose information the major media should have been researching and publishing in 2000. No, it's the book the major media should have been developing for newspaper and magazine columns back in 1988, re George W. Bush.
Demand the books editor at your nearest major newspaper review it, review it fairly, and review it before the election.

Update --
Read this Guardian column from David Talbot, editor in chief of Salon, including his Kelley interview.

September 16, 2004

When will Kerry start using debate debates as a political wedge?

President Bush is clearly leaving himself open to the "chickenhawk" charge by not responding to queries from the Presidential Commission on Debates. This is especially true in light of rumors that Bush doesn't want three presidential debates - namely, that he wants to avoid the second, town-hall debate.
Will Kerry hang tough, even at the implied price of junking the entire debate package? Should he?
I say yes. If anywhere is a key place of where he has to play hardball, and has potential big political gains, this is it. Period.
But will he? My odds are 50-50.

September 14, 2004

If Kerry is an environmentalist ...

Then why did he vote for NAFTA?
True, the concerns most voiced at the time were about its lack of labor rights safeguards, and lack of enforcement for the ones it did have.
But, environmental groups had similar comments about the lack of environmental provisions. And back in 1993, it didn't take a Ph.D. to know that an increase in lightly-regulated, heavily-polluting Mexican border plants would cause an increase in Mexican pollutants crossing the border into the U.S.
Even if that weren't a worry, Mexico would still have its own pollution increases to worry about. Does that mean that "third-world" countries don't deserve as much pollution protection as the U.S.?
Could you call this pollution credit trading in reverse?

September 09, 2004

Why don 't we just declare victory and get out of Iraq

That's the question that Gregg Easterbrook asked about Aug. 30 in The New Republic.
Now, Gregg's smart enough to know why Bush won't do that,
One, he's too stubborn. Two, he's bought into some sort of "divine mandate" idea that he believes about himself. Three, echoing Pat Buchanon's old comments about Israel and its amen corner in the U.S., the neoconservatives have sold him on this, and probably have tied it with imagery of the "whore of Babylon" from what maybe a fundamentalist streak (in the technical sense) in his Christian beliefs.
So, that's your answer, Greg.

1,000-plus now dead from the Iraq invasion

But, perusuers of this blog will know that's not good news for John Kerry, from this point of view. Kerry still has no plan to get us quickly out of Iraq. Kerry still has no consistent, concise, country-boy speaking level strategy for explaining, or explaining away, all of his past votes on Iraq. As a result, he still doesn't have this progressive vote.

Kerry gets a better linguistic handle on attacking Bush

In an earlier post, I wondered whether Kerry shouldn't use a label like "warmonger" to go after Bush with something hard and specific that is "negative" without sounding negative.
Then Kerry comes out with his "W stands for wrong" line. That's the type of talk that is needed throughout the campaign.
And where are Kerry "surrogates"? Yes, the congressional GOP is at it again with gay marriage, flag-burning bans and more, but "safe" representatives, senators and Democratic governors need to be speaking more if Kerry wants to stay on a focused message yet portray the Bushian image of being personally above the fray.

Kerry should emulate Humphrey, and now

In the last week of the 1968 presidential race, LBJ announced a halt on bombing of North Vietnam; at the same time, Humphrey came out more strongly against the current conduct of the war, and to a degree, even the war itself.
Humphrey significantly closed the gap in Nixon, but while it was not too little, it was in fact too late.
Kerry needs to take note.
Rather than blathering about intending to get most if not all troops out of Iraq within four years, he needs to talk about getting all U.S. troops out as soon as reasonably feasible.

September 05, 2004

How should Kerry get tougher to win?

Warmonger might be the best word, tho Bush would point to not attacking either Iran or North Korea.More importantly, "warmonger" tied with the threat of more troops in Iraq for more years, etc... might be the one way Kerry can energize minorities and poor whites.And, if Cohen is correct on Bush/Rove going for a "mandate of one," Kerry *has* to boost turnout among strong Democratic leaners and Democrats.I'm not sure how possible that is, though. Kerry struck me as below average to perhaps average among the Democrats' primary hopefuls in the degree of his appeal to minorities.As for people suggesting he use words like "liar" and "mass murderer," huh-uh. Definitely the wrong strategy.You want to go negative without sounding negative.

September 03, 2004

Who's the Republican candidate for president?

I heard many more chants of "USA" than of "George W. Bush" or "four more years" in Madison Square Garden Sept. 2. I thought I was at the Olympics, not a political convention.
Well, to refer to Samuel Johnson, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

August 06, 2004

If Kerry won't tell his "secret plan for ending the war," he could at least...

Come out and clearly say he will repeal Bremer's "100 Rules" if he is elected president.
They are, after all, illegal under international law and so such a statement would fit squarely into his alleged internationalism. In addition, to the degree Bremer's rules beenfit a complany like Halliburton, it would let Kerry take shots at Cheney.

But we haven't even heard this out of him.
I get the ever-more distinct feeling that, while Kerry is all too ready to slam Bush on anti-terrorism issues (and rightfully so, in many cases), he would love for Iraq itself to disappear.
He keeps repeating his Bush-lite mantra on the war itself, which simply won't fly with discerning antiwar voters such as this one. And eventually, the Bush campaign's carping about his "secret plan" may start to score points.

August 02, 2004

Franks unapologetic, Kerry still war-lite

In a Parade magazine interview associated with the publishing of his new book, Tommy Franks remained unapologetic about the conduct of either the Afgahnistan or Iraq campaigns.
In the latter, he stood by rejecting the Powell Doctrine of massive superiority. He then went on to, in essence, fault Iraqis in general for the early post-invasion looting, overlooking that we had cowed security forces into skedaddling, abdicating responsibility, etc.
The interviewer didn't really ask about Afghanistan, but I'm sure Franks being the good soldier and Midland, Texas good-old-boy he is, is falling on his sword on that one too.

Meanwhile, John Kerry continues the war-lite theme, saying he "hopes" to have the majority of troops out of Iraq by the end of his (first) term. WIth he and Edwards boxed in by their Senate votes, they can do little else.

July 16, 2004

Wall Street and the election

My quick take on using Wall Street as an election guide.
10,500 on the Dow at or just after Labor Day is the magic number this year in my eye. Above that, a Bush election is more likely; below, a Kerry election.
With further fine-tuning, a market sloping down from 10,500 to 10,000 is a slowly increasing, but still moderately more likely chance of a Kerry win. Below the psychological barrier of 10,000, it's Kerry's baby. The same holds true for Bush from 10,500-11,000, with that serving as a psychological barrier.
These numbers have even more potency after Oct. 1, when the election enters the home stretch.
Updated July 23
With the Dow now below the 10,000 mark, Kerry has an opportunity, with the Democratic convention upcoming, to hammer away on this economic angle.

July 07, 2004

It's not just adults we're holding in Iraqi prisons

As you can read here, here and here, we appear to be holding a number of children in Iraqi prisons and the number may be, or may have been at one time, more than 100. It's hard to tell, though, since our brass hats at the Whatagon haven't been letting folks like the Red Cross and Unicef check it out.
Sgt. Samuel Provance, as part of his spilling the beans on Abu Ghraib, talked about minors there. Allegedly, they've also been held at Um Qasr.
But, with no photos (yet, at least) this has gotten little U.S. media play.

July 05, 2004

Will Kerry make much difference in Iraq insurgency?

Since "the man who would be president," John Kerry, has said in essence that he "hopes to have us out by the end of his first term," why would we think things will improve any more than marginally to moderately for our actions in Iraq if he is elected?
Oh, I forgot... those extra 40K active-duty troops he plans to replace Guard and Reserve personnel will take care of that.
Right. And how long with it take to get Congress to expand the Army that much? Will class admissions at the Point have to be expanded to get active-duty officers to lead these people?
And, knowing they have a good chance of going to Iraq, how likely are any but the most poor (if they can pass the non-physical qualifications) going to be likely to sign up? How much in the way of recruitment bonuses does Kerry think will be needed?
Since "the man who would be president," John Kerry, has said in essence that he "hopes to have us out by the end of his first term," why would we think things will improve any more than marginally to moderately for our actions in Iraq if he is elected?
Oh, I forgot... those extra 40K active-duty troops he plans to replace Guard and Reserve personnel will take care of that.
Right. And how long with it take to get Congress to expand the Army that much? Will class admissions at the Point have to be expanded to get active-duty officers to lead these people?
And, knowing they have a good chance of going to Iraq, how likely are any but the most poor (if they can pass the non-physical qualifications) going to be likely to sign up? How much in the way of recruitment bonuses does Kerry think will be needed?

July 04, 2004

Liberal hawks need to apologize more

A few sotto voce mea culpas from pundits like Michael Ignatieff don't cut it.

In my opinion, they need to apologize for aiding and abetting a number of things that have happened since mid-2002. That includes:
1. The nearly 1,000 soldiers and contractors who have died in Iraq;
2. The hundreds of people killed in al Qaeda attacks at Bali, Madrid and elsewhere, as well as actions by groups such as Abu Sayyef. (If not all of those 135,000 troops in Iraq were sent to Afghanistan, some would have been quite useful elsewhere.
3. The fact that bin Laden himself is still alive and that al Qaeda still appears pretty functional.
Some bloggers who were at least somewhat sympathetic to the liberal hawks at one time, such as Kevin Drum, want to give them a light slap on the wrist and easy readmission to the world of well-meaning liberals. Others, self professed liberal hawks themselves in early 2003, such as Josh Marshall, have been pretty silent on the issue. Maybe they wonder if they've done enough mea culpas themselves.

More on why I'm not supporting Kerry

The special 9/11 Commission’s preliminary comments on the lack of collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda, coupled with 16 months’ post-inspection failure by U.S. inspectors to find the weapons of mass destruction President George W. Bush alleged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had, should be cause for rejoicing by Sen. John Kerry.
But it’s not. No more than the missing weapons have been.
Why? Because it paints him in a box as to his stance on foreign affairs, especially vexsome given that he sits on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.
In short, John Kerry is Bush lite on Iraq and foreign affairs.
This is from my July 1 column at my newspaper. (Note: we do not archive; this expires July 8.)

About myself

What the heck - why not take the plunge and join tens of thousands of other bloggers out there?
I plan to blog primarily, but by no means exclusively, about politics. Sports, the natural and social sciences, history, classical music and more will surely make the pages here sooner or later.
But, a fair amount of that will be politics, so let me describe my general political stance.
Call me an independent progressive.
As for specific issues, I was against the Iraq war, and saw through the reasons being offered for it, pre-February 2003. That feeling has only grown since then.
Because of this, and other concerns about foreign policy issues, barring some major change, I will not be voting for either Bush or Kerry.
And, no, it's not Nader, either. The Green Party has it's own candidate now in David Cobb.
That said, would I take Kerry over Bush? Yes. Do they differ on at least some domestic policy issues? Yes. But, I can't pull the trigger for him.
Anyway, other political interests of mine include GM vs. non-GM foods, globalization, fair trade and more. Nonpolitical interests include cognitive science, science and skepticism versus various "rightist" and "leftist" attacks or pseudosciene, most sports to at least some degree, classical music, healthy eating and ethnic foods.
My day job is as the editor of a suburban Dallas weekly paper. I have been strong against the war, in print, on hard copy, in the midst of "Bush Country," since February 2003. Why can't the "so-called liberal media" do that?