And So It Seems To Go
Calton Bolick, American Ex-Pat in Japan, Rants and Raves About the Political Scene Back Home
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Twenty Things You Have to Believe to Be a Republican
Making the e-mail rounds (and repeated in the media, including by the Reno Gazette-Journal's Cory Farley, I couldn't resist reposting this. Sorry if you've already seen it.

  1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.
  2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
  3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.
  4. "Standing Tall" for America means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.
  5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
  6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
  7. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
  8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.
  9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
  10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
  11. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.
  12. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
  13. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
  14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
  15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
  16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
  17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
  18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.
  19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the 1980s is irrelevant.
  20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.


Friday, January 30, 2004

Someone Else Pays
SharptonTag.jpgAnd, you know, it's absurd to me for people to come and look at the people in South Carolina in the face and say, "It's an honor for your sons and daughters to go abroad and die for others. But it is a burden for rich people to pay their tax at home." I mean, you can't have it both ways. Either all of us should be honored to sacrifice or none of us should.

   - The Rev. Al Sharpton, in the South Carolina primary debate

While I wouldn't vote Sharpton for County Dogcatcher, thanks to his disgraceful role in the Tawana Brawley fraud--for which he has, as far as I know, refused to apologize--he nevertheless has been unafraid to make sense during his quixotic Presidential run, and he, in my opinion, really hits the nail on the head with his observation above.

Lying Liars and Backpedalers
Q: On the question of Iraq, two issues. First, you've been using the phrase, "gathering threat" and "grave danger," which obviously are words that the President, himself, used many times before the war. You have not used the word "imminent threat." And the essence of Dr. Kay's comments recently would suggest that there was no way for there to be an imminent threat.

Does the President now believe that, in fact, while the threat was gathering, while the threat may have been grave, that, in fact, it was not imminent?

scottmcclellan.jpgMR. McCLELLAN: I think we've said all along that it was a grave and gathering threat. And that in a post-September 11th world, you must confront gathering threats before it's too late.

I think some in the media have chosen to use the word "imminent." Those were not words --

Q: The President himself never used that word?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those were not words we used. We used "grave and gathering threat." We made it very clear that it was a gathering threat, that it's important to confront gathering threats in this post-September 11th world, because of the new dangers and new threats that we face.

   - White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, at a press
briefing on 27 January 2004

MR. McCLELLAN: Two points. We support the request under Article IV of Turkey. And I think it's important to note that the request from a country under Article IV that faces an imminent threat goes to the very core of the NATO alliance and its purpose.

QUESTION: What can you do about this veto threat?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think what's important to remind NATO members, remind the international community is that this type of request under Article IV goes to the core of the NATO alliance.

QUESTION: Is this some kind of ultimate test of the alliance?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is about an imminent threat.

   - Scott McClellan, speaking to reporters on 10 February 2003.

The problem with being a liar is having to remember all the lies you've already told. And the people at the Center for American Progress have compiled a nice list refuting the Bush Administrations latest backpedaling on alleged threat posed by Iraq and the overheated language, hyperbole, and occasional bald-faced lie they used to sell this exercise in neo-con political stupidity. Some highlights of the things the Bush Administration said include:

  • "...a serious threat to our country, to our friends and to our
    allies."(Dick Cheney, 1/31/03)

  • "...a serious and mounting threat" (Donald Rumsfeld, 1/29/03)

  • "...unique and urgent threat"(President Bush, 11/23/02)

  • "Saddam Hussein is a threat to America."(President Bush, 11/3/02)

  • "...a significant threat to the security of the United States."
    (President Bush, 11/1/02)

  • "...a real and dangerous threat" (President Bush, 10/28/02)

One additional form of "threat" that the White House didn't use, though it was the most appropriate one--empty threat.

Truth-Tellers 2
And speaking of comedic truth-tellers, how could I forget The Onion? This week, they have a brilliant and subtle commentary disguised as a news story, one that expect would go right past the dittoheads:

Bush 2004 Campaign Pledges To Restore Honor And Dignity To White House

BOSTON - Addressing guests at a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser, George W. Bush pledged Monday that, if re-elected in November, he and running mate Dick Cheney will "restore honor and dignity to the White House."

"After years of false statements and empty promises, it's time for big changes in Washington," Bush said. "We need a president who will finally stand up and fight against the lies and corruption. It's time to renew the faith the people once had in the White House. If elected, I pledge to usher in a new era of integrity inside the Oval Office."

Bush told the crowd that, if given the opportunity, he would work to reestablish the goodwill of the American people "from the very first hour of the very first day" of his second term.

"The people have spoken," Bush said. "They said they want change. They said it's time to clean up Washington. They're tired of politics as usual. They're tired of the pursuit of self-interest that has gripped Washington. They want to see an end to partisan bickering and closed-door decision-making. If I'm elected, I'll make sure that the American people can once again place their trust in the White House."

Bush said the soaring national debt and the lengthy war in Iraq have shaken Americans' faith in the highest levels of government.

"A credibility gap has opened between the Oval Office and America," Bush said. "The public hears talk, but they don't see any result. But if you choose me as your next president, the promises I make in my inaugural address will actually mean something. The president of this country will be held accountable for his promises, starting Jan. 20 of next year."

The rest at http://www.theonion.com/4004/top_story.html

Thursday, January 29, 2004

LiebermanTag.jpgToday, the people of New Hampshire put me in the ring, and that's where we're going to stay.

   - Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, after his 5th-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, from "Lieberman vows to stay in race; Finish stuns supporters" in the January 28th Stamford (CT) Advocate.

------------ ------------- ---------------

Lieberman is trailing in the polls, but surging, at least according to his campaign headquarters, which sent out a press release that begins, quote: "The energy on the ground in New Hampshire is incredible.''

With all due respect, somebody at Lieberman headquarters is smoking crack. There is no energy on the ground in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is currently the same temperature as Pluto.

   - Dave Barry, from "How to campaign on a faraway planet" in the January 27th Miami Herald.

Between Dave Barry and Jon Stewart's Daily Show, I may be getting more honest and concise coverage than I'm getting from the New York Times

The Dean Balloon Deflates
DeanTag.jpgHoward Dean is shaking up his campaign staff, and campaign manager Joe Trippi is a goner. The AP reports that former Gore aide Roy Neel is coming on as campaign chief. Earlier, Dean told the AP's Nedra Pickler that he was considering revamping his staff, but "I'm not asking anybody to leave. There may be some additions, but nobody is leaving, at least I hope they're not leaving."

   - from Trippi's out at Salon.com

Gee, wasn't it only a couple of months ago that Joe Trippi was being held up as some sort of genius, someone who'd tapped into the power of the Internet with the internet-organized Dean Meet-ups and the blogs, someone who'd changed the face of campaigning forever?

More and more, Dean's run is looking like a front-loaded, free-spending, oversold attempt to build up "mindshare" (as the marketing weenies used to call it) and use that momentum as its road to success. But enthusiasm and all that money (I've heard reports the Dean campaign has blown through most of all that money it raised (Dean's Money Advantage Dwindles, from the Washington Post) couldn't substitute for old-fashioned organizational skills.

Sounds familiar to me: Is this the Internet Bubble of political campaigns?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Glengarry Glen Bush
Oh look, David Mamet is writing George Bush's dialogue, minus the random "fucks". Taken directly from the White House website, complete and unaltered:

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool

Nothin' Fancy Cafe

Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q: Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q: What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q: Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

140_chimp.jpgTHE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q: Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q: But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q: Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q: What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q: An answer.

Q: Can we buy some questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q: Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.

END 11:29 A.M. MST


Friday, January 23, 2004

Paul Krugman on Democracy at Risk
Well, speak of the devil. In today's New York Times, the always reliable Paul Krugman weighs in on the unreliabilities and dangers of the current practice of electronic voting. Hopefully, people will pay attention.

Democracy at Risk.

Electronic voting is not just a bad technology it's a threat to the republic.
By Paul Krugman.

The disputed election of 2000 left a lasting scar on the nation's psyche. A recent Zogby poll found that even in red states, which voted for George W. Bush, 32 percent of the public believes that the election was stolen. In blue states, the fraction is 44 percent.

Now imagine this: in November the candidate trailing in the polls wins an upset victory — but all of the districts where he does much better than expected use touch-screen voting machines. Meanwhile, leaked internal e-mail from the companies that make these machines suggests widespread error, and possibly fraud. What would this do to the nation?

Unfortunately, this story is completely plausible. (In fact, you can tell a similar story about some of the results in the 2002 midterm elections, especially in Georgia.) Fortune magazine rightly declared paperless voting the worst technology of 2003, but it's not just a bad technology — it's a threat to the republic.

(Read the rest here.)

Source: [New York Times: Opinion]

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Democrats Abroad Japan
Got a note from a former coworker the other day, which I was why I've been paying more attention to American politics recently:

I wanted to give you info on the Democratic Primary Caucus that will be held here in Tokyo on Feb 8th and is open to all US citizens to vote for Democratic candidate for President. The DNC recognizes 3 delegates at their convention from Japan, they are considered international delegates that are added to all of the other delegates from the states for the convention in Boston in 2004 for Democratic presidential selection...

The detailed info on the event is below.

The Democrats Abroad Japan Caucus will be held from 2-6 pm on Sunday, February 8th, in the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, which is in the Yurakucho Denki Building, right across from JR Yurakucho station.You can find a map to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan here:

I'm probably going. I think I'm registered to vote in (and am supposed to receive an absentee ballot from) Alameda County, California, but I haven't had a chance to confirm it: therefore, if I want to be sure I'm having some voice in selecting the Democratic challenger to Bush.

My former co-worker also forwarded a note today from another Democratic Party activist:

We will be having a conference call with Representative Dennis Kucinich on Friday, January 23rd at 10pm at my house near Omotesando Crossing. Anyone interested in attending please call me at 090-1704-7400. - Brent.

I'm probably NOT going to that event--I don't think Kucinich is, shall we say, ready for prime time--but if I did I might ask Kucinich why he has such a bug up his butt about NAFTA.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Iowa Caucus, in a Nutshell
For those non-Americans stuck trying to understand or explain the Iowa
Democratic Caucus system, Wolf Blitzer of CNN offers a mercifully brief
explanation of the mechanics.


A New View of Democratic Primary Process
Hey, I think I've found a reporter who I can trust to give me a new and informative angle on the Democratic primary process.

It's Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, now on the campaign trail.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!
Courtesy of Roger Karraker's Hellsheet
(Hellsheet n., colloq. journ.: 1. a critique of a newspaper
written to improve it. 2. by extension, any constructive criticism. 3. A
weblog by journalists, dedicated to improving the New York Times.

Over at PressThink, one of the best analyses of journalism around, Jay Rosen really exposes the fatuity of "inside baseball" stories by the NYT's Adam Nagourney. PressThink: Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!

But it's really about much more than just Nagourney. It's about the lack of creative thinking by reporters as a group, who rely on easy cliches in lieu of real thinking. It's a long piece and there are more than a dozen comments from some other top-flight journalists. It's well worth your time.

I read it, and it's fascinating not just for the political journalism angle, but also because Rosen provides a history of the thinking and origins behind baseball maven Bill James's coining of the term "inside baseball" itself, and how it relates to political coverage.

It also seems to me that one big reason for horse-race stories is that they're dynamic, providing fresh meat daily (or at least plenty of leftovers for stew). And much as I despise horse-race coverage, especially of the opposition-says-black-candidate-says-white stenography type, I have to wonder what could replace it.

After all, after first few stories about specific issues and the candidates' positions on them, what can be said? "Candidate X still supports universal health and warm fuzzy kittens". Fine, and by the way, Francisco Franco is still dead. And if reporters just focus on "the issues," there's the risk, I suppose, that reporters would be reduced merely rewriting candidate press releases.

So what kind of non-horse-race, non-press-release-by-candidate stories are there out there? Well-written, interesting, and informative ones, not thumbsuckers or good-for-you-like spinach wonkfests?

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Richard Perle, neo-con frootbat
Came across a blogger calling himself Calpundit (love that name!) who's just finished reading Charlie Wilson's War...

a terrific book about the covert CIA war against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s that I'll have more to say about later. For now, though, I just want to share an excerpt from the book that's both timely and enlightening.

First some background. Richard Perle is one of the most hawkish neocons around, part of the group that seemed to think that we could waltz into Iraq, be greeted as liberators, and then turn the whole thing over to their favorite exiles within a few months.

It's a crazy idea on its face, and it makes you wonder what kind of people could believe something so transparently out of touch with reality. Well, here's a hint: they believe stuff like this because they are out of touch with reality.

You'll have to read it for yourself here.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

Leave Every Child Behind
Sadly appropriate commentary on the people who run the American govvernment, courtesy of Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com:

There's been a remarkable flow of emperor's-new-clothes-type snapshots of the Bush administration from Ron Suskind's book based on former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's White House recollections. Of all of them, one strikes me as especially outrageous -- more so than the charge that Bush entered office intending to oust Saddam (we pretty much knew that already, didn't we?): Dick Cheney's dismissal of O'Neill's concern over his administration's surplus-squandering, budget-busting, deficit-ballooning, generation-betraying tax cuts.

When O'Neill raised the issue after the 2002 elections, the book says, Cheney told him, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due."

Reagan proved deficits don't matter. Matter how, exactly? Reagan proved that you can win re-election despite running up huge deficits -- and I suppose what Cheney is saying here is that that is all that matters to him. We can run a huge deficit and still win re-election, so who cares?

That makes a certain hardball sense. But a little voice in the back of our heads nags us with other pieces of history: like the fact that Reagan eventually came to see that bankrupting the government was not a good idea, and both he and his successor -- our current president's father -- agreed to tax increases that laid the foundation for the booming, job-creating, surplus-endowing economy of the '90s.

And then there is the little matter of the impact of deficits beyond the election. I suppose I should not be surprised that our most boardroom-brained, most corporate presidential administration should specialize in the sort of short-term thinking that has plagued so many American businesses. But sooner or later the national debt will come home to roost, engulfing us in runaway inflation, painful tax increases, decimation of services or some miserable combination of these calamities. If the late '90s was an era of ostrich-like wishful thinking on the part of stock-market speculators who couldn't imagine the good times ever ending, Bush, Cheney and company are recapitulating the same mentality today -- except, instead of playing fast and loose with investors' money, they're doing it with the entire U.S. economy.

Deficits don't matter. Up to a point, sure. But by any measure, we are way past that point. "We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations," Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address. But his economic policy could fairly be called "leave every child behind."

That's the awful, eerie poignance of "Child's Play," the winning entrant in MoveOn's "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest. May every American voter watch it, and weep.

[Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

CIA-gate Compare and Contrast Exercise
Number of days between [Robert] Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.

Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.

Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical
goons ... priceless.

   -- from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo


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