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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Me. Starbucks and Puerto Rican bakeries

A typical Starbucks customer

I don't much like Starbucks, mainly because I think their coffee is burnt, and this:

What is that? A coffee egg cream? A shake with coffee? What exactly is this monstrosity of calories and sugar?

I never got the appeal of their calorie and wallet busting coffee. The only time I can tolerate their noxious brew is in Barnes and Nobles. Otherwise, they just make the most unpleasant brew around. When it's not burnt, it's ladened with sugar and it just doesn't match even te crappy coffee available throughout New York.

Before I get to that, I will say that I love Krispy Kreme coffee. I think it is everything Starbucks isn't. I just love a cup of the stuff with their donuts. Hot KK donuts are a gift from God and the cold ones aren't bad either.

Now, if they redesigned the flag of New York city, there would have to be a blue paper coffee cup with the Acropolis on it. It is a ubiquitous symbol of New York. Now the brew in this cup can range from ugh to sublime. My candidate for sublime is Puerto Rican coffee. Cafe Bustelo is common in these parts, and it's usually served con leche, which is steamed milk. The one thing which I hate, but which is common, is that they load sugar into it. A regular cup of coffee is a couple of ounces of milk and two heaping teaspoons of sugar. I usually don't keep coffee around the house, I usually drink tea. So when I buy coffee, I have to make sure that they don't put sugar in it or I can't drink it.

Puerto Rican coffee is unlike other coffee in that it's sort of espresso like, but usually served in a regular eight ounce cup, It's thick and a warming brew in winter, not the kind of thing you'd serve over ice in summer. It's the kind of thing, which if you know about, don't pass up.

Now, there's all kind of coffee in New York. My favorite from the past is Chock Full 'O Nuts. I used to get a cup and one of their donuts before class. It was a great cup of coffee an interesting chain, their signature dish was a raisin bread and cream cheese sandwich. Not that I liked cream cheese, but even my mother at them in high school. She really liked the Automat, but that's a tale for another day.

It's also a fraction of the price of Starbuck's brew. The green and white witch is all over the place, but her stores are better than her products. You can loiter in her stores, unlike a Puerto Rican bakery. But they do have the best coffee on the planet, so you need to pick another place to loiiter.

Starbucks does serve a need, which is it allows you to go someplace, with someone, and not have to be in a bar. It's a good place to talk, be asked really hard questions and use your laptop. But the coffee...well, no, it's not that good. In fact, it's kind of insipid.

posted by Steve @ 4:44:00 PM

4:44:00 PM

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Sorry Mr. Bush: Iraq worse off, says GAO. Do they hate America, too?

What electricity problem? Isn't Iraq better off without Saddam?

Iraq is worse off than before the war began, GAO reports

By Seth Borenstein

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - In a few key areas - electricity, the judicial system and overall security - the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released Tuesday.

The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. Among its findings:

-In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.

-Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with another $10 billion about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.

-The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.

-The new Iraqi civil defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.

-The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.

The report was released on the same day that the CPA's inspector general issued three reports that highlighted serious management difficulties at the CPA. The reports found that the CPA wasted millions of dollars at a Hilton resort hotel in Kuwait because it didn't have guidelines for who could stay there, lost track of how many employees it had in Iraq and didn't track reconstruction projects funded by international donors to ensure they didn't duplicate U.S. projects.

Both the GAO report and the CPA report said that the CPA was seriously understaffed for the gargantuan task of rebuilding Iraq. The GAO report suggested the agency needed three times more employees than what it had. The CPA report said the agency believed it had 1,196 employees, when it was authorized to have 2,117. But the inspector general said CPA's records were so disorganized that it couldn't verify its actual number of employees.

GAO Comptroller General David Walker blamed insurgent attacks for many of the problems in Iraq. "The unstable security environment has served to slow down our rebuilding and reconstruction efforts and it's going to be of critical importance to provide more stable security," Walker told Knight Ridder Newspapers in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"There are a number of significant questions that need to be asked and answered dealing with the transition (to self-sovereignty)," Walker said. "A lot has been accomplished and a lot remains to be done."

The GAO report is the first government assessment of conditions in Iraq at the end of the U.S. occupation. It outlined what it called "key challenges that will affect the political transition" in 10 specific areas.

The GAO gave a draft of the report to several different government agencies, but only the CPA offered a major comment: It said the report "was not sufficiently critical of the judicial reconstruction effort."

"The picture it paints of the facts on the ground is one that neither the CPA nor the Bush administration should be all that proud of," said Peter W. Singer, a national security scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution. "It finds a lot of problems and raises a lot of questions."

One of the biggest problems, Singer said, is that while money has been pledged and allocated, not much has been spent. The GAO report shows that very little of the promised international funds - most of which are in loans - has been spent or can't be tracked. The CPA's inspector general found the same thing.

"When we ask why are things not going the way we hoped for," Singer said, "the answer in part of this is that we haven't actually spent what we have in pocket."

He said the figures on electricity "make me want to cry."

But they're free, right? Free to sit in the dark, free to be raped, shot, and robbed from gangs and free to be shot by American soldiers and their Iraqi auxilliaries. Freedom's just another word for no public services, a CIA puppet proto-dictator, and an American ambassador who had no problems with the rape and murder of nuns. Where do I get my ticket to Baghdad. It sounds like paradise to me.

posted by Steve @ 3:35:00 PM

3:35:00 PM

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Jesus or else

Amy Sullivan: We need to bow before God to win

Preach It, Brother
Why did Kerry stop talking about faith?
by Amy Sullivan, Contributing Editor

The Democrats have a religion problem. You know it, I know it, and David Brooks knows it. According to a recent Time magazine poll, only 7 percent of Americans think that John Kerry is a "religious" man – this, in a country in which 70 percent of voters say that they want their president to be a "man of faith."

As we all know, the first step toward recovering is recognizing that you have a problem. And while there is plenty of time to change course, too many national Democrats still run the other way when the topic of religion comes up, instead of dealing with it directly.

There are a number of reasons for this. But ultimately, none of them are good excuses.

To begin, many Democratic operatives still think of religion mostly as a constituency problem – that is, they want to know how many Catholic votes in the Rust Belt they can "get" by employing a certain strategy, how many endorsements they can get from religious leaders, and have yet to be convinced that religious Americans are "their" voters. One immediate problem with this mindset is that faith leaders are under special restrictions – whether legal or self-imposed – that don't similarly bind the leaders of other constituencies. Although many would argue that recent statements by Catholic leaders regarding pro-choice politicians amount to endorsements of Republicans, strictly speaking a Catholic priest cannot endorse a candidate. Ministers may come out in support of a particular candidate in their role as individual citizens, but only if they have the support of their congregations – if a pastor appears to be leveraging his position for political influence, he can very quickly find himself in hot water with parishioners. All this is to say that assembling a "who's who" list of religious leaders that support Democratic candidates is a bit harder than finding key labor or African-American or environmental group leaders to give their endorsement.

In addition, this attitude treats religion as a purely functional tool, boiling it down to, "If we do X, we will get Y million religious votes." And that's not how it works. Millions of Americans look to the faith of their political candidates as a proxy for a general moral worldview. Many voters understand that it is possible to be a good and moral person without necessarily having religious faith. But in the midst of a campaign, it can be hard to get a good sense of what moral compass a candidate has. A moderate Democratic congressman from the South who represents a district with a large military base told me that in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, many of his constituents wanted to know that he was a man of faith because he was casting a vote about whether to send their sons and husbands and daughters off to put their lives in danger. Those voters wanted to know whether he believed in souls because they were very personally grappling with the consequences of war.

As David Brooks put it in a recent column, for many Americans, "Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim." A candidate doesn't have to hit people over the head with "Jesus talk" to do this. He doesn't have to use exclusive language and he doesn't have to parade his piety. What he can do is frame his message in moral terms. Even better, Kerry already did this early in his campaign as the presumptive nominee, drawing a clear distinction between those who talk the talk (an indirect but pointed jab at Bush) and those who walk the walk. Yet that kind of language has all but disappeared from his speeches.

Another reason Democrats avoid the topic of religion is that they believe it will offend what they see as their secular base. Here's what they should know: There are two groups of people who want to think that there is a secular hold on the Democratic Party – secularists and conservatives. The truth, however, is that while the power of secularists in the Democratic ranks is legendary, it is just that – a legend. While Democratic political offices are staffed by a higher percentage of secularists than can be found among the general population, they are not representative of the party as a whole.

In his column, Brooks cites a study that has become a favorite of conservatives (who cite it constantly) because it appears to indict Democrats as overrun by secularists and as generally intolerant of religion. The problem with this conclusion is that it overlooks a major flaw in the analysis done by Baruch College professors Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio. They identified secularists within the ranks of Democratic convention delegates by looking at attitudes about fundamentalists. Anyone who held negative feelings about religious fundamentalists (I believe the Christian Coalition is specifically named) was considered to be a secularist. I don't know about you, but I know plenty of people -- and plenty of religious Republicans, for that matter -- who don't think terribly kindly of fundamentalists but who would never ever identify themselves as secularists.

David Brooks, and by extension, Amy Sullivan are dead wrong.

A lot of people, as Ron Reagan distinctly noted, are really uncomfortable when politicians use religion. I, personally, could care less if John Kerry practiced Santeria. It just doesn't matter in this country, nor should it.

Sullivan likes whipping her Bible around and I think her take on this this is dead wrong. Religion is a part of someone's life, not it's entire being. I know a LOT of religious people and they don't limit their opinions to God and worship.

Frankly, I think her whole take on "secularists" is way off base and deeply offensive. There are people who plkace their religion in their public lives, and there are many, many people like myself, who keep our religous beliefs private and as much out of our politics as possible. Just because you don't say Jesus every three minutes, which is pretty obnoxious in and of itself, doesn't mean you don't believe in God. In fact, Sullivan is practicing a rather nasty form of religious bigotry. If you aren't open about your religous beliefs, then you are a "secularist". Religion should be like sex, a private matter.

I don't know what kind of research skills Sullivan has, but I don't think it would be hard to find a bunch of pro-Kerry ministers and other church officials. The GOP has no problem with this.

What frightens me about Sullivan's screed is that she ignores the divisive and bigotted way George Bush has used religion. While he's not too big on church, he's really big on throwing religion in people's faces and using it to hide from his alcoholism. Meanwhile, John Kerry has been a mass-attending Catholic his entire life. Does he throw that fact in people's faces? No. It's not anyone's business, unless they ask. Bush uses religion as a weapon aganist his enemies, as a way to judge them.

What Sullivan is calling for is the grossest kind of pandering and a rank appeal to people on their religion alone. Which is dead wrong. She keeps quoting the rather brain dead and innaccurate David Brooks to make her point. Brooks is one of those elitist snobs who marvel that people actually shop at Target and eat at Outback after buying a Weber grill. I wouldn't rely on his observations of sunset.

The Democrats don't have a religion problem as much as Amy Sullivan refuses to respect religous views which are different and distinct than hers. Her appeal to religous bigotry should be placed in a wastepaper basket and ignored, kind of like a Jack Chick tract.

posted by Steve @ 1:37:00 PM

1:37:00 PM

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Slight of handover

Soldiers from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps future guerrilla force stand at attention during a June 1st transfer of authority ceremony. Previous training includes how to sneak away from Americans and hiding their faces with masks.

The New and Improved Iraq
By Juan Cole

The so-called transition to sovereignty for Iraq set for June 30 has been trumpeted as a turning point by the Bush administration. It is hard to see, however, what exactly it changes. A symbolic act like a turnover of sovereignty cannot supply security, which is likely to deteriorate further as insurgents attempt to destabilize the new, weak government. The caretaker government, appointed by outsiders, does not represent the will of the Iraqi people. Some 138,000 U.S. troops remain in the country and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad will be the largest in the world, both of which bode ill for any exercise of genuine sovereignty by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The caretaker government faces five key issues, any one of which could be destabilizing. It must jumpstart the creation of an Iraqi army that could hope to restore security. It must find a way to hold free and fair elections by next January, a difficult trick to pull off given the daily toll of bombings and assassinations. It must get hospitals, water treatment plants and other essential services back to acceptable levels. It must keep the country’s various factions from fighting one another or from pulling away in a separatist drive. And it must negotiate between religious and secularist political forces.

The issue of separatism already has arisen. The U.N. resolution that created the new government neglected to mention the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) or temporary constitution passed by the Interim Governing Council under American auspices in February. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of most of Iraq’s majority Shiite population, had warned U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan against endorsing that document. The TAL calls for a secular legal code and gives the minority Kurds a veto over the permanent constitution, to be hammered out by an elected parliament in spring of 2005. Sistani objects to the Kurds’ veto. The major Kurdish leaders, for their part, worry that the United Nations and the Bush administration might go back on the promises made to the Kurds of semi-autonomy and special minority rights. Some angrily threatened to secede from Iraq if that should happen. The creation of the caretaker government, which was supposed to help resolve problems of instability, instead has provoked a major crisis with one major Iraqi ethnic group.

Early last January a member of the U.S.-appointed Interim Governing Council (IGC) in Iraq, Mahmoud Osman, gave a revealing interview to Al-Hayat of London. He said that officials of the Bush administration in Iraq had been “extremely offended” when the IGC called for U.N. involvement in the transition to Iraqi sovereignty. The administration, he explained, did not want any international actor to participate in this process; rather it wanted to reap the benefits in order to increase President Bush’s political stock in the months leading up to the November election. He added: “The fundamental issue for Iraqis is the return of sovereignty. The Americans are in a hurry for it, as well, though for their own interests. The important thing for the Americans is to ensure the reelection of George Bush. The achievement of a specific accomplishment in Iraq, such as the transfer of power, increases, in the eyes of the Republican Party, the chances that Bush will be reelected.”

In the end, Sistani and other Iraqi politicians forced Bush to involve the United Nations and to seek a Security Council resolution. He also was forced to give away far more actual sovereignty to the caretaker government than he would have liked in order to get the U.N. resolution he had not originally wanted. In particular, the U.S. military must now consult with the Iraqi government before undertaking major military actions.

But is the turnover really much of an accomplishment? All that has happened is that the Bush administration worked with special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to appoint the four top officers of state and the cabinet ministers. This group of appointees will then be declared the sovereign government of Iraq.

Shorter Juan Cole: the whole thing is an election year scam.

posted by Steve @ 12:22:00 PM

12:22:00 PM

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Shut up or else

See what happens when you talk bad about Bush

As Americans, we have a right to question our government and its actions. However, while there is a time to criticize, there is also a time to follow in complacent silence. And that time is now.

It's one thing to question our leaders in the days leading up to a war. But it is another thing entirely to do it during the occupation of a country. Once the blood of young men starts to spill, it is our duty as citizens not to challenge those responsible for spilling that blood. We must remove the boxing gloves and put on the kid gloves. That is why, in this moment of crisis, I should not be allowed to say the following things about America:

Why do we purport to be fighting in the name of liberating the Iraqi people when we have no interest in violations of human rights—as evidenced by our habit of looking the other way when they occur in China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Syria, Burma, Libya, and countless other countries? Why, of all the brutal regimes that regularly violate human rights, do we only intervene militarily in Iraq? Because the violation of human rights is not our true interest here. We just say it is as a convenient means of manipulating world opinion and making our cause seem more just.

That is exactly the sort of thing I should not say right now.

This also is not the time to ask whether diplomacy was ever given a chance. Or why, for the last 10 years, Iraq has been our sworn archenemy, when during the 15 years preceding it we traded freely in armaments and military aircraft with the evil and despotic Saddam Hussein. This is the kind of question that, while utterly valid, should not be posed right now.

And I certainly will not point out our rapid loss of interest in the establishment of democracy in Afghanistan once our fighting in that country was over. We sure got out of that place in a hurry once it became clear that the problems were too complex to solve with cruise missiles.

That sort of remark will simply have to wait until our boys are safely back home.

posted by Steve @ 12:13:00 PM

12:13:00 PM

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Brazil vs Haiti: Be there

I had to come all the way to Haiti to see Brazil play. Oh well, it's not like you can get tickets to see them play Argentina

Brazil to play Haitians for peace

Brazil is bringing its own brand of peacekeeping to Haiti

The Brazilian national football team is to play a friendly match in Haiti in August at which tickets will be offered in exchange for guns.

Brazil is leading the UN force keeping the peace in Latin America's poorest state since a civil conflict there in February left some 200 people dead.

Superstars like Ronaldo may be playing and Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, may also be in town.

Brazilian troops who deployed this month handed out 1,000 free footballs.

The idea for a match to "alleviate tensions" was suggested by Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue in an interview in May with Brazilian journalists.

"A few Brazilian soccer stars could do more to disarm warring militias than thousands of peacekeeping troops," he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Shirt demand

Brazil's Sports Minister Agnelo Queiroz said a fixture was being arranged provisionally for 18 August.

The match could give Haiti a rare burst of positive publicity

"Ronaldo's ready to go," he said. "They [Brazil's top players] want to help in Haiti's peace process."

The president, popularly known as Lula, hoped to find time to attend the match, the minister added.

It's a great idea. That's the kind of game Haitians will come from Miami to see. Watching Brazil is always cool, but this is special, especially when Brazil will have to help upgrade the stadium. Maybe this will get Haiti back into international games at home. As it stands, FIFA bands official matches because the stadium is a dump.

posted by Steve @ 7:44:00 AM

7:44:00 AM

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The hidden draft

So when is he going to defect and try to kill me?

Army to recall former military members
Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Posted: 12:43 PM EDT (1643 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Army is preparing to notify about 5,600 retired and discharged soldiers who are not members of the National Guard or Reserve that they will be involuntarily recalled to active duty for possible service in Iraq or Afghanistan, Army officials said Tuesday.

It marks the first time the Army has called on the Individual Ready Reserve, as this category of reservists is known, in substantial numbers since the 1991 Gulf War.

The move reflects the continued shortage of troops available to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to fight the ongoing war on terrorism as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel, said earlier this month of the Army's troop strength, "We are stretched but we have what we need."

Pentagon officials have echoed that statement explaining that while the military is reaching deep into its resources, war planners have long had contingency plans such as this for when troops are really needed.

Several hundred members of the ready reserve have volunteered for active-duty service since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Those who are part of the involuntary call up are likely to be assigned to National Guard or Reserve units that have been mobilized for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army officials. An announcement is planned for Wednesday.

This is a desperate move. The next step is looking to drop enlistment standards and hike pay. Then, comes the draft. Defense Watch has the following article

What We Owe Our Soldiers

By Paul Connors

My last two articles for DefenseWatch have focused on the plight of involuntarily activated members of the Army’s portion of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The articles prompted numerous emails from both officers and enlisted members who have been recalled, as well as from friends and family members who want others to know what is going on. (See “Abuse of Army IRR Raises Ire Nationwide,” June 2, 2004, and “Army Shift in IRR Victimizes Soldiers,” May 27, 2004).

After reading the emails I received, I have grown progressively more pessimistic about the ability of the U.S. Army to redress the personnel shortfalls it faces. To restate a view I have expressed before, I have strong doubts that the Army even possesses the slightest scintilla of interest in correcting its personnel problems. The ongoing abuse of members of the USAR, the ARNG and the IRR offers solid evidence that force planners are clueless when it comes to solving the problems caused by the over-extension of both individual troops and the units to which they are assigned.

As DefenseWatch readers are aware, we have covered the gamut of active-duty personnel and equipment shortages, poor planning and execution of reserve and Guard unit call-ups, armament and vehicle inadequacies, ammunition shortages, abuse of prisoners, fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars in theater and in-transit, poor leadership and the perennial (and never ending) game of point the finger. While the rest of the mainstream news media must be foaming at the mouth as they wait for the next scandal to befall the coalition, they have also forgotten that more than 135,000 American GIs are in Iraq, confronted by a less than welcoming populace, but doing the jobs we have asked them to do.

I spent time this past weekend thinking of all the things I take for granted that the guys and gals in desert cammies can’t take advantage of while they try to get through their tours in Indian country. I like to think of them as the “freedoms” they have temporarily lost while preserving mine. Here’s my short list of what they can’t do while in Iraq:

  • * Can’t go down to the local watering hole for a beer.

    * Can’t go on dates with their girlfriends/boyfriends.

    * Can’t hold/hug/kiss their wives, sweethearts, children, parents and other relatives.

    * Can’t put on comfortable civilian clothes to take a walk outside or down the street.

    * Can’t jump in their car/truck/SUV to go to the mall/supermarket/movie.

    * Can’t have a pizza delivered.

    * Can’t go anywhere without having to wear a flak vest and kevlar helmet and carrying a weapon.

    * Can’t take a walk alone for fear of being sniped at, shot, stabbed, kidnapped or blown up by a bunch of psychopathic crazies who really believe it is their goal in life to destroy all that America stands for.

    * Can’t get a break from the likes of Dan Rather, Katie Couric, Leslie Stahl, Tom Brokaw and other left-leaning newcasters who believe that by denigrating the troops in the field that they can unmake an administration they disagree with.

    * Can’t get a fair deal from the government they faithfully support through their actions, courage, commitment, fidelity and trust.

    While I’ve spent a great deal of time writing about the sacrifices made by recalled members of the reserve components who leave behind civilian careers, families, college studies and other intangibles, I do not want anyone to walk away with the impression that I am not aware of the sacrifices made by members of the regular components of our armed forces as well. No one here at DefenseWatch forgets for a moment that the “regulars” are the now and forever defenders of our freedoms and sovereignty.

    When I speak of our “citizen soldiers,” I have grouped them all together in that wonderful polyglot of people who have always stepped forward when the United States has needed its “best and brightest.”

    As a “citizen-observer” of the events surrounding our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever conflicts confront U.S. interests, what I find difficult to accept is the sheer indifference to the real needs of the troops at the cutting edge of the spear by many military leaders back at home who are responsible for providing that support.

    While some, including politicians, might think a withdrawal from Iraq would spare us the nightly reports of another five dead GIs, such an action will do little (if anything) to resolve the underlying and fundamental flaws in our current military structure. What is painfully obvious, but denied by those in power, is that U.S. armed forces are spread far too thin and are being asked to do far too much with too few real resources.

    Have we made mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan? You bet! Are the mistakes irrevocable? No. Why not, you ask? Because we are Americans and because when we decide to solve a problem or set of problems, there is little short of a major natural disaster that will stop us. Yet, every once in a while, there are obstacles placed in the path of human progress that slow us down.

    This is deulsional. We cannot solve the world's problems, much less Iraq's. Americans can and will fail when in a hostile environment. Iraq is doomed because the people are more than willing to watch Americans die and protect the resistance, even at the cost of their own lives. It is time to leave Iraq before we make things worse. No amount of will can change that.

    Lately, those obstacles have come from two quarters: the first is the constant carping of a mainstream press that can find no good in the effort, time, talent and treasure that the United States has expended toppling Saddam Hussein and his homicidal regime. The second major obstacle is the civilian staff of the Department of Defense and its willful refusal to accede to requests for an increase in end-strength for the U.S. Army.

  • While he's right we do owe our soldiers a lot, if he thinks the media is left wing, he hasn't read one piece about US troops stealing from Iraqis, drinking on duty or allegations of non-prison sexual abuse and prostitution. You won't see that in the US media. Unless you go to the movies. He's denying the central fact, that this war is folly and cannot be won. There's no media bias against the troops, none. In fact, their war isn't seen at all on American TV. We have not been honest about why so many Iraqis hate us until it stared us in the face and many people wanted to deny it even then.

    There IS no good in Iraq. We have made their lives worse by a measurable degree. getting rid of Saddam eliminated state terror and replaced it with private, freelance terror. This, to most Iraqis, is nightmarish. The media isn't even showing what we've done there. Not in the slightest.

    Our Army is in trouble and that's not a problem created at CNN.

    posted by Steve @ 1:27:00 AM

    1:27:00 AM

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    Yankee fans to Cheney: go fuck yourself


    Booed his ass like he cost them a series game

    Cheney just got booed at the Yankees game

    (I was thinking of retitling this: "Yankee fans tell Cheney 'go fuck yourself.'")

    I just got a live phone-in from the Yankees vs. Boston game in NYC taking place right now. Dick Cheney just got booed by the crowd!

    Even as my friend Michael called me from his seats at the game, God Bless America was still playing in the background. During the 7th inning stretch at Yankees Stadium, they play God Bless America and show on the big screen pictures of anyone famous who's in the audience that night. Dick Cheney is apparently in the audience, and as soon as his face went up, the entire crowd started booing! As my friend Michael tells it, this is the blue-collar Bronx we're talking about, and Cheney is still getting booed - not a good sign for the Bush-Cheney ticket. As soon as the camera guys realized Cheney was getting booed, they quickly switched the picture on the screen to someone else.

    Michael's read of the situation, as a die-hard Yankees fan: The election is over.

    (ESPN just confirmed the story (thanks to Buzzflash for finding this):
    Cheney, who visited both clubhouses after batting practice, watched part of the game from the box of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and part from a first-row seat next to the Yankees dugout, where he sat between New York Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Cheney was booed when he was shown on the right-field videoboard during the seventh-inning

    Ah, a preliminary to the convention no doubt. I don't think Cheney was under any illusions his ass was popular in the fucking Bronx.

    My friend Dave is a lifelong Yankee fan and wouldn't miss a Red Sox-Yankees game unless his job and or life depended on it. And the job, not so much. So, I have an eyewitness to tonight's fiasco:

    steve: You go to the game tonight?

    Dave: 1918
    (This refering to the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. Not being a Yankees fan, this merely amuses me considering how the Mets beat them in 1986)

    steve: Well, that may be true, the fate of the Red Sox concerns me not. But they booed the shit out of Cheney, from what I heard

    Dave: yeah, big-time

    steve: So what happened? I am amused

    Dave: they showed him during the seventh-inning stretch, and they might as well have showed Pedro

    steve: I'm going to run this on the blog.

    Dave: it was definitely spirited

    Dave: they took him off after about three seconds because of how loud the booing was

    While the Yankees may suck, I truly enjoy the idea of Cheney being booed like, oh, Giuliani and all politicians are, at Yankee games. I don't think he has the balls to go to Shea or that new Stadium in Philly, where they like to fight for fun. At least they didn't chant go fuck yourself, which is likely at Shea.

    Now, normally, the only Yankee fan pictures I'd like to see are the one where they cry in defeat to either the Red Sox in the AL Championship or the Mets in the World Series. But I'll make an exception here and say, even though they root for the wrong team, they aquitted themselves well. I think Michael Moore is going to be a very rich man at the end of this summer.

    posted by Steve @ 12:04:00 AM

    12:04:00 AM

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    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    Comrade Hitchens, your Order of Lenin is waiting.....

    He makes Kim Philby look honorable, sober and a patriot

    Christopher Hitchens collects check from Microsoft, calls Moore a coward.

    By Matt Taibbi

    To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental... Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

    —Christopher Hitchens,, on Michael Moore

    Well, that's rich, isn't it? Christopher Hitchens crawling out of a bottle long enough to denounce Michael Moore as a coward. I can't imagine anything more uplifting, except maybe a zoo baboon humping the foot of a medical school cadaver.

    All journalists are cowards. Hitchens knows it, I know it, everybody in this business knows it. If there were any justice at all, every last goddamn one of us would be lowered, head-first, into a wood-chipper. Over Arizona. Shoot a nice red mist over the whole state, make it arable for a year or two. A year's worth of fava beans and endive for the children of Bangladesh: I dare anyone in our business to say that that wouldn't represent a better use of our rotting bodies than the actual fruits of our labor.

    No one among us is going to throw that first stone, though. Not even Chris Hitchens, a man who makes a neat living completing advanced Highlights for Children exercises like the following: "Denounce a like-minded colleague, using the words 'Lugubrious' and 'Semienvious.'" Such is the pretense of modern journalism, that we are to be lectured on courage by a man who has had his intellectual face lifted so many times, he can't close his eyes without opening his mouth. By a man who, if the Soviets had won the Cold War, would be writing breathless features on Eduard Shevardnadze for three bucks a word in Komsomolskaya Vanity Fair ("Georgia on His Mind: Edik Speaks Out." Photos by Annie Liebowitz...).

    Which is fine, good luck to him, mazel tov. Everybody's got to make a living. But let's not leave people confused out there. The idea that anyone in today's media is either courageous or cowardly on the basis of what they write or broadcast is ridiculous.

    Hitchens is a pathetic old drunk. Why isn't his ass in Iraq covering the war? He is a journalist, even if needs rehab as badly as George Bush. If I remember correctly, Michael Moore makes films. Hitchens, between boozeups, insults people he used to agree with. It's a good thing he didn't become a spy for MI-6, or he'd be cooling his heels in Moscow by now.

    Is it some desperate need to be a sad contrarian, reject the support of his friends, or just be on what he thinks is the winning side? Well, if those are his instincts, he's going to hate the next four years.

    posted by Steve @ 9:21:00 PM

    9:21:00 PM

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    Working together

    So, Mr. Nader, I see you don't believe in fun either

    I was reading Joe Trippi's new book( which I will review in detail either tonight or tomorrow)The Revolution Will Not Be Televised when I realized something. Trippi's rep is of a hard as nails consultant, but the tone of the book struck me: he's an optimist. Instead of playing to people's fears, he's talking about a different kind of democracy, one where the Internet provides a real connection between people. And while I think some of his conclusions are a bit much, his tone is clearly upbeat, like a missionary who'd seen the promised land.

    And then, I realized why Nader, and to a lesser extent, the Greens, have failed so miserably. This isn't about bashing Nader, per se, athough I can do that any time of the day, it's about how his politics have failed to move people

    Every word out of their mouth is about a problem or how we're being screwed. How corporations are evil and want to control the world. It's a pretty grisly and depressing picture. It makes people hopeless and docile. Waiting for a leader to save them. Instead of a cooperative vision of the world, I realized that Nader is quite the opposite. He wants to tell people what is wrong and then force his solutions on everyone. This is not the kind of politics which people will invest their time and effort in. It is politics by remote control, and exactly the opposite of what Trippi and Dean, and now to some extend, Kerry has endorsed.

    Think about this: for the last 40 years, Nader has had the pick of the best and brightest. How many wind up embittered and angry after their time with him? How many had their marriages ruined? What was the human wreckage created by a man who respected few boundaries and viciously attacks anyone who opposes him or even have different ideas.

    Nader is an elitist and has moved the left far awway from the goals of social justice he is so clearly dismissive of. Instead, he basically hijacked the left after Vietnam and focused on making middle class life more comfortable. Safer cars, attacking fast food. All the while remaining mute about real social injustice. The Greens, by looking for visibility, also skirted these issues or never understood why their fear-based campaigning failed for the most part. The Greens can stand for positive social change, but it has to be cast as a positive change. Conservatives have gained the most mileage when they presented a positive view of their plans for the world. Liberals and progressives need to do the same. They need to stress positive changes, not this doom and gloom which is counterintuative to millions of people.

    It may sound fun to call Microsoft evil, but the reality is that Microsoft deserves a great deal of credit for making computers affordable. Without DOS and Windows, we would all be beholden to Apple and whatever they churned out. Microsoft created diversity, a diversity which Linux followed. There would be no internet, no blogs and no jobs if the world relied on Apple to lead the way. That doesn't mean MS isn't a monopolist or doesn't have too much power, but you need a balanced view. Whereas the family friendly face of Nike covers a world wide network slave labor sweatshops.

    You cannot truly reach people with fear, and have them stay with you for long. People to embrace positive change, to believe that they're not perpetually on the defensive. People need to believe in more than holding back the tide. The left has indulged Nader's cramped, negative wortld view for 40 years, even as the right was painting their reckless changes as nirvana. All the left could do was act as scolds and nannies and when that failed, they retreated.

    Trippi makes an excellent point, which is that you can win when you empower people. That we don't need Naders to tell us what to believe and place a blind trust in him to solve our problems. That millions of people, acting collectively, can bring about change. They don't have to be powerful or wealthy alone, their combined efforts. One of the things which impressed me was the Dean Corps. People who met while working on the campaign, but then took that activism and turned it into direct public service, like cleaning parks and helping charities. The Nader view of the world sounds great, but it doesn't move people to act. Trippi's participatory democracy enabled by the internet has a great deal of potential to invigorate this country without relying on some aesthetic millionaire who plays the stock market, lies about most of his life and treats people badly. We can, if you believe Trippi, and I do, make this happen on oue own, by collective action.

    It was about 10 AM on Omaha Beach. Most of the officers and NCO's were dead or wounded. The tanks were at the bottom of the channel. The detroyers were getting as close as possible, but they didn't have wheels. Bradley had to decide whether to send the next waves of troops to Utah and evacuate Omaha. But then, suddenly, small groups of men, often just teenaged privates, were moving off the beach. They didn't have leaders, but they had to get off the beach or die. So they found explosives, used them, called in naval gunfire, and beat the Germans. And they weren't the only ones. Paratroopers dropped into the Normandy countryside all screwed up. Battalions, regiments, even divisions were mixed up. Men from the 101st were fighting with strangers from the 82nd. People they'd never seen before, were trained differently than. But they were Americans, they had the same basic tactics and the only way to survive was to work together. All the interdivisional rivalry disappeared when everyone realized they had no choice but to cooperate. Even though they were teenagers, they knew they had to become a team.

    Americans can work together if they choose to. They don't need leaders, just a cause and a way to act. The problem is that for too long we've been looking for leaders, people to show us the way. Well, we know we don't need people to show us anything. We can save ourselves if we choose. The question is will we realize this?

    posted by Steve @ 7:33:00 PM

    7:33:00 PM

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    Time is not your friend

    You're not the man your father is, or your mother

    There isn't a day which goes by in which some comment laments John Kerry's campaign. And most of those comments are dead wrong. Bush is going to lose. He is going to lose badly.

    Not because of wishful thinking, not because I hold him in disdain. But because time and effort is not on his side. This race is close, now, but it won't be for long. Bush is poised on a cliff to go down, LBJ-like down, with only the economy as a possible buffer against disaster. No incumbent president since Truman and LBJ has faced this kind of war time dilemma and neither ran again. Bush's numbers are bad and getting worse. Bush, as an incumbent, should be above 50 percent, and he's not. Which the big red flag of campaigns and even the Bushies know it. They are desperate for the bleeding to stop in Iraq and it won't.

    I'm listening to Howard Stern read letters from active duty servicemen who are going to see Michael Moore's new movie and coming out with changed minds. Which is depressing, as seeing the victims of cons usually are. This is a very different enviroment than any election in our lifetimes. Not because the stakes are so high and they are, but because the way the election is being fought.

    In the past, the Democrats have had to deal with a sea of enemies, rich Republicans and their think tanks, low rent campaigning pioneered by Nixon, and brought to fruition by the late Lee Atwater and his acolyte Floyd Brown. But things have changed and for the better. Howard Dean, while not able to run an effective campaign internally, managed to harness the good will of millions of people, far beyond those who gave money to his campaign. The Kerry campaign, which pretty much blitzed their opponents from Iowa on, managed to get much of that good will and then ran with it. While there isn't the enthusiasm for Kerry as there was for Dean, there is still more than enough than for any Democratic candidate in a very long time. It took months for Clinton to become that popular and he was never that well funded. Kerry has beat all expected fundraising totals and is supported by a united Democratic party. The circular firing squad is limited to some Nader supporters who still refuse to see their cult hero for what he is, a tool of the GOP.

    But the difference between this and other elections is that the Kerry campaign is not the sole Democratic effort. You don't have to work for Kerry to dump Bush. There's Move On and a bunch of 527 organizations which have created a major distraction for the Bush campaign. The White House has to worry about more than Kerry and his fundraisng. They have a constant rotating set of targets, one day, it's Richard Clarke, the next, it's Michael Moore, then George Soros. None of these men are running for office. Yet, the Bush Administration and by extension, the campaign has to deal with people who are not running for office.

    Their entire ad campaign has failed to move the numbers, mainly because the ads suck. From the 9/11 ad, which was amazingly provocative, to the flip flop and defense ads, not only are they negative, they're wrong and overwrought. Bush totally misread how people, especially New Yorkers, would react to seeing a corpse carried out from Ground Zero. It was a tremendous mistake and deeply offensive. Some GOP 527 is ressurecting 9/11 shots, but even they will get the hint soon. The one thing, no one, no one, would have believed, even six months ago, is that 9/11 would be a disaster for Bush. It doesn't matter how much you blame Clinton, he isn't president any longer. Bush is and Bush will bear the brunt of the 9/11 Commission report. Anyone thinking anything different is delusional.

    The Bush camapign is as much a captive of events as anything. And the events are all bad. Abu Ghraib, the Plame scandal, losing in the Supreme Court, John Ashcroft repeatedly embarssing himself before the 9/11 commission and Congress. Nothingt has goine right vfor Bush for months. Even Reagan's funeral ended with him getting slammed by Ron Reagan, and open denunciations of plans to tie the Bush and Reagan legacies. Now, rumors are seeping through that Bush is cracking under the pressure. There has to be days when he wakes up and thinks the world hates him. But unlike Bill Clinton, who would have been self-pitying, it would largely be true. He cannot go to Europe without mobs hating him. Not just protesting him, but suggesting he needs a Dutch vacation next to Slobodan Milosevic.

    Some "progressives" like Tim Robbins, wonder why Kerry doesn't make some radical leftist statement, and cater to their needs. When Bush does the same to the fundies, people like Robbins get their drawers in a bunch. So why should Kerry risk alienating people who are looking for an excuse to embrace Bush. "Oh, he's too liberal", "he's going to waste our money", are typical excuses. Kerry needs to avoid giving them those excuses, Which is why he's not running against the war, but Bush's management of it. The Europeans are going to tell him no to troops, just like they told Bush. It's a parlimentary non-starter. In fact, expect withdrawals from Iraq, not additions. The fact is that next year, Kerry will have to withdraw from Iraq and leave a weakened government to solve its own problems. Because the choice is moving fast towards a draft or withdrawal and we'll run from Iraq before the sons of the middle class are forced to fight. Not that I think a draft would pass, or that advocating it wouldn't be political suicide, but the numbers are not looking good.

    Kerry deserves a lot more credit for running a smart campaign than anyone has given him. The trick is to get the chance to govern, not to be right and lose. Denouncing the war in Iraq may be morally right, but Bush would pervert that into some anti-America screed. So the best way to prevent that is to stay as close to Bush as possible and then hammer him on the management, not the reasons for the war. Now, I wish Kerry could hammer Bush on starting this aggressive, pointless war, but that isn't going to work. It will be far easier to follow the public than lead it. For now, Kerry's main goal has to be to not make mistakes. Why? Because Bush is making so many. A muted comment here and there and sticking to working the base is a smart strategy. Let Bush fritter his money, strength and effort on people not running for office. Instead of letting it leak that the White House has banned staffers from Fahrenheit 9/11, ask the man for a print to show in the White House. Say and do nothing to get more attention to the film and generally ignore it. You don't let your allies sue to get Kerry's sealed divorce records. You don't run stupid ads attacking George Soros. You don't demand his wife's tax records. You ignore him. Moore and Soros and even Move On are not the people you're running against. It's John Kerry. Every second spent debating people not running for anything is a gift to John Kerry.

    Why do they do this? Because Bush cannot take an insult. Anything insulting him is deemed a mortal offense. So he wastes time going after Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson and anyone who pops out the woodwork. People who cannot affect his election chances unless he lets them. So he flails about against all enemies, and ignores the things which will nail him. The two most dangerous people to Bush are nowhere near the Kerry Campaign, Michael Moore's warroom, George Soros's Open Society or Move On. They're John McCain and Lindsay Graham. No matter what they say, their quest for answers about Abu Ghraib pose the most danger to Bush and may well ruin him.

    People wonder why he ignored Al Qeada, well, Bush ignores all mortal threats to him. Al Qaeda, John Kerry, and when he does act, it's ineffective. Kerry's flanks are protected, Bush's are not and he doesn't even know it. Let someone get indicted in this White House, and it's back to the pig farm. Here's a question: has anyone who seen's Moore film liked Bush more? Of course Moore is disingenious, just because it's true doesn't mean it isn't propaganda. The problem for Bush is not that Moore is a skilled filmmaker, but that Bush looks so bad on tape. Which is the campaign's central problem, which is the best reason to not reelect Bush is Bush.

    posted by Steve @ 11:58:00 AM

    11:58:00 AM

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    Monday, June 28, 2004

    Nader: We want to punish the Dems

    What he used to be

    This article pretty much outlines Nader's strategy for the 2004 race. Anyone who supports his crusade after this is just too lazy to join the GOP.

    How this article slipped past the blogosphere is beyond me, but it did. Now, maybe people will notice.

    On Friday, October 13, 2000, at Madison Square Garden, the largest of Ralph Nader's "super rallies" kicked his campaign into high gear. It was a great event in many ways. Fifteen thousand ticket buyers cheered songs, jokes, skits, and pep talks delivering timeless radical truths about wealth and power in America. Nader's speech was actually the low point, circulating randomly through riffs about corporate power, health insurance, the environment, and what Ralph Nader had accomplished.

    But Nader also served up disturbing untruths. Most notable was his insistence that Al Gore and George W. Bush were "Tweedledee and Tweedledum"—they look and act the same, so it doesn't matter which you get. I went home angry. But it took me a while to understand that my progressive hero had turned suicide bomber—that Ralph Nader had strapped political dynamite onto himself and walked into one of the closest elections in American history hoping to blow it up.

    The next day I was invited to a fundraising party in Greenwich Village. There I approached Michael Moore and described how the campaign could use the Web to provide the latest data on battleground states like Florida, where Nader supporters should hold their noses and vote for Gore. When Moore realized what I was suggesting, he puffed up like one of those fish that expand when threatened, leaned into me, poked his finger into my face, and yelled: "You can't say that! You can't say that! You can't say that!"

    Later I was introduced to Nader's closest adviser, his handsome, piercingly intelligent 30-year-old nephew, Tarek Milleron. Although Milleron argued that environmentalists and other activists would find fundraising easier under Bush, he acknowledged that a Bush presidency would be worse for poor and working-class people, for blacks, for most Americans. As Moore had, he claimed that Nader's campaign would encourage Web-based vote-swapping between progressives in safe and contested states. But when I suggested that Nader could gain substantial influence in a Democratic administration by focusing his campaign on the 40 safe states and encouraging his supporters elsewhere to vote Gore, Milleron leaned coolly toward me with extra steel in his voice and body. He did not disagree. He simply said, "We're not going to do that."

    "Why not?" I said.

    With just a flicker of smile, he answered, "Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them."

    There was a long silence and the conversation was over.

    Milleron's words are so remarkable they bear repeating: Ralph Nader ran so he could hurt, wound, and punish the Democrats. His primary goal was not raising issues, much less building the Green Party. He actively wanted Gore to lose. Where did this passion to punish come from?

    In his admiring, balanced 2002 biography, Ralph Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, Justin Martin explains that early in his career, "Nader felt he could achieve anything" in Washington. He testified regularly before Congress and was seriously proposed as a Democratic candidate for Senate and even, under McGovern, vice president. He was so allied with the Democrats that in 1972 he rejected a New Party presidential run because, he explained, that might "help throw the election to Nixon." Nader had access to the Carter White House, where many of his former staffers worked, although his notorious nastiness and self-regard prevented him from fully capitalizing on it.

    After 1980, however, he was completely shut out by the right wing—and just as galling, the Democrats tried to ride out the conservative onslaught, challenging it only selectively and knuckling under on electability issues such as crime and energy policy. By 1992, Nader campaigned briefly in a Democratic primary, but during the Clinton years, says Martin, Nader was "a pariah even among the most liberal members" of Congress and was altogether shunned by the White House. By 1996, he'd had it with Democratic gutlessness. Running on the Green ticket against a Clinton who supported NAFTA and "welfare reform," he told Mother Jones, "I think his best nickname is George Ronald Clinton." Nevertheless, Nader did little campaigning. In 2000, after a slow start, he threw himself into the process. Clearly, this election was going to be extraordinarily close, and in a September 2000 interview, Nader discussed playing spoiler:

    Rolling Stone: "In 1996, you told the New York Times, 'If I really wanted to beat Clinton, I would get out, raise $3 or $4 million, and maybe provide the margin for his defeat. That's not the purpose of this candidacy.' Since you're planning to raise $5 million and run hard this year, does that mean you would not have a problem providing the margin of defeat for Gore?"

    Nader: "I would not—not at all."

    Martin reports that during the 2000 campaign, "no matter how hard he tried to be evenhanded in doling out criticism of Bush and Gore, Nader did show a bias"—against Gore. "It was clear to many," writes Martin, "that he truly despised Gore, while he was merely dismissive of Bush." Martin was especially struck by a Portland speech where Nader said that Gore was "more reprehensible" than Bush because Gore "knows so much and refuses to act on his knowledge."

    Gary Sellers has a simpler way of putting it. Although Nader was the best man at Sellers's wedding, the two are no longer close. After extensive discussions with his old boss in late 1999, Sellers created Nader's Raiders for Gore in 2000. He believes Nader hated Gore, he told me, because "Gore wouldn't return his phone calls."


    What does Nader want to do in the 2004 election? Does he again want to defeat the Democratic candidate by taking swing-state votes? "Absolutely," says Gary Sellers. This time the Greens will likely run David Cobb, who is committed to a safe-state strategy. Nader is not. So voters in Florida and other battlegrounds where the differences will again be razor-thin can expect to see a lot of him. The stampede of his prominent 2000 supporters means many of them know what their former hero has in mind. But there are always new suckers to con. In 2004, as in 2000, Nader's real campaign slogan is: "Vote for Ralph Nader. You too can punish, hurt, and wound the Democrats."

    Oh yeah, and now he's talking to Pat Buchanan:

    Ralph Nader: Conservatively Speaking

    The long-time progressive makes a pitch for the disenfranchised Right.

    Ralph Nader recently accepted Pat Buchanan’s invitation to sit down with us and explain why his third-party presidential bid ought to appeal to conservatives disaffected with George W. Bush. We think readers will be interested in the reflections of a man who has been a major figure in American public life for 40 years—and who now finds himself that rarest of birds, a conviction politician.

    Pat Buchanan: Let me start off with foreign policy—Iraq and the Middle East. You have seen the polls indicating widespread contempt for the United States abroad. Why do they hate us?

    Ralph Nader: First of all, we have been supporting despots, dictators, and oligarchs in all those states for a variety of purposes. We supported Saddam Hussein. He was our anti-Communist dictator until 1990. It’s also cultural; they see corporate culture as abandoning the restraints on personal behavior dictated by their religion and culture. Our corporate pornography and anything-goes values are profoundly offensive to them.

    The other thing is that we are supporting the Israeli military regime with billions of dollars and ignoring both the Israeli peace movement, which is very substantial, and the Palestinian peace movement. They see a nuclear-armed Israel that could wipe out the Middle East in a weekend if it wanted to.

    They think that we are on their backs, in their house, undermining their desire to overthrow their own tyrants.

    PB: Then you would say it is not only Bush who is at fault, but Clinton and Bush and Reagan, all the way back?

    RN: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until ’91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.

    PB: You used the term “congressional puppets.” Did John Kerry show himself to be a congressional puppet when he voted to give the president a blank check to go to war?

    RN: They’re almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.

    PB: Why do both sets of puppets, support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?

    RN: That is a good question because the peace movement is broad indeed. They just put 120,000 people in a square in Tel Aviv. They are composed of former government ministers, existing and former members of the Knesset, former generals, former combat veterans, former heads of internal security, people from all backgrounds. It is not any fringe movement.

    The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding. They don’t appear to agree with Tom Friedman, who wrote that memorable phrase, “Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”

    Virtually no member of Congress can say that, and so we come to this paradoxical conclusion that there is far more freedom in Israel to discuss this than there is in the United States, which is providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance.

    PB: Let me move on to Iraq. You were opposed to the war, and it now appears that it has become sort of a bloody stalemate. You said you would bring troops out of Iraq within six months. What if the country collapses and becomes a haven for terrorists? Would you send American troops back in to clean it up?

    RN: Under my proposal there would be an international peacekeeping force, and the withdrawal would be a smart withdrawal during which there are internationally supervised elections. We would have both military and corporate withdrawal because the Iraqi people see the corporations are beginning to take over their economy, including their oil resources. And we would continue humanitarian assistance until the Iraqi people get on their feet. We would bring to the forefront during the election autonomies for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites. So this would not be like a withdrawal in Vietnam where we just barely got out with the helicopters.

    TAC: You often mention corporations. What is the theory behind this or what are the alternatives to corporate economic power? I presume you are not talking about state ownership or socialism, or perhaps you are …

    RN: Well, that is what representative government is for, to counteract the excesses of the monied interests, as Thomas Jefferson said. Because big business realizes that the main countervailing force against their excesses and abuses is government, their goal has been to take over the government, and they do this with money and politics. They do it by putting their top officials at the Pentagon, Treasury, and Federal Reserve, and they do it by providing job opportunities to retiring members of Congress. They have law firms that draft legislation and think-tanks that provide ready-made speeches. They also do it by threatening to leave the country. The quickest way to bring a member of Congress to his or her knees is by shifting industries abroad.

    Concentrated corporate power violates many principles of capitalism. For example, under capitalism, owners control their property. Under multinational corporations, the shareholders don’t control their corporation. Under capitalism, if you can’t make the market respond, you sink. Under big business, you don’t go bankrupt; you go to Washington for a bailout. Under capitalism, there is supposed to be freedom of contract. When was the last time you negotiated a contract with banks or auto dealers? They are all fine-print contracts. The law of contracts has been wiped out for 99 percent of contracts that ordinary consumers sign on to. Capitalism is supposed to be based on law and order. Corporations get away with corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. And finally, capitalism is premised on a level playing field; the most meritorious is supposed to win. Tell that to a small inventor or a small business up against McDonald’s or a software programmer up against Microsoft.

    Giant multinational corporations have no allegiance to any country or community other than to control them or abandon them. So what we have now is the merger of big business and big government to further subsidize costs or eliminate risks or guarantee profits by our government.

    PB: Let’s move to immigration. We stop 1.5 million illegal aliens on our borders each year. One million still get through. There are currently 8-14 million illegal aliens in the United States. The president is mandated under the Constitution to defend the States against foreign invasion, and this certainly seems to constitute that.

    RN: As long as our foreign policy supports dictators and oligarchs, you are going to have desperate people moving north over the border.

    Part of the problem involves NAFTA. The flood of cheap corn into Mexico has dispossessed over a million Mexican farmers, and, with their families, they either go to the slums or, in their desperation, head north.

    In addition, I don’t think the United States should be in the business of brain-draining skilled talent, especially in the Third World, because we are importing in the best engineers, scientists, software people, doctors, entrepreneurs who should be in their countries, building their own countries. We are driving the talent to these shores—

    PB: How do we defend these shores?

    RN: I don’t believe in giving visas to software people from the Third World when we have got all kinds of unemployed software people here.

    Let’s get down to the manual labor. This is the reason the Wall Street Journal is for an open-borders policy: they want a cheap-wage policy. There are two ways to deal with that. One is to raise the minimum wage to the purchasing-power level of 1968—$8 an hour—and then, in another year, raise it to $10 an hour because the economy since 1968 has doubled in production per capita.

    Please continue to tell me how Nader is a progressive and how this isn't about his ego. Please.

    posted by Steve @ 8:06:00 PM

    8:06:00 PM

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    What the Supreme Court's ruling means

    Rejected the imperial presidency today

    An opinon from a real legal expert on today's cases.

    No presidential monopoly on war powers

    The Supreme Court's first review of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism may force a fundamental reordering of constitutional priorities, especially in the way the government may deal with individuals caught up in that war. Amid all the writing by the Justices in today's three historic rulings, no sentence stands out as vividly as this one, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens."

    Given the almost limitless claims to presidential power that the administration has been making in court cases and other forums since soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks, that statement - and all that it stands for in the new rulings - must be taken as a severe rebuke.

    In countless courtroom briefs, and in a pile of secret internal memorandum only recently beginning to emerge, administration lawyers have sought to justify a new order in which the president may do whatever is deemed necessary to wage this new style of global conflict. That argument appears to have failed utterly, in the eyes of eight Justices of the Court.

    Here, in summary, is a first look at a new constitutional order that may arise from the new decisions:

    1. In general, the courts are open and functioning, and they will insist upon a full partnership in judging the constitutional necessity of wartime actions that affect individuals - citizens and, sometimes, foreign nationals, too.

    2. Congress would be constitutionally entitled to exercise a fuller role, if it were so inclined, as a co-manager of the war when that conflict impacts individual rights.

    3. Citizens - even those deemed to be terrorist suspects - can no longer be detained indefinitely and without any rights that the Pentagon does not want them to have.

    4. Even foreign nationals rounded up and placed at an offshore Navy base - in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - are constitutionally entitled to contest their detention, perhaps even when that might interfere with military interrogation of them, seeking to gain intelligence information.

    In historic terms, the new rulings are at least as serious a setback as the Executive branch suffered in 1952 when the Court, in the midst of the Korean War, struck down President Truman's seizure of U.S. steel mills to keep them open to produce war materiel. (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer)

    "History and common sense," the Court said today, "teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means of oppression and abuse of others who do not present. . .an immediate threat."

    In language unmistakably placing the Court in the forefront of the constitutional battles that will continue to be waged so long as the war on terrorism continues, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's lead opinion declared: "Striking the constitutional balance here is of great importance to the Nation during this period of ongoing combat. But it is equally vital that our calculus not give short shrift to the values that this country holds dear or to the privilege that is American citizenship." There can no longer remain any doubt that "striking the constitutional balance" will be done by the courts, not by the Executive or by Congress. No can there linger any doubt that when the opinions speaks of "our calculus," it meant judicial calculus. It is noteworthy that this view of judicial authority was shared today by all but one of the Justices (all but Clarence Thomas); seldom does this often-divided Court hold together so cohesively on the division of governmental powers.

    The President, of course, did not lose everything he had at stake. By a vote of 5-4, the Court ruled that Congress' post-9/ll declaration supporting the President's response to those attacks had authorized the Executive to capture and detain, perhaps even until the end of the war on terrorism, those suspected of being terrorist activists acting in open aggression toward the U.S. Even so, the Court did not necessarily embrace that as an enduring constitutional concept: it added that the idea of detention for the duration of a conflict had emerged from the era of traditional wars, and then commented: "If the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that understanding may unravel." In other words, a war on terrorism that has no end may turn out to be too long for the Justices to go on allowing indefinite detention.

    The most important qualification on that now-acknowledged power to detain, however, is the Court's mandate that when a detainee is a U.S. citizen, the detention can continue beyond an initial - and presumably fairly brief - period, only if the government can justify prolonging the denial of freedom and legal rights. And, such justification is to be judged by a "neutral decisionmaker," not by the President or the Secretary of Defense or a military authority.

    Acknowledging that this review process may not necessarily have to be in a regular civilian federal court, the Justices suggested that such a proceeding might possibly be allowed before a military tribunal. The Court stressed, nevertheless, that such a tribunal would have to be "appropriately authorized and properly constituted." That seems to imply that it would not be enough simply to have the President sign an Executive Order, and that Congress may have to do so by legislation. Moreover, any such tribunal must have the full attributes of independence and neutrality that the Justices indicate they are demanding. (Even if such tribunals are created, their makeup, of course, will be subject to future constitutional challenge, if those that emerge seem to fall short of the standards articulated by the Court.

    In one aspect of the new decisions, the President seems actually to have lost everything: that was the insistence that the American courts have no role whatsoever to play in overseeing the operation of the big detention facility set up at the Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba. That base was set up in that very place to place foreign nationals at a site beyond the reach of American courts. It was, its challengers have always said, meant to be a "lawless" place. From now on, though, the detainees there have at least some right to contest not only the fact of their detention at the base prison, but also to challenge the actual conditions under which they have to live day by day.

    With that ruling, the Executive branch effectively had to forfeit a substantial amount of its control over the entire Guantanamo operation.

    These were the specifics of the three rulings today:

    By a vote of 5-4, the Court found the 2001 congressional declaration did give the President power to detain citizens and foreign nationals, if they are found on a foreign battlefield.

    By a vote of 8-1, citizens detained as "enemy combatants" have the right to a fair process under which they can challenge that designation and their continued detention.

    By a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled that the foreign nationals detained at the Cuba base have a right to file lawsuits in civilian courts to contest their detention and conditions at the base.

    posted by Steve @ 7:53:00 PM

    7:53:00 PM

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    Crazy: the Ralph Nader version

    Crazy, I'm just crazy

    Hey, Michael, Where Were Your Friends?

    Once upon a time, there was Michael Moore the First. He never forgot his friends. Come time for the Washington, DC premiere of Bowling for Columbine a while back, he invited his old buddies in Washington—gave them good seats and spent the rest of the evening with them. During his other movie's premiere, he affectionately recognized how much those old friends helped him and supported him after he was mistreated and let go by Mother Jones. He was generous with his words and time.

    Now there is Michael Moore the Second. Last night he hosted the Washington, DC premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, and who was there? The Democratic political establishment, the same people whom he took to such mocking task on the road with us in campaign rally after campaign rally in 2000. Who was not there? His old buddies! Not personally invited, not personally hung out with.

    A few weeks ago, Michael, I sent you a message: "Hey, Dude, where's my Buddy?" It is attached. It has gone without reply. It simply asked you to come back to your progressive constituency and take on the two-party monopoly of our rigged election system—to challenge the pro-warlike, corporate party with two heads, wearing different makeup when it comes to playing toady for Big Business. These are the giant multinationals who have no allegiance to our country or to communities like Flint except to control, deplete or abandon them. It is not that your views have changed, with an exception or two. It is that your circles have changed. Too much Clinton, not enough Camejo.

    Your old friends remain committed to blazing paths for a just society and world. As they helped you years ago, they can help you now. They are also trim and take care of themselves. Girth they avoid. The more you let them see you, the less they will see of you. That could be their greatest gift to Moore the Second—the gift of health. What say you?

    Best wishes,

    Ralph Nader

    Let me answer, since this is, well, crazy, not that conservative pundits would say that.

    Uh, Ralph, you consort with right-wing hacks, and have set about to ruin the Democratic party. Obviously, Moore no longer feels the way you do about these issues, I think you might want to plunk down the $10 to see his film and not rely on a freebie.

    Why should he actually bother to talk to you, since you no longer listen to friends, most of whom have asked you to pull out. The fact that you never bothered to have a life, a family, or as far as anyone can tell, sex, may mean that you are not as aware of the bond of human relations than other people are. Moore grew tired of your ineffective antics and consorting with Republicans.

    And while your goals may be laudable, they are not the goals which will result in the immediate change of removing George Bush from office. While you let your ego run ramapant, Moore and other committed progressives are working to force Bush from office. And while your conservative patrons may let you believe you'll get Republican votes, the reality is that you're being used by them to harm democrats, the same democrats which have supported you since 1964. Where is your gratitude and loyalty to old friends,huh?

    And for more on Nader whining:

    Few Thoughts for the Green Party from Ralph Nader
    Dear members of the Green Party –

    Since 1996 we have carried the banner for free elections, clean elections, and the ten key values for a just nation and world all over our beloved country. But the corporate supremacists and their Two Party monopoly have sent the American people their own message—exclusive, rigged elections, sold elections, no other choices and more and concentration of power and wealth, against workers, consumers, small taxpayers, environment, community, and a sane foreign policy. In fact—the Republican and Democratic Parties have left most voters with only one incumbent party through redistricting and carving up the country into one-party domination. This is not even a semblance of democracy.

    We have to break up this political plutocracy of the corporate government with a combination of our efforts that strengthen our efforts rather than subtract from them. There are too many good people in our country who know how to build the good society who have solutions—technical, social and economic—but who have no political voice. We strive to be their voice. Our voice and your voice must find a unison this weekend to range our mutual call for action throughout our land.

    In this spirit I had the privilege of selecting Peter Miguel Camejo as my Vice President. He brings so much to our candidacy—knowledge, experience, commitment, precision, civic courage for over 40 years of struggle for justice. He brings bilingual eloquence that for the first time can communicate Green values to thirty-nine million Latinos as a Vice Presidential candidate on a ticket already polling 6 to 7% and 12% among younger voters in their teens and twenties. And as you recall he has run twice on the Green ballot for Governor of California, distinguishing himself in the rerun debates last year before a worldwide television audience.

    As you know, what is already in place for our candidacy is important for local, state and national Green Party efforts this year. You can make a decision tomorrow that can amplify your resources, visibility, lasting ballot presence and impact at the state and local level where building the Green Party is so critical. With the Republicans and Democrats supporting the War, the Patriot Act and endless military and corporate welfare budgets, less and less is left for the people, their children and their future, especially the tens of millions of poor people. And this corporate political duopoly is making American people pay for their own oppression, their own deprivation, their own disrespect. Enough of the Politics of Fear. It is time to shift the power. It is time for the Solution Revolution. It is time to choose between fear and fortitude.

    On the exercise of free accessible elections at all levels, we are working to bring together Third Parties and Independents.

    I find Peter Camejo’s Unity Resolution as being in the interests of state Green Parties and as the best way to keep the Green Party together and advance common pursuits of justice. This resolution will make it possible for the Nader-Camejo campaign to support candidates, help preserve your ballot lines and expand the resources of the Green Party. I have had some experience since 2001 in participating at 43 fundraisers and other activities for Greens in 31 states and the disenfranchised District of Columbia. I felt that this effort was both my duty and pleasure.

    Many of you have urged my attendance. In my letters to Greens a few months ago I indicated that the Greens should make their decision by themselves, absorbing all well-intentioned advice, on the merits. There is no role for any dramatic arrivals from this quarter. If you decide on nominations, you will achieve different results than if you decide on endorsements. Some want you to lie low this election and not receive many national votes in the close states. This is a peculiar way to expand your Party and establish a poor precedent that the Democrats will seek to exploit. In any event, it is your decision as delegates to make a deliberative choice. May your conscience be your guide.

    Thank you for reading these words. Best wishes for your convention.

    Ralph Nader

    P.S. I am on my way to our Oregon convention this Saturday, but will try to call your gathering this evening in the spirit of further solidarity.

    Maybe the Greens didn't want to be destroyed by the Democratic Party and run off of ballots? Notice, you never joined the Green Party but just used them to run for office. What did they get but the emnity of Democratic voters? Did they get elected anywhere? Did they expand their profile? Nope, and nope. The Green Party experiment was a disaster for them and they now admit it. Your refusal to deal with racial or sexual inequality angered many of the Greens, who care about social justice.

    Why should the Greens take your word to support their candidates when you never joined their party. You want the Greens to serve you, but you never made a committment to the Greens comensurate to what you demanded from them. Trusting you, they led their party down the primrose path, only to unfairly catch the backlash to your 2000 campaign. When they finally woke up, they saw that you would destroy their party while having contributed little if anything to them.

    Words are not enough, Ralph. You're very good with words, but people need action. Action is what makes the difference in people's lives. Words, no matter how good, will not end the war in Iraq. Only action, starting with the removal of Bush, will do that.

    posted by Steve @ 7:14:00 PM

    7:14:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    Supreme Court rules for enemy combatants; Bush loses big

    American citizens held without their rights, all on the orders of President Bush

    Supreme Court Affirms Detainees' Right to Use Courts

    Published: June 28, 2004

    WASHINGTON, June 28 — The Supreme Court ruled today that people being held by the United States as enemy combatants can challenge their detention in American courts — the court's most important statement in decades on the balance between personal liberties and national security.

    The justices declared their findings in three rulings, two of them involving American citizens and the other addressing the status of foreigners being held at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Taken together, they were a significant setback for the Bush administration's approach to the campaign against terrorism that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

    "Due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker," an 8-to-1 majority held in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Saudi-born United States citizen seized in Afghanistan in 2001. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the basic outlines of the decision.

    Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the campaign against terrorism notwithstanding, "a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

    In the Guantánamo case, the court ruled, 6 to 3, that federal courts have the jurisdiction to consider challenges to the custody of foreigners. The finding repudiated a central argument of the administration.

    "Aliens at the base, like American citizens, are entitled to invoke the federal courts' authority," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. "United States courts have traditionally been open to nonresident aliens."

    The dissenters were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

    And in the other case involving an American citizen, José Padilla, the court ruled on what at first glance was a technical issue: that Mr. Padilla filed his habeas corpus petition in the wrong court. A 5-to-4 majority said he should have filed in federal court in South Carolina, since he has been held in a brig in Charleston, rather than in the Southern District of New York.

    The majority said, too, that the proper target for his case is not Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld but, rather, Cmdr. Melanie Marr, who is in charge of the brig. "This rule serves the important purpose of prevent forum shopping by habeas petitioners," the majority held.

    Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the opinion, joined by Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy. Justices John Paul Stevens wrote an emotional dissent that was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

    Justice Stevens wrote that there was ample precedent for finding that the Southern District of New York, where a material-witness warrant was first issued for Mr. Padilla, was the proper court to take up the case, and he lamented that the majority seemed to sidestep the main issues.

    "At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society," Justice Stevens wrote. "For if this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."

    The American Civil Liberties Union called the rulings historic and said they embodied "a strong repudiation of the administration's arguments that its actions in the war on terrorism are beyond the rule of law and unreviewable by American courts."

    Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, "reaffirms that even in a time of war, the president does not have the authority to act as a tyrant."

    I think I can forgive the Supremes a little for imposing the Dauphin on us with this decision. They've rejected the imperial diktat of Bush and his aides and reaffirmed the right of people in US custody to have the right to a fair trial. Enough with this tribunal crap and secrecy. If these people are criminals, let's get them in a courtroom and try them before a judge and 12 citizens in the light of day. This is what Chief Justice John Marshall wanted to establish when he ruled on Marbury vs. Madison. That the government was subject to the rule of law, and not merely its own whims.

    Bush, like many bullies, wanted to power to impose fear, not justice. He has set up a secret gulag of CIA jails and a large prison in Guantanamo in contravention of not only international law, but our own customs and laws. While the Republicans are circle jerking themselves over their fictional handover of power in Iraq (I say wait two days for the ZResistance response), everyone else is elated that the SCOTUS didn't fall for Bush's night and fog terror techniques. Bush wanted to abrogate the law in order to fight this "new war" and it isn't working. The idea that we could hold people in perpetuity is profoundly unamerican and just plain wrong.

    Needless to say, the fact is that the US cannot make a case against most of these people and even the guilty ones have been tainted by the interrogation techniques and violation of their human rights. I want real terrorists jailed fairly, so we can say to the world we live up to our ideals. Not to use the techniques of dictators to prove our point. We can defend our democracy in the light of day, not in some self-created back alley.

    posted by Steve @ 4:06:00 PM

    4:06:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    The Wraith of Howard Stern

    Is this man going to cost George Bush the White House?

    A Shock Jock Voting Bloc?

    Published: June 27, 2004

    WING voters may be in relatively short supply this year, but they definitely exist, and a surprising number of them may be listening to Howard Stern on their way to church.

    A new analysis found that 21 percent of voters were either undecided or so tentatively committed to one presidential candidate that they would be willing to reconsider. That is low compared with the share of voters up for grabs at this point in past elections - 33 percent in 2000, 27 percent in 1996 and 31 percent in 1992 - but enough to give one candidate a decisive victory.

    "People have been saying that this election will be a repeat of what we saw four years ago, but there is still a sizable number of voters with a favorable view of both candidates," said Andrew Kohut, the director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which conducted the analysis. "The election might be close, but a candidate who did a really good job of reaching these persuadable voters could win by a gap of five percentage points or more."

    Unfortunately for Republicans, a lot of these voters tune their radios to Mr. Stern, who has been crusading to oust President Bush. Mr. Stern is angry at the Federal Communications Commission, which cracked down on stations that broadcast a show of his that discussed anal sex and what the commission called "repeated flatulence sound effects."

    Mr. Stern, who has backed Republican candidates in the past, has a mother lode of swing voters in his audience, according to a poll by the New Democrat Network, an advocacy group. Its pollster, Mark Penn, calculates that this "Stern Gang" of swing voters makes up 4 percent of the likely voters this year, nearly as large as the entire Hispanic vote in 2000.

    But one bit of solace for Republicans is that Mr. Stern's listeners go to church frequently, which tends to correlate with voting Republican. The poll showed that Mr. Stern's listeners were slightly more likely than nonlisteners to call themselves born-again Christians and were three times more likely to attend church daily. The pollsters did not ask why they went to church after listening to Mr. Stern, so there is no way to calculate how many were performing an act of contrition.

    The numbers NDN came up with are pretty impressive:

    Stern rallies listeners to Kerry

    Now, a new poll says Stern - with an estimated weekly audience of 8.5 million - could be Kerry's key to getting crucial swing voters on his bandwagon.

    The survey, for the New Democrat Network, found Stern's listeners include 17% of likely voters, with a quarter being swing voters sought by both parties.

    "This means that 4% of likely voters this fall are swing voters who listen to Howard Stern, showing Stern's potential impact on the race," the group said in statement yesterday.

    The poll shows that Stern's fans in general support Kerry, by a margin of 53% to 43%.

    In the 18 battleground states - including Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia and Florida - Stern listeners go for Kerry by a margin of 59% to 37%. A whopping 34% of his faithful are independents.

    The PEW study of swing voters lists some of the characteristics of this group:

    Who Are the Swing Voters?

    The profile of the uncommitted yields few clues about how they might break on Election Day. They are somewhat less engaged in the campaign: Only about one-in-five swing voters (21%) say they have closely followed news about the campaign. That compares with 38% of Kerry voters and 32% of Bush voters. In addition, fewer swing voters say they have given a lot of thought to the campaign ­ just 40% have thought a lot about the election, compared with 60% of Bush voters and 67% of Kerry voters.

    Roughly half of swing voters (47%) approve of Bush's overall job performance, which is comparable to Bush's rating among certain voters (48%). Majorities in both groups give Bush positive marks on handling terrorism (57% each). But swing voters are somewhat less likely than other registered voters to approve of Bush's management of the economy and his handling of the war in Iraq.

    Uncommitted voters tend to be more moderate in their political outlook than those who have settled on a candidate. In June, 49% described themselves as moderates, compared with 33% of committed voters. Similarly, 45% decline to identify with a party (including 38% who say they are independent), compared with just 26% among the committed. In the current survey, the swing vote group includes more Democrats than Republicans (36% vs. 18%), but that balance has fluctuated greatly over the past few months, as might be expected with voters who do not have strong political preferences.

    Swing voters are not especially different from the overall electorate demographically. More are Catholic and fewer are white evangelicals, but otherwise they are not distinctive.

    Moreover, swing voters express almost precisely the same issue priorities as voters who say they have already made up their minds. Among swing voters, 32% pick the economy as the most important issue for the candidates to discuss; 31% of those certain of their choice say the same. Similarly, 22% of swing voters want to hear about Iraq, but so too do 21% of the committed voters.

    The Hill, the iundependent paper covering Congress, also looked that the NDN polling results:

    Howard Stern says he can deliver swing votes to Kerry
    New poll: Stern’s listeners favor Kerry over Bush by a 10-point margin
    By Jonathan E. Kaplan

    Radio shock jock Howard Stern is predicting that he will help deliver the heavily sought-after swing voters to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry this November.

    On air yesterday, Stern told The Hill: “I’m both pro-Kerry and anti-Bush. More anti-Bush. I encourage people on the air and personally [to vote for him]. Here’s the deal, dude. It turns out the show has a lot of influence among swing voters, voters who are not Republican or Democrat, but intelligent enough to vote for the good candidate.”

    Stern said he has never met Kerry but considers him a “good guy.”

    Stern’s listeners support Kerry over President Bush by a 10-point margin, according to a poll released last week.

    In recent months, Stern has repeatedly lambasted the Bush administration for its crackdown on “indecent material” and called on his listeners to vote the president out of office.

    Stern himself is a swing voter. Besides a brief run for governor as a Libertarian, Stern used his position to back two Republican gubernatorial candidates in New York and New Jersey. Both George Pataki and Christie Todd Whitman beat Democratic incumbents. Whitman even promised to name a highway oasis after Stern, and put a plaque with his name in a bathroom along the New Jersey turnpike.

    Stern’s vast audience includes 17 percent of likely voters, and they back Kerry 53 to 43 percent over Bush according to the poll. In so-called “battleground” states, Kerry beats Bush by 59 to 37 percent. The New Democrat Network (NDN), a centrist Democratic fundraising organization, commissioned Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, a Democratic firm, to conduct the poll.

    On his website, Stern says that he is more influential than conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh because he claims his listeners are undecided voters and Hannity and Limbaugh’s listeners are Republicans.

    Don Imus, a New York-based political talk show host, has said on his program that he also supports Kerry.

    Nevertheless, the poll shows that voters whose main source of news is radio support Bush 52 to 46 percent, perhaps reflecting the dominance of conservative talk radio.

    Scott Stanzel, a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman, dismissed the poll’s results. “It’s a partisan Democratic poll from a partisan group that’s just one of the shadowy soft-money groups assisting the Kerry campaign,” he said.

    Simon Rosenberg, the NDN’s executive director, responded, “Every poll they don’t like they trash.”

    The Bush Administration may have overplayed their hand with Stern. While he was no Bush fan in the last few months, going after him has resulted in a show where Stern wants to hold a Scores party for people who've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, and did a glowing interview with Michael Moore on Friday. Instead of raising doubts about Bush, he supported Gore in 2000, he's attacking Bush every day.

    Part of the problem is a serious misreading of the Stern audieince, which hardly the no-neck cretins one imagines. While many on the left hold their nose at an alliance with Stern, the reality is that his audience is the white, middle-class, ethnic audience which has been leaning Republican for more than two decades. The problem wasn't just that Stern was under assault by the FCC, but by Clear Channel, a long time booster of George Bush.

    Passion of Howard Stern
    The shock jock says radio colossus Clear Channel fired him because he criticized George Bush -- and he's sure as hell not going to go quietly.

    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    By Eric Boehlert

    March 4, 2004 | From the moment last week when Clear Channel Communications suspended Howard Stern's syndicated morning show from the company's radio stations, denouncing it as "vulgar, offensive and insulting," speculation erupted that the move had more to do with Stern's politics than his raunchy shock-jock shtick.

    Stern's loyal listeners, Clear Channel foes and many Bush administration critics immediately reached the same conclusion: The notorious jock was yanked off the air because he had recently begun trashing Bush, and Bush-friendly Clear Channel used the guise of "indecency" to shut him up. That the content of Stern's crude show hadn't suddenly changed, but his stance on Bush had, gave the theory more heft. That, plus his being pulled off the air in key electoral swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

    This week, Stern himself went on the warpath, weaving in among his familiar monologues about breasts and porn actresses accusations that Texas-based Clear Channel -- whose Republican CEO, Lowry Mays, is extremely close to both George W. Bush and Bush's father -- canned him because he deviated from the company's pro-Bush line. "I gotta tell you something," Stern told his listeners. "There's a lot of people saying that the second that I started saying, 'I think we gotta get Bush out of the presidency,' that's when Clear Channel banged my ass outta here. Then I find out that Clear Channel is such a big contributor to President Bush, and in bed with the whole Bush administration, I'm going, 'Maybe that's why I was thrown off: because I don't like the way the country is leaning too much to the religious right.' And then, bam! Let's get rid of Stern. I used to think, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' But that's it! That's what's going on here! I know it! I know it!"

    Stern's been relentless all week, detailing the close ties between Clear Channel executives and the Bush administration, and insisting that political speech, not indecency, got him in trouble with the San Antonio broadcasting giant. If he hadn't turned against Bush, Stern told his listeners, he'd still be heard on Clear Channel stations.

    In a statement released to Salon, the media company insists that "Clear Channel Radio is not operated according to any political agenda or ideology." Clear Channel Radio chief Joe Hogan said, "The decision to suspend Howard Stern from our radio stations is based on our regulatory obligation and commitment to airing material that conforms to the standards and sensibilities of the local communities we serve."

    Although by far the most powerful, Stern is not the first radio jock to charge Clear Channel with retaliation for anti-Bush comments.

    "I'm glad he's pissed off and I hope he raises hell every single day," says Roxanne Walker, who claims Clear Channel fired her last year because of her antiwar views. "I think any time a broader section of the population hears about the Bush administration and the Clear Channel connection, it's a good thing."

    Walker, South Carolina Broadcasters Association's 2002 radio personality of the year, is suing Clear Channel for violating a state law that forbids employers from punishing employees who express politically unpopular beliefs in the workplace.

    "On our show we talked about politics and current events," she tells Salon. "There were two conservative partners and me, the liberal, and that was fine. But as it became clear we were going to war, and I kept charging the war was not justified, I was reprimanded by [Clear Channel] management that I needed to tone that down. Basically I was told to shut up." She says she was fired on April 7, 2003.

    Phoenix talk show host Charles Goyette says he was kicked off his afternoon drive-time program at Clear Channel's KFYI because of his sharp criticism of the war on Iraq. A self-described Goldwater Republican who was selected "man of the year" by the Republican Party in his local county in 1988, Goyette -- more recently named best talk show host of 2003 by the Phoenix New Times -- says his years with Clear Channel had been among his best in broadcasting. "The trouble started during the long march to war," he says.

    While the rest of the station's talk lineup was in a pro-war "frenzy," Goyette was inviting administration critics like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter on his show, and discussing complaints from the intelligence community that the analysis on Iraq was being cooked to support the White House's pro-war agenda. This didn't go over well with his bosses, Goyette says: "I was the Baby Ruth bar in the punch bowl."

    Soon, according to Goyette, he was having "toe-to-toe confrontations" with his local Clear Channel managers off the air about his opposition to the war. "One of my bosses said in a tone of exasperation, 'I feel like I'm managing the Dixie Chicks,'" Goyette recalls. "I didn't fit in with the Clear Channel corporate culture."

    Writing in the February issue of American Conservative magazine, Goyette put it this way: "Why only a couple of months after my company picked up the option on my contract for another year in the fifth-largest city in the United States, did it suddenly decide to relegate me to radio Outer Darkness? The answer lies hidden in the oil-and-water incompatibility of these two seemingly disconnected phrases: 'Criticizing Bush' and 'Clear Channel.'"

    What all this has led to is four hours of Stern cursing George Bush and feeding into things like pushing people to see Moore's film. Is it a political disaster? Not yet, but it has the makings of one. Even Stern's website is now a collection of anti-Bush articles, among the Playboy evaluations and links to DVD porn. In addition to the pictures of the cast and crew, there are several anti-Bush picture galleries. Stern, who had left his website undeveloped for years, and only posted the odd nude picture or drunken cast member shot, now has a full on, archived, deeply linked website. It's updated daily with new content and links to a ton of anti-Bush stories. Sure, some of the content is racy in that male, heterosexual way, and it lacks a blog, but it is a professionally done website driven by intense anger at Bush and the people around him.

    This is just one of the stories highlighted on Stern's website today:

    Victims upset at Bush's praise of ex-con
    They say embezzler hasn't paid them restitution

    By Gregory Korte
    Enquirer staff writer

    Touting his program to rehabilitate ex-offenders in Cincinnati on Monday, President Bush put his arm on Tami Jordan's shoulder and called the convicted embezzler a "good soul" and an "inspirational person."

    But the victims of Jordan's crime - a small, family-owned business in Fairfield that lost $308,170 to Jordan's deception - say she isn't rehabilitated and hasn't paid the court-ordered restitution.

    Susan Morin with her two daughters, Cindy (left) and Carolyn, run a small family business in Fairfield.
    (Tony Jones photo)

    "Of all the people in Cincinnati they could pick out as an example, and they picked her," said Susan Morin, the owner of Gorman Supply Inc. "She's on the front page of every paper, sitting with the most powerful man in the country, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to pay my bills next week. Is that fair? Where's my federal program?"

    In the town hall-style meeting at a Corryville halfway house, Bush highlighted Jordan as an example of how faith-based programs can help rehabilitate ex-offenders.

    The president called on Congress to commit $112 million over two years for drug treatment, student loans and housing for ex-offenders. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, introduced that bill, the Second Chance Act of 2004, Wednesday.

    Republicans and Democrats at all levels of government - from Cincinnati Vice Mayor Alicia Reece to the Republican president - are putting an increased emphasis on rehabilitation.

    All agree that the government should do more to help convicted felons become productive citizens after they've paid their debt to society.

    As the Jordan case shows, people will disagree about how large that debt is. Jordan spent 21/2 years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women and six months at the Talbert House before being freed in August.

    While Jordan worked at Talbert house, a small part of her wages were garnished. But now that she's off parole, she hasn't paid a cent of the remaining $310,000 in restitution, the Morins said.

    "If she stole $310,000 from someone and still hasn't paid it back, that would make me very unhappy," said Robin Piper, prosecutor in Butler County, where Jordan was convicted. "Quite honestly, I liked the old parole system, where if they didn't make payments, they run the risk of going back to prison. Now when they do their time, they're out."

    Why is Stern's poised to have such a potential impact? While the GOP can denigrate Move and call Al Gore crazy, they do so at their own peril with Stern. A man with a vicious angry streak, loyal fans and five hours of air time today is a dangerous opponent. And unlike Rush the junkie and Sean "too stupid to think" Hannity, his audience is ideologically diverse. The FCC attack has backfired on them, any escalation could make things that much worse.

    Also, the reality is that Bush's campaign ads aren't working, according to Sidney Blumenthal, while Stern's assault is:

    Since March 3, the Bush-Cheney campaign has spent an estimated $80m on mostly negative advertising, to eliminate Kerry at the starting gate. The strategy was the acceleration of the lesson of Bush's father's victorious effort in the 1988 campaign when, 17 points behind in mid-summer, he shattered Michael Dukakis with a withering negative attack.

    Now, Bush's opponent is not only moving ahead, but the failed assault may insulate Kerry against future offensives. Bush had every reason to believe that his attack on Kerry's image would succeed. After September 11, he was able to impose his explanations on the public almost without resistance and to taint anyone who contradicted them as somehow unpatriotic.

    With Congress in Republican hands, checks and balances were effectively removed. Most of the media was on the bandwagon or intimidated. Cheney himself called the president of the corporation that owned one of the networks to complain about an errant commentator. Political aides directed by Karl Rove ceaselessly called editors and producers with veiled threats about access that was not granted in any case. The press would not bite the hand that would not feed it.

    But Bush's projection of images can only faintly be seen on the screen, which is overwhelmed with Bush's past images of triumph unreeling in reverse. The majority of the people had supported the war in Iraq because they believed that Saddam was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Bush envisioned the Iraqi war unfolding into a new world order: the liberation of Iraq resembling the liberation of France, democracy flowering throughout the Middle East, and the Palestinians submitting quietly to Sharon's fait accompli .

    But the neoconservative prophesies had been advanced by suppressing the scepticism of the US intelligence agencies, the military and the state department. Without deranging and dismissing the professionalism of the basic institutions of national security, Bush would not have been able to sustain his reasons. Bush's battle is not with image, but with the unravelling of his reality.

    Having Howard Stern against you doesn't help you either.

    posted by Steve @ 10:50:00 AM

    10:50:00 AM

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