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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Nader steals from homeless

Friend of the worker steals from the homeless

Nader office shuts down as workers seek pay

Petition circulators demanded payment for signatures collected. A campaign employee said the scene smacked of dirty politics.

By Michael Currie Schaffer

Inquirer Staff Writer

Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.

The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before. Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.

Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures.

"A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.

Nader has until Monday to collect the 25,697 petition signatures required to be on the presidential election ballot. Dan Martino, the campaign's Pennsylvania coordinator, said he believes the campaign is on track to meet that goal.

The quest has drawn national attention because many Democrats believe Nader, who is running as an independent, could drain enough support from John Kerry to throw Pennsylvania's 21 hotly contested electoral votes to President Bush.

Nader has succeeded in New Jersey, where the state Division of Elections has ruled that his name will appear on the ballot. A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office said the deadline for filing challenges to a person's candidacy was Monday, and none was filed.

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Nader's campaign has accused Kerry supporters of resorting to dirty tricks to keep the candidate off the ballot.

John Slevin, a ballot-access contractor hired by Nader to run the Pennsylvania petition campaign, said all circulators would be paid. And he speculated that the accusations and chaos at the office were the result of political trickery.

"That's the only explanation for it," Slevin said.

He cited both the unexpected arrival of large numbers of homeless people looking for petition work and the calls he received from city officials about payment complaints as examples of possible partisan efforts to derail the campaign.

Slevin began hiring petition circulators two weeks ago with classified advertisements in newspapers and on the Internet.

Petition circulators were told they would be paid from 75 cents to $1 for each valid signature. Half of the money was to be delivered at the end of the day and the balance paid by check the following Wednesday.

But people who showed up Wednesday described a chaotic situation. Lines moved slowly as Slevin and one assistant, protected by armed guards, vetted the petitions for obviously forged signatures. Many in line were shouting and claiming they had been underpaid. As tensions grew, police were called.

Political trickery my ass. The Nader campaign grows sadder and more pathetic by the day. This is wrong. I dare any of the Nader groupies to defend this kind of unvarnished evil. Are these people kidding? They know how bad the economy is, and how desperate people can be. The idea that the Dems would have to put people up to do this, it's bullshit.

I am disgusted by this. I've done field ops, and anyone walking around in the summer heat, looking for signatures deserve to get paid. Fleeing in the dead of night is absolutely despicable.

One of the weaknesses of the left is the ability to blame others for their obvious failure. The Nader people created this mess, and the state should make sure that Nader pays these people. If people are unaware, it is a crime to stiff people on wages, even the homeless.

And if Nader was a decent human, he would make sure they were paid. But considering his track record with his own, white, well-educated workers, I have low expectations this will be solved out of court.

posted by Steve @ 9:50:00 AM

9:50:00 AM

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Friday, July 30, 2004

SOF or NGO, you make the call

Aid workers or Special Operators, you make the call

'How the US blurred the line between aid and armed forces'
Posted on Friday, July 30 @ 09:47:01 EDT By Anne Penketh, Belfast Telegraph

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the distinction between soldiers and aid workers is fatally blurred. The relief agencies, trying to remain neutral as they struggle to deliver desperately needed supplies, have lost more than 30 workers in Afghanistan in 18 months.

The UN and the Red Cross were hit by suicide bombs in Iraq which killed 22 people. Many in the international aid community blame the rising death toll on President George Bush and his "war on terror".

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, has been singled out for particular blame. He told NGO leaders in October 2001, just after the 11 September attacks, that they were the "force multipliers" of the military effort against terrorism.

"That was a disaster for us," says Dominic Nutt of Christian Aid, which is remaining in Afghanistan despite the security concerns that forced yesterday's shock withdrawal of Medécins sans Frontières (MSF). "We can't be afford to be associated with the military or politicians. But we're not seen to be neutral any more because of the way the Americans have set things up in Afghanistan."

The trouble had been brewing since the disastrous American foray into Somalia in 1993, when a UN peace-keeping force dispatched to help alleviate famine became transformed into the US hunt for the warlord, Mohamed Farah Aideed. Debate in the aid community then intensified over Kosovo, when Nato provided logistical help for ethnic Albanians fleeing across the border after its bombing campaign started. Nato's humanitarian role was bitterly resisted by some relief agencies such as MSF.

But calls for the clear separation of military and humanitarian roles have become more urgent since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the relief agencies in the firing line because of the perception that they are working for coalition forces. "Christian Aid worked in Afghanistan in the Soviet period and under the Taliban," Mr Nutt says. "This the most dangerous period for aid workers it's ever been. We're now targets."

Seven people working with Christian Aid were murdered in Afghanistan in the past two months, he says. "Those who escaped said the people who shot them were the Taliban, accusing them of being US agents."

Part of the confusion stems from coalition "hearts and minds" teams of US and Nato troops. Soldiers with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are providing basic health care, digging wells and other work normally done by civilians.

"We all look the same," Mr Nutt said. "Aid workers in comfortable clothes with a bottle of water; soldiers who are not always in uniform; soldiers doing aid work with civilians so nobody knows who is doing what, why and when."

Paul O'Brien, the overseas director for Concern Worldwide, says: "We could use the military for logistical support. In Mozambique, the South African military sent helicopters to rescue flood victims. But for the most part, the aid community wants to draw a line between their role and ours."

In Afghanistan, he says, the military "want to do humanitarian work, so they take off uniform and maybe have their weapon nearby. But the Afghans look at NGOs and the military people; they need to know there is a huge difference between the two".

This is a real problem. Note the soldiers dressed in civilian clothes. Some US units wear Afghan clothes in combat. And Civic Action has been a part of US Special Operations since the 1960's. Civic action is building scholols and wells and improving local facilities. The only problem is there is confusion between the NGO's and the SOF's. This has made Afghanistan so dangerous that Doctors without Borders (MSF-Medicins Sans Frontiers) has withdrawn from the country. They had been there 20 years, since the Soviet occupation.

Because of the blurring of lines, this places NGO workers in grave danger. The SOF have air and artillery on call, all the NGO's have is good will. That does not stop bullets. This, of course, forces NGO's to seek military protection or allows the US greater control of aid. Which, given the way this administration does things, is not accidental.

posted by Steve @ 11:41:00 PM

11:41:00 PM

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Yahoo Mobile Photo Contest

Take pictures with your phone, win a Yahoo contest

My friend, and former NetSlaves partnet, Bill Lessard, ask that I post this up. So I am.

Yahoo! Announces Launch of Yahoo! Mobile Photos Upload

Consumers on the AT&T Wireless, Cingular, T-Mobile, Sprint PCS and Verizon Networks Nationwide Can Now Save their Camera Phone Pictures Directly to their Yahoo! Photos Account on the Go

Sunnyvale, Calif., July 22, 2004 – Yahoo! Inc., a leading global Internet company today announced the launch of Yahoo! Mobile Photos Upload for consumers nationwide. Consumers with camera phones on the five major wireless carriers can now quickly, easily and securely save their favorite camera phone pictures directly to their Yahoo! Photos account. This new service leverages the integration of Yahoo!’s suite of leading Internet services into data enabled mobile devices and demonstrates the Company’s continuing commitment to developing innovative offerings for consumers nationwide.

Beginning today, consumers on the five major U.S. wireless carriers (AT&T Wireless, Cingular, T-Mobile, Sprint PCS and Verizon) can upload their camera phone pictures directly to their Yahoo! Photos account after simply registering their camera phone online at There is no limit to the number of photos that can be uploaded and the service is available to consumers at no additional charge. Consumers on the AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS networks can also take advantage of the full color, graphical Yahoo! Mobile Photos service that gives them an easy way to connect to their online photos over their mobile phone.

“Camera phones continue to grow in popularity and we are excited to give Yahoo! users the freedom to do more with the pictures they take on their phones,” said Thad White, senior director, Mobile Services, Yahoo! Inc. “By combining our expertise in developing engaging, easy to use, wireless data services and the power of Yahoo! Photos, one of the leading online photos services, we are giving consumers a new, secure way to save and share the pictures they take with their camera phones.”

Picture What Matters
It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yahoo!’s Picture What Matters contest is putting that phrase to the test by giving people across the country a chance to share photos of what matters to them with the world. Starting today through August 11, 2004, consumers can e-mail a picture taken with their camera phone representing whatever matters to them and send it to where they will be automatically entered to win a $10,000 donation to their charity of their choice.

Selected entries will be featured at throughout the program and the site will be updated daily with new photos. The entries will be narrowed down to 20 finalists and consumers will then be able to vote from August 18, 2004 to September 1, 2004 to help name their favorite picture as the winner. The winning picture will be announced on September 8, 2004.

Take Yahoo! With You
Yahoo! is an Internet industry leader in providing a diverse array of innovative offerings for high speed wireless networks. A variety of Yahoo! services with rich graphics and enhanced usability are available to consumers nationwide on mobile devices, including:
· Yahoo! Mobile Photos
· Yahoo! Messenger for Mobile
· Yahoo! Mobile Internet – including Mail, Messenger, News, Sports, Get Local and more
· Yahoo! Mobile Games
· Yahoo! Alerts

Yahoo! has become an essential part of millions of consumers’ lives and the Company is continuing to extend its key services beyond the personal computer, making it easier for consumers to connect with Yahoo! services wherever they are. The Yahoo! Mobile site showcases how consumers can take Yahoo! with them on the go and educates them on the range of Yahoo! products and services available to them on mobile devices.

About Yahoo!
Yahoo! Inc. is the No. 1 Internet brand globally and the most trafficked Internet destination. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Yahoo!’s mission is to provide online produces and services essential to consumers’ lives and offer a full range of marketing solutions to enable businesses to connect with Yahoo!’s hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

# # #

Yahoo! and the Yahoo! logos are trademarks and/ore registered trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Press Contacts:
Alexa Waltz, Fleishman-Hillard for Yahoo! Inc., 415-318-4110,
Tara Kirchner, Fleishman-Hillard for Yahoo! Inc., 415-318-4121,

posted by Steve @ 10:21:00 PM

10:21:00 PM

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Kerry: Bush unfit to serve

John Kerry, reminding people Bush went AWOL

Clearly, Kerry did an excellent job last night, hititng all the key points on the map and making himself more human. Kerry is not what he seems, in many ways. He's the son of a diplomat who grew up away from the US and in bording schools. Despite his last name, he's not Irish, but a combination of Austrian and New England Yankee, a scion of some of the country's oldest families.

Despite one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate's history, he is tough as nails. Other people with his politics would have gone into Legal Aid, but he was a prosecutor. He had no problem throwing people in jail. He has no problem with tough decisions. Instead of going to Harvard or Yale Law, where a bright young man with a million family connections could have gone, he chose Boston College Law School, a place for people who actually want to practice law.

Kerry, in many ways, is the reverse image of Bush. He comes from the same social background, but constantly makes different choices.

I wasn't much of a fan of Kerry in the primaries, but I have always, always respected him. Not just for his service record, but for his 1996 campaign. He was running hard and losing against Bill Weld, the popular former governor of Massachusetts. Weld was extremely well liked, and popular. A Harvard grad, he made his name by challenging Ed Meese in the 1980's. His wife was a Democrat, and if the GOP was a different kind of party, he'd be sitting if not in the White House, somewhere useful.

Kerry was a bit of an enigma. The public didn't know him well, despite his track record of leading investigations and promoting relations with Vietnam. He was always overshadowed by both Kennedy and Bob Kerrey, the former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor winner. Same name, same service, same general features. Except Kerrey was an extrovert and more talker than thinker. The two were often confused, as they were on the Newshour, when Jim Lehrer said that Kerry had won the MOH, meaning the other Kerrey, who now serves on the 9/11 Commission. John Kerry corrected him and went on with the discussion, which was about Vietnam.

So in 1996, Kerry's back was to the wall. Weld was giving him a real challenge and they had agreed to a series of seven debates on public TV. For some reason, these were broadcast nationwide. Weld was hammering him on the death penalty, which he had opposed. So Kerry turned to Weld, a man he clearly respected, and said "I know what's like to have a man die in your arms". Weld, who is just as bright as Kerry, was stopped cold. He had used Vietnam in a way which was both effective and true. He couldn't have stopped him colder if he had punched him.

Vietnam clearly changed Kerry, and not just in the obvious ways. It made him a compassionate man. He never says it, but his actions after the war indicate this. For the first time, on his Swift Boat, he was with people who weren't prep school or Yale classmates and who trusted him with their lives. He was with average people who never had his opportunities. In many ways, he found out a couple of things about himself, one, he could count on himself in a crisis. He didn't flinch, waver or run. He could stand his ground. Two, he knew what was right and wromg and he would say what it was, regardless of popularity. While prep school may have honed his phyisical toughness, Vietnam showed his emotional stength and character.

And then he led Vietnam Veterans against the war, which was not a way to be popular, if you wanted to go far in politics. Nixon was scared of Kerry, who was everything they didn't want to see in a veteran. He may have been a little scruffy, but he was articulate, passionate and smart. Throughout his career, he has been on many sides of issues, but on Vietnam, he served, then opposed the war.

But whereas Bush construsted a simplistic moral world, Kerry's grew more complex, more nuanced. This is no virtue in American politics.Complexity is ao....French. France, where Kerry spent his childhood summers and where his relatives still live.

It's not that Kerry is aloof or remote, he seems to like people and have deeply loyal friends. It's that he's not outgoing, reserved is a good word. This can seem oftputting to many people. And it hides one of his most telling characteristics, toughness. John Kerry is not only tough, but aggressively so. From Vietnam, where he was so aggressive, he leaped out of his Swift boat and chased down a VC guerrilla with a B-40 rocket launcher and killed him. He chose being a prosecutor. Then, when in the Senate, he used his committees to investigate, first, Central American policy, then BCCI, now Iraq.

To mistake his honest doubts and questioning for weakness would be a mistake. The whole idea of flip-flopping is not about indecisiveness as much as weakness. The Bush campaign wants to depict Kerry, despite all available evidence, as a man unsure of himself, unable to make up his mind, someone too weak to make hard decisions. Coming from the man who read My Pet Goat as 3,000 Americans were being roasted alive by jet fuel, this woulod be funny if it weren't sad.

Americans mistake swagger for toughness. Bush is filled with swagger and false bravado, Kerry with the kind of quiet moral and physical courage good junior officers develop and carry on into later life. And it is important to note that Kerry has moral courage as well.

Yet, there is a contradiction within Kerry which is fascinating. He clearly needs and enjoys public adulation. Part of his motives may be pure, some not, but his motives have been a combination of high moral purpose and self-promotion. It was moral to publicly oppose the Vietnam was, but it also served his aching ambition, one he had since prep school. But what drove that ambition? Partly, the desire for acclaim after a rootless childhood spent in distant places. Partly a genuine desire for public service. He had come from money, and unlike the nakedly commerical Bushes, turned his energies elsewhere.

However, that ambition drove him to take on challenges others avoided. He didn't just join the Navy, he served two tours in Vietnam, one he sought out while the Tet Offensive was raging. With a Yale education and fluent French, he could have sought out an intel billet, or a communications job, like Bob Woodward, also a Naval officer serving in Vietnam. Or he could have avoided military service altogether, like Bill Weld. But he chose combat. Then, he could have quietly gone to Harvard Law and worked in someone's law firm, or followed his father into the Foreign Service. Instead he opposed the war in a public, confrontational way, one which could have closed off any hopes of a political career. No one knew in 1971 if opposing the war was politically wise and given his FBI file, Nixon was seeking to ruin him. The same people still lurk around the fringes and Kerry has shown them down each time.

Then he went to Boston College Law School, and became a prosecutor. Why he didn't go to an Ivy Law School isn't clear, but I think Kerry actually wanted to practice law, which he did.

The latest slander, pushed by the closeted gay Matt Drudge, was that Kerry faked the film of him in combat and wounded himself. Both are ridiculous, since no one volunteers to be wounded. I mean, he was wounded three times in four months. Should he have fought until he was killed?

The thing about Kerry, is despite his background, he has lived beyond the expectations held for people of his sort, while Bush has failed even those.

The speech last night, make no mistake, was an aggressive, even brutal attack on Bush. The first line was the opening shot in a speech where Kerry called Bush a liar and a coward. He never said those words, he couldn't. But the implication was clear and direct. He attacked Bush for failing in Iraq and destroying American crdedibility.
Which was fine. But then he called Bush out, called for an "honest" debate, implying he has to fight dirty to win.

But the whole evening was designed to goad Bush. Bringing out the poised and intelligent Kerry sisters was no accident. While they spoke to their father's warmth and humanity, they also reminded Bush that his daughters are uselsss, drunken party girls. Which is fine at 22, but no asset. But the real comparison is between the Bush girls and Cate Edwards, also 22, but years ahead in maturity and poise.

Then Jim Rassmussen, the SF officer Kerry pulled out of the Mekong, told his story, also reminding people Bush had never lifted his finger to help a soul, much less risked his life to do so, for which Kerry won a Bronze Star. Max Clelland then added on to the scorn for Bush. It was subtle, it was carefully written, and it was well-planned.

Kerry's speech called Bush a liar unworthy to be President, much less send your kids into combat.

KERRY: I know what kids go through when they are carrying...


I know what kids go through when they're carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place, and they can't tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they're out on patrol at night and they don't know what's coming around the next bend. I know what it's like to write letters home telling your family that everything's all right, when you're not sure that that's true.

As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say, "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way, but we had no choice...


... we had to protect the American people, fundamental American values against a threat that was real and imminent."

Some men might have brushed that off, but Kerry, who has known Bush since 1964, knows it would get him.

Then he called him fundamentally unamerican for abusing the flag and constitution

KERRY: We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.


You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory, the stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of those people who were here tonight and all across the country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head and it was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men that I served with and friends I grew up with.

For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in: our strength, our diversity, our love of country, all that makes America both great and good.

That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology.

KERRY: It doesn't belong to any party. It belongs to all the American people.

Then he basically called Bush a hypocrite:

You don't value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service, if you deny veterans health care, or if you tell middle-class families to wait for a tax cut, so that the wealthiest among us can get even more.

After which, he went after Bush's use of wedge issues:

We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America; not narrow values that divide us, but the shared values that unite us: family, faith, hard work, opportunity and responsibility for all, so that every child, every adult, every parent, every worker in America has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential. That is the American dream and the American value.

But then, if as lifted from the pages of the F9/11 script, he tied Bush to the Saudis, but again, not ditrectly:

KERRY: We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we have only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for 53 percent of what we consume?

I want an America that relies on its ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.

Now, if you've seen F 9/11, that statement, and it would have never been there otherwise because the Saudis are "allies" and you don't slam allies, implies Bush is in the pay of the Saudi Royal Family, which his entire family is. He wanted people, especially those who had seen Moore's film, to make that subsconsious link. Brutally effective and well thought out.

Then, of course, he calls Bush out:

KERRY: I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush.


In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity. Let's respect one another. And let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.


AUDIENCE: Kerry, Kerry, Kerry...

KERRY: My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place.

KERRY: And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks.

This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, region from region, group from group

Of course, this isn't serious, because the whole speech was one long attempt to get a rise from Bush. It is rare in American politics to have such a personal and aggressive speech towards an opponent, but Kerry has nothing but contempt for Bush and it dripped from the speech. Because this was not a policy debate, but an attempt to get Bush to react. It was personal. And, it appears, Bush knows it.

Because this morning Bush said "The most important reason to reelect me is to keep Laura Bush as first lady". A none too subtle attack on Teresa Heinz Kerry. Now, most men don't attack other people's wives, but George Bush did. This is the kind of subtle, nasty attack used by alcoholics and dry drunks. Which means Kerry can claim his own mission accomplished.

posted by Steve @ 3:36:00 PM

3:36:00 PM

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The food police is coming this way

Eating here will get you arrested. In New York and Boston, they sell food in the subway.

Subway rider arrested for eating candy
Allegedly ignoring officer leads to three-hour detention

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government scientist finishing a candy bar on her way into a subway station where eating is prohibited was arrested, handcuffed and detained for three hours by transit police.

Stephanie Willett said she was eating a PayDay bar on an escalator descending into a station July 16 when an officer warned her to finish it before entering the station. Both Willett and police agree that she nodded and put the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into a trash can.

Willett, a 45-year-old Environmental Protection Agency scientist, told radio station WTOP that the officer then followed her into the station, one of several in downtown Washington.

Metrorail has been criticized in the past for heavy-handed enforcement of the eating ban. In 2000, a police officer handcuffed a 12-year-old girl for eating a French fry on a subway platform.

In 2002, one of their officers ticketed a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy patient for cursing when he was unable to find a working elevator to leave a station. Unflattering publicity eventually led the police to void the ticket.

Willett was the second person arrested this year for eating or drinking, Hanson said. In addition, police have issued 58 tickets and more than 300 written warnings.

Yeah. This makes sense. I've eaten entire lunches on the New York subway. What a waste of time. Jen found this amusing, since she went to law school in Washington. I find it perplexing myself. Just another way to stop Al Qaeda and gang violence. Aresting children and the handicapped along with scientists.

posted by Steve @ 2:02:00 PM

2:02:00 PM

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Carjacking in Iraq, what's next, street gangs?

Get out the truck, leave the McDonald's in the car. The US Army moves from robbery and the odd sexual assault to carjacking.

GI convicted of carjacking in Iraq

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Kimberly Hefling

July 30, 2004 | FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) -- A military jury found a soldier guilty of armed robbery Thursday for taking an Iraqi sheik's sport utility vehicle at gunpoint, but concluded he did not deserve prison.

The panel also convicted Sgt. 1st Class James Williams of willful dereliction of duty for allowing his soldiers to consume alcohol in Iraq.

Williams, 37, of rural Westmoreland County, Va., maintains he helped take the SUV only because his lieutenant ordered him to procure a vehicle and because he did not think it was a criminal act, but the prosecution alleged he was simply after a "sweet ride.''

Williams, a soldier with the 101st Airborne Division, declined to comment to reporters after the ruling, but his civilian defense attorney, Bernard Casey, said he plans to appeal.

"Where was the evidence this constituted a crime?'' Casey said.

The jury recommended a reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge, but no prison time. The commanding general of the 101st, Maj. Gen. Tom Turner, will decide Williams' sentence.

With tears rolling down his face when the sentence was read, Williams put his chin down and nodded his head back and forth. The prosecution had recommended a four-year prison term.

"We're lucky that he got this sentence,'' said Williams' wife, Kim. "It could have been a lot worse.''

Said his sister, Russell Perry: "At least he won't be going back to Iraq.''


Williams also testified he saw commanders drinking alcohol in Iraq and thought it was OK, but Hoege said just because Williams saw others drinking, that did not make it right.

Another soldier, Alberto Lozano, was convicted earlier in the case and sentenced to 30 months in prison, but the sentence was reduced to one year because he testified against Williams. He was released recently after serving about nine months at Fort Knox. Pavlik, the lieutenant, faces a court-martial starting Aug. 9.

So sticking a gun in the face of an Iraqi and stealing his car isn't a crime? Lying about it isn't a crime? But the telling comment is from the sister, happy he won't go back to Iraq.

All manner of crime is surfacing in Iraq. Soldiers pushing suspects off a bridge, theft of property. Abu Ghraib is the surface of a rotting Army, pushed beyond it's capacity and ability. Carjacking? A 37 year old sargeant carjacking an Iraqi? Jesus. What the hell is going on there. I have no illusions about soldiers and their capacity for crime, petty and large. But carjacking? Jesus.

posted by Steve @ 12:44:00 PM

12:44:00 PM

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Don't tread on my format

The iPod

Apple Attacks RealNetworks Plan to Sell Songs for iPod


Published: July 30, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, July 29 - Apple Computer sharply criticized RealNetworks, the maker of media-playing software, on Thursday, saying it was investigating the legal implications of RealNetworks's decision to sell songs in Apple's music format. It accused RealNetworks of adopting "the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod."

Apple issued its angry statement just four days after RealNetworks started giving away software called Harmony that lets people download songs from its online music store and play them on Apple's popular iPod portable music players, as well as players using Windows Media Player and the Helix format from RealNetworks.

RealNetworks quickly shot back with its own strongly worded response, vowing to continue letting consumers play songs bought on its music service on any of the 70 music players on the market, including Apple's iPod.

"Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod," executives of Real Networks said in a statement. "Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility."

The statement added, "There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance, the first I.B.M.-compatible PC's from Compaq.''

While RealNetworks is the first company besides Apple to sell songs in the protected iPod format, other companies sell them in the MP3 format, which the player can also use.

Richard Doherty, a computer industry consultant and president of Envisioneering, said the dispute between Apple and RealNetworks intensified the debate about control over the sale and downloading of music. "Both companies seem resolute in their positions," Mr. Doherty said.

Apple said it was investigating whether RealNetworks's move violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other intellectual property laws. RealNetworks responded that the copyright act, passed in 1998 to address the issues surrounding the distribution of digital content, explicitly permits the development of software that can share data with programs from other companies.

Apple also warned that Harmony might not work with future versions of the iPod software.

Robert Glaser, the chief executive of RealNetworks, has long been a critic of what he sees as Apple's proprietary strategy with the iPod, asserting that Apple was running the risk of following the same path it took in its development of its personal computer. Many in the technology industries have maintained that Apple's refusal to license its Macintosh operating system to other developers in the late 1980's contributed to the establishment of Microsoft's Windows monopoly.

Apple makes their money from hardware. I have always thought MP3 players cost too much and don't have the battery life and ease of use which would be needed for them to be a mass market product. The reality for Apple is that their last iMac failed and they haven't released the new version for sale. Their switch campaign failed as well. The iPod and iBook are bright spots in an increasingly fragile marketplace for Apple. While I like the iBook, the cost of the iPod has been such that I wouldn't spend my money on it.

And you can bet your ass future versions of Apple software won't work with Harmony. Not that Apple will sell music in the future. As part of their agreement with Apple Corp, the Beatles publishing company, they would refain from going into any music-related industries. Well, iTunes breachesw that wide open.

Jen got an iPod for Christmas and couldn't sync it to her PC and traded it in for sn iRiver. Personally, I've been looking for a cheaper alternative to the iPod frankly. I think paying $300 for a used iPod on eBay is a bit much. Also, I think the capacity doesn't match with the screen size. A 20GB iPod holds tens of thousands of songs. With the tiny screen, how do you organize the music. I don't know, I don't own am iPod. I've been leaning towards a disk=based system, but since Mini-Disc players have gone nowhere beyond Sony, there aren't a ton of choices.

The real player to watch in this market is Sony, who's looking to introduce a Windows-based iPod killer. I've seen the prototypes for this two years ago, but nothing since then. But if Sony jumps in the market, given their Vaio line as well as their reputation in consumer electronics, Apple's little profit center could go poof. The iPod is the survivor of a multimedia marketing strategy which was supposed to tie people into Apple products. Instead, Apple had to make Windows-friendly products.

What they don't want is to have someone poach on their higher fidelity format, and Rob Glazer, who has fought MS over the same issues of exclusivity. The difference is that MS doesn't face the loss of a major profit center. Hell, MS could sell Linux tomorrow as MSLinux and not lose a dime. Apple doesn't have that luxury. Also, given Steve Jobs rampant egomania, he doesn't want to give any ground.

posted by Steve @ 2:11:00 AM

2:11:00 AM

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Yep., they're colored too

They're black and so are their descendents, no matter who else they come from

Atrios posted the following:

One of the media conversations I'm peripherally aware of (again, in this bubble I don't have the omniscient view of the media borg I usually do) is the "why do people call Obama black?" It's quite fascinating, really, that this is an issue. The same issue was raised when Halle Berry won her Oscar. I'll try to be kind to those raising the it, but they really seem to have a view of race as being genetic or "in the blood," which is, uh, a rather interesting view of race. The "one drop rule" still exists -- not because it's government imposed, but because if you look black people categorize you as black. Now, I look forward to a colorblind society but it doesn't exactly exist right now. Obama is black because people see him as black. The content of "black blood" in him is irrelevant. I highly doubt any of the people saying this didn't think of Obama as a "black man" before they discovered that one of his parents was white.
But, as for why this issue is coming up now specifically, Obama himself says it much better than I ever could:

If I was arrested for armed robbery and my mug shot was on the television screen, people wouldn't be debating if I was African-American or not. I'd be a black man going to jail. Now if that's true when bad things are happening, there's no reason why I shouldn't be proud of being a black man when good things are happening, too.


In America, there are two classes of people, white and not-white. If you are white, then you are white, but if you are not white, you are NOT WHITE. Have you ever heard of anyone described as half-white, unless they were visibly another race? No matter how pretty or how smart, if you are not white in America, you are not white.

But Obama didn't have to use the example of armed robbery, all he had to say is if he got into an elevator, some white woman would clutch her purse. The double Ivy League grad (Columbia, Harvard Law) is not white in America, to what degree doesn't matter, he could be half-Mexican like Bill Richardson or Jeb Bush's kids, and they are not white. It's not the degree of blackness you have, but the lack of whiteness.

In Latin America, any white heritage makes you white. Whiteness is the positive value, because when they were shipping slaves west, there were so few whites that interbreeding wasn't only essential, but encouraged. Of course, when you get to Brazil, which had slavery until 1888, blacks are still the vast majority, but still discriminated against based on skin color. One of my professors said that when he was in Brazil, the family he visited hid their black child.

But because of chattel slavery in the US, and the limited number and expense of slaves, meant that any black blood (later to be expanded to other ethnic groups) meant you were black. Now, my great grandmother was Native American, but no one calls us Indians. Most African-Americans from the Carolinas have some native heritage, but black is the catchall phrase used to describe us all.

Up until the last 10 years, interracial dating, if not taboo, was fraught with social and even personal perils. Now, I am race indifferent when it comes to dating, but I know other people who are not. But it's harder to be so.

My friend owns a bar on Third Avenue in the East Village. One day, we're drinking beer and sitting in the window, and watched all these couples pass by. Tall Asian men were with little blondes, so were the black guys, tall white guys had little Asian girlifriends, black guys were with Puerto Ricans. Meanwhile, my friends were sleeping with all manner of European Au Pairs, most of whom were defintely not black. Now, most of my friends date interracially, without even considering it as an issue. Women are pretty and sleeping with them a positive goal. Who cares what color they are?

When some of Thomas Jefferson's black descendents were found, most of who looked as white as any other white person, some of their neighbors began to treat them differently, of course, this was on Staten Island, where racism is a local sport, but still. Any black heritage was seen to make them black, even though Sally Hemmings was only half-black to begin with. She was Jefferson's sister-in-law. It took decades for the white Jefferson descendents to allow their black relatives to be part of the family.

I was watching the Super Bowl with my friends and someone said something about being black. My friend said, well, I'm not all black. I said, "well, 25 percent makes you a member of the club and 50 percent gets you a seat at the table."

Italians love to insult Sicilians by saying they're part black. It's one of the most common jokes heard.

Barack Obama is black because he looks black. His actual heritage is not relevant. His upbringing is not relative. All you have to do in America is look black to be black. Because that is how people will treat you.

posted by Steve @ 11:25:00 PM

11:25:00 PM

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Blogging in Boston pt III

Not so easy, is it?

I haven't been following the inside baseball, because, at it's heart, a convention is a trade show, but with better exhibits. I don't really care about what the Pennslyvania delegation thinks. I'll read the people who do care, saving me energy.

I don't want to make any judgment about the bloggers until tommorow, but when I hear about some big party for bloggers, I want to bang my head against the wall, playing The Wall at full volume. I'm nearly 40 years old and I've had my fill of parties and ass kissing and playing journalist.

If people are wondering if I'm pissed at not being given creds, I'm not. Why? Because I know how to cover a story. If creds were so fucking important, I would have wheedled them from a friend or someone who reads the site, which includes the DCCC. Or I would have begged for help.

I am so glad I didn't do that, because then I would have written stories like every other blog. And that would have been a moral failure.

You know, I am angry at the coverage. I am disappointed. There are good spots, and people doing good work, but why the fuck aren't people more curious? Why didn't anyone walk around the harbor and look for the helicopters and boats? The speeches are on TV, and while it's nice to hobnob with your political heroes (the thought makes me ill, the only place I care about seeing Ben Affleck is at Fenway Park), what does it really bring to the table.

I do want to read about what is going on in the Fleet Center, but not exclusively. I don't care, and I don't think you do, about gossip. Which most of the bloggers are tossing up in droves. Did anyone look at the platform, try to get a feel for issues? I wanted to do policy stuff, but in the rush of business, and a hellish week in Iraq, I am dancing as fast as I can. It will have to wait until next week. One conclusion: the Dems are lying about Iraq to win the election. Just like Clinton lied about Bosnia.

But I will make this point: real reporters don't just take notes at an event. Political reporters, IMO, suck. They think they know more than they do. But real reporters, like David Halberstam and Peter Arnett, looked for stories, they didn't expect them hand delivered. There is more to reporting than covering an event.

The bloggers didn't need to hang around the hall all four days, there are other stories. But that first press pass is intoxicating, illuminating. But goddamnit, I don't trust politicians who want to throw me a party and pat me on the ass. Something is just fucking wrong with that. It sets ofdf 20 years of bells and whistles. I thought there would be people blanketing the city, hanging around different places.

I wonder if anyone will cover the protests during tonight's speech by Kerry. My hopes are minimal.

posted by Steve @ 12:41:00 PM

12:41:00 PM

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Not enough guns: Iraqi security forces

Not enough armor, not enough weapons

Iraq analyst says security forces lack equipment, training

PM - Monday, 26 July , 2004 18:30:09
Reporter: Rafael Epstein

MARK COLVIN: The future stability of Iraq remains one of the most pressing issues in global politics. It'll be decided in large part by Iraq's new police force and army.

The army's just been involved in its biggest battle so far, engaging insurgents in a five hour gun fight north of Baghdad, in which 15 insurgents were reported killed.

But one of Washington's most respected analysts says that the bigger picture is that the future of Iraq's forces is not bright.

Anthony Cordesman, from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, lays much of the blame at the feet of the Pentagon and the US Congress.

Professor Cordesman has regular access to top political and military figures in the US and Iraq. He says the US-led Coalition is guilty of a gross administrative, moral and military failure in not building and equipping effective Iraqi security forces.

He spoke to Rafael Epstein.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think the most serious problem was that we assumed that they were really not going to have to deal with active counter insurgency. That they were not going to have to be properly trained and equipped to deal with really lethal attacks.

We didn't give them the training from, really, the fall of Saddam on through April of this year. We didn't give them elementary protection like body armour. We didn't even give them the proper communications to ask for American help. And we created very, very large forces which would have been adequate only if there had been no insurgent threat, or we'd been able to defeat it very quickly.

And long after it became apparent that the insurgents were a serious movement, and in large numbers, the US aid effort still failed to provide the level of equipment and training that was necessary.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: How bad is the equipment problem, in your view?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, the statistics that are being reported by the Department of Defence essentially tell you that only a fraction of the body armour and vehicles are available. Some of the figures border on the ridiculous. The requirement for vehicles for people in the Facilities Protection Service, which has 77,000 men in it, the requirement is for less than 500 vehicles and less than 50 are on hand.

That kind of problem affects virtually all of the services.

Yet another example of gross US incompetence. Not arming the Iraqis adequately kills Americans soldiers.

posted by Steve @ 11:20:00 AM

11:20:00 AM

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Bush recovery continues

Even Wal-Mart is hurting in the Bush economic "recovery"

Americans' incomes fell for two years
Report: IRS data shows first-ever consecutive-year drop; loss of jobs blamed.
July 29, 2004: 7:05 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Americans' overall income shrank for two consecutive years after stocks plunged in 2000, the first time that has effectively happened in the since the current tax system was put in place during World War II, according to a published report Thursday.

The New York Times, reporting data from the Internal Revenue Service, said gross income reported to the agency fell 5.1 percent to $6.0 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, down from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average income fell even more, by 5.7 percent, and adjusted for inflation the decline was 9.2 percent.

The paper said the decline was due to a combination of the big fall in the stock market and the loss of jobs and wages in well-paying industries as the recession started in 2001.

The paper said before the recent drop the last decline posted for even one year was 1953.

The drop in income has hit government tax collections -- the paper said individual income taxes declined 18.8 percent between 2000 and 2002. Part of that was due to tax cuts passed in 2001.

Yeah, so how is the GOP going to spin this. At the end of the Christmas season, Nieman-Marcus made a large profit, Wal-Mart didn't. Guess where most Americans shop. Now people's incomes are going backwards, new jobs pay less and are less secure and the GOP is going to swear everything is working just fine.

Oh yeah, the deficit is $420 billion. There was no deficit in 2000. Guess where most of our money went: into the pockets of Bush and his friends.

Jen, who sent this along, said the following:

Gilly--Attention America, the economy still sucks! Remember, even though a lot of the "loss" was from multi-millionaires, who took a loss on paper only, the fact that there has been zero growth for anyone else is startling. What the hell does "grew by 1% or dropped by 2% mean anyway? Also, remember, this doesn't count the vast armies of unemployed--the IRS only looks at tax revenue taken in, and if you're off the books, you don't pay taxes.

posted by Steve @ 10:11:00 AM

10:11:00 AM

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More Florida hijinks

It was so much easier when they could vote

Florida officials: Some voting records wiped out

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 Posted: 7:53 AM EDT (1153 GMT)

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- A computer crash erased detailed records from Miami-Dade County's first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines, raising again the specter of election troubles in Florida, where the new technology was supposed to put an end to such problems.

The crashes occurred in May and November of 2003, erasing information from the September 2002 gubernatorial primaries and other elections, elections officials said Tuesday.

The malfunction was made public after the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizen's group, requested all data from the 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.

In December, officials began backing up the data daily, to help avoid similar data wipeouts in the future, said Seth Kaplan, spokesman for the county's elections supervisor, Constance Kaplan.

The loss of data underscores problems with the touchscreen voting machines, the citizen's group said. "This is a disaster waiting to happen," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. "Of course it's worrisome."

The group is concerned about the machines' effectiveness, following revelations about other problems with the system. Last month, state officials said the touchscreen systems used by 11 counties had a bug that would make a manual recount impossible. Earlier this month, a newspaper study indicated touchscreen machines did not perform as well as those that scanned paper ballots.

Also Tuesday, election reform groups asked a judge to strike down a state rule preventing counties that use the machines from conducting manual recounts from them.

Jeb missed his calling as a ward heeler, who could raise the dead to vote every four years. Does anyone believe this shit at this point. Kerry is no idiot, he's got the best election law lawyers money could buy.

If George would lie to get his war on, Jeb would like to keep his brother in office by any means necessary

posted by Steve @ 10:03:00 AM

10:03:00 AM

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How I spent Monday in Boston

Boston Herald shirt, Boston Globe in hand

When I woke up on Monday, after a few hours sleep on my sister's couch, I stared at the TV and posted to the site over a dialup connection. It was not fun, but it was the only way to get online. Once you have DSL, going back sucks. Once you have wireless, DSL sucks. And here I was at the beginning. Dialing in to MSN. I thought the days of having a dial up account to go online went the way of floppy disks.

But what I saw on TV was interesting. Competing talking heads at various sites around the Hub, as Bostonians call their city, and with good reason. It is a hub. It took me a couple of hours to get going. Mainly because I was waiting for my nephew to wake up. He works Tuesday-Saturday, and Sunday is a day off. We'd spent the day running around, shopping, and then came back. My sister, who works two jobs, doesn't cook much any more, since her boys are 16 and 25. They can order in like everyone else.

I had Dunkin Donuts, because that IS a good New England breakfast. With coffee. Always with coffee.

Then, we went to the Cambridgeside Galleria. Why? To get lunch. Now, you're probably wondering why we didn't go to some kind of trendy Cambridge restaurant or something. Well, I wanted to go to the mall, for one thing. And my nephew works with teens, a job he's great at and will, one day, translate into a teaching job. He worked in business, but he liked kids better. And doesn't much like Bush. Like most black people. So after we ate lunch, he went back into the city and I walked around Cambridge.

The Rock the Vote Bus outside the Cambridge Galleria br />Steve

What I saw there was a voter registration drive working the kids over from Rock the Vote. Miles from the Fleet Center, miles from the so-called action, there was an active outreach campaign, with minority kids pinholing people, asking them if they were registered to vote.

Card handed out in GOTV drive

Rock the Vote tent outside Cambridge Galleria

The mall also had a wireless hotspot, so I worked there for a while. Then it was off to Harvard Square. First, I took a cab to Kendall Square, heart of MIT. Well, it was pretty dull. Then, on to Central Sq, which is betwee the two schools, where I had a 7-11 Chili dog to break a $20. I also bought the Boston Herald, where I read several unhinged articles on the Convention. One reciting GOP talking points. What was amazing was the schizophrenia of the paper, saying Massachusetts wasn't liberal but calling for health care reform. I tossed it in the trash.

I saw a few delegates riding up to Harvard Sqaure. But they were mingling with the locals. Which was important to see. The whole vibe was calm, and the security didn't go as far north as Harvard. There was a button seller doing good business outside the T stop. I wish I had taken a sharper picture, but between them and the Falun Gong protesters, they were the extent of political activism outside Harvard. There were symposiums there, but mostly, it was a cool summer day, where I gathered up my strength (I was lugging my laptop) and people watched. Which is something everyone should do. Not for random reasons, but it allowed me to see various groups of delegates wandering around. Not too many hippies, a lot of professionals, obviously. But they seemed connected, purposeful.

Then it was back on the Red Line to Park Street. When I came out, there were maybe 10-15 MP's including an officer and an Air Force sergeant. Which was insane. There was a couple of protesters, but nothing big. I had missed the big Sunday rally of 150 protesters.

Man protesting, facing clump of MP's

What you'd see outside the Fleet Center is a protest movement with little real energy. Not because they love John Kerry, but because they absolutely hate Bush. The protesters are the typical crunchy sorts, for the most part. The Black Tie folks have a little more energy, but the way Boston set it up, they can be blissfully ignored.

The front says Grassroots Democrats

The one big protest was the anti-abortion rally with the hypocritical teen girls leaving chalk grafitti behind. It's nice to see young people so dogmatic about an issue they haven't faced yet.

Free transport to the DNC

Downtown Crossing had the LaRouche culties, who I suspect were paid workers, holding up signs. Of course, Boston had help tables with convention workers and MBTA employees assisting delegates and random people, like me. What I noticed was that there were more people shopping than usual on a weekday in Boston. Mostly because it was shut down.

La Rouche workers in Downtown Crossing

I then got on the Orange line to Haymarket, which puts you off two blocks from North Station. For some reason, the distance was supposedly a hike, when it was a short walk, maybe five minutes. Bostonians and their directions. Then the security increased. There were cops in dumptrucks, used as barriers, along with concrete barriers. But the police presence wasn't heavy or obnoxious. They were cracking jokes in that wiseass way common in Boston. As I charged up my dying digital camera off of my laptop, I noticed delegates walking up and down the largely empty street.

Empty street near convention center

A lot of women, young guys in ties and khakis. What I realized was that most of these people were the same kind of student government types you hated, if you had any sense, in high school. The same earnest faces, disconnected from brutal reality, willing to suck up to anyone willing help them. This doens't mean they're bad people, but they are not risk takers. After all, what kind of 25 year old wants to do politics. The kind that can't be trusted, of course.

The protesters were pretty ineffectual, mostly because their anger had been sapped. The delegates didn't have time for their fringy nonsense, the press didn't care, and the protesters were not serious.

However, I was impressed with Planned Parenthood's button and sticker effort. Young women, mostly the just out of college set, were walking around approaching everyone but me and handing them stuff. Only after I had left the area, did they hand me a sticker.

At the end of the street, there were three fat guys blathering about how great Bush was. This tall young woman started shouting, mostly to be heard, that her brother had served in Iraq. When she asked one of the clowns if he was a vet, he avoided the question, like all blowhards do. But it was an amazingly civil conversation. No one lost their cool, but then the girl had made her point.

Civil protest with fat, right wing wackos

There something you should never forget about a convention, especially a Democratic convention, is that it really does look like America. The blacks and hispanics aren't tokens, and they aren't ignorant and poor. It is the American middle class in action. Rational, sane people, and very few of the Greens or hippies in action. Even the kids dress seriously. It is rote, to some degree, but it is also important, if no other reason, to remind ourselves of what democracy should be.

After spending an hour watching the people, I walked back towards Faneuil Hall. I was going to hop the train, but it was four blocks away, a distance any respectable New Yorker would walk. For some insane reason, the security increased. There was another clump of MP's, and ninja-suited SWAT of the state and federal variety. SWAT team guys sitting around looking bored. MP's lookig bored. On the way back, I walked by the Holocaust memorial, which is scary effective. Steam rises from the ground into five chiminies with the name of the five Nazi extermination camps. A family speaking Hebrew stopped by as I sat down. As memorials go, it's low key, even striking in its simplicity. You might even pass it by in search of a lobster dinner. But I noticed two gray haired white women dressed in black robes. They were Buddhists from the Pioneer Valley, and their vigil was touching, even if the delegates pretty much ignored it. They were people in a hurry, and these women were not.

Anonymous security goons shoving people out of the way so the famous could appear on Hardball. I did see Ron Reagan sitting on the set outside Qunicy Market wiht David Gergen, but by that time, I was wiped out and full from my lobster roll and chowder dinner. So I sat down. And delegates, two Naval officers and kids doing some more VR stuff were around.

The actual delegates were geeky, wonky, whatever adjective you want. The activists, especially the young ones, were energetic, well as energetic as one could be in what was a very calm, relaxed environment. The best shirt of the day was worn by these two girls, which said "Bitches Vote". As I walked to the State Street station to go home and catch the speeches, I saw even more MP's and as I turned down the block, there was a line of motorcycle cops standing around looking as bored as all the other cops, but without access to brownies and coffee like the Boston SWAT and federal cops.

My day ended, and loaded down with cheap books and loose leaf tea, I went back to my sister's place to struggle with the dial up and watching the speeches.

If I have any conclusions, I'll draw two personal ones and save the critque for Friday, when I've read more sites. One, I am so glad, and grateful I was able to walk around Boston. I've done politics and it so easy to get sucked in the machine, and not see what you need to see with your eyes. Th DNC want people focused in the hall, not outside it. They want you to stay in a cocoon of parties and events, and avoid the Boston people live in. It's just the latest stop on the campaign road show. Instead, I did what I knew I wanted to do, which is see the city beyond the Fleet Center. What surprised me was that I seem to be the only person bothering to do so.

The other is that Boston screwed up. They made people scared, shoved the locals away, bought into the Homeland Security trip and then lost money. Security, as I said before, is important. But, seeing bored cops eat brownies doesn't scare suicidal jihadis much. If this is the security state, it isn't going to make us very secure.

posted by Steve @ 3:28:00 AM

3:28:00 AM

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Arab troops in Iraq?

Troops? Egyptian troops? In Iraq? Why not ask us to help occupy the West Bank as well.When Mubarak is hung from a lamp post I'm sure his family will like Arizona just fine.

Saudi Arabia Proposes Islamic Force in Iraq
Proposal Made During Talks With Secretary Powell

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; 3:57 PM

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 28 --In talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Saudi Arabia today proposed the creation of an Islamic force to help stabilize Iraq and potentially someday replace at least some of the U.S.-led military coalition, according to senior Arab diplomats here.

At a joint press conference with Powell, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal confirmed that the proposal is now on the table but refused to provide specifics until further discussions with Powell over a working dinner.

But a senior State Department official traveling with Powell reacted positively to the initial idea. "We're interested. It could be useful. We have to flush it out," he said. He described it as a "supplemental force."

The Saudi government also talked today with Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is also visiting the kingdom, about the prospects for a new Islamic force. Saudi Arabia and Iraq agreed today to restore relations and reopen embassies in each other's capitals.

Saudi Arabia has been involved in behind-the-scenes diplomacy for at least two weeks exploring the possibility of a force from Muslim nations. Saud held talks recently with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Vienna to discuss specifics. The current coalition of 31 countries has U.N. approval.

Although no countries have signed on, a senior Saudi official suggested that Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Bangladesh and Morocco are among strong possibilities. But no countries on Iraq's borders, including Saudi Arabia or Jordan, which already offered troops, would be included.

The Saudis have listed four conditions they want addressed to facilitate formation of a Muslim force, the senior Saudi envoy said. They include that the force would come under a U.N. umbrella; that it be formally invited by Iraq; that it would help replace some of the coalition troops; and that the United Nations would be in charge of the political process in Iraq, including elections.

Don't you love how the Saudis volunteer other Arabs to die in Iraq. Cute plan. Of course, the riots in those countries will make deployment impossible.

Well, of course there was a catch. Do you think our new, weak strongman would conceed power to the UN, and notice who isn't offering troops-Egypt. The largest and best trained Arab army, Given the Moroccan and Algerian records in killing their own people, well, they wouldn't be much help in establishing democracy.

So which Saudi gets kidnapped to make the point that doubling down on a losing hand isn't smart.

Hey, I say we volunteer French troops for the Sudan. Yeah, they South Africa, Holland and Norway will send troops, right? Well, that's what a little birdie told me in Washington the other day.

This is, of course, both desperate wishing by our Saudi friends, and yet another attempt to shine us on.

"Oh ifendi, we will send the men right away," they say in English, and the minute we leave the room. "Stupid infidels, they think we would die to protect the nonbelievers, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA."

And if Iraqis will kill Pakistanis to make a point, do Algerians come in kidnapped, bulletproof and bomb proof versions? Because if they don't, they'll die just like 900 Americans have.

posted by Steve @ 7:43:00 PM

7:43:00 PM

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Just another day in Iraq

US soldiers and Iraqis rush to help bomb victims

Scores killed in Iraq bomb attack

At least 68 people have been killed in a car bomb explosion outside a police station in Iraq, exactly one month after the transfer of sovereignty.

Witnesses said a suicide bomber drove a car into a crowded market area, as men queued to join the police.

Dozens of people were also injured in the morning attack in Baquba, 65km (40 miles) north-east of Baghdad.

More than 160 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since the interim Iraqi government took power on 28 June.

In other violence:

* seven Iraqi soldiers and 35 insurgents were killed in a joint multinational and Iraqi raid near the town of Suwariya, south of Baghdad

* two soldiers serving with multinational forces were killed in clashes with insurgents in Anbar province, the US military said

* eleven US soldiers were wounded and at least on Iraqi insurgent was killed in an attack on a US army camp outside Ramadi, west of the capital

* at least one person was killed in a rocket explosion on a busy street in Baghdad

* an Iraqi policeman was shot dead in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk

* on Tuesday night, one US soldier was killed and three wounded in a roadside bomb in Balad Ruz, north of Baghdad.

Burning wreckage

The latest attack was the worst since the 28 June transfer of power, and the bloodiest since a blast in the holy city of Najaf last August killed more than 80 people.

Among those killed in Wednesday's car bombing were 21 people travelling in a minibus, a health ministry official said.

25 July - Clashes with police leave 13 insurgents dead
7 July - Car bomb during memorial service kills nine
27 June - Six national guards killed at checkpoint
26 June - Three die in grenade attack on political party offices
25 June - Three die in police station attack
24 June - 13 die in town amid co-ordinated blasts across Iraq

"I saw a car overtake a minibus and it slammed right into the queue of people," said Riad Abdul Latif, an internal affairs officer at the police station, who was 100m away when the bomb went off.

Police said young men had come to the police station to join the force. Because of the number of applicants, some had to queue outside.

Yeah, things are turning around in Iraq, for the worse. If this is what happens during the DNC, what happens next month?

posted by Steve @ 1:41:00 PM

1:41:00 PM

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Boston: Republic of Fear

One of the protestors near the Fleet Center. Note the dump truck behind him. All were manned by cops

Before I get into exactly what I saw, I know you're all waiting with baited breath, I want to discuss the whole Republic of Fear installed in Boston this week. It is, without question, one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. There wasn't just security at the Fleet Center, but at the Cambridgeside Galleria for God's sake. Did they really think someone was going to blow up the nearly empty Sears on a Monday afternoon? What? Was a rampaging cell of AQ members from MIT going to rush over and start the jihad?

I know keeping Boston safe is not a joke. I remember seeing an F-15 fly right over Central Park on 9/11. Jen, who lived in downtown Brooklyn at the time, remembers seeing Blackhawks, Little Birds and Apaches over downtown Manhattan across the river. So security is no joke to me, and I understand the need for it. You can bet the Spanish wish they had better intel and security before March 11. But what is going on in Boston is silly, and as Kos said, security for show. In any other time, the city and state police would have been more than enough. But to not only bring in MP's, but Navy and Air Force personnel as well, without regard as to how they would act in a crisis. Imagine the scene if there was a shooting, not even terrorism, but just a knuclehead armed robbery. I would be scared shitless of being shot by teenaged MP's. Most cities don't arm their part time cops, yet hundreds of MP's are wandering around Boston, armed. They're nice kids, polite, well-meaning, but it will be a miracle if they don't overreact. One we should all pray for.

Not all of their precautions were stupid. Closing the highway and subway near the Fleet Center was sane and rational. All it would take is one stolen gas tanker or a few pipe bombs to kill a lot of people. It is reasonable and rational to prevent traffic near the Fleet Center.

But if I were an Afghan-trained jihadi, who was sucidially reckless, there are so many clumps of bullshitting, chatting, coffee drinking and brownie eating cops, I could make my point with a grenade and a Ruger Mini-14 in Copely Square or Boston Common. They aren't on patrol, they aren't checking people, they're chatting up fellow MP's, saying hello to other soldiers, planning how to spend their massive overtime on top of their 14 percent raise (Boston cops make $80K a year), that any serious people could wreak havoc.

They closed the second story of Faneuil Hall after five o'clock, which to me seemed, well, silly. What are they afraid of, Lee Harvey Oswald II blowing off the back of Chris Matthews head? Anyone with a nand grenade could get close enough to do that. Again, security for show. As was the fence around the building. What did they expect? A North Korean human wave attack?

By the time Delta (who is on call, as they are for all major national security events) arrives, the crazy jihadi has either fled or been killed. The question is how many civilians are shot by panicking cops and MP's in the process?

Security officials say that they are always doing things behind the scenes. Well, sure, but the massive display of force could have been toned down. AQ now stands poised to force the US to spend millions without cause over internet and cell phone traffic. It's more effective than 100 attacks. What better way to keep the country on edge, but with this constant fearmongering and hype. It's cheap ( the cost of a phone call or internet connection), it doesn't have any risk attached to this, and it doesn't expose what sleeper cells there and, oh yeah, AQ gets to see how US security for large events work. They can note the units deployed, how they're deployed and which attacks might work best. They can do this for years to come. And when they do finally strike, they know where the holes are and how to find them.

The Republic of Fear mentality created by Mayor Mennino is at it's height at the protest prison, protest cage, whatever. Not only is it literally a cage built around the North Street T stop, the speaker's stage faces the highway, behind a pillar. So when you enter, you can't see the speakers on stage. This is the most unsafe conditions for protest imaginable, except for carrying a Babe Ruth poster around Fenway in a Yankee jersey.

But you know why this condition exists? Because the protesters are not serious people. Serious people would not have tolerated this crap for 10 seconds. Despite the sometimes clownish demeanor, if Al Sharpton was leading a protest, that cage wouldn't have been a cage, because he would have shut the city down otherwise. The protestors are all theory protesters, the are enraged about things which don't affect their lives.

When I was in the protest cage, some woman was ranting about the Palestinians. And I knew instantly why I hated the ANSWER crowd. Because they are so fucking patronising. You have decent, concerned people, protest groupies looking for a new way to piss off their parents, and waspy anti-semites. But none are serious, not about protest, the Palestinians, or anything else which is more complex than Bush Lied.

While I don't want to divert the conversation, my point is that anyone who genuinely cared about the Palestinians would be as outraged about the endemic corruption in the PA as the occupation. Why does Arafat's family live in luxury in Paris while people live in slums in Gaza and Ramallah? Why does he control the police? Israel doesn't run these things. The PA does. And while I oppose the occupation, I am disgusted with the corruption and the resulting misery created by the PA. Running around, making anti-semitic statements doesn't make much difference if you're a Palestinian kid in the West Bank who just wants a job and a decent life for your family. It's easy for rich, white Americans to patronize these people, and use them as a cudgle in the fine tradition of WASP Jew hatred. Because if it was about more than that, they would decry corruption along with the occupation. Because if the PA is corrupt, the IDF will be replaced with an equally brutal, equally violent PA police and Army. And that means just exchanging bosses.

Serious people, like the fire widows and cops in New York, would never tolerate this kind of restriction. Forget free speech for a minute. Just the physical conditions are so dangerous, and so stupid, should have enraged the protestors to ignore it. As most are. Boston has 400 years of political activism. Restricting it to a cage shames not only Meninno and the city, but all of us. People need to check it out, walk around in it, describe it. Because it is wrong on its face and dangerous to boot.

It's nice to play protest, to march around and play anarchist, as long as you get to stay at Tuffs or Brandeis and keep your scholarship or have the 'rents pay the bills. But it isn't a joke in the West Bank, it isn't a cheap cause. It's people's lives. And while it may be cool to wear an "end the occupation" T-shirt, for most of these people, it's an ideological exercise, or a political temper tantrum. Which is why the tolerated the cage. And I give the anarchists credit. They may be rich kids, but they have heart and some brains, by refusing to participate in the protest prison. Unlike the ANSWER crowd, some of whom still think like undergrads,even at 50, at least these folks listened to their Harvard professors and know what free speech is. I think much of what they're doing is wasted motion, but at least they're doing something more than cheap sloganeering by challenging this nonsense.

It won't be so easy next month.

posted by Steve @ 12:21:00 PM

12:21:00 PM

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What makes Obama run?

Gave a really crappy speech in 1988

In 1988, Bill Clinton gave the first big speech of his national political career, which I saw.

Without question, it was a disaster, like most things that year. Some Republican wag asked why Michael Dukakis was not part of the convention. Well, Michael Dukakis lied about his wife's sobriety when asked and the party never really forgave him. Kitty Dukakis was swilling cologne like a Russian tank driver. But Clinton's speech was like a turd in a punchbowl. It was truly awful, too long, too unfocused, too boring.

However, Barack Obama had better luck. If he were better known, the speech he gave would have been an excellent nominating speech for John Kerry. As it stands, it will serve as a template for Democrats to speak about any number of issues for years to come. Not only does the man drip charisma, he seems to have recovered the voice of the Democratic Party. He talked about money and faith in ways that the Democrats haven't in years.

I posted the text of the speech because it is something that should be read, not just talked about.

Speeches are funny things, they can do as much harm as good. I remember Pat Buchanan's KulturKampf speech in 1992, and the generally horrified reaction to it. Molly Ivins said that the speech "sounded better in the original German". As usual, she nailed it. It was an awful, Falangist kind of speech, the kind of thing which sounds better with an armband on at a rally.

Obama blew the room away. It was the kind of speech where you wish you were there to hear it. I wasn't and I wish I was.

I am rarely impressed by the poise and grace of a politician, because that IS their job. But Obama seems like a winner, such a winner that the Illinois GOP seems afraid of him. Is there no State Rep or Senator willing to risk a run? Scary. And if he has the presence of mind on the campaign trail he did tonight, well, that man is going places.

And as one of Atrios's posters noted, the man refuted Bill Cosby in an intelligent, but blunt, way. Oddly, because Obama is a man who had to find his black identity in the most unlikely and among coolest towards blacks places in America, Hawaii. His mother was white, his father Kenyan, his stepfather Indonesian. Yes, America makes anyone who is even partially black, black, but he seems to have found a black American identity some biracial people never grow completely comfortable with. He grew up literally outside of the black community. When he got to Columbia, he had to define himself.

Now, my family has someone who attended all of New York's major schools, except St. John's. Columbia was, by far, the least friendly towards blacks. Whereas Fordham was indifferent, and NYU not especially tense, Columbia, at least in the 80's, was. It wasn't Princeton icy, but it was a place you could feel uncomfortable. So young Mr. Obama had to make a conscious decision about who he would be. Which is no small deal, and it had to influence him at Harvard, which has a solid tradition of black scholarship (it was the one Ivy which readily accepted blacks as far back as the 19th Century).

Why does this matter?

Because his acceptance of being an American black is not small, not a minor detail. It isn't his heritage, it isn't how he grew up. He had to decide to accept it, and take no small abuse for not being like other blacks. He didn't have family in the South or eat their food, or learned their stories. He had to decide to do that. It's not like he could have said he was white, but he certainly didn't have to become a civil rights attorney in the most racially divided of America's large cities, Chicago. His wife is black, as well. Which means he was comfortable in his skin in a way some people, biracial or not, are never. And he was hammered for it when he ran against Bobby Rush, who may be an indifferent legislator, but is as much a hero in Chicago as John Lewis is in Atlanta. Rush survived being a Black Panther when they were about something and the Chicago PD executed them. Yet. Obama survived the slings of blackness against him and is now poised to head to the Senate, with no opposition, so far, an amazing story.

Yes, it was only a speech, but this is a guy who doesn't seem to take the easy way out of things, and that is a good sign in a person and a politician

posted by Steve @ 3:10:00 AM

3:10:00 AM

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The full text of Barack Obama's speech

Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic Convention in Boston

This is the full text of Barack Obama's speech before the DNC in Boston Tuesday night. It may be long, but before the legends start, people actually read what he said.

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton's army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to he self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will he counted — or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.

Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. That man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and sacrifice, because they've defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he'll offer them to companies creating jobs here at home. John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves. John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option, but it should never he the first option.

A while back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, six-two or six-three, clear-eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week. As I listened to him explain why he'd enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us? I thought of more than 900 service men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns. I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one's full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or with nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists. When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure. John Kerry believes in America. And he knows it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!

Tonight, if you feel the same energy I do, the same urgency I do, the same passion I do, the same hopefulness I do — if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president, and John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you and God bless you.

posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM

1:34:00 AM

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