Draft Board member Alvin C. York, WWI Medal of Honor winner
Voter registration drive. Is fear of the draft driving new voters to the polls?
If you've noticed the whiff of fear from the GOP while the press has missed the shifting dynamics of the race, you aren't alone.
In two days, two different Republican Secretaries of State have tried to suppress new voter registrations. In Ohio and Colorado, various games have gone on to limit the explosion of new voters.
Because Karl Rove's gameplan was to register every evangelical he could while hoping the Dems did what they usually do, targeted campaigns among unions and minorities.
Instead, ACT has changed the rules of the game. After a shaky start, they have enrolled massive numbers of new voters, and the supposedly neutral MTV is running a scare the shit out of everybody choose or lose ad centering around the draft. In Ohio and Florida, it's like 10-1 ratio.
This wasn't expected and has more potential impact than the ad wars.
Also, losses in Iraq are driving young men to register to save their asses from Iraq.
The Rove gameplan is having the wheels fly off as Dem leaning voters are regisgtering in numbers unpredicted by the GOP. And what's worse, is that the last month will be filled with the most intense and well-funded GOTV effort in history. Which is why the RNC sent out that liberals banning the bible/faggots marrying mailer. They know if any part of their base stays home, it's not only over for Bush, but at least one House of Congress. The potential collaspe has spread beyond Bush and into the Senate and House. Mainly because Dems have access to internet money unavailable in past cycles.
The election isw coming down to Iraq and the odds of going there and the security mom is outnumbered by the don't send my kid to Iraq mom. While women with younger kids may trust Bush, women with teenagers certainly don't. The fear of a draft is growing daily and they don't trust Bush. Not that I think Congress will support it, but to be honest, the more desperate Bush gets, the more I wouldn't want to bet a teenager's life on it.
The prospect of a draft, after the deaths of so many young people, haunts parents, scares them silly. And with fewer loopholes, the hint of desperation is growing.
Now, as I've said in the past, the military doesn't want a draft for many reasons, but Bush may do anything to win in Iraq, except send his kids over there. Even the discussion of the draft is bad news for Bush. And having been defined as a liar in the media, a lot of people do not trust him to be honest about this issue.
BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
in Washington, D.C.
and CELESTE KATZ
in New York
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Briton Ken Bigley pleads with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to save him from Iraqi kidnappers in video aired on Al Jazeera.
Chained and shackled and caged like an animal, British hostage Ken Bigley sobbed into a terrorist's camera and moved America's staunchest ally to say he is willing to "respond" to the men who beheaded the captive's two U.S. colleagues.
"Tony Blair is lying, he is lying when he said he's negotiated. He has not negotiated. My life is cheap. He doesn't care about me," Bigley moaned yesterday.
Forced to crouch in a tiny cage and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Bigley addressed Blair directly: "I am begging you for my life. Have some compassion, please."
But the pressure on Blair brought by Bigley's video - the second released by his criminal captors - was undeniable. And all the more so because of the footage, aired on Al Jazeera, of the chains circling the 62-year-old civil engineer's neck and binding his wrists and ankles.
Blair may be just trying to buy time by saying he's willing to "respond" to the terrorists, U.S. officials and outside experts told the Daily News. None expect Blair to cave in to al-Zarqawi.
The prime minister most likely is hoping to launch a rescue mission, a senior Bush administration official said.
"Blair has been a steadfast supporter of the war on terror and he understands the stakes," the official told The News.
Are they fucking kidding?
Is there any place in Iraq which looks like Princess Gate or Mogudishu? No? Now, you tell me how an SAS troop is going to find this guy in a city of 400,000-500,000 people. Much less spring him and get him out alive.
Seen any picture of helicopter assaults lately? No? Why?
Because one $100 RPG is a lot cheaper than a million dollar helicopter. And the minute that a helo is heard, the locals will run outside and fill the air with cheap grenades.
Blair better pray the kidnappers want money more than to sink his government. Because if they decide to be ruthless, they will kill this man and stick a sign on him : killed for George Bush. That would cause Blair insane problems at home.
The Administration is in some dark Gotterdamerung-type fantasyland where commandos solve all your problems like Rainbow Six. Well, this is the real world. This isn't going to happen and rescue is a faint hope, at best.
Hey, if the Brits can find him and spring him, it would be good. But I doubt that's gonna happen with the current shitty state of intel in Iraq.
Not safe, not stable: A WSJ reporter discusses Iraq
Just another day in Iraq
This letter ran on Jim Romanesko's Media News page at the Poynter Institute's website, the home of journalists online, yessterday. The reporter, who works for the Wall Street Journal, wrote this as an e-mail to friends, and it spread all over the net among journalists immediately.
Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.
Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.
It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.
Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."
What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.
Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.
A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.
For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods./CONTINUED BELOW
WSJ reporter Fassahi's e-mail to friends /2 9/29/2004 2:47:12 PM
The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating.
I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.
America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.
As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.
Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?
Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.
I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.
Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."
One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.
The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a 'no go zone'-out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.
I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"
I, along with countless others I'm sure, am an avid reader of your News Blog. I have written something that I would like to share with you. I hope that you may find it of some value when reminding people of exactly how we can support our troops, and to me that is by voting. It is a little lengthy, and follows below:
How Bush Supports Our Troops
Day after day, I've been listening to this Administration, the hate-filled right-wing talking heads, and the lazy media day in and day out claim that they support the troops while Bush and Cheney spew out vicious lies and propaganda.
They say that a vote for Kerry is equivalent to a vote for the terrorists, and that any voice of dissent to their catastrophe of a war gives 'aid and comfort' to the terrorists while 'lowering troop morale'. This is the lowest tactic I've seen used in political history, and those that repeat these lies are doing nothing but playing with fear and facism.
The only people giving aid and comfort to the terrorists are Bush and his Administration. So I have a few words of advice for this Administration and every other idiot hack who repeats this venom:
- Sending our troops to war without adequate protection such as body armor tends to lower troop morale. I'm sure the terrorists are also comforted to know that our troops aren't as protected as they should be as well.
-Sending our troops to war without an ample amount of the basic necessities, such as water, tends to lower troop morale.
-Cutting a soldier's pay while they are at war and putting further burden on their families back home tends to lower troop morale.
-Watching the 'independent contractors' hired by our government earn in a few months what they may earn in a few years while having to protect these 'contractors', tends to lower troop morale.
-Refusing to acknowledge the facts about the situation on the ground in Iraq, and refusing to tell the truth to the rest of America about how dangerous their mission really is, tends to lower troop morale.
-Refusing to listen to the advice of the top commanders in charge of the troops and instead choosing cherry-picked intelligence from those who obviously don't know what in the hell they're talking about, tends to lower troop morale.
-Two words: Stop-Loss. Implementing an obvious back-door draft just may tend to lower the ****ing troop morale!
-Having your validation for being sent to war (WMD, and sorry, the old decrepit unfunctional weapons they *found* that date back to the 80s don't count) be completely blown out of the water, tends to lower troop morale.
-Watching the Commander in Chief joke about the 'missing' WMD by shoving his head between his legs (a position I'm sure Bush is quite comfortable with) probably isn't all that ****ing funny to the troops on the ground who are actually doing the searching, and I doubt the families of those who died while searching in vain for those pesky WMDs find it all that funny either. It just may lower the ****ing troop morale!
-Having the troops risk life and limb based on political expediency (Fallujah), not letting them finish the job, and sending mixed messages such as this, tends to lower troop morale!
-Hearing the President and his top level cabinet members continuously contradict themselves regarding the state of the war, tends to lower troop morale!
-Attending the funeral of one fallen British soldier while steadfastly refusing to honor even one fallen American soldier here at home, tends to lower troop morale!
-Refusing to acknowledge over 7,000 wounded soldiers who have had their young lives forever changed in the service of this catastrophic pre-emptive war of choice, lowers troop morale.
-Serving fake turkey for a photo-op to troops who were forced to sign a loyalty oath just to watch you smirk for the cameras while the rest got nothing but MREs, lowers troop morale.
-Watching people who support Bush sport band-aids with little purple hearts colored on them not only insults every veteran this country has ever had, it lowers the ****ing troop morale when they wonder if they will be the next to be ridiculed for the medals they earned!
-Telling the world that you don't "give much thought" to Osama Bin Laden, the man who was actually responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 on the "day that changed everything", but instead opt to start a war that has accomplished nothing but multiplying the terrorists "faster than we can kill them", lowers troop morale.
-A 0 for 5,000 conviction rate of terrorists using the PATRIOT ACT which strips Americans of their civil liberties at home, the same liberties our troops are supposedly fighting for, lowers troop morale.
-Punishing a 'few bad apples' that committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and tainted the good name of the American military while letting those who authorized the actions of those 'few bad apples' walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist lowers troop morale!
-Deeming the Geneva Conventions that were set in place not only to protect the prisoners of war of other countries, but designed to protect our troops in the event they should be captured, irrelevent and leaving our soldiers open to torture, lowers troop morale!
-Sending our troops to war without a plan to win the peace and an exit plan to bring them home, lowers the ****ing troop morale!
This is what you support when you support Bush. I am beyond sick and tired of being labeled as an 'unpatriotic person who gives aid and comfort to the terrorists' simply because I choose to open my eyes, speak truth to power, and throw away those famous rose-colored glasses that Bush is so fond of wearing these days. I choose to see the reality of the situation, and the fact of the matter is, you couldn't do a better job of supporting the terrorist cause than by voting Bush into office this November. I'm sorry, but slapping a yellow ribbon on your ass while endorsing this Administration isn't going to make things any better.
In the famous words of Peter Finch, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!!"
Of the many cultural grenades being tossed that day, though, the one must-see is "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD that is being specifically marketed in "head to head" partisan opposition to "Fahrenheit 9/11." This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed "Family, Faith and Freedom Rally," a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Though you can buy the DVD for $14.95, its makers told the right-wing news service WorldNetDaily.com that they plan to distribute 300,000 copies to America's churches. And no wonder. This movie aspires to be "The Passion of the Bush," and it succeeds.
More than any other campaign artifact, it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message. It transforms the president that the Democrats deride as a "fortunate son" of privilege into a prodigal son with the "moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet." Its Bush is not merely a sincere man of faith but God's essential and irreplaceable warrior on Earth. The stations of his cross are burnished into cinematic fable: the misspent youth, the hard drinking (a thirst that came from "a throat full of Texas dust"), the fateful 40th-birthday hangover in Colorado Springs, the walk on the beach with Billy Graham. A towheaded child actor bathed in the golden light of an off-camera halo re-enacts the young George comforting his mom after the death of his sister; it's a parable anticipating the future president's miraculous ability to comfort us all after 9/11. An older Bush impersonator is seen rebuffing a sexual come-on from a fellow Bush-Quayle campaign worker hovering by a Xerox machine in 1988; it's an effort to imbue our born-again savior with retroactive chastity. As for the actual president, he is shown with a flag for a backdrop in a split-screen tableau with Jesus. The message isn't subtle: they were separated at birth.
"Faith in the White House" purports to be the product of "independent research," uncoordinated with the Bush-Cheney campaign. But many of its talking heads are official or unofficial administration associates or sycophants. They include the evangelical leader and presidential confidant Ted Haggard (who is also one of Mel Gibson's most fervent P.R. men) and Deal Hudson, an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign until August, when he resigned following The National Catholic Reporter's investigation of accusations that he sexually harassed an 18-year-old Fordham student in the 1990's. As for the documentary's "research," a film positioning itself as a scrupulously factual "alternative" to "Fahrenheit 9/11" should not inflate Mr. Bush's early business "success" with Arbusto Energy (an outright bust for most of its investors) or the number of children he's had vaccinated in Iraq ("more than 22 million," the movie claims, in a country whose total population is 25 million).
"Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threaten our very existence?" Such is the portentous question posed at the film's conclusion by its narrator, the religious broadcaster Janet Parshall, beloved by some for her ecumenical generosity in inviting Jews for Jesus onto her radio show during the High Holidays. Anyone who stands in the way of Mr. Bush completing his godly battle, of course, is a heretic. Facts on the ground in Iraq don't matter. Rational arguments mustered in presidential debates don't matter. Logic of any kind is a nonstarter. The president - who after 9/11 called the war on terrorism a "crusade," until protests forced the White House to backpedal - is divine. He may not hear "voices" instructing him on policy, testifies Stephen Mansfield, the author of one of the movie's source texts, "The Faith of George W. Bush," but he does act on "promptings" from God. "I think we went into Iraq not so much because there were weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Mansfield has explained elsewhere, "but because Bush had concluded that Saddam Hussein was an evildoer" in the battle "between good and evil." So why didn't we go into those other countries in the axis of evil, North Korea or Iran? Never mind. To ask such questions is to be against God and "with the terrorists.
Far more startling is the inability of a president or his acolytes to acknowledge any boundary that might separate Mr. Bush's flawed actions battling "against the forces of evil" from the righteous dictates of God. What that level of hubris might bring in a second term is left to the imagination, and "Faith in the White House" gives the imagination room to run riot about what a 21st-century crusade might look like in the flesh. A documentary conceived as a rebuke to "Fahrenheit 9/11" is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel.
So if Bush declared himself to be head of the Methodist Church, executed Laura and married Condi, would that be ok? After all, it worked for Henry VIII.
The idea that George Bush, or ANY Bush refused a sexual advance from an attractive woman is a nice bit of fiction. There's a reason Barbara Bush is as mean as a rattlesnake.
WHile I would think most readers here would find this silly, there's another point to be made.
Any time that religous people place their faith in secular authority, they are going to face severe disappointment. Because Bush is so religious that he almost never goes to church services. He uses religion as a tool, not as an article of faith.
Also, there's a simple fact: F 9/11 was made by a talented filmmaker, not some political hack to make a point. This tripe about Jesus and Bush for the simpleminded is not something that people take seriously outside the evangelical community. Which is most of America.
Typing religion to politics stands to hurt religion more than politics. Because when you reject politics, the natural course of revenge will take place and religion pays.
This is the kind of tripe insulting to most thinking people regardless of their religious views. While this may impress some, it may engrage others, like most black people.
On Sunday afternoon, former New York City Ballet dancer Toni Bentley glissade’d into the garden of the Chateau Marmont to discuss her new memoir about sodomy.
Specifically, butt sex. The Surrender—Ms. Bentley’s annals of anal, her tract about her tract, her literary end-all be-all (it becomes hard to stop)—will be published by ReganBooks this week, and the author, hiding behind dark prescription sunglasses and a veil of Chanel No. 5, seemed both proud and petrified: a brittle twig amid the eternally, depressingly green West Hollywood foliage.
"I’m certainly not proselytizing," she said. "I’m not trying to get everyone to do this act—in fact, I think most people shouldn’t do it. I’m completely laissez-faire about that. But I also feel that I can’t be entirely alone."
Indeed, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The thing that makes Ms. Bentley’s new sex confessional extraordinary is less its content—sex confessionals aren’t exactly hard to come by these days—but her curriculum vitae. A New Yorker since the age of 4, she spent a decade dancing under the direction of the legendary George Balanchine in that great Turning Point era when ballet was more than just high art to the city, when it seemed as if every little girl in Manhattan owned a pair of Capezio slippers (pink for the Upper East Siders; black for the Village "bohemians") and a gleaming cellophane-bound copy of Jill Krementz’s book A Very Young Dancer.
Reading Ms. Bentley’s most recent opus, which is certainly not for the faint of stomach, it’s tempting to draw a parallel with the current best-seller, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson. Both authors are published by Judith Regan, with the latter’s signature scrapbook-like chapter structure and spastic typefaces. (Is it just one’s imagination, or do Regan books even smell different as they roll off the presses, sort of like burnt popcorn?) Both have queasy New York Times connections (Ms. Jameson famously got a little help from former Times music writer Neil Strauss; Ms. Bentley has freelanced for the Arts & Leisure section—"an honor," she said). Both reserve the honor of anal sex for the special men in their lives ("I’ve only given that up to three men, all of whom I loved," writes the bodacious Ms. Jameson; Ms. Bentley "surrenders" to two). And both have put in time as strippers.
The porn star’s book, more of a multimedia affair, includes an illustrated interlude entitled "Jenna Jameson’s Stripper Dancer Injuries 101" (bunions, lower back pain, ruptured breast implants)—hard knocks of life after logging nights at the Crazy Horse Two in Las Vegas.
The ballerina followed a different track to taking it all off: Tiptoeing after Mr. Balanchine to one of his favorite hangouts, the original Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, in 1980 ("I thought, ‘Oh my God, these girls are just like us’"), a seed was planted which bloomed years later when, no longer dancing with NYCB, Ms. Bentley performed a choreographed burlesque of her own at the now-defunct Blue Angel in Tribeca. "Part of my coming-out," she said, adding, "I still have the money I made—$89."
The Surrender takes some care to hide that it is sex writing; it comes sheathed in a black cover with a keyhole opening; underneath, there’s a painting by the late John Kacere of an anonymous odalisque’s posterior in sheer panties. "Everyone is going to be asking if that’s me," the author sighed. In fact, the image was also used in the opening shot of Sofia Coppola’s much-ballyhooed 2003 movie, Lost in Translation. "It all kind of happened at the same time, and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s the Year of the Ass,’" Ms. Bentley said, giving a prim little laugh.
The book, thank God, is not without humor, intended or otherwise. The narrator describes why she was drawn to ballet as a physical activity ("I had an outright terror of balls of any size heading in my direction"); tells of an affair with a masseur ("The massages were paid for by insurance," she notes); and declares Dr. Ruth–ishly that "you can’t half-ass butt-fuck." A plucky chapter on crotchless panties adds to the occasional advice-column feel. Freud shows up on page 53; Proust’s "madeleine" 99 pages later; Eve Ensler is sandwiched somewhere in between.
There are more than a few swipes at feminism. "Oh my goodness," Ms. Bentley said, with some exasperation. "Basically, feminism is a fantastic thing. Feminism made it possible for me to write this book and have it published, O.K.? That’s the bottom line. Within the scope of things, if feminism means pro-women in every way, I’m the ultimate. But I do not call myself a feminist necessarily. It’s not a label I use."
She went on: "Obviously, I believe in equality, whatever that is. I think that men and women are equal. I mean, equal pay, that’s such a given—but going beyond that? Sexually? Even-steven in the bedroom? That’s not really interesting."
Alas, it is not particularly more interesting to learn that Ms. Bentley has saved the detritus of her anal lovemaking (with a fellow known simply as A-Man) in "a beautiful, tall, round, hand-painted, Chinese lacquered box." Hundreds of used condoms and K-Y: "My treasure," coos the narrator. One woman’s treasure is another’s trash, honey.
Nor, perhaps, was it wise for her to write, after A-Man penetrates her for the 220th time, that "I want to die with him in my ass"—for at that point, the reader is tempted to agree.
The Surrender’s many sex scenes are graphic, unrelenting, explicit—full of four-letter words and the occasional multiple-partner exertions. It might not be porn in the Supreme Court’s "I know it when I see it" sense—i.e., meant to titillate—but it certainly shares a narrative resemblance to porn: pseudonymous principals, thin story line, jumpy sex scenes.
"Obviously, what we were doing was very technical," said Ms. Bentley. "I’m not going to deny that I wanted to be totally graphic. Which I would align very much with my dance training! You know, Balanchine was the most spiritual, most soulful choreographer ever, and he never talked about that. It was technicalities: If you do three million tendus, you might get it right, and then chances are your soul might show onstage. So to me, this is the same thing."
Early critics are gushing like Astroglide, including Publishers Weekly ("wonderfully smart and sexy and witty and moving," wrote the reviewer, adding a star) and The New Republic’s literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, a noted balletomane who received the galley from noir balladeer Leonard Cohen (a mutual friend whose song "Waiting for the Miracle" was chosen by Ms. Bentley as her stripper music).
"I think it might be a small masterpiece of erotic writing," Mr. Wieseltier said in a phone interview. "I admired its lucidity, the tone is true and unsentimental, and it’s so natural—the explicitness is so completely unaffected. It’s not a cold book, but it’s not a moist book. In a funny sort of way, you come away with a feeling more for Toni’s mind than for Toni’s body. I had a feeling of regret when I read it, that it fell to Judith Regan to publish it. I miss the austerity of the old Olympia Press. I miss the days when pornography used to be published austerely."
Is The Surrender pornography, then? "I fear that her publisher thinks it might be pornography," Mr. Wieseltier said sharply. "It’s not pornographic at all. It’s an account of an experience, not an account of a pleasure or an account of a sin or an account of a crime. ‘Serious writing about sex’ is what I’d call it.
"It’s a miracle that a trade publisher did this at all," he added. "Other New York publishers were simply cowards."
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 29, 2004; Page B01
It was not the sort of letter a school delights in sending home to its families.
"Dear Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grade Parents:
"It is with great regret that I tell you that your child may have been exposed to alcohol today at lunch," said the missive signed by Alexander Harvey IV, head of the private Alexandria Country Day School.
It was tequila and margarita mix, to be precise, left in the refrigerator in a pitcher and mistaken for limeade by kitchen staff, who poured it into small cups and served it to children as a lunch treat, he wrote.
Some youngsters didn't like the smell and declined; others took a sip and declared it "gross," according to parents and Harvey.
An administrator who realized something was wrong started investigating, Harvey said, and quickly discovered that the limeade was really liquor -- although it is unclear why the kitchen staff didn't notice. It had been left over, he said, from a party two days earlier at the school for the staff, faculty and Board of Trustees.
Harvey told parents in the letter that everybody in the school, with 240 students from kindergarten through eighth grade who pay tuition from $14,200 to $15,600, was informed the same day, Sept. 10.
I guess it was "lets get your kids fucked up day" at school. Usually I thought that took place in your senior year of high school, maybe junior if you ran with the potheads.
Didn't anyone notice the faint whiff of fucking tequila in the mix? Hell, I watched Jen polish off a pint glass of margaritas two Sundays ago, I could smell the tequila across the table. Now, I tend not to like tequila myself, especially after my last birthday (long story), but I mean, shit, if you work with kids and serve booze to adults, you might want to dump the booze before class starts.
At least the kids noticed it reeked of oh, tequila.
You know, in a DC public school, people would be fired. But here, they're just preparing them for prep school.
Imagine two kids at Exeter, arguing:
Well, I started drinking in eighth grade.
Pussy, I started drinking in third grade, at school. Top that, punk.
I just heard Tweety say Kerry was eight points behind, which we know is bullshit for two reasons: one, new voters are flooding in like a human wave attack and they're mostly registering Democratic, two, most of the major polls have flaws which are worthy of note.
Besides, there's only one number which counts and it's the 50 percent line. Bush hasn't crossed it and Rove knows his boy is losing.
Anyway, more on that later. Right now, we're going to spin the debate.
It doesn't matter what Kerry actually does in the debate. He could run drooling from the atage in tears and wimpering. DOES NOT MATTER.
He absolutely crushed Bush, just made him look like an idiot and an embarassment.
You're going to call C-Span Friday morning, write your local newspaper and participate in online polls and say the following things:
"George Bush was completely inarticulate. I still don't understand what he meant about Iraq"
"I am so disappointed in Bush. We're seeing carbombs explode every day in Iraq and he won't admit failure"
"Bush thinks this is about him. Meanwhile American soldiers are dying in Iraq every day"
"Why won't Bush admit he blew the hunt for Osama Bin Laden"
"John Kerry convinced me he can do something about Iraq"
I think Kerry is better on Iraq than Bush"
"I'm going to vote for Kerry, I no longer trust the president"
"Bush lost my confidence last night. He just falls short against Kerry"
"I can't believe that Bush embarassed himself like that. It's amazing he's president".
As long as you hit the high points, Kerry was good, Bush was bad, and you can no longer vote for him, then you're doing your job. See, the idea is to create the feeling of defection and loss among Republicans. Not the truth, not the reality of your opinion, but a groundswell of movement away from Bush. And if you're in a swing state, all the better.
See, like with the draft, the issue isn't reality, but perception. And the idea is to create the perception that Bush's debate performance is repelling moderates and independents. Atrios mentioned trying to dominate the online polls on Air America's Majority Report, I say ramp it up a level, and go to the newspapers and C-Span. The GOP likes to play this game, let's play it harder than they imagined or like.
ROME (AP) - Italians celebrated the freedom Wednesday of two women aid workers held captive in Iraq for three weeks, but the nationwide joy was diluted by questions about whether a ransom was paid, a capitulation to terrorists that experts say only leads to more hostage-taking.
Italy's foreign minister flatly denied that Rome had bought the women's freedom. Premier Silvio Berlusconi declined to issue a flat yes or no. A key lawmaker said he believed the government had paid $1 million.
``In principle, one should not give in to ransoms. But this time, they had to,'' said Gustavo Selva, the lawmaker and a Berlusconi political ally. ``The lives of two girls was the most important thing.''
Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, 29-year-old workers for the aid group ``Un Ponte per...'' (A Bridge to ...), were kidnapped Sept. 7 in a daring raid on their Baghdad office. They were released Tuesday.
Berlusconi brushed off the ransom question, telling La Stampa newspaper: ``We won't say anything. Even more, we won't talk about it anymore.'' Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told state-run radio that ``no ransom at all'' was paid.
But Selva voiced the thoughts of many Italians.
``The government has denied it, but that's an official denial that comes in the context of the obligations of a government in order not to give the impression that it gave in to the ransom,'' Selva said.
The ransom question is particularly delicate in Italy, which for decades has maintained a tough stance against domestic kidnappings. A 1990 law freezes the assets of hostages and their families to prevent ransom payments. The legislation, often applied despite desperate appeals from relatives willing to pay, is credited with reducing abductions domestically.
But with Italy rejoicing over the women's release, few seemed to mind how that result was achieved.
``Who cares?'' said opposition lawmaker Antonio Di Pietro.
``There's nothing to be ashamed of,'' the newspaper La Repubblica wrote.
When faced with kidnappings, governments typically say they are resisting negotiations with kidnappers and hardly ever admit paying ransom.
Selva said a ransom ``leads to a dangerous path, because obviously - either for political reasons or criminal reasons - it might encourage others to take hostages to make money.''
An editorial in the conservative paper Il Foglio said that ransoms would lead to more ``weapons and recruitment in the war against peace and democracy'' in the Middle East.
In Spain - which withdrew its forces from Iraq after the March 11 train bombings in Madrid and the election of a Socialist government opposed to the war - Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos congratulated Italy on the release, but warned that ``the blackmail of the terrorists must never triumph.''
``No one should negotiate with the terrorists in any way,'' Moratinos said.
The Italian government couldn't risk the murder of these two women. So they paid off the kidnappers. Who will, of course, kill more coaltion troops. But it solved Berlusconi's problem.
At some point, this circus of death has to end. The resistance and their criminal allies have confounded us at every turn and it will only get worse, as thre Brits find a way to save their hostage.
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In June 2002, the police say, members of a high-status tribe sexually abused one of Ms. Mukhtaran's brothers and then covered up their crime by falsely accusing him of having an affair with a high-status woman. The village's tribal council determined that the suitable punishment for the supposed affair was for high-status men to rape one of the boy's sisters, so the council sentenced Ms. Mukhtaran to be gang-raped.
As members of the high-status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers.
In Pakistan's conservative Muslim society, Ms. Mukhtaran's duty was now clear: she was supposed to commit suicide. "Just like other women, I initially thought of killing myself," said Ms. Mukhtaran, now 30. Her older brother, Hezoor Bux, explained: "A girl who has been raped has no honorable place in the village. Nobody respects the girl, or her parents. There's a stigma, and the only way out is suicide."
A girl in the next village was gang-raped a week after Ms. Mukhtaran, and she took the traditional route: she swallowed a bottle of pesticide and dropped dead.
But instead of killing herself, Ms. Mukhtaran testified against her attackers and propounded the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped. The rapists are now on death row, and President Pervez Musharraf presented Ms. Mukhtaran with the equivalent of $8,300 and ordered round-the-clock police protection for her.
Ms. Mukhtaran, who had never gone to school herself, used the money to build one school in the village for girls and another for boys - because, she said, education is the best way to achieve social change. The girls' school is named for her, and she is now studying in its fourth-grade class.
"Why should I have spent the money on myself?" she asked, adding, "This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children."
I wish the story ended there. But the Pakistani government has neglected its pledge to pay the schools' operating expenses. "The government made lots of promises, but it hasn't done much," Ms. Mukhtaran said bluntly.
She has had to buy food for the police who protect her, as well as pay some school expenses. So, she said, "I've run out of money." Unless the schools can raise new funds, they may have to close.
Meanwhile, villagers say that relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place by slaughtering her and her entire family. I walked to the area where the high-status tribesmen live. They denied planning to kill Ms. Mukhtaran, but were unapologetic about her rape.
"Mukhtaran is totally disgraced," Taj Bibi, a matriarch in a high-status family, said with satisfaction. "She has no respect in society."
Remember, these are our ALLIES. Wonder what the media response would be if they caught this in Afghanistan (where it no doubt takes place).
I mean, North Korea may suck, but I'd rather be there than Pakistan.
Oh, they'll rape her again and then kill her, if her family doesn't kill them first. And she got justice. The only problem is that the law and custom often smack into each other.
Here's the relevant question: do you think this society really has a problem with Osama Bin Laden? Enough to hunt him down and kill him?
Late last week, the federal government reached an agreement with Yaser Esam Hamdi, permitting him to leave the United States for Saudi Arabia.
In late 2001, the Northern Alliance handed Hamdi over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Since then, Hamdi--a U.S. citizen--had been held without charges as an "unlawful enemy combatant."
Click here to find out more!
In June of this year, Hamdi won a partial victory in the Supreme Court when the Justices ruled that he was entitled to a hearing on his claim that he was not affiliated with the Taliban or al Qaeda. But that hearing never took place; instead, talks between Hamdi's attorney and the government ensued.
In the wake of the announcement of Hamdi's release, commentators have questioned whether the government ever needed to hold Hamdi in the first place. As an editorial in the Miami Herald asked, if, as the government once claimed, Hamdi "was so dangerous that he couldn't even be allowed to talk with a lawyer," why does the government now think that he poses no threat?
That and other questions about Hamdi's detention will seemingly never be answered--at least in court. That is because Hamdi's agreement with the government provides, among other things, that he waives the right to sue for any violations of his legal rights that may have occurred.
But is that really the end of the story? The law has long recognized the principle that a contract signed under duress is not enforceable. And under the leading Supreme Court decision, the 1987 case of Town of Newton v. Rumery, if Hamdi one day brings a lawsuit, the government will bear the burden of establishing "that the agreement is neither involuntary nor the product of an abuse of the criminal process."
It is doubtful whether the government can meet that burden.
A Contract Requires Voluntary Consent
Suppose that Kim the Kidnapper demands that before she will release Harry the Hostage, the ransom payers must agree not to sue for their money back, the government must agree not to prosecute Kim, and Harry must agree not to sue for the harm the ordeal caused him. Suppose further that the ransom payers, the government, and Harry accept Kim's terms.
None of these promises, however, would be enforceable--for the parties were acting under duress. A contract requires the voluntary consent of the parties entering into it, and none of the parties acceding to Kim's demands was in a position to say no.
Does that legal principle extend to agreements with the government? Yes and no. Contracts with the government are generally subject to the same rules as contracts with anybody else, including the principle that no enforceable contract can arise out of undue coercion. But what constitutes undue coercion? In the context of agreements with the government, courts seem particularly loath to find duress on the part of the private party.
Consider plea bargains--in which a criminal defendant gives up her right to a jury trial and appeal in exchange for the promise of a relatively light sentence. They are generally held by courts to be enforceable. Yet the threat of a long rather than a short prison sentence, or even the threat of execution, certainly can, as it were, concentrate the mind.
Nevertheless, our courts do not see defendants who accept plea bargains as having acted under duress--so long as there is a factual basis for believing that the defendant actually committed the offense.
Why would he sue? The right to retain his US citizenship, among other things. That and the illegal travel restrictions are more than enough for him to make this deal and then whip around and sue the crap out of the US. US citizenship is important around the world and getting it is not a small deal.
This is written by a soldier currently serving in Iraq and was posted on Lew Rockwell.com
I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality.
When we were preparing to deploy, I told my young soldiers to beware of the "political solution." Just when you think you have the situation on the ground in hand, someone will come along with a political directive that throws you off the tracks.
I believe that we could have won this un-Constitutional invasion of Iraq and possibly pulled off the even more un-Constitutional occupation and subjugation of this sovereign nation. It might have even been possible to foist democracy on these people who seem to have no desire, understanding or respect for such an institution. True the possibility of pulling all this off was a long shot and would have required several hundred billion dollars and even more casualties than we’ve seen to date but again it would have been possible, not realistic or necessary but possible.
Here are the specific reasons why we cannot win in Iraq.
First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war and must label the increasingly effective guerilla forces arrayed against us as "terrorists, criminals and dead-enders."
This implies that there is a zero sum game at work, i.e. we can simply kill X number of the enemy and then the fight is over, mission accomplished, everybody wins. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We have few tools at our disposal and those are proving to be wholly ineffective at fighting the guerillas.
The idea behind fighting a guerilla army is not to destroy its every man (an impossibility since he hides himself by day amongst the populace). Rather the idea in guerilla warfare is to erode or destroy his base of support.
So long as there is support for the guerilla, for every one you kill two more rise up to take his place. More importantly, when your tools for killing him are precision guided munitions, raids and other acts that create casualties among the innocent populace, you raise the support for the guerillas and undermine the support for yourself. (A 500-pound precision bomb has a casualty-producing radius of 400 meters minimum; do the math.)
Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." We came here with some fantasy idea that the natives were all ignorant, mud-hut dwelling camel riders who would line the streets and pelt us with rose petals, lay palm fronds in the street and be eternally grateful. While at one time there may have actually been support and respect from the locals, months of occupation by our regular military forces have turned the formerly friendly into the recently hostile.
Attempts to correct the thinking in this regard are in vain; it is not politically correct to point out the fact that the locals are not only disliking us more and more, they are growing increasingly upset and often overtly hostile. Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality.
We are told that the locals are not upset because we have a hostile, aggressive and angry Army occupying their nation. We are told that they are not upset at the police state we have created, or at the manner of picking their representatives for them. Rather we are told, they are upset because of a handful of terrorists, criminals and dead enders in their midst have made them upset, that and of course the ever convenient straw man of "left wing media bias."
Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them. This is almost always the case in guerilla warfare, especially when your tactics for battling the guerillas are aimed at killing guerillas instead of eroding their support. For every guerilla we kill with a "smart bomb" we kill many more innocent civilians and create rage and anger in the Iraqi community. This rage and anger translates into more recruits for the terrorists and less support for us.
We have fallen victim to the body count mentality all over again. We have shown a willingness to inflict civilian casualties as a necessity of war without realizing that these same casualties create waves of hatred against us. These angry Iraqi citizens translate not only into more recruits for the guerilla army but also into more support of the guerilla army.
Fourth, their lines of supply and communication are much shorter than ours and much less vulnerable. We must import everything we need into this place; this costs money and is dangerous. Whether we fly the supplies in or bring them by truck, they are vulnerable to attack, most especially those brought by truck. This not only increases the likelihood of the supplies being interrupted. Every bean, every bullet and every bandage becomes infinitely more expensive.
Conversely, the guerillas live on top of their supplies and are showing every indication of developing a very sophisticated network for obtaining them. Further, they have the advantage of the close support of family and friends and traditional religious networks.
Fifth, we consistently underestimate the enemy and his capabilities. Many military commanders have prepared to fight exactly the wrong war here.
Our tactics have not adjusted to the battlefield and we are falling behind.
Meanwhile the enemy updates his tactics and has shown a remarkable resiliency and adaptability.
Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life. It is tragic, indeed criminal that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as the blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional.
It is all the more ironic that this un-Constitutional mission is being performed by citizen soldiers such as myself who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, the same oath that the commander in chief himself has sworn.
The essay prompted a swift response from Lorentz's commanders. In an e-mail this week to Salon, Lorentz, declining to comment further on his piece, noted, "Because of my article, I am under investigation at this time for very serious charges which carry up to a 20-year prison sentence." According to Lorentz, the investigation is looking into whether his writing constituted a disloyalty crime under both federal statute (Title 18, Section 2388, of the U.S. Code) and Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
According to the UCMJ, examples of punishable statements by military personnel "include praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States, or denouncing our form of government with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection among members of the armed services. A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statement if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant. The disloyalty involved for this offense must be to the United States as a political entity and not merely to a department or other agency that is a part of its administration."
Under UCMJ guidelines, the maximum punishment in the event of a conviction would be a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for three years.
For instance, in September 2003, Tim Predmore, an active-duty soldier with the 101st Airborne Division, based in northern Iraq, wrote a scathing letter to his hometown newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star in Illinois. "For the past six months, I have been participating in what I believe to be the great modern lie: Operation Iraqi Freedom," Predmore's letter began. "From the moment the first shot was fired in this so-called war of liberation and freedom, hypocrisy reigned," he continued, labeling the war "the ultimate atrocity" before concluding, "I can no longer justify my service on the basis of what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies."
As for Lorentz's case, Lattin, who served as a Marine judge advocate, says it's not uncommon for commanders to threaten soldiers with legal action in order to make a point: "If they know there's an offense for a disloyal statement, I wouldn't be surprised if he said, 'Knock it off.'" Lattin doubts that in the end Lorentz will face prosecution for his writings. "After this gets to lawyers and prosecutors who think about the consequences and the First Amendment, I don't think this will go anywhere."
We're winning, LALALALALALALALALALALA, I don't want to hear anything else, we're winning, we're winning. Shut up, SHUT UP. SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!
ORLANDO - Local politicians call him the absentee ballot king.
Before each election, Ezzie Thomas appears at the homes of hundreds of black voters and picks up their absentee ballots.
In a predominately black Orlando neighborhood, it seems everyone knows the 73-year-old Thomas. He was the local television repair man for years, extending credit to black residents when no one else would.
But now Thomas' tactics in the spring Orlando mayoral election are at the center of a controversy that once again has put Florida elections in the national spotlight. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated Thomas, closed its case, then reopened it. Now the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are investigating the FDLE investigation.
Critics of Thomas' methods argue they are illegal and give Democrats an edge. Critics of the FDLE investigation say all candidates go after absentee ballots like Thomas does and call the probe an attempt to scare black residents into not voting in November, which would help Republicans.
"If there was evidence of widespread absentee ballot fraud, I don't think anyone would question their right to investigate," said Democratic lawyer Joseph Egan, who wonders why the FDLE would focus so hard on someone like Thomas.
No one claimed Thomas gave them money. No one saw Thomas change a vote.
Democrats say minority voters accept the practice, which makes it easier to vote. Critics say it invites fraud. It also violates a seldom-enforced law against getting paid to request, collect or physically possess absentee ballots.
Republicans, who have mastered absentee ballot campaigns, say they don't collect voters' ballots by hand.
"I've never heard of that," said consultant Mark Proctor. "That's pretty aggressive."
* * *
A week after the election, Brian Mulvaney called Orlando police. "What was happening was illegal," he said.
Months passed. Then he read in the Orlando Sentinel that Dyer had been cleared.
In a letter, FDLE regional director Joyce Dawley said the agency found no basis to charges that Dyer campaign staffers had illegally collected absentee ballots.
Dawley said later that someone - she can't recall who - asked her to issue the letter.
Mulvaney called FDLE and asked how agents could clear Dyer when they had not interviewed him.
Dawley apologized and said she only meant to clear Dyer, not close the entire case.
After she met with Mulvaney, the investigation began again. A week later, FDLE agents talked about big-time charges. Agent Wayne Ivey told the Sentinel the investigation could lead to racketeering charges.
* * *
In early June, FDLE agents began knocking on voters' doors in Lake Mann Homes, a public housing complex on Orlando's west side.
In late June, Thomas called a news conference to decry the FDLE's tactics. Democratic activists claimed scores of voters were too scared to vote absentee.
"There are African-Americans who believe that if you vote absentee, you will have cops showing up at your door," said Egan, the Democratic lawyer.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert compared the FDLE to sheriffs who suppressed the black vote in the segregated South.
One thing is certain. Egan said Thomas "is scared to death."
Thomas' criminal defense lawyer has begun cooperating with prosecutors and now defends the FDLE's conduct. "They were just doing their job," attorney Dean Mosley said.
Prosecutors questioned Thomas under a subpoena that gave him immunity from prosecution, Mosley said.
"I can't believe they want to prosecute a 73-year-old man who thought he was doing a public service," Mosley said. "I think their target is some elected officials."
Meanwhile, Thomas spends his days behind the screen door of his ranch house. For November's general election, he doesn't plan to collect a single absentee ballot.
Oh, but this gets better. Nigger vote suppression seems to be all the rage in Florida these days.
Politics and sleaze envelop Orlando As the presidential campaign approaches its showdown, the Republicans in the state run by George Bush's brother are up to their tricks again. Andrew Gumbel reports from the heart of Florida
27 September 2004
In Orlando, the Florida home of Disneyworld and a vital political battleground, the campaign for the November presidential election is getting sly, nasty and very, very personal. Normally, at this stage of the proceedings, Ezzie Thomas, a well-known character on the predominantly African-American west side of town, would be out chatting to the people, registering them to vote before the 4 October deadline and helping them with absentee ballots if they do not think they will have time to make it to the polls on election day. But the 73-year-old Mr Thomas, an affable ladies' man, is staying out of public view for fear of exacerbating what is already a highly controversial - and highly political - criminal investigation of his election-related activities.
A similarly low profile is being taken by Steve Clelland, the head of the local firefighters' union. Last week, he did not even dare attend a local appearance by John Kerry, the candidate he is supporting for President, in case it added to the legal troubles facing his own organisation. The firefighters are also subject to a criminal investigation, the chief allegation - for which no evidence has been produced - being that they colluded with City Hall to set up an illegal slush fund for political campaigning.
What makes the troubles facing the two men particularly sinister is that they are declared Kerry supporters, with the power to bring in hundreds if not thousands of votes for the Democratic Party. The investigations are being conducted by the state police, known as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which reports directly to Governor Jeb Bush, brother of President George Bush.
The Republicans, naturally, deny the investigations are politically motivated. But even they acknowledge that a chill has spread through Orlando's overwhelmingly Democratic black voting community after a flurry of unannounced visits by armed state police to at least 52 homes whose mostly elderly residents had signed up for an absentee ballot with Mr Thomas's help.
So this is the key swing city in the key swing region of the key swing state that will determine whether or not George Bush wins another four years in the White House. Little wonder passions are getting heated. Given the unholy electoral mess Florida produced in 2000, and given the state's sordid history of vote fraud and systematic disenfranchisement, especially of black voters, both parties find themselves voicing the suspicion that the other side will try to steal Florida if only they can figure out how. "It's a blood sport," said Joe Egan, a prominent Orlando lawyer who represents both Mr Thomas and the firefighters.
The greatest suspicion fell on Ezzie Thomas, because he had personally witnessed applications for 270 absentee ballots, a figure big enough to force a run-off election if it could be shown the votes were fraudulent. The city attorney's office cross-checked the signatures on the absentee ballots with the original application forms and concluded they were valid. Intriguingly, the FDLE did the same thing and stated, in a letter written to the state attorney in Orlando in May, that there was "no basis to support the allegations" and that the case should be considered closed.
"They've been trying to explain away that letter ever since," said one senior city employee who did not wish to be identified. Something caused the FDLE to change its mind, because in early June uniformed officers began knocking on doors and asking threatening questions of dozens of black voters who had been in contact with Mr Thomas. Several said the FDLE officers took off their jackets and exposed their firearms while questioning them. In at least one case, the officer crossed his legs and tapped a 9mm pistol sitting in an ankle holster while he asked detailed questions about the interviewee's reasons for voting absentee. (Absentee voting is a choice under Florida law, so one can wonder about the line of questioning.)
"I felt threatened, embarrassed and like I was being accused of being a criminal," one interviewee, Willie Thomas, wrote in a statement. Many others told Joe Egan later that they no longer wanted to vote absentee because they felt it was somehow illegal.
Like the black absentee voters, Mr Clelland also noticed the officer tapping the 9mm pistol in his ankle holster as he let loose his barrage of questions. "You would think these investigators were going after John Gotti [the late Mafia don]," he said bitterly. "Their actions have gutted this organisation locally." After the grand jury ruled that the union leave bank was legal, Mayor Dyer asked Florida's attorney general for a ruling to get the FDLE off their backs. But Mayor Dyer's bad luck was that he had run for the office of attorney general in 2002, and his successful Republican opponent, Charlie Crist, was not about to cut him any slack. Mr Crist has refused to offer an opinion either way.
Such is the incestuous nature of politics in Orlando, and in Florida generally, all of it poisoned further by the governor being the President's brother. Mayor Hood was regarded as a consensus-building moderate for much of her time in Orlando, but became more ideological on such issues as gay rights and abortion as she cast around for a new job. Most Democrats believe that, as Secretary of State and as a direct appointee of the governor, her mandate is not to guarantee a free and fair electoral process so much as to do everything in her power to clinch a Bush victory, much as her notorious predecessor, Katherine Harris, did in 2000.
Orlando is also in a state of major flux. For years, the big citrus farmers, as well as the land developers who came in Disneyworld's wake, made it a reliable Republican stronghold. Then an influx of low-wage service workers, including a growing tide of immigrants from Puerto Rico, changed its complexion.
The Republicans were shocked when Al Gore beat George Bush in Orange County in the presidential race in 2000, and vowed not to be taken by surprise again. The party identified the Puerto Ricans - many from middle-class backgrounds back home - as the key constituency and set to work to win over as many as possible.
With workers from both parties rushing to register as many voters as possible while there is still time, the race remains nerve-rackingly close, close enough that the votes controlled by Ezzie Thomas and the firefighters might just make the crucial difference.
While everyone is worried about Diebold, the traditional methods of nigger vote suppression are alive and well. The difference being that people are watching this time.
ACT needs to step in and work with these communities to collect absentee ballots from these poor, and obviously scared people and do a public service campaign.
CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.
In this report, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger looks at what President Bush and Sen. John Kerry say about the possibilities of reinstituting the military draft.
Beverly Cocco has spent most of her life protecting children in Philadelphia.
She spends most of her time worrying about other people's kids. But as Election Day approaches, it's her own two grown sons who Beverly is most worried about.
"I go to bed every night and I pray and I actually get sick to my stomach," she says. "I'm very worried; I'm scared. I'm absolutely scared; I'm petrified."
Beverly is petrified about a military draft – and she's not alone. There's an undercurrent of anxiety; mass e-mails are circulating among parents worried their kids could be called up.
"I think there's a good possibility," Beverly says.
But neither President Bush, nor Sen. John Kerry has said he will re-institute the draft. In fact they both say they won't.
"The war on terror will continue," says the president. "It's going to take a while and no, we don't need a draft."
But Beverly's not buying it. She's a Republican, but also a single-issue voter.
Would she vote for a Democrat? "Absolutely," she says. "I would vote for Howdy Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe."
"I think we could do it in less than six months if we got the call," says Selective Service Director Jack Martin.
This time, Martin says there would be no long deferments for college students and a lot more people could be eligible for the draft than before: men and women ages 18 to 26 could be called up.
There hasn't been a draft since 1973, but that's not much comfort to Beverly Cocco.
So she is keeping a sharp eye on the political traffic. She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, she could easily cross over.
As a reality, the draft is very unlikely because Congress lives in fear of Beverly Cocco and millions like her. They know that if they vote for one, they'll vote themselves out of office. Americans have never liked conscription. In World War II, the draft was used as a way to control the rate of induction after the long lines after Pearl Harbor.
But there has never been a war without draft resistance.
The military doesn't want a draft because they don't want the halfwits and losers which it will bring. Everyone sees this great pool of draftees from America's colleges and the middle class, but the reality is that far more slackers and idiots will be sucked in and shoved towards the combat arms and transportation. Between homosexuality, pregnancy and medical deferments, the middle class will still find an out. It's the guys who can barely read out of high school, the people who have non-felony criminal records and the slackers who spend their days stocking at Wal-Mart who will flood the military, which is their nightmare. They've grown used to bright, if poor, and motivated kids they can work with. Sullen kids who don't want to be in the military are not what they want or need.
Why? A South Carolina Guard artillery unit bound for Iraq, filled with older men and former active duty soliders, had to be locked down because they were going AWOL, drinking and fighting. Imagine a unit of sullen, unhappy draftees. Would you want them to serve next to you in Iraq. The current soldiers may not be happy, but they volunteered for the military. They chose this life, whether out of boredom or seeking adventure or to walk around with a gun every day, they sought it out and that is the only glue holding the army together at this point. Once you introduce the unwilling, you risk a whole host of bad reactions, including increased drug use, violence and poor discipline.
People forget the antics of the late Vietnam War army, the one riven with racial division, drug use and lack of discipline. Is that the Army we want? Because that's the one you'd get with a draft for Iraq.
However, if I were a Democratic campaign operative, I would pound on this issue. I would go on college campuses and stress that the draft may well come back as losses in Iraq increase. They're already taking the IRR, the Guard is getting 18 month deployments, the next pool of people is America's registered men. They could suck them in and ship them out.
I would say that a new draft will not protect you because you are in college and Canada is not going to let you in. So when the draft come you're going to have two choices, jail or the military.
George Bush has lied about everything so far. Why do you think he's not lying about the draft? That would be a theme I would harp on.
I would scare the kids and their parents stupid with the fear of conscription. Put up posters with John Kerry's line "Do you want to be the last man to die for a mistake" and cover colleges with them.
Do I think the draft is a realistic solution? No. We don't have the year to spare in Iraq, we need men today. But I think if a 527 wanted to scare kids into voting, well, it might not be a bad thing.
The author of the letter is Martin Kozloff, Professor of Education at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (or so Horsefeathers indicates).
I'm an ordinary American. Wife (whom I love and respect), 2 kids (to whom I would give both of my kidneys), 2 cars (ten years old), big mortgage, and a job not always pleasurable.
I've worked hard all my adult life to provide for my family, to be useful, and not go out of my way to injure anyone. Like most Americans, I knew little about arab-muslim culture and believed that the developed nations were partly responsible for the poverty and authoritarian regimes that infest the middle east.
Things changed on 9/11/01 when you ruined the lives of at least 10,000 Americans.
These people instantly became my countrymen and you became my mortal enemy.
Ordinary Americans are arming themselves for war with you. I and many of my friends have closets full of handguns, rifles, shotguns and thousands of cartridges.
If we had enough ammunition and time, we would kill every last one of you.
We completely support our President and our armed forces. We only wish they would destroy you faster, but we are certain that they will.
We no longer listen to the insane words of Kerry, Harkin, Kennedy, Clark, and others whom we now see as ideologues who would sacrifice our country and our lives on the alter of their vanity and desire for power.
We no longer listen to our secular mullahs, our media fools, preaching hatred of America and sapping our will with their lies and deceptions.
We watch your cowardly methods of killing by beheading. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.
You turn your women and children into walking bombs. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.
You shoot and rape children. You kill their mothers before their eyes. You burn, hang, and tear apart the bodies of your victims, and then play with body parts. We are disgusted. But we are not afraid.
Why should we fear you? What ARE you to be feared? You are cowards. Your bravado is a clown mask that hides the soul of a ghoul. You are not able even to manufacture the knives you use to butcher your bound victims.
One day soon, our planes and missiles will begin turning your mosques, your madrasses, your hotels, your government offices, your hideouts, and your neighborhoods into rubble.
And then our soldiers will enter your cities and begin the work of killing you, roaches, as you crawl from the debris.
As cowards, you will have your hands in the air and you will get on your knees begging for mercy. And we will instead give you justice. Your actions and your words long ago placed you far from any considerations of mercy. You are not men.
And if you come to this country and harm a child, shoot a mother, hijack a bus, or bomb a mall, we will do what we did in 1775. Millions of us will form militias.
We will burn your mosques.
We will invade the offices of pro-arab-muslim organizations, destroy them, and drag their officers outside.
We will tell the chancellors of universities either to muzzle or remove anti American professors, whose hatred for their own country we have tolerated only because we place a higher value on freedom of speech. But we will no longer tolerate treason. We will muzzle and remove them.
We will transport arab-muslims to our deserts, where they can pray to scorpions under the blazing sun.
You have fucked with the wrong people.
We will rid the world of your foul breath.
Your caliphate will be your grave.
So how does he plan to do this from North Carolina?
So he wants to restart the Crusades? Another idiot who doesn't read history, because we LOST the Crusades. Us God-fearing, Muslim killing Christians
The fact is that the Muslims are winning. So if he's hot and ready to kill muslims, why isn't he in Iraq? Or does he plan to send other people's kids to enact his crusade while he sits on his ass. He wants to enact some kind of genocide forgetting one thing, there are a billion muslims. More of them than us.
Only cowards talk about killing so easily. If real, hard core Iraqi guerillas came to his house to kill him, he'd have their cocks in his mouth so fast it would put a glory hole queen to shame. He would do anything to live. Because his words are cheap. In Iraq, people shoot back and they kill Americans. This PS2 fantasy of his doesn't bear any resemblence to reality. Real soldiers are growing sick of the war because the Iraqis are not video game sprites, but real people who can shoot. And the "good guys" do not always win. In at least 1,050 families, they did not get the better of the enemy or Iraq.
I just hope this man has the common sense not to say this shit to some kid back from Iraq, who watched his friends die in combat, because he may just beat him silly.
Telling this pathetic keyboard commando that his words are the kinds of thing the Iraqi guerillas use to psyche up their troops would be beyond him. Any time you can tell someone that the enemy wants to wipe them from the face of the earth, they have a weapon. So while he plans for his version of the fourth reich, some Iraqi surfing the internet will see this, translate it, print it out and say that's how most Americans think.
It would be good to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him how he feels helping to kill American soldiers in Iraq by writing anti-American propeganda. The more racist we are, the more Iraqis can use it against us. Also ask him what branch of the service he served in and what unit he was in. After all, he'd have to be a vet to talk about combat with such confidence, right?
Sept. 28, 2004 | Lagos, Nigeria -- Militiamen trying to wrest control of the oil-rich Niger Delta threatened on Tuesday to launch a "full-scale armed struggle" on petroleum-pumping operations in Africa's largest crude oil producing nation, urging foreign oil workers to leave the region.
A military spokesman, however, called the threats "empty." Major oil companies played the warnings down, saying they won't seriously affect exports and issuing no orders to staff to pull out.
The threats, nevertheless, helped push world oil prices to historic highs of $50 per barrel Tuesday.
"Any part of Nigeria, wherever we have the opportunity to strike any target, we will strike," said militia leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari, who heads the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force.
Dokubo-Asari, seen as a folk hero by many poor residents who complain they've never shared in the country's oil wealth, said foreign workers will be considered targets as of Oct. 1 -- the 44th anniversary of Nigeria's independence from Britain.
Dokubo-Asari claims to be fighting for self-determination in the region and greater control over oil resources for more than 8 million Ijaws, the dominant tribe in the southern delta region, which accounts for nearly all of Nigeria's daily oil exports.
The government dismisses Dokubo-Asari's group as criminals, accusing them of illegally siphoning oil from pipelines.
Some Nigerian analysts say the militia could disrupt oil operations, but doesn't have the power to shut them down.
"I think the militia group is engaging in a bit of psychological warfare by issuing those threats," said Mike Ikelionwu, an oil expert with NigeriaInvest, a business research firm in Lagos. "It's certainly beyond (their) capacity to force oil companies to shut down and pull their workers out of the Niger Delta, especially at a time a government offensive has put them to flight."
Nigeria's military launched its latest offensive against Dokubo-Asari's fighters early this month in response to deadly raids in August by the militia into Port Harcourt, the country's main oil industry center.
Nigeria has neverbeen stable. The reason the oil market jumped is fear of this:
The war began with ethnic rivalry in the armed forces. After the military coup in January 1966, in which Tafawa Balewa's government was overthrown by junior Ibo officers, Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Ibo, was the appointed head of government by ministers that survived the January 1966 coup. Anti-Ibo riots followed with traditionalist Muslim attacks on Ibo people residing in the north, in September of 1967, which resulted in a massacre; 30,000 deaths and massive Ibo flight of over 1 million, from the north to the east. Easterners, who had previously supported the idea of a united Nigeria, now opposed it based on fear of safety outside the eastern region. The Federal Military Governement (FMG) made peace offerings and invited military governor of the eastern region, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu to peace talks in Lagos, (the former capital located in the west), but Ojukwu rejected them.
In January, 1968, Ojukwu finally met with Gowon, some other regional leaders and police on neutral territory - Aburi, Ghana under the protection and mediation of the Ghana's military government. The agreement reached at this conference was that a loose confederation of the regions might solve Nigeria's ethnic problems. This agreement was violently opposed by civil servants in Lagos. Awolowo, the leader of the western region demanded the removal of all northern troops in the west, and threatened to leave the federation if the east did so first. The FMG subsequently removed northern troops from the west; "and issued a decree resurrecting the idea of a confederation discussed at Aburi." Ojukwu and the other eastern leaders rejected it, by voting in May to secede from Nigeria. The mid-western region, the present location of Nigeria's capital - Abuja - announced that it would remain neutral in the event of a civil war.
On May 30, 1967 Ojukwu formally announced that Biafra would be an independent Republic. He stated that Nigerian government's inability to protect the lives of easterners and its collaboration in genocide forced the Ibo to seceed from the federation. In July army combat units were dispatched to the east, but were met with rebel troops. Biafrans retaliated by taking control of strategic points in the mid-western region. The FMG reacted by sending large numbers of the armed forces to fight in a full-scale civil war. The FMG regained control of the mid-west and the delta region, and terminated Biafra access to the sea by the end of 1967, yet, they were unable to penetrate the Ibo heartland - resulting in a stalemate.
Outnumbered and outgunned, the rebel troops had the advantage of excellent leadership and morale. However, the FMG invaded Owerri, an oil rich area of the Niger delta, in 1968 and increased their army to 250,000 men. The Biafran rebels liberated Owerri. However, but a new federal offensive in the south forced the rebels into submission.
Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency and announced plans for abolition of the regions and the redivision of the country into twelve states. This effort was recognized as a concession to the eastern region that removed northern domination, and as a strategic move, which won over eastern minorities and deprived the rebellious Ibo heartland of its control over the oil fields and access to the sea. The division of Nigeria into 12 states took effect in April 1968 and the East Central State, formerly Biafra, was reintegrated into Nigeria after the cease-fire in January of 1970.
This is only one problem Nigeria faces.
Another is increasing Muslim restlessness in the north. While this was dramatized in the west over an adultery case and riots over Miss Universe, there is a far more serious problem.
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria - Nigerian police vowed to seize or kill Islamic militants blamed for a police station raid which claimed five lives, and also sought to reassure scared villagers in embattled mountains.
For days, the security forces have been pursuing the self-styled Taliban, an armed group which killed four policemen and a civilian on September 20 when they attacked a police station at Gwoza in northeast Borno State.
The clashes and the arrival the military have scared people in Gwoza and in villages in the nearby Mandara mountains straddling the border with Cameroon, where the gang has sought refuge.
In all, 28 of the assailants have been killed in the manhunt, according to officials.
"We are aware of the concerns of the people in the state, especially in Gwoza, about this group of criminals and we are doing everything possible to track all of them down," Borno State Police Commissioner Ade Ajakaye told AFP. One of the militants was captured alive on Sunday, Ajakaye said. The insurgents took seven people hostage, two of whom they have killed, throwing their bodies down the mountainside while one escaped, survivors said.
"This is why the current operation will continue on the mountains until we are able to arrest or kill the remnants of this group. We have broadened our intelligence strategies all over the place," Ajakaye said.
Police were also trying to the fears of residents, after the chairman of the Gwoza local government council, Umar Sa'ad, said fear was palpable among people in the state over the presence of the extremists in their region.
Fifty assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were recovered from militants shot dead by soldiers last week, along with books in Arabic about Islam, according to official.
Two points: Nigeria has a large, effective army which has been used as peacekeepers. It is the backbone of African peacekeeping which is no small thing
Without Iraqi oil, Nigerian oil and Nigerian stability are serious issues of national security.
In the first of his weekly columns for Guardian Unlimited, Markos Moulitsas tells how US liberals have fought back against rightwing domination of the media since their 'goring' in 2000
Tuesday September 28, 2004
It was the year 2000, and Democrats were running on a record of peace and prosperity stewarded by the capable, if morally imperfect, Bill Clinton. It was a race that should have been won by their candidate, Al Gore. In fact, it was won by Al Gore, but the Rightwing Noise Machine kept it close enough to be stolen by the Republicans and their allies at the supreme court.
What is the Rightwing Noise Machine? Conservatives in the United States have spent the last 30 years building a vast infrastructure designed to create ideas, distribute them, and sell them to the American public. It spans multiple think tanks and a well-oiled message machine that has a stranglehold on American discourse. From the Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh, Wall Street Journal, Drudge Report and Murdoch's Fox News, to (more recently) the mindless drones in the rightwing blogosphere, the right enjoys the ability to control entire news cycles, holding them hostage for entire elections.
Gore learned this the hard way, as he faced a campaign of character assassination pushed by the right and abetted by a lazy-to-hostile press corps: Gore said he was the inspiration for Love Story. Gore invented the Internet. Gore exaggerated. Gore was boring. Of course, all of this criticism was flat-out wrong or grossly out of proportion to the alleged infraction, but it didn't matter: the media landscape offered no respite. In the US, talk radio was and remains a bastion of rightwing lunacy. Television coverage had become an extension of the Republican party, not just because of the influence of Fox News, but because conservatives had "worked the refs" so diligently that mainstream media outlets piled on their conservative "pundits" lest they be accused of "liberal bias". The political internet was dominated by the virulently rightwing Free Republic - still the largest political site to this day.
The year 2000 was a wake-up call to many partisans like myself. Surveying the landscape, we could sense the flexing of the Rightwing Noise Machine's muscles, even if we were ignorant of its ultimate size and reach. We had witnessed the goring of Gore, yet sat by, helplessly unable to fight back. We saw the Democratic party get outmanoeuvred in Florida, legally and rhetorically. We looked around for a "liberal media", yet found nothing of the sort.
It would be really sexy and dramatic to claim that a few brave blogger souls set out to build an alternative media structure, but that's not really true. We set out to write for ourselves, to provide an outlet for the angst we felt in a politically hostile environment - where criticising the president on domestic policy was somehow unpatriotic. And we weren't alone: there was a huge audience out there hungry for this content. And suddenly, the seeds of a liberal media blossomed online.
Liberal groups are fighting back, working to build a parallel infrastructure. My blog DailyKos.com receives 350-400,000 visits every day - double that of FoxNews.com and comparable to the Guardian's print run. Daily Kos and other bloggers like Atrios, MyDD, TalkLeft, and Juan Cole have become a liberal counterweight to the mainstream media and the Rightwing Noise Machine. We don't have parity, but we're working on it.
We all hope to have an impact in 2004, but there's reality: conservatives have spent 30 years building their infrastructure. We can't be expected to counter that in one year. We do things with an eye to the future, all the while doing our best to spare our country (and the world) four more years of a Bush administration.
This is great news, athough Instacracker also has a column.
Here's my point: the right online became less effective as the left bloggers started.
Because, with the exception of a few sites, most are poorly written and badly run. The natural drift of writing is left. The internet had reversed that because of the number of technically-minded liberterians and conservatives already working with technology.
I don't think you can say Gore was just jumped by the media. His campaign, frankly, sucked. Donna Brazile was not up to the job and she let her candidate get jumped over and over by the media. The professionals stood around and watched Gore get hammered. Then, they didn't fight in Florida.
What no one in the Gore campaign wanted to admit was that Lieberman was a liability. He lost a debate to Dick Cheney and was an observant Jew. That simply hurt them in key states where Christ is king. Anti-semitic feeling isn't much on the surface, but it was an issue and the Gore campaign ignored it. When a lot of people went into the voting booth, Bush was a Christian, and Lieberman clearly was not. Not that anyone would admit that openly, but it hung there like a pink monkey on your drapes.
Blogs started to rise as traditional websites started to crash. They were too expensive, too top heavy and required too many people. Blogs, otoh, are much cheaper to run, and have solid content management systems to use. Instead of playing with code, you can actually build a site, type into it and be published within an hour. Before then, site design was a laborious business taking weeks. I rebuilt the NewsBlog in six hours on a Sunday. NetSlaves took weeks to redesign and several people to do it.
The reason Frei Republik, while large, is mostly irrelevant, is that it has become a place to vent. Nothing serious happens there any longer. Just nasty comments by unhinged people.
Blogs work because they're directed, focused and organized, yet cheap to run and allow for interaction. Of course, the more people use it, the more it costs, but the scalability issues can be solved with money and code, as Kos is finding out.
The liberal reaction started with MoveOn in 1998, but it wasn't until last year that blogs really became prominent as voices of the left. Why? Because the barrier is lowered to the point that people with limited technical skill can now concentrate on writing. Once all you had to do was type, then a lot more people could participate.
What the Internet discovered was this vast pool of money on the left. It wasn't just a few large donations, but millions of small ones. Paypal and Amazon have as much to do with the growth of blogs and left politics as blogger. Why? Because, despite their flaws, average people now had access to electronic transfer payments. If I borrowed $20 from Kos over dinner, I don't have to send him a check or wait to see him again. I can sit in New York and send him money electronically in seconds. And while people may only have $5-10 to spend, you get enough people, and that's a lot of money, as Amazon can attest to.
Because campaigns can tap into this cash, and get their message right into newsrooms and bloggers have a lot of fans in the old media, what happened to Gore simply cannot happen again.
Why has the right missed out on the blog explosion? Well, because most conservative blogs aren't really conservative. They just aren't as much fun. They boot people who disagree all the time, they get things wrong, demonstrably wrong and rarely admit error. Also, with people like Glenn Reynolds and Andy Sullivan, they have a real problem standing behind their words. The quality of the writing isn't as good either in most cases. A lot of their content is reduced to score-settling. There's a reason Kos and Atrios have grown exponentially over the last year, they put up interesting content which most conservatives cannot match. Reason is problably the best written of the right of center blogsites, but hasn't had that kind of growth.
Also, there is a massive splinter in the conservative movement. No one would accuse Reynolds or Sullivan of religious devotion common in conservative circles. Because they aren't religious fundamentalists, a lof of their potential audience is put off by their secularism and Sullivan's homosexuality. Kos and Atrios, being men married to women, do not have that problem:) But by the same token, overtly religious bloggers espousing fundamentalist theology clearly limit their audience among online readers. Because conservatives demand strict ideological conformity, deviations start flamewars.
The first conservative site to break from that mold will find significant success. But they're going to have real problems establishing a Kos-like community, which many want to do. Just like they're having problems building useful 527's. Not because they can't, but because they have to have a great deal of control. Kos works because he trusts people to respect his community and keep it running. When you see conservatives who can do the same, then Kos will have a real counterpart on the right.
What I am begining to think is that a lot of this campaign is being missed by the old media. And what they do catch is being seen on blogs first.
This is a very different campaign than any before it. The number of independent players has exploded. Blogs, well-funded 527's with field teams, the BBC, the Guardian and the Bush campaign has been slow to react. It's less dramatic than reshaping politics overnight, because it's really updating old tools. But the potential for a participatory democracy will only grow as more people come online and participate.