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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Primaries 

I don't think anyone should make too big a deal of Kerry's wins tonight, given that a) the other candidates virtually skipped both states, and b) tonight's results won't get much press coverage, coming over a weekend as they do. But they are significant for one reason: Washington and Michigan, especially Washington, were states dominated by Dean in the early going. Yes, the Dean campaign will try to spin this as insignificant because Dean essentially pulled out in favor of Wisconsin, but the size of Kerry's wins still has to sting some.
It's looking increasingly likely that Dean's campaign is over, and that Wisconsin will only serve to give Dean a chance for a graceful, if delayed, exit.
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Natural 

So you know how all those homosexuals "choose" to be gay?
Apparently many animals do it too.
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Brilliant 

Orcinus has the goods on intelligence commission co-chair Laurence Silberman, a radically parisan former appeals court judge, so I won't go into that here.
But you have to give Rove credit for the brilliant way they released information on the commission's membership. First they leaked McCain, a free-thinking, independent-minded Republican who's one of the few politicians in the country who's respected by both Democrats and Republicans. That leak took place on Wednesday, and it dominated headlines on Thursday. Then Bush announces the rest of the panel on a Friday, meaning it will get little attention. Moreover, by choosing Silberman, Bush gets a corrupt right-winger without picking someone who's name will be widely recognized (like Kissinger's was). And since he's a judge, people will tend to see him as fair.
Brilliant. But that doesn't mean the Dems should let him get away with it.
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Friday, February 06, 2004

Gay-loving Democrats 

Atrios argues, as he and others have in the past, that the Democrats are going to be regarded as the party of queers no matter what they do, so they might as well at least come out and earn the title.
I've always generally agreed with this position. I think you could make the argument that being for civil unions, but not marriage, would deflect some criticism because many people in this country seem far more hung up on the word "marriage" than they are on seeing two men holding hands. But realistically, people like that--that is, non-bigoted homophobes--aren't going to make their decision in November on the issue of gay marriage. The only people who care enough about this issue to have it seriously affect their decision are either strongly pro- or strongly anti-gay rights. For true believers on both sides (myself included), the civil unions game is a betrayal.
This is especially true for Kerry, whose own state has just become the central battle ground in the gay marriage debate. Kerry simply can't stay out of this. If he tries, he'll just seem cowardly--definitely not the image he's been trying to project.
So what to do? I would find a real clean-cut, apple pie American gay couple, stand with them on stage, and say "no one can tell me this isn't a loving couple, or that they shouldn't be together." Make an issue of it. Challenge Bush to, as Kerry likes to say on the stump, "bring it on."
And you know what? Maybe it'll backfire. Civil rights didn't play well for the Democrats early on either. But in the long run, it will pay off. Because down the road, people will remember whether the Democrats stood up for equal rights, or stood by and watched.

ADDENDUM:
Several commenters to Atrios' post on this suggest that a strong Democratic stand on this will just distract people from the important issues. But Bush is going to do all he can to make this a major issue in the campaign. The Dems can either take the offensive on it now, or play defense later. Either way, the issue will be there.
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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Appeasement 

Matt Yglesias notes that Tim Russert will almost certainly pitch softballs to Bush, not only because his reputation as a tough interviewer is overblown, but because he's probably already struck a deal not to ask hard questions. Matt writes:

The same thinking, I'm sure, went into his astoundingly inept Cheney interview a few months back. If Russert had cracked the whip then is there any chance that Bush would be on his show this weekend? No, of course there isn't. It would have gone to one of the competitors. That's how the game is played.

Matt is almost certainly right about this, but it's worth noting the similarities between this kind of situation and the one CNN and other news organizations were (rightly) criticized for getting themselves into in Iraq. CNN didn't report many of the atrocities the Baathist regime was committing in Iraq because if they did they would have been kicked out. Similarly, Dan Rather asked Saddam very easy questions when he landed an interview with him, presumably because of some prior arrangement (NPR's Anne Garrels discusses this in some depth in her book, Naked in Bagdhad).
Would CNN have been kicked out if it reported Saddam's crimes? Probably. Would the Bush administration punish Russert for being tough on Bush? Again, probably. But that doesn't make such appeasement right.
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AWOL 

This post (found through, of all people, Sully) is a must-read on Bush's guard service. It gives a variety of ways journalists could try to check up on the president's service record (there are plenty of records beyond attendence sheets). Maybe they're already doing so. If not, they should be.
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Off-message 

By and large, Tenet's testimony today was exactly what we all expected--the party line.
But check out this passage, as reported in the Times:

"Let me be clear," he went on. "Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs, and those debates were spelled out in the estimate. They never said there was an imminent threat. Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policymakers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests. No one told us what to say or how to say it."

At first glance, this sounds like the same, "it wasn't the Bush administration's fault" line that we've been hearing all week. But look closer. "Analysts on several important aspects of these programs, and those debates were spelled out in the estimate. They never said there was an imminent threat." In other words, the CIA said it wasn't sure, and the White House decided for itself that Iraq had weapons and that they were an "imminent" threat (what, they never said 'imminent'? I beg to differ).
In other words: the CIA may have provided some bad data, but it's Bush and Co. who decided which questionable data to believe.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Bush=Kucinich 

Here's the Times on the Bush administration's plan to turn things over to the UN:

The administration seems willing to allow that. Officials said Mr. Annan would have wide latitude to present Washington with a plan for Iraq's future governance — including a schedule for elections later this year — and that if he can demonstrate that it has broad backing in Iraq, the administration would have little choice but to go along. Some administration officials are now even saying it is possible for the United Nations to take the lead role in guiding the Iraqi political process after the return of self-rule.

And here is Kucinich in last Thursday's Democratic debate:
My position is that we go to the United Nations with a whole new direction, where the United States gives up control of the oil, control of the contracts, control of ambitions to privatize Iraq, gives up to the United Nations all that on an interim basis to be handled on behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people are self-governing.
Furthermore, we would ask that the UN handle the elections and the construction of a constitution for the Iraqi people.
When the UN agrees with that, at that point, we ask UN peacekeepers to come in and rotate our troops out.
We help to fund it, we would help pay to rebuild Iraq, and we would give reparations to those innocent civilian noncombatants who lost their lives - to their families.

The Times doesn't explicitly mention UN peacekeepers, but other than that I can't see much daylight between these two.
(thanks to Calpundit for the Times link.

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The world's crazy uncle 

Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show:
"colossal? That ain't the half of it. Leaking the name of a CIA operative as a political payback? That's colossal. Accidentally bombing an embassy? That's catastrophic (and kinda funny when you think about it). But going to war on an entirely false pretext? There is no word in the intelligence community for the magnitude of that mistake, and they come up with a lot of words."
*snip*
"All standards accomplish is to set limits on what we can do. What really excites me about this revelation is that it actually lowers the standard for the next invasion. Before the standard was imminent danger. Now the standard is, 'What are you looking at?'"
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Oh, those guys 

CJR takes the press to task for prematurely anointing John Edwards as Kerry's only challenger (and yes, I did this too).
CJR's basic point is that this is not only premature, but likely wrong (unless the press attention on Edwards becomes self-fulfilling), since Clark actually did better in more states than Edwards, while Dean is actually running second in total delegates.
I think CJR is certainly right that news organizations shouldn't be acting as if this is a straight Kerry-Edwards race, it's not. The media are just so desperate for a two-man race that they're rushing things. But to the extent that there is a number two, I think it's still Edwards, and certainly isn't Dean. Dean hasn't won a state, which the other three candidates all have, and he's lost states where he's spent a lot of time and money. He could still turn things around (yes, I know that's different from what I said last night), but it will take a minor miracle.
So then we're down to Clark and Edwards. They've each won one state, and Clark has run second in more than Edwards. But Edwards won the state everyone was paying the most attention to last night. That's significant not only for the media attention, but also for the reality that it was a more tightly contested race. Clark won in a state where he had much less competition. And Edwards essentially tied Clark in Oklahoma, despite having spent much less time there.
Moreover--and this is based more on my gut than on any data--Edwards makes much more sense as an anti-Kerry than Clark. Clark has said publicly that he wouldn't have gotten in the race if Kerry had caught fire (this was back when Kerry's campaign was slumping), and with good reason. Clark has little to offer that Kerry doesn't have (again, this is from an appearance standpoint, not a policy one). As Kerry gains steam, he's going to attract more and more possible Clark supporters, while Edwards, and also Dean, can still tap into Kerry's soft spots.
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More on gay marriage 

Today's ruling is obviously a huge victory. It's not exactly a surprise, since any reasonable person who read the ruling from last November could see that the court meant marriage, not civil unions. But still, the court has been under enormous political pressure, and it was only a 4-3 ruling to begin with, so it wouldn't have shocked me if they'd backed down. (The Phoenix's Dan Kennedy notes much the same thing).
Interestingly, the only real losers in today's ruling are state legislators, who must now actually choose sides on the whole debate. Gay marriage advocates are obviously pleased, but strangely so are opponents. Had civil unions been an option, the legislature almost certainly would have gone that route, which wouldn't have pleased opponents of gay marriage any more than it would have supporters. Hard-line anti-marriage folks, after all, oppose civil unions as well.
Anti-gay marriage people are arguing that today's ruling will add fuel to the Constitutional amendment fire, and they may not be totally wrong. People who were uncomfortable with gay marriage but who didn't want to seem like bigots supported, albeit begrugingly, civil unions. Some of those people will now decide to support a Constitutional amendment.
But here's the thing: amending the Constitution is a long process in Massachusetts. The earliest it can go before voters is November 2006--that's a long way away. And barring some surprise move, gay marriage will become legal in May, even if the legislature does take the first step toward an amendment next week (and my guess is they won't). So we'll have two full years of gay marriage--that's thousands of couples--before voters get a chance to have their say.
What that means is, the "ick" factor will be significantly reduced. Sure, hard-line conservatives will still oppose gay marriage, but a lot of people who aren't so much anti-gay as just uncomfortable with the idea of marriage will have the chance to see the impact that gay marriage will have on their lives--which is to say, none at all. It's easy to say that gay marriage will destroy the institution of marriage, but what do conservatives say when it doesn't? (well, probably the same thing they're saying now, but it'll carry a lot less weight).
So long story short, this is a huge victory, and there's not much the conservatives can do about it (I hope).

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Victory! 

It's marriage, not civil unions in Massachusetts!
Go pick out your wedding dresses.
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Kerry v. Bush 

Much has been made of this USA Today/Gallup poll that shows Kerry beating Bush and other Democratic candidates within the margin of error. It's certainly good to see that it's going to be competitive, but anyone who's followed politics at all in recent years already knew that. And much as I'd like to put a lot of stock in this kind of poll, the reality is it's pretty well meaningless. Bush has had a terrible couple of weeks, what with WMD and the budget and his lousy SOTU, but it won't last. And the Dems have enjoyed a virtual monopoly on political coverage, which also won't last. Moreover, the election will hinge on the state of the war and the state of the economy come fall--the state of said now is pretty much meaningless. Basically, and Democratic nominee will be competitive. Beyond that, it's too early to say anything at all.
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Anonimity 

Salon has an absurd article up about anonymous bloggers. The basic point is that it's irresponsible and hypocritical, but the authory comes off looking ridiculous because, as Atrios notes, he misses satire completely.
But even when handled less ham-handedly, this is a silly issue. Journalists, in most news organizations, are identified as a form of accountability. Newspapers, TV stations, etc. are big organizations; it's hard to know who's responsible for the stories they run without a byline. But blogs are usually one-person operations. Want to know who to complain to? Almost every blogger lists an e-mail address. Tell him or her directly. Better yet, post comments, which are public and unedited, a feature few news organizations can match.
And Bloggers, much as a few would like to think otherwise, aren't journalists. We don't do real reporting. We're pundits, commentators, editorialists. And one of the wonders of blogging is that anyone can do it. Punditry is no longer limited to a few talking heads on CNN. But the reality is, many people, for a variety of reasons, can't blog under their own names. Some blog at work, on company time. Some have strong views that their employers, neighbors, or even friends wouldn't like. Some simply have no desire to be public figures. Blogging lets them get their views out there without being forced into the public eye.
And you know what? That's fine. If someone prints something libelous, there are ways of finding their identities and suing them. If someone is just plain bad, no one will read them. And there's no limit on the number of blogs that can exist--this is not a scarce resource. So the "accountability" argument doesn't hold water.
In fact, it's somehow marvelous that someone like Atrios can draw thousands of visitors every day without anyone knowing who he is. He's not drawing readers because he's famous, or because some magazine thinks he's good. He's drawing them because readers want to know what he has to say. That's pretty amazing.
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Exit polls 

CJR's Campaign Desk calls out the National Review, Drudge, and various blogs for posting exit poll data before the polls closed. They write:

Some readers have written in to suggest that since National Review's The Corner, and Political Wire, are blogs, rather than more traditional news outlets, and since they likely did not have contracts with the poll organizers, they're bound by different rules than, say, The Washington Post. By the standards of contract law, that may be true. But in terms of journalistic ethics, it's a copout. Once the numbers are out there, they're out there, and possibly influencing voters who haven't yet made it to the polls.

This is true, though in practical terms, even well-read blogs like Drudge don't have nearly the audience, and therefore the influece, of the networks, or even cable shows. I linked to Drudge's post myself, and therefore plead guilty to influencing up to 100 people today.
But the real question here isn't the blogs that linked to the results, but the legitimate news organizations, like the National Review (legitimate, though misguided), which have access to the results. If they don't release them, no blog is going to be able to post them.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Primary analysis 

No links here, because everyone on the web is discussing this. My take:
- Kerry did what he had to do and more. He solidified his status as the front-runner, won everywhere he was meant to win, and won by commanding margins in Missouri, Delaware, and North Dakota. The only problem for Kerry is that after Iowa and New Hampshire, he pretty much would have had to win all seven states in order to get a big boost. Still, he's clearly the man to beat.
- Edwards pretty much established that he's the only serious challenger to Kerry left in the race. He had to win S.C., of course, but he won by a lot, and it helped him that it was the first one announced, allowing him to dominate the early press coverage of the night. Edwards will be in better shape if he wins Oklahoma, too (too close to call as of this writing), but it's not crucial given his strong showing there. The main thing for Edwards is that he'll be back in the news after getting little press coverage after N.H.
- Clark, even if he wins Oklahoma, is in serious trouble. He didn't spend all week in Oklahoma to win by 1,000 votes (or possibly much less). And I'm not sure even a more convincing win would have saved Clark without a win elsewhere, and even in Arizona Clark's running behind Kerry by double digits.
- Dean is toast. Even if you buy into his "I never need to win a state to win" strategy (which, um, I don't), he clearlyneeded to be competitive somewhere. He was close in New Mexico (and this is with only 15% reporting, so stay tuned), but that's not enough to save him. And Dean doesn't have the ace in the hole he always had (or we thought he had) before: money. Even if he doesn't drop out (and my bet is he won't, at least not right away), he's become a non-entity.
- Lieberman is dropping out. About freaking time.
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AWOL 

The Boston Globe reporter who uncovered Dubya's sketchy service record in 2000 is saying the story should have gotten more attention. No kidding. Honestly, the Globe shold just re-run its original stories, which are no longer available online. When they first appeared, Bush wasn't running on a platform of foreign policy and homeland defense. Now he is, and people deserve to know his record.
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Exit polls 

Looks like it's going to be a Kerry-Edwards race after today.
Drudge (god, I hate linking to him) has exit poll results.
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Monday, February 02, 2004

Politicized intelligence 

But David, didn't all your favorite politicians also say there were WMD in Iraq?
Seriously, does anyone believe Brooks would be saying this the Kay Report had come out and blamed political pressure for the CIA's mistakes?
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War on the economy 

From the Times:

A former Bush administration official involved in economic policy put it this way: "Five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, when people look back at the Bush administration, there's only one thing they're going to care about — it's the war. Did you prosecute the war, did you make America safer? Everything else is irrelevant. If you have to blow a gasket in the budget, then they're going to do it. Ronald Reagan had big deficits and they eventually went away. It's the end of the cold war that people remember."

That may be, but two things need to be said:

1) As with all historical analogies, there's a risk of overstating the similarities between the two situations. First, the Cold War was undeniably a conflict, and one that the American people, as a whole, understood and supported. The war on terror is as well, more or less, but Iraq is not. And the Cold War was actually won during Reagan's years in office (note that I don't say "Reagan won the Cold War"), whereas it is highly likely that the Iraq conflict will continue through Bush's second term, should he win one. Perhaps we remember Reagan primarily for his role in ending the Cold War (and even that is a stretch; I think he's better remembered in many circles for his economic policy), but do we remember Nixon that way? Ford? Even Johnson's legacy combines Vietnam and the Great Society. Really, only Kennedy, Reagan, and Carter are best known for foreign policy, with Carter's, of course, leading in large part to his defeat.
2. All that said, Bush's legacy will probably be one related to foreign policy. But the way history remembers him and the way voters make up their minds in November are two very different things. Just look at his father. Bush I is remembered now for the first Iraq war, but he lost the '92 election because he ignored the economy.
So yeah, Bush is probably better off, from a political standpoint, overspending on defense rather than underspending. But don't think it makes him invulnerable. It doesn't.
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CJR 

Everyone who isn't already should be checking out CJR's Campaign Desk daily. Today they go after:
- The NY Post for inventing a poll
- Fox News for distorting Democratic statements about the threat of terrorism
- George Will for falling for the old "Givers vs. Takers" myth
- CNN for falling for an anti-Dean letter to the editor written by the Kerry campaign
(the site doesn't have permalinks--sorry)

It's well-done, concise, and so far highly fair. And this is from people who actually understand the news business, which may give their opinions some weight that other people's (e.g. mine) lack.
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Distortion 

Kos has a wonderful example of the media playing the ellipsis game (generally speaking. Here, of course, no ellipses were actually used). I won't repost the whole thing here, but basically CBS (gosh? CBS?) made it look like Terry McAuliffe was supporting Kerry, when in fact he said nothing of the kind.
For the record, I don't think this is some big conspiracy by the press to get Dean. It's just extreme sloppiness. But I can see why people start to think it's a conspiracy after a while, and sloppiness is only slightly better than conscious trickery.
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Faith-based army 

From the Times:

The Salvation Army of Greater New York, long known for its network of thrift shops and shelters, has begun an effort to reassert its evangelical roots, stressing to lay employees that the Army's core mission is not just social services but also spreading the Gospel.
*snip*
The effort has stirred a mini-rebellion among some longtime employees who resent what they see as an intrusion on their privacy and the potential for religious discrimination. Such demands for religious loyalty, they say, breach the wall between church and state because the division accepts $70 million in state and city funds for its programs.

Your tax dollars funding evangelism. Yes, this is the problem with having the government back faith-based charities. Sometimes the charities start looking less like charities, and more like churches.
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Stall tactics 

From the Times:

Mr. Bush has set no timetable for the inquiry, and he sidestepped a reporter's question today about whether Americans were owed an explanation before the Nov. 2 elections. Mr. McClellan said that the committee's work would extend past the Nov. 2 presidential election "so it doesn't become embroiled in partisan politics."

Not that it might be useful to, say, know whether the president lied to us before deciding whether to vote for him. Nah. That might be democratic.
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Boobies II 

I think this Times story pretty much has "Breastgate" covered. Why should anyone believe CBS when the network has lied so often this year? The Times misses one example, though: CBS's claim that it couldn't accept MoveOn.org's ad because it doesn't run issue ads.
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And while you're over at Matt's blog... 

... Check out his post on Bush's anti-conservatism. He writes:

I don't think Bush's immigration proposal goes far enough, and it has some flaws, but I think it's a fairly serious effort to meet some of the goals of amnesty advocates without giving a real amnesty. The Medicare bill, on the other hand is no such thing. The Democrats were putting something on the table that would have been extremely expensive. The reasonable GOP compromise proposal would have been a less generous, less expensive benefit. Instead, they showed up with a more expensive, less generous benefit, but one calculated to financially benefit GOP donors. That kind of thing is a whole different ballgame.

This is exactly what I don't get about Bush. His anti-conservative behavior isn't "compassionate conservatism"-style moderation that will play well in swing states. It's just irresponsibility plain and simple. Running up huge deficits doesn't appeal to conservatives, or liberals, or moderates. Ditto giving no-bid contracts to oil buddies. Ditto refusing to establish an intelligence panel. Sure, some of his moves can be explained as pure political pandering (like the steel tarriffs), and others as playing to big campaign donors (like the aforementioned Haliburton contracts), but a lot of it just seems like bad politics, as well as bad policy. Rove may be a genius, but Bush can be beaten.
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Kerry on gay marriage 

Matt Yglesias notes that Kerry is one of only a few Senate dems to take a strong stand against the Defense of Marriage Act, which, as Matt says, could hardly be construed as opportunism. Yes, he's from Massachusetts, so he won't be punished in the way he would if he were from, say, Mississippi, but even in Mass he wouldn't have been punished for at least quietly supporting the DMA, and given that he obviously had national aspirations, he must have known that it could come back to bite him later.
The reality is, I think the whole "Kerry is nothing but an opportunist" meme has been overplayed. Being from Mass, I've watched Kerry for a long time, and the reality is that he has been an opportunist at times, but not more so than many other politicians. He's actually been more liberal on some issues (not a lot, but some) than Ted Kennedy, for one thing. Whether that's good for his electability is debatable, but it says something for his character. Kerry tends not to simplify things down to sound bites, which can hurt him on the national stage. That said, he sometimes just waffles, and then tries to play that off as nuance, so it can cut both ways.
But of course the media have just taken this "opportunistic" charge and begun repeating it. Soon, they'll be reporting it as fact, and play off Kerry's rebuttals as him being "defensive."
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Media moles 

Atrios has a post up excerpting from a 1976 Times article about the CIA employing journalists as agents overseas.
Atrios says he's curious how many operatives are working in the media, which I suppose would be interesting except that there's no way we're ever going to find out. But if this is still CIA policy, it's despicable. There are lots of problems with it, but as someone who's in the industry (though not overseas, and not for a big enough player to have overseas correspondents at all), what's most concerning is the way it risks blurring the lines between journalists and government agents. That puts journalists, who are already suspect in much of the world, at risk (see Danny Pearl), and it calls into question the role of journalists as impartial observers. Granted, plenty of what the media puts out calls that into question already, but this can only make it worse.
ADDENDUM: Obviously, anyone in the media who agrees to one of these deals is as much to blame as the CIA.
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SCLM watch 

This story from today's Times is really ridiculous. It purports to show how John Edwards' candidacy is based on style, not substance. Except, it notes, Edwards has a 61-page booklet outlining what he'd do as president. Apparently that doesn't count because Edwards doesn't explain the details in his campaign speech. Except that no candidate goes into policy details in speeches. Does Edwards lean more on biography than, say, John Kerry? Maybe. But Kerry's stump speech is no less general than Edwards'. It's just the nature of the game (whether that's a good thing, of course, is a matter for another day).
The article goes on to note that Edwards has had little luck getting bills passed in the Senate. But this, too, is hardly remarkable for a freshman senator from the minority party. And in legislative government, getting bills passed with your name on them isn't necessarily the best indicator of success.
In fact, after initially dismissing Edwards as a substance-free pretty boy, I've been impressed with the depth of his policies, especially on the domestic side. And friends of mine who have sat down with him have been even more impressed.
Does that mean he'd be a good president, or even a good nominee? Not necessarily. His lack of experience does worry me. But the Times' effort to portray him as light on substance just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
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Kerry and special interests 

My earlier post (no link--site seems to be down for some reason) on the issue notwithstanding, this story from today's Washington Post is concerning. It reveals that Kerry has received more money from lobbyists over the past 15 years than any other senator.
The problem here is that it smacks of hypocrisy. It's one thing to attack special interests while receiving some money in order to stay competitive; it's another to attack special interests while receiving more money from them than anyone else in the Senate.
None of this changes my view that Bush, because he has consistently done the special interests' bidding, is far, far worse than any of the Democrats. But that doesn't mean it's concerning that the Democratic frontrunner is vulnerable to this kind of attack.
(More over at medialog)
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Signs of the apocalypse 

Boobies! 

So Drudge is reporting that the whole "Justin revealing Janet Jackson's breast" stunt was planned. As usual with Drudge, take it with a grain of salt.
But what I don't get is this: why is everyone so excited about a 2-second, zoomed-out shot of Janet Jackson's exposed breast, but not upset about 10 minutes of (albeit fully-clothed) simulated sex onstage between these two? I mean, this was racy stuff, much more graphic than the brief boob shot.
Now understand, I think the whole controversy is silly anyway--we're way, way too uptight about sex and sexuality in this country--but if you're going to get angry about something, get angry about the sex, not the breast.
(and yes, I posted on this in part so I could use "Boobies!" as my title)
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Intelligence panel 

Clearly this is a good start. But as we've seen with the 9/11 panel, Bush is very good at setting up a commission to help deflect criticism, and then doing all he can to hamper their work.
First big question: who chairs it? Watch for retreads of the Kissinger fiasco. I doubt he'll pick anyone as well-known, though. He'll go for some crony who isn't a household name. Harder for the Dems to make an issue of that way.
In any case, the Dems shouldn't let Bush off this easily. And they (and we) should watch this closely--a panel is only good as its membership, and only as good as the access they're given.

ADDENDUM: Watch for this panel to be used as a way of providing cover for Bush. "Oh, it wasn't Dear Leader's fault, it was that horrible CIA with its Clinton-appointee head." I think we've already covered why that line of reasoning doesn't hold water.
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CHAMPS! 

Pats win!

My heart will re-start eventually, I'm sure.
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Sunday, February 01, 2004

Go Pats! 

My prediction: Patriots 24, Panthers 21.
They never make it easy.
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Massachusetts 

The Post has a story today on how Kerry could be hurt because he's from Massachusetts.
Look, Kerry has baggage: he has a voting record that can be made to look liberal, he was lieutenant governor under Dukakis, which means he can be tied to the same policies (furloughs, taxes) that got Duke in trouble in 1988, he's brahmin, etc., etc. But being from Massachusetts isn't his problem. It wasn't Dukakis's problem, either, as he himself points out in the Post's article ("I didn't lose because I came from Massachusetts. I lost because I ran a lousy campaign against George H.W. Bush."), and now that Massachusetts has had four straight Republican governors (three of them elected), the state's liberal profile is at least somewhat diminished.
Yet we still get comments like this line from the Post:

Because in fact, no state carries as much political baggage as Massachusetts, the perceived liberal outpost and home to several failed presidential candidates of recent vintage (Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, Paul Tsongas).

Fine, except Ted Kennedy probably would have won had it not been for Chappaquidick. So in the past 50 years, Massachusetts is 1 for 3, with one win (Jack Kennedy), one nominee who lost in the general election (Dukakis), and one candidate who lost the nomination (Tsongas). And that's a curse? I'm a Red Sox fan. I know curses, and this is no curse.
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Unbelievable 

The Guardian is reporting that the US knew Iraq had no WMD in May:

The disclosure that US military survey teams sent to visit suspected sites of WMD, and intelligence interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials, had concluded so quickly that no major weapons or facilities would be found is certain to produce serious new embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic.

Well, "embarassment" presupposes some semblance of willingness to concede error, which I haven't seen on either side of the Atlantic.
In all seriousness, obviously this isn't as bad as if they knew in, say, February, but it still raises some huge questions. Such as why they were defending the intelligence for months after they knew it was false.

(link via Atrios)
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Bush backs probe 

From WaPo:

President Bush has agreed to support an independent inquiry into the prewar intelligence that he used to assert that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, Republican and congressional sources said yesterday.

(link)

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More primary blogging 

On Meet the Press this morning, Dean acknowledged that his NH strategy "didn't pay off."
Um, well, yeah.
Meanwhile, Lieberman is staying upbeat.
Joe, we have a word for that. It's called denial.
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Howie 

According to a story in today's Boston Globe, Howard Dean "has lowered expectations that he could win any of the contests on Feb. 3."
Um, Howard? How exactly do you plan on winning this race without ever winning a state?
Meanwhile, the Kerry bandwagon is looking increasingly tought to stop. The Globe reports that other candidates are giving up on running full national campaigns, preferring to try to win a couple key states, while the Washington Post reports that Kerry is "leading or competitive" in all seven states that will vote on Tuesday.
Does this mean he can't be beaten? Of course not. But it's looking tougher and tougher to stop him.
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Bombing in Iraq 

If you haven't already seen it, there's been a massive bombing in Iraq, in the Kurdish-controlled northern area.
This is very bad news for all sorts of reasons, the most obvious of course being that between 50 and 100 people appear to have died. But it's also significant that it took place up north, in the most pro-American region. AP says the bombers used Palestinian-style suicide methods, the first time that's happened in Iraq. The AP is also suggesting Al Qaeda may have been involved, though I'm not really sure who Al Qaeda is anymore or whether it's still a cohesive organization.
But what is clear is that anti-American forces in Iraq are able to strike in a basically stable area, and that they're targeting the places that are most important to the U.S. effort in Iraq. We simply can't defend the entire country the way we've been forced to do in Baghdad, Tikrit, etc. Coupled with the news from yesterday that casualties have actually been increasing in recent months, this is definitely bad news.
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Scoops 

In his latest public editor column, Daniel Okrent discusses the important issue of covering someone else's scoops. That is, why doesn't the Times cover important stories if someone else got there first?
In what's becoming standard for Okrent, he asks more questions than he answers. This is the closest he comes to a conclusion:

There's no question that the competitive electricity powering a news organization produces a great deal of benefit, just as it would in a soap company fighting for market share or in a research team trying to beat the other guys to a medical breakthrough. I understand why competition is necessary to inspire the troops. I also understand that Macy's never carried anything with a Gimbel's label sewn into it. But maybe The Times's insistence on stamping its own brand on everything it touches ends up diminishing what it delivers. If the goal of newspapering is to inform the readers and create a historical record, shouldn't the editors be telling us about everything they think is important, no mater where they find it?

Okrent does all he can to suggest that the Times is no worse than anyone else on this. That's simply not the case. Certainly it's a problem across journalism, but it's far more of a problem at the Times, which can't stand getting beat on anything.
One more thing--this could be the first real test for the "public editor" concept. Does Okrent's column lead to any change, or does he just throw the issue out there, where it dies?
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Friedman plays Krugman 

Not sure what Friedman is doing writing about the economy (he probably just came up with the 'BMD' idea and decided to write a column around it), but it can't be good news for the Bushies. Bush's fiscal irresponsibility is turning more and more of his supporters against him.
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Rich on marriage 

As usual, Frank Rich is a must read this week. He's writing about marriage (gay and otherwise), and in typical Rich fashion weaves in far too many disparate points to summarize in one blog post. So reall, just go read it.
Since many of you won't, though, one graf:

But what civilization, exactly, is he talking about? Since 1970, the percentage of American adults in this enduring institution has dropped from 68 to 56, the percentage of households containing married couples with kids from 45 to 26. As Mr. Bush substituted Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden, so he seems confused about the enemy here. Even as he gets bogged down battling gay couples who want the same civil rights as other Americans, the real culprit goes about its business. That culprit is a heterosexual culture determined to reduce marriage to a voyeuristic spectator sport as brutal and commercial as pro football but not nearly so entertaining or harmless. It says a lot about how out of touch Mr. Bush and his speechwriters are with this culture that he repeated Britney Spears's "sanctity of marriage" language in the State of the Union only days after she had made the phrase a national joke.

Ok, and one more:

Yet neither the $1 million cash nor the $4 million ceremony that sealed their marital contract were mentioned when Trista and Ryan were interviewed by Ms. Sawyer on "Good Morning America." While the Deans were treated like freaks, the stars of "The Bachelorette" were treated as a perfectly normal all-American couple. And perhaps these days they are. Trista and Ryan's wedding broadcast was the top-rated show in virtually every major television market, the one exception being Washington, where it was beaten by a rerun of "Law and Order." If only more of our politicians had tuned in, maybe someone would have figured out that it could be harder to restore the sanctity of marriage than to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
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