Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mirth of a Nation

Mark Katz once had a rather unusual job; he used to write jokes to be sprinkled into the speeches of a sitting president. Now Katz has penned a book about his adventures at the White House called “Clinton & Me.”

Washington Monthly has published a piece that features excerpts of the book. In it Katz writes, “He opened the door and I jumped to my feet. Watching the president of the United States enter the room is always a startling sight. Of course, the sight he encountered might have caught him off-guard too: a nervous guy in a tuxedo secluded in a dimly-lit holding room with a stack of pages in one hand and an egg timer in the other. Although this was the fifth humor speech I had prepared for President Bill Clinton since he'd taken office, we were about to have our very first one-on-one meeting.”

Friday, January 30, 2004

Progressives Weigh In

“National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took to the airwaves yesterday as the latest Administration official to defend the White House’s hyping of intelligence, inflating of the Iraqi ‘imminent/urgent/immediate/mortal threat,’ and failure to find the WMD it said there was ‘no doubt’ Iraq possessed.”

Yet, she repeatedly rejected calls for an independent investigation.”

The Center for American Progress is a good source of info if you’re running short of reasons to distrust President Bush and his merry band of neocons and Neanderthals.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Kerry Keeps On Keeping On

John Hall, a veteran reporter based in DeeCee, is the senior Washington correspondent for Media General News Service. He’s hardly a flaming liberal and his regular columns, which appear in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, are known for their uncluttered and penetrating analysis. In Hall's piece today (Jan. 29) he recalls being in the room in 1971 when a passionate 27-year-old Navy officer in green fatigues, who was the head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“[John] Kerry was articulate and spoke in complete sentences. A product of St. Paul’s prep school and Yale, Kerry had volunteered for the Navy in the age of the military draft and survived the most hazardous kind of mission that the service had to offer -- leading a five-man crew patrolling the Mekong Delta in a small craft.

“[Senator] Symington identified, one by one, each of the ribbons on Kerry's chest. This was no campus radical, but a highly decorated service member who had turned against the war.”

That was the day now Sen. John Kerry began his career in national politics by asking the gathered senators this question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Treading in Red Ink

It sure is a good thing George “Bring-It-On” Bush is an avowed fiscal conservative, who consistently calls for a smaller, less intrusive federal government. Or, else we the people might wake up to find ourselves drowning in blood red ink.

As we, the aforementioned, tread mightily to stay afloat in the drink, the Bush administration’s version of a lean and mean conservative machine only missed balancing the books this year by about a half a trillion bucks.

Yikes! USA Today reports, “The federal budget deficit will reach $477 billion this year, the biggest ever in dollar terms, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.”

Still, the sitting president -- who has been eagerly spending the people’s money like a drunken sailor on liberty -- is calling for more tax cuts for his super wealthy campaign contributors. If the prez gets his way that will ultimately mean more states and cities will be forced to raise their taxes to cover their shortfalls.

So, the bottom line puts the bite on the chumps in this story -- America’s middle class. Let’s see, just which of the three nutshells of disinformation did President Bring-It-On put the dried pea of fiscal conservatism under?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

More of Kay's Say

Former chief weapons sleuth David Kay has testified that Iraq documented the destruction of its WMD’s, well before the pre-invasion threats issued by President Bush. Naturally, that has put the White House on the defensive. Since Kay’s resignation on Friday, he has basically said that Bush's chief justification for launching the war was bogus. Like, the Democrats who have suddenly found their backbone, Kay is calling for a full scale investigation into what went wrong.

‘“If the weapons programs existed on the scale we anticipated,’ Kay said, ‘we would have found something that leads to that conclusion. Instead, we found other evidence that points to something else.’ Kay reiterated his view that 85 percent of the Iraq Survey Group’s job has been completed and that ‘the major pieces of the puzzle’ have been covered.”

Unlike the Dems, Kay still holds Bush blameless, nonetheless. Read more in the Washington Post article summing up Kay's comments.

Clues in the Numbers?

For a look at the Washington Post’s table of exit poll info on the New Hampshire primary results click here.

Monday, January 26, 2004

More News About the News

Opinion polls and focus group numbers have gained the sort of sway over our lives that we would not have willingly given up. Stories about the results of political opinion polls substitute for news of events every day. Such desk-bound reporting, for the most part, is news about the news industry itself. In other words, you don't have to go out and search for the news if you can whip it up in your own shop.

All of which leads to the definition of the word “news.” And, in this case the news industry is perfectly situated to establish the most accepted definitions for most of the words that are in the pop political lexicon. The same news industry is the largest player in branding all fresh ideas and positions on new issues as being “liberal” or “conservative.” Which, of course, does much to shape the discussion.

Yet, scoff at polls as we might, such surveys still record an on-the-fly grainy snapshot of a moment that will pass as evidence of a quick and dirty truth. So, we grumble about polls, remind readers of their evil and we watch them avidly. And, we do our part to shape the argument, when we can.

Readers can keep up with the Donkey Derby's latest poll numbers at the pollster's own web site Zogby International.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


To gain more insight into the rather twisted history of the neoconservative movement in America this piece by Brian Giles is useful. Wouldn't you like to know more about where the likes of Rove and Wolfowitz got their ideas?

Surprisingly, in the 1960s, Richmond’s own much-admired Supreme Court Justice, the late Lewis F. Powell, Jr., played a role in the story, according to Giles.

"The term 'neoconservative' makes less and less sense the more it is explored. Conservatism is based on preserving the status quo and opposing progressive changes, but the neocons were radicals at heart, defying the very meaning of 'conservative.'"

Read the story on the Weekly Dig: The Best Little Paper in Boston.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Politics Is Fun Again!

So far the best line I’ve heard on the Howard Dean Iowa meltdown rant has come from the movie critic, Tom Shales, who appeared on MSNBC to characterize the lathered up doctor as, “Yosemite Sam as Captain Ahab.”

Along those cartoon lines I can see Dean as an exasperated, red-faced Elmer Fudd reacting to one of Bugs Bunny’s carrot-crunching, got-you-last, “Neyahh… What’s up doc?” cracks.

Ray McAllister hits the headlines-to-satire ball of opportunity out of the park with his column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The premise has politicians, local and national competing on an imaginary TV show in which they sing various songs. The fun is in sticking the right pol with the most appropriate pop hit.

“‘Howard Dean scores big with "Dancin' In The Streets" and its memorable chorus:

“They’re dancin’ in Chicago, down in New Orleans, up in New York City. Not only are we dancin’ in New Hampshire, we’re dancin’ in South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico. . . . And don’t forget the Motor City.’”

There’s more on Dean and others. Check the column out for more comic relief.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Internet Reaction to Dean in Iowa

Popular blogger Kos has been a Howard Dean supporter of the first order. To see the reaction to Dean’s Iowa concession speech on that site click here.

“Dean’s biggest problem right now is his high negatives. Those stem in large part from his Rebel Yell, but also from his reluctance to show his private side. In modern politics, people need to peek behind the veil to make the necessary emotional connection with their candidate. And meeting the spouse is a critical component of making that connection.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Blather and More Blather

President George Bush’s State of the Union Address was a good example of a strategy that football fans may recognize. As the incumbent, Bush is not unlike a team with a big lead, early in the game. And, last night he seemed to be a guy who was playing not-to-lose.

Bush said nothing that mattered. He was boring and the old smirk was back.

Did the Democrats recognize his “prevent defense” and take advantage of the opportunity it presented?

No. The Dems' response, delivered immediately afterward by Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, was so tepid that they made Bush’s tack look smart. Perhaps the candidates in New Hampshire will do a better job of taking him to task. If they don't they deserve to lose.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Going for Broke

One of the most articulate voices being raised, these days, against the smoke and mirrors being used by the Bush administration to befuddle the public is that of Paul Krugman. Krugman, a prize-winning economist and Princeton professor, writes regular OpEd pieces for the New York Times.

Here’s part of his Times piece anticipating George Bush’s speech tonight:

“Mr. Bush's relentless partisanship has depleted much of the immense good will he enjoyed after 9/11. He is still adored by his base, but he is deeply distrusted by much of the nation. Mr. Bush may not understand this; indeed, he still seems to think that he's another Lincoln or F.D.R. "No president has done more for human rights than I have," he told Ken Auletta.

“But his political handlers seem to have decided on a go-for-broke strategy: confuse the middle one last time, energize the base and grab enough power that the consequences don't matter.”

Click here to read the rest of it.

Monday, January 19, 2004

After Iowa

by F. T. Rea

With Iowa's results in, it seems Howard Dean may be playing the role in 2004 that Eugene McCarthy played in 1968. McCarthy was the insurgent then. And, his candidacy changed history, but surely not in the way he would have wanted or imagined.

Senator McCarthy (D-Minn) was out in front of most in his party in his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War policy of his fellow Democrat, President Lyndon Johnson. Then McCarthy had the temerity to run against Johnson in the New Hampshire primary in that pivotal year.

It was McCarthy’s remarkably strong showing in N.H. that prompted Robert Kennedy’s sudden entry into the presidential sweepstakes, only days afterwards.

All that set in motion the events that led to Johnson announcing he would not run for reelection, which came as a shock to many. Then Sen. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), originally from Massachusetts, began to pick up momentum like a runaway train. RFK seemed well on his way to winning the Democratic nomination until the train flew off the tracks in California, where Kennedy was shot to death immediately after winning the primary there.

Post-Iowa it seems Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), a decorated veteran of the war in Vietnam, may be the biggest benefactor of Dean having defined the anti-war issue.

Running against Bush, legitimate war hero Kerry would be in a good position to underline the absurdity of the sitting president's flight-suited pose while declaring victory in Iraq.

Perhaps, too, now Kerry needs to watch his back.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

McGovern Likes Clark

The Democrats' defeated peace candidate of the 1972 presidential race, former-senator George McGovern, has endorsed former-four-star general Wes Clark. It’s interesting to note that McGovern, who was characterized by his Nixon-following opposition as an utter wuss because he opposed the war in Vietnam, was a decorated bomber pilot during WWII.

"I am here to endorse, with all my heart and strength, General Wes Clark," the three-term senator from South Dakota told about 500 people gathered at a pancake breakfast at Keene Middle School. McGovern said it was "important" for Democrats to "recover" the White House from President Bush, a Republican.

Read the CNN story.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Bloggers Changing the Rules of Politics

“They call themselves bloggers. Their mission: to remake political journalism and, quite possibly, democracy itself. The plan: to run an end around big media by becoming publishers on the Internet.”

Kathy Kiely examines the blogging phenomenon in USA Today.

Friday, January 16, 2004

What Is Al Qaeda?

Peter Bergen is the author of "Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden" and a fellow at the New America Foundation. In a piece penned for the Washington Post, Bergen asserts that the best known terrorist outfit in the world has, "successfully turned itself from an organization into a mass movement -- one that has been energized by the war in Iraq."

Bergen's insight into the "dense web" that is known as Al Qaeda seems much more in touch with reality than the various pictures painted by the so-called "experts" employed by the Bush administration. Hopefully some of them read the Post, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

City in Denial

At the time America remembers Martin Luther King, and anticipating Black History month in February, I want to recycle another piece that I wrote (this is fun!). It ran in STYLE Weekly in 2002.

“With payback being heaped upon payback, progress didn’t stand a chance. Now, every time a controversy that touches on race pops up the oh-so-familiar cries are heard: ‘Oh Gawd! Let’s hope this business dies down before it makes the national news.’ Like a dysfunctional family in denial, we don’t want the rest of the country to catch on that Richmond is still trapped in yesteryear’s snare.

“Well, take it from me dear reader -- they already know. Everybody knows. Even in other parts of Virginia they know Richmond is frozen in time when it comes to race.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

When Was the Bull's Eye Put on Baghdad?

In light of former-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s revelations this week about when the Bushies started planning to invade Iraq, I must take this opportunity to post an excerpt of an OpEd piece I wrote for at the beginning of the Bush reign:

“Foreign policy-wise, I'm not at all sure what Bush's European policy will be. But I've got a tip for Saddam Hussein: It's time to pack up the palace etchings and that mint-condition collection of Playboy magazines. This is a good time to stock up on those familiar essentials for sustained life in the deep-down deluxe bunker. You know the drill: potted meat, canned beer, plenty of batteries for the TV and boombox.

It won't surprise me if America's new president wastes little time in finding a compelling reason to lob something more than words toward Baghdad. My hunch is that mopping up that dangling bit of unfinished business is high on the Bush team's list of what-to-do ASAP.”

To read the rest of the piece click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ted Rall's View

Read columist/cartoonist Ted Rall on Bush's search for those missing WMDs.

"Once again Bush and his top officials are responsible for an outrageous scandal whose monumental scale and grotesquely terrifying implications for our democracy make Watergate look like a fraternity prank. Yet the miscreants are getting away scot-free.

As usual.

The Bush Administration, reported The New York Times on January 8, "has quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment. The step was described by some military officials as a sign that the administration might have lowered its sights and no longer expected to uncover the caches of chemical and biological weapons that the White House cited as a principal reason for going to war last March."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Reading His Lips

You say you like a conservative approach to money matters? You say you want to hold the line on taxes? Well, someone is listening. And, he's telling you what you want to hear, but...

"Rather than take responsibility for our common future, Bush has shifted costs to states and communities, who then pass them on to you."

Visit The Bush Tax to get a wider perspective on Bush's brand of fiscal conservatism.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Political Humor

Laugh enough during 2003? No political humor is not an oxymoron.

After all, in order to put up with all the guff politicians sling at us, don't a few laughs at their expense help? Visit the Political Humor site for plenty of jokes, satire, ‘toons, and lots of links.

No. 2 on the PH list of 10 dumbest quotes for 2003 is this tidbit: "As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

From their list of jokes about the capture of Saddam Hussein: "It was like Ground Hog Day. He popped out of a hole, and we got four more years of Bush." -- Bill Maher

From the Borowitz Report: "Just moments after former Vice President Al Gore endorsed former Vermont Governor Howard Dean for President in Harlem yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned his endorsement by a 5-4 margin.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The Character Myth

Writing for The Nation, Renana Brooks, a clinical psychologist who heads the Sommet Institute for the Study of Power and Persuasion in DeeCee, skillfully examines the use of language and image-making by the Bush administration. And she gives the Democrats some good advice: To counter Bush, they must present a different version of what a safe world should look like.

“Some Americans find a certain comfort in Bush's thoughts, because they feel that dominance implies moral order and establishes God's moral authority in the world. They believe there is a natural hierarchy in which those who enjoy dominance have the right to do so. Just as God has dominion over man and man has dominion over animals, the imagery of the moral order assumes a world in which people dominate those who are below them.”

Read Brooks’ excellent analysis.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Bloggers Changing the Rules of Politics

“They call themselves bloggers. Their mission: to remake political journalism and, quite possibly, democracy itself. The plan: to run an end around big media by becoming publishers on the Internet.”

Kathy Kiely examines the blogging phenomenon in USA Today.