As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 30, 2004

Having surgery today

To repair a torn Achilles tendon I suffered playing basketball. Not even high-impact basketball, more like the kind of pick-up game you play with people who take smoke breaks. So I'll be laid up for a little while, but of course that doesn't mean I'll stop blogging.

In fact, I'll blog within this blog entry that Sandy Berger, who was last seen by imaginary Republican spinmeisters stuffing secret documents, has been cleared of withholding any material from the 9/11 Commission. You might not have read this in your local paper this morning, unless you went to page A6 of the Wall Street Journal. Never mind the fact that the Berger case was front page news for most of last week. God I hate the media.


Thank you, John Kerry

For proving that when you spend 19 years in the US Senate, you probably know how to read a speech or two. And unlike the current President, you know how to write one. John Kerry threw down the gauntlet last night, powerfully delivering a speech worthy of history. It was a solidly liberal speech that spoke to American values of equality, shared sacrifice and strength. He called out President Bush for his 4 straight months of negative campaigning, virtually assuring that he can take the moral high ground during the bulk of the election season. And most of all, he made sense. Tax cuts for the middle class? Keeping US jobs at home? Gaining respect in the world as a way to defuse terrorism? Know what, that just makes sense. Forget labels of "centrism" or "progressivism," it just makes sense. Kerry seems like the right guy at the right time.

The criticism that needs to come out of this convention should be directed at the US media, who once again proved themselves stupid, dismissive, unfair and fawning. The Convention would have been covered better by Access Hollywood than CNN. How do I even begin to discuss the ineptitude of this coverage? From constant talk on the horse-race aspect of the Convention (will the Democrats stay unified?) rather than its issues, to CNN's focusing on the balloon drop after Kerry's speech than the speech itself, to Chris Matthews' lambasting of Al Sharpton like a high school principal talking to a rebellious student, to the overapplied "fairness doctrine" of allowing Republican operatives to spin GOP talking points immediately after major speeches, to the major networks' sins of omission by giving only 3 hours of coverage for the week, neglecting Barack Obama's excellent oratory, to ABC showing a few seconds of al-Jazeera's translation of Kerry's speech (which you know makes the connection in many voters' minds that al Qaeda must be pro-Kerry), and, worst of all, forcing Kerry to keep within network time parameters, making him rush through applause lines and practically plead with the audience to keep it down so he could get through it. This was a miserable, shameful failure at all levels of the broadcast media. The only outlet that deserves to hold its head up high is C-SPAN, which provided uninterrupted, unspun, unfiltered gavel-to-gavel coverage every day. As for the other corporate- owned and controlled media, they ought to have their licenses revoked for the disservice they have done to our democracy. Conventions should be mandatory programming on all major and cable news networks; and not one hour of it, but all of them. Free air time for candidates should be another essential feature. A democracy without information ceases to be a democracy. Save for a few minor sources, that is where we are today in America. Shameful.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

The July Surprise... right on schedule

Last month The New Republic reported a story that the Bush Administration has been pressuring Pakistani intelligence to find someone, anyone connected to al Qaeda at some time before the November election, preferably this week. According to the article "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Well, today, on the fourth day of the Convention, Pakistan came through. They reportedly found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian who is on the FBI's most wanted "terrorists" list for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings by al Qaeda of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sources say they dressed him up first in a beard and a turban, but he couldn't pull off the bin Laden lookalike thing. Ghailani probably isn't enough of an HVT to throw a wrench in tonight's nominating speech, but it is interesting to note that Pakistan apparently had him since Sunday:

The suspect had been captured during a raid in central Pakistan a few days ago. He did not identify the captive but said he was "a person who is most wanted internationally."

Timing is all about timing, as they say.


Edwards post-mortem

Well, I thought it was pretty good, not great. It hewed too close to his stump speech and really covered no new ground (except for the line to al Qaeda that "We will destroy you," that harkened back to nobody so much as Khruschev). I was surprised he began with the "just spend three minutes with the men who served with Kerry in Vietnam" bit, which has been used verbatim as a campaign commercial. Every time he goes into that two Americas economic struggle "You know what I'm talking about... you can't make enough money to save anything" bit, I feel like he's about to sell me Mrs. Thompson's Curing Salve or some other snake oil. And "Hope is On the Way" just sounds like a stale platitude to me.

Still and all, he's got a bright demeanor and a persuasive style. I think he did his job, for the most part. I've read one keen insight that his entire "Two Americas" motif was completely undercut by the great Barack Obama's "Stop trying to divide us, we are the United States of America" speech. Fortunately, nobody in politics has so much as a daylong attention span.

Which is why Edwards' speech immediately doesn't matter, because the big one is tonight. John Kerry is apparently bringing out the big guns for this one, enlisting Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorenson ("Ask not what your country can do for you") to help. I think he'll do just fine, and I think he'll reach his goal of giving the electorate a reason to vote FOR somebody rather than simply AGAINST Bush.

Meanwhile, let's not forget about the nearly 100 dead in a series of bombings in Iraq yesterday. And the fact that aid groups are leaving Afghanistan in droves because it has become so dangerous there. Bush's Wars are still causing much death, destruction and pain. It's where he will ultimately be judged.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Senior Political Analyst

Being stuck at work yesterday, I was unable to watch the convention coverage on C-SPAN (where they let you watch the convention rather than talk over it) and had to resort to The Most Trusted Name in News. So Ted Kennedy gives his speech (with a stumble or two, but overall a good performance for the Liberal Lion), and CNN cuts to its Senior Political Analyst, Bill Schneider. Now, I've mentioned before that Schneider is an American Enterprise Institute fellow and a right-wing hack. But right now, let's focus on that title. Senior Political Analyst. Because this was the sum total of his ANALYSIS of Kennedy's speech:

BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. You watched the speech. You listened carefully. It was relatively speaking tough for this convention.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was. But let me point something out to you. Did you see or did you notice who was in the stands? One of the honored guests at this convention is Maria Shriver. She is a Kennedy. She will also be an honored guest at the Republican convention next month, because her husband is the governor of California, a Republican who will address the Republican convention, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She's one of the few people who's going to be an honored guest at the Democratic and the Republican convention. So Ronald Reagan is going to speak to this convention. Arnold Schwarzenegger with ties to the Kennedys will address the Republicans.

And the transcript doesn't do it justice. Schneider was gabbing on like he just spotted the original Chewbacca at ComiCon. I've got an idea, Senior Political Analyst: ANALYZE! What a tool. The news media is becoming more like the entertainment media every day.


Edwards... and Socks

Tonight, Sen. John Edwards speaks in front of the Democratic National Convention in what will be in many ways his introduction to the nation. His oft-repeated stump speech talks in abstractions about his background as "the son of a millworker" and the theme of "the two Americas"; one for the super-rich, one for the rest of the country. I'm guessing he'll stick to these themes tonight, but he would do best to bring them out of abstraction and into the specific issues that the middle class struggles with on a daily basis.

In short, he should talk about socks.

Fort Payne, Alabama is the self-proclaimed sock capital of the world, boasting enough mills to produce over 75% of the world's socks up until a few years ago. That's when China entered the WTO, and their subsidized apparel industry began to compete globally. Clearly, countries that can choose between low-cost Chinese socks and higher-cost socks from Fort Payne, Alabama are going to choose the low-cost option. Fort Payne's market share has dropeed to 40% since 2001. Their workers, who unlike China's demand more than a pittance sum and a bowl of rice to ply their wares, have seen 3,700 jobs lost in the last two years. The sock capital of the world is no longer, gone forever due to unfair competition.

Nowhere in our industrialized society can we see the costs of free trade more than in the textile industry. I say this as the son of a millworker, a man who has worked in textiles since the late 1950s, who has seen virtually every sweater mill in America close down and lay off its employees. 95% of all apparel in America is imported. This outsourcing, unlike other more publicized examples, began in the late 1970s, and has become the consistent policy of the US government, damaging hundreds of thousands of lives who must find other work. By calling on his millworker roots, Edwards can connect this American tragedy to the larger loss of American jobs under this President, the worst job record since Herbert Hoover. As we have seen at this convention with speakers like Barack Obama (who was amazing), personalizing the issues and drawing on one's own experience resonates with the electorate. Edwards has the biography, and the perfect chance to blow the lid off this so-called "recovery," to talk about to shrinking middle class, the invisibility of wage growth, the sadness of lifelong blue-collar workers suddenly forced to compete with their sons for burger-flipping jobs at McDonald's. A country without manufacturing ceases to have leverage in the world. We become dependent rather than reliant; dependent on foreign goods, dependent on foreign capital (from China and Japan, which will be the source of the next great fiscal crisis in our history), dependent on world events. This country of consumers now hungers for clothes from overseas as much as we do oil. And Edwards has the roots and the knowledge to state this fact at the convention, and have it resonate to all workers who struggle to compete with foreign imports. In other words, he shouldn't just SAY he's the son of a millworker; he should talk about the mill.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"wisdom and strength are not opposing values"

In an earlier time, when speeches mattered, when rhetoric was valued, when politicians were listened to, the above line would rightly go down in history as a classic. Bill Clinton, in one sentence, crystallized the ultimate parry against the prevailing Republican ideology of the last 25 years. You CAN be strong on defense, well-respected in the world, and actually have a brain in your head. The European sterotype of the ugly American is not a fait accompli. It's just a perfect line. Who knows if it will be remembered in this era of disposable news? We know that what they do remember is often wrong. Case in point: the "Let's roll" comment from Flight 93, which at the very least has been called into question by new details that emerged from the 9/11 Commission Report:

More sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose up and down. A passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Another yelled, "Roll it!" — an apparent reference to the flight attendants' meal cart, which they used for a battering ram.

(Separately, a passenger, Todd Beamer, called his wife from the plane and she later reported hearing someone say "Let's roll.")

So who knows how words and phrases survive into history. But "wisdom and strength are not opposing values" immediately struck me as destined for the Hall of Fame. I thought it capped an excellent opening night for the Democratic National Convention.


Monday, July 26, 2004

The End of Blogging?

Here's a quick one, go read this MyDD story and call your Senator to stop passage of this "Inducing Infringements of Copyrights Act." Even if it had nothing to do with bloggers, I'd be loudly protesting it. I used to work on a music/technology program, and I remember going to Washington for the Future of Music Conference. There, Sen. Orrin Hatch talked about his affinity for new technologies and their ability to revolutionize the music industry. Now he wants to hold technology companies responsible for any product they make that even ENCOURAGES piracy. So, if somebody uses Blogger to tell everybody about his Napster downloads, then Blogger can get sued? This would legislate speech, undermine previous decisions that allow technology to foster (like the Sony Betamax decision), and restrict innovation, ultimately harming the economy. Not to mention it's patently ridiculous. You can hold up a liquor store with a gun, but Smith & Wesson isn't held responsible.

Let's put an end to this nonsense and do what we can to stop this bill.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Remember the War on Drugs?

I know, there are only so many "wars" we can have on our plates at once. Yet the War on Drugs continues, and according to this Guardian article it's about to enter its "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" phase:

New super-strength marijuana readily available on US streets is prompting the White House to change direction in its war against drugs.

Now President George Bush, who had already promised a more aggressive campaign against substance abuse, has ordered that resources be allocated to fighting so-called 'soft' drugs instead of concentrating on harder forms, such as heroin and cocaine.

I'm wondering when that first report documenting the dangers of marijuana use over heroin and coke will be coming out. Probably never, because IT'S SIMPLY NOT AS DANGEROUS. And this focal shift comes at a time when the Taliban (remember them?) has become arguably one of the leading heroin producers in the world. Perfect time to move away from going after the heroin trade, ain't it?

I'm not quite at the marijuana legalization advocacy stage yet, but it's clear to me that busting and imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders does nothing to solve the drug problems of the country, increases the burden on the texpayer, overflows our jails and denies treatment those who are addicted to drugs and need medical care. Drugs are a public health issue and not a law enforcement issue, period. I don't know when we'll get an executive willing to state that truism.


Our friends the Pakistanis

OK, take this with a grain of salt, because it's from the India Times, not known for their positive depiction of Pakistan. But if even a little of this is true, it's insane:

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's intelligence officials knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, a well-known American analyst has said, based on a "stunning document" that he claims was given by a Pakistani source to the 9/11 Commission on the eve of the publication of its report.

The document, from a high-level, but anonymous Pakistani source, also claims that Osama bin Laden has been receiving periodic dialysis in a military hospital in Peshawar, says Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-at-large of the news agency UPI.

"The imprints of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from 9/11 - where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan," Borchgrave cites the confidential document as saying.

Go read the whole thing, it's unbelievable. By the way, we're funneling hundreds of millions in aid to Pakistan and its military leader Pervez Musharraf, who (according to a recent New Yorker article that's not online) has used his muscle mainly to disrupt and crush secular enemies, in a bid to position himself as the only alternative to fanatical Islamic rule in the country (which the author called a strategy of "aprez moi, les terroristes." So we're allied with a country that is more concerned with fighting secular foes than terrorists and radical Islam.

And if you don't believe The India Times (who admittedly has a clear axe to grind), read the 9/11 commission report itself, which details Pakistan's involvement with the Taliban and al Qaeda on numerous occasions. Here are a few that The India Times locates:

* "Pak[istan's] intel[ligence service] is in bed with bin Laden and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign" – quoting Richard Clarke.

* "Islamabad was behaving like a rogue state in two areas – backing Taliban/bin Laden terror and provoking war with India" - quoting NSC staffer Bruce Riedel.

* Pakistani intelligence officers reportedly introduced bin Laden to Taliban leaders in Kandahar -Commission's own observation.

* Pakistan's military intelligence service, known as the ISID (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), was the Taliban's primary patron - Commission's observation

* Pakistan helped nurture the Taliban. The Pakistani army and intelligence services, especially below the top ranks, have long been ambivalent about confronting Islamist extremists. Many in the government have sympathized with or provided support to the extremists - Commission's observation.

And a lot of this stuff is pretty well-documented, albeit it all occurred prior to 9/11. That's what makes the allegation about bin Laden receiving treatment at a Peshawar military hospital so damning. That shows a continuing relationship between the Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistan. In truth, it's probably in Pakistan's interest to keep al Qaeda and Taliban remnants around. It gives them more leverage for aid from the US, and keeps Musharraf's iron rule legitimate (as the protector against the radical Islam factions in the minds of the world community). We never seem to pick the right strongmen.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Arnaud de Borchgrave, the main source in the article, is probably not the most reliable of sources, although he may be one of the most colorful ones. However, I don't think this minimizes clearly delineated links to the Taliban that exist to this day, in addition to Gen. Musharraf's use of Islamists to strengthen his hold on Pakistan, no matter if they be terrorists or not.