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

Friday, October 15, 2004

American Taliban


U.S. Rejects U.N. Plan for Women

United Nations - The United States has refused to join 85 heads of state and government in signing a statement that endorsed a 10-year-old U.N. plan to ensure every woman's right to education, healthcare and choice about having children.

The Bush administration said it withheld its signature because the statement included a reference to "sexual rights."

Kelly Ryan, deputy assistant secretary of State, wrote to backers of the plan that the United States was committed "to the empowerment of women and the need to promote women's fullest enjoyment of universal human rights."

"The United States is unable, however, to endorse the world leaders' statement," Ryan said, because it "includes the concept of 'sexual rights,' a term that has no agreed definition in the international community."

Ryan did not elaborate. At previous U.N. meetings, U.S. representatives have spoken out against abortion, gay rights and what they see as the promotion of promiscuity by distributing condoms to prevent AIDS.

The statement was signed by leaders of 85 nations, including those in the European Union, China, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and more than a dozen African countries, as well as 22 former world leaders.

How could ANY self-respecting woman vote for this President? A lot of acquaintances on the neocon right tell me how important this war against religious theocracy is. Yeah, that's why I'm voting for Kerry. Disgusting.


Ctrl-F Media

The media has become so lazy, so fat and happy with their pre-rendered storylines, that I've decided upon a new name for them: the Ctrl-F Media. Their job is merely one of find and replace. For instance, last week I posted about how ridiculous it was to report on Republicans calling John Edwards' mere mention of Mary Cheney a "cheap shot." Well, this week, after debate 3, the media hit ctrl-F, replaced Edwards with Kerry, and ran the exact same story.

I agree with the prevailing opinion on the left that anyone who heard what Kerry had to say about Ms. Cheney and instinctively considers it a cheap shot must be a homophobe. Otherwise, unless there is some shame in being homosexual, why is it cheap? A poster at Kos put the hypocrisy best: earlier in the debate, Bush talked about Teresa Heinz Kerry's role in helping lower the rate of abortions. Why isn't Kerry talking about how "cheap" it was to "use my wife" to "score political points" on a "hot button issue" like abortion? Republicans don't want to admit their shame and hypocrisy; they want to say that Lynne Cheney is "protecting her daughter" by lashing out and calling Kerry "a bad man." Protecting her from what? She's an out and proud lesbian. You have to believe that lesbianism is wrong to consider Lynne Cheney's act one of protection.

But the media doesn't explore this reasoning. It hits Ctrl-F.


Whither Abu Ghraib?

We finally made it through three debates, with a 3-0 sweep for Kerry (which has pretty much never happened before, that a challenger wins three straight debates decisively, yet it gets a great big ho-hum from the media). And yet one of the biggest issues of the last four years was left on the cutting room floor: the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. In May there was nothing but talk about this; in election season, none. There have been revelations about torture memos in the Department of Defense and the White House, there has been the September release of Chain of Command by Seymour Hersh, which implicates the highest levels of government in not only Abu Ghraib but dozens of US-run prisons around the world, and yet, not a peep from the Kerry campaign. It almost seems like there is a concerted effort to forget it. Today, the WaPo editorial board remembers:

IN THE PAST few weeks the presidential candidates have debated almost every aspect of the war on terrorism save one: the handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a remarkable omission, if only because the shocking photographs of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and reports of hundreds of other cases of torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, have done grave damage to the United States' ability to combat extremism in the Muslim world.

Mr. Bush is obviously eager to avoid the subject of prisoner detentions. Maybe that's because his public stance on what happened at Abu Ghraib, and what caused it, is entirely at odds with the facts brought out by official investigations. When he last spoke of the matter, months ago, the president maintained that the abuse was the responsibility of a few low-ranking soldiers working the night shift. He has not acknowledged that scores of soldiers have now been implicated for crimes including homicide, or that a Pentagon-appointed panel has found responsibility at senior levels of the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House. Nor has he held anyone in his administration accountable.

Yet Mr. Kerry, who has devoted much of his campaign in the past month to criticizing how Mr. Bush has handled the war, has barely mentioned Abu Ghraib. A couple of months ago the Democrat said he felt "revulsion" over the prisoner abuses (Mr. Bush has said the same) and called for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation. What he hasn't said is whether he accepts or rejects the policy decisions that led to it -- most importantly, Mr. Bush's contention that some detainees captured abroad should not be treated according to the standards of the Geneva Conventions but instead can and should be subjected to harsh treatments long rejected by the U.S. military.

Why is this not an issue? Exactly what is Kerry afraid of by bringing this up? Anyone who would take a torturer's side in this argument isn't voting for Kerry anyway. Normal, rational, law-abiding people look at Abu Ghraib and are repulsed. And if they knew more, like the fact that Abu Ghraib was not "a few bad apples" but policy, they'd be more repulsed.

Furthermore, as Sy Hersh and others have said, Abu Ghraib was a turning point in the "war on terror". It further radicalized the world, diminished US standing among nations, undercut our moral authority, and ceded a major victory to Islamic fundamentalists, allowing them to prove that this is a clash of civilizations. In other words, Abu Ghraib made us less safe.

Does Abu Ghraib release a kind of cognitive dissonance among the electorate, who refuse to believe that America could do something so repugnant, and would therefore lash out at the accuser rather than the perpetrator? Maybe, but I think that there are some habits that are hard to break, and the public silence on Abu Ghraib reminds me of the Democratic silence throughout 2002. The Kerry camp does not want to be bashed over the head as a military-hating peacenik. That's where we've come in America; speaking out against torture is unpatriotic.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The O'Ribaldry Factor

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Debate, debate, debate. I'll get to that tomorrow. But I've got to say that the Bill O'Reilly sexual harrassment lawsuit is some of the most entertaining reading of the year. In the brief, O'Reilly, the guy who looks down with scorn at rap artists and other parts of the popular culture, the family values guy, talks about showing his penis to a "brown woman" in Bali, losing his virginity in a car at JFK, and his eagerness to get on the road so he can have affairs with "hot Italian women" away from his wife. He also repeatedly asks to engage in phone sex with his female associate producer, and then lays down this rap when she intimates that she might tell others about it:

If any woman ever breathed a word I'll make her pay so dearly she'll wish she'd never been born. I'll rake her through the mud, bring up things in her life, and make her so miserable that she'll be destroyed. And besides, she wouldn't be able to afford the lawyers that I can or endure it financially as long as I can. And nobody would believe her, it'd be her word against mine and who are they going to believe? Me or some unstable woman making outrageous accusations.

This "You like that, bitch! Don't tell anyone, bitch! Nobody'll believe you, bitch!" mentality actually makes O'Reilly the success that he is. He's a bully on the air, and now, we learn, a bully off the air as well. And the notion that any woman accusing him of anything is by her very nature unstable is quite enlightening. A lot of people are quoting the other statement O'Reilly made, where he says it won't be just him that goes after an accuser but "Roger Ailes" and "Fox News," but I think the above one speaks to his character more.

Other things I noted in the brief:

1) News Corp, parent company of Fox News, is incorporated in Delaware, which pays no state tax. Now get up off the floor after falling off your chair in surprise.

2) At one point, the plaintiff and O'Reilly watch a Bush press conference in his hotel room. She ridicules Bush and he laughs. Hmm. O'Reilly has been tacking to the left over the past few months. Bet that'll get him in trouble with Roger Ailes. "Don't ever cross Fox News!"

3) O'Reilly finishes a segment from his show where he interviews two porn stars, and declares that he is "excited." He calls the plaintiff, and starts telling her that he has a vibrator "shaped like a cock with a little battery in it." The brief says "It became apparent that the defendant (O'Reilly) was masturbating as he spoke." Is this guy 12 years old? How does it become apparent that you're masturbating? If anybody has a tape of that, I'd give them a million dollars.

4) There's a monologue on this page that's just nonstop hilarious. He calls a loofa a falafel. You can't make that one up, folks. During that conversation, it was apparent that O'Reilly was using a vibrator on himself, and came. Again, tape, people! The whole vibrator thing gives "The No-Spin Zone" a different meaning, doesn't it? Also, does he have a special room in the O'Reilly Compound for these phone calls?

Remember, O'Reilly once wrote a "novel" which involved, among other things, a long description of cunnilingus. On the unintentional comedy scale, he's way up there.



Under the radar until now, there is a concentrated effort to steal this election. After seeing this preponderance of evidence, I'm convinced of it.

The company Sproul and Associates, which is suspected of tearing up Democratic voter registration forms in Las Vegas, has set up registration drives in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Nevada and is accused of the same things in most if not all of these states. Sproul & Associates is a Republican consulting firm run by Nathan Sproul, former head of the Arizona Republican Party and Arizona Christian Coalition. Here's a state-by-state look:

Voters Outreach of America AKA America Votes tears up Democratic voter registration forms in Nevada.

Company claiming affiliation with non-partisan 'America Votes' to register voters in Oregon is actually GOP consulting firm Sproul & Associates, Inc.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania:
Sproul & Associates AKA America Votes workers in WV and PA refuse to register Kerry voters.

Democrats in Oregon have complained that canvassers for Arizona based Sproul & Associates have been pressuring residents to register as Republicans so that they can get paid.

Arizona Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative
former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul.

Who is this Sproul? Here's a good background story on him and his political track record, cached on Google.

In case you're wondering, here is the direct link between Sproul and Voters Outreach of America.

According to several sources, two of the contractors Sproul hired to oversee petition gathering for No
Taxpayer Money For Politicians -- Aaron "A.J." James, who directs Voters' Outreach of America, and Diane
Burns -- were also paid by Sproul to get as many signatures as possible for Nader.

And Here's a newsgroup posting to librarians warning of a possible Sproul fraud in several states.

And most interestingly,
a help wanted ad for Voters Outreach of America that says "Paid for by the Republican National Committee".

This is not an election about the issues. This is a naked power grab by the Republicans to maintain their hold on the White House. And we can't let this happen.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004


A good pre-debate primer. You can set up your drinking games by it. Anytime Bush says "we've created 1.9 million jobs" tomorrow, take a drink. "September 11 and the recession I inherited," 2 drinks. "Tax relief," 2 drinks. "He'll raise your taxes," 1 drinks. "He's a Massachusetts liberal," 2 drinks. If he uses the special "Taxachusetts liberal," 4 drinks. If he says Edwards is from "North Taxolina," just drink the whole bottle and run into the street.

It's sad that I could write Bush's answer to every question at this point.


Sin-clair as Mud

Work has taken precedence over blogging (stupid work!), but this latest outrage by Sinclair Broadcasting has forced me to write. As you probably know, Sinclair, an unabashedly pro-GOP owner of 64 network affiliates nationwide, is now forcing its stations to pre-empt network programming two weeks before the election to air an anti-Kerry documentary called Stolen Honor, which basically looks like a 90-minute version of the infamous Swift Boat ads. 14 of Sinclair's stations air in swing states. Unlike the spate of left-wing political docs that appeared this summer, this will air for free on broadcast television without commercial interruption, which is practically unprecedented. The Nation's Eric Berman spells out the hypocrisy:

A cursory look at Sinclair's recent record shows which side the broadcasting company is on. This is the same Sinclair Broadcasting Group who last April cried wolf over an attempt to "influence public opinion" by forbidding its seven ABC affiliates from airing a Nightline special devoted to the soldiers killed in Iraq.

The same Sinclair who gave $66,000 to the Republican Party in 2004.

The same Sinclair who required weather men to read a statement supporting President Bush's war on terror in 2001.

The same Sinclair who prevented a Madison, Wisconsin Fox affiliate from airing an advertisement by the Democratic National Committee last July.

The same Sinclair who today forces local stations against their will to run a daily "commentary" segment by its corporate spokesman which calls the French "cheese eating surrender monkeys," and antiwar Congressman "unpatriotic politicians who hate our military."

This broadcast is totally outrageous, illegal actually (it's an effective donation to the Bush campaign), and because of FCC giveaways and the dearth of oversight over the corporate media, it can pretty much go unchecked. The last line of defense are the consumers. And blogs are leading the way in doing something about it. There's a movement to petition the FCC to contest Sinclair licenses as they come up for renewal. Folks at Kos are trying to get advertisers to pull their ads from Sinclair stations, and they've achieved their first victory:

As directed in this forum I sent emails to an advertiser saying that I enjoyed their products but that I was no longer going to use them, and that none of my friends and family were going to use them either because they advertised on Sinclair stations. I went on to tell them why I had a problem with Sinclair as well.

A few minutes ago I received a call from them telling me they were PULLING their advertising from the Sinclair stations.

This is what the right does all the time; they terrorize and boycott advertisers to try to remove sexual or violent content from the airwaves. And I have to admit, I'm a little uncomfortable with suppressing speech. At least I was, until Sinclair's Mark Hyman released this statement:

"The networks are acting like Holocaust deniers and pretending these people (the POWs) don't exist. It would be irresponsible to ignore them."

OK, go get 'em.

Maybe the only positive out of all of this is that it will force the long-overdue discussion about media monopolies and the dangers of consolidated ownership. The only difference between Sinclair and Pravda is the Russian accent.


Monday, October 11, 2004

The Loss of Context, Pt MCMXXXVIII

John Kerry has a big interview in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, and predictably, the Bush campaign has done us a favor by nicely distilling its 10,000 words down to one: "nuisance."

Let's put it in some context by hearing from the next Secretary of State:

Even Democrats who stress that combating terrorism should include a strong military option argue that the ''war on terror'' is a flawed construct. ''We're not in a war on terror, in the literal sense,'' says Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton-era diplomat who could well become Kerry's secretary of state. ''The war on terror is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor. What we're really talking about is winning the ideological struggle so that people stop turning themselves into suicide bombers.''

I don't think anyone could have put it any closer to my views. And Kerry followed them up:

"You have to understand that this is not the sands of Iwo Jima. This is a completely new, different kind of war from any we've fought previously... I think we can do a better job,'' Kerry said, ''of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies, and most importantly -- and I mean most importantly -- of restoring America's reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us.''

When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

It's so clear that, when someone says "We have to get back to the place," that he's talking about a time in the future. But of course, the Bush campaign immediately jumped on it, saying things like "John Kerry thinks the war on terror is a nuisance!" No, idiots, he thinks we have to fight it so it BECOMES a nuisance! There's an enormous difference there. It assumes that the war can be won, that it's not an endless threat (which the GOP likes, because they can then perpetually scare the electorate). It assumes we can actually make a difference.

Charles Pierce had it in Altercation when he said:

There's nothing worse than C-Plus Augustus with a new catchphrase.  He takes it out back and chews on it and plays with it and tosses it up in the air, and he'll run and go fetch it from dawn until dusk, or at least until Karen Hughes' brawny arm gets tired.  Which is why we are all going to grow quite sick of the word "nuisance" between now and election day.  Of course, what Kerry meant was that fighting terrorism needn't necessarily involve ramping up unreasoning fear every time your poll numbers begin to tank.  But "nuisance" will get tossed around like "global" was.  I don't believe any campaign ever has depended as much as the Avignon Presidency does on every voter being either a) as fundamentally duplicitous as Enron Ed Gillespie, or b) as willfully uninformed as the candidate himself.



Sunday, October 10, 2004

Cheap Shot Artists

What is the deal with this Republican whining that John Edwards "took a cheap shot" at Dick Cheney in the Vice-Presidential Debate by "cruelly bringing up" his gay daughter? This is completely ridiculous, and actually shows how the GOP likes to hide from their socially conservative religious base.

First of all, if you follow politics at all, and you didn't already know that Dick Cheney had a gay daughter, your head is in the sand. Cheney has addressed this fact directly on the stump as recently as late August:

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has declared that "freedom means freedom for everyone" to enter "into any kind of relationship they want to."

In unusually personal remarks on the issue, delivered at a campaign forum in Davenport, Iowa, the vice president, referred to his daughter, Mary, who is a lesbian, saying that he and his wife "have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with."

He added, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the White House, "We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them."

Of course, the GOP counter-argument would be that debates open up the process to those who don't normally follow politics closely, and many of them might not have known about Mary Cheney, and it was a "cheap shot" to bring it up. Well, if you want to talk about who brought up Cheney's gay daughter in the debate, I'd say it was Gwen Ifill:

IFILL: The next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President. 

I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks.

Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?

How could Cheney have used his "family's experience as a context" for remarks about gay marriage if there WASN'T a gay member of the family? The issue was already on the table.

Third of all, Cheney's repsonse to this "cheap shot" doesn't sound like that of someone who was just stuck in the ribs, does it?

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

What does this all mean? Well, it seems to me that Republican backers are trying to hide their skeletons in an ever-expanding closet, because they know that members of their fundamentalist base would literally not vote for someone if they knew the candidate had a gay daughter. That's the disgusting truth of the matter, and if anyone is providing a cheap shot, it's the GOP on the American people by whitewashing their candidates for political gain. The tacit acknowledgement here is that the Republican Party has a base whose bigotry embarrasses them.