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Upside-down News

A twilight-zone feeling has been insidiously creeping into my daily life. And, I am beginning to identify bits and pieces of the culprit that is trying to toy with my perception.

Watching â??20/20â? on ABC last week was one such illuminating moment, watching the shaky revisionist account of Matthew Shepardâ??s brutal murder. Was I being inhuman, not feeling more pity for the killerâ??s plight, even after Elizabeth Vargasâ??s attempt to portray him as somehow misunderstood?

Then, last night I picked up the latest issue of TIME Magazine before going to bed. It was late. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. Did I just read Michelle Cottle saying:

If anything, social conservatives don't realize the full depth of blue-state America's condescension. They assume that liberals sit around all day thinking about how much smarter or more sophisticated or more enlightened they are than social conservatives. Truth be told, most of the time liberals don't bother to think about social conservatives at all. Except at election time, when they suddenly become aware of them as some frightening, incomprehensible menace to their otherwise comfortably progressive society.

If you look at the country that way, it's only fair that conservatives have their moment in the sun. They may have won the battle, but their prospects for the broader culture war remain dim.

Now, whatâ??s not to like about an optimistic outlook? Should I be feeling guilty that some of her words infuriated me? I like to be positive, but not a Pollyanna. By golly, I agree that this liberal does not sit around all day thinking about how smart or sophisticated liberals are. On the other hand, I do bother to think about conservatives other than at election time,... like right now. I think how smart and sophisticated they must be to be pulling off the reddening of our media. What on earth is a â??moment in the sunâ?? Donâ??t even try to lull me into complacency about the neocon â??moment.â? Will our national deficit be remedied in a â??momentâ?? Would the effect of any possible future neo-conservative appointments to our US Supreme Court last but a â??momentâ?? How about our â??momentâ?ous war in Iraq? I need to stop reading such articles before going to sleep.

This morning I felt vindicated, if not comforted, upon reading Frank Richâ??s article in The New York Times:

There's a war on. TV remains by far the most prevalent source of news for Americans. We need honest information to help us navigate, not bunkum skewed to flatter one segment of the country, whatever that segment might be. Yet here's how Jeff Zucker, the NBC president, summed up the attributes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw's successor, to Peter Johnson of USA Today: "No one understands this Nascar nation more than Brian." Mr. Zucker was in sync with his boss, Bob Wright, the NBC Universal chairman, who described America as a "red state world" on the eve of Mr. Brokaw's retirement. Though it may come as news to those running NBC, we actually live in a red-and-blue-state country, in a world that increasingly hates all our states without regard to our provincial obsession with their hues. Nonetheless, Mr. Williams, who officially took over as anchor on Dec. 2, is seeking a very specific mandate. "The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy," he told Mr. Johnson, promising to spend his nights in the field in "Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and the middle of Kansas." (So much for San Francisco - or Baghdad.)

Frank Rich continues with examples of â??Nascarization of newsâ? on ABC and NBC, including â??a creepier example of the shift toward red news,â? the same â??20/20â? show that had troubled me.

I like good news. But, Iâ??d like to think that any such news reporting would be evenhanded. As Frank Rich concludes:

If full-scale Nascarization is what's coming next, there will soon be no pictures but those promising a mission accomplished, no news but good news. And that's good news only if you believe America has something to gain by fighting a war in the dark.

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Antichrist

The New York Times columnist David Brooks admonishes â??Meet the Pressâ? for inviting the likes of â??bozoâ? Jerry Falwell to discuss religion and public life.

This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.

John Stott. And, we should be comforted that there are more evangelicals out there who are â??friendly, courteous and naturalâ?? Do they tolerate liberal views?

Stott says that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure. He is always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice.

Iâ??ll come back to the human/divine figure later.
Brooks describes Stott as believing that â??in many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.â? I know people who might interpret that as an extremely conflicted statement. Without getting into an endless discussion on the meaning of â??truth,â? suffice to say that I believe our worldly reality involves opposites, but that â??in many casesâ? consideration might be given to what lies outside a linear conception of polarity.

Anyway, to set my feet back on the ground, John Stottâ??s outlook displays an earthly concreteness that has immediate consequences:

He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty, even though he is not a political conservative on most issues.

David Brooks states:

Politicians, especially Democrats, are now trying harder to appeal to people of faith. But people of faith are not just another interest group, like gun owners. You have to begin by understanding the faith. And you can't understand this rising global movement if you don't meet its authentic representatives.

Brooks believes John Stott is an authentic representative of evangelicals. Is he any more acceptable than Jerry Falwell? I propose we delve further into his beliefs:

Now is the time of restraint, in which the secret power of lawlessness is being held in check. Next will come the time of rebellion, in which the control of law will be removed and the lawless one will be revealed. Finally will come the time of retribution, in which the Lord Christ will defeat and destroy the Antichrist, and those who have believed the Antichrist-lie will be condemned. This is God's programme. History is not a random series of meaningless events. It is rather a succession of periods and happenings which are under the sovereign rule of God, who is the God of history.

--From Authentic Christianity, page 384.

Stott also defines his view of â??antichristâ? for us:

... the apostle John calls "antichrist" anyone who denies the divine-human person of Jesus (1 John 2:18).

I am an antichrist, in John Stottâ??s eyes. Maybe some of you are, too. There may be antichrists teaching evangelicalsâ?? children. There could be antichrists providing medical services to evangelicals. At least some evangelicals likely have friends and relatives who are antichrists. In any case, the antichrists of globalization are eating away at any insularity.

So, how do political parties (containing plenty of antichrists as well as other people of faith who promote choice regarding matters of homosexuality and abortion, for instance) approach these particular â??people of faithâ? who might view contrary opinions as absolutely wrong,... in particular, absolutely morally wrong? I donâ??t see homosexuality or abortions disappearing regardless.

I think the term â??toleranceâ? begins to take on new dimensions. It might be (not so simply) a matter of whether some evangelicals can come to accept that not all of us want to be â??savedâ? and that we should have the right to make some decisions for ourselves in spite of the fact that some of these â??people of faithâ? figure weâ??re paving our own road to hell. After all, if they canâ??t convince me, they should be comforted that their god is going to take care of things in the end, right? Am I asking too much here? Would John Stott be an influential man to appeal to? Or is the Democratic Party wasting their time trying to acquire votes from evangelicals? Perhaps they should concentrate instead on getting more of those wayward voters to the polls, those faithful people and antichrists who tolerate each other and support the partyâ??s platform.

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From the "Just How Stupid Do We Look?" Department: Congressman Istook's Mysterious Amendment

Bill Frist and Tom DeLay have said they didn't know how that pesky rider got into the big spending bill; apparently, Ernest Istook (R-OK) put it there:

Tucked into the massive spending bill Congress debated over the weekend was a provision that read as follows: " ... upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the ... [IRS] shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein."

Stop here for a second: "agents designated by such chairman" means that a designate of the chair of Ways and Means (which means, it could be more or less anybody) could have access to any tax return he wanted to. Anyone's. And there's probably no conceptual limit on the number of "designates" the chairmen could name. Why, they could name their own special squads of moral supercops, to go out and scrutinize tax returns for moral culpability. But I digress....

In other words, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee could look at your tax returns - or the tax returns of his next opponent for re-election, or those of the next Democratic presidential nominee. This amendment was inserted at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, whose last claim to fame was a failed attempt to slip in a 1997 amendment promoting prayer in all public schools.

The tax return-spying amendment was excised from the omnibus bill as soon as it was spotted. "Honest mistakes were made, but there's no conspiracy here," said Istook.

"Fairness" is irrelevant when God is on your side.

[thanks to American Samizdat]

The Enemy: Ignorance

I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election's outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him." [â??Voting Without the Factsâ? by Bob Herbert, The New York Times, November 8, 2004]

No, I havenâ??t jumped off the political bandwagon yet. Even though I wonâ??t be stuck in this one gear forever, right now in the wake of the election, I, among others, need to vent. Bush has been reelected, yet I refuse to become a doormat to the muddy boots of ignorance. It seems as if Iâ??ve been quoting from The New York Times a bit much lately, as some of their Op-Edâ??s have been resonating strongly with me. Regarding Bob Herbertâ??s comments, Iâ??d go further to say that even for those Bush supporters who have seen the facts, cognitive dissonance has been one main contributor to this â??cluelessnessâ? or ignorance, as mentioned in the referenced "http://www.pipa.org/">PIPA report :

It is normal during elections for supporters of presidential candidates to have fundamental disagreements about values (such as the proper role of the government) or strategies (such as how best to defend US interests). As we have seen, the current election is unique in that Bush supporters and Kerry supporters have profoundly different perceptions of reality.

[...]

So why do Bush supporters show such a resistance to accepting dissonant information? While it is normal for people to show some resistance, the magnitude of the denial goes beyond the ordinary. Bush supporters have succeeded in suppressing awareness of the findings of a whole series of high- profile reports about prewar Iraq that have been blazoned across the headlines of newspapers and prompted extensive, high-profile and agonizing reflection. The fact that a large portion of Americans say they are unaware that the original reasons that the US took military action--and for which Americans continue to die on a daily basis--are not turning out to be valid, are probably not due to a simple failure to pay attention to the news.

The roots of the resistance to this information very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11, and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. [...] Large numbers of Americans had a powerful bonding experience with the president--a bond that they may be loath to relinquish.

[...]

But now, while others have peeled off, Bush supporters continue to hold onto their image of Bush as a capable protector. To do this it appears that many need to continue to screen out information that undermines this image.

Bush appears to assume that his support is fragile. He refuses to admit to making any mistakes. He admits that he was surprised that WMD were not found, but does not say that the most reasonable conclusion is that they were never there and continues to talk about â??disarmingâ? Iraq. He asserts that he never said that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11, but maintains that there were contacts with al Qaeda in a way that implies that they were significant. Most telling, his supporters as well as his opponents overwhelmingly say that they hear him still saying that Iraq had WMD and supported al Qaeda. To remain loyal and bonded to him means to enter into this false reality.

Bush may be right. Admitting his mistakes may shatter his idealized image in a way that some supporters may not forgive. But there also risks in succeeding in getting elected based on false beliefs. The number of people in the public who see through the illusion will likely continue to grow, eating away at the implied mandate of an election. Further, the cohesion of society can be damaged by a persisting and fundamental division in the perception of what is real, undermining pathways to consensus and mutual sacrifice, and making the country increasingly difficult to govern.

As always, time will tell. Helping people â??see through the illusionâ? is crucial, in order for them to make informed choices. It is not encouraging that 2004 Election Exit Poll Results show issues of terrorism and moral values trumping Iraq and education as far as what mattered to Bush voters.

I agree with Bob Herbert: â??What the Democratic Party needs above all is a clear message and a bold and compelling candidate.â? Clarity, awareness is the key.

â??If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a hole.â? (The Gospel of Thomas)

The 2004 election is over, yet we can still voice our opinions and cast more votes. Which of The Separate Realities will we Americans ultimately allow to determine what â??blindâ? means?

Addendum: My apologies. Although misperceptions about Iraq certainly were conveyed in the report I quoted from PIPA above, it appears that Bob Herbert was quoting from an earlier â??recentâ? report.

Regardless, my point remains the same.

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Them and Us

Pro-Bush types think America has been saved.

Anti-Bush types think America has been sunk.

And there we are. We see enemies. Everywhere.

But here is the problem: We are looking at each other.

And until we start seeing "fellow Americans," it won't matter who's in office. We'll destroy ourselves. ["We have seen the enemy -- and it's us" by Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, November 7, 2004]

But I disagree, in part. It does matter who is in office, if Mr. Bush chooses to continue a far-right, exclusionary, divisive agenda, which in turn perpetuates the severely polarized environment Mitch Albom describes. Because of this handicap, effective communication needs to happen at a grassroots level. Otherwise, as Mitch says, the enemy will continue to be "us." In order to start seeing â??fellow Americans,â? it becomes necessary to see gray, to be able to empathize and tolerate even in the face of disagreement. We have seen â??fellow Americansâ? in the past, regardless of Republican or Democratic administrations. But at this time there are reasonable people (including some traditional conservatives) who are not willing to succumb to a my-way-or-no-way, extreme, far-right administration. Fellow Americans should be combating the erosion of civil rights. Fellow Americans should join together to end a brutal war. Fellow Americans should... well, Iâ??m sure yâ??all are capable of filling in the rest.

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Another thought for the moment

W. B. Yeats, on being asked for a War Poem, once wrote:

I think it better that in times like these

A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth

We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please

A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

Or an old man upon a winter's night.

That did not stop him from writing reflections such as â??A Meditation in Time of War,â? nor have other poets throughout history refrained from creating war poems.


Particularly interesting to me is the recent proliferation of organized groups of poets producing anthologies of poems expressing opposition to war. Poetry put to practical use seems to be their goal.

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Thought for the Moment

To a Friend whose Work has come to Nothing

NOW all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours' eyes?
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

W.B. Yeats

[courtesy madamjujujive at MeFi]

Faith in people

Florida's early polling was designed to make voting easier, but enormous voter turnout swamped the limited number of early polling sites. Over the weekend, people in some polling places had to stand in line for four, five, even six hours, often in the hot sun. Some of them - African-Americans in particular - surely suspected that those lines were so long because officials wanted to make it hard for them to vote. Yet they refused to be discouraged or intimidated.

Here's what a correspondent from Florida wrote to Joshua Marshall, of talkingpointsmemo.com: "To see people coming out - elderly, disabled, blind, poor; people who have to hitch rides, take buses, etc. - and then staying in line for hours and hours and hours ... Well, it's humbling. And it's awesome. And it's kind of beautiful."

Yes, it is. I always get a little choked up when I go to the local school to cast my vote. The humbleness of the surroundings only emphasizes the majesty of the process: this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action. ["Faith in America" by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, November 2, 2004]

Paul Krugmanâ??s article was so uplifting to read, and his words spoke to me in a personal way, as I also got â??a little choked upâ? when I went to the local elementary school to cast my vote this morning. The rain had temporarily abated by the time I arrived, but apparently the earlier showers had not discouraged voters in the least. There was a record turnout. As I approached the school, as usual there were people lined up to pass out flyers. One of these was a man who assured us his was nonpartisan. He handed me a narrow slip of paper that contained only one sentence: â??What you do to the least of MY children, that you do unto ME.â? No chapter and verse -- just the one line. I looked it up later. Although I had not seen the particular verse worded exactly that way before, it came from Matthew 25:40. For some reason, I wasnâ??t offended. And, yes, I often am offended by proselytizing. I figured that many voters entering that school were Christians, and perhaps this man was hoping this verse would cause people to think within their own worldviews about the issues, if they didnâ??t immediately crumble up the paper in disgust. This verse speaks of action, works, not just faith. Itâ??s not necessarily tied into only a right-wing, evangelical worldview. It could refer to a lot of issues, which candidates we vote for as well as how we vote on various proposals. Even without the religious connotations, one could consider how we as humans and as nations are interrelated more than we often realize.


After voting, I noticed some goodies set up on tables in the school corridor for a school fundraiser. I purchased some baked goods. How could I turn down one of the cheerful volunteers who said she had baked some cookies from a wonderful recipe she got from her mother-in-law? There is hope. This gal gets along with her mother-in-law. So, I supported her and the school kids with my donation... and additionally, I sincerely hope, by having exercised my right to vote.

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There's a name for it...

Americans are in the grip of a monster case of Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder. No one is talking about voter apathy anymore, because the opposite is more likely the case. People care too much. They're losing sleep. They're having bad dreams about unfavorable tracking polls. [â??Not to Worry â?? The End Is Very Nearâ? by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, October 25, 2004]

PEAD. Iâ??m beginning to think that a person isnâ??t normal if they donâ??t fit into one of the proliferating categories for psychological disorders. Iâ??m not losing any sleep, but is it possible to have a very mild case of PEAD? I mean, I do agree with Joel Achenbach that --

â??Anecdotally you hear about close friendships being ripped apart by differing political allegiances. Forget the old wedge issues, like abortion, affirmative action, taxes: The election itself is a wedge issue. If you're not feeling wedged you're not paying attention.

Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder is often driven by serious and rational fears, with global events so alarming.

They are very real and very alarming. One can read in The New York Times about â??What the Terrorists Have in Mindâ? or, better yet, get in the trenches and join Islamist websites and chat rooms for the latest scary scoop. Or, consider --

Lawsuits are flying as we speak, and the election may come down to a single precinct in Winter Haven or Deland or Immokalee, followed by the soon-to-be-traditional Recount, the dueling press conferences, James A. Baker flying to Tallahassee, and a final and definitive verdict by Nino Scalia.

Scalia? That one did it for me. I see disturbing visions of Scalia beaming with a right-wing choir in the background singing, â??Onward, Christian Soldiers,â? -- this version,... not this one.

Politics is normally somewhat compartmentalized, except for those who are serious junkies and those paid to live and breathe it, but this is a moment when the rest of life is pushed into a compartment. Americans will return to mundane matters like art and music and literature when the last returns from Nov. 2 are counted, hopefully at some point prior to mid-December.

Art, music, and literature continue to save my sanity right now. No need to return at a later date. I just need to be selective as to the content.

Achenbach ends the article talking about civility,... respect, listening, dialogue leading to higher ground.

Meanwhile, you hear people announce that if their guy loses the election they will leave the country outright, like the late Pierre Salinger, who moved to France.

But that's not what people will really do. They'll absorb the facts, celebrate or mourn, and move on with their lives. And somewhere along the way they'll figure out what to tell the children.

Facts work for me. Opinions are fine, but you also tell them facts to the best of your ability. A cat is not a dog.

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Appearances

Chely Wright is making a hit with and for the U. S. military troops overseas. As a result of overwhelming support from troops, Chely is recording a song she wrote about an experience she had.

The lyrics describe a U.S. Marine Corps bumper sticker on Wright's vehicle â?? a tribute to her brother, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Wright, who recently returned from Iraq â?? and another motorist's response to it with an obscene gesture.

In her lyrics, Wright questions why the woman reacted as she did. "I guess I wanna know where she's been before she judges and gestures to me, 'cause she don't like my sticker for the U.S. Marines on the bumper of my SUV," she sings.

Country Weekly reports:

"I thought it was so interesting that she was able to glean from that (sticker) that I'm pro-war," said Chely. "Who's for war? I was simply supporting my brother."

And, from the American Forces Press Service:

"I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm an American," Wright told a crowd at a Labor Day weekend concert in Annapolis, Md. "And whether you're for Kerry or for Bush, what's important is that you show your support for our troops."

Emotions are high right now. Election day is fast approaching. Whoever wins the presidential election will be facing decisions regarding the devastating turmoil in Iraq. Fact is, even in the face of evidence that we entered a war based on lies, we are there and our troops do need support to somehow do the best they can with the mess at hand. Our votes will determine what kind of leadership they will have.


Chely Wright says she is an American. What does it mean to be an American? We all might have our own views on that topic, but just as a woman obscenely gestured to Chely based on a bumper sticker, so do a lot of people all over the world not respect the tag â??Americanâ? right now. We have the power to help change that.

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Soul and Judgment

The More Things Change..., the more David Brooks does not. He is still in black and white mode and I really think heâ??s due for a change of outfit. Or doesnâ??t a gray suit work for him?


Itâ??s not that I totally disagree with some points he makes in todayâ??s New York Times article. There are those people who cling to a party affiliation, no matter what, and no doubt at least partly due to the tribal nature of human beings. As far as leadership qualities, there are those who prefer â??straight-talking men of faith,â? and there are others who value knowledge and thoughtfulness.


Brooks concludes:

It just so happens that America is evenly divided about what sort of leader we need: the Republican who leads with his soul or the Democrat who leads with his judgment. Even the events of the past four years have not altered that disagreement.

That's why we are still tied.

One or the other, eh? So, what is the ultimate point of this article? That things never change, and even more disturbing, that we cling to our ignorance, and that the world is as polarized as ever?


I might even agree with his assessment, but I donâ??t agree with Mr. Brooksâ??s simplistic descriptions, nor do I see the need for â??soulâ? and â??judgmentâ? to be ultimately opposing factors. Perhaps the polarization is fueled by such arbitrary designations. I confess to being one of those people who value the ability to see complexity, but that doesnâ??t mean that I donâ??t have a â??clear, broad vision" of America's role in the world. It is possible to see both the forest and the trees, and even transcend the two. What might differ is that what is clear to others and me in some cases would not be clear to Mr. Bush.


Does that mean that he is wrong and I am right or vice versa? I donâ??t pretend to be right all the time. But, I often do take the time to consider the fallout of actions. So, yes, I value judgment, critical thinking. And, in my estimation, that doesnâ??t negate the importance of my intuitive nature,... not blind faith, but faith in my experience.


Not all humans can be easily dumped into one category or another, yet we definitely see leanings to one camp or another in a highly charged contest such as this upcoming election. So, can David Brooks not come up with a suggestion?


For starters, how about Americans seriously considering the polarizing penalty of a two-party system?

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Unequivocally liberal

Three debates down and weâ??re into the home stretch. Weâ??ve heard differing viewpoints, a consistent, confident Kerry, and the three faces of W.â?? dour dubya, burning bush, and thick shrub. And yet, there remain the undecided voters and perhaps still some confusion.


What indeed is a liberal? If Kerry is â??far left,â? according to Bush and Co., how many others farther left are dangling on the edge of hellâ??s precipice? And what does that say about finger-pointing Dubya (as in â??Dâ? standing for â??Deficitâ??) Is it possible that the neocons have a somewhat convoluted view way out there in â??Rightâ? rapture?


One way to provide some reliable measure of comparison would be to insist on common, nonpartisan definitions. I rather like the approach of one of the numerous online quizzes testing whether people are liberal or conservative. Instead of either/or, this test offers a spectrum of categories: Far-Left Liberal, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, and Far-Right Conservative. The quiz consists of only seven, straightforward questions.


Simply, the presidential candidates could complete the quiz, providing categories for comparison, should any undecided voters also desire to take the quiz.


My result was â??liberal.â? And Iâ??m not even from >Massachusetts. Oh, my.


Liberal
Where do you fall on the liberal - conservative political spectrum? (United States)

brought to you by Quizilla

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Emotional maturity matters

Campaign officials say it took Karen Hughes a good while to convince the Commander in Chief after the first presidential debate that he had looked irritated. "I was not irritated," he told her, irritated. "Sir, you were," she said. Hughes is one of the few who can tell the President what he might not want to hear and show him what he might not be able to see for himself.

Within 72 hours of losing that first debate, which in a Time poll cost him a full 11 points among female voters, the Bush campaign had launched a new ad aimed squarely at women. Heading into Debate Round 2, many Republican strategists expected to see Kinder Gentler 2.0 Friday night.

But they turned out to be wrong.

[...]

So in the town hall--style debate last Friday, Kerry was clearly intent on courtship. He used the word respect each time he answered a woman's question about values, and he presented himself as a drug-reimporting, budget-balancing, stem-cell-researching champion of middle-class families. Sometimes even blatant pandering works if it shows that you're listening.

By way of contrast, it quickly became clear that the President was not about to arrive in St. Louis and flirt. He came to fight and did, staring down opponent and questioner alike. If polls show that even 33% of Bush voters are looking for a second-term course correction, Bush had little to say to them. He is holding fast, no doubts, no surrender. [â??Crunchtimeâ? by Nancy Gibbs, CNN.com, October 11, 2004]

Georgetown University Professor Deborah Tannen points outs:

Democrats and Republicans alike have set their sights on winning women's votes come Nov. 2. Historically, more women than men vote and a larger percentage of women vote Democratic.

[...]

The role of talk about "mistakes" in the rhetoric of the debate was particularly striking when Bush intoned, and repeated, that no one will follow a president who says the war was a mistake. With this, he tried, aikido-like, to pin on his opponent the stigma of association with the word "mistake," even as the stigmatizing mistakes were not Kerry's, but those of which Kerry accused him. It's a clever manipulation of language.

Will it work? Probably with fewer women than men, because most women don't regard admitting fault as a liability. Instead, they value it as a sign of caring and a necessary prerequisite to maintain credibility.

So, letâ??s hear from a male. Michael Tomasky (The American Prospect) goes â??out on a limbâ? to predict "http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=...">â??that George W. Bush lost a good chunk of the women's voteâ? after the second debate.

I'm guessing that Friday night, that trend started shifting into reverse. It wasn't any single thing Bush said. It was the manner: the schoolyard swagger, the left arm cocked like an itchy gunslinger's, the arrogant sneer, the roosterish strutting -- and the voice. God, that voice. You don't quite call that screaming. It wasn't exactly caterwauling. Maybe yowling. Whatever it was, he sounded like a tedious and noisome braggart in the parking lot after a football game. Having seen plenty of those, and having been that myself from time to time, experience teaches me to take the view that most women do not find that figure appealing.

They might have, if Kerry had come across, to extend the metaphor, as the inadequate sad sack portrayed in Bush's television commercials. But he didn't. Kerry was terrific. Far better, by my lights, than he was in the first debate. I know no one else will see it that way, because he was the first debate's obvious winner, while he merely edged out round two on points after Bush didn't show up in where-am-I-again? mode. But Kerry was, if anything, stronger -- more succinct and direct, more challenging to Bush, and tougher -- than he had been in the first debate. And he especially showed all those qualities when he was talking foreign policy. I'm betting the security moms noticed.

I personally found Bushâ??s demeanor nauseating. And, I would find that type of behavior unappealing no matter who was talking,... or was that yelling... There is no doubt that some men didnâ??t find Bush offensive. Tomasky mentions Bush acting like a â??rude jerkâ? to Charlie Gibson at one point and how Chris Matthews â??thought it was great.â? At least one other man I talked with after the debate also discounted Bushâ??s conduct as being no big deal.

After all is said and done, some women have already made up their minds regardless of candidatesâ?? posturing during debates. I think Bushâ??s poor deportment only supports underlying character concerns.

I would hope that the still undecided women voters would seriously consider the domestic and global issues at hand, yet I also know that evaluating a candidateâ??s character means a lot, too, to most people, and many women might be placing more weight on some qualities than Mr. Bush is willing to admit.

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George W. Bush: Seeding The Moral Destruction Of America

The Bushite NeoCons are literally planting the seeds of America's moral destruction, and Seymour Hersh has seen the roots sprouting, first-hand:

.... rumors of atrocities around Iraq that to Hersh brought back memories of My Lai. In the evening's most emotional moment, Hersh talked about a call he had gotten from a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.

"He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'

"It's shades of Vietnam again, folks: body counts," Hersh continued. "You know what I told him? I said, 'Fella, you blamed the captain, he knows that you think he committed murder, your troops know that their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Complete your tour. Just shut up! You're going to get a bullet in the back.' And that's where we are in this war."

[Seymour Hersh, speaking at Berkeley 2004/10/08; available as webcast]

Hersh has been there before, on the ground in Vietnam as a war correspondent. He walked among the grunts and heard the whispers about fragging contracts. He talked with the guys from My Lai who didn't keep their mouths shut and barely survived for that.

This is also one reason that flag-rank uniformed officers of a certain age despise the Bushites. They despise them, in other words, because the NeoCon-controlled civilian Pentagon has fed them brown acid and now they're stuck in a hotter, dryer flashback to a moral morass wherein a soldier had to fear a bullet in the back for calling "injustice."

As studiously as they work at failing to understand this simple fact, the Bushites have created an ethos wherein amorality is adaptive, and moral behavior maladaptive, and that will be the downfall of not just a few grunts but also of the Army and Marine Corps, themselves. Such an environment is a recipe for depravity. It is possible to send a person to war and get them back more or less in one piece, even if they've killed. But when you make them kill (which is hard enough to do, believe it or not) and you take away their reasons for believing that there's somehow justice in what they're doing -- when you make them repress their basic moral capacities, just to survive -- then you're setting yourself up for chaos.

Discipline in military units, as in most small working grousp of people, is primarily a matter of loyalty to your fellows. When you sow the seeds of disloyalty, you destroy discipline. The Bushites are destroying not only a generation of young men and women, but they're also destroying their great instrument of World Justice, our armed forces.

They need to be removed before they do any more damage. And so we can make a small effort to repair the damage they've already wrought.

Retro vs. Metro?

Bush vs. Kerry? Or Retro vs. Metro?


John Sperling has written a book about â??why America is so bitterly divided.â? The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America â??describes how Retro and Metro America are really two countries whose people have different economic and political interests.â?


There is no doubt that the U. S. has a variety of economic and political interests, and I have experienced an unhealthy polarizing effect with the current administration. But, â??two countriesâ??

If America is ever to be a true United States, it must embrace these Metro values of inclusion and respect.

You will never convince every American to â??embraceâ? the benefits of inclusion, but we can expect respect for citizensâ?? rights provided by our Constitution. Is there â??valueâ? in using the opponentsâ?? black and white approach in a polemic designed to somehow achieve this goal? It does bring attention to issues. But, Kerryâ??s strength in my mind is his ability to see gray. That is what separates him from the polarizing Right.

The results of this upcoming election could either support or undermine â??the blessings of libertyâ? of our â??more perfect union.â? Should we attempt to rise above opposing, contentious extremes, or rather invite an â??Uncivil Warâ??

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Dharma Judo

Also from the Trudeau interview: He spoke of attending a state dinner at the Clinton White House, in the company of his wife, Jane Pauley. "At that time I was depicting him as a kind of levitating waffle," Trudeau recalled. When he reached President Clinton in the receiving line, Clinton grasped his hand, turned to the visiting President of Morocco, and remarked: "Mister President, this is Garry Trudeau. He's a cartoonist. He makes fun of me for a living."

The Moroccan president was not amused.

The story leapt out at me because it showed Clinton turning Trudeau's comic-page attacks on him to his advantage. It allowed him to offer a subtle slight to his guest -- a leader whose human rights record was poor at best. "In America, we don't fear criticism," he seemed to be saying.

I can't imagine George W. Bush being willing to expose himself in that way. It requires an ego less fragile than Bush's.

Trudeau Remembering W: An Arrogant, Petulant Son of Wealth

I watched Garry Trudeau last night on the Charlie Rose show. He related the story of how he came to know George W. Bush when they were in school at Yale. Trudeau, it seems, and for reasons he wasn't sure of, got nominated to what amounted to a social committee. That committee was chaired by George W. Bush. They interacted throughout that year on such pressing issues as what beer to order for parties, and who to invite.

Trudeau's reaction was "visceral"; he described "W" as being very funny, but in a cruel way -- he had an eye for a person's weaknesses, and an instinctive sense for how to exploit them for humor. He found distasteful the notion that one ought to feel any obligation to service due to being born in an exalted position -- the very idea of noblesse oblige was anathema to him. "He hasn't changed much," Trudeau said.

Modern accounts put a fair face on George W. Bush's predilection for bullying and his taste for the shame of others. They euphemize by saying he has a talent for evaluating people; they make light of the verbal dominance game he plays by assigning dismissive nicknames. They pass over in silence his aggressive physical attack on the territory of the debating stage, and read mere discomfort in his scornful, contemptuous scowls from off-camera. To George W. Bush, the weak deserve nothing but contempt. That's why he appeals to cockroaches like Karl Rove: Rove is the very stereotype of the toady, the weak man who follows bullies and carries their water to make himself feel strong by association.

I wonder how many more people there are like Garry Trudeau, who knew and remember George W. Bush as an arrogant, pissant bully with a superior attitude, and how many of them don't have Trudeau's freedom to speak. Or how many would be happy to speak, just given the invitation.

A note like this is liable to get written off by readers on the extreme right as yet another example of venomous ad hominem attacks from the left. The uncomfortable fact remains, though, that there are lots of witnesses to speak to Bush's (and Rove's) mean-spiritedness dating back to their childhood, and few if any who'll say the same about, say, John Kerry.

(There is no audio or transcript available for this interview as I write this, though audio might appear here at some point in the future.)

Addendum: Trudeau interview(s) @ Charlie Rose

Dred Scott: It's Abortion, Stupid

In last Friday's debate, President Bush responded to a question about Supreme Court appointments by citing Scott -v- Sanford (a.k.a. "Dred Scott"):

I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

....

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.

And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.

While the majority of listeners who actually recognized the case were beetling their brows and thinking "what the hell?", the Bushite camp's fundamentalist Christian base were apparently pricking up their ears and decoding madly. Kynn at DailyKOS was puzzled by the reference, and after just a few moments of googling came up with the translation: It's about abortion, stupid:

Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade are an ominous parallel. In the Dred Scott Supreme Court, 7 to 2 decision, it was determined that blacks were not persons, they were the property of their owner, who could choose to sell or kill, that abolitionists should not impose morality on the slaveowner, slavery is legal. In the Roe v Wade, 7 to 2 decision, it was determined that the unborn are not persons, they are the property of their owners (the mother), their owner could choose to keep or kill, that the anti-abortionist should not impose their morality on the mother, abortion is legal.

In their language of illusion, the pro choice movement has argued in the name of civil liberty for the continued slaughter of unborn human beings. For some, misled by the lies that this movement promulgates, denial will keep them protected from this horrible truth, but others, caught in moral conflict and psychological anguish, may welcome ideas of hope for a new beginning.

["Holocaust Now! Debate Part 1"]

So there was yet another coded message that the majority of Americans did not get. It was a direct transmission to the Religious Right, encoded into George Bush's semantics of symbolism, and so garbled that people looking for rational English-language syntax could barely understand the superficial meaning.

(Aside: I'm more and more convinced that Bush's near-incoherence is more or less intentional. Here as elsewhere, his real message is symbolic and allusive; vague, and imprecise, and hence not vulnerable to rational analysis or judgement. He likes it that way. It's a dark and vague world where people with better language skills than his lose their advantage over him.)

The "language of illusion" that Dalin Hale refers to, of course, is language that does not accept the Christian view that foetuses have souls. It's simplistic to simply say "souls are a religious concept, ergo they can't be part of legal doctrine" -- because the value of life, and the nature of personhood, are cultural decisions, not legal ones. Law merely codifies the extreme bounds. What's at stake, here, is a definition of personhood that declares foetuses to be "unborn children", without regard for viability; a defintion which, furthermore, privileges the rights of that "unborn child" over the rights of the person on whom it relies for survival.

Some years ago, I had a discussion with a German about American attitudes toward life and death. He was puzzled, and frankly shocked, by what he saw as our obsession with the "tragedy" of child-death. "What about adults," he asked. "What about people who've gathered memories, and developed attachments to the world and to people in it? If anybody counts for more than anybody else, shouldn't they count for more?" I'm still not sure that's a viable path, but I'm also still not sure I disagree.

Bush the Recruiter

While Bush is attempting to support his quick decision for War in Iraq based on recent reports, Osama bin Laden continues his infestation outside the U. S.

The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof should know. He had a revealing â??dreamâ? in which he was interviewing Osama.

[Kristof:] Brass tacks: Easier or harder to hit the U.S. now?

[Osama:] Harder. Lots harder. Ayman wanted to drop sarin in New York's subways, but Homeland Security tightened controls on chemical precursors. With F.B.I. scrutiny, our sleeper agents still have to sleep. We've talked about a dirty bomb, but Bush tightened controls for radioactive materials. Bush has actually done much more for security than the Democrats give him credit for.

[Kristof:] So I don't get it. Why is Bush good for Al Qaeda?

[Osama:] Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. Look, the biggest challenge we face isn't getting chemical precursors. It's getting recruits - and Bush has become our v.p. for recruitment.

Ayman made a PowerPoint chart showing our intake. You see an uptick each time Bush embraces Ariel Sharon or talks about a "crusade" - and Iraq, that was a real gift.

An old maxim is that in order to solve a problem, one must properly identify it first. If Kristofâ??s â??dreamâ? holds any truth and if crusading Bush continues to chase rabbits in his tunnel vision, the weeds in nations like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan just might continue to strangle his peripheral perception and take over the tunnel.

[Kristof:] So what's your strategic aim? To kill lots of Americans?

[Osama:] No. If we wanted to do that, we'd have our agents open up McDonald's franchises. After all, by some accounts, excess salt kills 150,000 Americans a year. No, our ultimate aim is to recreate a powerful caliphate in a true Muslim nation, one that doesn't kowtow to the Yankees.

[Kristof:] Which nation? And why bring baseball into it?

[Osama:] Saudi Arabia, if we topple the royals. Or Pakistan. We eliminate Musharraf, and we'll have a real Islamic bomb. I won't have to go begging for uranium or plutonium for my next attack on America.

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George Bush and the American Dream

I listened to the BBC this morning, as I struggled up from sleep, and heard John Kerry compare himself to George Bush. "We have very similar backgrounds," I recall him remarking, in part. "We both come from privilege." Which is an odd thing for him to say, if you know anything of his personal history.

There's an intriguing bit of sleight-of-hand in the current image-positioning for the two principle Presidential candidates. George W. Bush (born to patrician old money and processed through a series of Good Schools) is cast in the folksy, working-guy role. Meanwhile, John Kerry (born to relatively humble parents, then climbing into the realm of the Brahmins on the strength of wit and delivery) is cast as the patrician.

"[U]nlike President Bush," Rush Limbaugh has intoned, "who once proudly wore the uniform of the United States military, Mr. Kerry will never know what it is like to wear the clothes of a working man." And yet, Kerry did serve as a Second Lieutenant in combat -- Second Louies didn't tend to last very long on the ground in-country -- and later worked hard to make a name for himself in a competetive, success-measured environment as a prosecuting attorney. While Kerry was in law school and at the DA's office, President Bush called in favors from his father's friends to bail him out of one bad business deal after another.

What's intriguing to me is not so much that the Bushite camp perpetuates this role-reversal, but that the Kerry camp permits it. Perhaps they recognize it's not a winnable battle (and it probably isn't). Or perhaps they think they've done all they can. (As they may well have.) But however you slice it, when you actually look at the grain of the wood, Kerry's life starts to look a lot more like the American Dream than Bush's.

Ralph Nader makes a good control subject in this, in a way. While people might get ethic or creedal details wrong, I think most people would accurately guess his background (ethnic working class, first generation American) and academic history (excelling through merit at tough schools). In a sense, he's the "real American" in this race -- he's the real "self-made man." In his post-consumer career, I expect that's what's allowed his image to resonate with so many people: He's an embodiment of the American Dream, in its most idealistic form.

Why I have never been polled

Arianna Huffington is livid. This nationally syndicated columnist weighs in â??on the negative â?? indeed, the downright dangerous â?? impact that public opinion polls are having on our democracy.â?

I saw firsthand the effect that manufactured momentum has as I traveled around the country speaking. Again and again last month, I was told by Kerry supporters that the gloomy poll numbers hanging over their man's campaign had made them less likely to donate their time and money.

This is how polls morph from meaningless farce into potential tragedy â?? self-fulfilling prophesies that end up making more likely whatever results they predict while, at the same time, undermining the democratic process.

But despite mounting evidence that poll results can't be trusted, pundits and politicians continue to treat them with a reverence ancient Romans reserved for chicken entrails, ignoring the fact that pollsters are finding it increasingly difficult to get people to talk to them.

Why,... that would include me and maybe even you. First Iâ??d have to be part of their sample list, unless, according to Paul Waldmanâ??s â??Polling Primer,â? they had found someone else just like me. *gasp* Then, they would have to find me at home (apparently they donâ??t call cell phones). Next, theyâ??d have to pass the caller ID test, and finally Iâ??d have to be a willing subject (not likely over the phone, especially if Fox News called with a question Waldman envisions like, "Do plan to vote for the heroic George W. Bush, at whose name evildoers the world over tremble in fear, or some sniveling Democrat pansy-boy who probably keeps a photo of Osama Bin Laden in his wallet?").


Ms. Huffington concludes:

Most important, no pollsters, no matter how polished their crystal balls, really know who are going to be the likely voters this November and how many of the unlikely ones are going to turn out at the polls.

Our media mavens obviously know all this, but choose to ignore it. Coming clean about polls would mean taking them off the front pages and sticking them where they belong â?? back among the horoscopes and comic strips.

And then what would the chattering class chatter about?

Well, there is the supremely important question as to what color outfit Teresa Heinz Kerry will wear for tomorrowâ??s presidential debate. Mrs. Bush has already called dibs on blue. I hope Mrs. Kerry shows up in blue, too,... royal blue.

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Polarizing "Right"

For some reason, this election year seems to be taking a toll on some aspects of my life. Iâ??m not a stranger to opining, mine as well as others, but the religio-political dynamics of this election have been a troublesome factor in a few personal dealings. I am finding that itâ??s easier to avoid discussion of politics and religion altogether with some people, especially with some of my Christian friends. Some respect separation of church and state, but others differ. They might not agree with the Christian Right, but theyâ??d surely rather have an overtly Christian influence than none at all or, worse in their view, too much secularization.


At one point I respectfully requested that one of my friends discontinue sending me religious and political email forwards favoring the â??Right.â? When we meet, this subject never comes up. We put on happy faces and discuss other things, but I feel like a piece of our connection has been sliced off. Itâ??s one thing to have differing opinions. Itâ??s another to have diametrically opposed stances that reach to the core of conflicting worldviews. I think that what could be healthy diversity is exaggerated by a negative emotional trigger--the very personal, restrictive, doctrinaire religious factor consistently and vigorously brought to the table by the current president.


Dave Brown (futurist.com) wrote back in March, 2003:

In light of the emphasis put on faith by public officials and the great religious diversity in the United States I find myself fearful that one possible future may include religiously based conflict. I am not suggesting that the language of faith be removed from public discourse. I am suggesting that our elected leaders, when they choose to speak about their spiritual understandings and religious convictions in the public square, do so in a manner that does not polarize the nation or disregard religious minorities.

I believe it is essential that if elected leaders speak of faith in their official capacity they speak with 1) authentic sensitivity, 2) An awareness of diversity and 3) a respect for the constitutional separation between church and state.

Religious diversity, which includes the desire not to be religious, is a reality. Elected officials from the president down need to be careful and intentional in the way they address religious concerns. I fear the consequences if they are not.

Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton, observed in the New York Times article, â??Religious language can be unifying. It can be deeply divisive and dangerous.â? In light of Pagels observation my query is: What future will we choose?

Recently a young teen expressed to me his dismay about a new political club that was forming at his school. It was a â??Rightâ? club. Not â??Republican.â? Not â??Christian.â? Just â??Right.â? The school encourages freedom of expression within guidelines and also offers a Gay/Straight Alliance club, which promotes awareness, but doesnâ??t proselytize. It will be interesting to see how the â??Rightâ? club interacts with other clubs.


In the meantime, Iâ??ll continue driving around town with my car displaying a Kerry/Edwards sticker, my way of forewarning people, I guess.

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Quote for the moment

On the campaign trail, Cheney has repeatedly referred to trial lawyers filing "frivolous lawsuits." But nearly half of the civil lawsuits that Cheney says are "clogging the courts" are filed by corporations like Halliburton, and the company filed at least 151 lawsuits against corporations and individuals while Cheney was CEO. If billion-dollar companies deserve their day in court, why not injured individuals?

-- "Debating Halliburton" by Charlie Cray, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted at AlterNet, October 5, 2004

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The Reality Test

President Bush doesn't think that the United States should let anyone tell us who we can and can't attack. "[O]ur national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals."

John Kerry agrees with him:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test--that passes the global test--where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

Here we have our own secretary of state who's had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy, in the Cuban missile crisis, sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with [French President Charles] de Gaulle, and in the middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, [the secretary of state] said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And de Gaulle waved them off, and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me." How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?

So as Will Saletan points out in Slate, the crux of the issue could be boiled down to credibility. Our credibility was once good enough that even someone as notorious for his dislike of things American as Charles de Gaulle found the word of the President of the United States to be "good enough." Now, one doubts that even Tony Blair would take it.

Saletan has a deeper point, though: When we presented proof to de Gaulle or when Adlai Stephenson stood before the UN, we were showing proof: We were backing up our claims with evidence. Colin Powell presented himself as doing the same thing when he made his own presentation to the UN, the setting consciously echoing Stephenson's game-saving play of forty years before. But Powell, effectively, lied: The "proof" was window dressing for a con job.

"The test includes convincing 'your countrymen' that your reasons are clear and sound," Saletan offers. "Kerry isn't just talking about satisfying France. He's talking about satisfying Ohio. He's talking about you."

He's talking about us being able to trust our President again.

I'm a big boy. I know the President lies, or hides things, as a matter of national security. That's a fact of life. But I like to hope he doesn't like it. I like to hope he doesn't treat it as a way of life.

[thanks for link to Lynne]

Where are the Pajama Bloggers, Now?

What's wrong with the picture on the right, below? For starters, it's been faked. The picture is linked directly from a Fox News "Photo Essay" montage of stills from Thursday's debate. Check the URL. Follow the link, as long as it stays live. I've mirrored it locally here. The picture on the left is a similar picture, from AFP, probably taken just a moment earlier or later. Notice anything unusual about the difference in height that shows in the two pictures?

Un-doctored photo from AFP wire
The AFP version of the pose.
Faked photo from Fox News Photo Essay [http://www.foxnews.com/photo_essay/photoessay_168_images/debate_handshake_350.jpg]
The Fox News version of the pose (mirrored here).

I first saw someone pointing to this picture on MeFi. It took me a minute to get it; then I did. I've taken the original illustration and added some visual aids to help make the issue clear. The brazenness of it astonishes me, and I'm wondering why only a few folks have cottoned to this. Hopefully, not only will that number grow, but other organizations will take some time to comb through their archives and compare to other Fox photos. (Of course, if they've been doing it themselves...) So far, this has been linked from KOS (albeit by a MeFi-ite), and just a few other blogs. I think that it's so far out there that most people don't believe they'd actually do it. Why we still fail to believe something like this, I don't know.

Comparison of AFP image and AP image doctored by Fox News
Comparison shot from Conspire.com, with visual aids added; original at Conspire.com.

After looking more closely at the pictures, I can see both (roughly) how they did it and what they used as their alignment point. Note the placement of George Bush's right elbow in the two pictures. Note also that the lapel pins align quite nicely. After carefully selecting an image that allows the President's body to be moved upward without affecting the Senator's, they nudged him up until the lapel pins aligned.

This would be a trivial piece of work for your run of the mill Fark photoshopper.

So, here's the question (and yes, this might be a silly question): If the election is supposed to be about issues, why did Fox News bother to alter a photograph to make the president seem taller than he really is?

Another question: Where are those noble pajama bloggers, now?

ADDENDUM: Some wannabe pajama bloggers seem to think this indicates a "Typical libdem perspective on the importance of crime"; and yes, I guess I'd have to agree. The fact that most "libdems" don't take the systematic, relentless attempts by Fox News to abet a consipracy of oligarchs in hijacking the American government more seriously than one admitted mistake by a beleaguered news magazine does represent a major problem of perspective.

ADDENDUM 2004-10-04: I couldn't find it, but someone else did. Here's the original AP photo, and yes, it does appear to have the same characteristics as the Fox photo. But given their history of frat-boy partisanship, I still find the idea that they would systematically warp the presentation of reality to be eminently plausible.

Round 1: He Blinks

I watched the debates. The President was on the defensive from the start. He hunched his shoulders, frowned deeply, and pointedly avoided looking at his opponent.

He looked, in a word, petulant.

When called to respond, he stood staring ahead for long seconds, like a deer in the headlights; I know from experience that those few seconds in front of a crowd, when you can't summon your power of speech, can stretch to an eternity. I found myself caught between sympathy and -- dare I admit it -- gloating.

Sympathy dominates, though, because rather than panic, it was another note that colored the performance for me: Frustration. The frustration of the True Believer when presented with his greatest fear, a skillfully-handled attack based on appeal to logic. I know this feeling because I've felt it; I've tasted the wine of the true believers, as a former Objectivist. (Long recovered, thank you.) No doubt his frustration was compounded by the fact of being faced with an opponent -- a man of his own class, even -- willing to attack head on, after having faced nothing but friendly crowds for nearly four years?

But was that angry frustration the source of his most devastaing "tell", his dramatically elevated blink-rate? It was most noticeable to me during his closing statement, as he slipped smoothly into stump-speak and intoned like a white southern-Methodist minister about looking down on a "valley of peace" -- all the while blinking furiously.

What was he lying about? What was it about his smooth, radiant vision caused within him such severe cognitivie dissonance?

Topics: 

Adam Felber Truly Loves Big Brother (Or: Newspeak In One Easy Lesson)

Adam Felber is a little puzzled:

I've returned to LA to find some very confusing news. Apparently, Osama Bin Laden is alive and living in Pakistan. At least, that's what CNN says.

This is perplexing on many levels. For one, isn't Pakistan our ally? Coulda sworn they were.

But mainly, who exactly is this "Osama bin Laden?"

It's not a name you read about very often, and the article doesn't really tell you much about him. He appears to linked to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda, you might remember, is a group that might have assisted Saddam Hussein in planning then 9/11 attacks. But they're based in Iraq now, and there's only a few of them left, fighting our forces hopelessly as the nation marches relentlessly towards freedom, peace, and democratic elections. This much I'm pretty sure of.

....

I've just Googled this "Osama bin Laden," and there seems to be a lot of articles in the liberal media claiming that it was him who was responsible for 9/11 and thus the entire War on Terror. Also, there's nothing in these yellow journals about him ever even visiting Iraq. What?

My memory's not what it once was, but this seems pretty implausible. I mean, wouldn't he be in the headlines a little more often if he was the guy responsible for the entire War and he was still out there, alive and plotting against our country?...

Fortunately, the other news services aren't leading with this story, and that strikes me as a rare instance of journalistic responsibility. ...

9/11 was three years ago, after all. To say that we would have left its so-called "main architect" free to gambol around the hills of Pakistan and Afghanistan all this time while committing hundreds of thousands of troops to an area where he'd never even been seen, allowing thousands of our young, brave American soldiers to sacrifice their health or their actual lives in a place that was totally unrelated to the real war and its real villians - well, that's just plain ridiculous, and I think that what this sort of story really shows is that the Kerry camp is getting desperate.

....

More On Grover's World

Another point that deserves to be called out from the AnomalousData piece:

.... We live in Eden Prairie, MN. George W Bush came to our high school and lauded it as a model for all school systems everywhere...presumably due to the fact that it is in a tremendously affluent and conservative suburb, and continues to pump out high-quality graduates despite being severely under-funded.

(... and by that token a model for the post-revolution era when Government has been drowned in the bathtub...but let's continue:)

(I can tell you how they do this in another article. But mostly, it has to do with teachers spending out-of-pocket for classroom supplies, parents donating supplies, a legion of parent volunteers in lieu of staff, and parents spending about as much time and energy teaching their kids at home as they do earning money at work, endless fundraisers, and an endless stream of nickel-and-dime fees that donâ??t seem like much individually, but add up to a lot over time...oh yeah, and deferring essential building maintenance for the past few years.)

Since I'm assuming today that people don't really thing through what they read, I'll spell out the implications of this: If school districts have to fund themselves through parental contributions, then districts populated by wealthy families will have better facilities than those with middle-class families.

(I'm using "middle class" rather than "poor" here to drive home the fact that this is really all about a war by the elite against the bourgeousie. They don't give a crap -- aren't even afraid of -- the poor. It's the middle class that they fear. Marx was right about that much.)

Why do we find it so difficult to understand that Neo-Conservatism is a vicious and anti-democratic strain of elitism?

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