"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Oprah Breaks New Angle On Iraq (Seriously)

I'm not generally fond of Oprah myself, not my style, but she does have a lot more substance to her than anything else in her timeslot. In today's piece, Women at 30 around the world, she managed to break a story out of Iraq that we haven't heard before. Iraqi has apparently been flooded with cheap Valium, and the women there are poping it like tic-tacs to dull the fear (kidnappings, random violence, rape) that a warzone breeds.

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Bushworld, Bubble-Talk, The Truth is Fucking Terrifying

Is it really any wonder this man lives in something of a fantasy world? Imagine if you were Bush, and everywhere you went people loved you, and you stood under bright lights in front of giant graphics and made simple declarative statements and the crowds roared with approval.

Afterwards your aides gathered round to brief you on the world, telling you that freedom is on the march in Iraq thanks to your bold leadership and that the sluggish US economy is turning the corner thanks to your fearless pursuit of tax relief for the upper-upper classes.

Look at the photo. It's like a goddamn videogame. George W. Bush is our first adventurer into true "virtual reality."

But come on. If it were you, you'd probably believe it. You'd believe in yourself and you'd believe in the people around you, and the fact that all this believing had little or nothing to do with reality would be politely avoided for as long as possible.

The president knows how to do this. Bush was a drunk for a long time. He knows how to rationalize, and he knows how to sell himself on something so that he can convince others. All addicts learn this skill, and I can't help but think this is the pattern he's fallen into now, and the thought chills me to the bone.

The other day I was IMing with Zephyr and she told me I was "in the bubble," which at first pissed me off, but then sort of sunk in. It's true. Pursuant to the few posts down there re: billmon and all that jazz, I've sunk into the bubble.

Part of that has to do with my professionalization by osmosis, but a large part of it has to do with the comfort of retrating into the conventional bounds of political discussion. I can look back at the run up to the war, for instance, and see why people scoffed at the very possibility that it would happen. It's very distressing to confront certain realities, and much easier to play ping pong with the spinsters than to really deal with what is going on.

When I step back and look at it objectively, Bush is terrifyingly close to a facist. His foreign policy is imperial, and his domestic policy is rapacious, and he seeks to maintain power by presenting himself as the only person who can protect and safeguard the "homeland." This isn't funny, and I'm legitimately frightened of four more years. Not only will that mean the perpetuation of his damaging policies, but it will have meant that his political tactics worked.

A victory for Bush/Rove will send a message to the political class that lies, smears, photo-ops and grandstanding can trump a record of failure and calamity. It will vindicate a callously dishonest and manipulative candidate, and it will raise the likelyhood that Democrats (who will very quickly fall to bitter infighting over who's "fault" the loss is) will pull from that playbook in the future.

I'm scared because I want to believe in the people of this country, and I want to believe in democracy and the underlying legitimacy of our system, crudded up through it may be. If Bush wins, this will all be called into question, and the future will look a lot darker through my eyes.

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Protest Auction

Shameless plug here: Under the Radar Magazine is doing a Protest Auction which benefits Music for America.

The auction is of various protest signs made by various fine musical artists, ranging from Yoko Ono to Ted Leo to David Cross to Death Cab for Cutie to Interpol to the MC5. Sweet! Check 'em out.

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Daily Kos :: On community

As far as I'm concerned, Markos is running the premiere experiment in online community building. It's got a lot more traffic than slashdot, and the topics are potentially more contentous. It's a pretty amazing thing, really.

I've been hanging around there for a while, longer than pretty much any other single site online. Back during the run-up to the war and the beginnings of the Dean campaign, I used to post a lot, and it was good. It was a great community.

I don't post all that much any more because I've got a lot of other things going on, and Markos is right that the faces have changed. But I'm still a proud and dedicated lurker. If there's ever a t-shirt, I'll buy one.

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GOP Convention Remix

Good use of quicktime.

Pass it on.

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Newsweek: Race is Tied

I know, I know; fuck the polls. Still this is interesting. Newsweek's poll, which showed an 11 point lead for Bush after the RNC now shows a 2 point lead for Kerry, a statistical tie. Interesting details, too. For insance, Kerry won the personality contest:

Kerry, typically characterized as aloof and out of touch by his opponents, came across as more personally likeable than Bush (47 percent to the president’s 41 percent).

Also, it would seem that the experts rush to call the debate a draw didn't reflect the reality of people's perceptions:

Among the three-quarters (74 percent) of registered voters who say they watched at least some of Thursday’s debate, 61 percent see Kerry as the clear winner, 19 percent pick Bush as the victor and 16 percent call it a draw.

There's a real and important difference between winning a debate and winning someone's vote, but this kind of spread will have significant ripples on how the rest of the race plays out. And also in the category of "interesting," this last bit was pretty weird:

Finally, echoing a recurring refrain of Kerry's, more than half of all voters (51 percent) think the Bush administration has not done enough to engage other nations (43 percent feel they have done enough or even gone too far in that direction as it is).

This is actually kind of disturbing. 43 percent feel they have done enough or even gone too far as it is in working to partner with the rest of the world. That should go to show you how deep the radical right has gotten into the average american mind. Make no mistake: revolutiuon is on the ballot. Theirs.

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Watching the Words (Politicalingus)

ABCNEWS.com : Bush Attacks Kerry on National Security:

President Bush on Saturday ridiculed what he called the "Kerry doctrine" as a dangerous outsourcing of America's security, seeking to poke a hole in Sen. John Kerry's debate performance with what advisers see as his rival's biggest miscue.

(emphasis mine -oj)

This is interesting. Outsourcing is one of the poll-tested hotbutton words this election. It tweaks that old-school isolationist place in some people's medula oblongottas.

The really interesting thing is that Bush apparently didn't use the word, or at least he's not quoted as saying such. The AP reporter apparently just decided independently that it made a good descriptor. Any bets on whether or not that phrase "dangerous outsourcing" appeared in the GOP spin sheets yesterday, probably as a response to Kerry's use of "outsourcing" to describe Bush's decision to use Afghan warlords rather than US Forces to go after Al-Qaeda at Tora Bora?

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Back In Town

Just another freak in the freak kingdom. I'm back in California. I got a new journal, the paper 'n' pen kind; a large one, like I had getting out of college but it's red instead of blue. I baught it at Borders -- store #1 -- in Ann Arbor, which I feel somewhat odd about viz. my general dislike for chain stores, but I talked with a dude who worked there and he told me that store was the first (and as yet only) Borders store where the employees were unionized. That's pretty cool.

I filled six pages on the flight home; a little puddlejump from Detroit to Pittsburgh, and then a spacious emergency exit row (and Spiderman 2) from there to SFO. It felt good, writing to myself. Back in the day my private journals were a great resource for good turns of phrase. Sometimes they're embarassingly poorly written, or the content seems in retrospect kind of rediculous, but that's the nature of the thing.

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Debate Watching

Watched the debates in a packed room in Ann Arbor last night. I had a couple pints of Old Style in me, so take this with a pretzel, but I feel it's pretty strong.

I was very surprised by the debates. This is not what I expected. As you can read below, I was pretty pessimistic about the format, and fearful that Kerry would eat it on style. I was wrong on both counts. The format kept things focused -- no interruptions -- and against all odds, Bush fell flat on his face in the style contest. Make no mistake; this debate will alter the dynamics of the race. It will demoralize Republicans and energize Democrats. It should also bring some independents and progressives into the Kerry camp.

Look at what the candidates repeated. Bush repeatedly talked about "what kind of message" his un-election would send. "Don't send mixed messages" he repeated. The only remotely positive statements that Bush pushed were, "it's hard work" (though this seems more like aqn ill advised excuse, considering that Bush has spent 27% of his time in office out of the office) and "we're gonna win," though he didn't explain how.

Kerry emphasized a "fresh start, with new credibility." He didn't repeat these key words as often as Bush hit his talking points, but those were clearly the words he wants to emphasize. He also had a devistating attack in the "we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go after Osama; we outsourced that job to Afghan warlords, and bin Laden escaped." It only came up twice, but it's the kind of line that works like a serious political shank to the kidney. You only need to land it once and then stand back while your opponent bleeds out.

Beyond the Talking Points
The president at one point asserted "I know how the world works" but he displayed the confusion evident in his administration. The room I was in erupted when he verbally mixed up Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, but the far more telling moment was when talking about the war in Iraq he said, "we were attacked. We had to respond."

To his credit, Kerry called Bush out on this. I thought it was the most poignant moment in the debate, because this is exactly how many Americans look at the situation, and that Kerry was able to point out the flaw may resonate.

The other big things that jumped out at me were Kerry's insistence that the US should have no long-term designs on Iraq -- calling out the 14 "long-life" bases that are under construction -- and that bringing in the international community will mean ending the profiteering deals the Pentagon made with corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel.

Those are strong statements. He's certainly not saying "bring the troops home now" he is talking about the steps that need to happen for the winning of the peace in Iraq to become an international project, which is the only way it will ever succeed.

Kerry won this debate. Most surprisingly, he won on style as well as substance. He seemed calm, assured, assertive without being menacing or aggressive. Bush on the other hand took too many long pauses, seemed hunched, pinched, uncomfortable, even snippy at points. Kerry looked like somebody who knows what he's doing, whereas Bush looked like he'd rather be anywhere else. The effects will take a couple of days to set in, but I would expect the polls to reflect some kind of shift by mid next week.

Bush's reliance on talking points made him sound repetative. In an election which most people are giving half an ear to (e.g. vs Gore), this might work -- the repetition gets something across -- but in these serious times when bars and living rooms are packed with people paying close attention, the inability of Bush to project substence makes him sound childish, which can hurt him badly.

In fact, Bush really has very little to run on. The entire subtext of the Bush re-election effort is a negative message, that (as the team leader email said), John Kerry has a record of wavering in the face of real challenges. And we can't have that. No sir. I don't know what "record" that's based on, but Kerry took a lot of the wobble out of his image last night by clarifying his reasons for authorizing force and then calling Iraq the "wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time," which essentially comes down to the fact that Bush promised one kind of action -- careful planning, international partnerships, war as a last resort -- and delivered almost the exact opposite.

People are interested in making a change. If Kerry's task, as the story goes, is somewhat akin to getting hired by the American public, he just gave a great first interview.

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