Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Martin Sheen for President?

Excerpt from "We Have to Evolve or Perish" by Will Towle (click on the title to link to the full article). I can see most of his points, but I wonder if "West Wing" is not too esoteric and brainy a TV show for many voters....

We Must Start Running Spokesmen, Not Statesmen

What do Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger all have in common? They are all successful Republican candidates who came to power despite having no discernable legislative or executive accomplishments. Each had a resume that was either thin (Reagan, Bush) or non-existent (Schwarzenegger). However, each one of them successfully portrayed an image of the values that he hoped to promote. Significantly, two of the three are professional actors. All were personally well received by your "average American" (the important "which candidate would you like to have a beer with" quotient). Each used this resonance with the voters to portray simplistic themes. Each dodged difficult answers to complex problems. Each became an executive controlled in large part by his handlers. But all achieved electoral success.

To call this a victory of style over substance is to underestimate what the Republicans are doing. The foray into Iraq is part of a well thought out plan to annex the oil fields of the Middle East and to use the might of the US military to influence the world. Although all of this is explained in detail in the position papers of right wing think tanks, not a word of that analysis is expressed by their candidate to the press. Instead we got "this is the guy who tried to kill my dad" and "he has connections with terrorists." Again, vague statements by a popular spokesman that displayed the essence of the agenda without any of the details.

As Democrats, we adopt the polar opposite approach. We run candidates with long resumes. We explain our reasoning with detailed bullet points. We think facts demonstrate the policies we promote. John Kerry had a twenty year in the US Senate and a decorated combat career. These facts were supposed to project the image of well reasoned domestic and international policy tempered by the personal experience of combat.

It didn't. Instead, W pranced around in a military flight suit and projected the image of someone who supported the military during this time of war. The fact that W went AWOL and then deserted from his military unit during the Vietnam war went largely ignored. The fact of John Kerry's lifetime support of the military got lost in the shuffle of his statements on the Iraq war and the Swift Boat for Truth attacks. Arguably, Kerry blew the best visual of his campaign when he appeared with his Swift Boat comrades at the DNC convention looking out of place in his Senatorial blue suit. He should have donned combat fatigues and his old naval hat.

John Kerry's nuanced and thoughtful comments (which we Democrats loved so much) became so much background white noise to the important parts of the electorate that we needed to support us.

As Democrats we need to recognize the Presidency is a position that is more symbolic than substantive. The electorate does not want substantive candidates. They want candidates who demonstrate the imagery and symbolism that gives them comfort. In 2004, Kerry failed to demonstrate a strong image of being strong on defense. Bush, who factually does not support the troops, convinced most Americans that he symbolically embraced the troops. He therefore won this important part of the vote.

Republicans rely on the candidate's handlers to deliver on the substance of the image that candidate has promoted. In large part, even Reagan and Bush supporters admit to this. Did Reagan or does Bush understand the details of the policies he promotes? No, he doesn't. But he can recite the "talking points" and get the sound bite on the nightly news. Karl Rove then does the rest.

Does this mean we need to run Martin Sheen? Maybe it does. The fact that this seems crazy to you means that you, as a Democrat, have not absorbed what Reagan and Schwarzenegger have done. There are many image-friendly Democrats who have the intelligence and fortitude to be good candidates. Many are already in politics but some will not be. I will leave that to the media savvy to tell me who projects the image we need. How about the Springsteen/Sheen ticket? Or the Obama/Oprah ticket? Let you imagination run wild here! To everyone who says I am crazy, I say one thing: AHN-ALD! AHN-ALD! A dopey Austrian-born body builder turned action hero is governor of California. And you said it would never happen.

(Will Towle)

(Thanks to my friend Jim Holt for alerting me to this.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Excerpts from 'Reasons to Feel Optimistic'

Reproduced without permission. Somehow I don't think he'll mind, though.

November 5, 2004

It is against the law for George W. Bush to run for president again.

Bush's victory was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

The only age group in which the majority voted for Kerry was young adults (Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%), proving once again that your parents are always wrong and you should never listen to them.

In spite of Bush's win, the majority of Americans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction (56%), think the war wasn't worth fighting (51%), and don’t approve of the job George W. Bush is doing (52%). (Note to foreigners: Don't try to figure this one out. It's an American thing, like Pop Tarts.)

The Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. If the Democrats do their job, Bush won't be able to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Did I say "if the Democrats do their job?" Um, maybe better to scratch this one.

Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water, all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in lava. And no more show tunes!

88% of Bush's support came from white voters. In 50 years, America will no longer have a white majority. Hey, 50 years isn't such a long time! If you're ten years old and reading this, your golden years will be truly golden and you will be well cared for in your old age.

Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress, including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It's always good to have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates can't.

The CEO of Coors was defeated for Senate in Colorado. Drink up!

At the state legislative level, Democrats picked up a net of at least 3 chambers in Tuesday's elections. Of the 98 partisan-controlled state legislative chambers (house/assembly and senate), Democrats went into the 2004 elections in control of 44 chambers, Republicans controlled 53 chambers, and 1 chamber was tied. After Tuesday, Democrats now control 47 chambers, Republicans control 49 chambers, 1 chamber is tied and 1 chamber (Montana House) is still undecided.

Should Bush decide to show up to work and take this country down a very dark road, it is also just as likely that either of the following two scenarios will happen: a) Now that he doesn't ever need to pander to the Christian conservatives again to get elected, someone may whisper in his ear that he should spend these last four years building "a legacy" so that history will render a kinder verdict on him and thus he will not push for too aggressive a right-wing agenda; or b) He will become so cocky and arrogant--and thus, reckless--that he will commit a blunder of such major proportions that even his own party will have to remove him from office.

There are nearly 300 million Americans--200 million of them of voting age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide--it means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go home crying--especially when you get to start the next down on the three yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope! More sports analogies are coming!!!

Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore. Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for a trend it should be this--that so many Americans were, for the first time since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has always been filled with evangelicals--that is not news. What IS news is that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal. In fact, that's BIG news. Which means, don't expect the mainstream media, the ones who brought you the Iraq War, to ever report the real truth about November 2, 2004. In fact, it's better that they don't. We'll need the element of surprise in 2008.

Feeling better? I hope so. As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, "My Romanian grandfather used to say to me, 'Remember, Morton, this is such a wonderful country--it doesn't even need a president!'"

But it needs us. Rest up, I'll write you again tomorrow.


Michael Moore

Monday, November 08, 2004


A Brief Reminder

In the next few days I hope to be posting a few choice reactions to the recent election, gathered from a variety of sources. I have to look after getting some permissions first.

But in the meantime, it's worthwhile remembering that many Americans, and presumably many voters too, are amazingly uninformed. Some of the following things may be apocryphal, some non-representative, and some not statistically significant. But here are a few indicators, based on claims I've heard or read recently:

And so on. In other words, it's worthwhile to remember that when we ascribe motives to our side or the other side, sometimes we're extending too much credit.

More anon.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Democrats, Turn Left

I admit that it's tempting in the wake of John Kerry and John Edwards' defeat to say that all conservatives are ignorant or stupid. But the fact is, I know they're not, because I know a lot of them.

I still think they're wrong.

And if they're wrong, one thing we Democrats ought to do is stop pandering to them so much. At every opportunity John Kerry tried to be seen strolling along in a camouflage jacket with a broken shotgun draped over his forearm. I don't think there's any sense in a wholesale ban on all guns, and there's nothing to be gained by antagonizing lawful hunters, but the assault gun ban certainly makes sense, and much stricter controls on handguns is just common sense. Kerry did say that the Iraq Debacle is "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," which it certainly is, but most Democrats I know would have been more inspired by a candidate who was more frankly anti-war. And although everyone in American politics is terrified of Christians, I'd be quite happy with a candidate who was willing to agree with Ben Franklin that too much religion is worse than none at all. Religious tolerance and religious freedom are much higher values to me than monolithic Christianity insinuated into government.

The fact is, I think, that most people on the left are there because they feel it's more moral to be. The worst mistake the Democratic party could make would be to further accomodate to the right. Pale copies never trump bold originals. We are bold originals ourselves.


A Slight Mystery...Solved?

A minor puzzle arose on the evening of November 3rd. President Bush was mysteriously absent for an hour and a half or so from the family celebrations of his victory in Election '04. Aides pieced together certain clues: although suspended from flying for failing to show for a physical years ago, Mr. Bush was trained as an Air National Guard pilot; his motorcade was seen speeding off in the direction of Andrews Air Force Base late that night; and a very shaken night janitor later told Air Force investigators that the unidentified pilot had "gray hair, real beady, close-set eyes, and this great, big grin."

(Actual unretouched news item:)
NEW YORK (Reuters)--A National Guard F-16 fighter plane mistakenly fired off 25 rounds of ammunition at the Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School in South New Jersey on Wednesday night.

The pilot was meant to fire the rounds some 3 1/2 miles away at a military target range, Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs told reporters in the Jersey shore township's police headquarters.

No one was injured as school was out and a lone custodian was inside the building when the bullets hit.

Damage was minimal as the non-exploding, 20 millimeter bullets left only puncture marks in the school's roof and the asphalt outside the building.

The fighter jet was part of the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard assigned to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

An investigation is being conducted into how the pilot mistook the school, located on Frog Pond Road, for a target range.

George W. Bush, you've just won won another four years in the White House! What are you going to do now?

"I'm gonna go strafe an elementary school!"

(Oh, okay, lighten up, I'm just jokin'.)

Thursday, November 04, 2004


The Day All The Kittens Died

Well, the good news is that, effective immediately, 51% of voting Americans will get the government they deserve. The problem with that, of course, is that another 48% of voting Americans, many non-voting Americans, and all Americans age 17 and under will also get the government that the first 51% deserves.

This was accomplished by what was without a doubt the most unprincipled, misleading, and negative campaign ever, which is saying something. (There have been worse, but not since the U.S. has been a global superpower.) In the words of Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, the Bush campaign can be summed up in three words: "Fear, Smear, and God." To which we can add anti-gay bigotry, guns, mindless Bible-waving, and lots and lots and lots of lies.

The best analyses of the failure of the Kerry campaign are probably these: first, as Arianna Huffington angrily asserts in her post-election column, the Kerry campaign decided early on to tailor its appeal to moderate, fence-sitting, and soft-right Americans, rather than by galvanizing its already mobilized base; second, the Democratic party has no good means of getting its message across to less informed and less aware voters--that is, there is no Democratic counterpart to the "Republican noise machine"; third, we were too focused on "Anybody But Bush"; and lastly, people never warmed to John Kerry himself. He did seem to be saying things he thought people wanted to hear. For all his foibles, Bill Clinton was always well-liked by the electorate, and remains so today. Kerry, by contrast, seemed somewhat cold, and left people feeling that way about him.

But really, what Kerry, traditional American values, and liberal decency ran into in this election was a ruthless, concentrated, persistent campaign of disinformation, misdirection, and scurrilous negativity. In George Bush, who has a great deal of energy and not even a particle of self-doubt, it had its perfect bulldog; and in Karl Rove, its perfect Machiavelli. Rove, Bush & Co. managed to attack Kerry's strengths (a typical Rove gambit), deflect most of the significant issues against them, and minimize the rest by casting every debate in its own terms, all the while preying on the goodness and the anxieties of their non-core supporters. They got TV preachers to instruct their flocks, surrogates to do their dirty work, and managed to avoid leaving evidence. They never relented, never doubted, and never went positive. (Or as a friend of mine put it, Bush went positive in the end--the day before the election.)

The NeoRepublican Right will eventually self-destruct, because it is an indecent movement and Americans are a decent people. In the meantime, we all get what the 51% deserve: huge deficits, an endless foreign war, alienated allies, an opaque leadership process, hollow men (and/or women) on the Supreme Court, minority agendas forced down the throat of the majority, the continued gleeful hegemony of multinational corporations that are utterly amoral with regard to the national community, the dismantling of a century's worth of environmental progress, the end of Social Security, and probably a few other nasty surprises as well.

At least those who voted for Bush will be getting what they deserve. Me, I want a bumper sticker that says, "Proud to Live in a BLUE STATE."

And what has all this got to do with kittens? You've probably seen the e-card that lampoons Republican political strategies. In case you haven't, it shows a kitten running in panic from two puppet monsters that are chasing it. The legend reads, "Every time someone votes Republican, God kills a kitten."

© 2004 by The Quotidian Meander Co.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Knaves and Fools

"Talk of mobs as we will, the only true mob is that incorrigible mass of knaves and fools in every country, who never think at all.... To procure unanimity, to get men to act in corps, we must appeal for the most part to gross and obvious motives, to authority and passion, to their vices, not their virtues: we must discard plain truth and abstract justice as doubtful and inefficient pleas, retaining only the names and pretext as a convenient salvo for hypocrisy!"

--William Hazlitt

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Voting Day, and Voter Suppression

Well, it's the dawn of Election Day in the United States of America--the polls just opened--and a Federal Appeals Court ruled this morning that Republicans may place operatives inside polling places in Ohio to challenge the right to vote of poor, minority, and first-time voters. These kinds of strategies really raise one of the "surreality questions" of the Bush administration: how can you claim to be "spreading democracy" around the world while trying to subvert it at home?

Here's what opinion columnist Bob Hebert has to say about it, from the Washington Post.

...mind-boggling is the attempt by Republican Party elements to return the U.S. to the wretched days of the mid-20th century when many black Americans faced harassment, intimidation and worse for daring to exercise their fundamental right to vote. A flier circulating extensively in black neighborhoods in Wisconsin carries the heading 'Milwaukee Black Voters League.' It asserts that people are not eligible to vote if they have voted in any previous election this year; if they have ever been found guilty of anything, even a traffic violation; or if anyone in their family has ever been found guilty of anything.

"If you violate any of these laws," the flier says, "you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you."

In Philadelphia, where a large black vote is essential to a Kerry victory in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House, John Perzel, is hard at work challenging Democratic voters. He makes no bones about his intent, telling U.S. News & World Report:

"The Kerry campaign needs to come out with humongous numbers here in Philadelphia. It's important for me to keep that number down."

That's called voter suppression, folks, and the G.O.P. concentrates its voter-suppression efforts in the precincts where there are large numbers of African-Americans. And that's called racism. (Bob Hebert)

(Thanks to JCT for passing this along.)

Monday, November 01, 2004


Know Your Voting Rights


Before you go to the polls:
• Find your correct polling place. Click here: They are getting crushed with requests, so if you don't get through right away, try again later or just call your local Board of Elections.
• To avoid confusion and save time, study the ballot. Check your local newspaper for a copy.
• Find a form of identification to bring to the polls. Unless you are a first-time voter who registered by mail without sending identification, you have the right to vote without providing ID. However, to avoid hassles just bring ID anyway. A government-issued ID is best (such as a driver's license), but you can also bring a utility bill, paycheck stub, phone bill, or similar papers with your name on them. If your ID does not have a signature, bring two forms of identification.
• Allow plenty of time to vote, preferably in the morning. There may be lines. Bring something to read. If the line is really long, consider getting a box of donuts or cookies to share to lighten the mood. Someone might be challenging voters just to slow things up in the hope that long lines will scare away voters. If this is happening, let folks in line know so it stiffens their resolve to stay and cast vote.
• Learn your voting rights:
• Even if you are not on the voter list, federal law gives you the right to a "provisional ballot." Insist on one and vote. A regular ballot is preferable, so you should do whatever you can to get a regular ballot first, like going home and getting a second form of identification or going to the polling place where you are definitely on the voter list. But rather than be turned away, demand a provisional ballot.
• You have the right to vote if you are in line when the polls close. Stay in line until you vote.
• Find out if your employer will give you time off to vote, if necessary.

At the polls:
• If you are confused about ANYTHING or feel you are being harassed, ask the official poll workers to help. Do not rely on fellow citizens for advice about the ballot, how the voting machines work, or why you are not on the rolls. If someone is challenging your right to vote, ask the poll workers to intervene.
• If someone harasses you, don't cause a ruckus. Just ignore the harasser, report it to a poll worker, and let the voting process continue. What kinds of things might somebody try? Well, in the past people have insisted on more ID than is required or argued that someone is at the wrong polling place.
• If something goes wrong, document it. Write down what happened, when, and descriptions of the people involved, including their names, if you can get them. If you have a camera or camera-phone, take pictures.
• Report voting problems to an organization ready to respond to problems at the polls:
• Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. This is a hotline you can call to report any voting problems.
• 1-866-OUR-VOTE. This hotline has been set up by a coalition of nonpartisan groups to deal with the most serious problems on Election Day. They have hundreds of lawyers standing by to immediately respond to the most egregious problems. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the "911" of voter suppression hotlines. Please don't call unless your problem is serious enough that you have to talk to a lawyer immediately.
• Contact the media. If something is going terribly wrong at a polling site and you have reported it to the folks above, you might want to then call local radio, television, and newspaper reporters. Often problems clear up quickly after a reporter arrives.

It's odd that it's come to this. But given how hard Americans have fought for the freedom to pick our government, it ought to take a lot more than these inconveniences and ham-handed attempts by desperate political operatives to dissuade us from casting a ballot. See you at the polls.

(source: TrueMajority)

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