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31.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I missed posting a birthday notice on Friday: came in to being 4 years and two days ago, while I was on temporary assignment in Palo Alto, oddly enough.

Go ahead, Click for Cans The rumors are true: GO PACK! "In the previous 15 elections, if the Washington Redskins have lost their last home game prior to the election, the incumbent party has lost the White House. When they have won, the incumbent has stayed in power."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tea leaves, off 0.52% this month (according the The Weekend Australian) point to Kerry victory as well. Here's the really good news about it: "When a Republican is ejected from office the Dow delivers 73 per cent from election day through to the end of the four-year term." George, GO PACK!

Our local Fox affiliate is selling waffle irons this morning, instead of broadcasting the football game. That sent me off to the NFL's game day interface, which is about the strangest way yet to follow a football game (but better than no way!). "Waiting to refresh" makes American football's long periods of inactivity seem even longer. It's great for stat hogs, though; 9 categories for each team (passing, rushing, receiving, etc.), updated as the game goes along, as well as a nice gridiron graphic and play-by-play text narrative. Midway through the 2nd quarter, for example, we see Favre has hit 7 receivers with 11 passes, and the top 3, with 2 passes each, have gained 48 yards apiece.

Excerpt of The Seattle Times' map of the Puget Sound oil spill It's estimated at only about a thousand gallons, but a little bit of oil goes a long way, and if it's coming around your island, it looks pretty ugly. Two weeks afterwards, they're still trying to figure out who did it.

Remember how exciting professional golf used to be? (No, seriously.) When Tiger was playing, he always seemed to be winning, and everyone loves a winner, sort of. But now it's Vijay ("I won't play with girls!") Singh's turn, and there doesn't seem to be any reason to find the Green channel.

Maureen Dowd rips into the Safe and Secure® team for her last try before the election: "Though it's clear the treasures and terrors of Iraq - from viruses to ammunition to artifacts - were being looted and loaded into donkey carts and pickups because we had insufficient troops to secure the country, Bush officials devoted the vast resources of the government to trying to undermine the facts to protect the president."

Oh and in that quiet rush to tie up loose ends in the Congress, the Sept. 11 Commission's recommendations got pushed aside. Do you suppose George Bush's active leadership on the issue could have made a difference?

Friedman likes Bush for President. George H.W. Bush. He makes a good case.

James Fallows branches out from The Atlantic Monthly to fill today's Techno Files at the NYT, singing the praises of Google. Sure the market cap has gone nuts, $52 billion and "more than Ford and General Motors combined" with the P/E north of 400, but it's all about the technology. This, for example, gave me a nostalgic feeling for when you used to be able to call "directory assistance" and actually get assistance for no added charge: "You send a brief text message to the number 46645 - GOOGL on a phone keypad - and it returns an answer in a few seconds.... Sending a name and ZIP code or city will look up that person's home address and phone number."

I did try GDS—Google Desktop Search— but quit the beta early (after it damaged my Outlook installation) before the disappointing qualifier that its web indexing is IE-only. I'm looking forward to a more mature edition of that, and whatever they figure out what to do with their latest acquisition, Keyhole Corp. AOL bought Time Warner with their bubblicious market cap, Google's inevitable shopping spree will be even more interesting.

(I wish I could give you my potential self-interest full-disclosure about being a GOOG stockholder, but alas, I didn't have the temerity to ride the wave.)

30.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Excerpt of referenced image of Greenland and its shrinking ice cap Greenland always seems to get short shrift on maps; either it's ridiculously bloated in the Mercator projection, or shoved to the side or out of the picture as not interesting. This map by William McNulty and Hannah Fairfield that ran in The New York Times this June is a wonderful exception. The subject is the retreat of Greenland's ice cap, a subject which may catch the attention of a lot more of the world's people soon.

The June feature has some nice video segments still available, too.

What brings it to the fore today is the preview news of a comprehensive, 4-year study of warming in the Arctic, describing "profound environmental changes, including sharp retreats of glaciers and sea ice, thawing of permafrost and shifts in the weather, the oceans and the atmosphere," and forecasting the impacts on human and other communities.

The Arctic "is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth.... Over the next 100 years, climate change is expected to accelerate, contributing to major physical, ecological, social and economic changes, many of which have already begun."

29.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Laura Bush called me today. It was nice to hear from her, but she was kind of rude on the phone; she wouldn't let me get a word in, just kept talking right over the top of my trying to engage her in conversation. I was trying to tell her I already had voted, but she went right ahead telling me about how she wanted me to get out on Tuesday. I wonder if maybe she dialed the wrong number or something.

He ain't askin' for much, just a second chance. For once in his life. (And who says he can't acknowledge his mistakes?)

Titan, in false color, from the JPL site More remarkable images from Saturn's moon, Titan, and tales of methane lakes, icy winds, "a giant atmosphere," glaciation and a lot of hydrocarbons.

If something else doesn't happen pretty quick, we'll have to settle on Al Qaqaa as our October surprise this year. The Administration script writers got scooped on this one, by some Minneapolis reporters who happened to tag along to the right place at the right time: after the US controlled the cache, and before the cache was looted. It's a convenient campaign ploy to blame the guy at the top, but realistically, it's hard to see this as Bush's mistakes. While we support our troops, we recognize they make mistakes, and need to correct those mistakes ASAP. Some several people in the chain of command made a huge mistake by not dealing with the explosives at Al Qaqaa. Good gracious, as SecDef might say, here were the I.A.E.A. seals that just about screamed WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. And yes, you can do a lot of mass destruction with tens of POUNDS of this stuff, let alone hundreds of THOUSANDS OF TONS.

Unfortunately, the munitions cache at Al Qaqaa is not the only story of stunning incompetence in managing post-invasion Iraq. Peter Galbraith was one of the people making a case for the war, and he spells out how it's the US that's now worse off.

28.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

When the Curse reverses, look out! Holy Cow, Boston wins in 4. Eight straight games after they got the Yankees chortling about how easy it was going to be to make 'em wait 'till next year.

It's next year this year, and no need to watch three more baseball games.

One of the benefits of having an almost famous domain name is that you might accidentally get some interesting email. I haven't received any inquires about's onions, but has been getting some interesting stuff running up to the election, including the Republican "caging list" of 1800+ Jacksonville, Florida voters that figures in Greg Palast's story, New Florida vote scandal feared. My favorite found poetry in the collection is "can't we say something intelligent?"

We voted early (if not often) today, joining the queue snaking out of the Ada County office into the rainy courtyard. There was about a 20 minute wait, but the line was moved steadily, and inside, the work proceeded without a hitch. It's really an enhanced infrastructure for "absentee" voting, and hearing on the radio on the way home that absentee votes wouldn't be counted for 5 to 7 days, we wondered if that were so in our county.

They had two computers set up for new registrations, processing people while they waited in the main line, 4 or 5 computers inside to look people up and hand out ballots, another table to dispense the right cardpunching framework by legislative district, and the usual line-up of voting booths. At the end of the process by the exit, the gal taking votes announced who had voted, but there were no poll-watchers to take note. When I pointed that out, she shrugged and said "it's the law!"

Now we can spend our "live" Election Day poll-watching...

27.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

DUMM, DUMMER and DUMMERER logo There's a new DUMMER® on the way for next year, shorter, slimmer and cheaper, so all those aspirational 20- and 30-somethings can get into the brand. GM doesn't mind that the brand is "polarizing," they just need to manage it and milk it as long as possible. That means maybe a pickup truck someday, but "we're never going to have a minivan or a small car." The profit stream has to flow hard enough to finance glass and steel Quonset huts to sell them in, building a "standalone franchise" before the fad is spent. (Maybe we can turn them into greenhouses after that?)

They're not after anyone concerned about fuel efficiency of course, although the D3 improves to 16/20mpg (still a bigger drinker than the average suburban assault vehicle). They are looking to the future, using Ahnold to promote the H2H koncept kar, extending idiocy to a new medium with a pseudo-environmental twist. 50 miles between fill-ups, just imagine.

"Open your spigots!"

Here's a blow to the original, $100,000+ DUMMERER, though: the $100,000 "small business" deduction for the largest and least fuel-efficient vehicles that made a big splash in 2003 has been trimmed to a mere $25,000 in Sec.910 of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004.

If you're at the other end of the aspirational spectrum, the IRS has some good news, however: the 2005 Prius still comes with a $2,000 Form 1040 deduction for the original owner, for vehicles put in service this year or next. Toyota is going to increase production, too—from 130,000 to 180,000 annually.

Bill Sali, Christian candidate for District 21 state representative has an idea for reducing Idaho's Medicaid outlay. He wants to stop advertising the Children's Health Insurance Program. As the Statesman reporter Greg Hahn puts it, "often, families who come to the state for health insurance for their children find out they're poor enough to get Medicaid health coverage themselves." Sali wants to nip that sort of thing in the bud.

A series of articles in this Sunday's Week in Review section included this gem of a contrast drawn by Roger Cohen:

"The bottom line is this: Mr. Kerry's universe has faith in common sense, believes questions may sometimes be as important as answers, mistrusts conviction so absolute it can never be questioned, distrusts destiny, distinguishes between power and leadership and rocks to Bruce Springsteen.

"Mr. Bush's universe has faith in faith, believes questioning empowers enemies, equates conviction with the strength that will spread freedom, is convinced there is no leadership without the projection of American power, holds that American destiny is manifest and grooves to country music."

26.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Smithsonian Magazine piece, Exiting Vietnam, seems more timely now than it did when it came out in March 2003, as would the book it's about, Kissinger's Ending the Vietnam War. Kissinger is eloquent for his own position as you might imagine, but Elizabeth Drew is not swept away by his "case for the defense," "written with some outrage and not a little self-pity." The question of whether we could have ended the war 4 years sooner lingers; Kissinger argues for, Drew against. When the memoirs of the first decade of this century are written, we'll be asking the same questions about Iraq.

The American Conservative magazine's executive editor makes the case for Kerry in the set of articles that "constitute TAC's endorsement" of everyone and no one at the same time. He promises that "if Kerry wins, this magazine will be in opposition from Inauguration Day forward," but provides great detail of why Bush is "unworthy of any conservative support."

"Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation’s children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy."

Patrick Buchanan is in the collection, too, Coming Home to hold his nose and vote for Bush in spite of all he knows.

TAC has been strongly against the Iraq war at least as long as I have: "Iraq is the worst strategic blunder in our lifetime" says Buchanan. But, "while Bush and Kerry are both wrong on Iraq, Sharon, NAFTA, the WTO, open borders, affirmative action, amnesty, free trade, foreign aid, and Big Government, Bush is right on taxes, judges, sovereignty, and values. Kerry is right on nothing."

25.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? As if the real fears in today's world weren't enough, the Bush campaign is recycling fairy tale imagery to tap into the generic deep fear we all keep for our "fight or flight" reserve. The rehabilitation of a predator's image is collateral damage, too, as the animals were tricked into participating.

As usual, parses the deception for us, listing "old news," "exaggerated wording" and "missing context" as this particular ad's methods. Not like that's going to help those pulling the covers over their heads to deal with the anxiety... or the "security moms" targeted by the ad.

How much safer do you feel knowing that one of the largest stockpiles of high explosives in Iraq—195 metric tons of HMX, 141 metric tons of RDX, and 6 metric tons of PETN— has gone missing? (While you're working on your answer, consider that it took less than one pound of such stuff to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.)

"Administration officials say they can't explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country." However, these particular hundreds of tons of explosives were not the ones stored in "mosques, schools, hospitals and countless other locations," making them difficult to track down and control, but rather in a large military installation, Al Qaqaa (pronounced "el ka ka," I suppose) that inspectors knew about and had watched, that the IAEA had warned us about, and that was supposed to be under our military control after the invasion.

The NY Times reported that in May, an internal I.A.E.A. memorandum warned that terrorists might be helping "themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history." Al Qaqaa was only "medium priority" on the CIA's list of more than 500 sites to search and secure after the invasion.

"A special property of HMX and RDX lends them to smuggling and terrorism, experts said. While violently energetic when detonated, they are insensitive to shock and physical abuse during handling and transport because of their chemical stability. A hammer blow does nothing. It takes a detonator, like a blasting cap, to release the stored energy."

excerpt of MapQuest map of Jacksonville, OR The next time you see one of those cheery campaign stops where George Bush is in command of the situation and all the crowd cheers in unison and on cue, think about all the hard work it takes to set the scene. Jacksonville, Oregon (pop. not quite 3,000) found out the hard way that freedom of expression does not necessarily apply these days.

"We are a peaceful community. The prospect of an overnight presidential visit was exciting, even to me, a lifelong Democrat. My excitement turned to horror as I watched events unfold during President Bush’s visit.... Police armed with high powered rifles perched upon our rooftops as the presidential motorcade approached. Helicopters flew low, overhead. A cadre of motorcycle police zoomed into town. Black SUVs followed, sandwiching several black limousines carrying the president, his wife and their entourage as they sped to the local inn where they would eat and sleep."

Trish Bowcock's first-hand account of what happened just over a week ago is powerfully chilling: "It is reputed that President Bush and his staff will not allow any opposition activity to occur within his ear or eye sight. I can confirm, that in tiny Jacksonville, Oregon, this was true. Physically violent means were taken to protect the president from verbal insults. Freedom of speech was stolen."

Among other forms of "discouraged speech" these days are t-shirts that say "Protect Our Civil Liberties." Naturally.

From the 2nd of two NY Times articles about rewriting military law (to say nothing of our Constitution) for the War on Terror:

"It became obvious to us as we reviewed the evidence that, in many cases, we had simply gotten the slowest guys on the battlefield," said Lt. Col. Thomas S. Berg, a member of the original military legal team set up to work on the prosecutions. "We literally found guys who had been shot in the butt."

The reserve officer chosen... to lead the intelligence operation at Guantánamo... was told after his arrival there in February 2002 that as many as half of the initial detainees were thought to be of little or no intelligence value... He also found that the prisoners included elderly and emotionally disturbed Afghan men, including one tribal elder so wizened that interrogators nicknamed him "Al Qaeda Claus."

It's not all that funny, though. "As soon as the process was set up, it started to become something they never wanted it to be," said Commander Sundel. "But it is astounding that a small group of people could create an entirely new judicial process - without many of the due-process guarantees we expect - and think it could survive real challenges."

Zbigniew Brzezinski's op-ed contribution today is titled How to Make New Enemies and describes a complicated plan forward in Iraq and the middle east. Like a lot of what happened during the Carter administration, the timing and persuasive power seem a bit skewed. He's writing about how to make friends in and for that part of the world, but rolling out the sentiment that both candidates are misguided in their stated approaches. Maybe the enemies in the title are the domestic politicians who could be receptive after the election, but who can only be annoyed and distracted at the moment.

24.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not the latest political thriller hitting the big screen, but rather what the Cheney administration did to the Constitution in response the the terrorist attack: a secret rewriting of military law. (The first of two articles from the NYT.)

"The military could detain and prosecute any foreigner whom the president or his representative determined to have 'engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit' terrorism." "There was no promise of public trials, no right to remain silent, no presumption of innocence. (G)uilt did not necessarily have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and a death sentence could be imposed even with a divided verdict."

It was time to get tough on terror, for sure, but how successful has the process been? "(T)hree years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists."

23.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Bogus snow marker at midday, Oct. 23rd, 2004 It's one thing to stay indoors on a chilly Saturday with a low, wet sky, and another entirely to go hiking in the Sierra Nevada a bit too late in the fall.

We've had snow on the Boise front this week, is that 4 to 5 inches drifted on to the Bogus Basin snow marker? Woo hoo!

Juxtapose these: the sanguine response of the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party on the issue, "I suspect there will be challenges. But by and large, people will move through quickly. We want to make sure every eligible voter votes. 99.9 percent will fly right by." And the party paying (!) more than 3,000 recruits to be poll-watchers.

I've volunteered to be a poll-watcher, for the second time, but nobody's offering me a hundred bucks. Just one more opportunity for swing-state swingers that the rest of us can't have, I guess.

Michael Moss reports on the GOP bid to challenge voters in swing states, in The NY Times.

22.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

GOOG's stock price since its IPO, through 10/22's close Googlemania! The GOOG's first report as a public company seen as a blockbuster, and the P/E clears 200. I bought some early, but it turned into a (slightly profitable) day trade when I got cold feet, thinking about bubbles. It may yet prove to be one, but we're still in the inflationary stage of the Google universe. $168 this morning, dang! At least I wasn't so pessimistic I tried to go short; those people must be having a very bad feeling with their morning coffee today.

As for making real money, how about Microsoft? $9+ Bill on the quarter, of which almost three $Bills were profit, at least pro formally. Those shares dropped after hours, go figure; a bigger than expected drop in "subscription revenue" was blamed. Customers are apparently not in a hurry to renew their commitment to sending a steady stream of cash to the Pacific Northwest.

What's left to do in the Presidential election? Read the polls, vote, and oh yeah, count the votes. At this point, just about everyone can find a poll to his or her liking, from Bush by 8%, to Kerry with 300 electoral votes. If you like Bush, you'll like the poll coverage from CNN/Gallup and Fox"News," while you figure the liberal media are biasing things to make it look like Kerry still has a chance.

Then there's the hand-wringing about disenfranchisement and deliberate fraud... Just because we're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get us.

My prediction? Kerry is going to win, but it's a toss-up whether or not the Repugs will get away with stealing another election, even as they ridicule the very idea that such a thing has happened or could happen. Happens all the time, it just hasn't had to be such a regular thing at the top in this country until now.

21.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

All of you whacko lefties already know where to find his column, and you rabid righties who sneak a peek at fortboise when the boss isn't looking wouldn't be caught dead reading the liberal NY Times, and the title of the latest from Frank Rich is neither work-safe nor left-safe: The O'Reilly Factor for Lesbians: "In the annals of election year 2004, Oct. 13 will be remembered as the day it rained lesbians in red America."

"From all the outcry over Mr. Kerry's invocation of Ms. Cheney, with the attendant rhetoric about the evil of exploiting a candidate's 'child' in a campaign, you might never guess that the child in question is not Chelsea Clinton at age 12 but a 35-year-old woman (two years older than Andrea Mackris). Or that she lives openly with her partner, Heather Poe, whom she brought onstage after the vice presidential debate. Or that she is the paid director of vice presidential operations for the Bush campaign, and that her mother is the author of a notorious potboiler (Sisters, 1981) that drools over the prospect of lesbian coupling with O'Reilly-like glee."

Have 4 million Americans been left behind in hearing the news that a fair number of their upstanding and patriotic citizens are gay?

In John Prine's Spanish Pipedream, the level-headed dancer on the road to alcohol advised him to "blow up your TV." Now you don't have to get quite that violent, you can just turn any TV in your proximity off. The universal switch is "just flying off the shelves" at $14.99. Some time after they catch up with the sudden rush of orders, you may be able to get through to the TV-B-Gone site.

A Rod slapping the ball out of pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove in game 6; he was called out for cheating, and Jeter sent back to FIRST. Ha ha The RedSox did it! Four straight's not so unusual, but nobody's done it after losing the first 3. Like Yogi said, it ain't over till it's over. I missed the middle innings and didn't get to see Johnny Damon go long—twice, starting with the Big Dinger—but it sure was nice to hear that he broke out of his slump just in time. It was 8-1 in the top of the 6th when I tuned back in; sweet.

Now, the next step: Reverse the Curse.

One of the thousands of news stories on the Boston/NY series had this little paragraph, explaining why we kept seeing bloody sock close-ups during game 6: "Then Curt Schilling, his right ankle held together by three sutures, beat the Yankees, 4-2, on Tuesday night to tie the series 3-all." I'd heard about the tendon problems, but not the stitches. Ouch.

The blog's been a little spotty while I continue to work through the myriad details of migrating to my new desktop. I held off trying to move email a while, contemplating whether it was finally time to break out of the M$ pit. For various reasons, I decided to go back to Outlook (2000), which meant migrating old messages and addresses from Outlook Express. It's not anywhere near as easy as it should be, although I did get the impression there's some magic path that could make it all hands-off. Perhaps if I'd copied the OE stuff intact? Or set up OE afresh and then told it to import folders? It has a proprietary sense of "this machine" that makes going over the home LAN to the old machine not work quite the same, no doubt having to do with bits it has stuffed into the registry instead of putting them out in config files the way it ought to have.

One of those things is Message Rules, which OutlookExpress puts in the registry. You can back them up and recover them to OE, but if there's a way to migrate them, I didn't find it before I manually recreated my dozen or so rules. Glad I didn't use the feature more (and glad that Cableone does a pretty good job at filtering spam).

After a couple of false starts testing the limitations of the wizards that guard the temple, I figured out how to export all my messages ("automatically" going into the current Outlook .pst file on the same machine) and then fetch them into the new instance of Outlook. I was fat, dumb and happy thinking I'd moved a couple thousand messages intact, until today, when I looked to see which of two addresses for somebody was the latest. I discovered that OE (and/or Outlook) had stripped out all the message headers in the process, everything other than the text that shows in Outlook's email message window. That's the plain text rendering of the From/To/Cc names, the Subject and the Sent date/time. Maybe most people don't know or care about all that stuff, but there's a TON of information I do care about, thankyouverymuch, that was quietly, idiotically discarded.

Damn, they do some stupid things in Redmond.

20.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dick Cheney still wants us to be very afraid, so that we follow the Leader we have, rather than trying a new one.

"The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us - biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. You have to get your mind around that concept."

Along that way is the useful post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: if one thing happened after another, the first must have caused the second, right? Qaddafi giving up his nukes happened after we invaded Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein, so the latter must have caused the former. Right? Well, maybe, but the Brits' years of diplomacy had something to do with it, too. Maybe the Colonel just wanted to take care of a nagging toxic waste problem and saw the easy way out.

If you're looking to buy a new car and thinking about financing, consider this: Ford just announced its losses widened on its car sales, from $108 to $481 million compared to the quarter a year ago. But Ford Credit reported net income of $734 million, versus $504 million last year. Follow the money.

"Even Ford's more public magic trick—Steve McQueen's return from the dead—can't help the company these days. I don't say this often, but investors would be better off spending their dough on the product than the stock."

When you're the biggest business gorilla on the planet, your vague plans make news: we read that Microsoft "introduced" a desktop computer application, and then that it "plans to debut the product... sometime in the first half of 2005." It sounds like something we all want, though, to "seamlessly integrate e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, traditional phone service and Internet-based calling." The good news for competitors is that Microsoft's interest stamps the category as legitimate. The bad news, of course, is that M$' interest makes everyone wait to see what they come up with. Indefinitely.

19.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The fix was almost in, how 'bout that A-Rod guy making gazillions of bucks for playing a game and then showing us all that indignation when he got caught for cheating?

Sheesh, bring out the militia, the NY fans might not be able to stand it if their boys drop 4 in a row!

It's gettin UGLY now.

(Oh and did you hear that Curt S. did it with GOD'S help this time? Where the hell has He been these last 86 years, anyway?)

Jeanette went in to the Social Security Office for her scheduled appointment, on the eve of turning 65 and getting onto the receiving end of the government's gravy train. When she was in the office some weeks ago to set up the appointment, the agent said her computer was down and she couldn't make a printed copy of the appointment schedule. Rest assured, though. Well, today there was no record of the scheduled appointment, and the (different) apologetic clerk offered to set up a new one, or perhaps it would be more convenient to do it by telephone?

Jeanette said "my understanding is that I have to bring a number of documents to show you," passport, birth certificate, marriage license. The clerk said "oh you could mail those to us, and then we'd mail them back to you." Apparently without the faintest notion of irony.

J. opted for the additional delay and the in-person plan, rather than a higher-stakes competence test.

18.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

KEEP this COUPON Two baseball games every day is a bit much at some point. I was hanging on the Yankees-Red Sox outcome, but drifted off in the top of the 9th. I perked up for the last half, and then the extra innings were exciting; I was rotating my rally cap by the half inning, but ended up the wrong way when the top of the 12th put me to sleep again. I woke up to the cheering for Ortiz' game-winning homer, went to bed happy.

One down, three to go! Might as well break the curse with panache.

Now clearing out the sysadmin backlog: burned a backup of the win95 machine's cute little 6GB disk last night, copying over the laptop's files on the way to migrating my prime workspace. I always wonder how much bandwidth is being wasted by that annoying animation of papers flying from one folder to the other, while the "Minutes Remaining" estimate flies between 87 and 175. Ok, it's multiple GB, but 2 hours to move across our private wired LAN? Sheesh. I did the DVD burn fetching the files over the network and it only took an hour to write AND verify.

Then SP2, I guess. And all the other software needed to make this system useful, finally getting around to the raison d'être for this machine (Visual Studio.NET) and the work that will help me pay for it.

17.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gentle, cool rain in the night. Summer's over.

If you're in a swing state, I imagine your eyes must glaze over at the opening strain of any campaign ads by now. You probably can't imagine what it's like to be out here in the "solid" territories and only hear about such things second-hand. Help is on the way for us, though, thanks to the American Museum of the Moving Image and its exhibition of presidential campaign commercials, past and present.

Frank Rich: "The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before," wrote William Safire last month. When an alumnus of the Nixon White House says our free press is being attacked as "never before," you listen.

"Like the Nixon administration before it, the Bush administration arrived at the White House already obsessed with news management and secrecy. Nixon gave fewer press conferences than any president since Hoover; Mr. Bush has given fewer than any in history."

Not exactly a surprise that The NY Times editorial board endorses Kerry, and it isn't as if Bush supporters are going to heed a call to reason, but still...

"...We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis....

"The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management...." (except perhaps their brutally effective management of the media?)

"Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president."

While you're reading The NY Times (aren't you?), enjoy the Public Editor opening his space to guest pro&con considering the question of whether or not the newspaper is systematically biased in its campaign coverage. Todd Gitlin, "from the left," makes his case with a reasoned argument:

"The Times is not pro-Bush in the way that The Washington Times is pro-Bush, slamming John Kerry with Vietnam falsehoods week after week. But The Times's decorous approach to the news has often helped President Bush in three significant ways: by equating his gross deceptions with Mr. Kerry's minor lapses; by omitting or burying news of administration activities and their consequences; and by missing the deep pattern of Mr. Bush's prejudices and malfeasances."

Bob Kohn, "from the right," uses the timeless technique of simply stating the obvious: "Of course it is." For evidence of how acute "the bias against Bush on Iraq has become," he cites the indignation of "two of the paper's own Op-Ed columnists," David Brooks and William Safire, and finishes with a rhetorical flourish comparing Frank Rich to Ann Coulter. Nice try, Bob.

And finally (which is to say, you can look for the rest on your own, including the 2nd of the Magazine features on the candidates, "Without a Doubt"), Hell hath no fury like a Catholic scorned:

"Some of the bishops - the shepherds of a church whose hierarchy bungled the molestation and rape of so many young boys by tolerating it, covering it up, enabling it, excusing it and paying hush money - are still debating whether John Kerry should be allowed to receive communion."

Everything in the case and wired up to make a PC Finally closed the "construction" chapter of building my own PC, after my first attempt predictably hit a few snags. We'd bought "ready made" in 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998 while my work cycled me through machines a little more often. A hand=me-down laptop carried us past the 5-year due date last year, making the "upgrade" statistics even more striking:
CPU 233 MHz to 3.0 GHz;
RAM 192 MB to 1 GB;
HD 6 GB to 300 GB; and so on.

The big snag was working off a parts list a knowledgeable friend made up for a video-editing capable machine, and finding out that not all Intel D875PBZ motherboards and not all 3.0 GHz Pentium 4's are the same. Or play together. That added a week, an RMA and a 15% restocking fee (at least) to the time and trouble. As noted it was oh so much more satisfying when the first round of black screens gave way to a "Reboot and Select Proper Boot device" message.

Other than their not protecting me from that mistake, I was happy with dealing with ZipZoomFly for the bulk of the components, though. And I can't say enough good things about the fine Antec case I put everything in.

If I'd really been on the ball, I would have used that extra week to get going on the office remodel and building us a couple computer desks so we can actually share our 12x10 space, but no, that's still to do.

Speaking of those CPUs, I did notice that there were two different kinds of 3.0GHz P4s up front: "Prescott," and "Northwood." A very quick bit of research showed me that the former was the newer version, and built on the 90nm process, versus 130nm for the latter. 130nm is 0.13μm if that means anything to you, or 5 millionths of an inch. 90 nanometers is that much smaller still. I figured "newer is better," and it had twice the cache (1MB vs. 512kB) and was $10 cheaper to boot. Newer is not better if your "older" mobo doesn't work with it, though.

Case manufacturers end up with the responsibility for keeping things cool, prompting Antec to opine about the different P4s. They explain that "Initial 'Prescott' CPU's were introduced in February of 2004 as Socket 478 parts. These initial 'Prescotts' are pin compatible with the already existing P4 CPU's (codenamed Northwood). However Intel later introduced the LGA 775 part, which needs a new motherboard."

The new Prescotts run hotter, and hotter is n.g. When a 3rd party uses 6 variants of "confused" on an information page about your product, all is not well.

In case you missed the right-wing pundits talking about how Duelfer's report vindicated the decision to go to war in Iraq, from Christopher Dickey provides the summation of the justification: "...because of what we thought he was thinking he might do with the weapons we thought he had but didn’t."

16.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you flat out don't care, it wouldn't be at all interesting. At some point though, enough is enough. Say 17 runs in 6½ innings, until a baseball playoff game has a football score: 17-6. The Packers' last try at Monday Night Football was that way, too. I couldn't watch the end. If I keep watching this, it'll be that car wreck sort of thing, where you can't look away, but you hate yourself for the impulse.

Cumulative graph of US military dead and wounded in Iraq, through
 Sept. 2004 From whence do you argue sir? Cryptome provides a list (below the discussion) of the military service (or not) of prominent pols. Just in case you don't fully get it, "did not serve" is in red. Nice group of pro-war pundits to round things out: Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, George Will, Paul Gigot, Bill Bennett, Bill Kristol, Michael Medved: did not serve. (Thanks to Lee K. for the link.)

Tom Josefiak, General Counsel for Bush-Cheney 04, Inc., is inside the bubble by definition. His email with subject "Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Recount" is fundraising to "defend the outcome of this election," and includes this gem: "In 2000, I was in Florida for the recount and remember the attacks we had to fend off in order to protect the result of a fair election from the efforts to steal it."

"Frankly, I am very tired, and hope we will not have to fight off more attacks on the people's will. The outcome of the election should be decided by voters not lawyers! But I suspect we will see more efforts by those who lost the election to change the rules so they can win." Please send lots of money, so we can have a better team of lawyers than they do. ( Reports are that the Dems are ahead of the Reps in election lawyer recruiting.)

I can think of a lot of adjectives to describe the Florida 2000 election, but "fair" is not one that comes to mind.

One of the factoids that I remember from watching NOW last night: when the Social Security program was started, there were 40 workers for every retiree receiving benefits. Now there are 3.4. And falling still. Where would the money to pay benefits come from if we allow current workers to start paying into private accounts? It just doesn't make sense, except as pandering: do you want to keep your money, or give it to someone else? Do you want to keep your money, and abolish the Social Security program?

Excerpted from Rebecca Cooney's NYT photo Maybe an over-40 league would have kept me kicking a little longer, but not against these guys: former stars of the Paraguayan national team. I'll have to settle for the opportunities for private glory, going senior in next year's league tennis.

"Both Mr. Cabañas and Romerito are retired and have lost a step or two in the open field, but their legs are still taut and their skills remain sharp. Though slightly past their prime, the men are hardly weekend warriors. The play is rugged. There are daring diving headers and savage sliding tackles. Passes are crisp, and the men execute plays with the strategic cunning of a chess grandmaster."

15.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If Google can search the web so well, the stuff on your computer should be child's play, right? It's just in beta, but Google Desktop Search seems like an obvious "must have" to me. The half GB of HD space required is a bit of strain on my current system, but the one I'm building has tens of GB to spare.

Scott Ritter: "The ultimate condemnation of the failure and futility of the US-UK effort in Iraq is that if Saddam were released from his prison cell and participated in the elections scheduled for next January, there is a good chance he would emerge as the popular choice."

What's up with the Cheneys bent out of shape about Kerry's comment in the last debate? Dick hasn't hesitated to talk about his daughter's sexuality publicly, but no one else is supposed to? The executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans doesn't think that's right: Patrick Guerriero says "the reality is the type of outrage that is being expressed by some Republicans should be expressed at themselves. They've decided to use gay families as wedge issues across America in swing states -- that is truly outrageous."

He encouraged Sens. Kerry and Edwards to "make their case for gay and lesbian fairness" without mentioning Mary Cheney. And, he said, "the president and Karl Rove should stop attacking gay families on the campaign trail." Hear, hear.

Fall fruit from our fading Datura Tennis is a game of psychology as much as physical prowess. There's a Code of behavior that describes exactly how you're supposed to play fair, but not to what extent you can or can't or should or shouldn't try to psyche out the opposition. (That creates a secondary market for books, naturally.)

One less-than-fair technique is called the "hook." In an unofficiated match, players call balls in or out on their side of the court as best they can, with the benefit of the doubt supposed to go to the opposition. A hook is when a ball is seen in, but called out, in order to aggravate the opponent. With the only recourse of asking "are you sure?" (and accepting the answer), hooked opponents can get mad. And when you get mad, your game usually goes downhill; no further cheating will be required.

Being human means having many ways to decieve, however. Hence, the "reverse hook," accusing your opponent of a deliberate bad call, making a pre-emptive strike with the immediate negative psychological edge, and widening the benefit of the doubt in your favor on future points as the match goes on.

Less-than-scrupulous actors have been seen on both sides in previous elections, and the coming one promises plenty of misbehavior. Following yesterday's news of the "collect and shred half" voter registration drive hook is today's news of the Republicans screaming about a Democratic reverse hook, a manual suggesting preemption of "expected" Republican tactics. There is no indignation more red-hot than that of an accused malefactor who isn't guilty this time.

It's not clear why a Texas Railroad Commissioner has broken onto the national scene, but his outrage sets a standard, of sorts: "Those kind of allegations are not new, however they are very untrue, and have been untrue, and we've been saying so for some time."

Not just "untrue," but very untrue. And repeatedly said so.

"As an elected official, myself, who is obviously on the ballot every year in Texas and every six years, it's outrageous number one to even make the claim that someone would engage in voter intimidation, but it is truly outrageous and callous and shameful to have operatives, to suggest to operatives, that if you don't see intimidation just sort of make it up and talk about it."

Remember the Bush campaign's mastermind? That would be Karl "make it up and talk about it" Rove. Is it still (truly) outrageous, callous and shameful to make the claim if there is ample evidence to support it? At a minimum, the press release provides a double reverse hook in the same news cycle as a genuine scandal.

Something fishy in Foggy Bottom, male bass producing eggs. Expect to see that in an episode of The Simpsons next month.

"It might be chicken estrogen left over in poultry manure, or perhaps human hormones dumped in the river with processed sewage. Chances are, it is not something that federal and state inspectors regularly test for in local waters."

No word of any same-sex coupling, but one has to be a little suspicious about "intersex bass" under the circumstances.

Are there mainstream bloggers now? The Wonkette has sort of basically live blogging of the 3rd debate, which I personally would say more about if I'd stayed awake all the way through watching the tape. I can say that if there were 6 more, I would not watch them all. Or at least I would not stay awake while watching them all.

9:43PM: NOTE TO READERS: We saw the foam, too. The voice in Bush's ear told him to wipe it off.

(Her 2nd debate blog was good, too.)

Ok, this is awkward: Bush plans pension raid to stay afloat. (Bush can hardly measure up to those Aussie headline writers when it comes to plain spoken.)

It's Congress' fault of course, they're in charge of the budget, and the deficit and the debt and everything. "Congress has raised the debt ceiling three times in three years, raising it most recently by $984 billion in May 2003. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary John Snow said the Federal Government was about to breach the limit again and would be able to keep operating only if it started tapping money intended for the civil service retirement fund, the pension system for federal workers."

Nobody can be really shocked, shocked, though, as "White House officials and congressional leaders knew for at least two months that federal borrowing would soon exceed the legal limit." They knew for even longer that FY2005 starts on October 1st, but also that they don't really have to get the budget done on time. There are workarounds, and hey, it's a busy election year.

The Republican good news is that the deficit is lower! (than expected) Instead of a record $522 billion, it's "only" a record $413 billion. More than $1,000 per capita. This year. Our teenager's having trouble getting her car paid for even with dad covering the insurance, I'm not sure how she's going to pony up her share of the deficit, too. Maybe later.

Bush's favorite Nolan Ryan baseball moment: "Ryan, on the mound at Arlington Stadium, with Bush not far away, in the owner’s box, struck Robin Ventura, of the Chicago White Sox, with a pitch. Ventura lost his temper and charged the mound. Ryan, who was then forty-six years old, twenty years Ventura’s senior, caught Ventura in a headlock and delivered six blows to his head and face, from a distance of about six inches, really whaling the shit out of him. The scene quickly became a canonical bit of sports video. It’s a wonderful example of super-aggressive behavior presenting itself as a form of self-defense when, strictly speaking, it isn’t—Ryan had started things by hitting Ventura, after all. But Ryan got to be doubly the hero, slower to anger but also unquestionably physically dominant. Bush, obviously, loved it. 'It was a fantastic experience for the Texas Rangers fans,' he said."

Further down in his (long) article about Bush's self-reinvention, Nicholas Lemann gives a fairly succinct statement of what's wrong in Iraq: "Most of the available armed forces of the United States are pinned down in a place that represents a threat chiefly because American troops are there. That limits American options in places that pose much more genuine threats. The reputation of American intelligence agencies has been badly damaged—would anyone now heed warnings from them? It is increasingly difficult to imagine other major powers joining the United States in an international endeavor, even one that isn’t a war. The government’s financial resources are depleted....

"It doesn’t seem that there will be, any time soon, a way to extract the American forces without risking Iraq’s descent into chaos, of a kind that would be both dangerous and humiliating to the United States and would betray Bush’s repeated promises to bring the Iraqis a better life."

Pat Buchanan has a succinct statement about the state of Iraq, too: "That the number of enemy and incidence of attacks have multiplied fourfold in a year forces us to one conclusion: we are losing this war. For the guerrilla wins if he does not lose, and the Iraqi insurgents are not losing."

14.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Joshua Green describes something you don't want to see in a dark political alley: Karl Rove in a corner. "If this year stays true to past form, the campaign will get nastier in the closing weeks, and without anyone's quite registering it, Rove will be right back in his element. He seems to understand—indeed, to count on—the media's unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove's skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others."

Speaking of underhanded political tactics, does collecting voter registration forms from both sides and then shredding the opposition's count?

11.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Paul Hawken observes that "Socially Responsible Investing" has been fully co-opted, and rendered meaningless. To keep investors happy, they can get the same sort of return and a dose of warm, fuzzy with an SRI fund that looks pretty much like any other fund. But here's the problem: "Striving for the highest rate of financial return is a cause of social injustice and environmental degradation worldwide. It consistently leads to externalization of costs to workers, people, the environment, and the future."

Bishop John Shelby Spong tries to understand where his visceral negativity came from:

"Then Senator Zell Miller, his face contorted with anger, recited a litany of weapons systems that he said Senator Kerry had opposed. What he failed to say was that most of these military cuts were recommended by a Secretary of Defense named Richard Cheney in the first Bush Administration! The last time I looked, the Ten Commandments still included an injunction against bearing false witness.

"Yes, other campaigns bend the truth but these tactics go beyond just bending, they assassinate character and suggest traitorous behavior. When that is combined with the fact that this party does this while proclaiming itself the party of religion, cultural values and faith-based initiatives is the final straw for me. I experience the religious right as a deeply racist enterprise that seeks to hide its intolerance under the rhetoric of super patriotism and 'family values.'"

His conclusion: "The combination of super patriotism with piety, used in the service of fear to elicit votes while suppressing equality works, but it is lethal for America and lethal for Christianity. It may be a winning formula but it has no integrity and it feels dreadful to this particular Christian."

Temperature vs. time acrosss a fall cold front in Boise The cold front wasn't as dramatic as the forecast made it sound, although we did go from high 80s Friday evening to the 30s Sunday morning, when I rode my bike to the club for our Big Match: playing Pocatello, the team we had to beat to win a berth in Las Vegas for the Sectionals. Our #3 team won their match, the human sacrifice we sent up to #1 made a good showing but lost in straight sets, and Monica and I split with our opponents, then played out a thrilling third set in the quiet sanctum of indoor #2 while both teams cheered and rattled the glass in the upstairs gallery after every point.

We were up a break at 4-1. Bryan held his serve with 3 aces and a service winner. They broke back and then held under pressure at 3-4, 4-5, and finally 5-6, to force a tie-breaker. I served at 3-4 in the tie-breaker, levelled it at 4, and then gave up a mini-break on an unforced error after the return. I bricked the next two serves coming from Bryan, and we were done, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (4) to Pocatello.

I plan to stop replaying that 3rd set and the tie-breaker in a day or two.

It's not clear to me to what extent you get to speak your mind when you're in the military, but The Washington Post has interviews with Marines who aren't seeing the same rosy scenario as the Bush/Cheney team needs to paint for the first Tuesday in November.

"Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,' " said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day." Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, of Bucks County, Pa., said he thought government officials were reticent to speak candidly because of the upcoming U.S. elections. "Stuff's going on here but they won't flat-out say it," he said. "They can't get into it." Maio said that when he arrived in Iraq, "I didn't think I was going to live this long, in all honesty." He added, "it ain't that bad. It's just part of the job, I guess."

"The reality right now is that the most dangerous opinion in the world is the opinion of a U.S. serviceman," said Lance Cpl. Devin Kelly, 20, of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, Autin responded: "We don't give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?"

Overheard passing a jewelry store at the mall yesterday: "...and for every $300 you get your husbands to spend on you for Christmas..."

the chemical diagram of what Lamisil is I saw Novartis' Lamisil ad on TV last night, during either the baseball game or the movie I watched during commercials, I forget. It's cute (in a gross sort of way), with the animated "Digger the Dermatophyte™" who lives deep under your infected toenails. The friendly voiceover makes the drug sound so helpful "travelling in your bloodstream" to solve this unpleasant problem. Your doctor will want to know if you have a history of liver or kidney problems, and may give you "a simple blood test." That's to see if you're one of those people who will get drug-induced hepatitis by putting (E)-N-(6,6-dimethyl-2-hepten-4-ynyl)-N-methyl-1-naphthalenemethanamine hydrochloride in your circulatory system.

Presumably the odds of no trouble are good, but Jeanette was one of the unlucky ones, and I'm not about to run the experiment on my liver. Toenails are just decorative anyway.

9.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ok, so the CPD locked any and all third party candidates out of the debate. Whether you agree with that tactic or not, and whether you think those third party candidates should have been refused entry to the hall at Washington University in St. Louis, you don't think they should have been arrested for trying, do you? Ok, they were trying to serve process papers on Commission on Presidential Debates officials, too, relating to their suit in Arizona. But arrested and being held in an undisclosed location?!

Friedman, on PMDs: "We need to think about this. There is some kind of suicide-supply chain working in the Muslim world and in Iraq that is able to draw recruits, connect them with bomb makers and deploy them tactically against U.S. and Iraqi targets on an almost daily basis."

You knew that there was another side to the scoring of last night's debate, didn't you? None more likely to tell it like they wanted it to be than, whose email to me is dated 1:05am today, but might as well have been written ahead of time: "President Bush won a decisive victory last night. The President dominated the debate with impassioned, thoughtful and concise arguments that left Kerry looking petty and defensive as he sputtered out tired, false political rhetoric and distortions that shattered his credibility and contradicted the Senator's 20-year record of being on the wrong side of history on national security and domestic policy."

Just in case you didn't get it in the first paragraph, Ken Mehlman added the exact same claim in a "postscript." If he said it twice, it must be true?

Maybe they were tuned into a different show? Bush seemed to be doing all the sputtering from where I sat, on c-span's feed. Both men drew on a share of tired rhetoric, but then stumping will do that to you sooner or later. The format challenged them to think on their feet, and reading the transcript shows a fair amount of that, but there were plenty of the fall-back phrases, like this gem: "You can run, but you can't hide."

I think the people of Missouri might relate to the point John Kerry made about the strength of our "coalition" in Iraq: "If Missouri, just given the number of people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, were a country, it would be the third largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and the United States."

This debate's real winner was the audience, who came up with thoughtful, pointed questions for both candidates, and gave their dodging around the issues an appropriately cool reception.

On the small business tax front, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports "the Annenberg Public Policy Center's and other independent groups found that the Bush campaign is counting every rich person who has even $1 of outside business income as a small business owner, even if they have no employees." That makes one small business in our household last year, and two this year. Small business creation in our household is up 100% under the Bush administration! We're turning a corner!

Oh, and Mr. Bush, you do own part of a timber company, LSTF LLC, although notes that they erred describing the source of the $84; it was from oil and gas, before Lone Star Trust got into growing trees. Lots more for both sides to correct in their piece, "Distortions Galore at Second Presidential Debate."

8.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well, 2&frac; debates down, one to go. One of the pundits said he wished there were 10 or 11 of them rather than only three; judging by how grim the audience was for tonight's event, I don't think I'd want to be watching 4 or 5 shows on.

Didn't you wonder what sort of bona fides the audience had to provide tonight to demonstrate that they really were undecided? I was suspicious beforehand, but not after watching them. That was a tough, tough crowd, and other than a couple of one-issue members, they all looked like they were a long way from wanting to vote for either candidate.

I thought Bush failed, utterly, to look like he is President, much less that he is just what the country needs for the coming 4 years. He was petulant, argumentative, still beset with quirky facial expressions and tics while he waited his turn. If I were Linda Grabel and asked him to enumerate three mistakes he'd made in thousands of decisions, and he said to me "don't you think the war in Iraq was a mistake, that's what these people mean when they ask that question..." I would have been really annoyed and insulted. There's no "these people," Mr. President, I'm right here, asking you a reasonable question that you refused to answer. She charitably said to The NY Times that it appeared that Mr. Bush misunderstood her question. Either way, he is loathe to admit a mistake, and if you don't do that, there's no correcting your mistakes.

The NY Times' editorial board is not so sanguine about Bush's performance as David Brooks was when he supposed that Bush had won, talking on PBS. We saw that before we watched our tape of the debate, and I had to wonder if Brooks saw the same debate we did.

"(T)he president was utterly incoherent when asked about whom he might name to the Supreme Court in a second term. His comment about how he didn't want to offend any judges because he wanted "them all voting for me" was a joke - but an unfortunate one, given the fact that the president owes his job to a Supreme Court vote." It didn't sound to me as if many in the audience got (or appreciated?) the joke; if I'd been there, you would have heard my big guffah. "The president seemed to fall back frequently on name-calling, denouncing his opponent as a liberal and a tool of the trial lawyers."

I thought Bush was most unpresidential, once again petulant and bullying, without a solid command of facts or argument. That may not matter, and I find that sad.

The second wave of strawberries, coming on This is it, our last day of what we'll know as "summer." Sunny and highs in the mid-80s, just before a big fall cold front and low pressure system clobber us for the weekend. Wouldn't you know we're having our District tennis playoffs in it... the 8:30am Sunday match is going to be a chilly mutha! Maybe some snow in the mountains and lows down into the 30s here in town.

The SE breeze is on today, and the rain of acorns is well underway. I cleaned out full gutters yesterday, and I expect they'll be full again by Sunday, after the front blasts through tomorrow.

John Brown tried writing to the President a year ago when he was looking for the 5,000 small businesses in Iraq that Rumsfeld said had started up since May Day 2003. In legal terms, we would have to say the reply is "non-responsive."

If you are interested in doing business in Iraq, help is available. The Commerce Department has a Business Climate guide (speaking of cold fronts), and the Bureau of Consular Affairs' information sheet is must-reading before you go. (The Doing Business in Iraq FAQs are under revision at the moment.)

"TERRORISM: The risk of terrorism directed against U.S. citizens and interests in Iraq remains extremely high.

Some of Iraq's areas of instability/safety and security "AREAS OF INSTABILITY/SAFETY AND SECURITY: Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, and criminal elements remain active throughout Iraq. Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I)-led military operations continue, and there continue to be attacks against MNF-I throughout the country. While a number of attacks have been concentrated in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Bayji, Baqubah, Mosul and Kirkuk, the security environment across Iraq is dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. Attacks on military as well as civilian targets, including hotels, UN facilities, non-governmental organizations, police stations, checkpoints, individuals doing humanitarian work and several foreign Embassies, can occur at any time, especially during nighttime hours. There has been an increase in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and animal carcasses. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Rockets and mortars have been fired at hotels, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices have been used against targets throughout the country."

That is to say, the problems are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

"Large demonstrations have occurred in Baghdad and other areas of the country, some of which have turned violent." For this July 16, 2004 update, they add hopefully that "security conditions are improving" but I'm not too sure that's happened yet.

That's small picture stuff, though. Brown, who resigned his post in the foreign service in March 2003 is thinking about the return of the World Warriors now. He includes a rundown of the leading lights of the WWIV camp: Norman Podhoretz; David Brooks; William Safire; Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; commentator Lawrence Kudlow; Peter Huessy, a member of the newly reactivated Committee on the Present Danger; and Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation; Eliot A. Cohen; R. James Woolsey; Robert Kagan; William Kristol; Inigo Thomas; Jeff Jacoby; Larry Haas; Harold Bloom; Bill O’Reilly.

"The World Warriors’ grandiose plans for perpetual war (what else can one call it, since they don’t tell us how or when it will end) could lead to the ultimate, and tragic, irony: America posing a greater danger to itself than its enemies do."

7.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Frank Rich says debate #1 might be as pivotal as the famous Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960. The piece is datelined October 10th, for this Sunday's paper, running the risk that tomorrow's 2nd round might scoop him. He's a pretty sharp guy, though... and the look behind the scenes is fascinating:

"...the thoroughness with which Mr. Baker's offstage maneuvers set his guy up for disaster on Sept. 30 may tell us more about the state of play in the campaign than the much-dissected style and substance of the debaters' onstage performance.

"It was Mr. Baker's job to negotiate the 32-page debate agreement with Vernon Jordan, representing the Kerry camp, and by all accounts, the Bush campaign got almost everything it wanted. Yet as we now know, every Bush stipulation backfired, from the identically sized podiums that made the 5-foot-11 president look as if he needed a booster stool, to the flashing "Time's up!" lights that emphasized Mr. Kerry's uncharacteristic brevity and Mr. Bush's need to run out the clock by repeating stock phrases ad infinitum and ad absurdum."

This image mishandling stands in stark contrast to what has gone before: "Mr. Bush has been posed by his imagineers to appear to be the fifth head on Mount Rushmore; he has kept the coffins of the American war dead off-screen; he has been seen in shirtsleeves at faux-folksy Town Hall meetings that, until his second debate with Mr. Kerry, were so firmly policed in content and attendees that they would make a Skull and Bones soiree look like a paragon of democracy in action...."

Newsweek getting into the debate fact check business and finding the Veep well short of a Happy Meal. As John Edwards put it, you're still not being straight with the American people, Mr. Vice President. The sands of justification for the war continue to shift into the twilight. About the only one left standing is "it's better to fight somewhere else than here at home," in which case we could have saved a bundle on transportation costs by just going after Cuba or Haiti.

Their title, "Rewriting History," is so overloaded from the Bush/Cheney administration that it needs to be a weekly section rather than a single article.

It's nice to be getting email every day from the President and the Democratic nominee running against him. It really makes me feel like part of the process. Today, George W. Bush writes this to me:

"My opponent continues his pattern of confusing contradictions. After voting for the war, after saying my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, he now says it was all a mistake. But asked, does that mean our troops are dying for a mistake? He said, no. You can't have it both ways. He can't say it's a mistake and not a mistake."

The only problem, really, is that I want to write back to them. Sadly, I doubt they'd get around to reading my email. Here's what I'd write to the President:

Dear George:

You must feel really clever putting John Kerry in this paradox of trying to criticize your actions in the Iraq war while not criticizing the military in any way. I bet your strongest supporters really like that, too. Stick it to 'em, George! they must be thinking.

But it only angers me. My idea of "supporting the troops" is very different than yours. I wouldn't send them into a misbegotten war, for starters. A thousand dead, thousands wounded and tens of thousands innocent Iraqi people are suffering for your mistakes, and you seem to care only about getting re-elected. Your inability to admit your mistakes concerns me a great deal. If you really can't see that you've made some whoppers, you need to find a new line of work, as does your Vice-president, who says he would do everything exactly the same if he had to do it over.

And so on...

6.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We watched the debate on C-Span last night, which had a fixed, split-screen view of both candidates pretty much the whole time, allowing us to keep an eye on the other guy while one was talking. They both splendidly at avoiding serious misbehavior. I saw one eyeroll from Dick, and a couple odd things from John, but mostly I'm sorry I didn't see that view of the Bush/Kerry debate, which would have been a lot more fun.

Both sides are declaring total victory, and I'm in no position to judge, given my feelings for Cheney and my desire for Edwards to do well. I was impressed by the way Edwards went on the attack; it took Cheney a while to get his digs in (but dig he must). By the end he'd come around to the core message of the Bush/Cheney campaign: be afraid, and trust us. They've certainly given us plenty of reason to be fearful, but they seem to come up a little short on the second half of that deal.

"...what we know from this administration is that a long résumé does not equal good judgment."

"The vice president and president like to talk about their experience on the campaign trail. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Millions have fallen into poverty. Family incomes are down while the cost of everything is going up. Medical costs up the highest they’ve ever been over the last four years. We have this mess in Iraq. Mr. Vice President, I don’t think the country can take four more years of this kind of experience."

Say what you like about Dick Cheney, he appears to have his ducks fully aligned on reaping his just desserts from Halliburton: the compensation he got while Vice President was "deferred" (helps with taxes donchaknow), the profit he might get from his options is assigned to charity, and he even went so far as to take out an insurance policy to make sure he gets paid even if Halliburton tanks, thanks to the asbestos liability he had them take on while CEO.

We're just sure that his stint as corporate chief had nothing to do with the years of connections he accumulated while serving in government, and that Halliburton's happy fortunes (such as they are) in the war business have nothing to do with their generous compensation. No connection whatsoever. Sometimes "the facts" don't smell so good.

As for's take on the debate, they have sauce enough for both ganders, noting they both "mangled" the facts:

"Cheney wrongly implied that FactCheck had defended his tenure as CEO of Halliburton Co., and the vice president even got our name wrong. He overstated matters when he said Edwards voted 'for the war' and 'to commit the troops, to send them to war.' He exaggerated the number of times Kerry has voted to raise taxes, and puffed up the number of small business owners who would see a tax increase under Kerry's proposals.

"Edwards falsely claimed the administration 'lobbied the Congress' to cut the combat pay of troops in Iraq, something the White House never supported, and he used misleading numbers about jobs."

They said "in fact, Edwards was mostly right" about "Cheney's responsibility for earlier Halliburton troubles," and gave Edwards partial credit.

The jobs issue is interesting, in spite of the limited responsibility and power Presidents have to make or lose any besides their own. Bush/Cheney are going to preside over a net loss of jobs (and an even larger failure to keep up with the growth of the labor force over the last 4 years). Losses in the private sector and (especially) manufacturing have been huge, but have been balanced by a growth in local, state and federal government jobs. Some irony from the party that thinks the less government the better (unless it's benefiting them directly, of course).

And FactCheck didn't bring it out, but in the business of counting casualties, neither candidate pointed out the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have died, a great number of whom were not "bad guys" (or bad women, or bad children). We've suffered in the war, to be sure, but then we started it, didn't we? And the suffering in this country is nothing at all like the suffering we've visited upon theirs. The best we can hope for is that it's for a very good cause, and that someday it will net positive for them. The day is far from at hand, a fact that Bush/Cheney must at the very least distract us from, in their election bid.

The script at this point is to show no hesitation, admit no error. "What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the right same course of action.... We did exactly the right thing."

For a completely erroneous reason? The comprehensive report to the DCI is in, and its 200MB of PDF files don't add up to a reason to go to war.

Among its important findings: "Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program. Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to the 1991 war, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years."

"While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991."

"In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specifi c work for military purposes."

Most unintendedly revealing line from last night's debate: "I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

The Senate's only in session on Tuesdays?!

Anyway, Cheney has met Edwards publicly on at least two occasions, maybe his memory is starting to get muddled? In February 2001, he called him by name and said he was honored to be with "you all" before a National Prayer Breakfast.

If only we still had tails, this would be so much more obvious, wouldn't it? But our evolutionary wiring still functions without fuzzy wagging and tucking, as Stephen Dinan spells out in detail: there's a new lead dog in this race.

"Now that Bush has been revealed as the beta in a head-to-head match, reporters will likely swoop in and start hitting Bush much, much harder. Pent-up resentment of the alpha can rush in now that it is safe."

Dinan reviews the veep debate too, sniffing out the real alpha male in the Republican ticket.

Bush and Kerry duke it out in the pages of Science magazine. I'm not sure everyone did his own work on this one, but then it should be a team effort after all. The Bush record on science is not all that good, from my point of view.

5.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sunflower I (still!) don't have a cellphone, so this is purely academic interest for me, but the idea of creating a hackers reward program with contributions toward working around crippleware seems quite elegant. I suppose the people fearful of losing their ringtone franchise don't see it that way and are dusting off their DMCA lawyers?

Speaking of ringtones, I haven't heard anyone with Under My Wheels, done by Alice Cooper; that's the one I'd want. (For 3 or 4 calls at least, then I'd be tired of it. Which explains a lot about why there's so much money to be made in selling insipid electronic versions of familiar tunes to mobile phone users.)

Veep debate prep: John Nichols in The Capitol Times, Cheney owes us explanation on crucial issues. He offers ten questions to facilitate the explanation.

"Considering the fact that your predictions about the ease of the Iraq invasion and occupation turned out to be so dramatically off the mark, and the fact that you were in charge of the White House task force on terrorism that failed, despite repeated and explicit warnings, to anticipate the terrorist threats to the World Trade Center, what is it about your analytical skills that should lead Americans to believe your claims that America will be more vulnerable to attack if John Kerry and John Edwards are elected?"

Now that Dan Rather has pushed anyone in the neighborhood on his own sword and the Karl Rove spin-machine has turned the Bush Guard story into a component of a left-wing conspiracy theory, it's time to move on, right? Greg Palast isn't so sure, and he offers insight from The Real Lt. Col. Burkett, in his own words to BBC television.

It's all about staying on the offensive, don't you know? Bush's cush stint more than 30 years ago should be so old news (as his Press Secretary keeps insisting it is), but there's this nagging sense that we never have got the whole story. Could it be... Shredded? Palast has a complete transcript of his interview with the Lieutenant Colonel.

"Are you saying he jumped the queue?" Well, DUH! " there one set of rules for the Bushes and one set of rules for the rest of us?" Double duh, and the fact that Bush's National Guard records have been carefully redacted to remove anything embarrassing to the Governor is prima facie evidence of criminal acts. For which the physical evidence needed to prosecute has gone missing. Very conveniently.

I don't know about you, but I don't really want to hear voices coming from the urinal, even if it is an unbeatable way to advertise Country Music Television. But who better to bring it to market than AllOver Media ("Targeting captive audiences since 1987")?

In the humorous/collectible email subject line category, today's exhortation from Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman: "Fight the Spin--Spread the Truth!" Amen, brother. Fight the power.

I asked earlier for any Republican fact check page on debate #1, but haven't heard any responses. The campaign site does have a Debate Facts page, but my head spins a bit when I try to see where the fact check part is. There's a parody "Kerry briefing book," under the stamp "Just the Facts." There's the ludicrous Big Lie statement of how it turned out from Racicot ("Tonight, President George W. Bush stood in stark contrast to a vacillating Senator John Kerry") and here, this long list, with video bites and cute flip-flop graphic.

4.Oct.4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

George Soros spells it out: Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush. "How could President Bush convince people that he is good for our security, better than John Kerry? By building on the fears generated by the collapse of the twin towers and fostering a sense of danger. At a time of peril, people rally around the flag and President Bush has exploited this. His campaign is based on the assumption that people do not really care about the truth and they will believe practically anything if it is repeated often enough, particularly by a President at a time of war. There must be something wrong with us if we fall for it. For instance, some 40% of the people still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11 - although it is now definitely established by the 9/11 Commission, set up by the President and chaired by a Republican, that there was no connection."

Space Ship One bagged the X prize with a 2nd flight well over the "sub-orbital" bar (they went 12 extra km to 112, beating the X-15's 41-year-old record) and well within the 2-week time limit (5 days!). The 10 million bucks well help defray expenses. Nice work!

It all depends on your point of view: George Bush was "very honest," irritated "at his opponent's misrepresentations," "a little incredulous," "appropriately on the offense," "careful" and "straightforward." Or maybe he was "downright perturbed," "droopy," "beset," "irritated and confused," "confused and worried." John Tierney strolls through Spin Alley after debate #1.

Zeitshabba looks at it from a different angle (hey, C-SPAN showed both candidates the whole time! Let's go over there!) and wonders if maybe Bush was sending and receiving signals. He'd have to go to Detention for that, wouldn't he?

I can hardly imagine what it's like to be a reporter in Baghdad right now. Farnaz Fassihi gives us a sample: "I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't."

3.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Early fall sunrise over Lucky Peak It's been so many years ago, I'm not quite sure when I started... 1993? 1994? but today will be my last performance directing the choir at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I'll be back in the tenor section, happily following our new music director's lead, and probably struggling to resist kibitzing too much.

The cover of the Aug. 25, 2004 Science News has a map of the continental US, redrawn so that each state is sized proportionally to its population. It explains why most people aren't quite sure where Idaho is, and why they might get it confused with Iowa.

I watched a little bit of the Dodgers-Giants game yesterday, hoping the Giants could win and find a way to get into the playoffs. I saw them take an early 3-0 lead and then did other stuff for a couple hours, tuned back in at the bottom of the ninth. The Giants still led, and I had somewhere to go, so I didn't bother staying for the ending. Good thing I'm not a Dodgers fan, I would have hated to miss what happened next.

In The NY Times' story, Before Applying, Check Out the Blogs, this quote from the executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School sounded like a one-phrase distillation of the Cluetrain Manifesto: "corporate marketing and branding is often an exercise in hypercontrol of a message, and that doesn't work well in a blogging context." I want to say "we're all bloggers now," but of course we aren't, quite. If the world were a village of 100 people, no one would be blogging. If it were a small town of 10,000 people, 3 people would be chronicaling their lives and opinions online. But your life is being chronicalled one way or the other. Don't you want control of the message?

Tom Friedman's been out writing a book, with a longer stretch of time to think about where we stand in Iraq: "(E)ach time the Bush team had to choose between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology. More troops or radically lower taxes? Lower taxes. Fire an evangelical Christian U.S. general who smears Islam in a speech while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army or not fire him so as not to anger the Christian right? Don't fire him. Apologize to the U.N. for not finding the W.M.D., and then make the case for why our allies should still join us in Iraq to establish a decent government there? Don't apologize - for anything - because Karl Rove says the "base" won't like it. Impose a "Patriot Tax" of 50 cents a gallon on gasoline to help pay for the war, shrink the deficit and reduce the amount of oil we consume so we send less money to Saudi Arabia? Never. Just tell Americans to go on guzzling. Fire the secretary of defense for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, to show the world how seriously we take this outrage - or do nothing? Do nothing. Firing Mr. Rumsfeld might upset conservatives. Listen to the C.I.A.? Only when it can confirm your ideology. When it disagrees - impugn it or ignore it."

His conclusion: "We're in trouble in Iraq. We have to immediately get the Democratic and Republican politics out of this policy and start honestly reassessing what is the maximum we can still achieve there and what every American is going to have to do to make it happen. If we do not, we'll end up not only with a fractured Iraq, but with a fractured America, at war with itself and isolated from the world."

2.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

With one debate down (and 2½ to go), the campaign trail is suddenly more interesting. After the president left the debate reeling and a little punch-drunk from Kerry's staying on the offensive without wilting or wavering, Bush was a tiger in front of his invited audience in Pennsylvania. All the bogus charges that wouldn't work in the glare of the 1-on-1 matchup came back out of the closet. "The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France," Bush says. After failing to look more presidential than Kerry in the debate on national security, he's all about that on the stump: "Which candidate can best protect America's families and our national security?"

According to the report in The NY Times, Bush "ridiculed Mr. Kerry's statement in the debate that he would only pre-emptively attack another nation in a way 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.'" No proving to the world, for sure. No proving to your countrymen (and women)? No need for the folks at home to understand? Well, not if the Congress rolls over to Executive Power, anyway.

Here's the Bush mythos, embodied by 18-year-old college freshman Brandon Glen: "President Bush isn't really great at debating. He's not the best at thinking on his feet. But in theory and in practice, he's a great leader and commander in chief, and that's what this country needs now." Bush and his team are indeed masterful at depicting the past in a positive light, as Karl Rove came out of the closet to explain: Bush's appearance was "focused and pensive," even though the cameras showed him as peevish, annoyed, fidgety.

John McCain is in Bush's entourage (and camp, certainly), but still has that dangerous habit of letting the truth slip out once in a while: "He presented himself well, John did. Kerry came out slugging. In the last six weeks, it was probably his brightest moment." In the warm light of solo campaign rallies, Bush is a master of "never any doubt in my mind" shadow boxing. double-checks the first debate, as did the Democrats. I looked for the Republicans' effort, but all I could turn up was their flip-flop theme, endless parsing of Kerry's statements over the years to find whatever inconsistencies they can. (If you find a Republican fact-check page, let me know, and I'll post the link.)

Yeah, Kerry voted for and against the $87 billion for the military and for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for a bill that would have paid for it by partial repeal of recent tax cuts; Bush threatened to veto that bill, and it failed. He voted against the "we'll figure out how to pay for it someday" version, which passed and the President signed. Bush and Rove know how the Congress works and the fact that legislation is more complex than "for" or "against." The voters are supposed to know that, too, what with high school and its civics class being compulsory and all. Sometimes we forget, though, especially when politicians are shouting at us and marketeers are manipulating us with commercial messages.

1.Oct.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mullein in our yard, bolting There was no such thing as a webcam when the Big One blasted off on May 18, 1980, but now we have Volcano Cam. I hope they're clever enough to make an archive of highlights from it, including something good from today's eruption.

Nobody's "anti-digit" anymore, and nobody's dialing, either. The first phone number I knew was in the Woodruff exchange: Woodruff-2, 9685. My best friends down the street were in Edgewood. And once upon a time there was an Anti-Digit-Dialing League. Or so I hear.

Since our memory goes back far enough, our technology can, too: we have a nice Princess® phone, made by Western Electric, with a dial.

I don't imagine many of my readers will mistake me for an entirely objective analyst on the matter, but I though Kerry pretty much kicked Bush's butt in last night's debate. My debate forecast wasn't all that clever, it turns out. The "Iraq is essential to war on terror" subtext from Bush was there, but "supporting the troops" didn't come out in his favor. Aside from the most obvious issue of sending hundreds of thousands of men and women into harm's way, Bush has a lot to answer for in that regard, so it didn't work.

Making Kerry look indecisive? Didn't happen. Kerry knew the challenges that would be thrown at him and he was prepared for each. The question of "what do you think is the greatest threat to our security" was met with trememdous clarity: "nuclear proliferation." After Kerry had described the threat and the current administration's failings in its regard, Bush used his 90 seconds to follow Kerry's lead, but also to confuse the issue into the ill-defined "weapons of mass destruction." I did wonder whether Bush would be able to say nuclear proliferation without garbling it; he managed with his usual "nucular" but got "proliferation" better than I expected.

Bush's left eybrow -- what's up with that? Another pretzel incident?

"Look, I know how the world works" and "I know how these people think." Does that really sound convincing to anyone out there? It sounds to me like "I don't have a rational response, so I'll just argue from authority and hope I can pull it off."

Lehrer gave Bush a chance to repudiate Dick Cheney's poisonous suggestion that the terrorists were just waiting for a Kerry presidency to make their next attack, and he ducked the issue completely: he doesn't have to handicap the odds of terrorist attack if Kerry is elected because "I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead."

Mixed messages, mixed messages, wrong war at the wrong time at the right -er- wrong place. "We saw the same intelligence." We didn't see the mixed messages from Kerry, though. There was a lot of responding to rhetoric not in evidence as they worked through the handlers' scripts against the other's speeches. Again, the converted will appreciate the preaching, but there must be a lot of people not quite sure what he was talking about. (And all the unconverted will miss the secret passwords in Bush's wrap-up, "We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley of peace.")

Did Bush start reading off his sparring partner's script when he responded to Kerry's plan for improving Homeland Security? "I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and -- anyway, that's for another debate."

Kerry used repetition in the description of our one-sided "coalition" to go on the offense against Iraq (as if 10 years of daily bombing isn't offensive enough?) and Bush tried to accuse him of denigrating our allies. "You're forgetting about Poland!" No one mentioned El Salvador, Eritrea, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Uzbekistan, either. The Bush team is trying to make it a fine line between a legitimate issue (Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Russia, China, etc. couldn't be persuaded) and belittling the contribution and sacrifice of those who did join the US, some of whom have done more than try to curry favor. It isn't all that fine a line, of course. The US-appointed leader of Iraq deserves our best support and respect for putting his life on the line, but there is no getting around that he's a puppet, especially after his performance echoing Bush campaign speech soundbites during his visit here.

Kerry's contrast of the different approaches to Iraq from Bush and Bush père was unanswered. Bush once again failed to make a convincing argument that Iraq was a grave enough threat to justify invasion, but I suspect there aren't many Undecideds left around that issue. Either you've been hammered by the proofs by repeated assertion and your pickup truck is plastered with yellow ribbons and flag stickers, or you never will be. "The best way to protect you is to stay on the offense" is far from an assured strategy. (At a minimum, you'd want to point your offense at the right goal.) Check with the Israelis to see how reliable that approach is.

Kerry looked Presidential, Bush looked outmanned, tired, especially toward the end. His smile got more and more crooked as the debate wore on. The brief moments when the camera caught him during Kerry's answers made it clear why the Bush team didn't want the cameras to be able to sneak such peeks. It's an intense task, to be sure, coming up with 2 minute answers (or padding a 10 second answer out to 2 minutes so that you don't give up time to your opponent), but it doesn't seem like 90 minutes of debating should be all that taxing compared to what he's been doing.

Jim Lehrer won the debate, I'd say. Great questions, great control of the process (and audience -- how did they accomplish that?!), and perfect extemporizing when the candidates' answers needed more time or interaction. His description of the CPD-controlled format was precise and succinct, and he did his job without getting in the way of the two men saying what they wanted to say.

That leaves Kerry first among the contenders for office, and Bush third in a two-man race. There was none of the energetic, focused and smart sort of work that James Fallows saw in the Bush-Richards race. It's been a long 4 years, and Bush has managed significant crises to the best of his ability. I think his best years are behind him; no dishonor in that. We should thank him for his service, and start paying him a pension rather than a salary.

The strategy of casting Bush as underdog was a non-starter this time around. Can't be "strong and steady" and fumble-tongued at the same time. He mostly stayed away from the "jes folks" approach that works so well on the stump with hand-picked audiences, but did not rise to the level of careful thought and quick wit that we expect and deserve for our country's executive. He could be low-balling the first debate (but on his most important topic?) to work a come-from-behind strategy, but that doesn't seem too likely. Kerry looked amply Presidential, and I thought gave a masterful performance.

The Toronto Star readers gave the nod to Kerry "by a landslide."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Monday, 01-Nov-2004 09:26:42 MST