Friday, October 22, 2004
So why is this the case? And, more specifically, why are Bush supporters clinging so tightly to beliefs that have been so visibly refuted? As discussed, one key possible explanation for why Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had WMD or a major WMD program, and supported al Qaeda, is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs.
Another possible explanation is that Bush supporters cling to these beliefs because they are necessary for their support for the decision to go to war with Iraq. Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the president would not have. To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions is difficult to bear, especially in light of the continuing costs in terms of lives and money. Apparently, to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Bush supporters suppress awareness of unsettling information.
This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to their perceptions of world public opinion. Despite an abundance of evidence that world public opinion has opposed the US going to war with Iraq, only 31% of Bush supporters are aware that this is the case, and only 9% are aware that Kerry is a more popular candidate than Bush in world public opinion.
Finally, Bush supporters also frequently misperceive their candidate’s foreign policy positions. In particular they tend to assume that he supports more pro-multilateral positions than he, in fact, does. In all cases, there is a recurring theme: majorities of Bush supporters favor these positions they impute to Bush. They have trouble believing that Bush does not favor them too.
So why do Bush supporters show such a resistance to accepting dissonant information? While it is normal for people to show some resistance, the magnitude of the denial goes beyond the ordinary. Bush supporters have succeeded in suppressing awareness of the findings of a whole series of high-profile reports about prewar Iraq that have been blazoned across the headlines of newspapers and prompted extensive, high-profile and agonizing reflection. The fact that a large portion of Americans say they are unaware that the original reasons that the US took military action - and for which Americans continue to die on a daily basis - are not turning out to be valid, is probably not due to a simple failure to pay attention to the news.
This is the most insightful article I have seen so far on the bizarre disconnect between the beliefs of Bush supporters and the reality that the rest of us perceive. It provides many poll-based statistics contrasting the erroneous beliefs of Bush cultists with the correct beliefs of Kerry supporters and concludes with an in-depth analysis (excerpted above). A real eye opener and a serious must-read.
[Thanks and a tip of the bush lies hat to stringer JDB for pointing me to this article.]
Three local teachers got tickets to the Bush rally, passed all the security checkpoints and scrutiny and got in. They never created or caused a disturbance, and they were perfectly peaceful members of the audience waiting to hear Bush speak. But before they got to hear Bush, they were expelled from the rally by Bush rally staff who objected to the words printed on the T-shirts they were wearing.
No, the words on the T-shirts the ladies were wearing did not disparage Bush, nor did they suggest support for Kerry or any other candidate. The words did not condemn or support the war in Iraq, nor did they slam any Administration policy. No, the T-shirts the three women wore showed an American flag, and under it the words, "Protect Our Civil Liberties". That was all - I kid you not.
That was it. That was the last straw for me. That was the defining moment I'll never forget. That was my epiphany.
Bryan Platt, Chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, said he stood 100 percent behind the person who made the decision to exclude the women, removing any doubt that one or two individuals exceeded their authority and blew it. No, it was solid, Republican neo-conservative fascist policy on open display, and the Brown Shirts weren't about to apologize for it. No way.
I am now a man without a political party. I will never again register as a Republican unless the party returns to what it was before the fascists took it over.
What I do know is that any party that would find the words, "Protect Our Civil Liberties" offensive or even threatening, is a party I won't belong to any more.
That was the last straw.
The dogma of Bush's godliness is no mere rhetorical flourish; it's being forged with blood and iron. Consider General Jerry Boykin, who, in uniform, toured churches across America, declaring openly that "George W. Bush was not elected by the majority of the American people; he was appointed by God" to lead his "Christian nation" against Satan and the "idol-worshippers" of Islam, as Salon.com reports. Bush then made Boykin the Pentagon's chief of military intelligence - the point man for wringing information out of Islamic captives in the "war on terror".
The result - confirmed even by the Pentagon's own anemic investigations - was a military intelligence system gone berserk, systematically torturing and occasionally murdering prisoners who, as the Red Cross notes, were overwhelmingly innocent of any crime. Bush signed orders removing these prisoners from the protection of U.S. and international law; Boykin's boys then visited divine wrath upon the heathens. But these atrocities cannot be crimes, because Bush and Boykin are, in the general's own phraseology, "Kingdom warriors" in the "army of God."
This isn't "politics as usual" - not even an extreme version of it, not McCarthyism revisited, Reaganism times two, or Nixon in a Stetson hat. There's never been anything like it in American life before: a messianic cult backed by vast corporate power, a massive cadre of religious zealots, a highly disciplined party, an overwhelming media machine and the mammoth force of history's most powerful government - all led by men who "create new realities" out of lies, blood, theft and torment.
Their "empire" - their Death-Cult, their power-mania - is an old madness come again, an old heresy in new form, another outbreak of the fever, the deep soul-sickness that devoured so many nations in the last century. Now it's come to America. After decades of sliding toward the abyss - blithely, blindly, drunk with corruption, letting democracy and justice wither on the vine - now we are here at last, in the heart of darkness.
So many sins are committed in the name of God. Fundamentalist religion - "ours" and "theirs" both - is the most dangerous, disruptive force in the world today. The same spirituality that can bring comfort and meaning to individuals seems to get twisted into evil shapes when religious people get together in groups and inevitably fall into an "us" and "them" mentality of intolerance and hate. The Christian extremists we have among us today have certainly strayed far from the original message of Jesus.
In the final days of the presidential campaign, members of President Bush's Cabinet are holding an intramural "Can You Top This?" contest to see who can tell the most outlandish whopper.
Treasury Secretary John Snow opened the tournament with his comment last week that talk of job losses during the Bush administration was a "myth." Seeking to refine the point, Labor Secretary Don Evans chimed in: "I just don't accept that conclusion that we've lost jobs during this administration."
President Bush, ever sporting, joined in the prevaricatory gamesmanship with a declaration during the third debate that he had never expressed a lack of concern about Osama bin Laden. Bush labeled Sen. John Kerry's allegation on the point "one of those exaggerations."
Never mind that on March 13, 2003, the president, asked at a news conference why he did not mention bin Laden very often any more, said: "I don't know where he is. I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you." Bush added: "I truly am not that concerned about him."
With such a high level of competition and so much presidential encouragement, it was not surprising that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, one of the more garrulous members of the Cabinet, entered the contest this week by claiming that the shortage of flu vaccine "is not a health crisis."
Tell that to the 36,000 people who die annually in the United States, or the 200,000 who are hospitalized, from causes associated with influenza.
This "denying reality" theme is really ubiquitous once you start looking for it. It's reached the point now where virtually everything the administration says emanates from Planet Bush, that strange Bizarro World where jobs were not lost during this administration, where Bush never said he's not concerned about Osama, and where a shortage of flu vaccine is not a health crisis. It's an amazing place.
With Jeb Bush as governor, and voting machine maker Diebold contributing to the Republican party, this might be what voting is like across Florida on Nov 2.
[Boom Chicago (Netherlands), 10/10/04]
This is a good one. Check it out.
Students at UCF and two local community colleges claim they were duped into switching their party affiliations from Democrat to Republican, campus police officials said Tuesday.
Fewer than 10 students have filed reports with UCF police saying they were approached by a middle-aged couple in the student union who asked for support in changing child molestation laws. The students filled out a form that asked for personal information, and some time later they received a notice from the county election supervisor's office that their party affiliation had been changed, said Sgt. Troy Williamson, a spokesman for the UCF police.
Similar incidents have occurred at Valencia Community College in Orange County and Seminole Community College, Williamson said.
"They thought they were signing a petition to change child molestation laws," Williamson said. "They didn't realize they had changed their political party."
All the cases involved Democrats being switched to Republicans, Williamson said.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
The Republicans are out to steal the 2004 election - before, during, and after Election Day. Before Election Day, they are employing such dirty tricks as improper purges of voter rolls, use of dummy registration groups that tear up Democratic registrations, and the suppression of Democratic efforts to sign up voters, especially blacks and students.
On Election Day, Republicans will attempt to intimidate minority voters by having poll watchers threaten criminal prosecution if something is technically amiss with their ID, and they will again use technical mishaps to partisan advantage.
But the most serious assault on democracy itself is likely to come after Election Day.
Here is a flat prediction: If neither candidate wins decisively, the Bush campaign will contrive enough court challenges in enough states so that we won't know the winner election night.
If the courts took away the people's right to choose the president, and George Bush in effect stole two elections in a row, this would surely produce a constitutional crisis and a crisis of legitimacy.
But what if they gave a constitutional crisis and nobody came? The most ominous outcome of all would be public passivity, echoing 2000. That would confirm that the theft of our democracy was real.
Call me partisan, but the best insurance against this horrific outcome would be a Kerry win big enough so that even Karl Rove would not dare to mount this maneuver. A razor-thin race virtually invites it. And if Bush wins handily, our democracy will have other problems.
If Bush steals this one, we're going to have a lot worse than a "constitutional crisis".
In perhaps the ultimate instance of the pot calling the kettle black, the Sinclair Broadcasting Company posted a press release on its Web site stating that they will not air the controversial anti-Kerry film, Stolen Honor. This Friday, they will run "a special one-hour news program" titled A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media. This film, which will draw from portions of Stolen Honor, purports to explore "the use of documentaries and other media to influence voting. .... The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage."
Now that Sinclair, the country's largest single owner of television stations, has been forced to back down (perhaps less by national outrage than by a $90 million dollar stock loss), the company wants the public to know that it's shocked, simply shocked, that a media outlet might—can you imagine?—abuse its power for political purposes.
This press release, a masterpiece of bald-faced corporate hypocrisy, also works as an unintentional humor piece. CEO David Smith bizarrely denies that the documentary was ever meant to be broadcast in its entirety: "At no time did Sinclair ever publicly announce that it intended to do so." (I'll leave you to Google that one yourself.) A lawyer for Sinclair backs Smith's claim, sort of."There has been a misunderstanding of what our intention was," he told the Washington Post today, "in part because it wasn't clear to us what our intention was."
By every available indication, George W. Bush's is the most inside-the-bubble presidency in modern American history. It's not just that his campaign operatives exclude all but the true believers from his rallies, or that Bush, by the evidence of his debate performances, has grown utterly unaccustomed to criticism.
With each passing day, we learn that once Bush has decided on a course of action, he will not be swayed by mere intelligence estimates, military appraisals or facts on the ground. We already knew that when Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress during the run-up to the war that occupying Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops, he sealed his ticket to an early retirement. We've recently learned that Paul Bremer had told the president we needed more troops to secure postwar Iraq and the safety of our troops already there, and that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez had pleaded for more armored vehicles to better shield our soldiers.
But these and other such assessments and pleas ran counter to the idea of the war that Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had lodged in their heads. This would be our lightning war, and after Saddam Hussein was deposed, resistance would cease and U.S. forces could pack up and go home. A report in Tuesday's New York Times documents a Defense Department plan to shrink the number of U.S. forces in Iraq by 50,000 within 90 days of the taking of Baghdad. There were estimates aplenty from the State Department, the CIA and the Army suggesting that we'd need more forces for the occupation than for the war, but they were all blithely ignored.
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
"George Bush will go to any length to cling to power, even if it means diverting his national security adviser from doing her job," Senator John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, said yesterday. "It's time for a fresh start with a White House whose priority will be to focus on doing everything to make our country safer - period."
Rice is scheduled to give speeches in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida over the next week. In recent days, she has appeared in Ohio, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington state. Until May of this year, Rice had not made any speeches in political battleground states.
Meanwhile, when Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge leaves Washington on official business, nearly three-fifths of his public events are in the 17 states considered the most hotly contested.
Overall, Ridge and his senior executives, who have pledged that the department would not become entrenched in politics, did nearly half their public events in those 17 states, according to a review by the Associated Press.
The review looked at the department's travel outside Washington in the past seven months as 22 senior officials hit the road to hand out grants, take tours, and talk to private companies.
The department says that its officials go to states with the greatest homeland security needs, such as big cities or areas with ports or borders, and that politics does not play a role in travel decisions.
Given Ms. Rice's striking incompetence and dishonesty when she is actually doing her job, maybe we're actually better off with her on the road cheerleading for her boss.
The relevant issue of religion and state, I think, boils down to this: Bush seems to believe that he is God's instrument in the White House. And most of his backers agree.
He has been quoted as having recently told a group of Amish in Pennsylvania: "I trust God speaks through me."
He is on record as having earlier said this of Iraq: "I'm surely not going to justify the war based upon God. Nevertheless, I pray to be as good a messenger of His will as possible."
The issue is elaborated in an article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, as my colleague Richard Gwyn noted on this page yesterday.
Its author, Ron Suskind, quotes Bruce Bartlett, a Republican sage, as saying that the president is said to talk about the "weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do."
Suskind also quotes Jim Willis of the Sojourners, an advocacy group for social justice, as saying this: "When I first met Bush in Austin (in 2000), I saw a self-help Methodist — very open, seeking." But post-9/11, "what I started to see ... was a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him."
That the president draws strength and confidence from his faith is fine by me.
That he does not listen to others is a matter of management style.
But if he feels infallible because he thinks he is carrying out God's will, we do have a problem. Several, in fact.
He is echoing Osama bin Laden.
He is fusing church and state.
He is misguided and dangerous.
The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Despite telling members of Congress and the public that the legality and appropriateness of the National Park Service offering a creationist book for sale at Grand Canyon museums and bookstores was “under review at the national level by several offices,” no such review took place, according to materials obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, the real agency position was expressed by NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy as quoted in the Baptist Press News:
“Now that the book has become quite popular, we don’t want to remove it.”
In August of 2003, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, a book explaining how the park’s central feature developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters that there would be a high-level policy review, distributing talking points stating: “We hope to have a final decision in February .” In fact, the promised review never occurred.
The creationist book is not the only religious controversy at Grand Canyon National Park. One week prior to the approved sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, NPS Deputy Director Donald Murphy ordered that bronze plaques bearing Psalm verses be returned and reinstalled at canyon overlooks. Superintendent Alston had removed the bronze plaques on legal advice from Interior Department solicitors. Murphy also wrote a letter of apology to the plaques’ sponsors, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. PEER has collected other instances of what it calls the Bush Administration’s “Faith-Based Parks” agenda.
This constant intrusion of fundamentalist Christianity into our government makes me very nervous.
Bobby "Boris" Pickett, the creator of the 1962 novelty hit "Monster Mash" has reconstructed his old hit as "Monster Slash" to protest the Bush Administration's policy on forests.
Pickett has re-recorded his classic hit with a new backing and made it available on line with a Flash video. The Flash presentation features well-known Halloween horror characters based on photographs of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as key forest-related Bush political appointees U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann M. Veneman and USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark E. Rey.
In a statement, Pickett says "I decided to do this new recording because, like millions of people, I think this president has the worst environmental record in the history of our great nation."
The lyric for the new song begins:
We were hiking in the forest late one night[Undercover (Australia), 10/21/04]
[Check out the song here.]
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.
"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."
When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."
According to the intelligence official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, release of the report, which represents an exhaustive 17-month investigation by an 11-member team within the agency, has been "stalled." First by acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Porter J. Goss, the former Republican House member (and chairman of the Intelligence Committee) who recently was appointed CIA chief by President Bush.
The president fought against the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, for example, agreeing only after enormous political pressure was applied by a grass-roots movement led by the families of those slain.
And then Bush refused to testify to the commission under oath, or on the record. Instead he deigned only to chat with the commission members, with Vice President Dick Cheney present, in a White House meeting in which commission members were not allowed to take notes. All in all, strange behavior for a man who seeks reelection to the top office in the land based on his handling of the so-called war on terror.
Why are the principles of Republicans so easily compromised in support of this failed leader? It's hard to avoid getting the impression that, for them, the Republican Party is more important than America, and retaining the right-wing stranglehold on power is more important than protecting and defending our nation. This whole administration should be impeached while it's still possible.
Opinion surveys indicate that if the nations of Europe were states, they would be blue states. One French poll had Kerry ahead of Bush, 72 percent to 16 percent. Results were similar in Britain, Spain and Germany.
"It's not that people are such big Kerry fans. They are really anti-Bush," Joffrin said.
Stefano Silvestri, an analyst at the Rome-based Institute for International Affairs, said the European preference for Kerry is rooted in concerns about Bush's apparent disregard for America's traditional European allies and by what he described as Bush's "messianic message."
That declaration startled many who recall Sharon's military career and are critical of his visit to Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque in 2000, which ignited the violence that grew into the second Palestinian intifada.
"I want to understand why someone like Bush, or someone like Reagan, why, when there are 172 (United Nations) statements condemning Israel, and they (Israelis) have a nuclear arsenal, why they look at Iraq, Iran and Syria? Why didn't they intervene in Israel?" asked Abdel Naby el Shaer, 40, a Cairo shopkeeper.
"This is why the hatred is very deep. America sees with only one eye, and it's Israel's."
Not surprisingly, Israel is the only country in the Middle East and one of the few in the world solidly in the Bush camp.
I too was shocked by the reference to Sharon, of all people, as a "man of peace". It's another tiresome example of the up-is-downism that infects this entire administration. All of their policies appear to involve denying reality at some level or another. I think that's what has those of us in the reality-based community so upset.
Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.
"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one US presidential candidate over another.
"We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of Clinton," Rowhani said. "And we should not forget that during Bush's era, despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran, he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran."
Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into US presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.
So a major official in an axis-of-evil country says he prefers Bush because, although he talks tough, he doesn't do anything. Plus, they know he won't "press human rights issues". Funny thing is, those are among the reasons I oppose Bush!
The founder of the U.S. Christian Coalition said Tuesday he told President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq that he should prepare Americans for the likelihood of casualties, but the president told him, "We're not going to have any casualties."
Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."
"You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' I mean he was just sitting there like, 'I'm on top of the world,' " Robertson said on the CNN show, "Paula Zahn Now."
"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.'"
Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."
Robertson, the televangelist who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, said he wishes Bush would admit to mistakes made.
"I mean, the Lord told me it was going to be A, a disaster, and B, messy," Robertson said.
More evidence of the president's fantasy life. How clueless can you get? And if the Lord told Robertson that the war was going to be a messy disaster, why didn't he tell Bush? I thought God spoke to Bush all the time.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Dear Aunt Estelle and Uncle Hobie:
Cousin Frank told me that you two are still undecided about your presidential vote.
You're not alone; there are a lot of citizens in the same boat. Many are turned off by the choices they're given. Many are waiting to see what the debates yield. Many are just uncertain which way to go, and are looking for some answers.
So I hope you won't mind if your nephew throws in his two cents. I feel strongly about this and hope, even though you voted for Bush last time out and once called me a "wishy-washy liberal," that you'll be open to hearing my point of view.
I'm guessing you might, since you're obviously conflicted about voting for Bush again.
Even though I don't often agree with your politics, I find your brand of old-fashioned conservatism honest and admirable. Many other traditional conservatives likewise are having trouble voting for Bush: He's not fiscally responsible, he's abandoned the concept of small government, he's running roughshod over the Constitution (while saying he'd appoint strict constructionists), he's taking us into dangerous international adventures for no good reason, he's allowing his fundamentalism to intrude on his policy - more on all this below.
John Kerry is willing to face up to the realities of what's really going on in Iraq, and to make sure nothing like that happens again. Bush and Cheney continue to rely on their fantasy vision that the situation there is rosy and all will be well if we just trust them. We trusted them before and they're the ones who got us into this mess. They exacerbated it when Rumsfeld authorized "harsh interrogation methods" (read: torture) of Iraqi detainees in our care. So why should we trust them again?
This lengthy, must-read article takes the form of a letter to people who still support Bush. It brings everything together in one heartfelt plea for sanity.
[Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. He is a contributing author to the recently released Big Bush Lies book.]
Let's turn our attention to what President Bush said on the [topic of homosexuality during the third debate]. He was asked by Bob Schieffer whether he thought "homosexuality is a choice." This is what Bush said: "You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know."
In the best of all possible worlds, Schieffer would have asked, "Why not? How could you not know? Don't you know any gay people, Mr. President? Have you ever asked them? Don't you know any parents of gay children, and have you asked them about their kids and when they knew, sometimes at a very young age, that their son or daughter was homosexual? In all those private lunches with Cheney, all the time you two have spent together, didn't you once have the intellectual curiosity to ask your vice president about his daughter?"
After all, Bush was making policy in this area - trying to bar gays from ever marrying.
Such intellectual obtuseness, the fervid confession of ignorance, is somehow not worthy of comment when it comes to Bush.
Ever since 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association ruled that homosexuality is not a mental disorder requiring treatment, stacks of studies have reached this consensus: Homosexuality is not a matter of choice. That does not mean that it is never a matter of choice. It just means that normally it is not. Bush - maybe alone among Yale and Harvard alumni - seems never to have heard of these studies.
The decisive elements [in the presidential campaign], with the race still tied, are Iraq, national security and what impact the characters of Bush and his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, will have on the war on terror. And it is on the question of character that I find myself parting company with Bush.
I have watched him closely in recent days campaigning here in this Iowan town [Cedar Rapids] and elsewhere. Not once were the Americans dead in Iraq - almost 1,100, which represents more than a third of those killed on Sept. 11 - mentioned by the president. They seemed to have become a kind of abstraction.
Bush's acquiescence to this disembodiment of the dead in the interests of a message of can-do optimism seemed an act of cynical dishonesty, one reinforced by the continued concealment of returning coffins. This dishonesty serves an overarching Republican political purpose: the presentation of a valiant America spreading democracy in the Middle East, despite all the messy Iraqi evidence.
Michael Ignatieff, the writer, says Bush insists on "sunrise and uplift in America in the midst of a really squalid experiment in Iraq because he knows this narrative resonates." But if the war and its daily toll can be conjured away in this way, the suspicion arises that it is, for Bush, but another tool to be exploited for his re-election.
"NO TO FEAR," said one banner of Iowan protesters against Bush. Many Americans now have the uneasy feeling that Bush and his chief electoral strategist, Karl Rove, have cultivated fear to justify "staying on the offensive" in an abstracted war that serves the electoral purpose of casting anyone who does not support Bush as unpatriotic.
Norman Mailer, the author, recently suggested in The New York Review of Books that "for Bush and Rove, 9/11 was the jackpot," going on to describe Bush as "a closet weakling who seizes on inflexibility as a way to show America that he is strong." The psychological underpinnings of Bush's behavior are open to debate, but it seems to me that a current of duplicity and ruthlessness is not.
Gore said that he had previously resisted saying Bush intentionally deceived the public in the run-up to the invasion but that the evidence now shows "that in virtually every case the president chose to ignore - and indeed often to suppress - studies, reports, information, facts, that were directly contrary to the false impressions he was in the process of giving to the American people."
Echoing a campaign theme of Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, Gore told about 700 students and activists at Georgetown University that Bush is "arrogantly out of touch with reality."
"He refuses to ever admit mistakes, which means that so long as he is our president we are doomed to repeat his mistakes," Gore said, to applause. "It is beyond incompetence. It is recklessness that risks the safety and security of the American people."
The event was sponsored by the liberal MoveOnPAC. Gore said he had found "the answer to what some have regarded as a mystery: How could a team so skilled in politics be so fumbling and incompetent when it comes to policy?"
"The same insularity and zeal that makes him effective at smash-mouth politics, makes him terrible at governing," Gore said, in front of a dozen U.S. flags, calling the Bush administration "a rarity in American history: It is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent."
Throw in "corrupt" and you'll hit the trifecta.
The debates also highlighted, in this campaign season, the utter failure of our media to investigate more closely the claims of candidates, particularly President Bush. No issue showed this more clearly than the war in Iraq, the single topic most often mentioned in debate questions and answers -- even creeping into the domestic policy debate Wednesday night. Yet for all the words spilled regarding Iraq, curiously little attention was being paid to what’s happening on the ground there.
At several points, for example, Bush made the assertion that 120,000 Iraq security forces will be trained by the end of this year. It’s simply ludicrous, but I didn’t hear or see one media account challenging Bush on his numbers. NATO was supposed to step in and start training Iraqi troops; they've only recently reached an agreement on how to structure their mission, and they won't be up and running in Iraq until the end of the year -- the point at which, according to Bush, the training of Iraqis is to be completed. The problem is that France, Germany, and Russia refuse to send any troops to Iraq, even as part of a NATO contingent, so the U.S. has to go around and ask for a few troops here and few troops there from the smaller NATO countries.
But it’s even worse that he spins these fantasies with little direct challenge from John Kerry and no hard questioning by our national media. He’s getting a free ride, and with less than three weeks until the election, there’s no excuse for it.
Monday, October 18, 2004
President Bush has tried to avoid any responsibility for the flu vaccine shortage by making misleading statements. During the presidential debate last Wednesday, President Bush said the problem was that "we relied upon a company out of England." That isn't true. Chiron Corp., the company whose vaccine plant was contaminated, is a California company - subject to regulation by the U.S. government - that operates a factory in England.
During the debate, President Bush also said, "we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country." That isn't true either. It was the British authorities who, after inspecting the plant, revoked the factory's license on October 5th.
In June 2003, the United States Food and Drug Administration inspected the Chiron plant. Initially, the FDA found that the plant was contaminated with bacteria but later announced, "the problems were corrected to their satisfaction," and allowed the plant to continue to operate.
Why is it taking the U.S. Justice Department so long to get to the bottom of the phone-jamming incident in the 2002 New Hampshire election?
The phone jamming, initiated by Republican campaign operatives to suppress Democrats from voting in that heated state election, doesn’t involve an entangled international conspiracy. Nor is it a plot with a cast of thousands.
Yet, two years later, the Justice Department is still plodding along in its investigation. So far, two of the parties in the phone-jamming incident have pleaded guilty.
Chuck McGee, the former executive director of the state Republican Party, pleaded guilty a few months ago to paying $15,600 to a Virginia telemarketing company to make the calls that jammed the get-out-the vote lines of Democrats the morning of the 2002 election.
The Virginia company then hired another firm to jam the lines. Allen Raymond, a GOP consultant and president of the Virginia company, has also pleaded guilty in the phone-jamming incident.
McGee and Raymond, in pleading guilty, said they had spoken about the phone-jamming operation with an unidentified official of a national political organization. Now the question is whether the responsibility for this abuse goes farther up the Republican campaign ladder.
I ask once again for acknowledgment from the major media that 99% of the election chicanery we are seeing is coming from one side.
Michigan's top elections official on Monday said qualified voters can request absentee ballots until Nov. 1, citing fraudulent calls telling voters the application deadline already had passed.
Registered voters who qualify for an absentee ballot have until 4 p.m. on Nov. 1 to request one at their city or township clerk's office, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said. Voters have until 2 p.m. on Oct. 30 to request an absentee ballot be sent to their home.
Land said there have been some reports of calls made to Ann Arbor and southern Wayne County residents by people identifying themselves as members of the state bureau of elections or local clerk's offices. They are telling residents the deadline to apply for an absent voter ballot has passed and are asking that completed ballots be sent to the wrong place.
"This fraudulent activity is unconscionable," Land said in a news release. "While these activities appear to be extremely limited and do not represent what's going on throughout Michigan, it's important that residents do not release private information over the phone."
It's unclear who is making the calls.
Let's guess. It must be some group that wants to suppress the vote. Hmm...
Some absentee ballots distributed to Hamilton County voters do not include the name of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, local election officials confirmed today.
Because of a printing error - limited, election officials believe, to only a few ballots in the Forest Park area - absentee ballots recently mailed out exclude the Democratic presidential ticket of Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards.
"It's a screw-up," said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. "This just feeds the paranoia that's out there. The tragic thing is that even though I think we will have a very fair and accurate count here, this will cause people to question the accuracy of our operation."
Although election officials believe only two voters have received the inaccurate ballot to date, Burke said he is worried that the mix-up "will open us up to all kinds of questions and concerns." He also conceded that some may question whether the problem is, indeed, limited to only a few ballots.
Just out of curiosity, were there any ballots with Bush's name missing? Or was it like the infamous "butterfly ballot" in Florida, which was set up so that only Gore voters would punch the wrong hole?
Sunday, October 17, 2004
It will, we are confidently told, be the most important American election for generations. In the words last week of Dick Cheney, the voice of what passes for gravitas in the Bush Administration, Americans will have to make 'about as serious a decision as anybody is ever asked to make' when they go to the polls in 17 days' time.
The prophets of doom, whom Cheney exemplifies, are precisely right about the importance of this election. But the momentous decision awaiting Americans is not whether they return to power a President who is uniquely qualified to protect the US against terrorism, as Cheney et al would have us believe. It is whether they re-elect a man who, it is now clear, has become palpably unstable.
The evidence has been before our eyes for some time, but only during the course of this election campaign has it crystallised - just in time, possibly, for the 2 November election. The 43rd US President has always had a much-publicised knack for mangled syntax, but now George Bush often searches an agonisingly long time, sometimes in vain, for the right words. His mind simply blanks out at crucial times. He is prone, I am told, to foul-mouthed temper tantrums in the White House. His handlers now rarely allow him to speak an unscripted word in public.
It is thus hard to avoid the conclusion that Bush's cognitive functioning is not, for some reason, what it once was.
There's a scary thought. Check out this link for a comparison of Bush Then with Bush Now. He's definitely going downhill. Maybe the box on his back needs retuning or something.
First Dick Cheney said that supporting John Kerry could lead to another terrorist attack.
Then Dennis Hastert said Al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency than under President Bush.
Now the Catholic bishops have upped the ante, indicating that voting for a candidate with Mr. Kerry's policies could lead to eternal damnation.
Conservative bishops and conservative Republicans are working hard to spread the gospel that anyone who supports the Catholic candidate and onetime Boston altar boy who carries a rosary and a Bible with him on the trail is aligned with the forces of evil.
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.
These bishops are embryo-centric; they are not as concerned with the 1,080 kids killed in a war that the Bush administration launched with lies, or about the lives that could be lost thanks to the president's letting the assault weapons ban lapse, or about all the lives that could be saved and improved with stem cell research.
Mr. Bush derives his immutability from his faith. "I believe that God wants everybody to be free," he said in the last debate, adding that this was "part of my foreign policy."
I can't tell you how tired I am of hearing preacher talk from our president. And the overreaching behavior of these bishops certainly seems, well, sinful to me. Eternal damnation for opposing Bush? Incredible. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
The author touches on an aspect of the Bush cultists I have mentioned before when she speaks of the bishops being "embryo-centric". Have you noticed how many of the hot-button right-wing issues - abortion, stem cells, gay marriage, etc. - have to do with sex, pregnancy, and childbirth? Funny how they lose interest in people once they're born.
[A new] draft report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says this: "President Bush does not speak about civil rights initiatives often, but when he does he promotes the faith-based program more than any other. He has presented the (Faith-based and Community) initiative as an end to discrimination against religious organizations, using terms such as 'remove barriers,' 'equal access,' and 'equal treatment,' which convey that such programs have civil rights relevance. In reality, the program does not remove barriers to discrimination. On the contrary, it allows religious organizations that receive public funds to discriminate against individuals based on religion in employment."
Bush did this, not through the legislative process, but with a series of executive orders. With one of those orders, "the president repealed civil rights policy in existence since President Johnson . . . which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." With a stroke of his pen, Bush made sure that protection "no longer applies to religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies that receive federal contracts."
Bush has also unsuccessfully supported legislation that would have facilitated using federal tax money for religious indoctrination, according to the report.
The report also shines an unflattering light on Bush's record on minority rights, women's rights, voting rights and educational opportunity. No wonder the Republican members of the commission voted to delay discussion of the report until after the election. (They didn't succeed in getting it taken off the Web site, though. It can be found at www.usccr.gov.)
The section on religion shows how deeply Bush would entangle government in religion. In the long run, that is not a pro-religion position. The Constitution protects everybody's beliefs precisely because it does not offer the government's stamp of approval on anybody's beliefs.
And since when does this administration do anything based on the Constitution? I mean besides the Second Amendment.