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October 31, 2004

According to the AP, "A bogus letter circulating in South Carolina, purporting to be from the NAACP, threatens the arrest of voters who have outstanding parking tickets or failed to pay child support. The NAACP said Friday the letter is a scare tactic and called for an investigation."

POSTSCRIPT: The state Democratic party has more, including a copy of the letter.

It's not exactly surprising news, but John Kerry is apparently crushing George Bush in the Global Vote poll that my old friends at PoliticsOnline are conducting in association with the BBC, the Associated Press, and several other international news outlets.

And yes. If you're interested, there's still time to vote.

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Like most folks who lack the time or the inclination (or, in my case, of course, the capacity) to acquire any real expertise on massively complex subjects like health care, I tend to rely on the judgments of policy gurus who've earned my trust over time. So, when I see Princeton's Uwe Reinhardt saying that Kaiser Permanente is delivering high quality health care at (comparatively) affordable prices better than anybody else in the country these days, I listen, and I link.

October 29, 2004

George W. Bush, who rather childishly cancelled a speech to the NAACP's annual convention earlier this year because he was miffed at his hosts (making him the first president since Herbert Hoover not to address the civil rights organization during an entire term in the White House), has now apparently decided to let an IRS investigation do his talking for him.

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Decent fellow that he is, TNR's Peter Beinart does his best to convince us that there's principle (albeit wrongheaded principle) as well as cynicism at work in the Republicans' systematic effort to suppress the vote this year. But, as today's WaPo makes painfully clear, that just isn't true; for Karl Rove's GOP, it's always about the cynicism, baby.

The father of supply-side economics endorses John Kerry:

By this time, with one revelation after another of the mismanagement of foreign policy and national security under President Bush, I'’d hoped he would find a way to signal the electorate that things would be different in a second term; that would require a change in personnel at the top. It would have meant Dick Cheney'’s replacement with a GOP internationalist. It would also have meant a clean sweep of the neo-cons who cooked up the war -- and who misled a President who did not have the experience to be able to figure out he had been manipulated into realizing their imperial fantasies. Sadly, there is no indication a second term would be any different than a first, as all the speculation we read on personnel still has Cheney in the driver’'s seat with Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld readily at hand.

Because Mr. Bush has told us repeatedly about how he is strengthened by his faith in God, with that faith sustaining him through his tough decisions, it goes without saying that it he is re-elected he will be filled with the spirit of vindication. There not only would be no changes in the team'’s view of how the world must be dealt with. There would also be less restraint in George W. Bush's willingness to shape the world to his divinely inspired vision.

I'’ll still vote Republican for the rest of the ballot on Tuesday, where I find the smaller issues more to my taste in the G.O.P. But I will cast my first vote for the Democrat in a presidential contest since I pulled the lever for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And I will do so with enthusiasm for the Senator's views on how to manage the world, having come to appreciate the way his mind works. It changes with new and better information. If he does win, he will have a Republican House and probably a Republican Senate to work with, finding acceptable common ground on important domestic issues. But most of all, I think he will little by little make the world a less dangerous place than it has become these last four years.

It's a strange year, folks....

POSTSCRIPT: I won't even try to explain how I wound up over there, but via Donald Luskin.

Will Saletan examines the methodologies of each of the major media pollsters, and explains why they matter.

Two Percent Solution author Matt Miller has a "newsflash" for our friends who are still struggling with their choice for president -- you wouldn't have wanted to have a beer with Winston Churchill either.

October 28, 2004

Archeology buffs should get a real kick [Don't you mean a Swift kick? -- ed.] out of this one.

Via The Moving Planet, Sidney Blumenthal explains that George W. Bush will have no one but himself to blame if he loses next Tuesday; he'll have simply "fallen victim to his own hubris."

Mike Kasper, who's been all over this story for months now, lays out the whole sad tale here.

Tom Friedman writes that the marginalization of moderate opinion here and around the globe represents a "a hole in the heart of the world" -- and his prescription for fixing it starts with a major attitude adjustment at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq - which can still turn out decently - the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.

Forgive the cliché, but you really should go read the rest.

Noam Scheiber thinks that the tight national polls may be masking a Kerry electoral vote landslide.


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October 27, 2004

In a column that seems certain to irk Ds and Rs alike, Nick Kristof argues that President Bush is a man of high intelligence and good character who nonetheless needs to be sent packing post haste, in no small part due the very qualities that the columnist so admires.

It's an interesting take, and one I probably would have agreed with (or at least sympathized with) a year or two ago. Post Abu Ghraib, though, I just can't; there's something very rotten at the heart of any administration that (a) allows the United States of America to become a bona fide abuser of human rights in the eyes of the world, and (b) doesn't seem to grasp (or to even care about) the terrifying moral implications of what went on in that horrible place.

As a result, I find myself unable to give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt on the character question anymore, which means that I tend to hold him responsible for things that I might let slide as "just politics" otherwise, like choosing to tell us only the good news (and, indeed, there is some) from Iraq. Or lying about John Kerry's health care plan. Or standing by while his henchmen savaged the war record of an honorable man who showed up for duty when his nation called.

And that's the larger problem with reelecting George Bush, I think. In one way or another, he's managed to use up his store of goodwill with just about everybody except his core supporters, which means that half of this country and most of the rest of the planet will implacably oppose each and every one of his initiatives for the next four years.

That's a recipe for a failed presidency, folks. And, as a certain campaign could tell you, the world is just too dangerous right now -- too wolf-filled, in fact -- to take that kind of a risk with America's future.

October 26, 2004

We all know the outline of the story. Refusing to listen to the voices of caution around him, Dick Cheney charges ahead with a takeover that quickly proves disastrous for the conqueror. "Iraq?" you say. No, Dresser Industries -- a company whose seemingly limitless asbestos liabilities continue to eat away at Halliburton like a wasting disease.

POSTSCRIPT: You'll find a grimly amusing recap of the vice president's misadventures in the private sector here.

Eighty-seven billion here, seventy billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

October 25, 2004

What's the best way for a foreign government to influence US policy these days? Well, apparently it doesn't hurt to put a bigtime Bush fundraiser or two on the payroll.

Ten years ago, our Republican friends just shrugged their shoulders when Sen. Jesse Helms said that President Clinton "better watch out if he comes down here [to North Carolina]. He'd better have a bodyguard."

It's nice to see that they've grown more sensitive about such things in the years since....

Today's WaPo takes a look at the myriad problems with electronic voting.

October 24, 2004

The site will be down for an hour or so today for what I hope will be routine maintenance.

See you on the other side....

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the Drupal upgrade has turned out to be anything but routine. So you're looking at Plan B -- a slightly reformatted copy of the Blogger backup version of the site, which normally lives over at Blogspot.

UPDATE 2: I've restored the old version of the site in another directory until I can get the upgrade working. In the meantime, I've set up a redirection scheme, so all the old permalinks should still function properly. (You can find the old posts here.)

October 22, 2004

As I was perusing Kevin Drum's recent post on the scare stories that each presidential campaign is peddling as the election draws near, I found myself trying to think of a comparable Republican blog that would even try to be as fair-minded and, uh, factually constrained, shall we say, in its analysis (two of the six judgments Kevin offers essentially cut the GOP's way) -- and, frankly, I had a hard time coming up with one.

But that can't really be true. There must be plenty of pro-Bush bloggers out there who could rightly call themselves proud members of the reality-based community. (My inability to think of one off the top of my head probably has more to do with my own partisanship at this point in the cycle than anything else.) So, I'm curious.... Which conservative blogs meet that test? Who do you turn to for sound, reality-based, pro-Bush analysis?

Please drop me a line with your recommendations or leave them in the comments. I'll add any sites that aren't already there (assuming that I agree with your take on them, of course) to the blogroll.

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As a native Charlestonian who worked on more than his share of state and local campaigns in his misspent youth, I can assure you that this kind of thing is all too typical....

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October 20, 2004

Here's Paul Glastris on the Kerry campaign:

I've never understood why the Kerry campaign hasn't made more of the candidate's record in the Senate of holding tough, thankless, let-the-chips-fall-as-they-may investigations of the rich and powerful. Especially impressive was his pursuit of BCCI, the Arab-owned international bank which turned out to be a massive criminal enterprise that enabled terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, to finance their activities--until it was shut down, largely thanks to Kerry's relentless efforts. The campaign's weird refusal to talk about achievements like the BCCI hearings has allowed Bush to paint Kerry as a do-nothing legislator with no record of achievement during 20 years in the Senate.

But now, thanks to Newsweek, we have an explanation for the Kerry campaign's insane strategy. It seems that Bob Shrum thinks the American people are too stupid to understand what it means that Kerry shut down BCCI. "You can't talk about that because people think you're talking about the BBC," Bob Shrum, Kerry's top adviser, told one senior staffer. "Why were you investigating British TV?"

Of course, Glastris is right about one thing: The American people aren't "too stupid" to understand BCCI -- any more than they're too dumb to grasp the essentials of quantum theory if you're willing to invest enough time and resources in the process of educating them.

But that's the problem. Time and money are limited in campaigns, and you only want to pick the fights that you can afford to win. And, in this case, the Kerry people were probably right to take a pass. (After all, you'd have to start the process by giving people a civics lesson about the responsibilities of a senator, making them understand that investigations are part of the job description. Only then could you move on to the substance of Kerry's work on BCCI, which was impressive in its complexity, to say the least, making it expensive and time-consuming to explain.)

Moreover, there's a larger strategic question to consider here: namely, did the Kerry campaign really want to help the Bushies turn the election into a referendum on their guy's Senate record, which, like all lengthy legislative histories, is virtually impossible to defend in the modern media environment? (Today, the Kerry campaign tried to shift the focus away from the senator's liberal voting record on issues like taxes, military spending, and gay rights by focusing on his work as a member of the Senate Banking Committee....) Of course not.

So, while I (pretty much) buy Glastris' larger argument about Bob Shrum's limitations as a general strategist, this probably wasn't the best issue for him to use to make that point. Because, on this one at least, Shrummy may well have been right.

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I know how you feel, Stephen. I really do....

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October 19, 2004

Now that Sinclair Broadcasting has fired its Washington bureau chief for simply telling the truth about the network's anti-Kerry hit piece, Screwed Investors: Stocks That Never Rebound Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, veteran journalist Joe Gandelman predicts that mainstream news outlets will start to give the story more play, and that the tone of their coverage won't be kind. "In the end," Gandelman writes, the whole issue "could be more of a negative to the Bush campaign than a positive."

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October 18, 2004

As Howard Dean likes to say, you have the power:

Senator John Kerry could find his presidential hopes damaged this week when the 62 television stations owned or managed by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group carry a documentary about his antiwar activities 30 years ago.

But the Democratic nominee for the White House may not be the only one adversely affected.

Sinclair - the nation's largest owner of television stations, many of them in electoral swing states - is itself running a significant financial and political risk by telling its stations to pre-empt regular programming and carry the film. Already, Sinclair's decision has alienated some advertisers; enraged consumer and media watchdog groups, who are vowing to challenge its station licenses when they come up for renewal; and given pause to some analysts and investors considering the company's financial outlook.

....Sinclair is no stranger to political controversy.... But the furor over "Stolen Honor'' appears to be affecting Sinclair in ways ... previous actions did not. In some cities - among them, Portland, Me.; Madison, Wis.; Springfield, Ill.; and Minneapolis - local advertisers, including car dealers, furniture makers, supermarkets and restaurants, have taken their commercials off the company's stations.

"I've decided I don't want to advertise on them," said Adam Lee, the president of Lee Auto Malls, which owns 10 auto dealerships in Portland Me., and has ordered its advertising off the CBS affiliate, WGME. "It's a public trust. It seems they're abusing it. If it were a news show and they were really trying to do a fair and balanced story on both sides, that would be a different matter. I don't think they are. That's not their intention.''

Groups, including Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Media Access Project, Media for Democracy and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, are putting together a database listing all Sinclair advertisers and will try to persuade others to withdraw their commercials. Among those on the list are chains like Applebee's International, Best Buy, Chili's, Circuit City, Domino's Pizza, Lowe's, Papa John's, Subway, Taco Bell and Wal-Mart Stores.

The groups are also vowing to find groups in cities with Sinclair stations who will challenge the broadcast licenses of every Sinclair-owned station over the next several years. Such challenges almost never result in lost licenses, but they often result in heavy legal costs for the station having to defend them.

In addition, some analysts said Sinclair might have hurt itself in the continuing battle over loosening media ownership rules, a fight in which Sinclair has been a leader. Efforts at further deregulation were stalled this year when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ordered the F.C.C. to reconsider its relaxation of such rules.

A report issued by the firm Legg Mason last week cited the controversy over the film and asked the question, "Is this good for investors in terms of increasing the odds for favorable deregulation?" The conclusion: "We think not."

The rest is here. And keep up the good work, folks.

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October 17, 2004

"Just in the past few months, I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do. This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them."

--Former Reagan and Bush 41 adviser Bruce Bartlett, on Bush 43

UPDATE: Ogged has more on the NYT Magazine piece quoted above, and it's well worth reading.

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October 15, 2004

I've made this point before, but I'm going to do so again this morning, if only for the purpose of calling John Cole to account for his use of an insulting and, well, ungentlemanly term to describe Elizabeth Edwards.

For the record, John, Mary Cheney is not only an official employee of BC04, she's also a former board member of the Republican Unity Coalition (a gay rights organization) and the one-time director of gay and lesbian outreach for the Coors Brewing Co. Moreover, according to the AP, she actively "helped the GOP recruit gay voters during the 2002 midterm elections." In other words, complaining about her being described in public as a lesbian makes about as much sense as, say, objecting to Tom Brokaw's being "outed" as an anchorman; her sexual identity is nothing less than an elemental part of who she is and what she does for a living. And branding Elizabeth Edwards a 'bitch' for pointing that out is simply unacceptable.

Now, as regular readers know, this site has an inviolable policy of not delinking people just because I'm (temporarily) disappointed in them, so John is, of course, going to stay right where he is in the blogroll. But, as a longtime reader of Balloon Juice, I know that he's a better man than the post under discussion here would tend to indicate. And I sincerely hope he comes to his senses and apologizes to Mrs. Edwards and his readers at the first opportunity.

POSTSCRIPT: Furthermore, John, if you're really so disturbed by the respectful tone that we Democrats have used when speaking of Ms. Cheney during this election, you might want to take a look at the way movement conservatives have discussed her public activism in the past.

UPDATE: John has responded here. And, like so many others in this bitter election year, he's apparently decided that his opponents' vile depredations justify any kind of rough treatment in return, up to and including calling their wives bitches when they have the temerity to say things he doesn't like.

Oh, well. I guess my old Irish grandfather was right: class will out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comments, John says that I "willfully" misrepresented his post by simply linking to it, rather than examining the reason for his anger. So here goes. John thinks that Elizabeth Edwards was wrong to say this about Lynne Cheney: "She's overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs. I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences. It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response."

So now you know why it's perfectly okay for John Cole to call Mrs. Edwards a bitch.

NOTE: Post updated on Jan. 6, 2005 to eliminate a redundancy.

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This isn't the kind of story that's going to move the numbers, but it's noteworthy nonetheless:

As U.S. Debt Ceiling Is Reached, Bush Administration Seeks to Raise It Once Again Less than a day after President Bush implied that Senator John Kerry lacked "fiscal sanity," the Bush administration said on Thursday that the federal government had hit the debt ceiling set by Congress and would have to borrow from the civil service retirement system until after the elections.

Federal operations are unlikely to be affected because Congress is certain to raise the debt limit in a lame-duck session in November. Congressional Republicans had wanted to avoid an embarrassing vote to raise the debt ceiling just a few weeks before Election Day.

Since Mr. Bush took office in January 2001, the federal debt has increased about 40 percent, or $2.1 trillion, to $7.4 trillion. 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 W. Snow said that 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.

"Given current projections, it is imperative that the Congress take action to increase the debt limit by mid-November,'' Mr. Snow warned in a statement, declaring that his arsenal of financial tools "will be exhausted'' at that point.

Fiscal sanity, huh? That's a good one.

The rest is here.

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October 14, 2004

Saletan gets it just right.

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Maybe I'm crazy, but I swear there was only one president on that stage tonight, and it wasn't the guy who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

I guess we'll know more when the polls start to come in....

UPDATE: As always, Joe Gandelman has the roundup.

UPDATE 2: The first scientific poll I've seen (CNN's) has Kerry winning it 52-39.

UPDATE 3: Since the MSNBC crew I'm watching won't stop whining about Kerry's mention of Dick Cheney's daughter's sexuality, I'll point out that Mary Cheney is an official employee of the Bush/Cheney campaign. In fact, according to MSNBC's own website, "Mary Cheney is director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. She held a public role as her father’s assistant in the 2000 campaign and helped the GOP recruit gay voters during the 2002 midterm elections." [Emph. added.]

How in God's name could she be any more of a public figure?

ANDREW SULLIVAN:

I keep getting emails asserting that Kerry's mentioning of Mary Cheney is somehow offensive or gratuitous or a "low blow". Huh? Mary Cheney is out of the closet and a member, with her partner, of the vice-president's family. That's a public fact. No one's privacy is being invaded by mentioning this. When Kerry cites Bush's wife or daughters, no one says it's a "low blow." The double standards are entirely a function of people's lingering prejudice against gay people. And by mentioning it, Kerry showed something important. This issue is not an abstract one. It's a concrete, human and real one. It affects many families, and Bush has decided to use this cynically as a divisive weapon in an election campaign. He deserves to be held to account for this - and how much more effective than showing a real person whose relationship and dignity he has attacked and minimized? Does this makes Bush's base uncomfortable? Well, good.

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October 13, 2004

Today looks like a particular bear on the work front, so I'm going to focus on getting my desk cleared off before the debate starts this evening. See you then.

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October 12, 2004

Via Glenn Reynolds, here's James Lileks giving the Bush campaign an assist in its systematic effort to rip John Kerry's "nuisance" remarks completely out of context:

Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war. But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were. But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there. Planes into towers. That changed the terms. I am remarkably disinterested in returning to a place where such things are unimaginable. Where our nighmares are their dreams. We have to get back to the place we were. No. We have to go the place where they are.

Now, suppose some folks on the Democratic side of the blogosphere were to spend the next several days in high lefty dudgeon over that last graf, angrily accusing Lileks of advocating a vicious and unconscionable campaign of American terror against innocent Muslim targets. ("We have to go the place where they are.")

I think we can all agree that that would be a particularly odious brand of blogospheric BS -- the very kind, in fact, that most of us could be counted on to immediately condemn, regardless of our political affiliation, because (and try not to laugh here) the blogosphere actually has standards, or at least a set of unwritten but generally-accepted rules for those who wish to sit at the grown-ups' table. And yanking a fellow blogger's words that far out of context would be a pretty clear violation of those rules.

So what I find myself wondering this morning is this: Why do our friends on the right seem to think that it's perfectly acceptable for a sitting president to debase the national debate in a fashion that they would never condone here in their own backyard? And when will they finally reject the soft bigotry of low expectations, and insist that Mr. Bush try to at least conduct himself with the probity and decency of a halfway respectable mid-level blogger?

UPDATE/RELATED: Slate's William Saletan points out that President Bush "was for reducing terrorism to a nuisance before he was against it."

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October 11, 2004

Ogged says it well.

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October 10, 2004

An article in today's WaPo notes that, thanks to this administration's chronic dissembling and incompetence, even the Brits have decided that they don't want to be seen with us in public anymore:

[Hostage Kenneth] Bigley's death reminds the British that, where Iraq is concerned, they have made their bed with the Americans -- something Blair has tried hard to make them forget. Until the kidnapping, the British government had tried to create the impression that Iraq had become an exclusively American problem. The government rejected all suggestions from the Bush administration that it might increase troop strength in Iraq or expand its operational area. All the reported violence was in the U.S. zone of occupation. U.S. troops were blamed for heavy-handed tactics. When the Conservative Party's defense spokesman noted, in a radio interview, that British troops around Basra were back in hard helmets and armored transports and were being subjected to attacks, this was news to many people.

Downing Street had also done a consummate job of minimizing Blair's public contact with Bush and senior administration officials. Bilateral visits were kept formal and, if possible, under wraps. Photographs à deux at international gatherings, such as the G8 summit, were avoided. Britain's foreign secretary, not Blair, represented Britain at the recent U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. If you ask his office when Blair plans to collect the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor he was awarded more than a year ago, you are told no date has been set.

Just to be clear: It's not George Bush's fault that America has brutal and dangerous enemies; the Islamists declared war on us long before he arrived on the scene. But Mr. Bush is responsible -- wholly responsible -- for the fact that we find ourselves fighting them with an ever-shrinking circle of friends.

Which points up an increasingly conspicuous truth: Anyone who takes national security seriously has no real choice but to vote for John Kerry this November. Because America can't win the war on terror alone. And we can't fight it any other way as long as George Bush is in the White House.

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Sorry about the dearth of fresh posts yesterday, but a personal matter demanded my undivided attention. Look for normal blogging to resume later today or tomorrow.

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October 07, 2004

In the summer of 2002, the Bush Justice Department claimed a major victory in the War on Terra after rolling up what it called a "sleeper operational combat cell" based in Detroit.

Today's NYT chronicles the march of prosecutorial folly that ensued:

After winning highly publicized convictions of two suspects on terrorism charges in June 2003, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step five weeks ago of repudiating its own case and successfully moving to throw out the terrorism charges. In a long court filing, the government discredited its own witnesses and found fault with virtually every part of its prosecution.

The blame, the department suggested in its filing, lay mainly at the feet of the lead prosecutor in Detroit, Richard G. Convertino, whom it portrayed as a rogue lawyer. But documents and interviews with people knowledgeable about the case show that top officials at the Justice Department were involved in almost every step of the prosecution, from formulating strategy to editing the draft indictments to planning how the suspects would be incarcerated.

President Bush himself said the Detroit case was one of several critical investigations around the country that had "thwarted terrorists." But the wreckage of the case reveals that it was built on evidence that has since been undermined. A series of missteps and in-fighting weakened the case further, documents and interviews show. The first line of the government's indictment now appears to have been copied without attribution from a scholarly article on Islamic fundamentalism. Government documents that cast doubt on a critical piece of evidence - what was described as a surveillance sketch of an American air base overseas - were not turned over to the defense. And tensions between prosecutors in Detroit and Justice Department officials in Washington escalated into open hostility.

Mr. Convertino angered the Justice Department by testifying at a Congressional hearing held by a powerful Republican senator who is a vocal critic of the department. Mr. Convertino, who was ultimately removed from the prosecution, is now suing the department and is under investigation for his handling of this case and others. That inquiry led to the public disclosure of the name of an Arab informant in the case, who then fled the country because, he said, he feared for his safety.

The miscalculations and bad blood so overshadowed the case that the truth about the defendants' intentions may never be known.

Keep that last sentence in mind tomorrow night when President Bush tries to tell you that his Iraq-obsessed approach was the best way to protect the American people from terrorism in the wake of 9-11. And then decide for yourself whether that claim, upon which this president's argument for reelection now almost entirely rests, even passes the giggle test.

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October 06, 2004

"Oh, yeah."

--Vice President Dick Cheney, when reminded by Elizabeth Edwards that he had, in fact, met her husband previously

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It basically looked like a draw to me, though I wouldn't be surprised if the polls wound up giving the nod to Edwards; he was much better than most of the TV pundits I've seen so far (mostly the MSNBC crew) seem to think.

UPDATE: Unlike the aforementioned MSNBC team, Josh Marshall was watching same debate that I was....

UPDATE 2: Atrios appears to have caught the vice president in what can only be called a transparent lie.

FINAL UPDATE: Gandelman has the roundup.

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October 05, 2004

Rather than gravely shaking my head and tsk-tsking this story like a stereotypical (and stereotypically tiresome) cultural scold, I'm going to post it here without comment, and let you decide for yourself whether it is yet another depressing manifestation of a worm that's been working its way into corporate America's apple for many a year now or just further evidence of capitalism's estimable ability to identify and respond to an underserved market:

An Honest Book Review From Kirkus? Only $350 Kirkus Reviews has long prided itself on being a sort of Consumer Reports for the book publishing industry, proclaiming its independence by steadfastly refusing to accept advertising and producing early, plain-spoken reviews that can amplify or smother a new book's early buzz.

Now, however, Kirkus is embracing a new spirit of commercialism. This fall, it is starting two new online publications with the Kirkus name: for $350 Kirkus Discoveries will review a new book from any publisher; for $95, Kirkus Reports will recommend a selected lifestyle title in a listing. And for the first time in its 71 years, the company is considering selling advertising in its flagship publication.

Kirkus executives say the changes are intended to increase revenues and visibility for Kirkus, which has the smallest circulation of several specialty magazines that provide early pre-publication reviews of new books. The program has the added benefit, they say, of potentially bringing more books to the public's attention - books that would otherwise go unreviewed and ignored.

"At a moment when more and more books are being published, there clearly is a gap in getting enough information out there," said Jerome Kramer, managing director and editor in chief of the VNU U.S. Literary Group, the publisher of Kirkus Reviews. "We want to see Kirkus become more visible across the board, and we want to serve a wider spectrum of the publishing community."

Kirkus, known for its often-tart reviews, can heavily influence what books are bought for public libraries and how many copies show up in bookstores. But some readers of Kirkus Reviews question whether Kirkus can objectively review books with one arm while, with the other, taking money from the same publishers for other reviews. Essentially, Kirkus Discoveries gives those paying customers veto power, since they could have a review killed if they didn't like it.

The rest, as they say, is here.

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October 04, 2004

TNR's Franklin Foer on "the Keyser Sosze of the Democratic Party."

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LA TIMES:

Army Forcing Reenlistment, Soldiers Say A number of soldiers at this Army base near Colorado Springs say they are being pressured to reenlist or be sent to Iraq.

The allegations, which the Army denies, have sparked calls for a congressional investigation and have left the military scrambling to fend off accusations that they were trying to make up for troop shortages through coercion.

"Soldiers are being told if they don't reenlist they will be reassigned to divisions going to Iraq," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), whose office has received numerous calls from worried soldiers and their families. "This is just wrong. It's not the way we do things in this country."

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October 03, 2004

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." [Emph. added.]

-- from The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies, July 4, 1776

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October 01, 2004

The question this morning isn't who won last night's debate -- clearly, the challenger took it -- but, rather, whether Kerry's victory was tactical or strategic (i.e., whether he simply scored a few meaningless points in the fourth quarter of the campaign, à la Mondale in '84, or actually turned himself into an acceptable enough alternative to shift the race back to its fundamentals -- an iffy economy, sky-high oil prices, and a horrifically bad situation on the ground in Iraq).

My guess (which is, as always, worth every penny you're paying for it) is the latter, and here's why: From day one, the Bush reelection strategy has had a soft underbelly -- namely, its utter reliance on their communications shop's ability to create a vacuum seal between the campaign and what those of us on the other side like to call reality. (Plagued by continuing questions about the electability of a Boston Brahmin who wears pink ties and prefers swiss to Cheez Whiz, John Kerry tried to change the subject today by laying out a four point plan to deal with the situation in Iraq. But the important question for the Kerry forces tonight is this: Will today's address be seen as yet another Kerry flip-flop? And, if it is, is there enough man-tan on the face of the earth to save him from the Bush onslaught that's sure to come? Back to you, Tom.) But when and if that seal is ever breached -- as it was last night when Kerry looked and sounded an awful lot like a president, while Bush consistently came across as precisely the kind of preachy, condescending guy you'd never want to have a(nother) beer with -- reality doesn't tend to just start trickling through. No, it comes comes pouring in like a tidal wave in a disaster movie -- and that's always been the worst case scenario for the men and women who get paid to convince the American people not to present George Bush with the gold watch he so richly deserves.

NOTE: Kerry link via Atrios.

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