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Saturday, July 03, 2004

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Rummy Grasping at Straws of Mass Destruction

Dana Milbank, writing in the WaPo Friday, noted a statement by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in which he touted the discovery by Polish troops of artillery shells believed to contain chemical weapons.
Returning to the main justification for the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an interview released by the Pentagon, said forbidden chemical weapons were found in Iraq in recent days. Rumsfeld said the Polish defense minister told him this week "that his troops in Iraq had recently come across -- I've forgotten the number, but something like 16 or 17 -- warheads that contained sarin and mustard gas."
Upon further investigation, the Bush administration still hasn't found their mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Digby links to this update from AFP:
Multinational forces in Iraq (news - web sites) said that more than a dozen missile warheads said to contain mustard gas or sarin have tested negative for chemical agents.

Washington had announced the find by Polish troops on Thursday, which was later confirmed by Warsaw.

The head of Poland's military intelligence service also said on Friday that "terrorist" groups were seeking to acquire the weapons.

But the 122mm warheads, found in late June, have been found not to contain the deadly chemicals, a statement from multinational forces here said.

"Those 16 rounds were all empty and tested negative for any type of chemicals," it said.

Two other warheads found in mid-June were found to contain an insignificant amount of sarin gas. The armaments were left over from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the statement said.

"Due to the deteriorated state of the rounds and small quantity of remaining agent, these rounds were determined to have limited to no impact if used by insurgents against coalition forces."

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Nader Off Arizona Ballot
Supporters Abandond Effort


ABC News is reporting that Nader supporters in Arizona are abandoning efforts to get him on the November ballot.
Supporters of Ralph Nader on Friday abandoned their effort to get the independent candidate on the presidential ballot in Arizona after Democrats challenged the validity of thousands of signatures.

Nader's campaign had submitted more than 22,000 signatures to Arizona election officials June 9 far more than the 14,694 valid signatures required by state law to compete against President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Two Democratic voters had filed a lawsuit last week, backed by the Arizona Democratic Party, questioning the validity of Nader's nominating petitions and other documents. The Democrats argued that more than 70 percent of the signatures were invalid.

As a Maricopa County Superior Court judge prepared to hear arguments in the case, Nader campaign attorney Richard Mahrle conceded there were "technical errors" in the ballot petition and said Nader would not contest the lawsuit.

Judge Mark Armstrong then issued an order that Nader be kept off the state ballot.

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said a review by the secretary of state's office found that the campaign fell short of the required number of valid signatures needed to get on the ballot.
As we noted earlier, this could provide a boost to the Kerry campaign. Arizona is considered a key battleground state, but recent polls show Bush with a solid lead, despite the fact that Arizona elected a Democratic governor just 2 years ago. It will be interesting to see how the polls look with Nader out of the picture. At least one pollster thinks the loss of Nader could make the race much closer in Arizona.
"There's a great chance that Arizona will be more competitive than most people think," said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, an independent polling firm in Utica, N.Y. "I'm looking to bump Arizona into the 'hot, competitive' column. And this only emphasizes that. Nader has a strong following there."
It's hard to say how this will actually impact the election. I've talked with a number of people who voted for Nader in 2000, have seen the error of their ways, and who intend to vote for Kerry in November. Haven't found anyone who will tell me that they were actually going to vote for Ralph the Wrecker in 2004. The next round of polls should tell us more.

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Friday, July 02, 2004

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Friday Fundraising

Doesn't look like I'll have much time to blog today -- working on raising funds for my journey to Boston later this month. You can help! Dontate to the Send the Rain Storm to Boston Fund.

In the meantime, here is some interesting reading for the day:

Kevin Drum noticed that the Department of Justice refused a Freedom of Information request because (they claim) that copying a database file might crash their big computer. Is there a job description in the Federal Government for somebody who spends their day just making shit up? I could do that.


David Neiwert's
Death on the Fourth of July is out. Mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand hate crime in America.

Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias have a little discussion and decide that Kerry's position on Cuba is more humane than Bush's, and will likely garner some support among younger Cuban-Americans.

Both Avedon Carol and Atrios noticed that the government is making plans (or perhaps excuses) to cancel the November election. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Professor Kim looks at talking to kids about life on the Down-Low. If you don't know, you'd better find out.

And Sini at Jusiper notes that a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling could expand the monitoring of your email by both business and government. Don't you feel safer now?

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

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Why the Iraqi People Hate US
and probably will for a long time


EMPHYRIO picked up on this very insightful article by Tish Durkin in the New York Observer. From the average Iraqi perspective, its just hard for them to imagine that the richest, post powerful nation in the world could have visited so much death, grief and destruction on their country by accident. They can only conclude that it was all quite intentional.
What matters is that Abu Ahmed truly believes that American helicopters circled low, surveyed the neighborhood and then purposely opened fire, shattering his business.

In a way, of course, Abu Ahmed is insulting the Americans. But at the same time, he is paying them an implacable compliment. In fact, if the Bush administration is looking for people who still think that they are brilliant, they should look here. No matter how much the U.S.-led coalition bumbles and stumbles, no matter how fatally or fantastically it screws up for the next decade, millions of Iraqis will still know, deep down, that America is a genius.

Almost no one here believes that the United States is ever just plain old stupid. Almost no one believes that America does anything by mistake, or as a result of good intentions carried out badly, or because a few rogue individuals chose to violate a generally sterling system. In many Iraqi eyes, there is no madness here that does not conceal a very deliberate American method. The West can clamor all it wants to the conclusion that the coalition went into Iraq embarrassingly half-cocked and plan-free; meanwhile, more and more Iraqis are becoming crystal clear on what the plan is.

"The Americans do not like security and stability in Iraq," explained Abu Ahmed, owner of the shattered restaurant. "They will stay a long time in Iraq because we do not have security and stability."
And besides, if the U.S. leaves Iraq, Haliburton might have to actually compete for contracts somewhere.

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Peggy Noonan on Hallucinogens:
time to change her meds


Via Susan at Suburban Guerilla:
Here is my fear: that the American people, liking and respecting President Bush, and knowing he's a straight shooter with guts, will still feel a great temptation to turn to the boring and disingenuous John Kerry.
At the risk of sounding like one of those questionable mental health practitioners doing assessments from afar, I'd say it's time for Peggy to change her prescription. Anti-psychotics are definitely indicated in this case.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

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Arizona Petition Fights:
the adventure continues


On Monday, David Neiwert posted about the connection between Nader petition signature-gathering efforts in Arizona and an anti-immigration initiative there.
In its effort to get on the ballot in the key battleground state of Arizona, the Prospect has learned, the Nader campaign hired a petition company that is also gathering signatures for a draconian anti-immigrant initiative pushed by right-wing elements in the state. The initiative, called Protect Arizona Now (PAN), would restrict access to public services by undocumented immigrants.

In addition, according to several sources, the Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul. Sources say Sproul -- who is also spearheading an initiative to block public funding from political campaigns in the state -- made payments to the petition contractors working on his public-funding initiative to gather signatures for Nader as well.

Moreover, according to several sources, the signature-gathering drive for PAN is mostly funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based anti-immigrant group that has spent tens of millions in the last two decades to roll back the rights of both legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The Arizona ballot drive was never the grassroots effort that Nader characterizes his campaign as. In trying to garner the 14,694 signatures necessary to get on the Arizona ballot, the Nader campaign first unsuccessfully solicited a Republican consulting firm to handle its ballot-qualification bid. This spring, as droves of professional petitioners descended on Arizona like traveling carnival folk to gather signatures for PAN -- and to collect the $2–4 that a petitioner is awarded for each signature delivered -- they also presented signatories with the Nader petition, according to several sources. This petition piggybacking helped Nader get more than the amount of signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot -- most of them from Republicans. In fact, according to a volunteer for the Arizona Democratic Party who has reviewed Nader's signatures, of the more than 21,000 signatures Nader garnered, a whopping 65 percent percent came from Republicans, compared to 18 percent from Democrats.
In my post below, I noted a report of a law suit challenging the Nader petitions. Now it appears that there is a bit of a tiff between PAN and FAIR. Accoding to Capital Media Services:
The founder and organizer of an immigration reform initiative said Tuesday she may sue her former treasurer and a national immigration group if her proposal does not make the ballot.

Kathy McKee said others took actions which may undermine the ability of the Protect Arizona Now initiative to get the necessary valid signatures to put the measure before voters in November. If approved, it would deny some government services to those not in this country legally and mandate proof of citizenship to register to vote.

McKee's comments came as officials from the Federation for American Immigration Reform turned over about 102,000 signatures Tuesday to an attorney for McKee. That includes signatures gathered with circulators paid for by contributions from FAIR and allied groups, as well as volunteer signatures.

That is short of the 122,612 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. But Rick Oltman, FAIR's western field coordinator, said he believes there are perhaps another 25,000 signatures on petitions still being gathered.

McKee said she already has petitions containing at least 35,000 names. That will be enough -- but only if no more than a quarter of the signatures prove invalid.

That could prove close: The Secretary of State's Office said an average of 25 to 30 percent of all names on initiative petitions are disqualified.

If that happens, McKee said FAIR is to blame.
Dear me. Trouble in Paradise (Valley). This is a hateful initiative that deserves to die a slow painful death in the heat of a Phoenix summer. Couldn't happen to a nice bunch of folks.

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His Royal Impotence

The General thinks it might be fun to play with Google a little by linking the word impotence to Vice Dear Leader Cheney's Official Website. This was in response to Josh Marshall's use of the phrase impatient impotence in describing Little Dick's profane outburst on the Senate floor last week.

Ah, the wonders of technology.

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W is for AWOL:
It must be nice to be rich and well-connected


Orcinus has the scoop on the critical analysis of Bush's military records:
SUMMARY

An examination of the Bush military files within the context of US Statutory Law, Department of Defense regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era lead to a single conclusion: George W. Bush was considered a deserter by the United States Air Force.
The sad thing is that, after all the really stupid and horrible things he's done as POTUS, nobody is really going to care that he failed to fulfill his military obligations as a lieutenant.

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Donate Today

It's the last day of the quarter. That's a big deal in terms of campaign finance reporting.

So give today instead of tomorrow. You already know why.

Donate to John Kerry HERE.

Donate to Paul Babbitt HERE.

Thanks

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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Trust Your Instincts
but read the numbers twice


When I looked at the New York Times (registration required) last night (it hits the web around 9 pm Pacific Time), I noticed the NYT/CBS poll that showed Bush's approval rating had fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency (not just post-9/11, the entire presidency!). Since I sometimes write about election year polls, I thought that column might provide an interesting starting point.

Then I bounced over to Talking Points and saw that Josh Marshall read the same article, but saw an entirely different story than I did.
CBS/NYT has a new poll out showing a Bush rebound and a neck-and-neck race, with the president's rise due to public perceptions of an improving economy?
So I scratched my head, and went back and read the Times story again.

I didn't get it. Clearly Josh was seeing something I wasn't seeing in those numbers. And I assume that Josh is way smarter than I am (I mean he did get his PhD not too long ago). So I just sort of gave up and moved on to another project altogether.

Imagine my surprise this afternoon, when I read that Josh acknowledged that he may have been a bit hasty in his analysis of those poll numbers.
That was, I must admit, a quick post. And looking at the results a bit more closely, I think I got the emphasis wrong. President Bush's approval rating rests at 42%. Meanwhile, 60% say the Iraq war has not been worth the cost. In other words, that it was a mistake.
This post is not meant to be a cheap shot at Josh. In fact, I'm humbled by both the quantity and consistent quality of his writing. And I'm impressed that he has the character to admit it when he throws up a brick.

This is also a reminder to me to trust my instincts. I can read poll numbers too. They're not that complex, at least when they're published in a daily newspaper (I rely on smart guys like Brad DeLong to explain the weightier stuff to me -- and usually they have to do it more than once). But from now on, when I think I've got a handle on something, I'm going with it. If I blow it, I hope I can be a straight up about it as Josh was.

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Nader Petitions Challenged in Arizona
Papers have different signatures


Following up on my earlier post about a Republican operative running the Nader nominating effort in Arizona and David Neiwert's excellent piece on the co-mingling of Nader and Republican petition drives there, the Arizona Republic reported today that Nader's Arizona petitions are being challenged.
A lawsuit seeking to keep Ralph Nader off Arizona's presidential election ballot is raising allegations that three different signatures purporting to be Nader's were filed with his nominating petitions.
That's not all.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, contends that over 70 percent of the petition signatures were defective, mostly because signers or petition passers were not qualified. Fewer than half of the 14,694 signatures required to put Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot were valid, the suit argues.
Keeping Nader off the Arizona ballot could be the key to a Democratic victory in November. As we've pointed out before (see Arizona is a Battleground State and Key Terrain), Arizona could play a key roll in the November election. It went for Clinton in 1996 and elected Democrat Janet Napolitano governor in 2002. If every state votes the way it did in 2000 except Arizona, John Kerry wins the election by 2 electoral votes. Consequently, the validity (or not) of the Nader petitions in Arizona could have nation-wide consequences. We'll be watching how this case unfolds.

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Paul Babbitt gets MoveOn Endorsement

Democratic challenger Paul Babbitt (see plug in the left-hand column) became one of the first 4 congressional candidates to receive the endorsement of MoveOn.org.
In Arizona, Paul Babbitt is running a competitive, progressive campaign against first-term Republican incumbent Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ-01). Evelyn, a MoveOn member in Flagstaff, AZ, says about Babbitt: "I want someone with strong ties to rural Northern Arizona who will represent the views and values of the local people. I am tired of Washington policy makers protecting big business, hurting the environment and forgetting the little folks. Paul Babbitt's voice and votes will be for hardworking Americans everywhere."
As I've noted before, Babbitt is definitely one of the good guys. But he is facing a very well-funded Republican opponent. Please stop by his campaign web site and make a donation.

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Party for the President

Suburban Guerilla picked up on this tasty news: The Republican (official political party of the Christian Right) National Convention will be attracting a flood of working girls to New York City in anticipation of a spike in the demand for their specialized services.

According to an article in the New York Daily News:
With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.
Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.

"We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week," said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. "It's the week everyone wants to work."
Representatives of the pleasure industry don't seem to be a bit disuaded by the high moral standards and family values of the GOP delegates.
"It doesn't matter what party you come from," said Robyn Few, a $500-an-hour California call girl who now runs Sex Workers Outreach Project, an advocacy group. "When you want to buy sex, you will."

That's the hope among escort services expecting a windfall from randy Republicans.
I wonder if they'll be offering any anger management sessions to Dick Cheney. I'm sure he'd feel much better afterwords.

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Digby on the Iraqi Handoff:
Let's call this song exactly what it is

I will bet real money that we are going to hear Susan's friend Flounder McClellan reply to every question about Iraq, "you'll have to ask the Iraqis about that, Helen. We transferred authority to them back on June 28th so the 35 coordinated car bombs and the beheadings of all members of the justice ministry yesterday will have to be dealt with by the Iraqi authorities. It's their country."

It's likely that the press will fall for this because they think the Iraq story is so, like totally boring. And just as with Afghanistan they will lose interest if they are distracted with a shiny new storyline. Therefore, I propose that Democrats take the gloves off immediately and accuse the Bushies of cutting and running the first time they try this crap.

The transfer is bullshit, of course. We own that place and every problem in it for gawd knows how long. So what? Nothing's going to change that reality no matter what the miserable failure does. We're going to have to clean up his mess.

So I say, make the case that little George is a snivelling coward who is running from his responsibilities (like he has all his life.) Call them the Cut 'n Run Administration. Start asking "Who lost Iraq?" Use their patented baiting techniques against them. Let's see if we can push Cheney and his sock puppet over the edge --- preferably on national TV.
Payback is hell.

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Monday, June 28, 2004

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Thank You Sir!
May I have another?


In another case of how the Bush administration rewards America's veterans, personnel demands placed on the Army by the Iraq War clusterfuck have created a situation so dire that the Army is forced to dip into the Individual Ready Reserve in large numbers in the coming year.

For those not familiar with military jargon, the IRR is a pool of former soldiers who have done their time, served their country, and then left the service, choosing not to affiliate with an Army Reserve or National Guard unit. Atrios picked up the story from Reuters:
The U.S. Army is planning an involuntary mobilization of thousands of reserve troops to maintain adequate force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials said on Monday.

The move -- involving the seldom-tapped Individual Ready Reserve -- represents the latest evidence of the strain being placed on the U.S. military, particularly the Army, by operations in those two countries.

Roughly 5,600 soldiers from the ready reserve will be notified of possible deployment this year, including some soldiers who will be notified within a month, said an Army official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Apparently Military Police is one of the specialties the Army is looking to backfill through the IRR call-up. I hope Phil Carter has his rucksack packed.

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God Bless Martina

As one who watched many of those great tennis matches between Martina and Chris (back in the day), I've always thought of her as one of the real class acts in professional sports. It's nice to know that some things never change.

Avedon Carol picked up on this piece from the Radio Times:
She puts on her jacket. Unlike the advertisement-strewn clothes of many players, it has just one sticker: "Beat Bush."
Read the whole quote from Martina. And while you're there, scroll up and take a look at what Michael Moore's insightful thoughts on profiling. It's worth the read.

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House Chair Slams CIA,
Wants Director's Job


It looks like the White House plan for dealing with any blowback in the wake of George Tenet's (some are saying forced) resignation, is to discredit Tenet by blasting the Agency. Last week the House Intelligence Committee issued a scathing report on the CIA's performance.

According to the LA Times (registration required):
The CIA has ignored its core mission of spying, has refused to take corrective action and is heading "over a proverbial cliff" after years of poor planning and mismanagement, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded in the latest congressional broadside aimed at America's premier intelligence agency.

A report that accompanies the committee's proposed intelligence authorization bill, which was approved by the full House in a 360-61 vote Wednesday night, paints a devastating picture of the CIA division that sends clandestine agents overseas, recruits foreign spies, steals secrets and provides covert commandos for the war on terrorism.
Beltway watchers are wondering if the White House will now return the favor. Among the names on the short list to replace Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence is none other than the committee's Republican Chair, Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Florida).
Administration officials said President Bush had narrowed the field of candidates for CIA director to at least two people, three weeks after outgoing Director George J. Tenet announced his departure.

Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush was focusing on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and at least one other candidate.
Goss worked 11 years as a CIA case officer, and reportedly plans to retire from the House at the end of this year.

Talk of nominating Goss for the DCI position is already drawing fire Democrats on the Hill and a number or career professionals at the CIA.
(C)omments from Democrats — including Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — indicate that Goss could face a difficult confirmation fight in the Senate if he were nominated. And Goss enraged senior CIA officials this week by overseeing passage of an intelligence authorization bill that included scathing criticism of the beleaguered agency.

Senior CIA officers were so "frosted" by the criticism from Goss, one intelligence official said, that the lawmaker would face widespread hostility from agency employees if he were to get the job.
That should certainly improve things at the CIA.

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

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There are Sons,
and then there are sons


Good interview with Ronald P. Reagan in the NY Times Magazine (registration required).
How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of him (President Reagan)?

I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian -- and I don't -- then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog's leash? How can Christians tolerate it?

It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight -- it has put them in greater danger.
Amen.

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Bush-League Science:
Only political appointees really know


Kevin Drum has the goods on how the Bush administration muzzles scientists who don't tow the official line:
The Health and Human Services department has decided to prohibit its scientists from participating in UN meetings unless they are approved by the secretary
Read the whole thing and cry. Then resolve to do a little more to get these dangerous idiots out of office.

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Payback is Hell

Billmon on Fahrenheit 9/11 and the accompanying right-wing whine:
For years now, Limbaugh, Coulter and their inferior imitations have been passing off their slanted misreadings, unproven allegations and flimsy lies as factual reporting. When caught out on a lie or a smear, they either ignore the evidence, or - like Limbaugh - retreat into the phony defense of arguing that all they're doing is expressing a subjective opinion. "I'm just in the entertainment business," Rush likes to say.

Well, now there's someone on the left who knows how to play their game, and play it brilliantly. Moore may be an egomaniac, and a huckster showman in the best (or worst) tradition of P.T. Barnum and Walter Winchell, but man, he's effective. He's learned to play the mainstream media like a Stradivarius.

No wonder the right wingers are scared of Moore - he's even better then they are at using the media as an unwilling amplifier. Which is why all the conservative caterwauling and all disapproving tut tuts from the "responsible" press have only helped ensure Fahrenheit 9/11 a wider distribution.

In other words, Moore's managed to break the code. He's figured out how to sell an angry radical (or at least semi-radical) message to a mass audience.

That's a major accomplishment. And if the end result isn't exactly my idea of a civilized political discourse (I'll reserve judgement for now) it clearly is a powerful and successful example of fighting fire with fire.
As much as I wish great success to Air America, I never thought that radio was the best medium for the progressive message. Film works better and is certainly more powerful. Michael Moore is slinging it back into the face of the wacko-right, and he does it in Technicolor.

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MoDo doesn't go so far (registration required) as to say that Dick Cheney has a loose screw, and that's too bad. But she does a nice job of pointing out the absurdity of those hypocrites who rail against a flashing breast on TV, but are cheering the Vice-President on for telling Senator Patrick Leahy to go F himself on the Senate floor:
The conservatives defending Mr. Cheney are largely the same crowd that went off the deep end because of a glimpse of breast on the Super Bowl, demanding everything from fines to new regulations to protect red states from blue language.
But hey, consistancy has never been their strong suit -- nor honesty, humility, humanity ... well, why even start that list?

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Bringing Democracy to Iraq:
You do what we tell you to do


I'm back. The Sunday WaPo (registration required) provides a glimpse of the kind of Democracy the Bush administration is exporting to the middle east:
BAGHDAD, June 26 -- U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.

Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support. (emaphasis added)
Bet they'd try that here if they thought they could get away it.

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