Archive for October, 2006

Never would have guessed.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 31 2006

The Associated Press tells us what we already knew, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be emphasized:

Millions Spent on Negative Political Ads (New York Times-AP):

So far this campaign, the political parties have exposed voters to nearly $160 million in ads attacking congressional candidates. How much spent painting a positive image? About $17 million.

That’s just over $1 of nice for every $10 of nasty.

The message ingrained in such a disparity in numbers: Don’t vote for a candidate; vote against the opponent.

Negative ads are the coin of the realm in politics. With one week left in the campaign, voters will continue to be bombarded on television, in the mail and over the phone as political strategists make their closing arguments to a shrinking pool of those who haven’t made up their minds.

Under the terms of a 2002 campaign finance law, these messages are independent expenditures that the parties can undertake only if they do not coordinate with the candidates they are seeking to help. This type of spending by the parties on congressional campaigns is 54 percent higher than it was for the same period in the 2004 campaign season, according to data compiled by the Federal Election Commission.

It is also decidedly more negative. In 2004, the parties spent about $6 on ads in favor of congressional candidates for every $5 spent opposing candidates.

At this point, Republicans have spent $87.5 million to oppose candidates and Democrats have spent $72.6 million. But the edge on negativity, according to independent analyses of the ads, goes to the GOP.

There are seven days remaining in the campaign season. Hang in there, everyone. Your teevee broadcasters will be back to trying to sell you cars that parallel park on their own, real estate scams that don’t require any of your money, and colon-clearing miracle drugs-that-aren’t-drugs-but-”natural-supplements.”

That last one begs the question: If you put a negative campaign ad and one of those colon-clearing drug commercials back-to-back, will they cancel each other out? Someone should apply for a science grant to study that one.

Not me, though. I have had enough of all that crap (…and you have probably had enough of this scatological humor).

Message: Shut your pie hole.

Interesting | Posted by admin
Oct 31 2006

Sean Hannity is going on and on about how Democrats and critics of our Dear Leader and his Evil Party need to stop exercising their freedom of speech.

Darn that Librul Media, always siding with those who hate America and our freedoms.

Oh, wait, Hannity is on Fox. Well, then…

Darn that Conservative Media, always siding with those who hate America and our freedoms!

GOP campaign strategy: When all else fails, resort to gay-bashing.

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 30 2006

Let’s see… What to do… what to do… It must be “hard work” having to find a “strategery” that will help Bush’s party maintain a majority in either house of Congress. They have tried almost everything:

  • Run on the “great” economy? (That’s not convincing many people.)
  • Emphasize the “success” and “good news” from our war in Iraq? (Hard to do with all that bad news — deaths, traumatic woundings, destruction, debt, and the rest — sitting on top of it.)
  • Roll out bin Laden from Cheney’s undisclosed waterboarding location? (Be careful. The Veep might have brought his shotgun along and he looked to be in a crabby mood the last time he popped up for air.)
  • Call for more tax cuts? (Tough to do right now. Most people are still reeling from the past rounds of tax cuts that actually left them with higher taxes — who did those tax cuts go to, anyway? Don’t forget that many, especially fiscal conservatives, are mad enough to spit at the trillions of dollars worth of federal debt those cuts has left.)

Golly-gosh-gee, Mr. President, none of these seem to be working for your party this election cycle. It’s looking more and more as if the Dems are going to take away your Congressional poodle pen.

Well, there’s still one more card you can play:

Bush seizes on gay marriage (Independent, UK):

President George Bush is seizing on a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling this week offering full marriage rights to gays and lesbians in hopes of galvanising the dispirited conservative base of the Republican Party just 10 days from crucial mid-term congressional elections in the United States.

Ripple effects of the ruling, delivered on Wednesday, were being felt in election battlegrounds all across the country yesterday with several independent analysts predicting that it may have given an unexpected boost to many struggling Republican candidates and change the outcome of several key races.

Within hours of the ruling, Mr Bush signalled his intention to highlight the issue during a campaign visit to Iowa. Bringing up the subject unprompted by anyone, he declared: “Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage.” Reminding voters of his position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, President Bush added: “I believe it’s a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families and it must be defended.”

Earlier this year, Mr Bush abandoned attempts to force a constitutional amendment through Congress blocking gay marriage because it was falling short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

Whereas gay marriage and family values were centre-stage in the 2004 presidential contest, they had largely faded from view in this campaign season, replaced by deep popular discontent with Mr Bush and in particular the relentless bad news coming from Iraq. The re-emergence of the gay marriage question gives Republicans a chance to change the focus. “Hot button social issues have come alive again. The Iraq issue had taken away from the social issues that religious conservatives wanted to focus on,” said Scott Keeter, research director at the PEW Research Center. “This decision at least gives them a news hook to restart that discussion.”

It could lift the heavy gloom that has settled over the White House in recent weeks as even leading members of the Republican Party have acknowledged that a voter rebellion on 7 November could rob the party of control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well, a sea-change that would put a crimp on Mr Bush in the last two years of his second – and final – term.

[full article here]

That’s right, Mr. President, play the homophobia card, emphasize the Democrats’ “homosexual agenda” (What is that “agenda,” anyway? Those Republicans; never much for details or explanations, are they?), and declare that the very fabric of American society will be ripped to shreds if our nation gives the civil and legal rights heterosexual couples enjoy to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who want to commit to a lifelong, monogamous relationship with others (Eee! Run for the hills! Adam and Steve tied the knot and are as happy as all-let-out! Eee!).

There could be one small problem with this tried-and-true strategy of yours, however, Mr. Bush. This year, people are not willing to be easily swayed by your divide and conquer methods. It could be that they are pre-occupied with more pressing personal matters (y’know, like their credit card debt, sky-high student loans, job insecurities, friends and/or family in Iraq, their children’s futures, the degradation of the world’s environment, their loss or reduction of health care benefits, and so on…)

Don’t fret, though. If gay-bashing doesn’t work, you can always have your Republican lackeys and your friends at Diebold engineer yet another stolen election in Florida, Ohio, Georgia and other states to preserve the GOP’s majorities in the House and Senate. (Better be very, very careful this time, because people are watching the polls likes hawks.)

The latest and oddest fad in teenage insults.

Interesting | Posted by admin
Oct 26 2006

I have had this insult thrown my way periodically from high school students for a year now. Yesterday, one student flung it my way; I think she was trying to test my boundaries and what buttons she could push to ruffle my feathers. What is odd about it is that at their age, these kids tend to harbor a lot of apathy when it comes to anything political.

What is that insult? Generally, it goes along the line of, “You like President Bush, don’t you?” The tone of the question is far more accusatory than inquisitive. I tend to answer, “Well, personally, I don’t, but that’s not the issue (or topic, theme, lesson, problem, et cetera) here,” and quickly move on. I figure that it is better to be truthful — than to try to lie or dodge the question — and to get right back to whatever we were doing before that tangent could gain control.

Such a question seems odd when it comes from the mouth of a teenager, and some sociologist should study this phenomena further to see if there is a trend here. I think it may signal a possible shift in the political consciousness of teens that hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. From the 70s through the 90s and even into this decade, the vast majority of students not only appeared uninterested in politics, they seemed to actively stay away from it.

Maybe they are a part of the political pendulum, where their involvement and interest in the civic arena waxes and wanes. I don’t have conclusive proof of that theory, but if we should see a rise in voter turnout among eighteen to twenty-five year olds in the coming years, we may have one indicator to suggest that today’s teenage flippancy could translate into political interest and activity.

The GOP’s cognitive dissonance.

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 24 2006

I have a theory on why I now believe the Republican party faces a high probability that they will get a shellacking at the polls this November.

Call it CCD: Campaign Cognitive Dissonance.

I kicked back after a long day today and treated myself to an evening of reading, watching some television, and giving Miro (that strange cat you see in the upper left side of this page) and Yoshi (the dachshund) each a spot to curl up and take naps. The reading went well enough, but the television sucked rocks. It wasn’t so much the shows; standard-fare whodunits and whatnot. It was the campaign commercials.

At this point, you might be thinking, Who isn’t sick of these commercials? True enough, but somewhere along the way, I watched a few GOP and Republican candidate ads in quick succession. The first one, Mark Kennedy’s Iraq ad, basically talked about how bad things are over there yet we need to stay the course and keep the GOP in power. Next up was a Tim Pawlenty ad more or less suggesting that he’s done a lot of great things for the economy and will make things even better for us. Finally, the Republicans had an ad up about how terrible Mike Hatch is and that, if we were to elect him, he would only make things worse.

That little LED light in the back of my brain flicked on that moment. Waitaminute, I thought, Republicans screwed up the war in Iraq from the get-go, but they want us to back them anyway? The Republican party claims that the economy is hunky-dory, yet I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t seriously concerned about their financial well-being, and they promise to keep doing what their doing? How is it that Democrats — out of power and for all intents and purposes shut out of the legislative process for over a decade — have simultaneously screwed up the economy and will make things worse if they get into power?

There those questions sat, like a nine trillion dollar bar tab after a lost weekend. None of that makes sense, right?

So here it is: The Republicans are suffering from a collective case of Campaign Cognitive Dissonance. They can’t run away from the mess they started and have sustained for now over thee years in Iraq. They aren’t convincing people that the economy is in great shape and will only get better under their watch. They aren’t succeeding in their efforts to convince voters that the Democrats are vile, evil creatures who will drag our nation down into the black pits of national despair. Despite all these things, they still campaign as if the voting public has no memory of the past two, four, or six years.

Over that time, it has been reported that poverty has increased in this country. More people are without health insurance and those entering the workforce are finding themselves either without health benefits or offered jerry-rigged programs such as health savings accounts that don’t provide enough coverage or indirectly compel a person to put off necessary treatments for their ailments. Thousands have died, tens of thousand have been wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost in Iraq over the past three years and no end is in sight. This nation’s deficit is at its worst ever and yet our social and public infrastructure looks increasingly frayed and tattered. Still, with no hint of guilt or shame, nor even the slightest acknowledgment that they bear the bulk of the responsibility in these matters, still the Republicans ask for your vote.

I believe it is the cognitive dissonance generated by the GOP’s campaign rhetoric in their speeches, debates, and especially in their advertisements that is making this year’s election very competitive and may produce net gains for the Democrats on November 7th. I dare suggest that this is a year where many people have become very politically aware and are looking for a different path. How else can we explain why more and more Republican candidates find themselves facing tough, competitive campaigns in places they thought would be clear sailing for them?

Look at what is happening with the party’s rhetoric on Iraq: Earlier this year, Republicans planned on making the war on terror and Iraq into an issue that would benefit them and hurt the Democrats. They trucked out slogans such as “Stay the Course” (good) for themselves and “Cut and Run” (bad) for the Democrats. It backfired, however, and forced them to drop the issue. Now the Bush administration is trying to shift the party’s rhetoric to something akin to Iraq setting timetables for stepping up to the fight, theoretically so we can step out, but they are finding that both labels — and their corresponding value judgments — they slapped onto themselves are hard to remove and asked questions about how they can make such a major, contradictory shift in policy and expect people to suddenly accept those changes.

This year, 2006, may prove unique in many ways. It may be a year for one of the highest turnout of voters — we’ll see about that, but I have a sneaking suspicion. This year may see a sea change in who holds the reins of power in Congress. Most importantly, though, may be that this could prove to be the year when a party tries to play the public for suckers and the public refuses to buy into it.

We’ll see. There are only two more weeks until those damned commercials are off the air.

I never had tactical relations with those words.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 23 2006

Bush doesn’t want to stay the course anymore.

The Big Muddy (Washington Post):

With just more than two weeks to go before a mid-term election that promises to be in large part a referendum on the war in Iraq, President Bush and his aides continue to muddy the debate by trying to redefine their terms on the fly.

The most obvious example came on Sunday, when ABC News broadcast an interview in which Bush denied he had ever advocated staying the course.

Here’s the text of the interview, which was conducted on Wednesday.

Anchor George Stephanopoulos was asking Bush about comments from James A. Baker III, who has said that the independent commission he co-chairs is pursuing alternatives to “cut and run” or “stay the course” in Iraq.

Said Bush: “Well, listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly.”

White House counselor Dan Bartlett used almost the exact same words this morning on CBS News’s ” Early Show “: “It’s never been a stay the course strategy.”

But as the liberal Think Progress blog so definitively pointed out yesterday, Bush repeatedly has described his strategy in precisely those terms.

“We will stay the course.” ( 8/30/06 )

“We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq.” ( 8/4/05 )

“We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the president or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course.” ( 12/15/03 )

“And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course.” ( 4/13/04 )

And so on.

With “stay the course” polling poorly, what Bush and Bartlett apparently are trying to do is get credit for the fact that the tactics in Iraq have and will continue to change, while at the same time insisting that their overall strategy and goals remain unchanged — and sound.

Haven’t we impeached presidents for lying about lesser matters?

Adventures in diplomacy.

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 22 2006

You and I might rightfully think that diplomats should be experts at recognizing “inside thoughts,” which makes the following statements even more curious:

We were ‘arrogant and stupid’ over Iraq, says US diplomat (Telegraph, UK):

A senior US diplomat has said that his country showed “arrogance” and “stupidity” in its dealings with Iraq, and admitted Washington had made “many mistakes” in foreign policy.

Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told the Al-Jazeera news channel: “We tried to do our best, but I believe that there is a great room for strong criticism, because – undoubtedly – there was arrogance and stupidity in US (dealing) with Iraq.

“We should practise some humbleness in the question of Iraq. Undoubtedly – and as the United States did acknowledge – there have been many mistakes in the foreign policy in Iraq.”

Mr Fernandez added that the US was ready to talk with all factions in Iraq – except for al-Qa’eda – to try to end sectarian bloodshed.

His remarks came in response to a statement read on al-Jazeera allegedly from a representative of the Ba’ath party – the party of Saddam Hussein – offering to negotiate a US withdrawal from Iraq based on “recognition of the resistance … as the sole representative of the Iraqi people”.

Mr Fernandez said a dialogue with the Ba’ath party was “too far from reality”. However, the US was ready to talk with “those who care for Iraq”, and there had probably been some contact with people linked to Ba’athists.

Mr Fernandez said: “We are open to dialogue. We all believe at the end of the day … that the solution to the inferno in Iraq is completely linked to an effective national Iraqi reconciliation.”

A US State Department spokesman responded to Mr Fernandez’s comments, which were made in Arabic, saying: “the quote as reported is not accurate.”

Yeah, uh-huh, “not accurate.” Good luck to whoever draws the short straw to explain what Fernandez “really” meant. Personally, I think it is way past time someone in the administration called it like it is.

Now for a little comic relief via Canada. That nation’s Foreign Minister is currently enjoying the taste of shoe leather:

Layton urges MacKay to ‘fess up (Toronto Star):

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton is calling for the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay over his failure to own up to an alleged “dog” slur against his old girlfriend, Aurora MP Belinda Stronach.

Layton was part of a panel discussion in Quebec about women in politics on Friday night and heard again all the reasons potential female politicians are turned off by the whole business.

MacKay has given them yet another reason, Layton said in an interview yesterday, and the women at the Quebec event had “quite a reaction” to the whole furor, he said.

“I’ve got to wonder whether he’s fit to be in a position like foreign affairs minister,” Layton said. “Because that’s a position where wisdom and gesture and single-word selection is critical. If he’s not willing to understand the impact of his words, and make amends … then, he should resign. And if he’s not going to do those things, the Prime Minister should be the one to ask him to resign.”

Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, was subjected to a dog slur when she was running for her Trinity-Spadina seat in the Commons during last winter’s election. A Liberal blogger who compared Chow to a Chinese chow-chow dog was forced to step down from an executive position in the party’s Ontario wing after doing so.

Recalling that incident Friday, Layton said, “This kind of thing is very hurtful and women are expected, I suppose, to put on a brave face and brush it off as though it is some kind of a joke.”

The current furor revolves around some heckling in the Commons on Thursday, when Liberal MP David McGuinty was poking fun at MacKay and his famous interview after his May 2005 breakup with Stronach, in which he appeared with his family dog at his side.

McGuinty asked if MacKay was worried about the environment’s effects on his dog. “You already have her,” MacKay reportedly said, gesturing toward Stronach’s seat in the Commons.

No record of the remark appears on the official Commons transcript and MacKay has said he never mentioned the word “dog.” But that hasn’t quelled the outcry, because at least 10 Liberal MPs said they heard the slur and New Democrats have also said there is no question the remark was made.

Stronach formally asked MacKay to apologize to the Commons and to women in general on Friday.

So far MacKay isn’t budging.

“The Speaker and his staff have carefully reviewed the audio and found nothing. There is nothing to add,” MacKay’s spokesman Dan Dugas said yesterday.

Isn’t there a chapter in the Diplomacy 101 textbook that covers, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything?” It sounds as if someone is overdue for a refresher course.

MacKay might deny saying it, but the recording of the exchange strongly suggests otherwise. Judge for yourself.

“Milestones,” or millstones?

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 22 2006

What do you do if you have the world’s largest, most powerful, hi-tech military and can’t stop an insurgency that you, for all intents and purposes, started in another country? It seems Bush and Company have one idea: Make the people whose country you invaded and occupied figure out how to stop it and punish them if they can’t:

U.S. to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role (New York Times):

The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.

Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.

Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.

A senior Pentagon official involved in drafting the blueprint said Iraqi officials were being consulted as the plan evolved and would be invited to sign off on the milestones before the end of the year. But he added, “If the Iraqis fail to come back to us on this, we would have to conduct a reassessment” of the American strategy in Iraq.

In a statement issued Saturday night, a White House spokeswoman, Nicole Guillemard, said the Times’s account was “not accurate,” but did not specify what officials found to be inaccurate.

To recap: The administration makes up an excuse to go to war with Iraq, conducts that war, and sets up shop in the center of that country’s largest city. We don’t make plans for a post-war situation and get caught flat-footed when an insurgency develops. After three, going on four, years of “hunting down the terrorists” and making claims that all is well (despite what that wicked Librul Media says), they finally admit that maybe, just maybe, all is not going quite exactly according to their half-baked plans.

Now, instead of admitting that they really screwed up in Iraq and setting about making things right, the Bush administration appears ready to hand the whole mess over to the barely breathing, clearly divided government of Iraq to resolve using a police force that is already up to its eyeballs in insurgent fighting and holding itself together with spit and gum.

Wow.

Just… … … wow.

Bush and his underlings are truly living in some strange dreamworld if they think they think they can pull this one off successfully.

It may be the case that there is no “Pottery Barn Rule,” as Colin Powell asserted some years ago, but there is no doubt this administration broke Iraq. They should be the ones responsible for fixing it.

You can have my textbook when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 20 2006

No, seriously. Check this out, but hold onto your jaw so it doesn’t crash through your desk.

Quite possibly the most ridiculous idea ever conceived (sean incognito):

Good grief [Boston Globe article linked]:

OKLAHOMA CITY — A candidate for state superintendent of schools said Thursday he wants thick used textbooks placed under every student’s desk so they can use them for self-defense during school shootings.

“People might think it’s kind of weird, crazy,” said Republican Bill Crozier of Union City, a teacher and former Air Force security officer. “It is a practical thing; it’s something you can do. It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there.”

Crozier and a group of aides produced a 10-minute video Tuesday in which they shoot math, language and telephone books with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm pistol. The rifle bullet penetrated two books, including a calculus textbook, but the pistol bullet was stopped by a single book.

Crozier said the demonstration shows that a student could effectively use a textbook as protection in a school shooting.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman was skeptical.

“He probably needs to take a look at some ballistics tests,” Lt. Pete Norwood said. “There are some rifles not even Webster’s Dictionary will stop.”

Sean, a Canadian, has returned to blogging in the Great White North after a long hiatus. He paid a visit to Yowling yesterday and left a comment. Since he has returned, I thought it would be a good idea to see what topics he was following. Little did I know he had this story just waiting to pounce.

I don’t know what’s funnier (or scarier), that Crozier suggested the idea in the first place or made a video to demonstrate his point.

If I have learned one thing from his post, it’s not to accept a teaching position in Oklahoma, especially if the above story represents the level of political debate for candidates for state superintendent of schools.

Don’t drink and blog.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Oct 20 2006

Maybe that’s too harsh. Let’s amend that title to read, “Don’t kill a whole bottle of whatever hard liquor you’re drinking and blog.” Why? Well, if you are not careful, you might write stuff such as this sterling example of fell-off-the-wing wingnuttery:

Why Do Polls Sound Like Dems? (The Strata-Sphere):

Mac Ranger has been questioning the polls and the news meme about disgruntled Reps sitting home (if they do, they better not come back expecting a voice at the table – we conservatives will not listen to people who sat and let the Dems take over and destroy all that was accomplished in the last 6 years). Mac is rightfully questioning polls which don’t seem to be measuring reality on the ground. Both he and I herald from blue climates, and neiothr [sic] of us is seeing this blue wave (of course Herndon, VA is a big immigration-issue town).

But I was pondering something that really is a bit of a crazy idea. What if the pollsters have Reps sounding like Dems because a lot of Dems are pretending to be Reps? Sounds stupid – doesn’t it? Except we see Dems pretending to be reps on all sorts of internet polls, call in lines on C-SPAN, call-ins on talk radio, as sock puppets on websites, in push polling, etc. The liberals have a long broad history of trying to trick people by pretending to be Reps. Wouldn’t it be funny if the Liberals are setting themselves up for a huge emotional let down because their idea of influencing an election is trying to trick pollsters! Sadly, this idea doesn’t seem too far fetched.

It’s time to put the cap on the bottle and call it the night, there, AJ.

Let me see if I have this right… Dems are trying to sound llke Reps because Reps are actually going to win but pollsters, sounding like Dems, are painting a picture of a win for Dems but it’s actually going to be a Rep win because Dem pollsters and da Librul Media think Reps will stay home because they are disgruntled but they actually aren’t because AJ and Mac aren’t seeing a blue wave.

Whoa. On second thought, maybe it’s not liquor, but hallucinogens.

Anyone have an aspirin? My head hurts.