Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

TNR reported a few weeks back that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistan to announce the arrest of a major Al Qaeda target during the Democratic Convention. Here it is.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is one of the 22 terrorist operatives on the famous list published shortly after 9/11, and allegedly involved in the bloody embassy bombings of 1998. That he is no longer in circulation is unambiguous good news. That the story states he was apprehended "a few days ago" is hard to read as anything but confirmation of TNR's story.

This looks, though, like another sign of sloppiness in the White House PR campaign. The arrest of OBL would be such a dominant story that the oxygen would be sucked out of Kerry's speech; the arrest of a second level murderer who most people have never heard of will have little effect. At the same time, the announcement on the day of Kerry's speech, just after the plan was described in a magazine that everybody in Washington reads, is so obvious that even the Washington media will be tempted to ask questions about it.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Edwards may well have been a victim of expectations in his acceptance speech yesterday. Certainly it was a pretty good speech and well delivered. But after everything I'd heard about what an incredible campaigner he was, and why he was a brilliant choice based on his speaking skills, it came off as pretty much a letdown. Good, just not good enough to live up to the hype, sort of like Spiderman 2.

Obama did live up to his hype and gave a brilliant speech. And it was the speech of a very smart politician - for all its power it had, when examined closely, remarkably little content, and almost no specific policy ideas. But the bloggers who are already planning their visits to Barack's Inaugural may be a bit premature. It's worth keeping in mind that, for over 50 years, only one man who first came out on the national stage in a convention keynote has reached the Oval Office - and that was Clinton, whose 1988 keynote was a famous bomb.

It's Clinton who has delivered, for all the talk about Obama, the best speech of this convention. Clinton's speech was funny, personable, and gave plenty of reasons to vote for Kerry in language that people largely uninterested in politics can understand. It was just an amazing feat, vastly better than the speech he gave for Gore four years ago.

The speech by Teresa Heinz Kerry was the most interesting so far. It was a very personal speech, but it introduced the audience much less to Kerry than to Teresa. This was read by the pundits as a mistake, but it could well turn out to be a shrewd move - Teresa seems to have an ability to connect with voters, especially women, that will make her a formidable weapon.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Hey, I love the Daily Howler. But lately, Somerby has at times been spinning just as hard as the elite journalists he mocks. Here's an excerpt from today's column:

But then, Okrent seems prepared to credit almost any red-state-sounding complaint. “[A] creationist will find no comfort in the Science Times,” he even complains at one point. But should a creationist “find comfort” in science reporting? Okrent doesn’t address this obvious question.

Here's the relevant passage in the article he was criticizing:

The front page of the Metro section has featured a long piece best described by its subhead, "Cross-Dressers Gladly Pay to Get in Touch with Their Feminine Side." And a creationist will find no comfort in Science Times.

Not that creationists should expect to find comfort in Science Times.

Although Somerby does raise some better points, Okrent's article is essentially right: on social issues, the Times is very much a liberal paper. If you're working against legalized abortion or legal recognition of gay unions, you're likely to believe, with good cause, that the Times, and in fact most of the mainstream media, is unfriendly. At least with regard to the Times, as Okrent notes, this is perfectly appropriate: it reflects the views of New Yorkers who write the paper and are the main target audience.

How this ties into the paper's right wing bias in electoral coverage is another question, which Okrent completely ducks.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Matt Drudge recently complained that the upcoming Manchurian Candidate remake was being descirbed as "more partisan than 'FAHRENHEIT 911'" by a NYT reviewer who has seen it. Although Drudge's money quote isn't in the actual review, it turns out the rest of the item was uncharacteristically accurate.

I just saw the original last night, and I'm a bit surprised that this would surprise anyone. The earlier film isn't partisan, but only in the narrow sense that it comes from a period when both parties had liberal and conservative wings. The story is unabashed liberal propaganda. The American villain is very obviously Joe McCarthy; his even nastier wife, Angela Lansbury in the original and Meryl Streep in the remake, is explicitly a Republican. The evil Senator also has an exuberantly patrician lifestyle, visibly contrasted with the rival good guy Senator, whose home is a few steps above a log cabin. But his apparent near poverty doesn't prevent him from donating a windfall entirely to the ACLU.

If anything, the new film, judging from this report and others, seems to back away from the liberal message of the classic by making the Lansbury/Streep character resemble Hillary Clinton.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Watching the Berger story unfold has been amusing - sort of like a bit of 90's retro. Almost makes you want to go out and rent a few Pauly Shore movies. But that would be over-reacting - much better to watch a few extra re-runs of "Friends" which, like the job market, was actually good back in the Clinton years.

The Republicans are using the tried and true tactics of spreading wild rumors and discussing every rumor that they spread as a known fact. Get that misinformation out and widely repeated. The retractions will come eventually, but they'll be quiet, as usual.

The idea that Berger would shove documents in his socks when he could have just slipped them into his briefcase is preposterous, but the very absurdity makes for a memorable story, much better propaganda than reporting what really happened. The story is one that investigators don't seem to take seriously - Breuer, Berger's attorney, never heard about it before it was leaked. But these guys have never cared if they were telling the truth.

In all the grave reporting and stern faces on the news, everyone has known not to say, not to even hint at the one obvious point: "This is approximately the 358th time that we have reported to you that a member of the Clinton administration is being investigated for misconduct, as well as the 358th time we have declared that, although the facts were not yet fully known, we were pretty certain that something awful had been done. In a few of these previous cases, we turned out to have been wrong. OK, technically in all of them. But we're blowing this up into a huge deal because we're confident that this time is different. Just as confident as we were the last 357 times."

Yes, it is possible that there is really something here. Every time that Lucy swears she's really going to keep the ball in place, there is a chance that she means it this time. But don't count on it.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Fox Hunt

You can pick your own favorite from this impressive collection of Fox internal memos by news director John Moody. My personal favorite is this:

We should NOT assume that anyone who supported or helped Eric Rudolph is a racist. No one's in favor of murder or bombing of public places. But feelings in North Carolina may just be more complicated than the NY Times can conceive. ...Rudolph is charged with bombing an abortion clinic, not a "health clinic."

In other words, don't lose sight of the all important distinction between actual terrorists and those nice folks who merely provide refuge and assistance to terrorists. They've done nothing wrong, at least when they are Christians and assist the good terrorists who blow up abortion clinics and fag bars.

Also evident in the memos, mentioned over and over, is Moody's obsession with hyping the 'scandal' over the UN oil for food program. It's still possible that a real scandal may emerge here, but it's looking increasingly like another fabrication from Chalabi and his crew.

Don't forget to see the new documentary, "Outfoxed". Find a viewing party where you live.

Thursday, July 15, 2004
The most recent polling of swing states, done by Zogby, looks extremely positive. He shows Bush leading in 3 states, but in 2 of those, NV and AR, there are substantial Nader and undecided votes that may well erase Bush's small margin. In fact, when looking at state by state counts such as this, remember they all tend currently to understate Kerry's chances, because the undecided vote is almost certain to break for him, and by historical trends it's also likely that a significant percentage of Nader supporters will. Overall, the current count of swing states looks roughly like this:

  • Comfortable Bush lead: WV (5 EV)
  • Mild Bush lead: None
  • Too close to call: NV, AR, TN, OH (42)
  • Mild Kerry lead: MO, IA, MN (28)
  • Comfortable Kerry lead: FL, MI, NH, NM, OR, WA, WI, PA (94)
In other words, Kerry is now in the driver's seat for a solid majority of swing state EV, with a chance of pulling a near sweep. That's what I believe is going to happen; my own feeling is that the country has decided that it doesn't want Bush, and Kerry, with a solid performance in the campaign and especially the debates, can close the deal and win going away.

The only bad news in the latest polling had been that NC, even with Edwards, had appeared uncompetitive. But a new poll changes even that and shows Kerry/Edwards within striking distance in Tarheel territory. Another Gallup poll shows Bush up by 15 among LV in NC, but only by 7 among RV. Given the motivation of the Democratic base in this election, that large LV adjustment is very likely to be wrong. There's an interesting argument that NC is not only winnable in this election but likely to remain a swing state here.
Wandering Back

An interruption in my web connection last month temporarily
silenced this page; the silence stretched on somewhat due to a
shaky enthusiasm on my own part for resuming.

I've found this blog increasingly harder to write over the
past 6 moinths or so, and much of what I do write is. even in my own
opinion, not as good as I would like it to be. What was more or
less true when I started, that few good progressive blogs were
available, has long since changed - there are so many now that even my
rather long blogroll has a few dozen conspicuous omissions that I know
about and probably some I don't. And the traffic levels haven't
been especially encouraging, which is understandable considering the
infrequent updates.

Still, I'm going back on the chain gang, returning once
again to maintaining this blog, at least for the next few months.
That's partly because stopping in the midst of the campaign seems
wrong, but mostly because I like having this soapbox to get up on and
shout out from on occasion, even when I use too many prepositions.