the talking dog

TD Extra I, 5-19-03.

The Unseen Editor is kind enough to share this article from the Times of London, which ostensibly tells us that we are deluding ourselves into a perpetual state of paranoia when we don't need to. Such delusions -- fueled by the likes of, well, many, including moi -- play right into the hands of the Bush Administration, and ergo, are to be avoided. At all costs.

This includes paranoid rhetoric that somehow "cuts in homeland security spending" will put the country at greater risk of some calamitous act. Well, guess what, boys and girls. September 11th was a one-off. A one-shot. A singleton. A one of a kind. Yes, simultaneous acts of terror have become a signature staple of a peculiar group of people whose life's purpose is to be sufficiently intolerant that others must not only be killed, but killed by the proselytizer! But shit has always happened in the Middle East and nearby in the Islamic world. The Tamil Tigers are the world's leading suicide bombers, by far. But Sri Lanka is just not worthy of the same level of coverage as Israel (or Saudi Arabia or Morocco). Itís just the way things are.

As to here stateside, let me just say that, when you get right down to it, as I predicted on this blog shortly after September 11th, life has returned to more or less normal. Or has it? What fundamentally is different than it was on September 10th, 2001 (local conditions in New York notwithstanding, which I'll get to shortly)? Honestly, what?

Yup, our ATTITUDE. We are far more paranoid, far more intolerant. Our standing in the world, as a result of the paranoia and crassness, is different. Our Constitution is being stretched, maybe to the breaking point, as in camera incarcerations of citizens without charge, trial or even counsel has now been established as "a-OK Ďin time of warí". Immigrants are arbitrarily picked up to have their "paperwork lost" and find themselves deported, notwithstanding years or decades of productive presence here, families, and the like.

But are we any safer because of it? Of course not, but because we were NEVER REALLY IN DANGER IN THE FIRST PLACE!

I offer a simple proposition that the President's interest and the interest of Osama bin Laden are identical in one regard (two if you count their unnaturally interrelated business dealings). Simply, both the President and OBL benefit from gross, irrational reaction out of "fear of terrorism". OBL is, of course, a terrorist, and fear is his stock in trade. But George W. Bush (or at least his handlers) have seized an opportunity for political cover via the irrational. Hence, the President had cover to attack another nation with a massive force, despite the pretext for that attack being based entirely on lies. The President's standing as "presidential" continues to be based on the "perception as strong leader", which requires something to stand against in contrast. The rhetoric has been shrill and bellicose, and it requires a public willing to live in irrational fear.

But interestingly, not a public in the likeliest target, in which your talking dog and his spouse happen to live, work and send their child to school in. You see, I think New York residents have been pretty cool about the whole post-9-11 thing. We have, for the most part, just gone about our lives, as best we can. I managed to lose my own job (my office was one city block north of the World Trade Center). I had a view of the festivities on 9-11, which I more or less no longer try not to think about, lest I have to ponder human beings jumping to their deaths in front of me; or having elected to stay in my office for nearly a half hour while a second plane careened into the South Tower which, had it been structurally different, would either have fallen onto the building in which I was then sitting, or allowed the plane to slice through to it; or watching the second tower implode while escaping on the Manhattan Bridge, knowing that hundreds of rescuers, as well as thousands of my neighbors, perished that instantÖ

But, in my own case, I got another job (albeit 40 miles north of my house, in White Plains, New York). And another one after that, which in a week or two I will have been at for a year. And I know lots of other New Yorkers who just did their jobs, or fought through, as I did. Ironically, I managed to lose what was really a dead end job, and have improved my income, albeit just a bit, in the process.

Through it all, as you all know, I have a visceral hatred of all things Bush. Well, guess what? The President leaves a great deal to be desired, but so did the guy before him, and ESPECIALLY the guy before him. Life went on under both of them. And it will go on under this idiot. The problem as I see it now is both his detractors and his supporters have become shrill and irrational in both prosecution and defense; little light is shed anymore. We have a political discourse that looks like Ypres and Verdun (i.e., trench warfare, both sides dug in, hurling poison gas at each other).

And now, you know what? ENOUGH!!!

I haven't had a vacation since 9-11 (not counting the 2 or 3 weeks right after, which were no vacation). I'm not taking one now, I will soon, though, I hope. I have other things to do, some of which are deferred, while I spend blogging, others of which, I suppose I'll never do. But either way I think it may finally be time for a "blogging vacation." Maybe one of those Ted Barlow-like hiatuses. I'd rather not hang it up like William Burton or Katie of Goblin Queen (although Katie did change continents). But I don't know.

Maybe I'll be back tomorrow. Maybe Wednesday. Maybe after Memorial Day. I don't know. Right now, I don't feel I have anything to add to a rather shrill public debate, other than this: See above. Calm the fuck down, people. If we don't, both the terrorists, and those who share an unfortunate symbiotic relationship with them will have won.

Godspeed, and God bless you all.



May 19, 2003, New York, NY.

In yet another indication of why playing Texas Hold ĎEm against the Bush Administration is a really bad idea, without explanation, the Administration re-designated several Iraqi officials in its now famous deck of cards, leaving the top 7 intact, but elevating a number of previously minor figures, who happen to be in custody now.  All subtle, of course, as minor al-Qaeda figures, when captured, often become designated king-pins, so why not Iraqis?  The question remains, of course: why, with the possibility of knowing where Saddam and Sons were, rather than dispatch men with guns to capture or kill Familia Tikriti, bunker busters were employed, thereby assuring that we would probably NEVER have definitive evidence if we HAD successfully killed Saddam Hussein.  This is the same strategy employed in Afghanistan's Tora Bora caves, of course, making it impossible to "know" whether we got Osama. This is all well-trodden ground, of course.

But it IS thematically related to Ari Fleischer's announcement that as of July he will be resigning his post as White House spokesman.  While not nearly as hilarious as Iraqi information minister Saeed al-Sahaf a/k/a Baghdad Bob, Fleischer's credibility level was, at times, in the same order of magnitude.  In fairness, Fleischer was but a foot soldier in service to the cause, and but the front man.

I'll say this for the Bush Administration: it has learned the lessons of the Clinton Administration magnificently.  Since Bill and Hill established that, in Washington public life, there seems to be no downside to just lying, why not do it as a routine matter?



May 18, 2003, Brooklyn, NY.

Interestingly, just as I was pondering why no discussion of simply removing the cancerous tumor from Palestinian society that organized suicide bombings and other violence (ESPECIALLY when anything approaching a new peace initiative or even its possibility commenced) the Israeli cabinet is indeed, debating, as one of the possible responses to the double suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem that has killed at least 6 in one and I don't even know how many in the other, expelling the, Yasir Arafat.

Israeli PM Sharon canceled his trip to Washington in light of the spate of attacks (against Israel, and against Jewish targets in Morocco). Query whether this means that removing Arafat is NOT possible, as permission for such a bold, decisive move could ONLY originate in Washington. Personally, I think we have signals of "business as usual", which is too bad.

It has been pointed out numerous times (including by myself) that eliminating Yasir Arafat from the equation (by exiling him and stripping him of his PA mandate) will not instantaneously end Palestinian violence. It WILL however, end a prime organizer, and crime kingpin with a billion dollar plus incentive for a never-ending intifada. Oddly enough, Hizbollah, which is trying to establish itself as a legitimate political party in Lebanon, and Hamas, insane Islamist murderers, but honest as the day is long compared to Arafat, may ultimately be easier to deal with than the compulsive liar and crime boss. I think so.

I hope the Israeli cabinet decides to finally ask Washington for the OK to remove Arafat, and that finally, the USA government realizes that in the "new Middle East" (the one without Saddam), reducing terrorist violence (or the appearance of it) is in the United States' interest, and that means Mr. Arafat gets a one-way ticket to Tunis. Obviously, Yasir didn't get the Saddam-related memo.



May 17, 2003, Brooklyn, NY.

Well, what can we say? It seems to be bombs away everywhere, Riyadh earlier in the week, and now Casablanca (killing 41 and injuring over 100 in several simultaneous suicide bombing attacks), and not to be forgotten amidst tzuris elsewhere in the Mid-East, the West Bank, killing an Israeli couple in perennial flashpoint Hebron.

Al-Qaeda (I suppose) has not been destroyed by a long-shot. Its members, not surprisingly, have greater ability to operate in Arab countries than in Europe or America, where they are more visible (and presumably, instantly under suspicion in the post 9-11 world). So, Western interests and other "soft targets" in the Islamic world it is (shades of similar attacks in Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan and other locales).

The West Bank killings are simply Yasir's message that we have no reason to expect anything more to come out of current peace talks than any prior peace talks. And, we don't. The Israelis and Palestinians seem to thrive on baiting each other, and here we go again. Even when someone on the Palestinian side, like Abu Mazen, MIGHT finally be getting somewhere, he quickly finds the rug pulled out from under him by Yasir and the gang, ensuring business as usual. I put the odds of Middle East "peace" (i.e. a political resolution), while Yasir Arafat is in charge of the Palestinian side, at naught. Simple as that.

But I digress; Yasir has little or more likely nothing to do with the Riyadh and Casablanca attacks (the latter included, among other targets, a Jewish community center on a Friday night). That is almost certainly our friend Osama and the gang -- remember him -- the evildoer, wanted dead or alive, whose actual whereabouts were deemed no longer important when Karl's polls showed Iraq as carrying more resonance? Yes, THAT Osama.

Well, I think the short answer is we may very well HAVE created a "new Middle East" -- one absolutely out of control with terrorist violence. The mullahs in Iran presumably owe us a not to be spoken debt of gratitude for having removed not one but TWO irritating regimes on either side of them. Osama and the gang couldn't be happier, and seem to have a freer hand than ever. Apparently, Osama's deal with the Saudis not to target the Saudi regime itself is either over, or has been modified as long as ONLY Westerners are targeted (even if the occasional Saudi gets blown up too). Either way, hold on to your seats...

I've said in other contexts that if one has so much as a bad hair day, blame it on Bush. That may be a bit extreme, even by my standards. But the current round of insanity in the Middle East (including continued problems in Iraq itself) gets to be squarely laid at the feet of the Commander in Chief. Don't be expecting an apology, an explanation, or even an acknowledgment. The Iraq invasion was a HUGE GAMBLE. Apparently, though it looked like we won the early bets, other markers are still being called in as we speak. We won't know for a while what the "new Middle East " looks like, but it might not be pretty.



May 16, 2003, New York, NY.

After a quick shout out to Mike Finley, who is now changing his blog to the "All-American", we'll look at other "all-American" things.  Since it seems to be Karl Rove week here at the talking dog, let's take a little quiz.  Which one of these events appears to bear the "Mark of Rove", i.e., a subtle or not so subtle dirty trick that Karl can credibly deny having anything to do with:

1.  Accusations by France that the Bush Administration is engaging in a smear campaign against its government for, among other things, complicity with the Iraqi government;

2.  The strange goings-on in Texas, where the entire Democratic caucus of the lower house of the state legislature simply fled the state in order to prevent a quorum to block a Tom DeLay (as in Prince of Darkness, with apologies to Bob Novak and Richard Perle) backed redistricting measure that would have screwed Democrats out of around five Texas Congressional seats (the legislators are returning, now that the deadline for that particular measure has expired; amazingly, DeLay had the balls to try to get federal authorities to return the legislators -- who committed no crime of any kind, let alone a federal crime -- to round up elected representatives);

3.  The United States Senate passing, by the slimmest of margins, the dividend tax cut (a 3-year ELIMINATION of taxes on dividends, BTW) with, of course, the support of Zell Miller (Traitor-GA) and Ben Nelson (DINO-NE), even though there was Republican opposition from Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the sainted John McCain, and Lincoln Chafee (RINO-RI).

Correct: they ALL have the mark of Rove!  The last one, of course, Rove would publicly own up to, because despite it being around half of the insanity the President asked for, a tax cut amidst our current circumstances, and one that ONLY favors the well-off (let's not pretend about that anymore) is, and will be spun as, a big win for the President.  The Texas thing is just bizarre, though trying to change the rules to advance your political position is, classically, Rovian.  The France thing will be denied, but I'm sure Karl had a lot of fun with it.  Amazingly, it speaks volumes about the President that while his own team seems to acknowledge that our post-war doings in Iraq are not going well (and Ms. Boudine and General Garner have, as a result, been, well, superceded by Mr. Bremer and his squad), we STILL have time to heap scorn on those who apparently slighted us.

I don't know about you, but I want my country run by grown-ups, and not by a teenage prankster advising a petulant child.  I do believe I am in the majority on that, except when Karl's people manage to count the votes.



May 15, 2003, New York, NY.

Thanks to the Unseen Editor for telling us about this article, which can be called "Bad Stuff About Salam Pax".  David Warren is of the opinion that my and everybody else's darling of the blogosphere, Salam Pax, is insidiously tied (most likely via family) to Baathist regime members, and even after Saddam's fall, is continuing to do their bidding through, among other things, spreading misinformation to American reporters.

Well, certainly, the fact that Saddam, whose security services almost certainly monitored inbound and outbound Internet traffic into Iraq, allowed Salam Pax to continue to breathe, always struck me as an indication that he was either (1) an impostor altogether (that theory seems to be discredited and less likely than ever); (2) an Iraqi operating just outside of Iraq with close ties to those inside (say, from Jordan or Syria, or even someone who travels in and out of those places; this is, of course, my speculation); or (3) someone really in Baghdad, with obvious command of English (including American colloquialisms) and familiarity with America and Europe.  If it were (3), of course, that leads to two more possibilities: (a) Salam is a master of deception and disguise, especially electronic, and has managed to hide his tracks amidst the "better-than-Stalin's" Iraqi secret police apparatus, or (b) he was sufficiently connected to be protected in his little hobby.  Obviously, this report goes to 3(b), Salam is some sort of Baathist plant, whose mission is to spread misinformation.

Well, itís certainly a possibility, and while Salam Pax remains pseudonymous (unless Mr. Warren actually knows who he is, as he implies he does), one that cannot be either proven or rebutted.  The truth will eventually set us free, of course, when, as Unqualified Offerings speculates, Salam goes on his world book tour.

IMHO, however, everyone has a perspective.  Obviously, if Salam were actually in or near Iraq, he had to be in some sort of elite position, to have (1) command of colloquial English and knowledge of the West; (2) a working computer with Internet access; and (3) Saddam not finding him and killing him.  This does not make him the insidious force Mr. Warren asserts he is, though it certainly raises that possibility.  I find it impressive that Mr. Warren laments the fact that certain journalists who remain in Baghdad and Iraq may be "misled" by the locals, especially charming locals with command of English.  Perhaps Mr. Warren regards our "coalition" (meaning the Pentagon) sources as infallible and unbiased as well, especially when their missives are relayed via embedded reporters.

I don't know.  Whether we take Salam with a grain of salt, or a pillar of salt, this is a valuable perspective that we ain't gettin' from anywhere else.  I'm not going to write it off just yet.



TD Terry McAuliffe Extra I, 5-14-03.

Well, here is today's Terry McAuliffe e-mailing to the faithful, unexpurgated by moi (sorry for use of the Freedom language, but, well, you know...):


Call and Email our Members of Congress

Last week, I told you how the Democratic Party is partnering with, People for the American Way, Campaign for America's Future, and dozens of other groups representing millions of Americans to organize a massive public mobilization opposing the irresponsible Bush tax scheme.

On Wednesday, May 14, I'm asking you to join hundreds of thousands of activists across the nation as we call our members of Congress to stand up in opposition to the Bush plan to give billions in new tax breaks to the wealthiest sliver of Americans.

Click here to get contact information for your Senators and Representatives and call and email them this Wednesday.

Key Points to Make
When you call and email your members of Congress, be sure to mention the following important points:

*   The tax cuts in the Bush plan overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest sliver of Americans, providing little relief to most working families.
*   The Bush plan does nothing to help states confront their worst fiscal crisis since World War II. States have been forced to cut vital programs -- for education, health care, homeland security, and more -- and even raise taxes on working families.
*   The irresponsible Bush tax scheme will create enormous new debts for the next generation.
*   Democrats in Congress have introduced a real stimulus plan that will get our economy moving again, with targeted tax breaks, aid for cash-strapped states and small businesses, and an extension of unemployment benefits.

You can make a difference by calling and emailing your members of Congress today.

Click here to get contact information for your Senators and Representatives and let them know that you oppose the irresponsible Bush tax scheme and support the sensible, effective Democratic stimulus plan.

Terence R. McAuliffe


Thankfully, Terry only makes 4 points about the current round of tax cuts: (1) they benefit the rich; (2) they won't help states or municipal governments (though I'm not clear on why federal tax cuts would HURT them) and they will cut off the ability for certain increased federal spending, (3) they will leave FUTURE GENERATIONS IN DEBT, and (4) the Dems have a "better" plan.

Let's put on our "Karl Rove 3-D glasses" and take a look at this again, and we will realize that Terry's points are (1) who cares, (2) who cares, (3) YES!!! THIS IS A PROBLEM and (4) who cares.  What this tells us is what we need to know about the President's tax plan: people who, like Secretary Snow, lamented the horrors of high deficits PRIOR to joining the Bush Administration now have NO PROBLEM with deficits as far as the eye can see -- somehow Bush-GOP Congress deficits are special!  THIS resonates with the public, having been conditioned for decades BY REPUBLICANS that "deficits are bad", this one won't just go away, and Bush may very well be valuing tax cuts more than his own reelection chances.

Time will tell, but if you DO want to follow Terry's advice and contact your Congressperson or Senator, tell 'em its about the deficits, stupid.



May 14, 2003, New York, NY.

A little break from "Rove Tuesday" to go back to the world at large; I guess we will make this "Roh Wednesday", as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun meets today with the President in Washington, and North Korea and its nuclear weapons should be real high on the agenda.  Politically, this will mesh with Presidential candidate Senator Bob Graham's statement that the Riyadh bombings were avoidable, if American efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda had not been DISTRACTED by the Iraqi campaign.

Well, Korea is a real barn burner: if we fuck it up, we might get Seoul leveled, Tokyo nuked, and potentially, shots taken at Anchorage, or Seattle, or Los Angeles  (and, most troublingly, Alaska was a "red state").  In the end, we will appease North Korea, and try to find a way not to call it appeasement ("engagement?"; only Bush could go to Pyongyang?  we'll think of something...)

Anyway, politically, if Bob Graham is willing to sacrifice himself for the cause by calling Bush on FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY, he may create an opening, if he can make the President start to play defense on this (politically, not in national security terms, where no one wants to see the nation's position weakened).  Graham is already trotting out the "classified" joint Congressional investigation into 9-11 related intelligence failures -- at issue is whether he has the balls to read the "classified document" into the Congressional record.  Either way, I think Graham's strategy here is admirable, though politically suicidal to himself.

I'd love to see the public just asking one question, every day, between now and November '04.  A two word question.  "Where's Osama?"



TD Extra I, 5-13-03.

Taking a look through my "Karl" scope, this all says to me that of the six remotely viable candidates, the Dem to beat -- and the one who can beat Bush -- and if nominated, the one who WILL beat Bush (even though he is unlikely to carry his OWN STATE) is Senator John Edwards.  Howard Dean is this year's Mo Udall/John McCain/Bruce Babbitt (despite not being from Arizona!), i.e., the thinking man's candidate (and likely also-ran).  John Kerry will be portrayed as a Northern liberal (cultural elite -- cultural elite), and his war position is wishy-washy, which will undercut his "war hero" status.  Joe Lieberman is just a non-starter (I could spend days explaining why).  Bob Graham just strikes me as "out there", and health concerns will plague him (even as they DON'T plague Dick Cheney).  Although I'm really coming to like Dick Gephardt more and more, Karl will have too easy a time painting him as the ultimate insider.  Elder statesman is a lousy position in presidential politics: just ask Bob Dole.

So, Edwards it is.  Young, handsome, telegenic, off to a big lead raising money, and by profession, a man of the people.  A TRIAL LAWYER!  As one possible sleeper issue, most people think that injured people should be compensated, he may be the perfect man to rail against the $250,000 medical malpractice damages cap Bush proposes, indeed, to show just how UNCOMPASSIONATE the compassionate conservative really is.   Oh, and did I mention he's from a SOUTHERN STATE (North Carolina).  Even though he'll probably lose his own state (and would lose his Senate seat if he seeks reelection), in a soft economy, I see Edwards as, potentially, next year's Bill Clinton.

Its STILL the economy stupid; while the President's brilliantly timed and located 9-11 Republican Convention in New York and attendant wrapping himself in the flag will be about fear-mongering and pandering to Middle America's "patriotic instincts", if the stock market (and everyone's 401K balance) continues to flag, and unemployment drifts up, I see Dubya going the way of H.W.  Time will tell, and Karl is smart enough to see these trends too and plan accordingly.  But that's what my Karl-meter tells me today.



May 13, 2003, New York, NY.

Just a brief break from talking about Karl Rove for two things: (1) Here is a self-explanatory petition, to let your Congressional representative know you are pissed (assuming you ARE actually pissed about it, of course) about the proposed new changes which will allow massive media consolidation (that's MORE media consolidation, just like the President is pressing for MORE tax cuts)  (thanks to Lisa English of Ruminate This); and (2) I'm certainly saddened to see that, in all likelihood, al-Qaeda has decided itís time for a comeback, by murdering at least 20 people and injuring scores more in simultaneous suicide bombings over at foreign worker enclaves in Riyadh, capital of Qaeda's home country, just hours ahead of Secretary Powell's arrival there.  Draw your own conclusions.

I promised further discussion of Nicholas Lemann's New Yorker article on Karl Rove, and doggone it, that's what I'll do.

As I mentioned yesterday, Karl is from a large family in Utah.  As I can't really remember the last time I heard "Democrat" and "Utah" in the same sentence, I think we can safely assume that Karl's political background was formed early on, and is sincere.  Contrary to my ravings, I have little doubt that Karl is indeed an absolute true believer, although I ALSO love ex-Faith Based Initiative Czar John Diulio's description of Karl and the Bushies as "Mayberry Macchiavellians".

What are the tenets of Karl's political belief structure that have served him so well?  Well, certainly, a love of James Madison and his style of "federalism" (whatever the hell that means; Karl's son's middle name is Madison in homage).  Karl, like many (including myself) professes greater trust of smaller, more localized forms of government than he does larger, more centralized governments (such as the one he presently serves).  And, as picked up by the Unseen Editor (who has been less invisible recently), Karl, again, despite being in service of Old Money, professes to be opposed to the Establishment -- Karl's candidates, in conjunction with or as part of their short, three or four point "message" (and, if they want to win, they will stay "on message"), will be "outsiders" (at least until they become incumbents, or course).  Hence, Karl's folks have gotten great mileage out of the "cultural elite", and in playing up the "arrogance of power" (the high points of which both involve someone named Clinton, (1) bringing in a crew of academic elitist types to impose a national health care plan, and (2)  using the instruments of state to cover up lying about a blow job).  Look for these themes, if not these very issues, to be brought up, in various ways, in the next 18 months.

While Karl's own head is filled with demographic slices of how many GOP votes will be needed in County X in State Y in order for Candidate Z to win, including how many suburban housewives with part time jobs will have to vote, Karl's candidates, and the message they transmit, is always remarkably simple.  Remember Bush's four point campaign?  Education, tax cuts, hell, that's all I remember and it doesn't even matter, because that's two more than MOST people remember!  But AT THE TIME, itís like the happy tune people sing on their way to vote.

A commenter asked, am I saying that the Dems don't have anyone of Karl's skills?  Or am I saying that the Democratic versions of Karl Rove don't have good enough candidates?   The answer is yes to both questions.  We can still win, though.

Next post:  Who does the TD's "Karl-meter" say looks good on the Dems' side?



May 12, 2003, New York, NY.

The Unseen Editor chides me for yesterday's diatribe on Nicholas Lemann's New Yorker article on Presidential Adviser Karl Rove, having engaged in such a diatribe without even having completed Lemann's article.  I say, hey, its Sunday!  Besides, my conclusions will be the same anyway, and having completed the article now, my conclusions are, of course, the same.  The Mickey Kaus-style editor's notes agonizing against my rhetorical excesses do, however, greatly add to the presentation (as I often require cautionary tales against my own excesses.)  Further, I am as guilty as anybody of losing focus on the matter at hand.  Karl Rove would never do that.  NEVER.  We have a lot to learn from Karl...

Let me start with a few basic premises, as to my own prejudices, so that we all can understand what's going on here.  I don't like the President's policies, as I believe they are destructive to the most vibrant economic activity (newer and smaller business, despite rhetoric to the contrary) and that I believe they are ultimately destructive of the country's moral fiber, by favoring the interests of the rich and super-rich (incomes of $300K plus) at the expense of everyone else (again, despite rhetoric to the contrary).  Indeed, I believe (rightly or wrongly) that the policies both Presidents Bush have had detrimental consequences to me and members of my family.  I won't even talk about foreign policy.  Accordingly, when I encounter a story of an amazing man like Karl Rove, who has chosen to serve lesser (though better-connected) men than himself in a cause that I find disagreeable (oh hell, you know I find it repugnant), my own prejudices come to the fore, and may well cloud my analysis.  This has happened before and will happen again, so let's just get it out there now.

Karl Rove, the political mastermind of the "Old Money Administration", is, ironically, a self-made man (coming from a humble family of five children in Utah, with its own interesting Sturm und Drang that will simply end with "Karl is adopted").  Karl didn't even graduate college.  Through turns as head of College Republicans (a story in its own right) through which he met George H.W. Bush (then head of the Republican National Committee) and the Bush clan, and an amazing career as political advisor, and political direct mail consultant (itís all about niche marketing), Karl is now as politically powerful an advisor as we have seen in generations.  He has much to teach us.

Today's Karl Rove lesson: THERE IS NO MIDDLE.  There is no such thing as a swing voter.  There are "unattached" voters, some on the far left, some on the right, many with views that are hard to categorize on the left-right scale.  Karl views his job as to activate the passions of these people enough to get them out to pull the lever Republican (and he has done a damned good job of this).  Such groups include Arabs in Michigan or regularly-church-attending Catholics.  Karl also plays trends: federal (frequently unionized) workers tend to be Democrats, and favor larger central governments; note how forcefully the President wanted the new Homeland Security Department to be non-union.

Why is listening to Karl so important?  Hey, Karl wins.  Itís as simple as that.  By depicting his old-money, Establishment group as upstarts (remember that?  George W. Bush pegged Al Gore as the Washington insider -- he, the SON OF A PRESIDENT cast somebody ELSE as the insider)

I had always noticed something amazing in my own mail: back when Clinton was in office, to the extent I GOT anything from the Democratic party (which was rare, despite it being my party of registration), the offers were to go to events (or not) or to pay a lot of money to occasionally meet with relatively minor officials (state senators, city councilmen, and the like).  What I got from the Republicans, by contrast, was amazing: often for as little as $1,000, I could get my picture taken with the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  Clinton (and his star-fucker crew of  Blumenthal, Carville, Morris and company) were cavorting with Hollywood, the Hamptons and Silicon Valley for mega-bucks to put on TV ads, while the supposed party of the people courted the super-elite.  The GOP, of course, put on ads too.  And God knows it got its massive contributions from big contributors (more then the Democrats ever did!).  But, other than labor unions, its hard to see a broad-based national fundraising scheme operating for the Democrats.  The GOP seems to pitch everybody, and pitch broadly.  Bush had thousands upon thousands of contributors at the $100 and $1000 levels (and he rewarded those who organized these donors -- the Pioneers -- with impressive access and accolades).  When it comes to WINNING, the GOP is suddenly the party of the little guy...would that it governed the way it campaigned (and would the Democrats raise money the way they purport to govern).

One of my commenters has suggested that if everybody who read this (including myself) were to simply grab a handful of voter registration cards the next time one found such a pile at a government office and send them to every unregistered voter we knew (likely to vote Democrat), we would be doing something far more valuable than all of the my preaching in the world.  I couldn't agree more.

Tomorrow (if I feel like it):  what makes Karl tick ideologically.



May 11, 2003, Brooklyn, NY.

Happy Motherís Day to all applicable. The Unseen Editor suggests that I comment on an article in this week's New Yorker by Nicholas Lemann called "The Controller", Karl's Rove's plan to take over politics. I smell... multi-part series... (Warning, long post today...)

I haven't read the full article yet, but we can get started is The New Yorker's public press release:

"In the same way that prophetic fundamentalists are always on the lookout for emblazonings of the number 666, the Mark of the Beast, in Washington everybody is highly attuned to the possibility that most of what goes on bears the Mark of Karl Rove," Nicholas Lemann writes in "The Controller," in the May 12, 2003, issue of The New Yorker. Nonetheless, "although the No. 1 occupational disease in the field of political consulting is a conversational tendency to run up one's own brilliance while, either subtly or overtly, running down the candidate, Rove manages to combine a manner that has no trace of self-effacement with an attitude toward his boss which appears to be truly worshipful." Rove, who is President Bush's chief political adviser, recalls his first meeting with him, in 1973: "I can literally remember what he was wearing: an Air National Guard flight jacket, cowboy boots, bluejeans.... He was exuding more charisma than any one individual should be allowed to have." Rove's "main goal over the next year and a half is making George W. Bush what his father wasn't, a reŽlected President," Lemann writes, "but he is too ambitious to want only that. The real prize is creating a Republican majority that would be as solid as, say, the Democratic coalition that Franklin Roosevelt createdóa majority that would last for a generation and that, as it played itself out over time, would wind up profoundly changing the relationship between citizen and state in this country."

"I think we're at a point where the two major parties have sort of exhausted their governing agendas," Rove tells The New Yorker. "We had agendas that were originally formed, for the Democrats, in the New Deal, and, for the Republicans, in opposition to the New Dealómodified by the Cold War and further modified by the changes in the sixties, the Great Society and societal and cultural changes. It's sort of like the exhaustion of two boxers fighting it out in the middle of the ring." Likening the current climate to that of 1896ówhen "the Civil War party system was in decline and the parties were in rough parity"óRove suggests that "somebody will come along and figure out a new governing scheme through which people could view things and could, conceivably, enjoy a similar period of dominance." Rove, Lemann points out, "clearly wants to be that somebody."

Rove is legendarily thorough. He "has an omnipresent quality," Lemann writes. "Everybody seems to have just heard from himóhe's a master of the little note or phone call on important occasions." For the most important campaigns, Rove "produces written plans far in advance, mapping out the race in its entirety, and he's famous for sticking precisely to the plan no matter what." One former candidate of Rove's tells Lemann, "Karl, then as now, was a master of the numbers. He wrote a book outlining the campaign: exactly how many votes I needed and where they'd come from." Asked to define what kind of person is a Democrat or a Republican is, Rove tells Lemann, "First of all, there is a huge gap among people of faith....They form an important part of the Republican base. It's easy to caricature them, but they're essentially your neighbors who go to church on a regular basis and whose life is a community of their faith and who are concerned about values.... I'm not exactly sure why, but if you're married and with kids you are far more likely to be a Republican than to be a Democrat." Democrats? "Somebody with a doctorate," Rove remarks. In 2004, voters "will see the battle for Iraq as a chapter in a longer, bigger struggle. As a part of the war on terrorism," Rove says. Of the future of the Democratic Party, Rove tells Lemann, "I don't think you ever kill any political party. Political parties kill themselves, or are killed, not by the other political party but by their failure to adapt to new circumstances. But do you weaken a political party, either by turning what they see as assets into liabilities, and/or by taking issues they consider to be theirs, and raiding them? Absolutely!"

Well, look, I'm married with a child (perhaps it has to be PLURAL?); on the other hand, my law degree is technically a doctorate. I believe in a higher order in the universe, but not a sadistic patriarchal interventionist Old Testament Deity. I belong to no organized political party. I'm a Democrat.

What Karl is proposing sounds CLINTONIAN. Karl is talking about the mechanics of winning, FOR ITS OWN SAKE. [Editorís note:  This is why you wait to read the article! Karl Rove is, if nothing else, a true believer. Besides, itís his job to be a strategist. Shouldnít it relieve you that Bush and Cheney Ė unlike Clinton Ė donít personally involve themselves with such mundane details?]  Our party had two people (and their entourage) who thought like this. One of them is my senator. Our party will continue to pay the price as long as this soul-less strain of thought continues, like a virus, to infect the thinking of our party. (And yes, Terry McAuliffe should be removed, preferably by the end of the week; just as Iraqi doctors now refuse to work with officials tainted by the former regime...)

Let's step back a second: Karl is not speaking about some glorious POLICY VISION. For Republicans, such a vision might sound something like this: "I see a country where people are free to pursue their dreams, their business dreams, their dreams of raising and prospering with their family, their dreams of building a proud and caring community of schools, churches, and other caring institutions, without the heavy hand of Washington interfering at every turn, and to add insult to injury, imposing heavy taxes to impose ITS notions of caring, right and wrong, and everything else."

You know what? That vision kind of sounds nice to me: find me some polity or party that stands for that, and I might support it. Oh wait, that's not the GOP. Right now, the GOP are DELIGHTED to have Washington impose standards for schools ("no child left behind"), for churches ("faith-based initiatives"), and has no problem telling states and localities what do from Washington (medicinal marijuana laws in California or assisted suicide laws in Oregon), and this GOP has no problem spending "the people's money", and spending it at record levels. In substance, the GOP HAS reduced some annoying tax levels paid (in some cases, uniquely paid) by people of high income or wealth, such as the estate tax, or the current proposed dividend tax reduction. Oh, and we'll seize on one horrible but still ONE UNIQUE terrorist incident and use it to roll back CENTURIES of constitutional protections in a matter of DAYS, and to keep the country on perpetual pins and needles of anxiety (complete with a cabinet secretary whose job it is to make periodic vague announcements for just that very purpose).

My God, TD, what kind of unified agenda is THAT? How is THAT in any way advancing that beautiful policy dream you put out above? BINGO!!! IT ISN'T!!! But the Republicans have sold the bill of goods -- the glorious suburban city on the hill which we drive to in our SUV and take our Stepford wives and kids to church, school and the country club -- so what else matters?! Amazingly, this is the very emptiest of values -- prosperity with a purpose -- the purpose being the maintenance of the prosperity of the prosperous. OF COURSE Karl doesn't know why "believers" and church-goers tend to favor the Republican view of things, he can't identify with their "values" because he personally is devoid of values. The end and the means are the same thing to him (Clintonian, I tell you).

Obviously, Middle American and Southern religious fundamentalists are at home with a party that spouts their "values" of bigotry and intolerance as its platform. [Editorís note:  This, folks, is that famous liberal tolerance and open-mindedness at work Ė and the kind of elitism that Rove can easily exploit!]  That was easy; it certainly explains a healthy element of the GOP "base". So what? The Democrats have become a reverse caricature of that: the party that stands for abortion on demand (and little else) and is similarly shrill and dismissive of opponents of that view for the most part. What of it, TD?

OK, good. You see where I'm going.

Clinton essentially taught Karl everything he now knows about national politics: triangulation, sleight of hand, strategic lies, repeating meaningless slogans as mantras, and the result now sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Clinton was a brilliant, hard-working, self-made man. Dubya is a lazy man handed Daddy's job. So what? In the end, both men had this going for them: winning itself for its own sake carries more importance than advancing any policy or vision once the office is won. If anything, at least Dubya has a vision of irresponsible tax cuts favoring rich people, Clinton didn't even have THAT.

Karl is a better tactician than anybody (except Bill C. himself -- and maybe -- MAYBE-- Hillary), AND his boy has the mantle of incumbency, and can play whatever games and push whatever buttons (including starting wars, as necessary) to keep the levers in play. So we beat Karl at his own game?  WRONG!

We have one chance to beat these motherfuckers. ONE. Because, if Karl gets four more years, he may very well achieve his unified-field-theory vision of eternal Republican rule. And we have one way to do it. And that is by throwing away the play book, and going back, 100%, to a campaign of policies, and values. The policies and values have to be REAL, selling them will take 6-8 word sentences, no more than 2 syllable words, of course. But the policies and values are MORE IMPORTANT. We have to beat Karl and the soulless automaton self-interested motherfuckers with the one thing they don't have: SOULS, and real values. [Editorís note:  For starters, how about giving the Republicans credit for having ďreal valuesĒ?  Just values that you disagree with.  You sound like Michael MooreÖ]  Affirmative reasons to vote Democratic (and if itís going to come down to "protecting a woman's right to chose", let's give up now).


Good. We know our mission. So, let's keep the cards and letters coming.



TD Extra II, 5-10-03.


Meryl Yourish eponymous blog (a writer, a weblog, her opinions) is the work of Richmond-based (via New Jersey) web designer and writer Meryl Yourish, who is a very popular blogger indeed. Though she purports to be "center-left", the blogroll leans to the right (center-right, of course), and the posts lean, well, hawkishly pro-Israel, and eclectic else-wise, though, well, center something. Humor drifts in there, and Meryl tries to call it as she sees it...
TD Designation:  Yorkshire Terrier

An Unsealed Room is the work of Israeli blogger (via the USA) Allison Kaplan Sommer, formerly a journalist with The Jerusalem Post now living north of Tel Aviv. The perspective is a fascinating one, I would guess to the right of many Israelis, though in no sense, on the right.
TD Designation:  Alano Espanol



TD Extra I, 5-10-03.

Itís time for more blog reviews (why? because I said so!) Today, we see a category called "Jew blogs" from Harry R. of The View From Here (many of which are already on the dog run). Let's go to some of the ones that are not heretofore on the dog run (and let's give 'em a big Shalom):

Jewschool is the work of blogger Mobius, and is a tour de force of matters of interest to modern Jewry, including resurgent anti-Semitism, Zionism and Jewish educational issues. The links section includes educational and informational resources, rather than blogs, and is worth a look. Well written detail in the professional looking website.
TD Designation:  Boerboel

Hasidic Rebel is the work of pseudonymous blogger Rebel, who has been described as a Hasidic version of Salam Pax in the sense that he is a dissenter from the community at large (although the Hasidic community is much less likely to throw the rebel into an airless dungeon and torture and/or execute him, but you get the idea). The posts are a fascinating insight into a community that most of us have little insight into. A short blogroll features mostly Jewish bloggers (including one in Yiddish).
TD Designation:  Rumanian Sheepdog

Yada Yada Yada appears to be the work of bloggers Mobius and Binyamin, and represents "works in progress" on a variety of subjects Jewish that eventually make their way to Jewish Week magazine. Eclectically Jewish is the best description I can come up with, reflected in posts and blogroll.
TD Designation:  East-European Shepherd



May 10, 2003, Brooklyn, NY.

Itís Saturday here at the talking dog...that means a visit with our friends at Pravda. First stop, Turkey, where Pravda asserts that the Bush Administration, via Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is still contemplating appropriate "paybacks" to Turkey for its failure to cooperate with the Iraq war by ceding some military bases to American forces for the attack. Itís good to see that the Bush people don't hold a grudge!

In other resentment news, Pravda tells us about American poultry-related quotas, which will end up reducing (greatly) American chicken exports to Russia (perhaps forcing a step-up in exports to...Iraq).

OK, what can we learn from this? It seems that, after not having a clear vision of integrated foreign and trade policy since at least the Reagan Administration (maybe longer), we now finally do. Unfortunately, it is what I will call "foreign policy of the 4-year old"-- spiteful, self-centered, short-sighted (otherwise, incoherent, of course). Can the Democrats make an issue of this? Is the Pope Italian? (Um, TD. the Holy Father is of Polish origin...)

Well, look, the country is well to the right of the average Democratic primary voter (much closer, BTW, to the average REPUBLICAN primary voter, and that includes most registered Democrats). Sentimental arguments about us "being mean to those nice allies", or even "our high moral standing in the world" will get us nowhere.

My problem with the Bush policy is basic, and brutally "Republican". By making the world more chaotic by fucking with established alliances and institutions (like NATO"> , which, thanks to Bush's petulance is in deep trouble, not to mention the much-less-important UN), we UNDERMINE, not strengthen, our own security. Now? As we increase the pores and fissures through which free-agent lunatics like bin Laden can operate. By weakening our alliances, may be cutting off some valuable early detection that had been helpful in the War on TerrorTM. The current world "order" is chaotic enough, without this. Somebody has got to stand up and make this argument.

To be honest, since right now, IMHO, none of the 9 little Indians has anything to lose (6, really, because Sharpton doesn't expect to win himself, of course, Moseley Braun is just a stalking horse against Sharpton, and I can't even remember that Kucinich is running). I'd love to see somebody just go crazy, and say, here are the problems with the Administration's foreign policy. Specifically, winning wars are great (though we're gonna have problems occupying Iraq, but that's now a sideshow. Being a big swinging dick may play well domestically, but our allies represent a net benefit to us (not a net cost), and their positions have to be considered in order to maximally leverage our own power, especially in a MORE chaotic world of non-state actors. (Hey, anybody who can come up with "memes and themes" for this will get extra credit!) In short, just as the Bush economic policies are weakening us domestically, the Bush foreign policies are weakening us AGAINST TERROR. Somebody, just say it. Anybody! (OK, not Lieberman, who wants to beat the Republicans from the right). Such a statement would be perfectly OK coming from Gephardt, or Dean, or Kerry, or Graham, or Edwards. SAY IT!!!

For God's sake, its 4th and 37 guys, throw the damned bomb!



May 9, 2003, New York, NY.

Happy birthday to TD Dad.  So far, not much action in my memes and themes contest.  If we don't come up with something good, we'll be left with the likes of Terry McAuliffe, and this mass e-mail to supposedly sympathetic Democrats.


In fact, that e-mail will be the subject of today's "practical Democratic conscience" critique:

"Democracy can work, particularly when a lot of people get on the phone or by email, and just let them know what's on your mind." -- George W. Bush, 5/5/03

President Bush has ordered his most loyal and partisan supporters to contact their Senators and Representatives in Congress to pressure them to pass his irresponsible tax giveaway.

It's time to fight back.

The Democratic Party is partnering with, People for the American Way, Campaign for America's Future, and dozens of other groups representing millions of Americans to organize a massive public mobilization. On Wednesday, May 14, join us by calling and emailing your representatives in Congress to let them know that the majority of Americans oppose more irresponsible tax cuts that go overwhelmingly to the wealthiest sliver of Americans.

Next week, we'll send you details on how you can use to contact your Representatives and Senators to tell them that it's time to pass a genuine stimulus plan instead of the irresponsible Bush tax giveaway.

Speaking of Genuine Stimulus Plans...

Senate Democrats introduced a plan to get the sluggish Bush economy moving again. The plan includes targeted tax breaks, help for small businesses, desperately needed aid for state and local governments, and help to laid-off workers.

It provides the immediate stimulus our economy needs at a fraction of the cost of Bush's ineffective scheme.

Click here to learn more about the Democratic economic recovery plan.

Take Action

Click here to send President Bush a message telling him it's time to abandon his irresponsible tax giveaway and to do the right thing to get our economy moving.

Tell Your Friends!

Supreme Court Countdown: Update

Friday, May 9, marks exactly two years since Bush first nominated some of his most extremist judges to the federal courts, and Democrats continue to protect American values by standing up to right-wing nominees.

The right-wing extremist nominees continue. President Bush has nominated career extremist Carolyn Kuhl for a lifetime appointment to the powerful 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kuhl, a former official in Reagan's Justice Department, has a long record of opposing reproductive rights, civil rights, and environmental protections:

*   She supported tax breaks for Bob Jones University despite its ban on interracial dating, a position opposed by 200 of her colleagues.

*   She wrote what a former Solicitor General called "the most aggressive memo" advocating the reversal of Roe vs. Wade in a case before the Supreme Court.

*   Prominent environmental groups, in a letter to Senators, have warned that Kuhl's record on environmental protections puts Americans at risk.

Republicans try to subvert the Constitution for Bush's nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has threatened to subvert the Constitution and end the Senate's "advise and consent" role in order to ram Bush's ultraconservative extremist nominees through.

If they're willing to subvert the Constitution to push through nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench, just imagine what they'll do when it comes time to fight for Bush's right-wing nominees to the Supreme Court.

If you haven't yet signed our petition, click here to sign it.

And if you haven't yet told your friends, click here or fill out the form below this message to spread the word. And if you have told your friends, tell some more!

Terry McAuliffe


OK, here we go.  I see some good stuff there, but mostly bad stuff.  As always, the big thrust is "we're the party of abortions on demand".  Opposition to that is the definition of a judicial extremist Ė pretty much that one issue.  I have said many times that Democrats need to lose that issue; the die-hard supporters of this issue will find other GOP positions (the environment and gun control come to mind) sufficiently offensive for this one issue not to matter.  The very phrase "right wing extremists" itself smacks Clintonian...but of course, this IS Terry McAuliffe writing this.

It looked like Terry might be getting somewhere on tax cuts, i.e., they don't lead to growth.  But...yup, you saw it too...he mentions that the Democrats' plan calls for "targeted tax cuts".  Ooops.  OUR tax cuts are OK, but theirs are NOT?  This is not going to be the answer, just our political benefactors are more deserving of tax cuts than THEIR political benefactors.  A dead loser.  The other social spending proposed in the "stimulus" package is nice, but once again: OUR aid to business is OK, theirs isn't?  Aid to state and local government sounds nice, but their cumulative deficits are in the $100 BILLION range; shall we just add THAT to the federal deficit?

What did I like?  McAuliffe mentioned THE issue: getting the economy moving.  Other than that, however, itís the standard-issue Democratic package: true believers (I'm guessing 20% or so of all voters on average) believe in it; not too much for everyone else.

Let me make it easy: McAuliffe is a holdover from the bygone Clinton era, personally symbolizing some of the abuses of that era (remember Terry's interest-free loan to the Clintons to buy their starter home in Chappaqua so Hillary could be a Noo Yawker?).  He is the symbol of crass, soul-less fundraising at any cost and expedience uber alles that is the Clintonian legacy.  Don't get me wrong: Bill Clinton himself, if he were eligible to run, would likely destroy Dubya in '04 (and Hillary Clinton might well defeat him as well, though at what cost?).  But after Bill (and Al Gore who has pre-bowed out) the Democrats are a party bereft right now of shall we say "Presidential" talent.

Having now seen this sample of Mr. McAuliffe's work, I say, very simply, the time has come for Mr. McAuliffe to end his feckless tenure as Democratic National Committee chair.  Let someone without troublesome ties to the previous regime do the job.



TD Extra I, 5-8-03.

While we ponder life, the universe and everything, let's welcome to the dog run (The Best Damned Links Section on the InternetTM)...

Representative is the work of all-around sensible guy Marc J. Wilson. Marc has links to something about his family, and a scaffolding company with which I am familiar, and a hell of a lot of lefty bloggers (including yours truly) that immediately evoke images of some sort of, well, LEFTY BLOGGER. But instead, Marc posits a sensible approach to the world, a sensible approach to the First Amendment, a sensible approach to childrearing, man, this guy...!  I don't know what else to say...go read this guy and get some sense into you!
TD Designation:  Standard Poodle (as sensible a dog as I can think of)



May 8, 2003, New York, NY.

A brief "format break" for today's Mitch Daniels news.  The soon-to-be-outgoing White House budget chief is subpoenaed in a securities related matter.  A complicated mosaic of reasons for Mr. Daniels' departure, but the Bush Administration does not need a scandal hanging over its budget director, so bye bye Mitch.  Someone else will have to administer the Bush Administration's historic deficit generation via insane spending growth and tax cuts.

Which segues more or less into what I'm trying to do here.  I have been brainstorming with the Unseen Editor about what has to be done to pump some life blood back into the Democratic Party, and, short of having to break out Hillary Clinton herself (who would most assuredly give Dubya a run for his money, although doubtless alienate even more of the electorate in the process and further weaken the Democratic Party), establish the kinds of memes and themes that will win for us.

Let's face it, "Tax Cuts for the Top 1%" never worked.  Class warfare arguments are a proven loser.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant percentage of the nation believes it is already IN the top 1% of incomes, and in any event, most of the country WANTS to be thought of as rich, so will have no problem making things better (even the "lucky duckies" who don't even earn enough to pay income tax themselves, though they assuredly pay payroll taxes).  This is why the President has been getting away with inheritance tax cuts, upper bracket income tax cuts and now, dividend tax cuts.  The correct challenge to them, for electoral purposes, is not "fairness", but is actually a Republican-type argument.  Contrary to what the President says, these cuts will HURT growth, because they will actually transfer money that would be spent by the government (generating economic activity and JOBS) and put it in the bank accounts and bond portfolios of already rich people, the people LEAST likely to pump it back in the economy.  The challenge: reducing that sentiment to 6 or 7 one or two syllable words that sound good to most people.

So far, the slogans that have worked (or at least been used by WINNERS) have been pretty lame: "Prosperity with a purpose", or "Building a bridge to the 21st century", or even "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?" (forgetting that we were all 4 years YOUNGER 4 years ago, so we at least had that going for us!)  But the current President LOVES inane slogans, and they seem to, resonate, with the people: "Axis of EvilTM", "Weapons of Mass Destruction", "The Evildoers", etc.

So I'm kinda gonna throw the floor open, now that we have a comments section and all, and invite you all to throw out some "memes and themes" and ESPECIALLY cute, meaningless catch phrases that will start to capture the imagination of a nation with a short attention span, kind of like tunes the electorate will hum on the way home from the theatre, or voting booth as it were.  A few thoughts are: "We Democrats know how to generate jobs, we did it for 8 years" ; "Cutting taxes won't help growth or jobs", or "Let ALL of America pull together".  You can do better, I KNOW you can.

I think itís a mistake to get too hung up on the "war and peace" thing at this point, although, if the President actually does mean to keep up a rolling world war, that would obviously become a bigger issue.  Although, if so, I would actually play the "growth-hurting" angle (thematic of Dubya's Dad being out of touch with ordinary people's ordinary economic problems).  If someone thinks they have a catch-phrase for it, go for it.  We're a big tent!!!

We'll see.  In history class, I always learned that it was the French who frequently rallied behind a "man on a horse", such as General de Gaulle.  But, we in the United States do it too, and Top Gun Dubya knows it.  We're probably not going to win on the "Dubya is a deserter" thing either; people like him at a visceral level (even I had more of a problem with Bill Clinton viscerally than I do with Dubya; Dubya's neo-Victorian POLICIES are the problem).  So, we're probably going to have to beat the GOP at its own game (and I don't mean by using Clintonesque dirty tricks or obfuscations), but by solid campaigning on being the party of growth and jobs.

Feels good.  Let's roll.  The truth is out there.  Start posting those winning memes and themes.  If entries warrant, I will select "winners" for recognition of some sort (possibly even cabinet posts in the talking dog administration).



TD Extra II, 5-7-03.

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is at Common Sense and Wonder. Go!  Enjoy!



TD Happy Extra I, 5-7-03.

Salam Pax is back, and he and his seem to have made it through the war.  Salam has, so far, the only definitive ORDINARY IRAQI's take on this war that I have yet seen.

Go.  NOW.



May 7, 2003, New York, NY.

In what has to be a huge disappointment to blogger and Hart-supporter Ezra Klein, Gary Hart announced that he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential nomination sweepstakes, leaving the field now to the "9 Little Indians".  As you know, I am trying to come up with a coherent "practical ideology" of issues that Democrats can rely upon to defeat the incumbent President in 2004.  The Unseen Editor points out that in an entire three day cycle, I have YET to come up with that killer plan that will vanquish Bush and make him crawl back to Crawford with his tail between his running shorts.  Kind of a tall order for three days, but come to think of it, we have more serious problems.

Specifically, those problems ARE the 9 Little Indians. Even if I come up with a sure-fire strategy on how to beat Bush, how can such a strategy be implemented if the country just sees weaker candidates against him?  That's the message Bush sends with each bench press, each mile logged: ďI am a strong, virile, studly leader...what have YOU pussies got?Ē

Back in '00, the Dems were blessed with not one, but TWO candidates who could easily be seen by all as "Presidential", by the practicalities of their policies, by their long experiences in the government, by their clear intelligence, even if neither had particularly compelling "charisma" (like Dubya DOES!).  Now, we have nine candidates in the field, and well, none of them really do it:  I just can't see any of them in the White House.  I'm sorry, and if things stay this way, I would support any one of them over Bush (including possibly Al Sharpton), but I can't "visualize" them in the White House.  We just need another candidate.  Someone we will need to draft.

Someone who has some distinct advantage over EACH AND EVERY other candidate in the field, and in their strongest areas, too.

Someone strong on national defense, and who, like Lieberman, voted for the war authorization, supported most of the President's extra-constitutional security agenda, and like Lieberman, helped excoriate President Clinton during his sex scandal, while still managing to give him crucial support at key moments, without his annoying moralizing and appearing to be a Republican on many economic issues.

Someone intimiately tied to "America's First Black President", and hence more African-American support already built in than Sharpton and Moseley-Braun combined.

Someone with ties to Labor, but without a questionable record of opposition to sensible free trade measures, and someone better able to articulate proposals to improve health care than Gephardt, or even Dean.  Like Dean, positives from the gay community, and experience in a "small state's" governor's mansion, while also being able to claim being from a big state (two, actually).

Like Edwards, a lawyer who can claim to be a child of the South and a friend of the people; like Graham, experience in both a Southern State House and the Senate, and as noted above, hawkish on defense and security issues.  Though not a "war hero" like Kerry, a player in Watergate, one of the nation's darkest political crises, and later a key player in Monicagate,  which clearly show "composure under fire".

And, on top of everything else, despite not even being in the field, polls put this candidate as the frontrunner among Democrats.  What one candidate combines all these attributes?  Not Al Gore, who has said he won't run, and has the integrity to actually mean it.  No, someone with the advantages outlined above WITHOUT Al Gore's (or even Bill Bradley's) annoying integrity: the kind of vicious street fighter it is going to take in order to take down what this candidate has termed "the vast right wing conspiracy" -- no matter what it takes.

Obviously, having a worthwhile ideology and a raison d'etre and integrity and a record to be proud of, fuck all that.  This is about winning.  Beating George W. Bush is just too damned important to put up any less than the absolute best: the most vicious and effective politician left in the Democratic Party that isn't Bill Clinton himself...

Hillary Clinton.

New York's junior senator, aside from sharing my October 26th birthday, has it all.  Liberals think she's liberal, when she can effectively point out that she isn't (and liberals will STILL love her anyway).  She can claim to be from Arkansas, as well as from New York and Illinois.  She's a hawk on national security issues.  She can take credit for 8 years of peace and prosperity.  Sure, she and her husband effectively eviscerated the Democratic Party with their personality cult and their dirty tricks and their "permanent campaigns" and obfuscations (and leaving Terry McAuliffe in charge of the moribund party), all of which have been taken to the bank by the Bush Administration, leaving ONLY Al Gore as a viable candidate (and after him, no one).

Look, she plans to run in '08, anyway, unless thereís already a Democrat in the White House.  Well, now we can HAVE a Democrat in the White House AND she can run too!  So let's get it over with.

Excuse me.  I'm going to be sick.



TD Extra I, 5-6-03.

Well, its time for another blog review....  No reason.  Just policy.

Blissful Knowledge comes to us from a fresh-off-a-blogging-hiatus Dr. Manhattan, whose tagline is "The Yankees, Politics, Religion, Public Policy...and Have I Mentioned The Yankees?"  The good doctor's blog posts are detailed, thought provoking and thorough; the doctor is a firm Zionist, and a well-reasoned conservative.  His blogroll is big and inclusive, and includes a Jewish reference section as well as a baseball reference section.
TD Designation:  Bleus de Gascogne



May 6, 2003, New York, NY.

We'll break format for a second, and let you know that White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels will be resigning within the next 30 days. I remain fascinated that the Bush Administration personnel shake-ups to date have been on the economic team (O'Neill and Lindsey a few months ago, and of course, Harvey Pitt and William Webster), while most of the remaining team (including, of course, the people most likely responsible for failing to thwart the September 11th events) remain firmly on the job.  I find it fascinating that even the Bush team realizes that its handling of economic matters seems to warrant personnel shake-ups.  Its still the economy, stupid, I guess.

And so...on to...Michael Kinsley's article in Slate on that self-proclaimed denizen of virtue, William Bennett (I'm late to this meme, but what can you do?)  Kinsley is a great writer, and I enjoy reading his stuff.  I confess that I enjoyed this piece, and I kind of agree with him on just how amusing it is to watch one of the world's biggest moral "scolds" being exposed as nothing but a sanctimonious hypocrite himself.  Feels good.  But...let's roll.

I see at least two problems with the feeding frenzy of Mr. Bennett that fall into the realm of "practical Democratic conscience".  First, Dems should actually have less of  a problem with Mr. Bennett's gambling itself than most rightwing moralizers, like Mr. Bennett himself, or the President, or Mr. Ashcroft.  Sure, he's a hypocrite and a blowhard and an asshole, but hey, nobody's perfect.  Second and more importantly, he's not in the government now.  He's a side show, quite literally, it would seem.  The President has done wonders deflecting attention from his own shortcomings as a leader and especially the shortcomings of his policies by surrounding himself with lightning rods, most notably Attorney General Ashcroft and former Treasury Secretary O'Neill (or occasionally Vice President Cheney or Homeland Security Secretary Ridge) while the guy with whom the buck stops gets to pass it to the subordinates.

Let's remember that the President's endless jingoism and wrapping himself in the flag is just part of this deflection from a solid consideration of the merits of his policies (which, prior to 9-11, were not exactly popular).  The revelation of Mr. Bennett's failings comes at a very convenient policy time: even die-hard Republicans are having trouble justifying the tax cuts the President is proposing, the economy does not seem to be having an expected post-war boom-let as jobless claims are up and the stock market "rally" has been tepid, and questions are starting to be asked about why no WMDs -- none at all -- have been discovered lurking in Iraq.  Best to have some sideshow, to keep people from asking the hard questions, even if only for a short time.

But we won't be falling for that trap, now will we?  Because we KNOW what counts.



TD Extra I, 5-5-03.

On my theme of "left nudging", I wanted to take my road show  to Eric Alterman, but he said nothing lately that I particularly disagree with in his recent columns (and indeed, seems to be keen on PRACTICAL approaches that Democrats must take) so, we'll take a short dog run break:

Altercation is the MSNBC hosted product of famous lefty journalist and author Eric Alterman.  Though extremely partisan (yes!), Altercation is extremely readable and enjoyable, as well as offering that "practical partisanship" I am so desperately trying to engender myself.  The blog has a short blogroll of wall to wall great lefties, an active and lively comment section, and gets more traffic in the next 20 minutes than I am likely to get for the rest of time.
TD Designation:  Alpine Dachsbracke



May 5, 2003, New York, NY.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo, Amigos!  Aqui, itís time to see how we can blame the Bush Administration for the killer tornadoes in the Midwest that have left dozens dead.  Horrible tragedy, and certainly, nothing to make light of.

So now, let's move on to today's target of opportunity, the American Prospect and its "house blog" Tapped.  Ok, Ok.


Tapped is the House Blog of the super-liberal American Prospect magazine, and is blatantly and crassly partisan (not that there's anything wrong with that).  The blog's authorship is "pseudonymous"; the blogroll features many players already on the dog run (mostly lefties, of course).  TD Designation:  Prazsky Krysavik

So, itís THIS article that gets our attention, a post of a few days ago lambasting the President's appearance (particularly his dramatic arrival) on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  As you might guess, the article criticizes the choice of a fighter plane to create a photo opportunity, the dramatic background to be treated by all the media-world as a stump speech, and even ultimately to DELAY the Lincoln's arrival at port in San Diego so the President could spend the night on the ship.

Nice.  All true.  So what?  The President gets to use the props of state for his advantage: its just the way it is.  Bill Clinton gets to use the Oval Office for affairs...of state; George W. Bush gets to use F-3 Vikings and aircraft carriers.  Get over it.  And yes, these things are expensive, but Bill Clinton cost the taxpayers billions by running all over the country in his "permanent campaign mode", and I'm sure that didn't bother the folks at the Prospect.  Rank has its privileges.  Incumbents have an intrinsic advantage because of it.  Deal with it.

The problem with the article is that it reinforces the whining and kvetching that Democrats have been up to for the last two and a half years.  It also misses something:  this might be Bush's "Top Gun" moment, or it might be his "Mike Dukakis in the tank" moment.  One thing about Bush, he takes chances (he even wanted to ride to the carrier in a 2-seater Tomcat, which the Secret Service nixed, so that an agent and a backup pilot could come with him in the 4-seater).  And, most importantly, it misses problems with the President's highly repetitious and disingenuous speech, which can be played for partisan advantage by the good guys (that would be the...Democrats).

Specifically, Bush asserts that he has somehow made America "safer" by engaging in this Iraq action, even at a time when in the same speech, he tacitly admits that the casus belli was (1) an error in intelligence and judgment and/or (2) a deliberate outright lie, by noting that we have "identified hundreds of sites" where WMDs might lurk "for inspection".  Here is a key meme that liberals are leaving on the table that is an absolute broadside at Bush's "Top Gun" strategy.  Specifically, (1) if Iraq HAD WMD's, by under-deploying and not securing things like Chemical Ali's house and sites we thought were "likely" WMD sites (as opposed to the oil fields), then those WMDs HAVE LIKELY fallen into the hands of God knows who, and may be readily saleable to our buddies at al-Qaeda; (2) if Iraq did NOT have WMD's, we have just undermined key relationships with our allies that are supposed to help us in the War on TerrorTM, particularly, of course AL-QAEDA, while removing a regime that, though nasty, had been effectively contained; and (3) if we do not take steps to fully secure Iraq, run the risk of it falling into the sphere of influence of the religious extremist-terrorist sponsoring Iranian Mullahs.  If one or more of the above are true, the security of the United States has likely been undermined, not strengthened.  Pissing on our allies for some "let's feel good about ourselves, America" moments is NOT sound policy.

Further, itís a fair time to take a good look at homeland security expenditures as proposed by the President; they are actually being reduced in real terms in many areas.  (Yes, my source is the House Democrats, but somebody's got to say it!)  The fact is, the Bush tax cuts are forcing compromises in other federal programs, like homeland security, things like port inspection programs and funding for "first responders" (local police and fire department), for example.  If you believe that spending money on homeland security is a necessary element of making the country more secure, then Bush can be called on this.  Mr. President, why are you, on net, spending LESS money on homeland security programs now than you were before September 11th?

These are the questions that matter, who CARES if the carrier Lincoln was within sight of San Diego during Bush's Top Gun moment?



TD Extra I, 5-4-03.

I guess it was probably inevitable, but one of my favorite politicians, the quirky Israeli Labour Party leader, Amram Mitzna, announced his resignation as Labour Party leader today. Mitzna made references to being undermined in his role as party leader by those seeking to put their own ambitions ahead of the party, hinting at Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, former party leader and defense minister in the recent national unity government.

But while many (including me) have speculated on why Mitzna's Labour lost (and lost so badly), to take a principled stand and lose is no shame, a lesson not learned on these shores, where the Democrats' ideology in recently years has often been little more than "we're not Republicans".

This is all too bad: I believe Mitzna was a man of principle, who represented a real departure from much of the unfortunate, albeit understandable "bunker mentality" of most Israelis toward peace overtures. His departure will probably open the way to a national unity government, perhaps Labour-Shinui-Likud, with or without a couple of religious parties. It seems like this would be a moderating combination, but if history is our guide, it will make little difference to PM Sharon. Some other Labour leaders can now step up to cabinet posts, and the party will be "in" the government, but I predict little overall change, road map or no, Saddam or no, Abu Mazen or no. The main characters of the drama (Sharon, Arafat, Beshar Assad)  remain center stage.

Sadly, someone capable of breaking out of this insane psychodrama has just left the theatre.



May 4, 2003, Brooklyn, NY.

A grim, overcast day here, reminiscent (I'm told) of the frequent weather of Seattle, home of our newest dog run member, and the subject of today's "critical Democratic studies" examination. (Ultimately, if we are to take back this country in '04, we will need to show the discipline the President demonstrates in his exercise and health regimen and in bullying his opponents. Feels good? Not necessarily. So let's roll!)

Orcinus is the work of Seattle area journalist David Neiwert, who tells us he is an award winning freelance journalist and author, and his work can be found at MSNBC, The Washington Post, and Salon. The blog's name is derived from one of the species native to his native Northwest: orcinus orca, or the killer whale (you all know what that means!). David is a fabulous writer and an absolute partisan; the posts are cogent, detailed, occasionally breathtakingly good. The blogroll is, well, a model lefty blogroll (though...I'm not...on it...)
TD Designation:  Non-Canine (Orcinus Orca/Killer Whale)

And so, after pointing out that I think Orcinus is one of the most intelligent, best written blogs out there, I will, alas, point out its errors and sentence its author to 5 -10 minutes of reeducation camp.

In particular, we will take a critical look at the problems in one of Orcinus' posts, "Santorum and the Sea Change". The "problems" are at a meta-level. Mr. Neiwert opens thusly:

"One of the interesting subtexts of the current dustup over the recently outed homophobia of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum is that even though the GOP is officially standing behind him, party leaders must be discomfited by how deeply the controversy cuts against the GOP's current national electoral strategy.

It's also worth considering for a moment what the situation reveals about the politics of being gay and lesbian in America today. Ten years ago, Santorum would have been backed by a chorus of fundamentalists decrying everything homosexual, and there would have been little hesitation by party officials in their support. Now they're hoping the controversy just goes away. That quietly suggests a sea change that lurks beneath".

Mr. Neiwert gives us principal thesis, about which, BTW, I don't think he is incorrect:

"It became clear during the Trent Lott controversy that Karl Rove and Co. were writing off the neo-Confederate wing (for now, at least) in pursuit of the ever-elusive Suburban Voter, who might swing Republican if he/she could be convinced the GOP weren't awash with extremists of nearly every stripe. To pull off such a ruse, Lott had to go. But the scandal revealed a growing tension within the GOP, between its longtime pandering to the bigots and haters who comprise much of its voting base and the desire of the conservative movement to become a genuine majority with broad appeal.

Now comes Santorum, whose recent remarks comparing homosexuality to bestiality and other social ills run smack into this rift. Certainly Santorum's views resonated with a significant power bloc within the White House -- particularly its legal wing, headed by Solicitor General Ted Olson (as well as the judicial wing headed by Antonin Scalia), whose own legal philosophies rather neatly (and ominouosly) align with Santorum's thinking, such as it is. Most of all, it strikes a chord with the fundamentalist bloc both inside and outside the White House.




What Democrats fail to comprehend is something that the Republicans are implicitly admitting by their recent efforts to appear more "inclusive" of such former targets as homosexuals: the gay-bashing rhetoric so favored by conservatives in the '80s and '90s, particularly in service of the fundamentalist right, has backfired. It is no longer deemed acceptable behavior by all those soccer moms who Karl Rove wants on the Republican rolls.

The reality is that American society has quietly undergone an important change in attitudes during the past decade, especially as more and more gays and lesbians have come out of the closet and staked out their place in the mainstream. Increasingly, gay people are not just a few furtive strangers but they are somebody's cousin or brother or schoolteacher. This ultimately has affected even those people who find homosexuality repugnant or morally objectionable; they may not change their views much, but they understand that we're still talking about real flesh-and-blood people and not some abstract demon."

Well, Mr. Neiwert presents us with an interesting theory, of course. But making the Democrats run after collateral chimeras, while the GOP is holding the monopoly on the important stuff like national security and personal safety (and of course, "getting government off your back") is, frankly, more significant than whether a senator from a jurisdiction that was described by Jim Carville (and later recounted to me by a federal magistrate in Philadelphia) as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between", is homophobic. OK, TD, but where is he going with this, and where the &^%$ are YOU going with this? Glad you asked. The rest of the Orcinus piece addresses one thing:

"This sea change became clear during the last two attempts to pass an updated and upgraded hate-crimes bill. Titled the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act [of 2001 and 2002, respectively], its main champion in the Senate was Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, though it enjoyed bipartisan support, notably by Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who also sits on the Judiciary Committee. It died in 2001 because Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah -- one of the chief enemies of the bill -- chaired the Judiciary Committee for much of the active portion of the session (until Jim Jeffords' May 24 defection); and it foundered in 2002 because Democrats failed to make it a priority, and Hatch managed to hold it up in the Judiciary Committee once again, citing bogus objections that the law somehow might prevent local law enforcement officials from prosecuting serious crimes."

The new hate-crimes law was a significant improvement on the 1995
Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act, which is the primary hate-crimes law on the federal books. It is also notoriously inadequate because of limitations placed on its scope by Hatch and cohorts (Jesse Helms being among the ringleaders) during its two-year ordeal back then, since Republicans were running the show. The chief limitation is that in order for federal investigators and prosecutors to get involved in a hate crime, it must be a violent crime that occurred either on federal property (such as, say, a national park) or during the commission of a federal activity, such as voting."

Mr. Neiwert gives us fascinating background, such as interviews with Barney Frank, and discussions regarding Log Cabin Republicans. He even ends nicely:

"Its brazenness notwithstanding, the GOP's hypocrisy in trying to play both sides at once -- coddling Santorum and the gay-bashers even while it touts its "inclusiveness" -- has so far been a winning strategy. And it will continue to be until the Democratic Party rekindles an understanding that its greatness has always been measured by its willingness to stand up for the little guy."

Bingo! OK, where the &^%$ are you going, TD? Again, thank you for asking. Mr. Neiwert has fallen for the GOP's favorite sport: snipe hunting. Rick Santorum did something different from Trent Lott. Trent Lott said something that can't be spoken, because itís not even polite at country clubs to be overtly racist anymore. As to Santorum, one can be openly homophobic in many churches: "forgive the sinner and not the sin" my ass. Also, "openly Black" people represent, by my understanding, something like ten times as many people as "openly gay". The President, who is controlling the game, like Nero at a gladiatorial event, turned his thumb downward, and Lott was gone. He turned his thumb up for Santorum, of course. Those are just the mechanics. The question is, why is this important?

BINGO! BINGO! BINGO! It is NOT important. THAT is the point. Mr. Neiwert reduced the issue (in practical terms) to political stands on hate crimes legislation, as it pertains to acts against gay people. The problem with that is that there are perfectly good reasons to oppose such legislation. It is already a crime to harass someone, or assault them, or murder them; in around 40 states, BTW, a death penalty offense on the last one. Many on the right argue that this is some "special privilege" gays are seeking; someone thinking in civil liberty terms may not want the state crawling around their head to subjectively determine whether their crime was motivated by permissible greed or passion, but impermissible "hate". Further, I personally believe that this type of legislation will not deter a single bigot, though I'm sure it will help certain legislators pander more efficiently. We have TOO MUCH legislation like that, itís not sound policy, itís just for campaign sound bites.

And the best reason of all why the smartest thing Dems can do with Santorum, other than politely saying ďhe's entitled to his STUPID, BIGOTED opinion, but we thought most people who who THINK such idiocies [and some of what he said, if consensual sodomy is allowed, BIGAMY will be permissible-- forgetting that bigamy means dual MARRIAGE, and marriage is a state-sanctioned contract] would have the GOOD TASTE not to say them in public.Ē That's it. Because on the greatest pandering issue to gays of all, guess which darling of the left signed the Defense of Marriage Act? Why? Because the most effective Democratic politician of this generation knew the ultimate importance of pandering to gays.

Nope. Anybody who doesn't ALREADY KNOW that the Democrats are the "Big Tent" and the party of inclusiveness is someone who ain't gonna be convinced. This is not the issue on which elections are won. It MAY be an issue on which elections are lost, and Howard Dean will have some problems because of his stand on Vermont civil unions, even though it was a courageous stand, and even though the only people who have problems with it ARE BIGOTS. But we ALREADY KNOW the GOP is the party of bigots. There are people for whom that is a GOOD THING. For the people who MATTER, the great middle-of-the-road who are modestly offended by BOTH bigotry AND open professions of homosexuality, this is an issue to be regarded as "irrelevant".

In short, we are watching valuable energy that could be better spent getting a voter registration drive among apathetic gay people wasted on grandstanding over something we ALREADY KNOW: many Republican national leaders are bigots (as the great Captain Louis Renauld would say, I'm shocked! )

Lesson: gay pander issues are LOSERS for the Democratic party. Stay away from them. Don't sponsor bills about them, ignore them. Certainly, rhetorical attacks on the hypocrisy of the never-LESS-inclusive-than-now GOP about its "inclusiveness" are fine. But, as Mr. Neiwert wisely notes, Karl Rove is not going after Blacks or gay voters, he is going after WHITE SUBURBAN VOTERS. Karl is a smart mother*&^%er. Let's see what he's doing, and realize that the issues that MATTER are issues (family leave? health insurance? consumer confidence?) that appeal to THAT GROUP. We have a lot of work to do, boys and girls, and we can't waste energy on dead-end side streets.



May 3, 2003, New York, NY.

A gorgeous day here in the big city, so I came into the office!  Anyway, itís Saturday, so we'll hear from...

Pravda notes discussions among France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg (the so-called "old Europe" who dared disagree with American Iraq policy) concerning the possible formation of  a 60,000-strong European defense force.  Right now, such a force is envisioned as an "alternative" to American military power.  Part of the impetus for this may be Rumsfeld-pique-driven musings concerning the United States pulling troops out of Germany (and moving them to... Iraq?)  I daresay I would bet that no one in Washington has considered the strategic implications of such a European defense force that might or might not be part of NATO, and which might or might not be interested in advancing American interests.  Stay tuned, and keep eating those Freedom Fries.

East Asia, where the People's Daily remains SARS obsessed, noting nearly 200 new cases reported in Mainland China.  The People's Daily also reports on the tragic deaths of 70 Chinese sailors in a submarine accident -- just a small reminder to us cocky and cocksure Americans that other countries not necessarily 100% friendly to us (and not necessarily in the Axis of EvilTM) happen to have things like submarines too.

And of our proposed format change (I guess).  Much as this blog has enjoyed its share of Bush-bashing, let me just say that itís just too damned easy.  When this humble blog is at its best, itís because it gives you "value added". We give you the best "value added" blogroll I know of (the dog run, the Best Damned Links Section on the InternetTM) and I hope to continue to add great blogs, and then reduce them to unhelpful summaries and inexplicable dog breeds.  I guess I could do that exclusively, but then even I would get bored after a while, and would go the way of some bloggers who have hung up their memes.  Nope.  As a vanity site, I do this for me, but I want to make this a blog that gives readers...value added.

So...what about it TD?  What the hell have you got?

Well, at the kind suggestion of the Unseen Editor, who has given you our prior Israel obsession, and indeed, the (really popular) idea for the dog run's capsule summaries, we propose to be the new practical conscience of people of good will, i.e., Democrats.  Wait a minute, TD, are you saying that Republicans are not people of good will?

Well, yes.  If you are the kind of Republican who simply believes that government should get out of the business of trying to run people's lives, be it at home, or at work, or in the streets, and in order to do this, it will certainly be necessary to reduce what government spends, then you are MY kind of Republican.  Of course, you are NOT George W. Bush's kind of Republican, so get the *&^% out of that party, and join me, because the Republican Party YOU believe in no longer exists.  The new Bush-dominated GOP is now about banana-republic(an) style crony capitalism: corporate welfare, farm subsidies, free trade in word only, exploitation of labor and the environment for the benefit of the connected few (indeed, even exploitation of our armed forces; while not even I will go so far as to say the War to Liberate IraqTM was ABOUT the ability to let sweetheart reconstruction contracts, I will certainly say that connected insiders are sure to  benefit from it).

As far as telling you how to live, itís the DEMOCRATS that want to get out of your bedroom, and as we just learned from Rick Santorum and the universal support he got from his party, the Republicans who want to get right in there with you and tell you what you can and can't do, based on the whims of the GOP's own religious right "Taliban wing".  Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

So, which political party presents the hope of a brighter future for the American people?  You got it: the Democrats.  Yes, there is an unfortunate pandering tradition in the Party of FDR.  But that party showed, under its recent standard bearer Bill Clinton, that it can act responsibly fiscally, and more or less control its urges to spew out largesse to its faithful. The GOP, by accelerating both regressive taxes (which will NOT stimulate the economy, of course, as they largely won't even kick in for years!) AND keeping up corporate welfare, coupled with its unfortunate social policies of "we want to tell you what to do in your most personal aspects of your life" has shown us that unless you are a member of its select class of beneficiaries, it has nothing for you, and it has no discipline of any kind.  The Democrats are even likely to be more sensible in terms of selected "deregulations"; the Dems are NOT wholly captive of "Big Labor" in the manner that the GOP is captive to "Big Business".

So what, TD?  So what indeed.

Since the unfortunate 2000 election, Dems have taken great comfort in calling Dubya "the unelected fraud", in pointing out his personal shortcomings, and in circling really less than important collateral issues like piranhas, without ADVANCING a national agenda, or for that matter, giving anyone a reason to vote Democrat other than "we're not them".  This is the unfortunate legacy of Bill Clinton.  In running his 8-year (plus an open-ended Hillary extension) cult of his own ego, former President Clinton has left his party in an ideological shambles.  He forced his second, Al Gore, into having to run away from him -- 8 years of peace and prosperity could not be relied upon in the campaign, because it would tar Gore -- apparently a Boy Scout in his personal conduct -- with the perjurious rake, who stood for very little except winning for himself.

Well, shall we take a look at what this has wrought?  George W. Bush and his handlers learned the lessons of Clinton brilliantly: the perpetual campaign, triangulation, the "bully" (and I do mean bully) pulpit. Beyond tax cuts and jingoism, what Dubya stands for is getting his ass reelected.  This presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Democrats to play sound policy against sound-bites.  Itís time we stopped focusing on irrelevant crap like Rick Santorum's bigotry, or whether Dubya exploits air craft carriers for his benefit, and focus on REASONS why the Democratic candidate can do an out and out better job than Dubya, across the damned board.  Emotional appeal, sure.  But a sound, unassailable, focused NEVER ENDING attack on inferior policies and execution of the Bush Administration.

And in order to do it, I'm probably going to have to start by taking on THE LEFT; while I've been as guilty as anyone, itís time we stopped focusing on the irrelevant, and get to the point.  We have to get our acts together, and our focus laser-like, why OUR policies and our proposed execution of those policies is BETTER, and not just a LITTLE better.  As we said after Election 2002, if the country has a choice between fake Republicans and real Republicans, it will just chose the real ones.  Our job is to show that it has a REAL choice, the party of the crony insiders, or the party of responsibility.

At least, I'm going to make it my job.  Who's with me?



May 2, 2003, New York, NY.

Another tough day at work (actually not so tough, as much of the day was spent out of the office), so...  a short one.  But big things coming.  Really.  Just be patient.  I have identified hundreds of areas to investigate in making this a blog of mass appeal.

Remember campaign finance reform?  A special "fast track panel" of the federal court in the District of Columbia (featuring two district judges and one appeals judge) struck down key parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law as unconstitutional.  For a detailed take on matters legal, I usually go to Professor Volokh, but Eugene hasn't commented yet (its 17:30 EDT).  He will, I'm sure.  I will just say there were many dubious restrictions in McCain-Feingold that are arguably violative of the First Amendment, and it looks like the D.C. panel found problems (which will enable a direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which will be the last word on this, unless it fecklessly manages to duck a decision).  Honestly, since a case called Buckley v. Valeo equated giving money to "free speech" (now the law for decades) it becomes hard to imagine just how, as a matter of statute, the restrictions envisioned by McCain-Feingold will fly.  What probably IS constitutional would be clear, mandatory, timely, meaningful DISCLOSURES of who is giving what to whom.  While the Buckley case may equate the money with free speech, there should be no concomitant right to veil the giving.  Probably not enough, but the best we will do (IMHO).

Let's hear it for CNN finding something to displace the war (now that the President says "the serious combat part is over") from its lead story: Scott Peterson, who hired Mark Geragos to be his defense counsel.  Mark Geragos, who most recently represented Winona Ryder, is of course, a frequent commentator...on...CNN itself...  Well, I'm a lawyer, what do I think?  Well, if Mr. Peterson is guilty, I won't shed any tears either way, whether California sentences him to probable life on death row (California doesn't execute people very often, though it has executed 10 people since the 70's; good old New York has, or life without parole.  If he's not guilty, I'd kind of like to know who ELSE might have committed this crime (but then, I'm not a prospective juror).  I don't know; I have seen it pointed out that budget-strapped California will certainly spend a lot more money on a death penalty prosecution than on a life without parole case, but the public wants a death penalty.

Well, itís Friday.  At least I'm not talking about you know what.  Enjoy the weekend.


TD Extra I, 5-1-03.

Haggai of Haggai's Place writes in to ask if Bush's resting pulse rate is REALLY in the 30's.  As I answered Haggai, my vague recollection was that Bush himself said that once, but in trying to get verification, all I could get was the White House physician's report, that puts the President's resting pulse at 43, and this article that puts it at 44, putting me about 4 beats high.  We aim for accuracy at the talking dog, and I readily admit my error.

Haggai also notes that legendary Spanish bicyclist (winner of the Tour de France 5 times in a row) Miguel Indurain had a resting pulse in the high 20's, and therefore, the President has a little ways to go.  Given that Indurain's competitive AGE was in the 20's or 30's, and he was a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE, I think the President's condition (at 56, and allegedly NOT a professional athlete) is all the more remarkable.

I'll just leave the snarkier stuff I could say about the President for others, and at least, for other posts.  I just wish he would impart the same effort to his job that he imparts to his physical condition (as measured in hours in the day).


May 1, 2003, New York, NY.

Welcome to May, and Happy May Day (even as the number one place for May Day celebrations, China, where the May Day holiday is usually celebrated for a week, will be greatly subdued amidst SARS concerns.)  (Hey TD, where are those "big changes" you promised?  Well, as our military now says regarding locating Iraqi WMDs, let the inspections work...what's the hurry?)

Not to be left out, however, May Day WAS celebrated in Berlin, with a riot (29 injured, 97 arrested).  NO celebrations of any kind in Turkey, massive earthquake, dozens dead and as I write this, over 100 believed trapped in a collapsed school dormitory, mostly children.

And no celebrations in Gaza, as Palestinian sources report 10 dead in an Israeli incursion following this week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv (oh, and the launch of that "road map" for Mid-East peace, which, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, will succeed THIS time because we have finally landed on the right metaphor.)

Why this "celebration" thing, TD?  Glad you asked.  Tonight, our President will take a bumpy plane ride to land on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (named after the Great Emancipator, see all the wonderful themes developing?) where he will address the nation tonight to celebrate -- there's that word again -- the formal end of the hostilities part of our War to Liberate IraqTM.  For poetic (and public relations) purposes -- Karl's great, isn't he? -- the President will fly in the co-pilot seat of a navy fighter plane, which will do a "tail-hook" landing on the carrier.  The Abraham Lincoln is coming back to California after participating in the Iraq conflict.  Though an air sickness bag will be provided for the President, he's unlikely to need it, as he used to fly similar craft for the Texas Air National Guard (when he wasn't deserting or AWOL) and, the President is, well, in phenomenal physical shape.  Did I mention that the man has a resting heart rate in the 30's, I mean that's UNBELIEVABLE.  The only man I'd ever heard of in that range was Bjorn Borg, and he was a professional athlete at the top of his game, rather than a man in his 50's with a desk job.  Just unbelievable.

Well, as y'all know, the defense establishment has been patting itself on the back for weeks over its victory over a vastly inferior enemy, the bulk of whose forces didn't want to fight, in order to prevent it from using chemical or biological weapons it didn't have.  Now itís time for the Commander-in-Chief to get in on the action, and let the American people know itís a-OK to feel smug and good about themselves.  And as for the French...


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