Saturday, September 11, 2004

Will We Win this Election?

The "we" meaning the powers of good (borrowing the language from the other side here) and the "election" being the U.S. presidential one. The question is a serious one, and I want to try to answer it here from the point of view of a minor goddess.

The answer is that I have no idea. The powers of darkness are strong and getting ever stronger, and anybody who is willing to employ anything, simply anything, in the internal politics of a country is hard to beat. For most of us, politics has to do with the care of common affairs, but a few isolated souls think that politics is a game where the winner gets all, a game of greed and cruelty and lying and twisting an unethical pretzel into even more bends and reverses if it serves some point in the campaign. That's what we have in the other corner of the ring. So be prepared for many rounds and much cheating and things like stones in the boxing gloves. And be prepared to hear that it's our guy who had the stones and that he must have punched his own face. That's why there is all that blood.

Add to that the referees, the media, who are pretty much on the take and have already printed out the final victory certificates with the other guy's name.

So I don't know. On logical grounds, on ethical grounds, on rational grounds we should win easily. But these are not grounds much trodden here, so anything is possible. What is not possible is giving up. This is a match, however long, on which the shape of our world depends. It will determine what, if any, rights we all are going to have, and it will determine whether we will repeat some of the horrendous history of the human race. So the towel will not be thrown in, the match will not be declared as over until we win.

Or perhaps the sporting metaphors are wrong here. The job we have in front of us is more like getting an operation for a precancerous mole or for shoveling out the shit in the stables. Unpleasant, not something we'd want to do, but a job that needs to be done anyway. No choice about it. Either we do it this year, or the year after, or the year after. It's as simple as that. Some things are.

In Memory of 9/11

This is something I wrote about a month after September 11, 2001.

This is an autumn in a neglected garden. The earth has shifted on its axis, the sun has turned its gaze away for a moment and blood has rained on the earth. Gardens have been forgotten.

But nature is not only cruelty. It is also life and compassion and time moves on without blinking an eye. My garden has grown while I have been somewhere far away, not caring or caring too much, and when I return my tortured mind still finds respite in its depths, in its astonishing, contradictory jungle. The last roses dangle from their branches, below them the grass is covered with the inexplicable riches that nature gives the smallest rose petal, the faint memory of all that scent with its thousands of little memories about lips and skin and lily heads heavily leaning against the night still hovers in the crisper air. Bipolar wall flowers blossom in every crack and crevice, ignoring the wrong time of the year for this feast and rogue wood tobaccos that I didn't have the heart to weed out earlier now tower over me; their white flowers staring at me with concern, their enormous leaves whispering: "Are you all right?"

I am not all right. Someone I knew was weeded out young, will never come home, will never be all right again. But the garden is still the place where it seems possible that one day the world will heal even these wounds, that new life will grow out all this senseless death, too. Nature demands that things will be all right again, maybe not soon, maybe not for some time, but ultimately, spring will come again.

This does not seem possible. Winter will be endless this year, I fear. Violence has cast its seeds and these will breed more violence, more showers of hatred. Garden after garden must die or grow nothing but fear.

But nature doesn't listen to me. She has other plans, and maybe she knows better. Maybe.

I have planted spring bulbs today. Just in case. Just in case life returns.

Nature knew better, of course, but this is certainly a time I don't want to live again, ever.


Music is a wonderful thing, they say. I wouldn't know. My ears are made largely to keep frames of sunglasses in place. But I like the vibrations.

I went out tonight for some vibrations, and had a very good time, despite the too-salty pizza and the too-small mint-chocolate-chip ice cream I consumed. The vibrations were excellent. Have you ever noticed how different types of music seem to vibrate most clearly in different energy gates of the body? Jazz, for example, vibrates in the pelvic region, mostly, while Gregorian chants vibrate in the forehead. Of course, most music is more complicated than the simple scenario I have proposed. Still, check to see what vibrates next time you listen to your favorite piece.

Despite being almost completely amusical, I do love Laurie Anderson's music. I hope that this is not an insult to her. I also like jazz, sort of, and Gregorian chants in the car, and I adore Charlie Parker and Nina Simone. But I have a lot of trouble with concerts because I hate to sit down for so long without having any reason for sitting there and then I get restless. This angers the people who have taken me to concerts and then they start yelling at me. So now I don't go to concerts unless I really have to, and then I spend the time making up stories in my head about the people sitting around me and what they are doing there. You know, like the white-haired man in front of me with the young woman is not a father-daughter pair, but the top agents of a famous underground spying organization trying to find a new way to brainwash people into voting neoconservative, or two traders in illegal drugs pretending to be a father-daughter pair because the police is looking for them and they have just realized that they in fact are a long-lost daughter and her errant father, and it's all too late because they are both criminals and their lives are ruined.
And so on.

The problem is when people afterwards want to talk about the music and I remember none of it. But 'awesome' or 'touching' or 'interesting' is usually enough. Still, it would be nice to be more musically inclined so that I could tell you what was good about tonight's vibrations. On the other hand, this weakness just shows that even goddesses are not perfect. Now, that's going to make you feel much better, isn't it?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Computer Surveillance Systems

My computer had one of these in the most recent sweep. Its produced by Amecisco, and it's called Amecisco Keylogger. Supposedly it records every key stroke from the attacked computer, including visits to chat groups and what is being said there.

I feel unreasonably flattered by this. I am going to write a long monologue about footrot next, and then I'm going to find a chat group for people who have a footrot fetish.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Framing in Politics

George Lakoff has interesting ideas on the reasons for the rise of the radical right-wingers to power in the United States. He thinks that the radical right is excellent in framing:

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.
If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" — something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.

Framing is present in almost all political slogans that I can think of, and Lakoff is right that the Republicans have mastered this skill. This, in turn, has led the Democrats to fight a largely defensive battle withing the same frame; a struggle that is doomed to failure. Consider the conservative framing in the term "tax relief". Here's Lakoff on this term:

The phrase "Tax relief" began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush's inauguration. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for "relief." For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add "tax" to "relief" and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.
"Tax relief" has even been picked up by the Democrats. I was asked by the Democratic Caucus in their tax meetings to talk to them, and I told them about the problems of using tax relief. The candidates were on the road. Soon after, Joe Lieberman still used the phrase tax relief in a press conference. You see the Democrats shooting themselves in the foot.

This quote is from an older interview with Lakoff and he points out that the Democratic usage of this term has now declined. But that is not really enough; the framing should be changed. For example, "paying your bills" or "sharing the common costs" or something cleverer but in the same vein would evoke a different frame about taxes.

And consider the most famous current term with framing issues: "the war on terror". This, according to Lakoff, is why the Republicans are controlling the issue of how to address terrorism:

You've said that progressives should never use the phrase "war on terror" — why?
There are two reasons for that. Let's start with "terror." Terror is a general state, and it's internal to a person. Terror is not the person we're fighting, the "terrorist." The word terror activates your fear, and fear activates the strict father model, which is what conservatives want. The "war on terror" is not about stopping you from being afraid, it's about making you afraid.
Next, "war." How many terrorists are there — hundreds? Sure. Thousands? Maybe. Tens of thousands? Probably not. The point is, terrorists are actual people, and relatively small numbers of individuals, considering the size of our country and other countries. It's not a nation-state problem. War is a nation-state problem.

All this made me think about the framing that anti-feminists also employ so cleverly. "Feminazi" is a very good example. It picks up the beginning from the term "feminist", but then appends it to a term which has enormously obvious framing intentions: "nazi". The nazis were an authoritarian rule bent on death.

This framing casts feminism as an anti-freedom movement, a movement to control and to kill. It leaves out the struggles for equality and freedom for women that the initial term "feminist" might convey. This is quite a preposterous reframing of a term. Nevertheless, the reframing has been successful, perhaps beyond the most ambitious dreams of Rush Limbaugh, the inventor of feminazism.

I even think that the now slightly stale term "political correctness" might have been created by some clever conservative playing with frames. My guess is that he (I'm pretty sure that it was a he) started with "civil rights" and then sought for the closest synonyms for each term which would sort of say the same except negatively. Though in some ways p.c. doesn't fit well into the framing theory, in other ways it's an excellent example of it as it allows the frame to be whatever the listener picks. Thus, a rabid racist or sexist hears the term as containing all that crap about equality and fairness which can therefore be attacked by just piping up with p.c. accusations, whereas a conscience-stricken liberal hears in the term only the most extreme exaggerations of attempts to be sensitive to various group issues. Then both can agree that political correctness is really bad!

But what is really fascinating about political correctness is how very upside-down it turns the world. In reality, of course, what is politically correct is that which those who hold political power prefer. So in the United States to be p.c. should mean to be for the values of Christian fundamentalists and neoconservatives. Yet nobody calls them politically correct...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

How to Make A Cake

I want to make a birthday cake for someone, and given that I'm not the Goddess of Cakes I e-mailed someone who is and asked her for a recipe that would make the socks turn around on the eaters' feet, but that would also be relatively easy for someone who isn't really at home in the kitchen.

This is the response I got, pretty much:

First, make a four-egg base as usual. Slice it in as many layers as needed. Make enough strong coffee to moisten all the slices. Fill the cake with crushed chocolate, whipped cream and layers of hard fudge. Cover the top with cream and the sides with the fudge. Rum can be added as a flavoring if desired."

It reminds me of those car repair guides which start:"First take out the engine." What is a four-egg base? Do the eggs get peeled first? How do you slice eggs like that, and how do they stay upright? Where's the flour in all this? How do you make fudge? Where do you add rum?

I sent a plea for help and clarification and got back a recipe for a four-egg base (it turns out to contain flour and sugar, too, and something called potato flour...) and a recipe for fudge (a lot of work). But then she tells me to bake the cake as usual. What is usual for cakes might not be usual for goddesses. I assume the cake goes in the oven but for how long and at what temperature?

And how do you slice a cake? I assume horizontally, but where can I find a knife long enough for that? Maybe I could use long wire to do that? Tie one end to the doorknob and saw with the other end?

But I will try this recipe, and if it turns out wonderful I will post a thorough and easy-to-follow set of instructions, too. Unless potato flour must be made by first growing potatoes and so on.

Does This Ring A Bell?

From William L. Shirer. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Pan Books, 1981:

"No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realised how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were."

And no, goddesses are not subject to Godwin's law!
Thanks to Connecting Dots on Eschaton's comments threads.

Samira Bellil

She died far too young:

Samira Bellil, whose book recounting gang rape she suffered as a teenager in a tough Paris suburb put her in the avant-garde of a small movement fighting for French Muslim women's rights, has died of stomach cancer. She was 31.
She died Friday in Paris, according to her publisher Editions Denoel.
Bellil's 2002 autobiographical narrative, "Dans l'Enfer des Tournantes" (In the Hell of Gang Rape), explores the violence she endured during her childhood in a tough Parisian suburb, from drugs to gang rapes at the age of 13.
The book, written in the street language Bellil grew up speaking, was the final step in her fight to regain a sense of self-worth and quickly became a best seller.
Bellil herself was rejected and abused for bringing charges against her aggressors following the gang rape, thus breaking the law of silence that reigns in the high-rise zones where men and boys hold sway.
The publication gave France a rare firsthand account of the troubles faced by girls in the heavily immigrant suburbs that ring major French cities.
It also put Bellil in the forefront of a small movement fighting to improve the lot of Muslim women and girls trapped in what she called the "cultural shackles" of the suburbs.
Bellil was considered the "godmother" of the womens' rights group "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" (Neither Whores Nor Submissive.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

To the Dead Children

This is the song of the earth to all the children who have died in wars and acts of terrorism, or maybe a faint echo of it:

These are my children, the dead ones, the beloved: the ones covered in mud and dirt, the bloodied ones, the limbless ones, the ones who were scattered by bombs like crumbs thrown for the birds. These are my children: the burned ones, the raped ones, the starved ones, the buried ones. See how beautiful they all are, my beloved children.

I seek for them everywhere, I call for them and at nightfall I find them. I gather them to me and give them sleep. The night I turn into a silken shawl, the sky into a blue blanket. I weave cradles and nests out of my hair, and I find a place for each one of my children, however hurt and frightened.

My lap is wide enough for all of them and their pain, and I give them dreams of pine forests, of fresh streams in sunlight, of young foxes gambolling in a clearing. I give them dreams of peace and quiet, of stars and sailboats, of flowers and meadows. I give them dreams of snow and sun and sweetness. I give them what was taken away from them and when I cannot do that I give them oblivion and rest. And the wind sings a lullaby, gently, in all my tongues.

It is my milk that feeds all, and my tears that sate all thirst, and these children, my beloved, will never lack food or drink or a place to slumber in my lap or a peace that cannot be broken.

How Low Will They Go?

The wingnuts, that is. Well, this is the newest low from the mouth of Dick Cheney:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

(By the way, 350 supporters! What's the matter with the Republican campaign? Not enough faithfuls or too many loyalty oaths to sign?)

The funny thing about this statement is that the terrorists struck on Cheney's watch and that there is evidence that suggests people in crucial places ignored the threat. So a careful reading of the comment might convert many voters to John Kerry. On the other hand, it is probably true that the risk of terrorism will be higher in the future, whether it is Bush or Kerry in the White House, as this administration has done nothing to prevent new terrorists from being created and might in fact be argued to have contributed to the next wave of terrorists by their misguided foreign policies.

But on the third hand, this is just the same message the wingnuts have been campaigning from the beginnning: "Be afraid. Be very, very afraid."
Link via Eschaton.

The Glass Cliff?

British psychologists Alex Haslam and Michelle Ryan are the researchers in a study which found that women who break through the proverbial glass ceiling may find themselves teetering at the edge of a glass cliff. (All this glass is getting on my nerves; I fear that they might shatter. And yes, I know that I have used similar metaphors before, but I did it much better.)

The 'cliff' refers to their finding that firms, political parties and so on tend to nominate women to important positions when times are bad, when the job is seen as impossible to perform. According to Haslam, this is not only true for the first appointments of new, eager managers or politicians but a recurring problem for women and, he speculates, for racial and ethnic minorities as well.

The Haslam-Ryan study can be summarized as follows:

Prof Haslam and a colleague, Dr Michelle Ryan, compared the stock market performance of FTSE 100 companies with their appointment history.
The 19 that had appointed women to the board in the previous year had done worse than those whose appointments had been all male.
"But in all cases women had only been appointed after the company performance had slumped," Prof Haslam told the British Association science festival in Exeter yesterday.
"If everything had gone swimmingly, then they carried on with the old jobs for the boys."
A similar pattern emerged in a study of candidates for the Scottish parliamentary elections. Women were more likely to be nominated as candidates for harder to win seats.
The glass cliff also emerged in experiments in which 300 students were asked to pick a candidate for a fictional senior management post.
Given a man and woman with identical qualifications, students were far more likely to pick a female candidate than a male one if the company was doing badly.
The reason for the discrimination is unclear. Prof Haslam believes it could be explained by overt sexism - that men were handpicked for the good jobs, leaving women to take posts in failing companies.
More subtle forms of discrimination could be in play, he said. The predominantly male managers of companies were likely to recommend desirable jobs to their predominantly male friends, but give "poisoned chalice" jobs to those they did not know.
Another explanation was that women were perceived as being better at crisis management, he added.

See how we can't get rid of the glass? Now it's a poisoned chalice.
But the results are interesting and even suggestive. I have often wondered if Condie Rice wasn't one of those appointments, given that her background made her a pretty astonishing choice for advising about current security concerns. Her selection could have been seen as a win-win solution for the Republicans: if she fails it's because she's a woman and a member of a racial minority, if she succeeds, well, then the Republicans can take the credit for being smart in their choice and gender- and color-blind.

What is serious about all these cliffs and ceilings is their real impact on fairness and on productivity, of course. Note the way the correlation with poor performance of stocks and the appointment of women into positions of power can be distorted:

It was reported in 2003 that UK business had gone downhill in the previous year as the number of female directors on the boards of FTSE 100 companies had risen by 20%. A newspaper commentator said: "The triumphant march of women into the country's boardrooms has wreaked havoc on companies' performance and share prices."
Professor Haslam said: "What we found was that in all of those cases, women had only been appointed after company performance had slumped quite dramatically."

The problem here was that old tiresome assumption that correlation implies causality or that the order of the causality is obvious from the correlation. If the bad performance preceded the appointment of women as Haslam stated, then to argue that the 'triumphant march' (what framing!) of women has 'wreaked havoc' (what framing!) is lying. In fact,

Haslam also said: "The appointment of a woman director was not associated with a subsequent drop in company performance. Indeed companies that appointed a woman actually experienced a marked increase in share price after the appointment."

I think that the real glass cliff is in the tongues of some journalists and public commentators who never learn to appreciate basic statistics as well as the glib sounds that so easily slide out of their mouths.

The Decadent Left

This term is something writers like Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens might use. It's not intended for general consumption but for the select few with the gastronomic tastebuds to appreciate its flavor in political discourse. Or so I surmise.

It would be fun to study this term from the point of view of an alien, and this is what I have done. The trick is to pretend that I don't know what decadent means (which turned out not to be much of a pretense at all), and to seek for its meaning in all the usual places.

I started with the Google. The impression Google gives on decadence is that it is a characteristic of kinky sex and chocolate gateaus. Only the third page gives a dictionary definition:

Noun 1. decadent - a person who has fallen into a decadent state (morally or artistically)
bad person - a person who does harm to others Adj. 1. decadent - marked by excessive self-indulgence and moral decay; "a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility"; "a group of effete self-professed intellectuals"

My Webster's Unabridged gives these synonyms for decadent:

corrupt, immoral, degenerate, debased, debauched, self-indulgent

It seems that the decadent left is an immoral, degenerate and debased left; that a decadent lefty is a person who does harm to others. This is strong language. But I doubt very much that most readers catch the intended meanings. The connections of decadence to chocolate cakes and exotic sex are just too strong in themselves.

When I see the term I think of old smoke-filled apartments with lofty ceilings and antique lace curtains covering the windows, Victorian furniture, bone-china tea cups erudite conversation carried out in languid voices. Perhaps there are small tarts with elaborate icing, expensive wine served in toothmugs, long rants about some revolutionary dead a hundred years. Somehow I can't imagine any kinky sex here but maybe I should try harder.

This may be an example of political sloganing where the framing has failed. Decadent sounds like a rather nice thing to be, on the whole, or at least an impotent thing as far as its politics are concerned. But more importantly, it makes me think of imaginary groups which have nothing to do with the real left.

Monday, September 06, 2004

A Labor Day Block Party

We have a very nice tradition in these parts of having all neighbors come together at the end of the summer for a block party. Everybody brings a dish or two, some lend their grills, some bring balloons and music, and the road is blocked off from traffic. And soon the street fills up with chairs and ballgames and children running to and fro with dogs and each other and adults standing eating and talking in large and small groups.

We had one these parties today and it was very successful! Nobody else even got near the chocolate ice-cream cake, though the side-effect was that I slept the rest of the day, and even got a little flegmatic before the party was over. This was why I sat down for a while just watching, and realized that the block party was like a big leap back in (imaginary?) history, to a real communal world where children could run free and take risks, where the parents could relax, knowing that many others watched over their children, where gossip and important information was equally exchanged, joys and griefs shared together with the food and the drink. I suspect that there were some Republicans there, but everybody was smiling and friendly. For one day, at least, we were indeed good neighbors.

That's what is going wrong with the public discourse in the United States. The atmosphere in the media is not that of friendly neighbors arguing over common matters but much more that of two armies negotiating a possible siegefire. The fault lies almost totally with the wingnuts who started this all with their slogans of culture wars, and trying to a be a good neighbor to someone who wants to raze down your house doesn't work. But I do wish we could try a little bit harder to build bridges across ideological chasms. For the other side are human, too, whatever else we sometimes imply.

More on Blogs

My recent political fervor has had some unpleasant side-effects. Like sleeplessness and devouring innocent bypassers. Also that I have been reading many more political blogs than usual, and commenting on quite a few of them.

Once again, this has brought me face to face with misogyny, even on the blogs that are supposed to be on our side. Why can't some people attack a female politician or a female journalist or the wife of a politican without discussing her breast size, her cunt, her general fuckability or the lack of it? What is it about this world that for some people being a woman is in itself a crime of a sort? A crime that then lends itself to various slurs, none of which can be isolated to apply to only the woman attacked. They apply to all women, unfortunately.

I'm the first person to admit that the wingnut women deserve criticism, but the criticism should be about the first part of the definition, 'wingnut', not about the second part of the definition: 'woman'.

Why is this so difficult?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Bush By Numbers

From this excellent article. A short quote:

1 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security issued between 20 January 2001 and 10 September 2001 that mentioned al-Qa'ida.

104 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein.

101 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned missile defence.

65 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned weapons of mass destruction.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses.

73 Number of times that Bush mentioned terrorism or terrorists in his three State of the Union addresses.

83 Number of times Bush mentioned Saddam, Iraq, or regime (as in change) in his three State of the Union addresses.

$1m Estimated value of a painting the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, received from Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States and Bush family friend.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Saudi Arabia in his three State of the Union addresses.

1,700 Percentage increase between 2001 and 2002 of Saudi Arabian spending on public relations in the United States.

79 Percentage of the 11 September hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia.

3 Number of 11 September hijackers whose entry visas came through special US-Saudi "Visa Express" programme.

140 Number of Saudis, including members of the Bin Laden family, evacuated from United States almost immediately after 11 September.

14 Number of Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) agents assigned to track down 1,200 known illegal immigrants in the United States from countries where al-Qa'ida is active.

$3m Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks.

$0 Amount approved by George Bush to hire more INS special agents.

$10m Amount Bush cut from the INS's existing terrorism budget.

$50m Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash.

$5m Amount a 1996 federal commission was given to study legalised gambling.

7 Number of Arabic linguists fired by the US army between mid-August and mid-October 2002 for being gay.

Thanks to rojopelo for the link.

It's All Emotion

My analysis of the Republican campaign has concluded that appealing to reason is so outdated. All that is required of a campaign is to cause the right emotions to surface. Never mind if they are not based on any facts at all. This worries me a lot, because if the Republicans succeed with this heinous plot it's pretty clear proof that democracy stinks.

The basic emotions the Republicans wanted to evoke were fear of terrorists, hatred of Democrats, especially Kerry, and a desire for a strong leader who views the Americans as ten-year olds needing an authoritarian father. And maybe they succeeded. Though the early polls were taken at a time when most Democrats were probably not paying attention to anything but the Labor Day weekend, and though there are some questions about the way the polls were conducted, they may show a post-convention bounce for Bush. Whether this will last is a question for the future. Maybe defreezing bin Laden is the next step in the emotional war of the right.

In any case, the Republican campaign asks the audience to leave their brains home. This I find very upsetting, not an emotional reaction that they intended. But then I won't vote for them so my upset doesn't matter.

Here are examples of the way fudging facts is done by the Republicans:

At last week's Republican convention, President Bush and Vice President Cheney repeatedly linked the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq, largely abandoning the rationale offered when the Bush administration invaded the Persian Gulf country.
Announcing the invasion on March 19, 2003, Bush said in a nationwide televised address that the United States "will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder." Two days earlier, Bush had asserted in another address to the nation, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
But no such weapons were found after the invasion, and the subject was only fleetingly mentioned from the podium in Madison Square Garden. Instead, the war on Iraq was presented as a part of a seamless thread that stemmed directly from the terrorism of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We have fought the terrorists across the earth -- not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake," Bush said, before listing Iraq along with the struggle against terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The message of the week was: You know where Bush stands. You can't be sure about Kerry. But that headline also came with a misleading subhead: Bush is fighting the war against terrorism, and Kerry wouldn't. It was a theme that was pounded from the very start of the convention, and it depended on a sly conflation— the notion that the war in Iraq and the war against the 9/11 terrorists were one and the same. We heard far more about Bush in the World Trade Center rubble than we did about the U.S. in the Iraqi quagmire. And when Iraq was raised, it was done in a deceptive and simpleminded way. Even John McCain, who gave the most serious foreign policy speech of the week, presented a false choice: "Our choice [in Iraq] wasn't between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war. It was between war and a graver threat."

You see what I mean? There is something very sad in watching a democracy shake and start crumbling by the use of such vicious and unethical tactics as simple lying and yelling louder and louder when one points out that the facts are missing. Never mind busing people in to Bush meetings, if it happens, here we are lying about the very blood and meat of the campaigns.

The Republicans have always appealed to the lowest common denominator, of course, and what's so worrying about it that it may just be working. According to Newsweek polls, 49% of Americans do believe that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 slaughter. And this is solely attributable to the Republican campaign to make it seem so. What are the conservative values nowadays that lying is regarded as a virtue?

In other political news, the wives of presidential candidates are once again judged. Theresa Kerry is seen as a potential negative for Kerry, while Laura Bush is all good news. This is another example of appealing to emotions, this time to those of the men who don't like gender equality of who fear their own wives, perhaps. Look, Laura is quiet as a mouse! A good traditional wife!

Why does it matter what the personalities of the candidates' wives are? After all, the candidates have been married to their respective spouses for some time, and coped just fine with that fact. Why would this suddenly change? Of course it doesn't, and it doesn't matter, but the point is to get people to vote with their lower animal minds, to focus on primal fears and desires, to ignore what is actually happening in this world and in their own lives. If this works it makes me very scared of living in this country. Just saying.