Thursday, October 07, 2004

Baseball Bats as a Debate Tool

Ann Coulter has a new book out. It's called How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter. She recommends baseball bats:

LINDA VESTER (host): You say you'd rather not talk to liberals at all?

COULTER: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days. [FOX News Channel, DaySide with Linda Vester, 10/6]

Someone sent me an e-mail suggesting Ann Coulter for my Rara Avis -series, and so I researched her writing and ideas for a while. But I soon realized that there is no way to write a satire about this woman; she's taken everything to the absurd extreme already. The only real enigma is why she has as much publicity as she can possibly clasp with her greedy hands, or maybe it's just that anybody who is willing to advocate killing and yelling and baseball bats is good value for the media.

I have no patience with Coulter. She yells and screams and then argues that it's the liberals who yell and scream and won't let her debate. She pretends that she's the first woman ever who has realized that bashing other women is the path to fame, money and love. "The World According to Ann Coulter" is a really sick place, and I'm glad that she's there all alone.

The Fruits of the Iraq Invasion

When the advertizing campaign for the Iraq invasion began in the late fall of 2001, I became a demonstrator. I had never marched before, but things changed, as they say, after 9/11. The reason for my political awakening was that I could foresee the future, and the future held an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. In fact, anybody could foresee the future at that time, provided that the anybody listened to some unbiased news coverage and read a few books on Iraq.

I'm not fond of theocracies of any stripe, and as experience shows, they are terrible for women. The first thing traditionalists attack when they seize power is women: women are scrutinized, forced into different clothes, segregated from men in all other ways essentially eradicated from public view. I very much doubt that women were traditionally treated this way in general, but the new traditionalists seem to make up their own traditions as they please.

It is curious, though, that women serve as the canary in the mines. Why is it that controlling the women is so important for the fundamentalists? I can think of quite a few theories to explain this, but none of them explains why women are seen as the enemy in some fundamental way. After all, even fundamentalists have wives and daughters that at least some of them love. Yet they are quite willing to have them lead lives with no independent choices. This makes me very sad, to be honest. Here is an Afghan judge telling us why women have to be imprisoned for disobedience:

Kandahar's chief judge argues that sharia, or Islamic law, protects girls like Musliba. "Our laws make family unity a priority," said Judge Abdul Basir Mahbooky, fingering his prayer beads. "That is important for women because, I'm sorry to say, women don't have the mental or physical capacity to live alone in this society. We must make sure they are cared for."

Something similar can be heard from the lips of the Christian fundamentalist patriarchs in this country, and though they frame it more gently, the fact remains that many fundamentalists like to regard women as some sort of domestic pets: cute, but in need of protection and strict discipline.

To return to Iraq, my fear is that Iraq will follow in the footpath of the Taliban. Instead of a democracy in the Middle East we just might be creating another Iran or Afghanistan. Consider this:

In a postwar Iraq tormented by growing violence and uncertainty, the men with the power are the ones in robes and turbans Muslim clerics counseling spiritual renewal and active defiance of the United States and the Iraqi government it backs.
In the 18 months since Saddam Hussein's regime fell, Shiite and Sunni clerics alike have shot to prominence, eclipsing the U.S.-backed politicians in smart business suits who returned from exile to form a new ruling class but found themselves sorely lacking the clergy's popularity.
The emergence of religion as a force has started a trend that may be difficult to reverse in this conservative nation. It raises the possibility of an Islamic-oriented regime that could fall well short of the U.S. goal of a secular democracy serving as a model for the rest of the Arab world.

Religion is a source to which people return when life is difficult, even unbearable, and I can understand that. Still, I wish (oh how I wish) that there would be at least some major religions which don't afford solace and comfort at the expense of women's full humanity.

Afghan Women Vote...

This weekend Afghanistan will have its presidential elections. Much has been made by the Bush administration about the liberation of Afghan women and girls from the harsh Taliban rule as one of the unintended side-effects of the U.S. hunt for bin Laden, and it is indeed true that life has much improved for some women in Afghanistan. Over a million girls now go to school, for example.

But at the same time Afghanistan is now a country in anarchy, and the lack of security hits women especially hard. Election workers who seek out women have been subjected to violence in several areas of Afghanistan, and though over 40% of the registered voters are now women, getting them to the polling places may prove difficult. For one thing, it has been impossible to find enough women to manage the female polling booths, and given Afghanistan's conservative nature, many women will not vote if the booth attendant is a man.

But supposing that some women at least do manage to get to the voting sites, how will they cast their votes? A recent survey shows that 72% of Aghanis believe that men should direct their womenfolks' voting choices. Given this, it's unlikely that these women's votes would somehow recast the political power structure in the country.

The local and parliamentary elections scheduled for next year could prove more informative on the question of Afghan women's political influence, as the new constitution guarantees a quarter of the seats in the parliament to women. But this may not be as empowering for women as it looks. Here's what Nisha Varia, the author of a report on Afghan women has to say about the quota:

The question is whether women can really stand as candidates. I think the positions will be filled but in areas with a dominant political faction, they will select women for the seats, but the women won't actually be able to participate freely or fully. They will be front women for the factions. Those who want to run as independent or to be a part of the process won't have a chance to take up leadership positions within the party structure.

In some ways the ability to vote may not matter very much to most Afghan women. Their lives are so affected by tradition, religion and their immediate family members that any distant political changes in Kabul might go completely unnoticed. A country which imprisons a twelve-year old for refusing her father's decision to marry her off to an old man has a long way to go before it can be called a democracy, whether women vote or not.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Fairness Doctrine in Media

One would think that the U.S. media is obligated to provide time and space for both sides in a political debate. One would be wrong. The so-called fairness doctrine was abolished during the Reagan years. This is what The American Voice 2004: A Pocket Guide to Issues and Allegations says about the events that led to the demise of the doctrine:

In 1974 the FCC described the Fairness Doctrine as "…the single most important requirement of operation in the public interest—the sine qua non for grant of a renewable of license".
A decade later, under the leadership of Mark Fowler, a former broadcaster appointed Chairman of the FCC in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, the FCC began to dismantle its "public interest" requirements. It lifted restrictions on the maximum number of commercials TV stations could air and eliminated minimum requirement for time that must be devoted to news and public affairs.
In l985 the FCC declared, "We no longer believe that the Fairness Doctrine, as a matter of policy, serves the public interests…We believe that the interest of the public in viewpoint diversity is fully served by the multiplicity of voices in the marketplace today…"
The FCC did not immediately abrogate the doctrine. It was concerned that the 1959 amendments to the Communications Act might have made the fairness doctrine a statutory requirement, subject to repeal only by Congress. But in 1986 the court held that the fairness doctrine derived from the FCC's mandate to serve the public interest and was not compelled by statute.
In the spring of 1987, reacting to the Court's decision and fearful of its consequences, Congress passed a bill that incorporated the fairness doctrine into the law. It passed with significant bipartisan support, 3 to 1 in the House and nearly 2 to 1 in the Senate. Newt Gingrich and Jesse Helms were among the law's supporters. President Reagan vetoed the legislation. There were insufficient votes in Congress to override his veto.
In August of 1987 the FCC dissolved the fairness doctrine. It argued that the doctrine was obsolete, no longer served the public interest and imposed substantial burdens on broadcasters without generating countervailing benefits.
In l989 the House of Representatives again easily passed a law incorporating the fairness doctrine into legislation. When President George Bush threatened a veto the bill died in the Senate.
The impact of the elimination of the fairness doctrine was immediate and significant. In l980 there were 75 talk radio stations in the country. By 1999 there were more than 1300. The conservative Weekly Standard recently summed up the landscape, "… 1300 talk stations, nearly all born since the repeal of the fairness doctrine and nearly all right-leaning…"

We no longer have a fairness doctrine in the media. That's why what happened today is completely acceptable and legal, though nothing can make it decent: George Bush gave "an important presidential speech" that was then televized widely. What he really gave was a campaign speech based on all his stump speeches. Some snippets from the speech:

I want to thank all the state and local officials who are here. I want to thank the candidates who are here. I want to thank the grassroots activists who are here. (Applause.) I want to thank you for what you're going to do, which is to put up the signs, make the phone calls, turn out the vote. With your help, there's no doubt in my mind we'll carry Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
I am sure many of you stayed up to watch the vice presidential debate last night. (Applause.) America saw two very different visions of our country, and two different hairdos. (Laughter.) I didn't pick my Vice President for his hairdo. I picked him for his judgment, his experience -- (applause.) A great Vice President. I'm proud to be running with him. (Applause.)

To keep this economy strong and competitive, we must make sure America is the best place in the world to start a business and to do business. (Applause.) To make sure America is the best place in the world to start a business, our taxes must be low; Congress must make the tax relief we passed permanent. (Applause.) To keep jobs here, there need to be less regulations on our small businesses. (Applause.) To keep jobs here, we must pass an energy plan that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.) To make sure jobs exist here in America, we got to do something about these junk and frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) Trial lawyers shouldn't be getting rich at the expense of our entrepreneurs and our doctors. (Applause.)
My opponent and I have a very different view on how to grow our economy. Let me start with taxes. I have a record of reducing them; he has a record of raising them.
THE PRESIDENT: He voted in the United States Senate to increase taxes 98 times.
THE PRESIDENT: That's a lot. (Laughter.) He voted for higher taxes on Social Security benefits.
THE PRESIDENT: In 1997, he voted for the formula that helped cause the increase in Medicare premiums.
THE PRESIDENT: My opponent was against all of our middle class tax relief. He voted instead to squeeze another $2,000 per year from the average middle class family. Now the Senator is proposing higher taxes on more than 900,000 small business owners. My opponent is one of the few candidates in history to campaign on a pledge to raise taxes. (Laughter.) And that's the kind of promise a politician from Massachusetts usually keeps. (Laughter and applause.)
He says the tax increase is only for the rich. You've heard that kind of rhetoric before. The rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason -- to stick you with the tab. The Senator is not going to tax you because we're going to win in November. (Applause.)

Nothing wrong with giving campaign speeches during the campaign, of course. What's wrong is that this speech was unscheduled, presented as something different than it was, and given wide publicity without any counterveiling comments from the other side.

Where are John Kerry's ninety seconds for replies? Ask the people who got rid of the fairness doctrine in the media.

Questions for the next debate

This is a good opinion piece on questions from various women's organizations for the second presidential debate. Some of them at least should be included in the debate, given that women are the majority of voters in the U.S..

My favorite question to George Bush would be:

Mr. Bush, if you remain the president of the United States, will you end your undeclared war against women?

And here's one to John Kerry:

Mr. Kerry, if you become the next president of the United States, what will you do to repair the damages caused by your predecessor's undeclared war against women?


1984 Revisited

I've been reading George Orwell's 1984 again during this pre-election season, and though the book is structurally not very good it has some images which really strike a bell right now:

It need hardly be said that the subtlest practitioners of doublethink are those who invented doublethink and know that it is a vast system of mental cheating. In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. (p. 177)

The recurring theme in the book is the wars that Oceania is waging. As the enemy changes inexplicably, all old records of the previous enemy are erased and it is agreed by everybody that Oceania has always had the current enemy, always. It is not Eurasia that Oceania is fighting, it is Eastasia. Not only that, but it has always been Eastasia. Never mind what you know really happened just last week. And 2+2=5.

It does, at the end. Poor Winston Smith is converted forcibly to the Party's way of thinking. If he lived today he'd agree happily that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 atrocities. He'd also agree that feminazis is the Newspeak word for all those concepts of fairness and equality that no longer exist.
My copy of 1984 is by Signet Classic.

Something I worry About

The Israel-Palestinian conflict was not addressed in the first presidential debate and in the vice-presidential debate Edwards' answer to the question appears to me to promise nothing new. Something new is very sorely needed. As long as this conflict is in the front pages of newspapers in the Arab world we are going to have difficulties. We desperately need a new peace initiative in that area, and I fear that nobody in the U.S. is courageous enough to propose one.

My verdict

On the vice-presidential debate, or what I saw of it. I had to tape it (bagua practise at the same time), and I misunderestimated the length so I missed the last few minutes.

First, Dick Cheney is not George Bush. Cheney is intelligent and able to argue quite well. He wove the Republican lies and half-truths into an almost-coherent whole, but the thing still stinks, of course. I must admit that I enjoyed watching Dick as he's not bad thinking on his feet and then he has that crackerjaw...

He did utter several untruths in the debate. The most puzzling one concerned not meeting John Edwards before. There is at least one photograph of them meeting at a prayer breakfast. Cheney also implied that Massachusetts had suggested amending its constitution in order to allow gay marriage, whereas the truth is that the judges interpreted the Massachusetts constitution to require allowing gay marriage. The other untruths he uttered are the same he and Bush always utter.

Cheney was quite aggressive, almost snapping his maw at Edwards, and I'm not sure if this is what the viewers want to see. I kind of enjoyed it but then I'm not human.

Edwards did well. He debated with gusto and elan, and managed to bring out all the major points, and he didn't surrender to any of Cheney's bites. Plus he was very pleasant and personable which shouldn't matter, but if it matters for Bush then it should matter here, too.

The debate wasn't as close to slaughter as the first presidential debate was. But then we didn't expect a rerun of that. Cheney is, after all, the real president of this country.

So who won? I would say that the debate was a draw in debating skills, Cheney won in ferociousness and Edwards in looks. The substance was won by Edwards, naturally. He told the truth.
The picture of Cheney and Edwards in 2001 via Atrios.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Tonight's Debate

A vice-presidential debate is traditionally not regarded as important in the overall race, but this year may be different. The Republicans are preparing for a post-debate attack (see Kos) which consists of e-mailing and calling various representatives of media and of voting in all online polls. The idea is to create a victory for old crackerjaw whether he actually wins or not. This attack, if not responded to by the other side, could mean that a new false meme will be created for the cud-chewing of the pundits. So I have to go out there and e-mail and call and vote, even though I'm tired of doing that by now. But I guess using goddess powers and magic would be unethical? Nah, nothing is unethical in the Republican cookbook!

Randy Rhodes on Air America Radio called tonight's debate a duel between the Prince Charming and the Prince of Darkness. You can guess which is which. But I don't really think that Cheney is any sort of a prince. Maybe a better parable would be between Merry and Sauron?

Cheney is going to attack trial lawyers, I predict. I wonder if he has read about the recent research that shows how corporations use trial lawyers four times as much as consumers? Attacking trial lawyers could be a little bit like shooting your own foot for Cheney. Not that logic has ever hampered wingnuttery.

I'm looking forward to the debate in some ways. I want to see what Cheney does with his jaw, and the debate will give me lots of time for observing it. Though I'm also aware of the fact that he is Bush's brain and the evil spirit behind the Iraq war and the power of oil companies over our lives. And he's not stupid, so the victory of good over evil (borrowing from the wingnut cookbook) is by no means certain in this particular battle.

Roe in the Next Four Years

If Bush gets reselected, what will happen to Roe vs. Wade? It will be overturned. Then states will decide if abortion remains legal or not:

Thirty states are poised to make abortion illegal within a year if the Supreme Court reversed its 1973 ruling establishing a woman's legal right to an abortion, an advocacy group said Tuesday.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said some states have old laws on the books that would be triggered by the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Others have language in their state constitutions or strongly anti-abortion legislatures that would act quickly if the federal protection for abortion was ended and the issue reverted to the states.
"The building blocks are already in place to recriminalize abortion," said Nancy Northup, the center's president.

These changes wouldn't have much effect on wealthy women's abilities to get an abortion, as they have the money to travel elsewhere. But they would certainly make poor women's lives even harder than they are today in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Texas (just to pick some randomly).

Currently five Supreme Court Justices support Roe and four oppose it. So the next judge to be appointed could be a crucial one for this issue. Bush would definitely find judges that are extremely anti-choice, whereas there is at least some chance of a more neutral judge under Kerry. So vote.

Guess Who is Going to Iraq?

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF), that's who! The IWF is the gals' auxiliary to wingnuttery. They are famous for defending the Promise Keepers' message in public fora, for fighting feminists on university campuses and for standing firmly in opposition of Title IX, the civil rights legislation that guarantees gender equality in education.

I know what you're thinking, but no, they are not planning to take up arms against the terrorists. That would not be what IWF stands for. In fact, one of their members is a famous author whose main message is that women don't belong in the military forces. No, what they are going to do in Iraq is hard work: to tell Iraqi women how to take advantage of democracy! Or that's my interpretation of the grant they have just received from the Bush administration:

The U.S. Department of State has awarded a major grant to the Independent Women's Forum to promote women's political and economic participation in Iraq. Yet the organization, whose board emerita includes Lynne Cheney, the spouse of the vice president, is devoted to countering "the dangerous influence of radical feminism in the courts" and combating "corrosive feminist ideology" on college campuses, among other things, according to its Web site.

The IWF could easily become an addiction for someone like me; they provide so much fun material. And it is funny to think that the Bush administration is so scared of feminism that they are sending the advance anti-feminist forces to Iraq at this very early stage!
But it's also funny to think of these women in Iraq, sorry.

If you are interested in learning more about the IWF, you can Google them. This is the sort of thing you might find:

In addition to Lynne Cheney, its board of directors emeritae includes neoconservative author and columnist Midge Decter, who wrote a book in 1972 called "The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women's Liberation." In a collection of her writing published under the title, "Always Right," she accuses feminism of radicalizing and marginalizing women who choose the roles of mother and homemaker.
Another member, Wendy Lee Gramm, was a board member of Enron before its infamous collapse in 2001, and served on its audit and compliance committee where she helped approve financial statements and acted as a liaison to auditors Arthur Andersen, according to The Washington Post. She is the wife of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, and was named "Villain of the Month" in January of 2002 by the nonprofit Clean Air Trust for her work with a think-tank at George Mason University that opposes many existing federal environmental regulations.

Monday, October 04, 2004

My political Photo Gallery

This is not adult and mature. But it's fun. Here are the pictures of the candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States in 2004:

Credits: For the first, Eschaton,for the second Democratic Underground and for the last Kos.

Memes for the Democrats

Here are my suggested talking points for the Kerry supporters. Each is based on something that Bush actually said in the debate. All bolds are mine:

1.. Bush: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and - anyway, that's for another debate.
(a response to Kerry talking about his plans for increasing homeland security)

Suggested talking point: Why does Bush hate America so much that he won't spend money on our security?

2.Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You have said there was a "miscalculation'' of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation? And how did it happen?
Mr. Bush: No, what I said was that because we achieved such a rapid victory more of the Saddam loyalists were around. Other words, we thought we'd whip more of them going in.
But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly. And a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought we would, they would stay and fight. But they didn't. And now we're fighting them now.

Suggested talking point: And this guy is supposed to be in command of the military?

3. Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost in American lives: 1,052 as of today?
Mr. Bush: Every life is precious. Every life matters. You know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loves ones who lost a son or a daughter or husband and wife.
And, you know, I think about Missy Johnson, fantastic young lady I met in Charlotte, N.C., she and her son, Brian. They came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed-been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq. You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I can knowing full well that the decision I made caused her, her loved one to be in harm's way.

Suggested talking point: What do the women voters think about a president who "loves" women this way?

4. Mr. Kerry: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free. But I think the president, again, still hasn't shown how he's going to go about it the right way. He has more of the same.
Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here and he said the terrorists are pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment.
The national intelligence assessment that was given to the president in July said: Best-case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst-case scenario, civil war.
I can do better.
Mr. Bush: Yeah, let me -
Mr. Lehrer: Yes, 30 seconds.
Mr. Bush: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're coming across the border is because he recognizes that this is a central part of the war on terror. They're fighting us because they're fighting freedom. They understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major defeat for them. And those are the stakes. And that's why it is essential we not leave. That's why it's essential we hold the line. That's why essential we win. And we will under my leadership. We're going to win this war in Iraq.

Suggested talking-point: Terrorists coming into Iraq NOW, rather than being the reason for our attacking the country in the first place? Bush is admitting it here.

5. Mr. Lehrer: Mr. President, new question, two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another pre-emptive military action?
Mr. Bush: I would hope I never have to. Understand how hard it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never - when I was running - when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that, but the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.
I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever to use troops. But a president must always be willing to use troops, as a last resort. I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq. It was falling apart. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was hoping that the world would turn a blind eye.
And if he had been in power - in other - we just said, let's the inspectors work or let's - you know, hope to talk him out, maybe the 18th resolution would work, he'd have been stronger and tougher and the world would have been a lot worse off. There's just no doubt in my mind. We would rue the day had we - if Saddam Hussein been in power.

Suggested talking-point: Bush is not really sure who attacked us. Should we have a president who can't distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

And so on.

The Global Test

The current wingnut talking point based on the first debate is Kerry's comment about the global test. Here's Kerry in the debate:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim [Lehrer, the debate moderator], you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

According to Bush, this means that Kerry "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions." Ok. That's how you distort your opponent's comments, and this is nothing new in politics. But here's how the media has reported on the two interpretations of what "a global test" means:

In an October 3 Washington Post article , reporter Dan Balz reported that "Bush has seized on a statement the Massachusetts Democrat made in the debate that U.S. decisions to launch military action needed to meet a 'global test' of acceptability among major allies, and the campaign launched a new TV ad on the same theme." While Balz noted that "Kerry immediately responded with an ad describing the charge as a willful distortion of Kerry's position," he failed to explain how the ad was a distortion.
On the October 3 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, National Review editor Kate O'Beirne summarized the Bush campaign's depiction of Kerry's statement and described a new Bush-Cheney campaign ad based on that depiction. While host Tim Russert noted that "the Kerry campaign is on with a rebuttal saying he's lying about the debate," Russert, like Balz, neglected to point out how the ad is a distortion of Kerry's statement.
New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney, in an October 3 article , reported merely on "Mr. Kerry's suggestion in the debate that he might not engage in a pre-emptive war without putting it to a 'global test.'"
An October 3 article in the Chicago Tribune, by national correspondents Mark Silva and Jill Zuckman, reported only Bush's version of Kerry's statement: "Bush honed his post-debate assault with a new label Saturday for Kerry's suggestion that the United States meet a "global test" before deploying military forces pre-emptively."
On the October 3 edition of CNN Sunday Morning, CNN anchor Drew Griffin misrepresented Kerry's statement while reporting Bush's distorted attack: "At a campaign stop in Ohio he [Bush] brought up a Kerry comment from their first debate, when Kerry said any preemptive strike by the U.S. should pass a global test. The president says that's not the way to go."
During the "Talking Points Memo" segment on the October 1 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly played the video of Kerry's statement from the debate, presenting it in its proper context. However, immediately following the video clip, O'Reilly asserted that Bush "pounced on Mr. Kerry's error, and he's right." O'Reilly then echoed Bush's mischaracterization of Kerry's statement, saying, "Most Americans don't want a global litmus test when our lives are at stake."
Bill O'Reilly was not the only FOX News Channel host to refer to Kerry's statement as an error. On the October 3 edition of FOX Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday, Brit Hume mirrored Bush campaign senior adviser Karl Rove's assessment that Kerry's remark was "very big" and "a blunder." The "'global test' phrase was -- may turn out, when we look back on this later, to have been the gaffe of the night, if there was one," Hume said.

Unbiased and objective? Or biased and lazy? You decide, as the Fox News likes to say.

My next post will offer Democrats some similar talking points. They have the advantage of actually being rather bad cases of the Bush foot-in-the-mouth disease.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Deep Thoughts for the Day

All of these are based on the words of George Bush. Sort of.

1. It's hard freedom to work mixed messages.
2. Mixed freedom works hard messages.
3. Messages of freedom work hard mixed flip-flops.

Something Different for Sunday

This is a piece I wrote some time ago. The idea is that the woman in the story is talking to her own image in the mirror. The usual warnings about taking self-defence advice from people like me apply.

How Do You Make A Fist?

How do you make a fist? What would you do if someone choked you from behind? Are you always doomed to be the prey for the silent hunters of the night?

So you were brought up to be a good girl, a little ray of sunshine in this world of shadows. You treasure the fashionable frailty of your arms, the elegant arch of your tiny foot in the high-heeled shoe. You were a good student and learned that all this is good. You learned that you are weak, in need of protection, that no woman can defend herself against the evils of this world. Your goodness was the only cloak that covered you.

It isn't enough. You sit inside at night and watch the dark windows. What moves behind the streetlights which never seem to light anything? What rustles in the bushes by your door? How many locks do you need to keep the disquiet at bay?

We are all weak, but you have thrown away what strength you had. You have become prey, carefully plucking out anger, ignoring the rage that lives below your heart, letting the fear paralyze every cell in your body.

But you have a body for other purposes, legs to carry you away, arms to lift, eyes to observe, ears to listen. You can smell danger, taste it in the air. Your body wants to take the hot rage and coax it into a fire which will keep you warm, keep you safer. Your body wants to be strong and fast and good.

So how do you make a fist? You don't know? Go and find out. Never mind if you are thirty-five or sixty-five and afraid that people will laugh at your ignorance. You can learn it. Then learn how to use it. Think of all the soft, frightened places of your body: the eyes, the nose, the temples, the curve of your lips, the open neck. These are the places the hunters also have and these are your targets.

Learn to kick. If you love to dance you'll love to kick. You can learn the dances of death if you need to. It doesn't make you a hunter. Go and find out. You won't master them overnight but you will master them. Learn to be the one who leads in this dance and you'll sleep better, walk lighter, dance longer.

You don't believe this. Your education has prepared you well for the life of a prey. You believe nothing you do could ever work, could ever help. You have never studied the weapons of your body, the power of your rage; yet you are convinced of their failings. Go and find out. Seek the teachers of these arts. You'll be astonished.

You must learn to fight dirty. This can save your life one day. You can still be a good girl, only now a good girl who fights dirty. Dirty means smart. It means finding the weaknesses in the hunter who has you in his maws and attacking them fast. Dirty means staying alive, and staying alive is good.

All this will take time. The more time you put into studying your body as a weapon the more likely it is to buy you more time one day. But even a few moments of study is better than nothing. Kindle the fire in your stomach. It will melt away the frozen paralysis of your fear.

To conquer your fear you must enter it. What is it that you fear the most? Imagine it as if in a movie. Then rewind the tape and go back, step by step, asking "What should I do here?", "And here?". Add your rage, the moves of your body fighting for you. Edit until the story ends in your victory. Then make it even better. Keep working on your fears until you know that you are no longer the rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car.

Find out what you need to stay safer. If you feel weak make yourself stronger. If you feel slow practise and you'll get faster. Learn to plan, to anticipate. Stay present when in dangerous places. Know where the exits are, where safety lies. Choose your company with care.

If you do this you'll find the fear shrinking, almost disappearing. Only what is common to all people will stay. Your body will be freed to live as it was meant to, your mind will have some peace. This is the first fight your new skills have won you, and if you are lucky, it might be the only one you ever need to win. This alone is worth all your hard work.

Look at yourself in the mirror, now. Can you see the power uncoiling? Doesn't it look good on you? You look like someone who knows how to take care of herself. You look like someone who knows how to make a fist.

Cheney's Voting Record

Last July Dick Cheney said this about Kerry's voting record:

"On these and a whole host of values, John Kerry's votes and statements over the decades that he's been in office put him on the left, out of the mainstream, and out of touch with the conservative values of the heartland,"

And how does the nutcracker-jaw vote himself? Here's how:

He opposed federal funding for abortions -- with no exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment for women, along with 146 other members of Congress in 1983.
On Education, he consistently opposed funding of Head Start and voted against creating the Department of Education.
Cheney was raised in Wyoming and opposes, as many Westerners do, gun control limits.
He was one of just 21 members of Congress, in December of 1985, to vote against a ban on armor piercing bullets -- called cop killer bullets.
Three years later he was one of only four members of the House voting against a ban on plastic guns that could slip through airport security machines undetected. The National Rifle Association did not oppose this ban.
Also in 1988, Cheney voted to scrap a proposed national seven-day waiting period on handgun purchases.
On the environment, Cheney opposed refunding the Clean Water Act. He voted to postpone sanctions slapped on air polluters that failed to meet pollution standards.
And he voted against legislation to require oil, chemical and other industries from making public records of emissions known to cause cancer, birth defects and other chronic diseases.
Dick Cheney consistently voted to raise military spending. He also supported aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, even after a moratorium on funding was passed.

Is this how the conservative values of the heartland translate? I don't think so. I think that our Dick is a wingnut.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

A Reminder

I now also blog on the American Street on Saturdays. If you want more politics, check out my most recent sermon there. It's about security moms, or rather about the new meme that there is such a thing as women who are swing-voters but now lean towards Bush because he's seen as such a macho-man. It's all a puff of foul-smelling air from some wingnut's nostrils, as you might have guessed.

Christine on ms. musings does a very good job on this topic, and she asks for suggestions about new demographic groups for the election pundits to talk about. I like "war-thirsty wingnuts" or maybe "sundry fundies". Also "security blankets" for those people who have decided to close their eyes and brains against any evidence that might sway them from walking straight off the roof after our dear leader.


The cake was a great success! Sorry for no picture, but it's all eaten up already. I had a few hairy bits during the preparation (the fudge hardened to a giant lollypop, the cake sank in the middle in the oven and the bottom half fell on the floor after I took it out of the oven..), but the result was brilliant and the taste is out of this world. Trust me. This is a parable for Kerry's campaign, its initial difficulties and other troubles en route to the final shining victory!

Here's the recipe:

Sweet Death

4 eggs
2/3 cups white sugar
3/4 cups (a little over) pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 and 1/3 cups whipping (heavy) cream
1 Marabou bar or the equivalent amount of milk chocolate with almonds (four ounces is plenty)
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
2/3 cups of very strong coffee
1/2 tablespoon of butter
a handful of fine breadcrumbs (or use flour in an emergency)
oven tin of suitable size
large knife
first aid kit

1. Butter the oven tin and scatter breadcrumbs all over it. (Don't butter and crumb the outside!)
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Beat together the eggs (only the insides!) and the white sugar until the result is very light yellow and leaves a mound for a few moments when you drop it from the beater blades.
4. Mix together the flour and the baking powder. Sieve it (through a sieve) into the egg-sugar mixture. Fold in gently (so as not to deflate the whole thing.
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the sides of the cake come apart from the sides of the tin and a match stuck into the cake (the wrong end in) comes out clean.
6. Take the cake out of oven and upend it on something clean. (Hope that it doesn't stick to the tin and then fall on the floor when vigorously shaken. If it does, piece it back together like a jigsaw puzzle.)
7. Prepare the chocolate filling: Put the chocolate bar inside a clean dishtowel or pillowcase. Take the hammer and have at the poor chocolate until the result is in nice chunks.
8. Make the coffee and let it cool.
9. Prepare the fudgey filling/icing: In a small saucepan mix together 3/4 cups of cream and the brown sugar. Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Add a tablespoon of butter and stir it in. (Do NOT refrigerate at this stage or you get a large lollypop!)
10. Whip up the remaining cream into a foamy stage that will stay on the cake.
11. Assemble the cake: First find your longest knife and slit the cake into two layers. (Careful with your fingers here!) Separate the layers and dribble half of the cold coffee on each. Decide which layer is the bottom this time, and cover the bottom layer with about half of the fudge sauce. Then smear about a quarter of the whipped cream over the sauce. Sprinkle half of the chocolate lumps over that. Then top the whole mess with the top layer of the cake. Cover that one with the rest of the fudge sauce. Then cover EVERYTHING with the remaining whipped cream and scatter the rest of the chocolate over the lot. Refrigerate for a few hours to make all the flavors merge into one unforgettable taste orgasm.

Meanwhile, in the real world

Today is the Cake Day! First I need to go shopping for eggs, flour, sugar, butter, cream, brown sugar, chocolate and coffee. Then I need to turn the kitchen upside down and cover it with various gooey liquids and fluffy powders. I need to find the manual for the electric beater and a ruler to measure how large my oven tins are.

I'm looking forward to this a lot. Probably best to wear something like a painter's overall? And I need to cover the dogs with some tarps.

Creativity is so fun! You never know what comes out of all the activity, but the experience is what really matters.

If you don't hear from me soon I probably put myself in the oven by accident. It's all for a very good cause, though.

The October Surprise

Karl Rove says that he has a few ready for the Kerry campaign:

President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, said Wednesday that the Bush-Cheney campaign is planning some October "surprises" for challengers John Kerry and John Edwards.

"We've got a couple of surprises that we intend to spring," Rove told ABC radio host Sean Hannity while explaining that he intends to wage an aggressive campaign no matter what the polls show. "It's 34 days [till the election] and that's a long time in politics, and when you get complacent you lose," the top White House adviser said.

We all know what one of those surprises might be. It starts with the letter "O" and might be frozen. The others are probably similar. Maybe Rove will stage a situation where Bush can save the life of a small child? Or there could be a group hug of war widows by the president who finds that loving them is hard work? Just kidding.

But be prepared: it's going to be something smelly, given that this is from our Karl.
Original link via Kevin Hayden.

Friday, October 01, 2004

A Must-Read

This article in Media Matters for America is a very good one. It compares the pre-debate and post-debate spins and shows how the events are twisted so that they cannot benefit Kerry's campaign.

For a while there I was actually feeling gentle vibes of love towards all and sundry, even the pundits, but now I'm back to my normal state of cynical health.

Not to Rain on the Parade, But

It's good to remember that the debates don't necessarily help in determining how Americans might vote. And there is something a little sad in a country of this size ending up with two candidates who are both men and who are both white and who both have lots of money and who both went to Yale and belonged to the same secret society there as our two options for the president.

We should really try to do better in the future. Maybe overhauling the two-party system would be the first thing to work on? The countries with proportional representation and multiparty systems do a lot better in having both women and men and people of different ethnic origins in their parliaments.

But for now I'm glad for the pitiful fact that we have two (two!) candidates to choose from two (two!) parties.

Tiptoeing in Violets

This is allowed for one day. Everything looks so bright this morning! The sun kisses my eyelids and the snakes are dancing in the garden. It's good to be alive!

Tomorrow is soon enough for reality. But if you need to get back to the fight sooner than that, read this post about the aging Supreme Court and why it's so very important to assure that Bush is not back for another four years. Other reasons abound, of course, some of them more urgent and frightening, but the long-term effects of a fundie rule are not to be underestimated for anybody whose civil rights depend at least partially on laws of the country.

If you're not in the mood for anything that serious yet, Amanda is very funny about the G-spots here...

Putting on the Leash

This is a quote from the first debate:

Mr. Kerry Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the personal comments the president just made, and I share them with him. I think only if you've - if you're doing this, and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency, can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families. And it's tough. And so I acknowledge - his daughters, I've watched them, I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments. And -
Mr. Bush Trying to put a leash on them.
Mr. Kerry Well, I know - I've learned not to do that. And I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think she's a terrific person -
Mr. Bush Thank you.

I'm sure that Bush was trying to be funny with his leash comment, but it might backfire pretty badly. For one thing, it reminds us of the torture scandal in Iraq, what with a leash being used in that one, too. For another, most young women don't want their fathers to put them on leash. I wouldn't, anyway.