Friday, May 14, 2004

Let's Push Things Forward: PopMatters' Adrien Begrand writes an excellent review of the new Streets CD today, echoing my "preview review" of the album a while back. Adrien and I had a series of e-mail conversations about A Grand Don't Come for Free in between our reviews, and at first I didn't think he'd end up agreeing with my view. Looks like it's official, though: absolutely amazing record.

- Marc
Are Voters "for" Kerry or "Against" Bush? What's the Difference? The conventional wisdom is that Kerry's major weakness in the latest Pew research center poll [PDF] is, as TNR's Ryan Lizza sums up:

Sixty-four percent of Kerry supporters say their vote is against Bush, while 74 percent of Bush supporters say their vote is for Bush.

At first glance, these numbers seem Important. Influential online newsletter The Note touched upon the issue yesterday, as Lizza observed: "Voters have to go through a two-step process before they oust an incumbent. First they have to decide to fire him, and then they have to decide they want to hire the challenger." Tellingly, this idea doesn't originate with the Note. Rather, it originates with conservative pundits like Peggy Noonan.

Let's be adults here, for a minute. (I know it's tough when it comes to politics.) Bush is the incumbent -- doesn't it make sense that supporters who have seen him at work for four years would vote "for" him rather than "against" a relative stranger? And doesn't it make sense that voters for Kerry, who might have supported other candidates in the primaries, would be voting "against" the devil they know rather than "for" the knight in shining armor they are only just meeting?

The way to determine this would be by doing research, something your Washington press corps deems itself above. Are these numbers normal? Pew said of Bob Dole in 1996, "Dislike of Clinton continues to be the dominant motive for supporting the former Senate Majority Leader."

The reports on Pew's website extend only as far back as 1989. But it looks like this "bad news" for Kerry doesn't matter. After all, if he can get enough people to vote "against" Bush... he'll win.

Update: Donkey Rising has made similar musings: "Take a Deep Breath and Repeat After Me: It's a Referendum on the Incumbent"

- Marc

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Spicoli Says:


Totally awesome.

The fact that the president's favorable rating has dropped to 44 percent, once again, gives me hope that that Democracy, that old bitch, still hangs on by her fingernails.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

You Said It, George: In a speech today on No Child Left Behind, Bush finally understands what's happening to him: Listen, teachers are a really loving people and they care deeply about their profession and their desire to pass on knowledge, and sometimes they just don't have the skills to be able to do so. It's got to be frustrating. It wasn't frustrating if you didn't measure, because you didn't know. But then when you start using the accountability system that all of a sudden points out that, oops, maybe I ought to get a -- find a new skill so I can do my job.

Should Bush practice "accountability"? Ought he find a new skill so he can do his job? We don't know. But it's an interesting idea.

- Marc

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Just Trust Paul: I'm reluctant ever to do the lame, lazy "just click here" blogger routine, but Paul Krugman today says just about everything you need to know about the current state of affairs in Iraq and in Washington, DC. Just click here.

Meanwhile, David Brooks finally seems to have realized that he's not always right. Perhaps we won't need to have a rap battle, after all; I've already won, I'm sorry to say:

This has been a crushingly depressing period, especially for people who support the war in Iraq. The predictions people on my side made about the postwar world have not yet come true. The warnings others made about the fractious state of post-Saddam society have.

I'm as depressed by this truth as is Brooks. But he and his ilk bear the responsibility for the "fractious state" of Iraq.

And it's about time for them to make way for people who actually know what they're talking about -- or, since no one can possibly be right about everything all the time (sorry, Rummy), starting looking to people who are humble enough to change their minds.

- Marc
The Musings of Professor Inhofe

Damn, if this idiotic introductory statement by Sen. Inhofe during the Taguba hearing didn't make me spit out my coffee. Especially upon the Red Cross statement that between 70 and 90 percent of the prisoners were picked up "by mistake."

For the record, here's the genius's excerpted comment:

"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment. These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

While I would like to make the point that it's illegal in America to abuse prisoners in such a manner as these soldiers were ordered to do, I'm sure that Professor Inhofe would be more than happy to treat American prisoners that way too.

I'd Hate to See You Lying There in Your Superman Skivvies: In the interest of shameless self-promotion (and sweaters coming "Undone"), I'd like to link to my review of the new Weezer reissue. Goddamn, I am.

- Marc

Monday, May 10, 2004

Hear No Evil: Much has been made of Bush's statement in support of Rumsfeld today. However, another portion of his remarks strikes me as even more noteworthy:

Yet who can doubt that Iraq is better for being free from one of the most bloodiest tyrants the world has ever known?

Set aside the phrase "most bloodiest." That's just Bush pandering to John Q. Public by talking like a moron. Or being a moron. Take your pick.

But "who can doubt"? I'll tell you who... Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector. I know George has said he doesn't read newspapers, but maybe now it's time. USA Today isn't really that difficult, is it?

- Marc
Sy Hersh On Abu Ghraib:

Sy Hersh comes correct again with another eye-blistering report on the Abu Ghraib shitstorm. He highlights the essential issues here as:

Rumsfeld’s staff always seemed to be waiting for something to turn up—for the problem to take care of itself, without any additional troops. The official explained, “They were hoping that they wouldn’t have to make a decision.”


By placing military-intelligence operatives in control instead, Miller’s recommendations and Sanchez’s change in policy undoubtedly played a role in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. General Taguba concluded that certain military-intelligence officers and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib were “either directly or indirectly responsible” for the abuses, and urged that they be subjected to disciplinary action.


Not everybody went along. A company captain in a military-police unit in Baghdad told me last week that he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees awake around the clock until they began talking. “I said, ‘No, we will not do that,’” the captain said. “The M.I. commander comes to me and says, ‘What is the problem? We’re stressed, and all we are asking you to do is to keep them awake.’ I ask, ‘How? You’ve received training on that, but my soldiers don’t know how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old kid to keep someone awake, and he doesn’t know how to do it, he’s going to get creative.’” The M.I. officer took the request to the captain’s commander, but, the captain said, “he backed me up.

This last excerpt has a sickening Sociology 101 element.

How Sad: A letter writer in the Arizona Republic shows how ill-informed most of the public remains about the Bush administration's abuses: How sad that the media has put our young men and women at risk by blowing out of proportion the magnitude of the abuse of prisoners in Iraqi prisons.

Don't trust anyone who thinks "media" is a singular noun, I always say.

And yet, how sad that it was the military, not the media, who released this information, according to Rumsfeld.

How sad that the world now thinks of us as a bunch of torturers and rapists.

How sad that the woman who wrote that letter probably believes that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

- Marc
Don't Change Horses in Midstream: That's the thrust of Bill Safire's ludicrous column today. I rarely bother commenting on his work, because aside from his pioneering grammatical expertise (Whoppers Jr., anyone?) nearly everything he writes has the mark of a skilled, shameless propagandist.

But in this otherwise well-executed (if ill-conceived) column in support of Donald Rumsfeld, Safire makes an unusual faux pas: He says what he really thinks.

Observe: "Nor does it make strategic sense to remove a war leader in the vain hope of appeasing critics of the war."

In other words, a war leader who bears personal responsibility for the "long, hard slog" we now find ourselves in because of policies that have been proven wrong -- such as his tragic belief in a leaner, lighter army -- should not be held responsible. By this logic, any leader who starts a war should remain in his position, no matter how poorly the leader acquits himself.

Surely Safire doesn't mean that. He's a smart man, if devious. There's only one other possibility: He simply means that we should re-elect Bush, no matter what.

One wonders how much of the tax cut goes to our millionaire pundits.

- Marc

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Three's a Crowd: The U.S. government has spent three times as much on the Iraq war as on homeland security, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

With troop commitments growing, the cost of the war in Iraq could top $150 billion through the next fiscal year — as much as three times what the White House had originally estimated. And, according to congressional researchers and outside budget experts, the war and continuing occupation could total $300 billion over the next decade, making this one of the costliest military campaigns in modern times.

As a measure of the Bush administration’s priorities in the war on terrorism, it has spent about $3 in Iraq for every $1 committed to homeland security, experts say.

That divide may be growing.

So let me get this straight: Eric Shineski, whose predictions of the cost of the Iraq war exceeded the administration's initial lowball figures, got fired. Don Rumsfeld, who has headed up this whole fiasco, has not been fired. As the Iraq war has shown no discernible value aside from Wag the Dog jingoism, do we think it's time to fire the C.E.O. yet?

- Marc
Thomas Friedman Is a Big Fat Idiot: Friedman's usually pretty perceptive, even if he believed the administration's cant about WMD. But get this little Iraq-related doozy from today's NYT:

Yes, we Americans need to look in a mirror and ask why we've become so radioactive. But the Arabs need to look in a mirror too. "They are using our mistakes to avoid their own necessity to change, reform and modernize," says the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen.

There's just one problem, Tommy. WE invaded THEM.

- Marc

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