Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Religion and Politics.....
.....are two things you should avoid when talking with relatives. I've heard this many times over, and it's true, as I found out this past weekend! Unfortunately for me, I really enjoy honest discussions about these topics, with respect for all sides. Some folks cannot get off of their partisan mode, and get downright pissed when you even bring up grey areas among their black-and-white world. I guess when you view the world in a simple "good vs. evil" way, religion is the "gateway drug" to politics!

On another note, I've heard a great deal about the "unknown voters" this year. Who are they? Security moms? NASCAR dads? Nope, cell phone users. According to this article by Jimmy Breslin the amount of cell phone users is growing at a huge rate, and is also unpolled:

"On Sept. 15, there were 168,900,019 cell phones in America, according to the cell phone institute in Washington. Not one phone user was called by the political pollsters reporting with such marvelous accuracy on the Bush-Kerry race. A month later, on yesterday afternoon, there now were 170,475,160 cell phones in America, according to the cell phone institute. In one month, 1,575,000 new cell phones have been bought.

Not one cell phone has been called during the presidential campaign. This is because there is no method for polling cell phones. Nobody has their numbers. Nor do they know who the users are, where they live and what they do. You have 170 million phones and you talk to none of them and then try to say you know what the public is thinking.

A month ago, pollster John Zogby said he had discontinued telephone polls because cell phones had made any and all results meaningless. Now if you pay attention to polls, you are insane."


"Everybody maintains that the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat. Nobody knows that. With a huge number of new registered voters, overwhelmingly of color, and young, and with 40 million using cell phones, the only thing going on in this election is how many times George Bush goes under before he drowns on Election Day."


"The newspaper and television polls aren't worth glancing at. They are taken of people who have land lines, as your house phone is known. Many millions have cell phones and land lines both, and can be reached. But there are about 40 million between 18 and 29 who only use cell phones. They are heavily Democratic. The usual view is that they vote sparingly. This time, with the word "draft" in the air the young breathe, and with a general and intense dislike of Bush, the number should be higher than usual."

There is more, go read. This is an interesting situation which is different than four years ago. We might be seeing the end of polls as we know them, if the election day results are widely off the predictions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Million Hits and Still Counting.......
That's the number of folks that have watched or downloaded the Crossfire clip featuring Jon Stewart since it was posted on several websites. Stewart has made it no secret that watching shows like Crossfire or Hardball make him ill, not because of what is said, but how "theatre" is now taken as news by many folks. Some people don't get why "The Daily Show" is so popular, but the reason is twofold: One, great writing. Without a doubt some of the best comedy on tv is on TDS. Two, Stewart is an intelligent comedian who truly believes in real, honest discourse and a discussion of differing ideas. Real debate, not what passes for that on today's slew of confrontational left/right shows. Watch TDS......Stewart treats most of his guests with amazing respect, no matter what their political leanings are. Yes, he himself leans left, or at the least, progressive. But what makes TDS so good (and popular) is that it attacks not politics specifically, but the sideshow of media. This is what made the MAD magazines of the late 1950's and early 1960's so good as well, and the National Lampoons of the early 1970's. They all attacked the process, as does TDS. And we love it. The Crossfire audience was clearly enjoying Stewart's interactions with Carlson, and he was clearly unprepared for it:

"When Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson invited "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart onto their CNN "Crossfire" scream-fest last week, they got more than they bargained for. Much to their chagrin, Stewart didn't promote his number one best-selling tome, "America (the Book)." Instead, he pilloried, not only "Crossfire," but CNN and all the denizens of TV's huge Gasbag Ghetto. By show's end, Begala and, especially, Carlson wore the type of expression known by punch-drunk palookas everywhere. They were kissing the canvas Big Time and they knew it.
Stewart is not only a very funny man but also a thoughtful and intelligent one; qualities usually not associated with "Crossfire" guests. He had his hosts uncomfortably defensive from the outset.

"Why do you argue, the two of you? I hate to see it."

"We enjoy it," Carlson offered somewhat lamely.

A minute later, after bemoaning the existance of shows like "'Crossfire,' or 'Hardball' or 'I'm Going To Kick Your Ass,'" he said. "…I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends, and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.
"…I felt that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't – it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America."

That got Tucker's bow-tie behaving like a propeller. Both men began with the jibber-jabber but Stewart stayed on track. "Here's just what I want to tell you guys. Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America."

The two hosts didn't know whether Stewart was kidding or not. He wasn't. "See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns."

Begala rushed to the show's defense. "(We're helping politicians) By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes."

"No, no, no," Stewart stressed. "You're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, HACKS."

The audience went wild. Tucker tried to accuse Stewart of 'sucking up' to John Kerry when Kerry guested on "The Daily Show." Stewart's response? "If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to… If that's your goal….I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for 'Seinfeld.' That's a very good show."


"Jon," Tucker replied. "I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring….Let me ask you a question on the news."

"Now, this is theater. It's obvious," Stewart smiled. "How old are you?"

"Thirty-five," Tucker answered.

Stewart nodded. "And you wear a bow tie."
As Tucker composed himself and Begala made a mental note to pick up his dry-cleaning, Stewart made nice-nice. "Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie…But the thing is that you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.
"It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it…" Stewart continued.

Tucker was aghast: "You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?"

"Absolutely," Stewart replied sweetly. "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

Absolutely. When CNN tries to hold TDS to a standard of journalism, well, the irony comes full-circle. Go read the rest of that article, and this one too.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I've heard Dubya say time and time again that he's a "compassionate conservative." Just what does that really mean? For someone that's supposedly well-versed in all things Jesus, his actions are the opposite of "WWJD" and more like "WTF?" During the debates, when he's asked truly introspective questions, he stumbles around, but when he shifts the talk to revenge ("dead or alive!"), violence ("Bring it on!" or "smoke 'em out!") he actually seems to be enjoying the moment with a gleam in his eye. Not quite compassionate, but I've always believed this might be at the heart of why so many conservatives are prone to spewing violent things (Ann Coulter saying we should either kill 'em or convert 'em). I believe many of the religious right truly believe in their religious convictions, but they pick and choose which ones to really hold to. That's why they will froth about abortion and school prayer (relatively easy things to get behind), but tend to ignore the much harder edicts (do not kill, turn the other cheek, any one of the Sermon on the Mount issues) because you run the risk of appearing "sensitive" and not macho. So, in a nutshell, Dubya embodies this religious fanaticism of "my actions are sanctioned by a higher power, and I'm gonna run roughshod over anyone in my way since they are not believers!"

I would challenge anyone to list three things that Dubya has done that would display the "WWJD" mentality......

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Case of Pre-Senile Dementia
No, that's not what the blue-light special is on Row 5, but it is a medical diagnosis made regarding Dubya's seemingly endless verbal stumbles. Now, everyone has their opinion about Dubya's mood swings and other "misunderestimations," but go check out this video comparison of Dubya ten years ago to Dubya today........very strange! The Dubya of ten years ago is articulate and does not stumble, and the Dubya of today...well, you know.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Is That a Receiver in Your Jacket, Or Are You Just Glad to Debate Me?
The question on most voters' minds regarding the first Presidential debate last week wasn't about Iraq or the economy...no, we want to know, Mr. President: Were you packing? An earpiece and receiver, that is! Was Dubya getting fed his lines in a similar fashion as TV reporters? Go and read this piece by Dave Lindorff in Salon (subscribe or watch some ads for a free one-day pass):

Bush's mystery bulge
The rumor is flying around the globe. Was the president wired during the first debate?
By Dave Lindorff

Oct. 8, 2004  |  Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

Bloggers are burning up their keyboards with speculation. Check out the president's peculiar behavior during the debate, they say. On several occasions, the president simply stopped speaking for an uncomfortably long time and stared ahead with an odd expression on his face. Was he listening to someone helping him with his response to a question? Even weirder was the president's strange outburst. In a peeved rejoinder to Kerry, he said, "As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts. I, I, uh -- Let me finish -- The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at." It must be said that Bush pointed toward Lehrer as he declared "Let me finish." The green warning light was lit, signaling he had 30 seconds to, well, finish.


So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. "There's certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic," he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.

Mystery-bulge bloggers argue that the president may have begun using such technology earlier in his term. Because Bush is famously prone to malapropisms and reportedly dyslexic, which could make successful use of a teleprompter problematic, they say the president and his handlers may have turned to a technique often used by television reporters on remote stand-ups. A reporter tapes a story and, while on camera, plays it back into an earpiece, repeating lines just after hearing them, managing to sound spontaneous and error free.

Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site MediaChannel.org, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."

....and for the best line in the article, Dave wraps up with:

As for whether we really do have a Milli Vanilli president, the answer at this point has to be, God only knows.

Was Dubya getting his lines from offstage? Everyone look for an antenna, "My Favorite Martian" style, tonight!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Saddam on Celebrity Poker?
One of the theories that had been kicked around regarding the missing WMD's is that in order to perpetuate the image of a tough guy, Saddam didn't exactly deny having weapons. This sounded plausible to me, based on how politics in the Middle East is defined by a certain macho image. Kevin Drum pulls similar info from a L.A. Times article:

SADDAM AND THE WMD....In a way, the Duelfer report is anticlimactic. Between the Kay report, Mahdi Obeidi's book, and over a year of searching, we already had a pretty good idea that Saddam Hussein had neither WMD nor WMD programs.

However, the report does provide an apparently final answer to the intriguing question of why Saddam didn't come clean with the UN inspectors even though (as the report also makes clear) he knew perfectly well he had nothing to hide. The answer turns out to be Iran:

Hussein often denied U.S. assertions that he possessed banned weapons in defiance of U.N. resolutions, but for years he also persisted in making cryptic public statements to perpetuate the myth that he actually did have them. The Iraq Survey Group believes that he continued making those statements long after he had secretly ordered the destruction of his stockpiles.

Based on the interrogations, it appears that Hussein underestimated how seriously the United States took the weapons issue, and he believed it was vital to his own survival that the outside world — especially Iran — think he still had them.

It was a strategy, Hussein has told his FBI interrogators during the last 10 months, that was aimed primarily at bluffing Iraq's neighbor to the east.

"The Iranian threat was very, very, palpable to him, and he didn't want to be second to Iran, and he felt he had to deter them. So he wanted to create the impression that he had more than he did," Duelfer, the Iraq Survey Group head, told members of the Senate on Wednesday.

Apparently he also felt that it was fear of WMD that caused the U.S. to leave him in power after the 1991 war. Thus, if he remained ambiguous about it, it would deter us again in 2003.

There have been dozens of theories about why Saddam didn't come clean if he really didn't have WMD, but it looks like this one is the winner. Just another in a long line of Saddam's infamous strategic blunders.

Incredible. You add Ahmed Chalabi to the mix, stir in a President who has a belief that his very actions are beyond questioning, and a mess occurs. When Dick Cheney lies about the first time he had ever met Edwards during a debate, what else is a lie? It seems that lies are an automatic response to bad news in this Administration.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Are We Done With Hurricane Season Yet?
OK, I'm back after the fourth hurricane in six weeks down here in the Sunshine State. You have to wonder how long before the insurance companies pull out altogether. Since we had no power, I wasn't able to watch the first debate, but I saw enough on the internet. It's amazing that some members of the media were amazed at how uncomfortable and petulant Dubya really is. This is a surprise? Anyone who has seen Dubya at any of his record-low press conferences knows this. He really is insulated and isolated from most public contact. And, of course, if anyone dares question his decisions, he just freezes up. Remember folks, this guy works for us, the American public. He should be able to answer any and all questions about how his decisions impact our lives.

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