Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is nothing more than another example of Rove's tactic of using surrogates to do his candidate's dirty work and there is a clear, bright line running from the current headlines back to Texas.

Here's the article.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Looks like the anger over the Bush campaign's ad trumpeting the Iraq Olympic soccer team as a triumph of their Iraq war has not died down.

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," [Iraq soccer player Salih] Sadir told through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Now the U.S. Olympic Committee has asked the Bush campaign to stop what seems to be an incredibly arrogant and presumptuous ad. I have to wonder if the campaign innocently and delusionally created this ad or whether they knew that the Iraq olympians, Afghan olympians, UOC and IOC would get angry and just figured they would keep the ad up as long as they could.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Who Are These Undecided Voters Anyway?

Arianna Huffington has a good point about the fruitlessness of trying to persuade so-called undecided voters. According to her, the Kerry campaign will become hung up on the details that supposedly affect the votes of the undecideds over its larger messages if it focuses too much on trying to prove one of the smear vehicles, say Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (aka Lies), wrong over everything else.

The Kerry campaign cannot allow it to devolve into a debate over whether John Kerry bled enough to warrant a Purple Heart.

And since no one can doubt that more scurrilous attacks are coming Kerry's way, it is imperative that in the future the right answers to all wrong questions are offered immediately and without, for one moment, relinquishing the Kerry campaign's attack on the president's failures at home and abroad or clouding its alternative moral vision of what America can be with George Bush safely back in Crawford.

Surely there have always been people who were unsure of who to vote for through the duration of the election, but I do find it curious that this constituency has received so much media attention in recent years. Rather than talk up this group of people, the media could (a) do a better job trying to inform the undecideds by focusing less on fiascoes such as the charges of Swift Boat Veterans for Lies and (2) report on substantive matters rather than on campaign style and strategy, in which the journalist or other media appendage finds it necessary to adapt a cynical tone to all things political. Thus we have programs a la cable news, which of course only feed the frenzy over voters who have not made up their minds.

Viva la revolution de l'undecided voter!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Aug. 19, 2004 WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee heard this morning from one of its own about some of the problems with airline "no fly" watch lists. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says he had a close encounter with the lists when trying to take the U.S. Airways shuttle out of Washington to Boston.

Coincidence? That is the question.

A person is pretty screwed if they're wrongly on the "no fly" watch list and can't get a direct line to Tom Ridge.

I Will Resist Inventing a 'No Child Left Behind' Pun, But Regardless...

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune reported that several of the schools hit by the No Child Left Behind "sanctions," are some of the Chicagoland area's better-regarded schools:

Just days before the beginning of school, the Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday released a preliminary list of 694 schools around the state that will have to offer students the choice to move to better performing schools, and in some cases, receive tutoring and other services.

The list also features schools more accustomed to accolades, including Hinsdale South High School, Evanston Township High School, Lyons Township High School North Campus and Highland Park High School.

Supporters of this No Child Left Behind provision might argue that these four high schools are a small percentage of the schools throughout the state of Illinois that have received sanctions, while a much larger percentage had been classified as "failing." Still, the whole idea of taking money away from a school because it's doing poorly rather than re-investing in the school is incredibly counter-intuitive, and for schools such as Highland Park and Evanston that are some of the best public high schools in the state, the sanctions would have a palpable effect if students started leaving.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Republican Attempt to Claim the Mantle of Security Only Reflects Their Own Insecurity

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has said a few words about Dick Cheney that are long overdue:

It just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had 'other priorities' at that time would say that.

When I hear [attacks on John Kerry] coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil. He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood.

Also, as has been pointed out by observers, Dick Cheney's seemingly out-there attacks on John Kerry's well-thought statement that we need to conduct a "more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history," may be a deliberate strategy to convey "gay-bashing code" and, I might add women-bashing code. Perhaps the Bush cadre took a cue from Arnold Schwarzenegger's "girlie men" comment when they were strategizing on how to attack Senator Kerry.

Comments like this, in my opinion, point to a man fundamentally insecure with his masculinity trying to appeal to other men of a similar condition. Here is an interesting article that examines the new Republican attack strategy of the 2004 trend. As the article puts it,

One of the most troubling political tactics of late is coming from the right end of the spectrum. Apparently taking their cues from the schoolyard, some Republicans' latest motto seems to be: When you're feeling inadequate, call someone else a sissy.

Of course, attacks like reveal much more about the attacker than the person who is being attacked.
The article continues,

As Matt Drudge (widely rumored to be gay himself, but a confirmed Republican) so charmingly observed on his Web site, "The Drudge Report," after the Democratic presidential nominee chose his running mate, "John Kerry and John Edwards can't keep their hands off each other!" Accompanied by photos of the two senators speaking with their heads close together, or clasping each other's hands, or walking with their arms interlaced, we suppose this is meant to point to something unnatural, something sinister, something ... well, almost homosexual about the relationship these two men have! The subtext is so clear it is practically audible: Men, especially politicians, expressing affection for each other in public? What is this country coming to?

2004 is already turning into a monumental year for gay rights issues, and the Republicans are certainly aware of this. They apparently feel they must capitalize on the progress that has been made with regards to gay marriage--though precarious progress at this point, among other things, to evoke divisive anti-gay and anti-woman themes. Once again, this strategy is fundamentally a sign of incredible insecurity on their part.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Julia Child

I just want to belatedly acknowledge Julia Child in light of her recent passing. Salon wrote an informative and fascinating article on Child a few years back. Here it is.

And an excerpt.

"You must have the courage of your convictions," trills a black-and-white Child as she pan-flips a large potato pancake. Losing half of the contents onto the electric range cooktop, she scrapes up the errant potatoes with her spatula and puts them back in the pan, assuring me, her momentary confidant, that it's OK to make a mistake -- no one sees us alone in the kitchen anyway. As an adult, I find this reassuring. I, like Child, am not a natural born cook.

Pre-Emeril, pre-Fat Ladies, long before the rise of Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck and without the magic of editing, Julia Child was re-outfitting the American kitchen and re-educating the American palate. In the process she became the most important culinary figure this country has produced, as well as one of the century's most admirable women. As befits a woman who stands 6-foot-2, Child has done everything in a very big way.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Now I know lately Alan Keyes has been fodder for almost all of my blog posts, and I can only say that I do it because I can't resist: the man just gets more entertaining by the day. Today I was talking with someone who humorously though aptly said, "Not only is Alan Keyes from another state, he's from another planet." I think we need look no further than his expressed support for banning popular elections of U.S. Senators to see how true this is. This guy is a nut.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Alan Keyes a hazard to the national Republican party?

Interesting theory from Sidney Blumenthal, former assistant and senior advisor in the Clinton Administration, that Alan Keyes might not only have an adverse effect on the appeal of the state Republican party but on the appeal of the Republican party in neighboring states as well.

"A screeching religious right fanatic, Keyes, who has worn a lapel pin featuring the feet of a fetus, is Jerry Falwell as played by Little Richard. Obama is beating him 67 to 28 percent, and that undoubtedly represents Keyes' peak. Keyes opened his campaign by saying Obama's stance in favor of legal choice for women on abortion is 'the slaveholder's position.' Their debates, to be broadcast throughout the Middle West, may turn votes against the Republicans in every state bordering Illinois."

According to former Illinois Governor James Thompson "There are no liberal Republicans anymore." Thompson is referring to Alan Keyes in particular, but he could be referring to almost any Republican in federal office the way it stands nowadays. Indeed.
In my opinion, election polls cannot be trusted. It is such a ridiculous "science," or lack of. Trying to predict human voting behavior would be hard enough if pollsters had the opinions of every single registered American voter; it's pretty much impossible with the limited number of people that are surveyed for a poll. I cannot totally renounce their worth, because I just do not know enough about the precision of the random sampling and other methods that are used to try and make polling accurate, but it still seems absurd that political polls should be reported in the news more than the issues that people are being polled about (e.g. healthcare, economy, foreign policy). As a result, I can only greet this recent poll that Kerry is ahead in several swing states warily. Still, this news is better than the other possiblity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Hypocritical Tort Reformers

The Bush Administration has predictably tried to attack Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards for being a personal injury lawyer. They accuse the profession of being the source of frivolous lawsuits. Perhaps they got that idea as a result of their own forays into the legal arena. Although there are many suits that have rightly restored the cost of injury to the injured party (and unfortunately, many injuries are not contested at all via an attorney, meaning the injured party must reap all of the cost), George W. Bush's lawsuit against Enterprise Rent-a-Car, for example, is not one of these suits.

Thomas has supplied us with a nice, comprehensive list of all of the tort reform Republicans who have brought forward incredibly frivolous lawsuits of their own.

When they or family members are hurt and need compensation for their own injuries, often minor ones, these same individuals do not hesitate to use the courts to obtain compensation, to right a wrong, to hold a wrongdoer accountable or to obtain justice.

In 1999, [George W.] Bush sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car over a minor fender-bender involving one of his daughters in which no one was hurt. Although his insurance would have covered the repair costs, making a lawsuit unnecessary, Bush sought additional money from Enterprise, which had rented a car to someone with a suspended license. In this case, Bush seemed to understand one of the most important functions of civil lawsuits -- to deter further wrongdoing. The case settled for $2,000 to $2,500.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Alan Keyes is Making No Sense

Alan Keyes has officially declared his nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, and no doubt our state's newest resident is preparing to pick up where Jack Ryan left off in trying to attack Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee who is enjoying incredible and well-deserved popularity in the state and in the country since his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Keyes is a Maryland resident who will be making the big move to Illinois to run for the senate here, and while I make no promises, I suspect we should all be on our toes for some blatant hypocricies on the part of Keyes. Conveniently, in fact, one has already been found. As the People for the American Way point out, Keyes is on record as expressing his most principled disagreement with Hillary Clinton's decision to run for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2000:

“And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton’s willingness to go into a state she doesn’t even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn’t imitate it.” Fox News, “Special Report with Brit Hume,” March 17, 2000

Well, now that Alan Keyes is running for Senate here in Illinois, let the destruction of federalism begin!

Beatles: Pop group, pop psychology

My pop psychology item of the day:

Everyone has a favorite Beatles song, and such a favorite is indicative of one's deepest values. I love making up this crap! See below,

  • If you like "Golden Slumbers", you no longer believe there is "a way to get back home," that is, to get in touch with the way things used to be, and you figure that you might as well let the "golden slumbers fill your eyes" so you can forget there is no longer a way back to the beginning. You are very mature in the unsentimentality of this realization, but you also care to be blissfully ignorant. (You are the anti-thesis of the person whose favorite song is "In My Life").
  • If your favorite song is "Eleanor Rigby" you see "all the lonely people" shrouded by the title of a minister or a married wife. You are very perceptive and also somewhat despairing and probably one of the most sophisticated and mature of all Beatles' fans.
  • If your favorite song is "A Day in the Life," you appreciate the irony of life (evidenced by your love of the lyric "although the news was rather sad, i just had to laugh") and you are morbidly fascinated with the horrors of which you are always an observer, and of which, when they happen, you "just had to look." You are very desensitized, yes, but also frickin' brilliant. Unfortunately, your life is still very ordinary.
  • If you favorite song is "In My Life," you are a painfully remniscent person, first of all for the places and people who have "changed, some forever, not for better," and since you are slightly disillusioned with these developments you cling to the one love of your life who you feel will always stay the same. Perhaps you should branch out. (Your polar opposite is the person who favors "Golden Slumbers").
  • If you like "Martha My Dear," you are obsessed with a woman named Martha or with Paul McCartney's dog, or you are just incredibly confused whether you want a woman or a dog, as you like the name of the dog but the substance of the woman. My advice to you, my friend: "When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you!"

My Bible, or I Love F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I was younger, I was pretty consumed with proving that there was no such thing as a God, and that it was foolish that the Bible was interpreted as the text of God's will. Why, I wondered, can't we deign the complete works of, say William Shakespeare as a work of God. After all, Shakespeare's works express the human condition brilliantly, better than the Bible, one could argue; why can't we just assume that God "wrote" Shakesepare if we assume he "wrote" the Bible.

Anyway, I have since ended my preoccupation with proving the existence or non-existence of a God, but after my recent post comparing F. Scott Fitzgerald to Barack Obama, I realized that The Great Gatsby may be as close to a holy text as any individual will ever come to producing. I know, I just made a statement worthy of the James Lipton Award for Exaggerated and Profuse Praise, but I stick to it nonetheless. The following quotes will indicate to all why Gatsby is indeed as close to the Bible as a text may ever come.

The intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  • This needs little explanation except to say that even when one shares his life's burdens, fears, etc. with another, those private thoughts are often colored by the vocabulary of cliche when expressed aloud, or they are simply twisted by the "young men" for self-affirmation. Furthermore, so often even the talks of "intimate revelations" occur out of a need for the individual to assert his complexity and to indicate his great skills at introspection. That is, it's as much a social convention at a later stage in a relationship as shaking hands is at the earliest stage.

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues.

  • This quote sums up perfectly the deluded faith that man has in his own morals. We all know a person or two in particular so sure that the moral code that he lives by--or lack thereof--is quite ideal, when in fact this person doesn't even understand the "cardinal virtue" that he claims to adhere to. Oh well, such is the complexity of the human being, and such is F. Scott's brilliance for pointing this out with one of the most concisely lucid sentences that I have ever read. (Again, I channel James Lipton).

One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.

  • I love the diction with "savors" and "anti-climax." I think this line is both easily relateable for the reader but also set apart from the reader. Somehow I feel that the men that Fitzgerald and narrator Nick Carraway knew to have anti-climaxed are much more exciting to watch fizzle than the men that you and I know who have anti-climaxed. (What a great word, by the way).

Friday, August 06, 2004

What is an alderman, really?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bush slips up; reveals his true thoughts?

This man may be the "chief executive officer" (as he's referred to it) of our country, but I'm proud to say I didn't vote for him (and would not have even if I was 18 in 2000!).

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of 'Bushisms' on Thursday, declaring that his administration will 'never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people.'"

Bush misspeaks during signing cermeony

If we are to believe Bush, wouldn't every, single, last American be voting against their own self-interest in voting for GWB? I mean forget it if you make 5 billion and you're getting a nice tax cut, you're still voting for someone who wants to harm you and your country. Everyone's screwed!
As a member of the blogging community, or whatever the hell we call it, I feel an obligation to my readership (of two, haha) to post this article:
Funny shit.

Barack Obama as a modern-day but optimistic F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading over the transcript of U.S. Senate candiate Barack Obama's keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, I noticed one particular line that seemed remniscent of one of the main themes of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic--and in my opinion quite possibly the best novel ever written--The Great Gatsby. Here is the excerpt from Obama's speech:

Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

Now here is an excerpt from the ending of The Great Gatsby (I have emphasized the parts of this excerpt most relevant to my point here in bold, although the entire passage is brilliant and must be included for full understanding and effect):

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…And on fine morning --So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Obama in his keynote speech entertains and subscribes to an idea, "the audacity of hope," that the beauty of what we call the American Dream is that it is not unrealistic to plan for a better day because this day can be achieved.

Barack Obama
Fitzgerald's narrator Nick Carraway somberly resigns himself to the belief that the American Dream is audacious and nothing else, that it survives on a myth, that it is built on an history of elusive progress. For Nick (and persumably for Fitzgerald), the tragedy of Jay Gatsby is proof that the dream of a better future, a theme that has persisted through the history of this country, died the moment it was born, or perhaps it never even materialized in the first place.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Who is right about the American Dream? I think both views can actually be reconciled. Obama also says in his keynote address,

But [people] sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.

He acknowledges that the opportunities are not being provided for people who want to realize the American Dream. Nick Carraway expresses too that the dream has been denied of those who have tried to achieve it, represented in Gatsby by Jay Gatsby.

To Nick and Fitzgerald, the American Dream is untenable because of the carelessness of those who occupy the image of the dream realized:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

In fact, Tom and Daisy have not achieved, they have merely been born into. Permit me to compare Tom and Daisy and their like with the current leaders of our nation, people who inflict their vast carelessness on the rest of the country and deny us of opportunities as a result. For Barack Obama's vision of a nation where individuals can achieve what they dream, the careless people of this world must be displaced. For Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, such a wish is futile; hopefully for Obama it will not be.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Why you probably will not find out too much of use to your life in the coming election from the mainstream media...

...And it's not for lack of trying on the part of the candidates! (At least, not some of the candidates!) It is for lack of trying on the part of the news media though.

I have had many people tell me that they "don't know anything about John Kerry" and that they're not "really interested in politics anyway." Americans are affected by politics in every possible realm of our lives, but the way the mainstream media portrays it--especially the television media--one would think that Capitol Hill and the White House are soundstages where entertainment is produced, not civic bulidings where policy is made.

While our country is facing a 445 billion deficit by the end of September, an escalating occupation in Iraq that has called up an increasing number of armed forces men and women into active duty, and state budget crises that threaten to cripple government operations, the mainstream media is still idly reporting on space suits and Teresa Heinz Kerry's exchanges with reporters (reasonable when one considers that the reporter in question is quite biased, I might add, but the media doesn't tell us this!).

The New York Times' Paul Krugman just wrote a great article about this unhelpful journalism. Here are a few useful excerpts:

Under the headline "Voters Want Specifics From Kerry," The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about "what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people...Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it?
On the other hand, everyone knows that Teresa Heinz Kerry told someone to "shove it," though even there, the context was missing. Except for a brief reference on MSNBC, none of the transcripts I've read mention that the target of her ire works for Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who financed smear campaigns against the Clintons - including accusations of murder. (CNN did mention Mr. Scaife on its Web site, but described him only as a donor to "conservative causes.") And viewers learned nothing about Mr. Scaife's long vendetta against Mrs. Heinz Kerry herself.


Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.

Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. ("He is, above all, a moralist," wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.)


A Columbia Journalism Review Web site called, says its analysis "reveals a press prone to needlessly introduce Senators Kerry and Edwards and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as millionaires or billionaires, without similar labels for President Bush or Vice President Cheney."