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8.31.2004

What We Mean When We Say 'Win'

NYT on the recent will win v. don't think you can win fluffle:

Later, in an interview with the conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Bush elaborated further. "What I meant was that this is not a conventional war," he said from Iowa. "It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool."

After telling Mr. Limbaugh that "I probably needed to be a little more articulate" in his initial comments, which he had made in an interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC program "Today" program, the president went on to say: "Really what I was saying to Lauer was, is that this is not the kind of war where you sit down and sign a peace treaty. It's a totally different kind of war. But we will win it.


Just one question: how will we know when we've won?


Heroism v. Heroism

Excellent Saletan piece today in Slate, one of the only I've seen to unpack the glossy, sugary, largely hollow & unsubstantive jabber coming out from the RNC on What A Brave President Bush has been.

Best part comes at the end, imho:

I don't mean to be unfair to Bush. Vietnam was a lousy war. He wanted a way out, and he found it. But isn't it odd to see Republicans belittle the physical risks Kerry took in battle while exalting Bush's armchair wars and post-9/11 photo ops? Isn't it embarrassing to see Bob Dole, the GOP's previous presidential nominee, praise Bush's heroism while suggesting that Kerry's three combat wounds weren't bad enough to justify sending him home from Vietnam?


8.30.2004

One Lawyer's View On Bush's Judicial Appointments

Perspective from Paul, who's also a heck of a bon viviant & scooter mechanic.


If We're Really Going To Be Honest...

...we might as well be brief. Phil Collins:

"Critics come to me and think I have this Midas touch with writing songs. If they only knew. It's luck. You go in there and something happens. You string a few things together and someone puts it out, and next thing you know it's being rammed down everyone's throats.''

Via SJMerc


8.27.2004

Bush: "I Am Not Going To Come In Second"

USAToday, via Yahoo!News.

Bush was most animated when he was asked about how he would react to losing his last campaign. He was asked if he and his wife, Laura, hadn't said that they would be fine if Kerry wins. Bush interrupted sharply. "I have never said that," he insisted. In a June interview, however, Laura Bush said she has "of course" considered the possibility that there might not be a second term. "No matter what happens in the election," she said, "we'll be OK."

"I have not said that," Bush repeated, "because I am not going to come in second. We'll prevail. I don't think that way. I believe we're going to win."


Pausing a moment, the President said: "But even if I do come in second, again, Jeb and the Supreme Court'll fix it."


8.23.2004

No Connection?

Clearly, there's no connection between a) the revelation that the same agency is handling the SWVTF ads *and* the RNC/Bush's re-election convention ads and b) Bush's sudden change of heart on speaking out on the SWVTF ads.

Right?

Monday's NYT:
President Bush, who has refused for weeks to condemn a veterans' group's television commercials attacking John Kerry's military service in Vietnam, today said the group and others running independent advertisements should stop running them.

From Sunday's Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Allen, let me start with you. I noticed this in the Roll Call paper: "...the Republican media consulting firm Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm ...is tasked with handling the National Republican Senatorial Committee's independent expenditure [advertising] campaign."

And then this in The New York Times: "Another participant [in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads] is the political advertising agency that made the group's television commercial: Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, based in Alexandria, Virginia."


Are you all one big, happy family?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN, (R-VA): Oh, there's Republicans--there are many Republicans all over the country. And, obviously, the Democrats have their folks. Sure, those folks are good people and they can run ads. Our ads, of course, as far as our Senate committee ads, will be done by various independent groups, and obviously the campaigns make their own decisions on it.


8.19.2004

Daily Show redeemed

I think it was Tuesday's show that I just got around to watching, in which Ed Helms called the proprietor of a biker bar a 'pussy' (and, in retrospect, he may have invoked the epithet upon the patrons as well) in response to the suggestion that guns and alcohol do not mix. Absolute genius.

In other news, I just got back from LA, where I was unexpectedly called upon to get up in front of 600 people at a RES event to talk about our latest video for Citizens Here and Abroad. Still feeling very big and clever, even if I did come off sounding like a jackass.

Watch the video here


8.17.2004

Supreme Court Re-election in 2004!

Tim Noah in Slate:

"It's not obvious to me that picking the guy with fewer votes on purpose is preferable to picking the guy with fewer votes by accident."

At first I thought this was asinine, but then I thought "maybe he's just saying they both have the same effect?" Yes. He was deconstructing a Kentucky Republican's statement that the electoral college saved us from many, many state recounts in 2000, and "served to center the post-election battles in Florida."

Seems like a good time to revisit Greg Palast's article from last August on 'fair' election in 2004, in which he notes that Jeb-style tactics are likely to show up in other states (red or blue, presumably).

In 2002, with little public notice, Congress passed and the president signed the "Help America Vote Act." Hidden behind the apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil rights time-bomb. Every state must, by the 2004 elections, imitate Florida’s system of computerizing voter files; the law empowers 50 secretaries of state to purge these lists of suspect voters.




Oh Well, 2 Out of 4 Lame Excuses Ain't Bad*

Via Paul:The Nation claims there's a housing bubble.

The housing enthusiasts, led by Alan Greenspan, insist that the run-up is not a bubble, but rather reflects fundamental factors in the demand for housing. They cite several factors that could explain the price surge: a limited supply of urban land, immigration increasing the demand for housing, environmental restrictions on building, and rising family income leading to increased demand for housing.

I haven't dug up the Greenspan quotes, but I'll just guess that the Nation isn't engaging in defamatory quoting. Here in SF, I can assure you it is not 'immigrants' who are snapping up $600K TIC 2br 1ba fixer-uppers in the Mission District. Nor is it environmental restrictions that are feeding this phenom...so many spanking-new loft spaces lie languishing that it's difficult to swing a white belt without hitting one....and they start at $400k for the cheap seats, thanks: above the Good Vibrations on Valencia, facing the police station. And I'm stuck in the muddle - our household makes about $100k/yr, has sizeable debt, many underwater stock options by the trunkful, & pays a deflated ~$1600/mo for a dinky, dark, Edwardian 1br in the Castro, and is not about to be able to afford a nice 10% down on an overbid $500k apartment just like the one we live in. Mommy and Daddy cannot bail us out and write us a check for $50k. Bitter? No. We can always move to Topeka, right?

Maybe it's alarmist BS, but hey: wouldn't it be worse if it was true?
The final blow to the argument of the housing enthusiasts is the recent trend in rents. Rental prices did originally follow sale prices upward, although not nearly as fast. However, in the last two years, the pace of rental price increases has slowed under the pressure of record high vacancy rates. In some bubble areas, like Seattle and San Francisco, rents are actually falling. No one can produce an explanation as to how fundamental factors can lead to a run-up in home sale prices, but not rents.

At the end of the day, housing can be viewed like Internet stocks on the NASDAQ. A run-up in prices eventually attracts more supply. This takes the form of IPOs on the NASDAQ, and new homes in the housing market. Eventually, there are not enough people to sustain demand, and prices plunge.

The crash of the housing market will not be pretty. It is virtually certain to lead to a second dip to the recession. Even worse, millions of families will see the bulk of their savings disappear as homes in some of the bubble areas lose 30 percent, or more, of their value. Foreclosures, which are already at near record highs, will almost certainly soar to new peaks. This has happened before in regional markets that had severe housing bubbles, most notably in Colorado and Texas after the collapse of oil prices in the early eighties. However, this time the bubble markets are more the rule than the exception, infecting most of real estate markets on both coasts, as well as many local markets in the center of the country.


*Mine, or the ones The Nation asserts are Greenspan's? Oh, what's the difference!!??!


8.15.2004

Slipknot: Out. Franz Ferdinand: In

Although I realize this may be a bit unfair to the dapper Scots, comparing their sartorial splendor (substitute Interpol, if you're feeling unsure about this) to the "dress nice" aesthetic allegedly sweeping the nation.

From the NYT (requires registration): Student Chic....Trading Grunge For Cable-Knit

Last year, Benjamin Spoer, a college sophomore in Berkeley, Calif., was just another grungy teenager, with his long hair, dirty jeans and favorite black T-shirt with a gory red bird on the front. Now he is transformed. He has cut his hair, and in a couple of weeks, he plans to go shopping for some blue button-down shirts.

He threw the bird T-shirt away.

"The guys at school used to come to class in T-shirts with four-letter words on them,'' he said. "Now they wear clothes from Gap and American Eagle. Since grunge is starting to fade away, they're going with what's out there.''


Of course, this can only mean that the early 90s version of grunge (and not the M Manson/Warped Tour/Slipknot version) is on its way back in a few years time. Start hoarding your flannels. I wish someone'd hire me to be a coolhunter already; I've been touting the 'nice' sea change noted in the NYT for at least 2 years now.


Even If It Doesn't Involve An Envelope Full of Benjamins...

Speechless. So many other people will have something interesting to say about this (classy? I'm too old to know) Jessica Cutler piece.

"Public embarrassment is really very liberating. You really stop caring about what people think, which is something only the elderly seem to able to accomplish with great aplomb. So I am way ahead of everybody. And those of you behind me can kiss my ass."


8.13.2004

This Just In

2004 Athens Olympic opening ceremonies...were clearly modeled entirely on the 'dream sequence' from The Big Lebowski.

the floating, blue Eros? the dancer atop a huge sugarcube? c'mon. wonderful.





Yeah, But Does She Like Tuna Straight From the Can?

From this week's WaPo:
Wedding bells will be ringing early next year for right-wing think tanker (and cable news squawker) Grover Norquist and his girlfriend of the past year, Samah Alrayyes, who works for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Norquist, the 47-year-old president of Americans for Tax Reform (and an NRA board member), thoughtfully pointed out about his 31-year-old love: "She's an active Republican." Phew. "She's very good on taxes," Norquist boasts, adding sweetly, "and she can put a tight grouping with a .38."

via Wonkette, the excellent WaPo piece on this influential GOP consultant.

He is often described as an eccentric. For a bedside table, Norquist uses a giant green canister for Kraft parmesan cheese. He displays what he hopes will be the world's largest collection of airsickness bags. At staff meetings, employees say, he holds court while variously sitting on a giant red plastic ball, eating tuna from a can, rubbing his feet against a massager and sniffing hand lotion as he kneads it into his fingers. He excuses himself to go to "the ladies room."


Hardball

Vets For Kerry head John Hurley just sat there last night on Hardball (link for pseudo-transcript) as John O'Neill hammered away on Kerry with admirable vigor. Sure, Chris Matthews was displaying the sort of critical acumen and contentious gasbaggery he's famous for (on Hurley's behalf, strangely), but that was no reason for Hurley to sit there like a lump. O'Neill spun questions with admirable Cheney-esque temerity, and I just couldn't believe Hurley wasn't better at (even canned) responses to the charges O'Neill's been toting on chatfests for two weeks now. I hope Kerryites can do better than this, and quick.


Clinton on the Daily Show

Clinton came out with a few gems during his interview, but I think the most remarkable was so powerful in its simplicity: something along the lines of "Democrats win when people think". There doesn't seem to be enough thinking going on of late.

As an aside, and maybe it's just me, but is the regular fare of the show becoming a little weaker? Jon Stewart's cutesy little sounds seem to be proliferating to the point of irritation, but what really strikes me is the way in which the occasional brave Republican interviewed is torn apart in much the same way as Democrats who brave the O'Reilly Factor (which, to be honest, I've never seen). Maybe not quite so viciously, but nonetheless, they're hardly brought on there to engage in serious debate.

A little middle ground wouldn't hurt. That said, like most liberals, it's hard to think of many Republican policies or politicians of which I approve.


Galling

From a CNN piece on new Bush ads:
"One of the things that must never change is the entrepreneurial spirit of America. This country needs a president who clearly sees that," Bush says in one ad, according to transcripts provided by the campaign.

Ahh, the ol' entrepreneurial spirit! Something our president understands well, having run several unsuccessful businesses based entirely on (and occasionally bailed out by) his wealthy family's connections. Brilliant.


Swingin' on the Flippity-Flop

Excellent piece gives 25 instances of G W Bush's flip-floppery, covering everything from OPEC and Chalabi to trade and the environment. Read it.


8.12.2004

Y'know, Somehow That's Not Good Enough

Lengthy, annoying, cover-yr-ass article from the
WaPo on their pre-war Iraq coverage


Reporter Karen DeYoung, a former assistant managing editor who covered the prewar diplomacy, said contrary information sometimes got lost.

"If there's something I would do differently -- and it's always easy in hindsight -- the top of the story would say, 'We're going to war, we're going to war against evil.' But later down it would say, 'But some people are questioning it.' The caution and the questioning was buried underneath the drumbeat. . . . The hugeness of the war preparation story tended to drown out a lot of that stuff."


Gee, I'm really glad that her decision would've been to foreground 'evil.'

Further along, we have this equivocating gem:

Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials had no problem commanding prime real estate in the paper, even when their warnings were repetitive. "We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power," DeYoung said. "If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said." And if contrary arguments are put "in the eighth paragraph, where they're not on the front page, a lot of people don't read that far."

Somewhere, a bunch of PR people are shocked. Shocked! In other news, what you see on tv and hear on the radio is determined by who's willing to pay to get it there. And I'm selling shares of a soon-to-built bridge in Brooklyn. It's gonna be just a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge!


8.10.2004

News to Me

Hilarious. Via Turkish publication Zaman Online:

Salim Chalabi, head of the tribunal trying overthrown Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said yesterday that his life would be in danger if he is arrested in Iraq.

Chalabi demanded a guarantee that he would not be killed if he returned to Iraq. Chalabi is being sought in connection with the murder of the Director General of the Iraqi Finance Ministry, Haithem Fadil.
...
Warrants for the arrest of Salim Chalabi and his uncle, Ahmet Chalabi, were issued last Saturday in Iraq. The British Foreign Ministry announced that Salim Chalabi would not be extradited to Iraq. A Ministry spokesperson said, "We do not have an extradition treaty with Iraq, and we are not in a position to offer any help in such matters." The unnamed spokesperson added that the Ministry had not received any demands from Iraq regarding the issue.


Brief Departure From Snark

As a very-amateur but very-enthusiastic cyclist, I practically devoured this NYT piece on drug use in professional sports, which focuses on track cyclist Tammy Thomas.

"Speaking generally, Thomas gave her explanation of how honest athletes turn bad. First, coaches, or "hook-ups," give athletes what the coaches call vitamins, she said. Then those coaches slowly start changing the routine, giving their athletes pills of different colors and dosages. By the time the athletes figure out they are taking performance-enhancing drugs, Thomas said, it is almost too late to turn back.

"At some point, the athlete has a choice to stop or keep going," she said. "But you start to think that if you don't take something, you're going to lose. And who's going to cheer for someone who finishes last in a heat?" She added: "Athletes don't really care about their bodies. They care more about winning.""



8.06.2004

Is 'Cretinization' a Real Word?

Reading Hitchens usually spawns prolonged sessions of eye-rolling, followed by occasional growling and a smattering of swearing. Today, though, I find myself in complete agreement with his perspective on the idiocy of terror alerts. In particular, I wish I'd written this graf:

"You can see the consequences of this idiocy at any airport, any day. The last time I flew, I had to show my driver's license, and my boarding pass, three times. This tactic handily eliminates all those hijackers who have ever tried to board a plane without ID, or without bothering to buy a ticket. (At my hometown airport of Washington Dulles, as a recent video has shown, three hijackers who boarded on Sept. 11 had taken the usual precaution of having tickets and ID, but had not bothered to change their names from the ones on the FBI "terrorism watch-list.") The whole thing is done largely in order to create an impression of security, and the worst of it is watching your fellow passengers thanking those who pointlessly pat them down, and who incidentally make sure that if there is a hijacker aboard, you have been as far as possible robbed of anything with which to defend yourself. "


8.05.2004

As Clear As Mud

Bush mis-speaks at signing of defense-spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

And here's McClellan to mop up:
"...the American people know this president speaks with clarity and conviction, and the terrorists know by his actions he means it," McClellan said.

If by 'clarity and conviction,' he meant 'constantly mangling syntax while attempting to repeat the same few reductive phrases,' then I'm in agreement.


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