September 29, 2004
READING ROOM: More on David Dreier, the AIPAC spies, the Debate, Hitchens, und so weiter...
THE L.A. WEEKLY asked me to gin up a quick piece on the reactions to my piece in the LAW last week, 'The Outing: David Dreier's Straight Hypocrisy." To read this followup piece, "Quiet, Dear: Responses to the Outing of David Drier," click here:...
My friend Sam Smith, whose daily press review, UNDERNEWS, is always a must-read for me, has a "Fake Debates" page detailing some of the restrictive rules for tomorrow night's Miami badminton match...And the debate reform organization Open Debates has a wealth of material on the corruption of the now-corporate-controlled presidential debates process...
Tom Engelhardt's thoughtful blog for The Nation Institute, TomDispatch, today carries a sharp piece from Swiss writer Bruno Giussani: "Memo to Kerry from Europe: Help (for Iraq) Is Not on the Way." Giussani explains why "Europe will not rush to 'share the burden,' nor to significantly reduce the cost of the Mesopotamian adventure to American taxpayers. Truth is, the United States will have to see Iraq through mostly by itself..." Giussani's piece should be read in preparation for tomorrow night's debates, in which Kerry will predictably trot out his "I-can-get-allies-for-Iraq" mantra.
The new Washington Monthly has a detailed piece on the AIPAC spy ring scandal, which the mag is calling "Iran-Contra II." The piece--by Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris--lays out how the investigation of the spying is shedding light on "an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up." ( DIRELAND analyzed the Iran connection to the spies in a previous post in early September).
The Annenberg Center today released a new poll showing how a majority of voters are ignorant of the differences between Kerry and Bush on domestic issues. For example, half of the electorate doesn't know that Bush wants to privatize parts of Social Security, or that Kerry wants to end tax breaks for overseas profits of U.S. corporations. Two-thirds didn't know only Bush favors more restrictions on abortions...and so forth. Read the whole poll--it's sickening testimony to the superficial vapidity of this presidential campaign, as well as to Kerry's singular ineptitude in talking up domestic policy...
The Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus have issued a new report on " A Failed 'Transition': The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War."
Among the many fascinating nuggets in this 86 page study is the shrinking nature of the "coaliton" Bush keeps braying about: like La Peau du chagrin in the famous Stendhal novel of the same name, Bush's alliance of the bought keeps shrinking: "U.S.- led Coalition Shrinks Further During the "Transition": The number of countries in the Coalition backing the U.S.-led war started with 30 on March 18, 2003, then grew in the early months of the war. Since then, eight countries have withdrawn their troops and Costa Rica has demanded to be taken off the coalition list. At the war's start, coalition countries represented 19.1 percent of the world's population; today, the remaining countries with forces in Iraq represent only 13.6 percent of the world's population."...
CORRESPONDENCE: Jason Vest, a journalist who writes about national security matters, has e-mailed me the following comment on The Independent's interview with Christopher Hitchens I recommended in an earlier post:
The Sept 22 edition of the Independent (UK) carried a Johann Hari piece that is latest example of what I fear is becoming a tired-but-with-no-end-in-sight subgenre of journalism: The "old-friend-of-Hitchens-goes-to -interview -Christopher-in-an-effort-to-draw-a-more-precise-bead-on-his-current-political- views-and-ends-up-anguishing-over-or-lamenting-what-he-finds" story. Though other deadlines do not allow me to inveigh against this cottage industry (and the lacking considerations of its source) immediately, I think I will at some point in the near future. But in the meantime, there is something about the piece that I think deserves immediate attention, and perhaps your delightfully-named DIRELAND is the place to do so. To wit:
The piece contains the following graf:
But can we trust the Bush administration - filled with people like Dick Cheney, who didn't even support the release of Nelson Mandela - to support democracy and the spread of American values now? He offers an anecdote in response. There is a new liberal-left heroine in the States called Azar Nafisi. Her book 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' documents an underground feminist resistance movement to the Iranian Mullahs that concentrated on reading great - and banned - works of Western literature. "And who is this book by an icon of the Iranian resistance dedicated to? [US Deputy Secretary of Defence] Paul Wolfowitz, the bogeyman of the left, and the intellectual force behind [the recent war in] Iraq."
As it so happens, I have a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran in my library. When I read the above graf, I made a mental note to consult the text to verify what struck me as having to surely be one of the most amazingly neglected acknowledgments in recent times. Leave it to the intrepid Danny Postel to beat me to the punch, who dispatched via email the following on Tuesday:
To the Editor and Mr. Hari: In Johann Hari’s otherwise wonderfully crafted profile of Christopher Hitchens of 22 September, his subject is quoted as saying that Azar Nafisi’s book Reading Lolita in Tehran is dedicated to Paul Wolfowitz (“And who is this book by an icon of the Iranian resistance dedicated to? [US Deputy Secretary of Defence] Paul Wolfowitz…”). In fact, the book is not dedicated to Mr. Wolfowitz. The dedication reads as follows:
In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
For my father, Ahmad Nafisi,And my family: Bijan, Negar and Dara Naderi
Mr. Wolfowitz’s name does not even appear in the book’s Acknowledgements, which run a full three pages in length. The error, of course, is Mr. Hitchens’ – but Mr. Hari might have thought to check the claim, as might The Independent have thought to do before running it.
Wishful thinking on Christopher's part?
ANOTHER KERRY DOOFUS MOMENT...
John Kerry once again stuck his silver foot in his mouth in the lengthy interview he gave to Diane Sawyer. You've heard, of course, Kerry's famous explanation of his position on the Iraq appropriation--"I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it"--because it's been re-run countless times by net work news shows, not to mention it's being a key part of several clever Republican attack ads.
But now, Kerry has compounded this gaffe by trying to explain it away--and getting caught in lie. Here's how explained that famous phrase to ABC's Sawyer:
"It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries — and I didn't say something very clearly. But it reflects the truth of the position, which is — I fought to have the wealthiest people in America share the burden of paying for that war. It was a protest. Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted, and that's what I did."
But, as ABC's political desk reports, the GOP's opposition research brigade almost instantly shot back this devastating reply:
"Kerry also said this morning that he said he 'actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it' because he had 'one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired.' According to a Washington Post article the day after the event, Kerry's comments were at a 'noontime appearance.' Perhaps his watch was on Paris time, where it was evening."
Now, right at the moment when Kerry has staked his entire presidential campaign on proving George Bush a liar about Iraq (which is, of course, true), Kerry calls into question once again his own capacity for veracity. Moreover, he did so in a way that it was pitifully easy to demonstrate was patently false--and that reveals a grand stupidity on the part of the Democrats' candidate. And this is hardly the first time Kerry has been caught not simply stretching the truth but breaking it in two (like his self-contradicting story on throwing away his war medals, revealed in the Spring by ABC's Brian Ross).
Kerry's latest verbal cock-up is part of the reason why any hopes of his hitting a homerun in the first debate on foreign policy and Iraq are wishful thinking. Listen to him trying to once again explain his Iraq position, this time to Sawyer:
DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it?
JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today.
DS: So it was not worth it.
JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat — there were no weapons of mass destruction — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line.
DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?
DS: But right now it wasn't [ … ? … ]--
JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we've done what he's — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That's the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.
DS: But no way to get rid of him.
JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely.
DS: So you're saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . .
JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane — don't twist here.
Brothers and sisters of TV-land, this is simply pitiful. Moreover, both in his hallucinatory explanation of his voted-for-it-voted-against-it pirouette, and in his handling of Sawyer's questioning of whether or not he still supported the war, Kerry sounds whiny---and Americans don't like to elect a whiner as their commander-in-chief, particulary when they have been taught we are at "war," albeit an undeclared one.
The other reason not to expect much that's encouraging out of Miami on Thursday night is that the debate cannot be joined honestly and forthrightly over the single most dangerous part of Bush's foreign policy: the Bush first-strike doctrine, which proclaims that the president can violate international law and, without a casus belli, invade any country he wants, any time he feels like it. Why can't that issue be confronted squarely? Because Kerry supports the Bush first-strike doctrine. He did in his speech when he voted the Constitution-shredding blank check for war, and he has reiterated it many times on the campaign trail. What's more, he actually believes what he says. Here's Kerry on CNN'sCrossfire back in 1997:
"We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the
Russians," said Mr. Kerry. "We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."So here, four years before Bush occupied the White House and announced his imperial first-strike doctrine, Kerry is already supporting that affirmation of the right to international lawlessness (not to mention the gratuitous frog-slanging).
Moreover, Kerry has " laid out a foreign policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than those of President Bush or even fellow Democrat Bill Clinton," as the Washington Post reported on a lengthy intervew Kerry had given the paper on foreign policy in May. In that interview, Kerry said "he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security."
All of which explains why progressive Democrats will be singing the Miami Blues after Thursday night.
The latest Pew poll, out today, which gives Bush an 8 point lead over Kerry, reflects the impact over time of Kerry performances like the ones recited above. According to the Pew pollsters' analysis, "The poll finds that Bush's gains in support are being driven more by perceptions of Kerry's weakness especially on leadership and other personal traits than by improved opinions of Bush. Fewer voters favor Bush over Kerry on handling Iraq than did so earlier this month (46% now, 52% Sept. 11-13). But Kerry's rating in the head-to-head evaluation on Iraq is no higher (38% now, 40% then). The Democratic challenger continues to inspire more confidence than Bush with regard to improving the economy, which 60% of Americans believe is in only fair or poor shape. But even here, the percentage favoring Kerry has not increased since the Sept. 11-13 survey (46% now, 47% then)." Those last two numbers show why it's insane for Kerry to have abandoned the economy for Iraq as the central focus of his fall campaign...A candidate should always lead from his strength--and in Kerry's case, these Pew numbres--as do those in the other major recent polls-- show that the only opening Kerry has with the electorate is on economic issues...
AFTER I posted the above analysis of Kerry's latest idiocy, my chum John Berendt (author of the best-selling "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") e-mailed me the following pertinent comment:
"What I find so frustrating about Kerry is that there is a perfectly good explanation for his $87 billion vote, but he can't seem to explain it: the first bill (the one he voted for) included a clause that stuck the bill to the fat cats by paying for it with a rollback of the tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. The Republicans VOTED AGAINST THAT BILL. A second bill came up for a vote, and it omitted any plan to pay for the $87 billion. Kerry voted against that bill, and the Republicans voted for it. So, it could be said that the Republicans voted AGAINST THE 87 BILLION BEFORE THEY VOTED FOR IT!! Why doesn't Kerry just say that????? I've written Andy Tobias a dozen times trying to get him to pass it on to Kerry. He says he's done that, but I see no sign of it. The real story is that the $87 billion was NEVER the issue; how to pay for it was the issue. Kerry should say that the Senate would have voted on a third bill if the second had failed. But the $87 billion was a done deal from the outset.
"Have you ever seen the movie Salo? I watched it while I did my treadmill last week, and I damn near threw up. I feel the same way about this election. "
Hey, John, do you have any extra air-sick bags?...
DAVID BROOKS' column in yesterday's New York Times was devoted to comparing the coming elections in Iraq to those in war-torn El Salvador two decades ago. Now, veteran radical journalist Marc Cooper--who was actually in El Salvador for those elections--has destroyed Brooks in a first-rate, must-read dissection on his blog, entitled "Iraq is Not El Salvador," in which he corrrects Brooks' fantasy version of history. Writes Marc:
"The Salvadoran elections of 1982 – IMPOSED by the U.S. in the middle of an indigenous war, not only failed to bring democracy, but rather accelerated the conflict. The war lasted a full decade more. It took the lives of another 35,000 people (mostly all civilians, mostly all killed by the “democratic” and “elected” government” legitmated by the hollow Potemkin-elections). Make sure you read Marc's entire piece, based on his eye-witness testimony.
September 27, 2004
MORE ON THE DEBATE OVER NAOMI KLEIN
In a previous post, I cited Frank Smyth's first-rate article on Iraq for Foreign Policy in Focus, "Who Are the Progressives in Iraq? The Left, the Right, and the Islamists" as the definitive reply to Naomi Klein and others who appear to be justifying Muqtada al Sadr and the rest of the reactionary theocrats who are spearheading the armed "resistance" in Iraq. Frank, Marc Cooper, and I have all received some angry criticism reflecting a certain school of thought that defends Klein and others on this set of issues. .
Frank forwarded to me yesterday one such letter, better written and more intelligent than most, and his reply to it. I found Smyth's reply so pertinent that--with his kind permission--I'm reprinting the entire exchage below (I've excised the name of Frank's correspondent because I couldn't reach him for permission to use it). The exchange follows:
Smyth’s Straw Man Simply Doesn’t Exist, by R.N.
The article from FPIF paints a simplistic and homogeneous picture of the left as naive anti-imperialists who uncritically identify with the Islamic resistance fighters who are challenging the American occupation of Iraq. The author repeats the very same error that he accuses the American left of committing vis-a-vis the Iraqi’s.
First, the author repeats the myth that the American military invaded Iraq “in order to remove a leader who ranked among the most despised despots in the world.” This, of course, is George Bush’s current preferred explanation of why the US deployed 140, 000 troops (soon to be increased to 150,000), spent over 200 billion dollars, and lost over a thousand lives occupying Iraq. I guess I am one of those “naïve leftists” who believes that the war was indeed an imperialist war of aggression, that it’s main goal was to insure America’s control of Iraq’s valuable natural resources (see M. Klare’s recent well argued book BLOOD AND OIL), and that the Bush administration has no intention of installing a democracy (here I agree with Chomsky’s arguments) in the Middle East or allowing a coalition of leftist or secular Iraqi’s outside of Washington’s control to win the election and nationalize Iraq’s resources –its goal is to establish a client state that will serve American interests. Second, the author fails to raise the issue of Iraqi self-determination and the right of various groups in Iraq (yes even the reactionary one’s) to resist the brutal American military occupation which is being enforced at the point of a gun and with bombs and missiles. Third, most people on the left that I have read and encountered ARE aware of the various groupings in Iraq, and do not have the simple-minded identification with the particular factions that are resisting the occupation as Smyth claims. Finally, the American left is far more diverse that Smyth acknowledges, and he seems to have a great need to homogenize it simply to set up a straw man that is easy to knock down with cheap shots. I have rarely heard leftist defend Saddam, although many have argued that he was being supported by the US when he was committing his worse crimes.
Although I agree with Smyth that Iraq is a highly complex and political reality, it is extremely naïve to argue that the occupation will result in free elections (is this what the CIA and Bush want?) that will give Iraqi progressives a fair chance, and that the resistance in turn is evil because it is controlled by “reactionaries.” The resistance taps into a much larger pool of nationalism and a justified anger at the destruction and rape of IRAQ under false pretenses.
Frank Smyth replies:
Good point about oil, and I have a few comments to add further down.
But I disagree about the alleged "straw man" and I will give you examples of real distortions.
In the fall of 2002, Democracy Now's Jeremy Scahill reported that Iraq's referendum on Saddam, the one which his authorities claimed received 100 percent of the Iraqi vote, was a legitimate reflection of his allegedly unanimous popularity. Democracy Now never reported that the Iraqi communist party (Iraqcp.org) called the referendum a "farce," saying it was part of a long pattern of Saddam's "deceit and manipulations." Nor did Democracy Now or most other progressive outlets report much, if anything, to suggest that many Iraqis, none more than leftists, had long opposed Saddam's minority-based regime. (Please send me even one example.)
More recently, The Nation's Naomi Klein reported that the al-Mahdi militia reflected "mainstream" Iraqi views. This is not the case, as I think I make clear in the FPIF piece. She simply does not understand where this group fits in within the context of Iraq's majority Shi'as, or that the al-Mahdi militia is an Islamist reactionary force. (And anyone seeking to understand the religious politics of Iraq should regularly read www.juancole.com.)
Most recently, Scahill and Klein together suggested that the two kidnapped Italian women were most likely allegedly abducted by a Western if not CIA-backed group tied to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. This I only mentioned in the FPIF piece. I will elaborate here. Their main evidence for making this claim is that the kidnapping operation was so large, fast and efficient that it had the markings of Saddam's old intelligence services or Muhabarat. And, add Scahill and Klein, the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Allowi, back when he was allied with Saddam, worked in the Muhabarat during its early years. (See Commondreams.org, their Guardian piece or scroll down on Democracy Now.)
Indeed Allowi did. But Scahill and Klein fail to note that there are far more Ba'athists including ex-Muhabarat men among the Iraqi resistance than in the U.S-backed government. They also miss another point. The essence of Scahill and Klein's claim is that the kidnapping of the two Italian women was so blatant and well-done that Iraqis could not have pulled it off on their own, and that they must have had Western intelligence backing. If that is not racism, it is surely Orientalism. As there is no doubt that the Muhabarat, surely on its own turf and periodically also elsewhere, was always second to none as an intelligence service including the Mosad, the CIA or the also well-respected Iranian intelligence services.
Nevertheless, your thoughtful and thorough point about the Bush administration's designs on Iraqi oil is well-taken. I would only add that whoever controls the future of Iraq's oil may well be determined by elections --at this point, like it or not. And the United States may well try to impose or keep a proxy in power, as the Bush administration tried first to promote Chalabi and then Allowi (both of whom I trash in the FPIF piece). And that is why progressives need to be more mindful of how the United States is trying to manipulate Iraq's internal politics.
EARLY VOTING A PROBLEM FOR KERRY
THIS MORNING'S WALL STREET JOURNAL has a significant piece on early voting--which has become so prevalent, especially in battleground states, that estimates are between 25% and 30% of the vote will actually have been cast before November 2.
This has got to be a disadvantage for Kerry--who, as polls we've cited show, only a little more than a third of the electorate believe has a clear message. . Kerry will need ever day he can get to convince voters to fire Bush. And, since his campaign's mystifying decision to focus the final weeks on Iraq has shown no signs it's working so far, a huge chunk of the electorate actually will be casting its vote one, or two, or three, or four weeks before the rest of the country. And, consequently, with less exposure to any Kerry course corrections or TV ads.
Moreover, this crucial fact makes this week's first presidential debate even more of a make or break for Kerry. Early voting means that some people will have already voted by the time the second and third debates are aired. Thus, if Kerry doesn't do extraordinarily well in the first debate--traditionally the most-watched in any case--he won't be able to recover any lost early voters by better performances in the later debates.
And, don't forget, thanks to an idiotic decision by the Kerry campaign's debate negotiator, Vernon Jordan (which I analyzed earlier), the topic of the first debate has been switched from domestic policy to foreign affairs--meaning Iraq and the war on terrorism, two areas where the polls continue to show a sizable Bush advantage over Kerry. So, the early voters won't get a chance to hear Kerry talking in a focussed way to the nation about jobs and the economy, as many Nov. 2 voters presumably will. And, in close battleground states, this Bush advantage among early voters (doubled, because traditionally they tend to be upscale on the economic ladder--, and thus more pro-Bush because of his tax cuts) may be enough to provide the margin of victory in those states.
The Associated Press this morning has a nice compilation of Bush quotes on Russia and Chechnya. Talk about flip-flopping! ...
This morning's Los Angeles Times has a piece proclaiming that Kerry cannot take Oregon for granted--and explaining why. Since traditionally Democratic Oregon is now in play, that means the Kerry campaign will have to spend money there to make sure the state doesn't slip to Bush instead of in a battleground state. And, don't forget, the brilliant Karl Rove decision to hold the GOP convention late meant that--because of the federal spending limits for the fall--the Bush campaign had a $13 millilon advantage in spending for the fall campaign, since Kerry had already spent part of his permitted cash after his convention but before the Republicans. The federal caps mean that Kerry's campaign is stretched very thin already....
Also in the L.A. Times, an intelligent Ron Brownstein piece making the point (which we've been arguing for some time) that "in a country split evenly on other issues, national security has become a thumb on the scales for the GOP."
The Hotline , which has the best state tracking, this morning has Bush ahead in 30 states, Kerry ahead in 14, and 7 tied--giving Bush 262 electoral votes, with 72 still up for grabs....
THE ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE crusaders are devouring their young. The Southern Voice reports that the Christian Coalition leader in Georgia who led the charge against marriage equality there has an out lesbian daughter who lives with her partner and their child.... And this morning, Christian Grantham's blog for Outlet Radio Network suggests that Alan Keyes--who denouced Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter for "selfish hedonism"--has a lesbian daughter himself...
September 26, 2004
The Sunday Papers, and other thoughts...
TODAY'S Washington Post--under the rubric "Young and Gay in Real America"--has a lengthy profile of Michael, a 17 year old gay teenager struggling to be true to his identity while growing up in the hostile surround of Oklahoma. It's a smart, sensitive piece--and ought to be forcefed to all those who don't understand the depth of gay anger at being scapegoated and turned into a political football by the Bush-Rove Republicans. Credit Anne Hull for the first-rate work....The homophobic electoral campaign by the American Taliban of the Christian Right--whom Karl Rove has moblized so effectively as his shock troops through the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment--is laid out in a chilling Associated Press dispatch this morning.
The problem of coping with a conservative environment when you're gay is, of course, hardly confined to the American heartland. Deutsche Welle 's English service yesterday ran a piece on "Being "Gay and Turkish in Germany" that describes a new billboard campaign to raise the awareness of the Berlin Turkish community about its gay children. The WashPost and Deutsche Welle pieces show that Michael in Oklahoma and Salim in Berlin have a great deal in common...
Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist and diplomat, speaks to the American people in an acid Los Angels Times Op Ed piece entitled, "You Scare Us." Fuentes levels a judgement without appeal agaist the Bush White House:
"What is alarming about the Bush administration is its formal denunciation of the basic rules of international intercourse. With us or against us, President Bush declares starkly and simplistically. The U.S. acts according to its own interests, 'not those of an illusory international community,' asserts national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. Is it strange that many Latin Americans should see in these statements an aggressive denial of the only leverage we have in dealing with Washington: the rule of law, the balance obtained through diplomatic negotiation?" To read Fuentes' article, click here....
That there is another approach to fighting terrorism other than the Bush method that has so frightened Latin America is laid out in a sharp, long Charles Sennott piece in today's Boston Globe headlined, "Europe's Terror Fight Quiet, Unrelenting." The piece quotes a top Spanish anti-terrorist expert, Gustavo de Artuegui:
"For America to keep using the phrase 'war on terror' reflects a deep misunderstanding of the threat we face," said Aristegui, who has held postings in the Middle East and whose father, also a diplomat, was killed in Lebanon by Syrian shelling during the civil war.
"Calling what we face a 'war on terror,' " he added, "is a semantic trap that legitimizes a criminal element as a group worthy of being called an enemy in a conventional sense, and worthy of being a force with which we can engage in war. We need to have language that reflects the reality, and the reality is we need to close the faucet of good guys going into the pool of bad guys." Make sure you read the whole piece...
The New York Daily News explains why Bush has an 11 point lead in Ohio (according to the latest University of Cincinnati Ohio poll) in a good piece of reporting. Listen to the voices from the heartland in today's News piece if you want to know why Kerry is probably doomed....
TIME today has a photo essay, Parody as Protest, on the wonderful agit-prop street theater group Billionaires for Bush. These creative folks have gotten so much publicity for their biting antics they're probably more effective than a hundred Kerry TV spots--and the B's for B did it all on a budget of just $13,000....
September 25, 2004
TODAY'S Washington Post carries an article on presidential ad buys that includes the following: "Kerry's campaign has moved ad money out of states once deemed competitive (Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona and Colorado), but for now considered in Bush's column." Which means that, in effect, Kerry has all but conceded to Bush the home state of JFK's running mate, Johnny Ray Edwards. Which means, in turn, that for Erskine Bowles to hold Edwards' seat for the Dems, he'll have to run way, way ahead of the national ticket in North Carolina--an uphill climb at best....
THIS IS THE SAME LESSON to be drawn in Colorado, where the Denver Post reported a 12 point lead for Bush. So Ken Salazar, the His panic Dem who is the state's Attorney General, will have to run substantially ahead of the national ticket to beat brewery heritier Pete Coors. ....
In state polls this week, Bush had a 2-point lead in trditionallly Democratic Iowa and Minnesota and a 4 to 6 point lead in Wisconsin, depending on which poll one looked at. An AP disptach today reminded us that, "Because of population shifts since 2000 that favor Republicans, Kerry could win every state taken by Gore in 2000 and still would come up 10 votes short of the 270 needed to win the presidency." Which means that Kerry cannot lose a single one of these or any other "blue states" and still win the presidency...More notes later today)
September 24, 2004
THE DEMOCRATS CAPITULATE TO THE SUPPLY-SIDERS
This week made it even harder to convince the voters that this country has a genuine, major opposition party. The Congressional Democrats have now completely capitulated to the Republican advocates of supply-side economics--what the first President Bush once called "voodoo economics" -- by overwhelmingly voting for Dubya's tax cut package. Only one, lone Democratic Senator--retiring octogenarian Fritz Hollings of South Carolina--had the guts to vote on Thursday against this insane tax cut. And in the House, two-thirds of the Democrats (including a lot of the so-called liberals) voted for the Bush bill, which includes more tax breaks for corporations.
Kerry--although he didn't show up for the vote--issued a statement supporting the tax cuts, even though (as the Washington Post reported), they include "an array of business tax breaks" worth $13 billion to Corporate America. (On Monday, Public Campaign will issue a study of how the corporate interests bought their tax cuts with campaign cash.)
The folly of the Democrats' position was underscored by a new study just released by Citizens for Tax Justice, about the effects of previously-passed Bush tax cuts on the top Fortune 500 Companies. Many of these companies made bigger profits after taxes than they did before taxes!
Here are some of the key CTJ findings:
# Twenty-eight corporations enjoyed negative federal income tax rates over the entire 2001-03 period. These companies, whose pretax U.S. profits totaled $44.9 billion over the three years, included, among others: Pepco Holdings (–59.6% tax rate), Prudential
Financial (–46.2%), ITT Industries (–22.3%), Boeing (–18.8%), Unisys (–16.0%), Fluor (–9.2%) and CSX (–7.5%), the company previously headed by our current Secretary of the Treasury.
# 46 companies paid zero or less in federal income taxes in 2003 alone. These 46
companies, almost one out of six of the companies in the study, reported U.S. pretax
profits in 2003 of $42.6 billion, yet received tax rebates totaling $5.4 billion.
# Almost as many companies, 42, paid no tax, reporting $43.5 billion in pretax profits, but $4.9 billion in tax rebates in 2002. From 2001 to 2003, reporting $43.5 billion in pretax profits, but $4.9 billion in tax rebates. From 2001 to 2003, the number of no-tax companies jumped from 33 to 46, an increase of 40 percent.
# The average effective rate for all 275 companies dropped by a fifth, from
21.4 percent in 2001 to 17.2 percent in 2002 and 2003, less than half the statutory 35
percent corporate tax rate that corporations ostensibly are supposed to pay.
The feckless folly of the Democrats' election-year cowardice in supporting this plan insures that the slashing of the social safety net will speed up to a breakneck pace in the next four years. Why? Becuse, to quote that WashPost article again, "With the approval of the legislation, virtually all of Bush's first-term tax agenda -- four tax measures worth nearly $1.9 trillion over 10 years -- would survive a potential second Bush term." With so much of the federal budget already devoted to mandated spending, and both Bush and Kerry committed to increasing already-bloated military budgets, about the only area of discretionary spending left to cut-- to fight a budget deficit that will soar from $4.3 trillion today to $l8 trillion in the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office study of the just-passed bill-- is, of course, the social safety net.. The poor will, once again, pay for keeping the rich in clover, and the gap between the Two Americas that John Edwards likes to talk about inevitably will widen to even more shamefully uncivilized levels.
This me-too-ism by Kerry and the Congressional Democrats can only make it more difficult to convince voters to pull the Democratic lever in November. To understand why, take a look at two of the major, credible polls released this week. In the CBS poll, asked if it "was clear what Kerry wants to accomplish as president," only a little more than a third of voters (37%) said it was. And the NBC/Wall Street journal poll found "just 36 percent who believe the Kerry campaign has a message." With only 38 days left before the voting starts, those are killer numbers, far worse for the Kerry campaign than the horserace numbers in every poll showing Bush with a lead, great or small. The electorate is unlikely to embrace a presidential candidate if they don't think he's speaking clearly to their concerns, and they find he has no comprehensible message.
These polling numbers are only partly explained by the bizarre decision by Kerry and his campaign to virtually abandon economic issues in these final weeks of the campaign. Most TV commentators are saying that Kerry's new "seven-point plan" to fight terrorism, issued today, is hardly distinguishable from what Bush is doing now (and it's the terrorism issue that has given Bush a gender gap over Kerry among women, as the polls cited above show). And the emptiness of Kerry's principal assertion in his much-ballyhooed NYU Iraq speech--that he could persuade foreign leaders to send their troops into Iraq to replace America's--was again exposed by the French Foreign Minister's speech at the UN yesterday, in which he declared that, "Neither today nor tomorrow will France commit itself militarily in Iraq."
Only the debates offer a feeble last hope for Kerry to win this election. But Bush's retorts to Kerry in them are predictable: You supported my war, and you supported my tax cuts--why, then, should America vote for you rather than me? And I don't think Kerry has an answer that can convince wavering voters.
I'll still cast an effective vote to defeat George Bush by pulling the Democratic lever--but I find that the clothespin I've put on my nose to take that position must pinch harder and harder as the weeks go by....
In his Philadelphia Daily News column today, entitled What Kerry Is Not Saying About Iraq, Elmer Smith writes: "Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are dying in an effort that will not bring freedom to Iraq or security to the United States," adding that "The dirty untold secret of this campaign is the thousands of Iraqi civilians who are being maimed and killed for this cause." Kerry cannot say these things, of course, because he voted for the war, and has reiterated his support for it quite recently. As a result, the debate over Iraq in this presidential campaign is a dishonest one that corrupts the quality of the public discourse and fails to truly educate the electorate...
In the latest issue of the review New Politics, check out the useful article by Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson, "The Seductions of Islamism: Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution." In light of the current debate some of us have been having over recent writings sympathetic to the Islamist "resistance" in Iraq--despite its essentially reactionary theocratic character-- by Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, and others, this article reminds us that they are not the only intellectuals who have taken positions they may live to regret with regard to Islamist fundamentalist movements....
September 23, 2004
WHO TO ROOT FOR IN IRAQ: FRANK SMYTH REPLIES TO NAOMI KLEIN
I've previously criticized Naomi Klein and others for appearing to justify Muqtada al Sadr and for a confused idea of whom the U.S. and international lefts should be supporting in Iraq. Another piece of muddled, flimsy opinionating by Klein recently appeared in the Guardian--it was dissected by Marc Cooper, who got it right (as was proven by the assassination of those Italian aid workers by the religious fanatics who kidnapped them --just reported by Le Monde--and who were not, as Klein bizarrely imagined, the victims of a CIA/Alawi plot).
The latest to weigh in on this controversy is Frank Smyth, a former confrere when I was a columnist for the Village Voice, a superb, courageous, and truly independent journalist, an old Iraqi hand, and now the Washington rep for the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, an organization which--along with Reporters Without Borders--defends journalists against the predations of all regimes, regardless of those regimes' (or those journalists') political colorations. Frank, who spent weeks incarcerated in the dungeons of Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein, has now delivered a careful and accurate assessment of the Iraqi opposition, based on his deep, on-the-ground knowledge of Iraq. Written for Foreign Policy in Focus, it is the definitive reply to Klein and a guide to internal Iraqi politics. I can only agree with Frank Smyth when he writes:
"Many American leftists seem to know little about their Iraqi counterparts, since understanding the role of the Iraqi left requires a nuanced approach. Unfortunately the knee-jerk, anti-imperialist analysis of groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R. has wormed its way into several progressive outlets. Dispatches and columns in The Nation as well as reports and commentary on the independently syndicated radio program “Democracy Now” have all but ignored the role of Iraqi progressives while highlighting, if not championing, the various factions of the Iraqi-based resistance against the U.S.-led occupation without bothering to ask who these groups are and what they represent for Iraqis." Frank's entire article is a must-read roadmap for any American progressive who wants to be taken seriously in talking about Iraq: read it all here.
By the way, the British Trades Union Congress has just issued an appeal to help build an independent Iraqi trade union movement (about which I've previously written). If you'd like to support this worthwhile effort, click here for details.
THE TWO CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
When my friend of three decades Christopher Hitchens--with whom I have the most profound disagreements on any number of subjects these days--cited my criticism of Naomi Klein in a somewhat over-the-top piece he wrote for Slate, a very odd thing happened. I found myself getting linked to by bloggers who, when I tracked back to their sites, seemed to me to be the sort who would cheerfully see a radical queer like me strung up from the nearest lamp-post. Some of the bloodthirsty rhetoric I read on these rightist blogs from Hitch's recently acquired fans was rather chilling.
Hitch's new friends, I find, range from the indigestible to the downright repugnant. Christopher and I have debated his support for Bush in print for the L.A. Weekly. However, he and I remain on affectionate personal terms (I suppose I have Forsterian notions of friendship--and then, Hitch can still turn out a piece that I can wholeheartedly agree with as well as admire for its polemical style, like Hitch's wonderfully acid dissection of Mel Gibson's incendiary Jesus film). He sends me tart and imperious notes when he thinks I'm off-base, I send notes back to him teasing him for the absurd posturings of some of his new neocon dinner partners (as when Hitch's mad chum Wolfie insisted, on the Jim Lehrer Newshour, that Iraq today was like France after World War II ! ) Every so often one of us picks up the phone and rings the other, for a friendly chinwag or a collegial exchange of precise information. Sometimes it's his wife, Carol--whom I invariably refer to as The Lady Blue--who picks up their second phone in the kitchen, where Hitch often takes refuge (and the secret number of which I wouldn't reveal even under torture). I'm always delighted when she does: Carol is delicious--intelligent, courageous, and witty. I'm quite fond of her, too.
But I miss the old Hitch. In yesterday's Independent, a former Hitchens protege, Johann Hari, interviews my friend Christopher about the bizarre political voyage he's been on for the last three years. It's a profile of Hitch written more in sorrow than in anger, very revealing and, for me, extraordinarily saddening. It made me nostalgic once again for the other Hitch, my comrade of yore. I could only agree with Hari's last line in this piece, when he wrote "Come home, Hitch - we need you." I think it unlikely, however, that Hitch will heed us...
But I can report that--quelle surprise !--NationBooks (thanks to the charming Carl Bromley) will soon bring out a collection of Christopher's more non-political essays. Although this civilized recognition of Hitch's talented and inimitable pen hardly augurs any return by him to the pages of the magazine or an end to his feud with it, which he pursues with glee...
P.S. II: This morning's New York Times brings the news that the Bush/Rove Republicans are planning a new round of Constitution-shredding, a sequel to the Patriot Act disguised as an implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations when it's nothing of the sort. Those lefties out there who keep chiding radicals like me for insisting that defeating Bush is the priority this year ought to realize that, if this crowd has four more years, the space in which political liberty truly can be exercised will become narrower, and narrower, and narrower...
P.S. III The results of the German elections last weekend--which brought the neo-fascist NPD into the parliament in the Land of Saxony with a record-breaking 9.7% of the vote--reflect new strength of the European far right that is worriesome indeed. One of the NPD's demands is the destruction of all the German memorials to victims of the Holocaust. France2 public television broadcast footage of the entry of the new NPD deputies into the parliament--where they were greeted by outraged chants of "Nazis Raus!" (Nazis Get Out!) from the parliamentary staff--but although the NPD's breakthrough was front-page news all over Europe, and had pride of place on Monday's European TV newscasts, it went virtually unnoticed here in the States.
Although I've never been a Trot--far from it--the one reason I've signed up to receive the regular dispatches from the Trotskyite World Socialist Web Site is that they often provide detailed accounts of German politics, filled with information not readily available in the English-language press (and I don't read German). If one strains out the sectarian rhetoric and the obligatory genuflections to the theory of "permanent revolution," the analysis in the WSWS's report explaining the reasons for the neo-fascist party's stunning progress in these latest elections is quite useful.
September 22, 2004
THE OUTING OF DAVID DREIER
My latest L.A. Weekly article, THE OUTING: DAVID DREIER AND HIS STRAIGHT HYPOCRISY, has only been out on the Weekly's website for a little while, but it is already causing quite a stir. I've already been interviewed live on-air by four L.A. radio stations that broadcast into Congressman Dreier's Los Angeles County district, one of the daily newspapers in his district has been in touch with me requesting information (this is a story they wouldn't touch up until now)--and, I hear, ABC News is on the story and looking for people in Dreier's district who will go on-camera and say he's gay.
I have not the slightest doubt that the outing campaign initiated by Mike Rogers' blogactive.com and supported by Raw Story's reporting is accurate in exposing Dreier. I first heard that Dreier was gay back when he first came to Congress over two decades ago and I was Washington correspondent for New York Magazine--in those days, Dreier was much more active on the gay social scene than he was later as he mounted the Republican food chain. Moreover, in the course of reporting this story, I talked to a gay Member of Congress who has observed Dreier in gay behavior and is 100% "sure," as this member told me, that Dreier is gay. And, clearly, Dreier's demagogic political homophobia justifies reporting the outing campaign targeting him.
So you can see what all this fuss is about, here's my article on Dreier as it appears in this week's L.A. Weekly:
David Dreier and his straight hypocrisy
by Doug Ireland
The latest target of a Capitol Hill outing campaign — designed to expose closeted homosexual Republicans who oppose civil rights for gay people — is San Gabriel Valley Congressman David Dreier.
The powerful 12-term congressman — chairman of the House Rules Committee, chairman of the California Republican House delegation, co-chairman of Californians for Bush, chairman of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s transition team — is in the cross hairs of Mike Rogers and his Blogactive.com Web site, whose outing campaign has already forced one GOP congressman out of politics. Representative Ed Schrock, a reactionary from Virginia, ended his re-election campaign last month after Rogers put on his Web site an audiotape of Schrock trolling for tricks on a gay chat line.
Now, Rogers — a former development director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force — has given Dreier the “Roy Cohn Award, in recognition of 24 years of working against gay and lesbian rights while living as a gay man yourself.” He is pummeling Dreier with almost daily revelations as a response to the GOP’s anti-gay crusade for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Rogers’ campaign against Dreier got a major boost when it was taken up by Raw Story, the hot new liberal gadfly newsblog. Raw Story — which is edited out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, by 23-year-old John Byrne, who is also gay — last week published an interview with Dreier’s Democratic opponent in 1998 and 2000, Dr. Janice Nelson, who said she was aware during her 2000 campaign that Dreier was living with his chief of staff, Brad Smith. “Brad was like an invisible presence,” she said. “They really have the routine down slick.”
Nelson, a professor of pathology, says she came forward when she read on Raw Story that Hustler — the Larry Flynt magazine — was working on an exposé of Dreier’s secret gay life. Mark Cromer, the mag’s features editor in charge of its outing of Dreier, is a former reporter for a string of Valley newspapers in Dreier’s district, including the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Pasadena Star-News. Cromer said his mag’s exposé on Dreier — part of a package on sexual hypocrisy by Republican spear-carriers in the “culture wars” — will be published in November. And he accuses the papers in Dreier’s district, all of which spout a conservative, anti-gay editorial line, of having a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward the congressman and his relationship with Smith. These papers are all owned by Media News Group (MNG), whose CEO, Dean Singleton, is a major contributor to Republican campaigns. Opinion pages editor Steve Scauzillo said he could not comment on the Dreier matter without the approval of MNG higher-ups.
Raw Story has provided some fascinating details about Smith. It appears that he is the highest-paid chief of staff to any House committee chair. Smith’s $156,600 salary is just $400 less than that of White House chief of staff Andy Card and Bush political commissar Karl Rove. By comparison, the chief of staff to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee makes $126,000, while the chief of staff to the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee makes just $100,696. New Jersey Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey was recently forced to resign when it was about to become public that he had put his boyfriend on the public payroll at a salary slightly less than the one which Dreier pays Smith.
Neither Dreier, Smith, nor the congressman’s press secretary would return several telephone calls and detailed voice mails seeking comment. A staff member on Monday hung up the phone when I called back.
I have always taken the view that outing a gay person should be approached with caution, and that in doing so one should strictly adhere to the Barney Frank Rule. As articulated by the openly gay Massachusetts congressman during another anti-gay GOP witch-hunt over a decade ago, when Frank threatened to out a number of gay-baiting Republican fellow congressmen, the rule insists that outing is only acceptable when a person uses their power or notoriety to hurt gay people.
Dreier clearly meets that standard, for his voting record is strewn with anti-gay positions. To cite just a few: He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have banned discrimination against gay people in hiring; voted for the gay-bashing Defense of Marriage Act; voted for banning adoption by gay and lesbian couples in the District of Columbia (3,000 miles away from Dreier’s district); voted to allow federally funded charities to discriminate against gays in employment, even where local laws prohibit such bias; and voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Dreier is not just a political homophobe but a heartless AIDS-phobe as well, voting against the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program designed to give shelter to the impoverished sick, and against funding for the federal ADAP program that furnishes the poor with the AIDS meds they need to stay alive.
Dreier can probably survive outing in his district and be re-elected, and it won’t hurt him much with Arnold and his cronies either. But Dreier’s days as a key member of the ultra-homophobic Hastert-DeLay House GOP leadership may be numbered. The telegenic Dreier has often served as the GOP leadership’s spokesman on the TV chat-show circuit. It will be interesting to see whether, the next time Dreier shows up on Crossfire or Chris Matthews’ show, he’s asked about the contradictions between his anti-gay voting record and his hitherto-secret life. #
September 21, 2004
MORE BAD NEWS FOR KERRY:
A new set of polls for Knight-Ridder/MSNBC shows Bush leading Kerry in five of seven "blue" states Gore won four years ago.
Conducted by Mason-Dixon Research, the polls show that in Iowa, Bush led Kerry by 48-42 percent; in Minnesota, by 46-44; in New Mexico, by 47-43; in Oregon, by 47-43; and in Wisconsin by 46-44.Kerry held a razor-thin lead of 45-44 percent in Pennsylvania. In Michigan, he led by 47-41, his strongest state among the seven.
These polls also show that the GOP anti-gay marriage crusade is working: "Bush's opposition to gay marriage also may help explain his appeal. A majority of likely voters supported banning gay marriage in the five Gore 2000 states questioned about it last week: Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin." ....Ouch!
Today's Boston Globe has a tough Patrick Healey piece on Kerry's various positions on Iraq and Afghanistan--if voters recall all this, Kerry's big speech on Iraq at NYU seems even more hollow than I and most analysts found it...And The Hill is reporting on the Congressional Black Caucus's "hurt and anger" with Kerry's campaign, which suggests there are problems with a substantial turnout among black voters...
WASHINGTON'S K STREET LOBBYING FIRMS, meanwhile, are betting on a second Bush term and continued GOP domination of Congress. The Hill reports that retiring Democratic members are stuck in the revolving door without getting to the other side--their telephones aren't ringing with offers, but their GOP counterparts not seeking re-election are deluged with handsome proposals from Gucci Gulch. The coming feeding frenzy at the public trough promises to be quite a show--and the loophole-generating business is a growth industry. You know the old saying: in politics, the real scandal isn't what's illegal, it's what's legal....TO KEEP TABS on some of this legal boodling and influence-buying, Public Citizen has just created a valuable new website to track the activities of "Stealth PACS"--one of Corporate America's favorite but nearly invisible conduits for corruption....If you want to know how all this special interest influence-buying works, pick up my friend Micah Sifry's latest book, "Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day", co-written with his fellow Public Campaign watchdog, Nancy Watzman. It's full of juicy stories that connect the dots between private sector money and public policy--as an appetizer, you can find one of them, about the chemical industry's undermining of national security with the help of campaign cash, in The Nation. (I call Micah my blogodfather because he wouldn't let up on bugging me until I agreed to get myself a blog)....And the Center for Public Integrity today released a stinging four-part study of lobbying in Washington by OPEC countries--among the prominent lobbyists for big foreign oil is Bob Dole.