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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Comments

Woody McNair

Let's take a backward look at this thought process about changes. A friend of mine (who is a liberal college professor--a liberal, course) hates Bush. I asked him how his life would be different today if Gore had won the election. (In case some people are still in denial, Bush actually won every count and honest re-count). My friend had no answer outside of his normal illogical rantings and ravings. (He's still my friend even though he's a lunatic and a Met's fan.)

My friend critizes Bush, but his life has gone on the same as it has for decades and will continue to go on the same.

However, big government and leftist policies don't usually take hold overnight. Socialists and liberals push their agenda in small increments, and they are very patient--sort of like boiling a frog. A right-wing conservative of today might have been considered a Kennedy Democrat in the sixties.

Bush has merely slowed the rate of government growth even though it still grew. My concern with Kerry is that he will implement policies which will eventually give too much power to government and will begin a tax program that will eventually reach more than just the so-called "rich."

Social Security is an example of a noble program that was set up wrong and went out of control. Look at the income tax law set up in 1913 and tell me if you see any resemblance to the tax code of today. Why, the withholding tax was a temporary measure set up during WWII to help with cash flow, and it was to stop after the war. Did someone forget to turn it off?

If we start a modest health-care plan controlled by the government, which Kerry would attempt, then anyone with a sense of history knows that it would quickly become a huge, inefficient, poorly-run program giving worse service than private medicine. At least Bush is pushing private medical savings accounts versus Kerry's "let the government do everything for you."

So, will Kerry make any changes? You bet. It may not be noticeable and terribly costly at first, but imagine what these programs will be like ten to twenty years later. Changes will occur; but, when they're bad, I want them to come as slowly as possible.

Michael J. Totten

"By the way, the one change I know a Kerry administration would bring, a change that I lust for, will be an end to the incessant whining, doom-saying, fear-mongering and general apocalyptic paranoia that has come to permeate "progressive" politics."

I still don't know who I am going to vote for, but if I do vote for John Kerry THAT will be the reason I do it. Liberals, heal thyselves.

Michael Turner

Kerry is saying he would have voted for presidential authorization to invade Iraq, to pre-empt what we now know to be a faintly vestigial threat at best? But that he would have done it all much better than Bush did?

But just how, exactly, would he have gotten any more international cooperation than Bush got, in that case? For that matter, how would he have gotten any support from the Pentagon if he'd been president at the time?

The whole ostensible purpose of invasion preparations was to put pressure on Saddam Hussein to come up with the goods: the WMD. Kerry has justified his past votes in those terms - that this pressure was necessary. But here we seem to have Kerry saying he'd be in favor of such pressure even knowing what we know now, and even if it were Bush in charge.

I've been scornful of these charges of Kerry as flip-flopper in the past, but this answer seems to qualify. I hope he calculated it right - that it will give him more of a bounce than it gives either Nader or Bush. Or maybe I don't hope that. Maybe I don't care anymore. Maybe I won't vote this year.

Woody McNair

By the way, Mark...judging from the time of your post, you're staying up too late. Take care of yourself and try to take it easy.

RecoveringRepub

Yes Marc -- just about every time I think the signs point to "he might actually win" -- he starts blubbering more nonsensical dribble and sounds once again like a confused, opportunist idiot who can't even begin to utter a clear, straightforward statement (even if arrived at through complex, critical thinking, which is another thing I 'lust' for).

I mean, come on: He would have voted to invade Iraq even if he had known then that U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction -- What the F kind of rationalization is that when he could be pointing out how this admin blew the opportunity to go after Al Qaida which has now grown as a worldwide movement/philosophy?

And how easily does this guy walk into each and every trap the neo-cons/repubs/Rove & company set for him? Can't they even slightly anticipate what the media sound bites are going to be? What's that cliche'd definition of insanity: Repeating the same behavior over and over, expecting different results......

Talk about the ability to think critically and with complexity -- who is his campaign mastermind?

Kerry: "I would have done the same as George W but I would have done it better."

Oh Boy, that's a powerful incentive for 'middle' and undecided americans who are already psychologically/emotionally wed (indoctrinated/entrained) to the rhetoric of neocons (even tho it works against their very own economic interests).

Okay benefit of the doubt-- how would he have done it differently -- in what specific ways? Can't he display some of that much-vaunted, crisp, cool, decisive, CLEAR-minded military leadership? What will be the consequences of your steps to change things when you are in office? What are we to think?

They ought to vet everything thru Edwards if you ask me. (How frustrated must Edwards feel each time such crap occurs.) And truly, Kerry ought to remember: it's not that people are really FOR him, it's that we are sick and tire of Shrub/Rove/AsScroft/Rummy and the likes. (don't even get me started on Tom-Sadistic-Powermonger-A-HOLE-of-the-universe-Delay).

For god's sake, can't they get some better strategic planners on his campaign?

So to my schizo-self, torn between hopeful optimism and cynical pessimism/despair, for every hopeful moment / sign that it looks like Kerry could actually win, there is always that blundering backwards leap that says he really could blow this thing when it IS his to win.

RecoveringRepub

Yes Marc -- just about every time I think the signs point to "he might actually win" -- he starts blubbering more nonsensical dribble and sounds once again like a confused, opportunist idiot who can't even begin to utter a clear, straightforward statement (even if arrived at through complex, critical thinking, which is another thing I 'lust' for).

I mean, come on: He would have voted to invade Iraq even if he had known then that U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction -- What the F kind of rationalization is that when he could be pointing out how this admin blew the opportunity to go after Al Qaida which has now grown exponentially (for 3 years) as a worldwide movement/philosophy?

And how easily does this guy walk into each and every trap the neo-cons/repubs/Rove & company set for him? Can't they even slightly anticipate what the media sound bites are going to be? What's that cliche'd definition of insanity: Repeating the same behavior over and over, expecting different results......

Talk about the ability to think critically and with complexity -- who is his campaign mastermind?

Kerry: "I would have done the same as George W but I would have done it better."

Oh Boy, that's a powerful incentive for 'middle' and undecided americans who are already psychologically/emotionally wed (indoctrinated/entrained) to the rhetoric of neocons (even tho it works against their very own economic interests).

Okay benefit of the doubt-- how would he have done it differently -- in what specific ways? Can't he display some of that much-vaunted, crisp, cool, decisive, CLEAR-minded military leadership? What will be the consequences of your steps to change things when you are in office? What are we to think?

They ought to vet everything thru Edwards if you ask me. (How frustrated must Edwards feel each time such crap occurs.) And truly, Kerry ought to remember: it's not that people are really FOR him, it's that we are sick and tire of Shrub/Rove/AsScroft/Rummy and the likes. (don't even get me started on Tom-Sadistic-Powermonger-A-HOLE-of-the-universe-Delay).

For god's sake, can't they get some better strategic planners on his campaign?

So to my schizo-self, torn between hopeful optimism and cynical pessimism/despair, for every hopeful moment / sign that it looks like Kerry could actually win, there is always that blundering backwards leap that says he really could blow this thing when it IS his to win.

Marc Cooper

What makes all this particularly galling is my educated guess (and hardly just mine) that Kerry, under any conditions, was in his heart a supporter of the war. His vote, both the real one and the hypothetical one, smell much more like crass political calculation. The odor is strong enough for millions to catch a whiff.

Michael asks who is the campagin "mastermind?"

Why, Bob Shrum of course.

Woody McNair

Thanks, RecoveringRepub. Good job on the analysis. You mentioned some of the key players in Bush's administration who are frustrating. Would we like Kerry's selection of advisors any more? If I saw Madeline Albright or Janet Reno back in a position of influence, I think I'd scream worse than John Dean.

Would it be fair to ask Kerry whom he might consider as possible cabinet choices and other appointments should he be elected? What about judicial nominations? (Heaven help us if Hillary Clinton became Chief Justice.)

No offense, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Kerry's election would make more immediate and major changes than Marc indicates.

steve

a change that I lust for, will be an end to the incessant whining, doom-saying, fear-mongering and general apocalyptic paranoia that has come to permeate "progressive" politics.

--here's the irony and why stereotypes like this one don't work. where you find the least fear mongering is from the lefties arguing against a vote for Kerry, given that they see little substantive change occurring under a Kerry government. you've got it backwards i'm afraid.
-----------------------------
What makes all this particularly galling is my educated guess (and hardly just mine) that Kerry, under any conditions, was in his heart a supporter of the war. His vote, both the real one and the hypothetical one, smell much more like crass political calculation. The odor is strong enough for millions to catch a whiff.

--was there ever even a moment where it was necessary to doubt that? the dems went along with the war because it was a win win, if it 'succeeded' they won by voting for it and if it failed they won by calling Bush on their 'shock' at his 'misleading' them. As scott ritter pointed out recently in the boston globe, Kerry had plenty of opportunities to learn about and did learn about the holes in Bush's claims. He ignored them and critics of the claims because it was too risky to give them the time of day in the media hyped atmosphere of "Sodom is gonna rain down nukes on US" paranoia...speaking of paranoia.

Jon Wiener

what Kerry can do depends on whether the Dems regain control of Congress. Kevin Phillips argued in America's Oldest Weekly -- "How Kerry Can Win," http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040802&s=phillips -- that the kind of campaign Kerry is running will not produce a Democratic majority in the House or Senate. That means at best Kerry would lead a holding operation instead of taking significant initiatives.

but I'm fascinated by your conclusion that Kerry actually might win. Please explain!

helena

About the general apocalyptic paranoia, how do you differentiate between paranoia and being informed. Last week, it was disclosed the Madrid train bombing was planned prior to Sept. 11th, prior even to Bush's election.

Today, Melania Phillips quotes The Observer: 'According to Pakistani officials, there was also evidence of preparations for an attack on Heathrow by British-based activists. There were photographs of terminal buildings and the refuelling centre, as well as of tunnels used by passengers and freight companies. Precise measurements of roads, buildings and underpasses had been recorded. Intelligence sources elsewhere in the region told The Observer last week that the reports had included surveys of underground parking lots so detailed that the gradient of the ramps had been noted. The same sources said the planning also recorded traffic flows on roads around the airport, as well as details of the sequences of traffic lights around the perimeter'.

Like Madrid, the planning of a terrorist action against Heathrow airport was in place prior to Sept. 11th.

Am I being paranoid or is someone gunning for me (me being largely defenseless communities?)

marc cooper

Helena.. I think "that" sort of paranoia is in order, frankly. I was referring to another sort-- the notion that Bush has brought us to the doorstep or into fascism. I find that argument to be specious and self-defeating.
To Jon.. Hi Jon! In very very brief: Bush's real vulnerability is to be found in his approval ratings that are running about 47% and still slipping. A very Republican but honest consultant says that his reaserch shows that of that percentage there's a stable 7-8% who while approving his job performance refuse to commit to vote for him at this point. Also research among independents show vast majorities for Kerry at this point. If election were today, Kerry would win. But it isn't. Bush can win in November if he can move the numbers in one of two or three ways:
1) by winning new support on Iraq strategy (highly unlikely).
2) by winning new support on improving economy (slightly less dubious but to me a great idea as I ruefully review 401k statements)
3) or by looking real good compared to Kerry in coming debates (50-50 I would say).

Nathan

Clinton's policies may have been mostly centrist (especially after '94), but his judicial nominations certainly were not. As someone who doesn't think abortion is an issue best decided by unfounded judicial fiat, I fear Kerry's appointees would resemble Clinton's altogether too much.

steve

I was referring to another sort-- the notion that Bush has brought us to the doorstep or into fascism. I find that argument to be specious and self-defeating.

--and most commonly found among the abb. leftists who are advocating votes for Nader are of course arguing that there will be no great difference between a kerry or bush--thus the near zero need for apocalyptic visions. i'm not saying that's a good argument for voting for Nader, but there are plenty of leftists out there who don't fall into the apocalyptic vision. liberals are certainly prone to the apocalyptic vision however, which can indeed be overdone.
The fascism idea is one that does not receive nearly as much play as you claim it does in the left press however.
Instead, here's what I find from this week's Nation:
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040816&s=baker

http://thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=1675

http://thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040802&s=green

I search and search in left publications like this week's The Nation...nothing on facism...

Marc Cooper

steve.. y'think you could maybe NOT clutter up this blog by posting a bunch of URLs from the same magazine I work for?? Y'think?

steve

my apologies for doing that, probably one url was enough to make the point. i just don't see the preponderance of discussion of coming facism in left magazines the way you seem to. seems far more likely to be the exception than the rule.

Michael J. Totten

Helena: "Last week, it was disclosed the Madrid train bombing was planned prior to Sept. 11th, prior even to Bush's election."

I guess it will be only that much harder to say American or Spanish foreign policy had anything to do with what happened in Madrid.

It's time to take Al Qaeda at their word. They themselves say they want Andalucia back, and they're clearly gunning for it. Terrorism meets imperialism. What a combo. Christopher Hitchens was right with his definition of Al Qaeda's terrorism: demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.

Michael Turner

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof - unless you're Michael Totten, I guess. So when Helena wrote that Al Qaeda was planning to hit Spain even before September 11th, citing only a story about a plan to attack Heathrow airport (which is not in Madrid, last I checked), I was forced to search around for what she might have been talking about. I certainly can't just go with Michael Totten's chiming in on this version of the story as any kind of corroboration, given his usual command (at best slippery) of how claims are ordinarily verified.

10 minutes later, I'm still empty-handed. Google is usually so helpful about this kind of thing. Link, please?

The best I've been able to find is a story in the Boston Globe reporting speculation that planning for the Madrid bombings began a year before the invasion of Iraq - but that's still well after 9/11, isn't it? And still only speculation.

http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/03/28/seeking_madrid_motives_in_a_cradle_of_muslim_glory/">http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/03/28/seeking_madrid_motives_in_a_cradle_of_muslim_glory/">http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/03/28/seeking_madrid_motives_in_a_cradle_of_muslim_glory/

Just what is Al Qaeda claiming about the Madrid bombings? Well, someone saying he's Al Qaeda is mentioned as follows:

"A videotape of a man purporting to be a spokesman in Europe for Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the Madrid bombings, and states that the 10 explosions on March 11 had been intended as a punishment for Spain's support of the US-led war in Iraq."

Well, it's all so easily explained, right? When Aznar linked hands with Bush and Blair in the Azores (March 2003), the Madrid bombing plotters simply TRAVELED BACK IN TIME to before 9/11, to give themselves more room for careful planning. Gosh, they really have a technological edge over us, don't they?

As for this notion that Al Qaeda wants to conquer Spain (when they obviously have much bigger fish to fry in the Arab oil states and Egypt), that required even more fishin. I'm having trouble finding anything other than statements by Al Qaeda ideologists to the effect that they never want to see "the tragedy of al Andalus repeated."

Well, who would want to see it repeated? The driving of the Moors from Spain was a tragedy - it removed one of the most literate and technologically advanced cultures in the world from the map of Europe - a culture very tolerant of Christianity, and considerably more tolerant of Judaism than the Christian conquerors who pushed them out. After subjugation, the remnant muslims - some 300,000 by some estimates - were 'ethnically cleansed' from Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella, in the early 1600s. And their libraries were mostly burned, even though they contained a wealth of European knowledge preserved through the Middle Ages, not just commentaries on the Koran. Europe didn't see gaslight street illumination again for another 400 years.

The Spanish expulsion of the Moors probably helped set in motion the retrenchment of Islam into fundamentalist Koran studies, and it must certainly have emboldened theorists of European racial supremacy in the centuries that followed. I don't think either can be counted as a win for civilization.

Whatever you may think of Al Qaeda, I believe any rational person can agree that there was a "tragedy of al Andalus" and that it shouldn't be repeated - even as something like it IS being repeated in southern Sudan, against a mostly non-islamic, multi-racial, multi-religion population, perpetrated by a nominally muslim government. If there's another tragedy of al Andalus, it's that this event is now being used by the proponents of islamic purity, who perhaps now assume that the relatively secular Moorish state, for all its achievements, only weakened itself by being too liberal, too open, too tolerant.

In short, I don't see anything here except some sentimental Moroccans winguts with some pipe dream of reclaiming territory irretrievably lost. If these Moroccans happen to be encouraged in these fantasies by the growth in the muslim population of Spain, and some cheerleading by Al Qaeda, certain facts still remain.

(1) Most muslims in Spain (under 2% of the population, not much higher than in the U.S.) are probably there because they want to live in a freer and more prosperous society than can be found in any Arab state that would take them.

(2) Al Qaeda, while it certainly takes its allies wherever it can find them, is primarily focused on REAL strategic targets: Arab governments they want to overthrow, and terror against any others primarily to stir political reactions that win recruits to that cause. It matters little to them whether those reaction are intimidation (as in Spain) or provocation (as it was for 9/11 and in Bali). What matters is the long, winding road to Mecca, Medina, and the oil reserves of the corrupt monarchies of the Middle East. And no amount of nattering about their supposed 'death cults', 'irrationality', and 'exterminationism' will ever change that. They'll ration out their precious reserves of competent suicide bombers to kill when that works for their political agenda, and will pass up opportunities when it doesn't. To do anything else would be a waste of time and carefully cultivated human resources.

Of course, I could be all wrong here. The game plan of a enemy in possession of time machines is pretty hard to suss out, after all.

steve

The whole point of the Madrid bombings episode is lost on the prowar crowd in the US in any event. They mislead Americans into thinking that Spaniards voted against the conservatives because they thought that was what Bin Laden wanted. In fact, of course, as any rational reading of recent Spanish debates would show, the vote against the Conservatives was due to 1) a deep bitterness among the populace at the conservatives for lying about the need to support Bush and Blair's military adventure in Iraq [recall the massive demos in Spain before the official invasion of Iraq] and 2] Probably even *more* important and certainly decisive, the Conservatives outright lying about who was the leading suspect in the bombings. I'm inclined to still wonder if the Conservatives had only been upfront about who the leading suspects were, they could have exploited that to their advantage. *They* blew it big time, the election had zilch to do with Spaniards giving into Bin Laden or any form of terrorism.

Andrew

"Bush's real vulnerability is to be found in his approval ratings that are running about 47% and still slipping."

More importantly, Bush's DISAPPROVAL ratings are hovering around 50%. Incumbents with disapproval ratings that high this late in the campaign don't get re-elected, no matter how incompetent their opponent is.

steve

On top of that, Bush's hope that Iraq would suddenly disappear from the corporate media headlines has not occurred. Instead, Iraq continues to spin out of control, the US heads to 1,000 deaths (I'd make mention of the Iraqi deaths, but they don't matter in the election calculus), oil shipments decline substantially, new battles occur around the country,...The "sovereignty" handover has worked about as well as the other tricks in the bag it seems. This is NOT what Bush hoped for in terms of sealing the election with a great military adventure. The adventure is not going to contribute to an electoral victory. Indeed, things are so bad that the 'opposition' candidate in the US presidential election can say he would have supported the war even if there were no "WMD"s in Iraq. Wow!

Nathan

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof unless you want to engage in unsubstantiated speculation about Al Qaeda's motivations, I guess. Are you really suggesting we should just accept the unimpeachable word of Al Qaeda--excuse me, someone who claims to speak for Al Qaeda--when it comes to the motivation behind the Madrid bombing? I think I'd sooner believe Helena, if it's all the same to you.

As for this notion that Al Qaeda is willing to pass up chances to kill, I guess the extraordinary proof for that extraordinary claim will be forthcoming...right?

Michael Turner

Nathan writes: "Are you really suggesting we should just accept the unimpeachable word of Al Qaeda--excuse me, someone who claims to speak for Al Qaeda--when it comes to the motivation behind the Madrid bombing?"

No, just that you entertain it as an actual piece of evidence, as opposed to what Helena offers.

"I think I'd sooner believe Helena, if it's all the same to you."

Helena, who offers NO evidence for her claim that the Madrid bombings were planned before 9/11? Maybe she just didn't remember something right - and yet you prefer somebody's mixed-up memory to what someone claiming to be Al Qaeda publicly claims is the motivation? Hey, Nathan, why don't YOU take up the challenge? Why don't YOU try to find some investigative conclusion to the effect that Al Qaeda was planning Madrid before 9/11?

Nathan again: "As for this notion that Al Qaeda is willing to pass up chances to kill, I guess the extraordinary proof for that extraordinary claim will be forthcoming...right?"

I would provide that proof except that there's nothing at all extraordinary about my claim - terrorists comb through lists and choose targets, which means they DON'T choose other targets. If they can't hit one embassy, they don't settle for the MacDonalds nearest that embassy, they try to find another more vulnerable embassy. They don't kill whoever they can, whenever they can, just because they can. They make careful choices. Suicidally devoted followers are an unusually rare and precious form of ammunition, and why would they waste that ammunition? Clearly, they don't.

Nathan

Michael Turner,

Your entire diatribe about Al Qaeda operatives having to go back in time to plan the Madrid bombing rests on the assertion that the bombing was intended as punishment for Spanish activity in Iraq. The only evidence for that claim is the word of an unidentified voice on a tape. Why should that be given any more credence than an unidentified voice in Marc's comments section? The only difference between them is that one has an obvious motivation to lie.

I personally have no idea when the Madrid bombing was planned. I just think you should abide by the same high standard of proof you set for other people.

You're quite right, of course, that Al Qaeda selectively chooses their targets to fit their agenda. Accomplishing agendas is, after all, what organizations try to do--and Al Qaeda certainly persues their agenda in a rational way. But refraining from action for tactical reasons doesn't mean they pass up a chance to kill, except maybe in a narrow technical sense. For example, imagine that I want to kill rabbits. There are two rabbits in front of me, but only one bullet in my gun. I may shoot one rabbit and spare the other, but that hardly means I passed up a chance to kill rabbits. Al Qaeda's goal is the destruction of our way of life, and even though they may occasionally spare a person, they never pass up a chance to further their goal of killing people.

The extraordinary claim I meant to refer to was the idea--which seemed implicit in your post--that Al Qaeda's agenda doesn't include the wholesale destruction of the civilized world. You complain about descriptions of Al Qaeda as an irrational death cult, but offer no evidence that they value life or indeed share any values with us that can form the basis of a rational diologue. They may act in a rational way, but their agenda itself--the establishment of a worldwide islamic state--is profoundly crazy. When people call them irrational, we usually don't mean that they are incapable of reason. Rather, we mean they cannot be reasoned *with.* Their values are completly alien to ours. There is no negotiation. The only choice left to us is whether to fight or surrender. The extraordinary proof of that claim may be found all around the globe, from the Sudan to Madrid to Bali to Ground Zero.

RecoveringRepub

Jon (is that the famous prof. JW from UCI? -- my alma mater!): thanks for the link to the Kevin Phillips article. I saw Phillips on NOW with Bill Moyers talking about some of these issues -- he's really on the mark.

Some more insightful (but depressing) analysis by NY Times today:
Bush's Mocking Drowns Out Kerry on Iraq Vote
By DAVID E. SANGER http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/12/politics/campaign/12memo.html
.....
"So far, his aides and advisers concede, he has failed to get his message across, as Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have mocked his efforts as "a new nuance" that amount to more examples of the senator's waffling."
.....
I think Mocking is the precise term for their thus-far effective strategy of denigrating Kerry/dems (along with condescending, sarcastic, smirking...). Kerry/dems keep making it more than child's-play for the repubs to dismiss (and DIS) them.

I reiterate: this election is Kerry's to blow and he (and Shrummy) seem hell-bent on doing so.

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