Wishy washy: John Kerry admits that, while he may have had some "inarticulate moments" that earned him the flip-flopper label, George Bush has "consistently been wrong." CBS runs a two-part series, the president's top ten flip-flops and Kerry's. And: Several of the networks have refused to be bound by the 32-page "debate" rules set out by the Commission on Presidential debates.


God is love... but not that kind. An image of the mailer sent out in Arkansas by the Republican National Committee that says liberals seek to ban the bible while allowing same-sex marriage. [What's up with the image--stock photography?--of the gay couple. Clean-cut, smiley, and warm, the Henley-and-flannel duo are on the porch swing of what looks like a colonial-style house. Could be praying before heading off to the Promise Keeper's rally in Concord... Wouldn't the GOP's fundy Christians be better served by finding a less likeable, more demonizable couple?] (Thanks, Jim.)

Dave Obey's America: Wisconsin's Democratic Congressman Dave Obey offers a more nuanced take on what it means to be Christian and political. He writes an essay on the recent conflict with bishop Raymond Burke, who tried to coerce Obey (a practicing Catholic) into refraining from receiving Communion because of his support of legislation favoring reproductive choice (let's note, Burke didn't threaten to refuse Communion to politicians who supported unprovoked war in Iraq). Link (free pdf link to come.)
Point-It guide for Iraq: Kind of a Point-It Picture Dictionary (the photo-illustrated traveler's companion that helps you order greasy eggs in Amsterdam with the wave of a finger) for the military, the Visual Language Survival Guide helps soldiers in interrogations. Just point to the appropriate picture--remove your toupee, lift your tongue, strip nekkid--to convey to non-English-speakers what they're supposed to do. Via Boing Boing.
The new Florida Ballot. (Thanks, Ben.)
Day in the life of a middle-class Republican: Great piece by John Gray, via 1115.org, posted in its entirety:
Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he?ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republicans would still be sitting in the dark)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn?t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

He turns on a radio talk show, the host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn't tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, "We don't need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I'm a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
Kickin' it for Kerry; kickbacks for Zell: Democratic wonderboy Barack Obama will be stumping for John Kerry in the final weeks of the election, while Democratic turncoat Zell Miller is reaping the rewards of selling out his party at the Republican convention.

Smart stoners: Fox's Bill O'Reilly says viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are just a bunch of "stoned slackers." Not so: turns out viewers or Stewart's show are more likely to have a four-year college degree than viewer's of The O'Reilly Factor. And the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey said young viewers of The Daily Show were more likely to answer questions about politics correctly than those who don't. Maybe that's because, unlike O'Reilly's team (who recently made the incorrect assertion that Bush never said "Mission Accomplished"--Bush did), Stewart's band of stoners gets the facts right.

Soros power: Billionaire George Soros, demonized by the right for his support of progressive causes, is dialing up his efforts to oust Bush. His rationale for a 12-city tour: "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values. That is why I am sending this message." See what Soros is about, and look for his blog later this week, at GeorgeSoros.com.


Hometown pride: As the paper billing itself as George W. Bush's hometown daily, The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, TX, endorses John Kerry, my own hometown paper runs an excellent letter on the ruse called the presidential debates. From the Wausau Daily Herald:
As we get our hopes up for anything beyond sound bites in the Presidential Debates, let us remember that since the founding of the private organization called the "Commission on Presidential Debates", the two major parties have colluded in memoranda of understanding under which they agree on the rules, on who will participate, who will ask the questions, and what questions will be asked. They have agreed not to directly question each other and questioners or moderators are not allowed follow up questions.

Prior to 1988, the Presidential debates were conducted under the auspices of the League of Women Voters, and the candidates really engaged in debate. In 1988 the two major parties objected to an actual debate and attempted to take control of the structure and content; at that point, the League withdrew its sponsorship, and they two parties formed the governmental-sounding Commission on Presidential Debates which has allowed their campaign organizations to completely script what George Farah of Open Debates called a "bi-partisan press conference". Further information can be found at Now with Bill Moyers and Open Debates.

Real democracy is subverted and stifled when the press and the public cannot confront presidential canditates in open debate on the curcial issues of our time, and instead we only hear prepared sound bites. The Presidential Debates we will see on Thursday are to meaningful confrontation on issues and ideas as all-star wrestling is to the Olympics. The American people have a right to demand more.


Year of the Rat: I can't capture the why of it, but City Pages writer Jim Walsh's new column--where he's on a country jog, barking at dogs, baa-ing at sheep, and pondering hope and human suffering--works.
Monkeying with the election: Bev Harris' Black Box Voting proves that Diebold's touchscreen voting is so susceptible to vote tampering that even a monkey could screw up the election. Enter: Baxter the chimpanzee.
God-awful: The Republican National Committee admits that, in two states, it sent out mass mailings claiming that "liberals" want to ban the bible. An editorial on Sept. 22 in The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia asked, "Holy Moley! Who concocts this gibberish? ...Most Americans see morality more complexly. Many think a higher morality is found in Christ's command to help the needy, prevent war and pursue other humanitarian goals. Churchgoers of this sort aren't likely to believe childish allegations that Democrats want to ban the Bible."


Suppressing the overseas vote: "On Monday, the International Herald Tribune reported that the Pentagon is restricting international access to the Web site for the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official government agency that helps Americans living abroad register to vote in the November election," reports Salon.com. "According to the IHT, Americans who connect to the Internet using one of several foreign Internet service providers have reported difficulty logging in to the voting-assistance site. The Pentagon confirmed that it is blocking traffic from these ISPs - which provide Internet service in 25 countries - but it declined to say why." Allegedly, their aim is to "thwart hackers." Please forward this information to friends overseas: Verifiedvoter.org reports on the Pentagon's move, offering mirror and proxy sites where overseas voters can get information on the sometimes tricky processes of absentee voting.
Hip Hopera: Check this out before the cease-and-desists fly. In the spirit of The Grey Album comes The Kleptones' mashup of Queen's repertoire, hip-hop style, with plenty of Plunderphonic add-ons (like "Bicycle Race" with a bit of Ben Stein's Ferris Bueller dialogue). The entire album is mirrored at Waxy.org. (Via Metafilter.)
The moral of the story: In a piece where she likens Bush's response to Saddam Hussein to "the guy who reserves a hotel room and asks you to the prom," Maureen Dowd accuses John Kerry of "sidestepping the central moral issue":
It was wrong for the president to take on Saddam as a response to 9/11, to pretend the dictator was a threat to our national security, to drum up a fake case on weapons and a faux link to Al Qaeda, and to divert our energy, emotions and matériel from the real enemy to an old enemy whose address we knew.

It was wrong to take Americans to war without telling them the truth about why we were doing it and what it would cost.

It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did.
Party of bigots and bubbas? I can't indict an entire category of people--Bush supporters--based on the actions of a few, but Doug Grow's story in today's Star Tribune seems increasingly emblematic of the decline in civility I see ushered in by Republican activists. From defaced and stolen lawn signs to Bush's unpresidential mocking of John Kerry, from Rush Limbaugh's diatribes to the libelous (and continuing) swift boat ads, Bush backers seem to be, in many instances, proving themselves to be bigots, bubbas, and callous enemies of free speech. Grow writes of an incident in the suburb adjacent my Minneapolis neighorhood:
at least 17 families with lawn signs supporting John Kerry received hate-filled diatribes that were inserted in greeting cards.

The mailings were addressed to "Doltocrat." In the envelopes, recipients found greeting cards with perky messages ranging from "Happy Rosh Hashanah" to "Get Well Soon." When the cards were opened, three pages of typewritten hate oozed out.

"You have committed yourself to supporting Kerry as evidenced by your subversive and immorally-suggestive Kerry lawn sign display ... and it will be practically impossible for you to back out and retract it now. ..."

And on and on. The mailings included praise for Hitler. Attacks on gays and Jewish people and "not-so-Christian" churches. Attacks on Kerry. Praise for President Bush.

There were no direct threats to recipients. As vitriol goes, this stuff was not particularly creative.
Still, the fact that the creator of this material had taken the time to drive through Golden Valley neighborhoods to locate signs and to gather addresses and then had gone to the effort of mailing this stuff gave reasonable people the creeps...

Huh? Kudos to the gay group Log Cabin Republicans for refusing to endorse George W. Bush and his fervently anti-gay/anti-human rights agenda. But how to make sense of the Abe Lincoln Black Republican Caucus' decision to go for George? A day after legal and civil rights experts went on record predicting that millions of Americans--mostly black and most likely to vote Democratic--will be blocked from voting in November, the gay black Republican group announced it would endorse the president. And: Efforts to ease voter fears.


What's in a name? While rightwingers say the War on Terror isn't a war on Islam, you'd hardly know it listening to some of their pundits. Today, FOX News Channel's Brian Kilmeade wondered how someone named Yusuf Islam--a.k.a. the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens--could've boarded a plane with that name. Islam, who as an entertainer wrote the now-aptly-named hits "Peace Train" and "Wild World," will be deported back to the UK because his activities "could be linked to terrorism." Says Kilmeade:
How did he get on board if he's on one [a government no-fly list]? See, I don't ... If your name is Yusuf Islam, you better have a good close look at him.... But let me just say, if the IRA [Irish Republican Army] had declared war on America, you better believe they would be patting me down left and right before I went on United [Airlines], because I stand to be Irish. So they declare war on us.

Bushery: "The killing machine is running loose and no one is capable of stopping it," writes Eric Fottorino in a Le Monde article titled to reflect the identical pronunciation of boucherie (butchery) and Bushery in French. An Iraqi religious leader reportedly told the French envoy this weekend that "The Americans kill forty times more civilians than fighters. And those civilians have fathers, brothers, and sons who will not know any peace until they've avenged their deaths."
Loony bin:

Who would Jesus kill? Evangelical "man of God" Jimmy Swaggert--whose sexual rap sheet includes an arrest for soliciting a prostitute and an admitted porn addiction--wants gays dead. In a recent broadcast he said: "I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

Wild guess: The prez, discussing a CIA report that stated Iraq risks falling into a civil war, told Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, "The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like."

Be very surprised: A year ago today, here's what neocon brainchild Richard Perle told the American Enterprise institute: "[A] year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

Dobbs' jabs: CNN's Lou Dobbs says the UN head's recent assertion--which jives with opinions of many experts in international law--that the Iraq war was waged illegally amounts to "another incredible outburst by Kofi Annan." Annan said the war was "not in conformity with the Security Council, with the U.N. charter." When asked, "It was illegal?," Annan replied: "Yes, if you wish," adding: "I have indicated it is not in conformity with the U.N. Charter; from our point of view and from the Charter point of view, it was illegal."

Fear wins! When Arabic writing was found on the pages of an in-flight magazine on a Milwaukee-to-San Francisco Midwest Airlines flight, the airline grounded the plane. Of the writing--which turned out to be "something of a contemplative nature," written in Farsi--Janan Najeeb of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition said, "When you have individuals who can't read a foreign language and assume some scribbles on something is a terrorist message, there's something clearly wrong with the direction the country is going."


How the world would vote: With nearly 11,000 people registering their choices, this site ponders how Bush and Kerry would fare in the upcoming election if the entire world could vote. (Thanks, Ben.)

A strident minority: Overseas military personnel have until October 11 to vote for president, and as the Christian Science Monitor reports, anti-Bush troops are a small, growing, and vocal part of the forces. "[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."

Divine retribution? Was Hurricaine Ivan God's way of getting back at Floridians for their votes in the 2000 election?
Tyranny: Still on near-hiatus, but never too busy to post a quote attributed to Voltaire:
So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.


Antipreneurs: Never a dull moment at "The Journal of the Mental Environment" these days. Adbusters is suing Canadian TV to let them air previously rejected uncommercials that jab at Western consumption; their somewhat maligned "Plain" issue is about to hit newsstands; and their Blackspot sneakers--the antidote to Nike's high-brand/low-labor-rights shoes--are about to ship. Rob Walker, writing for Inc. magazine, offers one of the most interesting and nuanced looks at the unbranding movement Adbusters is pioneering.
Remember Iraq: "Of all the reasons President Bush has moved ahead in the polls, one stands head and shoulders above the rest," writes Josh Marshall. "Iraq has dropped off the campaign radar." Great news for Bush, as reports coming home from this "illegal" war are exceedingly grim. According to a classified National Intelligence Estimate provided to the president in July, prospects for Iraq's future teeter between bad and worse, ranging from a best-case-scenario of tenuous economic and security stability to all-out civil war. And Sidney Blumenthal's survey of military experts seems to back this up:
Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."

Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, told me: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."

Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the second world war in Germany and Japan."...

General Odom said: "This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies."
Diverted cash: To make matters worse, part of the cash set aside for Iraqi reconstruction--some 3.46 billion dollars--will be diverted toward security in the country, a decision that Republican Senator Richard Lugar says indicates ''we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq.'' And a CIA counterterrorism expert told Congress that the agency is still failing to properly staff for the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

And: The ad that beats Bush.


Extremist rightwingers: Such strange utterances from rightwingers these days. From Cheney's F-you to Powell's F-ing crazies to falsified slams by swift boat vets, they seem to be losing grip. Add Fox News' Sean Hannity to that ignoble pack. Get this: since 60 Minutes aired both photos of torture at Abu Ghraib and possibly forged documents about Bush's unexplained absences from his Guard duty, Hannity suggests the Iraq prison scandal was drummed up by the Dems.
[T]his woman who also produced -- was the producer who obtained the Abu Ghraib photos. ... [T]he same person that had the Abu Ghraib pictures -- the Abu Ghraib photos is apparently the same one that got these documents. ... Now here's the question. Where did she get all this stuff from? So that could mean that Abu Ghraib -- where did that come from? Was that a DNC plot too?
Peckerwood Pericles: Counterpunch offers a taxonomy of "genus demagogus australis"--aka Zell Miller, the "latest personification of a recurring American archetype: the country-fried demagogue." Key attributes of Zell and his ilk: anti-intellectualism, populism as a mask for oligarchy, frothy religious fervor, and "patriotism as a mask for unfocused belligerence."


Laylah Ali on heroism: Artist Laylah Ali, whose superhero painting on a downtown Minneapolis billboard comes down today, on who rises up and who doesn't:
I think that the most unlikely people have moments of heroism that surprise, and that those who we think are capable of much more can disappoint when they choose not to act.

Yikes. This.
Bald alert! Beware those with shaved heads or flower-water scent! That's the gist of a poster created by Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer to post at polling places during today's Minnesota primaries. Despite her best efforts to snag would-be terrorists with wallhangings, the posters aren't making it up at many polling places. Sensing the message's underlying taint of profiling or voter suppression, poll workers are electing to not put 'em up.

Phone it in: Got voter suppression on your block? Call 1-866-OUR VOTE.
al-Qaeda, the Brand: Asia Times' Pepe Escobar writes on al-Qaeda's expansion ("franchising") and global brand management, concluding that "Bin Laden is laughing: Bush's crusade has legitimized an obscure sect as a worldwide symbol of political revolt. How could bin Laden not vote for Bush?"
Old-style al-Qaeda might well be pulverized by the Pentagon any time. But "al-Qaeda", the brand, lives, whatever the Bush administration spin. Zarqawi is the best example: he may not even be directly linked to bin Laden anymore, and he is now the sole boss of his own terrorist cottage industry.

..."Al-Qaeda" the brand has now embarked on an inexorable logic of expansion - in flagrant contradiction to Bush's assertion that the world is safer. Al-Qaeda will keep deepening its alliances with ethnic ande nationalist movements - with Shamil Basayev, the emir of the mujahideen in Chechnya and trainer of the Black Widow squadrons of female suicide bombers, or with sectors of the Iraqi resistance in the Sunni triangle. "Global" al-Qaeda in all these cases works and will continue to work as a sort of "Foreign Legion", as French scholar Olivier Roy puts it, a capable military vanguard that is useful for local purposes for a determined period of time.

"Global" al-Qaeda may also even profit from the fact that national liberation movements, in desperation, decide to go on an all-out offensive, improving their alliances of circumstance with al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda brand is also becoming attractive to scattered sectors of the extreme left, because more than appealing to radical Islam, al-Qaeda has succeeded in branding its image as the revolutionary vanguard in the fight against American imperialism. The cross-fertilization between radical Islam and disfranchised Muslim youth born and raised in the West is also performing wonders: when young people convert to Islam in a dreary suburb of Brussels, Paris, Hamburg or Madrid, it all has to do with political anger rather than discovering a direct line to Allah.


Gunning for Bush: With the ban on military-style assault weapons ending today, I've gotta ask: what kind of Opposite Day is it when Uzis and AK-47s can be purchased at the local gun shop, but our library records are fair game for law enforcement officials hoping to suss out whether we're terrorists or not? Wouldn't possession of a machine gun be a good indicator of terroristic leanings, moreso than, say, a Nepalese immigrant videotaping his neighborhood in Queens (don't forget this story)? John Kerry laid into the president for breaking his campaign promise to extend the ban that four presidents before him supported: "Today George Bush made the job of terrorists easier and made the job of America's law enforcement officers harder and that's just plain wrong. [He] made a choice today. He chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over the police officers and the families he promised to protect."
Art of Abu Ghraib: Given Andy Warhol's oft-repeated "15 minutes of fame" quote, his namesake museum in Pittsburgh seems a perfect place to examine the art and technology behind the tabloid-ready, snapshot-rich Abu Ghraib scandal. Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib, opening at the museum on Friday, aims to offer a "look at the extraordinary impact that amateur digital photographs have had on the public's view of the Iraq War, and the human rights issues that this technology exposed at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere." Veterans groups, as Cursor flags, are displeased. "It is appalling. They are trying to call somebody's amateur photographs of some lower personnel's actions artwork. Is this going to be another conviction of American soldiers during Vietnam?" said Joe Dugan, a Vietnam and Gulf War veteran and head of Pittsburgh's Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum & Memorial. "It is a disservice to all the veterans who served. ... This should not be used as an art exhibit."
Anatomy of a poem: As a young English major, the story of Samuel Taylor Coleridge writing "Kubla Kahn" was hugely compelling. In the throes of opium-induced sleep, the poem--as its subhead "Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment." expresses--came to him, essentially complete, in a dream. Writing could be so easy, apparently! But I quickly came to know, it usually doesn't work like that. My friend Kemi just unearthed from her files a nine-year old bit of wonderful literary journalism by Walt Harrington. In it, he intimately traces the development of a poem by one-time poet laureate Rita Dove, from a line jotted in a notebook in 1980--"Bed, where are you flying to?"--to a fully formed, exactingly crafted work of art some 15 years later. It's a disarmingly honest portrait of a poet's mind--and the creative process--showing Dove searching for the magic in writing through grueling work: "I'm looking for an image as wild and apt, as wonderfully penetrating yet impenetrable, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez': '...and death began to flow through his bones like a river of ashes,'" she wrote in her journal. "If I could catch a fish like that, I'd be ready to die. No, not really. But the contentment would be immense and would last my entire life."

Download a pdf of Harrington's "The Shape of Her Dreaming," then read the final version of Dove's "Sic itur ad astra --This is the way to the stars".
Posts will remain scarce as I continue to learn the ins and outs of joint compound and oil-based urethane floor finishes in my new house. But I'll sneak a few posts here and there:

F-ing brilliant: Borrowing the vernacular popularized by Dick Cheney, Colin Powell has allegedly called neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Cheney "fucking crazies." Never a truer word...

More war fibs from Bush: David Corn, writing for The Nation:
In 1978, Bush, while running for Congress in West Texas, produced campaign literature that claimed he had served in the US Air Force. According to a 1999 Associated Press report, Bush's congressional campaign ran a pullout ad in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that declared he had served "in the US Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard where he piloted the F-102 aircraft."

Bush lost that congressional race, but twenty-one years later, the AP questioned him about the ad. The news outlet had a good reason to do so. Bush had never served in the Air Force. He had only been in the Air National Guard. But when AP asked Bush if he had been justified in claiming service in the Air Force, Bush, then the governor of Texas and a presidential candidate, said, "I think so, yes. I was in the Air Force for over 600 days." Karen Hughes, his spokeswoman, maintained that when Bush attended flight school for the Air National Guard from 1968 to 1969 he was considered to be on active duty for the Air Force and that several times afterward he had been placed on alert, which also qualified as active duty for the Air Force. All told, she said, Bush had logged 607 days of training and alerts. "As an officer [in the Air National Guard]," she told the AP, "he was serving on active duty in the Air Force."

But this explanation was wrong. Says who? The Air Force. As the Associated Press reported,

The Air Force says that Air National Guard members are considered 'guardsmen on active duty' while receiving pilot training. They are not, however, counted as members of the overall active-duty Air Force.
Full story here.

A little higher... At a 9/11 vigil, Bush seems unable to locate his heart...


Share the love: The video clip of Bush saying that, thanks to medical malpractice suits, OB/GYNs aren't able to "practice their love with women all across this country." (Thanks, Tom.)
What really hit the Pentagon on 9/11? Not a new theory, but laid out in a convincing way (movie file).
Take a crack at the prez: Take out your frustrations without setting off the alarms at Homeland Security with Whack-a-Bush, a Shrub-faced pinata. (Via Music For America's Activate newsletter. Thanks Karen.)

Maher's Axiom: A relentless Bill Maher proposes a new rule:
You can't run on a mistake. Franklin Roosevelt didn't run for re-election claiming Pearl Harbor was his finest hour. Abe Lincoln was a great president, but the high point of his second term wasn't theater security. 9/11 wasn't a triumph of the human spirit. It was a fuck-up by a guy on vacation.

Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. President. I'm not blaming you for 9/11. We have blue-ribbon commissions to do that. And I'm not saying there was anything improper about your immediate response to the attacks. Someone had to stay in that classroom and protect those kids from Chechen rebels.

But by the looks of your convention, you'd think that the worst thing that ever happened to us was the best thing that ever happened to you. You just can't keep celebrating the deadliest attack ever as if it's your personal rendezvous with greatness. You don't see old men who were shot down during World War II jumping out of a plane every year. I mean, other than your dad.

But even your dad didn't run for re-election based on a recession and his propensity to barf on the Japanese. Now, I know you'd like us all to get swept away with emotionalism and stop sweating the small stuff like the deficit and the environment, and focus on what's really important: how you look in a fireman's hat. But crying during your speech? I mean, come on! There's no crying in politics! It's not fair! That's a trick chicks use. How are we supposed to discuss this rationally if you're going to cry?! There's a name for people who exploit their participation in historical events for political gain. They're called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

So I say, if you absolutely must win an election on the backs of dead people, do it like they do in Chicago, and have them actually vote for you.
Hip Hop (indig)Nation: Check out Akbar, The Coup, Lil Dap, Shabaam Sahdeeq and other socially conscious rappers at Raptivism.com.
Bush and the world: In a new global survey, the majority of people in 30 of 35 countries polled said they want John Kerry--not George Bush--in the White House (only Poland, the Phillippines, and Nigeria preferred Bush, while India and Thailand were evenly divided). Closer to home, a study by Foreign Policy in Focus zeroes in on this lack of international goodwill as one of the problems with Bush's foreign policy:
The Bush administration’s “war on terrorism” reflects a major failure of leadership and makes Americans more vulnerable rather than more secure. The administration has chosen a path to combat terrorism that has weakened multilateral institutions and squandered international goodwill. Not only has Bush failed to support effective reconstruction in Afghanistan, but his war and occupation in Iraq have made the United States more vulnerable and have opened a new front and a recruiting tool for terrorists while diverting resources from essential homeland security efforts. In short, Washington’s approach to homeland security fails to address key vulnerabilities, undermines civil liberties, and misallocates resources.


The size of Rumsfeld's heart: "Relatively small." Those are the words the Secretary of Defense used to describe the loss of American lives, now at 1004, in Iraq. Update 9/9: A devastating graphic from the New York Times, "A Look at Those Who Died."
Huh? W, on the effects of frivolous medical lawsuits: "Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

Wha-? Alan Keyes: "Christ would not vote for Barack Obama, because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."

Ah-ha! Jimmy Carter, in a personal letter to Zell Miller: "...there are many of us loyal Democrats who feel uncomfortable in seeing that you have chosen the rich over the poor, unilateral preemptive war over a strong nation united with others for peace, lies and obfuscation over the truth, and the political technique of personal character assassination as a way to win elections or to garner a few moments of applause. These are not the characteristics of great Democrats whose legacy you and I have inherited."
9 out of 10 terrorists agree, Bush/Cheney will never hesitate to milk your fears to win re-election. Dick Cheney:
"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Mr. Cheney told a crowd of 350 people in Des Moines, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Fear this: Bush has steered the ship of state toward record deficits, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate. Led by the high costs of unprovoked war in Iraq, this year's record-breaker is projected at $422-billion, while the forecast for the next decade is a staggering $2.3 trillion deficit.


Family values: Forty-three percent of New Yorkers may prefer to have a beer with George Bush, according to one inane poll, but how about snorting cocaine? In a new biography, Kitty Kelley reports that W took coke at Camp David on more than one occasion, and that Laura enjoyed the herb.
1001 dead American servicemen and women in Iraq. How many have to die for us to change our disastrous policies in Iraq? And is the media downplaying the casualties?
Clinton to Kerry: Be here now. As CBS reports that Bush's National Guard records have gone missing and a Texans for Truth ad campaign features a member of Bush's alleged unit in the Air National Guard saying he never saw Bush report for duty, Bill Clinton offers some hospital-bed advice to John Kerry: Forget about Vietnam and focus on the economy.

Cheerleaders for Truth: "We, the Yale Cheerleaders for Truth, call upon Yale University President Richard C. Levin, to release the Yale Cheerleading Squad archives so that the American people can learn whether Bush's Varsity letter was justly awarded." (Thanks, Ben.)
Zombie shopper! From Stay Free!, an experiment that may explain my bizarre experience with zombie people at the new Mall of America-area Ikea over Labor Day:
Several recently published studies conclude that supermarkets are geared to lull the average shopper into a trancelike state and that this glassy-eyed mesmerization makes the customer purchase more goods. This comes as no surprise to this writer, as these results parallel my findings of thirty years ago when I undertook several experiments in social psychology under the guise of adolescent pranksterism...


The experiment was simply designed: It would involve the surreptitious placement of various individual supermarket goods in the hand basket or cart of a targeted shopper (the "subject") by the experimenter, namely, this writer. I would then follow the subject to a position directly behind him or her in the checkout line and observe whether he or she completed the shopping transaction by purchasing the introduced foreign product (the "item").

....In approximately one year of trials, run on an average of twice a week, not one subject rejected the item, or even regarded it strangely; all items were purchased without question. It mattered not one iota whether it was an incredibly commonplace and ubiquitous item, such as a roll of Scott-brand bathroom tissue, or a more arcane item, such as a meat thermometer. Forty items or four, the compliance rate was an astounding 100 percent! Everyone bought what was put in the basket without even a second's hesitation.

Unfortunately, my teen foray into the social sciences was curtailed by a variety of factors, namely the overwhelmingly one-sided data collected, the distractions of an increasingly challenging high-school curriculum, and my awakening to the fact that I could have introduced a yelping schnauzer and her litter of suckling pups into a subject's cart without notice...

Media Cannibal: An Interview with filmmaker Craig Baldwin

Version Magazine, a sharp-lookin', new Auckland-based arts and culture publication, has reprinted my interview with film-collage artist Craig Baldwin. Here's the intro, click here for the wide-ranging interview. [Note: Version is now defunct.]

Having a conversation with Craig Baldwin is a lot like seeing his films. His athletic leaps in logic are as jarring as a jump-cut edit from a Mexican B-movie to a ‘50s-era propaganda film, yet the progression of his argument, like film, moves ever forward. He deftly navigates topics from the media consolidation to his thoughts on cellphones, from culture jamming to corporate accountability. Winner of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts and a featured filmmaker in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, Baldwin considers himself a “media cannibal.” He constructs films from reclaimed snippets of instructional films, TV commercials, and local newscasts, crafting a retro-tech look through the use of 8mm and 16mm film, Pixelvision clips, and kinescope technology—all manually edited together. His is the realm of “media archaeology,” and his targets, conversely, are the power brokers of high-tech media. In Sonic Outlaws, his most popular film, Baldwin tells the story of U2’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the band Negativland. The film is the first comprehensive survey of culture jamming, tracing its roots from Dada, introducing viewers to artists like John Oswald, the Tape Beatles, Emergency Broadcast Network, and other pioneers of detournement.

Spectres of the Spectrum, questions technophilia, modern society’s misplaced confidence in the “electronic mesh” (as MacLuhan calls it), and corporate control of the airwaves. His films are unapologetically subversive. But, unlike the work of Noam Chomsky, with whom he’s often compared, they’re also entertaining. As he puts it, “I stage a little show, a little cabaret, so to speak. I put a little lipstick on. It’s an editorial cartoon.”

As I figure out that removing wallpaper and carpet tacks, spackling and painting take more time than I ever imagined, blogging will remain light throughout September. Nonetheless:

Historical girlie-man: When Austrian-born Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger told the Republican National Convention last week that in the "Socialist" country of his youth, "I saw tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes," he's making shit up. "It's a fact -- as a child he could not have seen a Soviet tank in Styria," the southeastern province where Schwarzenegger was born and raised, said historian Stefan Karner. And the "socialist" bit is wrong too. Austria was governed by coalition governments; from 1945 to 1970, all of the country's chancellors were conservatives. Schwarzenegger "confuses a free country with a Socialist one," says Graz University histrorian Martin Polaschek, adding that Arnold was "using the old Communist enemy image for Bush's election campaign... He did not speak as a historian, after all, but as a politician." (Thanks, Kemi.)

The Bush Legacy: After a bloody weekend in Iraq, the death toll of American GIs there has hit 999.

Graphic Agitation: Bush-Orwell 2004


Going soft: Mark Morford's new article hits the spot; he's searching for things "to counteract, to dissolve the simmering dread, to deflect the waves of nausea and karmic pain induced by the incessantly depressing media maelstrom and the appallingly hateful gloat of the GOP convention and by the most tyrannical administration and least articulate American president in 100 years." I'm looking for them too. In his ode to organic farms, Molly Ivins, Truthout, and other "hallowed balms," this one--a shout out to (canine) Chomsky--spoke the loudest:
And there are, of course, dogs. Oh my God yes. And what of all the amazing and open-hearted people who run all those dog shelters and rescues, people so generous of spirit and kind of heart and who feel so disenfranchised that they've chosen, as so many are wont to do these days, to switch away from people entirely and focus on a breed that doesn't give a good goddamn how angry your God is and will love you no matter what your hair looks like or how painful that tumor of anxiety in your heart? Pure salvation, that is.
(Thanks DJ Baklavonne.)
Words speak louder than actions: "For four years, George Bush has used the power of words to overcome insurmountable facts" says the announcer on a hilarious-if-it-wasn't-so-true movie created by The Daily Show. Forward the link to your friends. (6 mb Quicktime link.)
Republican Rage: "There was plenty of hatred in Manhattan, but it was inside, not outside, Madison Square Garden," writes Paul Krugman in another great essay:
Barack Obama, who gave the Democratic keynote address, delivered a message of uplift and hope. Zell Miller, who gave the Republican keynote, declared that political opposition is treason: "Now, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." And the crowd roared its approval.

Why are the Republicans so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on (during the first three days, Mr. Bush was mentioned far less often than John Kerry).

The promised economic boom hasn't materialized, Iraq is a bloody quagmire, and Osama bin Laden has gone from "dead or alive" to he-who-must-not-be-named.

Another reason, I'm sure, is a guilty conscience. At some level the people at that convention know that their designated hero is a man who never in his life took a risk or made a sacrifice for his country, and that they are impugning the patriotism of men who have.
(Thanks, Kemi.)

The Two Faces of Zell: Democratic turncoat Zell Miller's website still contains an introduction he made for John Kerry in 2001 where he called the Senator "one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders – and a good friend." The praise continues, with Miller stating that "one of our very highest priorities must be to make sure this man is re-elected in 2002 so he can continue to serve this state and nation." Flip. Flop. (Cached, just in case.)

The task at hand: As Kerry lashes back, calling Bush "unfit to lead this country" for "misleading" us into war and saying he's "going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether [Cheney's] five deferments make someone more qualified than two tours of duty," veterans of the Iraq war have a novel suggestion for the candidates: debate Iraq, not Vietnam (Via Cursor.)

Resources for radicals (or solid lefties): Metafilter links to Selves and Others, a site that lets you track new writings by great writers like George Monbiot, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn. (RSS feed here.)


Tony Blair's new flame: John Kerry?
MAD AS ZELL: Remember when the GOP created that cheap-shot ad that called passionate Democrats the Coalition of the Wild-Eyed? Well, perhaps they were right about one Democrat: Zell Miller--whose rabid RNC keynote ripped on the Democrats' "warped way of thinking [that] America is the problem, not the solution" and claimed that cooperating with a UN coalition means "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending"--went apeshit on Hardball's Chris Matthews. He told Matthews to "Get our of my face" and called him "hopeless," right before going all Wild West on 'em:
"I wish I was over there with you where I could get in your face." He also said, "I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel." Later Miller said, "I don't know why I came on this program" and "I think we ought to cancel this interview."
For more fun, read Daily Howler's fact-check of Miller's mistruth-riddled speech.
The Great American Shout Out: An Al Franken-organized coordinated shout-fest, timed for the start of Bush's RNC acceptance speech.
Band-Aids, Bullets, and Broken Hearts:
John Cory, writing for Truthout.org:
It must have been a proud moment for Johnson & Johnson, watching their product passed around opening night at the GOP convention: Band-Aids with painted purple hearts and snarky comments about self-inflicted wounds. Who says conservatives don't have a sense of humor? This was funny stuff.

I wonder how funny that Band-Aid stunt was to the nearly 7,000 troops who have lost legs, and arms, and eyes, and suffered other mutilations in the Iraq War, and now wear a real Purple Heart. I'll bet they rolled around in their wheelchairs and fell off their crutches in roaring laughter. Can these GOP Band-Aids reattach limbs?

I'll bet they were laughing in Idaho, too. Especially Tom Titus, former Army Ranger and Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts. On Monday he received another Purple Heart, for his son Brandon, killed in Iraq. A father and son, both veterans, both with Purple Hearts, except the father had to bury his son. Is there a funny Band-Aid for death?

In Florida last week, Carlos Arredondo was informed that his son Alexander had been killed in Iraq. Mr. Arredondo poured the gasoline of his sorrow on the van that delivered the news, and in the process, set himself aflame in grief. Is there a Band-Aid for that pain?

And the GOP is the party that supports our troops?

Don't expect a GOP denouncement of the Band-Aid debacle, and certainly not from George Bush. These folks are busy building platforms on the graves of American citizens and soldiers in order to appear tall and patriotic.

The GOP wages war on heroism, vilifies suffering, and exonerates smearing the valiant service of all veterans, in the name of partisan gamesmanship.

For all the talk of conservative compassion and the American way, the GOP has proved itself to be the party of Band-Aids, Bullets, and Broken Hearts.

And isn't that funny?
Miller's moment—"Bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric": Usually no fan of Andrew Sullivan, I like what he's saying this time around:
[Democrat] Zell Miller's [RNC] address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
Blogging break: I'm in the middle--or rather the front end--of a move, so while my home internet access is out of commission, I'll be blogging less (or not at all). In the meantime, be sure to visit Cursor and its just-launched election media monitoring site Derelection 2004.