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:: Friday, July 30, 2004 ::


  Okay, take this story here. (Found on this Daily Kos Diary). Now, I'm going to quote some snippets:
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is considering stepping down after the November election, telling colleagues he is worn out from the massive reorganization of government and needs to earn money in the private sector to put his teenage children through college, officials said.
Ridge owns an $873,000 home in Bethesda, Md., with his wife, Michele, which they bought last year with a $784,800 mortgage, according to property and banking records. Ridge's most recent financial disclosure reports, filed in early 2003, showed that he owned between $122,000 and $787,000 in stocks and funds, including modest ownership in The Walt Disney Co., General Electric, Nike, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
He has, according to the article, two children. He makes 175,000 dollars a year in his current job.

   Now, let me point out the political hay you can make here. We have a man who makes 175,000 dollars a year. He owns a 873,000 dollar home. He owns between 100,000 and 800,000 dollars of stocks. He has two children and claims he can't afford to send them to college.

    Now, I have one child (and plan to have another). My wife and I together don't earn nearly as much as Ridge does, nor do we own any stock, nor do we have a 800,000 dollar home. 

    But we're expected to send our kids to college, because if you want to be part of the skilled workforce -- and thus make a comfortable living -- you pretty much have to go to college these days.

    So I think that someone with a big microphone (Hint: Your name is "Kerry") should point out that when a man who makes 175,000 dollars a year, owns an 800,000 dollar home, and has up to 800,000 dollars in stocks -- making him FAR richer than 95% of America -- claims he's "can't afford to send his kids to college on a measly 175,000 a year" then we have a problem with our educational system. Maybe use that to point out that certain people (Hint: Your name is "Bush") talk a good education game, but don't actually allocate the money...and how this harms everything from small, one-room elementary schools to universities.

  Oh, and how much of an asshole is Ridge, anyways? Fuck him and his 175,000 dollar a year salary and his 800,000 dollar home. Somehow I'll manage to send my kids to school on a hell of a lot less, and I bet I won't whine as much either.

:: Morat 8:55 AM :: ::

Trivial Media...

  Krugman has a great column up today.

The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about "what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people. I have to face the fact that I will never be able to have health insurance, the way things are now. And these millionaires don't seem to address that."

Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it?

Well, I've been reading 60 days' worth of transcripts from the places four out of five Americans cite as where they usually get their news: the major cable and broadcast TV networks. Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Mr. Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured. When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in it.
As the site points out, the Bush campaign has been "hammering away with talking points casting Kerry as out of the mainstream because of his wealth, hoping to influence press coverage." The campaign isn't claiming that Mr. Kerry's policies favor the rich - they manifestly don't, while Mr. Bush's manifestly do. Instead, we're supposed to dislike Mr. Kerry simply because he's wealthy (and not notice that his opponent is, too). Republicans, of all people, are practicing the politics of envy, and the media obediently go along.

In short, the triumph of the trivial is not a trivial matter. The failure of TV news to inform the public about the policy proposals of this year's presidential candidates is, in its own way, as serious a journalistic betrayal as the failure to raise questions about the rush to invade Iraq.

P.S.: Another story you may not see on TV: Jeb Bush insists that electronic voting machines are perfectly reliable, but The St. Petersburg Times says the Republican Party of Florida has sent out a flier urging supporters to use absentee ballots because the machines lack a paper trail and cannot "verify your vote."
P.P.S.: Three weeks ago, The New Republic reported that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistan to announce a major terrorist capture during the Democratic convention. Hours before Mr. Kerry's acceptance speech, Pakistan announced, several days after the fact, that it had apprehended an important Al Qaeda operative.

Thank God for the Daily Show and the BBC. Without them, I don't know how I'd have maintained my sanity. The US media is badly broken......but it's broken in a very profitable way. Sensationalism sells, news does not.

:: Morat 8:47 AM :: ::

Impressive moves

 EJ Dionne has a good point today but -- if anything -- actually understates the case:
A stout rejection of that sort of politics lay at the heart of Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama's remarkable keynote address. "There's not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United States of America," Obama declared and then riffed on the division of the country between red, Republican states and blue, Democratic states. "We coach Little League in the blue states and yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states."

And vice presidential nominee John Edwards kept up the barrage, contrasting "the tired, old, hateful, negative politics of the past" with "the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible."
Attacking divisiveness could yield multiple dividends in the fall. Having laid down their argument, Democrats can respond to Republican attacks with a breezy, Reaganesque "there they go again." The Kerry campaign expects President Bush to continue his withering assault on the Democratic candidate. By placing every Republican attack in the context of "old, hateful, negative politics," Democrats hope to raise the cost to Republicans of running the campaign that Bush's advisers will need to run if the president's popularity ratings don't improve.
(Bolding mine) Bear in mind two key facts: Bush's has spent a ton of money on negative attacks which utterly failed to nudge Kerry's numbers, and -- more importantly -- McCain-Feingold means that George Bush's face is on every negative attack he hits Kerry with.

   The Kerry campaign has not only laid an effective defense against Bush's favorite tactic, any use of that tactic reinforces Kerry's message because Bush's face is going to be associated with those attacks. In essence, Bush's own advertising -- should he go negative -- will reinforce the Democratic message. (Link via Daily Kos).

:: Morat 8:39 AM :: ::


  What an amazing coincidence.

Pakistan has captured Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who is sought by the United States as a suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, officials said Friday.

'Ghailani, a Tanzanian citizen said to be in his early thirties, was seized early Sunday, along with his wife and five other African or Pakistani al Qaeda suspects, following a joint Pakistani-U.S. intelligence operation, senior Pakistani police and intelligence officials said. The capture followed a 10-hour shootout in the industrial city of Gujrat, 125 miles south of Islamabad.
Pakistani officials have rejected allegations that they delayed the announcement for four days to obtain maximum publicity. Hayat said the delay was a result of "double checks and even triple checks in such cases."

But in the arrests of other high-profile al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, including Abu Zubayida, Khalid Sheik Mohammad and Ramzi Bin al Shibh, the news media received word almost immediately.

"What difference will it make if we do not rush to make a hasty unconfirmed claim?" Hayat said. He said he saw no connection between the late announcement of Ghailani's arrest and the Democratic National Convention in the United States, where Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts was about to accept his party's nomination for president.

Now, I'm not sure what Kerry has said about this, but here's what I would say if I were Kerry:

  "It's nice to see we've finally - after three years -- captured a high ranking member of Al Qaeda. While the death of three thousand Americans was insufficient to stir the President to anything more than cursory action, we now know that lagging polls are enough to convince him to act. In that vein, in the interests of catching enemies of America, I plan to continue leading in the polls...only that, it seems, will ensure that Al Qaeda has George Bush's full and undivided attention. Thank you.".

   Kerry won't say it. But I bet he's thinking it.

:: Morat 8:17 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, July 29, 2004 ::


  Slate has a review of Outfoxed and The Hunting of the President up. I haven't seen Hunting but I did watch Outfoxed a few nights ago. For once, I tend to agree with Slate:

Greenwald gives us a terrific montage of our fair and balanced hosts using the "some people say" trope to advance the Republican talking point of the day, via since-published memos by John Moody or commands from on high by former (some people say current) Republican operative Roger Ailes. Here's another montage: "Some people say John Kerry looks French …" "French …" "French …" "effectively makes Kerry French …"

Sometimes I suspect that "fair and balanced" thing wasn't coined to deceive viewers so much as to wave a red cape in front of liberals. It works: Snort, snort. But it really is the most unholy sort of chutzpah for Ailes to minimize his ties to the Republican Party and claim that Fox is "restoring objectivity." Greenwald doesn't even need the commentators, smart as they are: Al Franken, James Wolcott, Eric Alterman, Bob McChesney, Rep. Bernie Sanders. He doesn't even need the former Fox employees, like John DuPre, who says he was reamed out and suspended for not making an uneventful birthday at the Ronald Reagan library look like a spontaneous outpouring of mass love, with patriots dropping to their knees in prayer. He could build the whole movie out of clips like the one in which correspondent Carl Cameron talks fondly with George W. Bush about Cameron's wife, who works for Bush's campaign. (This precedes the fawning interview seen by Fox viewers.) He could build the whole movie out of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.

From an intellectual standpoint, the commentary was rather interesting -- but other than Franken's sidebar on Glick, I really preferred the Fox footage.

 In a similar vein, Jon Stewart had a great segment on "Conventional Wisdom" that should be a road map to anyone wanting to do a film on media criticism. That clip alone should win him an award.

:: Morat 9:30 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, July 28, 2004 ::

Lost Record '02 Florida Vote Raises '04 Concern

Gotta love those electronic miracle machines:
Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.
The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.
But wait! There's more:
But The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, in a recent analysis of the March presidential primary, reported that voters in counties using touch-screen machines were six times as likely to record no vote as were voters in counties using optical-scan machines, which read markings on paper ballots
But don't worry. Just because you're more likely to cast a null vote, and even if you do cast a vote it's impossible to tell whether it was correctly counted, doesn't mean there's a problem.

:: Morat 8:49 AM :: ::


  Man that guy can talk. What a great speech. If he's got the policy instincts to go with it, the sky's the limit. (I'm amused that the conservative reaction is, basically, "It was a good speech, ergo it was a conservative speech. That's right. Liberals can't give good speeches on liberalism, because it's bad.....")

 Does anyone know where I can find a copy of it? I'd like my wife to see it. 

Update: Never mind. Angry Bear had a link to this streaming video of it. All hail the Mighty Internet! 

:: Morat 8:35 AM :: ::

:: Monday, July 26, 2004 ::

Saw F9/11 for a second time..

   This time with my very red-state, fiscal conservative (although fairly libertarian, on the social side) father. (Thanks go out to Vince, because what pushed him over the line was the statement "You do know a friend of mine sent me 8.50 so you'd go see it, right?"). He was leaning in that direction in any case, as he'd had me, my mother, my brother, and both my grandparents egging him on. On the other hand, his sister and her husband (both -- darn near literally -- worshipers at the alter of Foxnews) did help reinforce him last week, so Vince's contribution tipped him back over the edge.

  After we saw it, we had lunch and talked about it a bit, and while he's totally unaware of what a blog is, he did know that Vince -- and perhaps my other loyal reader -- would be interested in his thoughts.

   Summed up, he felt the movie presented Michael Moore's point of view, and wasn't going to change his vote. That's actually a huge change in opinion, because as of two weeks ago it was "It's pretty much all lies" was his firm belief. To have him come out the movie believing it's merely liberal spin is a giant step indeed. (Note: My father was never a strong supporter of the war. He felt the WMD thing was BS, and supported it mainly on the grounds of "Well, frankly, there's a lot of oil there and he's a bit insane and evil".)

   He said there were elements he agreed with (he felt, for instance, that the Bush family was intimately connected with the oil and gas industry, but considers that pretty unimportant, because oil and gas are the lifeblood of America...whatever ties the Bushies have are rather pointless compared to the stranglehold the Saudis have on American life in general) and elements he felt were just spin.

   He also -- and this seemed to really surprise him -- thought that Moore was pretty damn funny in places (that one doubletake when Moore is getting Congressmen to sign up their children for the Army and the Dragnet scene stick out).

   He asked a few questions about Richard Clarke (what did the guy do? How long had he done it?) that I, thanks to my obsession with politics, happened to be able to answer and spoke a bit about Kerry and talked a bit about taxes.

   The taxes thing was the usual "Bush cut my taxes" stuff, and he seemed to accept the view that -- at least from my perspective -- that big deficits were a bigger problem than higher taxes. As for Kerry, he didn't badmouth, just said he didn't know what Kerry stood for (not in the "flip-flop" sense) and didn't know what Kerry would do if he won....much less whether his solutions would be better or worse than Bush's. (Translated: If the election were today, I'd vote for Bush, but Kerry's actually got a chance to snag my vote).

   We'll see how the conventions and the debates go. My dad isn't really watching Democratic politics right now (rather sad, as he'd have gone for Dean in a heartbeat, once he cut through the BS) and a chance to play "compare and contrast" with Kerry and Bush, as well as the realization that it's highly unlikely for the Dems to win the House, Senate, and White House (Dad's fond of divided government) might push him over the edge.

   F9/11 wouldn't have changed his mind about Bush or Kerry. It seems to have changed his mind about Michael Moore, though. (I doubt he'll ever be a fan, but he told me Moore should have been a comedian. Dad didn't like his politics, but thought the guy could be damn funny with his visuals).  It'll be interested to watch him for the next few weeks. He changes his mind slowly,  and things have a way of percolating with him. I plan to keep an eye on his politics, as he's been a lot less reactionary than normal the last few weeks. I think Abu Ghraib really bugged him.

:: Morat 7:59 AM :: ::

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