Sunday, October 31, 2004

Down to the Wire

Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004

It's that time: here's my prediction of the electoral map to which we'll awaken on Wednesday morning. For the record, I don't think the fears of a drawn-out electoral mess will be validated. Yes, Florida will be a colossal mess, but because Bush will lose the election with or without that state, Kerry won't have to send in hired goons to figure out why the machines didn't work and black citizens couldn't vote.

It won't matter because Kerry will win 284-254 without Florida, or so believe Brad and me. He'll do so by winning every state north of Maryland, including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Indeed, he'll carry every state awarded to Gore in 2000 and pick up two: N.H. and Ohio. I know the race has been tight in Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Mexico; of the three, I'd bet on N.M. as the one to fall away, though Bill Richardson and Bill Clinton are doing their best to hang on. But even that won't stop Kerry's march to victory if he can win Ohio, as now appears likely, and hold onto the rest of the Gore states.

Potential surprises, in declining order of expectation:
  • Early voters in heavily-Democratic counties provide the votes needed to give Kerry a clear win in Florida, beyond the Jeb margin of disrupting.
  • GOTV efforts, a strong final weekend radio ad and appearance from Bill Clinton, and robocalls featuring the former governor and president tilt Arkansas into the Kerry column and unexpectedly break up the solid South.
  • Colorado, West Virginia, and Nevada--in that order--ride a wave of support for Kerry and last-minute pondering of what four more years would mean for the nation and deliver a clear mandate to the Senator from Massachusetts.
  • North Carolina remembers that John Edwards is its Senator and delivers a bitch-slap to carpetbaggers everywhere by failing to help BC'04 chair Elizabeth Dole's standing within her party. (I don't think this is very likely, by the way, but it's fun to imagine.)
Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Final Plea

Cheryl Jacques, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, passed this along today. Rather than tell all of you, one more time, how important it is to me that you not vote for George W. Bush and other candidates who supported the marriage amendment this year, I'm simply posting this to speak for me. The added emphasis is, as always, mine.

Love and Friendship and the Voting Booth
by Vic Basile

In this crucially important election year, I intend to do all that I can to prevent my family and friends from voting for candidates like George Bush who oppose my equality. I encourage all of my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender brothers and sisters, as well as all who understand that inequality for one is inequality for all, to do the same.

We can't really stop them from voting for whomever they choose - it is, at least for them, a free and democratic country - but we can prevent them doing it without damaging our bonds of love, trust and friendship. In fact, they can't truly love or even respect us, and knowingly vote for candidates who work to deny us the same equality and freedoms they enjoy. The two are simply incompatible.

Before drawing a line in the sand, it is clearly our responsibility is to educate them, to make them fully understand that what they are doing affects our lives in the most fundamental ways possible. My sense is that they are largely unaware of their candidates' positions on these most basic human rights issues and are supporting them for completely unrelated reasons. Unwitting though it may be, they are nevertheless complicit in a political struggle that seeks to deny us our full equality.

Those who see themselves as our friends and yet vote for politicians who seek to amend the Constitution to forever cast us second class citizens need to be reminded of the meaning of friendship. Friends treat each other with respect and dignity, and as equals. Voting for enemies of your friend's equality is not an act of friendship and certainly not one of love. In matters as basic as human rights and simple equality, the old refrain that "friends can agree to disagree and still be friends" has a deafeningly hollow ring.

Friends and family can disagree about the economy, national security, taxes and the environment, and still respect and care about each other. But can the same be said when one participates in the oppression of the other? It doesn't really matter whether the issue is race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. People who participate in the oppression of others or who sit quietly by while their elected officials do the dirty work ought to be called to task. Their behavior is shameful and excruciatingly painful.

My godmother, a truly good woman, would never knowingly hurt me, but she thinks nothing of making a joke about how her vote would make me unhappy. No longer can I smile back when she jokes about voting for candidates opposed to my equality. It is just not funny and it is morally unacceptable.

I believe most Americans would not knowingly vote for someone they thought to be racist, anti-Semitic or misogynistic. Yet they don't think twice about voting for homophobes. They just don't make the connection and we let their actions go unchallenged. Shame on us! Many of my friends tell me about their Bush-supporting Republican parents, but go on to say how accepting they are of them. When I ask how that is possible, how loving parents could support someone who wants to hurt their child, I get a blank look or a glib comment about how "that's just the way they are." It isn't the way they are - they just don't know any better and it is our job to teach them.

Sometimes I hear (and sadly, this often comes from gay people) "they aren't single issue voters and consider many issues when deciding how to vote." What does it say about our sense of self worth when we accept from our parents the explanation that taxes and school vouchers are more important than the dignity, safety and equality of their children? Why are we are so reluctant to challenge them when their behavior so fundamentally affects our lives?

I have been as guilty of this as anyone, but no more. Ending our silence is the only way to educate the people we cherish most that our equality is important and that it requires respect. Love and friendship demand nothing less.

If more convincing is needed, imagine our electoral power when we vote as a bloc. Arguably, it was our vote that swept Bill Clinton into office in 1992. The upcoming election promises to be another cliffhanger, providing us with the opportunity to determine the outcome. Imagine how much stronger our vote would be if we were joined by our families and friends. Never have the stakes been higher or the issues clearer. The threat is horrifyingly real and if allowed to succeed, will set us back at least a generation. We have come too far at too great a cost to be silent now.

Vic Basile is a longtime leader of the GLBT community, a Human Rights Campaign Board Member and former Executive Director and is the current Executive Director of Moveable Feast in Baltimore

Decision Day

Support John Kerry and the Democratic Party

Ready to change this nation for the better? Living in a state where you don't think your vote matters? Today's the last day to do something about it by giving money to the Democratic Party to help John Kerry end four awful years of the Bush presidency. Just click the link above. And take heart: a week from now this long campaign could be a terrible memory, and Kerry could be picking his Cabinet. With our help, it'll happen!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Log Cabin Republican

Was Abe Lincoln Gay?

I know, I know: Honest Abe can't be gay! But read the article and then tell me that. It's obviously difficult to divine the personal affairs of someone who died 139 years ago, but the evidence that exists is compelling: Lincoln shared his bed with men frequently throughout his life, even while in the White House (at which point it was a matter of gossip among the chattering classes of the day); he reserved the grandest terms of affection not for his wife but for another man with whom he shared his bed for four years, to whom he signed his letters "yours forever," and after being left by whom he suffered a nervous breakdown; and he wrote a poem about two men marrying one another. The book that the article previews will apparently provide the details of Lincoln's homosexual relationships with at least six men. One might be a fluke, two a mistake of interpretation, but six? These rumors have been attached to Lincoln's name since he was alive; only now is it possible for a researcher to treat them seriously. It appears quite likely that he's brought to light the truth about Lincoln.

A survey I saw the other day asked readers of a liberal publication which group of people would have a president elected from among them first. Women, blacks, unmarried men, and atheists all finished ahead of gays--we got less than one percent of the vote. Wouldn't it be something to learn that we beat all of them to the punch?

Glad Tidings

Kerry calls Red Sox 'America's team'

Eight straight wins on the way to an ultimate victory that seemed impossible. The Red Sox pulled it off last night in grand fashion. May it be a sign of things to come:
Recalling that a caller to a radio show early in the campaign had said, "John Kerry won't be president until the Red Sox win the World Series,'' Kerry told supporters at the rally, "Well, we're on our way!''
We'll know very soon if he's right.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Army of One

Eminem Aims at Bush

The article above provides a good, quick summary of the contents of the Eminem video I linked yesterday. (It's number one on MTV's TRL today.) Here's the part of the article that summarizes the video:
The largely animated video begins with a suited Eminem reading "My Pet Goat" upside down to a classroom full of children. Moments later, however, Eminem shifts from his usual mode of sarcastic critique to lyrics reflecting sincere political passion.

We see him shadowboxing in front of a wall plastered with newspaper headlines such as "Bush Knew," "Bush Declares War," "Congress OKs $87 Billion" and "Blechtell" [sic]. We see a soldier coming home from the war, only to find his wife holding out a letter stating "Private Kelly, You Have Been Re-Assigned to Iraq." When the soldier reads the notice, his eyes shift from shock, to fear, to outrage, as he emphatically mouths "Fuck Bush." Later, we see a woman opening an eviction notice while her children watch Bush talking about "tax cuts" on television.

Mosh's brooding beat elevates the song's sense of urgency. "Let the President answer on high anarchy/Strap him with an AK-47, let him go/Fight his own war/ Let him impress daddy that way/No more blood for oil, we got our battles to fight on our own soil," he shouts.

As Eminem and his battalion of urban foot soldiers march through the rain-soaked streets, there is a sense that an epic battle is imminent. He rallies the troops--"let us...set aside our differences, and assemble our own army, to disarm this weapon of mass destruction that we call our President"-- but his army eventually shuns violence for the voting booths.
If you didn't watch it already, again, the video is highly recommended; Wonkette has several mirror sites for watching it. If this gets the youth vote out, Kerry--and the nation--will owe Eminem big.

Culture of Life

Police: Driver Tried to Run Over Florida Rep. Harris

Yes, that's Katherine Harris, the very same Katherine Harris who chaired Bush's Florida campaign in 2000 AND was in charge of counting the votes as part of Bush's brother's administration. And yes, the guy missed. (He says he just wanted to scare her a little.)

I know. Justice needs a faster car, right?

Reporters who rushed to the scene noted that Harris appeared to be prepared for the possibility of being run over and killed. She was already wearing enough makeup for the funeral.
Don't look at me--I'm a hideous, election-stealing bitch!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hip Hop Savior

Guerrilla News Network

The link above will take you to a site hosting Eminem's new video, "Mosh." If this doesn't turn out the youth vote, nothing will. Eminem calls Bush a "weapon of mass destruction," and the video--which accompanies one of Eminem's catchier songs--ends with images of lines of young people streaming out of official-looking buildings, waiting to vote. Hopefully this will make the idea of waiting in line on Election Day a bit more palatable to voters whose idea of a long wait is the time it takes for a text message to travel from one mobile phone to another. Anyhow, enjoy the video--the animation is really something--and pass it on to any young people you know who are registered to vote but might not take advantage next week. We need every one of them to win this thing.


Same-Sex Marriage: Bush Says His Party Is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions

Forgive me if I'm a bit cynical about Bush's latest statement regarding gay rights, made during an interview with Charles Gibson for Good Morning America: "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so." This followed his statement that he supports an amendment banning gay marriage.

That an eloquent bit of dancing, Mr. President; you're doing John Kerry proud. But there's a problem: The amendment you're pushing is currently worded to BAN civil unions and domestic partnerships. So are amendments in eight states that voters will likely pass next week. So which one is it? Do you believe that gays deserve equality under the law or not?

I don't know what George W. Bush really believes on this issue, but I do know that, politically, he's trying to use it every which way to help him pull out a win in the election. He hopes that by saying he supports civil unions, and by acknowledging on camera that he's open to the possibility that sexuality may be determined by nature rather than choice, he can erase this issue from the minds of fair-minded women who might be tempted to vote for him for his "resolve" in fighting the war on terror.

I hope it comes back to bite him. Don't a lot of red-staters and red-leaning swing-staters watch GMA? Isn't it possible that they'll be horrified to learn that their golden boy, who they think was chosen by God to be in this place at this time, believes that gays and lesbians may also be a choice not of humans but of their Almighty?

I applaud the sentiment, Georgie: As others are pointing out, a year ago supporting civil unions was thought to be a radical position, and today saying you think they should be allowed is the default of candidates for national office; that's quite a change. But there's a difference between words and deeds. These words may make swing voting women tingle with the belief that Bush is a good, fair-minded man, but they don't change the facts on the ground for me. Bush didn't introduce civil union legislation, or recommend that the tax benefits of marriage be extended to gay couples. Instead, he pushed for a constitutional amendment that would ban both. He didn't urge states to pass legislation that would make my life better, the same legislation he says, today, that he supports; instead, his party operatives urged states to put amendments to the opposite effect on their fall ballots to boost turnout by his bigoted base and place a more difficult roadblock in the way of the very thing about which he says his party is wrong. If he's re-elected, Jupiter forbid, I hope this supposed change of heart is played out in the way he handles this issue for the next four years. But I also hope that the people he's trying to trick at this late date don't fall for it. The best way to get the kind of equality he says, today, he can accept, is to send George W. Bush packing.

[UPDATE: Rapid responses from a couple of groups, including Concerned Women for America--the group I protested just two weeks ago--indicate that I was right about the reaction of the Bush base. See this article, Bush Stance on Civil Unions Upsets Groups, for more. Expect Scott McClellan to clarify any minute now and explain that Bush didn't say he endorsed such "arrangements," only that he wouldn't deny states the right to allow them. Expect this to pacify no one. And know that those who find Bush's statement appalling have this to say: "Civil unions are a government endorsement of homosexuality," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women For America. Horrors! And this: "Here's the truth, civil unions are homosexual marriage by another name," said Randy Thomasson, the group's executive director. "Civil unions rob marriage of its uniqueness and award homosexuals all the rights of marriage available under state law. Bush needs to understand what's going on and resist counterfeit marriages with all his might no matter what they're called," Thomasson said. I know I've been waiting for the day I could get married and rob other people of their uniqueness. Thomasson is exactly right, of course: Giving gays the same rights as straights would transform marriage from the equivalent of an all-white country club to an institution whose primary purpose is to make life better for citizens who choose to pledge themselves to another person for life. Wait, wasn't that the whole idea of civil marriage in the first place? And until it's realized, for everyone, the whole damned institution--sorry, friends and family--is just as counterfeit as Thomasson fears it will be the day I can enter it.]

Monday, October 25, 2004

Elective Surgery

Clinton: Bush Trying to Scare Voters

He's back!

Today's news revolves around three medical procedures: the heart surgery Bill Clinton had last month, the surgery for thyroid cancer that Chief Justice Rehnquist had this morning, and the passion transfusion the Kerry campaign is getting today from Clinton's appearance in Pennsylvania. The first made things look bleak for a while, the second could have confusing repurcussions on this election and the presidency that will follow it, and the third is hopefully the final turning point in a long and winding road to the return of hope and promise to America.

First to Rehnquist. Doesn't this shine a spotlight on the Supreme Court just a week before the election? Could Kerry ask for a better opportunity to have the public reminded that the next president will probably appoint a justice or two--or three, or four? Whatever they think of Bush on terror, security, Iraq, and being resolved, the majority of women don't want to see Roe v. Wade overturned and return to the dark days of coat-hanger abortions in back alleys. Kerry's slipping numbers among women could use a boost, and he best be deft is using this situation to resuscitate them.

Meanwhile, Rehnquist's faltering health raises an interesting question: What happens if he dies? Obviously this is not likely; CNN hastened to note that thyroid cancer is "generally one of the more curable forms of cancer." But what if? What if he dies next week, and because of rampant problems in Ohio and Florida, the Supreme Court has to pick a president again--and they tie, 4-4? Could Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer pummel Kennedy into jumping ship? What would we do?

By the way, I don't wish ill on Rehnquist--despite his dissenting vote in Lawrence v. Texas--but I do think it's ironic that he has the same kind of cancer as my family dog. That about sums up the esteem in which I hold his jurisprudence.

Meanwhile, the horn dog is on the trail today, injecting excitement into Kerry's campaign as we enter, after about 200 laps around the track, the homestretch of this damnably long campaign. Clinton's recent health issues make him a more sympathetic character, removing the tint of scandal and infidelity from his public perception and making him a tougher target for the G.O.P. to hammer without looking cruel. If he can help Kerry make his case to women and--especially--to black voters in the final week, he can close the deal and slam the door on Bush, something he's obviously been dying to do since the day he left office and gave a touching farewell speech at Andrews Air Force Base. (I still can't read that speech without choking up with nostalgia; it's worth a look.) In that speech, Clinton said several times, "We did a lot of good." I mean no dishonor to Clinton's legacy, but if his actions this week tip the election and send Bush back to Texas, he'll have done more good in eight days than any man could ever do in eight years as president.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pocket Full of Shells

Trading Family Values - How the old conservative/liberal stereotypes break down when it comes to parenting. By Ann Hulbert

OK, one more post before the weekend. Ann Hulbert writes about something here that I mentioned, in passing, in my excoriation of Bush a few months back: he's not a good example for children or a good example of parenting. Why is it, exactly, that the super-moral Republicans end up with First Children like the Bush twins--and W. himself, for that matter, when his dad was president--while the Democrats come up with overachievers like Chelsea Clinton and the Kerry sisters? Hulbert suggests it has to to with differences in parenting, arguing that the taskmaster parental approach of the Democratic candidates (Teresa called herself a "witch," while the Kerry daughters tell of a father who kept close tabs on their homework progress) resulted in thoughtful, well-studied adults--while the results of the Bush parenting style are apparent. An attitude--that hard work matters, and is valued, and will lead to success--was passed on to the Kerry and Heinz and Clinton children, but not to the Bush clan. This raises a good question: Do the American people believe that success falls on us randomly, that life is more grand lottery than contest of merit? Or do we, as a people, subscribe to the belief that we should push children to succeed? Hulbert suggests that the former is an easier sell than the latter:
But there's a reason the campaign goes ahead and flaunts the "when we were young and irresponsible, we were young and irresponsible" ethos that the twins displayed at the convention: It has the anti-elitist appeal the party assumes its Red state base thrives on. Filtered through a populist prism, such an attitude needn't suggest decadence; it can convey a spirit of down-home, defiant independence. After all, studiousness and parental pushiness, however virtuous, are also part of the pointy-headed approach to life. To snub TV is snobby, and adult hypervigilance can look like a lot like elitist cosseting. You can see the cultural contradictions of populism at work: Hit the books is not presumed to be what Joe Six-Pack wants to hear.
Which brings us back to yesterday's information, and to Suskind earlier in the week: this election is about a fundamental difference of opinion, but that difference is actually about facts. Those who will vote for Kerry are willing to see those facts and deal with them. Those who will vote for Bush are more interested in the fact that Jenna Bush isn't a slave to the convention of wearing your Sunday best to speak before a national television audience. Ironic, isn't it, that the religious right would find this unconventional behavior more appealing than the free-spirited Democrats? Ironic...and sad.

Let me end this second-to-last week before the election with these words: The facts are in. Say what you will about John Kerry, about his plans for the future and his record in the past. You'd have to be an absolute moron to even think about voting for Bush.

Creative Synergy

Bradley Whitford, AKA Josh Lyman of The West Wing, will be one of the panelists on Real Time With Bill Maher tonight at 10:00 (Central) on HBO. That is all--yesterday's article from Frank Rich and "dumb Republicans" study and the Suskind article from Monday should be enough to keep anyone busy.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Don't They Know? No, They Don't

The blind leading the blind

There's no way for me to comment on this study without insulting some people very close to me, so I'm just going to put it up here and you can draw your own conclusions. (I will add some boldface to help you hit the highlights...)

The blind leading the blind

Even if they don't like to say it out loud, lots of Democrats think that George Bush's supporters are a horde of ignoramuses. Now comes evidence that they're right! A remarkable new report titled "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters" from PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, suggests that rank and file Republicans are more benighted than even the most supercilious coastal elitist would imagine.

Analyzing data from a series of nationwide polls, the report finds that a majority of Bush supporters believe things about the world that are objectively untrue, while the majority of Kerry supporters dwell in the reality-based community. For example, Bush backers largely think that the president and his policies are popular internationally. Seventy-five percent believe that Iraq was providing "substantial" aid to al-Qaida, and 63 percent say clear evidence of this has been found. That, of course, would be news even to Donald Rumsfeld, who earlier this month told the Council On Foreign Relations, "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."

Though its language is dispassionate, the report lays responsibility for this epidemic of ignorance at the White House's door. "So why are Bush supporters clinging so tightly to these beliefs in the face of repeated disconfirmations?" it asks. "Apparently one key reason is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs."

Indeed, it says, "an overwhelming 82% [of Bush supporters] perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or a major WMD program (19%). Only 16% of Bush supporters perceive the administration as saying that Iraq had some limited activities, but not an active program (15%) or had nothing (1%). The pattern on al Qaeda is similar. Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters think the Bush administration is currently saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (56%) or even that it was directly involved in 9/11 (19%). Further, 55% of Bush supporters say it is their impression the Bush administration is currently saying the US has found clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda (not saying clear evidence found: 37%)."

These people aren't going to be swayed by the argument that Bush has alienated American's allies and left the country isolated in the world, because they don't believe this to be the case. "Despite a steady flow of official statements, public demonstrations, and public opinion polls showing that the US war against Iraq is quite unpopular, only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq," the study says. Bush supporters also think that world public opinion favors Bush's reelection. In a poll taken from September 3-7, the study says, "57% of Bush supporters assumed that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected, 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred."

In fact, a PIPA study released in early September found that a majority or plurality of people from 32 countries preferred Kerry to Bush. PIPA surveyed 34,330 people, ages 15 and above, from regions all over the world. A Pew poll released this spring similarly found that "large majorities in every country, except for the U.S., hold an unfavorable opinion of Bush."

Bush supporters are also mistaken about the president's own positions (a pattern of misapprehension that an earlier PIPA report also documented). "Majorities incorrectly assumed that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues -- the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%); 51% incorrectly assumed he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty -- the principal international accord on global warming... Only 13% of supporters are aware that he opposes labor and environmental standards in trade agreements -- 74% incorrectly believe that he favors including labor and environmental standards in agreements on trade. In all these cases, there is a recurring theme: majorities of Bush supporters favor these positions, and they infer that Bush favors them as well."

According to the report, this reality gap is something new in American life. "So why do Bush supporters show such a resistance to accepting dissonant information?" it asks. "While it is normal for people to show some resistance, the magnitude of the denial goes beyond the ordinary. Bush supporters have succeeded in suppressing awareness of the findings of a whole series of high-profile reports about prewar Iraq that have been blazoned across the headlines of newspapers and prompted extensive, high-profile and agonizing reflection. The fact that a large portion of Americans say they are unaware that the original reasons that the US took military action -- and for which Americans continue to die on a daily basis -- are not turning out to be valid, are probably not due to a simple failure to pay attention to the news."

The analysis says that the roots of this denial could lie in the trauma of 9/11 and people's desire to hold on to their image of Bush as a "capable protector." It offers no guidance, though, on how ordinary Republicans might be coaxed back to reality.

And while "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters" may be perversely satisfying to Democrats in its confirmation of blue-state prejudices, it carries a pretty disturbing question for all rational Americans: How can arguments based on fact prevail in a nation where so many people know so little?
Or, how can we talk seriously about fixing the real world when so many people willfully refuse to live in reality?

Wasted Week

Frank Rich: The O'Reilly Factor for Lesbians

Well, it took a whole week from the time the media became obsessed with both Mary Cheney's sexuality and Bill O'Reilly's sexual peccadilloes for Frank Rich to put the two together, but damned if it isn't dynamite. Here's a great paragraph:
When Mrs. Cheney hyperbolically implies that even using the word lesbian in 2004 is a slur out of the McCarthy era - "a cheap and tawdry political trick," she said - she is playing a similar game [to that played by Bush, who used gay-hatred as a political tool by proposing a Constitutional amendment]. She is positioning lesbian as a term comparable to child molester. But as Dave Cullen writes in Salon: "It is not an insult to call a proudly public lesbian a lesbian. It's an insult to gasp when someone calls her a lesbian." Mrs. Cheney and her surrogates are in effect doing exactly what Elizabeth Edwards had the guts to say they were doing: they are sending the message to Mr. Rove's four million [evangelicals who didn't vote in 2000] that they are ashamed of Mary Cheney. They are disowning her under the guise of "defending" her. They are exploiting her for the sake of political expediency even as they level that charge at Democrats.
And Rich recognizes the dramatic consequences that gay and lesbian issues will have for the Republican party in the very near future:
But Mary Cheney isn't the only problem for Mr. Rove as he plays this game. The Republican establishment is rife with gay people - just ask anyone in proximity to its convention in New York - and the campaign doesn't want the four million to know about them, either. But in this election season, actual outing has begun to creep onto the Internet, where the names of closeted Republican congressmen and aides who support anti-gay policies are a Google search away. Some named so far - one of whom dropped out of his re-election campaign in August - hail from districts where some of those four million live.

Sooner or later this untenable level of hypocrisy is going to lead to a civil war within the Republican party. But this hypocrisy is not just about homosexuality - it's about all sexuality, as befits a party that calls for the elimination of Roe v. Wade and the suppression of candid sex education that might prevent teenage pregnancy and AIDS alike. Should Bill O'Reilly-Andrea Mackris tapes exist, as many believe they do, we will learn graphically where the right's most popular cultural defender of G-rated values stands not only on lesbianism but also on extramarital sex, sexual tourism in Asia and masturbation -which all figure in the complainant's detailed description of her alleged conversations with her boss.
That's right; if you've been reading my site consistently, you know that the top two money men in the G.O.P. are G.A.Y. and so is the Congressman who runs the Rules Committee for the Republicans. It's sort of like if Hitler were actually a gay Jew (which some say he was) or if Joseph McCarthy were actually a communist. Eventually, it's hard to run a witch hunt if you're a witch, hard, if you're a gay Jew, to exterminate the Jewish people and all the gays without slitting your own (limp) wrists. And it's getting harder and harder to run political campaigns based on gay-bashing when the folks providing the funds, and the folks who run the party, are either gay or the parents of gay people.

Good Omens (and Bad Ones)

Of Kerry and the Sox (Keith Olbermann)

Last night's rout of the Yankees was a thing of beauty. At one point the announcer said, "I've never seen that look of desperation on Derek Jeter's face." As one who has loathed Jeter since the '90s, I took a peculiar joy in watching his winning smile transformed into a pained grimace.

It's been a good year for Massachusetts. The Patriots won the Super Bowl and haven't lost a game in a year. The Red Sox pulled off the greatest comeback in sports history, giving America four straight nights of thrilling, riveting baseball action. And John Kerry is about to become the President of the United States, right? Pundits haven't been able to resist linking Kerry with the Sox; both looked to be out of it before pulling off a series of three stunning victories. Last night the Sox won their game 7; it's hard not to believe that, less than two weeks hence, after winning three debates, Kerry will pull off his own defeat of the Evil Empire.

Meanwhile, in the world of fake politics, the premiere of The West Wing started out with an obvious reference to Bush's rush to war--Bartlet shouting that he wouldn't use an attack on Americans as an excuse to attack countries we happen not to like--and barreled downhill from there. Clumsiness and cheapness abounded. Josh and Donna's operating room encounters, while cute, were shunted away from the rest of the plot, and seemed to have been stripped down; I suspect that there are ten more minutes of footage on the cutting room floor that would have explained the sudden disappearance of Donna's paramour from Gaza and actually put Josh in the same room with Donna's mother, where she might question his willingness to fly halfway around the world to be at her side. Instead, Mr. Gaza asked what we've all been dying to ask about Josh's feelings for Donna before Josh was chosen to enter the operating room and the paramour floated into the ether.

As for the parts of the show I don't obsess over, what is the idea with Leo's character? This bout of jealousy, blown up by the fact that he was left behind for the big outing at Camp David, feels like a high school feud writ large. Are we supposed to feel bad for Leo? He's been more and more of a jerk in the last two seasons; why would we be sad to see Bartlet learning to do without him?

I'll say this for the show: It returns Bartlet to his place as paragon of virtue, taking unpopular positions when he knows he's right, and it's inspiring to see him questing after peace. Whether it will blow up in his face remains to be seen; by dumping eight straight new episodes, NBC is letting us find out sooner rather than later, a generous move that I'm betting will be followed by a two-month midseason hiatus after the obligatory Christmas episode.

The preview for the upcoming episodes does beg a few questions, though: How many times can Toby resign--and if he actually leaves the White House, will he leave the show, or work for one of the candidates? Can jealousy cause a heart attack? (What other explanation is there for the scene where Leo clutches his chest in what appears to be the woods around Camp David?) What will become of the White House plot lines within what looks like an all-out campaign season as Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits dive into the already VP-filled waters? How is Will Bailey going to handle this? Will he be pitted against Toby in the primary campaign?

Most of all, though, it begs: How can these scenes lead to a resurrected show? I'm afraid the answer to that one remains unclear.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Shark Jumping

Infamous season 6 looms for West Wing

After a long summer of waiting, The West Wing is finally back tonight!

Who am I kidding? I almost forgot about the show over the summer, and if it weren't on my calendar for tonight, I might have forgotten to watch it. In fact, I'll probably tape it so I don't miss any of the Red Sox game. Seeing them possibly achieve the greatest comeback in sports history against the evil Yankees will be far sweeter than whatever John Wells has cooked up for tonight. Sorry, NBC. Your strategy of running last year's finale right before this year's premiere isn't going to work for me. I remember last year's finale, and it wasn't very good. (So not good, in fact, that it didn't even interrupt last May's stream of consciousness style blogging about American Idol.)

I still care about the characters, but as the article above points out, there's little reason to believe that things will get better from here. Six years in, most shows are flailing. Check out the lead Linda Holmes puts on her story:
The dreaded sixth season is an awkward stage in the life of a TV drama. The show is aging. Original dynamics have played themselves out; the first round of new characters brought in to replace the first few original characters to bolt have probably already been rejected by the once faithful, now bitter fan base; the writers who wrote the Emmy-nominated pilot have moved on. Season 6 is the time to start panicking.
Start? I've been panicking since they said Rob Lowe was leaving. And when Sorkin left? Who wouldn't have panicked then? Anyhow, Holmes knows why we watch--and what we fear:
This is still a show, and particularly a cast, capable of being remarkable. When "West Wing" isn't lecturing, or being inordinately pleased with itself, or in some other way showing off, it can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, recent seasons do not offer large helpings of hope for this one.
Like I said, I'll watch tonight, but hope? I've got about as much hope for the show as Charlie has of ever actually marrying Zoe. Go ahead, Wells: Prove me wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Safire Redux

The New Republic Online: Bill Fold

Andrew Sullivan's fisking of yesterday's awful column by William Safire is almost perfect. He calls Safire to account for asserting his conjectures as facts and exposes the hypocrisy rife in both the column and in the attitude it represents. Here are a few choice passages:
The question raised was whether homosexual orientation is a choice. The most obvious argument that it isn't a choice is that many gay people would obviously be better off if they were straight. Why would they choose something that difficult if they didn't have to? This is particularly the case with people in the current Republican Party. If homosexuality is a choice, why would gay Republicans exist? Since the party is now institutionally anti-gay, it would make sense for all those who have "chosen" to be gay to "choose" to be straight. But they can't. Why? Because it isn't a choice.

And, whether she likes it or not, the most prominent gay Republican in the entire country is Mary Cheney. In fact, she's particularly poignant proof that homosexuality is not a choice. Her lesbianism is a source of acute embarrassment for the Republican Party. That's why she was pointedly absent from the family tableau at the Republican Convention. And yet she endures. And her family embraces her and her partner, Heather. What data could be more relevant in response to the question asked? Her very existence proves the Republican base wrong and bigoted. And Mary Cheney also disproves the notion that to be pro-gay is somehow to be anti-family. The opposite is the case. Being anti-gay is being anti-family. And, again, the Cheney family proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
And there's this pair of questions, which bear answering:

And if Lynne Cheney is not ashamed of her daughter's lesbianism, why did she object to the kind words about her from Kerry and Edwards? Perhaps the underlying truth is that Lynne Cheney is indeed ashamed--but not of her daughter's lesbianism. She is ashamed of the fact that she and her husband have now been exposed as hypocrites. That's a harsh word. But what other word comes to mind when the parents of a gay daughter seek to reelect a party and president intent on destroying their own daughter's civil rights?

This issue has clearly hurt John Kerry; I hope that the damage is repaired before election day. But I also hope that it opens a more realistic national conversation about the place of gays and lesbians in society. We should all feel sorry for Mary Cheney; she's in a difficult position, trying to support the father that she loves while being accused by her community of abandoning it because the man her father serves is our sworn enemy. But society should take this moment to reflect on its pity for Mary and extend it to every gay person in America whose dignity and self-worth have been damaged by the last year of vicious campaigning against us. America may deserve better than a campaign that suddenly revolves around the daughter of the vice president, whether she put herself in position for it to happen or not. Gays and lesbians certainly deserve better than to have our lives treated as a get-out-the-vote tool rather than with the same respect as anyone else's.


Flawed Electoral College poised again to mock the voters

With the national polls skewing for Bush and the swing-state polls drifting in the Kerry direction, it looks like we may get what I've been quietly fantasizing about for months: Another split decision. My fondest wish, after a Kerry landslide, is a situation where Kerry clearly wins the Electoral College--beyond the margin for Republican lawsuits and cheating to take the presidency away--while losing the popular vote by, say, two million votes. Clearly, this is possible; Kerry can squeak out 15,000 vote majorities in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio, while Bush will inevitably bask in overwhelming victories in his cadre of gun-loving, god-fearing, gay-hating states.

Why would this be fun? Well, for one thing, 15,000 vote majorities would eliminate all the recount fuss; we need a nice, tidy result that can be announced before everyone goes to bed. For another thing, it would be a fair turnabout; Republicans would find out what it feels like to be on the business end of a Constitutional anomaly. And that, it can be hoped, would lead to the elimination of the Electoral College. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, is it not?

Oh, and the runoff voting idea Burt Constable suggests in his column isn't a bad one, either. Only another messy election result will force us to change the system, though. So go out and create havoc, America! Our democracy depends on it.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Must Read

Without a Doubt

If you only read one more article about the upcoming election, make it the one linked above. More than any other article I've ever read, it explains the thought process behind the way Bush runs the country. I want to pull out about a dozen quotes, probably more, but you'll just have to read it for yourself. Seriously. It's that damn good. And that scary.

American Idiot

The Lowest Blow

Yes, that's what I'm calling William Safire today. Read his column and you'll understand. He asserts as fact the notion that John Kerry's invocation of Mary Cheney was intentional and part of a Democratic strategy to peel away bigots--excuse me, the religious right--from their VP candidate on the grounds that he tolerates the existence of homosexuality in his family. Nowhere in his column does Safire even consider the possibility that Kerry's words came naturally to him, that rather than reaching for a shiv, he was reacting as a father to the notion of parental love the Cheneys have displayed by accepting their daughter despite party orthodoxy. Instead, Safire imputes to Kerry the vilest political motives and offers him, by way of redemption, the option of apologizing to the Cheneys for his cruelty and thereby "asserting his essential decency."

Safire, heal thyself. The indecent one is you, the impropriety that of you and every other Republican who allows this issue to be used as a wedge between voters and those who would best represent their interests. To sell out one's own family for political gain is surely a greater sin than providing the American people, circuitously, with the information needed to judge that sale. To call the "angry father" a saint and the "cheap and tawdry" trickster the sinner is a transgression far greater than either, for it is Safire, even more than either candidate, who leads the body public astray on this "issue." Should there be a hell awaiting the unjust at our end, surely there will be a special circle for him.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Rally Round the Family

Rally sparks local gay marriage debate

Well, we outnumbered them. Concerned Women for America's bus tour attracted about 60 people yesterday, according to the estimate in the Daily Herald article--and that seems a bit high, actually--despite the fact that Alan Keyes spoke. Yes, I saw Alan Keyes. He really can just talk and talk and talk without saying anything meaningful. And yes, one protester did have a sign that read, "Do you hate your daughter, Mr. Keyes?"

Unfortunately, a lot of small children were among the 60 participants. Do you think they understood why they were holding up "Protect Marriage Now" signs and listening to angry men and women shout about unnatural sex and a life "haunted by the possibility of a child" while the wind chill dipped below 30 degrees?

Anyhow, despite the cold, at least 100 people turned out in response to the call I posted on Friday, though none of them came as a result of my posting it. The Elmhurst College kids, expecting no one from off their campus to pay attention to their invitation, were stunned when people with signs started showing up, and their well-laid, dean-endorsed plans were quickly reconsidered; rather than staging a silent protest well out of earshot of the anti-gay rally, most of us who weren't affiliated with the school got right up next to the small, freezing band of bigots and shouted slogans as they railed against us for destroying their civilization for 90 minutes. I've learned many new rhymes, including:
  • Gay, straight, black, white: Equal marriage is our right!
  • Gays and lesbians under attack. What do we do? Fight back!
  • Do not teach your children hate!
  • Racist, sexist, anti-gay: Born-again bigots, go away!
  • Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia's got to go!
I'd already heard that last one on Queer as Folk, so I felt right at home. My personal favorite though, was the one I came up with when, as the rally ended, one of the CWA women got down on her knees about 15 feet from our line of sign-holding protesters and started to pray. I turned to the person next to me and said, "Pray, pray, pray, pray: All of us will still be gay!" Seconds later, a chorus of 50 was chanting my message. Quite a thrilling little moment for me.

I wish I had pictures of the event to share with you; you could see the sign I spent seven hours making Friday night and Saturday morning. It's re-usable! The base of wood and foam board is permanent, with posterboards carrying messages attached to the core using rubber cement so they hold strong during a protest but peel right off when I want to replace them. Yesterday's messages? "'Freedom means freedom for everyone' --Dick Cheney" and "Judge not lest ye be judged." Anyhow, there were many photographers there, so if I see a picture of the event online I'll post it. And if you see a picture of me, please let me know!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Mary's Back

Kerry Didn't Gay-Bait - He used Mary Cheney to shame Bush for gay-baiting

Timothy Noah eloquently makes the point that needs to be passed around the media and turned into the consensus opinion on this whole gay Cheney row before it consumes the election. Here's the end of the article:
As it happens, the genetic nature of homosexuality was the very subject Kerry was discussing when he brought up Mary Cheney. Both candidates had been asked, "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?" Bush had said he didn't know, and then, after some vague words about tolerance and dignity, affirmed his support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Then Kerry spoke:

We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.

I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it.

And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.

I think we have to respect that.

I won't dispute that Kerry was using Mary Cheney to score a political point. But the political point was an entirely legitimate one, aimed, I believe, not at fundamentalists but at swing voters with libertarian leanings. Listen, Kerry was saying. This guy knows gay people, just like you and I do. So he must know that homosexuality isn't a "lifestyle choice." He must know that, and yet he pretends not to know it to score points with the religious right. How cynical can you get? And then he lends his support to a cockamamie Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that even his right-wing-nut of a vice president can't stomach because his own daughter is gay. But even Cheney won't really speak out against this administration's exploitation of the gay-marriage issue to score cheap political points. Some father he is.

We can argue about whether Kerry's posture of moral superiority on this issue is entirely earned. After all, he, too, claims to oppose gay marriage (because "marriage is between a man and a woman," an argument whose essence is "because I say so"). But Kerry's record is more tolerant than his campaign rhetoric suggests, and even his campaign rhetoric is more tolerant than Bush's. Kerry wants to make that a reason for swing voters who deplore bigotry to vote for him. I think that's what made Lynne Cheney spitting mad--she resents the implication that the Bush-Cheney campaign sold out her own gay daughter. But you know what? It did. And you know what else? The evidence that Kerry would treat gays with greater tolerance than Bush is a pretty good reason to vote for Kerry.
The emphasis, as usual, is mine. And that's the point I've been trying to make all along, to anyone I know who might be wavering. Kerry is the better choice for dozens of reasons, but if you care at all about this one, I hope you'll give him your vote.

Marching Orders

What are you doing this weekend? I'll be joining these folks to make it clear that sane people won't keep quiet when fringe groups attempt to demonize gays and lesbians. I hope you'll join me.

As co-presidents of Elmhurst College's LGBT/Straight Alliance, S.A.G.E, we lead a growing community of LGBTQQIA individuals on our small campus. Our organization has recently challenged many aspects and ideals of our college, and continues to make a difference in our community. Unfortunately, that community is about to be invaded.

About two weeks ago, our campus was approached by a representative of the Concerned Women of America (CWA), an ultra-conservative Christian women's group, with promotion of the "traditional" marriage on their agenda. This representative stressed her concern pertaining to the college's policy of "allowing homosexuality to exist" on our traditionally Christian campus. And then requested permission to hold a "protection of marriage" rally on our campus. Much to our relief our college chaplain, a LGBT ally, denied her this request.

A few days later, it was brought to our attention via numerous flyers and posters hanging in public forums of the campus that the CWA would indeed be holding their "protection of marriage" rally, directly across the street from our college's entrance.

The CWA suggests that homosexuality is not only wrong, but also dangerous, and promotes hate in the guise of "good Christian morals." Their flyers speak of saving marriage by not redefining it to include same-sex couples.

We are a small group of LGBTQQIA individuals, existing on a small campus. A rally challenging everything we stand for, and are fighting for, will be hosted in our front yard this weekend, to show our community how "wrong" our ideals of family, love, and freedom are in their eyes.

It is imperative that the LGBTQQIA community has a strong presence at an event such as this, to protest this invasion of our ideals, and our college cannot do it alone.

S.A.G.E. is asking for help in making this presence felt. Please join us in protecting and promoting freedom and our right to love and marry whomever our heart tells us to.

Our protest is not aimed at creating an environment of hate, but simply to make our presence known in a peaceful manner, and to let the CWA and our community know that the LGBTQQIA community is thriving throughout our world, despite what they may think.

Local media will most likely be covering the event, which makes it even more important that our message is heard.

The rally/protest will be held on Saturday, October 16th at 5pm.

We understand that notice is short, but if any or all of your organization, friends, partners or family could attend, the protest of the CWA's anti-same-sex marriage rally would be strongly felt.

S.A.G.E. and its allies will be gathering on the EC college mall, at 4pm in order to organize before the 5pm rally, held in Wilder Park.

We are located at 190 Prospect Ave, Elmhurst IL, 60126. The CWA rally/protest will be held in Wilder Park, located at 175 Prospect Ave in Elmhurst, directly across from the official
entrance to the college.

Elmhurst College is easily accessible via the Union Pacific West Metra line, for $5 round trip (departing at Olgivie Transportation Center), Interstate 290, and Route 83/Kingery Highway. Parking is free, and a guide will be waiting at the station to direct groups to the campus, located a block away.

Please let us know if your group can attend the protest, and feel free to contact us with any questions, ideas, and comments.

Thank you for your support,

S.A.G.E. and its Co-Presidents,

M. Allen and K. Kozinski
In case you're wondering, LGBTQQIA stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersexed and allied." So whether you're one of the first seven letters, or whether you're the friend or family member of someone who is--and if you're reading this, you're probably that last one--it would be great to see you on Saturday.

Apocalypse Now

Reuters Poll: Bush Opens Four-Point Lead on Kerry

So this is how it's gonna be, America? John Kerry walks all over George W. Bush for three debates, the news about Iraq and the economy is terrible, and with two weeks left Bush is up by four? I'm hoping this result is only an indication of the fact that lots of Democrats go out on Thursday night to celebrate the impending end of the work week, or couldn't be troubled to answer their phones while watching Will & Grace. How else could Kerry lose enough ground in a third of the tracking poll to boost Bush by two and drop Kerry by one? For Bush's advantage to grow three points in one day, his lead on Thursday would have to be nine points better than it was on Monday, wouldn't it? I just don't believe that a sample of American opinion last night would show Bush up 51-42.

Oh well. Polls 18 days out are meaningless, right? If it looks like this ten days from now, though, I'll start to panic.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Both Sides Now

Well, Lynne Cheney's displeasure with John Kerry is highlighted somewhere on every news site on the Web. Again--what is her problem? Andrew Sullivan's response, linked above, cuts to the heart of the matter. Here is almost the entire post, because just one good quote wouldn't do this important argument justice:
The only way you can believe that citing Mary Cheney amounts to "victimization" is if you believe someone's sexual orientation is something shameful. Well, it isn't. What's revealing is that this truly does expose the homophobia of so many - even in the mildest "we'll-tolerate-you-but-shut-up-and-don't-complain" form. Mickey Kaus, for his part, cannot see any reason for Kerry to mention Mary except as some Machiavellian scheme to pander to bigots. Again: huh? Couldn't it just be that Kerry thinks of gay people as human beings like straight people - and mentioning their lives is not something we should shrink from? Isn't that the simplest interpretation? In many speeches on marriage rights, I cite Mary Cheney. Why? Because it exposes the rank hypocrisy of people like president Bush and Dick and Lynne Cheney who don't believe gays are anti-family demons but want to win the votes of people who do. I'm not outing any gay person. I'm outing the double standards of straight ones. They've had it every which way for decades, when gay people were invisible. Now they have to choose.

DOUBLE STANDARDS: Let me give you an example of the double standards here. I remember once being driven around by a charming woman on a stop on a book tour. We talked about my book, and she averred, after chatting all day, that she had nothing against gay people, she just wished they wouldn't "bring it up" all the time. I responded: "But you've been talking about your heterosexuality ever since I got in the car." She said: "I haven't. I've never once discussed sex." My response: "Within two minutes, you mentioned your children and your husband. You talked about your son's work at high school. You mentioned your husband's line of work. And on and on. You wear your heterosexuality on your sleeve all the time. And that's fine. But if I so much as mention the fact that I'm gay, I'm told it's all I care about, and that I should pipe down. Don't you see the double standard?" Candidates mention their families all the time. An entire question last night was devoted to the relationship between men and their wives and daughters. Mentioning Mary Cheney is no more and no less offensive than that. What is offensive is denying gay couples equal rights in the constitution itself. Why don't conservatives get exercized about that?
Sullivan's sense of being betrayed by his own people is evident here, but his argument is a strong one. The Bush campaign's efforts to turn this against Kerry show just how desperate they are. They fear that Kerry's comment will (a) peel away voters for whom gay rights are a marginally important issue as they realize how hypocritical the administration is, and (b) drive foaming-at-the-mouth gay-haters to stay home when they realize that one candidate likes gays and the other has a veep with a gay daughter. Bigots really are between a rock and a hard place in this election...[UPDATE: Lest there be any confusion, that last statement was sarcasm. Bigots should vote for Bush, of course...]

This Ends Here

Will 'The West Wing' go Republican?

Are these producers crazy? Let's see: The West Wing has gone from being a critical darling with a huge, rich audience to being a critical whipping boy with a much smaller (but still rich) audience. Rather than thinking of creative ways to bring down the curtain on the series when it reaches a natural moment of closure in January 2006--the end of President Bartlet's term--John Wells is looking for ways to keep the series going with a different group of leads. I'm trying to see the logic behind this, but thus far it fails me. Has John Wells looked at the trajectory of his other series, ER? With the original cast, it was a popular and critically-praised series, but as the cast has changed and the plots have become more ridiculous, the audience and the praise have dried up. Why would this series be any different?

Whatever the producers decide to do with the series as a vehicle, they owe it to those of us who have followed the current administration to provide a sense of closure for these characters before they launch into something new. Josh, Donna, C.J., and Toby need to have their fates resolved in a tidy way that allows them to leave the show if a Republican administration takes over next January. Because, whatever John Wells may have in mind, this show ends for me when Bartlet's term does. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

Done Deal

Grand Slam - Kerry crushes Bush in the third debate

After last night, can anyone still seriously question which candidate is more qualified to be president? Bush, with the advantage of four years as the president under his belt, still managed to look and sound far less presidential than the man vying to replace him. And this isn't just me talking: every post-debate poll shows a Kerry victory, and those who scored it round-by-round, like Keith Olbermann, saw a decisive Kerry win as well.

This is probably because Kerry did what he needed to do last night. He hammered away at the themes he and his campaign judge to be their most effective onroads against Bush--his record on health care, the economy, and Iraq--while making almost transparent appeals to the women and minorities whose support he needs in order to overcome the Bubba vote guaranteed to accrue to Bush no matter what either candidate says or does.

Kerry quietly made a lot of points for a lot of audiences tonight. For the religious, he reminded them that they're called to love their neighbors, and showed that he's ready to call them on this, saying, "Frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet." For those concerned with the right to choose, he promised what Bush could not:
I‘ll answer it straight to America. I‘m not going to appoint a judge to the Court who‘s going to undo a constitutional right, whether it‘s the First Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment, or some other right that‘s given under our courts today—under the Constitution. And I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right.

So I don‘t intend to see it undone.

Clearly, the president wants to leave an ambivalence or intends to undo it.
For those who seek strength in a president--and isn't that everyone?--he subtly called Bush a wimp for failing to push Congress into extending the ban on assault weapons, following up his experience as a hunter and a prosecutor and the personal story of an officer faced with an AK-47 with this:
If Tom DeLay or someone in the House said to me, "Sorry, we don‘t have the votes,” I‘d have said, “Then we‘re going to have a fight."

And I‘d have taken it out to the country and I‘d have had every law enforcement officer in the country visit those congressmen. We‘d have won what Bill Clinton won.
Reminiscent of Michael Douglas in American President, isn't it?

Meanwhile, Bush apparently thinks anyone who isn't already rich is too stupid to have a job. Every time he got a question about jobs, he immediately pivoted to job training. That's right, America: You're too expensive to do the jobs you have now and too dumb to do any job that might pay you well enough to support yourself and your family. Let's all go to community college! Forget about honoring the dignity of work by curbing the cruelty of capitalism and enforcing fair labor standards like a meaningful minimum wage, or aiming to ensure that anyone who works full-time makes enough to support a family. Let's send everyone to school! That'll make for more of the precious family time that the family-values candidate ought to support, right? And while we're at it, let's force these poor working schlubs to also: (a) make their own way through the minefields of the health care system, trying to evaluate the real value of services about which they have no understanding; and (b) force people to figure out for themselves how they should get maximum return on their Social Security investment, which is supposed to be the minimum that any retiree will have available to them. Between constant job training and the eternal quest for better rates, will people have any time at all to think about anything but work and survival?

I GET IT! That's the whole idea: If the poor and the middle class are completely caught up in the struggle to survive, they won't have time to realize who's screwing them and do something about it. Grand plan, Republicans.

Of course, distraction is their game. Lynne Cheney had a little flip-out last night because Kerry had the gall to bring up her gay daughter while discussing whether homosexuality is a choice. But Dick Cheney has discussed this--you've got an openly gay daughter, and you're proud of her. Lynne, are you ashamed of something? Are you afraid that the kind of people likely to vote for your husband might not look kindly on your gay daughter? Maybe, in that case, you should reevaluate your support for the president rather than turning on the man who wants to give your daughter equality under the law--unless you're not really as proud of her as you claim to be? If Kerry's remark happens to peel away supporters of the Republicans, or keeps evangelicals at home on November 2nd, it serves them right for being hypocritical on this issue. Kerry isn't perfect, but he's light years ahead of Bush, who said last night that we should treat everyone with respect and dignity, but still can't bring himself to use the words "gay" or "lesbian." You'd clearly like to pretend I don't exist, Mr. President. If that's your idea of respect and dignity, here's mine: Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hide and Seek

A lot of pundits seem to think that Bush's efforts tonight will involve trying to pin Kerry with another catchphrase. Could it be the "You can run but you can't hide" thing he test-drove in St. Louis? I sure hope so.

Here's why: It comes with a ready-made rebuttal. George Bush has spent this entire campaign running from his record, but he can't hide reality from the American people. He went to war recklessly and with no plan for victory. (Indeed, he portrayed victory as the problem in the last debate, complaining that the American forces won too quickly.) The floundering economy is so bad that the numbers don't tell the story anymore--because thousands of people have given up hope and stopped looking for work, thus removing themselves from the unemployment stats that Bush will no doubt tout tonight. And the tax cuts that have been the Bush solution for every problem that ails us have instead ruined our financial footing and threatened the stability of programs like Medicare and Social Security. That's the Bush record: A messy and needless war, an economy that makes ordinary Americans give up, and fiscal irresponsibility that puts the future of today's taxpayers and their children in danger. Bush can try to run from it, but Kerry must not let him hide.

Credible Threat

Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected

Finally, a terror alert I can trust! The Onion transmogrifies Cheney's comments about the danger of electing John Kerry into him threatening to attack the nation himself if he doesn't win in November--and the result is priceless. How about this closing gem?
"I urge all Americans to remain calm in the face of this new threat," Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said. "Rest assured that, once elected, John Kerry has a plan to contend with any threat against our nation, whether from rogue nations, terrorists, or former vice presidents."

"Should John Kerry be elected, he and I will work with, not against, the international community," Edwards added. "I have no doubt that we would be able to assemble a coalition of nations more than willing to aid us in the war against Dick Cheney."
Yeah, I bet even the French would be part of that mighty coalition. "Willing" wouldn't begin to describe the level of international enthusiasm.

Comparison Shopping

Sutton Impact by Ward Sutton

For all you undecideds out there, here's a quick way to decide who you should vote for in the upcoming election, with thanks to the Village Voice:

Click above if there's no image here

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Cell Phone Users Not in Election Polls

Wondering why you're never called for any of the dozens of polls that are published every week? It would seem that the law of averages would mean that they'd call eventually, right?

Well, not if you're a cellular-only person. Those of us who have opted out of paying for a land line--because when you have unlimited nights and weekends and free long distance, do you really need a home phone?--simply aren't a part of the polls. Pollsters say it doesn't matter because we're not likely to vote anyhow. Here's hoping those of us who are living in the brave new world surprise the pollsters and help elect a brave new president.

Liberal Bias B.S.

Checking the Facts, in Advance

The first part of Paul Krugman's column today does something that needed to be done long ago: It catalogs the lies Bush continues to tell during his stump speech and during the debates. But since all evidence I have indicates that I'm preaching to the choir about that, I'll instead point out that Krugman says something more important at the close of his column:
By singling out Mr. Bush's lies and misrepresentations, am I saying that Mr. Kerry isn't equally at fault? Yes.

Mr. Kerry sometimes uses verbal shorthand that offers nitpickers things to complain about. He talks of 1.6 million lost jobs; that's the private-sector loss, partly offset by increased government employment. But the job record is indeed awful. He talks of the $200 billion cost of the Iraq war; actual spending is only $120 billion so far. But nobody doubts that the war will cost at least another $80 billion. The point is that Mr. Kerry can, at most, be accused of using loose language; the thrust of his statements is correct.

Mr. Bush's statements, on the other hand, are fundamentally dishonest. He is insisting that black is white, and that failure is success. Journalists who play it safe by spending equal time exposing his lies and parsing Mr. Kerry's choice of words are betraying their readers.
The emphasis is mine.

This is exactly what the major media outlets need to hear three weeks out from the election--and they need to hear it not just from Krugman but from anyone with a voice loud enough to be heard. Our democracy cannot survive if the media fails in its responsibility to help the public learn and understand the truth. By passing along Bush's prevarications without comment, or by trying, after a debate, to "truth squad" an equal number of slips by each candidate, journalists are letting Bush get away with mass deception.

I think they do it because they're afraid of being called biased in favor of liberals. Isn't it worse to aid and abet those you dislike in an effort to appear "fair and balanced"--especially when those whose opinions are on the other end of the scale claim that moniker but not the behavior that should go with it? If the media could drag out the "Gore stretches the truth" story in 2000 based on a misquote about inventing the Internet, it can certainly run with a "Bush can't tell the truth" story in 2004 based on the fact that, well, he really can't tell the truth. That kind of journalism would do the public more good than these ass-covering truth squads they've run after the debates to appear impartial. Honest reporting is impartial. They should try it.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I Approve This Message

The Return of the King - Burger King is resurrecting a dubious icon. Why?

If you watch TV at all, you've no doubt seen the new Burger King breakfast ad by now. Just click above and marvel at how well Seth Stevenson captures everything in the ad and how well it works until the last moment, when the discomfort between the King and the recipient of his breakfast sandwich turns the mood of an otherwise funny spot to one that's awkward and, according to Stevenson, a bit homophobic. Since I don't eat fast-food breakfasts anyhow, and haven't had Burger King in about a year, I suppose my disapproval doesn't hurt them. But disapprove I do, despite an otherwise enjoyable ad. The ridiculous smile on the King mask cracks me up, as does the man's eagerness to bite into a heart attack in a paper sleeve moments after awakening.

Speaking of disapproval, Bush's numbers continue to go south. The Zogby poll, which had the numbers right in 2000, shows Bush down 47-44, with the most recent day in the tracking poll being the worst for Bush. If that keeps up for a few more days, Kerry's lead could move outside the margin of error. That would change the way the press views the race for the better: A "Bush is desperate" storyline will make everything he does look cynical and mean, which is probably the best chance Kerry has of preventing new campaign lies from gaining traction with the American people during the coming bitter weeks.

Meanwhile, the Tribune has started making its endorsements, leading off with a scathing critique of Phil Crane as it endorses Melissa Bean for Illinois' 8th District. The chances that Crane is about to be involuntarily retired from Congress have increased dramatically.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Warning Signs

Open Letter to President

The letter that follows is signed by what seems like half the faculty at Harvard and many other prestigious universities. I hope to see it printed on every editorial page in the country between now and Election Day. People need to understand the consequences of Bush's actions.
Dear Mr. President:
As professors of economics and business, we are concerned that U.S. economic policy has taken a dangerous turn under your stewardship. Nearly every major economic indicator has deteriorated since you took office in January 2001. Real GDP growth during your term is the lowest of any presidential term in recent memory. Total non-farm employment has contracted and the unemployment rate has increased. Bankruptcies are up sharply, as is our dependence on foreign capital to finance an exploding current account deficit. All three major stock indexes are lower now than at the time of your inauguration. The percentage of Americans in poverty has increased, real median income has declined, and income inequality has grown.

The data make clear that your policy of slashing taxes – primarily for those at the upper reaches of the income distribution – has not worked. The fiscal reversal that has taken place under your leadership is so extreme that it would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. The federal budget surplus of over $200 billion that we enjoyed in the year 2000 has disappeared, and we are now facing a massive annual deficit of over $400 billion. In fact, if transfers from the Social Security trust fund are excluded, the federal deficit is even worse – well in excess of a half a trillion dollars this year alone. Although some members of your administration have suggested that the mountain of new debt accumulated on your watch is mainly the consequence of 9-11 and the war on terror, budget experts know that this is simply false. Your economic policies have played a significant role in driving this fiscal collapse. And the economic proposals you have suggested for a potential second term – from diverting Social Security contributions into private accounts to making the recent tax cuts permanent – only promise to exacerbate the crisis by further narrowing the federal revenue base.

These sorts of deficits crowd out private investment and are politically addictive. They also place a heavy burden on monetary policy – and create additional pressure for higher interest rates – by stoking inflationary expectations. If your economic advisers are telling you that these deficits can be defeated through further reductions in tax rates, then you need new advisers. More robust economic growth could certainly help, but nearly every one of your administration’s economic forecasts – both before and after 9-11 – has proved overly optimistic. Expenditure cuts could be part of the answer, but your record so far has been one of increasing expenditures, not reducing them.

What is called for, we believe, is a dramatic reorientation of fiscal policy, including substantial reversals of your tax policy. Running a budget deficit in response to a short bout of recession is one thing. But running large structural deficits over a long period is something else entirely. We therefore urge you to consider the fiscal realities we now face and the substantial burden they are placing on our economy.

We also urge you to consider the distributional consequences of your policies. Under your administration, the income gap between the most affluent Americans and everyone else has widened. Although the latest data reveal that real household incomes have dropped across the board since you took office, low and middle income households have experienced steeper declines than upper income households. To be sure, the general phenomenon of mounting inequality preceded your administration, but it has continued (and, by some accounts, intensified) over the past three and a half years.

Some degree of inequality is inherent in any free market economy, creating positive incentives for economic and technological advancement. But when inequality becomes extreme, it can be socially corrosive and economically dysfunctional. Problems of this sort are visible throughout much of the developing world. At the moment, the most commonly accepted measure of inequality – the so-called Gini coefficient – is far higher in the United States than in any other developed country and is continuing to move upward. We don’t know where the breakpoint is for the U.S., but we would rather not find out. With all due respect, we believe your tax policy has exacerbated the problem of inequality in the United States, which has worrisome implications for the economy as a whole. We very much hope you will take this threat to our nation into account as you consider new fiscal approaches to address the nation’s most pressing economic problems.

Sensible and farsighted economic management requires true discipline, compassion, and courage – not just slogans. Given the tenuous state of the American economy, we believe that the time for an honest assessment of the problem and for genuine corrective action is now. Ignoring the fiscal crisis that has taken hold during your presidency may seem politically appealing in the short run, but we fear it could ultimately prove disastrous. From a policy standpoint, the clear message is that more of the same won’t work. The warning signs are already visible, and it is incumbent upon all of us to pay attention.

They're Back...

Satire Sequel Parodies U.S. Newsmakers

Remember the JibJab video "This Land" from this summer, in which George W. Bush and John Kerry sang to one another about how crazy each thought the other to be? Tonight on Leno, and thereafter on the internet, the folks who created that video will have another one out, called "Good To Be in DC!" It reportedly includes appearances by Rush Limbaugh, Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, and Dan Rather. Should be interesting. I'll update with a link when it becomes available, though I'm guessing if you click on this on Friday you'll be there.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Lines and Lies

Meeting Was Not First for Cheney, Edwards

The headline above makes it sound like they're having an illicit affair, doesn't it?

It may seem like a small point to most, but I thought Dick Cheney's claim never to have met John Edwards before last night's debate was the unkindest cut he gave during the 98-minute debacle. It makes me happy to see stuff like this:
Nice to meet you, Senator!
Other than that moment, I thought this debate was a bit boring; the format was like a small dose of Valium, and Cheney's low rumble was at times more like white noise than coherent conversation. If I hadn't been making soup concurrent to the debate, I might have fallen asleep.

I did enjoy the exchange on same-sex marriage, if only because it showed how confused both of these men are about the topic. The Kerry-Edwards ticket is tiptoeing around it, hoping to avoid the subject until Election Day and praying that gays turn out based on their "We're better than Satan--I mean, Bush" platform regarding our rights. And Cheney just doesn't know what to do. It's a state issue, freedom should be for everyone, and he supports the president. That's not flip-flopping: Cheney actually took every side of the debate at once last night. Bravo, Mr. Cheney. At least you had Mary's back a third of the time.

Cheney does win points for knowing how to escape a tricky topic; his response to John Edwards's long, tortured, Mary Cheney-invoking answer to Gwen Ifill's second marriage question--a rather cruel "Aren't you trying to have it both ways?"--was "Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much." Edwards gave him a get-out-of-jail-free card, Cheney knew it, and he used it. He's trying to have it about three different ways on this topic and he didn't have to explain how he reconciles his divergent thoughts on the matter within his family or in his heart.

I think Edwards achieved what he had to in this debate. There was no knockout blow, but he stood up in the face of withering criticism from the Bush administration's better half and looked competent for the VP job. He talked about issues that matter to voters and looked friendly doing it. Cheney took quite a bit of poetic license with the truth, which helped last night but is catching up to him now, when voters who didn't watch will hear about it. Kerry still has the momentum going to St. Louis on Friday. If he can carry it through there, he and Teresa can start thinking about who they'd like to invite to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Have a Seat

Edwards' Table Manners - How much advantage will Cheney gain from the debate format?

As I steel myself for tonight's VP debate, I find the article above very interesting. Chris Suellentrop, who's been following the candidates for months, talks about what a private man John Edwards tends to be off the stump, and how he is the master of the stage but not the screen. How he does tonight will depend in large measure on whether he can overcome his TV problem. Can Edwards display the energy and passion we all came to love during the primaries when he's trapped in a chair at a table?

Maybe he doesn't need to. Maybe his winning smile is enough to make him look nicer than Cheney, and he needs to win this debate instead on the merits. Cheney is more experienced, yes, but what has that experience gotten the United States but trouble? If Edwards can comport himself with dignity tonight and avoid the Lieberman syndrome, he can keep the momentum on our side heading into Friday's town hall meeting.

Four weeks left. Thank goodness.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Don't Forget Poland!

Poland may pull troops out of Iraq

And "may" is a pretty weak word for it. Looks more like Poland "will" pull out all of its troops. All 2,500! By the way, that's the fourth-most troops of any nation. And, given another year of the way things have been going, it's a number toward which our own national casualty number is swiftly racing.

Hey, George. Don't forget Poland? Don't forget that your "coalition" is made-up.

Springfield is a Foreign Capital

The Global Test - It's called reality

William Saletan really nails Bush this morning. His campaign is trying to make hay with John Kerry's comment that he'd make sure a war passed the global test by pretending that Kerry means he'd offer veto power over foreign policy to the French. But that's clearly not what he meant, and Saletan gets what Bush is really trying to achieve. Kerry's suggestion of a global test means that when you go to war, it should be for reasons that others can see; that applies whether those others are in France or in Ohio. America should be able to make its case compellingly to whomever might want to understand our rationale. We're going to war, after all; shouldn't there be some justification for doing so?

No, according to Bush. Here's Saletan:
Listen to Bush's words again. "The president's job is not to take an international poll," he says. "Our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals." Bush doesn't say these decisions belong to the United States. He says they belong to the Oval Office. He frames this as patriotism, boasting that he doesn't care whether he offers evidence sufficient to convince people in France. He shows no awareness or concern that evidence is also necessary to convince people in Ohio. He says it isn't his job to take a "poll," to hear what others think. He needs no validation.
Well, ain't that the truth? In fact, it's so good you should read the next two stanzas of Saletan's poem:
Bush pretends he's just blowing off the French. But his comments show a pattern of blowing off external feedback in general. He shrugs off information that debunks his claims about WMD, arguing that it's more important for a president to understand the overall nature of the world. He defines credibility as agreement with himself. He reinterprets evidence of policy mistakes in postwar Iraq as evidence of success. In Thursday's debate, he dismissed unwelcome reports from that country as too offensive to heed. And according to Sunday's New York Times, he and his aides exaggerated Iraq's nuclear capability, ignoring warnings from "the government's foremost nuclear experts."

Bush claims he has done all this to protect you. But that claim is precisely what's challenged by the evidence he conceals or disregards. What he's protecting you from is the ability to measure his assertions against the world that you and I can see. That's the global test he's mocking. And he expects you to applaud him for it, because he thinks you resent the French so much you'd rather have a president accountable to no one.
Considering all of this, it's hard to believe that we were all worried about how Kerry would do in a debate on foreign policy. America is waking up, folks. (And by folks, I don't mean a group of terrorists. Only Bush would use such a word in such a way.) The most recent two polls show Kerry up or tied. Expect tonight's ABC poll to put him on top as well. And start thinking about the fact that three months from now, the Bushes might be packing their stuff for a long trip back to Texas.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Rapid Response

About Richard Nelson

A week and a half ago I proposed a goal of reaching Amazon's top 10,000 as a reviewer by the end of the year as part of my ongoing quest to reach the top 1000 eventually. Today I'm happy to report that I'm nearly three months early. With 54 reviews and 227 helpful votes, I've cracked the top 10,000 at 9,864. If you're interested in seeing how I got there, might I recommend my review of Elephant? It's definitely some of my best work.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Dying Wish

Wis. Man Endorses Kerry in Wife's Obit

Come on, people, get out there and fulfill my wife's dying wish! That seems to be the logic behind a Wisconsin's man's choice to announce his late wife's endorsement of John Kerry and her outrage at Bush. Something tells me she's not the only person to die hoping Bush loses this election...

Woo Hoo!

Giddy Democrats Celebrate Kerry

The headline for the linked article sums it up, doesn't it? Democrats who have spent the last month resigning ourselves to the notion of four more years of hell had reason to cheer last night.

As someone who has watched just about every presidential debate ever televised, whether in real time or on CSPAN as a retrospective, I have to say that Kerry will now win the election. This sounds insane--one debate and you know who will win?--but bear with me. In every debate, the man who looks more confident, who doesn't get rattled, and who projects a belief in himself ends up winning the election. And no matter what you think of the substance of their answers, there can be no question about who won the style points last night--and we all know which counts more, right? Kerry didn't sound petulant, or angry, or confused; he didn't look annoyed, or disinterested, or flustered. Bush did. The split screen revealed a man incapable of listening to criticism, while the full 90-minute encounter revealed a man of few ideas who, once his talking points were exhausted, frequently stammered and yammered without saying anything. Kerry, who often seems to prattle on about nothing, last night filled his allotted time with statements that were focused, on point, and comprehensible. He explained his positions, defused some of the criticisms he has faced, and did it all while looking like he belonged on stage. He looked like a man with a vision for a better America, and he used the word "better," as in "I can do better" or "We can do better," several times.

No one who has had that sort of stylistic success in a debate has lost the election that followed. If Kerry can repeat this performance, look for some real shifts in the numbers. Pundits have been quietly saying for months that swing voters usually break big for one candidate or the other and do so in the last month of the election. If this is how that month starts, which way do you think they're likely to break? I'm feeling a lot more optimistic on this day, a month from Election Day, that they're about to break my way.