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Archive for October, 2006

Fair is Fair

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Last night, or rather early this morning, I promised to post something about what makes for fair campaign ads and rhetoric. Here are my new rules (apologies to BM of HBO):

1. Don’t make shit up. If somebody voted for or against authorizing the invasion of Iraq, it’s fair to point that out. It is not fair to pretend that a procedural vote against a sub amendment to an amendment is a vote to raise taxes or to kill babies or to poison farm workers. If your opponent is corrupt, have at it, but there should be a conviction or at least an indictment to support your accusation.
2. Even if you didn’t make shit up, you have to use relevant shit. Even if Harold Ford did go to the Playboy party, who gives a rusty ding dong? Even if you know you’re opponent is gay, what does that have to do with anything? Messy divorces may be relevant as this may go to character. Consider on a case by case basis.
3. Say it out loud and in public or don’t say it at all. No push polls, robo calls or whisper campaigns. Why not? Because it is too easy use these methods to spread lies. In fact, why would a campaign use these tactics to spread real information? They wouldn’t.

Hmmm. I think that’s it. If i think of anything else I’ll post it,  but see how simple it is to run a clean campaign? And why would we want to do that? Because dirty campiagns weaken the community to which we all belong, that’s why.

Which of the leading industrialized countries has the dirtiest politics? Arguably, the United States. Which of the leading industrialized countries has the lowest voter turnout rates? Same answer.

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October 31st, 2006 at 8:49 pm

The Goon Show

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Presenting three data points. If we connect the dots will we see a picture of a doggy?

  1. Stephanie Miller appears on Hannity and Colmes and receives a threatening letter from a fan. This is a couple of weeks old, but I just became aware of it this evening (thanks to Steve Gilliard).
  2. A constituent of Senator George Allen asks him a question in a public place and is physically assaulted by some of Allen’s “handlers”.
  3. Representative Marilyn Musgrave covers a blogger’s video camera because she doesn’t like the questions he is trying to pose.

I’m tempted to say that each of these is a response to the right’s sudden unpopularity and the frustration they feel with the apparent electoral disaster about to engulf them. Yup, that’s what it is. But there is a bizarre world view ono displaty here as well, and attention must be paid.
Some time ago, I wrote on this blog about violent rhetoric and behavior on the part of U.S. right wingers and wondered how this doesn’t end in violence?

As Billmon writes, “(If) Turd Blossom (Karl Rove – but you knew that) is right (and he may well be) then this isn’t really one country any more. It’s a battlefield divided between two bitterly hostile partisan armies, with an indeterminate number of undecided or uncommitted voters — ‘the civilians’ — left stranded out in no man’s land.”

How long then, before real hostilities commence? And who will fire the first shot? Slackers, bohemians and others on the progressive side of the schoolyard would be wise to start jogging and doing push ups, even if – maybe especially if – they plan to respond by doing a Ghandi.

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October 31st, 2006 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Even Handed, Mush Headed Media

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Apologies to the throngs who frequent this blog for not posting more frequently lately. Please don’t take it personally. I have had some distractions to deal with.

And now, we return to our story.

This afternoon I happened to catch a few moments of Rita Crosby on MSNBC (I swear,  with that voice she’s gotta be Tom Waits’ sister). She was interviewing Gary Hart and said something about how these days there are some nasty negative political ads “On both sides”, without providing a single example of a dirty Democratic ad. Senator Hart did not question her premise, that both Democrats and Republicans are using beyond the pale negative ads.

How many times must I instruct the world on this? Rita, please support your argument with evidence that you did not pull out of you proctological orifice. Senator Hart, you are  allowed to rebut an assertion that you know or at least believe to be false.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any unfair Democratic ads out there, but I really have no heard of any.

This evening on Countdown, Lisa Myers interviwed one of those New Hamshire Republicans who jammed the Democrats’ phone lines on election day,  2002. Myers made an assertion similar to Crosby’s, namely, that both major parties engage in political dirty tricks.  Again, I do not hold Democrats to be above such nonsense. I live and grew up in Illinois for gosh sakes.  George Ryan, meet Abe Lincoln. Mayor Daley, meet all three Adlai Stevensons.

But if anyone knows of any recent Democratic dirty tricks, please let me know about it.

Tomorrow, I willl discuss what, IMHO, constitutes unfair political tactics.

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October 31st, 2006 at 1:22 am

Break Up the Cards/Even Handed Media.

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First, I am still bummed that the Tigers were done so quickly. Hats off to the Cardinals. Boy that was hard for this Cub fan to type.

The Cards were well managed and well prepared. During the post season they played the game they way it is meant to be played. They deserve to be champs. Blech and ptui.
There. Now, let’s move on.

Much of the media seems determined to convict the Democrats of using the same kind of negative ads as the Republicans. The worst example of this is the way the Michael J. Fox ads are cited as somehow being in the same category as the Harold Ford miscegenation commercials.

This is nonsense, of course. Another lame example of this kind of equivalency was seen last night on Real Time. Christy Todd Whitman, the former EPA Administrator who said the air around ground zero was safe to breathe when she knew it wasn’t, admitted that yes, the Corker anti-Ford ads were hitting below the belt. Then she complained about a woman running for office in Vermont who had been unfairly attacked by Democrats. All I could gather from what Whitman said was that the Dems had accused this woman of belonging to the same party as President Bush (and is therefore what, also incompetent and mendacious)?

I’m sorry, but that is a relevant issue in this election. All Republican candidates are supporting the President by belonging to his party. If voters do not want to support the President, they have every right to not vote for a Republican.

But Whitman, like those who equate the anti-Ford and pro-stem cell research ads, is trying to create an equivalency where none exists. She and they are trying to be fair and balanced, to coin a phrase, when they should be trying to be fair by being accurate. Sometimes the truth is not divided equally between the two sides in a debate.

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October 29th, 2006 at 1:26 am

Crotchety, Geezer, Bus Driver Vote: Gone!

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If this guy ain’t voting Republican, the election is truly over.

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October 27th, 2006 at 10:53 am

Posted in Republican Party

Right Wing Whining

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Earlier this evening, surfing through the cable channels and landed on O’Reilly. Always a fan of train wrecks, I watched for a few minutes, until my gorge rose and stomach heaved.

The nice lady Jane from Fox Newswatch was there along with my good pal Bernard (Bernie) Goldberg. His backup group, the Variations, were off for the evening apparently.

They were talking about the big rasslin’ match between Michael J. Fox and Rushbo. You know, the one about how Fox made a commercial for Missouri Senate candidate MacCaskill about stem cell research. And then Rush made fun of Michael J. because he was faking having Parkinson’s or something.

While I was watching O’Reilly, Goldberg made the same complaint that Limbaugh made about Fox and that Ann Coulter made about the Jersey Girls, those survivors of people killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Here is why Golberg, Limbaugh and Coulter are all bothered by the arguments made by Fox and the Jersey Girls and others. They don’t like having to argue against victims. That’s not fair, they cry. People who have been victimized can’t be criticized.

What cowards. They should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with someone whether or not the person they disagree with has been the victim of a crime or a disease. Being such a victim does not endow one with infallible judgement.

So Rush, Ann and Bernie, if you don’t like what Michael J. Fox or the Jersey Girls are saying, tell us why. Why do you disagree with them? Don’t just throw up your hands and say, “Lawdy lawdy, I can’ts disagree wif someone who has been done so wrong. it ain’t fair. Boo hoo.”

If Michael J. Fox is wrong about stem cell research, can’t you just tell us why? IOW, don’t be so fucking patronizing.

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October 26th, 2006 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Shape of Things to Come (on November 7)

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Let me tell you a little story.

In the summer of 1990, I was a candidate for the New Democratic Party (hereinafter to be referred to as the NDP) in the Ontario provincial election. I did not win but I nearly double my parties vote over the previous election. You can look it up if you want. See Ontario Provincial Election 1990, Ottawa Rideau riding.
A little background before we continue. As EVERYONE knows, in Ontario as in most of Canada, there are three viable parties: the centre right Conservatives (or in some provinces Progressive Conservatives), the centrist Liberals and the centre left New Democrats. There are also two Quebec sovereignist parties, one each at the federal and provincial levels, and the Greens. In two provinces the centre right party has a different name but they’re really the same crowd.

Getting back to 1990, the Liberals had a majority government and the NDP was the Official Opposition, meaning that in the provincial legislature, the NDP had the second largest number of seats and had certian privileges as a result. During question period, for example, the Official Opposition gets to ask more questions.

The Conservatives, or Tories, were the third party, but a few years earlier they had been defeated for the first time in over forty years.

At the end of July, the liberal Premier, David peterson, called an election even though he had two years left on his mandate. It was a needless election and called at the height of summer, when Canadians like to forget about all things drudgerous and boring. This includes work and also politics.

The Prime Minister of Canada at the time was the Conservative Brian Muroney and he was very unpopular. The Leader of the Ontario Tories was – umm, let me think. It’ll come back to me. Oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. The poor bugger never had a prayer anyway.

The Canadian and Ontario economies at the time were beginning to slow down, and people were feeling a little anxious and insecure. They had two parties they could punish: the Liberals and the Tories. One was in powere provincially and the other federally. People in Ontario often confuse the two.

All this was good news for the NDP, and it was not long into the campaign before it became apparent that I and especially my fellow NDP candidates were going to do very well indeed. I remember the moment I knew that the NDP would win the election. it was about ten days before election day when I heard that the Premier had announced a reduction in the provincial sales tax.

Stop yawning! Pay attention!

I know, it sounds like a really mundane issue, and it was. But it was a significant surrender on the part of the Liberals, the party in power. One of the very minor planks in the NDP platform had to do with reducing sales taxes in favour of more progressive income taxes. Peterson was drowning and in desperation tried to grab a lifeline from the opposition.

When I heard that news, I knew that the election was being fought on our turf. So I was not surprised (much) when we did in fact win a huge majority. This turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing, but that is a tale for another time.

Anyway, that is what I was reminded of today as the President of the United States tried mightily to explain why the policy in Iraq was no longer stay the course, but had instead become “benchmarks”. The Republican position on the Iraq, the top issue in the campaign, is no longer viable, let alone defensible. This election is being fought on Democrats’ turf.
The Democrats will win the House at least. Unless…this gets in the way. Or this. Or this.

One thing that worries me is how a lot of the GOP spinners arre telling tv audiences how they’re mighty GOTV machine is already at work and will save the day. Campaigners have to sound positive before elections, true, but are they preparing us for a surprise result?


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October 25th, 2006 at 9:36 pm

CT Senate Debate

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10 pm. Tuned my 8″ bw Philco to Comedy Central.

Damn! TDS is a rerun again. Don’t these guys ever work? Stewart must spend half his time getting baked with Aaron Sorkin.

10:05. Woke the dog and took ‘him’ for a walk.

10:30 Fortuitously remembered that C-SPAN was showing the latest Conecticutt Senate debate. Opened a bottle of Aussie Shiraz, sliced some cheese and tuned in.

Impressions; Best performance by a CT Senate candidate goes to Alan Schlesinger. In the half hour I saw, he was definitely the most comfortable of the three. Funny and substantive. Smart enough to not get too close to Bush and walked a fine line on Iraq and terror. If he were running for the right congressional seat somewhere in New England or the Great Lakes, he might have a shot.

But he’s not. In the CT Senate race he comes in third. But how far behind the two front runners? The answer will decide the election.

Lamont got the biggest cheers from the audience. He is still a little awkward, but makes up for it with intensity and sincerity. He knows the issues and knows where he stands, which means evereybody else does too.

Lieberman is just a fucking politician, and I don’t mean that in a nice way. He clearly panders whenever he has the chance. The crowd wasn’t buying it though, and he earned himself some boos.

And what a crybaby. His closing statement was interrupted by hecklers. Stephanopolous made sure he got his full time rather than losing it to the interruption, but still Lieberman whined, “That wasn’t fair.” George Steph assured him he got all the time he deserved.

I don’t know if this debate by itself will move the polls at all, though I suspect Schlesinger will get a boost. As for the main event, I want very much for Lamont to win, so I want to say he was helped by the debate, but I don’t know. I can say at least that he wasn’t hurt, and Lieberman was.

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October 23rd, 2006 at 11:42 pm

How Low Can the GOP Go?

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Submitted for your consideration, a series of news stories. Do they constitute a pattern? The question is, of course, rhetorical.

Item #1. Glenn Greenwald points us to this story in the Cincinatti Enquirer:

Ken Blackwell’s gubernatorial campaign today distributed harsh comments by radio talk show host Bill Cunningham related to Ted Strickland’s sexuality and about a former campaign aide arrested in 1994 for public indecency.

In a news statement emailed to Statehouse reporters, the campaign reprinted a transcript from Wednesday night’s Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes television show. The show’s co-host, Sean Hannity, is a Blackwell supporter, who will be in Blue Ash for a Blackwell rally today. They also sent out a digital video version.

Cunningham, who hosts a talk radio show on WLW radio, was a guest on the program. During the TV broadcast, Cunningham questioned the Democratic congressman’s sexuality — even after Strickland declared Wednesday: “No, I am not gay, although it is none of their business in the first place.”

Item #2. From the UK Independent:

In California, a struggling Republican congressman called John Doolittle has argued that since his opponent, Charlie Brown, is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and since the ACLU has in the past defended Nambla’s free-speech rights, he is tainted by association. “It is astounding,” Mr Doolittle said in a recent press release, “that anyone could defend a group dedicated to aiding and abetting paedophiles.” (Mr Doolittle failed to mention that he once acted as a character witness for a friend convicted of sexually assaulting six of his patients.)

The Nambla charge has also been thrown at Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco congresswoman who would become the next Speaker of the House if the Democrats win a majority on 7 November and who has thus become a multi-purpose pincushion for the Republicans. The maverick right-winger and erstwhile presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told a television interviewer this week that Ms Pelosi had been on gay pride parades where Nambla members were also present and had thus been “marching with paedophiles”.

Item #3. Tennessee Guerilla Women present this Republican ad.

This is not just negative campaigining. I see nothing wrong with candidates attacking and critiquing each other over policy or over proven corrupt practices. But attacking someone over their sexuality, and even worse making shit up about it, should be punishable by no less than 5 years in the big house.

I realize that this kind of smear campaigning is not a new tactic for Republicans. I believe, however, based on nothing but my own recollection that the GOP is setting new high marks for brazeness. My perception has always been that smears like these are almost always delivered in a whisper campaign or through carefully targetted mailings, and not via electronic or mainstream print media.

I also realize that Democrats are not immune to the temptation to use smear tactics in the heat of a campaign. No one who participates in electoral politics is. But i am not aware of anything from the Democrats that approaches the slimy examples I have presented above (although I don’t know why Larry Craig’s sexuality has all of a sudden become such a hot topic).

Add the inevitable “Bin Laden supports Democrats” theme and soft on terror accusation from Republicans Re Dems and I think you have a complete inventory of all the arrows in the GOP quiver.

The Republicans are desperate, and Rove is playing the only game he knows and playing it as hard as he can. Will it work? Will the GOP retain control of at least one congressional chamber? Can they minimize the damage at least?

Stay tuned.

Update: See Billmon for a much more comprehrensive take on this topic.

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October 22nd, 2006 at 1:08 pm

LaHood Hypocrisy

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Ray LaHood, Illinois Congressman, has refused to call fo Speaker Hastert’s resignation in the Foley cover up. Instead he wants to punish congressional pages for being a temptation to perverted House members by eliminating the page program.

Now Lahood wants to punish a Democratic staff member because of an alleged leak of a classified National Intelligience Estimate.

The Times published a story on the report Sept. 23, touching off a partisan firestorm. The April 2006 report, later partially released by President Bush, said the war in Iraq had the unintended consequence of helping terrorist groups recruit fighters. It also said a victory over terrorists would discourage their recruitment efforts.

“I stand by what I said in my letter,” LaHood said Friday. “People are fed up with these leaks and we need to find out if somebody on the committee, from the committee staff or someone else leaked this information to the New York Times.”

LaHood, the vice chairman of the committee, cast suspicion on a Democratic staff member, who has been identified as Larry Hanauer. LaHood said Hanauer requested a copy of the report a few days before the Times published its story.

On Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., stripped Hanauer of his access to classified material, pending an investigation.

LaHood admits he has no evidence to support his charge:

“This may, in fact, be only coincidence, and simply ‘look bad,”‘ he wrote. “But coincidence, in this town, is rare.”

LaHood also said, with no apparent irony, that  leaks have increased during his eight years on the committee. “But coincidence in this town is rare.”
I have no idea whether the accused staff member is responsible for the leak. Neither apparently does Mr. LaHood. If he (the staff member) is responsible, I would give him the Medal of Freedom and a promotion, but that’s just me.

I suspect that LaHood is raising this right now because of the election. He gets his name in the papers and excites his base mildly.

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October 21st, 2006 at 10:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized