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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Watch Those Titles

posted by Jazz at 10/02/2004 04:42:00 PM

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This post is in reference to an entry over at Dean's World. For those of you not familiar with it, great blog. I know of it primarily because Joe Gandelman of the Moderate Voice is a guest poster there on weekends. Two points:

First of all, the story itself is a gruesome one - an Iraqi captive was beheaded in the same fashion that the insurgents in Iraq have beheaded many foreigners. This ups the stakes a bit. I'm no supporter of this war, but we seriously need to find and destroy the people doing this.

Second item, and I am in no way trying to "lighten the mood" about that terrible news, deals with the title formatting on Dean's World when Joe guest hosts there. If you look at the title of the post, it comes out like this:

Terrorists Now Behead IRAQI Hostage (Joe Gandelman)


Now, don't take this the wrong way, but I just had a nap and the first thing I thought was, "HOLY COW! Joe's been beheaded!"

Joe, move your name to the front of the post titles, or possibly make it "by Joe Gandelman" or something before you give us a heart attack, eh?


Well, We've Outsourced Everything Else

posted by Jazz at 10/02/2004 10:14:00 AM

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Why not outsource the torture of terror suspects? One of the most shocking parts of this proposed legislation is not the fact that Ashcroft and/or Ridge would seek this sort of power, but that they would do it this close to an election. Apparently House Resolution 10, coming up for a vote shortly, includes provisions for exporting terrorism suspects to countries where they could be tortured out of sight of normal restrictions. They are referring to this practice as "extraordinary rendition" which is such a charming phrase.

"These [extraordinary rendition] provisions would permit secretly transferring terrorist suspects to foreign countries known to use torture in interrogating prisoners. Extraordinary rendition not only violates all basic humanitarian and human rights standards, but violates U.S. treaty obligations which make clear that the U.S. government cannot avoid its obligations under international law by having other nations conduct unlawful interrogations in its stead. This practice not only violates our own cherished principles as a nation but also works to undermine our moral leadership in the eyes of the rest of the world."

According to Katherine R. the Justice Department supports these provisions.

[Dennis] Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the Justice Department "really wants and supports" the provision.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said, "We can't comment on any specific provision, but we support those provisions that will better secure our borders and protect the American people from terrorists."

We apparently learned nothing from the Abu Ghraib scandals, and the secretive members of the Justice Department continue to push for rules that allow the United States to be above the laws that it preaches to other nations. We'll be tracking this legislation to see where it goes from here.



Signs of The End of Times, Edition Number 7,243,187

posted by Jazz at 10/02/2004 09:20:00 AM

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The following is a special message for those of you who's avocations include watching the skies for pale horses and those who sit upon them. (Hat Tip, John, Revelations.) Elder statesman of wordsmithing and noted curmudgeon James Kilpatrick tells us today that dark days have indeed arrived. The Oxford English Dictionary, long known as the definitive last word in words, has added "bootylicious" as an official entry.

Bootylicious; in the sense of good-looking. esp. of a woman, often with reference to the buttocks; sexually attractive, sexy; shapely."

Keepers of cemeteries around the world quickly reported that E.B White and Ernest Hemingway have rolled over in their graves, presumably so that the rest of world may be invited to kiss their collective cold, dead posteriors. Running Scared was unable to reach Kilpatrick for further comment, but family members reported that loud, violent retching sounds could be heard from the bathroom.



Send Us Your Money or DIE

posted by Jazz at 10/02/2004 06:47:00 AM

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I am currently teetering between being amused and enraged, having found in my mailbox the latest Papal Edict sent by Ed Gillespie to the GOP faithful. I will be sharing some photos of this incredible document with you below, both for amusement value and as a cautionary tale against winding up your party members with shoddy parlor tricks masked as political discourse. I believe the reason I am angry is that, just for a moment, I was taken in by one of the oldest schemes in the political books.

The package started off with an introductory letter which sounded like something I have been waiting a long time to see. It purports to provide a "census" to collect opinions of party members regarding major campaign issues. My heart began to soar! Might we actually be allowing the rank and file members of the GOP to give their input on the direction the party will take? Could this be a chance for more moderate Republicans to steer the party platform away from its downward spiral toward radical right wing ultraconservative edicts?

Dear Fellow Republican,

You are among a select group of Republicans who have been chosen to take part in the official CENSUS OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. Enclosed is your GOP CENSUS DOCUMENT which was assigned and prepared especially for you as a representative of all Republicans living in your voting district. Your answers will be used to develop a BLUEPRINT for the Republican Party for the next 10 years.


Well, that certainly sounded promising! I eagerly got out my pen and prepared to take the survey. It took all of ten seconds for me to see, in Oz terms, the man behind the curtain.

Have you ever heard of a push poll? It's a particularly ugly little political tool where voters are contacted under the pretense of collecting polling information, but they are asked questions framed to paint one candidate in a good light and the other as Absolute Evil. This "survey" was even worse, particularly in their fund raising (by which I mean, "extortion") tactics, as you shall see below.

Right out of the gate, the first question was,

"1. Do you support President Bush's initiatives to promote the safety and security of all Americans? _ Yes _ No _ Undecided"

You know... I really hate to be the cynical, suspicious type, but does that sound just a bit biased to you? Might it not have just the slightest tone of saying, "Do you support what our President is doing, or are you in favor of helping the terrorists to murder our women and rape our livestock?"

It got much worse, and I'll let you look the whole thing over yourself. But two portions really jumped out at me as being particularly noxious. First, there was a question under the heading of "DEFENSE ISSUES." (Click on thumbnails for full size images.)



"Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?" I nearly vomited. Could you make any more of a cheap shot at John Kerry, while at the same time creating a mental image of the United States cooperating with U.N. allies as "A Bad Thing" to support Bush's "go it alone" policy?

On the second page, there came the inevitable pitch to get you to make a donation. This one was the show stopper. Now, mind you, I don't object to being asked for a donation. It's a requirement to run a national party. However, I have already written back to the RNC over the last two years telling them that they would be receiving no more donations from me as long as we had a preemptive war minded madman in the White House and radical conservatives scripting the platform. My donations have been, and will remain, to the individual campaigns of moderate Republicans (and yes, even a few Democrats) who I personally endorse. But you simply must check out their cash begging pitch.



In case you have trouble reading that, the question is, "Will you join the Republican National Committee by making a donation today?" You have three options. The first, of course, is to make a large "generous" donation to the RNC. The second is to say that you can't afford to make a big donation at this time, but you'll enclose eleven dollars for their administrative costs. There is, fortunately, a third option which I was forced to pick.

"No. I favor electing liberal Democrats over the next ten years."

There you have it. The message is straight from the desk of Ed Gillespie and it couldn't be more clear. You are either 100% with us, or you are a terrorist loving, tree hugging liberal. And if you don't send us money, you are not part of the party, even though you will have no say in what direction we take and how the platform is written.

Here are links to the entire form, front side and back side, so you can peruse them if you wish. Warning: the pictures are rather large.


Cat Eaten By Giant Fish!

posted by Jazz at 10/02/2004 05:50:00 AM

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In the extremely late edition of Friday Pet Blogging, our cat Spider is seen being stalked by a three foot long bass.




I have no idea why she insists on sleeping in a Hustler centerfold position. Rest assured, however, that the fish in question is only a replica. Or so she hopes.


Friday, October 01, 2004

Talking Down to the Voters

posted by Jazz at 10/01/2004 07:49:00 PM

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CNN (Hotwire) is interviewing Steve Quattrochochi, an expert on linguistics from Princeton, regarding presidential debates. Apparently they have analyzed the language used by candidates in debates going back a very long ways. For example, the debates between Lincoln and Douglas used language that was of the 11th and 12th grade levels. By the time of the Kennedy and Nixon debates, both candidates were speaking at a 10th grade level. The trend continues.

Their conclusion? Kerry uses 7th grade language in the debate and Bush uses 6th grade language. Have you ever felt like you were being talked down to?


Travel Day

posted by Jazz at 10/01/2004 10:10:00 AM

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This will be a travel day for Running Scared. More tonight when I'm in on place for a little while again.

In the meantime, should you find yourself in need of something to read, I offer you this post from Tbogg. If you happened to miss the debates and are worried that you won't have anything pithy to say about them to your friends at the pub this evening, Tbogg provides you with plenty of comments you can use. It's part of his service, "So you don't have to watch." I know that I'll be chuckling about it all through my trip.

Cheers.


The Presidential Wives

posted by Jazz at 10/01/2004 07:48:00 AM

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While the candidates took center stage last night, I could not help being distracted initially by the entry and appearance of their wives. In my opinion, even when she is not speaking, Teresa Heinz Kerry is a detriment to John Kerry's election chances. CNN captured a picture of their arrival which, as the saying goes, truly speaks a thousand words. In particular, note the smiles on their faces.




They were both dressed in white, both with perfectly coiffed hair and million dollar smiles, but there was a profound difference between them.

Laura Bush is probably one of the most genuine people involved in this campaign. I honestly do not believe there is a single artificial thing about her. When she looks at us and smiles, the single image that comes to mind is the word "mother." She looks, talks, and acts like a Mom for all of us. When she addresses the press you can almost smell the cookies baking in the kitchen. I'm sure it drives the secret service insane, but when she sees a crowd or a line of people, she is drawn to them like a magnet, arms out for a handshake or a comforting grip on the forearm. She is a reassuring presence, gathering the children of America to her bosom to keep them safe while thunder rumbles outside. And while we may not be invited over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner, one gets the sense that, if needed, she would come read us a bed time story.

Teresa is a beautiful woman, but her beauty is like that of a diamond or an iceberg. Her smile, unlike that of Laura's, is not one of welcome. It is more a smile that says, "How cute you are. But stay back, please. These are new shoes and you look rather dirty." She holds back from crowds and even uses that haughty wave, similar to the Queen of England or the Pope, hand pointing stiffly upward, palm out, slightly rotating back and forth at the wrist. Her cultured, European accent is foreign to us and her manner simply reeks of wealth and privilege. When she stares out at me from the television screen, I feel like the only word that could describe me is "peasant."

I realize that we don't vote for the First Lady - we elect the president. But they come as a package deal. Since the days of Clinton we have learned the power that a First Lady can assert and it has become a factor in considering presidential candidates. She may not make or break the election for John, but in the oh so important department of public image she is an anchor holding back Senator Kerry's chances.

Various Views on the Debates

posted by Jazz at 10/01/2004 07:05:00 AM

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It would be impossible for me to pretend that the debates didn't happen and let them pass without comment, though everyone in the blogosphere is chiming in on them now. Yes, I watched the entire 90 minutes, but I waited until this morning to comment. The fact is that I was very tired at the end of them and I also wanted to "sleep on it" and let my impressions gel in my mind. I was also interested in the spin that others would put on the results.

First to my impressions. In terms of substance there was, as expected, nothing new. There was no way that Bush was suddenly going to announce a significant breakthrough in Iraq or elsewhere and Kerry wasn't about to unveil some brand new policy that we hadn't heard before. These debates were all about tone, style and image. In that arena, though I'll admit to some bias, Kerry clearly won the evening. He stood tall, spoke in a solid, clear, authoritative voice, and quite frankly just looked more presidential than Bush did.

Bush was off his stride from the beginning. He had far too many pauses with "umm" and "uhhh" eating up his time. Kerry caught him on a number of accusations about his handling of the war in Iraq where Bush just seemed confused. He made a large number of slips, confusing Hussein for bin Laden and tossing in "vociferous" at exactly the wrong place. Another key mistake for Bush was continually referring to Russia's Putin by his first name as if they were old Skull and Crossbones chums. Bush needs to be distancing himself from Putin for the spiraling failure of democracy in that country. Instead, Bush sounded like he was selling Putin life insurance.

Bush stuck with his message that Kerry was unsure of his position on Iraq, but Kerry fired back effectively. He stayed on message and carried the night with a solid, calm, determined demeanor. In all ways, I would have to put one in the win column for Kerry last night. Will that be enough to influence voters? We shall see in the coming days. But I feel strongly that Bush is going to need to put on a much better show at the last two debates or it may cost him. Assuming, that is, that anyone is actually watching these things besides the pundits and letting the debates influence their decisions. The post debate spin wars should be interesting.

On to other voices... the very first report I read was Andrew Sullivan's. I recommend it highly. You would expect Sully to come out strong in Bush's defense, but he gives an even analysis of both podiums. He makes some good points about a few things that Bush did well, but admits that Kerry pulled off a good show and will likely get a boost in the polls from it.

"Kerry has to gain, I think. At the very least, this was a draw on the president's most favorable turf. "

His description of Bush during this event was the one that went through my mind last night. Bush just seemed "out of it" as if he never really caught up to the same page Kerry was on.

Josh Marshal chimed in with this observation:

"The key point I think, the key impression, was of a president who was out of touch. Erratic. Without a plan. In a cocoon. Unwilling to admit mistakes. Unwilling to level with himself or voters about what's happening in Iraq. Lost."

That's a very apt description. There are a lot of blogs commenting on this debate, and I'll leave you to find the ones you like best. But please, don't succumb to the temptation to only read the ones that will agree with the points you want to see. Check out bloggers on both sides of the aisle to get a full picture of what effect these debates may or may not have on the closing weeks of the election.

CNN Says the B-Word

posted by Jazz at 10/01/2004 06:27:00 AM

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If you take a look at the front page of CNN online this morning, you'll see they have a large panel for the debates. There are five links across the top of the panel for sub-sections of debate coverage. The last one is labeled "Blogosphere." I never thought I'd see the day.

Inside they have a group of charts showing who and what people are blogging about, along with links to a number of blogs. (Running Scared was snubbed again, just like we were at the Oscars. *sniffle*) The usual big hitters are there, along with blogs by journalists just for the debates.

Paul Begala's Debate Blog
Bob Novak's Debate Blog
Jessi Klein's Debate Blog

Edit: I've flipped through the three CNN "blogs" (if you want to call them blogs) and found some of what we would all expect, and a pleasant surprise. Begala and Novak review the debate as you would expect, with Begala highlighting Kerry's strength and solid points and Novak saying Kerry is on the ropes, etc. The pleasant surprise is Jessi Klein's blog. (Linked above.) Give it a read. It was off the cuff and snarky, going out in real time as the debate progressed. Here's a taste.

"When Kerry is talking, the cutaway shot to Bush is hilarious - he looks the way a dog looks when he sees his reflection in the mirror - sort of confused, sort of curious, possibly ready to attack.

By the way, is there a dog running for president? Because right about now, if you showed me a smart-looking terrier, he'd have my vote."



Thursday, September 30, 2004

Post Debate Wrapup

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 10:34:00 PM

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I'll make it short. Kerry slaughtered Bush. Who will win the post debate spin war? Rove is almost unbeatable, but Bush was a stuttering fool tonight.

Forget "Prime Time." Is Kerry Ready for Blog Time?

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 03:15:00 PM

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The Bush team is primed and ready for post-debate battle in the blogosphere. According to Mr. Left (whose sources I never question) 5,000 conservative bloggers will be getting live feeds from the debates and have been issued a handbook on fact checking John Kerry. (You can get your own here.) He provides us with the following, somewhat chilling quote:

"Our rapid-response effort is based on the premise that no attack or no misstatement will go unchallenged," said Michael Turk, director of the Bush/Cheney Internet campaign.

Any information that can be found to trip up Kerry will be shot out at internet speed to "get it on the ground" as fast as possible.

It's obvious that Karl Rove has quickly come to grasp the power and influence of the blogging community in fact checking anything that happens in this election. He has also seen that the MSM is checking the bloggers as fast as we check them, resulting in blogs being, in many cases, the fastest way to get information and/or spin out to the watercoolers in record setting times.

Has the Kerry team realized this? Is there any equivalent preparation going on between the Kerry camp and sites like Atrios, Daily KOS, MyDD and others? If not, I would say that this is one more area where the Kerry campaign has been woefully unprepared for the war this election was bound to be. It's a bloody battle, and Karl Rove has a lifetime record of fighting "no holds barred" types of deathmatches.

Every analyst I have read this week agrees that this debate will not be won during the exchange, but rather in the spin war that follows in the media and the blogosphere. If Kerry wants any chance of breathing some life back into this campaign and any chance of unseating Bush, he needs to be on top of this.

The Flip Flop Falls Flat

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 01:52:00 PM

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I would really like to know how the Kerry campaign can so thoroughly and completely fail to mount a defense against Bush's accusations of flip flopping on Iraq when Thomas Fitzgerald of Knight Ridder can completely capture the situation in a single page. I strongly advise you to read this entire article - it's not that lengthy - but I'll try to highlight some of the pertinent facts here.

First to the issue of the Iraq war and Kerry's various votes regarding it.

"Kerry voted in October 2002 for the congressional resolution that authorized President Bush to go to war in Iraq. He now says that the invasion was not justified and has made the United States less secure. These positions are not contradictory, but his attempts to explain the distinction between them are often complicated, and they have given President Bush an opening to caricature Kerry as a flip-flopper. However, beneath the torrent of campaign verbiage, Kerry's position on Iraq for the past two years has been consistent and defensible - just difficult to sell in a sound-bite world.

Kerry always called for a broad international coalition to confront Saddam Hussein, and going to war only as a last resort. Like most senators, he thought Bush needed the authority - it passed the Senate 77-23, and Kerry was one of 29 Democrats who supported it. But once Bush got the authority, Kerry believes, he misused it."

I've seen him stumbling around on this issue, and saying some things that sound vaguely like this, but he's never gotten one concise statement out to the public which lays it out this strongly. Unfortunately, by not articulating this, he has shot himself in the foot and given Bush a clear target to shoot at. Rest assured, Karl Rove never misses an opportunity like this, and his aim has been deadly. There is much more in the article that amplifies the explanation.

Next, there was the infamous statement about voting for and against the funding for the Iraq war.

"Perhaps harder for Kerry to explain has been his October 2003 vote against $87 billion for operations in Iraq. "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it," Kerry said once, a line that the Bush campaign used in commercials to mock Kerry for inconsistency.

However, Kerry's line was but a clumsy way of saying that he had voted for a Democratic version of the bill that would have raised the $87 billion by repealing Bush's income tax cuts for people making over $300,000 a year.

When that measure failed, Kerry voted against the $87 billion on final passage. He said his vote was a protest against adding $87 billion to the burgeoning federal budget deficit. He also said he was protesting what he saw as sloppy planning for securing the peace. That position, at least, is consistent with a belief that Bush mishandled the authority that Congress gave him."


There must be somebody in the Kerry campaign who could afford to hire Fitzgerald. Certainly none of the experts on the Kerry payroll currently can do the job that well.

Your Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 01:08:00 PM

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"I would advise Kerry to reach into Bush's chest and pull out his beating heart and hold it up to the world if I didn't think it might upset some of the "Security Moms" whose votes could prove so decisive in the coming election."

- James Wolcott

A Swing and a Miss

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 09:05:00 AM

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Funniest. Attack. On. Bloggers. EVER.

It is getting hard to keep up with all of the "real journalists" who are bashing bloggers these days and tagging us with new and increasingly charming labels. To bring you up to date, we have lately been called the "pajama brigade" and the "nation of ankle-biters" followed most recently by the "media Mujahideen." I don't mind a good, well written, scathing attack now and again. At least not if it's done with style. I've often felt that I would enjoy being taken to task by Leonard Pitts or James Wolcott (be sure you read "Attack Poodles." You'll thank me later) if only because they would do it so well. It's hard not to appreciate a good character assassination if it is done with the finesse of a skilled French chef wielding an expensive piece of cutlery against a top cut fillet.

In the article linked above, however, Nick Coleman seems a bit more like a short order cook. His attacks come at us like a drunken brawler, inexpertly swinging the broken shards of an empty Budweiser bottle. Still, for all its lack of grace, the article had me smiling all the way through. Nick is mad as hell at us, and he's not going to take it any more. You might want to take a look. But for those of you who don't want to fill out the annoying Minneapolis Star Tribune registration form, I'll paste in a few of the choice excerpts.

[Bloggers] "are to journalism what ticks are to elephants. Ticks may make the elephants nuts, but that doesn't mean they will replace them. You can't ride a tick. A lot of the attack against the mainstream media is coming from bloggers, which is like astronomers being assaulted by people who swear that aliens force them to have sex with Martians. Do bloggers have the credentials of real journalists? No. Bloggers are hobby hacks, the Internet version of the sad loners who used to listen to police radios in their bachelor apartments and think they were involved in the world. Bloggers don't know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon. Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square -- without editors, correction policies or community standards. And so their tripe is often as vicious as it is vacuous. We are not dealing with journalism, people. We are dealing with Internet chat rooms: sleazy and unreliable, with no accountability. Most bloggers are not fit to carry a reporter's notebook. Your brain is blog mush."

Here's a news flash for you, Mr. Coleman: nobody with an ounce of credibility has ever implied that bloggers are looking to "replace" the mainstream media. They are, as it was once so bluntly put, here to "fact check your a**." But thanks for playing. Do come again.

Eisenhower Republicans

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 07:52:00 AM

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I first heard about John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight E. Eisenhower (who I quote in my banner) endorsing John Kerry via Ron at Middle Earth Journal. By now, of course, the media is all abuzz on this topic, with Atrios and many others weighing in. This is a very personal story to me, however. I consider myself an old school, "Eisenhower Republican" and John's words in this endorsement ring particularly true for me and carry some very sobering connotations.

First, it seems to be a symbolic loss for our party. While it is certainly true that John Eisenhower is only one man with one vote like the rest of us, he is the progeny and legacy of the man who is arguably one of the defining characters in the Republican party over the last century. The old, solid values of the GOP which drew me to the party in the seventies have been undermined and all but erased by a radical sect of ultraconservative right wingers who have highjacked the party's platform. As John Eisenhower so aptly puts it:

The fact is that today?s ?Republican? Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word ?Republican? has always been synonymous with the word ?responsibility,? which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today?s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion. Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance."

This is still not a time, in my opinion, to simply give up the fight and leave the party. First of all, where should we go? To the Democrats? Hardly. Basic tenets of Tax and Spend along with growing the bloated federal bureaucracy while reducing the individual rights of the states is never going to be my cup of tea. Third party options like the Libertarians may look appealing to many, but the fact is that you may as well just surrender your vote if you do that.

"The Republican Party I used to know placed heavy emphasis on fiscal responsibility, which included balancing the budget whenever the state of the economy allowed it to do so. The Eisenhower administration accomplished that difficult task three times during its eight years in office. It did not attain that remarkable achievement by cutting taxes for the rich. Republicans disliked taxes, of course, but the party accepted them as a necessary means of keep the nation?s financial structure sound."

So true, John. So very, very true. But again, these are not the values of everyone left in the party. With enough dedicated effort and, hopefully, a wake-up call to the entire party by a Bush defeat in November, we could still return the party to the values that we all once embraced. I salute John Eisenhower for the independence and moral conviction to break with established patterns and endorse Kerry, but I am greatly saddened that a man in his position has given up on the party entirely and registered as an Independent.

Update on John Kerry's Rifle

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 07:26:00 AM

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Color me mortified. I have been unable to find any archived articles in the Union Leader regarding Kerry's 1996 interview where he talked about his now infamous "assault rifle" but I have since been informed that I had the model wrong. It is a slightly newer model than the one I referenced in this article. As I always say, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I'll admit it. Here's some first hand feedback from an owner of one of these rifles:

"I happen to own one of these rifles. They are not "antiques," nor are the "single-shot." They fire a 7.62x54 round. It is similar to a 30-06. They can fire five rounds in less than 10 seconds, and the bolt action design makes them far more accurate than most semi-automatics. Many of these weapons were/are sniper rifles. Ammunition is both cheap, and readily available. These rifle are copies of the Soviet main-battle rifle of world war 2. They make superb hunting rifles, albeit a trifle heavy."

Five shots in ten seconds is still pretty impressive. It's about the same design as the first 30:06 I ever owned, with a bottom feeding clip and bolt action. As I recall, mine held 6 in the clip and if you were really insane you could put a seventh in the chamber to start off. It's a nice weapon, but before we get carried away, it is still simply not an assault rifle by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that it is a bolt action weapon still means that it is simply not possible to convert it to a full automatic, and you can't load it up with a banana clip like an Uzi and start chopping down trees with it.

Fair enough. So John Kerry has a nice hunting rifle. This still seems like a pretty sketchy basis to start running around yelling, "OHMYGAWD! ASSAULT RIFLE! FLIP FLOP! FLIP FLOP! OHMYGAWD!"

*sigh*

The Sky is Falling

posted by Jazz at 9/30/2004 07:13:00 AM

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Not literally, of course, but in case you are one of the many people who simply can't find enough to worry about, here's something else to put on your plate. Toutatis is coming. No, that's not a new punk band made up of native Americans. It's an asteroid, and as wacky spatial bodies go, it's an impressive one. 2.9 miles long, 1.5 miles across and shaped, somewhat ironically, like a giant potato, Toutatis weighs in at more than the mass of Mt. Everest.



You can see some other good action photos of this "spud from hell" here, courtesy of solarviews.com. Apparently there have been rumors circulating on the web for some time that this killer rock was going to hit the Earth. It's going to miss by a million miles, so don't give away all your possessions just yet. If it did manage to hit, however, it would likely render most of the planet uninhabitable for a very long time.

Sleep well!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A Conservative Talks About Voter Fraud

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 07:39:00 PM

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Truly beyond belief. The mental breakdown of Michelle Malkin seems nearly complete. Take a long look at this post by her. In response to massive Get Out The Vote campaigns in swing states, conservatives have resorted to accusing voter fraud for... wait for it... registering. That's right. The same folks that had no problem with the FBI trying to intimidate blacks from registering in Florida this year, and not counting thousands of minority votes in Florida in 2000. These are also the same folks backed up by the Secretary of State of Ohio who recently tried to stop a flood of new (and mostly minority) voters from registering in his state unless they used 80# paper, are now crying voter fraud. Not for blocking voters at the polls. Not for intimidating people to not vote. No. They are crying voter fraud for trying to *register* to vote.

Malkin starts out citing a number of sudden (and can we say "coincidental") allegations... that's right, allegations - not convictions, of voter fraud from new voters trying to register. Then, far beyond any realm of reality, she actually goes on to argue for sudden requirements that voters present photo ID at the polls to vote where they were not required before. Study after study shows that the people most likely to not have a photo ID or drivers license (and last time I checked, it wasn't a constitutional requirement that you have either) are minorities. While this will probably come as a shock to you, minorities tend to vote Democrat.

Are you starting to get the picture? These people have no shame. Neither does Malkin. Massive surges of voter registration in Ohio, particularly by minorities who are tired of being shut out by Bush and sent to die in his war, are showing up to register to vote. The immediate response from the conservative attack poodles? Let's make sure they can't. And Michelle Malkin leads the charge in ensuring that anyone who earns less than 100K per year doesn't make it into the voting booth.

Nice. Really nice. It's good to get a clear picture of who is fighting for and against who.

Oh, Tbogg, What Hath Thou Wrought?

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 04:09:00 PM

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Alternate title: Jazz's Snarkless Day.

I have been following a number of articles this week about the Bush campaign's strategy for lowering expectations prior to the debates by aggrandizing John Kerry's debating skills. Finally, I decided that this was an opportune storyline for me, and I was going to write something snarky about it. However, I must, in advance, make a confession. I read a lot of snark. In fact, I seek it out hungrily, much like a drunken bastard who steals invitations to weddings with open bars. I regularly read snarky material ranging from Attaturk at Rising Hegemon to Lazarus at Ungodly Politics. Digging into my older memories, I realize that The One True Tami was snarky before blogs were even invented, and likely before anyone used the word "snarky" in a complete sentence.

Sadly, I am somewhat snark impaired at a genetic level. Snarky comments have historically failed to flow from me like cool, cleansing waters from the springs at Avalon. I do try, but my sense of humor has been variously described as ranging from "sarcastic" to "dry" to "does he really think he's funny? Oh my God, no. YOU tell him!" Still, I persevere. I was determined to write something snarky about the Bush debating skills underselling story.

With nothing coming to mind, though, I decided to think about it while attending to my "to do" list for the day. I had to go and assemble a new office chair which my wife had purchased for me after it finally collapsed under my ... failed due to some previously unseen manufacturing defect. (A brief side note. The box my next chair came in was littered with those little desiccant packages, as you would expect. Each one is labeled in large, screaming letters with the phrase, "Desiccant Silica Gel. Throw Away. DO NOT EAT." You know, that isn't something you just think of. There wasn't some guy at the chair factory putting in the gel packs one day who randomly thought, "You know... we should label these so nobody eats them." Somebody had to have eaten one and then sued the manufacturer, the shipping company, and anyone else who had ever seen the chair. Inquiring minds would like to know who that prize winning diner was.) But I digress. This is, though you couldn't tell it yet, a story about Tbogg.

I finished my chair assembly task and returned to my office. Nothing snarky was coming to mind. Fortunately, I have a little ritual I do at times like this. Those of us who sit closer to the more snarkily impaired seating section on the bus can often spend some time browsing other, more snarky sites, and find inspiration there. (By which, of course, I mean plagiarism.)

With thoughts of the Bush debating story safely tucked away off to the side on a shelf in my mind, I began flipping through my "must read" daily blogs. This quickly brought me to Tbogg. I scrolled down, scanning the entries I had missed since my last visit. That's when I saw it. It hit me like a frying pan in the face. Tears began to well up in my eyes such as you might see coming from a young boy who has just been informed that, sadly, the family will not have enough money to buy him a pony this Christmas even though those little bastards down at the Liebermans have two of them in a heated barn and a motor powered scooter, thankyouverymuch.

There would be no snarking for Jazz this day. Tbogg had struck before me, and done so with a vengeance. He had tackled the Bush debate skills story and launched a Weapon of Mass Desnarktion which was the literary equivalent of a hydrogen bomb. The words stared blankly back at me from my monitor.

"Afterwards Kerry drinks the blood of his debate victims from their bleached skulls."

I was devastated, but I took it like a man. So, rather than writing something myself, I leave you to read the snarky goodness yourself. And I salute the victor. Here's to you, Tbogg. And to those little bastards down at the Liebermans, too.

The Electoral Sunday School

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 01:06:00 PM

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Today, Jeff Jarvis continues his wonderful series on "Issues 2004" and this time he is tackling election reform. It covers a wide range of topics, including the problems that spurred McCain Feingold originally, finance questions, etc. But the one topic he touches on that never fails to stir me up is the outdated electoral college, hereafter referred to as the "EC." (You may recall, this is the wonderful system which, in 2000, put Bush in the White House even though more Americans chose Al Gore.)

I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to what purpose the EC serves today and why it should be kept in place. Perhaps the only one I have heard which comes close is "tradition" but that rings a bit hollow. It also used to be traditional to burn witches, but sometimes you just have to let go of the past and move on.

The number of arguments against the EC is large and convincing. Here are a few for you to ponder.

First: The original conditions causing a "need" for it are no longer in place or were never valid. I can still recall, from reading The Federalist Papers, some of the justifications for the EC. One of them was a matter of practicality and logistics. Like many other arcane features of the documents laid out by the Founding Fathers, they had to take into consideration that it was a big country and travel was time consuming, difficult, and even dangerous. Having trusted electors to take the "will of the people" to a central location and cast their votes was seen as prudent. There are quite a few rules like that in our system. Back in the day, you couldn't always expect to get the entire congress gathered together to consider legislation, etc. on short notice. It simply couldn't be done. This created a need for rules like the one that recently allowed Bush to appoint some ultraconservative judges to the bench while congress was not in session. Outrageous, but legal. There is no need for rules like that now, and we can get all of our votes counted and put into the system quickly with today's technology.

Also, the ruling class in our early days really did consider themselves to be "the elite" and the voting public was largely the "unwashed masses." Normal citizens (and in those days, that meant white, land-owning males) were not to be trusted with something as important as the election, so the electors were in place to safeguard the system. I would hope that we live in somewhat more enlightened times now.

Second: The EC disenfranchises large portions of each state. Think about it - all of the votes for each state go to the candidate who carries that state, even if 49% of them voted against the candidate. Many people talk about the nightmare scenario (which we are now living) where a candidate can carry the EC while getting less votes than his opponent. But what about the opposite extreme, which in some ways is even worse? Imagine if a candidate carried every single state in a nation divided as heavily as ours is today, but only won each one by a margin of 51 to 49. That candidate would go down in history as having the strongest mandate from the people in all of history with the appearance of a virtually unanimous vote of support. But the reality of it would be that practically every other person you talked to in the country opposed them. I fail to see how anyone can think of that as "a good thing."

Third: Specific concerns of voters in "Safe States" are completely ignored. Nearly every analysis of the 2004 election which I have seen indicates that the candidate who wins two out of three in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania will win the election, with some impact from a few more battleground states. How many times, not counting the convention, have Bush and Kerry come to New York this year? I think Bush stopped by for about five minutes once. There is no talk of concerns that are specific to New Yorkers from the candidates, even though we are one of the largest states in the union with a huge pile of electoral votes. Why? Because we are a "safe state" for Kerry. He doesn't need to come here or speak to our concerns, and Bush won't waste time or money on a race he knows he can't win. When three or four states out of the entire union can control the influence on candidates and their agendas, something is drastically wrong.

The EC needs to go. What is stopping us from getting rid of this vestigial appendix of our constitutional system?

So Now We're the Media Mujahideen?

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 11:24:00 AM

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Found via The Buzz Machine. It seems that Tina Brown has decided that bloggers are not just rank amateurs adding little to no value... we are, in fact, evil. She expands on this premise in this quote.

(WARNING BEFORE YOU CLICK THAT: The previous link takes you to the web site of none other than Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Gasbag himself. I know that for any of you with more than five functioning brain cells, the very sight of Limbaugh's face may make your head explode. Because of that, I am copying in Ms. Brown's quote, in its entirety, below to spare you that danger. Do you see what lengths I go to for you people?)

"What bothers me slightly, though, about the way the bloggers have almost become like the media Mujahideen, you know. I mean, in a sense it's like everybody feels so chased by them. I mean, look what happened in a sense: CBS had the same kind of campaign for that -- for their Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle and for their Ronald Reagan miniseries. I mean, it's the third time, in a sense, that CBS management has been completely kind of, you know, harassed."

Not for nothing, as they say, but it seems to me that a couple of years ago, bloggers were referred to as "Citizen's Media." We were the "new frontier of philosophers" bringing the world alternatives to the entrenched mass media pundits. Now, however, the terms seem to be getting a bit less endearing, don't you think? We became "the pajama brigade" followed more recently by the "nation of ankle-biters." And today? We're the media Mujahideen.

Coming next week: Ann Coulter declares that bloggers eat babies and rape cattle.

The Democratic Daddy Warbucks

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 10:48:00 AM

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George Soros will be making a tour of the battleground states speaking against George W. Bush. The Republicans are none to pleased and were quick to issue statements painting him, if I'm not mistaken, as a drug czar. Mr. Left has the whole story and some insight on the GOP reaction. Take a look.

"It is understandable why the Republicans don't like him. Last year in an interview with The Washington Post, Soros said that he normally doesn't get involved with politics, but removing Bush from office is now the "central focus of (his) life" and "a matter of life and death" for which he would be willing to sacrifice his entire fortune."

It Must Be All Over for Bush Now

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 09:57:00 AM

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Even his hometown newspaper is endorsing Kerry. (Warning: That was sarcasm.) What initially attracted me to this story wasn't some tiny, weekly rag, but Body and Soul's take on it:

"The good people of Crawford, Texas are apparently willing to make the supreme sacrifice and take back their village's idiot. Thank you, Crawford. Your willingness to so drastically lower the town's average IQ will not be in vain."

Shrill to be sure, but it gave me a chuckle. If you are looking for some deeper, more symbolic meaning in this story, don't waste your time. Bush is supposedly quite popular in his home on the range. Any protests against him seem to be drowned out by a much larger number of supporters, and Bush critics are made to feel decidedly unwelcome. The editor of this paper was probably looking to get some massive national attention, and it worked. He may really oppose Bush, (and who could blame him?) but this will hardly be a watershed moment in public opinion.

Networks Balk at Debate Restrictions

posted by Jazz at 9/29/2004 07:03:00 AM

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It seems that I rarely get a chance to praise network television news these days, but this morning I am proud of them. CNN is reporting that the major television news networks are refusing to be bound by some of the ridiculous restrictions the two campaigns are trying to place on the debates. As I have written previously, I already have grave concerns about how useful the debates will be under these dog and pony show rules that Bush and Kerry want, or if they will even happen at all.

Bush is sitting on a small, but solid looking lead in the polls and knows that he is highly vulnerable on a number of issues if they are pressed in an open, unscripted format. He has virtually nothing to gain from debating Kerry and everything to lose. If there were any way that Rove could manage to keep the president out of these debates without taking a huge PR hit, trust me - he'd be doing it. Kerry, similarly, knows that he has made himself vulnerable on several points and has fallen into a number of traps that Rove set for him. A slip-up in the debates at this point could very well sink what slim chance he still has of winning this thing.

With that in mind it is easy to understand how they are both as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. This does not, however, excuse their actions. Debate is not only a part of the grand tradition of politics, it is, perhaps, the only opportunity that voters will ever get to see the candidates outside of the highly scripted, hot house environment in which their handlers keep them shielded.

It seems that the networks will not be bossed around in terms of what angles can be shown on camera, and two of the moderators have not even signed the agreement regarding how the questions will be handled. Good for them. My only fear is that one or both of the campaigns, most likely on Bush's side, will use this as an excuse to run away and refuse to debate. This would be an evil sign of things to come if that is the case.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

In Case You Want to Elect Hillary President

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 07:33:00 PM

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Remember... keep telling yourself, it's Arkansas.

From: North Little Rock, Ark.

Four Cows Escape from Truck in Arkansas

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - North Little Rock police and animal control officers spent part of Monday afternoon holding a roundup in woods bordering Interstate 40 after four cows escaped from a cattle truck.

Police spokesman Sgt. Terry Kuykendall said it was unclear how the cattle got loose as they were being driven westbound between the Levy and Burns Park exits.

"The driver said he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw one of his cows sliding across the interstate," Kuykendall said.

By the time the driver could stop, Kuykendall said, three more cattle had jumped from the trailer and ran into the woods.

It was unclear whether any of the cattle were seriously injured. There was no accident, but traffic slowed while officers searched for the cows, three of which were quickly found and tranquilized.

Kuykendall said as of late Monday afternoon, the fourth was still a fugitive.

(hat tip: Dave Berry)

Visiting With "Da Brew"

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 06:46:00 PM

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I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn, as my mother used to say, but... ok. I am tooting, I suppose. I'm the guest columnist this week over on The Political Brew. I keep the Brew permalinked from my right column for a reason. As I've said before, it's a great site for political debate, with a number of writers from both sides of the aisle. A lot of issues are discussed there when so much of the campaign is swallowed up in the poison that eats this election alive. Take a look at their main page if you get a chance. They do a nice job.

Slate Denies the "October Surprise"

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 04:07:00 PM

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Christopher Hitchens of Slate is apparently taking issue with Ms. Heinz Kerry (a.k.a. "Loose Cannon" to the Secret Service") and her recent ill conceived comments about Bush having Osama bin Laden tucked away in a basement in Bayonne for an "October Surprise" in case of bad polling numbers after the debates. An excerpt of his comments follows:

"The plain implication is that the Bush administration is stashing Bin Laden somewhere, or somehow keeping his arrest in reserve, for an "October surprise." This innuendo would appear, on the face of it, to go a little further than "impugning the patriotism" of the president. It argues, after all, for something like collusion on his part with a man who has murdered thousands of Americans as well as hundreds of Muslim civilians in other countries."

I deplore the abuse of the English language to say this, but... "Well, duh."

This isn't a question about Bush, Mr. Hitchens. And it isn't a question about Cheney or even about "Rumsfailed." This is a question about Karl Rove. Anyone who follows politics even a miniscule percentage as closely as I do could tell you that nothing is below the level to which Karl Rove will sink. Absolutely nothing. Karl's motto is, and has always been, "go low, go dirty, go there early, and stay there." Rove is still "Bush's Brain" no matter how the conservatives wince to hear that, and Bush will do what he says. We are in the final weeks before the election that will represent the seminal moment in Rove's career as a kingmaker. Bush never needs to run for office again after this, win or lose, and I can not conceive of one thing in this world that Rove wouldn't do to win.

Does this mean that we really have bin Laden stashed someplace? Frankly, I highly doubt it. But anyone who can come forward and say that Karl doesn't have a big surprise up his sleeve in case of bad polling numbers in October is probably also clicking their heels together and clapping loudly for Tinkerbell to come back to life.

The race will be won by whoever takes two out of three in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. That hasn't changed. Kerry is leading in Pa. and has the potential to surge in Ohio as new voter registrations swell. Lord only knows what can happen in Florida on any given election day, as we have seen. I don't know what the surprise will be, but I can assure you we will see it in the next few weeks.


Kerry/Edwards Drop the Ball on Canadian Medicine

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 03:02:00 PM

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Today, in Manchester, New Hampshire, John Edwards gave a speech where he once again ran up the flag of allowing Americans to buy expensive prescription drugs more cheaply in Canada. Now, I fully understand that, in order to get Bush out of office, Kerry needs to draw in as many votes as he can across a number of demographics. The tempting bait of cheap Canadian prescription drugs is an alluring one, and very popular among seniors and low income wage earners. Unfortunately, this is a very damaging proposal that could only, at best, result in very short term benefits and tremendous long term damage to health care in the U.S. and around the world.

Thomas Sowell explains it far better than I, (and he should. He's an economist and I'm not.) but I can give you the gist of it. First you need to ask yourself if you are one of those people who think that Canada has suddenly figured out how to research, develop, get approval for and market revolutionary new drugs faster and cheaper than American companies. If you are, please put down the crack pipe. Canada, as with most countries in the world, get the majority of their cutting edge medicine from American pharmaceutical companies. In the case of *some* of these medicines (you'll note that Americans don't go to Canada for all medicines, just some of the newer, very desirable, high profile ones) they get them substantially cheaper than we do in the U.S.

How? It's a complicated system and a combination of factors are involved. First of all, American companies want to make sales to other countries, and sometimes, in order to make a big sale of other, profitable medicines, they will cut the cost of some very desirable ones to the point of breaking even or even taking a loss, in order to make the whole sale. Also, with Canada's socialized medical system, they buy in massive bulk quantities which also drives down the price. They can afford to do this on occasion because they expect to make up the losses in that one section through sales in the much larger domestic U.S. market.

The problem is, these medicines are horrendously expensive to develop and bring to market. For every medicine that they successfully get out, there are countless others that don't work out. The research and development costs are staggering, and even if they get a winner it has to go through years of government testing for approval before it can be generally sold and have a chance of showing a profit.

If you suddenly have all Americans going to Canada for their medicine at these cheaper costs, then the market at home dries up and no money is made to pay for the R&D costs. Who will develop the new medicines if these U.S. companies won't? I think you're starting to get the picture. Pretty soon they will either be unable to develop new medicines, or they will just have to jack up the price to Canada (and other countries) making everyone pay more so they can afford to keep working. This will result in the prices going back to where people may as well buy them in the U.S. at a now even higher price, and nothing is gained except imposing financial hardship on the pharmaceutical companies who are developing the medicine in the first place.

It's an attractive political ploy, but it's a red herring. And Kerry and Edwards need to drop it out of the electioneering pitter patter.

Issues 2004

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 01:14:00 PM

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Many people have continued the cry that the issues during this election cycle are being overwhelmed by the rhetoric, the name calling, character assassination and partisan twisting of every phrase. Jeff Jarvis at The Buzz Machine has been bravely fighting that trend by posting a series of articles on each of the major foreign and domestic issues. He includes a short summary of his stand on them, and then opens up the comments section for readers from both sides of the aisle to discuss.

Now he has gathered all of those posts together in a "by topic" page so you can scan them, read, and comment if you like, on whichever issues are important to you. The compilation page can be found here. Go check it out and join in the dialogue.

Ankle-biters Beware

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 08:42:00 AM

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Blogs around the globe are all a'twitter this morning over Steven Levy's Newsweek editorial on blogging and his immediately infamous remarks. The term "ankle-biter" shall now surely take its place immediately below "pajamas" in the blogging lexicon. As with any other story, however, it's critical to examine the source: who is the person? What are their qualifications and background?

A colleague of mine looked at a snippet from Levy's article and immediately stated, "It's a fuse." I wasn't familiar with the term being used in this context and asked her to explain. "By fuse," she said, "I mean that this Levy is very likely a blogger himself, or at least an avid reader of blogs. He lit a fuse to see what sort of chain reaction explosion would result in the blogging community."

An interesting possibility, and if she is correct then Levy succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The number of blogs commenting on his column, (mine included) is surely well into the hundreds within hours of the it going public, and will likely expand exponentially from there.

At any rate, it took exactly one try to find his web page, www.stevenlevy.com, and it seems that he is a senior editor at Newsweek. He's also published previous articles on blogging, such as this June entry in Wired magazine. He apparently started a blog on salon.com back in 2002 for research purposes, but I can't find it now. He's the author of a number of technology books. Fair enough... he's probably not another "geek in pajamas" at that. His critique has a number of the big hitting bloggers up in arms, of course, particularly Glenn Reynolds. But is Levy's criticism of blogging totally unwarranted? Let's examine some of his infamous comments:

[Bloggers'] "motives are often fiercely partisan. Name-calling and intolerance of opposing points of view have reached epidemic levels on Web logs. And when it comes to hammering away on a noisy subject that ultimately distracts from more important issues, the Blogosphere can make cable television look like a 1950s debating society... you'd think that Rathergate was bigger than Watergate, Iraq and Britney's putative wedding combined.

I celebrate the liberating tools that let people post their thoughts unfiltered. But as with many other utopian predictions about how the open nature of the Net will create arenas that transcend foibles of the physical world, our faults have followed us to cyberspace. We were promised a society of philosophers. But the Blogosphere is looking more and more like a nation of ankle-biters."

At first glance it seems hypercritical and a bit of a low shot. But reading the entire article, he seems to express, or at least touch on, some uneasy feelings I've had about big blogging for a while now. I'm a critical person by nature and can't help but evaluate written material when I see it.

There are two areas I look at when evaluating a political blog. First is the writer's raw mechanical ability with the language. How competent are they as a user of English as it is properly written? Beyond that, how much "flair" do they have for the turning of a pithy phrase? How quickly will they sink to the use of profanity when a reasoned argument would suit their purpose so much better?

Second is the issue of partisanship. A certain amount of partisanship can't be avoided in most cases, and is to be expected. A person's political leanings will determine what subjects they choose to bloviate on, and often the side they take on many issues. But a blog that is clearly so shrill and one-sided that it leaves no room for examination of criticism of their point of view is not going to be taken as a seriously credible resource on all matters.

How do I rate on this scale? Obviously I take a lot of liberties with the language that I wouldn't do professionally, but I at least make the effort to get the mechanics close to a comfortable level and run the spell checker through my material once. My partisanship is clearly as a moderate who disdains extremist views, and I'll give a lot more space to news critical of Bush than that which praises him. I'm far from the gold standard.

Some of the biggest hitting bloggers however, are a serious disappointment. Professional journalists who produce mainstream work of high quality seem to sink into the mire when blogging to the point that you wouldn't recognize their work if it showed up in Time Magazine. One example is Michelle Malkin of Fox. A very credible, professional writer, her blog has frequent typos, infusions of profanity, and sticks to a hard right wing perspective that suffers no room for criticism of conservative values.

Others run the range down to the level of Ace of Spades, who's posts are rife with vulgarity and riddled with incorrect spelling and usage on a daily basis. You could be tempted to think that Levy's "Rathergate" comment was directed straight at Ace, who talked about virtually nothing else for two solid weeks. A host of other large blogs run the gamut of quality in between.

Where is the cream of the crop found? There are still some real works of art out there for the politically minded blog aficionado. At the top of the stack are a few of the really well written, primarily non-partisan creations of professional journalists. The Buzz Machine by Jeff Jarvis, Joe Territo's blog, and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire rank up at the top. You'll rarely find grating mechanical errors in their writing, almost no sign of profanity except for occasional dramatic effect, and an open discussion of a number of issues that seem to attract readers and comments from both sides of the spectrum. Those, in my never so humble opinion, are the hallmarks of a quality, unbiased blog. Power Line and Instapundit are also very well written blogs, but their partisanship rating has begun to slide a bit to one side. While he only occasionally veers into the political arena, James Wolcott is possibly the most skilled writer blogging today. He makes my "quote of the day" post more often an any other author, and his ability to create gripping mental imagry is so great as to make me weep over my own puny efforts.

So there is still some wheat left to pick from the chaff. Sadly, the chaff to wheat ratio is quickly approaching the stratosphere.

Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 9/28/2004 08:19:00 AM

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"The invocation of "the troops" to smother criticism is beyond contempt. It dehumanizes them, turning them into a political device to advance the campaign and to secure, if possible, another little slice of the electorate. It does not show, as Bush must think, a special solicitude for them but just the opposite. They are grist for his reelection."

- Richard Cohen

This needs no further blathering from me. Well said, Richard.


Monday, September 27, 2004

This Is Why Intellectuals Flee

posted by Jazz at 9/27/2004 03:42:00 PM

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A reader in Tulsa (of all places.. why do I get so much e-mail from Tulsa? Anyone who knows, please e-mail.) sent me a note saying I should go look at this blog who had linked to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see a rather insightful post on a nyt op-ed I looked at and considered posting about. I'll let Allen MacKenzie do it for me.

Great. Another blog to read. As if my wife wasn't already about to divorce me over this blog and the constant marketing blitz on my time.

John Kerry's "Assault Rifle"

posted by Jazz at 9/27/2004 01:02:00 PM

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I don't' know if it's more fun to chase the Rumsfeld 20 Year War story, or to continue watching Michelle Malkin's mental breakdown. (Though you have to love somebody who's name lends itself so beautifully to alliteration.) Today's entry is the alleged story of John Kerry having an assault rifle. I may get mental whiplash and sue her.

Of course Ms. Malkin, as unable to resist rising to the bait as a starving trout in a worm farm, immediately jumps all over the story. There's only one problem, you see. John Kerry, to the best of anyone's knowledge, has never had an actual assault rifle and this has been brought up in his previous campaigns. Did you really think a Democrat could run for the senate and not have questions of his personal gun collection come out?

Big John has stated in years past that he has an antique Chinese military rifle. It's similar to an early 1900's Yang 88. Here's a picture of one of that series. Does it look kind of like an actual assault rifle? Well, maybe a little, though true modern assault rifles are shorter and more streamlined. These guns were used in combat of course, but it was during a period when the technology was just a tad behind what we have today.

Here's the key part. This rifle is a single shot, bolt action model. I can see some of you aren't following, so I'll explain. Take a look at the second picture from the top in that photo I linked. See the silver ball sticking out from the side of the rifle? That's the handle for the "bolt" which contains the firing pin. In order to fire it, you lift up that handle, pull the bolt back, and put a single cartridge into the chamber. Then you slide the bolt back forward, pull it down to lock it in place, and you're ready to shoot. Once you fire, you repeat the process. Even assuming you have a pile of shells close at hand, a really competent expert with this weapon might be able to get off about ten shots a minute. (This is assuming you can find ammunition for this rifle, which is no longer manufactured. You'd probably have to load your own if you have the antique brass shells.)

The true "assault rifles" which are the subject of so much controversy following the recent lapse of the ban, are a bit different. They have a clip that can hold up to 22 or more rounds of ammunition that feeds into the chamber automatically from below. They can be semi-automatic, meaning you have to pull the trigger each time you fire, or full auto, where you can hold the trigger and fire at a very rapid speed. A good automatic can put out hundreds of rounds a minute until you melt the barrel down.

That's just a little bit different, isn't it? But if you're Michelle Malkin, it's much better to just rush to your keyboard in an orgy of glee and start typing, "OH MY GAWD! OH MY GAWD! JOHN KERRY'S GOT AN ASSAULT RIFLE! FLIP FLOP! FLIP FLOP! OHMYGAWD!!!"

Next week: Michelle announces that John Kerry has a leather coat and is secretly anti-cow.

More "20 Year War on Terror" Feedback

posted by Jazz at 9/27/2004 08:02:00 AM

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Just since last night I've received more than a dozen e-mails from members of the National guard and their families. These letters were about revelations that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knew, well in advance of the invasion of Iraq, that we would be facing a "twenty year war on terror" and that the National Guard would be called on heavily to fight it. The overwhelming consensus, thus far, is that members of the Guard were not let in on this information until shortly before they were deployed, and that many concerns remain about additional forces being called up. I wanted to share one letter in particular with you.

This letter is from Mark, a retired 20 year veteran of both active duty and the reserves. He voices a common concern that, even after giving so much time in the defense of his country, he may still be called up yet again. His perception of what the National Guard tells recruits and the reality they find in the service may be at odds. As he so succinctly puts it, "Two days a month, two weeks in the summer my a**."

Indeed. Thanks for your feedback and your service to our country, Mark.

"I just got out of the ANG, with 10 years of AD and 10 years, one month time in the Guard. My slot was an Army support position - so when Army gets called up, I get called up. I've been called up several times over the last few years - Bosnia, Airport Duty, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (to name some) while in the guard. I expected to be called up for short periods of time (weeks/months) while in the Guard, *not* years. As the expression goes, "Two days a month, two weeks in the summer, my a**."

I had the choice to go E-7 upon reenlistment, or retire after 20 years an 1
month. I saw the writing on the wall - and I figure that members of my old unit will get to read chapter and verse after the election. I've read many blogs (many on the left side), and I can't shake the feeling that even in the retired reserves, I've got a call-up in my future (due to my AFSC and experience). With a 20 year timeline I know I'll be called up - gotta have someone train the new officers."

Did You Ever Wonder ... Halliburton Edition

posted by Jazz at 9/27/2004 07:13:00 AM

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Did you ever wonder how some companies wind up getting such huge shares of the 210 billion dollars in federal contracts our government awards each year, even though they seem to continually get caught up in pesky lawsuits and violations of federal law? It's a process that goes largely unseen by the public since there is such a morass of bureaucratic red tape covering the whole thing. One such company, TRW, a huge Ohio-based manufacturing conglomerate, has been repeatedly hit with fines as high as 1.7 million dollars throughout the nineties, and still managed to receive billions in federal money. In the year 2000 alone they paid a record 24 million dollars in civil and criminal penalties. These types of penalties probably didn't bother them too much. Between 1995 and 2000 TRW received 10.3 BILLION dollars in federal contracting cash. You don't need me to detail all of the recent fraud debacles of Halliburton and the billions of dollars in no bid contracts which they have been awarded for Iraq.

"How does this happen?" you ask.

"There ought to be a law," you say.

Well, there was one.

It went into effect just before President Clinton left office, after years of fighting its way through the process. The regulation significantly strengthened the government's ability to deny contracts to companies that have violated workplace safety, environmental or other federal laws.

"Ok," I hear you say. "Problem solved, right?"

Well, it was briefly. Then, after only eleven days in office, George W. Bush suspended the regulation. Eight months later, he quietly cancelled it entirely. During that same sweeping period of pencil whipping, Bush also cancelled one Clinton era regulation that placed restrictions on arsenic levels in drinking water and another which mandated environmental cleanup requirements for mining companies.

Bush wants to run on his record. Keep these things in mind when you go to the polls.



Sunday, September 26, 2004

National Guard Update

posted by Jazz at 9/26/2004 09:36:00 PM

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From the previous post... I'm waiting to get a phone interview and be allowed to name a nice reader who's husband was called up from the reserves for the Iraq war. Apparently I wasn't the only one who never heard anything about the reserves being planned for use in Iraq. It seems that even after the invasion, reservists were still being told that it was still, of course, "theoretically possible" that reservists might be sent into action on the front lines, but their main purpose would always primarily be "homeland defense" and being sent into action was unlikely.

Now, as a Navy veteran myself from many years ago, I know that recruiters have a habit of bending the truth a bit to get more people to enlist. But if Rumsfeld and the D.O.D. knew there was a plan to send reservists in for a "twenty year war" against terror, they might have mentioned it to someone, don't you think?

As they say, "developing." This could get interesting.

UPDATE: An alert reader points out that, back in March of 2003, one of President Bush's biggest conservative supporters, Grover Norquist of "Americans for Tax Reform" had some interesting things to say. He was asked about the frightening cost estimates of a war with Iraq:

Such concerns are dismissed by Grover Norquist, whose conservative Americans for Tax Reform is a leading supporter of President Bush's tax cut plans. Some analysts estimate that a war could cost more than $100 billion (the president isn't sharing the estimates he's received), but Norquist projects the pricetag at $60 billion and says that could be covered through modest cuts in discretionary federal spending.

"If this was going to be a 20-year war, you could talk about the burdens to be shared, but if it's a finite war with finite costs, the government doesn't have to prepare people for a long struggle," Norquist said.

I wonder if anyone has checked in to see how good old Grover is feeling about it now.

Rumsfeld Before Iraq: Planning "20 Year War on Terror"

posted by Jazz at 9/26/2004 02:39:00 PM

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As mentioned in the previous article regarding President Bush's alleged volunteering for combat duty during his TANG days, an intriguing quote popped up from the Air National Guard. (ANG) CMSgt Arthur H. Hafner III addressed members of the Guard in the March, 2003 issue of their magazine, The Graduate, and delivered the following surprising quote: (Quoted text appears on page 12 of that document.)

"At the ANG Senior Leadership Conference in Denver, we learned that our leadership in the Department of Defense is planning for a 20-year war against terrorism (pause for a moment to think about that. 20 years). If you think ANG personnel won't be deployed in support of the war, stand up. (meaningful pause) I don't see anyone standing. You're right. During all the briefings and discussions at the conference, there was every indication the ANG will continue to play a significant role around the world."

This was during the runup to the Invasion of Iraq. At that time, we were in Afghanistan hunting down bin Laden and the people who attacked us on 9/11. There was still the "possibility" that we might have to invade Iraq to take away Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We had some clearly (or so we thought at the time) defined objectives and enemies which needed to be defeated.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly can attest, I follow political news and world events pretty closely. Too closely, some might say. But for the life of me I don't recall Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld saying anything about having plans in place for a two decade long war. Granted, the officer in question does not mention Rumsfeld by name, but simply says "leadership in the Department of Defense." But seriously, could any official there make a sweeping statement about a twenty year war plan without Rumsfeld having been in the loop? Did I miss a memo?

Perhaps one of the more professional bloggers with better contacts than I could check into this?

EDIT: Updates in a later post. I'm looking for more feedback from people in the reserves or their families. One reader has e-mailed saying that her husband had been told, after the invasion of Iraq, that it was "theoretically possible" that reservists could be called up to the front lines, but unlikely since their primary duty was always "homeland defense." I'd like to hear from any others with direct experience on this from either perspective.

EDIT 2: Getting some good feedback from members of the National Guard on this issue.

"Nonpartisan" ANG Officer Praising Bush's Service?

posted by Jazz at 9/26/2004 02:01:00 PM

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So it seems that both Powerline and Ace of Spades are now trumpeting a revelation by a retired Air National Guard officer saying that President Bush actually volunteered for combat duty but was turned down. But how good is their source? This story was first broken by WVLT in Tennessee. The testimony in question comes from retired Colonel Ed Morrisey of the ANG.

If we learned nothing else from Rathergate, we must certainly know by now to fully vet our sources. In order to ensure that Colonel Morrisey isn't some sort of partisan Bush supporter who's testimony might be, shall we say, "colored" by his preferences, WVLT asks him where he stands in the political spectrum.

"Morrisey says he considers himself to be more of a Libertarian than Republican or Democrat. Nonetheless, Morrisey says he is voting for George Bush come election day."

Well, that certainly sounds good then, eh? At least it's an independent source with no connections to either side or any bias. But hold on one moment, shall we? It appears that Mr. Morrisey is none other than the original founder of the Be Square Society, a section of the Air National Guard Noncommissioned Officer Academy Graduate Association. (NCOAGA). This is a very worthy organization supporting our reserve troops. They happen to have a magazine they put out which you may want to take a look at. It's called the "The Graduate" and is put out several times a year. A quick look at their March, 2003 issue (before we even invaded Iraq) will find another of their leaders prepping the troops for their support on the war on terror. (Quoted reference is found on page 12.)

"At the ANG Senior Leadership Conference in Denver, we learned that our leadership in the Department of Defense is planning for a 20-year war against terrorism (pause for a moment to think about that�20 years). If you think ANG personnel won�t be deployed in support of the war, stand up�meaningful pause�I don�t see anyone standing. You�re right. During all the briefings and discussions at the conference, there was every indication the ANG will continue to play a significant role around the world."

Get ready to support a 20 year war on terror. (And this was Rumsfeld's D.O.D. before we even made the decision to go into Iraq, supposedly. This may require a separate look by itself.) Also, this is an organization that is 100% devoted to the mutal support of Guard members, past and present, which would certainly include George W. Bush. They also have a very "support your Commander in Chief and our military objectives" point of view, as would be expected.

The point is, while this Colonel's service to his country and the NCOAGA is to be applauded, the same questions seem to apply to him as were applied to other "witnesses" to Bush's alleged lack of enthusiasm by right wing bloggers and the MSM. You will recall the skepticism, to put it mildly, that was assigned to the TANG secretary who said in an interview that the content of the CBS memos was factually correct even if the documents themselves were forged. This is another retired ANG person providing no documents, no corroborating witnesses... nothing but his own memories of events from three decades ago.

Last, we can apply Occam's Razor to the problem. These accusations regarding Bush's Guard service during the Vietnam era have come up every single time he has run for office. If he really had volunteered to go fly active duty missions in Asia but been turned down, do you really think he wouldn't have brought that up in his defense by now? That would be like dangling red meat over a lion's cage. Does it sound like something one would likely forget? The decision to volunteer for such hazardous duty with a high likelihood of death or capture could not be a decision that one arrives at lightly. And even if he did volunteer, the EVLT report says he was denied because he didn't have enough hours of flight time in the jets being used. Are we to understand that future President Bush didn't understand the requirements to be accepted? Or perhaps that he simply didn't know how many hours of flight time he had?

This whole story has the odor of more of the same. The same type of partisan accusations and supporting statements flying back and forth between the candidates would be my guess. Nice try to the right wingers, but this one also sounds highly dubious and impossible to verify.

Blogger Suicide Watch

posted by Jazz at 9/26/2004 11:51:00 AM

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In a rather depressing continuance of a sad trend, today Michelle Malkin continues her slow decent into senility, attacking veteran news man David Broder for having the audacity to criticize the MSM (Main Stream Media) in a bipartisan way, instead of simply defending Bush and attacking Kerry. Broder, who has been covering the news for more than half a century, commented in his column today that 24/7 instant news coverage is pushing traditional media news sources into making errors and abandoning the cold, hard research and skeptical nature of investigative reporting in days gone by. (Give it a read. It's an excellent analysis.) As Broder so capably puts it,

"As the path from the White House and political campaigns to the slots as TV anchor or interviewer or op-ed columnist or editor was trod by more and more people, the message to aspiring young journalists was clear. The way to the top of journalism was no longer to test yourself on police beats and city hall assignments, under the skeptical gaze of editors who demanded precision in writing and careful weighing of evidence. It was to make a reputation as a clever wordsmith, a feisty advocate, a belligerent or beguiling political personality, and then market yourself to the media."

This is a problem I have pointed out in numerous posts, both here and elsewhere. The darling child of the right wing bloggers is, of course, the forged Dan Rather memos. A horrid mistake by a former pillar of journalism, with as much experience as Broder, to be sure. However, that was then translated by the blogosphere into accusations that Rather had "sold out" and was simply a partisan out to damage Bush however he could. The fact was, Rather got snookered and gave in to the temptation of a "big scoop" for a weekly television magazine show. That format is all but extinct in the days of constant news streaming.

Malkin is quick to decry this and immediately takes a churlish shot at Broder, poking fun at his basic premise:

"Broder is saying that the introduction of the internet undermined "the skeptical and self-disciplined ethic" of the MSM. If it weren't for Buckhead and those scurrilous pajama-wearing bloggers, Rathergate never would have happened!"

The point that she is ridiculing, unfortunately, is exactly the situation we are facing. If Rather and other MSM journalist never felt the pressure to get a scoop out a.s.a.p. the usual pattern of investigation, questioning, and healthy skepticism probably would have prevailed. And in that case, the story never would have aired and yes, Michelle, Rathergate would never have happened. Broder then goes on to cite two partisan 527 groups on opposite sides of the fence; the Swiftboat Vets and the Texans for Truth. In true, nonpartisan fashion, he takes them both to task for being dubious sources of information with an agenda. But does Malkin at least support him in this attack on biased "news" reporting? No. She quickly jumps in, stating opinion as fact, and defends the Swifties (who favor her candidate) and denounces the Bush opponents.

"In Broder's addled brain, the charges of the Swift Boat Vets (many of which have been proven true) are just as "implausible" as the fake memos used by Rather and Co. He thinks the MSM rushed to air the allegations of the Swift Boat vets just as eagerly as it did the Burkett memos."

One can readily take either position on the 527 groups. You can criticize them for being completely partisan and distorting (or even inventing) the facts, or you can support them as a constitutionally protected form of speech. Both sides are valid and worthy of discussion. However, when you jump in and decry one group while extolling the virtues of the other, your credibility immediately evaporates. Malkin dresses herself in a flag of defense of the bloggers while demonstrating the partisan blindness for which she takes others to task.

O'Reilly Gets Prez Face Time

posted by Jazz at 9/26/2004 09:53:00 AM

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In today's edition of Bill O'Reilly's column, the "No Spin Zone," (stop laughing! This is serious!) we learn that Mr. O'Reilly was granted a thirty minute interview with George W. Bush. (Imagine that. The reclusive president who never talks to the press if he can avoid it, giving an interview to Fox's Bill O'Reilly.) Bill will be stretching this for all it's worth in a three part television series on this interview. To warm us up for his shining moment in the sun, however, he devotes ink to prepping us for this historic occasion.

He starts off immediately by setting us up with lowered expectations. In true Bush apologist fashion, he explains why it's only natural that the president wouldn't want to spend time with the press.

"President Bush doesn't really like the press and with good reason. The media "gotcha game" has been elevated to almost hysterical levels, and any mistake or misstatement by a President is front page news. Would you want to walk a high wire everyday?"

This one is pretty clear. The non-Fox press are obviously mean people who are waiting like vultures to trip up the well meaning president and falsely portray him as... oh, I don't know, say ... a war mongering, misleading industrialist who mismanages the war on terror, drives up the deficit, trashes the economy and the environment, and endangers civil liberties. Or something like that. Makes you feel kind of sorry for Bush, doesn't it?

Bill goes on to drop some other preliminary groundwork that you may need help understanding. Allow me to provide translations prior to your viewing this watershed moment in political news coverage.

"I approached my thirty minute interview with the President cautiously. I kept my presence low key, which is a tremendous departure for me. There are certain rules that have to be followed when talking with the most powerful man in the world, and I respected the guidelines."

Translation: "It was made very clear to me by Scott McClellan that if I asked any questions that weren't total softballs, I'd never see the inside of the beltway again, say nothing of the White House."

"... the tone of your questions must be respectful. Although I asked everything I wanted to ask and there were no restrictions in the interview, my queries were posed less aggressively than usual. I was direct, but subdued."

Translation: "It's going to be painfully obvious to any viewers who aren't the regular Fox faithful that I had to script this interview to paint Bush in the best light. But really, I didn't! I promise! That's all I wanted to ask. No.. seriously. Please stop laughing."

"Mr. Bush was much more business-like this time around. He kept the chit-chat short and seemed anxious to answer the questions. I believe he likes the joust when he thinks the playing field is fair."

Translation: "The president's relief at finally getting a scripted, non-threatening press opportunity was palpable. His definition of a fair playing field is if he is interviewed by his daughters. He also had to get it over with quickly because he needed to get back to his ranch in Crawford before dark."

"Most of the time, Mr. Bush was direct and to the point. A few times he evaded. He was, however, intensely focused, and so was I, except for one secret lapse. In the middle of my talk with the President, my mind flashed back for just a second to my childhood in Levittown, New York. The most powerful man on earth was answering my questions. Who woulda thunk it?"

Translation: "The president and I followed the script flawlessly. There was, however, one moment where I panicked. My brain drifted away from the mind numbingly boring questions and I began thinking how proud my family will be when they see me talking to him."

There's more, but I'll leave you to translate it yourself.