Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bottom Line on Debate

If Kerry wins, he has much to thank this debate for!

Initial thoughts on the First Debate

Kerry opening, a bit nervous. Can he make the US safer? He started out well but then went into a laundry list that I'll
never remember. He should have stuck with his only good points - alliances and approach to the muslim world.

Bush seems nervous as well. "Free nations" repeatedly. Talks about "the enemy" - the "ideology of hatred". He seems a bit defensive
when Kerry says that there were 10 times more soldiers in Iraq than in Afghanistan. The answer to Lehrer's follow-up question shows
that he really has no answer.

Pretty funny - Bush' joke "how's he going to pay for it" seemed out of place to me. The accusations are much to serious. He
definitely seems defensive. Almost whiney. "Stay on the offence" - terrible.

It's funny about the 87bn dollars - Bush counters Kerry's bombs with Republican talking points.

Man, it's not pretty watching Bush when he's run out of talking points and he's actually thinking. Kerry is holding it together
very well. He's got a big upper hand (at 45 minutes).

Osama bin Laden doesn't decide US foreign policy, Bush says in response to Kerry's arbument that bin Laden uses Iraq as proof
that America is after Islam.

"The only consisten position of my opponent is that he's been inconsistent". Guess which one of them said that :)

What is up with "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time"??? Crazy man.

Kerry's weakest answer was on specifics for ending the war. He basically didn't have any. Not sure how he could have done
this any better though. If he's elected he'll inherit a mess, and it probably won't matter much who is president. The key
point which Kerry should have made is that proper pre-war planning would have avoided the mess in the first place.

Kerry excellent on N-Korea, and very good on Darfur - great points of over-extending the military.

So Bush' main grievance against Kerry is that he "changes his mind on something he believes in his heart". So now American wars
are fought because of what's in the President's heart. I guess that pretty much sums him up. Is that what the rest
of us want though?

What do you see as the biggest threat asked Jim of Kerry. Kerry's answer about nuclear proliferation was solid, passionate and
seemed credible. Bush was yet again on the defensive. No new ideas, just bland defense of past actions. Very impressive
of Kerry.

When Bush talks about the "dangers" of breaking up the 5-country alliance by opening up bilateral talks with N Korea he sounds
like somebody who has been told it's a bad idea but he doesn't really know why.

Weak closing by Kerry. Sounded like he did at the convention - hurried, too many items on the list.

Bush actually better at the closing. When he's not on the defensive and stays clear of details he actually sounds a bit

Ok, those where blunt impressions.

Spam for Kerry

Got this e-mail from the Kerry campaign (from a "Mark Perloe" - I've removed the actual e-mail addresses but there were hundreds of them):
John Kerry needs your help to help control the immediate post debate spin. Your email letters can make the difference. Please share this list with anyone you know who might be willing to help flood the media with :"Kerry was great!" emails.

After the debate, we must let the media know who we thought won. We should bombard major networks with our opinions; statments like, "In the debates, I felt I really got to know John Kerry, and I now trust him" or, "the president seemed confused" would be appropriate and effective. In this thread please discuss what type of message we want to send to the media, and how best to send it.

The following list contains most of the major media outlets' email addresses. When emailing please BCC [blind copy] this long list.
Maybe I should write a quick e-mail send script and produce hundreds of "Kerry is great!" messages about one hour BEFORE the actual debate? Might be fun.

Debates and Democracy

My two cents: The debates highlight what is wrong with America: Not enough intelligent debate! We practically live our entire lives without having real discussions with people who hold opposing views. As a result our positions on most issues are primitive and inflexible. The solution: Get people to start discussing! I have some thoughts on this (debate formats and moderator checks modelled after eBay) - more on that later.

"Parallel News Conferences"

Thoughtful piece by George F. Will: "Every successful candidate has a basic stump speech, the incessant reiteration of which drives the traveling media into insane lip-syncing of it. It is 15 minutes long -- five minutes on the problems, five on the candidate's solutions, five on the contrast with his opponent. It is 33 days before Election Day, and Kerry still has no such speech. So he must make the most of these parallel news conferences that we laughably call 'debates.' "

Kerry's Crucial Night

Kerry's Crucial Night (

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Stewart's 'stoned slackers'?

Funny spat between Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart (thx to the wifey).

Rules for Bush-Kerry Debates

I think these rules along with the lack of political debates in general is one of the biggest threats to American democracy. Have you ever watched MP's speak in the UK commons? That's democracy. You don't become a UK PM unless you can hold your own against a tough crowd. Contrast that with US Presidents who go on for minutes (sometimes 5 minutes or more) on whichever topic they've been told by their consultants to push. Bush with his relentless "on message" speaches is especially bad - as this example from Bush in Ireland shows.

Karl Rove in a Corner

Also via Sullivan (although as an Atlantic reader I would see this eventually). Rove is scary. Are the Democrats any less scary in their election tactics? I don't know, probably not. Rove is probably just a "better" political consultant. Which means that even though he should be held responsible for all the dirty things he does, the bigger failure is systematic.

Federal Tax Burden

Interesting link via Sullivan: TaxProf Blog: Red States Feed at Federal Trough, Blue States Supply the Feed

Monday, September 27, 2004

The great divide

BBC reports on American media bias. Nothing new but some of the quotes gave me some more insights into what people's thoughts are.

How Kerry can win the debate on terror and Iraq

Great advice for Kerry by William Saletan in Slate. No-nonsense stuff like:
The other day, in an ad lib, you called him a liar. Don't do that again. In a contest of sincerity, more people trust him than trust you.
Will Kerry do it? It does look like he's receiving better advice these days...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Iraq Debate

An unusually balanced and centrist commentary on the position taken on Iraq by both Kerry and Bush:
Mr. Kerry has given a clearer choice to those Americans who oppose the Iraq intervention, and he has prodded Mr. Bush into a more forceful commitment to seeing it through. That polarization will suit many on both sides. But for those of us in the center -- who supported the invasion, as we did, but have been dismayed by the Bush administration's performance; or who doubted the wisdom of the war, but now believe it essential that the United States not be driven out of Iraq by insurgents and terrorists -- the choice has become more difficult.
As much as I would like to believe otherwise I am starting to doubt if Kerry really does have a coherent set of beliefs on Iraq and "war on terror". His pro-war vote seems to suggest that he swallowed the White House bait about the need for invading Iraq back in 2003. Which is fine - many of us did - I believed in WMD but I distrusted other motives and thought UN should be on board (see In defence of the fence for the best pre-war assessment I could find). If he could just come out and admit that he was wrong then his new position (the war was a "distraction") would actually seem credible and genuine. As it stands it looks more like he's following somebody else's advice, and that's a shame.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Sullivan: Why Kerry is Losing

Dead on, as usual. "Better to be strong and wrong than indecisive and paralyzed. I suspect that that is now the calculation forming in many people's minds."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Bush the Liberal

I admit it. I have a soft spot for President Bush.
I love it when he goes to the United Nations as he did two years ago and again today and tells those lazy cynics to get off their duffs. They spend their days congratulating each other, passing toothless resolutions, and giving lip service to tired pet issues. Bush is just what they need. He pokes them in the ribs. He points out that scofflaws are treating them like a joke. He tells them to enforce their threats, or he'll do it for them. He preaches freedom and democracy. He vows to serve others, no matter who else joins in the cause. He refuses to back down, no matter what the price.

Sullivan: Vote for Bush ... Or Else

Sullivan is a must read as always. He has a well thought-out argument for those conservatives who "can't trust Kerry" on security:
I can see where these guys are coming from, and I don't want to sound like John Kerry, but it surely is a bit more complicated than that. Simply put: the blackmail is a bluff. Any president elected after 9/11 will understand that defense of this country is the overwhelming priority - if only for his own political survival. The explicit differences between Bush and Kerry on this are not so glaring - or, more to the point, not so extreme that they can plausibly de described as making the difference between life and death, or victory and defeat.

Still no votes in Leipzig

From Guardian Still no votes in Leipzig argues that the world should get to vote in American elections. Sounds crazy of course, especially since
Besides, every good Republican knows the world is solid Kerry territory. A survey by pollsters HI Europe earlier this month found that, if Europeans had a vote, they would back Kerry over Bush by a 6 to 1 margin. Bush would win just 6% in Germany, 5% in Spain and a measly 4% in France. No Republican is going to cede turf like that to the enemy.
But the piece highlights a dilemma (which Niall Ferguson and others have pointed out): How to run an Empire and a Republic (in the "democratic" sense of the word) at the same time? Of course the British had no such problems in India, back then nobody (nobody important, anyway) argued that the Indians should have a right to decide their own future. The early Americans had a different view:
That 1776 declaration is worth rereading. Its very first sentence demands "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind": isn't that exactly what the world would like from America today? The document goes on to excoriate the distant emperor George for his recklessness, insisting that authority is only legitimate when it enjoys "the consent of the governed". As the world's sole superpower, the US now has global authority. But where is the consent?
What little consent the world once had is vaning quickly under Bush...

Mud-Slinging: "Police your own side!"

Great idea from Nicholas Kristof: The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Washing Away the Mud: "The only hope for stopping the mudslinging is if well-meaning people try to police their own side.
If they're intellectually consistent, Democrats will speak out not only against the Swift Boat Veterans but also against Mr. Kerry's demagoguery on trade, like his suggestion that outsourcing is the result of Mr. Bush's economic policies. Trade demagoguery may not be as felonious as an assault on a war hero's character, but it harms America by undermining support for free trade."

Urban vs. Rural Voters

More support for the theory that urbanites are Democrats, rural folks are Republicans.

Fox News and Reality

From a friend - a very interesting study. It looks at three specific questions:
  • Are there links between Al Quaeda and Iraq on 9/11?

  • Were WMD found in Iraq?

  • Does/did the rest of the world support the US invasion of Iraq

Not surprisingly, the study found that people who get their news from Fox were the most misguided, whereas those who got their news from PBS/NPR were the least misguided. The "ranking" goes something like this:
  1. Fox News

  2. CBS

  3. ABC

  4. CNN

  5. NBC

  6. Print media

  7. PBS-NPR

Conservatives frequently say that the "liberal media" is biased to the left just like Fox is biased to the right. This study shows the media bias is not "right" or "left" but rather "propaganda" and "reality". At least on the issue of Iraq.

Incompetence - finally!

As Andrew Sullivan sees it, Kerry has finally discovered the stick with which to beat Bush. About time. Can he do it? It's getting interesting now...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Road Map for Peace

Israeli PM says the road map is dead. White house says:
The White House insisted on Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is committed to the U.S.-backed road map Middle East peace plan, despite his comments in a newspaper interview that suggested otherwise.

I say the whole thing is a charade.

Sad Situation in Sweden

Andrew Sullivan linked to this piece, which prompted me to write him this letter:


I've written you before and I am absolutely fascinated by your blog. On the war, on Bush/Kerry, on gay rights - you're a voice for truth that cuts through the pre-programmed rantings from the extremes and the "balanced" and P.C. non-statements from mainstream media.

But on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict you don't seem to be interested in "breaking" with conventional American pro-Israeli wisdom. I read a lot of Norwegian news sites, and they are similar to Swedish ones in their anti-Israeli bias. Right or wrong the conventional view in Scandinavia is that Israel is the agressor and Palestine is the victim. I suspect you disagree, which is fine, but why don't you argue your case in the same objective, truth-seeking style that you apply to other issues? Why just leave brief commentary under the heading "anti-semitism watch" whenever you link to a story about Israel in European media? Can't you at least try to decipher their arguments before you debunk them?

This cartoon in Dagens Nyheter ("It's pretty grim in Sweden") is a great example. To me as a Scandinavian, this guy comes off as a "regular", center-left (the majority view) guy. You may call him naive (I would) but this type of thinking is deeply ingrained in Scandinavian culture. "Tearing down walls between people" will invaribly come up in foreign policy discussions just like "I don't want my tax money to go to X" will invaribly come up in discussions with Americans about government spending. To me, the cartoon expresses the frustration that most Swedes feel at beling labelled anti-semite, i.e. "racist", when all they're doing is applying what they learned in childhood about how humans should interract with each other.

But all you see in this cartoon (as suggested by your link text "anti-semitism watch") is more evidence of Swedish anti-semitism. In fact, you and the "honest reporting" writer (not a name that inspires confidence, by the way) are responding to the question "why is it that Jews call us anti-semites when we complain about the wall?" by taking the question itself as further proof of anti-semitism. How does a response at this level help bring about "the truth"?

I recognize that you may not have intended to create a "discussion entry" but when you put up a link under "anti-semitism watch" you are, in fact, calling something or someone "racist" and in this day and age that is a very strong statement.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

What Went Wrong?

... with Kerry in August.

Texans for Truth

Now Kerry's got a group claiming Bush didn't show for Air Guard duty. Given the success of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, this may turn the tide again. It is amazing what decides US elections...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More discussion about Bush' competence

Kevin Drum has some links and further thoughts.

Tivo, Netflix Close to Internet Movie Deal

This would be huge: : Tivo, Netflix Close to Internet Movie Deal - Report

Will on Iraq and Terror

George F. Will made an interesting comment on "This Week" with Stephanapoulis on Sunday. He said the the "average" voter is not capable of distinguishing between the "War on Terror" and the "War on Iraq". Because most people are so ignorant about US foreign policy (my interpretation of his words) they equate both "wars" with "trouble" or "danger".

I think he has a good point. That, then would seem to explain why Kerry is getting hammered in the polls right now. If you believe that Iraq and Al Qaeda are one and the same then Kerry's position must look very wobbly indeed. Statements like "the President botched the War on Terror by invading Iraq" become completely illogical and confusing.

Of course, Kerry isn't even saying that (or so it seems) - people keep quoting him as saying that he would have voted for authorizing the President's war on Iraq even though he knew there were no WMDs. That's a very dangerous quote, and he's getting a lot of heat for it. And rightly so - it doesn't make any sense.

Here's a piece that has some good points - both candidates don't seem to be leveling with the American people. Bush in particular, I would say.
WorkingForChange-A nation afraid of its people

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Zell Miller

Man, am I proud to be in Georgia...from Andrew Sullivan (as usual):
Forty years ago, Zell Miller said that Johnson was 'a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage.' It's a vile, bigoted, evil statement. He has since renounced his remarks. But since Miller also resurrected an ancient and disowned quote from Kerry on the U.N., this record is fair game. The unvarnished truth is that Miller was once a proud bigot toward blacks and, now that that is no longer acceptable, he is a proud bigot toward gays. I'm appalled that the Republican party would use as its keynoter someone who was once a proud segregationist."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Sullivan on GOP (again)

Anyone reading this blog (sorry, these bookmarks) should stop and start reading Andrew Sullivan instead. His GOP conventioin coverage is great. It is amazing to witness such an intelligent man with such deeply held convictions trying to reconcile his views with the direction of the current GOP leadership. This is what every citizen in a democracy should do: Think, form your opinions, and then try to figure out which of the candidates agrees with you the most. Come to think of it, the fact that I find him impressive is in itself a statement about the sorry state of US democracy.

Perhaps it is because of his pro-Bush past that Sullivan manages to come up with the best one-liners against him. His account of the Zell Miller speech (a must read!) included these spot-on comments:

What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller.

I'd just like to point out the obvious: Michael Moore was not invited to speak at the Democratic convention...

Fox News

In a Tuesday Night Showdown, Fox News Channel Outdraws the Big Three (

"Fox News Channel doing a big number at the RNC is the least shocking thing that's happened all week," said one broadcast network exec. "The Olympics are to NBC what the RNC is to Fox News."

"It says that Fox News Channel is the official channel of the GOP, and if people didn't know it before they certainly know it now," offered another competitor.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Playing to Strength

Playing to Strength - Why the Democrats should stop calling Bush stubborn.

This is interesting. It essentially says that people like stubborn (or "firm") leaders, hence the Democrats would do better calling Bush a flip-flopper. This is probably a good idea, which is sad, because there is no doubt that Bush' single greatest weakness is the fact that he never considers the two sides of an issue, and thus DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE WORLD!

Of course, I can see how this would be different in a war. Having a war commander who is stubborn and never gives up is probably a good thing (like Churchill). Which is, of course, why it matters so much whether we're at war or not. Like most non-Americans I don't think we are, no more than we're at war with "Crime", "Drugs", or "Tobacco".

Conservatives Against Bush Again

Andrew Sullivan has this 287-word summary on his current political stance:
As a classical conservative on most issues, my heart warms to the themes of this convention: freedom, strong defense, true diversity, personal compassion. I like Bush as a person and respect his good intentions. It is very hard to disagree with the central argument of my idols, McCain, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, that Bush has the better temperament and will to conduct the war against our enemies. And I remain as committed to that war as I have ever been. You only have to see the carnage in Russia, or the hideous massacre of Nepalese workers in Iraq, or the threats against French journalists to see why this war is vital. But that doesn't mean you should not grapple with the other side of the equation: How will Bush bring us back to fiscal sanity? What will he do with Iran? How can he wage a competent war while alienating so many of our allies? (You should hear how the pro-war Brits talk of his diplomacy.) How can he unite the country while backing the agenda of Christian fundamentalism in all domestic issues? How can he guarantee progress in Iraq while the country is riven by two major insurgencies? The answers I keep getting from Republicans is: Kerry would be worse. That is not an answer. It is an avoidance. Conservatives should not let pure partisanship blind them to fiscal abandon, war incompetence, and social intolerance. Maybe Kerry's characterological weakness makes Bush the best bet in the war. Maybe that means he deserves your vote in November. But that doesn't mean these underlying questions can be ignored or forgotten. They could make a second term a disaster - for the country and for conservatism and for the world.

I must admit I agree with many of his "classical conservative" values. I also grew up in a European country that was dominated by the inefficient and dogmatic Labor movement, and as such I can appreciate his skepticism with regards to big government, unions and citizens who blame the state for all their ills. Europe has also been incredibly naive on defense issues, hundreds of millions of them thought the Soviet system was better than capitalism in the eighties.

I really don't understand how he can "like Bush as a person" though. For sure, Bush has better inter-personal skills than Kerry, and he seems to have a great ability to touch people. I can also appreciate his sense of humor (like when he said "this is me looking for WMDs" while showing a picture of himself looking under a desk - very funny I thought).

But everything I've read about him suggests that he is not very "deep" - in fact the stories about him in cabinet meetings (from Paul O'Neil among others) seem to suggest that he is shallow and a piss-poor listener. His policy stubbornness seems to confirm this. He is clearly surrounded by "yes-men" and he hates it when people don't toe the line. How anyone with half a brain can like a person like that is beyond me. It's like admiring a dictator because he throws good parties!

Last point: I don't agree with Sullivans wholeheartedly support of "the war on terror" either. There is a middle ground between "we must win the war on terror at all cost, or else they will kill us all" and "fighting terrorism is best done through regular law enforcement". Sullivan (and most Americans) is too pessimistic about human nature. There is no reason why Arabs and Jihadists won't respond to sound and just policies that promote freedom and the institutions that are needed for personal ownership. Some of this may fall under what Sullivan rightly calls the "incompetent" way Bush has waged this war. But any solution in the Middle East has got to start in Israel and Palestine. Read Richard Clarke's book, he knows what it is all about - winning the war of ideas.