The Great Debate

Needless to say, Kerry won, but it was close, if only because shrub didn’t freeze or crack. But Kerry was inifintely more knowledgeable, coherent, articulate and substantive. No big surprise there. Still, I wish he’d been more aggressive. He was perhaps a bit too gentlemanly. Chimpy repeated the old soundbites, the shorter version of which is: Kerry’s a flip-flopper. That got tired very fast, and Kerry rebutted it well.

I don’t think this debate will change much. But remember, this topic of national security is supposed to be bush’s super-strong suit. The fact that the best we can say is he emerged in one piece and held his own — well, that to me says he lost big. Now, on domestic issues he can’t hide behind 911. That won’t work when he’s pressed about our failed economy, the folly of No Child Left Behind, the rampant unemployment and colossal debt. Not to mention the obscene tax gifts for the rich.

Chalk up one for Kerry, and prepare for the real pyrotechnics in the next round.

Update: Fine commentary from my 2nd-favorite blogger JoshMarshall hits the nail on the head:

My point isn’t that Kerry clobbered the president or anything. But for most of the 90 minutes I thought Kerry held the initiative, keeping the energy of the debate on questions about the president’s record.

It’s the second point however that is, I think, the really big deal about this debate.

If you look at the dynamics of this race and the small but durable lead President Bush has built up over the last month, it comes less from people becoming more enamored of President Bush or his policies as it has from a steep decline in confidence in Sen. Kerry.

To put it bluntly, the Bush campaign has created an image of Kerry as a weak and indecisive man, someone that — whatever you think of President Bush — just can’t be trusted to keep the country safe in these dangerous times.

Often they’ve made him into an object of contempt.

Whatever else you can say about this debate, though, whatever you think of his policies, I don’t think that’s how Kerry came off. I think he came off as forceful and direct. And I suspect that most people who were at all genuinely undecided came away from the 90 minutes with that impression.

If President Bush’s current lead is built not upon confidence in him or his policies but in a simple belief that Kerry isn’t solid enough to be president, then I think this performance could help Kerry a good deal.

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Order now while supplies last

You can order your DVD of Fahrenheit 9/11 from my friends at All Spin Zone, with all profits going to the Democractic cause.

While not perfect, F911 was definitely a turning point for me, especially in regard to just how despicable the stealing of the 2000 election was. There’s a lot of the usual Michael Moore nonsense and clowning, and I ignored a lot of the stuff about Bin Laden’s family and the bushes. But many parts of the film are seared in my memory: the before and after interviews with the mother whose son was killed in Karbala, the secret service inexplicably protecting the Saudi embassy, the famous goatboy footage of September 11, the battle scenes of Iraq, and that last video clip of bush (“Fool me once…”), where you simply have to pause and ask yourself how we ever managed to end up with a total moron at the nation’s helm.

I hear the DVD comes with lots of new footage, so I’ve pre-ordered already. And remember, it makes a great gift for your dumbass Republican friends. Make sure they watch it before the election.

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Right-wing newspaper reports on the war

As we all know, the Wall Street Journal is a reactionary Republican newspaper, at least when it comes to its editorial board. So it was interesting to see what their own reporter is saying about our McWar in Iraq. Remember, this is not your lefty NY Times or WaPo.

Iraqis like to call this mess ‘the situation.’ When asked ‘how are things?’ they reply: ‘the situation is very bad.’ What they mean by ‘situation’ is this: the Iraqi government doesn’t control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country’s roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health — which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers — has now stopped disclosing them.

It’s a free country, and we’re all entitled to believe what we want about this war. I really want to know, why do people point to this awful war as proof of shrub’s leadership and strength? Why do they believe he must be the one to command our military for another four years? I’m willing to change my vote, if you just explain why I should in the light of this sort of evidence.

Oh, and note that the new Iraqi government has learned well from those who created it: The numbers of the dead and dying were simply too unberable and reflected a state of deterioration and despair. Simple solution: Just stop reporting the numbers! Maybe that way it’ll just go away.

Update: I just read elsewhere that this wasn’t an article in the WSJ, but an email from the WSJ reporter to his friends. If so, then we have even more reason to believe it.

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Freedom is on the march

Oh, what a lovely war.

Baghdad Bombings Kill 35 Children
(AP) – Bombs exploded near a U.S. convoy in western Baghdad on Thursday, killing 35 children and seven adults, a hospital official said. Hours earlier, a suicide car bomb killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital’s outskirts. The day of violence left a total of 46 people dead and 208 wounded. The bombs in Baghdad’s al-Amel neighborhood caused the largest death toll of children in any insurgent attack since the conflict began 17 months ago.

Update: Whoever really wants to understand why things are so grim, so desperate, must read the words of one of the war’s most outspoken and dedicated fans, someone who beat the drum louder than any other blogger. Here’s what he says now; please read it carefully.

The reason I believe things are dire in Iraq is pretty simple. The evidence is accumulating that the insurgency – fostered by Baathist thugs, al Qaeda murderers, and other Jihadists – is gaining traction. That would be a manageable problem if the population despised them and saw a way through to a better society. But the disorder and mayhem continues to delegitimize the Iraqi government and, by inference, the coalition occupation. And the inability or unwillingness of the U.S. to seal the borders or effectively counter the terror contributes to the general view that the insurgents are going to win, and therefore the notion that the U.S.-led liberation may make matters even worse than they were before. And this is a vicious cycle. In other words, one reason the insurgency is spreading is because it has tacit support or merely passive acceptance among the general population. And once the general population turns against an occupying power, then things get really … Algerian. The key moment was probably when George W. Bush blinked in Fallujah. That was when the general population inferred that we were not prepared to win. It’s amazing, really. This president has a reputation for toughness and resolution. Yet at arguably the most critical moment in this war, he gave in. He was for taking Fallujah before he was against it. I cannot believe the situation is beyond rescue. But this president’s policies have made it much much more difficult than it might have been. Elections are now more vital than ever – because they are the sole means of gaining the advantage in the legitimacy stakes. With those must come a relentless guerrilla war against the enemy, a massive increase in troop levels (whether Iraqi or America), and a huge effort for reconstruction. But we have thrown away a year’s worth of opportunity. By incompetence and lack of will. Fallujah was a kind of Dunkirk. And Bush is no Churchill.

Tell me again, why should we vote for bush?

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Site traffic blip

I had a bizarre spike in my very humble site traffic today. I noticed all through the day I was getting almost twice my usual traffic, and when I looked at the referral sites, I saw a huge number of hits to an old and insignificant post I wrote titled “Spaceballs 2.” (It was about China’s space program.) Well, today it turns out that comedy director Mel Brooks announced he was putting out a sequel to his dreadful movie Spaceballs, and of course it’ll be called Spaceballs 2. And lots of Brooks fans were scouring the Net for information.

It’s nice to get a surge like this, and sometimes the visitors actually hang around a while. But most flee almost instantly when they see the post is unrelated to what they’re looking for, and that drives down the average number of minutes each user stays — a far more reliable indicator of your blog’s success than the mere number of unique visitors.

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A comment to savor

Please, everyone, go read the breathtaking comment by “alabamian.” (And Conrad, that means you, too.) Read it and compare it to the comment to which he’s responding, and tell me who you believe really understands what happened in Alabama. Read it and tell me which assessment is more fair, more compassionate and more humane. And more knowledgeable. Read it and don’t tell me anything at all –but just read it.

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Why didn’t Fafblog win a MacArthur “Genius” award?

I have to ask that, after reading his brilliant post on Outsourcing Torture.

Giblets is outraged! Congressional Republicans are trying to sneak provisions into the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004 that would legalize the foul practice of “extraordinary rendition” – the transfer of suspected terrorists to other countries to be tortured for information. To pass the bill in this form would be inconceivable – for how can any red-blooded pro-torture Congressman justify outsourcing our nation’s torture work when American torturers are losing their jobs every day?

Giblets is a proud supporter of torture. After all, an increasingly pervasive federal government isn’t going to be torturing people like you or Giblets – it will be torturing nothing but Very Bad People, or other people who have been foolish enough to share the same ethnic features or religious beliefs as Very Bad People. As a good honest citizen you have nothing to worry about!

Definitely, absolutely read the whole thing. If you don’t read any other blog, read Fafblog every day (and Peking Duck, of course).

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NYT calls for Hu to release news assistant in Beijing

A sober and intelligent editorial on Hu’s rise to China’s No. 1 spot notes the secrecy involved in Jiang’s resignation and says it’s too soon to say how serious Hu really he is about reform. If he wants to prove he’s a true reformer, the editorial says, he has a great chance to convince the world:

Two days before the leadership transition was officially announced, authorities in Shanghai detained Zhao Yan, a news assistant in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times who was formerly a reporter for the magazine China Reform. Zhao’s family was advised that he was accused of “providing state secrets to foreigners.” Apparently, the “state secret” was an advance report that Jiang was about to retire. The Times says Zhao had nothing to do with the article. But the very suggestion that something that anywhere else would pass for routine politics is a state secret in Beijing speaks volumes about Chinese Communism.

Under the leadership of Jiang and Hu, China has demonstrated an enormous vitality and capacity for creative development, and economic well-being is an indispensable prerequisite for the development of democracy. But the reverse is equally true: Good government and the rule of law are indispensable for sustained development. One way to signal that Hu is not oblivious to this would be to release Zhao, and to make clear that his arrest was wrong.

This is an ugly situation Hu would be wise to bring to a close as painlessly as possible, as quickly as possible.

Update: This editorial is from the IHT, which is owned by the NYT.

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Newsweek on Iraq

Not your usual left-wing moonbat rag, Newsweek today offers a mind-blowingly pessimistic article on Iraq. I mean, this is downright grim.

Reporter Christopher Dickey says it’s simply a given that we will close — that’s not even debatable. The only quesion will be how terrible our defeat is.

The most likely course of events in the years to come will be a rapid disintegration of Iraq, with the Kurdish north ever more independent, the center of the country–including much of Baghdad–a virtual no-go zone and the mullahs in the south, by design or default, positioning it as a new Shiite Islamic Republic. All those trends are well advanced already, and partial elections in the north and the south will probably hasten the outcome. But many more Americans will die before the administration declares “parts of former Iraq are winning freedom.”

In the United States, it’s doubtful we’ve been haunted by such a collective sense of fear since the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts in the early 1950s. There was a real threat then, but there was also vicious demagoguery based on calculated hysteria. So, too, today.

The events of three years ago were a terrible shock. Terrorists do want to attack us, and they do need to be fought. But the artificial hysteria I found when I was back in America over the last month contributes nothing positive in a battle that has to be waged in a real world full of gray areas and seeming contradictions. The fact is, allies do not cooperate just because you tell them to. Dictators do not pose a clear and present danger just because you think they might. People do not feel liberated just because you say they are. They won’t love you for intentions. They will judge you by your actions.

It would be satisfying to report that the Bush administration in a second term will take off its ideological blinders and favor expertise over ideology when dealing with the fight against terrorists and the uphill battle to stabilize a unified Iraq. But the trend is in precisely the opposite direction. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the chickenhawks who flock around them are set to stay. The few weak voices of reason like Secretary of State Colin Powell are expected to leave. So are many of the old pros at the State Department, the CIA and in the military, who are tired of being ignored and wary of implication in further disasters.

Definitely a must read. If the writer is even partially right, we are on course for a trainwreck that will make the current nightmare look like spring break. And some people insist we can still “win,” and that it was a good idea. How could they possibly say that in the wake of so much being lost, and so very little being gained?

UPDATE: In the name of fairness, I feel I need to balance this grim outlook with a breaking story in today’s WaPo. Apparently things aren’t really that bad afer all.

A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.

People at the CIA “are mad at the policy in Iraq because it’s a disaster, and they’re digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper,” said one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. “There’s no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments.”

“Things are definitely not improving,” said one U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq.

“It is getting worse,” agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. “It just seems there is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago.”

Don’t forget, Freedom is on the march. It’s right around the corner.

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Whatever happens, it proves shrub is right!

[Note: This article was brought to my attention by a Chinese reader, who said in his email, "This sounds just like China's Cultural Revolution."]

The key point of William Saletan’s brilliant little article is simple: Whatever happens on shrub’s watch, no matter how terrible, it is proof that his policies are working. It is virtually impossible to show that he has ever made a mistake or taken the wrong approach. This is priceless.

In 1999, George W. Bush said we needed to cut taxes because the economy was doing so well that the U.S. Treasury was taking in too much money, and we could afford to give some back to the people who earned it. In 2001, Bush said we needed the same tax cuts because the economy was doing poorly, and we had to return the money so that people would spend and invest it.

Bush’s arguments made the wisdom of cutting taxes unfalsifiable. In good times, tax cuts were affordable. In bad times, they were necessary. Whatever happened proved that tax cuts were good policy. When Congress approved the tax cuts, Bush said they would revive the economy. You’d know that the tax cuts had worked, because more people would be working. Three years later, more people aren’t working. But in Bush’s view, that, too, proves he was right. If more people aren’t working, we just need more tax cuts.

But it’s not just taxes. When it comes to fighting wars, Chimpy McCokeSpoon is proven right no matter what happens on the battlefield. We get attacked and massacred — no problem. It’s a sign the enemy’s running scared! Remember Fallujah?

Three months after the handover, the attacks continue to escalate. Fallujah is completely out of control. Is this failure? No, it’s success. Things are getting even worse because we’re doing even better. Now it’s the January 2005 Iraqi elections, not the June 2004 handover, that’s supposedly inspiring the enemy’s desperation. If we stay the course till January, we’ll turn that corner we thought we’d turned in June. “Yes, it’s getting worse, and the reason it’s getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the election,” Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted Sunday on This Week. “And because it’s getting worse, we will have to increase our efforts to defeat it.” Bush understands that the resistance is evidence that history is on our side. As he explained Tuesday, the violence is growing “because people are trying to stop the march of freedom.”

If the situation in Iraq improves in the coming weeks, Bush will take credit. If it deteriorates, he’ll take credit for that, too. “Terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near,” he warned Thursday. “The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy in Iraq will put down permanent roots, and terrorists will suffer a dramatic defeat.” So take heart. We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.

I’ll sleep a bit easier tonight, secure in the knowledge that the worse things go in Iraq, the stronger the evidence is that we’re winning.

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