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Thursday, August 05, 2004

Don't fake the funk

On the radio yesterday, on a couple of stations, I heard a story about Sen. Kerry.


It seems he was at an event in Milwaukee. During the speech he talked about going to a couple of local food spots, a rib joint and Leon's (a well-known frozen custard stand) after the rally. Politicans often do this, much in a way a band says "We love you (insert city here)!" in a concert.


Anywho, people get jazzed at Kerry talking about scarfing down some ribs and custard. They go to these places to see him. One problem: he never goes. Rather than eat ribs, he goes to a ritzy lakeside restaurant instead.


Now, I don't fault a man for having high-class tastes. If you can afford it, more power to you. But Kerry is walking a dangerous line here. This comes on the heels of the Wendy's incident, where Kerry was trying to look as "normal" as Edwards by buying a bowl of chili, when he really had specially-prepared box lunches from a high-end restaurant on board the bus.


What Senator Kerry is engaging in is faux populism, and it's a dangerous road to take. Nothing makes someone look more awkward than being something he is not. And let's be blunt, Kerry is not a greasy ribs kind of guy.


And that's fine. Not everyone is. But he can't pretend to be one and then eat high-class box lunches from Nikola’s Restaurant after "eating"at Wendy's. That's practically committing political suicide.


(As a quick aside, compare this to Edwards. He and his wife have done this for 27 years as an anniversary date. Looks natural because it is natural. How many times is Edwards going to utterly outshine Kerry on this tour?)


People, for better or worse, are tending to vote on candidates based on how they feel about them, rather than facts or issues. Part of the reason George Bush won in 2000 (and yes, he did win), was because he won the critical state of...Tennessee. Yes, Gore's home state. And why? Because Bush is a genuinely folksy kind of guy, wheras Gore is a stiff-backed robot. And when Gore tried to look all down-to-earth, it was laughable. And those images enabled Gore to lose his home state, which no candidate for President has done since....I don't know. I've gone back as far as FDR in my mind and haven't found one yet.


Another example: George H.W. Bush. What is a defining image of the 1992 campaign? Bush not knowing what a price scanner was in a supermarket. Understandable, since I doubt he ever did much shopping. But by trying to make him something he wasn't, the resulting visual image was a huge blow to his campaign.


Faux populism is a candidacy-killer. And Kerry's people better wise up to this fact right now. If you want someone to do the tree-chopping/grocery-packing/food-serving photo ops, PICK THE GUY WHO'S DAD WORKED IN A MILL! This is Edwards' arena. Otherwise, Bush will win again, having had the blind luck of running against two candidates who were somehow even less impressive than he was.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Old news. Does it matter?

So the big terror threat for the NYC and DC areas turns out to be based on information that is three to four years old. Also, much of the information was available through "open-source" Internet sites.


The question is: why did we go to a heightened state of alert based on old information?


Well, as some have pointed out, the age of gathered information doesn't mean it is irrelevant. Terrorists plotted the 9/11 attacks for over two years. The bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania was planned out years in advance. And the USS Cole attack wasn't the first time Al-Qaeda tried that maneuver. The original boat sank. So "dated" doesn't translate automatically into "worthless."


The problem is that the Bush Administration failed to mention how old the information was. Tom Ridge made the announcement like this info was fresh and stunning to learn, and stressed the urgency of acting on it. But, as one senior law enforcement official said, "There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new." So why the hype?


Then you have President Bush saying "there's an enemy which hates what we stand for. It's serious business..." Well, duh. We know that. Regardless of whether the alert is orange or yellow, we all know Al Qaeda hates our guts.


But when you start issuing alerts based on old info without mentioning that fact, you start to chip away at how seriously the American Public will take these alerts. And that is a problem.


And there is one more problem: The Bush Administration has basically asked the Pakistanis to sit on captured terrorists and announce it at politically expedient times. Then you have Ridge making this statement about the old info:


But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.

Put the two together and what do you get? An Administration that appears to be using terrorists and their threats as political chits to cash in at key times. Which, if true, is offensive in a way few things are.


I originally found the last quote and link at The Brad Blog, which is in the Blogs of Note list. Brad and I come at many issues from opposite sides of the political spectrum. But we are in sync on this: playing politics with our national security is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts.


This isn't a case of a president running on his record. Rather, it's is beginning to look like a calculated program of scaring the American public into voting for him this November. If you have a different take on this, leave a comment. I'd love to read it.


Crying in their Brie

Interesting piece in the Boston Globe today about France struggling to come to terms with their falling world influence. They are taking a hard look at why a country that called the tune for hundreds of years in Europe is now fading in influence.


Some quotes:


"There is agreement these days that a national rigidity and an aversion to risk have stunted France's development."


"The French economy is static relative to those around it, especially Spain and Ireland and the UK," he (author Nicolas Baverez) said. "The GDP in these countries is growing, unemployment is steadily diminishing. But France is stuck at the same levels."


"The French are aware that they need to find a new energy. They take satisfaction in believing that the American model is wrong, or at least flawed, and that their new energy may be to define themselves against America."


My favorite: "The most frustrating aspect appears to be the waning influence of the French language. The French obsess about this and seem offended that the de facto official language in the European Union is clearly English. A European Commission report found that 83 percent of its officials and staff speak English and only 24 percent speak French.



The French have reacted defensively. In May, the National Assembly issued a resolution on preserving the use of French in EU institutions, urging the body to pump millions of dollars into French lessons for officials and staff."


You can read the rest via the link, but I think you get the gist of it. The French are fading, they're upset about it, and their solution is to be less like the US and artificially stimulate the use of French.


Which is why they'll never get anywhere.


The reason France is slipping into the second-tier of nations is their obsession on NOT being the US. When you define yourself by what you are not, you're pretty much setting yourself up for disappointment at every turn.


Look at the economies. The United States has the strongest economy in the world. It's built on the free flow of capital and labor, the ability for entrepreneurs to start and develop businesses, a strong banking system and a myriad of other reason. But the key to it all it that we are a capitalist society.


France? Well, France has strict labor laws that limit labor mobility. They have a confiscatory tax system. They believe in the pervasive arm of government having a major role in the economy. In other words, socialism. Which is most definitely in opposition to the US vision. The result is a moribund economy, elevated and rigid levels of unemployment, and a lack of growth.


So is it any surprise that English has taken hold as the de facto official language of the EU, and is the language of business worldwide? Of course not. Who wants to talk in the language of a dour, moribund nation with no vision beyond not being something? If I'm the Czech Republic, or Estonia, or Poland, and I see Ireland and the UK blossoming while France is suffering yet another transit strike, I'm most definitely learning English. It's a no-brainer.


Their solution to a fading world influence isn't to reform their practices, but to pay people to speak French. How screwed up is that? They're still living off of 19th century glory and the thrill of DeGaulle telling NATO to cram it with walnuts. Hardly a long-term revitalization plan.


France needs to face a vital fact: They are not on a par with the US. Heck, they aren't on a par with China or the UK either. Until they can accept this reality, they'll never find the stimulus and energy they need to become a great nation again.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Quick hits (and one long one)


Mark Hacking arrested in Salt Lake City for murder of Lori Hacking: No! You're kidding! What's next, the sun rose in the East? Anyone with one functioning brain cell knew her husband killed her.


Bush agrees to National Director of Intelligence and National Counter-Terrorism Center: He says he looks forward to "moving ahead on this important reform." Of course, two weeks ago he didn't think it was necessary. But NOW it's important, damnit! Especially since Kerry supports it.


Interesting piece: The new director will report to the head of the CIA. So how does this reform anything? The new Director can bring critical info to the CIA head. If the head doesn't agree, it'll get spiked. Why would you have the new director report to the most mis-managed intelligence agency in America? (And that includes the FBI, so you know this plan is screwed up.) Especially since the new Director will be collecting info from ALL the agencies, including the CIA. One possibility: the new Director falls under executive privilege since he doesn't have to be approved by Congress.


Pundits take front stage at Democratic Convention: Of course, if you watched Fox, you'd hardly know there WAS a convention.


Now, let me say that I like that Fox News exists. There IS a liberal bias in mainstream media, and denying that is just foolish. So Fox has a conservative bias. Big whoop. One network versus four. And no network ever playing it straight.


And let me also say ALL the "big network" coverage sucked. I watched it on PBS b/c it was the only way I could see what I wanted to see.


But Fox, do you have to be so blatant? Here are some pulls from the news story:


While CNN and MSNBC carried Gore's 15-minute speech in its entirety, Fox looked in for one minute...

CNN and MSNBC listened to Carter for 16 minutes, while Fox telecast five minutes live...

Fox carried three minutes of Sharpton's speech, and then Bill O'Reilly cut away to talk to two print journalists about his own interview with filmmaker Michael Moore the previous night.

And my favorite:

On the convention's first night, the camera trained on O'Reilly in Fox's FleetCenter skybooth while Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski spoke behind him to the convention. (None of the networks carried her speech.)

"Somebody's out there screaming about something," O'Reilly said. "I don't know what it is and it really doesn't matter at this point."

After some critics questioned Fox's short attention span for Gore and Carter, O'Reilly explained the next night that his mission was to provide viewers with perspective rather than propaganda.


In other words: they decide, they report. (emphasis mine - Teddy)

"The newspaper pinheads claim because we aren't broadcasting the speeches we're not fair," he said. "That, of course, (is) a bunch of baloney."


Okay. First of all, I thought the slogan was "We report, you decide." So F-ING report, Bill! Don't pick and choose for me what is and isn't critical. Who gives a rat's ass about your interview with the equally annoying Michael Moore? I sure don't. Report the news or show the speech, Bill, and I'll choose if it "matters at this point" you arrogant twit.


Second, I'll be interested to see how much play the speeches of Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback get. Not only in comparison to the Dem. Convention, but also compared to moderate GOPers like McCain and Giuliani. Will we get only five minutes? If Fox wants to remain credible, they better. Bias is one thing. Blatant ham-handed favortism is another.


One last quote:


Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative media watchdog, the Media Research Center...hopes the network does the same at the GOP convention.

"I have no problem with any network saying, 'We're not going to focus on the fluff that they give us. We're going to analyze this'."


We'll see, Brent. And if they don't, will you call them on it?
Turning over a new Leaf

You remember Ryan Leaf, don't you? QB at Washington State, drafted second in the 1998 NFL Draft behind only Peyton Manning. Hell of an athlete... for four years.


Yes, with that arm of gold went a head of stone. Surly and stubborn, he wore out his welcome at four different cities before leaving the game for good in 2002. Never living up to his promise, he is the biggest bust in the history of sports.


He's now shacked up in Moscow, Idaho, commuting over the border into Washington to finish his classes at WSU so he can hopefully become a QB coach someday....


...


Really? Leaf as a coach? What'll he teach them, how to throw away a career in four years? Leaf isn't qualified to teach anything, let alone football. Will he teach them media relations? I only ask because here is how he answered a phone call from The San Diego Union-Tribune (S.D. being the city where he started his infamous career).


"Man, what the (expletive)? How'd you get my number? If The San Diego Union-Tribune calls me again ... Man, you fools are stupid."

He then hung up.


Ya, I can see him molding the young minds on a football team.


So why did I write this? Because Ryan Leaf was blessed with a talent few of us will ever possess. He was paid more money than most of us will see on our lifetimes. And the petulant little brat threw it all away. Call it schadenfreude if you want, but I love the fact he's back at WSU like a whipped dog. The only it could be better is if I woke up one morning and he was collecting my garbage pails.


Here endeth the rant.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Missing Story

In the prior entry, I wrote about how Kerry's top donor, millionaire Steven Bing, has connections to a convicted mob hitman nicknamed Donnie Shacks. I read the story in the NY Post, but the story originated over at ABC News.


Someone asked me for the link. So I went to the Post. Story was gone. So I went to ABC. The story is gone.


Odd.


But thanks to Google, the cached story from ABC News is still there.
Here it is. Remember when going to Page 2, to copy the link and Google search it to pull the cached file up.


So why is the story missing. Three possible reasons:


So what is it? I don't know, but the story is partially confirmed from the excellent Mob News website Gangland News, which, in a 2003 column, confirms that Donnie Shacks did star in a movie produced by Bing. I have no reason to doubt the rest of the story, either.


But I want to make clear why I brought this story up. It is NOT to tar Senator Kerry. I'm not a conspiracy fool like the psycho zealots at FreeRepublic. My point was this: Bush is killing himself and his re-election chances all by himself. Kerry's best strategy is to stay positive and basically ignore Bush (baring major gaffes by W) until the debates.


But when your biggest donor has a connection to a convicted mob killer, you give Bush a chance to connect you to something you had nothing to do with. My advice was to deny Bush a chance to make something out of nothing and push Bing as far away as possible. That's it.


If you're a conspiracy fool, go here and wallow in hyper-right, theocratic misery. You can also slam Mrs. Reagan while you're there. Maybe they have a virtual kitten you can light on fire.



updated: The FreeRepublic link now works. Thanks to Constant Visitor Brad who pointed out my lack of slashes. You may now enter Psycho-ville without further delay.


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