Friday, August 5


President Bush lamented the deaths of 14 Marines in Iraq Wednesday, calling the deadly attack a "grim reminder" America is still at war.

Who needs a reminder except the absentee president? Every day more Americans die in Iraq or Afghanistan and every day more are shipped over to serve as fodder for Bush's cynical political games. Next week my daughter's 19-year-old former boyfriend will arrive in Iraq. His job? To search out and dismantle IED's (improvised explosive devices), one of the most hazardous duties in theater. The kids met because they both sail competitively. C's right-wing yahoo father all but forced him to enter the Army to "make a man of him." I remember C sitting on our couch last fall watching Fahrenheit 9/11 on our TV (he was excited about being able to vote for the first time) and asking him afterwards for his reaction. I was pleased and just a bit surprised at the vehemence of his response -- he was disgusted and appalled with Bush and Company.

This is a sweet-natured, gentle young man who we'll be praying for every night until he returns safely. But meantime I can't help but wonder what would motivate a parent to offer up the sacrifice of their son for the sake of this benighted adventure.

Most of us don't need any reminders we're at war. We don't have the luxury of month-long vacations and hordes of sycophants to shield us from the realities of Bush's disastrous policies. We count the dead and the wounded, and we shake our heads in despair. After all, "we" chose this war, it wasn't thrust upon us out of necessity. We know that now even if we didn't before. The only grim reminder we need is the smirking face of the void we see on TV defending it.


Forrester Research has released a study of blog readership that has some mainstream press pundits gloating.

Cambridge-based Forrester Research reported yesterday that fewer than 2 percent of Americans who go online read blogs once a week or more.
Of course, the numbers don't tell the whole story.

[Boston]Herald reporter Jay Fitzgerald, author of Hub Blog and the Herald's Econoblog, notes: ``The New Republic, the National Review, the Nation and other political magazines have enormous influence, but their combined circulation doesn't come close to the readership of the top blogs.''

I daresay the pundits should think again. "Wireless home networks are the new broadband, driving the next wave of Internet use. Those with WiFi connections can access the Web from anywhere in their homes using a laptop. The result? They spend 24 percent less time reading newspapers and 23 percent less time watching TV than people in homes without the Web."

In other words, "early adapters" of blogs may be relatively few now, but look how rapidly use of the Internet has grown in less than a decade. Give blogs another few years and I expect they'll pose a significant challenge to the influence of print and broadcast media.


David Sirota points out a huge disconnect within the D.C. Democratic establishment on Iraq. He cites the recent close race of Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett for Congress:

Ultimately, the anti-war position defined his candidacy, and was the clear reason he was able to do so well in such a Republican district. That should be no surprise: polls have been telling us for months that America agrees with Hackett in believing going to war in Iraq was a mistake. Meanwhile, Americans' view of President Bush's handling of Iraq is at its lowest level ever.

Incredibly, however, in a memo sent to all Democratic House Members about what Democrats should learn from the Hackett race, the DCCC makes not one mention of the Iraq War and its effect on the election. Not one. It is as if the party is going out of its way to deny the importance of Democrats taking a strong position against the war, or making the war a serious issue in their campaigns.

I have long felt that this was one of the major flaws in John Kerry's campaign for the presidency. He (and the Democratic Party) should have hit hard on Bush's failures in Iraq, the lies told to justify the war, the continuous deceptions on the success of its prosecution, and the lack of post-war planning. If, after all this time, the party is still unprepared to nail Bush's hide to his own failed policy, we can look forward to more losses in the mid-term elections. If we can't articulate what differentiates us from the Republicans in this very obvious area, what hope is there? For those who voted for the war, admit you were misled and show your outrage and indignation. For those who opposed it from the beginning, don't be afraid to say "I told you so." I'm sick and tired of listening to Repug pundits and functionaries and media personalities repeating, "But most Democrats have a hard time saying what they would have done differently." What we would have done differently, simply put, is not to invade Iraq until we had proof that we were threatened.


The state of American journalism:

This morning coming in to work the local news radio station, Dallas KRLD 1080, began to report on the Bob Novak incident yesterday on CNN. The anchor, business reporter and co-anchor got so tickled with their clever debate on what obscenities can and cannot be uttered on broadcast that they forgot to tell what Novak did and cut to the traffic report without ever telling the story.

Eeek! When exactly did reporters become the story? The morning news shows are now characterized by "(dim)witty" banter among their on-air personalities to the point of nausea.

Oh for the good old days of Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, Edwin Newman and Frank McGee.


Tell it to the Republicans:

Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.
"We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

Collins, making her fourth shuttle flight, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."

Thursday, August 4


David Morris of AlterNet points out that it's way past time to start delineating the differences between party votes.

Our political parties don't want us to know how they vote on specific issues. And our media don't want to tell us how they vote.

This is bewildering and distressing, and something should be done about it. In a two party system, information about how each party voted should be in every wrap-up story. Yet only the Associated Press, to its credit, commonly includes roll call votes. And newspapers that carry AP stories rarely include that part of the feed.

The good news is that such information is readily available at the Thomas webpage.
In late July, a gun bill exempting gun sellers from lawsuits passed the Senate. An amendment requiring the installation of a child safety lock when a handgun is sold was passed by a wide margin, 70-30.

But 100 percent of the Senate's 44 Democrats voted in favor while 55 percent of Republicans voted against. I think Americans would like to know that. Shouldn't we let them know?

I wasn't familiar with Thomas until reading this article, but it's really easy to use -- I recommend it highly.


I agree with Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics, that articulating the actual message of the Democratic Party is more important than creating slogans and buzzwords (though marketers will confirm that you can't just blow them off, either). Wallis in this op-ed offers some concrete advice to Democrats on changing our message. Some of Wallis's suggestions:

(1) First, somebody must lead on the issue of poverty and open the way for a progressive economic agenda. (Amen! Let's start talking LOUDLY about helping the "working poor" achieve a living wage and stop the nonsensical tax relief for the uber-wealthy.)

(2) We need to frame the environmental issue as one of good stewardship and insist that "private interests should never obstruct our country's path to a cleaner and more efficient energy future, let alone hold our foreign policy hostage to the dictates of repressive regimes in the Middle East." (Can we say "an energy bill that will do nothing to preserve energy or decrease our dependence on foreign oil?")

(3) Dems should propose new ideas to reduce the number of abortions. (This is a good one -- better than saying "me too!" to the religious right.)

(4) The party should adopt serious pro-family policies.

(5) We should argue that the safety of the U.S. depends on the credibilit of its international leadership and renounce any claim to oil or future military bases, suggest reforming international institutions so that they are effective in situations succh as Darfur, and exert leadership in reducing global poverty.

Read the whole piece for the detail.


Worth reading: A new credo for the hyperpower.

To improve its influence and image in the world, the US should refrain from building new nuclear weapons, scrap the Bush doctrine of preventive war and regime change, break its climate-changing oil habit, and recommit to international rule-making organisations such as the UN.

The musings of a leftwing think-tank? A liberal pipedream? Not a bit of it. These proposals come from Richard Haass, a leading light in the US foreign policy establishment and former senior official in the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Pointing to perhaps the biggest lesson of the neo-conservative era, Mr Haass says hyperpower has limits - and they have been reached.

"The US does not need the world's permission to act, but it does need the world's support to succeed," he writes. "No single country, no matter how powerful, can contend successfully on its own with trans-national challenges."

Iraq, for example, had become a "magnet and a school for terrorists". The US should push for a new set of international "rules of the road" before the opportunity afforded by post-Cold War American primacy is squandered, he argues. But "significant changes" to current US policies are a prerequisite.