Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, October 29, 2004

Well, to the credit of the mainstream media, they really didn't pick up the story about Bush's stupid doctored ad. There were some stories about it, but nobody turned it into a big deal. So even though it helps Bush, bravo to the MSM for avoiding this story, because it's really pretty trivial.

On the other hand, I was a little disheartened that the Washington Post decided that 100,000 Civilian Deaths in Iraq is page A16 news today. Somehow you would think that the fact that the U.S. has perpetrated the equivalent of 30 September 11th attacks on a sovreign nation that was no threat to the United States would be some sort of national scandal, or at least a source of chagrin. But no. As a percentage of population, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has become a bigger killer in that country than cigarettes are in this one. The main difference there of course is that cigarette smokers choose to smoke; Iraqi civilians didn't choose this war.

We did.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Remember that shit I said about soccer? No? Shame on you. Well, then, remember the Hopkins/Trinidad fight? No? Shame on you. Well, remember the time we had a really inept, stupid president who lost really, really bad in his reelection bid because he was such a dishonest idiot, and surrounded himself with other dishonest idiots? No? Well, just wait a minute:

Ding Dong.

Stick a fork in 'em. Actually, stick many forks in 'em. Dull, rusty ones. With jagged tines and... Never mind. It's over. Let's leave it at that.

Obviously, not much forthcoming from Groomville these days. It's mostly the fact that I am extremely wary of premature celebration, and I'm feeling very, cautiously optimistic (as opposed to very cautiously optimistic) about John Kerry's prospects in Tuesday's election.

I was planning to remain in hiding until tomorrow, when I will submit my final pre-2004-election article to Democratic Underground, probably after staying up most of the night writing it. I've written two articles since my last one, but one was totally the wrong mood (inspired by a recent bout of Kurt Cobain nostalgia) and the other was related to a topic that hasn't proven to be much of a factor, so I mothballed both for later revision and reintroduction, possibly during the John Kerry administration.

But there are a few events that are getting such attention, often misfocused attention, and I wanted to add my Groomy take on all of it.

First and foremost, obviously, is the story of the looted al Qaqaa site with the high explosive powder that went missing sometime after the U.S. invasion. This is obviously an extremely important story, but even the very best coverage, much of which can be found on Talking Points Memo never quite steps back far enough to show the big picture of what this news means.

Part of this is simply the tunnelvision that comes from partisanship so close to a big vote. The back-and-forth on this has been very narrow, with Democrats claiming that Bush made this huge blunder by not securing this particular site, and Republicans countering, variably, "it was never there," "it was gone when we got there," "Iraq is real big," "stop blaming the troops," and "it's all the troops' fault." And probably other arguments of equal weight and sophistication.

But actually, the real story here is the sudden (and probably too late, given the subtlety of the point) revelation of the fact, known to close Iraq-watchers but unknown to most people, is that the Bush administration's pretext for war - securing Iraq's huge stockpiles of dangerous weapons which could be distributed to international terrorists - was completely belied by the actual strategy with which they conducted the war.

If the real war objective had been finding and securing weapons, the obvious way to accomplish that objective would have been to slowly and deliberately move through Iraq establishing garrisons at all the weapons sites in the country. This strategy would have required a much larger number of troops, but Iraq is not so large as to make this unfeasible.

Instead, as we now know, in the opening phase of war, after the initial incursion into Iraqi territory but before the fall of Baghdad, U.S. troops were sweeping across the country in support of the real war objective, which was the ouster of Saddam Hussein. They were completely ignoring the stated war objective, which was securing weapons sites.

Further, consider this in the context of an administration that had argued, against all available evidence and common sense, that rocket body tubes were actually intended for use in uranium centrifuges. Meanwhile, during the invasion, troops are ignoring stockpiles of explosives that are routinely used to detonate nuclear weapons, and they show no interest in securing or even examining them.

The obvious point here, plain as day to many even before the invasion but now exposed to everyone, is that what Wolfowitz admitted in 2003 was exactly correct - the Bush administration's concern over Hussein's weapons capabilities was purely a mechanism for selling the war. As soon as they got boots on the ground in Iraq, their obsession with banned weapons evaporated.

So yes, it's a pretty serious black mark on this administration's tactical resume' that they allowed many tons of high explosives to fall into the hands of the Iraqi insurgency (at best) or international terrorists (at worst.) But don't overlook the strategic implications - if the U.S. Marines' Number One Task was not securing weapons sites, why did we invade Iraq?

Otherwise, all the big news is purely horse-race related, with all the polls showing an essentially "Who Knows" situation in all the states that really matter. I stand by my assertion that Michigan and Pennsylvania are not in play for the Republicans, despite a few recent polls showing those races close. The big money to be made is in Ohio and Florida, and Kerry's momentum in both of those states suggests a close but clear victory in at least one and probably both of those states. If Kerry wins both, game over. If Bush wins one or the other, Kerry remains a big favorite but Bush could pull it out elsewhere. If Bush wins both Ohio and Florida, he's a slight favorite.

One thing I do want to mention is that even in Kerry loses, I have no second thoughts about voting for him in the primary nor ill will toward those who supported Kerry while Dean was still in the race. As far as I'm concerned, win or lose, we picked the right guy. Kerry is serious, intelligent, poised, and fascinating to watch, from a strategic political perspective. Though Bush is, in a certain sense, one of the weakest incumbent presidential candidates in history, his machine is very effective and he's a formidable opponent for that reason. Kerry executed his strategy, stuck with the strategy when everyone was telling him what a fool he was, and caught fire at exactly the right moment. To John Kerry and his entire team, great job and thank you from one Democrat, at least, no matter the result.

As for all of the election-day shenanigans, keep in mind that for the most part these efforts are a way to put your thumb on the scale, and like the literal manifestation of that metaphor, it only works for a limited adjustment. If you put a feather on the scale and it weighs out at nine pounds, the customer is going to notice. So take two things from that - one, if a big majority of voters go to the polls on November 2nd to vote for John Kerry, all the vote suppression efforts in the world aren't going to stop it. Two, and more importantly, an election that seems to go off without any serious voting problems is NOT evidence that we don't need to reform voting and registration procedures nationwide. We still need to make sure the next time there's a close election, even if that's in 50 years, we'll know at the end who won, without having to wait two years for a media consortium to tell us that whoops, sorry, the other guy should have been president.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Uhh, WHAT?!?!

You would think it would be impossible for Pat Robertson to go off the deep end. But I give you this (thanks to Daily Howler; I don't read the Zahn transcripts):

"I just think God's blessing is on him. And you remember, I think the Chinese used to say, you know, it's the blessing of heaven on the emperor. And I think the blessing of heaven is on Bush. It's just the way it is."

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............. Okay. The same blessings that were on the ancient Chinese emperors are on Bush. Hopefully the specific blessing that's on Bush is the same one that was bestowed upon the last Shang despot, who was overthrown by commoners in B.C.E. 1027, ushering in almost 300 years of tribal autonomy.

Pat Robertson's God is weird. He bestows blessings on Bush, but doesn't bother to tell him that there might be casualties in Iraq. Of course, I guess it's not as weird as the fact that God didn't tell the Chinese Emperors that they didn't need to have hundreds of slaves buried alive with them in order to make sure they had enough help in the afterlife.

Pat Robertson is not crazy, so stop saying that.

This is nice. This is probably Democrats doing this, right? And the thing with the secretary of state tring to disqualify provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct, that's just a coincidence. Seriously, how do these people sleep at night?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Interesting news from Florida the past couple of days... Virtually every poll, regardless of the absolute percentages, has Florida trending very slightly Kerry in the last few weeks. This is crucial because, as I and others have noted, there is no realistic scenario in which Bush loses Florida and wins the presidency. If Kerry wins Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, it's over, and Michigan has been out of play for a while, while Bush has hauled stakes in Pennsylvania.

If this were a normal election, I'd say it was time for Kerry to ease up on Ohio, which he can afford to lose, and pound Florida, which is more of a must-win for him. But in this case you have to take into account the Jeb factor.

Not much is known nationally about Jeb, but he's an extremely important figure and he's one of the big keys to Dubya's reelection. Jeb was always expected to be the heir apparent to the Bush political dynasty, not George W. Jeb's plan was to use the Florida governorship as a springboard to the presidency, but he lost in 1994 and missed his shot. Thus in the 2000 election, his image in his family as a major political player hinged purely on making sure his own state was carried by his brother. It's easy to see his desperation when, after all he had done to suppress the black vote in Florida, it still appeared based on VNS numbers that Gore was going to win a narrow victory. Remember it was Jeb who called Bush to assure him, even though he had no information anyone else didn't have, that Bush would win Florida even as the networks were calling it for Bush. Jeb later reassured Bush as the counting was still going on that Florida was in the bag, leading to Bush's testy exchange with Gore when Gore had to remind Bush "Your brother is not the final authority on this."

The point is that if George W. loses Florida, thus suffering the same one-term fate as his father, it may well kill Jeb, because it will be seen as the final failure in his once-promising political career. Which will be ironic, since I think we can all agree that the weakest thing about Dubya's reelection campaign is the candidate.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I have a bazillion things to do today, but I wanted to point out this article from Working For Change via Common Dreams. This reflects, more or less, my thinking on the election. I would lay up to 4 1/2 points on Kerry at this point. Bush needs something very good to happen very soon. If not, he's headed for an extremely embarrassing loss.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Also, I was intrigued when Tim Russert said after the debate that he had been running electoral college scenarios and once had it come out 269-269. This was plausible a couple of months ago, when there were as many as 20 states you could have said were in play. But is it really true now? I was skeptical. But actually, having done the numbers myself, it's really not far-fetched at all.

In fact, if you give Bush every state west of the Mississippi except California, Oregon, and Washington (giving Bush credit for two deals he hasn't closed but ought to, in Nevada and New Mexico), give Bush the entire South except Florida (a plausible but not inevitable result), let him have Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia in the Midwest, and give him a mild upset win in Wisconsin, Bush winds up with, you guessed it, 269 electoral votes.

So here's an even weirder possibility - if two guys wind up on November 3rd with 269 Electoral Votes, the thing is supposed to go to the House of Representatives. But wait a minute - there's a measure on the Colorado ballot that would give almost half of its Electoral Votes to Kerry (Bush took Colorado in this scenario) and propel him to the Presidency. So then of course you would have a situation where the Supreme Court would have to strike down the Colorado law (ironically, in this case, they would have solid legal footing in doing so), but this time, instead of actually granting Bush the presidency outright, they would simply be throwing the contest to the House of Representatives, which will definitely be controlled by Republicans.

Here's the kicker - in the scenarion outlined above, note that Kerry would have won three of the four really populous states in the Union. That's New York, California, and Florida, with Bush winning Texas. It's almost impossible to envision Bush winning the popular vote in this instance.

So the question becomes, can the House Republicans really get away with electing a president who, not once but twice, lost the popular vote, not once but twice needed a Supreme Court decision to prevent his opponent's electoral college victory, and who would thus become the only President in history to be elected by the House of Representatives?

Of course, that's a world of fantasy. The final result probably won't look anything like that. However, you can easily see that other than the loss in Florida, the above scenario is actually a virtual Bush sweep. In other words, without Florida, Bush once again has almost no chance of assuming the presidency.

Is Bush Wired? has it just about right today. The most overwhelming evidence - not proof, mind you, but evidence - that Bush Is Wired is not the bulge in his back but the fact that people do not look like that when they are trying to think of what to say next.

It actually reminds me of a spy novel I read where there was a guy who was being watched, and the way he knew he was being watched was that the CIA agent (or whatever) was trying to use talking on a pay phone as his cover for spying on this guy, the protagonist. What busted him was that a person pretending to talk on a pay phone does not resemble in the slightest a person actually talking on a pay phone. It's very easy to tell the difference because when the bona fide phone talker is listening, he looks down and his eyes lose focus, while the faker, whenever he isn't speaking, looks around at his surroundings.

Indeed, if you watch Bush in the third debate, he did the looking down and staring thing constantly. It was clear, to me at least, that he was listening to something. The key foil to this was Kerry - Kerry got lost a couple times and had to think for a second to get back on track. But a person who is doing that is obviously going through a progression in his mind, searching, he isn't just staring into space waiting for something to pop into his head.

Now, I don't expect this to convince anyone who already didn't pretty much believe Bush was wired. But I'll tell you what - before I watched the third debate, I felt vaguely guilty that I believed it.

No more.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Over a long season, they say the bad calls even out. After the first debate I thought Kerry won a clear but competitive decision. In the days following, the media turned it into something resembling a rout.

Last night, Kerry absolutely punished Bush and basically mopped the floor with him. It was close for maybe 15 minutes and then Bush fell off the map entirely and essentially just died up there. It was almost painful for me to watch, and, in case you're just joining us, I cannot stand the man. But I was really feeling sorry for him as he stood up there just looking terrible and letting everyone on his team down.

So today, I'm seeing coverage basically calling it a close but clear decision for Kerry. I guess at least we've all got the same scorecard now, one Kerry UD 12, one Kerry SD 12, and one Kerry TKO 5.

There were two really, really awful things about Bush's performance. One was Bush's horrible handling of the really easy questions. I remember watching baseball with my Dad when I was younger, and when one of his rotisserie players was up at the plate, and he would take a second-tier fastball down the middle on a 3-1 count, my dad would say "that was the pitch to hit, Tim." And then the next pitch would be some offspeed thing low and away and the guy would ground out to second.

To me, that was Bush on the "how does your faith affect your decision making?" question. I had just then begun to believe that Bush had absolutely no way of clawing his way back into the debate. Then when that question came, I thought "oh, no, here it is. He's going to knock this one out of the park."

And yet Bush's answer was rambling and uninspired. How hard is it to be passionate about religion when you're a fucking religious fundamentalist? Just off the top of my head, here's an answer. "Bob, I'm glad you asked that question, because it's important to recognize when you have an important job like President of the United States, that there is something that's bigger than even the great responsibilities that come with that hallowed office. When I have to make a tough decision, like my decision to put troops in harm's way, after I've weighed the evidence and decided that military action is right for America, I go into a quiet room and I pray. I pray because even though I know in my head that committing troops is the right choice, the only choice, the awesome responsibility still leaves me with a heavy heart. I knew that some of the brave men and women I sent to Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn't make it home. And so I asked God to give me the strength to do what was right, and I thank God every day for giving me that strength to keep America safe from harm. But it's also important as President to recognize that everyone's beliefs are different, and no matter whether we are Muslim or Jew or Christian or Atheist or Hindu or Buddhist, we all want what's best for America and we all have to find the strength in our own hearts to do what's right. And that's what America is about, all different kinds of people, different faiths and backgrounds, coming together with one goal - to lead the world in hope and strength."

See how easy that is? Now obviously an answer like that is not going to focus-group well with Atheists. But what percentage of the Atheist vote is Bush expecting, exactly? Shouldn't he have taken that opportunity to get in that zone that he gets in in front of purely friendly audiences, knowing that a huge percentage of the country is going to identify with that "I'm just a regular guy but I get great strength from God" schtick?

So that's one thing that was really bad. The other was the closing statement. Kerry's took fifteen seconds or so to really get off the ground, but he turned it into something at least approaching good TV. Bush's closing statement was one of the worst pieces of crap I've ever seen. I was literally flopping around on the floor with laughter as he was delivering his wooden, somber "I'm optimistic" hogwash. That's the last time a large number of people are going to see Bush on TV answering questions. And what did Bush do with his last two minutes, when he was allowed to say WHATEVER he wanted? He did what he'd done for most of the previous 88 minutes - he looked like a boy trying to do a man's job.

In college football games, there are a lot of bad matchups on the schedule, and usually there is a moment about the middle of the second quarter where you start to realize that one of the teams brought a knife to a gun fight. I got that feeling last night from Bush. It's like I've being saying, amid the howls to the contrary from the right wing - John Kerry is a first-tier candidate, and Bush just isn't.

Kerry in a walkover. Have I mentioned that before?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Right about now is when the entire nation becomes obsessed with polling. The way most people look at polling is that they have a certain fascination with it and use it as a general scorecard for a campaign, but they will tell you they basically think polls are "BS."

In fact, neither of these ideas has much merit. Polling is, when conducted properly (as almost all widely publicized polls are) an extremely accurate and surprisingly precise measurement. The problem is that people fail to understand what polls are a measurement of.

A poll tells you exactly the following - no more, no less:

How will a population of a given composition answer a particular question or set of questions?

Unfortunately this question tends to get shortened to:

How will the American people vote on November 2nd?

By assuming that it's this broad question we're answering, and not the more limited one, we run into problems that can't be reconciled. They key one is the question of voter turnout, that is, the correct composition of the population we're sampling. You can estimate this, but even if you estimate it, and you're correct, you can't necessarily make your numbers reflect that estimate.

Here's why - let's say you're polling a random sample of the population that includes 38% Republicans, 34% Democrats, and 28% "other," that is, independents and third-party folk. Now, you've estimated that turnout is going to be somewhere around the reverse of that, more like 39% Dems, 35% Republicans, and 26% other. So you can just weight the polling results you got to reflect that change, right?

Well, not exactly. If the numbers you have are that far off your estimates, there's only so much adjusting you can do without introducing a substantial amount of error. So you're really better off not adjusting, or adjusting only slightly, and letting people draw their own conclusions about what the poll means. The problem there, of course, is most people (including reporters) don't look at the population composition, they just see the result of the poll and trumptet it like the score of a baseball game.

That's why I just have to shake my head when I see Democrats on the web complaining about how "biased" some poll or another is. There are biased polls out there, don't get me wrong. But WaPo's pollsters are not out there trying to make Kerry look bad. They're sampling a population that happens to be overweighted with Republicans.

So when I see a WaPo poll that shows a 51-46 Bush lead, I don't freak out and start shouting about a pro-Bush bias. I see what the poll actually says, which is that based on current voter attitudes, if the election were held today and 38% of the people who showed up to vote were Republicans, Kerry would lose.

Which is not really news, except perhaps in that it's surprising that a race with such unprecedented Republican turnout (or lack of Dem turnout) would be so close.

So please, if you want to stay sane, stop using polls like a TV, and use them like a book. That is, you can't just look at it - you have to read it.

If you've been following this space, you knew this already (unless, ye gods, you don't just believe everything I say uncritically), but here it again, from an actual news source.

For the last time, Pennsylvania is not in play.

From Talking Points Memo, a little peek at the kinds of Get Out the Vote activities the Grand Old Party is up to these days.

This is the Republican Party, folks. These are the people who are overseas killing people because of their commitment to freedom and democracy. Well, they themselves are not overseas killing people, of course; they're paying other people to do it. Well, they themselves are not paying the people, of course, they're using your money. Anyway, you get the idea. Freedom and democracy. These folks are big fans.

Am I being too shrill? Sorry, sometimes I lose my sense of objectivity in the face of the complete hostile takeover by antidemocratic forces of the free, pluralistic society in which I had hoped to raise my child. It's something I plan to get under control. Never.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

From Sophia: an article about Bush's code-speak for the religious right.

I haven't spent enough time talking about the basic balancing act of presidential politics - you speak to the middle and wink at the base. In Bush's case, he seems to be speaking to the base and winking at the lunatic fringe, but that may just be a result of the right wing starting to believe its own press.

Actually, Kerry is better than most Democrats at this skill. His offhand mention of atheists in the second debate is a good example. I notice third-party voting is polling at a miniscule number, and that's a testament to the fact that both these guys are doing their jobs on the wink front.

This also from Sophia. I know there are a few folks who read this blog who are soft Republican voters, and I will probably take several opportunities like this one to call your attention to the idea that if you actually take a look at the actions in which the Republicans engage (as opposed to their words) you might wind up feeling pretty filthy about yourself. Now You can probably convince yourself, if you try hard enough, that black vote suppression isn't an important part of Republican electoral strategy, that right-wing think tanks and loss-leader right-wing newspapers exist to improve the discourse and not to intentionally pollute it, that the RNC is not involved in DOS attacks against websites run by Democrats, that Texas Republicans did not steal the Texas legislative elections with illegal fundraising in a cynical ploy to gerrymander Texas in favor of their own narrow political interests, that South Dakotan Republicans haven't been systematically defrauding thousands of American Indians of their right to vote, that Dick Cheney did not hold secret energy meetings in which companies with close ties to the administration were promised lucrative contracts resulting from a war whose causus belli (which was specious in any case) had not even happened yet, that Republican oil men in the White House did not help Enron and other Texas companies defraud California out of billions of dollars through market-rigging schemes, and that there has not been a one hundredfold increase in pork-barrel spending added in conference committees since the Republicans took over both houses of Congress.

I know you can convince yourself that these things aren't really true, and that even if they were, they don't mean you ought to vote for a Democrat. But I'm going to at least make you do the calculation every couple of days.

Friday, October 08, 2004

One of the reasons I love sports is that each sport, by its character, demonstrates certain basic truths about human existence and amplifies them so that they are easy to see. One of my favorite things about the sport of soccer is that, particularly at the highest levels, it is so low-scoring that one team can dominate the entire match with superior play, but the match will be decided by what is essentially a freak play in the waning minutes.

Wouldn't it be weird if after all of the crazy, ignorant and downright disastrous things that the Bush team has pulled off during the last four years, what finally brought them down was getting caught feeding Bush lines through a radio receiver?

Now, before you dismiss this as just utter ridiculousness, it's common knowledge that Bush has, at certain points in his speaking career, used a radio earpiece instead of a teleprompter. For example, when Bush said on the campaign trail that the world was a dangerous place because of "potential mential losses," it was pretty obviously the result of Bush being unable to parse exactly what had come through the earpiece, since there is no such word as "mential" (and it was clear Bush meant "missile launches." ) Also, there are numerous reports of Bush's earpiece being slightly audible while he uses it, which sometimes creates a disorienting effect for people very close to him when he's speaking.

That's the sort of thing that would be a bit embarrassing if people found out about it, but really, it's no worse than using a teleprompter, particularly if the president has some sort of distance reading problem, a rather common learning disability.

However, using one in a debate would obviously be something very different. It would show, leaving questions of fair play aside, that in a fundamental way, there is really no one there. That would pretty much doom Bush in terms of his reelection, since his whole selling point is his alleged "character."

Now, it would actually surprise me if this turned out to be true. The risk is so great, and Bush's ability to debate off-the-cuff is not THAT poor that a sane person would take a risk like that. But desperate candidates, especially incumbents, do some desperate things sometimes, and despite what you may have read (though you wouldn't have read such things here, of course) Bush is in desperate trouble in this election and has been for months.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Though I have a pretty good feel for the TV culture, some things are still tough for me to put my finger on. Last night, as the topic of the debate shifted from war issues to domestic concerns, Cheney started to drift significantly in his concentration. There was a real possibility at that moment that the debate was about to get away from him.

In attacking Edwards on many essentially irrelevant points (attendance record?), Cheney was truculent and even nasty at times. He declined to respond to several fairly pointed attacks, and many of his answers were rambling and boring. He only got off one good line, and even that wasn't great TV.

Yet by the time the debate ended, I had a vague feeling that Uncle Dick had somehow clawed his way back into it. Indeed, today almost nobody is scoring the debate as a win for Edwards. How did that happen? I'm not sure.

One thing I do know is that despite the hilarious efforts of the TV people to make it seem otherwise, the Veep debate is purely entertainment. It will have no effect on the election.

I loved when ABC (I think) trotted out the 1984 election as an example of a race in which the Veep debate turned things around for the incumbent. Yes, Reagan looked bad in his first debate with Mondale, but in the end, Ronnie just ran away with one against a hapless, third-tier opponent. The Ferraro/Bush debate was absolutely no factor.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A letter-writer to the New York Times triggered an interesting thought in my skull this morning. It's now somewhat understood, at least among reasonable people, that the people of Iraq are not right now better off than they were under Saddam Hussein. However, there is still a hard core of war supporters who still believe that Iraq under no real domestic leadership, with an active resistance movement (without a domestic government, you can't really have an "insurgency") and a collapsed economy is still a better place to live than the dictatorship of Saddam.

You would think that would be a matter of judgment, but like Butch Davis' heady fake field goal call (which happened to fail, but it's still the percentage play, contrary to the illogical blatherings of just about everybody) against the Slurs Sunday, you can actually demonstrate logically that this is not the case.

The reason you can do this in the case of Iraq is that practically the whole region is run by plutocratic dictatorships who arrest political opponents, preside over unfair, brutal judicial systems, and strangle any independent social movements that arise. Not as bad as Saddam, probably, but in the same ballpark, particularly if you happen to be an opponent of the ruling family.

So here's a question for folks who refuse to concede that Iraq, right now, is not a better place to live than under Saddam - how many citizens of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, UAE, or Qatar are at the visa office right now trying to relocate to Iraq? How long is that line, do you think? Anybody?

[Crickets chirping.]

Monday, October 04, 2004

Well, in an attempt to create a sidebar and such on the blog, I screwed things up royally and made it impossible to blog the debate, which turned out to be OK because I got embroiled in a huge, boring controversy at home and had to work that out, so during the debate I was busy writing notes of apology and consolidating coalitions and other such political nonsense.

In any case, I enjoyed the debate, obviously, and I thought the fairly obvious result was Kerry UD 12 Bush, which of course has been turned by the press into something resembling a 5th-round TKO because a knockout always makes a better story than a clear but competitive decision.

The big problem now for Bush is akin to that which faces a Sonny Liston or a Tyson who has just suffered a defeat at the hands of some guy who was expected to just roll over and play dead. These guys make their living only partially on talent (Tyson is without any question among the most overrated fighters in history), making up the difference with an air of malevolent invincibility, like Terminator in a meat suit.

So now Bush has sort of showed that yes, he is human, he gets bothered, confused, impatient, frustrated, sometimes doesn't have his facts straight, etc. Which is not news to anyone who wasn't seeing the guy in soft focus, but that's a big part of his support base.

On the other side of things, you don't want to oversell this win as more than it is. As Affleck-as-Carville put it on SNL this weekend "John, you beat George Bush in a talkin' contest." Not exactly Clay TKO 8 Liston.

Now is the time to hit Bush with something really sticky and unfair, to see how he responds. Bush exists in something of a reality vacuum, but he knows he's had a setback now. A couple of well-placed scurrilous rumors could really push King George off the deep end. I'll be on the edge of my seat.