Saturday, October 09, 2004

Lion King is Loooong

Missed last night's debate and instead spent the evening with my family. We had tickets to the Lion King at the Opera House in Boston. The Opera House is gorgeously restored, and the cartoon turned to musical was brilliantly and cleverly staged as the actors became one with their puppetry costumes.

But look. The cartoon, while possessed of a few snappy tunes, didn't have a great score to begin with. And the stage musical version added more songs, and, well, they didn't convey any of the emotions they were meant to. They were just long forgetful songs that sounded almost mono-noted and monotoned.

If you're given tickets, go see the musical. But I wouldn't recommend buying tickets. The cartoon was never much to begin with, musically or storywise. The stage musical version, while stunning to look at, takes a bad story and weak score, and makes them worse.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Price of Bubble Wrap

Doonesbury has poked fun at Bush's campaign events, many of them done in town-hall style. As you can see if you look at the strip from 9/13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, Bush's events rely on highly screened loyalists to ask softball, feather duster light softball, questions.

The Washington Post reports on the consequences of coddling Bush. Here are some highlights:
During a campaign forum in the Cleveland suburbs last month, President Bush was asked whether he likes broccoli, to disclose his "most important legacy to the American people" and to reveal what supporters can do "to make sure that you win Ohio and get reelected."
. . .
Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University, said the first debate showed Bush had been overprotected. "If you don't talk to the press and deal with audiences with some degree of skepticism, you can't build understanding so people have confidence in you in hard times," Fields said. "His handlers think they're doing him a favor, but they're not."
. . .
The president has stopped taking questions from the small pool of reporters who cover his photo opportunities, and he has answered questions from the White House press corps twice since Aug. 23, both times with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side. His last prime-time news conference was April 13.
. . .
Tonight's town-hall audience of about 100 will ask 15 to 20 questions and will consist of an equal number of voters who say they lean toward Bush or Kerry but could change their minds, plus a few who say they are undecided. Bush's debate negotiators had sought to eliminate the event from the debate schedule because they were concerned that partisans could pose as uncommitted voters and slip in with tough or argumentative questions.
. . .

Mike McCurry, who was Clinton's press secretary and is a senior adviser to Kerry, said Bush was hurt in the first debate because his aides do not appear to recognize the benefits of having reporters "regularly ask the hard questions that are on the mind of the public."

"They have been very effective and disciplined at managing a message and getting through," McCurry said. "Until now, they have not paid any real price in their press coverage. They have mostly been getting out of the news every day what they wanted to."

The Bush camp is afraid of "uncommitted voters . . . with tough or argumentative questions." Amazing. A leader who is afraid to talk to the people. Wait, that lest sentence is an oxymoron. His fear means he's not a leader, not in a democracy he's not. No wonder Doonesbury draws him as an empty Roman general's helmet.

Weak Analogy

Mickey Kaus, a reluctant Kerry supporter, suggests that instead of Bush trying to retrojustify the war in Iraq by saying it was because Saddam was trying to get around sanctions, should say simply that we went to war because Saddam fooled us. He uses this analogy to make the case:
If a man says he has a gun, acts like he has a gun, and convinces everyone around him he has a gun, and starts waving it around and behaving recklessly, the police are justified in shooting him (even if it turns out later he just had a black bar of soap). Similarly, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam seems to have intentionally convinced other countries, and his own generals, that he had WMDs. He also convinced much of the U.S. government. If we reacted accordingly and he turns out not to have had WMDs, whose fault is that?
The problem with this analogy is that Saddam stopped waving the black bar of soap around.

In September 2002, Bush received authority to wage war in Iraq, and he used that authority to force Saddam to issue a detailed report and to come clean on where and whether he had any WMD's.

That report Saddam issued claimed Iraq had no WMD's, but it was a negative that Saddam could not prove to Bush's satisfaction, nor the U.N.'s for that matter. Still, Saddam dropped the black soap and put up his hands. Inspectors were let back into Iraq, avenues of investigation had been opened. Meanwhile, Bush shaded his intelligence evidence by ignoring the conflicting estimates in it, and presented to the American people the spector of nuclear weapons and biological bombs being unleashed in America by Al Qaeda operatives supplied by Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, the UN Security Council wasn't convinced by PowerPoint Colin Powell has since recanted "proving" Saddam had WMD. The U.N. said in February and March 2003 let's give this inspection process more time and didn't Bush couldn't get his war resolution.

Bush had a choice. He could use the threat of force to investigate further, to allow renewed inspections more time, or, to invade.

So Bush assembled a coalition outside of both UN and NATO auspices, a coaltion where American troops made up 5 times the force of all the other coalition troops combined, a coalition where many members were rewarded for joining via US foreign aide, and rushed into Iraq, changing plans at the last minute because Turkey's parliament elected not to let Bush base operations for invading northern Iraq there.

Bush made the wrong choice, and carried it out in stunningly incompetent fashion. He made a bigger mess of the decision and now Iraq's a hornets nest of pissed off Jihadist and Muslim extremests taking potshots at American troops and any Iraqi's doing anything normal, let alone those signing up to policemen.

Given that Bush could have taken the time to look closer to see whether the gun was real or soap since Saddam had stopped waving it, Bush is in no position to use the Kaus defense. So he's left with something even more desperate now: Bush is saying that the war was still justified, despite how wrong he's been in his most fundamental reasons for going, because Saddam allegedly tried to bribe officials to divert U.N. oil-for-food money into his own pockets.


Strafer Strife

As President Bush continues to go ballistic on John Kerry, his desperate distortions become more and more obvious, inviting yet more and more analysis of just how dishonest he has become. A few days ago it was Howard Fineman at Newsweek listing the deceptions, then it was the closing paragraphs in a Washington Post story on Bush's "policy speech" in Wilkes-Barre. Now the New York Times examines Bush's plan to eviscerate John Kerry by contorting the facts:
To cheers in Michigan, Mr. Bush asserted that under Mr. Kerry, the nation would have to "wait for a grade from other nations and leaders'' before acting to protect itself. Mr. Kerry has repeatedly said that he would not give up the right to act pre-emptively "in any way necessary to protect the United States,'' but has suggested that any president would need to demonstrate legitimate reasons for such an action.

To laughter, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry would impose "Hillary care'' on America, a huge national health care program that would impose increased federal control over the health care decisions of citizens. Mr. Kerry's health care plan is significantly larger than the one Mr. Bush has offered, and it includes increased reliance on Medicaid and state health insurance programs for the poor. But unlike what Mrs. Clinton proposed in 1993, it would not create any big new federal bureaucracy and would retain the current employer-based system, and Mr. Kerry said he was averse to any kind of national health care plan.

To boos, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry had set "artificial timetables'' for pulling troops out of Iraq, which the president warned would embolden the enemy and endanger the troops. In fact, Mr. Kerry said that he could envision beginning to withdraw troops in as little as six months, but only if he succeeded in moving Iraq toward stability, and has decline repeatedly to set a timeline.

Bush doesn't trust his own record. He must, like so many voters, find it so fundamentally indefensible that he can only try to win by shredding a caricature of John Kerry. But just as Cheney and republicans thought the Vice President had won the debate only to see him considered the loser the next morning when fact checkers proved he lied about never meeting Edwards and never suggesting a connection of Iraq to 9/11, so too is Bush beginning to lose in the poll as his own lies about Kerry and the facts in Iraq become more divorced from reality.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

1984 is 20 Years Late

What's King George's last name? It's Bush right?

Because the more facts that come out, the more he sounds like an apparatchik out of an Orwellian nightmare.

I mean it's not what he does to language accidentally through his oral dyslexia (or is it linguistic dyspepsia?), which, while funny, is relatively harmless. What's really frightening is his sustained belief that by saying up is down often enough, people will believe that's the case. Well that's not frightening so much as the idea that it might work, that enough voters will suspend disbelief to re-elect Bush even though he simply doesn't trust them and won't level with them.

So, we learn from Duelfer's report that Iraq had no capability to build WMD's after 1994, much less have any WMD's in their possession. We learn that Bush's whole original rationale for going to war never existed. Remember when he addressed the nation and described the threat as imminent and said we could not wait for more inspections? Here's how the New York Times covers it:
Mr. Duelfer's 900-page report concluded that contrary to Bush administration's assertions on the eve of war, the Hussein regime had rid itself of chemical and biological weapons, nor was it well on the way to having nuclear weapons.

Today, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney seemed to embrace other findings by Mr. Duelfer, that Mr. Hussein planned to reconstitute his military's deadly-weapons capabilities once United Nations sanctions on him were lifted, and that he was constantly scheming to skirt those sanctions.

Sigh. I see. A plan to reconstitute deadly weapons, which couldn't be started until sanctions were lifted, that was the clear and present danger that justified rushing into an ill-planned war, turning attention from Afghanistan, and generating even more Muslim anger that's helped make terrorism a more noble sacrifice.

Gross incompetence is one thing, but incompetence and this shifting of reasons slathered in a campaign of systematic denial that things were ever different from what Bush says they are today, when the evidence is so clear that things are different, is gobsmackingly outrageous. How can we elect a president who lacks the courage to level with America?

That we still might is just frightening.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Department of No Relation

This person was not a relative:
Nude Sunbather Dies in Calif. Bar Fight
4:37 PM EDT,September 29, 2004
By Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- A man sunbathing nude on the terrace of a bar died after getting into a fight with a patron who complained.

Jay Carbone, 52, fell and hit his head during the scuffle at the Pendulum bar in the city's Castro District, police said. He died Saturday, two days later.

According to police, Carbone ordered drinks and disrobed. After about an hour, another man complained and asked Carbone to put his clothes on. Police said Carbone replied, "If you don't like it, get out."

No immediate charges were filed.