Kerry wins first debate
If I were a debate judge I probably would call it a draw, but because there must be a winner and a loser -- the American people demand it -- I score it for Kerry on points. Both candidates pretty much stuck to their talking points -- Bush is certain that he was right to invade Iraq while Kerry questioned how Bush diverted resources from the battle against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and proceeded to war with Iraq without building an effective alliance. But Kerry managed to convey that he would wage war on terror and refuted the Bush campaign image of him as weak and indecisive. I don't see Bush gaining any votes from the debate but Kerry might have won over some potential voters who had questioned his foreign policy and national security credentials. (9/30/04)
San Francisco is implementing a new instant runoff system that could be a model for reforms across the country. The idea, as Nathan Newman notes, is simple: voters rank their candidate preferences in order. If no candidate gets a majority based on the first choice of all voters, the second choice of voters supporting the least popular candidate is added to the totals for the other candidate. If no candidate has a majority yet, repeat with the third choices.
Democrats would be much better off nationwide if they concentrated on passing bills allowing instant runoff voting and proportional representation instead of trying to keep people like Ralph Nader and parties like the Greens off ballots. For more on IRV and proportional representation (also called "full representation") see the Center for Voting and Democracy. (9/30/04)
Two shockwave movies explore the politics that let the richest 20% of Americans get richer, while the other 80% of us and the rest of the world lose ground. Michael Wadleigh (who directed the Academy-Award-winning movie "Woodstock" in 1970) created the shorts. The three-minute "Road to Hell" shockwave looks at 30 years, Vietnam to Iraq, and the score of major domestic and foreign issues that should be the focus of this election -- but of course they are not.
"The Rise" notes that in the last 30 years the share of the richest 20% of Americans has increased; everyone else has lost ground. And it's worse every year: 20% now have 88% of the wealth and rising, 80% of Americans have only 12% of wealth and falling. "The Rise" predicts that sooner or later the 80%, and the world, will awake and rise against the 20%.
Both movies, which argue the need for alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties, are available in stream or for download. (9/25/04)
Powerful flash movie
on the Republican effort to "clean" Florida voter rolls of convicted felons, which took 58,000 names off the rolls, many of which were found to only share a name or birthdate with a real felon. The list was later found to be 95% inaccurate, but investigative reporter Greg Palast
estimated the inaccurate voter cleansing cost Democrats 22,000 votes in an election Gore officially lost by 537 votes. And they're at it again. (9/25/04)
As corporations defrauded the public in the 1990s with distortions of their budgets and excessive, unchecked pay for CEOs, it turns out mutual funds were sitting there as the cheerleading squad for all these excesses. No one knew this until this past month -- although many suspected it -- since mutual funds were not required to tell their customers how they voted all the shares of stock that they controlled. Nathan Newman has the stories. (9/12/04)
Three years ago, families of victims of 9/11 created September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows to promote the idea that war and killings overseas was not the solution to prevent further killing by terrorists globally.
See their statement on the third anniversary and Nathan Newman's conclusions. (9/11/04)
Scare tactics dishonor 9/11
A bumper sticker was sighted recently that asked "Who would al Qaeda vote for?" We presume it was intended as a dig at John Kerry, after Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sept. 8 that if voters make the wrong choice on election day (that is, vote for Kerry), the US risks another terrorist attack. Actually it is pretty clear that al Qaeda terrorists hope for Bush's re-election. According to the Associated Press (March 18), "The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (Al Qaeda)" in a statement that claimed responsibility for the March 11 attacks that killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 1,600 in Spain, also told American voters that it supports the re-election campaign of President Bush: "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections" because Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" would "wake up" the Islamic world.
Three years after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush has succeeded in turning the Islamic world from sympathy with the United States for the senseless slaughter to anger at the United States for its invasion of a nation that, for all its faults, had nothing to do with the 9/11 outrage and posed no real threat to the US. Bush squandered the goodwill of his countrymen as he capitalized on the nation's unity in the wake of a foreign attack to pursue a partisan agenda under the cover of patriotism. He radicalized a generation of Arabs and other Muslims who saw the invasion of Iraq and the occupation of its oilfields and industries as a heavy-handed extension of US military and commercial power. He also has alienated many US allies, notably France and Germany, whose cooperation is needed to prosecute any actual war on terror, with his administration's distortions of the threat posed by Iraq and the clumsy attempts to tie Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda. (By the way, both France and Germany, which were vilified by neocon hawks advocating the Iraq invastion, participated in the NATO support of American intervention in Afghanistan. That action had the virtue of actually removing the base of al-Qaeda activity, at least until the US withdrew troops and other resources from Afghanistan to focus on Iraq.)
Bush boasts that the US has not seen any further terrorist attacks on our soil but we have seen more than 1,000 US soldiers killed and more than 6,000 wounded in Iraq. Meanwhile terrorist attacks are on the rise dramatically around the world and we can be sure that al Qaeda is waiting for its chance to strike at American interests at home and abroad. And thanks to George W. Bush's reckless behavior, al Qaeda has plenty of recruits.
See also Juan Cole's informed analysis of the aftermath of 9/11.
By Charles Cullen (9/9/04)
Nick Turse writes at MotherJones.com Sept. 7 of his experiences in the "homeland security statelet" that was New York City during the Republican National Convention. Having experienced firsthand the uncomfortable transition from bystander to detainee, Turse notes in this must-read for anyone interested in the truth behind the RNC show that nothing short of "the 10' by 20' chain-link pen with razor wire over the top that I found myself in" could drive home the reality and future implications of "Fortress Big Apple."
Dale Maharidge of The Nation (Sept. 2) documents the anger and desperation that is festering in America's heartland as workers watch plants being closed or sold and jobs being lost. Feelings that could have once best been described as despair have metastasized into a "flailing, unfocused" rage and have combined with the xenophobia that currently seems to grip the nation. Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, this animosity has turned toward the middle-east and, harnessed by the skillfully coded hate language of the GOP, become a driving force in the Bush campaign. The out of work, the underemployed, and the overcharged in middle America; those who have been most hurt by Bushís socio-economic policies have become some of his staunchest allies. Xenophobia and anger uber alles.
Craig Aaron of Dissent Magazine chronicles George Bush's numerous betrayals of the American public and the world in general. Among the highlights (or lowlights) are his 1.35 trillion dollar tax cut, his activation of a "shadow government" without congressional knowledge, and the almost endless list of human rights abuses in the name of freedom.
Fomer President Jimmy Carter accused Sen. Zell Miller of "unprecedented disloyalty" for the nominally Democratic senator's speech at the Republican convention. In a letter sent over the weekend he also said Miller's speech was "rabid and mean-spirited." In reply, Miller repeated his contention that his family's security outweighed any loyalty to a party. Also see the text of Carter's letter. (9/7/04)
Our own Nathan Newman and friends in organized labor start a new blog on labor issues. Why? "Well, for those of us in and around the labor movement, it's because we think what people do 8+ hours per day, 5+ days a week is where the fate of the nation and the world rests. When workers have power in the workplace, they end up with power in the political world, just as employers use power in the private economy to leverage privileges from the public sector. That's the simplest message for many of the political folks who frequent progressive blogs, but the importance of unions goes beyond this... See more ...
Big think pieces in the media, rounded up by Nathan Newman.
The Washington Post reports Sept. 4 that FBI counterintelligence investigators have in recent weeks questioned current and former US officials about whether a small group of Iran specialists at the Pentagon and in Vice President Cheney's office may have been involved in passing classified information to an Iraqi politician or a U.S. lobbying group allied with Israel, according to sources familiar with or involved in the case. In their interviews, the FBI agents have also named two Israeli diplomats stationed in Washington and asked whether they would be willing recipients of sensitive intelligence, the sources added. The investigators have asked questions about personnel in the office of Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith as well as members of the influential Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to former U.S. officials who have been questioned and others familiar with the case. See the rest.
See also Washington Monthly's report on the rogue Pentagon operation ("Iran-Contra II").
Campaign Desk, a project of Columbia Journalism Review, notes with approval Sept. 3 that Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post checked the facts of GOP convention speakers and found them wanting. See the article.
By Nathan Newman
New York City, Sept. 2, 2004
Let's be clear. Zig-zag Zell made his career as henchman to segregationists, zagged to being a "New South" Democrat when that could get him elected, and now has zigged back to standing with racist southern conservatism now that he thinks that's where the power is. See the rest.
A bit of realtime blogging for the fun of it, by Nathan Newman. See the rest.
By Nathan Newman
New York City, Sept. 1, 2004
Ah, breathing free here at The Tank, where I've met a bunch of the street bloggers hiding from RNC delegates :) It's fun meeting the whole crew of Kos, Atrios, Joe Tribbi and other folks. I just got back from the Take Back America labor rally- 10-15,000 labor folks from around the city gathered on 8th Avenue determined to see Bush gone on Election Day.
When Guiliani talked about the heroes of 911, here they were: the emergency workers who responded to the sick and dying, the Ironworkers and other construction trades who sifted through the debris looking for survivors, and the nurses who cared for those who breathed the toxic air.
These were the refugees from Bush's America: the outsourced, the downsized, those who will lose overtime pay, and those having their unions attacked with the support of the federal government.
And they were pissed. See the rest.
By Nathan Newman
New York City, Sept. 1, 2004
It was quite a transition. I spent the early part of the evening doing legal observing in Herald Square, where hundreds of police locked down all the corners, blocking all pedestrian traffic, in order to prevent civil disobediance in the streets. They definitely proved that police state tactics work-- having shut down the heart of midtown, including simple access to the PATH train for commuters heading to New Jersey, they blocked the protesters from interfering with traffic.
Of course, they interfered with it a bit themselves, but on balance, their basic tactics worked. I was always skeptical that the direct action folks could have that much impact against the police force likely to be deployed; when confronting police, you either have the vast numbers we saw on Sunday, or the police will largely shut you down.
Which brings us to the RNC and specifically, Arnold's speech. which I watched from the cheap seats in the media section of Madison Square Garden last night, all the better to see the pumping of arms and chants of "USA" from the crowd. Meant to be a sunny tribute to the welcome for immigrants in America, Arnold contrasted it with Soviet actions back home in Austria when the Russians controlled part of town: See the rest.
The idea of an ownership society -- where everyone has private retirement and investment accounts, rather than Social Security -- is great, if you've got extra money to invest for your future. Problem is, most Americans don't. Robert Reich shares ideas on what a real ownership society would require. (Sept. 2, 2004)
Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly links to various reactions to "Zig Zag" Zell Miller's over-the-top rants at the convention and afterward, when he was flustered by CNN's attempts to confront his misleading statements and later told MSNBC's Chris Mathews he wishes he could challenge Mathews to a duel. Katrina vanden Heuvel proposes that all cable news shows set aside at least 10 minutes to bring on representatives of non-partisan "truth squads" such as the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.Org to correct factual errors of the day. (Sept. 2, 2004)
By Roger Hickey for TomPaine.com (Sept. 1, 2004). At some point, we're hoping, the media and the public will start looking at what plans the presidential candidates have for helping America. When they do, Hickey's overview of President George W. Bush's "ownership society" proposal will be indispensable. Read on to learn how Bush plans to make Americans "own" the burdens of paying for their own health care, retirement and their children's education. ... See the rest.
By David Corn for The Nation
New York City, Sept. 1
The official theme of Night Two of GOPalooza was "People of Compassion." But the real message of the evening was, Safety First. The key moments of the evening were designed to depict George W. Bush as the decisive leader who by launching the war in Iraq has protected, well, you and, of course, your loved ones. The convention has demonstrated that the no retreat/no surrender Bush campaign actually wants this election to be about Big Daddy's war. ... See the rest.
See our new feature, Forever Dada, an animated political cartoon created by California artists Louis Dunn & Steve Campbell. Published every Monday.
Alternative News Sites
See these web sites with breaking news and commentary from progressive writers and publications around the world:
• Buzzflash, the left's answer to Matt Drudge
• Common Dreams News Center, with selected articles from newspapers and periodicals. See also the concise list of national and international news services, newspapers and periodicals.
• The Nation, liberal weekly has daily updates.
• Salon.com (requires a subscription to read many articles).
• Working For Change
And you never know what will turn up on
For international news which the US media such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post might not see fit to print:
• Globe and Mail of Toronto, for Canadian news and perspectives on its southern neighbor.
• Toronto Star, a liberal Canadian newspaper.
• The Guardian, a liberal newspaper in London (formerly the Manchester Guardian). See its running reports on George Bush's America.
• The Independent, a liberal newspaper in London
• Daily Mirror, liberal tabloid in London.
• New Statesman, British Socialist weekly.
• BBC World News
• Al Ahram, English-language weekly based in Cairo, for Arab perspective on Mid-East
• Dawn, of Karachi, centrist English-language Pakistan daily.
• The Frontier Post of Peshawar, Pakistan, for news from the front lines of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.
• Ha'aretz, Israeli liberal daily with English language edition
• International Herald Tribune, Paris-based daily operated by the New York Times.
• Le Monde Diplomatique, English language monthly digest of the French daily newspaper.
• Mail and Guardian, daily web edition of South African liberal weekly.
• Mexico City News, the English language daily in our neighbor to the south.
• South China Morning Post, independent Hong Kong and Pacific news (registration required).
• Sydney Morning Herald, for news from Down Under.
• World Press Review, a monthly magazine with analyses and English translations of articles in the international press, as well as an excellent directory of publications by nation, with ideological leanings.
A Few Good Weblogs
to keep you from getting your work done:
• Eric Alterman's Altercation
• The American Prospect
• Center for American Progress
• Daily Kos (politics)
• Eschaton by Atrios (politics)
• Iowa Opinion what's up in the Hawkeye State.
• It's No Accident labor notes by John Lacny
• Liberal Oasis
• Maxspeak (populist economics)
• Media Matters for America
• Nathan Newman (mainly labor law)
• The New Republic
• Progressive Review Undernews
• Political Wire by Taegon Goddard
• Raw Story
• Romenesko's Media News (journalism scuttlebutt)
• Salon's War Room
• Talking Points Memo by Josh Marshall
• Talk Left, the politics of crime.
• This Modern World, by Tom Tomorrow
• TomPaine.com, A.K.A. The Dreyfuss Report on foreign policy.
• Washington Monthly, by Kevin Drum (formerly Calpundit)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; well, here are some good cartoon sites:
Forever Dada, an animated political cartoon created by California artists Louis Dunn & Steve Campbell. Published every Monday.
This Modern World, by Tom Tomorrow. (And he has a pretty good links page.)
Ted Rall, our cartoonist/columnist.
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Ruben Bolling
See presidential campaign web sites