March 26, 2004

You heard it here first

Long-time readers of the site... both of you... may recall a theme I was running almost two whole years ago about picking a celebrity envoy for the Middle East to resolve the crisis. Skipping how utterly sad it is that, two years later, there's still no peace there, I'll remind you who the winner was by reprinting a post from April 2002:

I want to thank everyone for their submissions, and for the thought you put into this. Frankly, I can�t say anything else about this, so I will leave the rest to reader Mike �Eduardo� Orange, who without a doubt gave the best envoy suggestion. With that, I leave you with his e-mail in its entirety. It is poignant. It is passionate. And the level of logic it contains is utterly, mind-bogglingly insane. Thank you all for playing.


Part of the problem with this country's foreign policy stems from the fact that we employ only human agents. In a time as dire as this, we can turn longingly to only one bastion of peace and sanity. Scoff if you will, but I honestly believe we need to send a little Kermit the Frog their way.

Don't close this letter, yet. I'm serious. Sure, Ariel Sharon may have a few screws loose. He may not have a clue what kind of wad he's put Israel's collective panties in. Perhaps his heart is covered with the blackest coat of apathy imaginable. But more importantly, he doesn't seem to have the so-called "rainbow connection."

Think back, if you will, to the original muppet movie. Remember the cast? Jesus, those puppets were so diverse THEY didn't even know what they were. How could a motley crew so outrageous ever come together to produce almost a dozen movies, countless television series, and spawn who knows how much merchandise?

One frog, my friend. One frog with a guitar and a pig girlfriend.

Not only does Mr. Kermit have the know-how, elbow grease, and overwhelming charisma to pull it off, he also has plenty of time. If I'm not mistaken, it's been some time since he or any of his compatriots put together a movie and I suspect he's a little short on current projects. Not only could he resolve two millenia's worth of violence, he could even spin this into the most exciting muppet adventure of all time!

Peace in the Mid-East! A new Muppet venue! Millions of dollars in merchandise! How on Earth could anyone lose? They couldn't, Mr. Pollak. They just couldn't.

And you have the link, so you know I'm not making that all up. Well, courtesy of reader Michael Robertson, I present this news article from Monday:

Where countless politicians and diplomats have failed, Elmo, Cookie Monster and their "Sesame Street" buddies are on a mission to promote peace and tolerance in the Middle East.

Gary Knell, president and chief operating officer of Sesame Workshop, says in an interview that producers knew that not everybody would be open to the idea of Elmo & Co. teaching Israeli kids to respect Palestinians and vice versa.

xoverboard.com - shaping foreign policy years ahead of the curve.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:02 AM

March 25, 2004

Turf alert

Reader Jennifer Beasley sent me a link to a local paper's letters page printing this astroturf:

President Bush and other conservatives have been accused in recent weeks of seeking to put bias in the Constitution by endorsing an amendment that would define marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not homosexuals, but marriage that is under attack. Left unchecked, rogue judges intent on finding new rights in the Constitution will succeed in extending marriage benefits to gays. Supporters of a marriage protection amendment aren't out to discriminate against anyone. They simply want to preserve the institution of marriage as it has served society for centuries.

Amendment opponents have also turned to an emotional argument in asking how a gay marriage threatens anyone's heterosexual marriage. The question misses the point: the goal of gay activists isn't the individual relationship of any two people, despite such statements. It is the revision of national policy to say that gender, especially in child-rearing, is inconsequential, even though research indicates children do best when raised by a married mother and father. This aggressive campaign to undermine marriage as it's always been known can be defeated, but only if we all stand up to support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Here's the e-mail Jennifer sent me:

I live overseas, in Central Asia to be exact, and I often read news from back home over the internet. Last year I noticed that the letters to the editor page of my local Times-News had fallen prey to astroturf. I notified the editor. He sent back a canned message about "how we can't verify the authenticity" of every letter and printed a vague and tepid reponse in the letters section to the effect of "Mr. Smith's letter of July 15 was not written by him" and that was that. As the months have gone by, I have noticed on several occasions (more than 10) that astroturf is again being printed. Again, I wrote an email to the editor. However, I never got any responses to any of those emails.

Inflamed, I wrote to the local news station--nothing. The county's Democratic party--nothing.

Now, I realize that it is East Tennessee that we are talking about but people are just rolling over and letting this happen. I know that there probably is scant demand for "hard-hitting, investigative" news in a small, conservative place like Kingsport, but have we totally lost what it means to have a free press? I think the people of my hometown want to know about this.

Anyone in the Tennessee/Kingsport area want to help Jennifer out here? The first thing would be to tell the editors of your local paper that it's not very nice to not give a crap about its readers. But contacting your local representatives and asking why a local paper endorses fraud is a good call too.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:55 PM

Fact check yo' ass (and elephant)

More on Bush's "Kerry raised taxes 350 times" statement flat-out liefrom reader Fred Frost.

This FactCheck site, by the way, looks pretty useful. I've never seen it before, but I'm going to be looking at it again.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:35 PM

See, it's funny because of all those dead people.

Bush jokes about his false war:

President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media.

Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses.

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.

"Hey y'all, remember when I lied about WMDs in Iraq and sent a few hundred American soldiers off to die? Isn't that a hoot?"

Update: Response from the Kerry Campaign:

"How Out of Touch Can This President Be?

"George Bush insulted me as a veteran and as a friend to many still serving in Iraq. This act lowers the dialogue about weapons of mass destruction. War is the single most serious event that a President or government can carry its people into. No weapons of mass destruction have been found and that is no joke - this is for real. This cheapens the sacrifice that American soldiers and their families are dealing with every single day." -- Brad Owens (Iraqi War Veteran, US Army Reserves)

Speaking at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington last night, President George W. Bush showed a stunningly cavalier attitude toward the failed search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the Administration's rush to war.

"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," Bush mimicked, as a slide of the President looking under furniture in the Oval Office appeared on the screen.

That's supposed to be funny?

If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought. Unfortunately for the President, this is not a joke.

585 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last year, 3,354 have been wounded, and there's no end in sight. Bush Turned White House Credibility into a Joke George Bush sold us on going to war with Iraq based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But we still haven't found them, and now he thinks that's funny?

"George Bush didn't tell us the truth about the economy, about job loss, about the true cost of his deceptive prescription drug plan, or about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. There's nothing funny about that."

Gosh, how come that wasn't funny at all and yet got all the applause? Oh, right. The whole "not a soulless monster" thing, I guess.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:27 PM

March 24, 2004

Shameless merchandising update

Unfortunately I can't sell actual pirate hats. Which would of course be awesome, but for now baseball caps bearing the likeness of our own Overboard's-hat-style skull and crossbones symbol are now available in the store.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:40 PM

Brilliant.

If there was a website that consisted of nothing but variations of this post, I'd be very, very happy.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:36 PM

I know Kung-Fu.

Shaolin Rumsfeld. (via reader Sol Chrom)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:26 PM

Gotta catch 'em all

Get your list of GOP scandals here.

Not sure if we'll set a record here. The GOP is certainly beating the Democrats in the same time period. What were our big ones- Trafficant, and I guess Condit, although he was more voted out for being a dick than having actually been charged with a crime. And of course Drudge's attempt to scandalize Kerry by, if I'm not mistaken, essentially committing slander and libel. (Hey, that's one more for the GOP column, isn't it?)

Of course, there's a lot of investigations and scandals coming from Bush's predecessor Clinton, which to the best of my knowledge led to no convictions of anything. As opposed to Nixon and Reagan, who nearly ran out of people to send to jail.

Not sure where I'm going with all this at this point, but the list linked above is a great read.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:08 AM

March 23, 2004

And then everything went kaplooie

Oregon county bans all marriage. No, this isn't an Onion headline.

In a new twist in the battle over same-sex marriage roiling the United States, a county in Oregon has banned all marriages -- gay and heterosexual -- until the state decides who can and who cannot wed.

As of Wednesday, officials in the county of 79,000 people will begin telling couples applying for licenses to go elsewhere until the gay marriage debate is settled.

"It may seem odd," Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell told Reuters in a telephone interview, but "we need to treat everyone in our county equally."

I hear if you wake up early enough in Oregon, you can actually watch the fabric of society tear apart. Just remember, folks- the sillier this all gets, the more the sanctity of marriage is being protected.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:33 PM

"Fuzzy Math," indeed

Mark Evanier links to Michael Kinsley about Bush's "Kerry raised taxes 350 times" line:

The purpose of a phony statistic like this one isn't really to persuade people of its own accuracy. The purpose is to trap your opponent in a discussion he doesn't want to have (in this case about his past votes about taxes), bog the discussion down in silly details that few people will follow, and leave a general impression that where there is smoke, there must be fire. And certainly, if what matters to you above all else is paying fewer taxes, you'd be a fool to choose Kerry over Bush. But this isn't about taxes; it's about honesty. Honesty means more than factual accuracy, it means avoiding disingenuousness: not talking crap when you know it's crap. If that matters to you above all, you may be out of luck with either candidate this election. But if you wish to measure comparative crapology, this 350-tax-increases business may be hard for Kerry to top.

Counting tax increases is an absurd way to measure a candidate's general propensity about taxes. George the elder's list about Clinton tax increases included things like an extension of dog-racing season, on the logic that a longer season meant more tax revenue. George the younger's first item asserts that "In 1995, Kerry Voted For [a] Resolution That Said Middle Class Tax Cuts Were Not Wise." This turns out to be a vote in the midst of that nearly forgotten frenzy, the Gingrich revolution. It was a vote against a particular tax cut of $700 billion, on a resolution declaring with almost tautological justice that subtracting $700 billion from revenue would make it harder to balance the budget. The resolution passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate, but a decade later the Republican president uses it to tar his Democratic opponent.

The documentation on the GOP Web site about Kerry's supposed 350 votes to increase taxes actually lists only 67 votes "for higher taxes." Most of these are votes against a tax cut, not in favor of a tax increase. The 67 include nine votes listed twice, three listed three times, and two listed four times. The logic seems to be that if a bill contains more than one item (as almost all bills do), it counts as separate votes for or against each item. The Bush list also includes several series of sequentially numbered votes, which are procedural twists on the same bill. And there are votes on the identical issue in different years. The only actual tax increase on Bush's list (counted twice, but hey � ) is Kerry's support for Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction plan. That's the one that raised rates in the top bracket and led to a decade of such fabulous prosperity that even its most affluent victims ended up better off.

The best way to see the absurdity of saying that John Kerry voted for higher taxes 350 times is to apply Bush's madcap logic to Bush himself. Every year, in the president's budget, there is a table called "Effect of Proposals on Receipts." It lists the president's proposed changes in the tax rules and how they will affect government revenues for various periods up to 15 years. Most of Bush's proposals will cost revenues, obviously. But in the four fiscal years 2002-2005, Bush has proposed 63 actual "revenue enhancers," as his father used to call them. This doesn't include, as Bush includes for Kerry, his opposition to any tax cuts (and there have been some, such as Democratic proposals to reduce the payroll tax). Nor does the list seem to include any "supply-side" revenue enhancement by magic or growth. These are actual proposals to take more money out of people's pockets and give it to the government.

At Bush's current rate of 16 "tax increases" a year, he'd have 320 under his belt if he could stay in the White House for 20 years.

Mark sums up Kinsley's summing up:

But the big thing that's always wrong with these lists is that they take the position that a tax increase is a tax increase, regardless of amounts. If one elected official votes for five 1% increases and another votes for one 10% increase, the former is pilloried for championing five times as many tax increases as the latter. If you were for lower taxes, which of those two guys should you support?
As Kevin Drum points out, we'll likely find out after Americans find out Bush's real record on taxes.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:20 PM

Bless you, Cartoon Network

Flying Shark vs. Flying Crocodile.

Yes.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:59 PM

New life, new venture

Updating may be sporadic and choppy over the next week or two. I've started my new job in a near-full capacity and will be flat-out full-time within the next few weeks. Being away from the computer at a minimum from 9-5 puts a damper on some of the work I can do during the day around here. Such is life, hopefully I can adjust to it as well as I know you all can.

On the plus side... hold your breath here folks... merchandise. Ho-lee-crap, John finally set up the damn CafePress store.

There's a range of designs, unfortunately limited to one design per unique item... it's part of CafePress' plan to take as much of my money from me as possible. Basically the store is going to gauge interest, and if there's more of it than I expected we'll see where we can go from there.

There's a few more items on the front burner that I should have up within the next week, if not earlier. I just need to finish the designs. The items will be a black cap bearing Overboard's pirate logo, a Joe Lieberman Kuribo T-shirt, and an item or two for the Fayetteville, Arkansas Fighting Mother Teresas. I'll post updates when these items are added.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:01 AM

March 22, 2004

The Vince Lombardi method of punditry

I think the Richard Clarke story is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of the Right in their support of fighting terrorism. This is seen nowhere better than online, where the warbloggers have launched a copy-and-paste assault on Clarke proving only that winning to them isn't everything, it's the only thing.

As I said in my last post, the idea that Iraq was the realistic target of the American emotional consciousness on 9/11- the day over a dozen Saudis under orders from a group in Afghanistan killed thousands of people- is laughable. And with the report from Clarke- who, also mentioned before- has a nearly unimpeachable record on terrorism issues- well, it's hard to refute at least a significant portion of his argument.

So is the Right actually refuting most of his argument? No. Instead, it's insisting that Viacom owning CBS and Simon & Schuster means 60 Minutes was just a scam to sell more books. It alleges that Clarke is an opportunist now that he's left the White House. It says he's friends with someone who works for Kerry.

Do you notice the underlying trend in those accusations against Clarke? None of them actually disprove anything he's said.

The Clinton Impeachment was one of the major examples of the sheer desire to win by the Right- "it's not about sex" basically shone a light on the real message- "it's about winning." They hated Clinton, and unable to get him for the countless things he's likely at least partially guilty of, they tried to make banging someone a means to destroy the Democratic Party. It failed miserably.

Now the Right has a near-unbeatable card in play that is 9/11. Republicans are good because of September 11, and that's all you need to know. And when someone comes forward refuting that concept, as Clarke has, the right doesn't try to discuss this. Clarke must be destroyed.

It's saddening, because unlike Clinton's petty self-involved stupidity, Republicans are gambling with the very lives of Americans for the sheer sake of what they wanted during impeachment- to win. And warbloggers and GOP-favoring pundits are fueling this sentiment, because they don't have the political moderation and resolve that at least some people in Washington do.

I shudder to think that all the pro-Bush pundits out there who have spread the GOP talking points about Clarke honestly believe that this discredits him. There simply can't be that many people who are that ignorant and still know how to type at a keyboard. These are the people who wouldn't duck if Hillary Clinton told them a brick was flying at their head, because they'd rather get their face smashed in than believe Hillary doesn't just have a secret alliance with the bricklayer's union. Do these people- who believe that Bush will be re-elected, mind you- honestly believe a man would resign a multi-president stint in White House policy to work secretly to promote a candidate they think won't be president and to sell a book they believe to be irrelevant, and that in no way could he even remotely, possibly, be right about the fallacies Bush has made in the act of- not like this is important or anything- preventing us from being killed en masse?

The answer shouldn't even provoke debate. Of course not. What they want, beyond their false desire to protect the country ("the country, of course, meaning themselves, and their own fears) is to be right. And to be right, at this point, two and a half years after 9/11, they have to maintain the "with us or against us" rhetoric. Bush must be infallible. For if he isn't, neither are they.

Weblogging and punditry of the like has done wonders for political debate, but it has also magnified the selfish and juvenile aspect of the over-emotional and attention-needy: the move to discredit Clarke is a shining example in the internet age of the desire to win over the desire to actually better the safety of the American people.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:10 PM

March 21, 2004

Lunatics at the wheel

I just finished watching Clarke on 60 Minutes and I pretty much feel the same way Oliver does:

For me, the most damning moment was Stephen Hadley denying that Bush had personally pushed for Clarke to draw connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq - then Leslie Stahl rebutted him, saying that there were two independent sources to confirm the meeting. Including one that was an eyewitness. George Bush is not concerned about stopping terrorism, not even now.
This is by far the most damning aspect of Bush's drive for war in Iraq, and an accusation that no Bush supporter rallying behind the war could defend.

Even the die-hard right wingers would be utter hypocrites to suddenly pretend that on 9/11 their one desire wasn't to find the bastards who did this and get them. Hell, I'm a liberal and I felt that way. And after all the flak the left recieved about political opportunism, here's a man with the highest level of authority alive today on terrorism telling us flat-out that Bush openly demanded that we use 9/11 to push a personal agenda.

If Clarke is telling the truth, and it seems like he is, there's not a sane person in this country who could say Bush's team made the right steps after 9/11. Even worse, we're nearing tangible evidence that they didn't make the right steps before it. So let's just make sure we're clear on that for all the warbloggers, pundits, and the like insisting that John Kerry would weaken this country in the fight against terrorism: Bush didn't care who was really responsible for 9/11. And the right's response, no doubt, will not be to acknowledge this, but discredit the truth in Clarke's accusations because they are politically infeasable.

Why not, that's apparently been their strategy since Day One.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:02 PM