September 19, 2003

Finally! A Coherent Defense of Nader!

In comments, Alkali has the first coherent and sensible defense of Ralph Nader's actions in the 2000 election that I have seen:

I don't know why people always blame Ralph Nader for Bush's victory in 2000 when it's clear that God could have prevented Bush's election by smiting Bush, or alternatively letting him be hit by a meteorite. So don't blame Ralph. It's God's fault. Blame God, not Ralph.

Posted by DeLong at September 19, 2003 07:43 AM | TrackBack

Comments

YEARS AGO! A C0HERENT CRITIQUE OF THE 'MODERN' DEMOCRATIC 'PARTY'!

"Our journey began in 1989 in our commitment to achieve single-payer health reform in the United States. And it was also at that same time that we began really taking about independent political action. Because we arrived at the conclusion and there is nothing mysterious about it, that neither political party was representing the interests of working folks...

...we realized we were confronted with an insurance industry that costs about $100 billion and does not deliver one wit of healthcare and doesn't care one wit about providing healthcare to working people. And we concurred that we had to endorse single payer. Nothing else made any sense to us.

And then Bill Clinton came around and built a formidable campaign, with healthcare being one of his central issues. And then he got elected. You know, the trouble with politicians is that they get elected.

Well, Hillary was then assigned the job of heading up the healthcare task force. I participated on this task force. And some of the early discussions went like this. Hilary and the others said, "We know you're right. Single payer makes the most sense. But it is not politically viable."

I said, "It's not?" I said, "If this president were to endorse it, and if we were to fight for it in the U.S. Congress, how can you tell me this is not viable?" And they answered: "You see, it's those damned insurance companies. They have an awful lot of money; they going to throw all their resources into it." And in that sense they were right.

But if this president had endorsed single payer, and had the entire trade union leadership endorsed it which, by the way, they didn't we could have won healthcare reform. But single payer was doomed when this president decided to capitulate to the insurance industry. He decided to keep them in the mix and he tried to pull the wool over everybody's eyes: to make it look warm and fuzzy and wonderful when you can't make that hog look good.

Then you get to the $64,000 question. How did this happen? How does it happen that we live in a society where we are mauled? Well, it's because we haven't organized a strong political movement from the grassroots up. I believe that to my absolute core...

...And then you have to couple that with our unmitigated craziness that we're so in love with the fact that Clinton got elected that we have to be trottin' over for tea and crumpets at his beck and call while he kicks our ass on every major issue of the day. And we are told: "We don't want to offend him. We have to work through this process."

We had formidable forces on board in the trade union movement for single payer. They could have really agitated and forced some hands here. But they weren't enough, because we were not all together. And all Clinton had to do was play his bullshit game of divide and conquer, tell everyone what they wanted to hear, promise everyone a little piece of something: but, of course, we'll channel everything through the insurance industry, and that's the story.

And it doesn't just happen on healthcare. It happens on virtually everything that means anything to people like us. It happens on every major issue: It happened on striker replacement. It happened on labor-law reform. And now we are being told that the new workplace of the future, through labor- management cooperation and other such baloney, is going to save us because we are going to be more productive and more effecient...

...We have to build a social movement that is responsive to all the problems in society. If we're to beat back the corporatist agenda, we have to get in the streets and raise hell. Because if we don't, they're going to roll right over us like a steamroller."

From: "A speech delivered by Robert Wages, President of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) to the October 20, 1994, Labor and Single Payer Rally in Oakland, Calif."

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45b/001.html

Posted by: Mike on September 19, 2003 08:43 AM

____

The Democratic party no more needs to move to the left to win a Presidential election than the Republican party needs to move to the right. That is to say, it's a losing strategy. If Bush had run as far to the right in the general election as he's governed, he'd have lost.

The party faithful (and/or the fringe extremes on either side of the political spectrum) always seem to believe that where the party's gone wrong is in moving to the center. What America *really* wants is what these true believers want. After all, everyone they know says the same thing.

This is what the '94 Congressional Republicans thought. They campaigned pretty far to the right, and it played *very well* to their core constituency. Turned out, though, that the general public wasn't so friendly to their radicalism and they got booted out.

Dean is too far to the left for middle America, but the Dem base is energized. Nader is, by this measurement, a Martian.

There was no way in hell that the majority of Americans were ready for a single-payer system back in '92. I was. You were. Most people weren't. Ultimately, it wasn't the the insurance companies and the doctor's lobbies, it was that such a radical reform had no political traction -- worse, it scared people. It still scares people; but it's steadily getting more palatable as the more frightening alternative (a collapsing health-care system that cares for only a minority) becomes a reality. Would it have been vastly preferable to reform in '92 than to wait when the whole system is in a total shambles *and* when the US is having another budget crisis? Of course.

But let me tell you something, friend: if you want to change the world, you have to deal with the world the *way it is*, and work from there. One of the hard realities that most adults learn to face is choosing the lesser of two evils rather than risk having the greater of two evils forced upon you. Apparently some folks never quite grew up.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 19, 2003 09:45 AM

____

"Tell me" something else,

>Keith M Ellis at September 19, 2003 09:45 AM


Since when is a Rockefeller Republican (in Democratic "wool") like Howard Dean "too far to the left" for ANYONE but the clique who currently run the REPUBLICAN party?

Posted by: Mike on September 19, 2003 10:23 AM

____

P.S.

>Keith M Ellis at September 19, 2003 09:45 AM

Now, let ME tell YOU something, "friend": you're 'dead right' about ONE thing:

>"...it wasn't the the insurance companies and the doctor's lobbies..."

But you couldn't be more wrong something else:


"It" WAS Bill Clinton.

Posted by: Mike on September 19, 2003 10:33 AM

____

The idea that Howard Dean is too far to the left is comical rubbish. We have a radical right Administration and Congressional majority that will descibe every Democrat they are afriad of as too far to the left. The extremists are in the Administration and Republican Congress!

Any Democrat will be far far far better than these Republican extremists.

Posted by: jd on September 19, 2003 10:44 AM

____

Any Democrat will be far far far better than these Republican extremists.


Well, any Democrat will be *different* from Bush (Nader was really wrong about that), but for the results to be "better" requires not just that Bush lose the election but that enough Republicans lose in congress. The only thing that would guarantee change is a decisive turn around in both the House and Senate although merely sharp losses would be enough to put the fear of God into their hearts. Even then, there's a substantial risk of a repeat of 1993-1994; tax and spending changes could be put into the (non-filabusterable) budget resolution with few if any Republican votes, and then the 2006 election comes and the Democrats get their heads handed to them. Hmm...I guess that's an argument in favor of the Democrats not regaining working majorities in Congress, since Republicans would be implicated in whatever happened with the first budget resolution.

Of course, I have the feeling that whoever is in power in 2006 is going to have big problems in the election, unless the chickens come home to roost in 2004.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 19, 2003 11:12 AM

____

Its simple math: The US has been, and for a long long time, a 2 party country. Third parties split the vote of their core constituecies, leaving the remaining party victorious.

Would Clinton have won without Perot? (Prolly not)

WOuld Bush have won without Nader -- we know the answer --definitely not.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 19, 2003 11:29 AM

____

Its simple math: The US has been, and for a long long time, a 2 party country. Third parties split the vote of their core constituecies, leaving the remaining party victorious.

Would Clinton have won without Perot? (Prolly not)

WOuld Bush have won without Nader -- we know the answer --definitely not.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 19, 2003 11:30 AM

____

Barry Ritholtz writes:
>
>Would Clinton have won without Perot? (Prolly not)

Actually, in 1992, the Perot vote consisted of unlikely voters, and voters who, when polled, claimed they would have voted for Bush and Clinton with equal frequency. In 1996, Perot got fewer than half the votes he got in 1992, and almost all of them came at the expense of Dole *if* we can assume that they would have been cast at all if Perot hadn't been running. He really did have a charisma cult going on there.

In any case, 12 million *fewer* votes were cast in 1996 because the race was perceived as a Clinton runaway, and even if every Perot voter who voted had gone for Dole and no additional Democrats turned out (which they did in 2000, btw), that would have left the popular vote essentially tied.

I think your point is essentially correct, though. Anybody who went into 2000 assuming that this would be a Gore cakewalk was neglecting the fact that the 1996 race would have been much closer if Perot had not run. The last thing Gore needed was Nader pulling in (or out) 2.78 million votes.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 19, 2003 11:57 AM

____

Barry Ritholz asks and answers, "WOuld Bush have won without Nader -- we know the answer --definitely not."

But the reality is that Bush did not win.

There are five bases on which to state that.

First, it is fairly well-established that upwards of 50,000 largely Democratic voters were illegally purged from the voter rolls in Florida.

Second, The New York Times chronicled that hundreds of illegal overseas ballots, enough to have swung the election, were included in the count.

Third, a review of the uncounted ballots by the University of Chicago showed that local election boards, in contradiction to the clear letter of the law, failed to count votes ballots that marked a presidential candidate and wrote in his name. The number that they failed to count was sufficient to swing the election.

Fourth, it has been proven that there were disparate voting systems, such that tens of thousands of African American ballots were not counted.

Finally, as a corollary to the above, it has been shown to a reasonable level of proof that the appearance of disparate voting systems was actually due to electoral fraud.

All of this is well-known. In a free and fair election, Al Gore would have won Florida by over 100,000 votes. In the actual election, Al Gore won by roughly 30,000 votes, votes that were cast but not counted.

But don't blame either Ralph Nader or God. Given that George Bush is as crooked as they come, it was the Democrats failure to fight for what they had justly won that led to this debacle.

Posted by: Charles on September 19, 2003 12:27 PM

____

Well, any Democrat will be *different* from Bush (Nader was really wrong about that), but for the results to be "better" requires not just that Bush lose the election but that enough Republicans lose in congress.

Can you say "veto"?

How about "executive order"?

This one's much easier: "recess appointment".

Let's face it. No matter how you'd prefer to vote in a perfect world, there is no Democrat, even the execrable Lieberman, who would not be an enormous improvement on what we have now.

Posted by: julia on September 19, 2003 01:57 PM

____

"Dean is too far to the left for middle America"

What is "left" about Dean? An 'A' rating from the NRA? Supporting the Afghanistan war? Balancing budgets?

I think the ONLY thing about Dean that might be considered "left" is his position on human rights - he signed a civil unions bill.

So are you going to let the far-far-far right determine what "left" is?

Posted by: Dave Johnson on September 19, 2003 02:30 PM

____

MEDIA LIES, AND THE LYING MEDIA LIARS WHO TELL THEM

Things just get worse for the British Broadcasting Corp., as the initial claim that Tony Blair’s government “sexed up” an intelligence dossier about Iraq has exploded, and revealed a miserable tissue of lies and shoddiness at the BBC. The BBC correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, has been left out in the cold by the BBC, which initially defended him. Oxford blogger Joshua Chafetz is gloating that events have proved him right in his conjecture that the BBC had let its anti-war bias lure it into self-destruction.

Sadly, it’s not just the BBC. New York Times Iraq correspondent John Burns reports that many journalists in Iraq were deliberately slanting their stories to curry favor with Saddam’s regime:

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people’s stories — mine included — specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

I’d like to know which newspaper. Interestingly, non-Big Media reports from Iraq are a lot more positive than the steady rain of negativity that we get from the media. Here’s what federal judge Don Walter wrote after visiting Iraq as part of a judicial assistance team:

Despite my initial opposition to the war, I am now convinced, whether we find any weapons of mass destruction or prove Saddam sheltered and financed terrorists, absolutely, we should have overthrown the Baathists, indeed, we should have done it sooner.
What changed my mind?
When we left mid June, 57 mass graves had been found, one with the bodies of 1200 children. There have been credible reports of murder, brutality and torture of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens. There is poverty on a monumental scale and fear on a larger one. That fear is still palpable.
I have seen the machines and places of torture. I will tell you one story told to me by the Chief of Pediatrics at the Medical College in Basra. It was one of the most shocking to me, but I heard worse. One of Saddam’s security agents was sent to question a Shiite in his home. The interrogation took place in the living room in the presence of the man’s wife, who held their three month old child. A question was asked and the thug did not like the answer; he asked it again, same answer. He grabbed the baby from its mother and plucked its eye out. And then repeated his question. Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime.
Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should. We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean that we should do nothing. . . .
We must have the moral courage to see this through, to do whatever it takes to secure responsible government for the Iraqi people. Having decided to topple Saddam, we cannot abandon those who trust us. I fear we will quit as the horrors of war come into our living rooms. Look at the stories you are getting from the media today. The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed. WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn’t sell.

I called Judge Walter’s chambers and got permission to post the full prepared text of his speech on the Web — you can read it by following the link above.

Nor is Judge Walter the only one to tell a different tale than the Big Media are reporting. The Blogcritics site publishes a first-hand report from a musician touring in the Middle East, who says:

ALL the Iraqis are done with the idea of Arab Unity. They hate all the other states except for Syria. They believe Saddam gave so much money to these other states, and none of them offered any support. They are particularly hateful now to the Palestinians; ordinary Iraqis were sometimes moved out of their own homes to house them, and they got jobs and pensions— and she said that the new Arabic graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is “Palestinians go home. The free ride is over.”
In any case, this tour was a lovefest compared to the last one, so god only knows what the reporters are all going on about. Another thing I heard is that 90% of all the attacks have happened in the Sunni Triangle, which if you look on a map represents all of about 1/8 of Iraq maybe (Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad— I don’t have a good map to do the math with), so you have a country 7/8 calm. This guy’s Iraqi mom (from Mosul) also said that the power is now on regularly in Baghdad but no one is reporting that.
If CNN hasn’t gotten it, it appears that Assad in Syria has. The cabinet change was a big thing even though many hoped/expected that Assad would choose a non-Baathist over Otri. Still, they think a few of the new guys will be non-Baathists which would have been unthinkable before.
They sure need it— the country is a beautiful basket case full of intelligent, kind people who could do something good if given a chance. On a more superficial, but probably important level as well, the kids military uniforms we saw last year are all gone, and a lot of the militarization you used to see in posters and monuments, etc. seems to have been toned down. The Lebanese paper, The Star, attributes this directly albeit grudgingly to the US being right next door.

Similarly, here’s a report from returning servicemen:

Both men said they are glad to be home visiting their families — and feel honored and grateful for all the support they received from the community while they were in the Middle East. Both of them also said things are going well for the U.S. troops in Iraq.
“Ninety-nine percent of what is going on over there is a good story,” said Callanan.
“There were a lot of reporters over there who overlooked the good stories, which may have been the only frustrating part of being there,” he said. “From media reports, it may not seem as though things are going well there but they are. There are a lot of changes taking place which will eventually pay big dividends.”
Cheung agreed that the media reports he read while in Iraq seemed so much different from what he was seeing for himself. One of the things he read that goaded him the most was that the Iraqis did not want the troops over there.
“I talked to so many Iraqis — adults and children — and they thanked me, invited me to their house, asked if they can cook a meal for me and offered me everything they have,” he said. “Because we were there, they have the freedom we enjoy in this country every day. They waved to us and a lot of times they worked with us.”

You’d never know this from listening to the whining of CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who has been complaining that CNN’s coverage isn’t negative enough and blaming it on “intimidation.” This produced the following list of the top 10 ways CNN was intimidated. It also led blogger Roger Simon to compare Amanpour — unfavorably — with John Burns, and led another blogger to write: “I once respected her as a reporter, but that has all drained away in the last year.” And Professor Daniel Drezner has more comments on Amanpour’s credibility. She is, however, merely emblematic of a larger problem.

This mismatch between what we’re hearing from non-journalists in Iraq, and the unending lugubrious flow from Big Media, is shaping up to be the next blow to the credibility of Big Journalism. Why are the reports we’re getting so lousy? You might argue that the situation is complex, and that these positive stories are only part of what’s going on. But that doesn’t explain why the coverage is so unrelentingly negative, and why stories like these get so little attention. I think it’s a combination of factors:

Bias: Everybody knows — because it’s true — that a lot of people in the media don’t like Bush, and would like to see him lose in 2004. That naturally produces a negative tone. Plus, the press has been generally anti-military since Vietnam. That’s fading now, as out-of-date baby boomers are replaced, but it hasn’t faded entirely by any means. James Lileks compares the favorable press treatment of Clinton’s abortive 1998 Iraq invasion (“Operation Desert Fox”) and nails it with this:

I’ve read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something I’ve long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they don’t feel it’s theirs.
If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaida, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons’ brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK’s call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience — the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.
Read the whole Lileks piece if you have time. It’s devastating.

Butt-covering: As CNN’s Eason Jordan admitted after the war, CNN slanted its coverage to make Saddam look good for years. That’s how they maintained “access.” (What good is “access” when all it produces are lies? Well, no good — except to the journalists whose careers it enhances. We’ve seen journalists develop something akin to the “ticket punching” mentality that the U.S. Army had in Vietnam, where being able to say you were there is more important than the quality of work you did.)

More butt-covering: Many media people predicted disaster before the war, based on their alleged expertise in the area. They were proved wrong again and again, and would like to turn the tables.

Laziness: A lot of Big Media types don’t get out of Baghdad much to see the rest of the country where things are better. Plus, they’re often still hanging around with their former “minders” from the Old Regime, who may know where to get cheap booze but who can’t be expected to offer a fair picture of the regime that overthrew them.

Hysteria: The same thing that led them to overhype Hurricane Isabel — bad but not terrible — or for that matter shark attacks at the beach. They love bad news, because they think it sells. Funny that their viewership is shrinking, for the most part.

Euro-envy: Too many American journalists still think that their European counterparts know more. I don’t know why — it was European nations that made a mess of the Middle East to start with, and that have kept the pot boiling with their destructive support of tyrants. The BBC’s anti-American bias is quite plain by now (see above). And as Tom Friedman notes in The New York Times, the French are essentially at war with us, trying to regain influence in the region. And as Sylvain Galineau observes, “France wants to get back to business as usual. For TotalFinaElf, Alcatel and the scores of French companies who coined money working for the Hussein regime for decades. As long as Paul Bremer is in charge, it won’t happen. France needs someone it can bribe and sign dodgy deals with. The UN can deliver that. The US won’t.” Journalists are supposed to pride themselves in noticing the self-interest behind what people tell them. Why have they missed this? Because they’re biased, butt-covering, lazy, hysterical, and Euro-envying. That’s my guess, anyway.

All of these things reflect badly on the press. If the Jayson Blair affair was journalism’s Enron, the kind of misconduct that John Burns reports is journalism’s Nuremberg. With that in mind, I guess an after-the-fact cover-and-spin operation is no surprise. But they’re crazy to think that people aren’t noticing.

Posted by: GBVDS on September 19, 2003 03:51 PM

____

MEDIA LIES, AND THE LYING MEDIA LIARS WHO TELL THEM

Things just get worse for the British Broadcasting Corp., as the initial claim that Tony Blair’s government “sexed up” an intelligence dossier about Iraq has exploded, and revealed a miserable tissue of lies and shoddiness at the BBC. The BBC correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, has been left out in the cold by the BBC, which initially defended him. Oxford blogger Joshua Chafetz is gloating that events have proved him right in his conjecture that the BBC had let its anti-war bias lure it into self-destruction.

Sadly, it’s not just the BBC. New York Times Iraq correspondent John Burns reports that many journalists in Iraq were deliberately slanting their stories to curry favor with Saddam’s regime:

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people’s stories — mine included — specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

I’d like to know which newspaper. Interestingly, non-Big Media reports from Iraq are a lot more positive than the steady rain of negativity that we get from the media. Here’s what federal judge Don Walter wrote after visiting Iraq as part of a judicial assistance team:

Despite my initial opposition to the war, I am now convinced, whether we find any weapons of mass destruction or prove Saddam sheltered and financed terrorists, absolutely, we should have overthrown the Baathists, indeed, we should have done it sooner.
What changed my mind?
When we left mid June, 57 mass graves had been found, one with the bodies of 1200 children. There have been credible reports of murder, brutality and torture of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens. There is poverty on a monumental scale and fear on a larger one. That fear is still palpable.
I have seen the machines and places of torture. I will tell you one story told to me by the Chief of Pediatrics at the Medical College in Basra. It was one of the most shocking to me, but I heard worse. One of Saddam’s security agents was sent to question a Shiite in his home. The interrogation took place in the living room in the presence of the man’s wife, who held their three month old child. A question was asked and the thug did not like the answer; he asked it again, same answer. He grabbed the baby from its mother and plucked its eye out. And then repeated his question. Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime.
Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should. We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean that we should do nothing. . . .
We must have the moral courage to see this through, to do whatever it takes to secure responsible government for the Iraqi people. Having decided to topple Saddam, we cannot abandon those who trust us. I fear we will quit as the horrors of war come into our living rooms. Look at the stories you are getting from the media today. The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed. WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn’t sell.

I called Judge Walter’s chambers and got permission to post the full prepared text of his speech on the Web — you can read it by following the link above.

Nor is Judge Walter the only one to tell a different tale than the Big Media are reporting. The Blogcritics site publishes a first-hand report from a musician touring in the Middle East, who says:

ALL the Iraqis are done with the idea of Arab Unity. They hate all the other states except for Syria. They believe Saddam gave so much money to these other states, and none of them offered any support. They are particularly hateful now to the Palestinians; ordinary Iraqis were sometimes moved out of their own homes to house them, and they got jobs and pensions— and she said that the new Arabic graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is “Palestinians go home. The free ride is over.”
In any case, this tour was a lovefest compared to the last one, so god only knows what the reporters are all going on about. Another thing I heard is that 90% of all the attacks have happened in the Sunni Triangle, which if you look on a map represents all of about 1/8 of Iraq maybe (Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad— I don’t have a good map to do the math with), so you have a country 7/8 calm. This guy’s Iraqi mom (from Mosul) also said that the power is now on regularly in Baghdad but no one is reporting that.
If CNN hasn’t gotten it, it appears that Assad in Syria has. The cabinet change was a big thing even though many hoped/expected that Assad would choose a non-Baathist over Otri. Still, they think a few of the new guys will be non-Baathists which would have been unthinkable before.
They sure need it— the country is a beautiful basket case full of intelligent, kind people who could do something good if given a chance. On a more superficial, but probably important level as well, the kids military uniforms we saw last year are all gone, and a lot of the militarization you used to see in posters and monuments, etc. seems to have been toned down. The Lebanese paper, The Star, attributes this directly albeit grudgingly to the US being right next door.

Similarly, here’s a report from returning servicemen:

Both men said they are glad to be home visiting their families — and feel honored and grateful for all the support they received from the community while they were in the Middle East. Both of them also said things are going well for the U.S. troops in Iraq.
“Ninety-nine percent of what is going on over there is a good story,” said Callanan.
“There were a lot of reporters over there who overlooked the good stories, which may have been the only frustrating part of being there,” he said. “From media reports, it may not seem as though things are going well there but they are. There are a lot of changes taking place which will eventually pay big dividends.”
Cheung agreed that the media reports he read while in Iraq seemed so much different from what he was seeing for himself. One of the things he read that goaded him the most was that the Iraqis did not want the troops over there.
“I talked to so many Iraqis — adults and children — and they thanked me, invited me to their house, asked if they can cook a meal for me and offered me everything they have,” he said. “Because we were there, they have the freedom we enjoy in this country every day. They waved to us and a lot of times they worked with us.”

You’d never know this from listening to the whining of CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who has been complaining that CNN’s coverage isn’t negative enough and blaming it on “intimidation.” This produced the following list of the top 10 ways CNN was intimidated. It also led blogger Roger Simon to compare Amanpour — unfavorably — with John Burns, and led another blogger to write: “I once respected her as a reporter, but that has all drained away in the last year.” And Professor Daniel Drezner has more comments on Amanpour’s credibility. She is, however, merely emblematic of a larger problem.

This mismatch between what we’re hearing from non-journalists in Iraq, and the unending lugubrious flow from Big Media, is shaping up to be the next blow to the credibility of Big Journalism. Why are the reports we’re getting so lousy? You might argue that the situation is complex, and that these positive stories are only part of what’s going on. But that doesn’t explain why the coverage is so unrelentingly negative, and why stories like these get so little attention. I think it’s a combination of factors:

Bias: Everybody knows — because it’s true — that a lot of people in the media don’t like Bush, and would like to see him lose in 2004. That naturally produces a negative tone. Plus, the press has been generally anti-military since Vietnam. That’s fading now, as out-of-date baby boomers are replaced, but it hasn’t faded entirely by any means. James Lileks compares the favorable press treatment of Clinton’s abortive 1998 Iraq invasion (“Operation Desert Fox”) and nails it with this:

I’ve read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something I’ve long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they don’t feel it’s theirs.
If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaida, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons’ brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK’s call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience — the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.
Read the whole Lileks piece if you have time. It’s devastating.

Butt-covering: As CNN’s Eason Jordan admitted after the war, CNN slanted its coverage to make Saddam look good for years. That’s how they maintained “access.” (What good is “access” when all it produces are lies? Well, no good — except to the journalists whose careers it enhances. We’ve seen journalists develop something akin to the “ticket punching” mentality that the U.S. Army had in Vietnam, where being able to say you were there is more important than the quality of work you did.)

More butt-covering: Many media people predicted disaster before the war, based on their alleged expertise in the area. They were proved wrong again and again, and would like to turn the tables.

Laziness: A lot of Big Media types don’t get out of Baghdad much to see the rest of the country where things are better. Plus, they’re often still hanging around with their former “minders” from the Old Regime, who may know where to get cheap booze but who can’t be expected to offer a fair picture of the regime that overthrew them.

Hysteria: The same thing that led them to overhype Hurricane Isabel — bad but not terrible — or for that matter shark attacks at the beach. They love bad news, because they think it sells. Funny that their viewership is shrinking, for the most part.

Euro-envy: Too many American journalists still think that their European counterparts know more. I don’t know why — it was European nations that made a mess of the Middle East to start with, and that have kept the pot boiling with their destructive support of tyrants. The BBC’s anti-American bias is quite plain by now (see above). And as Tom Friedman notes in The New York Times, the French are essentially at war with us, trying to regain influence in the region. And as Sylvain Galineau observes, “France wants to get back to business as usual. For TotalFinaElf, Alcatel and the scores of French companies who coined money working for the Hussein regime for decades. As long as Paul Bremer is in charge, it won’t happen. France needs someone it can bribe and sign dodgy deals with. The UN can deliver that. The US won’t.” Journalists are supposed to pride themselves in noticing the self-interest behind what people tell them. Why have they missed this? Because they’re biased, butt-covering, lazy, hysterical, and Euro-envying. That’s my guess, anyway.

All of these things reflect badly on the press. If the Jayson Blair affair was journalism’s Enron, the kind of misconduct that John Burns reports is journalism’s Nuremberg. With that in mind, I guess an after-the-fact cover-and-spin operation is no surprise. But they’re crazy to think that people aren’t noticing.

Posted by: GBVDS on September 19, 2003 03:51 PM

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Wow, you guys need to get out more. Dean isn't too far to the left *for me*. But he's too far to the left for swing voters. That's reality.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 19, 2003 05:49 PM

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I don't know about that, Keith - it seems to me that as long as Kucinich, Mosely-Braun and Gephardt are in the race, it's a little early concede that Dean is "too far to the left for swing voters"

When the president's approval rating is less than fifty is probably not the best time to be pre-emptively conceding anything.

Posted by: julia on September 19, 2003 06:20 PM

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"God could have prevented Bush's election by smiting Bush, or alternatively letting him be hit by a meteorite. So don't blame Ralph. It's God's fault. Blame God, not Ralph."

God preferred a Republican.

It looks like the Gnostics were right.

Posted by: Jim Glass on September 19, 2003 07:43 PM

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Actually, aside from the reliance upon the politics of personality, the fault lies squarely at the feet of the Green party not at the feet of Nader.

The Green party was specifically founded NOT to run national elections until they had Green elected officials of one sort or another in the majority of the country.

They reneged on their founding principals. All of you waste your energy blaming Nader when he should never have been allowed to become the figurehead for the party. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the party.

(Only one of the reasons I left the party back in the 80s)

Posted by: filchyboy on September 19, 2003 08:51 PM

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Actually, aside from the reliance upon the politics of personality, the fault lies squarely at the feet of the Green party not at the feet of Nader.

The Green party was specifically founded NOT to run national elections until they had Green elected officials of one sort or another in the majority of the country.

They reneged on their founding principals. All of you waste your energy blaming Nader when he should never have been allowed to become the figurehead for the party. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the party.

(Only one of the reasons I left the party back in the 80s)

Posted by: filchyboy on September 19, 2003 08:53 PM

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Julia, you wrote: "I don't know about that, Keith - it seems to me that as long as Kucinich, Mosely-Braun and Gephardt are in the race, it's a little early concede that Dean is 'too far to the left for swing voters'". Agreed that those alternatives are much further to the left than Dean. But your argument is a non-sequitor. The general election swing voters think anyone to the left of Clinton is too far to the left. It doesn't really matter that many of the candidates typically fielded by the Democratic party in presidential elections are "too far to the left" by those standards. That's just the way it is. The Republicans have their own share of typical candidates that are far too the right for the swing voters, as well. Bush fooled most of these folks (including me) into believing he was a moderate, "compassionate conservative". He wouldn't have won the election otherwise. But now the swing voters know better. All they need is someone more moderate than Bush and they'll vote for him/her.

I've developed a theory about why the American population seems to be more afraid of leftist excesses than they are of rightist excesses (and thus more fearful of the Dems than the Repubs). My theory is that this is the case, surprisingly, because the nation has been moving to the left on most issues for a long, long time and thus the fear is that leftist excesses are more possible than rightist excesses. This flies in the face of conventional leftist wisdon, but I think it's correct. Basically, our side has won the war....and that makes people nervous. Americans *are*, no doubt, on average somewhat more conservative than their peers elsewhere; but I think that Americas comfort with conservatives is more the embrace of a certain caution against moving too progressively too quickly.

As to this whole Nader debate. Well, there's no question that Nader and his voters were irresponsible in denying both the real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, firstly, and of denying the practical political consequences of their actions, secondly. But as much I as like Clinton, I've come to blame him primarily for the debacle of 2000. Any two-term President with his popularity and influence over the national political consiousness *should* have prepared his party's apparatus to protect his legacy. He didn't; and I think he didn't for primarily selfishness/insecurity reasons. He couldn't bear grooming anyone that might threaten him. He had the opportunity to reshape the Democratic party in his New Democratic image, and he didn't. Secondarily, Gore's loss was Gore's fault -- he was a lousy candidate who ran a pitiful campaign. The blame lies most on those two, less so on Nader.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 19, 2003 10:03 PM

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I think you may be underestimating how radioactive Clinton was supposed to be back then. A lot of people wanted him to sit it out.

I think it was a horrible mistake, but learned helplessness is a bitch.

Posted by: julia on September 19, 2003 10:25 PM

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The obscenely long, duplicated and off-topic post by GBVDS will come as in immense surprise to the Brits. Labour has lost its first by election in 15 years, with both pro-war parties being smashed by the anti-war Lib Dems.

Speaking of which, while details of the reporting of BBC's Gilligan are disputed, no one has lost sight of the fact that the British government, much like the American government, lied to its people to get them into the war. The Tories may be having fun trashing the BBC, but in the process, they're turning themselves into a marginalized, discredited irrelevancy.

It's wonderful that Judge Walter discovered the mass graves and was moved by them. Most were dug in 1991, when the GHW Bush Administration urged the Shia and the Kurds to rebel and promised to support them. When they did rebel, the Administration turned its back.

The other mass graves come from the Iran-Iraq war and include victims killed by terrible chemical weapons. The precursors to those weapons were sold to the Iraqis by companies such as DuPont. The governmental salesman was Donald Rumsfeld.

It's too bad that GBVDS will probably not even bother to read and consider these points, but I am sure that the encounter with reality seems far too dangerous given such sketchy knowledge as exhibited gy the above. In the meantime, it would be appreciated if posts could be on-topic, not duplicated and to the point.

Posted by: Charles on September 20, 2003 12:33 AM

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Thank you, Charles, for saving me the effort of having to respond to that rubbish.

BTW, since we're so off-topic anyway, you might be interested to know that the St. Petersburg Mafia is heading for Iraq.

http://www.russiajournal.com/news/cnews-article.shtml?nd=40555

Posted by: Cal on September 20, 2003 01:57 AM

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There are lots of ways the 2004 election results could have had a different outcome.

But the bottom line, in hard numbers, is that Nader took away enough votes from Gore that Bush was in a position to ascend to the presidency, if that phrase offends you less than saying he won.

I'm not talking about votes in California or NY or other blue states where 100,000 one way or another didn't matter.
Nader voters created a tiny opening in Florida for James Baker & Co. to accomplish what they wanted.

Without that, W is not Prez.

Now we can discuss all the what ifs:

-What if Gore ran a better campaign (his was awful)
- What if he didn't run away form Bubba
- What if it rained more in Ohio, etc.

All the issues raised about purged voter rolls, etc. are valid; They certainly had a decisive impact on the final outcome.

But if you are looking for a proximate cause, the primary event that allowed those issues to be relevant, was that 5%+ of votes were siphoned off by a legitimate candidate with legitimate issues -- who had no chance of winning.

In a Parlimentary system, a 5% candidate can negotiate their votes to form an alliance government, so that their key issue gets supported/legislated/funded whatever

In a two party representaive electoral college system, a 3rd party candidate hurts the candidate they are closest to politcally. Its simple math.

Greg Palast ("Best Democracy Money Can Buy") raises many issues that helped W win. But here's a newsflash: Politics is a dirty, nasty, sharp elbowed affair that has a rich tradition of lying-cheating-stealing to win.

Don't make it right . . . but its reality none the less.

So the point that Nader shouldn't have mattered if only everyonme played fair and by the rules is charming but naive.

3 conclusions:
1) Its ugly out there;
2) Actions have Consequences;
3) In the US, 3rd party candidates help their politcal opponents the most.

If you like W, thank Nader; if you don't like W, blame Nader.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 20, 2003 06:01 AM

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Julia, I agree with you that Clinton was thought to be "toxic" and for that reason didn't campaign very hard for Gore. My criticism goes to deeper party politics, all the way back to the beginning of Clinton's presidency. What he failed to do was, firstly, to reform his party by using his influence to install New Democratic operatives at all levels and in Congress; and, secondly, cultivate several possible successors besides Gore....not to mention that he didn't do a very good job of cultivating Gore. I really believe that Clinton didn't do these things because he was insecure about perceived threats to his own influence, was an outsider perhaps too timid to fight in the trenches against the apparatchiks, and generally was too narcissistic to sufficiently prepare for a future *without him*. Having said all that, I believe that Clinton's influence will be felt in the next generation--those who will have been young adults when Clinton came into power.

Mr. Ritholtz's points are well-made and persuasive. I agree that the proximate cause was Nader. But I think Clinton and Gore's failures with regard to the election of 2000 are deeper and they each have a more direct moral responsibility for the outcome.

But the relevant issue now is that we on the left don't make this mistake a second time. Right now we don't have the luxury of selecting a nominee for whom we are very enthusiastic. Bush and Co. are a large enough threat to the welfare of this entire nation that we absolutely *must* pick a nominee who can beat Bush in November of 2004. We have to be ruthlessly pragmatic right now, and the idealism of the Dean camp makes me very nervous.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 20, 2003 06:38 AM

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I am not to blame for the election of George W. Bush. Free will permits mortals to do stupid things. If I wanted you to be sheep, I would have given you woolly coats and cute little butts. You can't possibly imagine the other things I need to be concerned with, so stop bothering me with this piffle.

In this case, Mr. Gore was overly influenced by limousine liberalism -- free trade, budget balancing, triangulation, Bob Rubin, gun control b.s., anti-smoking silliness. Like that Dean guy. A word to the wise.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go find that Moore guy in Alabama and go biblical on his ass.

Posted by: Yaweh on September 20, 2003 10:23 AM

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We have a radical right Administration that will run the roughest toughest of campaigns. Any Democrat who does not understand this and who will not be as rough and tough is making a terrible error in strategy. Al Franken showed how effectively these radical rightees can be portrayed as the goons they are.

Posted by: Ari on September 20, 2003 11:51 AM

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Any Democrat will be portrayed as an extremist by the truly extreme radical right. So what? These radical Republicans can be defeated by candidates who fight back as Mary Landreau proved in Louisiana.

Posted by: Ari on September 20, 2003 11:55 AM

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GB is a troll.

Glance, sneer, and move on.

Posted by: Ari on September 20, 2003 11:57 AM

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DAVID EHRENSTEIN IS AN IGNORANT FUDGEPACKING HACK. ANYONE HEARD OF HIS STUPID, FAGGY HOLLYWOOD "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE? I DIDN'T FUCKING THINK SO. GO FUCK SOME SOME BOYS, DAVID. I'M SURE SURE MOM AND DAD WOULD BE PROUD

Posted by: RIUYTR on September 20, 2003 01:25 PM

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DAVID EHRENSTEIN IS AN IGNORANT FUDGEPACKING HACK. ANYONE HEARD OF HIS STUPID, FAGGY HOLLYWOOD "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE? I DIDN'T FUCKING THINK SO. GO FUCK SOME SOME BOYS, DAVID. I'M SURE SURE MOM AND DAD WOULD BE PROUD

Posted by: RIUYTR on September 20, 2003 01:25 PM

____

DAVID EHRENSTEIN IS AN IGNORANT FUDGEPACKING HACK. ANYONE HEARD OF HIS STUPID, FAGGY HOLLYWOOD "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE? I DIDN'T FUCKING THINK SO. GO FUCK SOME SOME BOYS, DAVID. I'M SURE SURE MOM AND DAD WOULD BE PROUD

Posted by: RIUYTR on September 20, 2003 01:26 PM

____

DAVID EHRENSTEIN IS AN IGNORANT FUDGEPACKING HACK. ANYONE HEARD OF HIS STUPID, FAGGY HOLLYWOOD "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE? I DIDN'T FUCKING THINK SO. GO FUCK SOME SOME BOYS, DAVID. I'M SURE SURE MOM AND DAD WOULD BE PROUD

Posted by: RIUYTR on September 20, 2003 01:26 PM

____

DAVID EHRENSTEIN IS AN IGNORANT FUDGEPACKING HACK. ANYONE HEARD OF HIS STUPID, FAGGY HOLLYWOOD "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE? I DIDN'T FUCKING THINK SO. GO FUCK SOME SOME BOYS, DAVID. I'M SURE SURE MOM AND DAD WOULD BE PROUD

Posted by: RIUYTR on September 20, 2003 01:26 PM

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That is the "GBVDS" post [whatever that stands for] is a troll post.

Posted by: Ari on September 20, 2003 01:38 PM

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Interesting how talking about the election theft brings out the werewolves, isn't it, Ari?

Almost as if they were afraid of the subject.

Posted by: Charles on September 20, 2003 02:58 PM

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Agreed! My mom mentioned that she thought this Administration would be a typical Republican Administration, fairly more conservative than she wished but well.... What she found was a fierceness that she has never before experienced. These radical rightees are fierce and awful.

Posted by: Ari on September 20, 2003 03:33 PM

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ANYONE HEARD OF HIS [invective] "JOURNALISM" BEFORE HE STARTED SLUMMING HERE?

Actually, yes.

But then, I read.

Posted by: julia on September 20, 2003 05:04 PM

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Nobody seems to have noticed that GBVDS' message was simply Glenn Reynolds' latest NBC blog reprinted word for word, without credit(www.msnbc.com/news/856672.asp?0si).

Of course, that doesn't make it any more accurate.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 20, 2003 06:12 PM

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'God preferred a Republican.' Is that how you're referring to Uncle Tony these days? ;-)

Posted by: Ben Vollmayr-Lee on September 20, 2003 07:46 PM

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Jim Glass wrote:

> God preferred a Republican.
> It looks like the Gnostics were right.

Actually it’s more that this is a center-right nation and Bush is a center-right President. He pushed through a modest tax cut, a Teddy Roosevelt-style “multiple-use” environmental policy (while rejecting extremist policies like the Kyoto Accords), pretty much gave the Democrats what they wanted with regards to steel tariffs and social spending (both of which were wrong), nominated ABA-approved “well qualified” judicial nominees, and forged a multi-national effort to combat global terrorism (as opposed to his predecessor who unilaterally bombed other nations with no actual end in mind save his own political survival).

He will probably be reelected since the economy is improving (although the President is no more responsible for that then he is when it worsens), the war is going pretty well abroad, domestic efforts at combating terrorism seem to have stopped any major attacks, the 2000 redistricting will favor him and his party, and his opponents seem to be imploding while insisting that Bush is the “extremist.”


Posted by: Thorley Winston on September 20, 2003 09:35 PM

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Is Thorley Winston by any chance living in a parallel universe? By the way, the Newsweek poll today showed Clark -- already the very narrow front-runner for the Democratic nomination -- within 4 points of Bush, Kerry within 5 points of him, Gore (if he runs) within 3 points of him, and Hillary (if she runs) within 7 points of him. All of them seem to be gaining, and there is now a 50-44 margin against Bush in the general question of "whether he should be reelected". The only weak contender polled is Dean, who trails him by 14 points.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 20, 2003 10:49 PM

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Thorley Winston is right. On most issues Bush is an ordinary middle of the road president. But we owe Ralph Nader a lot when it comes to national defense.

I don't think Gore would have had the stones to do what needed to be done and take out Saddam Hussein. It takes a man to do a man's job.

Tom Friedman, the smartest pundit in America, laid it out on Tim Russert tonight: some things are true even though Bush says them.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 20, 2003 11:32 PM

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>"...All the issues raised about purged voter rolls, etc. are valid; They certainly had a decisive impact on the final outcome...

>...Greg Palast ("Best Democracy Money Can Buy") raises many issues that helped W win. But here's a newsflash: Politics is a dirty, nasty, sharp elbowed affair that has a rich tradition of lying-cheating-stealing to win...

>...the point that Nader shouldn't have mattered if only everyonme played fair and by the rules is charming but naive...."

>Barry Ritholtz on September 20, 2003 06:01 AM


And yet, SOME of us still think it's worse than stupid to attack the mistakes of one's 'natural' political allies while making excuses for the crimes of one's political 'adversaries'.

And some of us STILL don't have a lot of tolerance for liars, cheaters and thieves OR people who do.

Pretty weird. Hunh, Barry?

Personally, I'm inclined to doubt you'll ever understand it...

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2003 12:19 AM

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Keith, I was very interested to hear your take that the left has actually been making a slow but steady advance in the U.S. Perhaps socially, in that gay marraige seems much more likely now than ten years ago, and even the most conservative candidates are expected to have women and minorities on their staffs and in their cabinets (though Bush seems to be pushing for things like religious schools with government support, etc, I think -- not merely hope -- he's on the losing side), but economically? The top bracket marginal tax rate has been making a steady slide since WW2, from 90-something% to 70% to 30-something% to 39.6% to 35%, the inheritance tax is abolished, and the most radical economic/social justice ideal in the public imagination is what? Certainly not reshaping society and abolishing poverty, as it might have been in the 1960s. Probably not even expanding things like the EITC or dramatic reform of medical insurance (maybe prescription drug benefits). Probably having enough money that social security -- a program that gives uniformly to all levels of income, and is funded with regressive taxation -- is the highest imaginable cause (of course, even as a (moderate) economic leftie, I'm not saddened at seeing the diminishing of dirigiste environmental regulation in favor of incentive schemes or the attempt to shift the focus from welfare to making work pay through the EITC, but the general TREND seems saddening to me).

In short, we seem to be moving socially left and economically right. Are Mark Bahner or Will Allen around? The libertarians (lower-case l) actually seem to be winning.

No doubt you have an answer to that, Keith, and an explanation for why the left is actually winning. I'd be fascinated to hear it. (this is the first time in months I've been here, because I've always been scared to come here on a dial-up connection.)

Posted by: Julian Elson on September 21, 2003 12:48 AM

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What Nader failed and fails to understand is that these radical right Republicans are the problem, not the Clintons or Gores or Deans or Kerrys or Clarks or other leading Democrats. There is a huge difference between political parties. Democrats are who Nader should support!

Posted by: lise on September 21, 2003 10:11 AM

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Lise, what is "radical right" about this administration? Social spending has grown much more rapidly under Bush than it did under Clinton. We are about to get a huge expansion of Medicare. As for Bush's fiscal policy it's just crazy, not radical right. If William McKinley or William Howard Taft were around I don't think they would praise the deficit spending.

The libertarian rhetoric that was popular in Republican circles a few years ago has pretty much disappeared, and we don't hear much about small government anymore.

As for the president's muscular foreign policy it resembles the liberal internationalism of the old Democratic Party more than it does the isolationism of the "radical right".

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 12:07 PM

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Julian, my answer is that you're both a little right and a little wrong. In certain important respects, the US has been moving rightward economically. There's certainly less restribution of wealth going on, for example. On the other hand, note what people like Mr. Willingham and others are saying. The federal government has only grown larger and there's more government regulation of business now than ever in the US's history. The libertarians certainly didn't win on those issues. To me, this indicates that the traditional left/right metric is the wrong one to use for looking at economic policy trends in the US. The people that are the most inclined to assign the trend as being "rightward" are the ones who most strongly feel that that the trend has been that of moving away from an idealized socialism they prefer. This is because they're right--the trend is moving away from the state they'd prefer. They just assume that this necessarily indicates that the trend must be in a stereotypical rightward direction. But it isn't. On some economic issues, Americans are by these standards pretty much to the right. On others, they're certainly not. (Things like parental leave, environmental regulation, etcetera.)

And, as you say, it's certainly the case that socially the US has long been moving to the left and will continue to do so, regardless of the efforts of cultural conservatives like Bush. I think the overall impression someone from the past would have about contemporary America is that it is generally quite liberal, sometimes astonishingly so, but also quite mercantile.

But, anyway, I think it's a mistake to give equal weight, politically, to Americans' feelings about economic and social issues. Dividing it neatly and evenly in that matter is something of a libertarian artificat, In truth, most people are primarily concerned with culture, and they see economics as just another part of it. This is what I mean when I say that we liberals have won this war. We've won the culture war, and this makes conservatives very, very worried and angry. That they've made some gains (or forestalled liberalism) on economic issues is small comfort for them.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 21, 2003 01:45 PM

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>"...The libertarian rhetoric that was popular in Republican circles a few years ago has pretty much disappeared, and we don't hear much about small government anymore..."

>Joe Willingham at September 21, 2003 12:07 PM

And you guys are, to a man, fiercely loyal. AND "fundamentally" honest too.

Right Joe? As honest as the day is long. No foolin'.....

Norquist's power high, profile low

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

Grover Norquist in his office in Washington.

WASHINGTON — President Bush's tax cut finally has passed, but there's no time for the true believers in this downtown conference room to celebrate.

Grover Norquist calls on a White House official, who rises to thank more than 100 conservative activists for their help in passing the sort of sweeping tax relief this group has been pursuing for years at weekly strategy sessions known as "the Wednesday Meeting."

But the agenda is full with other issues as well: confirming conservative judges. Battling curbs on guns. Boosting Republican congressional hopefuls. And, of course, cutting more taxes.

This nondescript room in an L Street office building is the incubator for Bush's political strategy, one that puts his conservative base first and foremost....

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2001-06-01-grover.htm

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2003 02:24 PM

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"in truth, most people are primarily concerned with culture, and they see economics as just another part of it."

"culture" has become largely a matter of artificial, industrially produced, mass-mediatized
dreck. it has long since ceased to be an independent outgrowth of historical experience and evolved tradition. whereas, virtually from the get-go, the u.s.a. has been a notably money-grubbing society, never more so than in the last 20 tears. what you claim as a "cultural" victory for the "left" is largely a matter of an ever more insistent and regressive attachment to atomistic individualism, to an extent that seems bizarre by the norms of most cultures. this, of course, goes together with the loss of any sense of the distinction between public and private, which is a by-product of the deliberate collapsing of a participatory public sphere to delegitimate the state as the placeholder for collective action on the part of highly organized corporate economic interests. that reactionary anxieties are mobilized and instrumentalized on behalf of this project, even as profits are coined from the cultural production of spectacles of insipid shamelessness, is not an unforseen contingency.

Posted by: john c. halasz on September 21, 2003 03:19 PM

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Thanks to Mr. Halasz for that amusing parody of the gabble of the postmodernist academic left.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 04:13 PM

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Halasz's "gabble" makes considerable sense -- something that would be a lot more obvious if he bothered to capitalize his sentences.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 21, 2003 04:41 PM

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Ooooh GOOD....

>Joe Willingham at September 21, 2003 04:13 PM

(He's back ;!)

AND he appreciates "parody" too....

>Religious zealotry and the crisis of American democracy

>Khoren Arisian

>29 - 7 - 2003

>"We cannot understand what is really going on in American politics today without a critical and unblinking examination of its enduring religious basis and the theological presuppositions that support it.

>Consider President George W. Bush’s current nominee for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, Jr., who deems it “acceptable to execute the mentally retarded,” replace the Constitution with the Bible, and asserts that “We derive our rights from God and not from government.”

>Since God is more elusive than government..."

http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-3-77-1394.jsp

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2003 04:44 PM

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Well, there is one phrase I agree with, and that's "cultural production of spectacles of insipid shamelessness". The newspaper columns of Maureen Dowd and the writings of the "postmodernists" would be examples of that.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 04:47 PM

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"I don't think Gore would have had the stones to do what needed to be done and take out Saddam Hussein. It takes a man to do a man's job."

A pity Bush didn't have the stones not to lie through his teeth to Congress and the voters about the actual weakness of the evidence for Saddam's nuclear program, and about the huge cost of an occupation -- or to avoid concealing from Congress for three weeks that North Korea had restarted its own Bomb factory (until it had passed his Iraq war resolution, after which he revealed the news to them within hours). When it comes to politics, Bush -- like Arnold Schwarzenegger -- actually is strictly a girlie man. (And notice how often we are now seeing, in public, that nervous expression Bush gets when he realizes that he's in a corner -- the expression that Gail Collins likened to a possum cornered in your garage.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 21, 2003 04:47 PM

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See Tom Friedman's explanation on the Tim Russert show of why Bush had to emphasize the WMD issue when the real, and valid, reason for invading Iraq was regime change.

Tom Friedman is the smartest pundit in this country, bar none. Whether one agrees with his position or not, it is well worth studying because he makes clear why the administration did what it did.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 05:05 PM

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>"...the real, and valid, reason for invading Iraq was regime change..."

>Joe Willingham at September 21, 2003 05:05 PM

Help me out here, Joe.

I'm still trying to figure out why "smart" guys like you (and Friedman) really seem to believe ENDS ("regime change") justify MEANS (deceit, slander, manipulation, lies, unprovoked aggression, unsanctioned, illegal invasion and occupation, war crimes & etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum).

After you get done with that Joe, tell me where you and Tom GOT the idea that 'changing regimes' in ANY country (other than your own) was something you guys (or ANYBODY not DIRECTLY affected [or threatened] by a given state) has a 'right' to do.

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2003 05:41 PM

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>deceit, slander, manipulation, lies, unprovoked >aggression, unsanctioned, illegal invasion and >occupation, war crimes

The answer to your first question is that none, not one, of these things occurred. The charges are flat-out lies.

"After you get done with that Joe, tell me where you and Tom GOT the idea that 'changing regimes' in ANY country (other than your own) was something you guys (or ANYBODY not DIRECTLY affected [or threatened] by a given state) has a 'right' to do."

The answer is that Saddam's regime was a criminal regime that forfeited its right to exist. It started wars and committed genocide, and was a threat to the entire civilized world.

The political status quo in the Islamic Middle East is a threat to the security of the United States. It has to be changed. Doing it peacefully is not possible, so doing it by force is necessary.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 06:09 PM

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"replace the Constitution with the Bible, and asserts that 'We derive our rights from God and not from government.'"

I defy you anybody to demonstrate that Mr. Pyror proposes to replace the Constitution with the Bible. You are perhaps confusing him with Justice Roy Moore.

As for the idea that we derive our rights from God and not from government I refer you to the Declaration of Independence.

Not everybody agrees with Mr. Jefferson's theory, called "natural rights". Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, does not. But it is a respected and influential theory in American law and political philosophy.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 07:06 PM

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"See Tom Friedman's explanation on the Tim Russert show of why Bush had to emphasize the WMD issue when the real, and valid, reason for invading Iraq was regime change."

Ah. So in a democracy, it's very often the President's duty to lie through his teeth to both the people and Congress. Always for their own good, of course.

And Friedman, lest we forget, has been raising screaming hell in column after column about Bush's unwillingness to fund the postwar occupation to anything near the levels needed to keep the entire affair from collapsing into disaster, by reducing his tax cuts -- or to try to reduce our dependence on Arab oil. After all, those would mean far less in the way of 2004 campaign funds for him. What we have in the White House is a frightened little boy who is ridiculously inadequate to the job, both intellectually and in moral character -- and who knows it.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 21, 2003 07:12 PM

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Joe Willingham wrote, "Tom Friedman is the smartest pundit in this country, bar none."

Surely you must be joking. Friedman is one of the _stupidest_ columnists in the country.

His greatest offense? He's a technophile (more precisely, a computer-phile) who shows no signs of knowing anything about computers or any other technology. Has he ever written a line of real code? I doubt it.

Here's the funniest parody of TF ever written:
http://www.prospect.org/print-friendly/print/V11/13/devil5.html

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on September 21, 2003 08:25 PM

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"And Friedman, lest we forget, has been raising screaming hell in column after column about Bush's unwillingness to fund the postwar occupation to anything near the levels needed to keep the entire affair from collapsing into disaster, by reducing his tax cuts -- or to try to reduce our dependence on Arab oil."

Friedman makes some valid criticisms of the administration. By contrast the Democratic candidates other than Joe Lieberman merely say that it costs too much and that "Bush lied". Unlike Friedman, they put partisanship above principle, and their own selfish interests above the interest of both this country and of the Iraqi people. The Democrats have become a reactionary, visionless party dominated by special interests. The Republicans are far from being free of special interests, but at this point they are by comparison with the Democrats the party of progress.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 08:44 PM

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Folks, it's really simple. If you are a Democrat you simply don't give any money to a Nader organization, and before you give any money to any organization left of center, you ask them their position on Nader.

He's nothing without funding

Posted by: Josh Halpern on September 21, 2003 09:43 PM

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Not only should Democrats shun Nader and his ilk, they should reject postmodernist socialism altogether and return to the great tradition of FDR, Truman, Marshall and JFK. That way they would start winning elections again, and the Naders and other fringe elements would no longer be a problem.

They should return to the great tradition, but they should also be willing to learn from the past and to update that tradition to fit the circumstances of the 21st century.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 21, 2003 10:26 PM

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"postmodernist socialism"?!??!!??!??

Posted by: john c. halasz on September 22, 2003 12:37 AM

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John, you're parroting things you don't really understand. That said, you're at least partly correct. (And Halasz's "[culture] has long since ceased to be an independent outgrowth of historical experience and evolved tradition" is easily one of the stupidest things I've read today. Talk about living in a little bubble of fantastical ideology. Sheesh.)

Moral relativism is sound in a theoretical sense, and sound as a practical caution against fascist and oppressive tendencies, but as an overarching principle governing people's daily affairs, or as a political principle it is worse than useless. Most people have simple and intuitive ideas about morality and ethics that are far more absolutist than they are relativist. The liberal unwillingness to talk about "right" and "wrong" in any other regard than when they are condemning, ironically, the absolutists, offends regular people's sensibilities and makes them believe that liberalism has no moral center or moral purpose. The left has taken great umbrage at Bush's tendencies to talk about "good" and "evil", and as an atheist I agree it makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, average Americans *do* believe in "good" and "evil". *I* believe in good and evil, though not in an absolutist sense. Bush's willingness to talk about good and evil, right and wrong, satisfies in many people -- not just Christian conservatives -- a desire for morality to be a part of our political discourse. That leftists shun such talk is their biggest political weakness in a centrist society. Or, let me put it this way: in the example of homosexuality, there is increasing cultural acceptance because people *think there's nothing wrong with it*. *Not* because they think that there's no standard by which to judge right and wrong, or that they think that there's no such thing as right and wrong with regards to sexuality. They still are, strongly, moral absolutists about sexuality. They've just decided that their morality allows homosexuality. Both the far left and the far right are confused about this social change, as they both assume that this acceptance has come as a result of an abandonment of sexual morality. Not so.

And, by the way, it is for these reasons that I self-identify as a "liberal" and not as a "leftist" or "progressive"....because the two latter terms have been appropriated by people on the left who have come to see "liberals" as just another form of reactionary.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 22, 2003 01:53 AM

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Oops. That should have started with "Joe", not "John". I'm sure that John Halasz "understands" the things he saying, even if they're nonsense.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 22, 2003 01:55 AM

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Oh, and a final note. (Sorry about the length and prolificacy.) This thread and the other clearly show the acrimonious divide between the far and center left. The right has a simlar divide, in their case between the center right and the Christian right; but it doesn't seem as acrimonious. That could change as the Christian right increasingly comes to dominate and control the Republican party. I tend to say that that scares me -- and it does -- but, really, that would in the long-run weaken the Republicans the way that the far left has weakened the Democrats. Which, in my opinion, would be a good thing. So: Ashcroft for President! Whoopee!

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 22, 2003 01:59 AM

____

Last night I asked Joe Willingham to "help me out"...

>"...I'm still trying to figure out why "smart" guys like you (and Friedman) really seem to believe ENDS ("regime change") justify MEANS (deceit, slander, manipulation, lies, unprovoked aggression, unsanctioned, illegal invasion and occupation, war crimes & etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum)..."

He SAID:

>"Joe Willingham at September 21, 2003 06:09 PM

>"...The answer to your first question is that none, not one, of these things occurred. The charges are flat-out lies...."

-----------------------------------------

>War in Iraq is "Unequivocally Illegal"

Human Rights Group Warns of Return to the Rule of the Jungle in International Affairs

NEW YORK - March 18 - War against Iraq is "unequivocally illegal under the UN Charter and international law generally", according to a new report. The report rejects efforts by the U.S., U.K, and Australia to circumvent the U.N. Security Council and claim legal justification from past resolutions...

http://www.commondreams.org/news2003/0318-01.htm

>Published on Sunday, May 11, 2003 by the Washington Post
Frustrated, U.S. Arms Team to Leave Iraq
Task Force Unable To Find Any Weapons

by Barton Gellman

BAGHDAD -- The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants..."

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0511-01.htm

>Published on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 by the New York Times

16 Words, and Counting

by Nicholas D. Kristof

"After I wrote a month ago about the Niger uranium hoax in the State of the Union address, a senior White House official chided me gently and explained that there was more to the story that I didn't know..."

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0715-03.htm


>Published on Sunday, July 20, 2003 by the New York Times

How Powerful Can 16 Words Be?

by Christopher Marquis

"WASHINGTON — Words matter. Even in Washington, with its nattering nabobs and chattering classes. They matter, even when it comes to a famously tongue-tied president..."

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0720-09.htm


>Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 by the Boston Globe

The 16 Words Weren't Just a Data Point

by Derrick Z. Jackson

"IN THE incredible Shrinking War, impending planetary doom shrivels into dull data points. The White House is now frantically trying to convince Americans that President Bush did not conduct a mad experiment..."

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0723-04.htm


>Published on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 by CommonDreams.org

16 Words, But Not the Ones You're Thinking Of

by John Turri

"Those sixteen words should never have made it into the President's speech. The President's advisors should have known better; they should have been aware of the abundant evidence indicating that what the President said was false. The U.S. intelligence services should have been more aggressive in vetting the speech. By the time all is said and done, heads may roll for this...."

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0819-09.htm

>Saddam tells US to get out of Iraq, as Bush says no Baghdad-Sept 11 link

Thu Sep 18, 2:38 AM ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein purportedly called on Iraqis to fight occupying US forces, whom he told to leave the country, as President George W. Bush said there was no proof tying Baghdad to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States..."

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20030918/wl_mideast_afp/iraq_worldwrap_030918063834

-----------------------------------------

Joe then went on to declare that the duly constituted and internationally recognized government of Iraq, the one that WAS cooperating with UN weapons inspectors, the one that, as far as anyone has been able to determine, had NO, NONE, NONE WHATSOEVER weapons of mass destruction, "had forfeited its right to exist."

Where do guys like Joe and Tom Friedman GET their not quite 'right' stuff?


Posted by: Mike on September 22, 2003 04:04 AM

____

Mike, that is a truly unimpressive defense committee for Saddam Hussein you've put together: a bunch of leftwing activists and journalists. Maybe you'd do better to take up a collection and hire Johnny Cochran.

The pope is Catholic. The left is anti-American. A wild bear . . . What else is new?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 22, 2003 12:28 PM

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John C. Halasz asks for a definition of "postmodernist socialism". Here is one.

". . . what passes for progressivism [in California] is really an effete form of postmodernist leftism. Self-proclaimed progressives in California today are basically socialists in Democratic clothing, who favor using state government to redistribute wealth and power to deserving state workers, favored minority and sexual-preference groups, and various servants of statism, such as trial lawyers. Although neither Davis nor Bustamante are considered "progessives" by the leftist elite, they are increasingly in synch with them on key issues."

From an article in the *New Republic* by Joel Kotkin, "Progressive Cause".

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 22, 2003 03:03 PM

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Joe Willingham, Bush's elitest tendencies are the reason I believe he is radical right. I see nothing inconsistent in his big spending when I look at who he expects to pay for it.

Mike, you have company. john c. halasz has also learned nothing from the past century.

Posted by: Stan on September 24, 2003 02:15 PM

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Is Thorley Winston by any chance living in a parallel universe? By the way, the Newsweek poll today showed Clark -- already the very narrow front-runner for the Democratic nomination -- within 4 points of Bush, Kerry within 5 points of him, Gore (if he runs) within 3 points of him, and Hillary (if she runs) within 7 points of him. All of them seem to be gaining, and there is now a 50-44 margin against Bush in the general question of "whether he should be reelected". The only weak contender polled is Dean, who trails him by 14 points.

Posted by: online casino on November 3, 2003 07:12 AM

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What Nader failed and fails to understand is that these radical right Republicans are the problem, not the Clintons or Gores or Deans or Kerrys or Clarks or other leading Democrats. There is a huge difference between political parties. Democrats are who Nader should support!

Posted by: online casino on November 3, 2003 08:01 AM

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Unusual ideas can make enemies.

Posted by: Smith Rakoff Joanna on December 9, 2003 02:35 PM

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Nothing's far when one wants to get there.

Posted by: Oxley Stephanie on December 10, 2003 09:16 AM

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We are never truly sure of our beliefs.

Posted by: Bauer Carolyn on January 8, 2004 10:33 PM

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