Tuesday, August 31, 2004

On Republican Compassion . . .

it's 'people of compassion' day at the GOP convention, and really, i think they mean it this time. no more harsh free-marketeerism, no more deification of darwinian economics, no more mocking the public good or turning their backs on the unfortunate huddled masses.

no sir, this grand old party is turning over a new leaf.

or not.

at what point does a 'theme' move from 'harmless charade' to 'outright lie' ?

- LH

Krugman on the Iraq/Iran Relationship

paul krugman tosses out a simple suggestion on Iraq today -

"But recent events in Najaf have demonstrated both the cleric's awesome influence and the limits of American power. Isn't it time to realize that we could do a lot worse than Mr. Sistani, and give him pretty much whatever he wants? "

is this sensible ? it may be - if American interests involve somehow providing a balance of power to the dominance of
Iran in the post-Saddam era, Sistani may be a viable ideological counterweight. It remains unclear the degree to which the bond of Shiism overcomes the distinct differences between 'Khomenism' and 'Sistanism,' as Amir Taheri puts it in the Wall Street Journal.

Sistani leadership, or Sistani-backed leadership, is the likely result of any large-scale democratization in Iraq anyway; perhaps an active role for the US in facilitating that result can integrate protections for the Sunni and Kurd populations that may otherwise fall by the wayside.

- LH

Cole on AIPAC - Insert Label Here

Juan Cole is a brilliant guy, and his stuff is clearly worth reading. today i find myself a bit conflicted. a post from yesterday on AIPAC is so strident as to be disturbing, accusing this unquestionably powerful lobby of effectively silencing debate on policy vis a vis Israel, and indeed

"The US Congress is being held hostage by a single-issue lobbying organization that often puts Israeli interests above US interests . . . "

There's no question in my mind about the responses this kind of language evokes, and the historic context within which it fits. Does Cole really think that AIPAC wields enough power to dictate election results independently ? More so than, say, the NRA, the military-industrial complex, or the religious right ? Professor Cole has a lot to say of merit (his post
today on the convention party line is spot on) but a rant accusing an elite cabal of American Jews of behind the scenes puppet-mastery and election-influencing is a frightening revelation.

- LH

Kerry/Edwards on Iran

In contrast to North Korea, Iran is quite simple really. They want to build nuclear plants, ostensibly for electricity, but more likely for nuclear weapons development. We don’t want a nuclear Iran, because it would instantly dominate the middle east and threaten our friends in Israel. Any generalized American argument against a nuclear state in the region is nullified by the reality that Israel certainly already is such a state, even if that fact remains publicly denied by both Israel and the US.

Kerry/Edwards is
ready to call the Iranian bluff. Nuclear power for electricity ? Even while sitting on one of the globe’s largest oil reserves ? OK, fine – enjoy your fission, we’ll just take that bomb-making fuel off your hands for you. The Iranian explanation is that nuclear power is cheap, especially given the opportunity cost of the oil they’re burning that could be sold on the open market. It’s either an utter sham or quite remarkable foresight – likely a convenient combination of both.

But will this idea work ? My understanding is that spent fuel must be measured and monitored exactingly, suggesting that the technical possibilities are real. If so, it’s another sign of a foreign policy that puts aside bravado and gunslinging posturing to find a path that might really move nations forward.

- LH

Civic minded

the peaceful protests in new york are nothing short of inspiring. just when you think America has forgotten its civic roots, 400,000 enthusiastic marchers demonstrate that they care about someething other than the next sale at walmart.

it's hard to tell what the outcome of these protests will be. americans tend to get uncomfortable seeing these things. It's a bit unseemly for some and being confronted with signs like, "bush lies, people die", may actually have the unintended consequence of helping bush. that really is a shame. what these protesters are doing is nothing short of heroic. they embody the freedoms that bush and his cronies refer to with their empty rhetoric, and yet the irony is they dismiss the freedom marchers as no good troublemakers.

it's quite sad that these demonstrations provoke such a negative response in your average citizen. think about it. if someone were to paint their body with a pro teams colors and spend 24 hours waiting in line to buy tickets to some big game, we would admire their behavior for showing such spirit. and yet showing spirit for politics creates a discomfort level most would rather do without. it'd be interesting to see what people really think democracy means.


you would think independent voters would be a tad bit interested in why bush provokes such a large protest. think about it. the right wing nuts absolutely despised clinton and yet there was nothing even close to the protest we saw on sunday during clinton's 1996 presidential run. if he was so bad, why couldn't the republicans generate a similar outpouring of protest after four years of clinton rule? i certainly believe that a lot of americans sincerely despised clinton, but they obvioiusly weren't that concerned for the welfare of the country to join together in large numbers to protest his presidency. the stakes are too high with bush, and that's why we just saw such a huge number of people come together and protest his four year legacy.

-MB

Monday, August 30, 2004

North Korea - Options, None Good

An intruiging op-ed in Mondays’ WaPost brings to light the oft-ignored question of North Korea and human rights, that is, how must human rights be considered, or ignored, in future dealings with Kim Jong Il. roberta cohen makes a persuasive case that human rights must be an integral part of talks moving forward, a case made more so when the alternatives are fully digested. From my admittedly underinformed perspective, there are 3 options for dealing with the DPRK:

1. Comprehensive talks as suggested by cohen, integrating diverse issues like the nuclear issue, economic programs, energy/food aid, and human rights.
2. Narrower talks focusing largely on the trade of nuclear capability/programs for a combination of diplomatic assurances (namely that the US won’t actively undermine the regime) and economic aid
3. The ‘axis of evil’ approach, as originally embraced by President Bush in 2001 involves posturing, brinksmanship, and perhaps more pragmatically hope for internal unrest or a coup leading to collapse of the current regime.

Option 1 is clearly the most palatable, but also the least likely to have meaningful impact. The North Koreans are proven master manipulators at the negotiating table, and every layer of complexity added to an already monumental task will only extend their ability to delay. Moreover, the human rights issues (democratization, international observers, etc…) that Cohen hopes for are nothing if not threatening to Kim Jong Il’s power structure. He is exceedingly unlikely to bargain the totalitarian nature of his state away, particularly when he knows that one single chip – nuclear weapons capability – in his possession overshadows all others on the table. Which leaves us at Option 2 – talks focusing on aid for nukes. A resolution here seems achievable – verification will remain the biggest stumbling block. But by handing over Kim’s most desperate need – foreign economic aid – do we risk ensuring the maintenance of his regime and thus the perpetuation of his ghastly, truly ghastly campaigns against the citizenry ?

The attraction of Option 3 becomes apparent. Threaten military action to somehow produce regime change in the short term. However, the threat is essentially empty given the human costs of an American first strike, and given Kim’s coddling of the military, a viable force for overthrow from within is unlikely to emerge. On the other hand, each day that passes with continued verbal jousting only affirms Kim Jong Il’s certainty that nuclear weaponry is his sole protection from the West, and encourages his haste to achieve said capability.

I return, grudingly, to Option 2. No responsible thinker could suggest ignoring human rights as it pertains to North Korea. But integrating these matters into negotiations at this stage is futile. Kim Jong Il is a madman in much the way Saddam Hussein is – fairly rational, within his own depraved and repugnant value system. The impasse today is predicated on a stalemate of existential threats: the threat of North Korean nuclear material in the hands of terrorists (or in the warhead of a Pacific-crossing missle) vs. the announced American intent to topple Kim Jong Il himself.

My hope is that by co-neutralizing both threats, we open the door to the slow liberalization process that is taking place today in China. Problems abound, but democracy, human rights, etc… are growing seeds in that fertile ground. Obviously, the counterpoint – that without the threat of American intervention, the DPRK leadership has no reason to consider human rights, is equally valid. But on some level the force of history – the slow march of democracy and human rights across the globe, is worth betting upon.

What solace this wager offers the 200,000 Koreans in labor camps today, I cannot say.

- LH

a test for the kerry team ?

after spending the last 10 days or having their hats utterly handed to them by the Bush campaign a la 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth', let's see if the Kerry team is prepared to learn a lesson and play hardball. As Josh Marshall notes, from President Bush on the Today Show:

When asked “Can we win?” the war on terror, Bush said, “I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”

reasonable quote, reasonable sentiment, and a reasonably ENORMOUS mistake if the Kerry team is unafraid to use Bush's tactics against him. "President Bush doesn't think we CAN win the war on terror. I think we can, and we MUST. And I'll do it by . . . " These are the kinds of statements the GOP has mastered making news out of - 'sensitive war' multiplied exponentially. If Bush isn't forced to spend the next 5 days explaining what he meant by 'we can't win the war on terror' then the Kerry campaign has ceded a remarkably important field.


- LH

am i splitting hairs ?

maybe I'm being picky. perhaps its a bit trite. but if the NYT intends to simply mouthpiece the imaginary stylings of some GOP PR flacks, it would be nice if they wrote 'paid advertising' at the bottom of the page (wait, is that what putting Elizabeth Buhmiller's name in the byline means ?).

from sunday's incisive political piece:

On weekdays, aides say, the campaign essentially begins in the White House residence, where Mr. Bush rises at 5 a.m. to read the newspapers and check on the political news.
By 7 a.m., when he is in the Oval Office, aides say, Mr. Bush will frequently tell them about an article they have not seen and tell them to call the reporter and complain.


and yet, many of us remember with equal parts astonishment and sadness the brit hume interview:

HUME: How do you get your news?

BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. ... I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories ...

HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've ...

BUSH: Practice since day one. ... You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. ... I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

now, i'm honestly quite comfortable with either of these admissions being accurate. but they cant both be. so which is it - the president is an informed, curious newshound who dishonestly embraces his party's anti-intellectualist fantasy identity ? or are his aides attempting a last minute makeover to conceal the uninformed everyman awaiting his morning spoon-feeding of information from the ideologically approved brains in the hall ?

it's going to be a long week . . .

- LH

Friday, August 27, 2004

good cop, bad cop, arrogant incompetent cop ?

My colleague MB is wise to draw your attention to today’s NYT interview with President Bush. And its emblematic of the breathtaking irresponsibility of the ‘liberal’ media that the headline is a) about Kerry’s Vietnam record, b) a remarkable example of the ‘when did you stop beating your wife ?’ tactic issue-creation, and c) ignores the most significant insight of the interview, which was Bush’s lack of any discernible plan, approach, or understanding of the situation he has propagated vis a vis North Korea.

"Showing none of the alarm about the North's growing arsenal that he once voiced regularly about Iraq, he opened his palms and shrugged when an interviewer noted that new intelligence reports indicate that the North may now have the fuel to produce six or eight nuclear weapons. . . Nor would he assess the risk that Pyongyang might sell nuclear material to terrorists, though his national security aides believe it may have sold raw uranium to Libya in recent years."

He shrugged ? On his watch, Kim Jong-Il has accelerated a nuclear program at an unprecedented pace. Bush’s approach has been bipolar at best. His sophomoric understanding of international diplomacy combined with crowd-pleasing bravado to ensure that this administration gave Kim Jong Il every reason to hunker down and move ever more quickly towards a nuclear weapons program and/or flea market. Bush exacerbated the situation continuously with pointless, chest-thumping comments about ‘loathing’ Kim and calling him a ‘pygmy.’

But now he’s hopeful that a 9th inning half-hearted effort at diplomacy will bear fruit ? If nothing else, the administrations dealings with North Korea accurately portray the utter lack of seriousness with which they view the world. The neo-conservative obsession with Iraq (and its oil reserves, lest we forget) has blinded this administration to very real threats in other parts of the world.

To be fair, North Korea is a vexing, complex issue for policy thinkers from across the ideological spectrum. Diplomatic engagement and talks on trading financial assistance for a nuclear program shutdown are likely to be based on assuring (at least for the short-term) the continued existence of a despotic regime with a human rights record nothing short of nightmarish. On the other hand, military confrontation is a death sentence for the city of Seoul (and the 37,000 American troops stationed there) and quite possibly hundreds of thousands of North and South Korean civilians, if Kim goes nuclear.

Perhaps the Bush team is conducting a subtle, well-orchestrated and thoughtful diplomatic charade – Bush himself the bad cop while his negotiation team makes deals in the background. Experts in negotiation say that one way to win a two-person standoff is to convince your opponent that you are crazy enough, or stupid enough, to accept the consequences of not making a deal. Kim Jong Il has convinced me he’s crazy; is George W. Bush trying to convince us he’s stupid ?

- LH


demoCRAPcy

la la la la la la. . . what can one say about bush. just when you think he can't get more depraved, more ignorant, more cocky, more unqualified, all one has to do is listen to him speak for himself. the following interview with bush by the new york times contains one monstrously disturbing response after another.

On environmental issues, Mr. Bush appeared unfamiliar with an administration report delivered to Congress on Wednesday that indicated that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades. Previously, Mr. Bush and other officials had emphasized uncertainties in understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.

The new report was signed by Mr. Bush's secretaries of energy and commerce and his science adviser. Asked why the administration had changed its position on what causes global warming, Mr. Bush replied, "Ah, we did? I don't think so." Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush's press secretary, said later that the administration was not changing its position on global warming and that Mr. Bush continued to be guided by continuing research at the National Academy of Sciences.
The apparent shift was relatively big news and was covered by most of the major media outlets. but when asked, bush reaffirmed all the negative and accurate impressions we have of him, by honestly admitting he had no clue the policy changed, and almost as an afterthought, dismissed the new policy position. i'm sure the people in the energy and environmental agencies are being bombarded by not only environmental lobbies, but increasing numbers of business lobbies and they felt they had to act. i guess they were thinking they could get this policy out without bush noticing because el estupido never bothers to read the papers. i can see the meeting now, with sec. of energy Abraham saying, "ok, this global warming nonsense is really starting to annoy me, but i got all the bigwig CEOs buying into it. let's pretend we're doing something. let's change our policy, but we can't let 'lil B' know about it, so make sure it's buried someplace where he won't read it. it can't be in the comics section or the sports section. see if we can bury it on the front page of the nytimes - he'll never see it there. snicker, snicker...."

the rest of the interview is equally disturbing. apparently he thinks north korea isn't much of a problem and he 'hopes' it works itself out. la la la la la la.

-MB

Thursday, August 26, 2004

marshall a thunderdome reader ?

make no bones about it, the thunderdome is a BIG fan of talkingpointsmemo.com and the fine work of josh marshall. but we cant ignore this latest slight -

today TPM
asks "Where is John Edwards ?"

sound familiar ? of course it does - your very own masterblaster published the same thought weeks ago - "Where oh where is Edwards? Is it just me or has John Edwards been nearly invisible since the convention . . . "

josh, bubbala, we're thrilled to have you reading and you're always welcome back, but how about a little respect ?

- LH



the most important article you'll read this week

and it has nothing to do with vietnam, cheney's daughter, your taxes, or gold medals.

samantha power on the genocide in sudan, in the new yorker.

take the time. sit down and read this article. invest 30 minutes to understand an issue that defies partisanship, steps far outside the ideological debate on foreign policy taking place in this country today, and represents what is perhaps the truest duty of the lone superpower if we are to maintain any hopes of leading the globe into a brighter future.

there's a lot here that both Democrats and Republicans can be proud of, and ashamed of. but this is an issue that should, and must, defy politics. if all the wealth, power, and strength of american society is committed to self-preservation, without a willingness to extend ourselves to protect the helpless, our compass is utterly lost.

- LH

a tired sports metaphor, shall we ?

i realize its considered philistine in many journalistic circles, but being as we here at the LT are neither journalists nor circular, i'm wearing the shoe that fits. besides, sometimes a sports metaphor is just so darn apt. . .

whats happening with the swift boat veterans ad issue is painfully clear. the bush campaign has got ahold of the political football, as it were, and have settled into their offense. this is classic GOP grind it up the middle stuff - straight up the gut for 2, 3 yards at a time. they're not looking to throw the ball downfield (with any new policy proposals) or even get their guy to the outside looking for space (attack kerry on the issues). what they're doing is keeping possession (the public's attention) and running down the clock (proven strategy for the favorite) all while exhausting the defense by keeping them on the field. the only goal is to keep the ball and move the chains (new LATimes
poll suggests the chains may indeed be moving) while making sure the other teams offense stays on the sidelines.

kerry's strategy to this point is based on aggressive defense, and rightly so. his coordinators are content to pack the line (parade of vets and pols denouncing the ads) and try and stop the run, which they've done with varying degrees of success. but one tackle in the backfield (cleland's stunt) doesnt mean anything if your opponent gets the first down with a couple more handoffs.


fortunately for kerry, politics ISN'T football, and he's not locked into playing defense. this campaign HAS to establish an alternative playing field and give themselves the ball. the swift boat issue has run its course - its accomplished its goal for both candidates - kerry established as a war hero by the Democrats, and his credibility in general undermined by the GOP. we're about to enter that window of opportunity where the press and public are ready for a new issue to take the spotlight. it must be kerry's campaign who chooses the issue and sets the terms.

the kerry team could not dream of facing a weaker defense. bush's unit is full of holes and vulnerable all over the field. economy, health care, environment, north korea/iran, you name it. but if kerry continues to let karl rove set the public agenda and dictate the issues, rather than attack bush on his stunningly poor record, this game will end in a 3-0 victory by the home team, and the kerry post-game press conference will begin with "we're so proud our defense held them to a field goal !" while the champagne flows in the other locker room.

end football metaphor.

- LH


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What a relief, part 2

I have to respectfully disagree...forget it, I can't sugarcoat this, the Humougous is WAY out of line on this Usher/Justin fued. Personally, I find this debate healthy for America. Why hide behind the fact that there are two Americas, one that relates to the funky, sauve, bootie shaking good times that Usher delivers, and the America that finds comfort in Justin's stunted, gritty, goofball antics at musical expression. Well, it's probably obvious to LT readers, but I know what America I belong to and I want no part of that Justin-centric, red state musak world. He's a talentless hack and it's an insult to Usherites to compare the two.

that said, i must say i'm in TOTAL agreement with TH's suggestion for a feldman/riberio duet. Which reminds me, does anyone think it would be a good idea to have a version of American Idol, that instead of showcasing amatuer talent, brought together former TV stars of the 70s and 80s singing the theme songs from their own shows? Imagine Ron Palillio (Arnold Horseshack) singing the theme song to Welcome Back, Kotter. I mean, is America ready for that? I am.

-MB

And the winner is. . .the terrorists!!!

So a commission investigating abuse of prisoners in Iraq released its final report today. What makes the event newsworthy is that the panel laid blame, albeit indirectly, at the highest levels in the defense department, which means Sec. Rumsfield was partly implicated. In a nutshell, he basically did not react fast enough to the conditions that allowed these events to occur. So not only has Donnie failed on the pre and post war planning in Iraq, he helped foster the environment that allowed the prison abuses to occur. And what did the head of this panel say when asked if he thought the Don should resign:

Schlesinger emphatically rejected the idea that Rumsfeld
should resign. He said that "would be a boon to all America's enemies."
Right. So by not holding significant players accountable, our "enemies" will get their jollies out of that. Huh? What enemies? Former Batthists? The Shia insurgents? Foreign fighters in Iraq? Or do they mean Al qaeda? Here's a thought, everyone acknowledges that the US must win the "war of ideas" (groan, i hate using that term.) in the middle east, so wouldn't it help to have a high profile firing of Rumsfield (maybe have Bush hold a press conference at the base of the statue of liberty and have planes fly overhead spelling out 'hey rummie, you're FIRED!") to help prove to Iraqis that we truly regret the prison abuse scandal? Doesn't keeping him in power only rub salt on the wound? Iraqis aren't dumb. They'll see this report. They'll see that Rumsfield was partially responsible and they'll see Bush, someone they already despise because of this hypocritical behavior, allow Rummer to keep his job.

"Boon to all America's enemies"? Is there ANYONE in power serious about dealing with Iraq and the Al Qaeda threat?

-MB

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

what a relief

the AP reports that usher does not, i repeat NOT have 'a beef' with justin timberlake. to wit, usher notes that he seeks not a 'bad boy image' nor is he the sort of individual who looks for the proverbial 'trouble'.

we here at Liberal Thunderdome could not be more relieved. the last thing that America needs, in wartime i remind you, is a justin/usher split tearing us apart as a nation. you can imagine the vitriol as the red state/blue state dichotomy is ever heightened by the intensity of emotion one must feel at being asked to choose justin over usher, or vice versa. not to mention that the issue would likely overwhelm the presidential race, inevitably distracting the media and the voting public from more crucial issues, i.e. did john kerry fly his hairstylist to vietnam for a trim in the swiftboat during which he was wounded.

if we can get an 'ebony & ivory' cover out of this reapproachment, my life would be complete. correction: if corey feldman and alfonso ribiero did a cover of 'ebony & ivory' my life would be complete. if its usher and justin, my life would simply be a bit less empty.

- LH

driving themselves into the ground

is any industry in America more backwards and self-destructive than the auto industry ? there's only one thing more certain than the fact that every year we'll be treated to a spectacle of humiliation as American auto manufacturers consistently are absent from the upper ranks of independent analyses measuring quality and dependability; it's that they will be every bit as consistent in doing everything possible to ensure that their vehicles remain as polluting, unsafe and inefficient as possible. seat belts, catalytic converters, air bags, CAFE standards - you could set your watch by these guys. and let we think that any measure is too small for their attention - the sacramento bee (as linked the fine tree-hugging dirt-worshippers at grist magazine) reports that Bill Ford is outraged at a state of California plan that would "let owners of hybrids that average 45 mpg or more and meet near-zero-emission standards to drive solo in highway car-pool lanes."

Probably just a coincidence that Ford's own SUV-hybrid will get only 35mpg and that their fleet is one of the LEAST efficient of the world's auto manufacturers. Ford's committment to the environment is a sham, and his individual credibility is utterly vacant.

But hey, it's not like more efficient cars are likely to be popular in the future, what with the plentiful supplies of inexpensive oil here at home, and vast reserves awaiting us in dozens of friendly, stable democracies in the middle east. Wait a minute Bill, I think that may be an asteroid headed this way ! You and the triceratops at GM better hide in that cave and wait until it's over !

- LH

Krug a lug

Krugman delivers a BLISTERING attack against Bush and this whole swift boat nonsense. Krugman's final line boils down what this whole episode really means.

Let's hope that this latest campaign of garbage and lies - initially financed by a Texas Republican close to Karl Rove, and running an ad featuring an "independent" veteran who turns out to have served on a Bush campaign committee - leads to a backlash against Mr. Bush. If it doesn't, here's the message we'll be sending to Americans who serve their country: If you tell the truth, your courage and sacrifice count for nothing.
Krugman gets this week's "Dog of war of the week" (dowotw).

-MB

Monday, August 23, 2004

bush's opportunity in sudan

Eric Reeves op-ed in the WaPost today is a clear and resounding call for US leadership to end the genocide in Sudan. I will leave it to better qualified sources to discuss the realities of this conflict, but it is clear that no reasonable American with even the remotest care for human rights can ignore what is taking place there. Perhaps the most significant insight Reeves offers is:

"But one consequence of the Iraq war (though of course not a justification in itself) is that public discussion of regime change by the United States will resonate much more deeply in Khartoum's despotic thinking. If it is coupled with serious efforts to work with our European allies to squeeze Khartoum by means of comprehensive economic sanctions, as well as sanctions targeted against NIF leaders, we may first be able to secure a permissive environment for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. "

That is, George W. Bush led this country into Iraq partly, if not largely, to send a message to the world that America would act, when forced, against regimes it could no longer abide. Whether the threat is based on support for terror (Afghanistan), WMD (Iraq pre-war), or human rights (Iraq post-war), Bush has succeeded in firmly establishing that when he talks about regime change, his threats carry weight. North Korea and Iran balance this threat against their own shadow nuclear programs, largely neutralizing its effectiveness. But Sudan has no counterweight.

The net result is that Bush has an opportunity to turn his famously steely-gaze upon Khartoum, make a meaningful statement about the US commitment to human rights and stopping genocide in the post-9/11 world (one with which the left could hardly argue), and, very possibly, scare a defiant regime into something resembling humane behavior.


- LH

what else is left unspoken

in sunday's NYT, daniel akst commits a couple hundred words to solving our nation's ongoing energy 'crisis' in the name of frankness and honesty. and like most solutions that seem surprisingly pat and straightforward, he indulges in exactly the sin he rightfully pins to our esteemed presidential candidates.

"We'll also need to be like the French," he says, "and start a national nuclear power program!" At this point, stunned by his own words, the candidate looks suspiciously into his glass, then pours himself a refill. "France gets three-quarters of its electricity from nukes, thanks to standardized construction, strong centralized oversight and - are you ready for this? - American technology. It works great."


By now there is an ominous hubbub in the room.

"Oh, grow up!" the candidate says. "Global energy demand is insatiable. It's tied to the growth that is hauling China and India out of poverty. Fossil fuels kill more people in about five minutes from coal-mining accidents, air pollution, wars and whatnot than have ever died from nuclear power. Nobody in their right mind would build a plant like Chernobyl today, so don't worry about that. We'll even recycle spent fuel."


This is honest straight talk ? Sure, nuclear power solves the carbon dilemma quite nicely, and from a clean air perspective its a giant leap forward. But Akst's confident dismissal of reactor safety is irresponsible at best, and his failure to even touch on the vexing issue of nuclear waste beyond the notion of recycling spent fuel is equally troubling. even assuming that Akst is planning for a future in which nuclear plants are not INCREDIBLY attractive and potentially nightmarish targets for al quaeda and the like (a future we would all love to plan for, but can hardly afford to) perhaps the most surprising aspect of his piece is that it resides in the NYT's Business section while conveniently omitting the fact that nuclear power is one of the most expensive per KWH power sources on the planet, even WITHOUT taking into account massive government subsidization or the issue of insurability.

hey, we'd all love for there to be an easy answer. and nuclear power may be a small or large part of the eventual solution. but the answers won't be easy and they wont be simple. if the discussion is going to be honest and open, lets hold ourselves to the same standard.

- LH

We've moved beyond ridiculous

i'm almost afraid to write about it, given the absurdity of the public discussion on the 'swift boat' controversy in the media, but at some point . . .

this entire debate is a breathtaking, mind-blowing sham. let's review: american troops are on the ground in not one but TWO countries formerly dominated by muslim-fundamentalist and/or totalitarian dictators. the economy is struggling mightily as oil prices climb skyward. the gap between rich and poor is growing and al quaeda is still essentially unchallenged, and our vigilant american media is focused on what ? john kerry's service record in vietnam DECADES ago ?

people, this is sublime moment for karl rove. he has taken over the public stage with an entirely manufactured (and frankly, irrelevant) issue, and the media's insatiable scandal-hunger has led them to jump through every hoop. meanwhile, the issues, the REAL issues in this campaign, have once again vanished.

you know, guys like david ignatius and the ever-optimistic nick kristof regularly wrist-slap the candidates for not having a more honest, high-minded approach to political communication. and every time i read them i wonder - are these guys even paying attention ? in a nation dominated by supply and demand thinking, the media has evolved to supply exactly what we as a voting public demand - and its not thoughtful, substantial discussion of tax policy or environmental regulation. its spoon-fed questions about details of things that happened dozens of years ago, the determination of which are utterly meaningless to the merits of the candidate.

and lets not fool ourselves lefties - whats happening now is no more pathetic than the liberal drumbeat over bush's national guard record. the information that matters is public record - kerry volunteered, served, was wounded, and sent home; bush leveraged connections to avoid the war, served in a plush, safe environment at home, and never came close to putting himself on the line in defense of his country. did kerry's wounds actuall spray blood ? irrelevant. did bush actually spend a portion of his service singing 'louie louie' from a barstool with a lampshade on his head ? equally irrelevant.

the media owes it to us to remember the big picture and let the partisan, manufactured noise machines drown each other out without their help.

- LH

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Just dome it!

Hey Domers, I was going through some of our reader mail and several of you have asked (technically NO one has asked, but I'm pre-emptively predicting that someone will) if LT has any merchandise for sale. GREAT question. Not yet, and there is the whole issue of copyrights associated with the Road Warrior movies. If we leave out any imagery of MasterBlaster or the Humugous, then I think it might be ok. If we simply use "Liberal Thunderdome" then we're in the clear. Neither of us are very artistic, so we're going to hold a contest on who can come up with an attrative icon for our name "Liberal Thunderdome" that we can use on merchandise. I'm hoping to have LT on some shirts, hats, and maybe even some ties in the near future. Be patient, my domers of war!

-MB

Liberal Thunderdome Endorsements

Hey, a lot of people are wondering. Well, I'm assuming a lot of people are wondering, when LT will endorse candidates for this November election. This is a tough one. The Humungous and I pride ourselves on being politically independent and we think it would only undercut our credibility to take sides, so we've decided to hold off endorsing candidates until October 15th. And we won't make a presidential endorsement until Oct. 30, since we do not want to be unfair to the candidate we end up not endorsing. Thanks Domers!!

-MB

Dreamy team

So the Dream team has just dropped their second game at the Olympics. Man, where's Larry Bird when we need him?

-MB

Coward in Chief

It truly is amazing to see this swiftboat nonsense unfold. Kerry is having to play defense on an issue that Bush should have been castrated on. And Bush still gets away with his flippant attitude regarding the Vietnam war. The following is an excerpt from an interview Bush had with Tim Russert last February (full transcript here).

Russert: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?

President Bush: I supported my government. I did. And
would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way.

Russert: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.

President Bush: No, I didn't. You're right. I served. I flew fighters and enjoyed it, and provided a service to our country. In those days we had what was called "air defense command," and it was a part of the air defense command system. The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.

Russert: Let me turn to the economy.

What a depraved individual, to openly admit he "supported my government" in that war, and yet he went out of his way to avoid serving in that war. What exactly, did he support? If it was such a just war, why did he not find the courage to enlist in the Army and serve in Vietnam? There are only two answers for that: One, he did not believe the Vietnam war was worth fighting; or, two, he was a craven coward who could not follow through on his convictions for a war "he supported." Both demonstrate a fundamental lack of character. Can there possibly be any other explanation to describe why Bush avoided service in Vietnam?

And Russert calls that an interview? I give him his props for following up the first question with "But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go." But he should have followed up on Bush's asinine comments with "...you enjoyed? Could you elaborate?" Or maybe, "If you truly supported the war, why didn't you volunteer for service?"

Well, this whole episode might damage Kerry, but there's still a long way to go before the election. Bush should be proud, since this whole swiftboat campaign's major impact has been to cast doubt on the achievements of all military award winners. And you can thank the Republican party for this.


-MB

Friday, August 20, 2004

oil and presidential denial

David ignatius at the washington post has a fine column this morning noting that the recent upturn in oil prices is very real and more importantly, portends to be a long-term adjustment. Varying levels of instability in the major oil regions shows no signs of abating, particularly in the middle east and central asia. Production is likely to be peaking, and demand from the developing world is skyrocketing. But neither Kerry nor Bush has anything meaningful to say about oil. As Ignatius notes:

The non-debate over energy illustrates what's depressing about this campaign. The country is in serious trouble -- with record-high oil prices and the threat of a new energy crisis just one example of our global problems. But rather than the serious debate the country needs, we're hearing platitudes. George Bush and John Kerry evidently would rather play it safe and avoid politically controversial proposals, which in today's world is downright dangerous.

It’s a valid observation; unfortunately it ignores the political reality that Americans are stunningly unaware of the realities of our energy future. If anything, Iraq has been the first glimmer of understanding in the general public that our foreign policy is enormously beholden to an ongoing oil obsession. Talking honestly to the public about oil, during an election campaign, is near-suicide. And given Kerrys impeccable credentials with the environmental community, he hardly needs to concern himself with tossing them bones.

One note, however – Ignatius quickly dismisses the candidates energy plans as being quite similar. Without even mentioning the distinct differences in their campaign-oriented ‘plans’, there is little question that the candidates respective energy policies in office would be radically different. Bush’s record is a monument to a philosophy of unrestrained oil consumption, resource depletion, and utter neglect of intelligent short and long term efficiency (CAFÉ standards) or renewable energy efforts. Kerry’s history on energy issues could not suggest a more dramatic contrast, and Ignatius does his readers, and the debate he rightly demands, a disservice by lumping the two together.

- LH

Where oh where is Edwards?

Is it just me or has John Edwards been nearly invisible since the convention? He came out once, effectively, to attack Cheney, but that was it. I thought the whole purpose of picking Edwards was for his campaign skills.

Well, the only logic I see to hiding Edwards is to allow the post-convention spotlight to focus SOLELY on John Kerry. Amazing as it sounds, a significant chunk of Americans really knew nothing of Kerry, and as expected, the convention served as Kerry's Debutante ball and this post convention period provided his campaign a chance to seal the deal. It's actually not a bad strategy and I'm hoping that after the GOP monster mash, they'll finally let Edwards be Edwards, which is, a pretty-faced, sweet talking, populist.


-MB

One Ring to Rule them All

I’m still just coming to terms that we do not have another Lord of the Rings movie coming out this Christmas. Sure, we have the extended DVD of Return of the King, but c’mon, that is NOT the same.

That entire trilogy was a gift, from Peter Jackson, to all of us. After watching the DVDS and the documentaries on the discs, you quickly learn just how much Jackson put into these films. These movies were landmarks and for two consecutive years, I looked forward with giddy excitement to the holiday movie season. No more. I mean, it was brilliant marketing. Split the movies and show them a year apart, long enough to generate rabid anticipation, but short enough to avoid being cruel. In between, releasing DVDs that only added to the experience. I don’t like to think I can be manipulated by clever marketing (I STILL regret paying $200 for those Air Jordan’s and I STILL can’t dunk.), but I have to give the LOTR people their props. It was brilliant, and I fell for it all. As I type this, I’m wearing my LOTR underoo pajamas.

And what makes this entire situation all the more tragic is that there is one more movie in the Star Wars series coming out. It’s like rubbing salt in an open wound. Jackson’s accomplishment made Lucas’ folly all the more obvious. Lucas must wake up every morning sick to his stomach, thinking what a pathetic joke his prequel movies have been, and having to compare them with Jackson’s masterpiece. I can just see Lucas slumped over, dry heaving in a toilet, pondering his failure to himself, and more importantly, to us.

Is anyone even excited about the final Star Wars? I’m not. I mean, with the first two being complete and total disasters, why would the third one be any different? I’m convinced Darth Vader will make his appearance during some galactic dance contest. Obi Wan will be doing the space funky chicken, and Vader will appear in his armor, to challenge Obi Wan, with his trademark ‘el guapo.’ Sound ridiculous? Far fetched? Ok, just imagine Lucas inserting a scene where Obi Wan visiting a ‘galactic space diner’, with a sassy robot waitress…wait, that DID happen. Nuff said.

-MB

SUckVs

Derrick Jackson has an excellent column on SUVs. This issue has been done to death, but Jackson correctly points out the democrats' own hypocritical and tepid position on the issue. He even quotes John Kerry, who seems to be encouraging Americans to drive these beasts, and who meekly promises he would seek to improve fuel efficiency in these behemoths. Jackson digs further and lays out where the blame is due, the American public:

Besides the mirage of safety, the SUV, with its horrific gas mileage and proven negative effects on the air we breathe, remains a potent symbol of how Americans refuse to rethink their place in the world, let alone sacrifice, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the retaliatory war in Afghanistan, and the unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

Jackson nicely points out America's criminal denial of our gluttonous behavior. And he wisely points out that Democrats are nowhere close to leading on this issue.

-MB

Pre-emptive folly

An interesting story that is only starting to get traction in the US media, are recent statements by the Iranian defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, regarding a potential US or Israeli strike against Iran against their nuclear program. The following comments are regarding Iran's thoughts about the US pre-emption policy:

"We will not sit (with arms folded) to wait for what others will do to us. Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly," Shamkhani told Al-Jazeera TV when asked if Iran would respond to an American attack on its nuclear facilities.

There you go. These statements by Iran represent Bush's legacy in regard to his centerpiece foreign policy, the pre-emptive strike. Now we have Iran using the Bush doctrine to justify their own military response to POTENTIAL action against them. Bush's ridiculous policy has obliterated decades of delicate diplomatic posturing and given some of the more unsavory players in the world precedent to take action, violent action, in regard to their own foreign policies. And we have lost absolutely all moral ground to challenge these statements.

-MB


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

the other possibility

most discussion on the topic of a 'major event' influencing the presidential election has focused on the notion of a dramatic domestic terrorist attack, and rightly so. but george will notes an alternative possibility today in the WaPost - an election-targeted offensive in Iraq:

". . . what may be coming before November: an Iraqi version of the North Vietnamese Tet offensive of 1968. To say that the coming offensive will be by "Baathists" is, according to one administration official, akin to saying "Nazis" when you mean "the SS" -- the most fearsome of the Nazis. Such an offensive could make Sadr's insurgency seem a minor irritant. And it could unmake a presidency, as Tet did. "


is this more or less likely than a terrorist attack ? clearly its less likely to influence the election, unless its truly Tet-like in intensity and consequences . . .

- LH


the bush approach

everything, and i do mean everything, you need to know about george w. bush's approach to environmental issues is captured in this brilliant piece by joby warrick in the washington post. its so remarkably sinister, even the most creative environmental mind couldnt imagine such a despicable assault on the environment. this article really has it all - a bush appointee bought and paid for by the industry he's supposed to regulate, an industry making massive campaign contributions to the GOP, a resource that is breathtakingly destructive to the terrestrial environment AND the climate, and a federal policy that promotes an a technology that is eliminating jobs, leaving a landscape in ruins, damaging the lives of poor and working class communities, and accomplishing NOTHING positive beyond making wealthy coal barons wealthier and wealthier.

realize that this article could be written about any of a dozen environmental issues that the bush administration has applied this mentality to, and understand that for environmentalists, this administration is truly the worst case scenario.

- LH

spanked

so what's happening with the US olympic team? the 'dream team' got absolutely SPANKED and it sounds like they're going to lose even more games. what happened to those innocent days where a cocky charles barkley could flex his ambassadorial skills by bullying the nigerian team. THAT was true, american olympic spirit. now we're simply getting whooped by drugged up chinese.

who am i kidding, everyone is drugged up. america needs to make a unified effort, a manhattan project type effort, to ensure our atheletes have access to the best performance drugs. it's the american way!

-MB

FAHRENHEIT 9/11

after a long wait, i finally got to see fahrenheit 911. at this point, there's no need to offer a review. in a nutshell, i thought it was a fantastic. it had its problems, but in comparison to the scale of the problems we've had to deal with this administration, i really didn't have any serious criticisms with moore's message or style.

this movie delivered as a major shot across the bow of the bush political/war machine. it's up to us, the public, to follow through on moore's frontal assault with a full scale offensive this november.


-MB

states, for everyone...part 2

master blaster here. listen, i agree, i'm all for giving some real estate to these nutjobs, but do we have to give them such prime land with the best climate in the country? and that's a lot of gulf coastal land there, with mississippi, alabama, and lousiana. couldn't we just swap these states for the dakotas, maybe oklahoma. listen, while we're at it, let's just give them texas. it's huge. it can hold a lot of people, and it really is an unpleasant state, even with all that beachfront. has anyone seen galveston? try swimming with oil slicks.

so humungous, just don't be so quick to hand off the warmest regions without considering swapping these states for some colder ones. it's win win for everyone.

-MB

Monday, August 16, 2004

states, for everyone !

following close on the heels of those rascally libertarians, the christian right right right wing has decided that this country is simply too big for them to properly overrun. they're taking baby steps instead.

the lord humungus, for one, thinks this is a fantastic idea, especially because they've chosen the cradle of backwards southern pride and 'heritage,' south carolina, for their destination. is it too much to hope that libertarians, frustrated by the obvious political plagiarism of the religious right, bow up and move down to north carolina for a good ol' hatfield/mccoy rivalry instead ? at that point, would anyone mind if we just passed along a few other southern states to other conservative interest groups so the rest of us can get on with the business of living in the modern world ? i'd happily cede alabama to the NRA nuts if it would help. maybe we could even find a small state for 'strict constructionists'. readers, here's your chance - what southern state would YOU most like to see handed off to which right-wing ideologues ?

- LH

the american voter ? really ?

super-bloggers josh marshall and kevin drum are correct in noting that Kerry's position on Iraq is both coherent, logical, and sound on many levels. unfortunately, the point is moot. As Bob Somerby notes, the position is essentially:

Kerry says Bush should have had the authority to go to war, but then went to war prematurely.

Shouldnt voters be able to grasp this notion ? Of course they should. But will the average politically disconnected undecided voter even APPROACH this level of complexity in their thinking about their vote ? Does anyone really believe these mysterious swing voters are sitting around reflecting on the nuance of constitutional authority vs. pre-war diplomatic process ?

if only that WERE the america we live in.

-LH

essential reading

two fundamental issues tie the United States inexorably to the Middle East right now, and you'll read a lot about them both here in the Thunderdome. Economically, its obviously oil. But politically, the essential attachments involve Israel, and neither issue has crept even inches towards resolution in recent years. Whereas our relationship to Middle East oil has deteriorated steadily since the beginnings of the Reagan administration, the history of the US/Israel interface has followed a jagged trajectory of intersection and diversion of interests. And at times, both directions simultaneously.

Ariel Sharon's present policies embody the complexity of this relationship. Reasonable thinkers of all political persuasions may find fault or hope in the Gaza pull-out plan AND the separation wall/barrier. But the most important understanding is a grasp of what Sharon's overarching philosophy and vision means for the future of Israel, and by extension the United States.

James Bennett's piece in the NYT Magazine is utterly brilliant. Summarized in a final graf:


Because it scorns negotiation and agreement, Sharon's long-term interim arrangement is an acceptance of, and maybe a goad to, enduring conflict -- almost surely at a lower level, but sustained. As this conflict grinds on, Israel will no doubt remain morally alert -- morally conflicted, as demonstrated by the soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories -- but it will also remain morally compromised in the eyes of the world. Its back to the rest of the Middle East, its face to the Mediterranean, Israel could become ''the largest ghetto in modern Jewish history,'' in the words of Ezrahi.
Sharon may be right. This could be the only way to secure Israel's survival as a Jewish haven. But it may mean a poignant legacy for this indomitable, secular Jew born into the Middle East: an Israel that is increasingly religious, walled off from its neighbors, simultaneously yearning after and fearing a Western community of nations that sees it as more and more foreign.


It's long, it's well-written, and it's utterly essential to understanding how Israel will face the future as long as Ariel Sharon commands the stage.

- LH

the mcgreevey melee

i'll admit to knowing nothing about new jersey politics, and even less about gov. mcgreevey's apparently messy ethical history. but the shape this scandal is taking is, in my eyes, a fair amount clearer than the media would have us believe. to wit, mcgreevey made a series of awful and unethical decisions while in office, managed to ignore and cover them up until they finally backfired, then leapt upon his own sword, recapturing a brief moment of dignity by pairing his socially repugnant message of corruption and irresponsibilty with a more attractive one of self-actualization and defiant pride. a cynic might call it martyrdom.

but disappearing in the wake is mcgreevey's highly partisan and, to be fair, unethical decision to delay stepping down until mid-November. by doing so, mcgreevey ensures that his replacement will be an appointed Democrat, rather than the winner of a special election in November. Mcgreevey, not having abused the people of New Jersey long enough with his careless leadership (of all posts to hand out to an unqualified boy toy, Homeland Security ? The mind boggles) now will take the low road again, and guarantee his party the maintenance of power. It's machiavellian, it's Rove-ian, and it's wrong. If there is time for the people of New Jersey to choose their governor, they should do so.

And that being said, its hard to find sympathy for the GOP in this instance. Their demands for an election are unquestionably in the right, but their expectation for the Democrats to continue stepping in front of moving trains while they continually seek new heights of
ethical depravity falls on the deafest of ears.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Crystal Ball

fred kaplan has a fantastic column today regarding the ever deteriorating situation in iraq. some highlights:

This is a terribly grim thing to say, but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq. There might be nothing we can do to build a path to a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there's no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster.
Further:

Even if our re-energized allies agreed to send more troops, they would be but a beginning, a holding action, and who knows how long they'd have to stay? What kind of country Iraq becomes, what kind of politics it practices, what kind of alliances it forms—all are mysteries. You don't hear Paul Wolfowitz waxing lyrical these days, as he did a year ago, over the universal truths of Alexis de Tocqueville. Even he must realize that the best we can hope for, at this point, is an Iraq that doesn't blow up and take the region with it. The dismaying, frightening thing is how imponderably difficult it will be simply to avoid catastrophe.

Kaplan is more or less conceding that the situation in Iraq is utterly hopeless. but what makes kaplan's column all the more interesting is his initial support of a war in iraq. i've gone back to some of his pre-war columns and read through his early cheerleading for a war. here are some excerpts:

Still, even if the weak points remain weak, the strong ones are strong enough. Unless you believe Iraq's dismissal that the photos and tapes are fabrications, many of Powell's conclusions are nearly irrefutable. (my highlights)

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, are making one last trip to Baghdad this weekend, at Saddam Hussein's invitation. As of today, it's two minutes to midnight. If Saddam doesn't get that message at last, how can any objective observer, or any world leader, continue to make a case against war?

And another column:

But now Bush is in a serious fix. He has pledged to oust Saddam by force, with a "coalition of the willing" if the Security Council does not come along. . But, as some officials privately admit, this is a risky business. Almost certainly, the ad hoc coalition (which, militarily, consists of the U.S. armed forces and a few units from Britain and Australia) will be enough to win the war, but—given America's standing in the Arab world these days—it may lack the diversity, the clout, or the resources to keep the peace afterward. If the war goes spectacularly well, this may not matter; France, Germany, and Russia can be expected to scramble onto the postwar brigades to avoid being deprived of a share of the spoils. But if the war goes badly, we'll be out there on the cliff with no cover. If it inspires terrorist reprisals, we (and London) will take the hit alone.

It's easy to criticize these liberal war supporters in HINDSIGHT, but if you take a look at Kaplan's most recent column, it could have easily been written PRIOR to the war. there were enough legitimate, moderate, sensible experts, writing, prior to the war, who warned of exactly the situation that kaplan is describing in the PRESENT tense. kaplan is an ass and he was an ass to have faith in the bushies to carry out the war like HE would have waged it. going back through these pre-war columns is almost comical. that is, if the whole damn situation wasn't so tragic.

MB





May the commenting begin

hey readers, our bad. we had the 'comment' rule set to only allow registered users to comment on the blogs. it's now been set to 'anyone,' so comment away. we're trying to categorize the comments, so if you're posting a death threat, love letter, insightful commentary, or even a recipe you think is relevant to one of our posts, please put the subject of the comment at the top. thanks.

LT Managing Editor

THE history of pro wrestling

What’s happened with professional wrestling? It’s an important question and one LT readers consistently ask me to comment on. Well, I have no easy answers, but the most likely one is the corrupting influence of money. I mean, you could say that with any sport, but pro wrestling is unique – it’s fake. Why, exactly, did money ruin this sport? Wrestling has come a long way. I admit, I haven’t been a fan since the beginning, and I’m certainly not a fan now. I was a fan during the true ‘golden era’ of professional wrestling: 1982-1990. I need to give my props to my blogger in arms, the humungous. He’s the one who got me interested in the first place. It all started at a stinking, run down arena called robarts where I had the privilege and honor of seeing one of the all time great wrestlers work his magic: chief wahoo mcdaniel (may he rest in peace). i'll come back to this.

pro wrestling has consistently had a redneck fan base. i'm not a redneck. you can describe me as hyper educated upper lower middle class type - not your typical pro wrestling fan, at least of that era. what happened? well, as we all know, young boys are always looking for larger than life role models. in the 60s, it was astronauts, in the 70s it was ethnic, hairy chested disco dancer types; by the early 80s, young boys were idolizing politicians. yes, it's true. but just as this infatuation with political superstars heated up, something happened: reaganomics. Reagan’s cold, heartless economic policies made it uncool (again) to idolize politico types. but what could fill the void? what came as a surprise to many, it was pro wrestling. i remember as if it were yesterday, going into my room and tearing down my poster of george mcgovern, shirtless, provocatively leaning against a harley davidson, and replacing it with a poster of the junkyard dog.

this was the beginning of an 8 year long love affair with pro wrestlers. without fail, the most legit, exciting, and dangerous wrestlers in the world were the von erich brothers. it was almost easy to forget wrestling was fake with these guys, as you watched them in a death cage match, in texas stadium, with 80 thousand rabidly screaming rednecks in the background. i use to get goosebumps when kerry von erich ripped off his members only jacket after jumping into the ring.

today's wrestlers are too pretty. they flaunt the fake ness of the sport. the key difference between today's wrestlers and those of the 80s is that those wrestlers hated each other. sure, it was still fake, but the fans knew dusty rhodes truly hated nikita koloff. to dusty, fighting nikita meant something. it meant something for all americans that he put this commie in his place. and when the match was over, dusty (dusty, by the way, was called "the american dream." and the beauty of this is that he really thought he was. for his fans, he WAS the dream.) would spit at nikita and tell him to go to hell. today, it's obvious the wrestlers don't hate each other. i can just imagine the rock finishing a match with cold stone steve austin and then going for a latte afterwards. they probably share an agent, and attend yoga sessions together. they go through the motions of their scripted matches and then in bed by 10pm. the whole lot of them are nothing but a bunch of metrosexuals.

man, i remember seeing chief wahoo mcdaniel KICKING SOME ASS at that first match i went to and thinking this guy must be a millionaire. how could he not be, he was a mega celebrity, at least in my eyes. and then afterwards, seeing 'the chief', battered, bruised, leaving the ring and cramming his 6 foot, 7 inch body into a beat up used chevette. now THAT is legit.

i guess the beginning of the end was with hulk hogan and that era of wrestlers. i guess the first sign was the cartoon spinoff. at the time i thought these guys were just getting their due. they were pop culture giants so why shouldn't they get their own cartoon? what better american status symbol is there than getting one own's cartoon.

but what i couldn't see at the time was that wrestling's new found popularity was making the sport silly. the raw, chilling, blood filled days of the von erichs was coming to an end and the beginning of the entertainment empire of WWF was just starting.

one can only wax nostalgic for a time that brought together toothless yokels, with bird chested pretty boys like me. but when wrestling was overwhelmed with popularity (and money), it lost its innocent, depraved appeal. i didn't leave the sport, it left me.

MB

Friday, August 13, 2004

if not x-men, maybe q, or t-men

i'm telling you people, we are just a couple of generations away from superheros in our midst. go ahead and mock the lord humungus if you will, but mark my words - this guy is maybe two or three genetic hiccups away from being 'lupo the human wolf' or whatnot. if he's smart enough to procreate with someone living near a nuke plant, his kid and this little fella will be fighting evil brainiac type master criminals in no time. with great power comes great responsibility fellas . . .

- LH

NOAA insults the Gulf Coast

as I monitor the hourly bulletins about the storm system that appears poised to put a serious nature-boy style figure-four leglock on the former headquarters and spawning grounds of the liberal thunderdome, i'd like to send a message to our friends at NOAA or whoever is responsible for the names of tropical storms, depressions, and indeed hurricanes. 'Charley' is an embarrassment. I can accept that part of the public-relationsization of American society may involve choosing to passover a respectful, dignified, maybe even stuffy proper name like 'Charles'. But if it wasn't bad enough to give the storm a familiar, back-slapping good buddy diminutive name, then they could have at least chosen the spelling that is most likely associated with a human being ('CharlIE') rather than a horse, hamster or otherwise incommunicative animal ('CharlEY'). Having bumbled through a number of near-misses in my youth, and been suitably rattled, I'm of the opinion that hurricane names should closely approximate the names of orcs, or perhaps sith lords. i can sell my grandkids on the fury of 'Hurricane Orgoth' with much greater ease than I might 'Tropical Storm Joey' or 'Hurricane Ashley'.

A competing proposal might suggest that we name major storms for child actors who's careers have truly imploded. the cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes' alone would provide names for three truly disastrous typhoons. Maybe naming the storms after they're over is more sensible - NOAA gets together and agrees "Well, that one mostly only damaged mobile home parks and a few convenience stores, and pretty much washed itself out after a couple days - I'm thinking we're somewhere between Hurricane Alfonso Ribiero and 'Hurricane Dana Plato'. Anyone have a problem with 'Hurricane Dustin Diamond' ?"

Good luck to the sunset coast tonight. . .

- LH

revenge of the energy nerds

energy & enviro news is the talk of the town right now - perhaps not the talk of either presidential candidate, both of whom seem intent on avoiding any serious discussion of energy policy beyond swing state and interest group panderings (kerry and ethanol, bush and ANWR). but they can't stop the rain from falling, and fall it will. our good friend kevin drum at washingtonmonthly (technically, we dont know each other but i think of our relationship as much like my own with corey feldman - familiar with each others careers, a deep and abiding respect for each others work, and a genuine sense of kinship as part of a cosmic chain of humanity) discusses the production peak issue with aplomb.

kevin rightly notes that individual predictions of when/how the peak arrives are singularly unimportant. what's relevant is the bigger picture notion that a peak is inevitable and clearly destined to arrive within the next decade or most optimistically, two.


- LH

Thursday, August 12, 2004

global warming denial - newsweek should stick to stories about paris hilton

in newsweek today robert samuelson helpfully debunks efforts by state AG's to demand action on global warming. admittedly, i'm no expert on the court system and the doctrine of public nuisance or any of the rest of it. samuelson gamely admits that this is an issue for the political arena - apparently he's comfortable with the notion that since our political leaders categorically refuse to deal with it, the nation should sweep it under the rug. someone ask bangladesh if they agree.

but more interestingly, sammy takes us on an adventure in logic thats quite entertaining. first he decries kyoto and similar GHG limiting efforts because they fail to do ENOUGH to stop GHG emissions. all they'd accomplish, he notes without clearly saying so, is reducing the rate of growth in GHG emissions. for some reason, this is no valid goal in itself - in fact, he joins the chorus of america-firsters in noting that china and india are at fault for increasing greenhouse gases. never mind that per capita GHG contribution from americans is exponentially higher than chinese or indians.

sammy is right that "Barring some magical technological breakthrough, lowering U.S. emissions would require some or all of the following: tougher regulation or higher gasoline prices to force drivers into smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles; restrictions on coal-burning power plants; encouragement of nuclear power; expansion of drilling for natural gas and more imports of liquefied natural gas; and regulations or tax penalties to discourage large homes. " in fact, i think most enviros would encourage this list of steps, even expanded natural gas exploration, as part of a national efficiency
campaign.

sammy quickly returns to attacking the AG's for grandstanding on this issue - hey, we all know that the way to capture public attention in the US right now is to talk about greenhouse gas emissions from power plants - but can't resist a final dalliance with rudimentary science.

In response to a point noting that the eventual effects of global warming will include " increasing asthma and heat-related illnesses, eroding shorelines, floods and other natural disasters, loss of forests and other precious resources." sammy notes that "In truth, no one knows how much the world will warm, exactly when or with what consequences. " Isnt there a name for arguing a point by tossing out a inconvertible generalization ? Because I'd love to know it. In fact, science has shown again and again that power plant emissions DO cause asthma, and that the inevitable and certain impacts of global warming WILL be rising seas, increasing volatility and intensity of weather patterns, and dramatic changes in ecosystem health. of COURSE noone knows how much the world will warm, exactly when or with what consequences - merely that it will be significantly warmer than it is today, its happening now, and the consequences have the potential to be utterly
catastrophic.

- LH


hinden-nader cont...

I have to make a counterpoint to the fine remarks the humungous made on the nader candidacy. I’m really not worried about him anymore. he's tracking 1-4% and not much more. he's not even going to be on the ballot in multiple states (although the important ones are the battleground states). anyway, I think when it comes time to walk into the voting booth, those lefties who were steadfast in their support of nader, will change their minds. but what makes that statement useful in its naiveté is that I don't think nader's support is made up of lefties. what's left is probably a mix of libertarians and anarchist types who never really considered the democratic party a home, so assuming they would by default flock to the democrats if nader wasn't running, is a false assumption. I think they are a real mix of malcontents and sourpusses who are completely disgusted with the political system and like nader's radical vision for government (a vision many of us on the left don't necessarily find radical in theory, but radical in that they could never happen within the corporate structure that is our society.).

there, I said it, nader doesn't worry me, even with upwards of 4% of the vote. you look at the polls, and without nader, Kerry never does any better than a 1-2% bounce.

Master Blaster

signing on to the hinden-nader

a friend recently directed me to the website everyone on the left is happily talking about, electoral-vote.com, with cautiously optimistism and a glimmer of hope. the site is delicious fun and enormously helpful, but tough to get too excited about given the precipitous nature of the data and my firm belief that 'events' between now and november are likely to be determinative in the outcome to an unprecedented degree.

nonetheless, the most striking feature of the site's numbers has to be the fact that of the 23 states reasonably considered 'in play', 15 have our old friend ralph nader racking up between 1 and 4% of the vote. i find that genuinely stunning, and it certainly puts to rest any nascent notions about the intellectual superiority of lefties. who ARE these clowns ? george w. bush's presidency has been a MONUMENT to the contrasts between democrats and republicans - beyond paving yellowstone and invading canada and mexico, i'm not sure what more he could do. yet 4% of our friends in Nevada are planning to employ their votes as metaphorical charmin rather than settle for a president who is a little LESS anti-corporate than their egotistical champion.

nader-voters, if you're reading, i'm desperate here - fill us in on the tortured, twisted logic that you've managed to sell to your conscience.

LH

dick cheney must pay

lets be blunt. dick cheney is kicking kerry's rhetorical ass right now. yes his comments are asinine. yes they are pathetically neanderthal and appeal to the lowest common denominator in american society. yes they represent EXACTLY the kind of hyper-simplistic, macho, driven-by-small-penis insecurities that embody the GOP's white male wing (read: all of them).

but they fundamentally question Kerrys toughness. and Kerry needs to hold that ground. of course, cheney's attacks follow the classic VP model - he's the dog while bush stays above it. kerry needs a champion to respond in kind. if edwards won't do it, cleland, gore, or a clinton needs to. a strident, public, and genuinely pointed response. i'd recommend something along the lines of "of course dick cheney doesnt understand a soldier's descriptions of war - having avoided putting himself in the line of fire at every opportunity, i wouldnt expect him to have anything but hollywood delusions about what it really means to fight a war. i'd expect the american people are a lot less likely to indulge in his arrogant and embarrasing brand of braggadocio."

but hey, that's just me.

- LH

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

what the . . . part 3

dailykos nails another key aspect of this news today.

from the WAPost "Knowing then what he knows today about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kerry still would have voted to authorize the war and "in all probability" would have launched a military attack to oust Hussein by now if he were president, Kerry national security adviser Jamie Rubin said in an interview Saturday. As recently as Friday, the Massachusetts senator had said he only "might" have still gone to war. "

this is where the wheels completely come off the kerry bus. its one thing to leverage some kind of constitutional rationale for supporting the president when he requests the power to pursue policies based on his best judgement. its an entirely different thing to committ yourself to a willingness to make the same mistakes when you're behind the wheel. any ground kerry was standing on just crumbled. again, the alternative statement "no, we would have left him in power" is a tough sell, but this smells like a pissing contest.

his team needs to get their shit together on this issue. its inconceivable that at this stage of the game this is the best they can do.

- LH

what the . . . part 2

my colleague the blaster is spot-on with his frustration with our man kerry. this issue has left the candidate painted into an uncomfortable corner, and blunted his ability to speak with strength on a defining issue of this election. however, that's not to say that this recent affirmation was the wrong one.

again, here we confront the bedeviling nature of politics in america. kerry's position is nuanced, it is complex, and it is in many ways convenient. it requires a more complete understanding of diplomacy, international relations, and actual history than most american voters begin to approach. in today's NYT story, kerry notes - "I believe it's the right authority for a president to have," which is a classic kerry very specific, analyzed and entirely accurate statement. kerry goes on to repeat his lines about the rush to war, no plan for peace, etc... which is, for all its truth and accuracy, a lukewarm argument in the public eye.

but here's the problem. imagine a scenario by which kerry REJECTED his vote. "if i had known, i wouldnt have supported the war." now sure, that makes sense to many moderate democrats who feel the same way. but the door this opens for bush is a significant one - suddenly, kerry is on record as 'regretting' the war. that is, bush can stand across from him at a debate and plausibly make the statement 'saddam was a maniacal dictator with ties to terror, and we took him out. my opponent regrets that war and regrets that he's gone. i dont. i'm glad he's gone.'

now lets be clear - is this argument reasonable ? no. sensible ? no. a remotely accurate interpretation of reality or events ? clearly, no.

and is the undecided voter remotely capable of that distinction ? you know my answer.

- LH

What the...

kerry's people came out today and basically said, knowing what they know today, kerry would have STILL voted to empower bush to attack iraq. i know he's trying to shake the waffler moniker, but this is just absurd. this is why bush is looking absolutely ridiculous to everyone but his most rabid, ideological supporters. there were numerous ways for kerry's people to deflect this issue, but to come out and say, "i would've done the same thing" just cuts into his hard core supporters belief that kerry was bullied into this war vote. kerry is going to have to walk a fine line explaining why he voted for war and yet still concede it was a stupid thing to have done in hindsight. what's he's done today is basically reject that strategy. i think kerry's people are more scared of this GOP approach that he 'straddles both sides' characterization than they are alienating any of his anti-war supporters. at this point, i can't say it's an illogical strategy, just a frustrating one.


i'm curious to see how kerry himself addresses this issue.