Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Al Qaeda overplayed as a threat?

Kevin Drum points out a series of articles suggesting Al Qaeda is not the world-wide threat that Bush purports it to be. I'm not sure what to make of that, but like Kevin I thought I'd pass it along.

We still don't know the ramifications of the training we're giving today in Iraq for future terrorists, as well as the hatred for the US that Bush has created. If Al Qaeda is not the problem, other groups may well become the problem.

Kevin's also got a good, completely unrelated post on a screen-saver that launches denial-of-service attacks on spammers. Sounds tempting.


I went backpacking over the weekend in Henry Coe State Park, which is a great local place to go to when it's not too hot. Since it gets dark at 6 p.m., I had time to kill after dinner, and went on a night hike.

First thing I saw was when I was using my headlamp at the beginning of the hike - something glittery and shiny on the ground. I reached down to touch it, and it scuttled away. It was spider eyes. The glint distracted me from the body.

I turned off the headlamp and walked in the moonlight. Nearly stepped on a very large toad, which is surprisingly unusual out here. It seems like back east I would see toads everywhere, but not so often in California.

Then I saw salamanders, lots and lots of salamanders. I had to watch my step to avoid crushing them. It hadn't rained in over a week and the rainy season is just starting anyway, so I was surprised by the numbers. The next morning it rained buckets and I saw only one. My lesson is that salamanders may like wet, but they like dark even more.

More reason to hike at night and see what's out there.

Update (5 p.m.): During the night hike, I took a break and sat in this oak tree with these weird growths that made an excellent seat. I just now got back from a meeting on oak woodland conservation as part of my job, and the person doing a powerpoint presentation had a picture centered on that exact tree! I of course had to interrupt the presentation to announce the very important point that I'd been sitting in that tree several days earlier. The coincidences in life...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Rabies cure and the power of prayer

New York Times reports the first-ever cure of full blown rabies. A teenage girl who had the disease was put in an induced coma and given a cocktail of anti-viral drugs. Medical progress continues. At the end of the article are these two paragraphs about the girl's father:

Her father, John Giese, said he was grateful to the doctors and their novel treatment, but added that prayer had made the crucial difference.

"The day after we found out, I called on everyone we knew for prayer," he told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. "We believe a lot of that snowballed and it really made a difference."

I expect the thousands of people who die every year from rabies also have many people praying for them.

I'm agnostic but can understand how people have a religious sense of the universe, or believe that the God had to start it all. What I have trouble with is the idea that God actively intervenes in miraculously picking winners and losers . What kind of God would save this girl's life and ignore even more tragic circumstances elsewhere? Even if you ignore the obvious possibility that the world is what it is, without active miracles, the theological implications of a God who picks and chooses is terribly disturbing, especially when those of us who are more fortunate adopt that viewpoint.

I guess this is an unusual Thanksgiving Day post. But I am thankful for everything that's good in the world, and for the efforts by everyone who try to make the world better. If there's something to spiritual beliefs, I'm agnostic about it, but would be thankful if that turns out to be correct. I'll bend my agnosticism to believe that a beneficial spiritual presence doesn't pick winners or losers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

An Alaskan reaction to the election

A friend from Alaska responded to my posts about working on the campaign with an update of what's happening up there:

Thanks for your work in Florida. I'd like to hear what the experience was like. Can't wait to see how Bush can find really cool ways to spend his capital he earned. New weapons to bring really bad people to their knees so that the U.S. can continue to win the love, admiration and respect of the rest of the world would be one guess. Scientists are reporting on the effects of global warming on the arctic and what causes the warming.

BUT WAIT! [Alaskan Republican Congressman] Don Young has beenholding back on the results of his thorough investigations on the matter. His results: "I don't believe it (global warming)is our fault. That's my opinion. It's as sound as any scientist's." Also, "My biggest concern is that people are going to use this so-called study to try to influence the way and standard of living that occurs within the United States." Makes me wonder why we even pay scientists
to come up with inconvenient conclusions in the first place. Don can settle the issue so quickly.

There's scary stuff in the conclusions of the study. The polar ice cap is melting so fast that we may be able to witness the elimination of one of the world's great megafauna in our lifetime. Polar bears would have no way to survive without the ice cap. Better yet: [Alaskan Republican Senator] Ted Stevens's plan to deal with the effects of warming are ingenious. Develop oil in the Arctic Refuge! Use the federal revenues to do more research (funds to be spent in AK of course). We can take no risks with our family and must drive the biggest, heaviest tanks on our roads. Yet it is unthinkable that we might inconvenience ourselves to lessen the risks of destruction of the earth's ecosystem. We may make the earth uninhabitable, but we're not really sure. Great entertainment if horrendous stupidity is your thing.

Here's a short FAQ on the study my friend refers to.

Here's the website to get the study itself.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Not exactly important news, but -

I was wrong when I stayed on the fence over Bush's invasion of Iraq - I should have opposed it. This is an after-the-fact judgment based not on how badly things have turned out, but on how badly the Bush administration officials have bungled things. Their willingness to let American soldiers and Iraqi civilians die just to spite the UN is unforgivable. While I think Iraq, maybe, could still turn out to be better off someday with Saddam removed, the United States is definitely worse off, while Middle East stability and attempts to control terrorism are also worse off.

After-the-fact judgment can change again over time, I suppose. Maybe things will turn up roses starting tomorrow, and in two years I'll have to say I was wrong in hindsight in failing to support Bush's invasion. But right now, that's not looking very likely.

And now, back to the show in Iraq. According to the ticker on Maxspeak, total American deaths are currently 1,228 and counting (it's posted on the upper right side of the web page). Don't even ask about Iraqi civilian deaths.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bush flip-flops on the "social promotion" issue - look at the new, incompetent, National Security Advisor

Lost in the news of Condoleeza Rice replacing Colin Powell is Condi's replacement, Stephen Hadley. This man bears a significant level of responsibility for the two main foreign-policy failures of the Bush Administration: blocking Richard Clarke's efforts to elevate terrorism as a priority in the 9-month period prior to 9/11, and leading a drumbeat to war in Iraq with the disinformation about WMDs.

Clarke makes clear in his book Against All Enemies that Hadley (as well as Rice) were major impediments in his unsuccessful effort to get the Bush Administration to take terrorism as seriously as the Clinton Adminstration had. One example of Hadley's effects (not from Clarke's book):

"In its report, the [9/11 Commission] confirmed that Mr Clarke specifically advised giving secret aid to the main rebel group in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, to help it unseat the Taliban. The commission said the advice was rejected by Ms Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, who opted for a broader review of the threat."

On Iraq, Hadley emphasized WMDs and especially the "nuclear weapons program" as reasons requiring an invasion. Here he is on March 10, 2003 referring to the alleged attempts to buy uranium and centrifuges that the Bushies knew were either false or highly dubious:

"All of these facts point to a sustained, wide-ranging effort to develop nuclear weapons, which threatens the international community. This regime has cheated inspectors before; it has cheated sanctions for years. It has proven that its nuclear ambitions cannot be contained."

He was forced to apologize later:

"Stephen Hadley, President Bush's deputy national security adviser, on Tuesday became the second administration official to apologize for allowing a tainted intelligence report on Iraq's nuclear ambitions into Bush's State of the Union address. Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said that he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet last October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons....
Hadley suggested that details from the memos and phone call had slipped from his attention as the State of the Union was being put together."

From that March 10 speech, it apparently slipped his mind on a regular basis. I'm looking for the additional apology, Stephen.

He didn't suddenly become intelligent after the invasion. He gave yet another speech, claiming that minor and stale contacts between Iraq and Al-Qaeda prove a relationship existed, when the contacts were much more extensive between Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia.

So this man will be giving our genius president his own genius advice.

My real question: how incompetent do you have to be to avoid receiving a promotion in the Bush Administration? Is loyalty really the only thing that counts? Why is social promotion bad for third-graders but good for the people who hold our lives in their hands?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Republican morality in Congress

About 10 years ago, Republicans passed with much fanfare a rule within their party that any member under indictment for a felony had to step down from party leadership. This was in reaction to the problems Democratic leader Dan Rostenkowski created for himself.

The Republicans just got rid of this rule this week, worried that Tom Delay is about step into the same trap. Talkingpointsmemo.com is all over this. I recommend taking a first look here, and then just seeing what the website is saying now.

The Democrats have had a similar rule for many years, and have no plans to remove it from their rule book.

(Thanks Steve for the pointer!)

“Leave our homos alone”

That quote shows the reaction in a small, conservative town in Oklahoma when an overtly gay-hating group came to town to harass a high school student who had come out of the closet. A bright spot deep in the heart of a Red state, and a great quote.

From a Washington Post article (hat tip to Tapped).

Monday, November 15, 2004

So what's on the Foxnews website?

Judicial activism!

Here's the lead-in:

John Morganelli, District Attorney for Northampton County, Pa., probably had no idea what he was in for last week when his office appeared before Judge Leonard Zito for the conviction and sentencing of 27 individuals accused of using false and stolen social security numbers.

Morganelli’s investigators had worked for months to prosecute the group, 14 of which had not simply used false social security numbers, but had stolen and used the social security numbers of law-abiding people.

But although every one of the defendants pleaded guilty, Judge Zito refused to impose any period of incarceration, nor did he fine the defendants. Zito based his decision on the fact that the defendants were all illegal aliens, remarking that they should never have been arrested in the first place because the men committed the crimes “strictly for the purpose of working.”

Sounds pretty bad, that identity theft stuff has defrauded people of thousands of dollars and ruined their credit ratings. The only problem is that's not what these illegal immigrants did - they "stole" those SS numbers because they had to provide numbers in order to work, and instead of taking money, they paid Social Security taxes to other people's accounts. It's as if someone hacked your bank's computer and started depositing money into your checking account, without any method for making withdrawals. That's the best I can tell what happened, from carefully reading this and other accounts. It's the impression from Fox - illegals conduct damaging identity theft, judge lets them off scott-free - that's important and deceptive.

Many people won't be surprised at Fox's approach, but this is a special post for my conservative brother-in-law to keep in mind as he reads or listens to Fox.

P.S. Two additional points - first, it's not clear to me that these uneducated laborers knew they had real SS numbers, as opposed to simply being told they had to put down something, and that the numbers given to them were ones that wouldn't get them in trouble. Second, I think this could have caused income tax problems for the real SS number holders, if the laborers didn't pay full income taxes. Nothing I saw that reported on this case mentioned that as having happened. This still wouldn't be anything like the damage that people think of when they consider identity theft.

Update, 11/18/04: Reaction from the brother-in-law is in:

What a can o' worms. Where to begin…?

Let's be fair. This is not a news story. It is an opinion piece, and as the sage once told us, like a common orifice, we've all got one. Just so happens, this is one with which we disagree.

I use “we” in the correct sense here; I agree that Matt Hayes’ opinion is wrong. However, he comes by his error honestly. He is not a journalist, consequently he misidentifies the story (no insult to present company; I am also not a journalist, but I played one on student papers both in high school and college attempt #1).

The story is that Morganelli's office is in desperate need of a paradigm shift. Why not bring in the criminal employers who hired illegals? The only reason these workers needed fraudulent SSN’s would be because the employers were filling out I-9’s and W-2’s fraudulently. Did the employers say, “Just make something up, we have to put something here,” or even fill out the form for the workers? Or did the fellows who brought them across the border for a price coach them, or give them stolen SSN’s? It sounds like the investigators from the DA’s office spent months on a fairly misdirected and uninspired investigation. So Zito isn’t the only one choosing not to “administer the law”.

That doesn’t mean that I agree with Zito’s decision. I was once told that “ignorance is no defense before the law.” And since when is committing a crime OK just so long as it’s “strictly for the purpose of working”? If the workers gave false or stolen SSN’s, they should be punished. But did they? The article assumes a great deal. But if the investigation showed they gave the employers false or stolen SSN’s, they should face the law. I know the penalty I would have meted out. An escorted, coach-class trip back to their point of origin. It may be that a portion of our economy is based on illegal workers. If it is, it is out-of-whack. The sooner we eliminate the illegal issue the better. That only happens over a long period of improving conditions in foreign nations, where illegal workers would frankly prefer to stay. They love their home countries; they just can’t make a go of things there due to the economic/social/political climate. And in the mean time, we need to actually enforce the law around border control issues. And I much prefer going after the employers and traffickers of willing slaves (which is what illegal workers are, let’s face facts). Those are the groups with the most power in the situation, the situation’s taproot.

Fair reaction, I think. And he agrees Fox News published an opinion piece that is wrong (yeah - progress!). I agree that illegal immigration is a problem, but our economy is dependent on that labor - the relationship is not simply of the US providing beneficial opportunities to illegals. Bushies and the Republican Congress have done nothing to address this problem (just like previous administrations).

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Belated post about veterans

Veteran's Day was several days ago, and I rarely get things in on time anyway, but I received a thoughtful email about veterans and decided I should post it.

I actually don't mind missing the holiday decreed from on high by our government - the post is about veterans, not about what the government tells us to think and celebrate:


(Attributed to a Marine Corps chaplain, Father Denis Edward O'Brian)

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a
jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence
inside them, a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the
leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in
the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America
wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is

A vet is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia
sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers
didn't run out of fuel.

A vet is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose
overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic
scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th Parallel.

A vet is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep
every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

A vet is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or
didn't come back at all.

A vet is the drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved
countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account punks and gang members
into marines, airmen, sailors, soldiers and coast guardsmen, and
teaching them to watch each other's backs.

A vet is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and
medals with a prosthetic hand.

A vet is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals
pass him by.

A vet is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose
presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the
memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with
them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

A vet is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now
and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who
wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the
nightmares come.

A vet is an ordinary and yet extraordinary human being, a person who
offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his
country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to
sacrifice theirs.

A vet is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and
is nothing more that the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the
finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just
lean over and say, "Thank You." That's all most people need, and in
cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or
were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Planning for what's next

Some friends are holding a meeting tonight to discuss how to recover from the disaster of Bush's election. One of the main things I think about is how the right wing portrays itself as the place where all the new ideas are coming from in at least two fields I know reasonably well - law and economic policy. I think it's partly true and partly a matter of better salesmanship, but I think the progressive groups are going to have to pay much more attention to developing and promoting their brands of new ideas.

Some links about this:

An article saying "Democrats look to think tanks for answer to message problem" from The Hill newspaper in Washington DC. It points out that one of the two main Democratic think tanks, the Center for National Policy, is in severe financial trouble. The other think tank, Brookings Institution, is far too centrist (I think) to become an activist arena that pushes its ideas.

I think one thing that people on the left will have to do is pony up money not just for advocacy but also for promoting new ideas. CNP might be a place for that, although I actually don't know much about them.

Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense both do more than advocacy, which I'd define as opposing some polluting action or promoting an existing concept like designating new wilderness lands, and come up with genuinely new ideas. If I were them, I'd allow people to make dedicated donations for the "think tank" components of their work. They don't, though. Maybe we should donate to them anyway.

For a broader discussion of needing progressive think tanks, here's a thought piece from Soros' Open Society Institute (pdf file).

Slightly different tack, but still relevant: showing support for gay marriage goes beyond judges is important, and there is a real chance that gay marriage will pass the California Legislature. While this may galvanize the cavemen, it takes their stupid "activist judges" argument away from them. It's a mixed bag, but I think if the choice is unclear, you might as well do the right thing. The real battle will be over the referendum that will inevitably follow passage of a gay marriage bill in California. We'll have to be ready to work and pay for the success of gay marriage through the referendum process, and it won't be easy.

Regardless of the gay marriage issue, a lot of progressive ideas will have to be fought on the state level for the next 4 years.

Reasons for moving from Rochester New York

No offense to my hometown, but on this mid-November Saturday morning, I was able to go out for a run in the bright sunlight. At 7:30 a.m., it's warm enough to run in shorts with no shirt. I ran up a green hillside park with great views of San Francisco and the Bay. Ran home and then went back outside to the back deck, put a yoga mat down and did some pushups and ab crunches under the banana tree, with a faint smell of roses from the bushes that still have a few blooms. Back inside for a shower, and then back outside again for a soak in the hot tub. All by 9 a.m. - not something I'd expect to do in Rochester.

Update: there's some cosmic justice for my boasting post above - this afternoon I went to watch a film at the San Francisco Film Festival, came out afterwards and found my bicycle had been stolen. I hate cosmic justice, especially when it smites me personally.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Meanwhile, in North Carolina...

My friend Bill Grantham writes about his experience in the presidential election:
Hey Brian,

[this started out as a response to your message and turned into
self-therapy. Sorry if I sound preachy or pundit-like -- I'm more
trying to work out my own feelings than convince you of anything]

Thanks for trying -- seriously, I mean that. For my part, I spent
three Saturdays canvassing door to door, and worked the polls on election
day. Mostly, I contented myself with giving fairly large sums of money, by
my standards, to Kerry, the DNC, ACT, and MoveOn. I did my volunteering
with a group that splintered off from ACT in order to be more partisan.
So we were a grass roots bunch of Democrats with no name or official
status. But we had very good organization at the tactical level. We
were actually optimistic that we could get enough turnout of unlikely
voters in Wake County (Raleigh) to overwhelm the rural vote and tip NC
to Kerry, despite the polls and the fact that Kerry/Edwards had written
off the state. Turns out we were wrong, obviously, but the process
illuminated how ineffectual and petty the Democratic party is in NC.
It seems they were more interested in turf and protocol than being
effective. However, this is only based on one side of the story -- our
leader's -- as I didn't work directly with the party. But there seemed
to be some truth to it.

I have had a strange reaction to the results, so far. Perhaps it is
some sort of physiological defense mechanism, a deep form of shock or
denial, but I have a strange sense of peace, rather than grief or
anger. I'm sure it will pass as soon as Bush resumes his willfully ignorant
policies and pushes for something egregious like drilling in ANWR, but
at the moment I feel no hatred. God knows there's plenty to be bitter
about, from Rove to the Swift Boat veterens to Bush's outright
slanderous misrepresentation of Kerry's positions on security, but I
just can't get myself worked up. Maybe I have indignation fatique.
Maybe I suffer from a variation of the Stockholm syndrome.

But I think another reason for this feeling is that some internal
tensions are resolved. I can now root wholeheartedly for a complete
and total success in Iraq. Previoulsy I was torn. I had opposed the war
from the start, never believing that WMD was the real reason (that
much was patently obvious) even when I believed they existed. I was
appalled by the arrogance, stupidity, wishfull thinking, and plain
boneheadedness with which it was conducted, and hated to think Bush could get away
with it. So I found myself wanting to things to go badly, but not so badly
Kerry couldn't fix them. Until I remembered that going badly means
people dying. So how many people do I want to die, in order prevent
Bush from being re-elected and pursuing policies that will result in
even greater tragedies -- more wars, a viscious cycle of terrorist acts
and responses? A moral quagmire I don't have to deal with anymore.
For better or worse, the people have endorsed Bush's approach.

So now I can hope for a spectacular success in Iraq (just as I would
have if Kerry had won, as I fervently hoped). I hope Iraq becomes a
stable democracy as soon as possible, Osama is captured, Al quada is
crushed, peace is acheived between Israel and Palestine, and the whole
Arab world changes its mind and embraces Bush as a saviour. Not
likely, but nothing would make me happier than for all these things to
be solved and off the table in 2008, so we can get on to what to me are
the real issues -- how can 5 or 6 billion (and counting) humans survive
and prosper without destroying all our fellow creatures on this planet?

What has enraged me most about Bush is not just the folly of his
foreign policy. It is that his administration systematically and relentlessly
undermines the only tools that offer hope in dealing with this grand
question: rational thought based on empirical evidence, and peaceful
resolution of issues through an open democratic process. I don't
expect him to change on this, and we must redouble our efforts to prevent him
from taking us back from the age of reason to the age of faith. In
foreign policy, Democrats and moderate (or non-neocon, at any rate)
republicans must try to make Bush's policy more responsive to reality.
But I am no longer (as far as I can see) faced with conflicting
desires. I don't worry about the Republicans getting credit for winning the" war
on terrorism" -- if they actually did, it would be worth it. Besides,
winning wars doesn't necessarily secure power. The Dems lost in a
landslide after Wilson won WWI, Churchill was voted out after WWII,
Truman barely hung on for another term, Bush I lost after what appeared
to be a decisive victory in the Gulf War. If anything, there seems to
be a trend to turn to the other party for a fresh start after a war.

-- [Well that's as far as I got yesterday, and I didn't get time to
finish it today. Need to go for a run before the light fades, and to
send this before the feeling goes away. Was going to talk about some
more concrete reasons for hope and strategy Dems should take, but that
will have to wait. The one thing I will say is that it does no good to
try to move to the right -- the right will just keep moving the target
rightwards. they will always call Dems extreme left wing liberals out
of touch with the mainstream, so if we let the center become labeled
leftist, the far right will become center.]

My one comment right now to Bill's post is that the Republicans are not looking for an end to the War on Terror, maybe hoping it will be a very long time before people start thinking of a change in political parties for the postwar era. We'll have to persuade the people otherwise.

Anyone else wishing to respond can post in the comments section here, or email Bill at wgrantham @earthlink.net (eliminate the space before the @ symbol).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

From a correspondent, known as the Bush Redux Survivor:

Reference to "Bob G." is in the comments in the previous post. Two people other than me reacting to each other in the blog - a breakthrough!

Hey Brian,
Never visited a blog before. I'm as nervous and excited as a little girl. First off, I'd like to say, I really enjoy reading your blog although i am both a first-time reader and a first-time writer. I want to echo Bob G's request for "juicy details" of your florida trip. I think I speak for your father as well. :)
Well, this is by far the most catastrophic domestic political and societal event in my lifetime. After a brief period of denial I skipped right by anger and went straight to depression, where I've been lingering ever since. I occasionally take a little mental vacation over to the world of apathy, but my long term goal is to be able to maintain a permanent state of denial.
I will say this: As much as I'm disgusted with the 59 million-plus morons (yes, morons! you all know who you are!)who voted for their poster-boy, I am also disgusted with the democratic party which cannot seem to produce a charismatic leader who can inspire their membership. Clinton is the one exception in a 24 year span. Kerry took forever to make a point. Doesn't anyone on the left know how presidential politics works? Short, Simple, Black, White. Get elected, don't teach civics. The people don't want to know.
Okay, one other point and then I've got to go back to work: Let us end now the myth that the American people won't be fooled, that the American people are smart, that the American people understand what's important. On the contrary, they are constantly fooled because they're not at all smart and have no idea what issues most affect their lives. By and large, in contrast to almost every other culture in the world, Americans are ignorant, arrogant and obnoxious. This is why George Bush is president. And he has fooled them into thinking that he actually has moral values and that he is reducing the threat of terrorism against Americans when he, as you and I know, is willing to send untold thousands of people to their deaths, and to disfigure and cripple many thousands more, simply to pursue his pre-meditated ideological agenda. He is willing to lie about anything and everything. And he has almost single-handedly converted an overwhelming amount of global goodwill into unprecedented fear and loathing. Well, you know his resume. Anyway, that felt kinda good.
Thanks for trying, Brian. You fought the good fight. For what it's worth, I heard Kerry took Orange County. Way to go!
Until next time...

My 2 cents of reaction here is that I'd prefer to refer to Bush's elections as a stupid mistake, rather than the people electing him as stupid. Makes the world feel somewhat less messed up to me, for some reason.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

My summary of the experience

It felt like being in a military campaign. In the aftermath, it feels like we had fought on the losing side of a war. I should quickly disclaim that anyone who has been in a real war might feel differently about the analogy (note to George "I have been to war" Bush: this doesn't include you).

There was an incredible amount of chaos and incredible hard work, and a feeling that if we only knew a little more about what we were doing, we could have been so much more effective. I heard some internal criticism of Kerry campaign in Florida, a feeling that it was being run in both too much of a top-down manner, but also with insufficient direction from the top. The sense was that there should have been less procedural control and more leadership. I don't really have the direct experience to say how serious or justified these criticisms are, and I don't think it's time to tear into anybody at the campaign. I certainly made my own share of mistakes.

So first, before I get too deep, I have a DVD recommendation: the four-disc Firefly TV series, from the creator of the Buffy and Angel television shows. As good as those two shows are, Firefly is even better. It follows the lives of some soldiers from a defeated army, living in a world where the wrong side won the war. Has some echoes to the current experience. I plan to watch it again. The series only lasted a year, but a movie is in the works.

Okay. Some thoughts on why people voted for Bush, and what we can do about it.

1. Argument in Bush voters' minds: 9/11 changed everything. Only a strong projection of military power and concomitant spread of the ideology of freedom will ultimately allow us to prevail over terrorism. While this is a simple concept, Kerry/the Democrats don't understand it and therefore will not protect America.

I think the response is 9/11 changed many things, but it did not change everything. Keeping such things as civil liberties and a decent respect for world opinion are still important. Democrats, and anyone with a brain, understand how important 9/11 was, but Democrats can also do a better job than the mismanaged job by Republicans. In 2006, it's time to tell Republicans to grow up - fighting terrorism is not a simple thing, as Iraq has proved.

2. Argument: You can't change leaders in the middle of a war.

Response: Why the hell not? The military does it - they sack military leaders all the time in the middle of actual wars when they're not performing. As I recall, they did it last year when one general wasn't being aggressive enough during major military operations. If you want more history, the North would have lost the Civil War if they had stuck with their terrible generals, instead of eventually getting Grant and Sherman in charge. Presidents should be sacked even more readily when the stakes are high and they are screwing up. Furthermore, the "war on terrorism", as Bush describes it, is not going to end in Iraq, so change is inevitable, and we might as well start soon with competent leadership. I think our response to this argument is to emphasize the military analogy - you sack bad leaders, fast.

Update: I suppose this argument and response doesn't matter much now that's the election's over. Still, the Reps might try to argue something like it in 2008, especially if they stumble into another war somewhere.

Variant argument: Bush got us into this mess in Iraq, and I'm re-electing him to make him go fix it.

I really have heard this variant. Our only response is to emphasize better education and child nutrition, to try and reduce the level of stupidity in our country.

3. Argument: We have to support moral values, to keep gay marriage from tearing apart the foundations of our country.

Not sure what to do about this, except to tough it out. People as individuals and as age classes are becoming less and less homophobic. There will be some negative repercussions from the worst homophobic amendments that passed, and people will notice that Massachusetts hasn't gone to hell. This will be a decreasing advantage for Republicans over the next 2 to 8 years, and afterwards it will be an albatross around their necks. They won't be able to pivot positions when homophobia is no longer a selling point, either, the evangelical right won't let them for several decades. It's in the Republican platform. Karl Rove may have elected his individual candidates, but he's severely harmed the Republicans in the long run.

So that's my argument, for what it's worth. The other part is to work on individual levels with Bush voters. I plan to convince my conservative brother-in-law that Reagan was bad. It's my starting point.

Friday, November 05, 2004

A consolation

Silver lining in an awful week: I just learned of a 1965 low-budget horror flick filmed in Esperanto, starring William Shatner. I'm not making this up. Best thing ever - I have to see it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Completing the circle

So I've returned back home. I somehow weigh what I did before I left, despite an exclusive diet of junk food and Coke. I climbed at the gym tonight, and it seemed to go like it did before I left for Orlando. And we have the same president. Except that we will still have him until January 20, 2009. That seems so depressingly far off. I can't stand it, I'm not going to think about it right now.

The work was great, and the people were great, and it was some of the most intense work I've done. I'd highly recommend to anyone to take the chance of joining an intense campaign in a battleground state. You can get more responsibility more quickly there than in anything else you can do. Of course, getting paid for it is unrealistic.

For what it's worth, we apparently won Orlando, and by a larger margin than last time. I'll take that with me. Update: turns out our victory margin was smaller than in 2000 - I'm not going to take credit where it's not due.

Time to surf the science websites for a while. There may be a way to get embryonic stem cells for research without destroying embryos. Let's see if Shrub can wrap his mind around this one. It might do some good.