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October 31, 2004

Saheli's thoughts: This is something I've been thinking about for a while. "I’m just asking, if religion is the a... >>

Yes, I Remember Those Bitter Days... It Was Fox vs. Hedgehog, and the Streets Ran Red With Blood

From Slate's Today's Papers, penned today by David Samo:

The WP also fronts a piece that claims the election will "amount to a great national Rorschach test" where voters will choose their leader based on whose psychological profile they prefer. In troubled times, do they value Kerry's discerning and nuanced approach to complex problems or Bush's forceful and unwavering conviction? Or as pundit David Gergen puts it, do people want "fact-based [or] intuition-based policies"? The LAT also points to Bush's hedgehog mentality (vs. Kerry's fox) as the dominant factor in the electorate's bitter polarization.

Wait, isn't that just a choice between good policy and bad policy? Who says, "Yeah man, I love intuition-based policy"? Ohhh, wait, I know: People for whom "intuition" is a code-word for "faith." Rats.

I was just talking with Aaron the other day about how intractable this big secular/religious divide seems. If somebody is basing their voting decision on, say, a belief in the rapidly-approaching end times (Rapture-based policy?) how do you engage with that?

I'm not saying, "religious people are scary"; I mean, come on, give me some credit here. I'm just asking, if religion is the animating force behind someone's policy preferences, how can I even hope to deliberate with her? (Or she, for that matter, with me?)

In other news, I find this "fox vs. hedgehog" thing to be the lamest and least informative analogy ever.

But bring on the election! Foxes 4-eva!

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Posted October 31, 2004 at 1:41 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 29, 2004

Liam Paterson's thoughts: Evolution is an inescapable fact. Creationism is Wrong. It explains nothing. It is not sc... >>

Don't Keep Us in Suspense Here

was-darwin-wrong.jpg

Usually when a magazine asks a rhetorical question on the cover, it doesn't immediately answer it in 160-point type on the first page of the corresponding article.

Very nice, National Geographic.

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Posted October 29, 2004 at 5:48 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Journalism

October 28, 2004

Jeremy's thoughts: I think it's PBS, hands down. Traditional anti-journalism conservatives will disagree with me, bu... >>

Who to Watch?

So Election Day is just around the corner. We'll* march to our polling places and make our voices heard.

*For all values of we where you disenfranchised

And then we'll turn on the TV to see what happens!

So... here's the question... which network should I watch?

I ain't gonna do the clickmaster-exxxtreme channel-surfing thing. I just can't handle it. I want to pick one channel at 8 p.m. and leave it locked in 'til midnight 4 a.m. (I will of course be scouring the internet like a hellion at the same time. But that's a different issue.)

So which do you recommend, Snarkreaders at large? I'm seriously looking for suggestions here; I have no established preference.

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Posted October 28, 2004 at 8:15 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 27, 2004

Tim's thoughts: As I see it, there are three possibilities here: 1) Sometimes, people are just wacko. Or ... >>

Different Realities

Last week's PIPA survey has gotten quite a bit of play in the press. In short, red and blue America live in different worlds. Red America (that is, over three-fourths of President Bush's supporters in this election) sees a world where Saddam Hussein was the shadowy figure behind al Qaeda and 9/11, where somewhere in the crannies of Tikrit there sits a yet-undiscovered stash of weapons of mass destruction, and where most of the world cheers our efforts in Iraq. Blue America believes the opposite on all counts.

When it comes to what people believe about their candidates, majorities of the President's supporters misperceive his foreign policy positions, while majorities of Kerry's supporters perceive his positions accurately, weeks before an election where foreign policy is supposedly the biggest issue on the table.

But the survey respondents who give me the most hope for democracy are the 18-Percenters. Eighteen percent of Bush supporters still believe Iraq had WMD or a major WMD program even though they know that the Duelfer report concluded otherwise.

Hans Blix. David Kay. The Senate Intelligence Committee. Charles Duelfer. Either invisible to faith-based America, or simply wrong.

So this is what it comes down to. We march to the polls a week from today armed with completely different truths, answering completely different realities. How are we supposed to build a democracy together? And what could possibly be done about this divide?

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Posted October 27, 2004 at 2:17 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 25, 2004

Steve O.'s thoughts: The article is available online: <a href="http://www.greenbelt.org/downloads/resources/ne... >>

Urb-topia

I'll join the chorus of handwringing on the Internet for the lack of an online version of David Owen's article in last week's New Yorker. I could write about it, but Tim's already done that quite well enough for the both of us. So I'll go the crowd one better, and reproduce a few paragraphs for your pleasure and edification:

Most Americans, including most New Yorkers, think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, a wasteland of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams, but in comparison with the rest of America it's a model of environmental responsibility. By the most significant measures, New York is the greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest cities in the world. The most devastating damage humans have done to the environment has arisen from the heedless burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric. The average Manhattanite consumes gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn't matched since the mid-nineteen-twenties, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. Eighty-two per cent of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot. That's ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight times the rate for residents of Los Angeles County. New York City is more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energy use.

"Anyplace that has such tall buildings and heavy traffic is obviously an environmental disaster — ecxept that it isn't," John Holtzclaw, a transportation consultant for the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. "If New Yorkers lived at the typical American sprawl density of three households per residential acre, they would require many times as much land. They'd be driving cars, and they'd have huge lawns and be using pesticides and fertilizers on them, and then they'd be overwatering their lawns, so that runoff would go into streams." The key to New York's relative environmental benignity is its extreme compactness. Manhattan's population density is more than eight hundred times that of the nation as a whole. Placing one and a half million people on a twenty-three-square-mile island sharply reduces their opportunities to be wasteful, and forces the majority to live in some of the most inherently energy-efficient residential structures in the world: apartment buildings. It also frees huge tracts of land for the rest of America to sprawl into.

Sure, New York can be a dingy, cramped-up little asthmatic space, but honestly, could a Renaissance ever happen in San Antonio? Why don't we respect our cities more?

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Posted October 25, 2004 at 9:15 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Society/Culture

October 23, 2004

Gavin's thoughts: Yeah, I'm all about this pick a name thing. "Luscious N. Delicious" is already taken, and I reall... >>

Making the Big Move

From Slate's "Today's Papers" this morning:

The Washington Post leads with the lack of any hard evidence that, as previously feared, terrorists are plotting an attack around Election Day. The New York Times leads with Ohio GOP officials dispatching 3,600 recruits to polling places--many in "heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods"--to challenge voters they suspect to be ineligible. Somewhat peculiarly, the Los Angeles Times leads with the Mongolia government's initiative to give surnames to its citizens, who have long used only their first names.

Yo, I think you mean "somewhat awesomely"! Check this ouuut!

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — School principal Baast chose the name "Nomad" in keeping with his wandering spirit. Defense Minister Gurragchaa — the only Mongolian to venture into space — settled on "Cosmos." And anthropology student Vanchigdash picked the Mongolian word for wisdom. "It makes me feel rather wise," he said. "I'm very proud of my new name."

How can you not love that?

If I was a Mongolian, I'd choose "Prime" for my last name.

P.S. My traditional Mongolian first name would be "Optimus."

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Posted October 23, 2004 at 12:59 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Society/Culture
Tim's thoughts: One of my favorite W.E.B. DuBois quotes is from his short essay "Criteria of Negro Art." Lamentin... >>

More "Switch" Ads... Except This Time It's Slightly More Important That You Do, In Fact, Switch

Errol Morris, he of the Apple "Switch" ads and "Fog of War" and lots more, has a bunch of fairly cool ads up on his site.

Everybody in the ads voted for Bush in 2000 but is voting for Kerry this time around. Included: some Marines, normal dudes, and cuties. Okay, there's only one cutie.

I really like what's going on with these ads: Errol Morris is trying to connect with lots of different kinds of people using voices that they recognize.

We're pluralistic and diverse, yeah -- but we also really like people who are like us.

I mean, that's why I'm such a sucker for arguments in policy mags and on certain blogs: I go, Heyyy, these guys are nerdy like me... they dig the economics... okay, this sounds good. Sometimes I like to think it's because, you know, they're the best, strongest arguments -- but nah. They're just in many ways the most comfortable*.

*Actually I do think they're the best and strongest. But that's only because I am perfectly and uniquely discerning.

Politics is probably more social than analytical -- but that doesn't mean analytical arguments can't be part of the process. You've just got to find the right social vector to deliver them!

Anyway, apparently no one is running the ads. Oh well.

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Posted October 23, 2004 at 2:07 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

So... Yeah, Sudan

One of the anonymous authors of the blog Darfur, Sudan, Africa: The Passion of the Present is deeply pessimistic:

The New York Times has yet another excellent article on the genocide--but what difference does it make? We are participating in the world's first post-modern genocide--where the whole world watches, argues over details of coverage, and takes no action. This has been going on for 18 months in Darfur, and a decade or more in southern Sudan.

If you haven't seen this blog before, now's the time to tune in. It's sort've freakishly good and deep and complete. A bummer that it's penned anonymously, but oh well. Check it out.

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Posted October 23, 2004 at 1:25 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Snarkpolicy

October 20, 2004

Gavin's thoughts: Did you see any of the game? It was fantastic, and made a lie of instant replay in football, or a... >>

Speaking of Mythic Grandeur

I'm not even that much of a baseball fan, but if you're not into this you have no soul: Down three games to zip in the American League championship, the Red Sox rallied back against the Yankees, and now the series is tied.

The final game is tonight.

This would be amazing no matter which teams it involved. But Red Sox vs. Yankees is extra-epic because of the Curse of the Bambino.

Also, Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was bleeding at the ankle as he pitched Game 6.

Everybody knows blood gives you +10 mythic points.

So come, join the West as we marvel to Game 7 at 8 p.m. EST. Bask in the drama over at Diary of a Red Sox Fan. This is straight-up elves vs. orcs.

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Posted October 20, 2004 at 4:52 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Society/Culture

October 19, 2004

Peter's thoughts: I heard on some wretched talk radio show (no, keep reading, really!) that more books are translat... >>

Wanting War

The Chicago Tribune editorial board, a smart group for sure, endorsed George W. Bush for president.

Near the beginning, there's a quote from John McCain:

So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny. [...]

And that pretty much sets the tone. This is how they wrap it up:

This country's paramount issue, though, remains the threat to its national security.

[...]

For three years, Bush has kept Americans, and their government, focused--effectively--on this nation's security. The experience, dating from Sept. 11, 2001, has readied him for the next four years, a period that could prove as pivotal in this nation's history as were the four years of World War II.

That demonstrated ability, and that crucible of experience, argue for the re-election of President George W. Bush. He has the steadfastness, and the strength, to execute the one mission no American generation has ever failed.

Okay, this is not an unfamiliar sentiment. It's Bush's whole call to arms, right? I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not th--oh wait, no, that's Aragorn.

Yeah, see, that's the problem: This is earth, not Middle Earth.

Can the Tribune be serious? "[A]s pivotal in this nation's history as were the four years of World War II"?

Here's the thing: They want to believe that. I think a lot of people do. It's something that Chris Hedges argues very convincingly in his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, which is about--well, yeah. (P.S. I interviewed Hedges for Poynter.org.)

He says: The notion of a martial struggles ennobles us. It suffuses us with grim righteousness. It's mythic and meaningful.

But in this case, it's also total bullshit!

Why isn't dealing with the Sauron of Social Security ever our rendezvous with destiny? Why can't the struggle against global poverty be the test of our generation?

Oh, right, because those challenges don't involve killing orcs terrorists. Seriously! We're nuts like that!

Now I'm sure Robert Kaplan would tell me, "Hush, squeamish child of privilege. Go back to your video games and allow Achilles to do his bloody work." And I accept the point that violence is a tool we have to use.

But to assert that that it is the primary work of our nation now--that all other challenges pale before some all-consuming war--is, I think, wishful and wrong and a little bit sick.

And I'm surprised that a group as able as the Tribune editorial board is playing along with the terror-obsessed Tolkiens who tell that tale.

... Read more ....
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Posted October 19, 2004 at 5:39 | Comments (10) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 18, 2004

Robin's thoughts: Nerdbot!... >>

He's Like the Gannett of Blogs

Jaysus, what has Nick Denton been up to? I mean, we all knew about Gawker and Wonkette and Fleshbot and Gizmodo (and we maintained a dim awareness of Defamer, although clearly not a bookmark), but apparently someone fed the Denton media empire after midnight and dropped it in the swimming pool (*), because his blogs have been spawning while no one was paying attention.

Screenhead? Jalopnik? Kotaku?

I predict that Denton's reputation as the savvy, overmarketed blog-trepreneur soon turns a corner and his little Web empire collapses, ooooor possibly you'll find me outside the Gawker Building in Times Square begging for a correspondent's gig. Only time will tell.

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Posted October 18, 2004 at 11:05 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Media Galaxy
Natalie's thoughts: I actually thought the cult thing was kinda interesting. As if scary religious cults weren't bad ... >>

While We're Talking About Cults ...

That November evening marked the beginning of what would become one of the most sensational child abuse cases the Bay Area has seen. In the investigation that followed, it was revealed that the four women -- Carol Bremner, then 43; Deirdre Wilson, 37; Mary Campbell, 37; and Kali Polk-Matthews, 19 -- were part of a mom-and-pop cult led by a dreadlocked, self-styled mystic named Winnfred Wright. Together, the women had borne him 13 children, who, investigators found, had been living in almost total seclusion in the family's rented house in Marinwood, north of San Francisco. The children didn't go to school, or to the doctor or dentist; they ate a strict, nearly vegan diet. Many of them were suffering from rickets, a disease caused by a vitamin D deficiency. A few of the children were in advanced stages of the illness and had noticeable bone deformities. ...

Far from being monsters, Wright's wives were actually smart, gutsy, warmhearted people. Bremner and Wilson had been popular student leaders at the center of their respective college-activist communities. They had been, those who knew them said over and over again, critical thinkers and independent women, the last people you'd imagine getting suckered into a cult. Campbell had been a vivacious Manhattan secretary; her family had always believed she would become a teacher because of her love for children. There was no sign she could become the kind of mother who'd let her baby die of malnutrition.

These people certainly weren't part of the reality-based community.

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Posted October 18, 2004 at 8:09 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Society/Culture

October 17, 2004

Mr. Snitch's thoughts: Here in Hoboken, we have an <a href="http://mistersnitch.blogspot.com/2005/01/just-say-no-to-real... >>

The Reality-Based Community

From Ron Suskind's NYT Mag piece:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

So who do you think the senior advisor to Bush was?

Robin-sig.gif
Posted October 17, 2004 at 5:29 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 15, 2004

Lily Sloan's thoughts: that was awesome.............beyond the contraints of awesomeness. awesome times ten. awesome G-f... >>

Speaking Truth to Pundits

Via Romenesko on my beloved Poynter.org, we have this exchange from today's "Crossfire" on CNN. Jon Stewart and Tucker Carlson:

STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey. ...

STEWART: I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It's so -- oh, it's so painful to watch. ...

CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

Seriously, go read this. It's amazing. You never see anybody actually get challenged in a real way on CNN. (Isn't that weird?) But here's an exception.

It goes on and on. Carlson and Begala try to duck him -- try to drag the show back into the realm of empty media fluffery -- but Stewart won't let them:

STEWART: Yes, it's someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I just can't.

CARLSON: What's it like to have dinner with you? It must be excruciating. Do you like lecture people like this or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities?

STEWART: If I think they are.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I wouldn't want to eat with you, man. That's horrible.

STEWART: I know. And you won't. But the thing I want to get to...

BEGALA: We did promise naked pictures of the Supreme Court justices.

CARLSON: Yes, we did. Let's get to those.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They're in this book, which is a very funny book.

STEWART: Why can't we just talk -- please, I beg of you guys, please.

CARLSON: I think you watch too much CROSSFIRE. We're going to take a quick break.

STEWART: No, no, no, please.

CARLSON: No, no, hold on. We've got commercials.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: Please. Please stop.

CARLSON: Next, Jon Stewart in the "Rapid Fire."

STEWART: Please stop.

CARLSON: Hopefully, he'll be here, we hope, we think.

Robin-sig.gif
Posted October 15, 2004 at 7:44 | Comments (8) | Permasnark
File under: Journalism
Matt's thoughts: Sorry to abandon you, Jeremy. Robin and I were both in Oregon, entertaining some high school kidd... >>

Debate Liveblogging, Round Fo--oh Wait.

I caught the tail end of the debates last night on an airport TV screen, trying to discern the political orientations of those around me from their facial expressions. Everyone just looked mad.

From what I could tell, the big gaffe out of the debate was forecasted to be Bush's "I never said I wasn't worried about Osama" line, which pundits predicted would drench the airwaves tomorrow, juxtaposed with some video of that one time he said he wasn't worried about Osama.

Wrong. The Fran-Drescher-esque drones of CNN Headline News today focused their incessant banter on a different "story" out of yesterday's debate -- Kerry had the utter gall to identify Dick Cheney's daughter as a lesbian.

It's not that Kerry just blurted this out of the blue; he'd been asked whether he thought homosexuality was a choice. This was his response:

We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.

It's not that Mary Cheney isn't out and proud.

It's not that Kerry's answer contained even a tinge of disrespect for Mary Cheney.

It's that a savvy Bush campaign adviser realized that the Osama thing was going to be all over the news today and selected his own brilliant little dodge. The entire Cheney family (except for Mary) was out in full force today, shocked, SHOCKED!! that Kerry could have mentioned their daughter to "score political points."

Lynn Cheney:

I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more. And the only thing I could conclude is this is not a good man. This is not a good man. And, of course, I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.

Father Cheney:

You saw a man who will say and do anything in order to get elected. And I am not speaking just as a father here, though I am a pretty angry father. But I'm also speaking as a citizen.

Even other-daughter Liz was trotted out on Paula Zahn to share her family's suffering, poor wounded lamb.

Feel free to look at Kerry's statement one more time.

The media bought this???! News directors/editors everywhere actually swallowed the notion that a campaign run by Karl "No Smear's Too Queer" Rove was outraged that an opposing candidate had affirmingly mentioned the sexuality of a profoundly public lesbian?? We've lost our marbles.

The only logical way to interpret Kerry's statement as any sort of a swipe at Mary Cheney is to grant that homosexuality is tainted. Andrew Sullivan can take it from there.

Color me disgusted. Not at the Bush/Cheney campaign -- all's fair in love and politics -- but at the journalists who swallowed, digested, and shat this sham into our diet of news.

mthompson-sig.gif
Posted October 15, 2004 at 12:57 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 12, 2004

Behold the Wonders!

Matt says,

Segway 2.0 is here. I predict new sub-genera of homo sapiens will develop merely to perfect its use. Entire new languages will sprout only to describe it. For one shining moment, all the fighting and the violence in the world will stop so all humankind can admire its life-giving gleam. And it will put an end to cancer and world hunger. Let me be the first to say, this thing is going to be bigger than God.

A little "Ginger" nostalgia.

Comments (3) | Permasnark | Posted: 5:54 PM

October 11, 2004

Bush +0.1%

Robin says,

It really is a razor-thin margin, says Professor Sam Wang of Princeton on his excellent Electoral College Meta Analysis page. It's less flashy and more mathy than other sites, but I really like it.

Found via a cool article on Slate: Why your ballot isn't as meaningless as you think.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 9:07 PM

'Shot At, Kidnapped, Blindfolded, Held At Knifepoint, Held At Gunpoint, Detained, Threatened, Beaten And Chased'

Robin says,

NYT's Dexter Filkins on reporting in Iraq. These personal narratives (like Farnaz Fassihi's e-mail to friends) are, to me, so much more instructive and illuminating than day-to-day news dispatches.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 1:26 PM

Primer

Robin says,

No idea what this movie is about, but I'm totally intrigued.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 2:43 AM

October 10, 2004

The Ambassador President

Here, for your convenience, is the most interesting part of Matt Bai's epic Kerry foreign policy piece in the NYT Mag:

If forced democracy is ultimately Bush's panacea for the ills that haunt the world, as Kerry suggests it is, then Kerry's is diplomacy. Kerry mentions the importance of cooperating with the world community so often that some of his strongest supporters wish he would ease up a bit. (''When people hear multilateral, they think multi-mush,'' Biden despaired.) But multilateralism is not an abstraction to Kerry, whose father served as a career diplomat during the years after World War II. The only time I saw Kerry truly animated during two hours of conversation was when he talked about the ability of a president to build relationships with other leaders.

Okay, it's not so interesting yet, but it gets better, I think, after the break...

... Read more ....
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Posted October 10, 2004 at 11:42 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 9, 2004

The Matrix! Vision! Reality! FERRETS!

Recently, a University of Rochester scientist sat a bunch of ferrets down in front of a TV and had them watch "The Matrix."

That could be the whole post right there, but I got more!

It's really interesting: He discovered that their visual cortexes worked like crazy even in the total absence of visual stimulus. (He observed this as the ferrets were watching Keanu Reeves emote. Wait, no, they were in a dark room.)

Here's the implication:

"This means that in adults, there is a tremendous amount of real-world processing going on--80 percent--when there is nothing to process," says Weliky. "We think that if you've got your eyes closed, your visual processing is pretty much at zero, and that when you open them, you're running at 100 percent. This suggests that with your eyes closed, your visual processing is already running at 80 percent, and that opening your eyes only adds the last 20 percent. The big question here is what is the brain doing when it's idling, because it's obviously doing something important."

Now, it's well-established that what we see is not just raw visual stimulus. When my eyes register a blob of brown light, my brain quickly recognizes that blob as a ferret, based on previous experience*. The two inputs merge in my field of vision.

*And believe me... I've got an eye for ferrets.

That's why optical illusions work: They screw with the relationship between image and idea, putting our eyes at odds with our brains.

But I don't think anyone suspected that the "idea" part of vision might account for eighty percent of what we see.

But then, I also don't think anyone suspected that small woodland creatures would identify so strongly with Neo's quest to discover the true nature of reality.

Robin-sig.gif
Posted October 9, 2004 at 9:35 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Braiiins

October 8, 2004

Matt's thoughts: He said it early in the debate. It was just a throw-away sound byte, no actual references involve... >>

Presidential Debate II: Poland's Revenge

Debate liveblogging in 40.

Looking back on the morass of inscrutable half-observations that was my VP debate post, I am going to tighten it up this time.

I think you should comment in real-time, too. Yes, you. It'll be like a little e-party.

Update: E-party in the comments!

In retrospect: Yeah, well, that was an interesting experiment... it's cool to see 49 comments over on the right, anyway. This must be how Kevin Drum feels.

Robin-sig.gif
Posted October 8, 2004 at 8:24 | Comments (53) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004
Tim's thoughts: You have to remember that new urbanism isn't about creating genuine, established metropoles like ... >>

Parking Lot Primer

Via Matthew Yglesias: a simple illustration of urban vs. suck-urban design.

I mean, sub-urban design.

I'm particularly struck by this image because I've been driving in San Francisco this evening, and am amazed by the life on (some of) the streets.

Of course, in S.F. there are no parking lots anywhere, so never mind.

Good comments on both blogs.

Robin-sig.gif
Posted October 8, 2004 at 3:19 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Snarkpolicy

Nuance

I had to read this post about the science of global warming over at Chris Mooney's blog a few times before I got it. But I guess that's to be expected when you're dealing with such an incredibly complicated and delicate system.

Er, I'm talking about scientific publishing, not global warming.

Anyway, check it out: Maybe the earth's natural temperature fluctuations are wilder than we think, says well-respected scientist. Analysis TK.

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Posted October 8, 2004 at 3:09 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Technosnark

October 6, 2004

Matt's thoughts: That was something else. Unless you caught Dialpad after the End of Free, when I don't know what ... >>

1-800-THIS-RULES

Maybe you've heard the hype about that free Internet phone app called Skype? Well, check it: It actually does rule that much. Totally clear, zero lag, better than a cell phone. (Especially when your apartment is apparently lined with lead.) And free, free, freeee.

The EST/PST time difference has stymied my calling for weeks, 'cause by the time my cell-phone minutes are free, it's midnight in the far-off east. No longer!

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Posted October 6, 2004 at 9:16 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Technosnark

October 5, 2004

iamkevin.'s thoughts: wait.. it's 9:45 in california? it's only 6:45 where robin is, and up here in seattle. :)</... >>

I Wish This Debate Was Held in Miami Instead of the Last One So I Could Call This Post "Miami Vice"

All right. We're here, we're queer, we're ready to blog. Aaaand, we're already on the first question, so I'm just going to cut to it.

9:04 p.m.: Clearly, Dick Cheney is just going to bring it. In his first answer, already he's restating that Saddam and Al Qaeda were connected. Which fact, I believe, was thrown into doubt last week by the CIA. And, er, Donald Rumsfeld.

9:06 p.m.: Johnny's clearly going to bring it right back. We've lost more troops in September than we have in August, he says, More in August than in July, more in July than in June.

9:11 p.m.: Second Cheney answer, second doubtful assertion ... The situation in Iraq is one where you've got terrorists and you've got all the weapons of mass destruction that [Saddam] had been building up, and you're in danger of the two coming together. There're those pesky WMD that don't appear to exist. I think there were about 420-some pages on this in the New York Times this past Sunday, in fact.

9:15 p.m.: Cheney's strategy, at this point, is clear. Screw the facts. Harsh? Absolutely. But come on. Third answer -- third severely questionable assertion. Ten million registered voters in Afghanistan, almost half of them women. Oooor:

The tally of registered voters in Afghanistan, over 10.5 million in an overall population of 26 million, is now believed to be significantly inaccurate, the result of widespread multiple registration by voters. As explained here, pronouncements by Afghan and international officials boasting that 40 percent of registered voters are women ignores the likelihood that tens of thousands of women have been registered more than once (some believing their voting card would entitle them to benefits or food rations), and masks regional variation in the figures, including data from some southern provinces showing that less than 10 percent of those registered are women. Several election officials in Kabul acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.

That study came out like last week. It's not like D.C. hasn't seen it.

faceoff.jpg9:20 p.m.: Ya-ZOW! Cheney to Edwards: ... random piece of legislation, yadda yadda ... you probably weren't there to vote for that, Senator. Da-HANG!

9:29 p.m. Johnny is a pitbull. This is the height of hypocrisy. ZING! I love it! These guys are, like, verbally all over each other. I would tell them to get a room, but them getting it on would actually be kind of gross, and Dickie might have a coronary.

9:34 p.m.: Gwen Ifill? LOVE her.

9:39 p.m.: D.C.: I could respond, Gwen, but I'll need more than 30 seconds. *smug grin* Gwen: Well, that's all you've got. (Beeyotch.) This woman is fierce. Whatever the pundits say, they're wrong. Gwen Ifill won this debate.

9:44 p.m.: Sooo, it may seem somewhat discordant that Robin's blogging in Pacific Standard Time and I'm blogging in Eastern Standard Time. And, also, odd, given that I'm currently in California, where it is in fact 9:45 p.m 6:45 p.m.. (Ahem.) But -- I dunno -- it seems wrong that an event that is clearly transpiring in prime time is somehow happening at 6 p.m.

9:50 p.m.: I don't even see Johnny rifling through papers. How does he remember all these FACTS?? Don't get me wrong, Cheney also has an impressive grasp of boatloads of info, but Edwards is like frickin' Tron.

10:01 p.m.: Gay marriage, blah, blah, blah. Oh wait, hold on, was that a tender moment between Messrs. Eddie and Chen-Chen? Dickie's all, Thanks, Johnny. That was really sweet, you know, what you said about Mary. *batting of eyelashes, exchange of long, loving glance*

Don't be afraid to speak your love, guys. We all know Don't write discrimination into the Constitution is just pol-speak for J.E. + D.C. 4evr.

10:10 p.m.: Oooh, yeah, speak health care to me, Johnny. Fifty years old, Matt. FIFTY. YEARS. OLD.

10:14 p.m.: Gwen to Johnny: You have no experience. Why are you here? Johnny: Ummm ... look into my eeeeyes. Am I not beautiful? Is my jawline not perfect? Does the 1950s part in my shiny, gorgeous hair not convince you of my earnestness? Don't question me, Argwentina.

Good answer.

10:19 p.m.: Cheney: Wait, Gwen, you want to know why I'm different from John Edwards? Whoa, I'm totally not. I'm, like, the son of a mill worker. And I'm prettier than he is.

10:21 p.m.: Edwards: How am I not like Cheney? Well, let's see, I'm actually John Kerry. What??

10:26 p.m.: Kevin Drum think Johnny sounded too negative in the foreign policy part of this debate. I'd disagree, and not just because he's hott. Not hot. Totally un-hot. Old enough to be my father. OK, well, maybe partially because he's hott. Really, harsh criticism coming from him sounds completely un-harsh.

10:36 p.m.: Oh, snap. John Edwards started his final statement by thanking Gwen and Cheney. Cheney, somewhat pointedly, I thought, started his statement with, Gwen, I want to thank you. *Thudding silence.* No nookie for Johnny-boy tonight.

Pre-spin closing thoughts: I actually thought this debate was really interesting in the foreign policy segment, then faltered off as domestic policy took over. Not only were the two men quite snarky to each other at first, but they were engaging in a substantial back-and-forth on the merits of the policy and the strengths and weaknesses of its execution. Facts (and, yes, largely unfounded assertions) were flying left and right, and it was meaty and absorbing, I thought.

It wasn't that either of them started doing worse as the debate wore on, it just kind of ground down into predictable ruts when it got to domestic policy. (Cheney: Look at all the great stuff we've done. Edwards: Look at all the great stuff we'll do.) That's partially because the domestic situation is just murky right now -- could be better, could be worse. A lot of scathing criticisms could be made of the situation on the homefront these past four years, but there's nothing there quite as shimmeringly catastrophic as Iraq.

All Edwards had to do was sit there and be charismatic. And he did, but he was sharp about his facts and his logic, too, so he definitely did well. Cheney, sadly lacking the charisma chromosome, did the best he could against such an opponent. I don't think either won or lost this one, but Edwards may have continued the momentum Kerry earned last week, while Cheney didn't quite reverse the falling fortunes of his set, I'd imagine.*

Now, onto the real fight. Will Laguna Beach's L.C. wrest Stephen from the wily arms of her competitor Kristin? We'll find out at 10:30 p.m. / 9 p.m. Central.

*Although I still think his set is going to win.

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Posted October 5, 2004 at 9:27 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004
nora's thoughts: John Edwards is A Hottie! My new favorite shirt: <a href="http://www.cafepress.com/kerryh... >>

The Growl vs. the Grin

I think Matt is probably too busy writing "I ♥ Veronica Mars" in puffy-paint on a sky-blue t-shirt to blog the veep candidate debate, so here I go!

6:01 p.m. PST: The CNN commentators all kinda secretly hope that either Cheney or Edwards will go crazy on air.

6:10 p.m.: Rats, I'm losing interest already.

6:21 p.m.: Cheney just tagged Edwards: you can't substitute rhetoric for real conviction, he says. I'm getting the sense that the VP would have done a lot better against Kerry than Bush did.

6:28 p.m.: Nice election reality-check from Edwards: "You need more than 35 people to have an election in Cleveland," he says. (Apparently that's how many U.N. election supervisors are in Iraq today.)

6:30 p.m.: I think if Cheney could just get away with just rumbling "I have gravitas gravitas gravitas..." he would. He's really not making arguments, just projecting authority.

6:33 p.m.: Dude, the DEATH STAR just appeared above my post! P.S. We're not all queer.

6:38 p.m.: Just posted on the WaPo transcript:

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.

And yet, um, somehow that doesn't make me feel any better. At all. Perhaps because it's logically equivalent to: "Yo, but check it, Iraqis are getting mowed down, too." Gyeahhh.

6:40 p.m.: That whole thing where John Edwards reels off all of Halliburton's wrongdoings? Wickedly effective. Cheney says (and I paraphrase wildly, of course) "Lies, lies, all lies! Go to factcheck.com!" I think he means factcheck.org, but it's not responding. Swamped instantly by Cheney's referral? Is that even possible?

6:42 p.m.: Of course you can tell us a personal story, John.

6:45 p.m.: Cheney (wild paraphase): "I hang out in the Senate all the time. The first time I met you was when I walked on the stage tonight." It was delivered really well -- with a kind of disappointment and regret. Like he once had high hopes for Edwards, but alas. Cheney does that well.

6:46 p.m.: Yeah, remember that thing where Edwards reels off lists of things embarrassing to Cheney? Did I mention it's wickedly effective?

6:48 p.m.: Cheney on poverty (w.p.): "We need jobs. And to get jobs, we need to make America the best place in the world to do business. And to do that, we need tort reform." Wait, what?

6:49 p.m.: Ooh, they're debating in the city with the highest poverty rate in the country. Zow. Edwards is slammin' with the economic argument. W.p.: "Incomes are down, prices are up, and we're in Iraq! Dang!"

6:55 p.m.: Cheney making an argument that a lot of people -- almost a million -- in the top personal income tax bracket are small business owners who run their businesses as sole proprietorships. Thus, a tax increase would hurt their businesses. Not sure if that's true, but if it is, it may underscore something I've long suspected: Responsible fiscal policy should be more nuanced than "tax the hell out of rich people."

6:56 p.m.: Nice counter-punch from Edwards: Kerry may have voted for tax increases 90-something times, he says, but he voted for tax cuts 600 times. That's called context, folks.

7:00 p.m.: I'm with Matt. Edwards knows everything. He's also purty.

7:02 p.m.: Whoah, that was weird. Cheney (w.p.): "Yeahhh I don't really wanna talk about gay marriage. Next."

7:05 p.m.: Not sure I'm down with Edwards' rhetoric here (w.p.): "We'll reform malpractice law, sure, but... what about little Valerie, who was horrifically injured by a faulty swimming pool? I'm with Valerie, not with the insurance companies." Yeah yeah yeah. But let's talk policy, Jo-Ed.

7:11 p.m.: This is really a classic debate: tame, elliptical, boring. I'm appreciating Kerry vs. Bush a lot more in retrospect. And mostly just 'cause Bush was so weird.

7:14 p.m.: I also ♥ Gwen Ifill. First the veep-cans finish up their AIDS answers and she's like, "Uh-huh. Thanks for nothing, dudes." (She said it with her eyes.) Now a tough question to Edwards (w.p.): "Are you even qualified to be Vice President?"

7:17 p.m.: Have you noticed that J.E. keeps talking up Kerry, but D.C. has barely mentioned Bush? Seriously! It's weird!

7:19 p.m.: Cheney: "I don't talk about myself very much." That scores points with a lot of people, you know. It might even score a few points with me.

7:21 p.m.: See?? Edwards just said "John Kerry" even though it was against the rules!! (Gwen asked them each to make a case for themselves without using their running mate's name.) And he just did it again! ON PURPOSE! Dude is on-message: Kerry, Kerry, Kerry.

7:27 p.m.: Wait, are half of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans actually dropping out of high school? Sheez.

7:28 p.m.: Debates are so funny. Two incredibly powerful people, but in this context they're like: "Ooh wait, is it my turn? Are you sure? What? Wait... yeah, okay... no, it's not my turn? I'll shut up. Sorry."

7:29 p.m.: Headline out of the debate: "Cheney vows to 'work it.'"

7:31 p.m.: To the very last minute, Edwards is campaigning. Contrast to Cheney, who hasn't seemed particularly interested in this debate at all.

7:33 p.m.: Closing statement. Edwards is painting a picture... a picture of America... with words... I see it... I see the mill! Seriously, I know this is just politico-populo-hypnotism, but I'm still lovin' it. "I have grown up in the bright light of America, and that light is flickering today. I see it."

7:36 p.m.: Cheney is talking terrorism. That's what it's all about for him. Not terrible. But not a word-picture, either.

7:39 p.m.: Thanks for being with us tonight, Snarketeers. I'm gonna change the channel now before CNN sucks my brain out.

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Posted October 5, 2004 at 9:07 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

Debate Dilemmas

Tomorrow's Democracy Deathmatch pits Johnny "Dreamboat" Edwards against Dick "STFU" Cheney. This is the fight we've all been waiting for -- if "we all" means me, Xtina (thanks, Tim!), and New York Times election correspondent Todd Purdum.

A week ago, I couldn't believe the fateful matchup was almost upon us, and I couldn't wait to see it. Edwards vs. Cheney! It's like matter vs. antimatter! Fire vs. ice! Will Smith vs. Tommy Lee Jones! It's the bout of the century.

But then, a week ago, I hadn't seen "Laguna Beach."

Yeah. You heard me. The real O.C.

When I read this fawning NYT review of the show, I was morbidly curious. By the first commercial break at 10:38, I'd already changed my desktop wallpaper and bidded on a leather I Heart Talan iPod case on eBay.

And it wasn't just Laguna Beach last Tuesday, either. Starting at 7 p.m., 9 p.m. Eastern Time, I was fastened to my couch as MTV treated me to the pilot of the glorious Gilmore-Girls-meets-CSI splendor of UPN's "Veronica Mars." By 8 p.m., I was already MTV's love-monkey, during the back-to-back eppies of "The Real World: Philadelphia," featuring TRW's first ever gay black hottie castmate. Double the drama in half the time. Then, at 9, it was over to UPN to catch the next episode of Ronnie Mars, which finished just in time to watch the new Real World, and the Laguna Beach pilot.

The point is, teenstervision's getting good. Bunim-Murray Productions has assembled a legitimately interesting cast for this year's Real World. The trashy teen dramas are getting better scripted every season -- unless they're not scripted, in which case they're better yet. Mark my words, we're truly coming upon a golden age of bad television.

Whatever. Laugh now. Turn on "Veronica Mars" tomorrow night and give it two commercial breaks. You'll come crawling back here, looking for links to the Television Without Pity discussion forums. And I'll be waiting.

As for the debate, it starts at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. If I lived on the East Coast, there'd be a problem. But as it is, by the time that sassy blonde Veronica Mars utters her first boiling retort, Dick Cheney will be picking little bits of poor Johnny Edwards' neck out of his teeth. And I'll be here, blogging it.

Probably.

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Posted October 5, 2004 at 2:17 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Gleeful Miscellany

October 4, 2004

Foolish Senator...

...you forgot Poland!

... Read more ....
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Posted October 4, 2004 at 8:11 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 2, 2004

Tim's thoughts: Matt must have missed MTV's Christina Aguilera-hosted "Sex, Votes & Higher Power," but I didn't: ... >>

Lord of the Swings

If you've been watching MTV this campaign season, you're by now used to having your shows abruptly stop while the network cuts to the heartfelt pleadings of celebrities and their ilk that you rock the vote this Election Day. I mean, I'm a fan of democracy or whatever, but I'm not trying to have my "Room Raiders" interrupted to hear Malcolm X's daughter tell me about my civic duty.

Actually, that's not my main objection to the MTV vote-mongering. Clearly, someone behind the scenes at MTV desperately wants young people to get out and vote. This has been an MTV hobbyhorse for a few years now, but I don't ever remember them actually cutting away from shows to send the message.

All of this is an oblique byway to my argument. So MTV's doing a lot of serious cheerleading for democracy. But they fail to bring their Generation-Q acolytes any understanding of the issues at play in the election. The celebs make vague references to "issues" that concern young voters, but there's been no substantial programming that says, "Here's what's at stake." I don't want a horde of little Avril wannabes and Kutcher clones going to the polls without any sense in their heads, voting for the first thing that looks their way.

Over and over again, you hear the suggestion: more voters equals better democracy. Ten million people have signed up to vote in Afghanistan! they cry.

Conveniently brushing past evidence like this:

The tally of registered voters in Afghanistan, over 10.5 million in an overall population of 26 million, is now believed to be significantly inaccurate, the result of widespread multiple registration by voters. As explained here, pronouncements by Afghan and international officials boasting that 40 percent of registered voters are women ignores the likelihood that tens of thousands of women have been registered more than once (some believing their voting card would entitle them to benefits or food rations), and masks regional variation in the figures, including data from some southern provinces showing that less than 10 percent of those registered are women. Several election officials in Kabul acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.

Which brings me to the swing voters. (I'm sorry, I'm not even trying to make a proper segue.)

I could understand the concept of an undecided voter in October of 2000. Everything was shiny, people had jobs, the government was flush, and it didn't seem to really matter that much who was presiding over it all. The biggest issue was whether or not we could trust our Fearless Leader not to get nookie in the Oval O. Good times.

But come on now, people. You have a collected 24 years of political history between these two men on which to base your decision. How can anything that happens in the next month possibly affect your vote? November 2nd, as well as being Election Day, will mark the year-and-a-half anniversary of the official end of "major combat operations in Iraq." If Iraq's the issue most important to you, you've got an endlessly simple question to ask yourself: Do I like the way things have gone in Iraq over the last year-and-a-half, or do I think things could have been better-executed? If health care's the most important issue, you've got two vastly different plans to choose from. Taxes? Take your pick between Taxy McTaxalot and Supply Side International. Abortion? Gay marriage? Over the last 4 and 20 years respectively, Bush and Kerry have made their minds clear on all these matters. Over and over and over again. What on God's green earth can you people be waiting for???!

The Daily Show, of course, says this much, much better than I ever could.

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Posted October 2, 2004 at 11:04 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004

October 1, 2004

Last Thoughts on Debate #1

All right, now that I've been saturated in the radioactive glow of post-debate media analysis, a few more thoughts.

First, read the Slate analyses. Dem guys always do a good job. Except Mickey Kaus. No link fa you.

Also, do catch Tim's comment on last night's post, where he makes the point that Kerry actually got much better as the night went on, and Bush got worse. And other points of salty goodness.

Looking over the transcript of last night's tête-à-tête lets me actually speak to the substance of what the two men said. It also confirmed a lot of what I thought the first time I was watching, while the rhetoric was flying by (or, in our President's case, kind of lurching and shuffling by despondently).

Kerry has clearly been coached. Up the wazoo. According to some reports I've heard, the coaches used buzzers. I mean, dang. It came across, both in the fact that he did a great job, and in the fact that there are words he was obviously not allowed to say (see "lie," "Vietnam," below):

KERRY: First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections.

In fact, he first didn't even want to do that. And it wasn't until former Secretary of State Jim Baker and General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said you've got to go to the U.N., that the president finally changed his mind -- his campaign has a word for that -- and went to the United Nations.

He sho' NUFF wasn't allowed to say "flip-flop."

But whatever circumlocutions he and his coaches devised to get around using those words, they worked. He got his message across.

As for Bush, I have to return again to what it seems was the crux of his offensive last night -- No one who criticizes my mistakes is fit to fix them.

There's just no logic in that formulation, no matter how you look at it. I mean, he's saying, in effect, The only one that can get us out of this mess is the one that got us into it. That is insane.

Then this, another criticism of Kerry along the same lines: "I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that's for another debate." In short, we can't pay for homeland security investments because we don't have the money. Who spent all that money? Who tax-cutted it away?

Even after 12 hours, my mind can't begin to wrap itself around this logic. Bush admits, several times, that our strategies aren't working, that we're out of room in the budget (and the deficit). Out of one side of his mouth, he says that we've got a strong coalition of countries helping in Iraq. Out of the other, he says it's impossible to amass a strong coalition of countries, especially if you're sending "mixed messages."

If the foreign policy debate was supposed to be President Bush's strongest, I really, really don't want to see the domestic policy debates. Especially if Senator Kerry's staff has the good sense to reproduce some of the promises of 2000, back when phrases like "budget surplus" were still around, and ones like "nation-building" were strictly out of vogue.

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Posted October 1, 2004 at 11:54 | Comments (0) | Permasnark
File under: Election 2004
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