Monday, October 31, 2005

Hack Watch: Ellen Sauerbrey Action Alert

Ellen Sauerbrey, Bush's nominee to head the Department of State's Population, Refugees and Migration Program, is an unqualified political crony of the same ilk as Bush flunkies Michael Brown and Harriet Miers. Sauerbrey has NO experience with refugee protection or responding to humanitarian emergencies. She is, however a Republican party loyalist, a Bush apologist, and an ideologue who is against science, condoms, birth control, and education, but is in favour of discrimination and violence against women. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee may vote on her nomination as early as Monday this week.

Opposition to Sauerbrey's nomination is already generating media coverage. If people take action to oppose Sauerbrey the way that netroots activists scuttled Indiana's attempt to criminalize pregnancy, we may be able to turn Sauerbrey from a "Brownie" tragedy to a "Miers" success story.

Please make your calls today:
  1. Contact the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Sample phone script here from via Soap Box Chicago)
  2. Write your local media
  3. Write the top 100 US newspapers
  4. Contact your representatives in Congress
  5. Contact the White House
For more information on Sauerbrey, please see the Center for Health and Gender Equity's Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Sauerbrey's Nomination (.pdf document) or the BOP News Ellen Sauerbrey Exposé or our Ellen Sauerbrey Reader, an extensive compilation of information about Sauerbrey.

Hat Tip to Feministing for several of the action items.

Articles by Shaula Evans in the Same Series

Part 1 The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey
Part 2 Hack Watch: The Ellen Sauerbrey Reader
Part 3 Hack Watch: Ellen Sauerbrey Action Alert

This article is also cross-posted at The Blogging of the President.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

PoMo Shirts vs Skins? I win!

grassroots activist
You are a Grassroots Activist. Anti-capitalist,
anti-patrist, anti-authoritarian, whatever,
you're just fuckin' anti. You probably tell
people you hate postmodernism, but that
assertion elides the complex interdependencies
among academic poststructuralism and
street-level activism. You don't bathe
regularly, and know at least one person who has

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Po Mo Theory Slut Terrance.

Friday, October 28, 2005

BOP is LiveBlogging the Plamegate Press Conference

It starts at 2:15 EST.

Come on over and join us at

In the meantime, I'm trying to find a good Richmond, Virginia radio station or else a good streaming media source so I can track it live as well.

Any suggestions?

We Love Primary Documents


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Framing AND Focus Groups

Because we like talking about framing around here, I had to share this one:
Intel may want to rethink their new "Experience Entertainment in Your Lap" ad campaign.
In case any big Democrats are paying attention, let's review:
"America Can Do Better" = Bad

"The Mommy Meme" = Bad

Lap Dancing Ads = Bad

Focus Group Testing = Good

The Shrum Syndrome

Max Blumenthal has a great article entitled "Hitler in Virginia" in the online edition of The Nation about Scott Howell, media consultant to Virginia republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore, and the death penalty attack ads Howell has crafted for the campaign.

The whole article is excellent and worth a read, but this small aside jumped out at me:
"Nothing is accidental in this business," said David Eichenbaum, a media consultant employed by the Kaine campaign, whose firm, Struble/Eichenbaum, worked for Daschle and Cleland during their losses to Howell's clients.
In other words, Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democratic candidate for governor, knew that Kilgore had hired Scott Howell as early as December 1, 2004. And, despite that, he hired the media firm that had lost to Howell in their last two head-to-head contests, where Howell client John Thune beat incumbent Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota, Howell client Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Max Cleland in Georgia. Both campaigns were media bloodbaths. Howell represented the Republican winners. Struble/Eichenbaum represented the Democratic losers. Jerry Kilgore hired Howell. Tim Kaine turned around and hired Struble/Eichenbaum.

What is this? Two strikes and you're in?

It smacks of John Kerry hiring Bob Shrum to manage his presidential race, after Shrum had already lost six Democratic presidential campaigns. And, true to form, Shrum went on to lose the Kerry race.

Why do Democrats reward failure? Why do they encourage mediocrity? Where is the will to win?

Now, I'm not saying that Struble/Eichenbaum is a bad media firm. In 2004 Struble/Eichenbaum helped elect two Democratic governors in strongly Republican states: Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Brian Schweitzer in Montana.

What I am saying is that Scott Howell mopped up the floor, twice, with Struble/Eichman candidates last year. Maybe, just maybe, instead of hiring a media firm with a proven track record of losing to Scott Howell, maybe Tim Kaine should have looked at hiring a firm that could beat Howell, or that Howell didn't already know how to kick in the teeth.

I am no longer suprised at the Kaine campaign's pitiful response to the Kilgore campaign's attack ads this month. Readers who pay close attention to Virginia politics may point out that after Kilgore's attack ads, Kaine actually showed a boost in the polls. That's good news for Kaine, but it doesn't show causation. (If I step on a crack the same time my mother breaks her back, that doesn't show causation either.) The response to Kilgore's smear ads that Struble/Eichman produced was amateur, ineffective, and embarassing--and, based on the way they conducted the Cleland and Dashle campaigns, typical of how they operate. It is dangerous and foolish to attribute Kaine's success to the way that Struble/Eichman have mishandled the ad wars. If anything, they should be held up as a textbook example of how not to respond to Republican attack ads.

Democrats are stuck in a rut where they think they can use the same strategies/tactics/methods/playlist they used to lose the last election, but expect to win the next time. Their thinking defies logic. It makes no sense to me and, frankly, it drives me crazy.

Until Democrats break out of the Shrum Syndrome and start learning from their mistakes, victories will be rare and will occur despite, not because of, political operatives.

Brownie: STILL Doing a Heckuva Job

One of the quieter news stories this week is that FEMA has extended Michael "You're Doing A Heck Of A Job, Brownie" Brown's post-resignation employment by 30 days.

Yes, his post-resignation employment.

In the world outside the DC that most of us inhabit, the word "resignation" is a fancy word for "quitting," and signifies that one is leaving a job. But not so for Brownie--or, for that matter, for other scandal-ridden Bush appointees.

Brown utterly botched FEMA's responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A poster boy for Bush's incompetent crony appointments, he is also infamous for his falsified resume and the total absense of high-level experience we've learned to expect from Bush flunkies. Before heading FEMA, he managed an Arabian horse association.

After the hurricane debacles, Brown was replaced as head of the hurricane relief effort on September 9, and then resigned in scandal on September 12.

After his resignation (sic), Brown was retained by FEMA as a "contractor" to help determine what went wrong in the agency's gross mismanagement of Katrina.

And in the news this week, FEMA extended Brown's employment for another 30 days, at his original FEMA annual salary of $148,000 per year. In other words, Brown's two-part golden handshake is costing American taxpayers over $24,000, and counting.

Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississipi sums up how Brown's top-dollar feed bag adds insult to injury:
Rep. Gene Taylor (news, bio, voting record), D-Miss., whose coastal district was among the hardest hit by Katrina, said the contract extension is an insult to taxpayers, particularly those Gulf Coast residents "whose lives were in danger in the aftermath of that storm because of Mike Brown's incompetence."

"I've got tens of thousands of people living in two-man igloo tents tonight, and less than a quarter of the people who have asked for FEMA travel trailers have gotten them," Taylor said. "And at the same time they can find $140,000 a year to pay this incompetent son of a gun; that's ridiculous."
The real story here, however, is not the utter incompetence of another Bush flunky, the lack of accountability or oversight in the Republican's partisan looting of the government, or the obscene rewards for Brown's tragic failure. The real story is that Brown's "post-resignation employment" is not an isolated incident. When Bush flunkies resign, they don't go away.

I like to call this the Harvey Pitt Syndrome, because Pitt epitomizes BushCo's m.o. for disgraced flunkies. Does anyone even remember Harvey Pitt? He was appointed chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2001, then resigned in scandal in 2002...but lingered on at the SEC, outside of the limelight, until well into 2003. If you don't remember him, don't feel bad: the press forgot about him completely, too.

Unfortunately, American corporate media didn't ever cotton onto the Pitt Syndrome. Once a Bush flunky resigns in disgrace, that's the end of the story in the mainstream news. But, just like a teen slasher flick where the monsters keep getting back up, Republican hacks just keep drawing a public paycheck long after they've "officially" resigned. The Big Media steno pool no longer digs any further for news than Republican press releases, so if you want to find the story of the parasites on the public'll have to do the research yourself.

To Bush and Harry, a Merry Fitzmas

The Bush admin does a masterful job of playing the news cycle. For example, they release bad news on Fridays, the weak point in the news cycle, to ensure their gaffs receive minimum public scrutiny.

So why was the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination announced on a Thursday?

Easy--the Bush team deliberately orchestrated Miers' announcement to coincide with the day the Plamegate indictments were announced, so that the story of the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief who couldn't stay the course and picked a dud for the Supreme Court would be a non-story, buried under the bigger story of the Fitzgerald Investigation revelations. Only, Fitzie psyched them out...and now Bush and Harry are flapping in the wind as The Big News Story of the day.

Just one more reason to celebrate Fitzmas. (And, by the same token, I hope Fitzgerald now manages to delay the indictments until Monday.)

Update Frameshop has more on the timing of White House distractions.

SCOTUS Interruptus


You know your family is high-tech when... dad on the West coast, emails you at 3:41 a.m. on the East coast, and tells you to GET TO BED.

Okay, Dad. I'm going to bed now.

And, I know you're reading this. :)

Recent Keyword Activity

I have long held a deeply-rooted jealousy of the really bizarre keyword search lists that other bloggers post on their blogs. For a good example, take a look at Matt Hudson's recent keyword list on Silverjacket, that includes entries like "regression in the time machine," "smoking embalming fluid", and "absurdity and arbitrariness." How can a humble blogger like me ever aspire to search engine strings like that?

However, after a year and a half of irreverent blogging on random topics, I'm starting to get more interesting search engine referrals. Here is the latest list:
rep. steven hinchey's letter to special prosecutor fitzgerald
marin graney
drafting male body sloper
current events, gubernatorial race, jerry kilgore vs. tim kaine
patricia g. arcuri
list of roman emperors
gendered blog
bunker destruction by russians photos
American Red Cross republican
strip searches
do re mi fa sol la ti do
psychological reinforcements of the penis
criminalizing pregnancy
My conclusions:
1. Some searchers will clearly be disappointed when they land here.
2. The best way to drive traffic to your site is to write about solfege or Roman orgies. Those two articles show up in my site stats almost every day.
By the way, can anyone enlighten me what "drafting male body sloper" is about? (At least, if the answer is PG-13.) Because I honestly don't have a clue what that person was looking for.

Roll Call

I know there have been a number of Bush appointees who "officially" resigned in scandal, but then lingered on drawing paychecks from their agencies.

Off the top of my head, I can think of Michael Brown at FEMA, and Harvey Pitt at the SEC. I know there have been others, but I'm drawing a blank.

Does anyone else remember some names?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why Republicans Shouldn't Pick on Smart Kids

Those aren't tears of laughter in my eyes. It must be the onion juice:
White House Lawyers pick fight with satire magazine The Onion.

The Onion bites back.
My hat goes off to The Onion staff, Jon Stewart, and anyone else who manages to parody the Bush administration. I find that Republicans do such a good job of caricaturizing themselves that I have little humour left to add.

The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey

A new name joined the teeming legions of George Bush's appointments of incompetent Republican political hacks this month when Bush nominated Ellen Sauerbrey to the position of Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). "Fair and balanced" national news coverage has characterized that Democrats object to Bush's crony appointments of Sauerbrey and others (infamously including Harriet Miers) "because they lack high-level experience."

High-level experience? How about any experience at all?

The primary role of the assistant secretary for PRM is to oversee the U.S. refugee assistance and admissions programs and coordinate U.S. international family planning programs. Sauerbrey has NO experience with refugee protection or in responding to humanitarian emergencies.

Let's compare Bush's nominee with Phyllis E. Oakley, President Bill Clinton's appointee to head the State Department's refugee program:
  • Master's Degree from the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy at Tufts;
  • International Affairs Consultant to the National Board of the YWCA;
  • Career member of the Foreign Service Office since 1974;
  • Served with distinction under presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton;
  • State Department's Afghanistan Desk Office from 1982 to 1985;
  • Seconded to the Agency for International Development (AID), working with the Afghanistan Cross-Border Humanitarian Assistance Program in Islamabad, Pakistan, 1989-1991;
  • First woman Deputy Spokesman for the State Department, 1986-1989;
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Analysis, Bureau of Intelligence Research, 1991-1993;
  • Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (then known as the Bureau for Refugee Programs);
  • Received two Departmental Superior Honor Awards, for her performance as Afghanistan Desk Officer and as Deputy Spokesman;
  • Received Intelligence Community's National Intelligence Medal of Achievement.
Contrast the qualifications of Ellen Sauerbrey, Bush's nominee to fill the same shoes:
  • Republican member, Maryland House of Delegates, 1978-1994; also Republican minority leader;
  • Failed Republican candidate for Governor of Maryland, 1994;
  • Failed Republican candidate for Governor of Maryland, 1998;
  • Maryland radio talk-show host on WEAL
  • Maryland for Bush 2000 Campaign Chairperson;
  • Delegate to seven Republican National Conventions.
But it gets better! Sauerbrey is not just a Republican political hack: This Bush crony is also a vocal Bush apologist and an ideological hack!
    In her current role as Bush's U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Sauerbrey is proud to say she is "a conservative, not a feminist".
    She approves of President Bush's withholding of funding to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, charging that the money is "being used for coercive abortions in China," despite numerous findings to the contrary.
    Sauerbrey has also denied that adolescents have any right to exercise autonomous control over their reproductive health and has called abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education the healthiest and most responsible method of HIV prevention suitable for adolescents.
    She has opposed ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a United Nations treaty agreed to by more than 180 countries (excluding the United States).
    She has objected to language in U.N. documents that requires countries to "condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women."
But why take my word for it, when we have primary sources? Go read Sauerbrey's address to right-wing lobby group United Families International, and let her damn herself with her own words.

If you believe the SCOTUS-endorsed election results, in 2000 and 2004 50% of Americans stood up and announced they were tired of educated people, they were sick of competent government agencies, they'd had it up to here with qualified, experienced, intelligent people running the country efficiently.

So now, instead, we get corrupt crony appointments of comically unqualified Republican hacks and party loyalist. And, to run critical refugee and population programs, we get Ellen Sauerbrey, the anti-feminist who is against science, condoms, birth control, and education, but is in favour of discrimination and violence against women. (Note to refugees of the world: point your boats at other shores.)

The kicker? Associated Press reports that Sauerbrey, who is currently facing confirmation hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to win confirmation despite Democrats' objections, with a committee vote as soon as next week.

As we look at the never-ending parade of Bush's incompetent, unqualified appointees (cf Harriet Miers, Michael Brown, Daniel Craig, Patrick Rhodes, Julie Myers, Steward Simonson, J. Dorrance Smith, ad infinitum), the Associated Press report raises three questions: are there any limits to Bush's hubris? How long will Democrats roll over and play dead on these nominations? And, in both cases, how long will the American people put up with it?

Articles by Shaula Evans in the Same Series

Part 1 The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey
Part 2 Hack Watch: The Ellen Sauerbrey Reader
Part 3 Hack Watch: Ellen Sauerbrey Action Alert

This article is also cross-posted at The Blogging of the President.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blog Psychic

It sounds like the safe money is on Harriet Miers withdrawing from her Supreme Court nomination in the coming weeks.

If she does, I think we can look forward to the following headline on the Daily Show:

SCOTUS Interruptus

If any of the readers here are in with Jon Stewart or his writing crew, pass that one one for me, won't you?

Rosa Parks was not a White Republican matter what George Bush tries to tell you today.

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks died in her home yesterday at the age of 92.

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by a white police officer on March 1, 1955 after her arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passengerToday Bush and other prominent Republicans will exploit the occasion of Parks' death to promote their ongoing campaign to hijack, whitewash, and rewrite history; they will co-opt the language of the civil rights movement in order to be seen as racially sensitive by white soccer moms; all the while that they attack and undermine every inch of progress accomplished by Rosa Parks and her generation of civil rights activists. Now that Parks is safely dead, she will be the Republicans' newest oldest best friend--but while she was alive, you can bet that Bush et al showed her no more respect than Bush shows the NAACP. And while the Parksploitation takes place in DC, the conservative hate speech troops and surrogate attack dogs will be busy simultaneously smearing Parks' character and discrediting her role in the civil rights movement, or else using her death as a pretext to schill for their pet causes, such as school vouchers, jingoism, and the corporatization of America.

There will of course also be some Republicans who speak of Rosa Parks with the respect that she deserves, and I applaud them. If any of those Republicans take umbrage at what I've written here, I invite them to look at how other members of their party are behaving today.

Regardless of what the front or hind ends of the Republican propaganda machines spew out today, the documented historical facts remain: Rosa Parks is indeed an icon of the civil rights movement and we are indebted to her contribution to social progress and the fight for equality in America. Please don't stand by in silence as the people who perpetuate the same bigotry, discrimination and injustice that Rosa Parks fought against dishonour her memory.

Further Reading

Detroit Free Press
LA Times
New York Times
Voice of America
Washington Post

This article is cross-posted at The Blogging of the President.

A slightly more in-depth version of this article is cross-posted at BlogsCanada.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Go, Mom, Go

Cool news from the Tsuredzuregusa family: I just talked to my mom, and she is looking at buying a computer. Soon I'll be able to send my mom email!

She said she was talking to the Mac dealership at home this week, and she is interested in getting a Macintosh because they are so user-friendly. She hasn't made up her mind between a Mac and PC, though.

The last time I lived in Kelowna (1994-1999), I was NOT impressed with the tech support available for Macs then. On the other hand, I generally wasn't all that impressed with the tech support for PC's either.

Now, my mom is super smart, but she has never really used computers before (mainly due to the fact that, up until her recently eye surgery, she could hardly *see* computers). I'm less concerned about user-friendliness, and more about finding a computer for her that will be easy to maintain.

I've been wondering if she might be wise to get a computer with a company like Gateway. I haven't dealt with Gateway myself, but I'm under the impression that their technical support is good and that it is easy to upgrade equipment with them.

So, I'm asking for your advice. Any suggestions on how to set my mom up with a computer package that will be painless for her? I don't know if she would agree with me (tonight was the first conversation of many on the topic), but right now my priorities would be:

#1 Quality Support
#2 Easy upgrade
#3 Ease of Use

with price coming in a distant fourth.

I really do appreciate your thoughts and advice on this.

Glorious History of Union Busting

I am reading the Jaques Levy biography of Cesar Chavez right now. I've been meaning to read up about Chavez for some time because of he was such a tremendous, progressive field organizer, and because I know so little about the history of organized labour in America. I'll have more to write about Chavez as I digest the book.

Off the bat, though, I have a question I'm hoping a reader here might be able to answer. I'm reading right now about how, when the Associated Farmers was formed in the 1930's to break up union organizing, major financers included Bank of America and Safeway.

I wanted to know, have Safeway and Bank of America ever apologized for this? Have they ever acknoledged the role they played in union busting and exploiting farm workers?

If readers can shed any light, I'm really curious.

Two quick questions

We have no tv, so to see Jon Stewart, we watch The Daily Show videos online via the Comedy Channel website. The drill isn't all that different from getting access to Salon: you click on the video, you watch a cheesey little ad, and then you get to see the Daily Show clip. One of the ads in high rotation on the site is a recruiting Ad for the US army. And, I just *have* to ask:

1. Am I the only one who finds strong homo-erotic elements in the ad?
Maybe it is the poignant moments and meaningful pauses that litter the ad. Maybe it's because the headgear makes it look like the ad was shot backstage at a Village People audition. Maybe it is the NAMBLA-esque, read-my-eyes-not-my-lips glances between the older guy and the younger guy in the shot. I'm just saying, the ad gives off a very Queer Eye for the Gun Guy kind of feel.

2. Does the Army think that Daily Show fans are going to rush out and enlist because of these ads?
Call me a targetting snob, but...I'm just not seeing it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Multi Blogging MANIA

When it rains it pours, mes amis.

I've just been invited to join BlogsCanada.

So yes, in addition to Tsu, I am now contributing to three other group blogs: The Blogging of the President, The Broad View, and BlogsCanada. (Make that four sites, if you count occasional contributions to The Agonist.) It is amazing to have the opportunity to contribute to so many quality sites.

I will probably continue to compose new pieces here on Blogger, both because I'm used to the interface, and so I can keep a record here of what I write. Otherwise, I plan to divvy up my writing between the blogs with hardcore political writing going to BOP, broader cultural issues going to The Broad View, and US political tactic primers and US-Canada relations for BlogsCanada. In addition to the originals, I'll save the fluff for you, plus my most "naked" blogging, in every sense of the term.

The irony, of course, is that I have the time to write, and I'm overflowing with opportunities to write...and yet, being sick, much of the time I am too tired to write, or at least too tired to write well. On the other hand, writing is now an even stronger motivation to get healthier, to interact with the world, and to feel like I have "accomplished" something while I'm home sick. And, I suspect the brain gymnastics involved in writing are very good for me.

I hope you'll join me in a little celebration.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Cotton Candy Is On Me

The Virginia Blog Carnival VII is now live over at Northern Crown.

Many thanks to Richard at Northern Crown for hosting this week's event.

I went and made a Blog Carnival submission for the first time. Welcome to the new readers who are joining us via the Carnival.

If you're a Virginia blogger interested in the carnival, Richard has the rules up here. Sophistpundit will be hosting next week's event.

If you're a Reader from outside Virginia, I strongly encourage you to check out the fine writing of my Old Dominion colleagues.

I am also curious if any Readers participate in Blog Carnivals in other parts of the country, and how yours work.

Monday, October 17, 2005

If I was a car, I'd need jumper cables

No spark today, not even after a lie-in and umpteen cups of Hoji tea.

After our Saturday treat of lavender scones at The Green Lemon, we abandoned our plans for the rest of the day and came home to tuck me in. We watched Crimson Rivers/Les Rivieres Pourpres in bed on the laptop, and then I fell asleep around 3 pm and slept in until 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

Sunday, on the other hand, was a big day. We went for brunch at Luna Grove, grabbed some groceries at Ellwood Thompson, our natural food market; and then saw The Gospel at the Short Pump theatre across the road. Then we grabbed lunch at China Star, came home and watched Le Cage aux Folles II in bed, and re-watched Les Rivieres Pourpres with the audio commentary by the director, Jean Reno, and Vincent Cassel. (More on both movies, later, if my brain ever kicks back into gear.)

So, even if Saturday was cut short, Sunday was a big day for me.

I would probably fare better if I learned to pace myself more on weekend, and if I were more gracious about accepting these fallow days when they happen, and just lie back in bed with a novel and my feet propped up. No vetch or clover growing on me, alas.

Pessimism vs. Realism

In the discussion on Anatomy of a Smear, BOP Reader Mike commented that my gloom-and-doom predictions that Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine may have lost the election last week are too pessimistic.

I decided to reply to Mike in a new post, because he brings up an important point:

Can Democrats ever be too pessimistic?

My answer is a resounding No.

Democrats were a ruling party for a long, long time--yes, even here in Virginia, if you dig back far enough in history. (The statistic tossed around on the campaign I worked in '03 was that Democrats hadn't picked up new seats in the Virginia House of Delegates for 25 years.) Democrats were even the dominant party in Texas state politics. I know, it is hard to fathom today. When you are on top for long enough, you tend to get fat and lazy. You lose your competitive edge, and you forget how to fight. The Democratic party still runs by and large like it is "entitled" to win, like it can sit back and wait for the votes and dollars to roll in. This strategy clearly isn't working.

When I am involved with an election campaign, it is my job to expect the worst, and prepare to win anyway. In fact, anticipating just how many things can go wrong is a big part of my job. I'll take an easy win, but I'll never expect one or bank on one. And, as far as I'm concerned, the polls may close at 7pm but the election isn't over (and my job isn't over) until an authentic tally of the votes has been performed and the election results are certified. So, when I take seriously the threat posed last week not just by the vicious distatesfulness of Kilgore's attack ads, but by the Kaine campaign's pitiful response, it isn't out of melodrama. It is out of a desire to win, and an awareness of what it takes to win. (I'm not trying to say "I'm right because I'm an expert." I'm saying that I blog as an "outsider," but I'd be giving the same advice to any campaign I was on.)

In the past week, Kaine's response to the smear has been EXACTLY the same as Dukakis's. Dukakis had a 17 point lead and wound up losing with this strategy (softball, stall, be nice, explain). Democrats seem to expect that Kaine can use the Dukakis Method, coming from a statistical dead heat (i.e., a 17 point *disadvantage* compared to Dukakis), but arrive at a winning result. That makes no sense to me.

In fact, that makes me pretty damn angry (at the Democrats, not at Mike). In election after election, at the state and national level, we see Democrats run elections the same way they lost them last time...and then act suprised when they lose them again and again and again. Case in point: Bob Schrum holds a world record as a campaign manager for losing presidential elections for Democrats. Off the top of my head, I think he has lost *7*. What on earth was John Kerry thinking when he hired Schrum? We are seeing the same passionate, committed denial of the laws of cause and effect within Virginia Democratic circles right now.

I mean, seriously: if your doctor said to you, "we want to use this medical technique on you. All the other patients we've ever tried it on in the same circumstances in the same way have died. But this time we're sure it will all be fine." Would you go for it? Then why do the Democrats?

In addition, we have the Nader factor to deal with--i.e., Russ Potts (who is a life-long Republican, also running for Virginia governor as an Independent). I am amazed at how naive most voters are about both how partisan politics work, and the stakes involved in the balance of power (e.g., vetoes/veto-blocking, committee assignments, etc.). I am worried that voters who are put off by this latest tiff between Kilgore and Kaine may vote for Potts. Without access to quality polling data, I don't know how to guage which camp will bleed more votes to Potts. I am certainly interested in the objective guesses of other Virginia political observers.

Virginia's gubernatorial looks an awful lot like the 2004 Presidential election. We have party-line voters, and a contested margin of swing voters (which we can't accurately identify on the Democratic side because of the state of the Democratic Party's voter list--in Virginia voter's don't register to vote by party), plus we have Anybody-But-Kilgore Voters, who are likely to find Potts (as a traditional Republican) more attractive than Kaine; and Anybody-But-Kaine Voters who are likely to vote for Potts over Kilgore, especially since Potts' position on a number of social issues is more liberal than Kaine's are. For example, Potts has a clear, solid position in favor of reproductive rights, while Kaine is doing the CathlicWaffle(TM) on abortion the same way he is on the Death Penalty--I'm worried about how many women will vote for Potts over Kaine as a result.

Don't get me wrong. Potts can't win this election, but he can hurt either of the other candidates enough to swing this election.

Virginians also overwhelmingly support the death penality. Kilgore is doing a masterful job of defining the public discourse and luring Kaine into a sand trap with these ads. The last thing Kaine needs to do is alienate shaky voters by talking about the death penalty. Instead, the first thing he says in his response ad last week is "I oppose the death penalty." In Virginia, he may as well have stood up and said "I support Osama Bin Laden." In Canadian terms, last week Kaine scored on his own net.

There is an unspoken understanding that good little Democrats should hold hands and sing Kumbaya and never challenge or question our candidates during elections (or outside elections for that matter) in quest of the all-holy buzz. I do understand this: a big part of what I do for campaigns is generate propaganda, frankly. But there still has to be substance to hold up the fantasies. And buzz counts for nothing when you're counting the votes. (You may recall that the buzz for Kerry was pretty impressive this time last year, too.)

If Virginia Democrats want Kaine to win, thinking happy thoughts isn't going to do the trick. I'd be far happier to see people contact the Kaine campaign and say, "Pull up your socks, dammit. We need you to be the next Governor and we can't afford to have you tank your own election." (I am hoping that Mark Warner and a number of other big Democrats are doing just that.)

Let me be very clear, that I support Tim Kaine, and he is the only choice in this election. I don't want Kaine to lose, I want him to win--and that's why it makes me angry to watch such amatuer, losing moves come out of his campaign.

Kaine can still turn this around, but his time is dwindling fast. He has to stop letting Kilgore define the debate, dump the CatholicWaffle act, get away from the topic of capital punishment, and come out swinging at issues where Kaine is strong and Kilgore is weak. Campaigns aren't rocket science: I think you'll agree that all of these tactics are self-evident. But Kaine doesn't show signs of employing any of them.

If Kaine doesn't turn the campaign around fast, we all lose. It is that simple.

I don't feel my pessimism is exaggerated. I'd say it is just on the mark, and in general, Democrats would benefit from more pessimism, not less.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

TsuDzu presents: Medieval History Re-Enactments!

I am currently reading "Hildegard of Bingen, The Woman of Her Age" by Fiona Maddocks (along with a half-dozen or so other books). Maddocks is the Chief Music Critic at the London Observer. I find her subject matter fascinating (if a wee bit challenging with my current mental capacity), and her prose and dry wit are absolutely delicious.

Try out this passage (from page 218):
The continuing rivalry between Rome and Empire had reached a critical juncture following the death of the English Pope, Hadrian IV, in 1159. In Rome, the college of cardinals was split over who should replace him. Two names emerged in the contest: the aristocratic Octavian of Monticelli, and imperialist, and the bourgeois Roland Bandinelle from Siena. Octavian was elected by a minorty and called himself Victor IV. Roland, meanwhile, announced himself Alexander III. An unseemly and quasi-operatic brawl took place in St. Peter's, with Victor IV tearing the purple cloak, symbol of papal power, from Alexander's back ' with his own hands', uttering loud shouts as he did so. A complicated farce of mutual excommunication then ensued, with neither giving in and both exercising a degree of power.
Mad Magazine characters the white crow spy and the black crow spy in a face offIn honour of the "quasi-operatic" nature of the incident, we are pleased to offer the following historical re-enactment, which we are affectionately entitling
"Pope vs. Pope:"
Alexander III: I excommunicate YOU!

Victor IV: No, I excommunicate YOU!

Alexander III: I excommunicated you FIRST!

Victor IV: I excommunicated you MOST!

Alexander III: (shuffling off to exile in France) Sniff! I want my cape back.
We wish to assure readers that no popes were harmed in the making of this post.

Front Page News

Anatomy of a Smear is now up on the front page of The Agonist. (Story permalink here).

BOP News currently averages about 2600 hits a day, and I understand that The Agonist averages around 7000 daily hits.

Tsuredzuregusa is where I feel safe to be gormless, so I have to tell you: I am really thrilled. As an activist, I am excited to be able to expose the ideas to a readership that wide. And, as a writer, I am astounded to get exposure on two top political blogs, and excited to showcase one of my best pieces of research/writing--as well as more than a little intimidated.

The only downside is that I'm not feeling great this weekend. I feel an author-obligation to nurture the discussions on the two posts, but I have a headache and I'm not thinking that clearly.

So I'm putting a request out there, to all of my readers and my Virginia blogging colleagues (Waldo! Kenton! Luna! I'm talking to you!)--if you are inclined to stop by the post at The Agonist or at BOP, I would really appreciate your help.

And in the meantime, I invite all of you to celebrate this blogging milestone with me. When I started blogging just shy of a year and a half ago, I didn't expect in all my born days to wind up on the front page of the Agonist.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Crummy Hostess

Sorry to neglect everyone over here so much lately. Things have been HOPPING over at BOP News, and I've had my hands full.

I have a romantic weekend of lavender scones, foreign films, and grocery shopping lined up with my husband, so the neglect will probably continue until Monday.

BUT...when I come back I'll have some fresh posts and some exciting news to share. :)

As ever, I beg you indulgence in the interim.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Calling Virginia Bloggers

I cross posted "Anatomy of a Smear" over at BOP News, and as expected, the trolls are already coming out.

I know that some of you who have been writing about the Kilgore ads all week already have your troll-smackers warmed up. If any of you would care to come over and join the conversation, I would welcome the reinforcements.

Anatomy of a Smear

I want to expand on Stirling's post about the Republicans' "Hitler ad" in Virginia's gubernatorial race, to provide readers outside Virginia more background on the story. I wrote earlier this year that Virginia politics are held up as a national bellwether, because of our proximity to DC (and thus major media as well as pundits with time on their hands); because, just like NJ, we hold our state elections and most notably our gubernatorial elections on the "off" or odd-numbered years; and because Republicans take advantage of these factors to prototype and test-drive both campaign and legislative strategies in Virginia. Why should you care about an '05 campaign ad in Virginia? Because what happens to Virginia this year happens to you in '06.

Long before Bush fils "swift boated" John Kerry in 2004, Bush père and Republican hatchet-man Lee Atwater attacked Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis with ads about an escaped-felon named William Horton Jr in 1988. This week in Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore just Willie Horton-ed Democrat Tim Kaine. And, unless Kaine's response is better than Dukakis's was, he's lost the race for Governor.

Horton Ad Timeline
  • As Governor of Massachusetts (1975-1979, 1983-1991), Michael Dukakis vetoed a 1976 bill that would abolish furlough for inmates convicted of first-degree murder. Dukakis supported the furlough program as a method of rehabilitation.
  • While Dukakis was governor in 1986, convicted murderer William R. Horton Jr. was released as part of a Massachusetts weekend furlough program but did not return. He went on to commit assault, rape, and car theft before being recaptured in 1987.
  • During the 1988 Democratic Presidential Primary, Senator Al Gore raised the general issue of the furlough program.
  • In 1988, after Dukakis won the Democratic Presidential Primary, Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush repeatedly brought up the Horton case in campaign speeches. (The Republicans redubbed Horton, who had always gone by his full name of William, as "Willie.")
  • Late in the campaign cycle, both the Bush campaign and an external attack surrogate group ran fearmongering ads with strong racist tones using Horton to attack Dukakis. [Watch the Horton ad here.]
  • The ads generated extensive free media coverage as theywas discussed in the news. An analysis of network news coverage in 1988 found that newscasts ran segments from the "Revolving Door" ad 10 times in October and November, making it the most frequently-aired commercial of the campaign. Overall, 22 segments about Bush's crime ads were rebroadcast during the news, compared with four for Dukakis's ads. Only once was the deceptive information from Bush's crime ads challenged by reporters.
  • Hoping voters would dismiss the attacks as unfair, Dukakis refused to counterattack until (too) late in the campaign.
  • The Dukakis campaign finally ran an about a Hispanic murderer named Angel Medrano who murdered a pregnant mother of two while on furlough from a federal, rather than state, prison, the idea being that this would reflect negatively on Bush, who was the sitting Vice-President. The ad notoriously flopped.
  • The final nail in Dukakis' coffin was his response on capital punishment in the Oct 13, 1988 candidate debate. When the moderator asked Dukakis, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replied coolly, "No, I don't, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life," and explained his stance. Dukakis' answer lacked the emotion needed for a question in which he was forced to consider his wife's death.
  • Bush overcame Dukakis's 17% lead to win the election, and the Horton ads went down in campaign history as textbook attack ads for mobilizing voters by playing to their basest fears.
  • Note the collection of classic Democratic fatal flaws that combine here:

    1. The Dukakis campaign was already aware, thanks to Al Gore, that the furlough program might be a campaign issue. Even without Gore, the onus for thorough, meticulous self-research lies on the campaign. The Bush team was certainly successful in finding the same information in their opposition research. The Dukakis team knew that the furlough program was a potential weak point and they failed to prepare in advance.

    2. The Dukakis team was not prepared to go on the attack against Bush--at least not effectively.

    3. The Dukakis team did not have attack surrogates in place. (In fairness, the Bush campaign pioneered the questionably-legal coordination of attack surrogates in 1988. However, fast forward to Kerry v Swift Boats in 2004, and you will see that the Democrats still have not learned this lesson. Hell, it's only been 17 years now.)

    4. The Dukakis team failed to "own the issue" or "frame the debate" and turn the racism of the ads against Bush. Thus, the media coverage of the ads largely served to promote the Bush campaign.

    5. Dukakis tried to fight emotion with logic--both in his ads, and in his debate response. It never works.

    Back to 2005. Virginia Republicans are essentially replaying the Bush/Dukakis/Horton episode to attack Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine about his views on capital punishment. Compare the Virginia timeline:

    1. In December, 2004, the Republican Jerry Kilgore for Governer campaign announced they had hired Scott Howell for their media strategist. Howell was previously media strategist on the Saxby Chambliss campaign, that attacked the patriotism of incumbent Congressman, war veteran and multiple-amputee Max Cleland in ads which featured Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

    Translation The Kaine campaign could not receive a clearer sign that the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial contest would be negative and nasty, nor would Republican attacks be constrained by the truth. They could expect to be "Hortoned." They had almost a year of advance notice in which to prepare.

    2. In January 2005, many observers including the Richmond Times-Dispatch predicted that the death penalty would be a key issue in the governor's race.

    Translation The death penalty issue had to be on the Kaine campaign radar--from their media watch, their self-research, and not least of all their common sense. (In fact, the Kaine campaign's research team is reputed to be excellent.)

    3. Kaine seems to have internalized the Republican- and DLC-driven misdirections of 2004 that Democrats need to frame their arguements in terms of religious values. From the outset of the 2005 campaign, Kaine chose to make his religion a center point. Kaine's website bio, for example, discusses his missionary work, and his belief that education is key to ensuring everyone can realize "their God-given potential in life." He highlights his religious beliefs in the Faith and Family section of his site's Issues page, where he also states he holds a faith-based opposition to abortion.

    Translation In making his personal religious beliefs a major focus of the campaign, Kaine opened himself up to attacks on those beliefs. The campaign's job was to prepare counter-attacks for the inevitable.

    4. Kilgore refused to support Kaine's clean campaign pledge.

    Translation (Does this feel like the Amityville horror yet?) I don't know how Kilgore could make his intentions to go negative any clearer.

    5. Kaine mops up the floor with Kilgore in their 3-part fall debate series. Kaine also closes on Kilgore's early lead in the polls to a statistical dead heat.

    Translation When you are behind or losing ground in the polls, especially this close to an election date, you go negative.

    6. Days after the final debate, Kilogore reveals his attack ads.

    (Incidentally, this is the same time in the campaign cycle that Bush Sr. ran the Horton ads. If you are going to go negative in a campaign, the idea is attack as late in the campaign as possible to minimize your opponent's opportunity to respond. If Kilgore is going this negative, this early, it should mean he has more attacks up his sleeves. Virginians can brace to see an even uglier attack come out of the Kilgore campaign on the last weekend of the campaign.)

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a summary of "Stanley" ad which makes the Hitler reference, here. You can also watch the ad here.

    The Ad bears a striking resemblance to the Swift Boat ads attacking John Kerry. (I have heard that the same media firm that made the Swift Boat ads made the attack ads for Kilgore, although I haven't been able to verify that from other sources yet.) The ad features Stanley Rosenbluth speaking against a black background. Rosenbluth is the founder of a death penalty advocacy group, a Republican campaign contributor, and he has a long association with Kilgore.

    Rosenbluth's son and daughter-in-law were killed in 1993 by their coke dealer, Mark Sheppard. In the ad, Rosenbluth attacks Kaine for acting as Sheppard's lawyer. Rosenbluth also claims that "Tim Kaine says that Adolf Hitler doesn't qualify for the death penalty." The ad, paid for and authorized by the Kilgore campaign, attempts to make Kaine look soft on crime and implies that his religious beliefs make him unfit for Governor.

    Debunking the Lies

    1. Kilgore attacks Due Process

    The ad tries to fault Kaine for representing Mark Sheppard. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Kaine's law firm, Mezzulo & McCandlish, was appointed by the court to represent Sheppard in an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the firm's junior lawyers was the lead attorney and Kaine helped him. They argued that Sheppard's right to equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution had been violated. Kaine has helped represent in total three murderers in death-row cases. And, in all three cases, his involvement was as court-appointed counsel. Given that Jerry Kilgore is a former Virginia Attorney General, his attack on Kaine's courtroom work as an appointee of the state Supreme Court is beyond cynical. (Kilgore has, predictably, tried to side step the ad's implication that death row inmates should not receive legal counsel, calling Kaine an "activist defense attorney.") In short, Kilgore is smearing Kaine for his public service and attacking the concept of due process--and trying to make Kaine look immoral for acting as a Supreme Court-appointed lawyer.

    2. The Hitler Lie

    Kaine never said it. In fact, he said the *exact opposite.*

    Kilgore took the quote from a Kaine interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch on September 25. You can read the whole text or listen to an audio version here .
    You couldn’t conceive of a case where a person, because of his behavior and criminal conduct, deserved the death penalty? What about Adolf Hitler? Do you think he should be executed? Should have been executed?

    KAINE: Well –

    Josef Stalin? Idi Amin?

    KAINE: You know, the — when you say “deserve.” I mean, it’s — God grants life and God should take it away. Horrible, heinous things deserve incredible punishment? You bet. God grants life, God should take it away. That’s my religious belief. And — except in the, you know, kind of rare instances. Self-defense. I mean, a person who — you know, who kills somebody in self defense, or — or a nation that — that wages a just war, that is essentially to defend itself or — or others, that would be an exception. But –

    Your conviction is so deep that you cannot name one person in history, who because of his malefactions and criminal behavior, deserved the death penalty?

    KAINE: No, I — again, the way I answered your question is — they may deserve — yeah. They may deserve it. Of course they may, for doing something heinous. They don’t deserve to live in civilized society. They deserve the death penalty. I just — you know, I look at the world. Most nations have decided not to have a death penalty. And — and many are very safe. I don’t think — I don’t think it’s needed to be safe.

    Kaine made the typical Democratic mistake of trying to give a nuanced answer. However, his reply to the Hitler question is clear. Here's the short version for the attention-impaired:
    Q: You couldn’t conceive of a case where a person, because of his behavior and criminal conduct, deserved the death penalty? What about Adolf Hitler? Josef Stalin? Idi Amin?
    A: They deserve the death penalty.
    In other words, the Kilgore campaign is telling an outright lie.

    3. Who's Soft on Crime?

    In Republican campaign politics, it is predictable that Kilgore would attack Kaine's record on crime--because Kaine's record is excellent, while Kilgore's own record is questionable.

    As Mayor of Richmond, Tim Kaine cut Richmond's homicide rate by 55% by implementing the NRA-endorsed Project Exile program that toughens penalties for criminals who use guns. As Lieutenant Governor, Kaine fought for the 2004 state budget that raised law enforcement salaries and invested over $100 million in new money for public safety.

    Jerry Kilgore, on the other hand, opposed the public safety funds in the 2004 budget as Attorney General. And, when Kilgore was responsible for the state prison system as Secretary of Public Safety, prison escapes went up 300% from the previous two years, then went back down after he left office. At the same time, confirmed cases of children being beaten into unconsciousness by guards at at Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center prompted a 1996 investigation by the Department of Justice. (Before Kilgore's tenure, Virginia’s juvenile-justice system had been considered a national model.)

    The "Stanley" ad is based on lies and misrepresentations. However, it makes a powerful emotional appeal to voters who are unlikely to check all the facts on their own. Ultimately, as one Virginia pundit put it, Kilgore's ad treats voters as if they are "dumb as stumps."

    The Kaine Response

    The Kaine campaign had just been Hortoned. They had every reason to expect the attack to come. They had almost a year to prepare.

    You can watch Kaine's response ad here.

    The ad shows a talking-head shot of Kaine in a library, with melancholy piano music in the background. Kaine looks worked-up and anxious--not in command of the situation. His voice is in his upper register, giving an impression of panic. The inflections are not well-coached. He says:
    "I'm Tim Kaine, candidate for governor. I approved this ad to set the record straight.

    My faith teaches life is sacred. That's why I personally oppose the death penalty.

    But I take my oath of office seriously. And I'll enforce the death penality.

    As governor, I'll carry out death sentences handed out by Virginia juries...

    ...because that's the law."
    [It is hard to analyze the ad without sarcasm. It is hard this week to be a Virginia Democrat without crying. I will do my very best.]

    It seems that the Kaine campaign has never heard of Dukakis, Horton, Kerry, or the Swift Boat vets. At the very least, the ad demonstrates that Kaine learned nothing from the way Dukakis and Kerry mishandled their own smears and went on to resounding losses. In fact, Kaine's stunning failure mirrors Dukakis almost 100%:

    1. Despite a good research team and a year of advance warning, the Kaine campaign did not have an effective counter-attack prepared.
    2. Kaine did not respond with an effective attack on Kilgore.
    3. Kaine shows no evidence so far of effective attack surrogates.
    4. Kaine's response fails to "own the issue" or "frame the debate" and turn the the ads against Kilgore.
    5. Thus, the media coverage of the ads largely served to promote the Kilgore line that Kaine is soft on the death penalty. Regardless of the fairness or balance of media coverage, by definition news stories are compelled to parrot Kilgore's charge and propogate his contention that Kaine's position on the death penalty would make him a bad governor. (I have also been extremely impressed at the effort the media has made to be fair and objective in the coverage of the ads.)
    6. Kaine tries to fight emotion with logic. He responds to an emotional ad by falling into the Democratic sandmire of "trying to explain." It didn't work for Dukakis, it didn't work for Kerry, and it isn't working for Kaine.
    7. The only missing piece is Dukakis' vulcan answer on the hypothetical murder of his wife. Tim Kaine would be well advised to have a more compelling answer for the same kind of question ready, and be braced to be asked by a reporter or a Republican plant in a campaign event audience in the days to come.

    In the words of Virginia blogger Waldo Jaquith, "Kaine showed up to a knife fight with a note from his mother."

    Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

    The Kaine campaign has missed their window of opportunity with this week's news cycle. Virginia Democrats can only hope that Kaine is working on a stronger response timed for Monday's news deadlines.

    The Kaine campaign does have the rudiments of a strong response up at their secondary site, The Real Jerry Kilgore. You can view the ad, entitled "jail break," here. However, the ad isn't mentioned on Kaine's main campaign site, nor does it seem destined for media distribution. It is not likely to reach a fraction of the voters who see Kilgore's Hitler ad.

    Waldo Jaquith has some great suggestions on how Kaine should respond:
    1. Stop describing Tim Kaine as “Roman Catholic.” I don’t want to hear that phrase again. He’s “Christian.” He has a “Christian opposition to the death penalty.” He needs to quote scripture and talk about the role that Christ plays in his own life. In short, he needs to witness.
    2. Rebuttal: Jerry Kilgore is anti-Christian. There are two things that should drive this point home:
      1. A press conference ASAP that features just one black preacher. (No Catholics. No Episcopalians. Baptist. Southern Baptist.) I want a preacher to weep, wail, and testify about growing up under Jim Crow, about growing up under oppression, about how the United States is a Christian nation, Virginia is a Christian state, and yet she is being attacked for the crime of being a Christian by none other than “that Kilgore character.” There must be tears. There must be fear that, under Kilgore, Virginia will become an anti-Christian state.
      2. A sixty second commercial featuring a black preacher, dressed to the nines. Purple suit, cane, white hat. I want him to preach full-out, with sweat flying, eyes closed, voice warbling and breaking into song when possible. I want him to preach about Christ, forgiveness, religious freedoms, and mention just once, at the end, while looking straight into the camera, wide-eyed, that “this Kilgore character” thinks that a Christian isn’t fit to lead Virginia and then spit in disgust. It should look like Errol Morris made it.
      Painting Kilgore as anti-Christian can be extremely powerful. If Kilgore has mentioned religion in his race, I haven’t heard it. But I expect most people who will be voting in this race know that Kaine was a missionary in Honduras. (Kaine:missionary in Honduras::Edwards:son of a mill worker)
    3. Change the topic as soon as possible. Tim Kaine can’t win the death penalty debate. It requires too much education of the public. Talk about something else. Potential response ads include:
      1. A two-minute-long ad in the style of Oprah’s guest-introduction biographical videos, with the interview subject being one of the many children who were tortured at the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center. Tears, sense of helplessness/hopelessness, story about the federal probe into Beaumont and the Secretary of Public Safety obstructing that probe for political reasons. The money shot is the revelation that Kilgore was that Secretary of Public Safety, and the subject asking, directly to Kilgore, “Why did you let them hurt me? Why?”
      2. A three-minute long ad, in black and white, featuring one of these right-wing loonies that we’ve all found ourselves sitting next to at dinner parties every so often, the ones that are so crazy you wonder how they manage to have an otherwise normal life. Sit him down in front of a camera for a couple of hours, gain his confidence, and get him to talk about how much he hates gays, blacks, Jews and Catholics, how he thinks that President Bush is a part of the Illuminati and bringing about the New World Order. At some point, get him to say that he plans to vote for Kilgore. Edit cleverly. Air once.
      3. A series of balls-out ads attacking Kilgore’s sexuality and manhood. This is, obviously, Kilgore’s single biggest weak point — and it’s completely fair game now. Show a series of clips of Kilgore talking, walking, and being interviewed, edited for the most embarrassing bits. (Think John Kerry throwing a football or going goose-hunting.) Accuse him of being a weak little sissy boy who couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag; somebody who can’t keep Virginians safe. Present Tim Kaine as a virile, manly leader who impregnates women with his mere glance; show him chopping wood, taking a swig out of a bottle of Bud, and roping a calf. In short, make Kilgore a laughingstock.
    The plan Waldo outlines is exactly what it takes to neutralize Republican smear attacks. Tim Kaine should really have Waldo on retainer. (So should a lot of other Virginia Democrats--he's worth it.) We'll have to cross our fingers that Kaine reads Waldo's blog before Monday.

    Final Thoughts

    My Virginia blogging colleagues have done a great job of covering the story of Jerry Kilgore's Hitler ad. (See list of Virginia blog posts on the story below.) To be honest, I have been reluctant to wade into the conversation. In fact, I've written very little this year about Virginia state politics, especially the state-wide races. Most of what I have had to say is critical, so I've chosen to keep my comments to myself. (I already have a rap as a "bad democrat" because I don't tow the party line.) But, Stirling opened this can of worms and I took the bait (as it were), so I'm not going to pull any punches.

    The Kaine campaign's response is pitiful and unacceptable.

    The stakes in Virginia's elections this year are extremely high. Republicans control the state house and senate. The Virginia Republican has grown progressively more right-wing, and has repeatedly purged mainstream Republicans from the party. In the 2005 legislative session, Virginia Republicans introduced bills to permit religious activities in schools and public places (HJ 537) ; to criminalize birth control for minors (HB 1807); to guarantee legal rights to "enjoyment of life" for foetuses and zygotes (HB 1918); to ban gay-straight alliance clubs in high schools (HB 2868); and to prohibit same sex couples from adopting (HB 2921). It is critical for Virginia Democrats to keep gaining ground in order to hold right-wing Republican zealots in check.

    There is no question that Kaine is the better choice for Governor. However, the Kaine campaign is failing to make that case to the voters.

    The Kaine and Kilgore campaigns have both been sophmoric and uninspired. Early in the spring, they devolved into name-calling and minor mudslinging more appropriate to a student council election. They have both dodged real discussions of Virginia's transportation problems. Both campaigns have proposed outrageously expensive policy ideas without suggestion how they might come up with the funds. No one has talked about raising taxes--although Kilgore claims he will cut taxes without explaining how he'll make up the budget shortfall. Collectively, the campaigns have been underwhelming and painful to watch. (In contrast, current Democratic Governor Mark Warner's 2001 rockstar campaign was a thing of beauty.)

    I might have an iota more compassion if Virginia's state elections were held in regular years. In that case, the Kaine campaign would be competing with campaigns up and down the ballot in 49 other states for campaign staff. But, this year, the only competition is New Jersey. Virginia and New Jersey have access to the top campaign staff from across the country. If this team is the best that Kaine can build--that doesn't speak well of Kaine's leadership or management abilities. (The same charge, of course, can be levelled against Kilgore.)

    Much has been made this week in Virginia blogs and media about the fact that Kilgore lied; that he misrepresented Kaine; that the Gods-and-Guns party is attacking Kaine for being religious. That's not the story. We already know that Republicans are lying hypocrites who will stoop to any depths in order to win.

    The real issue here is that Kaine may well have lost the election this week, with his clumsy reponse to Kilgore's attacks. Kaine had every opportunity to anticipate and prepare for this, and he still fumbled. Virginia Democrats deserve better than that.

    I really hope that Kaine's people turn this around, and fast.

    And, I hope that the other Democrats around the country who are watching finally learn their lesson, and neutralize Republican attacks brutally and ruthlessly in the 2006 elections. Because you know the attacks are coming, you know exactly how they work, and you know how to counter them.

    And, you know the consequences if you fail.

    I'm sure this list is not exhaustive, and I apologize in advance especially to any Virginia bloggers I may have overlooked. If you can make additions to this list, please add your recommendations in the comments.

    Further Reading - Virginia Blogs

    750 Volts
    More on Kilgore's Despicable Hitler Ad
    Going Nuclear
    FCDC Blog
    Jerry's List
    Liberal Rage
    Shameful GOP Swiftboating of Kaine
    Raising Kaine
    What Next, Jerry? Stalin and Mao?
    The Hitler Strategy
    More on Stanley Rosenbluth and “Hitler”
    Why Does Jerry Kilgore Hate Christianity?
    Godwin's Law, Adolph Hitler, and Jerry Kilgore
    “A Knife Fight” - Time to Go “Balls Out!”
    Scott Howell Rule #302: When You Lose a Debate, Start the Swift Boat Ads
    South Now
    Virginia Opinion Makers Suggest Kilgore Backlash
    Kilgore Delivers Kaine His Swift Boat
    Times Dispatch Blog
    This week,the campaigns focus on one issue
    Attack Ad Cause a Stir
    Waldo Jaquith
    Editorial Boards Line Up Against Kilgore
    Kilgore Caught: Kaine Never Said It
    Another Analysis of the Hitler Ad
    Kaine's Response to the Hitler Ad
    Post Slams Kilgore on Hitler Ad
    Kaine Unveils Hitler Ad
    Further Reading - Media
    Kilgore Ads Seek To Divide Democrats, Washington Post, Oct 13.
    Kaine says Hitler ads show an ''outrageous prejudice'', The Virginian-Pilot, Oct 13.
    Campaign Detours to the Low Road, Virginian-Pilot Editoria, Oct 13.
    Death Penalty Demagoguery, Roanoke Times Editorial, October 13
    Kilgore, Kaine spar on Death Penalty, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct 13.
    Kilgore's Ads Make No One Look Good, Washington Post Column, October 13
    Death Penalty Smear, Washington Post Editorial, Oct 12.
    Kaine attacked on Death Penalty, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct 12.

    An Immodest Proscription

    Brian Frisk nails Republican corruption in this brilliant, satirical, step-by-step flash animation on how to become republican.

    [Work warning: turn your sound off first.]

    Via our Virginia blogging colleagues at VYD/6 Blog.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Be gone foul pottage!

    We are experiencing the umpteenth consecutive cool and rainy day here in Richmond. The drop in temperature is lovely, but the stormy skies and humidity-driven fungal explosion have me feeling a little low. I am cloudy-headed myself, today, so while there are some articles I am looking forward to writing (yes, including my public nudity exploits), they shall have to wait for more lucid day.

    In the meantime, some technical notes:

    I am tired of this split-pea soup themed template. (Hence, the title of this post.) I have done minor customizations on blogger templates before, but I'm not really up to a Sistine Chapel scale project right now. Instead, I'm in the market for a new, free template I can adapt with only minor tweaks. I have looked at oodles of free template sites this week: unfortunately, since I am not a fan of San Rio, anime, neon, the colour pink, or cabbage roses...the pickings are a little slim. If anyone can make recommendations on a good place to find free templates, I'd love some suggestions.

    I realize that Tsu takes a while to load. As part of renovations, I am hoping to both optimize the code (kludgey enough to contribute to slow load times currently) and also weed out the blog rolls.

    I may test some new templates, sans tweaking, just to see how they feel live. I appreciate your feedback if things start looking...different.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005


    Thanks to Jill at Feministe, I have tested myself against the uncannily accurate powers of the Job Predictor:
    Shaula Evans, Your ideal job is a Prime Minister.

    And, when I put in my married name:

    Shaula [married name], Your ideal job is a Pole Dancer.

    Because, up until the age of five, I wanted to be Prime Minister, a stripper, a mud wrestler, or a tuba player.

    By the time I hit five, I had narrowed it down to Prime Minister.*

    How does the Mighty Job Predictor know???

    Now all of you, go on and entertain me with your secret aptitudes. Please. Consider it an official request from your pole-dancing prime minister.

    *Yes, this is a true story. My life is so strange, I have no need to lie to you. If you don't believe me, ask my family.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Chicken/Egg Logic

    Don't bank on access to effective flu vaccines to save you:
    "It takes months to make influenza vaccine and H5N1 kills chickens -- the source of the eggs that are needed under current old-fashioned production methods to make flu vaccines."
    Read the whole thing here.

    Politics of a Pandemic

    America's national self-image was stirred but not shaken by the unparalleled failure of the Bush administration to prepare for and respond to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. (Cognitive dissonance is hard to shake, after all.) Despite Bush's plummeting polling numbers, Americans still seem to view the FEMA fiascos as unamerican aberrations, or at least as events that befell "someone else, somewhere else," not signals of imminent danger to themselves and their loved ones. Americans may grumble to Zogby or Gallup, they may spend less and reconsider the purchase of their next SUV, but their actions, their daily routines, and their self-conception have not radically readjusted.

    Fast forward to the next looming disaster: Avian Flu. Dr. Michael T Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, wrote in Foreign Affairs in July that the Avian Flu Pandemic could be expected to kill 1.7 million people in the US, and 180–360 million worldwide. On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned that " the likelihood of a human flu pandemic is very high...some say even certain." Few Americans (outside the Flu Wiki community) are connecting the dots between Bush's Banana Republic Disaster Response to the hurricanes, and the political and public health consequences of the Bush administration's "preparation" (sic) and possible response to the pending Avian Flu Pandemic.

    Here are the dots:

    1. Government as Profit Center
    The strategic lack of preparation and deliberate mis-management of disaster response to Hurricane Katrina should definitively pull back the curtain on the motivations of the Bush Administration. Bush and company have zero concerns about the safety or welfare of regular Americans (or "Fodder Units, in the jargon of the Bush family). In the Bush world, government is a profit center designed to maximize gains for friends and supporters--and the bigger, more bloated, and more packed with insider crony appointments the better. The Bush Administration's prime objective in preparing for the Avian Flu Pandemic is to mismanage and exacerbate the disaster to exploit maximum profit opportunities. Once you understand that the Republicans are motivated by looting, not governing, their actions suddenly become rationale and predictable.

    2. Incompetent Cronies in Charge, Again
    Remember the great job Michael "Brownie" Brown did at FEMA? The man in charge of the nation's flu response is also a political appointee: Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Stewart Simonson. Simonson is a lawyer with no medical or public health management background. He has already lied to the House Government Reform Committee about national flu preparedness. Simonson's only obvious qualification for his political appointment is his years of loyal partisan service as General Counsel to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson during Thompson's tenure as Republican Governor of Wisconsin. [See also Congressman Henry Waxman's Sept. 27 fact sheet on Cronyism in the Bush Administration. PDF available here.] You don't need to be competent if your job is to exacerbate, not mitigate, the disaster.

    3. Disaster Plans to Create Disasters
    The New York Times reported last week that a leaked copy of the administration's "Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan" last week shows "the United States is woefully unprepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nation's history."
    "If such an outbreak occurred, hospitals would become overwhelmed, riots would engulf vaccination clinics, and even power and food would be in short supply, according to the plan, which was obtained by The New York Times."
    Translation: Bush has no plan. At least not to prevent disaster.

    4. Plans about Porkbarrel Profits
    The Bush administration can be highly efficient--when they are busy looting the country. The Senate is already considering Bioshield II, aka Senate Bill 975, a pork barrel giveaway to Big Pharma that removes consumer protection by absolving vaccine manufacturers of liability. [Click here for bill summary. Click here for text of bill.] Incidentally, when President Ford ordered swine flu vaccinations in 1976, hundreds of those vaccinated developed serious neurological side effects, including the rare Guillain-Barre disease, and many of them, or their survivors, sued the government. (The Nesbitt Burns Investors Guide to Avian Flu, page 13) The lesson the GOP took from the swine flu lawsuits was not to protect the public but to protect their friends. Watch for more pork-barrel giveaways and no-bid contracts to follow--just like Republicans did with Katrina. The GOP is actively working on exploiting a national health crisis for financial gain.

    5. Posse Power
    Bush announced last week that if quarantines are needed, he wants permission from Congress to use military force. Bush's dangerous fantasy of replacing public health planning with military might would set back federal law by 127 years. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits the powers of the Federal government to use the military for law enforcement. Without the Posse Comitatus Act, Bush would have the discretionary power to declare martial law. (Quick reminder: the last time Congress granted Bush extraordinary discretionary powers, we got the Iraq war.) Bush stands to gain much more than just profits out of a pandemic-driven collapse of the public health system. The Bush administration has already demonstrated eagerness to shred the constitution: we can not allow Bush to use his own failure to prepare for a flu pandemic as a pretext to declare martial law on a national scale and suspect the constitution. The precedent of hired mercenaries with shoot-to-kill orders in New Orleans makes that prospect, and the consequences, too easy to imagine. [Update: Since lawmakers responded negatively to Bush's original request, the Military may next propose an active-duty force for relief efforts.]


    Bush and the Republicans are in the national disaster business--the business of causing national disasters. They have repeatedly proven that they will deliberately mismanage disasters in order to line their own pockets. The Republicans have "rigged the game" on the flu pandemic by deliberately choosing inadequate preparations and appointing an incompetent political hack. Again. The Republican culture of corruption is so deep that in the face of what may prove the worst disaster in the nation's history, they have sold out public safety to make a buck. Again. There is no question that a Flu Pandemic under the Bush administration will cause more suffering and destruction than under a government "for the people."

    The Bush administration has made public health a partisan issue. If you don't like the fact that there is no effective federal plan to deal with a flu pandemic, and the man in charge of the next national disaster is yet another unqualified Republican flunky--raise hell now, while you can. Contact your local media, and your Congress and Senate representatives. Raise hell while raising hell can make a difference.

    Americans can not count on their government to manage a major disaster. Americans can, however, depend on the Bush administration to underfund planning efforts and delay aid to maximize damage, then rush in to award no-bid contracts to their cronies. Hurricane Katrina taught us that lesson vividly, and Hurricane Rita taught us all over again. It is safest to assume that you will have to rely on yourself for your own preparation and survival. Please get ready now so you are not left at the mercy of the feds like the people of New Orleans were. Good flu preparation resources can be found here. More good flu preparation resources here.

    Finally, predictions on when an avian flu outbreak could happen in the US range between as early as 2 weeks and as distant as 10 years from now. Taking back Congress in 2006 to impeach Bush is the best way to guarantee qualified national disaster managers and science-driven health policy in the future. Possibly even before it is too late.

    Many thanks to Melanie Mattson of Just a Bump in the Beltway along with her colleagues at The Flu Wiki upon whose work I drew heavily in writing this article--the conclusions presented here, along with any errors, are however all my own.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    One Step Ahead of Hollywood

    A team of Australian medical researchers have conclued that Hollywood fails to show the negative consequences of sex and drug use. Out of the 87 films included in the study, only Pretty Woman included a reference to birth control or STD prevention. Actually, that condom scene sticks out in my mind, because it was painfully cheesey (even in the context of that movie), and incongruous--like it was added in a later draft by someone with a social conscience, but had nothing to do with the plot of the film.

    On one hand, it is amazing that scientists get research money not just to watch Hollywood movies, but also to verify the patently obvious.

    On the other hand, the authors of conclude that "there is convincing evidence that the entertainment media influences behaviour," and therefore "the motion picture industry should be encouraged to depict safer sex practices and the real consequences of unprotected sex and illicit drug use."

    Note that their conclusion is not that Hollywood should be regulated or constrained, but rather, encouraged. I'd be very happy with that. When I watch older movies I am always shocked to see people smoking--which I'm no longer accustomed to seeing in real life or in films. Hollywood managed to cut down on-screen smoking all by themselves--no reason they can't at least take STD-prevention seriously. And, the way Hollywood whores itself out for product placement revenues, there's no reason why they can't strike lucrative deals with Trojan and friends to make it worth their while.

    I am also pleased to announce that for some years now I have been leagues ahead of Hollywood on this score.

    I have always had extremely vivid dreams. My dreams are sometimes so intense I remember them for years afterwards. I also dream entire narratives (usually of the horror genre--my subconscious makes Stephen King look like Beatrix Potter), which my husband and family, among others, have encourged me to write up as screenplays.

    In college, I started a pattern of having "safety first dreams." Every time I had a dream about fooling around with a guy, just as things were starting to get hot and heavy, I'd suddenly explain to the lothario in question that before we could proceed, we'd have to get a condom. And then, the dream would turn into The Great Scavenger Hunt, and we'd be looking all over for condoms for the rest of the dream. (Raw deal, huh?)

    Somehow I don't think Hollywood wants these dreams as screenplays. But if they want my help, they can just leave a coment on the blog.