Archive for August, 2004

Keillor: What Happened to the Republican Party, Anyway?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore
How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the Party of Newt Gingrich’s Evil Spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch President, a Dull and Rigid Man, whose Philosophy is a Jumble of badly sutured Body Parts trying to Walk?

by Garrison Keillor

Check out more in his new Book, HOMEGROWN DEMOCRAT.

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean

War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

Check Writing in the Luxury Suites

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

New York Times

August 31, 2004

New York is the place to be this week for the newest generation of shadow political fund-raisers. Their targets are the wealthiest conventiongoers, and their goal is unregulated campaign donations, known as soft money. Congress banned soft money directly to politicians when it passed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill in 2002. But thanks to the lethargic Federal Elections Commission, the million-dollar gifts from special friends and special interests have found a new outlet - in organizations that ludicrously present themselves as “independent” of the presidential campaign, and so beyond tight donor limitations.

Campaign finance reform has accomplished a good deal in forcing the parties to rely on relatively modest individual donations. But thanks to the F.E.C., the nation’s Potemkin political watchdog, the big soft money donations have found another channel. They go to “527″ advocacy groups, named for a section of the tax law under which they are supposedly beyond the F.E.C.’s reach. To really qualify under that law, groups would have to be totally independent from the political campaigns that are running George Bush and John Kerry for president. This abuse of common sense came to the public’s attention graphically in the Swift boat attack ads against Senator Kerry’s war record, run by a shadow group with clear ties to the Republican Party. In reaction to that furor, the F.E.C. took typical evasive action, declining last week to define the 527’s for what they are: thinly disguised political action committees that should be covered by the campaign finance laws.

Senator John McCain, the leader of the campaign finance reform crusade, was one of last night’s star convention speakers, but Mr. McCain is far more popular with the public at large than he is with his fellow Republicans. During this campaign, the president needs him more than Mr. McCain needs the president, and we hope the senator uses his advantage to continue pressing Mr. Bush to join him in suing the F.E.C. to rein in the 527’s.

Both candidates have been opportunistic on this issue. Mr. Kerry has profited from the Democrats’ pioneer work in this new form of rogue campaigning; Mr. Bush has used wholesale denunciations of the 527’s to avoid any specific condemnation of the Swift boat ads. Since both men like to stress that they are friends of Mr. McCain, both should prove it by joining him in this new crusade.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

A No-Win Situation

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004


“Everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” That was the attitude in Washington two years ago, when Ahmad Chalabi was assuring everyone that Iraqis would greet us with flowers. More recently, some of us had a different slogan: “Everyone worries about Najaf; people who are really paying attention worry about Ramadi.”

Ever since the uprising in April, the Iraqi town of Falluja has in effect been a small, nasty Islamic republic. But what about the rest of the Sunni triangle?

Last month a Knight-Ridder report suggested that U.S. forces were effectively ceding many urban areas to insurgents. Last Sunday The Times confirmed that while the world’s attention was focused on Najaf, western Iraq fell firmly under rebel control. Representatives of the U.S.-installed government have been intimidated, assassinated or executed.

Other towns, like Samarra, have also fallen to insurgents. Attacks on oil pipelines are proliferating. And we’re still playing whack-a-mole with Moktada al-Sadr: his Mahdi Army has left Najaf, but remains in control of Sadr City, with its two million people. The Christian Science Monitor reports that “interviews in Baghdad suggest that Sadr is walking away from the standoff with a widening base and supporters who are more militant than before.”

For a long time, anyone suggesting analogies with Vietnam was ridiculed. But Iraq optimists have, by my count, already declared victory three times. First there was “Mission Accomplished” - followed by an escalating insurgency. Then there was the capture of Saddam - followed by April’s bloody uprising. Finally there was the furtive transfer of formal sovereignty to Ayad Allawi, with implausible claims that this showed progress - a fantasy exploded by the guns of August.

Open Letter from Michael Moore to President George W. Bush

Monday, August 30th, 2004

Michael Moore

NEW YORK - August 27 - It Takes Real Courage to Desert Your Post and Then Attack a Wounded Vet

Dear Mr. Bush,

I know you and I have had our differences in the past, and I realize I am the one who started this whole mess about “who did what” during Vietnam when I brought up that “deserter” nonsense back in January. But I have to hand it to you on what you have uncovered about John Kerry and his record in Vietnam. Kerry has tried to pass himself off as a war hero, but thanks to you and your friends, we now know the truth.

Soonerthought Recommends…

Monday, August 30th, 2004

Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America
by Garrison Keillor

From Publishers Weekly
His Minnesota boyhood and the putative values of his state allow novelist and NPR favorite Keillor to conjure up a heartwarming case for liberalism, if not necessarily the Democratic Party platform. “[T]he social compact is still intact here,” he writes of life in St. Paul, summing up attacks on that compact in a Menckenesque rant: “hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists….” Liberalism, Keillor declares, “is the politics of kindness,” and he traces his own ideology to his kindly aunts and his access to good public education, including a land-grant university. Though he criticizes Democrats for losing touch with their principles, as when they support the drug war, he catalogues “What Do-Gooder Democrats Have Done for You,” from civil rights to clean air, though he acknowledges, “The great hole in the compact is health care.”

“The good democrat,” he declares, distrusts privilege and power, believes in equality, supports unions, and is individualist—”identity politics is Pundit Speak,” he notes, which might get him in trouble with some interest groups. “Democrats are thought to be weak on foreign policy… but what we fear is arrogance,” he writes, in a chapter notably short on prescription. Near the end, he offers another potent monologue, if not a rant, about September 11 and Bush’s “Achtung Department” (aka Homeland Security). It doesn’t all hang together—heck, Keillor’s so loosy-goosey, he begins most chapters with a limerick—but call this Prairie Home Companion meets Air America.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description
In a book that is at once deeply personal and intellectually savvy, Homegrown Democrat is a celebration of liberalism as the “politics of kindness.” In his inimitable style, Keillor draws on a lifetime of experience amongst the hardworking, God- fearing people of the Midwest and pays homage to the common code of civic necessities that arose from the left: Protect the social compact. Defend the powerless. Maintain government as a necessary force for good. As Keillor tells it, these are articles of faith that are being attacked by hard-ass Republican tax cutters who believe that human misery is a Dickensian fiction. In a blend of nostalgic reminiscence, humorous meditation, and articulate ire, Keillor asserts the values of his boyhood—the values of Lake Wobegon— that do not square with the ugly narcissistic agenda at work in the country today. A thoughtful, wonderfully written book, Homegrown Democrat is Keillor’s love letter to liberalism, the older generation, John F. Kennedy, the University of Minnesota, and the yellow-dog Democrat city of St. Paul that is sure to amuse and inspire Americans just when they need it most.

Try to ignore the spin

Monday, August 30th, 2004

The Cincinnati Post

It’s confounding that despite such issues as war, terrorism, jobs, wages, loss of U.S. prestige abroad and the cost of health care and college, the two major presidential candidates and their surrogates are flinging meaningless mudballs with abandon.

It’s naive to think that President Bush’s re-election campaign didn’t know what was going on with attempts to discredit Sen. John Kerry’s service in Vietnam. The resignation of the Bush team’s general counsel, who also was advising veterans who hate Kerry, proved it. The use of distorting, out-of-context comments by Kerry (a 25-year-old raging about a stupid war that this country lost) is cunning but reprehensible.


Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Saturday, August 28, 2004

by Greg Palast

In 1968, former Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush of Texas, fresh
from voting to send other men’s sons to Vietnam, enlisted his own son
in a very special affirmative action program, the ‘champagne’ unit of
the Texas Air National Guard. There, Top Gun fighter pilot George
Dubya was assigned the dangerous job of protecting Houston from
Vietcong air attack.

This week, former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes of Texas ‘fessed up to
pulling the strings to keep Little George out of the jungle. “I got a
young man named George W. Bush into the Texas Air Guard - and I’m


That’s far from the end of the story. In 1994, George W. Bush was
elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left
office to become a big time corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler
like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth
its weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the
info secret.

Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our
President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a
multi-billion dollar contract for a client. That’s the information in
a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice
Department that fell into my hands at BBC television.

Here’s what happened. Just after Bush’s election, Barnes’ client GTech
Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license
to print money: its contract to run the Texas state lottery. Barnes,
says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected
governor’s office and saved GTech’s state contract.

The letter said, “Governor Bush … made a deal with Ben Barnes not to
rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that
Bush had lied during the ‘94 campaign.”

In that close race, Bush denied the fix was in to keep him out of ‘Nam,
and the US media stopped asking questions. What did the victorious
Governor Bush’s office do for Barnes? According to the tipster, “Barnes
agreed never to confirm the story [of the draft dodging] and the
governor talked to the chair of the lottery two days later and she then
agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid.”
And so it came to pass that the governor’s commission reversed itself
and gave GTech the billion dollar deal without a bid.

The happy client paid Barnes, the keeper of Governor Bush’s secret, a
fee of over $23 million. Barnes, not surprisingly, denies that Bush
took care of his client in return for Barnes’ silence. However,
confronted with the evidence, the former Lt. Governor now admits to
helping the young George stay out of Vietnam.

Take a look at the letter yourself - with information we confirmed with
other sources - at

Frankly, I don’t care if President Bush cowered and ran from Vietnam.
I sure as hell didn’t volunteer … but then, my daddy didn’t send
someone else in my place. And I don’t march around aircraft carriers
with parachute clips around my gonads talking about war and sacrifice.

More important, I haven’t made any pay-offs to silence those who could
change my image from war hero to war zero.


By the way: I first reported this story in 1999, including the evidence
of payback, in The Observer of London. US media closed its eyes. Then I put the story on British television last year in the one-hour report,
“Bush Family Fortunes.” American networks turned down BBC’s offer to
run it in the USA. “Wonderful film,” one executive told me, “but Time
Warner is not going to let us put this on the air.” However, US
networks will take cash for advertisements calling Kerry a Vietnam

The good news is, until Patriot Act 3 kicks in, they can’t stop us
selling the film to you directly. The updated version of “Bush Family
Fortunes,” with the full story you still can’t see on your boob tube,
will be released next month in DVD. See a preview at

For more on our president’s war years and the $23 million payment,
read this excerpt from the New York Times bestseller, The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy.

Subscribe to Greg Palast’s reports at

Former Texas Pol Admits He Helped Bush Avoid Vietnam Service

Sunday, August 29th, 2004


Capitol Hill Blue: Former Texas Pol Admits He Helped Bush Avoid Vietnam Service


Former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes said he is “more ashamed at myself than I’ve ever been” because he helped President Bush and the sons of other wealthy families get into the Texas National Guard so they could avoid serving in Vietnam.

“I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard … and I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I did it,” Barnes, a Democrat, said in a video clip recorded May 27 before a group of John Kerry supporters in Austin.
Barnes, who was House speaker when Bush entered the Guard, later became lieutenant governor.

The video was posted June 25 on the Web site, but didn’t get much attention until Friday, when Jim Moore, an Austin-based author of books critical of Bush, sent out e-mails calling attention to it just days before the GOP National Convention starts in New York.
Bush joined the National Guard in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, and served until 1973. He has said he received no special treatment.

Barnes said he became ashamed after walking through the Vietnam Memorial and looking at the names of the dead.

“I became more ashamed of myself than I’ve ever been because it was the worst thing I did - help a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get in the National Guard,” he said. “I’m very sorry of that and I’m very ashamed of it and I apologize to the voters of Texas for that.”

Data Shows It: Bush a Disaster

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Albany, N.Y. —

Here are the numbers, a sober and powerful counter-argument to any declaration that the recession is long over and good times are back for everyone. Poverty is up in the United States for the third consecutive year, the Census Bureau says, with 40 million people now afflicted. Median household income is stagnant at a little more than $43,000 a year. That, after three years of decline and still lower than it was in 1999. And the number of Americans without medical insurance is up, too, as it has been each year since 2001, to 45 million.

Dreary numbers under any circumstances. Only now they come close to the height of the presidential campaign. They carry a significance that should rival what President Bush had to say the same day of the Census Bureau report, that he miscalculated what Iraq would be like after a U.S.-led invasion.

“Because we acted, our economy since last summer has grown at a rate as fast as any in nearly 20 years,” Mr. Bush said Thursday. “Since last August, we’ve added approximately 1.5 million new jobs.”

What he didn’t say, of course, is that there are fewer jobs, and fewer people working, now than when he took office.

U of Nebraska Wimps Out; Changes Mind On Inviting Michael Moore

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Again, the Rabid Right shoots down someone who speaks truth. So much for intellectual freedom on a college campus, eh?–Editor

Filmmaker Michael Moore doesn’t believe a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student group’s excuse for why it can’t bring him to campus.
The University Program Council’s nine-member executive committee voted Tuesday to end talks with Moore’s booking agent because of scheduling difficulties. Carly Duvall, the group’s president, said earlier this week the one day that would have worked for the group, Oct. 12, did not work for Moore.

In an e-mail sent to the Lincoln Journal Star on Thursday, confirmed by his agent, Moore questioned the group’s motive in stopping negotiations.

“I can’t believe that that is the ONLY day that is available on such a large campus as UNL,” he wrote. “If it is, fine. But it seems to me to be a convenient way to avoid the hassle of controversy. I hope I’m wrong.”

The group has come under scrutiny for courting Moore, fielding dozens of complaints and phone calls about his proposed visit.

University officials also said under Board of Regents bylaws, the group would have to bring a conservative speaker before the election to balance Moore. Moore’s most recent work, the Bush-bashing “Fahrenheit 9/11,” was shown in Lincoln to several protests this summer.

Duvall denied Moore’s charge the student group was ducking controversy, and doubted Moore would be available nearly any time before the election as he said in his e-mail.

“We’ve been trying again and again all summer long to have communication (with) him and his agency,” Duvall said. “I’d say we’re the ones that have faced the difficulty.”

Moore maintained that he is still willing to speak at UNL.

“I have never spoken in Nebraska,” he wrote. “I was looking forward to this. I am still able to come.”

Seattle Times: ‘We Cannot Endorse Bush This Time’

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

Tip of the hat to Uncle Harvey for telling us about this one.–Editor

The Seattle Times: Editorials & Opinion: Kerry for President

Four years ago, this page endorsed George W. Bush for president. We cannot do so again because of an ill-conceived war and its aftermath, undisciplined spending, a shrinkage of constitutional rights and an intrusive social agenda.

The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.

The first issue is the war. When the Bush administration began beating the drums for war on Iraq, this page said repeatedly that he had not justified it. When war came, this page closed ranks, wanting to support our troops and give the president the benefit of the doubt. The troops deserved it. In hindsight, their commander in chief did not.

The first priority of a new president must be to end the military occupation of Iraq. This will be no easy task, but Kerry is more likely to do it — and with some understanding of Middle Eastern realities — than is Bush.

The election of Kerry would sweep away neoconservative war intellectuals who drive policy at the White House and Pentagon. It would end the back-door draft of American reservists and the use of American soldiers as imperial police. It would also provide a chance to repair America’s overseas relationships, both with governments and people, particularly in the world of Islam.

A less-belligerent, more-intelligent foreign policy should cause less anger to be directed at the United States. A political change should allow Americans to examine the powers they have given the federal government under the Patriot Act, and the powers the president has claimed by executive order.

This page had high hopes for President Bush regarding taxing and spending. We endorsed his cut in income taxes, expecting that it would help business and discipline new public spending. In the end, there was no discipline in it. In control of the Senate, the House and the presidency for the first time in half a century, the Republicans have had a celebration of spending.

Kerry has made many promises, and might spend as much as Bush if given a Congress under the control of Democrats. He is more likely to get a divided government, which may be a good thing.

Bush was also supposed to be the candidate who understood business. In some ways he has, but he has been too often the candidate of big business only. He has sided with pharmaceutical companies against drug imports from Canada.

In our own industry, the Bush appointees on the Federal Communications Commission have pushed to relax restrictions on how many TV stations, radio stations and newspapers one company may own. In an industry that is the steward of the public’s right to speak, this is a threat to democracy itself — and Kerry has stood up against it.

Bush talked like the candidate of free trade, a policy the Pacific Northwest relies upon. He turned protectionist on steel and Canadian lumber. Admittedly, Kerry’s campaign rhetoric is even worse on trade. But for the previous 20 years, Kerry had a strong record in support of trade, and we have learned that the best guide to what politicians do is what they have done in the past, not what they say.

On some matters, we always had to hold our noses to endorse Bush. We noted four years ago that he was too willing to toss aside wild nature, and to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We still disagree. On clean air, forests and fish, we generally side with Kerry.

We also agree with Sen. Kerry that Social Security should not offer private accounts.

Four years ago, we stated our profound disagreement with Bush on abortion, and then in one of his first acts as president, he moved to reinstate a ban on federal money for organizations that provide information about abortions overseas. We disagree also with Bush’s ban on federal money for research using any new lines of stem cells.

There is in these positions a presidential blending of politics and religion that is wrong for the government of a diverse republic.

Our largest doubt about Kerry is his idea that the federal debt may be stabilized, and dozens of new programs added, merely by raising taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans. Class warfare is a false promise, and we hope he forgets it.

Certainly, the man now in office forgot some of the things he said so fetchingly four years ago.

leaked video reveals what Bob Dole really thinks

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

For Shame - A leaked video reveals what Bob Dole really thinks about Bush’s tactics. By Chris Suellentrop

A leaked video reveals what Bob Dole really thinks about Bush’s tactics.