Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Anchor's away

Dan Rather steps down after 24 years as anchor of CBS News – who gives a hoot?

Walter Cronkite was the last news anchorman who really mattered. When he retired and was replaced by Dan Rather in 1981, people knew even then that it was the beginning of the end of major network broadcast news as an important institutional force. Although no one could have predicted the rise of cable television news and the internet, movies like Network and, later Broadcast News, were predicting a decline of editorial standards as network news slid into infotainment.

Dan Rather was perfectly cast for the role of director of declining news standards. Although undoubtedly smarter and more accomplished than our current president, and apparently a Democrat by inclination, Rather was the George w Bush of network anchormen. From the beginning to the end of his career as network anchor, he consistently maintained that deer-in-the-headlights, at-a-loss-for-words look as if to emphasize what his bumbling speech already suggested, that he was totally overmatched and at a loss, not for words, but for competent, insightful words.

There's a hauting scene in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers in which a knocked-out British tank, whose crew has obviously been killed, continues to roll forward, in flames, driverless, slowly veering off the road. Network news has been that burning tank for some time, and Rather its (brain)dead driver, so his stepping down is really not ... news.

What's the point of evening network news, anyway? I'm not constitutionally opposed to eating my dinner in front of the TV, with, say, a nice West Wing rerun on DVD, but I can't imagine any more unpleasant way to spend the dinner hour, or the first post-dinner hour of the evening, than watching bad journalism interrupted every eight to ten minutes by commercials. Rather is kind of an idiot, Jennings is a pompous ass, and Brokaw, well, I could never listen to Brokaw without going into a reverie about how there seems to be a disproportionate number of TV and radio broadcasters with, not only speech impediments, but Brokaw's particular form of speech impediment, that thing with the L's. My thinking would always go the same way: I'd imagine little Tommy Brokaw in speech therapy classes, and then I'd hypothesize that the effort and will involved to overcome a speech impediment probably acts as a psychological driver in the more successful of these kids to seek out public speaking careers as a sort of compensation, and that's why the seemingly disproportionate representation.... and before I'd know it, I'd have missed what Brokaw was saying.

The best thing about Rather's resignation is that it the hitherto unending right wing pundit-blogger wankathon over "Rathergate" can now achieve its climax, and the right wing bloggers can now finally stop bleating about the "media's liberal bias," that great canard of the zilches. Now our conservative friends can model that behavior they have demanded of us liberals, the "it's over, so get over it" thing.

No, wait. They can't. More on that later.


All rights reserved

Hoist on my own petard©?

As an egotisitcal human being, I crave attention and occasional reaffirmation of my own importance. Professionally, this maps onto my desire to be cited. I publish articles in law reviews from time to time. These are low-circulation, student-edited periodicals sponsored by law schools and read by lawyers, judges, law students and other law professors. Not read by many, I might add.

The fervent wish of any law professor is to have his or her article read, or even better, cited. What ecstasy to see one's name, and the article title one sweated over, named in someone else's law review article -- right there, in 8-point type, in footnote 148! It is the raison d'etre of my chief academic function.

We academics are a bit touchy, however, about having our "works in progress" cited. A draft of an article that is circulated informally or presented at a workshop or conference may bear the following copyright notice:
Copyright © 2004 by Oscar Madison. All rights reserved. Not to be copied, distributed or cited without the author's express written permission.
For reasons I can't explain, I adopted this form myself. Why? What do I care if someone wants to quote my unpublished manuscript? I guess it started when I was a rookie, and I saw that my more experienced colleagues did it. So I started doing it too. Naturally, this copyright notice appeared on the title page of a manuscript I sent to a certain law journal -- let's call it The Journal of Law and Inattention to Detail .

My manuscript went through several rounds of editing with the law student-editors of J. Law & Inat. Det. , the final two rounds of which were devoted to changing "which" to "that," and changing RR. to Ry. to denote "railroad" in a case cited at footnote 127. After weeks of this, we exhausted our ability to find more nits to pick, and decided the manuscript was letter perfect and ready for publication.

A few weeks later, I received my "reprints." This are attractively bound excerpts of the law review containing my article that I can mail to 100 of my closest friends. Seeing one's own words in nicely-typeset booklet form always makes one feel very ... intelligent.

I open to page one and find the following:
Copyright © 2004 by Oscar Madison. All rights reserved. Not to be copied, distributed or cited without the author's express written permission.
Oh well.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Post Ashcroft Stress Syndrome

You see what happens when you have a paranoid Attorney General?

I recently sent an email to the faculty list serve to join a heated, ongoing debate among our faculty on a weighty issue. Should we continue to provide lunch to attendees at lunch-time lecture-presentations by job candidates for faculty positions? My position: yes!

Disconcertingly, I received an “autoreply” from a name I didn’t recognize – let’s call him “John Smith” to protect his identity.

I will be out of the office from 11/8/04 until 11/22/04 and will not be able to check my email. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane Doe. Thank you.
No, Mr. Smith, or Agent Smith, or Assistant U.S. Attorney Smith did not actually refer me to Jane Doe – that too is a pseudonym.

Maybe I was in the office too late on a Friday evening. Why did my email to the faculty go over to John Ashcroft’s erstwhile minions at the U.S. Department of Justice? Naturally, I had immediate visions of the USAPATRIOT Act, of pen registers and trap/traces, of electronic surveillance based on secret warrants obtained from secret courts. I hit the panic button, with this email to the faculty list serve:
Subject: Is the Faculty List Serve Under Surveillance by the Justice Department?

My recent message to the faculty list serve on the subject of free lunches at candidate presentations received this "autoreply" from someone at USDOJ (see below) Why would my email to faculty list serve, sent from my office computer, have been received by John Smith at the U.S. Justice Department?

Although I'm kidding about surveillance, I'm seriously interested in hearing from our IT people why this might have happened.
Over the weekend weekend, I was bombarded with messages from colleagues helpfully explaining that John Smith was one of the adjunct legal writing instructors, who helps our students when he’s not at his day job in the regional DOJ office. Mr. Smith was not even in Washington!

I blame John Ashcroft, of course. The worst attorney general in living memory has left an indelible imprint on my psyche. I’m now jumpy about surveillance! Are you happy John? Is this the America you wanted, a place where well meaning people will hurt the feelings of co-workers they should have, but have not yet met?

Epilogue: The IT people responded to my worries about the possibility of security breaches to our faculty list serve with this reassuring response:
From: IT HelpDesk
Subject: Is the Faculty List Serve Under Surveillance by the Justice Department?

According to our records, your request has been resolved. If you have any
further questions or concerns, please respond to this message.

Please check the subject line to see which email this is in reference to.

Case closed.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Not "the 2000s," please!

I've got a low four-figure sum thing going here. 1,000 emails, and now a fixation on what to call the decade beginning 2001.

I didn't discuss the most obvious candidate, "the 2000s." As in "the 2000s ushered in the era of the red-state/blue-state divide."

The 2000s is somewhat lame as a nickname for the decade. First, it's not a nickname. You can always say "I can't believe that sunflower and avocado kitchen decorator themes didn't die out in the 1970s," but you wouldn't say, "That 1970s Show" or, heaven forbid, "the roaring 1920s."

Second, it breaks a longstanding linguistic pattern, for no good reason. When we're talking about stuff more than 100 years ago, it's perfectly fine to use the full name of the decade, as in "In the 1890s, the electoral red-state/blue-state map was almost exactly the opposite of what it is now." (That's true, by the way. Check out the 1896 map -- though for some reason they make the Democrats red and the GOP blue.)

But for stuff less than a hundred years ago, it's the " '20s" "'30s," etc. And my guess is that we won't call the next decade the "twenty-tens," but "the teens." And if I live so long, calling the decade after that the "twenty-twenty's" will just make me feel bad about my lifelong near-sightedness and astigmatism. I' confident that they will be "the '20s," with the "roaring '20s" reverting (once it's more than 100 years ago) to "the 1920s." That is, if global warming or rogue-state nuclear proliferation -- neither of which are on our president's radar screen -- don't make it all moot.

So whatever you do, please -- anything but the "2000s."


A disturbing milestone -- II

And what of those unopened ones?

Um, yeah, I forgot to mention these yesterday. About 40 of 'em. What can I say? I do a kind of triage by checking the sender and subject line. If it doesn't look super-important, I've been tending to leave it unopened for a few days. Why? Not sure. Maybe I'm afraid that they won't be in the read-and-delete category and they'll turn into snowflakes on the continuing accumulation...

What happens to an email unread?
Does it harden and crumble like stale bread?
Or go funny and quaint, like the name Fred?
Could it search my hard drive like a hacker nerd?
Or just sit there and stink like a large dog turd?
Does it whine and whimper, or plead or goad?
Or does it explode?

Saturday, November 20, 2004


A disturbing milestone

What will happen when the number of emails in my inbox reaches 1,000?

I began the semester with a low two-figure sum, but the number of emails in my inbox currently hovers in the low 900s. The numbers have made a slow but inexorable climb, a massive, thousands-fold percentage increase with occasional dips and corrections, in the manner of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1930.

In past years, a disastrously overfilled inbox would have held no more than 300 emails, and that for no more than a week, after which I would industriously purge down to about 20-30. Why this year is different would stump nobel-laureate economists and psychiatrists alike. I’m busier, and post election stress syndrome has cut into my productivity, but can that be the whole story?

Perhaps I need to review my email retention policies. I have never been a read-and-delete guy – is anyone? Currently, my inbox includes emails in the following categories:
1. Notices of upcoming events that I’m not sufficiently committed to that I would put them in my calendar.

2. Notices of events that were once in the first category, but that have now past, but I haven’t gotten around to purging the email.

3. Interesting weblinks, information or commentary that – like my pile of New Yorkers – my super-efficient fantasy alter-ego will soon get around to reading.

4. Things I need to respond to or deal with.

5. Things I needed to respond to or deal with, but didn’t, and now it’s too late, but I haven’t gotten around to purging the email.

6. Things I needed to respond to or deal with and did respond and/or deal, but I haven’t gotten around to purging the email.

7. Threads of email conversations that are noteworthy or that I otherwise want some kind of record of, but, if I really thought about it, why in the world would I need a record of it?

8. Emails whose content is no longer particularly relevant, but I want the sender’s email address handy and I haven’t gotten around to setting up my email address book.

9. Cute or heartwarming messages that, if they were written on greeting cards, would be piled up and saved in a drawer.
Clearly, there’s a “getting around to” problem here that may not just be limited to email. But let’s focus on one thing at a time, shall we? The most immediate problem is the fact that items in category #4 (have to respond or deal) and category #1 (may want to check out) can easily get lost in the stack. Once they’re opened and the attention-grabbing “unopened mail” symbol goes away, there’s nothing to distinguish them at a glance from, say, all the other categories. Meetings are missed, questions are unanswered, hurt feelings all around.

The greatest anxiety, though, comes from the great unknown: what happens when I hit 1,000? Will I get a nasty message from IT saying that my share of the server is full? Will there be a crash?

Why not simply purge now? The answer is quite simple, albeit paradoxical. The larger the numbers grow and the more important it is to purge, and purge now, the more time consuming the purge becomes. I simply do not feel like I have time for a complete purge during the semester while classes are in session. (I’m a professor, remember.)

I get anywhere from 20 to 60 emails a day – pretty average, I would think, for someone like myself who is linked and plugged in, but not exceedingly linked and plugged in. Some of these emails are read-and-deleters, and I occasionally purge a few older emails, bringing my total down below what it was at the opening bell. (A subtle reference back to my stock market metaphor!) But I’m not keeping up, and the total has grown at a rate of about 60 per week. If current trends continue, I will reach the dreaded 1,000 milestone within 10 days to 2 weeks. Classes end in just a little over three weeks. If email traffic lets up a bit over the Thanksgiving holiday, I may just barely hang on under 1,000. It’s a race again against time.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Blowing smoke

Are cell phones the cigarettes of the ‘00s?

Now that I’ve come up with a suitable name for our current decade, I can more readily make generalizations about the decade.

Yes, cell phones are the cigarettes of the zilches.

This thought occurred to me recently as I was taking my 8 minute walk to the bus stop, feeling mentally understimulated. I have a backpack with one of those little cell phone pouches on the strap. Although it’s on my right side, it’s located roughly (just a tad above) where my shirt pocket would be. With a deft, thoughtless flick of my left hand, I unhinged the velcro cover and slid out the cell phone, a gesture that made me think of someone taking a cigarette out of a pack in his shirt pocket.

Okay, I didn’t smoke the cell phone, or even pop the end of it in my mouth. But it gave me something to do. I fiddled with it, made a brief call.

I’ve always felt that one reason people start smoking is so they won’t look stupid while waiting. A person standing around waiting looks like the victim of forces beyond his control – he’s being stood up for a date, or the bus is late – and he fidgets because he doesn’t know what to do with his hands (in pockets or out), or whether to lean non-chalantly or not. He has no one to talk to, undoubtedly because of some deficiency in social skills. He gazes vacantly – nothing in particular to look at. He pretends to look at something and then worries that the pretense is obvious.

But smokers have these problems solved. They have something to do with their hands – taking out the pack, tapping it, sliding out the cigarette, tapping that, cupping the match in their hand – and then of course holding the cigarette. As anyone who has ever been at a cocktail party knows, you only have to have something to do with one hand.

What’s more, smokers look so deep in thought. Stare out into space, and you look vacant. Stare out into space while blowing out a stream of smoke, and you look like a philosopher, maybe even a Marlboro-man cowboy philosopher, which is even better. This smoker is alone because he’s chosen to be alone

I know for a fact that these smokers are just waiting, if not loitering, and their thoughts run no deeper than “I wonder when the bus will come,” or “I look kind of cool standing here,”or “why can’t I get anyone to go out with me?” But they have a contemplative, even visionary look that you just can’t get by sipping a cup of coffee.

Smoking is gross, however, and is known to cause cancer. Cells phone use is merely suspected to cause cancer. And while people talking on cell phones don’t have the visionary gaze thing going, they don’t look like they’re waiting. They’re talking! And they’re not alone – they have people to talk to. Never mind that it’s just to fill waiting time, and their conversation isn’t about anything important – it’s just blowing smoke.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


The zilches

How OUGHT we prounce our present decade, the '00s?

In the post election gloom, as my small but determined handful of readers drift away from this blog and I wonder whether I can ever blog again, I suddenly remember that I can blog about other things than politics.

We have a problem in our current decade. Not only will Bush be president for most of it, but there's been very little discussion about how to pronounce it. Everyone knows how to say the names of former decades -- like "the '60s"-- all the way on up to "the '90s".

In quainter times, the first decade of the century would have, I suppose, been called "the oughts." The word "ought," which is also rendered "aught," is a somewhat archaic term for zero. So if I were to talk about last year by saying, "In ought-three ['03], I had high hopes that evil would be defeated in the ought-four presidential elections," I would sound something like Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man trying to con the local townspeople into starting a school-children's band in early 20th century small town America. And I can't say I ever heard of a decade being called "the oughts."

Given Bush's re-election, there is a certain justice to it, though. "The oughts" suggests an unreached standard, as in: "We ought to be doing something about controlling greenhouse gases [but our president doesn't believe in global warming]." On second thought, perhaps the "shoulda's" would be more to the point.

If we really to characterize the decade by the accomplishments or intellect of our president, we could refer to the decade as the "zero, zip, nadas," or perhaps more onomatopoeically, "the zilches."

By the way, is there any word in the dictionary that, ironically, means less like what it sounds like than "onomatopoeia"?

You might think it would be most obvious to call our current decade "the O's." Certainly, one strategy for coping with post-election sadness is to busy oneself with having as many big "Os" as one possibly can. But has there ever been a decade in which we've racked up as many "Os" as we'd hoped?

I have to say, I like "the zilches." As in: "when George w Bush was elected president, the nation entered the zilches."

Okay, so let's all agree to pronouce our decade -- numerically, the " '00s" -- as "the zilches."

Friday, November 12, 2004


Mr. Out of It

Is it time to reintroduce the sports pages into my restricted news consumption?

Although I’m still experiencing personal news blackouts due to Post-Election-Stress-Syndrome, I felt kind of stupid and out of the loop that I missed the New York Mets' hiring of Willie Randolph as their new manager. Then I saw that they made the announcement on November 3. Is that kind of weird, or are we to assume that the Mets just needed to know whom to put at the top of their list for throwing out the first ball?

Now that Flushing Local is back in business, I plan to be very up on Mets news. Here is Flushing Local’s sage commentary on the recent Mets trade rumors:
Mike Piazza for Shawn Green? Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd for Sammy Sosa?Jose Reyes for Alfonso Soriano?

Is everyone taking crazy pills? Has no one learned a single lesson from the Mets' 21st century descent? How many more aging, declining, injury-prone, brand-name sluggers with bad attitudes will the Mets have to acquire and be disappointed with before we all understand that this strategy does not work?

....I'm hoping these reports of nascent trades are just rumor sausages churned out from the media machine because there's nothing else of substance to report.
Let’s hope that Omar Minaya’s apparent brilliance as GM was not mere craftiness imposed by Montreal’s low budget and that he doesn’t now go crazy having lots of bucks to spend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Let them eat pie

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, as Oscar Wilde said, and a blog link that pulls your nose is better than no link – especially when it comes from the mighty Althouse, who instantly tripled my readership with this link.

So is it ungrateful to bite the hand that tweaks you? If I say what’s on my mind, will Althouse say “see if I ever link to him again”? But if I don’t say anything, doesn’t that make me a – what? – a link lackey?
"The Columnist Manifesto" is still fuming that Kerry didn't fight a legal battle in Ohio. Looks like somebody needs to go shopping! Or maybe some pie...
Yeah, I'm still fuming. I’m sure Althouse is not so whimsical as to suggest that Kerry supporters are mere sore losers who should just “get over it” as if what we’ve experienced is our team losing the Super Bowl. Aside from the fact that I am a sore loser who was upset for weeks when the Mets lost the 2000 World Series, only someone with a seasonal interest in politics could fail to see that this game is deadly serious, and is particularly deadly serious to the folks Althouse voted for (“w” and those who control him).

While searching Althouse blog for what proved to be the link to me, I came across this item.
Will MSM [“mainstream media”] give us more positive-sounding reports from Iraq now that there's no longer an incentive to affect the election with Iraq-is-a-mess slanting?
Whoah, there. What is the implication of this statement? Either Althouse is calling on MSM to provide us with a diet of propaganda to “help the war effort,” or else voting for Bush is such a transformative experience that Althouse has become a true believer: we’re to understand that things are in fact going according to plan in Iraq, there actually were WMDs and ties to al Queda in Iraq, and that whole Abu Ghraib thing was just the liberal MSM “making shit up” to hurt Bush.


Divided government

Although the Republicans control the White House, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, Democrats still control "The West Wing"!

My household received DVDs for the first three seasons of The West Wing a couple of days ago, and I started watching season one again. As I made my escape into the fantasy world of a wise, capable and principled Commander in Chief with liberal Democrat leanings, the irony hit me. The Republicans in the so-called "real world" are the ones living the fantasy -- that Bush is a capable commander in chief, that there were weapons of mass destruction and al Quaeda ties in Iraq, and that the invasion there is going well. As long as they're so into fantasy, can't we just let them have The West Wing?

Craig T. Nelson of "Coach" fame (I'll accept other casting suggestions) plays an inept, intellectually overmatched, but likeable front man for a cabal of corporate profiteers and warmongers who maintain their hold on power by bashing gays, trumping up fear of terrorist attacks and manipulating a pliant media....

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Keeping in the game

From my Los Angeles informant, MAK:
A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. . . . If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."

--Thomas Jefferson, 1798, after the passage of the Sedition Act
The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 merit further study because of their possible lessons for our time. The nation was deeply divided between Federalists (John Adams) and Democratic Republicans (Thomas Jefferson), and the Federalist administration ran an extraordinarily partisan government that sought to use its control of all three branches of government to destroy its opposition. It failed, and the elections of 1800 brought about a political realignment in favor of the Jeffersonian Democrats in the elected branches (though Federalists were entrenched in the judiciary).

In times of trouble, I have found it comforting to turn to The Onion for clear analysis or foresight. After Bush was awarded the presidency in 2000, The Onion headlined:
Bush: Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Finally Over
How prescient was that? Currently, The Onion has this to say:
Bush Promises To Unite Nation For Real This Time
WASHINGTON, DC—A week after winning a narrow victory over Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, President Bush promised to "unite the divided nation, but for real this time." "Just as I pledged in 2000, I promise to bring the two halves of this nation together—only this time I'm really gonna do it," Bush said Tuesday. "I'll work hard to put an end to partisan politics. Seriously, though. This term, I will."

Friday, November 05, 2004


More on Kerry's premature resignation

Did Kerry Win?

I was angry and shooting from the hip on Wednesday, but it's looking like there's strong reason to believe that I am right in arguing that any Democratic candidate post-2000 has a duty to his party and his supporting voters to fight until it is clear that every vote is counted and the election is clearly over. Kerry failed to fulfill that duty. The reports from Ohio leave the issue very much in doubt. Kerry owed it to us to continue the fight in order to clarify that issue and give political impetus for needed reforms to fix critical flaws in the voting system. Check out these stories on Slate and Tom Paine suggesting that our worst fears came to pass -- that there was pro-Bush fraud in paperless e-voting systems that determined the outcome of the election.

Because Kerry backed down at the critical moment, these concerns are at present relegated to what is considered liberal fringe media -- when they should be center stage.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


An open letter to John Kerry

and to future Democratic candiates:

Dear Senator Kerry,

I will always be grateful to you for persevering in carrying a message of hope in an extraordinarily difficult presidential campaign. You showed calm under pressure, and maintained dignity and integrity in the face of your opponents' campaign of lies, false character attacks, and distortions. I continue to believe you would have been an excellent President of our country.

However, you have let us, your followers, down today with your premature concession of defeat.

It's unfortunate that the qualities that would have made you a fine president are not, in many respects, the same as those that make a strong presidential candidate and party leader. Your campaign has been criticized, with some justification, for being overly cautious and for waiting until you were behind – and, in hindsight, until it was too late – to craft a clear strong message and to decisively attack the failings of President Bush. Today, you have failed us as a party leader.

If there was any lingering doubt after the 2000 election -- and there should have been none – it is now crystal clear that a strong presidential candidate and party leader is not someone who runs for president until election day; he is someone who fights for the presidency through election day to December or January or whenever the fight is over.

In 2000, the Florida electoral vote debacle should have ended with a vote in the House of Representatives. Bush would in all likelihood have been chosen president by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But their choosing Bush in the face of a popular vote plurality for Al Gore would have imposed costs on the Republicans, and it could well have coalesced a strong Democratic opposition that might have culminated in stronger Democratic showings in the mid-term elections and a different result yesterday. Equally important, a presidential-selection battle in Congress in 2000 might have created a political groundswell to reform problems in the electoral system that continued to plague the election this time. Instead, Al Gore, in name of "statesmanship" and "national unity," accepted the highly political and illegitimate decision of the Supreme Court to let Congressional republicans off the hook

You probably felt that your minority of the popular vote was a negative mandate against your continuing the fight for the White House. But under the rules of presidential selection, you had a fighting chance to win Ohio, and thereby an electoral majority and the Presidency. As it is, the votes in Ohio have not been fully counted.

Had you won the election in that way, disputes notwithstanding, you could have demonstrated your statesmanship by pursuing a bi-partisan government of national unity that would have legitimized your presidency. Had there been an outcry of some of the public over a minority-popular-vote presidency, perhaps that would have led to a serious and salutary debate about reforming the electoral college. And by the way, had things been the reverse of what they are today -- had you won the popular vote, and led but not clinched the electoral vote -- do you think the Republicans would have walked away from a shot at the presidency because Bush did not have a popular electoral mandate? We already know the answer to that, from 2000.

Even an ultimately unsuccessful continuation of the fight would have benefitted your party and your 54 million supporters. There remain critical problems undermining our voting system. There is a strong suspicion of voting fraud stemming from the Diebold touch-screen voting machines, and serious questions of disenfranchisement in the chaotic procedures for handing provisional ballots. Had you fought for your voters in Ohio, these issues would have taken center stage. Focused public outrage could have led to solutions of these and other serious flaws in the electoral process. Instead, with your withdrawal from the fray, these issues are likely to be relegated to the margins of political debate as stories in the liberal fringe media.

Your words about "healing" and "national unity," like Al Gore's, are just that – words. The ears that need to hear them – those of the Bush administration – are totally deaf to them. Bush took his electoral minority to run the most partisan administration in modern memory: "Full speed ahead" on the right wing agenda, in the words of Dick Cheney. And this when he had re-election to worry about. If that past four years have shown us anything, it is that Bush is a divider, not a uniter. You know this. And you know that Bush, with a significantly the weakened Democratic opposition in Congress and no re-election concerns to check him, will take this tiny electoral majority – the smallest margin of victory of any incumbent in American history – and treat it as a mandate to push his right wing agenda further than anything we have yet seen. Perhaps had you continued to fight for the presidency, you could have reinvigorated your supporters – now reeling from the disappointment – to resist the divisive governance of the Bush administration.

You fought a good fight up to November 2, but you owed us a better, and longer fight.

If there is anything good to come out of your quiet withdrawal from the race, let it be that all future Democratic presidential contenders are put on notice. The battle for the White House does not end on election day. The Republicans have proven that they understand this. If you will be the Democratic nominee, are you prepared to fight until the finish?

Monday, November 01, 2004


Couldn't have said it better...

The New Yorker endorses Kerry. (Thanks, Nina.) Makes me proud to be a subscriber.

Among the many excellent points in the editorial is this one that has bothered me about the Bush administration from the beginning. Although most of the mainstream media seems to have forgotten the point, it's been simmering, and goes a long way to explaining the depth of feeling of those voting against Bush:
But the damage [of the disputed 2000 election] would have been far less severe if the new President had made some effort to take account of the special circumstances of his election—in the composition of his Cabinet, in the way that he pursued his policy goals, perhaps even in the goals themselves. He made no such effort. According to Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack,” Vice-President Dick Cheney put it this way: “From the very day we walked in the building, a notion of sort of a restrained presidency because it was such a close election, that lasted maybe thirty seconds. It was not contemplated for any length of time. We had an agenda, we ran on that agenda, we won the election—full speed ahead.”
Vote those [@#$%!] bums out. You gotta love democracy.


It's about time

The Republican "block the vote" strategy of sending poll watchers to object to voters in high-volume, predominantly minority polling places has struck me as a fairly blatant violation of federal civil rights laws. I promise a more in-depth legal analysis after the election, but for now, I say bravo to the two rulings by federal judges in two separate Ohio cases barring such efforts.

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