Saturday, July 31, 2004

ON SECOND THOUGHT I had another look at Barack Obama's convention keynote address this afternoon, and it's really grown on me.

C-SPAN has archived it as a Real Player file here. The speech lasts a shade over eighteen minutes--it's definitely worth checking out if you missed it on Tuesday night.

Three words of advice to John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer: watch your back.

A FOOTNOTE: Obama's speech was important in many ways. But one of the fascinating things about watching it is the camera's quick cut to Jesse Jackson at the end.

Jackson's face is almost expressionless in the clip, so it's impossible to know what he's thinking. But my sense is, he probably felt a lot like or The Beach Boys the first time they listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or a Waldenbooks executive logging onto Amazon.com for the first time.

Friday, July 30, 2004

A DISSENTING VIEW Everyone I've spoken to about last night's speech has given Kerry high marks. Liberal hawk Matthew Yglesias disagrees.

UPDATE:Kerryologist Tom Oliphant wasn't impressed either. On the other hand, masochistic Kerry hater/donor Mickey Kaus gushes:

Good enough!...Substantive, non-cheap Bush-bashing! Populism muted-to-nonexistent! Above all, Kerry seemed less pompous, like a guy you could conceivably live with for four years.

If you've been reading Kaus with any frequency, you know that for him this counts as high praise.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

ZIP IT Unfortunately, Andrew Sullivan is on to something in this post about Teresa Heinz Kerry's convention speech.

Sullivan expands on his criticisms here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

BACK IN TOWN Not sure I was quite as enthusiastic about Barack Obama's speech tonight as were Mark Shields and David Brooks over at PBS.

But there's no disputing the fast-developing convention wisdom that, if Obama plays his cards right, he may just have more than a Senate seat in his future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

THINGS TO DO IN DENVER CONTRAPOSITIVE is going on hiatus for the next week or so. In the meantime, loyal readers are urged to take a gander at the blogs recommended at right.

(Those looking for a respite from political news may want to give Green Cine Daily a try.)

And folks who find themselves in the Denver vicinity this weekend should remember that Dan Aibel's THE THIRD RULE is being presented at The Bug Theatre on Friday and Saturday night.

Monday, July 19, 2004

WHAT HE SAID There are a number of ways to evaluate whether the war in Iraq has made us less safe. But as Tim Dunlop notes, the approach the Bush administration has taken with Iran speaks volumes.

UPDATE: Former Bush-supporter Andrew Sullivan has more.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

BUSH FLIP-FLOPS ON GAY SEX Campaign Desk has the scoop.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

MARA LIASSON SHOULD QUIT I often wind up cringing when watching liberal pols on conservative talk shows.

Whether it's a poor state legislator squaring off against Bill O'Reilly, or Juan Williams taking on the entire gang of Fox talking heads, there's something distasteful about looking on as a pundit from 'our' side faces a stacked deck.

But something else also happens when I watch: It's hard to resist turning on the very progressives fighting these unwinnable battles. There's something inescapably demeaning--and almost tainting--about their role, and their willingness to lend tacit approval to the charade that is right wing TV news.

Still, in my more reflective moments, I've always wound up concluding that people like Juan Williams do a service to the progressive cause by taking part in these pseudo-debates. If Williams doesn't show up to battle the Beltway Boys, my thinking's been, Fox won't hesitate to book a replacement who is less talented, less telegenic and more easily slapped around. (Witness Susan Estrich and Alan Colmes.) At least with Williams on the air, there's a chance that someone in Fox's (large) audience will be persuaded, or at least forced to think.

AND YET, after catching the second half of Tuesday's Special Report With Brit Hume, I'm no longer so sure.

Helmed by substitute host Brian Wilson, the show consisted of commentary from three Fox regulars: conservatives Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes, and lefty Mara Liasson--of Roll Call, The Weekly Standard and National Public Radio, respectively.

To say that the usually-palatable Liasson (a former Republican, incidentally, who isn't exactly a liberal hard-liner) got pummeled doesn't convey the magnitude of the shellacking she took.

An excerpt (from discussion of the Iraq-Niger uranium story):

LIASSON: Why it matters is kind of -- it's a little complicated, but it's very important. Why it matters is that someone at the White House -- someone in the administration told Robert Novak, a columnist, that his wife -- named her. She's an undercover operative who has a secret identity. So he, in effect, outed her. Which Wilson claims was done to get revenge on him because he had written an article critical of the administration. Now, this...


BARNES: That's not why this matters at all! No. No. It matters whether...

LIASSON: It matters because this cast a different light on the motivation of why they might have said that.

BARNES: What matters is whether this is true or not. The president in his 2003 State of the Union Address said the British government has discovered that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa. Didn't even say Niger. Joe Wilson says -- comes along and says that one, he went over there on a mission and found that that wasn't true. And secondly, the White House got this information and then chose to ignore it. The president went on and said that.

Well, the CIA report says just the opposite. It says indeed he went over there and came back with information that bolstered the case for Iraq actually trying to buy uranium there, in both 1998 and 1999. And so, they didn't even send the information on to the White House. So the White House didn't have anything to ignore because they just dismissed Joe Wilson's report. Now, it's true they didn't follow-up, but they dismissed his report is not really changing anything.

And then on the question of whether his -- I mean it's a question of who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe this report and the people at the CIA? Or are you going to belief Joe Wilson? In this case, I happen to belief the report. And last thing...

LIASSON: But wait a minute, Fred. Why does the...


BARNES: Last thing -- wait a minute. One more -- as Mort would say, furthermore, on this question of whether -- of whether his wife was involved or not. All the people at the CIA said it was her idea. And then there was a memo, in which she promotes him for the job of going to Niger. That's pretty telling.

KONDRACKE: Yes. I got to say that everything that Fred said is -- looks to be absolutely right. And that Joe Wilson manufactured this story and made himself an object of...

WILSON: It's a blow to his credibility is what you're saying.

It may not come through as clearly in the transcript as it did on the tube, but Liasson was essentially cut off and then shouted down.

More to the point, a CONTRAPOSITIVE analysis of the transcript reveals that Liasson spoke fewer words on the show than any of the other panelist including the host.

Barnes: 738 words.
Kondracke: 478 words.
Liasson: 390 words.
Wilson: 437 words.

Now. Maybe Liasson just used really really long words. But I doubt it.

Just as revealing as Liasson's failure to get anything like equal time is the fact that her average comment--defined as the period between interruptions (commercial or otherwise)--was by far the shortest of the panelists. Her comments averaged about two-thirds the length of Barnes' and just a shade over half as long as Kondracke's.

In sum, Liasson got significantly less air time than the other panelists, and she had to fight far harder for it.

NOW. There may not be a bright line between window-dressing and an honest exchange of opinions--between appearing as a member of the "loyal opposition" and getting used a doormat--but that line certainly got crossed on Special Report With Brit Hume during Tuesday afternoon's "debate."

There comes a time when even a well-meaning attempt to influence the discussion isn't worth the credibility one lends to the platform on which that discussion is occurring.

If Liasson wasn't embarrassed by the way she was manhandled on Tuesday, she certainly ought to be.

If she cares about her credibility, she ought to resign from Fox.

Monday, July 12, 2004

ALI G AT HARVARD HBO has posted the text of Sascha Baron-Cohen's Class Day speech to Harvard's 2004 graduating class.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

CALLING COLORADO Centennial State readers take note: THE THIRD RULE, a short play by frequent CONTRAPOSITIVE contributor Dan Aibel, will be presented later this month at The Bug Theatre in Denver, as part of that company's Fifth Annual New Play Festival.

Performances are slated for the evenings of July 23, 24, 30 and 31. Call The Bug at 303-477-9984 for details.

And if anyone makes it to a performance, please do report back.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

LIBRARIAN'S NIGHTMARE By now, you've no doubt heard the story about the "inadvertent" destruction of President Bush's National Guard records. But there's been little discussion of what, specifically, is supposed to have happened to the microfilm on which the records were stored.

This Reuters piece offers as thorough a summary as any:

The destroyed files kept in Denver on deteriorating 2,000-foot rolls of microfilm covered three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Bush's claims of service with the guard in Alabama are in question.

"It (the film) just crumbled. We were attempting to improve the preservation," Hubbard told Reuters. He said he did not know why the destruction had not been previously announced.

According to Robert Nawrocki, Director of the Record and Imaging Services Division of the Library of Virginia, "When stored properly, microfilm can last almost 500 years."

This particular reel of microfilm came up about 475 years short.

So what exactly went wrong?

Is it unreasonable to hope that the major news organizations--the ones with the big, fat rolodexes--might take a stab at getting us a more complete explanation?

Friday, July 09, 2004

BUSH--THE MUSICAL On August 27, 1998, Ken Lay seems to have sent a letter asking then-Governor George W. Bush to play the part of Abraham Lincoln in a special Alley Theatre performance of the Frank Wildhorn musical THE CIVIL WAR.

Who knew?

Unfortunately, Bush declined. The Smoking Gun has the letter.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

WISHFUL THINKING From The Houston Chronicle:
An editorial in Wednesday's Chronicle carelessly referred to Sen. John Kerry in one reference as "President Kerry." The Chronicle regrets the error.

(Via Campaign Desk.)

CONASON READS MY MIND Why is Sen. John McCain--normally fiercely independent--allowing himself to be used as a pawn by the Bushies in a new TV spot? Watch a brief ad, and then read Joe Conason's piece cataloguing the tactics the Bushies used against McCain during the 2000 campaign.

UPDATE: The Democratic National Committee has set up a page with some fun video of McCain tearing into Bush during the 2000 race.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

EDWARDS ROUND-UP Not surprisingly, Daily Kos has the most cogent early analysis.

Jim Miller trots out the new GOP talking points.

TAPPED is fronting a great short piece headlined, "The Great Gephardt Fake Out."

Over at The National Review, Jonah Goldberg's post carries the title, "Bad News For Bush--Probably." And John J. Miller argues that Hillary Clinton is the day's biggest loser.

Monday, July 05, 2004

DICTIONARY OF TOMORROW Two words not listed at Dictionary.com:

1) Scratchiti. Defined by UrbanDictionary.com as, "a form of graffiti in which markings are etched into hard surfaces. Particularly prevalent in NYC Subways." (Read more about scratchiti here.)

2) Spim. Defined by The Word Spy as, "unsolicited commercial messages sent via an instant messaging system." (A good article on the spim phenomenon can be found here.)

Saturday, July 03, 2004

CINERAMA I have nothing to add to the debate over FAHRENHEIT 9/11.

But all the talk of per-screen averages and daily box office returns led me to a discovery worth taking a moment to digest:

WHITE CHICKS, the Wayans brothers vehicle, did $2,481,127 in business on Monday, June 28. Which suggests that more than 248,000 people--or almost .1% of the entire U.S. population--went to see the film sometime that Monday.

In an age of digital cable, high speed internet, satellite TV, video-on-demand, Netflix and the Xbox, that figure strikes me as astoundingly high.

I don't mean to pick on the Wayans brothers. And I've yet to hear anything, one way or the other, about WHITE CHICKS. But with all those options out there, isn't it sort of shocking that so many people chose to pay good money so they could spend their Monday night in a room full of strangers, watching a couple of comics dressed up in drag?

RAISING ARIZONA Ralph Nader is off the Arizona presidential ballot. Why is it a big deal?

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Bush loses Arizona but wins the election. And while Kerry remains the underdog in the hotly contested state, with Nader off the ballot, the race clearly becomes at least a bit more competitve.

So even if Kerry doesn't come away with the state's ten electoral votes, Nader's absence forces the Bushies to spend that much more time and money on Arizona.

Which means they'll have less time and money to spend on their other must-win states: Florida, Ohio, West Virgina, Nevada, etc.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.