Monday, August 30, 2004

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

Garrison Keillor is apparently in denial about the government we deserve...

"We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore [no shit, Toto.]

"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?

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.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Nov 3 Post Mortem: "Kerry KO'd by self inflicted wound "

Mark my words -- Kerry was always just another self-destructing Massachussetts liberal.
'...--- as far as his vote to authorize Bush to go to war in Iraq--he said that he would vote the same way even with what he knew now --what he knows now is that Bush fabricated the intelligence for the war and deceived the American people --he had a perfect moment and reason to change his mind-he did not--this ME TOOISM on the war will probably cost him the election' "

... Nice try, guys. You'll get 'em next time.

I'm so sure.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

How to Start a Bush War

Step 1: Establish a propaganda office cut-out in the middle of the intelligence community...

The Office of Special Plans

"According to former Bush officials, all defence and intelligence sources, senior administration figures created a shadow agency of Pentagon analysts staffed mainly by ideological amateurs to compete with the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The ideologically driven network functioned like a shadow government, much of it off the official payroll and beyond congressional oversight. But it proved powerful enough to prevail in a struggle with the State Department and the CIA by establishing a justification for war.
... The president's most trusted adviser, Mr Cheney, was at the shadow network's sharp end. He made several trips to the CIA in Langley, Virginia, to demand a more "forward-leaning" interpretation of the threat posed by Saddam. When he was not there to make his influence felt, his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was. Such hands-on involvement in the processing of intelligence data was unprecedented for a vice-president in recent times, and it put pressure on CIA officials to come up with the appropriate results.
Another frequent visitor was Newt Gingrich, the former Republican party leader who resurfaced after September 11 as a Pentagon "consultant" and a member of its unpaid defence advisory board, with influence far beyond his official title.,2763,999737,00.html

... How's that working for ya?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Why isnt the OSP in Kerry's ads?

The OSP was right at the heart of the rot that permeates this administration

"In the days after September 11 terrorist attacks, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith started cooking intelligence to meet the needs of the radically new foreign and military policy that included regime change in Iraq as its top priority.

One might have thought that the priority for a special intelligence would have been to determine the whereabouts of the terrorist network that had just attacked the homeland. But Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Feith, working closely with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney, had other intelligence priorities.

To bolster the Iraq war party, they needed intelligence that would persuade the U.S. public and policymakers that Saddam Hussein's regime should be one of the first targets of the war on terrorism. Convinced that the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the State Department would not provide them with type of alarmist threat assessments necessary to justify a preventive war, they created their own tightly controlled intelligence operation at the top levels of the Pentagon bureaucracy.

The day after the September 11 attacks Wolfowitz authorized the creation of an informal team focused on ferreting out damaging intelligence about Iraq . This loosely organized team soon became the Office of Special Plans (OSP) ... The objective of this closet intelligence team, according to Rumsfeld, was to “search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists.” OSP's mission was to create intelligence that the Pentagon and vice president could use to press their case for an Iraq invasion with the president and Congress. The OSP ... played a key role in providing Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the president himself with the intelligence frequently cited to justify the March 2003 invasion. "

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane

Remember the "remarkable escape of al-Qaeda forces from Kabul " or the "Northern Alliance fighters held back at the request of the US from sweeping into Kandahar... the conquest of Kandahar takes weeks without the Northern Alliance and bin Laden slips away" or when the "Of the 8,000 remaining al-Qaeda, Pakistani and Taliban, about 5,000 are airlifted out " of Konduz?

And how about when "many locals in Afghanistan witness a remarkable escape of al-Qaeda forces from Kabul around this time. One local businessman says: "We don't understand how they weren't all killed the night before because they came in a convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks. It was a very dark night, but it must have been easy for the American pilots to see the headlights. The main road was jammed from eight in the evening until three in the morning."

... by golly, those WERE the good old days, eh?

Republican Congressman: Bush's war a costly mess

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and the situation there has deteriorated into ``a dangerous, costly mess.'

``I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action,' Rep. Doug Bereuter wrote in a letter to his constituents.

``Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action,' he said.

Bereuter is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become the president of the Asia Foundation effective Sept. 1.

``From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force,' he said. ``Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world.'

Bereuter said as a result of the war, ``our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened.'

Saturday, August 14, 2004

All long-leading regional indexes have turned down

It’s tempting to look at certain improving fundamental yardsticks and say that stocks are probably cheap enough to spur buying. After all, interest rates are still pretty low, and companies generally are getting more productivity out of fewer workers -- making them stronger financially. Economists at ISI Group estimate that the S&P 500 stocks on average are selling for 15 times next year’s earnings, which is fairly reasonable. And corporate cash hoards are near record highs.

But all of these metrics are “coincidental,” in the parlance of economists -- meaning that they tell you something about what’s happening now, but not much about the future. To peer beyond the horizon, you need non-linear measurements that bend around the corner and don’t just extrapolate the present forward. That’s where the work of Lakshman Achuthan at the Economic Cycle Research Institute comes in handy. As I’ve reported all year, his weekly leading index -- which compacts a variety of predictive economic indicators into a single number... has continued to point down in an increasingly persistent, profound and pervasive way despite rosy reports out of Washington. Achuthan’s analysis suggests that U.S. economic growth is distinctly slowing from the above-average pace of last year.

Late last week, he reported that although all of his global coincident economic-activity indexes remain in cyclical up-trends, all long-leading regional indexes have turned down.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Khan was burned by Pak, not Bush admin

if you believe this ...

"Take a closer look at the sourcing in the original New York Times piece disclosing Khan's name, which was written by Douglas Jehl and David Rohde. They cite a "senior United States official" for details on the documentary evidence found after the capture of a suspect, but this "United States official" is pointedly not cited as having given the name of the suspect. Instead, a few paragraphs further down, the Times reporters tell us:

The American officials would say only that the Qaeda figure whose capture had led to the discovery of the documentary evidence had been captured with the help of the C.I.A. Though Pakistan announced the arrest last week of a Qaeda member, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in connection with the bombings of American embassies in East Africa in 1998, the American officials suggested that he had not been the source of the new threat information.

An account provided by a Pakistani intelligence official made clear that the crucial capture in recent weeks had been that of Mr. Khan, who is also known as Abu Talha. The intelligence official provided information describing Mr. Khan as having assisted in evaluating potential American and Western targets for terrorist attacks, and as being representative of a ''new Al Qaeda.''


"I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain-I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
- G.W. Bush

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we"
- President Bush, delievering a speech at the signing ceromony for a $417 billion defense spending bill, Aug 04

But his defenders say actions speak louder than words, right? In 1990 George W. Bush sells two-thirds of his Harken Energy stock at the top of the market for $850,000, a 200% profit, but makes no report to the SEC until March 1991. Bush Jr. says later the SEC misplaced the report. An SEC representative responds: "nobody ever found the 'lost' filing." One week after Bush's sale, Harken reports an earnings plunge. Harken stock falls more than 60%.

... How is this guy still polling in double digits?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Jobs numbers are bad unless you twirl 'em pretty hard

When Friday's dismal job report was released, traders in the Chicago pit began chanting, "Kerry, Kerry." But apologists for President Bush's economic policies are frantically spinning the bad news. Here's a guide to their techniques.

First, they talk about recent increases in the number of jobs, not the fact that payroll employment is still far below its previous peak, and even further below anything one could call full employment. Because job growth has finally turned positive, some economists (who probably know better) claim that prosperity has returned - and some partisans have even claimed that we have the best economy in 20 years.

But job growth, by itself, says nothing about prosperity: growth can be higher in a bad year than a good year, if the bad year follows a terrible year while the good year follows another good year. I've drawn a chart of job growth for the 1930's; there was rapid nonfarm job growth (8.1 percent) in 1934, a year of mass unemployment and widespread misery - but that year was slightly less terrible than 1933.

So have we returned to prosperity? No: jobs are harder to find, by any measure, than they were at any point during Bill Clinton's second term. The job situation might have improved somewhat in the past year, but it's still not good.

Second, the apologists give numbers without context. President Bush boasts about 1.5 million new jobs over the past 11 months. Yet this was barely enough to keep up with population growth, and it's worse than any 11-month stretch during the Clinton years.

Third, they cherry-pick any good numbers they can find.

The shocking news that the economy added only 32,000 jobs in July comes from payroll data. Experts say what Alan Greenspan said in February: "Everything we've looked at suggests that it's the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow." Another measure of employment, from the household survey, fluctuates erratically; for example, it fell by 265,000 in February, a result nobody believes. Yet because July's household number was good, suddenly administration officials were telling reporters to look at that number, not the more reliable payroll data.

... Paulie, you forgot the best part -- remember all their job creation predictions? Every single one ridiculously overoptimistic and flattened under the wheels of cruel reality like yesterday's roadkill.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Our Long National Nightmare Was Over (That Was Then, This Is Now Dept)

It had been an especially bruising few months for Richard Nixon. In the 2-year war that became known as "Watergate," Nixon had lost the final real battle just weeks earlier.

In an 8-to-0 decision, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to relinquish Oval Office tapes
he'd made in hopes of preserving history. No one could know those very tapes would doom his presidency.

Nixon's grip on power and the faith of those he served had weakened steadily over the prior year, then precipitously in those final weeks...

Think how different history would have been if this Magnificent Nine had been on the bench in '74. Can anybody think SCOTUS of today would vote 8-0 to force a president to turn over the tapes? (Yes, I meant "a Republican president." Sorry.) Even 5-4 is a long shot. And Bush will probably get 3 more Scalia clones appointed to the bench in his next term. Speak the unspeakable: "Chief Justice Clarence Thomas."

And be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you intentionally blow a mole's cover

to score political points, does that qualify as "high crimes and misdemeanors" or just a Class 1 felony?

This is flat out inexcusable...
"As part of the ramping up of its Orange Alert, the administration announced that an al-Qaeda computer expert and techno-whiz had just been arrested with terrifying material on his computer, and then, when the New York Times learned his name, evidently confirmed it to the paper. The catch was, as Reuters recently revealed, when Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan was arrested, he agreed to turn double agent – and so became that rarest of all creatures, a potential mole inside al-Qaeda. Soon thereafter, his cover was blown. "'The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse," said Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane's Defence publications."You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within al Qaeda, when it's so difficult to get these guys in there in the first place?... Running agents within a terrorist organisation is the Holy Grail of intelligence agencies. And to have it blown is a major setback which negates months and years of work, which may be difficult to recover."

Friday, August 06, 2004

Racist Wins GOP Primary

"MEMPHIS, Tenn. - An unabashed racist will represent the Republican party in the November election for a congressional seat after a write-in candidate failed to derail his effort.

With 86 percent of the primary vote counted Thursday, write-in candidate Dennis Bertrand had just 1,554 votes compared to 7,671, or 83 percent, for James L. Hart, a believer in the discredited, phony science of eugenics.

In November, the GOP candidate will oppose Rep. John Tanner, a Democrat who has represented the northwest Tennessee district for 15 years.

Hart, 60, vows if elected to work toward keeping "less favored races" from reproducing or immigrating to the United States. In campaign literature, Hart contends that "poverty genes" threaten to turn the United States into "one big Detroit."

Enron Trader Admits To Manipulating Mkt

SAN FRANCISCO, AUG 6: John Forney, 42, a former Enron Corp trading executive pleaded guilty to charges that he manipulated energy markets during California’s power crisis.

He is the third official to plead guilty to manipulating electricity prices from Enron’s trading office in Portland, Oregon. The crisis played a role in Pacific Gas & Electric Co’s bankruptcy and will leave California consumers paying very high electricity prices for years. He faces a maximum of five years. A sentencing date has not been set. "With the guilty plea of John Forney, we have now obtained convictions of the top three Enron executives most directly responsible for manipulating the energy markets in California at a time unique in our history, when the lights were going off and the grid was in danger of shutting down," US Attorney Kevin Ryan said.

... all little fish -- when is Ahnold's connection going to hit the fan?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Money does not a school make

We spend 20% less per student here in my neighborhood than the national average but the dropout rate is less than a third the national average and the college graduation rate is almost triple.

hmmmmmmm .... Wonder why?

... oh yeah, now I remember -- it's the parenting, stupid!

From an Informed Source

They are going to do it again and again

"I spoke with Sy Hersh recently after delivering some documents to him (you'll read more on this in mid-September), and found him bubbling as ever, with a focus on the terror alert announced on Saturday. He says he has some information about this from a tipster at the Department of Homeland Security and also some information from a White House source close to Rove.

In sum, he says that Gov. Dean's charge that this is all political manipulation is 100% correct. The data that was the basis of the alert has in fact been in US hands for two years plus and was previously rejected as a basis for an alert due to its staleness. A decision to go to alert status came from within the WhiteHouse and was driven by a strategy that Rove has been fine tuning for twoyears on fear manipulation as an election tool.

Also, as The New Republic previously reported, the arrests in Pakistan that provided the "context" for these alerts was also scripted and agreed in advance between Musharraf and GOP officials. Rove has very detailed research which purports to show that terror alerts can be manipulated to drive support for Bush. Rove is looking for a series of such alerts with growing intensity up to the election date. The
alerts will all be timed to divert attention away from Kerry whenever he scores an important success or has a positive appearance. Rove originally planned to announce this alert on Friday, but others in the White House felt this timing would be too obvious, so it was put back a day. Brian Ross at ABC News has been working on a story on this.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

True Believers

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a popular conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

"Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs overseas.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is evil socialism.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is a impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did from the 60's through the '80s is irrelevant.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Krugman lays the lumber to cable news spinners

Paul didn't get the memo apparently...

"A message to my fellow journalists: check out media watch sites like, and It's good to see ourselves as others see us. I've been finding The Daily Howler's concept of a media "script," a story line that shapes coverage, often in the teeth of the evidence, particularly helpful in understanding cable news.

For example, last summer, when growth briefly broke into a gallop, cable news decided that the economy was booming. The gallop soon slowed to a trot, and then to a walk. But judging from the mail I recently got after writing about the slowing economy, the script never changed; many readers angrily insisted that my numbers disagreed with everything they had seen on TV.

If you really want to see cable news scripts in action, look at the coverage of the Democratic convention.

Commercial broadcast TV covered only one hour a night. We'll see whether the Republicans get equal treatment. C-Span, on the other hand, provided comprehensive, commentary-free coverage. But many people watched the convention on cable news channels - and what they saw was shaped by a script portraying Democrats as angry Bush-haters who disdain the military.

If that sounds like a script written by the Republicans, it is. As the movie "Outfoxed" makes clear, Fox News is for all practical purposes a G.O.P. propaganda agency. A now-famous poll showed that Fox viewers were more likely than those who get their news elsewhere to believe that evidence of Saddam-Qaeda links has been found, that W.M.D. had been located and that most of the world supported the Iraq war.

CNN used to be different, but Campaign Desk, which is run by The Columbia Journalism Review, concluded after reviewing convention coverage that CNN "has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox's most dubious ploys and policies." Seconds after John Kerry's speech, CNN gave Ed Gillespie, the Republican Party's chairman, the opportunity to bash the candidate. Will Terry McAuliffe be given the same opportunity right after President Bush speaks?

Commentators worked hard to spin scenes that didn't fit the script. Some simply saw what they wanted to see. On Fox, Michael Barone asserted that conventioneers cheered when Mr. Kerry criticized President Bush but were silent when he called for military strength. Check out the video clips at Media Matters; there was tumultuous cheering when Mr. Kerry talked about a strong America.

Another technique, pervasive on both Fox and CNN, was to echo Republican claims of an "extreme makeover" - the assertion that what viewers were seeing wasn't the true face of the party. (Apparently all those admirals, generals and decorated veterans were ringers.)

It will probably be easier to make a comparable case in New York, where the Republicans are expected to feature an array of moderate, pro-choice speakers and keep Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay under wraps. But in Boston, it took creativity to portray the delegates as being out of the mainstream. For example, Bill Schneider at CNN claimed that according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 75 percent of the delegates favor "abortion on demand" - which exaggerated the poll's real finding, which is that 75 percent opposed stricter limits than we now have.

But the real power of a script is the way it can retroactively change the story about what happened.

On Thursday night, Mr. Kerry's speech was a palpable hit. A focus group organized by Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, found it impressive and persuasive. Even pro-Bush commentators conceded, at first, that it had gone over well.

But a terrorism alert is already blotting out memories of last week. Although there is now a long history of alerts with remarkably convenient political timing, and Tom Ridge politicized the announcement by using the occasion to praise "the president's leadership in the war against terror," this one may be based on real information. Regardless, it gives the usual suspects a breathing space; once calm returns, don't be surprised if some of those same commentators begin describing the ineffective speech they expected (and hoped) to see, not the one they actually saw.

Luckily, in this age of the Internet it's possible to bypass the filter. At, you can find transcripts and videos of all the speeches. I'd urge everyone to watch Mr. Kerry and others for yourself, and make your own judgment. "