T Nation

Debate 3 Pre-Debate

Some insightful humor from P.J. O’Rourke in The Weekly Standard to start the discussion:

Putting Words in the President’s Mouth
Sixteen obvious points that George W. Bush should make during the Wednesday night debate.
by P.J. O’Rourke
10/12/2004 12:00:00 AM

(1) My opponent, Massachusetts senator John Kerry–or, as I like to think of him, Teddy Kennedy with a designated driver . . .

(2) There are two organizations pushing for change in November–al Qaeda and the Democratic party. And they both have the same message: “We’re going to fix you, America.” On the whole, the terrorists have a more straightforward plan for fixing things. They’re going to blow themselves up. Although, come to think of it, Howard Dean did that.

(3) Senator Kerry, what do you mean my administration “lost” 1.6 million jobs? Did Dick Cheney accidentally leave 1.6 million jobs in the Senate men’s room or something? Did you find them? Have you got 1.6 million jobs that you’re hiding, Senator Kerry? And if you’re elected, are you going to give them back?

(4) Speaking of jobs, Senator, how come every illegal immigrant who wades the Rio is able to find one in about 10 minutes? Meanwhile, your Democratic core constituency has been unemployed for years. Are your supporters lazy, Senator Kerry? Or are they stupid? Back when Clinton was president, did your supporters think they got their jobs at Burger King because Bill was sleeping with the cow?

(5) You say health care costs are soaring? Well, I’m not the one with a personal injury lawyer on my ticket. I loved the billboards that John Edwards used to have all over North Carolina: “Y’ALL MIGHT HAVE GOT HURT AT WORK AND NOT EVEN KNOWN IT” and “FEELIN’ POORLY? LEMME SUE YER DOCTOR!”

(6) Yeah, we’re running a deficit. Like Democrats never did that. But at least we’re borrowing the money when interest rates are low. It’s the same as refinancing your home loan. Not that you’d know, Senator Kerry, since your rich wife paid off your mortgage.

(7) You say that we won the war, but we’re losing the peace because Iraq is so unstable. When Iraq was stable, it attacked Israel in the 1967 and 1973 wars. It attacked Iran. It attacked Kuwait. It gassed the Kurds. It butchered the Shiites. It fostered terrorism in the Middle East. Who wants a stable Iraq?

(8) No, it turns out Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. And how crazy does that make Saddam? All he had to do was tell Hans Blix, “Look anywhere you want. Look under the bed. Look beneath the couch. Look behind the toilet tank in the third presidential palace on the left, but keep your mitts off my copies of Maxim.” And Saddam could have gone on dictatoring away until Donald Rumsfeld gets elected head of the World Council of Churches. But no . . .

(9) You say I didn’t have the answers in Iraq? Well, what were the questions? Was there this bad man? Was he running a bad country? That did bad things? Did it have a lot of oil money to do bad things with? Was it going to do more bad things? If those were the questions, was the answer “more time to let international sanctions and U.N. weapons inspections do their job”? No, the answer was blow the place to bits.

(10) You say I didn’t have a plan for the post-war problem of Iraq? I say we blew the place to bits–what’s the problem?

(11) Yes, blowing a place to bits leaves a mess behind. But it’s a mess without a military to fight aggressive wars. A mess without the facilities to develop dangerous weapons. A mess that can’t systematically kill, torture, and oppress millions of its own citizens. It’s a mess with a message–don’t mess with us!

(12) Saddam Hussein was reduced to the Unabomber–Ted Kaczynski–a nutcase hiding in the sticks. Sure, the terrorism by his supporters is frightening. Hence, its name, “terrorism.” Killing innocent people by surprise is not called “a thousand points of light.” But, as frightening as terrorism is, it’s the weapon of losers. The minute somebody sets off a suicide bomb, you can be sure that person doesn’t have “career prospects.” And no matter how horrendous a terrorist attack is, it’s still conducted by losers. Winners don’t need to hijack airplanes. Winners have an Air Force.

(13) You say you’re going to get our friends and allies to take a bigger role in Iraq. Senator Kerry, what friends and allies? You’re a sophisticated fellow. You’re well-traveled and speak French. Are there some countries out there that you know about and the rest of us have never heard of?

(14) Let me tell you something, Senator Kerry. I don’t blame the U.N. for not supporting me in Iraq. The world is full of loathsome governments run by criminals, thugs, and beasts. When I mentioned “regime-change,” hairy little ears pricked up all over the earth. Beads of sweat broke out on low, sloping brows. Blood-stained, grasping hands began to tremble. I had to put poor Colin Powell on the phone to various hyenas in high office and have him explain that America itself needed regime-change from 1992 to 2000. And we didn’t bomb the fellow responsible, and we only impeached him a little. Secretary Powell had to tell Kim Jung Il, Robert Mugabe, and Jacques Chirac to quit worrying and look at Bill Clinton and realize the fate that awaits them is a lucrative lecture tour, a best-selling book, and many willing, plump young women.

(15) Senator Kerry, you say you were in favor of threatening to use force on Saddam Hussein, but that actually using force was wrong. The technical term for this in political science is “bullshit.”

(16) What are you going to do, Senator, give Saddam Hussein a mulligan and let him take his tee shot over?

P.J. O’Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of, most recently, Peace Kills.

I like most of his stuff, but this one struck me as petty, childish and stupid.

So yeah, as I read it I could actually picture bushleague’s stupid grin while he stood behind a podium using these words to make an even bigger ass of himself.

Politicians sink to a new low: Spam as spin. Something to keep in mind if you’re inclined to believe internet polls or letters to the editor…

The Web: ‘Bots’ pushing poll results
By Gene J. Koprowski
United Press International
Published 10/13/2004 12:26 PM

CHICAGO, Oct. 13 (UPI) – President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry will walk across the stage Wednesday night and greet each other at the beginning of the third and final presidential debate. Already, across the country, e-mail messages are arriving in newsroom inboxes declaring a winner.

A new form of spam is emerging this fall, called debate-spin spam, experts told UPI’s The Web. The veracity of the e-mail messages being sent as letters to the editor is coming into question, as are the timing and content of many of the messages, because a significant percentage is being generated by bots, or intelligent software agents.

“In the world of politics, there are good bots and bad bots,” said Christopher Faulkner, chief executive officer of C I Host, an online hosting service in Bedford, Texas. “There are hundreds of bots available for spamming or political use.”

For example, BotSpot.com makes available a bot known as “Mr. Smith E-Mails Washington,” which occupies a high-profile in the computing community, because it is intended for consumers to use to e-mail members of Congress. Bots also can be customized quite easily, too, and can send out millions of messages in minutes.

“For these political-action groups, many of them probably set up their own in-house servers,” Faulkner told The Web. “All it takes is a little know how and a little bandwidth.”

During the first presidential debate, OpinionJournal.com, published by The Wall Street Journal, reported its letters editor received about 3,500 e-mails. The Washington Post wrote an editorial about the influx of e-mail it received, some declaring a winner to the debate before it had even commenced. Other news organizations, including UPI, also received suspect letters, including three versions of the same letter, purportedly from different accounts.

“When they’re doing a mass mailer, they don’t log into Google and get Gmail and send them out one by one,” Dan Forootan, founder and president of EZ Publishing Inc., an Internet hosting company in Davis, Calif., told The Web.

The messages may come from public Internet addresses, such as Google or Yahoo, but experts said it is surprisingly easy to forge the header of a reputable firm and send e-mail from its address.

“This is a sophisticated version of spin,” said John McIntyre, founder of RealClearPolitics.com, a political site in Chicago.

During the debate Sept. 30, UPI received a number of e-mails from Gmail accounts – accounts whose owners cannot be verified.

“Bush keeps trying to tell us that Iraq is part of the war on terror,” said one of the messages.

Another e-mail, hewed to a similar theme, said “President Bush’s message seems to be more along the lines of ‘we won’t give up, we will not pull out, the world is safer under my watch.’”

Yet another e-mail that evening, received before the debate had concluded, claimed that the writer could “hardly believe it when President Bush said he invaded Iraq because the enemy attacked us. Iraq didn’t attack us. Osama bin Laden did – and George W. Bush gave the terrorist leader exactly what he wanted.”

McIntyre said such e-mails are similar to the telephone calls he received when he was on WGN-AM radio in Chicago, giving analysis on The Milt Rosenberg Show the night of the debate.

“We received a couple of calls that were highly suspect,” he told The Web. “I was skeptical as to whether they were legitimate calls. They were so scripted. They were what a campaign would want the caller to say: ‘I was for Bush in 2000. I was undecided. Now I am for Kerry.’ It sounds too perfect.”

There are ways to determine if incoming e-mail is political spam, experts said.

“You can check the header and body of the message,” explained Tom Buoniello, vice president of product management at Sybari Software Inc., an anti-spam software developer in East Northport, N.Y. “You have to set this up at the server level, not at the client (individual PC) level, but you can determine if the system has seen a similar message before.”

Anti-spam software examines the route that a message took, and then uses recurrent-pattern detection techniques to see if others took the same route over the Internet, or originated from the same server, he explained.

“You can classify the e-mail in one of four ways,” Buoniello told The Web: “It’s not spam and is probably real. It is 100 percent spam, and you’ve seen it several times in one day. It’s probably spam, but you are not 100-percent certain. Or, it might be spam – hold it at the gateway and don’t deliver it for a few minutes.”

The reason anti-spam software can intercept suspect messages at the gateway is that spammers send out messages en masse. The software watches to see if messages arrive within a few minutes of one another containing similar text, or routing patterns or headers. If so, they can be snagged, he said.

The capability to write mass e-mail messages – and have computers write the content – has been around for years for sophisticated users of Unix systems, Mark Gruensfelder, manager of solutions engineering at Infocom Systems Inc. in Iselin, N.J., told The Web. “The program itself can generate the content.”

Sales departments at many major companies use automated programs to send messages to prospects and customers all the time – with reply to a third-party address, such as the sales manager, inserted on the header, for the recipient to see.

Bots now make it even easier to do, experts said. They even can participate in online polls, or generate news stories based on poll results, rather than reflect actual public sentiment.

Some political supporters of a particular candidate may grant permission to the campaign to use their e-mail addresses to send out letters, experts said.

“But it becomes quite nefarious when someone is spoofing someone else’s legitimate e-mail address,” Mark Pruner, an attorney and vice president of marketing at RD Legal Funding LLC in Englewood, N.J., told The Web.

With the rise of political spam, the effectiveness of it is likely to decrease.

“There is a real proliferation of this kind of software,” Amy Showalter, president of the Showalter Group Inc., a political consulting firm in Cincinnati, told The Web. “But when everyone uses the same tactic, people question whether it is really authentic. We find that (whenever) the software that allows ‘robo letters to the editor’ is used in full force, its PQ – or persuasion quotient – has yet to be determined.”

The Web is a weekly series by UPI examining the global telecommunications phenomenon known as the World Wide Web. E-mail sciencemail@upi.com

Copyright ? 2001-2004 United Press International

Also, for serious pre-debate prep, here are two links to some overviews on the issues – and while they lean slightly toward Kerry in the authors’ interpretations, the overall info will still be good if you want to know what’s coming tonight:

[registration required to follow the links, but I’ve never gotten any spam from the NYT or LAT]

Some questions I would like to hear Bush answer:

  1. In July 2003 your administration projected that your tax giveaways would create 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004. By all accounts there have been a net loss of jobs. Has the tax cut policy simply failed? What has caused this discrepency? What actions are going to be taken to remedy this?

  2. Why have you not vetoed a single spending bill? You dodged this question in the last debate by saying that you would spend whatever it takes to protect the American people, but based on my research most of the spending has not been on defense. Why do you argue “he’s a liberal” (referring to Kerry) when our last liberal president showed far more fiscal responsibility than your administration (and balanced the budget)?

  3. An MIT study showed that given identical qualifications on a resume, white Americans are 50% more likely to receive favorable responses than black Americans, based on negative racial stereotypes in our society. Do you believe we need to actively address this problem? Affirmative Action (not quotas) was proving to be an effective tools in helping this problem. Why are you opposed to this solution, and what is your alternative?

I have a feeling the answers would be:

  1. “we must stay the course, things are getting better.”

  2. “I will stop at nothing to protect you”

  3. “we must stay the course, things are getting better.”

Some questions I would like to hear Kerry answer:

  1. Who would be eligible for government coverage under your proposed health care plan. Is this an opt-in universal system, or are there restrictions on eligibility? How much will this system cost, and what will you divert funds from in order to implement this system without raising taxes.

  2. What is your stance on welfare reform? What about the system does/doesn’t work and would there be changes under your administration?

  3. You have proposed fully funding No Child Left Behind. Would there be any other significant changes to NCLB or the education system at large under your administration. In your estimation what does/doesn’t work and what needs fixing? How will you implement these changes?