Friday, August 29, 2003

Some things are too horrible to be true. I'm just in awe at the actions of guys like Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz. Good men.

So much was lost that day. So much wasted. And what becomes so infuriating is remembering how much has been squandered by the Bush administration since then. Good will. Credibility as a a nation. Allies. Here's a piece I had not seen, by Wesley Clark, who reminds us how the war on terror cannot be won unilaterally. Thanks to TAPPED for the link. Will Clark run? No matter what, it's going to be ugly, and the more threatening the candidate, the nastier the products of the GOP attack machine.

Or is it the GIP? They're good at attacking, spin, and mandaciousness, but lousy at everything else. Thanks to Amy Sullivan for the link. Josh Marshall has been riffing similarly for months, but focused specifically on Dick Cheney and how everything he touches turns to shit.

Amy Sullivan also points us here, where we can Rate the Presidents!

"Still, even the government of a superpower can't simultaneously offer tax cuts equal to 15 percent of revenue, provide all its retirees with prescription drugs and single-handedly take on the world's evildoers — single-handedly because we've alienated our allies. In fact, given the size of our budget deficit, it's not clear that we can afford to do even one of these things. Someday, when the grown-ups are back in charge, they'll have quite a mess to clean up."

Can you imagine anyone in the Bush administration doing this?


Baseball in Portland? Rob Neyer says it's not crazy. But I think funding a new ballpark is. Come to your senses Portlanders! There is no evidence that a major league team in a new ball park will provide jobs. There is no evidence that people will support a team in a new ball park if that team doesn't start winning, and fast. Geez, just ask the commiss about his own team!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

It's been about one year since the Veep made his speech extolling the virtues of immediate, forced regime-change in Iraq. "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon. Just how soon we cannot gauge," he told a Veterans of Foreign Wars audience on August 26, 2002.

About a year since Andrew Card explained new product launch techniques to the media.

One year. And it still feels there's an ad-hoc, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it attitude out of the White House. And now, hat in outstretched hand, we're back at the UN. With soldiers dying every day, we're certainly now in a great negotiating position with the French and Russians.

But I'm not placing any bets on seeing blue helmets in Iraq any time soon. Eating crow doesn't agree with Dear Leader's stomach.

Lordy, what is with these stupid people? "Dozens of protesters watched, furious and helpless, from behind the locked glass doors of the courthouse. Many have been camping on the courthouse steps, wearing their beliefs on their backs, with T-shirts reading 'Jesus is the Standard' and 'Satan is a Nerd.' Hmmm. I don't think the Onion could beat that.

Here's another choice quote:

"'This is just the beginning,' said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. 'We're going to call everybody we know and tell them to come to Montgomery to look inside that empty building and see what the future of America looks like.'"

Right. A future in which there is no state-sponsored religion, I hope.

I think crazy Chris Hitchens hits the nail on the head. I would also add, isn't this akin to worshiping a graven image? A distinct no-no according to the big block of stone. Geez, do these people follow the dietary restrictions of Leviticus?

Andrew Sullivan will be crushed. His hero is, after all, against gay marriage. Arnold sure takes some brave positions; I mean, who isn't for legalizing medical marijuana? Oh yeah, Ashcroft, who is a nerd, so I guess that protester's T-shirt, mentioned above, is true.

Since we're talking about the recall. There's something about Mary, who does, in fact, have a pretty detailed plan for getting California into the black. Her web cam idea is brilliant.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Not much time for musings on baseball or politics converging. However, can't resist the chance to point you to one of the most hilarious things ever done for late night TV...but was not permitted to air by nervous CBS execs. At least you can read the piece.

There seems to be a trend here. The networks are awfully uncomfortable depicting Arnold as, well, Arnold. FoxNews is especially concerned that the guy who announced his campaign by saying -- on national TV -- that it was the toughest decision he's had to make since deciding to get a bikini wax, isn't made to look less than the heavyweight thinker he no doubt is.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

1946 - 2003 57 years old. He's been so sick the past couple of years, it's probably a blessing.

"Bobby was muscular; he had long limbs and an almost unnaturally wide frame, giving the impression that he was huge when standing still, but small when in motion. He ws 6'1", but he took a long, quick stride, low to the ground, not wasting any time in the air but eating up the ground. Running, he looked so much like Mays in the outfield that occasionally, when they crossed, you could confuse them, and lose track of which was which, although they didn't look anything alike in the face or in the build. He was immensely strong, and a good hitter although he made no compromises; he had one swing, and he used the whole thing every time. Had a much better arm than Barry."

-- From "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract"

James ranks him at 15th for the all-time greatest right fielders (so far), and puts him on his major league all-star team for the '70s. The Giants traded him too soon, they traded any outfielder who wasn't as good as Willie Mays (they had a lot of great outfielders that they traded because of that).


In better news.

"Calling the motion 'wholly without merits, both factually and legally,' the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court, said that a person would have to be 'completely dense' not to realize the cover was a joke and that trademark protection for the phrase 'Fair and Balanced' was unrealistic because the words are so commonly used.

"...[Judge Chin] said Mr. Franken's work was 'fair criticism.'"

"Judge Chin said the case was an easy one, and chided Fox for bringing its complaint to court. The judge said, 'Of course, it is ironic that a media company that should be fighting for the First Amendment is trying to undermine it.'"

A win-win situation. Franken goes to #1 on Amazon (the book isn't even out yet), and Roger Ailes is no fool.

Friday, August 22, 2003

The Wall Street Journal carries a front page story today, headlined "Marines Do It All In One Iraqi City; Now They're Going." The story is about the 1,000 Marines in Karbala who "were involved in everything from painting schools to training a new local police force." They're now going home and are supposed to be replaced by a Bulgarian force. Unfortunately, the Bulgarians thought they were there to provide security, not run a city. "It's impossible to do everything they have done," the article quotes the Bulgarian chief, Col. Panayotov, as saying.

"The confusion in Karbala reflects a problem across Iraq that has suddenly become deeply serious. The U.S. urgently needs other countries to send more troops to Iraq. The demands of providing security and management while rebuilding Iraq have not only strained U.S. troops but also given potential relief troops second thoughts about how big a role they should play. Now, this week's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which capped off two weeks of increasingly sophisticated bombings around Iraq, has raised new questions about America's ability to keep order."

The Marines were supposed to be replaced by an American civilian governor and a complete team of foreign civilian administrators, but they haven't shown.

"'It's important that a Coalition Provisional Authority government team be in place and act as the lead agent,' Col. Lopez [the Marine commander] said. 'If the CPA does what it's supposed to do, then the Poles and the Bulgarians will be fine.'

"Marine officers are convinced, however, that with Baghdad and the Sunni areas of Iraq in such turmoil, coalition authorities in Baghdad are unlikely to address the power vacuum in the south anytime soon. Religious, tribal and political fissures could widen unless there's a strong coalition presence in local affairs for months to come, these officers say, and public corruption, barely contained by U.S. oversight, could well blister to the surface."

Now, I don't have the faintest clue as to how Iraqi reconstruction is really going. Is, as many on the right claim, the press exaggerating the negative and ignoring the positive? I don't know. But it is awfully clear that decisions that should have been worked out before the invasion, at least schematically, were not made and are now being made on the fly.

Apparently things didn't go too well at the UN yesterday, either. The Times goes easy on this one. I read elsewhere that UN members were livid that Powell refloated the same resolution they'd shot down weeks ago; specifically he invoked the memory of those killed in the UN bombing as impetus for UN nations to send more troops under sole command of U.S. authorities. That did not sit well.

Also in Talking Points, Josh Marshall points infuriatedly at the administration's habit by which "failure of the policy becomes the justification for the policy." It's time to start thinking anew, Marshall says, but the ideologues in the administration have had the same fixations for 15 years.

The roadmap for piece in Israel and the occupied territories is in shreds. But as with so many Bush initiatives that sound good being announced in the Rose Garden, it then wafts away like smoke due to the administration's ADD. I won't go so far as to say the administration has any responsibility for the horrors there this week, but Bush's disengagement has not helped matters, nor has he provided any support for Abbas who's pretty much finished now. Powell's talking to Arafat, a guy whose very existence Bush has refused to acknowledge.

Speaking of talks, isn't it ironic that the Bush administration is about to enter into negotiations with another national leader who is the beneficiary of a family dynasty and lacks a firm grasp on reality? Fred Kaplan in Slate has a good view of the North Korean situation.

Slate's pretty good today. The sharp-witted Dahlia Lithwick has this piece on the demagogue in Alabama (for a story on a much more important -- though completely unreported -- issue being debated in Alabama, go here).

And Chatterbox has a subdued, thoughtful debate on whether or not the GOP is attempting to subvert democracy. Actually, I'd go further and also include Grover Norquist and his efforts to destroy politically any expression of moderation among Republicans. Another example is the millions they're pouring in to Daschle's home state to get him out of the Senate. Okay, okay, those aren't actually subversions of democracy. But they are indications that the right has only one goal -- attaining and retaining power.

Retaining is tough though. Hmmm.

Why am I not surprised that the feds now want to link non-violent drug offenders with terrorism?


Apropos of nothing, Neil Young is up to interesting things.

Another bright spot -- "number 55, Hidecki Matsui, number 55."

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart noted that three years ago George W. Bush promised that he would not use the American military in "nation-building" (c'mon, say it in your head with the Texas, good 'ol boy sneer he does so well). He's kept his promise, according to Stewart, in Iraq he's unbuilding that nation.

I don't mean to sound glib. This is horrible. Even now, I don't believe the admin. will suck it up and go back to the UN with hat in hand.

Not to worry, things are looking up in Afghanistan.


Note to self -- VH1 is broadcasting the Zevon special on the 24th according to Altercation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Did the Boston Globe publish this just to get a rise out of the denizens of Cambridge? TAPPED, I think, pretty effectively, dismantles this soft-peddling out of the Hoover Institute. If Bush's tax cuts weren't basically pay-back, but to juice the economy, then why income taxes and not payroll taxes? Saved dollars in the latter are more likely to find their way back into the economy and are felt a lot more keenly by the middle class and the working poor. TAPPED doesn't get into Bush's foreign policy, but I think it's pretty radical to toss in the trashbin 50 years of international treaties and alliances.

And if Bush doesn't appear to be a foaming radical, it is because he has proven that he's not Tom DeLay. DeLay has once again shown that he is a thug. There's been speculation for some time as to why Karl Rove can't seem to lasso the exterminator. I don't think he wants to. Bush looks better to centrist voters when compared to the wingnuts in his party like Gingrich and DeLay.

O'Reilly can't take it. He really is amazingly shrill and sensitive for a guy who makes his living ripping people apart and looking for angles outside of his "guests" expertise in order to embarass them. The bloviator claims that FoxNews "started from nothing." I don't think so. It's a pretty fascinating portrait of Murdoch. Also in The Atlantic this month, there's a highly recommended article, "Founders Chic," to which unfortunately there's no link to on the site. But here's the blurb:

"Interest in the Founding Fathers has risen and fallen over time, but it's probably fair to say that their stock is currently at an all-time high. And this should worry us."

Basically, the author's argument is that the Constitution left -- intentionally -- a lot of business unfinished (slavery, the second amendment, etc.) for political reasons at the time. The founders had to assume that a later generation would take care of these issues over time. But the slavery issue led to a war with over 500,000 dead and the second still reverberates. Our fear of touching the Constitution, rightwing judges who claim to be "strict constructionists," and our basic lack of debate on 200+ year issues would, the article argues, sadden and disappoint Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and the rest.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Correction: In Friday's post, I stated that lying on my back on a sidewalk in Manhattan was a first for me. That is incorrect. I should have said it was the first time I was lying on my back on a sidewalk in Manhattan while sober.

This is the kind of weekend that must drive BoSox fans completely over the Monster.


Elisabeth Bumiller writes in from Crawford in her "White House Letter:"

"He [President Bush] is also not accustomed to taking second billing, as was evident on Wednesday, when a reporter made the mistake of refering to the California race as 'the biggest political story in the country' during an otherwise sleepy mini news conference focused on the economy.

"'It is the biggest political story in the country?' the president retorted, irritated. 'That's interesting. That says a lot. That speaks volumes.'

"'You don't agree?' the reporter said.

"'I don't get to decide the biggest political story,' Mr. Bush said, grumpily. 'You decide the biggest political story. But I find it interesting that that is the biggest political story in the country, as you just said.'

"Another reporter jumped in, 'You don't think it should be?'

"The president replied: 'Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories. Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up?'

"Mr. Schwarzenegger's entry also pushed Mr. Bush into saying for the first time that he is engaged in politicking for 2004, a way-off message admission. When asked if he was 'going to do anything for Arnold,' Mr. Bush replied, 'I'm going to campaign for George W., as you know.'"

I won't comment on that except to note that he's speaking of himself in the third person. Only sport star jerks and the insane (sometimes one in the same) do that.

Okay, I will comment after all: What an ass.

Speaking of such. The Boston Globes Sunday Ideas page has an interesting defense of DARPA, the folks who tried to give us Total Information Awareness and, more recently, the terrorist futures market. I don't disagree, though in previous posts I have questioned the efficacy of a futures market that depends on criminals and is run by, essentially, the cops. Nevertheless, as creepy as it often is, the military-industrial-academic complex has brought us good things. For every Agent Orange, there's the Internet, GPS, and kevlar. No, the problem at DARPA is not that weird scientists are coming up with weird ideas that might or might not turn into something useful. The problem is John Poindexter and the Bush admin's habits of hiring the convicted and the corrupt [thanks to TAPPED for the link] to important (though under the radar, usually) jobs. Poindexter is a convicted felon (yeah, yeah, thrown out due to Reagan-appointed, whose disregard for the Constitution should, like convicted hackers who aren't allowed to touch a computer while on parole, make him ineligible to work in government. Next, Bush will put Oliver North in charge of the White House archives.

Interesting coincidence. Both Jeff Colvin and Walter Kirn focus on the real job loss story in this recession -- the flight of white collar jobs and the declining middle class in the country. How do democrats frame and capitalize on middle class economic anxiety (it's real, I can vouch for that)? More importantly, does anyone have a plan to stem this that doesn't involve economic isolationism?

Friday, August 15, 2003

Josh Marshall has a timely link to this site.

And back to the reality in another place that's hot and has no electricity, the invaluable Mr. Marshall points us here. Bush and Rumsfeld are so effective at building morale. And after reading Jarhead, I don't buy the enthusiastic photo ops with the troops.
How a surge in Ohio ruined my afternoon...evening...morning.

Some impressions from trying to get out of NYC yesterday: Trudging down 38 flights of stairs...isn't heat supposed to rise? Walking out of the building on Broadway, a guy from the "Nation of Israel" -- a sort of black supremacy group -- using a bullhorn to complain about the white man's imperialism in Iraq. The bullhorn is disconcerting; you want someone with a bullhorn to tell you what's going on or where to go; not harangue you in the middle of a vast throng trying to cross the convergence of Broadway and 7th Avenue in six directions at once. No streetlights. Drivers and pedestrians on the west side fairly polite (this will change as the population of cars and people grows exponentially by Fifth and Madison). Cops are trying to direct traffic, but it feels organic. On Park Avenue, no traffic cop so a guy in a brown suit has taken it upon himself and doing a pretty good job. It's very hot (89-degrees was the high) for such civic-mindedness.

The streets around Grand Central are weirdly calm (the whole city seems to be, despite the constant wail of sirens that reminds everyone of Sept. 2001). But they're packed. Sitting on the bumper of a mail truck that ain't going anywhere for a while (what's the point?), listening to the radio of a delivery van; the guy just opened up his doors and turned up the radio, so people could listen to the news (electronic shops were doing the same thing throughout the city). He finally has to close up and move off -- he's double parked and an ambulance on the street behind us, in which paramedics (I thought) had been treating someone, turned on the siren and began slowly moving. Turns out, according to the Times, a middle-aged woman had collapsed in exhaustion climbing down the stairs in the MetLife bldng. Although paramedics got there quickly, it had taken an hour for the ambulances to arrive too late.

Grand Central is closed (I'd like to meet the idiot who made that decision; there's food going bad down there and the air is probably fairly cool), but the MetLife (formerly known as the Pan Am bldng in more airline-friendly times) lobby is open to anyone who wants to hang out. Quiet, even kids with their parents in for the day from CT. I sit outside with my back against the cool marble of the building watching a building maintenance guy sweep up cigarette buts, weaving in and out of the hundreds of people standing around. He's a professional with a job to do.

The shoes. Women (oh, how I love New York) teetering around on spikey mules that are both elaborate and virtually non-existent. I wonder how the feet will feel in, say, six hours.

Getting dark now. There has to be several thousand people in a two-block stretch of Vanderbilt which runs next to Grand Central. Sitting on the sidewalk, standing in the middle of the street. Talking casually with the police. Elaborate triage unit in the cab stand area, but no one got stuck in the tunnels when the power went out -- pretty amazing as it was the start of rush hour. Nevertheless, every now and they they stretcher out someone who had passed out standing up in the heat, waiting for the doors to the station to open.

Other than Vanderbilt, which is bathed in police spotlights, lights from the police cars and, amazingly, the Chase Manhattan bank which is lit like a christmas tree (on the streets outsides, we can only fantasize about the a-c, phones, and working bathrooms), the city is almost pitch black. This is a first -- staring up at the sky and seeing stars over midtown Manhattan. Also a first -- lying on my back on the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan looking at the stars.

Lots of cabs -- they'd been in hiding earlier -- start appearing. But they're all "off duty." No meter. $50 dollars per person for five people crammed in to go to Larchmont NY. Wonder if, after paying the fare, one of the rider reports the driver's badge number; the hack would lose his license.

Some guy starts yelling at a cop. Must have had a couple on the way over and he's old and tired and it's hot and he's thirsty and can't take the hard pavement. The cop just yawns and she directs him to some guy who's supposedly in charge, over in the triage area. We're thinking, yep, this bozo's gonna make them take some action; turn on those damn lights already. And sure enough, he has an effect. The bullhorn finally comes out and the Metro North guy announces, "We will run the trains all night to get everyone home. When the lights come back on, it will take one hour to power up and begin moving trains out." People applaud. My friends and I are furious. This is bullshit on several levels. One, he's basically saying he has no idea when the power is coming on. Geez, that's useful information. Second, what about the diesel locomotives? It is still pitch black throughout the city; if we're waiting for the power to come back on, we're not getting out of here for hours if not days.

At 2AM, intermittent sleep (now I know why the homeless sometime seem to sleep all day -- they can only get it 5 minutes at a time, before a truck or a jerk makes a noise to wake them up). Then it happens; the defining moment -- a Mr. Softee truck rolls up and parks at Vanderbilt and 45th, and the driver jumps out and screams, "Ice Cream, get yer Ice Cream!" Hundreds of people queue up for soft ice cream cones. I'm thinking about one of their tastey milkshakes.

Friend of mine decides he needs to micturate, as they say. Decides to try the nearby Roosevelt. Comes back a few minutes later. The lobby has light, they let people in, the bathroom is open (though water isn't pumping), and they're giving out ice water in the bar (I was desperate for more from the bar, but the Makers Mark was behind lock and key and the ice water was very, very nice). I will write a letter to the management thanking them for the hospitality.

An hour and a half later, someone announces that Metro North trains were running. Had been for an hour. My friend and I left the hotel; turning the corner on Vanderbilt, where thousands had been when we'd gone to the hotel, the street is empty except for the newspapers and empty water bottles. Oh, there must be chaos in the terminal, I thought. Nope. The dark terminal practically empty. It must have been pretty insane getting on the first few diesel-powered trains, but now I walk on one -- an express to my stop -- and take a seat. It doesn't leave for an hour and a half, at 6:30 am, but the engine and the a-c are running and it's pointed east. The conductor had started the shift the day before at 5:30 am.

The only thing I'm sure of, it's Gray Davis' fault.

Certainly not this guy's? He can hardly be bothered. The political football has been kicked off, but fixing the grid's antiquated systems are a long way from ever being improved.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

This should be interesting. The NYPD is extremely good at overreacting and turning protesters into large white ferrets, marching in order to a dead-end destination. But the obnoxiousness of the Republicans attempting to take advantage of the 9-11-01 attacks is really starting to smell. The widows are talking about a protest themselves. There is a growing number of people here that feel the administration has benefited politically but have done nothing to improve New York's vulnerability.

In New York City, what happened "down there" is still very near. Just today, I was sharing space in CORPORATE HQ with a colleague who was on a conference call describing the literal loss of AON "intellectual capital" and how the surviving employees have psychologically not recovered from -- in large part -- the long walk down the stairs.

As for the Republicans, in the words of fearless leader, "Bring 'em on."

Okay, who knew there was a US Institute of Peace? And does George even look at the resumes of the people he hires?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Oh, irony. Sweet and terrible irony. In an interview on Alternet, Al Franken claims that the right wing have no sense of irony. How could he have know that bloviation-central, Foxnews, would sue him over the title of his next book?

Franken is one of the most acute comediens on the left, and lately, all we got is humor. But Franken's strength is in uncovering the intellectual dishonest of the right, especially the right-wing media. The right, on the other hand, have no sense of humor. In fact, even though they are now essentially enshrined in their power, they're still angry. Anger makes for, arguably, good television and it sure is good at keeping the faithful frothed up. One of the most remarkable things I've found is that there continues to be a cottage industry of Clinton hatred. That's one of the biggest differences between the left and the right -- if Bush was declared unelected tomorrow, and went to cut back cedar in Crawford, as soon as he was out of sight, he'd be out of mind for the left. The Wall St. Journal, on the other hand, continues to advertise the newspaper's book about Whitewater, a non-existent scandal that the Journal effectively helped turn into impeachment hearings. Hillary, by all accounts, has been a reasonably decent Senator focused mainly on getting New York State some help from the feds. But she continues to be viewed by many on the right with more contempt than they feel for Osama bin Laden.

So maybe we should work up some general anger and hatred for the clowns in the White House and in the House of Reps. Bush/Cheney, along with Delay and Frist, are doing their part to foment it.

Monday, August 11, 2003

"I feel like someone who's lived 10,000 years, has 17 senses, and is standing ankle high in the Atlantic."
-- Uncle Sweetheart (ne John Goodman)

It ain't for everyone, but "Masked and Anonymous" (I just typed "Anonymouse" -- the Disney remake) is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in a whole long time. It's like one of Dylan's LP side-long ballads that create a small universe, make very little outward sense, but somehow make you feel purer for having heard it. I found myself trying to remember every line of dialogue. Most of the critics just didn't get it (Sony Pictures is just lucky Gigli came out around the same time...oh, Gigli came out of Sony also; heads are rolling), and Madame Cura and I were the only ones who laughed throughout (but this was in a dank metroplex in Westchester, and a lot of the audience was, apparently, made up of people who showed up too late to see "Dirty Pretty Things." But it was 1:52 of time better spent than watching the Yankees bullpen implode again.

"It's all about cellulose. Cows can digest it, but you can't. And neither can I."
-- Jack Fate

While I'm typing, the UN's permanent members are negotiating terms to send in UN help in Iraq. Will the Bushies swallow their pride?

Speaking of whom, Josh Marshall points to an interesting piece in Sunday's WaPost. How amazing is Dick Cheney? How can a guy be so wrong, so often, and still be the President unelected squared? Ford's chief of staff. Defense sect'y who pulled the plug on an Iraq invasion in '91. As CEO of Haliburton, he pushed through the purchase of a failing company with major asbestos liability. Iraq, the sequel. Phhtooyey. And what's going on under the naval observatory?

As we approach the third anniversary, here's a WaPost story on one of the real heroes of Sept. 11 2001, if a very large piece of reinforced concrete can be anthropomorphized like that. If you happened to catch the Langewiesche series [check the archives] that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly last year, you'll know how close the wall came to buckling. If it had, all of lower Manhattan and much of midtown -- because of the PATH train tunnels -- would have been flooded. The economic consequences are unknowable.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Remember the days when Communism was collapsing and the U.S. was seen as the ideal of democracy, enlightened values, openness? Apparently those days are long gone. George Soros has shifted his attention from helping to develop open societies in eastern Europe to focusing on the United States.

Soros is a leading contributor in a new PAC, Americans Coming Together (I would have suggested another name, but they didn't ask me), that is planning to spend $75 million to toss ol' 5-to-4 out of office next year. Thanks to Atrios for the link.

"In a statement describing his reasons for giving $10 million, Soros said, 'I believe deeply in the values of an open society. For the past 15 years I have focused my energies on fighting for these values abroad. Now I am doing it in the United States. The fate of the world depends on the United States and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction.'"

Why, what can he mean? I mean, we have AG Ashcroft defending our freedoms and making sure that the executive branch does not interfere with the duties of the judicial branch.

"Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country and that some important American values are being placed at risk. And they want to set it right."
-- Al Gore, NYU, August 7, 2003

I would like to think that this was an important speech. But I'm afraid it will get little coverage outside of NYC and, perhaps DC. Nevertheless, it was pretty powerful in laying out the "false impressions" that Bush's propaganda has been creating, whether it's WMD in Iraq, tax cuts for everyone, or global warming. Anything that disagrees with the Bush/Cheney ideology is simply ignored or overwhelmed by the blast of lies that regularly emit from the White House and the Bush house organ, FoxNews. In fact, they couldn't wait to blast it last night on Fox. How? By lying about Bush, Cheney, and Perle comments before the war, as Atrios points out.

In any case, I think these two grafs, from the Post's coverage of Gore's speech, pretty much sums up the situation today:

"'The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth,' Gore said, 'and a shared respect for the rule of reason is the best way to establish the truth. The Bush administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agenda.'

"Bush's aides shrugged off the criticism. 'I just dismiss it,' White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said."

"Just dismiss it?" How? Why? Your administration is called dishonest and a danger to democracy and you dismiss it.

But Gore's speech can be effective if the Dems take it as Gore says he intended it, as a road map for attacking Bush's policies -- and, perhaps more importantly, Bush's manner of governing -- over the next 15 or 16 months. Maybe start pointing out things like this more frequently.

Speaking of the Dems, has Dean peaked too soon? He's certainly drawn the ire of Al From of the DLC, the consummate Dem Party insider who can't abide Dean's assault on his power. And the pundits and press have already pre-written their campaign stories about him that they'll trot out regularly as long as he's in the race. Just as they did with Gore. In fact, Gore still has to deal with those stories. In the punditocracy, Bush is still "the kind of guy you'd be comfortable standing around with at a B-B-Q," while Gore is still "an insufferable bore who lies and exaggerates about his accomplishments. Christ, 'Love Story' for god's sake."

I'm not sure I like Dean. But I can't see why From and the other centrist Dems are getting so worked up about him destroying the strides made by Clinton/Gore and returning us to the unelectable days of Humphrey, McGovern, and Dukakis. I mean, a guy who was against the war in Iraq (and is looking smarter than me, every day), but is pro-gun rights, pro-gay civil unions, and fiscally conservative, and who gets the party base excited -- that's a pretty interesting combination.

But even if you haven't been following him much, you probably already know that
1. He's "diminutive (sounds like Dukakis all over again)"
2. He's a Park Avenue WASP (how many times does the press mention that Bush is from WASP-center, Greenwich, CT? Like, never).
3. He's an ill-informed wimp on national security (if you've read the transcript from the infamous Russert interview, you've got to know he did a hell of a lot better than Bush would have -- in fact, did -- and was ripped at by that hack, Tim Russert).
4. He's got a nasty temper, especially with the press (which explains why he's always short, waspy, and weak on defense in all of the stories about him).

What liberal media?


How weird is it that Michiko Kakutani is reviewing a book about sports? Queenen's a Phillies fan, so he's probably a small-minded jerk living under a lie that he lives in a small-market city. That's why the Phillies lose. And lose. And lose. In fact, Philly is one of the five largest media markets in the country with no other competition (i.e., Mets and Yankees, A's and Giants -- the latter pair in a much smaller TV market with much better teams, consistently). The problem with the Phillies is they've got crummy owners, a crummy park, and -- worst of all -- crummy fans. "They'd boo cancer patients," went one line attributed to Bob Uecker. Hell, they bood Mike Schmidt mercilessly for years until he finally got them a World Series.

The Marlins are in town this weekend, so it should be fun, assuming the monsoon lets up for a couple of afternoons. And Nellie's back, so all is right (well, almost) in Yankeeland.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

In the pantheon of moronic and creepy Senators, few hold so exultant a place as Rick Santorum. His interview on FoxNews (unfair, imbalanced, we decide) over the weekend was remarkable in its expression of both fear and stupidity. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.

But poor Andy -- a gay Catholic Republican, tough to beat for self-loathing potential -- is right. Santorum is aiming his hatred not just at gay marriage, but at all marriage that doesn't issue children:

"Why? Because -- principally because of children. I mean, it's -- it is the reason for marriage. It's not to affirm the love of two people. I mean, that's not what marriage is about. I mean, if that were the case, then lots of different people and lots of different combinations could be, quote, "married."

"Marriage is not about affirming somebody's love for somebody else. It's about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society."

Tom the Dancing Bug highlights the beauty of going back to more traditional marriage customs.

The Santorum interview gets even better:

"HUME: But I'm still not clear where you -- I mean, short of marriage, there are these civil unions that confer some of the rights and privileges. It's not called marriage. It isn't recognized as marriage by the state. Obviously, it wouldn't be by -- necessarily by any church. What is your view of that?

"SANTORUM: Well, I don't -- [this is the stupid part that I referred to earlier] I'm not that familiar with civil union laws. I mean, is it just for homosexual couples, or is it for heterosexual couples? [my italics] I mean, if you are going to allow civil unions for homosexual couples, I guess you could have some lesser degree of commitment for ...

"HUME: Well, what do you think of that?

"SANTORUM: I guess, my feeling is, I would step back and say that if there are laws that the states want to pass having to do with certain benefits or things like that, that's one thing. But civil union sounds too much to me like marriage and confuses the issues.

"And part of the other issue here is, what kind of message are we sending to our children and to society about the importance of the marriage relationship?

"And I think when you get into things like civil union, you tend to muddle the picture.

"SANTORUM: We already have the family under assault in America. I mean, there's articles written saying, you know, 'Why are people so against gay marriage? I mean, you've got divorce rates that are high, you've got, you know, all these other things that are, sort of, tearing the family apart. You know, what's wrong with just, you know, further tearing it apart?'

"And I would argue that anything that detracts from the uniqueness and sanctity of that relationship is not going to be a positive thing for our society"

The family is under assault in America? Heh? By whom or what? Our whole society these days is geared towards family and catering to children. There's nothing really wrong with that, but we are quietly stepping past the "it's for the children" mentality into an area that makes it okay to disenfranchise and discriminate against people who don't choose to have, or can't have, the little buggers.

In the workplace it's all but codified that if you don't have kids, you simply will not be permitted the perks your parenting co-worker is permitted. Maternity leave means someone has to pick up the slack. Take the afternoon off to take the dog to the vet? Frowned upon, at best. Take the afternoon off to watch your six year old stumble around on a soccer field. "Absolutely, Bill, your family is the most important thing."

And it goes further. Having kids means you've joined the club. The childless are not welcome. Every business gathering networking session necessarily means listening to someone prattle on about little Cody or Brandon (one is never sure what gender contemporary kids' names refer to), performing some remarkable feat. This is followed by a pause, and then a, "So, you got any kids?" When one responds in the negative, you can see: 1.) A pitying look that signifies, "What's wrong with you or your spouse?" Then, 2.) the glazing over of the eyes. Followed by 3.) darting eye movement looking for someone more likely to be a member of the club.

But I digress.

Santorum, in the interview, then goes on to cry crocodile tears over the nasty Democrats and their anti-papist discrimination:

"Yes. What's outrageous is the line of questioning that's been conducted in the Senate Judiciary Committee about people's, quote, 'deeply held beliefs.' There are questions and comments made that if you have deeply held beliefs, particularly about moral issues, that you can't be impartial. Which leads me to the conclusion that you have shallowly held beliefs, if you really don't believe in anything, that's OK, but if you have deeply held beliefs, that somehow or another because of those deeply held beliefs you can't be impartial.

"What does that mean? That means someone who is a deeply faithful Catholic, and believes as the Catholic Church, in Bill Pryor's case, and that's where he gets his feeling on abortion...

"HUME: Yes, but that doesn't apply to all Catholics?

"SANTORUM: But it does apply to Catholics who subscribe to what the teachings of the Church are. And so, if you have a Catholic who subscribes to the Catholic teaching, you're saying that some faithful Catholic cannot apply and cannot be a member of the court because of his deep held religious beliefs, that he projects, because that's his belief structure, into his job."

In another, not so long-ago age, Santorum would be accused of being an agent of the Pope. And it seems that shoe would fit him pretty well.

Josh Marshall has some interesting views on the new anti-Catholic trend in the Democratic Party.

Marshall also has an interesting post on the Iraqi nuclear scientist who dug up the equipment from his flower garden. Seems the CIA is holding him hostage in Kuwait since he's sticking to the story that the program to develop an Iraqi nuclear weapon had been defunct for more than a decade.

As Marshall concludes, we're not incentivizing too well other former Baath-party scientists who might have information on what's been going on in that country for the past 12 years.

But, of course, finding the truth is not a real high priority for the administration or their minions in the CIA.

Truth be damned. Missile defense can't work -- and the planners in the Pentagon know it! Think that will stop this hugely expensive, unworkable program?

But if you have any Chihuahuas of Mass Destruction (CMD), I can tell you how to intercept them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

From today's Weather Report page in the New York Times:

"Friday/Saturday...Some of the time will be dry."

The Times doesn't give an author credit for its forecasts, but it rarely disappoints with its breathless accounts of the wonders of weather and the apparent attempt to never use a weather report cliche. Here's the full forecast for the weekend:

"Risk of showers, storms. Showers and storms are expected on each day as a dip in the jet stream interacts with humid air over the Eastern States. Some of the time will be dry."

I have a feeling it's a sports writer moonlighting (or a news reporter who secretly wants to cover sports). In fact, the reports remind me of Salena Robers, who used to cover the Knicks. She never described Patrick Ewing lumbering down court on transition in the same way twice. No easy feat. Now, of course, she's the scold of the sports page.

Alan Murray's "Political Capital" column in today's Wall St. Journal focuses not on Bush's "16 little words," but rather Wolfowitz's 15. "In testimony about Iraq to the House Appropriates Committee, Wolfowitz said: 'We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.'

"Really? Perhaps it depends on the meaning of the words 'relatively soon.' But if he was talking about the current decade, Mr. Wolfowitz's statement, echoed by others in the administration at the time, was then and is still simply untrue."

Paul Bremer in Iraq has been far more forthcoming (and therefore will probably soon join Larry Lindsey -- who said that the costs of the war would total $200 billion -- as a candid, but ex-Bush admin employee), saying that costs would be as high as $100 billion to fix the battered Iraqi infrastructure, well beyond the capacity of the oil revenue.

According to Murray, who says he doesn't believe the administration willfully lied about Iraq's weapons capabilities, "But I do think members of the administration have willfully deceived the public and Congress about the costs of the Iraqi war and its aftermath. And they continue to do so."

It's a calculated tactic. The Bushies know the public's -- and Congress's -- appetite for foreign aid is pretty limited. Knowing that we're spending $20 billion a year to help rebuild a country where at least one of our troops gets ambushed and killed pretty much every day is not going to engender continued support for our efforts in Iraq. This is particularly true of Bush's base.

But such calculations and resulting secrecy are what is turning this administration into a truly imperial one, where only the President's Men can handle the truth.

Murray concludes, "Having initiated the effort to topple Mr. Hussein, the U.S. has an interest in turning Iraq into a showcase for democracy and capitalism -- and has pointedly committed to doing so.

"It's an effort that's worth the cost. But the nation that preaches democracy abroad shouldn't be so reluctant to practice it at home. Congress and the public deserve to know -- upfront -- the burden they are going to be asked to bear."

Mark Kleiman on another Bush coverup -- the Saudis involvement with the 9-11 attacks.

"The official who read the 28 pages tells The New Republic, 'If the people in the administration trying to link Iraq to Al Qaeda had one-one-thousandth of the stuff that the 28 pages has linking a foreign government to Al Qaeda, they would have been in good shape.' He adds: 'If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.'

"There's been a virtual news blackout on the letter, which may explain why Glenn Reynolds still thinks (*) that the Democrats aren't pushing the issue. (Why he imagines that the Bush Administration is eventually going to do the right thing about its friends in Riyadh is a different question.) The good news is that Senate procedures give the proponents of declassification many ways of forcing a vote on the question."

The coziness with the Kingdom is weird, and goes way beyond our country's dependence on Saudi oil. Thanks to Intel Dump for introducing me to this great blog.

The truth is that the annoying fact that it was Saudis piloting those planes has always been uncomfortable for Bush. It's the reason the Saudi family were allowed to leave the U.S. on Sept. 12, 2001. It's the reason Saudis were until recently left off the security profiling lists. Once "Victory over the Taliban" was achieved, anything that took the focus off of Iraq was simply not in the administration's playbook.

If Democratic leadership had any foresight, they would be ensuring that this stays of the front page for months, and I'd be creating TV spots right now featuring as much footage as possible of Bush strolling through his Crawford ranch with Prince Bandar bin Sultan in his flowing robes. That should play really well in the heartland.

Thanks to an alert reader for this link. A futures market that links the White House's actions to the security of the rest of the world.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Colin Powell is leaving the building if Bush wins a second term. Another reason to do everything possible to make sure someone else wins the 2004 election. After all, who will restrain the president and act as a counterforce to Rumsfeld. Certainly not Rice or Wolfowitz.

Meanwhile the same story from the Post indicates that Tenet may finally be leaving the CIA. What's interesting is his possible successor: Fred Thompson played a CIA director in the Kevin Costner flick, "No Way Out." Tenet's been faking it, why not a real actor (sort of) for a change.

And how can one not laugh when you see that Cheney's top aid goes by the name "Scooter" Libby? How can an adult man continue to use a nickname like that? Is Cheney secretly referred to as Dickey? Or just...well.. we won't go there.

Frankly, Powell should have resigned long before now, certainly during the days prior to his UN speech on Iraq, when he could clearly see to what ends the administration was willing to go to distort the intelligence. "Bullshit" is what he called it, if I'm not mistaken.

And where has he been lately? He was silent during Bush's absurd trip to Africa last month, where the POTUS made promises on AIDs funding and free trade that Bush has no plans to push through the Republican-held Congress. And he's certainly been silent on Liberia, where the killing continues.

I need to do some searching, but it seems to me that Nigeria has a problematic history as peacekeepers in Liberia.

Here's an important piece on Liberia and another example of, "sure, he's a homicidal despot, but he's our homicidal despot." Thanks to the Altercation for the link.

James Traub makes a strong argument for intervention in Liberia. After the Bush administration changed the party line about the invasion of Iraq -- that it's about humanitarian change, not WMD -- they can no longer argue that "profligate intervention," "nation building," or sneer contemptuously at the mention of "peacekeeping" and "U.S. military" in the same sentence.

Failure to intervene in Liberia will just add to the arguments of the Iraq conspiracy theorists. They can argue that, well, I guess Liberian diamonds just aren't as valuable to the U.S. as Iraqi oil.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

"Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person. And America is lucky to have her service. Period."

--From the President Bush press conference, July 30, 2003

"fab-u-lous \ 1: given to telling fables 2: celebrated or known from fables only: not real, actual, or historical 3: characteristic of fables : like the contents of fables in being marvelous, incredible, absurd, extreme, exaggerated, or approaching the impossible.

--From Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1961

Thanks to the ever-alert Madam Cura for that one.

Speaking of things known only in fables, I always hear about the president's weekly radio address, but who actually broadcasts it and who, who listens to it?

On this weekend's edition of "On the Media," Brook Gladstone conducts an extremely important interview with Scott Armstrong of the National Security Archive. He points to the fact that Congress (at least the Dems and a few of the more responsible GOPs) has a constitutional duty to manage the finances of the military, and yet they have to beg -- beg -- to get any information on what the occupation of Iraq is going to cost. And their begging falls on deaf ears within the emperor's administration. I'll post a link to the transcript once it's available next week, but in the meantime, go here to hear to segment.

Oh, and that occupation. Looks like we're going it alone.

It's tough to shake off the sense of doom.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, dean of the London Business School channels Paul Krugman in this week's (Aug. 11) issue of Business Week (registration required). Under the headline, "The Bush Tax Cuts Are Sapping America's Strength," Tyson angrily writes that the cost of the tax cuts is nearly three times as much as the tab for September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and homeland security combined:

"When George W. Bush became President, the federal government enjoyed a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. Today, less than three years later, Washington confronts sizable annual budget deficits regardless of the cyclical ups and downs of the economy. A growing number of private forecasters now predict a 10-year deficit of around $4 trillion -- $6.7 trillion excluding the Social Security surplus. Government debt and interest payments are slated to double as a share of the economy over the next decade, crowding out private investment and government spending on anything else."

Noting that the argument that cutting taxes (for the rich) is necessary to stimulate growth in a sluggish economy is a specious one, Tyson continues,

"And those long-term 'supply-side' growth benefits? Even the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Taxation, using a variety of dynamic scoring assumptions, was forced to admit that these cuts are likely to reduce the economy's long-term growth. Why? Any positive business-investment incentives from lower taxes will be outweighed by the curtailing of national saving and investment caused by mammoth budget deficits. To the extent that larger deficits diminish domestic saving, they eat into productive investment. To the extent that larger deficits are funded by borrowing from the rest of the world, they raise the nation's foreign debt and drive future income into servicing this debt. Contrary to the claims of Administration ideologues, larger deficits mean lower future living standards."

And she concludes, "Even as they attack the Democrats for inciting class warfare, the President and his congressional allies have been waging it with a vengeance. Many Americans, especially those with low incomes, do not vote. As Americans consider whether to vote in 2004, they should ask: Are they better off now? Will they be better off in the long run? For most Americans, the answer is no."

But wait, the economy's improving isn't it? After all, the jobless rate fell to 6.2% last month. Oh, that's because a half a million formerly employed people have simply stopped looking for a job.

There's been a rise in temporary workers. That's great. I hear Starbucks offers benes.

But wait, the economy's improving isn't it? After all, the economy's really picking up the pace. Oh, that's because we're spending money like drunken sailors...on defense.

TAPPED also has a funny (in a depressing kind of way) post linking to who confronted The Three Stooges of the Economy during their "Economic Delusion Tour" in Wisconsin this week. "Just wait" seems to be Moe''s mantra.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...A stretched thin military is holding back reconstruction of the country, according to The Wall Street Journal today. But, sadly, the ADD of the American public is tired of that sad little country. According to a WSJ/NBC poll, only 2% of those polled think rebuilding Afghanistan should be a top foreign-policy priority for the Bush administration. But at the same time, 55% agreed with the Bush policy of pre-emption and 58% approve of sending troops to Liberia.

Phil Carter at Intel Dump is concerned about the zero-sum game the military is forced to play right now.

And 70% of Americans believe in Angels -- isn't that about the same number who believe Iraq was behind the September 11 attacks?

Yes, Americans by and large are insane. But we do produce the the world.
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