Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This story is both a vindication for supporting the war and a reminder of how we've screwed up the war's aftermath. What's particularly astonishing is the level of minutiae Hussein and his henchmen went to in terrorizing suspected enemies. A bullet to the back of the head was not good enough.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-- H.L. Mencken

Rep. (R., Conn.) Shays brought that to mind this morning. Just like Gov. Chunky Rowland, Shays makes us proud to be Connecticut Yankees.

In Washington, here's an example of why there are so many mentions of anonymous "sources." It does not pay to be honest in answering reporters' questions.

Why now, John? "One might surmise that Ashcroft, after some time to think it over, decided that it was the wiser course to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor.

"You could surmise that. But then you'd be pretty stupid. So let's pass on that possibility."

Richard "I should be amply rewarded for my selfless service to this country" Perle, not satisfied with the two-front war he's created, declares war on North Korean and Iran.


Alright, already. Put him in the damned Hall so maybe he'll just shut up!

"To be a fan you had to look past the surface-level depravity to see the true, deep, real depravity underneath." I hate year-end reviews, particularly in sports, but Kaufman's is worth a read.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Wonder why now, all of a sudden, Ashcroft decides to put some distance between himself and the Valerie Plame investigation? But calling Fitzgerald a "special prosecutor" seems a bit of a stretch. He's a US Attorney, so he works for the Justice Dept., and was appointed by dad. I don't hold out too much hope for finding the truth, but the odor is rising.

"Downer cows?" The WSJ notes that if Canada is to blame, then there is little hope for cleaning up the meat packing industry. Paid registration required, so here's the text:

"News that a mad cow may actually be from Canada has the U.S. government and beef industry breathing a huge sigh of relief.

"But for the American consumer, it may be the worst thing that could have happened.

"The reason? If the industry and government can simply blame Canada for the problem, it will be far easier to resist making the changes needed to bring U.S. testing and safety standards up to the rules adopted by other countries. And it will be that much longer before consumers can truly feel confident in the safety of the U.S. beef supply when it comes to preventing bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE.

"And this isn't a disease where we should be taking chances. It kills cows by boring holes in their brain and is always fatal. The human form of mad cow, while much rarer, is also lethal and has afflicted more than 130 people in Great Britain.

"To be sure, the known risks of contracting the human form of mad cow appear to be exceedingly small. But so little is really known about the disease, the U.S. should follow the lead of other countries that have been far more aggressive in ensuring the safety of the beef supply.

"Here's a look at some of the questionable practices of the U.S. meat industry:

"Cows still eat the ground-up remains of other animals. It's clear that cows become infected with BSE by eating the recycled remains of other BSE-infected animals. As a result, Japan and Europe have banned the practice. But the U.S. feeding ban adopted in 1997 is far more limited, stating that ruminants can't be fed ground up parts of other ruminants -- cattle, sheep, goats and deer. But chickens and pigs still eat ground-up cows And cows still eat ground-up chicken and pigs. So it's possible that a BSE cow could be fed to a pig or chicken that is, in turn, fed back to other cows, that are eventually eaten by people. 'U.S. measures to prevent the tissue of cattle infected with the agent of BSE from entering the food chain are not foolproof,' states a Nov. 17 report from the Institute of Medicine that urges more funding and study of prion diseases like BSE.

"Bovine blood products are fed to calves. While cows aren't allowed to directly eat cow parts any more, calves are still fed bovine blood products. It's an odd exception because scientists believe that prion diseases can be transmitted through the blood.

"The first case of BSE in the U.S. leaves consumers in a quandary.

"That's why the Red Cross no longer accepts blood donations from people who lived in Britain for three months or Europe for six months from 1980 to the present for fear they might have been exposed to BSE-infected beef while living there.

"Few animals are tested for BSE. While the beef industry hails the discovery of the mad cow in Washington state as a sign that the system is working, most critics say it was just dumb luck that the animal was found at all. The U.S. tests an embarrassingly small number of animals compared to other countries. In 2002, 19,990 cattle brains were tested for BSE and 11,152 were tested during the first four months of 2003. But that's just a fraction of the 35 million killed for slaughter in the U.S. each year. In Europe, about 200,000 animals are tested each day and in Japan, every bovine that enters the food supply is tested.

"Sick cows are part of the U.S. food supply. Like the Washington Holstein with BSE, an estimated 200,000 to as many as one million cows each year are considered "downer" animals because they are unable to walk into slaughterhouses. But they can still be killed and packaged for consumers to eat anyway. Other countries don't allow consumers to eat downer animals, but this summer, Congress failed to pass a bill that would have banned downer cows from entering the food supply. It's worth noting that McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King don't use downer meat in their restaurants.

"Beef producers say many of the concerns are unfounded because the steps the U.S. has already taken have resulted in an adequate 'firewall' to keep the beef supply safe without placing onerous and costly regulations on the low-margin beef industry. 'The risk of BSE in the United States remains very low in the sense that this animal was not infected here,' says Gary Weber, executive director of regulatory affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. 'We don't have circulating infectivity in our feed.'

"But critics say the U.S. BSE-testing program is so weak, it was seemingly designed not to find mad-cow disease rather than to detect it. 'We're still engaged in these dangerous feed practices, and we have inadequate testing,' says John Stauber, co-author of Mad Cow USA and a long-time critic of the beef industry. 'The longer we delay biting the bullet and instituting the strict animal feed and testing regulations that are working in Europe, the worse and worse the problem is going to become.'

"So what can consumers do? Of course, the ultimate protection is to stop eating beef. But there are steps you can take short of that. Diners can choose certified organic or grass-fed beef. Whole boneless cuts of regular beef shouldn't be at risk, but that isn't certain. Avoid processed foods like hamburgers, hotdogs and sausage, and never eat brains. 'You can eat meat -- just realize there is this hierarchy of risk,'' says Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union. 'If you want hamburger, buy a piece of meat and watch them grind it yourself.'"

Yikes. Dailykos has more.

Here's a site I was unfamiliar with (courtesy of Talkingpointsmemo), wherein the ongoing saga of the battle between the neocons and the realpolitiks in the GOP is told. It's worth a read.

The daddy of Republican realpolitiks, Henry Kissinger, caught on tape (figuratively) discussing the overthrow of Allende in Chile and the human rights abuses of the Pinochet regime. I laughed. I cried:

"Secretary Kissinger: Also, I'd like to know whether the human rights problem in Chile is that much worse than in other countries in Latin America or whether their primary crime is to have replaced Allende and whether people are now getting penalized, having gotten rid of an anti-American government. Is it worse than in other Latin American countries?

"[Assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Walter] Rogers: Yes."

In Iraq, the long hard slog continues. Something I hadn't considered -- that the capture of Saddam Hussein frees the insurgents from the taint of being considered stooges of the dictator.

More on winning the hearts and minds.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Yet another justification [sorry, paid registration required] for having gone to war in Iraq. Iran rejoices. Thanks to an alert reader -- no doubt monitoring the enemy (the WSJ editorial board) -- for the link.

"But fortunately for the survivors, the international community has put politics aside to rush aid to the victims. The U.S., using its new presence in Iraq as a staging point for disaster relief teams flown from America, was quickly on the scene to try to save some of the thousands buried in rubble. The death toll, including those buried in debris and beyond rescue, could run as high as 40,000, according to one estimate." I'm sure all of Iran rejoices. Well, maybe not.

But back to reality, just for a moment. Condi grows more uncomfortable. But while Keane promises "revalations," it's disturbing when he says, "the 9/11 attacks might have been prevented if mid-level [emphasis mine] government officials at various government agencies had done their jobs." "Mid-level government officials" take their cues from above. I don't hold Clinton and Sandy Berger blameless, but they took the threat seriously. Rice and Bush simply did not.

And in Iraq, five month old spin still smells fresh to the AP.

But the U.S. military is Time's "Person of the Year." Via, Atrios, conservatives are furious!

And in North America, it's Canada's fault (isn't it always the case?).

In entertainment news..."Ben Affleck, an actor whose calm exterior reflects an inability to project an inner life..." Elvis Mitchell writes a classic review of "Paycheck"

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Who knew? Making it up as we go along is a good thing, it turns out.

Yes, it's a good thing the smart people in the White House and the Pentagon didn't try to proscribe any policies and plans for the post war. Imagine the sheer vanity of those technocrats in Washington who thought to, say, guard the Iraqi National Museum or any gov't ministry other than the oil ministry.

Everything's not going according to plan, but, that's a good thing, of course.

But Bush, Delay, and Hastert have a plan. Federal Spending now comes to $20,000 per household, the highest level since WWII. All this in which both the judicial and legislative branches are fully under the control of the GOP. In fact, under Bush, federal spending has increased 35% in three years. It's fascinating following conservatives' reaction to this.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Krugman shoots...and he scores. "It's not about you. We learn from The Washington Post that reporters covering Mr. Dean are surprised — and, it's implied, miffed — that 'he never asks a single question about them.' The mind reels."

They may be the gang that can't shoot straight, but four U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq in the last 48 hours, the deadliest two days in weeks, according to NPR.

And in Iran, a remarkable city I'd never heard of before has been levelled by an earthquake. Both Madame Cura and Josh Marshall note that this earthquake and the quake earlier this week in San Simeon were 6.5s. But, according to early casualty reports, very different levels of damage resulted.

Tom Delay has declared victory Qaeda? Wonderful. Never mind that orange alert.

And closer to home, our dept. of agriculture has been abrogating it's responsibilities for years, worse over the past three. This was avoidable, but regulation and inspections are anathema to the Bush administration. This will only get worse -- two herds in remote areas of Washington can't be the only ones affected.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Bush administration, making like Santa, have snuck down the nation's chimney to give our logging a Christmas present.

Write a letter to the editor for the president! Josh Marshall -- seemingly everywhere -- catches glimpes of the Bush propaganda machine here and here.

Happy holidays, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Happy Festivus, dear readers!

And, by the way, point your browser to Columbia University's WKCR for the annual Bach Fest. A 24 hour-a-day, week long celebration the station has been doing for years. Don't crash their servers, though.

Uh oh. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy shows up in Yakima, Washington.

Rumsfeld's role in appeasing Saddam Hussein as the tyrant used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war gets clearer. Of course, Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the 1980s was used by the administration as a justification for the war (and one I agreed with). Juan Cole has a fierce indictment of the whole Reagan admin crew who kissed Saddam's tookus and are now back in power -- politically or economically.

All this time I thought that the "Donald Rumsfeld has decided to return to the private sector" clock was ticking loudly. Mickey Kaus hears noisy rumors that Wolfie is taking the fall, instead.

Meanwhile, the Bush admin. Park Service, inspired by the Clinton Park Service's efforts to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone, has been -- so far unsuccessfully -- trying to reintroduce snowmobiles in the same park. Instead they are focused on...this?


"Alex wants to compete in the postseason, but he also wants to help Texas be a champion and be a part of what we are doing here," Hicks said. "From our conversations, I know he loves Texas and he's happy being here." Right. Read that first sentence from Hick's statement again. Does it make any sense at all?

Monday, December 22, 2003

While the neocons gloat over Qaddaffi's decision to come clean about his weapons programs as a clear indicator of the success of the Bush doctrine of preemption, it seems that the story is a bit more complicated. Josh Marshall, Juan Cole (in particular), and this evening, NPR's Dan Schorr on how this story came about.

It had little to do with Iraq and a great deal to do with intense, long running diplomacy and fierce UN economic sanctions. Why sanctions worked in Libya and not in Iraq is a question that should be studied closely. How were they different in real terms, in spirit, and in how they were applied?

Juan Cole also comments on the rise in assassinations of former Baath party officials in Iraq, and how this is being winked at by Iraqi police and, by extension, the U.S. military. Encouraging vigilantism, vendettas, and lawlessness. Always a good thing for a fledgling democracy.

"Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says some Iraqis think the spike in assassinations reflects a gradual loss of hope that the Coalition Provisional Authority or the new Iraqi government will quickly bring the Baathists to justice, and a fear that they may be regrouping to reestablish some political momentum in the new system."

Jon Stewart on the cover of Newsweek [I could not open this page in Safari, so switch to Explorer if you run into trouble]. I fervently hope this is a positive development for both the culture and our politics. Probably not, though.

It's taken a year, but I finally finished Margaret MacMillans fascinating history of the Paris Peace Talks following World War I. Published in 2001, but clearly the result of years of research and work, Paris 1919 offers a wealth of detail about the conference and the relatively few men who were to decide the fate of millions around the world. Relatively few men, like Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and of course, Wilson, but all of whom were beholden to public sentiment back home, the first time in history that the press made such an impact on treaty negotiations.

The book is valuable for debunking the myth that the treaty signed at Versailles was so odious in its terms that it led inexorably to Hitler and World War II. In fact, the treaty's ultimate terms weren't significantly worse than the terms Germany laid on France following the Franco-Prussian War; it's just that German popular sentiment blamed the treaty on everything from post-war unemployment to the weather.

But it's even more valuable in illuminating the way in which the "Council of Four" divvied up the world, creating festering wounds that are still bleeding in places like Kosova, the middle east, Asia, and Africa. History repeating itself over and over.

Here's Wilson on senators not supportive of the U.S. entry into the League of Nations:

"'I cannot imagine how these gentlemen can live and not live in the atmosphere of the world. I cannot imagine how they can live and not be in contact with the events of their times, and I cannot particularly imagine how they can be Americans and set up a doctrine of careful selfishness thought out in the last detail.'" "Midwinter break."

"The mistake the Allies made, and it did not become clear until much later, was that, as a result of the armistice terms, the great majority of Germans never experienced their country's defeat at first hand. Except in the Rhineland, they did not see occupying troops. The Allies did not march in triumph into Berlin, as the Germans had done in Paris in 1871. In 1918, German soldiers marched home in good order, with crowds cheering their way; in Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, the new president, greeted them with 'No enemy has conquered you!' The new democratic republic in Germany was shaky, but it survived, thanks partly to grudging support from what was left of the German army. The Allied advantage began to melt.? "Punishment and Prevention"

"Nationalism, in [the Bolsheviks'] view, was simply an excuse for feudal landowners, factory owners and reactionaries of various sorts to try to hang on to power. 'While recognizing the right of national self-determination,' wrote [Leon] Trotsky, 'we take care to explain to the masses its limited historic significance and we never put it above the interests of the proletarian revolution.' This was old-fashioned Russian imperialism in new clothes." "Poland Reborn"

"Early on Ataturk developed a contempt for religion that never left him. Islam -- and its leaders and holy men -- 'were 'a poisonous dagger which is directed at the heart of my people.' From the evening when, as a student he saw sheikhs and dervishes whipping a crowd into a frenzy, he loathed what he saw as primitive fanaticism. 'I flatly refuse to believe that today, in the luminous presence of science, knowledge, and civilization in all its aspects, there exist, in the civilized community of Turkey, men so primitive as to seek their material and moral well-being from the guidance of one or another sheikh.'" "The End of the Ottomans"

"The British and French governments, in a declaration that was circulated widely in Arabic, conveniently discovered that their main goal in the war on Ottomans had been 'the complete and definite emancipation of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.' Words were cheap. The British, as [Lord George] Curzon had said, were confident that Arabs would willingly choose Britain's protection. The French did not take Arab nationalism seriously at all. 'You cannot,' said [Georges] Picot, 'transform a myriad of tribes into a viable whole.' Both powers overlooked the enthusiasm with which their declaration had been received in the Arab world; in Damascus, Arab nationalists had cut electric cables and fired off huge amounts of ammunition in celebration. The British and the French who had summoned the djinn of nationalism to their aid during the war were going to find that they could not easily send it away again." "Arab Independence"

"[Arnold] Wilson head of the British administration in Iraq], like most of the other British there, assumed that Britain was acquiring a valuable new property. With oil, if Mosul had any worth exploiting, and wheat, if irrigation was done properly, the new acquisition could be self-sufficient; indeed, it might even return money to the imperial treasury." "Arab independence"

"Wilson had firm ideas about how the area should be ruled. 'Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul should be regarded as a single unit for administrative purposes and under effective British control.' It never seems to have occurred to him that a single unit did not make much sense in other ways. In 1919 there was no Iraqi people; history, religion, geography pulled the people apart, not together. Basra looked south, toward India and the Gulf; Baghdad had strong links with Persia; and Mosul had closer ties with Turkey and Syria. Putting together the three Ottoman provinces and expecting to create a nation was, in European terms, like hoping to have Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs make one country. The cities were relatively advanced and cosmopolitan; in the countryside, hereditary tribal and religious leaders still dominated. There was no Iraqi nationalism, only Arab. Before the war, young officers serving in the Ottoman armies had pushed for greater autonomy for the Arab areas. When the war ended, several of these, including Nuri Said, a future prime minister of Iraq, had gathered around Feisal. Their interest was in a greater Arabia, not in separate states." "Arab Independence"

"In April [Gertrude Bell] wrote her old friend Aubrey Herbert, himself anxious about Albania, 'O my dear they are making such a horrible muddle of the Near East, I confidently anticipate that it will be much worse than it was before the war -- except Mesopotamia which we may manage to hold up out of the general chaos. It's like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them.'" "Arab Independence"

"The Arabs were consulted, but only by the Americans. Wilson?s Commission of Inquiry, which Clemenceau and Lloyd George had declined to support, had duly gone ahead. Henry King, the president of Oberlin, and Charles Crane, who had done so much to help Czechoslovakia?s cause, doggedly spent the summer of 1919 traveling through Palestine and Syria. They found that an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants wanted Syria to encompass both Palestine and Lebanon; a similar majority also wanted independence. 'Dangers,' they concluded, 'may readily arise from unwise and unfaithful dealings with this people, but there is great hope of peace and progress if they be handled frankly and loyally.' Their report was not published until 1922, long after the damage had been done." "Arab Independence"

"'The Palestinians are very bitter over the Balfour Declaration,' reported an American intelligence officer in 1917. 'They are convinced that the Zionist leaders wish and intend to create a distinctly Jewish community and they believe that if Zionism proves to be a success, their country will be lost to them even though their religious and political rights be protected.' The Balfour Declaration had promised protection for what it called 'the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,' a curious formulation when Palestinian Arabs, most of them Muslims but including some Christians, made up about four fifths of a population of some 700,000. It also reflected a tendency on the part of both the world?s statesmen and Zionist leaders to see Palestine as somehow empty. 'If the Zionists do not go there,' said Sykes firmly, ?some one will, nature abhors a vacuum.' A British Zionist is supposed to have coined the phrase 'The land without people -- for the people without land.'" "Arab Independence"

"Even before 1914, there were signs that nationalism and a corresponding unease at the Zionist presence were starting to stir among the Palestinian Arabs. [Chaim] Weizmann, who when he talked about the Palestinians sometimes sounded like a British district officer in India, at first discounted this: 'The Arabs, who are superficially clever and quickwitted, worship one thing, and on thing only -- power and success.' The innocence, and the incomprehension, were breathtaking -- even dangerous." "Arab Independence"

And does this sound like something Karl Rove might have engineered:

"Paul Cambon thought the whole affair [the signing ceremony in Versailles] disgraceful. 'They lack only music and ballet girls, dancing in step, to offer the pen to the plenipotentiaries for signing. Louis XIV liked ballets, but only as a diversion; he signed treaties in his study. Democracy is more theatrical than the great king.'" "Hall of Mirrors"

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The terror alert is raised to "orange". New York city officials respond by saying it's been "orange" in NYC since about 1973.

"WASHINGTON - The government on Sunday raised the national threat level to orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, and said threat indicators are "perhaps greater now than at any point" since Sept. 11, 2001, with strikes possible during the holidays.

"Americans were promised 'extensive and considerable protections' around the country and told to stick to their travel plans despite intelligence indicating the al-Qaida terrorist network is seeking again to use planes as weapons and exploit suspected weakness in U.S. aviation security."

Not to worry, though. John Ashcroft and the DoJ are all over threats to our security and winning the war on terrorism, citing 280 cases they are investigating. The LA Times audits this figure and it comes up wanting. Good reporting.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

With Qaddaffi's decision to relinquish all WMD (though it's funny that Bush didn't include Libya in the "axis of evil" or mention that he even had WMD...hmmm), Bush sure seems to be on a roll. No doubt he'll pull Bin Laden from a hat as his next trick.

Bruce Reed thinks this is just great for Democrats.

Citing his old boss, Bill Clinton, Reed writes that voters vote for the future, not the past. "That's a battle Democrats can win, even against a popular incumbent, because Bush's best days may be behind him. This White House believes timing is everything. The trouble is, sacrificing its ability to solve tomorrow's problems to gain today's headlines will leave it worse off over the long haul. Bush paid a heavy price for three years of tax cuts and one strong quarter of economic growth that may well be forgotten next November. Now the country is too broke to afford him a second-term agenda. With record deficits instead of a surplus, he has no money to propose a new round of tax cuts or a serious plan to strengthen Social Security. Bush is like the baseball team he once owned, the Texas Rangers, who spent too much on a long-term contract for Alex Rodriguez and now can't afford the new stars they need to win. As The Post recently reported, the Bush White House is desperately looking for a cheap second-term vision, and considering ideas like a return to the Moon that will leave beleaguered middle-class voters wondering whether to laugh or cry."

Two problems with that paragraph. One -- Bush and his rapacious administration will not let a little old half-trillion deficit restrain their tax cutting zeal, or their spending mania. The future doesn't matter to this administration; if it did, would Dick Cheney be the Veepee (see his obituary here)? Two -- Bush's Texas Rangers didn't sign A-Rod, the guy Bush and his partners sold the team to did. The Rangers were perennial division champs in those days; now they suck, expensively.

There's a third problem, I fear. His name is Howard Dean (thanks to Amy Sullivan for the link).

The Bush administration isn't the only collection of economic freebooters in Washington.

Speaking of Ralph Nadar, he's got a site asking for a vote on whether or not he and his massive ego should run again in 2004. Talkingpointsmemo points you there.


And speaking of A-Rod and that team that plays in a place called Arlington, Texas, I feel pretty certain that the deal will go through. Despite the wackiness of the Red Sox owner, who may have a bigger mouth than George Steinbrenner, both teams, as well as MLB and the player himself, are simply too committed. I usually support the players' union, but not on this one. Rodriguez's "devaluing" his contract will not have an effect on other player's contracts; his is in a universe all its own. Besides, he may be devaluing his contract, but by leaving baseball Siberia and moving to Red Sox nation, playing in post-season for once, possibly helping to put the long suffering team in the World Serious -- that will increase his overall value exponentially.

Friday, December 19, 2003

The banally named Freedom Tower revised architectural design was officially announced today.

Curiously, NY Gov. Pataki first unveiled the final plans, not at the planned unveiling this morning or to New Yorkers. Instead Katie Courac -- oh, and a few million viewers around the country -- got the first look. No, he's not raising his national profile in advance of the GOP convention in New York this summer. That would be cynical [ed. I'm ashamed you'd even have considered that. What can I say, it's a conditioned reflex].

Cynical? According to Brian Lehrer on WNYC, at the news conference, Larry Silverstein, the tower's builder, said that Pataki had demanded that ground be broken not on Sept. 11, but, rather, by Sept. 11. That sounds like it opens the way for a groundbreaking ceremony during the GOP convention. What a surprise.

Bring 'em on.

Meanwhile, enjoy this delightful example of the free exchange of ideas between the neocons and their critics.

Speaking of whom (critics), Josh Marshall asks how long the Shia in Iraq will continue their passivity in the face of Sunni violence?

"'I never wanted to do anything to harm him or cause detriment to his life or to the lives of those around him,' Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a 78-year-old retired schoolteacher said at a news conference in Columbia, South Carolina.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, commenting on the emergence of Strom Thurmond's daughter and her decision to wait until Thurmond's death to go public with her parentage: "We can put that whole nature/nurture thing to rest. In this case the fruit fell a whole world away from the tree. She's clearly a sweetheart. He was a douchebag."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A major victory for constitutional rights.

"'As this court sits only a short distance from where the World Trade Center stood, we are as keenly aware as anyone of the threat al-Qaida poses to our country and of the responsibilities the president and law enforcement officials bear for protecting the nation,' the court said.

"'But presidential authority does not exist in a vacuum, and this case involves not whether those responsibilities should be aggressively pursued, but whether the president is obligated, in the circumstances presented here, to share them with Congress,' it added."

This is important because it says to the Bush administration that they can't use terrorism as an excuse to create a special system for suspects, one in which an American citizen can be nabbed in the U.S., then held for months in a brig without recourse to a lawyer (in fact, it's unlikely Padilla had any idea any of this was going on on his behalf), even without being charged.

It will be interesting how this plays out in the Supreme Court.

Of course, Padilla wasn't carrying a dirty bomb when he was arrested. And Hussein wasn't carrying WMD either, apparently. But that no longer matters to Bush. "Imminent threat" or "pursuing a program." What's the difference?

As David Kay throws in the towel.

For the Bush administration, the past sure is tense. So why not cleanse it?

The Post's Dana Milbank writes on the lingering bad aftertaste from Bush's Baghdad flyby.

"[Stars and Stripes], quoting two officials with the Army's 1st Armored Division in an article last week, reported that 'for security reasons, only those preselected got into the facility during Bush's visit. . . . The soldiers who dined while the president visited were selected by their chain of command, and were notified a short time before the visit.'

"The paper also published a letter to the editor from Sgt. Loren Russell, who wrote of the heroism of his soldiers and then added: '[I]magine their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit. . . . They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away?'

"Russell added that his soldiers 'chose to complain amongst themselves and eat MREs, even after the chow hall was reopened for 'usual business' at 9 p.m. As a leader myself, I'd guess that other measures could have been taken to allow for proper security and still let the soldiers have their meal.'"

The L.A. Times has a remarkable expose on the Senate's venerable Master of Pork, Ted Stevens. Federal spending in Alaska, known as Stevens dollars in the state, runs as much as 70% higher than the national average on a per capita basis, making even Robert Byrd look cheap.

Lately, according to the Times (registration required, but it's free) it seems he's been doing pretty well for himself as well.

At the state level, Arnold declares he's got a fiscal crisis on his hands. Wasn't that evident to anyone, even the last governor, the one who was recalled because...he had a fiscal crisis on his hands?

But here in my state, the gem of gloomy New England, we are envying Californians these days -- we have a governor ripe for recall. Not only is he corrupt, he's a lunatic as well!

And is wife should be in a rubber room.


Ouch. This is a major blow to the Sox and Rangers. They have to make this work, otherwise, they have A-Rod back playing for a team he has publicly said he doesn't want to play for, and the Sox are stuck with two players they have very publicly tried to either put on unrestricted waivers or trade or both.

Warms my heart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

From Alan Murray's "Political Capital" column in todays Journal:

"SYMBOLS MATTER. The two AK-47s and the $750,000 in $100 bills found with Saddam Hussein are stark symbols of his brutal regime. His power derived from guns and money. Stripped of those, he was nothing but a dirty man with an empty pretense to power.

"But symbols matter for the U.S., too. The coalition allies need to show Iraqis, and the rest of the world, that their victory isn't just one of better guns and more money. Last week, the Bush administration got the symbols wrong. Saddam's capture gives it an opportunity to set them right.

"...FIRST, THE BUSH administration announced that it wouldn't allow French, German or Russian companies to be prime contractors in Iraq reconstruction. President Bush then magnified the problem by embracing the decision as his own. When asked by a reporter whether this ban might violate international law, he said with a sneer: 'International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn't bring that up to me.'

"Then the U.S. Defense Department announced that an initial audit suggested Halliburton Corp....may have overcharged taxpayers by as much as $130 million on contracts in Iraq. There is no reason to believe the White House had anything to do with those contracts; and the Pentagon's procurement problems long predate the Bush administration. But together, these events made for powerful symbolism. The President seemed to be belittling international law and standing up for war profiteers.

"...Saddam's capture provides Mr. Bush an opportunity to try again. At his news conference Monday, the president sounded more subdued but continued to insist that rebuilding contracts shouldn't go to French or German contractors. 'The idea of spending taxpayers' money on contracts to firms that didn't participate in the initial thrust -- that's not something I'm going to do,' he said.

"With Saddam out of the way, attention will turn back to Osama bin Laden, and the terrorists he spawned. Unlike Saddam, bin Laden's power involves more than fear and greed. His followers believe in their cause. Success in the battle against them can't be won by having the most weapons or the biggest treasury. Ultimately, it must be won by convincing the world that there is a clear line between good and evil, and that the U.S. is on the right side of the line. To do that, the Bush administration needs to pay more attention to the symbols that the world is watching."

Language matters, too. Here's some fine oratory from the press conference. With tax cuts like his, what's not to commiserate?

Ah, yes, those pesky symbols. Such as civil liberties, even in the face of external threats. The commission headed up by former (Republican) governor James Gilmore had some pointed things to say about the loss of some symbols. Even, while the focus on preventing another terrorist attack has blurred.

Meanwhile, in what could be interesting and embarassing for the Bush administration, Iran wants to take Saddam Hussein to an International Court for crimes against humanity. Seems unlikely that the Bush administration will allow that, given that a number of the administration's key players were directly involved in supporting Hussein in his war against Iran. And this is one where I don't think the French and Germans -- in fact, western countries in general -- will complain too loudly, given their complicity in arming Saddam in the 1980s.

But I think what we will find over the next weeks and months is that just as they didn't plan beyond the collapse of the regime, incredibly, they didn't have a plan for what to do with Hussein either.

It's the nature of campaign coverage that Dean's "I'm no sissy" speech would get most of the attention of the press. But, as Amy Sullivan points out, Wesley Clark's far more reasoned and thoughtful speech, got none. Which is all the more remarkable since he gave it on the occassion of testifying at an international war crimes trial for another mass murderer.

Combat camera crews, a weapon of mass destruction in this war.

Monday, December 15, 2003

What a surreal scene. "Pinned to the outside wall of the hut was a cardboard box depicting biblical scenes such as the Last Supper and the Madonna and child with the English inscription 'God bless our home.'"

Now the Bush administration is faced with a dilemna. Try Hussein with international war crimes judges, eschewing the death penalty and having little legitimacy with Iraqis, or (more likely) create an Iraqi court, that will likely lead to a death penalty, but further sour relations with the rest of the world. As I said, the latter is most likely.

And in a great moment of triumph, Bush must of course continue to obfuscate the reasons for going to war and invoke the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"Q Thank you, Mr. President. The capture of Saddam Hussein is something that has been universally applauded. But there still remain a lot of lingering questions about the postwar phase of Iraq. This administration has stated that it would like to see an interim Iraqi government stood up by next June; the ability to be able to begin to draw down troops if that's possible. Even a political novice would have to say, well, there appears to be some political component to all this, some way of making real progress ahead of the November elections.

"THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, people can read whatever they want to read into it. My job is to keep America secure. That's my job. I've got a solemn duty to do everything I can to protect the American people. I will never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. Terrorists attacked us. They killed thousands of our fellow citizens. And it could happen again. And, therefore, I will deal with threats -- threats that are emerging and real.

"We gave Saddam Hussein plenty of time to heed the demands of the world, and he chose defiance. He did. He said, forget it, I don't care what the United Nations has said over a decade; I don't care about all the resolutions passed. He chose defiance; we acted. And I acted because I -- I repeat -- I have a duty to protect this country. And I will continue to protect the country, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

"A free and peaceful Iraq is part of protecting America. Because I told you before, and I truly believe this, this will be a transforming event in a part of the world where hatred and violence are bred; a part of a world that breeds resentment."

I hope so.

Meanwhile, our foremost "ally" in the real war on terror has his own problems, it seems, with an assassination attempt in what should have been a safe area for the general.

"The location of the assassination attempt was unusual: Rawalpindi lies near the nerve center of Pakistan's military establishment. It is considered one of the most secure cities in the country.

"The bomb, described by officials as large, exploded 500 yards from the headquarters of the Pakistani Army 11th Corps and only a few miles from the Pakistani Army headquarters, where General Musharraf lives.

"A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was unusual that someone outside General Musharraf's close circle of aides would know the exact timing of his movements."

Stay tuned; that mushroom cloud Bush and Rice talked up in the days leading to the invasion of Iraq may still come true. Just not from the direction of Iraq.

And in an event almost as incredible as the capture of Saddam, Dick Cheney is said to be blasting 70 pheasants out of the Pennsylvania sky.

I almost said Cheney was "spotted," but the veil of darkness that engulfs all that he does is not to be lifted, even while he slaughters birds to no good purpose. "Employees reached in the club's dog kennels said they had been ordered not to speak to the news media. The employees added that they did not know what had become of Scott Wakefield, a dog handler at the club who was quoted by The Post-Gazette as saying that 500 birds had been released from nets for the hunt...

"'Something here doesn't add up,' said David Wade, Mr. Kerry's spokesman. 'The Bush administration says the economy is improving, but their millionaire vice president has to hunt for his own food.'"

Free Scott Wakefield! Hopefully, he'll turn up before records from Cheney's energy "task force" do.

"Rush." The AP calls him "Rush." Geez.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Maybe Krugman's reading my blog! Not likely, so I was thrilled to see that the theory I posited yesterday has been validated by the indispensible columnist. Of course, we knew Bush had authorized the creation of a shadow government; we just didn't know it was housed in the Pentagon.

It's curious, one of the reasons France gave for not supporting the invasion of Iraq was fear that the large muslim community in the country would grow restive. If that's the case, then why add even more weight to one of their religious symbols by banning the wearing of it?

Um, sure.

I wonder. But is this really the issue. Isn't the real threat not whether the insurgents are getting paid, but rather that they continue to tap supplies of rocket propelled grenades and air-to-surface missiles?

Are we truly ruled by these idiots (a question on so many Americans' -- and Iraqis' lips)? Whose idea was this piece of brilliance?

Hey, whaddya know?

"A Texas company owned by a campaign contributor and former business associate of President Bush could profit if Medicare endorses its drug card program under guidelines set by legislation the president signed into law on Monday, according to a report released yesterday by a research group run by a former Clinton administration official."


The Chairman of the Board weighs in, and he's not happy as he speaks for Yankee fans everywhere.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

This does not sound good.

I seem to be alone, but was the timing and "tone" of Wolfie's memorandum intentionally designed to foil the Baker initiative (see the memo here -- check out the appendix, and the major manufacturing powers that will certainly have Iraq up and running in no time)? After all, it is clear that Baker was brought in to "fix" the mess, superseding the Pentagon. It all feels like a Wolfie/Rummie temper tantrum to me. Is there no one in charge here? Oh yeah, the miserable failure.

Of course, James Baker does more than clean up messes for the Bushes. He gets things done, without regard to any legal or constitutional niceties, and certainly without any concern for the future beyond the immediate goal of retaining power. So, having promised myself not to link to talkingpointsmemo, This is an astonishing, horrifying post.

As Daniel Gross points out, we need those old Europeans for more than just Iraqi reconstruction.

Changing gears...I'm on the email list of the Center for American Progress. Today, they sent me this e-mail:

The Under the Radar in today's edition of the Progress Report entitled "ECONOMY – MAKING UP THE FACTS" unfairly characterized the Bureau of Labor Statistics revision of GDP numbers as a partisan maneuver when it is, in fact, a routine procedure. What the item intended to highlight was MSNBC's report that the Bush Administration intends to use these revised numbers as proof that President Bush inherited a recession – even though monthly GDP statistics, not the quarterly data that was revised, is the most accurate way of measuring when recessions begin.

We apologize for the extra e-mail - but in our pursuit of the highest accuracy standards we thought it was important to correct immediately. We regret the error.

Clearly, liberals are doomed at this media game. Bill O'Reilly would never admit a mistake!

At Salon, check out Syd Blumenthal on Gore's endorsement of Dean. Nothing new here, just really well written.

And more on Gore -- and the media's on going hoary characterization of him -- on the Daily Howler.


Be afraid, Yankee fans. The lunatic is back running the asylum.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

If this is true, then it is a sure sign that daddy has definitely told his consigliere to get in there and start cleaning up the goddamn mess.

Thanks to Atrios for this one as well...nothing is scarier than hard core leftists who, like St. Paul on the offramp to Damascus, veer hard to the right -- just look at the neocons in the White House. But Christopher Hitchens has truly become unhinged.

It's great how every few years another set of Nixon tapes gets decoded. And, I've been thinking a lot about the Nixon administration and parallels to (and contradictions with) the miserable failure...more on that later. Of course, it takes one to know one. Perhaps, though, Nixon's verdict is just another proof of Ron's sainthood.

The morally superior die young, apparently. I hate to be cruel, but was it really cancer or was it intense hatred of the Clintons that ate him up from the inside?

Finally, run, don't walk to the latest Seymour Hersh piece in the New Yorker. Well, read it if you really want to be angry and dispirited. It's not just Vietnam we're stuck in in Iraq, we've added the Gaza Strip, just for fun, I guess.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

"House Republican leaders had little to say about the unemployment issue, keeping their public comments focused largely on the spending bill, which Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader, called 'a fitting end to the legislative session.'"

You can say that again. While doing nothing to extend unemployment benefits, this bloated piece of porcine political giveaways is uniquely shameless. "For instance, the group said, the bill includes $2 million for a Florida program to provide affordable access to golf for everyone; $1.8 million for an Appalachian fruit laboratory in West Virginia; $447,000 for halibut data collection in Alaska; $325,000 for Salinas, Calif., to build a swimming pool; and $270,000 for potato storage in Madison, Wis."

I really should stop linking to Josh Marshall's site. Fact is, to paraphrase something he wrote recently about Paul Krugman, our opinions are so similar that I expect that my dear readers have already visited his much better written, more professionally designed, and more reasonably argued blog long before they've come to mine.

But this post, explaining in very lucid terms, what's putting the wind in Dean's sails, seems to me entirely correct.

And, if we're to believe Bill Kristol, it may be enough to blow the miserable failure right out of the White House.

I can't help myself. The interagency coordination this administration has shown in dealing with Iraq is remarkable.

Brad DeLong has, as usual, a fascinating debate going on what effect religion has on the development of mercantile systems; specifically, why Islamic countries have, for the most part failed to create modern economic systems.

Monday, December 08, 2003

It's the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon.

The big news of the day. I'm unclear why Gore chose to make his endorsement so early, before a single vote has been cast in a caucus and a primary that are demographically irrelevant. It's certainly not good for his former Senate colleague, John Kerry (who is using language I can finally understand). Ouch is right.


In a parallel universe, a small cute dog is president.

Unfortunately, in ours, George Bush is a miserable failure.

Some clever (albeit sophomoric, but I dig that) soul has made it his blog project to write "George Bush is a miserable failure" in every post, with the above link. And he/she has enlisted bloggers everywhere to do the same. The result: The link above when you google "miserable failure".

The vegacura will, no doubt, join the project.

So, not finding WMD is now a "moot point." The arrogance is astounding. And, if you read Amy Sullivan's post, even more astounding is the paucity of "big ideas" in this administration.

An important story continues to brew, as federal judges take on Ashcroft and the executive's unprecedented plan to control the judicial branch and judge's discretion to mete out sentences. What's particularly amazing is the level of anger even conservative, Reagan-appointed judges are showing in response to the Feeney amendment to (yet another rushed piece of knee jerk legislation) the "amber alert" bill. Why? Well how about this:

"Within 30 days of a sentence in a federal criminal case, the district's chief judge must submit a written report to the United States Sentencing Commission that includes supporting documents like the presentencing report and the cooperation or plea agreement between the government and the defendant. (The commission is the independent judicial agency in Washington, set up during the 1980's, that oversees how the sentencing guidelines are carried out.)

"Feeney allows Congress, without permission from the presiding judge, to have access to the report and the supporting documents.

"'Without the reporting mechanisms, there is no way for Congress to ensure that judges are actually following the guidelines," the amendment's sponsor, Representative Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican, said in a telephone interview. 'That, quite simply, is their intention.'

"Mr. Feeney says the purpose of the new access is to enable Congress to evaluate the primary sources of reasoning behind a sentence.

"But most judges see it otherwise. 'It's a serious breach of the separation of powers to have the executive looking over the judiciary's decisions,' Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. of Federal District Court in Manhattan said. 'It also certainly looks like a possible blacklist.'"

But the judges are undeterred.

"For all their concerns about the law, many judges are adamant that they will not be intimidated. 'They can have their blacklist,' said Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey of United States District Court in Manhattan. 'But we have life tenure.'"

Also in the Times today, Thomas Hart Benton's artistic reaction to Pearl Harbor and the isolationism of middle America, which he tried to shatter with paintings that are powerful, hearkening back to Goya's darkest work. At a time when war might as well be casualty-free, given the self-censorship of most newspapers, and when so many artists are focused on the ironic, where are such artists today in reaction to the fascists of Islam (no, I haven't forgotten them, despite the fog of Bush's blundering in Iraq), the destruction of innocents, the hatred of freedom so similar to the Nazis?

Saturday, December 06, 2003

"I take satisfaction that we went to war with Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein. The rest is details." That's Laurie Mylroie quoted by Peter Bergen in an article he wrote in The Washington Monthly. According to Bergen, Mylroie was the most important expert on the Middle East, especially Iraq, that Richard Perle, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the neocon architects of war with Iraq relied on to draw up their rosy conclusions for what life would be post-Saddam.

She has impressive credentials, having held faculty positions at Harvard and the U.S. Navy College.

Trouble is, she's a wingjob. Prior to Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, she was an apologist for the dictator. Since then, though, she's seen his hand in every major terrorist attack on the U.S., including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the Murray federal building in Oklahoma, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and, of course September 11, 2001.

She believes there's a vast conspiracy by thousands of investigators at State, the CIA, NSA -- even, I guess, to the thousands of soldiers searching for evidence in Iraq -- to hide Saddam's culpability since not one shred of reliable evidence has been found linking him to those attacks.

Fascinating. Deeply troubling. We'll be dealing with those "details" for years to come.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Oh my. Now we have Version 3.0 of "Airforce One: The Movie."

Amy Sullivan has more thoughts on the "reality TV president."

And reality is a moving target in the intensifying case of the Medicare bribe.

Meanwhile, over at the increasingly Strangelovean DoD, the Dept. of Propaganda isn't being resurrected. No, really, it's not.

Now that the right has effectively dismantled much of the New Deal, they want to replace FDR's image with Reagan's. I wonder what Ron would think.

It's all about the money. On Slate, Daniel Gross looks at a hidden concern for the economy. Manufacturers aren't borrowing money, despite continuing low interest rates.

Who can blame them though, with the doddering fools responsible for economic "policy" in the white house (that policy being, whatever it takes to win in '04). "A remarkable ignorance about economics," writes Michael Elliot in Time.

Even Chief Executive magazine -- surely a safe house for GOP economic policy -- can't believe these guys. This from the December issue: "For the life of us, we can't figure out what the Treasury Secretary [John Snow] is trying to say. First, he urged China and Japan to make their currencies more expensive against the dollar. But then he started talking up U.S. interest rates and urging a strong dollar. Huh?" Just keep concentrating on inflating that half trillion deficit, John.

And to think, we once had a grown up as Treasury Secretary. One who actually understood economics and put policy ahead of politics, figuring the politics would sort itself out as a result of good policy. Whatever happened to him?


Jason G's knee surgery had better have been successful. He's going to be playing a lot at first next year. It's a shame to see Nick Johnson go; although he looked awful in September and October, he's a patient, "natural" hitter, like the Yankees of old. But Vasquez seems like the real deal, and a whole helluva lot younger than Shilling. And a 4-1 strike out to walk ration. Cool.

Not so cool. The last time a Selig opened the financial kimono, he redacted, oh, say two thirds of the pages that included non-gate revenue. Things like parking, concessions. TV! I don't expect much this time either. Milwaukee tax payers and fans got screwed.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Am I the only who thinks this is a really bad idea?

No, so does Juan Cole.

According to the Post story, "U.S. officials said the battalion would be subject to rigorous conditions aimed at ensuring that the new unit does not become a collection of autonomous militias loyal to their party leaders instead of a unified commander.

"'They will have to leave their political identity at the door,' a senior U.S. military official said."

Hope is not a plan.

Speaking of leaving politics at the door, the steel spined president bravely rescinds the steel tariffs.

See Brad DeLong's brilliant economics site for his admiring reaction. Brad's all over the subservience of the press corps in failing to report on the never ending transparency of Bush's moves as well.

By the way, DeLong's cite was cited in today's WSJ as one of the best sites for trenchant commentary on the economy:

"An economic historian at the University of California Berkeley who worked with noted economist...Lawrence Summers both at Harvard and at the U.S. Treasury, Brad DeLong is at his best when putting recent developments in historical context. One particularly sharp posting asked how the U.S. could blow the prospects for a long economic boom and then noted that mid-19th century Britain lost its technological edge by failing to build schools for children of workers migrating to factory towns from the countryside. 'By end of the 19th century the lack of a well-schooled work force meant that the post steam-engine technologies of electricity, metallurgy and chemistry found themselves much more at home in late 19th century Germany -- where investments in schools had been made,' he wrote.

"Mr. a loyal Clintonite -- except when it comes to the former first lady. 'Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life,' he has written, citing his close encounter with her during development of the Clinton health plan. His writings on President Bush's economic policies are often shrill, usually entertaining. A running feature on his site is called 'Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools?' He is up to part CCCXXVII," the Journal's David Wessel writes.

You need a registration to view the article on line, but Phil Carter provides links to the other sites mentioned in the story.

Speaking of Bush administration misrepresentations and the press' reactions to it, USA Today carried a story today entitled, "White House backtracks on Air Force One account".

"WASHINGTON -- A radio conversation between Air Force One and a British Airways pilot as President Bush flew to Iraq for Thanksgiving never took place, the White House said Wednesday.

"White House communications director had said last week that a British Airways pilot spotted what he thought was the president's plane and radioed, 'Did I just see Air Force One?' After a pause, an Air Force One pilot was said to have responded, 'Gulfstream 5,' which is a much smaller aircraft. After a long silence, the British Airways pilot responded, 'Oh.'

"...But British Airways said this week that there was never contact between the president's plane and the British Airways jet.

"...[White House spokesman Scott] McClellan said it was now his understanding the conversation took place between the British Airways jet and a control tower in London. Air Force One pilots overheard the conversation while flying over the west coast of England, he said.

"British Airways said it could not confirm the new account. And a spokeswoman for National Air Traffic Service in London said Wednesday that no British Airways aircraft was on that frequency and in that sector at the time."

The interesting thing about this latest story of gilding the lily of Bush's heroism, bravery, and devotion to the troops is that a search of doesn't turn up the story. I can't say the story was pulled down because I found it in the print version of the paper, not online, but...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Mercury rising. Sorry, couldn't resist. But here's the cool thing. Mercury, unlike other pollutants spewing out of aging coal-fired midwestern powerplants, doesn't travel far. So Bush has leveled the playing field. The midwesterners living near those plants will be just as sick as those of us in the northeast because of them.

The New Yorker has archived the astonishing "Letter From Baghdad" written by George Packer, and mentioned in a Nov. 24 post. It's well worth a read.

One of the few success stories that emerged from Iraq was the remarkable initiative shown by commanders on the ground to use the loot that Hussein had squirreled away to pay for repairing infrastructure, pay Iraqi salaries, etc. Those funds are about tapped out, and Bremer doesn't like losing control (he'd rather spend it on rapacious third parties, like Haliburton). Fred Kaplan, on Slate, has an idea.

Also on Slate...we were hoping for "Wingnuts on Parade." And we got it. But, as the best writer covering the Court writes, it was the Supremes, not the guy who's been chasing Vince Foster's "murder" for, what, 10 years.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Tom DeLay, man of principle.

Another man of principle, Bush silent on steel while in Pittsburgh.

Oh, Canada. "Recently, while musing about his retirement plans, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said he might just kick back and smoke some pot. 'I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand,' he said with a smile."

Vansterdam looks better every day.

And, speaking of travel, Fareed Zakaria on Bush's trips to Iraq, Britain. He's the boy in the bubble.

"What is most dismaying about this state of affairs is that for the last 50 years the United States has skillfully merged its own agenda with the agendas of others, creating a sense of shared interests and values. When Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy waged the cold war, they also presented the world with a constructive agenda dealing with trade, poverty and health. They fought communism with one hand and offered hope with the other. We have fallen far from that model if the head of the Chinese Communist Party is seen as presenting the world with a more progressive agenda than the president of the world’s leading democracy."

More on the "unsuccessful" ambush in Iraq. The bad guys' intelligence is better than ours, they knew the convoy's purpose, that they would be carrying a lot of cash, and they are getting more -- much more -- sure of themselves.

Amy Sullivan calls Bush a spade. Allan Murray's column in the WSJ draws a similar line, comparing Bush to Nixon. With a half-trillion deficit looming for '04, Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill from the "drunken sailors" in the Republican-controlled congress. Milhouse once shocked his cabinet by announcing that they should "spend more." Like Nixon, Bush is not interested in anything other than getting re-elected.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I always wondered how Tom DeLay would stomach New York for the GOP convention. Now we know. But I wonder, where do the Norwegians stand with the coalition of the willing.

Will they be stuck in port? Or out at sea? Either way, the metaphors will be ripe, with the headline writers at the Daily News and the Post having a field day. Just another reminder that DeLay and the Grand Ol' Party of wingnuts continue to be fully out of touch with life on terra firma.

Out of touch. Zen master Bush. It's a sequel! The more things change...

Not so out of touch. The resignation of Condit at Boeing was smart for the company, but only obscures the real scandal -- the lease deal that set all this in motion. A broader inquiry into the Pentagon's books, and the Senators who supported the fiscally stupid deal, should be launched.

Touchy. Josh Marshall gives us a sobering link and summary to a Washington Post story describing the "ever-evolving exit strategy" in post-war Iraq. Earlier this year, there was a commercial for Red Bull, the "energy drink," who were promoting events around the country in which people launched various heavy, flightless vehicles into bodies of water. The tag line was, "Designed by amateurs. Built by volunteers." Kind of sums up our work in Iraq. Where things get more interesting every day.

As an anecdote to that news, take a look at the story in Salon today. A friend told me about their contest asking for ideas for a 30-second spot highlighting the Bush follies. It should yield hilarious results, but I thought it was a bad idea. It's just so much speaking to the choir when instead we need to convince the undecided who like Bush as a person (go figure), but are concerned about where we're heading by laying out real alternative ideas about what direction we should be taking. But maybe I should lighten up. I was fascinated to learn that the founders of are the creators of the flying toaster screen saver.

George Soros responds to his critics on PRI's "Marketplace" today. He says that the $12 million he's given to grass roots organizations are not an effort to gain influence, as his Republican detractors claim. It is because he -- a survivor of Nazi occupied Budapest and a refugee of the Cold War, mind you -- thinks this is one of the most important elections in American history, a referendum on the Bush doctrine in which we must choose between a world in which we are, strangely, bullies who live in constant fear, or a nation that works with others to combat Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, ecological degradation, and falling living standards.

As if to underscore the unilateralist paranoia that drives the Bush foreign "policy," check out this profile of Josh Bolton in USA
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