Wednesday, June 30, 2004

President AWOL, the sequel

Questions surrounding the status of Bush's military records will simply not abate. Last week, the AP filed suit to gain access to the microfilm of the records, which, by law, should be in the Texas state archives. The microfilm is important because it will show any inconsistencies with the paper records that the administration Friday-night dumped on the press earlier this year, specifically, which paper records have been tampered with or disappeared.

Meanwhile, Orcinus provides a summary of an exhaustive investigation by Paul Lukasiak. According to his encyclopediac-sized report Bush was, in fact, a deserter.

As I've written before, the Administration's attempt to brush this off last winter was stupid and clumsy. The press is lazy, but if they begin to smell blood in the water, their editors will start asking questions and putting resources behind getting a "scoop."

Hopefully this will come to a full boil around, oh, October 20th.

He's not impotent, he's the vice-president

Jesus' General helps us understand the true meaning of the word "impotent."

Don't call preznit a "liar," he's just got a problem with "truth"

Via Brad DeLong and in response to Nicholas Kristoff's insipid column today, Andrew Northrup lists just a few of Bush's lies (oh, about an arm's length worth) and hurts his wrist.

Are Krugman and Rich the only columnists with both brains and backbone remaining on the Times' op ed page? Oh, year, only Krugman remains. Rich is been banished to the Arts page on Sunday.

DeLong asks why Kristoff still has a job. But the bigger issue is why does Gail Collins still have a job. She edits the op ed page at the Times and under her watch the page has drifted from a sometimes flawed position of leading the national conversation to a fear of being thought "shrill" by the SCLM. makes me mad.

In case you need a chart

Uggabugga explains the simple and clear logic of George W. Bush.

A Bronx cheer for Cheney

An update on yesterday's post.

During the singing of "God Bless America" in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. It was greeted with booing, so the Yankees quickly removed the image.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Dick Cheney invades The Yankee Stadium

I was feeling a bit sheepish that I would hear myself turning down a last-minute invitation to see the latest installment of Armageddon at The Yankee Stadium tonight. Getting old, I thought; too daunted by trying to make a rush into the Bronx to see the game in the midst of the craziness that always attends a Red Sox/Yankees serious -- this is something I would not normally think twice about.

But watching the game on TV this evening, the announcers are saying Dick Cheney (a man with whom I'd rather not share the same room) is in attendance. And yes, there he is befouling the Yankee clubhouse before the game. How'd I know? Glad to be sitting out on the deck watching the game through a well-placed window, far away from the paramilitary that goes where the vice-emperor goes.

The cost of war

This time, I have to disagree with Kevin Drum when he writes

In a nutshell, this is the great irony of the Bush Doctrine and the Iraq war. Conceived as a means of finally putting to rest "Vietnam Syndrome," it now looks as though it's going to cement it in place for another few decades.

Liberals everywhere should hail the handiwork of Bush and the neocons. For a relatively small cost, we've gotten rid of a truly odious fascist dictator and assured that the American public is less inclined than ever toward military adventurism. What more could we ask for?

Conservatives, on the other hand, should be somewhat less enthralled with Bush and the neocons....

I think Kevin probably regrets the words, "relatively small cost" -- the cost of over 1000 US dead and 10,000 Iraqi is a high cost, particularly since it was all based on lies and bad intelligence -- but I see his point. This will make Americans less inclined to rush to support a president's war of choice (although that support was never as great as the so-called liberal media implied it was, never more than 65% or so, compared with nearly all of our Senators, congressmen, and, oh yes, news anchors).

But I'm not sure that's such a good thing. Our reluctance to enter Rwanda after the debacle in Somalia resulted in an unconscionable loss of human life. Will we fail to intervene in the next Balkans flare-up, the Sudan (where our overstretched troops are unable to stop the madness), or when the House of Saud collapses and our precious oil is threatened by jihadists? Well, maybe the Saudi thing, but human rights, forget it.

Splitting the baby

SCOTUSblog reviews Hamdi, Rasul, and Padilla and finds a mixed-bag.

In language unmistakably placing the Court in the forefront of the constitutional battles that will continue to be waged so long as the war on terrorism continues, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's lead opinion declared: "Striking the constitutional balance here is of great importance to the Nation during this period of ongoing combat. But it is equally vital that our calculus not give short shrift to the values that this country holds dear or to the privilege that is American citizenship." There can no longer remain any doubt that "striking the constitutional balance" will be done by the courts, not by the Executive or by Congress. No can there linger any doubt that when the opinions speaks of "our calculus," it meant judicial calculus. It is noteworthy that this view of judicial authority was shared today by all but one of the Justices (all but Clarence Thomas); seldom does this often-divided Court hold together so cohesively on the division of governmental powers.

The President, of course, did not lose everything he had at stake. By a vote of 5-4, the Court ruled that Congress' post-9/ll declaration supporting the President's response to those attacks had authorized the Executive to capture and detain, perhaps even until the end of the war on terrorism, those suspected of being terrorist activists acting in open aggression toward the U.S. Even so, the Court did not necessarily embrace that as an enduring constitutional concept: it added that the idea of detention for the duration of a conflict had emerged from the era of traditional wars, and then commented: "If the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that understanding may unravel." In other words, a war on terrorism that has no end may turn out to be too long for the Justices to go on allowing indefinite detention.

The Supremes did, however, rule extremely clearly and forcefully against the Bush administration's claims in recently unearthed memos that the president is above the war while executing the war.

And they were equally clear in denying administration claims that Guantanamo is a "lawless place," where foreign nationals may be kept under U.S. jurisdiction without recourse to U.S. courts.

A Bremer-shaped hole in the door

According to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart last night, that's what the proconsul left at Saddam's palace, otherwise known as CPA headquarters, such was the speed with which he departed his beloved colony yesterday.

Of course, being Paul Bremer, he couldn't resist a few last-minute Iraqi laws [can't find a link to the relevant USA Today article].

BAGHDAD -- Before it was dissolved on Monday, the U.S.-led coalition put in place major legal revisions that would force Iraqis to get drivers' licenses, obey traffic laws, ban certain people from holding office and place American contractors above the law.

The last little edict means that security personnel working for U.S. contractors are not liable to Iraqi laws should they, say, kill an innocent Iraqi. Like so many of Bremer's decisions, this last-minute epiphany, which probably received a nanosecond of deliberation, could have enormous negative effects on Iraqis views of their American'm sorry, guests, sometime down the road.

Ashcroft besieges the states

Those famous supporters of states' rights, the Bush administration...

Attorney General John Ashcroft has strongly opposed the state laws. The case the Supreme Court accepted began with a confrontation between sheriff's deputies in Butte County, Calif., and federal drug agents, who both showed up at the home of Diana Monson, a patient whose severe back spasms are not helped by prescription drugs but are alleviated by marijuana, which she uses under her doctor's care. The sheriff's deputies concluded that the marijuana she was growing was legal, but the federal agents seized and destroyed her plants after a three-hour standoff with the deputies [emphasis added].

That must have been an interesting sight: sheriff's deputies protecting plants against federal agents determined to kill them (the plants, I mean, I guess).

Ashcroft continues to have his priorities in place.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Damn, those terrorists are truly evil

Well, you know Dear Reader, I wasn't going to post today...The Man actually required me to earn my wages today -- I was forced to work: actually participate in conference calls, actually contribute to the PowerPoint presentation (Damn you, Bill Gates). And here I am, in the gloamin', tired and overwhelmed by freedom reigning all down on the heads of lucky, if unsuspecting, Iraqis and all that.

But my ennui was shattered by the news of those fiendish terrorists' latest plot. We, as a nation, can only thank God that we have John Ashcroft to protect us from those seemingly innocent beer insulating thingies.

Thanks to Atrios (but, hmmm, Atrios' shot of the Preznit in his underoos has mysteriously disappeared).

Speaking of which, kudos to his Tidy Whitey-ness from Jesus' General.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Michael Moore -- leading intellectual of the progressive movement

That, anyway, is David Brooks opinion.

When Brooksie writes a column like that, an argument based on a false premise and supported by the full force of non-relevant points (Michael Moore provides incendiary anti-American quotes to European audiences, ergo, he is the intellectual and moral leader of the left) and delivered with his trademarked voice of amiably concerned hatred to anything left of "compassionate conservatism," I am reminded of the Bard's immortal words:

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin' south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

Um, David, Moore is a movie maker cum comedian -- he's an entertainer. He knows his audience.

A successful one it seems.

He is not a leader -- either intellectually or morally -- of anyone.

He is, however, an admitted and unrepentant propagandist. But his propaganda is entertaining and has a pretty good sense of humor.

Unlike some other more shocking and disturbing propaganda we're seeing in this race.

These guys know no bounds in their desperate clinging to power.

But where is Karl Rove? Surely he understands that simply throwing red meat to the carnivores in his base will not be enough to get Bush elected president for the first time.

Especially now with today's happy news that the Greens have abandoned Nadar.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Enter Sandman

Thanks to Alex Belth for this one, New York magazine is running an excerpt of Buster Olney's new book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, The Team, and the Cost of Greatness," to be published in August.

The excerpt focuses on the Yankees' closer, Mariano Rivera, generally considered to be the best closer in MLB history, and certainly the best closer in post-season history. Many (myself included) consider Mo to be the reason for the Yankees' success in the Joe Torre years, winning five championships in nine years. Yes, Derek has been the X-factor, Bernie has been the constant, and the starting pitching has been the best in baseball. But when Metallica starts playing in the 8th or 9th, it means the Yankees have a small lead, Rivera's entering the game. And the game is, basically, over.

According to Olney, the reason for his success -- what sets him apart from even the other top closers in the game -- is that for him the game is pre-ordained. Win or lose, Rivera's response is the same. Unlike most closers who, when a hitter hits a homer or gives up a run, will angrily glare or march around the mound in frustration, Mariano's reaction never varies. He immediately shuts it out, focusing on the next batter or, really, focusing on the catcher's mitt.

Todd Helton led off for the Rockies. One of the most daunting hitters in either league, Helton is a left-handed first baseman with a lifetime batting average of .338 and 228 career home runs. With one more long ball, he could tie the game and disrupt the Yankees' first good run of momentum (eleven wins in fourteen games) this year.

Helton stepped into the batter's box, but Rivera didn't see him. "Sometimes I see only the catcher's glove," Rivera says. "Sometimes there is nothing else. But sometimes I see the hitter too."

When does he see the hitter? When the hitter is particularly dangerous, like Boston's Manny Ramirez? Or when the tying run is on base and he has to be a little more careful? "No, no, no, it's nothing like that," Rivera says.

"I see the hitter when he's moved in the box" -- Rivera lifts his hand, pointing at an imaginary batter in an imaginary batter's box -- "like when he's moved closer to the plate or changed his stance."

Meaning, he sees the hitter trying to adjust to his wicked cutter, which drives viciously in on left-handed hitters, or swerves away from helpless right-hand hitters. He then adjusts, but otherwise, the batter really is of no concern to him.

In fact, even when the batter has success against him it can buoy, rather than harm, Rivera's confidence. After he gave up a game winning home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the fourth game of the '97 ALCS -- a serious Cleveland went on to win -- reporters peppered him about how devastating that was to him, and how he must have thought about it throughout the long winter. He claimed he didn't think about it at all, but he was lying. He did think long and hard about it and concluded that it was confirmation of his own dominance.

Alomar was lucky, Rivera decided; if any other pitcher had been on the mound, then the manner in which Alomar hit the ball -- arms extended as he drove the ball to the opposite field -- would've resulted in a long fly ball, because no other closer threw a high fastball as hard as Rivera. The power in the home run had come from Rivera, the pitcher believed, and not from Alomar. Even in a moment that would have been a devastating failure for any other closer, Rivera believed he was in complete control.

And most of all he thinks both his gift and the outcome of the game are in God's hands. Before the 7th game of the 2001 World Series, he gave a rare pre-game talk to his teammates about God and fate. Later that night, Rivera would make a throwing error and give up two runs, the last on a blooper by Luis Gonzalez over the heads of a drawn-in infield, for the winning run.

The Yankees' victory parade in the city was canceled, and Enrique Wilson, the Yankees' utility infielder, changed his flight back to the Dominican Republic. The plane Wilson was initially scheduled for -- American Airlines Flight 587 -- crashed in Queens, killing all 260 passengers.

Wilson saw Rivera the next spring, and they talked about the twist of fate. If Rivera had closed out the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, Wilson would have, in all likelihood, been on the plane that went down. For Rivera, this was further confirmation that he and his teammates were all subject to God's will. "I'm glad we lost the World Series," Rivera said, "because it means that I still have a friend."

Awfully hard to break a guy's confidence when he's got that kind of mojo going.

One of the great things about living in this area during the "Torre era" is that it often feels like we're watching baseball history in the making. It is a privilege to watch the center field fence open and Rivera start jogging towards the mound, Metallica blasting. And watching him work, seemingly effortlessly in the hottest nights of August or the most nerve-wracking nights of October (or November, in the case of the 2001 season), you know you're watching something you will not see again.

The Sudan

The genocide that is occurring in the Sudan keeps trying to bubble to the surface of our consciousness, only to be resubmerged by the media's obsession with Clinton's "My Big Fat Booring Life" and "Why Does Michael Moore Hate America?"

Phil Carter attempts to analyze the situation in Sudan in light of the need for an overhauling of our military establishment as well as the toll of the stress the occupation in Iraq is taking on our ability to respond to humanitarian crises and potential failed states.

Imagine if USAID had an expeditionary nation-building capability of its own — a force of diplomats, aid workers, doctors, engineers, lawyers (but not too many), and a few units of soldiers for security. Or, imagine if USAID could at least call on an ad hoc task force of U.S. Army civil affairs units and build an ad hoc force of contractors for the mission. Then, we might actually be able to stop what's happening in the Sudan, because we could go in to ensure this humanitarian aid got where it needed to go, and this pithy militia was stopped in its tracks. But that's not going to happen. Why? Because first, no such "expeditionary nation building capability exists yet. Second, the American military's nation-building capabilities are so committed to Iraq and Afghanistan that there's nothing more to give.

The Rehnquist court and the power of the Bush presidency

A central theme of the Rehnquist Court—perhaps the central theme—has been the primacy of the current Supreme Court itself. The signature case is Dickerson, the case that decided whether Congress could overrule Miranda. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the opinion smacking down Congress' attempt to make Rehnquist's own dissenting view the law. This court really is supreme. The idea that people can be held by U.S. authority without any access to courts or lawyers will be a hard sell to these judges.

As we await the court's decisions in these terrorism cases, I am struck by the extraordinary degree to which the news consuming Washington could be resonating with the court's deliberations. You are right about all sides making "supplemental filings" with the court since the arguments in these cases. The question is whether all the news about the administration's legal defenses of harsh treatment of detainees is having an influence on how the near-final opinions are written. It's hard to say. The justices know they are writing for the ages and are unlikely to be swayed by the news of the day.

Still, one wonders if we will see indications in the opinions the court hands down that the justices have read the most startling memo—the Aug. 1, 2002, Office of Legal Counsel opinion concerning the limits of legal restrictions on torture. The press says it has been "repudiated" by the administration but I'm not sure what that means, since the disavowal is from "anonymous senior officials," is nonspecific, and comes nearly two years after it was signed and after it has been used as a basis for other legal memoranda that have not been rejected. The assertion of a president's power to authorize disregard for criminal laws specifically designed to limit government power would be most upsetting to the court. In the memo's view, there is nothing Congress could do to "interfere with the President's conduct of the interrogation of enemy combatants."

Two of the justices, Rehnquist and Scalia, headed the Office of Legal Counsel, as did I. All of us who have been in that position from both parties have argued for a strong version of presidential authority and understand the particularly stressful circumstances under which these memos were written. But even so, the sweeping assertions seen this week will leave virtually all of the justices uneasy with claims of executive autonomy to make detention determinations without judicial review.

We haven't heard such claims of presidential power to be above the law since President Nixon's sweeping assertion made in his post-presidency interview with David Frost. Dug up recently by Professor Neal Katyal is the following memorable exchange:

Mr. David Frost: So what in a sense you're saying is that there are certain situations ... where the President can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

Mr. Nixon: Well, when the President does it, that means it is not illegal.

Mr. Frost: By definition.

Mr. Nixon: Exactly. ...

Walter Dellinger and Dahlia Lithwick discuss the upcoming decisions from the Supremes on Padilla, Guantanamo, and Padilla cases.

It's 1968, do you know where you're approval ratings are?

USA Today/CNN poll finds that 54% of Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake, up from 41% in early June.

The poll also found that more than half say the Iraq war has made the United States less safe from terrorism. Only a third said it made this country safer.

The finding that more than half now think the Iraq war was a mistake recalls the disillusionment of Americans in 1968 with the Vietnam War. The first time a majority said that was a mistake was in August 1968.

The administration's spin is losing its effectiveness.

As Jon Stewart noted last night, in covering Wolfowitz's testimony, "The 'Baghdad press' always report on the bombs that explode. But for every bomb that explodes...ten other bombs malfunction. Why can't the press report on them?"

Sticks and stones...

I'm shocked. Shocked to hear this kind of language in Washington. Seriously, though, Cheney may be unhinged. Shouldn't we be considering Cheney's proximity to the Big Red Button? I mean, wasn't Dick supposed to be the ironic (perhaps somewhate greased) adult, the Dean Martin-figure in the comedy team known as Bush and Cheney? What has happened to the old bastard?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Will Salaten's self parody

I've been wondering for weeks what the hell William Salaten is trying to get at with his "Kerryisms" on Slate and why the site publishes them. To match the Bushisms of the same site? Seems unlikely because Bushisms are generally funny and the Kerryisms simply indicate that Kerry thinks through issues and answers thoughtfully. Or are they running Salaten's pieces just to prove, week in and week out, just what a hack the guy is.

But Brad DeLong comes to the rescue.

It's all just self-parody.

Albeit unintentional self-parody; which he finds helps one to understand the petulant reviews of Clinton's book by Kakutani and Isikoff ("Ooh, he's such a policy wonk. Tell us about the blow job! What did Hillary call you when you told her about it! Inquiring press corp pundits want to know. Who cares about...Nigeria. Geesh!")

I have not yet figured out why so much of our elite press is so... what should I call it? Feckless. Corrupt (in the sense of well-rotted). Decadent. Why does William Saletan find it funny that Kerry tries hard to give nuanced, reasonably-complete answers to questions about issues with nuances? Why do Weston Kosova and Michael Isikoff cover the government--rather than, say, cover something like advances in bartending--if they find debates over policy the equivalent of crossing the Gedrosian Desert? Why does Michiko Kakutani think it pointless and boring to wake up early to watch the inauguration of the first democratically-elected president in sixteen years in a country of 130 million people?

It is a great mystery to me...

This week's version is a perfect example. Salaten seems to think that Kerry's thoughtful answer is somehow...I don't know...thoughtful...examing what's been done so far, what's worked, what hasn't. What to do in the future. No, for Salaten, anything but a black & white answer ("exterminate the brutes") is some kind of intellectual dishonesty.

Salaten's got his script and he's sticking to it.

Stupid neocon tricks

Juan Cole tries to explain Arabic naming protocol to the neocons sweating to make that tenuous connection between al Qaeda and Saddam seem more real.

The al-Qaeda employee in Malaysia is named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi.

The Iraqi intelligence agent is named Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad.

Not the same, but don't let the lack of any knowledge in Arabic or Arab culture stop a neocon from developing grand theories out of which more than 800 U.S. troops and countless Iraqis are dead.

Administration pulls another document dump -- is this document boarding of the press?

The barkeep over at Whiskey Bar tries to make some sense of which documents the WH suddenly deemed not so "secret" after all, what those documents tell us, and what documents may still be in the deep freeze, such as anything from later in 2003, when the insurgency erupted in Iraq and demands for "better intelligence" there ratcheted up.

According to Sy Hersh, this is when the Pentagon extended "Copper Green" - the Pentagon's existing secret program for capturing and interrogating high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives - to Iraq.

It's possible Hersh was off base on that story - fed a line by Rumsfeld's opponents at the CIA, or misinterpreting the bits and pieces of information he collected. Certainly, that's the Pentagon's argument. But it's obvious that any serious effort to get to the bottom of the torture scandal will have to look carefully at the legal paperwork issued after the period covered by yesterday's document dump. It will also need to probe for any documents the administration may have held back, including any covert presidential findings. Those are almost certainly the key pieces of the puzzle.

Will that effort be made? Almost certainly not. Having dumped its paper load, the administration no doubt will declare the controversy over - as will its allies in Congress. And the Pentagon no doubt will do what it can within the military justice system to stonewall or short circuit the discovery demands of the defense attorneys for the six Abu Ghraib MPs charged in the case. Meanwhile, the Army's investigation of the chain of command in Bagdhad will continue - but slooooowwwly. And, gradually, editors will begin pressuring reporters to turn their attentions to fresher stories, preferably ones that don't outrage the patriotic sensibilities of their readers and viewers.

Billmon may be correct there, but I'm hopeful that there still may be another "Pentagon Papers" out there that will be exposed by a JAG or CIA operative disgusted by this administration's (and senior military commanders') decision to erase the "bright lines" against the sort of "practices" used in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq, and then to cover their respective asses once the "practices" began to be exposed.

Jose Contreras reunited with family

This is wonderful news.

Speaking of the Yankees, last night against the Orioles, the Yanks really did resemble a barnstorming team.

The Honeymooners

Well, now it must be true. The story that the Unification Church's Rev. Moon was honored at a ceremony inside the Capitol in March has finally made it to the pages of the Post.

It's been floating around the blogosphere for months, especially here.

We live in extraordinary times, when Congressmen fall all over each to coronate inside our nation's capitol a guy who claims to regularly commune with dead presidents, not to mention Hitler and Stalin (who have changed their ways), and claims to be the next coming in the line of Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


There really are no words for the barbarity and cruelty displayed by these bastards, and it does lead to vengeance fantasies, such as those suggested lately by the new book from "Anonymous," of which more later.

Daily Kos thinks these types of actions are "bad PR" on the jihadists' part. I'm not so sure, as evidenced by the lack of outrage expressed on al Jazeera by even the most moderate Muslim in the region. Instead, they point to Abu Ghraib, or Najaf, or even the occupied territories as explanation for such a visceral piece of symbolism as the beheading of an innocent man. Unfortunately, it seems that the really bad act of PR would have been not doing it after threatening to behead the poor, terrified man. That seems to be what's happened in response to our backing off of Muqtada Sadr and his brigade. We look weak and feckless and Sadr, once a fairly marginal figure, becomes the second most important political figure in Iraq despite the fact that he very nearly brought the full and indiscriminate force of American military power down on the heads of the townspeople around him.

We are operating without a moral or cultural compass to guide us in Iraq these days, and no amount of GPS or night-vision goggles are helping us.

Michiko and Big Bill

Erik Boehlert takes a swat at Michiko Kakutani and her brutal front page review of Clinton's My Life.

But, mainly, Boehlert goes after the Times' institutional dislike for all things Clinton. In particular, the Times' horrendous bosom-heaving reporting of the pseudo-scandal known as Whitewater. The Times, to put it gently, got it completely wrong and fell prey to Starr's leaking machine and the lies dressed up as news of the Arkansas connection of Mellon-Scaife.

The Times has done an admirable job of investigating the paper's failings, such as the nastiness that led to Wen Ho Lee spending months in solitary confinement and the 1001 nights of Jayson Blair. But they've never so much as run a correction for the lies they reported regarding Whitewater, a failed investment in which the Clintons netted a cool negative $40 grand.

Of course, Clinton's come just in time. It takes the Times' eye off Kerry for a day or two. And not a moment too soon.

Oh, wait, I spoke too soon; the headline writers got the memo -- take a shot at Kerry every chance you get, even if the story under the headline doesn't even mention Kerry.

Ashcroft under the glare of the Noonday sun

It's official, Ashcroft is the worst Attorney General in history.

At this point, I have the usual problem. Writing about John Ashcroft poses the same difficulties as writing about the Bush administration in general, only more so: the truth about his malfeasance is so extreme that it's hard to avoid sounding shrill.

In this case, it sounds over the top to accuse Mr. Ashcroft of trying to bury news about terrorists who don't fit his preferred story line. Yet it's hard to believe that William Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been a Muslim, or even a leftist. Was Mr. Ashcroft, who once gave an interview with Southern Partisan magazine in which he praised "Southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis, reluctant to publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white supremacist?

Bush's economic recovery

Kevin Drum links to a really telling -- and disturbing -- chart from the Economic Policy Institute.

The chart compares the change in corporate profits, labor compensation, and private wage and salary income for the current recovery under Bush versus averages from the last eight recoveries.

It shows that, during this current recovery, corporate profits are skyrocketing, while the money the worker bees take home may actually be falling, once inflation begins to tick up. That has not been true of the last eight recoveries, on average.

One man's (CEO) recovery is another man's descent into bankruptcy.

The Glory of Their Times, Part II

Fay Vincent is recording countless hours of conversation with former greats and others -- in particular Marvin Miller who was the first leader of the players union -- who have played a significant role in baseball over the last half century.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Israel's land-based aircraft carrier on the border with Iran?

Seymour Hersh has another mind-boggling article in the New Yorker this week which, if true (and so far, Hersh has a pretty good batting average), is another blockbuster as well.

In early November, the President received a grim assessment from the C.I.A.'s station chief in Baghdad, who filed a special field appraisal, known internally as an Aardwolf, warning that the security situation in Iraq was nearing collapse. The document, as described by Knight-Ridder, said that "none of the postwar Iraqi political institutions and leaders have shown an ability to govern the country" or to hold elections and draft a constitution.

A few days later, the Administration, rattled by the violence and the new intelligence, finally attempted to change its go-it-alone policy, and set June 30th as the date for the handover of sovereignty to an interim government, which would allow it to bring the United Nations into the process. "November was one year before the Presidential election," a U.N. consultant who worked on Iraqi issues told me. "They panicked and decided to share the blame with the U.N. and the Iraqis."

A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall. He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. "I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community," the former official recalled. "Their concern was 'You're not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn't we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?'"

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel "had learned that there's no way to win an occupation." The only issue, Barak told Cheney, "was choosing the size of your humiliation." Cheney did not respond to Barak's assessment. (Cheney's office declined to comment.)

The story, "Plan B," or the Kurdish Gambit, lays out a convincing tale of growing Isreali unease at the chaos unleashed in Iraq and growing frustration with the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation in Iraq.

So the Isrealis decided to take out an insurance policy, one they'd used when Saddam Hussein was still in power, and one which, figuring the Americans were about to cut and run after the hand-over on June 30th, they decided to renew: The Kurds.

According to Hersh, Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, is training the Kurdish Peshmerga in commando tactics, while also using Kurdistan to keep an eye on Iran and Syria, even running covert operations in those countries. Not only is this raising tension with Iran and Syria, but Israel's tacit support for an independent Kurdistan, has Turkey loudly complaining. Israel figures that Iran is providing support for the insurgency in Iraq and building a nuclear threat in Iran, and believes that both Iran and Syria are increasing their support for Palestinian terrorists.

The Kurds are sorely tempted to declare independence as they watch the Bush administration hand back more and more power to the Sunnis while containing to placate the Shi'ites -- leaving the Kurds hanging out to dry. But if they do, the entire region could explode -- it is not known what Turkey and Iran will do in response.

With their Wilsonian naive idealism and the Rambonian bluster, the Bush administration is doing a great job at creating another open sore in the middle east.

And if it is true that Israel is operating neatly in Iraq, then the conspiracy-minded in Iraq and the rest of the world will believe they've found their worst fears -- that this was all about oil and Isreal -- proven correct.

But wait, there's more.

Hersh has more intelligence on the man the Bush administration has been so eager to hand over the keys to, Iyad Allawi. It seems we may be replacing a murderous thug with one of the thugs who helped that other thug come to power.

The White House has yet to deal with Allawi's past. His credentials as a neurologist, and his involvement during the past two decades in anti-Saddam activities, as the founder of the British-based Iraqi National Accord, have been widely reported. But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies -- Saddam became President in 1979 -- is much less well known. "Allawi helped Saddam get to power," an American intelligence officer told me. "He was a very effective operator and a true believer." Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, "Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he's a thug."

Early this year, one of Allawi's former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She depicted Allawi as a "big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students." Allawi's medical degree, she wrote, "was conferred upon him by the Baath party." Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

"If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does," Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. "He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff." A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi's personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat "hit team" that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi's office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

This is the man for whom the White House, not content with forcing him on the Iraqi people over the objections of the UN's Brahimi, is forcing on the American people as well, even going so far as to act as his booking agent.

How this administration manages to be both cynical and naive is beyond my powers of comprehension.

CBS and "advocacy"

Remember the Super Bowl? No, not Janet Jackson's costume malfunction. At the time, CBS rejected running a spot by that cleverly questioned Bush's spending priorities. At the time, CBS said it did not run controversial advocacy ads.

That decision was questioned at the time, as observers and Congressmen wondered why CBS accepted ads from the White House Drug Control Policy, many of which are extremely controversial.

Well, now we understand. CBS only rejects liberal controversy. The right wingnut variety? A screed against Bill Clinton to air during his "60 Minutes" interview? Well, that's ok.

The spot, which, among other things, apparently assigns sole blame for the attacks of Sept. 11 on Bill Clinton, was created by David Bossie and Citizens United, a group dedicated to enacting "key elements of President Bush's conservative legislative and policy agenda..." (Here's some "fun facts" about Bossie).

I said "apparently" because the spot did not run in the New York area. The CBS affiliate here rejected the ad. It is curious that the New York affiliate rejected an ad that the New York based CBS headquarters accepted. The ad did run in a number of markets in swing states.

Rowland, exit stage right

Rowland finally throws in the towel.

Spinning Gitmo

What, the administration may be using the New York Times as an integral part of their PR machine?

Phil Carter is struck by the timing of this story (the link doesn't give you the photography of the print version of the paper, in particular, an artfully cropped shot, courtesey of the DoD, showing prisoners on their knees, framed by razor wire).

Sunday, June 20, 2004

"Requiem for a Dream"

Spencer Ackerman, guest-blogging for Josh Marshall, points us in the direction of long piece in the WaPost, which Ackerman calls, "Requiem for a War."

There are certainly some gems to be found in the report on the state of Iraq, just a couple of weeks before the hand-over of "sovereignty" to the Iraqis. Here's a personal fave:

In an interview last week, Bremer maintained that "Iraq has been fundamentally changed for the better" by the occupation. The CPA, he said, has put Iraq on a path toward a democratic government and an open economy after more than three decades of a brutal socialist dictatorship. Among his biggest accomplishments, he said, were the lowering of Iraq's tax rate, the liberalization of foreign-investment laws and the reduction of import duties. [emphasis added]

I'm sure the families of the 840 U.S. soldiers killed thus far in Iraq, will be thrilled to know their lives were not lost in vain. They died, so that Iraqis could pay less in taxes and Royal Dutch Shell can operate more profitably there.

I think I'm going to be sick now.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The real enemy

They're still out there. Like the Saudies, we need to learn how to combat these animals.

More sniping from the Left

Unbelievable. Those communists at the Financial Times have the temerity to call Dear Leader a liar.

Nomah's not angry about the A-Rod bizness. Noooh.

Via the aptly named Boston Dirtdogs, Garciaparra lashes out at someone. Not sure who. Not sure what he's saying, either.

But, hey, Nomah, the Yanks could use a second baseman (if you don't mind changing your position in hopes to win a ring), and you'd be showered with love and affection by the fans (and earn the eternal enmity of everyone in crazy Redsoxnation).

Speaking of Red Sox Nation, Will Carroll and Ed Cossette have a Star Wars geek debate over whose team is the "Rebel Alliance" to the Yankees "Evil Empire."

I have to go with the Bambino on this one.

Finally, the fact that Boston is so similar to New York in terms of payroll, etc. is exactly why they are anointed ones to battle the evil. That was the ultimate lesson of Star Wars after all. Darth Vader was Luke's father. The line between good and evil is razor thin. And players (e.g., Clemens, Boggs) flip to the dark side as naturally as Anakin did. I suspect some fans to as well. We, Yankees and Red Sox fans, are cut from the same cloth, we are blood relatives, which is why we hate each other so much.

Gotta keep the devil way down in the hole

If you watch no other 6MB flash animation piece, then this is the one to see!

When you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he's gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole
he's got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don't have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we'll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
just gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole
All the angels sing about Jesus' mighty sword
and they'll shield you with their wings
and keep you close to the lord
don't pay heed to temptation
for his hands are so cold
you gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

Deconstructing the "Relationship"

Fred Kaplan picks at the preznit's tortured explanations for the administration's Saddam/al Qaeda "relationship" in the wake of the 9-11 Commission report.

Our sneaky president. Our lying vp.

And once again, our white house press corp is too busy to follow-up.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Activist Judges

The mind of George W. Bush's favorite Supreme in action:

In the high court's ruling Monday reversing a decision that would have removed "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, Thomas wrote a concurring statement suggesting states should be allowed to establish religions [emphasis added].

On the same day, in a sexual harassment case, Thomas was the only justice to dissent from a two-pronged opinion that balanced the rights of workers with those of employers. The eight other justices said workers who are run off the job by "intolerable" harassment can sue as if they had been wrongly fired, but also gave employers a defense against such a claim.

Thomas, a former chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, argued for a standard that would have greatly shielded employers from such "constructive discharge" claims.

Quiet Clarence Thomas, who never asks a question from the bench, has some truly interesting ideas about the "framers' intent." In fact, this is a justice who goes even farther than his mentor, Anthony Scalia, in trying to remake the Constitution from a document intended (in the wake of the revolt against the tyranny of the king) to be a restraint on government, into a tool for the government to restrain its citizens' rights.

In researching more about Clarence, though, I came across a look at the framer's intent regarding the right to privacy, which, in light of Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe, and the recent Texas sodomy case, has been constantly under attack. The right to privacy is not mentioned in the bill of rights, an "omission" noted feverishly by those who would ban abortion, homosexuality, and even contraceptives.

In his dissent in the Texas sodomy case, Thomas wrote, "just like Justice Stewart, I 'can find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a] general right of privacy,' or as the Court terms it today, the 'liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.'"

Arguing that he "can't find a specific right -- in fact, a word -- in the Constitution is disingenuous. The right to security, the right to the security of your home and person, in 18th century terms, is the same as our "right to privacy." In response, the strict constructionists argue that's "intent," and who can know what the framers intended.

Well, yes, you can.

Hartmann points out that the Constitution and even the hastily written Bill of Rights were not intended as a Chinese menu (especially since 18th century Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia and New York were not so good) of citizens rights. The Constitution was, on the contrary, written as a blueprint of what powers government should be granted, not what citizens are permitted.

[I]n the minds of the Founders, human rights are inalienable - inseparable - from humans themselves. We are born with rights by simple fact of existence, as defined by John Locke and written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the Founders wrote. Humans are "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights...." These rights are clear and obvious, the Founders repeatedly said. They belong to us from birth, as opposed to something the Constitution must hand to us, and are more ancient than any government.

The job of the Constitution was to define a legal framework within which government and business could operate in a manner least intrusive to "We, The People," who are the holders of the rights. In its first draft it didn't even have a Bill of Rights, because the Framers felt it wasn't necessary to state out loud that human rights came from something greater, larger, and older than government. They all knew this; it was simply obvious.

Jefferson, always quick to see government's tendency towards tyranny if not fettered, understood that if we didn't at least try to encode certain basic rights we would be at the whim of government, insisted on a bill of rights.

Thomas Jefferson, however, foreseeing a time when the concepts fundamental to the founding of America were forgotten, strongly argued that the Constitution must contain at least a rudimentary statement of rights, laying out those main areas where government could, at the minimum, never intrude into our lives.

Jefferson was in France when Madison sent him the first draft of the new Constitution, and he wrote back on December 20, 1787, that, "I will now tell you what I do not like [about the new constitution]. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land..."

There had already been discussion among the delegates to the constitutional convention about whether they should go to the trouble of enumerating the human rights they had held up to the world with the Declaration of Independence, but the consensus had been that it was unnecessary.

We have, as a nation, forgotten those fundamental concepts. The Patriot Act, written more hastily than the Bill of Rights, illustrates that.

But "concepts" are precisely what "strict constructionists," like Clarence Thomas, want to undermine.

A seductive argument for many, but a false one.

Jefferson made another prediction:

n 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote a note to James Madison about the future possibility of a president who didn't understand the principles on which America was founded. "The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present," he wrote, "and will be for many years. That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period."

Something tells me that Jefferson would have recognized -- with a shudder -- John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George Bush.

Bad Apples -- Their defense lawyers are dancing on their desks

Sometimes the news out of the Pentagon makes me think I'm watching a movie about the Wehrmacht as directed by Max Sennet.

Phil Carter on how Don Rumsfeld is working to clear the "Abu Ghraib Seven."

Now they're lying about the lies

President Bush on Thursday disputed the Sept. 11 commission's finding that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the attacks.
"There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," Bush insisted following a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House.

"This administration never said that the 9-11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda," he said.


However, Bush and Cheney also have sought to tie Iraq specifically to the 9/11 attacks. In a letter to Congress on March 19, 2003 — the day the war in Iraq began — Bush said that the war was permitted under legislation authorizing force against those who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press in September 2003 that "I think it's not surprising that people make that connection" between Saddam and Sept. 11.

"In the middle of the marble palace that serves as C.P.A. headquarters (and that will serve, at least temporarily, as part of the U.S. Embassy, beginning next month), there is a painting of the World Trade Center towers..."

What is especially galling is that Cheney has never stopped pointing out the so-called April 2001 meeting between ring-leader Atta and a senior Iraqi intelligence in Prague. But, according to the Commission's finding, there was video of Atta at a cash machine in Florida the day the meeting was supposed to have taken place.

Now, the Commission I'm sure did not review a billion hours of video to find that clip. The FBI or some other intelligence body must have had the video and shared it with the Committee. Now, if government intelligence agencts knew Atta was in Florida, not Prague, surely someone told Cheney that the Prague story he was peddling on any news outlet that would lap up his nonsense was, indeed, untrue.

Liar. Despicable, cynical liar. It will be interesting to see if the 50% of the country who believe Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 attacks, down from more than 65% earlier this year, will decline any further.

Money makes the vorld go 'round, the vorld go 'round, the vorld go 'round!

The commentariat and various elements of the blogospher made a mockery of the Kerry campaign's suggestion that the nominee not accept the nomination in July in Boston, and instead put it off until later in the summer, closer to when Bush accepts his party's nomination. The reason is that once the nominee accepts the nomination, he gets a check, financed by citizens who checked the box on their income tax return to fund the general election campaign. Remarkably, enough citizens did just that to entitle each candidate to a check for $75 million.

But once the checks are handed out, the candidates cannot raise or spend any other money.

I think Kerry's idea of tactically delaying acceptance was a good one, showing the kind of fiscal flexibility and creativity we're in short supply of in the White House these days. But, alas, the so-called liberal media shot it down like a helium balloon and the campaign backed quickly away from it.

Soooo, time's running out. You know what to do. Go here, citizens.

President Bush -- Stylin' at taxpayers' (and soldiers') expense

American taxpayers picked up the six-figure tab for the red carpet, walkway and artificial island hurriedly built over a memorial pool so that Bush and French President Jacques Chirac could walk in style to the dais for last week's ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Team "Mission Accomplished" Bush just can't help but gild lilies.

In addition, White House staffers demanded that bleachers erected for several thousand spectators be torn down, limiting the number of guests who could attend the event. "Some 25-year-old White House kid thought they weren't esthetically pleasing," one administration official complained.

The red carpet price tag wasn't anticipated by Pentagon planners, so the $100,000, which has already been paid out to the civilian contractors who did the work, will have to be scrounged from somewhere else.

"That money will have to come out of some account that otherwise would be spent on soldiers," according to a source familiar with the situation.

"'Some 25-year-old White House kid...' one administration official complained."


Yankees versus Dodgers Redux

The Yankees return to Chavez Ravine tomorrow night, the first trip there since 1981, when the Yankees were embarrassed by the Dodgers, losing four in a row after winning the first two games of the '81 World Serious.

It was a bizarre time for the Bronx Zoo. In Game Six, Yankee manager Bob Lemon had Bobby Murcer bat for Tommy John, who had and was pitching effectively, in the fourth inning. Hilarity ensued as Murcer flied out and LA went on to pound mercilessly John's successors. The loss led to a public apology by Steinbrenner (though not, as rumor has it, for demanding the pinch hit gambit in a phone call to the Yankee dugout).

But the most bizarre occurence of the serious was Steinbrenner's alleged brawl in a hotel elevator in LA.

They were drunk and profanely abusive, Steinbrenner related at the time, adding that they talked about the "chokers" who played for the Yankees and the "animals" who lived in New York. Steinbrenner most likely thought his players had choked, and he had not always spoken in glowing terms about every aspect of New York, but they were his players and his city. These brash young men, one of whom wore a Dodgers cap, had no business bad-mouthing his players and his people.

Steinbrenner said he responded with an obscenity, whereupon one of the men hit him on the side of the head with a beer bottle he was holding. Steinbrenner, 51 years old at the time, said that in rapid succession he threw three punches - two rights and a left. Down went the first miscreant; down went the second.

Despite a variety of injuries to George (split lip, cast on his hand), and the expectation that the two louts -- missing teeth, according to the Boss -- would sue, the miscreants never came forward.

One more chapter in Yankee lore and in the bizarre saga of one George Steinbrenner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Sane People, Who Don't Want to See the Last 60 Years of Int'l Alliances and US Dominance Go Poof, for Kerry


This is far more heartening than the subject of my previous post.

And actually, they haven't all signed on to the Kerry campaign, but they're definitely not voting for Bush in the fall.

"A lot of people felt the work they had done over their lifetime in trying to build a situation in which the United States was respected and could lead the rest of the world was now undermined by this administration — by the arrogance, by the refusal to listen to others, the scorn for multilateral organizations," Harrop said.

Jack F. Matlock Jr., who was appointed by Reagan as ambassador to the Soviet Union and retained in the post by President Bush's father during the final years of the Cold War, expressed similar views.

"Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. has built up alliances in order to amplify its own power," he said. "But now we have alienated many of our closest allies, we have alienated their populations. We've all been increasingly appalled at how the relationships that we worked so hard to build up have simply been shattered by the current administration in the method it has gone about things."

The GOP is eager to paint this as a partisan attack, but the list of former military and diplomatic figures includes a large number from the Reagan and Bush I administrations, so that's going to be kinda hard.

So, when that line of attack doesn't work, they will argue that "everything changed on 9-11." Many things did change, but I'm not sure how destroying international alliances and alienating our allies fall into that category.

And then there's Donkeys in the Desert, a small group of Democrats and increasing number of RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) working for the CPA in Iraq. And they're growing disgusted with their colleagues.

There is no shortage of politicization within Coalition circles in Iraq, to be sure. In the middle of the marble palace that serves as C.P.A. headquarters (and that will serve, at least temporarily, as part of the U.S. Embassy, beginning next month), there is a painting of the World Trade Center towers—whose relevance to Operation Iraqi Freedom remains a matter of bitter contention. Stratcom, the Coalition press office, is staffed by a number of former Bush campaign workers. One Donkey reports chafing at a colleague’s remark, “I’m not here for the Iraqis, I’m here for George W. Bush.”

“A lot of Republicans walk around talking Republican stuff,” Weston said. “We call them Palace Pachyderms.”

And they're demanding that Kerry pay them a visit and get some sand up his nose. They're right to do so.

"Bush is a lock"

This post, and the comments that follow, are about as dispriting as anything I can imagine. Fortunately, the coments come mostly from libertarian, Instapundit nut cases.

I realize that this isn't a particularly bold prediction, and of course if I'm wrong I'll just throw up my hands and chalk it all up to the mysteries of this great democracy we're privileged to live in. Nor is this one of these "predictions" that really expresses a heartfelt wish: Though I find Bush slightly (ever so slightly) less emetic than Kerry, he's a crook, a stumblebum, and a lazy, mirthless little prince, and any country that would re-elect him deserves every bad thing that will happen to it. If I have any degree of preference between the two candidates, the best word for it is the vaguely theological term velleity: the lowest level of volition, unaccompanied by any intention to act.

How does one argue with people who feel that Bush's course in the world is making us more secure here in the U.S.? Or that photos of prisoner abuse are shrugged off as "It's a war."

The paper trail that leads to the president

As Atrios writes, "what he said."

All of this is a ghastly scandal, one of the worst in American history. It is evident cause for impeachment of this president, if Congress has the courage to do it, and for prosecution of cabinet figures and certain commanders. However in view of the partisan alignment in Congress, quite possibly nothing will happen before the November election.

What then? It also is quite possible that George W. Bush will be elected to a second term. In that case, the American electorate will have made these practices its own. Now that is something for our children to think about.

But it's the International Herald Tribune, so who cares what they think? Probably American ex-pats who choose to live in France. Sheesh.

Parading the corpse of Ronald Reagan


Ironically, based on Reagan's real history of tax increases during his administration, the Club for Growth today probably would have campaigned hard against him.

And then, of course, there's the view of Reagan's family when it comes to the current administration's attempt to wear his ill-fitting mantle.

"The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he's in now," Mr. Reagan said then. "Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the 80's. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's - these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people."

Mr. Reagan was not quite so pointed on Friday night. "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man," he told mourners gathered at sunset at the Reagan presidential library. "But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians - wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

They're still lying

Nor did Mr. Bush shy away from a statement on Monday night by Vice President Dick Cheney that there were "long-established ties" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists. To the contrary, Mr. Bush embraced the vice president's remarks.

Asked what he considered the "best evidence" of such a link, Mr. Bush shot back, "Zarqawi."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant believed by the Central Intelligence Agency to have ties to Al Qaeda, has been named by the C.I.A. as the suspect in the recent videotaped beheading of a kidnapped American contractor.

"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to Al Qaeda affiliates and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush went on. "He's the person who's still killing."

The Times did not add that Zarqawi was operating, before the war, in areas controlled by the Kurds -- not Hussein -- and patrolled by U.S. aircraft.

He may be the "person who's still killing," but Bush & Co. didn't want to fog their case for war by nailing him when they had the chance.

Liars and cynical manipulators of public opinion.

The vicious blog contest

MaxSpeak has posted the results of his Vicious Instapundit Blogroll Contest. He provides a public service by deconstructing the results. It is quite disturbing. Particularly Glenn Reynolds' post (as the name implies, Reynolds was the inspiration for the contest). I mean, he's a lawyer for chrissakes, yet still comes up with this:

Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide -- unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That's what happens when two societies can't live together, and the weaker one won't stop fighting -- especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it's important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don't, the military strategy we'll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond "vigorous."

The other two links are to plain old lunatics, one of whom does deserve a visit from the Secret Service.

Abu Ghraib and the ticking bomb

It seems that we will soon be able to see and ponder the full horrors of what occurred at Abu Ghraib, including instances of rape and murder, further diminishing our already greatly diminished moral position in the world.

Uh, oh, I find myself agreeing with crazy Chris Hitchens.

Yes, but what about the ticking bomb? Listen: There's always going to be a ticking bomb somewhere. Some of these will go off, and it's just as likely to be in my part of Washington, D.C., as anywhere else. But we shall be fighting a war against jihad for decades to come. And the jihadists will continue to make big mistakes based on their mad theory. And they are not superhuman: They can be infiltrated, bribed, and turned. You don't have to tell them what time of day it is, or where they are, or when the next meal will be served. (Though it must be served.) But you must not bring in that pig or that electrode. That way lies madness and corruption and the extraction of junk confessions. So even if law and principle didn't enter into the question, we sure as hell know what doesn't work. The cranky Puritan voice of Sir Edmund Compton comes back to me down the corridor of the years: If it gives anyone pleasure, then you are doing it wrong and doing wrong into the bargain.

I think Hitch is right. The brutal nature of what went on at Abu Ghraib appears to have stemmed from interrogation techniques at Guantanamo that may (or may not) have had some limited success. Then, when things began to go out of control in Iraq, Rumsfeld on up made the decision to transfer some of those techniques to Iraq under the notion that extracting information, regardless of how, may save a soldier's life. The argument that torture is indefensible unless a bomb is about to go off somewhere -- the ticking bomb -- comes into play.

The trouble with that argument is, as Hitchens notes, bombs are ticking everywhere. We cannot battle the madmen who are building those bombs by becoming madmen ourselves. We cannot accept brutal interrogation methods any more than we should accept this administration's careless disregard for the Bill of Rights (except that precious second amendment). Even Andrew Sullivan agrees, how we win the war in Iraq is as important as winning it. How we conduct our wider battles -- militarily and legally -- against Islamofascism is equally important. I would argue that we're not conducting it very well, as the Padilla case certainly demonstrates, where fear of terrorists (and a hunger for publicity), led DoJ to disregard a U.S. citizen's Constitutional rights (Scott Turow has some important things to say about that "case").

This will become even clearer when details emerge -- and I'm sure they will -- how far afield Ashcroft's DoJ has been using provisions of the Patriot Act for criminal investigations that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorist acts.

Excommunicating Kerry

Trying to deny communion to any Catholic who publicly disagrees with Church doctrine would be too unwieldy. After all, if you denied communion to any Catholic who supports the abortion rights, death penalty, gay marriage, or the war in Iraq, well, pretty soon you'd run out of Catholics. Hell, there may not be too many left to give communion.

So, why not simplify things a wee bit?

Hudson said he believes the denial of Communion should begin, and end, with Kerry. Even better, he said, would be if priests would read letters from the pulpit denouncing the senator from Massachusetts "whenever and wherever he campaigns as a Catholic."

Josh Marshall looks at the Rovian strategy to enlist the Catholic Church as a Bush ally this fall.

These guys really are shameless.

But I think it's another self-defeating tactic on Rove's part. Catholics are not some unified, hegemonic mass, marching in lock-step to the Pope's piper. And this high profile argument -- between the bishops and cardinals themselves -- only serve to remind people that in this country the Church is not supposed to enter the political fray. Moreover, it serves to highlight Kerry's faith and it is a reminder that Bush's positions differ significantly from the Pope's -- as well as his own Methodism.

So bring it on. Kerry's no more likely to get conservative the Catholic vote than he is to get fundamentalist Christians to support him. But he will look a lot more sympathetic to less strident Catholics who would prefer the Church focus on the spiritual rather than the secular.

If it's Tuesday, it must be "Columnist Smackdown"

Thanks be to Paul Krugman, who detects a curious timeliness to Ashcrofts fevered announcements, this time regarding vague threats to (shudder) a Columbus shopping mall.

An embarassing memo comes to light? Declare at a news conference that you've single-handedly saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of suburban teenagers. Oh, and isn't Ohio a swing state?

Meanwhile, across the page, David Brooks sputters with...well...just sputters.

This year the Democrats will nominate the perfect embodiment of an educated-class professional. John Kerry graduated from law school and plays classical guitar. President Bush, however, went to business school and drives a pickup around his ranch. So we can watch the conflict between these two rival elites play itself out in almost crystalline form.

The classical guitar, huh? What an elitist. The script has surely been written -- a French-speaking, classical-guitar playing snob, who's "not like us," versus good ol' boy George, driving his pick-up and attending NASCAR races. What a guy.

David Brooks has worn out his tired welcome.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Is it a script or just scrip? The paxilization of our press corp

The Daily Howler howls at the Sunday morning talk shows and the consensus that cutting six weeks off of last year's terror assessment isn't really a big deal. Oh, and John Kerry -- he uses big, upper-crusty words and plays the spanish guitar. I understand. He's not like real American voters.

This just in: Presidente Ronaldo Reagan is still dead

Somber services marketing the day after the ex-President's burial continued.

And the rehabbing of Nancy Reagan, from tarot card reading harridan to trusted presidential advisor, progresses a pace.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Did a stately pleasure dome decree

In Vietnam, the U.S. military invested significant numbers of personnel and money in maintaining huge bases, where troops could expect hot showers, air conditioning, cold beer, movies...just like back home. These prototypical shopping malls/vacation resorts, drained resources (only ten percent of personnel were available for combat in what was essentially an infantry war, the rest were support) and are said to have weakened soldiers' ability to fight their opponents, who were living in holes in the jungle.

Seems like the same thing is happening in Iraq. But it's worse -- we're creating pleasure palaces in...Saddam's pleasure palaces.

At a desert retreat where Saddam Hussein's cronies hunted gazelles and entertained mistresses, the American military is building one of its largest overseas bases since the Vietnam War, a rambling, dusty mix of tents, trailers and villas where sandbags rival chandeliers as the second-most notable architectural feature.

I'm all for morale boosting for our beleaguered troops and for centralized logistics, but can we stop using Hussein's ridiculous palaces? With their cheap construction, grotesque architecture, and ego driven artwork, they are fitting symbols of Saddam Hussein's rule. Will they also symbolize our of Iraq?

Local elections in Iraq vs. social chaos

Via Talkingpointsmemo, a very interesting exchange over at Juan Coles' site on how Bremer's decision to cancel local elections a year ago has led to the very dire consequences the U.S. military is dealing with right now.

"In recent weeks, political reporters have done much to clarify the development of prisoner-interrogation policies in Iraq. I hope that similar efforts might clarify the decision-making process that led the occupation authorities in June 2003 to reject any plans for early local elections in Iraq.

How important was this policy? Its consequences may be seen in the problems that we face today. Your 6/19/2003 report [1] on the cancellation of planned municipal elections in Najaf is particularly painful to reread from today's perspective. (See also the 6/28/2003 article by W. Booth and R. Chandrasekaran in the Washington Post [2].) You reported then that local US officials believed "Najaf was ready for elections and that the theocrats would have done poorly." But even if the Sadrists had won the election, their movement may have developed very differently over the past year if they could have built their political power by spending public funds for local reconstruction, rather than by recruiting soldiers for armed resistance.

In the exchange, between Cole and Roger Myerson, an economist from the University of Chicago, they go on to discuss the reasons for Bremer's decision (Jay Garner had promoted local elections, and he feels he was fired as a result), which they conclude was a desire to maintain our political proxies' control of the government, which would have ended had free elections in place, and to make sure there was no local elected opposition to "free market reforms" planned by the neocons in their infinite wisdom.

Another tragic decision made on our behalf.

The myth of the red and the blue?

The Week in Review in tomorrow's Times carries a piece on the decline of differences among the majority of Americans on most issues, despite the angry rhetoric filling the airwaves and the humid air of Washington. From abortion to gay rights, a growing consensus is occurring, most noticeably in the extremely muted reaction to gay marriage; thought only a few months ago to be a tremendous boon to Bush as a campaign issue, it has pretty much dropped from the campaign's radar due to lack of public interest. Kevin Drum was thinking about the same thing, he says.

The Times piece argues that the reason our era sounds so shrill, despite this growing consensus, is the ideological and intellectual leaders of the various political movements, from NARAL to the NRA and MoveOn to the Club for Growth. From the American Enterprise Institute to...well, I don't know of any liberal counterpart to that.

In fact, the disagreements about which we're screaming so loudly past one other are especially trivial when compared to the past:

"Compared to earlier periods - the Civil War, the 1930's, the 1960's - our disagreements now are not that deep," Professor Wolfe said last week. "Indeed, it is only because we agree so much on so many things that we can allow ourselves the luxury of thinking we are having a culture war. When one of society's deepest divisions is over stem cells, that society is pretty unified."

But, that's a rather lofty set of comparisons, isn't it? I mean, the Civil War, the foundations-of-capitalism-shaking of the Great Depression, and the literally incendiary 1960s? Those are tough acts to follow.

The article concludes, though, that there is one issue that is truly and deeply dividing the country right now: George W. Bush (that "uniter not a divider" guy).

A senior strategist for the Bush campaign, Matthew Dowd, does not believe that anyone can overcome the partisan divide this year. Noting that Democrats gave overwhelmingly negative ratings to Mr. Bush the year before the Iraq war, he said: "A portion of the Democratic electorate doesn't like Bush no matter he does. I wonder if they'd be supporting the Iraq war if Clinton were conducting it. But when it comes to Bush, they've made up their minds."

But Professor Fiorina insists the voters are merely responding to a president who is more partisan than virtually all of his modern predecessors. A president who played more to the center might not stir such strong reaction, he said.

"What if Bush had not ignored the widely accepted Powell doctrine by launching the war in Iraq, never proposed drilling in the Arctic refuge and never supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage?" he asked. "It's the actions he takes that polarize the voters in both parties. A candidate who seized the middle ground against a polarizing candidate could still win handily."

Dowd is right, but he ignores the reasons for the overwhelmed negative ratings for Bush before the war in Iraq.

Those ratings aren't because, as so many on the right believe, we felt like the election was stolen, or that Bush the Illegitimate is, well, illegitimate. Those feelings were certainly front and center on Sept. 10, 2001. But within days of Sept. 11 Americans from a wide political perspective were willing to stand behind the President. We supported the war in Afghanistan overwhelmingly and approved of his cautious approach in not nuking five or six countries in the middle east.

But then he blew it. Or perhaps we'd blown it by trusting him in the first place. He had an opportunity to lead, to reach out to the vast majority of Americans and stop being a sop to his "base," but instead he returned to his pre-9-11 policy of acting as though he'd won a landslide in 2000, pushing tax cuts and executive branch secrecy, coupled with...John Ashcroft. And then he took Iraq, for which reasonable people could argue reasonably, and turned it into a sharply partisan, "with us or agin' us," gun to the head that was aggressively marketed by his henchmen.

We thought we'd made a deal. He screwed us. We know now that we were naive. That's why he's the most polarizing president in recent history.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Another Clarence Thomas decision that didn't stand scrutiny for very long

In defense of heterosexual marriage, Rush is ending his third.

It was the third marriage for both Limbaugh, 53, and his 44-year-old wife, who were wed May 27, 1994 at the Virginia home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas officiated the ceremony.

For their honeymoon, I understand, Clarence lent them his film collection.

Same body type as Brad Rigby.


That's the scouting report for Princeton's Brandon Szymanski for this year's baseball amateur draft.

Oh, and the comment about Brad Rigby's body type, that's a comment on HS pitcher Michael Schlacht, drafted by the Rangers in the second round. Brad Rigby, by the way, won a whopping total of five MLB games, so how his body type is going to confer baseball immortality on young Michael is anybody's guess. In fact, how anyone's body type can be used to forecast success in the major leagues is one of the really strange mysteries of baseball.

He's got "a baseball body" or even "a good face" -- both often used by scouts to recommend a high school or college player. Can the kid strike out players from the University of Texas -- a more reliable predictor of big league potential? Who knows.

I suggest that teams dispense with the leather-skinned, snuff-sucking army of baseball lifers paid to watch kids play ball, and replace them with thirteen year-old girls. That way, we'd at least have the certainty of all players resembling Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

I love most baseball traditions. This one, reminiscent of 19th century slave auctions, really has to go.

"Bern baby Bern!"

A moment's hiatus from despair to fondly recall that yesterday at this time I was sitting with Madame Cura in the stands just to the left of the left field foul (fair?) pole at The Yankee Stadium for the final game of the serious with the Rockies. Once again, the Yanks dismantled an NL opponent in a non-World Series game, winning 10-4 with an improbable grand slam from replacement level catcher, John Flaherty, and a strong performance from oft-troubled Jose Contreras.

But what made the day special was the performace of Bernie Williams, who went 3 for 3, including a first inning triple down the line in left field and off the wall just below my seat, making the Colorado left fielder looking silly as he chased it around the Stadium's odd angles.

Williams' last hit of the day (he drew 2 walks as well) marked his 2000th, a real milestone for a player that has been a worthy successor to a long line of great Yankee center fielders, including guys like DiMaggio and Mantle.

In fact, it puts Bernie in some pretty rarified Yankee air. Here's how his current hit total stacks up:

Lou Gehrig ('23-39)....................2,721
Babe Ruth ('20-34).....................2,518
Mickey Mantle ('51-68).................2,415
Joe DiMaggio ('36-51)..................2,214
Don Mattingly ('82-95).................2,153
Yogi Berra ('46-65)....................2,148
Bernie Williams ('91-04)...............2,000

Derek Jeter ('95-04) is catching up, with 1,601.

Larry Menken discusses to make the Hall.

"We're in the disappearing business"

Notes from a lecture by Seymour Hersh at the University of Chicago (though there is no link to a transcript, so can't be confirmed as yet).

From My Lai, the transition to the current scandals was seemless [sic.]. He connected the dots, and spoke of the CIA secret prisons we haven't heard about yet: "We're basically in the disappearing business." He made the first of several criticisms of our humble profession: "there's no learning curve in America. There's no learning curve in the press corps."...

Unsurprisingly, he flagged the extraordinary importance of the WSJ memo revealing the government's plans to torture, including its assertion that it's not against the law if the president approves it, and mocked the New York Times headline "9 Militias Are Said to Approve a Deal to Disband," suggesting in its stead, "Bush Administration Offers Hoax in Hopes of Convincing U.S. There's Some Peace." His assessment of the postwar settlement: "It's going to come down to who has the biggest militia will win."...

The note taker goes on to report that Hersh claims to have seen photos and video from Abu Ghraib that are worse, far worse, than anything we've yet seen, involving the wives and children of prisoners. After saying that, the writer claims, "[Hersh] looked frightened."

We are in a world of shit.

Hersh also sheds light on the true nature of the similarities between this administration and the god-like benevolence of the Reagan administration -- a comparison Bush & Co. are so desperate to make. Specifically, both administrations were/are marked by a complete and utter contempt for congress and the truth.

I sometimes despair that this blog is becoming so despairing.

Depends on your definition of the word "law"

President Bush said Thursday he ordered U.S. officials to follow the law while interrogating suspected terrorists, but he sidestepped an opportunity to denounce the use of torture.

Bush's comments came as a 2-year-old State Department document surfaced warning the White House that failing to apply international standards against torture could put U.S. troops at risk.

"What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law," Bush told reporters at the close of the G-8 summit in Savannah, Ga.

Asked if torture is ever justified, Bush replied, "Look, I'm going to say it one more time. ... The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you [emphasis added."

Weird, but it was a weird press we've come to expect from the Great Communicationist. Another high point was Bush's insistence that security forces in Iraq after June 30th will have "an Iraqi face;" the world (and Iraqis themselves) should simply ignore the 140,000 American troops wearing (finally) armor.

But Bush's insistence on the words "within U.S. law" do not, in fact, provide much "comfort" given the March 30 memo (the contents of which Ashcroft won't release) insisting that "the law" does afford the right of U.S. troops to torture prisoners if under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief.

And it won't provide much comfort to the detainees who were the subject of a contest to see which army dog handler's animal could make more of them urinate on themselves.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Um, Mr. Ashcroft, you gotta invoke something

The Fifth Amendment.

Executive Privilege.

The Writ of Douchebaggery.

Something. Via Atrios.

Ray Charles, 1931-2004

Because, ah them that's got (yeah) are them that gets
And I tell you all I ain't got nothin' yet

"The Genius" is dead at 73.

Ray Charles was the prototype "crossover artist," mixing gospel, blues, country, swing, and jazz to create some of the greatest songs (at least when he performed them) in American music.

And "The Genius" label applied to more than his music. He was one of the first African-American artists to negotiate recording contracts that stated that he owned his music and also one of the first to build his own recording studio -- total control.

And "I've Got A Woman" is still one of the coolest songs ever recorded. And this one's one of my all-time favorites.
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