Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Congress: Rock 'n Roll more vital to nation's interests than science

Oh, and Punxsutawney Phil will be leading our next "Mission to Mars." Who knew?

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - Congress has cut the budget for the National Science Foundation, an engine for research in science and technology, just two years after endorsing a plan to double the amount given to the agency.

Supporters of scientific research, in government and at universities, noted that the cut came as lawmakers earmarked more money for local projects like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Punxsutawney Weather Museum in Pennsylvania.

David M. Stonner, director of Congressional affairs at the science foundation, said on Monday that the reduction might be just the beginning of a period of austerity. Congress, Mr. Stonner said, told the agency to expect "a series of flat or slightly declining budgets for the next several years."

But in our faith based world, where even math textbooks need to be read through the prism of Christian beliefs, who needs science, anyway?

The important thing, I think, is to keep our toddlers entertained.

Todd C. Mesek, a spokesman for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is receiving $350,000, said the money would be well spent on education programs to teach children about language, the mathematics of music and geography ("cities where rock and roll was fostered"). Some of the money, Mr. Meek said, will be used for "toddler rock," a music therapy program.

Go on, Dems, take a bite of that apple

Channeled by Publius, Karl Rove offers Democrats fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In short, the Democrats need to learn how to make more people HATE the GOP on a deep emotional level. One of my most effective strategies to achieve this goal is what I like to call “demonizing the margins.” The idea is to take the marginal elements of the other side’s coalition, demonize them, and then tie them around the neck of the more centrist candidate. Or better yet, pound them again and again with the demonized margins in distorted TV ads. Personally, I prefer to demonize gays, fringe leftists like Michael Moore, and caricatures from the 1960s and then link them to Democratic candidates. And I’ve done it with great success. You people should learn from me. You can’t beat me, so join me. Try the apple. Aren't you tired of losing on the high road?

Do you people not see that the GOP has some truly scary freakazoid winguts in its coalition? And unlike the extreme leftists who have absolutely zero political power in the Democratic Party, the wingnuts have a great deal of power within our party. So why not exploit them? Why not demonize them relentlessly and then link them to the national party? You’re getting everything wrong. You think you need to reach out and be nicer and make yourself more palatable. No – you need to do the opposite. You need to get meaner and stop reaching out. Your goal should be to make more people viscerally despise Republicans because they are the party of (1) scary theocrats and racists; and (2) “big corporations.”

Publius...er...Rove suggests forgetting about the reddest of the red states and instead go after making the blue states bluer still and uses CT's Chris Shays as an example. In fact, Shays just faced his toughest re-election battle in a dozen years and Diane Farrell did a pretty good job of reminding the blue county of Fairfield CT that Shays shares party affiliation with Tom DeLay and supported Bush in his war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich.

During the election, many -- myself included -- saw President Bush go negative early and often on Kerry and thought it a sign of desperation. On the contrary, it was Rove's playbook all along.

And since then, I've read post after anguished post bemoaning the Democratic Pary's failure to have a common message, as the Republicans do. Huh? What common theme do the Republicans share other than lower taxes along with smaller government helping individuals and larger government helping corporations. These are themes the average voter doesn't agree with.

Nope, Rove/Publius is right. It's not a common message that Republicans have tapped into, it's a common enemy.

I'm outraged at the outrage!"

I have not weighed in on the Ron Artest imbroglio that occurred a couple of weeks ago in a game between Artest's Pacers and the Detroit Pistons. I thought it was a typical, "what's wrong with the NBA?" media feeding frenzy. Yes, I thought Artest -- a player already suspended multiple times -- has some issues and should definitely not be going into the stands. But I also thought that the officials at the Palace, where the Pistons play, were the true guilty parties in not shutting down the situation as soon as it developed (at Yankee Stadium, they bring out the riot police if a fan throws a bag of peanuts on the field). And Stern's suspension of Artest for the season a bit much (was anybody really injured in the melee?), and as noted on Will Carroll's always astute site the suspension of Artest and O'neal pretty much ruined the chances of a team that could be competing for the NBA championship...against the Detroit Pistons.

But when I see Howie ("the 'putz') Kurtz get into the "where's the outrage," then my head explodes.

Not only does Ailes (the good one) rightly point out the lack of outrage when a GOP operative runs afoul of the law, but I would also note the lack of outrage when it involves a good, clean, non-hip hop sport, like football. The brawl I watched at the end of the South Carolina game the day after the Pacers/Pistons fight was far more serious than anything I've seen on a basketball court. Guys were kicking players in the head, for chrissakes.

Like James Inhofe who put it so delicately in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, I'm "outraged at the outrage."

Oh, and if Scott Long is correct, than I think Howie is lying when he says he "happened to be watching the game."

The only professional sport I’m fanatical about is baseball. I might watch 5 full NBA games a year. It just happened that I watched the last 5 minutes of the Pacers/Pistons game and I can tell you there is a huge difference between my feelings watching it live versus watching the video highlights, afterwards.

If you are not aware, after the brawl, ESPN’s NBA crew were all talking about how horrible the fans were and host John Saunders was as irate as I can ever recall a broadcaster behaving, calling the Detroit fans “punks”. Tim Legler stated that the saddest part of the whole melee is that the players are going to take the brunt of the heat from the incident. (paraphrasing) The whole panel all were of the position that the fans were the biggest culprits in the incident, but after David Stern hands down his edict, Stephen A. Smith sings a different tune from his initial judgements and completely buys into Stern’s pronouncements.

Like most every other bloviator on this subject, the only thing Kurtz saw was the highlight reel after the game which was carefully edited to make Artest look like a stark raving maniac.

"Because smoking is harmful"

That's about as insightful an argument Inspector General Paul Clement can make before the Supremes in oral arguments in Ashcroft v. Raich.

This case is about as clear a case of states' rights as can be imagined. In fact, a number of states which don't even have compassionate use provisions for medical marijuana have filed amicus briefs on behalf of Raich.

Nevertheless, as I opined last week, many of our staunchest supporters of federalism on the Court have far less resolve when the issue at hand is noxious to them, as Dahlia Lithwick notes in her piece entitled, "Dude, Where's My Integrity?" over on Slate.

[Professor Randy] Barnett [who represents Raich] says there is no market if the marijuana is entirely isolated and policed by the state of California. "Isolated?" cries Scalia. "I understand some communes grow marijuana for medical usage!" Everything inside him recoils in horror. Federalism be damned.

Apparently, everything Scalia and probably enough others on the court to make up a majority know about marijuana, they learned from Reefer Madness.

And as we learned from this Court's decision on Bush v. Gore, precedents are made to be ignored when it suits them.

Monday, November 29, 2004

O'Reilly bravely defends the rich and the famous

Bill O'Reilly comes to the defense of Dan Rather and the so-called liberal media.

But you'll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up. It will be printed in the papers, discussed on radio and TV and become part of the unfortunate person's résumé whether he or she is guilty or not. A click of the Internet mouse can wipe out a lifetime of honor and hard work. Just the accusation or allegation can be ruinous.

"And a tape recording of a famous person extolling the virtues of a loofah can be really ruinous," he did not add.

Silent protest in the Ukraine

I admittedly don't have the slightest idea of what's happening in the Ukraine, other than Putin backs the ruling party candidate, Yunukovich, while the Bush administration backs the opposition leader, Yushchenko, in the disputed election results.

But I do know that this is a remarkable story.

KIEV, Ukraine, Nov. 28 - The most striking, and the most potentially significant, public rebellion against President Leonid D. Kuchma and his chosen successor in last Sunday's contested election began silently.

Last Thursday morning, Natalia Dimitruk, an interpreter for the deaf on the Ukraine's official state UT-1 television, disregarded the anchor's report on Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich's "victory" and, in her small inset on the screen, began to sign something else altogether.

"The results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are rigged," she said in the sign language used in the former Soviet states. "Do not believe them."

She went on to declare that Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, was the country's new president. "I am very disappointed by the fact that I had to interpret lies," she went on. "I will not do it any more. I do not know if you will see me again."

Ms. Dimitruk's act of defiance, which she described in an interview on Sunday as an agonized one, became part of a growing revolt by a source of Mr. Kuchma's political power as important as any other: state television.

In Ukraine, as in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, state ownership or control over the media, especially television, exerts immense control over political debate, shoring up public attitudes not only about the state, but also about the opposition. The state's manipulation of coverage was among the reasons that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the Nov. 21 vote fundamentally unfair.

Perhaps we should be watching FoxNews more closely. What is Brit Hume signalling with his frequent eye blinking?

Shades of Vietnam on the Euphrates

CHARD DUWAISH, Iraq, Nov. 28 - As marines aboard fast patrol boats roared up the Euphrates on a dawn raid on Sunday, images pressed in of another American war where troops moved up wide rivers on camouflaged boats, with machine-gunners nervously scanning riverbanks for the hidden enemy.

That war is rarely mentioned among the American troops in Iraq, many of whom were not yet born when the last American combat units withdrew from Vietnam more than 30 years ago. A war that America did not win is considered a bad talisman among those men and women, who privately admit to fears that this war could be lost.

But as an orange moon sank below the bulrushes on Sunday morning, thoughts of Vietnam were hard to avoid.

I wonder if somewhere on the Euphrates right now there's a young man who will someday run for president and other young men who will stoop to anything to see that that doesn't happen.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Give em enough rope?

I don't think Democrats are wise to sit on the sidelines and merely carp about GOP plans to "reform" Social Security. An effective opposition party needs to propose alternatives, not simply whine.

Richard Stevenson, the reporter who wrote "Bush's Social Security Plan is Said to Require Vast Borrowing," does an admirable job of getting beyond the White House's standard, "the plan -- costs of which we don't know yet because we haven't settled on the direction -- will be paid for out of increased future revenues." But throughout the story, not a single Democrat is named.

Now, is that because Stevenson didn't call any, or because none wanted to be named because they weren't able to offer an alternative to Republican plans?

Hoping Republicans shoot themselves in their collective foot is not a plan.

Ominous values

It's a dark morning here in the Northeast, with gusting winds driving drenching rain showers horizontally. The weather suits the mood of the editorials.

Apparently relieved that the Thanksgiving holiday is over, and quoting from a letter her brother sent to his circle of the like-minded, MoDo sheds light into why she she's such a snark-filled opinionatrix: It's her overbearing family's fault.

I've been surprised, out on the road, how often I get asked about my family. They're beyond red - more like crimson. My sister flew to West Virginia in October to work a phone bank for W.

People often wonder what our Thanksgiving is like.

It's lovely - if you enjoy hearing about how brilliant Ann Coulter is, how misguided The New York Times's editorial page is, and how valiant the president is as he tries to stop America's slide into paganism.

And over at the Post, Michael Kinsley declares that he's grown weary of the "Values Debate." Kinsley explains pretty succinctly why the overriding liberal instinct -- that in a wealthy society, we have a responsibility to ensure some measure of fairness, respect and support for the less well-off among us -- is ineffective as a political philosophy in our current environment of bitter cultural schism. It's because an instinct, or a philosophy, is not seen as a value, but rather as a mere "opinion," whereas Republicans have been effective at positioning their ideology as a "value."

Those labels don't confer any logical advantage. But they confer two big advantages in the propaganda war. First, a value just seems inherently more compelling than a mere opinion. That's a big head start. Second, the holder of a value is held to be more sensitive to slights than the holder of an opinion. An opinion can't just slug away at a value. It must be solicitous and understanding. A value may tackle an opinion, meanwhile, with no such constraint.

No doubt there are strategists all over Washington busily reconfiguring their issues to look like values. Highway construction funds? Needed to help people get to Grandma's house for Christmas. You got something against family values, buddy? Or Christmas? Especially humiliating are efforts by liberals to reposition the issues they care about as conservative and therefore, we hope, transform them into values. Welfare? It (like nearly everything else) is about families, of course. And affirmative action is about work and opportunity. Liberals' motivation -- a simple instinct that a prosperous society ought to mitigate the unfairness of life to some reasonable extent -- isn't considered a value. So let's keep that one among ourselves.

And what we have now, notes Kinsley, is a government in which a growing number of officials have been elected not for their competence, but for their supposed values. And politicians who believe their constituents have given them a mandate based on allegedly shared values are an ominous thing for the Republic.

A country whose political dialogue is all about values is either a country with no serious problems or a country hiding from its serious problems. When I want values, I go to Wal-Mart.

Personally, I stay away from Wal-Mart because unlike political candidates, I do believe in patronizing, whenever feasible, retail establishments who share my values, such as paying a decent wage and offering decent benefits to their employees. Well, that and because wandering the vast lanes of those mega-stores and wading through a sea of cheap goods I don't want but unable to find what I do, is an enervating way to spend an afternoon.

But that's just me; I wouldn't want to impose my "opinions" on you.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Supremes to hear medical marijuana case

Pardon the pun, but I'm not holding my breadth on this one.

Last December, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) ruled in Raich's and Monson's favor. It said federal laws criminalizing marijuana do not apply to patients whose doctors have recommended the drug.

The appeals court said states were free to adopt medical marijuana laws as long as the marijuana was not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes. The other states with such laws are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Despite the popularity of States' Rights among many of the Justices, they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to this sort of thing. Moreover, I think their tendency is to overturn decisions of the 9th Circuit Court, just out of sheer cussedness.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The agitprop machine is open on Thanksgiving

Beautifully timed, the Right have sent out press releases on the eve of Thanksgiving, saying that a teacher in Cupertino, CA is being told not to allow his students to read the Declaration of Independence because of its references to God.

But it seems that it's a bit more complicated than that. It appears that he wasn't handing out copies of the Declaration and other primary source material from the 18th century founding of the country. Rather, he was handing out "supplemental handouts" that referred to the language in the source documents. And where did those "supplemental handouts" come from? A group calling itself "Christian Nation" who are attempting to create another whirlwhind of winger-led propaganda "illustrating" that we lefties are insanely obsessed with keeping God out of the classroom.

Drudge has, of course, jumped on this, and the media -- who now use Drudge as one of their primary sources of news -- are going right along with it, with refutations impossible now until at least Monday. By that time, the story will have entered the Halls of Truth as told by our nation's so-called liberal media.

Arghshfluptfrkit. Can these people be stopped?

The South disputes depictions of the first Thanksgiving

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
This week's cover of The New Yorker has a wonderful depiction of Thanksgiving, then and now. Along the left side, famed cartoonist R. Crumb has drawn the faces of Pilgrims looking pious, gaunt, and frightened, interspersed with depictions of their Wampanoag saviors, looking fit and confidant. The main panel of the cover shows modern-day New York City and a Native American, dwarfed by the sea of humanity walking past him, wearing a sandwich board advertising a Thanksgiving dinner special.

Ah, but it seems that our traditional, Northeastern depiction of the first Thanksgiving -- that of Pilgrims sitting down with their Native neighbors to give thanks to God and to the Indians who had fed and taught them to feed themselves -- is not accurate.

According to a group in Virginia, the damned Yankees stole another claim to fame that should have gone to the South. Their first Thanksgiving, though, was a wee bit different from that which is celebrated in New England.

In 1619, 38 men, led by Capt. John Woodlief, sailed from Bristol, England, on the good ship Margaret to seek fortune in the New World. Upon landing in Virginia, they waded ashore, opened their instructions from Berkeley Co., which sponsored their expedition, and discovered that the first order of business was to drop to their knees.

"Wee ordaine that the Day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for the [plantation] in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God," the order read.

But unlike the religious-freedom-seeking Pilgrims, initially befriended by Wampanoag Indians who taught them to farm and fish, the Virginians at Berkeley and at Jamestown -- the earliest British settlement in the colonies -- were a bit more antagonistic with the Powhatans.

When the dandies and fortune hunters of Jamestown first encountered the Powhatans eating roast oysters and wild strawberries on the beach, the colonists chased them off and devoured their food, according to local historian Pat Butler.

By 1622, the Berkeley settlement was wiped out in a massacre by Native Americans.

"No matter how imaginary or romanticized, the Plymouth story is a comforting story of harmony with the Indians . . . which may, in fact, have been the only moment of harmony before they killed them all," said James C. Kelly of the Virginia Historical Society. "In Virginia, in fact, what they were most giving thanks for was having survived the Indians. It never had the same PR possibilities."

That's not to say that New Englanders, having seen the nation's cultural conservatives steal an election, are going to let them steal our tradition of cultural harmony and celebration of diversity without a fight.

Carolyn Travers, a historian for Plymouth Plantation, has heard it all before. She drolly ticks off a list of other claims to the first Thanksgiving in the United States: the explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541 in the Texas Panhandle. French Huguenots in 1564 in Florida. English settlers and Abenaki Indians in 1607 in Maine.

"There are so many early Thanksgivings, Berkeley is not the first by any stretch of the imagination," she said. "It's a silly claim. Historically, Berkeley came before us. Tell me why it's important."

What is important, she says, is that the Pilgrims' three-day feast of turkey, venison, fish, squash, pumpkin and cranberries captured the fancy of a young country of immigrants searching for a sense of identity. What better image, she said, than that of a pious, hardworking family gathering with "restrained revelry" with friends and Native Americans to give thanks, play games and share in the fruits of its labors.

"When immigrants began arriving who were not from England, the Pilgrims got presented as: These are the people you should turn into. These are the real Americans," she said.

As for Virginia and its all-male Thanksgiving: "People trying to go out, get gold, get rich and get out is not an attractive image," she said. "It's not necessarily the person who you wanted to be descended from."

To be fair, that Pilgrim "celebration of diversity" and harmony with their neighbors did not last long. But at long last it may soon be no longer illegal for Native Americans, "barbarians," to enter the city of Boston without the accompaniment of "two musketeers."

It was a symbolic move, but an important one for a city that prides itself on diversity, according to Mayor Thomas M. Menino: Yesterday, the mayor asked the Legislature to repeal the 1675 Indian Imprisonment Act, the Colonial law authorizing the arrest of American Indians who enter the city of Boston.

The law, enacted during the bloody conflict known as King Philip's War, has not been enforced for centuries. Armed guards no longer stand at the outskirts of Boston, as the law has stipulated for nearly 330 years, on the lookout for Native Americans who might seek entry into the city. Indians in Boston are no longer required to be escorted around town by two musketeers. And yet, the Legislature has never gotten around to taking the law off the books.


The law was enacted during a conflict that began as an Indian uprising in which hundreds of colonists were killed, and ended with the deaths of thousands of American Indians and the virtual elimination of several tribes. Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoag Indians, whom settlers called King Philip, was shot and killed 14 months after the war began, by an American Indian paid by the English.

His death effectively ended the war in southern New England, fully opening Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to colonization, though raids continued elsewhere until the American Revolution.

The law reads, in part: "We find that there still remains ground of Fear, that unless more effectual Care be taken, we may be exposed to mischief by some of that Barbarous Crew, or any Strangers not of our Nation, by their coming into, or residing in the Town of Boston."

It provided for a guard to be posted "at the end of said Town towards Roxbury, to hinder the coming in of any Indian, until Application be first made to the Governour, or Council if fitting, and then to be admitted with a Guard of two Musqueteers, and to be remanded back with the same Guard, not to be suffered to lodge in Town, unless in Prison."

It is hoped that Menino's action will help bring to an end the ancient Indian curse of the Big Dig.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

It's policy, not PR, that is the source of our problems

That this is something that is even being debated -- let alone "roiling" the Pentagon and the White House -- is certainly telling.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 - A harshly critical report by a Pentagon advisory panel says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation's diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.

The Defense Science Board report, which has not been released to the public, says the nation's institutions charged with "strategic communication" are broken, and calls for a comprehensive reorganization of government public affairs, public diplomacy and information efforts.

"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."

The study does not constitute official policy, but it is described by the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership as capturing the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government. The debate centers on how far the United States can and should go in managing, even manipulating, information to deter enemies and persuade allies or neutral nations.

There is little disagreement about the importance and utility of battlefield deception to help assure the success of a military operation and protect American or allied soldiers. But there is great concern among public affairs officials in the military at proposals for regional or even global information operations, especially if those efforts include falsehoods.

Not unlike the administration's approach to global terrorism -- a cold war mindset that sees states as sponsoring what are, in fact, stateless groups -- so too its diplomatic approach to the Islamic world.

"In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity - an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,' " the report states.

"Today we reflexively compare Muslim 'masses' to those oppressed under Soviet rule," the report adds. "This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies - except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends."

The report says that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."

In the eyes of the Muslim world, the report adds, "American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."

The report also says: "The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of 'dissemination of information' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none - the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam."

Fixing the credibility through addressing our policies would be too hard, though, and would be a sign of weakness, I'm sure. Can't we just do another ad campaign?

Istook m-istook

Bad headline I know, but the mystery over who's responsible for inserting the tax return provision in the omnibus appropriations bill just gets better and better.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday showed reporters a handwritten legislative proposal from an IRS employee that slipped into and nearly stopped the massive appropriations bill passed by Congress this weekend.
Stevens said the note proves that neither he nor any other Republican had crafted the potentially privacy-invading language.

The language, which could allow certain congressional employees to look at tax returns, created a furor on the Senate floor Saturday when discovered. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called it an "abuse of power."

"Not our fault. It was just a little old post-it note that somehow inserted itself."

This comes via Josh Marshall, who is following this fascinating look into the appropriations process, the intra-party relations of Republicans and, oh, so much more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Operation "Sanctity of Marriage" Phase 2

Wanna make a baby? Gulp.
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
First they go after gays and lezbins who want to formalize their respective relationships. Then, they go after...the deliberately childless.

I hope that you are prepared for this. I especially like the idea that they are going to address deliberate childlessness in marriage. What would addressing that entail? Requiring fertility checks of couples who have not reproduced within some reasonable period of time? Or banning all contraception? The latter is more likely. The plan would also have to address women's economic independence as that makes divorce easier, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was emphasis on the need to reinstall a male-dominated family structure even among nonbelievers. After all, it is the institution of traditional marriage that is to be saved here.

Isn't it interesting how the wingnuts don't fight for people. They always fight for institutions that are not living, feeling, hurting entities but just ideas. Marriage must be preserved and the way to do that is to force people to fit into the mold they have for marriage. Nothing else will do! This sounds very much like the extremist Stalinist form of communism and shows how the view of politics as a long line with extreme righties at one end and extreme lefties at the other end is wrong: the true diagram would be a circle where the extremists are sitting quite close to each other. That's why they often jump from one end to the other so easily.

And social engineering can be so much fun! I knew it would only be a matter of time before they would legislate that all right-minded people would be forced to have litters as a condition for marriage (though the question is begged: if divorce is wrong, and the deliberately childless couple is wrong, then what do you do with the deliberately childless marriage?).

Via the recently cleansed snark gland of T-Bogg.

"Stick it to the man who's getting stuck to by The Man"

Fafnir and Giblets have an essential and timely and handy-dandy guide to the "Reform Movement" going on in our government today.

America's a big country with big ideas. Why would we want a little deficit? Make it as big as you can! If you make it big enough, it will catalyze Budgageddon an Budget Jesus will come back. Note: this is not official budget policy yet.

But, you say, Fafnir and Giblets are characters of satire and exaggeration, not thoughtful, expert sources of information, like Morgan Stanley's chief economist.

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''

The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.


Well, maybe Armaggedon's a little strong. How about "A Perfect Storm?"

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.

And if you're holding any banking stocks, you may want to think about dumping them, since the only two scenarios -- higher interest rates or higher inflation -- are not going to be good for long-term lenders at fixed interest rates.

Which explains Greenspan's bizarre suggestion, made a few months back, that people should take out adjustable rate mortgages as opposed to a fixed rate. At a time when interest rates were at historic lows.

If you followed Mr. Andrea Mitchell's sage advice, well then, on behalf of your lending institution I say, "God bless you." And I've got the number for your local Food Bank when the time comes.

Congress: Holding the law in contempt

Travis County prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, fires back at DeLay's Congressional enablers.

The thinly veiled personal attacks on me by Mr. DeLay's supporters in this case are no different from those in the cases of any of the 15 elected officials this office has prosecuted in my 27-year tenure. Most of these officials - 12 Democrats and three Republicans - have accused me of having political motives. What else are they going to say?

For most of my tenure the Democrats held the power in state government. Now Republicans do. Most crimes by elected officials involve the abuse of power; you have to have power before you can abuse it.

There is no limit to what you can do if you have the power to change the rules. Congress may make its own rules, but the public makes the rule of law, and depends for its peace on the enforcement of the law. Hypocrisy at the highest levels of government is toxic to the moral fiber that holds our communities together.

Drip, drip, drip goes the DeLay scandals faucet.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Just wait until your president gets home

President Bush decided to use some of that "political capital" he earned by his man date in the November election to get an intelligence reform bill passed.

Sure he did.

Unlike Elisabeth Bumiller, Sheryl Gay Stolberg actually does some reporting -- even naming names -- to get to the story behind the spin.

In other words, in a party and a White House that demands total fealty, one of the few Cabinet officers not to be fired...er...resign and a couple of Republican committee chairmen brought Dennis Hastert and the White House to their knees, who then failed to find the votes necessary to get the bill passed.

Sure. Ask Arlen Specter about what happens when a committe chairman dares to show some independent thinking (unlike Sensenbrenner and Hunter, Specter isn't a sitting chairman, but you get the point).

Bush doesn't want this bill passed. Cheney doesn't either. They want to be seen supporting it, while having Rumsfeld do the dirty work for which he is both extremely qualified and ideologically enthusiastic. And Hastert sure doesn't want a bill coming to the floor for which there is more Democratic support than Republican.

Republicans control all three branches of government, and although they can get the money to buy Bush a yacht, they can't summon the votes to make much-needed reform to the intelligence infrastructure. Despite months of investigation and riveting testimony before the 9-11 commission. Despite the pleas of the 9-11 widows.

"I am convinced that had the speaker brought the bill to the floor, it would have passed," Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chief author of the measure, said in an interview on Sunday. "That's what's so frustrating. Here we have a bill that's been endorsed by the White House, by the 9/11 commission, by the 9/11 family groups, by the speaker of the House, and we can't get a vote."

But Mr. Hastert did not want to split his caucus and did not want the bill to pass with less than ''a majority of the majority," said his spokesman, John Feehery. "What good is it to pass something," Mr. Feehery said, "where most of our members don't like it?"

What good is it, eh? I hope the House Democrats have those words recorded for when they're attacked for being weak on national security in the 2006 races.

As they say at sporting events, Democrats, let's make some noise in here (Cue the Queen)!

The 2004 Wimblehack Award Winner

And the winner is...Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times. No surprise there.

Matt Taibi of New York Press has been judging a tournament in which our nation's finest campaign journalists vie for the honor of being named the worst reporter covering the 2004 presidential campaign.

He has announced the winner, and if you read the examples of Bumiller's fine prose and investigative prowess, you'll know why she was practically unopposed in Center Court.

Her ability to take at face value the administration spin in the form of "some advisors" and "a person close to the president" knows no bounds. One wonders at times if her ample NY Times salary is not even more amply augmented by the White House Press Room.

Take her piece from March 2 of this year, "Gay issue leaves Bush ill at ease," in which Bumiller gives off-the-record spokesmen a chance to allow Bush to split the difference on the gay-marriage issue:

When President George W. Bush announced his support last week for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, his body language in the Roosevelt Room did not seem to match his words. Bush may have forcefully defended the union of a man and a woman as "the most fundamental institution of civilization," but even some White House officials said he appeared uncomfortable.

Sweet. Reminding voters that he supports the amendment while also signaling to moderates that his heart really isn't into it. What power. What top spin. What an ability to cover the entire court. She's good, dammit, in an entirely hackish sort of way.

Taibi also lauds her brilliant coverage of Bush's secret, scary trip to Baghdad to eat fake turkey with the troops last year. Bumiller covered it with breathless brilliance...despite the fact that she wasn't invited on the trip! Jayson Blaire's got nothing on her.

No, not being there doesn't stop her from reporting. And if you've got a good second- or third-hand anecdote that supports her overall perception of the White House, then she's all over it.

In this particular, article Bumiller uses a technique that my research indicates is peculiar to her alone. In this passage, she actually swallows an apocryphal story from one aide about another apocryphal story about a different aide's apocryphal relationship to the president. This is Bumiller, reporting from the unseen alien planet New Hampshire, quoting Karen Hughes telling a story about Karl Rove talking to George Bush:

Other times Mr. Rove likes to playfully withhold news of recent polls from the president. "He'll smile and say, 'I'm not going to tell you about the latest numbers,' but he'll have a big smile on his face," Ms. Hughes said.

Bumiller told her Yale audience last year: "What I write about is really important. Ninety-five percent of it is interesting, and 30 percent of it is absolutely riveting." One wonders which percentile this insight about Rove falls under.

Now, Ms. Bumiller won the award not only because of her sickening coverage of the campaign, but because of the extra points she earned writing endless post mortems of the Bush victory and Karl Rove's brilliance.

And we can be relieved to know she won't rest on her laurels. Just this morning she has crafted another example of her incisive perception of the White House inner circle, and the dogged reporting that so effectively ferrets out those "advisers" who have an approving comment on the president's management style, but who doesn't want his/her name invoked, because the president doesn't like inside-stuff being leaked to the press.

Uh huh.

White House officials counter that insiders in the first term were far more willing to challenge Mr. Bush than outsiders. As an example, one adviser said that the direct, often undiplomatic Ms. Rice challenged Mr. Bush a lot more behind the scenes than Mr. Powell did, but that such disputes were kept safely within the family.

The loyalty, Mr. Bush's advisers say, goes both ways. Although the president is described as an impatient, demanding boss who snaps at the people he knows well and can use plenty of profanity when he is angry with the staff, advisers say he also goes out of his way to thank personally the lowest person on the White House food chain for a job well done.

Advisers also say that Mr. Bush never fails to ask about their families and tries never to keep them waiting. Above all, they say, he has a gut instinct for who is with him and who is not.

"You go in front of him, and if you know your stuff and don't take yourself too seriously and he can see that you don't have another agenda, he's awesome," said one Bush adviser who insisted on anonymity because the president gets irritated when his staff talks about internal White House dealings. "And if you don't know your stuff, and you take yourself too seriously and have another agenda, he wants absolutely nothing to do with you." [my italics]

Awesome, indeed.

Collusion Cliffs Notes

Are you the General Manager for a Major League Baseball team? Are you unsure of yourself as you stick your big toe into the Lake of Off-season Transactions? Is there a player's agent on the other line, suggesting 12 years and $200 million would be just about right for Troy Glaus?

Well, then, Major League Baseball feels your pain, and are prepared to do something about. Just fax them a form that includes the player's name and the length of contract you're thinking of offering. Then MLB labor relations will crunch the numbers and give you a range of salary to offer, based on age, injury history, etc., relevant to other players/free agents out there.

Collusion? No, says Mike's Rants, this is intended to cover the rears of GMs and MLB against charges of collusion. GMs are not allowed to share the information, so how can there be collusion? Collusion implies conspiracy, and this is all above board.

I see these moves as have three ultimate goals. First and foremost, to protect MLB against any sort of collusion settlement that was seen after the 1986-88 seasons. At least, they’re more creating today than in Peter Ueberroth’s days.

Second, they want to make sure that regular business, including reining in maverick teams who are doling out Amigo money on free agent contracts, is maintained.

Third, this was a wakeup call to the teams who rubberstamped the advice in the past and offered remarkably similar contracts to similar players. No good confidence can be run when you have thirty partners who are such boobs.

We can expect the next installment of "Collective Bargaining Agreement" to be a little more thrilling than the last one. The players, in the wake of good feeling towards the game following the attacks of Sept. 11, were a little too willing to be rolled by the owners. With player's salaries looking so soft since then, I don't think they're going to go gently into that good night the next time.

It's the turnout, stupid. Or, A GOP horror movie

Go ahead, relive the awful day of November 2. But look on the bright side, at least you weren't a member of ACT, trying to get the Democratic vote out in Ohio. If you were, you've probably already considered opening up your wrists. The New York Times Magazine story begins to read like a Stephen King novel after a while.

But ACT had done its part, both in Ohio and nationally. Kerry received a total of 4,862,000 more votes nationwide than Gore did, and, according to ACT's breakdown, 58 percent of that increase came in the 12 battleground states that ACT had targeted. Results in some states seemed to bear out Rosenthal's theory on expanding the base; in Florida, for example, according to exit polls, 13 percent of all votes were cast by first-time voters, and a clear majority of them voted for Kerry.

None of this felt very consoling, however. ''If we could detach that way, we could say, 'Well, we're a registration-and-turnout organization, and we did our job,''' Bouchard said. ''But it's hard to detach from the political reality that it wasn't enough.''

Why wasn't it enough? In the days that followed, theories circulated claiming that Republicans had stolen votes from Kerry by messing with the results from electronic voting machines. But the truth was that the Bush campaign had created an entirely new math in Ohio. It wouldn't have been possible eight years ago, or even four. But with so many white, conservative and religious voters now living in the brand-new town houses and McMansions in Ohio's growing ring counties, Republicans were able to mobilize a stunning turnout in areas where their support was more concentrated than it was in the past. Bush's operatives did precisely what they told me seven months ago they would do in these communities: they tapped into a volunteer network using local party organizations, union rolls, gun clubs and churches. They backed it up with a blizzard of targeted appeals; according to the preliminary results of a survey done by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, one representative home in Portage County, just outside Cleveland, received 11 pieces of mail from the Republican National Committee.

This effort wasn't visible to Democrats because it was taking place on an entirely new terrain, in counties that Democrats had some vague notion of, but which they never expected could generate so many votes. The 10 Ohio counties with the highest turnout percentages, many of them small and growing, all went for Bush, and none of them had a turnout rate of less than 75 percent.

For Democrats, this new phenomenon on Election Day felt like some kind of horror movie, with conservative voters rising up out of the hills and condo communities in numbers the Kerry forces never knew existed. ''They just came in droves,'' Jennifer Palmieri told me two days after the election. ''We didn't know they had that room to grow. It's like, 'Crunch all you want -- we'll make more.' They just make more Republicans.''


The Democratic Party is slow to change. Basically, they ran what may have been their most successful campaign for president in 50 years. And they lost. They didn't lose because of "values," gay marriage, or a huge turnout by evengelicals, despite whatever today's meme in the press may be.

They lost because the game has changed. It's changed physically and it's changed demographically. Population centers have been moving away from urban areas for 30 years, and in the past few years it has even begun moving away from the suburbs, to the exurbs. The GOP recognized this. Democrats did not. And it's changed in the way candidates are marketed effectively. Democrats looked at party affiliation and hammered away at what they thought was their base. And that worked spectacularly. The base came out in droves. Republicans also hammered away at the base, but they also looked for more than party affiliation. Ken Mehlman and the RNC looked at demographics. They recognized that how people lived gives clues as to whether or not they'd be receptive to the GOP argument.

"We did what Visa does: We acquired a lot of consumer data. Based on that, we acquired a model based not on where they live, but how they live. If you drive a Volvo and do yoga, you vote Democrat," he said. "If you drive a Lincoln and own a gun, you vote for George W. Bush."

The good news, I think, is that there are more people in this country aligned with Democrats on a range of issues, from civil rights to economic fairness to the environment. We need to take a page from the RNC and align these issues with demographics to better target the message.

And we had better do it quickly. Mid-term elections will be upon us soon, and they are the only chance we'll have to send a message to the swaggering Republicans in Congress and the White House.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Congressional man dates and the never-ending abortion rider

Kevin Drum looks back at the record of the newly ascendant Republican Congress and finds they've done a lot of amazing things in just five days. Let's see, they gave committee chairmen the right to give Congressional staffers the authority to look at anyone's tax return, revoked a rule forcing committee chairmen to step down should they be indicted, killed the 9-11 reform bill and thereby wasting millions of dollars and months of work by the 9-11 commission. Oh, they even appropriated funding to buy Bush a yacht (I had no idea he was so nautical -- Crawford is landlocked).

Good work, guys. But that's not all. Kevin fails to include an amazing piece of legislative magic: adding an anti-abortion rider to the omnibus spending bill passed yesterday.

Congress reached final agreement last night on a $388 billion spending bill funding 13 government departments and dozens of domestic agencies in 2005, after last-minute objections from abortion rights advocates threatened to delay or derail the entire measure.

House passage came on a vote of 344 to 51. Later in the evening, the Senate gave its approval, 65 to 30.

The bill, consisting of more than 1,000 pages and weighing 14 pounds, codifies the stingiest budget for domestic departments since the late 1990s. Although a few favored agencies, such as Amtrak and NASA, were spared cuts, the measure bears evidence of a new austerity in domestic spending, brought about by soaring budget deficits and the rising costs of war and counterterrorism programs.

The abortion battle erupted after Senate negotiators on the huge spending package unexpectedly agreed to a House-backed provision that opponents described as part of a broad strategy by Republican social conservatives to "chip away" at abortion rights. It would bar federal, state or local agencies from forcing doctors, hospitals, insurers, HMOs or other health care entities to provide abortion services or referrals.

"Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but Republicans are gutting it step by step," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Republicans denied that the legislation would restrict access to abortion and said it is intended only to prevent government agencies from "intimidating" health care entities that did not perform abortions or provide training or referrals.

I expect we'll see a lot of this sort of thing. With Republicans in overreach mode, along with the pressure being exerted by Radical Clerics, House Republicans, aided and abetted by their increasingly Right-leaning colleagues in the previously more moderate Senate, will be cynically pulling all kinds of stealth moves to add social legislation to unrelated bills.

The imagination reels as we ponder the future...

January 2005. Just weeks into the new session, the year's major agriculture subsidies bill was voted on. The "2005 Family Farm and Archers Daniel Midland Relief Act" was passed despite the loud protestations of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans who object to a provision requiring parental notification for any women under the age of 25 seeking an abortion. The president signed the bill in a Rose Garden ceremony.

April 2005. Democrats fought hard but, ultimately, unsuccessfully, an item in the omnibus Transportaion bill, which provided $18 billion dollars for a subway system in Anchorage, Alaska. While attention focused on the need for such a system, let alone the feasibility of building it in the permafrost, a little-known rider was added to the bill, providing $2 billion for the research and development of faith-based prenatal care programs for the nation's teaching hospitals, secular or otherwise. The President indicated he would sign the bill upon his return from surveying the pyramid being built in his honor in the Alaskan National Wildlife and Oil Reserve.

September 2005. A bill authored by Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., intended to address the current crisis in college sponsorship funding, was passed today over the objections of the law's sponsors. The final bill, the focus of intense but secret negotiations, contained two addenda that Democrats and a few Republicans objected to. "To codify 'under God' in the Pledge, and to require it -- by law -- to be recited in all schools and sporting events is bad enough," said Pelosi. "But to also add, "and His Chosen Lawmakers, the Republican Party,' is beyond the pale." Even Joe Lieberman was disturbed by the bill's final contents, particular the clause which requires a school prayer invoking the help of Jesus be said before all high school football games. "It's Joebectionable to break down our long history of religious tolerance in this country, recognizing all faiths. I just wish they'd let us be in the same room when they negotiate these things. We'd sit quietly. In a corner." The President is expected to sign the bill aboard his yacht.

November 2005. Democrats were shocked to read today the official proclamation from the President giving clemency to turkeys, "Revelation" and "Rapture." Amid the text, which traditionally is released by the White House prior to the Thanksgiving holidays, was a call for Congress to immediately enact his proposed bill, which the White House is calling, "The Leave No Date Behind Act." The Act, according to sources close to the President, would require any woman planning to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic to receive approval from any man who has ever dated her. Dennis Hastert promised a special session of Congress that would get the bill passed before the Christmas holidays.

The Powell Doctrine has left the building

"Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressure and kept up pretenses. ...Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand."

That was Colin Powell, writing in his memoirs, on how he felt as a young officer watching U.S. actions in Vietnam collapse into a war of body counts and self-deception.

Mark Danner was reminded of those words as he pondered Powell's legacy following his departure from the Bush administration, particularly his failure to get Bush to adopt his doctrine of clear objectives, overwhelming force, and identified exit-strategy. Instead, Bush chose the Rumsfeld doctrine which goes something like, rapid strike, ignore forces in your rear as you rush towards the enemy's headquarters, followed by an attitude of "whatever; we'll see how things shake out on the ground."

What might "many of his generation" - who are indeed the men now commanding in Iraq - have said, had they not themselves quietly acquiesced?

They might have said that it is a deeply uncontroversial fact that the United States has from the beginning had too few troops in Iraq: too few to secure the capital or effectively monitor the borders or even police the handful of miles of the Baghdad airport road; too few to secure the arms dumps that litter the country; and too few to mount an offensive in one city without leaving others vulnerable.

Colin Powell's "quiet acquiescence" to a disaster that was waiting to happen, plain as day, will be his unfortunate legacy, I'm afraid.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Brand Democrat

Via Pandagon, Oliver Willis has some nifty ideas for branding the Democratic party. I'm sold, but then again I'm a patsy for freedom, the environment, affordable healthcare, civil rights, etc. You know, all that libural stuff.

Maybe they can use some of that $15 million **&%$ing dollars the Kerry campaign didn't see fit to spend in October for the campaign.

Just a thought.

Colin Powell further burnishes his reputation

Well, for those who thought Colin Powell would now feel unshackled, able to begin to restore his credibility that took such a dive during his UN performance in the run up to the Iraq debacle, um, you can forget about that.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified.

Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed last week on the sensitive intelligence. The material was stamped "No Foreign," meaning it was not to be shared with allies, although President Bush decided that portions could be shared last week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, officials said.


The information provided by the source, who was not previously known to U.S. intelligence, does not mention uranium or any other area of Iran's known nuclear program, according to the official with access to the material. It focuses instead on a warhead design and modifications to Iran's long-range Shahab-3 missile and a medium-range missile in its arsenal. The Shahab-3 has a range of 800 miles and is capable of hitting Israel.

The official said the CIA remains unsure about the authenticity of the documents and how they came into the informant's possession. A second official would say only that there are questions about the source of the information.

I've seen this movie before.

"Intensely partisan" smears

House Republicans call Ronnie Earle, the Travis County DA who DeLay needs to be protected from by his colleagues, a rogue prosecutor who targets Republicans with gleeful abandon. Trouble is, it's a misrepresentation of his record. But the GOP won't get any argument from our SCLM. As Atrios notes, with one party controlling all branches of the federal government, it is vital that the press not simply print their press releases, but actually verify the veracity of what they're saying. But as the GOP message machine knows, that isn't likely to happen soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Goss: "Nothing but the facts, ma'am."

Laura Rozen has the full text of Goss's letter "to the captured enemy troops at Langley." Here's an excerpt:

Since 9/11 everything has changed. The IC and its people have been relentlessly scrutinized and criticized. Intelligence related issues have become the fodder of partisan food fights and turf-power skirmishes. All the while, the demand for our services and products against a ruthless and unconventional enemy has expanded geometrically and we are expected to deliver - instantly. We have reason to be proud of our achievements and we need to be smarter about how we do our work in this “operational climate.”

I want everyone in our workforce to know - I seek to encourage and expect the best from everyone in CIA. Our country demands it, our President needs it, and this institution deserves it. I also intend to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road. We support the Administration and its policies in our work. As Agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the Administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it - and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.

Now, this may just be me, but when George Tenet calls "evidence" of Saddam's "WMD-related activity," or whatever the preznit is calling it these days, a "slam-dunk," that's going a wee bit beyond letting "the facts alone speak to the policymaker." And when that "slam-dunk" is used to justify an invasion of Iraq -- and when you, as a CIA intelligence analyst know both that the evidence is questionable at best, bogus at worst, and that said invasion is a distraction from fighting Islamist terrorism -- than maybe, just maybe, you have a right, no, a duty, to get that word out and let the partisan food fights commence. That's called policy discourse.

Goss is a partisan hack. This memo is evidence (a "slam-dunk," I'd go so far as to say), that his policies at the CIA are bound to lead to even more needless death and destruction both abroad and in this country.

I wonder how he'll root out those who "identify with" the opposition to the Administration's policies. Loyalty oaths? Lie detector tests? Shock therapy? Lobotomies? Cyborgs?

Guess we're in the process of finding out.

Transperency, transchmerency

I have been strugging for days to understand why a provision of the 9-11 reform bill would allow senior-level officials to hide any personal assets valued at more than $2.5 million. I mean, on the face of it, this seems like an attempt to hide sweetheart deals like Dick Cheney's, though, as we all understand, it pains Dick to no end to know that he continues to receive deferred compensation from Halliburton even as that conglomerate is the only choice to rebuild Iraq into the free and thriving democracy it will surely be two months from now.

But I digress. Knowing our esteemed Congressmen as I do, I was troubled that the reasoning behind the provision wasn't made more clear to poor rubes such as myself.

Fortunately, the Medium Lobster has returned from his vast and impenetrable reveries on the mysteries of the universe to explain the situation in clear terms to we unenlightened ones.

I will not quote his wise words, go there, now dear readers, to understand how our Republican-owned and operated government has "got your back."

Applebaum: Your IRA is like a Diebold Voting Machine

Apparently, Lady Anne Applebaum has some court servant read her retirement account statements.

If Bob Somerby didn't exist, we'd have to invent him.

"It's deja-vu all over again"

Did Yogi Berra really say that? I have no idea, but it's an apt description of the reports centering on Iran these days. Kevin Drum prefers "Groundhog Day," but either way it does feel like the neocon juggernaut is beginning to rumble and roll.

Kenneth Pollack is once again in the midst of all of this. But I don't think the Brookings scholar is going to be as influential as he was in 2002. With his track record, I would be amazed if he's able to convince quite as many liberals to take the hawkish view as he did prior to the invasion of Iraq (the Vega remorsefully includes itself among that group).

Even if the threat is far more a threatening storm than Iraq turned out to be.

Once again, of course, an exile group is making noise and being listened to. Fortunately, the Times hasn't put Judith Miller on that beat this time.

Judith, Judith, Judith. Where has she gone? Ah, she's playing stenographer to Henry Hyde and Norm Coleman.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

GOP can't DeLay the indictment, though

Must be the season for Biblical plagues.

First you got your pink locusts swarming Egypt as in the days of the Pharaoh.

Then you have House Republicans swarming the Capitol righteously ruling out their own rules.

House Republicans voted to change their rules today to allow members indicted for a felony to remain in a leadership post.

The rule change, which party leaders said could benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, was approved by a voice vote in a closed meeting of Republican House members.

Josh Marshall is right.

The absolute corruption in the House GOP right now must make DC residents think a new waste treatment plant has just gone into operation.

Changing the rule is not a sign that lawmakers think DeLay will be indicted, Cantor said yesterday, but rather a public rebuke of an investigation they feel is wholly unwarranted.

Oh, please. If they didn't think he's going to be indicted, they certainly wouldn't have undertaken this exercise in sloppy hypocrisy and even more sloppy kissing of the bug man's ass.

The drip, drip, drip of scandal is going to continue and all the rule changing in the world isn't going to make the exterminator smell any better.

But the Dems better get a lot louder and act more like an opposition party, rather than a dance partner.

How about Nancy Pelosi screaming to high heaven (I mean FoxNews), "So this is how the so-called 'Reform Party' behaves?"

Ashcroft: Judges are aiding and abetting terrorists

That's pretty much the content of a speech the outgoing AG gave last week to the Federalist Society -- federal judges who dare to constrain the president in how he and his administration "fight the war on terror" are traitors.

The speech has been largely ignored by both the left and the right for reasons I can't quite understand. As Phil Carter suggests, it provides a chilling look into the attitude of the Bush administration towards the other branches' constitutionally mandated duties.

This is the most explicit statement to date of the Bush administration's intentions, and this speech should find a place in every legal scholar's file as a clear expression of the administration's real values when it comes to balancing liberty with security.

When scholars sit down in 10 or 20 years to write the legal history of America's war on terrorism, I imagine this speech will find a very prominent place in their work. The AG makes it very clear: In this fight, you're either with us or against us. There's no room for dissent, and no room for the loyal opposition. Whether you're a federal judge, a civil rights lawyer, or an enemy combatant, you all have the same moral status in John Ashcroft's book. And if you're against us, be afraid — be very afraid.

The speech was wildly applauded by the Federalist Society attendees. By the way, George Bush relies on said Society to recommend the judges he then sends to the Senate for confirmation.

In business news, Kmart, Sears look to sink together

I mean, isn't this a bit like a merger between the Titanic and the Lusitania?

Spitting out my (green) tea when reading this stuff

Ah, the endless search by campaign reporters for the precise moment when they knew the candidate didn't have a chance to win.

For one CNN reporter, it was the moment -- when "his campaign was still young enough that Kerry would actually sit down with reporters in a relaxed setting" -- when Kerry asked for green tea in Dubuque Iowa.

When told the Holiday Inn only carried "Liptons," Kerry replied that would be fine, but for CNN's Candy Crowly, it was the dealbreaker for the Mass. senator:

"There's a very large disconnect between the Washington politicians and most of America and how they live. Bush was able to bridge that gap, and Kerry was not."

Such a brahmin. So elitist. Is he so out of touch with middle America that he would think those poor rubes in Dubuque would even know what green tea is?

But as Media Matters for America points out, it may be Crowley's condescension that is the real disconnect here.

But green tea may not be quite the highbrow delicacy Crowley seems to think. In fact, Lipton itself makes more than a half-dozen different varieties of green tea. Lipton's website even reveals that green tea accounts for 20 percent of all tea produced. And, according to Lipton's product locator, you can buy green tea in Dubuque, Iowa, at that gourmet market known as ... Kmart.

It's funny, George Bush is never accused of being "out of touch" even though he used Airforce One to fly him back to his favorite pillow every night, rather than sleep in a Holiday Inn out on the stump.

Thanks to Atrios for the link.

UPDATE: Digby has more on Candy Crowley's brand of penetrating journalism during this "incident."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Margaret Hassan believed murdered

Al Jazeera believes a video they've received shows a militant shooting and killing the longtime director of CARE in Iraq.

Horrible. Can it get any worse?

I'll say this for the war in Iraq. It has certainly brought to the surface some of the vilest, most depraved specimans on the face of the earth. These scum knew who she was. They knew she wasn't working for the U.S., the coalition, or the acting government. They knew she had lived in Iraq for years, was married to an Iraqi, and was a convert to Islam. They knew that her kidnapping was denounced throughout the middle east.

And still they murdered her.

In past occupations, the goal of the insurgency was to make the occupiers feel pain. But another goal was to build sympathy and support for their cause in the outside world. The insurgents in Iraq -- at least the motherless monsters who did this -- seem to operate under a different, absolutely horrifying scheme. Absolutely horrifying, because a group who conducts a murder that is so disgusting, pointless, and antithetical to the cause of removing the occupiers cannot win. Winning doesn't seem to matter to them. On the contrary it seems. Just the slaughter, that's all that matters. The more violent and shocking the better.

You can't beat them. You can't negotiate with them. You can only kill them. And because this cruelty begets more cruelty from the occupiers, things will only get more savage. More beheadings beget more 500 pound bombs dropped on apartments. More booby-trapped corpses beget more Abu Ghraibs.

And that means the horrors we're seeing in Iraq are going to go on and on.

Our Lady of Kraft Singles

Those godless heathens at e-Bay had the gall to deny the well-known transubstantiation of the Virgin and a grilled cheese.

You really must see it to believe it.

Duyser thought eBay would be the best place to show off the sandwich, made on plain white bread with American cheese. It was cooked with no oil or butter.

Duyser thought that last bit of information was important, for some reason.

Duyser, 52, said she took a bite after making it 10 years ago and saw a face staring back at her from the bread. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand.

It doesn't say if she lives alone or not. I'm guessing the former.

At first, she was scared by the image, "but now that I realize how unique it is, I wanted to share it with the world," Duyser said.

But Diana, for this to be the Mother of God, a miracle of some sort would have to be associated with it.

The sandwich, she added, has never sprouted a spore of mold.

Well, there you go.

I know we liberal elite are supposed to have been chastened by the vote on Nov. 2, and learned not to laugh at or otherwise condescend to our red state brethren, but I'm fairly confidant I can guess for whom she voted for preznit.

Bottoming out at State

Like what's going on at the CIA, things are about to get ugly at Foggy Bottom. Like the CIA, expect to see a purging of anyone who hasn't drunk the Bush administration's kool-aid, with experienced state department hands replaced by political appointees.

I have been disappointed in Colin Powell, though, ultimately, not all that surprised. We knew four years ago that the Bush clan prizes unquestioning loyalty over all other traits; the fact that Powell was able to raise any questions was, I guess, a victory of sorts.

His departure leaves me with mixed emotions. On one hand, he's getting out of an abusive relationship, so that's a good thing. Moreover, his leaving removes the mask that the administration has tried to wear to make them appear -- unsuccesfully -- as engaged in internation affairs and interested in countries that do not begin with an "I." And perhaps now he'll be able to speak freely (and not just with Bob Woodward) about his experiences in the Bush White House. Perhaps not, though; he's still loyal to Bush pere.

At the very least, though, I hope he uses his new freedom to rip old nemesis Dick Cheney a new one.

But on the other hand, the reality-based community's last surviving member in the White House is now returning to private life. What little Powell could do to stay the insane ambitions of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld will now be gone.

We know Bush doesn't like nay-sayers. Now he'll have a cabinet of bubble head dolls.

But, with Powell out of the picture, the long-running struggle over key foreign policy issues is likely to be less intense. Powell has pressed for working with the Europeans on ending Iran's nuclear program, pursuing diplomatic talks with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and taking a tougher approach with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Now, the policy toward Iran and North Korea may turn decidedly sharper, with a bigger push for sanctions rather than diplomacy. On Middle East peace, the burden for progress will remain largely with the Palestinians.

Moreover, in elevating Rice, Bush is signaling that he is comfortable with the direction of the past four years and sees little need to dramatically shift course. Powell has had conversations for six months with Bush about the need for a "new team" in foreign policy, a senior State Department official said. But in the end only the key official who did not mesh well with the others -- Powell -- is leaving.

"My impression is that the president broadly believes his direction is correct," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

And why wouldn't he think that?

Rumsfeld, who directs the increasingly disastrous effort in Iraq seems to be staying.

Condi Rice, who once ignored a briefing entitled "al Qaeda determined to strike in the United States" is promoted.

It is certainly a relief to know that "accountability" is the watchword for a second Bush term.

"Freedom is on the march."

At the end of an AP story covering the U.S. assult on Mosul, and the investigation of a Marine who apparently killed an unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a mosque, comes this strange tidbit:

In Baghdad, U.S. forces arrested Naseer Ayaef, a high-ranking member of an influential Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, in a dawn raid on his home, party official Ayad al-Samarrai told The Associated Press.

"This action is a kind of punishment to the (Iraqi) Islamic Party because we object to what is happening in Iraq, especially Fallujah and to the security policies adopted by the Americans and the Iraqi government," al-Samarrai said.

Ayaef is a member of the interim Iraqi National Council, a government oversight body. Last week, the Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew from Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government to protest the U.S. assault, saying it "has led and will lead to more killings and genocide without mercy from the Americans."

Wha? Are U.S. forces being used to solidify Allawi's position as strongman? Is protesting the occupation now considered a crime in Iraq?

More to the point, who is in charge of directing U.S. troop actions in Iraq right now?

This really cries out for more thorough reporting.

Safire: the mendacity was there from the beginning

Brad DeLong corrects Josh Marshall's contention that William Safire, who will finally be leaving the op ed page o' the Times, has grown more mendacious over the past 12-18 months.

Nope. He's always been that way. A great piece of research.

It's worth reading, if only as a warm reminder of how "quaint" (to borrow a word from our new AG) the machinations of the Nixon administration now seem.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Radical cleric James Dobson says something foolish and ill-considered

Radical cleric James Dobson on Arlen Specter:

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, says he is not convinced by Mr. Specter's assurances that all judicial nominees will be treated fairly.

"He is a problem, and he must be derailed," Mr. Dobson said on ABC's "This Week."

Mr. Dobson described Mr. Specter's original remarks last week as "one of the most foolish and ill-considered comments that a politician has made in a long time." [my emphasis]

Hmmmm. I can think of a lot of comments that were more foolish and ill-considered than Specter saying that anti-Roe candidates don't have a snowball's chance.

Let's see...I think I recall something...yeah...here it is:

From the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced in a nationally televised address that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

And that's about as well-considered as this golden oldie:

President Bush said Wednesday that American troops under fire in Iraq aren't about to pull out, and he challenged those tempted to attack U.S. forces, "Bring them on."

Wait, foolish and ill-considered? I recall somethin' about consensual sex leading to dog/man ickiness:

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.
[emphasis, italics, all of it -- mine, mine, mine]

*%$#ing Private Ryan

Ah, the American Family Association. Where self-righteousness, hypocracy, and a devotion to greed converge, creating the perfect value-based business model.

Shorter AFA: "We don't mind seeing people getting their heads blown off, just don't use that nasty 'f-word.'"

Dubya -- the movie

Yeah, yeah, I'm the first to say that we've got to stop making fun of George W. Bush. We only make the Catastrophic Success more appealing to many Americans when we make fun of him, and it flies in the face of the fact that he has the unique capability for doing more damage to the U.S. than any of his predecessors.

But, these folks went to a lot of trouble and it's really funny.

Thanks to Altercation for the link.

7 retired generals call the invasion of Iraq a bloody waste

It's getting shrill in here.

Some excerpts...

Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94:

The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.

Adm. Stansfield Turner, NATO Allied commander for Southern Europe, 1975-77; CIA director, 1977-81:

All in all, Iraq is a failure of monumental proportions.

Lt. Gen. William Odom, Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-88:

The idea of creating a constitutional state in a short amount of time is a joke. It will take ten to fifteen years, and that is if we want to kill ten percent of the population.

Gen. Anthony Zinni, Commander in chief of the United States Central Command, 1997-2000:

Did we have to do this? I saw the intelligence right up to the day of the war, and I did not see any imminent threat there. If anything, Saddam was coming apart. The sanctions were working. The containment was working. He had a hollow military, as we saw. If he had weapons of mass destruction, it was leftover stuff -- artillery shells and rocket rounds. He didn't have the delivery systems. We controlled the skies and seaports. We bombed him at will. All of this happened under U.N. authority. I mean, we had him by the throat. But the president was being convinced by the neocons that down the road we would regret not taking him out.

Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, 1997-2000:

Now here's another thing that Rumsfeld did. As he was being briefed on the war plan, he was cherry-picking the units to go. In other words, he didn't just approve the deployment list, he went down the list and skipped certain units that were at a higher degree of readiness to go and picked units that were lower on the list -- for reasons we don't know. But here's the impact: Recently, at an event, a mother told me how her son had been recruited and trained as a cook. Three weeks before he deployed to Iraq, he was told he was now a gunner. And they gave him training for three weeks, and then off he went.

Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO supreme Allied commander for Europe, 1997-2000:

Troop strength was not the only problem. We got into this mess because the Bush administration decided what they really wanted to do was to invade Iraq, and then the only question was, for what reason? They developed two or three different reasons. It wasn't until the last minute that they came up and said, "Hey, by the way, we are going to create a wave of democracy across the Middle East."

Adm. William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985-89:

We screwed up.

Read the whole thing.

Crowe comes to the conclusion that we should pull out. Now. That it isn't worth the price we're paying and will continue to pay. He reminds us that we thought the world would end when we pulled out Korea. It didn't. He reminds us that we thought pulling out of Vietnam would be a major loss in the Cold War and a loss of face with our allies. In fact, our embroilment in Vietnam probably extended the Cold War and our allies couldn't believe we'd gotten ourselves stuck in Vietnam in the first place.

I'm not so sure I agree with that assessment when it comes to Iraq, though. It's conventional wisdom that our pull out of Somalia was seen as a humiliation by Islamists, who felt emboldened by it. The same would be true if we abruptly pulled up stakes in Iraq.

On the other hand, the Iraqi invasion was a distraction from the fight against Islamists and now it is a recruiting tool for them. So, stay or go, it probably doesn't matter in the end. They'll just adjust their recruiting brochures and press releases accordingly.

With that in mind, then, and with this site making the losses so vividly interactive, I guess I go with Crowe's recommendation after all.

Note to Democrats: Pucker up

Matt Yglesias is exactly right.

This "immunization fallacy" needs to be combatted in all its manifestations. People thought after the 2000 election that it wouldn't be possible to demonize Tom Daschle, the soft-spoken veteran moderate Senator from very red South Dakota, but it was. People thought during the 2004 primary that it wouldn't be possible to demonize John Kerry, the war hero, as weak on national security (Kerry himself repeatedly asserted this), but it was. It's not impossible to demonize anyone, especially when the accuracy of your charges is entirely unrelated to your willingness to make them or to the media's willingness to cover them in a damaging manner. Reid will be subject to a demonization campaign. If Jeb Bush wins the Democratic nomination in 2008, he will be subject to a demonization campaign. The question is what are you going to do about it?

Meanwhile, I keep hearing political reporters "wonder" if Bush will "reach across the aisle." Sure he will. To deliver a blow every now and then to remind Democrats (and moderate Republicans) who "the man" in this relationship is. You get the sense from reporters that they expect a new Bush, no longer constrained by re-election, who will behave more like that Texas governor they heard so much about. You know, the one who played so well with others.

But Bush hasn't changed, only his address has. In Texas he could appear bi-partisan because the governor of Texas is a weak position and he was dealing with a basically unified legislature, regardless of party (DeLay ended all that with redistricting, a course). Now that he has power, he intends to (continue to) wield it, and woe unto anyone who wants to put a brake on that power.

If you need any proof that Bush has no intention of being anything other than a "divider," I give you two words: Albert. Gonzalez.
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