Sunday, July 31, 2005

Stellar company

Jason Giambi just hit a solo HR into the lower level of the right field stands at The Stadium. That was his 13th for the month of July. The last time a Yankee hit that many homeruns in a month?

July 1961.

14 by Mickey Mantle.

13 by Roger Maris.

Very nice.

Now where are those idiots who earlier in the season thought Giambi might be done?

UPDATE, about four hours later: Giambi would hit his 14th of the month in the seventh inning; 300 for his career.

And the Yankees would win in the 11th with a base hit by my usual bête noir, scording Matsui who'd led off the inning with a triple. The Yankees rallied from a four-run deficit after seven to go on and win the game for the second day in a row. Especially satisfying as they came against the Halo'd ones. In yesterday's game, it was Godzilla who got the game winning RBIs.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

One is the loneliest number

The tracks of my tears
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
I'm sure Bagnewsnotes will provide deep analysis, but I was almost moved by this picture this morning. The print edition of Times has an even more elaborate version of it, a wide shot, running across three columns, showing the bonhommie of Republican self-satisfaction during a preznitial bill signing, while Father Frist looks on, unable to join the gay revelry.

It looks like a Rennaissance fresco.

And Frist is standing next to Ted Kennedy, of all people.

The Times provides no context for the photo, further enhancing its editorial attributes.

Perhaps I'm being cynical [Perhaps?], but did Frist and his advisors make the calculation that, at the end of the day, the batshit crazy wing of the party wasn't going to trust or support a man with Frist's level of education and accomplishment? Tom Coburn, a practitioner of love, is one thing, but Frist was a transplant specialist. He held life in his hands, for Jesus' sake. That's like playing God, isn't it? I don't care how many Terri Schiavos he diagnoses remotely. He's just not reliably ignorant.

Or perhaps his conscience got to him, forcing him to step back from the edge he's been standing on since he became majority leader.

It is interesting that he chose to make his views known now, at the end of a week in which the Little Prince got pretty much everything that's been on his Christmas List for the past five years.

Sooooiiiieeeee! Part 2, or, Don Young's Way

You -- or at least, the Vega -- can't make this shit up.

The highway legislation that passed the House on Thursday night and the Senate around sundown on Friday, the most expensive public works bill in the nation's history, has almost $1 billion for special projects in Alaska.

About one-fourth of that money will be spent to build one of the biggest bridges in the United States, a mile-long, 200-foot-high span that will connect Ketchikan, a town with fewer than 8,000 people, to an island that has 50 residents and a small airport.

Another $230 million will be spent on a bridge across an inlet in Anchorage, and it will be named Don Young's Way.

And as an added sweetener for Mr. Young, a Republican who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the bill includes almost $3 million to produce a documentary film "about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier."

Like so much else in the bill, the money for the documentary was added by a few senior senators and representatives who met in private as a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

The mammoth legislation was not available for public inspection until just before the votes, and it is safe to bet that none of lawmakers, not even the main authors, had read the entire package.

It's Tom DeLay's America. We're just paying for it.

Friday, July 29, 2005


It's a plot, a plot I tell ya

As Atrios observes, the wingnuts are exploring vast new worlds of batshit craziness.

No doubt it was still another al Qaeda operative who managed to change the Brazilian's coat.

Ah, but it gets even more fun, as we are only now just learning that MoveOn is indeed a CIA front organization designed to bring down our Great Leader. Bruce Springsteen seems somehow vaguely involved, but that's "developing," as they like to say.

Makes sense, actually. I'd always wondered how could grow so big so fast. It couldn't merely be the groundswell of a grassroots movement using the power of the internets. No way. And, now that you mention it, how could those folks make so much money selling flying toasters?

Stem cells miracle cure?

Apparently so, as they have helped Dr. Frist grow a spine.

But at the same time, can they be harnessed as a memory aid for John Bolton?

WASHINGTON, July 28 - John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, failed to tell the Senate during his confirmation hearings that he had been interviewed by the State Department's inspector general looking into how American intelligence agencies came to rely on fabricated reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa, the State Department said Thursday.

Reacting to a letter from Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said Mr. Bolton had not disclosed the interview with the inspector general because Mr. Bolton had forgotten about it. Mr. McCormack said the interview, on July 18, 2003, had nothing to do with a federal investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover C.I.A. official to reporters, a potential crime.

"When Mr. Bolton completed his forms for the Senate he did not recall being interviewed by the inspector general," Mr. McCormack said in a telephone interview Thursday. Mr. McCormack reiterated that Mr. Bolton had not been questioned by the grand jury in the leak investigation.


In a form submitted for his confirmation hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Bolton said he had not been interviewed or asked for information in connection with any administrative investigation, including that of an inspector general, during the last five years.

As Josh Marshall notes, the form Bolton filled out is not something done casually. It's closely vetted, one would think, by all sorts of people. So what gives?

And while I applaud Lizzy Bumiller for, like, doing some actual reporting for a change, it would be nice if she included the, um, nuance, that it isn't only Democrats who oppose Bolton's nomination.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

An homage to Gravity's Rainbow

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

That's the first sentence of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, a tale of the V-2 rocket, the Cold War, and, the imminence of death. I guess. Although I've read several of Pynchon's novels, I never made it quite through what most consider Pynchon's best; in fact, what many consider post-modern fiction's best. But after reading Gerald Howard's evocation of the novel, the 1973 era in which it burst into the world of American fiction, and the manner in which the great publishing houses worked back in the day, before...well...before, I think I'll give it another try and get past -- based on the marginalia in my copy -- page 132.

It's a timely piece in a way. With a tense London wondering where the next attack will come, but with no Slothrop and the location of his sexual conquests to help predict it.

But it's also a highly nostalgic piece. We used to be a nation that cared about books, including extremely difficult fiction.

Now the real problem presented itself: How to publish a seven-hundred-plus-page book at a price that would not be grossly prohibitive for Pynchon's natural college and postcollegiate audience. V. and The Crying of Lot 49 had each sold more than three million copies in their Bantam mass-market editions. (Let us pause here to contemplate what these numbers say about the extent of literacy in the America of the '60s. Then I suggest we all commit suicide.) According to a letter from Cork Smith to Bruce Allen (who reviewed Gravity's Rainbow for Library Journal but wrote to Viking complaining about the novel's price), Viking would have had to sell thirty thousand copies at the then unheard of price of $10 just to break even. By comparison, V. and The Crying of Lot 49 had sold about ten thousand copies apiece in hardcover. So how to reach even a fraction of the cash-strapped Pynchon-loving millions? Cork himself hit on the then unique strategy of publishing an original trade-paperback edition at $4.95 and "an admittedly highly priced hardcover edition" at $15, each identical in paper stock and format, differing only in their binding. The gamble: "We also thought that Pynchon's college audience might, just might, be willing to part with a five-dollar bill for this novel; after all, that audience spends that amount over and over and over again for long-playing records." The other gamble was with the reviewers, who rarely took paperback fiction seriously, but as Cork wrote, "We feel—as, clearly, you do—that Pynchon cannot be ignored."

The Bookforum essay is worth taking a look at, if only to read the homages from other writers. We learn, for instance, that Don DeLillo, the other towering figure of Cold War fiction, was writing "Sears truck tire ads" when he first read another of Pynchon's novels, V.

Stiglitz: A Nobel prize for shrillness

Seems Joseph Stiglitz doesn't think the U.S. should be lecturing China on managing their economy.

And in other economic news, Daniel Gross wonders where the "free" is on CAFTA.

Donald Rumsfeld's criminal activity

Via Stage Left, it seems House Republicans want to make it a crime to suggest an early withdrawl from Iraq.

The resolution drew opposition from Democrats, who said it implied that questioning President Bush's Iraq policies is unpatriotic.

The measure, approved 291-137, says the United States should leave Iraq only when national security and foreign policy goals related to a free and stable Iraq have been achieved.

"Calls for an early withdrawal embolden the terrorists and undermine the morale" of U.S. and allied forces and put their security at risk, the amendment to a State Department bill reads.

Hmmm. They should have alerted the Donald.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mom. Ol' Glory. Apple pie. Hate 'em.

I've finally perused Will Marshall's essay on "a new progressive patriotism" in everybody's favorite DLC house organ, Blueprint. Yes, I know I've already posted an approving link to a critique of the essay, and I did so before I'd even read the damned thing, but hey, utter lack of knowledge about something has never stopped me from doing stuff before now. In that I share an endearing trait with our Dear Leader. And look how that's working out for him in Iraq.

But I digress.

Many others have already taken batting practice in response to Marshall's claim that lefties aren't effusively patriotic enough. Indeed, Publius has, I think one of the better approaches to Marshall's assault on we bi-coastal elites.

But since I've now gone to the trouble of reading Mr. Marshall's arguments, I'll join in the fray to simply note it's one thing to have to swat away at the strawman attacks leveled at us by Karl Rove, DFF. Now we get to read stuff like this coming from the leadership of the DLC?

Such antics give Democrats an opportunity to expose what lies beneath the fulsome facade of GOP patriotism -- an atavistic nationalism in which the ruling passion is the will to power, not love of country. The right answer to GOP jingoism, however, cannot be left-wing anti-Americanism. Of course, progressives can criticize their country and still be patriotic. Indeed, one of the highest forms of patriotism is being honest about your country's flaws and taking responsibility for fixing them. But it is what's in your heart that counts. Are your objections rooted in a warm and generous affection for your country, or in a curdled contempt for it? Too many Americans aren't sure if the left is emotionally on America's side. And that's a big problem for Democrats.

Who is he talking about? Who, except for the lunatic fringe of ANSWER and the occasional nutcase on Kos's diary communicates curdled contempt for the ol' USofA? It is one thing to hear the hysterical attacks on so-called "Michael Moore Democrats" from the rotting gums of Ann Coulter and Sean InsHannity, but from "one of us?" And wasn't it indeed the lunatic, but not so fringe, of the Right who were the ones blaming the openness of our society and liberalism of the West for 9-11? Talk to the hand, man. Talk to the hand.

Curdled contempt for George W. Bush. Curdled contempt for Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the rest of the architects of a disastrous war and divisive domestic policies. But for our country? Screw you, Mr. Marshall, to draw so wide a target and label it "Michael Moore Democrats," who hate America. I spent several hours with WWII vets this weekend, veterans of D-Day and Marines who crawled their way through the Pacific islands. I would not question their patriotism, if I were you. But ask them about George W. Bush and his "war leadership" and you'll hear nothing but curdled contempt from most of them.

But let's let Marshall continue, shall we?

Winning the war on terror. Democrats' most important task is to articulate a tough but smart strategy for winning the ideological struggle against Jihadist extremism. Yet many liberals remain fixated instead on Iraq. It's true that Team Bush has badly fumbled the occupation, but an anti-Iraq message alone won't reassure voters that Democrats can take charge of the nation's security. On the contrary, the conflation of partisan animus toward Bush with anti-war sentiment has shoved Democrats in a decidedly dovish direction.

That ignores the fact that George W. Bush began contemplating an invasion of Iraq on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. It has been the neocons who've been obsessed with Iraq at the expense of fighting real terrorists in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom. And the press has abetted that obsession by getting the hell out of Kabul as quickly as they possibly could.

Later in the essay he chides John Kerry for being unable to "bridge the gap between Tony Democrats" and those nasty Michael Moore ones. But then, not two paragraphs later writes,

Such attitudes aren't likely to allay voters' doubts about Democrats' resolve to make them safer from terrorist attacks. Neither are demands by left-wing Democrats and the anti-war group,, that the United States withdraw its troops from Iraq. Rather than offering fresh fodder to Karl Rove, the party would do better to heed Sens. Joe Biden, John Kerry, Evan Bayh, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who have set an example for responsible, progressive patriotism. They have balanced blunt criticism of the Bush administration's blunders with concrete suggestions for relieving the strain on U.S. forces in Iraq, broadening international support for the Iraqi government, and speeding up the pace of reconstruction.

So is Kerry on the right side of this or the wrong side? I'm confused. Truth is though, those "concrete suggestions" were ridiculed throughout the election campaign and they continue to be ridiculed by Bush and his freeper chorus, all of whom are now whistling very loudly as the Cheney administration starts timing the troop withdrawal.

And, Marshall continues, we should join the torture celebrations to prove we're "real Americans."

Democrats should also bring a sense of proportion to the prisoner abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. These sickening deviations from America's core principles have damaged our country's moral reputation around the world. True patriotism demands not denials and whitewashes, but a thorough, independent investigation, punishment of those responsible, and clear policies to prevent a repetition.

Um, Will. Let me explain something to you. Democrats -- and certainly not lefties -- are not in charge here, right now, ok. So if we didn't express outrage at those "sickening deviations from America's core principals," then nobody would. Certainly not the U.S. Army. Not the Bush administration. Not Congress. Indeed, it is questionable if those responsible have been punished, and clear policies have most certainly not been put in place. On the contrary.

Moreover, to express outrage at U.S. troops violating all conventions of conduct in the treatment of prisoners does not preclude us from being outraged by the murdering terrorists who are killing their own people as well as our troops. Why is that an either/or proposition?

What it does mean is that we are fearful of what such conduct will mean for our own troops should they be captured (and yes, I realize that if they're captured by the murderous "insurgents" they will likely be tortured and beheaded; I'm talking about future conflicts with other nation states). What it does mean is that by whitewashing Abu Ghraib we are playing into the very logic that has led to quiet approval by many Muslims of the London bombings -- that we are profoundly upset by such acts against our own people while we ignore the deaths of civilians in Iraq. Christ, do I have to paint a picture?

But enough of such displeasing topics as torture and the humiliation of prisoners/future terrorists. Let's take a look at the villains of the essay who appear in the section "Democrats and the military:"

Conversely, the military is not always held in high esteem in what might be called the European wing of the Democratic party -- secular liberal elites in the deep-blue Northeast and West Coast. Frank Schaeffer, a Boston writer, tells the story of how shocked his upper-middle-class neighbors were when, in 1999, his high-achieving son joined the U.S. Marine Corps rather than follow his peers to elite universities:

"Why were I and the other parents at my son's private school so surprised by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit. If the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Why, indeed, did George H.W. Bush not "encourage" his sons to follow his path to military heroism? And, when I read the near daily account of the U.S. dead in Iraq, why do I so rarely see anyone coming from such wealthy Republican outposts as Greenwich, CT? I too, frankly, would be surprised to learn of any upper middle class high-achieving young person deciding to join the war in Iraq right now, what with the rationale of WMD and al Qaeda put to rest (I think, hopefully, put to rest; maybe Dick Cheney moans WMD and "bin Laden connection" when he's rubbing up against Lynn). To join an occupation that is, to borrow a phrase, "in its last throes" would be fool-hardy indeed. And given the recruitment figures of recent months, I don't think that shock would be limited to we members of the "European wing of the Democratic party (WTF does that mean, anyway?)."

[And, as an aside, the story mentioned is from 1999. While I commend him for willing to brave the unknown to protect our country, that was an era ago. In 1999 that young Marine had never hear of Fallujah. Post 9-11-01, many young men and women, from all walks of life, were inspired to join the armed forces. Post 2004...not so much. An I wonder where that young man is today, during these "stop-loss" days.]

OK, but enough with the attacks on us brie-eaters (and don't start any stereotypes about chardonnay when it comes to those of us in the European wing, we drink only pouilly fuisse, merci very much). Let's hear this muscular democrat's policy prescription, just what will show the rest of America our cast iron cajones.

Democrats ought to insist on a major expansion of the military, by as many as 100,000 troops. Some of these troops should be channeled into the post-conflict and nation-building specialties that we have been chronically short of in Iraq: linguists, special forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, and economic reconstruction. Rather than add to Bush's budget deficits, however, Democrats should insist on paying for a larger force by rolling back the administration's unconscionable wartime tax cuts. This would neatly frame the real choice facing patriotic Americans: a stronger military versus tax cuts for the privileged.

Well, I think we've been saying that since the start of Bush's war. Nay, since the Fall of 2001. And again, I remind the members of the DLC, WE'RE NOT IN CHARGE HERE! But I would also point out that in the face of a war that grows more unpopular every day, a campaign promise of DRAFT plus TAXES does not equal VOTES, unless you're FDR.

And so we come to the conclusion, the real point of Marshall's brilliance.

Patriotism is the ultimate values issue. Democrats need not be embarrassed by it. And they ought not to let Republicans monopolize the emblems of national pride and honor. Democrats need to be choosier about the political company they keep, distancing themselves from the pacifist and anti-American fringe. And they need to have faith in their fellow citizens: Americans will accept constructive criticism of their country if they know the critic's heart is in the right place. [emphasis added]

All that, because he doesn't like some of the commentors on Daily Kos. Whew. I guess it's okay for those parliamentarians on the Right to thoughtfully discuss a U.S. Congressman's suggestion that we nuke Mecca and Medina in retaliation for the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil. But pacifism? Heart's just not in the right place.

Glad we cleared that up.

UPDATED to repair some damaged syntax.

Get a job!

Fafnir fills out the application for a job in the White House.

Viceroyalty of choice in New SyrRanian Freedomstan



Billmon asks a good question, just how many readers does Blueprint have?

Under the circumstances, the DLC's blur-the-differences approach may well be the smartest way to oppose the Rovian machine -- which the corporate Democrats hate as much as progressives do, since it deprives them of what they consider to be their fair share of the gravy.

Cowardly? Definitely. Uninspiring? Absolutely. But until the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party demonstrates that a principled, progressive strategy can win some general elections, it's probably naive to expect your average Democratic politician to show much in the way of guts.

But the problem with the DLC approach (aside from the corporate corruption) is that it assumes the political balance will never change, that America will always be a center-right country, and the best progressives can hope to do is accommodate themselves to the corporate new world order.

They may be right. For those in North America who still care about social justice, tolerance and rationality, Canada might be the better long-term bet. But unless someone is willing to challenge the conservative status quo in this country, unless activists are willing to try to cultivate and grow the liberal base, the DLC's political philosophy will become a self-fufilling prophesy.

The take away, I guess, is that the Dems need both their wings right now -- the liberal rabble rousers
and (grits teeth) the DLC dinos. But instead of trying to create some kind of fatuous, and flatulant, "united front," maybe it would be better if the two camps just sort of ignored each other, at least when it isn't primary season. Live and let live. Let the netroot activitists do their thing -- growing and evolving -- and let the dinos do theirs -- staving off extinction for a few more years.

Essential reading.

Mission soon to be declared accomplished

What a difference a month makes.

WASHINGTON (AP) [June 24, 2005] — Despite growing anxiety about the war in Iraq, President Bush refused to set a timetable Friday for bringing home U.S. troops and declared, "I'm not giving up on the mission. We're doing the right thing."

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, with Bush at a White House news conference, expressed gratitude for the heavy U.S. sacrifice in Iraq — the deaths of at least 1,730 members of the military.

A timetable, of course, would only encourage the terrorists.

BAGHDAD, July 27 -- Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari and the top U.S. commander in Iraq Wednesday and discussed specific steps to speed preparations for the withdrawal of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beginning as early as next spring.

The tone of statements by Rumsfeld and Jafari, as well as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, suggested a heightened urgency to planning for the U.S. troop reduction, despite the continuation of lethal daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq.

"The great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces be on their way out as they take more responsibility," Jafari said at a press conference with Rumsfeld following their noon meeting in Baghdad. "We have not limited to a certain schedule, but we confirm and we desire speed in that regard."

This will require "picking up the pace of training Iraqi forces" as well as carefully synchronizing the U.S. withdrawal as Iraqi forces take charge of different parts of the country, Jafari said.

Casey also voiced confidence before meeting with Jafari that the United States will be able to begin reducing its force levels in Iraq next spring or summer.

But then, what's all this?

Rumsfeld also said U.S. military lawyers have been working for months to set in place new legal arrangements to govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after a new government takes over following elections. The agreement could take the form of an extension of the current United Nations resolution regarding U.S. troops in Iraq, or involve a bilateral "status of forces" agreement that provides legal protections for American forces in foreign countries. [emphasis mine]

Imperial dreams die hard. Lies and obfuscations are their life support.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

As predictable as a July heat wave

Manny's bitchin' up in Boston

According to Tom Verducci in the August 1 issue of Sports Illustrated, Manny Ramirez has asked to be traded from the Red Sox. Verducci writes "Manny Ramirez wants out of Boston. Again. The Red Sox leftfielder has asked to be traded for at least the third time in the past four seasons. He told team officials he is unhappy in Boston, particularly with his lack of privacy off the field. The Red Sox have no intention of trading Ramirez (.277, 27 homers, 90 RBIs) -- not during the season, anyway. They could field offers in the off-season for Ramirez, who is due $57 million over the next three years.

Hmmm. Lack of privacy, eh? Then why let the paper come to your apartment to shoot photos of your kid's room, you loon?

Elsewhere, another AL East left fielder is profiled.

Trailed constantly by a scrum of Japanese reporters eager to record any Matsui moment for the devoted and insatiable Japanese media machine, Matsui invariably wore a smile--unlike the prickly Ichiro. "I asked for this life," he would say. "Nobody forced it on me and I have a duty to the people who put me here." He refused to charge admission at the Hideki Matsui House of Baseball back home--a practice which stood in marked contrast to the Ichiro Museum in Nagoya, which a ticket costs $8. It just wouldn't be fair, he explained.

Some cyincs called Matsui simpleminded, a workhorse wihtout the brainpower to comprehend what all the attention really meant or the sophistication to mimic Ichiro's studied cool. But Matsui, who in fact had been an attentive student with high marks in math (one who actually sat in the first row of the classes he attended), would shrug and say, in his coarse baritone, "I'm just an ordinary guy." He liked to have an occasional beer. He loked to shoot the breeze with the security guards and maintenance personnel, and he liked to trade tapes form his extensive library of adult videos with reporters. (His reply, when asked about his eccentric hobby, was a droll "Doesn't everybody do this?") [all sic]

I prefer our eccentric left fielder to Boston's.

Mitt Romney wants a change in jobs... he has a convenient change of "heart."

Three years after expressing support for ''the substance" of Roe v. Wade, Governor Mitt Romney today criticizes the landmark ruling that legalized abortion and says the states should decide separately whether to allow it.

Romney outlines his abortion position in an opinion article today in The Boston Globe, a day after he vetoed a bill that would expand access to the so-called ''morning after" pill, a high dose of hormones that women can take to prevent pregnancy up to five days after sex.

In a written response to a questionnaire for candidates in 2002, Romney told Planned Parenthood that he supported ''the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade," according to the group. Today, Romney describes himself as a ''pro-life governor" who wishes ''the laws of our nation could reflect that view." Calling the country ''divided over abortion," he says states ''should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate."

''I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth," Romney says in the op-ed article. ''I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice, except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view."

Romney said he had vetoed the emergency contraception bill to fulfill his 2002 campaign promise not to change state abortion laws.


As Romney touted his fulfillment of a campaign promise, supporters of the bill criticized him for breaking one.

They pointed out that on a questionnaire that abortion rights groups gave to the gubernatorial candidates in 2002, Romney answered yes to the question, ''Will you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception?" As the governor explained his decision to reporters inside his State House office, protesters in the hallway chanted: ''Mitt Romney, we want the pill. Keep your word, sign the bill!"

Clever man. Knowing that the State Senate's vote makes the law veto-proof certainly didn't color his decision, I feel certain.

Truth is, Romney is paying the price with religious conservatives for the lies he told the voters of Massachusetts when he ran for governor. His true face is appearing now as he plans a shot at the Republican presidential nomination.

Too hot

Hilzoy puts into flickering type what I've been thinking about a lot lately. It has been extremely hot and humid here in the Northeast for essentially the entire month of July. It's unpleasant. I theorize that the uptick in murders and mayhem these past weeks in New York (the metro section of the local papers has drifted my mind back to the lazy, hazy days of the late '70s/early '80s in New York) has something to do with the relentless heat. And, meanwhile, in Phoenix people are dying from the heat (which makes you wonder, isn't it extremely hot in Phoenix every summer?).

But as Hilzoy writes, we may not like the heat, but at least we have electricity.


Publius tells us today that he's been wooed by Hillary Clinton's early moves towards the '08 Democratic nomination.

Frankly, '08 is so distant (unless you are insane enough to want to run for president), that I find such talk irrelevant. Fact is, '06 is the next test, and unless we begin to win back some seats in Congress, it won't matter which Democrat is our next president (and on that front, you can help by scrolling down to the next post).

But I will add this to the debate. When she decided to run for the Senate, it was assumed that the vast right wing hatred of her would fill the campaign coffers of Giuliani/Lazio and that the howling attacks on her would ultimately do too much damage to allow her to effectively campaign. The first was true. Money poured in from around the country, but it poured in fairly equally to both campaigns since fear of Hillary hatred drove Democratic activists to counter their ideological opponents. As to the second fear, that the smear tactics and name-calling would damage her, it never came to pass. On the contrary, the nastier her opponents got, the better off she looked. In fact, when Lazio, aided by a smarmy Tim Russert during their debate, tried to make hay off of her response to her husband's philandering, fence-sitting moderates were appalled. And her poll numbers with women shot up; more importantly, the sweet-faced Lazio's numbers tanked with women who didn't appreciate his taking Russert's scummy piece of bait.

So if she does run, I say, bring it on. It brings out the worst in some pretty dreadful people. In fact, in one sense she's the ideal candidate. The GOP has to do some odd contortions to keep the extremists in the party from grabbing the microphone. With Hillary as an opponent, I doubt they'll be able to hide the ugly face of a large and powerful faction of the Republican Party.

It's all about the Benjamins

James Wolcott suggests a couple of worthy causes who could use your, Dear Reader's, hard earned cash.

I especially urge you to support Paul Hackett, running for Congress in Ohio's 2nd district. Why? Well, his personal history for one. Then there's the people (yes, "people," because the slime and retreat crowd are fully vested in this race -- Hackett scares the hell out of them) he's running against.


Never let it be said that this administration and their hand-picked yes-men in the Pentagon aren't willing to change an approach after years of obvious failure.

WASHINGTON, July 25 - The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."

Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military," he concluded.

Turns out they would have changed the approach years ago except they didn't like the acronym.

Actually, they've been willing to court failure for four years because otherwise they would have had to admit to mistakes, something the Cheney administration refuses to do. Ever.

The waterboy

It's good to see that Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) understands the Constitutional role of the Senate -- to carry water for the White House.

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Telling us our hard times are about to end..."

I work for the union 'cause she's so good to me;
And I'm bound to come out on top,
that's where I should be.
I will hear ev'ry word the boss may say,
For he's the one who hands me down my pay.
Looks like this time I'm gonna get to stay,
I'm a union man, now, all the way.

Seems like King Harvest is splitting.

"Our goal is not to divide the labor movement but to rebuild it," said Andy Stern, president of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union. He and Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said their unions would leave the AFL-CIO, paving the way for other unions to follow.

Their action drew a bitter rebuke from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who called it a "grievous insult" that could hurt workers already buffeted by the global economy and anti-union forces in Congress.

I don't know what this will mean for electoral politics, but I tend to agree with Stern's arguments. The last several elections have surely shown that union membership is no longer a reliable indicator of voting patterns. Democrats have been losing the vote of the kind of blue collar worker represented by the AFL-CIO and the Auto Workers' Union -- moreover, there's fewer and fewer machinists in this country. Union money is, of course another matter altogether, I recognize, and that's why Dems are spooked by this.

But the future for the party is in the kind of workers represented by the Service Workers' Union and the Teamsters -- people in the growing sector of our economy, like the people who clean our offices, stock the shelves at Wal Mart, and drive the UPS truck. So putting a greater effort in organizing workers in those sectors that are staunchly anti union seems to me the right direction.

Dry summer, then comes fall,
Which I depend on most of all.
Hey, rainmaker, can't you hear my call?
Please let these crops grow tall.
Long enough I've been up on Skid Row
And it's plain to see, I've nothin to show.
I'm glad to pay those union dues,
Just don't judge me by my shoes.

Check here, for organized labor central.

Republicans: We are all Karl Rove now

Wow. Watch as even Senator John McCain mouths Ken Mehlman's talkingpoints.

MATTHEWS: I want to know what your ethical standard would be here if it is shown that somebody in the White House, the vice president's staff or somebody on the president's staff, whoever they are, intentionally leaked an undercover agent's identity as a way of either just pushing them back or punishing them, whatever the motive. Do you think the standard should be, did they break a criminal act or not?

MCCAIN: I don't know, because it depends on—look, I can't be the president of the United States. I trust this president. I believe that he will do the right thing.

And, right now, the status of this situation is, is that Karl Rove still publicly denies that he did leak this name, OK. And I believe he has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And, again, as we said earlier in our conversation, he was trying to refute allegations that Ambassador Wilson made that turned out not to be true. And he knew they were not true. Well, I'm talking about Karl Rove knew they were not true.

Bejebus, how badly does John McCain want the Republican nomination for president in '08? And just how badly does he think he must maintain loyalty to preznit to get that nomination? Very badly.

Remember. Karl Rove's operation launched a whisper campaign about McCain's wife during the 2000 primary, as well as about the legitimacy and ethnic background of their (adopted) child. How pathetic that he now rises to defend Rove's actions in sliming another political opponent.

Look. A lot of Democrats -- myself included -- were dismayed when Joementum Lieberman took the floor of the Senate to denounce Bill Clinton's character flaws and actions with an intern. But he spoke from conscience; not because he was trying to win any points with Democratic operatives. The point is, there were lots of arguments defending Clinton from impeachment. But during the entire process of the hysteria of impeachment daze, I don't recall any Clinton supporter claiming that Newt Gingrich, in shutting down the federal government in December of 1995, was really behind the Lewinsky scandal because it led to an intern delivering a late night pizza order to the West Wing ("the president didn't order that pizza, he didn't specifically ask that Monica Lewisky deliver it, after all").


Every day, in every way, this story gets more intense.

Aug. 1 issue - A deal that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald cut last year for NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert's testimony may shed light on the emerging White House defense in the Valerie Plame leak case. The agreement between Fitzgerald and NBC avoided a court fight over a subpoena for Russert's testimony about his July 2003 talk with Dick Cheney's top aide, Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The deal was not, as many assumed, for Russert's testimony about what Libby told him: it focused on what Russert told Libby. An NBC statement last year said Russert did not know of Plame, wife of ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, or that she worked at the CIA, and "he did not provide that information to Libby."

This now appears significant: in pursuing Russert's testimony, Fitzgerald was testing statements by White House aides—reportedly including Libby—that they learned about Wilson's wife from reporters, not classified documents. Libby's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. A source close to Karl Rove, who requested anonymity because the FBI asked participants not to comment publicly, says the White House aide—who passed info about Wilson's wife to Time's Matt Cooper—only knew about her CIA job from either a reporter or "somebody" who heard it from a reporter; he can't remember which or who. Rove did not initially discuss his talk with Cooper with the FBI, but later volunteered info about it and called agents' attention to a subpoenaed e-mail he had written to national-security aide Stephen Hadley mentioning the conversation, the source said.

Or "somebody." Indeed.

Mickey Maus can't hide his tail

Conservative humor is...well...not. Except when it's unintentional.

No excuse

The New York sports talkosphere has been nothing but complaints about Randy Johnson's lack of dominance after coming over to the Yankees from Arizona during the off season. True, he hasn't struck out 10+ batters a game, and he hasn't thrown a slew of one-hitters. But he does near the league lead in strikeouts and in innings pitched, the latter a vital number for a Yankees pitching staff that has to puzzle their way through middle innings if the starter falters early. You know, when Johnson's the planned starter that night, the Yankees have a good chance to win the game.

And one other thing about Johnson, he hasn't suggested one excuse for his less than over-powering pitches this year. And he's getting tired of the sports wags suggesting excuses for him.

"You're like kids in the backseat: 'Are we almost there?'" Johnson said. "'Are you healthy?' I'm telling you, I'm going to be out there."

Johnson, 41, was removed from Thursday's game after six innings when Joe Torre said he saw Johnson "listing" with a stiff back. Johnson has said he expects to make his next start tomorrow against the Twins and wasn't interested in giving daily updates on his condition.

He also seemed frustrated that so much attention was being focused on him and noted that there are a slew of other Yankee starters who have physical ailments.

"Go talk to the other people who aren't here," he said. "How are they doing? I am here."

That seemed to be directed at Carl Pavano (who is in Tampa rehabbing shoulder tendinitis) and Kevin Brown (who spent a month there, too). Brown got rocked Saturday and wasn't in the clubhouse yesterday because he left the team to see a Denver-based doctor who has worked on his back before.

"Go talk to Brownie," Johnson said.

Johnson's diatribe lasted about five minutes and ended when a team security guard shepherded the reporters away as Johnson continued the children comparison, saying, "Disneyland is 15 minutes away. We're almost there."

What Johnson is saying, if reporters want to hear laments about a player's health, Kevin Brown is all too quick to provide "reasons" for the fact that he has been a terrible member of the Yankees. Good for Randy. We're all pretty tired of Kevin Brown, his excuses, and his tendency to quit when it matters.

Membership has its privileges

When Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's biography hit the presses last week, membership in the Federalist Society seemed like just another conservative touchpoint. Certainly not a deal breaker. So why is Roberts so concerned about it?

Having served only two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a long career as a government and private-sector lawyer, Roberts has not amassed much of a public paper record that would show his judicial philosophy. Working with the Federalist Society would provide some clue of his sympathies. The organization keeps its membership rolls secret, but many key policymakers in the Bush administration are acknowledged current or former members.

Roberts has burnished his legal image carefully. When news organizations have reported his membership in the society, he or others speaking on his behalf have sought corrections. Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group that he had no memory of belonging. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press printed corrections.

Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.

Roberts denies being a "dues-paying" member. So what? The Federalist Society is bankrolled by conservative groups, and does not rely on members' dues.

This all illustrates how Washington works, I suppose. Plausible deniability regarding where your sympathies and associations lie, in order to avoid having to answer questions about those associations should, ya know, a confirmation hearing ever be on the horizon. While at the same time taking advantage of the networking possibilities those associations make possible and to use them as a kind of secret handshake with the like-minded.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


One wonders if Karl Rove ever reflects on the last days of Lee Attwater, who spent his dying days apologizing for the nasty ways he conducted his clients' political campaigns.

Um. Probably not.

Most fertile - and apparently ground zero for Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation - is the period at the very outset when those plotting against Mr. Wilson felt safest of all: those eight days in July 2003 between the Wilson Op-Ed, which so infuriated the administration, and the retaliatory Novak column. It was during that long week, on a presidential trip to Africa, that Colin Powell was seen on Air Force One brandishing the classified State Department memo mentioning Valerie Plame, as first reported by The New York Times.

That memo may have been the genesis of an orchestrated assault on the Wilsons. That the administration was then cocky enough and enraged enough to go after its presumed enemies so systematically can be found in a similar, now forgotten attack that was hatched on July 15, the day after the publication of Mr. Novak's column portraying Mr. Wilson as a girlie man dependent on his wife for employment.

On that evening's broadcast of ABC's "World News Tonight," American soldiers in Falluja spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again, only a week after Donald Rumsfeld told them they were going home. Soon the Drudge Report announced that ABC's correspondent, Jeffrey Kofman, was gay. Matt Drudge told Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post at the time that "someone from the White House communications shop" had given him that information.

Mr. McClellan denied White House involvement with any Kofman revelation, a denial now worth as much as his denials of White House involvement with the trashing of the Wilsons. Identifying someone as gay isn't a crime in any event, but the "outing" of Mr. Kofman (who turned out to be openly gay) almost simultaneously with the outing of Ms. Plame points to a pervasive culture of revenge in the White House and offers a clue as to who might be driving it. As Joshua Green reported in detail in The Atlantic Monthly last year, a recurring feature of Mr. Rove's political campaigns throughout his career has been the questioning of an "opponent's sexual orientation."

I know, I know. Rove will likely walk free of this latest atrocity, sliming an opponent by revealing the identity of a covert CIA expert on weapons of mass destruction. There is no congressional oversight of this crew, Bush wouldn't fire a loyal aide if it were found he was a pedophile. And, even if Fitzgerald does find Rove played fast and obstructively loose with the FBI, Bush will simply pardon him. But, knowing Rove's past -- the lies and cruel personal attacks -- and the way he has led the marketing campaign to launch a war of choice that has actually limited our choices, you can understand our desire to see him fall very, very hard.

Dick Cheney's war

The Administration is fighting two wrong-headed wars against the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). There's the Miserable Failure's, abetted by the bungling Rumsfeld-Feith two-headed monster, that is fast losing any sense of "mission accomplished" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there's the covert war, the "Dark Side," which Dick Cheney and his henchmen are fighting. And Dick Cheney wants no light shining on his minnions' dark actions.

WASHINGTON, July 23 - Vice President Dick Cheney is leading a White House lobbying effort to block legislation offered by Republican senators that would regulate the detention, treatment and trials of detainees held by the American military.

In an unusual, 30-minute private meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday night, Mr. Cheney warned three senior Republicans on the Armed Services Committee that their legislation would interfere with the president's authority and his ability to protect Americans against terrorist attacks.

The legislation, which is still being drafted, includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.

The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan.

What makes this particularly curious to me is a brief aside in Seymour Hersh's report this past week on the administration's efforts to out-spend Tehran in buying the outcome of the January elections in Iraq.

A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq “did an operation” to try to influence the results of the election. “They had to,” he said. “They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice.” A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders said, “We didn’t want to take a chance.”

I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials that the activities were kept, in part, “off the books”—they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress. Some in the White House and at the Pentagon believed that keeping an operation off the books eliminated the need to give a formal briefing to the relevant members of Congress and congressional intelligence committees, whose jurisdiction is limited, in their view, to officially sanctioned C.I.A. operations. (The Pentagon is known to be running clandestine operations today in North Africa and Central Asia with little or no official C.I.A. involvement.)

“The Administration wouldn’t take the chance of doing it within the system,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The genius of the operation lies in the behind-the-scenes operatives—we have hired hands that deal with this.” He added that a number of military and intelligence officials were angered by the covert plans. Their feeling was “How could we take such a risk, when we didn’t have to? The Shiites were going to win the election anyway.”

In my reporting for this story, one theme that emerged was the Bush Administration’s increasing tendency to turn to off-the-books covert actions to accomplish its goals. This allowed the Administration to avoid the kind of stumbling blocks it encountered in the debate about how to handle the elections: bureaucratic infighting, congressional second-guessing, complaints from outsiders. [emphasis added]

So why would the Cheney administration be particularly concerned about the McCain, Graham, Warner amendment? After all, they will simply find other ways to keep things "off the books." It seems to me it's not about Cheney fighting to maintain the tools he and his accomplices believe they need. Rather, it's about making sure that there isn't even the appearance that there are any fetters on the powers of this imperial administration.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Point blank

Incredible. It seems that London police -- in a city where the bobbies still go unarmed -- were given shoot to kill orders.

Five shots to the head, and the Metropolitan Police say, for all intents and purposes, "Oops."

As I saw in the comments section of a blog yesterday, "Why am I in this handbasket, and where are we going?"

Dancing on the pedals

Armstrong -- and Ullrich -- were quite amazing this morning. But Armstrong, honoring the yellow tunic, wins the stage. And the tour. Congratulations, Lance.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Today's excersize in wankage

John Walters, our nation's Drug Czar is Today's Wanker.

Of interest rates and genocide

In press accounts of the jostling of a member of Rice's (sizeable) press corps traveling with her to Sudan, I didn't pick up that the jostlee was none other than Mrs. Greenspan.

And, while I appreciate her laying tough questions at the thugs who want a "new relationship" with the U.S., she is a pompous hack.

Friday "What's the atmosphere in Caracas like these days?"

Hmmm, looks like el Presidente Chavez may be thinking about copying the Bush Doctrine.

They should be wearing tights

Bush's obsession with drama is...weird. The strange dance played with White House correspondants on Wednesday -- actually lying to them in order to play up news about Edith Clement and deflect attention from the cyborg -- makes absolutely no sense. Unless you take into account Bush's desire to be in the spotlight -- and on prime time teevee. I imagine some of it was to give ol' Karl a reprieve, but did they really think it would buy them any more than a day? Especially since reporters are smelling the blood in the water, the cast of characters grows larger every day, and there appears to be two dueling camps of leakers who are adding fresh details to this glorious Passion Play with every news cycle.

"The Rove story is too important to stay out off the front page for long. Not only does it reveal how the White House sometimes operates, but it shows how sensitive the administration was to any arguments that undercut its rationale for war. The court obviously is important, perhaps almost as important as a presidential election. But developments in the Rove case will surely be back in the news."

Certainly, as Digby writes (in a series of brilliant posts), Wilson's op-ed piece threw the White House into a frenzy, and the ongoing Rovegate investigation has further frenzied the legendary Republican P.R. machine.

But I think the Roberts announcement wasn't about Rove at all. It came down to preznit's almost child-like glee in being on stage and in keeping secrets and being the one to yell, "Surprise!" on the networks. It also points to Bush's similarly childlike belief in the power of television. By announcing Roberts' nomination on TV, Bush believes the nomination is then beyond question. Why, it was on TV after all. How can he not be confirmed now?


Faux safety

Frankly, I don't really object to this on the grounds of civil liberties, the right to privacy, etc. I know I'll face the ire of the left side of the blogosphere for saying it, but by default you give up that right, to a certain extent, when you enter the subway system. You're under near constant surveillance, in one way shape or form, throughout New York City -- cameras in the stations, on buildings, at traffic lights, at toll booths -- so what's the big deal with opening your backpack?

But I do object on practical terms. Randomly checking bags in a subway system as immense as New York City's is simply impractical and wastes the time of officers that could be better spent doing their usual patrol jobs and keeping vigilant. Looking, for instance, for people wearing heavy coats on summer days (well, in New York, that's more common than you might think, but generally the homeless announce themselves in all manner of ways).

Pause here, while we ponder the essential weirdness of that story.

He told BBC News: "I heard lots of shouts of 'get down, get down'. I looked to my right and I saw an Asian man run on the train. As he ran on he half tripped."

He said the man was being pursued by three plainclothes officers who ran on just a few feet behind him.

The witness said one officer brought out a pistol in his left hand and "unloaded five shots into him". He said the shooting happened "five yards" away from him.

Asked what condition the man was in, Mr Whitby said: "He's dead ... I've just seen a man shot dead, I was distraught."

There was speculation the man may have been a would-be suicide bomber who had been followed by police. Mr Whitby said he did not see a bag, but the man had worn a bulky winter-style coat, and there may have been "something underneath it".

The odd thing is, having spent quite a bit of time on commuter trains and subways in New York this past week, I didn't find the mood particularly tense. So why this apparent salve to maintain a sense of "doing something" for the sake of ridership?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

" uphold the Constitution..."

Ah, that stirring oath of office the president, as well as his cabinet members I think, take. Probably hasn't meant a lot throughout history; presidents often have a desire to subvert the other branches of government to get their way. But, in general, most presidents have tried not to be in obvious violation of that oath. Specifically, most (Andrew Jackson a notable exception), have not openly and willfully defied a Supreme Court decision.

The good news about Bob Roberts is that, if confirmed (ha, I made myself laugh just now), the Cheney administration will no longer have to do that.

The Administration has already lost the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, the other American citizen it attempted to hold without charging. Hamdi was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but the Supreme Court ruled he could not be held as an “enemy combatant.” Instead of charging him, the US government handed Hamdi over to the Saudi government. (So even winning his case before the US Supreme Court didn’t win Hamdi his freedom. This Administration will ignore or circumvent the Supreme Court along with every other “check” to its desires.) The government clearly didn’t have a case against Hamdi that they felt could stand up in court. It’s fair to infer that the government also can’t have much of a case against Padilla, who they have accused—but not in court—of wanting to explode a “dirty bomb.” If they could get a conviction, they wouldn’t be resisting charging him with a crime.

In oral arguments for the Padilla case, Judge Michael Luttig (whose name was also on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees) pressed the idea that, in the war on terror, every place is part of the battlefield. Under that logic, Luttig suggested, it doesn’t matter where you are arrested. Anyone can be an “enemy combatant” anywhere. Obviously, this line of reasoning collapses any distinction between capture and arrest, between military and civil law, or between the President as Commander-in-Chief and the President as the chief executive officer in a constitutional government. War is everywhere and everywhen now; we are all soldiers--or traitors--and the President is a full-time Commander-in-Chief. That’s the conservative doctrine, as Karl Rove’s speech about the difference between conservatives and liberals a few weeks ago made clear.

That's not precisely true, of course. will still need to replace one more of those whining, "oh, oh, you can't hold an American citizen without trial forever," activist Supreme Court judges before Bush is able to single-handedly wipe out the forces of evil. And trample quaint, old Bill O'Rights.


Not sure whether it's nothing less than horrible that this has happened, or good that no one was killed. Both I guess.

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, cancelled his appointments. Appearing at tonight's news conference with Sir Ian, Mr Livingstone said: "It is not surprising that we have had another attempt to take life in London so rapidly after the first one," he said.

"Those who remember the terrorist campaigns of the 1970s, 80s and 90s will remember there were bombing attacks often just weeks apart."

So far, two people have been arrested - one in Downing Street and one in Great Scotland Yard in Whitehall - since the incidents this afternoon. However, police sources said it was unclear at this stage whether the two had any links to the explosions.

It certainly does not sound like these were planned and carried out by the same group who planned the bombings earlier this month; just seems like a different M.O. and significantly less destructive materials. Small favors, I know.

UPDATED: A day later, sounds like I had that last bit wrong. The bomb materials appear similar in destructiveness to the Madrid bombings, and the attacks were timed to synchronize as they did two weeks ago. Just a lucky break that London didn't suffer another bloody day.

It's not the crime, it's the cover-up

It's getting a little warm over at the White House.

Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.

The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.

Wilson has said his wife's identity was revealed to retaliate against him for accusing the Bush administration of "twisting" intelligence to justify the Iraq war. In a July 6 opinion piece in the New York Times and in an interview with The Washington Post, he cited a secret mission he conducted in February 2002 for the CIA, when he determined there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium for a nuclear weapons program in the African nation of Niger.

White House officials discussed Wilson's wife's CIA connection in telling at least two reporters that she helped arrange his trip, according to one of the reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, and a lawyer familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have shown interest in the memo, especially when they were questioning White House officials during the early days of the investigation, people familiar with the probe said.

Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, has testified that he learned Plame's name from Novak a few days before telling another reporter she worked at the CIA and played a role in her husband's mission, according to a lawyer familiar with Rove's account. Rove has also testified that the first time he saw the State Department memo was when "people in the special prosecutor's office" showed it to him, said Robert Luskin, his attorney.
"He had not seen it or heard about it before that time," Luskin said.

Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa, including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others. Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

How do you spell "conspiracy?"

And the memo contains an embarrassing little tidbit. State opposed Wilson's trip, not because they were afraid he'd debunk the yellowcake allegations, but because State had already debunked the yellowcake allegations.

It records that the INR analyst at the meeting opposed Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.

Digby has another nugget to ponder in this classic tale as well.

Standing by Benedict Arnold

"Actually," said a source close to General Washington, "since the United States is not yet a nation, Benedict Arnold cannot be accused of treason, and so the General won't ask him to resign. And although political parties do not yet exist here, to say otherwise is to engage in more partisanship."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

You gotta break a few eggs... make a tasty Democracy Omelette.

LONDON, July 19 - Almost 25,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the two years since the United States-led invasion of the country, more than a third by American forces, according to a report released Tuesday that is sure to stir debate.


Michael E. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution who compiles a statistical abstract of Iraq to track its progress, or lack of it, under the occupation, said the Iraq Body Count figures were within the realm of reason. "We've used their data before," he said. "It's probably not too far off, and it's certainly a more serious work than the Lancet report."

According to the new report, American fire accounted for the greatest loss of life in Iraq, about 9,270 civilians, or 37.3 percent of the total. There are no estimates by the American government of civilian deaths at the hands of the American military. Most of those fatalities came during the war, the report stated. The crime wave that has overcome Iraq since the Saddam Hussein government fell was the second leading cause of death, accounting for almost 35.9 percent of the deaths, or 8,935, the report said.

In comparison, insurgent attacks specifically against American-led multinational forces caused only 9.5 percent of the deaths, or 2,353, while attacks by terrorists, whom the authors call "unknown agents," amounted to 11.0 percent of the civilian dead, or 2,731, the report said. It is not clear how the report differentiated between insurgents and terrorists. Iraq Body Count's calculations show the death toll from such violence continuing to rise.

The figures were compiled from more than 10,000 news media reports of civilian deaths. The deaths were painstakingly cross-referenced and reconfirmed across various news media, researchers said. They asserted that the results offered the first full picture of the civilian death toll in the country, down to the number of deaths caused by various weapons.

According to O'Hanlon, though, Iraqis will greet this grim news with flowers and sweets.

"This study says that Iraqis have basically accepted becoming the most violent country in the Middle East as a price for becoming the most democratic," he said.

Hmmm. I see.

Several of the Sunni Arabs withdrawing from the committee said they would not take part again until the Iraqi government, dominated by Shiite Arabs and Kurds, provides adequate security for them. They accused the government of not giving enough protection to their colleagues, Mejbil Issa and Dhamin Hussein al-Obeidi, who were gunned down Tuesday afternoon by unknown assailants while driving through downtown Baghdad. Using rhetoric that is certain to fuel sectarian tensions, some of the Sunni leaders have even implied in interviews that Shiites or Kurds may have killed the two politicians because of the men's opposition stands on critical constitutional issues.

So, who are these Iraqis who accept being the most violent country as a price for becoming...the most sectarian country in the middle east?

The inner workings of the White House

Truly, truly, the dumbest headline evah:

As All Washington Guessed, Bush Zeroed In on His Choice

Now, Elizabeth Bumiller doesn't write her own headlines, so she can't be blamed for that. But then again, the typical inanity of her story befits so lame a title.

Mr. Bush's announcement, in unusual live prime-time remarks on Tuesday night from the Cross Hall of the White House, ended one of the most bizarre and suspenseful days in the capital in recent memory. Rumors raced from Capitol Hill to television talking heads to the Internet to advocacy groups and back, and the name of the president's supposed nominee changed minute by minute. Yet the close-mouthed Bush White House kept secret until the end the most sought-after piece of information this summer.

She considers, for a moment, that such a quick decision -- formerly expected to take weeks -- had something to do with Rove, Karl. But she's quickly disabused of that notion by Dan Bartlett.

Both Republicans and Democrats said that the speeded-up timing - administration officials had at one point told reporters to expect an announcement in the last week of July - would have the effect of pushing news of Karl Rove and the federal investigation into who leaked the name of a C.I.A. officer off the front pages, at least for a time. But in a briefing to reporters shortly before Mr. Bush's announcement, Mr. Bartlett insisted that the president's timing had nothing to do with Mr. Rove and everything to do with giving the Senate adequate time before its recess next week to meet Judge Roberts and deal with the enormous amount of paperwork and logistics such a nomination requires.

"This was driven by that time clock," Mr. Bartlett said.

Apparently, someone's taken pity on Scottie McClellan and he doesn't have to talk to reporters anyway. Actually, I'm a little amazed that Bartlett didn't go by his usual moniker, "a source close to the president."

Curious choice

The only thing I can make out regarding Bush's choice for SCOTUS is that he's a creature of Washington, with friends on both sides of the aisle, and no obvious paper trail (the brief he wrote while working in the DOJ that called Roe v Wade into question probably won't hurt him since he was speaking for the administration, not himself), and so fairly likely to be confirmed without too much bitterness. He keeps the red meaters happy because he's a member in good standing of the Republican establishment and is a Federalist party member, and he doesn't scare the Dems too much, either.

The choice, and the timing, shows just how much damage Rovegate is having on the White House. Change the channel. Quick. It's also a little shocking. When cornered, the Cheney administration usually lashes out, so I expected a much more partisan choice. Are they getting soft?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


At long last, we looked under the Vega's hood, banged on a few things, pulled a hose or two, and gotten the blogroll started. It's just over there, to your right...down a little bit...there, do you see?

We'll be adding to this, organizing it into zany sub-categories, renaming from the generic "Links," and more, so much more, in the days, weeks, even years to come.

I can't believe I've waited so long to introduce you, Dear Reader, to my imaginary friends.

Appearing nightly

Well, not quite, but His Rudeness will be in New York City for a series of shows in August. Here's the schedule.


There are certain baseball writers whom you wonder when they started following baseball. Two weeks ago?

Easy call: Race is a runaway
By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Columnist | June 26, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- It's OK to say it. Don't worry about jinxing them. The 2005 Red Sox are going to win the American League East. By a landslide. Come late September, this is going to look like Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973.


And then we have the unfortunate, spoiled sons of Steinbrenner. The Boss assembled baseball's first $200 million roster but as of this morning, the Yankees are 37-37. There is no sign of life, no alternatives in the farm system, and no one who can be moved. They're just a couple of injuries away from morphing into the Horace Clarke Yankees of 1965-66.

Or just last night?

I couldn't even watch the game last night, it was such an awful spectacle, and went to sleep never expecting to wake up this morning and read that the Yankees are first in the American League East.

Truth is, the Yankees are a very flawed team. Their starting rotation goes from mediocre to terrible, and that's just what they have left after losing three starters, at least two of them maybe for the season. And if we needed any reminding that the Yankees have one of the worst defensive outfields in the Majors, Bernie dropped an easy fly ball last night, with three unearned runs scoring as a result.

They simply can't expect to score 10 or more runs every night.

But regardless, this is a team that is beginning to form a character, that expects it can punch its way through this adversity, even as GM Brian Cashman burns through cell phone batteries trying to find a starting pitcher and a center fielder who can, while he's at it, cover most of right and left fields as well.

So I don't know how this season will play out. Probably many ups and downs and lead changes between the Sox and the Yankees (maybe even the Orioles will stay in the mix). But in the meantime, it is fun to watch the Sox in turmoil as they play as badly as the Yankees did back in April. Here's our boy Dan again.

So there. By the end of the afternoon, after a couple of closed-door meetings, the manager, the player, and the GM were all on the same page. But their unified stance did little to soothe the disgruntled Nation.

How much faith can you have in an organization that sanctions a decision to bat Alex Cora instead of John Olerud with the game on the line against the Yankees?

The Sox have lost nine of their last 13 at Fenway and the manager with the World Series ring on his finger is suddenly sitting on the hot seat.

But Dan, does this in any way affect your "landslide" prediction?

And forget about the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. That's just fans. When it comes to the players, nothing now beats the nastiness between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays.

Pretty much the only excitement came in the top of the ninth, when an overturned call cost the Devil Rays a run and sparked an animated argument from Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella, who was ejected.

With two outs, Jorge Cantu hit a slow roller to first baseman John Olerud, who flipped to Curt Schilling covering. First base umpire Dana DeMuth initially called Cantu safe, with Carl Crawford apparently scoring from third, but after Schilling and Francona argued long and hard, DeMuth conferred with plate umpire Laz Diaz, and the call reversed, ending the inning.

Tampa second baseman Julio Lugo took a sarcastic jab at Schilling. ''I used to admire Curt Schilling, but I've got more admiration for him now that he would come out and beg for a call and get it," he said. ''I don't think there's anybody in baseball who could do that. I admire Curt Schilling. He's the man for me. I had respect for him, now I have more respect for him than anybody in baseball. I've never seen anything like that."


Crooked Timber's Henry sends out a clarion call that stopping the GOP's plan to dismantle Social Security isn't enough. On the contrary, victory on the Social Security front could very well lead to complaisancy and will be a stern lesson to the Right to return to their usual manner of killing off social welfare programs -- letting them drift into decay.

But there are still ways in which a program can be dismantled piecemeal. First is what Hacker (and the others writing in this edited volume) call “drift.” As society changes over time, programs are likely to become increasingly badly calibrated to the needs that inspired their creation. But updating these programs may be difficult, especially given that conservatives can use the many veto points to block change. Thus, one may expect to see social programs becoming increasingly unmoored from society’s needs over time – and hence less politically defensible – as attempts to reform them and make them more relevant are blocked. Second is “layering.” When faced with highly popular programs such as Social Security, conservatives have had difficulties in making head-on attacks, so that they have instead sought to create an alternative institutional framework that will attract defection and undermine these programs’ rationale over time.

Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne tells liberals to stop apologizing for those self-same programs. Why? Because they actually do what they're intended to do -- lift people out of crushing poverty.

The fact is that every year 27 million Americans are lifted from poverty by our system of public benefits. More than 80 million Americans receive health insurance through a government program -- Medicaid, Medicare or the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP. Without these programs, tens of millions would be unable to afford access to medical care. As the center notes, government programs reduce both the extent and the depth of poverty.

Does all this cost a fortune? Not by any fair reckoning. Federal spending on Medicaid and SCHIP represents 1.5 percent of gross domestic product. Federal financing for the rest of the low-income programs consumes just 2.3 percent of GDP. For a sense of comparison, consider that defense spending consumes 4 percent of GDP and interest on the national debt gobbles up 1.5 percent. President Bush's tax cuts -- which go in large part to the wealthiest Americans -- will consume roughly 2 percent of GDP.

And federal spending for the poor does a huge amount of good. Food stamps, the center notes, "help more than 25 million people with low incomes afford an adequate diet." The school lunch and breakfast programs provide free and reduced-price meals to 22 million schoolchildren from low-income families. The supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children known as WIC helps about 8 million pregnant and postpartum women and their children under 5. One of its effects has been to reduce the incidence of low birth weight among infants. Think of WIC as one of our most important pro-life programs.

Or take the earned-income tax credit, which supplements the incomes of the working poor. Census data show that in 2002 the EITC "lifted 4.9 million people out of poverty, including 2.7 million children." Without the EITC, the center notes, "the poverty rate among children would have been nearly one-third higher."

One of the more absurd ideas that float through the fever dreams of Conservatives, is that the Republican Party is the party of ideas, while Democrats have nothing new to add to the political or social discourse. As Dionne notes, that's kind of funny coming from a party that is eager to return us to the policies of Calvin Coolidge. And since our "old" ideas have been such raging successes, perhaps that's a reason to keep them in play. And keep them relevant. And funded.

Kos apparently couldn't be reached

It would seem that Kos and Huffington were, like Henry Kissinger, traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Jarvis notes that liberal bloggers such as Arianna Huffington and outlets such as Daily Kos are helping to set the spin by saying they'll "hold their noses and say they'd take (presidential counselor) Alberto Gonzales over other likely choices, in part because Gonzales would irritate the right-wingers who irritate them."

The blogosphere's best dressed

At last we know where The Editors at The Poor Man get their exquisite fashion sense.


I'm glad that our long national nightmare has ended and we now know who the real culprits are. It will be Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame who will be doing the "frog marching."

Good thing too, seeing as how preznit will tolerate no shenanigans in his White House.

President Bush said yesterday that he will fire anyone in the administration found to have committed a crime in the leaking of a CIA operative's name, creating a higher threshold than he did one year ago for holding aides accountable in the unmasking of Valerie Plame.

After originally saying anyone involved in leaking the name of the covert CIA operative would be fired, Bush told reporters: "If somebody committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

The Post calls this "a small, but potentially very significant, distinction." Ya think?

NPR finally caught a whiff of this story this morning. Through their exhaustive sleuthing, they interview usual suspect Victoria Toensing who said, according to the statute over which she supposedly oversaw the drafting, "absolutely, Karl Rove didn't commit a crime." It was the most passive story I've ever heard on this, ending with a summary of events that made the outing of "Joe Wilson's wife," an almost accidental, non-authored event.

Thanks for the illumination, Linda Wertheimer.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dancin' in the streets

Summer's here, and the time is right...

The Summer of Excitement™ is definitely on.

Something tells me that 39 year-old Al Leiter, brought up from the Florida Marlins on Saturday (with the Yankees only owing the minimum -- $400K -- of his $2.8 million salary), was inspired by the moment and will not be so inspiring as AL teams adjust to him. But it was a pleasure to watch.

On Thursday, we learned that Chien Ming Wang may have torn his rotator cuff (MRIs scheduled for today, I believe), and the Yankees had not named a starter for two of the four games against the Sox. On Thursday, we were hoping to get out of Boston with a split, allowing the Yankees to hold steady at 2-1/2 behind the Red Sox. On Friday, we watched a pitcher the Yankees had traded a couple of "game used" athletic supporters for fail to throw strikes in a game the Yankees would lose 17-1.

This morning, the Yankees are 1/2 game out of first base, and in second place ahead of the Orioles. Who would have thunk it?

Not to get too giddy, though. They have a long, hard road trip that's only just beginning (and the Red Sox's second half schedule appears -- on paper -- significantly easier than the Yankees'). And the Yankees still don't have a starter named for tomorrow's game.

But today we celebrate in the knowledge that maybe the Bronx Bombers can slug their way through a season with a pitching staff that goes from "okay" to dreadful from night to night.

Oh, and by the way, Dear Readers, Al Leiter is the very epitome of the convergence of politics and baseball. This should be, at least, be innarestin'.

UPDATE: Had my rotation figured wrong. Looks like Mike Mussina pitches on Tuesday, with the quintessential journeyman, Aaron Small, set to take the mound on Wednesday.

Dwarfed on Wall Street

And to think, these people control the financial markets.

"Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment," says the 4-foot-2 Danny Black, a part-owner in, an outfit that rents dwarfs for parties starting at $149 an hour. Mr. Black says he spent part of the weekend on the yacht and worked as a waiter on the Friday night at a high-end Miami eatery alongside what he called "regular size" people. "A good time was had by all," he said, declining to provide further details.

But what really made this a memorable party is that it is now a focus of an investigation into possibly improper gratuities from Wall Street trading firms eager to get Fidelity's business. The National Association of Securities Dealers and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining which Wall Street firms kicked in money for the weekend party. So far, at least three firms have been embroiled in the investigation. Jefferies Group Inc. paid for the plane, SG Cowen & Co. paid for the yacht, and Lazard Capital Markets paid for some of the hotel rooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wouldn't you know, the Kozlowski's (yes, the whole family!) are at the center of the fun.
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