Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hard times

Daniel Gross has the figures measuring the "Bush Boom."

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, where, undoubtedly, many of those nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance were left without means of leaving the doomed city.

People who think of that graceful city and the rest of the Mississippi Delta as tourist destinations must have been reminded, watching the rescue operations, that the real residents of this area are in the main poor and black. The only resources most of them will have to fall back on will need to come from the federal government.

Nevertheless, there are some with so little empathy for their fellow Americans...fellow human shocks even a Fox News host.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Forget insurance. My next guest says not one taxpayer dollar should go toward rebuilding the city of New Orleans (search).

Joining us now is Jack Chambless. He is the economics professor of Valencia Community College in Orlando.

Professor, why do you say that?

JACK CHAMBLESS, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, VALENCIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Well, if we look at Article One, Section Eight of the United States Constitution (search) — and I encourage all Americans to look at that before we start opening up our tax coffers to pay for all of this — we have every obligation to provide for New Orleans in terms of charity, private charity from one person to the other.

But the founding fathers never intended, Article One, section Eight of the Constitution, never intended to provide one dollar of taxpayer dollars to pay for any disaster or anything that we might call charity. What we now have is the law of unintended consequences taking place, where FEMA (search) has come into New Orleans, a place where, ecologically, it makes no sense to have levees keeping the Mississippi River (search) from flooding into New Orleans, like it naturally should.

Now with FEMA bailing out Louisiana, bailing out Florida and lowering the overall cost of living in these places, we have people with no incentive to leave. And the law of unintended consequences means that more people are dying with every one of these storms. They're becoming more and more expensive, more and more property loss, just because the federal government has violated the Constitution to provide for these funds.

CAVUTO: Yes, but, Professor, if you have your way, then, these areas will just be the domain of the well-to-do, right?

CHAMBLESS: No, no, not at all.

I mean, people of modest means lived in the Bayou, they lived along the coast of Florida long before the government got involved. But they assumed personal responsibility for their decisions. They paid for insurance. They paid the market premium for insurance.

CAVUTO: Yes, but those insurance companies, Jack, have left. They're not insuring these people anymore, right?

CHAMBLESS: Some of them have left. I'm a resident of Florida. We still have insurance in the state of Florida. It's become more expensive.

CAVUTO: No, wait. To be clear, I know your state well, and there are some areas where that is simply not offered.

CHAMBLESS: Right. But that's part of the cost.

You shouldn't have to compel the insurance companies or force them. They are a private for-profit business. If they believe the risks are too high and the probability of incurring losses are too great, nobody should force them to underwrite policies there. But, if we look at what the insurance companies are also doing, in a way, they're able to free ride off of the taxpayers, because they're not responsible for flood insurance.

For Neil Cavuto to be shocked into actually showing some empathy for the poor is a real feat. But keep in mind, only Fox News would rush to find a lunatic like this in the first place and put him and his views on the air.

I've only been in New Orleans once and didn't care much for it. It was winter. I was with other people who weren't really "into it (they lived in Baton Rouge, which has a very different vibe)." But what I really found depressing was the bone crushing poverty that pervaded the city. The poverty is almost one of the "attractions" the city offered tourists. I felt that everyone except for the tourists and those in the wealthy enclaves was living hand to mouth.

These people now have nothing. Nothing. And no amount of private insurance could have covered what they've lost.

These people didn't lose their vacation homes. They didn't suffer an annual loss of the roof on a home built too close to the water in Florida or South Carolina, then expect the Feds to pick up the tab.

Katrina and its aftermath is probably the worst natural disaster to hit the United States in 100 years. It hit people hardest who were least able to prepare or evacuate. And this guy goes on TV to say they should rely on the kindness of strangers, to evoke a famous New Orleans figure.

How do people like Chambless sleep at night? Do they have wives, husbands, children? Who could possibly live with them? So many questions.

UPDATE: I don't mean to ignore the residents of Biloxi and the other Gulf cities hammered by Katrinia, whose residents are equally poor.

Blame Raph Nader, pt. 2

Jonathan Turley has a brief, informative summary of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's views on the full menu of issues that the Court is going to be taking up in the next few years.

Put simply, as Turley says, the picture Roberts's consistent writings over the years paint show him to be someone who is going get on superbly with fellow justices Scalia and Thomas.

The 2000 election was the most important -- and most fucked up -- election in this blogger's lifetime.

Even on a day when the news is horrifying here and in Iraq (and, yes, for the extent of both tragedies, I blame Bush's policies and actions directly), I have found something else to be depressed about!

If you're reading this and you happen to be anywhere near Ralph Nader right now, please slap him in the face, or if you prefer, kick him in the groin.

"Always look on the bright side of life"

Bush's economic advisor channels Mr. Frisbee.

"Clearly, it's going to affect the Gulf Coast economy quite a bit," Bernanke told CNBC television. "That's going to be enough to have at least a noticeable or at least some impact on the aggregate (national) data.

"Looking forward ... reconstruction is going to add jobs and growth to the economy," he added. "As long as we find that the energy impact is only temporary and there's not permanent damage to the infrastructure, my guess is that the effects on the overall economy will be fairly modest."

UPDATE: Fixed the link to Mr. Frisbee.

Down in the flood

This sweltering summer, the very thought of a mere power failure has been terrifying. What they are dealing with in New Orleans (as well as Mississippi) is nothing short of horrifying.

The scope of the catastrophe caught New Orleans by surprise. A certain sense of relief that was felt on Monday afternoon, after the eye of the storm swept east of the city, proved cruelly illusory, as the authorities and residents woke up Tuesday to a more horrifying result than had been anticipated. Mayor Ray Nagin lamented that while the city had dodged the worst-case scenario on Monday. Tuesday was "the second-worst-case scenario."

It was not the water from the sky but the water that broke through the city's protective barriers that changed everything for the worse. New Orleans, with a population of nearly 500,000, is protected from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain by levees. North of downtown, breaches in the levees sent the muddy waters of the lake pouring into the city.

UPDATE: Meant to include this link.

Fortunate Son

Chickenhawks. Ye shall know them by their works.

Heritage's Dana Dillon introduced Tierney by saying that "the discussion today does not oppose the antiwar movement per se or question the patriotism or loyalty or common sense of Americans on either side of the debate." But the blurb promoting the event on Heritage's Web site said of the movement: "At root, they are anti-American rather than anti-war."

The author said he has "grave, grave problems with the conduct of the operation in Iraq" and wouldn't want to see his 20-year-old son go there. But he said it is "automatic" that anybody who joins a protest by one of the offending groups is supporting communists.

Viat Atrios.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The drug wars and Sharia

If I'm reading this correctly, a drug warrior finally unveils (forgive the pun) the common cause the DEA has with the Taliban.

As Afghanistan staggers under a heroin trade that could end democracy, why not go to the heart of the problem and find common ground? Why not build on the absolute moral overlap between Sharia Law's opposition to heroin and our own moral opposition to drugs and drug-funded terrorism?

Remember, moral absolutists are the same all over the world.

Ah, life in the Middle Ages

The Vega is the very first to admit that deep knowlege on pretty much any scientific subject is completely foreign to him. And the Vega also knows that he's about ten steps ahead of the average American in understanding basic science; debates about Terri Schiavo's brain, Darwin's theory, and Bush's stem cells are certainly proof of that.

Even so, we are in some pretty deep shit here.

Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

At one time, this kind of ignorance may not have meant much for the nation's public life. Dr. Miller, who has delved into 18th-century records of New England town meetings, said that back then, it was enough "if you knew where the bridge should be built, if you knew where the fence should be built."

"Even if you could not read and write, and most New England residents could not read or write," he went on, "you could still be a pretty effective citizen."

No more. "Acid rain, nuclear power, infectious diseases - the world is a little different," he said. [emphasis added solely for effect]

The Enlightenment -- just a phase the West was going through.

"'Son' salutation"! Must every cultural nook and cranny be coopted by Jaysus?

The platform is an altar, the tinkly tune is praise music, and the practice is Christian yoga. Senarighi's class, called Yogadevotion and taught in the main chapel of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn., is part of a fast-growing movement that seeks to retool the 5,000-year-old practice of yoga to fit Christ's teachings. From Phoenix, Ariz., to Pittsburgh, Pa., from Grand Rapids, Mich., to New York City, hundreds of Christian yoga classes are in session. A national association of Christian yoga teachers was started in July, and a slew of books and videos are about to hit the market. But the very phrase stiffens yoga purists and some Christians--including a rather influential Catholic--who insist yoga cannot be separated from its Hindu roots.

Still, the boom, say its backers, is just beginning. Books on Christian yoga were published as early as 1962, but in recent years, as yoga has become as ubiquitous as Starbucks, more Christians have decided to start their own classes. Susan Bordenkircher, a Methodist from Daphne, Ala., is one. She discovered yoga in 2002. "I knew right away I was getting something out of it spiritually and physically, but it felt uncomfortable in that format," she says. So Bordenkircher prepared a vinyasa, or series of postures, with a biblical bent. Meditations focus on Jesus. She calls the sun salutation, a series of poses honoring the Hindu sun god, a "warm-up flow" instead; other Christians call it the "Son" salutation.

Next, they'll be taking the Jew-yness out of Kabbalah. The Buddha out of Zen. The meatballs out of Pastafaria.

Evangelical Christians are more and more comfortable with coopting other elements of society with their "faith." Evangelism now embraces capitalism. Now they want to coopt an ancient Hindu tradition and "Christian-ize" it. Doing this merely dilutes their religion, already pretty heavily diluted, for all the talk of wanting Jesus involved in every aspect of their lives.

Judy Miller's writer's cramp

Judy Miller would just love to write, but her hand gets so tired in jail.

The Times ran another pathetic defense of her/attack on Fitzgerald yesterday. Would that the Times -- Miller's employer -- demand she write a story, reporting on her role in Plamegate. There would be no reason to name sources. Just tell us why she thinks she's in jail.

As a paid subscriber to the Times, I feel it's my right to know.

Oh, how I wish I'd said that

Fox News conducts a "man on the street" during Katrina.

A little later in the day came an unscripted moment that Fox News' Shep Smith may remember for a while. Smith tried to conduct a "man on the street interview" (video clip) with a guy in New Orleans walking his two dogs in the middle of the storm. As you'll see, the interview didn't quite go the way Shep had likely hoped. The exchange:

Smith: You're live on Fox News Channel, what are you doing?

Man: Walking my dogs.

Smith: Why are you still here? I'm just curious.

Man: None of your fucking business.

Smith: Oh that was a good answer, wasn't it? That was live on international television. Thanks so much for that. You know we apologize ...

Fox anchor: Well, that's the attitude ...

Yep, Fox, that's the attitude that people whose cities are being subsumed by the Gulf of Mexico sometimes take.

In fairness to Smith, he later said he agreed, it wasn't any of his fucking business. Well, not in so many words.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"Touched by His Noodly Appendage"

FSM sighting
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
At long last the Vega can reveal his belief as a Pastafarian in The Flying Spaghetti Monster, creator of the universe as well as Chef Boyardee. We demand that the Kansas state school board teach this alternative to both evolution and Intelligent Design.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

Let me hear you say, Ramen!

Two dozen academics have endorsed the pasta god. Three members of the Kansas board who already opposed teaching intelligent design wrote kind letters to Mr. Henderson. Dozens of people have posted their sightings of the deity (along with some hilarious pictures). One woman even wrote in to say that she had "conceived the spirit of our Divine Lord," the Flying Spaghetti Monster, while eating alone at the Olive Garden.

"I heard singing, and tomato sauce rained from the sky, and I saw angel hair pasta flying about with little farfalle wings and playing harps," she wrote. "It was beautiful." The Spaghetti Monster, she went on, impregnated her and told her, "You shall name Him ... Prego ... and He shall bring in a new era of love."

Al dente love, we hope.

Bud Collins blasts "U.S. priorities"


76-year old tennis hall of fame inductee Bud Collins was just on "Mike and the Mad Dog" show on the local sports talk radio station. "Mad Dog" was asking him about Serena Williams (Bud was generally supportive of her and Venus's interest in things outside of tennis, but was disappointed they didn't want to remain champions), and then Dog (Chris Russo) brought up a report that Serena was wearing a pair of $40 thousand ear rings on the court at the U.S. Open this year. I wasn't listening all that closely, but Russo said something about wasting money on crazy things, and I think I heard Bud shoot back, "We're spending $6 billion a month on a crazy war." That blew past Chris, who replied, "I dunno, misplaced priorities, or something." And Bud's retort was (I know I heard this), "We're a nation of misplaced priorities."

Bud must be French, or somethin'.


Abu Ghraib --- the spa

Shorter Chris Hitchens: Abu Ghraib is better now than under Saddam.

LET ME BEGIN WITH A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?

Hitchens continues his war against various strawmen. It really no longer matters whether we were "right" to invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a chafing sore in the region. Iraqis of most stripes were suffering under him. Those really aren't the issues.

The issue then -- in 2002/3 -- was not whether Saddam Hussein was a bad man. The issue then -- and what has been borne out with an efficiency remarkable for the Bush administration -- was whether the crew in charge of the planning and implementation of the invasion could actually pull it off.

And what cost failure?

As usual, Digby is thinking -- and writing more eloquently -- along similar lines, as he takes to task the "liberal hawks" who now find themselves "surprised" at the mendacity and incompetence of the Bush administration. The mendacity and incompetence of that crew were on stage as early as the Republican primaries in 2000, on into the stolen election, followed by the immediate disavowal of any and all campaign promises that had been delivered with a wink and a grin as their campaign contributors nodded approvingly.

As for Hitchens, he sees the failure not as some real-world issue of blown-up Humvees, lack of electricity in Baghdad, raw sewage in the street, warlords forming militias throughout the "country." No, the failure is that the Bush administration, so deserving of admiration for boldly entering Iraq without a plan, is simply unable to voice why it's such a good thing for having done so.

Now, I enjoy a good drink now and then, but unlike Hitchens, I usually avoid making abstract policy recommendations when deep, deep in my cups. But the seriousness of this can't be ignored. Hitchens lumps all who opposed the war into a single vessel. We are all defeatists. Those of us who opposed the war, not because we felt Iraq should be ignored, or that we supported the Hussein regime, or that we felt American force can never be justified, but rather because we saw an administration hell-bent on invading a country and depending on faith-based post war plans. In Hitchens's depraved view, we were all wrong then because, dammit, Hussein had to be (in Pat Robertson's glorious words) "taken out." No matter the practical consequences of, you know, the actual invasion and occupation. By doing so he provides intellectual support to an administration that otherwise has no use for intellectual arguments. And in referring to the "sob-sister Cindy Sheehan circus" he unmasks himself as a proxy warrior for them. And a particularly shameful one at that.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Protect your intellectual solar plexus

Poor draft-age, war supportin' conservatives. It's dangerous to be on the front lines in the war against supporters of Cindy Sheehan. Sometimes they run the risk of getting fragged by friendly fire.

In one heated moment, members of the pro-Bush crowd turned on what they mistakenly thought were a group of anti-war protesters, cursing them, threatening them and tearing down their signs. A police officer rushed the group to safety.

The General is concerned about the status of Protest Warrior in light of such humiliation.

The oil stain

Shorter David Brooks: The path to victory is "blindingly obvious."


Trouble is, the strategy laid out would require decades to establish any thing resembling security in Iraq.

And I'm wondering about the wisdom of using these words to describe the strategy.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

An oil stain? I thought all of this wasn't about the fossil fuels.

How about a wine stain spreading across a shirt? Naw. That might offend the abstinent occupied.

An ink stain? Too psychological.

I got it. A blood stain spreading across the pavement. Has the unimpeachable advantage of being an accurate description of the situation.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Brent Bozell: Soulless geek

I guess BeeBee wasn't invited to the party.

How perfect this event was to demonstrate how Hollywood and much of modern popular culture has been devoted not to lifting men up but dragging them down into a fuzzy world of addiction and self-absorption, and ultimately self-pity. The libertine elite at Woody Creek came to celebrate a man whose creed wasn't about loving or giving or helping or holiness: "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

All of Bozell's insecurities are on display. His lack of talent. His fear of being irrelevant. His fear of dying alone, forgotten as little more than a creepy little nerd (I mean, what is with that beard?) who hates to see others enjoying life and celebrating the raucous, innate weirdness of the last parts of America not paved over for a Wal*Mart.

It is said of liberals, that we are too PC for anyone to like us; we nag America; we don't want to see others have a little fun with their guns and NASCAR.

Well, this liberal says, "America, have at it with the guns, the cars, the gawking at the buildings when you visit New York City."

But turnabout's fair play.

It's not liberals who want the world to conform to some weird utopia Beaver Cleaver wouldn't even recognize. It's types like Brent Bozell who see every celebration of difference as an attack on their moral purity which must be stamped out. In his view, Hunter S. Thompson should have been buried in Potters Field, a suicide who should be cast out of the community like a plague-carrier, his books burned.

It makes him gag with indignation that Hollywood had the moral turpitude to dedicate two, count 'em, two movies about this drug endorsing "writer."

In other words -- and I've thought long and hard about this, studying the problem from a variety of angles -- Brent Bozell is a diiiiiiick.

Via Amanda Marcotte.

FoxNews: "We report. You swallow."

George W. Bush's America:

In what Fox News officials concede was a mistake, John Loftus, a former U.S. prosecutor, gave out the address Aug. 7, saying it was the home of a Middle Eastern man, Iyad K. Hilal, who was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London.

Hilal, whom Loftus identified by name during the broadcast, moved out of the house about three years ago. But the consequences were immediate for the Voricks.

Satellite photos of the house and directions to the residence were posted online. The Voricks told police, who arranged for the content to be taken down. Someone even removed the street sign where the Voricks live to provide some protection.

Still, it has not been easy.

A driver yelled a profanity at the family and called them terrorists as they barbecued on their patio Aug. 14. Some drivers have stopped and photographed the house, Randy Vorick said.

Last weekend, someone spray-painted "Terrist" on their home. Police, who have regularly patrolled their house since the day after the broadcast, now station a squad car across the street.

I hope Rupert Murdoch is paying for that extra police protection. And I hope the malignant John Loftus is being charged for incitement to commit violence, or some such charge. And I hope the knuckle scraping scum who write "Terrist" on people's homes, well, this is a family blog. I'll let the Rude Pundit have at it.

Mail bag, or, Giblets the Resplendent

The Vega, in an effort to clear up unwanted confusion in the universe and with the help of the lovely and vivacious Madame Cura, writes,

Dear King,

I am often accosted in parking lots. Sometimes it's because people want to ask me "who is this jibbly" mentioned prominently in the role as my co-pilot on a bumper sticker my bumper is sporting. Between gasps, I explain "it's GIBLETS and it's a website" but this seems lame, even to me. What should I say? Your guidance sir, would be most appreciated. I look forward to your reply,

Until then, I remain, yours sincerely,

the Vegacura

Well, it took a few days, but the Resplendent one replies,

You mean to tell Giblets that you have met fooly fools who are COMPLETELY IGNORANT OF GIBLETS? This is not possible! You must educate them immediately; their brains are most likely infested with hungry brain bugs which could spread to unsuspecting smart people if left unchecked.

Do AT LEAST one or all (preferably all) of the following:

1. Say "Giblets is my Lord and Savior, would you like to see this illustrated pamphlet," then punch them in the head until they bow before Giblets.

2. Say "Giblets is my supreme ruler, god-king, and spiritual advisor, would you care to purchase a dashboard figurine," then punch them in the head until they bow before Giblets.

3. Say "Giblets is everywhere - in our homes, in the flowering of the seasons, in our hearts. Giblets is inside all of us - right here." (tap your chest when you say right here) Look upward in a moment of silent contemplation. Then punch them in the head until they bow before Giblets.

Giblets the Resplendent

PS. Giblets refuses to apologize for the lateness of this reply, as he was out hunting the great white whale that stole his delicious Lucky Charms cereal.

Protesting against the troops! They hate the troops!

So it begins. Behold the birth of a wingnut meme I'm sure we'll be hearing more and more about.

Via Attaturk (of whom I recommend his lively essay, "Devolution of the smirk").

Iraq is hard

Harder, in fact, than Vietnam, if you listen to the "Beltway consensus." Specifically, the consensus is that it was no big deal when we pulled out of Vietnam, but that setting a timetable in Iraq would be premature and pulling the troops out would have deadly consequences for us in the future.

As Kevin Drum writes, however, the decision to pull out of Vietnam was expected to have enormous consequences. The fact that those consequences (dominos falling all the way to Seattle) didn't happen, didn't lessen the fears at the time.

In other words, Vietnam looked exactly as hard back then as Iraq does now. In Iraq we have an insurgency we don't know how to beat (check); we're afraid that if the insurgency wins it will spread to other countries (check); and we're afraid that if we leave we'll look spineless (check).

Those fears turned out to be exaggerated 30 years ago, and they'll probably turn out to be exaggerated again. We just need to be clear-eyed enough to admit to ourselves that today's problems aren't really all that different from yesterday's. They only seem that way.

The Beltway consensus is fond of saying that all Democrats do is whine; they produce no alternatives. Well, Feingold, by making a serious proposal to end the otherwise endless disaster that is our tenuous occupation of Iraq, is offering just such an alternative.

As Digby pointed out the other day, Democrats do need to propose alternatives in Iraq. But they're not, other than Feingold. Afraid to look soft on terrorism, they've played into Bush/Rove hands by actually putting a seal of approval on our continued presence in a losing battle and a war that is making us weaker. By the day. And the time to try to look even tougher than Bush on Iraq is long past. Arguing that we need more troops, not plans to pull troops out, is absurd. We don't have the boots, let alone the body armour.

I do not believe there is anything the national Democrats can do to change this policy. We have to change the government. Therefore, I think it's in their best interests to begin to define what winning and losing means before the Republicans do. In an e-mail exchange on this subject, reader Charles Saeger suggested:


"We cannot win the war in Iraq and staying could rouse terrorist sentiment against us"


"The Republicans lost the war in Iraq and our continued presence is rousing terrorist sentiment against us."

I happen to think this has the benefit of being true. The Bush administration lost the war before it began because it was unwinnable as a purely American/British venture. He didn't mishandle it. He didn't misjudge. He lost it.

I know it's unpalatable to use their frame, but I think it's pretty ingrained in the American psyche. We are the ultimate "win-lose" culture. Because of that I believe it is in our political interest and the country's security interests to frame this as a Republican loss. Terrorism is still a threat. Nukes in the hands of bad actors are a very, very serious threat. We are economically and militarily weakened by Bush's response to 9/11.

The Republicans lost Iraq. Like Lincoln when he replaced McClellan, the voters of the United States need to replace the Republicans if we want to "win" the war on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

I don't envy the Democratic leadership. They have to balance a mattress on a bottle of wine. They need to argue that Bush has lost this battle in the larger "war on terror" without tacitly expressing that what will soon be 2,000 young American lives were a complete and utter waste. But the battle has been lost, and being afraid to point that out isn't positioning them too well with a public that largely believes, now, that, yes, the battle has been lost.

If Democrats are going to continue to be traumatized by 1972 then they are no longer any more relevant as a national party than are the Whigs.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Now they hate Abe Lincoln?

Spending waaaay too much time at World o' Crap's brilliant site, but happenened to come across this tidbit of wingnuttery, as the "hottest young conservative writers on the internets" try to explain away their chickenhawkery.

Ben's words were a little more law schoolery-like:

The Constitution provides that civilians control the military. The president of the United States is commander-in-chief, whether or not he has served in the military. Congress controls the purse strings and declares war, no matter whether any of its members have served in the military or not. For foreign policy doves to high-handedly declare that military service is a prerequisite to a hawkish foreign policy mindset is not only dangerous, but directly conflicts with the Constitution itself.

Back to Jack:

Aside from decimating the entire idea of civilian control over the military, this concept would have precluded some rather important figures in American history from serving their country--President Lincoln, for example, would rank among the moral pygmies without the authority to support a war.

Oddly enough, VBen also mentioned Lincoln:

By the leftist logic, here are some other "chickenhawks": John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton.[emphasis, you know]

Hmmm. Abe Lincoln. Draft dodger?

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest."

Oddly, Lincoln as a Congressman, said of President Polk's little war of choice, the Mexican-American War -- which he opposed -- that the war was Polk's desire for "military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood."

Pat Boone: "Vengeance is mine."

It turns out Pat Boone is still angry at those dirty hippies who turned on, dropped out, and stopped listening to him, oh, 45 years ago, thus killing the career of the guy who very nearly killed rock 'n roll in its crib.

"This lady and the groups that have been demonstrating in front of the president's ranch in Crawford and following him around are the very same people that were the dropout, turn-on, anti-war peace activists back [in the Vietnam War era]," Boone said.

As lazy and stupid as their editorial writers

Another argument for the Estate Tax.

Presenting the Bancroft family, owners of the Dow Jones Co. which publishes the Wall Street Journal.

"The fact that we own the Wall Street Journal," a family member told me some years ago, "is the only thing that keeps us rom being just another rich family."

That is pathetic. They accept the poor perfomance of the company and refuse to sell because that would take away their identity as media tycoons.

Texas, just like Iraq

In his remarks, Bush noted that he is one of 19 presidents who have served in the National Guard -- in Bush's case, as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War era. That tenure, and questions over whether Bush met his responsibilities, erupted in Bush's reelection effort last year.

I don't know what I fear most: that the sitting president is fucking insane, or that there are still some out there (mostly in Idaho, I understand) who still hysterically support everything he says or does.

Locals lined up before dawn to get some of the leftover tickets for the speech, and they gave the president more than a dozen standing ovations during his 43-minute speech. Jill Blue, whose brother Marty is serving in the Air Force, said she was reassured by Bush's words. "I'm glad that he's seeing out the job. I liked what he said about honoring the people who have died by not pulling out. It was a good comment."

Meanwhile, in Freeperland, they're now calling for Senator Hagel's "head on a pike."

With the President's approval rating at a Nixonian 36% with the Republicans pubicly debating both sides of the nation's core issue, the "war is over but Bush doesn't know it" theme continue to grow rapidly -- almost as rapidly as the rabid responses of the increasingly crazed Bush supporters. This small group is virtually parallel to the membership of FreeRepublic, where one poster called for Hagel's head on a pike and enjoined: "Let's pray for President George W. Bush, the Greatest War-Time President in American History." Not only does that do a terrible disservice to the memory of James Polk, but it places the mob mentality of the right squarely in the public eye: your [sic] with us, or the guillotine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Protecting the home of lovable loserdom

Sure they won last year, but Fenway remains a monument to nearly a century's worth of failure.

So why not make it a landmark?

The Red Sox are in the midst of a decade-long, $200 million renovation of Fenway. Built in 1912, it is Major League Baseball's oldest and smallest stadium.

Smith could not put a dollar figure on the rehabilitation tax credit, which is designed to give property owners an incentive to save historic structures.

However, according to the Park Service's Web site, the rehabilitation tax credit "equals 20 percent of the amount spent in a certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure."

So, taxpayers from around This Great Land of Ours will be coughing up $40 million semolians so that Red Sox ownership can make more money from a rehabilitated food court and luxury boxes atop The Green Monster?

Another reason to hate the Red Sox.

But I love this graf from the story.

According to the federal government's list of National Historic Landmarks, the only other Major League stadiums considered for landmark status were Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, both in Chicago. The process was never completed for either stadium, and Comiskey has since has been torn down.

Comiskey went from landmark status to a parking lot in a blink of an eye? The White "best record in the American League" Sox may be doing something similar this year.

Deaf and dumb

A Vet
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
That dad-burned liberul media in the U.S. refuses to show this photo of a Vet honoring our preznit. Had to find it in one of them Canadian papers.

Via Wonkette.

Morally hazardous

Malcome Gladwell has an important article at the New Yorker this week, on the sheer insanity of our healthcare system. A system that is getting ever more insane.

He wonders why a system in which the U.S. is at the bottom ranking among Western industrialized nations in most categories of health and health -- while spending billions more -- is so resistant, politically, to change.

Gladwell argues that this is not simply because the big insurance companies spend billions to keep politicians in their back pocket and Americans blissfully ignorant as to how bad the system is. It's also because of an idea. "Moral hazard."

Policy is driven by more than politics, however. It is equally driven by ideas, and in the past few decades a particular idea has taken hold among prominent American economists which has also been a powerful impediment to the expansion of health insurance. The idea is known as “moral hazard.” Health economists in other Western nations do not share this obsession. Nor do most Americans. But moral hazard has profoundly shaped the way think tanks formulate policy and the way experts argue and the way health insurers structure their plans and the way legislation and regulations have been written. The health-care mess isn’t merely the unintentional result of political dysfunction, in other words. It is also the deliberate consequence of the way in which American policymakers have come to think about insurance.

"Moral hazard" is a term economists use to describe the idea that when people have to pay for something, they'll use it more efficiently. That's true for a lot of consumer goods, but people with health insurance aren't more eager to go to the doctor than people without insurance. They're just more likely to go when they fall ill.

Trouble is, that misplaced idea is the foundation of our healthcare system, and of the Bush administration's recent plans.

At the center of the Bush Administration’s plan to address the health-insurance mess are Health Savings Accounts, and Health Savings Accounts are exactly what you would come up with if you were concerned, above all else, with minimizing moral hazard. The logic behind them was laid out in the 2004 Economic Report of the President. Americans, the report argues, have too much health insurance: typical plans cover things that they shouldn’t, creating the problem of overconsumption. Several paragraphs are then devoted to explaining the theory of moral hazard. The report turns to the subject of the uninsured, concluding that they fall into several groups. Some are foreigners who may be covered by their countries of origin. Some are people who could be covered by Medicaid but aren’t or aren’t admitting that they are. Finally, a large number “remain uninsured as a matter of choice.” The report continues, “Researchers believe that as many as one-quarter of those without health insurance had coverage available through an employer but declined the coverage. . . . Still others may remain uninsured because they are young and healthy and do not see the need for insurance.” In other words, those with health insurance are overinsured and their behavior is distorted by moral hazard. Those without health insurance use their own money to make decisions about insurance based on an assessment of their needs. The insured are wasteful. The uninsured are prudent. So what’s the solution? Make the insured a little bit more like the uninsured.

Quothe Brad DeLong, "Why, oh why, are we ruled by these idiots."

Oh, yeah. Like Willie Stark says in All the King's Men, it's because we are all hicks and morons, easily taken in by our rulers.

Anyway, makes for fascinating reading. And Malcolm Gladwell is, as usual, engaging. But don't try to read it while eating a roast beef and carmelized onion sandwich on focaccia bread. I can say that from bad experience.

There, I've done it. I've done a blog post on what I had for lunch. I now feel like one of the initiated.

Fine, as long as the yellow ribbon don't scratch the paint

Admittedly, I haven't seen the show, and maybe "Over There's" rating drop-off has to do with the quality of the show. After all, Americans are extremely picky when it comes to their popular entertainment. But this is a very stark drop off.

"Over There" has received its share of favorable reviews. But after a brisk start - the series garnered 4.1 million viewers for its first show, making it the most watched cable program on the night it ran - it then lost almost half its audience in the second week, dropping to 2.6 million viewers. In the third week, it managed to find a plateau, and then last week, "Over There" had just a 2 share, suggesting that there is not much momentum building over all. So far, the show has had a 2.4 rating average, which is far from a hit, but it bettered the average performance of the critically acclaimed "Rescue Me" in the same time slot last year.

Even when the war is delivered straight to their living rooms, most Americans just don't want to watch. The war has already been sanitized by the TV Networks, FoxNews, etc., so that we never see the horrific images. We are not permitted to see the coffins of troops. Bush never attends a single funeral, nor are funerals of the war dead shown on TV.

Other officers wondered why the American public was never asked to share in their grief, why the President never attended the funerals of the fallen. One general, who had presided over 162 memorial services in Iraq, told me how it worked: "There's no coffin, just the inverted rifle, boots and helmet of the fallen. We call the roll, up to the name of the missing trooper. We call his name: Specialist Doe.

Then a second time: Specialist John Doe. A third time: Specialist John R. Doe. And then taps is played. It really gets to you. It's an important emotional experience for the troops. It closes the door and enables you to move on."

And I'm not even talking about the horrific price Iraqis have paid; we certainly don't want to get into that.

But why should we care? Once Bush's original case for where went missing, once the initial fireworks show was over, the war lost its...pizzazz. The Cheney administration was effective in linking Iraq to 9/11, but, like the flag bumper stickers hastily applied way back then, the sharper edges of that memory are fading. Bush continues to flog it, is doing so with obvious frustration this week, but it's getting harder to fool people pissed off that it takes fifty bucks to fill the SUV's tank. And now he's finally admitted that we can't leave Iraq because to do so would make the loss of nearly 2,000 American lives meaningless.

Still, as a counterpoint to Ms. Sheehan's demand for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq, Mr. Bush said, "We'll honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists."

When leaders start talking like that, it's a sure sign that even they know the cause is lost and the war continues only as a way to avoid admitting defeat.

The irony is that the Cheney administration knowingly used smoke and mirrors to rally support for the war, but once the war started preferred that Americans not think too much about it, and certainly not sacrifice for it. The trouble with that strategy is that with so few Americans having any skin in this game, they quickly got bored with it. That's why support has dropped off a cliff. It seems to me it's less about Cindy Sheehan -- as much as I'd like to think that grieving mother is forcing a national debate -- as it is about an American public that, when it thinks about Iraq at all, says to itself, "Is that mess still going on?"

Just as the Cheney and Rumsfeld clowns botched planning for the war and its aftermath, they forgot that you can't just market the launch of the product, you have to continue to sell it as well, or it quickly loses shelf space. And just as soldiers and their families are paying the price for the screwed up military and social planning in Iraq, they'll be paying for the screwed up marketing as well, with a public that will avert their eyes at the site of the prosthetic leg, and avert budget money from Veterans' programs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Streetcar visions"

So I'm standing against a door on the #6 train, and around 28th St., after "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" had just finished blasting, evidently, out of my ears, the kid standing next to me -- barely old enough to shave -- nudges me with his elbow and asks, "Live 1966?" I smile, and reply, "No, but close. Blonde on Blonde."

Da yout a today, there may be hope for em afterall.

Who would Jesus kill?

Hugo Chavez, apparently.

August 23,2005 | VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

It's scary to think how many Amurikans get their news and world view from watching the 700 Club. I'm not a viewer myself, so I am baffled as to how the subject of assassinating populist leaders comes up. Nevertheless, the quote is interesting in exposing just how frustrated the Right is with the war in Iraq. And with Dear Leader's conduct of it. "$200 billion war," indeed. Why didn't we just send in a ccovert team (why's Valerie Plame sitting on her ass in Langley, anyway?) and strangle Hussein?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Not that there's anything wrong with that

But John Roberts...definitely gay.

I got no problem with it, but it seems to have had an effect on others' "Little Generals." JUSTICE. SUUUUNDAY. TWOOOOOO. was full of red meat, but they seemed to have avoided the elephant in the room -- ya know, the actual nominee -- for...Chris Hitchens?!

The event reached its climax when William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights stomped onstage determined to deliver the evening's most bombastic attack line. Donohue was going to tell the crowd exactly who their enemy was, in no uncertain terms. He was going to name names. And so, in booming basso profundo, Donohue denounced "the atheist, anti-Catholic bigot" Christopher Hitchens. His salvo was greeted with befuddled silence. If there were a name with which the country-music-capital crowd had less familiarity, Donohue couldn't conjure it. For all they knew, if they knew anything about Hitchens, the neoconservative ex-Trotskyite bibulous Brit author of Letters to a Young Contrarian had produced a how-to manual in the style of James Dobson's "Dare to Discipline" for Christian parents to give to a naughty teenager evading an abstinence program.

Unfazed by the utter silence greeting his startling exorcism of the demon Hitchens, Donohue trundled ahead like a performance artist at the Greenwich Village Cafe Wha?. He declared that he studied under "the NYU Marxist Sidney Hook," evoking further deep bafflement in the crowd (NY Who?), then proposed "grief counselors" for liberals and finally posed a rhetorical question: "You remember that Bob Dylan song?" With that, the packed Baptist church turned into a Quaker meeting. It appeared that the Christian militants didn't recall "The Times, They Are A-Changin'." Maybe Donohue should have tried something from Dylan's early country phase, like "Lay, Lady, Lay."

Meanwhile, Zell Miller proved again that he's off his meds. "They've taken Jesus' halo." You can't make that up.

And Chuck Colsen, who found Jesus' halo in prison shortly after his first encounter with a bunkmate named "Tiny," intones

"The same people who supported King are against us," he said. That appeal to antipathy drew one of the few bursts of spontaneous applause of the evening.

Ignoring the obvious race-baiting, one can only reply, "Um, yeah, those same people who led the fight for civil rights are against nominees dead set at overturning civil rights, you Bible thumping idiot."

But still, no John Roberts.

Indeed, Justice Sunday II was about a lot of things -- still-simmering resentment against the civil rights movement, for example -- but it was hardly about John Roberts. As Donohue declared, "We need to go beyond Roberts."

Roberts's smiling visage was flashed on the church's big screen, but he didn't garner a ringing endorsement from Justice Sunday II's most prominent personality, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. "It looks like John Roberts is, and we think so, a strict constructionist," Dobson said during a videotaped appearance. "For now, at least, he looks good." Gone were the senators' phone numbers flashed across the screen during Justice Sunday I. Emcee Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was not urging viewers to dial their Congressman, as he did before. Justice Sunday II's planners pointedly neglected to present a giant-size portrait of Roberts beside the dais, as they did for each of Bush's stalled federal judiciary picks two months ago. Somewhere between his nomination and Justice Sunday II, John Roberts had become the redheaded stepchild in the Christian right's basement.

They wanna like Roberts. Preznit says he's looked in his heart and he's a good man. Family man. But there's something about him...Romer. Grrr.

But what I want my Congressman to ask John Roberts, what touch is he going to add to his robe?

Limbaugh, Rush

Rush Limbaugh is a fat, pompous, OxyContin addicted, housecleaner abusing serial liar.

But according to Keith Olberman the creep occassionally does say things that are so egregious and over the top that he must hide from his own words.

Things like

“But the longer the Sheehan thing goes on and the longer she's treated as some sort of super-celebrity by the press and the more outrageous things she says, trust me on this, the more people are going to get fed up with it. She's going to become the next Natalee Holloway before it's all said and done.”

What does that mean? She's going to be disappeared in Aruba?

Of course, in the same rambling, drug-fueled broadcast he implied that Cindy Sheehan's grief isn't "real." Either that, or her son's death wasn't "real." I'm not sure.

Cindy Sheehan has become an ink blot for the pundidiots. They can apply all of their weird obsessions, fears, and freakish desires to her quiet protest. It must be an interesting procedure to turn their brains inside out to slime a grieving Gold Star mother while falling silent as people desecrate flags. I just hope the procedure is very physically painful for them.

Via Attaturk.

Reviving another great Southern tradition

In the psychosis of the right, conservatives are victims and liberals mysteriously control all the levers of government. The guy over at Southern Apartheid has this to say.

John Fund has a great article in the WSJ on liberals' use of racial scare-tactics and "victimization" in order to try to maintain their power. It is hard to believe that these people can actually stand for the proposition that a particular people group -- identified primarily by their skin color -- simply cannot handle obtaining a free ID to vote. This type of not-so-subtle racism would have Douglass, Washington (Booker T., that is), and many other real civil rights leaders spinning in their graves. And if I -- a white male -- made such a statement, I would be quickly and appropriately put down as a racist.

I saw much of this rhetoric as an attorney with the Bush team stationed in Tampa.

Yes, we liberals must use blacks' inherent low self-esteem to cynically maintain our iron grip on power.

Indeed, "real" civil rights leaders -- as opposed to minority politicians in Georgia who think of their constituents as just so many pickaninnies -- are spinning in their graves over this issue.

The facts surrounding Georgia's voter identification requirement cannot be disputed. Virtually every black legislator opposes the legislation, and most black lawmakers staged a walkout to protest its passage. Every major civil rights and minority advocacy group, including the NAACP, and many legal scholars, oppose the restriction; several have submitted comments to the Justice Department for consideration.

Additionally, it is surprisingly difficult to obtain a photo ID in Georgia. Though the state has 159 counties, there are only 56 places in which residents can obtain a driver's license, and not one is within the city limits of Atlanta or within the six counties that have the highest percentage of blacks.

There is also considerable evidence that photo ID requirements have a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities. The Justice Department found as recently as a decade ago that blacks in Louisiana were four to five times less likely than whites to have photo IDs.

Studies in other states indicate similar disparities. Consequently, the Michigan attorney general deemed a less restrictive voter identification bill unconstitutional, and the Federal Election Commission reported that photo identification requirements impose an undue and potentially discriminatory burden on citizens exercising their right to vote. Indeed, the Justice Department rejected a less restrictive Louisiana law in 1994 and 1995.

The law's proponents claim that it will help protect against voter fraud, but there appears to be no evidence to support this claim. Georgians already have to show one of 17 forms of ID to prove that they are who they say they are when they vote. Georgia's chief elections official, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, has said that not one instance of voter fraud relating to impersonation at the polls has been documented during her tenure.

Furthermore, while purporting to combat fraud, the Georgia law expressly excludes absentee ballots from the ID requirement. While all the evidence indicates that minorities are far less likely to vote absentee than whites, absentee balloting is the only form of voting in which there is documented fraud in Georgia. The exclusion of absentee ballots from the identification requirement raises serious questions about whether the anti-fraud justification for the law is purely pretextual.

As another sign of liberals' vast conspiracy to turn the Supreme Court into a ecstacy-soaked rave party, let's turn to our favortie gay judge, John Roberts, and his views on these types of cases.

The weird turn pro

HST Monument
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Bon voyage, Dr. Thompson.

The silky red dressing around the monument slowly unpeeled itself, revealing a rocket-like structure embedded with a dagger. It was crowned by Mr. Thompson's logo, a two-and-a-half-ton red fist with two thumbs and a psychedelic peyote button pulsating at its center, a Day-Glo sight visible for miles around.

Talking business?

A perfect day, talkin' a little bizniss.

"I'm going to have lunch with Secretary of State Rice, talk a little business; Mrs. Bush, talk a little business; we've got a friend from South Texas here, named Katharine Armstrong; take a little nap. I'm reading an Elmore Leonard book right now, knock off a little Elmore Leonard this afternoon; go fishing with my man, Barney; a light dinner and head to the ballgame. I get to bed about 9:30 p.m., wake up about 5 a.m. So it's a perfect day."

Wow. Commander Codpiece must be using industrial-strength "resolute male enhancement" drugs to be talkin' that much business, back to back, so to speak.

In any case, I think it's official, Dear Leader has successfully erected The Green Zone of His Mind.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

So, what do you call the act?

Finally saw "The Aristocrats." Hilarious. It's got something for the whole family, believe you me.

Sarah Silverman is worth the price of admission.

Liberating Iraqis from their rights

James Wolcott watches Press the Meat so we don't have to.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, discussing the forthcoming Iraqi constitution on Meet the Press, August 21: "Women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there, I think they will be there, but I think we need to keep this perspective."

So those who think this war isn't worth fighting are shameful because of their craven indifference to women's rights while one of the leading neocon architects of the very war that Simon champions--and not just any architect, but a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Director of the Middle East Initiative for the Project for the New American Century--isn't that concerned that a new Iraq constitution might roll back and restrict women's freedoms, subjecting them to Islamic law.

His exact words to MTP guest host David Gregory were, "Actually, I'm not terribly worried about this."


As Digby notes, women have had equal rights in Iraq for 40 years, and religious freedom was, at least tolerated, even under the evil dictator.

At the cost of thousands of lives, hundreds of millions of dollars, and our credibility, we have created the ripe atmosphere for either a failed state that will make Afghanistan look like Euro Disney, or an Islamic state similar to our ally, Iran.

Scientists? Why would we listen to scientists?

What a remarkable piece of reporting. The liberal, rational New York Times has a story chronicling the rise and success of the Discovery Institute and the effort to make creationism credible in the form of "Intelligent Design." The story begins on page one and continues on a full page inside. Thousands of words. We hear from pro-ID historians, philosphers, Republicans, preznit, someone with a background in mathematics, but guess what, not a single biologist is quoted. Criticism of ID is mentioned, but reporter Jodi Wilgoren couldn't find a single biologist who would go on the record? I realize the story is about the building of a political movement, but that still seems egregious to me.

Wait. What was that reporter's name? Oh yeah, that reporter. Right, Jodi Wilgoren is always so rigorous.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Neil Young at The Grand Ol' Opry

Good to see he's feeling pretty good, and was able to keep going at it in the studio, despite the aneurysm.

NASHVILLE, Aug. 19 - A lanky man in an antique-style pewter-gray suit and a gaucho hat stood onstage Thursday night at Ryman Auditorium, the hallowed country-music landmark that was the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry. An old-fashioned painted backdrop was behind him; an old guitar was in his hands.

The guitar, he told the audience, had belonged to Hank Williams, who was fired from the Grand Ole Opry in 1952. Neil Young, the man holding the guitar, said he was happy that Williams's guitar was returning to the Ryman stage. And then he sang "This Old Guitar," a quietly touching song from his coming album, "Prairie Wind," that observes, "This old guitar ain't mine to keep/ It's mine to play for a while."

Thursday night Mr. Young began a two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium that was a tangle of new and old, of remembrance and reinvention. With him were more than two dozen musicians: a band, backup singers (including his wife, Pegi), a horn section, a string section, the Fisk University Jubilee Singers and Emmylou Harris. They were assembled for what would be the only performances of all the songs on "Prairie Wind" (Reprise), due for release on Sept. 20.

The musicians were costumed like old-time country performers, in suits and modest coordinated dresses, but they weren't playing old-time country music. A film crew directed by Jonathan Demme, who made the Talking Heads concert film "Stop Making Sense" as well as "The Silence of the Lambs," was shooting for a documentary scheduled for a February release.

A day before the concerts, Mr. Young took a break for an interview between rehearsals that had been running 12 hours a day. "We're doing 10 songs with 20, sometimes 30, musicians on them," he said. "I pick musicians who are in the moment, and when you get guys who are in the moment to try and recreate some other moment, that's a hell of a lot of work to do. They can't even remember what they played."

I guess it's not surprising after all this time to see how much Neil and Bob Dylan mirror each other's career and sensibility. At least their fashion sense.

I sure am glad they're both still creating and performing. Remarkable, really.

Another goal met in Irq

Why are we in Iraq?

Weapons of mass destruction?


Creating a source of stability in the region.


A liberal democracy in the mideast.


We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

Washington, with 140,000 troops still in Iraq, has insisted Iraqis are free to govern themselves but made clear it will not approve the kind of clerical rule seen in Shi'ite Iran, a state President Bush describes as "evil."

Isn't one of the goals of the Islamofascists to impose Islamic law? What will Christopher Hitchens say?

The friendly skies

On the Fox broadcast of the Yankees game in Chicago, they just showed a shot, taken from the Goodyear blimp, of what appeared to be a commercial jet liner being escorted by two jet fighters. The announcers did not mention anything. I haven't seen anything on Yahoo News. Strange.

UPDATE: A review of the TiVo record shows it looks like a refueling plane, not a passenger plane.

The so-called liberal media: Richard Cohen edition

This column still leaves me speechless, but I remember confronting the sentiment at the time. Worse, I remember the sentiment about Bush growing immediately after the attacks of September 2001. That Bush was the better man for the job "at this time."

Those sentiments were wrong at the time, they've been all but proven so, and we still haven't heard any corrections. Those sentiments just bolstered Bush's messianic self-importance. Man of destiny. Bullshit. Reminds me of Intelligent Design.

And Ezra's right. You would never hear a conservative commenatator putting the knife into their candidate in a contested election.

The past isn't even past

Exactly so.

Economic populism does have an unfortunate history of teaming up with nativism and it looks like the Republicans and the Democrats are going to be racing to see who can get there first. Business always willingly puts up with a short term phony interruption in their cheap labor supply in order to feed the rubes, so no worries of a GOP crack-up on this one. The bigger question is whether the hispanic population is going to put up with the inevitable race baiting that underlies these periodic bash-fests. Whoever threads that needle the best is probably going to be the winner in the western swing states.

One problem with getting older is that you begin to see these pernicious patterns play out repeatedly within your own lifetime and it is profoundly depressing.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dark-Times in Chicago

Mark Schmitt watches the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times doing the perp walk and he draws some interesting connections in what he calls, "The Lattice of Coincidence."

Odd bedfellows

This is the guy they throw up against Elliot Spitzer?

Mr. Weld, a native New Yorker who is now an investment adviser in Manhattan, said he had been encouraged to run by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, an old friend, among others. Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, who worked for Mr. Weld in the 1990's, had also told him to consider running against Eliot Spitzer, the likely Democratic nominee, and the two men agreed that Mr. Spitzer was beatable, according to New York Republicans told about the exchange.

I have always been fond of Weld, but this has to be one of the strangest -- and lamest -- campaign launches of all time.

He's running at Karl Rove's suggestion, and he and the anonymice New York Republicans admit it?

Karl Rove's machinations do have boundaries. Pushing Pirro and Weld expose the limits of his powers.

And speaking of Weld, when did Karl Rove begin endorsing pot smokin', gay marriage supportin' politicians? Oh yeah. I forgot. It's about sheer numbers for Rove. Keeping a self-identified Republican in the governor's mansion in Albany.

Not actual, ya know, convictions.

Carefully burnishing our reputation

Before the presidency of George W. Bush, would a German court reject evidence provided by the U.S. on this basis?

The complex at times case strained Berlin's Washington ties as it tested how far the United States was willing to go in providing sensitive evidence to allies seeking to prosecute terror suspects.

It declined, on security grounds, to let the court question three captured al Qaeda prisoners being held at secret locations including a key member of the Hamburg cell, although it did hand over summaries of statements they had made under interrogation.

"The point is we would have liked to have questioned them ourselves," Schudt said in remarks critical of the U.S. stance.

He said the prisoners' statements did not constitute "sufficient proof in either direction" and there was no way for the court to check their veracity or to judge whether the information had been extracted under torture.

He called this "an unsatisfactory situation" and said it was no comfort that U.S. courts were in the same situation. [emphasis addd]

As the cool kids on the internets are fond of saying, "Just askin'."

Ripped off in Florida

Paul Krugman is positively shrill.

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Classify Iraq

I was just thinking earlier today that the real problem for the Cheney administration in Iraq is that it's all out there in the open. They and their colleagues on The Hill have pretty much screwed up everything they've laid their greedy, grasping hands on, but for the most part it's been done in relative secrecy. Whether it's coming up with energy plans developed by mysterious industry execs behind the closed doors of the White House, to forcing House members to vote on bills they've had no chance to even glance at, they've kept so much from the glare of the camera, allowing them to stage manage their abject failures as glorious successes.

Iraq, though, can't be kept under wraps. It's a huge, festering boil that, even though most reporters can't get out of Baghdad because of security fears, what little they get to see is horrendous enough. And even though they don't report on half of the slaughter that's occurring there, even though we are not permitted to view the carnage on the networks or on the pages of the major dailies, what little we see is bad enough.

Medium Lobster's been thinking along similar lines and says it's time to change all that.

The Keyboard Kommandos Present...Moore-dor

The Poor Man. Go there.

But come back soon. After you are able to again catch your breath.

Two years: Sergio Vieira de Mello

I may have my days wrong, the anniversary may have fallen yesterday or it may be tomorrow, I can't seem to pin down the exact date. But in any case it has now been two years since the gravity of the misadventure and the extent of the disater in Iraq became truly evident to all.

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello was among the 17 people who died in Tuesday's bombing of the organization's headquarters in Iraq.

Salim Lone, Vieira de Mello's spokesman in Iraq, told CNN that he had been with the U.N. diplomat two hours before he died.

"I grieve for him, I grieve for his family," Lone said. "I grieve most of all for people of Iraq."

That was the end of any hope for us in Iraq, and certainly the end of hope for the Iraqi people. It was a perfect snapshot of our horrendous occupation: a failure to plan properly, leading to a gaping security hole; the obliviousness of "The Green Zone" to anything outside the protected walls; the administration's refusal to work with the UN, in fact, its determination to undercut the UN's efforts at every turn; the advantage suicide bombers have in urban areas; the complete and determined self-destructiveness and nihilism of the insurgency.

When Viera de Mello died in the rubble, the full horror of what we'd unleashed became apparent. It was the moment it became clear that our troops, the Iraqi civilians, and the insurgents themselves would be locked in an embrace that none can now break, least of all the criminally foolish architects of this insane crusade.

A crusade that grows worse each month, despite all of the happy clapping and all of the "the media is distorting things" bullshit.

The Times goes slumming

I think it's an annual event. The Times sends some unlucky reporter down to Alphabet City to pen the usual summertime "bad heroin/outbreak of overdoses" stories. But geez, don't they have editors? On the front page of their New York Region section appears this headline:

For Addicts, Killer Dope Must Be Good Dope

Just below that,

Mix of Heroin and Cocaine Likely in 4 Deaths, Police Say

So, the lead story is about how some powerful new dope is the scourge of the heroin user community. But just below that is the story that indicates that the two young women who initially brought all this to the Times' attention died because of a mixture of drugs. Not a heroin overdose, and not "tainted" heroin.

The six victims were two 18-year-old college students who were found unconscious on Friday in an apartment on East Houston Street, a 24-year old hairdresser in the East Village, and three men who appeared to be homeless.

Evidence suggested that the two students, a man found dead in a portable toilet near Pier 54 on the West Side, and a man found dead at a storage center in SoHo, had all taken a combination of heroin and cocaine that is commonly called a speedball, the police said. The mixture can be injected, smoked or swallowed.

The evidence included drug residue, paraphernalia and urine taken from one of the students, who was at Cabrini Medical Center overnight before dying on Saturday.

The man found in the toilet appeared to have used a syringe to take the drugs and had a medical history that included one prior overdose, the police said.

The two students did not have any needle marks from drug use, the police said.

The police said they had not found any overdoses related to the six deaths in the area.

Jack Shafer has it exactly right.

Is there a minor league team in Salem, Mass?

Murray Chass continues to be one of the few sports columnists who points out the bloviating and the self-aggrandizement of politicians bearing the flaming torches of indignation as they tirelessly hunt down the mysterious steroid abusers.

They especially like to criticize baseball for its policy on performance-enhancing substances. Initially, they said baseball's testing program was ineffective because it had not caught any big-name players. Then the program snares Palmeiro, one of only four players in history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, and they say, "See, baseball has a problem and it's not doing enough to get rid of it."

Appearing on an ESPN program last week, Representative Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, said he thought chances were getting better that Congress would pass steroids-testing legislation that would apply to all sports "because of baseball's inability to police their own players."

McHenry did not spell out what he meant by baseball's inability to police its players. Efforts to find out were unsuccessful. His press secretary said McHenry would call me, but he has not.

Was he referring to Palmeiro, and that because he tested positive baseball wasn't properly policing its players? Was he referring to the number of major leaguers who have tested positive, a grand total of 8 out of about 1,000 players tested this season? That's fewer than 1 percent.

Chass is one of the smartest baseball observers around, but he seems unaware that Congress needs this issue. The Bush administration has led us to an unnecessary war through dissembling and downright lies. They have approved the use of torture by our military and intelligence agencies. A Republican Congress is fat on pork and self-aggrandizement. They intend to eliminate estate taxes on the inheritance of people like Paris Hilton. They are in thrall to their corporate bankrolls and to Tom DeLay. The Republican governor of Ohio has been indicted and calls to amend the Constitution to make way for an Arnie presidential bid have...well...abated.

Need I go on?

Since they can't control themselves, can't provide oversight on an administration that is out of control with arrogance and incompetence, they will force their will on those teddible baseball players who are robbing our children...our children, Mandrake...of their heroes. Nay, their very hopes and dreams. Baseball players aren't addicted to steroids, Tom Davis and Patrick McHenry are.

Next thing you know, they'll be conducting their own form of testing.

Ah, but let their shrill, hypocritical ravings thunder on. It's obviously having a powerful effect on major league baseball. The fans are staying away in droves. As the scribe was once reported to have said, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Crazy Chris Hitchens -- hysterical noncombatant

Hitchens has a manly little screed against big, bad Cindy Sheehan and makes the following observation.

What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it. Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media—not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August—are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself."

I'm not sure which idea is snide, that Dear Wartime Leader is "on vacation" (you can almost see Hitchens drunkenly gestering with air quotes even as he typed), or that the media is hypocritically taking Bush to task for going on vacation when they themselves are fond of August vacations.

But if it's the former, um Hitch, he is "on vacation." Said so himself.

Ah, yes. Such dreary sentimental nonsense. A mother grieving her son and wanting to know for what "noble cause" he died. The great mind of Christopher Hitchens can't be bothered with such misgivings. He knows the cause is right and just, and one of these days he'll explain how the cause to save the Iraqi people became a slaughterhouse for the Iraqi people, and what any of this has to do with his Great War Against Islamofascism. And why, indeed, should so much time and space be spent on people protesting the war? Christ, I knew that Clinton's failure to turn the U.S. into a socialist paradise had unhinged Hitchens, but who knew he'd become such an apologist for the Bush administration and its incompetence and vainglory.

And then there's this from the "drink soaked former Trotskyist popinjay,"

I distrust anyone who claims to speak for the fallen, and I distrust even more the hysterical noncombatants who exploit the grief of those who have to bury them.

I've heard Cindy Sheehan speak, and I can say with absolute authority that the hysterical noncombatant here is Hitchens himself.

And by the way, Hitchens. Fuck you. You and your toady friends in the White House have been exloiting the grief of 9-11 victims and Saddam Husseins victims in Iraq (but not those Iraqis killed as a result of the war, for some reason) for years now.

Cindy Sheehan is not speaking for her son, she's speaking as a mother who's lost a son. And she's not alone in her camp in Texas. It's those mothers' quiet grief that enrages Hitchens and those like him who cheerlead from the sidelines for Bush's dream of empire. And piss on anyone who dares, publicly, to disagree. She is brave. They who attack her are cowards.

Christopher Hitchens is an intellectually hollow coward.

"So mad that all he could do was spit."

The Devil Rays have really made life a living hell for the Yankees this year. Last night was truly a freakin' disaster. One of the worst losses of the year in a year with more losses than Yankee fans are used to.

The views of Iraqi women

Iraqi women
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
I'm venturing into BagnewsNotes territory once again, but this picture struck me as somewhat bizarre, and the lack of context is vexing. What does the headline say? Who created the poster? Are Coalition Forces once again stage managing a political campaign for (secular) Iraqi political leaders? I am perhaps cynical, but the Western-style hair is certainly jarring when seen in comparison with the veiled women squatting below it. More jarring still, the poster's support of the constitutional process stands in stark contrast to the likelihood that the rights of women are probably going to be easy concessions to religious fundamentalists.

"There are no issues without solutions," Mr. Talabani said at a news conference. "The points left are very few, such as the role of Islam, human rights, and the rights of women. There is a general agreement on them, but we need to word them precisely."

The night before, Iraqi leaders were hung up on central questions, including the control of oil, the role of Islam, the rights of women and Shiite self-rule in the south. During the evening, new disagreements emerged, such as the desire of Kurdish leaders to have some right to secede and a renewed push by Shiite leaders to have their senior religious leaders, known collectively as the Marjariya, declared independent of the government.

Call me a materialist, but at the end of the day I think the rights of women are going to be an easy bargaining chip compared to control of oil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Political theater

I am at this time being being held hostage in a large conference room above Times Square, tortured by droning blather as sail boats float blissfully up and down the Hudson River.

Nevertheless, I am escaping just long enough to bring to the attention of my Dear Readers the Times' review -- by Margo Jefferson no less -- of The Year of Living Rudely, currently playing as part of New York's Fringe Festival. Lee Papa is no longer anonymously rude.

And after you're read that, go read his review of (cue WWF music) JUSTICE. SUNDAY. TWO! He has Zell Miller captured brilliantly, with all the nuance and subtlety that only he can paint with his rude brush.

"Etaoin Shardlu"

As is so often the case, the obit page is the most interesting section of the paper today.

Made in collaboration with Carl Schlesinger, then a Linotype operator at The Times, the film followed the issue of July 2, 1978, as it was "put to bed," as the nightly ritual of typesetting, composing and printing was known.

Shot at the newspaper's offices on West 43rd Street, the 28-minute documentary captured a process that was largely unchanged since 1886, when Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the Linotype machine. The invention revolutionized printing, allowing metal type to be set a line at a time from a keyboard instead of painstakingly by hand, one letter at a time.

"Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu" caught the din of the composing room, where dozens of Linotype machines clattered away, spitting out lines of type - printed backward - that were locked into metal page forms. The forms were used in making the 40-pound page plates, or stereotypes, from which the paper was printed.

The film's title represents the "words" formed by striking the first 12 keys, in two vertical rows, at the left of the Linotype keyboard. A compositor would strike those keys to fill out a garbled line of type, indicating that it should be discarded. On occasion, the offending line found its way into the paper, "etaoin shrdlu" and all. With the advent of computerized typesetting, "etaoin shrdlu" disappeared from the paper forever.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Well, he played a POW

Now here's a formidable candidate. Doesn't say which party, but who cares? Maybe he's in it to make John McCain seem sane.

I think this is a thumbs down

Not a big fan of Roger Ebert, or movie reviewers in general (except for the mysteriously disappeard Elvis Mitchell), but Ebert's review of the latest masterpiece to spray out of Hollywood is...ouch.

Via the Pinstriped Blog.

The neoconservative crack-up

Actually, the title of Charles Krauthammer's essay is, "The Neoconservative Convergence." In it, he describes the fever dream he had recently in which he boldly looked past the chaos, violence, and despair of a country slipping into civil war because the neoconservative architects at the heart of the planning for Iraq's post-war screwed it up so magnificently as to be beyond belief, and sees...glorious victory. Well, for the neocons, I guess; unclear about the Iraqis.

The Iraqi elections had one final effect. They so acutely embarrassed foreign critics, especially in Europe, that we began to see a rash of headlines asking the rhetorical question: Was Bush Right? The answer to that is: yes, so far. The democratic project has been launched, against the critics and against the odds. That in itself is an immense historical achievement. But success will require maturation—a neoconservatism of discrimination and restraint, prepared to examine both its principles and its practice in shaping a truly governing philosophy.

Of course, when he wrote this Krauthammer would have had no idea George Bush would be spending his summer vacation hiding from a 48 year old woman and her insidious questions about why we're in Iraq and why her son is dead. Perhaps he wrote it before it became obvious that every month seems to set a record for the number of U.S. troops killed, or before it became evident that instead of the "sobriety" of the neocons in the White House, they are in full panic-mode.

Nevertheless, the essay paints an interesting picture of the middle east of today and has a telling passage that does much to illuminate the mind of Mr. Krauthammer as well as the level of intellectual honesty that he posseses. To wit:

Alliances with dictatorships were justified in the war against fascism and the cold war, and they are justified now in the successor existential struggle, the war against Arab/Islamic radicalism. This is not just theory. It has practical implications. For nothing is more practical than the question: after Afghanistan, after Iraq, what?

The answer is, first Lebanon, then Syria. Lebanon is next because it is so obviously ready for democracy, having practiced a form of it for 30 years after decolonization. Its sophistication and political culture make it ripe for transformation, as the massive pro-democracy demonstrations have shown.

Then comes Syria, both because of its vulnerability—the Lebanon withdrawal has gravely weakened Assad—and because of its strategic importance. A critical island of recalcitrance in a liberalizing region stretching from the Mediterranean to the Iranian border, Syria has tried to destabilize all of its neighbors: Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and now, most obviously and bloodily, the new Iraq. Serious, prolonged, ruthless pressure on the Assad regime would yield enormous geopolitical advantage in democratizing, and thus pacifying, the entire Levant.

Some conservatives (and many liberals) have proposed instead that we be true to the universalist language of the President’s second inaugural address and go after the three principal Islamic autocracies: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.3 Not so fast, and not so hard. Autocracies they are, and in many respects nasty ones. But doing this would be a mistake.

Hmmm. What country isn't mentioned as a proper target for liberalizing democracy except in its geographical proximity to Syria?


A curious omission, particularly, as Georgie Anne Geyer wrote recently, Iran was really the main objective of neocon warry lust. Iraq was supposed to fall easily, leaving a shaken Iranian leadership so fearful that they would depose themselves at the first wave of our powerful hand.

While America has been so dangerously and wastefully tied down in Iraq, Iran has been moving to form the diplomatic, political and military imprint of a kind of "Shiite Internationale" among the region's Shia populations. This would take in all the followers of the Shia sect of Islam, from the 60 percent of Iraq, to the oil-rich eastern regions of Saudi Arabia, to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla/political control of Lebanon.

Two of our most sagacious analysts of the area, Larry Johnson and Patrick Lang, both with years of apt experience in these areas, sent out an e-mail to their colleagues this week outlining the situation. It read:

"Iran, if things continue to go its way, finds itself on the threshold of controlling vast oil resources that stretch from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean ... Iran is well on its way to achieving de facto control of significant portions of Iraq. Teheran is backing Shia cleric the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (a Persian, not an Arab) and the radical Muqtada al-Sadr. The Iranians are funneling money and training to supporters inside Iraq. The Iraqi Shia control the political process and comprise the majority of the security forces ... Iran is in a dominant position in Lebanon. The murder earlier this year of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has left Lebanon under the de facto military guard of Hezbollah. Iran remains the main benefactor, supporter and adviser to Hezbollah ..."


The odd thing is that Iran, not Iraq, was always the primary target of the neocon group that so distorted American policy after 9/11, in part because Iran was seen as the primary enemy of Israel; but Iraq seemed easier to them.

Thus, the Iranians were able to simply stand back while their archenemy, Saddam, fell at the Americans' hands and at no cost to themselves. Should it be any surprise that they should move, as ruthlessly as always, to achieve their goals? And now, with their exalted idea of themselves as the holiest of Shia, their goals have been perfectly complemented by the "Great Satan." (That's us.)

Iran is no unified state. There are special ministries which, often secretively, back revolutionary movements like Hezbollah; there are special military units, such as the Revolutionary Guards, the "Quds" (Jerusalem) forces and other militias. The new president, the former mayor of Teheran, is himself a kind of mystery; but we do know that he, too, represents a turn away from the liberalizing that was slowly progressing in Iran -- surely another reaction to the American occupation next door.

Michael Mazarr, professor at the U.S. National War College, wrote this week in The New Republic that "the only long-term solution to the problem of Iranian nuclear aspirations is integration into the world economy and a gradual return to reform." But the American overextension into the Middle East has made this, at least for now, impossible.

But no matter, as long as we have the sight of hot chicks protesting in Martyrs Square every now and then, Bush can declare, "Mission Accomplished."
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