Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The trials of Yankee fans

Apparently Farnsworth is going to be in the bullpen at The Stadium next spring. I have not enjoyed this off season much at all; truth is you could wade through the pool of free agent talent this year and not get your ankles wet. It's early though. Anyway, best comment to the post in response to the acquisition on Baseball Think Factory:

Sean McNally Posted: November 30, 2005 at 01:41 PM (#1753360)

/I wonder if they had to scratch "steroids" out of the contract?/

It's crapola like this that drives the steroid agnostics like me nuts. What proof does anyone have that Farnsworth is a user?

He's always thrown hard and he's always been a douchebag. That doesn't make him a steroid user, it makes him a hard-throwing douchebag.

But he's our douchebag apparently, and that's OK with me.

"Fundies" don't appreciate a good creation myth


KANSAS: AN APOLOGY FOR RELIGIOUS INSULTS A University of Kansas religion professor has apologized for an e-mail message that referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a new course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." In a written apology on Monday, the professor, Paul Mirecki, chairman of the religious studies department, said he would teach the new course "as a serious academic subject and in a manner that respects all points of view." The department faculty approved the course on Monday but changed its title. The course, originally called Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and Other Religious Mythologies, will instead be called Intelligent Design and Creationism.

Ah Kansas. Where creationism is not a myth, intelligent design is science, "science" is a point of view (all of which "should be taught" and "concerned parents" don't want their children reading naughty books, but they're more than happy to read and detail -- and I mean detail -- the naughty bits. The Rude Pundit tips us to this one. All praise his Rudeness.

Great society

What this story says about the state of civil society in America I can only speculate.

A few weeks back, the board of Northgate Commons, a 26-unit complex in Rockland County, told Mrs. Kling that she had a problem: She was violating the association's rules by allowing her guide dog, a yellow Lab named Frances, to relieve herself on the street within the complex, instead of on the roads outside.

Forget that Mrs. Kling has no vision at all and stopped walking her dog alone outside the complex after her previous dog led her astray a few years back. Forget that she usually walks the dog inside the complex only once a day at 6 a.m. (Her husband walks with them outside in the afternoon.) And forget the fact that blind owners of dogs are taught to pick up after them, so they can remove solid waste pretty much the way sighted people do.

Nevertheless, a neighbor's contention that his car had to roll over the dog's urine, fouling his tires in the process, has precipitated one of those neighbors-behaving-badly tales that's a pleasant backdrop to this season of good cheer. So far, Mrs. Kling, a diminutive 76-year-old, is winning the public relations battle - an article in the local newspaper, The Journal News, first brought attention to her cause, generating other publicity and offers to help her out. But pending the results of a board meeting tomorrow, it's unclear if she is any closer to a satisfactory resolution.

More on the story here.

However, a newly elected board asked her to stop walking her dog in the complex after a neighbor complained that he found dog urine near his driveway.

The neighbor, Peter Nash, who also is a board member, said Kling picked up after her dog but wasn't always successful in cleaning up. He said he found the dog urine especially offensive because it got onto to his tires and came into his garage.

"She is using her disability to affect my quality of life," said Nash who recused himself from the board meeting when the Kling case was discussed. "I have rights, too. If she is not able to (walk her dog in accordance with housing rules), then her husband should."

Something tells me Peter Nash -- a man who apparently searches the end of his driveway looking for puddles of dog urine -- is going to be finding a lot more befouling of his car as this story rolls on. If he finds a brown paper bag burning in front of his door, I'd suggest he not stamp it out.

Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Kling escaped Germany in 1939 when she was 10.

Democracy begins at home

Sign the petition
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
What Shake's Sis says:

Currently, H.R. 550 has 159 co-sponsors in the House, 9 of whom are Republican, and has been strongly endorsed by the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, but it has been sitting in the House Administration Committee since it was introduced in February. The Committee is chaired by Bob Ney, who is currently facing a major ethics scandal for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and evidently has no interest in fair elections, either. It’s up to us to make sure this resolution gets the attention it deserves so it can make its way out of committee. This isn’t a partisan issue—everyone should be interested in fair elections with accountability.

Go ahead. You know what to do.

535 Secretaries of State

Mark Schmitt makes an important point that I've tried to express, but never so clearly and cogently.

"There was a sense I had...that this was in part politically motivated."

Tom Daschle. Such a nice, honorable man.

WASHINGTON — Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota, remembers the exchange vividly.

The time was September 2002. The place was the White House, at a meeting in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pressed congressional leaders for a quick vote on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

But Daschle, who as Senate majority leader controlled the chamber's schedule, recalled recently that he asked Bush to delay the vote until after the impending midterm election.

"I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: 'Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?' He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: 'We just have to do this now.' "

Daschle's account, which White House officials said they could not confirm or deny, highlights a crucial factor that has drawn little attention amid rising controversy over the congressional vote that authorized the war in Iraq. The recent partisan dispute has focused almost entirely on the intelligence information legislators had as they cast their votes. But the debate may have been shaped as much by when Congress voted as by what it knew.

Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, did not call for a vote authorizing the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm election. But the vote paving the way for the second war with Iraq came in mid-October of 2002 — at the height of an election campaign in which Republicans were systematically portraying Democrats as weak on national security.

Few candidates sparred over the war resolution itself. But Republicans in states including Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Georgia strafed Democratic senators seeking reelection who had supported military spending cutbacks in the 1990s, accepted money from a liberal arms-control group, opposed Bush's preferred approach for organizing the new Department of Homeland Security, and voted in 1991 against the Persian Gulf War.

With national security then such a flashpoint in so many campaigns, many Democrats believe, the vote's timing enormously increased pressure on their party's wavering senators to back the president, whose approval rating approached 70% at the time.

"There was a sense I had from the very beginning that this was in part politically motivated, and they were going to maximize the timing to affect those who were having some doubt about this right before the election," Daschle said.

Nice political instincts, Tom. Is there any wonder that Democrats lost control of the Senate during his tenure, and two years later he would lose his seat as well?

Via Laura Rozen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"High-tech steel"

Seymour Hersh shows us why anonymous sources are -- in the hands of a reporter more interested in getting the story than in getting on the Larry King Show -- important. Hersh knows that in some ways he is getting played, but he doesn't rely on a small circle of high ranking officials. Instead he uses them to try to get at all the angles of the story.

I won't take excerpts here, the entire article is just...too...scary to abridge. But here's the general points.

-- President Bush is, by all accounts -- even those of his acolytes -- insane. Can you spell delusions of grandeur?

-- We are going to pull troops out of Iraq post haste, but replace them, ala Vietnamization, with massive air power.

-- Said air power could well be directed by Shi'ites against Sunnis (and maybe Shi'ites against Shi'ites).

-- We have already dumped a massive amont of "high-tech steel" on Iraq, a fact totally unreported in the press. Air war? What air war?

-- We are fucked. And by "we," I mean everyone but the Iranian Ayatollahs.


Great news, commodity traders, gold is now at its highest price since the last time a detached lunatic was in the White House.

At the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, December gold spent most of the session lower, but settled up 80 cents at $499.10. It reached $502.30, the highest benchmark futures price since late 1987, in screen trade overnight.

"I don't know what to expect for year end," said Bruce Dunn, a trader at New York bullion trading firm Auramet. "Either they are going to try to push it one more time or you could see some massive liquidation. The funds are very long."

Spot gold closed in New York at $499.70/0.50 an ounce, down from as high as $502.30 an ounce in Asia but up from Monday's late quote at $498.20/499.00.

Analysts said investment funds were increasing their exposure in commodities for better returns, and the trend was likely to continue despite huge speculative long positions.

Gold has risen more than 14 percent so far this year.

"Over time, over history, it has always been a market that people have turned to when there has been an element of uncertainty in other asset classes," said Mark Keenan, fund manager at UK-based MPC Commodity Fund. "It's a question of diversification."

Robin Edwards, president of Saber Fund Management, said people were getting interested in gold as there were inflation fears, though it was hard to say whether that would be realized.

He said gold prices could soar up to $800 an ounce over the next couple of years as the metal had supportive fundamentals.

Inflation fears? Perhaps. Or maybe it's when a highly respected military analyst describes the war in Iraq as "...the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C [sic] sent his legions into Germany and lost them..."

A little thing like that, traders may be thinking, could have a bit of an effect on the "safety" of the good ol' greenback.

Selling Wal*Mart

Ha! Don't look so smug, Dear Reader. You're thinking, "The Vega will read John Tierney's most recent blatherings so I don't have to. Tee. Hee."

Well, you're not getting off so easy, as I take you behind the curtain that is TimesSelect...

First off, let us just note that Tierney has wised up and had a new photo taken, so he now looks a little less like a young Regis Philbin or the local dinner theater's lead in The Fantastics.

But he remains the Times' senior contrarian and maker-up of things (man, makes you long for the days of William Safire, who could at least, write).

November 29, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

The Good Goliath

Once upon a time, social activists decried the plight of workers in company towns whose paychecks vanished each week because they were being gouged by the local stores. Urban politicians, angered by the high prices charged at grocery stores in the inner city, offered subsidies to attract chain stores that would make food more affordable for the poor.

Then Wal-Mart came along, giving small-town workers an alternative to the local oligopoly and offering urbanites food at the same low prices charged in the suburbs. Now the activists and politicians have a new cause: Say No to Wal-Mart! Stop it before it discounts again!

Nasty old hypcritical activists; you want affordable prices for the poor, but not from Wal-Mart 'cause it...discounts.

Gee, Tierney sounds so reasonable. And he's got the facts, after all. Right?

This new crusade is especially puzzling in light of the current consensus among poverty experts. I recently moderated what I expected to be a liberal-conservative debate on the topic that was sponsored by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. It was a fascinating discussion - but as hard as I tried to provoke controversy, there wasn't much of a fight.

I see. When we talk about the "current consensus among poverty experts," we're talking about a handful of guys he happened to meet in a Times' sponsored debate. Nevermind, though, let's hear what they have to say about Wal-Mart.

Both sides praised welfare reform and said the government should keep pushing people off the rolls and into jobs. And because many of these people are unskilled workers who command less than $10 per hour, both sides agreed that the government should make work worthwhile by supplementing their income through more income tax credits and other programs.

Wait. They didn't say anything about Wal-Mart. Oh, he's gonna be doing some extrapolatin'.

From that perspective, Wal-Mart has been one of the most successful antipoverty programs in America. It provides entry-level jobs that unskilled workers badly want - there are often 5 or 10 applicants for each position at a new store.

And there those workers remain, being paid at entry-level wages. And if they don't like it, well there's the door.

Critics say Wal-Mart's pay, $9.68 per hour on average, is too low and depresses local retail wages when a new store opens. That effect is debatable, but even if wages do go down slightly, these workers still end up with more disposable income, as Jason Furman, a visiting professor at New York University, concludes in a paper titled "Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story."

Furman, a former economic adviser in the Clinton administration and the Kerry presidential campaign, notes that the possible decline in wages is minuscule compared with what the typical family saves by shopping at Wal-Mart: nearly $800 per year on groceries alone, a savings that's especially valuable to the many low-income shoppers at Wal-Mart.

I was unaware that the "typical family" was "low-income." Welcome to George W. Bush's new America! But, um, how does that $800 per year match up with the cut in real income that a job in Wal-Mart means for most people? Tierney doesn't say. Nor does he say what the average cost a Wal-Mart employee must pay for say, dental care, not covered by the company. How much does the average tax payer pay for Wal-Mart employees encouraged to use Medicaid instead of employer supported healthcare.

And how does Wal-Mart stack up against other big box retailers?

The average income of shoppers at Wal-Mart is $35,000, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Costco is touted as the virtuous alternative to Wal-Mart because it pays better wages, but it needs to because it requires higher-skilled workers to sell higher-end products to its more affluent customers.

Oh? Really? Has he ever shopped in a Costco? Not exactly buzzing with people with degrees on the fine points of choosing a $74 DVD/tape player. My guess is that Costco has better benefits in order to do business in more affluent communities and to attract a more affluent shopper.

I'm not really an enemy of Wal-Mart. From what I can tell, it treats employees abhorrently, but the company does provide jobs in parts of the country where jobs are especially scarce. They're awful places to shop in, but the stores do provide much needed cheap goods for a lot of families. The stuff Wal-Mart sells is cheap because it's made in lovely, worker-friendly places like China, but truth be told, it wasn't Wal-Mart that killed the U.S. textile industry.

But, see, Wal-Mart's gotta problem. The retailer isn't growing fast enough any more to satisfy stock holders (and they've got a greedy Walton royal family that's beginning to look like the House of Saud, but I digress). Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, its tapped out rural America and so the retailer must now make a push from the Red States to the Blue. And Blue State America, Wal-Mart knows, is a little less forgiving of a retailer that locks its overnight workers in the store all night.

And when Wal-Mart tries to move into cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, that "average $9.68/hour" does seriously depress wages.

So that's where guys like Tierney come in, to make the company look less evil. Of course, Tierney can't restrain himself...

It's easy to understand the motives of some of Wal-Mart's enemies. Local merchants don't want to match its prices. Labor leaders know that they'll lose members and dues if unionized stores suffer. But why would anyone who claims to be fighting for social justice be so determined to take money out of the pockets of the poor?

Forest? Trees? Wal-Mart isn't just about local merchants and a unionized Piggly Wiggly. Wal-Mart's relentless demand for cheaper and cheaper prices has a sagging effect on the entire economy. First textile mills move out of the country. Then electronics manufacturers. Then the non-unionized administrative staffs of those companies. Meat packers must hold wages to the minimum -- or worse -- in order to keep their prices low enough to please Wal-Mart. On and on. Meanwhile our balance of trade is more out of whack every year as Americans have become addicted to the lower prices. Addicted to the point where they ignore the real costs of those cheap goods.

I'm not saying any of this is, by itself, a bad thing. Nor am I blaming Wal-Mart for the trade deficit. But no single company has benefited more from the elimination of trade barriers, and no other company is as big a drag on our health care system then Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart lowers our standard of living like no other company headquartered in the ol' USofA. So, one might be expected to take exception when, in response to demands that Wal-Mart's size and power should compel it to clean up its act if it wants to continue to grow, we're accused of taking money from the poor.

John Tierney. Wanker.


I blast Richard Cohen all the time, but today he's at least half right.

In their respective confessions, neither Edwards nor Biden explains why they were not persuaded by the evidence that Bush & Co. was exaggerating - concocting is possibly a better word - Saddam's nuclear threat. Of course, before 9/11, Americans hardly feared Saddam's chemical or biological weapons.

Sept. 11 changed all that. The terrorist attacks unhinged America. Cooler heads in the Bush administration seized the moment to plump for a war they always wanted while many of the rest of us - myself included - got caught up in an emotional frenzy. Even after the passions of the moment cooled - even after it was clear Iraq was no real imminent threat - few of us demanded that Bush back down. The best I could do was whisper some doubt. On July 25, 2002, I wrote that the Bush administration would pay dearly if it was, as was then becoming clear, going to wage war for specious reasons. "War plans are being drawn up at the Pentagon," I wrote. "But explanations are lacking at the White House."

True enough, as far as it goes, but Cohen ignores a couple of points.

First, he alludes to his own whisper of doubt; the evidence that the Bush administration was exaggerating at best, lying at worst was out there, but the press just "whispered" about it. While it is easy, now, for columnists to claim that democrats didn't make a "mistake," but rather lacked the courage of their convictions, it is equally true that convictions can be career shorteners for politicians if the press fails to do it's job. The overwhelming consensus in our nation's press was as jingoistic as the Hearst and Pulitzer operations were in the build up to the Spanish-American War. In so doing, they gave no political cover to the Senators that had to stand up and vote on the resolutions.

Secondly, he seems to have forgotten what an all-fire hurry the GOP was in to prosecute this war. While it was obvious that Iraq wasn't exactly about to invade Czechoslovakia the following week, the GOP leadership forced a vote on Iraq before the 2002 elections. Rather than permitting impassioned debate on the Senate floor, they turned the question into a referendum on the Global War on Terror. Failing to support preznit at that juncture would surely have been used by the Rovians as signs of weakness (indeed, even a vote in support of preznit would not inoculate them from such charges, but Dems have always underestimated the cynicism and repulsiveness of Rove's tactics). Moreover, failing to support the resolution would have undermined the U.S.'s supposed efforts to get international support for disarming Hussein.

So, yes, Democrats are indeed guilty of "lapses in judgment" in supporting the resolution. They too were operating in the terra-ist inspired miasma that was clouding the skies post Sept. 11, 2001 while at the same time they were making political calculations that were based on a pre-Rove mindset in Washington. And yes, they relied far too much on Colin Powell -- lots of us did, to our enduring shame.

But Cohen forgets the context -- the full blast of the Bush/Cheney campaign to market the invasion of Iraq, with the full-throated support of Republicans, and the role of the press in abetting it.

Furthermore, it was only a month ago that Cohen was admonishing democrats for their realism. Wha' happened?

Pundits pitching in in Iraq

OMG! Bill Bennett has just proposed that the Iraq-supporting, but housebound wingnutocracy get their hands dirty in support of our glorious war in Iraq.

I don't know if the idea is original with our audience or not—it's a big country and hard to keep track of all the good ideas out there--but we had a caller today with a great idea, an inoculation against the tide of the Main Stream Media's (or what I call the Alien Media Nation) constant denigration of our fight and effort in Iraq. The continued drumbeat against the war in our culture, high and low, can only serve to hurt the morale of our soldiers and our allies--including the Iraqis themselves. They, despite all we see and hear, are going to the polls next month--for their third election in a year, each election being a remarkably courageous demonstration. So how do we show them our support? How do we let them--and our soldiers--know we stand with and behind them? Americans should start putting purple ink on their right index fingers the week before their Dec. 15 election. And let Iraqis, let American soldiers, let our allied forces see that demonstration here. NBC, CNN, the New York Times want a picture to tell a thousand words? They want a picture of how the majority of Americans feel? Let 'em print our purple fingers--and let the Iraqis on Dec. 15 show even more.
Posted at 09:35 AM"

I can just imagine the reaction of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers to the sight of a throng of hundreds standing outside the FauxNews building on the Ave. of Americas, waving, as Wolcott says, a mauve finger at the camera:

"What the fuck?"

I look forward to hearing/reading the reaction of these folks to Bush's latest "Mission Accomplished" speech planned for tomorrow. Will any of them find exploided brain matter flowing copiously out of their nose and ears as they attempt to turn what had been cowardly, jihad-lovin' talk when it came from Murtha and Biden, into bold and victorious talk from our preznit?

Plan of retreat

Fred Kaplan asks, does the Cheney administration and the Pentagon have as well formulated a plan for the imminent withdrawal of troops from Iraq as they did for the invasion?

Monday, November 28, 2005

We WERE succeeding

Iyad Allawi, appearing last year before the U.S. Congress:

ALLAWI: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, it's my distinct honor and great privilege to speak to you today on behalf of Iraq's interim government and its people.

It's my honor to come to Congress and to thank this nation and its people for making our cause your cause, our struggle your struggle.

Before I turn to my government's plan for Iraq, I have three important messages for you today.

First, we are succeeding in Iraq.


It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding.

I have seen some of the images that are being shown here on television. They are disturbing. They focus on the tragedies, such as the brutal and barbaric murder of two American hostages this week.

A year later, that success seems more elusive.

BAGDAHD, Iraq, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says human rights abuses by the Baghdad government are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein.

But the country's president rejected the allegations as "nonsense."

Militias are operating within the Shia-led government, torturing and killing in secret bunkers, Allawi told Britain's Observer newspaper earlier.

His comments come two weeks after 170 detainees were found at an interior ministry center. Some were allegedly suffering from abuse and starvation.

Allawi said the militias had infiltrated the police and warned that their influence could spread throughout the government.

Allawi was Iraq's first interim prime minister but failed to win January's election. He has since formed a coalition to contest next month's parliamentary elections, the BBC reported.

Soooo...everything was going gangbusters (literally) when he was PM. Now, not so much. Odd.

But then, perspectives change daily. Wait. Did I say change? Nah. For those who only recently said we must be resolute and stay the course are now saying we should resolutely declare that the Iraqis got everything under control and stay the course in downsizing our presence there. His resoluteness, Joe Lieberman (D. Fantasyland), says,

"The country is now in reach of going from Saddam Hussein to self-government and, I‘d add, self-protection," the Connecticut Democrat said in a conference call with reporters. "That would be a remarkable transformation ... I saw real progress there."

"If Iraqi forces continue to gain the confidence the American military sees there now ... We will be able to draw down our forces," he said.

"About two-thirds of the country is in really pretty good shape," he said, noting most attacks are in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" region. "Overall, I came back encouraged."

Lieberman said he hopes President Bush ‘s speech Tuesday night will give a clearer picture to the American public of the progress being made in the war.

As one of Joementum's constituents, I say, "Cough...bull...cough...shit."

With "outsiders" like these...

As a blog professional, every now and then you come across a paragraph in an otherwise unremarkable story that makes your eyes open wide, like Barry Bonds's do when he sees a hanging curve coming towards the plate.

Gone from the schedule are weekly cholesterol-laden breakfasts at Rove's home where top Bush hands discussed strategy. Also missing are Sunday "message meetings" with outside thinkers like GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman, campaign pollster Matthew Dowd and superlobbyist Ed Gillespie. [ emphasis, you know]

Bejeebus, with "outsiders" like that, it's a wonder that now, unable to tap into that sage advice, the Bush administration is flounding and sinking under its own cluelessness.

And back off, Pony watchers. The cholesterol in those breakfasts probably won't take effect until well after 2008.

Via Attaturk.

One down, so many more to go

The "Duke" becomes the first to fall in the GOP corruption machine.

A somber-looking Cunningham stood in court with his hands clasped in front of him, answering the judge's questions with a muted "Yes, your honor," or, at times, "Yes, sir."

"Between the year 2000 and June of 2005 in our district, you conspired to accept bribes in exchange for performance of official duties. Did you do that?" Judge Burns asked Cunningham.

"Yes, your honor," Cunningham replied.

"Did you take both cash payments and payments in kind?"

"Yes, your honor," the congressman said.

"Did you follow up by trying to influence the Defense Department?"

"Yes, your honor."

Cunningham faces a potential sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of nearly $500,000 as well as forfeiture of unspecified amounts of cash and property. Prosecutors said it will be up to the judge to determine his punishment.

Cunningham was released on his own recognizance and left the courtroom by a side door to be photographed and fingerprinted.

U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a news conference that the facts Cunningham admitted in his plea agreement show "this was a crime of unprecedented magnitude and extraordinary audacity."

When this is all over, Cunningham's actions may not prove so extraordinary after all.

Labor isn't entirely dead

Good news outta Houston.

Union organizers have obtained what they say is majority support in one of the biggest unionization drives in the South in decades, collecting the signatures of thousands of Houston janitors.

In an era when unions typically face frustration and failure in attracting workers in the private sector, the Service Employees International Union is bringing in 5,000 janitors from several companies at once. With work force experts saying that unions face a slow death unless they can figure out how to organize private-sector workers in big bunches, labor leaders are looking to the Houston campaign as a model.

The service employees, which led a breakaway of four unions from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. last summer, has used several unusual tactics in Houston, among them lining up the support of religious leaders, pension funds and the city's mayor, Bill White, a Democrat. Making the effort even more unusual has been the union's success in a state that has long been hostile to labor.

"It's the largest unionization campaign in the South in years," said Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas. "Other unions will say, 'Yes, it can be done here.' "

Mr. Getman predicted that the Houston effort would embolden other unions to take their chances with ambitious drives in the South, although success could prove difficult because many companies will continue to fight unionization efforts, and many workers still shy away from unions.

Not sure how replicable this will be for other workers. Janitors have a remarkably strong card they can play when they begin to organize -- tenants. It only takes a couple of days for an office building to stink like an early 20th century tenemant when no one is taking out the trash or cleaning the bathrooms (my experience is that the tonier the building/tenant, the more boorish the hygiene). And since janitorial services are handled primarily by a few huge companies nationwide, the service workers union realized that they could keep those companies neutralized in the fight by threatening sympathy strikes in Chicago, LA, etc.

Property owners are not nearly so organized. Meanwhile, their tenants mix fear of watching the garbage can in the lunch room overflow with genuine sympathy for the women they barely nod to as they're leaving for the evening.

The purity of conservatism can't be soiled


I'm seeing a lot of this lately. Movement conservatives are getting ready to write the history of this era as liberalism once again failing the people. Typically, the conservatives were screwed, as they always are. They must regroup and fight for conservatism, real conservatism, once again. Viva la revolucion!

There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way.

Digby's certainly on to something. Something similar occurred to me while having a conversation with a staunch Republican the other day, although it was less about the purity of the conservative movement, and rather about "real Republicans." He was telling me about the triumph of Republican politicians, using, not any of the current crop in Washington, but "the only New York City mayors who got anything done" -- La Guardia, Giuliani, and Bloomberg -- all Republicans.

It didn't seem to matter to him when I pointed out that La Guardia was a fervent supporter of FDR and that Bloomberg -- as every Democrat in New York knows -- only became a Republican to avoid a costly Democratic party primary in 2001.

So-called liberal media

Geez, a rare moment of candor from a Republican insider.

"I do think that Bob's politics have changed some over the years. He's much more sympathetic to the establishment, especially the Republican establishment," Gergen says. But after "30 years as a trailblazer," he adds, Woodward "doesn't deserve" the level of criticism directed at him.

One interesting aspect of Bob Woodward's "mistake" in the Plame case is that it casts an entirely new light on his relationship with Deep Throat, aka Mark Felt. In that case, too, it was his access to a disgruntled, highly placed official that drove the story. But in Felt's case, the disgruntlement was directed at senior officials of the Nixon administration, while in...cough, cough, Cheney', the disgruntlement was aimed at a critic of the administration.

And Duncan Black is right, Howard Kurtz's article does read like an obituary, albeit one for Woodward's career at the Post. Because, just as we saw with Judy Miller at the Times, there's an incredible level of resentment among the working stiffs of the newsroom -- the writers and editors who have a paper to get out each morning -- towards the pampered existence of "reporters" who trade their easy access to the powerful in order to produce book deals (at best) or propoganda, rather than "news." The unmasking of Miller's and Woodward's techniques have brought that resentment to the fore.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


That's the only way to express how the Cheney administration has approached the so-called war on terror. Instead of careful investigation, the hard work of connecting dots, they've chosen to use the September 11, 2001 attacks as occasion to expand the powers of the president, limit the reach of the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties, and codify the Executive Branch's ability to order the application of torture on prisoners.

And all the meanwhile they make speeches about having caught a dirty bomber...who ends up being a courier. Witless.

Had Padilla been charged and tried back in the summer of 2002, rather than touted as some Bond villain — the Prince of Radiological Dispersion — his case would have stood for a simple legal proposition: that if you are a terrorist, a supporter of terrorism, or a would-be terrorist, the government will hunt you down and punish you. Had the government waited, tested its facts, kept expectations low, then delivered a series of convictions of even small-time al-Qaida foot soldiers, we in this country would feel safer and we would doubtless be safer.

Instead Padilla, like Hamdi, was used as fodder for big speeches. They became the justification for Bush's position that some people are so evil that the law does not deter them, that new legal systems must be invented — new systems that bear a striking resemblance to those discredited around the time of Torquemada.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Is this a man bites dog story? Did Richard Nixon have a soul?

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (AP) - Widely considered a military hawk, President Richard M. Nixon fretted privately over the notion of any no-holds-barred nuclear war, newly released documents from his time at the White House reveal.

The recently declassified papers, from the first days of the Nixon presidency in 1969 until the end of 1974, show that Nixon wanted an alternative to the option of full-scale nuclear war - a plan for a gentler war, one that could ultimately vanquish the Soviet Union while avoiding the worst-case situation.

The papers provided a glimpse behind the scenes at efforts to find choices other than "the horror option," as the national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, called the worst-case scripts for all-out nuclear war that were then in place.

Well, let's not go too far.

Historically, Nixon is known as "unsentimental and sort of callous in some ways," Mr. Burr said, but the documents also show a president "worried about the huge number of casualties involved."

But the prime concern may have been the credibility of the American threat. Mr. Burr noted that the narrower options under review singled out centers of the Soviet government and economy, not just military assets, and that any such attack would have created untold casualties, too.

Nevertheless, maybe Mr. Young was on to something.

Hospitals have made him cry,
But there's always a free way in his eye,
Though his beach just got
too crowded for his stroll.
Roads stretch out like healthy veins,
And wild gift horses strain the reins,
Where even Richard Nixon has got soul.
Even Richard Nixon has got Soul.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Only a three-way can show us the way in Iraq

We all know that there is no black and white solutions for our adventure in Mess-o-potamia, no win-win scenarios, no dis or dat, no paper or plastic, no the chicken or the steak get the idea.

That's why Fafblog has provided us with yet another invaluable public service -- The point:

America must win the war in Iraq. This isn't mere rhetoric, or some militant call to arms. It is merely a statment of fact. There is, at present, no way for America to lose the war, because there is no readily comprehensible plan to win.


Would beating the Democrats allow us to beat the terrorists? No, but Giblets would find it far more satisfying. And when we do lose to the terrorists, Giblets can always just blame it on the Democrats! And the French. And the Special Olympics! You can't ALL be winners, Special Olympians! Do the math!

And counter-counter-point:

The logistics start gettin pretty tricky from here so everybody pay real close attention.

Read the whole things.

The courier?

Attorney General John Ashcroft on June 10, 2005:

I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.

I commend the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department and other federal agencies whose cooperation made this possible.

[Sunday], after consultation with the acting secretary of defense [Donald Rumsfeld] and other senior officials, both the acting secretary of defense and I recommended that the president of the United States, in his capacity as commander in chief, determined that Abdullah Al Muhajir, born Jose Padilla, determined that Muhajir is an enemy combatant who poses a serious and continuing threat to the American people and our national security.

Um, not so much.

The indictment, announced Tuesday by the Justice Department, portrays Mr. Padilla as a distinctly minor though thoroughly willing player in a scheme run by others to support radical Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere.

The four other defendants charged in the 30-page indictment are pictured as active conspirators setting up bogus charities and businesses to raise money to support those combatants. Mr. Padilla, a 34-year-old former Chicago gang member, is accused of being a kind of courier for the four others, someone eager to play a role somewhere on the battlefront.

Look, if the guy is convicted of conspiracy he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but this is yet another example of the Cheney administration's outrageous abuse of power which when threatened with exposure to the light of the courts, reacts with vampire-like reticence.

And, more importantly, what if he wasn't in fact a minor figure? What if there was evidence he was an active participant in a larger, more deadly plot, but the government couldn't use that evidence in court because of the illegal way in which suspects in the conspiracy have been detained and interrogated?

The two senior members were the main sources linking Mr. Padilla to a plot to bomb targets in the United States, the officials said.

The Qaeda members were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Abu Zubaydah, a top recruiter, who gave their accounts to American questioners in 2002 and 2003. The two continue to be held in secret prisons by the Central Intelligence Agency, whose internal reviews have raised questions about their treatment and credibility, the officials said.

One review, completed in spring 2004 by the C.I.A. inspector general, found that Mr. Mohammed had been subjected to excessive use of a technique involving near drowning in the first months after his capture, American intelligence officials said.

Another review, completed in April 2003 by American intelligence agencies shortly after Mr. Mohammed's capture, assessed the quality of his information from initial questioning as "Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies."

Accusations about plots to set off a "dirty bomb" and use natural gas lines to bomb American apartment buildings had featured prominently in past administration statements about Mr. Padilla, an American who had been held in military custody for more than three years after his arrest in May 2002.

But they were not mentioned in his criminal indictment on lesser charges of support to terrorism that were made public on Tuesday. The decision not to charge him criminally in connection with the more far-ranging bomb plots was prompted by the conclusion that Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Zubaydah could almost certainly not be used as witnesses, because that could expose classified information and could open up charges from defense lawyers that their earlier statements were a result of torture, officials said.

Without that testimony, officials said, it would be nearly impossible for the United States to prove the charges. Moreover, part of the bombing accusations hinged on incriminating statements that officials say Mr. Padilla made after he was in military custody - and had been denied access to a lawyer.

"There's no way you could use what he said in military custody against him," a former senior government official said.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Reeks like Teen People

Are the Dems passing up a chance to win over the male 30-50 year old demo?

Because they seem to be ignoring a chance to make real hay on this one.

I'm serious, there's an entire demographic for whom Bruce Springsteen saved -- quite literally -- Rock 'n Roll for them in the 1970s.

I say, let's put a Culture War whooping on the GOP's prominent asses.

Reaction to Padilla...the rustle of the wind, the creak of a floorboard...was that a cricket I just heard?

Maybe I'm missing something, but the reaction to events surround Padilla these past couple of days has been...underwhelming...from both the left blogospher and the right hyperventilatoshpere.

A U.S. citizen is held in a navy brig for three and a half years, uncharged. Then, just as the deadline for the administration to file a brief on this is due, the government changes it's line of attack, citing far less incendiary (literally) charges (but which carry no less mortal a sentence).

Like Andrew Sullivan (one of the very few posts on the subject I've seen), I don't know whether Padilla's innocent or guilty (though he is now charged with what could be very amorphous -- and possibly more difficult to prove or disprove), but this remains an outrage even now that he is finally going to get his day in court.

If nothing else, the fact that four years after the attacks on the Trade Center and Pentagon, the Bush administration is still uncertain how to legally fight terrorists within our own borders is not surprising but still disturbing.

They so badly want to approach this single-mindedly as a War that they have no idea what to do when it becomes evident that the Constitution doesn't permit the federal government to declare war on one of its citizens.

Thinking twice

The issues that Rep. Murtha raised, and what Joe Klein doesn't seem to get, is that the choice is not between beginning the process of standing down in Iraq or beginning the process of winning. The choice is between having an exit strategy or continued stumbling in the dark that is Donald Rumsfeld's planning. The choice is between acquiescing to the wishes of Iraqis and leaving or listening to more of Bush's bellicosity. Rhetoric is not a plan, is what Murtha was trying to say.

Klein is misrepresenting what Murtha and others calling for an exit strategy are saying. The idea is not to leave under cover of night, leaving only a few unopened MRE as evidence of our presence in Iraq, but for the Bush administration to show some sign that they know where this is going, not just photo-ops.

Am I blue?

"Watch what you say"

Ah, Ari, who knew how seriously your boss took those words.

LONDON, Nov. 22 -- President Bush expressed interest in bombing the headquarters of the Arabic television network al-Jazeera during a White House conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Daily Mirror report was attributed to two anonymous sources describing a classified document they said contained a transcript of the two leaders' talk. One source is quoted as saying Bush's alleged remark concerning the network's headquarters in Qatar was "humorous, not serious," while the other said, "Bush was deadly serious."

In Washington, a senior diplomat said the Bush remark as recounted in the newspaper "sounds like one of the president's one-liners that is meant as a joke." But, the diplomat said, "it was foolish for someone to write it down, and now it will be a story for days."

Yeah. Sounds like one of Bush's one-liners. The dude's got a bitchin' sense of humor.

Consider the events of April 8, 2003. Early that morning, Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub was reporting from the network's Baghdad bureau. He was providing an eyewitness account of a fierce battle between US and Iraqi forces along the banks of the Tigris. As he stood on the roof of the building, a US warplane swooped in and fired a rocket at Al Jazeera's office. Ayyoub was killed instantly. US Central Command released a statement claiming, "Coalition forces came under significant enemy fire from the building where the Al-Jazeera journalists were working." No evidence was ever produced to bolster this claim. Al Jazeera, which gave the US military its coordinates weeks before the invasion began, says it received assurances a day before Ayyoub's death that the network would not be attacked.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Personalities and institutions

Publius, at Legal Fiction, writes

The gist of it was that we tend to fetishize individuals in presidential elections by making the whole thing a personality contest. The truth is that we’re selecting between two alternate executive branches – branches in which the President has practically nothing to do with 99.9999% of what goes on any given day. Although the individual personalities of Bush and Kerry got a lot of attention, the were essentially irrelevant to the operation of the executive branch in the 21st century. If you want to be coldly rational about it, you shouldn’t base your vote on who you like or dislike, but on the sorts of people you want running the executive branch.

Pub's a smart guy and all, but I have to say, "No shit, Sherlock." Al Gore repeatedly tried to get that point across in 2000.

And then Publius continues,

In some ways, it’s unfortunate that liberals – and for that matter the American people as a whole – get so hung up on the personalities of Cheney and Bush. It blinds them to the fact that the executive branch is being run by people who are, at best, incompetent and, at worst, actively hostile to our widely shared values.

Um. Whaaaa? No group have better understood that in recent years than liberals. There was much about Clinton/Gore that was distressing, depressing, and self-defenestrating for liberals, but for the most part we swallowed our progressive pride, knowing that some things we cherish were simply political no-goes, and that for as much as Clinton's "Third Way" often pandered to big business and was too pollyanish about global trade, in balance better that administration than the alternatives. And in 2000 we sucked it up and forgot about the Clinton/Gore campaign for NAFTA knowing that the environment would be better off, the economy fairer, and the world safer with Gore than with Bush.

And, certainly, in 2004, only the cynical and the stupid (and yes, I met a number that matched that description) could say with a straight face that it didn't matter who was elected...same diff. Because, obviously, the Bush administration was effecting significant changes that would take years to repair. As this commentor to a Talk Left post wrote,

One is not electing personalities. One is electing an entire administration that the president and the vice president and their advisors ultimately put in place. At least one has a good idea of the current administration and what many voters do not want to continue. "Boot Bush" is dedicated not only to ridding the country of this president but it is also dedicated to "regime change" through peaceful means, not through war. The place to begin is at home, in the U.S.; that would lead to real "homeland security."

Personalities obviously matter, but if they are so important to voters, explain Nixon.

If there is any single group that obsesses on the personalities, rather than the proposed policies, of presidential candidates, its the Boys and Girls on the campaign planes. For them, where the candidate spends his vacation is more important than, for instance, what each candidate would do about energy dependence. It is that kind of reporting that promotes the fetish of personality, the recurring theme that "voters are just more comfortable with Bush" than with Gore (never mind Gore won the popular vote) or Kerry.

But that's the way the contemporary political and journalistic machine works. Access to the powerful is all-important. Judy Miller discredited the Times and Bob Woodward discredited his career because they didn't think protecting a senior source was such a big deal. The source was protecting the image of his boss and the price was to take part in discrediting a critic. The front page focuses on these clashes of personality and image, while the true bigger stories, like the changed DoJ stance on Georgia voter registration reequirements that is the focus of Publius's post, get lost in the back pages.

So don't blame this on "liberals."

Link Wray

Citing the impact of ``Rumble,'' Molenda wondered what it must have been like ``to hear that big, distorted, evil ferocious chord for the first time.''


"He is the king," Pete Townshend of the Who once said of him. "If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar."

Link Wray died earlier this month at his home in Copenhagen.

Military intelligence

At some point, wouldn't it be best for the Cheney administration if they, you know, asked Rummy not to do TV?

One of the reasons for this discussion is because General Abizaid and General Casey recognize the tension between having too few and too many. To the extent you have too many and you have too heavy a footprint and you're too intrusive, it can conceivably contribute to the insurgency.


BLITZER: Twenty-five hundred attacks since September. That's a lot of -- that doesn't sound like the last throes, Mr. Secretary. RUMSFELD: It doesn't take a genius to strap on a suicide belt and go kill innocent people. And they're doing it, there's no question. And there's a lot of people dying in Iraq.

BLITZER: But it's not just -- it's very sophisticated IED attacks that are becoming much more sophisticated today than they were a year ago. Isn't that right?

RUMSFELD: There's no question that the lethality of the attacks has increased.

BLITZER: It does take some sophistication for that.

RUMSFELD: Indeed. But it doesn't take a genius to go kill people.

Can I get a "Heh. Indeed?"

"No honor among wingnuts"

So says Josh Marshall as Col. Bobp cuts Mean Jean off at the knees, the Mexican Rat Dog runs away from her own words, and Danny "Real Marines do not cut and run" Bobp, it turns out, is a political hack for the GOP anyway, with a long history of working hand in glove with Jean Schmidt.

Monday, November 21, 2005

God's not dead. 'E's uh,...he's resting

Penn Jillette has taken his non-belief in God to the next level.

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

Jonah Goldberg immediately types, and after twenty minutes or so, raps out "atheistic libertarianism!"

Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Scanlon pleads...

It's getting warmer, me ponies.

Rinse. Repeat. Indeed.

Atrios is himself sagacious.

...let me just add what the real point is. Let's assume that Biden is right - do what he says, and things will improve. The corollary to that is if we don't do what he says, things won't improve. The probability of the Bush administration taking advice from Joe Biden is about 0. So what Joe Biden should understand is that lots more American soldiers are going to die while he sits around and waits for Bush to take his calls. And, then, a year from now he can give the damn speech again, perhaps with an "I really mean it this time" tacked on. Rinse, repeat.

That's why Rep. Murtha's speech was so powerful, and so well able to provoke the nasty whiplash from preznit all the way down to the Mexican Rat Dog.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time, then those Democrats and Republicans who keep wringing their hands and declaring "Yes, the Cheney administration is bungling it, but we must not abandon the mission in Iraq; they should just start doing it my way," are batshit nuts. They've been saying that since February 2003, and the bungling -- and the dying -- goes on.

Murtha's speech pulled the cover off of that. He basically said that our occupation isn't working, quite the opposite. Our presence there fuels the insurgency and the insurgency will be the fuel that sets off a civil war (assuming one isn't already in full swing). And we don't want to find our troops acting as lineskeepers of a civil war.

On a related note, I love the administration's talking points in response to Murtha's speech and calls for investigating the manipulation of pre-war intelligence: Free speech is fine. As long as it's not too free.

Cheney said in his speech today that he does not believe it is "wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof" and that he enjoys "energetic debate on issues facing our country." He called Murtha "a good man, a Marine, a patriot" and said that while he disagreed with him, the congressman was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

However, Cheney said: "What is not legitimate and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence. Some of the most irresponsible comments have come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities. And they were free to reach their own judgments based upon the evidence."


"One might also argue that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself," Cheney said. "I'm unwilling to say that only because I know the character of the United States armed forces."

One might say that, eh? Hmmm.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Envying their tactics

I doubt too many Keyboard Kommandos will take T-Bogg's advice and read it, but if you're going to read one essay about the delusions of the ideologues that have marked our Iraq adventure, from first conceived up to the present moment, than this is it.

Murtha’s argument that only a withdrawal of American forces can improve the situation was greeted by troops I know on the ground, and also by the White House, with genuine consternation. There is a plan, they say. In President George W. Bush’s phrase, “as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down.” And the military keeps compiling metrics to show something like that is happening. But it’s not enough, and Murtha puts his finger on the essential problem: as long as the Americans are there to bear the burden of the fighting, the Iraqis who are supposed to stand up don’t really see any need. As Murtha put it in mil-speak: “I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control.”

In fact, standing down is not about pulling out. So topsy-turvy is the policy at this point that we’re not going to imagine leaving until the Iraqi government demands that we go—and you can be sure the Iraqis who are now taking power will do just that. When? As soon as they and their Iranian allies have consolidated their hold on the southern three fourths of the country and its oil.

And that's why we witnessed the strange visit Chalabi made to D.C. last week. Neither open to the public nor exactly furtive, the Cheney administration -- always admiring of Chalabi -- now must also come to the realization that they're going to have to deal with him anyway. His careful wooing of the mullahs in Tehran may result in him ending up as Prime Minister of Iraq after all. He'll be a puppet, perhaps, but not our puppet.

And Christopher Dickey makes another important point, one we're seeing more evidence of every day.

Such naiveté is bad enough. But the transparent envy that America’s right-wing ideologues conceive for the tactics of their enemies, the enormous temptation to fight them by using their methods, is much worse. They subscribe to some higher truth than ascertainable facts, divining the intentions of their evil adversaries and turning them into the stuff of paranoid fantasy.

UPDATED 'cause I forget to title the post. I like to tie up these loose ends.

Waterboarding our way into Iraq

If this is true, then lies told to please his interrogators -- and to stop being tortured -- were then used as evidence central to the case the administration built to convince the nation that we needed to invade Iraq.

According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.

However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.

It is Dick Cheney's world -- "the dark side" -- we are all, quite literally, just living in it. And torture begets more and more torture.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Social conservatives and their daughters

Originally, I thought I'd title this post, "Social conservatives, let's just kill them all. Nooooowwwww.

Because this is




WASHINGTON - A new vaccine that protects against cervical cancer has set up a clash between health advocates who want to use the shots aggressively to prevent thousands of malignancies and social conservatives who say immunizing teenagers could encourage sexual activity.

Although the vaccine will not become available until at least next year, activists have begun maneuvering to influence how the immunizations will be used.

Groups working to reduce the toll of the cancer want the vaccine to become part of the standard roster of shots that children, especially girls, receive just before puberty.

Because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus, many conservatives oppose making it mandatory, citing fears that it could send a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage.


The vaccine protects women against strains of a ubiquitous germ called the human papilloma virus. Although many strains of the virus are innocuous, some can cause cancerous lesions on the cervix, making them the primary cause of this cancer in the United States. Cervical cancer strikes more than 10,000 U.S. women each year, killing more than 3,700.

The vaccine appears to be virtually 100 percent effective against two of the most common cancer-causing HPV strains. Merck, whose vaccine is further along, plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year for approval to sell the shots.

The Vega has no offspring. But if I did, I'd say to these gibbering fools that if they want to learn about Darwin the hard way, that's up to them, but leave my daughters out of it.

But can you imagine a father denying his daughters access to a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer because it might send a "subtle message?" Such individuals are the very definition of evil.

And they're currently running the goddamn asylum otherwise known as the Bush administration.

As is so often the case, the Medium Lobster observes this subject from his lofty perch.

The Washington martini set

Digby notes the open contempt for citizens' right to know that the Washington press corps shares with their soul mates in government.

If politicians and the press want to know why they get no respect from the people, this is why. They openly defend dirty politics, pooh-pooh our outrage against it, and then expect us to look up to them.

Bob Woodward and Richard Cohen think that Fitzgerald is some sort of obsessed Javert chasing down the poor journalists and their sources over a little loaf of DC's staff of life --- the politics of personal destruction. To the rest of us, it's clear that the law is the only institution left capable of sorting out the truth now that the press and the politicians are so cozy that it literally takes a threat of jail to get journalists to report important stories about our most powerful leaders.

Bob Woodward very likely knew on the day that Novak revealed that Wilson's wife was CIA that this was a coordinated leak, not idle gossip. He most certainly knew that it was a coordinated leak when he found out that Libby and Rove had both "idly gossipped" about this to other reporters. Yet in his media appearances he made it quite clear that he believes that it was a trivial matter. I think we must take him at his word.

The elite press corps see the Nixonian dirty politics that have completely distorted our political discourse over the last 30 years as social currency. Swift-boating and McCain's black daughter and Linda Trip's tapes and Al Gore's suits are entertainment to them and the dissemination of this entertainment buys them access for what they think are their "serious" stories. We are told to just "get over" partisan impeachments, stolen elections and even lying about nuclear weapons.

Richard Cohen and his ilk believed that dirty politics are what Washington "does" the way that Hollywood makes movies or Detroit makes cars while the rest of us rubes maintained the strange belief that Washington is supposed to serve the people. That's the heart of this crisis in journalism. The elite press corps have completely missed the biggest political story of the last quarter century because they were having so much fun laughing and cavorting with their Republican sources that they failed to see that a powerful, criminal political machine was built upon the "trivial" acts of character assassination they found so amusing.

It's rather ironic (and that's a word I usually try to avoid using for fear of growing addicted) that in the sniffing and tut tutting of Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen -- what set off Dibgy's fine rant -- he basically says that Fitzgerald is chasing nothing significant, something that is Standard Operating Procedure in D.C.: a cover-up. Funny, I thought chasing down a cover-up was what reporters were supposed to do, not wait for Fitzgeralds to do it for them. In fact, wasn't chasing down a cover-up what turned Woodward from a nobody metro reporter to the Dean of American Journalism?

Follow the money, indeed.

And this just occurs to me: What's Carl Bernstein have to say about all of this?

But in trying, unsuccessfully, to find Digby's link to the Cohen quote (maybe I just couldn't take any more "Hardball"), I did find this interesting exchange:

SCARBOROUGH: You know, I always love reading Woodward books because he is—we talked about this before—he‘s sort of—he really doesn‘t work for a newspaper, he works for Woodward. He writes these books.

And for Washington insiders, they read these books and you just think, OK, this person leaked this way, this person leaked that. When I...


MATTHEWS: I think Clinton really did do that, by the way. I think he underlined, “George Stephanopoulos said this” and that kind of thing.

SCARBOROUGH: But it‘s just so easy to figure out.

And in this case you have Bob Woodward obviously protecting his source, who is...

MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s Cheney?

SCARBOROUGH: I certainly do.

And of course, it‘s so funny—about a month back, I heard somebody -

somebody called me up and said, you know, Cheney, it looks like Cheney is going to be running for president 2008, which I heard from people deep inside the Bush administration...


MATTHEWS: You heard that, too?


SCARBOROUGH: But I said, “Well, how do you know?”

And they said, “Because Bob Woodward is going around telling everybody.”

MATTHEWS: What was he, flattering a source, do you think?

SCARBOROUGH: Of course he was.

And again, I remember I think in 1991 reading “The Commanders” at the beach and just dying laughing, going, oh my God, Colin Powell will leak this chapter, somebody else leaked that—but it happens all the time.

And people don‘t understand that, that reporters take it easy on their sources.

I remember one time we were in one of those meetings where we were trying to overthrow Newt Gingrich, right? This one time, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. I said absolutely nothing. Sat in the back, I said I‘m not going to get caught in this.

MATTHEWS: You don‘t want a bouquet thrown to you by Bob Novak, for example? And just say, everyone in the cloak room knows you ratted out a week ago.

SCARBOROUGH: Right. So I said absolutely nothing. Another guy in there who never liked me came out. He leaked to his source, tore me to shreds. Lied about me.

This newspaper ran it, and this reporter everybody knows. And I said what the hell just happened? Four days later, the leaker gets a front-page glowing review. A conservative that this newspaper had always hated.

And I went to the reporter, I said I know what you did. He said, what are you talking about? I said I know what you did. You kicked me in the butt. You got this guy‘s other source and told him you‘d write him a positive article if he ratted everybody out.

That‘s how it works.

MATTHEWS: Fee for service.

SCARBOROUGH: Fee for service. And the thing is, it happens whether you are talking about “Roll Call,” “The Washington Post,” or “The New York Times.”

I guess the pols and the reporters and the columnists consider us to be passive spectators whose role is to sit quietly and observe their maneuvering and petty back stabbing. We should consider ourselves fortunate to be admitted to the show.

Rep. Murtha: A "Michael Moore" democrat

Preznit's slip shows a little more. He's still obsessed with Michael Moore.

President Bush, in South Korea, continued on Friday to be questioned by reporters about the debate over Iraq. His press secretary issued an unusually blistering statement responding to Mr. Murtha's call for a pullout, declaring that the Democrat was "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

Don't know about you, but I'd have to call that shriiiiiilllll.

Especially when it is said about this guy.

To understand Murtha, you have to understand that he knows firsthand that the Marine Corps is run not by the generals with their drivers and the stars on their shoulders, but by the sergeants. He refuses to settle for PowerPoint briefings from the military and civilian brass. He talks personally and directly to the enlisted personnel and the junior officers whose lives and limbs are on the line. His barely controlled rage over the shortage of bullet-stopping Kevlar vests for the U.S. military in Iraq brought prompt action from the Pentagon.

George W. Bush may want to run for re-election as "the war president," but Washington, D.C., in 2004 is anything but "a war capital." Contrary to the highest American traditions, this war demands from the nation's leadership no equality of sacrifice. The message to those most advantaged and most privileged from this president is clear: "In this war, you will pay no price, you will bear no burden."

Almost alone among Washington officials, Jack Murtha regularly visits Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, to comfort and encourage the wounded and crippled veterans and their families. He can tell you, because he knows and he goes to their funerals, that already six residents of his working class Pennsylvania district have been killed in Iraq.

As the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha is openly furious at the Bush administration's dishonesty in failing to ask Congress to appropriate even the first dime of the millions that must be spent for 30,000 more troops, for the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a budget Murtha brands $60 billion to $70 billion short of what the administration knows it will have to spend this year.

Prospects for the emergence of a stable, peaceful, self-governing Iraq? According to Murtha, "No better than 50-50."

You will not see Jack Murtha on the cable news talk show circuit. On Capitol Hill, he is rightly known as a workhorse, not a show horse. When Jack Murtha speaks, those who care about the men and women of the U.S. military and their mission have learned to pay attention.

That was written back in March 2004. Since then, seven more of Murtha's constituents have died in the conflict. And given Murtha's reputation, Bush's shockingly shrill response (normally such an obviously personal, angry, and fearful reactions -- the appearance of a cornered rodent -- are left to "anonymous staffers."

And when you've lost Howie Kurtz, you've lost the nation.

At long last, steroids banned from baseball

Our long national nightmare -- grandstanding Senators -- is finally over.

"I think everybody's very, very happy this is finally behind us," Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. "It's a very strong policy, and it's great to have this behind us so we can talk about baseball, not steroids."

As King Kaufman writes, the price of steroids just rose dramatically. Alas, human growth hormone prices remain stable.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Baseball writers: Homies?

Maybe in Boston.

Red Sox guy finishes second to Yankee guy in narrow MVP race. It makes us want to holler ''bag job." It just does. Especially when the Red Sox guy is the lovable David Ortiz and the Yankee guy is the smarmy, loathsome poser, Alex Rodriguez (actually, I kind of like A-Rod, but that's his image here in the hardball Hub of the universe).

In New York? Not so much.

Alex Rodriguez is exactly what he was when the Yankees traded for him 21 months ago. He is their trophy third baseman, more of a trophy third baseman than ever now that he has won his second MVP award in three years. He is just not the trophy the Yankees had in mind.
"We can win three World Series, with me it's never going to be over," Rodriguez said yesterday. "I think my benchmark is so high that no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough, and I understand that."

What a guy.

The definition of benchmark goes something like this: A point of reference for a measurement. A-Rod knew exactly how big Yankees were measured when he decided to move here from Texas and move from shortstop to third base. The idea that the expectations for him are now ridiculously high is ridiculously low comedy.

When the Boston writer says of A-Rod, "I kind of like him," and the New York writer obviously loathes him, that's tough for the home town ball player.

You know, I seem to recall that the Red Sox were out in three against the White Sox, and yet that doesn't come up when discussing the relative merits of his deserving the MVP over Rodriguez. Truth is, I expected Ortiz to win simply because the New York beat writers eat their own, as evidenced by no Yankee winning an MVP since Don Mattingly, twenty years ago (twenty years in which the Yankees went to the post-season 11 times, won the AL Pennant six times, and the World Serious four times). But Rodriguez deserved it, not only because of his stellar glove work, but because of his performance the last two months of the season, when the Yankees clawed their way back from an awful start to win the division.

Rodriguez can't win. On the one hand, the local press complain that he's too scripted. But when he allows himeself for a moment -- after saying time and again that he "played like a dog" in the ALDS -- to complain that it's tough to live up to the expectations they rip him apart.

Steve Goldman responds to the hacks:

Uh, Mr. Lupica, sir? He was asked if he thought he would still hear criticism next spring. He said yes. Moreover, he was right. As for the burden of being A-Rod, if he feels burdened over feeling criticism, which he has insisted, again and again, that he does not, it’s really his problem, not yours. Or maybe no one asked him the right question. In the aforementioned WFAN interview with Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, Rodriguez acknowledged that, “I’ve always considered myself a big-game player, but at the same time, in New York, until you do it in the pinstripes you’re always going to be criticized. That’s fair, and I’m cool with it.”

Ian O'Connor, Gannett columnist:

"Rodriguez is no more the MVP of the American League now, as a first-place third baseman with the Yankees, than he was as a last-place shortstop with the Rangers. … David Ortiz should've won the award, even if he doesn't play the field. You didn't need to weigh the numbers to know Ortiz made more dramatic contributions to the Red Sox than Rodriguez made to the Yanks. … So what if there isn't a New Yorker worth his or her Derek Jeter jersey who would declare Rodriguez the most valuable Yankee, not as long as Jeter slips into his Mr. October cape…"

We all have our opinions. Ortiz’s contributions may have been more dramatic, but this is the Yankees, not the kids from “Fame.” Besides: the Yankees went 19-10 in August, 19-9 during September, and it was only by virtue of that terrific finish that they even made the postseason. Rodriguez hit .324/.429/.733 during the former month and .317/.419/.567 during the latter. We are supposed to believe that this was just a coincidence? It wasn’t.

Other columnists jumped on Rodriguez’s discussion of his performance in the postseason and how he expanded his personal strike zone. “My one regret is I thought I could have walked 10 or 12 times and just passed the baton. Probably at the end, I got a little overanxious.”

The aforementioned Wojnarowski:

"Alex Rodriguez wasn't brought to the Yankees to pass the baton, and he sure wasn't brought here to pass the buck. This is no time for A-Rod to feel sorry for himself. No one wants to hear it, and no one ever will. It's funny, but A-Rod always knew what people wanted to hear. And now, he's lost that too. Whatever. Just check with him next October. That's all that's left for him."

But in an interview with Mark Feinsand of, Rodriguez expanded on the point: “Looking back, I probably should have walked 10 or 12 times. That's it. I've seen players like Barry Bonds go through it, I saw Vladimir Guerrero struggle this year. Sometimes in the postseason, they circle a few guys and single them out. They did that to me.” If you’re cynical, you can take this as morning-after spin — “It’s not that I didn’t hit, it’s that they didn’t pitch to me.” There is also certainly an element of truth to it.

In the end, the local press treated Rodriguez unfairly (and that’s without going into the reprehensible tabloid headlines on Tuesday). The differences between David Ortiz and Rodriguez were small enough to be reducible to questions of philosophy — were Oritz’s home runs somehow more valuable? Should Rodriguez be given credit for his time in the field? The writers largely refused to admit this, and instead “analyzed” the situation in terms of what they perceived to be Rodriguez’s personality deficits.

Rodriguez is the best Yankee third baseman since...well...ever. He's the best right hand hitting Yankee since Joe DiMaggio. Joe DiMaggio.

Enjoy watching him play, you idiots, or else why do you cover baseball?

Must be the "reprehensible and irresponsible" world tour

And John Murtha is having none of it.

"It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."


Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the fray Wednesday by assailing Democrats who contend the Bush administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq, calling their criticism "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

But whose counting?

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress. He planned to introduce a resolution Thursday that, if passed by both the House and the Senate, would force the president to withdraw U.S. troops.

Surely, supporters of the war will respond with a reasoned debate on the merits of keeping our troops strength at current levels, and not resort to RNC talking points. Right?

Rep. Kay Granger (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, said Murtha's call for withdrawal was "reprehensible and irresponsible."

That's what I keep hearing. But no, Kay, entering into a war based on manipulated intelligence is reprehensible. Entering into a war with no plan for how to subdue the conquered or maintain the peace is irresponsible.

One single post on Openly Stoopid Media

Guys, guys. Why are you even paying attention to these braying idiots and their camp followers?

You're giving them way more attention than they deserve. I give the site, or whatever it is, two months. And will continue, during that time, to steadfastly stay the course, resolute in my decision -- for my health, and for the health of you, Dear Reader -- to never visit.

As Capain Beefheart would say, "The past sure is tense."

As Nixon prepares to go to China...

I'm sorry. Did I say "Nixon?"

My mistake, I meant George W. Bush.

Seems like its getting harder and harder to tell the two apart, even with the chasm of 35 years separating them.

The documents also show Nixon's political calculations when it came to defending the previously secret U.S. bombings and troop movements in Cambodia.

On May 31, 1970, a month after Nixon went on television to explain his actions, asserting that he would not let his nation become "a pitiful, helpless giant," the president met top military and national security aides at the Western White House in San Clemente, Calif.

Revelation of the operation had sparked protests and congressional action against what many lawmakers from both parties considered an illegal war. Nixon noted that Americans believed the Cambodian operation was "all but over," even as 14,000 troops were engaged across the border in a hunt for North Vietnamese operating there.

In a memo from the meeting marked "Eyes Only, Top Secret Sensitive," Nixon told his military men to continue doing what was necessary in Cambodia, but to say for public consumption that the United States was merely providing support to South Vietnamese forces when necessary to protect U.S. troops.

"That is what we will say publicly," he asserted. "But now, let's talk about what we will actually do."

He instructed: "Do not withdraw for domestic reasons but only for military reasons. We have taken all the heat on this one. Just do it. Don't come back and ask permission each time."

The release of 50,000 additional documents from the Nixon archive aren't providing many revelations, but they are yet another reminder that a war efforts sustained by lies, half-truths, and political calculation is doomed to lose support if it goes on too long.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - White House advisers convene secret sessions about the political dangers of revelations that American troops committed atrocities in the war zone, and about whether the president can delicately intervene in the investigation. In the face of an increasingly unpopular war, they wonder at the impact on support at home. The best way out of the war, they agree, is to prop up a new government that they hope can unite the fractured foreign land.

No, Iraq is nothing like southeast Asia in the 1970s. But the Cheney administration is a lot like the Nixon one (without the liberal tendencies).


Via Josh Marshall, Knight-Ridder takes a look at various assertions made by the White House in what Stephen Hadley called the "sustained campaign" to push back on calls that the administration misled the American people into war.

I think at one point, the Knight-Ridder reporters use the quaint word, "bogus."

Last night, Cheney ratcheted up the noise machine.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Vice President Dick Cheney joined the White House attack on critics of the Iraq war Wednesday night when he told a conservative group that senators who had suggested that the Bush administration manipulated prewar intelligence were making "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

Trouble for Cheney, though, is that when Elisabeth Bumiller is no longer simply playing stenographer for you, the rhetoric falls apart pretty quickly.

In his speech, Mr. Cheney echoed the argument of Mr. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the past week that Democrats had access to the same prewar intelligence that the White House did, and that they came to the same conclusion that Mr. Hussein was a threat.

The administration, however, had access to far more extensive intelligence than Congress did. The administration also left unaddressed the question of how it had used that intelligence, which was full of caveats, subtleties and contradictions. Many Democrats now say they believe they had been misled by the administration in the way it presented the prewar intelligence.

One must wonder, does the Cheney administration think it's still running for something? Because they are the ones "playing politics" with a coordinated effort by the White House and the Republican party apparatus to avoid addressing the real charges being leveled here, that they manipulated evidence to convince Congress and voters that Saddam was an imminent threat, and instead use out-of-context quotes from the opposition to try to make them look "reprehensible."
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