Thursday, June 30, 2005

New York, New York

I do not live in New York City. But I did live for five glorious years in Manhattan in the 1980s, then spent another seven or so in various other boroughs before moving to Connecticut so that my dogs could attend better schools.

I still consider myself tied spiritually to the city. So it pisses me off when a city of 8 million, the most diverse place in the universe, is used as a metaphor for "Upper West Side Jewish Liberal." And it pisses me off still more that there has, for some time, been a creeping corruption of the actual history of Sept. 11, 2001 among the various freepers and Wall St. Journal editorial writers. If you read these people, not only is New York no more than some kind of communist gay bathhouse, but in fact Sept. 11 was a metaphysical attack on the heartland of our country. And while there was a well-chronicled attack on a field in Pennsylvania, it was not, despite what you may have seen or heard, a real, ya know, physical attack on lower Manhattan.

If it were up to them, they'd put the state of Kansas in charge of building a memorial down there.

Let's face it: New Yorkers are known for abusing the First Amendment... Once the IFC and Drawing Center are up and running, there'll be no stopping them.

Yep, can't have any of that damn "First Amendment" stuff in a building called the "Freedom Tower."

Free Republic concurs in its usual guttural roar: "The liberal parasites of New York are not capable of recognition of bravery, of sacrife....the liberal trash of your state is only concerned WITH SELF, encouraged on by their witch of a so-called Senator..." etc.

Those 3,000 poor souls who died that day trying to get out of the WTC? Not New Yorkers, that's for sure. That should be obvious to you by now.

The city was a shell of itself for months. For weeks, throughout the lower half of Manhattan, you could smell the smoldering of the buildings' remains. A weird chemical smell that you didn't want to think too much about. The city's economy was in ruins only now just recovering, and the same for many New Yorkers' mental health. So for the second week in a row, this liberal parasite says to the growing chorus of mainstream convservativevilifyingng people like my colleagues in New York as traitors and "fifth columnists," "fuck you."

Time to comply with court order

Breaking news.

NEW YORK -- Time Inc. said Thursday it would comply with a court order to deliver the notes of a reporter threatened with jail in the investigation of the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening to jail Matthew Cooper, Time's White House correspondent, and Judith Miller of The New York Times for contempt for refusing to disclose their sources.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the reporters' appeal and the grand jury investigating the leak expires in October. The reporters, if in jail, would be freed at that time.

In a statement, Time said it believes "the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society." '

But it also said that despite its concerns, it will turn over the records to the special counsel investigating the leak.

"The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity," the statement said.

And if you needed any proof that Washington journalists/columnists are some kind of fraternal order that transcends politics, look no further.

In an interview yesterday, Al Hunt, a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and a colleague of Mr. Novak's on the recently canceled CNN program "Capital Gang," said he supported Mr. Novak's decision not to discuss his sources publicly.

But Mr. Hunt said Mr. Novak, while protecting his sources, could probably shed some light on why Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper were facing jail on contempt charges, while he, apparently, was not.

"It does beg the question why Matt and Judy, and not Bob," Mr. Hunt, an editor for Bloomberg News, said. "It's just so confusing to citizens and people in our business. If Bob could provide some context, I think it would be helpful."

I have no sympathy for any of them. A White House "source" tried to use "Matt" and "Judy" ("Judy", for once, did not allow herself to be so used) to discredit someone unfriendly to the White House. They're not protecting a whistle-blower, they protecting a thug. Give it up, already.

But the question that is really begging, to go with Hunt's misuse of the phrase, why aren't reporters pressing Fitzgerald on what he's really investigating at this point?

Scientology on parade

I agree. If Tom Cruise is permitted to go from talk show to talk show speaking of the joys of dianetics, then reporters have a responsibility to question a little more of the origin of his "faith."

As it is, it's treated as some sort of cute eccentricity, on a par with him using a girl young enough to be his daughter as his latest beard.

I will say this, though. I thought we might catch the matinee of "War of the Worlds" yesterday, but Madame Cura nixed that idea. "I will not see a movie with Tom Cruise," when I asked why. So, why reporters may be too lazy or too afraid to get dropped from the "junkets" list, American women are getting the picture that this guy is a screwed up misogynist who has the gall to attack Brooke Shields for her efforts to shed light on post-partum depression.

Stupid career choices, Tom. L. Ron Hubbard would not be pleased.


After two presidential campaigns, Mr. Bush has finely tuned his sense of timing for cueing applause, especially when it comes to his most oft-expressed declarations of resolve to face down terrorists. But when the crowd did not respond on Tuesday , he seemed to speed up his delivery a bit. Then, toward the end of the 28-minute speech, there was an outbreak of clapping when Mr. Bush said, "We will stay in the fight until the fight is done."

Terry Moran, an ABC News White House correspondent, said on the air on Tuesday night that the first to clap appeared to be a woman who works for the White House, arranging events. Some other reporters had the same account, but Captain Earnhardt and others in the back of the room say the applause was started by a group of officers.

In hindsight, I'm sorry I missed this "television event." It must have been strange.

Transform this!

Damn, that online magazine thing sounds way cooler than a humble blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Burns supports testing pesticides on children"

DavidNYC refrains from using that headline for this post on the shamelessness of the GOP.

The Vega, of course, shows no such restraint.

"Could be worse."

Um, I think the war in Iraq is officially lost.

Troubling injuries

J.C. Christian is worried about our 101st Fighting Keyboardists and others of service age who full-throatedly support the war and yet, sadly, have suffered injuries that make it impossible for them to serve.

I'm beginning to think that the French are surreptitiously injuring the backs of service age patriots throughout the country. They're probably using soccer to accomplish this. It's a very seditious, euro-centric game. The communists imported it after they grew tired of waiting for fluoridated water to weaken us. I'm working very hard to have soccer added to the Glorious Conservative Christian Cultural Revolution's list of things we must destroy.

I need more data to do this. Could you tell me why you remain at home, eating Cheetos in your mother's basements while other's fight the war you so whole-heartedly demanded? Have you injured your backs playing soccer? Do you drink an inordinate amount of fluoridated water?

Meanwhile -- and another hat tip to Attaturk -- the VA made a slight error in the number of wounded they anticipated coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Veterans Administration assumed it would have to take care of 23,553 patients who are veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but that number had been revised upward to 103,000, Nicholson told a House of Representatives panel.


Keep that awful Hungarian away from baseball!

Attaturk points us to the Washington Post, no stranger to political agendas worn on the sleeve, where Sally Jenkins can't quite believe the rankness of Republicans' demand that Soros not be permitted to bid on the Washingtn Nationals.

I don't much care about George Soros, and I don't care at all which rich guy gets the privilege of spending $400 million in heavy sugar on the Nats. But I do care when members of a ruling party start pushing people around, because next, it could be me. This is supposed to be the party that doesn't believe in government telling business or private citizens what to do. So here's what I have to say to Davis about that: Get your boot off my front porch, mister.

Davis, who first expressed his views in Roll Call, contends he is just speaking as a citizen -- "This is one fan's opinion." -- but he can't hide behind a hot dog, or a flag, on this one. Davis is chair of the House Committee on Government Reform, which has been investigating steroid usage in baseball. Therefore, it's not just unseemly for him to pressure MLB on the Nats sale. It's a bald abuse of power.

An even nastier abuse came from Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), who actually suggested baseball's antitrust exemption might be in trouble on the Hill if MLB let Soros have the Nats. It's one thing to threaten MLB for failing to govern drug usage -- Congress was quite right to do that. It's quite another to threaten it over one prospective owner's politics. In doing so, Davis and Sweeney just cost themselves all credibility.

You can't help wondering what's behind the outrageous attack on Soros, who isn't even a major partner in the bid for the Nats. (Local entrepreneur Jon Ledecky is the real bidder.) Isn't it strange that rival bidder Fred Malek, the head of the Washington Baseball club, just happens to be a very big GOP fundraiser? And isn't it strange that, in a telephone interview, Davis went out of his way to praise Malek's bid? And isn't it strange that these attacks on Soros from Republicans came on the very day that Ledecky and his partners were being interviewed by MLB?

Davis doesn't bother to hide his agenda. He says straight out that baseball needs to cultivate some good will on Capitol Hill at the moment, given the steroid investigations, and that selling the team to billionaire Soros, a critic of President Bush and a massive financial supporter of liberal causes, would anger him.

"They could use some friends on the Hill right now, and this is not the way to make them," Davis said yesterday.

But no, it's not because a crony has a competing bid on the table, its because Soros is a dope fiend.

Davis called Soros "a convicted felon" and "pro-marijuana." He was referring to Soros's conviction in France on insider trading charges, and to the fact that Soros favors the decriminalization of marijuana, and clean needle programs, as a way to combat drug use.

"You've got a league with a steroid problem, and you're going to sell the team to a guy who is pro marijuana? I just don't think we need or want that in the nation's capital. I just don't think you want such a polarizing figure."

Or maybe because he's just not one of us?

But Davis has another problem with Soros, too. He's an "out of towner." Listening to Davis, you wonder if he's next going to say Soros's Hungarian accent is too thick.

"I mean, to me, Soros is the guy who has so much money and wants to buy the world," Davis said. "I mean that's not what baseball's about. This is above all a fan sport. This is the Nationals, and they're going to give it to some multinational?"

Unbelievable. And Jenkins' tale gets worse.

Congress sacrifices for the war effort

A message to preznit, Congress, and the 101st Fighting Keyboardists:

"We have to let people joining know that if they make this sacrifice, we will take care of them," General Gaddis said in a telephone interview from his home in Vienna, Va. "They need to increase medical benefits for both active and reserve and anyone else, because they're not seeing that commitment."

Sgt. Maj. Roger Leturno, who retired in September 2003 after serving as the senior enlisted adviser to General Gaddis and two successors at the recruiting command, said the president's rejection of a timetable for withdrawal would also make it harder for recruiters to persuade young people to join.

"You have a percent of kids out there will join regardless," said Sergeant Major Leturno, who watched the speech at home in Colorado Springs with his 20-year-old daughter, Maggie, a member of the Colorado National Guard. "But that's not the problem."

"A recruiter is trying to get the ones on the fence or on the other side of the fence," he said. "He may have gotten some of the fence-sitters, but I don't think he got the ones on the other side."

Col. David Slotwinski, a former chief of staff for recruiting who retired in 2004 and watched the speech from his home in Olympia, said: "He just did a great rehash of everything that's been said so far.

"The last part of it, where he came out strong and thanked the troops, that was well done. But in the end, there still was not really that call for service. There was no call to arms. He didn't say 'America, I need your sons and daughters to support us in the fight.' "

It's tough enough getting them to commit our tax dollars to support the troops, I'm not holding my breath on the whole sons and daughters thing.

Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho and chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, who is leading the effort, said he had discussed the $1.5 billion with White House officials, who he said had earlier resisted the idea of emergency spending. "They blinked," Mr. Craig said, adding, "The message to veterans is very clear, and it is a strong bipartisan message, that they will be served."

In the House, where Republicans at first said no action was necessary, party leaders were meeting into the evening to figure out how to proceed. A spokesman for Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said it was possible that an emergency bill could go to the House floor as early as Wednesday.

But earlier in the day, House Republicans voted down an effort by Democrats to increase health spending for veterans by $1 billion. Mr. Lewis and Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, told reporters in the morning that they did not believe an emergency spending measure was required.

By afternoon, however, with President Bush addressing the nation Tuesday night on the status of the war in Iraq, and rising complaints from veterans and Democrats, it became apparent that Republicans would have to act. Democrats, who have been trying to turn veterans' health care into a winning political issue, were delighted.

"They have seen the light," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

At least Congress did approach an issue far less difficult for them to get behind.


Kernels of substance sought.

I didn't watch the speech. I doubt many did; one set of poll numbers indicate that of those watching, Republicans outnumbered Dems by 2-1. That's why substance wasn't really expected. The speech wasn't intended to lay out a realistic picture of the situation in Iraq and it certainly wasn't intended to describe the "clear path" preznit talks about going forward. Instead, like Rove's remarks last week, and Rumsfeld's and Cheney's appearances on the Sunday morning chimp shows, this is all about strengthening the spine of a base that is beginning to show some cracks in their all-forgiving loyalty to this Miserable Failure. "Failure's not an option." "Resolve." "Stay and Fight." "Accomplish the mission." And, of course, "9-11."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tony Woe


The state of New York should make writing Womack's name in a lineup card an indictable offense. Even the Black Sox didn't tank games in so obvious a manner. Their left fielder was Shoeless Joe Jackson, for goshsakes. He hit .375 in the 1919 World Series. He was trying to lose and he still outhit Womack by 130 points.

Big meetings down in Tampa today. Despite a couple of thrilling games capped by even more thrilling late innings comebacks by the Yankees, a team that starts Tony Womack in center field instead of Bernie Williams (too tired to play, my ass), is a team in serious disarray.

There isn't much the Yankees can do unless they want to let go two rookies who have proven to be legitimate big leaguers, not an easy thing to do when you play for the Yankees. But one thing they most certainly have to do -- either go out and get another center fielder, or put Bernie back there. Playing Womack (.239/.273/.263 -- yes, that's right, a slugging percentage below his already feeble on-base percentage) in center is a sign that someone in Steinbrenner's brain trust is sniffing glue. Maybe we should be looking for symptoms of "meth mouth" down there at the "Legends Field" offices, because the irrationality of the lineup cards these days makes me think someone is a danger to himself and least a danger to the mental health of Yankee fans.

A veritable "shining path"

Taking a break from what Wolcott calls a Willy Lomanesque campaign of shilling private accounts, Bush is going to put forth his golden tongue to tell the American people what he's been telling them for weeks -- it's all going swimmingly.

Mr. Bush will speak to the nation at 8 p.m. from Fort Bragg, N.C., before an audience of hundreds of troops. ABC said it would carry the address live. CBS and NBC said they had yet to decide. Tuesday is the first anniversary of the formal transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis after the American-led invasion.

Mr. McClellan suggested that Mr. Bush would not signal any change in military or diplomatic strategy. Instead, he said, the president will emphasize that Iraq is making progress despite the mounting loss of life, and that the United States cannot allow the understandable concern about the violent insurgency to deter it from completing the job.

Hmmm. What of Fox?

Sayeth Wolcott:

Here's what I'm wondering. Bush is making a major national address on Tuesday about Iraq. With each speech he masticated about Social Security "reform," approval for his non-existent program sagged. His sixty-day sales tour was a Willy Loman flop. Suppose he makes a rallying call on Tuesday and his poll numbers subsequently drop even more? I recall when LBJ would go before the nation with a televised address to shore up support on Vietnam, and it was too late, the nation had had enough. I'm not saying that will happen next week--Bush's speechwriter may whip enough enough eloquence for a temporary boost in the polls--but suppose it does? If Bush comes forward, and the American people recoil, I suspect a line of perspiration will begin to form even along Bill Kristol's thin upper lip.

Here's what I'm wondering. Will anyone tune in to watch Dear Leader stand before the troops -- more evidence that he considers them little more than stage props -- and use all of Michael Gerson's fabled elequence to spit out "stay the course?"

"Anti-Christian smuck"

Bill and Hillary Clinton meet with Billy Graham in New York. The freepers respond with characteristic agility.

"Not avoiding failure"

What was Tony Blair -- supposedly, the adult in the relationship -- thinking?

"I think there is a real risk that the administration underestimates the difficulties," David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote to the prime minister on March 14, 2002, after he returned from meetings with Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, and her staff. "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it."

A U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the events said the concerns raised by British officials "played a useful role."

"Were they paid a tremendous amount of heed?" said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think it's hard to say they were."

Perhaps Blair was not the adult his eloquence would have us believe he was. Perhaps this grand desert romance in Iraq was as beguiling to him as it was to Bush.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The GOP plan to control baseball

This, via Josh Marshall, would be hilarious if it weren't so dementedly hubristic. For Republicans, everything is political.

Another senior Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said that the league should be aware of the perception problem that might be associated with selling the Nats to Soros.

"Why would Major League Baseball want to get involved with George Soros?" said the lawmaker. "It's about more than just the sale price."

Look, MLB is not about economics or the free market. And Washington has felt the need to get into baseball's knickers for a century. But I don't recall congressmen threatening baseball so as to prevent a sale to a specific individual.

What FBI memo?

Well, if this argument doesn't work, they can always claim the FBI agent who wrote the memo highlighting abuses at Guantanamo was, in fact, just motivated by revenge.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

It's payback time

Many have wondered, what's in it for him as Tony Blair has been repeatedly rebuffed by George W. Bush and seen his own "political capital" seriously wounded by throwing his lot in with the American president. Why continue to accept Bush's intransigence over issues important to Blair, like global warming? Or Bush's lip service commitment to African aid? Or the humiliation of seeing British subjects detained at Guantanamo Bay?

Oh. Now we know. It's tough to get those juicy internships.

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair 's eldest son Euan will work as an intern with Republican staff in the U.S. House of Representatives, the prime minister's office said on Sunday.

Euan, 21, will spend three months working with a committee which determines how U.S. legislation is considered in the lower chamber of Congress.

"Euan Blair has been given the opportunity to take up a short, unpaid internship with the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives," said a spokesman at the prime minister's Downing Street office.

Nevermind he's not a U.S. citizen. He's the son of the head of the British Labour Party working for a Republican.

I can hear Dear Leader now: "Heh. Heh."

"Go, Team!"

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Karl Rove:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

The Poor Man reminds us of what George W. Bush did when he was first informed of "the savagery of 9/11. "Preparing for war" wasn't part of the deal, but he did use a megaphhone.

While Bush was reading “The Pet Goat” to children in Florida and pulling the rather stupid face you see in the picture, New York firefighters were responding to the first strike of the largest terrorist attack in the history of the world. Two hours later, while Mr. Bush was scurrying around the country, “trying to get out of harm’s way”, 343 men from the NYFD would be dead, along with 60 NYPD and Port Authority officers, and 2,420 other people, as WTC1 and 2 collapsed. Thousands of people - New Yorkers - labored to clean up the smoldering ruin, and to remove the bodies, and pieces of bodies, of their family, friends, and neighbors. Three days later, Bush showed up at Ground Zero with a megaphone, and vowed to get those responsible. He didn’t.

Blowing the investigation

It seems remarkably stupid for the CIA to nab a key organizer of potential terror cells operating in Italy, Germany, and the UK, even as the investigation is capturing the telephone conversations of the cells' leaders, but that's just me.

As early as spring 2002, the Italians tipped off the Americans about Mr. Nasr's activities, Italian investigators said. Methodically, using a mixture of electronic surveillance, wiretaps and surveillance, the Italian police collected evidence that Mr. Nasr was trying to build a jihadist recruitment network with tentacles spreading throughout Europe.

The police and investigators said they had evidence that Mr. Nasr's anti-American speeches and calls to jihad were resonating with young Muslim men who were attending his Islamic center here. Secret listening devices had been placed in Mr. Nasr's home and inside several mosques, officials said.

According to court records, this exchange occurred in one eavesdropped conversation at a Milan mosque, recorded by the Italian secret police:

Unidentified speaker: "We must find money because our objective is to form an Islamic army, which will be known as Force 9."

Mr. Nasr: "How are things going in Germany?"

Unidentified speaker: "We can't complain. There are already 10 of us, and we are also concentrating our efforts on Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Egypt and Turkey. But the hub of the organization remains London."

The Italian investigators shared a transcript of this conversation and others with the Americans, who were growing more concerned about Mr. Nasr's openly militant remarks, investigators said.

At first, the Italian investigators said they had suspected that Mr. Nasr was kidnapped by the Egyptians, possibly with the complicity of some Italian authorities.

"It's a serious breach of Italian law; it's absolutely illegal," said Armando Spataro, Milan's deputy chief prosecutor who led the investigation of Mr. Nasr and the kidnapping inquiry.

Mr. Spataro said he and his colleagues were determined to investigate the kidnapping like any other crime by the book.

It took more than two years, but all the evidence - including cellphone use and the timing of the American officials' arrival and their movements - led the Italians to conclude the kidnapping operation was conducted by the 13 Americans, with the help of six other C.I.A. officials who are still under criminal investigation, they said. Mr. Spataro applied for the arrest warrants in March, and they were signed this week by Judge Chiara Nobili.

A methodical investigation of the "tentacles" of a terror network is gradually putting the pieces together, and the CIA blows it up because they don't like a suspect's anti-American rhetoric. Of course, as with every misdeed and mistake on behalf of the U.S., it can all be dismissed as the result of political bias.

Some former American intelligence officials said in interviews that there might be political motivations behind the warrants. On Saturday, Mr. Spataro declined to comment on any accusations of political bias.

But an Italian judicial official pointed out that Mr. Spataro, 56, is not a member of any political party. He faced accusations of right-wing bias when he led prosecutions of the Red Brigade terrorist organization in the late 1970's and 1980's. Two of his colleagues, the official said, were killed by the Red Brigades.

"I think people in Washington may not understand that in Italy a prosecutor does not choose what to investigate," the official said. "He has a legal obligation to investigate any crime."

Mr. Spataro, in a recent interview, expressed his disdain for the Americans' use of rendition, though he denied that he was motivated by that when he asked a judge to sign the arrest warrants against the C.I.A. officials. "I feel the international community must struggle against terrorism and international terrorist groups in accordance with international laws and the rights of the defendant," he said. "Otherwise, we are giving victory to the terrorists."

But wait. It gets weirder.

The Italians said their anger and disappointment with the Americans did not end there. They said that when they later asked the Americans about Mr. Nasr's whereabouts, they were told that American intelligence had discovered that he had surfaced somewhere in the Balkans.


The PBS ruse

Frank Rich notices that, fake emails from Nina Totenberg notwithstanding, the real threat to PBS is not a cut in funding. That's a feint to take our attention away from the real plan -- co-opting the editorial content.

That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

There's only one obstacle standing in the way of the coup. Like Richard Nixon, another president who tried to subvert public broadcasting in his war to silence critical news media, our current president may be letting hubris get the best of him. His minions are giving any investigative reporters left in Washington a fresh incentive to follow the money.

That money is not the $100 million that the House still threatens to hack out of public broadcasting's various budgets. Like the theoretical demise of Big Bird, this funding tug-of-war is a smoke screen that deflects attention from the real story. Look instead at the seemingly paltry $14,170 that, as Stephen Labaton of The New York Times reported on June 16 , found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS bête noire, Bill Moyers's "Now."

We all now know that Conservatives are against funding only those programs they can't control. Once they are firmly in control of PBS and NPR, a situation that is rapidly coming to pass, they'll end all this crazy talk about a funding cut.

Shorter David Brooks

Conservative attempts to combat poverty in Africa, while a failure, are better than misguided liberal attempts to end poverty because Conservatives don't spend enough, fast enough.

Or something like that.

I think Mr. Gray has answered his own question

WASHINGTON, June 26 - L. Patrick Gray, the acting director of the F.B.I. at the time of the Watergate break-in, ended more than three decades of silence about his role in the scandal, saying in a television interview broadcast Sunday that he felt shock and betrayal by the disclosure that his former deputy, W. Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.

In an interview on the ABC News program "This Week," Mr. Gray said that he felt "like I was hit with a tremendous sledgehammer" by Mr. Felt's recent disclosure that he was the secret source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke important Watergate news relying on Mr. Felt's information.

Mr. Gray, 88, resigned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in disgrace in 1973. In the ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, he spoke bitterly of Mr. Felt, saying that "he told me time and again he was not Deep Throat."

If he could, Mr. Gray said, he would say to Mr. Felt: "Mark, why? Why didn't you come to me? Why didn't we work it out together?" Mr. Gray said he now realized that he failed to halt news leaks from the bureau during Watergate because Mr. Felt was in charge of stopping them.

Hmmm. Good question. Why wouldn't Mark Felt have gone to L. Patrick Gray, the acting head of the FBI with his evidence and suspicion of White House crimes?

After the bureau began investigating the break-in, Mr. Gray turned over raw F.B.I. interview reports and lead sheets to John W. Dean, Nixon's counsel, who ran the effort to conceal White House ties to the Watergate burglars. Later, in the fireplace of his Connecticut home, Mr. Gray burned files that he had been given from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, whose phone number was found in address books of the Watergate burglars.


In the interview, Mr. Gray defended his actions, although he admitted that he erred during Watergate in temporarily holding up an investigation following the money trail to a Mexican bank when White House aides falsely told him that it might interfere with a continuing C.I.A. operation.

Mr. Gray said he provided internal F.B.I. investigative files to the White House only after he had been cleared to do so by the bureau's general counsel. He said he had been justified in burning the files because their contents were unrelated to Watergate.

Um, I think we know why Felt wasn't prepared to go to Gray now, don't we? Good story by the Times'David Johnston.

Can we now stop with the last-ditch efforts of the convicted and the disgraced to rehabilitate their past?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Just Folks

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, friend of -- and award faker for -- Jack Abramoff:

Lapin and his family relocated to Washington State in 1991, where he hosts a nationally syndicated weekly radio show.... Michael Medved also moved to Washington State around the same time as Lapin and hosts his own syndicated talk radio show based out of the same AM station in Seattle. Both Medved and Lapin promote conservative political principles, inter-mixed with traditional religious observance. Lapin was one of the Jewish voices in support of Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ, and was a strong supporter of Terri Schiavo's parents efforts to keep their daughter alive. He has declared that the Anti-Defamation League and its allies were "dangerous organizations, organizations that are driving a wedge between American Jews and Christians." ... Lapin believes the United States of America is the most Jewish-friendly state in history and that it is better for Jews to promote shared Judeo-Christian values with the majority. Lapin also rejects the idea that the Jewish left (which can be secular or even anti-religious) represents Judaism.

Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, from Philip Roth's, The Plot Against America:

Bengelsdorf did not immediate respond but instead created a portentous interval in which quietly to insert his rejoinder: "I was at the White House talking to the president just yesterday morning...I was congratulating him...on the significant inroad he had made into allaying the Jewish suspiciousness that dated back to his trips to Germany in the late thirties, when he was secretly taking the measure of the German air force for the U.S. government. I informed him that any number of my own congregants who had voted for Roosevelt were now his strong supporters, grateful that he had established our neutrality and spared our country the agonies of yet another great war. I told him that Just Folks and programs like it were beginning to convince the Jews of America that he is anything but their enemy. Admittedly, before his becoming president he at times made public statements grounded in anti-Semitic cliches. But he spoke from ignorance then, and admits as much today. I am pleased to tell you that it took no more than two or three sessions alone with the president to get him to relinquish his misconceptions and to appreciate the manifold nature of Jewish life in America. This is not an evil man, not in any way. This is a man of enormous native intelligence and great probity who is rightly celebrated for his personal courage and who wants now to enlist my aid to help him raze those barriers of ignorance that continue to spearate Christian from Jew and Jew from Christian.

Shared Judeo-Christian values, indeed.

Long-suffering Christians

Christians, a small minority in this country, once again must be defended by a Republican in Congress.

Obey's all-American assertion of religious liberty was, for Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), part of "the long war on Christianity in America [that] continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. . . . Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians."

This excellent example of demagoguery came in response to a call by David Obey to include an amendment to an appropriations bill that would require the Air Force take steps to protect religious freedom at the Air Force Academy.

"Our sense of international obligation"

Porter Goss has a secret.

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?


MILAN, June 24 -- Italian authorities said Friday they have issued arrest warrants against 13 American intelligence operatives, charging that they kidnapped a radical Islamic cleric as he walked to a mosque here two years ago, held him hostage at two U.S. military bases and then covertly flew him to Cairo. He later said he was tortured by Egyptian security police.

The case marks the first known instance of a foreign government filing criminal charges against U.S. operatives for their alleged role in an overseas counterterrorism mission. Coming from a longtime ally, Italy, which has worked closely with the U.S. government to fight terrorism and has sent troops to Iraq, the charges reflect growing unease in Europe about some U.S. tactics against suspected Islamic terrorists.


The warrants, approved by an Italian judge Thursday, followed a two-year investigation by prosecutors and police in Milan into the Feb. 17, 2003, disappearance of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. A veteran of military training camps in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Nasr was a longtime surveillance target of Italian counterterrorism police, who have made no secret of their frustration over how he was forcibly taken out of the country without their knowledge.

Italian prosecutors have concluded that Nasr was the target of a top-secret operation that the CIA calls an "extraordinary rendition."

So which nation's sovereignty is more highly respected than Italy's? Pakistan's? Sudan's? Freedonia's?

Meanwhile, the Times' coverage reminds us of the Red Sox connection.

The warrants describe evidence that Mr. Nasr was taken within five hours to the American military base at Aviano, and was flown to Egypt on Feb. 18, 2003. His journey to Egypt began on an Air Force Learjet, operated under a radio call-sign Spar 92, which is used by the 76th Airlift Squadron, in Ramstein, Germany. It took off from Aviano at 6:20 p.m. for Ramstein. There, a week later, Mr. Nasr was transferred onto a Gulfstream IV executive jet for Cairo, the warrants say.

The Gulfstream belongs to a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, Philip H. Morse. The warrant noted that Mr. Morse had previously confirmed that his jet was regularly leased to the C.I.A., with the team's logo covered. In an article in The Boston Globe on March 21, Mr. Morse was quoted as saying he was "stunned" by a newspaper report that the plane might have been used for renditions.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why'd Karl do it?

Crooks & Liars has the rundown on the latest projectile vomit spewing from Rove's mouth, including Captain Ed's remarkable defense of Rove's words in which he uses the words of...Al Sharpton.

During that awful night back in November, still flush from misleading exit polls, I remarked to Madame Cura that there's no way Rove's strategy of alienating more than half the country could work.

I was wrong, obviously.

Rove's stunningly vicious speech -- to vilify liberals for weakness in response to the murderous destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, a liberal bastion -- the other day is evidence that that strategy is still in action. Josh Marshall noted this yesterday -- Rove understood that his words would be broadcast well beyond the true believers in the ballroom. Rove also understands that in the pantheon of creepiness that is the Bush administration, he's up there with Cheney and Rumsfeld when it comes to looking like one of Goya's monstrosities in the eyes of liberals.

Rove knew his speech would again divert attention from his boss's failures in defeating bin Laden and defeating the insurgency in Iraq. Attention instead falls on him. And Rove also knows that, like Captain Ed's ravings, Bush supporters will dutifully fall into line to defend the "Boy Genius."

The strategist behind our beloved "Uniter, not a Divider," understands that polarization is the grease that keeps the moving parts of his Republican Revolution working. It keeps Democrats on their heels and forced us to respond to inanity, and it keeps the self-righteous of the Right well stroked.

Oh, and if Karl Rove would like a demonstration of what New York liberals would like to do to Osama bin Laden, I'm sure there's a number who'd be happy to oblige using Rove's own fat ass.

The Hapsburgs


In November 2002, Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, told an audience, "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war" - but she made it clear that Mr. Bush was the exception. And she was right.

Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy. It would have been an unprecedented abuse of power even if the war hadn't turned into a military and moral quagmire. And we won't be able to get out of that quagmire until we face up to the reality of how we got in.

Bush is right now holding a news conference with the Iraqi president. He just said, "It bothers me," to see insurgent attacks on US troops.

"It bothers me."

GOP Convention -- a religious experience

Or a bad play. In any case, a New York assistant district attorney defends thugs.

In arguing the case, Jessica Troy, the assistant district attorney, said the trial was not about politics but about a cunning woman who snuck into a private affair with the intention of provoking a nationally televised disruption. She compared Ms. Brashares's actions to interrupting a church service, a private party or a show, using the audience participation play "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" as an analogy.

"When you go to a play and stand up and start screaming 'I hate this play, you wasted my time and money,' what do you expect to happen?" she asked. "You're going to be pulled out by the ushers."

The judge didn't buy it. In fact, of 1,800 arrests made during the NYC convention with 1,670 handled by the Manhattan DA. Charges in 91 percent have been dismissed or lead to verdicts of not guilty.

But the police successfully silenced 1,800 people during the convention. A fine dry run for the police state.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"The Aristocrats"

If this isn't a huge thumbs up, I don't know what a thumbs up is.

"I don't see it as an assault on anything, because it's not a film anybody's going to see, it's not a film that anybody cares about," said Michael Medved, a syndicated talk show host and conservative writer. "What we're seeing here is a desperate attempt to get attention for a project by outraging people, and I stubbornly refuse to be outraged."

Pssst. He's outraged.

Can't wait to see it, and I can't wait for the outrage that is sure to accompany it -- nutritional goodness for the Vega.


Clearly, UC Irving is acting as a front for "drug dealing."

The discovery may lead to a new class of painkillers with fewer side effects than existing pain medications, report researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Their study appears in the June 23 issue of Nature.

"This study shows for the first time that natural marijuana-like chemicals in the brain have a link to pain suppression," researcher Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the UCI School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

A new class, eh? Hmmm. I thought it's already available, to be taken orally by smoking or mixed in a tasty baked good. And has been used with great effectiveness by thousands suffering from pain and preferring to not slur their speech or sleep all day. But that's just me.

We are French

Digby brilliantly points out that if we are not allowed to compare the outrages the FBI has reported taking place at Guantanamo Bay to practices Nazis, Commies, or the Khmer Rouge may have committed, then we should simply compare our tactics to a regime the Right finds even more distasteful than those three: the French.

"But it's just an IOU, remember?"

Finally found the Times story on the latest attempt for Republicans to dismantle Social Security. This time the plan is to use the surplus Social Security is currently running to fund private accounts. This of course does nothing to shore up the finances of SS which Republicans would have us believe are on the edge of the abyss since SS may stop taking in more than it's paying out sometime around 2017. But it achieves their wet dream of privatizing SS in a way that is stealthy and requires no sacrifice like raising the tax cap -- stealth and tax cuts for the rich -- the Republican Way!

So, to sum up, after being told over and over and over and over by preznit that the SS Trust Fund is "just an IOU," Republicans in Congress want to turn the surplus IOU.

But in the story, David Rosenbaum and Robin Toner have again proven that no Republican talking point will go unmentioned.

Republicans said they hoped the plan would keep the idea of personal accounts alive, allay the fears of the public that the Social Security surplus is being spent elsewhere, and put further pressure on Democrats to engage in the legislative debate over Social Security. [emphasis, moi]

Put further pressure on Democrats to engage? Whaaa? There is no pressure on Democrats to engage. The American people are against private accounts, and polls show that the more they hear about Republican plans, the less they like them.

And would it be too much to ask that our intrepid reporters, ya know, report on whether the plan actually does continue to allow the surplus to be spent elsewhere, and is truly nothing more than an attempt to "allay" those fears? Just askin'. Astonishing.

My god. You'd think the bright shiny new toy -- a flag burning amendment -- would keep the boys occupied.

The choice

As I mentioned in the previous post, every turn of the page of today's Times has me howling with outrage or snickering with amused contempt. But, in light of Karl Rove's hate speech (which, as Josh Marshall notes, was certainly intended for our ears just as surely as it was for the people sitting in the audience), we come across a piece in the op ed section that can make a strong man weep.

I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare - just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.

The other day, though, I felt more self-conscious than usual. Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.

Frustrated and angry, I moved to another part of the gym. I got on a treadmill and started running as hard as I could. As sweat dripped down my face, I reached for my towel, accidentally dropping my keys in the process. It was a small thing, I know, but as they slid down the rolling belt and fell to the carpet, my faith in the United States seemed to fall with them. I did not care to pick them up. I wanted to keep running.

Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Ma'am, here are your keys." It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.

More than an election was stolen in 2000. Our humanity, our decency, our essence as a democracy was stolen then too. We just didn't know it yet. And a good man was deprived of his hard-earned right to lead us. And we were deprived of the right man to lead us.

Because of choices Nader made to put his ego ahead of the public good; because of choices a bare minority of voters made, preferring a guy "they'd like to have a beer with instead of the guy who invented the internets;" because of choices five members of the Supreme Court made to choose rank politics over the Constitution; we now have a choice: anger or despair.

", sure."

The NY Times is so full of insanity, it is a veritable paradise of content for snark. What with David Brooks stamping his feet and demanding that we stop undermining the splendid work being done in Iraq, and a story on Social Security (which I can't find online...more later) that sends the Times coverage of this subject to new lows.

But this...this is classic.

WASHINGTON, June 22 - David Grosh was living the mellow life of an off-season lifeguard in Rehoboth Beach, Del., when his childhood friend Michael Scanlon called from Washington in 2001 with a proposition.

"Want to be head of an international corporation?" Mr. Grosh said Mr. Scanlon asked him, almost in jest.

"I was like, sure," Mr. Grosh said.

Collecting less than $2,500, he became director of the American International Center, which used his rental beach house as its official address. "I was not really taking it seriously."

Four years later, Mr. Grosh, 36, wearing jeans and sideburns, recounted that tale before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, as part of its inquiry into Jack Abramoff, the high-rolling Republican lobbyist.

Oh, and memo to Karl Rove: fuck you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"There ain't no cure for the summertime blues"

Apologies for the paucity of posts, but, at The Job, duty called, and because I don't have caller ID, I answered the phone.

Truth is -- though my Dear Readers have been too polite to point it out -- the Vega's posts have been a pretty thin gruel of late. The management is aware of this and is working on it...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Spinning off its axis

Our democracy that is. It is founded on the idea that the government is to be restrained and not permitted to violate the law. The Bush administration has decided that the government is permitted to do just that, provided the ends justify the means (and this precedes Sept. 11, 2001 -- it goes to the earliest days of this administration).

Anthony Lewis writes of "Guantanamo's long shadow" in today's Times,

Beyond morality, there is the essential role of law in a democracy, especially in American democracy. This country has no ancient mythology to hold it together, no kings or queens. We have had the law to revere. No government, we tell ourselves, is above the law.

Over many years the United States has worked to persuade and compel governments around the world to abide by the rules. By spurning our own rules, we put that effort at risk. What Justice Louis Brandeis said about law at home applies internationally as well: "If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law."

Guantanamo Bay? Abu Ghraib? The American people avert their eyes, blink stupidly, and exclaim, "Didja hear they found that li'l Boy Scout?"

In timely fashion, von reminds us of Pericles' Funeral Oration.

If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. ....

"There was shrinkage!"

In California, size matters, and it's beginning to look like Ahnold's just come out of the cold, cold Pacific.

According to the Field Poll released Tuesday, 37 percent of registered California voters approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance, a drop of 18 percentage points since February.

Continuing a trend that began in January, 53 percent of registered California voters said they do not approve of Schwarzenegger's performance. That's a jump of 18 percentage points since February.

The biggest decline came among Democrats and nonpartisan voters, but the poll also found Schwarzenegger's support among Republican voters has fallen.

Billmon, I think, has the most profound yet concise take.

"Red on red"

In a sign of just how bad things have been in Iraq, this now sounds like great news: the insurgents may be turning on one another, with "nationalists" battling the "jihadists."

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

The nationalist insurgent groups, "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the Jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.

The insurgency is largely hidden, making such trends difficult to discern. But marines in this western outpost have noticed a change. For Matthew Orth, a Marine sniper, the difference came this spring, when his unit was conducting an operation in Husayba. Mortar shells flew over the unit, hitting a different target.

"The thought was, "They're coming for us. But then we saw they were fighting each other," he recalled during a break in Monday's operation. "We were kind of wondering what happened. We were getting mortared twice a day, and then all of a sudden it stopped."

If this were happy talk coming out of the Pentagon, I'd be dubious. But this sounds fairly plausible. Indeed it may explain the stories lately of the U.S. negotiating with "terrorists." And it may be another argument in favor of pulling the U.S. out on a rapid timetable. If the nationalists, or Sunni Ba'athist "deadenders," whatever, don't have the U.S. to target, they can focus on "defending" their country from the other foreign fighters. Of course, it will probably also lead to a civil war, but that's always been a real possibility, with or without a U.S. troop presence.

Voting their unconscious

Yglesias is right (as is Atrios), these guys are being lauded as "mavericks" and even "heroes." They're not. They're Republicans who voted us into the mess we're in now. "Regretting it" or suggesting we maybe might wanna change course pretty soon just underscores how complicit they are in how we got to where we are now in Iraq. Until they stand up and say, "enough is enough," and actually exercise their constitutional responsibility for oversight over the clown show in the executive branch -- hold someone responsible for this massive fuck-up -- they should be given no quarter. None.

That maverick, Hagel, might start by asking the president of the Senate when he's going to stop believing his own propaganda. And the band played on.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Breathless librarians"

Librarian at the barricades
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
While I certainly share John Ashcroft's obsession with them, it turns out that their breathless hysteria isn't so hysterical, after all.

The study, which surveyed 1,500 public libraries and 4,000 academic libraries, used anonymous responses to address legal concerns. A large majority of those who responded to the survey said they had not been contacted by any law enforcement agencies since October 2001, when the Patriot Act was passed.

But there were 137 formal requests or demands for information in that time, 49 from federal officials and the remainder from state or local investigators. Federal officials have sometimes used local investigators on joint terrorism task forces to conduct library inquiries.

In addition, the survey found that 66 libraries had received informal law enforcement requests without an official legal order, including 24 federal requests. Association officials said the survey results, if extrapolated from the 500 public libraries that responded, would amount to a total of some 600 formal inquires since 2001.

One library reporting that it had received a records demand was the Whatcom County system in a rural area of northwest Washington.

Last June, a library user who took out a book there, "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," noticed a handwritten note in the margin remarking that "Hostility toward America is a religious duty and we hope to be rewarded by God," and went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Agents, in turn, went to the library seeking names and information on anyone checking out the biography since 2001.

The library's lawyers turned down the request, and agents went back with a subpoena. Joan Airoldi, who runs the library, said in an interview that she was particularly alarmed after a Google search revealed that the handwritten line was an often-cited quotation from Mr. bin Laden that was included in the report issued by the Sept. 11 commission.

The library fought the subpoena, and the F.B.I. withdrew its demand.

"A fishing expedition like this just seems so un-American to me," Ms. Airoldi said. "The question is, how many basic liberties are we willing to give up in the war on terrorism, and who are the real victims?"

Good for the librarians of Whatcom County Washington.

"Bring it on"

It's funny, I don't recall "tricking terrorists to go to Iraq where our troops can kill them" as being a rationale for going to war.

As we work to deliver opportunity at home, we're also keeping you safe from threats from abroad. We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror.

I'm sure the Iraqi people, left with much time to ponder these things as they sit in their darkened, stifling homes, wondering when the power will come back on, beam with pride for their role in keeping 'mericuns safe.

It's Dick Durbin's fault, stupid

From California, a Conservative notes the news that a soldier has been accused of fragging two of his superior officers in Iraq, scratches his chin, and posts the following reasonableness,

The vital question is: Why? What evil, darkness of mind and absence of conscience, would drive a man to commit such an atrocity upon his fellow soldiers?

Could it be possible that among the voices in Staff Sgt. Martinez’ head were those of Amnesty International, Senator Dick Durbin, and all the others who are publicly condemning America’s military by falsely accusing U.S. soliders of crimes against humanity?

Bejeezus. Driven to madness by the unholy shrillness of Amnesty International and Dick Durbin's floor speech; nevermind that the incident happened on June 7, well before Dick Durbin's sad review of the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay.

It of course couldn't be because a guy with a screw loose, with problems back home, and stuck for what is seeming more and more interminable, cracked and decided he wasn't going to take any more from his commanding officer?

No, that couldn't be, because that would imply that our cause in Iraq isn't entirely just and true. It would mean that Rumsfeld screwed up and didn't have the forces needed, leaving us to rely on older men with families to support back home. It would mean that morale is low among the troops in Iraq, not because of something Amnesty International said, but because the troops are coming to see the war as a pointless, deadly mistake with no end in site.

That just can't be.

Psychic Healing

Digby finds a piece of common ground to help unite the men and women of our great land -- our belief in ghosts.

Finding a Gallup Poll that indicates that 3 out ever 4 Americans believe in some sort of paranormal activity, he writes,

I expect, by the way, to see this movment come out of Un-Real America, in places like my own town, where "psychics" form a rather large part of the local new age belief systems. (People around here talk about psychics as if they are professionals.) But hey, if the Bible can be taught in science class, I see no reason to exclude the works of Shirley McClain or John Edwards (the ugly one.) And according to this poll it doesn't sound as if most people would have a problem with that, even in Kansas.

Since more than three quarters of the public believe these things, then it's possible that Real America has more in common with Un-Real America than we think. Maybe this is a Kumbaya moment in which we can all join hands and celebrate our common tradition, across all regional, gender, ethnic and religious lines, of believing in utter bullshit. Let the healing begin.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Opposing other people's marriages

Madame Cura and I awoke this morning to find that, in the minds of a growing number of fundamentalist Christians, we pose a serious threat to marriage, family...heck...society itself.

As the Grays will tell you, ''gay'' is only one-half of the gay marriage issue. If homosexuality is a heavily laden notion for conservative Christians, so, too, is marriage. Evalena Gray handed me a copy of ''Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle,'' a small, pithy volume written by Dr. James Dobson, the influential leader of Focus on the Family, whose radio commentaries are heard by 200 million people a day worldwide. ''Marriage Under Fire'' has been available at Focus on the Family events since it was published last year. Dobson begins his book by rooting marriage in the same biblical passage that graces the marriage shrine at the Family Research Council headquarters -- ''Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh'' -- and then goes on to add, ''With those 22 words, God announced the ordination of the family, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and the government.''

To see marriage as in any way a secular or legal union of two individuals is to miss utterly the point and conviction of the Christian forces lined up against gay marriage. As Dobson states in his book: ''To put it succinctly, the institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.'' Every activist on the ground I spoke with said something similar. ''Marriage was defined thousands of years ago and has served us well,'' said Rebecca Denning, a retired secretary in southern Maryland who volunteers alongside Evalena Gray. ''I think marriage is about procreation and families. And I think we're getting into something that we don't truly understand what the ramifications will be.''

Russell Shorto's look at opposition to gay marriage is notable for cutting through the usual sheen of moderation that attends to this topic. "We don't hate gays," we're told. "We hate the sin, not the sinner." Turns out, though, that this really isn't the case. They don't simply see gay marriage as a threat to their own marriage, they see gays as a disease. In fact, it becomes clear that as more and more fundamentalists are informed by their religion not just in their spiritual lives, but in their political lives as well, that anyone who doesn't conform to their idea of a good Christian person committed to a good Christian family is really an enemy to be destroyed.

There is no longer a middle ground for these people. "Reasonable people," it's said, can differ on such issues as non-traditional familes. These are not "reasonable people."

But it struck me, reading the article, that gay marriage is only one front in a movement that those of us who believe in the enlightenment and progressivism in general need to start paying attention to. There are a lot of people in this country who flat out reject the enlightenment -- secularism, they spit. It's nothing new, nor is it new for politicians to pander to these people. It explains the vehemence in the move to teach "Intelligent Design" and in growing opposition to evolution, and it also explains the determined effort to enshrine the idea that this country's foundation was based on religion rather than on enlightenment ideas of democracy.

Those of us who believe in letting people live their lives, who believe in science, in keeping religion out of the statehouse, in evolution, and, indeed, in social and scientific progress -- we are a threat to these fundamentalists' world view. Make no mistake, they are just as great a threat to ours.

Letting "freedom reign," vol. XXIV

Iraq, a nation transformed.

The units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's secret intelligence squads, according to the ministry and independent human rights groups and lawyers, who have cataloged abuses.

"We've documented a lot of torture cases," said Sultan, whose committee is pushing for wider access to Iraqi-run prisons across the nation. "There are beatings, punching, electric shocks to the body, including sensitive areas, hanging prisoners upside down and beating them and dragging them on the ground…. Many police officers come from a culture of torture from their experiences over the last 35 years. Most of them worked during Saddam's regime."

The ordeal described by Hussam Guheithi is similar to many cases. When Iraqi national guardsmen raided his home last month, the 35-year-old Sunni Muslim imam said they lashed him with cables, broke his nose and promised to soak their uniforms with his blood. He was blindfolded and driven to a military base, where he was interrogated and beaten until the soldiers were satisfied that he wasn't an extremist.

At the end of nine days, Guheithi said, the guardsmen told him, "You have to bear with us. You know the situation now. We're trying to find terrorists."

Just don't piss on the Quran.

Having endured more than two years of violence since the U.S.-led invasion, many Iraqis favor tough measures to end the unrest. The death penalty was recently reinstated, and for much of the country there is an unspoken acceptance — often rooted in harsh tribal justice — that intimidation and torture serve a purpose. Such attitudes are complicated by sectarian strains between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Meanwhile, the insurgents continue to win hearts and minds.

KARABILA, Iraq, Sunday, June 19 - Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis.

The American military has found torture houses after invading towns heavily populated by insurgents - like Falluja, where the anti-insurgent assault last fall uncovered almost 20 such sites. But rarely have they come across victims who have lived to tell the tale.

The men said they told the marines, from Company K, Third Marines, Second Division, that they had been tortured with shocks and flogged with a strip of rubber for more than two weeks, unseen behind the windows of black glass. One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed.

In an interview with an embedded reporter just hours after he was freed, he said he had never seen the faces of his captors, who occasionally whispered at him, "We will kill you." He said they did not question him, and he did not know what they wanted. Nor did he ever expect to be released.

"They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."

The world awaits the name of the next pathologically violent strongman who will eventually replace Hussein.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Deporting a suicide bomber, or creating one

Madame Vega points us to this story about a typically headstrong 16 year-old, growing up in Queens since arriving from Bangladesh at 5. A few errors in judgment later and she's back in Bangladesh, after the FBI has taken her in (literally and figuratively), then spat her out, to be deported on her parents' minor immigration violations.

What's so incredibly frustrating about this story is that we just don't know; based on the contents of the story, the FBI certainly appears to have over-reacted. The point is, with the uneccessary secrecy the FBI is operating under in cases like this, are the agents caped crusaders saving us from being blown to smithereens on a daily basis, or over-reactive bumblers who are chasing phantoms, potentially missing real threats as resources are squandered?

Two former F.B.I. agents, presented with the known details of the case, declined to discuss it specifically, but spoke of the pressures and practices that shape such investigations today.

Pasquale J. D'Amuro, who headed the New York F.B.I. office until April, said that since 9/11, agents have had to err on the side of suspicion. More potential threats are being reported, he said, and every one must be thoroughly investigated through whatever avenues are legally available, including enlisting immigration authorities as soon as a noncitizen is under scrutiny.

"The alarm bells are going off," said Mr. D'Amuro, now the chief executive of Giuliani Security and Safety, a consulting company. "And we have each and every time to run those threats to the ground, whether it ends up to be a bogus threat or proceeds to some type of prosecutorial action."

Some cases are never resolved, he added. Even when suspicions prove unfounded, he said, any visa violations are already in the hands of immigration authorities, who have to bring them "to some type of closure."

But Mike German, who left the bureau a year ago after a long career chasing homegrown terror suspects, said that the agency's new emphasis on collecting intelligence rather than criminal evidence has opened the door to more investigations that go "in the wrong direction."

"If all these chat rooms are being monitored, and we're running down all these people because of what they're saying in chat rooms, then these are resources we're not using on real threats," said Mr. German, who has publicly complained that F.B.I. management problems impeded terror investigations after 9/11.

The stress on intelligence increases the agency's demands for secrecy, to protect its sources. And secrecy, he said, leads to abuses of power.

"Perhaps the government has some incredibly incriminating piece of information and saved us from a terrible act of violence; it would make everybody feel better to know it," he said. "Conversely, if they did something wrong, the public needs to know that."

At a time when we should be encouraging young muslims to enjoy the freedoms our nation offers to counter anti-American sermons from ranting clerics, instead we take advantage of their use of those freedoms to prosecute them. Free speech should not be a deporting offense.

More importantly, if the FBI had real suspicions that this girl was a potential suicide bomber, wouldn't it have made more sense to simply monitor her activities to see if she made contact with someone in a terrorist cell? Truth is, they clearly didn't find her much of a threat, but, as the man says, you have to bring these things "to closure."

So we've deported someone who says she loved America. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. I'm pretty sure she doesn't now.

Mukhtaran Bibi Update

Via Wolcott, Tom Watson is doing his best to keep pressure on the U.S. embassy in Pakistan to aid this brave woman who chose to fight back.

I haven't blogged on this story much recently, it's just too depressing an example of the mange, tick, and flea infested allies in the GWOT ("Global War on blah, blah, blah") with whom we've chosen to lie down.

With fingers in their ears

Kos asks,

Really, what is the Right trying to accomplish here? Inflict so much pain on Durbin that others will think twice before they levy legitimate criticisms of the war? Are they so hell-bent on their political correctness that any criticisms of the war effort is considered treasonous?

Um, Kos, to put it simply, yes they do and yes they are.

What an age we live in, when people who oppose such anti-American values as torture, and who support free speech, must rally behind a senator for reading aloud from an FBI report on conditions in a Prisoner of Global War on Terror (POGWOT) facility maintained in our name. Durbin's floor speech is here (pdf)

Christ. Almighty.

And the moronic thugs, like Scottie McClellan, are able to get away with these verbal versions of a sap to the back of the head because, as Maine's Susan Collins was quoted recently, when it comes to the torture inflicted in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanmo Bay, her constituents, when faced with the choice of getting the facts "clearly" or "blurry," "they want it blurry."

I don't even know this country, anymore.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Yankees get a new stage

Yankee Stadium
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
While for the most part I don't disagree with the author's negative appraisal of the new Yankee Stadium design -- what Steve Goldman calls "the shotgun wedding of new stadium and old exterior" -- I wonder if he's ever attended a ballgame at the "creaky old stadiums" he extols.

The idea, of course, is to treat the past and the present with equal sensitivity, but the result is more suited to Las Vegas than to the Bronx. There are creaky old stadiums that have been renovated without losing their character. Think of Boston's Fenway Park, built in 1912, where additional seats were added on top of the famous Green Monster, or Dodger Stadium, which has been cleaned up but retains its aura of a 1960's-era ballpark.

I have never been to Dodger Stadium (one of these days), and I haven't been to Fenway since they added the seats over the Green Monster. But I have been to Fenway, and while you cannot but love the intimacy of the place, I can tell you that adding the seats over the left field wall did nothing to improve on the dark and dank passageways, the suspicious restrooms, or the long lines for refreshments. I can pretty well assure you that it did not relieve the aching necks of people sitting in the bleachers who are facing first base, not home plate (at least that's my memory), or who find themselves sitting behind a support pole. I feel certain that while those new seats may be more appropriate for seating a 21st century American, the other seats in the park were made for people living in 1912.

Truth is, the Red Sox would bulldoze Fenway in a second if they had the real estate with which to build a new stadium in the fens. But they don't, unless the city of Boston decides to put a whole lot of apartment dwellers in the neighborhood out on the street. And moving the team outside of the city would be -- literally -- suicide for the owners of the team.

With dilapidated old Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks the Yankees have the space, and they and their fans deserve a better facility to watch the games. I'll miss the Yankee Stadium field, which is goosebump inducing when you walk out of its own dark concourse and see the green field and the packed house, and feel the history of what's taken place on that field since 1923.

But I won't miss the hulking grey "facade" that was so poorly renovated in 1973. The first time I got off the subway and saw the Stadium, I can't tell you how disappointed I was to find that the exterior of "the cathedral of baseball" looked like a parking garage.

I won't miss the shoving of 56,000 people trying to get out of the place which, if the Yankees happened to have lost, can be a menacing experience, and if they won, an experience that can wash away any joy you might have felt minutes (or should I say hours) earlier.

Yes, I would have preferred something more daring, something more illustrative of 21st century design, rather than a pale copy of something 100 years old, but the design was not unexpected and the new stadium nestled inside should make seeing a game that much more enjoyable an experience to watch the final years of the storied careers of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (maybe even Jason Giambi).

Iraq: Why?

Indeed, just as America's enemies would love to know every American troop movement and battle plan, so would the jihadist foe also like to know why the United States is in Iraq at all. Is it a secret plan to lull the enemy into a false sense of winning? A grand plan to spread freedom in the form of militant Islamism? Is it all a massive fake out, a "look at Iraaaa... whooops, got yer Syria"? Is the entire War On Terror merely a front for a larger, grander, even nobler War On Something Else (War On Tyranny, War On Evil, War On War, War On Stuff)?

As usual, The Medium Lobster knows, but if he told you...well, you know the drill.

Frist: "Nevermind"

Bill Frist turns the page on Terri Schiavo.

"She had devastating brain damage, and with that the chapter is closed," Frist said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

I'm glad he's able to put this behind him.

Frist, R-Tenn., said he never made his own diagnosis but did argue there wasn't enough information about Schiavo's condition to justify allowing her husband to remove her feeding tube against her parents' wishes.


Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a renowned heart surgeon before becoming Senate majority leader, went to the floor late Thursday night for the second time in 12 hours to argue that Florida doctors had erred in saying Terri Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state."

"I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."


Some medical professionals questioned the appropriateness of Frist challenging court-approved doctors who have treated Schiavo. Laurie Zoloth, director of bioethics for the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University, said she was surprised to hear Frist weigh in, given that he has not examined Schiavo. "It is extremely unusual -- and by a non-neurologist, I might add," Zoloth said in an interview.

Were Frist rendering an official medical judgment, she said, relying on an "amateur video" could raise liability issues. After 15 years, "there should be no confusion about the medical data, and that's what was so surprising to me about Dr. Frist disagreeing about her medical status," Zoloth said.

I know what Mr. Wu would say about Bill Frist.

Slippery slope

Brendan Donnelly is apparently the rare pitcher who cares deeply for the safety of opposing batters.

Donnelly admitted he has used pine tar "off and on as needed, not to doctor the ball, but to get a better grip," he said. Did he consider it cheating? "No," Donnelly said. "I thought it was a safety issue. I'd rather get a grip on the ball than have it slip out of my hand and hit someone in the head."

Baseball. I love this game. Even a mid-June interleague game can take on operatic proportions.

"How do you ask..."

"the last man in Iraq to die for a mistake?", to paraphrase John Kerry.

So Republicans in Washington are beginning to whisper "exit strategy."

The flurry began over the weekend, when Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, a conservative Republican, called for the Bush administration to set specific goals for leaving Iraq. That came from the man who was once so upset about French opposition to the war that he insisted that House cafeterias change the name "French fries" to "freedom fries."

I guess the idea now is to withdraw support for continuing our presence in Iraq without also holding any hearings on how we got there in the first place, or who is responsible for the, complete lack of planning for the occupation. Declare victory and go home.

To do so, without holding anyone in the Bush administration or the Pentagon the slightest bit responsible for the deaths of 1,700 American service men to-date, and countless Iraqi civilians, is craven and shameful. I'm sorry, I simply don't see the stance Walter "freedom fries" Jones has taken as "heroic." Just representative of the extent to which the Republican congress has entirely abandoned its responsibility to serve as a check on unbridled executive power, arrogance, and, of course, incompetence. Just another non-binding resolution that cements the Republican Congress as the irrelevant body it has become in the world of Bush/Cheney.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Trotsky and St. Benedict"

Eugene McCarraher has an interesting book review and look at the state of religion for both the right and the left. McCarraher is a Christian Socialist (I think) and is revolted by the Right's use of Scripture as a handbook for both national imperialism and personal wealth-building.

As things stand, too many Christians speak only from scripts written in the sacralized imperial rhetoric. Thus, while President Bush's evangelical faith petrifies most liberals, his administration is more aptly characterized as evangelical-Straussian. Its foreign policies, as by now widely documented, are the progeny of an unnatural embrace between conservative evangelicals and devotees of the philosopher Leo Strauss, whose epigones now infest political science departments throughout the nation. And the Bush Administration's secrecy, duplicity, and indifference to empirical evidence derive heavily from that second faction, whose utterly utilitarian conception of religion—Athens for the elite, Jerusalem for the rabble—apparently does not concern or even interest evangelical leaders.

But he also takes to task the left for its disregard for sprituality and its embrace of capitalism. And in reviewing Charles Marsh's The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justic, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today, he provides a useful reminder of the centrality of Christian faith in the Civil Rights Movement (and sneeringly points out that conservative evangelicals were not at the forefront of Civil Rights, as the Right often tries to infer these days).

He also sneers at how the "Values" debate, whether from the left or the right, is a distraction, a way of focusing on the abstract rather than actual practices.

Anyway, its thought-provoking. Though, as a card-carrying member of the "secular Left," I do not agree with his conclusion that November's election represented our "dotage." And I would remind him, as he calls for a movement that "combine[s], in Alasdair MacIntyre's wonderful couplet, 'Trotsky and St. Benedict,'" that the former gentleman ended up with an ice ax in the back of his scull.
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