Friday, June 30, 2006

Conjoined twins


I certainly suspected it at the time, but I had no idea the NSC felt the same way.

This excerpt is from the very last couple of pages. It's late October 2004, a few days before the election, and Osama bin Laden has just released a long anti-Bush jeremiad. At the CIA, the men and women who know bin Laden best, who have been tracking al-Qaeda practically without rest for the previous three years, are sitting around a table discussing what it means:

What they'd learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons — and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization's leadership. Their assessments, at day's end, are a distillate of the kind of secret, internal conversations that the American public, and by association the wider world community, were not sanctioned to hear: strategic analysis.

Today's conclusion: bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection.

At the five o'clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President."

Around the table, there were nods....Jami Miscik talked about how bin Laden — being challenged by Zarqawi's rise — clearly understood how his primacy as al Qaeda's leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. "Certainly," she offered, "he would want Bush to keep doing what he's doing for a few more years."

But an ocean of hard truths before them — such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected — remained untouched....On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush's ratings [in the U.S.] track with bin Laden's rating in the Arab world.

The fact that we're doing what bin Laden wants doesn't automatically mean we're doing the wrong thing. But it sure as hell ought to give us pause, shouldn't it?

Yes, yes it should.

The administration spun it at the time as being an assist by bin Laden to Kerry. That bin Laden's attack on Bush would help Kerry was ridiculous on its face, but that would never stop the administration from relying on our enemies to help keep them in power.

Ballad of Guantanamo Bay

Trouble is, the Supreme Court decision comes far too late for the United States to salvage its reputation as a nation of laws and due process.

And, anyway, even when faced with a ruling as seemingly decisive as yesterday's, it remains to be seen if this administration feels compelled to adhere to the decision.

"If they rule against the government, I don't see how that is going to affect us," the commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris, said Tuesday evening as he sat in a conference room in his headquarters. "From my perspective, I think the direct impact will be negligible."

The Defense Department repeated that view on Thursday, asserting that the court's sweeping ruling against the tribunals did not undermine the government's argument that it can hold foreign suspects indefinitely and without charge, as "enemy combatants" in its declared war on terror.

Privately, though, some administration officials involved in detention policy — along with many critics of that policy — were skeptical that Guantánamo could or would go about its business as before. "It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine," said one administration lawyer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ruling. "It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."

Nevertheless, though, the majority opinion of John Paul Stevens -- the only war veteran on the Court, who knows something about "enemy combatants" and military tribunals, sure was refreshing.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not take part in the case. Last July, four days before Mr. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court, he was one of the members of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court here that ruled for the administration in the case.

In the courtroom on Thursday, the chief justice sat silently in his center chair as Justice Stevens, sitting to his immediate right as the senior associate justice, read from the majority opinion. It made for a striking tableau on the final day of the first term of the Roberts court: the young chief justice, observing his work of just a year earlier taken apart point by point by the tenacious 86-year-old Justice Stevens, winner of a Bronze Star for his service as a Navy officer in World War II.

Conversely, I wonder if this won't open the door for the administration to find a way to close Guantanamo under cover of this ruling. That would seem to be a good thing, but Guantanamo is the closest thing we've had to transperency in the four years since the fall of the Taliban (and by "fall," I mean run away to fight again another day). Out of sight, the prisoners will continue to languish, as now their cases will start all over at square one.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Terry Liske

His war has ended. But as his colonel remarked, he was surrounded by his friends.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"It is high. It is far."

"An A-bomb, from A-Rod." Rodriquez just smashed one over the left field fence -- a walk-off two run homer to send Yankee fans home happy in the 12th.

I didn't hear any boos as he rounded the bases.

It was his 100th HR as a Yankee. He's played 407 games in a Yankee uniform.

But according to those given to booing the greatest player of his generation, he's boo'd because he isn't "clutch." In fact, he is. Or, they claim, "he's not a true Yankee." What gives them authority to make that designation is unclear. Oh, it's because he hasn't won a championship with the team. Then again, neither did Donny Baseball himeself.

Rehabilitating McCarthy

I know the Wingnuts have long tried to salvage the unsalvagable reputation of ol' Joe ever since he drank himself to death, but this is ridiculous.

In an editorial defending its news department's decision to publish the details of the terrorist finance surveillance system, the NY Times obliquely raises the specter of McCarthyism:

A half-century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy.

In fact, while the left still doesn't like to admit it, the enemy was boring from within. Alger Hiss really was a Soviet spy. The Rosenbergs really were traitors. I certainly agree with the Times that we cannot sacrifice civil liberties on the altar of security, but in this case they've made two mistakes: (1) Disclosing a program that by all accounts is both useful and lawful and (2) making a bogus defense for having done so. The Times ought simply to admit that they made a mistake.

Please. Is the perfesser gonna start waving pieces of paper claiming that he holds the names of dozens in the State Department who are Islamofascists?

Regardless of whether you think the executed Ethel Rosenberg was a "traitor," McCarthy exposed no one who was convicted of espionage.

Dylan makes it to The Hall!


June 28,2006 | COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Bob Dylan has played at historic Doubleday Field -- music, that is. Now, he's back, and for good, just a block down Main Street in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The museum has added the baseball episode from the famed singer-songwriter's weekly music show, "Theme Time Radio Hour," on XM Satellite Radio to its archive, it was announced Wednesday.

The one-hour episode contains Dylan singing an a cappella rendition of "Take Me out to the Ball Game," along with classic baseball-announcing calls, such as Curt Gowdy's description of Ted Williams' home run in his final at-bat with the Boston Red Sox.

It also contains several original baseball compositions, including Buddy Johnson's "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" and "The Ball Game" by Sister Wynona Carr.

The CD will be added to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library archive, which features more than 10,000 hours of recorded audio and video, and will be available for researchers.

Of course, he should have already joined Catfish.

The president's duty

Preznit, doing what he can to protect the Senate from itself.

A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress.

"There's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and exclude the ones he doesn't like," Mr. Specter said at a hearing.

"Wouldn't it be better, as a matter of comity," he said, "for the president to have come to the Congress and said, 'I'd like to have this in the bill; I'd like to have these exceptions in the bill,' so that we could have considered that?"

Mr. Specter and others are particularly upset that Mr. Bush reserved the right to interpret the torture ban passed overwhelmingly by Congress, as well as Congressional oversight powers in the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said the statements were "not an abuse of power."

Rather, Ms. Boardman said, the president has the responsibility to make sure the Constitution is upheld. He uses signing statements, she argued, to "save" statutes from being found unconstitutional. And he reserves the right, she said, only to raise questions about a law "that could in some unknown future application" be declared unconstitutional.

"It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn't intend to enact the bill," Ms. Boardman said.

"Often not at all." But I wonder what "unknown future application" of a law banning torture the Cheney administration has in mind.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

He's so fat, how would he know?

That little blue pill
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
S.Z. is a trifle disappointed that Rush returned from his sex tour with 29 of the little pills left.

UPDATED: And isn't ED and a sex tour of an impoverished nation the perfect analogy of the current Rightwing establishment?

And, my God, T-Bogg predicted this a year ago.


The Vega is too delicate a flower to weigh in on the whole Kos/Jerome Armstrong/TNR deal. Hell, I don't even bother reading DailyKos (or link to it), don't accept advertising, and certainly don't await orders from Sub-commander Marcos before turning my attention to the keyboard. But, as much as I've tried to basically ignore the inanity of it, it just keeps matastisizing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Obviously, the president is stonewalling

With Roy's absence, the Vega continues to wade into the miasma and report on the various vapers and gaseous mixtures.

Why Is the Intelligence Community Stonewalling on Saddam's WMD [Andy McCarthy]
I can certainly understand the reluctance — if that's what it is — of the intelligence community (IC) to go up in a balloon over the recent report that WMD have in fact been found in Iraq — something discussed here last week by Michael Ledeen, Kathryn, Tim Graham, Jim Robbins, Jonah and me. So far, what's been found does not match up with the IC's expectations prior to the war.

But there's a difference between being overly exuberant about a significant development and failing to report it. And there's a similarly big difference between failing to report it and stonewalling.

That's what Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Pete Hoekstra point out in their joint op-ed on Why in the world is this information being withheld from members of Congress and the public?

If there is some operational intelligence that we have good reasons to hold back on, fine. But the whole "Bush lied and people died" slander is built around what is apparently a fiction. Given all that has been said about the WMD investigation (including an elaborate investigation by a special panel, the Silberman-Robb Commission), what possible good reason is there not to clarify for the American people what we now know about Saddam's weapons ... and about how much investigation remains to be done?

Posted at 5:10 PM

Um, let me try to help: Because the "IC's" pre-war info was, pretty much, that Hussein had left over chemical weapons from the Iraq-Iran War. The finding of a bunch of rusty old cannisters didn't "clarify" anything. It underscored the weak intelligence we had going in.

Oh, and as for the "Bush lied and people died" thing, it remains very much built around a work of non-fiction.

Believe me, if the finding had meant anything even remotely significant and affirming for the Cheney administration, they certainly would have rather gone to the press with that rather than the latest indictment of scary terrorists.

Do you want to know a secret?

Presidential hissy fit.
President Bush
on Monday sharply condemned the disclosure of a program to secretly monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful," he said.

"For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America," Bush said, jabbing his finger for emphasis. He said the disclosure of the program "makes it harder to win this war on terror."

The program has been going on since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. It was disclosed last week by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

The Vice weighs in, in his usual nuanced way:

Dick Cheney, in a speech Monday at Grand Island, Neb., said, "Some of the press, particularly The New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs."

When I read the story last week, I have to say I found myself less than shocked by the report. Why? Have I become so inured to the Cheney administration's obsession with secrecy? It's demand that Constitutional fetters fall before the threat of potential terrorism? It's strange logic that demands that an organization that provides charity work in the middle east must be shut down?

Yes, all those things.

But, then, there's also this exchange from Dec. 4, 2001:

JIMMY GURULE: Well, first of all, the Holy Land Foundation has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI for several years. So it has been on the radar screen of federal law enforcement for a long period of time. This isn't an organization that just recently came to the attention of the Department of the Treasury and the FBI.

The Department of the Treasury has developed strong and credible and compelling evidence that the Holy Land Foundation is involved in funneling and transferring money to Hamas to support terrorist activities.

MARGARET WARNER: What kind of terrorist activities?

JIMMY GURULE: Well, one example, the president stated this in his statement in the Rose Garden today. Hamas receives money from the Holy Land Foundation with respect to schools. There are schools that are supported by the Holy Land Foundation, and these schools encourage children to engage in terrorist activities specifically suicide bombing activities. So that's one example.

Another example is the money that is raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used to support the families of suicide bombers that engage in suicide terrorist attacks, an insurance policy, if you will, for the survivors of terrorist attacks by suicide bombers.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, are you able to track that? Are you actually able to track money from the Holy Land Foundation to Hamas, to actually these families, or are you saying the Holy Land Foundation, let's just take that example directly supports these families?

JIMMY GURULE: We're able to track money from donors to bank accounts, from bank accounts to the Holy Land Foundation back to the Holy Land Foundation to schools that support terrorist activities.

We do this through the use of the Bank Secrecy Act, the database that is administered by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is an agency within the Treasury Department.

We are able to do this through the Foreign Asset Tracking Center, which is an agency within the Treasury Department as well, so there are several vehicles, several mechanisms that we use in order to track terrorist assets.

Loose lips sink secret surveillance programs, Jimmy. You terra-lova.

Via Mr. T-Bogg.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The cut and the run

The sudden news of the Pentagon's plan to "redeploy" the troops -- one week after the debates in the House and the Senate -- couldn't have been better timed. The fewer the number of U.S. troops will inevitably result in fewer the number of Western press, unable to report even the "bad news." The Mess-'o-potamia maelstrom will grow even more intense, but there will be "no one" there to hear it.

More Perles of wisdom

Having seen his grand vision of Middle East transformation and "Empire Democracy" fall by the wayside in Iraq, Richard Perle -- confidante of Rumsfeld, former chairman of the Defense Policy Institute in the Pentagon, the grandaddy of neoconservatism, a veritable muse for the planners of the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- blames...

that's right...

the State Dept.

Spittle-flecked loons

I only hope I'm worthy to be a member of this new community identified by the so-called liberal media.

A big night for Boof and Choo

Twins 3, Cubs 0

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Boof Bonser watched the rest of the Minnesota Twins' rotation put up some impressive numbers this month, and felt left out after two straight lackluster starts.

He joined the party on Saturday night.

Rockies 11, Rangers 6

But Helton didn't want to talk about his newfound comfort level at the plate nearly as much as the play of center fielder Choo Freeman.

''His swing looks a million times better than it ever has,'' Helton said.

Freeman hit his second career home run during a six-run first inning. His two-out, three-run shot to left field was his first homer since June 10, 2004, against the New York Yankees.

Freeman is rewarding the confidence that Hurdle has placed in him. Before Saturday's game, Hurdle said he's going to give Freeman a chance to be a regular outfielder. Freeman has started three straight games and is 5-for-12 with a home run, triple, double and two singles.

''He's going to get more opportunities,'' Hurdle said.

I sometimes worry that baseball has lost the indiosyncracy of the days of Dizzy, Babe, and Three-Finger. Than a Boof and a Choo come along.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dawn in her yellow robe rose in the east...

...and John Tierney is still an idiot.

Today's column is perfectly emblematic of the Tierney style. "Contrarian" superciliousness. Cultural cluelessness. And this:

Yes, there are flashes of brilliant improvisation from stars like Ronaldinho, but I've come to think of soccer as a version of the Iliad without the Trojan horse maneuver or the heroic showdowns. You watch the armies going back and forth, but no one breaks through because they keep so many soldiers back on defense.

Is there no requirement that Time$elect columnists have some knowledge of their cultural references? Have the editors decided they won't...ya know...edit Tierney's columns anymore?

There is no "Trojan horse maneuver" in the Iliad.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Alex Rodriguez, clutch

Friday Fun Fact! The above phrase elicits 158,000 results.

"More of the Same"

Didn't a "state of emergency" already exist in Baghdad?

And for this Republican lawmakers are running on a call for "More of the Same?"

Values voters

Onward Christian Soldiers, I guess.

Equally striking is the rhetoric that leaders of the religious right use to motivate their followers. In the course of traveling around the country, I have been impressed anew by the pervasiveness of the language of militarism among leaders of the religious right. Patrick Henry College, according to its founding president, Michael Farris, "is training an army of young people who will lead the nation and shape the culture with biblical values." Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church, in Ohio, issues swords to those who join his organization, the Center for Moral Clarity, and calls on his followers to "lock and load" for a "Holy Ghost invasion." The Traditional Values Coalition advertises its "Battle Plan" to take over the federal judiciary. "I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare," Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, famously declared about his political tactics in 1997. I wonder how that sounds in the ears of the Prince of Peace.

And, speaking of Ralph Reed.

In his statement on Thursday, Mr. Reed said he had agreed to organize the antigambling campaigns for Mr. Abramoff after receiving assurances "that I would not be paid with funds derived from gambling."

In many cases, the report found, payments to Mr. Reed were handled through third parties in what appeared to be an effort to disguise the fact that the money was from tribes with large casino operations.

Not quite invisible enough, eh Ralphie? Heaven forbid the sainted Ralph would receive the filthy lucre of gambling money. I don't see why, though. Some of it probably came from his buddy and fellow moral paragon, Bill Bennett.

Our Lieberman problem

Mark Schmitt gets this exactly right (wish I'd written it, frankly).

Lieberman’s positions on various issues never really bothered me. I don’t need elected officials to exactly match my issue positions, which often change anyway. And in some cases, I shared his positions. I found his sanctimonious tone grating, his obsession with popular media distasteful and misdirected (as in, you might have more credibility on this if you didn’t suck up to “the I-Man” - Don Imus -- two mornings a week), but they would never be enough to make me think that if I lived in Connecticut, I wouldn’t vote for him. While my family and family friends developed a deep distaste for Lieberman (fueled by that particular hostility that non-religious Jews harbor toward the more observant), I would simply repeat the reminder, drilled into my head by own friends in the Lieberman camp, that his voting record really isn’t that different from Senator Dodd’s. And it isn’t.

Josh Marshall suggested recently that his greatest misgiving about Lieberman was his weirdly persistent refusal last year to get off the fence on Social Security privatization, as if he was waiting for some bipartisan deal that he could courageously join. “Perhaps he’s just out of step with the parliamentary turn of recent American politics,” Josh suggests. By which he means that, despite the Medicare drug bill, the energy bill, and the abundance of evidence to the contrary, Lieberman still thinks that he can deal in good faith with the Republicans. True, Lieberman doesn’t seem to really understand the current power structure, but he’s hardly alone in that. It took a couple of whippings before Ted Kennedy understood it. I’ve argued that everyone had better reckon with the fact that the era of bipartisan coalitions is dead, but I think there are downsides to that change and I don’t blame Lieberman for trying. Nor, in the end, did he cause any harm by his misreading of the Social Security game.

Nor is it fatal to me in itself that Lieberman supported the war and opposes withdrawal on a timetable. I voted twice in 2004 for Senators who had voted for the war, and I have no cosmic certainty at this point about what the right answer is. I’d vote for withdrawal on a timetable, but not without doubts. Maybe Biden’s right, maybe Levin and Reed, maybe Murtha. Because the risks are so uncertain, this is the hardest question to answer, and for myself, I find I can’t categorically dismiss anyone’s answer or insist that every Democrat toe one line.

So I ought to be a Lieberman “dead-ender.” I’ve respected him for 30-some years, I don’t mind his idiosyncratic positions, I don’t demand party loyalty, and I don’t insist on any particular position on how to end the war. But I’m not. Because something happened to Lieberman, and it’s more than his position on the war. It is not, as John Dickerson wrote on Slate this week that he “symbolizes” all the other Democrats who voted for the war or won’t take a firm stand. Above all else, it’s simply his self-righteous anger, his hostility to those who differ. He alone among Democrats seem to think that opponents of the war are not just mistaken, but will cause us to lose. (Just as he alone can continue to describe the choice in the war as “winning” or “losing,” as if “winning” were somehow still possible, as opposed to salvaging a bad situation.) He alone would say something like, “”We criticize the commander-in-chief at our own peril.” And he alone would suggest, as he did to David Broder, that Democrats who criticized Bush on the war were acting from "partisan interest" while he was thinking of "the national interest." He alone seems more focused on what he sees as the errors of the war’s opponents than those who launched the war. As Michael Tomasky said of Peter Beinart’s New Republic position on the Iraq War, it was not so much that they supported the war as that they “opposed the opposers.”

I didn't like it when Lieberman took to the floor of the Senate to heap contempt on Bill Clinton for his supposed moral failings and for making a mess in the Oval Office, but, hell, I pulled the lever for him twice in 2000, for both Senate and VP. But I was more than mildly irritated the position he took during the Florida recount which undercut Gore's chances as much as anything the Republican mobs were doing. And, now that he's perfected the art of heaping contempt on the Democratic Party voters in his own state, it is too much.

Intelligent -- and less than intelligent -- people can differ over starting the war and how to end the apparently endless occupation. But the only person in the U.S. who has expressed as much certainty on these subjects as Joe Lieberman is George W. Bush. And given the uncertainty that is awash in Mess-o-potamia, that's simply pathological.

Besides, Madam Cura and I heard a radio ad for Lamont yesterday, in which the announcer mentions "the Cheney administration." Nedrenaline!

Via Atrios.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Testing, 1, 2, 3

This is not an open thread, dammit.

A visit to the cornerites

Roy Edroso usually does this trawling himself, but he's off traveling on business, and so invites us to view the usual idiots in his absence. Well, I did, Dear Reader, and have come back shaken, not stirred.

Re: Re: That WMD Story [Tim Graham]
From the media-bias corner, my early two cents: the anti-war media has often used inaccurate hyperbole here when they have stated there were “no” weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The discovery of a single canister of sarin makes that claim inaccurate, and the media are supposed to care about getting it right, even when they were not called upon it by top officials. For example, the January 18, 2005 Today show:

DAVID GREGORY: It's clear, sir, there's no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

President BUSH: Right.

The larger point here is that the news media are more interested in certain potential facts than in others. We found the Big Three networks just aired three and a half hours of morning and evening news coverage in just three weeks of the Haditha “Marine massacre” allegations. But they have next to no interest in digging through the Saddam archives, just as they had next to no interest in digging through Soviet archives or East German archives. Everyone should realize that the major media has a bad case of partisan tunnel vision, and not be intimidated out of building a historical record for future generations to understand.
Posted at 12:22 PM

Of course! I too turn on my evening news to view stories about the contents of "archives," particularly ones that scholars have been studying for some time, or ones turned over to the blogosphere, but from which the much anticipated "WMD files" have not emerged. Happily, though, this appears to be a replacement narrative for the increasingly forlorn "they only report the bad news from Iraq."

But, onward through the miasma.

World Cup Watch [John J. Miller]
Ghana just beat the United States at the World Cup. Downside: The Americans are done, and their overall performance in the tournament was disappointing. Upside: Beating a bunch of countries, rather than tying them or losing to them and getting an early ticket home, wouldn't have helped global attitudes toward us. Upside #2: Any Americans who were distracted by the World Cup may now return their attentions to the better and more American sport of baseball.
Posted at 12:06 PM

Damn, and I believed the stuff Bono was saying on the commercial that it "can stop a war." Not at The Corner! "They still hate 'us!' But we didn't win!" All is ideology and ideology is all.

Boxing their earmarks

This is, as they say, rich.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) made a $2 million profit last year on the sale of land 5 1/2 miles from a highway project that he helped to finance with targeted federal funds.

A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns.

In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments. But for watchdog groups, the cases have opened a fresh avenue for investigation and a new wrinkle in the ongoing controversy over earmarks -- home-district projects funded through narrowly written legislative language.


In 2002, Hastert was driving to a parade in Sycamore, Ill., when he saw a post-and-beam house he fell in love with, according to Dallas C. Ingemunson, a longtime friend and ally of Hastert's who made the land deals for the speaker. Hastert struck a deal with the owner on the spot, purchasing the house near Plano, Ill., and 195 acres for $2.1 million.

In February 2004, Ingemunson, treasurer of Hastert's campaign committee and chairman of the Kendall County Republican Party, established Little Rock Trust #225. A week later, through the trust, Hastert and his business partners purchased a 69-acre parcel for $340,000, providing road access to part of Hastert's farm that had been landlocked. Hastert owned a quarter of that parcel.

In May 2005, Hastert transferred the 69 acres of previously hemmed-in land from his farm to the land trust. That summer, Hastert personally intervened during House and Senate negotiations over a huge transportation and infrastructure bill to secure two separate earmarks, $152 million to help build the Prairie Parkway through Kendall County and $55 million for an interchange 5 1/2 miles from his property. President Bush signed the bill into law on Aug. 10.

Then, on Dec. 7, Little Rock Trust #225 sold the Hastert parcels to a subsidiary of the Robert Arthur Land Co. for nearly $5 million. The deal netted Hastert a $2 million profit.

Interesting. And I feel certain that the editors at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times will lavish as much attention and ink to this story as they did to the Whitewater "scandal." After all Hastert netted $2 million, while the Clintons lost money on their land deal.

But I also gotta ask, can Dennis Hastert -- a retired High School teacher and wrestling coach turned Congressman -- really make a $2.1 million deal "on the spot?" I suspect he can, and the reason he can is that I suspect earmarks "for their districts" routinely enrich the same Republicans who came into Congress in 1994 demanding federal spending cuts.


Wow, Ruben Bolling has some great ideas to help GM convince buyers to GO BIG!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cut and run

Like their pals in the House, Senate Republicans offer nothing more than "stay the course."

Mr. Levin and Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, proposed an amendment to a military-spending bill that would call for the United States to at least begin redeploying troops by year's end. The proposal was harshly criticized by by Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the committee, as a "timetable" meant to sound like something else.

"It sends signals," Mr. Warner said, signals that he asserted would undermine the bipartisan backing that the American forces in Iraq have so far enjoyed. Now is the time, Mr. Warner said, for Congress to give President Bush the support he needs, or risk making a "historic mistake."

Funny, I thought the "historic mistake" occurred in the Spring of 2003. The Levin Reed proposal -- as well as the Feingold Kerry timetable -- are attempts at rectifying that mistake, however tardy and feeble.

But never mind, here's that tough "maverick" with his plans for winning the war!

Mr. McCain said the Bush administration had made "serious mistakes" in Iraq, but that withdrawing prematurely would be a far more serious one. "Iraqi forces are not yet capable of securing the country," he said.

The options available to the United States are what they have always been, Mr. McCain said: "Withdraw and fail, or commit and succeed."

In other words, don't in any way demand accountability for those "serious mistakes" and most certainly don't demand that the present Bush course ("we're not leaving 'til I do") be altered in any fucking way.

There's a plan for ya. I'm sure the troops will be cheered.

But yesterday, as I was listening to the posturing and bluster of our brave Republican men and women in the House...

"This week's debate has given us all an opportunity to answer a fundamental question: Are we going to confront the threat of terrorism and defeat it, or will we relent and retreat in the hopes that it just goes away?" asked Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). "Achieving victory is our only option, for the sake of the American people and for our children and grandchildren."

...I began thinking of our long history of cutting and running.

And sure enough, the Rude Pundit takes us back to the days when Cap "the wimp" Weinberger convinced Saint Ronald of the efficacy of "cutting and running," less than a month after Reagan declared he would do no such thing.

Now, to be clear, I think both proposals are rather foolish. Democrats aren't conducting the war. Republicans are, and are still looking to continue to make political hay from it, even as the majority of Americans now look stricken when the name "Iraq" is mentioned. These debates don't add anything, they just make Democrats look impotent. The debate should be over Bush's vow that the troops aren't leaving until "we succeed," and what "success" is defined as. And put Republicans on record that they support him as he "stays the (disastrous) course."

Meanwhile, in other news of the Capitol, the GOP says "no" to raising the minimum wage (again) and to renewing the Voting Rights Act. Great times. Great times.

A couple of kids

Jesus Christ. Just when it seems the depths of barbarity have been plumbed in this god-forsaken war, it turns out there's deeper to go.

The entire Post account is a microcosm of the entire conflict: A military screw-up and insufficient forces leaves low-ranking soldiers vulnerable; horrible deaths at the hands of insurgents ("anti-Iraqi forces," is now apparently the preferred term used by the military); the death -- rather than capture -- of an al Qaeda "leader;" an airstrike by U.S. forces leads to the alleged (by witnesses) death of Iraqi children.

"You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"

"No, Mr. President." To paraphrase Brad DeLong, impeach George W. Bush. Do it now.


The Times' loathing of John Kerry never abates. As Duncan writes, this snide coverage is nothing new for the "Paper of Record."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A contagion

Of wankery, that is.

Greg Mankiw on those nasty entitlements.

Tom Friedman on just about everything, but in this case (scroll down at the above link), a call for a third party whose platform sounds very familiar.

Brokeback Klein

Monday, June 19, 2006

The cruel economics of baseball

From all appearances, Aaron Small is a terrific guy. And last season, as a mid-season call up from Triple A, the career journeyman damn near saved the Yankees' season. His 10-0 record was completely unexpected and very likely was the difference between the Yankees winning the division and not.

This year? Not so much.

WASHINGTON, June 17 — In the last dozen years, Aaron Small has belonged to a dozen organizations. When the Yankees gave up on him Saturday, it hurt like nothing before.

Standing outside the visitors' clubhouse at R.F.K. Stadium in the morning, just after he was designated for assignment, Small said, "This is the hardest demotion I've ever had to face."

He was 10-0 last season, a superb performance that helped lift the Yankees to the playoffs. But Small missed the first month of this season with a hamstring injury, then went 0-3 with an 8.46 earned run average in 11 games, 3 of them starts.

When the Yankees needed a fresh reliever because of Kyle Farnsworth's back spasms, they promoted T. J. Beam from Class AAA Columbus and took Small off the roster. If no major league team claims him off waivers, Small, 34, said, he will accept an assignment to Columbus, where he would start.

Unfortunately, Aaron reverted to minor league journeyman form this year (actually, he did that in September of last year, but he got good run support and no one in the Yank's organization noticed, apparently). But in the meantime, he went from something clost to the minimum salary to getting a guaranteed contract for $1.2 million to pitch this year.

Small would probably get claimed by some other team if he were still getting paid what he got last year. But with a pro-rated $700 grand still coming his way, it's highly unlikely he'll be going anywhere but back to the farm system. I don't know of any other professional sport where a great reward can end up as punishment -- the flip-side of having the strongest players' union in sports.

Take a message

Josh Marshall looks askance at Frank Rich's column yesterday (Time$elect). Rich blasted away at the Democratic Congressional Committe for not having a strong "message" on which all candidates can rally around this November.

The war is going so badly that it's hard to imagine how the Democrats, fractious as they are, could fail, particularly if the Republicans insist on highlighting the debacle, as they did last week by staging a Congressional mud fight about Iraq on the same day that the American death toll reached 2,500. As the Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio wittily observed in April: "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."

Thatt's certainly true, and who can deny that it would be nice and self-affirming if Democrats could all just "unify" and be "on message" all the time the way Republicans are so often able to do. See last week's rubber stamp of "steely resolve" in Iraq for an example of that...and an example of just how well that works as a principle for governing the nation. But Democrats are too big a party, with too large a constituent base to every be wholly unified. It's a messy party. It's a messy country.

Further, Josh is right. Voters in November won't be voting for the party message; they'll be voting for individuals, and those Democrats who will win will be those who effectively tie the Republican he or she is running against to the utter disaster that has been Republican majority rule, and ask, per Newt's advice, "Had enough?"

But there's something else in Rich's column that's been troubling me. It seems to be conventional wisdom lately amongst liberal writers that Democrats need to voice a plan for how to deal with Iraq. They seem to take a manic glee in undercutting the party's efforts to retake the House by pointing out, again and again, that Democratic leadership is failing to take a position on how to conduct the war.

On the war, Democrats are fighting among themselves or, worse, running away from it altogether. Last week the party's most prominent politician, Hillary Clinton, rejected both the president's strategy of continuing with "his open-ended commitment" in Iraq and some Democrats' strategy of setting "a date certain" for withdrawal. She was booed by some in her liberal audience who chanted, "Bring the troops home now!" But her real sin was not that she failed to endorse that option, but that she failed to endorse any option.

Like Mr. Bush, she presented a false choice — either stay the course or cut and run — yet unlike Mr. Bush, she didn't even alight on one of them. This perilous juncture demands that leaders of both parties, whether running for president or not, articulate the least-disastrous Iraq exit option that Americans and Iraqis can rally around. Time is running out. The new Brookings Institution Iraq Index cites a poll showing that 87 percent of Iraqis want a timeline for American withdrawal, and 47 percent approve of attacks on American troops. A timeline does not require, as Mrs. Clinton disingenuously implies, an arbitrary "date certain" for withdrawal.

I've been frustrated as well, but does Rich really believe that "articulating the least-disastrous Iraq exit" is going to go unmolested by Karl Rove's attacks? And what plan is Rich articulating? A "timeline" that isn't arbitrary? What would that be? I suppose he imagines all kinds of "metrics" against which U.S. troops could be removed (number of trained Iraqi forces, number of suicide attacks, etc.). But are we really to have any confidence in metrics provided either by the Malaki or Cheney administrations?

Think about it. What plan would "unify" the Democratic party? Indeed, what plan would bring together a clear majority of voters. I think the ambiguity of the Democratic leadership, frankly, reflects the ambiguity of voters right now. The majority now know in their gut they've been lied to in the run up to war and that the Bush administration has mangled its execution. But I also think that the majority, in their gut, want a pull-out but have no idea how or when to do it. In their gut, they have come to believe those who are certain a premature pull-out be a repeat of Beirut and Mogadishu.

So I'm not sure Democrats have a lot of options here, and I'm not sure what it buys them in presenting a "plan" they have no means to execute with the Cheney administration still in power for another two and a half years.

I ask this not to be snarky...or at least with slightly less snark than is customary: Is there a plan out there that takes in the reality of the situation in Iraq (on the verge of civil war) and Washington (the Cheney administration in charge) and proposes a legitimate plan for ending the occupation? I haven't seen anything better yet than the idea of just giving every Iraqi citizen freedom and a puppy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"I'm Joe Lieberman and I approved this ad."

If I were him, I'd deny it.

He must think Democratic primary voters in Connecticut are awfully stupid.

When deer attack: An inside job?

I think the border collie was in on this somehow.

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio - A 75-year-old northeast Ohio woman is recovering from injuries she received this week when a deer got into her home and attacked her.

Mary Blake of suburban Cleveland opened her patio door Wednesday to let her border collie back inside and was shocked when a female deer followed close behind.

Hmmm, this deer thing is getting weirder and weirder.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Prisoner exchange

In an otherwise clear headed indictment of a Democratic party that still seems to wish that the Iraq War would simply go away, Matt calls the DNC's decision to bash the GOP over approving of amnesty for insurgents who've killed American troops "an unprincipled gambit." Jim Henley, whom Matt links to, calls it "irresponsible, jingoist tripe."

Whoa, Nellie. I'm not sure what political universe Matt and Jim are living in, but as one commentator on Henley's site notes, when you're fighting a pig and the pig gets to choose the field of battle, you can expect some mud to be flung. The GOP has been bashing Democrats over the head with "irresponsible, jingoist tripe" since, oh, September 12, 2001. Democrats have been bashed at the polls in 2002 and 2004 as a result. Turnabout is fair play, no?

Calling Republicans on their craven hypocricy is good. It...

1. Is fun.
2. Is satisfying.
3. Exposes the dishonesty of the Right when it comes to the Iraq War.

Jim's and Matt's argument is that Democrats need to be the party to "think real" about the war and how to end it. And that may very well mean an agreement to release insurgents. It makes sense. After all, at the end of any conflict, it is generally accepted standard practice to conduct an exchange of prisoners, including killers. It's a war. Soldiers kill. Soldiers die.

Trouble is, the Cheney administration has spent the past three years arguing something very different, arguments echoed across the land by The Mighty Wurlitzer and its Republican talking points. The insurgents, they argued, should not be called prisoners since that implies that the U.S. is an occupying force and Iraqis who fight back could then be called "freedom fighters." No, these "dead-enders" are terrorists and "foreign fighters." They're "jihadists" who must be considered "enemy combatants," not prisoners of war, according to the Right. And you are an America hater if you try to argue that these prisoners should be afforded protections under the Geneva Convention. Doesn't apply, sayeth the Cheney administration.

Shit, these guys are so dangerous, even their very suicides inside of our prisons are threats to our security in the United States, according to our nation's leadership.

So, in the interest of promoting Maliki's government and, more importantly, in the interest of giving the impression of "turning another corner," Republicans suddenly approve of the idea of releasing Iraqis who've killed American troops...for Iraqi national reconciliation, of course. I think that's worth shining a light on.

Matt, Jim, every time a Democrats criticizes Dear Leader's conduct of the war, Republicans shriek, throw feces, and yell, "He's demoralizing the troops!" I think it's time for a little payback.

Besides, prisoner exchanges usually come at the end of the war, not in the middle of what preznit says is going to be a long commitment.

I'd be curious what the reaction to all this is at Little Green Fascists, but I can't take the virtual smell of that place.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

White Sox weirdness

Only Ozzie Guillen would demote a pitcher for inducing the only batter he faced to ground out.

Texas starter Vicente Padilla hit Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski twice, which prompted a warning to both sides from home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the fourth inning.

Suspicions of retaliation surfaced in the seventh when Sox rookie reliever Sean Tracey moved Texas cleanup hitter Hank Blalock off the plate with a high-and-tight first pitch.

Blalock took a big hack and missed at the next pitch before Tracey moved Blalock off the plate with a low, inside pitch.

The sequence ended when Blalock grounded out to second, but manager Ozzie Guillen immediately pulled Tracey in favor of fellow rookie Agustin Montero, who had been warming up as Tracey entered the game.

Television cameras caught Guillen yelling at Tracey in the dugout.

Tracey buried his head in his hands before covering his face with his jersey, and Guillen was shown spiking a bottle of water.

Guillen declined to elaborate on the incident after taking the blame for not having Montero ready to start the inning, adding Tracey "is one of our prospects." Guillen said he didn't want to make comments that could result in a suspension.

Tracey, who packed his bag after the game in an apparent demotion to Triple-A Charlotte, declined to comment.

I got no problem with a pitcher defending his backstop after he's hit by a pitch. I got a real problem with the manager telling the pitcher to throw at a batter. Especially egregious when the pitcher's a rookie. Some guys just aren't comfortable throwing high and tight.

Meanwhile, liveblogging today's Yankee game against the Native Americans: Melky Cabrera just hit his first Major League H.R.

Base politics

This seems like a dangerous gambit for Republicans. Clearly, they're once again trying to conflate the war in Iraq with Sept. 11, 2001, but will it work this time? Obviously, they will use whatever Dems say to oppose the resolution in negative campaign ads in the Fall, but it will be interesting to see if Dems can turn the tables on them and make this a referendum on the war, the Cheney administration's conduct of it, and the Republican party's tacit approval of that conduct.

But, yeah, it's a typically disgusting and cynical use of American troops to paper over the failure of Republicans.

Democrats may want to hammer home the fact that, despite demonstrations to the contrary, we're in Iraq permanently.

Protecting the rear

How long after this photo was taken did they have to clean up the helicopter.

And didn't anyone tell them to sit on their helmets when the fire's coming from below?

Support the troops

At least as far as the rear end of their SUVs. Is there any clearer sign of the desperate desire of the Right to declare victory and, to borrow a phrase from Rove, "cut and run?"

I don't like it any more than you do.

The prospect of granting a limited amnesty in Iraq --? especially to those Iraqis who participated in attacks on Americans -- sticks in my craw. I believe that amnesty would cheapen the sacrifice made by the more than 2,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq and would be a slap in the face to the families of the fallen.

But all things considered, it may be the price of a full, unqualified victory in Iraq --? a stable democratic government that promises full political participation for all Iraqis and that would be an example to follow for the rest of the autocratic Middle East.

This was the goal when we initiated the overthrow of Saddam. And achieving that goal would hearten democrats in the entire Muslim world while striking a huge blow at al Qaeda and their brothers in terror across the Middle East.

Odd. I seem to have a dim memory that the goal was to find Hussein's WMD...but that's just me, I guess. And I thought they were "dead-enders?" Now, the Right calls them "freedom fighters," bravely battling the American "invaders," and compares them to the African National Congress.

Sticks in his craw, indeed. The Vega feels for him in his discomfort.

The sound you hear is the low drone of rising cognitive dissonance across the land.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

They shoot ponies, don't they?

Since he's now not at risk of indictment, apparently, Rove can get back to doing what he does best.

WASHINGTON — A rule designed by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep groundwater clean near oil drilling sites and other construction zones was loosened after White House officials rejected it amid complaints by energy companies that it was too restrictive and after a well-connected Texas oil executive appealed to White House senior advisor Karl Rove.

The new rule, which took effect Monday, came after years of intense industry pressure, including court battles and behind-the-scenes agency lobbying. But environmentalists vowed Monday that the fight was not over, distributing internal White House documents that they said portrayed the new rule as a political payoff to an industry long aligned with the Republican Party and President Bush.

In 2002, a Texas oilman and longtime Republican activist, Ernest Angelo, wrote a letter to Rove complaining that an early version of the rule was causing many in the oil industry to "openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity."

Rove responded by forwarding the letter to top White House environmental advisors and scrawling a handwritten note directing an aide to talk to those advisors and "get a response ASAP."

Rove later wrote to Angelo, assuring him that there was a "keen awareness" within the administration of addressing not only environmental issues but also the "economic, energy and small business impacts" of the rule.

Keep your friends close and your enemies under your heel.

As Dan Froomkin writes, does it take a criminal indictment for anyone to get in trouble around here? And with the indictment gone, will the Washington press start investigating what Rove really did with respect to the uncovering of a CIA operative?

We know that Rove was the second of two sources for syndicated columnist Robert Novak 's column, in which Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA operative. We know Rove confirmed that to investigators, although he testified that all he did was say something like "I heard that, too" after Novak asked him about it.

We also know Rove was one of Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper's sources, for his story mentioning Plame's CIA status. Rove eventually confirmed that to investigators after insisting that he had previously forgotten about the conversation.

Apparently, none of this rises to the level of a slam-dunk criminal case, according to Fitzgerald.

But consider that Rove, his lawyers and the White House repeatedly denied to the public that Rove was involved in the leak at all.

As ABC News's The Note reported on Sept. 29, 2003, ABC News producer Andrea Owen and a cameraman approached Rove that morning as he walked toward his car.

Owen: "Did you have any knowledge or did you leak the name of the CIA agent to the press?"

Rove: "No."

Then on August 31, 2004, Rove spoke to CNN's John King .

King: "Did someone in the White House leak the name of the CIA operative? What is your assessment of the status of the investigation, and can you tell us that you had nothing to do with. . . . "

Rove: "Well, I'll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

Here is press secretary Scott McClellan in a Sept. 16, 2003 briefing:

"Q Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover a CIA operative. . . . Did Karl Rove do it?

"MR. McCLELLAN: I said, it's totally ridiculous."

Here's McClellan on Sept. 29, 2003 :

"Q All right. Let me just follow up. You said this morning, 'The President knows' that Karl Rove wasn't involved. How does he know that?

"MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. . . . So, I mean, it's public knowledge. I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove."

On Sept. 30, 2003 , Bush himself was asked if Rove had a role in the CIA leak.

"Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information," he said. "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."

Meanwhile, Rove headed up to New Hampshire evidently to kick off "Dirty Tricks Tour '06."

MANCHESTER, N.H. --Presidential adviser Karl Rove is the keynote speaker Monday night at the state Republican Party's annual dinner -- which Democrats say is to raise money to help the party pay legal fees in a phone jamming case.

State Party Chairman Wayne Semprini acknowledged Friday he would like to raise enough money so the suit "represents a very small portion of our budget."

But he said the case has nothing to do with Rove's appearance.

"He won't say boo about phone jamming," Semprini said. "There's absolutely no connection between his being here and phone jamming. Period. This is our annual dinner."

With each passing day, taking power back from these creeps gets more and more vital. As evidence, Digby quotes the phone jammer himself.

In his first interview about the case, Raymond said he doesn't know anything that would suggest the White House was involved in the plan to tie up Democrats' phone lines and thereby block their get-out-the-vote effort. But he said the scheme reflects a broader culture in the Republican Party that is focused on dividing voters to win primaries and general elections. He said examples range from some recent efforts to use border-security concerns to foster anger toward immigrants to his own role arranging phone calls designed to polarize primary voters over abortion in a 2002 New Jersey Senate race.

``A lot of people look at politics and see it as the guy who wins is the guy who unifies the most people," he said. ``I would disagree. I would say the candidate who wins is the candidate who polarizes the right bloc of voters. You always want to polarize somebody."

Karl has taught him well.

Nixon's political operatives at least tried to hide what they were doing. Today's Republicans commit their dirty tricks and political vedettas nakedly. And the Washington press do little more than look on admiringly, offer a subtle shake of the head, and say, "Damn, they've got brass ones, don't they?"

Fooling most of the people most of the time

Lordy, House Democrats have begun to buy a clue, realizing that Lincoln's old adage is no longer operative.

Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, voted for the bill, as did the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California. But Mr. Obey denounced financing the war in Iraq with emergency spending bills, which are outside the regular budget and appropriations process.

"Such emergency spending is simply a gimmick that masks the full cost of the war, and it does not fool anybody except the American people," Mr. Obey said.

They're catching on.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Talk about your inflation indicators

Question, Dear Readers. Did Dear Leader hold off visiting the "newly elected government of Iraq" until Zarqawi was safely dead? Was he that scared of the chubby asshole?

I'll take a coffee chaser

In an otherwise miserable day, some good news.

Drinking coffee may protect against the type of liver disease caused by excessive alcohol intake, researchers have found.

In a population of more than 125,000 members of a prepaid health care plan, scientists found 199 with diagnoses of liver cirrhosis caused by alcohol abuse. The subjects were examined beginning in 1978, and they were followed for an average of more than 14 years. Their coffee drinking and other dietary and health habits were established using interviews and questionnaires.

Compared with people who never drank coffee, those who drank one cup a day or less were about 30 percent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis. The more coffee they drank, the lower the risk. At one to three cups per day, the risk was lowered by 40 percent, and those who drank more than four cups a day reduced their risk by 80 percent. Coffee had no statistically significant effect on the risk for nonalcoholic cirrhosis.

Until the Starbucks Institute for Managed Alcoholism completes their study on the effect of Mocha Skim Lattes, I'm sticking with Joe, black-no-sugar.

Throwing herself to the lions

I'm not a "Hillary!" supporter, and would much prefer she not enter the 2008 presidential race since I think she envigorates the base...the Republican base, I'm afraid, not the Democratic one. That said, I think it took a lotta guts to stand up in front of "Take Back America."

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A liberal crowd both booed and cheered Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday after she encouraged Democrats to have a ''difficult conversation'' about their position on the Iraq war in order to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

Clinton's attempt to strike a moderate stance on the divisive issue of the war contrasted sharply with the angry words of another potential presidential contender, Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 standard-bearer, who called the war ''immoral'' and a ''quagmire.''

At a speech before a liberal gathering dubbed ''Take Back America,'' the New York senator took grief from those in the audience critical of her vote for the Iraq war and her opposition to an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

''I do not think it is a smart strategy, either, for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government,'' said Clinton, before turning to the anti-war liberals' core beef with her.

''Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests,'' said Clinton, prompting loud booing from some at the gathering.

Clinton has been seen as the early favorite among potential Democratic candidates for president in 2008, but she is increasingly at odds with anti-war liberals over her past vote and current position on Iraq.

''Sometimes this is a difficult conversation, in part because this administration has made our world more dangerous than it should be,'' she said.

After addressing Iraq, Clinton quickly turned to the 2006 election, saying her party needs to speak to middle-class Americans and overcome disagreements.

''If we're going to win in November then we have to be smarter, tougher, and better prepared than our opponents, because one thing they do know how to do is win and we have to reach out to people who may not be able to agree with us,'' she said.

''We have to talk about the range of issues that are on their minds that they talk about around the kitchen table,'' Clinton said.

That's very true. Look, demanding each and every candidate sign a petition calling for a troop pull-out in 2006 is a losing game. It ensures that the candidate in '08 will have his/her hands tied behind them and ignores whatever facts on the ground may arise in the next two years. Put another way, there's a lotta photo ops between now and then. I think it's important for potential candidates to make clear they regretted voting for something based on lies and misleading intelligence; that they would never take this country to war based on such lies and misleading intelligence; that, having taken the country to war, would they bungle it so magnificently by not demanding that the war planners also present a plan for the peace; that they would not leave the country financially disabled by trying to pay for the war via tax cuts for the wealthiest.

But committing to a pull-out now, two years before the election, is a mistake. I think Clinton's right to stay centered on this issue, believe it or not. Sure beats flag burning amendments.

The same is not true for House and Senate candidates, particularly those who have a lot to answer for.

"Won't get fooled again"...cause, like, we gotta direct line

I've never been a huge fan of The Who (except Live at Leeds, one of the best live albums ever put to vinyl), but this is extremely...oh, what's the word?!

It's also funny how flabbergasted the blogosphere is by this.


Digby has a whole slew of hand-wringing denunciations of Adams Apple Annie across the wingosphere. Her sin, as we all know, was that the shrieking harpie dared to call the widows of men who died on Sept. 11 2001, rich, self-serving liberals.

Yes, she's gone too far this time, it would appear, even for those who had no problem when she regretted that Timothy McVeigh had not blown up the NY Times building, when she suggested that we forcibly convert all Muslims to Christianity, or when she proposed imposing the death penalty on liberals. But, this post is particularly precious in its sympathy for the widows:

Ace of Spades:

this nastiness is uncalled for. Even if something is actually felt deep inside -- even if you're filled with toxic hatred for very annoying, very presumptuous, very left-leaning women with an overweening sense of entitlement -- most people would find less abrasive ways to express such an emotion. Does that mean that Ann is just more honest than us "nancy boys"? Not really. A lot of the time the excuse of "I was just being honest" is just a code for "I'm basically an inconsiderate [butthead] who cannot be bothered to modify my behavior in even the slightest fashion in order to observe basic conventions of social decency."


It is good to know that, between Cheetos feedings, they are being exposed to "basic conventions of social decency" even in the bowels of their mothers' basements.

There's plenty of manure in Washington this morning

But, sadly, no ponies to be found.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Guantanamo's bad P.R.

The administration may try to distance itself from her comments, but a "deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy" doesn't just improvise stuff like this.

The Bush administration believes everything -- terrorism, climate change, the war in Iraq -- is all about "P.R." It's a wonder then, that they're so bad at it.

Midstream, but no change of horses on the horizon

The press is treating the fact that Bush is meeting with his "senior advisors" on the way forward in Iraq as though this is some kind of dog bites man piece of newsery.

Or rather, the Bush administration seems to feel that news of such a meeting will "reassure" the public that, in the words of either Don Gonyea or Wan Williams on NPR, this administration is "being proactive."


Some people I don't know

Having little to say myself this morning, I give you today's chapter of the Krugmaniad (Time$elect):

Back in 1971, Russell Baker, the legendary Times columnist, devoted one of his Op-Ed columns to an interview with Those Who — as in "Those Who snivel and sneer whenever something good is said about America." Back then, Those Who played a major role in politicians' speeches.

Times are different now, of course. There are those who say that Iraq is another Vietnam. But Iraq is a desert, not a jungle, so there. And we rarely hear about Those Who these days. But the Republic faces an even more insidious threat: the Some.

The Some take anti-American positions on a variety of issues. For example, they want to hurt the economy: "Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper," said President Bush in 2003. "That bothers me when people say that."

Mainly, however, the Some are weak on national security. "There's Some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack,' " said Mr. Bush during a visit to the National Security Agency.

The Some appear to be an important faction within the Democratic Party — a faction that has come out in force since the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Last week the online edition of The Washington Times claimed that "Some Democrats" were calling Zarqawi's killing a "stunt."

Even some Democrats (not to be confused with Some Democrats) warn about the influence of the Some. "Some Democrats are allergic to the use of force. They still have a powerful influence on the party," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution after the 2004 election.

Joe Klein, the Time magazine columnist, went further, declaring that the Democratic Party's "left wing" has a "hate America tendency."

And when Senator Barack Obama told The New Yorker that Americans "don't believe that the main lesson of the past five years is that America is an evil hegemon," he seemed to be implying that influential members of his party believe just that.

But here's the strange thing: it's hard to figure out who those Some Democrats are.

For example, none of the Democrats quoted by The Washington Times actually called the killing of Zarqawi a stunt, or said anything to that effect. Mr. Klein's examples of people with a "hate America tendency" were "Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation." That's a grossly unfair characterization, but in any case, since when do a filmmaker who supported Ralph Nader and a magazine's opinion writers constitute a wing of the Democratic Party?

And which Democrats are "allergic to the use of force"? Some prominent Democrats opposed the Iraq war, but few if any of these figures oppose all military action. Howard Dean supported both the first gulf war and the invasion of Afghanistan. So did Al Gore. To all appearances, both men opposed the Iraq war only because they thought this particular use of force was ill advised and was being sold on false pretenses.

On the other hand, maybe appearances are deceiving. Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, The New Republic accused those who opposed the war — in particular, the editorial page of The New York Times — of hiding behind a "mask of nuanced criticism" when their real position was one of "abject pacifism."

But Peter Beinart, who was The New Republic's editor at the time, now seems to concede that the war's opponents were right. "Worst-case logic became a filter," he writes in his new book, "which prevented war supporters like myself from seeing the evidence mounting around us."

So what's going on here? Some might suggest that the alleged influence of the Some is no more real than the problem of flag-burning, that right-wing propagandists are attacking straw men to divert attention from the Bush administration's failures. And they wonder why people like Mr. Obama are helping these propagandists in their work.

Some might also suggest that Democrats who accuse other Democrats of closet pacifism are motivated in part by careerism — that they're trying to sustain the peculiar rule, which still prevails in Washington, that you have to have been wrong about Iraq to be considered credible on national security. And they're doing this by misrepresenting the views and motives of those who had the good sense and courage to oppose this war.

But that's just what Some Democrats might say. And everyone knows that Some Democrats hate America.

© 2006 The New York Times Company

Brings to mind "The Muffin Man," doesn't it?

Some people like cupcakes better. I for one care less for them!

Friday, June 09, 2006

A schism among the radical clerics?

Holy Christian cat fight batman.

The FCC says that the average household watches only 17 channels -- and apparently, evangelical right-wingers aren't pulling in many viewers. As far as Robertson, Falwell, Benny Hinn, and a few others are concerned, if consumers pick which cable channels to receive, they probably won't sign up for Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network. For TV preachers, fewer households means fewer viewers, and fewer viewers means less power, influence, and cash.

It's set up quite a fight among the theocons. Focus on the Family and the Parents Television Council want a-la-carte cable so families won't have to pay for channels they find offensive. CBN and Falwell ministries are in a panic over a-la-carte cable because, without it, they're effectively going to be run off the air.

I'm with Dobson. I'm sick of paying for Pat Robertson's delusions of Jack Lalaneism.

Go blog yourself

Sorry for the dearth of posts, Dear Reader. Blogger was down for unanticipated maintenance yesterday...Wednesday afternoon, on into the evening...and well into today...Thursday...last night.

No blog was safe from the debilitations. Not Atrios, Hallabaloo, or Alicublog, to name a few "somewhat popular bloggers."

It's almost as if it was intentional. Blogspot goes down specifically so that America-haters such as yours truly are unable to blogospherically react to the news with a characteristically long sigh and the words, "So, what took you so long?"

Meanwhile, in other baseball news, this is going to really blow things up, real good.

Jason Grimsley, a journeyman pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, took only two hours to disclose what he surely hoped would remain a secret, and what other major leaguers also wanted to keep private. About two months ago, according to federal investigators, Grimsley revealed that he had used performance-enhancing substances for several years and that other players did, too.

When three investigators arrived on Grimsley's doorstep April 19 with the suspicion that he had just received a shipment of human growth hormone, it did not take long before he admitted that he had used anabolic steroids, amphetamines and human growth hormone, according to documents filed in the United States District Court of Arizona.

Thirteen federal agents searched Grimsley's home in Scottsdale, Ariz., for six hours Tuesday. Mark Lessler, an agent with the Internal Revenue Service, would not divulge what was uncovered. The agents are investigating Grimsley for illegal possession of drugs, illegal distribution of drugs and money laundering of the profits.

During Grimsley's interview with agents, he admitted to receiving and using performance-enhancing substances 10 to 12 times, according to the court papers. Grimsley also named other players who were users, but those names were blacked out in the documents.

And while the Diamondbacks unceremoniously released him, if what Grimsley is singing is remotely true, ownership is intimately complicit in all of this.

The affidavit details what Grimsley told investigators about drug use in clubhouses, including his description of coffee pots labeled "leaded" and "unleaded" to indicate which ones were laced with amphetamines. He also said that amphetamines were called "greenies" or "beans" and were widely used because "they work." According to the document, he said: "Everybody had greenies. That's like aspirin."

Of course, Grimsley, while liked as a teammate, is not the most upstanding citizen.

The press and the critics have been dying to nail Bonds, and wondering why the stars haven't been named, but almost predictably it's the aging mediocre pitcher that's the one desperate to use something to keep his career alive.

Anyway, a journeyman murderer/replacement level criminal mastermind and a journeyman replacement level middle reliever killed/nabbed. Not a bad couple of days for the Executive Branch, I guess.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The evolution of Republican thought

It would be amusing -- if not so devastating -- to note the parallels in the way Republicans have chosen to address two of the more significant issues facing us during their long, painful reign as the single party in power.

Climate change: "It's a hoax" becomes "the science is still in dispute" becomes "Crazy Al Gore wants to do away with the internal combustion engine" becomes "let's study it for another 10 years" becomes "ok, it's real, but it would be too expensive to do anything about it so learn to live with it."

Massive budget deficits: "Fuzzy math!" becomes "lower taxes on the rich will generate more taxes, really" becomes "deficits don't matter; we won" becomes "the deficit is so huge that doing small things, like maintaining the Estate Tax for the wealthiest inheritors, won't really help."

The Republican mantra, after six long years of holding all three branches of the federal government and finding that governing is "hard, real hard," seems to be, "aw, fuck it."

UPDATE: Well, at least Fafnir and Giblets are back to help us understand this mode of thinking.

Billy Preston

His contributions to The Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be, and especially the work he did on two of The Stones' greatest albums cannot be overstated.

William Everett Preston was born in Houston on Sept. 9, 1946, and grew up in Los Angeles. He was a child prodigy who accompanied the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson when he was 10. In 1958, he played the young W. C. Handy in the film biography "St. Louis Blues." Little Richard hired Mr. Preston for a European tour in 1962, and during that tour Mr. Preston met the fledgling Beatles — who were Little Richard's opening act — as well as Sam Cooke, who hired Mr. Preston for his band and signed him to his own label, SAR Records. After Mr. Cooke's death, Mr. Preston began recording instrumental albums with titles like "The Wildest Organ in Town" (1965) and "The Most Exciting Organ Ever" (1966).

He worked in the house band of the pop TV show "Shindig," then joined Ray Charles' band for three years. George Harrison of the Beatles saw him with Charles' band, and brought him to work with the Beatles.

Mr. Preston was signed to the Beatles' label, Apple, and made two albums produced by Harrison: "That's the Way God Planned It" and "Encouraging Words." He was invited to join the recording sessions that yielded "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road," where he helped hold together the band. "It was a struggle for them," Mr. Preston said in 2001. "They were kind of despondent. They had lost the joy of doing it all."

The Beatles' 1969 single of "Get Back" is credited to "The Beatles With Billy Preston," the only shared label credit in the Beatles' own career. Mr. Preston appeared at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh that Mr. Harrison organized, and did studio work on solo projects by Mr. Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

Mr. Preston's own career flourished in the early 1970's, when he had his major hits: synthesizer-topped instrumentals ("Outa-Space" and "Space Race") and jaunty soul songs ("Will It Go Round in Circles" and "Nothing From Nothing"). He worked in the studio with the Rolling Stones on their 1970's albums, among them "Sticky Fingers" and "Exile on Main Street," and toured with them. He was also a studio musician on Sly and the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On" and on Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks."
But if he was on "Blood on the Tracks," in which Dylan was backed by a group of relatively unknown Minneapolis musicians, that's news to me. If so, then his contribution went uncredited, which seems unlikely.
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