Monday, July 31, 2006

The uncheckable president

Glenn Greenwald on the spector of Specter's FISA bill.

Richard Nixon infamously told David Frost in a 1977 interview that, by definition, "when the president does it, that means it is not illegal." Specter, in effect, wishes to make the Nixonian theory of presidential infallibility the law of the land. In the process, he also embraces a more modern and equally extreme theory of presidential power, and that is the second alarming implication of his bill.

Specter's proposal is based on the plainly erroneous -- and truly radical -- premise that Congress has no power to regulate presidential war powers, as spelled out in Article II of the Constitution. That is the John Yoo/David Addington "president as monarch" theory that the Bush administration has been peddling to justify everything from the lawless detention of U.S. citizens to the use of torture as an interrogation tool to the president's deliberate violations of U.S. law governing eavesdropping.

Recent judicial decisions have signaled that the federal judiciary is increasingly willing to do what Congress has so glaringly failed to do in the Bush era -- that is, impose minimal limits on presidential power. The Supreme Court's recent decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld was hailed as a historic victory for the restoration of checks and balances. The narrow result of Hamdan was to declare illegal the Bush administration's military commissions at Guantánamo on grounds that they violated congressional law requiring that such tribunals conform to the Geneva Conventions. But the broader significance of Hamdan was that it reaffirmed the principle that the president is bound by the restrictions imposed on him by Congress, even with regard to the exercise of his war powers. In doing so, the Court rejected the radical Bush claim to unchecked presidential power in the area of national security.

Specter's bill single-handedly reverses the judicial pushback. With his proposed FISA bill, the senator takes the constitutionally guaranteed congressional power that was just reaffirmed by the Supreme Court and gives it back to the president. It was precisely this theory of unchecked presidential power that the Hamdan decision rejected as alien to the Constitution. Yet Specter's bill, at its core, endorses that theory, and Specter himself, in a Washington Post Op-Ed, justified his bill by espousing this view of unlimited presidential power. Specter argued: "The president's constitutional power either exists or does not exist, no matter what any statute may say."

Specter's justification for his bill is simply wrong as a matter of constitutional law. As Georgetown law professor Marty Lederman put it, Specter's constitutional argument is "utter malarkey" and rests on nothing more complex or noble than a "basic misunderstanding of modern separation-of-powers doctrine." Congress unquestionably has the power -- and has always had it -- to regulate the exercise of numerous presidential powers. Indeed, when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Specter's Judiciary Committee, even he told Specter that it is false to claim that Congress lacks the power to regulate or restrict "inherent constitutional powers" of the president:

GONZALES: Well, the fact that the president, again, may have inherent authority doesn't mean that Congress has no authority in a particular area. And when we look at the words of the Constitution, and there are clear grants of authority to the Congress in a time of war.

Specter may not get it -- the main debate among law bloggers recently has been whether he really doesn't get it or is just pretending. Bush's handpicked attorney general, however, does get it.

Specter's bill will give the Cheney administration more than it dared ask for. Think about that.

Abreu and Lidle are easy to spell

UPDATED to correct snarky link.

I'm still shaking my head over the trade yesterday. All afternoon I waited to hear what "prospects" the Yankees gave the Phillies, fearing they'd made some real sacrifies.

Didn't happen. There's upside in some of the kids, but it appears to have been a complete salary dump by the Phillies, and the big, bad Yankees just "significantly improved" for the next two months of what will be a wild finsish to the season.

There's no joy along that dirty water this morning.

The Washington press corp and Iraq, that little bump in the Neocon road to glory

Brad DeLong is shrill!

A little more than a week ago, we were sent rolling on the floor in howls of laughter after reading this sentence by Washington Post White House reporter Michael Abramowitz:

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition): It has not helped the neoconservative case, perhaps, that the occupation of Iraq has not gone as smoothly as some had predicted...

with its unmistakeable echoes of the Emperor Hirohito's surrender broadcast at the end of World War II:

Whiskey Bar: The Hirohito Effect: "Despite the best that has been done by everyone... the war situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage."

A number of Washington Post staffers told me that they thought Abramowitz intended his sentence to be read straight. But I couldn't quite believe it. So I wrote to Abramowitz and asked him whether the echoes of Hirohito were intentional, and he was being snarky.

He doesn't dare to reply.

So it is true. Abramowitz's sentence does indeed reveal how pathetically, incompetently, ridiculously weak he is: somebody who dares not do more than hint at the truth about the occupation of Iraq--that the occupation of Iraq has been a huge, horrible fiasco because of the incompetence, disconnection from reality, malevolence, and mendacity of the Bush administration--because if he does somebody might call him up and speak harshly to him. Somebody who thinks making a huge joke of himself is preferable to crossing White House media affairs in even a small way.

"Perhaps." "Not gone as smoothly as predicted." It goes beyond fear of crossing the White House, venturing into some sort of Panglossian madness. And it may be a terrifying indication that the Washington punditocracy is losing interest in the daily atrocities that mark our occupation of Iraq. At the worst -- but by no means unexpected -- time, they are changing the tone of Iraq as complete and total cock-up to one of, "Well, we've learned from a few errors in judgement and will surely do better against the next neocon target of opportunity."

It's hot, humid, and hazy in DC these days. You can tell from preznit's body language that he's depressed by all this diplomatic stuff, and it's probably rubbing off on the members of the press closest to him. I sense that many in the Washington press corps long for those thrilling days of yesteryear when we were able to convince ourselves that as the last remaining superpower, we had the ability to "create our own reality."

Bloomberg: politics, appearances trump security

After saying for years that the Bloomberg had little input into the decision to reject requests for permits to demonstrate on the Great Lawn in Central Park, it seems that, why, they had a great deal to say on the subject.

Mr. Bloomberg wrote that he did “not have unique, personal knowledge regarding the basis of the decision,” and that he had “no knowledge at all regarding the denial of a Parks Department permit to plaintiff,” the National Council of Arab Americans, “beyond a general understanding that other groups sought and were denied Parks Department permits to demonstrate on the Great Lawn during the RNC.”

But an e-mail message from Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, to Mr. Bloomberg in June 2004 indicates otherwise.

“Following your call, I spoke to Ray about 10 minutes ago,” Mr. Benepe wrote, referring to Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner. “Coincidentally, our lawyer and Chief McManus and the Law Department are meeting at this very minute to agree on the language and strategy of the letter rejecting the Arab-American rally on the Great Lawn,” Mr. Benepe continued, referring to Assistant Chief John B. McManus, who oversaw Police Department strategy for the convention.

Mr. Benepe’s message added: “I assume the rejection letter will go out today. I will let you know.”


On March 18, Elizabeth W. Smith, chief of marketing and corporate sponsorship at the Parks Department, sent an e-mail message to Mr. Benepe pressing him to enlist Patricia E. Harris, a deputy mayor, in urging Mr. Bloomberg to agree to a ban before that meeting to decide the issue.

The e-mail message suggested that she worried that Mr. Kelly would persuade Mr. Bloomberg to allow the rally on the lawn because it would be easier to police.

“The more I think about it, the more I think that you do NOT want Mayor Mike to walk into that meeting hearing for the first time you and Kelly possibly presenting your opposing views for general debate,” the e-mail message said. “This is just a reminder to you to get to Patti sometime soon so that she can get the mayor on board, which I think is very possible. ‘Security’ trumps everything in this debate, so Kelly goes in to that meeting with the benefit of the doubt.”

The tactic appears to have worked. On March 23, Mr. Benepe’s daily report said, “Today’s meeting with the mayor went quite well,” and added, “We are gratified that he supported the idea of not having any rallies on lawns in Central Park.”

Glad we cleared that up.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

State-supported terrorism, remembered

The 1916 Black Tom blast.

A recent study theorized that the force of the Black Tom blast would have been equal to a 5.5-magnitude earthquake, more than 30 times greater than the collapse of the World Trade Center's north tower, which registered 2.3 at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Palisades, N.Y.

German suspects fled the country after being identified through a secret message, written in lemon juice and visible only when held over a flame. Tracked to Latin America, agent Lothar Witzke told investigators that he and fellow spy Kurt Jahnke had triggered the blast, then nearly drowned in the waves it generated.

Although no one was ever convicted, a postwar claims commission weighed demands by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which owned the island, and other companies for reparations by Germany. In 1939, on the cusp of World War II, the commission found Germany liable for $95 million in damages. The then-Nazi regime refused to pay. The case was finally settled in 1979.

The accusations of skullduggery devastated Jersey City's once-thriving German community, says Gomez, but "a lot of stained-glass makers, including the Germans, had big business replacing church windows."

Ready for his closeup

Lamont's on The Colbert Report tomorrow night.

I'm sure Colbert will protest that Lamont's trying to unseat his favorite Democrat. Should be fun.

A mean drunk

Mel Gibson.

And sorry, Mel, after such a revealing moment, statements like this really don't cut it.


So sayeth the New York Times editorial board.

Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.

But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.

This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.

But this race is not about résumés. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.

As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”

That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.

Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress.

At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

Yes, this is about the soul of the Democratic party.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"This weird kind of elitism"

From the White House transcript:

Q Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, with support apparently growing among the Arab population, both Shia and Sunni, for Hezbollah by bounds, is there a risk that every day that goes by without a cease-fire will tip this conflict into a wider war?

And, Mr. President, when Secretary Rice goes back to the region, will she have any new instructions, such as meeting with Syrians?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Her instructions are to work with Israel and Lebanon to get a -- to come up with an acceptable U.N. Security Council resolution that we can table next week. And secondly, it's really important for people to understand that terrorists are trying to stop the advance of freedom, and therefore, it's essential that we do what's right and not necessarily what appears to be immediately popular.

There's a lot of suffering in Lebanon, because Hezbollah attacked Israel. There's a lot of suffering in the Palestinian Territory because militant Hamas is trying to stop the advance of democracy.

There is suffering in Iraq because terrorists are trying to spread sectarian violence and stop the spread of democracy. And now is the time for the free world to work to create the conditions so that people everywhere can have hope.

And those are the stakes, that's what we face right now. We've got a plan to deal with this immediate crisis. It's one of the reasons the Prime Minister came, to talk about that plan. But the stakes are larger than just Lebanon.

Isn't it interesting that when Prime Minister Olmert starts to reach out to President Abbas to develop a Palestinian state, militant Hamas creates the conditions so that there's crisis, and then Hezbollah follows up? Isn't it interesting, as a democracy takes hold in Iraq, that al Qaeda steps up its efforts to murder and bomb in order to stop the democracy?

And so one of the things that the people in the Middle East must understand is that we're working to create the conditions of hope and opportunity for all of them. And we'll continue to do that, Tom. That's -- this is the challenge of the 21st century.

Is he unaware that Hezbollah is not simply a terrorist group, but an active participant in the Lebanese government, taking 11 or 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament in the 2005 election? Or that Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament in this year's election? Or that when Israel fires missiles that destroy the infrastructure of Lebanon, it is a democracy attacking a democracy.

So much for democracy fostering an environment of stability and peace. But that, of course, is not Bush immediate aim for democratic change.

Q Thank you. Mr. President, both of you, I'd like to ask you about the big picture that you're discussing. Mr. President, three years ago, you argued that an invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. And yet today, there is an Iraqi Prime Minister who has been sharply critical of Israel. Arab governments, despite your arguments, who have criticized Hezbollah, have now changed their tune. Now they're sharply critical of Israel. And despite from both of you, warnings to Syria and Iran to back off support from Hezbollah, effectively, Mr. President, your words are being ignored. So what has happened to America's clout in this region that you've committed yourself to transform?

PRESIDENT BUSH: David, it's an interesting period because instead of having foreign policies based upon trying to create a sense of stability, we have a foreign policy that addresses the root causes of violence and instability [emphasis added].

For a while, American foreign policy was just, let's hope everything is calm, kind of managed calm. But beneath the surface brewed a lot of resentment and anger that was manifested in its -- on September the 11th. And so we've taken a foreign policy that says, on the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short-run by being aggressive and chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice -- and make no mistake, they're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for -- in the long-term, to defeat this ideology, and they're bound by an ideology. You defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible, and I believe it will happen. And so what you're seeing is a clash of governing styles, for example. The notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them, and so they respond. They've always been violent.

I hear this amazing kind of editorial thought that says, all of a sudden Hezbollah has become violent because we're promoting democracy. They have been violent for a long period of time. Or Hamas. One reason why the Palestinians still suffer is because there are militants who refuse to accept a Palestinian state based upon democratic principles.

And so what the world is seeing is a desire by this country and our allies to defeat the ideology of hate with an ideology that has worked and that brings hope. And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, that there's other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world. There's this kind of almost -- kind of weird kind of elitism, that says, well, maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free; maybe it's best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies. And our foreign policy rejects that concept. We don't accept it.

And so we're working. And this is -- as I said the other day, when these attacks took place, I said this should be a moment of clarity for people to see the stakes in the 21st century. I mean, there's an unprovoked attack on a democracy. Why? I happen to believe, because progress is being made toward democracies. And I believe that -- I also believe that Iran would like to exert additional influence in the region. A theocracy would like to spread its influence using surrogates.

And so I'm as determined as ever to continue fostering a foreign policy based upon liberty. And I think it's going to work, unless we lose our nerve and quit. And this government isn't going to quit.

"This weird kind of elitism." This weird kind of elitism that thinks that, more than anything, people desire the very thing he finds so unappealing -- stability. 9-11 changed everything, of course. As of 9-12 it was no longer the policy of our government to refrain from throwing a flaming Zippo into the munitions dump.

Noah Feldman writes in tomorrow's NY Times Magazine [link when one's available], that the Bush mideast policy, if such a thing can be called a policy, is one of democracy coupled with "creative destabilization." I would argue that there's an additional ingredient, the total ignorance of the people on whom they're spreading this potent combination. And certainly a disregard for their "stability."

Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah is already being cited as evidence by those who want the United States to intervene directly against Iran. If their argument prevails, then Israel's little wars with Hamas and Hezbollah will turn out to have been a pair of proxy wars leading to the big one right around the corner. In Lebanon in the 1980's, Isreal and Syria fought such a proxy war on behalf of the United States and the Soviet Union respectively. That it remained a proxy war is something for which we can be grateful.

But the cold-war days of balanced powers are behind us now. Faced with the threat of terror, the remaining superpower chose to unleash at once the forces of freedom and instability. From Baghdad to Beirut, Gaza City, Haifa and beyond, the consequences are beginning to be realized. We are in the world of asymmetry, of democratically legitimated militias and armed bands that fight wars with powerful states. Democracy can no longer be seen as an end in itself, and the fate of peoples lies in their own hands.

I don't mean to imply that there are similarities between the GOP, Hamas, and the Party of God -- that would be disproportionate in the extreme, Tristero's view notwithstanding -- but isn't it curious that all three, upon election, were found to have no real intention to effectively govern and are instead intent on dismantling?

Friday, July 28, 2006

"A moment of opportunity"

Just a few days ago, the slogan for the administration's latest chapter of the weekly cliffhanger was "a moment of clarity."

Today, we've got a new variation on the theme.

WASHINGTON, July 28 — President Bush, vowing to turn conflict in the Middle East into a “moment of opportunity” for broader change, said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be dispatched back to the region on Saturday with a plan for a multinational force that would help Lebanon’s army take over from Hezbollah in the southern part of the country.

Mr. Bush spoke this afternoon at a press conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who called the conflict a “complete tragedy” with innocent Lebanese and Israeli lives lost, people displaced, and a “terrible setback” for Lebanon’s democracy.

Mr. Bush said that the “root cause” of the problem was Hezbollah.

“For the sake of long-term stability, we’ve got to deal with this issue now,” Mr. Bush said.

“This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “Yet our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity and a chance for broader change in the region.”

And what a moment it is.

JERUSALEM, July 28 — Israeli war planes on Friday renewed their bombing raids against suspected Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon, killing more than 10 people, while Hezbollah fired what it said was a new type of rocket that landed about 30 miles inside Israel.

The Israeli airstrikes were most intense in southern Lebanon, and at least 10 people were reported killed in villages near the coastal town of Tyre.

Israel has been striking frequently in and around Tyre, saying that many Hezbollah rockets are launched from the area. A day earlier an airstrike destroyed a tall building in the town that, according to Israel, served as Hezbollah’s command center for firing rockets at Haifa, the large port city in northern Israel that has been hit frequently.

Israeli jets also bombed several buildings near the town of Nabatiyeh, killing three people and wounding nine, according to Lebanese security officials cited by The Associated Press, and Israel unleashed an artillery barrage on roads and suspected Hezbollah posts in the hills and mountains of southeastern Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley.

The Israeli military said it carried out more than 180 aerial strikes in Lebanon during the 24-hour period that ended Friday morning, and there were no signs of a letup during the day Friday.

Israel also reiterated its call for Lebanese civilians south of the Litani River to move north. The river runs east to west about 15 miles north of the Israeli border.

In a new development, Hezbollah unleashed large, powerful rockets it said it had not used before in this conflict, and they hit deep inside Israel, in open fields near the town of Afula, according to Israeli authorities.

Hezbollah called the rockets the Khaibar-1. They fell more than 30 miles south of the Lebanese border. A few other rockets have traveled this far, but it was still unusual, according to the Israeli military and police.

The rockets are capable of carrying more than 200 pounds of explosives, making them much more powerful than the Katyusha rockets that Hezbollah has been firing most of the time, Israeli authorities said.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said earlier in the week that his Shiite group would strike beyond Haifa, about 20 miles inside Israel, which has been the southernmost city to come under regular attack.

A moment all right, a moment when fools rushed in.

Mr. Bush said that, despite the bloodshed in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, democracy is taking root in the region and will flower “unless we lose our nerve.”

“This government isn’t going to quit,” Mr. Bush said.
And how much fertilizer, in the form of corpses, will spill before he stops platitudinizing?

And, wha's this? I'd forgotten about the other fields of democracy flowers he's planted.

In a gala for Project HOPE last October, Mrs. Bush praised the project, describing its plan for 94 beds, a state-of-the-art neonatal unit, a linear particle accelerator for radiation therapy and CAT scanners. Ms. Rice added that the hospital “will make a real difference, a life-saving and lasting difference, to the thousands of children and their families.”

But like so many other reconstruction projects in Iraq, the hospital was blindsided by changing realities on the ground. Once considered a relatively tranquil section of Iraq, the south has become increasingly dangerous with the rise of Shiite militias in the past two years — so much so, said Mr. Mumm, the Bechtel official, that construction was often forced to shut down.

With those delays came increasing costs as the company absorbed the expenses of housing, feeding and protecting its work force while the work sat idle, Mr. Mumm said. One consequence was that the nonconstruction costs usually referred to as overhead or administrative costs skyrocketed.

Bechtel estimated that as much as 50 percent of its expenses on the project were overhead costs, which were paid with American money separate from the $50 million construction contract.

David Snider, a spokesman for the United States Agency for International Development, the State Department agency in charge of the project, said that technically, Bechtel’s contract was not being terminated because the contract did not actually require the company to complete the hospital.

“They are under a ‘term contract,’ which means their job is over when their money ends,” Mr. Snider said. So despite not finishing the hospital, he said, “they did complete the contract.”

Another moment of missions accomplished.

The court historians

Today's reading from the Krugmanicon (Time$elect, and as chewy as a day old bagel on a hot, muggy day)

Amid everything else that’s going wrong in the world, here’s one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.

At one level, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don’t like have been established, whether it’s the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.

But it’s dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.

Here’s how the process works.

First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue — stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq — officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Sometimes the officials simply lie. “The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality,” Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.

Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, “as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.” (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) “But,” she went on, “that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)

Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.

And what about the perceptions of those who get their news from sources that aren’t de facto branches of the Republican National Committee?

The climate of media intimidation that prevailed for several years after 9/11, which made news organizations very cautious about reporting facts that put the administration in a bad light, has abated. But it’s not entirely gone. Just a few months ago major news organizations were under fierce attack from the right over their supposed failure to report the “good news” from Iraq — and my sense is that this attack did lead to a temporary softening of news coverage, until the extent of the carnage became undeniable. And the conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, under which lies and truth get equal billing, continue to work in the administration’s favor.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that the Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. For example, Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t let U.N. inspectors in. His most recent statement to that effect was only a few weeks ago. And he gets away with it. If there have been reports by major news organizations pointing out that that’s not at all what happened, I’ve missed them.

It’s all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of “a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,” he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

I think Orwell would have imagined it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I want some of that shit!

This raises a bunch of questions. Two immediately come to mind.

Would Landis, knowing that stage winners are automatically tested, run such a risk?

What kind of substance works that quickly and effectively to the point that he's unbeatable one day after he seemed completely beat?

Using an 8 year-old girl as photo ops...

...then crushing her spirit. Bastard.

On the way out of a fundraiser in Charleston, W.Va., yesterday, Bush's motorcade stopped by a conveniently located lemonade stand, for some nice pictures .

Just in case you had any delusion that this was anything other than a cynically staged photo opDave Gustafson and Anna L. Mallory write in the Charleston Gazette: "Charleston attorney John Miesner's 8-year-old daughter, Mary Melinda, set up a lemonade stand at their home on Bedford Road, but moved it Jim and Jean Miller's property on Loudon Heights Road after the Secret Service asked them to move it."

And, even more telling: "Bush did not drink the lemonade himself, telling the kids he had to watch his weight since he turned 60, Miesner said."

And the boy king's obsession with turning 60 is weird.

Silent treatment

Apologies for the recent dearth of posts. The responsibilities of the day job have been overwhelming, and while I'm certain my employer would be sympathetic to, and appreciative of, my efforts to defend the constitution against the daily assaults from Washington, I have thus far chosen not to raise the subject with them.

And, at night, reviewing the day's events have led me to prefer drinking over blogging.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's for the children

The anti-Granny bill passes...

The Senate voted yesterday to make it a crime to take a pregnant minor to another state to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge, handing a long-sought victory to the Bush administration and abortion opponents.

The bill would help about three dozen states enforce laws that require minors to notify or obtain the consent of their parents before having an abortion. It would bar people -- including clergy members and grandparents -- from helping a girl cross state lines to avoid parental-involvement laws. Violations could result in a year in prison.

Most states have passed such laws, but courts have invalidated at least nine of them, advocacy groups say. Maryland and Virginia have parental-notification laws; the District does not. The Senate voted 65 to 34 to approve the bill, which is similar to one the House has approved before, including last year.

The White House said the measure would "protect the health and safety of minors" and "protect the rights of parents to be involved in the medical decisions of their minor daughters consistent with the widespread belief among authorities in the field that it is the parents of a pregnant minor who are best suited to provide her counsel, guidance and support."

Right. Meanwhile...

Senators voted 51 to 48 to reject an amendment drafted by Democrats that would have steered federal money to programs that educate teenagers about sexual abstinence and contraception.

In related news, um, ick.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tweet, tweet

Yeah, sure, it's great that Tweetybird went all freakin' Bush-hatin' on Imus, but let's recall, this sophisticate has opposed the war in Iraq and yet can't wait to gush about Bush's manly assets, as well as those more recently of McCain and the preternaturally handsome Guiliani. And Imus announced he was voting for Kerry, if my memory serves, then in the next breath said, "Even though he's a liar." (I paraphrase, but there's no transcript of old Mike and the Maddog shows).

It's a little late to be suddenly focusing on foreign policy failings when they've been part of the Mighty Wurlitzer all along, making the obviously superior human being, let alone potential POTUS, that was the Democratic candidate in the past two elections furiously fight back blindly against the snarky, powerfully megawatted voices of these and other High Pundits.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Red State dress rehearsal?

Al Gore visits Wal-Mart headquarters and sounds like he's campaigning for more than just movie ticket sales.

Volunteers of America

Up against the wall
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Yesterday it was finally a little less monsoon-like, and I ventured outside to toil in the in the yard. Twice, a volunteer showed up in the driveway with a clipboard, asking if I was the registered Democrat who lived at my address. I said yes. Then -- twice -- they looked at the bumper sticker on my car, "Lamont for U.S. Senate," and realized they didn't have to remind me there's a primary going on.

Two volunteers (albeit as a mistake; they meant to split up the list of the neighborhood). So, let's look at the numbers:

Volunteers -- Lamont (2), Lieberman (0).

Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of america

Up against the wall, M#$%^r F*&&%r!

Kind of like that call center issue.

It's time to rise up, neutered farm animals of America.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nice try, David

Shorter David Brooks (Time$elect): George W. Bush (with his trusty sidekick, Condi), is a realist, after all.

The conservative mansion has many rooms.

In one chamber there are the resurgent Burkeans. These conservatives, led by George F. Will, are suspicious of grand plans to transform regions. They know that societies are infinitely complex organisms, that our ability to understand reality is limited and that efforts to initiate change can produce unintended consequences.

In another chamber are the staunch Churchillians. They know that occasionally civilization is confronted by enemies so ideologically extreme and so greedy for domination that decent nations must use military power to confront and defeat them. So Bill Kristol argues the U.S. has no choice but to strike the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

And these days the conservative mansion is a fractious place. My friend George has decided to go after my friend Bill, and we all look forward to the day when his arguments catch up to his sarcasm.

Oooh, snap!

But I wonder if amid all the din there might be a room, even just a utility closet, for those of us in yet another rightward sect, the neocon incrementalists. Those of us in this burgeoning movement — numbering so far in the low single digits — are squishy Solomons.

Kinda like "Crunchycons?"

We believe that on one level the Burkeans are right. The troubles in Iraq have confirmed their warnings about the unpredictability of social engineering. But nonetheless they are also wrong. We can’t just let reckless tyrannies dominate the Middle East on the supposed grounds the region is not yet ready for freedom.

We also believe that on one level the Churchillians are right too. Iran really is an intractable menace to world peace. Can anybody imagine how terrified we would be if the Iranian fundamentalists already had the bomb, and the ability to incinerate Israel at this moment of high tension? But the Churchillians are also rash to want to send bombers over Tehran and try to solve our problems all at once.

We neoincrementalists have kept our democratic dreams, but we’ve slowed our gait to a cautious walk.

We look for guidance these days to two other notable squishes, George Bush and Condoleezza Rice. We neoincrementalists thought they were right to offer the Iranians an incentive package before the hard choices have to be faced. And we’re impressed with how they are handling the Hezbollah crisis.


And, furthermore, having called preznit... "a squish," I guess... do you think Davey will be getting a Christmas Card from the White House this year?

They understand that the first goal must be to ensure that Hezbollah loses. Israel must be given time to dismantle the terrorist state within a state. But they also understand that the second goal must be to ensure that the democratically elected Lebanese government be seen to win.

Will the Israelis be given a week to ensure "that Hezbollah 'loses,'" or "a Friedman?"

That’s why administration officials spent so much time on the phone last week, organizing a Security Council resolution to sanction an international force in Lebanon. This force would police not only the south but also the Syrian border (to prevent Hezbollah resupply), and would help the Lebanese government reoccupy its land.

Christ, what an idiot. Has the UN sent an international force to impose, rather than keep, a peace since, I dunno, Korea?

Senior administration officials know they have no hopes of really disarming Hezbollah (the terrorists can hide rockets under beds) or of really expelling it from Lebanon (it is integrated into society). But they do hope to change the environment, and slowly begin to crowd out Hezbollah influence, the way healthy grass crowds out weeds in a lawn.

Scott's fertilizer?

They argue that the situation in south Lebanon cannot be resolved militarily and talk privately about some serious nation-building, with reconstruction packages and political assistance. They also talk about resolving some outstanding Israeli-Lebanese issues to give Fouad Siniora tangible victories to brag about.

Nation-building. "They" are good at that, aren't they?

Mostly, they emphasize the larger context. This isn’t just about getting a cease-fire and separation, like past peace efforts. It’s about building momentum for Arab democrats and cementing a coalition of moderate Arabs who will stand up to extremists.

Too bad about civilian casualties. They'll thank us later. Maybe when their corpses have tasted FREEEEEDUM!

In short, the administration approach embodies a few principles we neoincrementalists hold dear. First, you create policies in accord with your basic values while fully understanding the downside risks — the downside risk in this case being that terrorists may have developed methods that make it nearly impossible for superior military forces to uproot them given the global media environment.

Um, so what then is the IDF -- and the administration, and David Brooks -- think they're accomplishing?

Second, you go to war with the world you have. Right now unilateral actions are politically unsustainable, so everything has to be done through a coalition. And third, statecraft is soulcraft. If you can create circumstances in which democrats win, you can change perceptions and create the momentum for future victories — incrementally.

I know, he's just typing now. But is Brooks fucking serious? Ron Suskind:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Is David Brooks's punditry accountable to no one?

McGwire, Congress, and The Hall of Fame

Quote of the week:

Jeff Blair of The Toronto Globe and Mail, who said he would vote for McGwire, said: “Please spare me the drivel about McGwire’s performance before Congress. Seems to me that stonewalling congressmen is an accepted fact of life on Capitol Hill.”

I'm not so sure McGwire should be in the Hall -- he's certainly not up to the standards of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripkin, his ballot mates this year -- but his inartful testimony before a Senate committe has nothing to do with that.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Joementum, JC Christian-style

The General sends out an urgent appeal for Joe Lieberman.

Conflicted bloggers

On the Media has an interesting interview with J.J. Goldberg, editor of The Forward, in which he examines the careful balance of U.S. media coverage of the Israeli Hezbollah conflict. It's such a careful balance (a missile falls in Lebanon, a missile falls in Israel) that it doesn't come close to telling the reality of what's going on in Lebanon. He also discusses why, although bloggers on the Right can't get enough of Israeli Defense Forces bombing southern Lebanon, the Left has been mostly pretty quiet (certainly even-tempered). Goldberg explained that the Left is conflicted, feeling that the Israeli response to the border incursion was disproportionate, but that the initial, overall provocation on Hezbollah's side (wanting to destroy Israel) is disproportionate as well. Maybe so.

Le live Tour blogging

Landis, approaching the 51K mark, is ripping the yellow jersey off Pereiro's back, but Kloden's perfomance is incredible, catching Evans on the course* and quite possibly forcing his way, not only on to the podium, but possibly in to second overall.

* I think he drafted off of Evans; be interesting if the judges dock him for that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"A moment of clarity"

Thawing out frozen, unused embryos for medical research is bad.

"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said Wednesday afternoon. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." (Watch as Bush says the bill 'crosses a moral boundary' -- 2:04)

Allowing violence to escalate with civilians in the cross-fire in order to achieve some imagined "long-term" tactical advantage is good.

As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."

One former senior administration official said Bush is only emboldened by the pressure from U.N. officials and European leaders to lead a call for a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded yesterday that the fighting in Lebanon stop.

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "

Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, said Bush's statements reflect an unambiguous view of the situation. "He doesn't seem to allow his vision to be clouded in any way," said Rosen, a Democrat who has come to admire Bush's Middle East policy. "It follows suit. Israel is in the right. Hezbollah is in the wrong. Terrorists have to be eliminated, and he sees Israel fighting the war he would fight against terrorism."

Many Mideast experts warn that there is a dangerous consequence to this worldview. They believe that Israel, and the United States by extension, is risking serious trouble if it continues with the punishing air strikes that are producing mounting casualties. The history of the Middle East is replete with examples of the limits of military power, they say, noting how the Israeli campaign in Lebanon in the early 1980s helped create the conditions for the rise of Hezbollah.

Ignorance and "creative destruction" continues to be the administration's modus operendi. Hezollah and Israel are unleashing forces they (and Syria and Iran...and the United States) can't control, and our leadership is cheering on the maelstrom, even as they "mourn the loss of every life."

UPDATE: Psychopath.


Talk to the hand.

“I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community,” said Mr. Bush, whose relations with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have been so strained that, until Thursday, he was the first president since Herbert Hoover to refuse to address the group. “For too long my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party.”

Saying that “history has prevented us from working together when we agree on great goals,” Mr. Bush said the goal should now be to transcend political divisions.

“I want to change the relationship,” he said.

The 33-minute speech was an exercise in bridge-building, intended partly to strengthen ties between Republicans and black voters and partly to reassure moderate white voters with a message of reconciliation. Though Mr. Bush received a standing ovation when he called on the Senate to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act — it passed unanimously hours later — a somber silence fell over the room as the president discussed his policies on education, jobs and housing, which polls suggest are unpopular with blacks.

The president was booed when he raised the topic of charter schools and was also interrupted by a heckler who shouted about the Middle East. Mr. Bush ignored the outburst, forging ahead with his speech, though the ruckus when the man was ejected briefly drowned him out.

Mr. Bush repeatedly referred to the group as the N-A-A-C-P, attracting some notice from those who use the more traditional pronunciation of N-double-A-C-P.


Another civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he spoke to Mr. Bush backstage after the speech and urged him to begin "a meaningful dialogue’’ with a broader range of black organizations.

“He said, ‘Well, talk with Karl Rove,’ ’’ Mr. Jackson said, referring to Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser.

I'm baffled as to the point of that. After six years of playing solely to the base, Bush, Rove, and the Republicans suddenly find that it might make sense to reach a hand out to the other side?

"A modern-day Hannibal"

Lance who?

When Landis attacked, however, he did so in a way designed to slap his rivals in the face. As the racers started up the 9.2-mile climb, whose roads have an average slope of 6.4 percent, Landis got all of his team members to go to the front of the pack and begin riding as fast as they could.

One by one the teammates expended all their energy and then dropped off. Then, when the pack had exploded behind Landis and his biggest rivals were struggling to keep pace, Landis rode off on his own.

“I was pretty sure they weren’t coming along,” Landis said. “Everybody thought that move was crazy.”

To most of his rivals, Landis was never to be seen again. Only a small group of riders that had broken away earlier glimpsed Landis as he caught and, eventually, left them behind as well.

That's Dr. Frankensteen, thank you.

I hate to get all species-centric, but this strikes me as a profoundly bad idea.

If Dr. Paabo and 454 Life Sciences should succeed in reconstructing the entire Neanderthal genome, it might in theory be possible to bring the species back from extinction by inserting the Neanderthal genome into a human egg and having volunteers bear Neanderthal infants. This might be the best possible way of finding out what each Neanderthal gene does, but there would be daunting ethical problems in bringing a Neanderthal child into the world again.

Dr. Paabo said that he could not even imagine how such a project could be accomplished and that in any case ethical concerns “would totally preclude such an experiment.”

Dr. Lahn described the idea as “certainly possible but futuristic.”

The most serious technical problem would be creating functional chromosomes from Neanderthal DNA. But ethical questions may be less surmountable. “My first consideration would be for a child born alone in the world with no relatives,” said Ronald M. Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College. The risk would be greater if, following the plot line of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” a mate were created as a companion for the lonely Neanderthal. “This was a species we competed with,” Dr. Green said. “We would not want to recreate a situation of two competing advanced hominid species.”

But Dr. Green said there could be arguments in the future for resurrecting the Neanderthals. “If we learn this is a species that was wrongly pushed off the stage of history, there is something of a moral argument for bringing it back,” he said. “But the status quo is not without merit. Curiosity alone could not justify what could be a disaster for both species.”

But it could make for a terrific romantic comedy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's a purge, I tells ya. A liberal purge!

Well, obviously.

Meanwhile, Joementum...not so much.

The poll shows Lamont ahead 51-47 percent among likely voters in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary. That compares to a 55-40 percent lead for Lieberman in a similar poll in June.

The telephone survey of 2,502 registered voters was conducted July 13-18. It has a sampling error margin of about 2 percentage points. But the error margin among the 653 likely Democratic primary voters is 3.8 percentage points, putting the candidates in a statistical dead heat.

Joe's still got plenty of supporters, though.

Anyone looking for evidence of Mr. Lieberman’s bipartisan appeal can find it in his roster of recent contributors, which includes organizations that traditionally give more to Republicans. They include engineering and construction firms, some with contracts in Iraq. Those firms include Bechtel, Fluor International and Siemens, which support Republicans 64 to 70 percent of the time, according to data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign and lobbying activities.

Florida Power and Light, which supports Republicans 84 percent of the time, gave $5,000 to Mr. Lieberman. Areva Cogema, a builder of nuclear power plants that gives 70 percent of its contributions to Republicans, contributed $1,000.

An Ohio law firm that directs 80 percent of its donations to Republicans gave $1,000. SRA International, a technology consultant that favors Republicans 66 percent of the time, gave $1,000. America’s Health Insurance Plans, representing health insurers, gives to Republicans 71 percent of the time and donated $2,000 to Mr. Lieberman.

The reasons for their support differ, and are not always clear. Most of these contributors did not support Mr. Lieberman in 2000, and many have supported only Republican candidates in Connecticut; the only other Connecticut candidate to receive a contribution this year from Areva Cogema, for example, was Representative Nancy L. Johnson, a Republican.

"Bipartisan appeal," alright.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Teh gay

Not that there's anything wrong with it if these manly men choose to out themselves, but until they do, what the hell is wrong with them?

Chris Matthews gushing in 2003.

But all through your deeply corrupted “press corps,” store-bought butt-lickers snore, burp and burble, assuring readers that their manly president really looks great in that flight suit. Margaret Carlson wolfs down her desserts, misstates Robert Byrd and keeps slandering Gore. Meanwhile, her ballyhooed buddy, the astounding Chris Matthews, chatted about Bush with Gordon Liddy last Thursday. Try to believe that you live in a country where this conversation took place:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?

LIDDY: Well, I—in the first place, I think it’s envy. I mean, after all, Al Gore had to go get some woman to tell him how to be a man [Official Naomi Wolf Spin-Point]. And here comes George Bush. You know, he’s in his flight suit, he’s striding across the deck, and he’s wearing his parachute harness, you know—and I’ve worn those because I parachute—and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those, run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman’s vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn’t count—they’re all liars. Check that out. I hope the Democrats keep ratting on him and all of this stuff so that they keep showing that tape.

You’d think that no one else was so stupid. But you forgot one thing—Chris Matthews is. “You know, it’s funny. I shouldn’t talk about ratings,” he said, also gazing at Bush’s crotch. “But last night was a riot because…these pictures were showing last night, and everybody’s tuning in to see these pictures again.”

Alas for George W. Bush (and John McCain), Matthews has found a new object of his desire.

A FAMILY AFFAIR: As noted, Matthews has long swooned over Rudy (ditto Arnold; ditto McCain). To appearances, he “came out” last Wednesday in part because of something his brother had told him:

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, now that you`re all revved up there, Lynn Sweet. My brother—and I always like to remind people of this, although I am not involved at all—is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican. He is a Republican.

And he spent the day—I just talked to him on the phone a couple of hours ago. He spent the day with Rudy Giuliani, and his son and—both, they say this guy is so hot, so revved up, so juiced up right now politically that he is running, they think he is running for president. What do you think, Lynn?

“I believe he`s running, and he`s going all the way,” the excited host said a few moments later. Just a guess: Observers at the Saint McCain Camp saw this as a worrying move. STRANGE BOATS: Regarding the shape of Campaign 08: Whether the GOP nomimates Rudy or John, the press corps is plainly pre-set for a swoon. How will Campaign 08 be spun? Campaign 04 involved a swift-boating. But Dems and liberals must understand: This next time, we’ll be in the Love Boat.
"So hot, so revved up, so juiced up." Imagine if "America's Mayor" donned an "enhancing" flight suit.

Bush's own Saturday Night Massacre

Dan Froomkin, writing today in The Post:

Amid all the other news yesterday, the attorney general's startling revelation that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation into the administration's controversial secret domestic spying programs hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

Bush's move -- denying the requisite security clearances to attorneys from the department's ethics office -- is unprecedented in that office's history. It also comes in stark contrast to the enthusiastic way in which security clearances were dished out to a different group of attorneys: Those charged with finding out who leaked information about the program to the press.

It is not common for a president to personally intervene to stop an investigation of his own administration. The most notorious case, of course, was the Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, during which President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who had been appointed to investigate the Watergate scandal. Among the many major differences, however: In that case, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resigned rather than follow Nixon's order.

Bush's action is also another example of what I have previously noted is a consistent White House modus operandi: That time and time again, Bush and his aides have selectively leaked or declassified secret intelligence findings that served their political agenda -- while aggressively asserting the need to keep secret the information that would tend to discredit them.

Which leads one to a couple of conclusions: 1. Abu Gonzalez, unlike his predecessors in the waning days of the Nixon White House, has no professional self-respect, and considers preznit, not the citizens of the United States, his client (in this, he more closely resembles an earlier occupent of the job in the Nixon White House, the affable, pipe smoking John Mitchell); and, 2. , Bush knew that the wiretapping would be deemed illegal.

But it's not a blowjob, so who cares?

Greetings from the incivilosphere!

Hrrmph. Just woke up from a bad dream. Glad that's over.

Nothing much to write about. I refuse to take the bait Bush's spewing of buttered roll at a diplomatic lunch affords. Too cheap. Even for me. I'm reduced to weatherblogging. Suggest you patronize the fine establishments on the blogroll to the right.

But a few odds and ends since you, Dear Reader, took the time to amble over to this dusty and vaguely threatening corner of the internets.

The Editors lament the lamentable level of civil discourse within the lefty blogosphere. Sad, really.

James Wolcott laments the apparently lamentable state of the Bush marriage. His somewhat popular counterpart provides additional perspective.

In the be careful what you wish for category, personally, I would have preferred to see Ralphie installed in the powerful position of Georgia's Lt. Gov., but apparently he's too greasy even for that job.

That is all.

Now, I've had enough, my box is clean
You know what I'm sayin' and you know what I mean
From now on you'd best get on someone else
While you're doin' it, keep that juice to yourself
Odds and ends, odds and ends
Lost time is not found again
Heh, as some say, indeed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yeah, but Limbaugh says it's the best thing since sliced bread. So there.

George Will is shrill.

"Grotesque" was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's characterization of the charge that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was responsible for the current Middle East conflagration. She is correct, up to a point. This point: Hezbollah and Hamas were alive and toxic long before March 2003. Still, it is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson -- one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job -- about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Rice called it "shortsighted" to judge the success of the administration's transformational ambitions by a "snapshot" of progress "some couple of years" into the transformation. She seems to consider today's turmoil preferable to the Middle East's "false stability" of the past 60 years, during which U.S. policy "turned a blind eye to the absence of the democratic forces."

There is, however, a sense in which that argument creates a blind eye: It makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress. Violence is vindication: Hamas and Hezbollah have, Rice says, "determined that it is time now to try and arrest the move toward moderate democratic forces in the Middle East."

But there also is democratic movement toward extremism. America's intervention was supposed to democratize Iraq, which, by benign infection, would transform the region. Early on in the Iraq occupation, Rice argued that democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable political culture, they also can help create such a culture. Perhaps.

But elections have transformed Hamas into the government of the Palestinian territories, and elections have turned Hezbollah into a significant faction in Lebanon's parliament, from which it operates as a state within the state. And as a possible harbinger of future horrors, last year's elections gave the Muslim Brotherhood 19 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament.

The Bush administration has rightly refrained from criticizing the region's only democracy, Israel, for its forceful response to a thousand rockets fired at its population. U.S. reticence is seemly, considering that terrorism has been Israel's torment for decades, and that America responded to two hours of terrorism one September morning by toppling two regimes halfway around the world with wars that show no signs of ending.

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything .

"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift. So, the Weekly Standard says:

"We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

"Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad's regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

As for the "healthy" repercussions that the Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication's powers of prophecy but wishes it had exercised them on the nation's behalf before all of the surprises -- all of them unpleasant -- that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the "appeasement" that the Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation -- the bombing of Syria?

Um, yes, they probably do. Carpet bombing the region from which carpets originated...I gues that's something preznit would call, "Ironic."

Neverthess, George Will will not be joining The Corner anytime too soon.

And thanks, George, for the props to our mission statement.

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

"Angry" and "hate filled"

Oooh, oooh, hide the children. Duncan Black used the word "hacktastic" in an editorial he penned for the LA Times.

I call for a panel on blogger ethics, immediately.

Not losing

Explain to me why a timetable for getting out of Iraq is a bad thing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Seeing enemies everywhere

The ever-understated Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich said in an interview Saturday that Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.

"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city, " Gingrich said.

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly and to the administration from his seat on the Defense Policy Board about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, last week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III.

He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.

He said European leaders and some in the Bush administration who are urging a restrained response from Israel are falling short of what needs to be done "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war."

Once that's accepted, he said, "Israel wouldn't leave southern Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out, and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to resupply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts."

Gingrich was in the area for fundraisers for Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, 2nd District GOP challenger Doug Roulstone, and the state Republican party.

There is a political element to his talk of World War III. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is, "OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"

Gingrich is not some fringe politician. He's a "respected" leader of the Republican Party -- at least judging by the frequency of his appearances on the Sunday idiot shows. And he's calling for total, perpetual war in order to save his Party's leadership of Congress.

Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

Update: That guy who writes for Vanity Fair notes that Gingrich is the reasonable one at the banquet, as illustrated by the inadequacy of his numbering, and adds

I think one of the reasons our world warriors are so eager to hang a new Roman numeral on the current turmoil is because it enables the U.S. to work off a a clean won-loss slate. Our winning record in world wars is immaculate. Now there are those carpers and nitpickers who will say the US took its sweet time entering the First World War, never suffering the monstrous casualties of the European countries involved, and has hogged much of the credit for defeating Nazi Germany that rightfully belongs to the Russians, but in the popular imagination, the US and freedom unambiguously triumphed, and in the Cold War too. If you throw Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq into the mix, you get a much more muddled picture, which is why the pundits of steely resolve prefer to stick to the big chalkboard.


Gingrich of course is thinking tactically--he probably flosses tactically, imagining the most ingenious angle a vanguard thinker like himself should employ in a flossing opportunity--but there's also a strong component of nostalgia in this world war talk. You see in the writings of Victor Davis Hanson, the constant references to Neville Chamberlain and Patton, the primping of Blair and Bush for the role of Churchillian stalwart. It's as if Gingrich, Bill Kristol, Max Boot, and the whole gang have fallen for their own romantic bluster and fantasize that the Winds of War are going to sweep them through History like Robert Mitchum in Herman Wouk's epic, where they will feel the spray of the North Atlantic, the stinging sands of North Africa, and enjoy the passionate embrace of a USO entertainer after a heavy night in the canteen. They want to believe that inspired and educated with the right words--their words--Americans will once again rise and meet the mortal challenge. Let the learning curve begin, advises Jonah Goldberg, taking a break from playing with his action figures: "...the advantage of calling all this World War Three is that it's easier to understand and takes less explanation. Most people don't think of the Cold War as a war so much as an effort to avoid one."

And, of course, it permits them to hang various signs on the backs of Democrats -- from "Neville Chamberlain" on John Kerry's to "Camp Follower" on Joe Lieberman's.

On another note, though, I know that all good keyboard kommandos must perpetually look forward and leave thoughts of bigger historical trends and realities to us liberal naval gazers. But for all this talk of the sweep of history, WWII, our triumph in the Cold War, and their pessimistic assessment for Civilization in the face of Islamofascist Imperialists, none of these stay-at-home Ernie Pyles are willing to venture, "how did we get to this horrendous crossroads?" or, "who's in charge?"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Yankee history today

Who knew? The Yankees' sweep of the ChiSox this weekend marks only the third time the Yankees have swept a series wth the year's reigning World Champions. The Highlanders did it once, too, in old Hilltop Park. That's four times in more than 100 years of Yankee history, and one of them included the '98 fire-sold Florida Marlins, which shouldn't count.

And Mariano notched his 400th career save (a six out job). Only Lee, Hoffman, and Franco have more. And they're not going to the Hall of Fame.

Boiling away

Jeff Jacoby writes that the Global War on Terrorism can't be won until the mullahs in Iran are...well...I'm not sure.

Gaza, Hezbollah, Iraq, Al Qaeda: It is all the same fight. ``No one should have any lingering doubts about what's going on in the Middle East," writes Michael Ledeen, an expert on terrorism and Iran. ``It's war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted `insurgency' in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable."

Twenty-seven years ago was 1979, the year that Islamist radicals loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini invaded the US embassy in Tehran and held dozens of American diplomats hostage for the next 444 days. Washington's response was weak and feckless, as it would be time and again in the years that followed. Only after 9/11 did the United States finally acknowledge that it was in a war with militant Islam and began fighting back in earnest. But not against Iran, which continues, unscathed and unrepentant, to stoke the terrorist fires. Its goals, unchanged since Khomeini's day, are to become the dominant power in the Middle East, to create Islamist regimes worldwide, to annihilate Israel, and to kill Americans.

We will never win this war, Ledeen and others argue, until the Iranian theocracy is brought down. That does not have to mean military action. Our aim instead should be to empower Iran's restive population, which is largely pro-Western and moderate. Give them as much support as possible, much as the Reagan administration did for Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland -- and let them find the means to reclaim their government for themselves.

Yes, well, that would actually require a policy for the middle east, and that's nowhere to be found.

But Michael Ledeen, Iran expert? I'm sure his Persian is perfect.

By the way, speaking of cadets, Space Cadet Michael Ledeen over at the American Enterprise Institute alleged last week that hardliners brought two million Pakistanis over to vote for Ahmadinejad. Presumably they would have been brought in to Zahedan in Iranian Baluchistan from Quetta.

Ledeen fancies himself a Middle East expert and is trying hard to get up a US war on Iran, having been helpful in getting up the Iraq War, which he promised us would go so well.

Let me explain a few basics to Mr. Ledeen.

1. You can't move 2 million people through the Baluchistan desert in a short period of time. A population movement that massive could even be seen by satellite.

2. Pakistanis are largely Sunnis. They don't like the Iranian regime, which is their rival. They would not go vote in Iran. Even the Shiite minority would not, and it wouldn't vote for Ahmadinejad if it could.

3. The voting rolls for Iranian Baluchistan show about 800.000 voters. Where are the two million Pakistanis?

4. Baluchistan voted for reformist candidates. (Most Baluchis are Sunnis and are afraid of the Shiite hardliners).

Can you imagine that people like Ledeen are actually allowed to come on television as "experts" or to publish in political journals despite spewing complete nonsense? If your son or daughter gets drafted and sent to die in Iran, it will be in some part because of the propaganda spread by people like Ledeen, who, by the way, has some sort of weird relationship both to the more fascistic elements in Italian military intelligence and to the Likud extremists in Israel. NB: The false Niger uranium documents were forged by a former agent of Italian military intelligence . . .

When Michael Ledeen begins showing up in editorials, described as "expert on Iran and terrorism," a war must be not far over the horizon.

As the song goes, may the circle (as in "jerk") be unbroken?

Lazy, stupid or malicious?


So it begins, the cutting and pasting by the so-called liberal media, putting words into the mouth of the leading Democratic candidate to either embarrass her or the Party. I've walked out on this movie at least twice before; I'm not sure I can watch it for a third time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Egging Israel on

I share with my liberal blogosphere colleagues an unease in posting about Israel, let alone criticizing it. But the whole thing is spinning wildly out of control, it seems to me. And the Cheney administration's typical response -- disengagement on the one hand; and on the other, egging Israel on like this is some street fight -- is looking more and more like it will lead to a full-blown war in the middle east. Incompetence isn't a bug; it's built in to the design.

And I wonder how much of this is being brought about by the needs of Israli, Palestinian, and White House leadership to make the bulge in their pants look larger. Or in the case of John Bolton, make his 'stache look bushier.

But Israeli officials said there would be a long campaign to restore the country’s security, both along its southern border with Gaza and its northern one with Lebanon. The Israelis want to restore their military credibility with the Palestinian militants and the Hamas government in Gaza and with Hezbollah, and say they intend to make the current campaign painful for both sets of antagonists.

Neither Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, nor its defense minister, Amir Peretz, has the kind of long military experience previous holders of their positions have had, and the two have been in power for only several months. Some Israeli commentators argued that this made it all the more necessary for an unambiguous military response.

A hell of a way to prove your credentials. Same goes for Hezbollah's "this means war" leadership.

There's a sinking feeling out there that it's deja-vu all over again as the drums beat for "accountability" by Syria and Iran. I'm not sure the stock and oil markets are going to be so kind to the warmongers this time. Iraq was one thing. This is starting to be bad for business. Of course, the Cheney administration may not care. Win the mid-terms at all costs. Let the next bunch of suckers clean up the smoldering mess.
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