Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why oh why...? Ad Nags edition

With the growing velocity of an approaching mid-term election, we can expect more and more trenchant, searing political analysis from Adam Nagourney. Today brings us but a taste of the wit and wisdom we can look forward to. To wit:

Mr. Emanuel, a former ballet dancer, tends to be precise and punctual. That means he spends impatient moments waiting for Mr. Schumer, who is not. Mr. Emanuel is trim, sleek and well-kept. Mr. Schumer, again, is not.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Shock and awe"

Is it me, or does track four of Neil Young's "Living With War," "Shock and Awe," have a real Ennio Morricone feel? The melody, and especially the plaintive trumpet, sounds like it's right out of Per qualche dollaro in più

The tribute to Dylan, in Flags of Freedom, is a nice touch, too.

The more I listen to the album, the more impressed I am with it.

Steve Howe

His career was "troubled," but you can tell, from the way his former teammates talk about him, that he was a really great guy. There was a pall over The Stadium last night when Bob Shepherd made the announcement just prior to the start of the game.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The road to Guantanamo

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
I've been trying to come up with a meaningful post about this all afternoon.

If you were to click on the Movies page at the NY Times' website today, you'd see a jarring juxtaposition of images that perfectly capture the September 11 2001 before-and-after trajectory: from brave and wounded victim to rendition, torture, and debasement. The Tribeca Film Festival opened with United 93, but will also be showing another film showing the brutal aftermath of that flight, The Road to Guantanamo.

While political fiction is often used to disguise real-life identities, one of the festival's strongest works is an amazing hybrid. Michael Winterbottom combines fact and fiction in "The Road to Guantánamo" (opening commercially on June 23), recounting the story of the Muslim men from Britain now known as the Tipton Three. In 2001 they set off for a wedding in Pakistan, took a side trip to Afghanistan and were captured by the Northern Alliance, held at an American military camp and later shipped to Guantánamo. They remained imprisoned there for two years, until evidence emerged that they were still in Britain at the time they were accused of having been at a rally with Osama bin Laden.

The real Tipton Three tell their stories in interviews throughout the film. (Most of those segments were handled by its co-director, Mat Whitecross.) But the work's strengths come from juxtaposing those segments with dramatic episodes in which actors play out the men's confusion and captivity in brutal detail.

Mr. Winterbottom (the master director of works like "Welcome to Sarajevo" and "Tristram Shandy") places viewers in a world where one man at Guantánamo is kept outdoors in a chain-link cage, and another is shackled in a painful posture in a dark room and bombarded with loud noise. The film doesn't question the men's version of events, but it creates a believable story with staggering force.

Because "The Road to Guantánamo" is in English, it may not seem foreign at all, but Mr. Winterbottom's British perspective is quite precise. Early on, the film shows a clip from a joint news conference that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair held in 2003.

Mr. Bush says of Guantánamo prisoners: "The only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people, and we look forward to working closely with the Blair government to deal with the issue." The American military may be the film's great villain, but Mr. Winterbottom makes it clear that the Blair government is complicit.

Not having seen the film, I can't confirm that the American military is the picture's villain, but in reality, it's the Dept. of Justice that's the villain, together with the civilian masters of the Pentagon. As a nation we, understandably, lashed out in response to the attacks. But after lashing out (somewhat weakly as it turned out, as Rumsfeld's vision of dashing special ops guys on horseback working side by side with the Northern Alliance wasn't quite enough to nab al Qaeda's leadership), many of us wanted to stop and take a deep breadth and figure out what to do next. DoJ and the Pentagon codified the lashing out and looked for more meat to grind. Guantanamo, Iraq, Abu Ghraib were the sick, soul destroying results.

Anyway, the howling you'll hear when The Road to Guantanamo is released nationally is the sound of the ever aggrieved wingnutosphere, whose chronic cognitive dissonance has lately been forcing them to hold their heads funny, as if they have soapy water in the ear.

As for United 93, I guess I agree with Manohla Dargis' review -- it's not that it's "too soon," or that a cinematic memorial to the bravery of the people on the flight isn't deserved. But I do wonder what a slick, cross-cutting suspense flick, from the maker of The Bourne Supremacy, adds to our understanding of the event or the people at its center.

I suppose I'll go see it. Maybe it's important to see them both. One, as a (needless) reminder; the other, as a corrective.

"Free Neil Young"

"There was just kind of a wave."

"We are the silent majority now, and we haven't done a damn thing," Mr. Young said. "We've stood by and watched this happen. But there's more of us than there is of them, and we have to do something. When people start talking and see they can get away with it, it's going to happen everywhere. It's going to be a landslide, it's going to be a tidal wave. This is just the tip of it."

It's definitely worth a listen.

Ford owners take a pass

More signs of These Great Times in Which We Live. If SUV owners think they can salve their respective consciences with something like this, then we should jack up gas prices even higher.

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 28, 2006 - Ford Motor Company and TerraPass have announced Greener Miles™, an automotive industry first that offers Ford vehicle owners the opportunity to offset the climate impact of their driving through the support of projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement was made at the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) conference in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Greener Miles™ program offers consumers a direct role in reducing the greenhouse gases that are emitted when they drive. Through the Greener Miles™ program, drivers can calculate the amount of CO2 emissions they generate in one year of driving by visiting Customers then have the opportunity to purchase an offset that supports renewable energy projects, such as wind and biomass. This pilot program gives customers a simple way to be voluntary, active participants in addressing the challenges of climate change

What a country!

Politicans of both stripes howl when the price of gas rises and look for ways to take action while their constituents continue to buy bigger and bigger vehicles.

I know, I know, I'm showing my true colors as a member in good standing of the "Hate America Left," and should, I suppose, be thrilled at this effort by Ford and its customers to appear "green." But Christ, is there no end to our society's odd combination of whining self-satisfaction?

Man bites dog

Joe Conason has some praise for the president.

In January 2004, when the president finally addressed immigration after doing nothing for three years, he proposed a "guest worker" program that would have institutionalized downward pressure on wages, without providing any ladder toward legal status for the millions of undocumented migrant laborers. Kennedy swiftly denounced the Bush proposal as "very disappointing," "woefully inadequate" and "far short of the serious reform our country needs to fix our broken immigration system."

Last Tuesday, however, the Massachusetts Democrat expressed very different sentiments after meeting in the White House with Bush and several other senators, including both Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid. (Right-wing Republicans who oppose the bill, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the immigration subcommittee, weren't invited.) Kennedy told reporters he feels "enormously grateful" for the "strong leadership" that he expects the president will bring to bear on passage of a comprehensive reform bill.

I'm dubious, but to his credit, Bush has long sought to improve relations with Mexico -- and as a former Southwestern governor, seems to understand the role migrants play in the economy -- only to be thwarted by the xenophobes in his party.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Your has no regard for human life. Not even his own.

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
This guy's a regular "Buck" Turgidson.

That's it
I was agnostic until now - actually I preached caution. But now I see no reasonable alternative.

It is time to take down Iran.

Any military move must be so devastating in its impact that the Iranian industrial capacity is set back years, if not decades, across a variety of industries.

I would not advocate "surgical" strikes. If there is advantage in using more firepower rather than lesser, then we should use more. We will receive no credit for restraint.

"Surgical strikes." "Restraint."

No. That would never do.

Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless *distinguishable*, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.

Christ, I'm not sure that even Kubrick and Terry Southern could find the humor in These Great Times in Which We Live.

Baseball between the numbers

Mariano will not pitch well if he rarely pitches.

Anyway, I know many readers roll their eyes, scroll down, or click on one of the fine bloggeristas to the right when the subject of baseball comes up, but if you want to hear an enjoyable conversation of why "everything you think you know about baseball is wrong," Jonah Keri and Steve Goldman were on the Leonard Lopate program the other day.

On a side note, Barry Bonds is 42 and looks as though his extremities are twice as old as he is. Yesterday, he sat on the bench for about five hours and then faced Billy Wagner's high 90s fastball.

David Wright, a 23-year-old budding superstar, made a crucial throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing the Giants to close to 7-5. That brought up Bonds, the most dangerous hitter of the generation, to pinch-hit, representing the tying run. Billy Wagner relished the chance to face Bonds. He pumped fastballs of 97, 96 and 96 miles an hour — the fans chanting, "Barry, Barry" — before throwing another one exactly where he wanted: high and outside, at 99 m.p.h.

Bonds was waiting. He jacked it over the Yahoo! sign in left-center field. The crowd of 34,454 at AT&T Park was delirious. No. 711 for Bonds; Mets and Giants, 7-7.

"My strength is his strength," Wagner said. "I can't worry about what-ifs."

Asked if anyone else could have hit a pitch in that location, traveling at that velocity, Wagner shrugged and deadpanned, "I don't know, Babe?"
Anyone who claims Bonds shouldn't be in The Hall of Fame when he retires -- or should have an asterisk alsongside his accomplishments -- is an ass.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mixing our animal metaphors, so to speak

A pony!
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Can frog-marching ponies be far behind?

Escorted by his lawyer Robert D. Luskin, Rove went into the building for a closed-door session with the panel and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who is heading up the inquiry into who leaked Plame's status as a CIA officer to the news media in 2003.

Among other things the prosecutor is investigating why Rove originally failed to disclose to prosecutors that he had talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about the CIA status of Plame.


Easter Island
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
A great many have asked, why Tony Snow to replace the inestimable Scottie McClellan. Personally, I figured it was pretty obvious. It's long been known that the White House has stopped giving a damn what anyone other than the talking heads on Fox News really think. And so, I thought, this proves it.

Of course, "anonymice" at the White House itself think it's all a bit of a self-referential joke.

In a March column, Mr. Snow wrote, "A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding the public fisc." And he derided the new prescription drug benefit that Mr. Bush signed into law.

As press secretary, Mr. Snow would probably have to defend just such a program.

When asked about Mr. Snow's more critical comments, the administration official said, "What better way to pop the bubble that people think there is here."

Message: We don't care.

Then again, the man is an expert.

A senior administration official said the president chose Mr. Snow, 50, to become one of the most visible faces of the administration because he understood newspapers, radio, television and government, having worked in all four areas.

Just in time, though, The Editors explained what's really behind the move.

UPDATED: Because I couldn't resist.

The strategic oil reserve, then and now

August, 2000.

At a campaign stop in Cleveland early Thursday afternoon, Bush assailed Gore's suggestion as "bad public policy," and accused the vice president of trying to manipulate a national strategic asset for political purposes.

The reserve, Bush said, "is an insurance policy meant for sudden disruptions of the oil supply or for war. It should not be used for short-term political gain ... at the expense of national security."

Times, they change.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday will direct the U.S. Energy Department to temporarily halt deliveries of oil to a strategic reserve in order to get more oil in the market and help reduce rising gasoline prices, a senior administration official said.

The official said Bush in a 10:05 a.m. EDT energy speech will tell the Energy Department to suspend deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve this summer while supplies are tight "and defer the deposits until the fall, and then you have more oil on the market."

"That helps address high oil prices which in turn helps address high gas prices," the official said.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an emergency stockpile of oil. Bush will not direct any tapping of the strategic reserve, the official said.

Just sayin'.

Don't quit the day job

A TPM reader asks a great question: Does Tony Snow need to quit his job at Fox News to serve as White House spokesman, or "can it be a joint appointment?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Back...with a vengeance

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
When it comes to urban renewal, be careful what you wish for.

Of all the images from the 1970's and 1980's of a city out of control, perhaps none is etched more deeply into the public consciousness than that of the graffiti-covered subway train screeching into a station, every inch of its surface covered with a rich patina of spray-painted slashes and scrawls.

It took decades of work and millions of dollars to clean up the trains. But now officials are seeing a fresh surge of subway graffiti, in which windows are irreparably damaged with acid. Raising the specter of the bad old days, transit officials are vowing to fight a problem they say is even more menacing than the graffiti of decades past.

The rich patina of the past looks pretty good by comparison. At least riders could see out of the windows.

The relative prosperity of the 90s and early 'noughts could be giving way -- under the duress of endless war, a race to the economic bottom, and gilded age economic disparity -- making the "Escape New York" 70s and 80s look relatively tame (and colorful) by comparison.

Monday, April 24, 2006

It's hard out there for a satirist

One of the things that makes writing a blog (and by "writing," I mean projectile vomiting of whatever comes into my drugged, yet tormented brain each day) pleasurable also makes it fun for the readers: finding really stupid people who disagree with you and holding them up to the light of reason and ridicule to which they are so unaccustomed.

So that's why it's not just the cringing fear that the mayberry messiah is going to begin "Armageddon, Phase I" with a "tactical" nuclear strike on Iran that has made writing this humble blog so difficult in recent weeks. It's also the great difficulty in finding any longtime Bush toadies who aren't running away from his "dimitude" just as fast as their pudgy, Brooks Bros. clad legs will carry them.

The Decider

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. sounds somewhat concerned, doesn't he?

The Hundred Days is indelibly associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Thousand Days with John F. Kennedy. But as of this week, a thousand days remain of President Bush's last term -- days filled with ominous preparations for and dark rumors of a preventive war against Iran.

The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War: "Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.' "

This is precisely how George W. Bush sees his presidential prerogative: Be silent; I see it, if you don't . However, both Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, veterans of the First World War, explicitly ruled out preventive war against Joseph Stalin's attempt to dominate Europe. And in the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, President Kennedy, himself a hero of the Second World War, rejected the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preventive strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba. [all sic]

But Schlesinger is relying on something for which Bush, for all his posturing as a "compassionate conservative," is incapable of.

Maybe President Bush, who seems a humane man, might be moved by daily sorrows of death and destruction to forgo solo preventive war and return to cooperation with other countries in the interest of collective security. Abraham Lincoln would rejoice.

It is hard to say if the death and grievous injuries of our own soldiers moves Bush. I certainly don't think he even registers the death and destruction of Iraqis nor the even more heinous death and destruction of a nuclear strike on Iran. He's not capable of sympathy, let alone empathy.

In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "

"What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Neil Cavuto demands satisfaction!

From what planet are Fox News hosts taken?

CAVUTO: Well, have you heard the fuss over rocker Neil Young's latest album? On it, he bashes America's president, American government, and the American war in Iraq. One song is even called "Impeach the President." And Neil Young, in case you didn't know, is a Canadian citizen, though he lives in the United States. So, we ask, how would the people of Canada feel if an American artist devoted an entire record to telling the world what a bad place Canada is? With us now from Québec is Patrice Brunet, he's a Canadian political activist. Patrice, A), what do you think of this whole album fuss?

BRUNET: Well, I mean, Neil, people, they laugh at Canadians all the time, so we're used to it. It's -- I guess it's your turn on this one. But, you know, we're used to getting shots at having, you know, we have moose walking down the street, we live in igloos, we live in a permanent permafrost. So, you know, it's just an artist expressing his views.

Walk On over to Neil's Garage.

The CIA leaker

Larry Johnson worked at the CIA for Mary McCarthy, the CIA employee fired for allegedly leaking the secret CIA prisons story to Dana Priest (who just last week won a Pulitzer for the reports). He has some interesting insights.

Now things get interesting. She could find out about secret prisons if Intelligence Officers involved with that program had filed a complaint with the IG or if there was some incident that compelled senior CIA officials to determine an investigation was warranted. In other words, this program did not come to Mary's attention (if the allegations are true) because she worked on it as an ops officer. Instead, it appears an investigation of the practice had been proposed or was underway. That's another story reporters probably ought to be tracking down.

I am struck by the irony that Mary McCarthy may have been fired for blowing the whistle and ensuring that the truth about an abuse was told to the American people. There is something potentially honorable in that action; particularly when you consider that George Bush authorized Scooter Libby to leak misleading information for the purpose of deceiving the American people about the grounds for going to war in Iraq. While I'm neither a fan nor friend of Mary's, she may have done a service for her country. She was a lousy manager in my experience, but she is not a traitor and has not betrayed the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. That dirty work was done by the minions of George Bush and Dick Cheney. It is important to keep that fact in the forefront as the judgment on Mary McCarthy's acts is rendered.

If she found out about the program because an investigation of it had been requested, then felt compelled to go to a reporter, one can easily surmise that she took the latter action because that investigation was going nowhere or its findings were being ignored.

Via Josh Marshall.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Lord's name in vain

You know you're living in an incipient theocracy, when a 700 lb non-nuclear bomb is named "Divine Strike."

Now, remind me again that we're not waging a religious war.

"And now, in sports news..."

Cable news, spinning crime and tragedy into comedy gold.

More painful ideology

The Bush administration's war on the most vulnerable continues apace.

The Food and Drug Administration statement directly contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory agency. That review found marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting."

Dr. John Benson, co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee that examined the research into marijuana's effects, said in an interview that the statement on Thursday and the combined review by other agencies were wrong.

The federal government "loves to ignore our report," said Dr. Benson, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "They would rather it never happened."

Some scientists and legislators said the agency's statement about marijuana demonstrated that politics had trumped science.

"Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the F.D.A. making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by science," said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a medical professor at Harvard Medical School.

Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, a New York Democrat who has sponsored legislation to allow medicinal uses of marijuana, said the statement reflected the influence of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which he said had long pressured the F.D.A. to help in its fight against marijuana.

A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration referred questions to Mr. Walters's office.

The Food and Drug Administration's statement said state initiatives that legalize marijuana use were "inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the F.D.A. approval process."

But scientists who study the medical use of marijuana said in interviews that the federal government had actively discouraged research. Lyle E. Craker, a professor in the division of plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said he submitted an application to the D.E.A. in 2001 to grow a small patch of marijuana to be used for research because government-approved marijuana, grown in Mississippi, was of poor quality.

In 2004, the drug enforcement agency turned Dr. Craker down. He appealed and is awaiting a judge's ruling. "The reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial," Dr. Craker said.

Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said he had studied marijuana's medicinal effects for years but had been frustrated because the National Institutes of Health, the leading government medical research agency, had refused to finance such work.

With financing from the State of California, Dr. Abrams undertook what he said was a rigorous, placebo-controlled trial of marijuana smoking in H.I.V. patients who suffered from nerve pain. Smoking marijuana proved effective in ameliorating pain, Dr. Abrams said, but he said he was having trouble getting the study published.

"One wonders how anyone" could fulfill the Food and Drug Administration request for well-controlled trials to prove marijuana's benefits, he said.

I do not wish it on anyone, but it seems the only way to get these assholes to change their views on "marijuana, the gateway to smack" for those being treated for cancer or dying of AIDS, is for one of their loved ones to get sick themselves.

Has the FDA ever been such a political football as it is in this insane administration?

Welcome, Tool & Die Manufacturers!

Who knew?

"I believe that we will succeed in forming the national unity government the people are waiting for," Adnan Pachachi, the acting speaker of Parliament, said at a news conference at the Convention Center inside the fortified Green Zone.

The "Convention Center?"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bush ain't on the ballot this year, but his life depends on the results...or...Where's our Barry Goldwater?

Via Wolcott, Carl Bernstein, writing in Vanity Fair, is by turns shrill, then sensible, then totally crazy.

Worse than Watergate? High crimes and misdemeanors justifying the impeachment of George W. Bush, as increasing numbers of Democrats in Washington hope, and, sotto voce, increasing numbers of Republicans -- ?including some of the president's top lieutenants -- now fear? Leaders of both parties are acutely aware of the vehemence of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, expressed especially in the increasing number of Americans -- nearing fifty percent in some polls -- ?who say they would favor impeachment if the president were proved to have deliberately lied to justify going to war in Iraq.

John Dean, the Watergate conspirator who ultimately shattered the Watergate conspiracy, rendered his precipitous (or perhaps prescient) impeachment verdict on Bush two years ago in the affirmative, without so much as a question mark in choosing the title of his book Worse than Watergate. On March 31, some three decades after he testified at the seminal hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean reiterated his dark view of Bush's presidency in a congressional hearing that shed more noise than light, and more partisan rancor than genuine inquiry. The ostensible subject: whether Bush should be censured for unconstitutional conduct in ordering electronic surveillance of Americans without a warrant.

Raising the worse-than-Watergate question and demanding unequivocally that Congress seek to answer it is, in fact, overdue and more than justified by ample evidence stacked up from Baghdad back to New Orleans and, of increasing relevance, inside a special prosecutor's office in downtown Washington.

In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature. More important, it is essential that the Senate vote -- ?hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties -- to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

The trouble is, Carl Bernstein seems to be laboring under the delusion that the current state of politics resembles anything like 1974. As today, the Nixon era was a divisive time and partisanly bitter. However, the Mighty Wurlitzer that enforces strict party discipline on the Right had not yet powered up. In a Republican-led legislative branch 2006-style, there will be no real investigations, no hearings that will do anything other than give the Cheney administration the greenest of green lights. Regardless of the president's collapsing poll numbers and fears that he is a lead life vest for Congressional Republicans, any Republican to call for serious hearings would immediately be under fire by the bloviators on Fox News, the wingnutosphere, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the Weekly Standard, Grover Norquist, the Bush controlled Republican party, and all the rest of the Right's apparati that currently set the terms of debate for Republicans. They would "expose" such a Republican as a traitor to the One True Cause, or worse, as a "RINO."

And the Cheney Administration knows this. They have no intention, therefore, of being hauled before a Democratically-controlled House. That's why Karl Rove is now working full time on the mid-term elections. And if you thought the 2000 election was stolen and the 2004 election more dubious still, you ain't seen nothing like what we can expect in 2006.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Smart doggie

Good boy
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Did I hear correctly that Bush's Scottie quit?

When you're given a horseshoe as a chew toy, I guess it's time to go.

Stoopid is always just around the corner

Noted, without comment:


The Royal Navy has a Muslim Rear Admiral.

Posted at 09:50 AM

A brief history of liberal democracy...very brief

Lest you think the gains made by our liberal democracy are anything more than tenuous, take a look at this:

GEORGIA: BLACK OFFICERS GRANTED BENEFIT Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation granting compensation to black police officers who had been barred by law from taking part in a state pension fund. The measure allows current law enforcement employees to buy into the fund for service before 1976, the year the program was desegregated, by paying $10 a month for each year of service, with the state matching their contributions. It was unclear how many state and local officers will be eligible. Officers who have retired are not eligible to receive benefits for service before 1976, and legislation to make those officers eligible has stalled. (AP)

1976. Think about that. The year the governor of Georgia, James Earl Carter, was elected president.

And that it's taken 30 years to right this...and only testimony to the fact that the gains made by civil rights activists in the latter half of the 20th century can't be taken for granted and must be continuously fought for each and every day. So much has been gained just in my lifetime, and so much stands to be lost.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Harvard MBAs

The Vega hasn't concerned itself much (and don't you, Dear Reader, love it when the Vega refers to itself as "The Vega?") I was saying, haven't taken much notice of the proceedings down in Houston as I distrust these kinds of show trials. Regardless of the outcome, Skilling and Lay are ruined, though I'm sure they've got plenty more than their Enron stockholders do hidden away in off-shore nooks and tropical crannies. And whether they get five months or fifty years, their fate is sure to serve as a cautionary tale until the next rack of greedheads comes along to dupe an easily duped greedy stockholding public.

I did say to Madame Cura, as we watched Triumph of the Will the other night, that the now-famous "E" at Enron's Houston headquarters had an uncanny resemblence to the swastikas in the picture, which were also tilted on their axis.

But I digress.

Something struck me as I was reading about Skilling's testimony the other day.

Well, what did you expect him to say?.... For most of the time on the witness stand, Mr. Skilling seemed smaller than life. He often wore a timid, tentative facial expression, a little like a third grader hoping not to be reprimanded by the teacher. But at least once a day he would have momentary meltdowns, and all the bitterness, sarcasm and self-pity would creep to the surface -- only to be damped back down by Mr. Petrocelli. In the course of answering a question about Mr. Fastow's crimes, for instance, Mr. Skilling took an unprompted swipe at the F.B.I. -- an incredibly foolhardy thing to do in front of a jury. When you're on the witness stand, fighting for your life, there is nothing more important than being disciplined in what you say and how you act....

Again and again, I found myself astounded listening to him describe Enron's business practices. He wants to bring in an outside C.E.O. to run Enron's new (and ill-fated) broadband business, but as soon as his buddy Ken Rice says he'll quit if that happens, Mr. Skilling folds like a cheap suit. Instead, he gives the job to the utterly unqualified Mr. Rice.... Mr. Fastow approaches him about setting up a partnership to do business with Enron. He blithely tells Mr. Fastow to work something up and bring it to him -- as if this extraordinary concept, so filled with conflicts and so easily abused -- is no big deal. He has a budget meeting with Lou L. Pai, the head of a poorly performing division called Enron Energy Services. The previous year, the division lost $69 million. Mr. Pai is projecting $50 million in profits for the next year, but Mr. Skilling thinks he's being "sandbagged," and tells Mr. Pai he wants $100 million. Why? Not because he knows anything about how the business is actually performing....

In the many detailed discussions about all the deals Enron did with Mr. Fastow's partnerships this last week, one thing usually was left out. Rarely did Mr. Skilling try to explain their underlying economic rationale. He acted instead as if Enron's dealings with those partnerships were as common as a thing could be, so ordinary they barely needed explaining. But of course that wasn't remotely true. What was extraordinary about those deals was they had no underlying economic purpose. They only had an accounting purpose. They existed to disguise the truth. If Mr. Skilling understands that fact, then he's a crook. If he doesn't, he's a fool. Either way, he should never have been in charge of Enron...

I found myself thinking, hmmm, I know that guy from somewhere.

Oh yeah.


Well, you know the president on Friday interrupted his Easter vacation at Camp David in order to rush to the defense of his defense secretary, putting out a public statement saying he was fully behind the defense secretary, full public support despite these calls by the retired generals for Rumsfeld to step down. And in case there was any doubt about the president's support, just a few moments ago in the Rose Garden, the president came out even more forcefully behind Rumsfeld. This came after the president had denounced speculation about potential personnel changes. I pressed the president on the fact that he himself had commented on Friday about a potential personnel change. Take a listen.


HENRY: Mr. President, you make it a practice of not commenting on potential personnel move.


HENRY: Calling it speculation.

BUSH: And you can understand why. Because we've got people's reputations at stake. And on Friday I stood up and said I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld. He's doing a fine job. I strongly support him.

HENRY: But what do you say to critics who believe that you're ignoring the advice of retired generals, military commanders, who say that there needs to be a change?

BUSH: I say I listen to all voices, but mine's the final decision and Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense. I want to thank you all very much.


Via Digby, who's got more to say.

And it hit me...Skilling and Bush have something significant in common: Both are alums of that most elite of elite institutions, Harvard Business School.

Meet the Mets!?

When did New York City acquire a second Big League ball club?

Pedro Martinez notched career win No. 200 and the Mets continued to make history by beating nemesis Atlanta, 4-3, last night at Shea in the first of nine meetings between the rivals during a three-week stretch.

The Mets, off to the best start in franchise history at 10-2, opened a five-game lead in the NL East standings - the largest lead in a division in major-league history after 12 games.

Richard Cohen's daily howler

This morning, Richard Cohen is certainly shrill:

You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat Gore in 2000. The contrast is stark. Gore -- more at ease in the lecture hall than he ever was on the stump -- summons science to tell a harrowing story and offers science as the antidote. No feat of imagination could have Bush do something similar -- even the sentences are beyond him.

But it is the thought that matters -- the application of intellect to an intellectual problem. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush's initial approach to global warming and his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol -- ideology trumping science. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by beating him in 2000.

Now, a pundit can change his mind; can be impressed by an individual to the point where his attitude towards him does a complete-180. But not to acknowledge the fact that his mind has changed is ridiculous or a sign of creeping dementia. I mean, has he really forgotten that he declared Bush to be the healer-in-chief in November of 2000?

I voted for Al Gore. I did so because I have known him since he was a congressman from Tennessee. I admire his intellect, his seriousness of purpose, his capacity for hard work and study, his political values, his experience and his knowledge. That being said, I now think that under current circumstances he would not be the right man for the presidency. If I could, I would withdraw my vote. In the terminology of the moment, put me down as a hanging chad.??I still think precisely as I have about Gore. But those "current circumstances" I just mentioned change everything. Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush. ??Bush has incessantly proclaimed himself as that sort of guy--"a uniter, not a divider." The tendency is to dismiss that sort of chest-thumping as campaign nonsense, but in Bush's case it appears to be true. After all, the Bush boomlet began among his fellow Republican governors, each of whom probably thought the next president should be none other than himself.??So it says something about Bush that the governors were able to coalesce around him. Some of these governors knew Bush quite well, some hardly at all, but the fact remains that they all seemed to genuinely like the guy and respected his leadership abilities.??You hear the same sort of thing from people who worked with Bush in private enterprise. I talked with one of them once, a Democrat who disagreed with Bush on many issues. Yet he, too, praised Bush's leadership abilities, his talent for bringing order out of chaos and for reaching some sort of consensus. That man's testimony impressed me. His disagreements with Bush were real, his admiration for him profound.??Gore, on the other hand, has little of those abilities. His own party is sore at him for taking the one-two punch of peace and prosperity and running a race that is still not concluded. His performance was as erratic as his uniform-of-the-day: earth tones on Tuesday, business suit on Wednesday. The country sensed that either he did not know himself, or what he did know the country would not like.??Gore is hardly a political natural. He appears stiff, robotic, insincere even when he is not, and paradoxically unable to mask his ambition. He is the intimate of few people, almost no one's good buddy, and not comfortable--or is it just plain not good?--on television. But TV is as essential to the modern presidency as a white horse was to monarchs of old.??Could Al Gore rally the nation? Maybe. Could he go over the heads of Congress and get the country behind him? Maybe. I think, though, that Bush would be better at those things--and better, too, at restraining GOP Dobermans like Reps. Tom DeLay and J.C. Watts Jr. At the same time, it's not likely that a President Bush would be able to appoint Supreme Court justices ideologically similar to those he says he admires, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Simply put, he ain't got the votes.??John F. Kennedy won by a hair and under questionable circumstances, and yet his presidency was never considered illegitimate. Within a relatively short time, his approval rating hit an astounding 83 percent. But Kennedy was a man of manifest political talents, not to mention charisma. Bush is no Kennedy on a lot of levels--particularly his lack of intellectual curiosity--but Gore is almost Kennedy's antithesis. No one has ever applied the word "grace" to him.??I realize that one-term presidents can become two-term presidents, so it is not just the next year that matters. I realize, too, that Bush and Gore have real differences in their approach to government--differences that matter greatly to many people.??But what matters at the moment is the moment itself--a mere tick of the historic clock that could, if things continue, just stop it dead where it is. History does not guarantee that things will be as they have been. The first and most daunting task of the next president is not a tax bill or a Social Security plan but--as it was when Jerry Ford succeeded Richard Nixon--the healing of the country. I voted for Gore because he was the better man for the job. I can't help thinking that he no longer is.

As I said, Cohen can change his mind, and obviously he is paid lavishly to be a contrarian. But he was, as Ezra Klein wrote, spectacularly wrong on pretty much every point he raised. In 2000, he knifed Gore in the back and put "the moment" ahead of the long-term interests of the country, the planet. In fact, as Bob Somberby has long maintained, Cohen couldn't get enough blood out of candidate Gore. Not to acknowledge those words now, while -- even as he applauds Gore -- repeating the commontariat's claim that Gore is boring and "cloying," is insulting to his readers and to Gore.

I mean, in November of 2000, Cohen thought that the most important qualification for being president was being someone you'd want to have a beer with. My god. Nevermind the inherent contradiction here:

Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush.

As Cohen himself might write, "It's baloney, more or less."

Gore is no fool. He knows that he cannot win with "support" from idiots like Cohen or snarkettes like Maureen Dowd. He may be Cohen's hero today, the one man between us and environmental end times. But let Gore embark on the campaign trail and you can be sure every myth, lie, and insulting aside about Al Gore will be resurrected in a heartbeat. Taking down candidates like Gore is what they do. And then they bravely bemoan the consequences, though with nary a mention of their role in getting there.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the real "Daily Howler" has much more to say about this "dumb ass."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eve of destruction

The insanity continues. With a counter-attack that is no doubt in the offing maintaining the cycle of violence that leaves nothing but more misery on both sides. No one gains politically, or in the world court of public opinion. What is the point?

Meanwhile, unprecedented nuke-rattling by the last remaining superpower only seems to encourage the nuke-rattling of a demagogic, out of control, populist in Iran. Our government plays a game for which no one else seems to know the rules, least of all themselves..

Mini-Tets erupting in Iraq. Religious wars continue apace elsewhere.

It may be time to start wearing your net worth. Soon, your money may be no good here.

Will The New York Times ever get to Page Seven?

Who knew The New York Times which, famously, does not have a gossip column, would, in These Great Times, show a greater interest in the undoing of The New York Posts' Page Six than in the march towards a massive bombing campaign on Iraq?

Every day, it seems, the Times valiantly peels back another layer of this unsavory tale.

Correction: Massive bombing campaign in Iran, not Iraq. Doesn't anyone edit these posts?

The Phelps family

Two things really bothered me about this story regarding the infamous Phelps family and their sick, pathetic antics at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Over the past decade, the church, which consists almost entirely of 75 of Mr. Phelps's relatives, made its name by demonstrating outside businesses, disaster zones and the funerals of gay people. Late last year, though, it changed tactics and members began showing up at the funerals of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has put it on its watch list.

Embracing a literal translation of the Bible, the church members believe that God strikes down the wicked, chief among them gay men and lesbians and people who fail to strongly condemn homosexuality. God is killing soldiers, they say, because of America's unwillingness to condemn gay people and their lifestyles.

Standing on the roadside outside Corporal Bass's funeral here under a strikingly blue sky, the six protesters, who had flown from Topeka, shook their placards as cars drove past or pulled into the funeral. The 80-year-old wife of Mr. Phelps, slightly stooped but spry and wearing her running shoes, carried a sign that read "Tennessee Taliban." She is often given the task of driving the pickup trucks that ferry church members, a stack of pillows propping her view over the dashboard.

Next to her stood a cluster of Mr. Phelps's great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces, smiling teenagers with sunglasses, digital cameras and cellphones dangling from their pockets and wrists. They carried their own signs, among them, "You're Going to Hell."

First, the article was accompanied by a photo in which the protesters' faces are almost artfully obscured. I, for one, would like to see the "smiling" faces of people who think and act like that. You never know when you'll be alone with one of them.

And then there's this bit of uncritical reporting.

Disturbed by the protests, a small group of motorcycle riders, some of them Vietnam War veterans, banded together in October to form the Patriot Guard Riders. They now have 22,000 members. Their aim is to form a human shield in front of the protesters so that mourners cannot see them, and when necessary, rev their engines to drown out the shouts of the Westboro group.

The Bass family, desiring a low-key funeral, asked the motorcycle group not to attend.

"It's kind of like, we didn't do it right in the '70s," said Kurt Mayer, the group's spokesman, referring to the treatment of Vietnam veterans. "This is something that America needs to do, step up and do the right thing."

Please. Will that idea never disappear? That, somehow -- and against all logic -- anti-war protesters' "treatment of Vietnam veterans" was somehow similar. It's the urban myth that will never go away. At least not as long as the paper of record keeps insisting on repeating it.

Anger + despair = "bold move?"

I don't really agree with Jim Carroll that our crusade in Iraq was fueld by the Cheney administration's "anger and despair" over failing to nab Osama bin Laden. Instead, I think they used the still raw anger and despair of a fragile majority of Americans still feeling vulnerable and still wanting some payback. Used by an administration that had Iraq in its sights from the very beginning.

Still, I think he has a point when it comes to the mayberry messiah's designs on Iran.

LAST WEEK, the rattling of sabers filled the air. Various published reports, most notably one from Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker, indicated that Washington is removing swords from scabbards and heightening the threat aimed at Iran, which refuses to suspend its nuclear project. It may be that such reports, based on alarming insider accounts of planning and military exercises, are themselves part of Washington's strategy of coercive diplomacy. But who can trust the Bush administration to play games of feint and intimidation without unleashing forces it cannot control, stumbling again into disastrous confrontation?

An Iranian official dismissed the talk of imminent US military action as mere psychological warfare, but then he made a telling observation. Instead of attributing the escalations of threat to strategic impulses, the official labeled them a manifestation of ''Americans' anger and despair."

The phrase leapt out of the news report, demanding to be taken seriously. I hadn't considered it before, but anger and despair so precisely define the broad American mood that those emotions may be the only things that President Bush and his circle have in common with the surrounding legions of his antagonists. We are in anger and despair because every nightmare of which we were warned has come to pass. Bush's team is in anger and despair because their grand and -- to them -- selfless ambitions have been thwarted at every turn. Indeed, anger and despair can seem universally inevitable responses to what America has done and what it faces now.

Could be. Billmon -- who is the Central Station of Invasionstan since returning from self-imposed exile -- takes this further, seeing a classic case of what the Germans call, flucht nach vorne, the "flight forward."

But these attempts to explain the seemingly irrational may all be going off on the wrong tangent. The more I think about it, the more I'm starting to suspect that the madman theory – and its weaker sister the "saber rattling" scenario – are the wrong concepts for understanding the tragedy that may be playing out in front of us.

What we are witnessing (through rips in the curtain of official secrecy) may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to ta situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

Historically such "bold moves" generally end badly.

Open source

I do find it odd when the WaPo's ombudsman claims that the paper's editorial board relies on sources "different" from its reporters for the information it bases its editorial on.

One expects such things from The Wall Street Journal, where the op-ed page is continuously at odds with the reality reported on elsewhere in the paper, but the Post?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Draining our precious fluids

Dept. of Homeland Security, ever vigilant against the threat to our fax machine ink.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Saturday cat blogging folderol

Our long New York metro nightmare has ended.

During the ordeal, the media hubbub grew apace, and cat agnostics grumbled about folderol.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Torturing the Moussaoui jury

The Rude Pundit finds himself -- gasp -- agreeing with William F. Buckley. Both are exactly right.

As Buckley says (and, really, it makes the Rude Pundit want to head off for a morning vodka and ecstasy binge that'll end up with him face down in the gutter after being blown and rolled by some hooker or other by noon to say he agrees even partially with Buckley), Moussaoui's been found guilty. What's following is merely blood sport for the sake of blood sport, a real-world rendition of films like Wolf Creek and The Devil's Rejects, where the idea is to see how far the blood and gore and screams can push the audience. Except there the audience decides to go. The Moussaoui jury is trapped in a house of horrors that serves no purpose except to horrify them, to raise their bloodlust, to make them want to enact ancient tortures of tearing Moussaoui limb from limb with their bare hands for having even tangentially been a part of the nightmare they have been forced to experience again and again.

The Rude Pundit has no pity for Zacharias Moussaoui, who should be locked up in the basement of Bedlam in a straitjacket and rubber room where he can shit himself and mutter endlessly about Allah wantin' him to go all jihad on Western asses. He is merely the latest in an eons-long line of deluded wannabe religious martyrs, from every goddamn faith. To execute Moussaoui would be something akin to lashing a masochistic thief - sure, it might make you feel better, make you feel like you're doin' something for the greater good, but, really, you're just givin' him exactly what he wants. That's not to mention the whole "barbarism" factor of capital punishment, but we're not allowed to discuss that anymore, are we.

Lying in war, lying in peace

Happy Tax Day...if you're one of the wealthiest one percent of Americans. Here, in it's entirety, today's shrill Krugmaniad.

Weapons of Math Destruction

Now it can be told: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney based their re-election campaign on lies, damned lies and statistics.

The lies included Mr. Cheney's assertion, more than three months after intelligence analysts determined that the famous Iraqi trailers weren't bioweapons labs, that we were in possession of two "mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox."

The damned lies included Mr. Bush's declaration, in his "Mission Accomplished" speech, that "we have removed an ally of Al Qaeda."

The statistics included Mr. Bush's claim, during his debates with John Kerry, that "most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans."

Compared with the deceptions that led us to war, deceptions about taxes can seem like a minor issue. But it's all of a piece. In fact, my early sense that we were being misled into war came mainly from the resemblance between the administration's sales pitch for the Iraq war — with its evasions, innuendo and constantly changing rationale — and the selling of the Bush tax cuts.

Moreover, the hysterical attacks the administration and its defenders launch against anyone who tries to do the math on tax cuts suggest that this is a very sensitive topic. For example, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa once compared people who say that 40 percent of the Bush tax cuts will go to the richest 1 percent of the population to, yes, Adolf Hitler.

And just as administration officials continued to insist that the trailers were weapons labs long after their own intelligence analysts had concluded otherwise, officials continue to claim that most of the tax cuts went to the middle class even though their own tax analysts know better.

How do I know what the administration's tax analysts know? The facts are there, if you know how to look for them, hidden in one of the administration's propaganda releases.

The Treasury Department has put out an exercise in spin called the "Tax Relief Kit," which tries to create the impression that most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income families. Conspicuously missing from the document are any actual numbers about how the tax cuts were distributed among different income classes. Yet Treasury analysts have calculated those numbers, and there's enough information in the "kit" to figure out what they discovered.

An explanation of how to extract the administration's estimates of the distribution of tax cuts from the "Tax Relief Kit" is here. Here's the bottom line: about 32 percent of the tax cuts went to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people whose income this year will be at least $341,773. About 53 percent of the tax cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population. Remember, these are the administration's own numbers — numbers that it refuses to release to the public.

I'm sure that this column will provoke a furious counterattack from the administration, an all-out attempt to discredit my math. Yet if I'm wrong, there's an easy way to prove it: just release the raw data used to construct the table titled "Projected Share of Individual Income Taxes and Income in 2006." Memo to reporters: if the administration doesn't release those numbers, that's in effect a confession of guilt, an implicit admission that the data contradict the administration's spin.

And what about the people Senator Grassley compared to Hitler, those who say that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive 40 percent of the tax cuts? Although the "Tax Relief Kit" asserts that "nearly all of the tax cut provisions" are already in effect, that's not true: one crucial piece of the Bush tax cuts, elimination of the estate tax, hasn't taken effect yet. Since only estates bigger than $2 million, or $4 million for a married couple, face taxation, the great bulk of the gains from estate tax repeal will go to the wealthiest 1 percent. This will raise their share of the overall tax cuts to, you guessed it, about 40 percent.

Again, the point isn't merely that the Bush administration has squandered the budget surplus it inherited on tax cuts for the wealthy. It's the fact that the administration has spent its entire term in office lying about the nature of those tax cuts. And all the world now knows what I suspected from the start: an administration that lies about taxes will also lie about other, graver matters.

© 2006 New York Times Company

And, oh frabjous day:

Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.

UPDATED to fix, sorta, the incoherence of the only sentence of this post actually written by your's truly.

UPDATE II: Via Digby's alter ego, here's the page ripped from the Congressional record in which Grassley compares those who called "Bullshit" on Bush's tax panaceas with Adolph Hitler.

The buck never stops

Recent stampedes of the "Fire Rumsfeld" express are really rather amusing. I mean, Rumsfeld's unfitness for duty has been well known since "stuff" started happening in Iraq two years ago. That's plenty of time for the commander-in-chief to have started asking tough questions of his Def. Sec. He never did and shows no signs of doing so now, even as the bombers are being fueled for the next messianic Crusade. Bush/Cheney is the problem. Rumsfeld's just a symptom.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Populist hordes

Wanker of the day: Joe Klein.

He also appeared last night on Charlie Rose in an otherwise quite interesting round table about Democratic foreign policy and he refined his point a little:

I think the problem for Democrats now is this: there are some well-informed and intelligent and tough centrists, but there are challenges coming from two separate directions. One is coming from the left of the party which ever since Vietnam has assumed that any use of American force overseas is immoral.

And the more serious threat --- and this threat is coming to both parties --- and this is coming from below, it's this populist threat that I think is absolutely significant in this country and this is people who just want to make the world go away --- they want to pull the troops out of Iraq and not think about the consequences, who are anti-immigrant, anti-Chinese economic competition and just want to make the world go away.

That's his analysis. The party's big challenges are finding a way to deal with the pacifist left and the threat "from below" of the the barbarian populist hordes. What ever are the intelligent, well-informed, tough centrists supposed to do with these horrible people?

He sounds quite frightened of the Democratic voters who are getting sick and tired of being told that we should shut up and listen to people who seem intent upon helping the right use "values" and national security to bludgeon this country into accepting a religious police state.

It shows what a philistine he really is that he conflates pacifism with "hating America" which he quite obviously does. Pacifism is a respectable philosophy that has been a part of the American (hell, the Christian) experience forever. And it, at least, has some intellectual coherence, unlike this hawkish/centrist mish mash of nothingness you find among the so-called liberal hawks.

But most Democrats are not pacifists, even the liberals he seems to loathe with such a passion. Most of us simply do not believe that the United States' security, "honor" or credibility has been well served by hardliner hawks who are in a constant state of hysteria agitating for war all the time to prove the country's military prowess. They've been doing this as long as I can remember and it's always been absurd.

Actually, Klein's been Wanker of pretty much the last ten years, far as I can tell. Here he is on what surely would have proved a winning strategy for Democrats last year: going meekly along with the GOP and gutting "industrial age" Social Security.

MR. JOE KLEIN: Well, it's kind of amazing and somewhat amusing to see the Republicans so much on the defensive on this issue right now. It's an unusual circumstance. I agree with Paul [Krugman] in that private accounts have nothing to do with solvency and solvency is the issue. I disagree with Paul because I think private accounts a terrific policy and that in the information age, you're going to need different kinds of structures in the entitlement area than you had in the industrial age. But it is very hard to do that kind of change under these political circumstances where you have the parties at such loggerheads.

The Democrats have for the last 10 or 15 years blatantly, shamelessly demagogued this issue. They've offered nothing positive on Social Security or on Medicare or on Medicaid, and it's time for them to compromise here. It's also time for the Republicans to compromise here. One area where you might see, you know, some--one possibility is the old Washington standby, the demonstration project. We might try privatization for some younger, you know, Social Security recipients--not recipients but, you know, contributors, or we might try it in a city or a couple of places. We haven't--we don't know how it's going to work.

That's the man who is lecturing be more compliant with the Republican majority as they actively destroy our resources, our reputation around the world, and what's left of our middle class.

Wanker Hall o' Fame.

Digby concludes:

It's not that these populist hordes want the world to just go away. They want guys like Klein to just go away and stop blowing smoke up their asses about how much better off they are when their jobs are outsourced and how glorious it is to get your kid killed in a useless war.

"Acts of injustice can be perpetrated in the course of a just war"

Something to think about in These Great Times as we march relentlessly towards "saving Iran," with the Right's quasi intellectuals already declaring "diplomacy will fail," while making references -- once again --to latter-day Saladins and the collapse of Western Civilization.

Jonathan Yardley reviews Among the Dead Cities, a philosophical analysis of the morality of killing civilians, even in what is still considered "a just war."

"In the cellars, otherwise unscathed people suffocated to death. Police reports and eyewitness accounts later confirmed many of the horror stories told 'of demented Hamburgers carrying bodies of deceased relatives in their suitcases -- a man with the corpse of his wife and daughter, a woman with the mummified body of her daughter, or other women with the heads of their dead children.' "

At about this time, Winston Churchill watched "a film showing RAF bombers in action over the Ruhr." According to one who was present, Churchill suddenly blurted out: "Are we animals? Are we taking this too far?" Quite to the contrary was the view of Bomber Command, in particular its commander, Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris, who "wanted to make a tremendous show" (the words are his own) in Hamburg and got what he wanted. But the question remains: Was the indiscriminate bombing of civilians -- in Hamburg, in Dresden, in Tokyo, in Hiroshima, in Nagasaki -- justifiable militarily, or was it "in whole or in part morally wrong"?

This is the question addressed in Among the Dead Cities by Grayling, a professor of philosophy at the University of London and one of Britain's more prominent and outspoken public intellectuals. Almost immediately one senses what his answer will be -- an unequivocal "Yes" -- but he must be given full credit for reaching that conclusion only after a careful, nuanced analysis that gives full credit to the views and intentions of the bombers as well as making clear that the Allied bombing, however terrible, was "nowhere near equivalent in scale of moral atrocity to the Holocaust of European Jewry, or the death and destruction all over the world for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was collectively responsible: a total of some twenty-five million dead, according to responsible estimates," by contrast with the toll of "about 800,000 civilian women, children and men" exacted by Allied bombing.

As I said, something to think about in advance of more "shock and awe."

Last month, in a paper given at a conference on Middle East security in Berlin, Colonel Sam Gardiner, a military analyst who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air Force, in 1987, provided an estimate of what would be needed to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Working from satellite photographs of the known facilities, Gardiner estimated that at least four hundred targets would have to be hit. He added:

I don't think a U.S. military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We'd want to get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the Iranian diesel submarines. . . . Some of the facilities may be too difficult to target even with penetrating weapons. The U.S. will have to use Special Operations units.

Calling such strikes "tactical" doesn't change the "facts on the ground." Yes, our precision weaponry is really quite astonishing and makes for excellent television as we follow the glare of "smart bombs" appear to flawlessly destroy the ministry of propaganda or naval bases on the Gulf. There are people living in or near those "assets" who, even if they're not killed by the bombs' explosions, must still deal with their aftermath. And none of us know what that aftermath will be if it involves nuclear weapons.

Yes, something to think about. But the people who will ultimately decide the fate of thousands upon thousands of Iranian civilians -- and our own troops -- won't.

In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, told me that there had been “no formal briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat selectively.”

The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What was that about mushroom cloud as smoking gun?

I finally read the exhaustively reported but mostly anonymous Seymour Hersch piece in The New Yorker while riding home from Gotham City on the train, but since Josh Marshall also finally got around to reading it, I'll defer to him.

But I'll play a few bars...I too found the piece a lot more terrifying than much of the advance billing, and I reiterate a previous notion that we are in the midst of a slow moving Cuban Missile Crisis, except with fucking lunatics the ones with their fingers on the proverbial buttons. Unlike that scary week and a half in 1962, the Pentagon chiefs this time around want to kill the nuclear option and the White House has told them it stays on the table.

And I'll just point out a copy of sterling passages that I haven't seen referenced in blogostan.

For instance, not satisfied with the war game our heroic political leaders are playing in Iraq, only using real people and not computer simulations, so they want to play an even more intellectually fascinating war game -- one featuring "tactical" nuclear weapons.

But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker, according to the former senior intelligence official, “say ‘No way.’ You’ve got to know what’s underneath—to know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel generators, or which are false. And there’s a lot that we don’t know.” The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

Imagine, the first president to order a nuclear strike on another country since Truman pronounces it "nucler."

And we also learn that much of the "evidence" the administration has glommed onto comes from another suspicious source courtesy of German intelligence.

Last year, the Bush Administration briefed I.A.E.A. officials on what it said was new and alarming information about Iran’s weapons program which had been retrieved from an Iranian’s laptop. The new data included more than a thousand pages of technical drawings of weapons systems. The Washington Post reported that there were also designs for a small facility that could be used in the uranium-enrichment process. Leaks about the laptop became the focal point of stories in the Times and elsewhere. The stories were generally careful to note that the materials could have been fabricated, but also quoted senior American officials as saying that they appeared to be legitimate. The headline in the Times’ account read, “RELYING ON COMPUTER, U.S. SEEKS TO PROVE IRAN’S NUCLEAR AIMS.”

I was told in interviews with American and European intelligence officials, however, that the laptop was more suspect and less revelatory than it had been depicted. The Iranian who owned the laptop had initially been recruited by German and American intelligence operatives, working together. The Americans eventually lost interest in him. The Germans kept on, but the Iranian was seized by the Iranian counter-intelligence force. It is not known where he is today. Some family members managed to leave Iran with his laptop and handed it over at a U.S. embassy, apparently in Europe. It was a classic “walk-in.”

A European intelligence official said, “There was some hesitation on our side” about what the materials really proved, “and we are still not convinced.” The drawings were not meticulous, as newspaper accounts suggested, “but had the character of sketches,” the European official said. “It was not a slam-dunk smoking gun.”

The song remains the same, I guess.

The defector, given the code-name Curveball by the CIA, has emerged as the central figure in the corruption of US intelligence estimates on Iraq. Despite considerable doubts over Curveball's credibility, his claims were included in the administration's case for war without caveat.

According to the report, the failure of US spy agencies to scrutinise his claims are the 'primary reason' that they 'fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's [biological weapons] programs'. The catalogue of failures and the gullibility of US intelligence make for darkly comic reading, even by the standards of failure detailed in previous investigations. Of all the disproven pre-war weapons claims, from aluminium centrifuge tubes to yellow cake uranium from Niger, none points to greater levels of incompetence than those found within the misadventures of Curveball.

The Americans never had direct access to Curveball - he was controlled by the German intelligence services who passed his reports on to the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's spy agency.

Between January 2000 and September 2001, Curveball offered 100 reports, among them the claims of mobile biological weapons labs that were central in the US evidence of an illicit weapons programme, but subsequently turned out to be trucks equipped with machinery to make helium for weather balloons.

The commission concluded that Curveball's information was worse than none at all. 'Worse than having no human sources,' it said, 'is being seduced by a human source who is telling lies.'

It's really stunning to watch this play out. They aren't even pretending to change the script for the sequel.

And is the German intelligence community trying to get revenge for WWII?

Lou Dobbs is well done

Via Wolcott, Lou Dobbs, in this enjoyable little "debate" with Univision anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, says two things that are true:

"Well, then, I'm a racist."


"I'm done."

Yes, he is. On both counts. The pompous ass -- I've met him; he is -- could hide his nasty racist tendencies when he was going after outsourcing, because tech, graphic design, accounting, etc. jobs shipped off to another country get at a real, nagging fear for middle class Americans these days.

But like the vile demagogues in the Republican party and on the radio, he didn't figure on legal immigrants not taking so lightly politicians and influential television anchors calling them "criminals" or, even more eloquently, "ungrateful human parasites." They didn't figure on the disconnect many Americans would feel while watching on TV hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate peacefully -- almost joyously -- against the brutish HR-4437 bill, while these same people are being demonized on the same TV shows' voice-overs.

It's a beautiful thing.

BLITZER: Back now to our top story. Coast to coast demonstrations for immigrants rights. Hundreds of thousands of people on the march, from here on the East Coast, out to the West Coast, including all over the country. It's the biggest wave of immigration rallies yet. And some are even likening it to the civil rights movement. In all, about 70 protests with a big demonstration in Los Angeles about to begin. Two T.V. anchors who are outspoken on this issue are joining us now, live.

CNN's own Lou Dobbs and Maria Elena Salinas of the Spanish language network Univision. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Lou, these people say they're sick and tired of being treated like criminals. What do you say?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well I don't know that they are being treated like criminals. That's the interesting part. They're demonstrating in our streets, taking the right of assembly and free expression. It looked to me like they're being treated pretty well. They're hardly in the shadows. And I don't see any INS agents, any ICE agents, rounding anybody up. So it looks to me like that's a bit of stretch.

BLITZER: Is it stretch, Maria Elena?

MARIA ELENA SALINAS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Well that's just one of the misconceptions of illegal immigration and of immigrants in general. If you think all the people that are out here today in Los Angeles are undocumented immigrants, you're wrong. Because now it has spilled over to where all Hispanics feel offended by what has been going on, by the rhetoric, the level of the negativity that you hear coming out of Capitol Hill. And also in some television stations and by some journalists.

These people -- a lot of them are not only legal residents but they're also U.S. citizens, American citizens. One of the misconceptions, they're not all Mexicans, they're not all Latin Americans. There's Asians, there are Haitians that have come out to protest.

There are Europeans have come out to protest. You see American flags everywhere. And once in awhile you'll see a flag from Mexico, you'll see a flag from Argentina, from different countries. Why wouldn't an American citizen, Lou, have the right to protest? This is what makes this country so great. This is a country where there's freedom of expression. People can come out and protest. And that's exactly what they're doing.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Lou.

DOBBS: Well I'm certainly not complaining about the protest or the demonstration in any way whatsoever. So I don't know what you're talking about. The fact is, I even complimented the organizers.

SALINAS: There's American citizens here.

DOBBS: I'm sorry? I didn't understand you, Maria Elena.

SALINAS: You were saying that the INS -- you said INS should be out here arresting people. Why would doing that when there are thousands of people out here who are legal residents of the United States and American citizens of Hispanic origin?

DOBBS: Right. I was responding to really Wolf's question about this, in terms of being in the shadows. The statements by many of the organizers that this is a demonstration for certain rights, that are only enjoyed by American citizens. And the organizers have told us that many of the demonstrators, if not most are illegal aliens.

SALINAS: Oh, yes, most of them are. But not all of them.

DOBBS: I didn't say they were.

SALINAS: You continue to call them criminals. And they are not criminals.

DOBBS: No, I don't. I call them illegal aliens.

SALINAS: Of course I know HR-4437.

DOBBS: I call them illegal aliens and that's what they're called by the Department of Homeland Security.

SALINAS: No, you just called them criminals a couple of minutes ago. You said that they are criminals.

DOBBS: No I didn't, Maria Elena.

BLITZER: Maria Elena, there's a lot of people who think on your side of this debate, that there's a racist element underway. There are a lot of people, Lou, you know that, that think that if these people were blond or blue-eyed from Europe, the demonstrations against the illegal immigrants wouldn't be as serious as they are. Maria Elena is shaking her hear yes. Is that a prevailing view in the Latino community?

SALINAS: Well there are certain things that indicate that there is a racist tones to this. Without a doubt, because there's constantly people saying go back to Mexico, protect the border of Mexico when the illegal immigration or undocumented immigration comes from all over, not only from the border.

I mean, people don't understand in this country, that there are millions of people who come here illegally, overstay their visas and turn into undocumented immigrants. And there's people from all over the world, there's people from South America that are very wealthy, that because of their personal circumstances they become undocumented.


The hacks thought they could frame this as a combination of border security and job security for "Americans." Then they decided to jump the shark and turn being an undocumented alien -- maybe the guy who cuts your lawn or the woman who cleans up in the office after you leave at night -- a criminal. The INS should round 'em up when they decide "to take advantage of our rights" to free assembly and speech.

In these Great Times it may not seem like much to be grateful for, but I am: the majority of Americans are not falling for this shit. In fact, many, not so far removed from their immigrant forebears, are beginning to resent it.

And memo to Ted Kennedy: please don't get played by Sensenbrenner and Frist. They have no honor. They have no shame.
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