Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Um, no shit, Sherlock.

Actually, on one infamous occasion Giuliani did play the religion card. That would be when he tried to revoke the Brooklyn Museum's city funding because it had an exhibit that featured a non-traditional depiction of the Virgin Mary. Giuliani demagogued this silly issue to appeal to his outer-borough white Catholic base. I think it supports Mike's point: Giuliani's a panderer on social issues and if he's elected with support from the Republican Party, he'll pander to them in office.

Unlike George W. Bush, Giuliani doesn't necessarily agree with the wingnuts he's currently pandering to. However, like the Boy King, he's interested in only one thing: absolute power. In that sense, he's really more like Cheney. Social issues are out there to be taken advantage of and used. If saying he'll appoint "strict constructionists" signals to the religious right what they want to hear, then fine. The bigger picture is amassing power and control. The rest are just table stakes.

And trust me, a Giuliani presidency will not be pretty. If you think he could be tough on ferret affficianados, imagine what he'll do to anyone trying to get in his way of eliminating civil liberties in the never-ending battle of the War on Terrah.

One of these days

Strange. They left off the one spoken lyric this tune, from the vastly underrated Meddle, originally had.

The ingratitude of The Veterans Committe

This is really remarkable.

TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 27 — The members of the veterans committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame are filling out their ballots. The problem is that they are not voting for enough of the same candidates. The results of their latest election were the same as their previous two: no one made the cut.

The longtime Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo came closest, falling 5 votes short of election. The umpire Doug Harvey missed by 9 votes, and pitcher Jim Kaat and the union chief Marvin Miller missed by 10. “I guess it’s hard to get in, and they want to make it hard,” the Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said at Legends Field. “They had some pretty good names in there.”

The committee votes every other year on players. Every four years, it also considers a composite ballot of executives, umpires and managers. The next player ballot is scheduled for 2009 and the next composite ballot for 2011. But after shutouts in 2003, 2005 and this year, the process is subject to change.

“The board has always wanted to watch the process for three cycles before discussing any possible changes,” said Jane Forbes Clark, the chairwoman of the Hall of Fame. “We will be evaluating the process and its trends at our next meeting, on March 13, and discussing whether there should be any changes in the voting process.”

Yes, I would say that some changes are in order. I won't comment on the players, as Steve Goldman writes, they're generally the type of players who had a "but" career ("yes, he was an indifferent fielder and couldn't hit worth a damn, but...").

But to once again pass over Marvin Miller. Miller was as influential a member of the baseball community as anyone has ever been. If it weren't for Miller, players would still have to spend the winter working in coal mines and bowling alleys. Many of the same players who didn't vote for him owe their current leisurely lifestyles and their excellent health care to his efforts on their behalf. It's shocking ingratitude and a sad lack of historical perspective.

Too cute for words

Barney Frank with yet another reason why he's one of my favorite people in Congress. He loathes acronyms and cute names for bills.

“The title of this bill is unfortunately an acronym,” the Massachusetts Democrat said during the recent markup of a bipartisan measure (HR 556) that would overhaul the process for reviewing foreign investment in the United States. “The chair does not intend to bring forward further legislation in which the title is a word.”

In this case, the title was National Security FIRST Act — short for National Security Foreign Investment Reform and Strengthened Transparency Act of 2007.

“I regret that you won’t allow any more acronyms,” replied Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., the bill’s main sponsor. “We worked hard on this acronym.”

Secretly, Congressman Frank is known to spend too much time here.

Whistling past the graveyard

Did something happen on the world's exchanges yesterday?


Shorter just about every media type/righty blogger: Al Gore is fat.

The election only "emboldened" them

Fascinating logic from the depths of the wingnutosphere.

Lieberman makes a valiant attempt, but his words won’t convince the anti-war Left to back down. When netroots-powered Ned Lamont beat Lieberman last year in the Connecticut primary they tasted political blood. The Democrats’ Congressional victory only emboldened them to continue down their anti-war path. The only way to silence them is for the surge to actually be effective. For Iraq’s sake I hope it works.
Emboldened by an election, the anti-war left is now, oh, about two-thirds of the country. Keep trying guys. As for the surge, well...

I'll be watching to see the reaction from the pro-war right -- who thought Lieberman's op ed the other day extolling the current plan was just as "valiant" as his op ed in 2005 extolling the last plan -- when they realize that the administration is now going to "talk" to Syria and Iran.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's John Edwards made of?

Strongly recommended: The Brian Lehrer interview with John Edwards the other day. Healthcare, deficit spending, Iraq, Pakistan, China the Sudan, Uganda. No other candidate is talking about these things. As Krugman noted yesterday (Time$elect...poor Krug., to be penned in with the likes of Ann Althouse).

Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country.

How did that happen? First, he got the Republican nomination by locking up the big money early.

Then, he got within chad-and-butterfly range of the White House because the public, enthusiastically encouraged by many in the news media, treated the presidential election like a high school popularity contest. The successful candidate received kid-gloves treatment — and a free pass on the fuzzy math of his policy proposals — because he seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, while the unsuccessful candidate was subjected to sniggering mockery over his clothing and his mannerisms.

Today, with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead thanks to presidential folly, with Al Qaeda resurgent and Afghanistan on the brink, you’d think we would have learned a lesson. But the early signs aren’t encouraging.

“Presidential elections are high school writ large, of course,” declared Newsweek’s Howard Fineman last month. Oh, my goodness. But in fairness to Mr. Fineman, he was talking about the almost content-free rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — a rivalry that, at this point, is mainly a struggle over who’s the bigger celebrity and gets to lock up the big donors.

Enough already. Let’s make this election about the issues. Let’s demand that presidential candidates explain what they propose doing about the real problems facing the nation, and judge them by how they respond.

I know the counterargument: you can’t tell in advance what challenges a president may face, so you should vote for the person, not the policy details. But how do you judge the person? Public images can be deeply misleading: remember when Dick Cheney had gravitas? The best way to judge politicians is by how they respond to hard policy questions.

So here are some questions for the Democratic hopefuls. (I’ll talk about the Republicans another time.)

First, what do they propose doing about the health care crisis? All the leading Democratic candidates say they’re for universal care, but only John Edwards has come out with a specific proposal. The others have offered only vague generalities — wonderfully uplifting generalities, in Mr. Obama’s case — with no real substance.

Second, what do they propose doing about the budget deficit? There’s a serious debate within the Democratic Party between deficit hawks, who point out how well the economy did in the Clinton years, and those who, having watched Republicans squander Bill Clinton’s hard-won surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy and a feckless war, would give other things — such as universal health care — higher priority than deficit reduction.

Mr. Edwards has come down on the anti-hawk side. But which side are Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on? I have no idea.

Third, what will candidates do about taxes? Many of the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. Should they be extended, in whole or in part? And what do candidates propose doing about the alternative minimum tax, which will hit tens of millions of middle-class Americans unless something is done?

Fourth, how do the candidates propose getting America’s position in the world out of the hole the Bush administration has dug? All the Democrats seem to be more or less in favor of withdrawing from Iraq. But what do they think we should do about Al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Pakistan? And what will they do if the lame-duck administration starts bombing Iran?

The point of these questions isn’t to pose an ideological litmus test. The point is, instead, to gauge candidates’ judgment, seriousness and courage. How they answer is as important as what they answer.

I should also say that although today’s column focuses on the Democrats, Republican candidates shouldn’t be let off the hook. In particular, someone needs to make Rudy Giuliani, who seems to have become the Republican front-runner, stop running exclusively on what he did on 9/11.

Over the last six years we’ve witnessed the damage done by a president nominated because he had the big bucks behind him, and elected (sort of) because he came across well on camera. We need to pick the next president on the basis of substance, not image.

© 2007 New York Times Company.

I wonder if Maureen Dowd reads Krugman's columns.

The anti-war left

I'm so sick of this.

Still, Mr. Murtha faces an extraordinary political challenge over the next month, and some Democrats are already worried about his handling of it. As they consider the president’s nearly $100 billion spending request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats must find a way to satisfy an antiwar wing that wants clear progress toward winding down the war — the Out of Iraq Caucus claims a third of the House Democrats — while producing legislation palatable to the party’s conservatives and centrists.

Right. Those wanting out of Iraq are so marginal.

According to the results of the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, disapproving of President Bush's Iraq policy is not just the majority view; it is the sentiment of two out of every three members of the American public.

Support for a troop withdrawal -- and, specifically, for Congress to stay Bush's hand -- is not the domain of the antiwar left. It is the view of a solid majority of Americans.

Consider some of these findings, listed in order of how strongly those views are held. (And I'm only including those with over 55 percent support):

* 67 disapprove of the way Bush is handling Iraq.

* 67 percent oppose sending additional troops to Iraq.

* 66 percent support reducing U.S. military and financial support for the Iraqi government if the Iraqis fail to make progress toward national unity and restoring civil order.

* 64 don't think the war with Iraq was worth fighting.

* 58 percent want Congress to limit the number of troops available for duty.

* 56 percent feel the U.S. should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there.

And in an somewhat related finding:

* 63 percent feel they cannot trust the Bush administration to honestly and accurately report intelligence about possible threats from other countries.

Perhaps someone should tell the Times' Robin Toner that the "anti-war left," whatever that is, is a majority of Americans.

Strom is his co-pilot

The Cheney trip -- you know, the one in which only Cheney himself and the Taliban knew the details:

"Traveling reporters were given strict instructions before Cheney arrived first in Pakistan: No saying he was leaving from Oman, no saying he was flying on a C-17 transport aircraft rather than his usual Boeing, no saying when he arrived, no saying in Islamabad that he would fly on to Bagram, and so on.

"The journalists were only allowed to discuss the trip with their spouse or significant other and one superior at their news organisation, on penalty of seeing the entire media squad dropped from the visit."

Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Silva has been blogging the trip, and has more the military plane Cheney used for the flights into and out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"This particular C-17, a hulking gray cargo jet out of Charleston, S.C., is dubbed The Spirit of Strom Thurmond, with the name painted decoratively in black above the front passenger door that Cheney boarded," Silva writes.

You can't make this shit up.

Made in Iran?

This is becoming absurd.

The cache included what Maj. Marty Weber, a master explosives ordnance technician, said was C-4 explosive, a white substance, in clear plastic bags with red labels that he said contained serial numbers and other information that clearly marked it as Iranian.

But while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.’s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue.

Among the confusing elements were cardboard boxes of the gray plastic PVC tubes used to make the canisters. The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran. One box said in English that the tubes inside had been made in the United Arab Emirates and another said, in Arabic, “plastic made in Haditha,” a restive Sunni town on the Euphrates River in Iraq.

The box marked U.A.E. provided a phone number for the manufacturer there. A call to that number late Monday encountered only an answering machine that said, “Leave your number and we will call you back.”

I'm no expert on these matters, but wouldn't that information suggest that these materials were purchased on the open market? And, by the way, the UAE is a predominantly Sunni country. Unlike Iran.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stormy Monday

Still snowing.

T-Bone Walker

"You think I'm psycho, don't you mama?"

Years and years ago, I was in the Berkshires, smoking something tasty with this guy (a painter who now lives with -- and has two children with -- the daughter of one of the most famous, richest capitalists in America), and he says to me, apropos of nothing, "You know, there's a country song called "You think I'm psycho, mama." I damn near choked as the fragrant smoke came rushing out of my nose. Kind of similar to when my brothers used to wait for me to take a big swig of milk then say something funny. Only better.

After searching for years for this song, and after long giving up ever finding it, I find, quite by accident, the musical phenomenon known as "Psychobilly."

Joe Lieberman, bereft of integriy

Glenn Greenwald looks at Joe Lieberman, then and now.

Today, Lieberman said that the U.S. is focused on preserving security "[f]or the first time in the Iraqi capital" and that "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias." But in 2005, Lieberman assured Americans that he had just returned from Iraq and that "the administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

So whereas Lieberman is claiming now that everything is different today because we had no real strategy before for ensuring security, it was Lieberman himself who promised Americans in 2005 that we did have exactly such a strategy and that it was working so well that "we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007."

Just compare these two statements:

Joe Lieberman, today: "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias."

Joe Lieberman, 2005: "The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

How can Joe Lieberman claim today that we previously lacked sufficient troop strength to hold neighborhoods after they were cleared, when he insisted a year ago that we were holding neighborhoods -- he saw it himself -- and that we were therefore on the verge of success?

On what conceivable basis is Joe Lieberman accorded even the most minimal respect or credibility? He is obviously a person who will say anything at any time in order to defend this war, and, now that everything he said in the past is revealed to be completely false, he does not have even an iota of integrity or honesty to admit any of that. Instead, he stands up and pretends that he never said any of those things -- he actually pretends that he knew all along that our military strategy was wrong -- and simply makes the same promises and commitments as he has been making all along with a sense of entitlement that he has credibility on these matters and should be listened to.


It is possible that The New York Times has taken to heart a few lessons from the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This story, while continuing to push the administration's line regarding Iran's participation in the violence in Iraq, does at least quote some dissenting views.

The most specialized part of the E.F.P.’s that were found is the concave copper disc, called a liner, that rolls into a deadly armor-piercing ball when the device explodes. Although American explosives experts say that the liner is deceptively difficult to make properly, the discs in Hilla look like a thick little alms plate or even a souvenir ashtray minus the indentations for holding cigarettes.

The electronics package is built around everyday items like the motion sensors used in garage-door openers and outdoor security systems; in fact, at the heart of some of the bombs found in Iraq is a type of infrared sensor commonly sold at electronic stores like RadioShack.

Major Weber said the use of precision copper discs combined with passive infrared sensors amounted to “a no-brainer” that the explosive components were of Iranian origin, because no one has used that sort of configuration except Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Could copper discs be manufactured with the required precision in Iraq? “You can never be certain,” Major Weber said. But he said that “having studied all these groups, I’ve only seen E.F.P.’s used in two areas of the world: The Levant and here,” meaning in Hezbollah areas of Lebanon and in Iraq. Hezbollah is thought to be armed and trained by Iran.

Skeptics say the new details do not support a conclusion that only Iran could be providing the components. “Iran may well be involved in the supply of these weapons, but so far they haven’t proved it,” said Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for National Security at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research and advocacy organization.

“Before we act on the assumption that these are Iranian we’ve got to rule out all these other possibilities,” he said. “The military hasn’t done that.”

He noted that a related weapon, the shape charge, “has been around for decades.

“This is not new stuff,” he continued. “There is a vast international arms market selling shape charges from many countries.”

But the report -- nor any of the others I've seen in The Times addressing this -- does not ask a basic question: U.S. troops are being attacked by Sunni insurgents. Iran is backing the Shia.

In The New Yorker, Sy Hersh does address that question.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”


The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”

And this is just incredibly insane.

The Saudis are driven by their fear that Iran could tilt the balance of power not only in the region but within their own country. Saudi Arabia has a significant Shiite minority in its Eastern Province, a region of major oil fields; sectarian tensions are high in the province. The royal family believes that Iranian operatives, working with local Shiites, have been behind many terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, according to Vali Nasr. “Today, the only army capable of containing Iran”—the Iraqi Army—“has been destroyed by the United States. You’re now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.” (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)

Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”

The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Lovely. In the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which was initiated by a Salafist-inspired and Saudi funded group, al Qaeda, we are now allying ourselves with Salafists with deep ties to the Saudis. Furthermore, in Iraq, we are now busy supporting the Shia government of Maliki while helping the Saudis support his Sunni opposition in the civil war.

During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting “to hijack the state,” but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. “Salafis are sick and hateful, and I’m very much against the idea of flirting with them,” he said. “They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly.”
Read it all. It gets worse.

The Comedy Central book club

One more thing about which one is not surprised.

About a year ago, publicists began noticing that Mr. Stewart was interviewing serious authors, said Lissa Warren, the senior director of publicity for Da Capo Press. “It was almost an ‘oh my God’ moment,” she said. “There aren’t that many television shows that will have on serious authors. And when they do have one, it’s almost startling.”

Part of the surprise, publishers said, is that the Comedy Central audience is more serious than its reputation allows. The public may still think of the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” audience as a group of sardonic slackers, Gen-Y college students who prefer YouTube to print. But publishers say it’s a much more diverse demographic — and more important, a book-buying audience.

“It’s the television equivalent of NPR,” Ms. Levin, of Free Press, said. “You have a very savvy, interested audience who are book buyers, people who do go into bookstores, people who are actually interested in books.”

According to Nielsen Media Research, the nightly audience for “The Daily Show” averages about 1.6 million, while “The Colbert Report” attracts an average of 1.2 million. (“The 1/2 Hour News Hour” on Fox, the conservative answer to the Comedy Central shows, had its premiere with 1.5 million viewers last Sunday but does not plan to do author interviews, a Fox spokeswoman said.)

Reading comprehension would not match up well with Fox News' demographics.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Surging right out of his mind

Davey and Goliath
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Wow, reading this exchange...

DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times: Well, I would point to the same distinction Mark made, that Basra is not Baghdad. Basra is a Shia community, mostly Shia. It doesn't have the sectarian violence.

And, to me, what Basra is, it's a window on -- suppose there wasn't the sectarian violence in Baghdad or in Iraq. Well, where would we be? We would have our expectations not met. We would not have sort of democracy that we hoped for when going in.

Nonetheless, we would not have the sort of civil war we see in Baghdad, and we would be withdrawing, too. But Baghdad has this sectarian violence; Basra doesn't.


JIM LEHRER: Speaking of domestic realities in the United States of America, David, what do you make of the Senate plans? They've been talking about probably going to start next week to try to reauthorize or change the legislation that originally authorized the military action against Iraq.

DAVID BROOKS: This is like "Back to the Future." They're going to go in a DeLorean back to 2002 and un-vote the vote they made.

You know, the big difference to me is, you know, George Bush -- you can say what you like about his operation of the war, but he took a look at what should happen in Iraq, and it was the surge. He knew it was going to be unpopular, but he was going to be for it, even though it was unpopular.

Is there any Democrat willing to stand up and be for something unpopular or even take a position? I really don't know what the Democratic positions are.

There are individual positions, but when it comes to resolutions, there's this Murtha business, which is sort of funny, reallocate the relocation of the troops, the intervals which they go in and out. Then there's the Levin-Biden plan, which is to go back to 2002 and somehow reauthorize that bill.

Why don't they take a position and say, "I'm for this. This is what we think should happen in Iraq. We think the war is lost. We think we should get out"? Or, "We don't think the war is lost. We should do this"?

But it's all poll-driven, and that's my problem with the Democratic plans that are all evolving. They're all poll-driven. It's the party right now with the soul of a campaign manager.

MARK SHIELDS: I don't agree. We do have elections in this country, other than polls. We had an election last fall in which the Republicans, largely on the issue of Iraq, and largely on the issue of the stewardship of the president and vice president of that war, and the conditions and circumstances under which we got into that war, and the way it had been maintained, lost control of the Congress.

That was the reason. The Republicans say that; Democrats say that. So that's not a poll. That's not a focus group. That's the American people having expressed it, their feelings for it.

The president is apparently indifferent, immune. He has a four-year term, so he's indifferent to the plight of members of his own party, as their position becomes increasingly unpopular.

...gave me great insight into his column this morning (Time$elect and so not worth it).

Can we please get over the hipster parent moment? Can we please see the end of those Park Slope alternative Stepford Moms in their black-on-black maternity tunics who turn their babies into fashion-forward, anticorporate indie-infants in order to stay one step ahead of the cool police?

Can we stop hearing about downtown parents who dress their babies in black skull slippers, Punky Monkey T-shirts and camo toddler ponchos until the little ones end up looking like sad-parody club clones of mom and dad? Can we finally stop reading about the musical Antoinettes who would get the vapors if their tykes were caught listening to Disney tunes, and who instead force-feed Brian Eno, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens into their little babies’ iPods?

I mean, don’t today’s much-discussed hipster parents notice that their claims to rebellious individuality are undercut by the fact that they are fascistically turning their children into miniature reproductions of their hipper-than-thou selves? Don’t they observe that with their inevitable hummus snacks, their pastel-free wardrobes, their unearned sense of superiority and their abusively pretentious children’s names like Anouschka and Elijah, they are displaying a degree of conformity that makes your average suburban cul-de-sac look like Renaissance Florence?

Enough already. The hipster parent trend has been going on too long and it’s got to stop. It’s been nearly three years since reporters for sociologically attuned publications like The New York Observer began noticing oversophisticated infants in “Anarchy in the Pre-K” shirts. Since then, the trend has exhausted its life cycle.


Let me be clear: I’m not against the indie/alternative lifestyle. There is nothing more reassuringly traditionalist than the counterculture. For 30 years, the music, the fashions, the poses and the urban weeklies have all been the same. Everything in this society changes except nonconformity.

What I object to is people who make their children ludicrous. Innocent infants should not be compelled to sport “My Mom’s Blog Is Better Than Your Mom’s Blog” infant wear. They should not be turned into deceptive edginess badges by parents who refuse to face that their days of chaotic, unscheduled moshing are over.

And unsupervised.

You see, in Brooks's world, if only Baghdad were more like Basra -- with no ethnic tensions to muck things up -- things would be just fine. If only Democrats would accept reality -- that Bush is the authority figure we should follow -- and stop paying attention to those odious mid-term elections, then our steadfastness would surely sap the will of those committing sectarian violence in Iraq. If only New York parents stop foisting rebellious individualism on their toddlers, then Brooks would not be so clearly annoyed.

If only Iraq had a strongman, Democrats (and the rest of the population) would obey Bush, and urban dads would act like Ward Cleaver, we'd have a lot more harmonious conformity.

He's unhingned. There is simply too much freedom going on.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Unlike Hillary Clinton, David Geffen could never be called ambitious

The David Geffen who really cares in 1982.

E.R. [Elliot Roberts, Neil Young's longtime manager] Well, I did have a much larger offer from R.C.A. about £4 Million more. David Geffen and I used to be partners and David has worked with Neil for a very long time. He totally relates to Neil as an artist and has no preconceived notions about Neil. He knows that he's capable of doing anything at any point, at any time, and I made the decision and I think that at the end of 5 years we will see that Neil's record sales will more than make up for the money we refused to take now, because he will have the freedom to practice his art as he sees it, as opposed to when you make a deal where someone is paying you £I - £2 million an album you feel obligated to give them commercial music that they can sell large numbers of. Neil's not concerned with selling large numbers of his records, he's concerned with making records that he's pleased with. Unfortunately they are not always commercial from the record company's point of view. David Geffen relates to that. He knows Neil may do a country album and then he may do an electric album because there's no rhyme or reason with Neil. It's what he's moved by.
Well, that didn't last long, did it?

It had not been a groovy couple of years for Neil Young. Trans had tanked, the European tour was a disaster. Old Ways had been rejected by Geffen and Everybody's Rockin' was another commercial nonentity. Young had even been prevented from recording. But none of this prepared him for what happened next: His record company sued him.

...Communication with David Geffen was another problem. Young had gotten used to picking up the phone and getting Mo Ostin at Reprise, but direct contact between Young and Geffen, Roberts said, had evaporated ever since the failure of Trans. And per Young's wishes, no one at the label knew of the complexities involving his son. All these factors made for a situation rife with misunderstandings.

Geffen felt that Young was intentionally giving him substandard material. "He felt Neil could turn it around like that and was refusing to -- 'Neil's giving me all these esoteric albums to fuck with me,'" said Roberts. "David took it personally."

[...] The squabble with Geffen dragged on. Young refused to budge, telling the label, as he racalled to Tom Hibbert, to "back off or I'm going to play country music forever. And then you won't be able to sue me anymore because country music will be what I always do so it won't be uncharacteristic anymore, hahaha. So stop telling me what to do or I'll turn into George Jones."
David Geffen today (Time$MeanGirl$elect) finds "ambition" somehow distasteful.

“Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together."
Is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? Like, David Geffen? Or Barack Obama? Or John McCain? Or Rudolph Giuliani? Or, for Brigham Young's sake, Mitt Romney?

Oh, sorry, Hillary Clinton is a woman and that makes David Geffen uncomfortable with her "ambition."

Getting blown away

Neil and Old Black.

An elaborate game of whack-a-mole

Ahmad Chalabi still maneuvering in Iraq.

Edge of disaster

Shorter Dept. of Homeland Security guy: Californians, better keep your gas tanks topped off.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I got your amygdala right here!

Sadly, for the next couple of days I'll be traveling and forced to work at my day job a little bit, so posting will be light and infrequent. Stay tuned to this Bat Channel.

In the meantime, watch as Daniel Goleman attempts to explain the reason behind the vulgar incivility of our electronic existence, otherwise known as the internets.

The emerging field of social neuroscience, the study of what goes on in the brains and bodies of two interacting people, offers clues into the neural mechanics behind flaming.

This work points to a design flaw inherent in the interface between the brain’s social circuitry and the online world. In face-to-face interaction, the brain reads a continual cascade of emotional signs and social cues, instantaneously using them to guide our next move so that the encounter goes well. Much of this social guidance occurs in circuitry centered on the orbitofrontal cortex, a center for empathy. This cortex uses that social scan to help make sure that what we do next will keep the interaction on track.

Research by Jennifer Beer, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, finds that this face-to-face guidance system inhibits impulses for actions that would upset the other person or otherwise throw the interaction off. Neurological patients with a damaged orbitofrontal cortex lose the ability to modulate the amygdala, a source of unruly impulses; like small children, they commit mortifying social gaffes like kissing a complete stranger, blithely unaware that they are doing anything untoward.

Emoticons, apparently, aren't cutting it. Perhaps the Vega should be color-coded. This color (mauve?) when the text is intended to be eyebrow arching ironic. Red when screeching "disinhibited" ravings about the Cheney administration.

Bipartisan attacks

Good ol' reliable Richard Cohen. According to the formula he is required to follow, he cannot attack Republican candidates -- which he does, by name -- without folding unnamed Democratic candidates into the fold, as well.

Of course, I do not really expect Romney to renounce his religion since, among other things, it would cost him more votes than it would gain him. But I do suggest that his craven crawl toward the White House shows a man of obvious talents and experience who illustrates how broken our system is. Why should anyone have to tailor his beliefs to get past ideological bottlenecks in the early primary states? For Republicans, it's the religious right; for Democrats, it's economic pressure groups such as teachers unions. The rest of us can only stand by, helpless, waiting for extremists to pick a man or woman on the basis of issues that mean less to us -- not the war in Iraq, for instance, but gay civil unions.
Equating the religious right with teachers unions. Yes, clearly, both have an equal hold on our political discourse these days.

Dick Cheney's been fired, right?

Dear, dear, Scottie, a beacon of all that was right and just in the White House.

President Bush's chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is "a very serious matter" and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions.

The vow came as numerous Democratic leaders demanded the administration appoint a special counsel to investigate the charges that a CIA operative's name was divulged in an effort to discredit her husband, a prominent critic of Bush's Iraq policy. The White House rejected those calls, also saying it has no evidence of wrongdoing by Bush adviser Karl Rove or others and therefore no reason to begin an internal investigation.

"There's been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president's office, as well," said Scott McClellan, Bush's press secretary. He said that "if anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

Tough talk. Little did he know, apparently, the forces that were in play among his "Mayberry Machiavelli" betters in the administration.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 — A picture taking shape from hours of testimony and reams of documents in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. shatters any notion that the White House was operating as a model of cohesion throughout President Bush’s first term.

The trial against Mr. Libby has centered on a narrow case of perjury, with days of sparring between the defense and prosecution lawyers over the numbing details of three-year-old conversations between White House officials and journalists. But a close reading of the testimony and evidence in the case is more revelatory, bringing into bolder relief a portrait of a vice president with free rein to operate inside the White House as he saw fit in order to debunk the charges of a critic of the war in Iraq.

The evidence in the trial shows Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Libby, his former chief of staff, countermanding and even occasionally misleading colleagues at the highest levels of Mr. Bush’s inner circle as the two pursued their own goal of clearing the vice president’s name in connection with flawed intelligence used in the case for war.

The testimony in the trial, which is heading for final arguments as early as Tuesday, calls into question whether Mr. Cheney, known as a consummate inside player, operated as effectively as his reputation would hold. For all of his machinations, Mr. Cheney’s efforts sometimes faltered as he tried, with the help of Mr. Libby, to push back against critics during a crucial period in the early summer of 2003, when Mr. Bush’s initial case for war was beginning to fall apart. In some of their efforts, Mr. Cheney and his agent, Mr. Libby, appeared even maladroit in the art of news management.

While others on the White House team were primarily concerned about Mr. Bush, the evidence has shown that Mr. Libby had a more acute concern about his own boss. Unbeknownst to their colleagues, according to testimony, the two carried out a covert public relations campaign to defend not only the case for war but also Mr. Cheney’s connection to the flawed intelligence.

In doing so, they used some of the most sensitive and classified intelligence data available, information others on Mr. Bush’s team was not yet prepared to put to use in a public fight against a war critic.

Read on. It's quite a romp.

It is fascinating the lengths "Shooter" Cheney and "Scooter" Libby were willing to go to protect the former's "image" and "credibility." By the time Wilson's op-ed had appeared, we already knew that the WMD claims were bogus and that there would be no "smoking gun," let alone one that resembled "a mushroom cloud." So what, exactly, was Cheney's motivation? Is his skin simply that thin that he was willing -- eager, even -- to out a covert CIA operative and to embarrass his "boss?"

UPDATE: Wait! There's more.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A fiendish plot?

The vast rightwing conspiracy professing love for the Clintons? Say it ain't so.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 — Back when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was first lady, no one better embodied what she once called the “vast right-wing conspiracy” than Richard Mellon Scaife.

Mr. Scaife, reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, spent more than $2 million investigating and publicizing accusations about the supposed involvement of Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in corrupt land deals, sexual affairs, drug running and murder.

But now, as Mrs. Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Scaife’s checkbook is staying in his pocket.

Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, “Both of us have had a rethinking.”

“Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”

Now, there's something hacktastic about this reporting, but it does support my earlier contention that Clinton hatred blew itself out sometime during Bill's second term, with everyone but a core of irrationalists (aka, The Wall Street Journal editorial board) finding him to be not so bad in the end. And, in Hillary's case, the mean spirited attacks on her during the run-up to impeachment and during her first run for the senate actually worked to her advantage, making her sympathetic, especially to women voters in New York.

We'll see, though. There's still a hard core out there and swift boat attacks are just a phone call -- and a check -- away.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Clinton's "mistake"

I admit, I've been one of those, with four years hindsight, who scoff when Hillary Clinton says things like "If I'd known then what I know now" she wouldn't have voted for the Iraq resolution. C'mon, I and others say, everybody knew Bush/Cheney had no "Plan B." They were invading regardless of what anyone "voted."

But today I took the time to go back and read her actual words from the time, and thought through honestly what the situation was at the time, and I agree, she doesn't have anything to apologize for (yes, yes, I know -- I'm agreeing with David Brooks...the hurts).

Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded...that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation.

A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our president and we say to him, -- Use [sic] these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein -- this is your last chance -- disarm or be disarmed.

It's easy now to ask how could she put such "awesome responsibility" in the hands of one so irresponsible? But the full depths of the depravity of this administration was not yet clear. Yes, we knew they were "marketing" a war, but it was some time before Suskind's book on Paul O'Neil had come out indicating they'd planned the war from Inauguration day (and "deficits don't matter").

And it would have been a dangerous position for a Senator to take in voting against authorization. At the time, Bush was -- we thought -- building a case for allies. For the Senate not to authorize would have undercut Bush's argument with the UN and with potential allies. And, moreover, not authorizing would have undercut the threat to Hussein. Saddam Hussein could have concluded that Bush was taking aim, but the gun had no bullets. Moreover, the threat appeared to be working. Hussein did let inspectors back into the country and, obviously, they had full access (since they rightly concluded there were no working WMD). And, if later reports were to be believed, he was desperately trying to negotiate a way out of an all-out invasion, including relinquishing power.

While I certainly respect those who were violently against this from the very beginning -- who saw through the likelihood of the invasion and the disastrous results that could easily be predicted -- I admit I wasn't one of them. I thought at the time that finding a way to bringing an end to the inhumane and (I thought, but was wrong) ineffectiveness of the sanctions, and bringing an end to a regional threat was worth giving Bush the tools to bring a real threat to Saddam's power.

I was wrong, so I can't really condemn Hillary Clinton for making similar calculations.

It would be nice, furthermore, if our sagacious political leaders voted in a vacuum with absolutely no political calculations in mind, but that's not to be. Look at who was "right" about the war: Dennis Kucinich. Howard Dean. Kucinich is widely perceived, even by liberals, as a bit of a joke. And Howard Dean is still depicted in the (liberal) media as seriously unserious about national security issues. Oh, and a bit unhinged. They were right, and they still are paying a political price for that.

It would have been beyond brave for Clinton to have done that. It would have been stupid. To take away the power to threaten (legal) war from the Executive Branch would have most certainly come back to haunt someone who hoped to assume that position herself. And to take away from him an argument he was about to make at the UN would have been illogical to her. We can't fault her for not realizing that Bush had no intention of relying on UN resolutions or allies on the road to "Mission Accomplished."

I think, in the end, Clinton has the smart position. She and her fellow senators gave Bush that "awesome responsibility" and, through lies and misdirection, he misused that responsibility. Clinton's strategy is to convince voters of three things: that if she had been president, we wouldn't be bogged down in a civil war; that as president she'll end the damn nightmare; and, most importantly, that this is George W. Bush's war. Now whether that smart position will get her through the primaries remains to be seen.

Yet another rationale for invading Iraq

Diva Giuliani's demands

Giuliani comes across as a low grade Mariah Carey based on the rider for his speaking engagements.

Of course, if you click on the link The Daily News provides,, you're taken here. Doesn't anyone check this stuff?

Anyway, via Crooks and Liars, the Carpetbagger has more on Giuliani's velvet rope demands.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The pander express

Looks like McCain is going to burnish his anti-science credentials later this month.

At the time, McCain and his handlers were working to burnish his conservative credentials to win over wary Republican primary voters. The effort began with McCain's May 2006 graduation speech at Liberty University, a school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom McCain had dubbed an "agent of intolerance" during his rancorous 2000 run for the presidency. His makeover continues on February 23, when he is scheduled to speak before the Discovery Institute, the right-wing think tank that has attempted to introduce into public school biology classes the teaching of Intelligent Design.
The maverick.

UPDATE: More, in which McCain manages to throw his support behind anti-science and exhibiting his remarkable hypocricy in a single speech.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday night Jefferson Airplane

Perhaps the greatest music "video" ever. By Jean Luc Godard.


Bob Somerby warns us to be on the look out when our scribes begin using that term

Paint it black

The Editors ponder the quadrennial question asked of all presidential candidates: How black is he?

Maybe this will help frame the issue.

Something the Cheney administration is good at

In my previous post, I insinuated that the administration is entirely incompetent. That was unfair. They are extremely good at bullying and intimidating people who work for them.

The inspector-general’s report, released last week, described as “inappropriate” the work of a small intelligence unit within Feith’s office. The unit was created during a crucial period in 2002 when the Bush administration first began making the case to invade Iraq.

In particular, the report concluded that analysts working for Feith presented top policymakers with “alternative” intelligence assessments that suggested a direct link between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda (as well as a possible Iraq connection to the September 11 attacks). The analysts did so, the report concluded, without fully disclosing that their portrayal of the evidence conflicted with the consensus views of the U.S. intelligence community.

In the original draft of his report, Gimble recommended that the Defense Department policy office establish new internal controls to make sure that officials there do not conduct “intelligence activities.” He also recommended that any alternative judgments be clearly labeled as such—and that policy officials spell out precisely how they diverged from those of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

But after reviewing a copy of Gimble’s draft, Edelman wrote a 52-page response, dated Jan. 16, 2007, that rejected virtually everything the inspector-general had to say (except Gimble's conclusions that Feith’s activities were not illegal). Edelman described the report as having “numerous factual inaccuracies, omissions and mischaracterizations.”

At the same time, Edelman challenged the competency of Gimble even to weigh in on the “appropriateness” of Feith’s work, saying that the inspector-general’s “opinion” on this issue “is not entitled to any particular deference” because he “does not have special expertise” on an issue that is “fraught with policy and political dimensions.”

As for the inspector-general’s recommendation that his office change procedures and make other changes, Edelman wrote that he does not agree with any of them. “Accordingly,” Edelman wrote, his office “has taken no actions, and plans none, in response to the proposed recommendations.”

While the reply was unusually feisty for a bureaucratic memo, Gimble’s response may have been just as unusual. While sticking by his factual findings and conclusions about the inappropriate actions of Feith’s analysts, the inspector-general chose to delete his recommended policy changes from the final report. Asked for comment, a spokesman in the inspector-general’s office shared with NEWSWEEK a memo Gimble wrote back to Edelman in which he concluded that the “circumstances prevalent in 2002” (when the alleged inappropriate behavior occurred) “are no longer present today.” Gimble wrote that the establishment of a new intelligence office in the Pentagon answerable to an under secretary and the “aggressive efforts” of the director of national intelligence—a position created by Congress in 2004—“have all contributed to a more favorable operational environment.”

Feith said today he was gratified that the inspector-general changed his report in response to Edelman’s criticisms. The IG’s proposed policy changes, he said, were “completely impractical.” He said they would have stifled criticism of the intelligence community consensus, which, he said, “history shows” is “sometimes very wrong.”

Never have so many been so wrong about so much. Then bragged about it.

Broder's perverse comparison

Glenn Greenwald has a much more articulate and informative take on Broder's asinine column this morning than I was able to screech out earlier. And he makes a valuable point.

Beltway pundits have long been petrified of the reality that most Americans have turned against the President permanently and with deep conviction. Because the David Broders of the world propped up the Bush presidency for so long, they are deeply invested in finding a way to salvage it. They do this exactly the same way -- driven by the same motives and using the same methods -- that they refuse to accept the reality that the Iraq war which they cheered on and enabled is a profound failure, and are therefore intent on finding a way to salvage at least the apperance of success, if not the reality.

The collapse of Bush's approval ratings is not some isolated or fleeting event that can be reversed with a few magic tricks from Karl Rove. Americans who once vigorously supported the President have simply abandoned him over time. Contrary to Broder's desire (masquerading as belief), the contempt with which Americans regard the Bush Presidency is not some recent, fleeting, reversible phenomenon.

Typical of Broder's myopic view, he believes/hopes that Bush's performance in a press conference on a mid-week afternoon is going to salvage his presidency. This is based, moreover, on Broder's more basic belief that Americans are naturally "bipartisan" and that they went to the polls in November hoping to get Congress to work "together."

That is, of course, bullshit. Even here in the fair Nutmeg State that wasn't the case. Lieberman won because Republican voters in the state wanted to stick it to Democrats and enough Independents were led to believe that Lamont is a communist who would close the sub base. But I digress.

Broder's column underscores another point about the blindness of the punditocracy in Washington. Specifically, his comparison of Bush and Clinton illustrates a basic misunderstanding of how Clinton and Bush are perceived by people living outside of the District and its Virginian suburbs. For the Washington establishment, Clinton was never considered "legitimate." So they could never fathom how Clinton's popularity did not plummet in 1994 when someone named “Newt” came to power and nakedly tried to wrest power and prestige from the president. They were even more shocked ("where's the outrage?” they howled) when the Lewinsky sideshow opened and Impeachment proceedings began and Clinton's popularity rose in response. Broder still doesn't get it, indicating in his column that it was somehow Clinton's rhetoric that "salvaged" his administration. He and his fellows never grasped that Clinton maintained his popularity because, despite a minority of deranged Clinton haters, many of whom were writing for The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, most of the country basically liked him. His popularity rose during Impeachment because the voters thought impeachment for an act of adultery was batshit insane.

On the other hand we have Bush. Bush is an insider, despite the Texas twang, and he's part of a clan that is nothing if "legitimate," at least from the standpoint of guys like Broder. For six years we've heard a constant refrain that those who have expressed displeasure with George W. Bush's actions, let alone his imperial demeanor, are driven by nothing more than irrational Bush hatred. We are simply a small minority of dirty fucking hippies driven insane by the "loss" of the 2000 election, frustrated by the "brilliant" machinations of Karl Rove, and embracing a pacifist loathing for Iraq.

Broder thinks Bush still has a chance to save his presidency because he doesn't understand that, unlike Clinton, Bush's unpopularity has been growing for the past two years. Whether it was the obvious deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the outing of a CIA operative for political purposes, Katrina, or all of the above, a growing majority of Americans realize that Bush is not merely incompetent, but that he doesn't care that he's incompetent.

Broder can dream his little Beltway dream that Bush is reaching across the aisles by "depersonalizing" politics with the Democratic majority (he meets with them...face to face!). He can imagine that, surely, Karl Rove has something up his sleeve. He can parrot pro-war talking points that the Democrats' "core constituency (aka ‘dirty fucking hippies’)" want to withhold "support for the troops" by defunding the costly catastrophuk that is our Iraqi adventure. He can do all of that, but nothing is going to change the ever-emerging realization that the Bush administration is the "perfect storm" of ineptitude, patronage, and bloody-minded ideology that is damaging our country and destroying what's left of our reputation.

Going down the up escalator

Our on-going presence in Iraq continues to erode the United States' credibility, leadership, and, oh, the military's ability to respond to other crises around the world.

Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said yesterday that the increase of 17,500 Army combat troops in Iraq represents only the "tip of the iceberg" and will potentially require thousands of additional support troops and trainers, as well as equipment -- further eroding the Army's readiness to respond to other world contingencies.

Although final decisions on deployments have not been made, Schoomaker said, U.S. commanders in Iraq have requested an additional 2,500 soldiers to serve as embedded trainers for Iraqi forces, and 5,000 to 6,000 additional soldiers could be needed to provide logistical and other support to the five Army combat brigades flowing into Baghdad.

"We are having to go to some extraordinary measures to ensure we can respond," he said, but he added that even then he could not guarantee the combat units would receive all the translators, civil affairs soldiers and other support troops they request. "We are continuing today to get requests for forces that continue to stress us."

Schoomaker, in one of his last congressional testimonies as Army chief, also made it clear that he had raised concerns in advance about President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq because it would further deplete Army units at home.

"We laid out . . . exactly what the risks are in terms of other contingencies . . . to include my concerns about the lack of adequate dwell time," he said, referring to the fact that active-duty soldiers now spend only about a year at home between 12-month war zone rotations.

Schoomaker noted that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was "obligated to present any dissenting opinions and he did that, as did we," in discussions on the troop increase with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the president. Still, Schoomaker added that "our mission now is to support the commander in chief."

Virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are rated as unready to deploy, Army officials say, and to meet the immediate needs in Iraq and Afghanistan they are finding it necessary to transfer personnel and gear to those units now first in line to deploy.

"I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces," Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting that the increased demands in Iraq and Afghanistan "aggravate that" and increase his concern. "We are in a dangerous period," said Schoomaker, adding that he recently met with his Chinese counterpart, who made it clear that China is scrutinizing U.S. capabilities.

While Republican lawmakers continue, inexplicably, to support a president who is clearly in freefall, they are putting his last-ditch effort to save his "legacy" ahead of the nation's overall security.

The Dean speaks

David Broder shows us, again, why he's the Dean of the Beltway Punditocracy.

It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.

Like President Bill Clinton after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, Bush has gone through a period of wrenching adjustment to his reduced status. But just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.

More important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.

Perversity, thy name is Broder.

Please, make it stop.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Just like Crazy Otto

I know this song ain't never gonna end...

The Dead were never better than with this lineup which included Ron McKernon and Keith Godchaux on keyboards. Of course, like all Grateful Dead keyboardists, things would end badly for both.

Fox News tries to be intentionally funny

I guess when this was shown to Fox News executives, they thought the skit was real funny in the same sense that they think their other programs depict real news.

I mean, the idea that Fox News is putting on a "fake news show" is in itself hilarious (Irony's been down for the count before, I know it can survive this. Somehow). They really didn't have to go any further than the concept phase.

If there is a God, and if she has a good sense of humor, then they shot 16 episodes of this for our jaw-dropping pleasure.

Another sample of conservative hijinks.

I expect Roy to write a thesis on why the Right just don't get comedy. As in here -- T-Bogg again, Damn you T-Bogg! -- wherein Dennis Miller discusses the Bank of Mexico (Get it? Get it?) and sexual deviance with...Bill O'Reilly (and just as Irony was getting up from the mat).

"Thinking 'outside the box' but 'inside a compartment'"

The PowerPoint slide that brought us "shock and awe."

As Al Swearingen might have said, "Ad fucking hoc."

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.

A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.

Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.

Those planners now claim that the PowerPoints were not, as you might think, intended to show how smoothly the Iraq invasion would go, but rather to show Congress that it "would be a multiyear proposition, not an easy in-and-out war." Albeit, one requiring only 5,000 troops.

It seems the biggest danger they thought troops would face would be outbreaks of allergies and diabetes as a result of all of the flowers and sweets thrown their way.

Regardless, not even these pathetic "planning" documents explain why, in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, the mission called for seizing and guarding only one building, the Oil Ministry. Not even the Finance Ministry, let alone the national museum.

The "black budget" and Gov. Gibbons

Congress maintains a "black budget" comprising funds for super-duper top secret military and intelligence missions. Not surprisingly, during the glorious reign of the Republican-led Congress, it was an open till for hand-outs to favored military contractors. Looks like America's dumbest governor, Jim Gibbons, may have gotten caught with his hand in said till. From the Wall Street Journal [no link, I only get the wood pulp edition] :

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons accepted unreported gifts or payments from a company that was awarded secret military contracts when Mr. Gibbons served in Congress.


New evidence has emerged that includes emails to Mr. Trepp -- the majority owner of eTreppid Technologies LLC and the former chief trader for convicted junk-bond dealer Michael Milken -- discussing a payment or gift to then Rep. Gibbons. They also show Mr. Gibbons repeatedly using his congressional office to help the firm seek classified military and civilian contracts.

The emails show that since at least 2003, Mr. Trepp maintained close ties to Mr. Gibbons, who helped eTreppid get no-bid software contracts from the Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Intelligence Agency...

Messrs. Trepp and Gibbons have denied any wrongdoing, and no chargeshave been filed; indeed, such investigations sometimes end without official action.

'Hit the Ground Running'

In a Sept. 25, 2003, emial to Mr. Trepp after Mr. Gibbons had been particularly helpful on a recent contract, eTreppid executive Len Glogauer reports that "Jim really hit the ground running on that one." He adds, "we need to take care of him like we discussed." It isn't clear what Mr. Glogauer meant, and he declined to comment.

A second email, cited in court filings by Mr. Trepp's former partner, was more explicit. On March 22, 2005, days before Mr. Trepp and his wife embarked on the Caribbean cruise with the congressman and his family, Jalé Trepp sent a reminder to her husband. "Please don't forget to bring the money you promised to Jim and Dawn," referring to Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons.

Minutes later, Mr. Trepp responds, "Don't you ever send this kind of message to me! Erase this message from your computer right now!" Mr. Gibbons failed to disclose the cruise and travel on Mr. Trepp's leased private jet, as required by House ethics rules.
This should be fun to watch.

Supporting the troops, Ch. XXVIX

Conservatives, always so concerned with the lives of our troops fighting their wars.

One of the costs of the Iraq war is a decline in the quality of recruits.

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.


The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army’s moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

Look at it on the bright side: If we are going to lose American soldiers fighting in Iraq I'd rather lose people with criminal records.

They don't even pretend to give a fuck anymore, do they?

Perhaps he should get out more

The Believer in Chief in yesterday's news conference.

When ABC News's Martha Raddatz asked whether he shares the intelligence community's view that Iraq is in a civil war, the Great Believer grew suddenly agnostic. "We've got people on the ground who don't believe it's a civil war," he dodged.

"Do you believe it's a civil war, sir?" Raddatz pressed.

"It's hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment," he punted.

Gotta hand it to him, six years and running and he still has the capacity to astonish.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Then I'd take one of those falafel things..."

A restaurant even Bill O'Reilly should love.

If you don’t know falafel from loofah, Chickpea is a good place to get your bearings. Their version is a heaping tablespoon of loosely ground chickpeas, fried to order and liberally but not aggressively seasoned with garlic and a hint of cumin. It’s stained green from heavy doses of cilantro and parsley.

Imagine. Snark in the "$25 and under" restaurant column. Let's call a blogger ethics panel.

"Climate change? I'm saying there is no climate."

So said Stephen Colbert, shivering from all that global warming. Sister Toldjah agrees, laughing at "liberal weather" and explaining in her brilliant fashion that there is no climate, just today's weather.

She hits herself with her own idiot stick on a pretty regular basis. Doesn't it start to hurt? LOL.

Happy valentines day

From Keith Relf and The Yardbirds.

Misleading accomplished

Doug Feith just won't go away.

Promoters of the "Bush Lied, People Died" line claim that the recent Pentagon inspector general's report concerning my former office's work on Iraq intelligence supports their cause. What the IG actually said is a different story.

Man, he wastes no time in obfuscating and misdirecting. "Promoters of the 'Bush Lied, People Died'" line is the tip-off that we're dealing with imaginary faeries and strawmen.

The IG, Thomas Gimble, focused on a single Pentagon briefing from 2002 -- a critique of the CIA's work on the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship. His report concluded that the work my office generated was entirely lawful and authorized, and that Sen. Carl Levin was wrong to allege that we misled Congress.

Gimble made Levin happy, however, by calling the Pentagon briefing "inappropriate," a word the senator has whipped into a political lather. At issue is a simple but critical question: whether policy officials should be free to raise questions about CIA work. In Gimble's opinion, apparently, the answer is no. I disagree.

"Inappropriate." Indeed.

Back to "The stupidest fucking guy on the planet."

In evaluating our policy toward Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, my office realized that CIA analysts were suppressing some of their information. They excluded reports conflicting with their favored theory: that the secular Iraqi Baathist regime would not cooperate with al-Qaeda jihadists. (We now face a strategic alliance of jihadists and former Baathists in Iraq.) Pentagon officials did not buy that theory, and in 2002 they gave a briefing that reflected their skepticism. Their aim was not to enthrone a different theory, but to urge the CIA not to exclude any relevant information from what it provided to policymakers. Only four top-level government officials received the briefing: Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and (together) Stephen Hadley and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Innocently, they "realized" that the CIA was suppressing information that "conflicted with their pet theory." Right. In my recollection, it was Feith's "Office of Special Plans" crew that were pushing a "pet theory:" namely, that Iraq and al Qaeda were linked. The CIA was "suppressing" that because it's the CIA's job to sort through real intelligence and the ravings of nut jobs. According to Sy Hersh:

Last October [2002], an article in the Times reported that Rumsfeld had ordered up an intelligence operation “to search for information on Iraq’s hostile intentions or links to terrorists” that might have been overlooked by the C.I.A. When Rumsfeld was asked about the story at a Pentagon briefing, he was initially vague. “I’m told that after September 11th a small group, I think two to start with, and maybe four now . . . were asked to begin poring over this mountain of information that we were receiving on intelligence-type things.” He went on to say, “You don’t know what you don’t know. So in comes the daily briefer”—from the C.I.A.—“and she walks through the daily brief. And I ask questions. ‘Gee, what about this?’ or ‘What about that? Has somebody thought of this?’ ” At the same briefing, Rumsfeld said that he had already been informed that there was “solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members.”

If Special Plans was going to search for new intelligence on Iraq, the most obvious source was defectors with firsthand knowledge. The office inevitably turned to Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. The I.N.C., an umbrella organization for diverse groups opposed to Saddam, is constantly seeking out Iraqi defectors. The Special Plans Office developed a close working relationship with the I.N.C., and this strengthened its position in disputes with the C.I.A. and gave the Pentagon’s pro-war leadership added leverage in its constant disputes with the State Department. Special Plans also became a conduit for intelligence reports from the I.N.C. to officials in the White House.

But back, one last time, to Feith:

A 2004 Senate intelligence committee report praised the quality of the Pentagon's Iraq-al-Qaeda work -- the critical briefing and the related Pentagon-CIA dialogue. The policy officials "played by [intelligence community] rules" and asked questions that "actually improved the Central Intelligence Agency's products," it said. Levin and Sen. Jay Rockefeller both endorsed that judgment.
Um, not exactly, as David Corn wwrote in The Nation:

In an addendum to the report, Rockefeller and two other Democratic members of the committee--Carl Levin and Richard Durbin--criticize Roberts' decision to put off this part of the investigation. They note:

In the months before the production of the Intelligence Community's October 2002 Estimate, Administration officials undertook a relentless public campaign which repeatedly characterized the Iraq weapons of mass destruction program in more ominous and threatening terms than the Intelligence Community analysis substantiated. Similarly, public statements of senior officials on Iraqi links to terrorism generally, and Al Qaeda specifically, were often based on a selective release of intelligence information that implied a cooperative, operational relationship that the Intelligence Community did not believe existed."

In addition to casting all the blame at the CIA, the Senate intelligence committee also helps the Administration by declaring that the intelligence community's mistakes were not made in response to pressure from the hawks of the Bush White House. "The Committee found no evidence," the report says, "that the [intelligence community's] mischaracterization of exaggeration of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities was the result of political pressure."

But Rockefeller, Levin and Durbin argue that Bush officials made "high-profile statements" about the threat from Iraq "in advance of any meaningful intelligence analysis and created pressure on the Intelligence Community to conform to the certainty contained in the pronouncements." More specifically, they point to a statement made by Richard Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who conducted an internal review of US intelligence on Iraq. He said, "There was a lot of pressure [on the analysts], no question. The White House, State, Defense, were raising questions, heavily on WMD and the issue of terrorism. Why did you select this information rather than that? Why have you downplayed this particular thing?.... Sure, I heard that some of the analysts felt pressure." The CIA ombudsman, according to this addendum, told the committee "that he felt the 'hammering' by the Bush Administration on Iraq intelligence was harder that he had previously witnessed in his thirty-two-year career with the agency. Several analysts he spoke with [who were involved in preparing a report on Iraq and Al Qaeda] mentioned pressure and gave the sense that they felt the constant questions and pressure to reexamine issues were unreasonable." Tenet, too, told the committee that some agency officials raised with him the issue of pressure.

I just don't understand why The Washington Post feels the need to provide a platform for former Bush administration officials to continue to peddle long-discredited claims that they were innocent victims of the CIA or didn't support the invasion in the first place, or whatever. It's old and it's tiresome. Perhaps, in the Post's defense, the paper's just trying to give its on-line readers' a chance to blow off a little uncivil steam.

Restore habeas corpus

Join CT's on Democratic senator, Chris Dodd, and become a "citizen co-sponsor" of his bill.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I find it apt that 24, the only show I know of that uses sado-masochism as its central plot device, is shot in the San Fernando Valley.

I don't watch 24. After a couple of episodes I realized I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to watch it (the idea that our government has computer networks that actually talk to one another is laughable, never mind a black president and...Kiefer Sutherland), but Jane Meyers' study of it for The New Yorker confirmed pretty much everything I thought of the show after those couple of hours I spent watching it.

You can stop on almost every paragraph to find a reason to see the show as a scary window on post-9/11 America -- it's assumption, above, that American intelligence forces are competent; that time bombs are ticking all over the place; that Americans are willing to suspend the civil rights of others at the drop of a hat; that torture is an effective technique for eliciting information; that our forces in Iraq should use torture against Iraqis -- but this is perhaps my favorite part:

During three decades as a journeyman screenwriter, Surnow grew increasingly conservative. He “hated welfare,” which he saw as government handouts. Liberal courts also angered him. He loved Ronald Reagan’s “strength” and disdained Jimmy Carter’s “belief that people would be nice to us just because we were humane. That never works.” He said of Reagan, “I can hardly think of him without breaking into tears. I just felt Ronald Reagan was the father that this country needed. . . . He made me feel good that I was in his family.

Surnow said that he found the Clinton years obnoxious. “Hollywood under Clinton—it was like he was their guy,” he said. “He was the yuppie, baby-boomer narcissist that all of Hollywood related to.” During those years, Surnow recalled, he had countless arguments with liberal colleagues, some of whom stopped speaking to him. “My feeling is that the liberals’ ideas are wrong,” he said. “But they think I’m evil.” Last year, he contributed two thousand dollars to the losing campaign of Pennsylvania’s hard-line Republican senator Rick Santorum, because he “liked his position on immigration.” His favorite bumper sticker, he said, is “Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism & Communism, War Has Never Solved Anything.”

Although he is a supporter of President Bush—he told me that “America is in its glory days”—Surnow is critical of the way the war in Iraq has been conducted. An “isolationist” with “no faith in nation-building,” he thinks that “we could have been out of this thing three years ago.” After deposing Saddam Hussein, he argued, America should have “just handed it to the Baathists and . . . put in some other monster who’s going to keep these people in line but who’s not going to be aggressive to us.” In his view, America “is sort of the parent of the world, so we have to be stern but fair to people who are rebellious to us. We don’t spoil them. That’s not to say you abuse them, either. But you have to know who the adult in the room is.”

This is one whacked world view. That the country needs "a father figure (let alone Ronald Reagan in that role...jeebus)" and America, in turn, should act as a stern father to the world's misbehaving children is quite breathtaking. It's that kind of thinking that helped create the George W. Bush myth of the tough-talking hombre who was going to make everything "right" after the planes flew into the World Trade Center and helped to artificially bolster his popularity even as it was obvious he and his hires were incompetent ideologues intent on fulfilling George W's dream of outdoing his father. It was this kind of myth-making that permitted the Republican Party to cynically foist this man-child on the country. It's weird and it's pathetic.
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