Sunday, September 30, 2007


I'm sure Bob Somerby will be all over this in a day or two, but I couldn't help shaking my head as Frank Rich warns this morning that the Hilary Clinton campaign is as weak and and calculating as the Gore campaign was in 2000. Rich fails to mention his role in weakening Gore, piling on with his gal Friday, Maureen Dowd.

If you'd like to take the walk down memory lane Rich does his best to avoid, here are some useful links to the history, as told by the incomparable Daily Howler.

HOWLER HISTORY: How did George Bush reach the White House? We advise you to read all of this piece—including the segment, found at the end, in which we see the way Frank Rich covered Bush and Gore’s final debate. Through the campaign, the haughty scribe kept insisting: There was no difference between Bush and Gore. Anyone could see how foolish that was. But Frankly, we think you ought to see the way Rich struggled and strained to “prove” it.

Special report—Frankly, that’s Rich!

READ EACH INSTALLMENT: We had to laugh when a certain pundit reviewed Al Gore’s deeply troubling new film. But Frankly, Rich has produced this sort of nonsensical work for years. Be sure to read every installment:

PART 1: Gore was right on every big judgment—but Rich is in love with a narrative. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/31/06.

PART 2: Gore had made a string of sound judgments. But omigod! Someone laughed at his jokes! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/1/06.

PART 3: Gore was right in 2002, Rich says. In 2002, he said different. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/06.

PART 4: Before the Swift Boats, Rich invented Love Story. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/5/06.

Today, we Frankly revisit the way Rich “covered” Campaign 2000.


Frankly, Rich was always ready to mock the two hopefuls—and to say that Bush and Gore were just alike. After Super Tuesday, for example, his haughty wisdom was ours to admire:

RICH (3/11/00): Eight months to go—but hey, who's counting?—and we're stranded with two establishment, tightly scripted, often robotic candidates who are about as different from one another as J. Crew and Banana Republic. Both are wealthy, Ivy-League-educated boomers who took safe paths through the Vietnam War, whose career advancement was greased by their dads, who advertise their intimacy with Jesus, who reek of smarmy soft money and who will do anything to win, whether it be Mr. Gore's lying about his own Congressional voting record in a debate or Mr. Bush's heartless exploitation of women's fears of breast cancer in a scurrilous attack ad.
Poor Frank! The voters had selected a matched set of bozos! Bush and Gore were just alike! Yes, it was hard to get much dumber than this—even before we saw Bush run a war. But as Rich gazed down at Bush and Gore, the great savant saw no real difference. And yes, they were both like Bill Clinton!
RICH: In the true Clinton manner, both are also chameleons, ready to don new guises in a flash—from Mr. Gore's down-home wardrobe to Mr. Bush's last-minute emergence as a champion of campaign finance reform, patients' rights and clean air. The substantive disputes between the men are, in truth, minimal in a prosperous post-cold-war era when both parties aspire to Rockefeller Republicanism (literally so in that each standard-bearer is the prince of a brand-name American dynasty).
Frankly, what was the difference? Rich asked. And there you see the dumb-ass judgment which eventually sent George Bush to the White House—and gave us our miserable War in Iraq. There you see the type of Rich insight we got all through Campaign 2K.

Sigh, it looks like Rich will now lead the charge on Hilary Clinton.

Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?

THE Democrats can't lose the White House in 2008, can they?


If you buy into the Washington logic that a flawless campaign is one that doesn't make gaffes, never goes off-message and never makes news, then this analysis makes sense. The Clinton machine runs as smoothly and efficiently as a Rolls. And like a fine car, it is just as likely to lull its driver into complacent coasting and its passengers to sleep. What I saw on television last Sunday was the incipient second coming of the can't-miss 2000 campaign of Al Gore.

That Mr. Gore, some may recall, was not the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming. It was instead the cautious Gore whose public persona changed from debate to debate and whose answers were often long-winded and equivocal (even about the Kansas Board of Education's decision to ban the teaching of evolution). Incredibly, he minimized both his environmental passions and his own administration's achievements throughout the campaign.

He, too, had initially been deemed a winner, the potential recipient of a landslide rather than a narrow popular-vote majority. The signs were nearly as good for Democrats then as they are now. The impeachment crusade had backfired on the Republicans in the 1998 midterms; the economy was booming; Mr. Gore's opponent was seen as a lightweight who couldn't match him in articulateness or his mastery of policy, let alone his eight years of Clinton White House experience.

Mrs. Clinton wouldn't repeat Mr. Gore's foolhardy mistake of running away from her popular husband and his record, even if she could. But almost every answer she gave last Sunday was a rambling and often tedious Gore-like filibuster. Like the former vice president, she often came across as a pontificator and an automaton — in contrast to the personable and humorous person she is known to be off-camera. And she seemed especially evasive when dealing with questions requiring human reflection instead of wonkery.

Well, here we go. Rich has spoken. Clinton is a robot-like Gore-clone. Then, of course, there's the long discussion of "the laugh" or "the cackle," depending on which story you read in the Times today -- there was another one, in addition to Rich's take down.

But it would be nice -- and intellectually honest -- for Rich to admit his role in hammering home the ridiculous notion that Gore's "rambling" answers in the debates were no better than Bush's knowledge-free ones.

Postings will be light for the next few days. Stay tuned to Somerby for more, I'm sure, on this maddening topic.

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"Why are you better than Bush?"

Mario Cuomo asks difficult questions.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our bronze

I posted on McCain's willful ignorance of the Establishment Clause, but because of innate laziness I hadn't seen the full quote.

A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, "I only welcome Christians." We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

So, does John McCain equate Emma Lazarus's words on the Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights?


Well, they are on an island

More hijinx at Guantanamo.

LONDON, Sept. 28 — Clive Stafford Smith is accustomed to prison bureaucracies and their censorship, having represented men on death row for many years. As one of the leading lawyers for the inmates at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he has been prohibited from giving his clients a range of reading material, from Runner’s World to Arabic translations of “Cinderella.”

But Mr. Stafford Smith, who lives in England, was not prepared for a letter he received a few weeks ago. A commander at Guantánamo advised him that authorities were investigating “contraband being surreptitiously being brought into the camp.”

The suspected smugglers? Mr. Stafford Smith and Zachary Katznelson, another lawyer at Mr. Stafford Smith’s nonprofit organization in Britain.

The contraband? Speedo swimsuits and Under Armour briefs, the commander wrote.

Calling the charges “patently absurd,” Mr. Stafford Smith, 48, immediately wrote back that as a lawyer his job “involves legal briefs, not the other sort.”

At Guantánamo, lawyers are thoroughly searched before going into a small cell with their clients, and any potential contraband seized. “Does anyone seriously suggest that Mr. Katznelson or I have been stripping off to deliver underpants to our clients?” Mr. Stafford Smith asked.

But a spokesman for the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Edward M. Bush III of the Army, said the investigation was no joke. “Contraband items are taken very seriously,” he wrote in an e-mail response to a reporter. “They may be used in such a way to conduct harm or self-harm for which the Joint Task Force remains liable.”

Still, Mr. Stafford Smith was baffled by the idea of smuggled Speedos. His client, he wrote, “is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell.”

Friday, September 28, 2007

The establishment clause

Does not mean that the Serious Men of Washington are to be believed.

Saint McCain talks to beliefnet.

A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.
No, this is the Establishment Clause, otherwise known as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
I'm so sick of these idiots, and why McCain thinks that anything he's going to say -- no matter how much he knows it's wrong -- is going to get the Christianists to vote for him is beyond me.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

"The cosmic energy...bash!"

'Cause I'm about to lose my worried mind.

The look on the security guy's face at around the 5:00 mark is priceless.

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Where all our dreams go to die

I guess Rick Moran opposes the DREAM Act because he's eager to go fight in Iraq rather than let all those dark people do it for him in the hopes of becoming a citizen.

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Hey Mets, Who's your daddy?

Who would have figured, back when fans of the ballclub in Queens were crowing that this is a Mets Town now, that their team's season would be resting on the old, narrow shoulders of one Pedro Martinez?

I've been so focused on the Yankees that I haven't had a chance to ponder the team that once was 7 games ahead with 10 to go. Oh, and Billy Wagner, I think it's time to give Mo back his song. Thanks.

Correction: 7 ahead with 17 to go. Still, as the Mets' announcers are saying, "historic."

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Gym rats

Yep, truly bizarre. The idea that GM's "lavish health benefits" did not give its workers incentive to stay healthy is stupid enough. But if the reporter truly believes that by making its workers exercise, Toyota doesn't need to provide health benefits to their workers' families, that reporter shouldn't be allowed to sharpen pencils at the Times, let alone do any reporting.

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May 13 be a charm

13 in a row, but it never gets old. The Yankees will be playing in October once again. And you could feel Scott Boras cringe listening to his client after the game.

Alex Rodriguez, who seemed to be at odds with Torre after flaming out in the playoffs last fall, found him as the celebration broke up. He hugged him, and Torre leaned in close. “You took on every responsibility with eyes wide open,” Torre told him, and Rodriguez seemed moved.

“This feels like home,” said Rodriguez, who can opt out of his contract after the World Series. “It’s hard to believe that I played for another two organizations. So much has happened to me — adversity, some success — I feel like anything but New York would feel kind of weird for me now.”

Now, go win a pennant for New York, Alex.

Hard to believe that Carl Pavano was the opening day starter.

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Win Ben Stein's credibility

Ben Stein is a deeply disingenuous man, which is a polite way to say that for anyone to trust his credibility on any political or economic subject is to simply ignore his past habit of slaying strawmen and twisting facts to suit his thesis.

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

Mr. Stein, a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times, conducts the film’s on-camera interviews. The interviews were lined up for him by others, and he denied misleading anyone. “I don’t remember a single person asking me what the movie was about,” he said in a telephone interview.

Um, that's because they'd already been told the premise of the film -- supposedly, the intersection between science and religion -- which turned out to be a false front for creationism.


Outside agitators

The usual suspects.

"Saboteurs from inside and outside the nation and some foreign radio stations, who are jealous of national peace and development, have been making instigative acts through lies to cause internal instability and civil commotion," The New Light of Myanmar, which serves as a mouthpiece for the military government said Thursday.

The junta is not bending.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"A sour war"

From David Halberstam's final book, The Coldest War:

“It was simply a puzzling, gray, very distant conflict, a war that went on and on and on, seemingly without hope of resolution, about which most Americans, save the men who fought there and their immediate families, preferred to know as little as possible,” David Halberstam writes in “The Coldest Winter,” his stirring, wide-screen version of a war that established the pattern for ugly superpower confrontations to come.

In many ways, I think, we are still overshadowed by the competing visions of American military might -- a Greatest Generation notion of fighting "good wars" that can be decisively won versus the "die for a tie" realities we have had to deal with, beginning on the Korean peninsula. The trouble is, we have repeatedly tried to relive that feeling of unity of purpose and the reward of total victory by choosing to fight wars driven by murky motives, conflicts with no purpose whatsoever.

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Facing evil, then and now

Rick Perlstein continues to be one of our most vital historians of the cold war.

Nikita Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) He joshed with the CIA chief about pooling their intelligence data, since it probably all came from the same people—then was ushered upstairs to the East Wing for a leisurely gander at the Eisenhowers' family quarters. Visited the Agriculture Department's 12,000 acre research station ("If you didn't give a turkey a passport you couldn't tell the difference between a Communist and capitalist turkey"), spoke to the National Press Club, toured Manhattan, San Francisco (where he debated Walter Reuther on Stalin's crimes before a retinue of AFL-CIO leaders, or in K's words, "capitalist lackeys"), and Los Angeles (there he supped at the 20th Century Fox commissary, visited the set of the Frank Sinatra picture Can Can but to his great disappointment did not get to visit Disneyland), and sat down one more with the president, at Camp David. Mrs. K did the ladies-who-lunch circuit, with Pat Nixon as guide. Eleanor Roosevelt toured them through Hyde Park. It's not like it was all hearts and flowers. He bellowed that America, as Time magazine reported, "must close down its worldwide deterrent bases and disarm." Reporters asked him what he'd been doing during Stalin's blood purges, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary. A banquet of 27 industrialists tried to impress upon him the merits of capitalism. Nelson Rockefeller rapped with him about the Bible.

Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Had the general running the country—the man who had faced down Hitler!—proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?

No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great.
Well, the difference was then the Birchers were marginal figures, not invitees to the White House.

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Working class heroes

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dr. Feelgood

Alex Rodriguez had gone 55 at-bats without a HR, a fact much noted by the knights of the keyboard in this town, but he just pulled #53, for his 151st RBI -- a grand slam to put the Yankees ahead 5-0.

Can Kai Igawa, on the mound because Roger Clemens's 45 year-old hamstring is hurting, pitch well enough so that what the Tigers and Mariners do tonight won't matter?

In May and well into June this team looked like it was swimming in sludge. Many, myself included, thought that they were done -- no kind of realistic comeback would pull them past seven teams to take the wild card (let alone pull within two of the Red Sox, who are winning right now) -- it must feel real good in that dugout down in Florida right now.

Oh, and David Brooks clinched another Most Wanker Pundit (MWP) award. Glenn Greenwald explains.

UPDATE: Wrong -- the Sox are tied with the A's (why the A's are forced to come East the last week of the season is beyond me), 1-1.

The Mets...I feel for their fans (despite their annoying cockiness back in the Spring)...they can't bail water out of the boat fast enough and are losing again to the Nationals. Detroit just scored to take a 1-0 lead against the Twinkies. And Kei Igawa just pitched out of a bases loaded, 2 out jam.

UPDATE: Oh, shit. Leave for a few moments to watch "The War (really pretty good, but it's still war porn)" and I come back to find the Devil'd eggs scored six in the sixth. The Yankees would tie, but...the majik number remains at one.

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The culture wars aren't history. They aren't even past.

Michael Bérubé notes that in the land of university literature departments and their critics, it's always 1987.

You know, I thought I was fairly careful about naming names here. I tried to pick writers who were intellectually complex and historically important, and I subtly suggested that people who would try to argue against the study of such writers were surly curmudgeons. But I forgot that in Canon-Debating World, it’s always 1987, and we always have to be on the lookout for the possibility that some black writer, somewhere, is getting too much attention at some dead white guy’s expense. (Odd, isn’t it, that the allegedly overrated contemporary writer is always black? And if people don’t want to make an issue of this, then they shouldn’t complain about the attention being paid to writers like Alice Walker and Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe. They should try complaining instead that everyone has read Don DeLillo’s Underworld but few people have read Book VI of the Aeneid, or something along those lines.) It’s the last part of this formulation—the “at the expense, some argue”—I forgot: since I inhabit a sane and sunny world in which it is reasonable to expect people to read more books every year, I completely overlooked the fact that because the Department of Surly Curmudgeons actually don’t have any good arguments against studying Equiano or Barnes or Hurston, they pretend, instead, that the study of these figures is a “zero-sum game” that will distract us from the real classics. This is—how shall I put this decorously, so that even the surliest curmudgeon will understand it?—ah, yes, I know: this is horseshit.

Honestly, I am so very, very weary of people who pretend that the field of literature consists of a reading list—one reading list. For every writer added, another is dropped? Ah, no. That’s what the National Association of Surlycurmudgeons will try to tell you, because that’s their job: they don’t punch out and go home until they’ve written or said something to the effect of “Toni Morrison is displacing Shakespeare because of affirmative action racegenderclass OH NOES,” but there’s no reason for a smart person like Rachel Donadio, whose work I like, to fall for this tripe. In reality, for every writer added, a writer is added to the field of literary study—perhaps to a freshman-level survey; perhaps to a lower-division undergraduate course; perhaps to an upper-division course on a literary genre or period; perhaps to an undergraduate honors seminar; perhaps to a graduate seminar—and those are just the basic possibilities for teaching assignments. Quiet as it’s kept, the college literature curriculum does not consist of one course on the West’s Greatest Hits; you can read Achebe in one course and Yeats in another. Then there are all the possibilities for research, for literary criticism, for scholarly editing, for new anthologies, and for literary history: in none of these endeavors is there a zero-sum game among writers. A new book on the poetry of H.D. does not wipe out another book on the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge; and a new book on the “long eighteenth century” is enriched, not enfeebled, by a scholar’s study of a wide range of writers and works. (And if you’re the kind of person who’s given to complaining that the newer, larger literature anthologies are too inclusive, well, I have a Department for you! As Nina Baym once told me, there’s even a minor cottage industry devoted to complaining about how “writer X gets Y pages but Hemingway only gets one short story” every time a new anthology is published, because no one bothers with grainy material details like the fact that the Hemingway estate will permit no more than one short story to appear in each anthology.) The only place where the zero-sum dynamic operates is at the level of the individual syllabus. But since these exasperating “debates” have started from the assumption that there is room for only one literature course in your average undergraduate’s college curriculum, the Surly Curmudgeons have been allowed to pretend that every citation of a previously neglected or underappreciated writer somehow diminishes Shakespeare.

Welcome back from semi-re-retirement, Michael.


Facts are no longer theories

Michael Savage, the Globe reporter who broke the story about the extensiveness of Bush's "signing statements" -- and won a Pulitzer for it -- has written a book about the imperial presidency that Bush/Cheney have cemented. And whether you're on the right or the left of the political aisle you must be disturbed by what he concludes:

In the case of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and other post-9/11 legislation, the Bush administration did not need to resort to complex legal maneuvers or secret directives to get what it wanted; it was handed broad new authority by Congress. Mr. Savage writes that among that act’s momentous provisions were ones that “delegated to the president alone the power to decide whether any particular coercive interrogation technique was prohibited,” and “stripped the courts of the power to hear lawsuits based on the Geneva Conventions.”

Further, he says, the act “locked down the president’s power to arrest U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and imprison them in a military brig without a trial if he or she thinks they pose a terror threat.”

At the end of this chilling volume Mr. Savage offers a concise and powerful conclusion: “The expansive presidential powers claimed and exercised by the Bush-Cheney White House are now an immutable part of American history — not controversies but facts. The importance of such precedents is difficult to overstate. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once warned, any new claim of executive power, once validated into precedent, ‘lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition embeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.’

“Sooner or later, there will always be another urgent need.”

It will be a long, long time before the rancid toothpaste of these power mad cretins will be made to be put back in the tube.


Counting the dead

Karen de Young has an interesting account of the discrepancy in measuring Iraq's civilian deaths between Petraeus and the Pentagon. But as one intelligence analyst notes, it doesn't matter. What matters is how Iraqis view the growing number of dead in their country.

On Sept. 1, the bullet-riddled bodies of four Iraqi men were found on a Baghdad street. Two days later, a single dead man, with one bullet in his head, was found on a different street. According to the U.S. military in Iraq, the solitary man was a victim of sectarian violence. The first four were not.

Such determinations are the building blocks for what the Bush administration has declared a downward trend in sectarian deaths and a sign that its war strategy is working. They are made by a specialized team of soldiers who spend their nights at computer terminals, sifting through data on the day's civilian victims for clues to the motivations of killers.

The soldiers have a manual telling them what to look for. Signs of torture or a single shot to the head, corpses left in a "known body dump" -- as the body of the Sunni man found on Sept. 3 was -- spell sectarian violence, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Macomber, the team leader. Macomber, who has been at his job in Baghdad since February, rarely has to look it up anymore.

"If you were just a criminal and you just wanted to take somebody's money, just wanted to discipline them, you're not going to take the time to bind them up, burn their bodies, cut their arms off, cut their head off," he explained. "You're just going to shoot them in the body and get it over with." That, the team judged, is what happened to the four Shiite men, sprayed with gunfire and left where they dropped.

In the Iraq conflict, traditional military measures of achievement -- troops deployed, enemy dead, territory won -- are challenged by the chaos of counterinsurgency warfare. But Congress, the public and the military itself demand an accounting. Far from the battlefield, platoons of soldiers in Iraq and at the Pentagon are assigned to crunch numbers -- sectarian killings, roadside bombs, Iraqi forces trained, weapons caches discovered and others -- in a constant effort to gauge how the war is going.

In recent months, most of the military's indicators have pointed in a favorable direction. As with all statistics, however, their meaning depends on how they are gathered and analyzed. "Everybody has their own way of doing it," Macomber said of his sectarian analyses. "If you and I . . . pulled from the same database, and I pulled one day and you pulled the next, we would have totally different numbers."

Apparent contradictions are relatively easy to find in the flood of bar charts and trend lines the military produces. Civilian casualty numbers in the Pentagon's latest quarterly report on Iraq last week, for example, differ significantly from those presented by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in his recent congressional testimony. Petraeus's chart was limited to numbers of dead, while the Pentagon combined the numbers of dead and wounded -- a figure that should be greater. Yet Petraeus's numbers were higher than the Pentagon's for the months preceding this year's increase of U.S. troops to Iraq, and lower since U.S. operations escalated this summer.

The charts are difficult to compare: Petraeus used monthly figures on a line graph, while the Pentagon computed "Average Daily Casualties" on a bar chart, and neither included actual numbers. But the numerical differences are still stark, and the reasons offered can be hard to parse. The Pentagon, in a written clarification, said that "Gen. Petraeus reported civilian deaths based on incidents reported by Coalition forces plus Iraqi government data. The [Pentagon] report only includes incidents reported by Coalition forces for civilian causality data."

We continue to behave as though Iraqis are not really actors in this conflict and that their perceptions of "the surge" are irrelevant. Chaos and misery doesn't really need to be quantified to be very real.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Workers unite!

As a committed progressive, how can I not support the strike? But, um, I don't think a scarcity of cars is gonna be a problem for GM for quite some time.

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Milton Bradley, victim?

Old codger voice: In all my fifty years of observing the wondrous game of baseball, I can safely say I ain't never seen this before.

As Bradley walked to the plate in the eighth, umpire Brian Runge asked the player if he had flipped his bat in the ump's direction after taking a called third strike to end the fifth.

"I said, 'Are you kidding me? That's ridiculous,'" Bradley said. "He said, 'Well, it was reported to me by the other umpires that you threw your bat at me.' And I said, 'That's completely ridiculous. I've done a lot of things. I'm trying to turn it around. I would never harm anybody."'

Bradley singled, then asked Winters if he told Runge he threw his bat. "He goes, 'Yeah, you did.' I go, 'Are you kidding me? That's completely ridiculous. If I strike out and the inning's over, why are you looking at me? Everything's always about me.'"

Then, a fan heckled Winters.

"I pointed to the guy in the crowd, affirming it," Bradley said.

Bradley said Winters responded with a string of expletives.

"That's when I went at him, and he kicked me out," Bradley said.

First base coach Bobby Meacham began to restrain Bradley, and Black came running out. Bradley got away from Meacham, but Black grabbed him by the jersey.

Bradley tried to get free and, after a few seconds, Black spun Bradley around and the player collapsed. Bradley immediately grabbed his right knee and eventually had to be helped off the field.

"I was trying to pull Milton away from the argument," said Black, later ejected for arguing a checked-swing call against Adrian Gonzalez.

Crew chief Bruce Froemming wouldn't allow a reporter to speak with Winters.

Milton tore his ACL in the fracas. He may be out all of next year as a result. Bizarre.


White like me

Limbaugh and Imus must really be pissed. I mean, those two crackers were made to pay for attacking individuals. Imus made "a funny" about a few young women who'd just won the NCAA women's basketball tournament, while Limbaugh used his mad football analysis skillz to perform a hit job on a professional quarterback. And what happens? Imus loses his job (temporarily), and Limbaugh his MNF gig. O'Reilly thinks big. He doesn't go after individuals who might fight back; instead, he takes on an entire group of people.

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that's really what this society's all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference. There's no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin. (...)

That's right. That's right. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea."

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Joba rules

Really, he does.

Rules may be made to be broken, but it seemed there was no chance Joba Chamberlain would pitch yesterday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

For starters, Manager Joe Torre indicated before the game that Chamberlain was not available. Also, Chamberlain had thrown two innings Friday. According to the rules formulated by the Yankees, he would not pitch the next two days.

But with two outs in the eighth inning yesterday, Chamberlain emerged from the bullpen at Yankee Stadium. And just like that, one of the Joba Rules came tumbling down. A capacity crowd howled in delight.

Chamberlain ended the Blue Jays’ rally with a five-pitch strikeout and returned to toss a perfect ninth inning for his first major league save as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 7-5.

On top of all that, it was his 22nd birthday.

“It’s all fun,” Chamberlain said. “It’s all new experiences, every time I get out there.”

It has been one weird, great season this year, and Joba Chamberlain has certainly been one of the great highlights. When he got up to warm up yesterday it turned the electricity up in the Stadium...he's a genuinely exciting pitcher. Using him yesterday with two runners on, it almost felt like Joe Torre was trying to recapture the mojo of 1996, when a youngster named Mariano Rivera became the set-up guy for John Wettland. It's certainly clear how Torre intends to use him in October.

If the Yankees are able to rally to overcome a two-run early deficit this afternoon, their magic number against the Tigers will be one, and the Yankees will trail the Red Sox by a game. Winning the division would be sweet, but the Wild Card is just fine and if it means coasting for the remainder and letting Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada, and Damon get some days to heal up, all the better.

Make that a three-run deficit. Pettitt is getting knocked around this afternoon.

UPDATE: Boston fans won't be feeling quit so sweaty this evening as the Yankees fall another half game behind (two more losses than the Sox) and the magic number for clinching the WC remains at two.

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Sanity watch

It is amazing comparing Giuliani's relatively measured approach to attacks by fundamentalists when he was mayor of New York, with the bat shit crazy talk he uses on the campaign trail now.


Blue Monday, Ann Peebles edition

Not really a blues singer, or a blues song (and it's not even raining today), but it's my Blue Monday and I'll call it the way I want to. And Ann Peebles is seriously cool.

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Comedy gold

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Push-polling ourselves?

A Democratic pollster conducted what I hope is nothing more than a thought-experiment to see what a push-poll Karl Rove would love might look like.

"Some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and will support her liberal agenda of big government and higher taxes if she becomes president," the poll stated, before asking respondents whether they would still vote for their incumbent or choose a Republican candidate.

Whether the question named Clinton or Obama, the Democratic incumbent's lead shrank to an average of six points: 47 percent to 41 percent with Clinton leading the ticket, 44 percent to 38 percent with Obama as the nominee.

As Ken Tremendous might say, "Fuck the heck?"

Steve Benin puts it a bit more eloquently.

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Little Rock

Louis Armstrong was famous for avoiding politics, a congenial black man who would say, when asked about politics, "I just play my horn." But one evening fifty years ago, he'd had enough.

As Mr. Armstrong prepared to play that night — oddly enough, at Grand Forks’s own Central High School — members of the Arkansas National Guard ringed the school in Little Rock, ordered to keep the black students out. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s meeting with Governor Faubus three days earlier in Newport, R.I., had ended inconclusively. Central High School was open, but the black children stayed home.

Mr. Lubenow was first told he couldn’t talk to Mr. Armstrong until after the concert. That wouldn’t do. With the connivance of the bell captain, he snuck into Mr. Armstrong’s suite with a room service lobster dinner. And Mr. Armstrong, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, agreed to talk. Mr. Lubenow stuck initially to his editor’s script, asking Mr. Armstrong to name his favorite musician. (Bing Crosby, it turned out.) But soon he brought up Little Rock, and he could not believe what he heard. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country,” a furious Mr. Armstrong told him. President Eisenhower, he charged, was “two faced,” and had “no guts.” For Governor Faubus, he used a double-barreled hyphenated expletive, utterly unfit for print. The two settled on something safer: “uneducated plow boy.” The euphemism, Mr. Lubenow says, was far more his than Mr. Armstrong’s.

Mr. Armstrong bitterly recounted some of his experiences touring in the Jim Crow South. He then sang the opening bar of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” inserting obscenities into the lyrics and prompting Velma Middleton, the vocalist who toured with Mr. Armstrong and who had joined them in the room, to hush him up.

Mr. Armstrong had been contemplating a good-will tour to the Soviet Union for the State Department. “They ain’t so cold but what we couldn’t bruise them with happy music,” he had said. Now, though, he confessed to having second thoughts. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say?”

Mr. Lubenow, who came from a small North Dakota farming community, was shocked by what he heard, but he also knew he had a story; he skipped the concert and went back to the paper to write it up. It was too late to get it in his own paper; nor would the Associated Press editor in Minneapolis, dubious that Mr. Armstrong could have said such things, put it on the national wire, at least until Mr. Lubenow could prove he hadn’t made it all up. So the next morning Mr. Lubenow returned to the Dakota Hotel and, as Mr. Armstrong shaved, had the Herald photographer take their picture together. Then Mr. Lubenow showed Mr. Armstrong what he’d written. “Don’t take nothing out of that story,” Mr. Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.” He then wrote “solid” on the bottom of the yellow copy paper, and signed his name.

Great story. Armstrong's outburst cost him fans and appearances for a while, but it may have changed the history of segregation in the South

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Take a message

Bad education

The poster coveted by every cheetoh-stained wanker, in mothers' basements across this great land of ours.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Our Em Ess Em

Some fraudster who used politicians to bolster his Ponzi schemes -- front page NY Times.

A sitting senator who is also one of the leaders of the Republican Party being taped by the FBI in a bribery proble -- not to be found in the NY Times.

These are Great Times.




But I'd like to return to my earlier post on Ahmadinejad's attempt to visit Ground Zero and some of the responses to it. The most common argument advanced as to why we shouldn't allow Ahmadinejad at Ground Zero was, 'How could we allow him such a huge propaganda victory?' Either vis a vis his own people or on the world stage.

Many readers put this argument forward in good faith. So I don't want to disrespect that. But when did we become such moral weaklings? And how brittle do we think our national reputation is that it's going to be damaged by Ahmadinejad going down to Ground Zero and at worst spouting off about whatever he wants to spout off about. To put to succinctly, who cares? Why should we care what he says? If there are any propaganda victories to be had I think the spectacle of our national overreaction has provided him with quite a nice one. But again, who cares? Am I alone in thinking that our national greatness and stature is best displayed by our indifference to these things? Especially when free speech and letting even the obnoxious have their say are supposedly central to who we are? But again, indifference. Who cares what he says?


We don't need no stinking First Amendment

The ad was stupid. This is worse.


Where's the irony?

I wonder if Michael Powell was again merely being "ironic," when he writes in today's Times,

Political leadership is an uncertain alchemy, an admixture of the symbolic and substantive and the visceral. In times of consuming trauma, psychologists and historians say, a leader must speak with a trusted voice and sketch honestly the painful steps to safety. A leader must weave a narrative of shared loss while acknowledging consuming anger.

All this Mr. Giuliani accomplished, mourning the dead, comforting the grieving and cheering the living even as the police and the National Guard moved in. His critics have lambasted the rescue failures at ground zero and argued that his inattention before 9/11 cost lives.

But his performance shone brighter for the implicit comparison with President George W. Bush, who initially appeared — fairly or not — frozen in his chair, listening to second graders read as a nation came under attack.

Mr. Giuliani declined to be interviewed for this article.

Why should he, when Powell writes so eloquently on his behalf.

Here's our intrepid reporter, back in June, in response to criticism on a previous ode to Giuliani's Ovidian shape changing.

Your mama needs to reinsert the irony squiggly in your DNA. But congratulations: It's really hard to read that piece [his article] and take every single word seriously, but you done it. Another irony-immune blogger. You go dude.
He can write, but he's a hack.


I'm meltiiiiiiing...

The Harder They Come

As sure as the sun will shine...


Krugmaniad no more

Time$elect was really a great crutch that I relied on. Every Monday and Friday, if I had nothing to say and no desire to fake it, as I usually do, I could simply provide a public good by liberating Paul Krugman from behind the firewall. No more. Go read him yourself.

There won’t be a serious Republican alternative. The health care plans of the leading Republican candidates, such as they are, are the same old, same old: they principally rely on tax breaks that go mainly to the well-off, but will supposedly conjure up the magic of the market. As Ezra Klein of The American Prospect cruelly but accurately puts it: “The Republican vision is for a world in which the sick and dying get to deduct some of the cost of health insurance that they don’t have — and can’t get — on their taxes.”

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Fafblogging

Ah, good times. Good. Fucking. Times.

If you wanna make an omelette... gotta beat two security guards with a fire hose, run over an ol lady with a shopping cart and hit a fifteen year old boy with a bucket a paint. At least that's what Giblets says.

I hope he's right cause that's what we hadda do to get replacement eggs for our omelette. I tried to pay for them regularly but I was in a hurry and I didn't bring normal money cause I think Fun Munny is a lot more fun, that's why it's called Fun Munny! It's more colorful and in steada having boring people like Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson on it it's got Santa Claus and Art Linkletter. Art Linkletter's worth a whole lot of Fun Munny!

Stop and Shop locations in Providence and the greater Rhode Island area do not accept Fun Munny as legal tender.

I would like to say just for one minute that that is not fair at all and that Stop and Shop really should note that in big letters out in front of their store next time cause I sure couldn't tell from looking at their store that they didn't take Fun Munny! What's wrong with it anyway. I can buy a house with this munny. Hotels or a railroad even.

Well Giblets and I were quite upset and we were on a time table as our omelette was gettin burnt real bad and NOBODY FROM THE INTERWEB HAD EMAILED US EGGS IN TIME. For shame Interweb! For shame.

so then we did what we did to get the eggs and now i feel bad.

Giblets says "MY EGGS! Eggs, DANCE for Giblets! DANCE!" but they do not dance. I will pay you back Stop and Shop! I will make amends I am sorry!

This victory omelette is a bitter victory omelette.

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Jose can you seeeee....

Alex Belth muses on time running out on The Yankee Stadium, and how times sure have changed since 1968.

One more baseball matter. Last night, Mariano Rivera loaded the bases with two out before retiring the final out of the night. Madam Cura had wondered in to the room to watch Rivera pitch the ninth, and commented that she had been better off not paying much attention to the game (which was a gem) as the tension rose. But I never figured Rivera would blow that one. I doubt Boston fans feel as invulnerable about their late inning pitchers as they did a couple of weeks ago.


Tell us what to think

Thank goodness, the press corps' narrative of the three major Democratic candidates has been written. All done!


Can't make up a loss

Tight, tight, tight.

Cleveland (leads AL Central by 7-1/2): 90-62
Angels (leads AL West by 8-1/2): 90-62
Boston (leads AL East by 1-1/2): 90-63
Yankees: 88-64
Tigers: 83-70


Don't look back

Hey, Boston fans, I know you've got that queasy feeling. But keep in mind the Yankees have to face Halladay & Co. before this is all over, too.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


If you want to enjoy the acute sufferings of others and the rage and pain they express when given a public forum, check out The Fan today between 1:30 and 2:30 PM. Mike and the Mad Dog are giving a solid hour to calls from Mets fans about their beloved team and the chicken bone the Mets seem to be choking on.

Meanwhile, LG&M has a visual survey of great collapses in history.

Speaking of which, throughout the course of the season I've been extolling the virtues of The Wild Card. Back in June it looked like the best the Yankees could hope for (though neither the manager or the players would admit to that), so of course I embraced it. And after the weekend in which the Yankees failed to sweep the three game set with the Sox, all Yankee fans' eyes turned to the Tigers. Now though, rather than add excitement, the Wild Card actually takes a lot of the edge off of the next 11 days. I'm sure there will be the tearing of garments and the gnashing of teeth among the faithful up in The Nation (again) should the Yankees pull from a one-time 14-1/2 game deficit to winning the division, but it looks pretty certain that the Wild Card team will come from the American League East (again).

Now, winning does matter, and it's incumbent on the Yankees to maintain the intensity they've been showing and, more importantly, the pitching they've sent out the past few days. After all, home field advantage does matter. But, as we learned last year, it's best not to "prefer" to play one team rather than another, and the Yankees can't control how the Angels and the Indians finish. Here's the overall standings in the AL:

Boston (leads AL East by 2-1/2): 90-62
Cleveland (leads AL Central by 6-1/2): 89-62
Angels (leads AL West by 8-1/2): 88-62
Yankees: 87-64
Tigers: 83-69

Winning the division is always the goal of the New York Evil Emperors and a rare occasion for Boston. But both teams, and their fans, should feel pretty good about the chances to be playing in October, so there's not quite the stomach-turning excitement each night we'd feel if the WC didn't exist. And recent history has shown it doesn't matter if you limp or charge in.

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The great unravelling

Krugman has a blog.

The Long Gilded Age: Historians generally say that the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era around 1900. In many important ways, though, the Gilded Age continued right through to the New Deal. As far as we can tell, income remained about as unequally distributed as it had been the late 19th century – or as it is today. Public policy did little to limit extremes of wealth and poverty, mainly because the political dominance of the elite remained intact; the politics of the era, in which working Americans were divided by racial, religious, and cultural issues, have recognizable parallels with modern politics.

The Great Compression: The middle-class society I grew up in didn’t evolve gradually or automatically. It was created, in a remarkably short period of time, by FDR and the New Deal. As the chart shows, income inequality declined drastically from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s, with the rich losing ground while working Americans saw unprecedented gains. Economic historians call what happened the Great Compression, and it’s a seminal episode in American history.

Middle class America: That’s the country I grew up in. It was a society without extremes of wealth or poverty, a society of broadly shared prosperity, partly because strong unions, a high minimum wage, and a progressive tax system helped limit inequality. It was also a society in which political bipartisanship meant something: in spite of all the turmoil of Vietnam and the civil rights movement, in spite of the sinister machinations of Nixon and his henchmen, it was an era in which Democrats and Republicans agreed on basic values and could cooperate across party lines.

The great divergence: Since the late 1970s the America I knew has unraveled. We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.

Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s. It’s important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality – even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.


Free shit

Time$elect, may it rest in peace.

On a day like this, though, you wish they'd keep them behind the firewall.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Economics smack-down

Alan Greenspan is on The Daily Show tonight.

It is a new paradigm.

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The generational war

I spent a couple of hours on an airplane and was able to swallow George Packer's uniformly grim assessment of where we are in Iraq, and the "choices" that confront Americans and Iraqis right now and for years to come.

Reading it was weird, though. In These Great Times in which we live, what Packer writes is simply reporting, no great insights. And yet, the dead facts of Packer's piece are simply not spoken of, by those who opposed the war and those that didn't.

In Washington, the debate over the war is dominated by questions about troop numbers and timelines—that is, by immediate American political realities. The country seems trapped in an eternal present, paralyzed by its past mistakes. There is little or no discussion, on either side, of what America’s Iraq policy should be during the next five or ten years, or of what will be possible as resources dwindle and priorities shift. If there is any contingency planning in the government, it’s being done at such a secretive, or obscure, level that a repetition of the institutional disarray with which America entered Iraq seems bound to mark our departure.
And this is certainly not spoken of by the press, by bloggers, by people waiting in line for McDonalds at O'Hare. Although polls show nothing but dissatisfaction with Bush and His War, I suspect that the rhetoric has had one desired effect -- Americans equate Iraq with The Global War on Terror (NAMBLA), which we've been told is a generational war. Our war in Iraq is not going anywhere and nor are we*. And we know it.

* By "we," I mean the American soldiers over there, of whom fewer and fewer average Americans even know.

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Getting it

Harry Reid seems to be...

When asked why Democrats won't soften the deadline, the majority leader said he doesn't have confidence Republicans are willing to challenge Bush on the war.

"I think they've decided definitely they want this to be the Senate Republicans' war, not just Bush's. They're jealous," he said with a smile.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Blue Monday, Basin Street Blues edition

Failure is an orphan

Today's Krugmaniad (Time$elect).

Sad Alan’s Lament

When President Bush first took office, it seemed unlikely that he would succeed in getting his proposed tax cuts enacted. The questionable nature of his installation in the White House seemed to leave him in a weak political position, while the Senate was evenly balanced between the parties. It was hard to see how a huge, controversial tax cut, which delivered most of its benefits to a wealthy elite, could get through Congress.

Then Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Budget Committee.

Until then Mr. Greenspan had presented himself as the voice of fiscal responsibility, warning the Clinton administration not to endanger its hard-won budget surpluses. But now Republicans held the White House, and the Greenspan who appeared before the Budget Committee was a very different man.

Suddenly, his greatest concern — the “emerging key fiscal policy need,” he told Congress — was to avert the threat that the federal government might actually pay off all its debt. To avoid this awful outcome, he advocated tax cuts. And the floodgates were opened.

As it turns out, Mr. Greenspan’s fears that the federal government would quickly pay off its debt were, shall we say, exaggerated. And Mr. Greenspan has just published a book in which he castigates the Bush administration for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Well, I’m sorry, but that criticism comes six years late and a trillion dollars short.

Mr. Greenspan now says that he didn’t mean to give the Bush tax cuts a green light, and that he was surprised at the political reaction to his remarks. There were, indeed, rumors at the time — which Mr. Greenspan now says were true — that the Fed chairman was upset about the response to his initial statement.

But the fact is that if Mr. Greenspan wasn’t intending to lend crucial support to the Bush tax cuts, he had ample opportunity to set the record straight when it could have made a difference.

His first big chance to clarify himself came a few weeks after that initial testimony, when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Here’s what I wrote following that appearance: “Mr. Greenspan’s performance yesterday, in his first official testimony since he let the genie out of the bottle, was a profile in cowardice. Again and again he was offered the opportunity to say something that would help rein in runaway tax-cutting; each time he evaded the question, often replying by reading from his own previous testimony. He declared once again that he was speaking only for himself, thus granting himself leeway to pronounce on subjects far afield of his role as Federal Reserve chairman. But when pressed on the crucial question of whether the huge tax cuts that now seem inevitable are too large, he said it was inappropriate for him to comment on particular proposals.

“In short, Mr. Greenspan defined the rules of the game in a way that allows him to intervene as he likes in the political debate, but to retreat behind the veil of his office whenever anyone tries to hold him accountable for the results of those interventions.”

I received an irate phone call from Mr. Greenspan after that article, in which he demanded to know what he had said that was wrong. In his book, he claims that Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, was stumped by that question. That’s hard to believe, because I certainly wasn’t: Mr. Greenspan’s argument for tax cuts was contorted and in places self-contradictory, not to mention based on budget projections that everyone knew, even then, were wildly overoptimistic.

If anyone had doubts about Mr. Greenspan’s determination not to inconvenience the Bush administration, those doubts were resolved two years later, when the administration proposed another round of tax cuts, even though the budget was now deep in deficit. And guess what? The former high priest of fiscal responsibility did not object.

And in 2004 he expressed support for making the Bush tax cuts permanent — remember, these are the tax cuts he now says he didn’t endorse — and argued that the budget should be balanced with cuts in entitlement spending, including Social Security benefits, instead. Of course, back in 2001 he specifically assured Congress that cutting taxes would not threaten Social Security.

In retrospect, Mr. Greenspan’s moral collapse in 2001 was a portent. It foreshadowed the way many people in the foreign policy community would put their critical faculties on hold and support the invasion of Iraq, despite ample evidence that it was a really bad idea.

And like enthusiastic war supporters who have started describing themselves as war critics now that the Iraq venture has gone wrong, Mr. Greenspan has started portraying himself as a critic of administration fiscal irresponsibility now that President Bush has become deeply unpopular and Democrats control Congress.

© 2007 The New York Times Company

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good morning sunshine

Well, it was a long week and I couldn't make it past the seventh inning, finally hitting the hay disgusted and fuming over a poorly played game by the Yankees. Still fuming and assuming the division race is now officially over, I turn on the radio this morning and learn, to may amazement,

down 7-2, the Bombers came back against Boston's two best relievers, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Paplebon. Jason Giambi started the comeback with a solo homer, Robinson Cano followed with one of his own, and Bobby Abreu delivered the key hit, a two-run double off the top of the center field wall. Alex Rodriguez drove in the game-winning run--a solid single to left against Paplebon--and Mariano Rivera earned the save in what has to qualify as one of the biggest wins of the season for the Yanks.
Four hours and 43 minutes -- two minutes shy of the record for a nine-inning game (set by the Yankees/Sox last August). I shouldn't be surprised by anything the Yankees do this year, but there's never any shortage of surprises when they play the Red Sox.

Let's go Yank-ees.

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Alan Greenspan is a cowardly old man. Rather than let his opinions be known when he actually had an influence over policy, instead he waited to speak out -- like so many who abetted the Bush/Cheney administration over the past six years -- until he had a book deal.

Though Mr. Greenspan does not admit he made a mistake, he shows remorse about how Republicans jumped on his endorsement of the 2001 tax cuts to push through unconditional cuts without any safeguards against surprises. He recounts how Mr. Rubin and Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, begged him to hold off on an endorsement because of how it would be perceived.

“It turned out that Conrad and Rubin were right,” he acknowledges glumly. He says Republican leaders in Congress made a grievous error in spending whatever it took to ensure a permanent Republican majority.

Mr. Greenspan has critics as well, and they are likely to weigh in as soon as the book is published. Though he publicly disagreed with Mr. Bush’s supply-side approach to tax cuts, urging Congress to offset the cost with savings elsewhere, he refrained from public criticism that could have shifted the debate. His willingness to criticize now, 18 months after leaving office, may open him to the accusation of failing to speak out when it could have affected policy.

Today, Mr. Greenspan is indignant and chagrined about his role in the Bush tax cuts. “I’d have given the same testimony if Al Gore had been president,” he writes, complaining that his words had been distorted by supporters and opponents of the cuts.

Mr. Greenspan, of course, had been the ultimate Washington insider for years, and knew full well that politicians cited his words selectively to suit their agendas. He was also legendary for ducking delicate issues by, as he once said, “mumbling with great incoherence.”

Of course, any fool -- and Greenspan's not a fool -- knew that had he supported tax cuts during a hypothetical Gore administration, the policy outcome would have been vastly different. Bush campaigned in 2000 promising tax cuts with no real call for spending cuts. Greenspan knew that Bush/Cheney wanted tax cuts and had no concern about deficit spending. That was obvious to everyone at the time.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Humming more loudly

If there is any indication that even conservative supporters of the war in Iraq are ready to just move on, look no further than Brooksie's column this morning. In a week in which Gen. Petraeus admitted he didn't know if the war in Iraq was "making us safer," and the morning after preznit gave the latest rationale for our misadventures in the middle east, David chooses as his topic this morning: the nurturing power of love on IQ assessments.

For obvious reasons, rational conservatives like Brooks want nothing more than to forget a war that has begun to resemble a going-out-of-business sale.

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Waiting for the stab in the back

Today's Krugmaniad (Time$elect):

A Surge, and Then a Stab

To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”

There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.

And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.

All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.

In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.

© 2007 The New York Times Company

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

"And the wrath has finally taken form"

Yeats was wrong; "the best" don't lack conviction. They're just drowned out by the phony tough, the "serious men," and the sound of war.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 — “Engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act,” the seven soldiers wrote of the war they had seen in Iraq.

They were referring to the ordeals of Iraqi citizens, trying to go about their lives with death and suffering all around them. But sadly, although they did not know it at the time, they might almost have been referring to themselves.

Two of the soldiers who wrote of their pessimism about the war in an Op-Ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 19 were killed in Baghdad on Monday. They were not killed in combat, nor on a daring mission. They died when the five-ton cargo truck in which they were riding overturned.

The victims, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, and Sgt. Omar Mora, 28, were among the authors of “The War as We Saw It,” in which they expressed doubts about reports of progress.

“As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day,” the soldiers wrote.

Sergeant Gray’s mother, Karen Gray, said by telephone on Wednesday from Ismay, Mont., where Yance grew up, “My son was a soldier in his heart from the age of 5,” and she added, “He loved what he was doing.”

The sergeant’s father, Richard, said of his son, “But he wasn’t any mindless robot.”

Sergeant Gray leaves a wife, Jessica, and a daughter, Ava, born in April. He is also survived by a brother and a sister.

All in the cause of protecting U.S. "credibility."


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We hate you, now stay

Une cri de coeur from the New York Times stringers in Iraq?

In interviews four months ago, many Iraqis refused to say how long American troops should stay. Now, however, some say they want them here for a minimum of three years, and maybe even five years. Ms. Zubaidi said she thought five years would be the minimum, adding that the police and army needed to be remade to root out sectarianism.

“They will need five years,” she said. “The first year they need to prepare themselves properly to work with the Iraqi people. Then they need a year or two years to start from the ground building the security services and then. ...” She lowered her voice and looked around as if she was afraid someone might be listening, then continued: “They need one year to prepare a government for Iraq that is built not on a sectarian foundation. It must be a secular government.

“Religion has nothing to do with government,” she said. “Religion is in my heart.”

I wonder if the opinion of friends of New York Times Iraqi reporters for the New York Times is common in the prevailing view within an ethnically cleansed Baghdad, but I have enormous respect for the courage of the reporters and their subjects in this story.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Must have been the creamed spinach

Petraeus and petraeuser
Originally uploaded by vegacura
So, I'm speeding along the Metro North rails, late on a Monday (eve of 9-11 aieee!), returning home from NYC after a meal of way too much red meat, red wine, and various forms of creamed vegetables and baked potato, and I read this from the Times:

Gen. David H. Petraeus said that by next summer the U.S. should be able to reduce its troop strength in Iraq to the level it was at before the recent increase.

I'd like to send that bottle back, please.

It's not so much a plan....

Blue Monday, Albert King edition

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On the wall

I would be remiss if I didn't point out one paragraph in Bai's article that is an indication that, like 2000 and 2004, the candidates' caricatures have already been limned.

Giuliani had read his history, and this was the lesson he had taken away. Both Churchill and Reagan had fused a fundamental shift in thinking to sheer force of personality, but to Giuliani, the policy was the personality. The moment didn’t call for some new approach to combating terrorism; what America needed, instead, was a wartime personality who was ready, like Churchill and Reagan, to stride into history and firmly establish the nation’s resolve in the eyes of the world. None of the other potential commanders in chief in either party had saved a fallen city or been knighted by the queen of England. It was hard to picture Mitt Romney holed up in a London bunker with his generals while the bombs fell all around him, or Barack Obama demanding that the Soviets tear down that wall. Giuliani came with no such mental limitation. His “Churchillian moment” was less about the substance of governing than about the image most Americans had of him — and, maybe more to the point, the image he has of himself.

Right. Bai helpfully concludes for us that Romney is craven and fearful and Obama couldn't face down the Soviets. Like Reagan did.


But yeah, I can picture Giuliani "on the wall," as Bai puts it earlier in the piece. But it's an image that's hardly "Churchillian."


On language

I don't really know what to make of Matt Bai's half fawning, half critical appraisal of Giuliani. But I was struck by Giuliani's repeated invocation of Churchill and Reagan. Nevermind that the "unpredictability" Giuliani praises in Reagan probably isn't a reference to Reagan's decision to pull the Marines out of Beirut, so I guess Giuliani means his hero's twitchy "button" finger. And nevermind there was another politician whose stirring radio addresses got his country not only through a war, but through a depression before that. And without whose support of Britain Churchill may not have been quite so confidant in victory.

Nevertheless, what struck me was that Giuliani has these caricatures of both Reagan and Churchill, as though they appear in his head like old newsreels without sound. He can see his heroes, but it doesn't seem to register to him that Churchill -- along with FDR -- used language effectively to dispel fear of an enemy. Giuliani is the opposite. The menace is everywhere. We must constantly be on our guard. War. All. The. Time. That may appeal to Republican primary voters, who share his view that Islamonazithugs are amassing on our borders AS WE SPEAK, as dangerous a threat as the Soviets when nuclear armed bombers circled the globe. But Americans are beginning to be skeptical of...well, more.

Language is important. Bin Laden understands that better than our president, vice-president, and the leading Republican contendors.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Supreme Incompetent

So, if Bush was (typically) clueless and even more incurious about how "the policy" suddenly changed, and, like Giuseppe Franco, didn't know anything about it, then who authorized the decision to disband the Iraqi army? Fred Kaplan pulls the thread.

It is a stunning fact that—despite the massive library of in-depth books, tell-all memoirs, and investigative articles about every tactical decision regarding this war—we do not yet know who made this key strategic decision.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn't him. Though he wouldn't be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. "We've got to show all the Iraqis that we're serious about building a new Iraq," Feith reportedly told him. "And that means that Saddam's instruments of repression have no role in that new nation."

Feith was a messenger, too, reporting directly to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and ultimately to Secretary Rumsfeld.

Did Rumsfeld write the order? Bob Woodward, in State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III, quotes Rumsfeld as saying that the order came from elsewhere. Does that mean it came from the White House? My guess is it came from Vice President Dick Cheney, if only because his is one of the most leakproof offices in Washington. Had the order originated someplace else, that fact would have leaked by now. It's like the dog that didn't bark in the Sherlock Holmes story; unbarking dogs in this administration, especially at this late date of decrepitude, tend to be the hounds in Cheney's kennel.

But where did Cheney get the idea? A good guess here is that it came from that familiar meddler of the era: the Iraqi exile, chief neocon guru, and suave banker-mathematician, Ahmad Chalabi.

Makes sense. Cheney has been responsible for most of Bush's most disastrous policy decisions.


Harlan Chamberlain

“I think he’s more excited than I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Joba said. “For him to get down here and get the treatment he deserves, it’s great.”
Watching the tears stream down Harlan Chamberlain's cheeks when his son took the mound in the seventh was one of the most moving things I've ever seen during a sporting event.

It was a good place to end on a day when The Natural's feel-good story took a hit.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Cry Baby

Apologies for the dearth of incisive analysis and cutting wit. Work, ya know. I'll let Janis say it for me...

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Music to whose ears?

George Packer has some interesting thoughts on Barak Obama, but like so many reporters, he has a disturbed view on the elections of 2000 and 2004.

Barack Obama’s recent statements about Iraq and Darfur have stirred up controversy: is he nobly making genocide a special focus of concern, or cynically declaring it something that America will have to live with? On the one hand, he has ruled out the prospect of genocide as a reason for American troops to stay in Iraq, or the reality of it as a reason for them to go into Darfur; on the other hand, he has visited Darfur several times, talked about it frequently, and even brought up the much-neglected tragedy of Congo, which is not a vote-getter in any American precinct. His advisers include Anthony Lake—Clinton’s national-security adviser during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who has apparently been agonizing over his failure to act to stop it ever since—and Samantha Power, the author of “A Problem from Hell,” the best-known book on America and genocide. So who is the real Barack Obama?

The answer may lie in the record of the politician he most reminds me of: J.F.K. Senator Kennedy based his Presidential campaign on the appeal of youth and hope, calling Americans to high ideals; Senator Obama is doing the same. Kennedy’s idealism was wrapped around a basically conservative temperament, and he made most decisions in the cold light of political pragmatism; Obama’s character, as Larissa MacFarquhar’s Profile of him shows, is similar. The J.F.K. of the New Frontier created a soaring political style (and the music of politics matters a lot, as the Presidential candidates Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry learned); but the President himself was cautious to the bone. My guess is that a President Obama would govern similarly. Because he is young, black, attractive, and rhetorically inspiring, Obama has generated outsized hopes for a transformative Presidency that will make America good again. For better or for worse, some of his admirers will be disappointed.

Emphasis mine, acourse.

The music of politics? Where? I would like to remind everyone that Gore and Kerry were running against one George W. Bush, an orator in nearly the same league as his father ("Message: I care."). Gore didn't lose because he couldn't hit the high notes. He lost because the press -- particularly, as this Vanity Fair piece reveals, the Post and Times -- decided it would be a good idea to perform a political hit on him that was vicious and truly fucked our country in ways we'll be figuring out for the next decade. In Kerry's case, the press (and, admittedly, Kerry) didn't know how to handle the massive machine created to undo his veteran's credentials.

"Music" didn't enter into the equation.

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Lunatics and fools

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Certainty and lack of curiosity"

James Fallows finds these two traits -- working in tandem as they do in the Bush White House -- shrill-making.

There are so many things to scream about in this NY Times report of George W. Bush's view of his "legacy" that it is hard to know where to start. But I'll start with this, describing Bush's extended recent interviews with the author Robert Draper:

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

Think about this. The dissolution of the Iraq military is one of the six most-criticized and most-often-discussed aspects of the Administration's entire approach to Iraq. (Others: the decision to invade at all; the assessment of WMD; the size of the initial invasion-and-occupation force; the decision not to stop the looting of Baghdad; and the operation of Abu Ghraib.) And the President who has staked the fortunes of his Administration, his party, his place in history, and (come to think of it ) his nation on the success of his Iraq policy cannot remember and even now cannot be bothered to find out how the decision was made.

The funny thing about the excerpts I've read of Draper's book is that it is seemingly sympathetic to Bush.

George W. Bush slipped a piece of cheese into his mouth. "Let's order first." He took a quick glance at the day's menu prepared for him and his guest, saw nothing on it he cared for, and announced to the steward, "I'll have a hot dog. Low fat hot dog."


"If you're weak internally? This job will run you all over town," the president observed. He was sitting in the small conference room beside the Oval Office where his predecessor, Bill Clinton, infamously found leisure time with Monica Lewinsky. His back was to the White House lawn. He had flung himself into his chair like a dirty sweatshirt and continued to pop pieces of cheese into his mouth. Stress was hammered into his face. The subject was himself—how his leadership skills had evolved over time, and how he had dealt with disappointment and defeat, going back to his loss to Senator John McCain in the New Hampshire primary of 2000 and now, once again, in 2006.

His hot dog arrived. Bush ate rapidly, with a sort of voracious disinterest. He was a man who required comfort and routine. Food, for him, was fuel and familiarity. It was not a thing to reflect on.

"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought. I don't know how you learn that. I don't think there's a moment where that happened to me. I really don't. I know you're searching for it. I know it's difficult. I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."

A moment later, press secretary Tony Snow stepped into the doorway to ask about the daily press briefing he was about to conduct. Bush offered some suggestions for how to defer questions about his Iraq strategy.

"Good. Perfect. Sorry to interrupt," Snow said as he vacated the room.

"It's okay," remarked Bush. "This is worthless, anyway." Then, in a sudden bellow: "I'd like an ice cream! Please! You want some ice cream, Robert?"

Bush dived into his vanilla ice cream. "The presidency is—you get tired," he confessed. Then, leaning back from the bowl: "This is a tiring period we're in now. I've got Iraq on my mind. A lot. You know, every day I see the casualties, I get the reports—I am immersed in this war."


He then pushed away from the table and abruptly strode back to the aforementioned desk in the Oval Office. His next visitor, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, would not be terribly receptive to talk of "some progress" in that country. Hashemi's brother and sister had been assassinated in Baghdad earlier in 2006. A few weeks ago, another one of his brothers had been gunned down as well.

And Bush could not show doubt to this man, either. I know we'll succeed—he had to show that confidence, which would not be difficult, because he did know: America would succeed in Iraq because it had to succeed.

As John Bolten wiped the hot dog bun crumbs from his liege's chin.

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