Saturday, November 22, 2003

Remembering JFK Alive 

Delivered from the Oval Office the evening of June 11 th, 1963:

Good evening my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.


We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

He could be talking about gay Americans, couldn't he?

Only hours after this speech was broadcast, Medger Evers was shot in the abdomen as he got out of his car in the driveway of his home by a white man hiding across the street, waiting for him.

The edited remarks that follow were delivered as part of a commencement address at American University, June 10th, 1993: Kennedy took the opportunity to announce his intention to seek a Treaty with the Soviet Union to end the testing of nuclear weapons in the earth's atmosphere.

"There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university," wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities--and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was "a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see."

I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived--yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children--not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women--not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.

Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles--which can only destroy and never create--is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.

I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war--and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.

I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace-- based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions--on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace--no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process--a way of solving problems

So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.

Third: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different.

We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy--or of a collective death-wish for the world.

To secure these ends, America's weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self- restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility.

For we can seek a relaxation of tension without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove that we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people--but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.

Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system--a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished.

While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can--if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and if it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers--offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.

The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough--more than enough--of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on--not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.

Forty years later, Theodore Sorenson gave this year's commencement speech at American University, and took the opportunity to compare Kennedy's approach to the world with that of the current Bush administration.

Congress Watch, Again 

At the risk of becoming known as "Lili One Note," (an actual nickname among my close friends; well, getting organized means never having to apologize for being anal-retentively obsessed), here's an update on the two worst bills of the twentieth and the twenty-first century, which Republicans are still determined to ram through Congress.

On Energy - secret meetings are going on; the bill will be back. Let's be ready. Spend half a day getting in touch with friends, relatives (who will listen) to alert them and give them information about who to call the moment we know the energy bill is be rescheduled for debate. In the meantime, not a bad idea to send approving emails to those of your Senators who voted "nay" on the cloture vote, and disapproving ones who didn't. It always means more to a Senator when the contact is from a constituent.

Here's where to find out who voted which way on the bill. Remember, the right vote was "nay." Senator Specter is a good target if you're from Penn; he knows better; he won't like hearing his vote was unpopular.

One spooky fact you'll find on the senate site, Frist voted "nay." What's that about? He seemed outraged that cloture didn't pass and promised the bill would be back. Was the leadership worried that if they won by one vote for cloture it would look bad, so Frist tipped the balance to make sure cloture wasn't invoked, giving Bush time to get back, and more backroom deals to be made? Any thoughts on what Frist's vote was all about?

Neither Kerry or Edwards was in Washington for the vote. Not good. Let them know; not only do we need their votes on both energy and Medicare, we need their voices in that debate. What the hell do they think they're going to be able to campaign on if Bush gets these two big legislative victories, and they weren't even around to vote against them?

Medicare: I watched C-Span covering the house debate and vote late into the night; after staring at a long shot of the well of the house overwhich were superimposed the results of the vote - the bill lost by two points - without benefit of Mr. Lamb's impeccable taste in classical music of the baroque period, I gave up. What was happening was a three hour delay in certifying the vote, during which time Bush twisted some arms by phone. His message, as reported on MSNBC this morning, don't damage me by voting against this bill.

Debate is going on right now in the Senate; my awful cable co doesn't provide coverage of C-Span 2 on the weekends so I can't tell you too much; saw some of the debate at the house of a friend. Daschle's on board for this one. Watch the debate if you can; listen to it on the radio; mine doesn't pick up that station, or I can't find it. The vote will probably be on Monday. It would be great if a whole mess of emails or faxes were waiting for every moderate Republican and any Democrats who look shakey, letting them know that they don't have to give Bush this huge win, and why it's such a lousy bill.

Josh Marshall has come up with a wonderful adjective to describe this Medicare boonswagle - "scamliness," which he claims to have already copyrighted. Since I'm

Contact information and more on both bills is available below here and here.

Hey Look Here - Free Nakeds! 

Blogroll Updates and Blogging Notes:

Tom Daschle needs a good swift kick in the ass. Via: Trish Wilson

Peter at Kick the Leftist provides a link to a TNR post on the Congressional Budget Office's latest scam.

Shystee has The Counter Propaganda Brigade and a retro Avalon Ballroom stylie Matt Gonzalez poster including info on a new blog-ring for all West Coast SF mayor's race watchers.
See for yourself.

Long Live The Family Dog!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Paul Krugman at the Philadelphia Public Library 

Ran into Atrios there, and we talked a little substitute gym teacher shop....

Anyhow, I'm sure he can write the policy up better than I can, so I will tell a story instead.

I was sitting in a pizza joint near my apartment in Philly about six months ago and two white-haired guys were talking to each other about the war in Iraq.

And as I ate my (delicious) pizza, and drank my (fountain) coke, I listened in on their conversation, and got more and more enraged. Bush had done something, I don't know, something of the kind we're all so used to now it isn't even news, and finally I heard one of them ask "What about the 3000 we lost?"

At which point—beyond my endurance point since even then the Bush lie on AQ/Iraq connections as a justification for the war had been thoroughly exposed—I lost it and started yelling.

I remember I yelled "Iraq doesn't have anything to do with Bin Laden!" and a whole lot else, and when the old guy could get a word in edgewise, finally, he asked me "Will you calm down?" And when I agreed, he said "I'm against the war!"

So I saw the same guy at Krugman's lecture...

Krugman says it's going to be a rough ride for the next few years. But maybe there's some hope....

Hacking Away The Vine That Medicare Was Supposed To Wither On 

To any of you who made a call, sent a fax, or an email yesterday, thank-you.

The first vote on closing off debate in the Senate on the energy bill took place this morning, and by three votes, the supporters of the bill lost the cloture vote, Six Republicans voted with 43 Democrats and Sen Jeffords against cloture. That means six Democrats voted for the bill. Among the Republicans who joined the Democrats were McCain, Sununu and Greg, both of New Hampshire, Sens Snowe and Collins, I believe. I think Specter, who had been on the fence, voted for cloture.

That doesn't end things, this is a big one for the administration, and for its corporate benefactors. Debate will continue, and if those forty votes can't be kept in line the bill will pass on a simple majority vote.

The longer the debate goes on, the more likely it is that some "yes" votes for cloture might be turned; the debate thus far has been devastatingly one sided. There are no good arguments for this bill. Editorial comment around the country is almost universally negative. The NYTimes and the WSJournal agree on this one. The more the debate goes on, the more embarrassing it will be for "moderate" Republicans like Specter to continue to support it. Had the vote gone their way this morning, the bill would have passed by this afternoon, and the voting public would've had little chance to take note of what its government is doing to it.

BTW, none of the Senators, as yet, have a full copy of the bill on their desk; it was released on the web only 48 hours before debate began. Sen. McCain has suggested, not without design.

Keep the pressure up. Email or call Senators, both Republican and Democrat, who voted for cloture and try and shame them into changing their vote. This site, which you should bookmark for the future, sometimes referred to as "Juan's," makes it easy to find out which Senators and Representatives represent which states, and with a few clicks provides you with contact information, and the webpage for every member of congress.

On to Medicare.

Did you ever think you'd look back on Newt Gringrich with fond appreciation for his subtlety and nuance? Newt, you may recall, was content to let Medicare wither on the vine. The introduction of medical savings accounts and private HMO's would prove the vast superiority of private markets to government programs when it came to fostering good health care at affordable prices. Two decades of experience with HMO's has taught us Newt was wrong. Not that there's anything wrong with the concept of HMOs. But increasingly, they are having difficulty providing both affordable health insurance and good care.

So Bush and the current Republican congress said to themselves, "86 the withering, Medicare will have to be hacked to death, if the way is to be cleared for privitizing the program. Their "term" for this process is "modernizing" Medicare, bringing it into the twenty-first century.

That is what underlies their willingness to engage on the subject of controlling subscription medicine costs, and adding a prescription benefit to Medicare. In the Spring, the Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy agreed to a compromise on the issue of the prescription benefit, as long as the nature of Medicare was preserved. The Senate bill Democrats approved wasn't a good one from their perspective, but as Kennedy said, the party could not in good conscience refuse the needed benefit, but Democrats made clear that if the conference went too far in the direction of the House version of the bill, that would cost their support.

No surprise, Republicans paid no attention. The operating assumption of the Bush/Rove policy here has been to produce a bill that can be sold as the long awaited prescription benefit for seniors, but that does much more, all of it bad, all of it in the direction of privitization, so that Democrats would have the noxious choice of voting yes, and giving Bush a huge win, exhibit A for his compassionate conservatism, or voting no, and being accused of playing politics.

The privitization in this bill isn't what Gingrich was talking about. This is worse. This is subsidized privitization, protected by shackling government's ability to regulate, or in this case, negotiate prices with drug companies.

Democrats are pretty firm in their opposition. My suggestion, call your own Senators and tell them to vote "no" to cloture and to the bill. Tell them it's too lousy of a bill to give Bush that big a win. And tell them their constituents see through the bill.

Biggest talking point from my perspective - Bush's inability to work with anyone who doesn't already agree with him. Bush, the uniter, not the divider, has allowed his party to exclude Democrats from any genuine input in the conference that hammered out the final bill. This is unprecendented. And don't let anyone tell you Democrats behaved the same way when they were the majority party. Tell your Senator that they cannot vote for a bill that disenfrachised you by treating your vote for a Democratic Senator as if it meant nothing. The Democrats compromised; Bush said, you patsies. As in his foreign policy, Bush seems to think that there is something wrong, read weak, in working with people who aren't already in complete agreement with you. He feels contempt for the very notion of compromise. Fine. The price for that is no bill. It's Bush's price. Not the Democrats. He can still have a bill. If he's willing to lead his party to the table where Democrats are already sitting, ready to find a genuine compromise.

One more thought; Leiberman is on the fence on the Medicare bill; he says he wants to study it. If you have the time, let him know there's nothing to be had, especially by a potential Presidential candidate, in folding on this one.

BTW, those AARP commercials that say Seniors can't wait, the first year of the benefit is 2006. So there's plenty of time before the next election to get a decent bill, and not a senior will be deprived of a single penny's worth of help with not a single prescription bill.

GOP controls House, Senate, President and can't pass a budget 


They wouldn't be sabotaging the government deliberately, of course—it just turns out that way.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Bush bait and switch on Iraq "coalition" members 

And they fell for it! Rubes.

Mark Brzezinski and Mario Nicolini write in the Herald Trib:

Before and after the war, high-level meetings between top U.S. and Central European officials indicated a level of engagement that many Central European leaders presumed would carry over into the postwar reconstruction phase. Central European officials state categorically that real expectations were created.

In early March, the State Department invited representatives of more than 30 countries to discuss postwar reconstruction of Iraq.

That was the bait.

The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, said he had conveyed to Secretary of State Colin Powell on that occasion his country's interest in participating in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. On April 15, the spokesman for the Slovak president stated that Commerce Secretary Don Evans had given the Slovak minister of economy a list of sectors pertaining to Iraqi reconstruction in which Slovak companies could participate. The expectations of Central European leaders were clear.

Central European states' longtime links with Iraq have given them knowledge that could contribute to the country's reconstruction. During the cold war, much of Iraq's infrastructure, including power plants, airports and bridges, was built with the help of engineers from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. But since the end of the war, not a single reconstruction contract has been awarded to a company from Central Europe, while the large American corporations Bechtel and Halliburton have been awarded contracts amounting to more than $3 billion.

That was the switch!

Another triumph for Bush diplomacy!

"Government should be run more like a business" 


To reduce waste, fraud, and corruption? Don't make me laugh, it hurts (especially after the lid got lifted the latest cesspit in mutual funds).

Because corporations are run like democracies? Ever sit through a PowerPoint presentation by top management?

The idea that government should be like a business is pushed by politicized executives. Under Bush, it's become clear what they want: loot, and lots of it.

The idea that government should be run like business—with customers, not citizens—is not just undemocratic, it's anti-democratic.

Don't fall for it.

AARP misleaders sell out members 


Only 18 percent of AARP members agreed with the organization's endorsement.

Of course, the fact that the feckless, gutless Beltway Dems allowed the AARP to endorse yet another Thug bait and switch operation is yet another massive indictment of their "leadership." What on earth do they do up there on the Hill? Have they gone sleepy-bye?

As always, Leah shows what to do to make a difference.

Is there a message here? 

During Bush's visit to Buckingham Palace:

The orchestra played "King Cotton," a Sousa march, and "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the movie "Titanic".

Gosh, those Brits can sure do that subtle irony thing....

A reference to the slave society that lost the last Civil War, and a ship that sank with the loss of thousands because its Captain went to ramming speed through a field of ice bergs...

Wonder if Bush noticed?


  YABL Threat Alert!             
5 Alarm LIE!!!!!

Courtesy of our resident genuis, the farmer, we have this color coded system for alerting you to recent or upcoming Bush administration lies, dubbed YABL, (see Lexicon) because of their ceaseless nature.

This is the first time we have used this highest level of alert. What lie, or lies do we mean?

Every word spoken in the Senate in support of both the energy and the Medicare Bill.
They will come mainly from Republicans, but doubtless a few Democrats will be peeled off.

This is one of the most important moments there will be for those of you who want to defeat Bush. Passage of these bills, without efforts by Democrats to go to the wall to defeat them, will be a huge win for Bush, and will make it close to impossible for Democrats in next year's presidential and congressional elections to attack Bush and the Republicans on two of their biggest weaknesses.

A solid effort by the majority of Democrats to defeat them, and explain why they are such truly awful bills in the extended debate possible in the Senate, even if unsuccessful, will preserve their ability to make it a campaign issue.

The point of this post is to urge every single person who reads these words, to take the time today, tonight, and even tomorrow, to contact, by phone, email or fax, preferable by all three, those Senators who will be crucial to a solid, unified, Democratic effort to defeat both bills, and to contact at least five other people you know, friends, relatives, work mates, to do the same. Details of how to do this, at the least expense of your valuable time, will follow a discussion, with links, of the policy issues and suggested talking points to be used in your Senate contacts.

These bills are defeatable. Let's take the energy bill first, since that is the one currently being debated in the Senate. This morning, Frist is probably going to call for a cloture vote; he probably won't get it, too many key moderate Republicans, and even a few non-moderates, are appalled by the bill to let him get away with it. But action needs to be taken today to be the most effective.

A recent Zogby poll tells us that a majority of Americans are aware of the main outlines of this bill and that they do not support it. Most of you probably know what's so terrible about it. The best compact discussion I've seen can be found at the new Center For American Progress, which has some real shockers I hadn't heard about, like a RollCall report of specific instances of the Republican crafters of the bill being wined, dined, by industry lobbyists, and taking trips paid for by those interests whose ideasdominate the shape of the final bill. Here's another summary from Act For Change. And another summary of specifics from CAP.

Here are some bullet points:

This energy bill:

Has a huge price tag, which means our tax dollars:

Go to pay for huge tax breaks that go directly to gas, oil, and coal industries.

Go to all kinds of subsidies paid directly to large corportions; for instance, for construction of new nuclear plants; why subsidies? because nuclear power plants are not cost effective, aside from their other problems, which include no safe way to get rid of the nuclear waste.

Are financing the first major rollback in anti-pollution measures ever. Perhaps most outrageous example - makers of MTBE, an anti-smog additive that turns out to pollute ground water, are to be protected from liability, which means no community adversely affected can sue, and the provision is being made retroactive, so states like California and NY, with pending lawsuits, will have no way to recoup the costs of cleanup. In addition, 2 billion dollars of our tax money goes to a subsidy for these companies, to ease them through a transition period from while they find some other pollutant to manufacture. Meanwhile, no one is even talking about extending unemployment for American workers who've been out of work more than six months.

The bill was put together in secret, without input from Democrats or from citizens, or from any environmental groups, but with the active participation in the writing of the bill itself of K Street lobbyists for the energy industry.

The bill will not achieve energy independence, though energy companies will be allowed to exploit resources on federal lands.

The bill is backward looking, by several decades. No real conservation efforts, no greater energy efficiencies, and the provisions for renewable resource developement are a joke. Note, development of such resources means new jobs that cannot be exported elsewhere.

The bill makes us less secure - and could encourage nuclear proliferation by reversing a decades old policy and allowing the re-processing of spent fuel from commercial nuclear plants.

The bill will adversely affect the health of most Americans, which means ever more children with severe asthma, just to mention a single example.

The bill is larded with pork, put there cynically, to entice just enough support from Senators who might have opposed it to squeak it through the Senate.

It's a cesspool of a bill.

Okay, who do you need to call? First and foremost, Senator Daschle. He's on the fence. Those ethanol subsides mean a lot to the farmers, many of them small farmers, in his state. Don't get angry about that. Get smart.

Call Daschle's office and register your intense desire that the Senator lead the Democratic opposition to this bill. Stress how crucial you feel it is. Be polite. Don't talk long, his office will mainly be counting the number of calls. They will register intensity if you stay focused and polite. It's okay to say that you might have to reconsider voting Democratic next November if Daschle fails this test of leadership. And surely, if Olympia Snowe can stand up to the administration and the Republican leadership, Senator Daschle can. Or don't say that. Emphasize you expect no less from Daschle, if that suits you better.

You don't need to pay for the call if you use the Toll-free Congressional Line:800- 839-5276; ask for Daschle's office and you'll be connected. The line can sometimes be busy.
If you can afford it, you can call his office direct at 1-800-424-9094, not sure if that's genuinely non-toll or not, this one definitely isn't - 202-224-2321.

Follow this up with a fax or email to give additional points. Not too many. Be polite. My suggestion is to emphasize that this is one instance in which doing the public good is synonymous with what is politically essential for the Democratic party. Mention the Zogby poll; supply a clickable link, perhaps to the CAP Progress Report mentioned above. Touch on how backward looking the bill is. Use bold type for emphasis, use spaces between lines and points so that it's easy to see the essence of your message at a glance.

Daschle's email: http://daschle.senate.gov/webform.html: this takes you to a webpage where you can leave an email. If you want to send it straight from your email: daschle.senate.gov should do it. Daschle's fax #: 202-224-6603.

If this isn't a day when you can take that much time, Working For Change has made it easy for you to contact Daschle on both the energy and the Medicare bill here. They provide you background information, and a pre-written message, though they encourage you, as would I, to write your own.

Next up. Sens. Dorgan and Conrad are supporting the energy bill. It's the ethanol subsidy, stupid. Again, don't get angry, get smart. Call, fax, or email the two Senators and ask them not to get in the way of a fillibuster, and not to vote for cloture until they feel that they have to, for all the reasons you used for Daschle. You can find all their contact information here.

If you have any more energy left, email the two California Senators, Sens. Schumer and Clinton from NY Sen. Durbin of Ill. Sen. Reid of Nevada, and anyone else you can think of, and ask them to lead a fillibuster of the energy bill; remind them that if the Democrats don't put up a concerted, public effort to defeat this bill, they will not be able to attack Bush or the Republicans on a major weakness. They don't have to win, though that would be nice. But if their opposition doesn't register with the voters, how can they talk about Bush having the worst energy policy next year?

Here's a site that allows you to click on a state to find out all the contact information on the Senators from that state.

Blogs are doing great and important work. But that work won't mean much if we the people, bloggers included, don't get ourselves organized to register our power when and where it matters. How long did it take the right to get CBS to dump "The Reagans?" Any bloggers who happen by, feel free to lift any part of the info here and get your readers to make some calls or send some emails and/or faxes.


Include Medicare in your communiques if you want, for efficiency. Or come back later for some thoughts on how to effectively counter that horror.

UPDATE: For inspiration, here's Molly Ivins latest on this subject.

I meant to link to this excellent suggestion by Atrios, that the ethanol subsidy need not be a stumbling block, since there enough Republican Senators from corn-producing states to make a separate subsidy bill possible. Also, if the bill doesn't pass, or goes down because it can't pass cloture, that only means that Bush and the Republicans have to come back to the table. If they refuse to, the onus is on them.

For those of you with extra energy, it might not be a bad idea to contact the offices of Kerry, Lieberman, and Edwards and ask them to show real leadership where it counts.

FURTHER UPDATE: Actually this was unaccountably excluded by Blogger from the first update.

To inspire you, I'd like to dedicate this post to Lisa English of Ruminate This, who has been such a tireless, eloquent, and good humored, (she's funny, too) advocate of grassroots politcal involvement. Her blog is one-stop central for citizen participation. Recently, her son's struggle with diabetes has been her number one concern; thankfully, Lisa has great confidence in her son's doctors. In other circumstances, I would probably be linking to a post by her, urging you to get involved and take action, and telling you how. You can let Lisa know at her blog that we're thinking of her, and doing something concrete to make the future of all of our sons and daughters a better one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Medicare Drug Benefit 

Good god.

The benefit doesn't kick in until after the 2004 election. Can't the hapless, feckless Beltway Dems smell the bait and switch coming?

And we don't have the money to pay for it, long-term (ie, after 2004) anyhow, because Bush gutted the tax system.

And what there is a giveaway to Big Pharma. A serious program would go single payer, since that way purchasers would have market power, not sellers. (Why do people think that the drugs are cheaper in Canada? Because they're metric? No, it's single payer!)

And best of all... The top of the top... The Republicans say they want to introduce competition... So what's the first thing they do? Subsidize the corporations that are going into the new market. So we're going to subsidize the insurance companies to cherrypick the well, leave Medicare with the sick, and in a couple of years claim the system is broken because unit costs have gone up... Anyone ask George if he knows what a Trojan Horse is?

I tell you, the only turkey this Thanksgiving isn't on my table. If we had an opposition party and a free press in this country, a "reform" like this would be a non-starter.

A Grand Day In The Neighborhood 

Yesterday, I mean, and a grand day because of the decision by the Supreme Court Of Massachusetts that gay human beings are just that, full human beings whose inalienable rights include the right to form lasting unions with one another that are recognized by the state. Okay, okay, let's call it by the name we use when speaking of heterosexuals - marriage.

I don't have time today to talk fully about the implications of the decision, but I wanted corrente, and I know I speak for my three compatriots, to go on record as welcoming the decision. This is a step forward in the long, slow, march of humanity to bestow on all of itself, individual liberty, dignity, respect, and equality.

The decision will pose special problems for liberals, progressives, and God help them, Democrats. The attacks, the rubbing of hands in glee, have already started, thwarted a bit today, at least on cable news, by the ascendant importance the media ascribes to the issue of a warrant for Michael Jackson's arrest in a case that will now be handled exclusively by the legal system, and about which there is really nothing intelligible to be said, until the facts and counter facts begin to be revealed during a trial, which is the only time such facts and counter facts should be revealed. But that is clearly too much to ask of our SCLM. (I guess they decided not to heed Atrios' heartfelt letter.) Irony of ironies, Jackson is taking tube time away from the rightwing Kubuki drama of roiling sound and fury one might have expected to have been let loose on the airways today. Something of a small mercy, a very small mercy.

The increasingly invaluable Allen Brill has all kinds of helpful material on the court's decision already posted; do follow his links to Ralph Luker and Hart Roussel. I especially liked Allen's run-down on the new leadership of the Christian right, complete with photos. One of those leaders is Roberta Combs, the new President of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Let me leave you with a tidbit from a short interview with Mrs. Combs that appeared in The NYTimes Magazine; many blogs already spotlighted it for her innocently hypocritical admission that she works out of the home becaues she likes to, but something else about it struck me.

After establishing that Combs has been taking the group more toward the center than was Robertson's habit, and Mrs. Combs agrees that if one is to make progress one has to work with Democrats, too, and the interviewer notes that Combs had proven that in her willingness to work with Senator Schumer on anti-spam legislation, Mrs. Combs replies:

Actually, when Senator Schumer called me, I was a little surprised. He turned out to be a nice man.

And you stunned some of your colleagues by agreeing to meet with Senator Hillary Clinton.

Yes. We talked about prescription drugs and the elderly. I can't judge her. I would like to think there is good in everyone. Tell me, whom did you vote for in the last presidential election?


Well, just because you voted for Al Gore doesn't mean that you and I can't talk! I wouldn't hold that against you. That's my personality. I'm just hopeful you will vote for Bush next time.

My first reaction was a little start of surprised pleasure, what Mrs. Combs probably felt when Senator Schumer called her. And then I found myself thinking, well, of course he's a very nice man, what did you think he'd be? And look at that "agreeing to meet with Senator Hillary Clinton." We're talking about a woman who is now a U.S. Senator, and was the first lady of the United States of America, and after agreeing to meet with her, Mrs. Combs can only " not judge her," and hope that Hillary doesn't disprove Mrs. Combs belief that there is good in everyone. For Heaven's sake, the differences between these two women are political; they have a moral dimension, but people can split on moral issues without either one being an embodiment of badness. And we're supposed to be grateful that just because we, the majority of voters in the last Presidential election, voted for Al Gore, Mrs. Combs is not about to call for our being shunned? Small mercies, indeed.

Maybe someone can tell me why Howard Dean shouldn't be angry 

In my book, any candidate who isn't angry about what Bush is doing isn't paying attention, and doesn't have the temperament to be President.

Good for Massachusetts 

Now Dick Cheney's daughter and Dick Gephardts' daughter can get spliced.

Good news for the country, yes?

Feline Exploitation Curiosa 

Part 1

I'd like to speak to all of you about an alarming developing trend that has been bothering me for some time. Namely the contagion of kitty cat pornography coursing its way through the circulatory system of our nation's cultural body politic.

First of all let me just say that I have nothing against kitty cats. I like kitty cats too. I too struggle with a bakers dozen, at least, of fond and giddy memories of cherished kitty cat cavorts and cuddly capers. I myself subscribed to Kitty Cat Figurine magazine for nearly twenty five years. I am a survivor myself. Whats more, one of my own favorite kitty cats, beloved and doted on as only a favorite kitty cat can be, recently croaked...I mean passed beyond!...earlier this Spring. It was very sad, perhaps even tragic depending on how much you'd had to drink.

Anyway, I buried her beneath a carpet of flowering forget-me-nots aside a shady woodlot while a small volunteer unit of the local Order of Hibernians played a sad fiddle keen and Saint Anthony himself hovered above a Forsythia bush singing Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.

She was a fine specimen and lived to the ripe old age of 19 or 37, I believe. At least it seemed like 37. Anyhow, she was intelligent too, you betcha, the smartest kitty cat I've ever known. And highly agile. She could leap in an instant from a otherwise motionless stance and deposit herself squarley, razor honed nippers flexed, upon the waiting breastbone of her chosen affection. Which could be a fairly jarring experience, to say the least, especially if one were unprepared for such displays of demonstrative grace. Respected she was.

Respected also for her ability to master complex phonetic relationships and patiently perform intricate outdoor autopsies on an ungodly number of small woodland creatures on an almost daily basis. That's how smart she was. She was like some kind of Spartan feline lamia coroner running around with a hatchet and a seclusion 3-D flea collar. Its was, to be honest for the most part, fairly unmerciful business, and some naysayers claimed she was little more than an attentive furbelow while others insisted she was nothing but a despotic hairy homicidal lunatic who shit in a box of sand and terrorized the pastural meadows and secretive forest floors of her own local critterdom. Kind of like ..well, never mind. In any event, I reject either assertion and suggest she was merely a fearless survivor with an unusual grasp of polysyllabic sounds. Kind of like...well, never mind. And lets face it, even your basic hedgerow or backyard birdhouse is a cacaphony of high pitched shrieks and trills and unholy blood curdling squeals. A seething Tartarus of brutality, genocidal horrors and naked sex crazed depravities. Such are the ways of the forest floor.

But thats not what concerns me here today. What concerns me today is what I like to refer to as nothing short of: The Pussification of Western Maleficence! Thats right. The slow torturous destruction of harmful malefic mischievous western cultural bad-ass evil through the constant repetitious exposure to an unsparing assortment of cloying saccaharine photogenic drivel known as "kitty porn!"

Due to the length and offensive nature of this post I have spilled it over onto my overflow page.

Please continue reading here if you don't know whats good for you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Bringing The Good News 

Well, this is the best good news I've heard in a long time.

Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives

In an effort to counter the influence of conservative Christian organizations, a coalition of moderate and liberal religious leaders is starting a political advocacy organization to mobilize voters in opposition to Bush administration policies.

The nonprofit organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, plans to formally announce its formation on Friday and will operate from an expressly religious, expressly partisan point of view. The group cannot, under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, endorse political candidates, and it will have no official ties to the Democratic Party.

But the driving purpose of the organization, according to its mission statement, is to bring about "sweeping changes — changes in our nation's political leadership and changes in failing public policies."

The Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, of Lexington, Ky., chief executive officer for the organization and the chairman of its national committee, said: "The Christian Right has been very articulate, but they have been exclusive and very judgmental of anyone who doesn't agree with them. People may want to label us the Christian Left. But what we really are about is mainstream issues and truth, and if that makes us left then that shines even more light on the need for a shift in our society."

The organization seeks to counter groups like the Christian Coalition of America and newly influential groups like the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition.

There are other liberal religious-based advocacy groups in Washington, like the Interfaith Alliance, a nonprofit group that lobbies Congress on policy issues. But the Clergy Leadership Council will be the first national liberal religious group, its organizers say, whose primary focus is electoral politics and partisan political organizing

Read the whole article, there's much more, including a quote from the President of the Family Research Council questioning the wisdom of this mix of religion and politics," as if the Family Research Council wasn't just such a mix.

Especially welcome, the good news that The Clergy Leadership Network will have representatives in the south and the mid-west, where, as the group's spokesperson takes note, "moderate and progressive Christians have been losing their "political voice" to Christian conservatives." I'll say.

Though the group is interdominational, most of the participating clergy thus far are Christian Protestants, hence the title of this post. (I'm Jewish, but I've always found something beguiling about the notion of bringing even strangers good news.) Although the group doesn't plan to focus on divisive issues like abortion or gay rights, its participants will be taking on the Christian right's attack on issues that pertain to church/state, and the separation thereof.

Recently, we, on the more-or-less secular left, have found ourselves implored by our faith-based brethren not to push them away, not to turn our backs on the millions of believing Christians, and Jews, and Muslims, many of whom are not rightwing, but feel beset by an onslaught of secularism that the left has been too ready to validate, too ready to identify with, and thus lose the voices and the votes of people who should be our natural allies. We and the Democratid Party are being warned that we need to engage with believers, if we are to win the White House, and indeed, to revive the liberal/progressive tradition in this country.

Since I am personally sympathetic to this desire on the part of religious progressives to start a dialogue with progressives who don't consider themselves to be practioners of any particular religion, let me be clear that I'm not sympathetic to a statement like this one in Nicholas Kristof's much discussed warning to the left:

The most striking cleavage is the God Gulf, and it should terrify the Democrats. Put simply, liberals are becoming more secular at a time when America is becoming increasingly religious, the consequence of a new Great Awakening. Americans, for example, are significantly more likely now than in 1987 to say they "completely agree" that "prayer is an important part of my daily life" and that "we all will be called before God on Judgment Day to answer for our sins."

What on earth does that mean? How are Democrats becoming "more secular?" More non-believers are being drawn to the party? How on earth does Kristof even know if liberals are becoming "more" secular? Democrats should be "terrified" because they're on the wrong side of the "God Gulf?" Who says? Tom DeLay, that God-fearing Christian, that bagman extraordinaire for the Republican Party, who recently came up with yet another clever way to raise money for the party by turning fund raisers during the Republican convention into "charity" galas, thus getting around campaign finance laws, and making contributions tax deductible, all for the small price of giving some of the proceeds to a charity for poor children, or crippled children, or some other form of appropriately pitiable children?

It's stuff like this that makes so-called "secular" liberals like myself go grumpy when it comes to public protestations of religiosity. Which is not at all the same thing as a genuine dialogue about the role of religion in political life, and visa versa.

So imagine my delight to discover that Allan Brill of The Right Christians decided to take on Kristof's whole notion of yet another Great Awakening, in a three parter which you can find here, here, and here. Allan's findings are fascinating; if you missed Atrios's link to it, don't pass up this one; and read the comments section, particularly of the first one.

It's one of Allen's specific goals to engage fellow progressives in that genuine dialogue about how religious and political values intersect, as it is also Melanie's, late of Daily Kos, now the proprietress of her very own blog, Just A Bump In The Beltway, and well worth a visit.

There is a religious war going on in this country, and it's been declared by the right against liberals and progressives, both religious and secular, in the name of "traditional values" and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Well, you can see the problem right there. Who wants to be on the wrong side of the traditional values gulf, or worse still, the Judeo-Christian tradition gulf? Of course what's being advocated by the forces of the American right, Christian, Jewish, Neo-con, Federalist, you name it, they probably got it, is something quite different than just values and just traditions. And it's the left's task to unravel that reality in such a way that Americans in the middle, busy living increasingly difficult lives, can understand that such an analysis is not an attack on the idea of religion itself. To do that, progressives and liberals of every stripe, every religion, every irreligion, need to stand and to work together. So I think it's not a second too soon for us to start really talking to one another. Consider this to be only the first in a series of attempts to further the dialogue.

From The Slactivist, whose religion and politics are a seamless whole, this fascinating connection to The Equal Justice Initiative Of Alabama, shared, not quite by coincidence, by Atrios, self-proclaimed non-believer. It's a complicated story I'll let Fred tell it, which if you want to read in forward chronological order you can here, here, and here.
You'll see, it doesn't have to be that hard, when there's genuine good will towards all of us.

Stuff and Nonsense 

Seriously, David Brooks' New York Times columns should come with some kind of warning against reading them before operating heavy equipment, or if already taking a prescribed heavy sedative. Today he collects a paycheck for sharing his Deep Thoughts on the truly searing issue of the day, women's magazines, and one in particular, Lucky. Those who manage to slog to the end of this soporific treacle will be rewarded with this pensee:
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a rather important book on how, in America, the democratic personality supplants the aristocratic personality. The democrat smashes hierarchies. The democrat is interested in everyday happiness, not lofty excellence. The democrat simply does not acknowledge the existence of social class. Nobody is above me and nobody is below me. We are all equal, and we are all Lucky.

Brooks thinks he's redeemed wasting his readers' time with this high-brow fluourish, but he's just faking, as his pathetic attempt at arch, dare I say aristocratic? drollery ("a rather important book") unintentionally reveals. His President employs a similar gambit whenever asked to demonstrate basic competence on an issue he's expected to know about, and indeed is a standard trope of slacker college students the world over to suggest familiarity with subject matter encountered solely through Ciff Notes, or to pad out a term paper.

Tocqueville's Democracy in America is indeed "rather important." Let's see what it really has to say about a society that produces Lucky magazine, not to mention slacker Presidents and pundits:

In the United States the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own. Everybody there adopts great numbers of theories, on philosophy, morals, and politics, without inquiry, upon public trust; and if we examine it very closely, it will be perceived that religion itself holds sway there much less as a doctrine of revelation than as a commonly received opinion.

...In the principle of equality I very clearly discern two tendencies; one leading the mind of every man to untried thoughts, the other prohibiting him from thinking at all....

If the absolute power of a majority were to be substituted by democratic nations for all the different powers that checked or retarded overmuch the energy of individual minds, the evil would only have changed character. Men would not have found the means of independent life; they would simply have discovered (no easy task) a new physiognomy of servitude. There is, and I cannot repeat it too often, there is here matter for profound reflection to those who look on freedom of thought as a holy thing and who hate not only the despot, but despotism. For myself, when I feel the hand of power lie heavy on my brow, I care but little to know who oppresses me; and I am not the more disposed to pass beneath the yoke because it is held out to me by the arms of a million men. (emphasis added) (Book I, Chapter 1)

When... the distinctions of ranks are obliterated and privileges are destroyed, when hereditary property is subdivided and education and freedom are widely diffused, the desire of acquiring the comforts of the world haunts the imagination of the poor, and the dread of losing them that of the rich.... They are therefore always straining to pursue or to retain gratifications so delightful, so imperfect, so fugitive....

I never met in America any citizen so poor as not to cast a glance of hope and envy on the enjoyments of the rich or whose imagination did not possess itself by anticipation of those good things that fate still obstinately withheld from him. (Book II, Chapter X)

In America I saw the freest and most enlightened men placed in the happiest circumstances that the world affords, it seemed to me as if a cloud habitually hung upon their brow, and I thought them serious and almost sad, even in their pleasures.

... It is strange to see with what feverish ardor the Americans pursue their own welfare, and to watch the vague dread that constantly torments them lest they should not have chosen the shortest path which may lead to it.

A native of the United States clings to this world's goods as if he were certain never to die; and he is so hasty in grasping at all within his reach that one would suppose he was constantly afraid of not living long enough to enjoy them. He clutches everything, he holds nothing fast, but soon loosens his grasp to pursue fresh gratifications....

At first sight there is something surprising in this strange unrest of so many happy men, restless in the midst of abundance. The spectacle itself, however, is as old as the world; the novelty is to see a whole people furnish an exemplification of it. (Book II, Chapter 13)

Here and there in the midst of American society you meet with men full of a fanatical and almost wild spiritualism, which hardly exists in Europe. From time to time strange sects arise which endeavor to strike out extraordinary paths to eternal happiness. Religious insanity is very common in the United States.

Nor ought these facts to surprise us. ...

The soul has wants which must be satisfied; and whatever pains are taken to divert it from itself, it soon grows weary, restless, and disquieted amid the enjoyments of sense. If ever the faculties of the great majority of mankind were exclusively bent upon the pursuit of material objects, it might be anticipated that an amazing reaction would take place in the souls of some men. They would drift at large in the world of spirits, for fear of remaining shackled by the close bondage of the body....

If their social condition, their present circumstances, and their laws did not confine the minds of the Americans so closely to the pursuit of worldly welfare, it is probable that they would display more reserve and more experience whenever their attention is turned to things immaterial, and that they would check themselves without difficulty. But they feel imprisoned within bounds, which they will apparently never be allowed to pass. As soon as they have passed these bounds, their minds do not know where to fix themselves and they often rush unrestrained beyond the range of common sense.(Book II, Chapter 12)

I'm sure that's what Brooks meant.

Italian Official Becomes Objectively Pro-Saddam 

Donald Rumsfeld is in South Korea, Secretary Powell is in Europe, the President will soon be in London, and Marco Calamai is probably still in Iraq. But not for long.

Mr. Calamai is an Italian official, who, until his resignation yesterday, had been serving with the American- led coalition in charge of Iraq, as a special counselor to the authority in the province of Dhi Qar. He did not resign because of the tragic bombing of the Italian barracks. He resigned because he has become convinced that the provisional authority of Viceroy Bremer "simply doesn't work."

Though Bremer, apparently, is reluctantly beginning to agree, Calamai's explanation of the whys and wherefores is so direct, spare, and compelling, it's worth repeating.

Calamai said only an interim authority headed by the United Nations could turn things around.

He said the American-led administration, headed by L. Paul Bremer, doesn't understand Iraqi society and has muddled reconstruction projects by delaying financing. He said its policies were in part to blame for last week's attack on the Italian Carabinieri barracks that killed 19 Italians, as well as 14 others.

The U.S.-led authority has created "delusion, social discontent and anger" among Iraqis and allowed terrorism to "easily take root," Corriere quoted Calamai as telling Italian journalists Sunday in Nasiriyah.

The attack on the barracks "is the consequence of a mistaken policy and an underevaluation of the complexity of the social structure of Iraq," he said. "There needs to be a radical change with respect to the policies taken so far by the USA."

Notice Tinkerbell's light getting fainter and fainter? Calamai probably doesn't realize that critical discussion of any Bush policy means the terrorists win; how many performances of Peter Pan is an Italian likely to have seen?

Calamai also mentions that Bremer et al are "out of touch with Iraqis and only fueling their anger." And the Iraqis aren't the only ones being left out of the process.

In an interview with the leftist daily L'Unita a day before, Calamai complained that the British and Americans had marginalized the Italians. "They don't consult us, they don't involve us, even though their security depends on us."

And as for all those dollars the congress just appropriated for Iraq, the previous appropriation has not resulted in expeditious funding of promised reconstruction projects.

Hmm, generous promises, followed by silence and inaction. Sound familiar?

Oh, Thanks Rummy, Now I Understand 

Secretary Rumsfeld is in South Korea today. The South Koreans are being asked to send troops to Iraq. Why should they, the Secretary was asked. And I'm sure glad he was. And so is Rumsfeld apparently. Because it gave him an opportunity to put forward another definitive explanation of why we are in Iraq. And this one just might be the best one yet.

"It's a fair question, and I said: 'I suppose for the exact same reasons that the American people sent their young men and women to Korea 50 years ago,"' he told U.S. troops at this air base south of Seoul at the end of a week-long trip to Asia.

The 1950-53 Korean War, in which the United States lost 33,000 troops fighting Chinese and North Korean forces, "was not easy and the enemy did not collapse within days," he said.

"But it was the right thing to do," he said, pointing to South Korea's growth into a robust and prosperous democracy.

"And at the end of the day, when the institutions of a new democracy have taken root and when Iraq becomes a constructive player in the Middle East and not a threat to its neighbors and not a threat to its own people ... let there be no doubt, the rightness of our efforts there will be clear as well," he said.

I'm unable to comment further, I'm too choked up.

Don't Ya Just Love It? 

Rush is back, and Gallup's got him.

I'm not sure if this is the first time a national polling outfit has bothered to take a poll to find out how Americans view Mr. Limbaugh; there's no reference to it in the summarizing article. But as of now, 34 % of Americans hold a positive view of Limbaugh, while 51 % hold a negative view of him.

Among political conservatives, 51 % hold a favorable impressions of him, but 35 % are unfavorably impressed at the moment. Among political liberals, his favorabilities, as I believe they call them, are about 10 %, which strikes me as unfathomably high. If you're a liberal, what's to like? Maybe one of their pollsters in Georgia happened to call the Miller household.

While they were at it, Gallup decided to ask about other "political commentators," and found that Ann Coulter, Al Franken, and Dennis Miller are sufficiently unknown so as to preclude meaningful favorable vs unfavorable numbers. Actually, Miller does better than Al or Ann, and has a surprisingly high favorable rating; according to Gallup, that might be because Miller is an equal opportunity political basher. One can't help but wonder if this wholly incorrect assumption was communicated to those who were being polled. The poll's take on Franken was somewhat disappointing, and I'm not sure quite to make of it, though one poll is only one poll.

The poll's final finding is actually quite depressing; Orah and Dr. Phill, who were chosen as comparison public figures because they are controversial on occasion, nonetheless are markedly better known and liked than any of the politially minded commentators.

Why is that depressing, aside from Dr. Phill's remarkable creepiness? Because nowhere do we see the debasing influence of the rightwing on our political culture than the revulsion too many Americans feel toward politics. Politics are divisive, politics are just so much hot air, politics are a competition between sets of lies, politics are contemptible.

Problem is, politics are at the very heart of how a democratic society works. (To be continued)

Monday, November 17, 2003

"Cutting and running" 

Question: Would the Bush administration even consider "declaring victory" (i.e., cutting and running) in Iraq by installing an interim constitution and a governing cabal strong enough to survive through, oh, November 12 2004 if that kept the Presidency in Republican hands?

Answer: There's a question here?

This is why all the Inside Baseball stuff about whether the Democrats have constructive alternatives, or whether "you broke it, you bought it" is the right way to think about the Iraqi problem is so meaningless.

Anyone who has dealings with the Bush administration knows that they are utterly untrustworthy. They just lie all the time, shamelessly. Getting them out of the White House is job one, and anything else is just tinkering round the edges.

Republican tactics 101: Free speech is free for us, not you. 

Witness the thuggish suppression of Marine Girl's blog (via Atrios).

Don't Miss 

For any of you who might have missed Tresy's brilliant analysis of the "hallmark of Bushism", don't. You'll find the post, "Chickenhawks Come Home To Roost" by clicking here.

Leaked Memo Found To Have Leaks 

Doubtless you are aware of the DOD letter/memo summarizing links/contacts between Iraq and Al Queda that was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at their request, and then leaked, by an unknown someone, to Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, which then became the top story on Fox News through-out the weekend. And you probably know that within hours of the online publication of Hayes' analysis of the memo/letter, a posting on the DOD website denied that the leaked information therein (tho referred to as "the annex") was meant to be proof of a Saddam/binLaden connection. It was instead a list of fairly raw intelligence. Not that the DOD post is a thorough debunk; but it clearly says that the leaked document is not all that Hayes & co are cracking it up to be.

Doubtless you make regular visits to Quiddity's uniquely wonderful blog, Uggabugga, but in case not of late, by any and all means do. Not only will you find there a series of wonderful cartoons, (just scrowl down), and a map/chart of the connections between the countries in the Western Hemisphere, (part of Quiddity's project to diagram everything in the world,) as of yesterday, you will also find a posting of that rarest of all things, an actual transcript of something broadcast on Fox News, in this case, of a fevered exchange between Fred Barnes, frothing at the mouth with ferocious certitude that Hayes' Weekly Standard bombshell now establishes beyond all doubts, once and forever, that Saddam and binLaden were evil ones sharing their evil, and that everything the Bush administration has ever said about both must now be considered beyond argument, and Juan Williams, trying to introduce some journalistic perspective and skepticism into the discussion. Read it for yourself, and enjoy Quiddity's swift kick in the pants to bullyboy Barnes; it all has to do with the difference between details and facts.

Josh Marshall, in a brief on-the-run comment on the Hayes bruhaha, (also linked to by Quiddity) throws cold water all over the content of the Weeky Standard story, congratulates Stephen Hayes on his "great scoop," and professes his admiration for Hayes work. Josh Marshall has been doing such outstanding work lately, that I'm not about to begrude him his collegial feelings towards other so-called journalists.

So, it's left to blogs like this one to state clearly that we do not admire Hayes' overall work, though there is never a problem in having more information than one did the day before. I'm not sorry about the "leak," because we're not afraid to submit our current beliefs to new information that might arrive tomorrow. But look at the very title of this piece. "Case Closed" Not according to the DOD, where the author of the memo does reside, let us not forget. We start out with a lie, right in the title. No one reading this list of bullet points who is honest would say "case closed." At best one might say, "case advanced."

And here's the opening of Hayes' article as reported at Fox News.

Usama bin Laden (search) and Saddam Hussein (search) had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for Al Qaeda - perhaps even for Mohamed Atta - according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by The Weekly Standard.

I don't doubt for a moment that Saddam and Usama had an "operational relationship" on some days during that period of time, operational in the sense that they knew how to contact one another, both had operatives who might have done some free-lance maneuvering, and especially on Saddam's side, kept in some kind of dialogue to make sure that bin Laden kept his sights everywhere else but on Iraq. Especially on Saudi Arabia and the US. Remember, Saddam was universally loathed through-out the Arab and pretty much the Muslim world. He'd always run a secular state. He started a brutal war with Iran, an Islamic Republic. It would hardly be surprising to find that he had contacts with Al Queda to make sure that they did not regard him as an enemy.

Hayes gets around the paucity of the links by suggesting that there is much more to come, and that the memo is equivalent to "cliff notes" of the final fully drawn picture. How convient.

The notion that Saddam would ever have given WMD to a terrorist organization run by someone else is absurd on its face. What would stop them from using them against Saddam, if it proved convenient. To believe that goes against everything we know about Saddam's modus operandi, which was to trust no one and to build institutional layers of distrust, one on top of t'other.

On the basis of such unearned certainty, Hayes assaults critics of the administration for insisting that any Saddam/Usama connection was pure fantasy, which no critic has ever maintained, and then goes on to trash Carl Levin, a member of the committee, who is treated as if he had claimed such a connection is pure fantasy, when what he is quoted as asking is, what is the basis for the claim, a question that is treated as a lie by Hayes, because, after all, Levin had access to this "case closed" memo. Doubtless you are familiar with this kind of rightwing circular logic.

Mr. Hayes' most pointed ire is aimed at Al Gore and his August speech critical of Bush's conduct of the "war on terror," and questioning of the Iraq war. Hayes takes great pleasure in pointing out how much of this proof of connections between the two evil doers comes from the Clinton era. But wasn't it the Clinton administration that ignored bin Laden, ignored the threat? How could there be anything worth considering in Clinton era intelligence?

In fact, Hayes gives a perfectly cogent precis of what lead up to the 1998 four day bombing campaign that resulted from Saddam's final refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors, showing correctly that the timing of Operation Desert Fox was forced on Clinton after a prior deal six weeks before, brokered by Kofi Anan within an hour of missiles being launched, broke down for the same reason. The timing was preordained by the prior agreement, which was time limited. I don't remember any such cogent analysis carried on by anyone associated with The Weeky Standard when President Clinton was being accused of wagging the tails of yet more dogs.

What is it with these guys? Do they fool themselves into not seeing the holes in their own arguments? Are they just cynical? Who knows. What I'm sure of is that they know they can get away with this kind of propogandistic so-called journalism, and that nothing they write about has to be "true," to be effective. Fox has continued to run with this story. So will Hayes, so will The Corner, so will National Review. It will become a truth, for a limited number of Americans, no matter the good arguments arrayed against it. But those listeners to Rush and Sean and Dennis and Mancow have friends and relatives they influence. And it will added to the numerous websites, still maintained and kept "up-to-date," that chronicle the Clintons' criminality and the unAmericanism of the Democratic Party.

I don't mean to sound defeatest. There is lots we of the liberal/progressive/Democratic left can do about this kind of thing. And we've taken important steps in figuring out what and how to do it. But beyond all the good work being done by blogs, and by Alterman, and Conason and Molly and Buzzflash and all the others, too often, we're still not fast enough on our feet to get a grass roots response going that could shape the debate.

For instance, wouldn't it be more likely that this story will be covered not merely on whether the content was true, and how true, but also on the circumstances of the leak, the connection to Fox, and the way that Hayes framed his story if we on the liberal/left could get ourselves organized to start writing emails and letters right now to the usual suspects, politely asking the questions that people like Howard Kurtz and Howard Fineman, and hey, how about Fareed Zakarias, should be asking?

Just asking.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Say, has AmerCorps Been Fully Funded Yet? 

Just asking.

Boy, is this ever fun, as long as you don't get obssessive about the impact of all these failures to do what you say you're going to do on actual people. Help us keep track of his failed promises with your own embarrasing question for President Bush. We can be reached by email and Comments.

Say, Are We United Yet, Or Are We Still Divided? 

Just asking.

Republicans will say it's all that fevered Bush-hating that's keeping us divided.

We need to build a case against that claim, a case that Americans in the middle will recognize instantly as the truth, that George W. Bush is the most divisive President in modern American history.

And when Republicans come back with the retort that Lincoln was a pretty divisive President, too, we will remind the rest of America that Lincoln fought a war to unite the country into one again, and that what most of Bush's Judicial nominees seem to want to do is open up the old wounds of division by rolling back the very notion of Judicial review, not to mention that of a strong central government.

As you can see, I was so entranced by Lambert's formula for asking embarrassing questions, for George Bush and friends, I couldn't wait to join the party.

Say, is our "mission accomplished" in Iraq yet? 

Just asking.

Gosh, it's tiring keeping track. Really, the point isn't that Bush flat out lies all the time; it's that keep track of it all takes so much energy there's no time for anything else. Let's just assume he's lying and save time...

Say, has New York got all the $20 billion for 9/11 rebuilding yet? 

Just asking.

Say, have we appointed that jobs czar yet? 

Just asking.

Say, have we found the WMDs yet? 

Or the program?

Just asking.

Say, have we found the White House felon who leaked Valerie Plame's name? 

Just asking.

Proconsul Bremer on the Iraqi constitutions, plural 

Turns out there will be two: the interim one and later, the real one. Having the interim one will, of course, allow the Republicans to claim that any problems can be fixed by, say, 2005 .... AP:

The United States will help write an interim Iraqi constitution that embodies American values and will lead to the creation of a new government, America's chief postwar administrator in Iraq said Sunday.

"We will write into that constitution exactly the kinds of guarantees that were not in Saddam's constitution.," L. Paul Bremer told ABC's "This Week" from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

"We'll have a bill of rights. We'll recognize equality for all citizens. We'll recognize an independent judiciary. We'll talk about a federal government.

"All of these things will be in the interim constitution which will also provide in a limited time, probably two years, for a permanent constitution to be written that also embodies those American values."

Wonder how that "American values" riff is playing in the mosques ....


WaPo sets the record straight:

Lynching historically refers to a 50-year span of racial violence starting in 1882, during which 2,500 black men, women and children were kidnapped, beaten, burned, hanged and otherwise killed, according to E.M. Beck, a University of Georgia professor who co-wrote a book on the period titled, "A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930."

Although African Americans were the main target of mob violence, Latinos, Native Americans, Jews, Italians and some white people were also lynched. In some documents from the period, local officials said the executions were justified not only for assault, stealing and murder but also if a person "voted for the wrong party," "argued with a white man," "demanded respect," "lived with a white woman," "tried to vote" and "sued a white man."

Not that liberals and Democrats are traitors, or anything.

Funny, isn't it, that WaPo doesn't make the link between the historic reality of lynching and current Republican eliminationist rhetoric. Must be that new quest for civility I keep hearing so much about...

The new winger meme 

"Bush hating." It's making the mainstream, too, as evidenced by this article in today's Inky. The VRWC mighty Wurtlitzer sure is effective...


Better Bush-hating than Bushitting!

It is to yawn 

Headline from the Times Week in Review today:

George Soros Gives, and Republicans React with Fury

A very easy headline to write; you can do it yourself. Here is the template:

________________, and Republicans React with Fury

For example:

View of Reagan not seen as hagiography, and Republicans React with Fury

Wealth not seen as mark of moral excellence, and Republicans React with Fury

Democrats exist, and Republicans React with Fury

And so on....

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~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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