Saturday, November 29, 2003

Bird in the Oven! Pilgrim in the Wind! 

Mission accomplished!
Infiltration operation Turkey Dangle declared huge success.

[Photo left] [High altitude photographic reconnaissance/image intelligence leaked during sensitive personal meeting with highly placed senior operative provides valuable insight on the highly sensitive nature of OTD during its final operational phases.] President George W. Bush returns aboard Air Force One following covert Thanksgiving dinner mission in Iraq.

Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003

Just as members of the Plymouth Colony feasted upon prime cut aged venison steaks, Lobster a la Nage, and bowls of hot buttered popcorn, our Commander in Chief George Winthrop Bush arrived in Baghdad to serve up hearty heapin' helpings of golden-brown roast turkey, choice grains, oyster stuffing, and mincemeat pie. For the benefit of those pilgrims helping further America's errand in the Iraqi wilderness, Commander W declared: "In ye name of God, having undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancement of ye faith, doe by these presents solemnly & mutually in ye presence of God, give thanks, and of one another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering & preservation, & furtherance of ye ends, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. Amen."

Commander Chief W "reaffirmed his country's commitment to build a new, democratic and prosperous Iraq," and on behalf of all freedom loving Iraqi people, proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national Iraqi holiday, whether they like it or not, and reassured every American serviceman and woman that they were defeating enemies of Thanksgiving in Iraq so that we don't have to confront the enemies of Thanksgiving at home. Commander W also reminded our men and women in Iraq that founding father Thomas Jefferson understood that low level radiation makes an excellent soil additive for acid loving plants such as blueberries. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived moments later with an entourage of dignitaries and a splendid array of scantily attired hookers from Atlantic City New Jersey who entertained American troops by performing a spectacular series of cheerleading dance routines on behalf of the New York Giants and heterosexual male fertility and free market values and service to our Western cultural heritage in general. 150 minutes later the entire visitation was a wrap and Commanding Angel in Chief W lifted back into the ancient evening and was gone.

All in all it was a victory for freedom and providence and Christianity and professional sports and consumers and the booming domestic holiday shopping economy which is the most booming economy since Louis the XIV broke ground for the palace of Versaille.

How do I know it's the most booming economy in three thousand years give or take a few months? Because Kathleen Mathews, the wife of Chris Mathews, said so right on TV. And she knows about these things because her husband's face appears on the side of many busses in Georgetown or Manhattan or someplace exciting like that. A bus, especially if your husband's picture is on it, is a key indicator of economic vitality at least on some level. A bus is also a public transportation vehicle designed to move throngs of greater unwashed subjects from one booming economic location to another including to and from New York Giant football games in the Meadowlands and casinos in Atlantic City. I myself have never been on a public transport bus because I am a blogger and am wealthy beyond any practical reason and live a simple hermetic life hidden away in a barronial gravy boat of a castle which was once owned by an international arms dealer and is perched high on the banks along the Hudson River. But never mind that. What really matters is that public transportation vehicles benefit everyone and the more people who ride on busses to and fro and the more often your picture appears on the side of a bus the stronger and more vitality-like the nations economy becomes.

Which just goes to show you that we all have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Even if you're riding around aimlessly on a bus with Chris Mathews staring at you and you have to think up something quick to be thankful for, at least you're thinking about something, and thats something to be thankful for in and of itself. Now isn't it?

So Happy Thanksgiving. It doesn't matter that Thanksgiving is over with because Thanksgiving is never really over with. It goes on and on. It's a forward looking statement. Just ask Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag. Then again, thinking back on it, maybe you shouldn't ask him. But just ask all those people in Iraq who live each day in harms way and survive one more day to tell about it and therefore draw one more day closer to the next Thanksgiving Day. That's something to be thankful for even if the birdbrain who has made mincemeat of honesty, democratic parley, and due process, is flying around the globe like a blind clog in a meat market. Scrub that unscrupulous chucklehead and his foul brood. He'll be packing his giblets back to Crawford aboard a bus by next Thanksgiving Day. Which is not only a forward looking statement but also an optimistic indicator of future economic vitality.

And thats something to give thanks for any day of the year.

"And there's only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids on the death of their loved ones. Others hug, but having committed the troops, I've got an additional responsibility to hug, and that's me, and I know what it's like." - George W. Bush, television interview with Barbara Walters, December 2002.

Gutless, feckless Beltway Dems beaten, left for dead 

Yeah, so they held back a few of the more rabid winger judges. Good for a C+ in a business-as-usual year.

They lose Medicare -- blindsided by the AARP! How the heck did that happen, Mr. Daschle? Wasn't it supposed to be different with you, Ms. Pelosi?

Meanwhile, the Republicans throw away 60 hours on a made-for-TV filibuster, complete with cots, while failing to pass the budget to fund 13 agencies, and the Dems don't say Boo, let alone the SCLM.

Telling incident: House rules demand a vote be completed in fifteen minutes, but the House Thugs kept the vote going for three hours, twisting arms. (Like when the leadership "stops the clock" in the Texas Lege, the level the House has now descended to.) Anyhow, this is the final straw for Barney Frank, who says this, not letting Democrats partiticipate at all (not to mention trying to arrrest them!), and the other continuing rules violations by the Thugs mean "the end of parliamentary democracy."


And does Frank do anything? Does the leadership? Nope. Meek as lambs. Why not pull out of the whole farce, set up some tables outside the Capitol, call the cameras, and start doing a little truth-telling?

Wes Clark you moron! 

Making an issue of Dean's deferment when Bush was aWol for over a year, even from the cush Texas Air National Guard duty his connections got him.

Circular firing squad, anyone? Unka Karl must be rubbing his chubby hands!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Occupiers? Who? US? 


American military commanders did not impose curfews, halt looting or order Iraqis back to work after Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime fell because U.S. policymakers were reluctant to declare U.S. troops an occupying force, says an internal Army review examined by The Associated Press

As a result, the Bush administration's first steps at reconstruction in Iraq (news - web sites) were severely hampered, creating a power vacuum that others quickly moved to fill, and a growing mistrust on the part of ordinary Iraqis, the report said.

Since those first days, the U.S. effort in Iraq has been hampered by a growing insurgency with persistent and deadly attacks against U.S. forces.

And now for my personal favorite two paragraphs:

The review, a postwar self-evaluation by the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), said the political decision to call the U.S. forces that arrived in Baghdad "liberators" instead of "occupying forces" left the division's officers uncertain about their legal authority in postwar Baghdad and other cities. Under international law, the report says, the troops were indeed an occupation force and had both rights and responsibilities.

"Because of the refusal to acknowledge occupier status, commanders did not initially take measures available to occupying powers, such as imposing curfews, directing civilians to return to work, and controlling the local governments and populace. The failure to act after we displaced the regime created a power vacuum, which others immediately tried to fill," says the report.

Laugh, or cry? Your choice. Probably both.

Listen carefully and you'll probably be able to hear a soft whistling type sound off in the distance - that would be the RNC, the Laura Ingrahams, the Mona Charins, The Weekly Standard-ites, the Hannitynitas, and the whole vast area of rightwing frontline media troops beginning to spin like tops in order to blame this on the State Department and all those bloody Democratic internationalists whom the President was trying to please.

I guess by July, the pretense of non-occupier status had worn a bit thin. How else to explain this statement by Paul Bremer as reported by both the Asian Times and The Guardian:

"We dominate the scene and we will continue to impose our will on this country."

Oh well, that was then. This is....now.

During his brief visit to Baghdad on Thursday, President Bush met with four members of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council. Bush said he reminded them that "it's up to them to seize the moment, to have a government that recognizes all rights, the rights of the majority and the rights of the minority, to speak to the aspirations and hopes of the Iraqi people."

According to three of the council members at the meeting, Bush indicated that he would be willing to accept revisions to the administration's transition plan, although he did not endorse the idea of elections.

One of the council members, Mowaffak Rubaie, said Bush told the group: "I will support any decision you make. I won't make decisions for you. I will help you in implementing your decisions." Two other members at the meeting, Ahmed Chalabi and Rajaa Habib Khuzai, concurred with Rubaie's account but added that Bush expressed a desire for the provisional government to be chosen through caucuses.

"He talked to us about getting the job done, about moving toward sovereignty," Chalabi said.

U.S. officials said Bush did not delve into specifics of the transition plan and merely indicated to the council members that the United States wanted to be helpful and supportive of the council. "He said, 'We're here to support you,' " an administration official said.

The impression one is left with from this excellent WaPo article is that of an administration desperate to get out of the hole they've dug for themselves in Iraq.

Less than two weeks after overhauling its plans for Iraq's political transition, the Bush administration is considering more major revisions that could include elections for a provisional government in an attempt to appease the country's most powerful Shiite Muslim cleric, senior U.S. officials said.

Holding elections would be a major reversal for the administration, which has long argued that the absence of an electoral law and accurate voter rolls would make a nationwide ballot time-consuming, disruptive and open to manipulation by religious extremists and loyalists of former president Saddam Hussein.

But the senior officials said the administration may be forced to organize elections to satisfy Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. A senior cleric who has strong support among Iraq's Shiite majority, Sistani appears to have rejected a plan devised earlier this month to select a provisional government through 18 regional caucuses. Two Shiite politicians said Sistani told them on Wednesday that he does not support the caucuses and instead wants the provisional government chosen through a general election.

How different this all would have been if the administration had bothered to listen to any of those voices that agreed with the dual goals of freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam's lethal grasp so that, at last, they could govern themselves. What the administration is finally doing now has been exactly what had been advised by European critics, the UN, Democrats and many non-partisan foreign policy experts for months now.

Or, if they had bothered to listen to Iraqis.

Even when they made their annoucement of this new policy two weeks ago, beneath the rhetoric of turning over sovereignty to the Iraqis, Brenner's plan was a top down approach, meaning important decisions would devolve from the...you should excuse the expression, occupiers, i.e., us, the US.

As soon as the new plan was announced Nov. 15 by leaders of the Governing Council, council members began pushing for changes. Contending that the plan was forced on them by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, they have sought to revise several key elements, including the planned dissolution of the council after the provisional government was formed.

Several Shiite members also have objected to the method of choosing participants in the caucuses. Under Bremer's plan, they must be approved by 11 of 15 people on an organizing committee, which would be selected by the Governing Council and U.S.-appointed councils at the city and province level. Shiite leaders worry that religious figures may be excluded by the organizing committees.

In fact, the most serious misreading of which this administration has been guilty has been their take on who the Iraqis are, how their society works, their view of their own history, and most of all, a crucial underestimation of their sense of national pride, and their ability to run their own society, by which I mean, to get their own schools open, to repair their own bridges, to run their own oil fields, to work with the international community to set up some form of tribunal that would be used to separate out those Baathist who have committed human rights crimes, and some form of recognition for the victims of those crimes, in short, to govern themselves.

Oh, I understand that self-government was not the primary goal for this administration, the right kind of government was, one that included adulation of the free market, some good stuff like the rights for minorities, but most of all, a government that was both American and Israeli-friendly. What Bush & co failed to take into account was the vitality of Iraqi soceity, and thus, its own countervailing impatience with an occupation that carried the exclusive face of America, by whatever name this administration chose to identify it.

"Elections are now a possibility," said a senior U.S. official close to Iraq's political transition. "We're scrambling to find a solution."


A senior Shiite politician who met Sistani on Wednesday evening said the grand ayatollah made clear that he wanted members of a provisional government to be chosen through direct elections, not caucuses. The politician said Sistani would issue a religious edict in the coming days that would articulate his views.

Another Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, said Wednesday that Sistani was concerned that the administration's transition plan did not give ordinary Iraqis enough of a say in shaping the provisional government. Hakim said Sistani also was worried that the plan lacked safeguards for what he called the country's "Islamic identity."

Oh, those crazy Iraqis. And, btw, despite what you may have heard, "Islamic identity" need not be incompatible with democratic governance.

Good Morning, Iraq, Happy Thanksgiving, Baghdad 

Wasn't that the message of the President's surprise visit to the troops, during the first several hours after midnight, which made it technically A.M, and technically Thanksgiving? He received several standing ovations from the troops, which is as it should be, and his visit seemed to buoy their spirits.

That it had something of the quality of a PR stunt, that it was hardly a vindiction of this administration's policies for a President to have to sneak into a country we've liberated and now occupy for the most idealistic of purposes, we're told, and not be able to move beyond the confines of the airport, or be able to stay more than two hours, that, as always, the emphasis was on Bush, not as representative of the whole country, but as a President who is actually more important than the rest of the country, who personalizes every challenge, so that the trip was expressing his determination to stay the course, his fighting spirit, etc., that the trip was made under conditions of security unavailable to any of our troops on the ground, and finally that the media, as began yesterday, will have the planned for Rovian response, praising the President's boldness and courage, and not notice his happy acceptance of the most extravagant accolades without much thought, public and probably private, about the struggle of our troops to reach deep into themselves to find such courage, not for two hours, but every minute of every day of their tour of duty in Iraq, are all reasonable observations, and questions worthy of being raised. I hope the Democratic voices who are quoted, the professional Democrats, won't bother to raise them.

This is not a call to wuss out. It's a call for the Democratic Party to get smart. I think it's fairly clear that one of the goals of this trip was precisely to draw fire from Democrats. Why give Rove exactly what he wants?

The fact is that this is what Presidents are supposed to do, visit the troops who are under arms; even if he did it with his usual lack of grace, he was acting as the President, fullfilling the functions of an office that belongs to all of us.

Yes, the Republicans for eight years got away with heaping manure all over a Democratic President and the office itself. They did pay a price, though. Despite the national distaste for the details of what went on between Monica and Bill, an overwhelming majority of Americans were clear on who to blame for the fact that those details had been called to their attention. The Republicans still had to steal the next election. And don't tell me that Al Gore had everything going for him; nonsense. What the eight years of assaults on Bill Clinton personally and on his Presidency did succeed in doing was to create a wholly unearned sense of permanent scandal and sordid political chicanery around everyone who was part of it. Unfortunately, the sense of disgust about the tone in Washington fell more on Gore than on its true source, the Republican Party, and even so, they had to steal an election to win.

Americans are tired of the vitriol. They're tired of wedge issues, they're tired of being divided from one another. George W. Bush has failed to come through with a campaign promise he made again and again, one that I personally believe was the key to his success at enticing swing voters into the Republican column - he has been a divider, and not a uniter. That has certainly been one of Howard Dean's most effective themes, and Senator Edwards used it to great advantage for the Democrats in the last presidential debate. This trip is a perfect example. If the President had really wanted this country to show the world and our men and women serving in Iraq a united front, he might have considered the possibility of taking other high officials along, including a Democrat. It is almost unimaginable that this administration would ever consider doing such a thing.

All of this is becoming increasingly clear to a majority of Americans. The Democrats should let others, especially those of us at the grassroots level, raise issues about this visit, in the form of letters to the editor, emails to congress and to members of the media.

Here's Dana Milbank on yesterday's stunt..ed visit to the troops. (Sometimes it's hard to follow your own advice)

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

"Perception Management" 

Bush/Iraq - Reagan/Guatemala, and the politics of "dirty war".

Highly reccomended reading dept. Iraq: Quicksand & Blood by Robert Parry, Consortium News

George W. Bush and his top advisers learned little from the Vietnam debacle of the 1960s, since most avoided service in the war. But many top Bush aides played key roles in the repression of leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s, a set of lessons the Bush administration is now trying to apply to the violent resistance in Iraq.

The key counterinsurgency lesson from Central America was that the U.S. government can defeat guerrilla movements if it is willing to back a local power structure, no matter how repulsive, and if Washington is ready to tolerate gross human rights abuses. In Central America in the 1980s, those tactics included genocide against hundreds of Mayan villages in Guatemala's highlands and the torture, rape and murder of thousands of young political activists throughout the region. [More on this below]

The body dumps that have been unearthed across Central America are thus little different from the mass graves blamed on Saddam Hussein in Iraq, except in Central America they represented the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and received far less U.S. press scrutiny. Another lesson learned from the 1980s was the importance of shielding the American people from the ugly realities of a U.S.-backed "dirty war" by using P.R. techniques, which became known inside the Reagan administration as "perception management."

The temptation to recycle these counterinsurgency strategies from Central America to Iraq is explained by the number of Reagan-era officials now back in prominent roles in George W. Bush's administration.


'Perception Management'

To manage U.S. perceptions of the wars in Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists. Called "public diplomacy," the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The project's key operatives developed propaganda "themes," selected "hot buttons" to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn't go along.

Much more to this article...it's a good one, so read it in full at Consortium News

Campaign Track 

William Greider endorses Howard Dean.

The Nation, November 26, 2003.
Why I'm for Dean, by William Greider.

In the higher realms of politics, this is not done. But he is not one of them. And this is no longer the era for "triangulation" between the business-financial money patrons and the party's main constituencies. That new spirit, more than any single issue, is what has drawn together Dean's vibrant and growing base, buoying his candidacy with millions in small contributions. Dean is opening the possibility of transforming politics--shaking up the tired, timid old order, inviting plain-wrapper citizens back into an active role--and that's why so many people, myself included, are for him. Full disclosure: I am among the throngs who have been invited to contribute "forward-looking ideas" to his campaign (I was flattered to be asked and pleased to oblige, with no naive expectations).


Via The Atlantic, News-o-mercials and boob-tube expediency.
See Politics (and Profits) on TV [scroll down page for item]

In the nation's top fifty media markets during the seven weeks immediately preceding the November 2002 midterm election, more than half of all local television broadcasts gave no coverage whatsoever to political campaigns. As a result, according to researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin at Madison who examined more than 10,000 half-hour local television news broadcasts, most of the political information gleaned by local-news viewers came from paid advertisements:

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Gutless, feckless Beltway Dems sell Federal workers down the river 


In another win for Bush, there was an agreement to let him proceed with much of his plan to give private companies work now performed by some federal workers. In giving tasks to the private sector, the administration would have to just consider [italics mine] whether substantial savings would result but wouldn't be required to do so as lawmakers preferred.

Yeah, "consider"... That's the ticket, "consider" ... Where's that damn rubberstamp ...

What's that book again? The Great De-balling?


Anyone who isn't angry isn't paying attention.

Any presidential candidate who isn't angry doesn't have the temperament to be President.

Feckless, gutless Beltway Dems 

Dionne, via (Leah, below).

The battle over a Medicare prescription drug benefit proves that Republicans are ruthless and determined and that Democrats are divided and hapless. Republicans have changed the rules in Washington, but some Democrats still pretend to be living in the good old days.

Haven't these guys read Krugman's book? The Thugs are a revolutionary power. The old rules don't apply anymore.

The book the Democrats should also read is one that hasn't been written yet: The Great Ungrovelling.

Killjoy Is Here 

I'm not a vegetarian. I love poultry, both alive, and to eat , and I especially love Turkey.

So, please believe me, I'm not trying to be a "kill joy," nor am I out to spoil your Thanksgiving by suggesting you read a timely article about American eating habits.

It is possible to find small growers who raise their turkeys sensibly, healthily, humanely and wisely. Yes, such turkeys are somewhat more expensive. But the experience of eating animals you can be sure have had a decent life while they were alive, and weren't raised in conditions that would make it impossible for you to eat them if you ever had the bad luck to see what they were, and aren't manifestly unhealthy for you and your family, is so much more satisfying, the birds taste so much better, it's worth paying a bit more, and if necessary, eating various kinds of animal meat less often.

So forewarned, here's a friendly article that explains how to have a healthy, humane, wise and wonderful Thanksgiving.

"Moral Disembowelment" 

When Bush wins big, the world loses even bigger.

That's the gist of this article from "Grist" by way of Working for Change.

It's about the hole in the ozone, and uses the example of a small Chilean city whose inhabitants have the bad luck to be situated so as to experience on a greater scale than the rest of us, the deadly effects of those infrared rays that leak through the hole.

This was in 2000, when the ozone hole was at its largest ever -- 11.5 million square miles, bigger than Canada and Russia combined.


Despite the magnitude of the problem and the attendant health concerns, the people of Punta Arenas had reason for cautious optimism back in 2000. If they had the misfortune to be among those most directly afflicted by the depletion of the ozone layer, at least the global community was making a good-faith effort to resolve their predicament, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, often considered the most successful international environmental treaty ever negotiated.

That was then, in 2000. What's different now, in 2003? George W. Bush.

Read the rest to find out how the Bush administration earns, through its actions, proudly one imagines, Karen Schultz's epithet that provides the title of this post.

Then take brief notes in a handy form that you can whip out whenever necessary, to help you explain, with specifics, to anyone skeptical that Bush is really all that bad, why he is.

"Democrats Take A Dive" 

E.J Dionne on the Medicare debacle. He mainly gets it right.

His conclusion, not very illuminating. Republicans, tough, they fight. Democrats, don't.

What get's in the way of cohesive, coordinated legislative action is what we need to figure out. But what the hell, even a big-time media pundit deserves his moment of anger.

Suggested Reading 

Jesse at Pandagon flays William Safire, after dubbing him, Safliar, The Redolent.

Ezra, Jessie's new Pandagon partner, talks about an Ann Coulter comeuppance at the hands of, of all people, Alan Colmes, aided by one of those Democratic strategist thingees. Ezra also does some damn fine flaying of his own on a sorry shambles of a column by Paul Jacobs.

Here's a link to the transcript of yesterdays Democratic Presidential debate. This is actually required reading, and yes, there will be a quiz. (I'm only half kidding; time to figure out what's going on here vis a vis the goal of defeating Bush and we need a conversation with more than one point of view to do that.)

Allen Brill has a heartening post about a lovely community Thanksgiving celebratioin in a quasi-rural area of the American heartland

And here's the always wonderful "skippy" on one aspect of the on-going culture clash about media bias.

Okay, Now You Can Get Mad 

Bush will get his Medicare bill. And it wasn't even all that hard. I know I often consel not to get angry...well, sometimes you just have to let the anger have its day.

In fact, I'm so angry, I can't yet write about what went down in the Senate yesterday.

Anger is a dish best consumed in the presence of friends, other angry friends. Let me suggest, for instance, Democratic Veteran, and Emma at the perfectly titled for the occasion, Notes On The Atrocities, both of whom have other interesting blog stuff up you should check out while you're there.

I'll have more to say on the topic when I stop choking on my own bile.

Monday, November 24, 2003

"Framing" Anyone? 

E.g., framing an issue on your terms. How's this strike you?

Why does George W. Bush hate the clean air you breath, the clear rivers you fish in, the American wilderness you love to visit, or at least love to imagine visiting?

Why does he hate the sun that warms this planet and is the source of all energy on earth so much that he refuses to take even a baby step toward the implementation of the idea of harnessing it, and other forms of renewable energy right now, so that we can become truly energy independent, in say, ten years, and create good jobs into the bargain, jobs that won't be easily exportable?

Okay, I don't actually think Bush hates the enviornment, anymore than I think anyone who criticizes his Iraq policy hates America. But surely there is something weird about the thoroughness with which his policies are trashing the bi-partisan enviornmental policies that have produced decades of progress. I think like so many other contructs, for Dubya, the environment stays an idea, a rather abstract idea.

As for instance, when, on the British comedy, "Yes, Minister," a developer of a huge office complex in a neighborhood near the Thames is asked by the interior minister, "what about the enviornment?", and the developer replies, "What about it? Surely there'll be one. There's always an enviornment."

The enviornment is just one of those things that's there, and will always be there.

RFK, Jr. has a go at Bush and the enviornment in the LATimes, and doesn't mince words.

I'm not sure if his approach is what is meant by "framing," but his indictment is clear, vivid, and undeniable. It's the most passionate enumeration of campaign talking points I've ever read.

The article is free for now, but registration is required, and if I can put in a plug for my hometown rag, these days the LATimes is worth it.

You Can Take The Boy Out Of The Fraternity.... 

Could Shrub actually be today's "Cat In A Hat?"

Seems our prez and his guys, ("goons") were pretty tough on the Queen's Buckingham Palace gardens, and she's upset about it.

I'm still trying to get over those five chefs he took with him.

Billmon has the story, and the visual

And while you're there, don't miss his discussion of Bush's "neo-Peronist spending policies."

What Are These Guys Thinking About? Part Forever 

Bremer's firing teachers now. Twenty-eight thousand of them. For having been Baathists.

This, courtesy of the great Oliver Willis. Here's the original UPI story . And who might be behind this move? By implication, Chalabi, who, as the man who would follow Saddam, was certified this weekend by Sally Quinn, as not merely an acceptable dinnerparty guest, but as a highly desirable one.

A Central Command spokesman, speaking to UPI from Baghdad, acknowledged that the firings had taken place but said the figure of 28,000 "is too high."

He was unable, however, after two days, to supply UPI with a lower, revised total.

The Central Command spokesman attributed the firings to "tough, new anti-Baath Party measures" recently passed by the U.S.-created Iraqi Governing Council, dominated by Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of administration hawks in the White House and Pentagon.

So, 28,000 members of 28,000 Iraqi families will no longer be employed in a country where the unemployment rate is hovering between 70 and 60 %. Iraqis have large, extended families, that are closer and see each other more often than many of our nuclear families. So multiply that 28,000 X oh, let's say on average 6 1/2 other Iraqis.


"It's a piece of real stupidity on the part of the neocons to try and equate the Baath Party with the Nazis," said former CIA official Larry Johnson. "You have to make a choice: Either you are going to deal with Iraqis who are capable of rebuilding and running the country or you're going to turn Iraq over to those who can't."


"It's an incredible error," said former senior CIA official and Middle East expert Graham Fuller. "In Germany, after World War II, the de-nazification program was applied with almost surgical precision in order not to antagonize German public opinion. In the case of Iraq, ideologues don't seem to grasp the seriousness of their acts."

Isn't this the same mistake they made with the Iraqi army? And again, with Iraqi civilians who'd been running important slices of what kept civil society going in Iraq before we invaded? What, is this administration preternaturally unable to learn from their own mistakes? Of course, in order to learn from one, you have to be able to admit you made one.

And in January, Iraqis can look forward to the UN Food program being discontinued. Or have they come to their senses on this one? If so, I haven't heard about it.

You know, I'm starting to get really, really, angry.

Try and imagine if you were an Iraqi, trying to hold together a life for you and your family?

Welcome Back, Arthur Silber 

Yes, Arthur's a libertarian, and even an admirer of the authoress of The Fountainhead, but he's also a damn good writer, and a thinker of uncommon clarity.

The bus strike in LA destroyed his ability to blog, for reasons he explained at the time of his hiatus. Happily, readers responded with some monetary appreciation for the work Arthur makes available to all of us.

The strike now over, Arthur has returned to his blog, with a real scorcher of a post, let me add. It's long, complicated, about Iraq, and an invaluable contribution to the argument going on about what we're doing there, and what the limitations are on our "success."

He also has this very smart take on David Brooks' take on marriage, gay, and otherwise.

One More Terrible Idea Among So Many 

Hard to keep track of them, ain't it?

Fred Kaplan is one of the few good things about Slate; here he gives you the low, and we do mean low...down on one of this administration's genuine dosies, low-yield nuclear weapons, which are impractical, expensive, and will require testing, thus undemining four decades of progress made on behalf of non-proliferation of nukes, at exactly the time we're complaining that the world isn't backing our position on Iran's non-military nuclear program, even though Iran has agreed to international inspections. A triple threat (and we do mean threat) weapons program, these bunker busters, that don't even do that efficiently.

These guys won't be content until they've started another international nuclear arms race. And why not? Wasn't that how we - uh, Ronald Reagan beat the Soviets?

The FCC, Big Media, Saving Our Democracy, And All That 

The LATimes, reporting on Nov 19th, seems to think that for now, the thrust in Congress to get those new FCC rules Michael Powell foisted on America may be over. Not the fault of those in the House and Senate who want to stop more media mergers. Bush has threatened a veto. The Times suggest that probably the issue will be dealt with in what has now become SOP for this White House.

It appears most likely that a compromise will be hammered out behind closed doors by a handful of top lawmakers and White House officials, and then inserted into a giant omnibus spending bill. It remains unclear whether the final agreement will be subject to amendment by lawmakers unhappy with the result.

On the other hand, Eric Boehlert, writing in Salon on Nov 21st presents a much brighter picture.

What's clear from both reports, the issues surrounding those FCC rules changes as well as the changes themselves are not going away at the end of this congressional session, and that is definitely good news. (Boehlert's article requires subscription; his reporting and commentary is one of the chief reasons Salon is worth supporting). Check at Common Good, where you can sometimes find the best of Salon to be had for a click of your mouse.

When it comes to expressing just what's at stake here, does anyone do it better than Bill Moyers?

What would happen, however, if the contending giants of big government and big publishing and broadcasting ever joined hands? Ever saw eye to eye in putting the public’s need for news second to free-market economics? That’s exactly what’s happening now under the ideological banner of “deregulation.” Giant megamedia conglomerates that our founders could not possibly have envisioned are finding common cause with an imperial state in a betrothal certain to produce not the sons and daughters of liberty but the very kind of bastards that issued from the old arranged marriage of church and state.

Consider where we are today.

Never has there been an administration so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large and – in defiance of the Constitution – from their representatives in Congress. Never has the so powerful a media oligopoly – the word is Barry Diller’s, not mine – been so unabashed in reaching like Caesar for still more wealth and power. Never have hand and glove fitted together so comfortably to manipulate free political debate, sow contempt for the idea of government itself, and trivialize the people’s need to know. When the journalist-historian Richard Reeves was once asked by a college student to define “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.” When journalism throws in with power that’s the first news marched by censors to the guillotine. The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it.

Which brings me to the third powerful force – beyond governmental secrecy and megamedia conglomerates – that is shaping what Americans see, read, and hear. I am talking now about that quasi-official partisan press ideologically linked to an authoritarian administration that in turn is the ally and agent of the most powerful interests in the world. This convergence dominates the marketplace of political ideas today in a phenomenon unique in our history. You need not harbor the notion of a vast, right wing conspiracy to think this more collusion more than pure coincidence. Conspiracy is unnecessary when ideology hungers for power and its many adherents swarm of their own accord to the same pot of honey. Stretching from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to the faux news of Rupert Murdoch’s empire to the nattering nabobs of no-nothing radio to a legion of think tanks paid for and bought by conglomerates – the religious, partisan and corporate right have raised a mighty megaphone for sectarian, economic, and political forces that aim to transform the egalitarian and democratic ideals embodied in our founding documents. Authoritarianism. With no strong opposition party to challenge such triumphalist hegemony, it is left to journalism to be democracy’s best friend. That is why so many journalists joined with you in questioning Michael Powell’s bid – blessed by the White House – to permit further concentration of media ownership. If free and independent journalism committed to telling the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy.


So the issues bringing us here tonight are bigger and far more critical than simply “media reform.” That’s why, before I go on, I want to ask you to look around you. I’m serious: Look to your left and now to your right. You are looking at your allies in one of the great ongoing struggles of the American experience – the struggle for the soul of democracy, for government “of, by, and for the people.”

It’s a battle we can win only if we work together.

Read the whole speech, if you haven't yet; you'll find out a lot about how richly informed were American citizens in the early days of this Republic, discover a rather astonishing credo set out by Joseph Pulitzer, and more.

And there's this passionate credo, written by the great English pamphleteer, William Cobbett, in the 1790s, still as fresh and new as tomorrow.

Professions of impartiality I shall make none. They are always useless, and are besides perfect nonsense, when used by a newsmonger; for, he that does not relate news as he finds it, is something worse than partial; and . . . he that does not exercise his own judgment, either in admitting or rejecting what is sent him, is a poor passive tool, and not an editor.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Corporate chieftain turns lexicographer 

The word: McJobs:

McDonald's chairman Jim Cantalupo publicly lost his patience this month with the way ["McJobs"] is being used to describe dead-end work, particularly for young people.

Mr. Cantalupo wrote a letter denouncing Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for using McJob in its new edition, where the word is defined as "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement."

Yeah? So what's your point?

Here's a copy of the Medicare Bill 

And it's only 678 pages long!

"Just sign here. Trust me—you don't need to read it!"

("Trust me" being Thug-speak for "Fuck you!")

Want to do something about it? See Leah (down).

"Mission Accomplished" 


Iraqi teenagers dragged the bloody bodies of two American soldiers from a wrecked vehicle and pummeled them with concrete blocks Sunday, witnesses said, describing a burst of savagery in a city once safe for Americans.

Senate Democrats Struggle On 

Why not help them?

I'll make this one short. More or less.

Sens. Kennedy and Kerry have committed publically to a fillibuster. That's more or less what is going on today, yes, in a Sunday session.

Tomorrow, Monday, Frist is going to call for cloture.

Kennedy appears to have said that he probably doesn't have the votes to defend against a cloture motion. To get cloture, a 2/3rds majority is required.

I'm frankly stunned that Democrats can't hold on to forty Democratic Senators to vote against cloture. Who knows, Kennedy's statement might be tactical. Daschle's on board, Harry Reid is, he's still Senate whip I believe. I've seen Harkin speak against the bill, both California Senators, Dorgan, Graham of Florida, Dick Durbin, Schumer and Clinton, can't remember all the Democrats.

Aside from Breaux and Baucus, who the hell could want to vote for this bill? It stinks, most seniors seem to know it, Sen. Frist standing in front of the cameras, trying to tell the country that the Democrats oppose this bill says that Democrats don't care about helping seniors rings so hollow, who could be afraid of that?

Anyone who needs prescription drugs knows what the problem is; competition between American drug producers actually raises prices, as each of them vie to bring out different versions of the same drug, or new, repackaged versions of their own drugs. A majority of Americans don't buy the line that Americans have to pay 600 times what is paid in Canada for the same drug in order to have drug companies continue to come up with new drugs. This bill assures that there will be no pressure on drug companies to lower prices.

This bill is an attack on the very idea of market competition, even while it tries to hand over to HMO's a wedge by which to ultimately privitize Medicare, despite the fact that HMOs are trying to get out of the business of insuring seniors. Of course, with some government subsidies, and the ability to cherry pick the healthiest, richest seniors, they might be more interested.

There is no downside to voting against this bill, and a huge downside to voting for it.

Aside from the intrinsic dumbness of the bill itself, there is also the outrageous process by which it was reported out of the conference committee.

Bush and the Republican approach here has been exactly the same they took to the issue of Iraq. Top down, unilateral decision making.

And what's the hurry? There's plenty of time to get a Medicare bill out and voted on with genuine particpation by Democrats who represent voters currently being ignored. Winner takes all, is how Bush behaves again and again, even though he hasn't really won anything.


It's a lonely task, I know, taking the time and trouble to send a communication to your or another Senator. But it needn't be. Send one, then call five friends, and ask each of them to call five of their friends or relatives, ones you haven't called and ask them to send an email.

My advice - send emails to Kerry, Kennedy, Daschle, and Reid, as well as Edwards and Lieberman, since their running for the presidential nomination.

Here's the Senate website; it provides a place to select a state, and the a click takes you to their webpage where you can usually leave an email. Make the subject VOTE NO ON MEDICARE.

Just to make it really easy:

Here's Sen. Kennedy's email address: senator@kennedy.senate.gov; you can use that to write an email straight from your own email program.

Here's Sen. Kerry's online site for sending him an email.

Here's where you can send Sen. Daschle an email.

Here's where you can leave an email for Sen. Harry Reid.

Here's Leiberman's; he has a select a topic form; but Medicare's there.

Here's the contact info for Sen. Dodd, while you're at it.

Probably best to concentrate on few Senators, and get other people to do the same.

Listen to the debate if you can; you can hear or watch it on the web. You'll be proud to be a Democrat, or proud to consider voting for one, if you're independent.

As you cruise the web today, leave comments suggesting other commentators might like to join you in letting our representatives know how we feel.

Make the message short but potent: We don't want this bill. I'm a senior, or I know seniors, they don't want this bill. Don't give Bush this win without going to the wall to stop him. Best of all, stop him, and then invite him to work with Democrats to get a bill they can support.

One more point; remember the howls of rage, that one still hears, about Hillary Clinton's secretive process for working out her health care proposal. First of all, it wasn't that secret, not as secret as this process has been. And it was a proposal, presented as the beginning of a long debate. This pig in a poke was presented forty-eight hours ago, and is being rammed down the throats of Democrats, which means the throats of all the voters who voted for them..

I'm sure you can find some shorter way than I seem able to to phrase all of this.

It's your democracy, go use it.

Wingers trying MeetUp.com 


Sigh... I voted to keep them out in the 'burbs—but then so did they.

Where's the ridicule? 

So Dear Leader takes 5 (count 'em, five) personal chefs to meet the Queen of England who, as I understand, has chefs of her own, here (via Atrios).

Remember when the SCLM was all over Clinton about holding up a plane to get a haircut—and the story wasn't even true?

Forget outrage... But where's the ridicule?

What next, Bush impersonators?


Three more dead to reelect Bush.

To answer your question, Yes, the Thugs are utterly without shame in politicizing the war. Disgusting. Incidentally, if you think the Jessica Lynch story was a propaganda stunt, you can register your disgust at military.com.

The only mission to be accomplished here is reelecting Bush.

"The only thing we have is fear is fear itself." 

Why don't we ever hear that from Bush, as we heard it from FDR?

Say, could it be that Bush wants us to be afraid, since it's useful to him and his backers?

And could it be... That Bush himself is afraid?


Personally, I think the state has no business supporting any kind of marriage relation, since marriage is encumbered with religious notions, and religion isn't something the state should be establishing. So I don't support laws about "gay marriage" because I don't support laws about any marriage.

On the other hand, I do think civil unions for the people who want them is the way to go. Isn't it obvious that one member of a couple should be able to visit the other in a hospital, or make a will in their favor, or do the usual things that couples do to make it through? As if there could be too much love in the world!

So I think Vermont, and Dean, got it exactly right. Further, Democrats shouldn't be afraid to say so. Let the Thugs touch this third rail and marginalize themselves.

As a parting shot: I love hearing the wingers make the argument from biology— that "marriage" is "natural" in the animal kingdom. There weren't any dog priests last I looked (well, maybe in Rick Santorum's mind). And whales rape. So rape is natural, therefore good? Overheated foolishness...

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