Saturday, December 06, 2003

This Explains Alot 

In the middle of a depressing NYT article about the short-lived "hearts and minds" approach to pacifying Iraq, we find out that our military has mistakenly mistook a Monty Python sketch for a counterinsurgency strategy:

"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."

I bet the Iraqis didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition:

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise....

The Crusades, on the other hand....

Seriously, how sad is it to read that the U.S. is studying Israeli tactics in the West Bank? There's a template for success. What next--Gen. George Custer on the importance of the element of surprise?

Is John Kerry the new George Romney? 

George Romney, you will recall, derailed his candidacy in the Vietnam era by declaring that he'd been "brainwashed" by generals and the White House on his visit there.

Who, people asked, wants a President who can be brainwashed?

And who, we may ask, wants a President who doesn't know Bush is a liar? (Jesse Barney, via Atrios).

PS: Jesse, Barney: the die was cast for the Iraw war long before the "product rollout" following Bush's summer vacation. Once we'd positioned the troops and supplies there, we were going in, and that started happening months before the marketing campaign. Another classic case of "Watch only what they do," since whatever they say can be utterly discounted.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Tim Noah Is The Whopper Of The Week 

And Tim's one giant turd, all right. Normally, I don't trade in scatology, but when the poop fits...And, by the way, so's his wife.*

It started early in the week, with one of those unpatented, mind-numbing grotesqueries of his that so many other equally lesser minds have learned to...well, to use the word, "ape," would be unfair to several of my favorite species, so help me out here and fill in the blank. This particular grotesquerie had to do with, who else, Senator John Kerry.

If I give you the title, "Does Teresa Heinz Trust John Kerry?
If not, why should we?"
, do I really have to tell you what the Noah piece proposes? Do you really need to click on that link to know that Tim will be asserting some true facts that more than adequately answer the question he poses, (why Kerry's wife's Heinz heiress wealth is not available to Kerry for his campaign - a pre-nup agreement signed at the time of marriage, 18 years ago) which will be followed by wild, even crazed speculations, (about how, despite statements by Kerry's wife, Teresa, that she would consider using her own money to defend him against unjust campaign attacks, she can't legally, and she must know that) that are meant to distract you from the fact that matters, a pre-nup agreement, followed by more distracting speculation based on meaningless details, and then the switcheroo lie, a question about "back then" if the pre-nup was even necessary, given Heinz-Kerry's age, 65, though back then, her age was 65 minus eighteen, all this argumentation having the express goal of distracting you from the clear fact that there is no "here" here.

So Teresa Heinz Kerry could have found ways to make her money available to her husband in the foregone likelihood that he would run for President, the evidence here for her certain knowledge that he would, the fact that Morley Safer noticed Kerry's ambition in a thirty-two year old 60 Minute interview. True, Noah admits, many rich couples sign pre-nups, but not all, for example, Paul McCartney didn't.

Okay, you can see where Tim is leading you -- into the very heart of the whopping turd that is Tim Noah.

To be sure, Kerry had every expectation, heading into the 2004 race, that he was going to lead the pack in fund raising, which he did for awhile. But Heinz Kerry has been around politics long enough to know that a presidential candidate can't count on anything. And she had the example of George W. Bush's nomination race in 2000 before her to show that presidential candidates don't always stay within the limits imposed by public financing.

Heinz Kerry must have had some inkling that the day might come when her second husband would need her money. And knowing that, she didn't make it available. That doesn't make her a bad wife. But it does raise a disconcerting question for voters. If Teresa Heinz Kerry won't give John Kerry the keys to the car, why should we?

This isn't reporting. This isn't commentary. This isn't even punditry. It's not even, God help us, gasbaggery. It's gossip. Pure, but quite complex gossip. Speculative assertions, for which there is no direct hard evidence, offered in the tone of the knowing insider, who definitely has the dirt you want to hear, repeated and repeated within the gossip narrative, and destined to be repeated and repeated in other versions of the same gossip narrative, until the speculations take on the patina of unquestionable fact - which is precisely how gossip works, isn't it?

For example, later in the week, TNR blog, &c. took Noah to task for the inadquate quality of his gossip narrative, though they did find that he'd made a "provocative" case that " Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of John (and John before that) can't possibly trust her husband with her copious wealth." The problem with Noah's column is not that it's gossip based on speculation, the problem is that Noah's gossip narrative isn't nearly as clever as the gossip narrative this New Republic band of turds can come up with.

The relevant characteristic here isn't Heinz's savvy; it's her arrogance--the kind of arrogance most rich people have when it comes to how and when they spend their money. Heinz probably assumed, not improbably, that no measly campaign finance restriction was really going to keep her from spending money on her husband's campaign. After all, if worst came to worst, she could always go ahead and break the law and pay the fines down the road.

So, Noah isn't wrong about Kerry Heinz not trusting her husband with her money, he's just wrong about Kerry Heinz herself, who "is probably not nearly as shrewish and diabolical as Noah takes her to be."

Had enough? Dying to go take a shower? Sorry, I'm not through yet.

Another gossipy item was floated early in the week, by Instaturd in this case, i.e., that a Vanity Fair piece on Joe Wilson and his wife, that is accompanied by a snapshot of both in which Mrs. W is wearing large dark sunglasses, and her hair, already identified as blonde, is mainly hidden under a scarf, that also obscures the shape and details of her face, proves that both Wilsons are nothing more nor less than attention-seeking self-promoters, and that the entire Plame scandal was a bogus one. The piece has been artfully dealt with by others, notably Hesiod, T. Bogg, a don't miss, and Atrios, who offers two other good links.

I didn't think this one would have legs; why oh why, when it comes to gauging this Republican party's shamelessness, am I always behind the count? I realized I was wrong when Wolf picked up on this non-story story within hours of its first appearance among Republican and right wing ranks. CNN ran with it all week. And yesterday, Howie Kurtz was given special CNN moments to sling manure at both Wilsons, secure in the knowledge that the entirety of Plamegate had been certified by Tim Noah as the Whopper of the Week.

Was there ever any doubt that once such a manure smeared whopper of a juggernaut was launched, Tim Noah would be scrambling aboard? Well, he does more than that. He attempts, successfully, to top all the other turdmasters, proclaiming that Mrs. Wilson's failure to hide in her house and not be seen during daylight hours, once she'd been exposed as an agent, (even though, unmentioned by Noah, she'd always had a high public profile, except that no one knew she was actually a CIA agent), culminating in the Vanity Fair piece, effectively ends Plamegate, i.e., any questions that might need to be answered by the Bush administration, and suggests, instead, that we should now be questioning whether we can believe Mr. Wilson's story?

As if that story hasn't been vetted all over the place already by what passes for a press in this country.

None of this comes as any surprise to you, I know. One hopeful sign this week, a commentator on a Slate thread does a fine job of explicating why Mickey Kaus is a gossip columnist, although he's far to sanguine about the issue of Mickey's motives.

So, aside from providing an opportunity for angry venting, why do I bother with a post like this? Because the mode of gossip is, by now, so firmly and invisibly entrenched in our political discourse that nine out of ten times it goes unnoticed.

Example: Remember back in the nineties, Senator Thompson's investigation into the whole issue of campaign finance, with what turned out to be an exclusive emphasis on the unpretty attempts by the Clintons, during the 95 Presidential campaign, to keep up with the Republicans?

Thompson was everyone's hero among pundits; he was the good Republican who would guide a reasonable, fair investigation into the perfidy of the bad Clintons, and yet, on the opening day of the hearings, Senator Thompson made headlines by accusing the administration of playing treasonable footsies with the Chinese, a claim for which no evidence was ever provided. You remember that? And do you remember that after some weeks of this kind of "fairness," Senator John Glenn got good and mad, uncharacteristically, and accused Senator Thompson of running a partisan investigation that left untouched Republican sins against the campaign finance laws? You would have thought that Sen. Glenn, American hero extraordinaire, quiet Democratic centrist, would have had the credibility to make some in the press actually listen to him, and take a look at what was actually going on, day after day, in those committee hearings. And you would have been wrong.

Instead, from Al Hunt to Mark Shields to Novak, to Matthews, well, pretty much all the gasbags, John Glenn was pronounced a "disappointment," and accussed of being the partisan one. One missing piece of this story was why John Glenn would risk his reputation in a partisan defense of, of all things in the world, the Clinton adminbistration. And soon, we had the answer. NASA announced that Glenn, at the age of seventy something, would return to space, not just for the fun of it, but to provide a now considerably aged body upon which to measure the effects of space travel.

Was there even a remote possibility that these two events, Sen Glenn's uncharacteristically partisan anger at the partisan nature of Sen. Thompsons campaign finance inquiry and this NASA story weren't somehow linked? Of course not. And what was the link? A deal between President Clinton and Sen. Glenn; if Glenn would uncharacteristically get partisonally angry at Thompson, Clinton would approve Glenn's second trip into space. Not a shred of evidence was ever presented by any of the numerous commentators who ran with this story. And yet the story covered any further need to ask whether or not Glenn's objections to the Thompson committee, even after it was pronounced a failure by most pundits, for not having gotten the goods on the Clinton administration, were fair and accurate. (They were, of course.)

It never seemed to occur to any of the gasbags that making such a deal was even more uncharacteristic of Senator Glenn than his partisan anger. Nor did the story make any kind of sense on its face. Once it was made known that NASA was interested in having Glenn go back into space, and it was a great story from NASA's point of view, how on earth could President Clinton have kept it from happening, politically speaking? There was absolutely no reason for Senator Glenn to make such a deal, and no way for Clinton to enforce it.

Thus was a highly credible Democratic complaint about the Republican cooking of evidence against the Clinton administration discredited. To this day, you will hear Republicans get away with the same accusations of quasi-treasonous fund raising by the Clinton administration. You think that doesn't matter? It does. It's why the Bush administration gets away with presenting itself as restoring honor and integrity to the White House.

Obvious next step - what do we do about this? I have some notions, but I'm exhausted for now. How about you tell me your thoughts on the matter. That's what the comment threads are for, right?

*Here's evidence of why "so's his wife."

Moore Anguish 

Mustang Bobby at BBWW has this to say about Judge Roy Moore's banishment from the temporal seat of judgement.

He is not a martyr. Martyrdom is never sought out; it is only a last resort to those who hold so strongly to their inner beliefs that they would rather suffer in silence and sacrifice everything they have - including their life - rather than yield. Martyrs do not promote themselves. They shrink from the spotlight. They turn themselves over to God, not Larry King. They do not become the issue. Chief Justice Moore's battle was not about the monument or his beliefs - it was about one man who sought the limelight because he wanted to promote his religion, not his faith.

Read MB's entire post here: More On Moore, Who Is No More

It's not that the Thugs lie like rugs ... 

... we're used to that now.

What gets me is that they think we won't check up on them, or figure out that they are lying. They think we're stupid and lazy. That's the insulting part.

Like the latest one about Air Force One on the way to Iraq for aWol's Turkey Day stunt (go Dana!)

Truly, the Thugs are The People of The Lie.

Dropping a dime ...  

With Reagan's portrait on it? That's the latest hysterical idea from the wingers (FUX).

Isn't defacing the currency a federal crime? And aren't "Christians" supposed to be against making graven images? And idolatry?

Anyhow, the best way for citizens to halt this nonsense is to refuse to use the coins. Just hand them back, and ask for real money. People will get tired of keeping separate Gipper drawers soon enough.

Of course, the real agenda here—since the dime is now blessed with FDR's image—is trashing our New Deal legacy. Surprise!

Defamation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery 

Well, it looks like the smart money in the Bush camp is on Howard Dean (though if their track record on Iraq is any guide, that should point to Dennis Kucinich as the ultimate nominee). In an attack ad running in Iowa--the first to attack a Democrat by name--the Club for Growth is predictably associating Dean with a string of alleged Democratic tax hikers (McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis). The lies are typical, from the reflexive deployment of the "average" scam to inflate the cost of Dean's proposed tax cut rollback, to the inclusion of archetypal "loser" McGovern (who actually ran on a negative income tax for those living below on the poverty line). Interestingly, the Big Dog is omitted from the list, despite the false claim throughout his Presidency that he was the worst tax hiker of all. (Needless to say the biggest tax hiker, Ronald Reagan, is not mentioned.)

Anyway, the Dean camp has prepared a response and is soliciting funds to get it on the air. Frankly I think the response could be better, and have my own qualms about the wisdom of Dean rolling back even the child tax credit. But this is the opening salvo in the campaign, the first whiff of grapeshot across our bow. It must not go unanswered.

This is no time for Celebration
This is no time for Shaking Hands
This is no time for Backslapping
This is no time for Marching Bands
This is no time for Optimism
This is no time for Endless Thought
This is no time for my country Right or Wrong
Remember what that brought.
--Lou Reed, "There is No Time"

"Steeling" an election 

So now Bush is removing the steel tariffs.

I guess he must have gotten the results of a focus group ...

Since steel manufacturing states (kinda, sorta) win with the tariff, and steel fabricating states (who purchase the steel) lose—

Good news would be: Unka Karl hoped to win swing-state, steel-manufacturing Pennsylvania by putting the tariff on, but now he knows he's going to lose Pennsylvania, so he's writing it off, and hoping to win swing-state, steel-fabricating states instead.

The best news would be: Everybody gets pissed at Bush: the steel manufacturing swing states because Bush took the tariff off, and the steel fabricating swing states because Bush put the tariff on in the first place, and then for the transparently whorish manner in which he backtracked on it.

Or maybe the EU threatened to beat him silly, and Bush wussed out. I dunno...

"The Corporate Power" 

Just as before the Civil War, we had "The Slave Power," today we have "The Corporate Power"—politically based, oddly enough, in the same region of the country, and using a lot of the same methods: gerrymandering, militarism, whining about big government while parasitic on it....

Though a Thug, Bloomberg has an interesting notion: the Blue States should get back from the Federal government the same amount of tax dollars they give it. Since, after all, the Blue States subsidize the Red States... Not spot on for dealing with The Corporate Power, but a blow at the Red State politicians who front for it.

"The Economy" 

Am I tired of hearing about "the economy" and how well it's doing now.

The question is: Who is the economy doing well for?

Not the people who haven't got jobs—unemployment isn't down.

Not the people who do have jobs—the recent productivity jump comes from an old-fashioned application of the lash, where the whip is fear of being fired, overtime being taken away, fear of losing insurance, and so on.

For the corporations who haven't moved their offices to a box number in the Caribbean, all is well, though. (Especially since the ones who have moved your job offshore. )

But the economy is real people, not paper persons...

Bush's Texas Miracle Based On Hoax: Don't Bother To Stop The Presses 

Why is Rod Paige still on the job? I mean, excuuuse me, but why hasn't the Secretary of Education been fired?

We now know that the claims for a Texas education miracle under George Bush, most often personified by tough-guy Rod Paige, Superintendent of Schools in Houston, who did for education in that city what conservatives have been telling us for three decades should be done - bring it back to the teaching of the basics, evaluate it with high stakes system-wide tests that not only decide which students will be promoted to the next grade, but also which are the "good," and which, the "bad" schools, was a hoax.

So, why, at the very least, has there been not a mention of congressional hearings into the Secretary's role in this not-just-Enron cooking of the books?

Not to oversimpligy, the answer here is simple: Both houses of congress are controlled by Republicans, who are putting the best interests of a Republican President ahead of those of the American citizenery. Not exactly a man bites dog story. And before anyone pipes up that Democrats behaved the same way when they controlled congress, let me remind one and all that the first congressional hearings into the Whitewater matter were by a Democratic congress, a full week in both the House and the Senate, this despite on-going investigations by the RTC and a Special Prosecutor. Republicans were able to participate fully in the hearings, including getting their own list of subpoenaed witnesses. And what was their response? Endless complaints that the hearings were a farce, because in the House, all Representatives would be limited to one five minute question period at a time, which happens to be the standard in such hearings.

This week the NYTimes had yet more on the miracle that wasn't, with an emphasis on the ways in which teaching to a test has deprived the very children Secretary Paige has proclaimed evidence of his and his Governor's successes in Texas, of the kind of education the parents who bought into the "miracle" thought their children were getting, one that would allow them to succeed in college. Yes, indeed, the soft bigotry of low expectations; apparently, neither the then Governor, nor Secretary Paige defined "success" for these children as being able to do college level work.

Jeanne at Body And Soul says all that needs saying about the Times piece, and Cal Pundit has fun trying to conform to the template of good writing fobbed off on these children - the five paragraph essay, so I'll limit myself to a personal observation.

Some years ago, in order to qualify to participate in a program by which writers could volunteer to help teach writing in public schools, I had to take a state of California standard test required for teaching candidates. Not at all sure, after so many years, that I still remembered how to take a test, I purchased a book that explained specifically how to take this one. What was both fascinating and depressing about the recommended way to approach the essay portion of the test was the way the scoring standard used to evaluate the essay was so clearly designed to evoke a formulaic response - a more sophisticated version of the five paragraph essay. Some of the examples of "bad" or low scoring essays were those that were questioning the eminently questionable terms of the essay subject, and those by students who hadn't been taught the formula, but clearly knew how to think outside the box, and had good instincts, if not yet the actual technique, for how to make an original written argument. And despite being armed with this knowledge of what the test expectations were, I had a tough time time, myself, writing a suitably formulaic essay.

Maybe if we would start listening to the people who actually have to teach children - our public school teachers, instead of to Phyllis Schafily, and James Dobson, and Lynne Cheney, and Fred Barnes, and George Wills, and Bill Bennett, and....fill in your own favorite clueless education expert, as a nation, which was once defined by its committment to public education, we wouldn't be such patsies for the prouncements of the very people whose goal it is to dismantle the nation's public school systems.

And as a first of many small steps in that direction, let me recommend this article by an actual teacher who teaches in Texas, and could have told all of us way back in 2001, what utter rot President Bush's education program was based on. And click here for another first-rate article one that summarizes the whole "no child left behind scandal, " is suitable to keep in your arsenal of handy references, and is also by someone who has been an educator.

Open Stage 

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

And Speaking of Iraq... 

Paramilitary. Conjure up anything?

Let's see, death squads in Central America; ethnic cleansing in Bosnia; mayhem in Kosovo used deliberately to push a million people into a no man's land of instant refugee camps.

To be fair, in Iraq, paramilitary groups have no such hideous record; they were an understandable response to Saddam's own homicidal tendencies. But surely now that we're trying to help the Iraqis rebuild an army and a police force, the last thing on earth the US would want to do is anything that might legitimize the notion of militias attached to political parties, or anything that could be labelled paramilitary.

Think again.

Do ideas come any worse than this one?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact.

And now I think I'll just tiptoe off and refurbish my heart and mind with a large Margarita.

Young Iraqi Woman Bests CIA on Saddam's Nukes 

CIA, drama queen?

Apropos of Tresy's discovery, below of just such a tendency at the heart of the agency that provides world-wide intelligence to the mightiest superpower the world has ever known:

Riverbend, the twenty-something girl-blogger of Baghdad has discovered the inside dope on Iraqi nukes, with the help of an Iraqi nuclear expert who has just written a tell all book, and whose opinions you can sample on his own webpage. Riverbend supplies the link; I'm refraining because you ought to be visiting her blog at least twice a week to check if anything new is up; she's that good (a writer) and that important (to understanding Iraqi through a set of Iraqi eyes).

Why no nukes found? Try, a mirage in the desert.

If you've been at all remiss in keeping up with Riverbend, who managed to blog, despite the rigors of Ramadan, and you're curious about her response to Bush's bold visit to Baghdad Airport, you can find it here. And don't miss this wonderful post that tells a tale of the rigors of living next door to a Baghdadi Martha Stewart, especially during "Eid."

That book and website of that Iraqi scientist looks to be a mighty important resource.

CIA: Trust Us On This, We're Incompetent, Not Liars 

No, this is not from The Onion.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has issued a spirited defence of the now-suspect assertions that Iraq had secret arsenals of germ and chemical weapons, and says second-guessing its work may undermine analysts' willingness to make bold assessments in the future....

"If we eventually are proven wrong -- that is, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and the WMD programs were dormant or abandoned -- the American people will be told the truth; we would have it no other way," writes Stuart Cohen, a senior CIA official and acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which produced the report.

No, of course we wouldn't. We're the CIA. Anyone in the audience batting an eye? No? Good. Now on with the real bullshit.

Mr. Cohen also warns of the risks to future intelligence estimates if the spy community becomes preoccupied with allegations about past failures.

"The need to confront these charges [has] forced senior intelligence officials throughout U.S. intelligence to spend much of their time looking backward," he says in the statement. "I worry about the opportunity costs of this sort of preoccupation, but I also worry that analysts labouring under a barrage of allegations will become more and more disinclined to make judgments."

I didn't know the CIA hired drama queens with egos more fragile than hothouse flowers. But if freedom from criticism is what's required to maintain the CIA's stellar track record (see below), it's a small price to pay, I'm sure we all agree.

Mr. Cohen seeks to defend the U.S. intelligence community by debunking what he calls "10 myths" that have arisen since the war.

Myth No. 1 is that the "NIE favored going to war." Myth No. 10 is that the "NIE asserted that there were 'large WMD stockpiles' and because we haven't found them, Baghdad had no WMD."

Myth No. 11: Alchemists asserted that phlogiston was one of the three essences of matter and because they haven't found it yet, phlogiston does not exist.

He blames "media frenzy" for the now-widespread view that the spies were wrong.

If you can't imagine yourself being Peter Pan, you won't be Peter Pan.

...Mr. Cohen also challenges critics who suggest that U.S. intelligence agencies -- which had been proved woefully wrong after the 1991 Persian Gulf war when it emerged that Iraq had an advanced nuclear-weapons program about which U.S. spies knew nothing -- were determined not to get caught flat-footed again.

"In no case were any of the judgments 'hyped' to compensate for earlier underestimates," he says.

See? We're not biased. Our assessments are consistently and even-handedly wrong for no reason, and we resent implications to the contrary that impugn our professionalism.

Finally, he credits the brutal effectiveness of the now-fallen Baathist regime for the failure -- so far -- of U.S. and international weapons experts to find any evidence of poison-gas or germ-warfare arsenals.

We're just the intelligence agency of the World's Only Remaining Superpower. How can we be expected to know that when Iraq said it had no WMD, it was telling the truth? That kind of deceit no one can be prepared for.

At Last, A Realistic Look At How Hollywood Works 

To hear the right wing in this country go on and on about how films and TV programs get made is a source of endless frustration and amusement for anyone who's ever actually worked inside the entertainment industry. Whether it's O'Reilly, that gang that hangs out at The Corner, Chris Matthews, or Joe Scarborough, the mythic view expressed is of a small, closed community of exteme leftwing activists, all of whom know each other and check in regularly, to make sure neither they nor anyone else is straying from the path of "political correctness," and that virtually no projects gets off the ground without an America-hating seal of approval having been granted to it by one of these co-equal centers of power - Alec Baldwin, Jeananne Garafola, George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Stephen Speilberg, Michael Eisner, anyone working for Dreamworks, and, of course, that most powerful of all power couples, Susan and Tim, whose last names one needn't even bother with, that's how powerful they are.

Now, finally, comes a bit of reporting that actually mirrors the complex mix of creative and business concerns that produce, at the end of a long process, a film, or, as in this case, a new concept for a CBS series. If you want to really understand the process that gave the world "The Reagans," this is a must read.

Today's Blue Plate Special 

Blackened Scorpions and Watersnake Medley.

Tommy want new line cook job.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 - The federal official who runs Medicare and was intimately involved in drafting legislation to overhaul the program is the object of a bidding war among five firms hoping to hire him to advise clients affected by the measure.


"Our firm would be a perfect fit for Tom because we have built one of the top health care practices in the country. We do both legal and lobbying work. Tom's recent experience at the highest levels of the government makes him very attractive to our firm."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Fearing Fear Itself 

Chris Anderson of Interesting Times was kind enough to point out in a comment that I might have been over-reacting just a tad to the WaPo article featured in a Digby post I'd still recommend.

Minimizing the task ahead is a path towards defeat, but so is over-estimating it. Remember that a good part of that Post article is based on numbers coming out of the Republican camp.

They are trying the political equivalent of shock-and-awe. Why should we trust them to give accurate estimates of the number of volunteers they have at their disposal?

It won't be a cakewalk. But don't be discouraged by the braggadacio of the Republicans.

Wise words, upon which he elaborates here.

Chris was an early Dean supporter, but his blog is a template for the kind of Democratic Party communality that's going to be crucial if Bush is to be beaten next November. Always ready to question a critical response to what some other candidate might be saying, Chris never takes his eye off the prize. In addressing some dissatisfaction with a particular Democrat, or the party itself, Chris's answer is almost always a bottom up one. Which in my view is the only kind worth talking about.

I have much more to say about this, so let me content myself for now with the observation that filling blog posts or comment threads with constant references to the Democrats selling out, being cowards, or otherwise dumping on them accomplishes very little, especially now that we're less than a year away from the election. Be critical, yes, but bring that criticism to bear in some form of action that is going to change the way the Democrats are doing business.

Public expressions of dismay and/or disgust with their own side is a mistake you hardly ever see Republicans or the right make.

Chris has a pledge up at his blog that's worth taking a look at, worth signing, and most of all, worth using as a basis for rethinking how we go forward from here.

I wonder why Tom Daschle is still majority leader 

after getting blindsided by the AARP on Medicare and covering his snout with ethanol on the energy bill?

AARP adds insult to injury 

So this morning I splurge and spend fifty cents on the Inky, only to be greeted with a full page ad from the AARP leadership trumpeting the Medicare bill.

All you need to know about the Medicare bill:

  • It only kicks in after the 2004 election, so there's no chance for citizens to see the law in action before voting. I wonder why?

  • There's no money to pay for it, because of Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich. So it's another typical bait and switch operation

  • It doesn't legalize cheap drugs from Canada

  • Big pharma likes it for that reason, and also because they have greater leverage to keep prices high than they would under a single-payer system

Way to spend those member dues, AARP!

Bribery on the House floor 

Here (via Atrios).

Over Medicare, naturally.

To his credit, though a Republican, Rep. Smith revealed the attempt.

To his discredit, Rep. Smith refuses to reveal the name of the criminal—though bribery is a Federal crime.

Man, the Thugs sure know how to defile democracy, don't they?

First, arresting Democrats right on the Hill; now, protecting potential felons.

Not to mention ... And ... And ... And remember when ....

Remember all that hooey about "the rule of law" during the VWRC coup against Clinton? We don't seem to hear so much of that these days. I wonder why?


Good God, Bush was right about something.

Apparently, in that moment when, as is his habit, he took the measure of a man by locking glances with him, he was right about what he saw on the other side of Putin's eyeballs.

From the NYTimes:

"Putin Aide Rules Out Russian Approval of Kyoto Protocol"

A senior adviser to President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia cannot ratify the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions, dealing a mortal blow to the pact that required Russia's ratification to take effect.

``In its current form, the Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia,'' Putin's economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, told reporters in the Kremlin. ``Of course, in this current form this protocol can't be ratified.''

Putin had previously cast doubts on Moscow's willingness to ratify the protocol, but hadn't ruled out ratification completely.


Russia's reluctance to ratify the pact despite its earlier pledge to do so has vexed Kyoto's European and U.N. backers, who warned Moscow that it would lose politically and economically if it fails to ratify Kyoto.

The saddest thing about old Europe is that it doesn't know it's old. "Lose politically and economically?" Who're they kidding? Russia should worry about a bunch of nerdy countries and pathetic activists like Greenpeace? Not when you have an American President like George W. Bush as your best bud.

The protocol's proponents see Kyoto as a vital first step in cutting emissions, warning that failure to quickly put it into force would trigger a dangerous, steep rise in greenhouse gas concentrations that would be far more difficult to control in the future.


Monday, December 01, 2003

Plame affair forgotten already; Dana Milbank knows why 


It is interesting how that story dropped off the radar screen. The main explanation is one of logistics: now that the inquiry is under way at Justice, we're not likely to hear anything official for many months; people who do leak investigations, after all, are not the sort who do much leaking.


Like the "career prosecutors" in Starr's office never linked to Dana's colleague, Steno Sue.

Develop some sources, Dana! Quit yer alibi-ing!

Out of the mouths of Babes 

Mike Allen writes up Bush's poll-shoring-up trip to Iraq over Thanksgiving, including this little gem:

"Now, the plane was cruising at an average speed of 665 mph, Baghdad or bust. Richard Keil, a 6-foot-5 reporter for Bloomberg News whom Bush calls "Stretch," leaned across the aisle of the hushed press cabin.

"The president of the United States is AWOL, and we're with him," a grinning Keil said as he shoved aside his iPod headset.

No shit, Sherlock! But to liberals, and those who choose to inform themselves, this is not news.....

And you thought the death of constitutional government in the US was tinfoil hat material? 

Cigar Aficianado interviews Tommy Franks:

The first step would be a nexus between weapons of mass destruction of any variety ... and terrorism ... in order to change the mannerisms, the behavior, the sociology and, ultimately, the anthropology of a society.

That goes to step number two, which is that the western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy. Now, in a practical sense, what does that mean? It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the western world-it may be in the United States of America-that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps: very, very important.

CA: If that's true, why have so many critics attacked the president of the United States and tried to diminish the work of the military?

(Via the ever excellent Orcinus)
Right... We've got to militarize our country to prevent it from being militarized... We've got to destroy the Constitution in order to preserve it.... We've got to destroy the village in order to save it.

Memo to general Franks: There is nothing on earth, including any additional terrorist attack that the incompetence and cynicism of the Bush regime allows to take place, that would induce me to "question the Consitution and militarize society."

In fact, General Franks, why are you even raising the question? Could it be ... Naah...

US Representative, a serial speeder, kills man 

Media yawns, buries story.

Oh, did I mention the speeder (Rep. Janklow) is a Republican?

Damn coffee cups 

Here in Philly, we've got little silver mini-diners on lots of street corners—I get coffee at my favorite when I'm feeling flush with cash.

And damn if the local FUX station hasn't gone and given a lot of branded styrofoam cups to all the Philly mini-diners as promotions. So now I can choke on my coffee when I read the Orwellian "fair and balanced" on the side of my cup...

Why doesn't someone from the Dean campaign get smart and give some cups to the mini-diners?

Philly being such a polite town, I bet there's a lot of people like me who are diffident about asking for coffee without winger tripe, but who would be glad to see a Dean cup, and brighten the diner owner's day by mentioning it.


We missed this one over Turkey Day ....

Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an air defense general captured Oct. 5 in a raid near the Syrian border, was being questioned Wednesday while in American custody in Qaim near the Syrian border when he lost consciousness after complaining he didn't feel well, the military said in a statement.

Well, at least he wasn't shot while trying to escape.

Takes on new meaning with Gitmo, and the obvious but never-talked-about likelihood that Bush is conducting an Operation Phoenix-style dirty war of targetted assassination against AQ (that's what the "no longer a problem," and "American justice" comments in the SOTU were code for, right?).

Torture, assassination, arbitrary detainment ... Hope none of the karma on this catches up with us!

Annals Of What We're Up Against 

Be afraid. Even terrified. Then, get organized.

Digby has a crucial post that spells out, courtesy of the Wa Po, what all those hundreds of millions of dollars Bush has collected to run in an unopposed primary are buying him and the Republicans.

Just reading about it got my heart rate up, my hands clammy, and my throat all dry, just like when you watch a horror flick; I don't see many of them precisely because I hate that feeling of dread.

Digby's right though, minimizing in any way the battle that's ahead is the first step toward defeat. There was no percentage in ignoring Cassandra. Let's hope this is the start of a practical dialogue, among bloggers and readers, friends, relatives, anyone concerned about this country from a left perspective, one that leads to all kinds of actions. So go read, and then start thinking.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Picking up the tab for the Bush Brothers 

Great to see the media all over the details of Neil Bush's divorce, with all the nasty details... Oh, you didn't notice anything?

So Neil, Asian-expert businessman, is in his hotel room in Bangkok, and when women knock at his door and have sex with him, he thinks they aren't prostitutes because they didn't ask him for money.

OK ....

Did it never occur to Neil "Innocent Abroad" Bush that, just maybe, someone else paid the bill? Like, one of his business associates?

Just like people pick up the tab for W, with Harken, the Rangers, TANG, and the rest?

And like we are going to pick up the bill for W's budget follies?

BBC Goes Into Tank For Saddam, Once Again 

The gall of these guys. Wait till Andy gets hold of this one.

The BBC is reporting that one of Britain's most senior and distinguished judges -- oops, the BBC report only calls him "senior,' no discussion of "distinguished," but I'm sure that's only because they were so anxious to get this little poisen pen letter to the US up and out on the airwaves -- Lord Steyn (probably no relation to the genuinely distinguished Mark Styen), has condemned the US for its treatment of prisoners at Guantanomo Bay.

Lord Steyn said conditions at Camp Delta were of "utter lawlessness", in a speech seen by Channel 4 News.

The Law Lord said the US was guilty of a "monstrous failure of justice" and challenged UK ministers to condemn the decision to hold any prisoners there.

He said detainees were "beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors".

No discussion of Saddam's way of dealing with prisoners - torture, summary execution, or of Iraq as a country pockmarked with mass graves. Of course.

And let's take a look at the shaky grounds upon which this so-called legal beagle takes it upon himself to make a comment about American jurisprudence.

Lord Steyn said the nine British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay had been failed by the UK Government - even though a guarantee sparing them the death penalty had been reached.

He is reported to have said ministers must condemn the holding of all 660 prisoners at the base, not just those from the UK.

"The procedural rules do not prohibit the use of force to coerce the prisoners to confess," he said.

Lord Steyn quoted officials as saying: "It's not quite torture but at close as you can get."

He said the quality of justice did not comply with international standards for fair trials.

"It may be appropriate to pose a question - ought our government to make plain publicly and unambiguously our condemnation of the utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay?"

Lord Steyn said that the blanket order issued by President Bush had deprived the detainees of "any rights whatsoever".

"As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice I would have to say that I regard this as a monstrous failure of justice."

So it's President Bush who's the monster now. Not Saddam. Not Osama. Notice the Lordly Steyn says he was brought up to admire American democracy and justice, not that he admires it, or indeed, that he ever actually admired it. Some attitudes are beyond parody.

Nor will you learn from the BBC just how rare it is for a British judge to take a position on a contentious legal issue, neither will you hear about just how unheard of it is for a British judge to attack a foreign country. The report contents itself with a mere mention that the first is rare, the second, unheard of, obviously included to preclude criticism. Let's not forget what's genuinely rare and unheard of - the BBC bringing its massive influence to bear on the massive threat Saddam, Osama, and terrorism itself poses to civilization itself.

Okay, so the BBC doesn't get the post 9/11 ethos, doesn't get that Americans haven't become unconcerned about their fundamental rights under the constitution, or that the Bush administration is waging a war on terror precisely to protect that constitution from meeting the same fate as those majestic twin towers that are no more, from the horror that denuded lower Manhattan of its best and brightest claim to majesty. But aren't they supposed to be a news agency? Weren't we all brought up to admire the BBC as a puprveyer of the news, without bias, without deceit?

With that in mind, ask yourself just how newsworthy is it, really, that one Lordly clueless Brit decides to go off on President Bush, if a news organization isn't going to make the connection for its readers and watchers between this kind of Bush-hatred with the Bush-hatred of Saddam and Osama?

The Gift That Keeps On Giving 

E.G., the President's visit to the front, or at least the back of the front.

Or, maybe not.

Julia of the shrugging Sisyphus has such a smart post up indicating even PR genuis, Rove's instinct for using the presidential in the Presidency is having diminishing returns. She did a check of Google's top ten entries responding to Bush's turkey trot, and summarizes the surprising results for us.

And don't miss this sure to become Julia classic on Mr. Not So Nice Guy Dana Rohrabacher, who got snookered by the even badder bad asses currently running the House of Representatives, often spoken of as the people's house, though not recently. Talk about your non-situational ethics, has there ever been a clearer case of wrong and wrong, which Julia skewers, and than nails to the wall

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~ Since 2003 ~

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