Wednesday, November 30, 2005

[White House]

Great Moments in Oratory

I know I'm going to the well a lot on the President's speech this morning, but permit me one more. Dan Froomkin caught a section of the speech I missed. It's surreal:
"A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists."
At first I thought he was horsing around. Rejectionists, Saddamists? It sounds like it's straight out of SNL. No. Bush is deadly serious, and he expects us to take his taxonomy serious, too. Somewhere, Juan Cole is frowning.

But maybe Bush isn't actually talking about Iraqis. Read a little between the lines, and this section of the speech looks more like a recycled old strategie briefs George found from Karl Rove. When Bush says, "these are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group," I can't help but think he's talking about the Dems.

I've worked it out. See, watch:
"These are ordinary Iraqis Americans, mostly Sunni Arabs Democrats, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein Bill Clinton -- and they reject an Iraq America in which they are no longer the dominant group."
You following me? Read on...
Not all Sunnis Democrats fall into the rejectionist camp. Of those that do, most are not actively fighting us -- but some give aid and comfort to the enemy....

We believe that, over time, most rejectionists swing voters will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq tax cuts led by a federal government that is a strong enough government to protect minority rights capital gains....

The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein Bill Clinton -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power...

These hard-core Saddamists Democrats are trying to foment anti democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. They lack enjoy popular support and therefore cannot stop Iraq's democratic are a danger to our progress. And over time, they can be marginalized and defeated by the Iraqi people and the security forces of a free Iraq Karl's smear tactics.
Apparently Karl was too busy to help Bush out with this speech, and so George did what he used to do back at Yale--crib something together from his roommate. I mean, come on, is there any other way "rejectionists," or "Saddamists" could have gotten into the speech?
[White House]

Reactions to the Victory in Iraq Speech

It will come as no great surprise that the reviews are, ah, mixed with respect to the President's grand new vision (already acronymed NSIV) for Iraq.

The liberals--traitors all--are naturally skeptical.
Think Progress: "The NSIV is less of a strategy and more of a pat on the back. Much of the 35 pages is devoted to describing how well things are going."

Oliver Willis
: "There’s really no concrete definition of victory here, still. But it seems that they’re saying we don’t leave until Iraq is a full western style democracy… with ponies."

Huff Post (Marty Kaplan): "President Bush has at last announced his strategy for solving the Iraq problem: a slogan, and a booklet. The slogan is "A National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." The booklet contains repackaged Rummy-Cheney classics, under a slick red, white and blue cover."
On the other hand, the red-blooded true patriots on the right are...well, skeptical:
Instapundit: "Some people are asking what's new about this strategy. The answer -- as Jon Henke notes -- is nothing, really."

Powerline: "From a quick review, it looks good, although I doubt that anything in it will be new to those who have been paying attention."
Ah, but a few stalwarts remain:
All Things Conservative: "Simply put, the speech was a home run. The Dems asked for detail and today the president whacked them over the head with it. The best line of the speech was when he said we would not cut and run from Iraq as long as he is Commander in Chief."
I guess the reviews weren't so mixed after all. Everyone is agreed that Bush has no new ideas on exiting the quagmire.
[White House, Iraq]

Shorter Bush Speech.

Dubya rolled out what the White House is promoting as "Strategy for Victory" in Iraq. In case you missed it, here are the highlights:
We have deposed a brutal dictator. We have had elections. More bodies are upright and moving around than prone, bleeding. Some of them are being trained to guard the country. When they step up, we step down. By any definition, the invasion was a success. Ask Joe Lieberman. Critics are unpatriotic opportunists. They hurt the troops and aid the enemy, whom we've vanquished. God Bless America.
Hey, Dubya has spent an entire life botching things and having people in powerful positions telling him he did good. Why would a war be any different?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[White House]

Harsh Words for Dick.

In case you missed it:
[He] said that Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard."
Michael Moore? Nope--keep reading:
Asked by the BBC's Today if Mr Cheney could be accused of war crimes, he said: "It's an interesting question."

"Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror," he added.

"And I would suspect, for whatever it's worth, it's an international crime as well."
Whoa, super harsh. Must be a blogger, right? Atrios, Kos? Well, wait, there's more:
"I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures in particular, and I see that the president is not holding either of them accountable... so I have to lay some blame at his feet too."
Well, probably you did hear about it. That's former Cheney colleague, WH insider, and Colin Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson. And yes, he did just call the Veep a war criminal.

If anyone vaguely left-leaning had said it, I suspect we'd have a public flaying.
[Around the Blogosphere]

New Feature!

Long time readers of this blog--its entire three-month history--will recall that an early feature was the "Daily Brief," wherein I reviewed some of the more interesting blog and MSM news of the day. The problem was not in the "brief," but in the "daily." It started to be every-other-daily, then couple-times-a-weekly and then, as surely as the career of the student who falls too far behind on his homework, it died an embarrassing death. Thing is, I liked directing folks around to cool posts, and I would like to keep it up. So henceforth we will have the periodic "around the blogosphere" posts, with no promises as to frequency.

There is an increasingly common thread in the MSM: blogger bashing. Ah! Be careful of the mote in bloggers' eyes, warns Dwight Meredith, when ye hath a log in your own.

It's been a little while since I've visited the CJR Daily blog. And alas, I see that it's been Huffingtoned. Not actually in a bad way. They're trying to introduce some organizational structure while keeping the immediacy of blogging. Initial reaction: thumbs up.

Related to my earlier post, Kevin Drum has a fascinating breakdown of the political costs of corruption. How has it all affected Americans' approval of various sectors of government? Ah, well, go have a look for yourself.

More: Mick wonders whether the Midwest has gone wrong. How else to explain the bad whether there? Avedon has her own alternative to cat blogging, which she describes here. (Quite funny stuff.) Movie fans might like to read Michael's post on the grossly over-budget, pro-Iraq invasion film Bruce Willis is filming. Can't figure out how to end it--democracy is "too boring." Called? Wait for it ... "Mission Accomplished." And finally to the Left Coaster, where eriposte is doing yeoman's work on another aspect of the run-up to war: doctored intel.
[College Football]

PAC-10 Shafted Once More

To shift gears ever so slightly, let me rail for a moment against the BCS (for you non-fans, that's the Bowl Championship Series, a statistical device dreamed up to remove subjectivity from the national rankings in college football--which it has spectacularly failed to do). I know, this is the new American passtime, capping on the BCS, but my complaint is personal. Every year there's a controversy, it seems like it's the PAC 10 who's on the losing end. A few years back, Oregon missed the national championship game in a disputed decision. More famously, two years ago, USC was shut out of the BCS, despite unanimity that they were the best team. The AP voted the Trojans the National Champ, while the BCS identified Oklahoma, splitting the title and accomplishing precisely what the BCS was created to prevent.

This year, it's Oregon who looks to get the shaft. They are a 10-1 team, ranked 7 in the country, and yet they're likely to get muscled out of a New Year's Day (celebrated) game by the woeful Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who have two losses, one to a losing team. The Ducks will get the shaft because they don't have the resources, the fan base, or the history of Notre Dame. All they have to recommend themselves is a better team--of little relevance to the BCS.

Let's look at their schedules. In all, the Ducks faced five teams with winning records* and beat four, losing only to USC, the number one team in the country. The Irish faced only four winning teams, lost to one (USC) and got beat by Michigan State, a 5-6 team. Teams the Irish faced went a combined .483, while the Ducks' opponents had a combined winning record of .539. The Irish beat one ranked team (number 20 Michigan), and the Ducks beat one (number 23 Fresno State). The Ducks got creamed in the second half by USC, while the Irish lost on a last-minute play--this is ND's sole claim to decency--but the Irish barely squeaked out a win last week against Stanford, a team Oregon dominated.

If a PAC 10 team were dragging a two-loss team around, it wouldn't even be in the discussion for a BCS bowl bid. If one of those losses came at the hands of a losing team, it wouldn't even be in the top ten. But the media love Notre Dame, and despite evidence that he had only a good, not great, season, coach Charlie Weis is now being considered for canonization alongside Rockne. So once again, the Pac 10 will watch as a lesser team earns greater rewards simply for being well-known. I have a hard time believing anyone would have signed up for this demonic BSC pact had they know it would turn out thus.

*Actually, they faced six. Montana, recruited late to fill a cancelation in the Ducks' schedule, wasn't a 1A team, and I've left their winning record (8-4) out of the calculation.

Can the Dems Take Back the House?

Yesterday, a decorated Vietnam veteran, Republican Congressman "Duke Cunningham, plead guilty to taking bribes. He seems like a fairly decent guy who went badly awry. In his tearful apology, he said: "I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

Although it's become a political cliche--one used in nearly every article/report I've read on the subject--there really does seem to be a "culture of corruption" in the Grand Old Party. It's hard to imagine Cunningham having the impulse to do this in an earlier era, but because the line between legal and illegal graft has lately become so thin--Cheney and Halliburton, the lobbyist-politician dosey doe, et al--Cunningham could easily run up to the trough for a little chow. (In fact, a more cunning corrupt politician would have covered his tracks more ably than Duke.)

But does all of this add up to a potential Midterm win for the Dems? Sadly and weirdly, probably not. According to Congressional Quarterly (sorry, no link--I get their daily email "Midday Update"), of the 435 House seats, only 55 (13%) are "even remotely" competitive. A party needs 218 to control the House, and the GOP has 195 pretty much sewn up. The Dems would have to overwhelmingly win the "competitive" races, and many of them are still skewed heavily in the Republicans' favor.

Duke Cunningham is a case in point. Although he just fled the Congress on corruption charges, his seat will almost certainly go to a Republican--there are seven GOP candidates there, and one lone Dem.

It may be possible to envision a 2008 majority, but even with Republicans doing the perp walk for corruption (Ohio Republican Bob Ney is implicated in the Abramoff corruption scandal, DeLay remains under indictment), loyal voters aren't likely to cross the line next year.

If there's a silver lining, it's that the GOP may well do far more damage to themselves in a leadership role than in the minority. By 2008, the Republican Party may have done to itself what the Dems have failed for 25 years to do--blow away the last vestiges of the modern conservative movement.

Monday, November 28, 2005

[Meta/White House]

Further Notes on the Atrocities

Sometimes I do odd things, and having a blog increases the frequency. Last night, after a restful four-day weekend, I booted up the computer to find out what happened on the Sunday news shows. When I stumbled across that footage of Chris Wallace stumping for the President, it tickled a deep fury, which resulted in two hours of digging on the White House site, and a subsequent 2,000 word post. All to refute a point no one believes now, anyway.

It's reactive. Since the invasion, Bush and Co. have consistently denied they tried to link al Qaida to Saddam. Until about four months ago, despite the very accessible proof to the contrary, the denials would have been 1) given more credence in the press, and 2) ignored by a vast swath of America who somehow imagine Bush keeps us safer. And I would have gone on a rant, or probably not, knowing the futility of it all.

America knows now what a small minority have been saying for years: the White House is being led by zealots and liars, and some very large percentage of domestic and foreign policy has risen on the foundation of lies. It isn't much of a secret: Kerry called them the "most crooked, lying group of people." When historians write the record of this time, they'll wonder what the hell happened to Americans and the press that we could allow ourselves to be bullied into ignoring the corruption of our leaders.

Sometimes that recognition takes hold of you. I've seen it happen to most every friend I have at one time or another (or many times), as a piece of news throws them into a 15-minute ranting lunatic. I guess the specter of a national journalist trying to bully a sitting Senator with lies was one of those times for me. We live in a bizarre country run by bad people. Sometimes it gets the best of us all.

Uh Oh.

From this week's New Yorker story by Sy Hersh:
Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reĆ«lection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose....

"The President is more determined than ever to stay the course," the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”
This just doesn't seem good.
[Bush Lies]

A Brief History of the al Qaida-Iraq Link Lies

Yesterday, FOX's Chris Wallace went after Carl Levin on Fox News Sunday. He was ostensibly questioning Levin about his position that Bush mislead Americans by linking Iraq and al Qaida. In fact, he was overtly arguing the Bush line, using a single piece of incomplete footage and then trying to bully Levin into agreeing he was mistaken. (Crooks and Liars has footage.) I'll leave aside, for the moment, the egregious departure from journalism this represents (though it's a rich vein to mine). Instead, let's just just replay the undoctored footage, straight from official White House archives (and sorry, this is a long post).

As Bush began selling the war (despite claims he "hadn't decided" whether to invade), he hedged his language on subjunctive verbs and juxtaposition. Reflecting, I assume, the weak intelligence.
The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. And there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material, could build one within a year. Iraq has already used weapons of mass death against -- against other countries and against her own citizens.
--Sept 26, 2002

We've already found confirmation that the Al Qaeda terrorists are pursuing weapons of mass destruction. At the same time there's a danger of terror groups joining together with the regimes that have or are seeking to build such weapons. In Iraq, we know that Saddam Hussein is pressing forward with these capabilities. He has used weapons of mass destruction both in his war against Iran and against his own people.
--October 2, 2002
Bush quickly started upping the ante. Language became more specific--one might even say legalistic. He continued coupling specific allegations with subjunctive hypotheticals, de rigueur for the sale of the war.
We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
--October 7, 2002
Then comes what turns out to be a major rhetorical feature--a hypothetical scenario in which Saddam "launders" his WMD through terrorists, who deliver them "without fingerprints" (and presumably via Boeing) to your hometown.
It also changed our thinking when we began to realize that one of the most dangerous things that can happen in the modern era is for a deceiving dictator who has gassed his own people, who has weapons of mass destruction to team up with an organization like al Qaeda. As I said -- I was a little more diplomatic in my speech, but we need to -- we need to think about Saddam Hussein using al Qaeda to do his dirty work, to not leave fingerprints behind.
--October 14, 2002

And I also mentioned the fact that there is a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
--October 14,2002

We know he's got ties with al Qaeda. A nightmare scenario, of course, is that he becomes the arsenal for a terrorist network, where they could attack America and he'd leave no fingerprints behind. He is a problem.
--Nov 1, 2002
Bush went on a series of stops in early November, repeating the same claims, in bullet point, about Iraq. In many cities across the country, Bush emphasized the "connection between al Qaida and Iraq." In a press conference, he slipped from the tele-prompted speech and used a different verb:
The man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling you. He's a threat not only with what he has, he's a threat with what he's done. He's a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda.
--Nov 7, 2002
The White House backed off explicit language through the final part of 2002, reverting back to the guilt-by-association argument. Yet at the same time, another theme emerged--that Iraq was not a distraction from the war on terror, but was central in it.
That is why confronting the threat posed by Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror. It is absolutely crucial to winning the war on terror. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror. He is pressing forward with weapons of mass destruction -- weapons he's already used in his war against Iran and against his own people. His regime has had high-level contacts with al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to al Qaeda terrorists.
--Dick Cheney, Dec 2, 2002

He used weapons of mass destruction on his neighbors and he used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizens. He's a man who has professed hate to America, as well as our friends and allies. He's a man who has got terrorist ties, a man who helps train terrorists. He's a threat and he's a danger.
--Dec 3, 2002

By being tough and strong and united in the face of danger, we can bring peace to the world. I believe that. I believe that, by doing what we need to do to secure the world from terrorist attack, to rid tyrants of weapons of mass destruction, to make sure that somebody like Saddam Hussein doesn't serve as a training base or a provider of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist networks -- by doing our job, that the world will be more peaceful. By standing strong for what we believe, by remembering that freedom is not America's gift to the world, but God's gift to each and every human being that we can achieve peace.
--Dec 3, 2002 (later in the day)
The new year brought a new wave of rhetoric in the war to sell America on the al Qaida-Iraq link. In order to create the appearance of hard intelligence, the White House started using more specific language--if not specific details. He also starts bringing in earlier rhetorial flourishes--the WMD laundering--to hit the emotional chord.
And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
--State of the Union, January 28, 2003

His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us. And as the President said on Tuesday night, it would take just one vial, one canister, one crate to bring a day of horror to our nation unlike any we have ever known.
--Jan 30, 2003 (he used identical wording in a speech the following day)

He [Tony Blair] will also talk about al Qaeda links, links that really do portend a danger for America and for Great Britain, anybody else who loves freedom. As the Prime Minister says, the war on terror is not confined to just a shadowy terrorist network. The war on terror includes people who are willing to train and to equip organizations such as al Qaeda. See, the strategic view of America changed after September the 11th. We must deal with threats before they hurt the American people again. And as I have said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind.
--Jan 31, 2003
Colin Powell gave a speech on February 5 to the United Nations outlining the case for war. The White House and Powell hung their hat on this now mostly discredited pile of lies and misdirection. It included long section linking al Qaida and Iraq, including claims like these:
But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder....

These Al Qaida affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months. Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with Al Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. Last year an Al Qaida associate bragged that the situation in Iraq was, quote, "good,'' that Baghdad could be transited quickly.
--Colin Powell, Feb 5, 2003
Following that speech, Bush started bringing in the "evidence" Powell offered and started marching to war.
Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. The network runs a poison and explosive training center in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad. The head of this network traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment and stayed for months. Nearly two dozen associates joined him there and have been operating in Baghdad for more than eight months.
--Feb 6, 2003, the day following Colin Powell's speech

Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He harbors a senior al Qaeda leader who ordered the assassination of an American diplomat -- the same man who plotted against Spain and Italy in the Republic of Georgia, and Russia, and Great Britain, and France, and Germany.
--Feb 13, 2003

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda. The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.
--March 17, 2003 (the "48-Hour Warning" speech)
The US invaded Iraq on March 19. That didn't stop the claims.
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.
--May 1, 2003 - the "Mission Accomplished" speech

The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.
--June 17, 2004
So to clarify, when Fox's Chris Wallace asserted that Bush "wasn't saying they were linked at all," he was a little off the mark. How is this different than when Dan Rather get canned for faking documentation? I remember now: Dan's documentation was fake, his point was accurate.

Bush clearly claimed a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. He was lying then, and his surrogates--in the press and out--lie now when they claim he didn't.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Thanksgiving Post

Since kindergarten, we've been answering the question "what are you thankful for today?" We inevitably look inward and offer thanks for the things which, at root, keep us going--family, health, friends. It feels like a post-Freud thing, giving thanks as group therapy. We ignore the bigger themes and opt for safe psychological terrain. That's fine, as far as it goes, but doesn't Thanksgiving have a more political, a more national character?

The origins of the holiday are many, but the national legend supports this one: in the early 17th century, Massachusetts pilgrims held a repast with the friendly Wampanoag to celebrate the harvest following the brutal first year in North America. The locals, who according to this tale assisted the pilgrims, broke bread and celebrated the success of the new visitors.

Nearly three hundred years later, how should we offer thanks? How have we honored this spirit of international brotherhood? Should we break bread with Iraqis? And if so, which ones--Sunnis, Shi'a, or Kurds? The warm celebration--not to mention the Cowboys-Broncos game--might be spoiled by a car bomb should all three be invited, so best hold off on that. Perhaps we might invite the French? Germans? Actually, based on Bush's recent travels, I think we can scratch the whole of Europe--even "new Europe"--off the invitation list.

From the tiny community of 52, we have grown into the world's sole superpower. We are as religious as ever, but somehow less humble, less collaborative. After invading Iraq, Bush celebrated Thanksgiving with the troops. Pictures of him in front of a golden turkey were whisked to FOX News, who was trying to help give birth to another myth. (The turkey was a plastic fake and the soldiers got the same old KBR offering.) Bush forwarded a new way of giving thanks--to him, for liberating a populous from a despot.

We're thousands of deaths and long months into a simmering civil war from that fantasy, so probably we won't see a reprise of of the plastic turkey affair. For this Thanksgiving, we might do well to recall a far more recent event, the weeks following 9/11. The countries of the world, on the eve of that year's Thanksgiving, offered Wampanoag-like support for us in our time of need.

For the next three years, we'll be biting our tongues and turning inward to locate our gratitude. But as I look at the polls and the collapsing leadership within the Republican party, I can actually find something for which to offer my thanks. After two and a half decades of persuing fools gold in the GOP promises, Americans seem to finally be waking up to reality. In 2003, when Bush offered the plastic turkey, Americans had a hearty helping. This year, they seem to recognize how bad plastic tastes and how little it nourishes. With some good luck and good leadership, we may actually be pulling out of this long national malaise. I'm thankful for that.

Other Bloggers have their own thoughts. Some good ones: Atrios | Huff Post: David Corn, David Mamet | Wampum | TalkLeft | Fact-esque | All Spin Zone | Susie Madrak

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Now or Later?

Give John Murtha this: the debate is no longer whether to pull out, but when. Think about that for a second. A year ago, Kerry was giving voice only to the most muscular of Mesopotamian approaches. Even a few months ago, Cindy Sheehan was on the front lines for her radicalism. Now it appears that even the architects of the debacle have put a fairly strict timetable on it, and anxious politicians don't want to be looking too hawkish a year from now.

I personally have been in the break-it-you-bought-it camp. My attitude is that, having brought shock and awe to the citizens--ostensibly (or post facto-ly) to free them from a deranged madman--we owe the Iraqis something more than a civil war. It's a little bit of that Wilsonian idealism, I guess. But the break-it-you-bought-it model actually presumes you bought it. In our case, we seem to have just broken it, with the intent to keep it broken and unbought (by, say, a responsible governing coalition).

Murtha's point, and one I find increasingly persuasive, is that not only are we not going to improve the country's fortunes in the next couple years, but we're likely making things far worse in the interim. I still think we'd leave the country to civil war by pulling out, but failing a responsible White House--which we won't have for three years, at minimum--we'll leave them with that, in any case. Maybe it's time to consider cutting and running.
[White House]

Bombing Al Jazeera.

On the one hand, it's a little hard to imagine Bush bombing al Jazeera; on the other hand, it's Bush. So maybe it's not so implausible after all:
The White House has dismissed claims George Bush was talked out of bombing Arab television station al-Jazeera by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair....

According to the Mirror's source, the transcript records a conversation during Mr Blair's visit to the White House on 16 April 2004, in the wake of an attempt to root out insurgents in the Iraqi city of Falluja, in which 30 US Marines died.

The memo, which the Mirror says is stamped "Top Secret", allegedly details how Mr Blair argued against what the paper calls a "plot" to attack the station's buildings in the business district of Doha, the capital city of Qatar.
I have no idea whether Bush actually contemplated this, but I have every confidence that if he did, and if there's an authentic transcript, nothing will come of it. Still, it shows how far out of control of the news cycles the White House has become. Three years ago, suggesting that Bush may not really have the grounds to invade Iraq was tantamount to treason; now we're looking at reports that he may have wanted to bomb a close ally to stifle free speech. How far we've come...

(Lotsa bloggers talking about it though--and how could they not?? Including: Kevin Drum | Avedon | Moderate Voice (Justin Gardner) | Carpetbagger | Steve Soto )

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I Can't Go On; I'll Go On.

Regular blogging has sort of resumed, but I'm finding the backlog is hampering my unfettered hog-wallering. I'm off to a meeting in Salem in a few minutes, so it will continue until at least tomorrow. But then, the two dozen of you who read this blog are pretty cool about my idiosyncracies, anyway.

I leave you with a bit of Dionne in lieu of actual content:
Some of the most powerful words on the budget cuts came from one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. Rep. Gene Taylor, whose district was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, couldn't believe that cuts in programs for the poor were being justified as necessary to cover the costs of relief for hurricane victims. Taylor's syntax only underscored the emotion he brought to the floor: "Mr. Speaker, in south Mississippi tonight, the people . . . who are living in two- and three-man igloo tents waiting for Congress to do something, have absolutely got to think this place has lost their minds. The same Congress that voted to give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tax breaks every time . . . suddenly after taking care of those who had the most, we have got to hurt the least. . . . Folks, this is insane. . . . This is the cruelest lie of all, that the only way you can help the people who have lost everything is by hurting somebody else."
I recall that, following the 2000 Supreme Court coup, a co-worker of mine said rather darkly that Bush's election meant that "a lot of people were going to die." Some died quickly in foreign lands, and now others may die more slowly, of disease and poverty. I believe it's what the GOP call compassionate conservatism.

Testing my Ecumenicism.

No sooner do I voice an opinion that Americans should be more liberal with regard to religious display than does Jerry Falwell sorely test it. Now we have a "Friend or Foe" campaign to silence critics of the nation's dominant faith:
We need to draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the American Atheists and other leftist organizations that intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas.
This poor, oppressed minority has decided to fight back against the teeming horde of Jews, athiests, and Buddhists:
It has called for a boycott of Target stores next weekend. The chain's crime, according to the group, is a ban on the use of "Merry Christmas" in stores, an accusation the chain denies....

"I don't know where they're coming from," Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter replied. "We have no such policy on Christmas. You can see it in our stores."

At one local Target, in Colma, most of the in-store advertising offers a generic "Gatherround." One of the few advertising mentions of the C-word is above a Christmas card rack that says, "Celebrate Christmas."

That's not good enough for American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, who wants to see "Merry Christmas" signs displayed prominently "if they expect Christians to come in and buy products during this so-called season."

And he isn't worried if they offend people who aren't Christian.

"They can walk right by the sign," Wildmon said. "It's a federal holiday. If someone is upset by that, well, they should know that they are living in a predominantly Christian nation."
Is it to late to recant? If the choices are no religious expression or this, I guess I'll take no religious expression. I'm getting pretty damned tired of being a "foe" in my own country.

(Hat tip: Iggi.)

Monday, November 21, 2005


A Heterodox View on Religion

The Times has an article describing one aspect of Sam Alito's judicial position--his view that the government should be more tolerant of religious display.
Judge Alito, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, has ruled in favor of allowing local governments to set up Nativity scenes alongside nonreligious symbols and ruled against a school district that wanted to prevent an evangelical group from sending home fliers to elementary school children. He has also ruled in favor of Muslim police officers in Newark who said the department's policy against wearing beards violated their religious rights.
There are a couple of ways to look at this, and I don't pretend to know Alito's interpretation (he has never ruled on a case involving state financial support of religion). They're quite different:

1. Government should allow more religious displays because this is a Protestant nation, and Protestant displays are consonant with the founders' beliefs;

2. Government should allow more religious displays because the accommodation of religion is not endorsement of it, and because to suppress that expression violates the spirit of the seperation clause.

The first is essentially a subversion of the establisment clause--in it, proponents are arguing, 'yeah, we think the establishment is all right--but hey, we got the numbers.' The second, and the one that I support, is more nuanced. It takes a liberal position and refuses to draw a black/white position. Why should religion be absolutely excluded from the public square? This is the third position, the anti-religious yang that balances the pro-religion yin of the first position. This view seems to violate the first amendment's other protection--against free expression.

But aside from the legal interpretations, I also think we'd end up with a more tolerant, less fundamentalist country if we allowed--even celebrated--religious expression. In European countries where they teach a comparative religions component in the schools, cultures are far more religiously tolerant and less susceptible to black/white religious fundamentalism. In America, where all religious language has been scrubbed from the schools, we're sliding ever more steadily into a culture dominated by a single religion.

There's nothing that says religion is anathema to democracy. Look at India. We have somehow solidified this notion, though, that absolute religious silence is the most democratic expression. Well, we've seen what that brings. Shall we try again?
[Smear Machine]

Did I miss something?

"The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone. But we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history."
--Dick Cheney, Wednesday

"He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
--Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, Friday

"Put yourself in the shoes of the enemy. The enemy hears a big debate in the United States, and they have to wonder — 'maybe all we have to do is wait and we'll win.'"
--Don Rumsfeld, Sunday

"An immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will only strengthen the terrorists' hand in Iraq, and in the broader War on Terror. That's the goal of the enemy. They want to break our will in Iraq, so that we leave and they can turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terror, a place where they can plot and plan attacks against America and freedom-loving countries around the world."
--Bush, Sunday

Interesting to return from a week away and see politics retrospectively. One lone congressman from rural Pennsylvania argues that we should pull out of Iraq. He's not supported by party leaders in either house, but nevertheless provokes responses from the highest (and lowest) levels of government. He's called spineless, a coward, an appeaser, and an unwitting accomplice to the Taliban. And then you have the US House draft a resolution that is essentially there to mock the position. You don't think that he managed to hit a raw nerve?

It has Terri Schiavo II written all over it. (And Rick Santorum can't be pleased.) Nevertheless, a most pleasant and amusing welcome back. I sure am enjoying the news these days.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

[Political Strategies]

The Moderate Fallacy

Before I go, I'll leave you with this slightly preliminary rumination. I hope to elaborate on it in the future, fashion it into a shiny hobby horse, and ride it through the midterm elections. You've been warned.

As the GOP implodes, a story line emerges--well, two, really. They both revolve around the notion that Americans are essentially moderate in political temperment. In the GOP version, the lesson is retrospective: Republicans forgot that Americans are centrist, and are so running aground on the shoals of their own fanatacism. In the Dem version, which is predictive, peddlers of conventional wisdom caution hopeful donkeys not to get too radical if they want to feast on the dissatisfaction of GOP voters.

These twin, complimentary story lines are false. Americans are not philosophically centrist, they're instinctively non-radical. They look at the radical elements of the right and left and aim somewhere in-between, thinking that this is some kind of safe, rational position. They fetishize their "independence" by arguing they're as likely to vote Dem or GOP--proving they haven't the vaguest clue what the political philosophies of right and left are. In the 1930s, one party argued we should have a 90% top income tax bracket, while the other, the "conservative" party, said it should be only 75%. Now one party argues we should invade nonthreatening countries, torture our prisoners, repeal taxes altogether for the rich while privatizing the social safety net. The "liberal" party argues we should maybe not torture, but invasions are okay. Americans, hewing to historical norms, split the difference.

Americans fashion their political instinct from populism, which is America's cultural identity. In the 30s, populism was owned by the Woody Guthrie, collectivist left--this land is your land. Now it is owned by the individualist-loving right--this land is my land, and if you get rich enough, you can by the parcel next door, but until then keep off or I'll shoot you with my automatic Smith and Wesson.

Populism and centrism are rarely related. Populist rhetoric is generally radicalism dressed up as American Gothic. What Grover Norquist seeks to accomplish in this "aw shucks" garb really not less radical than what Emma Goldman preached when she told the poor to seize the bread of the wealthy. Both appealed to average Americans because they were presented as rational acts, even though politically, they were pretty extreme.

The lesson--and the thing I hope to elaborate on--is that Dems need to think differently about elections and governance. To get elected, Dems must evict Republicans as the populist party. Thanks to GOP overreach, this shouldn't be too hard. They don't need to pander to Americans in Bush-lite moderatism, because this just shifts the goalposts further right, compelling Americans to regard increasingly autocratic policies as "centrist." Governing from the left, though, means adopting policies that are truly liberal. Because Americans haven't a clue what a liberal or conservative policy actually is, will only hear the rational populism. Understanding that the path--populism in order to get elected--looks very different from the goal--liberal policies--is critical if the Dems want to create a long-term ruling coalition.

See you next week.



I'll be out for the next week. No where near a computer nor radios, televisions, or internets. How's that for a great way to juice the traffic?

See you Sunday--

Friday, November 11, 2005


Veterans Day

Today Dubya repeated last year's Veterans Day atrocity, politicizing the sacrifice of those who actually gave life, limb, and mind--all to shore up those poll numbers he doesn't follow. To select one example:
Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified. With every random bombing, with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters -- they're murderers at war with the Iraqi people themselves. In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast.
Well, two can play that game. Two years ago, I wrote one of my better posts on Veterans Day. It seems an appropriate rejoinder today.

A couple of Veteran's Day thoughts
Notes on the Atrocities, 11/11/03

Almost sixty years ago, my father appropriated his older brother's birth certificate, stole out into the early morning, and joined the marines. He was fifteen and he didn't tell his parents. A few months later, he was on a boat headed for China, but then the last world war ended, so he had to wait to see action (not, unfortunately, as long as he might have expected). He revered his own father, much as I revered him, and his father was a marine, as was his father's father. For my dad, nothing seemed more honorable than fighting for liberty and freedom in the United States Marine Corps.

He went on to fight in Korea, and what happened there he has mostly kept out of conversations. But what did happen changed his attitude about war and the men who conduct it. He has never lost his trust in the Marine Corps, but he's much warier about the men who place those Marines in danger. As a result, I grew up in a distinctly non-militarized home. It's a safe bet that the reason I'm writing this blog now is because of something that happened to my father when he was 20. His values changed somehow, and what he passed along were different than what his father handed down to him.

We celebrate Veterans Day because we want to honor those who were subjected to enormous trauma when they were just kids--for the values of freedom, liberty, and equality that we all enjoy.

Unfortunately, not everyone honors them. I know that President Bush enjoys enormous support from the military families in this country, but he doesn't deserve it. He acted irresponsibly in the ramp-up to war. His vanity prevented him from finding support from international troops that would have helped our soldiers. Worst, he has cut their pay, and as we learned yesterday, illegally refuses to pay 17 Gulf War I veterans compensation that they deserve. He rouses the robust Hu-ahs at military bases, but what is he doing for the troops?

Perhaps in large measure because of the values my father passed down to me, I'm extremely critical of this president. When I look at the foolish, vainglorious manner in which he conducts foreign policy, it makes me think that the lives of the soldiers never crosses his mind. On this Veteran's Day, we honor people like my Dad. I wish we could also bring ourselves to see that standing with solemnity at the graves of dead soldiers is not enough. When the president is so cavalier with soldiers' lives, so callous that he would cut their pay during wartime, this is not honor. It's deeply offensive.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


First Gannon, Now Judy

Judy Miller has a blog--a fact you already know if you read any other blogs. (I'm apparently late in getting to this fact.) It includes some of the least subtle propaganda I've ever seen. Even for a blogger, she's shameless in self-promotion. (Though her prose works better in blog form than, say, as a vehicle for Ahmed Chalabi's talking points in the NY Times.) Behold:
On July 6 I chose to go to jail to defend my right as a journalist to protect a confidential source, the same right that enables lawyers to grant confidentiality to their clients, clergy to their parishioners, and physicians and psychotherapists to their patients.

After 85 days, more than twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause, I agreed to testify before the special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s grand jury about my conversations with my source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. I did so only after my two conditions were met: first, that Mr. Libby voluntarily relieve me in writing and by phone of my promise to protect our conversations; and second, that the special prosecutor limit his questions only to those germane to the Valerie Plame Wilson case. Contrary to inaccurate reports, these two agreements could not have been reached before I went to jail. Without them, I would still be in jail, perhaps, my lawyers warned, charged with obstruction of justice, a felony. Though some colleagues disagreed with my decision to testify, for me to have stayed in jail after achieving my conditions would have seemed self-aggrandizing martyrdom or worse, a deliberate effort to obstruct the prosecutor’s inquiry into serious crimes.

Partly because of such objections from some colleagues, I have decided, after 28 years and with mixed feelings, to leave The Times. I am honored to have been part of this extraordinary newspaper and proud of my accomplishments here – a Pulitzer, a DuPont, an Emmy and other awards – but sad to leave my professional home.
Itals, of course, mine. Self-aggrandizing martyrdom--no, not Judy. Never Judy.
[Oregon Politics]

Quick: Who's Your State Rep?

Without consulting any reference material, answer these questions: who is your state rep; who's your state senator? I have an excuse for not knowing mine--I moved last week. But I actually had to stop a second to recall who they were two weeks ago (Margaret Carter and Chip Shields). People care about city politics and they care about national politics, but state politics--it's the worst of both worlds. It's local, but bureaucratically so. The issues lack the specificity of a good Wal-Mart battle, but the personalities lack the big stakes and fame of national politics. Yet in terms of how policies affect citizens, state politics are arguably the most important.

For the past decade, blue-state Oregon has been held hostage by petit Norquistas in the Oregon house. The effects of this coup have been profound. Our schools have been gutted, famously ridiculed in Doonsbury. Our elders were literally thrown out on the street when we went through a budget crisis two years ago. Our criminals were given get-out-of-jail free cards at the same time. Meanwhile, the state's own perverse system of Republican bribing, whereby the state refunds any dollars beyond what state forecasters expected--all the while abandoning rainy-day funds. The past four years have been one, slow Katrina of rainy days, and yet the GOP still holds the House hostage (we prized the Senate from the GOP in '04).

A group of bloggers (including me) are now charging themselves with helping to "take back the house." Funny thing is, I haven't a clue how to do that. As a blogger trying to help Dems take back the (White) House, I at least had avid support from the national-politics junkies. There are no state-politics junkies, and anyway, we lost the White House. So, for Oregonians and anyone else: how do you motivate people to care about local politics?

It's like a koan: if you have a candidate and no one knows you have a candidate, how do you elect him (her)?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Judith Miller Canned.

Okay, the Times is reporting that she "retired," but in exactly the way Harriet Miers "withdrew her nomination."
The New York Times and Judith Miller, a veteran reporter for the paper, reached an agreement today that ends her 28-year career at the newspaper and caps more than two weeks of negotiations.

Lawyers for Ms. Miller and the paper negotiated a severance package, the details of which they would not disclose. Under the agreement, Ms. Miller will retire from the newspaper, and The Times will print a letter she wrote to the editor explaining her position.
Tomato, tamahto ...

Pew's New Numbers

The numbers out from Pew yesterday are in the vein of all the numbers out lately about Bush & Co., so I will not bore you with the repetitious details. One item did catch my eye, though. The divide in the electorate continues to gape, suggesting that GOP politicians in blue states may be looking at trouble. Among independents, presidential approval has plummeted from 47% at the beginning of the year to 29% today. For Dems, approval is at 12%, worse than Watergate-era Nixon numbers.

And this is also bizarre. Of several news stories offered by pollsters, "oil company profits" was the third most-watched story. Not Libby, not Alito (definitely not Alito), not the economy. Iraq was only slightly more watched. You think this isn't a good time for Dems to start playing the economic populist card? Hammering Bushco's buddies (which means most of the Texas-dominated GOP) in Big Oil wouldn't be such a bad idea.

(Moderates seem to be getting the message.)

Mehlman Conference Call

One of the increasingly popular tools for grassroots organizing is the conference call. It's sort of like a secret party--a list of people (bloggers, usually) get an email with a time and phone number. They call in and listen to a party/activist/political bigwig go through the talking points on a specific issue and then they can ask questions. I've done a couple, and they're mildly interesting.

If you want to hear what they sound like, Crooks and Liars has a pirated version of a GOP conference call with RNC Chair Ken Mehlmen. It's sort of torturous to listen to the whole thing, but if you want a sense of how the grassroots communicates, listening to the first couple minutes isn't too bad. (The audio picks up with the end of Mehlman's prepared statement and then goes into questions.)
[Intelligent Design]

Bad Science and Worse Theology

Intelligent Design is coming to Kansas:
The Kansas Board of Education voted Tuesday that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian theory, a move that defied the nation's scientific establishment even as it gave voice to religious conservatives and others who question the theory of evolution.
It's not actually clear what they'll be teaching--casting doubt on evolution isn't the same as promoting an intelligent designer, but possibly that's what they'l be doing. The ways in which this is an affront to science are well-documented. No point in rehashing all of that. But there is a little-evaluated secondary affront here, too. The meaning and significance of Christian faith is perverted and demeaned by trying to shoehorn it into a science classroom for obviously political ends.

By coincidence, Jimmy Carter has a new book out that tackles science and religion, and when he spoke to Terri Gross last week about ID, he spoke beautifully about this:
I studied nuclear physics when I was a young man. I was one of the originators of the nuclear submarine program; [unintelligible] at the same time, as you've already mentioned, I am a Christian. I don't see any incompatibility at all between the two. My belief is that God created the universe. My belief is that God permits us to understand the new developments that we can witness in universal matters. When the Bible was written, we didn't have the Hubble telescope, we didn't have microscopes so we could look at small items, we didn't have a way to test the age of rocks and so forth, but now we have these scientific capabilities. And so I think that science is just a revelation of God's creation.

So the two are completely separate and we can't prove the existence of things in our faith. As a matter of fact, the definition of faith in the Bible is that we know things that cannot be proven. Well, we don't have to have faith to believe that the moon is out there--that's something that we can see for ourselves. And we can't have science prove the existence of God, or all of the things that we know about Jesus Christ as Christians. So the two are separate.

I don't believe that there's any place in a scientific classroom to try to prove to the students that God exists. So I think the two ought to be completely separate. I believe in both of them--science and religion--and one should not be imposed on the other.

The Tea Leaves Don't Speak (Or Do They?)

The forces of good are delighted by yesterday's election results: GOP defeats in Virginia, New Jersey, and Schwarzenland. I'm deeply skeptical that it means anything, though. We're talking a sample size of three, and that hardly represents a trend. I think it's safe to say that Bush has no coattails--his last minute fly-by in Virginia did not help the Republican--but this isn't proof he's toxic, yet, either (at least in red states). An election-day visit isn't likely to have much effect in any case, and it's pretty clear that he was just mailing this one in.

If Dems want any hopeful harbinger, they might look at the mayoral election in St. Paul. The incumbent, Randy Kelly, had only lost one election in the last thirty years, but in 2004 he endorsed Dubya. Result? A 69%-31% thrashing by Chris Coleman. A poll before the election found that two-thirds of the electorate was influenced byKelly's Bush endorsement--and clearly most of them were influenced to vote against him.

It's the red-state voters Dems are going to have to convince to switch teams to seize power, and it's hard to say what they're thinking (of the three major election results, two of the GOP defeats came in blue states). But in blue states, Bush is toxic. Moderate congressmen and senators from blue states are no doubt raising eyebrows over this, and they're probably the most vulnerable.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The Dems' New Vision

Do the Dems have no vision, or do journalists just say they don't? And, in a more philosophical vein, how would you know the difference? EJ Dionne toys with this question today, and comes back to a hobby horse of mine: the question of equality versus liberty in American politics. The great liberal reforms of mid-century were made with an eye toward equality, which buoyed them politically as they remade America. The GOP shifted gears with Reagan and emphasized liberty--mainly one's liberty from oppressive taxes, never mind that this liberated you from your fancy liberal social safety net in the process. But Dems have nevertheless been cowed by all this talk of liberty, and so Dionne has a suggestion: co-opt it.
[I]t takes a government to fight identity theft, to give parents more power over the television programming that comes into their homes, to protect individuals from hidden credit card charges, to offer employees more control over the balance between their work and family lives. The list is not exhaustive, but it is instructive. It shows that government rules and regulations, properly conceived, can tilt the scales within a competitive economy toward individual rights. Citizens should have rights within the political sphere, but consumers and employees should also have rights in the economic sphere.
He's right, of course, but I don't know that we'll hear this argument from Dems--at least not untile they find their courage. Because liberty are important--critically important. But the Dems aren't the party of liberty, they're the party of justice and equality. If they can't find the stomach to make that point, it hardly seems likely that they will courageously argue for regulation, of all things. That takes a far more confident sense of political philosophy than anyone in the Democratic camp has made for decades.

Still, nice to hear someone make the point.

Monday, November 07, 2005


One Year From Today

But wait, before I go, two questions. The midterm elections are exactly one year out. Understanding that one year out is always a dangerous time to make predictions (it's alluringly close, and yet things almost always change dramatically), do you think:
that the Dems will take back either the House or Senate?

that the White House will have rebounded, or collapsed into such dire straights that the Dems are seriously contemplating impeachment?
(My guess: they're connected. If the Dems smell blood and the polls are looking good, they may think that getting back one chamber will give them the power to launch precedings against Bush. On the other hand, if the GOP beat back the challenge, Bush will stagger forward. My guess is that the GOP hangs on, rises from the corruption, and conducts one of the most vitriolic, sadistic, and overall cheap and sleazy midterm campaigns in history--just managing to hang onto power.)

Can't Get to the Internets

This week is going to be spotty on blogging. We have now successfully moved into the Kremlin, but haven't gotten the DSL connected up yet. Nothing more today--

Friday, November 04, 2005


WSJ: Defending Imperial Nudity

Paul Krugman has a column of satire today--sort of. Very dark, cynical satire. Under the potentially amusing conceit that he found variant endings on the "Emperor's New Suit" story, he extends the metaphor:
The talk-show host Bill O'Reilly yelled, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" at the little boy. Calling the boy a nut, he threatened to go to the boy's house and "surprise" him.

Fox News repeatedly played up possible finds of imperial clothing, then buried reports discrediting these stories. Months after the naked procession, a poll found that many of those getting most of their news from Fox believed that the emperor had in fact been clothed.
And so it goes until this ending: "And they all lived happily ever after - in the story. Here in reality, a large and growing number are being killed by roadside bombs. "

Well, it turns out he was prescient. Check out what the Wall Street Journal editorializes today on Harry Reid's interest in discovering whether Bush lied to get us into war:
The scandal here isn't what happened before the war. The scandal is that the same Democrats who saw the same intelligence that Mr. Bush saw, who drew the same conclusions, and who voted to go to war are now using the difficulties we've encountered in that conflict as an excuse to rewrite history. Are Republicans really going to let them get away with it?
It boggles the mind. But you do see from where Krugman's cynicism arises. Liberal press indeed.
[Economy, Taxes]

Stealing From the Poor: The GOP Class War

The Senate yesterday passed a "deficit reduction" plan that will cut $35 billion from student loans, prescription drug benefits, and food stamps. It would also allow drilling in ANWR--a patent giveaway to GOP cronies that, while it will enrich oil coffers, will do squat to help our oil problems. Meanwhile, the Senate also passed a $70 billion tax cut, the effect of which, even pinheads in the electorate may see, will be to increase deficits. So: your taxes fund the wealthy at the expense of the poor and your children who, 25 years hence, will inherit the bill for all of this.

This is an insane class war, and Dems better get off their asses and start publicizing it.

Okay, One More

In a WaPo poll out today that oversampled Dems, 60% disapprove of Bush. Fifty-eight percent doubt his honesty (he's dropping nearly a point a month over the past year and a half), and 55% said he lied to get us into Iraq (which two-thirds think he's botched). Sixty percent think Rove should resign. Two-thirds call the administration unethical and say the direction of the country is wrong. On Iraq, the economy, gas prices, it's all the same--60-70% disapprove. And this one will really chafe Dems: "Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- doubt Bush shares their values, while 40 percent say he does, another new low for this president."

There are silver linings here for him, though. 78% of Republicans still support him, and his numbers are getting so low that eventually they'll quit falling. Yippee.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Americans Don't Heart Leakers

This is pretty shocking: more people think the Valerie Plame leak is important than any other Washington scandal, including Watergate.

Overall, people finding the scandal important:
  • Plame Affair: 86%
  • Clinton-Lewinsky: 62%
  • Whitewater: 49%
  • Iran-Contra: 81%
  • Watergate: 78%
It shifts a bit when you break down the numbers for "great importance" versus "some importance"--the Plame link scandal sinks to second on the "great importance" side:
  • Plame Affair: 51%
  • Clinton-Lewinsky: 41%
  • Whitewater: 20%
  • Iran-Contra: 48%
  • Watergate: 53%
If you'd suggested this even a year ago, I wouldn't have thought it was possible--never mind two years ago when the story broke and seemed bigger than Watergate, but literally only a half dozen stories came out on it. Wow.
[GOP Corruption]

The Superfecta of Sleaze

As Sandra noted in comments below, Scooter Libby plead "not guilty" this morning. This is bizarre for a number of reasons. Most obviously: he is guilty. How he dodges this is beyond me. But this also sets up a potentially administration-destroying trial that will at the very least drag on for weeks and continue to embarrass Bush and Cheney. Surely Libby knows there's a pardon waiting for him, so why not just take one for the team?

The WaPo is also reporting that Rove may get shoved out. This, too, seems like a no-brainer. In his official capacity, Rove is extraneous, and in his actual capacity--puppet master--he doesn't need to be on the payroll or even on the premises. A phone and DSL line and he's ready to seemlessly transition into the "private" sector.

(Last night, NPR reported an interesting thing that now makes me think Rove won't be indicted. Apparently it's kosher to lie like a cheap rug to the grand jury for your first three visits if you then "correct the record" on your fourth--which is what Rove did. No perjury nor even, apparently, obstruction of justice--which creates a hell of a loophole. You can obstruct justice for a year and then "correct the record" for a stay-out-of-jail card.)

But that's just politics. In the most disturbing recent news, it turns out the CIA has a network of secret prisons scattered across the globe.

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

This defies comment, except to say that if the CIA feels it needs to have secret prisons, gentle Americans probably don't want to know what goes on in them.

Finally, the last item on our superfecta is that ultimate go-to man in the administration, Mikey "Fancy Pants" Brown (link is a .pdf). As Katrina was slamming New Orleans?
From Cindy Taylor, FEMA's public affairs hack on the day of the storm (Aug 29): "My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous -- and I'm not talking about the makeup!"

Brown's reply: "I got it at Nordsstroms [sic]. Email McBride and make sure she knows! Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?
Two days after the storm, we have this exchange between Brown and Marty Bahamonde, one of the only FEMA employees in New Orleans:
Bahamonde: "Now I am going to vomit, laughing and swaying simultaneously is not recommended...."

Brown: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I ama [sic] fashion god."
Good ol' Brownie. You know, he did a heckuva job.

Americans Heart Alito, Sort of

A recent poll from WaPo-ABC is inadvertently revealing. The findings are positive(-ish) for Alito--49% support confirmation and only 30% oppose. In reading these leaves, the Post characterizes the response as a "reason for concern. Initial public reaction to Alito was considerably less favorable than it has been to a number of other successful court nominees, according to Post-ABC News polls."

Then the article goes on to blithely note that 44% say his views appear "about right." Here we come to the inadvertent part. Almost no Americans have the vaguest clue about constitutional law. This is no finding at all. If you asked people an opinion on quantum physics, you would indeed have results to report. They would mean nothing, of course, but you could still put them in an article. (An interesting follow-up would be to ask two or three questions about the commerce clause, say, as a filter. But then you'd have to poll a million people just to get a decent sample size.)

The revealing part is this: the only way to derail a nomination is for moderate senators to feel that the danger from voter backlash is great enough that the goodie bag of novel conservative rulings the judge may deliver won't be worth it. But the people are unlikely to evince the outrage necessary to provoke such a backlash ... because they're ignorant of constitutional law.

So it's back to the spin, with Dems (accurately) describing Alito as a wildly inventive, dangerous jurist and Republicans pointing out how gracious and courtly he is.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


This Week's Lameness

Just thought I should mention that I'm mostly too busy to blog this week. I'm busy painting every surface of the inside of the new house (okay, not really, but it feels that way), and it leaves little time for blogging.

The irony is that I listen to NPR all day and seethe with a desire to comment. Ah well.

The Reid Maneuver

Over the past few years, as my disgust with Democratic inaction festered, I encountered many a liberal who offered this: "They can't do anything; they're in the minority." This is exactly what the GOP think, and the docile and servile Dems have given them no reason to think otherwise. Until yesterday.
Democrats forced the Senate into a rare closed-door session yesterday, infuriating Republicans but extracting from them a promise to speed up an inquiry into the Bush administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the war. With no warning in the mid-afternoon, the Senate's top Democrat invoked the little-used Rule 21, which forced aides to turn off the chamber's cameras and close its massive doors after evicting all visitors, reporters and most staffers.
It's a relatively minor thing, but it nevertheless reduced Bill Frist to such fury that his voice quivered. (Said he: "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas. Never before have I been slapped in the face with such an affront. For the next year and a half, I can't trust Senator Reid." Video.) Rick Santorum, citing the obvious, declared that the Dems were playing politics (and in the US Senate, no less!). The reaction itself helped put the story on the front page, displacing Bush's absurd avian flu proposal, and took some of the wind out of the Alito sails. It also forced media covering the story to recount how Bush lied us into war.

Dems can keep doing this kind of thing for the next three years. It's called politics. You don't actually have to bow and scrape and defer to your opponents. There are plenty of tactics available to keep turning the attention back to the crimes of the White House. Bush and the GOP have sowed much incompetence and woe, and the Dems' simple task is to keep those facts in the news.

I'm betting Bill Frist is starting to regret that he ever campaigned in South Dakota for Jim Thune. He'd have loved to have Tom Daschle to kick around right about now.