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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Call Anyway

From what I gather, the two new proposed compromises to the Lindsey Graham Cojones Project are recondite and vague.

I agree with Marty Lederman at SCOTUS blog that this is surely a case for testimony from experts and a thorough discussion. Pushing through changes to the most fundamental underpinnings of our system of government in order to meet arbitrary deadlines is a very bad idea. The compromises seem to be better than what came before, but that really isn't good enough. History shows that cutting deals on fundamental liberties is dangerous business.

It looks as though it's going to happen, but it is probably still worthwhile to call your representatives and ask for a delay so that the congress can give this important legislation due consideration.

Fighting The Last War

by digby

While agreeing with E.J. Dionne's basic premise in his op-ed this morning --- that the Cheney administration acted like a bunch of rabid dogs back in 2002, making it extremely difficult to even debate, much less vote against the decisions to go to war --- Michael Crowley makes the point that I mentioned earlier, which is that the Democratic leadership, particularly the Presidential Hopeful Club, were fighting the last war:

The 2002 debate was filled with discussions about who got the Gulf War "right" and who was "wrong," and how the anti-war folks--who predicted all sorts of disasters that never came to pass--could have miscalculated so badly. Back in '91, anti-war votes killed the near-term presidential aspirations of some key Democratic senators, which may help to explain why ambitious people like John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and even Hillary Clinton all voted the way they did (pro-war) in 2002. Scare tactics or not, they may have felt they couldn't afford, politically, to risk the sort of damage incurred by people like Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, who wound up on the "wrong" side of the 1991 vote and retired soon after instead of running for president as once expected.

Republicans had used the Gulf War I votes of various Senators as a cudgel to beat them over the head with throughout the 90's adding significantly to the lore that Democrats are mincing cowards. Gulf War I was perceieved as an unalloyed success for the USA and people don't like killjoys.

I wrote the other day that Democrats' political instincts proved to be wrong both times, which may actually be at the root of the problem. My answer to this is that in the case of war, perhaps Democratic politicians should just vote their consciences and defend their decision on that basis. Deal making and bet hedging has not paid off for us anyway. Maybe we should simply do what we think is right in these matters and let the chips fall where they may. It's possible that had we done this in 91 we would have ended up exactly where we did --- on the Killjoy side of the equation. It's hard to argue with a glorious victory. But had we done it in 2002, we would have ended up with credibility.

You can't tell the future. When it comes to the big stuff, it's best to do what you think is right and let the chips fall where they may. Democrats have shown that they aren't partocularly good at playing politics with war anyway. If they simply do what they think is right at least they can sleep at night. And after all, if they'd voted against the Iraq war resolution, they would have been on the same side as pretty much everyone on the planet except the Republicna party.

Support Bingaman Amendment: List Of Key Senators And Petition

by tristero

A brief addition to Digby's post on supporting the Bingaman amendment.

Here are the names/phones of the key Senators to call, but call your own as well. There is also a petition to sign. It's vitally important. And yes, every phone call and signature does make a difference.

Also, write to your local newspapers.
How To Win Friends, Influence People, Topple Musharaff, And Acquire A Few Nukes

by tristero

Steve Coll on location in Kashmir:
The success of jihadi groups in providing earthquake relief have only strengthened their claims to legitimacy in Pakistan.
'Nuff said.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back Room Benedict Arnolds

by digby

I just spent the last hour reading this series of posts on Obsidion Wings about the reprehensible Lindsey Graham amendment to limit habeas corpus. I feel sick.

I suppose that everyone has certain nightmares that haunt them deeply in some far corner of their consciousness. My most vivid one is being imprisoned for something I didn't do and having no hope of ever being freed. (I'm certain it comes from growing up with an authoritarian father who refused to hear explanations for perceived transgressions.) The Darkness At Noon scenario literally terrifies me. It's one of the main reasons I'm a liberal.

This widely circulated Washington Post article from today, in which a lawyer describes his indisputably innocent client's incarceration in Guantanamo is chilling. I would hope that it would make at least a handful of Senators consider supporting the Bingaman Amendment, which will undo at least some of the damage.

The Republican senate is using habeas corpus as a political football. South Carolinian Lindsay Graham, the sponsor, is undoubtedly feeling tremendous pressure because of his "soft" stance on torture (I still can't believe we are even talking about it) and this is his way of restoring some manly credentials. But there is no excuse for the Democrats who signed on to this. Nor is there any excuse for the Blue state moderates either.

There was obviously some back room dickering on this bit of legislation and that makes me about as sick as anything about this whole thing. They're playing politics with habeas corpus for Gawd's sake. This isn't some fucking highway bill or a farm subsidy. It's the very foundation of our system of government and the single most important element of liberty. If the state can just declare someone an "unlawful combatant" and lock them up forever, we have voted ourselves into tyranny.

I know it's bad form to bring this up, but it's worth mentioning at this moment. Historian Alan Bullock put it this way:

"Hitler came to office in 1933 as the result, not of any irresistible revolutionary or national movement sweeping him into power, nor even of a popular victory at the polls, but as part of a shoddy political deal with the 'Old Gang' whom he had been attacking for months… Hitler did not seize power; he was jobbed into office by a backstairs intrigue.

You don't make back-room deals in which you fuck with the very basis of our system of government. It is irresponsible in the extreme. Considering the people we are dealing with, it's especially risky. You just don't know what they are going to do.

It's bad enough to do it when the administration is riding on a wave of popularity. To do it when there is no good political reason is mind-boggling. Like I said, it's one thing for little Lindsay to have to prove he's not a Democratic eunuch. It's quite another for anybody who isn't a Republican from the deep south to feel the need to back this horror.

Katherine at Obsidion Wings concludes her (and Hilzoy's) masterful series with this:

[I]f you agree, if not with our conclusions, than at least that this is maybe important and complicated enough that we could stand to wait a few weeks, please call your senators, and ask them to vote for Jeff Bingaman's S. AMDT 2517 to bill S. 1042. And please consider asking other people to do the same.

This one is worth making a call for. it's important.

Bush Called War Critics Irresponsible, Sending "Mixed Signals"

by tristero

If you say Bush lied, Bush says you are aiding and abetting the enemy and ruining troop morale. That, of course, is just one more Bush-style non-lie lie.

It just ain't gonna fly, George. You're a liar. You lied about Iraqi intelligence and deliberately mislead Congress. Your soul was already burdened by your disgraceful negligence that contributed to the deaths of over 3000 Americans on 9/11. And to date you've added the deaths of 2000 plus American military and uncounted Iraqi civilians to that shameful sum.

You're a liar, George. And an incompetent. And the majority of the American people, who you duped for so long, and whose children you are needlessly sending to their deaths, are beginning to understand that. Loud and clear.
Sacrificing Kirby In The Retail Culture War

by digby

In all this talk of boycotting Target today, I am reminded of this little gem from over the week-end. Wal-Mart supposedly beat back a boycott threat from the Catholic League by firing an employee who failed to properly toe the conservative Christian line:

Boycott Is Called Off After Retailer's Apology

A Roman Catholic civil rights group[wha?---ed.] called off a boycott of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Friday after the world's largest retailer apologized for an employee's e-mail that called Christmas a mix of world religions.

"This is a sweet victory for the Catholic League, Christians in general and people of all faiths," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a statement on the group's website.

Wal-Mart said Thursday that a customer service employee named Kirby had written an inappropriate e-mail to a woman who complained that the retailer had replaced a "Merry Christmas" greeting with "happy holidays." The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., also said Kirby no longer worked for Wal-Mart.

Kirby wrote that Christmas resulted from traditions such as Siberian shamanism and Visigoth calendars.

"Santa is also borrowed from the [Caucasus], mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world," Kirby wrote.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said the e-mail — sent without review by other employees — did not represent Wal-Mart's policies.

He said employees would continue to wish people "happy holidays" because the greeting was more inclusive.

Donohue of the Catholic League said the practice, although "dumb," was never part of his group's complaint.

"We only trigger boycotts when we've been grossly offended," he said.

We don't know the whole story, of course, but what Kirby said was the truth. Are they going to argue that Santa was one of the three wise men? Is the Christmas tree an old middle eastern phallic symbol celebrating the virgin birth? What do they tell their kids when they ask about this stuff, that it's all in a lost book in the Bible? What nonsense. What the Irish cretin twins (Big Bills Donohue and O'Reilly) are so exercised about is the "Happy Holidays" thing. And WalMart didn't budge on that. They just sacrificed Poor Kirby --- and Donohue was magically no longer "grossly offended" (by the facts.) Sure.

Everybody just keep in mind when the radical Christian right start bellyaching about "Happy Holidays" this season that their favorite retailer doesn't give a shit.

The truth is that their little boycott threat was nothing more than kabuki in the first place. It turns out that Wal-mart and the churches are much more entwined than I realized. (I have long joked that shopping is America's true religion, but this is ridiculous.) And anti-Wal-Mart forces are on to them and are fighting fire with fire.

We have entered a new era in the culture war. It's no longer just church and state. Religion and retail is the new front:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and its critics have been fighting for the hearts and minds of the American public, through advertising, media outreach, worker testimonials and public debate. Now the two sides are fighting for souls.

The world's largest retailer and its adversaries are hoping to sway religious leaders to their respective causes, seeking to use the clergy's powerful influence to reach flocks that may not respond to mere public relations or media-driven pitches.

Wal-Mart has quietly reached out to church officials with invitations to visit its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to serve on leadership committees and to open a dialogue with the company.

Across the aisle, one of the company's chief foes, Wal-Mart Watch, this weekend is launching seven days of anti-Wal-Mart consciousness-raising at more than 200 churches, synagogues and mosques in 100 cities, where leaders have agreed to sermonize about what they see as moral problems with the company.

"They are each probing for weaknesses behind enemy lines," said Nelson Lichtenstein, professor of history at UC Santa Barbara and editor of the forthcoming book "Wal-Mart: The Face of 21st Century Capitalism." "The liberals are trying to go into the churches even in conservative Republican neighborhoods. And then Wal-Mart goes into black churches and poor neighborhoods and says, 'Look, on this question, you should be with us because we provide jobs.' "

Wal-Mart Watch's religious efforts are part of the group's Higher Expectations Week, a series of nationwide events at churches, clubs, colleges and other organizations that highlight criticism of the retailer. The activities include free screenings of Robert Greenwald's recently released documentary, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," a critical look at how the company, the largest private employer in the U.S., treats workers.

Wal-Mart declined to comment on its outreach to clergy. But church leaders from around the country said the retailer had contacted them to encourage their support — or to respond to their criticism — of the company.

The Rev. Ron Stief, director of the Washington office of the United Church of Christ, said a Wal-Mart representative telephoned him about six weeks ago after he criticized the company in a church newspaper article about Greenwald's documentary. After years of writing letters to the company to complain about Wal-Mart's conduct, Stief said, he finally received an invitation to Bentonville.

"They wanted me to come see their side of it," he said. Stief said he hoped to take the retailer up on the offer after he and other church members see the film.

The Rev. Clarence Pemberton Jr., pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, said a Wal-Mart representative attended Tuesday's regular meeting of about 75 Baptist ministers in that city.

"It appeared that what he was trying to do was to influence us or put us in opposition to this film that is coming out and will be in the churches," Pemberton said, referring to the documentary. "It was implied very strongly that it was about some sort of cash rewards for people who would become partners with Wal-Mart and what they were trying to do."

Bishop Edward L. Brown, a regional leader of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, said a Wal-Mart representative attended a CME bishops meeting last spring in Memphis, Tenn.


Wal-Mart Watch, in reaching out to churches, has opened a new front in its campaign, hoping to win converts among those who are not natural allies of labor and environmental activists, the mainstays of the group's support.

"In order to make the impact we wish to make, we need to have breadth and depth of supporters, and we've been discovering that one way of developing that is with communities of faith," said Wal-Mart Watch spokeswoman Tracy Sefl. "The notion of justice, fairness and opportunity is a message that is powerful from the pulpit and is a message that really transcends simply talking about the stores in familiar ways."


The Rev. Frank Alton of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Koreatown said he could not recall ever sermonizing about a specific company in his 10 1/2 years in his pulpit. But asking his 250 members to consider the ethical implications of Wal-Mart, he said, was worth making an exception.

"They are a leader, and they are multiplying around the world — they have a responsibility as a leader and an innovator and pioneer to set a standard since others are following them," Alton said. "They are destroying community, which is a value of Jesus; they are exercising greed, which is against the values of Jesus; and they are promoting a culture of greed and extending a culture of poverty, which are against the values of Jesus.

I don't know quite what to think about all this. I'm so determinedly secular that it's beyond my ken. But, if Wal-mart is passing out currency to conservative churches, I think it's only right that the liberal churches get in on the act by at least making the very logical argument that exploitation of the poor for obscene profit isn't exactly Christian. (But, can someone tell me on what basis Wal-Mart can make an explicitly Christian argument in its favor? Where in the Bible is selling cheap Chinese crap for Jesus mentioned?)

This looks to be a real red state blue state battle shaping up. These companies must grow or die. The blue states are where the people are. We can make a difference here by keeping Wal-Mart out (or atl east contained) and Target in line. We can reward companies like Costco that treat their workers like human beings.

If the culture war is going retail, we libs have some serious clout There isn't some stupid structural impediment involved in this battle --- an electoral college or federalist system that dilutes our influence. This one's all about the numbers.

Target needs to understand that this latest is not a battle over the morning after pill, it is about birth control in general, and that the majority isn't going to stand for it. Here's a handy list of articles that explains the position of these "pharmacists of conscience" and what is their real agenda. Here's one:

There are mainly three types of drugs that are causing me to feel a tremendous amount of guilt after I have dispensed them. These three are misoprostol, birth control pills, and "morning after pills."

A little education might go a long way with the corporate cowards at Target. They may not unbderstand entirely what they are getting into by allowing themselves to start picking and choosing among different religions and personal beliefs. If they fail to get it, then boycott 'em. This is the new front in the culture war and we've got the advantage this time if we choose to use it.

Incompetent On All Levels

by digby

Those of us who've been writing about the torture regime for a long while already knew that the DOD had decided to use the SERE techniques to "interrogate" prisoners. This NY Times article reveals something about this I didn't know before --- the SERE techniques were developed for special forces to learn to resist the harsh torture techniques of the totalitarian communist regimes:

SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.


The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantánamo went "up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques" for "high-profile, high-value" detainees. General Hill had sent this list - which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees' phobias - to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.


the Pentagon cannot point to any intelligence gains resulting from the techniques that have so tarnished America's image. That's because the techniques designed by communist interrogators were created to control a prisoner's will rather than to extract useful intelligence.

Can you believe it? It's not just that torture doesn't work generally, which it doesn't. And it's not just that torture is morally repugnant and stains all who are involved with it. It does. The most amazingly thing about this (Commie) torture regime is that it's specifically designed to extract false confessions for propaganda purposes. Dear gawd, can they really be so incompetent that they didn't understand the difference between creating propaganda and gaining intelligence?

Sadly, yes. I keep forgetting that the GWOT is really a massive mind-fuck for these deluded neocon fabulists. They have long been convinced that the major problem for the US is that the wogs think we are a bunch of weaklings. Here's what Bush said about this just last Friday:

We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it -- in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and on websites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, their "resources, their sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands." The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter of a century: They hit us, and expect us to run.

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a guy named Zawahiri. And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq -- the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaeda. This is what he said: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993. They believe that America can be made to run again -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

This is the very heart of the neocon view of this issue. The United States has behaved like a bunch of bed-wetters for decades in the face of this horrific threat. The godfather Normon Podhoretz put it like this, in his remarkable essay called "World War IV":

to the extent that American passivity and inaction opened the door to 9/11, neither Democrats nor Republicans, and neither liberals nor conservatives, are in a position to derive any partisan or ideological advantage. The reason, quite simply, is that much the same methods for dealing with terrorism were employed by the administrations of both parties, stretching as far back as Richard Nixon in 1970 and proceeding through Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (yes, Ronald Reagan), George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and right up to the pre-9/11 George W. Bush.

Unsurprisingly, he traces our wimpification all the way back to 1970 when a couple of diplomats were killed in the Sudan by the PLO. If we'd nipped that damned Palestinian bullshit in the bud by dropping some well placed nukes where they were most needed (The USSR), the world trade center would be standing today. We've never been tough enough for these guys.

This is the consciousness that pervades the inner sanctum of the Bush foreign policy and defense cabal. (Or, at least, it did. It's hard to know what they are thinking now.) But considering the way they arrange the world and its history in their strange minds, it's possible that they didn't stop to think what the torture regime they so eagerly adopted was actually designed to do before they gave the order to use it.

But, you cannot discount the idea that they may have consciously sought to elicit false confessions through some misplaced fourth generation "mindwar" wet dream in which we would psych out the terrorists by being so macho that they would run like rabbits back into their caves and spidey-holes. Who knows? These guys could have originally thought we could prove how tough we really are by showing footage of al Qaeda opeatives confessing to non-existent crimes on FoxNews. With Cheney and Rumsfeld in charge, it's entirely possible that this whole torture regime may have sprung from a late night viewing of "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The Battle of Algiers" over cigars and a six pack of Zima. That's about as strategically sophisticated as these guys get.

Does "All Things Considered" Mean NPR Should Practice Fellatio On Creationists?

Pharyngula asks How could you, NPR? He's right.

There are several things that are exceedingly sleazy about this report that you won't learn from the NPR story, but PZ Meyers will tell you. First, Sternberg is an Old Earth Creationist. Second of all, the reporter, Barbara Hagerty, has connections to nutty Howard Ahmanson, a follower of the racist Rushdoony who also advocated a US theocracy, and Ahmanson is a major funder of the "intelligent design" creationism con developed at Discovery Institute.

Most importantly, the paper which Sternberg published, and sparked the controversy was, as PZ writes, "an excellent example of garbage pseudoscience that was slipped through the peer review process with the aid of a little cronyism from the acting editor, Sternberg, and is representative of the level of trash we get from the Designists...And in particular, this kind of bad science is being peddled for political ends, which makes it especially pressing to deplore it."


The report claims that untenured professors who believe in "intelligent design" creationism risk not getting tenure. I certainly hope that's true.

But to NPR, that's a restriction of academic freedom. I fail to see how. Look, if a young astronomy professor believed the moon was made of green cheese, she shouldn't get tenure, either. And there is just as much evidence that the moon is made of green cheese as there is for "intelligent design" creationism: none at all.

NPR should be ashamed of itself.

[NOTE To "intelligent design" creationists who wish to argue with me that it actually is a scientific idea: Please go to Pharyngula and argue with Dr. Myers. When you convince him that you are right, by all means let me know and I will be happy to dicuss your ideas. Until then, bugger off.]
Rinse And Repeat

It is vitally important to distinguish between the methods used to establish that a fact is a fact and the tactics used to persuade the larger public to accept that fact. They are not one and the same.

For example, it is beyond dispute, by reasonable people, that contrary to the assertions of Bo and Ti of the Heaven's Gate cult, there really was no UFO hiding behind the tail of Comet Hale-Bopp. However, if you had a child who was in thrall to these dangerous crazies, no amount of logic or reason would convince them otherwise:
The New Yorker...reported on a camera shop in Southern California that had sold an expensive 3 1/2" Questar Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope (a favorite of amateur astronomers for decades) to two of the Heaven's Gate cult members, who said that they wanted to see the UFO following Hale-Bopp. They came back weeks later to return the telescope, disappointed that it could not reveal the UFO and was thus obviously a defective instrument.
So how do you save your child from such crazies, when they are beyond reason? Well, you don't have too many choices. Most boil down to, "Shut up and get in the car. We're taking you away from these idiots before you piss your life away. Get in the car, now." And some people get so desperate they kidnap their kids and hire a deprogrammer to reverse the brainwashing.

Now all this raises a host of ethical questions which can keep the blogosphere humming till the pixels all come home. But let's change the example slightly. What happens when an entire country is convinced there's a UFO behind Hale-Bopp? Abandoning the metaphor, how do you bring the country to its senses when it's been programmed to trust the serial lies and distortions of a compulsive liar of a president?

That is the tactical problem that many of us* have faced since the fall of 2000, when Bush's Texas-sized lies and distortions went global and the American people, bless their trusting hearts, fell for 'em. Reason, ultimately, is not that effective on people whose brains have been set to refuse admittance to reality. Sooner or later, you need to follow a variation of Sean-Paul's intelligent advice:
The President is a liar. The Democrats did not have the same intelligence as the White House did.

And that's all any Democrat has to say. Don't try to explain it. Don't let the Republicans misdirect you into the details or distract you in any way. Just keep hammering the same line over and over and over because the public already knows it's true: The President is misleading the American people. The Democrats did not have the same intelligence as the White House did.

Rinse and repeat all the way to 2006.

Again, establishing a fact is not the same as persuading others to accept that fact. The fact - the president is a liar - has long been established. Now, how do you get others to accept it? Say it: The president is a liar. Say it again: The president is a liar. And when someone demands proof, you repeat: The president is a liar.

Now, suppose they say, "But you've shown me no proof. That's just your opinion. Prove it." Now what? You say, "The president is liar."

Now to us liberals, this may appear at first to be a bit, how shall I say it, irrational and unfair. It is not. First of all, the person you are trying to convince is perfectly capable and in fact probably has read many of the same articles you have read, in which the lies of Bush are so painfully apparent. Their ability to reason is skewed, not their ability to read. Attempts to "set their reason straight" by advancing reasoned arguments merely reinforces the delusion.

The important thing to remember is that a deeply-held delusion is invested with deep emotional attachment. One's self-esteem, one's positive opinion of oneself, has become deliberately entertwined with maintaining that delusion at all costs. Dangerously so. It is that emotional attachment you must confront. When that has been dealt with, the ability to reason is freed to arrive at the obivious conclusion: The president is a liar.

Now in dealing with someone on the emotional level, there's no reason to be cruel, but you need to be firm. You need to weaken, in the face of enormous resistance, the emotional glue that binds the deluded to his/her delusion. You don't humiliate as in, "Schmuck! Any moron can see the president is lying through his teeth. WTF is wrong with you?" That further binds the delusion to the person's sense of self, which now feels attacked and therefore becomes defensive. Instead, you simply repeat, "The president is a liar."

Eventually, the repetition will permit the idea to seep enough into their consciousness to make the deluded start to wonder whether it is worthwhile investing their sense of self so deeply in someone who just may be, in fact, a liar. Your clue that this is happening is a change in the way the way the discourse is conducted. Instead of, "Oh yeah? Prove he's a liar!" you'll start to hear things like, "I guess he did cherrypick the intelligence a bit and in a sense, that's a lie. But you don't think Bush made stuff up out of whole cloth, do you?"

At which point, you respond, "The president is a liar" but, as Sean-Paul says, don't go into the details. Remember, they've already heard them but they can't reason about them properly yet and the problem they are having is emotional, not intellectual. They've started to wake up, but they are still entangling their own sense of integrity with Bush's.

It's only when they respond, "Okay, he's a liar. He lied and manipulated intelligence to get us into the war. But we have to support Bush now if we are not going to embolden the enemy" that you ease up slightly. You say, "The president is a liar. He lied to your face. Over and over. He lied to the soliders who are now fighting for their lives over there. The president is a liar. You owe him nothing. He owes you the truth."


*Yes, many of us were quite immune from the start to the Bush administration's assault on reality. While I can't help feeling that maybe we are a bit smarter than the rubes, reason informs me it's not that simple. For one thing, some very smart people - eg Kevin - were gulled for the longest time, before they finally woke up, and I'm certain that on any fair intelligence test Kevin would trump me easily. I think it's more the draw of the cards. For example, Lincoln was a tee-totaler, but unlike the moralizing prigs that surrounded him, he didn't believe his alcoholic abstinence showed strength of character. "I never had a taste for it," was about all he said.

Likewise, I think that we never had a predisposition to believe what government officials say. And while I think that's a good thing, all in all, I can also understand where that kind of skepticism, carried to an extreme, can lead into trouble. It is for that reason that I am not opposed to having those more gullible - like George Packer - publish their thoughts for serious consideration. But it stands to reason that those of us who are more skeptical must also be provided a seat at the table of mainstream discourse. The fact that we are not is an exceedingly dangerous situation as it skews the spectrum of acceptable opinion far too much towards unquestioned belief in a government's willingness to be honest.
Miserable Failure For Rice, Again

Rice Fails to Broker Deal on Monitoring Gaza Extremists
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Israel and the Palestinians today to accept a compromise proposal over who should monitor the passage of potential extremists in and out of Gaza, but she failed to achieve a breakthrough to end a bitter two-month-old impasse on the issue.
Between the failure of the recent Latin America adventure and the Middle East Democracy Conference , it looks like Amercian diplomatic efforts by Rice and Bush are batting 0.

I wonder why? Surely they're not mistaking the moral superiority of American values for unbridled, dangerous arrogance. I mean, it's so obvious we're the best and everyone in the world envys us and wants to be an American or live like an American. What is their problem?

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Via Talk left, I see that Murray Waas is reporting that Richard Shelby has been cleared by the Senate ethics committee of leaking classified information to the press. This doesn't mean he wasn't guilty, merely that he didn't break any Senate ethics rules. Of course, if the Shelby Amendment had not been vetoed by President Clinton, Shelby would have likely faced serious jail time for what he did.

I wrote a long post about Shelby the leaking Republican hypocrite a year or so ago. During the Clinton years the Republicans were all hopped up about leaking classified information. Today, not so much.

Shuffling Toward Their Revolution

In today's LA Times, Gregory Rodriguez says "Blame it On The Boomers" hypothesizing that we boomers have been arguing amongst ourselves since we were kids and are responsible for the polarization of American politics:

While it is amusing to caricaturize all boomers as pot-smoking, free-loving veterans of Woodstock, one only needs to glance at Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s 1971 Princeton yearbook photo to recall that there were plenty of clean-cut young people who preferred to lead traditional lives.

As in any revolution, the values revolution of the 1960s propelled Americans into two different directions. While many embraced the new values of the era, just as many preferred the old ones. Then there were those, like President Bush, who indulged in the permissiveness of the times only to reverse course later and champion the virtues of tradition.


Clearly, the boomer generation is not the first to divide over conflicting political visions. But unlike others, boomers cannot look to a shared sacrifice or experience that provided them with a sense of common values and shared purpose. On the contrary, the political consciousness of the boomers was forged by terribly divisive battles over Vietnam, the civil rights movement and Watergate.

If the 2004 presidential election between John Kerry and George W. Bush taught us anything, it was that the wounds of Vietnam and the 1960s have still not healed. As a result, the 1960s generation has come to power remarkably split, and this division has paralyzed American politics

Rodriguez also says, "perhaps the most profound political division in the country is generational. No, not young versus old this time, but rather baby boomer versus baby boomer."

It's still about Young vs Old --- young boomers vs old boomers.

It's not just that liberals and conservatives of my generation preferred to live different lifestyles. It's that the largest age cohort in history had some choices to make --- and those choices shaped our leadership class in very different ways. The young liberals were combative and revolutionary in their zeal --- idealistic and naive also. The conservatives were those who identified with the conformity of their elders, withdrawn, inward and repressed. They have devolved into revolutionary zeal as they aged.

I am very interested in this topic and took a stab at writing about this a while back:

We are dealing with a group of right wing glory seekers who chose long ago to eschew putting themselves on the line in favor of tough talk and empty posturing --- the Vietnam chickenhawks and their recently hatched offspring of the new Global War On Terrorism. These are men (mostly) driven by the desire to prove their manhood but who refuse to actually test their physical courage. Neither are they able to prove their virility as they are held hostage by prudish theocrats and their own shortcomings. So they adopt the pose of warrior but never actually place themselves under fire. This is a psychologically difficult position to uphold. Bullshitting yourself is never without a cost.

And I think there is an even deeper layer to this as well and one which is vital to understanding why the right wing baby boomers and their political offspring are so pathologically irrational about dealing with terrorism. Vietnam, as we were all just mercilessly reminded in the presidential election, was the crucible of the baby boom generation, perhaps the crucible of America as a mature world power.

The war provided two very distinct tribal pathways to manhood. One was to join "the revolution" which included the perk of having equally revolutionary women at their sides, freely joining in sexual as well as political adventure as part of the broader cultural revolution. (The 60's leftist got laid. A lot.) And he was also deeply engaged in the major issue of his age, the war in Vietnam, in a way that was not, at the time, seen as cowardly, but rather quite threatening. His masculine image encompassed both sides of the male archetypal coin --- he was both virile and heroic.

The other pathway to prove your manhood was to test your physical courage in battle. There was an actual bloody fight going on in Vietnam, after all. Plenty of young men volunteered and plenty more were drafted. And despite the fact that it may be illogical on some level to say that if you support a war you must fight it, certainly if your self-image is that of a warrior, tradition requires that you put yourself in the line of fire to prove your courage if the opportunity presents itself. You simply cannot be a warrior if you are not willing to fight. This, I think, is deeply understood by people at a primitive level and all cultures have some version of it deeply embedded in the DNA. It's not just the willingness to die it also involves the willingness to kill. Men who went to Vietnam and faced their fears of killing and dying, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, put themselves to this test.

And then there were the chickenhawks. They were neither part of the revolution nor did they take the obvious step of volunteering to fight the war they supported. Indeed, due to the draft, they allowed others to fight and die in their place despite the fact that they believed heartily that the best response to communism was to aggressively fight it "over there" so we wouldn't have to fight it here.

These were empty boys, unwilling to put themselves on the line at the moment of truth, yet they held the masculine virtues as the highest form of human experience and have portrayed themselves ever since as tough, uncompromising manly men while portraying liberals as weak and effeminate. (Bill Clinton was able to thwart this image because of his reputation as a womanizer. You simply couldn't say he was effeminate.)

Now it must be pointed out that there were many men, and many more women, who didn't buy into any of this "manhood" stuff and felt no need to join in tribal rituals or bloody wars to prove anything. Most of those men, however, didn't aspire to political leadership. Among the revolutionaries, the warriors and the chickenhawks, there were many who did. Indeed, these manhood rituals are more often than not a requirement for leadership. (Perhaps having more women in power will finally change that.)

The only political aspirants among those three groups who failed to meet the test of their generation were the chickenhawks. And our problem today is that they are the ones in charge of the government as we face a national security threat. These unfulfilled men still have something to prove

I agree with Rodriguez that the boomer cohort bears some responsibility for the polarization of America. The liberal boomers are responsible for the polarization of the first 20 years of our generation's adulthood --- the last 20 years are the responsiblity of the conservatives.

We liberal baby boomers were massively full of shit in many ways when we were trying to change the world. But then we were young. The conservative boomers have no such excuse. Last night I heard Tony Blankley on the Mclaughlin report say something like "we needed to completely dismantle the middle east in order to remake it." I haven't heard a liberal spout such crazed revolutionary crapola since Jimmy Carter wore sideburns. I have a feeling that if Tony had spent a little more time in dorm room bull sessions drinking Gallo and smoking pot instead of nursing his rightwing resentment, he might have gotten over such hairbrained notions sometime before he turned 50.

Spinning The Bloviators

Back in 1998 and 1999, it seemed a day didn't go by when the Washington punditocrisy didn't tell the American people that the American people were appalled by Bill Clinton's lying, skirt chasing ways and that he would never survive and that the impeachment was a result of a national disgust with his behavior. If the news media had a vote, George Stephanopoulos,Bob Barr, Tim Russert and Henry Hyde would have marched down to the White House to demand Clinton's resignation for the good of the country. Even today we have David Brooks and countless other gasbags still selling the hogwash that Clinton was enormously unpopular during Monicagate, despite the fact that his approval ratings consistently hung around 60% throughout the scandal and actually increased after he was impeached. It was the Republicans who lost seats during this period.

It's this kind of thing that proves that the beltway courtiers truly live in a bubble. Politicians and strategists simply have to stop listening to them and listen to the rest of the country.

For instance, Media Matters discusses how two NPR reporters mischaracterize Tim Kaine's position on abortion:

For the second day in a row, National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition misrepresented Virginia Governor-elect Timothy M. Kaine's position on abortion. On November 10, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson falsely described Kaine -- who supports legal access to abortion -- as "pro-life." On November 11, NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty drew a false dichotomy between Kaine's position on abortion and that of the Democratic Party. Bradley labeled Kaine "an unusual candidate," claiming that "he opposes abortion in a party that supports it." In fact, while Kaine has expressed opposition to abortion as a matter of personal faith, he made it clear during his campaign that he supports legal access to abortion and highlighted the issue as one distinguishing him and his Republican opponent, former Virginia attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore.

Bradley went a step beyond Liasson, asserting that Kaine's position on abortion was the opposite of his party's position. Bradley's and Liasson's mischaracterization has the effect of advancing the notion, promoted by Republicans, that Kaine won because he ran on a "strategy sharply at odds with the approach of leading national Democrats." That assertion -- which is The Washington Post's paraphrase of RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's characterization -- may or may not be true as a general matter, but what is not true is that Kaine's position on abortion is the opposite of his party's. The Democratic Party supports access to legal abortions; Kaine supports access to legal abortions. While Democrats may differ over the degree to which they think that abortion should be regulated, they belong to the party that supports abortion rights, while the GOP opposes them.

Kaine's position on abortion was also John Kerry's position on abortion. There are many pro-choice Democrats, a lot of them Catholics, who would not personally have an abortion or want one of their loved ones to have one but they are pro-choice because they believe that this is a personal matter and that abortion should not be illegal. That is the very essence of the pro-choice stance --- being allowed to make your own decision free of state interference, subject to certain agreed upon, constitutional restrictions. Why the pundits don't understand the meaning of the word "choice" is puzzling considering how hilarious they found it when Clinton parsed the question about the meaning of "is." Choice is a pretty clear cut concept not subject to tense or time.

These reporters mischaracterize not only the position of the Democratic Party, but they mischaracterize the position of the American people. If you watch the bloviators on any given show or read the op-ed pages of major newspapers, you would think that all Democratic politicians must be personally for "abortion on demand" and that the majority of the country disagrees with them. Being pro-choice is spun as a dramatically unpopular position that is costing the Democrats elections. And just as the punditocrisy was completely out of step with the country on the Lewinsky matter, they are out of step with the country on this:

From Donkey Rising, here's the disconnect:

It’s Definitely a Pro-Choice, Pro–Roe v. Wade Country

Lest we harbor any doubt about that, as debate on the Alito Supreme Court nomination heats up, consider these data.

1. In a SurveyUSA fifty-state poll, 56 percent nationwide described themselves as pro-choice, compared to 38 percent who said they were pro-life. Only thirteen states were pro-life; the rest were pro-choice and include Pennsylvania (+7), Michigan (+13), Montana (+11), Ohio (+10), Iowa (+15), Arizona (+17), Minnesota (+17), New Mexico (+17), Wisconsin (+18), Florida (+22), Colorado (+27), Oregon (+29) and Nevada (+32).

2. In a recent Gallup poll, the public, by 53 percent to 37 percent, said the Senate should not confirm Alito if it was likely he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

3. The Pew poll cited above asked two slightly versions of a question on whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned. The replies averaged 61 percent to 29 percent against overturning Roe v. Wade.

4. In Washington Post/ABC News poll cited above, 64 percent said that, if a case testing Roe v. Wade came before the Supreme Court, the Court should vote to uphold it, compared to just 31 percent who believe the Court should vote to overturn it.

30% believe that Roe should be overturned! Ferchistsake, why are we even talking about this except to say that our politicians should run as supporters of Roe vs Wade, period. It isn't even controversial.

Yet, if you listen to Cokie and Monsignor Tim and read the various scribblers on the op-ed pages around the country you would think that this is the Democrats' biggest problem.

The allegedly liberal beltway gasbags and stenographers are being spun just as they were spun by the Republican establishment back in the Clinton era. We must get our politicians and strategists to stop listening to them. They are killing us.

Showing His Colors

In the post below I write a little bit about how the Nixonian politics of resentment are at the heart of the Republican electoral success these past 35 years. I mention the fact that it is crippling oppugnancy that is their achilles heel. Here's an article in this week's LA Weekly by Lou Dubose the author of "Boy Genius" in which he speculates that Rove got himself in trouble before the Grand Jury because he is an arrogant prick. He bases this on Rove's past performance the few times he's ever allowed himself to go under oath. It seems that he always lies:

In the course of questioning, Rove told the attorney representing the trial lawyers that he had a firm agreement with the governor to recuse himself from anything having to do with tobacco. A “Chinese wall” separated his tobacco consulting from his work for Bush. The lawyers knew the answers to some of the questions before they asked them. They knew that Rove had been involved in polling funded by the tobacco lobby. One of the polls was a piece of political trash, a push poll asking respondents how they would vote if they knew the Democratic attorney general had provided financial support to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — which he never had. The day the results were released, Rove attended a tobacco-lobby meeting and immediately took the poll to Bush chief of staff Joe Allbaugh.

Caught in a lie about keeping Bush and Big Tobacco separate, Rove retreated. Rather than give it to Bush, he delivered the poll to Allbaugh, he said, knowing Allbaugh would throw it away without looking at it. The answer didn’t wash. Rove was not a party to the lawsuit, so he faced little immediate risk. But the trial lawyers had what they wanted. When Bush, acting in his capacity as governor, set out to take their fees away from them, they could stand before federal Judge David Folsom in Texarkana and point to the intellectual author of a lawsuit that would ultimately embarrass Bush.

There was a second case in which Rove was under oath before the Texas State Senate when he was appointed to a University Board of Regents:

Appearing before the Senate Nominations Committee, Rove again was both unprepared and dishonest. Since 1986, Rove had been providing tips and information to an FBI agent named Greg Rampton, who was conducting serial investigations of the finances of statewide Democratic officeholders. On one occasion Rove even announced in Washington the coming indictments of two lieutenants of Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower in Austin — more than a week before the Department of Justice unsealed the indictments.

Rove had met Rampton under unusual circumstances. In 1986, as a Democratic opponent was closing in on Rove’s candidate, the incumbent governor, Rove held a press conference to announce that a bug had been planted in his office. It was a brilliant tactic, pointing to the Democratic challenger’s desperation. Special Agent Greg Rampton investigated the bugging and no charges were filed. A source close to the Travis County district attorney told me they investigated before the FBI and concluded it was a political stunt. Rove or someone working for him had had his own office bugged. Five years later, stumbling under questioning from a Democratic senator, Rove said he didn’t exactly know Rampton. When pressed, he resorted to a Clintonesque parsing of terms: “Ah, senator, it depends. Would you define ‘know’ for me?” He then qualified his response, saying he wouldn’t recognize Rampton “if he walked in the door.” His dishonest response provided Senate Democrats a sufficient pretext to deny Rove his university board position.

I remember when I read Murray Waas' report of Rove's testimony to the grand jury thinking that he was incredibly obtuse if he behaved as arrogantly as it seemed he had:

... Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.

In Rove's world this is normal behavior. In the real world, disseminating derogatory information about a man and his wife for political purposes is something that even if you do it, you do not argue that it is "legitimate." Normal people would have the decency to be a little bit chagrined by these actions, even if what they did was not strictly illegal.

I wonder if he had the nerve to repeat to the middle aged African American women of the DC Grand Jury that he went after Wilson purely because he was a Democrat. I wouldn't be surprised. That powerful Nixonian ressentiment almost surely came through in any case. It's who he is. To a group of average citizens serving on a Grand Jury, this powerful man serving in the white house describing such behavior as being perfectly normal must have sounded terribly distasteful.

Fitzgerald, of course, has seen it all before. But he had to have hated seeing this powerful jerk admit that this government believes this behavior is business as usual. Plame was, after all, a CIA employees and these powerful politicos at the very least, acted with a total lack of responsibility or integrity in trafficking her name around for political purposes. And he knew from the get, of course, that Rove was one of Novak's sources. If he said all that stuff as clearly and as obviously as the Waas article says he did, then Patrick Fitzgerald had no problem figuring out Karl Rove's motive.

Deconstructing Jane

I read this morning that Warren Beatty is "taking credit" for Schwarzenneger's defeat last week:

Warren Beatty, the veteran Hollywood actor who helped to deliver the first big blow to Arnold Schwarzenegger's political career, said last night that the Terminator star had got his come-uppance for fooling voters.

Four days after California voters rejected a series of reforms put forward by the Republican governor, Beatty boasted that his own high-profile eve-of-poll campaigning had helped to save America from the ripple effect of Mr Schwarzenegger's "reactionary measures"

He also said,"Actors do not necessarily make good politicians." That's certainly true, but you have to wonder sometimes whether actors even make good activists.

I have always had a soft spot for the earnest do-gooding that leads famous entertainers to potentially derail their carefully crafted images by getting involved in partisan politics. It's much safer to become the spokesperson for a popular cause like literacy or fundraise to find the cure for a dreaded disease. Hollywood executives are notoriously gun shy when it comes to any controversy other than the tittilating "bradnangelina" style tabloid gossip that entertains the masses. If someone becomes too unpopular or controversial he or she can lose work and money. It's risky.

Beatty was always the most savvy of Hollywood activists. He used his celebrity to glamourize politics and used his activism to make him something more than just a pretty face in Hollywood. The glamor project didn't do much to help the cause (in fact it probably hurt it), but the political activism actually helped his career immeasurably by giving him the substance and clout to do political projects, something that a good looking playboy would not normally be allowed. I think his contribution to progressive politics was far more substantial in the entertainment arena than in the political arena and ultimately I think that's where show biz activists can really make a difference. It's helpful that they raise money and awareness of partisan politics, but if you can make a musical recording, movie or television show that imparts liberal attitudes and philosophy, you have done far more long-lasting good than any rabble rousing speech could ever do. And it's not something that anyone else can do --- use art and pop culture to awaken people's political instincts. That actually takes talent.

The most famous Hollywood activist, and the one who still creates hysteria on the right is, of course, Jane Fonda. In an era of liberal, even radical, show business activists, she was the living symbol of everything the conformist right hated about the left. Rick Perlstein reviews the new biography of Fonda in this edition of The London Review of Books in which we find that Jane was actually quite a serious, sedulous worker bee rather than a shrieking Commie Diva. But she became a very special, very famous object of ire for very complicated reasons. And she was the focusof some very special government treatment long before she ever went to Hanoi:

Another important detail: opposing the war, at this particular time, was not a radical thing to do. Vietnam was widely recognised across the political spectrum as a disaster.


The security establishment began its battle against Fonda almost as soon as she started speaking out. Teams of FBI informants reported her every word, combed her speeches for violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, which criminalises incitement to ‘insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny or refusal of duty in the military’, and ‘disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the form of government of the United States’. She proved a disappointment. Profanity was not her style. As for incitement, we learn from one informant – a chaplain’s assistant – that she thought it ‘would not help the cause of peace’. He added that nothing she said ‘could be construed to be undermining the US government’.

The government got desperate. At Cleveland airport the FBI arranged for her to be stopped at customs. During her interrogation she pushed aside agents who refused her access to the bathroom, so they arrested her for assaulting an officer. She had in her possession mysterious pills marked B, L and D, so they also charged her with narcotics smuggling – for carrying vitamins to be taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Her daughter was followed to kindergarten. (America needed to know: did her school teach ‘an anti-law enforcement attitude’?) They investigated her bank accounts. They tapped their network of friendly media propagandists, like the future Senator Jesse Helms, then a TV editorialist, who supplied an invented quotation that still circulates as part of the Fonda cult’s liturgy. Supposedly asked – it isn’t clear where or by whom – how far America should go to the left, she said, according to Helms: ‘If everyone knew what it meant, we would all be on our knees praying that we would, as soon as possible, be able to live under . . . within a Communist structure.’ A death threat against her was sent to Henry Fonda’s house with a demand for $50,000. He took the letter to the same FBI office that was directing the campaign against his daughter. ‘The FBI files reveal no effort to find the sender of the letter,’ Hershberger remarks.

The campaign appears to have been co-ordinated with the White House, and underway long before Fonda went to Hanoi. Hershberger is an assiduous researcher, but she could have got a better idea of the extent of this co-ordination by studying the Nixon Oval Office tapes at the National Archives. On 2 May 1970, Nixon told his aides that protesters were to be accused of ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy’. On 9 May, Nixon’s enforcer Chuck Colson told the FBI to send its Fonda files directly to the White House. ‘What Brezhnev and Jane Fonda said got about the same treatment,’ an aide later recalled.

Perlstein goes on to ask "why the obsession?" He answers by noting that this happened in 1970 a "moment of maximum danger" just as Nixon was revealed to have expanded the war into Cambodia, and that it was through heretofore loveable figures like Fonda and Dr Spock that the public and, more problematic, soldiers themselves would be turned against the war. This is surely true. Tom Joad's daughter coming out against the war had to feel threatening. (The blacklist, after all, had only broken 11 years before. This played into their darkest paranoid fantasies about Hollywood.) But I think a great part of it was simple sexism and confused sexual feelings. As Perlstein points out, Barbarella was a favorite GI pin-up girl. As the US showed itself impotent in Southeast Asia, the jerk-off fantasy of millions of young men was basically calling them losers to their faces. I've long thought that the irrational anger at Jane Fonda, then and now, has had the character of some sort of primal hatred that cannot be explained by politics alone. I think she's seen by certain American males as a female praying mantis.

However interesting all this psychological and political deconstruction of the Jane Fonda phenomenon is (and it's fascinating) what Perlstein nails in this piece is something that is overlooked and terribly important if we are to understand modern politics:

It’s remarkable how many things that we think of as permanent features of American culture can be traced back to specific political operations by the Nixon White House. We now take it as given, for example, that blue-collar voters have always been easy pickings for conservatives appealing to their cultural grievances. But Jefferson Cowie, among others, has shown the extent to which this was the result of a specific political strategy, worked out in response to a specific political problem. Without taking workers’ votes from the Democrats, Nixon would never have been able to achieve the ‘New Majority’ he dreamed of. But to do so by means of economic concessions – previously the only way politicians imagined working-class voters might be wooed – would threaten his business constituency. So Nixon ‘stood the problem on its head’, as Cowie says in Nixon’s Class Struggle (2002), ‘by making workers’ economic interests secondary to an appeal to their allegedly superior moral backbone and patriotic rectitude’. (One part of the strategy was arranging for members of the Teamsters to descend ‘spontaneously’ on protesters carrying Vietcong flags at Nixon appearances. Of course it’s quite possible that the protesters too were hired for the occasion.) It’s not that the potential for that sort of behaviour wasn’t always there. But Nixon had a gift for looking beneath social surfaces to see and exploit subterranean anxieties.

That is the nub of Republican success, whether it was exploiting the sexual anxieties of displaced insecure males in a newly feminized workplace, or convincing conservative evangelical voters that "liberals" were trying to repress their religion and force them to adopt lifestyles they found repugnant. Nixon wasn't the first dirty politician in American history, but he was the most successful at discerning the churning undercurrent of fear and anger in a rapidly changing society and using his personal brand of dark political arts to exploit it. The conservative movement of Barry Goldwater made a Faustian bargain with the Nixonian black operatives more than 35 years ago. The natural result of that soul selling deal is George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

Until we recognize that the modern Republican Party is the party of Richard Nixon and that the allegedly masterful Rovian vision of a permanent political majority is a rather simple outgrowth of Nixon's uncanny understanding of how to exploit the dark side of populist fear and loathing, we will continue to be stymied. It won't be enough to discredit George W. Bush and his cock-up of an administration. They will simply say he wasn't the "real thing" and move past it like rapacious sharks, doing what they've been doing to the last 35 years. We have to come to grips with the fact that they have built their party by wrangling a free-floating resentment and anxiety and turning it into a political formula. It wasn't an accident and it wasn't the result of peering into a crystal ball. It was the result of counting the votes available and developing a strategy for getting enough of them to gain power.

And they were very successful at doing it. They are great at campaign politics. The problem is that they built a political machine so captive of business interests and so bereft of pragmatic policy acumen that they are unable to govern. And like the great Godfather of the modern Republican party, their propensity for crude revenge and crippling oppugnancy tripped them up.

I urge you to read Perlstein's entire review. Jane Fonda is more than gal with a good figure and a good haircut. And she's more than a radical Hollywood activist, work-out goddess or trophy wife. She's the quintessential sin-eater who absorbed all the seething animus toward the agents of change in latter 20th century American society. She was the perfect target of Nixon's seething resentment strategy. It's a testament to her strange power that they still hate her so, even today.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bulletin From The Department Of Miserable Failure, Mideast Democracy Division

Mideast Democracy Summit Ends With No Deal
A U.S.-backed summit meant to promote political freedom and economic change in the Middle East ended Saturday without agreement, a blow to President Bush's goals for the troubled region.

A draft declaration on democratic and economic principle was shelved after Egypt insisted on language that would have given Arab governments greater control over which democracy groups receive money from a new fund.


The White House had hoped the conference would showcase political progress in a part of the world long dominated by monarchies and single-party rule, and spread goodwill for the U.S.


The disappointing outcome at the conference followed a rocky summit a week ago in Argentina, when Bush got a cold shoulder from some Latin American leaders, failed to win consensus on a free trading bloc for the Western Hemisphere and endured biting criticism from anti-U.S. protesters and Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez.
This is Rice's failure, as well as Bush's. Something to remember as the myth of Condi the Competent remains uncontested in the msm.
International Relations Is A Prime Habitat For Struthio Camelus*

Kevin Drum links to this post by Abu Aardvark:
The dominant theoretical trends in the international relations field have been strikingly absent from the mountains of paper expended on analysis of al-Qaeda, Islamism, and the war on terror. Most of the dominant theoretical approaches were not so much wrong as irrelevant.


But is that true? Has IR theory been irrelevant to the debates? To find out, I just spent a few hours looking at the contents of the last four years of the six leading journals for International Relations theory (International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies - see the end of the post for discussion of these choices), along with the American Political Science Review. I used an exceedingly loose definition of "about al-Qaeda" - i.e. I included everything about terrorism and counter-terrorism, even if it barely touched at all on al-Qaeda or Islamism itself; and I included review essays, even if they did not include any original research.

The results were even more striking than I expected. All told, these seven journals published 796 articles between 2002-2005. I found a total of 25 articles dealing even loosely with al-Qaeda, Islamism, or terrorism. That's just over 3% of the articles. Now, there's lots of important stuff out there in the world, and there's no reason for the whole field to be following the headlines, but still... 3%?


One obvious objection [to the methodology used in the review of IR literature] would be that I excluded policy-oriented journals such as Foreign Affairs, International Security, and The Washington Quarterly, which do tend to publish much more on the topic. I did that intentionally, because that best captures the prestige value within the field of International Relations. The policy journals are generally undervalued within the International Relations profession, to the extent that many top Political Science Departments wouldn't even consider a Foreign Affairs publication suitable for a tenure file. In other words, the fact that there is a lot more on Islamism and al-Qaeda in those journals only strengthens my claim - even though political scientists have a lot to say on the subject, they can't or don't say it in the most prestigious, theory oriented journals.

Oh, and I didn't even say anything about the quality of those 25 articles... all I'll say is that of them, I would count about 7 of them as actually useful in any meaningful way...

Now, the good Aardvark also makes the point that the reason that al Qaeda has been ignored is that the theoretical paradigms which prevail in International Relations, like "realism," "idealism," "liberalism," and "constructivism" are not terribly conducive to analysing a non-state Islamist super-terrorist organization. Who knew?
Adherence to any ideological position, especially ones as crude as "realism," "idealism," "isolationism," or "Jacksonianism" is a mistake. In fact this kind of terminology obscures the necessary complexity of decision making in foreign affairs.

Far more sophisticated and flexible models within which to discuss foreign affairs decision making are desperately needed.
I suppose I should make these recent thoughts apply in a more general way to the American foreign policy/international relations discourse:
[While liberal interventionists] have been discussing ever so "reasonably" how best to adjust the "calculus" of America's Manifest Destiny so "we" will continue to be a force of good in the world, they have, almost to a person, demonstrated their profound inability merely to look outside their own goddamn windows and respond with simple human decency and commonsense to the real world. And once again, they've demonstrated how alarmingly limited American foreign policy discourse has become.
In any event, I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice how poorly adjusted to reality most American intellectual debate on the world has become. And I'm very glad this is being quantified by scholars like AA.

[UPDATE: An interesting reference in the comments to the field of comparative politics jogged my memory regarding another bete noire that hounds my thoughts, namely the lack of a truly compelling translation of either the Qu'ran or the hadith. I would assume that since this is the case (or was, the last time I checked), many other texts of vital importance to undertstanding the various Islams are also unavailable, or available only in bad editions (the assertion that the Qu'ran can never be translated is a religious belief, not an intellectual claim, and must not be permitted to stand in the way of making the fundamental documents of Islam available to non-Muslims in the best possible way). Now even if one assumes that the finest scholars are honest and they actually can read the Qu'ran in the original - not an entirely warranted assumption - the lack of a good English Qu'ran translation is as telling a symbol as I can imagine of the epidemic level of stultifying mediocrity that permeates international studies regarding Islam, Islamism, and related areas of politics and culture in the Middle East and other states where Islamic belief wields enormous influence.

One can only hope that truly excellent scholars, like Juan Cole who is well-known in the blogosphere, soon become the rule. But right now, they are not only exceptional, but the rare exception.]

*You can look up Struthio camelus here, and so endeth my dabbling in Latin. For now.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Habeas Corpus Est Mortuus?

(Latin freaks: Is that right?)

I blogged about this last night when I first read Jeralyn's shocking post but Blogger ate it. Anyway, the attack on habeas corpus is extremely serious in more ways than I can count, so go read TalkLeft's latest and it wouldn't be such a bad idea to write your congresscritters and point out that habeas corpus is, you know, kind of a bedrock principle for civilized jurisprudence.
Author of Upcoming "Hillary Equals Hitler" Book Hired By LA Times

Robert Scheer replaced by ignorant slimeball:
The Los Angeles Times announced a major shake-up of its op-ed page today. Gone are cartoonist Michael Ramirez and liberal columnist Robert Scheer.

In their place, you won’t find any committed progressives like Scheer. Instead, L.A. Times editors chose National Review contributing editor and “Liberal Fascism” author Jonah Goldberg. Below, some of our favorite Jonah jems, coming to a “liberal media” near you:

On McCarthy’s wisdom:

What makes McCarthyism so hard to discuss is that McCarthy behaved like a jerk, but he was also right. [False: McCarthyism is easy to discuss: It's bad. False: McCarthy behaved far worse than a jerk knows how to behave. False: he was also wrong. ]

Banning books:

Now, I’m not in favor of pulling Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn from libraries, but let’s at least give a small nod to the fact that some material actually can be banned from libraries without the sky falling. [Note to librarians: Mr. Goldberg is not suggesting you ban his own book. That would be...censorship.]


In praise of “The Bell Curve”:

[Charles Murray crunches] the numbers with the sort of élan and sophistication we’ve come to expect from the author of “Losing Ground” and coauthor of “The Bell Curve.” [Ah yes, I can see Dr. Murray right now, elegantly crunching those numbers with one hand, swirling a snifter of rare brandy in the other, all the while his colored valet anxiously hovers over the great man, ready to light a superb Cuban cigar for him when his master so signals. The height of sophisticated élan.]


And, of course, Goldberg’s explanation for why he can’t be troubled with serving in Iraq:

As for why my sorry a** isn’t in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give — I’m 35 years old, my family couldn’t afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few — ever seem to suffice. ["I'm a hypocrite" would, in fact, cover it, Jonah]

Slanted Much?

The new Fox poll has Bush down to 36%. They can't lie about the numbers. But you have to read the story they've written about them to get the full flavor of how difficult it is for them to grapple with the fact that their hero is a big, fat failure:

Another way to assess if Iraq has been worthwhile is whether it has prevented attacks in the United States. One quarter of Americans (24 percent) think homeland security measures have prevented new Al Qaeda attacks from happening since Sept. 11, and about one in seven (16 percent) think the military action in Iraq has prevented them. Another 19 percent think it is because no new attacks were planned and 26 percent think it is a combination of factors.

I suspect that the 16 percent of people who believe that the war in Iraq has prevented attacks by Al Qaeda are all regular FOX viewers. Nobody else has bought that line in some time.


Cat Show Plans Memorial Service for Dog

Iowa Woman Finds Dead Turtle in Coffee

Calif. Motorist Struck by Flying Deer

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Open Letter To Pat Robertson's Mescaline Supplier

To Whom It May Concern,

It's time to stop supplying Reverend Pat Robertson with hallucinogens. He clearly has tripped out once too often and it's kind of giving the phrase "zonked totally out of your mind" a bad rap:
On today’s 700 Club, Rev. Pat Robertson took the opportunity to strongly rebuke voters in Dover, PA who removed from office school board members who supported teaching faith-based “intelligent design” and instead elected Democrats who opposed bringing up the possibility of a Creator in the school system’s science curriculum.

Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover that God might forsake the town because of the vote.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”
via Pharyngula
The Final Throes

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 29 in Crowded Baghdad Restaurant
A man wearing a suicide bomb belt walked into a bustling breakfast restaurant in the heart of the capital this morning and blew himself up, killing at least 29 people and wounding 30, many of them police officers, officials said.

Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a group that tracks Islamic militant postings. The attack was the most lethal in the capital in two months, and came a day after three suicide bombings killed 57 people in Amman, Jordan, in a coordinated attack also claimed by Al Qaeda.

It was the worst strike in a day of violence in Iraq that left at least 35 dead and more than 50 people wounded. Police officials also found 27 corpses in the southern city of Kut.

All American Suckers

Unbelievable. Thirty-eight percent of this country still approves of Bush. Man, that's a lot of rubes.

Y'know, a halfway intelligent and utterly unscrupulous con artist could do very well for himself here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Al Qaeda Is Having A Field Day"

There has been a lot of hand wringing amongst the liberal hawks these days regarding Iraq. And this has overlapped with an extremely abstract, prolonged -and frankly idiotic- argument over "the future of liberal interventionism" in the wake of the Iraq disaster.

And while all these great minds have been discussing ever so "reasonably" how best to adjust the "calculus" of America's Manifest Destiny so "we" will continue to be a force of good in the world, they have, almost to a person, demonstrated their profound inability merely to look outside their own goddamn windows and respond with simple human decency and commonsense to the real world. And once again, they've demonstrated how alarmingly limited American foreign policy discourse has become. Why? Because, regarding the recent catastrophe in Kashmir, most of the pseudo-intellectual liberal interventionists have joined the Bush administration once again in failing to pay attention to the patently obvious:
The poor response of the international community to the victims of Kashmir was underscored by the United Nations saying that it had received only 27% of the $312 million of its flash appeal for quake relief - compared with 80% pledged within 10 days of a similar appeal to international donors after the tsunami of December 26.

The government of Pakistan's own response to this massive human tragedy has also been described as slow and inadequate. One leader of Pakistan-administered Kashmir stated, "It's a shame as the government on the other side [Indian-administered Kashmir] acted promptly and provided relief and rescue in all the affected areas ... People are angry here as they think Islamabad has double standards, even in handling natural disasters."

What about the Islamist organizations of Pakistan; how did they respond? The same Kashmir leader told Reuters, "The jihadi groups are more sincerely taking part in relief operations. Those groups, which were branded bad by the government, are no doubt doing well and will influence people's sympathy in the future."

A number of earthquake victims attested to this reality by stating that the only prompt help they have gotten has been from Islamist groups. (See Asia Times Online Waging jihad against disaster, October 20.) Even Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf agreed with the performance of the Islamist groups related to post-earthquake assistance.

Examine the above realities from the perspective of al-Qaeda's version of public diplomacy. Considering the publicity given by the Western media to all statements that al-Qaeda issues, Zawahiri's appeal for aid for Pakistani victims was heard all over the world.

The immediate danger that this appeal poses is to Musharraf's own regime.
And given that Pakistan has nukes, well? But let's read on:
Al-Qaeda is having a field day watching the community of nations perform so deplorably in regard to the human tragedy in Pakistan. It can, quite effectively, underscore three perspectives. First, that the illegitimacy of current Muslim governments in the wake of their failure to come to the rescue of a Muslim tragedy of epic proportions does not require any further debate, from the perspectives of al-Qaeda.

Second, the seeming lack of Western concern only underscores al-Qaeda's claim that the West does not really care about what happens to Muslims, as long as the compliant and sycophant Muslim regimes continue to preside over the political status that ensures the dominance of the West. Third, given the preceding two reasons, al-Qaeda's own unrelenting insistence on the violent overthrow of all extant Muslim regimes is further established, at least in the minds of everyone who is mildly sympathetic to that organization's criticisms.

What emerges from the preceding is a transnational pan-jihadi entity carefully studying the twists and turns of the US and Western responses to countering terrorism and coming up with its own countermeasures.

Despite the dismantlement of the Taliban regime, al-Qaeda knows that the battle for control of Afghanistan has barely begun. It will continue its guerrilla-type skirmishes with US-led and Afghan forces. But the most important concomitant battle is to influence the hearts and minds of the Muslims of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A weak Afghanistan remains under constant threat of major political turbulence. At the same time, an unstable Pakistan serves as an even more significant target than Afghanistan. The centers of gravity to win its war against the "enemies of Islam" - a phrase that al-Qaeda uses to depict all forces that oppose it and its objectives - are located in those two countries.

All it must do is keep the focus of rhetorical barrages on all Muslim tragedies and grievances and persistently highlight the sustained ineptness of the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan. A highly charged environment thus created would be vastly conducive to even greater instability in the region. That is the essence of al-Qaeda's battle to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, not only in South Asia, but also in the rest of the world of Islam.
I hate to say it again, but I told you so.

Again, boys and girls: The American mainstream media must make room for those of us in the reality-based community. I'm talking about those people who realized on 9/11/01 the Bush administration had to have been asleep at the switch; those people who understood after bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora that the Afghanistan war was a catastrophic military failure; those of us who heard of Bush/Iraq in spring, 2002 and were utterly appalled anyone would take seriously an idea so plainly bonkers; and those of us who immediately grasped that a catastrophic earthquake in a land that just happened to be at the center of several overlapping nuclear confrontations was an emergency - both human and political- that those nations committed to defeating al Qaeda simply had no choice but to pay serious attention to.

I mean, why can't we hear from experts who are right on a regular basis? Where the hell are they? Does Richard Clarke have an op-ed column? Is he provided the same access to tubed eyeballs -and the same courtesy- that the Swift Boaters and the crazy generals Digby described yesterday? Anyone recently see Rand Beers in the news two days in a row?
I Almost Feel Sorry For Him

I'M A GENIUS [Jonah Goldberg]
I scored 100% my first time out on this timewaster.
Posted at 09:22 AM

Very Good News

Expanding on tristero's good news below, may I just say how pleased I am that California voted down every single initiative yesterday, thereby shoving Schwarzenegger's useless 70 million dollar special election down his throat. Even the parental notification for minors seeking abortion went down.

Schwarzenegger is toast. After watching Bush and him in action maybe people are finally beginning to move beyond the "dumbshit guy I'd like to hang out with" and "movie stars are, like, awesome" methods of choosing our leaders.

Win Some, Lose Some

Good news:
All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.


The election will not alter the facts on which the judge must decide the case. But if the intelligent design policy is defeated in court, the new school board could refuse to pursue an appeal. It could also withdraw the policy, a step that many challengers said they intended to take.

"We are all for it being discussed, but we do not want to see it in biology class," said Judy McIlvaine, a member of the winning slate. "It is not a science."
Bad news:
The fiercely split Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 on Tuesday to adopt new science standards that are the most far-reaching in the nation in challenging Darwin's theory of evolution in the classroom.


Among the most controversial changes was a redefinition of science itself, so that it would not be explicitly limited to natural explanations.


"This is a sad day, not just for Kansas kids, but for Kansas," Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kan., one of four dissenting board members, said before the vote. "We're becoming a laughingstock not only of the nation but of the world."


In the standing-room-only crowd in the small board room for Tuesday's session were two dozen high school students fulfilling an assignment for government class by attending the public meeting. They shook their heads at the decision.

"We're glad we're seniors," said Hannah Teeter, 17, from Shawnee Mission West, a high school in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. "I feel bad for all the kids that are younger than us that they have to be taught things that aren't science in science class."
Good news, good news:
The Republican loss in Virginia, which President Bush carried with 54 percent just a year ago, came after an 11th-hour campaign stop by Mr. Bush and the kind of all-out Republican effort to mobilize the vote that reaped rich rewards last year.

Republicans argued on Tuesday that Virginia was a local election driven by local events, with little long-term national significance. But the loss clearly stung, as did the double-digit defeat in New Jersey, a blue state that had seemed within reach for the Republicans.
Good news:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was dealt a stinging rebuke on Tuesday by voters who rejected the centerpiece of his efforts to change the balance of power in Sacramento, an initiative to cap state spending and grant sweeping new budget powers to the governor.
Bad news:
Jerry Sanders, a former police chief, outpolled a surf-shop owner and City Council member on Tuesday to be elected mayor of San Diego, a city that has been tainted by corruption and fiscal mismanagement.

With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Sanders, a Republican, had 54 percent of the vote, to 46 percent for Donna Frye, his Democratic opponent.
Bad news, good news, bad news:
Doctors would have to tell women seeking abortions in their 20th week of pregnancy or later that their fetuses might feel pain -- an assertion debated in the medical community -- under a bill passed by Wisconsin lawmakers.

Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, promised to veto the legislation, which the Assembly passed 61-34 Tuesday and the Senate passed earlier.


Three states have similar requirements and federal legislation is pending in Congress, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.
Bad news:
Texans voted overwhelmingly to add a prohibition of same-sex marriage to their constitution on Tuesday, becoming the 19th U.S. state to do so.
Good news:
[I]n St. Paul, Randy Kelly became the city's first incumbent mayor in more than 30 years to lose a re-election campaign.

Polls suggested that Mr. Kelly's endorsement of President Bush last fall was a factor in his loss to a fellow Democrat, Chris Coleman, by 70 percent to 30 percent.

"I have never seen anything quite like this," Lawrence Jacobs, director of the University of Minnesota Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said about what he called a firestorm over the endorsement.

A poll conducted by Mr. Jacobs found that more than half of likely voters in the city said Mr. Kelly's endorsement would influence their votes. Most of those respondents said it would lead them to vote for Mr. Coleman, a former City Council member.