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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tears of A Klein Redux

by digby

As most of you undoubtedly already know, Jane has been holding a "Joe Klein, in his own words" contest these last few nights and they've come up with some doozies. It's down to the final round and I'm sorry to see that my favorite didn't make the cut:

The Great Society was an utter failure because it helped to contribute to social irresponsibility at the very bottom.

As with virtually everything else he has ever written, he was spouting bullshit GOP propaganda

If there is a prize for the political scam of the 20th century, it should go to the conservatives for propagating as conventional wisdom that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were a misguided and failed social experiment that wasted taxpayers' money.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, from 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century.

Has there ever been a more useful Republican idiot than Joe Klein? I don't think so. If you don't believe me, check out the huge array of idiotic statements he's written over at firedoglake. Jane says, "No one man can claim credit for the minority status of Democrats today, but Joe Klein can certainly rest easily knowing that he has done more than his fair share." I think he and all his fake liberal pundit friends are the most responsible of all. They are killing us. People on both the left and the right confuse Joe Klein with a real Democrat and mistake his incomprehensible political philosophy for that of the Democratic Party. If there is nothing else that the liberal blogosphere can do, we must make it clear to the American people and the Democratic politicians that Joe Klein speaks only for his elite, insider cadre of cocktail weenie addicts. His opinions are irrelevant to serious Democratic politics.

Don't Fuck

by digby

I got a track-back from the blog "Responding To the Left" to the post below, specifically the story of the woman who had an abortion because she already had two small children and couldn't afford another. I think it is an eloquent and honest representation of the way that many in the pro-life movement feel and it's great to see it out in the open so we can begin to debate this thing honestly:

I don't really get it. I am supposed to feel sorry for this woman? Does Digby expect me to sympathize with her? I hope not, because she's a selfish woman who was thinking only of herself.

That's right. You read that correctly. She couldn't afford to have another child so she terminated the pregancy. That is selfish. She wanted to have her fun and get laid, but she didn't want to have to deal with the possible consequences of her actions and guess what people? When a man and a woman have sex and the make is capable of producing sperm and the woman is capable of producing eggs, there is the possibility of the woman getting pregnant.

Digby makes the wisecrack about her not having sex. I can only take from his comment, that he is like so many other's of the same ilk who believe we're all like jungle animals and have to hump when the mood strikes. Of course, that isn't the case. People don't walk down the street and just bump into each other and start screwing (unless it's a Cinemax movie). We have the mental capacity to be able to take care of such business in private. We also have the ability to abstain. Nothing is going to happen to us if we don't have sex.

And if you're in a position like this woman, a low paying job and two kids already. Guess what? Don't fuck.

As human beings, we have the cognitive ability to think before we act. The choices we make carry consequences. And we have to accept responsibility for those choices. If we choose to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day, we have to accept it when we get lung cancer. If we drink and then drive, we have to accept it if we kill somebody in a car wreck. If we eat at McDonalds every day, then we have to accept it when we gain weight. It's about choices. Having sex is a choice. It's as simple as that. Saying, "I can't afford it" when a woman learns she is pregnant because of that choice is not accepting the results of that choice.
Personally, I believe abortion is a moral issue, not a legal one. Therefore, contrary to my personal feelings regarding abortion, I don't support South Dakota's law. As pro-life as I am, I find this law to be too draconian. That's not going to stop me from calling out this woman as a selfish person who is concerned more with making herself feel good then dealing with the consequences of the choice she made.

This person assumes that I believe humans are animals who can't control ourselves, but that is wrong. I don't believe that we are unable to control ourselves, but I do believe it is a fundamental part of life --- unstoppable, inexorable, relentless. It is not immoral (even for poor people) to do it. Nor is it even remotely realistic to think they won't. People have sex and lots of it, even when the "consequences" are severe. It's basic. And sometimes birth control fails or people lose their heads in the heat of the moment. Accidents happen. It is so banal and mundane and common that it's a bit bizarre to even have to make that explicit in the argument. Accidental, unwanted pregnancy happens every single day by the millions on this planet. Nature (or perhaps the "intelligent designer") expects women to get pregnant as often as possible and created the human sex drive to make that happen. Women, independent sentient beings that they are, want to control how many children they have. It's a constant battle and often times "nature" wins. It isn't a matter of morality. Sex between consenting people is simply human. And the right to abortion is simply a matter of human liberty --- a woman's right to decide her own fate and a woman's right to be a normal sexual being. Without both of those things, she can never truly be free.

No, people aren't mindless animals who can't control themselves. But, saying to women, "if you can't afford another child, don't fuck" is not entirely different than saying "if you can't afford food, don't eat." Of course, she won't literally die if she doesn't ever have sex again (or at least until she's past her fertile years.)But for many women it would be a death of another sort: the death of her humanity. Sex is elemental.

In any case, however much you exhort them not to, women will still have sex and without a right to abortion (and soon birth control) they'll end up in forced childbirth, bearing more offspring than they can afford and they'll end up having back alley abortions and they'll end up dying. I suspect the people who believe having sex if you are unprepared to procreate is irresponsible will find comfort in that.


Friday, March 03, 2006

The Sodomized Virgin Exception

by digby

South Dakota:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Do you suppose all these elements have to be present for it to be sufficiently psychologically damaging for her to be forced to bear her rapists child, or just some of them? I wonder if it would be ok if the woman wasn't religious but she was a virgin who had been brutally, savagely raped and "sodomized as bad as you can make it?" Or if she were a virgin and religious but the brutal savage sodomy wasn't "as bad" as it could have been?

Certainly, we know that if she wasn't a virgin, she was asking for it, so she should be punished with forced childbirth. No lazy "convenient" abortion for her, the little whore. It goes without saying that the victim who was saving it for her marriage is a good girl who didn't ask to be brutally raped and sodomized like the sluts who didn't hold out. But even that wouldn't be quite enough by itself. The woman must be sufficiently destroyed psychologically by the savage brutality that the forced childbirth would drive her to suicide (the presumed scenario in which this pregnancy could conceivably "threaten her life.")

Someone should ask this man about this. He seems to have given it a good deal of thought. I suspect many hours have been spent luridly contemplating the brutal, savage rape and sodomy (as bad as it can be) of a religious virgin and how terrible it would be for her. It seems quite clear in his mind.

Meanwhile, outside the twisted imagination of Senator Psycho there, we have reality:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One patient she saw was this woman, probably in her early 20s. She would not reveal even her age. With a low-paying job and two children, she said she simply could not afford a third.

"MICHELLE," PATIENT WHO TERMINATED HER PREGNANCY: It was difficult when I found out I was pregnant. I was saddened, because I knew that I'd probably have to make this decision. Like I said, I have two children, so I look into their eyes and I love them. It's been difficult, you know; it's not easy. And I don't think it's, you know, ever easy on a woman, but we need that choice.

Too bad. She shouldn't have had sex. Three kids and no money are just what the bitch deserves. Her two little kids deserve it too for choosing a mother like her.

You Talkin' To Me?

by digby

John Aravosis is following this delicious Katrina feud. He writes:

Ohhhh, this infighting is really getting interesting these days. "Heckuva job Brownie" is lashing out at his former boss Chertoff. All of that GOP discipline seems to be collapsing faster than Enron.

Hah. It does show you once again that Bush's vaunted loyalty is actually a necessity. Everytime he fires somebody the tales they tell are damning. It was particularly stupid to try to lay off the epic death and destruction of Katrina on poor little Brownie alone. They left him no choice but to try to publicly recover his reputation. He's destroyed. If they'd have played it smart they would have fired Chertoff and a couple of others too and just said it wasn't personal, it was a systemic failure and these people all fell on their swords because they are honorable men. They could have then been bought off with lucrative careers, no harm no foul. But they left poor little Brownie no choice. Now he is going to use every opportunity available to him to keep it in the headlines and convince a very receptive public that the fault was not his.

Rove must really be sweating this Plame thing because he has completely lost his touch.

Wiping The Sleep From Their Tired Little Eyes

by digby

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who found this article by John Dickerson to be completely ridiculous. A former white house correspondent from TIME magazine apparently has no idea how stupid he sounds when he says he held the belief that Bush was some sort of behind the scenes mastermind until he saw the footage of the Katrina video conference. Weldon says:

So. Okay. What we have here is an experienced Washington hand who has presumably been conscious during at least some of the past five years, and is only now -- and only because he saw the frickin' video -- beginning to worry that Bush may not be quite as competent as those responsible for covering his ass say he is. Didn't it ever occur to Dickerson that executives who consistently ask good questions eventually get good answers that lead to at least an occasional good outcome? Have there been any good outcomes?


I can understand why people may have intially thought that the guy just had to be smarter than he appeared in public because well.. nobody that dumb could possibly be president. It just defied reason. It wasn't long, however, before it became clear that the Republican Party had insulted our collective intelligence beyond our wildest imaginings by using sophisticated marketing techniques and every lever of institutional power at their disposal to install an idiot manchild in the oval office. (I came to believe they did it just to prove they could.)

After it was revealed that he had ignored the terrorism threat until 9/11 and then he continued to screw up everything that came after, any sentient being should have been able to see that what you saw in public was real: an arrogant, spoiled inarticulate man who didn't have a clue about how to run the most powerful country in the world. Regardless of how many "grown-ups" he had around him, he was the head of the organization and the organization was a reflection of him. They always are. His staff was just as inept as he was.

Bush's entire life had consisted of trading on his father's name and failing at everything he touched. That is the legacy of this failed presidency as well. That John Dickerson is only now beginning to realize that Bush is exactly what he appears to be is nothing short of mind boggling.

Eric Boehlert, one of the few journalists around who was as gobsmacked by the gooey Bush adulation among the press corps as the rest of us were wrote back in February of 2002, after Bob Woodward's fellatory series called "10 Days in September: Inside the War Cabinet":

Conservative pundits cheered the series, suggesting it was a Pulitzer Prize must-win. Raves from the right were understandable: "10 Days in September: Inside the War Cabinet" erased any suggestion of Bush as a detached as well as inexperienced leader who relies on more seasoned aides to get things done.

To say the series presented the administration, and Bush in particular, in a favorable light would be an understatement. We see Bush utterly sure of himself, operating on gut instincts, leading round-table discussions, formulating complex strategies, asking pointed questions, building international coalitions, demanding results, poring over speeches and seeking last-minute phrase changes.

The portrait was so contrary to public perception that it was reminiscent of the timeless "Saturday Night Live" sketch that ran at the height of Iran-Contra scandal. It featured an outwardly jolly and oblivious Ronald Reagan, who in private Oval Office meetings revealed himself as a mastermind of the operation's arcane covert details, barking out orders to befuddled senior aides. In the same way, but without satire, the Post series suggested that a president often depicted as a genial delegator, who ducked the Vietnam War with a stateside post in the Texas Air National Guard, is in fact a hands-on commander in chief of the war on terror.

It was ridiculous, laughable, absurd and yet they actually succeeded in convincing am large number of Americans that they weren't seeing what they thought they were seeing:

You know, I'm asked all the time -- I'll ask myself a question. (Laughter.) How do I respond to -- it's an old trick -- (laughter) -- how do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about, that people would hate us. I am, I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it. Because I know how good we are, and we've go to do a better job of making our case. We've got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East, for example, that we don't fight a war against Islam or Muslims. We don't hold any religion accountable. We're fighting evil. And these murderers have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand

Jesus H. Christ.

Now, like John Dickerson,Howard Fineman, (one of the gushiest Bush hagiographers) seems to have just discovered that the emperor has no clothes as well:

The man-of-few-words approach has its virtues, and they matched the moment in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and, for the most part, since. Bush's deep belief in his vision of global democratization, coupled with the eloquence of speeches crafted for state occasions by Michael Gerson, carried the day. Dazed and confused and searching for old verities after the terrorist attacks, I think most Americans found some comfort in Bush the Growling Cowboy.

I know it's a shock to Republicans but the president's primary job is not to provide comfort in an emergency, it's to deal effectively with the emergency. In that, he has always failed. There was, apparently, a massive need among the media (and perhaps the public) to believe that the puerile drivel that Bush spouted after 9/11 was an effective way to deal with Islamic terrorism. In fact, it was precisely the opposite.

Feinman has an epiphany:

That time has passed, though. The main reason of course, is that the simple, black-and-white solutions that the president sketched for us in the "war on terror" haven't materialized. Most Americans now consider the war in Iraq to have been a mistake, one that has made us less secure here in what is now called "the homeland." They see his Manichaean clarity not as a comfort, but as a danger --- because it underestimates the complexity of the real world. There are many more moving parts to consider in the world than the simple clockwork Bush had described.

No kidding. But then it was always bullshit and a good many of us knew it at the time. The "Manichean clarity" was fairy dust that any high school kid should have seen through. Yet Fineman was desperately in love with Cowboy Bush, as were so many of the elite press corps (for reasons that only their psychologists or spouses can understand) that he wrote:

So who are the Bushes, really? Well, they're the people who produced the fellow who sat with me and my Newsweek colleague, Martha Brant, for his first interview since 9/11. We saw, among other things, a leader who is utterly comfortable in his role. Bush envelops himself in the trappings of office. Maybe that's because he's seen it from the inside since his dad served as Reagan's vice president in the '80s. The presidency is a family business.

Dubyah loves to wear the uniform -- whatever the correct one happens to be for a particular moment. I counted no fewer than four changes of attire during the day trip we took to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and back. He arrived for our interview in a dark blue Air Force One flight jacket. When he greeted the members of Congress on board, he wore an open-necked shirt. When he had lunch with the troops, he wore a blue blazer. And when he addressed the troops, it was in the flight jacket of the 101st Airborne. He's a boomer product of the '60s -- but doesn't mind ermine robes.

And now he has the nerve to say that wearing costumes and talking like a cartoon character "underestimates the complexity of the real world. There are many more moving parts to consider in the world than the simple clockwork Bush had described." No shit.

I blame the press as much as I blame the Republicans for this nonsense. If they hadn't gotten a schoolkid crush on Bush after 9/11 and had maintained even a modicum of professionalism, we might not have had to endure this horrible failure for a second term. They built him up so high, and kept him there so long, that it was impossible for the public to fully comprehend what a miserable failure he was until it was too late. Now we are stuck with this bozo for another three years because these alleged journalists took five years to realize what was evident to anyone with eyes to see: George W. Bush was unqualified by brains, temperament or experience to be president, and the party he represents treated their country with tremendous disrespect by anointing such a man for such an important job. They have failed as much as he has and they have a lot to answer for.


There were some earlier reports about Bush's behavior in meetings, but nobody wanted to deal with the reality that we had a child in the oval office.

Lazy, Good-For-Nothin N ... agin

by digby

I don't know if I heard this right, but I think Chris Matthews just said something like this:

This is probably going to bug some people, but the first time I saw Nagin I saw this slow acting, slow talking guy...or do all people talk that way down there? I didn't see any New Yorker type A get the job done ... is this lazy, "it's a hot day" kind of thinking?

Now why do you suppose he thought that would bug some people?

He agitated for his true love Rudy to take over the for weeks. I thought he was just yearning for another hot codpiece moment but apparently he also thought them slow actin' N'Olahns boys jess didn't know nothin' bout no hurricanes.

What in the hell is wrong with him? Is this unusual form of Tourette's Syndrome?


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lying Low

by digby

I've linked many times to this astonishing article by Michael Ledeen in which he agitates for an attack on France and Germany for their failure to support the Iraq invasion. Most recently, I used it as an example of right wingers assailing our traditional European allies while the administration cozies up to undependable allies like the UAE in this port deal. Alert reader Kurtis noticed something in the piece that I didn't:

Both countries have been totally deaf to suggestions that the West take stern measures against the tyrannical terrorist sponsors in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Instead, they do everything in their power to undermine American-sponsored trade embargoes or more limited sanctions, and it is an open secret that they have been supplying Saddam with military technology through the corrupt ports of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's little playground in Dubai, often through Iranian middlemen.

It turns out he's written a whole lot of things like this over the years. Here's another one:

Those who care to know such things have long been aware that the two most murderous leaders of the Islamic Republic, Rafsanjani and Rafiqdust, spend considerable time in Dubai, from which Iranians run weapons shipments throughout the region, smuggle Iraqi oil to market, and transfer billions of dollars to their overseas operatives (as well as to their private financial empires in Western Europe, North Africa, and elsewhere in the Middle East). There are more than 40 flights per day between Dubai and Iran, in addition to the countless voyages of ships of the sort captured by Israeli forces.

Strange then that the only thing I can find from Ledeen on the matter since the controversy arose is this entry on the Corner:

There is a clean way to handle things such as the port operations, and it still astonishes me that it wasn't done properly. It's been done thusly for many years, actually many decades:

1. Create an American company to handle the matter (if foreigners wish to buy in, or even buy it, that's ok);
2. Wall off the foreign investors/owners. They are silent partners. They have no say in the actual operation;
3. Create a "classified Board" composed of people with security clearances and experience in sensitive matters;
4. Appoint a CEO and other top executives with experience and clearances.

We do this all the time with, say, foreigners who want to buy companies that manufacture parts for weapons sytems, etc. It seems the obvious solution here. Dubai would get prestige and whatever profits are generated. Americans run the thing and guarantee, so far as is possible, security. Looks like a win/win solution. For that matter, we should have done the same sort of thing with the British owners, and we should do the same thing with the Chinese and others who now have access to all kinds of potentially dangerous information thanks to their buy-ins.

Funny, no fulminating about playboy sheiks from Dubai doing business with Iran or selling arms to the Palestinians or anything else. He just writes a very dry analysis about how Dubai can get out of this sticky wicket. This from the guy who has been the number one believer in the "real men go to Tehran" school of delusional neocon thinking.

How odd.

Poll Tacks

by digby

All the polls are showing Bush and the Republicans in freefall, but there are a couple of things in this Quinnipiac poll that I found to be quite intriguing:

They separated results by blue, red and purple states, the latter of which are "13 purple states -- 12 in which there was a margin of five points or less in the 2004 popular vote between Bush and Kerry, plus Missouri, historically considered the nation's most accurate barometer of presidential voting. These states have 153 of the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency." They are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Wisconsin.

Bush has a worse approval rating in those states than in the blue states. They also favor Democrats over Republicans in the 06 race by a a slightly larger margin than the blue states. In general, people in swing states have turned on Bush and the Republicans, big time.

But more startling than that is the huge gender gap. Across the board, women are much more critical of the Bush administration and the Republicans than men. The number on terrorism is particularly startling. Men still approve of Bush's handling of the war on terrorism by 51 to 45 percent. Women disapprove of his handling of terrorism by
59 to 35 percent.

It can't all be explained by Iraq. There is a substantial gender gap there also (men disapprove 57-41 while women disapprove 63-31) but it's not nearly as large.

I made a flippant observation the other day on this subject about women seeing Bush as a disgusting old boyfriend, but I'm now seriously curious about why this huge gender gap on terrorism exists. I suspect his performance on Katrina made an impression, but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

Update: Here's another interesting item, this time from the GW-Battleground Poll:

Of all the Washington leaders examined, only Senator John McCain (65% favorable/18% unfavorable) has chiseled out a positive “bi-partisan� image with the American electorate.

The Democrats need to start thinking about this right now. McCain is going to run against Bush's Iraq policy by saying he never committed enough troops and that's why we lost it.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Pentagon should have known it needed more troops in Iraq and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should have overruled his generals on the matter, Sen. John McCain said Thursday night.

"I was there last August. I came back after talking with many, many people, and I was convinced we didn't have enough boots on the ground," said the senator from Arizona and decorated Vietnam War veteran.

And he's king of the "reformers," too, at a time when corruption is the single most important domestic issue. They'd better be thinking about how to deal with this guy. Everybody assumes that the GOP base won't support him, but I have serious doubts about that. He is, after all, the guy that Bush was pretending to be.

Cards On The Table

by digby

If more of these people would admit what they really believe we could have an honest debate in this country:

West Jordan Republican Sen. Chris Buttars scoffed at McCoy's suggestion that the legislation might force teens to other states for abortions or into their bathrooms to attempt the procedure on themselves.

"Abortion isn't about women's rights. The rights they had were when they made the decision to have sex," Buttars said. "This is the consequences. The consequence is they should have to talk to their parents."

Too bad if her father is the one who impregnated her:

Current Utah law - which was adopted in 1974 - requires doctors to notify a girl's parents before ending her pregnancy. HB85, sponsored by Ogden Republican Rep. Kerry Gibson and Peterson, would change state code to require doctors to get at least one parent's permission 24 hours before the procedure. Doctors could proceed without consent in medical emergencies or to protect the health of the mother.

The bill would allow girls to ask a judge to bypass the parental consent requirement if she fears abuse or is pregnant as a result of incest. At the same time, the legislation still would require a doctor to notify a girl's parents of the abortion, effectively nullifying the judicial bypass.

Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Scott McCoy tried to amend the bill Monday to grant an exception to the notification requirement in "very narrow situations" where a girl's father also is the father of her baby.

Peterson argued that parental notification "hasn't been a problem" for 30 years. Why would notification after a judicial bypass be a problem? "What we're trying to do is allow a parent a say in what happens in this youth's life," he said.

But Sen. Patrice Arent said Peterson was closing his eyes to the "real world." The Murray Democrat said Utah lawmakers are setting up a situation where a girl who has been raped by her father would go to court to avoid telling her parents of her abortion. But the doctor still would notify one or both of those parents who could be complicit in the incest.

I find this refreshing. These Republicans admit that women give up their rights when they have sex. Good to know. And they believe a child molesting father's parental rights are more important than the daughter he impregnated. Also good to know.

Our equally religious Muslim fundamentalist friends take this argument to its logical conclusion:

A large number of women in Afghanistan continue to be imprisoned for committing so-called "zina" crimes. A female can be detained and prosecuted for adultery, running away from home or having consensual sex outside marriage, which are all referred to as zina crimes. The major factor preventing victims of rape complaining to the authorities is the fear that instead of being treated as a victim, they themselves will be prosecuted for unlawful sexual activity.

During its recent visit, AI found that a large number of female inmates in prisons across Afghanistan are incarcerated for the crime of "running away" and for adultery, as well as for engaging in unlawful sexual activity. Amongst many judges and judicial officials, there was a prevailing lack of knowledge about the application of zina law.

In many instances, there was a lack of basic legal skills among legal professionals interviewed. In addition, in relation to many offences, sentencing is left to judges’ unfettered discretion and they often had down arbitrary sentences to women. A majority of imprisoned women have been charged or are imprisoned for transgressing social norms and mores.

Utah girls should realize how lucky they are. They are just as guilty of having sex as their muslim sisters and yet their leaders are generous and only seek to punish them with the forced childbirth of their own siblings and the offspring of their rapists. That's because America is civilized.

One of these fine leaders puts it this way:

"There is a life inside of this life. And how that life is taken care of is very important to me," said Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi.

How the life it's inside of is taken care of --- not so much. That life apparently gave up any claim to being cared for when she allowed her father to rape her.

Wedgie A La Carte

by digby

I'm with Kevin on this. I've never thought that a la carte cable was all that because I know that I'll probably end up paying the same for fewer channels. It's just the way these things work. But if Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell are against it, I'm for it. These hucksters prey on lonely dupes in their homes, take their money and then use it to support corporate Republican politics.

Nothing would make me happier than to cancel all the religious programming from my cable line-up. And I would particularly like to tell ABC Family that I am cancelling their channel specifically because it carries the 700 Club.

I suspect that the religious programmers understand something that a lot of people in the media do not. What people say they want and what they will do are different things. Americans like to say they are religious, but many more want their MTV than want the 700 club.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Curmudgeon Of The Moment

by digby

Can someone tell my why Jack Cafferty doesn't have his own show on CNN? They should put him up against O'Reilly. He's the guy who's riding the zeitgeist right now. Between him and Lou "I'm having an aneuryism" Dobbs, CNN could siphon off some of the FoxNews "Dad who is always mad" audience they've coveted for so long.

GOP and Bush worship is so 2004. Fox's ratings are falling...

Take This Survey And Win A Million Bucks

Not really.

But, Blogads is doing a survey and the results are always interesting. If you'd like to take it and you want to put this blog on line #23, use the word Hullabaloo.

Neocon Pipedreams

by digby

Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a "steady stream" of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.

"Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios," Hutchings said in a telephone interview.


In Congress on Tuesday, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that the insurgency "remains strong, and resilient."

Maples said that while Iraqi terrorists and foreign fighters conduct some of the most spectacular attacks, disaffected Iraqi Sunnis make up the insurgency's core. "So long as Sunni Arabs are denied access to resources and lack a meaningful presence in government, they will continue to resort to violence," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That view contrasts with what the administration said as the insurgency began in the months following the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and gained traction in the fall. Bush and his aides portrayed it as the work primarily of foreign terrorists crossing Iraq's borders, disenfranchised former officials of Saddam's deposed regime and criminals.


As recently as May 2005, Cheney told a television interviewer: "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

White, who worked at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said of the administration: "They've gone through various excuse phases."

Now, he said, "The levels of resistance are pretty much as high as they were a year ago."

Hutchings, now diplomat in residence at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said intelligence specialists repeatedly ran up against policymakers' rosy predictions.

"The mindset downtown was that people were willing to accept that things were pretty bad, but not that they were going to get worse, so our analyses tended to get dismissed as `nay-saying and hand-wringing,' to quote the president's press spokesman," he said.

The result, he said, was that top political and military officials focused on ways of dealing with foreign jihadists and disaffected Saddam loyalists, rather than with other pressing problems, such as growing Iraqi anger at the U.S.-led occupation and the deteriorating economic and security situation.

This certainly put the lie to one of the (many) excuses as to why they screwed up on WMD: that they had underestimated Saddam's capabilities before the Gulf War and were being prudently skeptical of those who said he wasn't close to having nuclear weapons in 2002. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that they just don't believe anything they don't want to believe. In this case the intelligence was "too pessimistic." And here they've been saying that 9/11 changed everything and you can't be too careful.

I have long said that the neocons have always been wrong about everything, and this is but another example. They have always refused to accept things that don't fit their preconceived notions. This goes back to the 70's and Team B and the missile gap. Rummy was up to his neck in that too and was just as wrong then as he is now. They were still fighting the cold war as late as 1992.

This has gone on long enough. Any "liberal hawk" who goes along with these nuts in the future should be required to prove, on his own, with no data from them, that his position is correct. Never again should the political establishment take these people at their word for anything --- and their data should be independently checked more than once. The old birds in the GOP defense establishment used to know this and they kept these nutballs at a distance. After all, if they'd have had their way during the cold war they would have launched a pre-emptive nuclear war. They have shown themselves willing to do anything and believe anything that comports with their worldview even if it has no basis in fact. They think they can change reality by sheer will --- or politics. They can't.

Clearly, their propaganda arm is still with the program.

Best Friends

by digby


Bush said there was intense discussion inside his campaign when the 15-minute videotape was released, which he described as "an interesting entry by our enemy."

"I thought it was going to help," Bush told the author. "I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush."

That would, of course, explain this from March 13, 2002

Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

BUSH: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

Hey heartland, I bet you didn't know that bin Laden worked for the Bush campaign did you? He stayed silent throughout the lead up to the Iraq invasion, never stepping on Junior's "Saddam is Satan" storyline. And then he stepped in just before a very close election and helped his pal Bush over the finish line. He owed him. Bush had let him go at Tora Bora, after all, and allowed his good friend Musharref to turn a blind eye for four years. And no enemy of the US could ever hope to have someone more dumb and ineffectual than the Codpiece in charge. He completes him.

Now, of course, Bush is focusing on his pal again because it ups the boogeyman meter to neon pink. He dropped in on Afghanistan today for the photo op:

"It's not a matter of if they're captured and brought to justice, it's when they're brought to justice," Bush said. "I am confident he will be brought to justice. What's happening is that we've got U.S. forces on the hunt. ... There are Afghan forces on the hunt, not only for bin Laden but also those who plot and plan with him. We've got Pakistan forces on the hunt."

I'm sure Osama will appropriately go "boo" at just the right moment. These guys could be "Dancing With The Stars" champions, they are so in sync.

Bill Of Goods

by digby

John Kerry: What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq, but we're shutting firehouses who are the first-responders here in America...

The president hasn't put one nickel, not one nickel into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems...

Ninety-five percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected.

This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security...

George W Bush: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap...

My administration has tripled the amount of money we're spending on homeland security to $30bn a year.

John Kerry: The test is not whether you're spending more money. The test is, are you doing everything possible to make America safe?

We didn't need that tax cut. America needed to be safe.

George W Bush: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America.

Where are we supposed to find the money for this so-called "Homeland Security?"

The White House said Thursday that it plans to ask Congress for an additional $70 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving the cost of military operations in the two countries to $120 billion this year, the highest ever.

Most of the new money would pay for the war in Iraq, which has cost an estimated $250 billion since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

The additional spending, along with other war funding the Bush administration will seek separately in its regular budget next week, would push the price tag for combat and nation-building since Sept. 11, 2001, to nearly a half-trillion dollars, approaching the inflation-adjusted cost of the 13-year Vietnam War.

The cost of military operations in 2006 is $35 billion higher than what Congress had estimated a few months ago that the Defense Department would need this year. The higher costs are occurring even as the Pentagon is planning to reduce troop levels in Iraq in coming months, reflecting the continuing wear and damage to military equipment in desert combat, the need to upgrade protection for U.S. troops and the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.

No large-scale reconstruction projects are included in the spending, officials said.

Currently, the Defense Department says it is spending about $4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, or about $100,000 per minute.

Oh, and then there's this:

THE SKEWED BENEFITS OF THE TAX CUTS, 2007-2016: If the Tax Cuts Are Extended, Millionaires Will Receive More than $600 Billion over the Next Decade

Life is full of choices. The American people chose to go into Iraq and give huge tax breaks to millionaires through the year 2016 and are willing to pay the price for those priorities.

Aren't they?


by digby

VARGAS: When you look back on those days immediately following when Katrina struck, what moment do you think was the moment that you realized that the government was failing, especially the people of New Orleans?

BUSH: When I saw TV reporters interviewing people who were screaming for help. It looked the scenes looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our government was could have done a better job of comforting people.

Bush has been using the "comfort" word since 9/11 and it gets more absurd the more time that passes. Karen Hughes came up with it during the 2000 campaign because she thinks it appeals to women and they trotted it out constantly after 9/11.

"The American people, obviously, if they see something that is suspicious, something out of the norm that looks suspicious, they ought to notify local law authorities. But in the meantime, they ought to take comfort in knowing our government is doing everything we possibly can."

"And America is comforted by the fact that we are united as we stand to fight terror."

"Americans should find comfort in knowing that millions of their fellow citizens are working every day to ensure our security at every level -- federal, state, county, municipal."

"We think differently about those who go to work every single day to protect us and save us and comfort us."

I've been hearing it a lot again lately and wondered why.

"the more people learn" about the deal and the government's scrutiny of it, "the more they'll be comforted."

Now I get it:

"The repetition of the news coming out of Iraq is wearing folks down," Reed said. "It started with women and it's spreading. It's just bad news after bad news after bad news, without any light at the end of the tunnel."

The women are the first out the door. I suspect it's because many of them see Bush now and are reminded of the embarrassing, dumbshit macho boyfriend (or husband) they once had. His little verbal gaffes aren't adorable any longer -- they set her teeth on edge. His arrogant swagger nauseates her. His childish habits are sexually repellant. The word "comfort" coming from him makes her want to scream. It's over.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Limited Nativism

by digby

Tristero has already linked to this great interview with Mark Danner and I too recommend that you read it if you haven't already. It's interesting in dozens of different ways, but I wanted to highlight something specific:

TD: They're really extreme American nationalists, though you can't use that word in this country.

Danner: That's true, and they combine with this belief in great-power America an almost nativist distrust of international institutions. That's the difference between Truman America and this regime in its approach to foreign policy. They put international institutions in a similar class with terrorism –- that is, weapons of the weak.

Ah. Yes, they have very skillfully stoked this nativism with distrust of international institutions. This has long been an effective tool on the right from the Panama Canal to the UN black helicopter crowd. Recently, they have stoked this nativism with distrust of our allies too. I have been quite amused to see all of the rightwingers clutching their pearls about "alienating our friends" after their performance in 2003 in which some of them were actually agitating to attack France and Germany. Watching them stutter and dissemble about our great and valued ally the United Arab Emirates is just funny. Freedom falafels anyone?

But then this port deal doesn't really fit the storyline, does it? It's not about an international institution or a real ally. From what we've seen these last few years, they would never have gone to such lengths to defend it if it were. It's about an international corporation and that goes beyond borders, beyond alliances and beyond institutions. That's sacred ground to the big money boys of the Republican establishment.

I don't know if people are consciously aware of this distinction, but if they were I don't think they would be impressed by it. Basically, the Republicans are saying that we cannot trust long standing internatinal institutions, long standing international law or even long standing close allies --- but we should take it on faith that international corporations, even those owned by dodgy middle eastern monarchies, can be trusted not to harm our national security. Their all encompassing belief in the market has extended to national security.

This nativist impulse that has been so skillfully exploited by the Republican party is not allowed beyond the boardroom door. Is this ok with the white working class Republican base? I wonder.

Programmed Cynicism

by digby

I had noticed the propensity of the gasbags to characterize Democratic criticism of the Dubai ports deal as a craven political move to Bush's right. Media Matters has gathered together quite a comepndium of quotes, many of them not coming from the openly right wing media. My favorite is this one, from Evan Thomas of Newsweak:

THOMAS: One thing that strikes me is -- it is hilarious to watch the Democrats, who are all against racial profiling except in this case, where they're racially profiling an entire country, and the Hillary Clintons -- there's a lot about Hillary Clinton in the other subtext here. Hillary and the Democrats need to get somehow to the right of President Reagan on something.

Nice of him to confuse Bush with St. Reagan. Those Republican talking points are potent, aren't they?

But let's examine the entire statement for perfectly layered GOP spin, shall we? First of all, the Democrats' response is "hilarious." It's absurd to think that they could be serious about national security. They are, as always, ridiculous. Especially compared to the suave, smoothtalking insiders like Thomas.

Second, the idea that this is racial profiling is right out of the wingnut playbook. It's called the "I know you are but what am I" strategy. They accuse Democrats of being racists/sexist/ageist, whatever, to put them on the defensive. Democrats still care about hypocrisy and second guess what they are doing when this happens. The GOP, on the other hand, has no problem apeing liberal talking points on their own behalf (often with a snide smirk on their face) and pretending to be offended by things they are not offended by. Picture Orrin Hatch going on and on about Democrats being racist for opposing Janice Rogers Brown, the sharecropper's daughter.

Dems could turn the tables if they would get all red in the face and start railing about political correctness and the right's being in the pocket of arab terrorists and racial minorities, but they don't play that game very well. It is, after all, fucked-up race baiting no matter how you slice it. I suspect that we are going to have to find a way to live with this nonsense and have faith that a majority of the American public can see through their little performance. Liberals have built up many, many years of credibility on this issue. We know who we are and so does everyone else. (And the idea of the Republicans defending Arabs from left wing prejudice is guffaw-inducing to anyone who isn't drunk on 151 --- or a member of the DC press corps. This alone clinches the argument.)

The most serious part of Thomas' smug criticism is the part about the Democrats, particularly Hillary, desperate to "get to the right of Bush" on national security. It is evidently incomprehensible to Thomas and the rest of the beltway courtiers that the Democrats might be legitimately concerned about the topic. They persist in this ridiculous assumption even though we are dependent on what even they must finally be realizing is the most incompetent administration in history. Doesn't that make these people, who live in New York and Washington, just a little bit nervous?

As the media themselves have told us ad nauseum, everything is narrative. If that's so then this port deal is emblematic of the larger story of Bush's incompetence in waging the war on terrorism --- the lack of awareness, the wasted money, the wrong strategy, the failed execution --- all of it. iraq showed the world that our intelligence is terrible and that our military is stretched by a simple war and occupation. Katrina showed the world that our response to an emergency is worse than it was before 9/11. For all the talk about loose lips sinking ships, I can't think of anything any whistleblower has done that gives al Qaeda more information about our vulnerabilities than the terrible performance of this administration.

The Democrats have long been complaining about Bush's laissez faire attitude toward homeland security, Hillary being at the forefront. That isn't running to Bush's "right" which makes very little sense when it comes to the war on terrorism. (To really run to his right a Democrat would have to endorse a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Finland.) It's criticizing a very real flaw in Bush's national security strategy. In Hillary's case, if it's politics, it the old adage "all politics is local." She represents New York and there are ample pragmatic reasons for her to take on Bush's lackadaisical approach to homeland security. In fact, I suspect that her constituents demand it, and for good reason. It already happened to them once. She has been talking quite sepcifically about port security for some time --- as was John Kerry, who the media also ridiculed as being a hilarious, flip-flopping opportunist.

Perhaps if they would take their eyes off their mirrors for a minute or two, the elite media could entertain the thought that these Democrats are not talking out of their asses. This is a legitimate issue. The worst terrorist attack in American history took place on the Republicans' watch and they've fucked up everything they've touched since then. Perhaps codpieces and trash talk aren't adequate to the task at hand.

Thomas is one of the biggest purveyors of the smug, cynical conventional wisdom that permeates the political media. Long after it was rasonable to defend this unpopular president's alleged prowess on national security they did it. And they refuse to let go of the notion that no matter how fucked up the Republicans are, the Democrats are worse. Winning elections may not even change this. I'm beginning to suspect that this is a generational identification with GOP political values, where good government or nuanced policy is always pooh-poohed by the these kewl kids who see governance through the lens of the puerile college Republican style of political combat. It may take a new generation of people who haven't mistaken dorky DC hipster cynicism for insight.

Like this guy, for instance.

Mark Danner

by tristero

I'm gonna take about a week off for personal stuff and to collect my thoughts on a topic I've been meaning to post about. But I did want to share this truly superb interview with reporter Mark Danner, whose work is some of the best being done by an American. Read it all. Here are some excerpts:
It underlines [the Bush administration's] policies in all kinds of areas, their belief that the overwhelming or preponderant power of the United States can simply change fact, can change truth. It is quite indicative of their policy of public information inside the United States. They don't care about people who read the New York Times, for instance. I use that as a shorthand. They don't care about people concerned with facts. They care about the broader arc of the story. We sit here constantly citing facts -- that they've broken this or that law, that what they originally said turns out not to be true. None of this particularly interests them.

What interests them is the larger reality believed by the 50.1 percent that they need to govern. Kenneth Duberstein said this recently -- he was chief of staff to Ronald Reagan -- that this administration is unique in that they govern with 50.1 percent. He was referring not to elections but to popularity while governing. His notion was that Reagan would want to get 60 to 65 percent backing him, while the Bush people want a bare majority, which means they have a much more extremist policy because they're appealing to the base. It makes them very hard-knuckle when approaching politics, simply wanting the base plus one.


The icebergs are floating by. I've used the phrase to indicate that a process of scandal we've come to know, with an expected series of steps, has come to an end. Before, you had, as Step 1, revelation of wrongdoing by the press, usually with the help of leaks from within an administration. Step 2 would be an investigation which the courts, often allied with Congress, would conduct, usually in public, that would give you an official version of events. We saw this with Watergate, Iran-Contra and others. And finally, Step 3 would be expiation -- the courts, Congress, impose punishment which allows society to return to some kind of state of grace in which the notion is, Look, we've corrected the wrongdoing, we can now go on. With this administration, we've got revelation of torture, of illegal eavesdropping, of domestic spying, of all kinds of abuses when it comes to arrest of domestic aliens, of inflated and false weapons of mass destruction claims before the war; of cronyism and corruption in Iraq on a vast scale. You could go on. But no official investigation follows


[During the Reagan administration] At a time of real dominance by the Times and Post, and the administration came forward, denied the [El Mozote massacres in El Salvador] took place, and was able to make its views stick. And remember we knew [the Reagan administration was covering up about their knowledge of the death squads]...

That leads me to a conclusion I came to then: that in many stories it's not the information, it's the politics. It's not that we were lacking information. It's that, when that information came out, it was denied and those in power were able to impose their view of reality. Political power decided what reality was, despite clear information to the contrary. When I look at our time I see that phenomenon writ large.

I think it's widely known at the top of the administration that Iraq is a failure. It's also been recognized by many that, in strategic terms, the Iraq war could turn out to be a catastrophe because it's essentially created a Shia Islamist government sympathetic to Iran and, among other things, made it impossible for the U.S. to adequately pressure Iran on the nuclear issue.


[O]ne is perilously close to arriving at the conclusion that reality doesn't matter. When I look at the pieces on the inside pages of the papers about the stealing of funds in Iraq by American officials, when I realize that no one is likely to be punished for this, I think of the novels of [Milan] Kundera, of his vivid descriptions of what it was like to live in Eastern Europe in the 1950s and '60s -- in the Soviet system where everyone realized the corruption, the abuse of power, the mediocrity of the government, the yawning gap between what was said and what was really going on, but no one could do anything about it


Actually, to reach the point of being a TFN [a Totally Fucked-up Nation], I think we have a long way to go. We're at a very low point in the political evolution of this country. I've certainly not lived under an administration as radical in its techniques, its methods, and its beliefs as this one. I've seen nothing like it in my lifetime.

It's a difficult time for those of us who care about the truth and who don't believe, as I think this administration does, that the truth is actually determined by what those in power think. I take comfort from the fact that a lot of people don't believe that.
Like Mark Danner, I'm glad that the US is not yet Sierra Leone. The problem is that Bush just takes that as a challenge, rolls up his sleeves, smirks a few times, and then proceeds blithely about his God-given mission to wreck the United States in every way he can think of.

Monday, February 27, 2006


by digby

Arthur Silber has written a very compelling series of posts featuring Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly" in several different contexts and it led me to go back and read it. It's an amazing analysis of a certain kind of willful governmental stupidity borne of hubris, mental laziness and bad judgment, and it's quite clear that we are seeing it being carried out right before our eyes. She defined "folly" this way:

To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. This is important, because all policy is determined by the mores of its age. "Nothing is more unfair," as an English historian has well said, "than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present. Whatever may be said of morality, political wisdom is certainly ambulatory." To avoid judging by present-day values, we must take the opinion of the time and investigate only those episodes whose injury to self-interest was recognized even by contemporaries.

Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. To remove the problem from personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime. Misgovernment by a single sovereign or tyrant is too frequent and too individual to be worth a generalized inquiry. Collective government or a succession of rulers in the same office, as in the case of the Renaissance popes, raises a more significant problem.

Certainly, the first two criteria apply in spades. It's that last, that got my attention. In order for the current quagmire to be truly considered folly it must persist beyond any one political lifetime. In my view it already has.

Via Arthur again, here's Tuchman describing the thought processes of Lyndon Johnson during Vietnam:

Like Kennedy, Johnson believed that to lose South Vietnam would be to lose the White House. It would mean a destructive debate, he was later to say, that would "shatter my Presidency, kill my Administration, and damage our democracy." The loss of China, he said, which had led to the rise of Joe McCarthy, was "chickenshit compared with what might happen if we lost Vietnam." Robert Kennedy would be out in front telling everyone that "I was a coward, an unmanly man, a man without a spine." Worse, as soon as United States weakness was perceived by Moscow and Peking, they would move to "expand their control over the vacuum of power we would leave behind us ... and so would begin World War III." He was as sure of this "as nearly as anyone can be certain of anything." No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.

The purpose of the war was not gain or national defense. It would have been a simpler matter had it been either, for it is easier to finish a war by conquest of territory or by destruction of the enemy's forces and resources than it is to establish a principle by superior force and call it victory. America's purpose was to demonstrate her intent and her capacity to stop Communism in a framework of preserving an artificially created, inadequately motivated and not very viable state. The nature of the society we were upholding was an inherent flaw in the case, and despite all efforts at "nation-building," it did not essentially change.

In the illusion of omnipotence, American policy-makers took it for granted that on a given aim, especially in Asia, American will could be made to prevail. This assumption came from the can-do character of a self-created nation and from the sense of competence and superpower derived from World War II. If this was "arrogance of power," in Senator Fulbright's phrase, it was not so much the fatal hubris and over-extension that defeated Athens and Napoleon, and in the 20th century Germany and Japan, as it was failure to understand that problems and conflicts exist among other peoples that are not soluble by the application of American force or American techniques of even American goodwill. "Nation-building" was the most presumptuous of the illusions. Settlers of the North American continent had built a nation from Plymouth Rock to Valley Forge to the fulfilled frontier, yet failed to learn from their success that elsewhere, too, only the inhabitants can make the process work.

Wooden-headedness, the "Don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts" habit, is a universal folly never more conspicuous than at upper levels of Washington with respect to Vietnam. Its grossest fault was underestimation of North Vietnam's commitment to its goal. Enemy motivation was a missing element in American calculations, and Washington could therefore ignore all the evidence of nationalist fervor and of the passion for independence which as early as 1945 Hanoi had declared "no human force can any longer restrain." Washington could ignore General Leclerc's prediction that conquest would take half a million men and "Even then it could not be done." It could ignore the demonstration of elan and capacity that won victory over a French army with modern weapons at Dien Bien Phu, and all the continuing evidence thereafter.

American refusal to take the enemy's grim will and capacity into account has been explained by those responsible on the ground of ignorance of Vietnam's history, traditions and national character: there were "no experts available," in the words of one high-ranking official. But the longevity of Vietnamese resistance to foreign rule could have been learned from any history book on Indochina. Attentive consultation with French administrators whose official lives had been spent in Vietnam would have made up for the lack of American expertise. Even superficial American acquaintance with the area, when it began to supply reports, provided creditable information. Not ignorance, but refusal to credit the evidence and, more fundamentally, refusal to grant stature and fixed purpose to a "fourth-rate" Asiatic country were the determining factors, much as in the case of the British attitude toward the American colonies. The irony of history is inexorable.

Deja-vu-vu. I think it's pretty clear that history will judge Vietnam and Iraq as related wars, much as WWI and II were related, one growing out of the other. (The last election more or less dramatized it like a movie of the week.) The Republicans clung to their delusions for more than a quarter of a century believing that the Vietnam war was lost because it was sabotaged by the civilian leadership and the fecklessness of the American public. They nurtured their resentment through almost three decades, unappeased even by the fall of the Soviet Union. They, and many Democrats as well, never questioned their assumptions about the "illusion of American omnipotence" and they never understood that "problems and conflicts exist among other peoples that are not soluble by the application of American force or American techniques of even American goodwill." In fact, they carefully nurtured all those fancies and when they finally gained the power and opportunity, they immediately set about trying to prove their point --- again. The results are as predictable and as bad they were the first time.

I think that many of us over these last few years have felt as if we were living under water. Everything has seemed vaguely distorted. Communication and movement had an odd quality of density and resistance. We spoke out. We marched. We called our representatives. But it seemed as if our words sounded garbled and muffled in some way.

And there has also been a strong sense of inevitability. Certainly, since the impeachment the country has been steamrollered into a bizarre and aberrant political reality, never more than after 9/11 when the administration began agitating for this absurd, incomprehensible war. Despite its utter madness, I think most of us knew it was unstoppable. And it wasn't just us moonbats who knew it; it was the CIA and the state department. It was all of Europe and even Saddam himself. I suspect this is yet another feature of folly --- the sense among those who know better that there is no way to change the course of the event, that you are speaking a language nobody can understand.

Now, after we are dug in deeply with so much blood and money wasted, salvation requires repudiation of the Iraq war, the Bush doctrine and the cruel, undemocratic policies of the "war" on terrorism. I don't know if anyone has the strength to do that. It must be said that Lyndon Johnson was correct in that he would be mercilessly attacked for being weak if he withdrew from Vietnam. That's a political fact and it is what will happen if a Democratic administration tries to draw down the GWOT. (Not that we shouldn't do it, I'm just saying that the price will be high.) It's one of the main reasons why we should never start these things unless absolutely forced to. They are very difficult to end.

What or who will successfully put a coda to this ongoing folly? I don't see it in either party, to tell you the truth. But it's what I'm going to be looking for. This is the central challenge of millenial America: how can the most powerful nation on earth survive such monumental folly?

If you are interested in this topic, I urge you to read Arthur's long entire series on Iran and Tuchman's "March of Folly." Oh my.


by digby

Kos highlights an interesting story today about the fears among the political establishment of the of grassroots extremists:

While some view the evangelical church as above all a force for promoting conservative values, others see it as polarizing as well, fueling candidates who tap into the passions of activists and values voters but not the broader electorate.

"It's great, because it creates a lot of energy and helps broaden a movement, but the downside is you can also get pulled in a more extreme direction," said Erik Smith, who worked in the 2004 race for both Tom Coburn and a multimillion-dollar independent Republican ad campaign.

"There is real power there . . . but there are some real limits to it, and those limits have to be heeded," said Jonah Seiger, an evangelical strategist.

The Republicans are very concerned about how they appear to the mainstream and worry incessantly about how these activists will pull the party too far to the right.


That paragraph actually reads like this:

While some view the Internet as above all a democratizing force, others see it as polarizing as well, fueling candidates who tap into the passions of activists and ideological voters but not the broader electorate.

"It's great, because it creates a lot of energy and helps broaden a movement, but the downside is you can also get pulled in a more extreme direction," said Erik Smith, who worked in the 2004 race for both Dick Gephardt and a multimillion-dollar independent Democratic ad campaign.

"There is real power there . . . but there are some real limits to it, and those limits have to be heeded," said Jonah Seiger, an Internet strategist who also heads the board of advisers for the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University.

Unlike Democrats, Republicans do not question whether it is a good thing to have hard working, committed activists. They just say thank you.

Rather than worry about being "pulled in a more extreme direction" they confidently accept support wherever they can get it and openly court their base. They proudly run on the label "conservative" and would not dream of marginalizing their most energetic partisans. Democrats, not so much.

Note to the clueless DC insiders: the blogosphere is only "extreme" to the extent it is extremely impatient with people like you. We believe that your strategy of caution has failed and we are agitating for a more aggressive Democratic politics. After a partisan impeachment, a stolen election in 2000, an illegal war and an unprecedented executive power play we think this is a pretty serious situation. In fact, we see this as political civil war. You apparently think that is "extreme." We think it is common sense.

Perhaps it would be easier for these people to understand if we speak like Republicans and use stupid Civil War analogies to make a point, so here goes:

We believe that the DC establishment is running the war like George McClellan and we think his cautious strategy is losing us the war. It's not because we aren't all on the same side or don't have the same goals. It's that the McClellans of the establishment are temperamentally inhibited at a time when aggression is called for. We believe the party needs to fight like Grant.

If that civil war analogy is too complicated I'm sure I can find a cartoon or children's book to illustrate it. We are not ideologues. We are simply demanding that elected Democrats stand firm on our convictions and be willing to go toe to toe with Republicans. It isn't complicated. When Lincoln was asked to relieve Grant after Shiloh, he said, "I can't spare this man -- he fights." That's what we're talking about.

No Retreat, No Surrender

by tristero

In comments to a previous post about South Dakota's imminent approval of coathangers for abortion, reader goodasgold wrote
I couldn't live in South Dakota. It would hurt too much. I wonder where all this will lead. I live in California. I feel safe.
The sentiment is understandable. Why live someplace that seems hellbent on trumpeting its ignorance of reality? Why go somewhere that all but brags of its cruelty to the poor?

Indeed, that's what pro-coathanger legislation is all about. The rich and the middle class will always have access to safe abortion. Making abortion illegal is quite simply class warfare, aimed at the poorest women and families.

That is all it is. It is one thing if your religious beliefs require you to bring a pregnancy to term. No one in the United States will, or should, stop you, It's a very, very different situation to use your religion as a shield to deflect sharp criticism of your political activism and demand that abortion be made dangerous and illegal. That is not religious belief. That is simply heartless, cruel, and immoral politcking. The cynical operatives who demand that the state approve coathanger abortions by banning legal ones in no way can claim the moral high ground, America's laws are very clear: no group has the right to inflict their religious proclivities on the rest of us.*

However, I think goodasgold is wrong, as the troll Par R, inadvertently, reminds us. Par R apparently lives in South Dakota and writes:
God bless and keep you safe in California, since we sure as Hell don't want your type living among us up here! Thanks.
To translate out of Troll-ish, Par R is saying, "Ignorance and tyranny will flourish wherever liberalism is absent." For that reason, it is vital that more liberals move to South Dakota, not less.

Liberals should move to South Dakota not to "impose" their values, of course. For as we all know, coercion is what religious nuts do, not liberals. Liberals have a long, consistent history of strong opposition to laws that force people to conform to a specific "politically correct" or "religiously correct" moral code. Nope, more liberals should move to South Dakota for one reason only: To become proud, loyal, and productive South Dakotans. The state simply needs more liberals if it is to become a better South Dakota and it needs less unprincipled politicians advancing an anti-American theocratic agenda.

Contrary to christianism, with its unhealthy obsession on deadly punishment and diseased sex, liberalism is a world view that is life affirming. It posits that human beings have the ability and the will to construct a moral life, and a happy, prosperous one in a civil community regardless of our differences. That is what is meant, in a political context, by "all men are created equal." And liberalism has succeeded. It is in states where liberalism is in short supply that poverty reigns, and ignorance, and a great deal of crime.

The answer to South Dakota's real problems is not tyranny, either religious or secular (and make no mistake: oppressing the poor, by denying them access to a safe medical procedure, certainly is tyrannical). Both are the desperate solutions of the ignorant and the fearful. No, the answer begins with informed, careful, and reasoned thought. In a word, the answer begins with liberalism. By contrast, nothing could be further removed from reality, nothing could be more irrelevant to the problems South Dakota faces than the thoughtless and clueless theocracy the pro-coathanger crowd desire. And that is why more liberals are needed in South Dakota.

Liberal South Dakotans surely hold different values than California liberals. Speaking for the moment as a New York liberal, I certainly hope so! (grin)

Therefore, more liberals in South Dakota will bring to the state a personal and civil philosophy that will make South Dakotans of all political stripes even prouder of their state than they already are. They will give all South Dakotans more genuine reasons to sneer at how awful and foolish life is in California (and New York), not less. More liberals in South Dakota will focus the state's resources on genuine issues, not well-marketed faith-based cure-alls that cure nothing. Issues, like passing laws to ban abortion, are not only immoral because of their viciousness to the poor. They are immoral because they waste valuable time and resources better spent addressing real problems.

Liberalism - a philosophy of reason, compassion, tolerance, and hard-headed realism unemcumbered by utopianism - is the only civic philosophy that is flexible enough to encompass the wildly different needs of a wildly disparate America. The notion of a "godless" liberal is one more rightwing myth. The vast majority of American liberals agree that, on a personal level, the "good life" is lived with God's help. They are also aware that what is meant by God or God's will is no business of the state to define; one group's position on God's will can in no way be privileged in the business of an American polis. The sooner South Dakota's legislature stops trying to to do so and gets down to the real business of running the state, the better. And that requires more liberals in South Dakota, not more theocrats thumping Bibles and obsessing about other people's sex lives.

And so, goodasgold, start packing.

An apology: I haven't addressed the right to safe and legal medical care very much in the past. The reason is that it is self-evident that all citizens have a right to such care, even if they are poor. Therefore, what's there to argue over? The fury over the use of coat hangers has always puzzled me. Yes, honest people can come to radically different conclusions as to whether their pregnancy should or should not be terminated. But an American government clearly has no right to impose a conclusion. Therefore the politicization of the abortion issue has always struck me as a thinly disguised war against providing safe health care to the poor, especially women, rather than anything that engages a genuine moral issue which, in abortion's case, is a private one.

I still think this is true. But it is becoming clear to me that, not only because the issue of safe medical care for all Americans is an important issue in itself but because the right to such care impacts many other important issues, all of us must once again speak out, loud, clear, and often in favor of Roe v. Wade.

True, I've done so several times before, and just as unequivocally as I've done so here. But I feel a need to speak out even more. I recognize that others have sensed this need long before I have. They were right, I was wrong and I apologize. To say that there were (and are) issues that were just as serious is no excuse, of course. But that was, and is, the case for me.

As I've said before, it has become very hard to be an American. The assault from the extreme right on American values has been relentless and highly organized since (at least) the second Clinton term. Nearly as bad, the Democrats have, as a party, failed miserably to stand behind its finest members - people like Kerry, Murtha, and Dean - or its modern principles, which are based in liberalism. The fact that being an American is very hard work these days also is no excuse. Please accept the apology and I'll try to make up for it with more posts on the right of all Americans to safe, legal medical care. That care is dangerously undermined whenever the access to abortion on demand is challenged. The dangers of illegal abortion primarily fall on poor women (and honest, competent doctors who provide abortions despite the potential for imprisonment), but the dangers of making access to medical procedures contingent on religious correctness are dangers for everyone, including those who, for personal/religious reasons, will carry all viable pregnancies to term.

*Note to rightwing religious nuts: Disagree with me all you want, but don't try to claim I am "prejudiced against religion," yadda yadda because I would truly hate to embarass you. There is abundant public proof of my longstanding admiration and deep respect for religious observance and devout practice.

My contempt and disgust is focused entirely on political activists like bin Laden, Antonin Scalia, Randall Terry, or the late Meir Kahane, who hide behind the skirts of priests to advocate theocracy. (And yes, that is precisely Scalia's agenda which is why he's mentioned here in the company of his peers: his remarks here fall barely one or two commas short of advocating a full overhaul of American jurisprudence and the establishment of a christianist theocracy)

Now if you're an extra crunchy and sleazy rightwing nut you might sneer, "What about Martin Luther King? You object to him speaking out when he saw injustice?" To which there is only one response:

Your comparison is deeply insulting. King's peers are Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, so if you want to discuss him by comparing him to those other great human beings, I am only too happy to join you. But I will not demean KIng's achievements by dignifying, with a response, any mention of him in the rhetorical company of cheap slimeballs like Pat Robertson or Rick Santorum. What next, shall we "discuss" whether FDR is the moral equivalent of Hitler? Or whether the Bible authorizes slavery? It's still a free blogosphere so go somewhere else and spew.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Creating A Better Circumstance

by digby

This William Kristol quote from this morning is another step in the eventual disavowal of Bushism. You see, just as it was in Vietnam, the know-nothings in Washington won't let the military leaders take the gloves off which is why we are having so many problems.

This will, of course, be folded into the standard one size fits all conservative whine that alleges conservatism cannot fail on its own terms. Not even neo-conservatism, which isn't conservatism at all except to the extent it prefers war over other means of change.

Indeed, the neos have the civil war in Iraq already built into their utopian vision. Much as David Ignatius said that if in 30 years Iraq is doing as well as Lebanon is today then the invasion can be seen as a success, for years some neocons have held that in order to make a nice US dominated Iraq, the massive death and destruction of a war and then civil war might be just what the doctor ordered. From a very depressing article by Robert Dreyfuss:

In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous "Clean Break" paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997 : "The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state." After Saddam, Iraq would "be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families," he wrote. "Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition." Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to "expedite" such a collapse. "The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance."

Such black neoconservative fantasies—which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will—have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real.

This is where the Straussian beast of neoconservatism rears its ugly head.[and says hello its mate, perverted trotskyism. ed] Their vaunted starry-eyed idealism about spreading democracy is a pile of crap. They, like all imperialists, seek domination. They went along with the cockamamie idea to give the Iraqi people the opportunity to surrender peacefully and do it our way. Those purple fingers should have made them feel really good about themselves. But they aren't cooperating. Which means, sadly, that it's time to accept reality. We tore the country apart, now we'll let the crazy wogs have it out.

The big challenge now is to "limit and expedite the chaotic collapse in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance." When you look at it that way, everything's going according to plan. Too bad about all the dead people.

Meanwhile neocon shills like Kristol will soothe the rubes with tales of how the Bush administration tied the military's hands. If they'd have let them go they could have gotten the job done in a couple of weeks. We could have bombed em back into the stone age if necessary. After all, everything turned out just great with Japan and Germany. But, no. They wouldn't let our brave men and women get the job done. (Of course you can't blame them too much. It was the dominant Democrat hippies who made them do it.)

It gives the Republicans a good excuse to run on "restoring honor" to the country. The rubes eat it up and get all excited about proving ourselves in the next war. A war we must fight for freedom and democracy, of course. Because we're so good.


by digby

Kevin at Catch is calling it a day and now I have one less funny blogger from whom to steal great material. Damn. I hate when that happens. He is one of those guys who likes to go into the belly of the rightwing blogospheric beast and examine the entrails with insight and humor. It is a valuable service and I will miss him.

We met (virtually, of course) during the Wes Clark campaign when both of us were asked to do an online interview with the general. Back in those golden, olden days, that was quite an unusual thing. We were asked to submit five questions. Kevin and I both asked four probing, deeply complicated queries about long term foreign policy strategy and one fun "personal" question. They picked the personal questions, of course. Kevin's was "what's your favorite salad dressing" and mine was "of all your postings overseas, what country did you enjoy the most?" (answers: vinaigrette and Panama.) I was lucky enough to get one "real" question in the mix as well so I didn't suffer the overwhelming disapprobation of the Clarkies who accused Kevin of wasting the general's and the community's time with this silliness. (Clarkies are a serious bunch.) We bonded.

Kevin may be leaving the blogosphere but he will be long remembered around these parts. His memorial is the term "bedwetters." That's what I call a contribution.

I assume that Kevin knows his great eye and superior snark are always welcome on this blog should he feel the overhwelming urge to post. And you know he will feel the urge eventually. It's hard to go cold turkey. Yelling at the TV just doesn't have the same kick. Plus it annoys people. Your loved ones quickly realize they didn't miss you that much after all and are relieved to hear the sounds of your angry typing. I'm guessing. Not that I would know, of course. I'm very even keeled.

In case you missed it, here's Kevin's interview with TBOGG. A classic.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

They Are NOT Eliminating Abortions In South Dakota

by tristero

They are approving coathangers for use as medical instruments.

Who Says Dems Don't Ask The Tough Questions?

by tristero

Now, I'm not saying that I completely agree with this, but I do think it is worthy of a full, thoughtful discussion.

Note to wingnuts: In case it is lost on you, the sentence above is one I have found on right wing discussion boards regarding whether gays are moral lepers, abortion doctors deserve the death penalty, or whether torture may be a good thing on occasion. In other words, this is satire.

Civil War

by tristero

Ever optimistic, the Times surveys opinions on what Civil War would be like in Iraq if civil war comes. While there is much that is interesting here, I am also struck by the amount of naivete on display* and the poor organization of the article. For example, this would appear to be perhaps the most striking and important "news" to impart to Americans:
[Kenneth] Pollack cautions that a civil war could prove especially painful for the Shiites. There is no reason, he says, to assume that they won't fight among themselves. The three major Shiite movements each have militias. Sometimes they have clashed... "There are a thousand Shiite militias that could do battle against each other, splintering even the southern part of Iraq."
The way the story's usually been played in the US press is that it's Shia vs. Sunni. Not so. The situation is far more complex. So where does the Times put this important information? Near the end of the article.

While Pollack is right to point out the dangers of infra-Shia strife, he is wrong elsewhere in the piece to claim that such strife is the first thing one would see in an Iraqi civil war - Sunnis may be a minority, but they were, and still are, a powerful minority. The first thing you'd see, obviously would be something close to what we are, indeed, seeing: increasingly violent actions between Shia and Sunnis. Nor is Pollack accurate in opining that "a civil war could prove especially painful for the Shiites." If nearly any Shia faction wins a violent civil war, Sunnis will experience major league political repression. As in state sponsored torture and murder. If anything, it's the Sunnis who will find a civil war "especially painful," assuming they lose. And, among many other factors, it is their desperation - rightly, they don't trust a "legit" Shia government to treat them well - that is behind their present attacks.

Pollack's emphasis on Shia-Shia conflict seems an academic distortion, going for the unusual angle. But that's nothing compared to this unattributed whopper:
Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation of the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra last week, in which he blamed Zionists rather than Sunnis, could be seen as an act of restraint, these experts say — an effort to play to Shiite anger without fanning flames between Iraq's Islamic communities.
Now this is such an unspeakably stupid analysis of what Iran is up to that it could only come from a high Bush administration official. I'm quite serious. Another clue it's from a Bushite is its sense of loony "accentuate the positive" thinking. And indeed, the context gives a pretty clear clue where this idiocy probably came from. Backing up one paragraph we read:
While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proclaimed that the world has isolated Iran more than ever because of its nuclear ambitions, Iran has in fact tightened relationships with it local allies as events in Iraq have played out. In recent months, Iran has been deepening its alliance with Syria and the Shiite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now it appears ready to strike up a friendship, backed by financing, with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation ...
Am I saying Condoleeza Rice is the moron who sees hope in Iran's anti-Zionism/semitism? No, not exactly. But anyone who is making the fundamental error Rice is making - focusing on Iran's "world" isolation while downplaying its strengthening of regional ties, including to Hamas - is quite capable of misconstruing Ahmadinejad's remarks to mean Iran is not doing whatever it can to grasp as much purchase within Iraq as possible. And if it came to a war that led to Iraq's total disintegration, it is unclear what Iran stands to lose.

The article also floats the idea of a negotiated breakup of Iraq into three states. Good luck. Who gets the oil regions, boys and girls? Who gets the desert? And who moves? And who sez Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are just gonna twiddle their fingers and not interfere?

There is much more interesting speculation and detail about how truly incredibly complex the mess in Iraq is, and how few alternatives exist that won't quickly lead to disaster for the people of the region, and the people of the United States. Will Turkey invade to defend the Turkomen against oppression if Iraq's Kurds officially set up on their own? Will the Arab League step in to intervene? And looming above it all are nukes. Iranian nukes coming soon. Potential Sunni Arab nukes depending on how the situation worsens (calling Dr. A. Q. Khan!).

So, Mr. Tom Friedman, are you enjoying the real live political experiment now? So, Mr. George Packer, still think that those of us who absolutely knew Bush/Iraq would open the gates of hell have "second-rate minds?"

Hey, y'never know! Maybe Ahmadinejad really was sending a signal that Iran wasn't interested in an Iraq civil war when he blamed Zionists - Israel -for the attack. True, that could be because he wants to attack Israel first, but at least it's not supporting civil war in Iraq!

Yes, it's possible. And maybe there really is a Bigfoot. And maybe tomorrow, cold fusion will work and, as Woody Allen predicted in Sleeper, cigarette smoking will turn out to improve your health and longevity. You never know...

*I am no expert on the Middle East. Why am I so confident many of the "expert opinions" in this article are naive? Here goes:

To be deemed an expert on the Middle East, one would assume that the prerequisite would be fluency in several dialects of Arabic, fluency in Persian, fluency in Hebrew, and considerable time spent living and working in the Middle East. But one would be wrong. Most American "experts" in the public domain -there are real experts in universities, I assume - know one of those languages. At best, two. Many can't read or speak any of them, and rely on assistants and clipping services for information on Middle Eastern press and mass media. Incredibly, language fluency is still considered not a requirement for marketing yourself as a pundit whose specialty is the Middle East. And many people defend this.

In my book, there's a word to describe anyone who claims expertise in Middle Eastern affairs who can't read Iranian or Iraqi newspapers, or needs a translator to understand al Jazeera, or whose experience of the region is limited to a guided tour of the pyramids or an overnight stay at the King David Hotel: phony.

Simple commonsense tells me that Iran stands to gain quite a bit from Iraq's disintegration and stands to lose little even if there is furious intra-Shia civil war in Iraq. Simple commonsense tells me that when Iran sends a message to the world that Zionists destroyed the Shiite shrine, they are clearly trying to unify Muslims against a common enemy - Israel - and they are not saying anything, one way or the other, about the desirability of Iraqi civil war. Commonsense also tells me that when Iran's president sends a message to the world, that message is intended primarily for Muslims and that US analysts make a fundamental error when it assumes "the world" means us.

I'll gladly defer to genuine expert opinion on any of this, but I doubt that any seriously real scholar would make assertions like the silly ones cited above. Pollack's sense that Shias would endure "special pain" in a civil war is vacuous and dishonest, used only to hype his superior knowledge of the complexities, but shows not a trace of any superior understanding. For one thing, "speical pain" is empirically unverifiable. Furthermore, his argument is naive in its assumption that a Shia/Sunni strife can never get bloody enough to meet most standards for what is meant by the term "civil war."I'm afraid we are seeing Pollack proved wrong on a daily basis right now.

As for the anonymous misconstrual of Iran's remarks, that is less naive than it is delusional.