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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Oh Hell

American military police yesterday raided a building belonging to the Iraqi ministry of the interior where prisoners were allegedly being physically abused by Iraqi interrogators.

The raid appeared to be a violation of the country's new sovereignty, leading to angry scenes inside the ministry between Iraqi policemen and US soldiers.


Iraqi ministry of interior officials admitted that around 150 prisoners taken during a raid four days before in the Betawain district of Baghdad had been physically abused during their arrest and subsequent questioning.

The men were captured in the first big Iraqi-led anti-crime and anti-terrorism operation, which took place a few days before the transfer of power, with US military police in support and using US satellite images.

Senior Iraqi officers described those captured as 'first class murderers, kidnappers and terrorists with links to al-Ansar' - a militant group in the former Kurdish no-fly zone - who had all admitted to 'at least 20 crimes while being questioned'.


US military spokesmen would not comment. "We can't confirm that this took place," a spokesman said.

One of the prisoners bared his back after his initial arrest to reveal open welts allegedly caused by baton and rubber hoses.

A bodyguard for the head of criminal intelligence, Hussein Kamal, admitted that the beatings had taken place.

Nashwan Ali - who said his nickname was Big Man - said: "A US MP asked me this morning what police division I was in. I said I was in criminal intelligence.

"The American asked me why we had beaten the prisoners. I said we beat the prisoners because they are all bad people. But I told him we didn't strip them naked, photograph them or fuck them like you did."

We sure could use a big ole whiff 'o that moral clarity right about now.

The secret history of Anonymous:

The author of Imperial Hubris is unmasked and says he fears for his job at the CIA, not for his life at the hands of Al Qaeda

A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all — and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix’s view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant — a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous’s name in both intelligence and journalistic circles.

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix last week, Anonymous declined to do either, and said, "I’ve given my word I’m not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word." His publisher, Brassey’s, likewise declined to comment. Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer — and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics.

Religiosity Gap

I'm in a bit of a mood today, so why don't I take on the religion issue while I'm at it and piss off everybody I haven't pissed off already?

Atrios takes umbrage with this Slate article that claims Kerry isn't acting Catholic enough and, therefore, will lose the religious vote and the election. The author says, "if Kerry's uncomfortable with religion then he's uncomfortable with Americans...If Kerry's really secular, he's abnormal." He quotes an anonymous Kerry aide telling the Washington Times,"Every time something with religious language got sent up the flagpole, it got sent back down, stripped of religious language."

Uh huh. Certainly, anxious Democrats who anonymously talk to the Washington Times must be telling it just like it is.

This comes on the heels of an earlier article by Amy Sullivan chastising Kerry for not using values language and imagery and thereby alienating religious voters who might vote for him. In the course of her article, and this one in Slate today, it becomes clear that an even more significant problem for the religious left than John Kerry's alleged lack of religiosity, is the aggressive secularism of the activist base of the Democratic party. They are rude to religious people, evidently, and this is seen as a serious threat to Kerry's chances. (Both articles, by the way, mention how David Brooks really "gets it" in this NY Times column. Now, come on kids. David may be a nice guy, but he is not giving the Kerry campaign political advice out of the goodness of his heart. Think about it.)

Before we go any further, we should look at some actual data instead of relying on anecdotal tales of hurt feelings or bad communications. Ruy Tuxeira of Donkey Rising posted on this subject a month or so ago and reported some interesting numbers on the subject:

*Most progressives are religious. For example, in 2000, 81 percent of Gore voters professed a religious affiliation. That’s within shouting distance of the 89 percent of Bush voters who professed a religious affiliation (2000 National Study of Religion and Politics [NSRP]).

*It is true that progressives attend church less than conservatives. In the 2000 VNS exit poll, 33 percent of Gore voters said they attended church once a week or more, compared to 49 percent of Bush voters who said they attended church that often...

But the whole US population is trending toward less observance, not more. For example, in surveys taken over the last thirty years, it is the ranks of those who never or rarely attend church that have grown the most. According to a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study, those who said they never attended church or attended less than once a year went from 18 percent in 1972 to 30 percent in 1998. Confirming this latter figure, the National Election Study found that those who say they never attended was at 33 percent of the citizenry and 27 percent of voters in 2000. That is a group about twice the size of those who identify themselves as members of the religious right, and it is a group that has tended to vigorously support Democrats rather than Republicans.

Indeed, according to the NORC study, if you add to the 30 percent mentioned above those who say they attend church only once or a few times a year, it turns out that about half the US population attends church only a few times a year or less.

* In the 2000 VNS exit poll, it was widely noted that Bush won the support of voters who say they attend church more than weekly by 63 to 36 and voters who say they attend church weekly by 57 to 40 . And these voters make up 43 percent of the electorate. But even according to these unusually high VNS figures, the more observant groups were only a bit over two-fifths of the electorate. Each of the groups in the less observant three-fifths of voters those who said they attended church a few times a month, a few times a year or never--preferred Gore over Bush, with support particularly strong among never-attenders, who gave Gore a 61 to 32 percent margin.


* Conservatives and the GOP have made aggressive efforts to target Catholics. But there is no evidence that this targeting is actually working. "Traditional" Catholics, to be sure, are strongly supporting Bush (60-30), according to the 2004 NSRP data. But they are only 27 percent of all Catholics. The rest of Catholics -- 73 percent -- are supporting Kerry. The includes the "modernist" group (31 percent of Catholics) who support Kerry by a lop-sided 61-33 and the "centrist" Catholics -- who are both the largest (42 percent) Catholic group and the real swing group among Catholics -- who support him by 45-41.

More broadly, there is little evidence that centrist and modernist Catholics, which is the overwhelming majority of Catholics -- including among Hispanics -- are likely to vote the conservative social positions of the Catholic church on issues like abortion or gay marriage. That is what the GOP has been banking on, but it is highly unlikely to happen. Polling data suggest strongly that these Catholics are far more concerned and moved electorally by other issues, such as the economy, education, health care and so on.

There is also quite a large school of thought that even among those who report regular churchgoing that they "overrepresent," due to social expectations and other pressures. In other words, they lie about how often they go to church. Furthermore, when pollsters ask about religion in specific terms it often turns out that people consider themselves very religious simply because they believe in God, or a Higher Power which actually falls under the secular category, not the religious category. In other words, the idea that there exists a huge monolithic number of highly religious Americans who will reject anyone who isn't explicitly appealing to them in religious terms is probably a crock. Indeed, with the exception of those who "claim" to attend church once a week or more, the Democrats consistently pull even with the Republicans.

As it turns out even that gap has narrowed significantly in this cycle. The religion gap is highly overstated even among the super observant. According to the Pew Research Poll quoted by Tuxeira:

Another intriguing finding is an apparent narrowing of the "religiosity gap"--that is, the tendency for those who attend church more often to vote Republican with far greater frequency than those who attend less often. According to the Pew data, the gap in Bush support between those who say they attend church every week and those who attend seldom or never is now 14 points, compared to 27 points in the 2000 VNS exit poll.

There's more here on the fact that Kerry is doing fine with Catholics.

So, what is this all about? Why are we having yet another interparty argument over something that isn't even particularly relevant to our electoral chances?

Here's the thing. This insistence that Democrats are disrespectful to religion is another one of those GOP propaganda ploys that we Democrats keep falling for. They have always claimed that we are godless heathens since back in the McCarthy era --- of course, then it was godless communists. Nobody has ever believed it and from the polling, it doesn't look like they do now. They have their bloc of extremely conservative Christians, but we have no hope of getting those votes even if we have Kerry wear a crown of thorns and flay himself on Meet The Press.

Besides, the entire argument validates this insulting notion that only very religious people can be elected to office in this country. In the Slate article, the author calls this new religious test "shorthand" for character. I think that's exactly the association the Republicans want you to make.

All this infighting is, once again, playing into established GOP talking points to our own detriment. It simply is not true. Democrats are as religiously observant as Republicans and with the exception of the fundamentalists and extreme Christian conservatives, religious people vote with the Democrats as much as with the Republicans. (If we are going for Christian Right votes then might I suggest that we also adopt some racist rhetoric and promise to cut taxes for the rich. Those votes are ours for the taking.)

There has long been tension between the secularists and the religious in this country, but interestingly they have both fared well when they worked together to maintain the separation of church and state --- as when the evangelicals and the secularists (which includes Deists) worked together to ensure the inclusion of the establishment clause in the bill of rights. (At that time evangelicals were a minority religion and in grave danger of being outlawed.) If one were to ask American Muslims and Buddhists today if they felt comfortable with all the religious talk in politics, I would imagine they'd say no. It's all in where you're sitting at the table, isn't it?

I think it's probably true that a lot of non-believers are rude about religion. But people need to grow up about this. The self righteousness of the religious believer has always inspired a certain, shall we say, ascerbic response. You want rude, I'll give you rude --- from two quintessential All-American boys:

"There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is - in our country particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree - it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime- the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt."
Mark Twain

"Science, testing absolutely all thoughts, all works, has already burst well upon the world --- a sun, mounting, most illuminating, most glorious, surely never again to set. But against it, deeply entrench'd, holding possession, yet remains (not only through the churches and schools, but by imaginative literature, and unregenerate poetry) the fossil theology of the mythic-materialistic, superstitious, untaught and credulous fable-loving, primitive ages of humanity." Walt Whitman


So, let's be clear, here. Secularism is most definitely not abnormal. It never has been and it isn't now. It is as American as apple pie and we will take our slice of the body politic, thank you.

Shaun at Upper Left has some instructive comments on this topic, as well.

Update: For an inspiring look at the good people of the religious left, check out this interview with the head of the National Council of Churches by my American Street colleague, Chuck Currie. I'm happy to be on the same political side as this man.

Credibility Gap

The Political Animal takes bloggers to task for being too hard on the liberal hawks and neocons who are now having second thought about the war. He says we should warmly embrace them to our side. Since I just wrote about this last night, I feel I should answer that complaint.

First of all, it would be a lot easier if they didn't feel it was necessary to insult the millions of people who did make the right call while they are expressing their regrets. That indicates to me that they are not very likely to pay any heed to those voices in the future. But, that's not the real problem.

In order to truly understand what went wrong with this war, you have to look at what was being said and what was being heard before we went into it. I'm not seeing a lot of that from the Mea Culpa singers. Peter Beinert (with whom I regrettably proved Kevin's point by being deliberately snarky) was one of the few to actually examined his prejudices and preconceptions as a way of explaining why he came to the conclusions he did. As far as I know, he is the only one to do that. All the others are based upon misplaced trust in the administration and a shock that they could have been so dishonest/incompetent/incoherent. They have not grappled with the fact that they chose to ignore plenty of evidence prior to the invasion that should have tipped them off. I can think of a handful right off the top of my head, and I'm sure there are plenty more:

First and foremost was the fact that the primary forces agitating for the Iraq invasion had been agitating for it long before 9/11 and for entirely different reasons than those stated at the time. Indeed, those same forces had completely missed the threat of assymetrical terrorism as it grew up in the 90's and essentially just piggy backed their pre-existing goals onto the terrorist threat after the attacks. This was evident even then --- long before Richard Clarke started publicly talking about people's hair on fire. There were people shouting into the wilderness about this absurd neocon notion of the Pax Americana and nobody was listening. There were those who noticed that belligerant unilateralism and the "preemption doctrine" which was supposedly in response to the attacks ("9/11 changed everything") were, in fact, pillars of the neocon philosophy going back to the 70's and had been heavily pushed since the end of the cold war. Someone might have asked if these beliefs were actually relevant or adequate to an entirely new threat paradigm.

Another obvious tip off was our abandonment of Afghanistan. There we had the heart of al Qaeda in our grasp and a democratic revolution and billions of dollars in reconstruction promised and yet once the war drums began pounding for Iraq, we dropped it all like a hot potato. A small, experimental version of the Iraq Democracy Project unfolded in real time, failed spectacularly and nobody noticed.

The fact that the US impeded the inspections process should have made people wonder about our true motives. Saddam let in the inspectors and they reported that he was being quite cooperative (by historical standards) and that they weren't finding anything. Under those circumstances, the US refusing to give the locations of WMD to the inspectors to investigate should have set off some alarm bells.

Powell's presentation to the UN was lame even before 99% of had been disproved. It was thin gruel to anyone who hadn't already made up their mind that we were marching off to war, come what may. The whole thing was based upon his personal reputation and credibility. Big mistake and one that people should really think about going forward. This "trust us" business has been shown (as throughout history)to be a fools game.

The administration refused to discuss the potential costs of the war and publicly argued with the uniformed services about the necessary troop levels. This should have raised eyebrows. There were plenty of people who thought this was odd and questioned whether the administration knew what it was doing. The hawks didn't take these opinions into account.

Most importantly, there were those like Wes Clark and others who warned that invading Iraq would exacerbate the terrorist threat and that we were making a grave mistake in not concentrating everything we had on al Qaeda. If the decision for war had been at all thoughtful on the hawk side there would have been a long and detailed debate about it because this wasn't a hawk vs dove argument, it was a hawk vs hawk argument. That so many refused to listen even to their own kind on such a matter of huge importance to the security of the country is probably the biggest sin they committed.

As I wrote earlier, I think this invasion was mostly an emotional response to the attacks. And I would be remiss if I didn't chide the prime mover behind the hysteria (aside from the admnistration, of course) which was the media. (Unbelievably, it was this hysteria that bush blamed for the flat economy a few months ago. Chutzpah, thy name is Junior)

9/11 was the story of a lifetime. It made overnight stars out of nobodies and gave huge amounts of face time to journalists. Indeed, it glamorized them in a way that hadn't been seen since the days of Woodward and Bernstein. In the run up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration made the smartest decision they've made in their entire administration. The media were already primed for "9/11: The Invasion of Iraq" but as the administration made its case for war, they simultaneously began the process of training the reporters for their embedded assignments. They sent them to "camp" and brought them into their confidence and gave them a personal stake in the outcome of the war debate. (Read all about it, right here.) Imagine the disappointment if they'd had to turn in their khaki safari jackets and go back to reporting dull stories about medicare.

Many in the media itself admitted at the time that they were quite shocked at the numbers of people showing up to protest the war around the world. They didn't even cover the story in the beginning. Yet, the polls consistently showed a large number of people even here in the US who were against the invasion and many more who wanted the administration to go much more slowly. This story was virtually ignored, and when it was covered, it was as if it was some sort of a sideshow.(Read this condescending piece of garbage, if you need a reminder --- it's about 3/4 of the way into the transcript.) From the moment the drums began in the summer of 2002 --- certainly from the time that Cheney made his speech in late August --- the war was treated as an inevitability by the media.

I realize how difficult it was to swim against that tide. It was exciting and difficult to resist, even for people like me. We were living history. But, at some point you had to step back and look at the magnitude of what we were contemplating --- particularly the huge step away from our post war consensus against wars of aggression --- and see that this thing was being rushed into production without adequate debate or planning. Saddam had been sitting there for a long, long time. There was no reason to believe that he couldn't have sat there for a few more months until we exhausted all other options. The fact that Bush and Cheney refused to do that should have been the deal breaker.

It's never easy to admit you were wrong. But, it is almost more important to realize why you were wrong than to admit it in the first place. If we could all wait to see how things turn out and then just say "whoops, sorry" and all would be well, then life would be pretty easy.

The fact is that the liberal hawks, especially, made the invasion palatable and acceptable to many people who trusted them. That is a heavy burden. I'm glad they've seen their error, but it doesn't mean we're on the same team, as Kevin seems to think. So far, I've seen little reason to believe they won't do exactly the same thing again if their blood gets up and they decide the opposition consists of people they don't wish to be associated with. I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Waddo We Do Now???

Detainees May Be Moved Off Cuba Base

As attorneys for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began preparing the first of hundreds of expected lawsuits demanding that the government justify the detentions, senior administration officials acknowledged that they were unprepared for a rebuke in two landmark Supreme Court decisions that rejected the military's treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism.


"They didn't really have a specific plan for what to do, case-by-case, if we lost," a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity. "The Justice Department didn't have a plan. State didn't have a plan. This wasn't a unilateral mistake on DOD's part. It's astounding to me that these cases have been pending for so long and nobody came up with a contingency plan."

Apparently, this was because they were convinced they were going to win.

An internal Justice Department memo reviewed Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times outlining communications plans in response to high court rulings on the issue listed two pages of talking points to be used "in case of win," and a page of talking points to be used "in case of win if some sort of process is required" -- a partial victory. Yet, there was no category for action in the event of a broad defeat in the memo, titled "Supreme Court Decision Communications Plan."

Few lawyers inside or outside the government doubted that the high court would allow the government the right to detain combatants during wartime, as has been allowed in every major war for two centuries. That option was upheld.

But the memo wrongly predicted an outright win in the case Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, involving Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Louisiana-born man of Saudi descent captured in Afghanistan.

"The DOD/DOJ position on the detention of Hamdi will be decided in our favor as a clear-cut POW case," the memo said, although Hamdi was not held as a prisoner of war.

The memo predicted a 5-4 vote in favor of the government in Rasul vs. Bush and Al Odah vs. United States. Justices in that case, involving 16 Guantanamo detainees seized in Afghanistan and Pakistan, found in the reverse, voting 6-3 that military prisoners who are not U.S. citizens cannot be held without access to American courts.

I'm not enough of a court watcher to decipher why they thought this when virtually everything I read in the last month indicated that the court was very likely to rule against the administration. (I do wonder what, if anything, this all has to do with Ted "Nasty, Brutish and Short" Olsen's somewhat unexpected departure.)

Faith based justice sure isn't what it used to be, is it?

Bush Urges All Autocrats to Yield Now to Democracy

Or Else.

The Mea Culpa Singers

If I might just add to Tim's great post at the road to surfdom as well as DeLong's here and Atrios's ongoing frustration with the sorry warhawks' excuses, I have to agree that this sad complaint that nobody could have known the Bushies would screw up Iraq this badly is total bullshit.

I am no psychic and I have no special insight that others don't have. Yet somehow, I was able to see that the Bush administration was very likely to screw this up badly and so were millions of other people. (For one thing, at the time we were going into Iraq the abdication of our responsibilities in Afghanistan was already well under way.)

Back in my pre-blogging days, on the night the Senate passed the Iraq resolution Atrios published this:

Digby says, in Matthew Yglesias's comments, in response to Yglesias saying "But if I don't get what I want and it does come to war, you won't see me out on the streets rallying for a Hussein victory either":

I don't think the pro-Saddam rally will be well attended.

But, there will be prayer vigils and sleepless nights on the part of those of us who hope that this incompetent administration doesn't fuck it up so much that all hell breaks loose in the region, including the real possibility of nuclear war and many american and arab casualties. And we'll be wishing fervently that terrorism on US soil doesn't become something we'll have to learn to live with because we just can't seem to kill all the people who hate our guts and multiply exponentially with every aggressive action that we take. And we'll sure hope that we can get some cooperation from the unstable regimes that finance them without having to invade and depose their leaders, too.

And, if everything works out, let's keep our fingers crossed that we can turn the mideast into a democratic paradise quickly because judging from our experience in Afghanistan, our President meant it when he said he "wasn't into nation building." We really don't need to fight this war again.

And I know that a lot of us will probably get together around the dinner table and water coolers to talk about the enormous sums of money remaking the mideast is costing and will continue to cost for years to come, while we worry about whether we'll have jobs or health care or a chance of a comfortable retirement.

So, rather than attending pro-Saddam rallies, people who are against this war being waged by someone in whom they have no faith will be instead gathering together to fervently pray that his adventure goes perfectly every step of the way.

Those prayers were far from answered. In fact, I would say that my fears were downright prescient, including the ongoing and completely unresolved threat of terrorists and Islamic states with nuclear capability.

It wasn't just me. Look at these poll results from that same week:

The public overwhelmingly wants to get the United Nations' weapons inspectors back into Iraq and allied support before taking any military action. Americans also want a congressional vote before acting - and think members of Congress should be asking more questions about the implications of war with Iraq.

Americans are concerned about the wider implications of war with Iraq. They believe such a war will result in a long and costly military involvement; they believe it will lead to a wider war in the Middle East with other Arab nations and Israel; and that it could further undermine the U.S. economy.

Americans are also cool to the doctrine of pre-emption. They believe countries should not be able to attack each other unless attacked first - and less than half of Americans think the U.S., in particular, has the right to make pre-emptive strikes against nations it thinks may attack in the future.

This was just a year after 9/11. The public was far from convinced that Bush was doing the right thing. The press and the punditocrisy, on the other hand, just kept pushing and pushing and creating this sense of inevitablility about the war --- much of it promoted by these hawks, both liberal and neocon, who insisted that we had no choice but to invade Iraq at the earliest possible time.

There really is no excuse but war fever. People chose to support that war, not because there was good evidence backing up the need for urgency. Indeed, there was plenty of evidence that we should be very cautious before we opened a front in the WOT right in the middle of the muslim holy land. But, the blood was pumping --- people wanted a fight and the media wanted a show.

It's really that simple. There was never any truly compelling reason to take on Saddam at just that moment and it didn't take a genius (I'm certainly not one) to predict that Bush would make a hash out of it. I am tired of reading these mea culpas that are filled with invective toward those of us who were correct in our assessment of the motives and the competence of the administration. We weren't a bunch of starry eyed hippies sitting around singing kumbaya --- there was ample evidence and analysis that they simply chose to ignore.

In fact, it was the the neocons and the liberal hawks who decided that democracy is a matter of faith rather than reason and believed that if they just wanted it hard enough it would magically happen. The naive kumbaya chorus wasn't on our side. It was the AEI and New Republic "Up With Democracy" singers who were the fools.

What Gaul:

U.S. President George W. Bush has repeated a call for the European Union to admit Turkey, despite criticism by France's President Jacques Chirac that he was meddling in EU affairs. Bush said Tuesday that Turkey belongs in the EU and that Europe is 'not the exclusive club of a single religion' in what amounted to a rebuff to the French leader.


He said that Turkish EU membership would be a "crucial advance" in relations between the Muslim world and the West because Turkey was part of both.

The main message in the U.S. President's speech was a bid to mend relations between Muslims and Americans that were left tattered by the Iraq war.

"We must strengthen the ties and trust and good will between ourselves and the peoples of the Middle East," he said.

Bush held up Turkey as an example of a Muslim democracy.

"Including Turkey in the EU would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion, and it would expose the 'clash of civilizations' as a passing myth of history," Bush said.

Somebody needs to get Bush's people some time off because they obviously can't take the stress. Publicly lecturing Europe about religious pluralism is about as obnoxious as an American president can get. And to use Europe as his whipping boy to mend fences with muslims (a totally incomprehensible strategy) is to basically say, "those Europeans make much better targets than we do, Osama. They hate yer muslim guts. Have at it."

Who the hell do these people think they are? It's not that we have no right to politely advocate for Turkey being admitted into the EU if we choose. It's that we don't do it by publicly insulting the EU for our own purposes. Where did these people learn their manners, Attica?

Chirac was, unsurprisingly, pissed:

"If President Bush really said that in the way that I read, then not only did he go too far, but he went into territory that isn't his," Chirac said of a remark Bush made over the weekend.

"It is is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico.

Oh, we won't mind. That's what we call the new "go fuck yourself" diplomacy. You'll feel better, too.

Action, Reaction

Yglesias finds another dead fish wrapped in The Weakly Standard today. Apparently, we liberals had better get control of those violent thugs over at Move-On because the conservatives just can't be responsible for what might happen if somebody "not so nice" came into power and felt like he had to teach us a lesson. (Matt takes them down quite handily.)

But, the article is also interesting for another reason. Here's the passage that Matt highlights:

You can file the of Mussolini's rise under "H" for Hegel, the idea that extreme movements always beget extreme counter forces. It was the far left, by relentlessly chipping away at the foundations of Italian life, that gave birth and power to the far right--as it did a decade on when Hitler rode nearly the same path under similar circumstances.

This is what seems most pertinent today, as "activist" groups like Moveon.org and demagogues like Michael Moore and angry men like Al Gore and George Soros rail so irrationally against both the president (comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini in a variety of contexts) and the structures of daily American life, including the legally adjudicated Supreme Court decision that ultimately decided the 43rd presidency in advance of a tedious recount that would've yielded the same outcome.

... Either this November or in four years, George W. Bush is going to be turned out of office; even the judge agrees with that. Someday, though, a populace provoked by the left's constant fire-breathing may look for a dragon slayer who won't go quite so easily.

Once again, we see the right's blindness to its own actions over the last 15 years. I don't disagree with their analysis of what contributed to the rise of fascism. The left was extreme and led to a counter response in equally radical terms. Ye olde pendulum swing.

They are perfectly right that the same exact thing may very well be happening here. But, apparently it doesn't occur to these believers in civil discourse that their eliminationist right wing rhetoric of the last decade and a half --- and a president who literally tells us to go fuck ourselves --- is what has spawned this reaction from the left. (Not that I agree that Moore or Move-On say anything close to even a normal day's Limbaugh/Savage blather, but in the interest of making my point I will stipulate that the left is mighty riled up.) They believe they've just been sitting around being polite and restrained and out of the blue the left has come out swinging.

This after we moved the party way to the center, gave them a successful moderate republican president for two terms who they then impeached and after they completely disregarded the disputed election returns and governed as if they had a mandate. I mean, I know we Democrats are the mommy party and all, but push mommy far enough and she becomes a screaming bitch on wheels. What did they expect?

Republicans seem to have a very serious problem seeing themselves as they appear to others. Perhaps this might give a clue to how we reached the point where liberals are fighting back with everything we have.

Language: A Key Mechanism of Control

Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."

That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.


Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

abuse of power
anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
"compassion" is not enough
criminal rights
failure (fail)
permissive attitude
punish (poor ...)
red tape
status quo
urgent (cy)

Duck. The pendulum's about to hit you in the face, assholes.

It's Ring, you Moron

I hate to be pedantic, but this "let freedom reign" thing bugs the hell out of me.

The common phrase is "let freedom ring" not "let freedom reign."

A Google search turns up 2,090 references to "let freedom reign" one of the top links coming from a white supremacy web site called "Panzerfaust Records" that features a bunch of racist lyrics. "My Country Tis of Thee" is not amongst them, as you might imagine.

On the other hand, "let freedom ring" turns up 72,700 references, number one being Sean Hannity's dull as dishwater anti-liberal screed. (You'd think he'd be pissed that he lost the opportunity for such a nice cross-promotion.)

Of course, aside from the song lyric that every American schoolchild learns when he or she is about six years old, ("....from eh-everee-eey mountainside... le-et freedom ring,") we have one of the most moving speeches ever made by anyone, anywhere, which is Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech:

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Now that would have been worth evoking in the moment that Iraq was allegedly given back its sovereignty. Instead, our illiterate president, or an illiterate member of his staff, evoked a phrase that sort of sounds like that one, but isn't. Just like everything else with this godforsaken war, they screwed it up --- even down to the note Junior wrote for posterity.

You Aren't My Friend

Apparently, some of Rush's callers weren't all that happy about Big Time's new "if it feels good, go fuck yourself" philosophy. They think it might not be the best message to send to their kids.

Rush tried to explain it but wasn't quite coherent because the drugs do tend to make you hallucinate. In his case, he had a vision that the Democrats were actually Republicans. It's very interesting:

RUSH: ...Look, I just want to say. I'm going to repeat what I said at the beginning of the program when I talked about this because I think there's a bit of a double standard here when people are expressing outrage about this. Don't misunderstand. I am not for the word becoming part of the common, everyday vernacular, but it still is. You cannot turn on television today without hearing the word. You cannot go to the movies without hearing the word -- unless you go to a kids' movie, a G movie -- and it is what it is and we can sit here and lament it and wring our hands all we want.

What we can do is have our own private conduct of standards and abide by them with our friends and people that we deal with and refuse to fall prey and join those in the gutter who are using the word in a guttural sense. I don't think Cheney was using it in a guttural sense.

The point to me is this. The Democrats have wanted it two ways, both ways for the longest time. They want to be perceived by the vast majority of people as decent and calm and refined, and they're the ones who have all the compassion and care. They're out there every day, Senator Leahy among them, accusing Vice President Cheney of corruption, of actually getting Halliburton a gig in Iraq for his own personal gain. They are claiming that he and Bush started this war -- when it wasn'necessary -- for their own personal gain, that they are in cahoots with all of this prison abuse, doing it personally because that's a kind of people they are. They are saying some of the most...

What is being said about Bush and Cheney by people like Senator Leahy from committees, on television, is far worse than Cheney using the F-word back to Leahy, because these people are into character and personal assassination.These people are trying to destroy George W. Bush, his reputation and his life, just as they are trying to do Vice President Cheney's.

(Creepy, isn't it? One of the most unpleasant characteristics of the modern Republican bully is his overarching sense of victimization. Combined with this very, very sick projection problem, you can see why he needs the little blue babies.)

Now, all you children out there listen up. This is how the grown-up Republicans behave:

Yet when Cheney shows up at the Senate, here's Pat Leahy who wants to be all buddy-buddy and put his arm around him and get in the photo-op and act like they're good buds, and Cheney -- and this has been going on for far too long -- and Cheney finally said F-you. You aren't my friend.

What he was saying: You're not my friend; I don't want you in my company, and I'm not going to smile when I'm around you, because you don't deserve my friendship. You haven't earned my friendship. You are my enemy, and I'm not going to come here and put on a show, phony baloney show, that says like you and that we are convivial and that we are colleagues and all we do is disagree in the daytime but at night we go out and have a beer. F-you. I don't want to have a beer with you. I don't want to be anywhere near you. I don't like you. You do not deserve my friendship, and don't act like we're friends here. Point made.

Amen. Hubba hubba. Home run, exclamation point. It's about time this started happening because the Democrats are getting away with this two-faced behavior of theirs for way, way, way too many years.

That's what they mean when they say they are "changing the tone," kids. If Democrats say something bad about Republicans, they are bad. If Republicans something bad about Democrats, they are telling the truth. If Democrats have disagreements with you but still try to be friendly, they are being two-faced. You should tell them to go fuck themselves. That's what grown-ups call "civility." And you will feel so much better after you do it, too.

If that doesn't work and you still feel bad, try one of these little blue babies. Uncle Rush and Uncle Dick are what we call "Republican role models." We believe that if it feels good, do it. That's what being a grown-up Republican is all about.

Thanks to kevin for the Catch.

More Cuttin' 'n Runnin'

Tristero links to Rhandi Rhodes saying that it is unconscionable that Bremer would cut 'n run while a US marine was still being held by the evul terrists. The troops must be awfully pleased to see their Preznit now behaving as if he no longer has anything to do with what's going on in Iraq. Some support for our boys, eh? Sneak outta town in the dead of night and leave them there to face the music.

Let freedom rain. Or is it, let freedom rein? Let freedom wring? I forget. Condi?

Michael Kinsley's Editorial Page Is In Da House

It's Called Democracy

What gives the government the right to arrest you and imprison you indefinitely without offering a reason or opportunity to appeal? The answer, in the United States, is: Nothing gives the government that right. It is hard to see what is left of American freedom if the government has the authority to make anyone on its soil — citizen or noncitizen — disappear and then rule that no one can do anything about it.

Or so we once thought. But the Bush administration — whose convoluted memos on defining torture now rank with Bill Clinton's definition of sex — says Congress gave it exactly this power. And when was that? Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed a two-line resolution authorizing the use of military force against "nations, organizations or persons" engaged in terrorism. We would like to hear from any member who intended by this vote to repeal the Bill of Rights.


President Bush and his administration say: Look, there's a war on. And anyway, the United States is not some Latin American dictatorship of the 1970s; we can trust our government not to abuse the extraordinary power it claims. But this administration's record of incompetence and callousness does not inspire us to lightly kiss away our constitutional protections.


The whole point of the substantive freedoms and due process guarantees in the Bill of Rights is that freedom should not rest on any government's claims of benevolence. Now that the Guantanamo detainees have been given the right to a hearing, Americans will learn a bit more about what has happened there. As with the abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, it's likely that the more they learn, the less they'll like it.

Read the whole thing. It sizzles.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Cut And Run Administration

Juan Cole reveals what this little transfer of authority pageant is really all about:

This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That's what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let's see if they fall for it.

It's the only thing that makes sense. I will bet real money that we are going to hear Susan's friend Flounder McClellan reply to every question about Iraq, "you'll have to ask the Iraqis about that, Helen. We transferred authority to them back on June 28th so the 35 coordinated car bombs and the beheadings of all members of the justice ministry yesterday will have to be dealt with by the Iraqi authorities. It's their country."

It's likely that the press will fall for this because they think the Iraq story is so, like totally boring. And just as with Afghanistan they will lose interest if they are distracted with a shiny new storyline. Therefore, I propose that Democrats take the gloves off immediately and accuse the Bushies of cutting and running the first time they try this crap.

The transfer is bullshit, of course. We own that place and every problem in it for gawd knows how long. So what? Nothing's going to change that reality no matter what the miserable failure does. We're going to have to clean up his mess.

So I say, make the case that little George is a snivelling coward who is running from his responsibilities (like he has all his life.) Call them the Cut 'n Run Administration. Start asking "Who lost Iraq?" Use their patented baiting techniques against them. Let's see if we can push Cheney and his sock puppet over the edge --- preferably on national TV.

Update: Ask and ye shall receive. Paul Krugman asks, "Who Lost Iraq?"

Studio Games

Via Salon I see that Disney has teamed up with the GOP front group protesting F911.


Disney & Move America Forward
Team Up to Show a Brighter Side of America

(SACRAMENTO) -- Move America Forward is teaming up with Walt Disney Pictures to present an exclusive screening of Disney's 'America's Heart & Soul' on Monday, June 28, 2004 at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, California. The private screening takes place at 1:00 PM and members of the news media are invited to attend. 'Americas Heart & Soul' opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, July 2nd.

Unlike the negative and misleading storyline of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," Disney's "America's Heart & Soul" features a collection of upbeat storylines of real life Americans who pursue their passions in a way that underscores what makes America a great nation.

I feel the need to express just the tiniest bit of skepticism about this little association.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein are two of Disney's most treasured assets, right up there with Minnie and Mickey. I don't know what their deal to buy the rights to F911 was, but I have little doubt that it was a well coordinated and happy acquisition for both sides. Let's just say that Bob and Harvey are masters at creating and then milking a controversy.

Methinks the wingnuts are being played.

Cookies Full Of Arsenic

Alterman says:

How interesting for SCLM fans that the alleged inaccuracies in Moore's movie (which I've not yet seen) appear to be considerably more upsetting to the mainstream than say, those in the president's State of the Union messages, press conferences and requests to Congress for the power to go to war with Iraq.

This isn't all that surprising, really. Mainstream pundits and journalists are creatures of show business more than anything else. Therefore, they are only really personally engaged when popular culture speaks to a topic.

The usual political debates are also part of show business, but they are more akin to sporting events, not straight entertainment, which is what provides that which pundits and journalists truly aspire to --- stardom. They observe and comment on the political sporting events, and sometimes they overtly identify with one team or another. But, for the most part they are personally competitive on the basis of celebrity and clout, not the substance of the debate. (Tim Russert appearing on Don Imus illustrates this point well, I think.)

Michael Moore is a succesful, award winning popular performer who crosses all the boundries of journalism, visual media, politics and fame that they consider their rightful turf. Worse, he takes the their show outside the stultifying environs of Sunday morning gasbaggery into date night at the multiplex. This is very threatening to them.

They are upset with Moore not because of the alleged inaccuracies about Bush and 9/11. Clearly, they do not care about such trifles. They are upset with Moore because he is more famous than they are.

Be sure to read Charles Pierce's review of the film at the same link. It's priceless.

Update: Brad DeLong has posted an incredibly interesting and in-depth analysis on the subject of the mighty presscorps that you all must read. Indeed, there is one passage that I believe makes my small point (much less rudely, of course.)

And by the end of the process of reporter-molding our reporter finds it bizarre and inexplicable that anybody actually cares about the substance of the issues. As one sentence from what Weisman wrote to me put it: "for someone who got the longest quote in my [Glenn] Hubbard profile, you mercilessly slammed me really good..." For Weisman, my annoyance at the fact that Weisman's Glenn Hubbard profile was substantively wrong is inexplicable and bizarre. I should, Weisman thinks, be friendly and grateful to him, for I "got the longest quote" in his article. And what sources really want is to be quoted at length in the Washington Post, right?

The idea that I would want the story to inform Americans about economic policy is simply not on his screen at all.

That's because these people aren't about journalism. They are about the sweet smell of success.

Where Do Those Terrorists Get Their Crazy Ideas?

The Saudi government beheaded 52 men and one woman last year for crimes including murder, homosexuality, armed robbery and drug trafficking. But Saudis say that while Islam condones the punishment in one context, it condemns militants who decapitated hostages here and in Iraq.

Islam permits the death penalty for certain crimes, but few mainstream Muslim scholars and observers believe beheadings are sanctioned by Sharia, or Islamic law.

The Saudi government says the punishment is sanctioned by Islamic tradition. State-ordered beheadings are performed in courtyards outside crowded mosques in major cities after weekly Friday prayer services.

A condemned convict is brought into the courtyard, hands tied, and forced to bow before an executioner, who swings a huge sword amid cries from onlookers of ''Allahu Akbar!'' Arabic for ''God is great.''


The grainy video, on an Islamist website linked to the al-Qaeda terror network, showed Berg being decapitated with a large knife by a group of masked men.

After the killing, shouts of "Allahu akbar" (God is great) are heard and the masked men then hold the head up to the camera. Berg's remains were found on Saturday by US troops along a road near Baghdad.


Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States condemned as “criminal and inhuman” the decapitation in Iraq of American Nicholas Berg.

Speaking in Arabic on Wednesday to the Saudi media in Jiddah, the Saudi summer capital, Prince Bandar said the al-Zarqawi group, which took responsibility for the execution, was “a criminal, deviant and un-Islamic group allied with (Osama) bin Laden and the criminals of al-Qaida.”

Bandar said the group had also killed Muslims and Arabs for no reason.

“It is not out of character for them to commit acts that violate the teachings of Islam, a noble religion that deplores such acts,” Bandar said in response to questions from the Saudi media.

Burn That Weenie

Via Julia, weremensch informs us that when Republicans tell us to eat shit and die, they mean it quite literally:

It is a truth barely appreciated that government not only matters, but it is a matter of life and death that the right people run it. Lest you think that this is hyperbole, mosey on over to the USDA website and read their official release on the safety of deli meats and sausages. Yes, that's right; it is official government policy that ready to eat meat products, hot dogs, and etc are not fit for human consumption unless they are thoroughly cooked again. Listeria can kill you, and the USDA no longer stops companies from shipping products tainted with it.


How did these products get contaminated? By the simple action of allowing animal shit to contaminate the food after it was cooked. Yes, a plant so badly run that this is a reasonable possibility is perfectly acceptable under Bush and the GOP. You see, Reagan and Bush I slashed inspection procedures so badly that such undetected contamination was possible. Under Clinton, a rules change was pushed through (against absolute Republican opposition in Congress) to stop it. Uncooked animal shit was no longer going to be legal in school lunches (one of the main recipients of lunch meats, under a USDA program). Happily for the meat processing companies, the Republicans slowed the process so successfully that Congress was able to kill the new rules outright when Bush II took office (they hadn't been in the Federal Register long enough).

America Inc. Downgraded

Please tell me again why capitalists support Republicans? It has been shown time and again that the markets do better under Democrats. And, it's clear that Democratic administrations create a more broad based recovery from the inevitable downturns, which supports a stable, thriving middle class --- also good for the economy.

And with globalization being an unstoppable force, it's also logical that America's image is important to our ability to conduct business internationally. The most powerful nation on earth behaving like a petulant bully does not inspire confidence:

After 14 years of regular travel to Brazil, Andrew Odell was thunderstruck by what he found there on a trip last month. "I have never run into such a consensus view on US politics," says the contract negotiator and partner at Bryan Cave, a New York law firm. "People condemn the US [for its Middle East policy], and are frightened by the US."


I would say it creates a backlash for everybody in an interdependent world," says Bruce Patton, deputy director of the Harvard Negotiation Project in Cambridge, Mass. "If you're a really big kid and you don't lean over backward not to be coercive, people think you're a bully.... If you get what you want just because you can, they hate you for it."

That's what appears to be happening with America's image abroad. For example, only 15 percent of Indonesians felt somewhat favorable or very favorable toward the US, down from 61 percent a year earlier. The Roper survey of 30,000 people in 30 countries also found declines in non-Muslim countries: Russia, down 25 percentage points; France, down 20 points; Italy, down 10.

"Overseas, they perceive Americans as being aggressive and uncompromising," says Sheida Hodge, managing director of the cross-cultural division for Berlitz International in Princeton, N.J. Ms. Hodge spent the last half of 2003 on the road. "Everywhere I went I heard the same thing: 'Americans want to have their way.' The Japanese tell you; the Chinese tell you; the French tell you.

How that political concern translates to the bottom line is debatable. For the first time since RoperASW began tracking it in 1998, America's declining reputation was beginning to affect the appeal of US brands, its survey found.

The article indicates that the problem is still small and that most overseas consumers have not indicated any hostility to American brands. But, the problem does seem to be growing.

Unbelievably, there are some who believe that the neoconservative unilateralist bullying technique should work in business as well. This one's from Florida --- a Bush supporter, no doubt:

Instead of a softer stance, one emerging school of negotiating calls for tougher tactics. According to this view, the US is losing business because its win-win approach fails overseas.

"So often, especially where culture is used as a barrier, the excuse is that 'Well, it's our culture, so you have to give us something. It's our culture, so in order for you to do business here, you're going to have to compromise,' " says Jim Camp, a negotiating coach in Vero Beach, Fla., and author of the contrarian new book "Start with No."

Mr. Camp, who has worked with nearly 200 public- and private-sector clients, cites a major American supplier to the photographic-instruments industry. The firm ships large, expensive machines abroad to firms that rely on them to operate. That ought to provide some leverage, Camp says, but it doesn't.

"That American supplier has not had one year of profitability in the past nine years," he says. "They've had a win-win mind-set, and they've compromised away their margins of profit." The company, he says, has stayed in business by firing employees and outsourcing jobs.

Camp calls this a widespread syndrome. "It's shocking to me the number of people who won't even ask what the other side requires," he says. "Instead, they'll compromise before they even find out. They'll cut their price trying to get someone to like them.

Was it Deming who said, "negotiating is for pussies?" I can't remember.

I'm sure there is a nugget of truth in what he says. I have no doubt that some American businesses don't negotiate very well. But, the condescending attitude expressed in his comment about culture says it all. He's got the same disease as Cheney and Rumsfeld --- hubris.

I think we have plenty of evidence of how well this negotiating style works from the Republicans in congress. It's the Dick Cheney business model based upon the "go fuck yourself" principle. Very effective. Nothing is better for business than having your partners and customers hate you. After all, if they don't want to buy our crap we'll just invade their countries, kill their leaders and take everything they have. Simple.

Of course, if you aren't in a position to do that, your overseas customers might just decide to do business with a bunch of freedom-fries munchers in Old Europe. Or maybe even those smiling backstabbers in Asia.

But other dealmakers aren't panicked. Experts say that it's still about individual relationships built on mutual respect and trust. And anecdotes suggest that America may still have some goodwill to draw upon


"People can separate what they feel about the current administration's politics from their desire to do a deal," says Keffer.

For now. If the American people validate this administration by sending it back for another four years, those furriners may decide that Americans aren't the kind of people they want to do business with. If we elect politicians who don't honor treaties, agreements and alliances, why should anyone think we'd honor a contract?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

May I Have Some More Please?

Apparently, the NY Times just got its reporters brand new calculators/vanity mirrors because they seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time doing price checks on the Kerry campaign expenditures, barely able to contain their disgust at such conspicuous consumption:

John Kerry may be only a candidate for president, but he and his entourage travel like kings. A month ago, his campaign began chartering a gleaming 757, packed with first-class seats, fine food, sleeping accommodations - even a stand-up bar. They hardly shy away from fancy hotels, like the Four Seasons in Palm Beach and the St. Regis in Los Angeles.

Strangely, they weren't so appalled back in 2000 when the Bush campaign feted them in high style on the Enron jet. In fact, as Bob Sommerby incomparably pointed out, Margaret Carlson wrote in her book that it was the gorging on imported chocolates and expensive entres (as compared to the cold box lunches provided by that lying Philistine Al Gore) that created the positive brown nosing that passed for coverage of candidate Bush:

“There were Dove bars and designer water on demand,” she recalls, “and a bathroom stocked like Martha Stewart’s guest suite. Dinner at seven featured lobster ravioli.”


Gore wanted the snacks to be environmentally and nutritionally correct, but somehow granola bars ended up giving way to Fruit Roll-Ups and the sandwiches came wrapped and looked long past their sell-by date. On a lucky day, someone would remember to buy supermarket doughnuts. By contrast, a typical day of food on Air Bush…consisted of five meals with access to a sixth, if you count grazing at a cocktail bar. Breakfast one was French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon…

Memo to the Kerry campaign. Be sure to throw the animals some of those $36.00 sand dabs. They get much more pliable if you buy them off with expensive food and toiletries. They are, after all, whores.

But, don't kid yourselves. It will undoubtedly do only a tiny bit of good, if that. There's something about the special taste of Republican largesse that really turns them on. Perhaps it's the fact that they are required to take a little spanking with their lobster ravioli. (Imagine the revelry they could have enjoyed if multimillionaire Jack Ryan had ever run for president --- truffles 'n Dove bars 'n handcuffs, oh my! Another dream shattered.)

Whatever it is, don't expect too much from these people. As far as the media are concerned, rich or poor, northern or southern, Democratic candidates are lying, hypocritical scam artists and Republicans are hardworking, salt of the earth He-men. I doubt they are capable of changing that view no matter how much bearnaise sauce they have dripping from their chins.


In Today's LA Times, the new editorial page editor outlines (in devastating terms) The Disaster of Failed Policy:

In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States. This was not a handful of GIs sent to overthrow Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega or to oust a new Marxist government in tiny Grenada. It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."


The current president outlined a far more aggressive policy in a speech to the West Point graduating class in 2002, declaring that in the war on terror "we must take the battle to the enemy" and confront threats before they emerge. The Iraq war was intended as a monument to his new Bush Doctrine, which also posited that the U.S. would take what help was available from allies but would not be held back by them. It now stands as a monument to folly.


Two iconic pictures from Iraq balance the good and the dreadful — the toppling of Hussein's statue and a prisoner crawling on the floor at Abu Ghraib prison with a leash around his neck. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 to a hero's welcome and a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished."

A year later, more than 90% of Iraqis want the U.S. to leave their country. The president boasted in July that if Iraqi resistance fighters thought they could attack U.S. forces, "bring them on." Since then, more than 400 personnel have been killed by hostile fire.


The missteps have been many: listening to Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who insisted that their countrymen would welcome invaders; using too few troops, which led to a continuing crime wave and later to kidnappings and full-blown terror attacks. Disbanding the Iraqi army worsened the nation's unemployment problem and left millions of former soldiers unhappy — men with weapons. Keeping the United Nations at arm's length made it harder to regain assistance when the need was dire.

It will take years for widely felt hostility to ebb, in Iraq and other countries. The consequences of arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into Americans' memory banks.

Preemption is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster. The U.S. needs better intelligence before it acts in the future. It needs to listen to friendly nations. It needs humility.

Please read the whole thing, print it out and give it to anyone who dares tell you that the Empty Codpiece Doctrine should be used as anything but cat box filler.

Welcome To LA, Mr Kinsley.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Magically Delicious

If anyone hasn't seen this utterly humiliating interview between the spoiled little Brat King and Carole Coleman of RTE, here it is. You might want to have a nice soothing glass of fine Irish Whiskey in your hand (I know it's early --- haven't you ever heard of an Irish Coffee?) for the moments when you need a stiff belt to calm yourself when you realize that this major league fuckhead represents you around the world --- and also to toast Ms Coleman for trying to get Bubbleboy to actually answer a question instead of ramble on with some nonsensical blather about freedom and compassion. His Highness doesn't like his incomprehensible gibberish questioned. (And for every time she pisses off the prickly little moron for absolutely no reason, have another.)

It makes you proud to be an American, it does, to see our president act like a fucking, goddamned asshole on international TV. He is rude, thickheaded and childish, insisting that he be allowed to blather his incoherent and totally irrelevant talking points to eat up the clock and then getting mad when the reporter tries to get him to focus on the actual question asked.

Needless to say, they've retaliated for her misbehavior. Via Atrios I see that she has been punished. Our big strong decisive leader is nothing but a pussy.

If anyone would like to let the powers that be know how grateful we are for the heroic journalism practised by Irish television and Carole Coleman, my new idol, here is the e-mail address: newsdesk@rte.ie

You have to let journalists know when you appreciate their bravery in the face of the bullying White House.

Friday, June 25, 2004

You Feel Lucky, Punk?

I'm speechless.

Medicare is planning a lottery later this year for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases. For the 50,000 winners, the government will start helping pay for their medicine, but more than 450,000 others must wait until 2006.


However, the law limits the new program to 50,000 people and $500 million, at least $200 million of which must be spent on cancer drugs. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare recipients without prescription drug coverage are eligible.

"There'll be a lottery to be chosen as one of 50,000 lucky individuals," Thompson said.

Medicare will accept applications for the lottery from July 6 to Sept. 30, and will randomly select 25,000 cancer patients and 25,000 people with the other illnesses.

People who apply by Aug. 16 will be eligible for an early draw, with coverage beginning Sept. 1.

Sorry, honey, you didn't win the big LIFE LOTTERY, brought to you by the Go-Fuck-Yourself Team of Bush and Dick. Try again next time on The Bill Bennett Big Spin. If you live that long.

Of course, you can't blame the Bush administration. We just don't have the money to provide life saving drugs to just everybody, fergawdsake. We have to make some tough choices here. Sacrifice. Tighten our belts. After all, Dick 'n Bush have to scrape up several billion to pay Halliburton to ship fuel to Iraq:

Shortly before the Pentagon awarded a division of oil services contactor Halliburton Co. a sole-source contract to help restore Iraqi oil fields last year, an Army Corps of Engineers official wrote an e-mail saying the award had been "coordinated" with the office of Vice President Cheney, Halliburton's former chief executive.

The March 5, 2003, e-mail, disclosed over the weekend by Time magazine, noted that Douglas Feith, a senior Pentagon official, had signed off on the deal "contingent on informing WH [the White House] tomorrow."

"We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's office," it continued.

Three days later, Halliburton subsidiary KBR was granted the contract, which was worth as much as $7 billion, according to information on the Army Corps of Engineers Web site. The first job under the contract was putting out oil fires. It was later expanded to include shipping fuel to Iraq, which led to Pentagon auditor charges that KBR had overbilled the government.

Sorry little Mikey. Guess it's just not your day. Try to hang until 2006, ok? We'll see if we can get you some chemo then. Here's an aspirin. Drink your kool-aid.

Big Time Meltdown

Why is Cheney losing it? And it's quite clear that he is. For anyone who missed the interview with Gloria Borger, you really have to witness how agitated and nervous he is to appreciate how close to the edge he's walking these days. Overspun has the clip if you missed it (from the Daily Show --- a joy in itself.) He either just downed a quad espresso or there is something wrong with him.

And, of course, there's the now famous "fuck yourself" to Pat Leahy just yesterday.

So, what's going on with Big Time? Anybody have a guess? There are so many crimes and dirty tricks he could charged with at any moment, it's hard to narrow it down.

Here are a couple of ideas. The first is the remote possibility that somebody's put a bug in Lil' Crusader Codpiece's ear saying that Big Time is the reason for all his troubles. (And I don't think it was Joe Biden.) Junior has a nasty temper.

Another possibility is that the Plame investigation is scorching his backside. He was questioned back on June 6, but it had to make him frantic to think that Dim Son was left alone with a smart prosecutor for over an hour yesterday. You can see why he'd be nervous.

Of course, he seemed awfully testy about Halliburton...
And there's the torture and mayhem stuff...
Outright lies about Iraq...
A glimpse of Lynn from the back...

Any of those things could have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Update: Attaturk has a most disturbing theory....

Character Flaw

Yglesias responds to this facile little formula of Max Boot's in which he (Boot) has the dazzling insight that conservatives care about "character" and liberals care about "cleverness."

Boot couldn't even bring himself to phrase it properly. Even if this were true, it would go, "conservatives care about "character" and liberals care about "competence." But, it isn't and Matt explains why:

Or could it be that liberals and conservatives have different conceptions of what good character is. For some reason, some time in the past the country's right wing took a fateful turn for the worse and decide that terms like "morality" and "character" related exclusively to a person's conduct of their sex life. A good person was a person who had conducted himself way with regard to sex, and a bad person was one who did otherwise. A person who cheated on his wife and then, yes, lied about it was immoral. A person who didn't think it mattered whether other people had sex with men or women was a moral relativist. And that was that. In an even worse turn of events, this lingo -- where "x is a moral person" is true if and only if x led a traditional sex life -- got picked up by the mainstream media despite the fact that, as everyone knows, people in the press don't exhibit any sympathy for this fire and brimstone suff in their real lives.

But liberals care about character, too. We think that when a president submits budget after budget after budget based on deception, that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when the purpose of these budgets is to shift the tax burden off the wealthy of today to the poor of tomorrow that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you promise a "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan" and don't deliver that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you de-fund housing vouchers while spending tens of billions on subsidies for large pharmarceutical companies and agribusiness concerns that that demonstrates poor character. And we think that when you launch a war of choice and then grossly mismanage it that that demonstrates, well, poor character. It is immoral -- grossly immoral -- to pursue policies that have made the lives of billions of people around the world worse than they could have been.

The term "character" has been completely bastardized by a bunch of sick old biddies who get their jollies sneaking into other people's bedrooms and then professing shock at all the "perverted" acts they see inside. Which is to say the Republican term "character" is actually a new word for hypocrite. Like TV preachers, they always seem to have issues with the very thing that they so vociferously decry in others. And since sexual morality was the only thing they define as "character", in truth they have no definition of character at all.

As tristero put it so succinctly:

The GOP: home of public sex orgy lovers (Ryan), high-stakes gamblers (Bennett), drug addicts (Limbaugh), adulterers (Gingrich, Hyde), avowed Hitler admirers (Schwarzenegger) and racists (Lott).

(I'd have to put the Governator in the public sex orgy lovers category as well...)

It's pretty obvious that Republicans don't actually care about sexual morality or any other measure of personal character. So, what do they care about? Easy. It's power. All the rest is a sideshow.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Made Man

June 25, 2004

President Bush has decided he needs to choose a new CIA director to replace George J. Tenet before the election, and the leading candidate is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter J. Goss, senior administration officials said yesterday

October 03. 2003

Rep. Porter Goss said Thursday that the uproar over allegations that White House officials purposely identified a covert CIA agent appears largely political and doesn't yet merit an investigation by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which he chairs.

Goss, who was a CIA agent himself from the early 1960s to 1971, said he takes such leaks seriously, but he distinguished between a willful violation of federal law and an inadvertent disclosure.

Goss also said no one from the intelligence agencies has raised the issue with him since syndicated columnist Robert Novak identified the agent in a column July 14.

"I would say there's a much larger dose of partisan politics going on right now than there is worry about national security," said Goss, R-Sanibel. "But I would never take lightly a serious allegation backed up by evidence that there was a willful -- and I emphasize willful, inadvertent is something else -- willful disclosure, and I haven't seen any evidence."

Goss said he would act if he did have evidence of that sort.

"Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation," Goss said.

Flying Parry

I thought everyone would enjoy this Kerry Campaign press release.

Washington, DC – Kerry campaign spokesperson Phil Singer made the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force:

“The Nixon legacy of secrecy is alive and well in the Bush White House. Americans shouldn’t have to rely on court orders to learn what special interest lobbyists are writing White House policies. The President should come clean and make this information public. George Bush and Dick Cheney have forgotten that the White House belongs to America, not Enron, and they owe it to the public to disclose this information."

Bush, Cheney, Nixon and Enron all together in four short declarative sentences. Nice footwork.

Party Like It's 1999

I've been as irritated as everyone else at the ridiculous right wing and media hissy fit over Clinton's book. I too would have thought that in a sane world, after seeing what a truly morally corrupt president could do, that the media at least would have found some perspective. They have not, although just as it was during his term only they and the Clinton haters -- a distinct minority -- seem to feel that Big Bill's lies about his penis amount to a federal case. (And believe me, nobody in the entire country understood what the hell Whitewater was about, and that most definitely includes the media.) What people do understand was that a devious, simpering fop by the name of Ken Starr was the type of guy nobody deserves to have digging around in their underwear.

And Clinton's book is selling like crazy. (Let's give capitalism, the free market and the American Way a big huzzah.) As Larry McMurtry said in the "rebuttal" review the NY Times was shamed into posting on its web site today:

The very press that wanted to discredit him and perhaps even run him out of town instead made him a celebrity, a far more expensive thing than a mere president. Clinton's now up there with Madonna, in the highlands that are even above talent.

Indeed he is. He has transcended politics. He is a superstar.

Over at The American Prospect they asked several of their writers to weigh in on whether Clinton would hurt, help or have no effect on the Kerry campaign. The majority said it would hurt, for a variety of reasons. I suspect that most liberals and Clinton fans, like me, approach the whole thing with a mingling of delight and dread. Delight because we genuinely like the guy and respect his ability (and his willingness to face down the screaming harpies of the right) and dread because it is always so frustrating and infuriating to argue these bullshit issues.

I happen to think it's a net plus for Kerry for reasons I cited earlier. But, the coverage over the past few days --- from the downright embarrassing review by Kakutani in the NY Times to the patently absurd WaPo editorial of a couple of days ago --- serves an entirely new purpose that I hadn't anticipated.

The media, for reasons it would take a battalion of Freud's and Jung's to decipher, is partying like it's 1999. They are gleefully attacking him, reprising all their golden hits about immorality and lying under oath and he's deplorablereprehensiblerevoltingunforgivable blah blah blah.

This benefits Kerry because by beating up on their favorite whipping boy, the neurotic mediawhores can stop feeling unfair and unbalanced for reporting the crimes of the Bush administration. This is no small thing. You could sense that they were getting very nervous about being too rough on the lil' guy and they were beginning to assert their [un]natural proclivity to call for civility whenever Rove signals that the liberals are getting uppity.

Nobody takes the slings and arrows of media hysteria like Clinton. He's right out there now, saying "you want a piece 'o me? Come get me," (and do buy my book while you're at it.) And they are taking the bait. Eviscerating Big Bill means they can rest easily at night knowing that they are fair and balanced if they have to perform unpleasant duties like reporting that the Codpiece is empty.

The good news for us is that Clinton isn't on the ballot, Bush is. I urge the media to beat him up all they want if it makes them feel good about themselves and allows them to resist the need to soften their nascent criticism of the real criminal who's in the White House as we speak.

The Real Deal

I'd like to put in a little plug for my hometown paper the LA Times. Several days ago Robin Abcarian wrote the story that Jodi Wilgoren and Nedra Pickler were too busy taking dictation from Karl Rove to investigate and write about:

Candidates Strive to Overcome Privilege

...Indeed, the lives of both candidates, in broad strokes, paint a classic portrait of American privilege. "These people are definitely in the American hereditary upper class," said Gary Boyd Roberts, a Boston genealogist who has traced Bush's and Kerry's lineages and discovered they are distantly related. (Branches of their family trees cross eight times, said Roberts; at the closest point, they are ninth cousins). They are also descended from medieval kings.

How has privilege played out in their lives? Very differently, as it turns out.

Bush, a true social and political aristocrat, has spent much of his life publicly distancing himself from his patrician roots, while quietly availing himself of family connections. "Privilege completely and utterly defines George Bush," said his biographer, Texas journalist Bill Minutaglio. "I don't think it's pejorative to point that out."

Kerry, whose family glory lies in an illustrious and historic past, has worked energetically to secure his place in the upper reaches of American society, and twice married heiresses. "His parents came from modest wealth," said his biographer, historian Douglas Brinkley. "He was always a little cash-poor for the milieu he was running around in. He's like the F. Scott Fitzgerald figure looking into that world with one foot in and one foot out."

The novelist Christopher Buckley, an acerbic social observer who wrote speeches for Bush's father when he was vice president, said of the two political rivals: "Bush set out to distance himself from the world of Eastern establishmentarian privilege…. The funny thing is that Kerry sort of looks more like the guy who was born with the silver spoon, but economically, his circumstances were far less golden. That's the paradox."

Now that's interesting stuff. It required, you know, research and calling people up and asking them questions instead of regurgitating Republican talking points and hurriedly typing up the price of menu items from your expense account spreadsheet. But, in the end you come up with a real story filled with information and insight into the two men who are vying for the office of president.

This piece is not a hit on either men, although it is unflattering to each at times. Neither does it attempt to render a complete psychological protrait of them. What it does is take the campaign talking point that the Bush team is obviously pushing -- that Kerry is Thurston Howell the third while Bush is Wyatt Earp -- and examines the influence privilege, wealth and connections have brought to both men.

I realize that is a lot to ask of a busy journalist for the New York Times. So, I would suggest that we start to treat the Times' political coverage as nothing but party press releases and look elsewhere for journalism. It's out there.

thanks Tommy


I accept that Ralph Nader and his followers are a separate party with separate interests. I think it's a shame because until the system is rather dramatically changed (IRF, disbanding the electoral college etc.) we will continue to have a two party system, which means that those who vote for third party candidates aren't going to be represented. (Certainly, if the Nader vote is again decisive in such an extremely important election, then it will be clear that those voters are not interested in being represented by Democrats.) And, of course, in a close race, we certainly could use those Green and/or Nader votes.

However, it is obvious that if seeing first hand what the modern GOP is capable of when it holds all the levers of power isn't enough to persuade the four to five percent consistently polling for Nader that they should vote for the Democrats --- if only to save the country from total ruin --- then I have to believe that they sincerely consider themselves to be outside the two party system that actually governs our politics.

Therefore, for electoral purposes, they must be considered part of the realm of non-voters who don't participate. And because, for political reasons, they have consciously decided to stay outside the system as it exists, they are actually less persuadable than the apathetic many.

I respect their position, but that means that they are no longer particularly relevant to our immediate cause, which is getting Bush out of power. If they can't see the necessity for that right now, they never will. So, the Greens and/or Nader voters, good people all, are off my political radar screen because they are not persuadable. Good luck to them and I mean that sincerely.

What to make of this, then?

Nader Urges Kerry to Pick Edwards

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was not content to simply pick his own running mate this week. On Wednesday, he weighed in on Sen. John F. Kerry's deliberations, suggesting he tab Sen. John Edwards for the Democratic presidential ticket.

In an open letter to Kerry, Nader said Edwards had "already gone through a primary campaign and has his rhythm and oratory … all well honed."

I have reconciled myself to this Nader run -- and I don't have a problem letting him in the debates, even --- but if he's going to run explicitly against our candidate, isn't it a bit presumptuous to weigh in on who he should pick as a running mate? I have to assume that he wants Kerry to pick Edwards because he thinks Edwards would make him lose. Because Nader can't possibly be intent upon helping Kerry or he wouldn't be working feverishly to get himself on the ballot to run against him.

So, what can we make of Ralph Nader, folks? He and his followers have made it clear that they don't respect Democrats any more than Republicans. Indeed, they made a decision to try to change the political system from outside the two parties because the system is so corrupt that neither party is worth being a part of. So, what in the hell is Ralph doing then with this silly dance?

Greens and Naderites, you're going to have to decide what you are. If you want to play electoral politics from within, then join one of the parties and get your hands dirty with governance. But, if you want to create a real third party that exists to change the entire system, then tell your boy to mind his own fucking business.

If, on the other hand, this is all a ploy to get the Democrats to kiss Green and Naderite ass every five minutes, begging them to please vote for us, then I'd say it's a waste of paper. At this point, the Democrats will have better luck persuading the growing numbers of aghast moderate Republicans to vote with us this time than getting the Nader vote to switch. The aghast moderate Republicans, after all, are people who after seeing the havoc that's been wrought by the boy king are motivated to replace him for the good of the country. The Naderites, apparently, aren't. That's just the way it is. We've gotta go where the votes are.