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Friday, March 31, 2006

Down The Hatch

by digby

In the Feingold hearings today, Orrin Hatch said that censure is unconstitutional. Like all the rest of the hypocritical weasels of the Eunuch Caucus, he has a very short memory:

Republicans believe their aggressive pursuit of impeachment is not only required by the Constitution but also satisfies their more conservative political base.

The growing debate about punishment for Clinton short of removal from office stems from a hard political count. Hatch said proponents of ousting the president will almost certainly be short of the required two-thirds vote in the Senate.

"It may be that if more hasn't come out or if people do not feel we can get 67 votes, it may be that that is the time when something else can be resolved," Hatch said.

Even though censure is not mentioned in the Constitution, Hatch said he believes it is within Congress' right.

"But it would have to be done very carefully" to avoid transgressing the Constitution's prohibition on "bills of attainder," or a legislatively enacted punishment, he said.

"This is a lot more difficult than people today realize," Hatch said.

Of course this impressive legal thinker is also the guy who says this:

"It would be unconstitutional for the Congress to say, 'You have to go through the FISA court.' We could pass a law that says, 'We want you to go through the FISA court,' and I think the president would probably try to live with that. The problem is, you cannot do what they've been doing to protect us through the current FISA statute."

Interesting new theory. The congress passes laws the country must abide by. Except for the president. For him laws are just polite requests.

God Save The King.

Out of The Mouths Of Babes

by digby

Jim Angle, covering for Hume, just interviewed three wounded veterans who he probed for "good news" about Iraq that made their sacrifice worthwhile. One of them was a public affairs specialist who dutifully delivered the GOP boilerplate about schools and soccer games. But one of the guys, a very young kid grievously wounded, didn't know the script. He said:

Angle: You've seen some of the media coverage since you got back. Does it accurately reflect what you saw when you were there?

Cpl Diaz: Well, in my case I was out west in the Anbar province and the media kind of, kind of goes for major things that happen in Bagdad or Falluja during voting times and the media doesn't cover that IED's go off every day, numerous times.

I don't think that's exactly what Angle was looking for.

Bubble Boy

by digby

One of the most curious things I've seen recently is George Bush's favorite Democrat going a little bit kooky for no apparent reason. What the hell is up with Joementum? Why so emotional and weird about this?

I have to think that he's suffering from the same bubble boy disease as his best buddy. In the beltway, Joe Lieberman is the most popular Democrat in town. The political establishment is totally dominated by Republicans and Republicans positively love him. As far as he can tell, he's the most popular guy in town.

Unfortunately, he didn't seem to realize until now, even after his experience in the 2004 primaries, that outside the beltway he has been the poster boy for GOP appeasement going all the way back to the impeachment. His acceptance on the ticket in 2000 was out of respect for Al Gore --- the grassroots could barely stand the sight of him.

His voting record is beside the point. Through his rhetoric he's given tremendous solace to the Republicans over and over again at the most critical times. He's advanced their most pernicious ideas, not through votes, but by continuously validating their premises. He's not the only member of the party to have done this, but he's the one who has gone the farthest to normalize the cheap, phony moralism the GOP sells as "character."

He just doesn't seem to understand the nature of the current political environment, probably because he is ensconced in the bosom of the establishment, sharing cocktail weenies with the cognoscenti and believing his own hype. The terrain looks far different from where the rest of us sit. "His way" looks a lot like treachery.

I did not think it was possible for him to lose the primary. But damn if it doesn't look like it is. Lamont is an impressive candidate, attractive and well-spoken. His run is not joke and it appears that Lieberman is actually worried. Joementum seems to leave the door open to running as an independent if that happened, a la his nemesis Lowell Weicker. I don't know why he wouldn't just make the leap and join the GOP. That's what his new idol, the very moral Frank Sinatra, did. Why play games?

Iraq: More Deaths. Sistani Ignores Letter From Bush.

by tristero

In Baghdad, Three women were killed by a mortar and six handcuffed bodies were found. The article goes on:
Tensions arose over complaints of U.S. interference in Iraqi political affairs.

A letter from President Bush to Iraq's supreme Shiite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was hand-delivered earlier this week but sits unread and untranslated in his office, according to a key al-Sistani aide.

The aide who has never allowed use of his name in news reports, citing al-Sistani's refusal to make any public statements himself told The Associated Press Tuesday that the ayatollah laid the letter aside because of increasing "unhappiness" over what senior Shiite leaders see as American meddling in Iraqi attempts to form their first, permanent post-invasion government.
hat tip to Juan Cole who also links to a report of 8 workers shot dead at an oil refinery.

Funny how underplayed the reports of these 17 deaths have been in, say, the New York Times. One would almost get the impression - false - that there was a lull in the carnage.

By the way, it's not news that no one in Iraq bothers to listen to anything Bush says anymore. I think it was Steve Coll, or maybe Sy Hersh, who reported that in the New Yorker a while back.
Oh Brother Where Art Thou

by digby

I have been joking for years that the Republicans would eventually try to bring back chain gangs to do the work of illegal immigrants. That way, they could appease their law and order, racist and corporate constituency all at once. (If they could add forced conversions to Christianity to it, it would be perfect.)

I should have realized the nothing is beyond the pale for the modern GOP:

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, dismissed arguments made by President Bush and business leaders who say the United States needs a pool of foreign workers. He said businesses should be more creative in their efforts to find help and suggested that employers turn to the prison population to fill jobs in agriculture and elsewhere.

"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "We can do it without bringing in millions of foreigners."

This is actually no joke. There is a lot of prison labor being used in the private sector these days. It's not even controversial, despite the fact that while the prison is paid minimum wage, the workers are paid sometimes less than a dollar an hour. (Room and board, you see.)

Considering the racial make-up of our prisoner population, we could see a day in the not too distant future in which the fields of the United states are picked by African Americans with guns trained on them. Interesting picture, isn't it?

No Satisfaction

by digby

Pantload is "getting increasingly bugged" by Jill Carroll:

And maybe JPod’s right about Stockholm syndrome. And maybe the media’s selectively choosing what to show of her statements. But it would be nice to hear her say something remotely critical of her captors, particularly about the fact that they murdered her translator in cold blood. I’m very glad she’s alive, but I’m getting a very bad vibe. More, no doubt, to come.

He reminds of one of those guys who says a rape victim didn't act traumatized enough for him, so she's probably lying.

Pantload is not just an ordinary GOP dimwit; he apparently can't even read. She made the tape right after she had been released to the Iraqi Islamic Party offices and before she was in the hands of her friends and colleagues:

Carroll's captors dropped her off in a Baghdad neighborhood, outside an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party. The politicians inside gave her juice, candy, water and tissues.

Composed, Carroll negotiated her way through the first of many politically laden conversations she would have Thursday, trying to stick to what she wanted and didn't want to say.

The party officials asked her to write out and sign a statement saying she had not been harmed in her brief time at their offices. They had her record a question-and-answer session on camera that they said was for their records. It showed up on television shortly afterward.

Jill Carroll has more testosterone in her little finger than all these bedwetters put together. I'm sorry that she has not given the 101st one-handed keyboarders the picture of blood and horror they need to get satisfaction from their safe little offices, but I think it's highly unlikely these bedwetters would have handled themselves with such fortitude in those circumstances. They are after all, the same brave soldiers who believe the shoe bomber is a greater threat to the nation than having thousands of ICBM's pointed at every major American city.

Oh, and I'm glad to report that Jonah has also won today's Jeffie.

I'd love to see how Don Imus and his pathetic little crew of flaccid, middle aged gasbags would hold up under her circumstances. I have a feeling that it wouldn't take much more than the kidnappers putting too much lemon in the bernaise sauce and Imus and these walking viagra commercials would break down and start calling themselves Tanya.


by tristero

Ah, money. John Aravosis brings the subject up again. A few comments on his post, which is well worth reading:

1. No one should be surprised that, one-on-one, politicians are really, really nice. It's their job to be nice. If you think about it for twenty seconds it becomes patently obvious that only someone with a nice personality could get anywhere in politics - which, after all, is all about working with other people 24/7. The Nazi-loving Schwarzenegger is really nice. By contrast, The Great KAT, who makes the young Bob Dylan look like a docile interview subject, is likely never to be elected... dogcatcher (couldn't resist). I'm told even Nixon was nice, even if I find that incredibly hard to believe.

Why is being nice essential to political success? Why is being nice as important for a political leader as being well-read and intelligent? My friends, if you have to ask those kinds of questions, then my advice is to pursue that degree in advanced statistics you've always wanted. I couldn't possibly begin to explain it to you. (Irate statisticians, please note: Musicians easily rival you for the title of professionals with the worst social skills.)

It also goes without saying that because nice-osity is such a critical skill, politicians are exceedingly adept at turning up the charm in order to disarm an opponent, or modulate the niceness in all sorts of subtle ways to suit their ends.

Therefore, John is absolutely right to report on the behavior of the politicians he meets. It is a crucial part of understanding who they are. So we can crush them at the polls.

But John is mistaken, when he writes about the charming Katherine Harris, "That doesn't mean I think she's a wonderful human being, it simply means that whatever she is, it's a lot more complicated than folks would like to present." It's not complicated at all, John. One-on-one Harris is professionally nice and she's so good at it, it looks sincere. It may even be sincere. That is her job. That's why she has supporters. What's so hard to understand?

2. The question readers of John's blog should ask is this: If John goes to these affairs - and why not, since he didn't have to pay for it, so, hey, the food's free - will being nice to Katherine Harris help advance the liberal causes John so passionately believes in? Well, it can't hurt. Being mean to her in that situation gets you nowhere.

3. Point 2 above notwithstanding, he should have kicked Katherine Harris in the shins. Hard.

4. Regarding money, it's painful to read John's justifications. That anyone as smart and savvy as John Aravosis would waste his time defending his desire and need to be paid for a job well done! That anyone could object to competent people being paid well to do their job! This just blows my mind.

Phil Glass put it succinctly - you pay me money. I give you music. There isn't a composer who ever existed (with the exception of Charles Ives) who would disagree. Don't like Phil's music? I assure you: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven (to name just three) had exactly the same attitude.

5. To clarify point 4, please understand: I think John Aravosis is absolutely right about money. It is a crime that he should be wasting his valuable time defending his need to be paid. However, it clearly is necessary for him to educate his audience in reality. Hopefully, they'll get it. But if they don't, John will simply have to learn to ignore them. (For the little that it's worth, full disclosure: I've never been paid to do any political writing, or political work, of any kind, including blogging. Nor am I seeking payment. This makes me morally superior to nobody who does earn money - honestly, duh - from political work.)

6. John really should have kicked Katherine Harris in the shins when he had the chance.

7. John's last point is the most important. From the small involvement I've had with "real" politics, via blogging, attending conferences, interviewing and talking to politicians and diplomats, I am certain that politics has the potential to be enormously enjoyable.

Yes, indeed: Confronting the far-right - and destroying their ability to influence mainstream American politics is a moral obligation, I believe, for any American that cares about the well-being of his/her family, friends, and neighbors, not to mention the rest of the world. It's also potentially a lot of fun (and yeah, it can be dispiriting; no one said it was gonna be easy fun).

There simply is nothing wrong to be paid well for fighting effectively for liberal causes AND having fun. In fact, that's also part of the fun. Only crazy puritans think you should be miserable when you do good.

8. God-DAMMIT, John! Crutches! I want to see Katherine Harris on crutches! I want to sign the fucking cast on her leg! How could you pass up the chance?!??!

by tristero

Be sure to read through to the punchline:
U.S. officials are practically ignorant of this silent advance of fear. And their response to the exposed tip of the iceberg--open violence--has been misguided. Despite tough proclamations and battles against so-called insurgents in isolated valleys, U.S. military and civilian officials remain obsessed with 'Al Qaeda' and any possible manifestations of an Osama bin Laden-style, ideological confrontation. This concern acts as a set of blinkers, blinding Americans to the real problems in Afghanistan and vastly contributing to the Afghans' disillusionment.

The fact is, except in a training capacity, Al Qaeda hardly has any presence here. This is logical: Why would Al Qaeda send Arab or Chechen operatives to notoriously chauvinistic southern Afghanistan, which hated the domineering Arabs when they were guests of the Taliban, and where foreigners stick out like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? For ideological combat against the West, Iraq is a far more convenient and penetrable battleground, which is one reason why countless more Americans die there than in Afghanistan.

Even the 'suicide bombings' in Afghanistan that have garnered mentions in the Western press of late are often something else. In one case I investigated carefully--the target, an Afghan official, was a friend of mine--much evidence contradicted the notion that the attack was a suicide bombing, as it was immediately labeled: the condition of my friend's body, the type and location of the survivors' wounds, and eyewitness descriptions. Everything pointed to a remote-controlled mine planted ahead of time. But no Afghan or U.S. official bothered to collect this evidence or to examine it seriously when it was presented to them.

Why such sloppiness? Because the terrorist suicide bombing explanation suits everyone. Americans are comfortable spending their resources searching for the Al Qaeda bogeyman; the real perpetrators take cover behind the Al Qaeda label; and Afghan officials are absolved of complicity or incompetence and the responsibility to properly investigate.

The steadily worsening situation in southern Afghanistan is not the work of some ineffable Al Qaeda nebula. It is the result of the real depredations of the corrupt and predatory government officials whom the United States ushered into power in 2001, supposedly to help fight Al Qaeda, and has assiduously maintained in power since, along with an 'insurgency' manufactured whole cloth across the border in Pakistan--a U.S. ally. The evidence of this connection is abundant: Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan.

But beleaguered Afghans have a hard time getting U.S. political and military officials to focus on these two factors, which feed on each other. U.S. personnel cling to the fictions that Afghans are responsible for the local officials who rule over them--despite the overwhelming moral and material support the United States has provided these officials--and that the Pakistani government is cooperating in the war on terror. And so the Afghan villagers, frightened, vulnerable, and disillusioned, are obliged to come to terms with the 'fairies who come at night.'

This state of affairs is so bewildering that Kandaharis have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban.

hat tip to Avedon Carol

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fashion Week

by digby

This season's little black dress:

Order your T-Shirts courtesy of Tennessee Guerilla Women

Via Avedon Carol, who I'm sure knows the perfect bra to wear under it.

Big Brother Is Freezing

by digby

Another Homeland Security success story:

From Anchorage it takes 90 minutes on a propeller plane to reach this fishing village on the state's southwestern edge, a place where some people still make raincoats out of walrus intestine.

This is the Alaskan bush at its most remote. Here, tundra meets sea, and sea turns to ice for half the year. Scattered, almost hidden, in the terrain are some of the most isolated communities on American soil. People choose to live in outposts like Dillingham (pop. 2,400) for that reason: to be left alone.

So eyebrows were raised in January when the first surveillance cameras went up on Main Street. Each camera is a shiny white metallic box with two lenses like eyes. The camera's shape and design resemble a robot's head.

Workers on motorized lifts installed seven cameras in a 360-degree cluster on top of City Hall. They put up groups of six atop two light poles at the loading dock, and more at the fire hall and boat harbor.

By mid-February, more than 60 cameras watched over the town, and the Dillingham Police Department plans to install 20 more — all purchased through a $202,000 Homeland Security grant meant primarily to defend against a terrorist attack.

Your federal tax dollars at work, folks. Bridges to nowhere and terrorist surveillance in remote arctic villages. This is how the Republican party keeps the nation safe, promotes small government and shows fiscal responsibility.

Is America A First World Nation?

by tristero

Not when it comes to science it ain't. Check this out from Discovery Institute's so-called Center for Science and Culture, the clowns who brought you "intelligent design" creationism, the clowns with ties to Christian Reconstruction and the Moonies. Now don't peek, but can you spot, as PZ Myers says, the "serious problem in the logic" of "intelligent design" creationist Jonathan Witt's argument?:
In Dover, they [mainstream scientists] insisted that physical evidence presented against their theory wasn't an argument for intelligent design. Darwinist [sic] Kenneth Miller made this argument on the stand and the judge concurred. But in Ohio they wanted to scare people into thinking that simply teaching students the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism was somehow legally dangerous. Since it isn't, the Darwinists had to get creative, had to change their story. So now they asserted that simply exposing students to the evidence against Darwinism constitutes the teaching of intelligent design. Thus, their Ohio position flatly contradicts their Dover position.
Give up? All right, go to Pharyngula and marvel at the extent to which these people can lie without breaking a sweat. And the president of the United States thinks their "theories" deserve equal time with real science. Incredible.

[Note to creationists: All attempts to prosleytize for your nonsense will be ignored. As usual, please take your science questions or your disputations to a science site and air them there. If a reputable scientist - meaning a scientist who understands Darwin and accepts evolution - says you have a legitimate point, come on back and let us know exactly what they said (no "paraphrases" or partial quoting). ]
Captain Morgan's First Lieutenant

by digby

I'm sure most of you caught this a couple of days ago, but in case you didn't, this round of Golden Wingers is excellent. This only a runner up:

Chickenhawk grunt Christopher Hitchens finally gives himself the promotion he deserves:

Up until now, I have resisted all urges to assume the mantle of generalship and to describe how I personally would have waged a campaign to liberate Iraq.

General Hitch - after consulting with his trusted military advisor, Captain Morgan - outlines his plan of attack:

I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Optionally, until I black out. Either one.

Click the link to see the winner (and find out why liberals hate their mommies.)

Mudcat Love

by digby

It's clear that Chris Matthews sees the immigration issue as another opportunity to crawl up the GOP codpiece and prove his manly manliness. Yesterday he not only had that silly Dukes of Hazard caricature Mudcat "I call 'em illegal aliens" Saunders on, he said this:

MATTHEWS: Well, the fact is, Bob, it's not just -- and Kate -- it's not just Republicans who don't like illegal immigration. Seventy-one percent of the country say it's their number one concern. They want to stop illegal immigration. These are regular Americans. They're not right-wingers. And they think we ought to have a border.

I don't know how many times this guy has to twist poll numbers before someone calls a doctor and has him tested for some sort of cognitive disorder. Media Matters corrects this massively ill informed bullshit:

Matthews was apparently distorting a March 10-13 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that 71 percent of respondents would be "more likely ... to vote for a candidate for Congress" who "[f]avors tighter controls on illegal immigration."

In a March 9-12 CBS News poll, 4 percent of respondents identified immigration as "the most important problem facing this country today." And a January 26-29 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 9 percent of respondent thought that illegal immigration "should be the top priority for the federal government."

I'm sure that with all the legislation, hysterical coverage and massive protests that it has become "number one" to more people lately, but I will be very surprised if it comes even close to being the number one issue any time soon. This country has a lot of problems.

Matthews could have illuminated this debate if he had noted that according to the latest Democracy Corps poll, the single most important foreign policy issue is globalization and outsourcing. It's more important than terrorism and Iraq. I found that surprising. It explains why there is so much anxiety over immigration right now. The threat of cheap foreign labor is very real to people, they feel powerless to stop it, and the most immediate face of it is low wage Latino migration to the US.

The forces shaping this are massive and it cannot be finessed by crude nativist rhetoric no matter how much people want to run populist campaigns and are tempted to pull out that well-worn playbook. The sharp feelings about immigration right now are a symptom of something much bigger and dislocating than latino day laborers --- and it seems that on some level, the public knows it. It's possible that politicians can cynically divert voters' angst over globalization by stoking anti-immigrant fervor, but it appears to me that it would be a short term solution at best. Deporting every illegal immigrant and putting up a 25 foot wall won't solve this problem. Globalization will continue apace, people will still want to buy massive quantities of cheap disposable stuff and working people are going to be squeezed.

Matthews is a simpleton as we all know, and often misstates basic facts. But he and his new idol Mudcat (who Chris practically blew right on camera)are talking a very aggressive short game with immigration and it's more irritating than usual. I sincerely hope that he is not parroting the establishment CW he's hearing over cocktail weenies or this issue is going to turn into a xenophobic free for all and leave the real issues that are making Americans uneasy about immigration unaddressed --- just as the corporate establishment hopes it does.

Update: I just watched Matthews say that 90% of Americans in small towns in California are upset because "they didn't move to Mexico, Mexico moved to them." "Americans" have had it up to here with Mexican culture, apparently.

It was even too much for Hugh Hewitt, wingnut extraordinaire, who happens to be from Orange County once the most conservative region in California. His home town, Santa Ana, has a 76% Latino population. Hewitt, as a California Republican, knows very well that it is political suicide to make such blatant, xenophobic arguments and he wanted nothing to do with them.

I think it is EXTREMELY important, for this as well as many other reasons, that we make it very, very clear that Chris Matthews is not a Democrat. He's a Republican:

MATTHEWS: People go to vote this November, you know this as well. When I go to vote, I know who my congressperson is. And I always voted for this woman out in Maryland for years, because I know her and like her, a moderate Republican. I always voted for her. Then if I knew somebody running against her personally, I'd vote for them.

It's the way I look at a lot of the elections. I think Bush is OK the first time, then he changed I thought, so I didn‘t like him the second time. I‘m a thinker about this. Or do people just vote the party who my parents voted.

He's a thinker, all right. A Republican thinker.

That's Our Howard

by digby

Those of us who live in California have always known that Howard Kaloogian is a clown. It's nice to see that he's getting the national exposure he deserves.

Many of you will remember that his group Moving America Back to the Dark Ages did an ad recently during the John Bolton confirmation hearings:

Wife: Honey, were you watching C-SPAN today? Did you hear how disloyal Senator Voinovich was to Republicans and President Bush? Voinovich stood with the Democrats and refused to vote for John Bolton, the man President Bush has chosen to fight for the United States at the UN

Husband: No, I was streaming it on the Internet at the office, but from what I could tell, Senator Voinovich played hookey from the hearings?

Wife: Yeah that’s right. He’s missed most of the Bolton confirmation hearings, but then shows up at the last minute and stabs the President and Republicans right in the back.

Husband: That’s ridiculous – the United Nations needs reform, we need someone who will stand up for the United States and fight the UN’s corruption and anti-Americanism.

Wife: Shame on Senator Voinovich. After the Democrats smeared Condoleeza Rice for Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, how could Voinovich side with the Democrats in smearing John Bolton?

Husband: It seems like Senator Voinovich has become a traitor to the Republican Party.

Wife: Enough’s enough. I’m logging on to Move America Forward dot com to register my protest with Senator Voinovich’s office.

Husband: What was that site? Move America Forward dot com ?

Wife: Yep, Move America Forward dot com

Cute, huh? This was also the group that got on a bus and went down to Crawford to confront Cindy Sheehan and ended up fighting with each other.

But my favorite thing is this "Howard Is A Liar" site that is run by Republicans angry that kaloogian took credit for the California Recall. Lying about the Bagdad pic is just par for the course. He's so bad even Republicans recoil.

Here's the Cafe Press site:


On The Future Of Afghanistan

by tristero

In the comments to my recent post on Afghanistan, I wrote,
I have no idea what the Taliban's future is, but I do know Afghanistan's.

Violence bordering on sheer anarchy. Religious extremism. The oppression of women. Heartbreakingly-deep poverty.
In response, commenter gilpead wrote:
To paraphrase:

They're a bunch of wogs who are, due to their backwardness, doomed to a future of misery. Afghanistan can never, ever join the community of nations because the country as a whole is a cesspool of violence and oppression and the poor savages are incapable of ever changing the way things are done"
I've decided to respond to this rather than ignore it and to respond in a serious fashion. *

Dear gilpead,

I'm afraid your paraphrase of my remarks is not accurate, both in the details about my remarks or in the intent behind them.

I have never used the term "wog" in my life. In fact, I don't even know what it means.

I do not believe Afghans are "backwards" and never said so. I have no idea what you mean by that.

I believe that the future for Afghanistan is miserable, the future being defined as "over the next five years." That is a realistic assessment based upon the instability of the present situation and the lack of a serious commitment by the US and the international community to assist the Afghans in overcoming very real, and very serious problems. No one can predict with any degree of accuracy where Afghanistan will be much beyond five years, but if you insist, I would side with those who feel that over the next ten years, the obstacles will make it excessively difficult for there to be much improvement over the present, and with tremendous potential for things to get a lot worse.

Afghanistan can never "join" the community of nations, because it already is a part of that community. The question is whether Afghanistan can join the community of nations which offers its citizens a life free of warlords, fundamentalism, chronic terrorism, and gut-wrenching poverty. Given the lack of interest on the part of other nations, including the US, to help in a truly serious way, the answer is "not very likely." To hope that Afghanistan can pull itself up by its own bootstraps is to hope for the impossible. They need help. And they are not getting anywhere near enough.

Yes, the country (except within the circle of safety created by Karzai's bodyguards) is rife with oppression and violence. I reject the phrase "as a whole" because it too vague, if not meaningless. I'm sure there are plenty of places that have not been scarred by violence. The same is true of Iraq. And Sierra Leone. The problem is that there is far more violence and oppression within Afghanistan's borders than is compatible, in many, many places, with a minimum sense of safety.

I don't know what you mean by the term "poor savages." I have no idea what you're talking about because I neither use such language or understand why anyone would.

Again, the Afghans require the determined, and sensible, longtime assistance of other nations to help rebuild their country. Without it, the situation will remain catastrophic and get worse. It is nothing in "the character of the Afghan people" that compels this. A United States in as bad a shape as Afghanistan would require an equal amount of help.

I have no idea what you mean by a phrase as vague and crude as "changing the way things are done." A country is not a machine. Nor, as the world once again has learned, can any country be compelled into democracy by invasion, conquest, or coercion EXCEPT under very specific circumstances which were not the circumstances in either Iran or Iraq pre-invasion. For details, go to ceip.org and search for articles on nation-building, democracy after invasion, and the like.

LIke any sane human being, the Taliban and their ideas disgust me. But I fail to see where overthrowing the Taliban to replace it with anarchy, violence, poverty and slaughter that can -and will -be blamed directly on the United States is any improvement. The victims of the horrors may be slightly different, but the intensity, even if slightly lessened, will be laid at your feet, and mine.

Afghanistan fascinates me - the people, the culture, the architecture and music, and the geology. I would love to visit someday but I'm afraid I'll never get there. That's merely a personal disappointment, but the tragedy is that the greatness of Afghanistan has been so beaten up and battered that without serious, competent, help - which the Bush administration has proved over and over it is simply incapable of providing - that greatness will be beyond serious recovery for several generations or longer.

One last comment. I assume you will take what I've written here, caricature it, and proceed to refute the caricature. Doing so is your prerogative. Until George W. Bush, however, people who lived their lives within a cartoon reality usually didn't hold places of serious influence within the US government. Sure, Cheney and Rumsfeld were paid with my tax dollars at an earlier time, but their boss knew better than to mistake their screwiest ideas as the products of rational deliberation on foreign policy.

To paraphrase, believe whatever you want. Just stay out of my government and take your hallucinating friends with you.



*A few words of explanation: I chose to respond not because I think gilpead had even an inkling of a good point, but because gilpead's arguments are standard neo-conservative idealism of the sort Wolfowitz used to intimidate anyone who dared who talked reason to him or his fellows**, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take those kinds of remarks seriously. Perhaps, some useful ways to debunk them might come out of it or better yet, spark someone else's mind to come up with something far more effective.

Don't get me wrong. I have no interest in "engaging" trolls, but I do have a lot of interest in developing arguments and rhetoric that can be used to refute the influential people from whom the trolls steal - men like Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, Kristol, HItchens and even Packer (should he fall prey once again to the temptations of his narcissistic, naive idealism).

**Wolfowitz at Georgetown University October 31, 2003::
"We hate your policies. We are tired of being feared and hated by the world," Ruthie Coffman (SFS201906) said, also calling Wolfowitz's policies "deplorable."

The killing of innocents is not the solution but rather the problem," she said.

"I would infer that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power," Wolfowitz responded."War is ugly," he said, "but the alternative is far worse."


by tristero

It seems that when the Taliban announced there would be "a new offensive this year," they meant it:
Taliban militants launched a rare attack on a coalition base in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing an American and a Canadian soldier and sparking fierce U.S.-led retaliation that left 32 insurgents dead in the bloodiest fighting in months.

The attack came a day after at least 10 people were killed in two separate roadside bombings and reflected a growing intensity of militant assaults after the Taliban warned of a renewed offensive this year.

''Over the last five or six weeks there have been various proven attacks mainly at night by the Taliban on that base, but I think it is fair to say this is the largest we have seen thus far,'' British spokesman Col. Chris Vernon told reporters in Kandahar.

The battle began hours after Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan supply convoy as it returned to the remote forward operating base late Tuesday, killing eight Afghan soldiers, Vernon said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Odds and Ends

by tristero

Many of these come via the wonderful Cursor

Ken Mehlman thinks Republican candidates should align themselves with Bush. I agree. That way it will be that much easier to brand the entire Republican party "incompetent."

No question about it: Scalia is losing it. First he had the lack of class to write a letter of complaint to the Boston Herald for reporting his rude gesture. And he wrote in part:
From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene - especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)”
In fact, the article called him an "Italian-American jurist." [Scroll down. Original available only to susbcribers]Unfortunately for the country, his jurisprudence is just as sloppy and immature as his correspondence. [UPDATE: A commenter disputes my assertion that Scalia is sloppy (but not that he's immature) because the Web version of the article reads as Scalia describes. In comments, at 3.30.06 2:37 am, I respond by examining Scalia's letter in the light of this discrepancy. I argue that if we assume Scalia read only the online version, then a different part of Scalia's letter is sloppy.]

[Update: Atrios posted the Boston Herald photograph of Scalia flipping the bird at the camera. When you look at it, remember: You are looking at a Supreme Court Justice. In a few moments, and while still in church, he will say, "Fuck you."]

Does anyone other than your humble blogger find the headline "Brain drain hits Homeland Security" incredibly funny, in a "I-have-to-laugh-or-I'd-have-to-cry" kind of way?

Howard Kaloogian, he who can't (or his staff who can't), tell the difference between Baghdad and an Istanbul suburb, is quite an asshole.

Want to guess who is responsible for all the violence in Iraq? Wrong! It's not the Clintons! Well, not yet anyway. But it's only a matter of time before some wingnut will say that in fact, had Clinton invaded Iraq when urged to by PNAC, then the utterly incompetent Bush wouldn't have been forced to screw up so badly.

[Update: Scalia's deployment of exaggeration and straw man in his letter looks like a possible geoffy. Amazing how often Scalia seems to do this.]
Live Symphony Recordings On iTunes

by tristero

I don't know how many other orchestras or other music groups are doing this yet, but this is just a great idea that's long overdue. Live New York Philharmonic performances of the last three Mozart symphonies on iTunes. Ten bucks for all three.

By the way, if you folks know of similar live concert offerings, drop a note into comments with a link and I'll post the first 25 here. In the interest Let's limit the list to live classical music and jazz. You know, things like live La Scala concerts, Cleveland Orchestra, broadcasts of Kronos, Anthony Braxton.
Update below

Jeffie Alert

by digby

Bush just pulled a honker of a Jeffie.

Asked about his relationship with Pootie-poot, he rambled on about how he thinks it's important that he can talk to him face to face. Then he said:

"Some say we shouldn't go to the G8. I disagree..."

Has anyone heard of this movement to withdraw from the G8? I've heard people say that we should purge the G8 of cheese eating surrender monkeys, but this is news to me.

In fact his entire commentary is one long jeffie about "some" who have isolationist tendencies and "some" who want to withdraw within our borders and some who don't think others can govern themselves. He's on a roll.

"I'll be unabash-ed [yep, he pronounced it that way -- very Shakespearean of him] about trying to work for more free societies. I believe that's the calling of the 21st century. I MEANT WHAT I SAID, when I said in the 21st century the goal of the US should be to end tyranny!"

He was really wound up by that point, hunched all the way over the podium, red-faced, pointing his finger at the audience. You know, the hectoring, drunken father bit.

This was good:

"China has recently read the book on Mao.(???) It's an amazing history of a couple of things, one of which was how fooled the world was --- and how brutal the country was."

Sounds like five years into his presidency Junior finally cracked a high school history book. Good for him, seeing as he has a degree in history from Yale.

But civics was never his strong point. Nor economics. Clearly, the 7th grade primers they gave him got his mind all confused 'n stuff:

"One of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, the demand causes something to happen. Excess demand causes prices to go up and vice versa and that stands in contrast to governments that set prices and try to control demand."

Reminder: this is the most powerful man in the world. Can anyone still say it doesn't matter if the president is intelligent?

Update: Oooops. Apparently "some" have said the US should boycot the G8 becuase of the charge that Russia gave US war plans to Saddam. My bad:

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said on ”Face The Nation” that if it turns out to be true, the United States should review its relationship with Russia and whether to attend the G8 summit in St. Petersburg this summer.


by digby

On Fox this morning:

Bill Hemmer just back from Iraq showing off awsome butch pics of himself all dressed up in uniform and lookin' hot, hot, hot. (The barbie doll who "interviewed" him introduced the segment with "you got to hang out with the marines!")

Lots of good news over there. Lots. He ran some tape of an earlier story that went something like this:

We're in a "cop-shop" outside Falluja. A year ago, they went out on patrol for three hours. Later it was one hour. Then seven minutes. Now they can't get them to go out at all.

But then again, the building wasn't even here a year ago, so there is progress.

Update below

Coincidence I'm Sure

by digby

Garance Franke-Ruta would be breaking her new rule against linking to (presumed to be corrupt) pseedonymous bloggers like me if she linked to my post from last night on Ramesh Ponnuru's "Party Of Death," but I can certainly link to her post from this morning which makes exactly the same observation more than twelve hours later.

It's always possible that a reader just happened to have made the same extremely obscure observation at roughly the same time I did. It can happen. Or it could be that the observant reader read my post and did not credit me when he or she sent it to Franke-Ruta. Normally I would assume the second and let it go at that. Unfortunately, I can't help but wonder now if Franke-Ruta believes her new policy allows her not to credit pseeudonymous work, which would make her little better than Ben Domenech. Let's hope that's not the case.

Disclaimer: I haven't been paid by any political entity to write that or anything else. Ever. And my real name is Spartacus.

Franke-Ruta forwarded an e-mail containing the tip, which made no mention of my post. As I wrote, it is entirely possible that someone out there came up with that exact obscure observation at the same time. Nothing is impossible. It's also, considering the time of the e-mail, possible that the person read my post and didn't credit it. It happens all the time.

My point, however, is that those of us who are pseudonymous are naturally going to have to be vigilant about such things with people who have a blanket policy of refusing to link to us. Psuedonymous or not, I have to protect myself. When someone refuses on principle to link to me and then publishes items that could be attributed to my work, I can't just automatically chalk that up to coincidence as I normally would.

Franke-Ruta didn't much like having her integrity called into question on this and I can't say I blame her. I'm not too crazy about having mine impugned either.

Update II: The e-mailer had not read my post. In fact, he e-mailed me the same tip although I had already written my piece and posted it moments before, which he did not see. As it happens I informed him of the Garance Franke-Ruta connection in a return post, at which point he tipped her to the information.

So, Garance Franke-Ruta is in the clear, as is her e-mailer who independently found the same item that I did. It's not pleasant being so suspicious of someone whose work I've been following for years and who has never shown the least tendency toward corruption. I hate when that happens.

The Neurobiology Of The Right

by tristero

Something is very, very wrong with the cognition of far too many people on the right. I'm beginning to think seriously it may be organic.

Are there any neurologists or neurobiologists amongst you, dear readers? If so, I'd be very grateful if you could explain what causes the utterly weird correlation between rightwing ideology, pathological lying and geographical incompetence. True, correlation doesn't necessarily imply causation, but really people, this is strange. And this goes way beyond a stupid lie. Like they thought no one would notice all the Turkish in the signs? No, something is wrong with these people.

Besides, Kaloogian isn't the only Republican and/or rightwingnut who doesn't know where things are. Don't ever ask Richard Perle for directions. He thinks the UN is "the chatterbox on the Hudson" when it's clearly on the East River (at least it was the last time I checked; I suppose they could have picked up the offices and moved them crosstown...). And Jeanne Pirro mislaid Pennsylvania. Then, of course, there's Dan Quayle thrilled to be in "the great state of Chicago." As for Bush's awful ignorance of geography - remember the Grecians? - don't get me started. Whoops! Hold on, wait a minute, wait a minute...A terrible thought.

Could it be - my God, it could! Could it be that the reason Bush invaded Iraq was simply because of an organic disorder that left him so geographically challenged he couldn't distinguish it from Iran? "Iran, Iraq - there's a difference? Don't bother me with details. Just invade them, fer Pete's sakes."

And with that utterly awful thought rattling through our minds, consider this. Let's agree, just for the sake, of argument, with Ambrose Bierce that "war is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Now if America is being run by people organically incapable of understanding geography... Oh. My. God... Truly scary.

So, to all you neurobiologists out there, riddle me this: assuming it's organic, where is the problem located? Left brain? Right brain? Is it in the hippocampus (love that word)? Is it genetic? A virus? Do Republican nervous systems use Crisco oil instead of norepinephrine (another fave)? What? We need answers and fast:

What kind of anomaly could cause the unique cluster of symptoms - lying, hostile impulsivity, excessive religiosity, narcissistic delusions of exceptionalism, compulsive anti-social behavior including deliberate law-breaking and fraud, etc, etc, AND geographic incompetence - that characterize Repubican-Neuro-Cerebral syndrome or RNC-s?

[Note to rightwingers: I realize that your powers of comprehension lie closer to those of a hamster than to most of the world human community, so let me make it clear that the above is satire and not serious. Oh, if only your problem was merely organic! How easy it would be to understand and sympathize. And to treat! Doctors could create a tiny little pill that could keep you grounded in consensual reality for at least a few minutes a week. My goodness, a Republican with a mere three minutes of accurate perception a week! How much safer the world would be.

But that's not possible. Your problems are, to use the jargon, characterological as much as they are physcial. Prognosis: negative.

I...sob...pity you.]

[Update: Typos fixed.]
[Update: Link To TPM's "Busted!" post added.]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Misty Water Colored Memories

by digby

Here's a little flashback to September 2001 when the country lost its mind and decided that the first thing we needed to do was throw away the constitution or we'd never catch the boogeyman. You can't blame it all on Bush. He had plenty of help:

Big Brother No Longer So Scary

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2001; 9:30 AM

The clash was all but inevitable.

For decades, they have shadow-boxed their way through all manner of policy disputes, the champions of more aggressive law enforcement and the guardians of civil liberties.

The FBI wants to wiretap more phones or intercept e-mail communications? Civil libertarians complain about the loss of privacy. One administration or another wants to pare down the rights of accused criminals, junk Miranda warnings or allow the use of improperly seized evidence? The ACLU-types attack the proposals as unconstitutional. The battles are fought in Congress, in the Supreme Court, in the court of public opinion.

Sometimes the reformers have the upper hand, such as when the CIA runs amok and public sentiment supports new restrictions. Sometimes the prosecutors get their way, such as when there's a public clamor for a crackdown on lawlessness.

From the moment terrorists attacked New York and Washington, it was clear that this age-old battle would be waged on a global scale. And there's little question that momentum is on the side of those who want spies and investigators to have a stronger hand to hunt down those who are, or might be, involved in terror.

In short, Big Brother may no longer have such a menacing image. And the White House, not surprisingly, is seizing the moment.

Yes they did. I'm sure the government hasn't been spying on Kurtz, though. But then they don't need to. He's already so far in the tank he's probably spying on himself.

Party Of Hacks

by digby

I think it's awfully nice of Jane to offer her hand in friendship to conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru, don't you? Clearly this upcoming book tour is going to be very difficult for him, what with all the questions about his sleazy rightwing publisher and the 24 year old plagiarist editor they assigned him. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

There is no word on whether Lil' Benji Domenech is still editing away over at Regnery publishing, but it won't make much difference. He's just one of many GOP operatives given sinecures in the myriad conservative front groups out there. There's always more where that came from.

But there's no doubt that Regnery holds a special place in the organization. From Nicholas Confessore's great article in TAP:

Regnery Publishing's right-leaning corporate philosophy actually goes back to 1947, when the late Henry Regnery, Sr., set out to publish "good books," as he wrote in the company's first catalogue, "wherever we find them." Works by Regnery's friends among the nascent conservative intelligentsia soon followed, including Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s God and Man at Yale, Whittaker Chambers's Witness, and Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Henry Regnery's son, Alfred Regnery, who took over in 1986 and moved the company to Washington, D.C., has likewise been both a friend to and publisher of conservative authors. After stints in law school (where he roomed with American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene) and as college director of Young Americans for Freedom, Alfred Regnery was appointed head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by Ronald Reagan in 1983. While there, as reported by Murray Waas in The New Republic, he helped run Edwin Meese's ill-fated President's Commission on Pornography; disbursed generous grants to Jerry Falwell's Liberty College, Meese pal George Nicholson, and professional antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly; authored, with then-Assistant Secretary of Education Gary Bauer, a much-ridiculed report called "Chaos in the Public Schools"; and in general cultivated an updated version of his father's network of friends.

But by the time Alfred Regnery took over the family business, the firm had slipped into semi-dormancy. Regnery Publishing's 1993 purchase by newsletter magnate Tom Phillips woke it up. Phillips, one of the Republican National Committee's "Team 100" and a board member of the Claremont Institute, lavished both money and attention on his new acquisition. Leaving Alfred Regnery at the helm, Phillips folded the company into his Eagle Publishing division, an overtly political enterprise with a distinguished stable of conservative media: Human Events, a 56-year-old,ultra-right weekly newspaper; the Evans-Novak Political Report; the 75,000-member Conservative Book Club (founded in 1964 as "America was walking down Lyndon Johnson's path to a socialist 'Great Society'"); and a similar operation called the Christian Family Book Club. But perhaps most significant--given the central role direct mail has played in the conservative resurgence of recent decades--is Eagle's list brokerage operation, which rents out Eagle's own customer lists and those of organizations like Newt Gingrich's GOPAC, Empower America, the Western Journalism Center, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, not to mention Pat Buchanan's American Cause and the Steve Forbes for President campaign.

By the time Phillips Publishing spun off Eagle last July, an entirely new entity had emerged: a company that treats publishing less as a media enterprise than as a form of political activism. With a new, almost Gingrichian sensibility, Regnery's titles have begun to reflect the particular ideological and policy concerns of foundation-funded, third-wave conservative thinkers. Believe that the American family is in its death throes? Read Maggie Gallagher's The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love. Worried that American higher education is overrun by radical feminists and licentious left-wingers? Pick up the late George Roche's The Fall of the Ivory Tower: Government Funding, Corruption, and the Bankrupting of American Higher Education, or David Horowitz's The Heterodoxy Handbook: How to Survive the PC Campus. Believe that corrupt teachers' unions are the bane of the American education system? Read G. Gregory Moo's Power Grab: How the National Education Association is Betraying Our Children. If you suspect that the Walt Disney Corporation is out to lead children astray with Miramax films and "Gay Day" at Disney World, have a look at Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer. And if you wonder whether more assault rifles equals less crime, imbibe the pithy wisdom of Wayne LaPierre's Guns, Crime, and Freedom.


Since 1996, Regnery has published no less than eight presidential exposés: Roger Morris's Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, Bill Gertz's Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett's Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash, Ann Coulter's High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories, Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House, and R. Emmett Tyrrell's The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton: A Political Docu-Drama and Boy Clinton: The Political Biography. To date, five of these books have made various best-seller lists.

For all intents and purposes, the eight are interchangeable--with each other and, stylistically, with most of the other political books in Regnery's catalogue. Each posits a nebulous conspiracy centered around the Clinton White House, a murky stew that typically blends one or more of the following ingredients: shady banking and land deals loosely grouped under the "Whitewater" rubric; the murder--or induced suicide--of Vince Foster; Filegate and Travelgate; dalliances with prostitutes and nymphets; rampant drug use; treason via Chinese spies; and an Arkansas-based, Clinton-masterminded drug-smuggling outfit.

And yet these character assassins are considered mainstream and legitimate by the political establishment. I think we can we all see now why Lil' Benji Domenech's "credentials" as an "editor" are so absurd and why so many of us immediately understood him to be a cheap ideological shill for the Republican Party. Believe me, he didn't get the job at the WaPo because he was a founder of Redstate. He got it because he worked for John Cornyn, National Review and Regnery publishing --- all jobs that would have led someone with any sense of how modern politics operates to look, very, very, .... very carefully at his past work. These are not jobs that should have given anyone in mainstream journalism confidence in his abilities. It should have made them suspicious.

But I digress. Regnery is publishing Ramesh Ponnuru's new book "The Party of Death" this next month. Check out what Amazon has to say about it. I'm sure you'll find it compelling. Here's a little taste:

Ponnuru's shocking expose shows just how extreme the Party of Death has become as they seek to destroy every inconvenient life, demand fealty to their radical agenda, and punish anyone who defies them. But he also shows how the tide is turning, how the Party of Death can be defeated, and why its last victim might be the Democratic Party itself.

Ponnuru's editor Lil' Benji wrote similarly (there's a surprise) on RedState not long ago:

Some still hope, legitimately or not: "There must be some common ground." But there is none. No one can make that case any more, not with a straight face. We are past that point. The Party of Death won't accept compromise, and neither will those who oppose the taking of innocent life.

That post entitled "Do not Mourn" is quite the diatribe. If I were Ramesh Ponnuru, I'd check it thoroughly. With Lil' Benji's proven proclivity for lifting others' work, I might be concerned that while he was "editing" my book he may have "inadvertantly" absorbed some of my writings.

It would seem that both Domenech and Ponnuru are ardent believers in the sanctity of "life" however. (One wonders if they spent time together watching "the greatest pro-gun movie ever" where "they actually show the jackbooted communist thugs prying the guns from cold dead hands.")

Now Ramesh, ever the "reasonable" conservative, claims that he never meant "The Party of Death" to apply to the Democratic party. He wrote on NRO recently:

Franke-Ruta mentions my forthcoming book The Party of Death, which she describes as a "book on Democrats." The book does have quite a bit to say about the Democrats, and it's tough on them. But the book is about more than that, and the title isn't meant as a pejorative term for the Democrats. I explain, mostly in the introduction, what I mean and don't mean by the phrase. I'm not saying this to complain about Franke-Ruta. It was nice of her to mention the book, and her assumption was an easy one to make, partly because the Amazon page on the book is a bit misleading. (I've tried to get Amazon to change it a few times.)

Thank goodness it isn't a pejorative term for Democrats. That would be quite ugly. But it's odd then that the cover that's shown at the Regnery web site shows a book called: "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." Is he describing some sort of social gathering where judges, Democrats and media all get together and "party?" Or does the phrase more logically describe The Democratic Party? Interestingly, there is an alternate book cover that shows "The Party of Death: The Assault on The Sanctity of Life." Odd, don't you think? Has Ponnuru had second thoughts about spending every day for months defending that slanderous, scurrilous title?

Of course, the one thing that hasn't changed about the title is "The Party of Death" part and I think we can be fairly confident that he isn't talking about a fun afternoon with balloons and a pony. Let's hope he doesn't persist with this line that it isn't about the Democrats because he is insulting the intelligence of anyone over the age of ten. Even some mainstream pundits might find that hard to swallow.

And anyway, it takes some nerve calling the Democrats The Party Of Death when you support a party led by a man who said this:

From: "Devil May Care" by Tucker Carlson, Talk Magazine, September 1999, p. 106

"Bush's brand of forthright tough-guy populism can be appealing, and it has played well in Texas. Yet occasionally there are flashes of meanness visible beneath it.

While driving back from the speech later that day, Bush mentions Karla Faye Tucker, a double murderer who was executed in Texas last year. In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. 'Did you meet with any of them?' I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' 'What was her answer?' I wonder.

'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'

I must look shocked -- ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush -- because he immediately stops smirking.

Call me crazy but it seems to me that the man who personally (and casually) signed 157 death warrants and sent the nation to an unnecessary, bloody war of choice might just have a greater claim to lead a Party Of Death. Somehow all this fretting about blastocysts and spilled sperm just doesn't have much resonance when you look at this:

I'll be looking forward to many more posts about Ramesh Ponnuru and his sleazy publisher Regnery as he goes about his book tour over the next few months. I'm tired of this nonsense.

I Wonder Why Bush Didn't Attack Zarqawi When He Had The Chance?

by tristero

Peter Daou catches an NBC news story that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks. Apparently, Bush ignored several chances to take out or capture Zarqawi:
C News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.
I just can't wait to hear the excuses for this screwup. Funny, this plus all those memos about fixing the intelligence and concocting fake incidents makes me downright suspicious that maybe, just maybe, Bush intended to go to war no matter what. Now what's OIL so special about OIL Iraq that OIL would so obsess OIL an American president that OIL he would risk thousands of OIL soldiers' lives OIL rather than do whatever OIL he could to prevent OIL OIL OIL it?
Stanislaw Lem

by tristero

Stanislaw Lem has died. I have to confess that I've never been a big reader of sci-fi. But I always loved Lem's novels. Time to read some more of him. Try this or this or, of course, this.
Bad Precedent

by digby

I can't help but feel a tiny bit confused by all this righteous rightwing aversion to "rewarding lawbreaking" with an amnesty program for immigrants. The argument seems to be that it sends a bad message to allow people to get away with unlawful behavior by legalizing it after the fact. What'll they tell the children?

Of course, it all depends on who's doing the breaking, doesn't it?

Bush's Busboy Goes Bye-Bye

by digby

"Go get me Andy Card," Bush said to one of the Secret Service agents. Card, the designee as chief of staff, entered from an adjoining room . . . Bush looked impatiently at Card, hard-eyed. "You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?"

Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room.

I'm sure he'll be missed. Perhaps we should all send Josh Bolton some McDonald's menus. He's going to need them.


I just know there are a few of you who would love to take some action today to show the powers that be that the grassroots have a sense of humor. Christy at FDL has the next phase of the "rubber stamp" action plan ready to roll. Think of it as a way of bonding with our representatives --- and telling the other side that we are on to them...


by digby

A couple of months ago when Deborah Howell was "deluged" with "uncivilized" comments about her failure to correct a blatant misrepresentation, the Washington Post ombudsman and others had a shrieking fit of the vapors and spent days on the fainting couch mumbling incoherently about the rude insults they had to endure. I thought Howell would have to take a leave of absense and get herself to a nunnery for a few weeks just to regain her belief in the goodness of mankind after such an assault.

As was amply demonstrated, the vast majority of the comments were not, in fact, crude or filthy. They condemned the Post for uncritically recycling RNC talking points and failing to provide proof of their assertions. And they used aggressive language to do it.

But as Busy, Busy Busy's Elton Beard noticed, Howell only seems to be truly stunned, angry and upset by certain kinds of criticism. Others, not so much. Here's Howell this past Sunday:

One critic of the coverage is John Dowd, a Washington lawyer: "I can't subscribe to your newspaper anymore because you have lost all sense of balance and perspective in your coverage of the war in Iraq and against the terrorists. It is clear to those of us who have our sons and daughters who are in harm's way that you support the terrorists and you are opposed to the efforts of our Marines, all who are sacrificing so that you are free to publish without interference."

Dowd's son Dan is a Marine captain, just back from his second tour as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. Dowd sees his son and other U.S. and Iraqi soldiers "as the most selfless people I've known in my life." I found his letter haunting; it pains me that he would think Post journalists support terrorists.

Beard says:

Think about that.

A reader accuses Washington Post journalists of siding with Goldstein - er, terrorists - and Deborah Howell doesn't think, this man is either demented or trying to manipulate me. She doesn't crumple up and toss the letter and she doesn't add it to her loony folder, already overflowing with missives from crazed liberals. She does not take offense at the slur on her colleagues. Quite the opposite. She takes the complaint seriously

It pains her to think this fine man believes that the Washington Post supports terrorists. She's "haunted" by that criticism. But those of us who would like the Post to correct their errors are uncivilized beasts from the fever swamp who are dragging down the discourse. That's very revealing, I think. Deborah Howell, like so many of her brethren, has so internalized rightwing criticism that it doesn't even seem unreasonable anymore. She "understands" it. This man called her a traitor to her face and all it does is make her feel sad. She doesn't even know that she has completely absorbed the right's criticisms.

And when liberals point out that she has become subsumed by a radical Republican establishment, when they bring attention to the fact that she no longer even knows when she is being manipulated and abused --- she gets angry and tries to kill the messenger.

The truth is that we are not trying to destroy the media with our barbaric uncouth ways and unflattering criticisms. We are trying to save it. It's not surprising that they have become self-loathing, addicted to RNC spin and dependent on the approbation of the Republican establishment. We can all see why they would no longer be able to tell the difference between rational conservative discourse and RNC propaganda. They've been under sustained attack for years.

That's why we've decided we need to stage an intervention. The first step is to wake them up and make them realize that when a reader calls them a terrorist sympathizer the proper response is not to "feel pained" or be "haunted." It's to recognize that the person who is saying it is a deluded rightwing nutcase --- and then get righteously pissed. That is not a benign charge --- they are fighting words.

And conversely, when someone calls them on an error, the proper response is to admit it and correct it, not become freaked out by the passion of those who demand it. These two kinds of feedback from readers are not equivalent and the second is certainly not more deserving of anger and shock than the first. Being called a traitor to your country is a deeply offensive insult. Being told you are not doing your job correctly may be insulting, but it's hardly in the same league. The fact that Deborah Howell cannot see that --- and takes the first one more seriously than the second --- is the very essence of the problem with the mainstream press.

Cheating By Reflex

by digby

If they aren't plagiarising, they're lying. If they aren't lying they're cooking the record. If they can't win, they cheat.

And anyone who ever believes a word of anything coming out of the mouth of that unctuous phony Huckleberry Graham is just looking to get punked. Get a load of this, from Anonymous Liberal:

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. The Court will be called upon to determine--among other things--whether a provision in last year's Detainee Treatment Act ("DTA") effectively strips the Court of jurisdiction to hear Hamdan's case. The Government contends that it does and in support of this position, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John Kyl have filed an amicus brief with the Court.

This amicus brief argues that the legislative history of the DTA supports the Government's position. Specifically, the brief cites a lengthy colloquy between Senators Kyl and Graham themselves which purportly took place during a Senate floor debate just prior to passage of the bill. In the exchange, both Kyl and Graham suggest that the bill will strip the courts of jurisdiction over pending detainee cases such as Hamdan. But here's where the story gets interesting.

Apparently this entire 8 page colloquy--which is scripted to read as if it were delivered live on the floor of the Senate, complete with random interruptions from other Senators--never took place. It was inserted into the Congressional Record in written form just prior to passage of the bill.

They even went to the trouble of making it appear to be a "real" debate with conversational asides and colloquial language. The very, very pious and godly Sam Brownback lied outright and said he'd participated in the debate when it never actually happened. (He's got a bit part in the script.) This article in Slate leads me to believe that there may have been some collusion between the Justice Department and Graham.

They knew that the entire Senate did not intend that the court be stripped of jurisdiction in pending cases. It probably wouldn't have passed if that had been the case. So they cheated. This has been the story over and over and over again with this rubber stamp Eunuch Caucus. If they can't deliver for their Dear Leader by following the rules --- even with a majority --- they ignore them. They are the outlaw party.

The Iraq Document Dump

by tristero

Shorter Peter Bergen: There is no credible evidence in the Iraqi document dump of a Saddam/Qaeda link beyond the most desultory of contacts, as the 9/11 Commission, et al. has already concluded.

And before taking a quick squint, finding something ambiguous and shrieking, "Smoking gun, smoking gun!" I'd like to remind our rabid friends on the right that, as the introduction to the documents clearly states: "The US Government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available." That should be taken as a very strong hint to be very skeptical about what you think you've found.

Of course, it would be outrageous to accuse the Bush administration of salting the document dump with deliberate forgeries. Completely outrageous.

It would also be outrageous to accuse the Bush administration of witholding documents that would tend to make their justifications for the war look even more specious than they already do. Completely outrageous.

I urge everyone on the right to drop everything they are doing for the next few years and carefully, carefully study this archive. And be sure to triple-check what you find. Studying this material with the detail it deserves will require your full, undivided attention.

Take your time, boys and girls, as much as you need. I can wait.

Monday, March 27, 2006

More Pretexts

by digby

In reference to my post below about Bush and Blair casually throwing around possible pretexts for the war, Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution pointed me to a post he wrote almost a year ago in which he showed that this was openly discussed at the time by none other than the likes of liberal hawk hero, Kenneth Pollack:

...The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack was the book all good liberal hawks claimed had convinced them we just HAD to invade Iraq. And Pollack spoke about this strategy quite openly.

And yet as far as I can tell not a single member of the media pointed out how weird this was. (Of course, it's likely most of the people touting The Threatening Storm never bothered to read it.)

Specifically, Pollack writes about this in the "Case for an Invasion" chapter. He explains we have to invade Iraq because of Saddam's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, other countries refuse to recognize this grave, grave danger. So in order to build as large a coalition as possible, we need some help from Iraq:

Click the link to see Pollacks explicit advice that the government use covert action provoke Saddam into retaliation so that we might invent a cassus belli. Pollack patiently explains,however, that even if we are unable to manufacture a proper pretext, we must invade anyway.

This was the reasonable liberal position, you'll recall. Those of us who were against the war because it made no sense were so beyond the pale that we didn't even merit a mention. Those who argued that invasion was unnecessary to contain the threat were relegated to obscure foreign policy journals. Those who said that it was counterproductive were called appeasers. Kenneth Pollack represented the "respectable" liberal position --- and he argued quite openly that the government should invent a pretext to invade Iraq --- and if that proved impossible we had to invade anyway.

And nobody said a word. Of course, his book was nearly hysterical in its threat assessment, so the idea of having to create a pretext to invade another nation seemed a small thing to some, I suppose. (The NYRB didn't mention it.) But why did no one note that the fact the US could not make its case straightforwardly may just have meant that it didn't actually ... have a case?

After excerpting Pollack's blithe list of potential phony pretexts, Jonathan concludes with this observation -- one that really takes the cake and shows how intellectually bankrupt the liberal hawks were:

The best part is that later ON THE SAME PAGE Pollack piously explains "the administration needs to do an honest job explaining to the American people... why the United States needs to undertake this effort."

So, there you have it: we're going to invade no matter what, but we should try to come up with some pretext, all the while being honest about why we're invading. If you're capable of believing that makes any sense whatsoever, you'll be a welcome member of the US foreign policy establishment.

9/11 changed everything. It made people stupid.

The Lowest of The Low

by digby

Andrew Sullivan has been writing about discrimination against atheists lately. Today's post on the subject is particularly interesting:

Eugene Volokh has just written a law article (PDF file here) on how atheist fathers and mothers are routinely discriminated against in child custody cases. He cites over 70 recent cases across the country - and these were only the ones which were appealed, so they probably represent a fraction of the actual cases. Volokh recalls how Percy Byshe Shelley was the first father to be denied custody because of his atheism - but his dilemma doesn't belong to a different time and place

The post goes on to show that this is actually fairly common. Frankly, I'm not surprised at all. Despite the ridiculous hype to the contrary, our society dictates that religion is required to be a decent person. If you can't get elected to office as an atheist, why would a court grant you the right to raise children?

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Sullivan, in an earlier post on the subject, points out the obvious:

A government that screws with the rights of atheists is screwing with the rights of believers as well.

True, but then religious freedom isn't really the point for most theocrats, is it?

The Liberal Clergy Gets Serious

by digby

We've had quite a few discussions about religion on this blog lately, which led me to believe that there is a serious need for the religious left to assert itself and make a case for Democratic religiosity. The Republicans simply do not own the church and they have no right to claim they do.

But I, being a non-believer, cannot make that case effectively. I can't even discuss it in terms other than dry pragmatic political language. So, I'm thrilled to read through Street Prophets that the United Church of Christ has teamed up with Media Matters to "fight the pronounced tilt toward the Religious Right in mainstream media news." Pastordan writes:

The conclusion is hard to escape: unless you're Jesse Jackson (and it's before 2001), if you're on Sunday morning television to talk religion and politics, you're almost certainly white, male and conservative, and you probably don't represent anyone other than your own advocacy group. Is it any wonder that public discourse about religion has become so distorted in the past few years? The news shows have stopped talking to people who do religion in favor of people who talk about "religious values," and usually from a particular perspective.

That's a real filter, and it doesn't just hurt faithful progressives. It hurts our churches, temples and mosques as well, by buying into the spin that conservative activists - who can give great soundbite on politics - represent the true face of faith in America. For that matter, it hurts all denominations, who are usually more interested in doing good than playing political footsie with the Republican party.

So thank God there's a way to fight back. The first action is a letter/e-mail campaign to ask ABC why it is there's such an imbalance on their news shows. Drop them a line, and let's get this party started. It really has been too long that we've allowed the hucksters and bigots to speak for us.

And the UCC will be running a new ad soon as well, if the networks will play them. Today's New York Times reports:

The church will return on April 3 with a second commercial, also from Gotham, titled "Ejector Pew." The spot depicts a smug, traditional-looking family looking askance as they are joined inside a church by worshipers who are significantly different from them.

Suddenly, the worshipers who are disabled or elderly, or who appear to be gay, Hispanic or of Middle Eastern origin, are forcibly ejected from their seats. "God doesn't reject people," the commercial says. "Neither do we."

This time, the campaign, with a budget estimated at $1.5 million, extends well beyond television. The intent is to stimulate conversation and debate with so-called viral efforts that are to include a substantial online presence, on Web sites and blogs; chain letters, in the form of e-mail messages; audio podcasts; posters; events at local churches; and even merchandise like decals, tote bags, pens and golf balls bearing the phrase "God is still speaking," which is the campaign's theme.

Smart stuff.

Click over to Street Prophets for links to the ad.

Fresh Blood In The White House

by tristero

As Bush's poll numbers cluster down around a still-phenomenally-too-high-to-believe-there-are-that-many-clueless-people-left-in-the-country 33%, one would think he'd start to reach out for bipartisan support before he runs the country entirely onto the rocks. Y'know, like fire the morons around him and hire some people with at least half an ounce of common sense.

One would think Bush might start behaving like a real grownup instead of a spoiled rich bastard, but one would be wrong. Guess who's been spending more quality time with the president of the United States than ever?

Grover Norquist. That's right. Grover Norquist who, The Carpetbagger reminds us is:
a guy who believes the Estate Tax is morally equivalent to the Nazi Holocaust, calls WWII veterans "anti-American," and believes "bipartisanship is another name for date rape." This is the guy the White House turns to for policy briefings?

Moreover, there's Norquist's recent corruption scandals.
As in Abramoff scandals. Oh, and this is the very same Grover who wanted to drown government in a bathtub (unfortunate metaphor post-Katrina). The very same Grover who said:
Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are very unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such.
And once again, we will hear from Bush about how important it is to have a non-partisan, "respectful" debate.

Grover Norquist, a major adviser to the most powerful man in the world. What next? He'll sit down to get advice from Pat "assasinate Chavez" Robertson? Hahahahahah! Oh, wait...