Tuesday, January 28, 2003

I keep hearing from the right wing that liberalism is dead, that America is tired of it. Well, if that's the case, what was up with the first half of the State of the Union address?

“To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account....We must put doctors, and nurses, and patients back in charge of American medicine.... Medicare is a binding commitment of a caring society.... All seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs.... Tonight I am proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.... I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean....”

If this very conservative president was so desperate to appropriate our language, if not some of our actual ideas, then liberalism must be a lot more appealing than most people -- including far too many Democrats -- realize.

**************************

But then we got the macho part of the State of the Union address. Count the lies in this short passage. Assume that by "we" and "this nation," Bush means "this administration":

"This nation fights reluctantly (1) because we know the cost (2) and we dread the days of mourning that always come (3). We seek peace (4). We strive for peace (5)."

Twenty-six words. Five lies. Amazing.
At tonight's State of the Union address, according to this AP article, there will be "one seat left empty to symbolize 'the empty place many Americans will always have at their tables and in their lives' because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

Is it just me, or is this a cheap, tasteless stunt? The president did nothing to prevent 9/11; sixteen and a half month later he turns to it once again for reflected glory.

Additionally, one of the president's guests at the speech will be "Marine Corps Corp. Michael Vera, of Jersey City, N.J., who was less than 20 yards from the site of impact of a hijacked plane into the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and who, with a fellow Marine, went into the burning building 14 times to rescue people." And as the tears fall, Bush will talk about Iraq, as if al-Qaeda operates out of Baghdad.
Bush Commission Plans to Endorse 57% Quota for Male College Athletes

That's essentially what this AP story says:

The Bush administration's Title IX commission appears set to recommend that the 30-year-old gender equity law in sports be made less rigid, a commission member said Monday.

...A draft copy of the report, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, lists 24 recommendations culled from five public hearings across the country over the last five months.

The most controversial proposal ... would allow schools to have a 50-50 split of male and female athletes, regardless of the makeup of the student body.

Critics note that the proposal includes a leeway of 5 to 7 percentage points, which means schools could be in compliance with the gender requirements with as little as 43 percent female representation.


So the women get second-class status again, and the men get ... well, they get a really, really stern talking-to, maybe:

One of [commission member Julie] Foudy's recommendations would have President Bush and [Secretary of Education Rod] Paige use their offices as "bully pulpits" to encourage schools to stop the so-called "arms race" of spiraling spending on football and basketball facilities and coaches.

Yeah, right. I'm sure that will happen.
In order to avoid war with Iraq, a proposal has been made that would allow Saddam Hussein to live the rest of his life in exile and thus avoid prosecution for any action he took as leader of Iraq. In exchange, Saddam would have to agree to peacefully step down as the leader of Iraq.

Would I approve or disapprove of this proposal? Yes, I would approve of it.


If the passage above appeared on the op-ed page of a liberal British newspaper or in a left-wing American journal of opinion, right-wing commentators would rail against its author; a "Sontag Award" nomination would follow in short order from Andrew Sullivan.

Well, Andrew, get ready to issue a whole lot of Sontags -- what I quoted above is from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted January 23 - 25, and 62% of Americans approved of exile for Saddam (scroll down to the tenth question). Many of these people approve of war with Iraq in the abstract and distrust the European approach, as the other poll questions show -- but they'd let the man end his days at a villa to avoid the war the Bushies and their acolytes so obviously long for. I guess there's really not all that much difference between us and those lily-livered Brie eaters across the pond.
What? Didn't we already win the war in Afghanistan?
There's not much I can add to this:

Already today European officials were saying that even if everything Mr. Blix says is true — and they did not dispute it — Iraq has been hiding whatever weapons it has for a decade. And the question that Germany and France have pressed remains: If Saddam Hussein's power is contained by the presence of inspectors and the troops massing on his border, what is the urgency of toppling him now?

"The pressure on Saddam is fine, and we want to keep it up," one senior German official said today by telephone from Berlin. "Why risk everything else that can go wrong — uprisings in the streets, a broken Iraq — if we have him where we want him?"

Monday, January 27, 2003

Double taxation? The president sheds tears for millionaires allegedly subjected to it, while many ordinary Americans suffer triple taxation without a word of sympathy from the White House.

Donald Barlett and James Steele write about that inequity in Time this week. Barlett and Steele are the dogged economic populists who wrote the 1992 bestseller America: What Went Wrong? In the article they also give examples of potential windfalls for the rich from an elimination of the tax on dividends (the family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton: $187 million), and they point out the extraordinarily regressive nature of the Social Security tax (everything above $87,000 a year is exempt from the tax, so middle-income workers pay it on every dime, while CEOs with seven- and eight-figure salaries pay it on only a small fraction of what they make).

Don't plead innumeracy. Just read the article and get angry.

(Some of what B&S say will be familiar to those familiar with this much-discussed New York Times article -- together, the two articles help explain why we have an essentially flat tax rate, when all forms of taxation are taken into account, as this chart shows, despite our progressive income tax.)
I'm intrigued by something in Peggy Noonan's latest column:

Four months ago a friend who had recently met with the president on other business reported to me that in conversation the president had said that he has been having some trouble sleeping, and that when he awakes in the morning the first thing he often thinks is: I wonder if this is the day Saddam will do it.

"Do what exactly?" I asked my friend. He told me he understood the president to be saying that he wonders if this will be the day Saddam launches a terror attack here, on American soil.

There's no way of knowing whether this is true, of course -- but if it is, you have to wonder whether bloodthirsty courtiers are whispering in Bush's ear precisely what they think will motivate him to do what they want him to do. An attack on the U.S. -- by Saddam rather than al-Qaeda or North Korea (or even Hamas or Hezbollah)? And now? Are hawks telling Bush to expect this highly improbable scenario in order to get what they want, just as the trigger-happy FBI reportedly told Janet Reno that children were being abused in David Koresh's Waco compound, knowing that child abuse was a hot-button issue for Reno?

Waco and Iraq seem similar in another way, incidentally: Bush seems to be ignoring the very real possibility that, if attacked, Saddam will choose to go down in flames along with everything around him, just as Reno and the FBI ignored this possibility in the case of Koresh. I'm no Reno-hater, but I never understood this about Waco -- it seemed obvious to me that Koresh's fervor and belief system might well lead him to choose a gruesome death (and, presumably, what he thought would be a glorious afterlife). Saddam seems very much the same -- yet the hawks don't seem to be worried that he might embrace conflagration if cornered. The danger of such a conflagration seems the obvious reason to oppose the war we're on the verge of fighting, and prefer deterrence and containment.

********
In her column, Peggy Noonan also says this:

Mr. Bush's passion is well-established. Too much so, actually. Last summer, when Mr. Bush told Bob Woodward's tape recorder that he personally loathes Kim Jung Il, when he spoke of his disdain in startlingly personal tones--and when the world heard it on television, for Mr. Woodward apparently provided the tape to publicists when he was selling his Bush book--well, that was not a great moment in the history of diplomacy. Mr. Bush's father was often accused of allowing himself to express too little. George W. Bush may be remembered in part for allowing himself to express too much.

For a GOP coat-holder of several decades' standing, these are harsh words. If a liberal had published these words, Andrew Sullivan would have declared the writer a "Sontag Award Nominee" or "Krugman Award Nominee," or whatever it is he calls people who don't fully avert their eyes when His Serene Highness the Emir of Bush enters the room.
You may have read that the commission investigating September 11 will have roughly a year to do its work and a budget of $3 million -- one year and $2 million less than a commission appointed in 1996 to study legalized gambling. But here's another comparison: Independent counsel Donald Smaltz's investigation of Clinton agriculture secretary Mike Espy on charges that he took $35,000 worth of illegal gifts from regulated businesses ran even longer and cost even more -- and Espy was acquitted by jurors who called the case "a travesty." (Smaltz did obtain a number of convictions or guilty pleas by others in the course of his investigation.) News reports at the time of Espy's acquittal put the duration and cost of the investigation at four years and $17 million; however, this report by the independent counsel himself was made nine months later, at the five-year mark, and claimed costs of $22 million -- with more anticipated. No update to this 1999 report is posted at www.oic.gov, but in 2001 the total cost of the investigation was reported to be $24.2 million.

Now, I'm no fan of corporate lobbyists who dole out goodies to public officials or of the officials who take them, but here's what we're being told:

* $35,000 worth of freebies merits a $24 million investigation.

* 3,000 dead merits a $3 million investigation.

In Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane decides at one point to run for governor. On election night, the newspaper he publishes has two headlines set in type and ready to be printed: one is KANE ELECTED, the other, for the opposite result, is FRAUD AT POLLS.

UN weapons inspectors issue a preliminary report today. The Bush administration has clearly been preparing to take a Charles Foster Kane approach to that report.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

U.S. prepares for possible use of nukes in Iraq, expert says

As the Pentagon continues a highly visible buildup of troops and weapons in the Persian Gulf, it is also quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in the potential war against Iraq, according to a report by a defense analyst.

Although they consider such a strike unlikely, military planners have been actively studying lists of potential targets and considering options, including the possible use of so-called "bunker buster" nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets, says analyst William M. Arkin, who writes a regular column on defense matters for the Los Angeles Times....


Don't say I didn't warn you -- back in October.

Here's the article I linked at the time (yes, from Popular Mechanics). Note that Rob Nelson, a Princeton physicist, doubts that we can guarantee radiation from bunker-buster nukes will stay underground; PM summarizes his argument thus: "While it is true that most material would remain within the blast area, a radioactive cloud seeping from the crater would release a plume of gases that would irradiate anyone in its path."

Oh, great.

But it gets worse. This morning on CNN, Fredericka Whitfield interviewed James Walsh of Harvard on this subject. Walsh had this to say about what the administration is telling us:

You asked whether it was new or old, and what I was talking about was the general policy of deterring chem or bio use with nuclear. The preemption part, that is brand new. There's no president in U.S. history that has openly advocated striking a non-nuclear country first with nuclear weapons.

And how that would work -- there's been a lot of talk in the Pentagon about creating a bunker buster. They know that Saddam has German-made NATO-quality bunkers in which he could hide from conventional bombs, and what they wanted to do is design a bomb that would burrow into the earth and then set off a nuclear detonation and then take him out. Of course, you got to know where he is, and if you knew where he was, he probably would have been killed a long time ago. So I think that's problematic. There are problems all over the place here.

And let me focus on two in particular. One, this gives Israel more permission -- a greater ability to respond in the same way. If Israel gets hit with chem or bio, do we want them to respond with nuclear weapons? By saying we are going to do, I think it creates conditions that that's a more likely outcome.

And secondly, just personally now, I think we have to step back and ask, how did we get here? This is supposed to be a war in the name of non-proliferation, to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction. And now the CIA tells us in a report that by attacking Saddam, he will use his weapons of mass destruction, and now we're saying we'll use nuclear weapons against him, or even first, and that Israel might also do that. So somehow a war in the name of non-proliferation is a war all about using weapons of mass destruction. So I think somewhere along the line, we've gotten off track.


Good points.
Someone else notices that identical pro-Bush letters are appearing in multiple newspapers over multiple signatures.
A nice matched set of articles arrived in my mailbox yesterday. In The Nation, Eric Alterman assesses anti-Americanism in Europe and discovers that Europeans don't resent us, they just resent Bush, while in The New York Review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash looks at anti-Europeanism in America and finds that it comes primarily from the Bush government and its supporters. Gosh, you don't think there might be a cause and effect here, do you?

Garton Ash's article is valuable because he reproduces examples of current right-wing pundit rhetoric in all its bratty infantilism ("Euroweenies"). This is good because he's writing for a readership that's unlikely to be familiar with the work of Jonah Goldberg, much less Scrappleface. Some of what Garton Ash quotes has escaped my attention -- I didn't realize Mark Steyn had made reference to "the Eurinal of history," and now that I know he has, I'd argue that it says a lot more about Mark Steyn's psychosexual development than it does about geopolitics.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

For right-wingers who are cackling because they think the recent cold snap in the U.S. proves that global warming is a myth, here's a reality check from meteorologists at Penn State, courtesy of The New York Times:

As of late last week, January 2003 was only the 36th coldest January on record for New York City. Averaging 29 degrees, this January has been downright balmy compared with, say, January 1918, when the average was 21.7 degrees.

Not a single low temperature has set a record. The lowest temperature so far this month was an un-record-shattering 7 degrees on Jan. 18 in Central Park. That would not be a record for any day in Januaries past....

New York City has an illustrious weather history. In January 1857, ... temperatures hovered at zero degrees before dropping on Jan. 24 to minus 9....


By contrast:

* A preliminary assessment of weather data from around the world indicates, according to the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia, that 1995 was the warmest year since recordkeeping began in 1856.

* The global mean temperature anomaly for March 1998 is the second warmest on record at 0.79 degrees C above the 1961-1990 mean.

* September 1998 was the warmest September on record both globally and in the contiguous United States, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported...

* October 2001 was the warmest October on record globally, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

* Last month [April 2002] was the second warmest April on record worldwide, and was warmer and drier than usual for much of the United States.

* Climate of 2002, May in Historical Perspective: Globally averaged surface temperatures were the third warmest on record for May and second warmest for spring, based on preliminary data.

* Climate of 2002, June in Historical Perspective: Globally averaged surface temperatures were the second warmest on record for June, based on preliminary data.

And that's just from one quick Google search.

Well, someone noticed that prefab "Astroturf" letters were being generated by the GOP and sent out over different citizens' signatures -- Stephen Phelps, the opinion page editor of the Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol, Virginia. He writes about it here. Nice work. Other papers that fell for this scam (hello, Boston Globe!) have some explaining to do.
A reader points out this story from January 16:

Florida International, a former power in men's soccer, eliminated the program Thursday because of financial reasons.

FIU won national championships in 1982 and 1984 while competing at the Division II level. It also reached the 1996 Division I championship game against St. John's....

FIU began a football program last season, a sport that is regarded to be the most expensive for a school to maintain....


Interesting -- the connection between college football's parasitical nature and the decision to eliminate less popular collegiate sports is so self-evident now that even mainstream reporters point it out. Ah, but the Bushies can't acknowledge that. The commission Bush appointed will soon recommend the undermining of Title IX, all because Bush -- yet again -- has to "shore up his base" of angry guys.

A house that had been "shored up" as well as George Bush's base could withstand a nuclear blast in the middle of a perfect storm.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Belated thanks to Atrios for the link. Thanks also to TBOGG -- good luck to your daughter. And to Conrad at the Gweilo Diaries, um, thanks for looking in, and I'm sorry you completely failed to comprehend what I was saying.
COINCIDENCE?

Bush approval rating:

CNN/USA Today/Gallup: 58% (down 3%)

CBS/New York Times: 59% (down 5%)

NBC/Wall Street Journal: 54% (down 8%)

ABC/Washington Post: 59% (down (7%)

Newsweek: 56% (down 4%)

CNN/Time: 53% (down 2%)

--PollingReport.com

*********************

U.S. official: weapons inspections may be extended

--AP story posted this afternoon
Many thanks to Cursor for the link today.
Quotas are bad, the Bushies say -- except, y'know, when they limit women's participation in guy things, in which case they're good:

Changes to Title IX considered

Colleges and universities would be allowed to limit the number of scholarships awarded to female athletes without regard to enrollment under the most controversial recommendation being considered by a national commission studying reform of Title IX, the landmark law that bans sex discrimination in collegiate sports.

UNDER THE proposal, which is among two dozen the panel is studying, schools could devote as little as 43 percent of their athletic scholarships to women and still comply with the law — even though women comprise 55 percent of the enrollment in the nation’s four-year colleges....


(By the way, read the December New York Times Magazine article about the money-sucking effects of college football if you still believe that Title IX is why your alma mater's fencing team got axed.)
Bow your heads in respect! Professor Instapundit informs us that "Axis of Weasels" is now a meme.

(Sorry -- I'm not impressed. I grew up in Boston and lived through busing in the 1970s. Nobody used the word "meme" then, but back then "NIGGERS SUCK" was a meme. Only it was usually spelled "NIGORS SUCK.")
Kevin at Beyond the Wasteland has kind words for me and for Europe. Much appreciated.

There’s nothing new about the current right-wing Euro-bashing. It’s really not very different from what the globalize-or-die crowd was slinging back in the 1990s. The inclusion of Germany is a new wrinkle, perhaps, but, as Thomas Frank pointed out in 2000 in One Market Under God, hegemonists in the ’90s just couldn’t stop making fun of France:

…it began to seem as though some blue-ribbon committee had chosen France to succeed the Soviet Union as the avatar of economic and cultural error, the rhetorical straw man to set the peanut gallery hooting and hissing….

[The French] are a stubborn people swimming mulishly against the current both culturally and economically, American pundits maintain; they are ruled by a martinet government that prevents people from riding the ecstatic waves of commerce; and they are a nation of uptight killjoys bent on ruining the sweet American buzz that everyone else is getting into. Whether the French person in question was a rude waiter mocking your request for ketchup, a skiier turning up his nose at snowboarders, or a social planner seeking to soften the blows of the global economy, they were all one and the same for American observers, and the nifty possibility of mixing stereotype with economic crusading was too great for the culture-warriors of the new global order to resist.


Back then, of course, the American establishment thought dot.com-driven turbocapitalism could do no wrong and might even bring about permanent, recession-free prosperity. Right now the American government thinks a war with Iraq could be a walk in the park and will almost certainly rain blessings on the planet. Guess who was right last time?
"Axis of Weasel" (minus the final "s," mysteriously) makes the front page of the New York Post.

The process of cultural de-evolution is now all but complete. We now live in Pro Wrestling Nation. Bush pledged to "restore honor and dignity"; instead, our discourse has been reduced to hormone-addled trash-talk.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Good Lord, these right-wingers just can't get enough of the painfully unfunny "Axis of Weasels" -- there's now a subtle-as-a-flying-mallet hommage to it here.

And in case you haven't had your fill of right-wing humor, here's what happens when you teach these people Photoshop....
Run for your lives -- it's more right-wing humor!

Rumsfeld Sorry for 'Axis of Weasels' Remark

(2003-01-22) -- U.S. Secretary Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized today for referring to France and Germany as an "Axis of Weasels."

"I'm sorry about that Axis of Weasels remark," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "I didn't mean to dredge up the history France and Germany share of pathetic compliance with ruthless dictators."

The Defense Secretary said he was "way out of bounds" with the comments.

"I should have known better than to remind people that these two nations--which live in freedom thanks only to the righteous might of America, Britain and their allies--that these nations are morally and politically bankrupt, and have failed to learn the lessons of history," he said. "It really was an inappropriate thing to say--you know, the Axis of Weasels thing. I really should not have called them the Axis of Weasels. I think it's the 'Weasels' part that was most offensive...you know, when I said that France and Germany form an Axis of Weasels. Of course, I'm so sorry."


This thigh-slapper comes to us from blogger ScrappleFace, and conservatives think it's just the bee's knees -- Instapundit loves it, and he reports that Fox News viewers literally do spit-takes when they hear it. It must be the jazzy Borscht-belt rhythms that make this such a hoot: "...these two nations--which live in freedom thanks only to the righteous might of America, Britain and their allies--that these nations are morally and politically bankrupt, and have failed to learn the lessons of history." Da - da - boom!

By the way, guess what else ScrappleFace thinks is funny? Stale Ted Kennedy jokes!

Tucker Carlson claimed on Sunday that conservatives have more of a sense of humor than liberals. Perhaps he'd like to reconsider that assertion, in light of the fact that a conservative illustrator drew this cartoon and Andrew Sullivan thinks it's funny.
Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak was just hired by Fox News Channel to host "a one-hour 'celebrity- and newsmaker-driven talk show.'" Surprise! Sajak is a conservative.

Sajak is a board member of the very right-wing Claremont Institute, which confers awards on people who think William Rehnquist is too left-wing. (A fellow Claremont board member is deep-pocketed evolution opponent and Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson).

Here, at ChristianAnswers.Net, is "The Disconnect Between Hollywood and America," an abridged version of a Sajak speech. If you don't have time to read it, here's a quick summary: Hollywood is a cesspool of liberalism and America isn't.
AP reports that, according to yet another poll, this one from NBC and The Wall Street Journal, Bush's overall approval rating is down and Americans don't think his tax cuts will work. No surprise there. The AP story adds this silver lining, however: "Bush still has a commanding lead over potential Democratic rivals in head-to-head matchups, though that lead is dwindling."

Well, that's true, according to the summary of the NBC/WSJ poll at PollingReport.com. But notice this: The response to the generic question "If President Bush runs for reelection in 2004, do you think you will probably vote for President Bush or probably vote for the Democratic candidate?" is now down to 41% Bush, 34% Democrat -- a drop of 7 percentage points in the past month. And the CNN/USA Today/Gallup results are even worse: Asked, "If George W. Bush runs for reelection in 2004, would you say you will definitely vote for him, might vote for or against him, or will you definitely vote against him?," only 36% said they'd definitely vote for Bush, while 32% said they'd definitely vote against.

Other polls differ with this, but it sure looks to me as if Bush is dropping like a rock...
You may have read that a letter beginning “When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership...” has now been published repeatedly, in dozens of newspapers -- each time bearing a different signature. The text of the letter has been traced to an online wing of the Republican National Committee; GOP loyalists simplied copied the letter, added their signatures, and the letter soon showed up in one newspaper after another.

But just how many such letters are floating around? Gary Stock’s UnBlinking site has determined that the “genuine leadership” letter and two additional pro-Bush letters have recently appeared in multiple newspapers; he includes a chart of the letters and their appearances. And Declan McCullach's Politech has evidence of yet another “Astroturf” (phony grassroots) pro-Bush letter.

Maybe a few newspapers ought to consider assigning an intern to keep track of what’s coming out of these letter mills.

But, of course, weren’t we all told that Bush and his party have a solid mandate from the American people to govern as they see fit? If so, why is it even necessary to use deception to nudge public opinion GOP-ward? We’ve all simply embraced the Republican agenda unquestioningly -- haven’t we?

(UPDATE: Failure Is Impossible is tracking five GOP Astroturf letters -- and FII's list doesn't include the letter being tracked by Politech. This campaign to manufacture consent seems sicker and sicker the more you examine it.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Bush warns Iraqi military on attacks

...President Bush on Wednesday warned Iraqi military commanders not to unleash chemical or biological weapons on invading U.S. troops....

Just in case anyone was assuming he would think doing that was OK.
Pixelforge has my back, for which I’m grateful. The first Pixelforge post in response to my tête-à-tête with Lee from Right-Thinking from the Left Coast is here; a longer response is here.

Now, I haven’t demonstrated much in recent years, but I certainly recognize the experience described in the longer post of spontaneously joining up with a group of like-minded protestors without stopping to ascertain their opinions on every last issue; apparently, right-wing protestors never do this -- apparently, right-wing protestors mate for life, and therefore demand that fellow picketers provide a complete curriculum vitae and a full set of references.

The longer Pixelforge post also reminds me that Lee of Right-Thinking says the right "repudiated" Trent Lott. The right did not "repudiate" Trent Lott. Trent Lott was kicked sideways into a less visible but still quite powerful position, presumably at full salary, after which his racism-tolerating pal Charles Pickering was renominated for a Supreme Court-track judgeship. Is Trent Lott pounding the pavement right now? No? Then he hasn’t been "repudiated."

[UPDATE: The second Pixelforge post on the protest has been expanded since I first linked it, with (courtesy of the blog Polyglot, Inc.) an utterly Hitler-free list of signs seen at the demo ("49 Small-Town Wisconsin Teachers Against War -- But remember...this isn't a mainstream movement") and a first-hand account of the demo that rings true to me ("...nicky challenged a guy holding up a sign accusing jews of dominating the media and egging on this war. i heard a couple guys holding up a 'jews for peace' banner say 'we should go talk to that guy'. there were drums..."). No mention of any Kim Jong Il Indoctrination Tents, so conservatives may continue to be skeptical.]
An update to the previous post:

The sober-sided dean of right-leaning bloggers, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, writes this today:

Let's be honest here: there's a whole crowd in Europe that can't get over its disappointment that the wrong side won the Cold War, and that even lesser-path communism (that is, Euro-socialism) has been shown up as a failure. That's what this [opposition to an Iraq war] is all about, really. And it's contemptible -- and morally indistinguishable from a bunch of fat Germans sitting around nostalgically singing the "Horst Wessel."

Did you get that? Mr. Reynolds is essentially denouncing any western European who wants inspectors to keep working as the moral equivalent of both a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist and a Nazi.

Once again, the right wing wallows in its high opinion of its own moral superiority while arrogating to itself the right to engage in precisely the behavior it condemns. This is repugnant.
Oh dear me -- I seem to be in a pissing contest with a wingnut.

On Monday night I defended those who attended Saturday’s antiwar demonstration, which has been attacked by righty bloggers because some or all of its organizers have some unpalatable political opinions. Now Lee at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast has responded to me at length.

Lee essentially has one argument, which he makes over and over, namely that the politics of the A.N.S.W.E.R./Workers’ World Party honchos are widely known, and therefore anyone who attended their demo (and anyone who defends those attendees) is a traitor.

But the politics of the A.N.S.W.E.R./Workers’ World Party honchos aren’t widely known -- even now. The blogosphere is not the media universe. People who don’t spend hours a day online still don’t know much about A.N.S.W.E.R. How in the world can they be held responsible for A.N.S.W.E.R.’s opinions?

Even if the demonstrators are to blame, I’m not quite sure what amends they’re supposed to make for the organizers’ sins. Lee, presumably, would like all the attendees to get back on buses, reassemble on the Mall, and beat their breasts in unison while pledging to write checks to David Horowitz’s Web site. Or something like that.

Lee and his pal Jane Galt compare A.N.S.W.E.R. to the Klan. This is, I guess, because some or all of A.N.S.W.E.R.’s leaders haven’t sufficiently denounced Milosevic, Kim, and Saddam. But, of course, many conservatives were lukewarm at best when Bill Clinton sent troops to the former Yugoslavia -- has Lee denounced Paul Weyrich for this? Has Jane Galt? And Republican presidents cozied up to both Saddam and the the Taliban not all that long ago -- why no denunciation of an earlier decade’s realpolitik from righty bloggers? Why no denunciation of Jeane Kirkpatrick’s call for an acceptance of “authoritarian” (as opposed to “totalitarian”) regimes in the 1980s? Remember, we’re now talking about the actual policies of an actual superpower, policies that affected actual lives; Lee and Galt apparently believe such things are trivial, whereas shrill articles in sectarian newspapers no one reads are of paramount importance to the fate of the world.

Ultimately, we’re wasting our time arguing about this -- the Workers’ World Party will continue trying to advance unpopular, ill-considered ideas and the American people -- including the vast majority of American leftists and liberals -- will continue to reject those ideas, or never encounter the ideas in the first place because groups like the WWP do such a lousy job of getting their message out. But meanwhile, war drums are sounding. And what happened over the weekend was not a pro-Kim rally or a pro-Saddam rally or a pro-Milosevic rally, but an anti-war rally. And the fact that it got up so many right-wing bloggers’ noses strongly suggests that the demonstrators did something right.

(By the way, Lee’s complaints about demonstrators who compare Bush to Hitler might have a tiny bit more credibility if the logo of his blog weren’t the outline of the state of California with a hammer and sickle imposed on it. I guess Lee would say this is just a pun. Or maybe a palindrome. Of course, one of Lee’s own fans makes clear that Republicans who talk of “Hitlery” really aren’t kidding. But we knew that.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

When Congress debates the Bush proposal to cap lifetime pain-and-suffering awards at $250,000, John Edwards should read this, from Dwight Meredith's blog P.L.A., into the Congressional Record.

Excellent work, Dwight.
I took Latin in school; apparently Glenn Reynolds and Josh Chafetz didn't. Listen, guys, it's simple: the prefix "uni-" in "unilateral" and "unilateralism" means "one." Therefore, if you accuse a country of unilateralism, you're saying that country is acting alone. Chafetz says France is "unilaterally imposing its will on the rest of the [UN Security] Council"; Reynolds nods in agreement. But the story that's Chafetz's source says this:

But in a diplomatic version of an ambush, France and other countries used a high-level Security Council meeting on terrorism to lay down their markers for the debate that will commence next week on the inspectors' report. Russia and China, which have veto power, and Germany, which will chair the Security Council in February, also signaled today they were willing to let the inspections continue for months.

Only Britain appeared to openly support the U.S. position that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has thwarted effective inspections.


(Emphasis mine.)

Uni-? One.

Uni-? One.

Uni-? One.

Class dismissed.

Don’t you just want to slap the next Republican who offers helpful advice to the Democratic Party?

Here is a party that lost the popular vote in the last three presidential elections, failing to crack 41% in the first two and not even managing in 2000 to beat to the widely ridiculed vice president of an impeached horndog. Here is a party that squeals "Mandate!" when it has not quite 53% of the seats in the House of Representatives (recall that the Democrats had three-quarters of all House seats after the 1936 elections and two-thirds after the election of 1976, and even managed to win 58% of all House seats the year Reagan won 49 states). Here is a party whose president was handed the task of dealing with the most hated enemy any American leader has ever faced (bin Laden is surely more hated than Hitler, who had a fair number of U.S. defenders in the runup to World War II), yet this president, with his incoherent foreign policy, has managed to squander the sense of national unity engendered by 9/11 and now struggles to maintain a 60% approval rating. Who the hell are these people to tell us what we’re doing wrong?

David Brooks put his arm around the Democrats' shoulder in last Sunday’s New York Times; this week it was Tucker Carlson’s turn. Some of Carlson’s advice is obvious, and repeats what many liberals have said: The Democratic Party could use a massive infrastructure of think tanks with bottomless bank accounts, funded by stinking-rich ideologues, just like the GOP. Some of what he writes is self-contradictory: First he criticizes the Democrats for having too wonky a focus -- he says that "the entire Democratic strategy" in 2002 "seemed to consist of criticizing Bush’s economic policy by insulting Harvey Pitt" -- then he urges Dems to bestir the electorate with a clarion call for -- folks with weak hearts should pop a beta blocker now -- more money for port security! Can’t you just feel the excitement? Gosh, where is Norman Rockwell when you need a painting?

Carlson suggests that Republicans came to dominate American politics because they had a sense of humor and Democrats didn’t. This is a crock. Yes, Reagan was a happy warrior, but in the early 1980s, when conservatives took over the joint, who else among the dominant figures of the right had a light touch? George Will? Allan (Closing of the American Mind) Bloom? Sure, years later Rush Limbaugh and P. J. O’Rourke and The American Spectator used (contemptuous) humor to score right-wing points, but O’Rourke’s books no longer sell, the Spectator has been reduced to a shell-of-its-former-self Web site, and the few laughs to be had on the right come from Rush and Ann Coulter telling stale Ted Kennedy jokes.

According to Carlson, the Democrats lost their 1960s brio and "became the that’s-not-funny-young-man party." Well, perhaps. But recently, it was Bill O’Reilly who wagged a nannyish finger and got rapper Ludacris canned as a Pepsi spokesman. It’s Andrew Sullivan who patrols the world of political commentary like a high school hall monitor, prissily handing out "Sontag award nominations" like so many detention slips. And, of course, it was the Bush White House that pressured ABC to kick Bill Maher off the air -- the GOP is literally "the that’s-not-funny-young-man party" in Maher’s case. (Not a lot of laughs in the White House, by the way, particularly in its upper echelons. Bush is testy and snappish, Cheney is incurably dyspeptic, Rumsfeld is withering in his condescension -- they’re like a three-judge panel from Salem 1620.)

Reading the GOP’s smug advice columns, I’m reminded of something I saw Eddie Murphy do in a comedy club in his Saturday Night Live days. It was audition night at the club, and Murphy, who was in the audience, prevailed upon the MC to let him go on stage and test some material. The audience, having watched a succession of lousy wannabes, went crazy for Murphy. But Murphy wasn’t satisfied. When a hapless auditioner followed him and stumbled nervously through his routine, Murphy heckled the auditioner from the audience, then returned to the stage and humiliatingly lectured the poor guy on his delivery. Murphy then left the stage and let the guy continue -- but when he stumbled again, Murphy went back up and humiliated him even more.

This was around the time when Murphy was telling interviewers he wanted to be "the Beatles of comedy."

In other words, this was before Bowfinger, I Spy, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

Sooner or later, the fate of the arrogant GOP is going to look a lot like Eddie Murphy’s career.

Monday, January 20, 2003

In a post on Saturday, I said that the number of Americans who actually support the regimes of North Korea and Iraq is tiny. I'm supposed to hang my head in shame because that tiny group apparently includes all or some of the organizers of Saturday's D.C. peace demonstration. Well, fine. Now go do a scientific poll of demonstrators and ask how many of them knew that. Even right-wingers trying to horrify us with the most egregious photos of picket signs they could find from Saturday (Bush compared to Hitler! Good heavens! Conservatives would never do something like that!) show nothing in support of Saddam's regime or Kim's ("God bless Iraq" is not "God bless Saddam" -- the U.S. "has no quarrel with the Iraqi people," remember? -- and a demonstrator who sees a moral equivalence between Bush and Saddam, however simpleminded, presumably doesn't think Bush is a good guy, so he's not praising Saddam, either). The 1963 March on Washington is remembered for the "I Have a Dream" speech, but the point of most demonstrations is whatever the majority of demonstrators think the point is. Eric Alterman says people with dubious politics unfortunately organize left demonstrations the most effectively, and maybe he's right. But such people are utterly inept at getting the weird, fringy part of their message across, even to the people who march in their protests. This demo was about stopping an unnecessary war. It wasn't about the Workers World Party's agenda.
Jennifer Lopez's hit song "Jenny from the Block" was cited again in this week's Sunday New York Times. That makes three Sunday Times citations in two weeks. "Jenny from the Block" is unquestionably the seminal sociological text of our time.

Caryn James said in last Sunday's Times that the song deceives average Americans by suggesting that rich, famous J.Lo is just an ordinary person; James believes this is a bad thing. David Brooks said in last Sunday's Times that the song deceives average Americans by suggesting that rich, famous J.Lo is just an ordinary person; Brooks believes this is a good thing. Rob Walker said in yesterday's Times that the song sends a contradictory message to average Americans by suggesting that J.Lo is both an ordinary person and rich and famous; it's not clear whether Walker believes this is a good or bad thing.

One can only marvel at the textual richness of a song that is able to sustain such a multiplicity of interpretations from America's finest minds.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

I realize that many conservatives are frustrated because they can’t amass sufficient evidence to have all liberals rounded up and sent to camps on treason charges. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it’s been a while since a professional conservative writer expressed that frustration by just making stuff up about liberals and accusing us of treason for what he imagines we’re guilty of. But that’s what Richard Brookhiser does in his current New York Observer column. He writes:

How long will it be before American peaceniks arrive in Pyongyang to stand in solidarity with the Dear Leader and the dead Great Leader? We know what the cast of characters will be: Unitarian ministers, Jewish Buddhists, unemployed poets, white-haired hippies from the Green Mountains. We know what they will do: form a human chain, give interviews to CNN, hold up hand-lettered signs ("Give Peace A Chance," "Say NO To Cowboy Bush"). Nominally, they will be there because they don’t want war. Emotionally, they will be there because they admire North Korea. They admire it because it isn’t the United States. We know this will be the scenario, because it’s already happening, with Iraq as the peg for moral superiority.

I’ll say this flat out: I have not heard or read a single word of praise for Kim -- or Saddam or the leaders of al-Qaeda, for that matter -- from any left-wing American. If there is any respect or admiration for these men on the American left, it’s invisible to me. Yes, I imagine there is a sad old-school Marxist contingent or two out there that dutifully praises Kim, but I simply don’t know who these people are. The links at right of this page give, I think, a fairly representative sampling of left thinking right now. Scour them. Scour the links at those links. Find any praise for Kim. Go on, I dare you.

You’ll recall that in the immediate aftermath of September 11, when attacking liberalism was Priority One in the war on terrorism for many on the right, the evidence of fifth-columnism those right-wingers amassed was laughable: an isolated picket sign here, an ill-considered flip remark by a professor there. Well, Brookhiser’s data set is even more pathetic: one item of graffiti.

"Make Love To Iraq" was the slogan I saw stenciled on a mailbox in the East Village. But is Iraq (more precisely, its regime) lovable?

No, it isn’t -- and, schmuck, the graffitist isn’t saying it is. I lived in the East Village for seven years in the 1980s. I know what this graffito is: it’s a little koan of hipster inscrutability. The big, honking hint is the fact that it doesn’t say “Love Saddam.” Clearly it’s not meant to be taken literally -- what it recommends is essentially impossible for anyone who reads it to accomplish. The graffito could well be a sneering allusion to the old slogan “Make Love, Not War,” which would be ancient history for a spray-paint wielder who was probably born in the 1980s. If so, the graffito isn’t even left-wing.

Thanks for playing, Richard. Try again sometime.

Friday, January 17, 2003

VATICAN CITY, Jan 16 - The Vatican told Catholic politicians on Thursday they must oppose laws on abortion, euthanasia and gay marriages and can not accept compromises on Church teachings when formulating policy or legislation....

--Reuters story

And capital punishment, right?

Lots of Catholic politicians support capital punishment, in defiance of the Church, right? Surely, they have to stop doing that, no?

No? That's not on the list?

Whoops! Must be an oversight, right?
"Did I say 58 percent? I'm sorry! I'm really, really sorry! I meant 61 percent! Please don't kill me, Mr. Rove! I swear it will never happen again!"
Something Michael Kinsley just wrote about President Bush reminds me of a famous Hollywood anecdote, an anecdote that I think says a lot about how guys like Bush think. First, here’s Kinsley, wrapping up his recent Slate piece about the Bush economic "plan":

Bush, in a funny way, seems to be a man of ideas. He doesn't have a lot of them himself, but hand him one and he'll run with it, undeterred by opposition, or by subsequent evidence and logic. He has the unreflective person's immunity from irony, that great killer of intellectual passion. Ask him to reconcile his line on Iraq with his line on North Korea and he just gets irritated. Tell him he can't be for tax simplification and offer a Rube Goldberg contraption like this at the same time and he'll say, "Oh, yeah—just watch me."

The anecdote I’m thinking about appeared in Bob Thomas’s biography of Frank Mankiewicz, the screenwriter who wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles; Pauline Kael quotes the passage in her essay "Raising Kane":

Cohn began the conversation: "Last night I saw the lousiest picture I’ve seen in years."

He mentioned the title, and one of the more courageous of the producers spoke up: "Why, I saw that picture at the Downtown Paramount, and the audience howled over it. Maybe you should have seen it with an audience."

"That doesn’t make any difference," Cohn replied. "When I’m alone in a projection room, I have a foolproof device for judging whether a picture is good or bad. If my fanny squirms, it’s bad. If my fanny doesn’t squirm, it’s good. It’s as simple as that."

There was a momentary silence, which was filled by Mankiewicz at the end of the table: "Imagine -- the whole world wired to Harry Cohn’s ass!"


Not long ago we heard something similar to this from Bush, as Paul Krugman reminded us earlier this month. In response to a reporter’s question, Bush snapped, "You said we're headed to war in Iraq. I don't know why you say that. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you."

Krugman’s gloss on this statement was: "L'état, c'est moi."

Spend enough years as a member of the managerial class -- specifically, in the highest brackets of that class -- and you may well start thinking and acting and talking this way. You may well assume that no one really has a right to question or challenge anything you do.

And, of course, the whole world -- literally -- is (figuratively) wired to George Bush’s ass. Imagine.

OBSESSED WITH OIL -- WHO, US?

BOGOTA, Colombia - Dozens of U.S. Green Berets flew in to a Colombian war zone this week to train Colombian army troops to protect a key oil pipeline from rebel attacks, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The arrival of the members of the 7th Special Forces Group marks a turning point in U.S. involvement in Colombia's civil war. Previously, U.S. military aid and training was restricted largely to battling cocaine production, which rebels and rival paramilitary gunmen profit from, fueling the war....

The ... U.S. troops, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., are to train two Colombian army brigades that protect an oil pipeline that carries oil for Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum across northern Colombia to a seaside depot....


--AP story at Yahoo News

Today much of the Great Plains is undergoing a catastrophic demographic collapse. Stretching 1,600 miles from central Texas to the Canadian border and 750 miles across at its widest point, and containing all or most of ten states, this region accounts for a fifth of the land area of the United States, but only four percent of the population—about 12 million people. To put this in perspective, the population of the Los Angeles region is now greater than that of the Great Plains, an area five times the size of California.

Sixty percent of the counties in the Great Plains declined in population in the past decade.... Already more and more of what early Americans called "the Great American Desert" fits the nineteenth-century definition of frontier territory: an area with no more than six inhabitants per square mile.

Meanwhile, the coasts are rapidly filling up. Although coastal counties occupy only about 17 percent of the territory of the contiguous United States, they contain about 53 percent of the nation's population.


--Michael Lind in The Atlantic Monthly

So much for the ridiculous 2000 electoral map right-wingers so enjoy waving in our faces to support their dubious claims of a 2000 mandate for Bushism. And if these demographic trends continue -- Lind cites statistics that suggest they probably will -- it's just possible that 2000 will be only the first of several presidential elections in which a Republican rejected by the electorate wins the White House thanks to the utterly outdated Electoral College.
What’s missing in this New York Observer front-page story about Senator Charles Schumer’s fight to block the confirmation of Charles Pickering and other right-wing Bush judges? Well, for one thing, what’s missing is any attempt to ascertain whether Schumer is right -- whether Pickering’s record is so extreme that he is unworthy of confirmation. Do you wonder what Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler howls about, day after day? This is what he howls about. The Observer assigns a two-man team to write a 1,758-word, 26-paragraph, front-page article on this subject, and neither reporter can be bother to look into the facts of the case. Or maybe it’s not laziness -- the Observer traffics in a lite version of 1980s-style, Spy magazine-style cynicism and irony, and perhaps the reporters who wrote this story, and their editors, believe that unearthed truths are of interest only to wimps and wonks and geeks; cool people who eat in tony restaurants care only about who’s up, who’s down, who’s jockeying for position.

So it’s not surprising that another thing missing from the Observer story is any sense whatsoever that Schumer actually thinks what he’s doing is right -- that he actually believes it’s a bad idea to have Pickering and other right-wing ideologues on the bench. He’s doing this to make himself a national figure, he’s doing this to play to his base, he’s doing this because he’s pathologically publicity-hungry, say the Observer’s writers -- it’s just inconceivable to them that Schumer means what he’s saying. (The article is titled “Chuck’s Game.”)

What else is missing? Any mention whatsoever of the fact that Republicans blocked Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees regularly and relentlessly for years, thus creating many of the judicial vacancies Bush wants to fill with conservative ideologues.

Ideologues will dominate the federal bench for decades if the White House gets its way. Schumer is a hero. This article is a disgrace.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Only Four Planes Successfully Hijacked by Suicidal Terrorists in First Two Years of Bush Presidency, GOP Shill Boasts; Total Number of Dead Civilians Fewer Than 3,000
That grunt you heard not long ago was the sound of a million trigger-happy armchair GI Joes experiencing a testosterone frenzy because the inspectors found empty chemical warheads in Iraq. Andrew Sullivan, not surprisingly, let out a subtle war whoop more than an hour ago.

I'd be a sandal-wearing liberal appeaser wimp if I said the discovery of the warheads means the inspection process is, y'know, working, wouldn't I?

Yes, I do favor letting the inspectors continue. No, this doesn't change my mind. The pro-war right-wingers would much rather have war than peaceful disarmament, and they're lying if they piously claim otherwise. Well, I'd rather have peaceful disarmament than war.
Apparently the anti-abortion movement is so desperate for a win in the court of public opinion that it's been reduced to concocting surveys so vague that respondents probably don't even know the questions are about abortion, then trumpeting the results as right-to-life. "Are you in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children?" What the hell does that mean? If I were cooking dinner and a pollster threw this question at me over the phone, I might think it had to do with custody cases or child support or whether parents-to-be can sue if a miscarriage results from product liability. Only by leaving the word "abortion" out can these people get the results they want. And the amen chorus -- the Moonie Washington Times and the far-right phony feminists of Concerned Women for America -- trumpets this sham poll as the real thing.

Here are some real poll results on the question of abortion. They show support for abortion rights that's solid, although with quite a few caveats -- just as you'd expect.
BUSH: NOT RACIALLY INSENSITIVE ENOUGH?

Many conservatives were elated by Mr. Bush's stance [on the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy]. However, there was still uncertainty among longtime opponents of affirmative action, who worried that his administration's brief might not go far enough.

Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that works to end racial preferences, applauded the president's remarks. But she said it would be a disappointment if Mr. Bush left the door open to the slightest possibility that it would be acceptable to consider race in admissions.

"If the court leaves any door open on taking race into account," Ms. Chavez said, "you'll just have more and more creative attempts from university administrators to accomplish what they have been doing for years."

Ms. Chavez said that for the administration to maintain its credibility on the issue with its conservative supporters, it would have to say directly that race may not be taken into account because there is no compelling state interest in promoting diversity.


--front-page story in today's New York Times

"No compelling state interest in promoting diversity"? That's nice, isn't it?

And remember, this woman was almost secretary of labor.
You'll like these graphs of Bush's dropping poll numbers -- the positives have gone down steadily since 9/11/01, while the negatives have gone up. The graphs look like Christmas trees tipped over.

Does "Mandate, my ass" apply in this case? Why, yes, I think it does.
One of the world's largest drugmakers has warned Canadian pharmacies to stop shipping its drugs to U.S. customers or it will cut off their supplies.

The move by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline was sharply criticized by a Canadian pharmacy group, the Manitoba International Pharmacists Association, who said it would have a "devastating" impact on U.S. customers who buy the company's drugs from Canada for around 50 percent less than what U.S. pharmacies charge....

The company also said that as of Jan. 21, it would refuse to provide drugs to wholesalers or distributors that supply Canadian pharmacies with GlaxoSmithKline drugs for export, Thorkelson added....

A few price comparisons show why so many Americans shop for drugs across the border. The same amount of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen that a major U.S. pharmacy sells for $340 costs only $56 at CanadaPharmacy.com, Catroppa said. The site's price for the cholesterol medication Lipitor, one of the biggest sellers, is 30 percent to 35 percent less than U.S.-based pharmacies, he said


--Yahoo News

If you take a prescription drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, you probably have to keep taking it. But if you’re thinking of buying an over-the-counter GlaxoSmithKline product, maybe you want to consider buying something else instead. If GSK’s hardball tactics piss you off, maybe you just don’t want to buy any of GSK’s over-the-counter products, as conveniently listed at the GSK Web site:

Abreva / Aluna / Balmex / BC Powder / Beano / Citrucel / Contac / Debrox / Ecotrin / Feosol / Geritol / Glyoxide / Goody’s Powder / Natures Remedy / Nicoderm CQ / Nicorette / Nytol / Oscal / Oxy / Phazyme / Polident / Poligrip / Remifenin / Sensodyne / Sominex / Tagamet / Tragon / Tegrin / Tums / Vivarin

Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

REALITY IS FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T HANDLE RIGHT-WING SPIN

"What evidence is there that the U.S. is no longer serious about al Qaeda? Why would it even be in Bush's interest to ignore it? On proliferation, the administration's intent in North Korea (even if one disagrees about methods) couldn't be clearer."

--Andrew Sullivan showing signs of being clinically delusional in his blog, 1:14:18 P.M. today
The indefatigable Atrios is after another of Bush's extremist judicial nominees, Jeffrey Sutton, a former Scalia law clerk. By all means read this angry summary of Sutton's career from WampumBlog; there's also this from Justice For All Alerts.

I will quibble, however, with this bit of speculation from the otherwise fine WampumBlog post: "one has to wonder if the renomination of Charles Pickering was in fact a cynical attempt to distract attention from even more objectionable, due to age and track record for inflicting widespread damage, nominees." That's not how Bush thinks. He wants to win them all.
While you weren’t looking, the Bush administration gave Otto Reich another job last week.

For his last job with the Bush administration, Reich had to get a recess appointment -- a presidential appointment while Congress was not in session -- which meant he wasn’t subject to a Senate confirmation process he wouldn’t have cleared. Reich’s new position doesn’t require Senate approval.

Reich headed the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy during the Reagan years; he was reprimanded in 1987 by the U.S. Comptroller General’s office for "engaging in prohibited, covert propaganda activities." But that’s not the only reason senators (including some Republicans) balked at confirming him as an assistant secretary of state last year. Another reason is the fact that he lobbied -- successfully -- for the release of Orlando Bosch, a fellow Cuban exile who is widely believed to be one of the people responsible for blowing up Cubana flight 455 in 1976. Cubana 455 was a Cuban passenger airliner; this act of terrorism killed seventy-three people.

"Among the seventy-three killed aboard the Cubana jet were the twenty prize-winning athletes in their teens and early twenties who made up Cuba's national fencing team, their five coaches, and twenty-five Cubana and government employees," Ann Louise Bardach writes in her 2002 book Cuba Confidential. "There were also five North Korean passengers and eleven residents of Guyana." Bosch, a U.S. resident, was arrested in Venezuela in connection with the attack on the plane.

Bardach quotes one CIA memorandum that summarized an eyewitness account: "Meeting took place when Orlando Bosch and others discussed terrorist acts such as placing bombs on Cuban aircraft." She quotes a memo from Henry Kissinger, who was then secretary of state: "U.S. government had been planning to suggest Bosch deportation before Cubana Airlines crash took place for his suspected involvement in other terrorist acts and violation of his parole. Suspicion that Bosch involved in planning of Cubana Airlines Crash led us to suggest his deportation urgently." (Bosch had earlier been convicted of firing a shot into a Polish freighter that had traveled to Cuba in 1968.)

Orlando Bosch was jailed in Venezuela for eleven years. This is where Otto Reich comes in. He became ambassador to Venezuela in 1986. Bardach writes,

A half dozen State Department cables suggest that Reich used his position to lobby for Orlando Bosch, a man who, the [first] Bush Justice Department had concluded, had participated in more than thirty terrorist actions....

On July 21, six weeks after Otto Reich presented his credentials in Caracas, a Venezuelan judge issued a surprise ruling that Bosch was innocent of the Cubana bombing.... Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez ... went on to claim that "the Bosch file had been tampered with." But Reich ... eagerly cabled Washington to report that Bosch had been "absolved" and queried his superiors about Bosch's eligibility to return to the U.S.


The first President Bush went on to pardon Bosch and grant him U.S. residency -- even though his own attorney general had called Bosch an "unreformed terrorist," and even though Bosch himself, in a jailhouse interview, had told investigators from the House Select Committee on Assassinations, "You have to fight violence with violence. At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people."

In 2001, The Miami Herald reported that a source had claimed Bosch "sent 'explosive materials' to Cuba before a 1997 Havana hotel bombing." Bosch had rather cheekily denied involvement in the bombing shortly after it happened -- he told the Herald in 1997, "We had nothing to do with those attempts. Besides, even if we had, we would deny it because it's illegal to [direct bombings] from this country.''

Otto Reich, a terrorist’s champion, will soon work for the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice.

Your tax dollars at work.





Tuesday, January 14, 2003

"Americans must never again enter any crisis, economic or military, with an excessive dependence on foreign oil and an excessive burden of Federal debt."

--President George H. W. Bush, speaking months before the (first) Gulf War, September 11, 1990, as quoted in John Rudolph's report "War in Our Time: The Economic Cost of Going to War," broadcast on WNYC, New York, 1/14/03

Chortle.
Justice Thomas insisted that the book contract include provisions allowing him to control any promotional appearances, in part, he said, to preserve "the dignity of the court."

He also indicated that he anticipated hostility from certain news organizations and wanted to avoid unsympathetic interviews. He told editors that he would not appear on the television network morning shows, for example, because he feared they might attack him on the air. But he said he was willing to appear on Fox News, which he perceived as more sympathetic to his conservative views.
--from yesterday's New York Times

Essentially, what Thomas is saying is that there are two nations, one of which -- the one in which non-conservatives live -- he simply has no need to address. He’s also saying he doesn’t believe an interviewer who is not conservative could possibly conduct an interview with him in good faith. Thomas is operating from the presumption that non-conservatives are categorically incapable of fairness.

Keep in mind that it is entirely possible Thomas will be chosen to be the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. If this happens, he should be asked whether his boycott of non-conservative America means he believes right-wingers are better people, better Americans, and more worthy of his attention as a Justice than the rest of us. He should be asked if he thinks liberals are immoral merely by dint of being liberal. He should be asked which nation he serves -- America or right-wing America.
Eight days after the midterm elections, Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler pointed out that anger about the Confederate battle flag had played a part in the defeat of Democratic governors in South Carolina and Georgia (see "Long May She Wave," the second item on the Howler's 11/13/02 page). Somerby wondered aloud why national reporters never mentioned this issue in connection with the two governors' races. His conclusion was that the press preferred the consensus story on the midterm election results -- "Bush Transcendent."

But that doesn't quite explain why the issue wasn't discussed in the national news before the election, or since -- especially in the aftermath of the Trent Lott affair.

Well, now we learn from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that protestors angry at the deemphasis of the Confederate flag on the redesigned Georgia state flag buzzed the inaugural of the state's new (Republican) governor Sonny Perdue, and plan a pro-Stars-and-Bars rally today. They're angry at the governor because during the campaign he promised to allow a referendum on reverting to the old state flag with a greater emphasis on the Stars and Bars, and he's now retreating from that promise.

Angry people, striking visuals -- will it make your nightly news? And if not, why not?

If this story doesn't go national, it's because the national press doesn't want to give offense by telling the uncomfortable truth that there are an awful lot of neo-Confederates and racists out there -- and the major party that gets their votes, the GOP, still won't cut them loose. ("If the governor wants to distance himself from that, I'd like to see him stand up and say this is wrong," an observer of the seg flyover is quoted as saying in the Atlanta Journal article. The neo-Cons may be angry at Perdue now, but he voted for a flag referendum as a state senator before promising a referendum as a gubernatorial candidate.)

The Trent Lott story became permissible for the mainstream press when some GOP-friendly pundits denounced Lott. At that point it became a story about one bad apple, not about a party that has no problem giving a top leadership position to a racist. But notice that the mainstream press won't write about John Ashcroft's ties to neo-Confederates, won't run down Charles Pickering's seg-friendly past in any detail, and hasn't covered the Georgia flag flap. Doing so would convey the message that the GOP has a systemic race problem -- a fact the press would have to tread on powerful toes to tell you.

(Thanks yet again to Atrios for the Atlanta Journal link.)

Monday, January 13, 2003

One fascinating thing we learned from yesterday’s New York Times is that, in the class wars of the Bush era, Jennifer Lopez has apparently become the new Michael Harrington. Books are just so old school; the key text on class in 2003 is one line from J.Lo’s song "Jenny from the Block," which was quoted, in two slightly different forms, repetition and all, by both op-ed contributor David Brooks and film critic Caryn James in yesterday’s Times: "Don't be fooled by the rocks I got, I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block" (James) / "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got, I'm just, I'm just Jenny from the block" (Brooks).

The James essay kicks the Brooks essay’s butt. James makes the glaringly obvious point that J.Lo is telling us a "fairy tale," both in her song and in her new movie Maid in Manhattan. James also provides hard truths about social mobility that are nowhere to be found in Brooks’s piece:

…new studies show it takes an average of five or six generations to change a family's economic position, and that wealth tends to linger in families.… As [Princeton economist Alan B.] Krueger added in an interview, "Recent trends in income distribution have made upward mobility less likely" than it was even 20 years ago.

Brooks is a smart pop sociologist, but he’s also a lockstep right-wing apparatchik. He seems to accept at face value the assertion that the millionaire actress/singer/diva is still just a regular around-the-way girl from the old 'hood, and he thinks it’s kind of neat that ordinary Americans believe this nonsense, too. He revels in the fact that Americans are utterly delusional about class:

Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.

It's not hard to see why they think this way. Americans live in a culture of abundance. They have always had a sense that great opportunities lie just over the horizon, in the next valley, with the next job or the next big thing. None of us is really poor; we're just pre-rich.


The vast majority of Americans who "have always had a sense that great opportunities lie just over the horizon, in the next valley," are living in a fantasy world if they think they’ll be able to cash in on those opportunities. To Brooks, that’s OK. People vote in Fantasy Land, and they vote GOP.
The Week in Review section of yesterday’s New York Times introduced something new into mainstream American journalism: postmodernism.

No, David Leonhardt’s lead article isn’t an impenetrable, jargon-riddled verbal rat’s nest, and it has no references to Baudrillard or Foucault. What it does is pose the question Who are the rich? and strongly suggest that the answer is unknowable.

Consider the following excerpt:

Some would include [among "the rich"] any family that makes more than $100,000 a year. Others put the cut-off much higher, noting that a six-figure income alone is not enough to buy many houses in the biggest metropolitan areas. Still others ignore salaries and point out that all of the commonly used words for the well-off — affluent, rich, wealthy — are supposed to describe people's assets rather than their incomes.

Now, you thought being paid gobs of money made a person rich. But merely being paid gobs of money (income) is, apparently, not at all the same as having gobs of money (assets). Apparently, one may receive gobs of money without in fact possessing those gobs of money. Following me so far? Good.

Then there’s this:

One possible reason the class-war criticism has not yet stuck is that defining wealth is more complicated than it once was. Some people have homes that have appreciated enormously in value, but they can't sell them without buying a new, similarly expensive home. High-earners who live in high-cost areas feel stretched. Lower earners who live in less expensive places don't feel poor.

At this point, the article starts to seem as if it were written specifically to be turned into a Tom Tomorrow cartoon, with one of Tom’s average American husbands saying to his wife, "Say, honey, we went to Hawaii last year and our Visa bill is almost paid off -- maybe we’re rich! Maybe Bill Gates isn’t rich! Maybe homeless people are rich and Jack Welch is poor! Maybe money is merely a collective hallucination!"

Yes, the end of the Leonhardt piece does suggest that some people are knowably rich (and that those people have done awfully well over the past twenty years, and may continue to do extremely well if the Bush tax cut passes intact). But this comes only after we’re told that "rich" is a baffling, elusive concept.

Given the fact that pomo theories are usually regarded as commie-liberal, it’s interesting to note that the Week in Review’s postmodernism serves the interests of conservatives quite nicely -- after all, if we can never truly know who is rich, then all those class-warfare whiners are tilting at windmills, fighting a chimera. (The right-wing reaction to that same chimera is to throw lots of money at it, just to be on the safe side, but apparently that's OK.)

Sunday, January 12, 2003

There’s an appalling article in today’s New York Times about forced shortening of the school year, firing of key personnel, and other severe cutbacks in some American school districts.

Does it seem counterintuitive that Americans, who regularly tell pollsters that education is their number one political priority, would allow such things to happen? Not really. Americans “know” that school districts don’t really need the funding for which they regularly beg -- they “know” because for more than a generation, at least since the days of Proposition 13 in California, conservatives have been telling them so.

Modern conservatism has poisoned American life in a lot of ways, but one of its most destructive toxins is the notion that all government social programs are so riddled with waste that any call for additional funding is an immoral picking of taxpayers’ pockets. In the case of school funding, this might not be utterly unconscionable if conservatives offered a way out -- if they regularly demonstrated specific ways that school districts claiming to be cash-strapped could finance necessary programs within existing budgets. Conservatives don’t do that. Conservatives merely spread the absolutist notion that no government social program has ever been run well, then sit back and watch schools suffer for lack of funding.

There is no excuse for this: Even if it is true that there is an excess of waste in the typical school district, the conservative message never helps to root it out. In district after district, schools beg for money, and citizens, having heard decades of right-wing propaganda about excessive taxation and government waste, refuse to pony up. If this mysterious waste is actually there, it’s never eliminated. Instead, even in good times, as in the boom years of the 1990s, school budget force parents to hold bake sales if they want arts programs funded, and require teachers to dig into their own pockets for school supplies; in recessions like the current one, school districts eliminate courses, reduce building maintenance, cancel some extracurricular activities. In the case of schools, the government-bashing of conservatives is entirely destructive.

Oh, yes, I know -- conservatives do have a way out: vouchers. Conservatives believe we will save the schools by doing to education what California did to electricity. The vast majority of all new businesses fail, yet conservatives believe the key to improving education is entrepreneurialism. OK, fine. But the idea of “deregulating” schools would be absurd in the typical American suburb -- how would a town in which one high school is sufficient be served by a wide-open free market? Conservatives know that most Americans don’t want vouchers, know that vouchers will never come to the vast majority of the country -- yet they have no other answers.

Are conservatives secretly pleased when public schools decline? You have to wonder. In any event, it’s undeniable that conservative rhetoric does immense damage to American schools.


Friday, January 10, 2003

Relatives of the 9/11 dead understandably want to try to punish those who perpetrated the terrorist acts, and those who helped the perpetrators, particularly the Saudis -- and to that end they have not been averse to using lawsuits. Last month President Bush named Thomas Kean to head the panel that will investigate 9/11, and Trent Lott refused to name the families' choice for the panel, Warren Rudman. Now, I really could be reading too much into this, but is it a coincidence that Kean is a member of the board of Common Good, an organization devoted to "reforming America's lawsuit culture"?

Just asking.
More on Pickering at Media Whores Online.
Read this short letter from the director of Mississippi's Sovereignty Commission to the state's governor and lieutenant governor. Note the pride with which the letter-writer describes the way "agitators" and "native Negroes" were separated at demonstrations -- which made it easier to film the protesting blacks. Note the lieutenant governor's name: Carroll Gartin.

Carroll Gartin was Charles Pickering's law partner.

Last year, Clarence Page pointed out that at his Juidiciary Committee hearing last year "Pickering also denied that former Mississippi Lt. Gov. Carroll Gartin, who was Pickering's law partner from 1961 to 1971, was a segregationist. But Pickering changed that tune when Durbin waved copies of an old campaign ad. It showed Gartin waving a pen with which, he declares in the ad, he 'will veto any effort to weaken our defenses around our Southern way of life.' "

They impeached Clinton because he lied under oath about a couple of blowjobs.

Pickering did take an oath when he told the Judiciary Committee his onetime partner wasn't a seg, didn't he?

(Thanks, yet again, to Atrios for the Clarence Page link.)

WHY ARMAGEDDON HASN'T HAPPENED YET

Bush is reliably said to have believed that Powell was forced on him by Republican transition officials, and there were indications early in the administration that he resented Powell's popularity and independent standing. At one meeting, Powell joked, "After all, Mr. President, you can't fire me." Bush replied tersely, "I know."
--Elizabeth Drew in the 12/5/02 New York Review of Books
I don't know what to make of Drudge's Daily Telegraph story claiming that the Brits are urging Bush to postpone war against Iraq till the fall. But I do know that the Blair government has explicitly now denied the charge. I'm not going to panic any time soon at the various signals that the West is now going wobbly on Iraq.
--Andrew Sullivan today

Don't worry, Andy. There's a name for your condition. It's painful, but it's perfectly harmless.
When people talk about GOP/right-wing "message discipline," this is what they mean. Scary.

The Borg operate under a collective consciousness, whereby the thoughts of each drone are interconnected with all others in what is referred to as the "Hive Mind," eliminating any sense of individuality. --StarTrek.com
That is what was so offensive about that rally: It shamelessly used Wellstone's death for partisan advantage while its organizers cynically accused their opponents of doing precisely that.

--Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online, 10/30/02

Ultimately, it was that hole in the ground [ground zero]—more than the details of City Hall’s bid, or Mr. Bloomberg’s wooing of Republicans with horse-drawn carriage rides—that led the G.O.P. to choose New York [for its 2004 convention], a decision that was announced on Jan. 6. Senior national Republicans say that a convention in New York will remind voters of President Bush’s leadership in the aftermath of the attacks. It also is intended, they said, to position the G.O.P. as the party best suited to lead the nation during its most dangerous moment since the Cold War, injecting a national-security theme into Mr. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

"People at the White House and the Republican National Committee agree that the image of a city rising from adversity is a great backdrop for the convention," Ron Kaufman, a Republican National Committee member from Massachusetts, told
The Observer.

--article in this week's New York Observer


Using tragedy for partisan political gain: It's OK if you're a Republican.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

State Representatives Liston Shows, Soso, R. H. Donald, Quitman, and Senator Charles Pickering, are very interested in this matter and requested to be advised of developments in connection with SCEF infiltration of GPA and full background of James Simmons."

That's from page 3 of this document, a January 5, 1972, letter from the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. Emphasis is mine. Senator Charles Pickering, needless to say, is now a Bush judicial nominee.

Joe Conason explains the document:

When George H.W. Bush first named him to the federal bench in 1990 (two years after he chaired the Bush-Quayle campaign in Mississippi), Pickering told the Senate that he'd had no contact with the State Sovereignty Commission, his home state's notorious anti-black secret police apparatus.

"I never had any contact with that agency," he testified. Not quite true, as the since-unsealed records of the Sovereignty Commission reveal. Actually, in January 1972, Pickering apparently asked [see last page of memo] a Commission employee to keep him apprised of its surveillance of an integrated union-organizing campaign among pulpwood workers in his hometown. Later, Pickering claimed that he had been worried about "Klan" infiltration of the pulpwood workers union, but the Commission documents show clearly that it was investigating left-wing integrationists, not the KKK.


Conason also discusses the deep involvement of Pickering's then-law partner, Carroll Gartin, in the Sovereignty Commission.

And Atrios has more information on the Sovereignty Commission.

This is what you won't learn from the carefully calibrated GOP spin machine as this nomination battle plays out.

Party of Lincoln?