Tuesday, February 10, 2004

 U.S. Nixes Subpoenas Against Protesters

DES MOINES, Iowa - Federal prosecutors withdrew a subpoena Tuesday ordering Drake University to turn over a list of people involved in an antiwar forum in November, as well as subpoenas ordering four activists to testify before a grand jury.

Brian Terrell, leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry and one of the four, told a crowd of about 100 cheering people outside the federal courthouse: "We made them want to stop, and we have to make sure they never want to do this again."

The U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment on why the subpoenas were withdrawn just one day after federal prosecutor Stephen O'Meara issued a statement acknowledging an investigation was under way....

I've added a few links in the right column: Seeing the Forest and Sisyphus Shrugged, which probably should have been there a long time ago; the homepage/blog of Michael Berube, professor, critic, and foe of David Horowitz; and, finally, the unique link stylings of INTL News.

(Also, in a Monk-like moment, I alphabetized the links.)
This is weird: A visit to Free Republic leads me to Christianity Today, where I learn that the evangelizin' pilot -- now identified as Roger Findiesen -- has broken his silence and given his first interview to -- I'm not making this up -- The Advocate. ("At no time did Findiesen mention homosexuality or say anything antigay," The Advocate's interviewer notes -- understandable when you realize that the guy seems to have no earthly idea what The Advocate is.)

An excerpt from the interview:

"I just got back from a mission in Costa Rica," said Findiesen, a tall white man with neatly trimmed thick white hair and a mustache, both lightly peppered with black. "I felt that God was telling me to say something." He went on to explain that he felt God wanted him to witness to the passengers on his first flight upon returning to work for American Airlines after his mission. Despite this feeling, he said, he had decided not to say anything--but then he got another sign from God.

A minor problem with the plane's braking system had developed during final checks before takeoff, he said, a problem that might have grounded the aircraft, on which every seat was taken, in part because another American flight from Los Angeles to New York had been canceled that morning. But after a simple maneuver involving a power source, the braking problem inexplicably "disappeared," Findiesen said, and the plane was cleared for departure, and that's when he knew he had to use the P.A. system to talk about his Christian faith.

Yeah -- well, when I was eight years old I stepped on a crack, and two days later ... well, nothing broke exactly, but my mother did have a mild lower back twinge, and I never, ever, ever stepped on a crack again, because I knew that lower back twinge was all my fault.
I have absolutely no idea what to make of this:

MOSCOW police said they were carrying out chemical tests at the Moscow office of the oil company BP on Tuesday, after employees reportedly felt ill following the reception of suspicious mail.

Police said a person calling from the BP office said that employees suffered headaches, rashes and felt a stinging in their eye after handling mail that arrived from Houston, Texas, the Interfax news agency reported.

Police experts were testing the air and the mail for chemicals, but found no powder or liquid inside the envelopes, Moscow police spokesman Pavel Klimovsky said. Officials at BP in Moscow could not immediately reached for comment.

--News.com.au (Australia)
Michael Berube has word of an endorsement in the presidential race that might surprise Limbaugh and Lileks.
I see the Coalition Provisional Authority has had to explain to the Japanese that freedom of the press is pro-evildoer:

 SAMAWA, Iraq -- The Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) has ordered police in Samawa to withhold security information from Japanese media covering Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) activities there, the Mainichi has learned.

Karim Helbet Monahar al-Zayday, police commissioner in the southern Iraqi province of Musanna where Samawa is located, said the gag rule was imposed to improve the image of the town.

"Some members of the Japanese media have reported that Samawa has security problems," al-Zayday told the Mainichi. "We just want to make Japanese understand that Musanna is a safe place." ...

Yeah, and refusing to provide any information to back up a claim of safety is really the best way to make sure it's believed, isn't it?

This is ham-handed, but it's also idiotic: If the CPA won't talk (in its usually Pollyannaish way) to the Japanese press, the stories are going to get more negative, not less -- which is what the CPA deserves.
The story in today's New York Times doesn't even have this quote, but The Seattle Times caught it and (appropriately) made it the lead:

Bush report: Sending jobs overseas helps U.S.

WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said yesterday.

The embrace of foreign "outsourcing," an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the U.S. economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing." ...

Let them eat cake.

Shorter David Brooks:

Bush's problem on Meet the Press was that he didn't talk enough like Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter.

First, here's Ashcroft, out of control:

A move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was halted -- at least temporarily -- when a Chicago federal judge quashed the information request.

The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals...

In a 16-page decision, U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras denied the government's request to obtain patient medical records from Northwestern, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Illinois' medical privacy law.
Northwestern received the subpoena in December, a month after obstetrician/gynecologist Cassing Hammond, a member of Northwestern's staff and medical school faculty, was served with subpoenas seeking his patient records. Hammond is one of seven doctors and three groups who has challenged the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003....

While the Justice Department has said it is not seeking information that would identify the patients, that did not persuade Judge Kocoras....

--Chicago Business

Then there's this:

A bill is gathering support in the Virginia legislature that would require unborn children be administered a painkiller before abortions are performed.

A measure introduced by Republican Dick Black will be considered by the justice committee of Virginia's lower chamber, the House of Delegates, Monday, reported WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. The Senate will address a similar measure Thursday.

"We must do everything possible to relieve the terror and suffering of children as they are aborted," said Black in a statement....

That story's from WorldNetDaily, and, fortunately, it says nothing about how likely the bill is to pass -- from which I infer that it probably won't. (If the bill had substantial support, the far-right WND would be delighted to tell us.)

But still -- let's all go to the Bible Belt and find liberal kids who are over 20 years and 3 months old, but under 21. Let's buy beers and sell them to the kids on the steps of police stations -- and when we get arrested, let's say that the kids are really 21 because, hey, life begins at conception, doesn't it? As every God-fearing Christian knows?

(Both links via BuzzFlash.)

Monday, February 09, 2004

This AP story about the Zarqawi letter basically gets it right:

A letter seized from an al-Qaida courier shows Osama bin Laden has made little headway in recruiting Iraqis for a holy war against America, raising questions about the Bush administration's contention that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.

The 17-page letter, cited as a key piece of intelligence that offered a rare window into foreign terrorist operations in Iraq, appealed to al-Qaida leaders to help spark a civil war between Iraq's two main Muslim sects in an effort to "tear the country apart," U.S. officials said Monday....

"Many Iraqis would honor you as a guest and give you refuge, for you are a Muslim brother," it said. "However, they will not allow you to make their home a base for operations or a safe house."

That suggests that Iraqis may be willing to support their homegrown insurgency but have little interest in backing foreign infiltrators. The letter's appeals for outside help raises questions whether al-Qaida had a support network here before Saddam's downfall....

But the cynical bastards in the White House know this is all hard for most Americans to follow. Alas, they know that they can robotically repeat the Big Lie ("White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the letter, first reported Monday by The New York Times, shows that 'Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism'") and most of us will swallow it.

And there's a chance they're actually going to revive the "increased violence means we're succeeding" line they tried out a few months ago:

One senior U.S. officer, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, warned the plea could mean more "spectacular" attacks because the rebels were despairing that their devastating car bombs and the steady killing of U.S. troops were failing to shove the Americans from Iraq or spark massive discord.

And now the administration can blame any truly nasty violent act in Iraq on al-Qaeda, with or without evidence -- just in time for the campaign.
By now you know all about God's self-appointed copilot. But do you know about jellybeans for Jesus?

Parents Sue To Allow Daughter To Distribute Religious Jellybeans

DAYTON, Ohio -- Parents have sued a school district because a kindergarten teacher stopped their daughter from distributing bags of jellybeans with an attached prayer to her classmates.

Allen and Sheila Wuebben, of suburban Kettering, say the school's policy of prohibiting students from distributing religious literature in the classroom violates their daughter Madison's rights to freedom of speech and religion....

According to the lawsuit, Madison sought permission from her teacher, Angela Helwig, to distribute "The Jelly Bean Prayer" to her Orchard Park Elementary School classmates before last Easter.

The prayer's first two lines are: "Red is for the blood He gave, Green is for the grass He made." ...

The teacher said no Jesus jellybeans in the classroom. The family cried "Persecution!" The superintendent said Jesus jellybeans were OK on the bus, in the playground, or after school. That wasn't good enough for the family.

Oh, by the way: The family's lawyer is from the Rutherford Institute, legal backers of Paula Jones.

Now, let me get this straight: According to religious conservatives, gay marriage is an intolerable infringement on the lives of married heterosexuals, even when those married gay people don't go anywhere near non-consenting heterosexuals -- yet if someone gets in my face and starts trying to convert me to Christ in a setting I can't readily leave (an airplane, my kindergarten class), that just fine.

A kindergartner doesn't have a right to proselytize in the classroom, any more than a tenth grader has a right to get up in the middle of a math test, whip out an electric guitar and a portable amp and start working his way through the Good Charlotte songbook. No one says that guitarist's First Amendment rights are being denied if he's told to take it back to the garage. It's about common courtesy and mutual respect. It's about not being a rude, inconsiderate boor.

Proselytizing Christians? You say Jesus loves us? We get it. Now, if we ask you to back off, back off.

(Jellybean link via INTL News.)
If you're enjoying Hans Blix's comments on the Iraq debacle, you'll be pleased to know that the book tour should be starting very soon.
Last week I mentioned a Fox News story hyping the discovery of a block of cyanide salt found at a Baghdad compound reportedly used by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been identified as a jihad-friendly terrorist. (Cyanide salt is commonly found in chemistry labs and jewelers' workshops.) Now, in today's New York Times, Dexter Filkins says that Zarqawi recently wrote a letter to al-Qaeda begging for help with the Iraq insurgency.

Filkins summarizes the Bush administration's prewar rap on Zarqawi, and its relationship to the truth:

In the period before the war, Bush administration officials argued that Mr. Zarqawi constituted the main link between Al Qaeda and Mr. Hussein's government. Last February at the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants."

...Since the war ended, little evidence has emerged to support the allegation of a prewar Qaeda connection in Iraq. Last month, Mr. Powell conceded that the American government had found "no smoking gun" linking Mr. Hussein's government with Al Qaeda.

If the document Filkins writes about is genuine, we now have Zarqawi begging al-Qaeda for help with the insurgency -- which implies that al-Qaeda isn't providing a whole lot of help with the insurgency now. If you're trying to make the case that Saddam = Osama and the Afghan and Iraq wars were part of one big war on terrorism, this isn't a very convincing Exhibit A. Nor is this:

"Many Iraqis would honor you as a guest and give you refuge, for you are a Muslim brother," according to the document. "However, they will not allow you to make their home a base for operations or a safe house."

In fact, all this even undermines the "flypaper theory" (you remember: the notion that war in Iraq was a neat idea because even if all the evildoers weren't in Iraq when we invaded, fighting the war there encouraged them all to show up later).

Alas, Iraq = al-Qaeda could well be the message an awful lot of people take from this story, even though it's utterly wrong.
I hope you've read about the federal judge who's ordered Drake University to turn over information about meetings of antiwar protesters; if not, the story's here.

I'm amused that this story broke exactly one day after Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic wagged his finger on the op-ed page of The New York Times and told liberals opposed to Ashcroftism to mind their manners and be reasonable. Rosen said that reason and compromise could remove all the nasty excesses from the Patriot Act -- after all, he said, it had removed them from our system of scrutinizing airline passengers, hadn't it? Well, according to this story, it hasn't:

The airport counter: This is as far as Rebecca Gordon and Janet Adams say they are allowed to go at San Francisco International Airport. The last time they checked in for a flight to Boston to visit Gordon's 80-year-old father, an airline employee called the police.

"She came back and said you turned up on the FBI no-fly list. We have called the San Francisco police. We were shocked, really shocked,” recalled Adams.

"We were detained. We were definitely detained. I couldn't even get a drink of water," Gordon remembered.

So why would two women in their 50's, U.S. citizens, San Francisco homeowners and long-time peace activists with no criminal records be on a federal watch list with suspected terrorists? ...

The list is now alleged to include not only suspected terrorists and those believed to be a threat to aviation security but civil rights activists say it also targets people based on their political views. A list that is thought to include members of the Green Party, a Jesuit priest who is a peace activist and two civil rights attorneys.

In Gordon and Adams’ case, the ACLU believes the couple may have been targeted for their work on War Times, a free bilingual newspaper that has been critical of the war and the Bush administration's policies on terrorism.

It’s very scary that two people who pose no danger, who are publishing something, which last time I looked we were allowed to do, are being detained at the airport and having the police called and they won't tell us why," Adams said.

And as of today, Gordon and Adams still don't have any answers from the government but have a court hearing set for April 9th. This controversy isn't likely to go away anytime soon, since the government is planning on implementing a color code system this summer to track passengers and that list too is expected to be secret.

(Frist link courtesy of BuzzFlash; last link courtesy of INTL News.)
More on that proselytizing pilot, from AP:

Passenger Amanda Nelligan told WCBS-TV of New York that the pilot called non-Christians "crazy" and that his comments "felt like a threat." She said she and several others aboard were so worried they tried to call relatives on their cell phones before flight attendants assured them they were safe and that people on the ground had been notified about the pilot's comments.

You'd be torn, wouldn't you? You'd think: Am I merely being insulted by a self-righteous jerk who should just shut up and do his job, or am I about to be the victim of a mini-9/11 in Jesus' name?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

"Iraqization" -- er, no, it's not working:

Iraqi Police Major, Gunmen Attack GIs

TIKRIT, Iraq - Gunmen, including a major in the new Iraqi police force, attacked a group of American soldiers, sparking a gunbattle in which the officer was killed and two other attackers wounded, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The soldiers were observing a house belonging to a person suspected in rocket-propelled grenade attacks on American forces in the village of Qadisiyah, 30 miles south of Tikrit, when the gunmen opened fire Saturday evening, the military said in a statement.

The Americans fired back and threw a hand grenade at the attackers, killing one and wounding two. Two more gunmen were captured. The slain attacker was identified as an active Iraqi police major....


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Fareed Zakaria may be a centrist (and, by his own admission, a friend of one of the authors), but he gets in a few good digs in his New York Times review of David Frum and Richard Perle's An End to Evil:

While terror mounted, Frum and Perle say, the Clinton administration did nothing. They remind us that in one case (an anti-Semitic attack in Argentina) ''it opened negotiations with the murderers.'' Now one can make the case that America's halfhearted responses have egged on Middle Eastern terrorists. But one should surely begin this story where the terrorists do themselves, with their huge attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and America's disastrous decision to pull out immediately. Nor do the authors mention the most important instance of the United States ''negotiating with murderers,'' which was, of course, the decision to trade arms for hostages in the mid-1980's. Both events took place during the Reagan administration, when Perle was in high office.

Moreover, the impression the authors give is that they and their confederates were outraged by Clinton's (weak-kneed) efforts against Al Qaeda. In fact neoconservatives were silent about Al Qaeda during the 1990's. One searches vainly through the archives of the Project for the New American Century, the main neoconservative advocacy group, for a single report on Al Qaeda or a letter urging action against it before 9/11. (There are dozens on the China threat, national missile defenses and Saddam Hussein's weapons.) Clinton may merely have lobbed missiles at terrorists, but the neoconservatives did not even launch a blast fax.

Is there something about pressurized jet-cabin air that turns some people into self-important, self-righteous jerks who can’t tolerate difference of opinion?

The second American in a month was arrested while entering Brazil for making an obscene gesture while being photographed by an immigration official, police said on Saturday.

Federal police in Foz do Iguacu on Brazil's border with Argentina and Paraguay said retired U.S. banker Douglas Allan Skolnick, 56, was jailed overnight for flipping his middle finger in a photo now required to be taken of all U.S. tourists entering Brazil.

Brazil began fingerprinting and photographing Americans entering the country in January after the U.S. government imposed a similar process on foreigners, except for those from 27 mostly European countries....


An American Airlines pilot flying passengers to New York asked Christians on board to identify themselves and suggested the non-Christians discuss the faith with them, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based airline said today.

Flight 34 was headed from Los Angeles to John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday afternoon, said spokesman Tim Wagner. The pilot, whose identity was not released, had been making flight announcements and then asked that the Christians on board raise their hands, Wagner said.

The pilot told the airline that he then suggested the other passengers use the flight time to talk to the identified Christians about their faith, Wagner said.

The pilot later told passengers he would be available at the end of the flight to talk about his first announcement.

Wagner said the airline was investigating the incident, and that the company had guidelines about appropriate behavior. He said the pilot had just returned to work from a weeklong mission trip to Costa Rica.

"It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job," Wagner said.

On ABC's news broadcast last night, there was deep skepticism about Bush's new commission:

PETER JENNINGS: ...President Bush signed an executive order today which many people believed as of yesterday was going to have as its prime mission an investigation of prewar U.S. intelligence in Iraq. The president used that intelligence to justify attacking Iraq, and much of it turns out to be flawed. Tonight, the official mission of this new commission is much less about Iraq than anticipated, and it is clearly the president's commission. Terry Moran is at the White House, and Terry, this afternoon -- late this afternoon, on a Friday -- you've had a chance to look at the finer print.

TERRY MORAN: Indeed, Peter, and under this executive order, which the president just signed, the main job of this commission is not to look at that flawed intelligence on Iraq, and there's nothing in this order directing the commission to investigate how the Bush administration used that intelligence to justify war. Instead, the president wants this commission to look at the much broader question of gathering intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, and only secondarily to look at what went wrong in Iraq....

Moran concluded by noting this interesting factoid about the commission's report, which is due next March:

...there’s nothing in this order that would require that report to be made public.

(Not available as text only; video available here.)
Abdul al-Latif al-Mayah was never safe. Not before the war started, and not after.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Mayah, a 53-year-old political scientist and human rights advocate known in his neighborhood here as "the professor," was driving to work when eight masked gunmen jumped in front of his car. They yanked him into the street, the police said, and shot him nine times in front of his bodyguard and another university lecturer.

In an instant, he became one of hundreds of intellectuals and midlevel administrators who Iraqi officials say have been assassinated since May in a widening campaign against Iraq's professional class.

"They are going after our brains," said Lt. Col. Jabbar Abu Natiha, head of the organized crime unit of the Baghdad police. "It is a big operation. Maybe even a movement."...

--New York Times

Read the story. Abdul al-Latif al-Mayah wasn't just a human rights advocate after Saddam was overthrown -- he was a human rights advocate when Saddam was in power. Back then he survived.
Fred Phelps presses on, and idiots who just can't seem to grasp how church-state separation has to work on public land are making it possible:

...The Rev. Fred Phelps, from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., has chosen Boise and roughly 10 cities around the country to be locations for an anti-gay monument because those cities all have Ten Commandments monuments on city property.

He believes that, based on a federal court ruling, those cities have to allow his religious monument on city property because there is already another religious monument, his lawyer said.

Boise City Councilman Alan Shealy proposed returning the Ten Commandments monument to the group that gave it to the city in 1965, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, rather than get into a court fight with Phelps over what Shealy called a "repugnant" message....

...but a local Christian group led by the Rev. Bryan Fischer of the Community Church of the Valley is fighting the move, taking the issue to federal court....

Reverend Fischer thinks the you can permit "good" religious speech on public land and keep out "bad" religious speech. That's not how it works.

For those of you who don't know who Fred Phelps is, well, he's a real sweetheart:

Phelps has sent letters to several cities around the country seeking to put up a monument on city property with a picture of a gay Wyoming college student who was killed in a gay-bias attack, with the words, "Matthew Shepard. Entered Hell October 12, 1998. In Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."

Because of the Biblical quotation the monument is considered religious, and should be allowed to stand in public parks where there are already religious monuments, said Phelps' daughter and lawyer, Shirley Phelps-Roper.

"That's basically the linchpin to it all, that they put up some religious monument in their public spaces, so they can't refuse ours," Phelps-Roper said....

Is this coming to your town?

She said she could not recall all the cities the group has sent letters to, but among them are Nampa, Idaho; Cheyenne and Casper, Wyo.; Greeneville, Tenn.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Lebanon, Pa. ...


Friday, February 06, 2004


President Bush named seven people Friday to sit on an independent study commission to look into intelligence failures on Iraqi weapons, choosing former Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb and retired judge Laurence Silberman, a Republican, to head the panel....

--Associated Press

BUZZFLASH: ... You also seemed quite involved with the Silbermans. It was still astonishing to see the extent that a sitting federal judge was interacting with the efforts to attack Clinton -- Judge Lawrence Silberman and his wife that is. Silberman gave you advice on proceeding with articles that attacked Anita Hill and the President.

DAVID BROCK: Judge Lawrence Silberman, who sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, was an appointee of President Reagan to that court. His wife Ricky was the vice-chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the period that Clarence Thomas was the chairman on the Commission. I met them originally as sources for my first book on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. They went beyond the role of source.

BUZZFLASH: And he was a sitting judge at the time?

DAVID BROCK: Yes he was a sitting judge. For example, they reviewed in draft the galleys of that book. And so it certainly went beyond a reporter-source relationship. And coming out of that, Judge Silberman became a mentor to me and was someone who I relied on, as well as Ricky, for political advice while I was at the
American Spectator pursuing a lot of the anti-Clinton stories. When Ricky Silberman left the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she founded, or was one of the co-founders, of the Independent Women's Forum -- it was actually her idea. And it was actually Ricky Silberman's idea to approach Ken Starr to file that friend-of-the-court brief in the Paula Jones case. And Ricky knew the Jones case was simply payback for the Anita Hill affair. She thought, wouldn't it be delicious that Clinton would now be accused of sexual improprieties in the same way that Clarence Thomas had been? Judge Silberman played an absolutely key role at a critical juncture....

--BuzzFlash interview posted 5/29/02
George W. Bush -- still confusing the armed services and prop services:

..."Knowing what I knew then, and knowing what I know today, America did the right thing in Iraq," Bush told a handpicked crowd of applauding supporters on a Charleston Harbor dock....

The morning was raw, with wind whipping his hair, script and overcoat. Moments before the speech, the White House staff had to get the Coast Guard to reposition a cutter anchored behind him because it had drifted out of position and was no longer providing a perfect backdrop....

--Washington Post

(Thanks to salto mortale for the link.)
Paul Krugman writes today:

Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.

A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons of mass destruction."

He's right -- and there's a bit more in An End to Evil, the book Perle recently wrote with David Frum. An excerpt:

The CIA's analysts could not emancipate themselves from the ideologically liberal assumptions they brought with them from their elite colleges [during the cold war]....

The CIA's reports on the Middle East today are colored by similar ideological biases -- exacerbated by poor understanding of the region's culture and a politically correct disinclination to acknowledge unflattering facts about non-Western peoples.

No, I'm not making that up.
I'm deeply, deeply flattered, World O'Crap (but obviously you've never seen my apartment).
I'm picking up the distinct odor of rat: I just came across an apparently pro-Democrat but anti-Kerry Web page, called "Anybody but This Guy." It seems to be brand new -- its only entry is dated 2-5-04 -- yet it has somehow sidestepped the difficulties most of us have had getting attention for our political Web pages and instantly earned links from both Lucianne Goldberg (see "Some Blogtruth About Kerry") and Mickey Kaus (see "ABK404").

I smell a rat because, despite the site's "Who are we? People who want to see that Bush serves only one term" and its links to the sites of Dean, Clark, and Edwards, it's a one-stop link source for most of the GOP's anti-Kerry bullet points -- and it has this:

How many hit pieces on Kerry are we going to see featuring Ted Kennedy and Michael Dukakis? You'll be seeing this picture soon.

Er, yeah -- we've seen that picture, or pictures like it. It's a picture of Kerry with Kennedy. So?

Only Republicans think Ted Kennedy is a liability for the Democrats. Real Democrats know that only hardcore, yellow-dog Republicans hate him -- nobody else does. I think this fake-lo-fi site is a pathetic attempt at political dirty trickery.

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has an anti-gay-marriage editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. The title of the editorial is "One Man, One Woman." Romney writes,

...marriage is not "an evolving paradigm." It is deeply rooted in the history, culture and tradition of civil society. It predates our Constitution and our nation by millennia. The institution of marriage was not created by government and it should not be redefined by government.

I've said this before, but let me remind you again that Romney's own great-grandfather would beg to differ. Romney's father was former Michigan governor Gene Romney, whose grandfather, as The Washington Post has noted, "emigrated to Mexico in 1886 with his three wives and children after Congress outlawed polygamy."

Floyd Norris's column in today's New York Times points out a little-noticed provision in the new Bush budget:

... a proposal to reduce the maximum capital gains tax on gold coins from 28 percent to 25 percent.

These guys never run out of ways to make the wealthy wealthier, do they?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

...which candidate do you think Al-Qaeda might root for in this election, John Kerry (should he be the Democratic nominee), or George W. Bush? ... do you think Al-Qaeda kind of enjoys John Kerry saying let's take our defense and give it to the UN and the French and the Germans?

--Rush Limbaugh, from his 4/4/04 radio show

...who do you think Al Qaeda wants to win the election? ... Who would Iran want to deal with when it comes to its nuclear program – Cowboy Bush or “Send in the bribed French inspectors” Kerry?

--right-wing columnist/"humorist" James Lileks, from his 4/5/04 blog entry

I'm sure this is an astonishing coincidence and not, y'know, part of an elaborate process of test-marketing GOP talking points or anything like that.
Now we're being told that no one tried to shoot Sistani.

No boycotts or protests outside movies are planned for the Feb. 25 release of Mel Gibson's hotly anticipated "The Passion of the Christ."

However, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee will sponsor lectures, interfaith talks and other programs....

--The Washington Times

No ... please ... not the interfaith talks! Oh, those jackbooted non-Christian liberal thugs!

Er, who almost shot Grand Ayatollah Sistani?
Those Iraqi evildoers talk tough...

A coalition of insurgent groups has vowed to take over cities vacated by U.S. troops, and warned of "harsh consequences" for Iraqis who resist....

"America is getting ready to withdraw its forces from our country with its tail between its legs ... pressured by rockets and explosive devices," the statement said....

Despite the threats, U.S. officials have expressed confidence Iraqi police will be able to handle the security situation....

The U.S. Army has said it will gradually reduce its presence in Iraqi cities and hand over control to Iraqi security forces. The Army has so far given a detailed withdrawal plan only for the capital, Baghdad, which it envisages to be virtually free of U.S. troops by May....

But our well-trained Iraqi replacements will kick their butts! Right?

Er ... right?

The men of Bravo Company hold an important distinction: They are the first members of the Iraqi civil defense forces to be sent out on their own in Baghdad. But the first three weeks of that experiment have left them exasperated.

At the start of this week, despite what they said were repeated requests to the U.S. battalion that is supposed to support them, they were working without radios, bulletproof vests, gasoline, furniture or a functioning vehicle.

"We go on our patrols every day," Capt. Haider Salah, the unit's commander, said Tuesday. "But we go without radios or vests. . . . Even the pens and paper are from home."

U.S. officials frequently hail the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a paramilitary force akin to a national guard, as the cornerstone of U.S. plans to transfer security tasks to Iraqis. Sending Bravo Company, part of the 36th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, to live and work without any U.S. soldiers by their side was to be a major test of the plan to train and deploy 40,000 such troops across the country by May. And Bravo's experience is a testament to the challenges ahead....

OK, OK -- never mind.
Could gay marriage in Massachusetts hurt a John Kerry candidacy? Yeah, I suppose -- but I don't think harm is inevitable.

Gay people will legally be allowed to marry in Massachusetts starting May 17. For a few days, the press will prowl the Bay State, desperate for the perfect, unrepresentative photo of sodomite matrimonial makeup excess.

And then it'll be over, and we'll all move on to the next celebrity felony or orange alert.

Don't believe me? Notice the complete evaporation of the "Saddam bounce" in Bush's approval ratings in the latest Gallup poll. We have no memory for news in this country. (Turkey? Did Bush serve turkey somewhere on Thanksgiving?)

Oh, sure -- the Bushies will try to make the campaign all gay marriage, all the time, especially in the South and Midwest. But all Kerry has to do is hone a response -- and he's had months to prepare. The Bushies will be refighting the family's last war against a "Massachusetts liberal," and they'll expect Kerry to be as passive as Dukakis. And it's almost biochemically impossible for any other human being to be as passive as Dukakis was.
"Was the situation in Iraq worth going to war over, or not?"

In the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, the percentage saying yes has dropped a new low -- 49% (Yes-no is now a 49%-49% tie.)

And 53% of poll respondents disapprove of Bush's handling of the war -- a new high.

(But ... but ... what about the "Saddam bounce"?)

Full report here (including some lovely graphs showing the decline in support).

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The New York Times article about today's opening of the fancy-schmancy new Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle mentions Cindy Crawford swanning past a tray of risotto and mushroom tarts, but not the leafletters outside protesting CNN union-busting.

For more information, read these letters from the unions involved, NABET and CWA (1, 2; warning: PDFs). Also see this December article from Broadcast Engineering:

CNN, a business unit of Time Warner, has terminated its agreement with a unionized contractor that provides more than 220 technicians and camera crews for its Washington and New York bureaus. CNN said it wants to bring the jobs in-house with nonunion workers.

The technicians, who are represented by the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET), have been invited to apply for nonunion jobs at CNN. Some already have been hired....

Your liberal media in action.

(Thanks to Blah3 for the last link.)
I wondered why, a few months ago, we were suddenly seeing a barrage of well-produced public-service announcements promoting 1-800-MEDICARE as an information source. Now I know:

Just two days after the White House proposed serious budget cuts and the President said he's "calling upon Congress to be wise with the taxpayer's money," ... the White House will use $9.5 million from the Department of Health and Human Services – money that is supposed to be used to implement the law and could go to restore some of the cuts to social services for the poor – on political commercials that "rebut criticism of the new Medicare law." ...

The new Medicare ads urge citizens to call 1-800-MEDICARE to hear more about the new law....

So the Bushies were setting us up to regard this phone number as a benign source of friendly information, and now they've turned it (at least in part) into a tax-funded political propaganda unit.

(Though it's hard to imagine that it'll be a particularly successful one, if, as the link reports, you have to shout "Medicare improvement" into the phone in order to hear the propaganda. Hey, schmucks, if you want to use Orwellian doublespeak, use it yourselves -- but don't think you're going to make it sink in by forcing us proles to use it.)
Google News hits for "jackson apologizes": 68.

Google News hits for "timberlake apologizes": 0.

You really don't have to be Katha Pollitt to suspect that we have a rather sexist double standard about Areolagate.
I think a lot of us assume that we're going to have a Kerry-Edwards ticket in the fall -- but it was pointed out last night, by some pundit or other, that John Edwards has said he doesn't want to be vice president. Here's the quote, from the Today show a week ago: "No, no. Final. I don't want to be vice president. I'm running for president." And, for all we know, Kerry might not want to pick Edwards.

If Kerry and Edwards don't pair up, I think Kerry's might try to gobsmack the two noncombatants on the other ticket by pairing himself with a fellow veteran -- Max Cleland.

We know Cleland has campaigned for Kerry. And we know that a campaign that's willing to revisit the Bush AWOL issue is willing to bring up other issues the press considers old news -- such as the disgraceful Republican campaign ads that compared Cleland to Saddam and bin Laden. With Cleland on the ticket, those ads would go nationwide -- the ads would run on the nightly news, juxtaposed with footage of Cleland in his wheelchair, and the whole country would get a glimpse of the GOP in all its sleazy glory.

Two Nam vets? I know the rules say that running mates are supposed to "balance" each other -- but Clinton threw the rulebook out in '92, picking a fellow young Southerner as his #2, and it worked. That said the Democrats were ready to battle for the South. This would say the Democrats are really ready to take on the flight suit.
Parodying Massachusetts is a way to keep old resentments alive without getting into any of the inconvenient details. It also allows a pro-business, Yale-educated president with an MBA from Harvard to cast himself as anti-elitist by implying (as his Yale-educated father did in 1988 with that line about the "Harvard boutique") that Massachusetts people are a bunch of snobs. The people selling this stuff should know that in my hometown, folks get punched out for being snobs....

Massachusetts voted for McGovern over Richard Nixon -- not so much because of the Harvard boutique but because the old factory towns such as the one where I grew up remained loyal to the party of Al Smith, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. In any case, why, in light of history, is voting against Nixon so dishonorable? ...

That's from "The Truth About Massachusetts," a good column by The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne (a native of Fall River, Mass.). I grew up in Boston and I'm very pleased to see that this GOP crap is getting more and more Bay Staters' backs up.
Here's a thought: Howard Dean's campaign is struggling now -- but he's a hell of a speaker. Assuming he doesn't make an amazing comeback in this race, why not offer him a show on Progress Media, the in-development liberal talk-radio network? I think Dean's got just the right touch for radio -- he's pointed, funny, and (yeah, at times) pugnacious, but the sound of his voice goes down easy. And he could probably do the show out of Burlington -- Judy wouldn't have to give up her patients. Hey, why not?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

OK -- is this story going to be part of the administration's Saddam = al-Qaeda = ricin terrorism case? (Or, at least, part of an attempt to blur the distinctions in people's minds?)

A 7-pound block of cyanide salt was discovered by U.S. troops in Baghdad at the end of January, officials confirmed to Fox News.

The potentially lethal compound was located in what was believed to be the safe house of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a poisons specialist described by some U.S. intelligence officials as having been a key link between deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terror network.

...Zarqawi, believed to have been operating in Iraq before March's invasion, was still being sought by coalition forces. It was not clear if anyone had been apprehended in connection with last month's find....

U.S. officials, who said they were getting new intelligence in the hunt for Zarqawi, also believe he had been attempting to produce large quantities of the toxin ricin in northern Iraq.

--Fox News (emphasis mine)

First, cyanide salts: I don't know much about 'em, but I guess they're used in electroplating, so you might want to tell the FBI if you have any neighbors who are jewelers.

Now, as for Zarqawi: You might have heard of him because he's an alleged al-Qaeda operative who once got medical treatment in Baghdad; as a result, right-wingers see him as a human smoking gun, a Saddam-Osama link. But a lot of other people think (a) he may not have had strong al-Qaeda ties and (b) his presence in Iraq, even in Baghdad, may not be a sign of a Saddam endorsement -- possibly it's a sign of Iraq's instability just before the war. (Zarqawi was captured near Baghdad last April, yet the capture somehow hasn't managed to generate proof of any of the Bushies' more melodramatic theories.)

And meanwhile, the Senate ricin mailer might just be an American trucking company owner, so go figure.
I guess they really just can't stop, can they?



The demise of Howard Dean's candidacy opens the door to a Kerry/Clinton ticket in 2004....

Here's Step 1 for you, Dick: "I admit I am powerless over my Hillary obsession -- that my life has become unmanageable...."

Saddam did try to kill an ex-president of the United States ... right? In The Nation (subscribers only), Scott Sherman says, er, maybe not:

A few weeks ago, Slate asked a number of "liberal hawks"--among them George Packer, Kenneth Pollack, Thomas Friedman, Paul Berman and Fareed Zakaria --to reflect on their support for the Iraq war. For several days, Slate readers witnessed a steady stream of linguistic acrobatics, graceful, guilt-ridden prose and, in some cases, genuine contrition. But if contributors like Pollack and Slate editor Jacob Weisberg expressed deep misgivings about their initial support for military intervention, they accepted Administration claims that, in Weisberg's words, "Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush." Weisberg and Pollack echoed what Bush himself said of Saddam in 2002: "This is a guy that tried to kill my dad." Is Saddam guilty as charged? Backtrack to spring 1993, when the Clinton Administration announced that Iraqi intelligence had attempted to assassinate George Bush Sr. with a car bomb during a ceremonial visit to Kuwait. In retaliation Clinton ordered a missile attack on Baghdad, which killed eight civilians. Our knowledge of the plot against Bush might have ended there if not for the efforts of Seymour Hersh, who revisited the episode in a lengthy piece for The New Yorker in November 1993. After numerous interviews with high-ranking US and Kuwaiti officials, along with electrical engineers and bomb experts, Hersh concluded that the key suspects in the plot were beaten (and possibly tortured) by Kuwaiti authorities, and that "there is no evidence that any of the alleged assassins took any overt steps to deploy any bombs." In February 2003, in a little-noticed article, the Baltimore Sun disclosed that "the former FBI chemist who tested the explosive recovered in Kuwait says he told superiors it did not match known Iraqi explosives"--a fact that does much to bolster Hersh's reporting. Do Weisberg and Pollack know something Hersh doesn't? One can only speculate, since they didn't return phone calls.
Hey, folks, it's the BUSH BOOM!

Job Cuts Top 100,000 in January - Report

Planned job cuts in January were 26 percent higher than in December as U.S. jobs moved to countries like India, China and the Philippines, and as mergers made some jobs redundant, according to a report on Tuesday.

The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said post-holiday job cuts reached 117,556 in January surpassing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since last October.

...According to Challenger, consumer product companies led the January cutbacks with 22,775 job cuts, the largest number of reported job cuts in that sector in a single month since 1993, according to Challenger.

Challenger said one of the main factors for the job cuts in January was an increase of employers eliminating jobs in the United States and shifting to service providers in India, China and the Philippines among other countries.

Another factor was an increase in mergers so far this year. The survey's head, John Challenger, noted in a statement that one of those mergers will result in "as many as 10,000 job cuts to take place as redundant positions are eliminated."

Well, we can't really say what we're thinking, can we?

You know what I mean -- that the sudden appearance of (what seems to be) ricin is a Bushie plot that coincides with plummeting poll numbers and the rise of John Kerry as a serious threat. We can't say it, we can't even speculate about it, we can't even consider it and dismiss it, because that would make us conspiracy wackos.

Even though we were practically required to believe, or at least to consider the possibility, that the bombs Bill Clinton dropped on Iraq in 1998 were a craven attempt to use deadly force to distract voters from his failings.

David Kay, of course, said that ricin was one of the few irregular weapons Iraq was still actively working to produce just before the war. The Right desperately grasped at this straw (see paragraph #2 of Charles Krauthammer's last column), and righties assume you were paying attention, too. You don't have to believe that the administration did this to believe that the Bushies will try to exploit it.

Of course, if the administration does try to exploit the ricin attack (assuming it is a ricin attack), spinning it as a justification for administration policies, and particularly the Iraq war, that just makes no sense -- if it's ricin and it came from the Saddam's labs, then that the proves that the war didn't protect us from him ... and if it's ricin and it came from another foreign source, that says that maybe there were some resources we shouldn't have redirected to Iraq. (And if it's ricin and the mailer is domestic, well, did we nickel-and-dime domestic anti-terror efforts to pay for tax cuts?)

But the administration knows that, for most Americans, it's all just a muddle -- according to a Newsweek poll, most Americans interviewed just after David Kay's recent interviews and testimony said they believe Iraq had banned chem or bio weapos in the days before the war.

I don't know if this is "wag the ricin." I don't like succumbing to conspiracy theories. I think it's more likely that we're dealing with a Kaczynski, someone both schizophrenic and craftsmanlike, who might not even have a political agenda (or at least not a coherent one). But I do think we'll hear a lot from the administration about how "the world is a dangerous place" and Bush is the guy to keep us safe -- even though he obviously isn't keeping us safe. And I worry that it might work.
Notice that what got up the nose of the FCC's Michael Powell wasn't some pirate post-post-post-post-punk radio station run by two NYU students, or some struggling independently owned AM station in Oklahoma, but, rather, one of the very behemoths he wants to reward handsomely through his push for media deregulation? And notice that one of the behemoths (actually the same one, Viacom) was the employer of the shock jocks who upset Powell last year by broadcasting (alleged) sex at St. Patrick's Cathedral? And notice that Viacom is also the employer of the much-fined Howard Stern, while Clear Channel (as that second link notes) was recently being disciplined for a radio show in which teenage girls were encouraged to discuss sex at their high school? Hey, Michael, how many more times are you going to go out of your way to try to reward these huge companies, only to find yourself shocked, shocked, at what they broadcast?

Monday, February 02, 2004

So I stumbled on this a few days ago. It's a reasonably amusing little poke at the Democrats ... but look at the bottom of the page. The person who put the page up is a Democrat who really wants Bush out of office. The same goes for the person who maintains DeanGoesNuts.com -- this person is not only anti-Bush but passionately pro-Dean, even though the Dean scream remixes on the page attract a lot of Democrat-haters.

This is a big difference between our side and the other side: We sometimes make fun of our own. They don't.

Oh sure, I guess P. J. O'Rourke has occasionally made a joke about conservatives. But he's old-school, a Reagan-era relic, not representative of modern conservatism. And yes, occasionally Peggy Noonan or David Brooks will write a column in which a bit of right-wing self-deprecation appears in a subordinate clause somewhere -- but the point of the rest of the column will be that Democrats and liberals are dangerous freaks.

Is there any aspect of the right-wing worldview that strikes right-wingers as a wee bit ridiculous? The Hillary-hate? The schoolgirl crush on capitalism? Bush's padded crotch in that flight suit? Who on the right has a sense of humor about the right? I can't think of anyone.
Has John Kerry ever tried to get his way from a service worker by saying, "Do you know who I am?," as some of his detractors claim? I have no idea -- though Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online sure wants me to think it's true.

But, er, Jonah? A word of advice? If you want me to believe that "such tales are not rrare [sic] in the blogosphere," it'd be a tad more convincing if a few more of the hits in the Google search you offer as evidence actually referred to your subject.

Let's see -- we have:

* an anecdote about Australian billionaire Kerry Packer

* some ER fan fiction involving the character Dr. Kerry Weaver;

* some spam quoted in a blog that contains the phrase "do you know who i am";

* an anecdote about Gwyneth Paltrow;

* an anecdote about Prince...

... you get the point.
Robert Novak's latest column is here. It's actually heartening -- Novak says Republicans worry about their guy running against Kerry, and I think Novak is being sincere (in other words, this isn't like that "Republicans say I'm the opponent they fear most" nonsense Joe Lieberman is spouting).

But this passage pisses me off:

Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie, given the assignment of rolling out Kerry's liberal record, has come under private criticism by his GOP colleagues. They knock Gillespie, not for trying, but for failing to clearly expose Kerry as a compulsive liberal.

"Compulsive liberal"? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Republicans love suggesting that being a Democrat or a liberal is a variety of mental illness -- maybe not an out-and-out psychosis, but certainly a neurosis or an obsessive tic. Back in the '80s, the subtext of all that talk about "tax-and-spend liberals" was that Democrats raised taxes because they just couldn't stop themselves. (Which is a bit ironic now, as we watch Bush bankrupting our grandchildren and moving on to the great-grandkids.) The right has never stopped doing this -- and our side, even with a snappish, pettish, compulsive-spending ex-alcoholic narcissist as president, hasn't figured out how to react in kind.
Direct elections in Iraq? Impossible! Surely not this summer! We can't even compile voter rolls by then!

But somehow the CPA was able to cobble together hardware, software, and experts to make this happen:

...Jay Hallen ... was hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to oversee the establishment of the new Iraq Stock Exchange, where trading is expected to start within a few weeks.

"When this opens, it will be a big sign that normalcy has returned to Iraqi life," Hallen says in a phone interview from Baghdad. "There's great excitement about an economy that's been suppressed and is ready to boom."...

William Bautz, former chief technology officer at the New York Stock Exchange ... is an adviser to the newly named Iraq Stock Exchange through the Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC), a nonprofit group in New York that assists developing economies. Last November, he took part in a planning conference in Amman, Jordan, where the volunteers helped Iraqi brokers and officials set up securities laws in line with international standards....

Technology is another issue. Previously, each company kept its own records, so the exchange needs an electronic depository to track prices, trades, and shareholder identity numbers. Temporarily, the depository will be based in Egypt or Jordan, neighbors that have more sophisticated capital markets and are eager to help....

For staff at the 52 licensed brokerages in Iraq, the opening bell of the new exchange will be a welcome sound. (A consultant from the Philadelphia Stock Exchange has offered to bring a small replica of the Liberty Bell.) ...

Priorities straight, as usual....
Lead story in today's amNewYork:

Although $5 million is needed to re-open the Statue of Liberty, amNewYork has learned that the foundation asking the world for donations is already sitting on at least eight times that much money -- $40 million.

...the non-profit Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation refuses to say how much cash it has collected or when it will use that money to reopen the monument....

The foundation said it will make an announcement in March on the status of the "Re-Open Lady Liberty" campaign, but [foundation president Stephen] Briganti said it won't be anytime soon and certainly not before July 4.

Let me take a wild stab in the dark here: You think maybe they're planning to reopen the statue sometime between August 30 and September 2?
John Tierney wagged a finger in yesterday's New York Times:

When they walk on stage to address their cheering supporters this Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates might want to consider a new mantra: It's the living room, stupid....

...in New Hampshire last Tuesday, the candidates were still spending their precious moments on national television thanking aides and volunteers. Just when they could finally stop pandering to voters, they went on rhapsodizing about the locals' hospitality for so long that the networks cut them off in midspeech....

It may seem cruel to subject a roomful of supporters to a stump speech they already know word for word. John Kerry's volunteers presumably do not want to be rewarded at a victory party with a speech about his tax policies; John Edwards's workers do not need to hear for the millionth time that he is the son of a millworker.

But only 20 percent of Americans know that Mr. Edwards's father worked in a mill, and two-thirds do not recognize the most rudimentary distinction in the candidates' tax policies, according to the latest National Annenberg Election Survey from the University of Pennsylvania. It's hard for the crowd at an election-night party to imagine so many Americans know so little about the candidates, but those channel-surfers in the living rooms are the ones who will be picking the next president.

Oh, I get it, John: It's the candidates' fault if voters don't know their stories and their platforms. The fact that you and most of your media colleagues can't bear to cover anything besides the horse race or gaffes (Dean's scream) has nothing to do with it.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Some not-exactly-satisfied Bush customers:

When she could find an extra quarter during the Depression, Marie Scott saved it in a coffee can. When she could afford Stride Rite shoes for her daughters, she bought them a half size bigger so they could be grown into. She didn't think a car was broken in until the odometer said 50,000 miles.

For all of her 77 years, Marie Scott did everything the straight and narrow American way – including paying her Social Security taxes – so she could enjoy a secure retirement.

Now she feels like her country punched her in her gut. It passed a Medicare prescription drug bill that, she says, will hurt her – and millions of other senior citizens.

Scott has a coronary heart condition. The new bill could cost her $3,600 per year in drug costs....

She was one of a crowd of 50 who turned out for the first meeting of the revived Senior Legislative Action Committee, which featured Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-Saugerties, blasting the bill he called "obnoxious."

"We are no longer the silent majority,'' said Priscilla Bassett. "I'm 70 plus and I'm angry."...

--Times Herald-Record (Monticello, N.Y.)

So ordinary citizens are holding meetings to get this legislation repealed (and they're coming out in weather that's pretty damn cold) -- and a congressional Democrat (i.e., by definition a member of a highly risk-averse group) shows up to egg them on.

Remember when this bill was being described as a political home run?

Friday, January 30, 2004

Burke would refuse communion to Kerry

If Sen. John Kerry were to stand in Archbishop Raymond L. Burke's communion line Sunday, Burke would bless him without giving him communion.

Kerry, a Catholic, has voted to support abortion rights, contrary to Catholic Church long-held teaching opposing abortion.

"I would have to admonish him not to present himself for communion," said Burke. "I might give him a blessing or something," he said....

--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This would be a cheap stunt, perhaps, but, assuming Kerry's the nominee, I think it would boost him in the polls if, next October, he walked into a Mass that was being said by Archbishop Burke and Burke yanked the host away.

Bring it on, Father....
Don't know much about the American Research Group, but its poll has George W. Bush with a 47% approval rating and trailing Kerry, 47%-46%. Bush loses to Kerry among independents, 55%-39%, in this poll. Nice.
Bloody hell ... the GOP-majority Georgia Senate has voted to erect a statue of Zell Miller.

You know Miller -- the alleged Democrat who's endorsed George W. Bush and written a book attacking his own party? Hey, it's working for him: Once relatively obscure, he's now a New York Times bestselling author and a golden god on the Right.

Maybe, when they unveil this objet d'art, they can invite all the Democrat-hating Democrats -- Joe Lieberman, Mickey Kaus of Slate, freelance pundit/blowhard/racist Tammy Bruce.

Folks, here's a prediction: I don't think Bush is going to drop Cheney from the ticket, but if he does, his running mate is going to be Zell Miller. I'm dead serious about this. And idiots in the commentariat will tell you with a straight face that it's a sincere act of "bipartisanship."

(Thanks to Pandagon for the statue story.)
AP, January 13, 2004:

Guerrilla attacks on the 150,000 U.S.-led coalition soldiers in Iraq have dropped sharply since the Dec. 13 capture of Saddam Hussein, and the number of troops killed and wounded has plummeted as well.

The figures appear to show the capture of Saddam has taken some of the sting out of the Iraqi insurgency....

The slump in combat casualties comes alongside a 22 percent drop in attacks on American-led forces in those four weeks....

According to U.S. military figures, insurgent attacks against coalition forces declined to an average of 18 a day in the past four weeks, compared to 23 a day in the four weeks before Saddam's capture. ...

Financial Times today:

US combat deaths in Iraq have risen sharply during January despite a drop in the number of attacks and the capture of former dictator Saddam Hussein over a month ago.

As of Thursday, 33 American soldiers and one civilian had been killed by hostile fire during the month. That compares with 24 US combat deaths in December, and a total of 32 coalition combat deaths....

Overall, January has been one of the bloodiest post-war months for the coalition. Combat deaths in the first 28 days of January alone exceeded those in every post-war month except October (35) and November (94), according toIraq Coalition Casualty Count - a website devoted to tracking coalition deaths....

Oh, and I love this:

The US military on Thursday declined to confirm or deny the figures for combat deaths in Iraq this month, which were calculated from press releases from US Central Command in Florida. A US military spokesman in Baghdad said figures were only kept for two-month periods, and a computer malfunction made it impossible to calculate an official casualty count for separate months.

Oh, please.

(Thanks to Cursor for the FT link.)
The much awaited Hutton report is an absolute vindication for Tony Blair and a catastrophe for the BBC.

--Andrew Sullivan on Wednesday

Some 56% of [British] voters believe the Hutton report was a whitewash, according to a YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph.

Despite the report, the poll found 67% of people still trust BBC news journalists to tell the truth and 31% trust the Government.

In an NOP poll, half of those questioned said Lord Hutton was wrong to clear Mr Blair and his aides of any "underhand and duplicitous" naming strategy. A clear majority, 56%, said the peer was wrong to lay all the blame at the door of the BBC.

His inquiry was branded a whitewash by 49%, with 40% disagreeing, in the survey for London's Evening Standard. And a full independent inquiry into the reason Britain went to war with Iraq was supported by an overwhelming 70%.

Three times as many people trust the BBC to tell the truth than the Government, another poll showed today. However, almost half, 49%, trusted neither side, the ICM survey for The Guardian found. Just one in 10 had faith in ministers compared with 31% who believed the Corporation.



Update: Well, even Sullivan seems to be figuring it out now. Today he quotes an e-mail he's received about the Hutton inquiry, which the e-mailer calls "a joke":

Everyone I have spoken to here who is not directly involved in politics (but who keeps a "watching brief" on events as they affect our daily lives) is horrified. We seem effectively to live in an elected dictatorship: over-reaching powers of Tony Blair without any check whatsoever; supine parliament (whose powers of scrutiny have been wrecked by said Prime Minister); pliant judiciary; and a commercial media hamstrung by regulation preventing any form of political partiality. The inquiry seems to have suddenly clarified the unease that a number of us here have felt deep down for some time....
Attention Wal-Mart shoppers:

The US economy braked fiercely in the last quarter of 2003, slowing to an unexpectedly low 4.0 percent annualized growth pace...

Growth shrank to less than half the blistering, 19-year record 8.2 percent pace of the third quarter, defying economists' predictions of a 5.0 percent expansion to wrap up the year.

Over the whole of 2003, output in the world's biggest economy was up 3.1 percent, the Commerce Department said Friday.

--AFP today

China's economy grew a surprising 9.9 percent in the final quarter of last year, the government said Tuesday, signaling a quick recovery from the economic fallout of the SARS epidemic and hinting at a favorable outlook for 2004.

Investment and foreign trade helped drive the country's annual gross domestic product growth to 9.1 percent, according to the official figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

--AP, 1/20/04

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Via TBOGG, I learned about this post from Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online's blog. He quotes an e-mail:

...I was recently in my local Meijer store, which is a Wal-Mart like mega-store, and walked down the cheap art aisle and was stopped in my tracks by a painting of George W. Bush. It was at least 18x12 in size and portrayed our President on one knee, with an open Bible in his right hand, and a clear and distinct wedding ring on his left. He is wearing a shirt and tie, but has the sleeves rolled up.

It surprised me, in that, even out here in red country, there is still plenty of cynicism about our leaders. I guess I just don't expect our generation to lionize heroes like our parents generation did....

Hmmm -- what does this remind me of?

Oh yeah -- this:

Live appearances by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on state-run media have been rare of late, but you're never far from his image. It's on the streets and in stores and offices, often in three dimensions.

Unlike many past dictators, who usually depicted their leaders in heroic, militaristic poses, Hussein can be seen in murals handing out flowers, blessing a child, saying prayers and riding a horse.

...Salam Abid has been painting Saddam Hussein's portrait since 1976, and sells three or four a month at a price of $100 US, a whopping sum for most Iraqis.

"I paint him in military uniform, or holding a sword, or in traditional Arab-Muslim dress, but I like him best in a suit," Abid says....

Bush with a Bible ... Saddam in a traditional headdress -- is there a difference?
Georgia's Republican schools superintendent wants to clear something up:

A change that would strike the word "evolution" from Georgia's science classes is only a suggestion and far from becoming official policy, a spokesman for state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said Thursday.

Cox's proposal for new middle and high school science standards would ban references to "evolution" and replace it with the term "biological changes over time."

"The whole point for us is we really don't have a stance on the issue," said Cox spokesman Kirk Englehardt. "We're very open to hearing every side of the issue."

The proposed change is part of more than 800 pages of revisions to Georgia's curriculum that were posted Jan. 12 on the Department of Education Web site for educators to consider.

The new curriculum ... is expected to be voted on by the state Board of Education in May....

But hey, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this isn't provincial know-nothingism -- it's about freedom of choice!

Cox, a Republican elected to the state's top public school position in 2002, addressed the issue briefly in a public debate during the campaign. The candidates were asked about a school dispute in Cobb County over evolution and Bible-based teachings on creation.

Cox responded: "It was a good thing for parents and the community to stand up and say we want our children exposed to this [creationism] idea as well. . . . I'd leave the state out of it and I would make sure teachers were well prepared to deal with competing theories."

Well, sure -- except that a lot of the material on the one "theory" every respectable scientist on the planet believes has been snipped out, as has the name of that "theory."

So what happened?

The Georgia Department of Education based its biology curriculum on national standards put forth by a respected source, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But while the state copied most of the national standards, it deleted much of the section that covers the origin of living things.

A committee of science teachers, college professors and curriculum experts was involved in reviewing the proposal. The state did not specify why the references to evolution were removed, and by whom, even to educators involved in the process.

Terrie Kielborn, a middle school science teacher in Paulding County who was on the committee, recalled that Stephen Pruitt, the state's curriculum specialist for science, told the panel not to include the word evolution.

"We were pretty much told not to put it in there," Kielborn said. The rationale was community reaction, she said.

"When you say the word evolution, people automatically, whatever age they are, think of the man-monkey thing," Kielborn said.

Oh. Ick! Monkeys! Well, that explains it. Can't have monkey discussed in the same breath as people, can we? Ignorance is infinitely preferable than exposing impressionable youngsters to talk about monkeys.
Afghan Weapons Cache Blast Kills 7 GIs

Yes, that's Afghanistan -- not Iraq.
Oh jeez -- here it comes (from CNN/Money) ...

Why Kerry worries the Street

Securities firms may have donated big to his campaign, but that doesn't mean the market likes him.

...In his economic plan, Kerry has said he is against Bush's dividend tax cut, but that he would lower capital gains and dividend taxes for the middle class.

Among other things, Kerry's plan calls for setting up tax incentives that would encourage businesses to create manufacturing jobs in the United States. He has also said he would use the scaling back of the Bush tax cuts to reduce the federal budget deficit.

... for those who believe the tax cuts are directly linked to the 2003 stock market rally and the surging economy, Kerry's talk is worrisome.

"I think it would be difficult for Kerry to prove that the tax cuts were not effective," said Ned Riley, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors....

And on and on and on.

And all this despite the fact that the story includes a link to another CNN/Money story that says

stocks are in fact less volatile and perform better under Democratic presidents.

That story is here. It cites a study published in the Journal of Finance.

Looking at the 72-year period between 1927 and 1999, the study shows that a broad stock index, similar to the S&P 500, returned approximately 11 percent more a year on average under a Democratic president versus safer, three-month Treasurys. By comparison, the index only returned 2 percent more a year versus the T-bills when Republicans were in office.

...On average, value-weighted portfolios returned 9 percent more under Democrats than Republicans during the 72 year period, while equal-weighted portfolios returned 16 percent more under Democrats.

This is described in the article as a "strange little irony." A market analyst, told of the study's results, is quoted as saying, "I think plenty on Wall Street would be pretty shocked to hear that."

Why? The authors of the study have their own theories, but here's mine: Consumer spending drives the economy. The rich simply don't spend as great a percentage of their income as the non-rich do. GOP policies mostly put money in the hands of non-spenders, while any tax cuts for the non-rich are offset by hikes in other taxes, job losses, increases in fees, and so on. I know businesspeople would rather have money just handed to them, in the form, say, of tax loopholes, but sometimes being forced to make money by actually selling the stuff you're ostensibly in business to sell can be good for the soul. And profitable.
I keep hearing people on TV say that John Kerry is "aloof".

Why? Because he doesn't walk around in a flightsuit and a cowboy hat?

Up here we call that "not acting like a jackass".

Why does the Northeast always have to apologize for who we are? We're Americans, too. New Englanders were the ones who stood up to King George. New Englanders risked their necks (literally) by tossing the tea into Boston Harbor. New Englanders lowered their muskets and fired at British soldiers when the whole world trembled at the sight of them.

Sorry if we talk too fast; it gets really cold here, ok? We do everything quickly so we can
go home. There's a pot of chowder on the stove, and the game is on....

That's from a blog called 201k.com, and as a native of Boston I say thank you. Read the rest here (under the heading "A New England Primer").

(Thanks to Cursor for the link.)
A few days ago, I asked why John Kerry's hockey playing can't be construed as mythically manly, like, say, Bush's clearing of brush in Crawford. The Mahablog has an (unfortunately) good answer --

There are two aspects to the Andrew Jackson/John Wayne mystique. First is to be a rugged man of action, yes. But second is that you have to be a little uncivilized. The macho-mystique guy is instinctual rather than intellectual; more rough than polished; and a person for whom the rules do not apply.  This might describe most hockey players, but not, I think, to John Kerry.

-- as well as the sage observation that brush clearing is

a perfect activity for Bush because the brush can't fight back.

Yup -- that's it.

Meanwhile, George Will is telling us that Kerry's campaign seems to mark "a retreat from the feminization of politics," yet fellow right-wing Michelle Malkin insists that Kerry is an, er, "insufficiently attentive spouse" to his wife (who, Malkin implies, is nuts and wears the pants in the family). But then Ann Coulter tells us that Kerry takes advantage of rich women, his wife being the most recent. So confusing! And maybe this is reason enough for the Democrats to nominate Kerry: We know the Right is going to argue that the Dem nominee, whoever it is, is a spawn of Satan who isn't fit to be around decent people -- so maybe the best we can hope for is that they'll strongly disagree on exactly why the nominee is the Antichrist.

Confusion to our enemies!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I have a good feeling about this guy. I've asked a few somewhat alarmist questions about mad-cow disease in this blog recently, but this scientist sounds like just the person you'd want examining suspect (human) brains, and if he says he's ruled out variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in hundreds of brains he's examined (variant CJD, as opposed to plain old CJD, is mad cow disease), I believe him. But he does say he'd like more brains of the deceased to examine, in case he's missing something. Twenty-six states require reporting of CJD. C'mon, what's wrong with the other 24?

And are we really only now realizing that mad cow can spread via transfused blood? Is there a lot more we need to discover about vCJD?
The Hutton report severely chastized the BBC and exonerated Tony Blair. In The Guardian, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor aren't satisfied:

...Lord Hutton leaves himself open to accusations of having cherrypicked the evidence that supports the government case and sidelined that which supports the BBC. Awkward bits of evidence that do not fit his final conclusion are left lying around unanswered.

He ignores the issue of the reliability of the intelligence in the government's dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction published on September 24, 2002.

Instead, he focuses on the specific issue of the claim by the BBC Today reporter Andrew Gilligan in May last year that the government had tampered with intelligence to strengthen the case for war.

The evidence of the BBC science correspondent Susan Watts, whose taped conversation with Dr Kelly corroborates much of Gilligan's report, is ignored....

Evidence emerged during the inquiry from John Scarlett, the head of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), who drew up the dossier, that the 45 minutes related not to long-range weapons as had been widely assumed at the time but to battlefield weapons.

This is significant, because it supports the BBC case that the threat from Saddam was not as grave as the government dossier suggested.

But Lord Hutton said in his report that the distinction between battlefield weapons and long-range ones deployable within 45 minutes "does not fall within my terms of reference"....

...Nor does he address the extracts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, the then Downing Street director of communications, hinting at a personal vendetta against Gilligan taken to the final conclusion.

At one point in his diary Mr Campbell said it would "fuck Gilligan" if Dr Kelly turned out to be the source of his story....

Also in his diary, Mr Campbell refers to a conversation with the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, in which he spoke about "a plea bargain", suggesting that the defence secretary would offer a deal to Dr Kelly.

Lord Hutton again brushes this aside, saying: "One of those areas of uncertainty is whether in his discussion with Mr Campbell, Mr Hoon used the term 'plea bargain' in relation to Dr Kelly and, if he did, what did he mean by that term."

It was revealed last night that the family of Dr Kelly expressly referred to Mr Campbell's diary entries in its final submission to the inquiry. The family argued that the government wanted Dr Kelly's name to come out as a way of assisting its battle with the BBC.

The family said: "Alastair Campbell's diary reveals that it was his desire and the desire of others, including the secretary of state for defence, that the fact and identity of the source should be made public." ...