Sunday, February 29, 2004

Kerry will pick Gephardt — and he'll be glad he did.

--John J. Miller in National Review

Kerry will surely want a running mate eager to eviscerate the opposition, particularly in the debate against Vice President Cheney (or, failing that, a Vice President who will bring his home state along -- and Dick Gephardt has a better chance of doing both than Edwards).

--Joe Klein in Time

Please tell me this is just the same sort of pundit idiocy that gave us so many stories four years ago about how Tom Ridge was a lock for Bush's #2 slot. I just don't think I could bear the mealy-mouthed fossil Gephardt in the #2 slot. Don't do it, John.
I know that David Shipley has said that he and his fellow New York Times op-ed page editors "tend to look for articles that ... make arguments that have not been articulated elsewhere in the editorial space." But does that mean it's necessary to publish a pro-gay-marriage article that takes seriously the most ill-supported, preposterous aguments of gay-marriage opponents?

The power of "marriage" lies in its symbolic authority to reinforce monogamy and stability when temptation calls. The hope is that, having taken vows before family and friends, people will think twice before breaking them. It is this shared meaning of marriage that is central to the success of so many individual unions.

Yet it is precisely this shared definition that causes many Americans to worry that legalizing gay marriages would undermine straight ones. By sharing the institution with couples whose union they don't trust or respect, they fear, the sanctity of their own bonds could be compromised.

Oh, please. People who oppose gay marriage do so because they think gay people are icky (or simply immoral by definition) and thus don't deserve the same institutional validation as straights.

And if Shipley does think this is an appropriately thought-provoking pro-gay-marriage piece, why pair it with this utterly conventional anti-gay-marriage piece by Lisa Schiffren (author of Dan Quayle's Murphy Brown speech), which is entirely consistent with the Bush position on gay rights?

To ex-New Republic editor Shipley, liberalism that isn't ashamed of liberal argumentsis an embarrassment, but full-throated conservatism is okey-dokey.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

The New York Post says Jason West, the mayor of New Paltz, New York, who's been marrying gay couples, has a "history of flakery":

When he was just 6, West boycotted McDonald's because the fast-food giant used Styrofoam containers.

"I've been an environmentalist all my life," he said recently.

"I refused to let [my] family eat at McDonald's when I learned about Styrofoam and how it's not biodegradable. So, we couldn't go to McDonald's for a while, which my sister forgave me for, I think, last summer." ...

West's platform, like his approach to life, was offbeat to say the least, and heavy on environmental issues.

He talked about solar panels for the village hall roof and soy-based fuel for municipal trucks....

What's so flaky about either of these things? I'm impressed.

Oh -- this, I guess, is the flaky part:

As for his puppeteering, West works with a group called Arm-of-the-Sea theater, which performs throughout the Hudson Valley.

Hey, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie is going to win a mess of Oscars tomorrow night? Didn't he used to make puppet movies?
The lead of Joe Klein's Time column this week is a bit obnoxious:

The 2004 Democratic primary campaign has produced one of the more depressing political phenomena in memory: the rise of the citizen pundit. With Howard Dean gone from the race, the last traces of passion -- and, I fear, conviction -- have been leached from the electorate. Instead of voters, we have handicappers. Ask a civilian why she likes Kerry or Edwards, and more often than not, you get dime-store Capital Gang: "Kerry can match up with Bush on national security," or "Edwards can win in the South." This is a form of pragmatism, I suppose. Democrats are desperate to beat George W. Bush. But it is also fresh evidence of television's ability to lobotomize democracy. With serious issues of war and prosperity at stake, horse-race punditry seems particularly vacant right now....

Excusez-frickin'-moi, Joe -- on behalf of my fellow ordinary-scum political mavens, I apologize for not realizeingthat you pros have the exclusive right to second-guess ordinary voters. Even though, unlike you, we proles actually know (and, in fact, are) ordinary voters.
...the real [Republican] energy will be spent proving that Kerry isn't solid or strong, that he is, in fact, effete and unreliable.... the Republican National Committee gave a sneak preview last week, e-mailing to reporters a quote from Teresa Heinz Kerry about her husband: "You know, I say he's like a good wine. You know, it takes time to mature, and then it gets really good and you can sip it. I think he's at that stage now."

Why, you might ask, would the Republicans distribute something so innocuous? Because it implies the Heinz Kerrys are wine drinkers. They probably eat quiche too. Early in the campaign, Kerry committed the abomination of ordering Swiss cheese instead of Cheez Whiz for his Philly cheesesteak -- that's almost as grievous as asking for a "splash" of coffee, as Bush the Elder once did. (Bush the Younger has been careful to let us know that he favors bologna sandwiches.) Furthermore, John Kerry speaks fluent French. It is no accident that a White House staffer once said, "He looks French." The Heinz Kerrys hang out on Nantucket and in Sun Valley, Idaho. They don't own a ranch or cut scrub with a chainsaw. He often shows up at Davos. He went to a fancy private school in Switzerland. He and Teresa met at a global-warming conference, for God's sake! He wears pastel Hermes ties — a pink one at his Wisconsin victory celebration. And this guy calls himself an American!

--Joe Klein in this week's Time

Like the gold-encrusted doors to his Fifth Avenue apartment, everything Donald Trump says is over the top, outrageous and in desperate need of being toned down by 20 percent.... The funny thing is, people are buying every morsel he has to sell. "The Apprentice" is the most addictive new show on television, with more than 18 million viewers tuning in every week to watch Trump conduct his own master class in megasuccess.

--cover story of the current Newsweek

Bizarre -- Democratic voters embrace a candidate who is -- like the party's two most beloved presidents of the twentieth century, JFK and FDR -- a patrician, in a year when even Trump's bling-blig is hip again, and the Republicans think they're going to win with -- let's call it what is -- class warfare.

Almost in passing, Klein notes that

In Wisconsin [Kerry] won the blue-collar vote—as he has throughout his career.

Uh-huh. Americans don't hate the rich. Aren't you non-liberals always telling us that?

Friday, February 27, 2004

They never rest, do they?

The Oklahoma House passed a bill Monday that would require public school textbooks that discuss evolution to include a disclaimer stating that it is a controversial theory and not fact.

...“I think so many of the textbooks make it appear that evolution is a scientific fact and it’s not,” said [Representative Bill] Graves, R-Oklahoma City. “Even the U.S. Supreme Court says it’s a theory, so I was just trying to make that clear.

“I think it’s very important for children to know,” Graves said. “If they just believe that they came from some slime in a swamp that’s a whole lot different from being created in the image of God.” ...

The bill passed on a 96-0 vote and now heads to the Senate....

--Claremore (Okla.) Daily Progress

My favorite detail:

Rep. Bill Graves successfully included the language in House Bill 2194, a measure that originally changed the format for Braille versions of instructional materials.

Yeah, that's courageous -- just sneak this nonsense onto a completely unrelated bill. For the blind.
The Taliban is dead as a movement or a military factor in Afghanistan, the country's president said here Feb. 26....

President Hamid Karzai held a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after they met in Afghanistan's presidential palace....

"We strongly believe, with evidence, that they are defeated. They're gone," Karzai said, referring to the Taliban....

Rumsfeld echoed Karzai's assessment of the Taliban. "I've not seen any indication that the Taliban pose a military threat to Afghanistan," he said.

"We don't see a resurgence of the Taliban," Karzai said. "The Taliban as a movement does not exist anymore...."

--Armed Forces Press Service, 2/27/04

"I will say emphatically that there is no Mafia in this country and no national crime syndicate. Why don't those who talk about the Mafia name its leader or leaders? There has been no Mafia in this country for at least forty years. Now about a national crime syndicate: I say there is no such thing, and I say it not simply as a personal judgment but on the basis of talks with other enforcement officials."

--U.E. Baughman, chief of the U.S. Secret Service, quoted in The Washington Post, 9/2/61
Interesting: A few days after Bush backed a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, the British Conservative Party held a gay summit meeting, with the full backing of party leader Michael Howard, who has expressed his support for civil unions in Britain. (I learned this from John O'Farrell's Guardian column, which gleefully bashes homophobia while simultaneously using every gay stereotype known to humankind. Oh, that British humor....)
The UN bugging row has escalated with fresh allegations that former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix had his mobile phone tapped in Iraq.

Another senior UN inspector, Richard Butler, has also revealed that he knew he was being bugged....

An Australian intelligence source claimed Blix's mobile phone was monitored and his conversations recorded while he was in Iraq before the war.

"The transcripts were then made available to the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK and also New Zealand," said Andrew Fowler, an ABC investigative reporter.

He did not say who tapped Blix's phone....

--Sky News
Back in March, Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP from Wales, wrote in The Times of London about reports that one of Saddam's sons regularly had prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison thrown into a machine intended for the shredding of plastic. Horrible -- and a rebuke to those of us who opposed war. Right? Well, yes -- except for the fact that it seems rather difficult to confirm that the shredder ever existed, as Brendan O'Neill now reports:

An Iraqi who worked as a doctor in the hospital attached to Abu Ghraib prison tells me there was no shredding machine in the prison. The Iraqi, who wishes to remain anonymous, describes the prison as "horrific". Part of his job was to attend to those who had been executed. Did he ever attend to, or hear of, prisoners who had been shredded? "No." Did any of the other doctors at Abu Ghraib speak of a shredding machine used to execute prisoners? "No, never. As far as I know [hanging] was the only form of execution used there."

Clwyd insists that corroboration of the shredder story came when she was shown a dossier by a reporter from Fox TV. On June 18, Clwyd wrote a second article for the Times, citing a "record book" from Abu Ghraib, which described one of the methods of execution as "mincing". Can she say who compiled this book? "No, I can't." Where is it now? "I don't know." What was the name of the Fox reporter who showed it to her? "I have no idea." Did Clwyd read the entire thing? "No, it was in Arabic! I only saw it briefly." Curiously, there is no mention of the book or of "mincing" as a method of execution on the Fox News website, nor does its foreign editor recall it.

Other groups have no recorded accounts of a human shredder. An Amnesty International spokesman tells me that his inquiries into the shredder "drew a blank". Widney Brown, the deputy programme director of Human Rights Watch, says: "We have not heard of that particular form of execution or torture."

The story was front-page, opinion-altering news in Britain; the alleged shredding was cited by Paul Wolfowitz and Australian prime minister John Howard. Yet the only evidence of the shredding, O'Neill notes, was one uncorroborated witness statement.
This morning the NPR correspondent who was reporting on former cabinet minister Clare Short's revelation of U.K. bugging of Kofi Annan wondered whether the U.S. might have done something similar. Well, remember this, from England's Observer in early March '03?

The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

...The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.

The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up its surveillance operations 'particularly directed at... UN Security Council Members (minus US and GBR, of course)' to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of UN members regarding the issue of Iraq.

The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'....

If the U.S. was spying on other nations' delegations, would it refrain from spying on Annan?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Back in June, The New York Times reported that the GOP was hoping the cornerstone of the new World Trade Center could be laid during the Republican convention. I thought maybe I was being a tad hyperbolic when I said at the time, "I put nothing past these people. A Bush acceptance speech at Ground Zero, delivered via bullhorn?" Then in December a New York Times story about the Republicans' plans to have a lot of razzle-dazzle at the convention referred to their "intention of not holding events at ground zero." So it seemed that even the GOP has limits.

Or do they? Today The Hill quotes a source who's also talking about convention razzle-dazzle:

The source, a veteran official of past GOP conventions, said the 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and guests would watch off-site events on giant TV screens. "Now, we'll go to the deck of the USS Intrepid as the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays the national anthem," he said, pretending that he was playing the part of the convention chairman.

"Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero," he added. "It's clearly a venue they're considering."

So what do you think? Bullhorn or no bullhorn? Not for the whole speech, of course -- just for the inevitable climactic moment when he moves the crowd to paroxysms of ecstasy by declaring, "I can hear you."

(Hill link via Pandagon.)
Average annual out-of-pocket health-care costs for low-income uninsured families (in 2001 dollars)?


Average annual cost under the Bush health-care proposal, which recommends that these families use tax credits to buy their own coverage?


Nice, huh?

For more information, see this Reuters story and this news release from the Center for Studying Health System Change, which conducted the study.

(Thanks to Skimble for the Reuters link.)
...the movie was to me deeply disturbing. In a word, it is pornography. By pornography, I mean the reduction of all human thought and feeling and personhood to mere flesh. The center-piece of the movie is an absolutely disgusting and despicable piece of sadism that has no real basis in any of the Gospels....We see blood spattering on the torturers' faces. We see muscled thugs exhausted from shredding every inch of this man's body. And then they turn him over and do it all again. It goes on for ever....Toward the end, unsatisfied with showing a man flayed alive, nailed gruesomely to a cross, one eye shut from being smashed in, blood covering his entire body, Gibson has a large crow perch on the neighboring cross and peck another man's eyes out. Why? Because the porn needed yet another money shot....

The first scene in which Caiphas appears has him relaying to Judas how much money he has agreed to hand over in return for Jesus. The Jew - fussing over money again! There are a few actors in those scenes who look like classic hook-nosed Jews of Nazi imagery, hissing and plotting and fulminating against the Christ. For good measure, Gibson has the Jewish priestly elite beat Jesus up as well, before they hand him over to the Romans; and he has Jesus telling Pilate that he is not responsible - the Jewish elite is....Gibson does nothing to mitigate the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story and goes some way toward exaggerating and highlighting them. To my mind, that is categorically unforgivable.

Frank Rich? David Denby? No --Andrew Sullivan, of all people. I know he's deeply disillusioned these days with the conservative institutions he's championed for years -- the Catholic Church, the Bush White House -- but I wasn't expecting this.
Hey, I told you back in November that Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments judge, has big plans for himself, and might even want to run for president -- now Timothy Noah in Slate is predicting that Moore might run for president this year, as the candidate of the Constitution Party. Dare we hope that Noah's prediction comes true -- that the GOP will have its own Nader?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Dave Louthan, the guy who killed the mad cow in Washington State, has been insisting it wasn't a "downer." A UPI story from a couple of days ago says he might be right -- and that means our detection systems may not be working very well:

U.S. Department of Agriculture documents uncovered by United Press International provide new evidence the cow that tested positive for mad cow disease in Washington last December was healthy and not a "downer," as the agency has maintained.

...Last week, the House Committee on Government Reform sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, asking her to respond to the accounts of three eyewitnesses present at Vern's Moses Lake Meats in Moses Lake, Wash., where the cow was slaughtered Dec. 9, and other documents it uncovered indicating the cow was not a downer.

UPI has uncovered additional documents that provide further support the cow was walking at the time of inspection.

The documents indicate that a test for illegal antibiotics and a temperature reading are required to be performed on all downer animals. However, neither test was conducted, suggesting the animal was not a downer.

The adequacy of USDA's mad cow surveillance program hinges on resolving the downer dispute. The agency's program tests only downer cattle and those showing signs of central nervous system problems because these are the most likely to be infected. However, European inspectors have found hundreds of infected cows that did not display any symptoms....

Read the story. What the Department of Agriculture wants you to believesure doesn't seem to be the whole truth.

(Thanks to INTL-News for the link.)
More sweet nothings from the Right:

Planned Parenthood CEO Demanding Public Apology From Idaho Senator

"I am absolutely outraged," said Rebecca Poedy.  She's been the "Planned Parenthood of Idaho" CEO for four years.  She's participated in many legislative debates, but says what she experienced this week, was a first.  According to Poedy, "He said, 'Ah, it's the pro-aborts, kill 'em all.'"

Poedy said when she heard it, she wasn't sure how to respond, "My initial response was to turn around to Senator Sweet and tell him how ridiculous that statement was.  Today, I have filed a formal complaint with the Senate leadership."

...We did contact Senator Sweet for comment, but when we spoke with him over the phone we asked him about the statement, and he didn't deny making it.  But he did say, he wanted to see the letter first.  We also offered to bring him a copy of it, he declined that, as well.  Sweet's attorney, Brian Chavez-Ochoa, called us a short time later, he did deny that the senator made the statement saying, "It's absolutely false... an egregious fabrication."

But Poedy is demanding not only an apology from the senator, but an explanation, as to what "kill 'em all" may have meant.  She said in her profession, she doesn't take threats, or even the possibility of them, lightly....

--KBCI TV, Boise
The new New York Times bestseller list just got sent out via e-mail (you can see it online next Sunday). Alas, Sean Hannity's new book snagged #1, and righties are at #4 (John Stossel), #5 (a photo book on The Passion), and #15 (Bill O'Reilly). But don't worry: The good guys are at #2 (Kevin Phillips), #3 (Ron Suskind), #7 (Al Franken), #9 (David Cay Johnston's tax scam expose Perfectly Legal), #10 (Michael Moore), and #13 (David Shipler's The Working Poor).
A couple of conservatives boldly free themselves from the shackles of totalitarian political correctness:

DENVER -- A billboard unveiled on Ash Wednesday, the same day that a controversial movie depicting the last hours of Jesus Christ premiered, is sparking criticism from people of all faiths.

The large-size outdoor marquee, which sits on the property of the Lovingway United Pentecostal Church at Colorado and Mississippi, says, "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus" and the word "Settled!"

The Anti-Defamation League asked for the marquee to be changed because it is anti-Semitic, but the church only amended the billboard slightly by removing the word "settled" and attributing the line to biblical Scriptures....

--Channel 7, Denver

Immigrant rights advocates are ripping a pair of provocative campaign ads from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis as racist and fallacious.

In his ads, Oberweis warns the nation is being overrun by illegal immigrants.

"Illegal aliens are coming here to take American workers' jobs, drive down wages and take advantage of government benefits such as free health care, and you pay," the wealthy dairy operator says in one of the spots.

"How many? Ten thousand illegal aliens a day. Enough to fill Soldier Field every single week." (Soldier Field is the stadium where the Chicago Bears play.)...


The pastor of the Denver church is being repudiated by the state's Council of Churches. The Senate candidate is trailing a wealthy rival for the GOP nomination, though he was leading a few months ago.
So as long as we're doing all this outsourcing (the latest is that some U.S. tax returns are being prepared overseas), I just thought I'd point out that a member of the parliament of India makes about 3% of the salary of a member of the U.S. Congress (or at least that was the case as of four years ago). The salary of China's premier is less than 2% of the U.S. president's. Oh, and a Chinese CEO makes less than 1% of what a typical U.S. CEO makes.

Just FYI.
I see that there's now a book on the lower rungs of the New York Times bestseller list called God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life. The publisher is Regan Books, a small, select imprint of Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins that's run by sometime Fox talk-show host Judith Regan. It's good to see God and Ronald Reagan at Regan Books -- Regan, after all, is responsible for such deeply reverent works of inspiration as Howard Stern's Miss America, Dan Anderson's Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, and Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star (forthcoming).
Back at work. Reviewing a billion e-mails I missed while I was gone; feeling very Dilbert. Will get back to you soon.
If you saw the online version of yesterday's USA Today article about the marketing of ancillary Passion products, you unfortunately missed one of the photos that appeared in the print edition -- a photo of Bobby Labonte's NASCAR auto with a big Passion of the Christ ad on it. Well, a NewsMax article has a similar photo. My question is -- um, what's that ad just below the Passion ad? Is that an ad for, er, the kind of pill they make in Eurosocialist countries for weak, whiny city people who think they're unhappy -- the kind of pill you get a 'script for from a bearded New York Christ-denying doctor?

...Oh yeah, I guess it can help you quit smoking, too. Well, hell -- I don't know about Mel Gibson, but the fundies think Jesus can cure homosexuality. They need a pill for smoking?

Another thought: The online USA Today story has a picture of the little nail pendants that are apparently all the rage among people who think The Passion is the greatest movie ever made even though they haven't been able to see it yet. It's cool with me if people want to waer these -- hey, I grew up Catholic, surrounded by crucifixes -- but I was reading the USA Today story at the airport, and if somebody in front of me in a security line someday holds the rest of us up because he or she was dumb enough to try to get on a flight wearing a nail, I am going to be pissed off.
Hey, I'm back. I'm still catching up -- what'd I miss?

Nader. Feh.

I gather it was a front-page story, even though it was no surprise -- he's been teasing us with trial balloons for months. You want a real news flash? Not only is he running this year, he's running four years from now. You read it here first. He'll do it every four years until he physically can't. I think he craves the abuse. It makes him feel he's right.

Nader supporters and I have differing views about the purpose of elections. They tend to describe voting in terms of themselves: "I've been burned by the Democrats too many times before." "The Democrats think I owe them my vote." Now me, I think elections are about, y'know, who gets to hold a particular office. In 2000 that meant: Did you want Bush, and thus a federal government with all three branches controlled by the GOP's far right wing, or didn't you?

The most important thing that needs to be done in American politics is to break the grip of Reaganism. I made that word up -- you can call it what you want: Limbaughism, Gingrichism, Norquistism, Coulterism, Bushism. Reaganism has controlled American politics virtually nonstop for a generation. That's the sucking chest wound. That's what the patient is going to flatline from.

Reaganism could have been in at least some trouble if a Democrat had reached the White House for the third straight election cycle -- three straight losses might have made the GOP's leadership wonder whether it's such a great idea to have the party's national message crafted exclusively by the religious right and far-right think tanks. But we missed that chance, didn't we?

Some Nader supporters, of course, still think the two major parties are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And I'm sure some of you are planning to e-mail me laundry lists of issues on which the parties are indistinguishable. Look -- I know, I know. But spare me your lists. I also know that Al Gore would not have concocted an Iraq war out of whole cloth. I know that his attorney general would have been significantly to the left of John Ashcroft. I know his judicial appointments would be far to the left of William Pryor and Charles Pickering. For chrissakes, isn't that enough? It was obvious well before election day 2000 that Bush was no moderate. The religious right and far-right opinion elite were just fine with Bush. Bush made it clear that he was their boy when he wouldn't even put his good buddy Tom Ridge on the ticket, just because Ridge is pro-choice. What more did you need to know?

Now, let's talk about 2004. Nader says he has to run to bring up issues the major parties won't. But what is Dennis Kucinich -- chopped liver? What is Nader going to bring up that Kucinich isn't bringing up now? And whether we like it or not, Kucinich isn't winning votes. At a certain point, you just have to say: Well, bravo for, say, single payer, but if the voters aren't voting for single payer candidates, and if this is a democracy, then maybe we can't just instantly tip the balance in favor of single payer in one election.

I don't get Nader. He doesn't lead demonstrations or hold rallies or call for huge e-mail campaigns on the eve of critical congressional votes, and his supporters say, well, yeah, he's not really that kind of popular leader. And then every four years he runs for president -- he goes out and tries to become just that kind of popular leader. If he's willing to trudge from city to city rallying the faithful, why not do it to defeat the Patriot Act or the resolution that led us to the Iraq War -- or, say, to rally grassroots support for single payer? Why not be an agitator all the time instead of a politician running futile campaigns every four years?

OK, I've ranted enough about this. I will say this: I oppose any anti-Nader activity that's anti-democratic (with a small d). I'm not going to deface Nader petitions. And when I read that the Democrats are going to challenge Nader's ballot status in court, I just want to shout, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TERRY, DON'T DO IT. Please, Democrats -- don't stir up the very anger that could hand Nader votes in the states where his petitions do manage to go through, because even those votes could be enough to hand Bush yet another term. Let the man get on the damn ballots if he can manage it, then compete with him fair and square.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

I'm going to be away from home (and computerless) for about a week and a half. I'll miss you, I'll miss ranting here, but I'll be back a week from Wednesday, tanned, rested, and ready to be appalled by the world again.
So Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, no longer utters the "blood libel" against Jews in Mel Gibson's Jesus movie -- right? You know: "His blood be on us, and on our children" -- Mel cut that out, didn't he?

The cover story in this week's Entertainment Weekly (subscription only) says maybe, maybe not:

Last fall, Gibson reportedly cut the line; in fact, at the [November] screening attended by [Jim] Caviezel [the star of the film] and [actress Rene] Russo, it wasn't there. But in recent weeks, Gibson showed thousands of Christians a version that retained the line. Word got out. Controversy erupted. The press pounced. Gibson was heard to suggest that dark forces were moving against him. And again, interest was piqued. The capper: In February, The New York Times, whose coverage of The Passion Gibson has deplored, was allowed to see the film, and broke the news that the "blood libel" reference had been deleted.

The magazine thinks this is just a clever way to garner publicity. I doubt it. I think when the movie opens, the line will be gone -- at least on the West Coast and in the Northeast. Now, maybe it would be too risky for Gibson to retain the line in the prints that are distributed in the red states. Maybe he'll just wait and restore it in the DVD ("UNCUT CHRISTIAN EDITION!"). Maybe the line will be absent in American prints, but will show up in prints distributed in, oh, I don't know ... Indonesia and the Middle East? Or maybe, in the future, when church groups ask for copies to help in proselytizing, the line will slip in.
These guys will say anything, won't they?

"This idea that's developed that we're going to run against Kerry like he is Mike Dukakis is a bunch of baloney," said [Matthew] Dowd, [Bush's chief campaign stategist]....

"Mike Dukakis was an outsider, and compared to John Kerry, Mike Dukakis is mainstream. Michael Dukakis was a governor who balanced a budget. I don't remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating defense cuts, and I don't remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating against cuts in taxes."

--New York Times

Here's the restrained, high-minded way Bush the Elder and his surrogates talked about the "mainstream" Michael Dukakis:

"It’s time to talk issues, to use the dreaded 'L' word. Liberal, liberal, liberal!"

--Ronald Reagan taunting Dukakis, 8/14/88

"The liberal governor of Massachusetts -- I love calling him that!"

--Bush campaigning in Albuquerque, 10/4/88

"He did not go to Canada, he did not burn his draft card and he damn sure didn't burn the American flag!"

--George Bush favorably contrasting Dan Quayle with Dukakis and his backers (and making a gutter-level allusion to an utterly unsupported rumor that Kitty Dukakis once burned an American flag), 8/22/88

"There's a lot of things we can refer to the man from Massachusetts as. We can call him 'Mr. Tax Increase.' ... We can call him 'Mr. Weak on National Defense.' But let me tell you something. Come November 8th, there's one thing we'll never call the governor of Massachusetts, and that is 'Mr. President.'"

--Dan Quayle, 9/17/88

"Want to hear a sad story about the Dukakis campaign? The governor of Massachusetts, he lost his top naval adviser last week. The rubber duck drowned in his bathtub."

--Dan Quayle, 9/13/88

(All quotes from Paul Slansky's 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor.)

Incidentally, the absurdity of the Dowd quote is acknowledged in the online version of the Times story: Dowd is said to be "offering a view of Mr. Dukakis that no doubt would have turned the head of Lee Atwater, the mastermind of George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign." This coment does not appear in my copy of the print Times, however -- which means that someone actually had to point this out to Times editors.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

OK -- this is a cheap shot, but I can't resist:

First Daughter Barbara Bush's dirty-dancing partner has been hot-footing it from the law.

Gotham gadabout Fabian Basabe - pictured in a hip-lock with Babs on the front page of the Daily News yesterday - is wanted on three warrants in California.

The social climber has been busted for speeding, driving under the influence and trespassing. He even jumped bail in one case, court records show.

Other court files show a string of infractions - but no open warrants - in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, including two collisions.

... His first warrant dates back to an Oct. 22, 1999, bust for driving more than 100 mph and without a license in Riverside, a city in Southern California.

...Three months later, Basabe was nabbed for trespassing on the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University at 6:30 a.m. and driving with a suspended license....

...On May 21, 2000, he was stopped for driving under the influence at the wheel of a friend's 1996 Volkswagen Jetta....

I guess she's looking for a guy like Dad.

Oh, and while I'm here in the gutter, I see that TBogg has linked this report on the evening Babs spent with Basabe ("Commenting on the trays of margaritas and Veuve Clicquot champagne delivered to Bush's table before her gutsy performance, one wag quipped, 'I hope the Secret Service is driving her home'").


OK, I know: a lot of you think this stuff ought to be be off limits.

I understand. I'd rather it stayd off limits too. But you know what? For years, Republicans have been attacking the character not only of Democratic politicians but of everyone who isn't a God-fearing Republican conservative. Here's Newt Gingrich back in the '90s:

"Woody Allen having non-incest with a non-daughter to whom he was a non-father because they were a non-family fits the Democratic platform perfectly."

And here's Gingrich talking about child-killer Susan Smith:

"I think the mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican. Thats the message for the last three days."

(Smith's stepfather, of course, was a prominent South Carolina Republican and Christian Coalition member who molested her.)

And Republicans talk a hell of a lot about "the family." They don't think you can be a good person, or a good parent, if you don't accept their definition of family and if you don't raise your kids the way they do. And the flip side of that is the implication that if you do what they do, you are automatically a good person and your family is automatically a good family. A weird result of this is what Paul Krugman alluded to yesterday -- the fact that George W. Bush is seen as a man of "character" and "integrity, " as a good, decent man, no matter how dishonest or reckless or irresponsible or mean-spirited or rude he is. It's as if a large percentage of the country agrees with Pat Robertson's assertion about Bush: "It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him.''

If there's going to be a gutter GOP campaign that paints not only the Democratic nominee but all Democrats as moral decadents and threats to "the family," then at some point it really might not be out of line to talk about just what kind of family George and Laura Bush have.

(First link via INTL News.)
By the way, they love playing this game of reveal-and-withhold, don't they?

The White House distributed the two-inch stack of papers, and allowed reporters a brief look through another several dozen pages of medical records that were not allowed out of a briefing room....

--AP on yesterday's "release" of Bush's Guard file

The document was made available to The New York Times on Sunday, with an accompanying translation made by the military. A reporter was allowed to see the Arabic and English versions and to write down large parts of the translation.

--Dexter Filkins on the request for al-Qaeda aid allegedly written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, The New York Times, 2/9/04

Responding to earlier threats of a subpoena, the White House agreed last year to allow three members of the 10-member commission and the panel's Republican staff director to review portions of the President's Daily Brief from before the Sept. 11 attacks....

In recent weeks, however, the White House has refused to give permission for the four members of the delegation to share with the full commission their handwritten and computerized notes, which are retained by the White House under the agreement....

--Philip Shenon, New York Times, 2/10/04
Why is every news story saying that there's been a release of Bush National Guard documents? It's not a release:

The White House distributed the two-inch stack of papers, and allowed reporters a brief look through another several dozen pages of medical records that were not allowed out of a briefing room...

In any case, it didn't work:

Hundreds of pages of documents that the White House said comprise President Bush's entire military record offer no new answers to the election-year questions that have swirled around his Vietnam-era service. Democrats who have led the criticism greeted Friday's release of documents with skepticism.
Did the FDA cave in to Christian Right pressure on the morning-after pill? Sure looks that way -- and it looks as if the agency did it at the time most cowardly acts are done in Washington, on a Friday afternoon:

...On Dec. 16, two expert advisory committees to the F.D.A. recommended, by votes of 23 to 4, that the drug [the morning-after pill] be sold over the counter.

But that did not stop the lobbying for and against the drug.

On Jan. 9, some 35 members of Congress wrote to President Bush asking him to urge the F.D.A. to deny the over-the-counter application....

And then, late this afternoon...

The Food and Drug Administration has told Barr Laboratories, the marketer of a so-called morning-after pill, that it is delaying its decision on whether to allow the drug to be sold over the counter.

The company's president and chief operating officer, Dr. Carole Ben-Maimon, said the F.D.A. called about 2 p.m. today and then faxed the company a letter saying it was extending its Feb. 20 deadline by 90 days.

The agency wants Barr Laboratories to provide more information about the use of the emergency contraceptive, especially among teenagers, according to the company....

If there were a betting pool for approval of over-the-counter sales of this drug in the U.S., I'd put money on "never" -- or at least on "never as long as Republicans control the federal government."

Friday, February 13, 2004

From faith-based prison to faith-based courts in Jeb Bush's Florida?

The Miami Daily Business Review reported Jan. 8 that Broward Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC) member O’Neal Dozier has asked several candidates for Broward County judgeships inappropriate questions about their religious beliefs, such as whether they attend church and are “God-fearing.” ...

Dozier has repeatedly expressed an intolerant and theocratic approach to government. According to a report in the New Times Broward-Palm Beach late last year, Dozier told a Religious Right gathering, “We as Christians must take control of the government. We should be the ones in charge of the government.”

New Times said Dozier also observed that homosexuality is “something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit.”

According to the more recent Miami Business Review article, Dozier said, “There is no such animal as separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

Dozier was appointed to the judicial nomination commission by Gov. Bush....

--Americans United for Separation of Church and State
So why did Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana recently invite Mike Haley to testify on faith-based initiatives? Haley works for the far-right Focus on the Family, which doesn't take any federal funds. To be specific, Haley travels the country proselytizing for the "ex-gay" movement as Focus's "Manager of Gender Issues." So what wisdom did he have to offer the committee?

A press release from a pro-gay-conversion group explains, sort of:

Although Focus does not accept federal funds, Mike Haley explained to the subcommittee that he offers a unique insight into the causes and recovery of the homosexual condition because he lived as a gay activist for 12 years.

OK -- and the federal government should be interested in this for what reason exactly? Is someone perhaps hoping to send federal funds to those who claim to be able to "cure" homosexuals, if that can be arranged?

Incidentally, this college newspaper says Haley's "ex" status is not exactly 100%:

Haley admitted that reparative therapy has not worked for everyone and that he is still tempted by homosexuality.

"I will never be as though I never was," he said. "But I had an unmet emotional need that was sexualized, now my needs are met appropriately."

Whatever you say, Mike.
Earlier today I linked this Kerry article (from Murdoch's Sun), but I didn't mention what I says:

Presidential hopeful John Kerry was branded a “sleazeball” last night by the parents of a young woman he allegedly tried to woo....

Her mother Donna claims Kerry, 60 — dubbed the new JFK — once chased Alex to be on his campaign team and was “after her”.

There is no evidence the pair had an affair, but her father Terry, 56, said: “I think he’s a sleazeball. I did kind of wonder if my daughter didn’t get that kind of feeling herself.
“He’s not the sort of guy I would choose to be with my daughter.”...

If it's true, sure, it's sleazy and wrong, but ... he chased her? Is that what all the fuss is about?

Excuse me, didn't the Republicans practically call for putting Schwarzenegger on Mount Rushmore after he did a lot more than that?

We're still nickel-and-diming our airport security, and the result is understaffing and poor performance. Good thing we have those tax cuts!

Airport screening jobs are turning over faster than expected at some of the busiest airports and the government isn't moving fast enough to fill them, a congressional investigator and airport officials told lawmakers Thursday....

The turnover of Transportation Security Administration screeners averages 14% a year but is as high as 36% at very large airports, according to Cathleen Berrick, director of Homeland Security and Justice at the General Accounting Office. She testified that recent interviews revealed 11 of the 15 busiest airports didn't have enough screeners.

The GAO said low pay and undesirable hours are reasons why part-time jobs go unfilled.

One federal security director told the GAO that the delay in filling vacant jobs made it hard to improve screeners' performance and "contributed to screener complacency because screeners were aware that they were unlikely to be terminated due to staffing shortages," Berrick's written testimony said....

This is the part that makes me furious:

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Wis., said Congress set an arbitrarily low limit on the number of full-time screeners who could be hired.

"TSA has been handicapped by the ill-advised cap of 45,000 full-time screeners imposed by the Appropriations Committee, a cap imposed without any basis for determining that 45,000 was the right number," Oberstar said.

Berrick reported that the TSA is trying to improve its work force planning. Among the changes: hiring part-time workers to fill in during the busiest shifts.

As The Boston Globe reported last December, people, quite logically , don't want to go through extensive for a poor-paying part-time job -- and hiring enough full-timers seems not to be an option:

The TSA stopped hiring full-time workers after it laid off 6,000 screeners nationally in May to cut costs and alleviate overstaffing. Many airports have since struggled with long lines during peak travel hours and on holidays, causing the agency to seek part timers to work at 40 airports, including Logan [Airport in Boston, departure point of the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center].

But few people have shown interest in applying for a part-time position that requires intensive background checks, weeks of training, and long, odd hours dealing with a frustrated traveling public....

Why can't we alleviate these shortages? Is paying a decent wage to non-CEOs just intolerable to Republicans?
Are you surprised that the first "legitimate" media outlet to print the name of Kerry's alleged girlfriend is owned by Murdoch?

(UPDATE: Whoops! Sorry, the name's also here -- and gosh, what do you know? That's a Murdoch paper, too!)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

In The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg depicts Ted Sampley as just another aggrieved vet:

The photograph with Mr. Kerry [and Jane Fonda] was taken two years earlier. But it brings up deep memories for people like Mr. Sampley....

Tomorrow I'm going to snail-mail this to her. It's the chapter on Sampley from Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America by Susan Katz Keating (I quoted from it earlier today). Sampley is a sociopath who has hated Kerry for years because Kerry won't say that there are thousands of POWs and MIAs still in Vietnam.

Oh, and another thing, Sheryl: In your story you say that

on Thursday, a new photograph of the senator and the actress began circulating via e-mail. Unlike the image Mr. Sampley bought, which shows Mr. Kerry seated several rows behind Ms. Fonda, this picture — its origins are unclear — shows them side by side, Ms. Fonda behind a microphone and Mr. Kerry, holding a notebook, to her right.

That wouldn't be the photo even the Freepers say is fake, would it?

(UPDATE: Atrios points to this Snopes page, which shows the "photo" and debunks it.)
"Democrat" Zell Miller -- now in bed with Judge Roy Moore:

Federal courts could not curb state court rulings that allow an "acknowledgment of God," according to a measure two senators introduced Thursday as a response to the dispute over a Ten Commandments display in Alabama.

"I think it's a good time to have a debate on it," said one sponsor, Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga. "We'll run it up the flag pole and see how many salute."

...Much of the work on the legislation was done by Roy Moore, who was ousted as Alabama's chief justice after refusing a federal court order that he remove the Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. Miller said he has "great respect and admiration for Moore" and volunteered to help with the bill.

The other Senate sponsor is Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. ...

Want a theocracy, Zell? Iran's that way.
The chutzpah. The unbelievable chutzpah:

Republicans, already preparing for the general election race, launched a pre-emptive strike on Kerry, with Republican Party chief Ed Gillespie accusing him of planning "the dirtiest campaign in modern American politics."

He said Kerry supporters planned to spread rumors about Bush in Internet chat rooms....

He had the gall to say that today.

...On the other hand, if all this gets thrown at Kerry now and it doesn't stick, what's left? There's a lot about Bush that hasn't gone primetime, but unless somebody knows something about Kerry running guns or selling crack in schoolyards, what else is there? Three weeks before the election, "Kerry's rude to checkout clerks" ain't gonna cut it.
Oh, fer chrissakes: Kerry unfaithful? Now we have Drudge with the flashing-light logo and five scare headlines (all linked to the same speculative story).

Gee, I guess the GOP has unilaterally repealed the "Schwarzenegger rules" (you know -- everything a candidate ever did is off limits, even the illegal stuff, if it happened prior to the Oprah appearance).

Damn, it's only February. Where do we go from here? If Kerry weathers this, remember than an aide of his told The New York Times,

This is not the Dukakis campaign. We're not going to take it. And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything.

Everything? The cocaine? The rather alcoholic-seeming wedding video? Laura's car accident?

"Bring it on," a lot of you are thinking.

But eventually one of the candidates is going to climb up onto the high ground, however disingenuously, and say, "Enough" -- and the Leader of the Fight Against Terror might look rather credible to a lot of voters if he does it first. Also, a lot of anti-Bush dirt is unverifiable (if only because no one will step up and do the verifying), while some, surely, is just untrue -- and unverifiable charges don't do us much good. Plus, very dirty campaigns just confirm most voters' belief that politics is a cesspool -- and the party that gains from that is the one that, even though it's run the federal government for most of the past quarter century, always manages to persuade voters that it's the anti-government party. Finally, er, wasn't this campaign supposed to be about how the Bush administration is governing?

So OK -- some carefully targeted scrutiny of Bush's life is worthwhile. I just worry about losing an all-out war.
Yesterday's scurrilous Washington Times article "Photo of Kerry with Fonda Enrages Vietnam Veterans" made at least one leap up the media food chain, to CNN ("Kerry Takes New Fire Over Vietnam," plus this interview with Jane Fonda).

Meanwhile, the good Roger Ailes points to this page, where you can read a chapter on Ted Sampley from Susan Katz Keating's book Prisoners of Hope:  Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America.  Sampley, as I noted yesterday, was the only actual enraged veteran quoted in the Washington Times story, apart from two GOP congressmen.

More important, Sampley is, as Ms. Keating makes clear, a piece of work.

What do you want to know about? The time he told the family of a missing soldier in the first Iraq war that he had been killed and mutilated by an anti-Semitic Iraqi mob because of his Jewish-sounding name? (The soldier later returned home alive and in one piece.) The time he punched an aide to Senator John McCain? The time he created a potentially deadly road hazard as a publicity stunt? Yeah, let Keating tell you about that one:

In 1986, for example, when Sampley was in Washington, D.C., attending one of his many POW functions, he set up a publicity stunt that could have killed or seriously injured someone. Shortly before 2 A.M., bar closing time, Sampley and a few confederates erected a barrier at the top of a freeway on-ramp that handles traffic coming from Capitol Hill. They coated the ramp with oil, so that unsuspecting motorists would slither wildly before crashing into the barrier. The cars' headlights would illuminate a sign on the barrier that read "Free the POWs."

The next day I learned about the on-ramp trap from Sampley, who called to announce what he had done. He was proud of his effort but disappointed that the trick had not come off. While Sampley and friends had watched from a nearby hiding place, police officers had found and dismantled the arrangement before any cars ran into it.

When I told Sampley he had risked people's lives with the stunt, he accused me of being a spoilsport. He also said he was dismayed at missing the chance for newspaper coverage.

That's The Washington Times's idea of a reliable source.

Oh, and just for good measure: Is this the same Ted Sampley who pushed for the Kinston, North Carolina, city council to pass a resolution "recognizing God as the foundation of this country's heritage," a resolution that claims that "the majority of those who drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution … never intended that there be a separation between [God] and the affairs of government" -- which many Kinston city councillors felt was "crammed down [their] throat"? (Answer: Yup. Here's a story about Sampley's POW bracelets, accompanied by a picture of Jan Barwick, who's ID'd as his business partner in the city council story.)
May I just say for the record that I don't give a good goddamn whether or not Comcast buys Disney? And may I also add that the Disney-Pixar split was absolutely meaningless to me? Why are these rearrangements of the deck chairs on the capitalist luxury liner inevitably on the front page of my morning paper? Is it for any reason other than primitive worship of our tribe's alpha males?

People complain about the lingering influence of the 1960s -- but potential megamergers are sexy again, Donald Trump has a hit TV series, luxury goods are selling like hotcakes again while the non-rich have to pinch pennies, and I have to ask: When the hell are the '80s going to be over?
Israeli police have come up with plans to place bags of pig lard on buses in a bid to deter Palestinian militants from carrying out suicide attacks, the Maariv daily reported.

Rabbinical authorities have given the idea its approval on the grounds that it could be a life-saving measure even though pigs are also considered impure by Jews.

Authorities believe that the move could discourage Palestinians from carrying out attacks as pieces of their exploded body could come into contact with the pig fat, prejudicing their chances of entering into paradise....

--Agence France-Presse

Please tell me this is a joke. Please tell me they don't actually believe this will work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

As Atrios notes, the headline of this AP story -- "Kerry Signed Letter Backing Gay Marriage" -- is an utter distortion of the truth. Rightly or wrongly, Kerry's support for gay rights stops at the altar -- he supports civil unions. The proposed state constitutional amendment he objected to in the letter would have banned civil unions as well as gay marriage.

The text of the amendment is here and (in fuller form) here:

It being the public policy of this Commonwealth to protect the unique relationship of marriage in order to promote among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and the best interests of children, only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts. Any other relationship shall not be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent.

So when Kerry signs a letter objecting to a "proposed Constitutional amendment that would prohibit or seriously inhibit any legal recognition whatsoever of same-sex relationships," because of "the likelihood that it will prevent not only the state government, but also the cities, towns and counties from acting as they might wish to provide some form of recognition for same-sex relationships," and he later says he's never backed full gay marriage, there's no contradiction.

But Closet Case Drudge is trumpeting the story, so expect lazy superstar "journalists" to begin telling you Kerry's a flip-flopper and a liar.
Are you following the story of Dave Louthan? He killed the cow in Washington State that was found to have mad cow disease; now he's insisting that there must be more BSE in America.

This is from a February 3 New York Times story:

Contrary to reports from the federal Department of Agriculture, he asserts that the cow he killed was not too sick to walk. And it was caught not by routine surveillance, he says, but by "a fluke": he killed it outdoors because he feared it would trample other cows lying prostrate in its trailer, and the plant's testing program called for sampling cows killed outside only.

"Mad cows aren't downers," he said. "They're up and they're crazy." The Agriculture Department disputes his account....

In his new role as bloody-handed industry critic, Mr. Louthan argues that too few cattle are tested for mad cow to say with certainty that beef is safe. "One mad cow is a scare, but two is an epidemic," he said. "They absolutely, positively don't want to find another."...

Mr. Louthan, who lives across the street from Vern's, said that the slaughtering was "still going like crazy" but that an inspector in the plant told him no more mad cow testing was being done.

Here's his Web page, on which he also insists that no BSE testing is now being done at the slaughterhouse where he worked; he's also given interviews to Counterpunch and to the blog bad things.

I'm not qualified to judge what he's saying. However, I do think we were far too quick to accept the all-clear from the USDA. In the Times article, read the description of carcass splitting, a job Louthan used to do -- if he's right, the segregation of "good" and "bad" tissues in slaughterhouses is far less precise than they want you to believe.

(Thanks to Skimble for the links.)
I get confused when I read the Democrat-hating press: Is Hillary Clinton so evil that it's just a matter of time before she's Global Dictator for Life (see, e.g., William Safire's now-laughable prediction of her rise from the undead at a brokered Democratic convention)? Or does fate regularly thwart her schemes while she howls, "Curses! Foiled again"? Susan Estrich -- commentator for Fox News and NewsMax, even though she insists she's a Democrat (no, really) -- apparently believes the latter:

IImagine that Howard Dean's December had come in the fall instead. Ideological warfare, tearing the party apart, attacking the Clintons, the Democratic Leadership Council -- what could have been better for Hillary? Let Dean take the party to defeat, and she could've been the savior, rising from the rubble to unite the defeated Democrats. Who could deny her the nomination four years later?

Maybe that's what she was thinking...

If Kerry wins [with John Edwards as his running mate], Hillary Clinton can't run for president for eight more years. And then it would be the 58-year-old vice president's turn, maybe for the next eight. That makes 16. That's it....

Zounds! Why didn't Hillary's good friend Satan warn her?

But there's still a chance if Kerry loses ... no?

Kerry may not be Hillary's biggest problem. John Edwards is the real threat. He's the other half of most Democrats' dream tickets, and by any reckoning, the obvious next nominee....

Oh, right. Of course! Edwards has to be the 2008 nominee if Kerry loses -- in the proud tradition of ticket-toppers Ed Muskie, Sargent Shriver, Geraldine Ferraro, Jack Kemp, and Joe Lieberman.

While lefties are examining Bush's Air National Guard years, conservatives, led by Matt Drudge, are bouncing off the walls because The Harvard Crimson has just posted this 1970 interview with John Kerry (and this summary).

The young Kerry, back from Vietnam, sounds, yeah, a bit left-wing: he calls for the virtual elimination of the CIA and for that reddest of flags in the eyes of right-wing bulls, placing U.S. troops under U.N. control. (As I type this, the U.N. quote from the interview tops Drudge's page; right-wingers have absolutely no idea that this is not a burning issue anywhere but on the right.)

I don't know what the reaction to all this will be among average voters. I think they'll sigh and just continue trying to decide who's going to provide jobs, health care, and security. I do, however, like the fact that the Democratic Party managed to strike first.

It seems to me that Democrats who are attacked suffer a double blow: They have to respond to an allegation, plus they look weak. And many voters, of course, think Democrats are naturally weak. But in this race, so far, Bush is on the defensive. That means it's not 1988.

(By the way, you might have some trouble getting to those Crimson links -- the Drudgistas are really jamming the servers.)
The headline in The Washington Times reads, "Photo of Kerry with [Jane] Fonda Enrages Vietnam Veterans." Odd, then, that with all those outraged veterans, the only ones WashTimes reporter Stephen Dinan could find who would actually express outrage were two Republican members of Congress and Ted Sampley, publisher of U.S. Veteran Dispatch, an organization largely devoted to the notion that POWs and MIAs are still alive in Vietnam and there's a massive effort to deny this fact. Sampley despises not only John Kerry but John McCain, whom he calls "the Manchurian Candidate"; note the lovely, racist cartoon here, as well as the description of McCain as "a fraud, collaborator, and danger to the security of the United States." In the '90s McCain and Kerry worked to debunk the notion that Vietnam POWs and MIAs are unaccounted for; I can't help suspecting that, even before the picture emerged (in which Kerry is shown a couple of rows behind Fonda, and not in contact with her at all), Sampley's baseline for anti-Kerry rage was already a tad high.

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. (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?