Friday, April 30, 2004

New York Times story today:

The former federal prosecutor who heads the Teamsters' internal anticorruption program resigned yesterday, along with 20 other investigators and lawyers involved in that effort, saying the union's president was not fully committed to fighting corruption.

The former prosecutor, Edwin H. Stier, sent a sharply worded letter that accused James P. Hoffa, the Teamsters president, of blocking a broad investigation into possible union corruption in Chicago and of dragging his feet in a case of alleged embezzlement by a Teamsters leader in Houston...

Is this the same Jimmy Hoffa whom many Republicans rooted for back in the '90s when Teamster president Ron Carey suffered a corruption scandal and then was removed from the presidency (Carey was seen as having corrupt ties to the Democratic Party)? Is this the same Hoffa who, after he won the next Teamster election, was invited to the 2000 Republican convention and honored there at a party, where Republican National Committee chair Jim Nicholson said this?

Mr. Hoffa has restored honor and decency to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – he’s brought common sense and respect back to this great organization.

Is this the same Hoffa who was Bush's guest at the 2002 State of the Union address?
A reader points out that I incorrectly referred to Hillman rather than Hillsdale in this post about right-wing colleges and universities. Thanks for the correction.
Does anyone else think it's odd that Bush's PR flacks in the press are howling about the early exit of Bob Kerrey and Lee Hamilton from the 9/11 commission's Bush/Cheney interview -- when, in fact, Bush and Cheney originally wanted a short session and didn't want to talk to everyone on the commission in the first place?

Initially, the White House said Bush would answer questions for just an hour and that only the chairman and vice chairman, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, could participate. Eventually, the White House relented on both points. All 10 commissioners will be there.

--USA Today, 4/27/04

You can look at this two ways: The commission wanted an open-ended, full-panel hearing, so Hamilton and Kerrey had a nerve leaving early -- or Bush and Cheney and their coat-holders in the press have a nerve complainng about an early departure from a meeting they thought never should have taken place and should have been extremely limited in scope if it did take place.

Oh, and of course Richard Ben-Veniste said everyone got to ask questions, as AP notes -- which, presumably, was the whole point of a full-panel meeting. And even the New York Post story acknowledges that Tom Kean told Kerrey he could go.

By the way, did every commissioner stay for every last second of Clinton's four-hour session? Does anyone know?

(And right-wingers, don't tell me that session was lower on the protocol scale because Clinton's just a former president -- if Reagan were compos mentis and agreed to appear for an interview, righties would be furious if he wasn't treated with the same deference as a sitting president.)

(Links from Rantingprofs.)
As I'm sure you know, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a big contributor to the GOP, won't allow the Nightline tribute to Iraq war dead to be broadcast tonight on its eight ABC-affiliated stations.

Here's a question: In the case of this program, why hasn't the Bush administration done what it did to Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack -- why hasn't it tried to embrace the show? Why not recommend it as a reminder of the courage and bravery of the noble men and women who fight for freedom?

The answer, I guess, is that the Bush administration didn't try to spin Woodward's book as a tribute to Bush policy. The administration tried to spin Woodward's book as a tribute to Bush:

First is the belief of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, that the book essentially portrays the president as decisive and engaged, and that it will therefore help him get re-elected. Republicans said campaign officials had to seize on what was favorable about the only person who mattered to them, the man running for re-election....

It's all about him.
War -- it's not just the Bush foreign policy, it seems as if it's the Bush economic policy:

U.S. Economy Grows 4.2%; War Spending Provides Push

The American economy grew at a vigorous annual rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter, with military spending making a significant contribution to economic growth for the first time since the early days of the war in Iraq.

Consumers provided most of the lift, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported yesterday. Business investment was also strong, adding more to the growth rate than the military outlays. Without the war spending, however, the gross domestic product would have expanded at an only mediocre pace: 3.5 percent....

--New York Times

The permanent war economy! War is the health of the state!

Of course, that "vigorous" rate wasn't as vigorous as expected:

Most forecasters had expected the G.D.P. to expand at an annual rate of at least 5 percent. They had counted on manufacturers to raise production for two reasons: to keep up with current brisk sales and to build up inventories in anticipation of more spending to come. The inventory buildup barely happened. Stockpiling rose at an annual rate of $15.3 billion. While that was nearly double the fourth-quarter pace, it was far short of the $30 billion to $40 billion that forecasters had expected....

Maybe we shouldn't we ending the siege in Falluja. War has started to look like the one area of the economy where we're really going to keep spending.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

This is bad enough:

...the Office of Foreign Assets Control said that between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism. Since 1994 it has collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations.

In contrast, OFAC opened 10,683 enforcement investigations since 1990 for possible violations of the long-standing economic embargo against Fidel Castro's regime, and collected more than $8 million in fines since 1994, mostly from people who sent money to, did business with or traveled to Cuba without permission.

But this, which reflects current policy, is worse:

The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.

(Source: AP.)

Maybe there are good reasons for this. Or maybe interrupting the financing of terrorists just doesn't get the juices flowing in Bush's inner circle -- and, after all, cutting off terror money was a pet project of moderate wussies like Paul O'Neill and Colin Powell, so, y'know, why bother?

I guess it's easy to fantasize about remaking the entire Middle East at the point of an American bayonet when you can't even be bothered to pay attention to the consequences of the wars you help start:

Pentagon's No. 2 Flubs Iraq Casualties

Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian estimated Thursday the total was about 500 -- more than 200 soldiers short.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked about the toll at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It's approximately 500, of which -- I can get the exact numbers -- approximately 350 are combat deaths," he responded

"He misspoke," spokesman Charley Cooper said later. "That's all."

American deaths Thursday were at 722 -- 521 of them from combat -- since the start of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Department of Defense....

Heh heh heh.

For the 14th year running, Alabama has ranked near the bottom in a national survey of "livability" that measures each state's quality of life based on factors such as hazardous waste sites and the rates of crime, bankruptcy and unemployment.

Kansas-based Morgan Quitno Press ranked Alabama as the 47th most livable state.

Mississippi ranked 50th for the sixth year in a row. Other states in the bottom five were Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina.

The group found New Hampshire the "most livable state." Others in the top ten were Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa, New Jersey, Wyoming, Virginia, Nebraska, Connecticut and South Dakota.

--WTVM (Columbus, Georgia)

Notice something about the five most livable states? Check the map: Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5 were Democratic states in 2000, and #1 went GOP only because of Nader. And Connecticut's also a Gore state.

The five least livable? All Bush states.

In a rebuke to his own Justice Department, Bush told the [9/11] commission he was disappointed about the release of documents about former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic member of the commission. Republicans have contended that the documents, posted on the Justice Department Web site, showed that she was deeply involved in developing 1995 guidance that strengthened the legal "wall" making it difficult for FBI counterintelligence agents to share information with prosecutors and criminal investigators.

"The president does not believe we ought to be pointing fingers in this time period," [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan said.


Yeah, I'm sure the White House had absolutely no idea that was happening. And I'm sure heads will roll. And yes, I'd love to buy that bridge.


The New Mexico Republican Central Committee has voted to censure the Sandoval County clerk, who  issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The resolution says Republican Victoria Dunlap has brought disgrace to the party.

"Other than assassination, all we can do is censure her," said committee chairman Richard Gibbs....

(Link via Salto Mortale.)

That what the far right's favorite Democrat said this week. Isn't it odd that conservatives champion a man who thinks the country's in a state of putrefaction?

Zell Miller, Georgia's maverick Democratic senator, says the nation ought to return to having senators appointed by legislatures rather than elected by voters.

...He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.

"The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic," Miller said on the Senate floor....

Miller said that balance was destroyed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. He has introduced a resolution, which he acknowledges has no chance of passage, to repeal the 17th Amendment and again let state legislatures pick senators....

Atrios asks, "What the hell is with this latest right wing idea that keeps getting batted around?" I'd say it's because Republicans would gain more seats in the Senate, but control of state legislatures is almost balanced right now -- under this system the GOP might have two more seats than it does now (assuming split legislatures would split their Senate delegations).

My guess is that this is about lowering the cost of buying a U.S. senator. Senate campaigns are expensive. State legislators come a lot cheaper. Buy off a few leaders in a legislature and you own that state's next senator.
Hey, kids -- where can you find the latest example of "the new anti-Semitism"?

On a left-wing college campus?

In France?


Among our new buddies in Iraq:

Iraq pledges to honor Arab boycott of Israel

DAMASCUS, Syria - The campaign for the Arab boycott of Israel expressed satisfaction Thursday that Iraq had pledged not to trade with the Jewish state....

The commissioner general of the Central Boycott Office, Ahmed Khazaa, read out a statement saying that the meeting had discussed "Israeli attempts to penetrate Iraq" through deals offered by the U.S.-led occupation forces.

Iraq "cannot but be against such attempts" by Israel to penetrate its markets, the statement said.

Speaking to reporters, Khazaa said the Iraqi delegation had assured the meeting that the U.S.-appointed Governing Council administration in Baghdad was "committed to the boycott rules and will not allow Israel to penetrate their territories in any form."...

Americans Like Bush's Qualities, Poll Says headline, 1/14/04

Well, not anymore, apparently. This is from the detailed breakdown of the new New York Times/CBS poll (PDF):

Is your opinion of George W. Bush favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven't you heard enough about George W. Bush yet to have an opinion?

Favorable: 38%

Not Favorable: 43%

Undecided: 18%

Haven't Heard Enough: 1%

Refused: --

That's the personal favorability question -- and Bush is at 38%. Not good for him.

(On the job question -- "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President?" -- approval is 46%, disapproval 47%.)


By the way, there's something a bit misleading in the Times story about the poll. It says:

The survey held hints of trouble for Mr. Kerry as he seeks to introduce himself to an electorate that knows relatively little about him. While 55 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters said they strongly favored the president, only 32 percent of Mr. Kerry's supporters strongly favored their candidate.

But the choices in the poll question weren't just strongly-favor vs. don't-strongly-favor. The question is this:

Would you describe your support for [John Kerry/George W. Bush] as strongly favoring him, or do you like him but with reservations, or do you support him because you dislike the other candidates?

Only 8% of Bush's supporters are voting for him because they dislike the other candidates -- but 38% of Kerry's supporters fall in that category.

There's no reason to think that's a sign of weak support for Kerry. It's almost certainly a sign that Kerry's support is strong -- because he's the anti-Bush candidate. We know how much anti-Bush voters loathe Bush. I'd put myself in that "dislike the others" category, and there's no way I'm not going to pull the Kerry lever in November.
You may have already seen the results of the new New York Times/CBS poll, which shows that there's a great deal of disillusionment in this country about the Iraq war (Times story here; CBS story here; complete results here in PDF form).

But have you seen today's other poll? According to CNN/USA Today/Gallup, Iraqis are running out of patience too. (Story here; full results here.)

Only a third of the Iraqi people now believe that the American-led occupation of their country is doing more good than harm, and a solid majority support an immediate military pullout even though they fear that could put them in greater danger, according to a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.

The nationwide survey, the most comprehensive look at Iraqi attitudes toward the occupation, was conducted in late March and early April. It reached nearly 3,500 Iraqis of every religious and ethnic group.

...while they acknowledge benefits from dumping Saddam a year ago, Iraqis no longer see the presence of the American-led military as a plus. Asked whether they view the U.S.-led coalition as "liberators" or "occupiers," 71% of all respondents say "occupiers."

... 53% say they would feel less secure without the coalition in Iraq, but 57% say the foreign troops should leave anyway. Those answers were given before the current showdowns in Fallujah and Najaf between U.S. troops and guerrilla fighters.

Iraqis think it was worth it to overthrow Saddam -- more so than Americans do now. But there's a strong (and scary) undercurrent of Iraqi resentment and restiveness:

The insurgents, by contrast, seem to be gaining broad acceptance, if not outright support. If the Kurds, who make up about 13% of the poll, are taken out of the equation, more than half of Iraqis say killing U.S. troops can be justified in at least some cases....

"I would shoot at the Americans right now if I had the chance," says Abbas Kadhum Muia, 24, who owns a bicycle shop in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of 2 million people in Baghdad that was strongly anti-Saddam and once friendly to the Americans.


Two-thirds say soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition make no attempt to keep ordinary Iraqis from being killed or wounded during exchanges of gunfire.

58% say the soldiers conduct themselves badly or very badly.

60% say the troops show disrespect for Iraqi people in searches of their homes, and 42% say U.S. forces have shown disrespect toward mosques.

46% say the soldiers show a lack of respect for Iraqi women.

Only 11% of Iraqis say coalition forces are trying hard to restore basic services such as electricity and clean drinking water.

(On that last question, note the percentages of Iraqis who report these problems in the last four weeks: no electricity, 47%; no clean water, 32%; unsafe at night, 60%; no food, 16%; no medicine, 17%.)

But on some questions Iraqis and Americans see more or less eye to eye -- and neither side is jumping for joy:



Right thing: 47%; Stayed out: 46%


Taking everything into account, do you think the coalition invasion of Iraq has done more harm than good or more good than harm?

More harm: 46%; More good: 33%; The same: 16%



Very well: 4%; Somewhat well: 34%; Somewhat badly: 31%; Very badly: 29%


Is Iraq much better off, somewhat better off, somewhat worse off or much worse off than before the U.S. invasion?

Much better off: 11%; Somewhat better off: 31%; About the same: 17%; Somewhat worse off: 24%; Much worse off: 15%

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Father Who Believes Son is in 'Coffin' Photo Thanks 'Seattle Times' for Running It

The father of a U.S. Army soldier killed in Iraq earlier this month, who believes his son was in one of the caskets shown in the now famous Tami Silicio photograph, has written a letter to The Seattle Times thanking the newspaper for publishing the picture that broke a Pentagon ban.

"Hiding the death and destruction of this war does not make it easier on anyone except those who want to keep the truth away from the people," the father, Bill Mitchell, wrote yesterday. The letter has not yet been published.

In a postcript to the letter, he added: "I would be willing to help that poor woman in Kuwait [Silicio] who lost her job over the picture which she felt needed to be seen. Possibly even with enough press coverage, the other parents who lost children on the same day as my son would also feel that she did a service for us."...

--Editor and Publisher

(Link via Skimble.)
The New York Times reports that anti-tax extremists are physically threatening company payroll people:

With Internet promoters fanning the flames and enforcement shriveling, the claims of ... "tax deniers" have become so widespread that the annual conference of the American Payroll Association began here on Monday with a class on how to deal with tax protesters.

... the room fell silent when Michael O'Toole, the association's government relations senior director, told of payroll clerks being assaulted by workers enraged over taxes being withheld....

Payroll officials should be careful with such people, Mr. O'Toole warned. "They may not be very nice," he said. "They could be dangerous."

That prompted Dennis Carroll, who handles tax-denier claims by United States Postal Service workers, to announce, "I work behind three locked doors."...

But surely the government wants to do something about such scofflaws, especially in times of massive government debt ... right?

Mr. O'Toole and others said years of slow or no action to enforce the tax laws, especially against employers who boast of not withholding taxes, had emboldened others to undermine the system in less aggressive ways.

...I.R.S. regulations allow an employer to reject a W-4 form only when it is submitted. If an employer learns later that an employee has given a fake Social Security number, it cannot reject the W-4, though it can notify the I.R.S., which, being severely short-handed, is unlikely to act.

Yup -- payroll people are in physical danger and right-wing wackos are avoiding their tax obligations because Newt Gingrich's goons neutered the IRS in the 1990s.

Back then, the GOP Congress conducted what was effectively a show trial of the IRS. Horror stories about alleged IRS abuse made headlines, and the IRS Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 was passed. This was seen as a way for decent citizens to get back at the jackbooted tax-collecting thugs, but, as The New York Times reported in 2000,

...not one of the first 830 complaints of taxpayer harassment filed under the new law has been upheld by the IRS or its new, congressionally designated watchdog, according to new data.

Investigations by the IRS and its watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found evidence that some of the complaints were bogus -- made in an effort to derail audits and tax collections. Others were either without merit or involved misconduct that fell far short of the congressional definition of harassment. ...

One result of the new law has been extreme caution by IRS workers, especially those involved in sensitive audits and collections against those who owe taxes past due. Many IRS employees have become much less aggressive in collection efforts while others say dust gathers on their requests for permission to take enforcement actions. Collection has grown so lax that some prominent tax advisers said in interviews last year that they were amazed that the IRS was not trying to collect taxes owed by their clients.

But, of course, all this jibes with GOP dogma: Taxation is theft; government is evil; we should all keep every dime we earn, and the elves and fairies can build the roads and run the schools and put out the fires and fight the wars.
In the post below, I link a Washington Post story about Ronald Reagan University, which Reagan fans hope to build in Colorado. I say "To each his own" and wish RRU's founders Godspeed, but this annoys me:

Plans for Ronald Reagan U. were made public for the first time this week when Colorado state Rep. Jim Welker, a Republican and a supporter of the idea, introduced a nonbinding resolution asking the state legislature to offer its moral support. "This resolution is a we-wish-you-well kind of thing, that's all," Welker said. "We're not going to ask for a single penny of taxpayer money for this project. It wouldn't really be the Reagan way to come up with the idea and then try to get the government to pay for it."

Excuse me, but if Welker and the other people behind RRU are so anti-government, why are they asking the Colorado legislature for a "moral support" resolution? What could be more of a waste of taxpayer dollars? If they really oppose government waste, they'll ditch the call for a resolution, send everyone home early the day it would have come up for a hearing, turn off the lights and turn down the heat in the legislative offices, and save the taxpayers of Colorado a few bucks.
At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor makes a good point about universities and ideology:

...the relative indoctrination levels between conservative universities and "liberal" universities seem to have the same relationship that Fox News and the "liberal media" do. Even if you accept the idea that the mainstream media is liberal, Fox News is far more conservative and biased in its views, and more overt about it, than any of the purportedly liberal media outlets are liberal.

This profile of Patrick Henry College, for instance, shows a school that is entirely overt about indoctrinating conservative Christian students, a great number of whom go on to work for Republians. Its Statement of Faith makes no bones about the fact that you must accept its worldview, come into school with it and leave the institution in a similar, although more deeply indoctrinated fashion.

It's possible to go into a Harvard, or Brown, or Swarthmore a conservative and, yes, come out a conservative as well. From what I've seen of various conservative schools, both outcomes with respect to liberalism seem to be virtually impossible. Liberal academia turns out liberals and conservatives. Conservative academia turns out conservatives. With all the talk of the pervasive bias of liberals in academia, why are schools which openly disallow any liberal/secular belief okay? Why is shopping for a conservative school applauded, even marketed, while liberal schools that are similarly (although less extremely) situated excoriated for shutting out conservative thought, even when that conservative thought isn't actually academic in nature?

In addition to Patrick Henry, Jesse's referring to institutions like Bob Jones University, Hillman* College, and, almost assuredly, the forthcoming Ronald Reagan University in Colorado. It seems to me he's absolutely right.

*UPDATE: A reader points out that this should have been "Hillsdale."
"Every modern presidential candidate has a factotum, or 'body man, '" Jodi Wilgoren writes today in The New York Times.

And that's true -- but every modern presidential candidate's factotum/"body man"/valet isn't profiled in a front-page New York Times story that runs for 34 paragraphs and is accompanied by a sidebar listing all the things the factotum/"body man"/valet carries for the candidate.

Funny thing -- the only candidate whose "valet" seems to have gotten that treatment is the one who's routinely derided by his Republican opponents as patrician and accustomed to first-class service.

Let's watch Wilgoren type up Republican spin points (as Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler likes to put it):

Mr. Kerry is comfortable being catered to. He has his moods and his myriad personal needs. A social loner, he is happy with an aide half his age.

Kerry is hoity-toity and a weirdo -- not a cheery regular guy like Bush!

Of course, as some of us know, Bush expects a certain level of service from "the help":

In [The Price of Loyalty, Paul] O'Neill says the tone of his relationship with Bush was set at their very first meeting where he was offered the job of Treasury Secretary.

Instead of a detailed discussion, Bush was more interested in why the cheeseburgers he had ordered were slow to appear. He interrupted the talk to summon White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

"You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?" O'Neill recalled Bush saying. "Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room."

There's nothing like that in Wilgoren's article. In fact, Wilgoren can't even bring herself to mention a Republican who ever asked an aide to do anything:

Greg Schneiders, an international political consultant, was President Jimmy Carter's administrative assistant in the 1976 campaign. He cites that fact in the first paragraph of his biography, even though he went on to run the day-to-day operations of the White House communications office, serve as a Senate press secretary and teach at Georgetown. Two of President Bill Clinton's former aides became executives at USA Networks and Starbucks; one of Mr. Gore's aides is engaged to his daughter.

Republicans on the campaign trail, I guess, carry their own bags and each sandwiches they made themselves the night before.


UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the lead item in today's Daily Howler is about the Wilgoren article. Good stuff, as always. (Consider my post above an hommage.)
Arlen Specter squeaked by paleoconservative Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary last night.

I can't believe that any respectable Democrat thinks this is a good thing. Specter's reelection is now inevitable; centrists and even liberals often vote for him, frequently after pulling the lever for a Democrat elsewhere on the ballot, while Toomey is the Fox News/talk radio dream candidate and has no crossover appeal. There was at least a chance for a Democratic pickup here -- now there's none.

Before the results were in, Matthew Yglesias said we Democrats shouldn't root for Toomey:

... the country needs two non-psychotic parties expressing different visions of the national interest, not one party for crazy people and another one for the rest of us. A Toomey victory will put the rest of the GOP legislative caucus on notice that any deviation from the prevailing madness will be punished swiftly and harshly.

Odd to see him channeling Peggy Noonan:

One wishes the Democrats well if for no other reason than the Republican Party will be at its best only when it faces a worthy and vital competitor.

OK, that's harsh, and what Noonan says isn't exactly analogous. But Yglesias doesn't seem to realize that we already have one extremist, narrow-minded, pig-headed, stridently ideological party -- it tolerates its moderates because they help provide legislative majorities, and because they provide the illusion of diversity of thought, but it marginalizes those moderates.

Remember the original Bush Cabinet? It had prominent moderates such as Powell, Whitman, and O'Neill, but it was overwhelmingly conservative -- and then the moderates' ideas were ignored, when they weren't being openly derided. O'Neill and Whitman were driven from office. Powell remains as a fig leaf for extremist policies.

That's the modern GOP in microcosm.

There weren't enough moderate Republicans to block Bush's tax cuts, or even limit them if deficits got out of control (this was Paul O'Neill's proposal, backed by Alan Greenspan -- a Republican idea, from the moderate wing, and it went down to defeat). Moderate Republicans aren't joining with Democrats to block extremist Bush judicial nominees. In 1993 and 1994, "blue dog" Democrats blocked major portions of Clinton's agenda; GOP moderates do nothing like that. GOP moderates just enable GOP extremists.

I want the GOP to look as extreme as it is. I wanted a Toomey victory because it would have helped make swing voters aware of what the GOP really stands for, something they might not really get if they don't listen to Rush or watch Fox. A lot of these people still think Bush is a "compassionate conservative." They need to know the truth; this was an opportunity for them to learn it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Now it is possible to imagine all of a person's health files stored securely on a computer file -- test results, lab records, X-rays -- accessible from any doctor's office. It is easy to imagine, yet our medical system is not there.

...Why rely solely on the doctor's brain to store that information? Computers could crunch the variables on a particular patient's medical history, constantly update the algorithms with the latest scientific evidence and put that information at the clinician's fingertips at the point of care.

--Hillary Clinton in The New York Times Magazine, 4/18/04

When it comes to patients' health records, the United States hasn't left the "buggy era," President Bush said Tuesday at a veterans hospital....

The president has set a goal of assuring that most Americans have electronic health records within the next 10 years....

--CNN, 4/27/04

This makes me crazy:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Officials are investigating whether a U.S. survey team looking for weapons of mass destruction was lured into a trap when a building they were searching exploded, killing two members, a defense official said Tuesday.

The Iraq Survey Group team, which reports to the CIA, was searching the building Monday after a tip that the site may have been producing chemical weapons, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no word whether any chemical weapons were found at the site....

Investigators were trying to determine whether the team was given a false tip intended to lure them into a trap, the official said....


All because we're still looking for WMDs that just aren't in the frigging country. It's like a Saturday-morning cartoon, but with horrible results: Someone says, "Look! Weapons of mass destruction!" and our guys go running off like dumb dogs chasing after something that isn't even there. Then this happens:

The explosion leveled the building, killing two servicemembers and wounding five, all members of the combined military-intelligence team....

A U.S. soldier was seen being taken away on a stretcher, her chest and face severely burned. Several Iraqis were pulled out of the wreckage....
If Drudge is giving Kerry grief again for allegedly getting an expensive haircut, I guess it's time to point out again (as I did back in December '02) that George W. Bush may not spend freely on haircuts, but he likes (and has bought) Loveless cowboy boots. (UPDATE: Sorry -- I misread that; Bush's father was the boot buyer.)

Loveless boots ain't cheap (and are pretty damn fancy-schmancy) -- according to the current price list, here's the low end:

Mulehide $550.00

Waterbuffalo $550.00

African Wildebeast $550.00

and here's the high end:

African Hornback Crocodile $1,700.00

Alligator Tops and Bottoms $3,550.00

African Hornback Crocodile Tops and Bottoms $3,550.00

Wonder which ones our "regular-guy" president president's father owns.
As readers of The Boston Globe, Atrios, Counterspin Central, and Roger Ailes know, Boston talk-radio host Jay Severin recently said this on the air:

"I've got an idea, let's kill all Muslims."

Severin has issued a non-apology apology that misrepresented the incident. He's still on the air.

In The Boston Phoenix, has Dan Kennedy recalls another rather intemperate remark from Severin:

During the endless Florida recount, I wrote that [Severin] had "called on the Army to move in and expressed the view -- seriously, I think -- that Gore should be shot for treason" ...

Golly, how times have changed. These days, if, say, you're a fifteen-year-old who does a drawing for your high school art class depicting the president's head on a stick, you're investigated by the Secret Service. Severin, by contrast, went on the public airwaves in a major metropolitan area and said that a sitting vice president should be killed -- and four years later he's walking around free.

And for all those who get all hot under the collar when evil lefties dare to call Bush a Nazi, Kennedy notes that Severin has referred to Bill Clinton as "the Adolf Hitler of American politics" and as "a domestic enemy of the Constitution of the United States; a traitor." Hillary Clinton is "that cynical, criminal, sociopathic bitch ... one of the worst people on the planet."

During his early Hollywood years, [Reagan] seems not to have attended services very regularly, but Kengor quotes numerous people as being impressed by Reagan's religious convictions at that time.

The author ... very carefully explains Reagan's "religious truancy" -- his puzzling lack of church attendance while serving as president -- by arguing that he was sincerely reluctant to distract congregations with a celebrity's presence and large, intrusive security detail.

--S. T. Karnick, review of Paul Kengor's God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life at National Review Online

Early in The Brothers Karamazov, after Father Zossima dies, people come to see his body in the hope that it has healing power (Dostoevsky says these people are "far from being all of the humbler classes"). Many people expect that Father Zossima's body literally will not decay in death.

The desperate need conservatives have to see Ronald Reagan as not just a right-wing hero but God's agent on earth has always reminded me of this need to see Father Zossima as more than human.

Why do right-wingers torture the facts to make Reagan into something he never was? Why do they find a Reagan who skipped church because he just didn't feel like going as intolerable as the revered priest's corpse giving off a stink?


MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Confederate flags waved and cannons boomed Monday at the state Capitol as Gov. Bob Riley and several hundred others used Confederate Memorial Day to celebrate the restoration of the Confederate Monument.

Federal funds covered the $231,600 cost of restoring the monument that stands alongside Alabama's Capitol, where the Confederate States of America was organized and had its first seat of government....

"We are the caretakers of their memory and their reputation. The restoration of this monument is part of our duty to them," Riley told an audience that included people dressed in Confederate uniforms and period clothing....

The restoration comes at a time when the governor and Legislature are eliminating state funding for several other historic sites and historic parks, such as Tannehill Ironworks, which was severely damaged in 1865 when the troops of Union Gen. James Wilson raided Alabama industrial sites.

Riley said the state must set priorities during lean times....

Clinton will speak to Random House sales force in next 24 hours...

--Matt Drudge

Er, Matt? It's already happened:

The rollout began yesterday, when Clinton made a surprise appearance before about 200 Random House salespeople at their previously scheduled meeting in Manhattan.

--New York Daily News

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Bush campaign runs an ad saying Kerry opposed funding some weapons. Then Kerry and Democratic surrogates point out that Cheney opposed funding some weapons.

Fine. Lovely. Rapid response and all that.

Unfortunately, it's not going to work.

You know when I'll start believing again that Kerry has a chance? When he charges Bush and Cheney with something before they can charge him with it -- and when he doesn't let the subject go until the brush they wanted to tar him with is tarring them instead.

The classic script-flipper was Al D'Amato. In 1992, D'Amato (aka "Senator Sleaze") faced Bob Abrams, a Democrat with a squeaky-clean reputation. D'Amato's campaign found a (barely) questionable item or two in Abrams's record (full story here) and hammered away at it so relentlessly that Abrams was the tainted candidate come Election Day.

Kerry can't keep playing not to lose. He should attack Bush in ways that rewrite the Bush narrative -- attack him as weak on defense (he let bin Laden get away); attack him as a tax-and-spend wastrel; find some way to do to Bush what Bush wants to do to him. (There's no reason he needs to lie -- he just needs to throw the Bushies off stride.)
Lots of people have been worried about the Clinton book taking attention from Kerry, but Kerry really is still on the defensive -- maybe Clinton's precisely the T-bone steak we want to wave right now under the noses of the junkyard dogs of the Republican Party. The tendency to get distracted with Clinton-hate is among the GOP's few political weaknesses; it will probably help the campaign if Repubs go off on the Clinton tangent while Kerry regroups.
Oh boy -- here it comes:

Monday, April 26, 2004

2:00 p.m. EST



NEW YORK, April 26, 04 – Former President Bill Clinton's memoirs will be published in June, it was announced today by Sonny Mehta, President and Editor in Chief of Alfred A. Knopf.
My Life, an account of Clinton's life through the White House years, is one of the most eagerly awaited books of recent time. The book will go on sale nationwide in late June, with a first printing of 1.5 million copies. My Life will also be available from Random House Audio (abridged), read by President Clinton.

"Bill Clinton tells an extraordinary story in
My Life," said Mehta. "It is a riveting personal drama as well as a fascinating look at the American political arena over the past four decades. He talks with candor about his successes, as well as his setbacks, looking at both his career in public service and his life. It is the fullest and most nuanced account of a presidency ever written, and one of the most revealing and remarkable memoirs I have ever had the honor of publishing."

Robert Gottlieb, who has worked with some of the most distinguished authors of our time, including Katharine Graham, Toni Morrison, Barbara Tuchman, and Robert Caro, is serving as the President’s editor at Knopf. "Working with President Clinton has been a privilege and a pleasure," Gottlieb said, "and his book is an astonishment – authentic, engaging, revelatory."

"President Clinton is a dominant figure on the global stage," Mehta said, "and readers around the world will be eager to hear his story." According to Mehta, President Clinton will embark on a national and international author tour immediately upon release of the book.

Alfred A. Knopf is the flagship imprint of the Knopf Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House, Inc., whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG, the international media company. For more information about Alfred A. Knopf, visit our website at

I just got this via e-mail. It's not a hoax. Apparently the Big Dog's really doing it.


BAGHDAD, Iraq - An explosion leveled part of a building as American troops searched it for suspected production of "chemical munitions," a U.S. general said. Two soldier were killed and five wounded in the blast, and a cheering mob of Iraqis looted their wrecked Humvees, taking away weapons and equipment.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt did not say what sort of chemical munitions were believed to be produced at the site.

"Chemical munitions could mean any number of things," including smoke grenades, he said. After the blast, there was no sign in the area of precautions against chemicals.

Asked about reports that the raid team included members of the Iraq Survey Group -- the U.S. team searching for weapons of mass destruction in the country -- Kimmitt would say only, "The inspection was by a number of coalition forces." ...


Bloody hell -- are soldiers dying in Iraq because they're still looking for WMDs?!?

(Note that no precautions were taken after the blast. They didn't find WMDs. Is that a surprise to any human being with functioning gray matter?)

There was a lot to warm Republicans' hearts on today's Morning Edition: an story about Kerry campaign advertising that's overwhelmingly negative about his campaign, a story that says support for the Iraq war among veterans is near-unanimous, and, most notably, "Commentary: Terrorism" by National Review columnist and former Republican National Committee communications director Clifford May.

May's piece isn't yet another silly "news report" from an alternate universe in which Bush prevented 9/11, but it's a straightforward list of pet right-wing 9/11 what-ifs -- and thus it's full of nonsense.

May suggests that Congress wouldn't have sat still for a preemptive strike on Afghanistan (can May please name a presidential exercise of force Congress has prevented in our lifetime?) and that the ACLU would have howled in protest at the roundup of Muslim jihad plotters (something that, as I've pointed out, never happened when Algerians connected with the millennium bombing plot were arrested).

But my favorite May argument is (I'm paraphrasing): What newspaper editorial board would have supported a preemptive assassination of bin Laden? Er, you mean, besides the ed boards of The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and The Washington Times? Not to mention every conservative commentator on Fox News and nearly every talk-radio host in America?

And you know who would have had Bush's back? Clinton. I'm serious. He loved to defend Republicans when he agreed with them. Remember Newt Gingrich's reaction when Clinton was criticized for bomb attacks aimed at bin Laden: "House Speaker Newt Gingrich distanced himself from the speculation over Clinton's motives, calling the barrage of missiles 'the right thing to do at the right time.'" If Clinton's book ever comes out, I bet he'll thank Gingrich for that, sincerely -- and I think he would have returned the favor to George W. Bush. I suspect Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger would have also confirmed the seriousness of the bin Laden threat. And I know that two Clinton NSC guys, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, would have taken Bush's words about bin Laden seriously -- look at their book, The Age of Sacred Terror, and you'll see they consistently tried to issue warnings about al-Qaeda, in articles and op-eds written and published well before 9/11.

Short of impeachment (by a Republican House?), what would have prevented Bush from doing anything he wanted in 2001? No one blocked Ashcroft. No one reduced the tax cut, or even managed to make it conditional on avoiding deficit spending, a plan favored by Bush's own Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill. The press and Congress gave Bush free rein in 2001 -- and he took full advantage of it.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Atrios (here, here, and here) and Roger Ailes (here) are absolutely right -- no one ever calls for the excommunication of pro-choice Republicans such as Tom Ridge, George Pataki, and Rudolph Giuliani, and no one ever makes a huge stunt out of threatening to deny them communion. Things like that only happen to John Kerry and other Democrats.

Let me talk about Giuliani for a second. Not only is he pro-choice, he signed New York City's domestic-partner bill into law. He opposes Bush's gay-marriage ban. He lived with a gay couple while separated from Donna Hanover, from whom he is now divorced.

Not a problem, apparently, for any bishop in the Catholic Church.

By the way, you might want to listen to "Vatican Official: No Eucharist for Abortion Supporters" from today's Weekend Edition -- Thomas Reese, a priest who's also the editor of America Magazine, points out that only four American bishops have taken a no-communion-for-pro-choice-pols stance, while some 190 have said nothing of the sort. Reese also ponts out that there is nothing like this going on in Europe. This is an American issue -- aimed at one, and only one, American party.

In The New York Times today, Robin Toner says of the anti-abortion movement,

Its legislative goals are incremental, careful and popular with Americans who would oppose an outright ban on abortion.

Robin Toner, I think you and Katha Pollitt need to talk:

Did you know that since January 1, women in Texas have not been able to obtain abortions from the sixteenth week of pregnancy on? ...In theory, all that has changed is a bureaucratic regulation included in a bundle of antiabortion legislation, HB15. Most of the provisions in HB15, which sailed through the Republican-dominated state legislature, are familiar: There's a twenty-four-hour waiting period and a requirement that clinics offer a flower-decorated pamphlet called A Woman's Right to Know, which suggests a link between abortion and breast cancer, stresses the possibility of psychological damage and gives the death rate for abortions performed at various stages of pregnancy. The bill also requires providers to photocopy patients' IDs and keep them on file.

The killer provision, though, is the one that has received the least press coverage: Beginning with the sixteenth week of pregnancy, abortions can no longer take place in clinics--they must now be performed in a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center. The catch is, Texas hospitals, many of which are Catholic, do almost no abortions, and of the state's 273 surgicenters not one performs the procedure or plans to take it on. For a clinic to qualify as a surgical center it would have to meet hundreds of architectural specifications at a cost of well over a million dollars....

...many clinics have stopped doing abortions after fourteen weeks just to be on the safe side.... "Anyone I refer is at least eight hours away from an out-of-state clinic. It's a real burden on them. The majority don't make the trip--it's too expensive." Even if the two clinics now considering an upgrade manage to pull it off, the state is so huge that most women will be left in the cold.

To Toner, I guess because this didn't happen in Washington, it doesn't exist.
In The New York Times, David Brooks says this in the course of reviewing a new Alexander Hamilton biography:

These days we think our politics are nasty and partisan. But our discourse looks like a Platonic symposium compared with the vicious fighting that marked the early Republic. While they were secretaries of treasury and state, Hamilton and Jefferson waged internecine warfare that was, as Chernow notes, of ''almost pathological intensity.'' Members of each man's camp wrote abusive newspaper essays against the other. The secretary of state proposed Congressional legislation censuring the secretary of the Treasury. The Jeffersonians fabricated crude lies about Hamiltonian embezzlement schemes.

Abusive attacks in the political media? Dishonest accusations of financial impropriety? The use of severe Congressional punishments as a means of dealing with political enemies? Golly, that sounds really harsh. Thank goodness nothing like that could happen now.
In the upcoming remake of The Manchurian Candidate, Meryl Streep is playing the brainwashed candidate's mother. In this week's Entertainment Weekly, Meryl Streep explains that she prepared for the part by watching political talk shows:

"Anything with Peggy Noonan, Karen Hughes.... It's hard to get more hyperbolic than that, but there are lots of little subtleties in how people spin and push their points of view...."

I don't usually like remakes, but the evil mom played as Peggy Noonan? That could be perfect.
The New York Times tell me something I didn't know about one of the now-departed giants of journalism:

The White House Correspondents Association dinner, long considered the Academy Awards of exclusive Washington galas, will be more Hollywood than ever this May 1. The guests scheduled to attend include Drew Barrymore, Meg Ryan, Ben Affleck, Anna Kournikova, Mary-Louise Parker, Drew Carey and George Clooney.

The celebrification of the dinner officially began in 1987 when the late Michael Kelly, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, mischievously invited Fawn Hall, Oliver L. North's document-shredding secretary, as his date.

Yes, we all miss his deep moral seriousness, don't we?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

John Kerry's medical records reveal, among other things, that he still has shrapnel from Vietnam in his leg, yet politically motivated vultures at The Washington Times and elsewhere are still managing to use Kerry's war record to impugn his character.

I really don't think these character attacks work on anybody but hardcore right-wingers. This criticism of Kerry is just firing up the GOP base. But remember them when you meet a rock-ribbed right-winger -- remember that that person probably thinks there's something sleazy about Kerry's war history. And that's reprehensible.

I still find it infuriating that Democrats aren't out en masse to denounce this as abhorrent and unpatriotic. But that's Democrats for you.

Maybe late-night comics can put this to rest. Hey, Jay Leno, I've got one for you:

"John Kerry won three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, and it was revealed last week that shrapnel from one of the wounds is still in his leg.... In a related story, the White House announced that George Bush still has a scar from crushing a beer can against his head in Tijuana in 1970."

Friday, April 23, 2004

John McCaslin writes (at

President Bush didn't come right out and call the nation's top newspaper editors a bunch of communists Wednesday, but he came pretty close.

"Thank you for having me here, members of the Politburo," Bush deadpanned to newspaper executives at the head table of a gathering of the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press. "I mean, my fellow Americans."

Good Lord ... the Berlin Wall fell fifteen years ago and Bush idea of a half-serious swipe at people he doesn't like is to call people commies. And not just commies -- he compares people who jusr write about stuff to people who actually run things in a communist government.

Or does he not even know what a Politburo is? Is he confusing "Politburo" with Pravda? Would you put it past him not to know one from the other?
After Bob Woodward's revelations, Newsday's Marie Cocco wants to know a little more about the Saudis:

...I want more pages, but not from Woodward. Twenty-eight of them, to be exact.

These are the 28 pages in the December 2002 report of the joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They've been blacked out by the Bush White House.

The president has refused congressional pleas to declassify a chapter "suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States." The specific source of foreign support by all accounts is the Saudi government....

At the moment, federal investigators are probing Riggs Bank, an esteemed Washington institution that was, until last month, chief banker for the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. They're reportedly pursuing evidence of money laundering in the movement of Saudi funds abroad. The scrutiny touches on Saudi-sponsored charitable organizations and whether they bankroll terrorists. Among the funds looked at, according to The Washington Post, are the personal accounts of the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan....

I do wonder what the president and vice president of the United States would be doing telling military secrets ... to an ambassador whose embassy money matters are under investigation by Congress, federal bank regulators and reportedly by the FBI....

If you're a friend of the Bushes, you're a "good man," even if you countenance (or finance) terrorism. In the president's worldview, it's that simple.

(Link via INTL-News.)
If you were wondering how long it would take for the right-wing character-assassination machine to start trying to smear the people responsible for the publication of those casket photos, well, the wait is over:

GI Casket Photog Sued Cheney in 2000

A cargo handler in Kuwait fired from her job this week for photographing the caskets of GIs killed in Iraq, along with the friend who helped her get the photograph published in the Seattle Times, say their decision to go public had nothing to do with politics.

But it turns out that four years ago the duo, Tami Silicio and Amy Katz, sued Halliburton, then run by Vice President Dick Cheney, naming Cheney in the suit....

--NewsMax (of course)

Here's the site of the radio host who, according to NewsMax, "unearthed" the story. (I'm sure "unearthed" in this case means "read off a fax from the 202 area code.")

Oh, and Silicio once leveled charges of sexual harassment against co-workers who called her "bitch" and "whore" and told them a woman had no business driving a truck. The nerve!
I found this over at the right-wing site Men's News Daily:

Bush Campaign Throwing 'Party for the President'

The Bush campaign is organizing a "National Party for the President Day" on Thursday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. EST to allow supporters to gather together in unity behind President George W. Bush.

"Across the country, supporters of President Bush will gather in homes, restaurants and community centers to stand up for our President," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman wrote in an e-mail to Bush supporters recently....

Mehlman said their party "will include a conference call with a senior [Bush] campaign leader" at 8:30 p.m. EST....

Even Vice President Dick Cheney is encouraging people to join him in the "National Party for the President Day" to cheer on the president to victory in November.

"On that day, I will be joining thousands of parties across the country on a live conference call to talk about the clear choice voters face this November and the importance of the grassroots effort that will lead us to victory," Cheney revealed. "The President and I are counting on grassroots activists, like you, to act on the commitment we all share."

Cheney said he will try to call as many of the parties as possible on April 29....

Note that April 29 is the date of the Bush-Cheney conjoined appearance before the 9/11 commission.

The press release is dated April 9. The date of the testimony was announced on April 20. Perhaps the campaign planned all this without knowing that the Bush-Cheney testimony would happen the same day. Yet, cynical SOB that I am, I don't think this is a coincidence.

But I can't figure out what the point is -- is this just meant to pump up the base on a day that (we certainly hope) will have embarrassing press coverage? Or do the Bushies think that local news crews will do remotes from these parties, the way local-news sports guys will do a remote from a sports bar during the seventh game of the World Series?

Whatever the point is, these people have way too much money to toss around.
Via BuzzFlash, I learn that Ruy Teixeira, the "emerging Democratic majority" guy, has concluded that recent seemingly worrisome polls show Kerry doing rather nicely in battleground states. Teixeira says Bush's gains are in states he's already likely to win.

That's nice, but it leads me to wonder: What will happen this year if, God help us, Kerry wins the electoral college but loses the popular vote?

I'm pretty sure -- at least I hope -- that the GOP couldn't get away with saying that the electoral-college result should be thrown out in favor of the popular vote. Even an idiot could see the 2000 parallel.

But the GOP will take full advantage of the result, in a way Democrats never did (and should have) after 2000. Of course, the Republicans will challenge Kerry's legitimacy no matter how unambiguous his victory is, unless he somehow manages to win in a landslide the size of FDR's in '32. But if he loses the popular vote, forget it -- the words "Kerry" and "no mandate" will be inextricably linked (the press, which mostly loathes Kerry, will play right along).
This (from USA Today) is a bit disturbing:

U.S. plans elite Iraqi force for security

The U.S.-led coalition is recruiting Iraqis for an elite volunteer unit that would fight fellow Iraqis resisting the occupation of the country.

...the new unit, to be made up of volunteers already in the army, would spearhead counterinsurgency warfare....

An elite counterinsurgency force -- sounds sort of like the old Iraqi Republican Guards, or the Fedayeen Saddam. What will this force be called -- the "Fedayeen Bush"?


Meanwhile, The New York Times suggests that the June 30 "transfer of sovereignty" will be even more of a sham than we suspected:

The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday....

Several European and United Nations diplomats ..., and some American officials, said that if the American military command ordered a siege of an Iraqi city, for example, and there was no language calling for an Iraqi government to participate in the decision, the government might not be able to survive protests that could follow....

Asked whether the new Iraqi government would have a chance to approve military operations led by American commanders, who would be in charge of both foreign and Iraqi forces, a senior official said Americans would have the final say....

Hey, not to worry -- it's only until elections take place, and after that everything will be hunky-dory and free. And everything's going so well in Iraq right now that that should all happen in no time, right?

Why the hell is Condoleezza Rice giving separate briefings on Iraq to Republicans and Democrats in Congress? Gosh, do you think the administration might be politicizing the war? AP reports:

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice made a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, answering "question after question after question" about the troubled Iraq campaign, one lawmaker said of the closed-door session.

Rice fielded questions from Republicans for more than an hour and was to meet later in the day with Democrats....

What was the purposae of the separate briefing for Republicans? To send the message that Democrats aren't Americans? Or was it just to go over campaign talking points?

Those who met with her in the morning Republican session said it was upbeat.

"From my perspective, she gave a very upbeat report on how things are going there and the progress that's being made," said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

"She answered question after question after question," said Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio. "We're on the right page and we're standing fully behind her."

On NPR just now, I heard a Republican congresswoman who attended that meeting praising Rice for her "steadfast resolve" -- and stumbling over the phrase, as if she'd been told to memorize it and repeat it for whoever subsequently interviewed her.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

If you're a regular reader, you know I'm somewhat obsessed with Adam Nagourney, who works a "Democrats are doomed" message into virtually every story he writes for The New York Times. His latest article (co-written with Jim Rutenberg) runs for 24 paragraphs. Here's how I read it:

* In 13 paragraphs, either interviewees or Nagourney and Rutenberg themselves suggest that the Bush campaign is strong, the Kerry campaign is weak, or both.

* A mere 3 paragraphs suggest that Kerry's doing well and/or Bush isn't.

* In 1 paragraph (the one that begins, "Mr. Kerry's aides proclaimed that they would expand...") the two sides trade blows.

* 7 paragraphs are essentially neutral.

Nagourney -- fair and balanced as usual.
Every conservative in America thinks that we liberals run the country with an iron fist and a biodegradable jackboot. So how do conservatives explain the fact that (a) Take Our Daughters to Work Day has been reduced (for several years now) to Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and (b) this year TODASTWD had to share a day with another one of our satanic exercises in indoctrination, Earth Day? Shouldn't we evil Stalinists be doing a better job of parceling out our godless rituals of thought control?
James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal writes this in his "Best of the Web" column today (citing this story):

Hillary: My Hubby, Not Bush, Lied

Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared Tuesday on CNN's "Larry King Live," and CNN describes an interesting exchange:

The lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq contradicts years of intelligence indicating Saddam had such weapons, which also was the conclusion of officials in the Clinton administration.

"The consensus was the same, from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration," she said. "It was the same intelligence belief that our allies and friends around the world shared.

"But I think that in the case of the [Bush] administration, they really believed it. They really thought they were right, but they didn't let enough sunlight into their thinking process to really have the kind of debate that needs to take place when a serious decision occurs like that."

So the Clintonites and the Bushies both said Saddam Hussein has weapons. The difference is that the latter "really believed it." The former didn't really believe it, but they said it anyway. So it turns out it was CLINTON who LIED!!!!

Clever. But you can arrive at a completely different reading of the quote by changing one period to a comma and one capital letter to a lowercase letter (remember, the sentence structure was the work not of Hillary, but of a CNN transcriber):

"But I think that in the case of the [Bush] administration, they really believed it, they really thought they were right, but they didn't let enough sunlight into their thinking process to really have the kind of debate that needs to take place when a serious decision occurs like that."

See the difference? Now the misjudgment Hillary's describing isn't that the Bushies "believed it," but rather that "they didn't let enough sunlight into their thinking process to really have the kind of debate that needs to take place when a serious decision" -- committing the U.S. to war -- occurs like that."

Big difference.
I also complained earlier this week about Cokie Roberts, who went on NPR and cited a much-discussed poll result on churchgoing and party preference. A reader has pointed out to me that Anna Quindlen was also disturbed when she learned of the same poll result -- but she responded by actually looking up what the numbers said:

…the other night I listened to Bill O'Reilly speak of "secularists" on Fox News, and as I tried to parse out who those secularists might be, I discovered to my surprise that they would be me. From same-sex marriage to Mel Gibson's gory cinematic take on the Crucifixion, the new wedge issue is religiosity, not to be confused with faith. This was fomented by the widely ballyhooed "worship gap" of the 2000 presidential election. The poll results seemed decisive, even damning: if you went to church more than once a week, you were likely to support President George Bush by a 2-1 margin. If you never went, you supported Al Gore in the same proportions. "Capital G" and "small g" voters: there was the divide, as clear -- and perhaps along the same lines -- as the one between heaven and hell.

The problem with that easy equation is that like so much else in American politics, it worked the margins and muted the majority. Most voters neither go to church several times a week nor never set foot in one. American life takes place somewhere in the middle, and there the worship gap narrowed, if not downright disappeared. In fact, those who described themselves as churchgoers "a few times a month" were more likely to support the liberal Democrat than the conservative Republican.

Nice to have that clarified. Thanks, Anna.
A couple of days ago, I complained about a New York Post opinion piece in which Boston talk-radio wingnut Howie Carr criticized John Kerry for not paying a voluntary tax surcharge. A reader named Joseph Colwell forwarded me a reply he's sent to the Post:

I was puzzled by Howie Carr's essay which criticized John Kerry for opting to pay the new, lower Massachusetts income tax rate instead of volunteering to pay a higher rate which Mr. Kerry  advocates but is not required by law to pay.
Here's a news flash for Mr. Howie Carr:  in our democracy, people may advocate a certain policy, but that doesn't mean they have to voluntarily conform to the policy if it's not enacted.
That's why Republicans--who believe in privatization of services--don't volunteer to reimburse the fire department if they call 911.  It's also why retired and disabled Republicans collect Social Security checks even though they advocate private retirement accounts. 
It would be stupid to accuse a retired Republican of hypocrisy for collecting Social Security checks or registering for Medicare benefits despite their opposition to the programs.  It would be stupid because in our system, people are allowed to enjoy the benefits of policies even when they oppose them.
When Howie Carr can demonstrate that he has been reimbursing the U.S Treasury for his subsidized portion of his rides on Amtrak (I'm guessing he advocates eliminating those subsidies) then I'll take him serously.  Otherwise he should search harder to find a new clever smear to deride the so-called hypocrisy of John Kerry.
Come to think of it, perhaps all the Republicans who giggled at Mr. Carr's little exercise in sophistry should reimburse Amtrak for their share of the subsidy they so vehemently oppose. 
Because what's good for the goose is also good for chronic whiners like Howie Carr and his crybaby fans.

Very nice. I'll admit I'm not sure about that Amtrak part -- my guess is that Howie flies the shuttle when he goes from Boston to New York, and drives to work instead of taking the subway or commuter trains -- but true small-government conservatives really should offer to pony up whenever they do any travel in this country. After all, every form of U.S. transportation -- rail, air, and auto -- is subsidized by the (ick!) government.
Disheartening, though no big surprise, alas:


Most Americans continue to believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when the war began, a new poll yesterday showed.

The Harris Poll found that 51 percent believe Iraq had WMD, compared with 38 who don't believe the White House claim, a leading rationale for the U.S. invasion. The numbers have barely changed since February, when the last poll was conducted, despite the fact that weapons of mass destruction have yet to be uncovered....

--New York Post

This part makes me crazy -- one of every five Americans thinks we've actually found stuff (assuming, of course, that they aren't just yellow-dog right-wingers giving what they know is the most hardcore answer possible):

The poll also showed that 74 percent of Americans still believe that no clear evidence of WMD has been unearthed, while 19 percent believe proof exists....

You probably don't need (or want) to do this, but the full range of "reasoning" on the other side can be seen here. Nothing you haven't seen before -- and nothing that makes the slightest bit of logical sense.

This isn't going to change -- get used to that. In order for Kerry to win, he will have to get at least some votes from people who think Saddam had WMDs in 2003.
I bet the Republicans are really, really glad they hectored John Kerry into releasing his military records:

Houston Chronicle: "Kerry's War Record Filled with Praise"

New York Times: "Navy Records Show Positive Marks for Kerry"

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Kerry's Military Records Glowing"*

It disgusts me that this has become a controversy. What the hell is wrong with Kerry's fellow Democrats -- especially the veterans? Why aren't they out there challenging the patriotism of anyone who dares to question Kerry's service?

*UPDATE: Although it should be noted that this one is written by serial GOP talking-point purveyor Nedra Pickler of Associated Press, who -- true to form -- notes in the first paragraph that Kerry "spoke fluent French -- the fruits of a privileged upbringing that set him apart from the typical seaman," and later notes that "Kerry's education included Swiss boarding school and Yale. He lettered in varsity soccer and lacrosse, fenced, had a private pilot's license and had experience sailing and ocean racing. He traveled throughout Europe in his youth and spoke fluent French and some German" -- whatever the hell that has to do with his military records.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

This is weird:

Three Alabama businessmen have decided to leave Baghdad for a while because they've received word that militias loyal to a controversial Muslim cleric will try to take over the Iraqi capital on Thursday.

"Things are getting hot in Baghdad!" Winton Blount IV wrote in a Sunday e-mail from Amman, Jordan. Blount and his partners, Andy Furr and Danny Campbell, flew to Amman on Saturday after having basically remained in their apartment for 12 consecutive days to stay out of harm's way....

While the Alabamians waited for tensions to subside, Blount said, American, British and Iraqi sources told them that "Baghdad will ignite" on Thursday and that "all shops MUST close and militia will try to take over." ...

--Birmingham (Alabama) News

Yikes. And consider the source -- if the name Winton Blount IV sounds familiar, it should: His father, Winton III, was the Senate candidate the young George W. Bush worked forwhen he was AWOL from the National Guard.

Sounds like a guy who might get to know things the rest of us aren't told.

(Incidentally, a couple of somewhat larger companies -- General Electric and Siemens -- have suspended most of their Iraq operations.)

About one in every 10 members of Iraq's security forces "actually worked against" U.S. troops during the recent militia violence in Iraq...

...During the recent militia attacks, "about 50 percent of the security forces that we've built over the past year stood tall and stood firm," [Major General Martin Dempsey] said.

"About 40 percent walked off the job because they were intimidated. And about 10 percent actually worked against us," said Dempsey, describing that group as infiltrators.

Dempsey commands the Army division in charge of Baghdad....

Free Republic responses to the news that Ralph Nader has qualified for federal matching funds:



Go, Ralph GO!


Folks, if you can find a way to send him money, send him money. Money keeps him in the race. And worse, and even more difficult for us, the right answer to any polling questions you get on the telephone is NADER. If he seems a legitimate alternative to "Bush Lite", then he will suck away votes from the left on November 2.


We should all find out what we need to do in our state to help Ralphie get on the ballot. Let's make it happen!

Think Nader's candidacy doesn't help Bush? Tell these guys.

School Sells Naming Rights

...In Brooklawn, [New Jersey,] voters will decide on a slight increase in their school taxes....

Officials say they've been able to keep taxes down by giving naming rights to parts of their school buildings.

The gym at the Alice Costello School, for example, has the ShopRite name on it. The store pays 5,000 a year for the sign.

The library is named for the "Flowers Family" which paid $100,000 for the naming rights. The superintendent said the district has plenty of other things that can be named, for the right price.

--WPVI, Philadelphia

(Link via INTL-News.)
Is there some sort of bizarre essay contest going on in Conservative Land? Something like "Write a speculative scenario of 1000 words or less proving that, if 9/11 had never happened, liberals would be even more treasonously evil than they are now"?

National Review Online has posted a teasing excerpt from "A Nightline Fantasia" by Rob Long. (The full piece appears in the May issue of the print National Review, which I haven't seen.) It's September 15, 2001, and Ted Koppel is interviewing an angry Mohammed Atta:

TED KOPPEL: "Mr. Atta, if I may, it seems that what you're saying here . . ."

MOHAMED ATTA: "It's all in our lawsuit."

TED KOPPEL: "If I may, sir, it seems that what you're saying here is that the government systematically profiled you and your associates . . ."

MOHAMED ATTA: "My associates? Mr. Koppel, I didn't know all of the gentlemen they detained. Oh, one or two I knew from around, you know, Hamburg and Kabul and flight school. But we were nodding, hey-how-are-you friends. Not close. I wouldn't say close."

OK, let's see: On December 14, 1999, a U.S. border agent thought an Algerian man named Ahmed Ressam, who was crossing in from Canada, looked suspicious. His car was searched, suspicious items were found, and he was arrested. Several more Algerians connected to Ressam were arrested shortly after that.

This was the millennium bomb plot. (Timeline here.)

Remember anyone complaining about racial profiling after all those Algerians were arrested? Me either.

Long's is the third such essay published this month. Prior to his article, we had "An Alternative History" by Gregg Easterbrook -- in which Bush, after reading the August 6 PDB, sends "thousands of" men into Afghanistan the very next day (apparently he pulls this off by putting the men and supplies through a Star Trek transporter);* Bush is subsequently impeached, then removed from office by a unanimous Senate vote (all Republican senators have presumably been sent to internment camps by Hillary Clinton's jackbooted reeducation police). Condi Rice is tried as a war criminal.

We've also had this essay from Kathleen Parker, in which Bush (on 9/10/01) bombs Afghanistan and the Taliban is driven from power (seemingly after just one day of bombing) -- and Bush, years later, is on the verge of being charged with genocide by a U.N. tribunal. (Plausible, no? Remember the tribunal that tried Bill Clinton on charges of genocide after Kosovo?) Bush also has the 9/11 plotters arrested before the fact, to (naturally) howls of protest. (Parker's scenario takes place in 2004; presumably, no hard evidence linking the 9/11 plotters to their plot, or to any other terrorist plot or act, is discovered in two and a half years.) Oh, and in their revulsion at one day's bombing and one series of arrests, the American people -- peaceniks as always -- have embraced the pacifist presidential campaign of John Kerry.

As the conservative essayists prattle on about war-crimes trials and impeachment, don't forget that we didn't even impeach anyone over Vietnam. Clinton wasn't impeached for Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, or the '98 bombs aimed at bin Laden; Reagan wasn't impeached for Iran-Contra, the mining of Nicaraguan harbors, Beirut, or Grenada. Kennedy's poll numbers went up after the Bay of Pigs. Bush's poll numbers are going up now.

Conservatives don't care. Conservatives just have a desperate need to feel persecuted by a worldwide conspiracy of sandal-wearing liberals.

*Thanks to SullyWatch for noting this absurdity.
Shorter John Podhoretz:

We should believe every word in Bob Woodward's new book that supports Bush's case for war, even though Woodward's Bush-bashing on 60 Minutes proves that he's a filthy liar.
Everyone who's not part of our coalition in Iraq is a filthy coward. Our coalition partners, by contrast are brave, and bold, and forthright. Brave, bold, forthright nations don't negotiate with terrorists.

...Er, except when they do:

Italians may pay ransom

Italy is prepared to pay a ransom to free three security guards who were kidnapped in Iraq more than a week ago.

Barbara Contini, the Italian in charge of the southern city of Nasiriyah, suggested yesterday that a ransom could be paid since kidnappings were common in Iraq.

"Every one pays. It's been done for centuries and centuries," Contini told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera....


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The death toll in the first three weeks of April has about matched the 109 killed in combat from the March 2003 start of the invasion until President George W. Bush declared an end to "major combat" operations six weeks later.



The Bush administration said on Tuesday the June 30th transfer of authority in Iraq was just a step toward self-rule and not "a magical date."...

Pressed on how Iraq would assume sovereignty amid weeks of spiraling violence, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called June 30th "just one step in a process," and not "a magical date" in which the U.S.-led occupation will shift responsibilities to a new Iraqi government....


This despite the fact that a news conference last Friday with British prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of the June 30 handover:

"One of the essential commitments we've made to the Iraqi people is this: They will control their own country. No citizen of America or Britain would want the government of their nation in the hands of others and neither do the Iraqis. This is why the June 30th date for the transfer of sovereignty will be kept."

More on the court that will try Saddam: the link I posted earlier today gave the name of the lead judge as "Sami Chalabi."

Per AP, his proper name is Salem Chalabi -- "a U.S.-educated lawyer and nephew of the head of the Iraqi National Congress."

Back in October, in The Hill, Josh Marshall wrote about Salem Chalabi and a few of his friends:

Now let's talk about Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and arguably one of the most influential people in the administration when it came to advocating for the Iraq war and actually developing the plan. He's now responsible for reconstruction in Iraq.

Before Feith went into the Bush administration, he hung his hat at Feith & Zell, his corporate law firm in Washington. Now Feith's old partner, Marc Zell, has rechristened the firm Zell, Goldberg & Co. And they've gone into the Iraq contract business.

Among other things, they’re "assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq [and] assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."

Zell's old law partner is in charge of reconstruction at the Pentagon. Now Zell's helping clients rustle up the sweetest reconstruction contracts. You figure he has any special access?

Me too.

And let me tell you about one other firm, the Iraqi International Law Group (IILG). They are made up of lawyers and businessmen who "dared to take the lead in bringing private sector investment and experience" to the war-torn country and now offer to "be your Professional Gateway to the New Iraq."

Who’s the head of the IILG? That would be Salem Chalabi.

Does that name sound familiar? It should. Salem is Ahmed Chalabi's nephew. So you have to figure he'll be able to provide you with quite a gateway indeed.

And who’s doing the IILG's "international marketing"? You may have heard of him: Marc Zell, Feith's old law partner.

I could go on, of course. But do I really need to?

Sleazy. Very, very sleazy.

UPDATE: This is from a Newsday article from February:

U.S. authorities in Iraq have awarded more than $400 million in contracts to a start-up company that has extensive family and, according to court documents, business ties to Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon favorite on the Iraqi Governing Council. The most recent contract, for $327 million to supply equipment for the Iraqi Armed Forces, was awarded last month and drew an immediate challenge from a losing contester, who said the winning bid was so low that it questions the "credibility" of that bid.

But it is an $80-million contract, awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority last summer to provide security for Iraq's vital oil infrastructure, that has become a controversial lightning rod within the Iraqi Provisional Government and the security industry. Soon after this security contract was issued, the company started recruiting many of its guards from the ranks of Chalabi's former militia, the Iraqi Free Forces, raising allegations from other Iraqi officials that he was creating a private army....

... The firm's counsel in Baghdad is Chalabi's nephew Salem Chalabi....

(Link courtesy of Kathryn Cramer.)