Thursday, June 30, 2005

My company, based in the EU (and not even in a country that's part of the Coalition of the Willing!), gave its U.S. employees a four-day 4th of July weekend this year. (If I were a right-winger, I'd be able to explain why that means my company hates America.) What this means is that I'm skipping town for the weekend -- I won't be posting until (probably) Monday night. See you in a few days.
Odd story in The Boston Globe about traditional family values among the Buckleyites:

The recent death of 33-year-old Tristan Egolf, a novelist cursed with promise at an early age, has given rise to a literary detective story. Obituaries published last month failed to name Egolf's birth father, Brad Evans, a flamboyant writer, political activist, and right-wing adventurer who shared many of his son's gifts and demons -- and who, like his son, died by his own hand.

... Evans was a University of Louisville football star who worked on riverboats and at a small newspaper in Kentucky before drifting into the ambit of William F. Buckley's National Review magazine. Buckley's sister Patricia and her husband, L. Brent Bozell Jr., were Tristan's godparents.

Moving further to the right in a society that was tilting leftward, Evans became a speechwriter for right-wing politicians and a publicist/activist for extreme-right fringe groups such as Bozell's militantly prolife Sons of Thunder, which had declared ''a state of war" between the Catholic Church and the US government. At the end of his life, Evans claimed to have been engaging in paramilitary operations in Central America, according to his father, Warren Evans, and Amber Faith, the mother of Brad Evans's third child....

To what extent, if any, was Tristan Egolf's swashbuckling literary and political lifestyle influenced by his father? The two met only a few times before Evans's death...

Remember all the sneering about the Marin County parents of John Walker Lindh? The right likes to say that people on the left poison their kids with cockamamie moral and political notions, while failing at the grunt work of parenting because they can't resist the siren song of self-indulgence. But what do you know -- that even happens among among right-wingers who romanticize third-world fascism.

(And anti-abortion zealotry -- the Sons of Thunder seem to have been early proponents of the "rescue," to judge from what this Freeper says, and also commenter #20 here.)

(Oh, and by the way, the Brent Bozell mentioned above is the father of the one Brent the Third, who runs the Media Research Center.)

(Link via Publishers Lunch.)
Bush just sat down for an interview with two reporters from The Times of London and said, among other things, this:

I will never forget the lessons of September 11, and that is that we are in a  global war against cold-blooded killers.

And you're seeing that now being played out in Iraq, and we're going to win in Iraq and we're going to win because, one, we're going to find him and bring him to justice, and two, we're going to train Iraqis so they can do the fighting.

Is he just jamming two talking points together without thinking? Or have his handlers actually told him to say that catching bin Laden will lead to victory in Iraq? Or, worse, does he actually believe that? Does he believe that bin Laden is the micromanaging head of the International Angry Muslim Cartel, who approves every car bomb set off everywhere in the world, and without whose guiding hand both the international-jihadist and native Sunni wings of the Iraqi insurgency will simply collapse?

Nice to know he still remembers who bin Laden is, I guess -- but this strikes me as a variation on the "no terrorist movement can exist without state sponsorship" nonsense that got us into this Iraq mess in the first place, only now al-Qaeda is the "state" he thinks is the insurgency's sponsor.

And yeah, I suppose this isn't very different from his usual attempts to sow confusion. But his standard M.O. is to mention Iraq and then launch into an orotund narration that begins, "On September the eleventh ..." -- or, alternately, to talk about "the enemy," as if there's only been one. Hey, maybe that's it -- maybe the "him" we're going to find and bring to justice isn't Osama but, rather, "the enemy," a nameless, faceless guy in a djellaba who Embodies All Evil.


A separate story about the interview is here, with an edited transcript. From the story, we learn that Bush tried to lighten the mood of the interview -- with some of the most painful banter imaginable:

It’s an executive office, he points out, a place where decisions are made. “So the first decision I had to make was what colour the rug should be.”

The next thing he learnt about the presidency, he says, is the importance of delegating: “So I asked Laura to design it.”

It is, he notes, a soft yellow, like the radiance of the rising Sun. “It says an optimistic person works here.” ...

Mr Bush added a bust of President Eisenhower. It sits to the left of his desk, made from the timbers of
HMS Resolute, a Victorian transport ship, another gift from the British. You’re probably the only people in here for whom I don’t need to explain what ‘HMS’ means,” he says. “My Texas friends have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them.” ...

Across from the presidential desk, a portrait of the very first war leader of the United States, George Washington.

“He’s always been there,” Mr Bush notes. “No choice, really; the father of the nation. Had to be there. Rutherford B. Hayes just wouldn’t work,” he quips.

Yikes -- it's like going to a comedy club on audition night and watching amateurs bomb.
It's obvious that Karl Rove has had all the calendars in the White House reset to 2003, but I didn't realize that the entire American Right had gone back in time -- here's Accuracy in Media, in a press release dated two days ago, whining that the antiwar movement is run by those Marxists in International A.N.S.W.E.R.

What's next? Fresh Baghdad Bob jokes? A new boycott of the French?
...The White House recently brought onto its staff one of the nation's top academic experts on public opinion during wartime, whose studies are now helping Bush craft his message two years into a war with no easy end in sight. Behind the president's speech is a conviction among White House officials that the battle for public opinion on Iraq hinges on their success in convincing Americans that, whatever their views of going to war in the first place, the conflict there must and can be won....

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts....

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" ...

--Washington Post today

THE PRESIDENT: Polls? You know, if a President tries to govern based upon polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. I don't think you can make good, sound decisions based upon polls. And I don't think the American people want a President who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people.

--press conference, April 28, 2005

"In this White House, Dee Dee, we don't poll on something as important as national security."

--President Bush to Dee Dee Myers, quoted in "The Other War Room: President Bush Doesn't Believe in Polling -- Just Ask His Pollsters" by Joshua Green, Washington Monthly, April 2002

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Well, the gutter-dweller almost pulled it off: I just got the new New York Times bestseller list (it'll be posted at the Times site on Sunday night), and Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary is #2, in its first week on the list..

It didn't make #1, and the big mistake, I think, was publishing it after Father's Day -- I think their are a lot of Limbaughnista blowhard dads whose testosterone levels would have been raised to a satisfyingly high peak if they could've savored the hate in this book on 6/19 (or at least the hints of lesbianism).

The #1 nonfiction hardcover is still 1776 by David McCullough -- which is kind of a win for the Right, given that he seems to be a Heritage Society favorite.
Karl Rove poisons the discourse again, by proxy:

A Republican congressman from North Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that the "evidence is clear" that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

"Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.

Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."

Hayes, the vice chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said legislators have access to evidence others do not....

Rove needed a body to tell this lie, as a follow-on to last night's speech. I guess this guy either volunteered or was assigned the task. This wasn't spontaneous.

When the dust settled after 9/11, Karl Rove did what he does best: He found a way to milk the situation for political advantage. He improvised the plan to make Bush look like a noble war president -- and it pulled the wool over most Americans' eyes until early this year. Now Rove seems to have stopped improvising -- he's just running plays from the same playbook, hardly even bothering to update them. He's a vile and loathsome human being -- but I wonder if he's any good at the loathsome things he does anymore.

(Link via Memeorandum.)
The Village Voice notes that the U.S. Army is reminding potential enlistees of a lucrative benefit:

... the army, after its fourth straight month of recruitment shortfalls, has begun broadcasting a new series of TV ads. They feature young people telling their folks about the education benefits -- up to $70,000 for college or $65,000 to repay student loans....

Problem is, it doesn't always work out:

Tony Allwein, now 24, graduated from Catholic school in 1999 and attended the Pennsylvania College of Technology, a public technical affiliate of Penn State, for three years, where he studied computer programming. He was putting himself through with student loans....

"That recruiter sat in our living room and promised the whole family that these loans would be taken care of in full," [his mother] Kathy says, her voice steely. "In his contract it was stated that they would take care of them." In Iraq, Tony served as a rear gunner on a convoy, for a month or two lacking much needed body armor. His active duty ends in November 2006 and he is eligible to be called back for four years after that. And just last month, his family found out that his loans would not be repaid by the U.S. government. Not one cent.

There's a catch, you see:

The fine print states that since Anthony's loans came from from a private lender, not the government's guaranteed federal student loan program, they weren't covered.... Kathy said her family, which almost certainly would have been eligible for federal loans, was not aware of the difference when Tony went to school.

...A military source did confirm the details of Allwein's story, though, including that Anthony's contract stated the loans would be repaid.

I'd say common decency requires our military recruiters to make sure potential enlistees and their families have no misconceptions about this. And I'd also say it's no surprise that the recruiters are so afraid to lose any potential recruit these days that they figure it's OK to let the poor SOB figure out what happened only when the kid's in-country getting shot at.
The address continued a shift in the administration's emphasis as it has justified the Iraq war, beginning with the threat posed by Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction, continuing to the need to promote democracy in the Middle East and now suggesting a more seamless link to the [9/11] attacks on American soil.

--Peter Baker and Dana Milbank in The Washington Post

"Now suggesting"? "Now suggesting"?

What planet have Baker and Milbank been on for the past three years?

Bush speech to the United Nations, September 12, 2002:

Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq....

With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

Bush's State of the Union address, January 28, 2003:

Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.

Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on board the Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003:

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on....

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.

Oh, well -- I guess what this really means is that it's now politically acceptable for everyone in the Beltway to notice and acknowledge that Bush is doing this. I'm reminded of what Alexander Cockburn, in a subscriber-only Nation column about the Downing Street Memo, says about how the political class determines what does and doesn't constitute a "smoking gun":

Fairly early in the game, it was clear to about 95 percent of the population that Nixon was a liar, a crook and guilty as charged. But the committee rooms on Capitol Hill and the Sunday talk shows were still filled with people holding up guns with smoke pouring from the barrel telling one another solemnly that no, the appearance of smoke and stench of recently detonated cordite notwithstanding, this was not yet the absolute, definitive smoking gun.

So it became clear that the great smoking-gun hunt was really about timing, about gauging the correct temperature of the political waters. Then suddenly, in the late summer of 1974, that impalpable entity known as elite sentiment sensed that the scandal was becoming subversive of public order, that it was time to throw Nixon overboard and move on. A "new" tape--though hundreds of others had already made Nixon's guilt plain--was swiftly identified as "the smoking gun" and presto! Nixon was on the next plane to California.

I guess that impalpable entity known as elite sentiment has now sensed that it's time to be shocked, shocked, at Bush's evocation of 9/11 to justify war in Iraq.
A New York Times analysis of the Bush speech bears this headline:

Acknowledging Difficulties, Insisting on a Fight to the Finish

On the title page at, the headline is followed by this comment:

We like a man with a slooooow hand



In case it's not obvious, I think this can be interpreted in two ways: (1) she wants to have sex with Bush; (2) she thinks the war in Iraq is like great sex. The second interpretation is more repulsive than the first.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thought you might enjoy this page from the "Renewal in Iraq" section of the White House Web site.

I was wondering how much renewal there'd been, and that just clears it right up.

Yes, this is the real White House site.


UPDATE: Welcome Mahablog/Sadly, No!/Atrios readers. Here's another highly informative "Renewal in Iraq" page. No Latin, alas, but try the links. (One link does work -- "Liberation Update," which hasn't been updated since 12/15/03. Oh, and "ARCHIVE" gets you back to, er, the "lorem ipsum" page.)

It's not as if they produced that "Renewal in Iraq" banner and then decided never to use it -- here it is heading up the "Mission Accomplished" speech. Then I guess they just lost interest.
Curiously, I couldn't find a single thread devoted to Lucian Truscott's New York Times op-ed at either Free Republic or Hardly any right-wing blog reaction, either. They can usually muster quite a bit of backtalk when someone criticizes President Bush or their precious Iraq War, but I guess they don't have much to say when the critic is a West Pointer, also the son and grandson of West Pointers, who believes we're losing officers by telling them lies.

In the fall of 2003 I was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, and its West Point lieutenants were among the most gung-ho soldiers I have ever encountered, yet most were already talking about getting out of the Army. I talked late into one night with a muscular first lieutenant with a shaved head and a no-nonsense manner who had stacks of Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker and The Atlantic under his bunk. He had served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he was disgusted with what he had seen in Iraq by December 2003.

"I feel like politicians have created a difficult situation for us," he told me. "I know I'm going to be coming back here about a year from now. I want to get married. I want to have a life. But I feel like if I get out when my commitment is up, who's going to be coming here in my place? I feel this obligation to see it through, but everybody over here knows we're just targets. Sooner or later, your luck's going to run out."...

Truscott's conclusion:

If you keep faith with soldiers and tell them the truth even when it threatens their beliefs, you run the risk of losing them. But if you peddle cleverly manipulated talking points to people who trust you not to lie, you won't merely lose them, you'll break their hearts.

Cleverly manipulated talking points? You mean like the ones we heard tonight coming out of Fort Bragg?

The progress in the past year has been significant, and we have a clear path forward.

A bright, shining lie.
Well, that must have been a fairly easy speech for Bush's speechwriters to write -- it seems as if all they did was pull up a few of his war speeches from the past two or three years, stitch 'em together, and add a few updates. I guess it was effective enough -- about as effective as the same material was in 2004 and 2003, and even 2002.

A producer and an editor at Fox News are going on the Gitmo diet.

...It is perhaps not entirely accurate to say that while sitting in our seats one recent day, our stomachs spoke to us while watching a press conference in which the Guantanamo prisoners' meals not only were described, but also shown in their full glory. The photo opportunity elicited chatter that planted a seed that slowly germinated into a full-on project....

Armed with the two-week meal cycle, which can be found on Tony Snow's Web page, we decided to follow the diet, staple for staple, and see what happens.

We may gain weight if we eat everything on the diet, which averages 2,684 calories per day. We may lose weight, considering we're both making radical and healthy changes to our current snacking patterns. After all, the diet offers very little refined sugar or processed white flour.

Whatever happens, we're here to talk about it...

No word as to whether the two Fox producers also plan to subject themselves to being chained hand and foot in the fetal position for 24 hours at a stretch, or to permanent detention without trial.

(The Tony Snow page is here. The dietary guidelines are a PDF.)
This was weird -- yesterday's Mirror in the U.K. had this:

SAS troops were last night poised to storm into Afghanistan and capture Osama bin Laden.

Special forces have "good intelligence" the al-Qaeda boss or a senior henchman is holed up in a Taliban enclave.

Two squadrons are on stand-by waiting for the go-ahead from reconnaissance troops on the ground in Afghanistan....

Commanders have insisted on waiting for news on the ground because of the cost of the operation, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and stretch vital SAS resources.

A senior MOD source said last night: "Although this would cost a lot of money, if the intelligence was good the resources would be made available." ...

(The SAS is Britain's Sprecial Air Service; MOD is the Ministry of Defence.)

The truth? Pure hype? I have no idea. But today there's some reality from the BBC:

A US military helicopter has crashed in Afghanistan, the military has said.

The Chinook helicopter went down in the eastern province of Konar while carrying troops, the statement said.

The cause of the crash was not known, nor was the fate of the passengers. A Chinook helicopter can carry up to 54 passengers plus a crew of four.

The military said the aircraft had been participating in an anti-guerrilla operation. It was the second US Chinook to crash in the country this year.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says it appears that this incident is "more serious" than the previous crash.

Eighteen people were killed in that crash....

Bad news.

Konar Province, incidentally, is right on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Merciful Mother Macree -- why on earth do people with "red-state values" think there is any pleasure whatsoever to be derived from listening to the singing of children who can barely talk?
Scuttlebutt from Radar magazine:

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s talk-show cheerleading of President George W. Bush may be getting tiresome, but it’s all part of GOP strategist Karl Rove’s master plan to get “America’s mayor” elected in 2008, we hear. But not necessarily to the Oval Office.

...sources say the job Rove has in mind for Giuliani isn’t the one the ever-ambitious ex-mayor is angling for; as usual, the Boy Genius has his own ideas. “Whoever gets the Republican nomination is going to appear so extremist that it will be hard for them to appeal to moderates, the core of winning any national election, in the national arena,” notes our insider. “But you add on an American hero like Rudy Giuliani and you have a likable ticket. Just prepare yourself for constant reels of Giuliani saving New York on September 11, 2001.”...

Oh, tee-hee.

Er, Karl? I know you're used to Republicans who say "How high?" when you say "Jump!" I know the average Repub will put his life on hold, sell his house, change his kids' schools, do whatever you say, if you order him to run for this or that office.

But that's the average Republican.

Rudy is not average. Rudy is royalty. Don't believe me? Ask him.

You want to stuff the biggest swelled head in politics into a vice president's hat? Hey, pal, good luck trying.

I think Rove is losing his touch. First the public began to turn against the war, clearly responding to an endless stream of grim news rather than to eloquent Democratic voices of opposition (are there any?) -- yet Rove thought the way to reverse the tide of public opinion was to launch a verbal stink bomb against the Dems. And now (assuming the rumor is true) this. Wouldn't it be delightful if he just keeps stumbling?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Remember the summer of 2003, when right-wingers pretended they weren't gloating or blaming the victims as France suffered thousands of deaths in a heat wave?

Well, lookee here...

The heatwave that hit much of Europe in 2003 killed almost 20,000 people throughout Italy, more than double the previous official estimate of the toll and taking it above that recorded in neighbouring France.

The report by the Istat institute found that 20,000 more people died in the country between July and September 2003 than in the same period of the previous year.

The 2003 heatwave killed an estimated 15,000 mostly elderly people in France....

Yup -- when it got really, really hot, Italians died too. Even though Italians were our brave coalition partners and not cheese-eating surrender monkeys! Who knew?
If Bush's approval rate at Free Republic is only 67.8%, he must be in deep doo-doo.

This is the current poll at FR (right column; scroll down).

Seven months ago, Bush was the presidential choice of 89% of Freepers.
Until I read this New York Times story by Jason DeParle, I didn't quite realize that one of the big names in the Justice-Anthony-Kennedy-is-Satan's-regional-manager-in-America crowd is Mike Farris, founder of Patrick Henry College, the right-wing institution that shepherds home-schooled Christians into significant government jobs. DeParle notes that Farris has called for Kennedy's impeachment; I know I read his name back in April in the Washington Post story on the anti-Kennedy fatwa, but I didn't make the connection.


Incidentally, I don't have a clue as to why Atrios declares DeParle his Wanker of the Day. The Times story gives Kennedy-haters a hearing, and why not? Some of them -- Robert Bork and James Dobson, to name two -- are big names. These people have great influence in the all-GOP federal government. Why is it inappropriate to report what they say? And for what it's worth, they come off as arrogant maniacs who seem determined to win total victory or engage in total war, the country be damned:

As he often does, Dr. Dobson labeled Justice Kennedy "the most dangerous man in America."...

Calling most justices "judicial oligarchs," Mr. Bork said they reflected "the intelligentsia's attitude, which is to the cultural left of the American people." ...

One critic at a forum on the "Judicial War on Faith" accused Justice Kennedy of upholding "Marxist-Leninist, satanic principles."

Why does letting these people remind us how crazy they are make DeParle a wanker?

I like DeParle. In the past he's written eloquently about people struggling to get by in the wake of welfare reform. If he's a wingnut, or a uselful idiot for the wingnuts, I've seen no evidence.
Atrios on tomorrow night's Bush speech at Fort Bragg:

My prediction is that the goal is to make people believe that we're at war in a country called Afghaniraqistan.

Yeah, sure -- but I wonder if that's the sole purpose of the speech. As he and Kos have pointed out, Dick Cheney told CNN last week,

Since 9/11, we've had people like Chuck Hagel and other politicians and we've had people in the press corps and commentators who've said we can't do Afghanistan.

I wonder if Bush -- with servicemembers as a backdrop -- will make the disgraceful decision to launch a Rovian, Cheneyesque attack on the patriotism of those who disagree with him. That would seem to be a logical next step, wouldn't it?
Good news from Iraq!

Riverbank Promenade in Basra Pulses Anew With Life recent weeks, as residents of this southern city have gained the confidence to return to the streets and as the days have grown longer, the Corniche has bloomed again into the center of Basra night life.

Young couples sit quietly on a concrete wall above the water, wooden rental skiffs ferry families around and groups of men smoke water pipes at impromptu sidewalk cafes. There is even the occasional rider on a water scooter. Mr. Sultan, a stout date merchant in a white robe, gazed at the river as he sat eating a fried meat pastry called a sambusa stuffed into a piece of bread. (It is a Basra specialty, and he said he had been thinking about it the entire drive.)

... these days, the Corniche is all about life, not death.

..."It's improving day by day," Mr. Hussein said. "It's refreshing. The latest events had stopped people from coming here, but little by little people are coming more."...

--New York Times yesterday

Er, maybe not...

Islamic Law Controls the Streets of Basra

Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.

Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered.

...peace in Basra, Iraq's second most populous city, has come at a cost....

"The militias are more powerful than the police," said Saba Shedar, a goldsmith. The man who brings home a bottle of liquor or the woman without a veil both risk beatings, he said. Merchants who kept their shops open well into the night now close at sunset out of fear....

The militiamen carry out political assassinations and dole out punishment for alleged religious infractions, residents say.

A local businessman who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal compared the current strict rule to life under Hussein.

..."During Saddam, we had the secret police. Now it's coming again. If you say something bad, they shoot you in the night." ...

The river, green like jade, is unchanged but the city is different, Kareem said.

Lovers used to be drawn here at night, he remembered. "Girlfriends, wives -- nobody asked," he said. "Now, no one dares."...

--L.A. Times today

Basra, of course, is where students were beaten, some reportedly to death, earlier this year for having a mixed-sex picnic.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Today's New York Times had a long story about the military's inability to acquire enough safe armored vehicles for the troops in Iraq. There are many different problems and there's plenty of blame to go around, but here's a short version of what's going on with Humvees:

The Defense Department continues to rely on just one small company in Ohio to armor Humvees. And the company, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, has waged an aggressive campaign to hold onto its exclusive deal even as soaring rush orders from Iraq have been plagued by delays. The Marine Corps, for example, is still awaiting the 498 armored Humvees it sought last fall, officials told The Times.

In January, when military officials tried to speed production by buying the legal rights to the armor design so they could enlist other venders to help, O'Gara demurred, calling the move a threat to its "current and future competitive position," according to e-mail records obtained from the Army....

The Army has dropped the matter for now, General O'Reilly said, adding that he hoped to have other companies making armor by next April.

So who's at fault here? Possibly everybody:

Robert F. Mecredy, president of the aerospace and defense group at Armor Holdings, the parent company of O'Gara, ... said ... the company has proved it can do the Humvee work and he blamed the Defense Department for delays. Military officials concede that it sometimes took months for requests made in Iraq to filter through the Defense Department.... the company stresses that the Pentagon keeps changing its orders: from 3,600 in the fall of 2003 to 8,105 last year to more than 10,000 today.

Asked why the Marine Corps is still waiting for the 498 Humvees it ordered last year, O'Gara acknowledged that it told the Marines it was backed up with Army orders, and has only begun filling the Marines' request this month. But the company says the Marine Corps never asked it to rush.

The Marine Corps denies this, but acknowledges that it did not get the money to actually place the order until this February.

What a mess?

So here's my question: What happened to the Donald Rumsfeld we heard so much about during the first Bush term -- the no-nonsense tough guy who takes no bullshit? Wasn't he the guy who was going to "transform" the Pentagon, including its methods of procurement? At one point he was a rock star and a sex god -- he had clout. What did he do with it? Why isn't this process any better?

What's the point of having a defense secretary who is (a) a former private-sector CEO and (b) a ballbuster if, at moments like this, he's not going to rattle some cages until things that have to get done get done?

And what about his boss? Why doesn't this matter to him? For instance, if it was believed that O'Gara's refusal to share the armor design was endangering troops, why didn't Bush call O'Gara's CEO himself and say Hello, this is the President of the United States and I think a little flexibility on your part will prevent a certain number of soldiers from coming home in body bags?

Why couldn't he have done that, assuming it mattered to him?
I don't think Winston Smith and his colleagues at the Ministry of Truth could have done a better job of rewriting history than Michael Ignatieff does in this week's New York Times Magazine.

If you'd been in a five-year coma and read Ignatieff's article, you'd think the war in Iraq was proposed strictly as a means of combating tyranny and spreading Jeffersonian democracy. Those of us with functioning memories know that the war was sold to us as a necessary act of national self-defense; Saddam, we were told, had WMDs and could reasonably be expected to give them to religious fanatics bent on attacking America. Ignatieff tries to obliterate this fact.

And he does so for one purpose: to question the Americanism of anyone who opposed the war, or who opposes it now, which means, according to recent polls, that he's calling a majority of the country un-American. This is both Orwellian and McCarthyite.


Ignatieff and his ideological soul mate Christopher Hitchens know a lot of facts, but when they talk about the Iraq War their arguments turn to a mush of fantasy. They won't talk about actually existing reality; instead, their language is reduced to lofty abstraction -- "tyranny," "freedom." They make no distinction whatsoever between what we wanted and what we've got -- if you're appalled at the actual outcome, they insist you oppose what was supposed to happen, namely freedom. They're like quack doctors who, when caught dispensing treatments that don't cure patients and actually sicken and kill some, become self-righteous, insisting that if anyone who opposes quack medicine is "pro-disease."


APOLOGIES: In the second-last sentence above, I left out the word "oppose" after "they insist." It's there now -- the sentence now makes sense.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


It looked for a while as if the United States was firmly entrenched as the world's leader in Internet innovation. President Bill Clinton and Al Gore, his vice president, did much to encourage development of the country's technology infrastructure, writes Thomas Bleha in an article accessible on the Foreign Affairs magazine Web site (

From the 1960's until the day President Bush took office, he writes, "The United States led the world in Internet development."

No longer. The Bush administration's policies, or lack thereof, have since allowed Asia - Japan in particular - to not only catch up in the development and expansion of broadband and mobile phone technology, but to roundly pound us into the dirt....

Japan is even further ahead in mobile telephony. "U.S. mobile phone service remains awful by European, let alone Japanese, standards," writes Mr. Bleha, who served as a Foreign Service officer in Japan for eight years and has a forthcoming book on the subject.

Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries are poised to leap ahead of the United States in any number of areas: teleconferencing, telecommuting, remote medical services, distance education, multimedia entertainment.

The economy as a whole is at risk because of broadband shortcomings, says Charles H. Ferguson of the Brookings Institution ( Last year, he asserted in a book, "The Broadband Problem," that the United States might lose up to $1 trillion because of constraints on broadband deployment.

--New York Times

The Foreign Affairs article is here. The Brookings article is here.

The still-accelerating decision by, say, restaurants—fast-food restaurants particularly, but now, increasingly, sit-down joints as well—to print their children's menus or their titles ("Kidz Only," etc.) in "kid-like," zany fonts reflects a conscious and ultimately business-based determination that the presentation of products for children will be more profitable if that presentation is anchored by visual cues that communicate certain characteristics or psychologies....

But wait. "Kid-like" fonts? "Boring" typefaces? What moral and cultural judgments about the nature of juvenility are impacted in those phrases?

--James G. Poulos in The Citizen Journal, 6/11/05

Er, James? That Billy Graham Crusade that's going on this weekend in Queens?

About five minutes from now, the Crusade is going to have a Kidz Gig (with Bibleman).

Billy Graham! A "Kidz Gig"! Argh! Satanic forces are running amok!
From an article that ran yesterday in The New York Times about a Chinese firm's offer to buy the oil giant Unocal:

Gary C. Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Institute for International Economics, said the administration wanted to keep the issues involving China as separate as possible, from its currency policy to its surging textile exports to its enforcement of American patent and copyrights.

"What the administration wants to do is avoid putting all these issues together into what some would want to call a single 'coherent' China policy,'" he said....

A coherent Bush policy on an international issue?

Hey, why spoil a perfect record?

Friday, June 24, 2005

AP story: White House Stands Behind Rove Comments

Comment on this story on the title page of today:

Yo, dems - if the Birkenstocks fit, wear 'em

E-mail Lucianne Goldberg at

Ask her when her son is going to enlist.

(Ye's, he's under the maximum enlistment age.)
Something I hadn't noticed until just now:

As a US Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison splits time between her home state, where she is allowed to own practically any weapon invented and can even carry a concealed handgun, and the District of Columbia, where she can’t even keep a .357 Magnum in her house. For 12 years she has managed to abide this without complaint, but apparently she’s had enough. In May, she filed a bill to overturn DC’s gun-control laws, and this week she indicated that she has more than 30 co-sponsors and intends to push it to the floor for a vote in the near future.

The bill would, in one swoop, negate all the gun laws the district has adopted over the past 30 years, including pre-purchase criminal-background checks and bans on semi-automatic weapons and cop-killer bullets. If it passes the Senate, it is expected to breeze through the House, which passed a similar bill last September....

...Meanwhile, crime in DC is declining under the current laws. Homicides dropped 20 percent in Washington last year to a 20-year low, and are down another 17 percent so far this year....

I want to remind right-wingers who like to invoke Daniel Patrick Moynihan when discussing societal "deviancy" (or Hillary Clinton, for that matter) that he made a great cause of trying to ban armor-piercing "cop-killer" bullets.

(Via,Democratic Underground.)
Fox News focuses on a less-remarked-upon aspect of Rove's speech:

... Rove ... added that groups linked to the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.

[White House communications director Dan] Bartlett, appearing on morning news shows Friday, said that Rove was referring in his talk to, a liberal group that has been identified with movie producer Michael Moore.

"It's somewhat puzzling why all these Democrats ... who responded forcefully after 9-11, who voted to support President Bush's pursuit of the war on terror, are now rallying to the defense of, this liberal organization who put out a petition in the days after 9-11 and said that we ought not use military force in responding to 9-11," Bartlett said on NBC on Friday. "That is who Karl Rove cited in that speech ... There is no need to apologize."...

OK, Dan: If we're going to play Six Degrees of Separation, if we're essentially going to demonize an entire political party for what groups "linked to" it may or may not have said or done, let me remind you that Jerry Falwell, a politicized preacher linked to the Bush White House, said of the 9/11 attacks,

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."

And Pat Robertson, a politicized preacher linked to the Bush White House, concurred, while separately laying the blame for 9/11 on, among others, the Supreme Court (for the Roe v. Wade decision).

Link that, Dan.
I have no idea why the text of my blog is suddenly bigger and rag right instead of justified. Gremlins have also affected TBogg.

(Hmmm ... I wonder if James G. Poulos is behind this.)
The Bush administration hates the troops and lies about it:

Funds for Health Care of Veterans $1 Billion Short

The Bush administration, already accused by veterans groups of seeking inadequate funds for health care next year, acknowledged yesterday that it is short $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year....

The $1 billion shortfall emerged during an administration midyear budget review and was acknowledged only during lengthy questioning of Jonathan B. Perlin, VA undersecretary for health, by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) at a hearing yesterday.

"We weren't on the mark from the actuarial model," Perlin testified.

At a noon news conference yesterday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee covering veterans affairs and the lead sponsor of Senate Democratic efforts to add $1.9 billion to the VA budget, accused the Bush administration of unwillingness "to make the sacrifices necessary to fulfill the promises we have made to our veterans." ...

Murray cited an April 5 letter written by [Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim] Nicholson to the Senate in a bid to defeat her amendment: "I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY2005 to continue to provide timely, quality service that is always our goal," he had said.

Murray aides said they obtained a draft copy of the midyear review in early April, suggesting that the department knew of the budget problems at the time Nicholson wrote the letter....

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I see that the senior senator from Illinois has acquired a new nickname in Freeperville: "Durbinladen."

The suggestions in the first two posts (hanging, suicide on the Senate floor) are also charming.
Just thinking: If supporters succeed in getting a flag-desecration amendment into the Constitution, will it be illegal to burn a flag but legal to burn a cross?

(Apparently so -- in 2003 the Supreme Court upheld a Virginia ban on cross-burning, but AP reported that a ruling in the case would "affect laws in about a dozen states." So a ban on flag-burning would be nationwide, but in some states cross-burning would still be legal. Apples and oranges, maybe, but, hey, if we're gonna ban stuff...)

I happen to think flag-burning is, and ought to remain, protected speech. (I also think that, as a tool of protest, it's invariably counterproductive.) However, I believe cross-burning is more than speech -- it's intimidation, no more subject to First Amendment protections than an answering-machine death threat, though I know a lot of people think it's simply expressive content and deserves protection.

The flag amendment has been approved by the House, but AP says it's likely to fall about two votes short in the Senate. What do you suppose would happen if two senators said, "We'll vote for this if you add a ban on cross-burning"? Given the lack of unanimity on the recent lynching resolution, do you suppose some of the fine folks in the Senate would reject the deal?


The amendment reads, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." So it's not just burning we're talking about.

What's weird about this is that when I was a little kid, a lot of people were furious at Abbie Hoffman for wearing an American flag shirt. I actually saw a TV talk show on which he wore the shirt -- it was Dick Cavett's show, I think -- and the shirt was so controversial that after the taping a decision was made never to show Hoffman wearing it. There was no digital blurring back then, so the screen just went gray (I was watching in black-and-white) every time there was a close-up of Hoffman. When Hoffman was shown talking to the host, half the screen went gray. It was like a scene from a bad novel of dystopia.

Then, a generation later, we got Lee Greenwood, the country singer best known for "God Bless the USA," and his flag shirt.

Same shirt, basically. But one was seen as "desecration," the other as patriotism -- all based on what the wearers were assumed to be thinking about America. (Never mind the fact that Abbie used to insist that he loved America.)

I can't wait to see how much mind-reading of that kind we have to do if this amendment passes and people find clever new things to do with flags.
Speaking in a Manhattan ballroom just a few miles north of ground zero, Karl Rove said on Wednesday night that the Democratic party did not understand the consequences of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."...


Yeah, Karl? You think so? Well, we wanted bin Laden dead or in custody. Your whiny little boss let bin Laden get away because he thought it was more important to get some other guy he said "tried to kill my dad." And bin Laden's still at large because your boss thinks Pervez Musharraf and the Saudi royal family need love and understanding. So go fuck yourself, Karl.


UPDATE: And lest we forget:

Except for a lapse of several months, Selective Service records show presidential adviser Karl Rove escaped the draft for nearly three years at the height of the Vietnam War using student deferments....

Far from being a conscientious objector, [Mark] Gustavson [a college friend and classmate] recalls, Rove's opposition to the war was political. He considered the conflict a "political skirmish that was not being properly administered."....


UPDATE: Julia would also like to have a word with you, Karl.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner disappeared on June 21, 1964. On July 2, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. It's pleasant to think that the disappearance of the three men "shocked the conscience of the nation" and helped bring about a significant improvement in American attitudes on race, but it's interesting to note that, a couple of weeks later, there wasn't much evidence of a change for the better at the Republican convention in San Francisco.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

The '64 Republican convention took place from July 13 through July 16; at the time the bodies of the three men who'd disappeared in Mississippi hadn't yet been found. In Pillar of Fire, his second book on Martin Luther King, Taylor Branch describes some of what happened at that convention, relying largely on contemporaneous reports from the black press. Recall that the up to this point the GOP had been a far friendier party to blacks than the Democratic Party:

..."GOP Convention Spurns Negroes," cried the Cleveland Call and Post. "Negro Delegates to GOP Convention Suffer Week of Humiliation," headlined the Associated Negro Press newswire. "The Great Purge of Negroes," announced Jet. "GOP Negroes Washed Away in the Goldwater Ocean," said the Chicago Defender. Their focus was less on the Goldwater nomination itself than on the institutional rejection of cherished Republican fixtures such as George W. Lee of Memphis, delegate to every GOP convention since 1940, who had "seconded the nomination of Robert A. Taft" in 1952. The San Francisco convention, sweeping aside Lee's credentials claim that he and two hundred "regular" Negro Republicans had been railroaded out of the Shelby County caucus, seated "lily-white" delegations in Tennessee and every other Southern state "for the first time since Reconstruction Days," reported the Pittsburgh Courier, noting that the caucus of Southern Republicans, "to add insult to injury," named its hotel headquarters Fort Sumter....

California Eagle of Los Angeles protested a seldom-mentioned fact about Goldwater's victory over [Nelson] Rockefeller in the decisive June 2 primary: it gained convention seats and control of party machinery for a slate of eighty-six California delegates that "by deliberate choice" was exclusively white. Nationwide, by slating no Negro candidates and defeating most opposing tickets, Goldwater strategists whittled the number of Negro delegates to a minuscule fourteen of 1,308, roughly one per hundred, in what newspapers called the fewest "ever to be certified to a Republican convention."

... The
Cleveland Call and Post reported that George Fleming of New Jersey ran from the hall in tears, saying Negro delegates "had been shoved, pushed, spat on, and cursed with a liberal sprinkling of racial epithets." George Young, labor secretary of Pennsylvania, complained that Goldwater delegates harassed him to the point of setting his suit jacket on fire with a cigarette. Baseball legend Jackie Robinson summarized his "unbelievable hours" as an observer on the convention floor: "I now believe I know how it felt to be a Jew in Hitler's Germany."

There you have it: Less the a month after the disappearance of the three civil-rights workers in Mississippi, a new, monochrome, nasty GOP was on display in San Francisco. Sure, the Democratic Party was still lousy with racists -- but not for many more years.

In fact, Branch notes something remarkable about one of those Democratic racists, Alabama governor George Wallace: He was threatening a third-party run for the presidency (a threat he'd make good on in '68), and through an intermediary he told Barry Goldwater that he'd drop his presidential bid if Goldwater as president would let him vet Supreme Court nominees -- or if Goldwater would make him his running mate.

Goldwater said no, and Wallace backed off, but there you have it -- an open declaration by a racist Southern Democrat that the Goldwater's new GOP seemed like a fine new home for a Democrat alienated by civil rights.

Remember that the next time Ann Coulter starts proclaiming, as she so often does, that the Democratic Party is America's party of racists.
Limbaugh's Web site has now expanded its "Club G'itmo" travel brochure to include a picture of Saddam at the "Club."

The result of this, I presume, is that the same morons who think Saddam attacked us on 9/11 will now think that Saddam is actually being held at Guantanamo.

Oh, and apparently, according to Limbaugh, there can't ever have been anything bad about Guantanamo because summers in Iraq are hotter.

I don't even want to think about what this pig-ignorant sonofabitch would have said on the air during the lynching era, or in the days after Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner went missing.
Juan Cole quotes this Agence France-Presse story:

Demonstrators in Baghdad from the center and south of Iraq demanded Tuesday that Coalition troops leave their country. They are considering staging a two-day sit-in at Firdaws Square at the center of the capital....

Firdaws Square? Is that a variant spelling for Firdos Square, where the Saddam statue was toppled?

...Yup, apparently it is.
The outrage about the nondisclosures in the Downing Street memos has led Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina to demand that we tell the al-Qaida forces in Iraq exactly when we intend to give up. Jones is the right-wing bigmouth who once wanted to rename French fries "freedom fries." He was a moral and political cretin when he did that and, not to my surprise, he has been unable to stop being a moral and political cretin since. He and his new friends are welcome to each other.

--Christopher Hitchens in Slate yesterday

So applying the name "freedom fries" was a "cretinous" thing to do, Hitchypoo? Funny, I don't recall you having the guts to risk offending your hawk friends by saying so at the time. Multiple Web searches turn up no evidence that you ever said a word. Why is that, if the stupidity was so obvious to you at the time?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

According to an article in yesterday's L.A. Times (also available here), the leader of a Pakistani Al Qaeda camp where two men recently arrested in California allegedly trained is not a Pakistani politician, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago. The Times explains:

The federal complaint identified the head of the camp as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, which is the name of a Pakistan government opposition party member. But several U.S. officials said that most likely, the leader of the camp is the similarly named Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the longtime Bin Laden associate and former leader of HuM [Harkat-ul-Mujahedin], who Pakistani authorities said has gone into hiding after news of the Lodi case broke.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil was arrested in May 2004 for allegedly sending militants to Afghanistan; he was released seven or eights months later and has reportedly gone into hiding in recent days. His organization, HuM, was subsequently known as Jamiatul Ansar; his near-namesake's political party is called Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. I try, folks, but guess I screwed this one up.
Well, this is amusing:

Saddam misses Reagan days

SADDAM Hussein is a cleanliness freak who's addicted to Doritos, doles out relationship advice and misses Ronald Reagan...

New details on Saddam' life behind bars have been revealed by five US soldiers who guarded him at a Baghdad jail for almost a year.

Saddam offered opinions on several US presidents, declaring Ronald Reagan his favourite because he supplied him with weapons during the Iran war in the 1980s.

"Reagan and me, good," Saddam reportedly said.

"I wish things were like when Ronald Reagan was still president."...

Did anyone else see this in USA Today? Am I wrong to think it's a bit worrisome?

Unbuilt Homes Sell Like Crazy

The number of houses for sale even before they're built has jumped 47% the past 12 months, adding to worries that overbuilding and speculation could bring the housing boom to a bust.

...April's number is the highest since the government began tracking it in 1973.

... a glut of new houses could end the housing boom -- and, possibly, stick builders and speculators with undeveloped property if the boom goes bust....

Another worry: Unbuilt homes for sale could be used for flipping, buying in hopes of selling for a quick profit. In pre-construction flipping, a speculator puts a deposit down on an unbuilt home and sells it on completion -- or even before....

Maybe I'm missing something here, but is there a huge difference between day-trading tech stocks that have never made a profit and flipping houses that have never been lived in?

I seem to recall that the '90s stock boom didn't end particularly well. Ah, but this time it's different -- right?
You really should read Hanna Rosin's New Yorker story about Patrick Henry College, the right-wing Christian school in Virginia that exists largely to train a student body (made up of mostly home-schooled kids) for jobs shaping the government.

Read it even though Rosin seems to find virtually nothing about PHC the least bit alarming -- her article is maddeningly matter-of-fact, while you'll feel the story you're reading is The Stepford Undergraduates or Invasion of the Government Snatchers.

For us snarky secularists, the easy laughs in the story come from the sex stuff -- the fear throughout the school that dating is the primrose path to hell, the resident advisers' practice of monitoring female students' dress to ensure that no outfit reveals the slightest peek of bra. (Violators receive "a friendly e-mail -- 'I think I saw you in dress code violation,' followed by a smiley emoticon.")

But I'm more concerned about the fact that under our noses there seems to have developed a chain of breeding farms intended to produce right-wing ideologues whose goal is to dominate our political life. Parents order home-schooling textbooks and videos from right-wing Christian publishers, the highest-achieving home-schoolers go on to PHC and mingle exclusively with the like-minded, and then -- apparently without ever having sat even for an hour in a classroom with a single person who disagrees with them -- the graduates seem to slide effortlessly into jobs in the government:

...conservative congressmen ... asked [Michael Farris, PHC's founder and president] where they could find homeschoolers as interns and staffers, "which I took to be shorthand for 'someone who shares my values,'" Farris said.... So he set out to build what he calls the Evangelical Ivy League, and what the students call Harvard for Homeschoolers....

Of the school's sixty-one graduates through the class of 2004, two have jobs in the White House; six are on the staffs of conservative members of Congress; eight are in federal agencies; and one helps Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, and his wife, Karen, homeschool their six children. Two are at the F.B.I., and another worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, in Iraq.

Let me pause here and point out that this means we're filling our government with kids who are taught in college that evolution is a lie. Not that they seem to be taught much about evolution at PHC -- the school doesn't have an academic department for any of the sciences, and the only biology professor is in the Department of Classical Liberal Arts -- but what they do learn must be consistent with the school's Statement of Biblical Worldview:

Any biology, Bible or other courses at PHC dealing with creation will teach creation from the understanding of Scripture that God's creative work, as described in Genesis 1:1-31, was completed in six twenty-four hour days. All faculty for such courses will be chosen on the basis of their personal adherence to this view. PHC expects its faculty in these courses, as in all courses, to expose students to alternate theories and the data, if any, which support those theories. In this context, PHC in particular expects its biology faculty to provide a full exposition of the claims of the theory of Darwinian evolution, intelligent design and other major theories while, in the end, teach creation as both biblically true and as the best fit to observed data.

The goal here is nothing less than the transformation of American society, or at least the parts the nouveau Right cares about most, politics and culture:

Referring to [a student debater, Matthew] du Mée, [President Farris] said, "Maybe one day he'll be the one standing before the Supreme Court, arguing to overturn Roe v. Wade." ...

Farris told them at chapel recently that one day "an Academy Award winner will walk down the aisle to accept his trophy. On his way, he'll get a cell-phone call; it will be the President, who happens to be his old Patrick Henry roommate, calling to congratulate him."

The Academy Award part of that vision seems like a pipe dream (though less so post-Mel Gibson); the government part, however, seems rather plausible, given the fact that all doors seem open to these kids wherever there's Republican control (which, in D.C., is everywhere). And PHC plans to build on this success:

Last year, the college began offering a major in strategic intelligence; the students learn the history of covert operations and take internships that allow them to graduate with a security clearance.

All seniors do a directed research project that is designed, Farris told me, to mimic the work that an entry-level staffer would be assigned. "A whole lot of elected members of Congress started off as Hill staffers," Farris said. "If you want to train a new generation of leaders, you have to get in on the ground floor."

Oh, by the way, in PHC's brave new world, women won't be full citizens:

A faction of homeschooling parents lobbied Farris not to admit girls to the college, but he told me that he considered that an "extreme" position. "All women, moms included, benefit from a great education," he said.... Even the most ambitious [female students], those who wake up at 3 a.m. to study, told me without reservation that as soon as they had children they would quit their jobs to raise them.

If you read this story, you might want to follow it up with a more pointed New York Times story from last year, which, among other things, tells us this about Mike Farris:

He has written three legal thrillers involving conservative Christian issues. His latest, "Forbid Them Not," begins with a Democratic landslide in the 2004 elections that leads to a nightmare of laws blocking parents from spanking their children, teaching their children fundamental Christianity or schooling them at home.

As I said when that story first appeared, this is essentially a Protocols of the Elders of Liberalism. And twenty or thirty years from now, the president of the United States might be an alumnus of the college Farris founded.
I'm going to annoy some of you by saying this, but I think John Tierney is marginally more bearable than David Brooks. Brooks gets more kind words from the left, but virtually everything he writes leads to the same conclusion: that latte-swilling coastal knowledge workers constitute a noxious nationwide blight that threatens Virtue, a hardy but endangered crop native to Middle America. Tierney, by contrast, says a lot of stupid things, but what he wants to be is not an ideologue but a freakonomist -- he likes to baffle readers with unexpected notions, and one or two of them may actually contradict his libertarian ideology. Consider his current column, in which he gives two reasons that an employer might not hire a senior-citizen job-seeker:

Given a choice between two equally qualified candidates, whom would you hire, a 35-year-old who could be quickly demoted or fired if he turns out to be incompetent, or a 65-year-old who could sue you for age discrimination?

A more immediate reason not to hire the 65-year-old is that he would be more expensive to add to the company health plan. If federal policy were changed to allow older full-time workers to rely primarily on Medicare instead of on their employer, they'd have a much better shot at jobs.

Yeah, that first one is pure libertarianism, but give the guy a begrudging golf clap: In the second one he's actually urging the expansion of a federal social program.

As a New Yorker and a renter, I've long loathed Tierney's take on the city's rent laws -- rent control and rent stabilization may be a bad solution to the city's shortage of affordable housing within reasonable commuting distance from Downtown and Midtown, but his alternative is no solution whatsoever, i.e., throwing all New Yorkers into a pitiless free market; the inability to tack more land onto the five boroughs means supply will never meet demand at a reasonable price. (Incidentally, Atrios, to some extent, agrees with Tierney on this issue.)

On the other hand, Tierney has denounced car alarms as a useless nuisance in a city where absolutely no one takes them seriously -- and he's 100% correct about that. That's the Tierney I think might surprise us (once in a great while) -- the playful (if painfully cheery) guy who looks for odd angles.

Monday, June 20, 2005

You know, a lot of people like conspiracy theories -- hey, I've flirted with a couple myself in recent days.

But a small group of right-wingers have taken conspiratorial thinking to an almost thrilling new level. If you want to see what I'm talking about, go to this Free Republic thread -- it offers a conspiracy theory to explain a phenomenon that most rational people would say is not even taking place.

The thread is titled:

9/11 - Blocked by media but never to be forgotten.

That's right -- according to these people, an entire historic event has been blocked by the media! You're not allowed to think about 9/11! You're not allowed to remember it! The media won't let you! It's blocked!

The thread starts with three 9/11 pictures, then this:


On a subsequent page of the discussion, another Freeper confirms the conspiracy:

I knew then, in 2001, that there would come a day that these picts would try to be phased out and unavailable... therefore i took it upon myself at that time to gather as much of these images that i could possibly find... I have thousands, along with video and many CD's that i would love to distribute to anyone wanting them. I even got the photos that showed the celebration in the streets of the Middle East that were pulled from websites on Sept 12th....

Hey -- what if it's true? It could be true. Maybe that dastardly MSM has thrown out all the pictures of 9/11, deleted all the images from the hard drives, frisbeed all the photo CDs out the window. Maybe there is a huge Orwellian conspiracy to make you forget 9/11 ever happened!!!

...Er, of course, the photos at the beginning of the thread come from the BBC. And early in the thread one person mentions having just seen a documentary that included footage made inside the Twin Towers on 9/11. The documentary is available from Netflix. As another person points out, it was originally shown on CBS.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a vast conspiracy to make us forget!

And you know what? There'd better be a conspiracy of silence to make us forget, because there are some pissed-off folks in this thread and they need an excuse to say things like this:

Don't worry...I won't ever forget.

It's been almost four years, and I am just as angry, if not more so, as when I woke up that quiet Tuesday morning. Quiet, because I lived in El Segundo, next to LAX, an airport where no airplanes were flying.

Shock. Sadness. Rage. Trying to console people at the post office, that I didn't even know. Crying even now, as I post this, and remember.


Hell no, I'm not going to forget. Never. Ever. Message to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretary Rice, and whoever else needs to hear it, along with those who are fighting and serving the greatest country that exists on this planet--here is my message.


By the way, the person who wrote that calls himself "Christian4Bush."

Hey, forget the fact that many of the people in the media were actually in Manhattan as 9/11 happened, smelling the stench from the Towers! Forget the fact that Senator Durbin was actually in D.C. as the Pentagon burned! Christians4Bush was living near an airport, dammit! He knows what 9/11 means! And no puke futhamucher in the Democrat Party or the MSM is going to erase an entire nation's memory of 9/11! Not while he draws breath!
Pure Bushism, working like a charm:

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week's presidential election: "Thank you." His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington was more evident.

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday's election -- with the result being that an ultraconservative now is in a two-way showdown for the presidency....

Bush described the election as an exercise in futility because Iran's real power rests with the non-elected Islamic clerics, who can override the president and parliament....

On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the election shows that the country is out of step with democratic reforms in the Middle East....

The unexpectedly strong turnout -- nearly 63 percent -- produced a true surprise in the No. 2 finish of hard-line Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will face the top finisher, moderate statesman Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a Friday runoff....

The president's words sounded too much like the pre-war rhetoric against Saddam, and many on-the-fence voters were shocked into action, said Abdollah Momeni, a political affairs expert at Tehran University....

Bush thinks geopolitics is like a Hollywood B-movie -- at a certain point the good guys start kicking ass, and from that point on, no one good ever gets hurt and evil just goes on an inexorable decline. The dumb SOB is still waiting for that turning point to come in Iraq. He thinks it can't help but happen -- it's inevitable, because the Good people are riled up against the Evil people, which is, in his view, all it takes.
It must really be fun to belong to a political party full of overgrown children, don't you think?

If you're tired of all the torture allegations, of hearing the media imply that handling a Quran without gloves on is the moral equivalent of beheading someone, and of all the hysteria about enemy combatants, you'll enjoy the Gitmo Cookbook.

It contains the actual recipes and menus for the food served to the Gitmo detainees, along with interesting facts about how American soldiers are working every day to treat prisoners humanely while still getting the information we need to protect ourselves.

Baked Tandouri Chicken Breast, Mustard-Dill Baked Fish, Lyonnaise Rice, and Fish Amandine are just a few of the recipes you'll find in the Gitmo Cookbook. We've tested them, and they are inexpensive, easy to make, and delicious.

The cookbook is being printed and will be shipped in about 10 weeks. Pre-order your copy now for only $8.95!

The Gitmo Cookbook - helping you support the troops, mock the mainstream media, and eat like a Gitmo detainee!

Once again: No, I'm not making this up.

OK, let's try this again, shall we?

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water.  Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.  On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees....

Oh, tee-hee -- we're Republicans, we don't have to take anything seriously if we don't feel like it.
Count me as another proud supporter of OPERATION YELLOW ELEPHANT. Get the College Republicans to disband and join the military en masse? Sounds like a plan.

You probably already know that CIA director Porter Goss has told Time magazine that he knows where Osama bin Laden is -- and that bin Laden might just die peacefully in his sleep because it's more important not to upset Pervez Musharraf than to bring the guy who killed 3,000 Americans to justice. Can you imagine the reaction if this were said by a Democratic president's appointee?

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?

Meanwhile, here's what's going on in the Bush war that actually did have something to do with 9/11, the one we thought we won:

Fierce fighting between Taliban rebels and Afghan security forces left 18 insurgents and three others dead, a day after the U.S. military pounded suspected rebels in airstrikes that killed as many as 20, officials said Monday.

Three U.S. troops were slightly wounded when a bomb exploded near their armored Humvee in Paktia province on Sunday, said U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts.

A Taliban spokesman, meanwhile, claimed his fighters had assassinated a kidnapped Afghan police chief and five of his men for collaborating with the U.S.-led coalition....

Three months of bloodshed across the south and east has left hundreds dead and sparked fears that the Afghan war is widening, rather than winding down....

About 280 suspected rebels and 29 U.S. troops have been killed since March, according to Afghan and U.S. officials. More than three dozen Afghan police and soldiers also have died, as have more than 100 civilians.

Yonts warned that foreign militants backed up by networks channeling them money and arms had come into Afghanistan to try to subvert legislative elections in September. He said that for "operational security reasons" he could not identify the networks or who was backing them.

Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press last week that intelligence indicated al-Qaida had slipped at least have a dozen foreign agents into the country,
two of whom had already detonated themselves in suicide attacks...

Yup, it looks as if we're fighting Al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, in 2005. Not "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," a franchisee that arranged to license the name, but the real deal.

Not even the first Bush mission was accomplished.


UPDATE: Oh, and:

Afghan security forces have arrested three Pakistanis for allegedly planning to assassinate the U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan government official said on Monday.

The Pakistanis, who were suspected of being linked to a Pakistani Islamic militant group, were arrested in the eastern province of Laghman on Saturday, the day before Khalilzad made a visit there, said the official, who did not want to be identified....

The official said it was unclear to which militant group the men belonged. "But we are pretty sure they are linked to a Pakistani militant group, the Taliban or al Qaeda," he said....

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strips about B.D., who went to fight in Iraq and lost a leg in the war, were attacked as unpatriotic by Bill O'Reilly when they were first published. Now the strips have been collected in a book, with an introduction by John McCain. Kurt Andersen reviews the collection in today's New York Times -- and writes the most politically naive sentence I've read this year:

Getting John McCain to write an introduction to the book was the perfectly shrewd move to inoculate himself against any further carping from O'Reillyland.

Uh, Kurt? If you really believe that, maybe you should talk to a few more Republicans.
Am I wrong to think it's awfully convenient that just as we're having a serious discussion of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, the front page of The New York Times has a story telling us that U.S. troops have found a torture chamber run by Iraqi insurgents -- and that the troops also discovered a surviving victim of the torture (who, alas, won't allow himself to be photographed, or even allow his wounds to be photographed)?

OK, obviously we're not fighting nice guys -- they behead people, they blow up civilians, and on and on. But once again we're going to hear the same old argument: We can't be criticized for anything cruel we've done if the enemy is crueler.

I question the timing of this story, with details that oh-so-perfectly line up as a right-wing rebuke to the critics of Gitmo. And if you don't think the timing in this case is suspicious, here's another one: On June 10 The Washington Post ran a long story about the haplessness of an Iraqi Army unit, one that had been specifically recommended to the Post's reporters by the U.S. military. Five days after that embarrassment, lo and behold, an Australian hostage was freed in Iraq and all the credit was given to Iraqi soldiers (rather than to an "advisory team" of U.S. troops that "works with" the Iraqis).

Am I crazy to think that our overtaxed forces are being taxed further by being ordered to stage-manage events like this, just because their Commander-in-Chief wants to be able to say with a sneer, "Take that, liberals"?
I can't find it at the Web site, but the print edition of this week's New York Observer notes that the Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa on East 65th Street is offering "Dads and Daughters Day" spa packages for Father's Day this year. I bring this up not because it appeals to me -- I'm way too scruffy to be a metrosexual -- but because I figure a hundred B-list right-wing pundits could really use a new target for their moral outrage. Well, here it is, folks -- don't bother to thank me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I saw this in today's New York Times:

AFTER years of lonely street demonstrations and little-noticed newspaper columns, Kang Chol Hwan, a North Korean defector, learned recently that his life had irrevocably changed.

"I was introduced as someone who wrote a book that was read by George Bush," he said in a recent interview at a museum cafe in Seoul, South Korea, only 150 miles south of the North Korean slave labor camp where he was imprisoned with his family in 1977. He was 9 years old.

Burning with memories of his family's 10-year imprisonment in the camp, which still functions hidden from outside eyes but not from satellite cameras, Mr. Kang teamed up with Pierre Rigoulot, a French journalist, to write a memoir, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag."

... at the urging of former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, President Bush picked it up. Pretty soon, with the president commending it to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top aides, the book jumped to the top of the Bush administration's summer reading list.

On Monday, Mr. Kang, 37, received the ultimate book endorsement when he was ushered into the Oval Office for a 40-minute meeting with Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley....

Assuming Bush has actually read this book, is this really the best use of his time? To read a book that teaches him nothing concrete, and merely reinforces the sense he already has the North Koreans are purely evil?

I don't want any right-wingers to misunderstand my point -- I'm not suggesting that Bush should be reading books about North Korea that say Kim Jong-Il is a swell guy. Obviously the country is a disaster. But what Bush should be reading is something that might actually give him insight into Kim's strengths and weaknesses -- which actually might help him find a way to contain the threat the regime poses and lessen its ability to do harm. Instead, this book seems to be doing nothing for him apart from getting the juices of his self-righteousness flowing:

In late April, the president's reading of "The Aquariums of Pyongyang" seemed to bolster his longstanding hostility toward North Korea. As American diplomats tried to revive stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Mr. Bush told reporters in Washington that Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, was a "dangerous person" who ran "huge concentration camps."

Yes -- much better to rail against the bad guy than to actually diminish the nuclear threat he poses.

But that's Bush. It's said that all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing; there's truth in that, but Bush seems to believe the reverse -- that all that's necessary for good to triumph is for good people to do something -- anything. In the case of Iraq, it's not merely that he doesn't seem to grasp that what he and Rumsfeld have done there isn't working -- it's that he can't even conceive that it won't work sooner or later. After all, we're Good, and the enemy is Evil. We the Good are fighting Evil. Therefore, inevitably, we will win. And maybe that's his approach to North Korea, too -- the way to defeat Evil is to really, really hate it a lot.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Shorter James G. Poulos at the right-wing site Citizen Journal:

The moral well-being of our children is being endangered by wacky typography.

I wish I could tell you I'm making that up, but I'm not:

...The still-accelerating decision by, say, restaurants -- fast-food restaurants particularly, but now, increasingly, sit-down joints as well -- to print their children’s menus or their titles ("Kidz Only," etc.) in "kid-like," zany fonts reflects a conscious and ultimately business-based determination that the presentation of products for children will be more profitable if that presentation is anchored by visual cues that communicate certain characteristics or psychologies.

... Inescapably tied up in the business judgment that children will be more likely to buy (or will be more successful in pestering their parents to buy) products marketed with zany or deliberately outrageous fonts (or misspellings) is a broader, psychologically informed norm that says children ought to be or are inherently zany and deliberately outrageous....

... one can see that the new norm, conveyed by the font-choice version of "coloring outside the lines," has been permitted -- and encouraged -- to extend itself into the actual physical behavior of the children themselves. Regularly, predictably, we are treated to the invasive spectacle of unmanaged children running rampant throughout indoor public places, ducking in and out of clothing racks, rolling about on the floor, and generally causing the low-grade sort of mayhem that makes most shopping centers crass and intolerable places to stroll through....

... a concerted effort to communicate dignity, restraint, and nobility to children and their parents through the use of artful, disciplined fonts in the promotion of children's products would at least make a dent in an otherwise unfettered popular culture of fashionable disobedience and willful slovenliness. At the moment things do not look good on that count. Books by Bennett, Santorum, and Himmelfarb are well outweighed by the full force of popular culture, in print ads as well as television....

There you have it: Kids wouldn't run around so damn much if it weren't for irresponsible font choices! Give 'em a nice, stodgy Times Roman and it might just turn them into marvels of Himmelfarbian rectitude!

He throws Orwell in there, too. No, I'm serious -- Orwell.