Thursday, September 29, 2005

So I have another trip coming up. This one's going to keep me away from blogging until, I think, Monday night. I was hoping to post a bit more -- maybe about the fact that the Pentagon still won't reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased themselves -- but I'll stop for now. Enjoy all the Judy Miller news; I'll see you soon.

A suicide bombing outside an army base in the Afghan capital Kabul killed nine people and injured 28 yesterday, raising fears that insurgents are importing ruthless Iraqi-style tactics into Afghanistan....

Iraq has suffered suicide bombings against members of its fledgling army for months, but such attacks were almost unknown in Afghanistan. Afghan officials believe al-Qaida has renewed its ties with the Taliban. Suspicions were first aroused last June after a suicide bomb in a mosque in the southern city of Kandahar killed 20 people. Since then insurgents have intensified roadside attacks on US and Afghan forces, using increasingly sophisticated remotely-triggered bombs.

In an interview published this week, a Taliban commander boasted he had trained in Iraq for several months and was now bringing his expertise home. "I want to copy in Afghanistan the tactics and spirit of the glorious Iraqi resistance," Muhammad Daud told Newsweek....


(Via Rational Enquirer.)
From Crooks and Liars:

Tom Delay Spin Contest

What will the right wing use as spin to help the hammer? Will it be the "evil" democrats that just want to see him fall?...

Have Republicans said yet that once again we libs and Dems are trying to accomplish via the legal system what we can't accomplish at the ballot box? Have they lumped this indictment with "activist judges" and "frivolous lawsuits" in one big anti-democratic left-wing conspiracy? If not, I predict they will. (In response, someone could, of course, mention the impeachment of a certain Democratic president on much flimsier charges a few years back -- but relax, no one will.)

The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.

...In June, the Pentagon told lawmakers that three Iraqi battalions were fully trained, equipped and capable of operating independently. On Thursday, [General George] Casey said only one battalion is ready.

"It doesn't feel like progress," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Despite the drop, Casey hailed significant progress in training Iraqi security forces and noted that U.S. troops are embedded with more Iraqi units in mentoring roles than before. "Have we lost ground? Absolutely not," Casey said....

In yesterday's The New York Times, Patrick McGeehan provided numbers on that Amtrak fare increase:

...Amtrak plans to sharply reduce the discount it offers to the thousands of Northeastern commuters who buy monthly passes and 10-trip tickets. Under that plan, the monthly tariff for some will rise $150 to $200 on Oct. 16 and an equal amount in February.

For example, the price of a monthly pass that allows unlimited use of certain trains between Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan will rise by $188 to $821 next month, then increase again to $1,008 in February, said Bill Schulz, a spokesman for Amtrak in Washington....

$633 to $1008. That's an increase of 59% in three months.

McGeehan added this:

... some elected officials in Washington said they were surprised that Amtrak revived the plan one day after President Bush had called on Americans to conserve fuel.

Surprised? I'm not surprised. Disgusted, yes. Not surprised.
FEMA -- still screwing up:

Overwhelmed, FEMA closes Texas aid site

HOUSTON - Saying they were caught off-guard by the number of people in need, FEMA officials closed a relief center early on Wednesday after some of the hundreds of hurricane victims in line began fainting in triple-digit heat.

... the agency was not ready for the roughly 1,500 people displaced by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina who sought help at the Houston center when it reopened Wednesday.

...FEMA spokesman Justin Dombrowski said the agency closed the center for the day because of the heat and the unexpectedly large crowds. Those in line were allowed to enter.

FEMA said it would reopen the center today and keep it operating into the evening seven days a week. The agency was also making plans to deal with any similar situation, said Mike Casella, another FEMA spokesman....


"Caught off-guard by the number of people in need"? Crowds that were "unexpectedly large"? How on earth is that possible? Is there anyone on the planet who didn't see Rita coming?

"The agency was also making plans to deal with any similar situation"? After Katrina, wasn't this the "similar situation" they should have had a plan for?


Julia would also like to say a few words about this.

Uncertainty Plagues GOP After DeLay Charges

Troubled Year Gets Worse for the GOP

For G.O.P., DeLay Indictment Adds to a Sea of Troubles

Roberts Is a Shoo-In for Chief Justice
Did you suspect that Abu Azzam, reportedly killed recently and said to be Zarqawi's #2 man, wasn't the first "top Zarqawi lieutenant" to be identified? In Newsweek, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball round up evidence that you're right. The Isikoff/Hosenball story is link-free, but I've added links:

... For nearly two years now, U.S. officials have touted previous arrests or captures ... as developments that would cripple the insurgency.

In January 2004, for example, the U.S. military announced the arrest in Fallajuh of Husam al-Yemeni, who was described in press accounts out of Baghdad as the "right-hand man" of Zarqawi. In November 2004, Iraqi officials announced they had arrested in Mosul a man named Abu Saaed, who was described by the Iraqi national-security adviser as Zarqawi's "alleged lieutenant."

IRAQIS NAB TOP ZARQAWI AIDE read the headline on the Fox News Web site on Jan. 24, 2005, touting the arrest of yet another man, Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi. The Associated Press story reporting al-Jaaf's detention quoted a U.S. military statement describing him as the "most lethal" of Zarqawi's lieutenants, noting that he had been linked to the August 2003 bombing of United Nations headquarters in Baghdad....

As Isikoff and Hosenball note, if someone really can be called Zarqawi's #2, the most likely candidate is a man known as Abu Abdelrahman al-Iraqi. Here's a post on that subject by Evan Kohlmann at Counterterrorism Blog; Kohlmann's one of Isikoff and Hosenball's sources. Abu Abdelrahman al-Iraqi is just fine, thanks.

(Story via Memeorandum.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A couple of days ago I said that illustrations depicted here were actually from the book Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! They're fakes, and that was a dumb mistake on my part.

On the other hand, the publishers of that book describe Andrew Sullivan (who also fell for them) as a "prominent liberal." So I guess we're even.


(Although I will say that Sully, when he's not denouncing "moonbats" and the "loony left," has been doing some very good posts on torture by the military in prisons overseas -- see, for instance, this post. On that, at least, he's on the right side.)
Early reaction to Tom DeLay's indictment in Texas from a reader of National Review Online's Corner, posted by NRO's Rich Lowry:

We really need to hammer home that no "federal case" has been made and there is no suggestion that federal laws....or even rules.....were broken in this matter. Just as with the hurricane response, there is a world of difference between the professionalism of those involved in the federal and state processes....

In other words, Republicans should say that this would count as a "real" indictment only if it came from someone competent, like, er, Brownie.

Yeah, that oughta work.
I became an opera fan. There were not many forms of entertainment. The word "entertainment" was considered a dirty bourgeois word. The opera was something else. It was a proletarian statement. The revolutionary operas created by Madam Mao, Comrade Jiang Ching. To love or not to love the operas was a serious political attitude. It meant to be or not to be a revolutionary. The operas were taught on radio and in school, and were promoted by the neighborhood organizations. For ten years. The same operas. I listened to the operas when I ate, walked and slept. I grew up with the operas. they became my cells....

--Anchee Min, Red Azalea

The modern conservative movement hasn't developed quite so loyal a following for its cultural products, but it's not for lack of trying. Maybe you saw the article in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago about Brad Stine, a right-wing, anti-evolution Christian comic who's itching for mainstream success. Getting somewhat less attention -- at least so far -- are the Right Brothers, a conservative Christian country duo whose lyrics are 100% GOP talking points. The Brothers have a new single -- country but with a jittery soupcon of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," or maybe "Life Is a Rock (but the Radio Rolled Me)." It goes a little bit like this:

Freedom in Afghanistan, say goodbye, Taliban,
Free elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein locked up,
Some are staying underground(?), al-Qaeda now is finding out
America won't turn and run once the fighting has begun,
Libya turns over nukes, Lebanon wants freedom too
Syria is forced to leave, don't you know what all this means?

Bush was riiiight....

Ted Kennedy wrong, Cindy Sheehan wrong, French wrong, Zell Miller right....


Hear a sample at the link above, and click on "Music" for more song samples, lyrics, and videos -- "I Want My Country Back," "The Illegals," "Dear Mr. Reagan" (which, alas, doesn't segue into "You Made Me Love You [I Didn't Want to Do It]"), and more.

The songs are (in an annoying, insidious way) catchy, the musicianship is competent, the Web site is a professional job -- these guys seem kind of legit. But it's weird -- politics is all they sing about.

In the sixties, Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie mixed the political songs with Child ballads. Phil Ochs at one point did Elvis and Buddy Holly covers in concert. And Dylan, obviously, packed even his early topical songs with surreal imagery that transcended politics, then discovered feedback and rejected protest altogether.

The Right Brothers boast that the video for their anti-John Kerry song "The Waffle House" won a "Pollie Award" from the American Association of Political Consultants. Rocknroll!

(See the video here, but be warned: it's annoying and, at least on my PC, plays automatically.)

Brad Stine claims to be a bit less monomaniacal, as that Times article notes -- but only a bit:

In his study in suburban Nashville, Brad Stine was working out a routine about intelligent design. The bit was in its formative stages, but Mr. Stine, a born-again Christian, felt the topic had potential. "I'm trying to find elements of evolution that are suspect," he said, ramping up into character. "Like, if it took a billion years for a bug to develop camouflage, what did he do in the meantime - hiii-iiide?" He sneered the last word into two escalating syllables.

"And then I'll go off and talk about toilet seats," he said.

The Right Brothers' site boasts that theirs is "Issue based Conservative music" (emphasis theirs). Stine's site calls him "America's conservative comedian." (There are other similarities: Stine's latest DVD is called Tolerate This!, which is also the title of a Right Brothers song.)

So, is all this going to work its way into mainstream culture soon? Hard to say. Stine, in particular, desperately wants mainstream acceptance -- but, as The New Yorker noted in this profile from 2004, his circuit is pretty damn insular:

Last year turned out to be one of Stine’s busiest ever. He played dozens of church dates, at five thousand dollars a show.... He recorded his first DVD, “Put a Helmet On!,” at the Thomas Road Baptist Church, in Lynchburg, Virginia -- or, as he sometimes calls it, “Jerry Falwell’s joint.” He went on an eighteen-city tour with the Promise Keepers men’s ministry. He appeared on Pat Robertson’s television show, “The 700 Club,” and he entertained at private holiday parties for the staffs of Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, Falwell’s church, and Promise Keepers....

The Times adds:

In January, he entertained at the Republican House and Senate Retreat at Greenbrier Estate in West Virginia, trading banter with the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and having his photograph taken with Katherine Harris, Dennis Hastert and Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Stine's site lists seven upcoming appearances; four of them are with the Promise Keepers, a fifth at a Baptist church. (Perhaps mainstream bookers are a bit turned off by riffs like this: "To all those powers in ivory towers that -- for too long -- have ignored, censored, refused to tolerate, marginalized, and behaved as closed-minded bigots towards those artists who are politically right-of-center and sincere religious believers: BRACE YOURSELVES... This is the wave of the future…YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET!!!" -- or by the photos section of his site, in which he's pictured with Ann Coulter, Alan Keyes, and right-wing reverend Ron Parsley as well as with Zell Miller and Reverend Pat.)

The Right Brothers' upcoming appearances are at a "Take Georgetown Back" Day at Georgetown University (which I'm guessing has something to do with purging that Catholic institution of gays and liberals) and an "Operation Welcome Home" rally featuring fellow GOP shill Lee Greenwood. They appeared at the anti-Cindy Sheehan "Support the Troops Weekend" rally a couple of days ago. They've also appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (twice -- once in honor of Ronald Reagan, the second time for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth).

Will there eventually be Americans whose pop-culture diet consists of nothing but liberal-bashing? It didn't happen in the sixties -- after a while, even the protesters wanted more than a steady diet of earnest acoustic-guitar topical songs. But this is a weirder crowd.
Gee, I thought all hurricane relief problems were the fault of Louisiana Democrats:

PORT ARTHUR, Texas -- Nearly four days after Hurricane Rita hit, many of the storm's sweltering victims along the Texas Gulf Coast were still waiting for electricity, gasoline, water and other relief Tuesday, prompting one top emergency official to complain that people are "living like cavemen."...

Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz, whose own home was destroyed by fire after the hurricane, said "we've had 101 promises" for aid, "but it's all bureaucracy." ...

John Owens, emergency management coordinator and deputy police chief in the town of 57,000, said pleas for state and federal relief were met with requests for paperwork....

That's AP. Here's the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

..."It's day four and we're still struggling for assets," Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith said. "I've been asking for things, and the government has failed again. There's no way we should have to go through this."

Griffith, speaking at a news conference in Beaumont, said that Jefferson County has submitted hundreds of requests for such items as oxygen for ambulances, generators to restore essential operations and heavy equipment to remove fallen trees and other debris. Only three requests have been filled by state and federal officials, he said.

"We're going to hammer on the government until the people here get the things they need," Griffith said, calling the state and federal response "ridiculous."

Justin DeMelio, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's task force leader for the affected Texas counties, said that FEMA is working through all the requests.

But the requests first must be addressed at the local level, he said. If local officials can't solve a problem, the requests for help go to the state level, then federal....

An earlier story from Beaumont has more:

..."There's a drastic shortage of generators in Beaumont to provide emergency power," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. "There are generators at Ford Park, and FEMA is withholding their release. They want to finish their damage assessment."

Jefferson County officials had a plan to distribute Meals-Ready-to-Eat from local fire stations, the paper said. However, Griffith said the MREs, like the generators, were being withheld by FEMA.

"They won't let us have them," Griffith said. "They said we had to go through the state - which we already did - to get them. I'm going over there (to Ford Park) now to figure this out."...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here's the headline of a Christian Science Monitor story about the killing of Abdullah Abu Azzam, said to be Al Qaeda in Iraq's #2 man: US is logging gains against Al Qaeda in Iraq. But keep reading:

...predicting the real dividends is difficult. "We don't know how many leaders there are, how many experienced cadres there are, how many replacements there are," [Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies] says.

Indeed, the US reported killing or capturing at least eight men said to be "top" members of the Zarqawi network in 2004, which did little to degrade the organization's ability to carry out attacks.

It's also not clear what the US defines as a "senior leader," or how hard they are to replace. General Bergner said Friday that since January, US and Iraqi forces have killed or captured at least 80 "senior leaders" in northern Iraq. However, insurgents have been much stronger in the north in 2005 than in 2004.

And it's not even clear whether we've killed Abu Azzam: November 2004, 70 foreign fighters were alleged to have been killed in a single US bombing run on a mosque in Fallujah, which at that time was controlled by insurgents and was under siege by US Marines.

At the time, some news reports said the emir of Anbar Province, an Iraqi called Omar Hadid, was killed in that attack. Some reports also identified him as Abdullah Abu Azzam....

Oh, and throw in this from Reuters:

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network of al Qaeda-linked insurgents is emerging as a self-sustaining force, despite repeated blows by U.S. forces and the reported death of his second-in-command, U.S. intelligence officials and other experts say.

The Zarqawi network, responsible for some of the Iraqi insurgency's bloodiest attacks, has grown into a loose confederation of mainly native Iraqis trained by former Baath Party regime officers in explosives, small arms, rockets and surface-to-air missiles....

"He has enough force in place to sustain operations," [one intelligence] official [said]. "Al Qaeda in Iraq ... regenerates very quickly. You knock off a guy who's in charge in a certain area, another person steps into the gap."...

Defense and counterterrorism officials said Zarqawi's insurgents have recently been joined by elements of Jaish Mohammad, a 4,000-member insurgent group loyal to Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. The addition gives Zaraqwi new tactical skills inside Baghdad, a defense official said.

Although the Jordanian-born Zarqawi has long been associated with foreign fighters, officials believe 85 to 90 percent of al Qaeda in Iraq's members are Iraqi....

ATLANTA -- The only thing that helped Ashley Smith get through an over-seven-hour ordeal where quadruple murder suspect Brian Nichols held her hostage was her faith in God, Smith told FOX News on Monday.

"I believe that's the only person that helped me through that," she said in an interview with "FOX & Friends." ...

--Fox News, 3/15/05

But maybe God wasn't her only helper....

Ashley Smith, the woman who says she persuaded suspected courthouse gunman Brian Nichols to release her by talking about her faith, discloses in a new book that she gave him methamphetamine during the hostage ordeal.

Smith did not share that detail with authorities at the time. But investigators said she came clean about the drugs when they interviewed her months later. They said they have no plans to charge her with drug possession.

In her book, "Unlikely Angel," released Tuesday, Smith says Nichols had her bound on her bed with masking tape and an extension cord. She says he asked for marijuana, but she did not have any, and she dug into her illegal stash of crystal meth instead....

--AP today

You think folks such as Michele Malkin and Peggy Noonan ("You know she told the truth. It's funny how we all know this") would have lavished praise on Smith if they'd known this?

Smith says the ordeal led her to quit using, which makes it easy for conservative moral simplifiers to define her as a "good" person rather than a "bad" person. But she was "bad" when she became a hero -- which is how it goes sometimes.

What are the vital needs right now in the wake of Katrina and Rita? Housing? Debt relief? A rebuilt levee system? Well, apparently, according to the White House, one vital need is a heart-tugging TV appearance by the First Lady on a top-rated network show:

Laura Bush to appear on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

...Laura Bush will travel to storm-damaged Biloxi, Miss., to film a spot on the feel-good, wish-granting hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Mrs. Bush sought to be on the program because she shares the "same principles" that the producers hold, her press secretary said.

...the show will broadcast from an underserved shelter near Biloxi, where a convoy of trucks stocked with everything from mattresses to pants will arrive, courtesy of Sears, one of the show's sponsors.

It's not clear exactly what Mrs. Bush will do, but Tom Forman, executive producer and creator, said he is hoping that she'll just pitch in and help unload.

"I think we say, 'Mrs. Bush, the stuff is over here, the people are over there, could you grab the other end of that mattress?' " ...

Please note that this was the White House's idea:

The show has been likened to a modern-day "Queen for a Day." But it could be difficult to discern whose fortunes will be lifted higher -- the displaced victims of two hurricanes or the White House, which was widely perceived as slow to understand their pain.

Which is probably why the Bush team contacted the show for a booking instead of the other way around. The series was ranked among the top 15 shows last season with an average 15.8 million viewers. Airing Sunday nights, it is considered one of the strongest family hours on television.

"We got a call from the White House saying, 'What are you doing and if you need help, just let us know,' " Forman said. "We said here's what we're doing and if the first lady would like to join us, we'd love to have her."

Back to the future...


And notice that the show is going to focus on victims from Mississippi, not Louisiana. Think that's an accident -- at a time when some GOP-friendly media outlets, such as The Washington Times, are hinting that Mississippi governor Haley Barbour should be working on his presidential inauguartion speech for 2009 ("His can-do attitude has drawn praise from, among others, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who compared Mr. Barbour’s post-Katrina leadership to that of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani after the September 11 attacks")?


UPDATE: Daniel Kreiss notes that Extreme Makeover is widely praised by Christians ("for my money, the absolute best Christian ministry show on TV today is ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition") -- even though its stories are very often "about the failure of our society to help" people prior to their appearance on the show.

After Rep. David Graves was charged with drunken driving for a second time, he and his lawyer offered a surprising defense:

As a lawmaker, Graves cannot break the law -- at least not while the Legislature is at work.

The Macon Republican is using an obscure provision in the state constitution to argue that he should not be prosecuted for a DUI he received in Cobb County in February, during the 2005 session of the General Assembly.

The centuries-old provision holds that a lawmaker cannot be arrested during sessions of the General Assembly, legislative committee meetings or while they're "in transit," except in cases of "treason, felony, or breach of the peace." ...

Graves -- chairman of the House committee overseeing laws governing the alcohol industry -- has said that on Feb. 15, he and other committee chairmen went from the Capitol to a dinner meeting, where they conferred about the status of legislation and plans for the next legislative day. His lawyer, William C. "Bubba" Head, argues Graves should have been granted immunity from arrest because he was leaving a gathering that was tantamount to a committee meeting, according to legal filings....

--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A somewhat related story from 2003:

...To push its message that Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's alcohol-tax proposal should be defeated in the state legislature, the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association stocked hotel "hospitality suites" for lawmakers. In addition, the state's beer wholesalers association held a $4,700 luncheon for the General Assembly....

The lobbying was successful, as Georgia House of Representatives Speaker Terry Coleman sent the governor's bill to a committee run by a former liquor storeowner. Even Perdue acknowledged that the liquor tax proposal wouldn't pass.

"They have a strong lobby group. Their numbers are few, but they are very involved," said Rep. David Baugh Graves (R-Macon), a member of the House Regulated Industries Committee, which handles liquor bills. "It was dead when it got there."

The governor's proposal would have raised the tax on a six-pack of beer by 14 cents, a bottle of wine by 15 cents, and a bottle of liquor by 50 cents....

I'm not automatically in favor of "sin taxes," but it occurs to me that that tax money might have helped keep Georgia school buses running this week....
An anonymous right-winger has boiled the story of Katrina and Rita down to a nasty little e-mail that's starting to make the rounds:

2 States, 22 Observations

Things I have noticed while watching media coverage of the recent hurricanes.

1. Texas: Productive industrious state run by Republicans.

Louisiana: Government dependent welfare state run by Democrats.

2. Texas: Residents take responsibility to protect and evacuate themselves.

Louisiana: Residents wait for government to protect and evacuate them.

3. Texas: Local and state officials take responsibility for protecting their citizens and property.

Louisiana: Local and state officials blame federal government for not protecting their citizens and property.

4. Texas: Command and control remains in place to preserve order.

Louisiana: Command and control collapses allowing lawlessness....

Is this being happily passed on by many of the people who receive it, regarded as something that cuts through the bullshit and gets to the truth? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised. I'm not sure people would even realize that point #15 ("Louisiana: Over 400 killed by storm, flooding and crime. Texas: 24 killed in bus accident on highway during evacuation, no storm related deaths") is simply untrue. (Apart from the victims of the bus explosion, at least ten Texas have died as a result of Rita.)

And I don't know what the writer of this would say about solidly red Mississippi, with its 218 hurricane-related deaths -- or, for that matter, what the writer would say about a certain sudden loss of life up here in blue New York City one day four years ago. Hey, we voted for Clinton and Gore (and Chuck Schumer and Hillary), and we believe in government social programs -- maybe the deaths of 9/11 were our fault, right?

Monday, September 26, 2005


If your well-known blog is going to call for an investigation of the mainstream media because the "MSM" reported stories about lawlessness in New Orleans that turned out not to be true, you might want to go back and be absolutely certain that you and your blog partners didn't help convey the same erroneous impression.
Rush Limbaugh has the unmitigated gall to refer to the Democratic senator from Louisiana as "Baby Fat Landrieu"?


(UPDATE: Link changed. The item I was quoting was here, but it's now behind a firewall. And I guess the full version is "Mary Cute Little Baby Fat Landrieu." Is any other right-winger still doing that tired oh-aren't-gals-cute-when-they-try-to-be-serious bit?)
This is from I don't know what the hell to make of it:

Word in legal circles is that Priscilla Owen is set to become the next justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Unfortunately, I have received reliable information late this afternoon that Karl Rove, among others, is making a last minute push for the President to consider Alberto Gonzales, despite previous assurances from inside the White House, Justice Department, and Senate that Gonzales was not being considered.

...This afternoon I contacted my White House source who says Karl Rove "believes that Gonzales is conservative and, given the current docket, will have time to prove it before midterm elections."

...One last point from my White House source. The source says some conservatives inside the White House, including the source, feel some "conservative frustration," i.e. conservatives are being seen, but not heard.

Bush has already pissed off the right by not embracing the idea of a crackdown on immigration, and by calling for a big federal relief program for the Gulf region without draconian offsetting cuts in spending. If there's any truth to this rumor and he does pick Gonzales, I think this really could be strike three for him with the base.

If this rumor is true, I don't believe it's Rove who really wants Gonzales. (If Rove thinks the selection of a Hispanic justice would persuade Latinos to pull the lever for the GOP in future elections, surely there are other Hispanic candidates who would pass the right's litmus tests.) I think it's all Bush. I think he thinks he's the president of the United States, dammit, and he should be able to pick his pal for the Supreme Court if he wants to. Well, tough for him: He's a pawn of the interest groups that vetted him in 2000 and declared him acceptable as the GOP's candidate. He's in for a fight if he tries to cross them.

If I were a Democratic officeholder, I'd be taunting the sonofabitch in public statements: "The president would like to nominate Alberto Gonzales, but he has to answer to right-wing special interest groups who've told him they won't accept Gonzales because he doesn't pass certain litmus tests." Why the hell not? Why not try to formulate a new narrative about Bush, one in which he's pathetic and weak? Why is there still a perception that only the Democrats are beholden to interest groups, while Republicans are firm-jawed lone wolves who answer only to God and their own moral compasses? Bush still benefits from that perception, even now.
Shorter Free Republic cultural critics:

Saturday Night Live picked the critically acclaimed, massively popular Kanye West to be the new season's first musical guest because he hates Bush.

(Well, they don't have a clue. West had ten Grammy nominations last year, reached #1 in the '04 Village Voice critics' poll, sold at least 860,000 copies of the new album in its first week in release, hit #1 on the charts with a single from that album ... but a Freeper says, "Nobody ever heard of this Kanye West before a few weeks ago, and his ad lib outburst at that awards show (that nobody watched) had the desired effect - - to get West's name in the news.")

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Jim Sleeper was once an interesting social commentator, but of late he has increasingly become a cranky and unreliable political ideologue.

--Opening sentence of a letter in The New York Times Book Review by David Horowitz, 9/25/05


In an ad hominem smear, characteristic of the new Jim Sleeper, the essay closes by insinuating that because the Swift boat veteran John O'Neill is on my board I can't have much regard for the truth. John O'Neill has more integrity in his big toe than is to be found in Jim Sleeper's entire writing body.

--closing sentences of the same letter
SEN. BROWNBACK: And I would hope we wouldn't have litmus tests on judges. It used to be that, OK, Ronald Reagan was accused of a litmus test on judge. We shouldn't have a litmus test from the left or the right on judges. And I think it'd be fair to say that that should be a standard for both sides.

--Meet the Press, 2/24/02

Sen. Sam Brownback voted Thursday in favor of Judge John Roberts to become the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court but said he wants to see future nominees more clearly oppose abortion rights.

"The next nominee should let the political branches make political choices and should have a record of devotion to life and liberty that our Constitution protects," the Kansas Republican said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

--AP, 9/22/05
So Ralph Nader was one of the featured speakers at yesterday's antiwar protest in D.C.?

Isn't honoring him with a place at the podium at an anti-Bush rally our side's version of the Bush decision to give Presidential Medals of Freedom to Paul Bremer and George Tenet?
Rita was no Katrina. But it did a bit of damage:

James Gunter, the fire chief in Jasper, Tex., about 70 miles north of the coast, said in a interview with KHOU-TV early in the morning: "We've had fires in the county that we have not been able to respond to - won't be able to respond to, period. The entire county is without power."

Chief Gunter added, "We can go out on the south side of our building and we can look to the south and we can see nothing less than utter devastation."

Hmmm ... Jasper, Texas?

This Jasper, Texas?

Maybe the religious people are right -- maybe these storms really are God's punishment.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

In The New York Times, Peter Steinfels notes that there's more to the Catholic Church's seminary project than just keeping gay men out of the priesthood:

...The Vatican instruction outlining the project contains 96 questions "as a guide" for the teams of visitors who will interview students and faculty members at approximately 200 seminaries and submit their findings to Rome....

There are no explicit questions about the seminarians' capacities for initiative, creativity or imaginative and consultative leadership....

There is no explicit question about concern for social justice, unless that could be assumed under a single reference to "apostolic zeal." By comparison, there are numerous questions specifically asking about recitation of the rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Mary and the saints and many other "exercises of piety."

A single question asks whether seminarians are being taught "a proper understanding of the role of women in ecclesial life" and "the proper models of clergy-lay cooperation." The next question makes clear that what is "proper" is to be found in statements by Pope John Paul II and his Vatican officials.

Of the 96 questions, just these two address the intellectual potential of future priests:

"Do the seminarians show an aptitude for and dedication to intellectual work?"

And "Are the seminarians capable of dialoguing, on the intellectual level, with contemporary society?" ...

In fact, that single question about dialoguing with contemporary society is followed by, "Do their studies help them to respond to contemporary subjectivism and, in particular, to moral relativism? (This question must be answered.)"

That's what we have to look forward to: a know-nothing church that's obsessed with ritual and conformity and that continues to keep women as well as gay people in their place.

Pope Benedict may not succeed in getting the Catholic Church recognized as part of the religious right, but if not, it won't be for lack of trying.

(By the way, that bit about "proper models of clergy-lay cooperation" is a euphemistic way of saying "We run everything, and the laity has to learn to cooperate." Groups that arose to confront the church on sexual abuse have called for a less top-down church, with little success.)

Friday, September 23, 2005


ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked public schools around the state to cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday of next week, an effort to conserve gasoline supplies.

Perdue held a news conference at 4 p.m. where he announced the plan. The request was not mandatory and it was not clear what districts will comply with the request.

However, officials at Atlanta and DeKalb public schools said they will honor the governor's request....

--WSB TV, Atlanta

I thought we were the greatest country in the world. I thought we were the richest country in the world. Yes, we've taken a number of hits recently, but we're number one, right? Why can't we can't the damn schools open?

Juan Cole writes:

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called Thursday for Iraqis to vote "yes" on the new Iraqi constitution in the referendum on October 15, according to Reuters....

Good news for the White House, right?

Yeah, sure. But read on:

An envoy of Sistani recently met with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Iran's clerical Expediency Council and a candidate in last June's presidential election. Rafsanjani praised the new Iraqi constitution.

Assuming that IRNA [Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency] got it right, the following quote is breathtaking: ' Concerning the western countries trouble making for Iran in its peaceful nuclear energy program, Ayatollah Sistani's envoy said, " the arrogant powers do not want a powerful and free Iran to emerge as a pattern for the whole Islamic world." '

Cole's gloss on this:

The Americans have for some time claimed Sistani as a "moderate" and even though he would not meet with them, have assumed that his vision of the future of Iraq is broadly complementary to their own. If Sistani is openly supporting Iran's nuclear program and denouncing the US as 'arrogant", this is a new development that will be most unwelcome to Washington.


On the other side:

About 150 clerics and tribal leaders from Iraq's Sunni Arab minority called for the rejection of the country's draft constitution in an upcoming referendum, saying on Thursday that it would lead to the fragmentation of Iraq....

That may not work -- but meanwhile, Sunnis in certain Baghdad neighborhoods seem to be engaging in what two Knight Ridder reporters call ethnic cleansing:

The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad neighborhoods is proceeding at an alarming and potentially destabilizing pace....

A 22-year-old Baghdad University student said that in June, a Sunni militia group threatened to kill her family if they didn't move out of their home in Ghazilyah, a mostly Sunni neighborhood.

The student, who didn't want to be identified because she feared for her life, said she and her family left two hours later. They haven't been back since; they are spread out in several Shiite neighborhoods.

Of the 70 homes on her former street, Shiite families used to live in 27 of them. Now, only two Shiite families remain, she said....

In Amiriyah, one 28-year-old Shiite shop owner who feared giving his name said two of his Shiite customers were killed three weeks ago as they walked out of his shop....

The man said he's closed his shop and is looking to reopen in Kadhimiya, a mostly Shiite neighborhood....

Oh, and in the south, it goes the other way:

Many Sunni families also have fled the predominantly Shiite southern city of Basra, which has become dominated by rival Shiite militia groups.

What a mess.

(Last link via Rational Enquirer.)
FEMA -- still screwing up, according to The Washington Post:

...FEMA initially ordered 125,000 trailers that it planned to deploy as close as possible to affected cities, following a playbook the agency relied on after four Florida hurricanes and its New Orleans exercise last year. In the days after Katrina hit, FEMA officials ... hoped to install 30,000 homes every two weeks and planned vast campuses of as many as 15,000 units, according to various media reports.

Testifying to Congress last week, David Roberson, speaking for the Manufactured Housing Institute, noted production capacity limits and said that the industry built 130,000 homes in all of 2004.

Therefore, as the story says, the order for trailers "may take as long as 12 months to fill."

Wouldn't it have been nice if someone at FEMA had a frigging clue about how fast these manufactured homes could be built before a decision was made to rely on them so heavily?

But there is a Plan B:

On Sept. 14, a unanimous Senate adopted an alternative to trailers, providing $3.5 billion in HUD rental vouchers to Katrina victims -- as much as $10,000 each for 350,000 families -- for six to 12 months.

A House proposal for 50,000 vouchers is pending, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said.

That should be expedited right away, no? Er, no:

GOP sources say they are waiting for a response from the Bush administration, which one official said is not expected until mid-October.

That's right: mid-October. Maybe Bush should be his own FEMA director -- he's already got the dawdling down pat.

Oh, but there's a reasonable explanation:

The topic is politically sensitive. In his 2006 budget, Bush proposed ratcheting back the HUD Section 8 housing voucher program for the poor as well as related community programs.

See, if you're the president, it's much more important to stick to your political guns than to find a way to house hundreds of thousands of homeless citizens -- isn't it?

A group of House Republicans have proposed a plan to offset the costs of relief and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that includes trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care....

Service members would be offered cash if they are willing to accept reduced health care benefits for their families.... Reduced health care benefits could save $2.4 billion over 10 years....

--Navy Times

Incidentally the annual pay of Gregory Burke, a private first class stationed in Iraq who's included on New York magazine's annual "Who Makes How Much" list this week, is $18,444. This includes $130 a month in hazardous-duty pay. Yeah, he gets room and board. You and I, on the other hand, have a much decreased likelihood of permanent disability from being blown up by an IED on the job.

Needless to say, as David Sirota and others have pointed out, nothing's going to cause the Republicans to rethink their precious tax cuts. Reuters:

The recovery from Hurricane Katrina may temporarily sideline some parts of U.S. President George W. Bush's domestic agenda, including efforts to make the administration's tax cuts permanent, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Tuesday....

The White House, however, said that while recovery from Katrina was a top priority, the administration remained committed to its economic agenda.

House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay declined to comment on Snow's remark, but said House Republicans were not reconsidering their push to extend Bush's tax cuts.

"We are not reexamining that. That is raising taxes and I just stated that's not an option," he said during a weekly media conference. "Raising taxes would be the worst thing to do in this situation. We've got a growing economy and to pour cold water on that growing economy by raising taxes is not an option."...

The bloviators at the Heritage Foundation are taking the same tack, describing a choice not to make the tax cuts permanent as a "tax increase" and saying that making that choice will hurt flood victims. Shameless.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


A press release from PRWEB:

An unlikely children's book has stepped forward to challenge "Harry Potter" for the #1 ranking on's bestseller list....

"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" (Kids Ahead; hardcover $15.95; ISBN 0976726904) by Katharine DeBrecht soared to #6 in Amazon's overall rankings on Wednesday afternoon after being praised by talk radio king Rush Limbaugh on his national radio show. The illustrated book ranked second only to J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in Amazon's children's book category, and was also ranked as #8 overall on Barnes & Noble's site....

"Our hat is off here to Katharine DeBrecht, the author of 'Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed,'" Limbaugh proclaimed to his audience, adding that left-wing critics were upset about DeBrecht's book because of its accurate parody of the liberal movement. "I'm telling you, the liberals cringe -- they go ape! -- when you dare be honest about them. They call it an attack!" Limbaugh added....

It's true: the book's #10 at Amazon as I write this and #5 at B&N. Either many right-wing Americans are responding dutifully to the same message sent to their brain implants or Scaife is now bulk-buying picture books. (Or perhaps the pink-cheeked mogul who published Help! Mom! is bypassing the foundations and doing the bulk-buying himself.)

But hey, I can see why the book is taking off -- little kids just love humor like this:

Former Presidential Candidate and Chairman of Liberaland Socialist Party (LSP), Mayor Leach comes from a long line of Leaches in politics. Because of his family name, he has earned millions from fundraising and speaking engagements. He too has never held a private sector job or owned a home. He has successfully survived numerous scandals involving interns, adult beverages and movie stars to become the longest serving Mayor of the LSP.

Yup -- "Mayor Leach" is Ted Kennedy! Aren't your pre-schoolers just obsessed with Chappaquiddick?

Scroll down to #10 here and see more wholesome kids' fun from the book. (I guess it's OK to say "assless chaps" in a kids' book if it's right-wing!)


UPDATE: It appears that the illustrations in the link immediately above are fakes, though Andrew Sullivan and Thayne Currie of Mozart's Ghost were also fooled. The book, however, is real.

This is weird:

Berezovsky comes to Latvia over "education projects"

RIGA. Sept 21 (Interfax) - Russian business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who lives in exile in London, arrived in Latvia on Wednesday and told Interfax that he would stay in the Baltic country "for a couple of days" and focus on "education projects" during his visit.

Berezovsky pointed out that he is one of the shareholders of Ignite! Inc., an educational software company. U.S. President George W. Bush's brother Neil Bush is the company's chairman and chief executive.

--Interfax (Russia)

Here's a similar brief item from Russia's RIA-Novosti.

I'm no expert on Berezovsky. Wikipedia tells us:

Berezovsky's image among Russians is generally poor; many consider him the most unlawful and unethical of the oligarchs and blame him especially for the country's economic collapse. A 1996 Forbes magazine article titled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" portrayed Berezovsky as a mafia boss who had his rivals murdered. Berezovsky sued the magazine for libel, and the dispute was ultimately settled with the magazine retracting both claims. He is also the subject of a book of the same name, also by Paul Klebnikov, that has not been contested. The article's author, Paul Klebnikov, subsequently became the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes and was murdered in Moscow on 9 July 2004. He was reportedly shot four times as he left work and died shortly thereafter.

The Forbes article is here.

For a taste of how idiotic some of Ignite!'s software is, go here.

Neil Bush, of course, needs no introduction.
But ... but didn't right-wingers tell us that escaping a hurricane was easy if your elected officials weren't Democrats and you had a sense of personal responsibility and lived in an area where the average rate of melanin wasn't too high?

Leaving Houston? Good luck

Sixteen hours to San Antonio and Dallas. Eleven hours to Austin. With over a million people trying to flee vulnerable parts of the Houston area, Hurricane Rita has already become a nightmare even for those who left last night....

Gary and Sunni Markowitz left Bellaire at 5:30 a.m. today but after six hours were only 20 miles into their trip to Austin.

With three children and a nanny in tow, they had run through three DVDs and all the snacks in the minivan. Their two-year-old was crying. A friend who was following them in another car with two children had already turned around for home, and they were seriously thinking about it themselves.

When she hit the Crosstimbers exit, she gave up and headed back.

"I guess we should have left Monday,'' she said....

Some are already saying, however, that the evacuation didn't have to be this bad. 

Houston City Councilman M.J. Kahn wondered today why the Texas Department of Transportation didn't reverse the traffic flow on freeways when the evacuation order was given Tuesday. Once inbound lanes of I-45 were turned into outbound lanes today, traffic quickly speeded up. 

"Why wasn't TxDot on the same page?" he asked.... 

Officials in coastal counties south of Houston were questioning why Houston called for such an early  mandatory evacuation of its residents in Clear Lake and east side neighborhoods along the Ship Channel. By beginning evacuations on Wednesday, said Brazoria County Judge John Willy, more vulnerable coastal residents were prevented from making a quick exodus through Houston and to their shelters further inland....

The crush of people seeking to get out of Hurricane Rita's path, however, spurred Greyhound Bus Lines to halt ticket sales at its main Houston terminal today.

"Too many people are showing up,'' said company spokesman Eric Wesley in Dallas. "We want people to know that they shouldn't come to the terminal to buy a ticket. There's no more room on the buses.''...

--Houston Chronicle/wire services

...gas shortages were reported Thursday as hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston metropolitan area rushed to get out of the path of Hurricane Rita, a monster storm with 165 mph winds....

Service stations reported running out of gasoline, and police officers along the highways carried gas to motorists who ran out. Texas authorities also asked the Pentagon for help in getting gasoline to drivers stuck in traffic....

Remember this:

Economy was wavering before Katrina

The U.S. economy may have been losing steam even before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August, a gauge of likely future conditions showed on Thursday as Hurricane Rita bore down on the Texas oil patch.

Leading economic indicators fell by 0.2 percent in August, slightly less than the median forecast for a 0.3 percent decline, according to the New York-based Conference Board....

July's indicators were revised to show a 0.1 percent drop from an original 0.1 percent increase.

The index has risen only 1.9 percent over the past year....


A bit more detail, from MarketWatch:

Consumer expectations was the biggest contributor to the decline in the index....

Even before the storm, levels of business investment and hiring "reflect a level of caution about pricing and profit potential," [Ken] Goldstein [of the Conference Board] said....

If the economy dips into recession, the Bushies will put all the blame on the storms. They'll expect you to forget this.

Who knew he admired the tactics of Mao's Cultural Revolution?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign posted a form on its Web site asking Californians for stories about inferior teachers to support the ballot initiative to lengthen teachers' probationary period.

The form was then removed Wednesday after an Associated Press reporter called to inquire about it.

Posted on the Web site the form asked: "Have a story about a teacher who just might not be cut out for the job, yet nothing can be done because of tenure? Please tell us. We'd like to share the stories of Californians like you!"

It was part of Schwarzenegger's campaign in favor of Proposition 74, which would boost the probationary period for new teachers to five years from two years....

The form used to be here. Google has it cached here.

Note the wording: "We'd like to share the stories." This isn't about traditional whistle-blowing -- reporting waste, fraud, and incompetence in the conduct of government business so it can be properly investigated. It sounds as if Arnold wasn't even going to bother with the investigations, or at most was going to have cursory checks done, and he was simply going to start telling the stories in public.

And the big tough guy, of course, backed off the minute he was challenged.

(Via DU.)

The president of the United States, in a speech yesterday:

If you want to grow something, you shouldn't tax it. If you want to encourage small business growth, we ought to incent it to grow in that part of the world.


Maybe it's in the OED, but it's not in my unabridged. Remember, this was a speech, not off-the-cuff remarks. Is he telling the speechwriters, "I don't care if it's a word -- I like it, I'm putting it in, and you can find another job if you've got a problem with it"?


UPDATE: In comments, PartisanJ (and others) point out that "incent" has been deemed a real word by lexicographers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

You know about Tribute in Light, right? The blue-light representation of the World Trade Center that's been mounted several times in the towers' place?

When you see it, what do you think?

Here's what Rush Limbaugh thinks: "Neat backdrop for the cover of my newsletter."

Does Kozlowski's Sentence Fit the Crime?

... defense lawyers and, increasingly, many others are wondering if white-collar criminals are being treated too harshly.


While recent lengthy sentences for white-collar crimes have been hailed by some as desperately needed deterrents after a deluge of corporate scandals, the sentencing of Mr. Kozlowski, 58, comes at a time when a number of lawyers, including former prosecutors, are questioning whether such sentences are justified.

--New York Times

Jail sentence for Dennis Kozlowski, if he serves the minimum: 8.333 years

Average sentence in Alabama for marijuana possession: 8.4 years

I think Kozlowski got off easy.
The Washington Nationals suspended a volunteer chaplain and distributed an apology from outfielder Ryan Church yesterday, two days after Church was quoted in a front-page Post article as suggesting that Jews are headed for eternal damnation...

An article in Sunday's paper about Baseball Chapel quoted Church as saying that he had turned to [chaplain Jon] Moeller for advice about his former girlfriend, who was Jewish. "I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word," Church said....

--Washington Post today

WASHINGTON - Two hours before the city officially ended its 34-year-long off-season, starting center field Ryan Church was hoping for a few inspirational words from his leader.

Not from Frank Robinson, manager of the Washington Nationals, but President George W. Bush, the man who makes out the lineup card for the free world. "It would be a thrill to meet him,'' said Church, a long way from Canal Park where he spent two seasons (2002-03) with the Akron Aeros. "I'd like to talk to him -- and not just because I'm a Republican.''...

--Akron Beacon-Journal, 4/15/05


Original Washington Post article on Baseball Chapel here. Baseball Chapel Web site here -- and note that, as the site says, this isn't some ad hoc thing: Baseball Chapel "is an international ministry recognized by Major and Minor League Baseball and is responsible for the appointment and oversight of all team chapel leaders (over 400 throughout professional baseball)."


Oh, and of course Vince Nauss, the president of Baseball Chapel, is a Bush donor.
I usually don't pay any attention to the overhyped Power Line, but this is just idiotic -- one of the Power Liners is taking issue with the hated Dan Rather, who, among other things, praised news coverage of Katrina:

...maybe Rather was happiest with the bogus death count estimate of 10,000 that the MSM put forth. I'm partial to this one because it springs, in part, from a central fallacy of the leftism of the MSM and others -- that people have no capacity to act without the government's help.

Excuse me, but for quite a while after 9/11, the estimated death toll was 7,000. When the dust settled, it turned out that the death toll was less than half that. Whose fault was it that that estimate was high? Liberals'?


(TBogg has more on the estimate.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

If you were in the electoral-vote-rich battleground state of Florida for the 2004 hurricane season, there's a good chance that FEMA just threw money at you, even if you weren't in dire need. Maryland, unfortunately, isn't a battleground state and 2003 wasn't an election year, so, as ABC News reported tonight, state residents who suffered flooding that year were screwed by FEMA -- a possible harbinger of what's to come for Katrina victims:

...Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 4.5 million people pay premiums to be covered up to a maximum of $250,000. Residents have to pay extra to cover household goods.

"My first thing was, 'We have flood insurance,'" recalled Jennifer Dieux of Shady Side, Md. Her home was hit by the Chesapeake Bay flood surge. "It's not going to matter. We're covered. We're going to be fine," Dieux remembers thinking.

Two years later, Dieux and her family are still living in a government-provided camper parked in front of their flood-ruined home, which they cannot afford to fix.

While mold and mildew have spread up the walls to the ceiling, the flood insurance program, which is run by FEMA, only pays to replace those portions actually touched by the storm's water.

Adjusters offered only $44,000 for the necessary repairs. Builders say $115,000 is needed to restore the home to its pre-flood condition.

"We have no savings, nothing," Dieux admits. "We have no way to pay for it."

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer told ABC News that FEMA adjusters systematically low-balled the losses of Maryland flood victims....

Here's the "Flood Insurance: What & Why?" page from FEMA's It says, "The benefits of flood insurance coverage are many." One of the promised benefits is that the coverage

Compensates for all covered losses

If you're in a traditionally blue state, apparently not.


ER...: Yeah, Floridians got screwed by FEMA, too:

..."The initial shock's over," said Richard Amell, who has been living in a camper with his family for eight months while they fight with insurance companies and the government to repair a northwest Florida home that Hurricane Ivan blew apart....

Amell had insurance, but he received just $150,000, far below what he believes he lost. He was denied assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and hired an attorney to fight his insurance company....
You may have seen this story:

One of the most wanted war criminals is being shielded by the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican hierarchy, the United Nations' chief prosecutor for former Yugoslavia said yesterday.
Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the UN international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said she believed that Gen[eral] Ante Gotovina was being sheltered in a Franciscan monastery in his native Croatia.

The Vatican could probably pinpoint exactly which of Croatia's 80 monasteries was sheltering him "in a few days", Mrs del Ponte told The Daily Telegraph at her offices in The Hague.

Instead, she had been "extremely disappointed" to encounter a wall of silence from the Vatican....

A former French foreign legion officer, he is accused of overseeing and permitting the killing of at least 150 Serb civilians and the forced deportation of between 150,000 and 200,000 others after Operation Storm, a 1995 offensive to reimpose Croatian control over the Krajina region....

Two years ago, the United States offered a reward for Gotovina's capture. But here's an interesting detail about him:

...He finished his service in the [French Foreign] Legion in 1979, obtaining French citizenship.

Later he was employed by a private security company and trained paramilitaries in Argentina and Guatemala....

In the 1980s? Really? He worked for our authoritarian Latin American pals?

Yup, that's what it says at this pro-Gotovina site: 1982 he went as an instructor to Guatemala, Col[o]mbia and Paraguay. He spent most of the 1980s in Latin America....

There you go. A generation ago, this apparent war criminal was working for our thug pals in Latin America.
A couple of months ago, The New York Times noted that quite a few scientists just don't feel like sticking up for evolution if it means they actually have to talk to people who don't agree with them:

When the Kansas State Board of Education decided to hold hearings this spring on what the state's schoolchildren should be taught about evolution, Dr. Kenneth R. Miller was invited to testify....

Dr. Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University, a co-author of widely used high school and college biology texts, an ardent advocate of the teaching of evolution - and a person of faith....

But Dr. Miller declined to testify. And he was not alone. Mainstream scientists, even those who have long urged researchers to speak with a louder voice in public debates, stayed away from Kansas.

In general, they offered two reasons for the decision: that the outcome of the hearings was a foregone conclusion, and that participating in them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution.

"We on the science side of things strong-armed the Kansas hearings because we realized this was not a scientific exchange, it was a political show trial," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution. "We are never going to solve it by throwing science at it."

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a large organization of researchers and teachers, and the publisher of the journal Science, also declined to participate....

Today the Times, gratifyingly, finds that there are at least a few evolution supporters who don't throw up their hands when they realize they might get their hair mussed:

Lenore Durkee, a retired biology professor, was volunteering as a docent at the Museum of the Earth here when she was confronted by a group of seven or eight people, creationists eager to challenge the museum exhibitions on evolution.

They peppered Dr. Durkee with questions about everything from techniques for dating fossils to the second law of thermodynamics, their queries coming so thick and fast that she found it hard to reply....

That encounter and others like it provided the impetus for a training session here in August. Dr. Durkee and scores of other volunteers and staff members from the museum and elsewhere crowded into a meeting room to hear advice from the museum director, Warren D. Allmon, on ways to deal with visitors who reject settled precepts of science on religious grounds.

Similar efforts are under way or planned around the country as science museums and other institutions struggle to contend with challenges to the theory of evolution that they say are growing common and sometimes aggressive....

Bravo to the museum directors. To the rest of you? Thanks for nothing.

Look, I don't want to downplay the unpleasantness of all this. But this is a war for the minds of American children, now and in the future, and it's a war we have to win. Knowledgeable people have to stand up and tell the evolution opponents, politely but firmly, why they're wrong. Retreat to an ivory tower is not an option. The zealots aren't going to be swayed, but fence-sitters, especially in communities with a strong anti-evolution presence, need to hear from people who argue as forcefully for evolution as the zealots do for the other side.

Oddly, we learn from the first article that Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education thought it was pointless to send an evolution defender to Kansas, while from the second article we learn that Dr. Scott is developing training programs for museum personnel. Maybe we should stop expecting museum staffers to do the arrow-catching all by themselves and put a few academic superstars through that training.
By the way, don't forget that young women in the North Marianas Islands -- a U.S. territory -- were apparently forced into sex slavery, and required to have abortions, while fine folks such as Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and newly indicted White House aide-until-just-a-few-days-ago David Safavian worked to keep the Marianas exempt from various U.S. laws relating to human trafficking, sexual abuse, and civil rights, not to mention the minimum wage. Over at Sisyphus Shrugged, Julia has a roundup of the relevant news stories.
According to The Washington Post, the Bush administration is having a bit of trouble finding recruits for its latest crusade:

Early last month, the [FBI's] Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

A few of the printable samples:

"Things I Don't Want On My Résumé, Volume Four."

"I already gave at home."

"Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves."...

According to a story a reader recently sent me (thanks), the FBI's having similar problems in Florida:

...[U.S. Attorney Alex] Acosta, a Miami native who formerly held a high-level position in the Justice Department, is having a hard time persuading other law enforcement officials in South Florida, including his own assistant U.S. attorneys, to join the anti-porn crusade.

Sources say Acosta was told by the FBI officials during last month's meeting that obscenity prosecution would have to be handled by the crimes against children unit. But that unit is already overworked and would have to take agents off cases of child endangerment to work on adult porn cases. Acosta replied that this was Attorney General Gonzales' mandate.

Acosta's meetings with other law enforcement agencies also were not particularly fruitful, sources said....

The Gonzales Justice Department is focusing on porn produced by and for consenting adults because the religious right is obsessed with porn, particularly with the notion of porn addiction. Right-wingers in Congress, including Katherine Harris, Mike Pence, and Sam Brownback, have held hearings on porn addiction.

This, by the way, is not like, say, rescuing people who are drowning in a hurricane -- there's a consensus among porn opponents that's it's really, really important for the federal government to leap in forcefully and help local authorities:

...[Randy] Sharp [of the American Family Association] said the initiative is necessary because local law enforcement and city attorneys get "crushed" by high-powered lawyers hired by adult book stores or video stores when there are efforts to shut those establishments down.

"You need the federal government to assist," said Sharp....

Alex Acosta, the U.S. attorney in Florida, was visible before the 2004 election, focusing on human trafficking. Here he is hosting an "Ask the White House" online chat on human trafficking. Here he is giving a speech on the subject. Here's George W. Bush giving a speech on the subject.

Human trafficking is bad. It's also a big issue for religious conservatives. One can't help but think that the Bush administration focused on that issue before the election (don't want to lose the votes of those "South Park conservatives"!), then switched to porn after the election was won.


I just want to add that if the Justice Department wanted to redouble its efforts against human trafficking, and if this were to result in the prosecution of pornographers who are linked to human trafficking, no reasonable person would object. I think that would be a popular decision. (The people at the Lifetime cable channel seem to agree.) But that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

In a TV interview yesterday, Bill Clinton "ripped" White House policies. The blogging right freaked. But not a certain Republican gray eminence....

Bush 41: I Still Like Clinton

Thirty-six hours after ex-president Bill Clinton bashed and trashed his son on everything from his handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis to the Iraq war, former president George H.W. Bush says he still likes Clinton.

Appearing during commercial breaks on ABC's "Monday Night Football," the president's father was asked how he and Clinton managed to get along.

"I like him," Bush 41 said, despite the verbal thrashing Clinton administered to his son on ABC's "This Week" the day before.

Given two more opportunities to comment on his relationship with Clinton, Bush Sr. declined to say a single negative word about his successor....


Hey, do you suppose this was like Brent Scowcroft's anti-Iraq war op-ed -- an attempt by Poppy to get a message through Junior's thick skull by means of a surrogate? You think Dad might have been in on this?
Interesting online poll here -- but I'm afraid it's a trick question. I think there's no simple answer to "How long will George W. Bush's summer vacation be in 2006?" I think it'll be a really long vacation, just like his others, but it won't be called a vacation -- the White House will inform us that it's a "working relocation" or a "change of White House venue," or use some other Orwellian weasel-phrase, and if Bush is back up over 45% in the polls, the press will meekly go along, even though it's in Crawford and involves (this time strictly off-camera) brush-clearing and long bike rides and so on, and and even if the duration is five or six weeks.
What a mess in Basra:

British troops arrested in Basra

Two British soldiers have been arrested in the southern Iraq city of Basra, sparking clashes outside a police station where they are being held....

Two British tanks, sent to the police station where the soldiers are being held, were set alight in clashes....

Tensions have been running high in the city since the arrest of a senior figure in the Shia Mehdi Army by UK troops....


British Tanks Crash Through Basra Jail Walls, Freeing to Captured Britons

In a major show of force, British soldiers used tanks to break down the walls of the central jail in this southern city late Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos, who had been arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen.

About 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades, said Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail. Earlier Monday, demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at British tanks, and at least four people were killed.

The fighting in the oil city of Basra, 340 miles south of the capital, erupted after British armor encircled the jail where the two Britons were being held. During the melee one British soldier could be seen in a photograph scrambling for his life from a burning tank and the rock-throwing mob.

Arab satellite television stations showed pictures of two Western men sitting on the floor of the jail building with their hands tied behind their backs.

One of the men had a bandage covering most of the top of his head, the other had blood on his clothes. Television commentary identified them only as Britons....


Iraqi Journalist Working With The New York Times Is Abducted and Killed in Basra

An Iraqi journalist working for The New York Times was killed after men claiming to be police officers abducted him from his home in the southern city of Basra, the newspaper announced Monday.

Fakher Haider, a 38-year-old reporter covering Basra, was found dead in a deserted area on the city's outskirts Monday morning after his abduction late Sunday night.

Relatives identified the body at the city morgue and said he appeared to have been shot more than once in the head. His back was bruised, suggesting he had been beaten, the Times said...

I seem to recall that it was vitally important not to elect another Democratic president after Carter, and then again after Clinton, because only under a Republican could we be sure that America would be "respected in the world."

Well, gosh, are we respected now. The blog of The Brussels Journal ("The Voice of Conservatism in Europe") reports:

"Down with America" is the title of a recent song by the popular Belgian musician Raymond van het Groenewoud. Written in Dutch and published by EMI , "Weg met Amerika" ("Down with America") will be available in record shops as of next week, and was played on Belgian state radio last Thursday and Friday.  Here is a quote from the lyrics of the song:

Hamburgers and coke, yes you already knew
But do you also know the cause of the general decay?
Short-sighted thinking, loud talking
Sticking to one-liners forever
Down with America! Down with the jerks from America
Down with America! [...]

Down with American colonialism
Down with that ugly, biting English
All the Anglo-Saxon pretence, arrogance
Yes, a hot pick up their ass
And that is that [...]

I am from the Belgian, the European panel
And I ask you: “Clear my channel! Clear my channel!”
Megalomaniac unicellular idiots
Kiss my ass, yes, kiss my balls

Appended to the post is a list of complaints from a truckload right-wing bloggers, plus the syndicated righty columnist Mark Steyn, most of whom experience arousal when Ann Coulter says the same things about liberals and/or Muslims.

Hey, righties, this is nothing -- have you seen the Gatas Parliament video? Talk about respect....
What the hell is wrong with this guy?

Priest Pricks Children With Pin

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 17, 2005
The Catholic Diocese of Austin is investigating after a priest called about 15 children to come forward during evening Mass so he could prick them with an unsterilized pin to demonstrate the pain Jesus suffered during crucifixion.

"What I was trying to teach them is that suffering is a part of life," said the Rev. Arthur Michalka, 78, on Friday....

Helen Osman, communications director for the Austin diocese. Osman said that the priest pricked both adults and children.

Dr. Ed Sherwood, health authority for the Williamson district, said the likelihood of transmitting blood-borne diseases by a pinprick is "real but quite small." He said the risk would increase if adults and children were pricked with the same pin because adults are more likely to be sexually active...

Michalka said he plans to apologize in church this Sunday for not sterilizing the pin.

"I didn't think it was that big a deal," Michalka said. "I can see the point now. I'll see to it that it doesn't happen again."


Well, a couple of years ago we had a senior Vatican spokesman insisting that HIV can pass through latex condoms, which is utter nonsense, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that a priest wouldn't realize that an idiotic stunt like this could transmit disease.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Put your fingers in your ears now, you little punk, because you're not going to like what I have to say: As far as I'm concerned, you can pray in all of those places -- just don't use the power of the government to force anyone who doesn't share your belief system to pray with you. But you don't want to hear that, because whining about how persecuted you are is much more fun, isn't it?
Richard Brookhiser is often infuriating, and parts of his current New York Observer column are no exception: He declares that what Saint Rudy Giuliani did in a 99.9% intact New York City after 9/11 shames Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco, and he says, obnoxiously, "Politics, Tip O'Neill said, is local; it is propelled by the greed and grievances of minorities, who are empowered by the indifference of everyone else" (by "minorities" he clearly means "interest groups," but he also, obviously means "minorities").

But then he surprises you with this, so much of which is breathtakingly right:

...The federal government exists to be the savior of last resort, and maybe of first resort. We must not be mesmerized by the language of the law. Federalism is not meant to be a suicide pact. There is a fundamental law centuries older than the Constitution, or any of our statutes: Salus populi suprema lex -- the safety of the people is the supreme law (Cicero). In some situations, leaders must invoke it, then submit themselves to the lawmakers afterwards for justification or reproof. But we don't have to be so sweeping; our written Constitution has enough strength and flexibility to it. One of the goals listed in the Preamble is ensuring domestic tranquility. When a below-sea-level state in the path of an expected Category 5 storm freezes up, or when thugs are preying on the survivors and the rescuers, the President, in whom "the executive power" is vested, may act....

We are left with President Bush's leadership style, which we have seen before. In the first days of Katrina, he did what he did in the first days after 9/11, which was not much, and he did it in the same way, which was badly. George W. Bush has a fatal suspicion of rhetoric. I think the sources may be as early as his early life, when brother Jeb was the glib, favored one. The suspicion no doubt grew at Yale in the 60's, when the son of a G.O.P. pol was surrounded by the spoutings of tenured radicals.... Mr. Bush’s natural disposition is to dismiss rhetoric as bullshit.

... Successful leaders understand the media of their time. That's why Madison and Hamilton toiled at Federalist papers, why Lincoln sat for Mathew Brady, why Churchill and Roosevelt spoke over the radio. If you deeply dislike that fact, you must ask yourself why you left Crawford in the first place....

I've loathed a lot of what Brookhiser has written, and I'll loathe more, but this is surprisingly good.