Thursday, December 29, 2005


Did I ever mention that I grew up not far from a thirty-foot-tall outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary? Yes, it's still there. I dropped by over Christmas weekend. There's a good-size creche at Mary's feet this time of year, and in an adjoining building is a diorama purporting to represent Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth (no lie: it's actually called the Christorama).

I'm thinking about this because we've spent the last month yammering about whether religion is "banished from the public square," and then I visit my family for Christmas and I get to walk out the door and in a few minutes find myself looking up at a massive metal Mary -- which, by the way, isn't being protested or picketed or challenged in a lawsuit (in fact, it's has been there for decades, on church property across the street from a church-run nursing home; it's open to the public and is just an ordinary part of life for the people on the street and for visitors).

Right-wingers use the phrase "banished from the public square" precisely because it's slippery: literally it means "driven from public property," but it has an additional, almost subliminal meaning: it suggests that religion is out of sight altogether, publicly invisible and accessible only in catacombs. In fact, nobody at the ACLU cares what you do on private property; you might upset your neighborhood association if you put a massive creche on your front lawn, but you won't violate any notion that church and state should be separate.

(Most of the Christmas decorations on my street, by the way, were secular, Santa and reindeer and snowflakes and the like -- as they always were, for as long as I can remember -- but I did see one creche. It was watched over two guardian angels -- Bert and Ernie -- and also by a New England Patriots flag.)

Do you think there needs to be more public religion? Then I suggest you buy private property and build displays of faith that are open to the public. A lot of downtowns in America are full of shuttered storefronts, after years in which merchants have lost business to malls; why not proclaim your faith on the sites of those old downtown shops? Or why not just buy space at the mall? That's the true public square, not the lawn of City Hall.

Meanwhile, go to my old neighborhood and visit the shrine. The admission's free.


OK, now I think I'm really out of here until New Year's. See you next year....


UPDATE, JANUARY 1: I see that commenters (hey, Davis, didn't know you were from Winthrop) mention both the excesses of Christmas house decorating in Saugus, Massachusetts, and the Southwestern custom of decorating your property with luminarias. I saw both this year -- we took a drive to Saugus on Christmas night and saw the overkill, then I flew out to New Mexico and saw lots of luminarias (and also a few houses in Taos that would make the people in Saugus envious).

As for public celebrations of Christmas, apparently the Las Posadas procession in Taos wasn't shut down by us God-hating Nazis; I missed it, but I'm back in New York now, and I can always see one of the Three Kings parades here (there are also Three Kings parades in Miami and Puerto Rico). No reported ACLU sightings.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Shorter Ted Nugent in the Christmas Eve New York Times:

"I hunt! Did you know that about me? Hunting is the most perfect of all human activities! I killed my family's Christmas dinner! That makes my family perfect, too! America is a great country! I support the troops! Did I mention the fact that I hunt?"

Friday, December 23, 2005

Well, that's it for me for the year, barring unforeseen circumstances. I'm still working for a company run by damn Europeans who, presumably because they hate America, give their U.S. workers Christmas week off, so I'm off to spend some time with family. Before I go, I'm going to hang the Erik Estrada ornament on the tree, have some of Julia's nondenominational gelt, and sing some songs from Skimble's Christmas cantata (Sung by Jenna Bush to the tune of "I’ll Be Home for Christmas": "I’ll be high in Crawford, / You can count on me..."). I'm amused that the White House holiday card doesn't include the word "Christmas" but the Hells Angels Web site does; and, since I'm thinking about Christ, I'm wondering when the guy who draws "Jesus -- With You Always" is going to get around to drawing Jesus Comforting the Afflicted Blogger. But enough. Happy Seasonal Hiatus, and I'll see you on January 1.
Are we going to be fighting about the '60s again? Maybe -- see the second update to this post.

(Short version of what's in that update: The illegal wiretapping Alito was defending almost certainly involved one of the Berrigan brothers.)
Highlights of a heartwarming Christmas message from Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

The Apocalypse at Christmastime

At the outset of the Christmas season a few Sundays ago, I was preparing to teach a Sunday School class in a series from Revelation on Jesus as a conquering Warrior Messiah, dripped in blood and destroying His enemies. Somehow it seemed a little inappropriate for this time of year.

Shouldn't I take a break from the Apocalypse to highlight the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay? Isn't there something kind of, well, unseasonable about teaching, at this time of year, about a Christ who bears a sword and a cosmic entourage, who prepares His people a messianic banquet and then prepares for the birds a banquet of the flesh and blood of His enemies (Revelation 19:17-19)?

... As a matter of fact, the sentimental Jesus of the Christmas season often chills our evangelistic fervor because we forget that the Bethlehem event is the exact opposite of blessing the good feelings of contemporary American culture.... the angel tells Mary not just that she will bear a holy Child but that he will sit on the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32-33), a throne it must be remembered that came through the severed head and bloody foreskins of not a few Philistines.... And all of this is rooted in an ancient promise that the son of the woman would crush the head of the serpent of Eden (Genesis 3:15).

...With Bethlehem before her, Mary ... had Armageddon on her mind. So should we.

He's not completely off base, obviously -- the Bible isn't all sweetness and light. But I think this message points up the difference between Christianist conservatives and everyone else in America, including Christians who aren't of this stripe: The conservatives are really obsessed with their own rightness (as in "Get right with God") and with the deficiency of others, who, because they're not right, are the enemy in the battle of all battles. This way of looking at things has drifted over into the secular world; if you want to know why liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, can't seem to compromise anymore in Washington, this is a big reason why -- for quite a while now, conservatives have said that non-conservatives are not just wrong, but evil. If some Democrats are digging in their heels a bit more, and if lefties outside the process of formal politics -- like us bloggers -- seem more and more absolutist, this is why. We're just fighting fire with fire.
Under the measure passed on Thursday, the deadline to reauthorize the Patriot Act moved, from Dec. 31 to Feb. 3....

--New York Times

You understand the point of this date, don't you? The date was undoubtedly chosen, after consultation with the White House, so that Bush can spend a significant portion of the State of the Union address demagoguing the issue and demonizing Democrats as terror's minions. Oh, I can't wait...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Press release that just went out a couple of hours ago:

National Archives Opens Additional Samuel Alito Records

...WHAT: The National Archives at College Park will release 45 documents relating to Samuel Alito. These records total 744 pages from Record Group 60, Records of the Department of Justice, Files of John Bolton, Michael Carvin, Roger Clegg, Stephen Galebach, Brian Landsberg, Mark Levin, and Richard Willard.

The National Archives found the documents, consisting of memoranda and other documents, in various folders in the files of these individuals during the processing of additional FOIA requests.

WHERE: These records will be posted on the National Archives Web site at

WHEN: The records will be available on Friday, Dec. 23 at 9 a.m., EST ...

Interesting timing -- the getaway day before Christmas. What's in this batch that they don't want anyone to pay attention to?


UPDATE FRIDAY MORNING: Well, I guess there's my answer.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in a June 1985 memo that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion should be overturned.

In a recommendation to the solicitor general on filing a friend-of-court brief, Alito said that the government "should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled."

The June 3, 1985 document was one of 45 released by the National Archives on Friday....


UPDATE: There's more:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito wrote in a 1984 memo that U.S. attorneys general should be immune from being sued for ordering illegal wiretaps....

Alito said that Nixon's AG, John Mitchell, should have had absolute immunity when ordering a warrantless wiretap, rather than qualified immunity. The distinction is somewhat subtle:

This so-called "qualified immunity'' meant that Mitchell couldn't be sued if he ordered the wiretapping in his role as a federal prosecutor. Instead, the court said Mitchell could be sued because he was acting as an investigator.

The Supreme Court rejected Alito's position:

That case ultimately led to a 1985 ruling by the Supreme Court that the attorney general and other high level executive officials could be sued for violating people's rights, in the name of national security, with such actions as domestic wiretaps.

"The danger that high federal officials will disregard constitutional rights in their zeal to protect the national security is sufficiently real to counsel against affording such officials an absolute immunity," the court held.

However, the court said Mitchell was protected from suit, because when he authorized the wiretap he did not realize his actions violated the Fourth Amendment.

The decision was consistent with the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in 1972 that it was unconstitutional for the government to conduct wiretaps without court approval despite the Nixon administration's argument that domestic anti-war groups and other radicals were a threat to national security.

It might seem as if this case could play in the Bushies' favor -- it involved

a suspected plot to kidnap National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and blow up utility tunnels in Washington.

I'm assuming this is the case involving the lefty priest Philip Berrigan:

In January 1971, Philip Berrigan, McAlister, and four others were indicted on charges of plotting to kidnap then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and blow up the heating systems of federal buildings in Washington.

Berrigan and McAlister, who was a former nun, were found guilty in April 1972 only of smuggling of letters in and out of Lewisburg prison.

It's not clear whether there was ever much to this case -- Time, at the time, suggested that the alleged plot was mere "chitchat"; the charges are regularly referred to as having been "trumped up." Well, it'll be fun to see how this plays out: Kissinger's involved, so look for Christopher Hitchens to switch back over (temporarily) to the anti-Bush side. And in general we'll get to fight out a lot of the battles of that era -- again.
I just discovered this. It ran in the L.A. Times last week and has shown up in several other papers since then. I can't believe it's not famous already:

The Grinch Factor

by Rosa Brooks

THE WHOS down in Who-ville
Were a tolerant lot:
Who Christians, Who Muslims - a Who melting pot.
Who Hindus! Who atheists! Who Buddhists, Who Jews!
Who Confucians, Who pagans,
And even Who Druze!
The Who 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause
Said, "No creches in courts," and the Whos loved their laws.
Because somehow ... they worked. The Whos rarely fought,
Mostly, each Who did just what he ought.
Every Who down in Who-ville
Loved the Consti-Who-tion a lot.
But the O'Reilly, who lived up in Fox-ville,
Did NOT!
The O'Reilly DETESTED the Who Consti-Who-tion,
He thought it was some sort of liberal pollution.
Now, please don't ask why, for I really don't know.
Perhaps it had something to do with his show.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
Or it could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his RATINGS
Were two sizes too small....

Read the rest here.

(Or here or here or here.)
So we saw the purple fingers and now I'm not sure we're even supposed to pay attention anymore, but the Iraq elections look worse than we ever imagined they would -- and some of the people who agree, some of the people who seem to be feeling disgust and despair, are bloggers from the camp that's criticized us for looking at the Iraq situation and feeling disgust and despair.

Check out this post and this one from Publius Pundit. The motto of Publius is "Blogging the Democratic Revolution"; the banner at the top shows a couple of Freedom Babes rocking the Middle Eastern vote. But the tone of these posts is a lot less upbeat:

All parties that are not from the religious Shia coalition or Kurdish parties are doubting the legitimacy of the Iraqi election preliminary results, and despite the title of this Washington Post article, it's not just the Sunnis. Reading deeper, it’s independent Sunni parties, ex-PM Allawi's multi-confessional secular list, and others. Even Moqtada al-Sadr, who allied his list with the UIA!

... Does this dash the hope we had of an ending insurgency? We will have to see. I don't have much confidence that it will be resolved in a timely manner.

Heading over to Iraq the Model, we're told about a few suspicious partial results from Maysan Province, as reported in the Iraqi press:

-Lawyer Abdulwahid al-Lami is from the Lami tribe, the biggest in a province that is run by tribal relations. This candidate won 5 votes, yes 5 votes!

This means this man didn’t even get the votes of his own family….

-Sheikh Raheem al-Sa'idi was also running from Maysan and he’s a local sheikh of a big tribe that has many thousands of members in the south. This sheikh won 17 votes only!

A usual sheikh is married to at least 3 wives and has dozens of children, brothers and cousins and this one won 17 votes only! ...

And then, also from Iraq the Model, there's a post called "Baghdad for Kirkuk." This post suggests that a rather suspicious last-minute deal to add 200,000 Kurdish voters to the electoral rolls in multi-ethnic (and oil-rich) Kirkuk led to a clear-cut victory for the Kurds there -- and was linked to suspicious results elsewhere in the country that favored the ruling religious Shiites. The implication seems to be that Kurds want a divisive result in the non-Kurdish parts of Iraq as an excuse to get themselves the hell out of a unified Iraq:

Today I recalled what [Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud] Barzani told al-Sharq al-Awsat paper two months ago; he said "we will have no choice but to separate from Iraq if a civil war erupted in the middle and south of the country" at that time I thought it was strange from Barzani to say such things while Iraq was about to make more positive steps represented by the participation of the Sunni which was supposed to contribute to Iraq's stability. So why did Barzani warn from a civil war when last time's boycotters were changing their minds to join the political process?

I'm afraid the Baghdad-for-Kirkuk deal is done now and there's nothing I can think of to reverse the new reality which was forced via a democratic practice.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Chalabi, ever the cheerleader for the neocon pipe dream, is working hard to act as if nothing's wrong:

...A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations....

An aide to former minister Ahmed Chalabi said a member of [his Iraqi] National Congress list who attended the meeting did not represent the group but was there as an individual.

"We reject this document and we didn't sign it," said Chalabi aide Haider al-Mousawi....

It doesn't matter. The violence won't stop. A united democratic Iraq won't flourish. The old hatreds will worsen. This is a train wreck.

(Blog links via Memeorandum.)

Highlights of the budget bill that just passed the Senate with Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote:

Under the bill, college students would pay higher interest rates on loans....

States would have sweeping new authority to impose premiums and co-payments on millions of low-income people covered by Medicaid. States can also scale back benefits for many recipients.

For the elderly, it would be more difficult to qualify for Medicaid coverage for nursing home care if they transfer assets to their children or other relatives for less than fair market value.

Medicare would freeze payments for home health services and reduce payments for medical imaging.

Welfare recipients would be subject to stricter work requirements....

Aid that helps states collect child support from absent parents would be reduced.

Name of the bill:

The Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act of 2005

Freedom is slavery. War is peace.

(Hat tip: Senator Harry Reid, quoted on NPR this morning.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another right-wing novel that's partly premised on wish fulfillment -- only this one is timely:

It starts innocently enough in the town square of Possum, Virginia. But it ends up as a spectacular national scandal: Can a federal judge outlaw Christmas?

Thomas Hammond and his wife play Joseph and Mary in the annual live nativity scene in their hometown. But a federal judge rules the display unconstitutional -- and a Christmas showdown ensues. Thomas refuses to abide by the court order ... and ends up in jail....

Yeah, baby! Jail! Martyrdom! WOO-HOO!

I get this. It must drive these folks nuts that they can't claim real religious persecution -- shuttered churches, unlawful imprisonment, torture. An Amazon reviewer says this book "will bring a smile to your face and an evening's worth of reading enjoyment," so surely this is not a story of hardcore suffering at the hands of brutal liberal dictators (apparently the God guys win), but hey, there's jail, so there's at least the frisson of being crushed by the jackboot.

A story at the Southern Baptist Conference news site says this about the author, Randy Singer:

Although an advocate for legal public expressions of faith, Singer said the book presents a balanced view of the issues.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure. The villain of the piece is apparently "Judge Cynthia Baker-Kline (nicknamed 'Ichabod')" who has a "hair-trigger temper with a razor-sharp tongue that could slice up even seasoned litigators." (She's a recurring character from earlier Singer books. Do I even need to tell you that "Ichabod" is pro-choice?)

I haven't read the book, but I may not have to: The SBC story informs us that the tale may be headed for our living rooms soon.

Michael Landon Jr. and Brian Bird, a writer for the "Touched By an Angel" television program, are interested in making a television movie out of the story for next season...

Looking forward to it!

We declared our independence in 1776, and not until 1788 were we voting under the Constitution. So that is -- I'm trying to do my math -- 12 years?

--Lynne Cheney, interview with Pat Robertson's CBN News
I think Senate Democrats should at least try to counter the impression that they want the Patriot Act to expire, when in fact they want a three-month extension of the current law while discussions continue on changes to certain provisions.

Here's what I'd do: Summon the media, including local news organizations in Democratic senators' states. Then assemble as many filibustering Democrats as possible on the Capitol steps -- but at least forty-one (i.e., a number that exceeds the total needed for a filibuster). At this gathering, conduct a simulated roll-call vote on the three-month-extension bill, with the Democrats all voting "aye."

It's cornball, but it might be reasonably good TV, so it might get on the nightly news and have some effect on perceptions.


UPDATE: The Senate seems about to compromise on a six-month extension. Sanity prevails, apparently.
Federal judge says in a ruling that there's no wall of separation between church and state.


A U.S. appeals court today upheld the decision of a lower court in allowing the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse display, hammering the American Civil Liberties Union and declaring, "The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

...Writing for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Suhrheinrich said the ACLU's "repeated reference 'to the separation of church and state' ... has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

Suhrheinrich wrote: "The ACLU, an organization whose mission is 'to ensure that ... the government [is kept] out of the religion business,' does not embody the reasonable person." ...

As The Cincinnati Enquirer notes, the panel ruled this way

even though the U.S. Supreme Court recently barred a similar display 50 miles away.

... [A] Supreme Court decision in June ... barred almost identical displays at courthouses in Pulaski and McCreary counties in southeastern Kentucky. Mercer County, which is near Lexington, is about 50 miles from Pulaski County.

In those cases, a 5-4 Supreme Court majority found that the displays in McCreary and Pulaski counties violated the Constitution because they were erected with a clear religious purpose....

So what does the court say is the difference here?

In the other counties, the court noted, the displays were put up as pastors and others applauded the effort to bring religion into public places. The judges concluded that did not happen in Mercer County, thus making the display there permissible.

There you go -- as long as everyone plays dumb and pretends that advancing religion isn't the motive, this is permitted.

Suhrheinrich isn't a W. appointee, by the way -- Poppy appointed him to the 6th Circuit.
Update: Under pressure, Bush pal Donald Evans

has turned down a job offer from Vladimir Putin and will not become chairman of the Russian state-run energy company Rosneft.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I recently received an e-mail alerting me to a novel that will be published early next year: Robert Ferrigno's Prayers for the Assassin. I went to the novel's Web site and, alas, this is going to be more of a turn-on for wingnuts than an Ann Coulter lap dance (warning: automatic audio at the link):

New York and Washington, D.C., are nuclear wastelands. Chicago is abandoned, and Phoenix, the site of a civil war battle. The nation is divided between an Islamic republic across the north, and the Christian Bible Belt in the old South. Alcohol is outlawed, replaced by Jihad Cola....

Yup -- Jihad Cola. Grab a seat, dammit! This is the two-minute hate, and you're missing the first minute!

... Freedom is controlled by the state, paranoia rules, and rebels plot to regain free will...

... Robert Ferrigno's sensational thriller asks: What would happen to America if the terrorists won?...

This is unbelievably stupid, although I'll never be able to get Iraq War fans to understand why. It's unbelievably stupid because Islamist terrorists might conceivably nuke us, but they'll never conquer us. How on earth is that going to happen? It would be like the Viet Cong conquering France.

The animal braying you're hearing right now is right-wingers arguing that there are a billion Muslims on the planet and France is burning and Theo van Gogh is dead and have I forgotten 9/11? Or something like that. The reality is that Islamist terrorists are terrorists -- very good at launching repellent acts of violence, but, so far, utterly incapable of seizing territory in the non-Muslim world. Spain? France? England? The Netherlands? How many counties, how many towns, how many village governments have Islamist terrorists seized in these countries? (And are the French rioters even political? Are most even Muslim? Whatever happened to those riots, anyway?)

Ferrigno's book, to judge from his teaser, is just a modern version of an old, racist, paranoid riff: Large-penised Negroes, allowed to vote and otherwise run rampant, will make America a nation of mongrels and destroy everything we hold dear and Anglo-Saxon. Oh, sorry -- did I say Negroes? I meant the International Jew. Only in this case wearing keffiyehs.

I'd call this a nightmare scenario for right-wingers, but I'm afraid it's more like porn; I'm afraid it secretly thrills the right.

As I think I've said here before, you can see this way of thinking among NRA types. When they say we need guns as a "bulwark against tyranny," what they really mean is they hope they themselves will someday crush a tyrannical government with guns they bought at Wal-Mart. This isn't fear, or vigilance -- it's a Walter Mitty fantasy. They want it to happen. They want to be heroes.

Those who'll read Ferrigno's book will do so because they want to live the fantasy that America could be lost, and then won again ("rebels plot to regain free will"). Accompanying that, undoubtedly, will be the delicious pleasure of having something palpable to blame on liberals. Almost certainly we'll be the ones who lost America, because we thought the Islamofascists were sweet and cuddly and we wouldn't fight them.

Which is why I hate the thought of this book. We don't like Islamofascists. We despise them and we want the movement destroyed. Our arguments are all about methods.

If there were an invasion -- if there were people actually seeking to seize the land I live on -- don't write me off, smart-ass: I'm there. I will fight.

But who the hell would try to conquer America? We're not a peace-loving people (we sure shoot one another a lot more than, say, the Belgians do) and we have the biggest military any country has ever had. We have nukes in abundance and the ability to deliver them across oceans. The Islamists are going to achieve not just a nuclear capability but nuclear parity with us in thirty-five years? Hiding in subterranean bunkers? Or maybe Ferrigno thinks we'll lose a guerrilla war. Yeah, we do struggle in wars like that -- in countries where we don't know the terrain and don't speak the language. This is America. We know the freaking terrain and we speak the freaking language.

Ferrigno's book looks like a soak-the-rubes fantasy. I'm sure it'll make lots of money for Scribner (part of Simon & Schuster, a division of Viacom). It comes recommended by fellow pulp fictioneer Vince Flynn, one of Rush Limbaugh's favorites. I think I'll give it a miss.


UPDATE: Stupidly, I posted this without checking the Amazon page for the book, where I learn the plot in more detail:

Taking post-9/11 conspiracy theories that blamed the attacks on Zionist agents as the seed for this unusual thriller, Ferrigno ... posits a nuclear terrorist onslaught in 2015 on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Mecca that has all the earmarks of a Mossad operation. The blue states are moved by these horrors to convert to Islam....

Oh, for Christ's sake. Dumber than I could have possibly imagined.

A mass blue-state conversion to Islam? What, and give up our family-destroying feminism and sodomy?
The state prosecutor who is leading the investigation into Rush Limbaugh's drug use has been appointed a Palm Beach County judge, Gov. Jeb Bush announced Monday.

James Martz, 48, of Parkland, head of the Community Based Anti-Crime Task Force of the State Attorney's Office, will fill the county court vacancy that was created during the 2005 legislative session.

Martz will likely assume his office sometime in January, said Michael Edmondson, a spokesman for Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer.

...His caseload, including the high-profile investigation into Limbaugh's prescription drug use, will be transferred to other attorneys, Edmondson said....

--Florida Sun-Sentinel

An early Christmas gift to Rush from Jeb?

(Via Democratic Underground.)
Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show....

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." ...

--New York Times today

I wanted to know why the FBI would be seek to portray themselves as natural food eaters in Indiana's largest city. So I did a Yahoo search for "indianapolis vegan."

What I found shocked me.

Here's the first item I discovered: a message-board thread. As you know, chat rooms have become the favored way for Islamofascist terrorists to communicate; now, almost immediately, I've discovered an online chat that reveals disturbing details about the sinister aims of the Indianapolis Vegan Underground.

FR FalafelEater: Just wondering if anyone here is from the Indy area.

Artichoke47: Indy resident right here!

...but you already know that. [smiley]

Themightyzero: Almost! Im about 3 and a half hours north hahha.

FR FalafelEater: So does that mean you are close to Chicago Diner? What a lovely place, I envy you if thats the case.

mattd: we took my mom to three sisters for lunch yesterday. i think that may be my favorite places in indy to eat for the time being. they have a new vegan mushroom potato soup that's really good. and that bbq tempeh is awesome.

FR FalafelEater: When I called Three Sisters, they told me they are not exclusively vegetarian let alone vegan. Is that the case?

mattd: no, they're not. but there's maybe one all vegetarian restaurant in the entire city, and from what i've heard it's not that good. well, i guess there's a couple indian places too, but thats not much of a variety. so if you'll only eat at all veg'n places then you're shit out of luck in this city. three sisters is locally owned, and they do have some really good vegan items on the menu. so i think they deserve the support of the vegan community.

FR FalafelEater: My concern is cross contamination. If I were to order a BBQ Tempeh, how am I assured it is not cooked on the same grill that they cooked flesh on?...

The discussion continues -- but the meaning is clear.

"Bbq tempeh," as is widely known, is a coded reference to thermonuclear war.

"Three Sisters" refers to anthrax, aflatoxins, and ricin. Note -- with horror -- that "mattd" believes "Three Sisters" "deserve[s] the support of the vegan community."

"Cross-contamination" -- well, the implications of this code word are almost too horrifying to contemplate.

Only one conclusion is possible.

These people are dangerous terrorists. They must be stopped.

If the Bush Justice Department sent brave FBI agents to infiltrate this nest of vipers, I say, "Thank God!"

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite, won less than a half of 1 percent of the vote in Baghdad, possibly denying him a seat in the Council of Representatives.

--New York Times

This really is incredible -- not only are some nursing-home patients going to be switched to more porous drug coverage than they currently have under Medicaid, but the people who run their nursing homes can't even found out what plans the government has assigned them to:

Two weeks before the start of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, pharmacists and nursing homes are desperately trying to find out who will pay for the medicines taken by hundreds of thousands of their residents.

... About two-thirds of the 1.5 million residents of nursing homes are participants in both Medicare and Medicaid. The government has randomly assigned them to private drug plans, regardless of their needs.

In many cases, nursing home officials said, they do not know to which plans their patients have been assigned....

...Dr. Robert A. Zorowitz, chief medical officer at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in the Bronx, said he had tried to obtain information on residents from the Medicare Web site.

"It worked at some times for some patients, but not for others," Dr. Zorowitz said. "It's inconsistent."

A federal contractor, NDCHealth, is loading information onto the Web site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as C.M.S.

A spokesman for the company, Robert P. Borchert, said: "We are waiting for data from C.M.S. We don't have a full set of data. The information is there for some beneficiaries and not yet for others. It's still in a test mode." ...

It's still in a test mode?? IT'S DECEMBER 19, YOU IDIOT.

The nursing homes need to know what plans these people are on in order to determine what drugs the plans will cover. Each plan has a formulary -- a list of drugs it will and won't cover. A patient who's now on a drug that won't be covered will probably need to be switched to whatever substitute drug is covered -- if the nursing home knows what drug that is (impossible to determine if the nursing home can't identify the patient's plan):

"In the next two weeks," Ms. Tarnove said, "doctors have to review the drug regimens of almost all nursing home residents and rewrite the prescriptions to comply with Medicare drug plan formularies. There could be a dozen plans with a dozen formularies in one nursing home."

Thanks, GOP!

Yeah, he's up -- to 47%. Don't say I didn't warn you.


In six weeks, Bush went up 4 points among Democrats, 5 points among independents, and 9 points among Republicans. You explain to me how that comes out to an 8-point jump overall. Fuzzy math....


And CNN/USA Today/Gallup still has him at 41%.
The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high....

The number of gun owners is also at an all-time high....

--National Rifle Association fact sheet, 11/1/05

The nation's murder rate jumped 2 percent during the first six months of this year, with the highest increases in small towns and the Midwest, the FBI said Monday....

--AP today

But I'm sure it's just a coincidence.
I just found out about this over the weekend. Am I wrong to find it a tad sinister?

Donald Evans, the former US Commerce Secretary, is "seriously considering" becoming chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company....

Kommersant, the Russian business daily, reported earlier this week that Mr Evans, the chief executive of the Financial Services Forum, met a number of senior Russian officials during a trip to Moscow last week, including President Vladimir Putin.

Financial Times reported that Mr Evans is "seriously considering" taking the Rosneft post.

Rosneft ... is due to combine operations with gas giant Gazprom....

The two companies said yesterday they aim to join forces in gas and oil exploration activities inside Russia. Gazprom also aims to secure 10 per cent of the US natural gas market by 2010 in conjunction with up to three of its western counterparts....

Gazprom also wants to participate in the building of an Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline. (Yup, that first country I mentioned is Iran.)

More, from that FT article:

Rosneft ... has a controversial reputation abroad following its acquisition of Yuganskneftegaz, the main production arm of Yukos, the oil company built up by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for $9.35bn (€7.8bn, £6.5bn) in a forced auction last December....

Still more, from Saturday's New York Times:

...Any effort to legitimize Rosneft's assets, however, could meet opposition from Yukos shareholders, still smarting from the loss of the production unit and the jailing of the company's founder, Mikhail B. Khodorkovksy.

"We believe that what happened this time last year was expropriation," Claire Davidson, a spokeswoman for Yukos, said in a phone interview from London, where the company is run by a management team in self-imposed exile.

"When considering an opportunity to be part of the Rosneft board, it's important to consider that a significant number of shareholders, many of them American, have had their rights absolutely taken away from them through the renationalization of a private asset," she said.

Rosneft is entangled in a number of lawsuits with Yukos, and the affair is also under being examined by the European Court of Human Rights, Ms. Davidson said....

The chairmanship of Rosneft is now held by Igor I. Sechin, a Putin loyalist and member of a hard-line faction in the Kremlin known as the siloviki, or men with ties to the secret police, the military or interior ministry troops....

And a lifelong Bush pal wound up in the thick of all this. Ain't life funny sometimes?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush's most Orwellian rhetorical device is a three-letter word. Here it is at work in tonight's speech:

If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.

This is not the threat I see.


The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere, they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia, and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens, they would be on the offense, and headed our way.


On that day [9/11], we were not in Iraq, we were not in Afghanistan, but the terrorists attacked us anyway -- and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country. My conviction comes down to this: We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them. And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens, and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share.

Use the word "the" before "terrorists" and you make al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda's allies, Saddam's regime, and all the groups we're fighting in Iraq now one big undifferentiated group. You make everything that's happened in Iraq part of 9/11, as surely as if you were repeatedly linking Saddam and bin Laden, as Bush did for so long. Bush refers to "the terrorists" all the time. It's subtle, but it's as shamelessly deceitful as any reference to a "mushroom cloud" before the war.
What would Jesus snack on?
From a Forbes story on Dick Cheney's trip to Iraq:

U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns.

Good grief.
In an article on Iraq in today's New York Times that's otherwise quite upbeat, Dexter Filkins clarifies something I was talking about a couple of days ago:

Most of the Sunnis interviewed at the polls Thursday, not just in Adhamiya but in other parts of Baghdad, professed that their community constitutes at least half of Iraq's population. Demographic experts believe the Sunnis are closer to about 15 or 20 percent; in a democratic arrangement, they would likely have to settle for far less power than they are historically used to....

As I noted a couple of days ago, an AP reporter heard something similar on election day:

"I came here and voted in order to prove that Sunnis are not a minority in this country," said lawyer Yahya Abdul-Jalil in Ramadi. "We lost a lot during the last elections, but this time we will take our normal and key role in leading this country."

I don't understand Filkins's use of the conditional tense -- it's not that the Sunnis would have to settle for far less power than they've had in the past under some theoretical democratic arrangement -- it's that they absolutely will have to settle for less in the government elected this past week.

Why should we believe they're just going to shrug and accept this?


Meanwhile, 19 people died in attacks today in Iraq and Dick Cheney flew in for yet another surprise visit under security "so secret that even Iraq's prime minister said he was surprised when he showed up."

Wake me when a top U.S. government official can openly fly into Iraq after having announced the trip and made the itinerary public. Then I'll believe there's real progress. Not before then.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A lot of people undoubtedly believe that the urbane, socially moderate Rudy Giuliani might be the best of a bad lot if we wind up electing a Republican president in 2008; this op-ed in today's New York Times tells you why he'd be bad news. The op-ed, which argues for renewal of the Patriot Act, shows that Giuliani, like the current president, loves government secrecy and is more than willing to lie and deceive the public in order to preserve that secrecy.

Here's what Giuliani writes:

...The central provisions of the Patriot Act allow law enforcement and the intelligence community to share information. This might seem elementary, but for years law enforcement had been stymied by a legal wall that prevented agencies from sharing information....

If the Senate fails to approve the extension, the government will be forced to revert in many ways to our pre-Sept. 11 methods....

The bipartisan 9/11 commission described a vivid example of how the old ways hurt us. In the summer of 2001, an F.B.I. agent investigating two individuals we now know were hijackers on Sept. 11 asked to share information with another team of agents. This request was refused because of the wall. The agent's response was tragically prescient: "Someday, someone will die - and wall or not - the public will not understand why we were not more effective."

How quickly we forget.

A compelling argument -- except for the fact that (1) Patriot Act opponents aren't trying to reinstate the "wall" and (2) Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Commission Report, where the e-mail cited by Giuliani is quoted, flatly contradicts his conclusion.

According to that chapter, the FBI agent in question, who was working on the case of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, became aware of a lead involving one of the future 9/11 hijackers. That agent got in touch with "Jane," an FBI analyst.

One of the Cole case agents read the lead with interest, and contacted "Jane" to obtain more information. "Jane" argued, however, that because the agent was designated a "criminal" FBI agent, not an intelligence FBI agent, the wall kept him from participating in any search for Mihdhar....

"Jane" sent an email to the Cole case agent explaining that according to the NSLU [the FBI's National Security Law Unit], the case could be opened only as an intelligence matter, and that if [Khalid al] Mihdhar was found, only designated intelligence agents could conduct or even be present at any interview. She appears to have misunderstood the complex rules that could apply to this situation.

This is when the FBI agent sent his e-mail.

The report continues:

"Jane" replied that she was not making up the rules; she claimed that they were in the relevant manual and "ordered by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court and every office of the FBI is required to follow them including FBI NY."

It is now clear that everyone involved was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gathered in intelligence channels. Because Mihdhar was being sought for his possible connection to or knowledge of the
Cole bombing, he could be investigated or tracked under the existing Cole criminal case. No new criminal case was needed for the criminal agent to begin searching for Mihdhar. And as NSA had approved the passage of its information to the criminal agent, he could have conducted a search using all available information.

(Emphasis mine throughout.)

So Giuliani is lying about the rules in effect before 9/11. Giuliani, invoking the 9/11 Commission, arrives at a conclusion about the use of the "wall" in this case that the Commission flatly contradicts. All in the interest of demonizing Patriot Act opponents as opponents of all of the Act's provisions, and in the interest of preserving excessive and unnecessary infringement on civil liberties.

Maybe Cheney would like to be his running mate.
I seem to have missed the fact that Ahmad Chalabi's daughter Tamara had an online diary in Slate this week. "Tamara Chalabi is an author," Slate helpfully informs us, relegating any mention of her famous father to the third sentence of her author bio, and it's clear that the many, many influential people in her circle would agree that she got the diary published strictly on its merits. The New York Observer tells us about some of those people:

As of this week, the pundit class has a new and well-connected member: Tamara Chalabi, the daughter of Iraq's deputy prime minister, Ahmad Chalabi.

Ms. Chalabi, fresh off a Harvard Ph.D. in history, has a book due out next month,
The Shi'is of Jabal 'Amil and the New Lebanon, from Palgrave Macmillan. On Dec. 12, Slate began publishing a daily diary of her reports on her father's campaign for prime minister.

Besides her family ties, Ms. Chalabi has some powerful help on the launching pad. Washington uber-hostess Juleanna Glover Weiss, a registered lobbyist at the Ashcroft Group and a former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney, has set out to introduce Ms. Chalabi to editors.

Ms. Glover Weiss -- whose soirees draw media and political figures from Campbell Brown to Paul Wolfowitz -- met with Ms. Chalabi two weeks ago at a Caribou Coffee in downtown D.C. The get-together was the suggestion of mutual friends at Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey, the lobbying firm that employs Jeffrey Weiss, Ms. Glover Weiss' husband.

Mr. Weiss currently represents Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.

Since the meeting, staffers at
The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Hotline have received entreaties from Ms. Glover Weiss on her new protegee's behalf.

Ms. Glover Weiss said the advisory arrangement is informal, and that Ms. Chalabi isn't paying for her networking services.

"She clearly has a strong academic background and has interesting things to say about the role of religion in Middle Eastern society," Ms. Glover Weiss said by phone on Dec. 13. "I was happy to help her get to know folks."

On Nov. 15, Ms. Chalabi's father attended a party that the couple hosted for Entifadh Qanbar, the deputy military attache to the Iraqi Embassy, at their $1.5 million Washington home; other guests included Richard Perle, former C.I.A. director James Woolsey and Christopher Hitchens.

Ms. Glover Weiss said she had not read the
Slate diary and had not contacted editors at the online magazine.

If I were a paranoid liberal, I'd say that this collection of boldface names was the true axis of evil, the real cabal, the Octopus. I'd say that their collaboration -- on this and, er, other matters -- was rather sinister. But I'm not one of those silly moonbats. I'm sure Tamara's pulling herself up strictly by her own bootstraps, and all this socializing is just a testament to her pluck. And I'm sure her intricately interwoven circle of new friends are just convivial ladies and gents who merely enjoy one another's company.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The Army has exceeded recruiting goals in the first two months of this fiscal year, reversing a trend that had some Iraq critics saying the armed services branch was "broken."
The Pentagon yesterday said the Army signed up 5,856 recruits in November, 5 percent above its goal. It previously announced the Army also exceeded its target in October, the first month of the 2006 fiscal year....


The Army met its recruiting goal for November by again accepting a high percentage of recruits who scored in the lowest category on the military’s aptitude tests, Pentagon officials said Thursday....

The Army exceeded its 5,600 recruit goal by 256 for November, while the Army Reserve brought in 1,454 recruits, exceeding its target by 112. To do so, they accepted a “double digit” percentage of recruits who scored between 16 and 30 out of a possible 99 on the military’s aptitude test, said officials who requested anonymity.

Last month, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Army reached its recruiting goals in October by accepting 12 percent from these low scorers, known as Category IV recruits....

The annual limit is 4% from these categories. If the percentage they're accepting is in the double digits two months in a row, they've got a problem -- no, we've got a problem.

(Via DU.)
I really, really don't want to rise to Vincent Gallo's bait. I don't want to get into questions about whether the actor/director/button-pusher (and self-proclaimed Republican) is or isn't being ironic at the bottom of this page, where, in the course of offering his own sperm for sale (for a million dollars), he writes:

Mr. Gallo maintains the right to refuse sale of his sperm to those of extremely dark complexions. Though a fan of Franco Harris, Derek Jeter, Lenny Kravitz and Lena Horne, Mr. Gallo does not want to be part of that type of integration. In fact, for the next 30 days, he is offering a $50,000 discount to any potential female purchaser who can prove she has naturally blonde hair and blue eyes. Anyone who can prove a direct family link to any of the German soldiers of the mid-century will also receive this discount. Under the laws of the Jewish faith, a Jewish mother would qualify a baby to be deemed a member of the Jewish religion. This would be added incentive for Mr. Gallo to sell his sperm to a Jew mother, his reasoning being with the slim chance that his child moved into the profession of motion picture acting or became a musical performer, this connection to the Jewish faith would guarantee his offspring a better chance at good reviews and maybe even a prize at the Sundance Film Festival or an Oscar.

Instead, I'd like to thank right-wing bloviators everywhere for spending the last two decades whining about "political correctness." You've made it inevitable that some attention-seekers who want to seem brave and edgy and countercultural and daring will choose to spout off this way, knowing that you're out there, helpfully denouncing anyone who's outraged by bigoted language as fascistic, narrow-minded, and uncool. Gallo is your baby. I hope you're proud of your handiwork.

(Via salto mortale. Another charming Gallo quote here.)
Thank you, Keith Olbermann.
We're all supposed to be thrilled about the high Sunni turnout, but Juan Cole flags this quote from an AP story:

In Fallujah, the former Sunni insurgent stronghold overrun by U.S. forces in November 2004, hundreds packed a high school polling station, with many saying they saw the vote as a way to not only get rid of the Americans but to also get rid of the Shiite-dominated government.

"It's an extremist government [and] we would like an end to the occupation," said Ahmed Majid, 31. "Really the only true solution is through politics. But there is the occupation and the only way that will end is with weapons."

Even in insurgent bastions such as Ramadi and Haqlaniyah, Sunnis were turning out in large numbers.

"I came here and voted in order to prove that Sunnis are not a minority in this country," said lawyer Yahya Abdul-Jalil in Ramadi. "We lost a lot during the last elections, but this time we will take our normal and key role in leading this country."

There it is in a nutshell: Violence is still an appropriate response to the U.S. occupation; Sunnis really should be running the country again; Sunnis are the true majority in Iraq and all the demographic studies that say otherwise are anti-Sunni lies.

Do you really think the new government can possibly satisfy the many Sunnis who believe some or all of this?

Please remember: Social unrest doesn't require a 51% majority. A determined minority of Iraqis -- a determined minority of one ethnic group -- can keep the country in chaos if there's enough dissatisfaction. There's just no reason to believe that everyone will say, "Oh well, we wanted thus-and-such, but elections were held and we lost, so c'est la vie." But that's precisely what all the right-wing American cheerleaders you're hearing right now seem to believe.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Have a burning desire to know what movies conservative college students are watching? Here, I'm told, are the Top Five:

1. The Passion of the Christ
2. A Man for All Seasons
3. Lean on Me
4. Cheaper by the Dozen
5. Death Wish

Wow. One of these things is not like the others.

That's a rather neck-snapping U-turn at #5; after that the list continues, and we linger in the Action-Adventure section of the video store:

6. Red Dawn
7. Dirty Harry
8. The Outlaw Josey Wales

Then, bizarrely, we get

9. Zulu

(I'd barely heard of it either. Capsule description: "Heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, 139 Welshmen fight off 4,000 Zulu soldiers.")

Then, another U-turn:

10. PCU

("The state of modern colleges, summed up in an excellent comedy showing the ridiculousness of the politically correct mob.")

OK -- I'm looking at a list that includes Cheaper by the Dozen and Zulu and I'm struggling to find the common thread. Then I recall these lyrics by Randy Newman:

Americans dream of gypsies, I have found
Gypsy knives and gypsy thighs
That pound and pound and pound and pound
And African appendages that almost reach the ground
And little boys playing baseball in the rain

Yup, I think that just about sums up the mindset of the kids surveyed for this list -- assuming they exist and the list isn't just some middle-aged right-wing content generator's idea of what virtuous kids should be watching. The list, by the way, is courtesy of the Campus Leadership Program, a division of Morton (Purple Heart Band-Aids) Blackwell's Leadership Institute.
So the turnout in Iraq is high and the right-wingers in America are waving those big inflatable We're Number One fingers and shouting "IN YOUR FACE, DEFEAT-AND-RETREAT LIBERAL LOSERS!!!" -- and meanwhile I'm reading Dexter Filkins in The New York Times, who's running down the basics of what happens next, and I'm thinking: Oh yeah, this is really gonna work.

...The cleric-led Shiite coalition is expected to get the largest number of votes but to fall short of capturing enough seats to enable Adel Abdul Mahdi, the group's probable nominee for prime minister, to form a government....

Arrayed against the Shiite bloc is likely to be a largely secular group of parties led by Ayad Allawi, the former Baathist and secular Shiite who has attracted a large following of Sunni Arabs. Along with the Sunni Arabs, Mr. Allawi is hoping to bring in the two major Kurdish parties....

Yet even Mr. Allawi's coalition, if it comes together at all, is not expected to gain an absolute majority, at least not initially.

...Some Iraqi political leaders predict it will take weeks, or even months, for such a government to emerge....

But wait -- there's more:

The formation of the next Iraqi government is expected to be further delayed by the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote for the election of a "presidential council" of a president and two vice presidents that will nominate a prime minister for parliamentary approval. In practice, that means that any Iraqi leader hoping to form a government will effectively need a supermajority....

And, of course:

Further complicating matters is the special mechanism to amend the new Constitution. Under that mechanism, which Iraqi leaders accepted to stave off another Sunni boycott, a commission is empowered to recommend changes to the new Parliament, which could approve them with a two-thirds majority vote. Some political candidates, particularly the Sunni ones, say they intend to withhold their support for any new government without specific guarantees on changes in the Constitution.

So the mere existence of a government in Iraq that's regarded as legitimate by all groups will require multiple compromises, and some of the make-or-break compromises must be by two-thirds majorities. Hell, in America we can't get two-thirds majorities on anything these days, and we've been doing this democracy thing for more than two hundred years.

Which might explain why, elsewhere in the Times, David Sanger cites the "somber tone" of briefings Bush has been receiving in recent days:

Military commanders have described possible situations that range from the best case -- drawing American troops down to about 100,000 before the American elections in November -- to keeping them at far higher numbers if the new Parliament turns to chaos, civil war threatens, or political leaders are assassinated.

Got that? 100,000 troops in November is the best-case scenario. You want a timetable from the administration? There's your timetable.

Onward to victory!
Karl Rove's handpicked choice to run against Hillary Clinton is displaying just about as much compassion as Rove's most famous candidate:

Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro was seen giggling and chatting outside a Bronx church after the funeral Mass for slain Police Officer Danny Enchautegui -- spurring outrage from cops.

One officer brusquely told her to "shut up," prompting Pirro to zip her lips and snap to attention just after the flag-draped coffin holding Enchautegui was placed into a nearby hearse.

While grim-faced Finest stood ramrod-straight, Pirro drew glares from the hero cop's fellow officers when they spotted her giggling and chatting with state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

"She should have kept her mouth shut and showed some respect," said one disgusted high-ranking member of the NYPD.

Fumed another officer: "It was bad timing. Everyone is waiting for the family to leave. The family is trying to be strong. We're all still in formation. It was out of line."...

If you haven't been keeping up, Pirro's Senate campaign is going so badly that there's a desperate effort under way to get her out of the race -- an effort that involves not just Republican leaders but also her own husband. But Pirro's like a defiant bank robber surrounded by cops -- she refuses to surrender. The leadership wants her to run for state attorney general -- polls say she'd lose that race, too, but not as badly. And to think it was only a month ago that the same GOP leaders were forcing her strongest Republican rival to drop out of the Senate race.

I haven't even gotten to the governor's race, in which there'll be a big primary battle, but state party leaders prefer ex-Massachusetts governor William Weld -- even though he's enmeshed in a scandal involving a bankrupt college he used to run.

The national GOP is still a force to be reckoned with, but the local 'Pubs really are the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
Peggy Noonan today, on Bush's recent Iraq speeches:

One of the things I think the president communicated most effectively, if mostly between the lines, was the sense that some decisions a president faces don't promise good outcomes no matter which way he comes down....

And one such was: To move on Saddam or not?

Peggy Noonan, March 24, 2003:

This is what the American victory in Iraq is going to mean:

It is going to mean, first, that something good happened.... The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you have any prescriptions to fill, you might want to get them filled by December 31, before Bush-induced chaos breaks loose in every drugstore in America:

Insurers reported government delays in handling applications for Medicare's new prescription drug benefit on Tuesday....

Because of the delays, insurance executives said, they have not been able to issue identification cards to some who want to enroll, and they cannot guarantee that cards will be sent to all people who sign up before Jan. 1, when the program begins.

Pharmacists said that some beneficiaries might have difficulty taking advantage of the new drug benefit if they showed up at pharmacies next month without identification cards...

Among the complaints:

Angela Feig, a spokeswoman for a consortium of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans offering drug coverage in Iowa, North and South Dakota and four other Midwestern states, said they had received applications from 89,000 Medicare beneficiaries. But Ms. Feig said: "We have not sent out any identification cards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has to conduct a verification process to confirm that applicants are eligible to enroll. We are working with the government to complete that process." ...

89,000 beneficiaries. No cards. Eleven working days before the deadline kicks in. And that's just one plan in seven states.

Oh, but not to worry: A Medicare spokesman says pharmacists can verify each cardless beneficiary individually via computer. Oh yeah, I bet that process will also go swimmingly.

Let me just remind you that Bush signed the Medicare bill two freaking years ago. The Bushies have had a while to figure out how to make this work.

If I were a GOP member of Congress, I might think twice about conducting any town meetings in my district in the first few weeks of January.
Awww, isn't this cute: a videoblog post in which new ABC News co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas, who's in Iraq, watches Iraqi commandos learn jiujitsu moves and learns some of the tricks they're being taught:

Today in our second day in Baghdad we spent a lot of time watching the Iraqi police commando units training, getting ready to take over for security here in Iraq. These commando units have been really controversial. A lot of Iraqis here have said that they are bullies, and they're sort of gangs that are roving around the city....

We saw the Iraqi forces learning all sorts of different tactics, wrestling tactics, to help maneuver suspects. I learned how to apply a choke hold -- a blood choke, it's called. It's supposed to render someone unconscious within five seconds. I can tell you, having had it done to me for
one second, it's extremely uncomfortable, but maybe it'll come in handy, I don't know, knowing that, someday, in advance...

As Vargas notes in a separate story, the commando unit in question is the Wolf Brigade:

Gen. Rasheed Mohammed, the Wolf Brigade's commander, says his unit is effective and, at times, brutal.

"We don't have eavesdropping or electronic monitoring," he said. "And sometimes we have to be aggressive to come up with a confession from a detainee. Of course, you should not torture."....

Oh, yes, of course:

... The men described to the lawyer how they suffered systematic torture for 27 days while being held by the Wolf Brigade in a Ministry of Interior building in the district of al-Ziyouna in Baghdad. They claimed that they were beaten with cables, received electric shocks to the hands, wrists, fingers, ankles and feet, received cigarette burns to the face, and were left in a room with water on the floor while an electric current was applied to the water. The men signed confessions claiming responsibility for five other bomb attacks in other districts of Baghdad. However, when the lawyer investigated these five alleged bomb attacks at police stations, he obtained documents showing that these attacks never actually took place....

Of course you should not torture:

...She said the elite Interior Ministry force known as the Wolf Brigade arrested her....

After she had spent 11 days in solitary confinement, two men appeared at her cell door, blindfolded her and dragged her away. "Shut up! We will tear you to pieces and throw you in the river if you utter a word," she claims they said.

She was taken to a room where interrogators confronted her with a man she says she had never met before. The man said he had sex with her and that she gave him money and explosives to attack Americans.

"How can you say such things?" she asked him when the officials weren't looking. He raised his pants and showed her blood running down his legs, she claimed. "I knew he said this because he was tortured."

She was then blindfolded again, handcuffed and gagged as about six men whipped her with electric cables for 15 minutes, she said....

It was very shrewd of the U.S. to spoon-feed this little martial-arts demonstration to Vargas. Anyone who watched the story on last night's news or who sees it on the Net will hear about "brutal tactics" on the part of the commandos and think, "Oh -- choke holds that temporarily knock you out. That's not brutal -- that's just tough. Why are the liberals whining?" Lots of Americans already hear "torture" in reference to Abu Ghraib and other prisons and think, "Torture? Naked monkey piles? That's just a college fraternity prank." The same propaganda principle applies here.

Vargas says "brutal" and "bullies," but she never mentions the allegations of unambiguous torture cited above -- nor does she note that the Wolf Brigade and other commando units have been linked to extrajudicial executions, perhaps including that of Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi journalist who was murdered shortly after he coauthored this Knight Ridder story that mentioned the Wolf Brigade in the context of revenge killings. Given the standards of TV journalism today, you wonder: Does Vargas even know about these things? Does she know anything about the commando units apart from what she learned, probably, in a brief cram session just before doing this report?
"Supporting the troops":

Hampered by an increasingly combative relationship with Congress, the Pentagon is expected to seek savings from its payroll rather than making deep cuts in major weapons programs in its next long-range plan.

... Officials said Rumsfeld is considering several options for cutting personnel costs, including:

-- Eliminating 40,000 Air Force jobs over the next six years, including active duty, civilian and reserves.

-- Cutting up to three National Guard brigades, each of which generally has about 3,500 troops.

-- Scaling back plans to increase active Army forces.

...President Bush's proposed budget sought $111 billion for personnel costs this year, more than one-fourth of the $420 billion he requested for the Pentagon, not including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan....


For eight years, Clinton and Gore have extended our military commitments while depleting our military power. Rarely has so much been demanded of our armed forces, and so little given to them in return. George W. Bush and I are going to change that, too.... help is on the way.

--Dick Cheney speech at the 2000 Republican convention

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Median compensation for CEOs of big companies is up almost 150% since Bush took office.

Notice the slight increase from 1999 to 2000 (the last two full years of the Clinton presidency) -- and then the big leap in 2001. I seem to recall that 2001 was kind of a bad year, for a lot of reasons. For these guys, apparently it wasn't. Neither were any of the years after that.

If you want a rough comparison of what ordinary people are going through, look at the far-right portion of this graph.
... I believe that the main reason the execution of Tookie Williams won't be executed is because Schwarzenegger knows full well that as soon as Tookie's death is announced there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere. The huge media exploitation of this story has made drop-dead sure of that. There are thugs just waiting for an excuse ... not a reason, an excuse. The rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting. There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now.

--post yesterday at the blog of right-wing talk-show host and best-selling author Neal Boortz


In L.A. everyone seems to be behaving. And it was calm last night. Hope you're not too disappointed, Neal.
A couple of stories in the past couple of days link Iraqi torture chambers and death squads to Iran.

First, from Knight Ridder:

The Iranian-backed militia the Badr Organization has taken over many of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's intelligence activities and infiltrated its elite commando units, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

...The officials, some of whom agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of violent reprisals, said the Interior Ministry had become what amounted to an Iranian fifth column inside the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, running death squads and operating a network of secret prisons.

...Badr's leader, Hadi al-Amari, has denied maintaining ties to Iran, but in a fit of anger during a recent interview with Knight Ridder he admitted as much while striking out against U.S.-backed secular Shiite politician Ayad Allawi.

"Allawi receives money from America, from the CIA, but nobody talks about that. All they talk about is our funding from Iran," he said, raising his voice. "We are funded by some (Persian) Gulf countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran. We don't hide it." ...

And then there's this, from The Washington Times:

An Iraqi general formerly in charge of special Interior Ministry forces said yesterday that a senior Iranian intelligence officer was in charge of a network of detention centers where suspected insurgents were routinely tortured and sometimes killed.

Gen. Muntazar Jasim al-Samarrai ... said the Iranian intelligence officer, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, works directly under the Kurdish deputy minister, Gen. Hussein Kamel, and is known throughout the ministry as "The Engineer."

...Mr. Lawandi, who had been a colonel in the Iranian Mukhabarat intelligence service, was granted Iraqi citizenship May 12, 2004, and awarded the rank of general, Gen. al-Samarrai said by telephone from Amman, Jordan, where he moved his family after two attempts on his life.

The Iranian officer not only masterminded interrogations, tortures and executions at the prisons, but also would take part in torture sessions, often using an electric drill, Gen. al-Samarrai said....

The general said Mr. Lawandi had worked with the minister and deputy minister to form a special security service to run the detention and interrogation operation and a separate group called the Wolf Brigade to capture suspects and bring them to the secret locations -- usually under cover of darkness....

A few months ago, Stephen at the right-wing blog the Politburo Diktat read an earlier Knight Ridder story and gushed:

One of the most encouraging reports from Iraq I've read in recent months. If the war there is to be won, it will be the Wolf Brigade and similar Iraqi forces that win it.

Torture? Ties to the Iranians? If all this is true, I hope you're happy now, Stephen.

(Knight Ridder link via

Monday, December 12, 2005


...reassures the nation:

President Bush: ... Every morning I look at the newspaper. I can't say I've read every single article in the newspaper. But I definitely know what's in the news. Occasionally, I watch television. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it's occasionally. I'm working at that point, as are you. But I'm very aware of what's in the news. I'm aware because I see clips. I see summaries. I have people on my staff that walk in every morning and say, "This is what's -- this is how I see it. This is what's brewing today," on both the domestic and international side....

[Brian] Williams [of NBC News]: But you, yourself, said to a reporter, I think it was Brit Hume, that you'd prefer to get the news orally from your aids?

President Bush: Well, that's one way to look at it. I mean, I read the newspaper. I mean, I can tell you what the headlines are....

Good grief.
Does anyone else think it's weird that the Bush speechwriting shop simply copied five paragraphs from last week's speech and plopped them into today's speech without really changing a word?

According to the White House transcript of today's speech, Bush said this, starting in the third sentence of paragraph 7:

The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein. They reject an Iraq in which they're no longer the dominant group. We believe that over time most of this group will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq led by a federal government that is strong enough to protect minority rights, and we're encouraged that many Sunnis plan to actively participate in this week's election.

Last week he said this, starting in the second sentence of paragraph 12:

The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. We believe that, over time, most of this group will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq led by a federal government that is strong enough to protect minority rights.

The two speeches are almost a verbatim match for four more paragraphs, and then the first sentence of a fifth.

The riffs were the same in the speech on November 30, but at least the wording was different.


New York reporters couldn't figure out how [Huey Long] expected to get space [in the papers] with the same gag every time he came to town, but now I think I understand. He was from a country that had not yet entered the era of mass communications. In Louisiana, a stump speaker still tells the same joke at every stop on a five-speech afternoon. He has a different audience each time, like an old vaudeville comic, and Huey just hadn't realized that when a gag gets national circulation it's spoiled.

--A. J. Liebling, The Earl of Louisiana (1960)

Thought-provoking question from righty columnist Debbie Schlussel's denunciation of Memoirs of a Geisha at

Selling sex for money--if that's not prostitution, what is?

Good point!
"Finally, a WASP riot ..."

That's what Lucianne Goldberg says about the rioting in Sydney, Australia -- Goldberg or whoever ghostwrites the little blurbs at in her name. The full blurb is

Finally, a WASP riot as beer soaked beefy Aussies bash Muslims at beach

There's lawlessness in Sydney -- and she's digging it.

Here's some of what she's cheering on:

...Drunken mobs within the crowd yelled racist chants and chased down and bashed people of Middle Eastern appearance at the beach in an extended show of violence.

Police and an ambulance crew were also assaulted as racial tensions peaked.

A total of 25 people, including two ambulance officers, were injured and about 40 cars were vandalised at Maroubra as the unrest spread to other beachside communities...., 12/12

... Far-Right groups accused of links to neo-Nazis have admitted mobilising more than 100 people to join the mob of drunken people on the rampage at Cronulla.

Three ultra right-wing organisations -- Australia First, the Patriotic Youth League and the Newcastle-based skinhead group Blood and Honour -- handed out pamphlets at the rally....

--The Australian, 12/13

...A group of neo-nazis are circulating a race-hate video of the riots, declaring all non-white people should be evicted from Sydney's beaches. Dubbed The Battle for Cronulla, the video was posted on the white nationalist website Stormfront and had yesterday been downloaded about 400 times....

--The Advertiser, 12/13/05

Er, you'd think Ms. Goldberg might think twice before making common cause with the likes of Stormfront ("White Pride Worldwide"), good pals of the virulent anti-Semite David Duke. Ah, but there are no limits when you want to bash Muslims and piss off liberals.

The rioters were responding to a series of violent attacks -- criminal acts that warrant a response from the cops, not crowds of drunken louts. And, yes, some young Arab men are fighting fire with fire. I'm not going to defend criminal violence or rioters on either side. Lucianne, however, only dislikes riots when the "wrong" side is rioting.



UPDATE: If you want to know more about what's going on in Australia, check out the links at 12thharmonic Blog. (Thanks to Norwegianity for the tip.)


UPDATE, TUESDAY: The Lucianne link worked yesterday only, so here's the Yahoo cache version of the page (which will probably work only today).



Sunday, December 11, 2005


Via Memeorandum and the blog of right-wing columnist Cathy Seipp, I just discovered Mary and Steve Van Nattan's startling site C.S. Lewis: The Devil's Wisest Fool -- a multi-page attack on one of the Christian Right's biggest heroes from a Christian Right perspective. (Albeit a fairly nutty Christian Right perspective.)

The Van Nattans -- these folks -- live in Tennessee. Steve tunes and repairs pianos and likes coffee. The Van Nattans also have religious views that aren't exactly broad-minded, as Seipp notes:

I did learn an interesting new word meandering around Van Natten-land: "King James Only-ist," which means a person who thinks anyone who reads a version of the Bible other than the King James one is a heretic who's going to hell. The Van Nattens, apparently, are King James Only-ists who think someone like Pat Robertson is a dangerous backslider.

And as for C. S. Lewis,

the Van Nattens think, among other things, that Lewis is actually a pagan Sun God-worshipper and occultist, not a Christian, although they suspect that the famous Anglican was also a secret Catholic -- which in their view is just as bad as being a pagan.

Er, yeah -- in a bit of throat-clearing before they get down to business, they note that John F. Kennedy died on the same day as Lewis and that

Kennedy went to hell because he trusted in the Roman Whore.

Er, okay. Glad we got that cleared up.

A mere summary of this site can't impress upon you its riches, so here are a few highlights:

The time is long past due to cry out against this wicked man's unspeakable Baal worship.


p.156 The mice came to chew away the ropes that tied Aslan to the stone table upon which he had been ritually sacrificed by the witch. Lewis strongly emphasizes the sun rising in the "East" (note: capitalization) as the mice chew through the ropes to free him for his resurrection....

Anyone that is at all familiar with the true origins of Free Masonry or mysticism, also knows that the "the East" is a significant point. "Eastern" religions are mystical religions. The East represents ...BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Revelation 17:5 ... He went from the north (where God dwells; Psalm 48:2, Psalm 75:6), to the East -- Babylon and sun worship!


The word "ass" appears in 4 of the books. Being British, it probably did not mean the same to him as it does to Americans (as a swear word), but he could have left it out, especially since he only used it four times and did use "donkey" in other places. However, considering the filthy state of his mind, it is possible that he thought this cute.


LETTER FROM A READER-- Sept. 16, 2000

Dear Steve,

I was browsing thru your site after my previous e-mail and came across this in your section on C.S. Lewis: One of Lewis' favorite pubs, "The Eagle and Child," familiarly known as "The Bird and Baby." This inn-sign is actually a representation of the pagan god Zeus/Jupiter in the form of an eagle carrying off a boy called Ganymede to Olympus to serve as a sexual plaything. I don't know whether that was why Lewis was attracted to it, but it can hardly be coincidental that such a foul and disgusting image should be associated with a pub frequented by such a person as Lewis.



The Catholic-bashing, in particular, interests me. I've said for a while that there's a lot less anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism among right-wing Christians than there used to be, but maybe I've been naive to think so. Conservative Protestant leaders certainly make common cause with right-wing Catholic and Jews, but I'm not sure everyone has gotten the memos -- more and more I'm thinking that the old animosities have just been papered over and are ready to surface at any time. (And sometimes the leaders get testy as well -- witness the Reverend Donald Wildmon's recent statement that his people might withdraw their support for Israel if the Anti-Defamation League doesn't stop criticizing evangelicals.)

I'm sure even the leaders would turn on one another if they all succeeded in crushing secularism -- the only question is whether the tensions might flare up now, while the different groups still think they need one another in their war against us. I've assumed the alliance was fairly strong -- hell, I thought Ratzinger's Catholic Church was hell-bent on becoming just another right-wing Protestant denomination -- but now I'm not so sure.

(Amygdala has more to say on the Van Nattans.)