Friday, March 31, 2006


"Did you know that in many ways the terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay have more rights than corporate CEOs and their employees?"

--blurb from Mark Levin, talk-show host, National Review Online contributing editor, and president of the right-wing Landmark Legal Federation, for John Hasnas's book Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is Against the Law, published by the Cato Institute, which "examines over-criminalization in an age of corporate scandals"

Quoted in Floyd Norris's column in today's New York Times (TimesSelect only).
Should we surprised to learn that prayers offered by total strangers don't help the healing process and may actually make things worse, as a newly published study reveals? Read to the end of the linked story and you'll see that an earlier University of New Mexico study of alcoholics in recovery also found that those who knew they were the subjects of remote prayers fared worse.

Previous studies that have shown positive results for remote prayer have been tainted. As The New York Times noted in 2004, the source of data for a 2001 study claiming that remote prayer could increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy was Daniel Wirth, a lawyer who later pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a business-fraud case; the case was unrelated to the study, but the journal that published the findings pulled the paper from its Web site. And according to a 2002 Wired magazine story, a 1998 study of the effects on remote prayer on AIDS patients used dubious methods of massaging data, incuding the unblinding and reblinding of data to help the scientists find correlations suggested to them after the information was collected. That study also showed that patients who were prayed for did worse on many measures of healing.

I don't know why so much of this research focuses on remote prayer. I suppose it reflects what a lot of American Christians feel: that they'd really like other people to believe exactly what they believe. They believe in proselytizing, in converting the reluctant, and they believe God steps in to lend a hand when they do this. In other words, they believe in a God who's not so much all-powerful as pushy, like themselves. And I guess a fair number of researchers are willing to take funding from these people to test these beliefs.
One of these countries is The Greatest Country In The World. Guess which one:

Country A:

Gasoline prices will be unusually high and shortages might occur this summer, because the U.S. ethanol industry can't keep up with the demand for fuel-grade alcohol to mix with gasoline, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration told a Senate committee Wednesday.

... EIA, in a report last month warning of shortages, said that "new (ethanol) facilities will not start soon enough to meet 2006 demand." That, EIA head Guy Caruso told the committee, "could cause temporary supply dislocations and may cause price volatility." ...

Country B:

 ... in Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, there's a plan to become free from imported oil, not in the next 30 years, not in the next 10, but by the end of this year....

That's primarily because while the rest of the world was mapping the human genome, scientists in Brazil were mapping the DNA of sugar in an effort to create a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline: sugarcane ethanol.

They succeeded. Brazil's ethanol is about 30 percent less expensive than gasoline; according to the World Bank, it's about 50 cents cheaper per gallon to produce sugarcane ethanol. And although ethanol gets slightly less mileage, it's still cheaper on a per-mile-driven basis....

As chief economic advisor to Brazil's finance minister in the 1970s, Eduardo Carvalho pushed for government subsidies to help the fledgling sugarcane industry take shape....

Beginning in the 1970s, every gas station in the country was required to have at least one ethanol pump and the government mandated that all gasoline be mixed with ethanol.

... as the ethanol began to replace gasoline, that led to another development: a brand new kind of car called a "flex vehicle." The car gives you the option of using a gasoline ethanol blend or 100 percent ethanol depending on whatever is cheaper. In San Paolo, Brazil, ethanol is the cheaper fuel to use.

Today, 70 percent of new cars sold in Brazil are flex vehicles, which cost no more than a regular car.

...The U.S. has made inroads on ethanol, but the focus here has been on corn-based ethanol, which is more expensive to process. By any measure, the U.S. is still probably decades behind Brazil on this alternative energy front.

Ahhh, who cares? Encouraging innovation and energy independence through government subsidies is for wussies. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
The unemployment rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is very high. Want to know why? Well, you could seek out the truth, or you could let Ollie North lie to you:

Part of the answer is found in the fact that so few corporate executives and personnel managers are veterans themselves. Couple that with a drumbeat of adverse publicity about the war, a mainstream media fixation on military "atrocities" and the constant harping about post-traumatic stress disorder -- PTSD -- and one has to wonder how any war veteran gets hired. On a recent flight to Texas, my seatmate, a corporate CEO, asked if "all the troops coming back from 'over there' were 'screwed up.'" He cited a study alleging that, "more than a third of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan needed psychological treatment."

Now, want the truth?

VA statistics show that in the first quarter of 2005, the monthly average of unemployed veterans ages 20 to 24 was 43,000, up significantly from the 2004 monthly average of 33,000. Officials said that’s partly because most service members seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are in the early stages of their military careers and possess limited transferable job skills or very little civilian work experience. They said unless something is done to better prepare these separating service members for careers outside the military, the rate of unemployment for them will continue to rise.

I'd add that a lot of these kids joined the service in large part because there wasn't much economic opportunity for them otherwise, and now they're back where they started. But Ollie North would rather blame the evil civilian world, where we all hate veterans and spit on them every chance we get while trying not to get any spit on our Birkenstocks.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Phyllis Schlafly, quoted in today's New York Times:

"I debated [Betty] Friedan several times. She was always very ugly to deal with and debate, and made it clear that she hated me. I rejected all press calls to comment on her death; I'm not inclined to say critical things when somebody dies."

Yeah, we can tell.
Howard Kaloogian posted phony evidence of the success of a war that's cost America billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Newsweek carelessly referred to Kaloogian as a congressman rather than a congressional candidate in a Web headline (bottom left in linked image -- see the third bullet under "Newsweek online edition").

To Kaloogian, apparently, these two things are morally equivalent.

This is from NewsMax:

Dick Cheney: Iraq Documents Show Saddam-Osama Tie

Vice President Dick Cheney predicted Wednesday that thousands of boxes of documents captured from Saddam's Hussein's former regime will show that the Iraqi dictator had a much closer relationship with Osama bin Laden than was previously known.

"I think what we'll find as we get a chance to go through and analyze these documents -- there's some 50,000 boxes of them that are now being made available here over the next few months -- that we'll see a pretty complete picture that Saddam Hussein did, in fact, deal with some pretty nefarious characters out there," Cheney told Fox News Radio's Tony Snow.

Asked if he was referring to Osama bin Laden, Cheney replied:

"Yes, we don't know the full scale of it there yet, and I don't want to make a hard and fast prediction here. But there is reporting, obviously, that we've seen over the years that there was some kind of a relationship there between the Iraqis and Osama bin Laden." ...

There you go. Still believe the mainstream-press story that the administration didn't want this stuff out and had to have its arm twisted by Congressman Peter Hoekstra?

I'm still not sure whether these guys are lying or are simply unable to let go of a delicious pipe dream, but this seems like the work of a seasoned liar. Note that Cheney is very, very careful in his wording here. "[S]ome kind of a relationship there between the Iraqis and Osama bin Laden"? Well, yes -- as Peter Bergen put it in a New York Times op-ed a couple of days ago, "Iraqi officials were playing footsie with Al Qaeda in the mid-1990's, but these desultory contacts never yielded any cooperation." That qualifies, barely, as "some kind of a relationship." And Cheney adds that "Saddam Hussein did, in fact, deal with some pretty nefarious characters out there" -- weaseling out by naming no names. (It's true, of course -- he did deal with some pretty nefarious characters.)

Filing a false police report is a crime. Despite the weasel words, in a just world this would be regarded as an impeachable high crime.

The photographer who took the picture of Antonin Scalia's disputed gesture over the weekend says the original story was right. The Boston Herald has the story and the photo:

..."It's inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment," said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.

Despite Scalia's insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper "got the story right."

Smith said the jurist "immediately knew he'd made a mistake, and said, 'You're not going to print that, are you?'" ...

There's a tipoff -- if the gesture meant "I don't care," why would he not want the photo shown?

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

"The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,'" punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means "(expletive) you." ...

Yes, that's essentially what it means. (Not work safe.)

(The story does note that the reporter didn't hear the curse.)

Let's go to the image:

That doesn't look like "fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin." That looks a lot more like the gesture I remember from my childhood -- a quick, sharp, abrupt, angry flick of the fingers past the chin, which was always angry, never indifferent.

By the way, Sopranos stars have mixed opinions about the gesture -- a couple agree that it's not obscene, but Joseph Gannascoli (who plays Vito Spadafore) disagrees:

"It's not like grabbing your crotch, not that bad an obscenity," Gannascoli said. "But it's an obscenity. It's something you would do after paying a bookie, to your bookie, but not something you would do in church."

And John Fiore (Gigi Cestone) says:

"It's not that bad, but I wouldn't do it to my mother. No way. Would I do it in church? These days, maybe. It depends if the priest was giving me the hairy eyeball."

Fair enough.

(Hat tip: JudiPhilly.)


UPDATE: Damn, Atrios beat me to this. And he's not even Italian.

By the way, I can assure you that the Peter Smith's e-mail in-box at BU will be completely filled with hate mail by this afternoon, if it isn't already.


UPDATE: Roger Ailes* speculates on a possible Constitutional crisis.

*The good one.
Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was kidnapped in Iraq in January, has been freed.

The folks at Free Republic are just thrilled:

Before too long,watch for her to speak about how well she was treated and how much she admires them and their cause.


No doubt whatsoever about that - I smell "usefull idiot"... Bigtime.


I wonder if she got a nice tan.


I saw her twin sister on TV (prior to this news). I smell a rat. Time will tell.


First they find 3 ungrateful 'peace activists' sitting in an empty, unguarded house. Now jill caroll gets released unscathed after no one decides she is worth the ransom or demands.

Anyone else feel like they are getting punked? I'm starting to wonder if these kidnappings are part of an hoax/extortion scheme.


I wonder how much money her buddies captors got for her...


She's back from Burkaback Mountain and coming to Mohamad.


Ever since the lady from the Italian commie paper got that security guy killed in that "hostage" scam I've been suspicious of these things as actually being leftist extortion scams.


She will be spouting the same crap the peace activists that were released did. She will say they treated her well and they were kidnappers just in it for the money. They weren't the nice insurgents who are too busy fighting against the evil army of Bush to kidnap innocent people.


You cannot help but have your heart turn to stone....


Her father was just interviewed on FNC. He seems like a really nice guy. Sounds like a rebellious daughter.

We can only hope that her eyes have been opened to the truth after this.......however, I am not holding my breath.



This is the heart and soul of the party that runs the entire federal government. Great.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I see that Antonin Scalia has written to the Boston Herald to insist that his reportedly obscene gesture a couple of days ago at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was not obscene. The Herald has a follow-up story here; Scalia's letter is here and here.

Scalia wrote:

Your reporter, an up-and-coming "gotcha" star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people who objected to my taking part in such public religious ceremonies as the Red Mass I had just attended. I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said "That's Sicilian," and explained its meaning -- which was that I could not care less....

He goes on to cite (accurately) a passage from Luigi Barzini's book The Italians that suggests he's right -- if the gesture described in the book is the gesture he actually made. Personally, I never saw anyone gently fan fingers under the chin back in my old Italian neighborhood; then again, I'm only half-Sicilian. I did, however, see plenty of people flick the back of a hand abruptly at an object of their anger, often accompanied by a Sicilian curse (see my previous post on this).

Scalia's letter concludes:

How could your reporter leap to the conclusion (contrary to my explanation) that the gesture was obscene? Alas, the explanation is evident in the following line from her article: "'That’s Sicilian,' the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the 'Sopranos' challenged." From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene -- especially when made by an "Italian jurist." (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)

OK, maybe the gesture wasn't obscene; maybe the reporter confused two (very similar) gestures. Apart from that, though, what we have here is Scalia responding to a reporter's question with a specifically ethnic gesture, which he then explained was a specifically ethnic gesture, yet now he's pissed off that someone mentioned his ethnicity while writing about it. What a jerk.

And by the way, I wouldn't say Scalia's an American jurist or an Italian jurist; he's an Italian-American jurist. That's certainly what we should call him if he's going to play the ethnicity card every time it suits him and then whine every time it's played back at him.
Boy, this is how you know things are starting to get a bit embarrassing for the Bush administration in Afghanistan: the military is putting out press releases about rebuilding schools there.

This one just opened Saturday in Nangarhar Province. "Coalition forces funded the $25,000 project," we're told.

Hey, do you see any girls in the ribbon-cutton picture at the link? Or in this picture ("Hundreds of students gather at Agam High School for its official reopening ceremony")? Me either.
Maybe you've been following the story of Howard Kaloogian, a right-winger who's trying to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the Senate. He posted a photo of a calm, orderly, bustling city street on his campaign Web site, accompanied by a caption claiming that the photo was taken on a recent trip to Baghdad.

It's now been determined that the photo shows a street in a suburb of Istanbul.

I'm bringing this up because I want to remind you that Kaloogian is not just another right-winger who occasionally shades the truth. He's a pro at stretching the truth, and he's a big-league political operator, so he knows exactly what he's doing. As Wikipedia notes:

In 2003, Kaloogian became the chairman of the Recall Gray Davis Committee, dedicated to the ousting of California's governor, Gray Davis....

Kaloogian is a founder and co-chairman of Move America Forward, a controversial conservative political action group.... Kaloogian serves on the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project and was the Chairman of the Defend Reagan Project, which campaigned in 2003 for CBS to drop a docudrama about Ronald Reagan,
The Reagans. The campaign was successful, as CBS did not show the mini-series, but handed it off to Showtime.

Kaloogian and MAF tried to browbeat theaters into not screening Fahrenheit 9/11, asserting that the movie was endorsed by Hezbollah.

MAF is running a petition drive to censure Jimmy Carter.

MAF has run an "I (HEART) GITMO" campaign.

Last year MAF sent a "truth tour" of right-wing talk-radio hosts to Iraq. The tour was partially sponsored by the Defense Department.

MAF has produced TV ads insisting Iraq had WMDs "shortly before the U.S. led invasion," as well as "extensive ties" to Al Qaeda.

There's also the anti-Cindy Sheehan campaign, the pro-John Bolton campaign, the campaign to expel the UN from the United States, etc., etc.

Some of that is just straightforward political advocacy. Some of it is outright fraud.

And Kaloogian could (still, even after this embarrassment) be the next Congressman from California?
Via Juan Cole, I see that those freedom-loving Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have sentenced a journalist to 18 months in prison "for allegedly defaming Kurdish political leaders."

Nice -- a year and a half in the joint for insults.

I fully expect Christopher Hitchens to issue a blistering denunciation of his Kurdish pals. (Kidding.)
In yesterday's Washington Post, E. J. Dionne wrote about John McCain's recent attempts to mend fences with the Republican right. What Dionne said sounds sensible -- but he's flat wrong about this:

...If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician. Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back.

Moreover, McCain is winning a hearing from previously reluctant Republicans as the one person who might save the party if Bush's popularity continues to sink. But if McCain gets too close to Bush in the next two years, he will no longer have his independence as a selling point. And if Bush should make a comeback, a lot of Republicans flirting with McCain now out of necessity will happily abandon him for someone more to their liking....

Er, no.

The press long ago got hold of (in the Daily Howler's phrase) "a story it likes" about McCain, the maverick story, the story that he's a pure, sainted, shoot-from-the-hip guy who's not afraid to go after even members of his own party. The public likes that story, too. So that's going to be the story no matter what McCain does, unless something extraordinary dislodges it.

That's how it works in American politics. Bill Clinton was a big liberal even after NAFTA and welfare reform and the Defense of Marriage Act. George W. Bush was seen as a moderate all through the 2000 campaign, even as he talked about Reaganite tax cuts and Social Security privatization, and even as he declared that his ideal judges were Scalia and Thomas and his favorite philosopher was Jesus.

Bush's reputation as a moderate -- the term of art was "compassionate conservative" -- survived the Ashcroft nomination and the first tax cut and the curtailment of stem-cell research; for the press and most Americans, Bush's conservatism became obvious only after 9/11, and only gradually even then.

(You can change your reputation without a world-historical cataclysm, but it's not easy. Jimmy Carter's did it, but only by devoting his entire post-presidential life to becoming a living saint. Then again, that's not even a huge leap from his image in the 70s.)

Does Dionne think McCain's going to stop seeming like a maverick because he's speaking at the graduation ceremony at Jerry Falwell's college? Nah. All McCain has to do that evening is go on Hardball and seem like his old self, and Chris Matthews's guy-crush will remain intact.

McCain could harm his reputation as a maverick, but he'd have to work really, really hard. The biggest obstacle to this is the fact that GOP rightists still hate McCain no matter how hard he tries to pander to them. He won't look like a sellout until he can find a buyer.

He'll never get to that point unless, perhaps, he masters some of the really obscure wingnut shibboleths. He'd have to go on Imus and declare that Jamie Gorelick caused 9/11 and should be shot for treason, or cancel an appearance on The Today Show because he refuses to be interviewed by "Katie Commie," or hold forth about the evils of Jimmy Carter.

He'd have to do that -- the wingnuts want respect. Only then would they truly embrace him (maybe), and only then (maybe) would the press begin describing him as anything other than a maverick.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Interesting point made by Bulworth late last week, before Abdul Rahman was released:

Should Afghanistan "give in" to international pressure and substitute international notions of basic human rights in place of its own constitution and religious mores?

This may sound like a callous question to raise regarding the case of the Afghan Christian convert facing a death penalty under Sharia law in Afghanistan.

But isn't this basically the complaint of far-right conservatives in this country when U.S. Supreme Court justices appear to base their decisions at least in part on international laws and concepts of human rights? Complaints that have, as the link points out, reached the level of death threats?

Right: What we've wanted Afghan's justice system to do in this case -- infuriating Afghan conservatives -- is the same thing that infuriates American conservatives when it happens in our own justice system. Our absolutists don't take it very well either when our system takes into account the views of the rest of the world.
In today's New York Times, Scott Shane writes about the Bush administration's decision to dump Saddam-era documents on the Internet, many of them untranslated. I've written off and on about the document dump, most recently in this post.

Unlike some of the commenters here, I don't think the Bushies have planted any freshly forged smoking-gun documents in the dump, just as they didn't plant WMDs in Iraq. (What? Plant evidence? I think, to them, that would be like admitting they were wrong about the war, which they won't do, even to themselves. I think they still think they'll find real smoking guns.) On the other hand, I do think old Chalabi-generated forgeries are in there (as I note in the post linked above); Shane acknowledges as much ("the intelligence official said ... the database included 'a fair amount of forgeries,' sold by Iraqi hustlers or concocted by Iraqis opposed to Mr. Hussein").

Unlike Shane, I don't believe for a minute that the Bushies didn't want the documents released and Congressman Peter Hoekstra hectored them until they gave in -- to me that's as plausible as the notion that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were operating completely independently of the Bush campaign.

I think the document dump is specifically intended to rally the base in an election year.

The Bushies want right-wingers and right-leaners to get a fuzzy notion in their heads that the no-WMD and no-Saddam/Osama-connection stories are the real lies, spread by Democrats and peaceniks and the liberal media. If documents are dumped on the Internet and some Freeper declares that this document or that one is the smoking gun regarding WMDs or an al-Qaeda connection, talk radio and righty blogs and conservative rant sites (CNS News, World Net Daily, Men's News Daily, MichNews, etc., etc.) will pick it up -- and now the untruth is just out there. No Bushie or GOP elected official actually has to say something untrue -- the work of spreading misinformation has been done for the party by volunteers.

And then, at the proverbial backyard barbecue, your right-wing cousin will say, "You don't know what you're talking about. Saddam had all the weapons shipped to Syria. And he and bin Laden were like this." And maybe he won't convert anyone else at the barbecue, but maybe he will make some of them rethink their increasing anger at the administration. And he, at least, will show up to vote Republican in November, because, well, you can't trust Democrats and the liberal media, and the only countervailing force against all those liars is the Republican Party.
TBogg visitors: the Battlecry post is here. (And did I forget to mention that Battlecry founder Ron Luce was appointed by Bush to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities?)
So I'm listening to NPR and I just heard this in an interview with Karen Hughes, our esteemed Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy:

"One of the things that I heard as I traveled throughout the Middle East is concern about the Israeli-Palestinian policy. I came back from my first trip and relayed to both the secretary (of State) and the president that, to the extent that we could be seen as visibly working to improve life for the Palestinian people," [it] would improve the U.S. image across the world.

Excuse me? She didn't know this until she went on her freakin' trip?? She didn't know this was a huge concern for Muslims everywhere? And she had to explain this to Bush and Condi?

Well, this team is doing a bang-up job, and I can certainly see why.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui testified today that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane into the White House on 9/11. I don't understand why so many people are taking this at face value. I'm skeptical, for the reasons talked about by Andrew Cohen of CBS:

... Moussaoui's jaw-dropping performance ... leaves open two fundamental questions which jurors ultimately must resolve. First, they will have to determine whether Moussaoui is now, finally, telling the truth (after such a long history of lies) or whether this is just another attempt to aggrandize his own stature in the antisocial registry of terrorists. Remember, there are plenty of intelligence officials, and now-captured al Qaeda leaders, who see Moussaoui as a terrorist-wannabe, a buffoon, a failure, a cheerleader who now wants desperately to be executed by America as a so-called martyr for jihad even though he wasn't clever or competent enough in 2001 to carry out his role as a terrorist.

The defense now will have to pivot to emphasize this side of Moussaoui. Fortunately for them, at least, there is some material with which to work. Jurors now are learning (in the form of written summaries of statements) what Moussaoui's al Qaeda bosses thought of him -- and I can virtually guarantee you that it will not necessarily synch up with what Moussaoui's own perceptions of his role in the terror network.... Indeed, before the day was out, jurors had heard the words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the nuts-and-bolts planner of the horror of 9-11, whose summarized testimony indicated that Moussaoui was on al Qaeda's "back burner" and designated for another wave of attacks after 9-11.

And jurors will have to decide, too, whether Moussaoui isn't just a bit too eager to seal his own doom. You can bet that if the case goes much further defense counsel will tell jurors that recommending a death sentence for Moussaoui will be a gift to him rather than a punishment. Normally, that type of pap never flies with a jury. But there is little about this case that is normal. Don't give this creepy, kooky, slimly terrorist what he wants, the defense is likely to tell jurors, as it turns on its own witness the way he has turned on them for years in this case. And there was an element of farce to Moussaoui's testimony; as if he were delighted to subvert his own defense and confound his own tormentors.

Here's Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's take on Moussaoui, according to CNN:

After Moussaoui's testimony, the defense introduced the statements from Mohammed.

Moussaoui was a "problem from the start," Mohammed said. He eventually ordered plot coordinator Ramzi Binalshibh to wire Moussaoui money for flight school and cut off ties.

Moussaoui had a hard time following instructions and was "lax with operational security," sending too many e-mails and making too many phone calls, according to Mohammed's testimony.

The potential targets for the second wave of attacks -- the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, California -- were not even finalized, he said.

If Mohammed is lying, what does he gain from it? Nothing. His words certainly don't please the people holding him. But if Moussaoui is lying, by doing so he may have singlehandedly won himself a jihadist's martyrdom when it seemed as if his life might be spared.

He wanted to do horrible things. He might have been part of a second wave of attacks. But I don't believe this story.
First two sentences of an open letter to Michael Schiavo published Saturday by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life:

A year ago this week, I stood by the bedside of the woman you married and promised to love in good times and bad, in sickness and health. She was enduring a very bad time, because she hadn't been given food or drink in nearly two weeks.

Yeah, right. Other than that, she was fine.

Pavone -- who, as I've pointed out a number of times, gave invocations at both a rally for religious conservatives organized by the GOP before the 2004 convention and a subsequent "Christian Inaugural Eve Gala" that was also addressed by Karl Rove -- goes on to call Michael Schiavo a murderer, over and over again:

... after Terri died, I called her death a killing, and I called you a murderer because you knew -- as we all did -- that ceasing to feed Terri would kill her.... Some have demanded that I apologize to you for calling you a murderer. Not only will I not apologize, I will repeat it again. Your decision to have Terri dehydrated to death was a decision to kill her. It doesn't matter if Judge Greer said it was legal. No judge, no court, no power on earth can legitimize what you did. It makes no difference if what you did was legal in the eyes of men; it was murder in the eyes of God and of millions of your fellow Americans and countless more around the world. You are the one who owes all of us an apology.

Your actions offend us. Not only have you killed Terri and deeply wounded her family, but you have disgraced our nation, betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and undermined the principles that hold us together as a civilized society.

He's saying that to most of us here in America -- he's saying most of us are potential murderers -- because, as an ABC News poll points out, we overwhelmingly agree that the right thing was done in this case, across the spectrum:

Sixty-four percent in this ABC News poll support last year's decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube. It was an almost identical 63 percent at the time.

... Democrats, Republicans and independents are equally likely to say removing Schiavo's feeding tube was the right thing to do. Conservatives are less likely than liberals and moderates to support removal of the tube, while 53 percent of conservatives think it was right -- that compares with seven in 10 liberals and moderates.

Sizable majorities of evangelical white Protestants and white Catholics -- 61 percent and 73 percent, respectively -- call the removal of Schiavo's tube the right thing to do, despite criticisms of the step by evangelical and Catholic leaders....

Pavone, of course, is the guy who told Fox News this about Schiavo's condition just before she died:

She was very responsive--closing her eyes when I said, “Let’s pray together, Terri,” opening them up after the prayer. Smiling, returning the kiss of her father. Turning her eyes to me when I spoke to her. In many other ways, as well, responsive.

Even today, although, of course, with the effects of the dehydration, her response was much less. Nevertheless, her eyes were open, her eyes were moving, and as I prayed with her, her eyes were shifting over toward my direction--even until the last moments that I was with her.

It's a sin to tell a lie, Father.
I think I see a common thread running through a few stories today that seem unrelated. First, a New York Times story a lot of people are talking about:

...During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, [President Bush] made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times....

Without much elaboration, the memo also says the president raised ... possible ways of provoking a confrontation....

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach." ...

Next we move to the West Coast:

  More than 25,000 evangelical Christian youth landed Friday in San Francisco for a two-day rally at AT&T Park against "the virtue terrorism" of popular culture....

"Battle Cry for a Generation" is led by a 44-year-old Concord native, Ron Luce, who wants "God's instruction book" to guide young people away from the corrupting influence of popular culture.

Luce, whose Teen Mania organization is based in Texas, kicked off a three-city "reverse rebellion" tour Friday night intended to counter a popular culture that he says glamorizes violence and sex....

Military metaphors abound in Luce's descriptions of the struggle. He tells young people of how "an enemy has launched a brutal attack on them." At a pre-Battle Cry rally Friday afternoon on the steps of City Hall, Luce told his mostly teenage audience that "terrorists of a different kind" -- advertisers -- were targeting them and that they were "caught in the middle of the battle." ...

And back here in New York, we have this in the New York Post:


March 27, 2006 -- PREZ-ENT ARMS!

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won't say if she's running for the White House -- but she's already drafted a presidential-size army of campaign staffers that dwarfs John McCain's outfit and those of everyone else in the field....

You see where I'm going. In every case, right-wingers are jonesing for war.

(Not the kind where they could actually get die or get hurt, of course. But war anyway! War is cool!)

Right-wingers love war. Right-wingers love to think they're at war (as long as they're not physically in the line of fire). If they can't have a real war (enjoyed from a safe distance), they want a metaphorical war. But they prefer a particular kind of war: a war in which they can say the other guy declared war first.

So Hillary isn't staffing up for multiple campaigns -- she's engaged in a "troop buildup." MTV's programming is literally comparable to 9/11, according to Ron Luce. (Also see the press release for his rally and the rad war-hungry graphics at the Web site for his campaign.) And Saddam -- well, it must have been a huge disappointment to Bush when he could never get the Brutal Dictator to shoot down a plane with U.N. markings.

Last month, when the story of Bush's desire to provoke Saddam first broke in the U.K. press, Juan Cole speculated that it might be a sign Bush is still drinking or on drugs. Naaah -- not necessarily. It's just a sign that he's a purebred Americanus bellicosus -- a right-winger who's sure he's peace-loving and slow to anger, but who's just itching for a war he can blame on someone else and watch other people fight.


See also: Mahablog (Bush), Shakespeare's Sister (San Francisco rally).


UPDATE: Garbled parenthetical fixed.

If Ted Kennedy had done something like this thirty years ago, they'd still be attacking him for it:

Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

"That's Sicilian," the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the "Sopranos" challenged....

The conduct unbecoming a 20-year veteran of the country's highest court -- and just feet from the Mother Church’s altar -- was captured by a photographer for the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper The Pilot, whose publisher is newly minted Cardinal Sean O’Malley....

Alas, there's no photo of this accompanying the article (which is from the Boston Herald) or at The Pilot's Web site. But if you're having trouble picturing this gesture, instructions are here:

partially close your hand, not quite curling the fingers, then bring your fingertips upward against your neck (knuckles face recipient), kind of popping off the end of the chin, then holding the slightly bent hand up at the recipient. maybe a little forward emphasis of the hand for a little extra oomph.

if i'm remembering this correctly, an accompanying profanity is "fongul!" (spelling?)

Yeah, that's the way I remember it from the old neighborhood. Never at a church, though. But I guess it's OK if you're a Republican.

No word on whether Scalia was questioned about the fact that he's apparently already prejudged a case that's soon to come before the Court:

...During an unpublicized March 8 talk at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, Scalia dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions, adding he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Gitmo. "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK. "Give me a break." ...

Scalia didn't refer directly to this week's case,
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, though issues at stake hinge in part on whether the detainees deserve legal protections that make the military tribunals unfair. "As these things mount, a legitimate question could be asked about whether he is compromising the credibility of the court," said Stephen Gillers, a legal-ethics expert....


UPDATE: UPI says Scalia gave the photographer the finger. I don't believe that -- if that were the case, why would he bother to add the little footnote ("That's Sicilian")? (UPI also quotes him as saying that.) Not that it matters -- the gesture he used means pretty much the same thing.


UPDATE: The Italian expression that usually accompanies the gesture is this. (Not work safe, unless you have lifetime tenure.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Well, I enjoyed "Atrios" on The West Wing...

...but I think I preferred his work in the late '70s and early '80s with the No Wave band DNA:

Good Lord, I half-agree with Michelle Malkin:

Condi Rice thinks Afghanistan has "come a long way" because when the Taliban ruled, they "wantonly" executed people for playing music (as opposed to now, you know, where executions of people for abandoning Islam are contemplated in a much more civilized, non-wanton manner.)

I hate to admit it, but she actually has the best roundup of news I've seen on the Abdel Rahman case -- yes, an Afghan court has dismissed the case against him, but this is disturbing:

Some Islamic clerics had called for him to be put to death, saying Rahman would face danger from his countrymen if he were released.

Earlier Sunday he was moved to a notorious maximum-security prison outside Kabul that is also home to hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaida militants. The move to Policharki Prison came after detainees threatened his life at an overcrowded police holding facility in central Kabul, a court official said....

Policharki was the site of an uprising last month in which four inmates died. It's also -- small world! -- the prison where freelance torturer Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema is being held. Hey, if he's such a tough guy, maybe he'll protect Rahman.

This, from the Chicago Tribune, is also disturbing:

In all likelihood, the court will declare Rahman mentally unfit to stand trial and release him, Afghan sources and Western diplomats said. But this is only a temporary fix, and it does not solve what will happen to Rahman next. Many Afghans want to kill him.

"He should be hanged in a square," said Aqa Gul, 40, a baker.

"He should be stoned to death," said Sayed Saber, 32, a construction worker.

Rahman was the major topic of conversation across Kabul on Friday. In a restaurant, influential leaders met with a group of young people from Panjshir province, where Rahman is from. The young men talked about what would happen if Rahman is released.

"Anything could happen--whether a big demonstration, even the possibility of killing him," said Shojah Mostaqel, who organized the meeting. "Everyone knows what Islam says. Bush and his friends are trying to interfere in an Islamic country."

At Pol-e-Kheshti mosque, Kabul's largest, more than 10,000 people listened to cleric Maulavi Enayatullah Baligh talk about Rahman. They yelled, "God is great!" after Baligh said Rahman deserved death.

"If this Abdul Rahman does not come to Islam and does not repent, even if the government does not sentence him to death, then the people of Afghanistan will kill him," said Baligh, 50, also a lecturer in Islamic law at Kabul University.

This story may not be coming to an end -- or at least not to a good end.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

So I guess Koufax voting ends tomorrow at 11:59 P.M. I'm up for Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, and I'm getting my butt kicked so far, so vote for me if you like, but it's kind of like voting for a Democrat in Utah. If you can't post a vote in the comments here or here, you can vote via email at wampum @ (remove spaces arount the @). Put "Koufax" in the subject line. Meanwhile, I'll be working on my concession speech.
Where does the New York Republican Party find these people?

A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, witnesses told The Post yesterday.

Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen "KT" McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying:

"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event....

McFarland spokesman William O'Reilly responded that the GOP hopeful was just kidding around with her far-fetched claims.

"It was a joke, and people laughed," O'Reilly insisted.

But three witnesses who were present said nobody in the audience cracked a smile.

"The whole room sort of went silent when she said it," one person said....

This is from the New York Post, by the way, so take it with a grain of salt. (As I've mentioned before, Murdoch is being very, very nice to Hillary these days. For more on that, go here or here.)
South Dakota abortion ban? Maybe not on the rez:

...The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty," she said to me last week. "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction." ...


Friday, March 24, 2006

You know what popped into my head as I was reading about the resignation of Ben Domenech at The Washington Post?

Paul Bremer saying, "We got him."

Remember that? The capture of Saddam? He was out of power and in hiding; he was an irrelevant relic -- but the message that went out from the Bush administration about his capture was: This is a real blow to the insurgency. Which it wasn't, of course, because the strength of the insurgency had nothing to do with whether Saddam was in custody or at large.

I'm afraid right now we're like the Bushies then, giddy because, well, we got him. We got Ben Domenech. Yes, he deserved what he got (so did Saddam) -- but how much does it matter? What effect is it really going to have?

Domenech is almost certainly going to be replaced at the Post by someone who's an ideological clone but who's been vetted more carefully. And life will go on as it has. The same people will control what they've controlled for years.

The initial anger at the hiring of Ben Domenech was for an understandable reason: the Post was responding to right-wing criticism of a mildly liberal Post blogger by "balancing" him with an out-and-out right-wing apparatchik. But eventually the concern was not about the decision to hire an apparatchik but, rather, about the (admittedly juicy) failures of judgment on the individual hired. It's now been conclusively demonstrated that Ben Domenech should not have been hired. What's been lost is the principle that an apparachik should not have been hired.

And is it really so important? Bloggers at the Post have limited influence on the discourse; I'm sure most of America doesn't even know that the Post has a stable of bloggers. I think there's been a loss of perspective -- Ben Domenech became just about the only topic on many left-wing blogs this week because he was one of us, a blogger. Are we developing a bit of tunnel vision? Is it good that we sometimes seem to be sniping at other bloggers more than at Cabinet members or senators?

Why are we doing this? Is the point to keep up a running conversation about the state of the country? Or is it all about which side's bloggers are better?
Over at the New York Sun, our old pal Eli "Chalabi on Speed-Dial" Lake beats the dead horse of the Osama-Saddam connection (emphasis mine):

...Last night ABC News reported on five recently declassified documents captured in Iraq. One of these was a handwritten account of a February 19, 1995, meeting between an official representative of Iraq and Mr. bin Laden himself, where Mr. bin Laden broached the idea of "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. The document, which has no official stamps or markers, reports that when Saddam was informed of the meeting on March 4, 1995 he agreed to broadcast sermons of a radical imam, Suleiman al Ouda, requested by Mr. bin Laden.

... the fact that Saddam broadcast the sermons of al-Ouda at bin Laden's request was previously unknown, as was a conversation about possible collaboration on attacks against Saudi Arabia....

"Previously unknown"? Not exactly. From The Telegraph, June 26, 2004:

Saddam Hussein's intelligence services reached out to Osama bin Laden in an effort to assist militants working to overthrow the Saudi ruling family, a document obtained by the US military in Iraq appears to show.

Iraqi intelligence officials were given permission by Saddam to meet bin Laden in the Sudan in February 1995, according to the internal Iraqi intelligence file.

Baghdad also agreed to re-broadcast sermons by an anti-Saudi cleric, reports the document which was leaked to yesterday's New York Times....

And is this even believable? Here's what the Times story said about the document cited by The Telegraph:

...The Americans confirmed that they had obtained the document from the Iraqi National Congress, as part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last year....

A translation of the new Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group in the spring, officials said. It included senior analysts from the military's Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a joint intelligence task force that specialized in counterterrorism issues, they said.

The task force concluded that the document "appeared authentic" ...

It is not known whether some on the task force held dissenting opinions about the document's veracity....

That document was from Chalabi. The one cited in the Eli Lake story is either the same document or a related document. Where do you suppose it came from?

Recall what Jane Mayer wrote a couple of years ago in The New Yorker:

In 1994, [former CIA officer Robert] Baer said, he went with Chalabi to visit "a forgery shop" that the I.N.C. had set up inside an abandoned schoolhouse in Salahuddin, a town in Kurdistan. "It was something like a spy novel," Baer said. "It was a room where people were scanning Iraqi intelligence documents into computers, and doing disinformation. There was a whole wing of it that he did forgeries in." Baer had no evidence that Chalabi forged any of the disputed intelligence documents that were used to foment alarm in the run-up to the war. But, he said, "he was forging back then, in order to bring down Saddam."
Make of this what you will:

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has been named to replace a judge who resigned from the secretive court set up by Congress to oversee domestic spying.

Bates, a former Whitewater prosecutor, was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts in February to replace U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who quit shortly after news reports about the Bush administration going around the court to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens suspected of communicating with terrorists.

This is weird:

The appointment was not announced by the court. Secrecy News reported the appointment Friday after it appeared in Bates' official online biography.

"In February 2006, he was appointed by Chief Justice Roberts to serve as a judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," according to Bates' bio on the Web site maintained by the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia....

Three years ago in The Washington Post, E. J. Dionne summed up all you need to know about Bates:

...consider the ruling of Judge John D. Bates in December declaring that Congress's General Accounting Office -- and thus the public -- had no right to learn the specifics about meetings between Vice President Cheney's famous energy task force and various energy executives and lobbyists. The same John Bates, an appointee of the current president, was an attorney for Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation and pushed hard (and successfully) for the release of various White House documents related to Hillary Rodham Clinton's activities.

"When that guy was working for Ken Starr, he wanted to go open the dresser drawers of the White House," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "I guess it's a lot different when it's a Republican vice president." Such suspicions of partisanship in the judiciary are corrosive because, unfortunately, they are now plausible.

Indeed they are.
This could be fun.

A few members of Congress think you and I are mass murderers -- or at least don't consider that assertion objectionable. At least that's how I interpret this press release:

Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough will unveil his new book, "Liberalism Kills Kids," at The War on Christians Conference (March 27 and 28, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.)

As well as the president of Vision America, Scarborough is the conference organizer. He's also one of the keynote speakers at the Monday evening banquet, along with U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

"Liberalism Kills Kids" is a groundbreaking work which documents the devastating failure of America's 40-year experiment with liberal statism. From the deaths of 44 million unborn children, to skyrocketing rates of out-of-wedlock births, to the divorce epidemic, to the destructive demands of the movement to normalize homosexuality -- the book exposes a cultural coup d'etat that has left our families gasping for air....

In addition to Senator Cornyn, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and our old pal Tom DeLay will also be at the conference. Also Alan Keyes and Phyllis Schlafly.

If I ever run into any of these people, here's what I'm going to say: You attended a conference where Rick Scarborough was promoting this book. I'm a liberal. I want you to look me in the eye and say that you think I'm a mass murderer of children.

More on Scarborough here.


By the way, the "war on Christians" that's going to be the subject of this conference is apparently taking place exclusively in America, to judge from the the conference agenda. Isn't talking about a war on Christianity in America a disgusting insult to people like the Afghani Christian who may be executed for converting?
Sorry, I haven't posted a word about Ben Domenech. Am I still allowed to call myself a left-wing blogger?
I wish I had something clever to say about these stories from the past few days:

Barbara Bush insisting that a portion of her Katrina gift be spent on Neil Bush's education software.

(Via Atrios.)

A music teacher in Colorado who was placed on leave after showing clips from a video of the opera Faust to her class, after "[s]everal parents complained that the video ... contained references to abortion and Satan worship."

(Via Sisyphus Shrugged, where Julia adds, "Look upon your works, William F Buckley, and despair.")

The Washington Post's list of Christian conservative organizations that have received generous outlays of your tax dollars during the Bush leaders -- including Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing, a couple of "pregnancy crisis centers," and at least one "pregnancy crisis center" that, thanks to federal government largesse, has now metasasized into a multi-state organization that provides abstinence "education" materials.

(That last outfit is Heritage Comunity Services of South Carolina. I see that the state of Rhode Island has just decided that abstinence curriculum materials from an affiliated group, Heritage of Rhode Island, are inappropriate for the state's public schools, so they've been banned: "Lawyers at the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union first complained last year that a now-abandoned textbook used by Heritage of Rhode Island taught students that girls should wear clothing that doesn't invite 'lustful thoughts' from boys. The book described men as 'strong' and 'courageous' while women were called 'caring.'" Good for Rhode Island for standing up for blue-state values.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Where to start regarding the latest Christopher Hitchens pronouncements, in this radio interview with Hugh Hewitt?

Do you start with Hitchens's McCarthyite suggestion that most war correspondents are working in cahoots to help bring about U.S. failure in Iraq?

And when I've been in the company of people covering Iraq, I notice this...another herd mentality, and it's been there since before the war, and it's placed a bet on quagmire at best ... And defeat at worst.... I won't say any more than that.

Do you talk about his distortion of the history of Zarqawi?

(Hitchens suggests that Zarqawi was tight with bin Laden right up until the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, as Nir Rosen reminded us last month in The New York Times Magazine, Zarqawi had begun bickering with Al Qaeda, had turned his focus to the "near enemy" of regional "infidels" whom he considered insufficiently Islamist, and had already moved to a separate part of Afghanistan; it was the U.S. invasion of Iraq that brought him back together with Al Qaeda, because the "Crusaders" of the U.S. and the "near enemy" in Iraq were now working side by side.)

Do you talk about the free pass Hitchens gives all war supporters -- the argument that, because Saddam and the insurgents are very, very bad guys, it's wrong to hold the Bush administration and its allies to any standard of accountability whatsoever?

... you could look at any of your today's newspapers and notice it, and say well, there's a civil war atmosphere, as if that was a criticism of the Bush administration, instead of the people like Zarqawi.... People look at you when they read about atrocities is if it's your fault for wanting to get rid of Saddam Hussein. This is simply illogical. It's a non sequitur.

Or do you talk about the weirdly sexual and bitchy way he dismisses one war critic?

Hugh Hewitt: ... Last night on CNN, I was debating this with Michael Ware from Time Magazine.... I want to play you a little bit. Michael Ware's a very respected war correspondent. He's covered Timor, he's covered all sorts of civil wars. He's an Australian, he's a rugby player. He's tough as nails. But here's an exchange last night I'd like your take on. I'm asking him a question.

...Michael Ware: ... Who's winning from this war? Who is benefitting right now? Well, the main winners so far are al Qaeda, which is stronger than it was before the invasion. Abu Musab al Zarqawi was a nobody. Now he's the superstar of international jihad. And Iran...Iran essentially has a proxy government in place, a very, very friendly government. Its sphere of influence has expanded, and any U.S. diplomat or senior military intelligence commander here will tell you that. So that's the big picture. Where is that being reported?

HH: Christopher Hitchens, does that reflect the mindset that you're talking about?

Christopher Hitchens: In part it does, because it's very passive. ... It's a non sequitur. And you'll note the slight tone of hysteria and the nervousness, I think, in the over-assertive way that your man was just talking now.

HH: Yes, I did notice that.

(Emphasis mine.)

Hewitt notes that Ware is a tough Aussie rugby player -- and Hitchens immediately dismisses him as an overemotional hysteric.

There are several things to be said about that. First, please note that there's an MP3 of the interview at the link. If you listen to it, you won't hear hysteria on Ware's part. He's straightforward and bluff -- no sneering barbs of irony for him. (I've heard him before on TV and he always sounds like this.) The question does, momentarily, seem to tap into some pent-up frustration. But also, he's talking loudly because he wants to be heard. He's answering questions via satellite from half a world away. (And what are the car horns and crowd noises? Whether they're in the background as he's speaking or part of a news clip CNN played under his words, he needed a little extra volume to be audible.)

But most important, Ware was speaking from Baghdad. He's in a war zone.

Where was Hitchens speaking from?

Nevertheless, I'm sure Hitchens walked away from the Hewitt interview that thinking he could kick Michael Ware's ass.
Not much to blog about, so I want to throw out a question: After Bush leaves office, what do you think he's going to do with the rest of his life?

Bush boom!

...The Standard & Poor's 500 Index -- the benchmark for American equities -- is down 2.8 percent since Bush took office five years and two months ago. That's the worst performance during the same stage of any two-term administration in the past half century except that of Richard M. Nixon....

By comparison with other two-term administrations of the past half-century, the index grew 153.6 percent at this point during the presidency of Bill Clinton, 79.7 percent for Ronald Reagan, 61.9 percent under Dwight D. Eisenhower and 45.4 percent during the Kennedy-Johnson administration. At the same stage in Nixon's presidency the S&P dropped 4.1 percent....

And this is now -- imagine what happens in the event of another large terrorist attack on the U.S., or a full-scale civil war in Iraq that turns regional, or a bird flu pandemic that involves human-to-human transmission, or a serious oil-price shock caused by tensions between America and, say, Iran or Venezuela, or even the bursting of the housing bubble. Anyone sorry we didn't go for those Social Security private investment accounts?

(Via DU.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Added to the blogroll, in most cases belatedly, are Annie's Annals, Busy, Busy, Busy, Doghouse Riley (Bats Left Throws Right), Lawyers, Guns and Money, Left I on the News, the MoJoBlog from Mother Jones, The Republic of T., and Shakespeare's Sister. Welcome aboard. What took me so long?

Harris invokes biblical parables on TV's 'Nightline'

Florida's most theatrical political figure, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, invoked biblical parables on national TV Tuesday night in support of her promise to spend $10-million of her own money to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson.

..."I am willing to take this widow's mite, this pearl of great price, and put everything on the line," she said. "No matter how much you have, are you willing to take what you have and sell it all for a great price."

The "widow's mite" is a reference to a parable in which Jesus praises a poor widow for donating all she has - two Roman coins - while those with more wealth offered proportionally less....

Let's see: The widow was poor. Harris is rich. The widow was giving her money to the temple. Harris is giving her money to win herself and her party a position of great power and influence. Yeah, pretty much the same thing, right?

Harris been portraying herself as God's Chosen Candidate a lot lately:

... Katherine Harris told hundreds of conservative Christians Saturday that she is "a work in progress."

Harris, who told a national television audience Wednesday that she would be spending $10 million to win Florida's U.S. Senate race, said she never would have entered politics if she did not believe that God wanted her to make public service part of her life....

More than 800 conservative Christians were attending a two-day annual conference called Reclaiming America for Christ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale. Harris received a standing ovation when she arrived at the pulpit.

She told the crowd that she studied under Francis Schaeffer in Geneva, Switzerland. Schaeffer is considered a founder of the modern evangelical movement, which encourages advocating Christian beliefs in public life. Schaeffer, in his book
A Christian Manifesto, called for Christian activists to demand "biblical morality" in government affairs.

Harris, a Presbyterian, said she "redirected my life to the Lord when I was only in the third grade." She said she was "blessed to be raised in a godly family." ...

Determined to stay in the race, Harris said she is getting inspiration from Bill Bright's book,
The Joy of Supernatural Thinking -- Believing in God for the Impossible.

"Everything is possible with God," said Harris, who never directly mentioned her Senate campaign....

She also told the group that she was inspired by the Lord of the Rings movies and, as a young woman, by the movie version of The Last of the Mohicans -- "because 'people were willing to die for something bigger than themselves.'" (Is that even an appropriate lesson to draw from The Last of the Mohicans?)

"Secret Saddam tapes" say Saddam had no WMDs, according to AP:

Exasperated, besieged by global pressure, Saddam Hussein and top aides searched for ways in the 1990s to prove to the world they'd given up banned weapons.

"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show....

Saddam's inner circle entertained notions of reviving the programs someday, the newly released documents show. "The factories will remain in our brains," one unidentified participant told Saddam at a meeting, apparently in the early 1990s.

At the same meeting, however, Saddam ... led a discussion about converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses.

...Scores of Iraqi documents, seized after the 2003 invasion, are being released at the request of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, who has suggested that evidence might turn up that the Iraqis hid their weapons or sent them to neighboring Syria. No such evidence has emerged.

Repeatedly in the transcripts, Saddam and his lieutenants remind each other that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, and shut down those programs and the nuclear-bomb program, which had never produced a weapon.

"We played by the rules of the game," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said at a session in the mid-1990s. "In 1991, our weapons were destroyed." ...

Not that any right-winger will ever believe this, of course....
If you're wondering what Bush meant yesterday about a U.S. troop presence in Iraq until at least the next presidency, Barbara at the Mahablog reminds us that he's talking about permanent bases. As is noted in the news reports she cites, there's a lot of concrete being poured out there, and it ain't for schools or hospitals.


... what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.

--Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, p. 4
And speaking of Michelle Malkin, she's made a cause out of the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man who faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity -- but I'm afraid National Public Radio is monkeying with her worldview by doing a feature story this morning on Rahman's case. How dare the "liberal media," the "MSM," fail to live up to right-wingers' stereotypes of it!

The NPR story says a way may have been found to save Rahman's life -- he may be found mentally unfit to stand trial. That's confirmed by this AP story. No word on whether that means he'll walk free. In any case, it still sounds like Taliban Lite.


(NPR also ran an interview this morning with a UN official in Iraq who says the country isn't experiencing a civil war. Damn liberal media! Damn liberal UN!)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I see that the latest thing Michelle Malkin is hyperventilating about is this poster from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:

Looks innocuous, you say? Ah, no -- that red thing is a Lego, and Legos are made in Denmark; Malkin thinks we should all buy Danish products to prove we don't stand with the cartoon rioters (OK, fine so far). Beyond that, however, she says that the use of a Lego in this ad makes this a "vile poster portraying Denmark's most famous company as racist."

Michelle, you're nuts.

Just so you know, Michelle -- Legos have been part of UNHCR anti-racism ads since at least 1994.


UPDATE: If you want to see the 1990s posters full size, go here and click on the thumbnails.


UPDATE: Well, OK -- it appears that Lego got hypersensitive, too, and MM is gloating about the UN's decision to pull the ad from its Web site. Er, doesn't that mean it's bowing to censorship? Shouldn't we all put the UN poster on our sites, as a show of solidarity?
Bafflingly, I made the finals: No More Mister Nice Blog is one of a dozen blogs up for the "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" Koufax. Thanks to everyone who voted for me in Round One (and to everyone who's already voted for me in Round Two). Voting in Round Two ends, er, I don't know. Relatively soon, I'm guessing.
Righties are snickering because of the light turnout at this weekend's anti-war demonstrations. But seriously: do you know anyone who actually thinks a bunch of big demonstrations might have led to changes in this administration's policies?

When you're dealing with someone who's addicted to harmful behavior, at a certain point you may realize that you've said everything you possibly can to try to persuade the person to change course, and nothing you say or do will help. If the person refuses to see the need for change, you may have to just give up and recognize that you've done everything you can to stop the death spiral, and nothing you said or did got through. Some people just can't or won't change. Bush is one of them.
As a lot of you already know, The American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta has noticed something about the New York Times op-ed page:

... during [the past two years], not one op-ed discussing abortion on the op-ed page of the most powerful liberal paper in the nation was written by a reproductive-rights advocate, a pro-choice service-provider, or a representative of a women's group.

Instead, the officially pro-choice
New York Times has hosted a conversation about abortion on its op-ed page that consisted almost entirely of the views of pro-life or abortion-ambivalent men, male scholars of the right, and men with strong, usually Catholic, religious affiliations. In fact, a stunning 83 percent of the pieces appearing on the page that discussed abortion were written by men.

Please note that the Times op-ed page editor during this period -- he was appointed in January 2003 -- has been David Shipley, whose marriage to the Godmother of Postfeminism, Naomi Wolf, is only now ending in divorce after about a decade. Wolf's position on abortion is quintessentially "abortion-ambivalent": she calls for

an abortion-rights movement willing publicly to mourn the evil -- necessary evil though it may be -- that is abortion

and laments that

many must pretend that abortion is not a transgression of any kind if we wish to champion abortion rights. We have no ground on which to say that abortion is a necessary evil that should be faced and opposed in the realm of conscience and action and even soul; yet remain legal.

If you're a man and the person closest to you who has a uterus thinks like this, it's no surprise if you hate abortion (while perhaps also supporting abortion rights). And it's no surprise if you advance this way of thinking in your role as a cultural gatekeeper.
This can't be good:

...More than one-quarter of Boston's mortgage-holders appear to be stretched thin financially, spending at least half their income on housing, according to an analysis of census figures....

Typically, homeowners should spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing, financial planners say....

These people are in over their heads. And it's taking a toll:

Rising interest rates are pushing up the costs for those who have adjustable mortgages. At the same time, these homeowners are finding it harder to sell.

The number of homes sold in Massachusetts dropped a whopping 21 percent in January compared with a year ago, the largest year-to-year decrease in monthly home sales in a decade. As a result, home values have begun to soften. Statewide, they actually fell slightly in January compared with a year ago.

Such pressures are forcing a rising number of homeowners to erase their debts by forfeiting their homes. Foreclosure filings in the county that includes Boston nearly doubled in January from a year ago, ForeclosuresMass. says....

Another big jump in energy prices -- a military strike against Iran, perhaps? maybe just in time for the November elections, which is precisely when New Englanders start needing home heating oil? -- could put even more pressure on these people. This may not be a nationwide problem, but in places like Boston it's going to get very ugly.
Your tax-return data? Well, we could retain privacy protections, or we could let your tax preparer make a nice profit on your personal financial information. Guess which choice the Bushies prefer?

IRS plans to allow preparers to sell data

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

The change ... was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action."

...The proposed rules ... would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

Critics ... say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.

"The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them," said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes. "They think, 'This person is a tax professional, and I'm going to rely on them.'"

But wait -- where's the Orwellian language the Bushies like to use when doing things like this?

The IRS first announced the proposal in a news release the day before the official notice was published, headlined: "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information."

Ah, there it is!


(UPDATE: Garbled syntax corrected.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

The utter brilliance of just the title of this post from right-wing blogger Dr. Sanity has me in a state of absolute awe:



That's it! That's the solution to all of our problems in Iraq! Right there! That's the answer!

Why didn't we think of it before?

Somebody tell Rummy about this! Condi and Cheney, too! It's genius!

Dear Catholic Church: Thanks for nothing.

THE Vatican has begun moves to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a conference at the weekend that portrays the Crusades as wars fought with the "noble aim" of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity.

...The late Pope John Paul II sought to achieve Muslim-Christian reconciliation by asking "pardon" for the Crusades during the 2000 Millennium celebrations. But John Paul's apologies for the past "errors of the Church" -- including the Inquisition and anti-Semitism -- irritated some Vatican conservatives. According to Vatican insiders, the dissenters included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI....

Great -- Pope Ratzo is to the right of John Paul on this.

And here's an appalling detail: One of the speakers at this conference was Robert Spencer, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Spencer is the founder of Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, where he publishes (and defends) items like this Hugh Fitzgerald blog post, written in response to Congressman Tom Tancredo's infamous "bomb Mecca" remarks (emphasis mine below):

...Deterrent measures that could be undertaken in the event of a chemical or nuclear attack, but without waiting in some cases for any further attacks (although further attacks will help to justify the more far-reaching among them) might include, but not be limited to:

1) Seizure of Saudi-owned assets in the West, and sale of such assets to pay for the economic damage, including the cost of surveillance and other security measures, that are attributable to Saudi-funded mosques, madrasas, and propaganda all over the world. 2) Seizure of other Arab-owned or Muslim-owned assets in the West, for the same reasons. There need not be any distinction made between property owned by governments and those who are deemed to be enemy nationals -- no such distinction was made during World War II.

3) A complete ban on Muslim migration to the Western world (which needs to be undertaken in any case), and limits put on any contact between Muslims living in the West, who may already have obtained ciizenship and -- unless they are native-born converts -- their countries of origin.

4) Careful review of how citizenship is obtained, and what oaths of loyalty are administered, and if those oaths can possibly have been meant by those whose sole loyalty, by the very tenets of their belief-system, can only be to Islam and the Community of Believers, the umma al-islamiyya....

7) An end to all outward and visible signs of rhetorical "respect" for Islam....

8) End all access to Western education, not only for those Arabs and Muslims studying any kind of science, but in every area....

These are things that can be done, should be done, long before suggestions about "bombing Mecca" need to be bruited about.

Peace on earth, good will to men -- except you, raghead!
Sometimes it seems as if Republican presidents and the people they choose as allies created every threat we're now facing.

First, from AFP:

US-made Stinger missiles will pose a threat to military and commercial aircraft across the region if they fall into the hands of Taliban rebels in Afghanistan, the US-led coalition said Monday.

Washington supplied a large number of shoulder-fired Stingers to Afghans fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and dozens are still thought to be missing.

There was no evidence to support media reports that the Taliban had obtained some of the heat-seeking missiles but coalition forces were continuously monitoring the situation, spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts said....

I found a bit more about this in a story from the Irish Independent -- which, if true, says that these missiles are a threat because of our pals:

Pakistan officials 'gave missile parts' to Taliban

US AND Nato forces are following up reports that the Taliban has received vital component parts for shoulder-fired Stinger missiles from Pakistani officials enabling them to be used against helicopters in Afghanistan.

It is claimed that the missiles - originally supplied to the Afghan Mujaheddin by the US during the war against the Russians - have been fitted with new battery packs allegedly provided by the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, in the last four months.

Western sources say they are not sure whether the supplies, needed to make the American-made missiles operational, were provided by rogue elements within the Pakistani secret service or approved at a high level....

"In the last four months." Lovely.

Then we've got this from England's Independent on Sunday (IoS): Apparently bomb technology used in IEDs that have killed soldiers in Iraq was used by the Irish Republican Army more than a decade ago -- and the technology was provided to the IRA by the FBI and England's MI5:

...Our story showed that the technology, far from being new, had in fact first been used in Newry, Co Down, in 1992 to murder a policewoman and maim her male colleague.

Kevin Fulton, a former soldier who infiltrated the IRA on behalf of the security services, made an astonishing claim: that he had flown to New York, met FBI and MI5 agents and was given money to buy an infra-red device to be used to set off IRA bombs.

The security services - already successful in preventing radio-signal bombs - believed that by supplying the equipment they could then introduce counter-measures.

"They knew the IRA was looking at the technology. By supplying the equipment, they thought they could stay one step ahead of the IRA," Mr Fulton told the IoS yesterday....

The IoS has also spoken to a republican who was a senior IRA member in the early 1990s. He confirmed that Mr Fulton had introduced the IRA to the new technology and that the IRA shared this with "like-minded organisations abroad"....

The story notes that after eight British soldiers were killed by bombs of this kind, John Reid, England's Secretary of State for Defence, said the technology had come from Iran. He later issued a retraction when the technology's provenance was revealed. Oops!

So that was 1992 -- gee, what was the name of the U.S. president back then? Same as it was in 2004, when the U.S. government also thought it would be a swell idea to slip weapons know-how to bad guys -- this time the mullahs in Iran. You remember that story, which appears in James Risen's book State of War. In that case, we didn't hand out working technology we assumed could be controlled because we knew how to defeat it; we gave out bomb plans with a hidden flaw -- but our courier, a Russian defector, told the Iranians about the flaw. Oops again!

(IRA story via Norwegianity.)