Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How to lose Homeland Security funding: live in a place that's actually been attacked by terrorists. How to gain Homeland Security funding: live in a state governed by the president's brother.


UPDATE: I'm just speechless at this part of the Bushies' explanation for the New York funding cut:

New York officials were given a one-page tally that explained, in part, how the region's risk-based standing was calculated. The document said the region had no "national monuments or icons" ...

"It's outrageous that these bean counters don't think the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge are national monuments or icons," said Jordon Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg.

Er, Times Square? Apparently not iconic?
Bobby Eberle, Jeff Gannon's former publisher, posted this at the blog over the weekend:

It’s Why We Fight

...[The] freedom which we cherish comes at a great price. Men and women have stepped forward and given their lives so that America can be free. We owe it to these fine souls to remember what they have done and to pass on to our children the value of the freedom that so many yearn for, and yet so many of us take for granted.

On this Memorial Day, please remember those who have gone before us, and those who wait for brave men and women in uniform to return. There is nothing more precious in this country than freedom. It’s why we fight, and it’s why we will continue to be both the envy and the target of the world.

It's why we fight, Bobby?

Bobby, you were born in March 1968. That makes you 38 years old.

The maximum enlistment age is now 39.

So, er, does this mean you've enlisted, Bobby?

Didn't think so.

Just in case we wondered whether Bush was serious about confronting AIDS, two ... names on the delegate list [for the UN Special Session on AIDS] give us a hint: his daughter Barbara Bush and her party playmate Maggie Betts are both listed as "senior advisors."

--Esther Kaplan at Talk to Action


(Who is Maggie Betts? Well, according to New York magazine, besides being a party companion of the Bush twins, she's the "daughter of Roland Betts, the developer of Chelsea Piers and President Bush's closest New York connection." We learn here that she "has been active in both filmmaking and journalism. She has written two screenplays. One is the contemporized adaptation of the novel The Fountainhead, on which she collaborated with Oliver Stone for a time.... Betts' passions are filmmaking, architecture, fashion and politics." Back in 2001, then-Washington Post gossip columnist Lloyd Grove hinted that Betts was the much older Mr. Stone's girlfriend. Sounds like the perfect background for an AIDS conference delegate, no? As for the Bush twins, er, well, you know.)

And on the subject of AIDS, a couple of days ago we had this from Sebastian Mallaby on The Washington Post's op-ed page:

A ... doubt about the administration's AIDS promise concerned sexual abstinence. When it agreed to back Bush's AIDS initiative, Congress laid down that a third of the prevention budget should be used to advocate abstinence and faithfulness.... the congressional earmark, to which the administration acquiesced, seemed like a classic Republican mistake: a triumph of social-conservative ideology over science.

This complaint is right -- but should not be exaggerated. Most of the U.S. AIDS budget goes toward treating people and caring for the dying and orphans. Abstinence and faithfulness teaching consumes only 7 percent of the total, and an unknown fraction of that is constructively combined with teaching about condoms.... it's wrong to paint the entire Bush AIDS program as a Christian-conservative plot when the abstinence-only stuff is relatively limited.

But as Talk to Action's Esther Kaplan notes, Bush policies don't appear to be working in Uganda:

...The Bush administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May 18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005....

Uganda was once an HIV prevention success story, where an ambitious government-sponsored prevention campaign, including massive condom distribution and messages about delaying sex and reducing numbers of partners, pushed HIV rates down from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2001.

... [But s]oon, players connected with the Christian right, from Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse to Anita Smith's Children's AIDS Fund, cashed in to the tune of millions of dollars in federal grants to spread the abstinence message in Uganda, the Christian rights' new showcase for a morality-based approach to AIDS. In the case of Smith's outfit, her proposal was shot down by a scientific review committee, but politics prevailed: the head of U.S. AID overruled the experts and demanded that the program be funded....

Ah, but I'm sure if you buy Young Barbara a drink, she can explain why everything is really much better than it appears to be.

(Via BuzzFlash.)

* "Hey Joe" (recorded by Jimi Hendrix and many other artists)

"Hey Joe!/Where you going with that gun in your hand?/I'm going down shoot my lady/'Cos I caught her messing 'round with another man..."

Extols the right to keep and bear arms, marital fidelity, and not relying on the government to solve every little problem in your life.

* "Your Love Is Like Nuclear Waste" by the Tuff Darts

"Your love is like nuclear waste./Your body is a danger to the human race./They should stamp 'contaminated' right across your face./Your love is like nuclear waste."

Pro-celibacy. A reminder that the only truly safe sex is abstinence.

(Honorable mention: "I Kill Everything I Fuck" by G.G. Allin.)

* "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones

"Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/with a baseball bat"

There are a lot of spoiled brats in this country, and there wouldn't be nearly as many if we returned to good old-fashioned physical discipline.

* "One in a Million" by Guns 'N Roses

"Immigrants and faggots/They make no sense to me/They come to our country/And think they'll do as they please/Like start some mini Iran,/Or spread some fuckin' disease/They talk so many goddamn ways/It's all Greek to me"


* "One Down, Three to Go" by the Meatmen

"fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck the Beatles/One down, three to go"

This song was written shortly after the death of John Lennon; Lennon was a rich commie peacenik junkie anti-religious illegal alien. His fellow drug-taking, "love"-invoking Beatles weren't much better. If you were a real American, you'd realize that Mark David Chapman did this country a huge favor.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


George W. Bush's successor as governor of Texas, Republican Rick Perry, is running for reelection. As Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle notes, he's telling people in his campaign ads that he saved them money -- and he wants to make sure they know exactly how much:

...Standing in front of a pleasant, modest house (or a school in another version), the good-looking governor touts the accomplishment.

As he speaks, large print echoes his words:

"$15 billion tax cut."

"Governor Rick Perry."

"$2,000 tax cut."

That last line accompanies him saying, "The average homeowner will receive a $2,000 tax cut."

There's just a slight problem:

If you, like many television viewers, turn away during commercials, you'll miss the small print on screen: "Over first three years."

Oh, wait -- there's another slight problem:

...Perry chose to use the average sales price, as calculated by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. That is $180,000 statewide.

But the average appraised value on which taxes are actually calculated is about $123,000 statewide....

The higher the value of the house, the greater the value of the tax cut.

(Houses that are currently selling are priced higher than the average house, you see.)

So the average homeowner won't save $2,000, even over three years, because Perry's "average" homeowner isn't really average. How much will the average homeowner save?

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt ... projects an average savings of a miniscule $23 next year, less than $2 a month, or about the tax increase on two packs of cigarettes.

The next year, Bettencourt predicts an average savings of another $268.

(Why? Because average appraisals are going up, which eats into the tax cut. And many school districts will also pass tax increases.)

Lies, damned lies, and Republican statistics....
Writing for the Reverend Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, Dr. Marc T. Newman (president of reminds us of the power of cinema to make us think:

The ambivalence felt by the audience during the film stems from this major premise: in a world that rejects any kind of transcendent morality as binding on its decision making, how do we determine right from wrong? ... it was Nietzsche, not Einstein, who best understood how determinations of right and wrong are to be made in a culture that has killed God: through the will to power.

Of course, I should point out that the film he's talking about is X-Men: The Last Stand.

Oh, I'm sorry. Like a lot of lefty bloggers, I enjoy chuckling at right-wing film critics and their overly earnest (and usually fretful) deconstructions of the high-fructose corn playing at the local cineplex. (Do I even have to tell you that Dr. Newman invokes C. S. Lewis throughout his review?)

But hey, maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe transcendent morality really is what everyone is talking about after seeing this movie.

Let's go to the message boards:

I just have to get this off my chest. This movie was absolutley horrible. It looked cheap in almost all respects. From the terrible title sequnce (check X2's, it is much better than the 3rd which should be the best?! . . . right?) the evil mutant army that looked like they shopped at Hot topic, the terrible wire work that would make even a late 70's kungfu movie fight choregrapher cringe, and that horrible Alcatraz set that looked like it was lifted from the end of John Carpenters' horrible Escape form LA. Not to mention nearly every time you saw Angel he was somewhere in the distance. Why wasn't he doing fantastic aerial maneuvers LIKE IN THE COMIC! Barrel rolls, swooping into the battle and taking out guys with his wings (again like in the Comic!) ... And have you read the phoneix SAGA, there is nothing of that here. Or barely anything. She doens't even turn to giant firey bird . . . the phoenix trademark! Why call her the Phoenix than....


Actually, as a True Believer, I'm slightly insulted. They emotionally weakened Storm, they threw in Ultimates Rogue and Bobby--there's no Remy to cause frustration on Rogue's end because Kitty doesn't cut it, and quite a few other things were not even in the ballpark.


Wolverine is SO HOT!!!

I think the hottest and best mutant is Wolverine. I mean come on. He has those metal claws and he can heal himself. What`s better than the power to heal yourself instantly?


Ellen Page as "Kitty Pride/ShadowCat". (walks thru walls) She's 19 yrs old and extremely delicious.

sweet, delicious, sexuality at it's best...



Nope, guess not....
Those uncooperative al-Qaeda fighters -- they just won't cooperate with Bush and Rove's election-year timetable:

The top American commander in Iraq has decided to move reserve troops now deployed in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar Province in western Iraq to help quell a rise in insurgent attacks there, two American officials said Monday....

The movement of the brigade comes as several senior American officials in Iraq have begun to raise doubts about whether security conditions there will permit significant troop reductions in coming months....

More from The Washington Post:

Last week, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad conceded ... that parts of Anbar were under insurgent control. Ramadi is the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni province....

"We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi's fist is stronger than the Americans'," said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation....

In Ramadi, people describe themselves as under siege. The fighters are moving to enforce the strictest form of Islam on the city, requiring head scarves for women and banning shorts and jeans for men, residents said....


And meanwhile in Afghanistan, the U.S. is planning an even more significant election-year withdrawal. The troops are to be replaced by NATO forces, as Ahmed Rashid notes in The Telegraph:

Nato's deployment is part of Washington's agenda to reduce its forces in Afghanistan. It is pulling 3,000 troops out this summer and possibly more later.

The Karzai government is angry with Washington, because many Afghans see this as the start of a full American withdrawal.

Problem is, the Taliban are gaining strength, and the NATO forces aren't supposed to, y'know, fight:

Fighting a full-scale guerrilla war is not what countries such as Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany and others enlisted for. The mandate from their governments is reconstruction, not combat.....

General James Jones, the head of US and Nato forces in Europe, ... is now desperately trying to persuade contributing countries to end the restrictions they impose on their troops, making it impossible for some of them to fight or commanders to run a proper military campaign.

"What is the point of deploying troops who don't fight," ask many Afghans. That is why Gen Jones calls these caveats -- they now number a staggering 71 -- "Nato's operational cancer".

You may have a vague sense (especially after yesterday's riot) that things aren't going well in Afghanistan, and that's it's more of a trouble spot than you're generally being told. According to Rashid, it's a lot worse than that:

...Afghanistan has become the new battleground for the 59-year proxy war between India and Pakistan; Afghan anger at the Pakistanis is returned in kind, as Islamabad accuses Kabul of allowing Indian spies access to Pakistan's western border, while Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad are accused of funding an insurgency in Baluchistan province....

Al-Qa'eda ... has helped reorganise the Taliban, create unlimited sources of funding from the sale of Afghan-grown opium and forged a new alliance linking the Taliban with extremist groups in Pakistan, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Iraq. Al-Qa'eda has facilitated a major exchange of fighters and training between the Taliban and the extremist groups in Iraq.

Iran is spending large sums out of its windfall oil income in buying support among disaffected and disillusioned Afghan warlords. The day America or Israel attacks Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, these Afghans will be unleashed on American and Nato forces in Afghanistan, opening a new front quite separate from the Taliban insurgency....

Yet in the past five years there has been no Western military presence in three of the four provinces in southern Afghanistan that constituted the Taliban heartland and today are the battleground for its revival....

Not enough troops in key parts of Afghanistan.

Which we ignored while we shifted our focus to Iraq.

Where we've never had enough troops.


UPDATE: A dim bulb from the righty blogosphere quotes the opening of this post under the heading "Leftie Blogger claims al-Qaeda and Dems share common goal." Oh, yeah, I get it: Al-Qaeda in Iraq is wreaking havoc at an inconvenient time for Bush and Rove's electoral timetable, therefore Al-Qaeda in Iraq is pro-Democrat. Wow, that's just brilliant. By that logic, I guess Hitler was a Republican, and I guess the Al-Qaeda millennium plot was an attempt to get George W. Bush elected rather than Al Gore.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I really don't believe Mayor Bloomberg is planning to run for president in '08, despite the speculation in The New York Times.

However, I think we'd be in for an interesting moment in this country if he did run. Consider his current high-profile anti-gun campaign: In order to show how crime guns get onto New York's streets, the city hired a firm of private investigators to go into five red states and demonstrate that certain dealers allow illegal straw purchases. The city is now suing a number of these dealers.

Now, think about that for a minute. Also, consider what else you know about Bloomberg. Now put it all together and imagine that a candidate for president in 2008 will be a billionaire Jew from New York City who can be classified as a "gun-grabber."

I think we've hit at least 10.5 on an awful lot of non-coastal Americans' Antichrist Richter scale.

This is not just a guy they'd vote against. For a lot of Americans, this is someone who was prophesied in the Book of Revelation. This is a guy they'd be checking for cloven hooves and horns.

And, y'know, Bloomberg might actually be a tolerable president. But in the unlikely event that he ever actually gets elected, be forewarned: it's McVeigh time. To the power of 1,000.
Let's see -- it's been a few days, yet I don't see any evidence that the right-wingers who complained about this are particularly upset about this.
Newt Gingrich, the right-wing blog RedState, and brother W. are all saying that they'd like to see a Jeb Bush presidency.

Hmmmm ... I'd say it's not the best time to make the case that the #1 conservative rock song of all time is "Won't Get Fooled Again."


BY THE WAY: Check out that "brother W." link. It's from Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times. If she thinks a Jeb presidency is possible at some point in the future, shouldn't she have interviewed 50 people to ask about the state of Jeb and Columba Bush's marriage? After all, Jeb has been the subject a couple of infidelity rumors, one involving Katherine Harris. Sure, Jeb says he's not running in '08 and there's no concrete evidence he'll run after that, but doesn't the Times -- by its own standards -- have a responsibility to get to the bottom of all this? In the interest of the public's right to know?
A spot of bother for God's candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia:

In August 1999, political organizer Ralph Reed's firm sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws.

Now those seven-year-old words are coming back to haunt Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and a candidate for the Republican nomination to be Georgia's lieutenant governor.

"The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands," the mailer from Reed's firm said. The Chinese workers, it added, "are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ" while on the islands, and many "are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand."

A year earlier, ... [a]n Interior [Department] report found that Chinese women were subject to forced abortions and that women and children were subject to forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry....

Reed's close friend and political ally, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, represented the commonwealth as a partner of Greenberg Traurig. The islands' government paid Abramoff $4.04 million from 1998 to 2002. Greenberg Traurig hired Millennium Marketing to print the mailing....

It's not clear whether Rudy Giuliani was available for comment.

(More on the Marianas Islands here.)
Due to its depiction of "apparent torture," the Motion Picture Association of America rejected the original poster for The Road to Guantanamo, Michael Winterbottom's docudrama based on three real-life Guantanamo detainees. (Studios must submit promotional materials to receive a rating.) It showed a prisoner hanging by his bound hands with a burlap sack over his head.

--Entertainment Weekly

"Apparent torture"? That's not "apparent torture"! That's just a fraternity prank! Don't these people listen to Rush?

Why does the Motion Picture Association of America hate America?


(Actually, EW says later version of the poster was subsequently OK'd by the MPAA. The new version solves the problem by cropping out the prisoner's head. I guess that makes torture OK.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Have a good weekend -- see you in a couple of days (probably Sunday or Monday).
By the way, I'm amused to learn that we're now setting up a casino futures market where people can bet on home prices in various housing markets.

The Bush years: all the speculative excess of the '20s or '90s -- but with none of the sense of financial well-being.
Traveling under tight security, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday wrapped up an unannounced, one-day trip to Iraq...

Romney is traveling with Governors Matt Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, and Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat from Montana....

--from yesterday's Boston Globe

Gosh, thanks, Governor Schweitzer (D-Mont.). Thanks for giving Romney the cover of bipartisanship for this early presidential-campaign photo op. Way to help out your party.

(Via TBogg.)

Oh, Rupert, I loathe you most of the time, but you really are a cheeky monkey.
Q Mr. President, you spoke about missteps and mistakes in Iraq. Could I ask both of you which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Sounds like kind of a familiar refrain here -- saying "bring it on," kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner -- you know, "wanted dead or alive," that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that.

--from yesterday's joint appearance with Tony Blair

Why did he throw in "dead or alive"? That was typical Bush faux-cowboy swagger, but the pronouncement wasn't irresponsible -- we do want bin Laden dead or alive. The only misinterpretation involved was that people thought he actually meant it.

And "bring 'em on" wasn't a mistake because of the risk of cross-cultural mistranslation -- it was a mistake because Bush was inviting enemy forces to kill Americans (and, of course, he'd never sent over enough troops to resist those enemies).

He still doesn't get it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ignorance Claim Did Not Sway Enron Jury

One after another, the jurors spoke and, in different voices, it all added up to the same thing.

They simply could not believe, the eight women and four men of the jury explained in an extraordinary joint press conference after rendering their verdict, that Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling were telling the truth when they claimed they didn't realize that something was rotten at Enron....

--New York Times

I wonder how much the political moment we're going through in this country helped to make these jurors skeptical of the ignorance defense. Think about a certain other chief executive, and what the public thinks of him now. This really might have been the worst possible moment to try to defend oneself by saying, "As far as I knew, I consistently did the right thing. It turns out I was wrong about certain things, but even though I was the guy in charge, I didn't know I was wrong. Therefore I'm blameless."
Why do people keeping putting guns to David Broder's head and forcing him to think about the marital intimacies of baby boomers who are thinking of running for president when he really, really doesn't want to?

For the better part of an hour, the senator from New York held forth in a disquisition on energy policy that was as overwhelming in its detail as it was ambitious in its reach.

But the buzz in the room was not about her speech -- or her striking appearance in a lemon-yellow pantsuit -- but about the lengthy analysis of the state of her marriage to Bill Clinton that was on the front page of that morning's New York Times.

...the very fact that the Times had sent a reporter out to interview 50 people about the state of the Clintons' marriage and placed the story on the top of Page One was a clear signal -- if any was needed -- that the drama of the Clintons' personal life would be a hot topic if she runs for president.

--Broder's column today

Asked by Washington Post columnist David Broder on "Meet the Press" whether he expected to be asked if he'd had an extramarital affair, Quayle said: "Are you going to ask that of every vice presidential candidate, every congressman, every senator? I just do not believe that that is an appropriate question that you ask a presidential candidate."

Having said that, Quayle added: "The answer in my case is no."

--Washington Post, February 12, 1999

I love that second one -- he didn't ask Quayle whether he'd had an affair, he asked if he expected to be asked if he'd had an affair.

In other words: "Do you think some rude, tasteless person is going to ask you if you've ever gotten a little on the side? I sure hope not, because that would be really, really unfair to you. Now me, I would never ask you that question. However, I am asking you about that question, and about what you'll do if some rude person -- not me, heaven knows! -- has the bad taste to ask it."

(In case you haven't noticed, Quayle is just about the only living Republican who's ever treated like a Democrat -- that is, like an embarrassing oddball and pariah. I'd almost feel sorry for him, but he's treated no worse than Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, or Howard Dean, all of whom deserve it a lot less. And frankly, if he'd made even a half-hearted effort to reposition himself, we'd have already read half a dozen articles by now in the mainstream press called "Taking Dan Quayle Seriously," and he'd be touted as a serious prospect for 2008. If you don't believe me, ask Newt Gingrich.)
Jacob Weisberg's obnoxious Slate article about Hillary Clinton's iPod selections purports to demonstrate that her song choices prove she's a phony. Eric Boehlert and most of the Slate readers who've commented on the article pretty much have its problems covered -- but I want to talk about Weisberg's lead, which he just can't resist, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with Hillary's musical taste:

A low moment in the annals of Clintonism occurred in 1994 at an MTV forum, when the then-president answered a question about whether he wore boxers or briefs. Less well-remembered is Bill Clinton's actual answer. "Usually briefs," he responded, offering a glimpse of the carefully wrought shadings that came to define his political career. Tighty whiteys will play better with these kids and the NASCAR crowd, he might have been thinking. But I don't want to alienate East Coast preppies … Of course, Clinton missed the real trap of the question, which is that the Leader of the Free World shouldn't talk about his underpants in public.

Not even if he's asked?

(And not even if he's not the Leader of the Free World yet?)

This has pissed me off for fourteen years -- the canard that Bill Clinton is so low-class he talked about his underwear in public. Well, yes -- he talked about his underwear because he was asked to talk about his underwear. He was taking questions. He got one. He answered it, politely. Did he plant the question? No. Did he linger over it? No -- he seemed embarrassed and dealt with it briefly, then moved on.

Why is the fact that someone asked him this question his fault?

Does anyone doubt that if this incident had never happened and George W. Bush had been asked a similar question during his flightsuit-stud post-fall-of-Saddam period -- or, indeed, at any time from 1999 on -- the press would regard whatever his was response was, not to mention the fact that he was asked at all, as a sign of his "authenticity"?


You want political calculation, Jacob? Any chance that it's right in front of you? As you note, Jacob, Condoleezza Rice recently provided a top-10 list to England's Independent in which she included Elton John's "Rocket Man" because "It brings back memories of ... my first boyfriend." I don't have a clue about Condi's whispered-about sexuality, but it is whispered about. It's unthinkable, though, that a Republican would slip something like this into an interview to fight off a rumor, right? Republicans are just so genuine.

(Weisberg, who slams Hillary's choice of the Eagles' "Take It to the Limit" -- "a lame, black-hole-of-the-1970s choice" -- praises Condi's list, which includes that sublime Kool and the Gang masterwork "Celebration.")

Oh, and on the subject of calculation, why did White House PR flack New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller make sure to tell us, in a fawning article about Bush's iPod, that Bush doesn't even upload his own songs? I'll tell you why: because if someone responded to Bumiller's article by pointing out something embarrassing about one of the songs or performers -- you know, another Kid Rock incident -- the White House could shift the blame for the embarrassing choice. (Not that I think the president of the United States should load his own iPod -- it might cut into his treadmill time.) Weisberg, of course, thinks Bush's list seems "uncalculated."
Pat Robertson: Archie Bunker with money.

When you think of Jewish people, you think of successful businessmen. You think of people that are very wise in finance and who are prosperous. And when you think of poor countries around the world, you'd never would consider the nation of Israel...

It shocks people to hear that there's poverty in Israel. We assume Jewish people are very thrifty, extraordinarily good business people. There shouldn't be poverty there. What's the story?...

You know, I'm again in stunned disbelief. How could it possibly be that a country as rich as Israel can have this problem?...

Robertson is to pig-ignorance what Dylan and Neil Young are to rock -- every time you think he must be too old to deliver any more classic work, he surprises you and produces a real gem.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

(and a curious Freudian slip)

Chances are you've already seen this, from ABC News:

Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff....

CBS adds this:

The outrage was so heated that that the White House was worried House Republicans could call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, CBS News has learned.

Wow. And there's this:

CBS News has learned that high-ranking officials at the Justice Department were on the phone every step of the way as the FBI searched Jefferson's office.

What hubris. The thoroughly politicized Bush Justice Department violates custom, if not law, so it can have a high-profile raid of a Democratic congressman's office, micromanaging that raid (which I'm sure was scheduled after consultation with Karl Rove) -- and the Bushies were too stupid (or arrogant) to realize that raiding offices made their own party's congressional delegation nervous and vulnerable. Forget right and wrong: Is this how these people play political hardball? Do they talk to anybody before they do anything? Even their own allies?


And here's an odd thing in connection with this: Gloria Borger did a report on the congressional reaction to the raid on tonight's CBS news broadcast -- and in conversation with anchorman Bob Schieffer about the raid she said this (emphasis mine):

...SCHIEFFER: Well, does anybody really have sympathy for this congressman? I mean, ninety thousand dollars in cash was found in his home freezer.

BORGER: Right, that's the irony here, Bob. Nobody really wants to defend Congressman Clinton. Democrats are privately looking for someone to run against him in his congressional race....

Say what? I know the congressman's name is William Jefferson, but really now -- are the two of them that hard to tell apart? What is Borger thinking?

(Watch the clip here; choose "Both Parties Irate At FBI Raid.")
After the deftly choreographed self-righteousness moment that following his commencement speech at the New School, I started to think that John McCain might actually be on his way to winning over the wingnuts who'll vote in the '08 GOP primaries. But a front-page story in the new New York Observer, about a closed-door meeting McCain recently had at a Manhattan hotel, suggests to me that he still doesn't get it:

The exclusive audience included R.N.C. finance chair Lewis Eisenberg, Blackstone Group co-founder Peter G. Peterson, former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman and Gail Hilson, the politically influential socialite who has organized events for Mr. McCain in the past....

He cautioned against ghettoizing immigrants, which he noted has brought about disastrous results in France, and criticized elements in his own party as "nativist" before lambasting the punditry of Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage for helping to "fuel the problem," according to two of the sources.

Wow, that's three mistakes in one: He insulted Saint Rush and his fellow Tribunes of the People, he insulted the seal-the-borders wingnuts themselves, and he did it in commie-lib New York, playing to a crowd of bankers, socialites, and (we're told later in the article) "some Democratic names." Not a smooth move.

(The saving grace for McCain, of course, is that two years from now, when he makes his pilgrimage to the Limbaugh show, takes back everything he's saying now, and kisses Rush's ring, the besotted mainstream media will still say he's a straight talker.)

So if Jeb "Faith-Based" Bush, a hero to the religious right, really does become NFL commissioner, what changes can we expect in the league?

Perhaps those prayers in the end zone after touchdowns will become mandatory?

Or, of course, there was this recently, in one of football's more obcure corners:

The Birmingham Steeldogs will be wearing Christian throwback jerseys during the May 5 game against the Louisville Fire. Both teams are members of the 23-team Arena Football League. The jerseys worn by Steeldogs players that evening will display the name “Samson” on the front -- a reference to the Bible hero with incredible physical strength. On the back, players' names will be replaced by a book of the Bible, and players' numbers will correspond with a specific chapter and verse of that book.

In addition, free Bibles will distributed at the gate, and the Christian rock group Audio Adrenaline will perform in a pre-game concert....

I'm sure the FCC would prefer that to Janet Jackson.
How low can Bush go in the polls?

Judging from this Zogby survey, I'd say 24% and no lower. That's the percentage of people who still rank Bush's trustworthiness at a 4 or 5, on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

In the poll, low ratings were given to Bush at the same rate as to corporate leaders -- both were rated 1 or 2 by 69% of respondents; Congress got a 1 or 2 rating from 76%. But only 3% of respondents gave Congress a 4 or 5, and only 7% gave corporate leaders one of those high ratings. Bush, by contrast, still has that big group of end-timers, who will apparently love him no matter what he does.

(Via Memeorandum.)
Unfortunately, we know he never listens to other people's advice.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The book-industry newsletter Publishers Lunch regularly lists "unique bestsellers" -- books that have made only one newspaper's bestseller list. This week, the "unique" list (which, alas, is in a subscription-only part of the Publishers Lunch site) notes that The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism, written by Carrie L. Lukas and published by Regnery, appears on the Washington Post list and nowhere else. That suggests that it's found a wide audience only in D.C.

Here it is, at #9 on the Post's nonfiction paperback list.

The publisher's description of the book, which appears at its Amazon page, promises us that

In The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to Women, Sex, and Feminism, Carrie Lukas, a young career woman and new mother, sets the record straight: correcting the lies women have been told and slamming the door on the screaming harpies of NOW, feminist professors, and the rest of the bra-burners who have done so much to wreck women's lives.

("Bra-burners"? Has anyone actually burned a bra in the name of feminism at any time in the past thirty-five years?)

Carrie Lukas, by the way, is an "Expert" at the anti-feminist Independent Women's Forum, where she "authored the IWF special reports, Dependency Divas: How the Feminist Big Government Agenda Betrays Women and Recess from Reality: The Feminist Failure to Embrace School Choice" -- although her expertise seems to lie elsewhere: we're told that "Lukas has already had a distinguished career defending economic liberty and personal responsibility" (at the Cato Institute and elsewhere).

Now, there've been a billion feminist-backlash books published in recent years. They get a lot of press, but they rarely sell. Why is this one selling -- but only in D.C.?

Here's a theory: It's because Washington has become Wingnut Central, a company town for the loony right. Washington has become a place where people actually think that if they buy a book like this -- or any book in the "Politically Incorrect Guide" series -- they're sticking it to The Man (who in this case has a vagina). And they believe this even though nearly all of them, directly or indirectly, work for The Man. (They don't quite understand that actually running the country makes you The Man.)

I think this would help to explain why the Beltway media is still feeding us Democrat-bashing and Bush cheerleading long after the rest of the country has had enough. If my theory is correct, Washington is to GOP far right what certain Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad are to Saddam Hussein, places where the debunking hasn't penetrated and no one can really believe that the old days of glory aren't just around the corner.

Conservatives have always said Washington was out of touch with the rest of the country. I think that's true -- not the way conservatives think, but exactly the opposite way.
GEORGE W. BUSH: JUST ONE MAN ALONE, SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER (despite the treachery of people like that Jew bastard Soros)

You might have thought no one could still muster the strength to write anything like this anymore, but Michael "I'm Not Robert" Novak really gives it his all at National Review Online:

...What I do want to argue is that, after Washington and Lincoln, Bush is the bravest of our presidents. He has faced the most intense fire, hatred, contempt, heavily moneyed and bitterly acidic partisan opposition, underhandedness, betrayal, of any president in the last hundred years. He has faced hostility over a longer time, in possibly the most dangerous period of international warfare in our national history. He has remained constant, firm, decided, and generous (to a fault) with his opponents.

He has faced almost unbroken contempt from the academy, from the mainstream press, from Democratic elites, from Moveon and all the other holders of the Democratic-party purse strings, from the Democratic Congress, from his treacherous (if not treasonous) Central Intelligence Agency, and from many levels of the permanent State Department. Almost every day, he has been pummeled and undermined by powerful forces of American power. Still, he has stayed firm, with clear arguments, and an even clearer vision....

I don't know which I enjoy more: the (barely) veiled reference to "heavily moneyed" MoveOn holding the Democrats' "purse strings" or the ready-for-the-bush-leagues prose style ("powerful forces of American power"). Ah, but there's even more -- for instance, Novak's suggestion that Iraq in 2006 has less terrorism than France in the 1950s. I'm not joking. Go read the whole thing.
I'm not going to get worked up about the front-page New York Times story on the Clintons' marriage -- the Times doesn't lay a glove on them, and the non-wingnut public, unlike the Beltway press, spends very little time speculating on the nature of this relationship. This, of course, was also true during most of Bill's presidency, but we really don't think about their marriage now -- the story isn't merely gossip, it's stale gossip. Caring deeply about the state of the Clintons' marriage in 2006 is as pathetic as still having a Leonardo DiCaprio poster on your wall.

What bothers me about the article is that it's yet another sign of the press's belief that Democrats -- and only Democrats -- engage in odd behavior because they have strange, mysterious psyches, full of shadowy recesses. I can think of another power political couple in which the husband enjoys frequent trips away from home and hearth for recreation -- in his case, to go hunting, at least once with dangerous consequences, on a trip taken in the company of more than one woman not his wife. The wife in question is a powerful career woman who once wrote a novel touching on taboo sexuality; the husband has a mania for secrecy and a paranoid streak.

Yet the press never seems to want to put Dick or Lynne Cheney on the couch; she's just a mom and grandmom with an impressive resume, and he's just a regular red-state guy who sometimes forgets to watch his diet and might get a little careless when he's had a beer. Oh, that's just Grampa! We joke about him sometimes, but he's the most normal fella you'd ever want to meet!

An exaggeration, I know -- the mainstream press does hint at Cheney's oddness. But his oddness is rarely examined; no one seems to want to ask whether he's more than just a tough old buzzard, whether he's half-crazy. He's a man; he gets his hands dirty -- he can't be crazy. To the press, amateur psychoanalysis is meant only for effete wimps and Democrats. But I repeat myself.
Hmmm -- this possibility hadn't occurred to me:

CONDITIONS in the financial markets are eerily similar to those that precipitated the "Black Monday" stock market crash of October 1987, according to leading City analysts.

A report by Barclays Capital says the run-up to the 1987 crash was characterised by a widening US current-account deficit, weak dollar, fears of rising inflation, a fading boom in American house prices, and the appointment of a new chairman of the Federal Reserve Board....

"We are very uncomfortable about predicting financial crises, but we cannot help but see a certain similarity between the current economic and market conditions and the environment that led to the stock-market crash of October 1987," said David Woo, head of global foreign-exchange strategy at Barclays Capital.

Apart from the similarities in economic conditions, during the run-up to the 1987 crash there was a sharp rise in share prices worldwide and weakness in bond markets, Woo pointed out. "Market patterns leading to the crash of 1987 resemble the markets today," he said....

Ah, but if it happens, I'm sure it'll all be Clinton's fault.

(Via Democratic Underground.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Added to the blogroll: The Carpetbagger Report and Lance Mannion.

Also added: the RealClearPolitics BuzzTracker, which does a nice job of collecting lefty and righty blog opinions (including mine) a la Memeorandum and the Daou Report.
The head of the World Health Organisation died over the weekend after emergency surgery for a blood clot in the brain.

At Free Republic, hilarity ensues:

Costello: What was responsible for the blood clot in his brain?

Abbott: Who's brain?

Costello: I don't know.

Together: Third base!


If he only had a condom, this would have come out better.


Physician, heal thy self. Oops. Too late.


Since he worked for the U.N, and it was brain surgery, did they find one?


MY GAWD! He didn't even SMOKE!!!!!

Good thing I know that only left-wingers are immature, or I'd think this was in extremely bad taste.

"The Taliban now control many rural areas south of the capital," Chris Sands reports from Afghanistan for the Toronto Star. But after a few years playing the tank towns, jihad is catching on in the big city again:

Clerics in Kabul mosques are urging worshippers to join the Taliban's fight against the Afghan government and international troops....

"The only thing (people) can do is fight against the government and I am telling them they can do that. They can pick up a gun and fight against the government," said Abdullah, a 52-year-old imam wary of giving his full name for fear of reprisals....

"Real mullahs, imams and anyone with a knowledge of Islam has to say it's time for jihad. Those people who are fighting against the Americans and the government are doing good, but the government and the Americans say they are terrorists just because they want to give them a bad name."...

At another mosque, built with money donated by a Kuwaiti businessman, Mustafa said the "time is ready for jihad." He accused foreign troops of insulting Afghan culture when they raided homes looking for militants.

"I can't tell them directly to start jihad because then I will get into trouble," said Mustafa, 37. "But I will tell them to go away and do what they want, because it is forbidden in Islam for soldiers to search our houses."...

Imam Mohammed Sadiq happily gave his surname. As the gap between rich and poor grows, he said a call to jihad "is getting nearer and nearer."...

President McCain, your war awaits.
I didn't even realize it was possible to suppress a speech that had already been delivered once three days earlier and another time three days before that, in both cases without major incident. My thanks to John McCain's newfound far-right pals at the Wall Street Journal editorial page for identifying this heretofore unknown superhuman power apparently possessed by "the angry Left" -- the power to retroactively undo a speech act. (I'm informed that the time-reversal suppression did not, in fact, take place, but it was a near thing.)

I knew we were the gold standard for brutally efficient political combat in the opinion of the Journal editorial page, which has more than once predicted doom for the GOP unless Republicans "fight like Democrats," but I didn't realize we had the power to alter the laws of the universe. I guess that's why we've dominated politics in America for the past quarter century.

Here's a passage from a front-page story in today's Washington Post by Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei (emphasis mine):

Even under optimistic scenarios, aides believe that Bush's ratings may never rise above the mid-forties, and privately are mulling contingencies if Democrats win the House. Whenever the White House thinks it is turning a corner, it runs into trouble, such as a 10-day period in February when Cheney shot a friend in a hunting accident, Republicans rebelled against Arab management of U.S. ports and militants blew up a Shiite shrine in Iraq.

"The president's run into a perfect political storm where the confluence of natural disasters from last fall, gasoline prices, staff changes, the continuing war in Iraq, all are giving conservatives a defensive fatigue," said Kenneth Khachigian, a California GOP strategist who served in Ronald Reagan's White House. "And let's put immigration in there, too. . . . There's just wave after wave washing over them at this point."

There it is: Things people in the administration actually do (staff changes, the Cheney shooting) are things that just happen to them. The results of their actions (the Iraq quagmire, outrage over the Dubai ports deal) aren't their fault (and aren't the fault of those poor fatigued conservatives in the rubber-stamp GOP Congress). Bush and Congress haven't managed the borders well? Not their fault -- the immigration issue was just visited upon them by the gods. And let's not even get into the question of whether Katrina was merely a natural disaster or, after a while, a government disaster.

When a GOP strategist talks like this, it tells you what spoiled children Republicans are, incapable of even imagining that thay should take responsibility for their own deeds. And when top Beltway reporters type up a statement like this and nod in agreement, you can see they're completely mesmerized by these spoiled GOP brats, still believing whatever they say.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


The formation of a unity government in Iraq is a new day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in freedom.

--President Bush today

Today, the call of liberty is being heard in Baghdad and Basra, and other Iraqi cities, and its sound is echoing across the broader Middle East.... It means that the days of tyranny and terror are ending, and a new day of hope and freedom is dawning.

--President Bush, December 12, 2005

A long night of terror and tyranny in that region is ending, and a new day of freedom and hope and self-government is on the way.

--President Bush, December 1, 2004

The Iraqi people, themselves, are seeing a new day thanks to the brave men and women who came to liberate them.

--President Bush, August 14, 2003

As trade expands and knowledge spreads to the Middle East, as women gain a place of equality and respect, as the rule of law takes hold, all peoples of that region will see a new day of justice and a new day of prosperity.

--President Bush, May 9, 2003

Step by step Iraqi citizens are reclaiming their own country. They are identifying former official guilty of crimes and volunteering for citizen patrols to provide security. Many are reviving religious rituals long-forbidden by the old regime, and speaking their mind in public -- a sure sign that a new day has come.

--President Bush, April 25, 2003

Many Iraqis are now speaking their mind in public. That's a good sign. That means a new day has come in Iraq.

--President Bush, April 24, 2003

The fall of that statue in Baghdad marked the end of a nightmare for the Iraqi people, and it marked the start of a new day of freedom.

--President Bush, April 16, 2003

The world is also witnessing the liberation and humanitarian aid our coalition is bringing to that country as a new day begins in Iraq.

--President Bush, April 8, 2003

Saturday, May 20, 2006

As you may already know, John McCain gave the commencement speech at the New School in Manhattan yesterday and was booed, heckled, and otherwise denounced by graduating students. (New York Times story here; Maureen Dowd column here, although it's mostly a rehash of the news story.)

As you may also know, McCain gave the same speech he'd given at an earlier commencement at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. The students at Liberty, used to being polite and deferential in their master's house, did not boo or heckle McCain. (It's also possible that they realized his politics are very much in sync with theirs, something the New School students can't say.)

This was a slick move on the McCain campaign's part -- he showed the far-right base of his party that those crazy angry smelly hippie liberals hate him, which really might make an impression on the far-rightists in his own party who've been inclined to deny him the nomination in '08. He and the people running his operation may be slicker than I thought -- and a lot slicker than they were in 2000.

Now, may I say one thing to Bob Kerrey, the former senator who's now president of the New School, and who invited McCain to pull this little stunt there?

Gee, thanks.

You schmuck.

Like McCain, Kerrey is a Vietnam vet. Unlike McCain, Kerrey is a Democrat. You might think that after six years in which the Democratic Party has had essentially zero power in Washington, and a quarter of a century in which it's had very little, Bob Kerrey -- being a Democrat -- might not want to give a huge assist to the GOP frontrunner in the next presidential race. You might think Bob Kerrey -- being a Democrat -- might not want to help McCain pull of a stunt that could be the turning point in his effort to win over a the one bloc that stands between him and his party's nomination, which would almost certainly be followed by his election.

Ah, but what am I saying? Sure, there's a fight going on for the soul of the country, against a party that's destroying the country -- but Kerrey is, as I say, a Democrat.

Which means one thing: In that fight, he would consider it rude to take his own side.

Friday, May 19, 2006


...better known as Patrick Henry College. The Washington Post reports:

Nearly a third of the faculty members at Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County are leaving the school because of what they described as limitations on their academic freedom....

.. government instructor Erik S. Root, who is ... leaving, ... said his contract was temporarily withdrawn this spring in part because of an article he wrote for a school publication about a Christian saint that prompted the president to question his loyalty to a biblical worldview. In a letter to Root, Farris questioned whether Root shared the views of a Darwinist he had quoted. Root called Farris's concerns "guilt by association."

[Assistant professor of classics David] Noe co-authored an article in March arguing that the Bible is not the only source of truth and that students can learn valuable lessons from non-Christian writings. The 900-word story led to a 2,600-word response by the chaplain -- endorsed by the administration -- detailing its "harmful implications" and saying it "diminished the importance of" Scripture....

This wouldn't matter much except for the fact that, as the Post notes in a bit of understatement

Since the school opened six years ago, ... it has sent students to prized internships at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Er, not just students. A lot of students. From 2004:

This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns. Janet Ashcroft, the wife of Bush's Bible-thumping Attorney General, is one of the college's trustees.

And from 2005:

Three times a year, the White House chooses a hundred students for a three-month internship. Patrick Henry, with only three hundred students, has taken between one and five of the spots in each of the past five years -- roughly the same as Georgetown....

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

Of course, the professors who now want academic freedom certainly knew about the school's Statement of Biblical Worldview, which says, for instance,

Any biology, Bible or other courses at PHC dealing with creation will teach creation from the understanding of Scripture that God's creative work, as described in Genesis 1:1-31, was completed in six twenty-four hour days. All faculty for such courses will be chosen on the basis of their personal adherence to this view.

And the school restricts academic freedom? Who'da thunk?

One of the nastiest of the Bushies' creations, Jerome Corsi, author of the Swift Boat book, has now turned on his makers and is accusing them of just about the worst sin imaginable to certain elements of the right:

President Bush is pursuing a globalist agenda to create a North American Union, effectively erasing our borders with both Mexico and Canada. This was the hidden agenda behind the Bush administration's true open borders policy....

President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the President is quietly forming....

Needless to say, the evidence for this is in a little-known document, generated by a sinister cabal:

The blueprint President Bush is following was laid out in a 2005 report entitled "Building a North American Community" published by the left-of-center Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR report connects the dots between the Bush administration's actual policy on illegal immigration and the drive to create the North American Union....

Here's what the Learned Elders of Zion three North American leaders did last year, according to the CFR report (PDF):

In March 2005, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States adopted a Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), establishing ministerial-level working groups to address key security and economic issues facing North America and setting a short deadline for reporting progress back to their governments.


And here's what the CFR's task force says:

To that end, the task force proposes the creation by 2010 of a North American community to enhance security, prosperity, and opportunity. We propose a community based on the principle affirmed in the March 2005 Joint Statement of the three leaders that "our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary." Its boundaries will be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter within which the movement of people, products, and capital will be legal, orderly and safe.

Notice something odd about this? It's the fact that any talk about blurring the boundaries isn't coming from Bush and the other leaders -- it's coming from the task force, which has nothing to do with the Bush administration. (Go here and scroll down for the membership.)

Which means Corsi's evidence that Bush wants to destroy U.S. sovereignty bears about as much scrutiny as his evidence that John Kerry was a coward in Vietnam.

I wonder if a book is coming soon. If so, all I can say is: You made him, Karl.


Funny, it seems like only yesterday that Corsi was doing the power structure's bidding by declaring not only that we haven't reached "peak oil," but that we won't because oil is not really a fossil fuel, and therefore is renewable. Click the link if you think I'm kidding.

This is a bit of a surprise (or maybe it isn't):

In an attempt to revoke billions of dollars worth of government incentives to oil and gas producers, the House on Thursday approved a measure that ... is intended to prevent companies from avoiding at least $7 billion in payments to the government over the next five years for oil and gas they produce in publicly owned waters.

Scores of Republicans, already under fire from voters about gasoline prices, sided with Democrats on the issue. Eighty-five Republicans voted to attach the provision to the Interior Department's annual spending bill....

Attacking big business used to be "class warfare," and limited to Democrats and other alleged haters of the American way of life, but all of a sudden it's OK, at least according to a third of the GOP House delegation.

These legislators seem to be figuring out that the Republican/conservative rank-and-file isn't nearly as pro-corporate as elected Republicans generally are. This is really becoming clear as the immigration debate heats up. The Bush administration may not like going after employers who hire illegal immigrants, but ordinary Joes love it -- go to the comments here and experience the glee at the jailing of two executives whose company hired illegals, and the wish for even more ("Increase the prison sentence 20 times. Increase the fines a thousand fold"). And note that one outgrowth of the anti-immigration movement is a collection of scruffy Web sites -- Operation Shame on You, We Hire Aliens, Workplace Watchdog, and (warning: audio) Save Our State -- targeting companies for boycotts.

There's more. Here's a talk radio guy with a manifesto that, in between denunciations of "gangbangers" and gay rights and "the Hollywood elite" and "politically correct powers that be," rails against outsourcing to sweatshops and the influence of Jack Abramoff. (CNN's Lou Dobbs, a longtime agitator on the subject of illegal immigration, also denounces outsourcing.)

And, of course, religious conservatives are always willing to attack a large corporation if it seems to endorse obscenity or homosexuality.

For better or worse, I think it's possible that someday soon there could be a noticeable populist movement in this country that's wary of big business but also anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-abortion, and generally anti-elite. Such a movement would certainly be in the American grain -- think of William Jennings Bryan, friend to debt-ridden farmers and denouncer of evolution and demon rum. It may not happen, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I have a new hero:

Great-grandma tattoos "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" on her chest

Dyersville, Ia. -- Eighty-year-old Mary Wohlford has informed family members of her wishes should she ever become incapacitated. She also has signed a living will that hangs on the side of her refrigerator.

But the retired nurse and great-grandmother now believes she has removed all potential for confusion.

She had the words "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" tattooed on her chest....

Wohlford said she is healthy; in fact, she cares part-time for two other women. She said her decision to enter a Galena, Ill., tattoo parlor in February was the culmination of what she witnessed during her almost 30 years in nursing and during the Terri Schiavo controversy last year....

If Terri Schiavo had a "Do Not Resuscitate" tattoo, Wohlford said, "then her husband could have said, 'See, it's right here. This is what she wanted.' But she verbalized it, so they had this big rigmarole."...

Apparently, it doesn't have the force of law. But I can't blame her for wanting to do something to make her wishes abundantly, unmistakably clear.

Bill Frist, your thoughts?

(Via Guardian Unlimited Newsblog.)

After his immigration speech, Bush lost ground in the Rasmussen poll (the most Bush-friendly poll), and Democrats went from a 10-point lead to a 15-point lead on the "generic ballot" question.

Oh, and just to compound Republicans' misery, in the same poll, Hillary is bouncing back.

Can it get worse for these guys?

Hard-hitting analysis from The Note, brought to you by that "liberal media" outfit ABC News:

Note that this is NOT a parody. This is a real memo.


TO: President Bush
FROM: The Note
DATE: 5/18/2006
RE: A present so bright, we suggest shades

Karen Hughes hates when we give advice, so please consider this analysis.

As you fly down to the Arizona border this morning, you should ignore the polls. Your approval rating might be closer to ours than to Governor Lynch's, but the key to your mojo comeback, as Josh keeps telling you, is confidence.

You have never lacked for that, of course, but today is a particularly good one to remember the 1999-2004 glory years and recall just how much you can accomplish in this environment.

Everywhere you look, starting with your own schedule, it seems like yesteryear:

— You have a compassionate-conservative photo up, where you can dress in rugged/sexy garb and act simultaneously tough and caring. Maybe throw a little espanol into your remarks too.

— David Brooks is writing on the op-ed page of the New York Times about real-world compassionate conservatism, showing he knows almost as much about the Republican Party as he does about the Democrats. LINK

— House Republicans are doing your bidding by muscling through tough votes on the budget. LINK

— The press is filled with stories showing you signing tax cuts into law. LINK

— David Sanger is taking leaks about shifts in your North Korea policy, and loving it. LINK

— Bob Novak is explaining why the Republican Party is imploding, and loving it. LINK

— You have a confirmation "battle" that the press is building up into a real fight, when your nominee is assured final approval.

— "American Idol" is getting more "news" coverage than the war in Iraq.

If none of that cheers you up, Mr. President, try these (by popular demand): LINK, LINK, LINK

Make sure you know which line in your remarks are supposed to be the soundbite that makes the network evening news broadcasts.

And make sure you don't flub that line. (Sorry if that warning psyches you out.)

Good luck, sir.

Judging from this and the item Atrios highlighted a couple of weeks ago, ABC News should change the name of this feature to "The Mash Note."

I wonder if Halperin sent a handwritten rough draft of this to the White House, making sure to dot all the i's with little hearts.

Noonan today:

[One] possibility is that the administration's slow and ambivalent action [on illegal immigration] is the result of being lost in some geopolitical-globalist abstract-athon that has left them puffed with the rightness of their superior knowledge, sure in their membership in a higher brotherhood, and looking down on the low concerns of normal Americans living in America.

I continue to believe the administration's problem is not that the base lately doesn't like it, but that the White House has decided it actually doesn't like the base.

Noonan just after the 2004 election:

I think Mr. Bush, the better man in terms of character, was also the more normal man. And we like normal. He loves sports and business and politics, and speaks their language. Normal. His wife is important to him, and his kids seem a bit of a mystery to him, and perhaps even to some degree intimidating. Normal. He thinks if bad guys attack New York City and the Pentagon, we go after them and kill them--normal. He thinks marriage is between a man and a woman--normal. He thinks if Baptist preachers in a suburb of Louisville have an after-school plan that has an excellent record of turning kids from juvenile delinquency to thinking about college, those Baptist preachers should be helped and encouraged every way we can, and it has nothing to do with "church and state." Normal. He thinks if there's an old plaque bearing the Ten Commandments on the wall of the courthouse you should leave it alone--it can't hurt, and it might help. Normal.

It's true, Peggy -- he's actually a member of the elite! He's not just some middle-class dad from the 'burbs who's saving up for a boat! I know, I know -- who knew?


(I'm skipping the even sillier stuff in Noonan's column -- e.g., her conclusion that The Da Vinci Code should have a co-production credit for Satan. For glosses on the rest of the column, see Lawyers, Guns & Money, Alicublog, and Shakespeare's Sister.)
So the real Bush solution to our immigration problem is lots of pricey new equipment:

The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan -- like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment -- the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States....

The problem is, the Bushies had already agreed to buy pricey new equipment, but a Republican senator says they're now taking the money for that and spending it instead on the National Guard photo backdrop deployment:

...Delivering an unusual public critique of the administration's border-security priorities, Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., announced that $1.9 billion the Senate approved last month for equipment is being diverted to pay for the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops....

Gregg ... said in a Senate floor speech that an effort to repair or replace aging equipment for the Border Patrol and Coast Guard "is essentially dead." He predicted that border agents will be hamstrung.

"A lot are going to be sitting in cars that don't run and planes that don't take off," he told reporters.

...According to an inventory provided by Gregg's office, planes used for border surveillance are more than 40 years old, more than 1,700 border patrol vehicles are not usable, and the only unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle on the Southwest border was lost in a crash last month. Also included in the $1.9 billion was funding for expanding fencing on the border and more Coast Guard patrol boats.

The money was in a $92 billion emergency funding bill now before a House-Senate conference committee. Gregg said he has no hope of finding more funding for border-security equipment. He said other Republicans on the panel told him, "Good luck getting this money."

So this was paid for. And now it's going to be un-paid for, presumably so Bush can prance around in front of people in uniform while his photo is taken in an election year. And then, I guess, it's all going to be paid for again.

(For more on this, here's Judd Gregg's Senate speech.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Until now I hadn't quite grasped the fact that that the public no longer owns all the public roads:

Transurban Group, Australia's second-biggest toll road owner, agreed to buy Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway for $611 million, gaining its first U.S. motorway.

Transurban bought the rights to manage, operate and maintain the 8.8-mile (14 kilometer) highway known as State Route 895 for 99 years, the Melbourne-based company said in a statement today....

Transurban is among companies attracted to the reliable cash flows from toll roads that it estimates will spur some $200 billion of deals worldwide in the next 10 years. Macquarie Infrastructure Group and Cintra SA got state approval in March for their $3.85 billion bid for Indiana's toll road as U.S. states sell rights to their highways to pay debt.

...There are $25 billion of private investments proposed for new and existing toll roads in six U.S. states including Virginia, Texas and Oregon, according to a report last month by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, which advocates for such privatization....

The Reason Foundation, a libertarian outfit, certainly makes this deal sound win-win, as does Transurban -- we pay off the state's debt! we keep the road repaired! we build new roads! we make a profit! the state makes a profit! -- but, er, I seem to recall similar rosy promises from Chris Whittle about for-profit schools, and that didn't exactly pan out.

Admittedly, this is different -- unlike schools, toll roads take in money. So maybe this won't be a financial disaster like Whittle's Edison Schools.

But if the idea does take hold, eventually the Reason folks are going to start proposing some really libertarian approaches to highway maintenance. For instance, even now the government will control toll increases on the Pocahontas. Why should that be the case? Why shouldn't Transurban charge whatever the market will bear? If a few poor people and other losers can't afford to go to work, well, tough. I'm sure what their betters can afford to pay will more than make up for it.

Why not run for-profit roads like for-profit medical care? We can have concierge service in a guaranteed fast lane that's flawlessly maintained, along with other amenties, all for a premium fee; another lane could be the budget plan -- less expensive (though still pricey), but watch out for the potholes!

Or Transurban could run the road like a (barely) regulated cable-TV monopoly: If you want to drive the Pocahontas, you have to pay tolls for several other roads you never drive on -- no a la carte driving!

Come on, folks. Greed is good. Think big.


(Via Uggabugga.)
These people really might be evicted now:

BLACK JACK, Mo. -- The city council has rejected a measure allowing unmarried couples with multiple children to live together, and the mayor said those who fall into that category could soon face eviction.

Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving were denied an occupancy permit after moving into a home in this St. Louis suburb because they have three children and are not married.

The town's planning and zoning commission proposed a change in the law, but the measure was rejected Tuesday by the city council in a 5-3 vote.

"I'm just shocked," Shelltrack said. "I really thought this would all be over, and we could go on with our lives."

The current ordinance prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by "blood, marriage or adoption." The defeated measure would have changed the definition of a family to include unmarried couples with two or more children....

I'm just so proud to be an American at this moment.

(Via DU.)

I missed this a month ago when it was announced, but now it's about to happen: tomorrow night Saint Rudolph Giuliani will headline a fundraiser for Ralph Reed, who's running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

Gee, I guess white-collar crime doesn't bother Rudy as much as it did when he was using it to grab headlines. Lifelong friendship and sleazy business deals with Jack Abramoff? No problem, Ralph!


And I guess the odd-couple love affair between the religious right and the pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control (and, for good measure, pro-immigrant) ex-mayor is still going hot and heavy. In addition to Reed, there's Pat Robertson, who said last year that Giuliani would make "a good president." And even when Jerry Falwell told us recently that he won't back a Giuliani presidential bid, he couldn't stop praising Rudy:

"Everybody admires him. And I'll never forget the great things he did on 9/11 and following," Falwell said....

"I'll never speak an ill word about him because he means so much to America. But, yes, you're right. I couldn't support him for president," he said.

And the red-state rank-and-file loves him.

Is this surprising? No. The rage junkies of the GOP right crave a man on a horse, a man in jackboots who'll say in no uncertain terms who's good and who's evil, and Giuliani is, in many ways, exactly what they're looking for. He's much more so than John McCain, which is why they love him and hate McCain, who has a much more compatible voting record. Needless to say, they loved Giuliani's convention speech.

Social issues aside, Giuliani is just about everything right-wingers have ever admired about Bush and Cheney, plus even more self-righteousness and surface anger. They may not know the details out in the heartland, but I think they sense this about him, and they're right.

Consider one of his ugliest, most thuggish acts, the illegal revelation of a juvenile arrest found on the (sealed) record of Patrick Dorismond, who was shot and killed by police after he refused to buy drugs in an undercover sting. Isn't that a perfect Valerie Plame moment? Rudy said the illegally released information proved that Dorismond was "no altar boy." (In fact, he'd been an altar boy.) That remark could have come from the margins of Dick Cheney's copy of Joe Wilson's op-ed.

Or consider this 1999 Salon article, in which John Leonard describes Giuliani as an ur-Bush/Cheney:

...In March 1995, a wall of cops surrounded City Hall, with horses, scooters, nightsticks, riot gear, barricades and Mace, to keep 20,000 high school and college students from marching on Wall Street. That June, Rudy kicked Yasir Arafat out of Lincoln Center. The following May, he would use armored cars against homeless squatters. The first official act of his second term, last New Year's Day, was to close his own inauguration to the public....

In May, when street artists whom he'd hounded from the city sidewalks tried to heckle his appearance at Cooper Union, they were arrested.... In December, demonstrators seeking to observe World AIDS Day and mourn the 77,000 New Yorkers who've died of the disease were likewise denied a permit to rally in City Hall Park, and likewise went to court to win their case. Then, when 150 of them showed up, they had to pass through motorcycle cops and metal detectors before they arrived at a parking lot surrounded by a brand-new eight-foot chain-link penitentiary fence and looked down upon by sharpshooters.

Nor was it an accident that the organizer of the rally, Housing Works, had already seen its $6.5 million worth of contracts with the city canceled. Why should a thrift-shop sponsor of drug treatment, job training and employment programs for homeless people with HIV expect anything better from Rudy...?

And that was before the Christian-right-friendly attempt to evict the Brooklyn Museum for hosting an exhibit that offended the mayor even though his administration had reviewed its contents in detail and OK'd them.

Sorry -- I get long-winded when I start talking about Rudy. But everybody in New York knows he wants to run for president, he polls extremely well among Republicans, and he beat Hillary in New York in the most recent Marist poll. The zealots in the party don't want a "RINO," but I still wonder whether they can be seduced by a social liberal if he's also a dangerous authoritarian -- especially given the fact that he could conceivably win every blue state.

(Oh, by the way, if you want to know what Rudy thinks of NSA spying, here's his rave review.)