Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I know what I'm supposed to say about this Kerry thing, but sorry -- whatever he meant to say, he walked into an ambush, and he has to get himself (and, by extension, the Democrats who are actually running this year) out of it.

Don't think like a Democrat or a progressive; don't look at the poll numbers and assume that every person who's against the war is going to pump a fist gratefully because Kerry lashed out after being attacked. Hey, I like his piss and vinegar, too (where the hell was it two years ago?), but it doesn't matter. This has been declared An Incident, and it has to be neutralized.

It doesn't matter what he meant. It doesn't matter how a Republican would have been treated if he or she had said the same thing. It doesn't matter, in other words, whether this is fair. All that matters is what's actually happening. Kerry has to grit his teeth and accept it, then deal with it, for the good of the party. And if you can name a hundred more outrageous -- and deliberately outrageous -- things Republicans have said that passed without incident, well, reversing that imbalance is a long-term project. For now, Kerry has to show some contrition, in a conspicuous way that will put an end to this.

Then he can lash out at Bush. And I hope he does so again, and is even nastier.


UPDATE: Via darms in comments, I see that Kerry talked about this on Don Imus's show this morning. Here's the transcript -- he apologized, and he also got in a few more jabs at the administration. My thoughts are here.
Notice anything odd about this ad at the Club for Growth's blog?

It's trying to get right-wing voters scared at the prospect of a Democratic takeover of the House -- but notice that when Charlie Rangel appears, and when John Conyers appears, there's a specific factoid attached. But when the Nancy Pelosi is on screen, there's nothing -- just, in effect, "Omigod, she could become Speaker! AIIIIIEEEEE!!!"

Same with the illustration accompanying this Family Research Council blog post -- which is not even about the elections at all. The post is accompanied by a Photoshopped Nancy Pelosi as the movie Wicked Witch of the West, with green skin.

I find this creepy and misogynistic. The message seems to be: Democratic men are evil because of what they do, but Pelosi is evil just because she's -- eeeeuuuuuwww! -- a Democratic woman.

Republicans love Condi (and loved Jeane Kirkpatrick and Margaret Thatcher), so it isn't power in a woman that gives them the squirmies. It's Democratic power in a woman. A powerful female Democrat is, in their eyes, a dangerous, freakish monster.

I don't know if you're trying to look like an utter hypocrite, but if so, you're doing a splendid job when you post this campaign ad and this one back to back on the same page.

(I know it's not new, but it's the first time I've seen it.)
I want Brad Stine's publicist.

Stine is a mediocre comic whose market niche is right-wing Christians. When he's not hanging out with Ann Coulter, Alan Keyes, and the Reverend Rod Parsley, he's getting terrific press from guilt-ridden secular journalists who want to think they aren't closed-minded about the godly. Here's a New Yorker profile from 2004, which was followed by a New York Times story from 2005 (which inspired this post from me); now Stine shows up in a Newsweek "Web exclusive" for his appearance as the house comic at a gathering of ... of ...


GodMen. I'm embarrassed to type that. GodMen wouldn't really be a bad name to have -- if you were a band of 24-year-old kids whose career highlight was opening for the Mars Volta (before you broke up and all got jobs at the Harley plant). But that's not what we're talking about.

GodMen, according to Newsweek, is "a series of testosterone-fueled Christian men's gatherings across the country." Christian men -- no women allowed -- gather together in order to be Christian men gathered together. What this means is that they sit around pumping their fists to a rock/country band playing a song called "Testosterone High":

"Forget the ying and the yang/ I'll take the boom and the bang/ Give me another dose of testosterone."

and another song with these lyrics:

"Jump up in the saddle/ Grab a sword, don't be scared/ Be a man, grow a pair!"

There are also

a number of risque panels. One forum, titled "Training the Penis," addressed struggles with masturbation and pornography. These were regarded as morally reprehensible but as weaknesses that should be addressed honestly. In another talk, Nate Larkin, a former pastor, told the crowd how he picked up his first prostitute on the way to preach at a candlelight service on Christmas Eve....

Among the new adherents is Seth Kalb, 29, from Spring Hill, Tenn.... "I wanted the real meat," he said. "They touch on real things here, like masturbation...."

Yeah, these guys clearly do spend a lot of time, er, touching on things like masturbation.

Now, I don't want to suggest that the whole point of all this is to fixate on sex in an all-male gathering and call it Christian worship. Well, actually I do. But I should note that these guys do talk about other things -- the excess of flowers on church altars, for instance. (Though they don't seem to talk about that very much.) Oh, and Stine does comic riffs on "political correctness" -- and, as you'll see if you watch Newsweek's "Christian comedy" video clip, he gets no laughs at all (except from himself).

Maybe the assembled guys wanted him to get off the stage so they could go talk about sex again. Or maybe they just thought he sucked.

But he's really good at roping in those secular journalists.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Christopher Hitchens does his version of the standard Bush administration Look How Great Iraq Is And That's Why We Must Stay The Course Even Though We Don't Call It That Anymore stump speech:

...I am glad that all previous demands for withdrawal or disengagement from Iraq were unheeded, because otherwise we would not be able to celebrate the arrest and trial of Saddam Hussein; the removal from the planet of his two sadistic kids and putative successors; the certified disarmament of a former WMD- and gangster-sponsoring rogue state; the recuperation of the marshes and their ecology and society; the introduction of a convertible currency; the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan (currently advertising for investors and tourists on American television); the killing of al-Qaida's most dangerous and wicked leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and many of his associates; the opening of dozens of newspapers and radio and TV stations; the holding of elections for an assembly and to approve a constitution; and the introduction of the idea of federal democracy as the only solution for Iraq short of outright partition and/or civil war....

There's one odd item in there -- "the introduction of a convertible currency"? Come again?

Let's see: You live in Baghdad so you're dodging suicide bombers, juggling multiple ID cards so you can pass as Sunni or Shiite as necessary to survive a checkpoint, you have less electricity than you had under Saddam -- and you're supposed to be happy about the ability to engage in currency trading? Really?

Why did he throw that in? I have a guess as to why he threw in that plug for the Kurds (along with two others in a column of fewer than a thousand words) -- I think history will show he's an Armstrong Williams for Kurdistan, i.e., a paid (if ideolgically predisposed) flack. He sure does talk about the Kurds enough, and he makes sure everyone knows he wears a Kurdish flag in his lapel.

But what about the currency? Well, maybe he's now flacking for BetOnIraq.com, the U.S.-based Iraq-currency trading company that advertises heavily on right-wing Web sites. Would you put it past him?
More evidence that we may never be rid of these damn Bushes:

Gov. Mitt Romney is tapping the seasoned political team of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, leading to speculation that the Mormon from Massachusetts may be courting the Bible Belt blueblood for a possible Romney-Bush '08 ticket.

Earlier this month, Jeb Bush's former chief of staff and top political adviser, Sally Bradshaw, jumped to Romney's Commonwealth political action committee.

Soon after, Romney flew to the key electoral Sunshine State to join Bush for campaign events and fund-raisers -- and, sources said, to gauge Bush's interest in being a running mate.

"There has been substantive talk between the two of them" about the possibility of the president's younger brother running for vice president if Romney wins the nomination, one GOP source with knowledge of the Oct. 19 meeting told the Herald. "Everyone in Florida is expecting an endorsement by Gov. Bush (of) Romney." ...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Don't think the current unpopularity of George W. is going to make a ticket with Jeb impossible. Don't, in other words, give the political press corps that much credit. (You know the press is going to swing back around in W.'s favor just as his term comes to an end and he seems like a "survivor.")

Jeb clearly wants this. Never "misunderestimate" a Bush's lust for political power, or a Bush's ruthlessness in the pursuit of such power.
Shakespeare's Sister writes:

Here's a question I'm so tired of hearing that each time a war supporter now utters it, I feel as though I may slip into a coma at any moment: "Do you want us to win in Iraq?"

In the past couple of days, Lynne Cheney has directed this question at Wolf Blitzer and Bill O'Reilly has directed it at David Letterman, two good little soldiers who have in their debate arsenals nothing but rejoinders issued straight from GOP Talking Points Headquarters....

"Do you want us to win in Iraq?" Excuse me, but Republicans are the ones who sent in too few troops, who had no plan for dealing with anything that went wrong in the postwar period, and who, as we learn today, can't even keep track of the weapons being shipped to Iraqi troops, which are meant to allow them to "stand up" so we can "stand down."

The right answer to the question "Do you want us to win in Iraq?" is to cite all this and say, "Do Republicans want us to win?"

(X-posted in Shakes's comments.)
Could the campaign desk at The New York Times be any more blatant?

Bush Shows Potency in Rallying the Faithful

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 -- For all the talk about the political baggage that President Bush carries this year, his stop in Indiana on Saturday showed that he could still turn on -- and, White House strategists say, turn out -- the most faithful party voters.

Women screamed his name, men chanted "U.S.A.," and no one doubted that the 4,000 people packed into a high school gymnasium for a rally in Sellersburg were primed to urge friends and neighbors to vote on Nov. 7 for Representative Mike Sodrel, who won his seat by just 1,300 votes two years ago.

The scene will repeat itself over and over before Nov. 7, as President Bush plunges into a blitz of rallies for embattled candidates....

(Emphasis mine, as if you needed it.)

And in case you didn't get the message, the story is accompanied by this photo:

Who's your daddy?
They think it's an outrage for the press to acknowledge the sacrifices our troops make, and they're gleeful when hundreds of millions of dollars aren't raised for charity, because it would have been in Bill Clinton's name, and if there's a chance he's going to look good, it's better that the needy suffer.

The values of American conservatives.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The wonderful, booming economy that the liberal media doesn't want to give the Republicans credit for:

...Nationwide, more than 300,000 properties entered foreclosure during the 3rd quarter -- up 43 percent from a year ago.

"Somewhere between 1.2 and 1.3 million properties will end up in some state of foreclosure over the course of 2006," says Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac, a properties listing company....

"There's north of a trillion dollars in adjustable rate mortgages that are going to reset over the next 15 months," says Sharga. "And what that means for the average homeowner is an increase of between 20 and 50 percent of their monthly mortgage bill." ...

While the emotional toll of foreclosure is personal, the financial impact is shared. You can expect your home value to drop $10,000 or more if a neighbor defaults....

Experts CBS News spoke to agree: predicting foreclosures will climb through -- at least -- the end of next year....
Since we're still hearing from right-wing imbeciles like this one, who thinks it's hilarious to compare James Webb as a novelist to John Mark Karr, I want to thank the reader who noted in my comments that Webb's first novel, Fields of Fire, is on the U.S. Marine Academy's reading list for corporals and sergeants.

The commenter also points to these reviews from the non-effete:

NAVAL WAR COLLEGE REVIEW: "The sound and smell of combat permeates FIELDS OF FIRE with a completeness that is extraordinary and a realism that is almost eerie. ... at the end the reader is disappointed only because there is no more good reading. ... While the reviewer has not read all of the books about Vietnam, he has read most of them. FIELDS OF FIRE is unquestionably the best. The rest aren't even close."

SOLDIER OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE: "If a grateful government wished to extend a meaningful GI benefit to the infantrymen who fought in Vietnam, it could simply send each a copy of FIELDS OF FIRE. They would then know that their suffering, courage and seemingly limitless endurance will be forever recorded. James Webb has immortalized them. ...certainly a classic war novel, among the best of the past 35 years."

(For other reviews quotes and that comment, see this post.)
In imitation of the master:

The Halliburton subsidiary that provides food, shelter and other logistics to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan exploited federal regulations to hide details on its contract performance, according to a report released Friday.

The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found that Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root Services routinely marked all information it gave to the government as proprietary, whether it actually was or not....

In effect, Kellogg, Brown & Root turned the regulations "into a mechanism to prevent the government from releasing normally transparent information, thus potentially hindering competition and oversight." ...

So what's so secret?

... Halliburton subsidiary KBR, for example, listed the number of meals served at dining halls where it is the contractor as proprietary, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Chronicle also notes this bit of petty nastiness:

The inspector general also accused KBR officials of trying to impede his office's effort to analyze data.

The company, for instance, was asked to turn over information pertaining to the amount of fuel KBR provided to foreign embassies.

Instead of providing the data in its original Excel spreadsheet format, the inspector general said, the company turned over a 50-page, Acrobat PDF file, which could not be converted back into a spreadsheet.

Auditors would have had to "reenter the data into a spreadsheet, a time consuming process, to perform any meaningful analysis of the data."

Ah, but we're assure that deeming virtually everything it does for the government as none of the government's business is just standard operating procedure:

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann, in an e-mail, said ... that "KBR has included proprietary markings on the majority of its data and property in support of its government contracts for the U.S. Army for at least the last decade."

You mean, since around 1995, when Dick Cheney became CEO of Halliburton?
The milk of human kindness:

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops have drafted new guidelines for ministry to gay people that affirm church teaching against same-sex relationships, marriages and adoptions by gay couples, yet encourage parishes to reach out to gay Catholics who feel alienated by their church.

The church opposes gay couples, gay marriage, and gay adoption, then it finds that gay people are alienated by the church. Gee, I can't imagine why.

...This new document ... says that although the church teaches that homosexuality is "objectively disordered" -- a teaching in the catechism that says homosexual acts violate the natural law -- the church is not saying that homosexual people themselves are disordered or "rendered morally defective by this inclination."

Hey, just because we say gay people have a horrible sickness doesn't mean we're saying gay people are sick. Isn't that perfectly obvious?

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Gosh, look what just so happens to be showing on the National Geographic Channel tomorrow night, nine days before the election:

7P The Hunt for Zarqawi [TV-PG]

8P Inside 9/11 Update (ltd. interruption)
Zero Hour [TV-PG]

10P Inside Saddam's Reign of Terror [TV-MA]
Also airs: Monday, October 30
Wednesday, November 1

11P Inside 9/11 Update (ltd. interruption)
Zero Hour [TV-PG]

1A Inside Saddam's Reign of Terror [TV-MA]
Also airs: Wednesday, November 1
Thursday, November 2

One bad guy we actually caught, one bad guy we actually killed, plus Why We Fight In Iraq according to the Bushies. Curious.

And I'll assume it's just an unintended glitch that when you click on the second Inside 9/11 Update link on that schedule page, you get the capsule description for Inside Saddam's Reign of Terror. And that when you click on the first Inside 9/11 Update link, you get the capsule description for The Hunt for Zarqawi.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Set the VCR...*

ANY lingering doubts that David Letterman detests Bill O'Reilly will be laid to rest tonight, when the gap-toothed funnyman has the conservative Fox News powerhouse on his CBS "Late Show" and machine-guns him with insults.

... the subject turns to the war in Iraq. "Let me ask you a question -- was there more heinous, more dangerous violence taking place [before America invaded] Iraq, or is there more heinous, dangerous violence taking place now in Iraq?"

"Oh, stop it," O'Reilly scolds the host. "Saddam Hussein slaughtered 300,000 to 400,000 people, all right, so knock it off . . . It isn't so black and white, Dave - it isn't, 'We're a bad country. Bush is an evil liar.' That's not true."

"I didn't say he was an evil liar," Letterman shoots back. "You're putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head!" ...

This is from the gossip column of the New York Post, which I suspect is cherry-picking the humorless bits -- but it does sound as if the blowhard is humbled. Hope so...

(Via Huge Seagull in comments.)


*Sorry -- I'm a late adopter. I still have a VCR.

I don't want to fixate on this, but I wonder how many of the people who are getting all squeamish about those passages in James Webb's novels -- not to mention the people in George Allen's campaign who piously declare that Webb's novels "show a continued pattern of demeaning women" -- consider Theo van Gogh a hero.

You remember Theo van Gogh -- he was killed after offending Islamicists with his film Submission, and he became an instant hero on the American right. Apparently it didn't matter that he'd once made a movie about phone sex, and that other highlights of his oeuvre -- and his life -- made the banana squats in Webb's writing look tame:

Already in his first movie "Luger" (1981), Van Gogh, with sadistic pleasure, had a gangster push his pistol in a woman’s vagina. In the following 23 years he often spoke with much contempt of women and feminism, and of gays, whom he called "dribbling chocolate knights". "Most women I consider little speaking cunts. Women do not think with their heads, but with their cunt", he wrote. "Motherhood is the crown on your being a women!”, he often shouted. He referred to feminist authors as "the fossile little vaginal lips” of Left and feminist magazines....

Van Gogh also wrote many anti-Semitic articles. In an article in the Amsterdam university magazine Folia in the beginning of the eighties he had Jewish writer Leon de Winter perform the "Treblinka love game" with "a piece of barbed wire" around his "dick". He also fantasized about "copulating yellow stars in the gas chamber"....

(There's much, much more at the link, and also here.)

And let's not overlook the film for which he's lionized on the right, Submission:

In one image, the opening lines of the holy book, the Koran, were written across the naked body of a Muslim woman. Another image showed Koranic verses about female obedience scrawled on the back of a woman beaten by her husband, while a female voice accused Allah of condoning the violence.

I think "Most Virginians and Americans would find passages such as those ... shocking" -- wouldn't you?
From Hotline On Call's "Seven Reasons Why Karl Rove Is Optimistic":

...both the NRSC [National Republican Senatorial Committee] and NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] are prepared to deficit finance...

Well, of course they are. They're Republicans, aren't they?
A few more people who apparently aren't morally fit to walk among the fine citizens of Virginia, given the fact that they, like John McCain, have praised the novels of James Webb:

"Webb [is] one of our finest war novelists since Stephen Crane... Lost Soldiers is taut with skillfully narrated realism.... No one else has ever conveyed better the dangers, risks, and horrors of our war in Vietnam."

--Caspar Weinberger in Forbes

"This compelling, fascinating exercise of historical fiction proves, again, that James Webb is as fine a novelist as he was a Marine. Enough said."

--George F. Will, on The Emperor's General

"In my opinion, the finest of the Vietnam novels."

--Tom Wolfe on Fields of Fire

"We know what happened to my dad and his buddies in the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photo. But we don't know what happened after another unforgettable photo, of the last helicopter lifting off from the U.S. embassy in Vietnam. Lost Soldiers is about what might have happened in Vietnam after the photographers left."

--James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers

(Quotes found via Amazon Reader in a search of Webb's novels.)

I don't know how the Allen campaign's release of decontextualized sexual passages from Webb's novels, gleefully posted by Drudge, will play in this race. But I'd like it if a reporter would seek out a reaction to the Drudge page from some of the people above -- all of whom have at times been embraced by the Right.

This Kos diarist has it more or less right:

...[Webb's] defense lies NOT in the idea that these are works of FICTION, but rather that they are works of FACT.

... if the public believes that Webb wrote these things straight from his own head and fertile imagination, Virginia voters will believe that he is one sick puppy with a sick imagination and a degrading view of women and children.

If, on the other hand, Webb comes out and says that these passages were based on actual experiences from the hellhole of Vietnam, the public will not only NOT view him as a pervert, but see him as a hero....

Well, they're not going to think he's a hero. But the strategy is right: tell voters he was writing about the real lives of people who were in Vietnam -- and that those lives weren't church socials.

I posted a Webb story back in January. It's from Robert Timberg's book The Nightingale's Song, which is about the Annapolis generation that included Webb, McCain, and Ollie North, among others. Webb had returned from Vietnam and was in law school at the height of the antiwar movement. An antiwar professor who was in the habit of working his students' surnames into the hypothetical scenarios in his test questions created a scenario about someone named Webb -- but this "Webb" was, in Timberg's words, "a Marine sergeant ... who attempts to ship home pieces of jade in the dead bodies of two Marines from his platoon." After the examine, Webb went to Wales's office.

"I just want you to know it wasn't funny," he told the professor. "I went over to Vietnam with sixty-seven lieutenants, twenty-two died, and it wasn't funny."

Webb was a target back then because he'd fought in a war at a time when some war opponents regarded the troops as evil. The current situation is, in a way, a right-wing version of the same problem -- Webb has written novels with sexual detail at a time when "traditional values" right-wingers, drunk on their own sanctimony and self-righteousness, regard anyone whose work steps over the rated-G line as evil. The Allen campaign is trying to get to the people who don't even want four-letter words to be heard in broadcasts of Saving Private Ryan or the CBS documentary filmed at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Webb was the enemy for fighting a war his government wanted him to fight; now he's an enemy for writing books people want to read.


UPDATE: Allahpundit -- who's right-wing but thinks the attacks on James Webb's novels are over the top -- has a pretty good post that includes audio of a Washington Post online interview in which Webb does precisely what the Kos blooger suggested, i.e., he defends the scenes in his novels as representations of real life. Go listen -- I think he does a fine job of defending himself. Webb says that the scene that's drawn the most attention, involving a father who puts his sons penis in his mouth, is something Webb actually saw -- and this does happen:

Thira Srey, office manager for the Southern California-based Cambodian Association of America, said it is acceptable for a mother or caretaker in Cambodia, especially those from rural areas, to kiss the penis of an infant or put it in her mouth as a sign of respect or love.

The child is usually 1 year old or younger, "but no more than 2 years old," he said.

The act has nothing to do with sexual feelings, he said, noting that it can be viewed as a sign of high respect by a caretaker for a future "master."

I assumed that had to be the explanation.

UPDATE: Why, hours after Webb explained otherwise, is the Post talking about Webb "depicting acts of incest"?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Daily Mail, October 26, 2006:

...In a Ramadam sermon in a Sydney mosque, Sheik al-Hilali suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame.

There were women, he said, who 'sway suggestively' and wore make-up and immodest dress "and then you get a judge without mercy and gives you 65 years. But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he said, referring to the women victims.

... Sheik al-Hilali added: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it..whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat?

"The uncovered meat is the problem." ...

Bill O'Reilly on The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, August 2, 2006:

Now Moore, Jennifer Moore, 18, on her way to college. She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning....

And the thug takes her over to New Jersey in the cab and kills her and rapes her and does all these terrible things to her....

Guess which one got right-wingers upset?

(Just to clarify: They both offend me. But let's not pretend Muslims have some sort of monopoly on this kind of talk.)


UPDATE: The Australian mufti apologized, then was suspended for three months by the mosque association of Sydney.

O'Reilly? No suspension so far.
This is two-week-old news if you're in the military (or in a military family), but I don't think a lot of civilians know about it:

Top generals big winners in 2007 defense budget
161 highest-ranking officers receive 8.7-percent pay raise

... In January, when most servicemembers will receive a 2.2 percent basic pay raise, their smallest in 12 years, America's 36 four-star generals and admirals, and its 125 lieutenant generals and vice admirals, will see basic pay climb by 8.7 percent, or $1,100 a month.

More significant are changes in the way their retired pay is calculated. To use one prominent officer as an example, Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, could see his future retired pay jump by almost $37,000 a year.

...[Abizaid's] retired pay after 33 years could be 82.5 percent of the new basic pay rate of $15,234 a month for an O-10 with at least 32 years' service. His monthly retirement check could be $12,568, instead of $9,500, and annual retired pay $150,816, not $114,000....

That would be a 32% increase.

This is not being well received:

The 2.2 across-the-board military pay raise in January is a joke. So is the 8.7 percent raise set for 125 generals and admirals. How about reversing it?

Officers do not need the bigger raise. It’s the enlisted ranks who have people on food stamps and receiving assistance from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. With the price of gas and everything else higher, a 2.2 pay raise is a slap in the face....

Via e-mail

Great. The same individuals who got us into this quagmire in the Middle East are getting an $1100-a-month pay raise, and my E-3, who is packing his bags next week for a year of "fun in the sun" Iraq, is to get a whopping $33. Unfreaking real…No, how shameful.

Rick T.
Via e-mail ...

Bush economics for the troops -- what a surprise.
Many people are saying that Dick Cheney acknowledged on Tuesday that America practices waterboarding, but I'm not sure he actually said that. I'd say he engaged in elaborate verbal gymnastics so that he could simultaneously titillate the base with images of torture and deny that it actually is torture.

The admission (or non-admission) took place in an "interview" with a right-wing radio host (I put "interview" in quotation marks because both sides were clearly scripted by the administration).

Here's the key passage. Watch the carefully garbled syntax:

Q ... I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives. Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do agree. And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.

When Cheney says, "that's been a very important tool," does "that" refer to waterboarding or to "our ability to interrogate high value detainees" (in some way that isn't torture but is, as Cheney says later, "fairly robust")?

One of Cheney's minions would say it's the latter:

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

"What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture," she said. "The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning."

But obviously, with a nod and a wink to the base, it's meant to suggest the former. These guys still believe they have to cover themselves with a "we don't torture" fig leaf, though wedge-issue politics drives them to want to rip the fig leaf off and let it all hang out.


What I find more amusing is the way Cheney's "interviewer," Scott Hennen, leads into the waterboarding exchange. Whoever scripted this interview really is good at this sort of thing:

Q I've heard from a lot of listeners -- that's what we do for a living, talk to good folks in the Heartland every day -- and I've talked to as many who want an increased military presence in Iraq as want us out, which seems to be the larger debate, at least coming from the left -- cut and run, get out of there. One fax said, when you talk to the Vice President, ask him when shock and awe is coming back to Iraq. Let's finish the job once and for all.

And terrorist interrogations and that debate is another example. And I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives. Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?

Utterly brilliant: He gets the testosterone flowing by floating the fantasy of more shock and awe -- but then he segues directly into waterboarding. He can't actually ask Cheney about putting more hurt on Iraq, because that just isn't going to happen. But he implies that a Republican win in November = more shock and awe.

Nice work, Karl.
(and is it really alcohol treatment?)

So here's what we're paying for:

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is being treated for alcoholism at a facility in Arizona, his attorneys said Wednesday.

Foley has been in a 30-day treatment program at the Sierra Tucson treatment center in Catalina, Ariz., near Tucson, since Oct. 1, according to a joint statement released by his attorneys in West Palm Beach and Washington, D.C....

As I noted a few days ago, the House clerk's office has confirmed that this is being covered by Foley's taxpayer-funded congressional health plan, under the COBRA provision.

So how much does this cost? Sierra Tucson's Web site says the base rate for its addictions program is $1175 per day -- that's $35,250 for 30 days. However:

...The average cost for a patient ranges from $41,000 to $64,855. This includes an average two-day stay in MAS and an estimate of average separately billed services/ancillary charges....

Separately billed services not included in the estimate of ancillary charges: Additional laboratory testing, additional psychological testing, acupuncture (ear lobe $35; full-body $110), and psychiatric technician services (if necessary).

Off-site Services: Services provided by third parties that are billed directly to patients include any off-site testing, additional off-site laboratory work, emergency room visits, and dental visits.

So this could add up.

But is Foley really in treatment just for alcoholism (which, of course, many doubt he has)? I can't help noting that Sierra Tucson has a Program for Sexual and Trauma Recovery, which

provides integrated treatment for individuals suffering from the effects of abuse and trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or sexual addiction/compulsivity. These individuals may also be chemically dependent and/or have coexisting psychiatric diagnoses.

(That, by the way, is slightly more expensive -- it has a base cost of $1285 per day.)

All this sounds about as pleasant as this sort of thing can be -- the alcohol program "may include ... Equine-Assisted Therapy [and] Adventure Therapy," while the sexual and trauma recovery program includes "A weekly Therapeutic Group, which is facilitated with Equine-Assisted Therapy, Climbing Wall, or Challenge Course."

(Click for a larger version of a photo collage from the Sierra Tucson site.)

I should note that the federal health plan has mental health parity, which means the deductibles for this aren't higher than they deductibles for other kinds of care. My company plan, which is very good in most respects, doesn't have parity, and I bet yours doesn't, either -- if you have a health care plan at all.

(Via Democratic Underground.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From the index of The Way to Win by Mark Halperin and John Harris:


liberal bias in, 31-36, 42-47, 129, 145, 150-51, 180, 286, 287, 297, 341

So why are we surprised that Halperin's telling his readers and Bill O'Reilly that he essentially agrees with Ann Coulter and Bernard Goldberg on this subject?
From the president's opening statement at his press conference today (emphasis mine):

Over the past three years I have often addressed the American people to explain developments in Iraq. Some of these developments were encouraging, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, the elections in which 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists and voted for a free future, and the demise of the brutal terrorist Zarqawi. Other developments were not encouraging, such as the bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad, the fact that we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued loss of some of America's finest sons and daughters.

Anyone else find that odd? That's like saying, "I smelled something burning in the next room and I ran in with a fire extinguisher, but it was just a candle, not the house burning down. What a discouraging explanation for the smell." Not finding WMDs was discouraging to the Bushies because it showed the world what idiots they were, but isn't it bizarre to describe it as discouraging in and of itself?
Spencer Ackerman makes an interesting point:

Let's say Maliki did, at the stroke of a pen, "disband" [the militias], and let's also say that the militias comply. What happens? Exactly what happened in 2003 when Jerry Bremer abolished the Iraqi Army: thousands -- possibly tens of thousands -- of ruthless men with guns are out on the streets. Think they'll act with malice toward none and charity toward all?

Maliki doesn't have the power to do it anyway, says Ackerman, whose reports on subject like this used to be among The New Republic's few bright spots. But Ackerman's right -- if Maliki could do it, could it possibly make any difference? Where would these guys go? What would they do all day?

(Via Needlenose.)
It's good to see that some things never change, and Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network still considers trick-or-treaters to be satanic (or at least some of them):

...The lures of the Enemy are running more rampant. Chidren do not have to sneak over to their friends' houses to access demonic influences. There are online ouija boards that require only a mouse, as well as thousands of Web sites that specifically recruit young people to join the occult.

Occultic-oriented rock performers have flourished in this generation. Some rockers even try to persuade teenage listeners to kill themselves and their parents. The influence of the occult has been behind some of the most horrific school shootings of this past decade.

Seventeen-year-old Luke Woodham killed two students and wounded seven others in his Mississippi school after he became involved in Satanism, which he said bestowed "power over many things."

This is the state of some of the American children who are showing up at your doorstep on October 31st. I'm not saying that each of them are secret agents of the occult, yet it is important to consider the souls of the children behind the masks....

But don't lock your kids in the house and turn all the lights off:

I don't think that Christian children should completely abstain from the festivities of costumes and candy, because they can be a light through their alternative behavior. [I personally plan on dressing my children up in Biblical and God-honoring characters that will draw people to ask questions.]

...There are many message-driven alternatives to offer, other than a bowl full of candy. For instance, there are Gospel tracts designed for trick-or-treaters that can be purchased online or at your Christian bookstore. You might also want to consider designing your own tracts or attaching scripture messages to the treats.

Scripture Candy, the makers of Fish Mints™ contain wrappers that have scriptural text....

But -- but -- but Scripture Candy also comes in Spanish! Doesn't that send the other wrong message?

And Scripture Candy online shopping is managed by a company called Zen Cart! Zen!

Good Lord -- is Satan winning?
Does Robert (Prayers for the Assassin) Ferrigno really consider this post of mine to be "hate mail"? Gosh, what a sensitive soul. (Ah, but you say you actually "enjoy it," Robert -- all the "hate mail." Well, of course you do. Isn't the whole point of your book, for you and your readers, to wallow -- safely -- in the pleasurable fantasy of being besieged?)

In the post, I did underestimate the persistent violence and anger in the French banlieus. However, I'm still waiting for a list of city and town governments -- in France or anywhere else in the West -- that have been siezed by Islamicists and placed under sharia law. I won't hold my breath waiting for that list.
Senate Democrats used to parade victims of various diseases or social concerns or poverty up before congressional committees and let them testify, and they were infallible. You couldn't criticize them.

It was the same thing with the Jersey Girls after 9/11, and in the period of time when the 9/11 commission was meeting publicly. Victims are infallible. Whatever they say cannot be challenged. I don't follow the script anymore.

--Rush Limbaugh denouncing Michael J. Fox's campaign ads


Now, a word about Lynn Faulkner. He's a grieving 9/11 widower, yes, but he's a politicized 9/11 widower, on the conservative side.

He became a director of the anti-immigration group 9/11 Families for a Secure America.

More recently, his political focus seems to have changed somewhat. He was heard calling Rush Limbaugh to defend Bush ads that included 9/11 imagery....

--me, May 6, 2004

Lynn Faulkner is the first face you see in this ad:

I don't recall Rush ever denouncing this ad starring one of his listeners and on-air guests. I guess Rush's moral outrage at the use of victims in political ads evolved slowly, over a long period of time, and -- regrettably -- hadn't fully evolved in 2004.


(The links in the 2004 post don't work, but this blogger also caught the Lynn Faulkner appearance on Rush's show and this shows Faulkner's membership in a group linking 9/11 to immigration.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

He thinks "you're gonna love" this.

She thinks this is "Hillar-ious."

Can we take up a collection and buy each of these people a sense of humor?

(And I almost agree with the second one.)
The New York Times goes to Georgia today and finds it a strange place:

Listening to Congressional candidates in middle Georgia, it is easy for someone to think that he is in a different year and, possibly, a different country.

Democrats defend themselves against accusations that they are rubber stamps for their party’s leadership. Democrats are defending the war in Iraq. And Democrats -- yes, Democrats -- strive to align themselves with the president.

"I agree with George Bush on this one," Representative John Barrow ends his new advertisement in favor of abolishing the estate tax.

Charles S. Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said, "It's a bit of a return to yesterday." ...

Further down in the story, we have a Republican challenger, Mac Collins, boasting -- boasting! -- that his candidate for Speaker of the House is Dennis Hastert.

A return to yesterday? I prefer the characterization in the first sentence: These pro-Bush Southerners live in another country.

Here's what I said early in the year, when the polls started showing a split in this country between Democrats and independents (on one side) and Republicans (stubbornly clinging to the other):

Remember the aftermath of the 2004 election? Remember how Democrats were portrayed as hopelessly out of step -- not religious enough, not NASCAR enough, not sufficiently family-oriented or security-oriented, too urban, too accommodating of abortion and Hollywood and indecency and gays?

Well, it's time for the media to start talking about Republicans as the oddballs. It's time to start discussing
them as the ones who don't have "mainstream American values."

It's the Republicans who are the outliers, the weirdos; it's Republicans who cling to a worldview that fails reality check after reality check.

Democrats, by contrast, are normal Americans.

The pro-Bush South is the home turf of these weirdos. It's the region that's out of step, not, say, the Northeast. Don't forget this in the next two years, when they try to tell you otherwise.
You know that fearmongering "These Are the Stakes" ad the Republicans released last week? It included some vague bluster from al-Qaeda leaders -- but it also one detailed warning:

“We sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states, and they negotiated. And we purchased some suitcase bombs." --Ayman Al-Zawahiri ("Al Qaeda: We Bought Nuke Cases," [New York] Daily News, 3/22/04)

That was reported by a Pakistani journalist named Hamid Mir. It ought to be noted that when it was reported, not everyone bought it:

... "(Al-Zawahri) is bluffing," an unnamed official at the Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency told the official Ria-Novosti news agency Monday. "It is practically impossible not only to buy nuclear weapons but even their components in Russia."

...Maxim Shingarkin, a former major in the Russian military's secretive 12th Department, which is in charge of strategic weapons, said suitcase nuclear bombs, if they are still in Russia's arsenal, were too difficult to maintain and had too short a lifespan to make them feasible as terrorist weapons. He said Russia only had built about 100 suitcase bombs and had not produced any new ones since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

...He said the suitcase nukes have a lifespan of only one to three years because some of the materials, such as the battery and the conventional explosives that produce the charge that sets off the nuclear reaction, deteriorate over time and must be replaced.

...Charles Digges, an expert on Russia's nuclear program with the Bellona environmental group in Norway who is usually critical of the claims of Russian nuclear officials, agreed, saying "these things have been more or less accounted for."

It also ought to be noted that Dean Barnett -- no liberal -- said much the same thing recently in this post at Hugh Hewitt's TownHall blog:

... maintaining nuclear weapons in a cave on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border would certainly be beyond Al Qaeda's abilities. This is a serious problem for the terrorists; if Al Qaeda ever acquired these things, the bombs have missed probably 25 maintenance adjustments, or every scheduled trip to the shop since the breakup of the Soviet Union; ... if they do somehow function, they’ll achieve only a fraction of their intended yield....

The rumors of Al Qaeda being a nuclear power began in 1998. The London based Arab daily Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that Chechens had acquired 20 suitcase nukes from Russian facilities with the intention of transferring the bombs to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in exchange for $30 million and two tons of opium.

... If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power for almost a decade now, would it have not used one of their suitcase nuke devices on the Coale
[sic] instead of the pittance of conventional TNT that it instead utilized? If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power for almost a decade now, would it be engaging in relatively penny ante activities like hijacking planes and bombing commuter trains? If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power and became one over eight years ago, what plausible explanation could there possibly be for the organization's "restraint" in not utilizing the devices over the past eight years?

Hamid Mir (who's writing a book on bin Laden) was sounding the alarm again recently:

Osama bin Laden is planning to carry out new, more destructive attacks inside the United States, and there is someone working on this terror plot currently in the US, according to Hamid Mir, the famed Pakistani journalist who obtained the only post-9/11 interviews with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri....

Mir ... said that bin Laden has assigned a man named Adnan Al-Shukri Juma to carry out a new attack within the US which is intended to be larger than the 11 September, 2001 attacks. According to Mir, Adnan Jumaa has smuggled explosives and nuclear materials into the US through the Mexican border over the last two years and is hiding somewhere in America where the FBI has not been able to locate him....

Barnett's response was that this was no more believable than an earlier warning:

The latest Suitcase Nuke blather comes from a Pakistani journalist who claims he got a scoop while doing some muckraking in Afghanistan. To keep things hyper-topical, this intrepid reporter tells us that the nukes were smuggled into America through the porous Mexican border.

When I first wrote about this topic over two years ago, the inspiration was some kook on Fox News who was assuring us that eight U.S. cities would meet their demise in the Summer of '04.

Nevertheless, the story about Adnan Al-Shukri-Juma, whose surname is also spelled Shukrijumah, caught the attention of quite a few righty bloggers, most notably Dr. Rusty Shackleford of My Pet Jawa, who set off widespread pants-wetting by misreading the article and asserting that Mir had predicted a nuke attack on the U.S. during Ramadan. Dr. Rusty actually believed for a while that that message-board post predicting attacks on NFL stadiums might be part of this Ramadan nuke plot. At one point he also reported that one of his readers had spotted Shukrijumah in Austin, Texas.

Now, I don't want to dismiss this altogether -- there are non-crazies (e.g., Brian Ross's ABC News investigative team) who take some of the worry about Shrukijumah seriously. And both Barnett and the Norway-based expert Charles Digges remind us that al-Qaeda could have dirty bombs (radioactive material detonated by conventional explosives) rather than suitcase nukes (small fission devices).

But it's quite possible that Hamid Mir is engaged in hyperbole, or is taking al-Qaeda hyperbole too seriously -- and that that's what wound up in the GOP's ad.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Remember those intolerant, anti-modern, unassimilable Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis? The ones who complained about passengers carrying liquor bottles, and about other people who offended them?

In her bright pink hat, Paula Hare has found herself waiting on her stoop a lot lately, for taxi cabs that never come.

Not to avoid confusion, Paula even tells the taxi dispatcher she's transgendred. But on three occasions when the taxi actually showed up, she says Muslim drivers have refused to give her a lift.

"This is more than just religion, it's flat out discrimination," hare said. "And we've got laws against that in this state."

...Of the nearly 2,000 taxis in the Twin Cities metro, estimates are as many as half the drivers are recent immigrants -- many Muslim....

Hmmm ... who do those cabbies remind me of?

...The Garden Guy was just one of the landscaping businesses Michael Lord and Gary Lackey, a homosexual couple who has been together for nine years, requested bids from earlier this week for the new home they're building in Houston Heights.

... Lord called the company Wednesday morning to set up an appointment.

"Michael was asked if 'his wife would be home' when the consultation would take place. He brushed it off, but when he was asked again if his wife would be joining, Michael said, "No, but my partner Gary will be.'

"Michael set up the appointment, but a few minutes later we got the e-mail." ...

Subject: Cancel Appt – Garden Guy

Dear Mr. Lord,

I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.

Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs....

Gee -- sounds kinda similar to me.

But maybe I'm confused.... After all, my right-wing betters seem to think the situations are totally different. All sorts of right-wingers -- Daniel Pipes, the folks at Free Republic, the folks at Little Green Footballs -- came to the transgendered person's defense. But when the gay couple spread the word to friends and acquaintances about the Garden Guy and recommended taking gardening business elsewhere (and some people suggested it might be illegal discrimination), why, right-wingers were incensed!

The American Family Association issued a statement defending their business decision, saying, "Todd [the Garden Guy], like millions of Americans, obviously has a moral conviction based on his religious beliefs against homosexual behavior and that lifestyle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that."

This blogger even cried censorship:

...If refusing to do business with someone because you disagree with their actions is such a horribly-evil thing, why then did the homosexuals and their friends do the exact same thing to the Farbers? Actually the homosexuals (and their supporters) went even further, they are attempting to organize masses of people to join them.

... If Liberals are so gung-ho to defend "expression" (like flag burning for instance) why, in this case, have they jumped the fence and want laws against the message the Farbers are sending? Perhaps they have a oddly selective interpretation of the First Amendment.

So, if Allah tells Muslim cabbies that transgendered people are icky, that's bad. But if Jesus tells the Garden Guy that two gay homeowners are icky, that's wonderful. And even telling gay friends that the Garden Guy hates their sex life is jackbooted thuggery and makes the Baby Jesus cry.

Do I have it figured out now?
Thanks so much for the gift, Mr. President! Signed, The Democratic Party:

Bush to Address Economy Over Next 2 Days

With his party facing a difficult midterm election, President Bush is focusing on the positive this week: a growing economy he is using to try to persuade voters to keep Republicans in power in Congress.

...White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush intends to mention how optimism about the economy and rising hopes for strong third-quarter earnings lifted the Dow Jones industrial average past 12,000 for the first time on Wednesday....

Two days? Please -- talk about this for ten days! No, talk about it all the way to November 7!

Please try to persuade voters that everything is wonderful and they're hallucinating when they correctly perceive that the current recovery is a recovery almost exclusively for the haves.

And I'm really enjoying the fact that the Democrats want to talk about Iraq while the Republicans would like to change the subject to the economy. We remember how well that worked out in 2002 when the parties' roles were reversed....

(Via Atrios.)
Bubble Boy says he's going to get what he wants -- just you wait!

Bush Plans to Revive Social Security Proposal With New Congress

President George W. Bush said ... that he will return to overhauling Social Security as a top domestic priority for his last two years in office....

The top items on the agenda, Bush said, are immigration and Social Security....

Bush's plan to let workers divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes to private savings accounts ... never made it to a legislative proposal in the face of broad public and congressional opposition.

On immigration, Congress deadlocked over a proposal favored by Bush....

"They're still alive," Bush said of the two proposals....

Hey, and maybe after that he can rehire Brownie! And reopen the Terri Schiavo case! And sell some ports to Dubai!

You know, I can understand the Bush portrayed in today's New York Times article, the one who's just trying to keep the base motivated by exuding confidence. But the fact that Bush pointedly prioritized his immigration plan, which his base hates, and his Social Security plan, which appalled everyone else, suggests that his narcissistic personality disorder is trumping any political instincts he might have. That narcissism makes him unable ever to admit that he's licked. (See, of course, Iraq.) It's high time everyone realized that Bush isn't a simple, straightforward guy -- he's a neurotic.

That's what our president says he's "not patient with," about 2:43 into this interview clip.

It's not a slip of the tongue. He clearly thinks that's the correct way to say the word "dawdling."

Now, he's not alone in that, but I don't consider that any comfort.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh, damn -- I forgot to send a gift:

Top Washington lawyer Ted Olson and his fiancee, Lady Booth, tied the knot yesterday in Napa Valley, Calif., starting a happy new chapter in Olson's personal life. "She's a Southern girl," he told us. "She's just a marvelous person."

Olson shot to national fame when he successfully argued the 2000 election case for George W. Bush in the Supreme Court, and was named solicitor general by the grateful president. On Sept. 11, 2001 -- his 61st birthday -- his wife, conservative commentator Barbara Olson, was killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. His personal loss became part of the public narrative of the tragedy, making him perhaps the most famous widower in Washington.

The following year, Olson was introduced to the Louisville native (she's named "Lady" after an aunt) by mutual friends who thought he would hit it off with the 40-something blond tax lawyer. Their first few dates included the Kentucky Derby (both like horse racing) and the Napa Valley charity auction (both like fine wine). Olson popped the question on Oct. 21, 2005, and the couple set the date for exactly one year later at Napa's Meadowood resort.

More than 300 guests attended the midafternoon ceremony on the golf course, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, legal commentators Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, NPR's Nina Totenberg, legal names such as Robert Bork, Kenneth Starr, David Boise, and Olson's law partner Bill Kilberg. U.S. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman performed the ceremony, and Wall Street Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz served as best man.

This is from The Washington Post. I do like the way the Post manges to expunge Olson's entire pre-Bush life from the record, particularly the unpleasant Arkansas Project business that Olson himself, of course, has tried to edit out of his own biography, with quite a bit of success.

I also can't help noticing that Olson likes fine wine and the California wine country. Gee, I thought only liberals had frou-frou tastes like that. I thought conservatives preferred to sit outside the double-wide and drink Old Milwaukee straight from the can.

And I'm amused to note that Nina Totenberg was in attendance, but Ann Coulter apparently wasn't.

The blowhards of the religious right have been telling us for decades that America was founded as a "Christian nation." Why until today have I never encountered this rather unambiguous bit of evidence to the contrary?

Ten years after the Constitutional Convention, the Senate unanimously ratified a treaty with Islamic Tripoli that declared the United States government "is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Clear enough for you Jerry? Pat? And all the rest of you?

By the way, that's from a review in The New York Times of a new book by Brooke Allen called Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers. The reviewer is that notorious left-winger George Will. Will thinks the book overstates its case somewhat, but he also calls it "a wonderfully high-spirited and informative polemic."

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Unborn Word Alliance proudly presents the book Unborn Jesus Our Hope, by George A. Peate, and published by Life Cycle Books, Toronto.

Yup, a new wrinkle on Christianity -- this guy is arguing that the importance of Jesus is that before he was born he was unborn, and therefore ... something. I'm not sure.

Unborn Jesus is the way! In the hiddenness of His mother's womb Unborn Jesus is already on His mission to save fallen humanity. This is the unspoken gospel before the Gospel preached by our Savior during His public ministry -- a hidden unnoticed gospel, but a gospel nonetheless. Do not disdain this unspoken gospel as many disdain the unspoken stories of unborn children today.

I can't tell what the "hidden unnoticed gospel" tells us, about Jesus or anything else, though we are reminded that at one point during Mary's pregnancy Jesus kicked in the womb. How unusual! How almost certainly significant!

Oh, and don't forget -- being born is something you do when you're unborn:

For until He is born, He remains yet unborn. Before being born He is still unseen, unheard, untouched and unknown: Unborn Jesus.

I get the feeling that it's somewhat of a disappointment to Mr. Peate that there was a "born" part of Jesus' life at all.

In Connecticut, Lieberman's up by 17, and Lieberman's candidacy may actually be helping three seemingly vulnerable Republican members of the House in their bids to hold on to their seats. Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller proposes a possible explanation:

... Joe Lieberman is framing himself as something of aan antiwar candidate, repeatedly saying that 'no one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do.' ...

Lieberman has been similarly slippery on Iran, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, and whether we're making progress in Iraq. He's running as an antiwar Democrat when talking to public at large, and a conservative Republican when talking to Republicans. He lets surrogates signal to Republicans that Joe is their choice, surrogates such as George Bush, who spoke publicly about Lieberman as someone purged from the 'Democrat' Party because he supports 'victory in Iraq'.

That's why this race is so hard, in a nutshell. Joe Lieberman has promised to end the war in Iraq, and it's a message that a substantial number of antiwar Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters want to hear....

That's part of it. But it's not the whole story.

The fact is, having a somewhat liberal record on domestic issues while being a hawk makes Lieberman a strong candidate in the Northeast. If you find that statement counterintuitive, it's because you think the Northeastern states are solidly liberal-Democrat states. They aren't.

Sure plenty of liberal Dems win up here. But we also elect a lot of moderate and liberal Republicans, as well as some right-leaning Democrats.

I'll start with my city, New York. We've elected a liberal Democratic mayor only once in the last eight elections -- David Dinkins in 1989. Some would say twice, because Ed Koch was perceived as a liberal when he was first elected in 1977, but he became a liberal-basher and a black-baiter -- and handily won reelection in 1981 and 1985. (Republican Mike Bloomberg is actually the most liberal mayor to win reelection here since John Lindsay -- who, of course, was also a Republican.)

Look around. Maine has two (moderate) Republican senators. Vermont's James Jeffords used to be a moderate Reoublican. Six of the last eight governors of Massachusetts have been Republicans, most of them socially moderate-to-liberal -- and the one Democrat besides Dukakis was right-wing.

Rhode Island has had the Chafees. New Jersey had Christie Whitman and Tom Kean (and may elect Tom Kean Jr.). New York has had three terms of George Pataki (and the still-not-antiwar Democrat Hillary Clinton is coasting to victory). Connecticut has Jodi Rell, a moderate GOP governor with an 70% approval rating.

I'm sorry to say that we like our political hermaphrodites up here. We're blue, but we seem to like purple, too. Most of our Republicans aren't wingnuts; many of our Democrats aren't as liberal as you'd think. Throw in the independents and you've got a large chunk of the electorate that can easily gravitate toward someone like Lieberman, someone who can claim to represent a mix of left and right ideas.

For this reason, I question whether Lieberman was ever beatable. He was too popular across the board when Lamont started his run, and though his popularity's taken a hit, he still seems to fit a popular mold. What's going on in Connecticut is dispiriting, but it's not surprising.

Friday, October 20, 2006


34,000 The number of Iraqi physicians registered before the 2003 war.
18,000 The estimated number of Iraqi physicians who have left since the 2003 invasion.
2,000 The estimated number of Iraqi physicians murdered since 2003.
250 The number of Iraqi physicians kidnapped.
34 The number of reconstructive surgeons in Iraq before the 2003 invasion.
20 The number who have either been murdered of fled. 72 per cent of Iraqis needing reconstructive surgery are suffering from gunshot or blast wounds.
164 The number of nurses murdered - 77 wounded.
$243,000,000 The amount of money set aside by US administration to build 142 private health clinics in post-invastion Iraq.
20 The number of such clinics built by April 2006.
$0 The amount of money left over.
$1bn The amount of money the US administration has spent on Iraq's healthcare system.
$8bn The amount of money needed over the next 4 years to fund the health care system
70 the percentage of deaths among children caused by "easily treatable conditions" such as diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses.
270,000 The number of children born after 2003 who have had no immunisations.

68 per cent of Iraqis with no access to safe drinking water.
19 per cent of Iraqis with sewerage access.

--The Independent (see the list and accompanying article here)
We know the GOP strategy for November 7 is to try to scare the crap out if the Republican base by talking about all the horrible things that will happen if Democrats control all or part of Congress -- but why, at the same time, are the Bushies permitting an unprecedented level of truth-telling on Iraq?

The United States military command in Iraq acknowledged on Thursday that its 12-week-old campaign to win back control of Baghdad from sectarian death squads and insurgents had failed to reduce violence across the city....

In one of the most somber assessments of the war by American commanders, a statement read by the spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said the campaign had been marked by increasing attacks on American troops and a spike in combat deaths. Attacks soared by 22 percent, he said, during the first three weeks of Ramadan....

The general’s remarks [were] unusual for their candor and unvarnished portrayal of bad news...

... he has struck a generally upbeat tone in his briefings since arriving here this spring....

I don't believe this is some genie the Bushies couldn't keep in the bottle -- the Bushies have always managed to enforce message discipline. They want this message out. They've suddenly decided that it's good for them to say things are going badly in Iraq.

I think they're hoping the base links the upswing in violence to the Democratic surge (Message: There'll be even more of this if Satan's party wins). But beyond that, I think this is a strategy for what happens after November 7.

The Bushies, I think, plan to use their own failure in Iraq to indict the Democrats. No, really -- they're going to say things started to go bad when it seemed as if the Democrats were going to score big victories, and, if that actually does happen, that any insurgent success is also a consequence of Democratic ascendancy. (The base, of course, doesn't believe things have been going badly all along. The base believes "the liberal media" has simply overmphasized the bad news and ignored all the wonderful schools being built and so on.)

Everyone who's read Kevin Baker's Harper's article "Stabbed in the Back!" knows where I'm going with this. The rest of you should read it.

If Democrats win even one house of Congress next month, even by a slim margin -- hell, if they even gain seats and close the gaps somewhat -- the Bushies are going to spend the next two years declaring that every collapse of a Bush foreign-policy house of cards is the fault of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy. This is their strategy for 2008. I think they're not even waiting for this election cycle to be over to put it into effect.
The Stupid Party:

Candidate seeks textbooks as shields

OKLAHOMA CITY --A candidate for state superintendent of schools said Thursday he wants thick used textbooks placed under every student's desk so they can use them for self-defense during school shootings.

"People might think it's kind of weird, crazy," said Republican Bill Crozier of Union City, a teacher and former Air Force security officer. "It is a practical thing; it's something you can do. It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there."

Crozier and a group of aides produced a 10-minute video Tuesday in which they shoot math, language and telephone books with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm pistol. The rifle bullet penetrated two books, including a calculus textbook, but the pistol bullet was stopped by a single book.

Crozier said the demonstration shows that a student could effectively use a textbook as protection in a school shooting.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman was skeptical.

"He probably needs to take a look at some ballistics tests," Lt. Pete Norwood said. "There are some rifles not even Webster's Dictionary will stop." ...

Books? I dunno what they're good for, but they gotta be good for somethin', right?

(Via DU.)


(By the way, it occurs to me that this bears some resemblance to the Bush administration's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


There's a new series of pro-Republican ads aimed at minority voters. Here's how the anti-abortion site LifeNews.com describes one such ad:

Another hard-hitting ad features a man suggesting to a friend that he should consider telling his girlfriend to have an abortion, according to a New York Sun report. The second man responds that he doesn't approve of that request.

That is, to say the least, a paraphrase.

The Sun reports the exact words:

"If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,' you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked," one of the men says.

"That's too cold. I don't snuff my own seed," the other replies.

"Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican," the first man says.


Over at the Huffington Post, Max Blumenthal tells us this:

This ad was financed by J. Patrick Rooney, a white billionaire notorious for funding several misleading anti-Kerry ads that ran on urban radio stations in 2004. The money for Rooney's newest ad flowed through a little-known group called America's PAC, which was founded by Richard Nadler, a veteran Republican consultant who pushed Intelligent Design in Kansas public schools, declaring, "Darwin is bunk."

But the Sun notes that its calls were referred to "a conservative, African-American talk show host who voiced some of the ads, Herman Cain." You may remember him:

Democrats are calling on Wal-Mart to repudiate a statement by a talk show host and Wal-Mart proponent likening the party's leading lawmakers to members of a terrorist group, Hezbollah.

In a column published Tuesday, the commentator, Herman Cain, repeatedly used the term "Hezbocrats." Mr. Cain defined them as "a roaming band of militant guerrillas seeking their party's 2008 nomination for president" and said they were lobbing "rhetorical bombs at Wal-Mart."....

Branded as "Hezbocrats" in the column were Senator Biden of Delaware, Senator Bayh of Indiana, and Senator Clinton, as well as Governor Richardson of New Mexico....

(The column is here. In fact, Cain refers to the entire party as "the Hezbocrat Party.")

The LifeNews story implies that Cain is behind the ads ("The ads are sponsored by America's PAC, a new organization founded by Herman Cain") -- but is that the case, or is the former Godfather's Pizza CEO and sometime substitute host for Neal Boortz and William Bennett merely the dark-skinned public face of people like this?

Nadler has an apparently dim view of the minorities he hopes to court. In 2000, he produced an ad in 2000 for school vouchers in which a white parent declared that his child's public school "was a bit more diversity than he could handle." The Republican National Committee flatly denounced that ad as "racist."

Either way, it's gutter politics, though I don't think it'll work.

One bit of evidence: this transcript of a recent Rush Limbaugh monologue, at his site. (It'll revert to subscriber-only content soon, if it hasn't already, so if you really must read it, jump now.) The headline is

Disaster Does Loom If Democrats Win, and Will Lead to Nomination of McCain

It's a hold-your-nose-and-vote-GOP speech for righties who are disillusioned; as Rush sees it, the apocalypse is coming if Dems win this November -- not just for the next two years, but beyond:

In two years, you same people who will have helped and bring about an ascension to power by the Democrats are going to be so angry; you're going to be so fed up over what they have tried to do, over the things they will maybe have accomplished, that you are going to demand power back -- and you will accept anybody that you think has a chance of winning it.

Right now, that looks like McCain above anybody else -- who, I must tell you, is not a conservative -- and so what are you probably going to end up doing? You're going to be so frustrated by 2008 and the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming president is so obnoxious, so abhorrent, that in 2008, you will flush your precious principles down the drain and elect a Republican, precisely the kind of Republican you think you're running against now. Or you will at least nominate one.

This is accompanied by a helpful illustration:

So the media figure most respected by the most fervent voters in John McCain's party flat-out hates McCain. He uses the horrifying prospect of a McCain ascendancy to rally that base.

Can McCain really win the '08 nomination under these conditions? (Even under the conditions of desperation Limbaugh describes?)

(McCain, of course, is going to respond to the base's hostility by shamelessly sucking up to Limbaugh and the most odious right-wing opinion-shapers. I don't know if it will work, but it's going to be ugly to watch.)
In The Washington Post, D.C. doyenne Sally Quinn speculates on Donald Rumsfeld's future and pretty much makes it official:

Vice President Cheney is not eager to replace him. And he would never fire Rumsfeld, who was his mentor and who hired him for three government jobs during the Ford administration, including as his deputy when Rumsfeld was chief of staff. (In fact, Cheney's Secret Service code name was "Back Seat.") In any event, Cheney is low-profile, secretive, nonconfrontational -- and presumably too experienced to allow himself to be easily made the scapegoat.

"And he would never fire Rumsfeld." I keep reading that over, sure that the caffeine just hasn't kicked in yet and when I read it again it'll be clear that Quinn means that Cheney, if he were in a position to make the decision, would never do this. But I can't find any evidence for that reading in Quinn's words.

To be fair, I should note that Quinn says this after saying, "Until now George W. Bush has resisted all of the pressure to get rid of his defense secretary." So she does believe that firing Rumsfeld would, in fact, be the president's job. But she also thinks it's Cheney's job -- perhaps his more than his (ostensible) boss's.

Not that we didn't know this.


(Quinn, by the way, thinks Rummy won't be fired after the mideterms, but "will resign to take a job in some sort of humanitarian venture." Whatever you say, Sally. Me, I think Rummy'll stay unless they need to pull Lieberman out of the Senate to regain a GOP majority.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One or two cheers, please, for Maureen Dowd -- she may the only pundit who's even starting to grasp the real nature of John McCain.

Here's today's Dowd column (free link). Dowd's jumping-off point is a recent front-page story in The New York Times:

Anne Kornblut wrote that two summers ago, on a Congressional trip to Estonia with Linsdey Graham and Susan Collins, Senator Clinton "astonished her traveling companions by suggesting that the group do what one does in the Baltics: hold a vodka-drinking contest. Delighted, the leader of the delegation, Senator John McCain, quickly agreed. The after-dinner drinks went so well -- memories are a bit hazy on who drank how much -- that Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, later told people how unexpectedly engaging he found Mrs. Clinton to be."

But then McCain went on Fox News and denied it ever happened. He went on The Tonight Show and did the same thing. His staff rebuffed Joshua Green of The Atlantic Monthly when he wanted to ask about it.

Then, however, Green ran into McCain -- and McCain confirmed that it happened.

"The Straight Talk Express," Dowd writes, "was swerving again."

Dowd asked McCain's people about it and was told there was drinking -- but "[i]t was not a drinking contest, the way you and I think of a drinking contest. John had two drinks."

So the vodka vivacity happened, but Mr. McCain's staff, eager to see the senator pander to what Jon Stewart called the "crazy-base world," put a stop to their boss's inviting Mrs. Clinton on trips. The former fighter jock and "scamp," as his mom called him, has become so lifeless and base-whipped that he is scared to be seen knocking back Stolis with a nice Methodist girl from the Midwest who wears crosses around her neck.

"John was not intentionally misleading," his person said. "The image a drinking contest sets up is not very pretty, and we're in serious times. The best thing he's done is to be collegial. You can do that by drinking, but it’s not a drinking contest. Is this splitting hairs?"

Actually, yeah. The once candid senator is starting to sound downright Clintonian with all this silly parsing and dissembling. I did not have drinks with that woman!

You've basically got it, Mo.

Look, John McCain and Hillary Clinton are a matched pair -- they seem to be their parties' front-runners for '08, yet they seem to be the most timid candidates in the race. I'd call them mirror images of each other, but that's not exactly the case, because both of them constantly worry about pleasing culturally conservative loonies who hate them and always will. And neither one of them as president will ever have the guts to defy these loonies.

If Dowd is making a start at seeing through the "straight talk" nonsense, that's more than I expected. I was afraid no pundit ever would; I'm still afraid no other pundit ever will.