Friday, May 30, 2003

I'm going to be at a few undisclosed locations over the next week or so, so I won't be posting, but I'll be back around June 8 with lots of fresh vitriol. Thanks to everyone for reading (and linking)....
Next time we need troops for a war in the Gulf, can we please send these people first?

LIKE most of the students at Hummer camp, Maria del Carmen Grimmelmann tends to gush. "It moves me," Mrs. Grimmelmann, 51, said of the supercharged Hummer H2 she and her husband, Frank, bought earlier this year.

"You know when you go shopping and nothing moves you?" she asked. "Then there's the time you see something, and right away know it's perfect. It's like falling in love. When I'm driving it, I feel empowered. It's the car that opens the sea for me. Now I know how Moses felt."...

WEDNESDAY, AFTER LUNCH Mark Mills and David Paschen, a 50-year-old recreational vehicle dealer from Chesterton, Ind., acquaintances for all of one day, are barreling up and down mud hills following a caravan of Hummers. Mr. Paschen is playing befuddled straight man while Mr. Mills doles out zingers.

Why did you buy a Hummer, Dave?

"I turned 50, and I decided if I was ever going to do it, this was the time," Mr. Paschen replied.

Mr. Mills interjects, "His wife said he could."

Mark, why did you buy a Hummer?

Well, he had a BMW sports car and had considered an H1, but there were complications.

"I don't want to say I'm a fat guy," he explains. "But I'm a fat guy. The seats in that H1 aren't very big." Besides, the H1 was twice the H2's price.

"I only have so much money," Mr. Mills said. Kidding!...

Mr. Chance, a man with the erect bearing and basso voice of a somewhat younger Charlton Heston, explained the Hummer appeal over dinner.

"The last G.M. car I liked was a '57 Chevy," he said. "I think it's so important that car designers create passion. Europe does it — BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari. They create passion and make you willing to write a check. There's no logic. If I had sat down and done a cost-benefit analysis, I would have been, `No-o-o.' Of course, I took delivery in California, and gas went to $2.50. So that's a statement of passion or stupidity, I don't know which."...

Yeah, I'm so dang proud to be an American after reading this....
Is there anyone left who still hasn't seen "What a Tangled Web We Weave...," Billmon's compendium of WMD quotes? If you haven't, go to the link immediately.
Watch how fast Paul Bremer changes his story in this interview with Claire Shipman of ABC News:

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: But still, no matter how quickly we won the war, wouldn't it have made sense for example to have an enormous police or military police operation ready to go here, to simply keep order?

PAUL BREMER: Well, the police in a postwar period, the police are called the army. That's what the Army is here for. And we did have a pretty big one. Right? Today we had 54,000 troops here in Baghdad. That's a pretty big police force. We also have got an entire brigade of MPs that have been brought in. We've got a pretty good-sized police force. That's not a problem.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: But they certainly weren't operating the way they might have as soon as the war ended.

PAUL BREMER: Look. Military men are not trained to be policeman. But in an immediate postwar period, that's the role that they have to assume.

Hey, we didn't need cops -- we had soldiers! Lots of soldiers! Er ... but hey, you can't expect soldiers to be cops!

One more deck of non-Pentagon-approved playing cards.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Media conservatives know how to keep the average right-wing Joe angry: When all else fails, just make stuff up. This morning, the first "must read of the day" at Lucianne Goldberg's Web site was a story about an incident on a Qantas flight:

2 flight attendants stabbed on plane

A snarky comment followed on the site:

Wonder where the hijacker could be from?

Here’s some of what was said in the discussion devoted to this story:

Any bets that his name is Mohammad or Abu?!

I also am expecting that the culprit's name is going to turn out to be something like Mohammed Abdullah, or Mustafa Jihadi, or Ahmed Intifada, or some such.

The Austrailian news agency is reporting the highjacker is an Aussie. However, like Richard Reid, he could very well be an Aussie Mooslim.

This is BOUND to be a Muslim terrorist wanna-be.

If the liberals would unwad their panties and get on board with checking all Mooslim and Arab looking men between 17-50, we'd solve a lot of problems.

While Americans and our allies boldly determine the course of the 21st Century, the Death Cult Horde (presuming this was in fact an Islamist savage) appears to have regressed from the stone age to the stick age.

Yo ,, ye dang Leftist Media and Quantas you can't hide this stuff anymore We The People know Islamic Terrorist Savages are out there !!!

Islamic raghead or Australian raghead, you can bet that he was one.

Er, apparently not. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald:

Government sources said the assailant called out about "God's will or Armageddon when he was interrogated by federal police after the plane returned to Melbourne. He had been quiet but one source said that, during the attack and after he had been detained, he began talking about "God and the end of the world", saying that "God had spoken to him"….

Witnesses who saw the man after he was arrested, his hands bloodied and in handcuffs, described him as "just a normal looking Australian". It was believed he recently had resigned or been sacked from a job. Federal police said he would be charged under the Federal Aviation Act….

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said: "We do not believe at this stage that this is terrorist-related in any way."

If there’s any clarification of this at, I haven’t seen it.
Someone at Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins Publishers actually got paid cash money to decide that the subtitle of Dick Morris's forthcoming book should not be Duplicity, Destruction, and Deception in American Politics, Media, and Business, but rather Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Life.

Or vice versa.

From the link, I can't be sure.

I guess we'll have to wait until the book comes out next month to find out what the final decision was.

Isn't the suspense just killing you? I know it's killing me.
US troops firing a tank-mounted machine gun have killed two civilians and injured two others in the Iraqi town of Samarra after they tried to drive through a military checkpoint, US Central Command said.

The news came as the US military announced it was investigating another incident in Samarra, about 60kms north of Baghdad, on Monday in which three young men were allegedly shot and killed by US troops....

...Officials at the hospital where the three dead youths were taken said they had been firing in the air to celebrate a wedding, as is the Iraqi custom.

--Herald-Sun (Australia)
There's nothing I can add to what TBOGG says here about privatization.
Bush Signs Tax Cut Bill, Dismissing All Criticism

--headline in today's New York Times

"Dismissing All Criticism" -- is it really necessary to add that? In Bush's case, isn't that a bit like adding "Continuing to Breathe Oxygen"? Has there ever been a millisecond in Bush's presidency when he wasn't "Dismissing All Criticism"?
It looks as if the Bush administration's lying disease, unlike SARS, may be communicable across an ocean...

 A dossier compiled by the government on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was rewritten to make it "sexier", a senior British official has told the BBC....

The intelligence official told the BBC the dossier had been "transformed" a week before it was published on the orders of Downing Street.

He said: "The classic example was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes.

"That information was not in the original draft. It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable.

"Most things in the dossier were double source but that was single source and we believe that the source was wrong." ...



The police station in the tense Iraqi town of Hit smouldered on Thursday, a day after it was set alight in what residents said was a riot over intrusive weapons searches by Iraqi police and US soldiers....

...24-year-old Amer Aziz, who said he represented the young men of Hit, said the trouble began when police and American troops began a house-to-house search for guns on Wednesday morning.

"The Iraqi police were very rough with our women," he said. "They forced their way into houses without knocking, sometimes when women were sleeping. This is a very conservative town."

Uproar ensued in the Sunni Muslim town of 155,000 as angry residents surged into the streets, burning police cars and throwing stones and handmade grenades at the Americans.

Aziz said a parley had taken place in the afternoon, when townsfolk told the Americans to leave or face suicide attacks.

"I convinced the young men to withdraw and then the Americans withdrew," he added.

Another young man, 26-year-old Ahmed al-Mashhadawi, said a hand grenade had been thrown at a US tank as it left town. "We killed one soldier and wounded others," he said.

The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was checking what happened in Hit, but has not confirmed any casualties....

--Reuters, via (New Zealand)
You probably already know about the report, commissioned and then suppressed by the Bush administration, that (as Reuters says), "measured the present value of the federal deficit at over $44 trillion."

Just in case you're not clear how much money that is, that's $160,000 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

(The U.S. population is roughly 275 million.)

And, as Reuters notes,

The study estimated that closing the budget gap would take an immediate and permanent across-the-board tax increase of 66 percent, the paper reported.


I'm not breaking any news here -- this is a front-page story in both the print and online New York Times -- but this just makes me furious:

A last-minute revision by House and Senate leaders in the tax bill that President Bush signed today will prevent millions of minimum-wage families from receiving the increased child credit that is in the measure, say Congressional officials and outside groups.

... after studying the bill approved on Friday, liberal and child advocacy groups discovered that a different group of families would also not benefit from the $400 increase — families who make just above the minimum wage.

Because of the formula for calculating the credit, most families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 will not benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group, says those families include 11.9 million children, or one of every six children under 17.

And in case you're not clear about what's important to our right-wing government, realize this: a provision to give these families the tax break was agreed on, but

an important swing senator, George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said he could not approve any bill that exceeded $350 billion. To satisfy him and the Senate, Ms. Tinsworth [a Ways and Means Committee spokeswoman] said, the child credit provision was dropped, along with other costs.

...A spokeswoman for Mr. Voinovich said the senator would have been happy to extend the child credits, but believed that the entire package should not pass $350 billion. The tax writers were free to reduce the dividend tax cut, noted the spokeswoman, Marcie Ridgway.
(emphasis mine)

Free to reduce it? They were free to eliminate it. Hell, they were free not to do engage at all in another round of tax giveaways to the non-needy. But they know what's important, right?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The Baghdad bunker which the United States said it bombed on the opening night of the Iraq war in a bid to kill Saddam Hussein never existed, CBS Evening News reported Wednesday.

The network quoted a U.S. Army colonel in charge of inspecting key sites in Baghdad as saying no trace of a bunker or of bodies had been found at the site on the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, known as Dora Farms.

"When we came out here, the primary thing they were looking for was an underground facility, or bodies, forensics, and basically, what they saw was giant holes created. No underground facilities, no bodies," Col. Tim Madere said....


So who said there was a bunker there? Ahmed "Tommy Flanagan" Chalabi?
A lot of Iranian citizens want to reach out to the U.S. and the West. As The Guardian points out, no good deed goes unpunished:

The Pentagon's pronouncement that it would seek to "destabilise" Iran's Islamic republic has given the country's clerics ammunition to portray their liberal opponents as traitors. Hardly a day passes without warnings in the official press against reformists accused of sowing divisions.

"America is trying to undermine our national unity by provoking chaos and political differences as well as creating a crisis," said Mohammed Baqer Zolqadr, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

Washington's rhetoric could not have come at a more awkward time for President Mohammed Khatami and his allies in parliament. As the political and constitutional battle between reformists and Islamists comes to a head, the US intervention is a distraction and a pretext for muffling dissent....

Great. And these are people who want to be our friends.
In a little item about Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir, Matt Drudge says this:

Clinton raised eyebrows in 1996 when she failed to acknowledge a single person in her bestseller, IT TAKES A VILLAGE.

Here is the complete text of page 319 of It Takes a Village:


It takes a village to bring a book into the world, as anyone who has written one knows. Many people have helped me to complete this one, sometimes without even knowing it. They are so numerous that I will not even attempt to acknowledge them individually, for fear that I might leave someone out. Instead, I would like to thank those who encouraged and advised, read and reacted; those who typed and retyped, edited, copyedited, proofread, designed, set type, and printed; and those who kept the engines of daily life humming the whole time. The opinions expressed in this book are my own, as is the responsibility for any errors it may contain. Yet I am indebted for my ideas -- and for any contribution they make to public and private debates and agendas -- to a long line of family and friends, teachers and classmates, colleagues and mentors; to the many tireless and often unheralded experts whose work I have been privileged to know; and most of all, to the millions of families and children who are building tomorrow’s villages.

No she didn't say, "I worked with a ghostwriter." (Most nonwriters who work with ghostwriters don't.) No, she didn't mention anyone by name. But she did thank people -- lots of people.

The left has its share of wackos, but the right has -- and takes very, very seriously -- people like Robert George, who defends Rick Santorum's recent remarks on sexual matters in this National Review Online piece.

The problem with George isn't that he thinks that a Supreme Court endorsement of an absolute right to privacy would be open the door to legalization of consensual adult incest and other rare but nasty behaviors -- you can find centrists who've argued the same thing. No, the problem with George is that he considers any sexual act apart from intercourse to be "intrinsically non-marital" -- even if it takes place between a husband and wife. To George, the things lawfully wedded spouses do that aren't intercourse are “sexual misconduct,” “illicit sex acts,” and “immoral sex acts.” It's entirely likely that Senator Santorum agrees.

You know, maybe we should spend a little less time wondering about what might happen if there's an expansion of the right to privacy -- and a little more time wondering what the limits on our private behavior would be if people like Robert George and Rick Santorum had their way.
Don't you just love the sheer glee with which this tells you how to get a huge tax deduction on the biggest frigging brontasaurus of an SUV you can possibly buy, including SUVs so fuel-inefficient "they fall outside the scope of the rating system"? Here's a sample passage:

The deduction for SUV purchases was already pretty hefty, but it came in three parts: A $25,000 equipment deduction, plus 30% of the remaining price (courtesy of the 2002 economic stimulus bill), plus the standard five-year depreciation schedule on the remainder. On a $72,000 Range Rover, the deduction came to about $45,000 the first year, for a tax savings of more than $16,000.

It's so much easier -- and cheaper -- to write the whole thing off. Simply multiply the purchase price by your tax rate. The tax savings on that same Range Rover? More than $25,000 in the top brackets. In contrast, those who buy ultra-efficient gas-electric hybrids for personal use get a tax deduction of $2,000, worth at most $700.

What a country! Munch my dust, granola-eaters! The all-GOP federal government rocks!
How big was the tax cut Bush just signed? A hell of a lot bigger than $316 billion or $350 billion. Who says so? Some liberal? No -- Senator Bill Frist. The Daily Howler quotes Tony Snow's interview of Frist on last weekend's Fox News Sunday:

FRIST: I’m very hopeful that they won’t be temporary, that this $350 billion tax plan will, indeed, be made permanent, will grow to what it really is, is an $800 billion tax relief package for the American people.

SNOW: So, in effect, the president got a bigger tax cut than he requested in the first place?

FRIST: He did.

And they're not satisfied. They want even more:

FRIST: Remember, the budget that we passed in the Senate and in the House had, not a $350 billion package, but a $1.2 trillion tax relief package. That is the goal. This is really the first iteration, that first step.

If you're under 45, I think you can just kiss Social Security goodbye.

(Partial transcript of the Fox News interview here.)
Somewhere, in a parallel universe, everything is hunky-dory. How do I know this? I know this because Donald Luskin of National Review Online apparently lives in that parallel universe. Here he is writing about Paul Krugman's forthcoming book:

Think, for a moment, about how good things have been lately, and how hard a catastrophist like Krugman has to work to make them seem bad. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a brilliant victory (Krugman: " ... it did the terrorists a favor ... "). President Bush signs into law today an historic pro-growth tax bill, enacted thanks to the support of cross-over Democrats (Krugman: " ... the administration ... actually wants a fiscal crisis ... "). Even the crisis in corporate malfeasance seems to have been overcome (Krugman: " ... they can get away with even more self-dealing than before ... ").

No recession! No corporate crooks! And everyone in the Middle East loves us! What a cool universe! Wish I lived there....
In Monday's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz reported that an internal New York Times e-mail had revealed the identity of the principal source for reporter Judith Miller's dubious claims of WMD "smoking guns" in Iraq -- Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, bosom friend of the D.C. neocons. ("She ... noted that the Army unit she was traveling with -- Mobile Exploration Team Alpha -- 'is using Chalabi's intell and document network for its own WMD work. . . .'")

Now we learn from the New York Observer (scroll past the Jayson Blair story) that the Times's Kuwait bureau during Gulf War II employed Ahmed Chalabi's niece:

The New York Times has quietly ended its relationship with Sarah Khalil, who helped set up the paper’s Kuwait bureau for the war—and who is also the niece of Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress....

In an e-mail exchange with Off the Record, chief Washington correspondent Patrick Tyler—currently reporting from Baghdad—explained that he hired Ms. Khalil, a former staffer with the AFP news agency in Cairo, in January, while setting up the Kuwait bureau for the war.

Mr. Tyler said he met Ms. Khalil, the wife of a Kuwaiti-based businessman and the mother of two small children, while working for
The Washington Post in the 1980’s and hired her as an assistant "whose work was confined to Kuwait." This, Mr. Tyler said, included arranging visas for war correspondents and directing supplies into war zones.

"The politics of postwar Iraq were not even on the horizon," Mr. Tyler said. "I certainly didn’t expect to be covering them. Chalabi was not in the news or even in the region. When he came across the horizon after the war, Sarah and I had a discussion about Chalabi’s rising profile and the appearance of conflict."

According to sources at
The Times, editors and senior writers in The Times’ Washington bureau objected to Ms. Khalil’s presence and demanded that Mr. Tyler relieve her of her duties....


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

When Ann Coulter steps over the line and says something so outrageous that even fellow conservatives can’t defend it, their usual response is to say, well, after all, Coulter is an entertainer -- her stock in trade is comic hyperbole. You’re not supposed to take her seriously, as you would a more sober-sided conservative essayist.

One of those indefensible Coulter remarks came a few days after 9/11. Coulter said of Muslims in her weekly column,

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

An exaggeration, right? Bitter, angry hyperbole, not meant to be taken seriously -- right?

So why was William F. Buckley -- the sort of conservative we’re all supposed to take seriously -- saying nearly the same thing in his National Review Online column today?

Buckley had read a New York Times article about Islam-hating Evangelicals who want to preach Christianity to Muslims. The article makes clear that the goal of these people is conversion:

On a recent Saturday in a church fellowship hall here, evangelical Christians from several states gathered for an all-day seminar on how to woo Muslims away from Islam.

It also makes clear that they don’t have much respect for Islam:

"The Koran's good verses are like the food an assassin adds to poison to disguise a deadly taste," writes Don Richardson, a well-known missionary who worked in Muslim countries, in "Secrets of the Koran" (Regal Books, 2003). "Better to find the same food, sans poison, in the Bible." This month, he is scheduled to speak on Islam at churches in five American cities.

Buckley thinks what they’re doing is terrific:

The program initiated by sundry evangelical Christian ministers to accost Islam by teaching the tenets of the Christian faith to those who seek to bring that faith to Muslims is very good stuff, overdue....

One evangelist, from Beirut, advocates assembling passages from the Koran that establish that Islam is "regressive, fraudulent, and violent," to quote the Times report by Laurie Goodstein. "Here in the Koran it says slay them, slay the infidels. In the Bible there are no words from Jesus saying we should kill innocent people."...

Diplomacy is fine and is necessary but it sometimes demands politically correct professions of equality of faith, at the expense of right reason. Ronald Reagan saw through to this problem when he said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire and that Communism would end up on the ash heap of history. Something like that needs to be said about Muslims, to the extent that they are identifiable as agents of terrorism.

We know William F. Buckley thinks we should invade Muslim countries and kill their leaders -- we’ve just invaded two of these countries and tried our damnedest to kill their leaders, and he was all for it. And now we know he wants the people left alive converted to Christianity -- or, at the very least, told how sick and vile and morally repugnant their religion is, in contrast to the moral glories of Christianity.

So what’s the difference between him and Coulter?
Is there a Gulf War II Syndrome? The U.K.'s Evening Standard seems to think so:

The Government was facing growing criticism over claims that four soldiers who received multiple vaccinations before the Iraq war could be suffering from a potential "Gulf War II Syndrome".

Stephen Cartwright, 24, of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and Tony Barker, 45, from Leeds, were among the four men threatening to sue the Ministry of Defence after suffering "severe physical and psychological symptoms".

Their solicitor Mark McGhee said all four had received multiple inoculations in one day, contrary to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's statement to the Commons earlier this year.

Mr McGhee, of Manchester-based law firm Linder Myers, said: "It is my understanding that specific guidance was given to medical officers that these inoculations were not to be administered on a multiple basis."

Mr Hoon told MPs in January that "a key lesson" learnt from the 1991 Gulf War was the importance of ensuring that troops should not receive a number of different vaccinations in a short timeframe.

Mr McGhee, who has dealt with more than 400 veterans from the first Gulf War, said the symptoms reported by the four soldiers were "identical" to those of so-called Gulf War Syndrome....

It'll be interesting to see whether the pro-war pundits in America who tell us to "support the troops" will change their tune if our soldiers begin to lodge similar complaints.

It occurs to me that the real-life GOP policy that most resembles Orwell's "We are not at war with Eurasia. We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia" isn't the one-war-after-another approach to international relations (addition isn't really the same as substitution), but the policy on budget deficits. USA Today points this out today to traveling salesmen all over America:

The current president's tax cut also would have been impossible if the House Republican majority that arrived in 1995 had passed the first piece of legislation proposed in its ''Contract with America'' campaign document.

Spurred by Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who became speaker of the House for two terms, conservative House Republicans wanted to pass a constitutional amendment requiring that the president propose a balanced federal budget each year and that Congress enforce it.

...''If Newt Gingrich and friends had been successful in implementing their 'Contract with America,' everything they do this year would be illegal,' '' [Stan] Collender [of the Federal Budget Consulting Group] said. ''The president would have to submit a balanced budget. They couldn't increase the debt. That's a real turnabout. It's an abandonment of discipline.''

...Republicans who wrote the tax-cut legislation acknowledged it will require more borrowing. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said the borrowing is warranted by the costs of war and terrorism and the struggling economy. He called it ''an investment deficit.''

''You can spend a deficit dollar in peace as an investment in national strength, (to) make sure the economy is strong,'' Thomas said.

Thomas, of course, endorsed the Contract with America, including the "Fiscal Responsibility Act" (which called for "a balanced budget/tax limitation amendment ... to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses"). Can you think of any Repubs from that period who didn't?

(UPDATE: When I first posted this, I omitted the USA Today link. It's there now.)
Don't even bother reading the newspaper over the next few months (or year-plus): Neal Pollack lists every possible future scenario and their likely outcomes (which are all the same). The only cloudy spot on his crystal ball, in my opinion: Wouldn't the U.S. government want the sham Iraq melodrama to last approximately a year and a half, so the 9/11 anniversary bash-cum-2004 Republican convention (and the subsequent campaign) can be conducted in an atmosphere of utter national terror?
A stray thought:

It's obvious now that the Bush administration would like to turn the Iranians into our new Antichrists. Do you think the Bushies will have the gall to exploit the fact that the name of the man who's currently Iran's most powerful mullah, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is awfully similar to that of the now-deceased Ayatollah Khomeini? Will they suggest (without actually saying so) that Khomeini, America's #1 demon a generation ago, is the guy we need to fight?

Oh, and another thing: A year from now, do you think most Americans will think Iran was behind 9/11? Do you think they'll think 9/11 was masterminded by Khomeini, a guy who died in 1989?
Remember this?

In the mid-1980s, ... Congress tightened rules about how much money can be written off on luxury automobiles used for business -- but excluded vehicles with a gross weight of 6,000 pounds or more, partly an attempt to help farmers afford tractors, large trucks and other heavy equipment.

But many SUVs, including the 6,400-pound [Hummer] H2, fall into that heavyweight category, and now a new class of small-business owners and the self-employed, such as construction company executives, doctors, real estate agents and lawyers, is qualifying for [a tax] deduction.

Well, the deduction -- nearly $38,000 for a vehicle that costs $50,000 to $60,000 -- just cleared Congress:

Congress on Friday substantially widened a tax break that has been used by small businesses as an incentive to purchase the largest sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Supporters including President Bush said the business equipment tax break, which was quadrupled to $100,000 in the $350 billion tax cut bill that narrowly cleared Congress, is good for the economy.

It passed on Friday, when it was assumed that you wouldn't be paying attention.

I see The New York Times is reporting today that respect for the military is extremely high right now among young people. I guess that's good, because if we're subsidizing Hummers, kids are going to have a lot of opportunities to see their heroes in action in the foreseeable future.


The article on young people's trust in the military, incidentally, includes yet more evidence of the success of Bush's Great Deception:

In Mr. Sunderdick's class, Vietnam seemed very distant history. Even the teacher was born after Saigon fell. Several students said they thought that the Iraq war was much more like World War II, a war with a clear rationale waged by a country intent on defending itself, reflecting the effectiveness of the Bush administration's case for going to war.

"We actually got attacked," a student, Jessica Cowman, said. "In Vietnam, it wasn't an attack on us. We got hit in World War II, at Pearl Harbor, and we got hit in New York and at the Pentagon. It wasn't like that with Vietnam."

Another student, Stephanie Isberg, said: "People are more personally affected, especially by 9/11. My uncle almost died. So I have a more positive viewpoint about going in and taking out terrorists than I probably would have if nothing had happened."

Saddam = Osama. 2 + 2 = 5.
Here's how a couple of recent mountaineering events were reported on last night's broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:

In another part of the world, it is climbing season on Mount Everest, and records there are falling like never before. Today a Sherpa scaled the mountain in record speed -- ten hours and fifty-six minutes from base camp to peak. The previous record was set just three days ago. And then today another Sherpa reached the top of the mountain -- his thirteenth time there, also a record.

What's wrong with this? Well, Sherpas aren't camping equipment. Sherpas are people. They have names. Reporting this story without giving the Sherpas' names is an insult.

Damn "liberal" media.

(The New York Times reports on these and other Everest events in today's edition and gives the names of the climbers. The speed champ is Lhakpa Gela and the thirteen-time climber has the single name Appa.)

Monday, May 26, 2003

In the middle of an article in yesterday's New York Times, I ran across this statistic:

Medicaid, the nation's largest health insurance program, pays for one-third of all births, covers one-fourth of all children and finances care for two-thirds of nursing home residents.

I knew about the nursing homes -- a lot of senior citizens spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid. You'd think we'd have better, more direct ways of helping people pay for nursing-home care, but there it is. It's the other statistics that are really appalling, though: One out of every three births in this country is to a mother on Medicaid? One out every four children is on Medicaid? In a country with no nbational health-care system, we have that many young families that can't get coverage any other way? That's a disgrace.
It seems that fashionable Euro-bashing has made it to the arts pages of The New York Times. This is from an article in today's Times about the Eurovision Song Festival:

The Eurovision performers are clad in overly self-conscious leisure wear, and their movements are choreographed with the accuracy of a Bavarian glockenspiel figurine; they smile with such unnatural intensity that they look as if they're on the verge of a manic episode. The singer seemingly becomes one with the song and can't get out. In short, a typical Eurovision broadcast looks like a cross between a chewing-gum commercial and a Leni Riefenstahl film.

Look, I'm an American, and I'm proud of the amazing popular music we made in this country over the last hundred years -- but it sure doesn't look as if we're going to another century like the last one. We used to have a right in this country to sneer at European pop, but not anymore. "Choreographed with the accuracy of a Bavarian glockenspiel figurine"? "A cross between a chewing-gum commercial and a Leni Riefenstahl film"? These phrases could describe any video or live performance by Michael Jackson or any of the dozens of acts influenced by him in the past two decades, from his sister Janet through Britney Spears, Cristina Aguilera, and all the boy bands (and no, that music isn't completely dead -- the first solo album by Justin Timberlake of 'NSync went double platinum within the past year). "They smile with such unnatural intensity that they look as if they're on the verge of a manic episode"? Sounds like a good description of this guy, or any number of other American Idol contestants. And notice who came in third in this year's Eurovision contest -- t.A.T.u., the pop-music world's current champions of épater les bourgeois. Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Madonna, 2 Live Crew, Marilyn Manson -- not only did America make great pop music, but we regularly had pop stars who were the best in the world at shock (with a little competition from Brits like David Bowie). But now the shock crown has passed to two Russians -- they're not even from a country that was in the Coalition of the Willing! -- whose fake sapphic-schoolgirl act has made them superstars worldwide, even in America. So sneer no sneers at the Eurovision Song Festival -- we have Creed and Nickelback.

(UPDATE: Yeah, sorry -- Nickleback is a Canadian band. OK -- Darryl Worley, then.)
"The Republican Party just agrees with the way I feel compared with the Democratic Party, which is right now almost a communist party...."

--Richard Wibalda of Las Vegas, quoted in The New York Times yesterday

I don't want to hear another Republican complaining about people who call Bush or other conservatives "fascists" or "Nazis." You have a problem with that? Well, I have a problem with idiots on your side who think the Democratic Party is "socialist" or, God help us, "communist." You repudiate these people and I'll repudiate the people who say Bush is a Nazi.
As you were reading Adam Clymer’s front-page story in yesterday’s New York Times on the GOP’s push for political dominance, did you get the feeling that Clymer doesn’t quite realize that the GOP already has political dominance in this country, at least on the national level, and has had it for a long time?

Let’s review, class: In all but two of the twenty-two-plus years since Reagan’s inaugural, the GOP has controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, or both. In six of those years it controlled the White House and the Senate. GOP nominees have controlled the Supreme Court without interruption since the early 1970s. The GOP seems kinda dominant to me. But I guess Clymer’s point is that voter identification with the GOP still isn’t truly high and the GOP still doesn’t have big majorities in Congress and state legislatures. Yet at the national level, at least, it’s hard to imagine how much more the GOP could accomplish with a big majority. The complete elimination of taxes? Internment camps for Democrats?

Clymer’s follow-up on the Democrats in today’s Times is dispiriting, but I don’t think he’s too far off the mark. He acknowledges a long period of GOP dominance -- duh -- and runs through the list of Democratic problems many of us complain about: too little money, no structure of think tanks, no coherent foreign-policy message. He does quote one idiot, though, whose message he seems to agree with:

A veteran Democratic consultant looked at the 2004 presidential field and found it symptomatic of a basic party problem: "Sometimes we're so respectful of our diversity that we take completely preposterous people seriously. We always run the risk of the follies of the absurd when people want seriousness."

In particular, he said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois were not real potential nominees but "products of the silly season."

Excuse me -- the presidential campaigns of ideological fringe-dwellers such as Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes don’t seem to have done much harm to the GOP, so why should we accept that these Democrats are hurting their party? Maybe the real problem here isn’t the candidates. Maybe it’s that Democrats like this idiot are so willing to speak ill of fellow Democrats into a reporter’s open mike.

Oh, and Pat Moynihan, the spiritual father of all self-hating Democrats, is quoted here: One month before his death, apparently determined not to let the approach of the grave interrupt his long history of fragging, Moynihan bashed Democratic presidential candidates for agreeing to oppose the partial-birth abortion ban. Now, doesn’t the GOP platform call for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, including for victims of rape and incest? Does this ever seem to hurt Republicans? Think that lack of political fallout might be partly attributable to the GOP tradition of not stabbing fellow party members ion the back?

Bob Shrum, the Democratic consultant, gets it right in Clymer’s second article:

"It's probably a weakness that we're not real haters. We don't have a sense that it's a holy crusade. We don't have a sense that it's Armageddon."

Line that up with what Clymer says about the Republicans’ comeback after Watergate:

Mr. Reagan's nomination in 1980 (after his near-miss in 1976) was the biggest step on the road back. His success convinced suspicious conservatives that the political deck was not stacked against them, and they enlisted in the Republican Party and ultimately took it over.

Nancy Sinnott Dwight, a Midwestern moderate who ran the Congressional campaign committee, said, "For us to prevail, the party was going to have to be hospitable to people far to our right."

Democrats appealing to their base: bad. Republicans appealing to their base: a blueprint for dominance. Got it?


The Republican college students on the cover of the magazine in yesterday’s Times dream of GOP dominance, but it’s odd -- they’re not like earlier generations of hectoring young right-wingers. They reject racism. They don’t oppose immigration. They advocate the free-speech rights of Eminem. One young conservative woman rejects marriage and family; one young conservative man advocates gay marriage. Is it me, or are these people liberals?

Ah, but no: They despise taxes, they love guns, and they want a strong and aggressive foreign policy. But didn’t our elected officials in D.C. just lower taxes, reject renewal of the assault weapons ban, and give us two snazzy wars? If these kids loathe liberalism, which they see everywhere around them on campus, why don’t they just get the hell off campus? Why don’t they get jobs and join the rest of us in the real America, where George Bush is considered a war hero and Max Cleland is considered a traitor?

I sometimes wish a few of our better colleges would go solidly right-wing. Then these conservative kids could matriculate where they feel wanted -- and they wouldn’t have to annoy us for the rest of their lives with their permanent sense of grievance at having had to live for four years in the same geographic space with regular performances of The Vagina Monologues.


Six New York City firehouses were closed on Sunday. Remember New York City firefighters? America’s heroes? Remember Bush with a bullhorn telling them, “I can hear you”? Yup, those guys. Six of their firehouses were closed on the orders of Republican mayor Mike Bloomberg, The Republican president’s economy is hurting the city; he and the Republican Congress aren’t offering much serious help to “first responders,” even in New York City, and the Republican governor of New York isn’t much help either. You think maybe Democratic presidential candidates should be talking about this, or even showing up at the firehouses to meet with protesters? This is from a New York Times story:

At Engine Company 212 in Williamsburg, there were about 100 protesters by 8 a.m., chanting in English, Polish and Spanish and setting up sidewalk barbecues to grill hamburgers. Two conga drummers arrived and began beating out rhythms.

Suddenly, Paul Veneski, 38, of Williamsburg, an unemployed truck driver, slipped into the firehouse through an open cellar door and opened the garage's large red door. Other protesters — among them Bronislawa Hupalo, a rail-thin 80-year-old — charged in and struggled to jam it open with discarded lumber. .

Mr. Veneski then chained himself to the fire truck. His 12-year-old daughter, Jennifer, cheered him on. Later in the three-hour standoff, she offered her father hamburgers through a small space in the door.

Apparently, trying to save firehouses runs in the Veneski family. Mr. Veneski's father, Adam Veneski, a local grocer, stormed this very firehouse when it was threatened with closing in 1975, the family said.

These aren't Hollywood liberals. These are ordinary Americans. But not even local boy Al Sharpton showed up, much less Kerry or Kucinich or Dean. Too bad.

Friday, May 23, 2003

I probably won't be posting till Monday night. Enjoy the weekend....
So Texas will soon have, as this Reuters story points out, a new, remarkably restrictive abortion law: it limits the facilities in which some abortions can be performed (already only 6% of Texas counties have abortion facilities), mandates a 24-hour waiting period for all abortions, and requires state-sponsored counseling that, among other things, insists that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer -- even though this myth has been debunked by the National Cancer Institute and other researchers.

Oh, and as an added screw-you to pro-choicers, there's this:

The Texas legislature voted down an amendment that would have exempted women who became pregnant through rape or incest from going through the waiting period.


During debate in the Texas Senate, Bob Deuell, a Republican from Greenville, said the exemption would "undermine the reflection period," adding that some women who gave birth after being raped or through incest have considered their children a blessing.

(Thanks to Kos for pointing this out.)
You think Bush's tax cut is less than half the size of the one he first proposed, but it's actually bigger than the one he first proposed. David Rosenbaum explains in today's New York Times:

...the $320 billion figure, which is expected to clear the Senate today, is artificial.

No one expects that tax breaks for married couples and a bigger tax credit for children, popular features of the bill, will be allowed to expire after next year. This is what lawmakers call a sunset. It was put into the measure to hold down the 10-year cost.

Nor, barring a political upheaval that puts Democrats in the White House and in control of Congress, is it likely that the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains will be allowed to expire after 2008, another sunset in the bill.

If these elements of the tax cut are calculated on a 10-year basis, the cost in lost revenue stands to be over $800 billion, more than what the president proposed, according to the first analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priority, a liberal research institute.

More important, the tax reduction this year and next year under the Congressional agreement is significantly larger than what the president originally proposed.

The Congressional tax staff estimated that the agreement would lead to a tax cut of $61 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, and $149 billion in 2004.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the president's plan would have lowered taxes by $35 billion in 2003 and $117 billion in 2004.

I'm grateful to Rosenbaum for pointing that out, I'm grateful to him for making it his lead, I'm glad the Times put that on the front page (above the fold) and Web site title screen (big headline) ... but even in this article we get Bush as Mighty Hero:

But even more, the president succeeded because of a set of tactics that involved remaining flexible in his goals, taking advantage of division among Democrats, campaigning vigorously in the states of crucial senators and knocking the heads of Congressional leaders who often seemed more interested in pride of authorship than in enactment of legislation....

The tax bill, said Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, was the latest example of Mr. Bush's talent as a political strategist. Mr. Bennett, chairman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, continued:

"The president looks at the economy and looks at the electorate and grasps that the electorate wants to see someone doing something. They don't care about the details. So here is Bush with the political smarts to understand that the best medicine is to be seen as a leader making bold strokes, moving out on an issue where others are temporizing."

Oh, and there's an unrebutted cheap swipe at Bill Clinton:

"By the force of his personality," Mr. Bennett said, "[Bush] stepped into the squabble between the House and the Senate and brought everyone into the room and said, `You're going to get this done before Memorial Day.' Clinton would have stood at a board with a Magic Marker and worked through the details. Bush was more interested in getting a bill than he was in what was in the bill."

Let's see: Clinton presided over a recession-free eight-year presidency. He used the first budget cycle of what looked for a while as if it would be a de facto Gingrich presidency to begin the process of destroying Gingrich's credibility, turning Newt and his mighty Contract with America into national jokes. But he's the bumbler. Meanwhile, Bush is Top Gun: he drives the economy off a cliff, but he does it on time.

In the article Adam Nagourney published yesterday in The New York Times about John Edwards's effort to reach out to rural voters in his presidential campaign, was this necessary?

The prepared text for Mr. Edwards's speech that was e-mailed to reporters included stage directions for the senator — instructing him to "point if you can see" windmills in the distance, as he talked about their potential to generate inexpensive power for farmers.

President Bush's speeches, by contrast, are spontaneous outpourings of the soul, and contain no pre-planned bits of stage business whatsoever. Is that what Nagourney wants us to believe?

Of course, the Times does tell us about Bush stage management -- there was, after all, that big front-page story last Friday about the crafting of Bush's image. But that article was meant to make you see Bush stage management as a mighty show of strength ("... using the powers of television and technology to promote a presidency like never before"), not as tawdry and dishonest image manipulation. We see the same skew in coverage of Democrats and Republicans as they raise funds: Clinton at a fund-raiser is a money-grubbing sleaze, whereas Bush ... well, note the first seven words of this Times article on a Bush fund-raiser, also from yesterday's paper:

President Bush flexed his political muscles tonight....

And what's particularly dishonest about discussing windmills in a speech and choosing to gesture to windmills if some are visible? Does it change the truth value of any statement in the speech about wind power? Does it suggest something that's untrue about the presence or absence of windmills in rural areas? What the hell is wrong with doing this?

The article also includes this cheap shot from a GOP operative:

Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, suggested that Mr. Edwards would have a tough time presenting himself as the candidate of rural America.

"I guess they wrote that speech at John Edwards's Georgetown mansion," Mr. Dyke said.

But ... but ... but I thought Americans didn't like "class warfare"! I thought we didn't resent rich people for being rich, as long as they "keep it real," like Jenny from the Block. Isn't that what Republican David Brooks told us only a few months ago?

A press release about Bookspan's new conservative book club points out that Brad Miner, who will head the club, wrote a book in 1995 called Good Order: Right Answers to Contemporary Questions.

To paraphrase Molly Ivins, that title probably sounded better in the original German.

Thursday, May 22, 2003


Interesting point made by Bob Harris in Tom Tomorrow's blog:

...if the media really was in liberal hands, then centralization of that power would be absolutely terrifying to the right wing. It would be all you ever heard about.

And yet those guys are strangely silent. On their websites, neither Bill O'Reilly nor Rush Limbaugh so much as mention the issue, even once, at least as far as I can find.

Point this out to people with ears and brains.

It really should be the end of the "liberal media" argument.

Can't decide what to do with your Bush tax cut? Maybe you ought to buy your hometown cops a hazmat suit.

This is from a report by Brian Rooney on ABC News last night (it's not on the Web). You know this nonsense is going on, but here's another reminder of how absurdly skewed our priorities are:

ROONEY: When the nation goes on higher alert, the Los Angeles Police Department increases patrols at the airport, the port, and the list of 605 potential targets. But they try to do it all without spending extra money, because it’s not in the budget, and the federal government has not delivered promised help.

WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE CHIEF: We’re now, what, almost two years away from 9/11, and we’ve still received almost nothing in the way of federal government reimbursement.

ROONEY: Bratton says the added burden of training and staffing an antiterrorism squad costs tens of millions of dollars a year. It’s the same in San Francisco, where tighter security for the city’s landmarks and antiterrorism efforts have cost about $50 million, with no help from the federal government. The city of San Jose has spent $23 million.

RUDY GONZALEZ, MAYOR OF SAN JOSE: ...The whole amount we’ve gotten back is about $207,000, and we just -- it befuddles us. We just don’t understand how the process works.

ROONEY: They can’t look to the state for help, because the state of California is running a $30 billion deficit. The last time the country went on orange alert, during the Iraq war, it cost Los Angeles $4 million, all paid by a city in financial trouble....


From Publishers Lunch, more news about Random House/Crown's all-right-wing imprint:

Crown has hired Jed Donahue, who has been working at Regnery Publishing since 1997, as an editor for their Forum imprint, starting next month. Prior to working with such authors as G. Gordon Liddy, William F. Buckley, Oliver North, and Pat Buchanan, Donahue was an assistant to George Will.

Some people think Saif Al-Adel is now al-Qaeda's military chief. Some people think he's the brains behind the Saudi Arabia bombings. And some people think Iran is giving him aid and comfort. I don't know what to make of this, but this ABC News story by Leela Jacinto sorts through some theories. (Warnings of an Iran/al-Qaeda connection are coming from the Bush administration, but these warnings, Jacinto says, have been "noticeably weak on details, with senior U.S. officials declining to go on record with concrete proof of the Iranian government's supposed support for the shadowy terrorist network." Surprised?)
Elifat Rusum Saber, 14, has been nauseated, tired and bleeding from the nose since her brother brought home metal and chemicals from the neighboring Tuwaitha nuclear research center two days after the fall of Baghdad.

--Los Angeles Times

U.S. military inspection teams have concluded that material looted from Iraq's main nuclear facility at Tuwaitha poses little or no danger to the people who stole it...

--The Washington Times

So, which one of these leads triggers your bullshit detector?
The thing that upsets me about this is that it won't work its way into conventional wisdom -- the conventional wisdom will still be that we took great pains to avoid harm to civilians, and that our efforts were successful....

Surveys pointing to high civilian death toll in Iraq

Preliminary reports suggest casualties well above the Gulf War.

Evidence is mounting to suggest that between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians may have died during the recent war, according to researchers involved in independent surveys of the country....

Such a range would make the Iraq war the deadliest campaign for noncombatants that US forces have fought since Vietnam.

Though it is still too early for anything like a definitive estimate, the surveyors warn, preliminary reports from hospitals, morgues, mosques, and homes point to a level of civilian casualties far exceeding the Gulf War, when 3,500 civilians are thought to have died....

"The biggest contrast between Afghanistan (where an estimated 1,800 civilians died during the US-led campaign there in 2001) and Iraq is that Afghanistan was predominantly an air war and this was a ground/air battle," says Reuben Brigety, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"Air wars are not flawless, but if you have precision weapons you can do a lot to make them more accurate," he adds. "The same is not yet true of ground combat. It is clear the ground battle took a toll; ground war is nasty."

Dr. Brigety and his colleagues in Baghdad say they are especially concerned by the wide use of cluster bombs during the war in Iraq....

--Christian Science Monitor

(Link from Rational Enquirer and Cursor.)
Interesting point made by someone posting a comment to this item at the Daily Kos:

...when you look at the list of recessions since then, you'll see that it happens overwhelmingly during Republican adminsitrations! For example:

Years: Dem/Repub Prez: Recession length:

'45-'53 Dem (Truman) 11 months

'53-'61 Rep (Ike) 27 months

'61-'69 Dem (JFK/LBJ) 1 month (ended at start of JFK)

'69-'77 Rep (Nixon/Ford) 27 months

'77-'81 Dem (Carter) 6 months

'81-'93 Rep (Reagan/Bush) 24 months

'93-'01 Dem (Clinton) 0 months

'01 - PT Rep (W) 6+ months

Add them up and you get:

18 months/28 years for Democrats

84 months/29 years for Republicans

Go here and scroll down to the "Tough Times" chart for the numbers being used here.

(And how long is it, "officially," that the Bush economy was/has been in recession? Surely more than six months....)

Big drop in Bush's approval rating -- nine percentage points in five weeks:

President Bush’s approval rating, which spiked during the war in Iraq, has dropped back to prewar levels and below, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that the economy was by far most Americans’ biggest concern.

THE PRESIDENT still enjoys broad-based support, with 62 percent of those surveyed last Wednesday through Friday saying they approved of his performance.

That was a drop, however, when compared to Bush’s support in the same poll a month ago, when 71 percent backed the president as the U.S. invasion of Iraq dominated news coverage. And it was below levels as high as 67 percent in surveys conducted before the war.

Approval of Bush’s handling of the economy could not command even a majority. Forty-eight percent backed the president, compared with 44 percent who disapproved, a margin only slightly above the survey’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points....

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 64 percent, said there were better ways to boost the economy than tax cuts. Twenty-nine percent thought tax cuts were the answer....

Golly, I thought we were all so besotted with the man, especially after seeing him in a flight suit, that his approval rating would skyrocket. That's what we were told, wasn't it? What will be the conventional-wisdom explanation for this -- that more people would have expressed approval, but the manly sight of Bush gave them the vapors, and they still haven't recovered so they can't answer survey questions?
Men with men, men with dogs, married couples with birth control ... you know, Rick Santorum didn't include membership in the Democratic Party in the list of icky perversions he thinks Jesus hates and legislators could outlaw, but I'm sure a lot of other people would:

The Texas Republican Party chief told colleagues last week that she was deliberately using language in public statements that connoted "criminal wrongdoing" in a Democratic walkout that shut down the state House.

She acknowledged at another point in the conversation that the act was not criminal, but that it "probably should be," according to a tape of a conference call with party leaders obtained by the Chronicle.

State GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington also said she believed that "God will protect the work we're doing" in support of Republican efforts to seek major changes in state government, including cuts in health care and other services.

Weddington, a Christian activist from San Antonio who has headed the state GOP since 1997, said in an interview Wednesday that she was referring to her own personal faith and not suggesting that God was taking sides in political battles.

"I just have a trust that God will protect me from the people who attempt to malign," she said....

--Houston Chronicle

(Link from BuzzFlash.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece on Fox News isn't online, but you're not missing much -- it's endless, it's dull, and Ailes plays Auletta like a Stradivarius, feeding him details that make Ailes seem both bred for greatness (dad thickening Young Roger's skin by berating him after he falls in a manure pile while relearning to walk after being hit by a car) and, for all his pugnaciousness, a model of traditional GOP values ("Also on his desk are two Bibles -- 'They're old friends,' he says"). This is the noxious hero-in-a-suit journalism that was perfected at Tina Brown magazines throughout her heyday; the subject of the profile may be a son of a bitch or a nutjob -- and Ailes, with his petty acts of vengeance and permanent sense of grievance, is clearly both -- but his flaws are seen as part of what makes him, you know, larger than life. Feh.

There's one detail in the profile that I find interesting, though: Auletta reports that last year Fox News had profits of $70 million, on revenues of $325 million; CNN's profits were $250 million, on revenues of $1 billion. If this is true, then why does CNN -- and why does anyone else -- give a damn that Fox's ratings are higher? CNN is obviously giving advertisers what they want -- perhaps an environment for their ads that doesn't bear a resemblance to a saloon brawl. Remember, we’re not talking about an evil cabal of liberals conspiring to make Fox less profitable -- we’re talking about the chieftains of big business voting with their wallets for CNN over Fox. If Roger Ailes is so smart -- and so pro-GOP -- why isn’t his network rich?

(UPDATE: I suppose I'm missing the rather obvious point that CNN's reach is genuinely global, and the reach of Fox News isn't, or isn't yet. But it seems to me that a larger operation doesn't guarantee larger profits. And it also seems to me that The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Doormat aren't exactly what you want on your U.S. channel as a foundation for going global. CNN became an overseas presence years ago as it was giving Americans something that was more or less real news.)
I missed this story over the weekend. Good Lord, do we have to resort to the wooden stake?

Senate GOP to resurrect Pickering nomination

Republicans plan in coming weeks to take up the nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. of Mississippi...

--Washington Times

OK, let's review...

"The Racist Skeletons in Charles Pickering's Closet"

People for the American Way on Pickering.

Joe Conason on Pickering.

Bob Herbert on Pickering.

Enough already -- give him the hook.

And if he ever does get approved, make him the de facto running mate of every Northern, Midwestern, and Western GOP senator who votes for him (and you know every single one of them will). Forget the South -- you'll just stir up Stars 'n' Bars pride if you attack a Southern Repub for voting for this guy. Everywhere else in the country, though, I think his history will tarnish the reputation of senators who voted for him. And yes, I think this is true even in states like Maine that have very small nonwhite populations -- people don't like racism anymore.

It's fascinating to be this far into the post-Saddam period and still to be arguing about weapons, about terror, and about Saddam. According to one school, the total effect of the whole thing has been to expose WMD claims as a sham, ratchet up the terror network, and give Saddam a chance at a populist comeback.

I don't think that this can be quite right. I still want to reserve my position on whether anything will be found, but I did write before the war, and do state again (in my upcoming Slate/Penguin-Plume book) that obviously there couldn't have been very many weapons in Saddam's hands, nor can the coalition have believed there to be.

--Christopher Hitchens in Slate, May 20, 2003

It must be obvious to anyone who can think at all that the charges against the Hussein regime are, as concerns arsenals of genocidal weaponry, true.

Saddam has been willing to risk his whole system and his own life rather than relinquish this goal.

--Christopher Hitchens in the Mirror, September 25, 2002

There is not the least doubt that [Saddam Hussein] has acquired some of the means of genocide and hopes to collect some more...

--Christopher Hitchens in The Nation, September 26, 2002

(And I shall add that any "peace movement" that even pretends to care for human rights will be very shaken by what will be uncovered when the Saddam Hussein regime falls. Prisons, mass graves, weapon sites... just you wait.)

--Christopher Hitchens in The Stranger, January 16 - 22, 2003

You can get through any conversation or chat show by pulling a solemn face or adopting a serious tone and saying: "Well, the government hasn't made its case on weapons of mass destruction and there's no clear link between Saddam and al-Qaeda and, anyway, we need another UN declaration."

Those who have been getting through the past month by saying this are in danger of looking foolish in the extreme a few weeks from now....

On the weapons issue, for example, it is perfectly obvious that the Iraqi regime has something to hide....

--Christopher Hitchens in the Mirror, January 16, 2003
"Eighty percent of the barrels are where they were before."

--Colonel Tim Madere of the U.S. Army's V Corps, commenting on the fact that 20 percent of the known radioactive material stored at the Tuwaitha nuclear facility in Iraq isn't where it was before, and is in fact unaccounted for, as quoted in a Reuters story

Yeah, colonel, the glass is half full, isn't it?
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday low-yield nuclear weapons may be useful in destroying deadly chemical and biological weapons stocks as he pressed Congress to lift a 10-year ban on research and development of smaller nuclear arms.

The Senate was debating whether to allow research on low-yield weapons with about one-third the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II, which Democrats said would signal the United States was pursuing new battlefield weapons and would spur an arms race....


I've been upset about this for months -- last fall, I linked this story (from Popular Mechanics) about the "tiny nukes." It cites a skeptic, who seems thoroughly reasonable in his doubts:

Rob Nelson, a physicist with the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security, and an expert on nuclear weapons design, has looked carefully at the relationship between the depth of a primary-powered explosion and geological damage. He argues that the sort of deep penetrator proposed by [Stephen] Younger [of the Defense Department] would, in fact, release rather than contain radioactive fallout. While it is true that most material would remain within the blast area, a radioactive cloud seeping from the crater would release a plume of gases that would irradiate anyone in its path.

He has calculated that a weapon with a yield of about 0.1 kiloton--about one two-hundredth the energy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima--would have to penetrate to a depth of 230 ft. to fully contain the explosion in the manner that Younger has described. Nelson cautions that if it were used to root out terrorists near a major Third World city such as Baghdad, the casualties could be in the hundreds of thousands.

I'm grateful to Yahoo for pointing me to this Jane's report on the nuclear bunker-busters. It's actually rather sanguine about these weapons -- to the point of being Strangelovian:

How much radiation is acceptable to release into the environment is, of course, debatable. During the era of US nuclear testing, explosions got progressively deeper as the acceptable amount of released radiation was continually reduced. Eventually, nuclear devices were only exploded at depths greater than 1,000 feet because of concerns over low-level seepage. Comparable depths for nuclear bombs dropped from airplanes can never be achieved. Some analysts, however, might argue that such tight standards are not required in a wartime setting.

With that nod to the notion of an "acceptable" level of nuclear fallout in civilian areas, the report goes on to explain just what might happen if such a weapon were used:

In the example above of attacking Tarhunah, a half-kiloton bomb would spread highly radioactive debris over a circle of 300m diameter. The 5kT bomb would do the same over a 700m diameter circle. Both bombs would also release significant fallout that could travel tens of miles before falling to earth. Of course, the crater walls as well as the immediate debris field have also trapped a significant amount of radioactivity that would otherwise land as fallout far from the explosion. If the fallout landed uniformly over a one square kilometre area, the radiation from the half-kiloton explosion would produce three rems per hour, 24-hours after the detonation, while the 5kT bomb would produce 50 rems per hour under the same conditions. These are significant amounts and threaten the health and safety of the populations far from the target. An eight-hour exposure to the larger bomb's fallout would kill about half the people exposed. It is also likely that the exposure levels would be higher from breathing in or otherwise ingesting the fallout, causing even greater harm.

All these calculations assume that the nuclear weapon will survive being driven deep into the earth. In fact, a warhead will see, on average, forces well over 10,000 times the force of gravity as it ploughs through the earth.

Yahoo also links a Federation of American Scientists report. I won't pretend to understand the science in either the Jane's report or this one, but here's the FAS's conclusion:

... the use of any nuclear weapon capable of destroying a buried target that is otherwise immune to conventional attack will necessarily produce enormous numbers of civilian casualties....

it is simply not possible for a kinetic energy weapon to penetrate deeply enough into the earth to contain a nuclear explosion.

The FAS also makes a point that should be obvious: seeking to produce usable low-yield nuclear weapons, we risk blurring the now sharp line separating nuclear and conventional warfare, and provide legitimacy for other nations to similarly consider using nuclear weapons in regional wars.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

More than 300,000 Iraqi children face death from acute malnutrition, twice as many as before U.S. and British forces invaded the country in March, the United Nations UNICEF agency warned on Wednesday.


Aren't you proud?

You can justify a war -- you can even justify civilian casualties -- if, ultimately, the suffering of innocents is diminished. The old Iraq regime was awful. It caused a lot of suffering. So why the hell can't we manage to improve on it?

(Link from Rational Enquirer.)

Here's a Philadephia Inquirer report on protests at a Rick Santorum commencement speech. And here's a Rockford (Ill.) Register-Star report on protests at a commencement speech by reporter Chris Hedges. Let's compare and contrast:

...about 80 students and faculty paraded out of the celebration tent during yesterday's ceremony to protest the day's speaker, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

Dozens of other students hooked rainbow-colored tassels onto their mortarboards, along with the university's regular-issue crimson and gray tassels, as a silent protest of Santorum's recent controversial statements about homosexuals.

Outside campus, along City Avenue, 15 more protesters, some St. Joseph's alumni, held up posters that read: "Just Say No To Rick" and "Republican, Catholic, Gay." Another read: "Stop! Fundamentalist Extremism," and had photos of Santorum and Osama bin Laden....

Just before Santorum received an honorary degree, the protesters stood and left. Some students jeered them.


Hedges began his abbreviated 18-minute speech comparing United States’ policy in Iraq to piranhas and a tyranny over the weak. His microphone was unplugged within three minutes.

Voices of protest and the sound of foghorns grew.

Some graduates and audience members turned their backs to the speaker in silent protest. Others rushed up the aisle to vocally protest the remarks, and one student tossed his cap and gown to the stage before leaving.

Mary O’Neill of Capron, who earned a degree in elementary education, sat in her black cap and gown listening. She was stunned.

She turned to Pribbenow and asked him why he was letting the speech continue....

After his microphone was again unplugged, Pribbenow told Hedges to wrap it up....

Spontaneous reaction led 66-year-old Gerald Kehoe of rural Boone County down the aisle in his first time to protest anything....

A student who rushed the stage could face reprimand although he still received his diploma.

Maybe this is apples and oranges -- Santorum's speech, to judge from the reports, wasn't controversial, while the Hedges speech was unexpectedly controversial. The reaction to Santorum was planned, while the response to Hedges was spontaneous. But Santorum, however mild-mannered his presentation may have been, nevertheless despises harmless acts engaged in by many of the graduates he was asked to address, or acts engaged in by their friends and relatives. Yet the protest against him was polite. Hedges, by contrast, was silenced -- several ways. Some walked out on Hedges. Others turned their backs on him. But that wasn't good enough for the rest, was it?
I had a brain glitch a couple of posts down -- I should have referred to Sydny Miner as Brad Miner's wife, not his husband. Calm down, Senator Santorum.

(Thanks to Phil for pointing this out.)
Many of the people I spoke to said that they hoped there would not be any killings in revenge for all the blood spilled in this country during the last thirty years. As far as I'm aware, these settlings of scores have not yet begun, at least not in Baghdad. But I suspect they will come. In Kosovo, after NATO troops arrived in June 1999, many Serbs who had done absolutely nothing wrong, and enjoyed good relations with their Albanian neighbors, also thought everything would be okay; and for the first few weeks at least, they were right. But later, of course, they were wrong.

--Tim Judah, writing from Iraq in The New York Review of Books, April 30, 2003

Iraqis have begun tracking down and killing former members of the ruling Baath Party....

The killers appear to be working from lists looted from Iraq's bombed-out security service buildings, which kept records on informants and victims alike. But others are simply killing Baathist icons or irksome party officials identified with the Hussein government. The singer Daoud Qais, known for his odes to Hussein, was shot dead on Saturday. So was the president of the Iraqi Artists Union.

--Washington Post, May 20, 2003

I suppose we'll be told that things could be worse -- or that this is actually a good thing. After all, the Iraqis are "just" killing people associated with the old regime.

For now.
This is from Publishers Lunch:

Bookspan has announced the planned launch later this year of a book club featuring books for political conservatives. Author and former literary editor for the National Review (as well as editor-in-chief of National Review Books) Brad Miner was named editor of the new club, and will serve as an executive editor at Bookspan as well, acquiring conservative books for the company's other clubs, too. The club doesn't have a name yet -- Bookspan will need a moniker that distinguishes it from the almost 40-year-old Conservative Book Club, part of Eagle Publishing (which also owns conservative publisher Regnery). According to the Eagle website, their club currently has an "all-time high" of 80,000 members.

As this press release notes, Bookspan is a big name -- it runs the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Quality Paperback Book Club, the Literary Guild, the History Book Club, and a number of other clubs.

Curiously, Miner's wife, Sydny, edited Hillary Clinton's books Dear Socks, Dear Buddy and An Invitation to the White House for Simon & Schuster.

(This post originally referred to Sydny Miner as Brad Miner's husband. That was a dumb error -- I meant to say "wife." My apologies.)
You've got to read Bob Somerby's Daily Howler. Long before we were all blogging, Somerby was out there, fighting to record the rightward drift (and the drift to inanity) of American political discourse. Usually he preaches like an Old Testament prophet; today, by contrast, watch him go for the bullet points, with equally devastating results.
Barry (Ampersand) at Alas, a Blog points out this nice analysis of what happens to jobs under Democratic and Republican presidents, with a couple of very clear charts. Funny thing: under "pro-business" Republicans, there's more unemployment and there's less job growth. Surely you guessed that the Clinton years looked good economically, but you'll be pleasantly surprised to see some of the numbers for Carter....

Barry also points out the Web site of RAWA -- the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, the people who were trying to tell us about the horrors of women's lives under the Taliban long before Karl Rove taught George W. how to pronounce "burqa." RAWA is absolutely not pleased with what's going on in Afghanistan now; if you scroll down on the title page of RAWA's site you'll see a remarkable list of "recent reports from Afghanistan," garnered from the world press. As Barry says,

if you don't want to read the articles, just read the headlines; they form a sort of lousy prose-poem of neglect and horror. Here's the current top ten headlines from RAWA's list:

HRW: Sharp Rise in Press Attacks in Afghanistan

An overview of the situation in Afghanistan after “liberation”

"Climate of fear" rules Afghanistan

UN reports serious rights violations in NW Afghanistan

US Admits 11 Civilians Dead In Bombing Raid On E Afghanistan

Afghanistan: the Taliban's smiling face

Afghan Police Accused of Rights Abuses

Afghanistan has been well and truly betrayed

Afghan poor sell daughters as brides

Afghan Warlords Killing at Will

Saturday's New York Times featured this Panglossian column by Bill Keller about Bush's religiosity. The letters column of today's Times has some nice replies, especially the first one:

In "God and George W. Bush" (column, May 17), Bill Keller suggests that the president's faith is "highly subjective." Mr. Keller adds: "It enjoins him to try to do the right thing, but it doesn't tell him what the right thing might be. It is faith without a legislative agenda."

This is the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Bush's moral crusade, because it absolves him of looking for guidance to any source other than his "heart."

If Mr. Bush
thinks that something is right, the argument goes, it must be simply because God would not steer him wrong.

The religious right, whatever its hypocrisies, at least likes to work from a "playbook," the Bible, and thus operates on some recognizable and debatable set of principles.

I am far more scared by the unwavering faith that George W. Bush maintains in his own moral judgment to the neglect of all else (save political expediency, of course).


Austin, Tex., May 17, 2003

Yeah, I've disagreed with him on a number of things, but I like Chuck Schumer. This is from Jeffrey Toobin's (disappointing) New Yorker piece on judicial battles in the Senate:

The hearing on Leon Holmes showed that the Democrats were willing to fight on lower-profile nominees, too. Feinstein said, “Let me begin, Mr. Chairman, by saying that I have never voted against a district judge, and, in reading this record and listening to the comments that this man has made, I do not see how anyone can divine from these comments that he has either the temperament or wisdom to be a judge.” ...

Feinstein went on, “In 1980, he wrote a letter to the editor stating that abortion should not be available to rape victims because conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snow in Miami.” ... Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, went next: “We checked the almanac. It snowed in Miami once in the last hundred years. Thirty-two thousand women became pregnant last year because of rape.”


Monday, May 19, 2003

Nancy Franklin's article in this week's New Yorker is a paean to PBS documentaries, which I do sometimes find admirable but not necessarily, you know, paean-worthy -- but I like what she says to start with:

One day in mid-April, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, still overseas, said, “To our viewers, here’s your chance to weigh in on the war in Iraq. Our Web question of the day is this: Where do you think Saddam Hussein is?” We were given three choices—hiding in Iraq, dead, left the country—and were encouraged to log on and vote with our fingers. Cable news has a habit of treating viewers like children on a long car trip, giving us diverting, time-killing games to keep us focussed on the TV instead of thinking our own thoughts or punching our little brother. Count the out-of-state license plates; tell us where you think Saddam Hussein is.
I don't really understand why people hate Ari Fleischer so much. Getting angry at Ari is like blaming Goodyear if you're trapped under the wheels of a bus -- the blame lies with the idiot who's driving. Does Ari Fleischer dish out lies and abuse? Sure. That's his job. That's what Bush et al. hired him to do. His replacement will be just as bad, if not worse.

He'll get in a little R&R over the summer and still have a year to crank out a book that will come out just in time for the '04 elections. Meanwhile, Fox News will hire him and he'll deliver "fair, balanced" coverage of the presidential campaign. Do I have links for this? No, I'm just making educated guesses.
The New York Times/Jayson Blair affair made the cover of Newsweek? For the love of God, why? Right-wing Times-haters must be beside themselves with glee, but why does Newsweek think the average American gives a damn?

Consider the fact that, despite gobs of publicity, the new novel by that other plagiarist, Stephen Glass -- you know, the white one, the one whose compulsive dishonesty didn't lead to suggestions that fewer members of his ethnic group belong in newsrooms -- is, as I write this, #4,196 on the bestseller list. That means it's not selling much better than, say, Edgar A. Falk's 1,001 Ideas to Create Retail Excitement. In other words, the public isn't buying. I don't think the general public cares if one journalist and/or news organization screws up, beyond noting that it happened and expecting all concerned to try to get right what they got wrong -- and, really, the general public shouldn't care.
Remember the reverse domino theory? George Packer summarized it in The New York Times Magazine in March:

Both the Arab world and official American attitudes toward it need to be jolted out of their rut. An invasion of Iraq would provide the necessary shock, and a democratic Iraq would become an example of change for the rest of the region. Political Islam would lose its hold on the imagination of young Arabs as they watched a more successful model rise up in their midst. The Middle East's center of political, economic and cultural gravity would shift from the region's theocracies and autocracies to its new, oil-rich democracy. And finally, the deadlock in which Israel and Palestine are trapped would end as Palestinians, realizing that their Arab backers were now tending their own democratic gardens, would accept compromise. By this way of thinking, the road to Damascus, Tehran, Riyadh and Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.

Er, not quite:

A suicide bomber attacked a northern Israel shopping center Monday, killing at least four other people and wounding 15, police said. It was the fifth anti-Israeli suicide bombing in three days....


Newsday reports this:

Well-informed court observers say that there could be two Supreme Court resignations next month, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, bringing the greatest upheaval on the court in 32 years.

Rehnquist's resignation is considered likely, though not certain, while O'Connor's is considered likely by some court insiders and less so by others.

The White House, however, is preparing for the possibility of two or three vacancies, because if Rehnquist is replaced by a sitting justice and O'Connor also goes, two seats but three positions will be open.

Yet another seat could open up if Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 83, retires, but that is considered unlikely.

Think things are going to get ugly? Consider this, and realize how ugly they could get:

While the speculation in Washington is that Justice Antonin Scalia would be elevated to chief justice, objections are being raised within the administration because of his age. Though Scalia is a very youthful 67, some feel a younger person should become chief justice to ensure long-term impact.

For some of the highly ideological conservatives who have, at least until now, held sway over President George W. Bush's court nominations, that person would be Justice Clarence Thomas, 54, who if anything has positioned himself to the right of Scalia. They say that despite his controversial background, the White House has not yet dismissed the idea.

I really think this could happen -- followed by a massive Right-Wing Conspiracy Message Discipline Special in which GOP apparatchiks use every print and broadcast outlet available to denounce everyone who says a discouraging word about Thomas as a racist (or, if nonwhite, as a dweller on the Democrats' "plantation").

Oh, and, of course, if Thomas is nominated, I'd like a dollar for every media reference to the choice as "bold."

The article lists possible nominees -- though I wonder if the Bushies are going to throw a curveball at us and nominate Viet Dinh for something. Dinh came to the U.S. as a refugee, which makes him the perfect human-interest story for the GOP. And he's ideologically perfect, too: He's a Federalist Society honcho who recently left the Justice Department, where he was, as AP notes, "a key author of laws increasing government enforcement and surveillance powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks." It's relatively easy for Democrats to find nonwhites who will denounce Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada. I don't think they could manage to fight off Dinh. (Dinh's really young, so maybe it's not his time yet, but choosing someone of his age would be "bold," too.)