Monday, June 30, 2003

I wish David Brooks would make up his mind which club he wants to use to bash upscale coast-dwellers (i.e., the people who make up the vast majority of his readership). In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, he told us that regular Americans don't like it when rich people flash the cash:

[Horatio] Alger would have insulted the democratic sensibilities of his readers if he had concluded his books with his heroes sitting around in grand palaces, employing servants. In most parts of the country, this suspicion of aristocracy still lingers. Lincolnesque plow horses [i.e., ordinary hard-working Americans] are suspicious of quick wealth just as they are suspicious of great wealth.

But back in January, also in the Times Magazine, he told us just the opposite:

Americans read magazines for people more affluent than they are (W, Cigar Aficionado, The New Yorker, Robb Report, Town and Country) because they think that someday they could be that guy with the tastefully appointed horse farm....

Income resentment is not a strong emotion in much of America....

Many Americans admire the rich.

They don't see society as a conflict zone between the rich and poor. It's taboo to say in a democratic culture, but do you think a nation that watches Katie Couric in the morning, Tom Hanks in the evening and Michael Jordan on weekends harbors deep animosity toward the affluent? ...

Most Americans do not have Marxian categories in their heads.

It's odd that Brooks said in January that ordinary folks dream of horse farms, because in yesterday's column he told us that millionaires (at least the ones who don't live in -- ick! -- big cities) earn the respect of ordinary citizens by being jes’ folks:

According to research that Thomas J. Stanley did for his book ''The Millionaire Next Door,'' written with William D. Danko, 70 percent of millionaires have their shoes resoled and repaired rather than replaced, and the average millionaire spends about $140 on a pair of shoes, which doesn't get you Guccis. After Visa and MasterCard, the most common credit cards in the millionaire's wallets are charge cards for Sears and J.C. Penney. In that 1996 study, Stanley and Danko reported that the typical millionaire paid $399 for his most expensive suit and $24,800 for his or her most recent car or truck, which is only $3,800 more than what the average American spent.

In other words, they shop the way most Americans shop, in that confused hierarchy-busting manner the market researchers now call rocketing. They spend lots of money on a few items they really care about -- their barbecue grills or their lawnmowers -- and then they go downmarket to Wal-Mart to buy most of the other stuff they don't care about. This isn't upper-class consumption or even relentlessly middle-class consumption. It's mixed-up no-class consumption.

In this, as in so many respects, people who live in Manhattan or Los Angeles or San Francisco or even Dallas have to keep reminding themselves that their experience is not typical. In most places in America, there are no massive concentrations of rich people and hence no Madison Avenue boutiques, no fine art galleries, no personal shoppers. There is just the country club, and certain social pressures to be just this affluent, to prove you are a success, and no more so.

In January, by contrast, he quoted a big-city pop diva and told us that we admire her even when (or especially when) she waves precious stones under our noses (and struts around in shoes we can safely assume cost more than $140):

As the sociologist Jennifer Lopez has observed: "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got, I'm just, I'm just Jenny from the block." As long as rich people "stay real," in Ms. Lopez's formulation, they are admired.

So, David, which is it -- do you have to buy at Wal-Mart to be liked by ordinary Americans if you're rich, or can you just say you're the salt of the earth in $10,000 shoes?

LONDON, June 30 — Britain's foreign secretary said Monday there are no circumstances under which his nation would agree to an attack against Iran, which is under pressure to allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Jack Straw, who was finishing a two-day visit to Iran, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that Iran could not be compared with its neighbor Iraq in terms of political system or danger posed to the region, although President Bush has called Iran part of an axis of evil....

When asked if he believed there were no circumstances in which Britain would agree to an attack on Iran, Straw replied: ''Yes, and I can conceive of no such circumstances.'' ...



A promise of amnesty for Iraqis who voluntarily gave up their weapons has been "remarkably unsuccessful", British defence sources admitted yesterday.

Britain and the US concede that to get Iraqis to give up their rifles, mainly Kalashnikovs, is an impossible task for the foreseeable future. The amnesty was designed to get them to hand over heavier weapons, including machineguns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

However, this has failed....

--Guardian (U.K.)

I guess they've absorbed American values more thoroughly than we could have ever hoped.

(Thanks to Rational Enquirer for the link.)

Katharine Hepburn delighted audiences with her unique talent for more than six decades. She was known for her intelligence and wit and will be remembered as one of the nation's artistic treasures. Laura joins me in sending our thoughts and prayers to her family.

--president's statement, posted at

Think the Bushies know about Hepburn's politics, or her mother's?

Katharine Houghton Hepburn was a friend and colleague of Margaret Sanger. The actress Katharine Hepburn has said, "My mother came to the family planning movement through her work as an ardent suffragist. She knew that birth control was as essential to women's emancipation as the vote itself. As early as 1911, Mother launched a campaign for birth control in her Connecticut hometown. In 1923, she and some friends founded the Connecticut Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. And in 1928, she joined Margaret Sanger in building a new, controversial organization called the American Birth Control League. Today that organization is known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America."

...the younger Hepburn did not choose the role of militant public crusader in making her opinions known on civil rights, human rights in living and dying, issues of equality — especially for women — and statements on behalf of those involved in the arts and in political life. The exception was for Planned Parenthood, for which she lobbied and composed cogent appeals.

--from the Web site of Bryn Mawr College

And I wonder if the Bushies know she was decidedly not a "person of faith":

"I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people."

Indeed. She'll be missed.
Remember the moment in 2000 when a high-ranking officer of the National Rifle Association said, somewhat ungrammatically, that if George Bush won the White House "we'll have . . . a president where we work out of their office"?

Well, apparently if William Pryor is approved for a federal judgeship, as Bush hopes, the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby will have a judge where they work out his office.

As this 2001 press release notes, the NRA honored Pryor a couple of years ago for consistently doing its bidding:

Attorney General Bill Pryor today received the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, the highest tribute conferred by the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action....

In presenting the award, NRA-ILA Executive Director James Jay Baker called Pryor "an individual who is fast creating his own historical marker as a defender of our freedoms."...

Baker cited a few of Pryor’s accomplishments:

"....When Eliot Spitzer, the anti-gun AG of New York, urged other AGs to support the Smith and Wesson settlement in purchasing firearms for law enforcement, General Pryor moved to block acceptance of the agreement by his 49 colleagues...."

This refers to Smith & Wesson's Clinton-era decision to agree to a set of gun control measures in return for exemption from gun lawsuits, a decision that infuriated gun-worshipers, who went on to make Smith & Wesson a pariah in the gun world.

"...In United States v. Emerson, he filed a friend-of-the-court brief, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and argued against using a federal law broadly to deny the citizens' right to bear arms."

This refers to a Texas case in which a man subject to a domestic violence restraining order -- after allegedly threatening his wife and child with a gun -- was not allowed to buy another gun; the man challenged the constitutionality of the Brady law.

"...In Alabama, Pryor helped draft and lobbied for the passage of laws that provide the firearms industry immunity from municipal lawsuits, preempted local gun control ordinances, and repealed the two-day waiting period for handgun purchases...."


And as the Gun Owners Of America point out in a June 24, 2003, press release, "it was Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor who mobilized attorneys general in 17 other states to sign a letter commending [John] Ashcroft" for asserting in 2001 that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own a gun. (The Supreme Court asserted in a 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller, that the Second Amendment guarantees the states a collective right to form militias, not the right of individuals to own guns.) It's not clear what purpose Pryor's letter served, except to brown-nose the attorney general of the United States. Incidentally, as the GOA press release notes,

...the Pryor letter references the work of John Lott which shows that putting guns in the hands of good people is good public policy. Why? Because "more guns [means] less crime."

If you're still unfamiliar with the disgraceful career of John Lott, go here.

All this, of course, is in addition to all the other nasty details of Pryor's record.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Here are consecutive paragraphs from a story by David Sanger in Friday's New York Times:

Mr. Cheney stated on "Meet the Press" in March that Iraq "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today of Iraq's nuclear program: "Nobody said it was operative. We expressed concerns about the development of a nuclear program, but nobody ever maintained that Iraq had nuclear weapons."

Shouldn't those paragraphs appear in the order in which the point they make is clear -- that is, reversed?

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today of Iraq's nuclear program: "Nobody said it was operative. We expressed concerns about the development of a nuclear program, but nobody ever maintained that Iraq had nuclear weapons."

Mr. Cheney stated on "Meet the Press" in March that Iraq "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Did someone at the Times insist that these two paragraphs appear in reverse order, in the hope that this would make it less obvious that Ari Fleischer lied?

Or did Sanger censor himself by pulling his own punch?

Friday, June 27, 2003

Al Sharpton...has...significant rabble-rousing power for the party faithful. At an early gathering of prospective candidates, organized by the abortion lobby, Sharpton was the surprise crowd-pleaser, bringing young white yuppie women to their feet. If he expands his appeal beyond his black base to the Michael Moore-reading, Barbra Streisand-worshipping Democratic activists, he could easily come into the convention, as Jesse Jackson did in 1988, as someone whose ring has to be kissed.

--Andrew Sullivan, writing about the 2004 Democratic presidential contest in The Times of London, 2/24/03

Sorry to be the one to wake you from your pipe dream, Andrew, but Sharpton just came in dead last in the online primary. Out of 317,639 votes cast, Sharpton received just 1,677 -- 0.53% of the total. I know it would have filled you with glee had the left-leaning MoveOn voters given Sharpton a ringing endorsement, but it just didn't happen. Try to contain your disappointment.
Sen. Hillary Clinton's memoir was not a hit with reviewers, but it seems to have helped her with voters.

In the weeks since the book was released, Clinton's approval rating in New York has climbed to 57% - the highest level in seven months, a new Quinnipiac University poll found....

--New York Daily News

The lead paragraph in this Reuters story is likely to make you angry:

More than 2,000 individuals with incomes of $200,000 or more paid zero in federal income taxes in the year 2000, according to a report released by the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday.

But the end of the story points out something that strikes me as far more worrisome -- just how much of the income of fat cats is from capital gains rather than wages and salaries (nearly two-thirds!):

Of $69.57 billion in adjusted gross income reported by the top 400 filers in 2000, about $44.53 billion was made through capital gains, [Len] Burman [of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center] said.

"Capital gains is the linchpin of every tax shelter I know of, except for municipal bonds," he said.

Capital gains are generally taxed at a lower rate than wages for all but low-income taxpayers. With the tax package passed in May, the rate will fall to 15 percent.

And, of course, Republicans desperately want to eliminate the capital-gains tax altogether. If that happens, just imagine how much richer the rich are suddenly going to get.
Another U.S. soldier was killed yesterday in Iraq.

A lot of people wonder when the American public is going to get fed up with the death toll. I'm not holding my breath. I'm afraid that every attack on U.S. troops might be confirming Americans' sense that Iraq was a bad and dangerous place and that intervention was the right course of action. We're told that our troops are being attacked by Saddam loyalists -- it's possible that, for many Americans, this confirms the impression that Saddam's regime was a threat to us (never mind the fact that no Americans were being killed by Saddam loyalists in the period before the war). And since a large percentage of Americans believe the Bush administration lie that Iraq was in some way affiliated with al-Qaeda, surely they think that troops fighting Iraqi guerrillas are fighting to avenge 9/11.

In a way, I think opposition to a U.S. presence in Iraq might be more widespread if the U.S. actually were winning the peace. Imagine if U.S. soldiers were building shiny new schools in Sadr City and Fallujah while crumbling American schools were facing massive budget cuts. Imagine if the oil (and oil money) were flowing in Iraq while layoffs continued to spread across America. Ironies like that might make Americans wonder what the administration's priorities are.

It took a long time for people to start questioning why we were in Vietnam, even though we'd never been attacked by the Vietnamese. (I know, I know -- we've never been attacked by the Iraqis, either, but most Americans don't seem to grasp that.) Americans seem ready for a long, long war on terror -- and they think this is part of it. I do think they want to know why the administration can't seem to accomplish this particular mission -- can't seem to stabilize the country, set it on a course to democracy, and get the troops home. I don't know when, if ever, they'll really start to ask why we intervened in the first place.

UPDATE: Well, another U.S. soldier has been shot in Baghdad -- shot in the head while shopping for DVDs. It's a mess there.

Thursday, June 26, 2003


Here's an item about WMD fabulist and self-appointed military unit commander Judith Miller, from Editor and Publisher, May 29, 2003:

In a speech to graduates of Barnard College in New York last week, New York Times correspondent and Barnard alumna Judith Miller called upon the media and military to examine the program of embedding journalists with U.S. troops during the Iraq war.

Herself an embed with the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which was charged with finding weapons of mass destruction, Miller said she returned from Iraq with questions about the embedding process. "Journalists need to draw conclusions about whether objectivity was compromised during the war," she said. "The military needs to consider whether the strain of taking care of us and protecting us, and giving us dangerous information was an undue burden on the military. We all need to decide whether the country's interests were best served by this arrangement."...

No, wait, there's more:

Miller added that many unanswered questions remain about the reasons given by the Bush administration for invading Iraq. "Were those who wanted to go to war deceiving themselves about Saddam's capabilities?" she asked....

Self-deceivers? I think it takes one to know one.

(The Editor and Publisher link is from Gabriel at A Berkeley Economist Against Empire -- and I like his Judith Miller "photo.")

US Senate leader says weapons of mass destruction not main cause of Iraq war

The Republican leader in the Senate said that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was not the main justification for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"I'm not sure that's the major reason we went to war," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told NBC television's Today Show....

--AFP/Yahoo News

At least in 1984, when they announced that Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia, they ordered rewrites of all the stories that said Oceania was at war with Eurasia. The current GOP crew doesn't even bother covering its tracks that way. Billmon at Whiskey Bar reminds us here of what Frist said about Iraqi weapons in the not-so-distant past.
So if the reign of the depraved, Satanic Bill Clinton "put every American in mortal danger," if "all our terrorist problems were born during the Clinton years," how come Mahdi Obeidi was never ordered to dig up those parts he had buried under the rose bush and start building a centrifuge at any time between January 20, 1993, and January 20, 2001?
Ugliness in Massachusetts....

NEW BEDFORD -- A vicious robbery of a pizza delivery man escalated when the assailants mistook the graduate student for a Muslim, Fairhaven police said yesterday, as they filed hate crime charges against a second man arrested in the attack....

When Mr. [Saurabh] Bhalerao, an Indian, arrived with their order, two men shoved him into the apartment and pushed him to the floor.

"They mistook him for being Islamic and the savagery that occurred after that seemed to be initiated from their belief that he was a Muslim," Chief Souza said.

Even after Mr. Bhalerao was lying on the floor, at least four attackers continued to kick and beat him, he told police. At one point, one suspect hit him with a kitchen chair, Mr. Marsh told police.

The perpetrators also burned Mr. Bhalerao's body with lit cigarettes, police said.

The delivery man, a graduate student at UMass Dartmouth, tried to tell his attackers that he is a Hindu, not a Muslim, but they did not relent, Chief Souza said....

(Link courtesy of -- and to give the usually lunkheaded right-wingers over there a little credit, they're all on the victim's side.)
On the subject of today's 6-3 Supreme Court ruling striking down Texas's sodomy law, Clarence Thomas found a clever way to talk out of both sides of his mouth (or someone -- Karl Rove? whoever's ghostwriting Thomas's million-dollar memoir? -- found a way for him): Thomas voted to uphold the ban on gay sodomy, but said this in his dissent:

If I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal. Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources.

On the one hand, this is mildly heartening. On the other hand -- gimme a break. Voting in favor of gay sex? Yeah, that would be a really shrewd political move for a legislator in Longhorn Country, wouldn't it?

Antonin Scalia, however -- who's usually Frick to Thomas's Frack -- made no secret of his utter loathing for gay people, in a dissent he read from the bench:

Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct....It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.

(TBOGG has a fuller excerpt from the dissent.)

I said last month that I think Bush is going to try to make Clarence Thomas the next Chief Justice. I think today's ruling is a sign that this may well happen. Here's Scalia -- the consensus favorite -- obviously not worried that he's offending right-leaning libertarians, Log Cabin Republicans, Will and Grace-watching registered-independent centrist soccer parents, and gay-friendly "Hipublicans"; by contrast, there's Thomas, seemingly expressing a gay-tolerant sentiment even as he votes to uphold a law that singles gay people out for special punishment. Even though Thomas voted to uphold a discriminatory law, and recommended an alternative way of overturning it that could never actually happen in the real world, he's inoculated himself against the criticism of young, broader-minded conservatives. And yet his suggestion that this question should be dealt with legislatively allows him to say, if pressed, that yes, he does believe homosexual conduct is immoral -- it's just not worth wasting the time of the cops. I bet the Religious Right will let him slide on that.

“This is like a leak in a balloon. We can chase [al-Qaida and the Taliban’s] tails all over Afghanistan, but if they can just slip over the border and thumb their noses at us, what’s the point?”

“There’s a lot of activity taking place with the warlords that isn’t being reported and the Pakistani border is a real mess.”

“Most of the security reports I see today say that it’s the Soviet situation all over again. In daytime, major cities are somewhat under the control of the central government. But at night, it’s anyone with a rifle, and the rural areas are completely off Karzai’s radar.”

Those are a few quotes from an MSNBC article on Afghanistan that's well worth reading. Is Afghanistan a quagmire? Yes, it's a quagmire.

(Thanks to Rational Enquirer for the link.)
The rich get richer. Today's New York Times explains how much richer:

The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period.

The data, in a report that the I.R.S. released last night, shows that the average income of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers was almost $174 million in 2000. That was nearly quadruple the $46.8 million average in 1992. The minimum income to qualify for the list was $86.8 million in 2000, more than triple the minimum income of $24.4 million of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in 1992.

While the sharp growth in incomes over that period coincided with the stock market bubble, other factors appear to account for much of the increase. A cut in capital gains tax rates in 1997 to 20 percent from 28 percent encouraged long-term holders of assets, like privately owned businesses, to sell them, and big increases in executive compensation thrust corporate chiefs into the ranks of the nation's aristocracy.

This year's tax cut reduced the capital gains rate further, to 15 percent....

In 2000, the top 400 on average paid 22.3 percent of their income in federal income tax, down from 26.4 percent in 1992 and a peak of 29.9 percent in 1995....

Had President Bush's latest tax cuts been in effect in 2000, the average tax bill for the top 400 would have been about $30.4 million — a savings of $8.3 million, or more than a fifth, according to an analysis of the I.R.S. data by The New York Times. That would have resulted in an average tax rate of 17.5 percent.

I'll note for the record that the period of wealth accumulation under discussion is the Clinton era, not the Bush era. I don't worship Clinton. If the numbers say this became a less egalitarian country on his watch, I'm not shocked.

(Of course, it needs to be remembered that the Clinton era was also the Gingrich era.)

It's interesting to compare the charts at the Times link with the ones Kevin Drum at Calpundit found in a publication of the Boston Federal Reserve, Regional Review. As Kevin explains,

The top chart shows the familiar increase in income inequality: the richest quintile has grown far faster than any of the others. The bottom chart shows the surprise: fewer people are moving up, fewer people are moving down, and more people are staying put.

This is important because, as he notes, conservatives regularly explain away the huge disparities in income in this country by saying that this country has great mobility from class to class. As is made clear from the charts, that's simply not true. (Go to the link -- don't worry, the charts are quite readable)
Via e-mail, I've seen the new New York Times bestseller list (the one that will appear here next Monday and in the Sunday paper the week after that). Yeah, Hillary's still #1, obviously. Sidney Blumenthal's back on the main list, at #15. In fiction, Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen's Gettysburg plummets from #12 to #28. Obviously, the Gingrichistas all went out and bought that one the first week, and most other people are giving it a miss.

A lot of people rushed out to buy Hillary's book the first week, too -- the Nielsen BookScan numbers Drudge cites show a dropoff (168,676 recorded sales in week #2, as opposed to 438,701 in week #1). But that's a dropoff from rather phenomenal to merely extraordinary. And BookScan, as I noted a few days ago, misses a lot of book sales in this country (its coverage was 65% according to this May 2002 article and probably isn't much higher now). (Daisy Maryles, in Publishers Weekly, which reports to the trade, said there were "estimated sales of about 600,000 in the book's first week on sale" and added that she "believes that it's the fastest-selling adult hardcover....Simon & Schuster has done seven printings thus far, with about 1.6 million copies in print." Lucianne Goldberg is free to differ.)

"The average nonfiction book sells about five thousand copies, and a best-seller is generally one that sells thirty thousand copies or more." --Ann Coulter, Slander, pp. 97-98


(Oh -- Off with Their Heads, the new, GOP-friendly book by the embittered Dick Morris, is, alas, also on the list, at #11. I wonder if that one will be a one-week phenomenon, like Newt's book.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Life imitates The Onion, again:


The Onion.

GENERAL CORMAN: "Walt Kurtz was one of the most outstanding officers this country has ever produced. He was a brilliant and outstanding in every way and he was a good man too. Humanitarian man, man of wit, of humor. He joined the Special Forces. After that his ideas, methods have become unsound... Unsound."

COLONEL LUCAS: "Now he's crossed to Cambodia with his Montagnard army, who worship the man, like a god, and follow every order however ridiculous."

--from Apocalypse Now, screenplay by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola

New York Times reporter Judith Miller played a highly unusual role in an Army unit assigned to search for dangerous Iraqi weapons, according to U.S. military officials, prompting criticism that the unit was turned into what one official called a "rogue operation."

More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi's headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say.

Since interrogating Iraqis was not the mission of the unit, these officials said, it became a "Judith Miller team," in the words of one officer close to the situation.

In April, Miller wrote a letter objecting to an Army commander's order to withdraw the unit, Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, from the field. She said this would be a "waste" of time and suggested that she would write about it unfavorably in the Times. After Miller took up the matter with a two-star general, the pullback order was dropped....

--from today's Washington Post

I like the dry summary of Miller's recent work near the end of the Post article:

Miller's coverage of MET Alpha has drawn some critical press scrutiny for optimistic-sounding stories about the weapons hunt, generating headlines including "U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms," "U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq" and "U.S.-Led Forces Occupy Baghdad Complex Filled With Chemical Agents." These potential discoveries did not bear fruit.

The Washington Post reports this today:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he has "no reason to believe" that senior leaders of Saddam Hussein's government, including the ousted Iraqi president or his sons, were killed last week when U.S. forces attacked a convoy in western Iraq along the Syrian border.


Oh -- sorry we bombed your house, folks!

And I hate to tell you, but we may bomb it again:

The Bush administration sent a diplomat to Damascus Monday to assure the Syrian government that the wounded border guards were in satisfactory condition and would be returned safely, said an administration official, who added that the U.S. Central Command has pledged to fly them back to Syria.

But the tone of U.S. envoy Elizabeth L. Dibble's meeting with the Syrians "was not apologetic," the official said. Rather, the Syrians were informed that the United States felt justified in chasing the Iraqi vehicles and expects Syrian authorities to halt such convoys from crossing the border in the future.

"Regret was expressed, but not apology," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This was hot pursuit. They made clear to the Syrians that we're going to have to take action from time to time to capture members of the former regime. What was made clear was that, should there be a situation like this in the future, we would expect their cooperation."

This New York Times story summarizes some of the intelligence reports the U.S. has received about this border area, reports U.S. officials clearly take seriously. The story suggests that the U.S. military is going to be in this area for a while.

(Isn't chasing the enemy across the border how we expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia?)
President Bush basks in high approval ratings, but when potential voters are pressed about giving him a second term, the numbers drop, a reflection of worries about the struggling economy and a general wait-and-see attitude so far ahead of the election.

Bush's overall approval ratings have remained at 60 percent or higher in most polls since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But now that the electorate is turning to thinking about Bush's handling of the economy and wondering who the Democrats will nominate, the president's re-elect numbers are at 50 percent or lower in several polls.

In a recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, 50 percent said they would vote for Bush and 38 percent backed the unknown Democratic candidate, with the rest undecided. Those numbers aren't very different from those garnered by Bush's father in June 1991....

The current poll also found that 37 percent of Democrats approve of Bush's job performance, but only a third of those Democrats who approve would vote to re-elect him. Among independents, the re-elect numbers weren't as high as the approval ratings.

Bush's re-elect numbers are even lower in the Ipsos-Cook Political Report tracking poll....


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

So, um, where were the huge crowds of people waiting to buy autographed copies of Ann Coulter's Treason? There were long lines of buyers for Hillary Clinton's book, and for the new Harry Potter book. What happened to Coulter's book? Her fans actually believe Coulter's book might surpass Clinton's in sales -- but if so, she has a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

...ABC's daytime show The View has invited Ann Coulter to be a "celebrity guest co-host" tomorrow morning.

Wake me when Michael Moore is a "celebrity guest co-host" on Fox & Friends.
There's one grim human detail in the excerpt I'm posting below. There are a lot more in the link.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or maimed by outdated, defective U.S. cluster weapons that lack a safety feature other countries have added, according to observers, news reports and officials.

U.S. cluster weapons fired during the war in March and April dispersed thousands of small grenades on battlefields and in civilian neighborhoods to destroy Iraqi troops and weapons systems.

But some types of the grenades fail to explode on impact as much as 16 percent of the time, according to official military figures. Battlefield commanders have reported failure rates as high as 40 percent.

Unexploded grenades remain potentially lethal for weeks and months after landing on the ground, where civilians can unwittingly pick them up or step on them. Many victims are children such as Ali Mustafa, 4, whose eyes were blown out when a grenade he played with near his Baghdad home in April exploded in his face.

The "dud rate" for cluster grenades can be reduced to less than 1 percent by installing secondary fuses that blow up or neutralize grenades that fail to explode on impact, according to defense contractors. In early 2001, the Pentagon said it would achieve that goal, but not until 2005. In the meantime, the military continues to use a vast arsenal of cluster grenades that fail to meet the new standard.

Former military officials and defense experts say the effort to improve the grenades was given a low priority and little funding....


Oh, and these damn things killed 22 U.S. troops in the first Iraq war and we still didn't push for upgrades.

(Thanks to Thinking It Through for the link.)
Wherever Democrats look, they sense their powerlessness. Even when they look to the media, they feel that conservatives have the upper hand. Conservatives think this is ludicrous. We may have Rush and Fox, conservatives say, but you have ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times.

--David Brooks in The Weekly Standard

Today a full chapter from Ann Coulter's new book, Treason, complete and unedited, footnotes and all, was posted with no critical commentary whatsoever -- at the ABC News Web site.

Al Franken, Molly Ivins, and Joe Conason all have new books coming out soon. Gee, David, do you think or will ever post unedited chapters from any of those books, without criticism? (As opposed to, say, posting something like this?)
Another factoid from that ABC/Washington Post poll:

Finally, this poll included a knowledge question asking respondents whether, based on what they know or have heard, they believe Iraq used biological or chemical weapons against U.S. troops during the war earlier this year; 24 percent said yes.

I weep for my country. We really are dumb as rocks, aren't we?

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows strong support for President Bush, the war in Iraq, and even a possible future war in Iran, tempered only by a soup├žon of squeamishness about the ongoing troubles in Iraq. The White House should be delighted. But it's interesting to see the results parsed. This is from the report on the poll at the ABC Web site:

There's ... a striking difference between men and women in their view of the level of casualties [in Iraq]. While 60 percent of men call it acceptable, just 42 percent of women agree. Democratic women are 11 points less likely than Democratic men to call the level of casualties acceptable, and there's a similar gap between Republican men and women.

And there are differences by age: Acceptance of casualties is highest among younger adults, and lowest among the oldest. Older Americans also are substantially less apt than others to say the United States can justify the war without finding weapons of mass destruction (but 52 percent do hold that view.)

The Washington Post story about the poll notes that the percentage of women who find the casualty levels in Iraq unacceptable is 50%.

Meanwhile, on June 19 The Washington Times reported on a poll of Hispanics by Sergio Bendixen:

The poll found that Mr. Bush would receive 34 percent Hispanic support against an unnamed Democratic opponent — down from the high of 44 percent he polled in May 2002. The 34 percent is about the same as the 35 percent of the actual Hispanic vote he received in the 2000 election.
"The president of the United States has an important credibility problem with Hispanic Americans," Mr. Bendixen said, citing numbers that show nearly 70 percent think Mr. Bush has failed to keep his word to make Latin American policy a priority and to complete an immigration agreement.

Would Bush and his policies still appear overwhelmingly popular if young white men were taken out of the mix?

This is the Fight Club presidency. It resonates with young white males.

I'm not sure why it doesn't resonate as much with nonwhite males. Maybe it's because the Bush presidency capitalizes on righteous anger, and black and Hispanic men generally know what it feels like on the receiving end of this kind of anger, in a way that white males don't. White males complain about hearing criticism from "politically correct" feminists. African-American men complain about being pulled over for "driving while black" by cops with big, dangerous guns. There's a difference. Maybe you're less likely to respond to talk of "evildoers" when on any given day you could be accused of being one.

(Thanks to TBOGG for the Washington Times link.)

Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of the Washington Times and United Press International, was determined to land an interview with Saddam Hussein.

So determined, in fact, that he told the Iraqi leader 21/2 years ago he hoped such a sit-down "would lead to a reappraisal of American policy toward Iraq."...

In a Jan. 11, 2001, "Your Excellency" letter -- recently retrieved from Iraqi intelligence files -- de Borchgrave said he could "guarantee" that an interview with him "will have worldwide resonance as well as two entire newspaper pages in The Washington Times, the newspaper of choice of the Republican establishment."...

In the letter, de Borchgrave reminded Hussein that he "had the honor of interviewing you" as a Newsweek correspondent in the 1970s. The election of George W. Bush, he suggested, made his request particularly timely:

"I wrote to you last year to respectfully suggest that the time was ripe for a major interview with the hope that it would lead to a reappraisal of American policy toward Iraq...."

--Washington Post

De Borchgrave never got a Saddam interview. Dan Rather did. Here's the hypocritical response of de Borchgrave's newspaper:

Is it a scoop, or was he duped?... did the interview become a vehicle for Iraq's agenda in the process?

Last night I cited audio reports by The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid in which he said that the Iraqi convoy attacked by U.S. forces last Wednesday was, according to local residents, a convoy of sheep smugglers. Here's the story Shadid wrote for today's Post.

...U.S. officials backed away from their initial assessments of whether the attack early Thursday near the village of Dhib killed top officials in the former Iraqi government, saying they had picked up no indications since the attack that Saddam Hussein or his sons, Uday and Qusay, had been in the convoy....

After the attack began, villagers said cries pierced the air. Some contended that cluster bombs were used. Other villagers insisted that was wrong, that it was heavy machine-gun fire. They said they were saved by fleeing their homes. "When they hit Ahmed's house, it was like an alarm," said a neighbor, Mohammed Naim, 29. "Everybody ran away from their homes."

By the time the barrage ended, four houses were destroyed, along with two storage shacks, residents said. Villagers sitting in the hospital listed their losses like an insurance claim: three pickups, three tractors, one truck and 13 heads of sheep.

"We're not guilty," Hamad said. "Why are they attacking families? We want to know the reason they're attacking families."...

Monday, June 23, 2003

Nuclear material was left unsecured in Tuwaitha, Iraq, and now it looks as if it's making people sick, the BBC says:

New cases of suspected radiation sickness are being reported every day, at a hospital close to Tuwaitha.

Doctors say about 20 people a day, many of them children are coming into hospital with bloody diarrhoea.

Some have fallen sick because of parasites in the local water supply, but tests prove that others, as many as five a day, have no infection.

The doctors believe they have been poisoned by radiation.

Barrels containing low enriched uranium, also known as "yellow cake" were taken from the Tuwaitha facility in April and washed in a local river.

Their contents were dumped on the ground.

Now the number of people falling ill is steadily rising.

A few patients known to have had close contact with looted materials show signs of acute radiation sickness: skin rashes, nose bleeds and vomiting....
Damn, I wish I knew shorthand. I've been trying unsuccessfully to transcribe the streaming-audio report by reporter Anthony Shadid on this page, but I've given up.

The gist is: Villagers tell Shadid that the convoy that was attacked by U.S. forces last Wednesday was -- get this -- a group of sheep smugglers. Maybe Saddam was there, maybe not, but villagers say the trucks were carrying smuggled sheep. (Shadid also said this on ABC's newscast tonight -- you can stream that from this page.)

Incidently, the BBC notes this:

The reported American attack on a convoy thought to be carrying Saddam Hussein and/or his sons last week would have been legal only if there was substantial evidence indicating their presence, according to Amnesty International.

But if there had just been a hope and there was the risk of killing innocent civilians instead, then it would not be justified, said Amnesty International's Legal Director Claudio Cordone.

Mr Cordone told BBC News Online: "If the convoy really involved Saddam Hussein or other military leaders, it would have been a legitimate target. The war has not ended. President Bush announced the end of 'major combat operations' only. The laws of war still apply.

"But the point is that you have to take all precautions. You are allowed to attack a military target even if civilians are there. But you have to use the principle of proportionality and weigh the value of the target against the risk to civilians. And you have to show that you checked that the target was a military one.

"If Saddam was known to be there, the target would probably have been legitimate, whoever else was. It is a difficult calculation. If you are in doubt, you are required to hold back under the precautionary principle."

David Brooks is worried about us. The right-wing pundit writes in The Weekly Standard that he thinks we're getting a touch overwrought. Republicans, he tells us, are so reasonable. And American politics is so evenly matched. Why on earth are we always flying off the handle?

ACROSS THE COUNTRY Republicans and conservatives are asking each other the same basic question: Has the other side gone crazy? Have the Democrats totally flipped their lids? Because every day some Democrat seems to make a manic or totally over-the-top statement about George Bush, the Republican party, and the state of the nation today....

When conservatives look at the newspapers, they see liberal columnists who pick out every tiny piece of evidence or pseudo-evidence of Republican vileness, and then dwell on it and obsess over it until they have lost all perspective and succumbed to fevers of incoherent rage.

Well, maybe it's because I'm clinically insane, as Brooks helpfully suggests, but it seems to me that when I walk into a bookstore I see conservative authors who pick out every tiny piece of evidence or pseudo-evidence of Democratic vileness and then dwell on it and obsess over it until they have a New York Times bestseller. Conservative authors accuse liberals and Democrats of Slander, Bias, and Treason, and of being Useful Idiots. They write about The Dark Side of Liberalism and ask Why the Left Hates America. They call us The New Thought Police. They accuse the only Democratic president of the past generation of Dereliction of Duty and High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

But we're the hysterical ones.

Brooks shakes his head in wonder as he observes that

if you listened to liberal rhetoric, you would think America was convulsed in a Manichean struggle of good against evil.

Whereas, by contrast, conservatives say reasonable things like this:

We know that the Left's malevolent campaign to undermine the notion of truth itself comes at a frightful price. Their malignant hold over the intellectual life of this country must be exorcised, and men and women who are willing to speak the truth offer our only hope of reclaiming our culture from the grip of a hedonistic, reckless and destructive descent into nihilism.

--Tom DeLay

How many different versions of Satan, the devil, have you seen in your life? I mean, the comic book devil with the red face and the horns, seen that one. We've seen the Satanic devil of the horror films. We've seen the devil portrayed as just an average man, a human being, in the movie "Rosemary's Baby". We've seen the comic devil of TV shows. We've even seen the smooth, tempting devil in Hollywood moves. Is Tom Daschle simply another way to portray a devil?

--Rush Limbaugh

Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.

--attributed to GOP adviser Grover Norquist, but reportedly first said by former House majority leader Dick Armey

... Oh, gosh, I'm probably being a silly overwrought liberal just by posting this, hunh? Whoops! Sorry.
You might have seen this elsewhere, but it needs to be disseminated as widely as possible:

General Wesley Clark had the following exchange -- which somehow was never deemed newsworthy by the mainstream press -- with Tim Russert eight days ago on Meet the Press:

GEN. CLARK: ...I think there was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.
MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?
GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, “You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.” I said, “But—I’m willing to say it but what’s your evidence?” And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had—Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn’t talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection

Full transcript here.

(Thanks again to Cursor for the link.)
[In] reported remarks to his cabinet yesterday, [Ariel Sharon] was quoted as saying Israel should continue building in the occupied territories but keep quiet about it, even though the plan requires Israel to stop settlement-building.

Mr Sharon was said to have made the remarks during a stormy cabinet session....

Mr Sharon reportedly said that people living in settlements to be evacuated could stay in the West Bank and move to older settlements which do not have to be evacuated. He reportedly said new homes could be built, which appears to contravene the call for a freeze on construction.

--Independent (U.K.)

Amazing. And see this Ha'aretz column by Gideon Levy, in which he declares flatly that the current evacuations of Israeli settlements are a farce: "Sharon has evacuated a few caravans and evicted a few dozen radical settlers from one point to another in the occupied territories..."

(Links via Cursor.)

Remember: When this administration has a story that makes it look good, there's a better-than-average chance it will be floated (and given the best possible spin) in time to be the top story in America on Monday morning. Bad news (and embarrassing corrections to good news) comes on Friday afternoon whenever possible.

This practice isn't unique to the Bushies. What's new is that we're in a state of permanent war -- on terrorism and, apparently, on Iraq -- and the carefully spun, carefully timed news is about life and death, good and evil. And because it's about war, it's cloaked in secrecy, so journalists are even more cautious than usual about approaching it skeptically. So they transmit it pretty much the way they get it.

Case in point: the report that U.S. soldiers are searching for Saddam's DNA after a missile attack on a convoy. The attack occurred last Wednesday and, as The New York Times reports today, unnamed "U.S. government officials" say

There was no evidence so far ... to support the idea that Mr. Hussein or his sons might have been killed in the raid, and some officials were doubtful that they were.

Nevertheless everyone's heard -- today, not late last week -- that we might have wasted Saddam and his sons and there's nothing left but DNA. Excellent, dude! This is how the Bushies do it -- they (usually) don't lie outright, but they do float vivid, exciting stories when a lot of people will notice them, in the belief that a lasting impression of ass-kicking righteousness will be conveyed even if the stories are later disproved.

Judging from Bush's poll numbers, it works.


From NewsMax on June 14:

According to renowned New York City literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, those fabulous book sale figures racked up by Hillary Clinton's "Living History" may turn out to be mere publishing industry hype.

...While Goldberg said her sources didn't have an accurate sales figure for Hillary's book, she put the number at "way below 200,000."

What about Simon & Schuster's million-copy initial press run? Goldberg said the figure is just public relations hype and that the first run printing was probably no more than 350,000 copies.

The longtime publishing maven explained there would be no need for Simon & Schuster to print a million books. If they needed more, "you push the button on the press and you can crank out another 50,000 in a 24-hour cycle and ship them out."

In fact, sources in the field are reporting disappointing sales for Mrs. Clinton's book, Goldberg contended...

From the Drudge Report today:

Hillary Rodham Clinton's LIVING HISTORY sold 438,701 copies in its first full week, NIELSEN's BOOKSCAN reveals.

The number represents scanned, purchased, sold and bagged copies at AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, BORDER'S, COSTCO and other outlets.

Clinton showed selling power coast-to-coast, according to data.

In the Pacific zone, the former first lady scanned 100,529 copies of LIVING.

In the nation's Mid-Atlantic region, 86,618 copies were sold, with Northeast stores reporting 25,877.

Clinton was the top selling book [any format, any genre] last week, according to insiders, with runner-up, James Patterson's THE LAKE HOUSE selling 117,957 copies....

And BookScan doesn't pick up all the book sales in America -- Publishers Lunch cites a May 2002 press released that claimed BookScan at the time covered "65 percent of the US market." Even if it's 75 percent now, that suggests Hillary sold about half a million books in the first week alone.

And no, you can't sell 500,00 copies of a book in the first week if you had a 350,000-copy first printing, unless you initiated a reprint before the book hit the stores. Lucianne is wrong about that. Printers are not at publishers' beck and call -- they don't have presses sitting around idle, waiting for rush reprints that publishers may or may not request. That's why S&S is ordering a lot more books now -- they're in anticipation of sales weeks (or even months) from now.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Over the weekend I was reading about Bill Pryor, one of Bush's horrible judicial nominees. I knew about his avowed opposition to abortion and his boast that he rescheduled a family vacation to Disney World to avoid a gathering of gay park attendees -- but I didn't know about this, as reported by People for the American Way:

In Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002), Pryor vigorously defended Alabama’s practice of handcuffing prison inmates to hitching posts in the hot sun if they refused to work on chain gangs or otherwise disrupted them....The post was a horizontal bar to which inmates were handcuffed “in a standing position and remain[ed] standing the entire time they [were] placed on the post.” The plaintiff in this case, Larry Hope, charged that he had been handcuffed to a hitching post twice, one time for seven hours, during which he was shirtless “while the sun burned his skin. . . During this 7-hour period, he was given water only once or twice and was given no bathroom breaks. At one point, a guard taunted Hope about his thirst. According to Hope’s affidavit: ‘[The guard] first gave water to some dogs, then brought the water cooler closer to me, removed its lid, and kicked the cooler over, spilling the water onto the ground.’

Pryor’s brief contended that Mr. Hope had not been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment....Pryor contended that the use of the hitching post was justified because the Alabama Department of Corrections considered it to be “a cost-effective, safe and relatively pain-free way to impel inmates to work.” Pryor also argued than even if Hope’s Eighth Amendment rights had been violated, the prison officers named as defendants were immune from suit because they had not violated a “clearly established” right.

The Supreme Court rejected both of Pryor’s arguments.

When I read this, I wondered what the hell is wrong with Democrats that they haven't publicized Pryor's advocacy of sick, sadistic behavior that's transparently cruel and unusual. Then I realized that nearly all Americans -- including most liberals I know -- believe that convicted criminals have no rights and deserve about as much consideration as sewer rats. Reader, I hope you're an exception.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State has some good stuff on Pryor -- this story and this one, much of it focusing on Pryor's defense of the 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had installed in the state's Judicial Building. Pryor has ralied support for Moore and, as the state's attorney general, deputized private lawyers affiliated with Religious Right legal groups to defend Moore in court (the effort failed).

Moore also allows clergymen to lead prayers in his courtroom -- Christian and Jewish clergymen only -- a practice Pryor has refused to criticize:

According to the April 4, 1997, AP account, Pryor “said the state has no position on whether Moore’s right to pray and have a religious display in his courtroom extends to people of other faiths. Pryor said he did not know whether the rights of non-Christians would be violated if they were barred from praying in Moore’s court.”

Pryor has a peculiar view of the Supreme Court's role in American life: March 1997, Pryor told The Alabama Baptist that Supreme Court precedent does not always need to be adhered to by state officials. The newspaper reported that Pryor did not say that the executive branch could ignore the ruling of the judicial branch, but he said there are ways the executive branch “does not have to implement rulings with which it disagrees.”

This is a very, very bad guy.

* Regular Nation contributor Robert Grossman bashes Al Gore.

* Former Village Voice cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty bashes Sidney Blumenthal.

Because, I guess, they figure Gore and Blumenthal get such positive press that they need to be taken down a peg.


Do you think this guy ever bashes conservatives?

Eating our own -- this is why we lose all the time.

Saturday, June 21, 2003


U.S. troops psyched up on a bizarre musical reprise from Vietnam war film "Apocalypse Now" before crashing into Iraqi homes to hunt gunmen on Saturday, as Shi'ite Muslims rallied against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

With the strains of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" still ringing in their ears and the clatter of helicopters overhead, soldiers rammed vehicles into metal gates and hundreds of troops raided houses in the western city of Ramadi after sunrise as part of a drive to quell a spate of attacks on U.S. forces....

--Reuters (thanks to Swopa at Needlenose for spotting this)


And from the same Reuters story, we have this:

President Bush, floating a new explanation for the failure to find banned weapons, said suspected arms sites had been looted as Saddam's government crumbled.

"For more than a decade, Saddam Hussein went to great lengths to hide his weapons from the world. And in the regime's final days, documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

My dog ate my homework! No, really!
U.S. mortgages in foreclosure climbed to a record high in the first three months of 2003 as job losses and personal bankruptcies forced more people out of their homes, a mortgage industry group said on Friday.

Home loans in the process of foreclosure climbed to 1.2 percent of all mortgages in the first quarter, beating the previous high of 1.18 percent set in the fourth quarter of 2002, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said....


Americans United for Separation of Church and State notes that that's precisely what Tim LaHaye did not long ago, as he noted proudly in an NPR interview last October (LaHaye is a right-wing Christian preacher and coauthor of the mega-selling Left Behind books):

...LaHaye recalled the time he tried to convert the Dalai Lama. LaHaye said he was in “the Holy Land” when he spotted the Dalai Lama and an entourage walking toward him in a hotel corridor.

“I just stuck out my hand and shook hands with him and said, ‘Sir, has anyone ever explained to you who Jesus Christ really is? If they haven’t, I’d be glad to spend an hour with you and just share with you the truth about him.’”

LaHaye said an aide brushed him off but added that the Dalai Lama, while “probably very sincere,” does not “know the truth of the way to God, and I think we Christians have to be ready at any moment to share that truth with them.”

American troops today admitted they routinely gun down Iraqi civilians - some of whom are entirely innocent.

...Sergeant First Class John Meadows summed up the prevailing attitude amongst his colleagues telling the Evening Standard that Iraqi fighters were dressed in civilian clothes.

"You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not," he said.

"Like, the only way to get through s*** like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

And in an admission that directly contrasts with the line coming out from the Pentagon's spin doctors Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson added: "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger.

"It was up close and personal the whole time, there wasn't a big distance. If they were there, they were enemy, whether in uniform or not. Some were, some weren't."...

--Daily Mirror (U.K.)

(Thanks to Tom Tomorrow and Bohemian Mama for spotting this.)

Friday, June 20, 2003

March 14:  On The Fox Report anchor Shepard Smith reports that Saddam is planning to use flood water as a weapon by blowing up dams and causing severe flood damage.

March 19:  Fox anchor Shepard Smith reports that Iraqis are planning to detonate large stores of napalm buried deep below the earth to scorch coalition forces....

March 28:  Repeated assertions by Fox News anchors of a red ring around Baghdad in which Republican Guard forces were planning to use chemical weapons on coalition forces.  A Fox "Breaking News" flash reports that Iraqi soldiers were seen by coalition forces moving 55-gallon drums almost certainly containing chemical agents....

--excerpts from Dale Steinreich's rant "Fibbing It Up at Fox"

This is the kind of crap that's being fed to hundreds of thousands of Americans at any given time as "news." It's powerful propaganda that goes straight to the fight-or-flight part of the brain. It divides the world into pure good and pure evil. And no one ever rebuts it. Then America votes GOP, and we wonder why.

(Thanks to Cursor for the link.)
* Amount raised by President Bush for the Republican congressional campaign committees on May 21, 2003: $22 million

* Amount of time the President spoke at the event: 24 minutes

* Amount of time at the event he spent posing for photos with top fundraisers: 40 minutes

--From a recent edition the Corruption Perception Index, brought to you by the folks at Public Campaign

A Fox News poll shows President Bush with a 65% approval rating.

That's the bad news. But there's this:

...53 percent of Americans now believe going to war with Iraq was "worth it," down from 64 percent two months ago.

Interesting -- the war now seems like a good idea to barely half the public.

And there's this:

The poll also shows 54 percent of Americans believe Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were either moved or destroyed, 25 percent believe weapons of mass destruction are still there, and 12 percent believe they never existed. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Americans believe the dangers of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were not exaggerated, and an exact same 43 percent believe the dangers were exaggerated.

So the White House insists that WMDs are still in Iraq, but only 25% of the public believes this. And nearly half the country thinks the WMD rhetoric was trumped up.

TBOGG spotted this one last night:

The right-wing Media Research Center is trying to create a phony scandal by pointing out that a woman in her seventies who appeared on CBS News in 2001 complaining about the high cost of osteoporosis drugs recently made a second TV appearance, on ABC News, and complained that her drugs for "hypertension and other health problems" were too expensive.

What's the scandal here? That someone who's not a politician, pundit, or paid PR flack has appeared on TV (gasp!) more than once?

Or maybe it's the fact that she specifically cited one ailment two years ago and another more recently. Imagine! A woman in her seventies who has more than one chronic medical condition! Have you ever in your life heard of such a thing?

It didn't take long for this phony scandal to make its way to cable TV -- here's right-wing pundit Joe Scarborough on MSNBC last night:

And how about those evening news broadcasts by Dan Rather and Peter Jennings? They’re so desperate to bash the Republican Medicare plan that they actually both interviewed the same woman as the poster victim for high drug costs. Some would say the last thing this country needs is more liberal media outlets.

That's how conservatives dominate every debate: When one comes up with a good cheap-shot soundbite, they all grab hold of it -- immediately -- and repeat it.

The frothers at Free Republic mince no words -- they call this woman a "liar," snicker at her health problems, and, for good measure, insult her appearance: "My, oh my, she's a lovely one too, isn't she? I'm sorry. I know she's possibly someone's mother (butchwaxed hair taken into account) and definitely someone's daughter, but she looks like a Hoo from The (original animated) Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

Charming people.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Thursday condemned a Southern Baptist leader for comparing Judaism with a potentially "deadly tumor."

The president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, made the comment during a June 16 speech to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

Mohler referred to Scripture as mandating Jewish conversion, saying the act of warning Jews about the danger of their beliefs is "the ultimate act of Christian love."...

--Washington Times/UPI

Conservatives such as Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds appointed themselves anti-Semitism cops in the run-up to the Iraq war. I'm sure this was out of genuine disgust at bigotry, and not because they wanted yet another stick with which to bash the anti-war movement, and therefore I'm equally sure that they will rush to denounce this vile remark by a conservative American cleric ... aren't you?

Last week a Pakistani jihadi leader told the Asia Times that he had set up a meeting between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials and Taliban leaders to discuss the seriously deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. At the meeting, held at a Pakistani air-force base, FBI officials floated the possibility that the Taliban might have a role in the future Afghan government on four conditions: that Mullah Omar be removed as leader, that foreign combatants engaged in fighting against U.S. and allied troops be deported, that any captive allied soldiers be released and that Afghans currently living abroad be brought into the government.

...Right now, two main factions -- the Karzai-led, pro-U.S. forces, and the Northern Alliance-led troops that tilt toward Russia and Iran -- are competing for control of Kabul. This competition is compounded by the fact that thousands of refugees, many of them former communists, are streaming back into the country. The interim Karzai government will run its course in October, when a new grand council will deliberate on the country's future.

To sum up, then, according to this report, the United States is now willing to consider the Taliban a legitimate player in a reorganization of the government provided it meets the four conditions, three of which aren't particularly onerous (the Taliban already indicated flexibility on these demands, the report said), while the fourth -- the removal of Mullah Omar -- is the sort of thing that can be easily finessed. All for the sake of "stability" and, in a jarring Cold War echo, boxing in the assembling reds.

--Michael Tomasky in The American Prospect


Thursday, June 19, 2003

Today Matt Drudge has been plugging Ann Coulter’s forthcoming book, Treason. Drudge’s plugs do tend to have some impact on Internet book buyers; he’s been boasting that Coulter’s book has passed Hillary Clinton’s on the Amazon bestseller list.

I don’t think there’s much likelihood that Coulter’s book will actually outsell Hillary’s, but it could be a steady seller for a while, like her last book -- or like Robert Patterson’s Dereliction of Duty (subtitle: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Endangered America's Long-Term National Security ), which has been on the bestseller list for a couple of months. By contrast, as Drudge noted earlier this week, Sidney Blumenthal’s book The Clinton Wars has dropped off the New York Times bestseller list after three weeks.

Coulter complained in her last book that the mainstream press doesn’t pay enough attention to conservative books. But maybe there are worse things than being ignored by the mainstream press. Blumenthal’s book has been widely reviewed by mainstream publications -- and most of the reviews have been negative. Most right-wing authors don’t get negative reviews in the mainstream press because, well, they hardly get any reviews in the mainstream press. And that means that no one rebuts their arguments, no one challenges their assumptions, no one calls them on outrageous and scurrilous things they say.

Drudge notes that Coulter’s new book contains a full-throated defense of Joe McCarthy (‘"The myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times.... Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie") and accuses Democrats of “fifty years of treason” (presumably Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, and the man who first gave American support to the Afghan mujahideen, Jimmy Carter, were inadequately anti-communist for Coulter). The book is undoubtedly a hash and a fraud -- but it’s quite possible that most readers will never know that, because many mainstream publications will consider it unworthy of a review. Meanwhile, rank-and-file right-wingers will buy it, read it, and quote it -- it may become the primary source of information on McCarthyism and the early days of the Cold War for all too many readers. Its ideas and factoids, however inaccurate, will find their way into conservations. And no one (except for a few Internet cranks) will take seriously the task of rebutting its exaggerations and half-truths.

Recently I looked up some right-wing books in the archives of The New York Review of Books and the Books section of The New York Times. I learned that none of the following had ever received a review in either publication:

The Savage Nation by Michael Savage

Unlimited Access by Gary Aldrich

The Final Days and Hell to Pay by Barbara Olson

Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity

Dereliction of Duty by Robert Patterson

Useful Idiots by Mona Charen

The New Thought Police and The Death of Right and Wrong by Tammy Bruce

These books demonize. They level wild charges. And all of them sold well -- some were #1 bestsellers. Yet America’s two most influential book reviews ignored them.

It shouldn’t matter that these books are shrill and simpleminded. What should matter is that large numbers of American voters go to the polls on election day thinking about the ideas in these books (and on talk radio, Fox News, and so on).

If book review editors don’t want to assign serious scholars or journalists to review books such as these, couldn’t they seek out reviews from smart, caustic observers of American society -- say, Joan Didion or Martin Amis?

Smart media types ignored talk radio for a decade, and now we have an all-right-wing federal government. Why are they making the same mistake with right-wing books?
Moneywise, how was 2002 for you? If you were a CEO, apparently it was pretty good. If you worked for a CEO, or owned stock in a company run by a CEO, it was probably not so good. Billmon compares and contrasts.

And hey, thank goodness CEOs aren't hurting, because otherwise this potential milestone, just announced by the group Public Campaign, might turn out to be unattainable:

Officials with the Bush-Cheney ’04 re-election campaign are telling reporters that they expect to raise at least $170 million for next year’s presidential primaries. In inflation-adjusted dollars, that is more money than the combined amounts raised for the presidential primaries by Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992, and Bob Dole in 1996.

Go, CEOs! Grab an ever bigger slice of the pie! And give lots and lots of it to George W.! We hate ourselves! We love you! We're rooting for you!
Two top U.S. defense officials signaled Congress on Wednesday that U.S. forces might remain in Iraq for as long as a decade and that permanent facilities need to be built to house them there.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no explicit estimates for the time U.S. forces would stay in Iraq, but they did not dispute members of Congress who said the deployment could last a decade or more. The comments were among the most explicit acknowledgements yet from the Bush administration that the U.S. presence in Iraq will be long, arduous, costly and a strain on the military....

--USA Today

From The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, August 1, 2000:

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) Texas: ...What many of us have disagreed with the Clinton/Gore administration about is that there is no progress. There is no strategy. And I don't think Governor Bush as President would put our troops in harm's way ad infinitum and certainly with no exit strategy.

No -- of course he wouldn't.

(Thanks to Rational Enquirer for the USA Today link.)

Iraqis Were Set to Vote, but U.S. Wielded a Veto

NAJAF, Iraq, June 18 — American marines had built makeshift wooden ballot boxes. An Army reserve unit from Green Bay, Wis., had conducted a voter registration drive. And Iraqi political candidates had blanketed the city with colorful fliers outlining their election platforms — restore electricity, rehabilitate the old quarter, repave roads.

But last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.

Several days later, American marines stormed the offices of an obscure local political party here, arrested four members and jailed them for four days. The offense, the Americans said, was a violation of a new edict by Mr. Bremer that makes it illegal to incite violence against forces occupying Iraq.

Mohammed Abdul Hadi, an official in the party, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq, accused the United States of a double standard.

"Why do you apply these constraints on us in Iraq," he said, "and they are not being applied by the American government on Americans?"

The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis....

--New York Times
George W. Bush is a man who shares the values of ordinary Americans. You are expected not to dispute this, even when the facts suggest otherwise. Joe Rospars at the blog Not Geniuses explains here how The New York Times made sure that its readers would not indulge in incorrect thinking.
The right-wing New York Sun has this headline above the fold in today's edition:

Chalabi Lauds Capture of Iraqi 'Ace'

That's not a sidebar -- it's the only story on the front page about the capture of Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, Saddam's top aide.

I'll confess that I haven't read the story. I'm pointing it out because it makes me suspect that Ahmed Chalabi was forced to look for another U.S. media mouthpiece after Judith Miller of The New York Times was exposed as his press agent last month. If the Sun -- which nobody reads -- is the best he can do, things really aren't looking good for him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Today Cursor posted links to this L.A. Times story and this survey from Israel's Peace Now, both of which make the point that most Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories would leave peacefully if required to do so, asking only adequate financial compensation (many of them, apparently, because they're in the territories not for the politics, but for the inexpensive housing). That's reassuring -- up to a point. What concerns me is that the Peace Now survey finds this:

Only 6% of settlers said that they would struggle against such a decision even with illegal means including endangering themselves or their families;

Of this 6%, only one-third (or 2% of the total) may be identified as "extremist" according to all the parameters of the study in that they are willing to use force of arms against withdrawal

What worries me is that 6% -- or even 2% -- of the Jewish population is still an awful lot of people. The Jewish population in the territories is approximately 225,000 -- 2% of that number is about 4,500 people. If half of those are children and half of the remainder are just talking tough, that still leaves about a thousand settlers willing to go to extreme lengths to stay in the territories. That's enough people to make some serious trouble. These really could be the proverbial few bad apples who spoil things for everyone else.

I'm not trying to single out one side as the problem here -- I'm just trying to make the point that seemingly small slivers of the overall population on both sides can do real harm.

I have the feeling that Bush and his supporters don't really get this -- they seem to think that this problem can be solved if a real man takes it on, somebody who's demonstrated that he can deal out ass-kickings; they also seem to think that Clinton failed not because this is an extraodinarily difficult problem but because he was a peacenik degenerate. Alas, I suspect they'll learn otherwise.
It looks as if the right-wingers who are rooting for Governor Gray Davis to be recalled in California may not like the outcome if the recall effort succeeds.

Darrell Issa, the deep-pocketed car-alarm magnate who is pushing the recall effort so that he can become governor, is a Republican -- but not, apparently, a real Republican. A compilation of Issa quotes appears in a Free Republic thread -- and it looks as if Issa is an (ick!) moderate. Some Issa quotes:

We are not going to dramatically move this state to the right. That's impossible, and it would be imprudent."

"The next governor is going to have to be moderate."

"If we were to undo [the federal assault-weapons ban], it would simply make it more of a failure."

Oh, and he might accept a tax increase.

Meanwhile, according to LA Weekly, the best-known Republican who might replace Davis -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- "is pro-choice, pro–gay rights, pro–gun control, pro–immigrant rights, and speaks of his concern for the environment." And Warren Beatty is a friend and admirer.

Be careful what you wish for....
What sheep those people are! Can you believe they're actually buying the book by that sleazebag? Do they actually miss the 1990s? Didn't the adultery and the lying and the hypocrisy sicken them? Don't they realize that by buying the book they might be helping that sleazebag mount a political comeback? After all, we're talking about someone who desperately craves power....

I'm referring, of course, to the sheep who are buying Gettysburg, the new novel cowritten by Newt Gingrich. Bafflingly, it's on the new New York Times fiction bestseller list (the one that will appear on the Times Web site next Monday and in the paper the following Sunday), at #12.

Oh, and, needless to say, Hillary Clinton's Living History is the #1 book on the nonfiction list.

UPDATE: I see that Drudge has this "flash: HILLARY 'LIVING HISTORY' DEBUTS AT #1 NYT JUNE 29 LIST, SOURCES TELL DRUDGE; BLUMENTHAL'S 'CLINTON WARS' FALLS OFF LIST AFTER 3 WEEKS. He's right -- but the main list goes to 15 positions, and The Clinton Wars is right at the top of the "extended" list, at #16. This list covers sales through the end of last week; it's not clear what will happen when all the sports books do a post–Father's Day plummet on the next list.
So right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson has said on CNN that he'll eat his shoes if Hillary Clinton's book sells a million copies? Great. Anybody want to send him a copy of this?
You probably know that Judge David Sentelle, who just wrote the majority opinion upholding the suppression of the names of detained foreigners, is the guy who appointed Kenneth Starr to replace independent counsel Robert Fiske (after what he claims was an innocuous meeting with GOP senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth). Here's another tidbit about Sentelle that appears in James Carville's book on the Starr investigation, ...And the Horse He Rode In On:

...according to [the March 19, 1998, issue of] Rolling Stone magazine, not only did Sentelle refuse to resign his membership at some white-only private clubs during his confirmation hearing, he also penned the following words about country music for a 1981 book entitled Why the South Will Survive: "The main apeal of the music of the South is found among...the long-historied, little-loved descendants of the people who built half the civilized world -- the Anglo-Saxons."

Racism and whining -- what an appealing combination.