Sunday, August 31, 2003

The New York Times Magazine has a mini-interview with Mario Cuomo. It's mostly silly, but he knocks one question out of the ballpark:

What would you do if you were in their [the Democratic candidates'] shoes, taking on this president?

You say, you won two wars, but you won them with Clinton's armed forces, not your own. When Cheney after the war in 1991 as the secretary of defense, on behalf of President Bush, called President Reagan to say thank you for the armed forces that just defeated Saddam Hussein, that was the proper thing to do. Too bad you didn't call Clinton. Because you should have. By the rough criterion that says if you're there when they win the World Series, then you get the credit, well then, you get the credit. But when you were left all to your own in Afghanistan and Iraq to reconstitute the places by restructuring them, and building them, well, you've failed so far -- miserably. So the thing you were left to do on your own, you did poorly. And then we turn to the economy. Are we better off three years ago than we are now? Are you kidding?


This is somewhat worrisome:

In southern Berkshire County, [Massachusetts,] where second-home purchases comprise as much as 80 percent of sales, the average price for a single-family home fell to $256,507 in the second quarter of this year, down from $344,386 in the first quarter -- a 25 percent drop. In addition, days on market increased by 15 percent to 225 days from April through June, up from 196 days in January through March.

--Boston Globe yesterday

The Globe reports this cheerily, saying, in effect, "Hey, you can get a bargain on a posh weekend home near Tanglewood." The Globe also notes that the vacation-home market in the other hot spot in Massachusetts, Cape Cod, is still going great guns. Still, a 25% drop in one quarter is a big drop. I wonder if this is an early slow leak in the housing bubble. People from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts buy weekend houses in the Berkshires, and I haven't heard that employment among white-collar professionals in the region is noticeably worse than anywhere else. So what's up? Is this a bad sign? Are any other regions and economic strata going through something similar?

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Offline life calls. See you in a while.

Friday, August 29, 2003

One more thing from Bill Minutaglio's First Son (page 260 of the hardcover) -- a quote about George W.:

"He is not as ham-handed as the typical terrorist. He's much more of a stiletto as opposed to an ax murderer."

Now, who would have said that? Some squishy, NASCAR-hating, America-hating, bicoastal liberal squish?


It was said by Mary Matalin, and she meant it as a compliment.
It's apropos of nothing, but I've been meaning for a while to post this excerpt from Bill Minutaglio's George W. Bush biography, First Son. It's based on Minutaglio's interview with Israel Hernandez, a young aide who began working for Bush around the start of his 1994 campaign to unseat Ann Richards as governor of Texas. I think it says a lot about the most powerful man in the free world -- specifically, about his nicknaming habit, which is usually treated in the press as macho heartiness rather than, well, weird:

On the day of the first official Bush for Governor campaign announcement and the start of the twenty-seven-city tour, Bush and Hernandez stepped off the King Air plane dubbed Accountability One and began the drive through Houston to the hotel press conference....

Now Bush was cackling as the limousine sped downtown and the striking Houston skyline, an Oz on the Gulf Coast, began rising before them. Bush was trying to think of a nickname, something better than Israel. The new aide was worried, not saying the obvious: "Shouldn't you be thinking of your speech?" A satisfied sound to his voice, Bush announced it: "And your name is now ... Izzy!"

The bewildered aide asked, "Isn't that the Olympic mascot?"

Bush roared back: "No, no, no, your name is Izzy!"

As the Team Bush caravan pulled closer to the Houston hotel and the horde of reporters, Bush suddenly burst into song: "Izzy Fuzzy? Wazzy Fuzzy? Izzy?" His aide began singing with him.

Yeah, Bush made that speech, and won that election, and reelection, then sort of won the presidency. But this is bizarre.

(For those keeping score, this is on pp. 276 and 277 of the hardcover edition.)
Hard to say much about the horrific car bombing in Iraq --75 dead? 80 dead? Horrible.

Here's a New York Times/International Herald-Tribune story from last November on Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Iran-backed, anti-Saddam, essentially pro-U.S. Shiite cleric who was killed in the blast; here's a BBC profile from today; here's a March Christian Science Monitor story on his Badr Brigade.
[Dodgy] Dossier was part of strategy decided with Bush

Tony Blair decided to publish an intelligence-based dossier on Iraq's weapons programme in a strategy decided during a telephone conversation with President George Bush, the Hutton inquiry was told yesterday....

He said a "tremendous amount of information and evidence" was coming across his desk last summer about the "weapons of mass destruction and the programmes associated with it that Saddam had".

Every day, he said, stories appeared saying we were about to invade Iraq and that military action had been decided.

He added: "President Bush and I had a telephone call towards the end of that [August] break and we decided: look, we really had to confront this issue, devise our strategy and get on with it"....

James Dingemans QC, the inquiry counsel, later referred the prime minister to an email written by Jonathan Powell, the Downing Street chief of staff, on September 17, a week before the dossier was published. Mr Powell urged caution in the presentation of the dossier, warning against claims that Iraq posed a threat, let alone an imminent threat, to the west, or even to its Arab neighbours.

"You need to make it clear," Mr Powell told Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's communications director, and Sir David Manning, his foreign policy adviser, "Saddam could not attack us at the moment. The thesis is he would be a threat to the UK in the future if we do not check him."

Mr Dingemans pointedly asked the prime minister whether such comments were reflected in the dossier.

Mr Blair sidestepped the point....



UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot to mention that Alastair Campbell, accused sexer-upper of the dossier, has resigned.

The Arab street will erupt. Another perennial. This is often predicted but rarely happens. A swift, decisive victory over Saddam will quiet the Arab street.

--Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard, airily dismissing objections to the war, March 6, 2003

You can't underestimate the public perception both within Iraq and within the Arab world about the percentage of the force being so heavily American.

--General John P. Abizaid, top commander for U.S. forces in Iraq, explaining why it would be a bad idea to send more U.S. troops to Iraq now, in The New York Times, August 29, 2003


"The culture of the Iraqis has been a culture of fear that foreigners would take advantage of the country."

--Ahmed Chalabi, quoted in yesterday's New York Times

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Yikes -- Drudge is linking to this column (also available here) in which Richard Reeves speculates that Hillary Clinton may seriously be looking at a presidential run.

For the record, our new senator has said she was not interested in the presidency....Not for the record, though, Hillary and her advisers, including her husband the ex-president, her money men and pollsters, will meet shortly after Labor Day -- Sept. 6, I hear -- to discuss whether or not she should go for it.

I'm not sure how to feel about this. If she decided to go for it, the howls of outrage -- on the part of both right-wing jackals and the mainstream media -- would probably be so loud that she might never get a fair hearing. On the other hand, when she ran for the Senate she went straight to voters in one-stoplight towns, and she persuaded them she wasn't a psycho banshee from hell, and won handily.

And she does tend to poll fairly well against Bush.

Well, we'll see.
And if you've somehow missed it, read the Schwarzenegger orgy story.

Expect a blistering condemnation by fellow Republicans such as William Bennett any minute now.

(UPDATE: In the original version of the following entry I raised questions about the origin of an incorrect statement concerning author-to-be Dee Dee Benkie. I have since been told that the incorrect fact appeared erroneously and efforts have been made by Ms. Benkie and her agent to correct the error, which, the agent tells me, was made by a third party. See this post from September 18, 2003.)

OK, I'm going to be petty for a moment. Hey, it's my blog.

Publishers Lunch (subscription only) reports on a forthcoming book from John Wiley & Sons:

First female President of the National Young Republicans and former Special Assistant to top Bush White House advisor Karl Rove, now a political consultant and commentator, Dee Dee Benkie's RED, WHITE, AND YOU: HOW TO BE A BETTER AMERICAN....

It is, in fact, true that the soon-to-be-author of the unfortunately titled Red, White, and You is the unfortunately named Dee Dee Benkie, and it is true that she worked for Karl Rove and was president of (to give it its correct name) the Young Republican National Federation. Feel free to search for her name at the Young Republicans' Web site, the unfortunately named YROCK!

But let's talk about that other claim -- that she's the first female president of the organization. Er, not quite. The YROCK! site lists all the previous chairs of the Young Republicans. The chair for 1985–1987 was named Marilyn R. Hudson; in 1991–1993 Enid Greene was chair (she was subsequently a scandal-plagued Utah congresswoman); and Monica Samuels held the job in 1997–1999.

Is this funny?

"I am so smart my head hurts."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

("____ days without U.S. death" is brilliant.)

(Thanks to Phil and TBOGG for the link.)

This is funny. The pictures alone are pure genius.

(Thanks to Cursor for the link.)
Michael Dobbs has the story of the day in The Washington Post, "Halliburton's Deals Greater Than Thought" ("Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly available documents....The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed...").

But Dobbs stumbles once in the online discussion of the article that started about an hour ago. I response to one question, he writes,

...the LOGCAP program was bid back in 2001: Halliburton was one of three companies that submitted proposals to the Pentagon. At that time, of course, nobody could foresee that the U.S. would be fighting a war in Iraq in 2003, and there would be a huge demand for contracting services.

Surely he knows what utter bullshit that is.

Does anyone make a Bush mask that looks like this Blair mask? And if not, why not?

Just got an e-mail with Schwarzenegger's remark "gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

Another recipient of the e-mail, who's gay, replied to it: "See also Minnelli, Liza, and David Gest........"


It's interesting that (see below) there are three new left-leaning books on the New York Times bestseller list, because it looks as if the popularity of right-wing books is starting to slip just a little bit.

Yeah, Ann Coulter's book is going great guns, as did Michael Savage's book back in the fall and winter. Dereliction of Duty by Robert (Buzz) Patterson did well, and Dick Morris logged a couple of weeks on the Times list.

But Peter Robinson can't get onto the main list with How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life (it was #25 on the last list and it's #26 on this one), despite his many, many plugs for the book on National Review Online's ostensibly noncommercial blog (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Other books that "reached" the extended list but struggled and failed to reach the Top 15 were Carl Limbacher's Hillary's Scheme and James Hirsen's Tales from the Left Coast: True Stories of Hollywood's Stars and Their Outrageous Politics.

And never sighted at all on any portion of the Times list are the morally bankrupt John Lott's The Bias Against Guns; Ain't No Rag by grizzled country musician/amateur polemicist Charlie Daniels; the loony Laurie Mylroie's Bush vs. the Beltway; and Dads, Dames, Demons, and a Dwarf, the memoir by shock jock Mancow Muller, a righty favorite because he appears on the Fox News morning show Fox and Friends.

So maybe we as a nation have absorbed about as much right-wing prose bile as we can stand. Maybe the moment for these screeds is over.

Matt Drudge beat me to this, but yes, Al Franken Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is the #1 nonfiction hardcover on the new New York Times bestseller list (which should be posted on the Times Web site this weekend and will appear in the paper itself the following Sunday).

What's impressive is that the list covers sales in the week ending Saturday, August 23, but Lies didn't go on sale until Friday, August 22 -- its two-day sales beat every other book's seven-day sales.

Also new on the list are Joe Conason's Big Lies (at #11) and Jim Hightower's Thieves in High Places (at #13).

Maybe Random House and Penguin ought to start thinking about left-wing publishing imprints to go with their new right-wing imprints.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Yes, the Commandments monument got moved, and yes, that's a good victory -- but how many people in Alabama understand it? The one real poll I found, a Mobile Register-University of South Alabama survey from July, says 77% of Alabamans "approve" or "strongly approve" of the monument. The current issue of Church & State, the newsletter of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State (not available online yet), quotes a lawyer who joined the lawsuit against the monument who says she's "heard people say Judge Moore is the most popular man in the state"; the lawyer, by contrast, has had windows in her house broken and had to close her law office in Brewton when clients stopped showing up.

All we want is for these people to pray where their prayer doesn't suggest that their God is part of state authority. That gives them a hell of a lot of places to pray, and we never try to interfere with them in those places. If they think they have the inalienable right to turn the whole world into their church if they so please, could they at least grasp the concept that a reasonable person (or the Constitution) might believe that their freedom of worship has geographic limits, just as my freedom of speech doesn't allow me to mount a soapbox in their living rooms? Even if they disagree, could they please just try to get it?
The office of Independent Council Kenneth Starr held two more closed hearings in its investigation of President Clinton on Tuesday and refused to unseal the transcript of a July 28 hearing it also held in secret.

Starr said he might continue to close hearings if he thinks it necessary.

"There are matters that do not need to be discussed in public in ways that embarrasses or humiliates the government or the defense and particularly the court," he said.

No, that never happened, of course. But this just did.

I guess you're only entitled to save face when W. has personally given you a nickname.

(Thanks to Atrios and Skimble for the link.)
Two lesbians from Ithaca, New York, recently got married in Canada. The Ithaca Times reports:

Kelly says her family is Irish Catholic, so she wasn't sure how they would react to her sexual orientation. "When I came out it was really scary. God love them - they all showed up at my wedding and they cried their eyes out [because] it was a ceremony of love and affection," she says. "It was no longer just about the general fears about things that are out there, it was about Maureen and Lisa."

Someone named wideawake at Free Republic responds:

Her family is not Irish Catholic. It is Irish apostate.

Apparently they chose to prioritize their perverted daughter's basest lusts over God and His truth.

They will eventually be held accountable for their failure to do the right thing.

Yikes. You're just waiting for the punch line, some sign that this is a joke, and it never comes. This maniac is serious.

James Madison wrote this in 1785, in "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," in which he argued against a bill meant to levy a tax in Virginia in order to pay religious teachers:

...the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

Here's another excerpt: is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?


...the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

James Madison wrote that in 1785, in "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," in which he argued against a bill meant to levy a tax in Virginia in order to pay religious teachers. Here's another excerpt:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Don't like federal court decisions on church-state separation? Do what Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) did -- introduce a bill (the "Religious Liberties Restoration Act") declaring those decisions null and void!

(a) DISPLAY OF TEN COMMANDMENTS- The power to display the Ten Commandments on or within property owned or administered by the several States or political subdivisions of such States is among the powers reserved to the States, respectively.

(b) WORD `GOD' IN PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE- The power to recite the Pledge of Allegiance on or within property owned or administered by the several States or political subdivisions of such States is among the powers reserved to the States, respectively. The Pledge of Allegiance shall be, `I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and justice for all.'.

(c) MOTTO `IN GOD WE TRUST'- The power to recite the national motto on or within property owned or administered by the several States or political subdivisions of such States is among the powers reserved to the States, respectively. The national motto shall be, `In God we trust'.

And if this flies, maybe they'll get to work on repealing that Fourteenth Amendment...
The Commandments monument has been moved (within the building).

I note from the article that the zealots now want Bill Pryor to resign as Alabama's attorney general because he wouldn't go so far as to abet open defiance of a federal court order. Think the zealots will now back a Democratic filibuster of Pryor?
The same lovely people who e-mail me the New York Times bestseller list just sent me the San Francisco Chronicle list -- and Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is the new #1 nonfiction hardcover. You'll see the list here, though I'm not sure when (Sunday?).

Ilana Mercer, in a WorldNetDaily column entitled "Judge Moore and the Godless 14th Amendment," says we should repeal the Fourteenth so your state can establish a religion (and if you don't like the religion it establishes, tough noogies -- you should pack up and move):

If the Bill of Rights was intended to place strict limits on federal power and protect the individual from government, the 14th, in effect, defeated that purpose. What it did was to put the power to enforce the Bill of Rights in federal hands, where it was never intended to be.

Naturally, states can just as well violate individual rights. But, as Chodorov highlighted, there is no monopoly power behind a state's action. If a state wants to outlaw alcohol, then one can move to a state that doesn't. (That's one way for state legislators to ensure that their states will be as densely populated as the moon.) If a state wants to establish a religion, and its own constitution doesn't prohibit this, one can move to a state with a different constitution. Competition in government puts the brakes on folly and abuse and preserves freedom.

The 14th Amendment violated this balance, or as Felix Morley observed in "Freedom and Federalism," it nullified "the original purpose of the Bill of Rights, by vesting its enforcement in the national rather than in the state governments." This just about renders asunder the Ninth and 10th amendments – what powers do the states retain if the federal government has gobbled them all up?

When the federal government became the arbiter of individual rights – freedom of religion included – the doctrine of limitation of powers was badly damaged, if not destroyed. In the real world, as opposed to the arid arena of pure theory, government – especially centralized government – is the natural enemy of natural rights. Putting the central government in exclusive charge of protecting natural rights is the height of folly.

Judge Moore rightly proclaims his innocence in the Wall Street Journal. "The First Amendment says that 'Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed," he protests.

However, when the Justice proclaims, "The Ninth Amendment secured our right as a people. The 10th guaranteed our right as a sovereign state," he is neglecting that along came the 14th and did away with all that.

Justice Roy Moore has more on his hands than he bargained for, although his passions are well suited to begin the necessary groundswell that'll see the repeal of the 14th Amendment.

Heroin from Afghanistan is sweeping through Russia with drug trafficking operations extending across the nation's eleven time zones, a senior government official said Tuesday....

He said that about 70 percent of heroin in Russia originated in Afghanistan, which accounts for about three quarters of the world's opium, the raw material for producing heroin. The opium production in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since the fall of the hardline Taliban regime, which successfully suppressed production....

--Guardian, via AP

(Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link.)
From the Paul Bremer article in today's Washington Post:

Bremer met yesterday with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell before starting a vacation, taking his first days off since he was dispatched to run Iraq nearly four months ago.

Four months on the job and he gets a vacation? Anybody else have a deal like this?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Last week I caught Paul Bremer moving the goalposts regarding restoration of power in Iraq. Today yankeedoodle at Daily War News points out that Bremer now says Iraqi oil production will return to prewar levels by October 2004 (revised from September 2003 after that date was substituted for July 2003).

Well, now we have this prediction from Bremer's pals at the Iraqi Governing Council:

The head of a technical committee charged with working out procedures for drafting a new Iraqi constitution said his team would complete its work within one and a half months.

"The committee ... will shortly start consultations with broad segments of Iraqi society and meetings with influential figures, experts in constitutional law, political parties and religious dignitaries" to formulate a mechanism for the proposed constitutional assembly, Fuad Massum told reporters.

The committee's "mission will take a month, or a month and a half, but not more," following which it will present a report to the interim Governing Council, which formed the committee on August 11, he said....

The story's dated yesterday -- August 25. Forty-five days from that is October 9. Think these guys will finish up on schedule?

Don't bet the house.

(Thanks to Atrios for the Daily War News link.)
Billmon notes the remarkable concentration of left, liberal, and otherwise anti-conservative books on Amazon's nonfiction bestseller list.

As I write this, Al Franken is #1, Joe Conason is #2, the forthcoming Bushwhacked by Molly Ivins and Lou DuBose is #4, Jim Hightower is #6, Fast Food Nation is #7, Robert Baer's Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude is #8, Barbara Ehrenreich is #9, Michael Moore is #10, Greg Palast is #11, one of Noam Chomsky's 672,396 books (so far) is #12, Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear (an inspiration for Bowling for Columbine) is #20, Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States is #21, Rampton and Stauber's Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq is #22, and Eric Alterman is #23.

The righties have, er, Coulter, at #5.

"What more do I need to say? Conservative books sell. I can’t help it if liberal books don’t sell."

--Newt Gingrich, 1995

Gospel singer Gene Collett says he took a message from God and turned it into a song about accused serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph.

He has released "The Ballade of Eric Robert Rudolph" to 1,270 gospel and country radio stations.

"Right or wrong in what he's done, his race is over, now only in his mind are the sweet fields of clover," Collett sings in the chorus. "Rudolph has run, and where has he trod, now he faces Caesar but his final judge is God."

At least one radio station in Western North Carolina is interested in the song.

"We need to jump on that big time," said Vann Campbell, of WRKR 1320 AM in Murphy, the Cherokee County town where Rudolph was arrested May 31. "His song is really neutral. It's not overly judgmental and it doesn't make (Rudolph) out to be a hero." ...

--Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.)

Yeah, I guess you could say it's "neutral" -- if you assume that the line "now he faces Caesar but his final judge is God" is a general reference to the fallibility of human beings and not, you know, a prediction that if Rudolph is convicted God will say it was cool because his bombs targeted abortionists and gay people.

Secrecy and less than full cooperation on the part of the Blair government, as reported in yesterday's Guardian:

The government withheld from the Hutton inquiry pages from one draft of its dossier setting out the dangers Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed, it was revealed yesterday....

Yesterday the Hutton inquiry said that the government had not sent it three pages from the executive summary issued in Tony Blair's name of the September 16 version, drawn up eight days before the dossier was made public....

...The Cabinet Office did not respond when asked to comment about the missing dossier pages, nor did Downing Street when asked if it would release the witness statements of Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and other officials.

Apparently it's true that poodles resemble their masters.
Less than full cooperation in the U.K. on the part of the Blair government, as reported in yesterday's Guardian:

The government withheld from the Hutton inquiry pages from one draft of its [dodgy] dossier setting out the dangers Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed, it was revealed yesterday....

Yesterday the Hutton inquiry said that the government had not sent it three pages from the executive summary issued in Tony Blair's name of the September 16 version, drawn up eight days before the dossier was made public....

The Hutton inquiry said it was a matter for the Cabinet Office why the pages of the summary were missing.

A spokesman for Lord Hutton's inquiry said: "His lordship is considering the relevance of these pages. Should the inquiry team believe that these pages are relevant, the option remains open to them to make a request for them.

"The inquiry team is concerned at all stages that they receive all documents which are relevant to the inquiry they are conducting."

The spokesman also said that witness statements to the inquiry from Tony Blair, Geoff Hoon and Alastair Campbell, among others, could be kept secret for years.

"The witness statements are not a requirement of the process. The inquiry has received them under a duty of confidentiality. There are no plans to publish them. Individuals are free to permit the publication of their witness statements if they choose."

A large number are still being held back. Only three are for reasons of national security, the rest being witness statements, personal diaries and chronologies of events prepared by individuals, which are being kept back on "personal privacy grounds".

...The Cabinet Office did not respond when asked to comment about the missing dossier pages, nor did Downing Street when asked if it would release the witness statements of Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and other officials.

Apparently it's true that poodles resemble their masters.
In the Slate column I mentioned yesterday, Dahlia Litwick did cite the key Supreme Court decisions that undermine Judge Roy Moore's defense of his Ten Commandments doodad -- Everson v. Board of Education and Lemon v. Kurtzman. So maybe I shouldn't have criticized her for failing to address the argument advanced by Moore defenders such as Alan Keyes that there's no constitutional basis for rulings against Moore and the monument.

But Lithwick didn't mention the bridge used in Everson to get from the federal ban on established religion to a ban at the state level -- the Fourteenth Amendment, explicitly cited by Justice Hugo Black in Everson. Maybe Lithwick thought this was too obvious to mention. Maybe you think it's too obvious to mention. It isn't. America isn't exactly a nation of A+ civics students. Most of us don't know what's in our Constitution -- most of us haven't even read the damn thing. Do you think most of the demonstrators praying in Montgomery know what the Fourteenth Amendment says?

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And one of the laws covered by that "equal protection" clause is the First Amendment's disestablishment of religion.

So when Keyes asks,

Would somebody point out to me the law that this judge is basing his decision on? Because if I'm breaking the law, or if Judge Moore's breaking the law, I'd like to know which law it is. I'd like to know who passed it, I'd like to know where it's written! [cheering, applause]

...Where?! Where, I ask them, is the law that is being broken? Where is the Constitutional provision that is being defied?

there's the answer: the First Amendment, filtered through the Fourteenth.

Here's Justice Black, in Everson:

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."

(UPDATE: Atrios beat me to the punch on this, as he so often does, and he added a nice quote from Alabama's own constitution regarding church-state separation.)

Front-page, above-the-fold lead story in today's print USA Today:

Postwar deaths match war toll

WASHINGTON — With the confirmation Monday of the 276th U.S. military death in Iraq, the Pentagon passed an unpleasant milestone.

The fatality brought the number of dead since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1 to 138, equal to the number who died during the war....

AP notes that the "post"-war death toll is actually 139 -- more than the death toll "during" the war.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Fox has dropped its lawsuit against Al Franken, in its usual mature fashion:

"It's time to return Al Franken to the obscurity that he's normally accustomed to," Fox News spokeswoman Irena Steffen said.

OK, I'm not "fair and balanced" anymore.

And please, Fox News: Grow up.
I wish Dahlia Lithwick and Alan Keyes weren't speaking past each other. Lithwick, in Slate, tries to summarize established legal precedents on the issue of church-state separation. But she refers to what "the state" can do regarding establishment of religion. Keyes, in a speech in defense of Judge Roy Moore, says the federal government can't establish a religion but any state or community bloody well can if it feels like it.

There might be states in which they require a religious test or oath of office. There might be states in which they have established churches, where subventions are given to schools and so forth to teach the Bible. There might be places where you and I might disagree with the religion some folks wanted to put in place over their communities. But guess what the Founders believed? They believed that people in their states and localities had the right to live under institutions they would put together to govern themselves according to their faith....

We have the right to live in communities--and that means the people in Alabama can live in this state. And you know how come I know that this is so, that the First Amendment didn't intend to destroy this right, that in fact such communities could exist, such states could exist? Because at the time the First Amendment was passed, at the time they put it on the books in the first place, there were a majority of states in the United States--at the time, the former colonies--where there were religious tests and oaths of office, where there were, in fact, established churches.

This is a scary argument. It also might be a persuasive argument, especially to the many people in this country who are very pro-religion and not particularly focused on religious pluralism. Quite a number of these people aren't conservative or otherwise intolerant -- they may well have just grown up in religiously homogeneous communities, or they feel religion is like vitamins, something everyone could use a lot of, something you'd be foolish to deny yourself under any circumstances. These people don't get this fight, and I'm afraid our side doesn't work hard enough at trying to explain why the law is on our side and why establishment of religion is bad for society.

So, Dahlia, how about a follow-up column on what Keyes is saying -- why can't a state or a community have a state religion? No contempt for people who agree with him, please -- just give us the legal precedents straight. Call it "Church-State Separation for Dummies." A lot of people need this stuff spelled out, starting with the most basic information.
President George W. Bush’s approval ratings continue to decline. His current approval rating of 53 percent is down 18 percent from April. And for the first time since the question was initially asked last fall, more registered voters say they would not like to see him re-elected to another term as president (49 percent) than re-elected. Forty-four percent would favor giving Bush a second term; in April, 52 percent backed Bush for a second term and 38 percent did not.

That's from a Newsweek story. The story focuses on Americans' opinions on Iraq -- which aren't optimistic:

SIXTY-NINE PERCENT of Americans polled say they are very concerned (40 percent) or somewhat concerned (29 percent) that the United States will be bogged down for many years in Iraq without making much progress in achieving its goals. Just 18 percent say they’re confident that a stable, democratic form of government can take shape in Iraq over the long term; 37 percent are somewhat confident. Just 13 percent say U.S. efforts to establish security and rebuild Iraq have gone very well since May 1, when combat officially ended; 39 percent say somewhat well.

Nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, say they are very concerned that the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq will lead to a large budget deficit and seriously hurt the U.S. economy. And 60 percent of those polled say the estimated $1 billion per week that the United States is spending is too much and the country should scale back its efforts. One-third supports the current spending levels for now, but just 15 percent of those polled say they would support maintaining the current spending levels for three years or more.

(Thanks to Rational Enquirer for the link.)
Gary Hart for Senate in Colorado? Why the hell not? Why can't Hart come back when a philanderer like Gingrich can get a government job that gives him a platform to tell Colin Powell how to run the State Department? Hart can't come back merely because of adultery, but it was OK to bring back constitutional criminals Elliott Abrams and (until recently) Robert Poindexter? Yeah, why not Gary Hart?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

James Risen can't bring himself to say so, but if you read his review in The New York Times of the new book by neocon and former Judith Miller collaborator Laurie Mylroie, it becomes clear that Mylroie is crazy as a loon.

It’s not merely that she believes Saddam Hussein was behind the September 11 attacks, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and virtually every other terrorist acts in recent memory -- it’s this:

She suggests that key Qaeda leaders who have been captured by the United States may only be posing as Qaeda leaders: they could actually be Iraqi intelligence agents who are way, way undercover. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda's chief of operations and the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and who is now in American custody, may not really be Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He could be an Iraqi intelligence agent secretly sent to run Al Qaeda by Saddam Hussein. Ramzi Yousef, the man behind the first World Trade Center bombing and a 1995 plot to blow up American airliners over the Pacific, who now sits in a federal prison, also may be an Iraqi agent. have been stolen for use by Iraqi intelligence agents during Baghdad's occupation of Kuwait in 1990.

I run into a lot of people here in New York City who think prominent figures in the news have been replaced by doubles. Most of these people sleep on the street in refrigerator boxes and think aliens are reading their thoughts.
Joseph Biddle, deputy national finance director for Howard Dean's presidential campaign, affirmed his partnership with David Allan Warner in a civil union ceremony Vermont on Friday night. Here's their New York Times announcement. Mazel tov.
If you read Paul Krugman’s Friday column about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s economic non-plan back to back with stories about the administration's desperate attempt to avoid increasing troop strength in the U.S. military (see, e.g., the lead story in today'sNew York Times, or this AP story), you realize that what P. J. O’Rourke said in the early ‘90s is exactly wrong.

O’Rourke said that God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat. Isn't it abundantly clear now that the Republicans are now the Santa Claus party -- the party that believes that you can regularly get something for nothing, without sacrifice?

Schwarzenegger thinks California can be extracted from its economic tailspin without new taxes or painful spending cuts; Rumsfeld and his generals say that the U.S. can be the world’s policeman without any extra money being spent on troops. This is infantile thinking -- Santa Claus thinking.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

I mentioned this when the report was leaked, but now AP reports on the release of the EPA inspector general's report on Ground Zero air quality after 9/11:

EPA told to lie about WTC air

The Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog says White House officials pressured the agency to prematurely assure the public that the air was safe to breathe a week after the World Trade Center collapse.

The agency's initial statements in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not supported by proper air quality monitoring data and analysis, EPA's inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, says in a 155-page report released late Thursday.

An e-mail sent just one day after the attacks, from then-EPA Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher's chief of staff to senior EPA officials, said "all statements to the media should be cleared" first by the National Security Council, the report says.

Approval from the NSC, which is chaired by President Bush and serves as his main forum for discussing national security and foreign policy matters with his senior aides and Cabinet, was arranged through an official with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the report said.

That council, which coordinates federal environmental efforts, in turn "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones," the inspector general found....

A story in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, N.Y.) has more:

Hudson Valley air quality specialists, doctors and Ground Zero workers knew from the beginning that the Environmental Protection Agency was not entirely truthful about air quality in Manhattan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Consider the evidence:

-A study conducted two days after the attack showed that the air quality at Ground Zero had the same pH as Drano....

-... local environmental engineer who attended those classified meetings said there were at least 180,000 pounds of freon stored in the Twin Tower basements for the air conditioning system. When freon is vaporized, it becomes phosgene.

Phosgene is a chemical weapon used during World War I....

As I said, I could smell a chemical stench near Ground Zero as late as December. None of this surprises me.
So I guess Al Franken won, just like that, unless Fox stupidly pursues the case:

"There are hard cases and there are easy cases," U.S. District Judge Denny Chin told Fox's lawyers Friday. "This is an easy case in my view and wholly without merit, both factually and legally."...

At a hearing Friday, Dory Hanswirth argued that consumers would see a photo of Fox TV pundit Bill O'Reilly on Franken's book cover and be confused. "It's a deadly serious cover, and it's using Fox News to sell itself," she said.

Chin appeared skeptical of her argument, interrupting her to say, "The president and vice president are also on the cover, are they not? Is someone going to think they're also affiliated with Fox?"...

After the ruling, Franken thanked Fox, saying the lawsuit's publicity had boosted sales. "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life," he told The Associated Press.

I never did understand the legal point of the anti-Franken trash-talk in Fox's brief. The only explanation that made any sense was that O’Reilly is Fox News’s cash cow, so it actually seems worth it to Murdoch to have his lawyers waste their time preparing briefs that are utterly useless in court, just to keep the blowhard happy.

Or does it just not matter anymore to these movement conservatives if they win their legal cases? If you listen to the Tavis Smiley Show audio link I posted last night, you can hear Ayesha Ali of Americans United for Separation of Church and State wondering about the strategy of the lawyers defending Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments monument. She says they made no effort to use legal arguments that might have won his case -- presumably because Moore would rather lose defending theocracy than win by arguing that the monument doesn’t represent theocracy.

These guys aren’t even trying to win. They’re grandstanding -- playing to a sympathetic segment of the public the way lefty radicals did back when they used to say things like “Not guilty under the terms of your fascist, imperialistic laws, Your Honor,” and sometimes made a circus of their own trials. Judge Moore is doing it because he is, in fact, a right-wing radical; Fox is playing to a peanut gallery of right-wing radicals who want the status quo destroyed, or pissed on, while they watch on TV.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who's now suspended, keeps saying (for instance, on Fox News last night) that his fight to preserve the 5300-pound granite Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama judicial building is required of him by the state constitution:

The point is it's not about violation of order, it's about violation of my oath of office. And my oath of office to the Constitution requires an acknowledgment of God. It's that simple.

These Moore supporters explain (emphasis theirs):

The preamble to Alabama’s Constitution reads, “We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama.”

Upon being sworn in as the Chief Justice of Alabama, Roy Moore pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the state of Alabama.

Here's my question: Would Moore and his supporters say that every previous Alabama chief justice who didn't have a 5300-pound granite Ten Commandments monument placed in the rotunda of the Alabama judicial building was failing to uphold the state constitution? Is having a 5300-pound granite Ten Commandments monument placed in the rotunda of the Alabama judicial building specifically required by the constution of the state? Would Judge Moore say that a granite monument weighing a mere 5000 pounds, or 4000 pounds, would pass constitutional muster, or is 5300 pounds the minimum acceptable weight?


Incidentally, the extremist former presidential candidate Alan Keyes is a Moore supporter. Give a listen to his rather hysterical defense of Moore on The Tavis Smiley Show. If I understand Keyes's argument, he believes that it would be permissible for each and every one of the fifty states to establish a state religion if it so desires -- the Constitution, he argues, prohibits only the establishment of a national religion. Apparently U.S. citizenship is not, according to Keyes, truly a shield against theocracy.
I guess Schwarzie doesn't have coattails:

Bush's approval rating in California is no higher than 53%. Support for Bush's Iraq policy is no higher than 52%. And only 42% of Californians would vote to reelect Bush. AP summarizes two new polls.
There are charges of sexed-up Iraq intelligence in Australia, too:

The Australian government lied about the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify its involvement in the U.S.-led war, an official inquiry into intelligence on Iraq was told on Friday.

A former senior intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie, who resigned in March in protest over Australia's case for war, said Prime Minister John Howard, a close U.S. ally, created a mythical Iraq by dropping ambiguous references in intelligence reports.

"The government lied every time it skewed, misrepresented, used selectively and fabricated the Iraq story...The exaggeration was so great it was pure dishonesty," Wilkie, formerly of the Office of National Assessment (ONA), told the inquiry.

The ONA is equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency....


Wilkie asserted, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that,

In particular, the public was misled when the Government linked the war in Iraq to the "war on terrorism" and al-Qaeda, talked about Iraq's efforts to restart its nuclear program and spoke of "massive" weapons programs.

There seems to have been a lot of that going around.

Not that you couldn't have guessed, but the folks who may well have caused the recent blackout are in bed with Bush, as Joe Conason points out in The New York Observer:

While Kenneth (Kenny Boy) Lay may no longer be in a position to raise money and conceive policy for George W. Bush and Tom DeLay, other influential executives remain eager to fulfill his role. Among them was Anthony J. Alexander of Ohio’s First Energy Corp., the firm whose failing transmission lines near Lake Erie seems to have kicked off the blackout. As a deregulation enthusiast and loyal Republican, Mr. Alexander raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, thus earning distinction as a "Bush Pioneer."

All of the hundred or so checks delivered from First Energy’s donors to the G.O.P.’s accounts were marked with an "industry code"—and in due course, the grateful recipients of the company’s largesse appointed Mr. Alexander to the Bush administration’s Energy Transition Team. (That favor must have been particularly gratifying to him, since the departing Clinton administration had sued First Energy for violating the Clean Air Act.) Whether he also showed up as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force remains a mystery, since the administration still refuses to disclose any of the task force’s documents. But public records show that First Energy’s executives and political-action committee have given about $2 million to (mainly Republican) politicians since 1999.

Today's New York Times has more:

In the 2002 federal elections, FirstEnergy's political action committee more than doubled spending from 1998, to $246,200. The company and its employees made more than $1 million in federal contributions in that cycle, with 70 percent going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The company's top two officers, Anthony Alexander, the president, and H. Peter Burg, the chief executive and chairman, have been major fund-raisers for President Bush.

In 2001, FirstEnergy was one of several big utilities that hired Haley Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, to lobby the Bush administration to encourage the president to back down from a campaign pledge to set limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. Mr. Barbour sent a letter in March 2001 to Vice President Dick Cheney on behalf of the utilities, questioning whether environmental policy "still prevails over energy policy with Bush-Cheney, as it did with Clinton-Gore."

Two weeks later, Mr. Bush announced he would not support legislation capping carbon dioxide emissions. His staff denied industry lobbying had played a role.

Read that whole Times article, by the way. Choice quotes:

Boric acid [at FrirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuclear plant] had seeped through cracks in plant control rods that pass through to the highly radioactive zone, where superpressurized water is used to cool the plant while it is creating energy. In fact, investigators found that the acid had eaten through the carbon steel part of the reactor vessel head, leaving only a thin stainless steel lining intact. Yet a backup system intended to cool the nuclear fuel in the event of a breach in the reactor vessel was handicapped because an undersize drainage screen could easily become blocked.

Taken together, what had been created is now widely considered the most serious nuclear plant incident in the nation since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

And, on a lighter note:

[FirstEnergy's] New Jersey subsidiary has come under fire for frequent blackouts, for inadequate maintenance and for allowing stray electricity to run through the ground, leaving residents of Brick, N.J., tingling when they step into pools and Jacuzzis.

OK -- mini-emergency essentially dealt with.
I was managing to do this through work stress, a blackout, and the visits of a couple of houseguests, but a mini-emergency has been thrown into the mix, so blogging will be light to nonexistent for a day or two. Hope to see you soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Rudolph Giuliani is going to campaign for Bill Simon in California. Or so says National Review Online's The Corner, citing CNN.

Two years ago, even a year ago, I think this would have mattered. Giuliani singlehandedly saved a city, they said, then Giuliani was a 9/11 hero. But Arnold kills aliens. In Hollywood movies. So it's no contest.
His fellow state Supreme Court justices, the governor, and Attorney General Bill Pryor all tell Judge Roy Moore that it's time to, you know, obey the law.

All they want to do is move the damn thing to a part of the building that's not public. That's not acceptable for Moore.

Last night a "plywood-like" partition was put around the monument. Moore rode to the rescue:

Moore's spokesman, Tom Parker, said Moore was out of town for a family funeral but decided to return to Montgomery when he learned the monument had been walled from public view.

Hey, relatives die every day -- but if plywood is put around the monument, there'll be no conceivable way anyone in the state of Alabama will be able to read the Ten Commandments. Or something like that.
Atrios cites this story, in which an official in Britain's Foreign Office recounts a conversation he had in February with Dr. David Kelly, the now-deceased weapons expert:

Mr Broucher added: "As David Kelly was leaving, I said to him 'what do you think will happen if Iraq is invaded?'. "His reply was, which at the time I took to be a throwaway remark, he said 'I will probably be found dead in the woods'."

The Guardian has a story that's longer and more detailed but doesn't dispel the notion that Dr. Kelly really might have been foreseeing exactly what happened to him.

Reading The New York Times last Sunday, I was struck by the fact that The Times's Alan Cowell described Dr. Kelly's death as "apparently" a suicide. I guess that qualification may be entirely justified.

As I watch the Ten Commandments spectacle in Alabama and the recall spectacle in California, I find myself wishing our side had some poker-faced pranksters who could have used recent events to tweak a few right-wing noses.

Here's the prank I have in mind: During the candidate registration process in California, I wish someone had tried to register, as a candidate for governor, Jesus Christ -- carefully submitting the requisite paperwork, signatures, and cash. The state of California, presumably, would have refused to put Jesus Christ on the ballot -- after all, He isn't a California resident.

That's where the fun could have started. Our team of pranksters could then sue to get Christ on the ballot. The premise of the suit would be that Christ, as the Son of God, is everywhere, resident in all true believers' hearts, and therefore a resident of the Golden State. There would be much talk of the perils of rejecting God's law in favor of man's law. A Web site would be set up, and a legal defense fund. Press releases would go to talk radio, Christian radio, Fox News, and Free Republic. Prayer vigils would take place in Sacramento. There would be civil disobedience.

Before our pranksters acknowledged that they'd pulled a prank, how many Americans would actually have fallen for this? How many Americans would have considered it a terrific idea? Would there have been copycats? Possibly even a movement to see to it that Christ's name is on every ballot in America? Would Sean Hannity and Dr. Laura have endorsed it? Rick Santorum? Joe Lieberman? Bush?

Damn -- I'm sorry we'll never find out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Twenty-one protestors arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, in a demonstration in support of Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments doohickey.

Please, folks -- pray as much as you want. Construct all the religious stuff you want to construct. Shout "Praise Jesus!" from the housetops. Just make sure you're doing it from your housetops. If my tax money goes to pay for a building, let's keep it neutral, by mutual agreement. Is that so bloody difficult to understand?

Well, it probably is for people who can't even get past the first letter when trying to spell "Iraq."
At a time when a lot of people on the right want the Constitution to be amended to include a biblical definition of marriage, Alex Frantz of the blog Public Nuisance gives us a marriage amendment that's actually based on the Bible:

1 Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives.

2 A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden.

3 Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce.

4 If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law.

Go here for Alex's full post, which includes chapter-and-verse citations from the Good Book and extensive commentary.

(Thanks to Calpundit for the link.)
UK Officials Wanted to Gag Expert on Iraq Dossier

Government documents released on Wednesday show top British officials tried to stop a scientist airing doubts on a Iraqi weapons dossier on which Prime Minister Tony Blair based the case for war.

The documents emerged in an inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, sucked into the heart of a furious row between Blair's government and the BBC over whether intelligence was "sexed up" for political ends....

An official note, written on July 14, the day before Kelly was due to testify to a parliamentary committee, made clear that Kelly would be told to keep his views to himself....

"DCDI is to brief Dr Kelly this afternoon for his appearance tomorrow before the FAC and ISC and will strongly recommend that Kelly is not drawn on his assessment of the dossier," read the note, which was shown to the inquiry.

Separate documents revealed that the top civil servant at Britain's Ministry of Defense had said at a meeting in Blair's office one week earlier that some of Kelly's views would be awkward for the government.

"If he was summoned to give evidence, some of it might be uncomfortable on specifics such as the likelihood of there being weapons systems ready for use within 45 minutes," the defense civil servant said at the meeting.

The inquiry heard how Blair's official spokesmen proposed ways to tighten the draft dossier's evidence on Saddam Hussein's intent to use banned weapons.

"The weakness obviously is our inability to say that he (Saddam) could pull the nuclear trigger any time soon," Tom Kelly [no relation to David] said in one of many e-mails written by Downing Street staff and shown to the inquiry....


So was it known in the British government that the 45-minute claim was a crock? Yes. Did the government promulgate this lie anyway? Yes. Did David Kelly believe it was a crock? Clearly he did.

So why was the War Party telling us a couple of weeks ago that this was all a fabrication on the part of out-of-control, libelous Saddam-lovers at the BBC?

[Coulter] said the real danger, if any, is 2008.

"I don’t know who we’re going to run, and the Republican Party has a history of running people who they
think are electable, like Gerald Ford, George Bush Sr. and Bob Dole. That is how you can have another Hillary Presidency."

--George Gurley and Lauren A. E. Schuker, "My Dinner with Ann," in the current New York Observer
Four wives of men killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 taught themselves how the government works. Within less than two years, they were asking tougher questions than most Beltway journalists (or Democratic politicians):

"I don’t understand, with all the warnings about the possibilities of Al Qaeda using planes as weapons, and the Phoenix Memo from one of your own agents warning that Osama bin Laden was sending operatives to this country for flight-school training, why didn’t you check out flight schools before Sept. 11?"

"Do you know how many flight schools there are in the U.S.? Thousands," a senior agent protested. "We couldn’t have investigated them all and found these few guys."

"Wait, you just told me there were too many flight schools and that prohibited you from investigating them before 9/11," Kristen persisted. "How is it that a few hours after the attacks, the nation is brought to its knees, and miraculously F.B.I. agents showed up at Embry-Riddle flight school in Florida where some of the terrorists trained?"

"We got lucky," was the reply....

They keep getting stonewalled, of course, but they're fighting the good fight. Read about them here.

The FBI said on Wednesday the bomb that ripped through U.N. headquarters here was made from 1,000 pounds of old munitions including one single 500 pound bomb, all of the materials from Saddam Hussein's prewar arsenal that required no "great degree of sophistication" to build....

"We believe it (the bomb) was made from existing military ordnance. ... I cannot say that it required any great degree of sophistication or expertise to create," Fuentes told The Associated Press....

--AP story today

What a great war plan we had: Race to Baghdad for a quick win, and don't worry about having adequate personnel to secure (or even find) weapons caches as cities were taken, or immediately after the capital fell.

There are plenty of stories from April about unsecured weapons caches, though most of the stories focus on Iraqis either arming themselves with looted guns or possibly exposing themselves to radioactive material. But here's a story (datelined Mosul) about Marines who didn't have the tools to prevent looting:

"When we arrived in Mosul April 11th, [the Iraqi] Fifth Corps' ammunition supply point was wide open for anyone who wanted weapons and ammunition," said the Force Recon platoon commander, Capt. Andrew Christian, 33, of Neenah, Wisc. "With no one to guard those large weapons caches and most of their locks having been cut, broken or smashed, crates of rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), mortar rounds, shoulder-fired missiles, explosives, assorted ammunition and small arms were rapidly disappearing," he said.

With security in post-war Iraq a key requirement for large-scale reconstruction efforts, preventing these kinds of weapons and ammunition from ending up in the hands of terrorist groups or supporters of the former regime is of prime concern. For this reason, the Marines and U.S. Special Forces here have strived to stop the looting of hundreds of stockpiles of ammunition and weapons and to retake these items from looters as they come across them during their numerous patrols throughout the city....

"I wish that we could have done a little bit more here," said Sgt. Travis Haley, 27, a Force Recon operator from Dunnellon, FL. "We brought a smaller slice of the MEU than we usually do, so we were without our Cobras [AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters] and many of our ground vehicles. We had a lot of potential to do great things, such as securing the armories and bunkers, but simply not the personnel and close air support to meet our capabilities."

With the arrival of the 101st Airborne Division from Baghdad and their mechanized vehicles and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, I would expect that the ammunition supply point would be secured within the next 24 hours said Christian. "The 101st have been doing numerous 'gun runs' with the Apaches and their vehicles are now all over the area, so those illegal activities that we saw early on should cease," he said.

--Marine Corps News, April 24, 2003

I never tire of going back to Fred Barnes's March 6 column in The Weekly Standard, "The Peacenik Top 10: A Look at the Ten Most Popular Objections to War and Some Common-Sense Responses to Them." Barnes's #3 was

War with Iraq will bring more terrorism.

Here was his response:

This is a hardy perennial. It was claimed before the Gulf war and the Afghanistan campaign--and when bombs fell on al Qaeda and the Taliban during Ramadan. Rather than more terrorism, removing Saddam will bring more respect for the United States. Terrorists will be increasingly fearful.

Hope you didn't have money on that prediction, Fred.
Well, that's it -- I'm dropping all of my objections to the big lug's campaign: It says here that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been endorsed for governor by Oakland's own M.C. Hammer. Hey, that's all I need to know -- Schwarzie's my man now.

(Just kidding, folks.)

(The link I gave you apparently links to an item in the August 13 "Peachbuzz" column at the Atlanta-Journal Contitution's Access Atlanta site, but that link seems to have expired.)
There are terrible things happening in the world, but to a lot of Americans the most important event of the week is Judge Roy Moore's refusal to remove his Ten Commandments monument by today (the court-ordered deadline). I learn from Free Republic that talk-radio pottymouth Michael Savage is lining up behind the judge, and Savage's Web site confirms this (scroll down), although the decision to hook up with the judge looks an awful lot like an attempt to scarf up more cash for Savage's "Paul Revere Society." Incidentally, here's the Paul Revere Society's "8-point program," as it appears on Savage's home page:

1. End Affirmative Action.
2. Close the Borders now.
3. Deport all illegal immigrants now.
4. Eliminate bilingual education in all states.
5. Require health tests for all recent foreign born immigrants.
6. Make tax cuts permanent.
7. Reduce the number of Federal Employees.
8. Tort Reform - Stop Class Action Lawyers.

Yeah, that sounds a lot like the Ten Commandments, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

A reader points out that I may have been naive to believe a claim made by that Ten Commandments-lovin’ judge, Roy Moore of Alabama -- and Fox News may also have been naive.

The judge told Fox that the state of Alabama has spent $125 million to defend the massive Commandments monument he’s had installed in the state judicial building; I quoted his claim in this post.

As my reader points out, $125 million is a hell of a lot of money -- by comparison, Kenneth Starr’s investigation cost maybe $70 million. Americans United for Separation of Church & State has noted that the state’s attorney general, William Pryor, now a Bush judicial nominee, arranged legal help for Judge Moore, but private citizens paid for that help. Even if they hadn’t, though, as my reader points out, $125 million “would represent the full-time services of a team of 25 lawyers working exclusively on this case for a period of five years.”

Why would the judge exaggerate like this? After all, he lives in a deficit-ridden, tax-hating state, and he's claiming to have been responsible for huge government expenditures. Is this innumeracy? Is it some sort of delusion of grandeur? Or does the judge think Alabamans really don't hate taxes under all circumstances -- that they'd be happy to support Big Government if Big Government were in the service of the Big Guy Upstairs? And, if so, is he right about that?

Or could it be that he really has managed to cause the state to spend more than Ken Starr spent to investigate everything Bill Clinton ever did in his adult life? And if so, how did he do it?
If you follow right-wing thinking, you know that recently righties have been propounding what's called the "flypaper theory" to explain Bush administration policy in Iraq, and Bush's "bring 'em on" taunt in particular. Joshua Micah Marshall explains the theory (citing this essay by David Warren):

The thinking goes something like this. These guerilla engagements we're seeing in Iraq may not be such a bad thing. What we're doing is attracting all the terrorists to Iraq (i.e., like "flypaper") so that a) they won't be attacking us in America and b) we can fight them there on our own terms.

For a while, the righties almost seemed to have a case -- one could be cold-blooded and say that our casualty level in Iraq was "acceptable," and it was better to have U.S. soldiers in the line of fire than stateside civilians.

But that line of thinking seems like utter bullshit today, doesn't it?
An explosion rocked a bus in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, leaving a number of casualties, police and rescue services said.

Police said it was not yet known if a bomb was planted or it was a suicide bombing.


In Slate (scroll down to the Sunday entry), Mickey Kaus wonders aloud whether Schwarzenegger is a bully:

Schwarzenegger's reputation, meanwhile--which I've heard from one reliable source, one eyewitness ultra-reliable source, and one unreliable Premiere article-- is this: He bullies people "below the line." That is, he bullies the technicians, costumers, etc. who aren't billboardable talents. Is it to get his way? No--he's the star and he's going to get his way anyway. It's from an ugly sense of pleasure in others' discomfort. ...

Kevin Drum at CalPundit also wonders about this (here and here) and Robert Garcia Tagorda at Boomshock adds his own speculations (here) -- but I find it interesting that when talking about bullying, Kaus, Drum, and Tagorda never bring up allegations that Schwarzenegger gropes women who don't want to be groped.

I've previously linked Salon's summary of a 1991 Premiere story that says Arnold groped a female crew member on a movie set, as well as a British tabloid story that discusses several Schwarzenegger groping incidents (at least one of which occurred on British television). In yesterday's edition of London's Evening Standard Wendy Leigh repeated some of the same charges:

Most notably, Arnold has developed an apparent penchant for groping nubile young women. This has even extended to fondling the breasts of his Terminator co-star Linda Hamilton — in front of Hamilton’s then-boyfriend, Terminator producer James Cameron.

And when Arnold came to London in 2000, his behaviour led insiders to label him ‘the octopus’.

When TV presenter Anna Richardson interviewed Arnold for Big Screen at the Dorchester Hotel, he asked her pointblank if her breasts were real. He then pulled her onto his knee, circled her nipple with his finger, squeezed it and announced: ‘Yeah, they are real.’

And when Denise Van Outen interviewed him for The Big Breakfast, he slapped her bottom then brushed his arm against her breast. Afterwards, he smirked: ‘It was a handful. I never know if my wife’s watching. I’ll tell her it was a stuntman.’

If these stories are true, Schwarzenegger's using power -- star power and the power that comes from fear of physical force -- to get away with mini-sexual assaults. Doesn't this qualify as bullying?

(Thanks to BuzzFlash for the Evening Standard link.)
A car bomb caused the explosion at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday which wrecked the complex and caused scores of casualties, the U.S. military said.

"We can confirm that there was a car bombing at the Canal Hotel at 4:30 p.m.," a U.S. military spokeswoman told Reuters. The U.N. uses the hotel as its headquarters.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Paul Bremer moves the goalposts just a wee bit:

The total – the total amount of power available [in Iraq] once we get to pre-war levels is about 4,000 megawatts ... we’ve been working our way up and we’re going to continue to work our way up and the next 60 days we’ll get to 4,000.

--Bremer's conference call with editorial writers, July 23, 2003

On restoring power, we expect to restore power to the pre-war level, and that's the maximum there is here, in the next six weeks, by the end of September ... we will be back at pre-war levels here in the next six to eight weeks.

--Bremer on CNN's Live from the Headlines today

I'll do the math for you: Sixty days from the time of the first statement is September 21. Six weeks from today is September 29. Eight weeks from today is October 13.

It must be driving the right-wingers nuts that Detroit went through an extended blackout last week without looting, and its mayor is an earring-wearing, hip-hop-admiring Democrat named Kwame.

(Although it should be noted that Hizzoner is a DLCer.)
Atrios links this post (from Michael at a blog called A Minority of One), which recounts a rally last week in support of that huge granite Ten Commandments monument Judge Roy Moore had installed in Alabama's judicial building. Thousands of people attended. Michael notes this CNN story, which points out that a former Moore supporter, Alabama attorney general William Pryor -- yes, the Bush judicial nominee -- is distancing himself from Moore, saying he won't help Moore violate the court order that requires him to remove the monument. (This is probably a wise choice for a would-be federal judge, though it's too little, too late, considering that, as an employee of the state, Pryor formerly arranged for teams of lawyers in private practice to help Moore in his legal fight).

It should be noted that many of the people at the Ten Commandments protest were there to proclaim their opposition to GOP Governor Bob Riley's attempt to do the right thing and raise much-needed tax revenue. AS The Washington Post reports, Riley

says the state should act to improve schools funded at the nation's lowest level per child and to lift the tax burden from poor people, who pay income taxes starting at $4,600 a year for a family of four while out-of-state timber companies pay $1.25 an acre in property taxes. The changes would move Alabama from 50th to 44th in total state and local taxes per capita, he says.

The paper notes that Alabama's tax system currently "imposes an effective rate of 3 percent on the wealthiest Alabamians and 12 percent on the poorest." But Jesus has personally spoken to the anti-Riley protestors and told them that his tax increase is the work of Satan.
I guess Saddam isn't the same person as Osama anymore. I guess Saddam is now more important than the guy who actually masterminded the deaths of three thousand civilians on 9/11:

As the hunt for Saddam Hussein grows more urgent and the guerrilla war in Iraq shows little sign of abating, the Bush administration is continuing to shift highly specialized intelligence officers from the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to the Iraq crisis, according to intelligence officials who have been involved in the redeployments.

The recent moves -- involving both analysts in Washington and specially trained field operatives -- follow the transfer of hundreds of elite commandos from Afghanistan duty to service in Iraq, Pentagon officials said....

--Boston Globe

The article quotes U.S. officials (and our pals, the Pakistanis) staunchly defending what we're doing, or not doing, in Afghanistan. But read to the end. Note that we're replacing Green Berets in Afghanistan with reserve troops who have no special-forces training. Oh, and note that someone from this not exactly touchy-feely think tank thinks we need to put more resources into Afghanistan.
Besides being unusually tolerant of pop-up ads, the people who use the Information Please Almanac's site are rather skeptical of the Bush administration, as you'll see if you vote in this poll, then view the results. Also see this poll -- it seems users of InfoPlease are even more cynical than I am (I think Saddam's weapons did exist and were destroyed, but how long ago I don't know).
Alabama chief justice Roy Moore still won't remove that huge granite Ten Commandments thing from the state judicial building, even under court order and threats of fines.

You should know that Alabama has a $675 million budget deficit, a shortfall that presumably threatens police protection and clean drinking water and state child protective services and so on. But, as Fox News pointed out last week, Alabama has spent $125 million defending Moore's Ten Commandments monument, and "is spending $25,000 a day of taxpayers' money on the case," according to Moore himself.

You think that's what Jesus would do?