Saturday, July 31, 2004

This probably isn't the dumbest line in David Brooks's column about Kerry's speech, but it's the most mystifying:

He hit Bush from the right, and when he got around to bashing the Saudis, I thought I'd wandered into a big meeting of The Weekly Standard editorial board.


How long has Fahrenheit 9/11 been playing? Does Brooks not even know what's in it? Does Brooks literally not know that deep distrust of the Saudis is common on the left? Is he truly unaware that Democrats other than Kerry (e.g. Bob Graham) have expressed similar sentiments?
As Atrios notes, a new Newsweek poll has Kerry up 52%-44% in a two-way race (49%-42% with Nader). Zogby gives Kerry-Edwards a 5-point lead. So Rasmussen (1-point Kerry-Edwards lead) looks like the outlier.

...And things look worse for Bush when you read some of the items in this rather shocking Zogby analysis:

Mr. Bush has also shown weakness in what is considered to be his best region, the South. While Kerry’s choice of Senator John Edwards gives him his biggest boost, his economic populism and courting of veterans are also key in his eroding of Mr. Bush’s support. Not only has Kerry now come to a tie with Bush in favorability in the South (55% for both), the Kerry-Edwards ticket has pulled ahead, 48% to 46% in the South. President Bush’s job performance is down to only 44% in the South, and only 43% of Southerners think the country is headed in the right direction.

Mr. Kerry is also performing well in Blue states, among Young voters and among Single voters. In the Blue states, Mr. Kerry is winning 50% to 38%, while in the Red States, Mr. Bush is only winning 48% to 46%....


Friday, July 30, 2004

Paul Krugman is on target as usual in "Triumph of the Trivial," his column about TV news coverage of politics. But I want to talk about one particular passage in the column:

Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.

Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. ("He is, above all, a moralist," wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.)

Yeah, I love that "Gotcha!" -- but I'm more interested in what Krugman is saying about journalists as character judges. He's right: They're awful. They can't read gray. They can't comprehend facets of personality.

And right-wing character assassins take full advantage of this.

Three figures in public life the press absolutely cannot comprehend are Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. It seems obvious to me that they're all somewhat similar -- Gore can get silly, Kerry has a big, goofy grin, Hillary a big, hearty laugh, yet all have obviously had to fight through natural tendencies toward inner-directed wonkiness to function in public life, none of them having the natural flesh-pressing gift of, say, Bill Clinton. At moments they seem shy or standoffish -- but when they relax, they warm up and open up.

In other words, they're complex -- not unusually complex, but complex like lots and lots of ordinary people.

The press absolutely cannot fathom this.

And that's where right-wing spinners step in. They turn Kerry into a humorless snob and Hillary into a power-mad she-demon and Gore into a neurotic propellerhead -- and non-conservative reporters, absolutely flummoxed by a personality that isn't linear and easy to follow, like Bill Clinton's, reach desperately for the right-wing's decoding of these mysterious beings.

Our side doesn't offer similar spin -- and we're passing up a golden opportunity, because George W. Bush is far more complicated than his image. He's neither a simpleton nor an uncomplicated All-American boy -- he's hale and hearty and he's mean, snappish, and vindictive. This matters because the campaign he's running ("vote for me because I stay the course") depends on the perception that there isn't a dark side to "staying the course" -- the dark side of, say, a driver with road rage who's too stubborn to back down, utterly unwilling to "look weak."

Not that the press would never buy such a depiction of Bush. He's from Texas! He clears brush! He says "Smoke him out!" No gray areas there!

Lucianne Goldberg collects the finest, most substantial comments on Kerry's speech from an all-star team of thoughtful, Burkean conservatives:

"He is a deeply unlikable guy: arrogant, dull, pompous, mannered, self-righteous" Andrew Sullivan.

"Howard Dean with medals" - John Podhoretz

... pedestrian address, uninspiring, cliched, and humorless" - Jeff Jacoby

"Kerry, the sultan of Yada.... said absolutely zilch of substance" - Andrea Peyser

"The man has more facets than a disco ball" - Jonah Goldberg

"John Kerry once administered CPR to a hamster. This was one of the poignant vignettes we learned tonight from one of his daughters. Is there some gerbil-loving swing demographic out there we are trying to connect with?" - Barbara Comstock

"What did this man do as an adult? Kerry's biography ends at 24" - Dick Morris

"This isn't your father's JFK" - Jed Babbin

Look! Over there! Michael Moore! He's so hate-filled!
"When it comes to choosing a president, results matter."

--George W. Bush, in his newly unveiled stump speech

Iraq Funds Are Focus of 27 Criminal Inquiries

A comprehensive examination of the U.S.-led agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars' worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority's inspector general.

...More than $600 million in cash from Iraqi oil money was spent with insufficient controls. Senior U.S. officials manipulated or misspent contract money. Millions of dollars' worth of equipment could not be located, the report said....

--Los Angeles Times
"When it comes to choosing a president, results matter."

--George W. Bush, in his newly unveiled stump speech

Iraqis Postpone Conference as Kidnappings Rise

Iraq postponed a major national conference billed as one of its first steps toward democracy and national reconciliation on Thursday, as the epidemic of kidnappings widened sharply with insurgents announcing that they had kidnapped five more foreign hostages.

...Iraqis officials had argued that postponing the conference could set a bad precedent for a far more important democratic milestone: the first national elections, set for January....

--New York Times
"When it comes to choosing a president, results matter."

--George W. Bush, in his newly unveiled stump speech

Economy Weaker Than Expected in 2nd Qtr.

The U.S. economy braked more sharply than expected in the second quarter as shoppers curbed their free-spending ways amid a sharp advance in energy prices, government data released on Friday showed.

U.S. gross domestic product, a measure of total output within the nation's borders, climbed at a modest 3 percent annual pace in the April-June period after an upwardly revised 4.5 percent clip at the start of the year, the Commerce Department said.

Wall Street economists had looked for GDP to advance at a 3.6 percent pace after the previously reported rise of 3.9 percent in the first quarter....

Consumer spending rose at just a 1 percent rate in the second quarter, a mere shadow of the robust 4.1 percent first-quarter gain and the slowest increase since 2001, when the economy was in recession.

Economists had looked for a consumer-led slowdown, but could be surprised by the extent shoppers pulled in their horns....


What would happen if George Will were snowbound in a mountain cabin for six months with nothing to divert him but the collected E! broadcasts of Joan and Melissa Rivers?

Well, after he emerged, he would still begin paragraphs this way:

While watching the convention this week I have been reading the early 20th century novels of Indiana's Booth Tarkington, the once wildly popular chronicler of American mores and social arrangements as our great rise began. I had a hunch I'd find things pertinent to our times.

But against his better judgment he would find himself writing passages like this:

Hillary Clinton was in comparison cold, robotic and too heavily botoxed. At a certain point Botox can become a problem for those in public life. Mrs. Clinton now has to pop her eyes out to show excitement. Worry lines are honorable, and in Mr. Clinton's wife they are understandable. She should keep them....

Ron Reagan is too coached in media.... By the end he seemed to me like Ron Popeil of the late night pocket-fisherman infomercials: And by the way, no fetal tissue is used in this process! He seemed a nicer person years ago when he was dancing in his underpants on Saturday Night Live. He is that unusual person who seems less authentic when not in a tutu....

Still haughty, orotund, and gaseous, in other words, but with a distinct touch of Meow.

And he'd probably begin hanging out with a rather less erudite crowd, people who don't realize that in many nations people speak languages other than English:

Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech was an odd and interesting mix.... She is such a distinctive personality, so unusual as a presidential candidate's wife, that when she began to thank the delegates in five languages a friend asked me with some alarm if she was speaking in tongues.

In other words, if George Will were snowbound and forced to do nothing for six months but watch Joan and Melissa Rivers, he'd turn into Peggy Noonan.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

No -- he isn't really saying this, is he?

"When it comes to choosing a president, results matter," Bush said in excerpts of his new stump speech obtained by The Associated Press.

The negative ad practically writes itself.
It worked. It really worked. I wasn't sure he could do it, but he did it.

...And practically the first words out of David Brooks's mouth on PBS were that it sounded like a Republican speech. Mark Shields, too -- he said you couldn't tell if it was delivered by a Democrat or a Republican.


I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.

My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at war, a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead.

We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.

We can do better and we will. We're the optimists....

That's when he hit stride. Republican? No way.
Interesting that Max Cleland didn't hit stride until he started talking about Democratic issues -- a non-Bush foreign policy, affordable health care, and so on.

And what's wrong with that? Right-wingers think there's something wrong with how we feel about Kerry -- but is it wrong if what truly excites us is not so much the candidate as our side's worldview and ideas?
Well, you have to read all the way down to paragraphs 20 and 21 of the AP story about the Ghailani arrest that's posted on the New York Times Web site, but there it is:

Hayyat announced the arrest after midnight in Pakistan in an interview with Geo television, an unusually late hour considering the arrests were made Sunday and authorities had known but not revealed the man's identity for some days.

Pakistani leaders have rejected allegations they time the announcements of major terror arrests for maximum impact....

As far as I'm concerned, any story on this that doesn't mention the convenient timing is displaying media bias.

("After midnight" in Karachi, Pakistan, means sometime after 3:00 this afternoon, if I read this correctly.)
They are doing all they can to take the campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.

--John Edwards last night

Oh, John, surely that's an exaggeration, isn't it?

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott today told an enthusiastic Neshoba County Fair crowd that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is “a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massaschusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy.”

--Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi

Nope, guess not.

There's good news in this New York Times article about Bush policy toward Cuba -- stricter travel restrictions are alienating many Cuban-Americans, some of whom are registering as Democrats, and even the traditionally hard-line Cuban American National Foundation is upset -- but tucked into the article is this rather chilling look into the (possible) future:

The document prepared by the presidential commission listed about 675 specific policy recommendations, many of them steps the administration would favor after Mr. Castro was gone. American involvement, if the successor government requests it, is offered in areas as diverse as tax collection, environmental protection, cultural preservation, mortgage financing and labor relations. Involvement so detailed, critics say, would amount to dictates from the United States, which is likely to control the economic levers of a Cuban recovery.


By the way, who exactly is responsible for this?

The strategy was drafted largely by administration officials who were once aides to Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina...

Bloody hell.

(DISCLAIMER: I'm no Castro fan. I just believe that the hard-line policy has been maintained bullheadedly despite its utter failure to undermine Castro.)
I was praising Thomas Frank recently for the fine New York Times op-ed he published on July 16, but this op-ed in today's L.A. Times, on the Democrats' links to Hollywood, is just dumb:

Now, it is an article of faith among American intellectuals that Hollywood movies are populist products; that they are uncomplicated translations of the public's desires into attractive images; that stars are stars because we love them; and that countries like France that resist Hollywood movies do so because they are snobs, dedicated to some daft mission civilatrice in which they will bring culture — in the form of arty, disjointed black-and-white films — to the masses. Masses, that is, who yearn in their hearts for nothing but more Hollywood fare.

"It is an article of faith among American intellectuals that Hollywood movies are populist products"? The hell it is. It is an article of faith among American intellectuals that Hollywood movies are undiluted lowest-common-denominator crap churned out to narcotize the masses and reinforce the existing social order. And France? France loves Michael Moore, who's reviled as a traitor by the most popular news channel in America.

...when Hollywood stars decide to get out there and do their patriotic duty and stump for the candidate of their choice, the candidates they support are usually Democrats.

But somehow it never seems to help.

It never does? Gee, which party won the popular vote in the last three presidential elections?

Frank's self-righteousness derives from one party he just attended in Boston. Here's the guest list that has him so exercised:

The father of a famous comedian was there. A star from a favorite TV drama. A guy from a celebrated Broadway musical. And a member of the famous acting family whom everyone referred to simply as "the Baldwin."

The entertainment B-list is what they hate in Kansas, Tom?

Let me just point out that among the GOP's candidates or proposed candidates in the past decade have been Dennis Miller, Kelsey Grammer, Ted Nugent, Mike Ditka, Charles Barkley, and auto racing superstar Richard Petty. Pro wrestler The Rock spoke at the 2000 Republican Convention. Michael Jackson was honored at the Reagan White House and Mr. T sat in Nancy Reagan's lap. And this is in addition to all the GOP's officeholder/entertainers in recent decades -- Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, Clint Eastwood, Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred Grandy, and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning.

Both parties like entertainers. One party gets criticized for it.


Journalist Laura Rozen, blogging from Boston, writes:

I got to briefly grab former British foreign minister Robin Cook, a man I respect very much for his leadership on the humanitarian interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, for a brief conversation about a subject near and dear to my heart: those alleged other British sources of intelligence on the African uranium issue. [You will remember Cook resigned from the Blair government expressing the belief that Blair was going to war in Iraq on false pretenses/hyped up intelligence]. Cook's response: there are none. There are no other British sources of intelligence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger. He said the French control Niger's uranium and any other intelligence on this issue the British had would have come from the French, and the French obviously didn't give it much credence.

Interesting. Josh Marshall has certainly tried to get to the bottom of this (see here, here, and here), but he seems to keep stepping into the proverbial wilderness of mirrors. Maybe mirrors are all that's there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Said Clinton: "Everyone . . . had to sacrifice except the wealthiest Americans."

The truth? The poorest half of all Americans pay almost
no income tax. These folks didn't have to "sacrifice" before the tax cuts or after -- 9/11 notwithstanding.

--New York Post editorial

They chose to protect my tax cut at all costs while withholding promised funding to the Leave No Child Behind Act, leaving 2.1 million children behind.

They chose to protect my tax cut, while cutting 140,000 unemployed workers out of their job training programs, 100,000 working families out of their child care assistance, and worst of all, while cutting 300,000 poor children out of their after-school programs, when we know it keeps them off the streets, out of trouble, in school, learning, going to college and having a good life.

They chose -- they chose to protect my tax cuts while dramatically raising the out-of-pocket costs of health care to our veterans and while weakening or reversing very important environmental measures that Al Gore and I put into place, everything from clean air to the protection of our forests.

Now, in this time, everyone in America had to sacrifice except the wealthiest Americans.

--Clinton's speech
What can I say? Edwards rocked too. Serious, patriotic, populist, rousing ... he's a star. A fine speech. A good night.
Peter Jennings on ABC News Now, after Al Sharpton rocked the house:

"Sharpton gave the crowd, if not red meat, then certainly ground beef."

Hunh? Is Peter getting as weird as Dan Rather?
FLORIDA: U.S. ASKS REVIEW OF FELONS' LIST The federal Civil Rights Commission asked the Justice Department to investigate the purge list that Florida uses to remove suspected felons from the voter rolls. The chairwoman of the commission, Mary Frances Berry, cited a high error rate and discrimination in the list and asked the department to examine whether the state had any knowledge of it. This month, news organizations reported that the list guaranteed that no Hispanics, who tend to vote Republican here, would be purged, while thousands of blacks, who tend to vote Democratic, might be purged. The state has since thrown out the list.

--New York Times

The federal government -- yeah, there's a disinterested party in this matter....

In November 1992, George H.W. Bush's defeat provoked celebrations not just in Little Rock, where the Clintonites danced around to Fleetwood Mac, but also in some corners of conservative America.

...At the Heritage Foundation, a group of right-wingers called the Third Generation conducted a bizarre rite involving a plastic head of the deposed president on a platter decorated with blood-red crepe paper.

That's from an L.A. Times article by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, two British journalists who write about American conservatives.

Surely some people in the media knew about this at the time. But funny thing -- I don't recall any of them bringing it to light and fretting about "hate." I don't recall anyone pointing to it as a sign that "extremist elements" in the GOP had "gone off the deep end," attacking one of their own in a vicious way and thus displaying the very tendencies that alienate moderates. And I don't recall that any Democrats were commissioned to write articles on how the Republican Party could "find its way again."

Oh, well -- at least maybe we now know where David Brooks got his bizarre fantasy of Democratic delegates throwing a rubber Cheney doll around the convention stage.
Publishers Lunch reported yesterday:

She’s Back: Sharon Bush (former wife of President Bush’s younger brother Neil) is reported to be once again working away with a co-author on her potential tell-all family memoir, which is being readied for submission to publishers in hopes of a rushed pre-election publication.

The last time we heard about Bush shopping her book was in a September 2003 NY Post column. In April 2003, the NY Daily News reported that New Millennium Press had reached a deal "in principle" was withdrawn when Ms. Bush indicated "she wanted to do a spiritual book, not a tell-all."

Gossip about the Bush family has never made it to the front burner in America. That can't last, and the Bushies don't understand that. Americans are going to want this family brought down to earth -- maybe not by an electoral defeat this year, but soon. Americans want both royalty and equality. We want to regard some of our fellow citizens as royals, but then we want to hear about their flaws in painstaking detail. Look how we crave unsavory tales about Elvis and the Kennedys.

We do allow one category of elites to pass their days untouched by this desire: as a rule, we leave plutocrats alone. It's only when plutocrats are public figures, like Martha Stewart, that we want to drag them down to our level.

After royals are exposed, we're willing to regard them as still royal (see, again, the Kennedys and Elvis) -- but I don't think the Bushes will stand for that. They want to be public figures, yet they want to be treated like CEOs. They can't have that in America ... as they'll discover before long.
I haven't written much about the Valerie Plame leak, but Swopa at Needlenose linked to this Philadelphia Inquirer story yesterday and I picked up the distinct odor of rat:

The FBI agent in charge of investigating whether top Bush administration officials leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent as political payback against her husband has been named to head the Philadelphia FBI office.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has designated John C. Eckenrode, a 29-year veteran, to be special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division, the agency announced today....

Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the local FBI office, said it is not unheard of for an agent heading a high-level probe to be transferred before the probe is finished....

As Swopa points out, there was a previous a previous attempt to get Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the case, to quit and run for Senate in Illinois. Yup, that's definitely rat I smell.
"Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness," Cheney said at Camp Pendleton on the Southern California coast.

--Reuters yesterday

A suicide car bomb exploded outside a police recruiting center in Baqouba on Wednesday, killing 51 Iraqis in the worst attack in Iraq since the United States transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government last month, officials said.

--AP today
Clinton was right:

In this year's budget, the White House this year wants to cut off all the federal funding for 88,000 uniformed police officers under the COPS program we've had for 10 years. Among those 88,000 police are more than 700 members of the New York Police Department who put their lives on the line on 9/11.

...our policy was to put more police on the street and to take assault weapons off the street. And it gave you eight years of declining crime and eight years of declining violence. Their policy is the reverse. They're taking police off the streets while they put assault weapons back on the street.

--Clinton convention speech on Monday

Since 1995, Cleveland has received $34 million [in federal monery] for new police officers, Mayor Campbell said.

But this year it will receive only $498,000 from Washington for all police programs, and President Bush's proposed budget would cut that figure in half....

Donald Pussehl Jr., the police chief in Saginaw, summed up what many police officials are saying about the cuts and redeployments. "We are going backwards, and that's really unfortunate," Chief Pussehl said.

"We are having to discontinue many of the proactive strategies like community policing, which we developed in the 90's, and just go back to basics like sitting in patrol cars waiting for calls for service after a crime has been committed," he said.

...The community policing program, which was begun by President Bill Clinton, added 118,000 officers across the country. Mr. Bush has proposed $97 million for the program in the next fiscal year, down 80 percent from $481 million this year.

The president has proposed reducing money for the other two programs to $508 million from $884 million this year....

Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle police chief, said police executives across the country were apprehensive.

"Just a couple of years ago we were sitting back and saying how good a job we had done, reaching out to the communities and reducing crime to record lows," Chief Kerlikowske said. "Now the money is drying up, and there is an uptick in crime, and I'm worried that a lot of our good work is going to disappear."

--New York Times yesterday

And, of course, gang violence is rising, it's way too easy to buy a gun even if you can't pass a background check, and the assault weapons ban is about to expire.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

OK -- so it's possible no photos were meant to be taken of Kerry in the decontamination suit at the NASA event, and the release of the photos is just yet another dirty trick from an administration that will politicize anything. That's what Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager, is saying; Drudge posts this transcript of her discussion of this with Brit Hume on Fox News. Well, OK -- the campaign fights back. That's somewhat heartening.


Meanwhile, we had Teresa tonight. Not terrible, I guess -- but she was Schoenberg and we want our conventions to be Bruce Springsteen. OK, she was early Schoenberg -- not atonal, but astringent and chromatic and lugubrious. I don't know -- I'm not sure speechifying is really her event.

Dean didn't have much of a speech but had some fire, Ron Reagan was OK, Obama had flashes of brilliance at the end but isn't Clinton yet. I have hopes for Elizabeth Edwards. I bet my mom will like her.
Look, I want to be optimistic. I don't want to be a doomsayer. But I'm losing heart.

Bloody hell -- now Kerry's in Dukakis's tank.

Have you seen the decontamination-suit picture? It's here. (And here and here and here and, in variations, here and here.) Read the stories. The GOP is milking this.

How the fuck did this happen? Why was there no one in this campaign who saw the potential for disaster in that photo op?

Why has the Edwards pick fallen flat? Why did no one perceive that the Johns were touching each other too much until not only Matt Drudge but late-night comics were joking about it?

Why do we know so much about Teresa's verbal grenades and so little about any aspect of her life? Does the campaign have any plan to counter the impression some people surely have by now that Teresa's an unexploded bomb?

And did anyone vet Christie Vilsack?

This is not acceptable. This is not how you're going to beat the '27 Yankees of gutter politics.

Well, it's no surprise that David Brooks thinks Democrats are out of control when this is his notion of what would constitute a truly Dionysian orgy of hate:

If the [Democratic] convention program reflected the collective party subconscious, the first night would feature a life-size rubber Dick Cheney doll, and the speakers would take turns throwing it around the stage.

Throwing a rubber doll around a stage? For David Brooks, is that what constitutes the utter abandonment of social restraint? What a wuss.
Comedian Jackie Mason ... [has called] "the whole Muslim religion" a "murderous organization" that teaches "hate, terrorism and murder."

The remarks came when Mason hosted the Jim Bohannon Show, syndicated nationally by the Westwood One radio network. Mason was elaborating on a comment by his co-author, New York lawyer Raoul Felder, who said Islam "is a religion of hate, this is a religion of murder."...

"This is amazing information that almost nobody is aware of ... everyone thinks that it's a legitimate religion that preaches love and brotherhood," said Mason. "The truth of the matter is [that terrorists] are reflecting the religion and following the religion."

They are "following the orders of the religion directly from the Quran ... in plain English, the whole Muslim religion is preaching and teaching hate, terrorism and murder, and nobody knows it, and its about time they found out about it, " Mason said.

"The Quran ... is 50 versions of hate, venom, hostility, and murder ... dedicated to terrorism," he added. " ... I don't know how we can call it a religion in the traditional sense. It should be called a murderous organization that's out to kill people." ...


Quick! Look over there! It's Whoopi Goldberg noting that the President's last name is an impolite synonym for pubic hair!
A writer for Arkansas Indymedia says he spoke to a colonel in the Defense Department press office, who confirmed the imprisonment of Iraqi teenagers:

Call 703-545-6700 – DOD information - and speak to Commander Hatledge who may refer you to Lieutenant Colonel Joe Yoswa at 703-697-0657.

Joe was quite helpful when I called, a nice guy. He confirmed that the US Military does imprison children in sweeps made by patrols in Iraq. He confirmed that whole families are frequently arrested, dragged from their homes in the middle of the night. The patrols decide on the spot who gets taken away. After that the families are taken before a “committee” who then decides who to release and who to imprison. The highest ranking officer on the “committee” is a Colonel.

Joe told me that at the present time the US Military has 58 juveniles imprisoned in Iraq. According to Joe, none of these children are younger than 14 and none of them are female. These statements are contradicted by accounts from the German TV broadcast. Joe denied that any children have been abused.

This matches what another military spokesman told China's Xinhuanet.

Go here for a transcript of that German TV broadcast, which asserts that serious abuse of young people has taken place in the prisons.

(Link via the Blue Lemur.)
When all else fails, just lie:

According to a New York Times survey of [Democratic convention] delegates, ... 5 out of 6 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important....

--Jonah Goldberg, Democratic-bashing column written for USA Today (pinch-hitting for Ann Coulter)

The war, Iraq and terrorism are not seen by the delegates as the most important issues in their states, the poll shows. Only one in six cited them as most important. Half of the delegates, on the other hand, said the most important issues were the economy and jobs, and one-third of all voters agree.

--New York Times, July 25, 2004

Monday, July 26, 2004

...the venerable Voice of America radio and TV network ... is under a congressional mandate to broadcast news abroad objectively.

Alan Heil, a 36-year veteran and historian of VOA [Voice of America], who retired in 1998, ... and many VOA staffers also cite the reassignment July 1 of VOA news director Andre DeNesnera as evidence of an effort to undermine VOA's objectivity. Heil says DeNesnera had fended off attempts by VOA director David Jackson to downplay negative news from Iraq and highlight positive developments over the past year.

Jackson, a Bush appointee and former
Time reporter, denies trying to skew the daily news report.

--USA Today, July 12, 2004

Voice of America is broadcasting right next to us in front of Hillary's speech, letting us know that the "central theme" of the night is "Bush-bashing". From any reasonable standard, the night's been remarkably light on Bush-bashing - but saying the words with Hillary as a backdrop creates an image whose narrative is already crafted and will only be reinforced, regardless of the truth.

--Jesse Taylor, blogging for Pandagon from the Democratic convention

I caught only bits of Gore's speech and Carter's, but the Clintons sure didn't do any "bashing" -- no ad hominems, no nastiness, just policy differences deftly (in Bill's case, brilliantly) laid out.

(Yes, Bill was terrific. The right-wingers like to say that for Bill, "it's all about him," but that's just nonsense -- the speech was all about running the damn country. Clinton used his own story, but he used it cleverly, as a jumping-off point -- I didn't serve in Vietnam, but the guy who should be elected President in November did. I'm wealthy now, and why does the guy who is President now think I need a tax cut when the country needs shared sacrifice? Just summarizing the speech ruins it -- it flowed effortlessly. It's what Kerry has to do for himself -- pull the strands together and make the notion of voting for him rather than Bush make sense to people. Damn, I hope he can do it.)
US admits imprisoning adolescents in Iraq

The US army admits for the first time to having detained adolescents in its prisons in Iraq, according to a German press report.

The TV magazine "Report Mainz," to be broadcast Monday evening on the ARD network, quoted Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the US troops in Iraq, as saying that they still imprisoned 58 Iraqis in the age of from 14 and 17.

The Iraqi adolescents are held in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and "Camp Bucca" and the length of their average imprisonment is half a year, Johnson said.

Johnson denied that those adolescents were tortured and promised that US authorities would look into accusation of mishandling if it arose....

The TV broadcast's from Germany. The story is from China's Xinhuanet. I know it's silly, but could someone in America please break a sweat and confirm or deny this?

(If you missed it, last week Sadly, No! published an e-mail from a National Guardsman who was at Camp Bucca and thought there were 60 or so minors there. He knew of no mistreatment at Bucca but thought mistreatment at Abu Ghraib was a distinct possibility.)
Worst workday ever. I'll check back in later today or tonight, I hope.
So we get Clinton tonight.

Garry Wills has a review of Clinton's memoir in the current New York Review of Books; for the most part it's thought-provoking, but then there's this:

What would have happened had Clinton resigned? Gore would have been given a "honeymoon" in which he could have played with a stronger hand all the initiatives Clinton had begun, unashamed of them and able to bring them fresh energy. That is what happened when Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy.

Is Wills nuts?

Look, you don't have to believe that the Republicans would have tried to impeach Gore if they'd succeeded in driving Clinton from office -- although Wills's NYRB colleague Elizabeth Drew, unlike Wills a full-time Washington reporter, insisted at the time that that was the case. You just have to look at the GOP's behavior throughout the Clinton presidency, starting long before the Republicans attained a majority in both Houses of Congress. Alan Ehrenhalt nailed it in a 1998 op-ed:

It was on Election Night 1992, not very far into the evening, that the Senate minority leader, Bob Dole, hinted at the way his party planned to conduct itself in the months ahead: it would filibuster any significant legislation the new Democratic President proposed, forcing him to obtain 60 votes for Senate passage. worked. Little that the President proposed became law in the two years that he operated with Democratic majorities. There was no health care reform, no economic stimulus package.... the procedural consequences turned out to be grave: Congressional Republicans were tempted by success into even more dangerous constitutional mischief.

In the fall of 1995, emboldened by new majorities in both the House and the Senate, they forced the closure of the Federal Government. For all the millions of words that have been written about this event then and since, the reality of it has rarely been portrayed in succinct terms. This was not a political showdown -- it was an attempted constitutional coup....

And on and on into the serial fishing expeditions that led to Clinton's impeachment.

Recall the blocked Clinton judicial appointments and battles over other appointees. Recall "wag the dog." And then recall that Republicans loudly demanded that Gore be investigated before, during, and after the Clinton impeachment period.

Clinton was always treated by the Republicans as illegitimate. Why would Gore have been treated any better?

Sunday, July 25, 2004


The Miami Herald reported Friday on a curious incident at a naturalization ceremony in Jacksonville:

...Just before the new citizens left the June 29 event, an immigration official directing the swearing-in urged the them to stop by a voter registration table -- a not uncommon sight at naturalization ceremonies.

But this table was unusual: Those handing out forms were Republican volunteers -- and the party affiliation box had been checked off ahead of time to make all of the new voters members of the GOP.

All of it was suspicious to Linda Cross, who was there to watch her husband, Dario Cruz, take his citizenship oath. Cross asked one of the women sitting at the table in the foyer of the University of North Florida auditorium whether there were any forms that left the party affiliation blank.

She was told no.

"They said they didn't have any forms that weren't checked," Cross recalled. "She said, `We're a Republican organization.'"...

But who could have done such a thing? Surely no one with an official tie to the GOP, right?

While immigration officials said that the organization that offered voter registration cards to new citizens was "unknown," a story about the initial controversy in The Florida Times-Union identified one of those registering voters as being a Republican volunteer named Millie McLean.

McLean was identified last October as being in charge of voter registration drives for the Republican Women's Club of Duval County Federated, one of dozens of clubs statewide that are chartered by the Republican Party of Florida.

And surely all concerned realized the seriousness of this, didn't they?

It is a third-degree felony in Florida to alter voter registration forms without the voter's consent.

But [Dick] Carlberg, [assistant supervisor of elections for Duval County,] ... said that while the forms were pre-checked Republican, some voters had crossed it out and selected another party affiliation, indicating they understood they had a choice.

"At worst it was unethical," Carlberg said. "It depends on your point of view. But illegal, no."

Jeb Bush's Florida -- the northernmost banana republic.

Where to start? Well, let's start with the fact the "public editor" of The New York Times believes he is honor-bound to respond -- on behalf of his newspaper -- to correspondents like Mr. Jim Chapman:

If you're like Jim Chapman, one of my correspondents who has given up on The Times, you're lost in space. Wrote Chapman, "Whatever happened to poetry that required rhyme and meter, to songs that required lyrics and tunes, to clothing ads that stressed the costume rather than the barely clothed females and slovenly dressed, slack-jawed, unshaven men?"

Whatever happened to poetry that rhymed, Jim? The twentieth century happened. Don't bitch to the Times. Take it up with, say, these guys.

But this cuts Daniel Okrent to the quick. Good guilty liberal that he is, he shoulders the blame, on behalf of his newspaper, for the decadence of free verse and the lack of melody in rap music and male models who threaten the moral fabric of the Republic by not tucking in their shirts.

Okrent acknowledges, seemingly with a tone of regret, that "a creationist will find no comfort in Science Times." Then his spine stiffens just for a second ... or seems to:

Not that creationists should expect to find comfort in Science Times. Newspapers have the right to decide what's important and what's not.

So, according to Okrent, the failure of the Times to give equal time to creationists has nothing to do with scientific evidence. It's merely a choice. Does that mean it could be reversed? And what about flat-earthers? Can they, too, hope, that a future Times editor will decide that the paper was wrong to consider their beliefs not "important"?

But the real bee in Okrent's bonnet is his paper's coverage of homosexuality and related topics. (And it does seem to be a bee in Okrent's bonnet -- he quotes no actual readers who bring it up.) Yes, the Times has two conservative op-ed columnists, but one "supports legalization of gay unions." The Metro section publishes, says Okrent with squeamish distate, "a long piece best described by its subhead, 'Cross-Dressers Gladly Pay to Get in Touch with Their Feminine Side.'" And -- in addition to those gay wedding announcements -- there's article after article with positive things to say about gay marriage. Okrent writes:

Every one of these articles was perfectly legitimate. Cumulatively, though, they would make a very effective ad campaign for the gay marriage cause. You wouldn't even need the articles: run the headlines over the invariably sunny pictures of invariably happy people that ran with most of these pieces, and you'd have the makings of a life insurance commercial.

Okrent again retreats. With creationism, he won't stand and fight for the notion that the paper is siding with science; he retreats to editorial prerogative. And on the subject of a bias in favor of gay marriage, he won't stand and fight for that same editorial prerogative, even though it's entirely appropriate in a city that's been a gay epicenter for at least a century; again he retreats, comparing the Times unfavorably to, for example, the San Francisco Chronicle, which ran

an uninflected article about Congressional testimony from a Stanford scholar making the case that gay marriage in the Netherlands has had a deleterious effect on heterosexual marriage.

Here's the article in question. The "Stanford scholar" is anti-gay polemicist Stanley Kurtz. You can decide for youself whether the article is inflected or not:

Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., asked Kurtz several times if what he was arguing was that heterosexual couples will not marry if homosexual couples do. "Are you saying that men and women are less likely to get married because two men get married?"

When Kurtz said yes, Scott laughed....

Okrent is describing a newspaper that reflects its city and its readers. It's appropriate for a newspaper with a large gay readership to lean in favor of equality for gay people (and yes, I do think it's fair to make a comparison to the more progressive Southern newspapers that gave sympathetic coverage to the civil rights movement). It's appropriate for a newspaper with a lot of fashionista readers to cover unshaved young scenesters with untucked shirts. It's appropriate for a newspaper in a city of rootless cosmopolitans to show (much as it disturbs Okrent) people wearing "T-shirts bearing the slogan, 'I'm afraid of Americans'" (especially given the fact that many of those rootless cosmopolitans are David Bowie fans).

Don't like it? Start your own damn world-class city and your own damn newspaper of record.

On the Arts & Leisure front page every week, columnist Frank Rich slices up President Bush, Mel Gibson, John Ashcroft and other paladins of the right in prose as uncompromising as Paul Krugman's or Maureen Dowd's.

--"public editor" Daniel Okrent, agreeing with conservatives that The New York Times is unacceptably liberal, in today's edition

... big guns in the culture industry are rousing themselves into a war-room frenzy of anti-Bush hysteria that goes well beyond fielding an inept talk-radio network and producing documentaries for the base at

It can be seen at full throttle in Jonathan Demme's remake of the classic cold war thriller, "The Manchurian Candidate," which opens nationally on Friday, the morning after the Democratic convention ends. This movie could pass for the de facto fifth day of the convention itself.

I cannot recall when Hollywood last released a big-budget mainstream feature film as partisan as this one at the height of a presidential campaign. That it has slipped into action largely under the media's radar, as discreetly as the sleeper agents in its plot, is an achievement in itself. Freed from any obligations to fact, "The Manchurian Candidate" can play far dirtier than "Fahrenheit 9/11."

--Frank Rich, also in today's edition of the Times

Well, so much for the disturbing new phenomenon of the deeply polarized nation. Here's a front-page New York Times story on the scary 50-50 nation. Now, look at the chart below the second photo on the right. It lists all the sitting presidents since Eisenhower who wanted to be returned to office; citing Gallup, the chart shows the largest measured gap between Democratic and Republican voters' approval of those presidents in election years.

The biggest Democrat-Republican gap in approval of Bush this year has been 74 points. Pretty bad, huh? But here are Gallup's numbers for Bush's immediate predecessors:

Clinton: 67%

Bush the Elder: 62%

Reagan: 69%

Prior to that, the gap never got above 50%, from Eisenhower in '56 to Carter in '80.

People forget how polarizing the Reagan years were. ("I never use the words Democrats and Republicans." --Interior Secretary James Watt, 1982) We've been in 50-50 nation for a long time.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The 10 members of the 9/11 Commission are releasing their big report this week. Under other circumstances, the issuance of this document could have made them the toasts of America — the wisest of the wise, the cool-headed analysts who sorted through all the data and information and made important judgments that would help make this country safe.

Instead, the report will effectively be dead on arrival.

--John Podhoretz in Tuesday's New York Post

House and Senate leaders yesterday rushed forward with promises to overhaul intelligence agencies quickly following damaging findings by the Sept. 11 commission, casting aside earlier doubts that Congress would tackle such complicated and politically divisive legislation this year.

The White House also signaled that President Bush may consider intelligence reforms before the November elections, contrary to earlier suggestions that such a move was unlikely.

The rapid responses underscored the deep impact of Thursday's 567-page "9/11 Commission Report"...

--Washington Post story today

What happened, Johnny Pod -- did you buy that crystal ball secondhand from the guy who wrote Dow 36,000?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Did anyone else spot this USA Today/AP story yesterday?

U.S. Marines have pulled out of a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan after killing more than 100 enemy fighters, their commander said Thursday.

The 2,000-strong force, which lost just one Marine, has withdrawn to an American air base in the southern city of Kandahar and is preparing to leave the country, Col. Frank McKenzie said. That withdrawal had already been announced.

The Marines were returning to American warships "to await further orders," military spokesman Maj. Rick Peat said. He said there were no indications that the Marines would be redeployed in Iraq but said he didn't know where the ships were....

I'm going way out on a limb here: You don't suppose the Bushies are planning to steal Kerry's thunder on Monday by announcing the death or capture of some major Al Qaeda or Taliban honchos, do you?

You know they're going to try to do something to steal his thunder next week. The Bush people are rather addicted to thunder-stealing, in an infantile way.

Well, good for them if they finally bagged someone genuinely dangerous to Americans, even if the Bushies' first thought in the event of such an occurrence is using it to screw Democrats.

And if not, then I guess it's just more Marines being forced to leave important work unfinished to go fight in Bush's Quagmire of Choice.
I'm happy to see that Liz Smith is debunking a right-wing rumor (in the New York Post):

Would it be possible to can all the obvious speculation that Meryl Streep based her senator-villain in the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" on New York's real-life Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The 13-time Oscar nominee has more imagination than that. Take it from me, the two people Meryl studied were Karen Hughes, the former and still-sometimes adviser to President George W. Bush, and Reagan speechwriter and conservative thinker Peggy Noonan.

But Liz, I had that story back in April.

(How Liz Smith gets her scoops: same way I do -- by reading Entertainment Weekly. Except I credit my sources.)

UPDATE: Via Alicublog, I see that the usual right-wing mouth-breathers are certain they know more about Streep's work methods than Streep herself does.
Laurie Mylroie's fingerprints:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith argued in three memos for Rumsfeld in subsequent days why Iraq should be hit, the report discloses.

The memos -- including one dated Sept. 18 [2001] and titled "Were We Asleep?" -- listed alleged ties between al Qaeda and Iraq that the commission report debunks, such as a theory that Ramzi Yousef, an al Qaeda-affiliated bomber convicted of masterminding the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, was an Iraqi agent.

--Washington Post
Well, mistakes are made, things go wrong, etc., etc. — but [Richard] Clarke and Co. have never been willing to extend that realistic sense of the difficulties inherit in targeting one man to the Bush administration.

--Rich Lowry today at National Review Online

[Kathryn Jean] Lopez: ...Rich, you write, "On September 11, Clinton's most important legacy arrived in horrifying form, and settled in a pile of rubble seven stories high in downtown Manhattan." Is that fair to blame Bill Clinton for 9/11?

Lowry: Well, obviously, Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. But the September 11th attacks were clearly Clinton's most consequential legacy. The way he had hamstrung the CIA, handcuffed the FBI, neglected airport security, and, most importantly, left a nest of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan unmolested — knowing,
knowing they were there — created the ticking time bomb that went off on September 11th. Should Bush have done more during the eight months he was in office? Absolutely. But much of his work would have been — and has been — undoing the mistakes of the Clinton administration.

--interview with Rich Lowry about his book Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years, National Review Online, October 16, 2003
The Bush campaign infuriated people -- including the quite conservative Southern Baptist Convention -- with a plan like this, so the Bushies said, Hey, what the hell, let's do it with the Catholics:

GOP Seeks Catholic Parish Directories

The Republican National Committee has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election, a use of personal information not necessarily condoned by dioceses around the country.

In a story posted Thursday on its Web site, the National Catholic Reporter said a GOP official had urged people who attended a Catholic outreach event in January to provide parish directories and membership lists to the political party.

"Access to these directories is critical as it allows us to identify and contact those Catholics who are likely to be supportive of President Bush's compassionate conservative agenda," wrote Martin J. Gillespie, director of Catholic Outreach at the RNC. "Please forward any directories you are able to collect to my attention."...

An RNC spokeswoman, Christine Iverson, said it was all innocent, and seemed not exactly up to speed on the procedure:

Iverson said she did not know if the GOP had sought similar directories from other religious organizations....

Er, Christine, perhaps for your birthday, just to help you do your job better, we can get you a subscription to The Washington Post or USA Today, or maybe a satellite dish, so you can watch CNN.

Someone needs to explain to Rove and Bush that you assume Catholics are right wing at your political peril, no matter how many Catholic bishops you hear working on their Pat Robertson imitations. And someone also needs to explain to Rove and Bush that trying to turn church officials into precinct captains, by asking them to turn over lists that "often contain personal information about church members, including names of family members, home addresses and phone numbers," is just nasty.

(Story via BuzzFlash.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

In a cover story in this week's Village Voice, Rick Perlstein tries to grasp the nature of Bush love.

Perlstein's article is amusing enough -- but I question his method, which is asking Bush-lovers why their admiration for him is so great. This implies that their feelings can be explained -- that they can be rendered coherent to someone who's not of like mind.

I'm not sure that's possible. It certainly doesn't seem that way when I read this thread at Free Republic, in which a conservative whose nom du screen is "I got the rope" provides a link to video of the Paul Johnson beheading. Here's IGTR's gloss on that subject:

Paul Johnson Beheading Video (Graphic)

I know everyone is fixated on the Sand Burgler right now, but I just want to remind everyone why the Democrats are so dangerous.

They empower our enemies any chance they can get. They continue to put themselves before their country or their countrymen. Clinton is a disgrace, Berger is a disgrace, and yes...John Kerry is a digrace.

IGTR posts the first message in his own thread:

I have no use for Godless, hedonistic, baby-killing Democrats.

Want an explanation of Bush love? There's your explanation. Bush is the antithesis of the Democrats -- and Democrats are responsible for all evil in the world. Terrorists behead an American, on Bush's watch, presumably in response to Bush policies -- and it's the Democrats' fault.

Sandy Berger may well be guilty of grave offenses, but is anyone who actually observed him at National Archives claiming that he engaged in skulduggery?

As I read this Washington Post article by John F. Harris and Susan Schmidt, all the damning allegations are sourced to "A government official with knowledge of the investigation" and "another government official." The same for this New York Daily News story, which cites "a senior law enforcement source."

In the Post, the spokeswoman for the National Archives is brought in just to cite proper procedure ("Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said that employees closely monitor anyone cleared to review classified presidential materials"), while the News story has this rather odd Cooper quote:

Asked if guards left Berger alone in the classified reading room while he made calls, archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper replied, "I'm not going to say I haven't heard that."

No one who was on duty seems to have talked to a reporter; no reporter seems to have seen any documents that confirm the sock-stuffing or any other unsavory behavior. And none of the IDs of sources suggest that those sources are deeply involved in the investigation. I'd say there could be some unambiguously dishonest smearing going on here.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly parses the Post story and finds something that doesn't pass the smell test:

Let me get this straight: (a) he had already been caught removing documents on a previous visit, (b) Archives employees set up a special coding system for his second visit, (c) they were watching him like a hawk the whole time — and he must have known it since they had caught him once before, (d) they saw him taking dozens of pages of notes and didn't stop him, (e) they saw him put those notes into his pockets, and (f) they must have also seen him put some documents in his portfolio as well.

But they let him walk out the door without challenging him. Why?


So is the American who's reported to have tortured Afghan prisoners working for the U.S. government or isn't he? I was coming to the conclusion that his claims of a connection were just braggadocio, and inept braggadocio at that, based on this AP story from yesterday:

Idema said a four-star Pentagon official named Heather Anderson "applauded our efforts" and wanted to place the group "under contract" — an offer they refused for fear it would limit their freedom to operate.

There are no four-star female officers in the entire U.S. military. The name Heather Anderson is not listed in the Pentagon phone book.

But it turns out that Heather Anderson isn't a figment of Idema's imagination. Soj at Flogging the Simian, who's been blogging on Idema rather relentlessly, points to a Christian Science Monitor story that ID's her:

Idema ... named Heather Anderson, the acting director of security for Stephen Cambone, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, as his main point of contact.

"We were in touch with the Pentagon, at the highest level, sometimes five times a day," said Idema, who wore military khakis and dark sunglasses. "Miss Anderson in fact applauded our efforts and told us in a phone conversation that in fact they wanted to place us under contract."...

Mr. Cambone, an aide to Rumsfeld and the first ever undersecretary of defense for intelligence, has supported the use of private contractors in investigative work, according to published statements. He came under fire when the Abu Ghraib prison inquiry broke when it came to light that his office had approved interrogation practices that human rights activists say violate the Geneva Convention.

Interesting. Of course, this may prove nothing about government awareness of Idema's work -- as Soj says, "It could be that those emails and faxes were just Idema bugging her office for their security checks to be completed."

But here's something odd, from an article Soj cited in an earlier post -- a profile of Idema from the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer. The profile points out that in 1994 Idema was "convicted of 59 federal counts of using telephones and fax machines to commit fraud and conspiracy," for which he received a four-year prison sentence, but notes that

The court granted him considerable leeway from the conditions of his bail as he awaited trial. He was allowed to travel around the country for Special Operations expos; to meetings in Washington at the Department of Defense and with the International Associations of Chiefs of Police; to Raleigh for surgery on his pet dog, a Tibetan Shepherd named Sergeant.

Is that odd for a guy up on a federal felony rap? Why such deference?

And, as Sadly, No! notes, we know that when Idema contacted the U.S. military, he certainly heard back:

The U.S. military acknowledged Thursday it held an Afghan man for a month after taking custody of him from a trio of American counterterror vigilantes who have since been arrested on charges of torturing prisoners at a private jail they ran in the Afghan capital.

More as this develops....

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

So the Committee on the Present Danger has reconstituted itself as an organization "dedicated to winning the war on terrorism." Its members include Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz, of course. But here's some fresh blood: Good old Joe Lieberman, the guy we almost put a heartbeat away from the presidency, is the co-chair.

Now, it's none of my beeswax if Lieberman wants to throw in his lot with neocons. But shouldn't he -- shouldn't everyone -- draw the line at joining any organization that counts Laurie Mylroie and James Woolsey among its members?

If you read this blog regularly, you know about Mylroie the lunatic; if not, this Washington Monthly article will get you up to speed. Saddam Hussein's fingerprints are on every terrorist attack against American interests since the '93 World Trade Centyer bombing, according to Mylroie -- including, quite possibly, the Oklahoma City bombing.

And Woolsey is right there with her. He shares her beliefs; he praises her books and wrote a foreword for one. And he praises the reporter who thinks OKC was a Middle Eastern bombing:

"When the full stories of these two incidents (1993 WTC Center bombing and 1995 Oklahoma City bombing) are finally told, those who permitted the investigations to stop short will owe big explanations to these two brave women (Middle East expert Laurie Mylroie and journalist Jayna Davis). And the nation will owe them a debt of gratitude."

Former CIA Director James Woolsey

"The Iraq Connection"

Wall Street Journal

September 5, 2002

It's possible you'll hear Jayna Davis's name again in the near future, by the way -- she's pushing a theory, so far being given credence only on the wacko right, that Sandy Berger might have been trying to remove documents that proved an al-Qaeda link to the OKC bombing. (Which I guess would mean an Iraqi link to OKC, according to Mylroie, because she seems to believe that all al-Qaeda terror trails lead back to Saddam.)

Nice company you're keeping, Holy Joe.
Mean streets once again: Gang activity surging

A decade after police crackdowns on drug gangs helped lead to historically low crime rates in cities across the nation, gangs suddenly are re-emerging in waves of violence that have jolted officials in Tulsa, the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and many other communities well beyond the groups' traditional big-city bases....

Nationwide, gang-related homicides jumped by 50% from 1999 to 2002, according to a report commissioned by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a coalition of big-city police chiefs. In 2002, the most recent year analyzed in the study by Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox, 1,034 of the 16,204 homicides across the nation were linked to gangs — the most since 1995, when there were 1,237 gang-related slayings....

--USA Today

You don't suppose this is in any way related, do you?

ATF Inspects Few Licensed Gun Dealers

Only about 4.5 percent of the nation's federally licensed gun dealers are checked each year to ensure they comply with firearms laws, far below the goals set by the agency that does the exams, the Justice Department said Monday....

The review ... found ATF rarely revokes federal firearms licenses -- only 30 such revocations occurred in 2002 out of more than 1,900 violations, and 54 notifications were issued in 2003 out of some 1,800 violations -- and it often takes more than a year for the agency to successfully take away a dealer's license.


(And what a swell time to let the assault weapons ban expire, hunh?)
Via Atrios, I see that the IRAQI NUKES!! story was utterly false:

A U.S. military official Wednesday denied a report of Iraqi missiles carrying nuclear warheads being found in a concrete trench northwest of Baghdad.

The eager-to-please folks at the U.S.-funded Al-Sabah obviously didn't quite understand that their mandate is to tweak the truth to make Bush and Allawi look good -- not to publish out-and-out fabrications that precisely track every possible Bush administration spin point.
What an astonishing coincidence: Just as the 9/11 Commission report is about to be released and the Democratic convention is about to get under way, nuclear warheads have allegedly been found in Iraq! Or at least they have according to UPI/The Washington Times and New York talk radio station WMCA.

The source of the report is the U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper Al-Sabah; here's an AP story from May about the paper: "The head of a U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quit and said Monday that he was taking almost his entire staff with him because of American interference in the publication."

If you were trying to make up the perfect So there! story to vindicate the Bush administration, you couldn't do much better than this (from The WashTimes/UPI):

"The three missiles were discovered by chance when the Iraqi security forces captured former Baath party official Khoder al-Douri who revealed during interrogation the location of the missiles saying they carried nuclear heads," the sources said.

They pointed out that the missiles were actually discovered in the trenches lying under six meters of concrete and designed in a way to unable sophisticated sensors from discovering nuclear radiation....

Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari made a surprise request recently to Mohammed el-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to resume inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Good work by Iraqi security! Success from interrogations that probably included torture! Weapons buried so it was really, really hard to find them! And they're nukes! Get the UN weasels in here for a spanking!

Please note, however, this surprisingly frank concession from the story on the talk radio site:

The Iraq Interior Minister called the story "stupid"....

Stay tuned....

(UPDATE: Here's the "stupid" quote, courtesy of Reuters.)

(UPDATE: Big surprise -- it's a false alarm.)
How desperate are right-wingers to gin up a phony scandal to embarrass Kerry and the Democrats? At the top of the home page of National Review Online is a picture of Kerry with Howard Dean, accompanied by the words "Dean's incest vote." A teaser below that, in the table of contents, says, ominously, "Howard Dean voted in favor of incest."

Go to the story and you learn the less-than-shocking truth: In 1982, Dean, as a Vermont state legislator, voted to allow an exception to the state's incest law for a 65-year-old woman who wanted to marry her 86-year-old maternal uncle -- and he was joined by 72 other members of the Vermont House. The House members -- understandably -- concluded that the reproductive argument against incest did not hold sway in this case; equally understandably, the Vermont Senate embraced a slippery-slope argument and voted against the exemption. The couple never married.

The article concludes that Dean's vote in favor of the elder couple is "just one data point the Kerry campaign will doubtless want to consider in its calculations about what role to give the controversial former Democratic governor next week." Er, no, it isn't.
Bush pressures Pakistan to mount an election-season crackdown on al-Qaeda, and what's the consequence? A refugee crisis and bulldozed houses:

The Pakistani Army, backed by United States intelligence and surveillance, has stepped up its operations against supporters of Al Qaeda in the area near the Afghan border in recent weeks, displacing thousands of Afghan refugees.

Some 200,000 Afghan refugees have been living in the remote border areas of Pakistan, in poor and insecure conditions. In the past few weeks, as the Pakistani operations in the tribal area of South Waziristan have risen in strength and, according to some reports, prompted a matching increase in militant resistance, 25,000 people have poured back into Afghanistan, refugee officials said....

Refugees have been given as little as two hours' notice to leave before their houses were bulldozed, according to officials with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Some have returned to Afghanistan with no belongings, homeless once again.

The Pakistani authorities have acknowledged closing and bulldozing two refugee camps, Zarinoor 1 and Zarinoor 2, in South Waziristan. A Pakistani official in Kabul said the government had decided to dismantle all camps within about three miles of the border "as part of a cleanup of the area, so militant-saboteurs would have no place for asylum."

"Inevitably that caused hardship to families," he said. "It's unfortunate, but it had to be done as part of the overall campaign against terrorism." ...

I imagine it will be absurdly easy to radicalize some of these refugees now. Great -- mission accomplished.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The inspector general of the Archives began an investigation last October and turned it over to the FBI in January....

...Breuer said FBI agents have not interviewed Berger, although he has offered to cooperate.

--Washington Post

The haters who pursued Clinton for eight years worked and worked and worked, patiently trying to build a case that could destroy him. The resentment addicts of the Nixon White House schemed and plotted to trip up enemies. Both would have been delighted to be the beneficiaries of an unforced Democrat error like Sandy Berger's mishandling of classified documents.

But it's unimaginable that the Clinton haters would have sat on a story like this for months and months, waiting to detonate it at just the right moment. It's equally hard to believe that Nixon and his men could have sat tight under the same circumstances.

For cold-bloodedness like that, Bush and Rove and Ashcroft and the gang outdo the nastiest D.C. political operatives of our lifetime.

"By the way, to whom much has been given, much is owed."

--speech today at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Stanley Kutner reviews the Clinton memoir in the current issue of The Nation. The review is thoughtful and even-handed, but I have to take issue with this sentence about Republican reaction to the Monica Lewinsky revelations:

Censure never was an option for his enemies, for it meant his continuation in power.

That was true up to a point, but that's not the whole story.

As the impeachment process dragged on, Clinton's job approval rose and rose, and Democrats did surprisingly well in the 1998 midterm elections. It became clear that Clinton would never be convicted by the Senate -- but even then the Republican leadership wouldn't consider censure. In other words, given the choice of censuring Clinton or letting him go unpunished, the GOP chose no punishment.

Why? To put Clinton through a show trial, obviously. And to be able to say that Clinton was impeached and tried.

But clearly it was more than that -- clearly the Republicans wanted to walk away from the process with a grievance. They wanted an outcome that could be construed as unfair. If they couldn't drive Clinton from office in disgrace, either by motivating him to resign or convicting him in the Senate, they wanted to be able to say that he got away with it.

Although he never mentioned the Clinton impeachment, this was the kind of thing Tom Frank was talking about in his New York Times op-ed last week, "Failure Is Not an Option, It's Mandatory":

Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.

And it worked, too. I blame Nader for the 2000 election results, I blame the butterfly ballot and voter-roll purges in Florida, I blame the Supreme Court -- but I also think the refusal to censure Clinton was invaluable for the GOP. Clinton had been un-slick enough to be caught red-handed; escaping unpunished made him seem slick again. After the impeachment trail, even as his job approval remained high, his ratings on a personal level suffered. Al Gore bore the brunt of that in November 2000.
The Republicans have lost Ron Reagan the younger and, in case you weren't sure, they've lost his sister Patti, too:

President Bush ... says that he loves this country and, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume he does love his conceptualized idea of America. But I don’t think he loves us -- the people who make up this land. The huddled masses. The millions of citizens who just want a peaceful, safe life. Those who want to put their kids through school and see them grow up; who want to take vacations to other countries without fearing for their lives because so much of the world hates us.

I don’t think you lie to people you love. I don’t think you send them off into dangerous situations on the basis of murky, cobbled-together information that isn’t really information at all. I don’t think you keep them scared all the time. I don’t think you respond to horrors like public beheadings with cowboy slogans that sound like they came from old John Wayne movies. And I think if someone masterminds an attack on people you love and murders thousands of them, you go after that person until you find him.

And I can't help thinking that Nancy, even though she almost certainly won't say anything disloyal to the GOP, really might vote for Kerry, just because of stem cells.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Well, the obvious lesson to be learned from this Newsweek article about the Cheneys is that there are an awful lot of rather un-girly things a woman in politics can do without being called a witch, a bitch, a beast, or a Hitler if she's a Republican and her name isn't Clinton:

...after the camera was turned off, Lynne Cheney, who had been forcefully interjecting herself throughout the interview, lit into Scully. She chastised the interviewer for questioning her husband's place on the ticket, according to a source who has spoken to the Cheneys. The outburst seemed uncalled for; Scully is about the most mild-mannered, nonconfrontational talk-show host in Washington. Asked about the incident by NEWSWEEK, Mary Matalin, the former White House aide who acts as an informal media and political adviser and part-time spinner for the Cheneys, explained that Mrs. Cheney was irked because the interview had been pitched by C-Span as an "at-home-with-the-Cheneys thing," not as a hard-news interview....

Daughter Liz is personable, but tough-minded. The mother of four, she was back at work within a week of having the Cheneys' first grandson earlier this month. She has e-mailed Bush-Cheney officials as early as 5 a.m., and she was even seen working during Ronald Reagan's funeral, sending messages via BlackBerry from inside the National Cathedral....

But as a bonus you get the campaign's Cheney spin in one packed sentence, from Mary Matalin:

"...He is a reassuring guy, not because he has grandchildren sitting on his lap, but because he just exudes depth and breadth and experience and competence."

That leaves me breathless. That's three bullet points in twenty-six words, and the most breathtakingly audacious one slips by almost subliminally: He is a reassuring guy. To a sensible person, of course, he's about as reassuring as an unattended roadside parcel in the Sunni Triangle, but never mind -- Matalin works the memes brilliantly, seeming to prove the counterintuitive one with a noncontroversial one (yeah, he probably does love his grandkids -- though it beats me how that makes him reassuring), then zipping right to the curriculum vitae part of the sentence, which sums up his work in surprising spring-zephyr sibilances ("exudes," "experience"), not words that sound like what you or I would associate with Cheney ("curmudgeon," "fetid").

Oh, yeah -- they're going to sell this guy right back to us in the fall.
OK, so this is, reportedly, the point: They're using Cheney strictly to fire up the base, according to this story from the New York Daily News:

GOP lets Cheney loose

Vice President Cheney is demonized by Democrats but a god to the GOP faithful. And while electrifying is hardly a word one might associate with the veep, charging up core crowds crucial to President Bush's reelection is just what he's doing....

... he has never been more beloved by the GOP faithful, and re-election planners have mapped out a heavy travel schedule for the veep in battleground states in the next 15 weeks.

"He is our secret weapon with the base," a senior Bush-Cheney official said, "and if we don't get the base out, we don't win."

...Cheney's taciturn, serious-to-a-fault style is seen as a definite virtue by Bush-Cheney strategists, a perfect foil to the youthfulness and inexperience of Edwards. "So he's charisma-challenged," a GOP operative says. "He's not an empty suit like the other guy."...

In Minneapolis last weekend, the true believers pronounced themselves satisfied. "He's an honest fellow who's got a brain," said Howard Stenzel, a retired chief financial officer from suburban Cottage Grove, "and he's not a lawyer. That's important."

Now, maybe I'm hanging out at the wrong Web sites, but it seems to me that the GOP base doesn't have much further to go in the area of fired-upness, short of storming into showings of Fahrenheit 9/11 and dragging out patrons at random for summary executions. But maybe that's why Karl Rove has his job and I don't.

I still say the point of all this is to work toward mainstream-media "reconsiderations" of Cheney, preferably in mid- to late October. The GOP and its supporters will charge the "liberal media" with elitism for failing to acknowledge Cheney's popularity, as demonstrated by the cheering crowds at Cheney rallies (and they cheer even though he's not a charismatic pretty boy!). They're working on making Cheney the underdog in this race -- the Rocky Balboa, the guy with too uch heart to quit (pun intended). And it'll work.

Ben Stein, the economist/lawyer/Nixon speechwriter turned actor and game-show host, writes in The New York Times that you shouldn't pay attention to a bunch of silly old statistics:

On the Democratic [National C]ommittee's [Web] site, a major heading is an allegation from a group not usually friendly to the Republicans - a group of mayors - that new jobs created in 2004 and 2005 will pay, "on average, $8,000 less than old jobs," namely, jobs created in 2001 to 2003.... It is, of course, absolutely and totally impossible to forecast what future jobs will pay or what those jobs will be. In fact, most economic forecasting is valueless, but that's another story.

Er, how do you feel about reports of current economic activity, Ben? Let's look at the lead story in yesterday's Times (the issue in which Stein's article appeared):

The amount of money workers receive in their paychecks is failing to keep up with inflation....

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly earnings of production workers - nonmanagement workers ranging from nurses and teachers to hamburger flippers and assembly-line workers - fell 1.1 percent in June, after accounting for inflation. The June drop, the steepest decline since the depths of recession in mid-1991, came after a 0.8 percent fall in real hourly earnings in May.

Coming on top of a 12-minute drop in the average workweek, the decline in the hourly rate last month cut deeply into workers' pay. In June, production workers took home $525.84 a week, on average. After accounting for inflation, this is about $8 less than they were pocketing last January, and is the lowest level of weekly pay since October 2001.

And how do you feel about Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers, Ben? Are they also unfriendly to Republicans? Here's Lehman's chief economist, Ethan S. Harris:

"Joe Six-Pack is under a lot of pressure. He got a lousy raise; he's paying more for gasoline and milk. He's not doing that great...."

And, from another article, here's Morgan Stanley's chief economist:

The evidence, meanwhile, suggests that the jobs being created pay less than the old jobs that were lost. Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, estimated that 44 percent of the hiring from February to June was in lower-paying jobs and that 81 percent of total job growth over the last year had been in lower-paying occupations like retail sales and transportation.

"A likely persistence of low-quality job creation could jeopardize sustained economic recovery," Mr. Roach wrote recently.

But Stein doesn't think poor-paying blue-collar jobs are a problem, because he thinks all blue-collar workers have to do is get off their fat butts and become bond traders:

The real point is personal responsibility: almost any worker has a chance to make a job a well-paying job by acquiring more skills and education. The jobs are not parceled out to the Passaic Workers' Commune by the Commissar of Jobs. People get the jobs for which they are qualified, by skill and education. If a young person gets a college degree with good grades, then gets a business school degree with very, very good grades, he'll get a job at Goldman Sachs that will pay him about $200,000 in the first year. If he goes to nursing school and learns operating-room skills, he can expect to make $80,000 a year almost immediately in many hospitals. If she learns to do electrical work in houses in Los Angeles, she can expect to make $40 an hour, plus overtime.

That is, pay is not a given. Of course, there are constraints of time and circumstance, but people who want good-paying jobs can get them by dint of education, which is available everywhere.

Oh, sure -- because every blue-collar worker has tens of thousands of dollars stashed away in a cookie jar somewhere, ready to pay for a nursing school or a Wharton M.B.A.