Monday, January 31, 2005

As Alan Keyes would put it, there's going to be a surprising amount of "selfish hedonism" at the bookstore soon, courtesy of a couple of Republican daughters:

Patti Davis's New Literary Frontier: A Lesbian Novel.

Will Patti Davis's rebellious phase ever end? She's married her yoga instructor, copped to getting high, lived with a member of the Eagles, and posed for Playboy. But Ronald Reagan's daughter still isn't done challenging family values. Sources report that the author of a novel about Nicaragua and two memoirs about her family has begun working on a novel about straight women who have a lesbian affair. A Knopf spokesman confirmed she’s at work on a novel but said, "We do not as a rule characterize the story lines of works in progress."

--New York magazine

Mary Cheney, the daughter of Lynne and Vice President Dick Cheney is shopping a book — her first — about her life and times on the campaign trial, tentatively called, "Travels with My Father."

Mary Cheney's lesbian lifestyle emerged as a point of controversy when it was referred to in the debates by Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards and presidential nominee John Kerry.

The proposal is just beginning to go out to publishers. She is being represented by attorney Robert Barnett.

--New York Post

Must be SpongeBob's fault!

(Via Publishers Lunch.)
This story (from Yahoo News, originally published in the L.A. Times) infuriates me:

Healthcare Overhaul Is Quietly Underway

Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.

In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would ... buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.

Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed....

"My view is that this is absolutely the next big thing," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose consulting firm focuses on healthcare. "You are going to see a continued move to trying to get people involved in the process by owning their own health accounts." ...

Indeed, Bush's health insurance agenda is far more developed than his Social Security plans and is advancing at a rapid clip through a combination of actions by government, insurers, employers and individuals....

The article isn't particularly clear on what's going to push us into this brave new world -- presumably the administration wants to make it a lot more advantageous, taxwise, for employers to offer catastrophic-plus-HSAs than to offer the health care plans we know.

I don't see how we won't wind up with a lot more uninsured (or essentially uninsured) people.

Obviously, workers earning Wal-Mart wages aren't going to buy health insurance or establish an HSA if doing so leaves them with less of their meager take-home pay -- the tax incentives are going to have to be extremely good, and you know they won't be. But in addition, many people who now have health insurance will forfeit it in the brave new world -- young white-collar people just entering the workforce, people paying off student loans, people who've gotten too far into debt.

And people who do maintain HSAs will underfund them, just as many people underfund 401(k)s. They won't want to draw the accounts down, so they'll put off needed care. They'll cash the accounts out, if allowed to, when other life crises hit.

The right-wing response is, "That's their problem. This is an issue of personal responsibility." But ultimately we're just going to see a sicker country. And a wealthier Fortune 500.

The Right, gracious in victory as always:

...a billboard blitz "thanking" Hollywood for the reelection of President Bush will be unveiled early next week.

The advertisements feature the faces of liberal Hollywood icons Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Affleck, Martin Sheen, Chevy Chase, Barbara Streisand, and Sean Penn, and offer thanks to Hollywood their help getting President Bush reelected.

...Billboard creator Citizens United, a group that advocates a return to traditional American values, has purchased the use of three billboards near the Kodak Theatre (home of the Academy Awards) for the month of February, which includes Oscar Night, Sunday, February 27....

--Human Events

I like that -- "a group that advocates a return to traditional American values." The truth is that the "values" Bossie believes in include intimidation and deceit:

David Bossie ... later went to Capitol Hill, where he worked as an aide to Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C. In that capacity he angered U.S. District Judge Henry Woods by requesting Woods' financial records weeks before he was to rule on a Whitewater matter, in what Woods saw as an intimidation attempt.

Bossie then moved on to work for Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman who once called Clinton a "scum bag."

Bossie was forced out in May after he bungled the release of Webb Hubbell's prison tapes, getting Burton in hot water with fellow Republicans by producing edited transcripts that omitted sections favorable to the Clintons. The tapes were of calls Hubbell, Clinton's longtime Arkansas friend and former associate attorney general, made in 1995 and 1996 from a Maryland prison ....

And, of course, Citizens United was the outfit that (before Bossie joined up) gave us the "Willie Horton" ad.

Here's what Bossie's putting up in H'wood:

All class.

(And I'm ashamed to say that, like me, he's from East Boston, Massachusetts.)

So what was the real meaning of the Iraqi elections? Let's ask a couple of right-wing bloggers.

Here's Lee at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast:

On the day of the Iraqi election, we here at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast have a special message for all the nay-saying lefties who said this could never happen. To the Michael Moores and John Kerrys and Ted Kennedys of the world, who will view this momentous occasion through the bitter prism of their own partisan hatred. It is in honor of those brave Iraqi citizens, and on their behalf, that I send this message out to everyone who would rather have Iraq living in slavery.

[What follows is a purple-inked middle finger.]

Here's the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler:

If your ballpoint explodes tomorrow you'll have the perfect excuse to ink up your finger in solidarity with Iraqi voters. GOP asks you to wreck your pen and send in your photos. LC & IB Russ Emerson, at TACJammer already has his picture posted.

Of course your DNC coworkers might get a bit upset, but then the whole voting thing upsets them, especially since it undermines Kerry, Kennedy, Boxer, and Pelosi. There was a day long ago when at least one wing of the DNC was opposed to violence, intimidation, and fear being used to keep voters from the polls. Of course that was back when the DNC had a rational wing instead of an infestation of socialist hippies reliving a mythical past in which the South had been a Republican stronghold. Now they so habitually attempt to
scare voters to the polls that they've devolved into barking, race-mongering moonbats who cringe at the sight of dancing first time voters freed from oppression, turning out to vote their conscience in the face of continual death threats.

The very voters that hold up their blue fingers are the ones that Kerry and Kennedy dismiss with a wave of their patrician hands, because blue fingered Iraqis don't fit into their anti-American anti-democratic agenda.

And from the professional press, here's John Podhoretz in the New York Post:

WHEN you heard about the stunning success of the Iraqi elections, were you thrilled? Did you see it as a triumph for democracy and for the armed forces of the United States that have sacrificed and suffered and fought so valiantly over the past 18 months to get Iraq to this moment?

Or did you momentarily feel an onrush of disappointment because you knew, you just knew, that this was going to redound to the credit of George W. Bush? This means you, Michael Moore. I'm talking to you, Teddy Kennedy.

And not just to the two of you, but to all those who follow in your train.

There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication.

It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication of the guy that the Moores and Kennedys and millions of others still can't believe anybody voted for.

And they know it....

Freedom? Democracy? A possible end to the bloodshed? Yeah, those would be nice, but ... IN YOUR FACE, TEDDY KENNEDY!

And when they're not bashing Democrats or Michael Moore, they're bashing The New York Times or Europeans who aren't with the program or Reuters (yup, if you haven't been keeping track, Reuters is, according to the Right, part of the pro-Islamofascist fifth column).

Most conservatives are doing a somewhat better job of appearing high-minded, but really, this is the point for them. Terrorism isn't the real enemy. The insurgents aren't the real enemy. The real enemy is Western liberalism. We are what must be destroyed.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

By the way, did you know that voters in the Kurdish region of Iraq also voted in a referendum on independence? It's non-binding, and I don't know how the vote turned out, but I see that Massud Barzani, the leader of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party, has said,

An independent Kurdish state is indeed going to be established, but I do not know when it will be established.

Statements like that make the Turks very cranky.
I see from the latest column on Iraq by "liberal hawk" Michael Ignatieff (published in The Observer and The New York Times Magazine) that once again he wants us to bend over and be spanked:

Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders.

Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down?

Indignation? Excuse me, Michael: At whom should we direct it? Since the "postwar" looting began, many of us have relentlessly denounced the Bush administration for dozens of blunders that led to an ongoing bloodbath in a nation Bush had the moral and legal responsibility to secure. We worked for his defeat and voted in large numbers for a man who quite properly attacked him as incapable of leading Iraq to a secure peace. And yet the American electorate, in returning Bush to office, endorsed Bush's incompetence.

Candidates were gunned down before the elections? We did what we could.

Anti-war ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies.

How would we have "supported the Iraqis" in the weeks leading up to the election? By cheerleading? Rah-rah, good show! You guys really have guts! Way to go! And this would have accomplished what?

Other experts tell us how "basically" violent Iraqi society is, as a way of explaining why insurgency has taken root. A more subtle kind of condescension claims that Iraq has been scarred by Ba'athism and cannot produce free minds.

Who are these experts? I haven't read them or paid any heed to them. Insurgency has taken root because the inept U.S. occupation permitted a looting free-for-all, promised far more nation-building than it was able to deliver, disbanded the army, tortured the prisoners, and did everything it could to cultivate an insurgency short of handing out explosives to the disaffected.

...Already the revisionists are working over the facts: the best way to write the history in advance is to shift the blame onto the Iraqis themselves. Those who opposed the war collude with this revisionism in advance by giving up on the Iraqis and this, their only chance of freedom.

Who on earth is Ignatieff talking about? Who has been doing this shifting of blame to the Iraqis? And in what way did those of us who opposed the war -- "colluding" with people we can't even identify -- "give up on the Iraqis"? I didn't tell Iraqis not to vote -- and if I had, why should it have made a goddamn bit of difference to any Iraqi?
Impressive turnout. Deaths in attacks limited to, oh, only a couple dozen.

OK, so now what? What happens when people see the results? What happens when the cars return to the streets?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

So I'm sitting around reading the 1/31 issue of Time magazine and I see that this story says, with regard to the Iraqi insurgency, that its "estimated strength could be higher than 20,000." Then I see that this story says, "According to a senior U.S. commander in Iraq, U.S. forces are rounding up 1,000 suspected insurgents a week."

Wow! Amazing! Four and a half months and we'll have all of them! Every last insurgent!

Anyone actually believe that? Good. You can write me a check for the swampland.

Good Lord -- it's the Vietnam body count all over again. We're kicking ass! Really! Look how many more dead VC there are than Americans! Yeah, right.

We're not rounding up 1,000 "suspected insurgents" a week. Maybe we're rounding up 1,000 warm bodies a week, a small percentage of whom may prove, perhaps after months of abuse, to be insurgents. The rest? Whoops! Their tough luck.

Also in that second story, I see that Lieutenant General John R. Vines, who's about to become the ground commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has recently had discussions with Paul Wolfowitz.

The two men agreed that the new Iraqi government may have to increase the ranks of its army soldiers, police and border-patrol agents beyond the 271,000 personnel the U.S. has projected the Iraqis need.

Excuse me: If the U.S. thinks the Iraqis will need 271,000 personnel -- or, in fact, more -- why doesn't the U.S. think the coalition needs at least 271,000 personnel now? Why does the administration keep insisting that we're doing just fine with 150,000 of our own troops plus about 30,000 non-U.S. troops?
A Zogby/Abu Dhabi TV poll says only 9% of Sunnis will vote in the election -- and The New York Times reports on an influential Shiite cleric in Baghdad whose Friday sermon is a signal to Shiites that they shouldn't vote:

Less than 48 hours before nationwide elections here, Nasir al-Saedy, one of the city's most popular Shiite clerics, stood before a crowd of 20,000 Iraqis and uttered not a single word about the vote.

Sheik Saedy spoke of faith, humility and the power of God. But about Sunday's elections, the first here in more than 30 years, nothing.

For the throngs of Iraqis who had come to Al Mohsen Mosque to listen, the sheik's silence came through loud and clear.

And it foreshadowed a less than overwhelming voter turnout in many parts of Iraq.

"God willing, I will not be voting," Ziad Qadam, an unemployed 27-year-old, said after Friday Prayers at the mosque in Sadr City, the vast Shiite district in Baghdad. "Our religious leaders have not told us to vote."

Sheik Saedy is an acolyte of Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite cleric....

Yeesh. Oh, and the president of Iraq, Ghazi al-Yawer, predicts that most Iraqis won't vote.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Another U.S. copter down.

Oh, and there's an Agence France-Presse report claiming that a surface-to-air missile may have struck the copter that went down a couple of days ago. (I have no idea whether to believe this.)
In the comments section of this post at Alicublog, someone wrote the following:

I want to know what democrats think about democracy in Iraq. I haven't heard one dem say anything positive about the Iraq elections. I thought the party embraced freedom from oppression and loathed dictatorships. Oh, that's right, Bush is to thank for these elections. My dem would dare admit that this is a good thing because they are all partisan wacks who are still too busy crying over the elections to get their heads out of their asses long enough to notice that a significant world event is on the horizon, which will bring hope and freedom to millions and change the face of the middle east.

OK. To start with, I'm an American -- I care about what happens to America; I also care about global consequences of what America does. That's what I was thinking about as the Iraq War approached. If conservatives are honest, they'll admit that, in their way, that's what most of them were thinking about in 2002 and 2003. They might have believed Paul Wolfowitz's "reverse domino" theory, but the possibility of democratizing Iraq was a side benefit even to right-wingers. I thought the war would be a jihadi-breeding machine and a likely destabilizer of the region; they thought an attack on Iraq was the way to head off a possible (likely?) nuclear 9/11 aimed at America or one of our allies. It was only as the WMDs failed to materialize that democratization became, retroactively, a principal reason for the war.

Now it's all about the plebiscite. It's all about making Iraq free. And my lefty friends and I aren't with the program.

Except that we're not the ones who voted for the guy who gave a Medal of Freedom to Paul "Disband the Army" Bremer and who's promoting Alberto "Torture Memo" Gonzales. Why is Iraq so violent -- what generated the rage that made it too dangerous for many Iraqis to leave the house, much less vote? Ask those guys -- and ask their boss.

You right-wingers voted for their boss. How does that make you a friend of Iraqi democracy?

And we're not the ones who voted for the president who hired Donald Rumsfeld, kept him in office for four years, and just agreed to let him re-up for four more. Rumsfeld's the guy who's maintained the bonsai philosophy of troop deployment in Iraq: Do not, under any circumstances, let the force grow to full size. That's why there were never enough troops to secure the weapons caches, never enough troops to secure the borders -- never enough troops, in other words, to ensure that Iraqis can now vote without dying.

You endorsed that policy, right-wingers. You continue to endorse it. How does that make you a friend of Iraqi democracy?

On Sunday there'll be a vote of some kind. It will be followed, in all likelihood, by more chaos. I'd love to cheer on the theory of Sunday, but I'm more focused on what's actually going to happen.

It's this reality fixation -- we lefties just can't shake it.

At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name....

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." ...

It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz?...

--Washington Post


...Mr. Bush, who promised during the election campaign to restore "honour and dignity" to the White House, ... and his lieutenants resent the sloppy informality of Mr. Clinton's blue-jeaned army of youthful assistants, whose attire and attitude they considered disrespectful.

From the moment Mr. Bush swore in his staff this week, his deputies made it clear the President expects his staff to dress correctly. No dress code was issued, but there will be no more denim or T-shirts in the Oval Office, where former president Ronald Reagan never even removed his suit jacket.

"The days of jeans and no ties at the White House are over," predicted Georgette Mosbacher, a prominent Republican activist....

--Globe & Mail, 1/25/01

A few weeks after I joined the White House, I read a memoir by Clinton's chief speechwriter, Michael Waldman. Waldman described late-night editing sessions in the Roosevelt Room, the big meeting room on the main floor of the West Wing. By midnight, he recalled, the long conference table would be covered with pizza boxes and capsized French fries. Pizza! At midnight! In the Roosevelt Room! In the Bush White House, the idea would have been as incredible as spitting on the carpet.

--David Frum, The Right Man, pp. 14-15

... the Clinton White House [was] a place where opponents' FBI files were read aloud over pizza and foreign contributors with cash invited in the back door. I thought: Something's wrong with these people, they lack thought and dignity. But most of all they seemed to lack respect, a sense of awe....

--Peggy Noonan, 9/14/98, republished 10/5/01

Yes, the Bushies believe in making a great show of "respect." They respect themselves. A lot. And that's about as far as it goes. They aren't Clintons. They aren't Europeans. And they're in charge, while you're not. They say to themselves, "This entitles us to a great deal of respect." And they respond to themselves, "You're darn right it does." And if the rest of the world -- even the survivors of Auschwitz -- doesn't approve, I guess the rest of the world can, er, go respect itself.

(UPDATE: Noonan link corrected. Also, citation corrected.)
In a sign of the political dangers surrounding President Bush's plans for Social Security, a number of congressional Republicans said Thursday that their constituents had received anonymous, automated phone calls accusing the lawmakers of trying to damage the government retirement program by "privatizing" it.

House Republicans said the calls, which they labeled a "tele-scare campaign," had been made in more than a dozen congressional districts from Connecticut to Florida.

An aide to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), whose West Florida district includes more Social Security recipients than any other House district, said more than 200 constituents had called her office to report receiving the calls. A spokesman for Rep. C. W. "Bill" Young (R-Fla.) said his office received about 400 calls Wednesday....

"This plan would cost taxpayers $2 trillion," said the automated calls, according to a transcript provided by the office of Rep. Clay E. Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.). "It would also decrease future benefits to retirees by 47%…. Tell Congressman Shaw that we want real Social Security reform, not a risky Wall Street gamble. Call him."

The caller then provided a toll-free number to reach the U.S. Capitol switchboard....

--L.A. Times

What??? Are some people on the Democratic side actually learning how to fight? Doesn't that violate the fundamental laws of the universe?

(Link via Taegan Goddard.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005


From Michael Medved's rant about Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ in today's Wall Street Journal:

... Jew-hatred appears today far more frequently among the America-hating left than on the flag-waving right. Consider the malicious focus by Michael Moore and his antiwar cohorts on a few relatively obscure "neocons" in the Bush administration: The endless invocation of the names Wolfowitz, Perle and Feith fairly reeks of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorizing.

Number of hits for "neocon" on, as determined by AltaVista's "domain" search: 15.

Number of hits for "feith": 13.

Number of hits for "perle": 10.

Number of hits for "wolfowitz": 170.

Number of hits for "cheney": 392.

Number of hits for "rumsfeld": 536.

Number of hits for "rice": 1270.

Number of hits for "bush": 3430.

Number of hits for "saudi": 509.

Medved is quite explicitly calling Moore an anti-Semite, with no evidence to back it up except his own hate-fogged memory and an utterly defective syllogism (there's anti-Semitism on the left, Michael Moore is on the left, therefore Michael Moore is an anti-Semite). That's libel. If I were Moore, I'd sue Medved's ass.
I find this outrageous, but I guess it's just the Bush "ownership society" at work:

...The last thing a wounded soldier needs to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. But for hundreds of Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] patients, that's a real concern. Starting this month, the Army has started making some wounded soldiers pay for the food they eat at the hospital.

This doesn't affect inpatients -- just outpatients. Except that it does affect inpatients who are called who outpatients:

... Although Walter Reed did not disclose the exact number of soldiers affected, the policy is most likely to affect at least the estimated 600 soldiers getting long-term outpatient care at the hospital in what the Army calls "medical hold."

Soldiers in medical hold are considered outpatients, but they usually live on hospital grounds -- some are put up in nearby hotels if housing on the grounds is full -- and have little choice but to buy food at the Walter Reed chow hall. Even as outpatients, soldiers in medical hold often have serious injuries. Some have been blown up by roadside bombs or crumpled in Humvee wrecks. They have serious head wounds and amputations. Others are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being flown out of Iraq with shellshock.

The military apparently thinks of this as "double dipping," because the outpatients also receive a meal allowance. But it isn't regarded as "double dipping" for the inpatients who are called inpatients -- their meals are still being paid for.

(It's not as if the families of our soldiers are living high on the hog.)

Oh, and it gets worse:

Some soldiers in medical hold are waiting to get processed out of the Army because their wounds are so serious that they will never return to duty. But processing at Walter Reed can take over a year.... Soldiers in medical hold also complain they are still expected to line up for daily formations and buy new uniforms even as they struggle with debilitating physical and mental trauma from their service in Iraq....

Good grief.

(Article from Salon. Non-subscribers can click through an ad to read it free.)
Last night on ABC News, Martha Raddatz, reporting from Iraq, made clear that even if the helicopter that went down yesterday wasn't brought down by hostile fire, it still crashed because of the insurgency:

Marines often fly at night to avoid surface-to-air missiles. Twenty helicopters have gone down because of hostile fire since the beginning of the war. But there are dangers in flying at night. The pilots use night-vision goggles, which provide no depth perception, especially on desert terrain. Fog and sandstorms make the light conditions even more difficult. Pilots say it is like flying into a bowl of milk.

No, we're not winning.

(Sorry, no link available.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Left-Wing Politburo That Controls Everything On The Planet neglected to order the Motion Picture Academy to shower Fahrenheit 9/11 with Oscar nominations, so right-wing culture-warrior blowhards, in their desperation, have turned their wrath on ... er, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby?

Yup. Rush Limbaugh's denouncing it; so is Golden Turkey Award coauthor turned pinched moral scold Michael Medved. Limbaugh actually gave the ending away on his show (as does this story about the denunciations), and you can probably imagine what he's all worked up about if you know what the ending is. It involves a moral taboo I was specifically warned about back in Catholic school, so I'm guessing we'll soon hear from the Catholic League's William Donohue ("Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex").

This is a tough one -- Eastwood's a Republican, of course. But without Michael Moore to kick around, these guys are in withdrawal.

Are we now seeing the new face of terrorism? Fox news is reporing that 9 people were killed aboard the commuter train this morning.

--Randy Townley, blog post cited approvingly by anti-immigration zealot and internment advocate Michelle Malkin

"This whole incident was started by a deranged individual that was suicidal," [police chief Randy] Adams told a news conference at the scene of mangled railcars in the suburb north of downtown Los Angeles. "I think his intent at that time was to take his own life but changed his mind prior to the train actually striking this vehicle."

The man, identified as Juan Manuel Alvarez, 26, of Compton, stood by as the train hit the SUV, Adams said. Alvarez had also tried to slash his wrists and stabbed himself, authorities said.

"There is no terrorism or terrorist act involved," Adams said.


And in other news, a coyote has admitted that he was responsible for the recent dirty-bomb hoax.

"He was going to take the Chinese over (the U.S. border) but they didn't pay him," prosecutor's office spokesman, Moises Uribe, said by telephone from the city of Mexicali.

"He then took revenge by calling 911 in the United States and telling them that the group planned to carry out a terror attack on Boston," he added.

That story also made Malkin wig out -- see this post and this one on her blog. Oh, and when the coyote was arrested, she said the arrest "Still leaves a lot of questions unanswered."

Er, no, Michelle, it doesn't. This was just what rational people thought it was -- a guy on the wrong side of the law trying to get revenge on people who screwed him out of money. The "terrorists" were probably on their way to a grueling 14-hour-a-day stir-frying gig somewhere in the Greater Boston area.

People like Michelle Malkin and Randy Townley want another 9/11 to be just around the corner, embodied in every deranged individual roaming our city streets and every laborer who slips across our borders. Malkin and Townley are like religious apocalyptics -- their whole worldview is in error if we're not really in the Last Days, if Satan isn't everywhere.


(Again, let me add a caveat: Yes, we need to check out leads, and yes, our transportation grid is vulnerable to terrorists. That doesn't mean that everyone to whom it's vulnerable is a terrorist.)
A light at the end of the tunnel? A timetable (or, rather, a "timeline") for withdrawal from parts of Iraq?

That's what Tony Blair sees:

Tony Blair has signalled that the US and Britain will begin handing over control of large parts of Iraq to the country's security forces after Sunday's national elections, seeking to underscore the legitimacy of the newly-elected government.

... in a Financial Times interview the prime minister said the coalition was set to agree "timelines" with the new government that would indicate the pace at which Iraqi forces could take control of peaceful parts of the country.

"There are areas where we would be able to hand over to those Iraqi forces. Remember, 14 out of the 18 provinces in Iraq are relatively peaceful and stable."

Mr Blair indicated that as this handover developed it would become clearer when the coalition could leave altogether....

I'm not sure how this jibes with the Army's plan to keep 120,000 troops in Iraq for the next two years, or Bush's statement on the subject in the first debate with Kerry ("I know putting artificial deadlines won't work.... You can't do that and expect to win the war on terror"), but I guess that's why Tony Blair gets to run a big country and I just run a blog.

Blair also sees Dr. Jekyll where most sensible people see Mr. Hyde:

He argued that ... following President George W. Bush's re-election, US foreign policy was undergoing an "evolution ... that has been underestimated by people".

A sign of that, Mr Blair argued, was US policy on climate change, which will be at the heart of the prime minister's address to the World Economic Forum in Davos tonight. He said the US "does want to get back into a dialogue" on climate change, arguing that "the administration ... [has] long since moved from the position that there is not an issue here"....

Hmmm, let's see:

Last week, the U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction lobbied for the deletion of all references to climate change from a new U.N. action plan on natural disasters. It did so despite the recent conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-organized network of scientists, that global warming will cause more extreme weather events, including hurricanes and droughts, in the decades to come.

Meanwhile, the administration is doing its best to impose its political will on the scientific community at home.

According to The Washington Post, James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, accused a senior administration official of trying to block him from discussing the dangerous effects of global warning. And Bush's top science adviser, John Marburger, has warned researchers that they risk losing their federal funding if they publicly oppose administration policies.

Yeah, that sounds like a new Bush, all right.

Blair always seems desperate to prove that his way of thinking is essentially shared by Bush -- that Bush likes Blair and the Blairist Third Way. Maybe somebody needs to send Tony a copy of He's Just Not That Into You.
I'm no fan of Michelle Malkin, but I don't really blame her for being angry about this:

...On Jan. 15, immigration officials sent a notice to Eugueni Kniazev of Brooklyn. The letter informs Kniazev, a Siberian immigrant, that he is now "deemed to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States." The notice directs Kniazev to obtain a new alien registration receipt card (a "green card"), and instructs him to appear at the immigration office at 26 Federal Plaza with his passport and three recent photos....

But Eugueni Kniazev won't be appearing at Federal Plaza. He won't be traveling anywhere. Kniazev, 47, was an employee of Windows on the World on the 107th floor of the North Tower. He was murdered in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Let me repeat that for the clueless paper-pushers at the Department of Homeland Security: Eugueni Kniazev won't be picking up his green card because he has been dead for nearly 3 1/2 years.

That's from her New York Post column on the case.

Malkin adds:

What on earth is wrong with our federal government?

Gee, let me think:

I don't suppose that's the answer she's looking for, but it works for me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Yeah, me too: I'm adding Ezra Klein's new blog to my blogroll (Jesse Taylor continues to hold the fort at Pandagon.)

There'll be more blogroll updates soon.
The Wall Street Journal story is behind the subscription firewall, and the ABC story isn't on the Web site, so I'll give you this, from a Cincinnati TV station:

...Today's Wall Street Journal says some prescription drug prices are up sharply this year.... for what's turning out to be a controversial reason.

Prices for many prescription drugs are up 5% - 7% just this month.

31 of the top 50 medications have had price hikes since election day.

The journal reports that companies held prices down before election, possibly to keep them from becoming campaign issue.

So how much more will you pay?

Lipitor is up 5% ...Celebrex up 5% ... Zoloft up 5% ...Plavix is up 2.9%....


I'll try to get hold of the original story.
Big surprise:

FBI: Boston Terror Tip Was a False Alarm

The FBI said Tuesday that the possible terrorist plot reported against Boston by a tipster last week was a false alarm.

"There were in fact no terrorist plans or activity under way," the FBI said in a statement. "Because the criminal investigation is ongoing, no further details can be provided at this time."

The man suspected of telling authorities about the possible terror threat was arrested Monday in a Mexican border town. The FBI statement did not say whether he had provided the information that allowed the FBI to rule out the threat, but the bureau did thank Mexican law enforcement agencies for their help.

Officials have stressed since news of the tip first broke that they doubted the credibility of the terror claims. A leading theory was that a smuggler tipped authorities to a false terror plot to exact revenge on a group of Chinese immigrants, perhaps because members failed to pay for being smuggled across the border....


Told ya. (Although I really wasn't skeptical enough.)

This never made sense. It made sense only if you believe that everyone who enters the country illegally comes from the Sinister Land of Evilstan with the express intent of killing us in large numbers, all because of inadequate exposure to news of the Risen Jesus. Or something like that.

He got away with fraud, and now he wants to see if he can do it again a few years from now:

Swift boat co-author ponders Senate bid

The co-author of a book accusing Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry of embellishing his war record plans to run against him for U.S. Senate.

Jerome Corsi, who, with retired Navy Lt. John O'Neill, is credited as the co-author of "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," said he plans to move to Massachusetts later this year as the first step in his 2008 campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kerry.

"I'm going to do it," Corsi said. "I've got serious political aspirations now."...


The Boston Herald has more:

...state Democratic chairman Phil Johnston said, "I know Massachusetts will not welcome a candidate whose calling card is a disturbing track record of slandering Catholics, the pope, Jews and Vietnam veterans. Carpetbaggers spreading lies and smears are not welcome in our state."

Johnston was referring to comments Corsi posted in the past few years on In the posts, Corsi called Islam "a cancer that destroys the body it infects," called the pope "senile," and referred to Kerry as "John (expletive) Commie Kerry."

Yeah, calling John Paul II "senile" -- that's a really smooth move if you want to get elected in a heavily Catholic state.

(Here's the full quote: "So this is what the last days of the Catholic Church are going to look like. Buggering boys undermines the moral base and the laywers rip the gold off the Vatican altars. We may get one more Pope, when this senile one dies, but that's probably about it." I'll save you the trouble of searching -- here's the Media Matters page on Corsi, with all of his sewer-mouthed denunciations of Islam, gay people, and the likes of Katie Couric and Chelsea Clinton, who appall him in ways that, if I weren't familiar with the bizarre animosities of the Free Republic crowd, would seem pathological.)

Corsi thinks he can get away with this:

Corsi said the comments "were not meant as serious expressions of my views and opinions," but "meant to be satirical and provocative ... It's like saying Shakespeare is responsible for something one of his characters said."

No it isn't, schmuck. It's not a play, it's not satire, it's not parody, it's not performance art. It's just you being a barroom boor behind a chat-room pseudonym. Now grow up, be a man, and take responsibility for your own actions.
Oscar nominations: Passion of the Christ gets three (cinematography, makeup, music); Fahrenheit 9/11 gets none.

That sound you hear is ten thousand right-wing pundits and bloggers kicking their laptops in frustration. Their screeds were already written. They were sure Michael Moore would be the toast of Tinseltown this morning and Mel Gibson would be accused of crimes against humanity prior to the announcement of the nominations in a lengthy speech ghostwritten by Noam Chomsky.

This makes no sense to them. Their heads are going to explode.
The piper asks to be paid:

Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel

A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage....

The members of the coalition ... are some of Mr. Bush's most influential conservative Christian supporters, and include Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich....

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, ... said, "The enthusiasm to get behind his proposals is going to require that he get behind the issues that really motivated social conservative voters." ...

Goodness me. Don't these people understand? Conservative government exists to line the pockets of the well-to-do. All those social issues are just a way to separate rubes from their money and votes in an election year. You don't actually try to do any of the stuff you talk about to those people -- if you actually did ban gay marriage or overturn Roe, how would you get donations from the yokels the next time around?
This is good:

Iowa Doctors Say No to Drug Companies

A group of doctors say they'll no longer accept free coffee mugs, pens or other trinkets and free lunches from pharmaceutical representatives in an effort to keep their brand names in view, along with hopes the doctors will prescribe the drugs.

"It's just plain ethically wrong and it's designed to color our judgment," Dr. Dean Abramson of Gastroenterologists P.C. said of the practice. "I don't think patients realize how much drug companies spend on this."

According to a report by the California Public Interest Research Group, U.S. spending on "detailing" efforts by drug representatives to reach doctors directly totals nearly $5 billion annually, costs that are passed on to consumers....


I wish more doctors would join in. In fact, I think it would be great if a few TV networks made a similar decision -- not to accept any more ads for prescription drugs. We're paying for those in higher drug costs, no?

(Again from DU.)

Monday, January 24, 2005

From Australia's Sunday Herald:

Afghan women still in chains under Karzai

Kabul’s central jail holds female prisoners whose only ‘crime’ is their refusal to be second-class citizens.

Sharifa Daadekhoda ... was 12 years old when she was forced to marry a 30-year-old man. He immediately began prostituting her, but Sharifa was too ashamed to tell her family and he would beat her if she complained.

After three years she gained enough confidence to run away but was caught 15 minutes from her parent’s house by the Taliban. As a woman travelling on her own, unaccompanied by a male family member, she was committing a crime.

When the Taliban realised she was also fleeing her husband she was instantly imprisoned. She was released after six months but forced to return to her husband.

A year later she fled and was caught again, receiving a longer sentence – only this time her captors had been installed by the American-led coalition. In President Hamid Karzai’s Afghanistan, women are still imprisoned for running away from home....

“When the Americans came I thought it would be better, but nothing has changed,” says Sharifa, with a shy smile.

...“The Taliban were awful but it is also just our way. In the villages a woman will be stoned to death if it is thought she is friendly with a man – this has been happening with or without the Taliban,” says Sharifa’s cellmate, 24-year-old Nouria.

She also ran away from an abusive husband, fleeing to a friend’s house. Rumours started circulating that she was behaving “inappropriately” with her friend’s small son and she was nearly lynched. Being taken to prison probably saved her life....


"I’m thinking about putting up a reward on my Web page for any liberal who will mention ... Afghanistan.... They’ve had elections and women vote, and they didn’t vote for some crazy, lunatic mullahs. So that’s a pretty good year."

--Ann "See No Evil" Coulter, NewsMax, 1/5/05

(Herald link via Democratic Underground.)

More Christian charity from the Religious Right:

National 'No Name-Calling' Week Irks Conservatives

Using a young readers' novel called "The Misfits" as its centerpiece, middle schools nationwide will participate in a "No Name-Calling Week" initiative starting Monday. The program, now in its second year, has the backing of groups from the Girl Scouts to Amnesty International but has also drawn complaints that it overemphasizes harassment of gay youths....

"The Misfits" deals with four much-taunted middle school students -- one of them gay -- who run for the student council on a platform advocating an end to nasty name-calling....

"No Name-calling Week" takes aim at insults of all kinds - whether based on a child's appearance, background or behavior. But a handful of conservative critics have zeroed in on the references to harassment based on sexual orientation.

"I hope schools will realize it's less an exercise in tolerance than a platform for liberal groups to promote their pan-sexual agenda," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute.

"Schools should be steering kids away from identifying as gay," Knight said. "You can teach civility to kids and tell them every child is valued without conveying the message that failure to accept homosexuality as normal is a sign of bigotry."...


Yeah, kid -- we value you, we just don't accept you.

I'm intrigued by Knight's insistence that "you can teach civility to kids ... without conveying the message that failure to accept homosexuality as normal is a sign of bigotry." How does that work? "Don't call him a faggot -- you can think it, in fact you should think it, just don't say it."

By the way, here's the site for No Name-Calling Week, and here are kids' stories, essays, artworks, and songs that have won prizes in connection with the event. Yeah, the author of The Misfits is gay and No Name-Calling Week was developed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network -- but the event is about name-calling of all kinds, as the prizewinners make abundantly clear.

(Link via Democratic Underground.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Back in July, Tom Frank (author of What's the Matter with Kansas?) wrote an L.A. Times op-ed in which he suggested that the Democrats' inability to persuade voters that they're the party of ordinary Americans is their own damn fault because they occasionally throw parties that include (gasp!) celebrities and rich people:

The Democrats are today a party that has trouble rallying its historical working-class constituency, losing more and more of its base every four years to some novel culture-war issue invented by the wily Republicans: blasphemous art, Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses, the dire threat of gay marriage. Behind their success stands a stereotype, a vision of liberals as an elite, a collection of snobs alternately permissive and moralistic, an upper class that believes it is more sophisticated and tasteful than average people.

It is a pernicious doctrine, and yet there is a grain of truth to it. A grain of truth that get- togethers like this one — where minor stars swap righteousness with lobbyists, politicians and local venture capitalists — magnify into life-sized lessons in liberal elitism.

Cut to Bush's second inaugural:

AFTER the Constitution Ball and the Commander in Chief Ball, after all the official black-tie parties wound down around midnight on Inauguration Day, members of a young Republican crowd scarcely old enough to remember the Reagan years were still looking for excitement. Naturally, they headed to a basement bar in Georgetown that has become an unofficial clubhouse for the Jenna and Barbara Bush generation.

At that bar, Smith Point, these refugees in cummerbunds and gowns shimmied to a D.J. playing the Beastie Boys and slurped vodka shots poured down an ice-sculpture luge....

The president's 23-year-old daughters have been frequent visitors to Smith Point since moving to Washington after the election.... The twins have been known to show up with a posse of up to 30, including old Texas friends, Yale buddies of Barbara's and other children-of-the-prominent like Krystal Shanahan, the daughter of Mike Shanahan, the Denver Broncos coach.

Part of the allure of Smith Point is that the president's daughters are treated just like everyone else, regulars say. "They feel like they can be Jenna Jones, as opposed to Jenna Bush," said Winston Lord, 37, who works in public relations for an investor group seeking ownership of the Washington Nationals baseball club....

Hmmm ... do you suppose that Winston Lord is in some way related to this Winston Lord?

Winston Lord served as the United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from November 1985 through last April 1989....

The president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations from 1977 to 1985, Ambassador Lord has considerable experience in public service with the U.S. government. He served as senior counselor for the President’s National Bipartisan Commission on Central America from 1983 to 1984 and as Director of Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff from 1973 to 1977. Prior to holding that position, he was a member of the National Security Council Staff and Special Assistant to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1969 to 1973....

Ambassador Lord is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission ...

Er, you get the picture. (That Winston Lord was also in Skull & Bones.)

"Everybody knows everybody here," explained Mr. Blair, a 32-year-old Georgetown native who has managed an unlikely feat in a city not known for sizzling night life: a genuine velvet-rope hot spot. It has become especially identified as a haven for a hip young Republican elite, including alumni of the Ivy Leagues and private Southern schools like Washington and Lee and Duke....

Catherine Forbes, a daughter of Steve Forbes, the one-time Republican presidential candidate, said on Thursday night: "I moved here in 1994, right after the Republican Revolution and Newt Gingrich, and there was nothing. Basically, Bo has created for young conservatives a Pamela Harriman. It's the salon. You feel safe; you can let your hair down."...

Tom Frank is right that Republicans win because they're able to portray Democrats as elitists and themselves as jes' folks, but why is that? Here's a gathering spot for young Republicans, and virtually everyone seems to be the descendant of someone -- this isn't just status, it's inherited status. Why is this virtually invisible (and thus not damaging to the GOP's ever-expanding reputation as the Party of Regular Americans), while Democrats are fatally damaged by the appearance with a Democratic candidate of, say, Whoopi Goldberg or Bruce Springsteen (both of whom are, by the way, self-made successes)?

Frank's op-ed railed against the Democrats' "glitzy world of risque dresses, pseudo-transgressive stylings and velvet ropes." Hmmm -- Smith Point has velvet ropes. And as for "risque dresses," well, go here and scroll down to see the designs for the Bush twins' inaugural gowns. (To quote Barbara at the Mahablog, "The drawing in the Post suggests not-Jenna's gown has less than three square inches of fabric above the waist. If Chelsea Clinton .... never mind. Iokiyar.")


Jeb Bush, speaking Republican:

Calling his proposal "empowered care," Governor Bush said when he announced it here on Jan. 11 that it would offer more choice and flexibility to users....

"Our proposals put the focus back on the patient by encouraging strong patient-doctor relationships and allowing competition in the market to drive access and quality of care," the governor said in putting forward his proposal here last week.

What Jeb's talking about, in English:

Mr. Bush is proposing that the state's 2.1 million Medicaid recipients be allotted money to buy their own health care coverage from managed care organizations and other private medical networks. If enacted, the program would make Florida the first state to allow private companies, not the state, to decide the scope and extent of services to the elderly, the disabled and the poor, half of them children.

...Florida ... would not be the only state to incorporate managed care into its Medicaid program. Most states do. The difference is that other states impose strict conditions about who will be covered and for which services. Under Governor Bush's plan, the private companies would make those important decisions without government interference.

"It's very radical," said Joan Alker, senior researcher for the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. "It seems clear that the intent is really based on the notion that the H.M.O.'s and private insurers will have substantial flexibility to make a profit at the expense of the Medicaid beneficiary, who essentially assumes the risk of not getting the services they need. That's unprecedented in Medicaid, really."...

So letting for-profit companies decide what medical services will and won't be covered under Medicaid -- even for children -- is "allowing competition in the market to drive access and quality of care." And letting HMO bureaucrats screw up claims is "put[ting] the focus back on the patient by encouraging strong patient-doctor relationships."

Yeah, that's an Orwell grave-roll you hear.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Doesn't it make you feel safe and secure to learn that the president of the United States almost put homeland security in the hands of a guy with pals like this?

A butt-pinching incident in a Staten Island club ended early yesterday with the arrest of a city correction officer, a retired city detective and a former special assistant to ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik....

The skirmish escalated when the accused butt-pincher, Correction Officer Kenneth Perez, ripped the chain and police shield from the neck of one of the two undercover cops, law-enforcement sources said....

Later, when the cop, Frank Caggia, tried to put handcuffs on Perez, former Kerik aide Edward Aswad Jr. screamed, "You don't know who you're f---ing with. Don't you f--k with us," according to police sources....

That's from the New York Post account of the incident. This is from the Daily News:

Kerik confidant Eddie Aswad was charged with disorderly conduct, but cops were more interested in what they found inside his wallet after cuffing him: Kerik's retired NYPD identification card and a duplicate NYPD badge.

"It was Kerik's ID card. It's what Kerik should have in his pocket, not Aswad," a police source said....

Aswad, a retired captain in the city Correction Department, had been a top aide for Kerik since 1987....

When Kerik became police commissioner, Aswad's services were loaned to the NYPD. Sources said he could have palmed as many as a dozen of Kerik's IDs - either as mementos, "or something to flash after a bar brawl so he doesn't get arrested," a police source said....

Oh, that's nice -- Kerik was almost Homeland Security secretary and there's a guy who may be walking around with a dozen copies of his ID? A guy who gets into drunken brawls in bars? And Kerik made no effort to retrieve them?

Feel safe yet?

A small additional tidbit about Aswad and Kerik, from the December 18 Newsday:

In 2002, while at a security firm prior to his joining Giuliani Partners, Kerik had city-subsidized help, from a correction captain then on the city payroll.

Capt. Eddie Aswad, an aide and driver to city jail commissioners since 1987, was paid $17,645 in overtime in the first quarter of 2002 while serving Kerik in the private sector.


But Kerik was still welcome at the inaugural, of course. Because I bet Bush still thinks he's a "good man."

Friday, January 21, 2005

A message from rock legend Ronnie James Dio:

Ronnie James Dio, the man widely credited for pioneering the "devil's horns" hand sign, recently spoke to Kerrang! about the "widespread abuse of his creation" amongst ... people who flash the sign without knowing the meaning behind it.

"It's all right as long as it's accepted for what it was," Dio told the magazine. "It was a more serious thing at the time, when I was with [BLACK] SABBATH. That was a band that was very dark, and that's what I wanted it to be. It was symbol of the darkness of that band.... It's become so damn polluted now. The people who are doing it don't know what it means and they have no idea that they shouldn't be doing it.

..."The point is that you can't just flash it. You have to have a face that goes with it. There has to be some emotion behind it. It can't just be the raising of the arm, trying to get your fingers in the right position.... As stupid as this might sound, I never once did that on stage unless it was to punctuate something that was a little more dark...."


(Yeah, yeah, I know -- for Bush, it's a Texas thing.)
So last night I watched the special on ABC about new surveillance techniques and their effect on privacy. Needless to say, there's a lot of Orwellian stuff going on out there -- but some of what was mentioned concerned lapses in surveillance, involving things we'd actually like observed, noted, and intelligently collated. I'm thinking, obviously, of the failure to keep adequate tabs on the movements of 9/11 hijackers who were in the country even though they were on government watch lists. From the ABC site, here's the familiar litany:

Take the example of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Even before the attacks, they were already on U.S. government watch lists because of possible links to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.

But federal agencies like the CIA and FBI failed to share their information with each other. They were not technologically nor bureaucratically equipped to do so, and they failed to connect the dots that might have led to the unveiling of the plot.

The CIA apparently didn't know Alhazmi and Almihdhar were already in the country when it alerted the Immigration and Naturalization Service, FBI and Coast Guard not to let them in the country. They were even booking flights using their own names, and did not trigger any alerts.

Private databases could have been useful because Almihdhar gave an address also used by Marwan Al-Shehhi and Mohamed Atta, two of the hijacker pilots. Again, no one connected the dots between someone on the terrorist watch list and his accomplices.

Atta made a plane reservation with a phone number that could have tied him to five more of hijackers. Alhazmi used the same address as another hijacker, Salem Alhazmi. And ironically, there was one more number shared between Almihdhar and another of the hijackers, Majed Moqed: a frequent-flier number.

For some reason, that made me think of a very different information-collection program connected to the Bush administration -- one that was celebrated in a New York Times article a month after the 2004 election. I found the article -- still available free here -- and it confirmed what I suspected: the Bush campaign was breaking new ground in the use of personal data while the Bush administration lagged:

...With the luxury of four years until the next election, the Bush team examined voters' television-viewing habits and cross-referenced them with surveys of voters' political and lifestyle preferences.

...As the Bush team analyzed the data, stark differences between the viewing habits of Republicans and Democrats quickly emerged. The channels with the highest proportion of Democrats were Court TV and the Game Show Network; for Republicans, Speedvision and the Golf Channel.

During the week, Republicans switch off the tube earlier than Democrats do. (Republicans who stay up are more likely to tune in to Jay Leno, while Democrats flock to David Letterman.)

... the Bush campaign, which began analyzing the data shortly after Mr. Bush took office in 2001, ran test projects in 2002 in the Senate race in Texas and in a Colorado Congressional race. The data in Colorado revealed, among other things, which roads Republicans drove as they commuted to work, helping the Republicans determine where to place billboards.

...[The campaign] had reams of data that were not of immediate practical value but that helped the campaign understand its voters: for example, Porsche owners were more likely to be Republican; Volvo owners, Democratic....

(Emphasis mine.)

All this sophisticated data-massaging was the work of the permanent campaign. (Note that we don't even blink at the notion that something called "the Bush campaign" existed in early 2001.)

Too bad some of the energy and brain power that was put into this couldn't have been put into the work of actually keeping America safe and secure.
Peggy Noonan on Bush's 2005 inaugural address:

...This world is not heaven.

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. "The Author of Liberty." "God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind ... the longing of the soul."

...One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.

Peggy Noonan on Bush's 2001 inaugural address:

The tone was properly ecumenical, but the content was God-filled: "We are guided by a power larger than ourselves, Who created us equal in his image"; "Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are failures of love"; "Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws"; "Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with great love."

... his speaking so much and so feelingly of God's place and precedence, his speaking so explicitly of poverty and disadvantage as failures of love, puts the Democrats of Congress in another interesting position.
If you don't give room to faith-based help, and freedom-based assistance to children in trouble in school and on the streets, God and I gonna open up a can of whupass on you.
The parade is supposed to be spontaneous, cheerful. This looked like a banana republic worried about a restive tank regiment at the edge of town. It was unworthy of the occasion.

--George Will (yes, George Will) in a story broadcast on ABC last night about security at the inaugural parade back to the White House

Bush has just announced that we must remake the entire third world in order to feel safe in our own homes, and he has done so without sounding a single note of reluctance or hesitation. This overturns the nation’s fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of "foreign entanglements." The second President Adams asserted that "we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force. Maybe I'm misreading Bush — I'm writing this based on my notes, and without having had time to study the text — but sheesh.

--column at National Review Online by Peter Robinson, author of How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life

It's nice that Robinson's upset, but has he been in a coma the last couple of years? Is he saying that he just noticed the Bushies are imperialists?


Peggy Noonan is another one with a slow learning curve:

The United States, the speech said, has put the world on notice: Good governments that are just to their people are our friends, and those that are not are, essentially, not.

Er, Peg? More than three years ago, the man said, "Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." The world took notice of those words, Peggy, even if you were probably just paying attention to the manliness of Bush's shoulders.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It's not showing up in the still photos, but every TV news clip I've seen of the swearing-in shows Rick Santorum's pink, smirky face perfectly framed by Bush's raised arm. That can't have been an accident. Who decided to put him that close to the First Family, and why?
Not a word on Iraq. President Bush's inaugural address contained 2,000 words of passion and promise for his second term, but no direct mention of the war that could sink it.


Amazing. First he made bin Laden unmentionable, and now this. Awfully strange way to treat what we're always being told are your most magnificent achievements.

Will you describe me as a disgusting coastal elitist if it upsets me that certain Southerners enjoy forcing tuskectomized wild hogs to fight pit bulls?

Hog-dog fighting was outlawed in Louisiana last year and the bloody sport is starting to move into south Mississippi, a [Mississippi] Senate panel was told Wednesday....

The "rodeos" put pit bulls or other dogs into pens with wild hogs that are left mostly defenseless after their tusks have been sawed off. People bet on how long it will take the dogs to pin down the hogs.

Members of the Senate Judiciary B Committee on Wednesday were shown a television report about hog-dog fighting in south Alabama. The hogs could be heard screeching loudly as dogs pinned them and chewed their ears....

Ouch. Enough.

This is illegal in Louisiana, but not in Mississippi yet. (The story doesn't mention the legal status in Alabama.) Then again, Warren Trice, a Louisiana state legislator, says that

if Mississippi outlaws hog-dog fighting, "I know damn good and well they're going to come back into Louisiana."

I wonder if anyone who's ever attended one of these fights voted for Kerry last fall. I kinda doubt it.


UPDATE: Another hog-dog story. This one focuses on South Carolina, and notes that hog-dog fights have also taken place in Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona. Gee, all red states.

From the inaugural address:

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

How, logically, can both of the highlighted passages be true?
So I woke up this morning to discover that Drudge, Michelle Malkin, and others on the Internet Right were all a-flutter about this story:

Authorities are scouring Boston for four Chinese nationals and two Iraqi men who may pose a nuclear threat to the city based on a report from an unidentified man calling from Mexico who claims to have smuggled them over the U.S. border.

Apparently, they were so a-flutter they didn't read it all the way to the end.

"I'm shocked it made it into the newspaper because I don't think it is something that has been fully vetted," [White House Chief of Staff Andrew] Card said. "It was during the intelligence briefing ... the president was given this sketchy intelligence. It was truly sketchy intelligence...."

[Massachusetts] Attorney General Tom Reilly also downplayed the seriousness of the tip last night. "We don't even know if these individuals are in the country," Reilly said....

Sources said much of the man's information sounds far-fetched and investigators have some doubts about the caller's validity because he has not identified himself. "A lot of it doesn't make sense and some of it does," said one source....

Multiple sources said there is speculation the caller may have been ripped off by the illegal aliens and is now trying to exact revenge.

"It's very weird. Even if (the Iraqis and Chinese) were going to do something, why would they be blabbing to the yahoo smuggling them across the border?" one source noted. "You have to wonder if they screwed him on a deal but you have to treat it seriously and the issue is how do you put it out to the public and not get everybody (in a panic)?"

A newer story adds this:

"Based on the information we have received from federal officials, it does not appear that there is any cause for alarm," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said. "The tip received by the FBI is unconfirmed and uncorroborated...."

Look, I don't know. Maybe my old hometown is in deep trouble. But the Chinese connection seems bizarre. I don't want to fall victim to failure of imagination, but if Chinese people are being smuggled into this country across the Mexican border, I assume they're coming here to work. (Here in NYC we don't really like to think about how our many, many Chinese restaurants keep their prices so cheap.) The explanation given at the end of the first article -- a pissed-off smuggler telling lies to the authorities -- makes sense.

I could get conspiratorial here and ask whether there's any connection between the sudden terror warning and Bush's poll numbers; last year JuliusBlog plotted these correlations in chart and table form. And, well, what do you know -- Bush's numbers look pretty bad in a New York Times/CBS poll published today.

The only thing that puzzles me is that this story brings up a big area of disagreement within the Bush Right. Most of his supporters hate the fact that illegal aliens get into this country, and hate the fact that Bush wants to help millions of them become legal guest workers. Why would Bush want this subject brought up?

Well, maybe he doesn't care if his immigration plan passes. Maybe a declaration of support for the plan is meant to increase Hispanic interest in the GOP, while no change is really ever expected to become law. (Mustn't alienate the base.)

So here we are again -- Bush's poll ratings are down, he's got a big agenda, and fear sells. You decide if there's a connection.


Just to be sure I'm not misunderstood, let me say that I do, obviously, think this needs to be thoroughly investigated. I just wonder what's made public and what isn't -- and why. If I read, for instance, that "chatter" is down, I assume this means that there are two possible levels of raw intelligence about terrorism: (1) a lot and (2) not quite as much. There's always something. So if talk of possible threats is constant, why does only some of it surface?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I told you yesterday that Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments judge, is the gubernatorial candidate preferred by Alabama Republicans going into the next election. I see now that that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It seems that Tom Parker, a judicial candidate endorsed by Moore, won election in November to the Alabama Supreme Court, and Moore was brought in to administer the oath of office to Parker on Friday, for which he received a round of applause. In the run-up to the election, Parker consorted with neo-Confederate racists, including people who celebrate the birthday of the founder of the KKK; handed out Confederate flags while campaigning; and opposed removal from the state constitution of language mandating racially separate schools.

And if you're not sufficiently disturbed by this marriage of theocracy and old-school segregationism, here's another twist: Moore didn't have to administer the oath to Parker. That was just for show -- Parker had already been sworn in the day before.

By Clarence Thomas.

Theocracy. Racism. The Old/New South. The D.C. GOP. The segs. Thomas. Makes your head spin, doesn't it?

You may have read about that swearing-in -- it was the one at which, according to early reports,

Parker said Thomas told him a judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or to the Constitution.

--although Parker has since said that what Thomas told him wasn't quite so theocratic.

No word on whether the Klan or Confederate flags were discussed.

(Links via Blog on the Run, Orcinus, and Law and Politics.)


Incidentally, as I was digging through all this, I found a quote at
Orcinus from a Christian-conservative theocrat named Jay Rogers. Rogers writes about the Godly utopia he hopes for:

You may ask, In a biblically reconstructed society: Who will be able to vote? Who will be able to rule? Elections will still be determined by popular vote of the people and legislation will still be voted on by representatives. Communities will have been reconstructed through personal regeneration so that the majority of the electorate will be Christian or will hold to a "Christian philosophy." Therefore, the only people qualified to rule will be professing Christians who will uphold the moral law of God.

... Some have objected that this would lead to the mass stoning of homosexuals and incorrigible children. Reconstructionists must emphasize that what we want is not strong rule by the federal government in determining these matters, but the freedom for individual Christians, families, churches, and local community governments to rule without interference from a centralized state. We believe that Reconstruction is from the ground up. Mass regeneration must precede Reconstruction. As more are converted to Christ, more individuals become self-governing. This leads to stronger families and churches and the ability of local communities to govern their own affairs. Thus the total numbers of cases of sodomy or of uncontrollable children would grow less and less. The state would rule in fewer and fewer cases.

What does this remind me of? Hmmm, let me think. Oh, yeah, I remember: It reminds me of a statement made by Yusuf Islam -- the former Cat Stevens -- when Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses. Here's part of what he said, in what I believe was the first zealous flush of conversion:

Under Islamic Law, the ruling regarding blasphemy is quite clear; the person found guilty of it must be put to death. Only under certain circumstances can repentance be accepted.

...However, that is not to say I am encouraging people to break the law or take it into their own hands: far from it. Under the Islamic Law, Muslims are bound to keep within the limits of the law of the country in which they live, providing that it does not restrict the freedom to worship and serve God and fulfil their basic religious duties (fard'ayn). One must not forget the ruling in Islam is also very clear about adultery, stealing and murder, but that doesn't mean that British Muslims will go about lynching and stoning adulterers, theives and murderers. If we can't get satisfaction within the present limits of the law, like a ban on this blasphemous book, 'Satanic Verses' which insults God and His prophets - including those prophets honoured by Christians, Jews as well as Muslims - this does not mean that we should step outside of the law to find redress. No. If Mrs. Thatcher and her Government are unwilling to listen to our pleas, if our demonstrations and peaceful lobbying don't work, then perhaps the only alternative is for Muslims to get more involved in the political process of this country. It seems to be the only way left for us.

Not exactly identical, but both of these guys seem awfully eager to take over the government so the stoning laws can be imposed.
In a New York Times op-ed, Susan Jacoby says she knows how American got into this evolution mess:

At the beginning of the 20th century, however, America was well on its way to an accommodation between science and mainstream religion....

The [1925] Scopes trial changed all that....

When the 24-year-old Scopes was charged with violating a state law forbidding the teaching of evolution, his conviction by a jury (later overturned on a technicality) was a foregone conclusion. Clarence Darrow, the nation's most famous lawyer and most famous agnostic, turned a jury defeat into a public relations victory (at least among scientists and intellectuals) by goading William Jennings Bryan, who was assisting the prosecution, into taking the stand as an expert witness on the Bible.

Bryan, in the view of the Northern press, made a fool of himself. Opponents of evolution, however, lauded Bryan, and the press's ridicule of their hero helped to create the enduring fundamentalist resentment of secular science and secular government that has become such a conspicuous feature of our culture.

Between the Scopes trial and the early 1930's, "science-proof" fundamentalists pressured publishers into excising discussions of evolution - and often the word itself - from biology textbooks....

The caution inspired by such pressure extended beyond the Bible Belt and persisted for decades....

It's not clear, of course, how the Scopes trial could have happened in the first place if Americans were well on their way to a happy embrace of evolution. It's also not clear why the angry reaction to the trial became a permanent fixture of American society -- Jim Crow laws and lynching were also prominent parts of American life in 1925, and we were able to get rid of them.

Of course, we got rid of lynching and Jim Crow because brave people set out to get rid of lynching and Jim Crow. It wouldn't take nearly as much bravery to alter the way America thinks about evolution -- yet it's not being done.

Scientists and science writers need to reach out to the general public. What I keep imagining is a book, aimed at the widest possible audience and written as lucidly as humanly possible (hello, Malcolm Gladwell? Jared Diamond?), that explains precisely why the scientific community regards evolution as established fact. Don't call it Evolution for Dummies, but that's what it should be -- tell us what scientists know, how they know it, and how they see evolution validated and replicated in modern life. It should be a major publishing event -- hell, it should be a major event, period. It should lead to appearances on Good Morning America and Oprah and all the rest.

And I'd hope some of the scientists involved in this effort would be believers in God. I was a Catholic kid in the '60s and '70s and I saw no resistance to evolution in my church. That's still the case, and the same is true for Judaism and the mainline Protestant denominations. Evolution isn't compatible with fundamentalism, but it is compatible with belief. In a country full of believers, we'd benefit from a public effort to get that point across.

In the meantime, I'd like to see the more highly educated representatives of the Right -- from Instapundit to David Brooks to the Secretary of Education -- challenged on their alliance with people who don't believe in evolution. Hey, David, you sneer at coastal elites and praise red-state, small-town values -- does it bother you that the people you praise think Darwinism is the work of the Devil? Educated conservatives all know the truth about evolution -- it's time to ask them whether, on this subject, they stand with their ideological soul mates.
Last night there was an inaugural event using troops as props honoring the troops. Steve Holland of Reuters spotted the key quote in Bush's speech:

Among the 7,000 people in the audience were troops wounded in combat, 75 family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and as many as 80 winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award. The event was beamed to troop gatherings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush told the troops that "much more will be asked of you in the months and years ahead." ...

(Emphasis mine.)

Here's the full speech.

I guess Seymour Hersh is right:

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”...

In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election.... The war on terrorism would be expanded.... The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

And yet, according to Sunday's Washington Post,

Bush said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army, as some lawmakers and military experts have proposed.

It's just like Wal-Mart, kids -- we're not increasing staff, and you're all just going to have to suck it up and do more. And four years from now, maybe Jeb'll throw you another inaugural ball.

(Link via Democratic Underground.)