Sunday, July 31, 2005

There was a fine New York Times op-ed today called "Switched Off in Basra," about the rise of fundamentalism in the Iraqi south and the unwillingness of British troops to confront it. You should read the article, but let me just point out one sentence that took me aback:

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month.

Is that right? Hundreds of assassinations take place in Basra every month? I find that shocking.
Yeah, I'm back. I'm a bit behind on my news, though I heard a fair amount of NPR news over the past week (which was worthwhile) and took in some CNN (which wasn't).

I came back to note that in recent weeks Richard Posner apparently read, or at least skimmed, several books on the state of news in America, then wrote an essay that barely mentions the books; he turned the essay in to The New York Times Book Review, and it wound up on the Book Review's cover. The essay is an ungodly mess -- and not just because it contains one utterly jaw-dropping sentence:

The rise of the conservative Fox News Channel caused CNN to shift to the left.

It's because Posner sees everything that's happening to the press right now as the result of economic determinism. Posner says this even though he notes that Americans have very little respect for the press, according to polls, and that fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers. Now, I've always thought that economic forces compelled for-profit businesses to do stuff that made them more money and made more people like their products, not the other way around, but I guess I'm just not as smart as Richard Posner.

Posner argues that the press becomes more polemic when there's more competition. To illustrate how this works, he imagines a town some time ago with two newspapers:

One of the two newspapers would probably be liberal and have a loyal readership of liberal readers, and the other conservative and have a loyal conservative readership. That would leave a middle range. To snag readers in that range, the liberal newspaper could not afford to be too liberal or the conservative one too conservative. The former would strive to be just liberal enough to hold its liberal readers, and the latter just conservative enough to hold its conservative readers. If either moved too close to its political extreme, it would lose readers in the middle without gaining readers from the extreme, since it had them already.

But suppose cost conditions change, enabling a newspaper to break even with many fewer readers than before. Now the liberal newspaper has to worry that any temporizing of its message in an effort to attract moderates may cause it to lose its most liberal readers to a new, more liberal newspaper; for with small-scale entry into the market now economical, the incumbents no longer have a secure base. So the liberal newspaper will tend to become even more liberal and, by the same process, the conservative newspaper more conservative.

Which explains a lot about our news now -- if you live in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land and think CNN has in recent years gone as far to the left as Fox has to the right.

In fact, Fox and the rest of the Murdoch media empire are like past right-wing media empires -- Time and the L.A. Times and the Hearst papers -- that skewed right under hands-on right-wing tycoons. All of the above eventually drifted to the center or left not because the economic landscape changed but because the SOBs who built the empires were no longer in the pictue; it'll happen with Murdoch's empure, too.

Meanwhile, we have Posner making absurd statements like this:

Liberals, including most journalists (because most journalists are liberals), believe that the decline of the formerly dominant "mainstream" media has caused a deterioration in quality. They attribute this decline to the rise of irresponsible journalism on the right, typified by the Fox News Channel (the most-watched cable television news channel), Rush Limbaugh's radio talk show and right-wing blogs by Matt Drudge and others.

They do? It's my impression that most liberal critics believe the mainstream press began to decline 25 or 30 years ago: owners of TV networks began demanding that news divisions generate serious profits, both networks and newspapers shuttered news bureaus overseas, there were decines in investigative journalism (in the print press) and documentaries (on commercial TV news); "service" pieces crowded out serious news. Reaganism spurred consolidation of media ownership; the press turned timid after Watergate. Then along came cable to eat into broadcast TV's profits; talk radio followed, then the Internet. It's a complicated story, but the press seemed in decline long before Limbaugh or Fox.

Argh -- are you still with me? I'm bored just hacking my way through the piece; I apologize if I'm boring you. (This response to Posner's ungodly mess is itself, I guess, an ungodly mess.) Maybe you should just read the article, assuming you want to punish yourself. Oh, but did I mention that Posner actually quotes Daniel Okrent favorably?

Daniel Okrent, the first ombudsman of The New York Times, said that the news pages of The Times "present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading."

Well, duh -- newspapers, the Times especially, present straight marriage, or at least straight weddings, in a tone that approaches cheerleading, even though an awful lot of straight people go on to endure difficult, painful marriages. If you think gay and straight marriage are equivalent, why the hell wouldn't you see the gay version through the same rose-colored glasses you use for straight marriage?

And this makes me chuckle:

The bloggers are parasitical on the conventional media. They copy the news and opinion generated by the conventional media, often at considerable expense, without picking up any of the tab. The degree of parasitism is striking in the case of those blogs that provide their readers with links to newspaper articles. The links enable the audience to read the articles without buying the newspaper.

Yeah -- did you know that if it weren't for us bloggers and our links, you'd have to buy a print newspaper to read news on the Web?


UPDATE: In Slate, Jack Shafer posts a much better response to Posner than mine.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I wanted to blog a bit more today, but I'm heading out of town for about a week starting tomorrow, and I had a lot of things to take care of. I'll see you July 31 or August 1.
I'd like to pose this question to Olivier Roy, who today publishes (in The New York Times) the nine millionth in a series of articles since July 7 making the argument that the Palestinian situation and the war in Iraq aren't inspiring terrorism, and to all who went before him and will come after him:

Given your assertion that the policies of the United States and its allies toward Arab and Muslim nations have no influence whatsoever on Islamicist jihad, is it safe to assume that you believe it would not increase terrorism if the United States bombed Mecca?
In news from Massachusetts, it appears that not every potential 2008 GOP presidential candidate has completed the coursework at the George W. Bush School of Faking Ordinariness When You're Stinking Rich:

It's a burden for more than 600,000 of Governor Mitt Romney's constituents: the cost of a subway ride.

But asked at a news conference yesterday about the price of a token, Romney stumbled.

"A buck," he gamely responded.

That was the correct price -- in 2003. Informed of the $1.25 it now costs, Romney told reporters "OK, I'll give you a quarter," then laughed and descended into Park Street Station....

Now, you'd think Romney might remember the fare -- after all, he approved the last fare increase in 2003.

But I guess he thinks that a a rich entrepeneur turned pol doesn't need to know this. (Then again, the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, a Republican Republicans love to hate, is an even richer entrepreneur, and he rides the NYC subway on a regular basis. (Incidentally, thirty years ago I rode the subway once with then-governor Michael Dukakis, who's not rich.)

Romney was also asked by a reporter yesterday about when he last rode the subway. He could only recall recent press events at T stops.

"Let's see it was, we did it with the Charlie card and then also the ... it was with [Senate] President [Robert E.] Travaglini -- I'm trying to recall," he said, asking aloud, "We were at a station, what was it ... Ashmont station? Ashmont station, it was Ashmont station ... It's not my regular commute."

There's something almost ... well, Alan Keyesian about Romney and his ability to control the message:

The rest of Romney's day didn't go quite as planned, either. First, a homeless man harassed him on the way to the Park Street T, loudly demanding at the news conference: "Are you running for president?" Later came the "cat lady" -- Heidi Erickson, locally infamous for allegedly hoarding cat carcasses in her Beacon Hill apartment -- who screamed, "You killed my cats," and scuffled with transit police as Romney spoke at Park Street Station.

Yeah -- I really want the Dems to run against this guy.

(Link via DU.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The New York Times finds this simply remarkable:

At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative's identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.

...People who have been briefed on the case said that the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr., were helping to prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier....

The effort was particularly striking because to an unusual degree, the circle of administration officials involved included those from the White House's political and national security operations, which are often separately run....

Oh well -- I guess we can't expect Beltway reporters from the most important newspaper in America to have read poassibly the most talked-about political magazine article of the Bush presidency:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."...
Dean of All Beltway Journalists David Broder suggests today that Arkansas's GOP governor, Mike Huckabee, might be president of the United States someday soon; his column is titled "The Next 'Man From Hope'?"

Good Lord. If Huckabee really does run and win, then it's incontrovertible: There's one set of political rules for Democrats and another for Republicans. Huckabee, you see, has his own Willie Horton: Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist with a previous criminal record whom Huckabee helped win parole for questionable -- possibly political -- reasons, and who then went on to commit murder.

This thorough Kansas City Star story from 2001 (UPDATE: try this link instead) gives the facts about DuMond: He was sentenced to life plus twenty years in prison after being convicted of raping 17-year-old Ashley Stevens in Forrest City, Arkansas, in 1984. Before the trial began, in 1985, two men broke into his house and castrated him. A vicious act of vigilantism, yes -- but don't feel too sorry for DuMond:

He had been charged with a 1972 murder in Lawton, Okla., where he was stationed at Fort Sill while in the U.S. Army. The charges were dropped after he agreed to testify against two others, who were found guilty.

He had served five years' probation in Washington for attacking a woman in a parking lot in 1973.

He had been arrested in 1976 after the alleged rape of a woman in DeWitt, Ark., but he never was charged. The woman, who had a young child, refused to press charges, according to Arkansas authorities.

DuMond drove Stevens in her Ford Granada to a secluded area about a mile from her home. There he raped and sodomized her.

"He said he would kill me," Stevens said. "I begged for my life." ...

With Stevens testifying, the trial went smoothly for prosecutors.

"I've never had a stronger case against anybody," [prosecutor Fletcher] Long said. "The evidence pointed only in one direction."

William McArthur, a defense attorney for DuMond, said that before the trial, "I concluded in my own mind there was no way the state could lose that case."

Ah, but the governor at the time was Bill Clinton, a distant cousin of the victim. Once Clinton was president, the campaign to discredit every aspect of his life included a campaign to discredit this conviction. A leader of the campaign was New York Post sleazemonger Steve Dunleavy, who wrote about the case. He became DuMond's Zola.

As Murray Waas reported in the Arkansas Times in 2002,

...Huckabee has shifted responsibility for Dumond's release to others...

But the Times' new reporting shows the extent to which Huckabee and a key aide were involved in the process to win Dumond's release. It was a process marked by deviation from accepted parole practice and direct personal lobbying by the governor, in an apparently illegal and unrecorded closed-door meeting with the parole board (the informal name by which the Post Prison Transfer Board is known)....

"I don't believe that he had access to, or read, the law enforcement records or parole commission's files - even by then," [a state] official said. "He already seemed to have made up his mind, and his knowledge of the case appeared to be limited to a large degree as to what people had told him, what Jay Cole had told him, and what he had read in the New York Post."

Jay Cole, like Huckabee, is a Baptist minister, pastor for the Mission Fellowship Bible Church in Fayetteville and a close friend of the governor and his wife. On the ultra-conservative radio program he hosts, Cole has championed the cause of Wayne Dumond for more than a decade.

Cole has repeatedly claimed that Dumond's various travails are the result of Ashley Stevens' distant relationship to Bill Clinton.

The governor was also apparently relying on information he got from Steve Dunleavy, first as a correspondent for the tabloid television show "A Current Affair" and later as a columnist for the New York Post.

Much of what Dunleavy has written about the Dumond saga has been either unverified or is demonstrably untrue. Dunleavy has all but accused Ashley Stevens of having fabricated her rape, derisively referring to her in one column as a "so-called victim," and brusquely asserting in another, "That rape never happened."

The columnist wrote that Dumond was a "Vietnam veteran with no record" when in fact he did have a criminal record. He claimed there existed DNA evidence by "one of the most respected DNA experts in the country" to exonerate Dumond, even though there was no such evidence. He wrote that Bill Clinton had personally intervened to keep Dumond in prison, even though Clinton had recused himself in 1990 from any involvement in the case because of his distant relationship with Stevens.

DuMond left prison in 1999. On September 20, 2000, he murdered Carol Sue Shields and left her body bound and nude on a bed. A DNA match to DuMond was made from material found under Shields's fingernails.

President Huckabee?
OK, so John Roberts isn't a member of the Federalist Society.

I assumed it was true, based on this Washington Post story. I guess the guy is so ordinary and Midwestern he never bothered to correct Legal Times when it ID'd him as a Federalista in February.
Well, the lead of this Washington Times article is heartening:

White House political strategist Karl Rove and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have been trying to talk Florida Rep. Katherine Harris out of running for the Senate next year, but have been unsuccessful thus far.

... "I know I can win this," she has told doubting party officials.

...Polls show Mrs. Harris, who is popular with the state's conservatives, would be the clear front-runner in a party primary contest, but they also show she runs particularly poorly among independents and draws virtually no support among Democrats. A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed Mr. Nelson leading her in a head-to-head matchup 50 percent to 38 percent....

But I'm also delighted to read this:

...Meantime, Rhode Island's [Lincoln] Chafee, a liberal party maverick in a heavily Democratic state, faces a conservative challenge from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who would be favored in a Republican Party primary. State Republican officials say they, Mr. Rove and the NRSC have also tried to talk Mr. Laffey out of running, urging him to run for lieutenant governor and then seek the governorship.

"Right now, it looks like Laffey is going to run and that means we could lose this seat," a party official said....

If that's accurate, that's great news.

I've been saying for a while that Rove is going to get away with his involvement in the Plame leak -- but if I'm right, that doesn't mean it's having no impact on Rove and Bush and the GOP. Maybe some Republicans are now bucking Rove because they see him (and the president) as weakened. If so, I'm delighted.

Another possible explanation could have nothing to do with Rovegate -- it may just be that the far right thinks it's driving the bus now and can defy even the White House on those occasions when the White House tacks toward the center. The right's rejection of a Gonzales Supreme Court appointment is one example of this; defiant candidates are another.

To tell you the truth, I'm not 100% sure Harris would lose -- she'd collect massive amounts of money from far-rightists all over the country, who accord her victim status because of the way she became a laughingstock in 2000. Then again, she may have, er, other liabilities.
David Brooks today:

...John G. Roberts is the face of today's governing conservatism.

Conservatives who came of age in the 1960's did so in an intensely ideological time when it was arduous to be on the right. People from that generation are more likely to have a dissident mentality, to want to storm the ramparts of the liberal establishment, to wade in to vanquish their foes in the war of ideas.

But John Roberts didn't enter Harvard until the fall of 1973. He missed all that sturm und drang, so he lacks, his former colleagues say, the outsider/dissident mentality. By the time he came of age, it was easier for a conservative to be comfortable in mainstream institutions, without feeling embattled or spoiling for a fight....

What the hell is he talking about? Apart from the fact that being a few years too young for Woodstock and the Vietnam War doesn't automatically make right-wingers immune to pugnacious zealotry (Rick Santorum, anyone?), what earthly evidence is there that access to "mainstream institutions" diminishes conservative combativeness in any generation? If that were the case, the Ann Coulter/Dinesh D'Souza generation wouldn't have come of age while Ronald Reagan held the White House and the GOP had the Senate; if that were the case, we wouldn't have had so many young, eager-to-riot GOP staffers in Florida just after the 2000 election, and we wouldn't have Protest Warrior or Ben Shapiro or a million angry young blogging righties today.

Sometimes I think it must have been hell growing up as little Davey Brooks. It's clear what he dreams of for the nation: conservatism and "values" triumphant, with no expressions of discontent, everyone smiling and well behaved around a Norman Rockwell dinner table. He wants us not only to give up on disagreeing with him and his fellow right-wingers but to like it. And he's desperate to believe that the people on his own side have already abandoned belligerence, or will do so any day now.

I imagine Brooks grew up in a stifling family in which disagreement was swiftly suppressed -- but in which the family myth was that everyone got along swimmingly. If I'm right, I really don't want to think about how that myth might have been drilled into little Davey.
More bombings in London:

Emergency services were scrambling to locations around London today after reports of explosions at three tube stations and on a bus.

Services on three London Underground lines were suspended today after incidents at three tube stations. There are no reports of casualties at this stage....

Victoria Line passenger Ivan McCracken claimed a traveller's rucksack had exploded on the Tube outside Warren Street station. He told Sky News: "I was in a middle carriage and the train was not far short of Warren Street station when suddenly the door between my carriage and the next one burst open and dozens of people started rushing through. Some were falling, there was mass panic.

"It was difficult to get the story from any of them what had happened but when I got to ground level there was an Italian young man comforting an Italian girl who told me he had seen what had happened.

"He said that a man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack.

"The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong. At that point everyone rushed from the carriage."...

Horrible again, but this bomb sounds very, very poorly constructed -- let's hope they all were, and let's hope that's the best these people can do now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi:

Adoption group changes policy to accept Catholic applicants

After receiving criticism about its practice of excluding Catholics as adoptive parents, the board of Bethany Christian Services in Mississippi has voted unanimously to now include Catholic families in all adoption programs.

"In accepting applications for adoption, all Christians who are in agreement with our agency statement of faith are welcome applicants to the adoption process," wrote Bethany's state director Karen Stewart and board president Peggy McKey in a statement issued today. "Bethany Christian Services of Mississippi regrets any pain caused to families, especially to our Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ."

The statement said the adoption agency will continue to stand on its statement of faith but "we realize that we took too narrow a view in assessing adoptive applicants."...

As we learned a couple of days ago, Bethany discriminated while receiving funds collected by the state of Mississippi from the sale of "Choose Life" license plates.

By the way, I don't quite believe this:

...McKey, Bethany's local board president, said the agency's past policy of excluding Catholic parents was "unintentional on our part" as Bethany had assumed Catholic Charities gave preference to Catholic couples seeking to adopt.

"We just didn't keep up with the times," she said.

Catholic Charities of Jackson is an ecumenical organization that serves people of all faiths....

Prominent political Protestants are praising John Roberts, who's Catholic, but somebody needs to make sure that the rank and file are cc'd on the Catholics-are-cool-now memos.

(Link via DU.)
The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.

Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves....

The Pentagon’s request to raise the maximum recruit age to 42 is part of what defense officials are calling a package of “urgent wartime support initiatives” sent to Congress Monday night prior to a Tuesday hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.

...“Recruitment is a challenge right now,” [Representative Vic] Snyder [ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee] said. “Both the military and Congress are working on solutions, but I expect these challenges will be with us for some time. Military service is honorable and can be a real growing opportunity for a young man or woman.”

--Army Times

(Link via DU.)


A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance....

One of the critical passages is ... a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.

Under that measure, Shiite women in Iraq, no matter what their age, generally could not marry without their families' permission. Under some interpretations of Shariah, men could attain a divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives' presence....

It's just a proposal so far, but it comes not long after Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq's new prime minister, praised Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and laid a wreath on his tomb. And after Iraq and Iran signed a military cooperation agreement under which Iran reportedly would train Iraqi troops. (The Iraqi defense minister later denied that Iranian training would take place.) And at a point when Khomeini's picture is seen everywhere (including government offices) in Basra, site of a brutal attack, possibly deadly, on a mixed-gender picnic a few months ago.

And in this report and this one, read about the use of acid, rape, and murder to intimidate unveiled and educated women in Iraq.

(Links via Juan Cole and Atrios.)
Over at the Mahablog, Barbara says:

Bush (or, more likely Rove, who must've had a hand in choosing Roberts) wants a nasty, headline-grabbing fight. The messier, the better. As Chris Bowers says, the White House is using one partisan hack to deflect attention from another.
I don't know if Bush will get the distraction he wants. On the whole, Dems in Congress remain calm about the Roberts appointment. 

I'd take that a step further: Bush and Rove must know that they're going to get less of a fight than they could have -- for some reason they decided not to go for the most polarizing nominee possible, even though doing so would have driven Rovegate off the front page day after day after day.

What's going on? I think Bush is feeling a bit emasculated by his inability to get John Bolton confirmed, and perhaps by the filibusters (and the deal that didn't really make the filibuster threat go away). Maybe he's accepted the reality that Democrats can sometimes bite back, and he wants a nominee who can be confirmed, just to prove to the world that he's still effective, that he's still The Man.

Or maybe this is jiujitsu: Name someone who's a bit to the left of knuckledragger, hope the Dems fight back very hard, then attack them as unreasonably partisan -- and carry that charge over to the Rove story. But that only works if the Dems fight to death, and it looks as if they won't (see Barbara's post).

Or maybe the timing of the announcement was a tactic, but the choice wasn't -- maybe Bush sees the restocking of Supreme Court as his legacy, dammit,* and (after limiting himself to candidates deemed ideologically correct by the religious right) he went with the corporatist/partisan hack who just felt right to him. I do sometimes think that he's not really an ideological brawler -- he just believes in religion and deregulation and kicking evildoer ass, and he can't understand why everyone doesn't just agree.


*I probably should have said "part of his legacy, dammit" -- see what Aimai says in comments (and my reply).
"We're thrilled."

--Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, talking about the Roberts nomination on NPR this morning


And, as that story also pointed out, Roberts's wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, was the executive vice president of the anti-abortion group Feminists for Life. (This is also noted in The Boston Globe.)


And yes, of course he's a member of the Federalist Society, as The Washington Post notes.

(UPDATE 7/21: Er, no, apparently he isn't.)


And he worked in Florida in 2000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign in the post-election period.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

When it looked as if Rehnquist and not O'Connor was going to retire, Bloomberg News talked to Ted Kennedy.

Intriguingly, Kennedy said that of the three oft-mentioned, younger appeals court judges who are candidates for the chief justice slot - J. Michael Luttig, John Roberts or Michael McConnell - one would be acceptable. "I'm not going to get into which one" because that would be "the kiss of death" for that person, he said.

If he means Roberts, I'm guessing we're not going to see the Democrats put up much of a fight.
It's John Roberts.

OK, I'll try again: When Rehnquist retires, I think Bush will replace him with Edith Jones, "the Female Scalia." (Though I'm not sure if he'll pick somebody outside the Court to be Chief Justice or just use this person to fill Rehnquist's vacancy and elevate a sitting Justice to Chief -- probably Scalia or, my guess, Thomas.)


SECOND THOUGHTS, WEDNESDAY MORNING: No, strike that. It's clear now that Bush will always meet the religious right's strict litmus test on judges, but it's also clear that having judges from the Christian-right wing isn't a top Bush priority. Roberts is a corporatist and, I guess, a partisan hack. I think any additional Bush High Court nominees are going to be more or less like Roberts: thoroughly vetted and approved by the Christianists, but far more interested in defending the interests of CEOs and the GOP.

See the most recent update two most recent updates to my "Conservatives are told it will not be Gonzales" post.

Note that the righty source for this refers to Jones as "the Female Scalia."


UPDATE: ABC says it's not Clement. But the last paragraph of ABC's story cites Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown; there's no mention of Jones in the story. I really wouldn't put it past Bush to make the most polarizing choice possible, someone who's been blocked by the Democrats, as the ultimate screw-you.


UPDATE: Well, now the RedStaters think the nominee will be John Roberts. He's certainly said the magic words:

As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court (in a case that did not implicate Roe v. Wade) that "[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.... [T]he Court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

The decision to pick a white male to replace O'Connor would certainly explain why the story "Some in GOP Hope Rice Runs for President" was floating around today, via AP, apparently for no reason whatsoever -- somebody in the administration wanted that out today.
Blair: London Blasts, Iraq War Not Linked

Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Tuesday against making a connection between the London bombings and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that would be adopting the "perverted" logic of terrorists....

"Of course these terrorists will use Iraq as an excuse. They will use Afghanistan," Blair said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Sept. 11 happened of course before both of these things, and then the excuse was American policy, or Israel. They will always have their reasons for acting. But we have got to be really careful of almost giving in to the perverted and twisted logic with which they argue."...


This is a favorite argument among supporters of the war -- here's Hugh Hewitt making the argument last week in The Weekly Standard. Does it strike you as counterintuitive? If so, let me clarify it by using a metaphor:

You're in your backyard, sitting in your favorite chair. Suddenly half a dozen bees swarm around, and one of them stings you. Now you head out into the land surrounding your property. You come across a beehive. There's no evidence that your bees came from this hive, but it is a hive.

So you whack it with a baseball bat.

You kill some of the bees. But you're stung. Repeatedly. You swell up and you have to go to the emergency room.

Now, here's the thing: No one is allowed to say that your new bee stings were the result of your decision to hit the hive with a baseball bat, because you'd already been stung by bees.

Does that clear everything up?
Conservatives are told it will not be Gonzales

White House officials have assured select conservative leaders that they will not nominate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, according to a conservative familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions....

--The Hill

The White House told conservatives this? Or did conservatives tells the White House?

Shouldn't the lead sentence be more like this?

Select conservative leaders have assured White House officials that they will not nominate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor...

Yeah, that's more like it.


By the way, I predicted an Edith Jones pick back on July 4, but I didn't have a good reason for rejecting Edith Clement. (The Hill seems to think Bush will pick one or the other.) I wrote, "I can't find much in her record on abortion, and Bush's Christian-right puppetmasters won't let him pick anyone who isn't rock-solid on this." Well, here's this at

Update [2005-7-18 22:54:6 by Erick]: One more piece of news. Starting this past weekend I started receiving emails from people, some who I could verify and some not, trying to spin me that despite Clement's record, she is a conservative. There were enough emails from enough of a variety of people to make me think something was up. I might be reading too much into it, but it is interesting that a number of people are starting to talk about Clement the enigma as Clement the conservative.

There it is -- the secret fourth branch of government: right-wingers assuring one another, or not assuring one another, that a potential nominee engages in Correct Thinking. Bush won't nominate anyone who hasn't survived this process.


UPDATE: From someone at Free Republic last night:

I just walked out of Santorums Office in Harrisburg, PA. I heard this, "We have an acceptable nomination for the Court".

No clue who it might be. Watch the news tomorrow.

If that's legit, I guess it means Bush has taken well to the obedience training.


UPDATE: AP is betting on Edith Clement. But read this:

Known as a conservative and a strict constructionist in legal circles, Clement also has eased fears among abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court "has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion" and that "the law is settled in that regard."

Unless she's convinced the religious right that she had her fingers crossed behind her back when she wrote that, I have to believe that disqualifies her. My money's still on Jones.


UPDATE: A new post from

...Third party sources who would be among the first to know are saying that there is every indication that Clement is the pick. In fact, we are beginning to see conservatives get on board and shift from Edith B. Clement having too thin a papertrail to her being "with us."

No one knows how Clement would vote on the ultimate issue -- is abortion a medical procedure subject to state regulation or a constitutional right. I am told that, with the pressing issues currently headed to the court, i.e. partial birth abortion, parental notification, 24 hour waiting periods, the Solomon Amendment, etc. -- conservatives do not need to worry about Clement...

I have been told by multiple parties that, though we know little about Judge Clement's leanings on social issues, we should make no mistake that her family background is conservative and that her husband is a "loyal" conservative. Also, I've gotten a few emails and phone calls from a few particular people who would know who all say that we should trust the President on this pick....

I love the way right-wingers just say to one another flat-out, "Don't worry, she's the Manchurian Candidate."



Something has happened in the past ten minutes. I've had three five (they keep IM'ing) people from the media and conservative think tanks IM to say we're on a wild goose chase -- the conservative think tank people say its an intentional one. According to them, we should not be looking at Edith Clement, but at her cohort on the Fifth Circuit, Edith H. Jones a/k/a the Female Scalia.

My money is on Clement still, but it is interesting how, by the time I've finished writing this post seven people have IM'ed to say it is Jones, not Clement.

Reminds me of the Novak generated Rehquist retirement frenzy of two weeks ago, but with more credible people participating this time.

That's exactly what I've been thinking is going on. And I think Bush is childish enough to really take pleasure in fooling all the smartypantses this way.



...John King at CNN is saying that he is getting "pushback" from "those closely involved in the process" that he should "not go there" on Clement. She is in the final three, but we really will not know who it is until 9pm tonight.

Update [2005-7-19 16:2:29 by Erick]: Within the past hour, staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee have begun steering people away from Edith Brown Clement.

...and now ABC says it's not Clement.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I have to say I continue to find Rovegate exhausting -- and I'm reluctant to write about it because dozens of bloggers are much more up on the details than I am, so I fear I'm going to look like an idiot. Nevertheless, here goes. Apologies in advance for anything that's embarrassingly dumb.

The current Big Story is here, from Bloomberg News; it says that a State Department memo ID'ing Plame as Wilson's wife was being read by Ari Fleischer the day before Robert Novak spoke to Rove about Plame -- and that Rove placed a call to Fleischer that day, i.e., before he spoke to Novak (although it's not clear that Rove and Fleischer actually spoke).

The question that keeps coming to my mind is this: Is it possible that the Rove administration really doesn't consider Bush indispensable?

I ask because a number of the recent leaks cast the administration in a bad light. This is one example -- it suggests that the president's press secretary could have had something to do with revealing Plame's identity. But virtually all the recent leaks are good for Rove: They sow confusion about his role and would be extremely helpful if he were brought to trial.

The Rove alibi machine is working at maximum efficiency. Some of this is the White House/GOP message operation, but quite a bit of it is the leaks. Plame wasn't undercover. Plame was already known to be a CIA agent. It was Cooper who revealed Plame's identity to Rove. Rove discussed the identity with Cooper, but never mentioned the name. Rove revealed the identity, but as a way of warning journalists off a bad story. Colin Powell might have been the leaker. Fleischer might have been the leaker.

Sure, people who are following this closely and are Bush skeptics can swat a lot of these down. But well-versed Bush skeptics aren't going to be on a Karl Rove jury -- and the people who are will start the trial having heard so many counter-narratives that they'll never vote for guilt beyond a reasonbable doubt.

Obviously Rove would have a well-oiled machine up and running to keep himself out of jail -- but you'd think Priority #1 for a presidential courtier would be protecting the president from scandal and from damage to his administration's public image. Instead, the top priority seems to be keeping Rove out of the hoosegow, while the administration just looks sleazier and sleazier. Strange.

(From the Bloomberg article: "Rove's defenders say the recent revelations in the case -- some of which have emanated from his camp -- serve to exonerate rather than implicate him.")
I hope you're sitting down: It appears that "remote prayer" -- prayer that is directed at you from people far, far away -- doesn't help you get better when you're sick.

No, I'm serious! It really doesn't!

Prayers from distant congregations did not affect patients' recovery from coronary artery procedures, ... scientists reported Friday.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, looked at 748 patients at nine U.S. medical centers....

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist congregations were given patients' names and prayed for them for five to 30 days.

Survival rates did not differ among those who received prayer and those who did not, the study found....

--L.A. Times

The study was conducted at Duke University Medical Center and was called Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic Trainings II -- MANTRA II for short. It doesn't seem to have been federally funded, although an earlier study on remote prayer actually did receive tax dollars from the National Institutes of Health -- and actually came to the conclusion that remote prayer works. But in that case weird things happened to the statistical sample -- the study was "unblinded" and then reblinded, then the results were published in a scientific journal without any acknowledgment of that fact. Nevertheless, the results were taken seriously. I guess that's why seemingly rational people at allegedly serious institutions are still studying this -- not because, you know, we as a society are reverting to the Dark Ages or anything like that.

(L.A. Times link via Democratic Underground.)
I haven't liked much of what Ben Stein has written recently for the business section of The New York Times, but I appreciate the proposal he made in yesterday's column:

...What keeps going through my mind is that there is a big, yet always unstated, connection between ... on one hand, the megastars of Wall Street and corporate boardrooms, with their vast paychecks, yachts and horse farms in the Hamptons, and, on the other, the grunts in body armor chasing down terrorists half a world away in 130-degree heat....

The men and women in the Armani suits, who get the huge paychecks - and who, again, do work I sincerely appreciate and admire - could not exist for long if they were not being shielded by the men and women in uniforms and boots...

This is not leading up to a specific policy prescription beyond what my father and I have been saying for decades: that upper-income people like me (and I am a welfare mother by Wall Street standards) should pay more tax, and people in uniform should get more pay....

And this morning, USA Today says paying more money to soldiers works:

Soldiers are re-enlisting at rates ahead of the Army's targets, even as overall recruiting is suffering after two years of the Iraq war....

Army officials attribute the strong re-enlistment rates to unprecedented cash bonuses and a renewed sense of purpose in fighting terrorism. Some of the record bonuses are tax-free if soldiers re-enlist while in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Re-enlistment bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $150,000, depending on the type of job and length of re-enlistment. The $150,000 bonuses are offered only to senior special operations commandos who agree to stay in the military for up to six more years. The average bonus is $10,000, said Col. Debbra Head, who monitors Army retention at the Pentagon....

Of course, we keep cutting taxes on the rich, not raising them.

So here's my recommendation: The Democrats should call for precisely what Ben Stein's talking about -- a tax on the wealthy, but a dedicated tax, with all revenues going to troops in combat zones, in the form of pay increases and reenlistment bonuses. And here's the twist: The tax can be rolled back -- but only if the deployment of troops in war zones falls well below current levels.

Because the rich would get a tax cut if we withdraw from Iraq (or, alternately, find a way to actually defeat the insurgency), they'd have a reason to care how the war is going, a reason to question whether it's the right war, and whether it's being fought the right way. The Bush/Rumsfeld/Rove approach to Iraq -- endless war with inadequate troop strength -- would upset them, because it would take money out of their pockets.

Sorry -- every so often I need a nice pipe dream.
So I see from Kevin Drum that postings of a 1999 ABC News clip purportedly proving a deep Saddam-Osama connection are showing up on the Internet Right. (Of course, as Kevin says, we know there were contacts and they didn't amount to much.)

Kevin says that "the damning video first got dredged up by a radio show called The War Room With Quinn & Rose" and was picked up by a couple of righty bloggers, and that Power Line "got it from a reader" and it also spread from there.

Oh, please. This isn't spontaneous. This is top-down stuff made to look like ground-up stuff. The day after Bush's Fort Bragg speech we had a GOP back-bencher linking Saddam to 9/11, and we also have Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard going on about "the connection" again.

Is this just an effort to pull Bush's poll numbers out of the doldrums, or is it also intended to cast doubt on the notion that the administration went to war on false premises, in time for a possible Karl Rove perjury trial centered on Joe Wilson and the Niger-uranium claim? A bit of both, I suppose. I think it's Rove's work.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


From the Hattiesburg American in Mississippi:

A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's "Statement of Faith."

Bethany Christian Services in Jackson stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year.

"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy."

Sandy and Robert Steadman, who learned of Bethany's decision in a July 8 letter, said their priest told them the faith statement did not conflict with Catholic teaching....

It's odd -- conservative Catholics are working so hard to be accepted as full partners in the religious right, and the Protestant leaders of the religious right have welcomed them as reinforcements in the culture wars. But the rank and file?Sometimes that's another story entirely.

It appears (according to the Kalamazoo Gazette) that the national offices of this Michigan-based agency don't blackball Catholics -- this is just a local preference:

The Michigan offices, however, hold a different view.

"Absolutely, yes," the agency will place children with qualifying couples of the Roman Catholic faith and other Christian denominations, said Brad Keller, director of Southwest Michigan Bethany Christian Services, which has offices in Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, Three Rivers and Allegan.

And as for that pesky church-state separation thing? The Hattiesburg American explains:

Though the fee passes through state coffers, it is considered a private donation, said Kathy Waterbury of the Mississippi Tax Commission.

"They aren't public funds in that we are collecting money on behalf of the organization the tag represents," she said.

Oh. And I guess we're not supposed to think about the fact that government workers are paid to do this administrative work out of tax dollars.

Incidentally, here's Bethany's Statement of Faith. I was raised a Catholic and it beats the hell out of me what conflict there is between Catholic doctrine and this.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Houseguest time again. There probably won't be much posting this weekend.

Yesterday, Pat Campbell, a conservative talk-show host based in Orlando, had GOP congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado on as a guest. The discussion turned to terrorism:

CAMPBELL: Now, here's the other thing, too, with the possibility of an attack: I had Juval Aviv on the program last Friday. He's a former Israeli counterterrorism expert. He's claiming that an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, like the kind we saw in London, within the next, you know, ninety days. He said it's not just going to be, you know, one city like New York, or just major areas, but probably six, seven, eight cities, some of them right in the heartland. Worst-case scenario: If they do have these nukes inside the borders and they were to use something like that, what would our response be?

TANCREDO: What would be the response? You know, there are things that you could threaten to do before something like that happens and then you may have to do afterwards that are quite draconian--

CAMPBELL: Such as?

TANCREDO: Well, what if you said something like, if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.

CAMPBELL: You're talking about bombing Mecca.

TANCREDO: Yeah. I mean, what if you said, "We recognize that this is the ultimate threat to the United States, therefore this is the ultimate threat, this is the ultimate response." I mean, I don't know -- I'm just throwing out there some ideas because it seems to me, at this point in time, or at
that point in time, you would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could possibly imagine. Because other than that all you could do is, once again, tighten up internally.

I transcribed that from an MP3 file available at Campbell's Web site. (It's also posted at this site, where the headline is "US Representative Tom Tancredo in Response to U.S. Nuke Threat: We Could Nuke Mecca," even though neither Tancredo nor Campbell goes quite that far.)

If you listen to it, notice how excited Campbell seems. And notice, on Campbell's site, that the possibility of a simultaneous nuclear attack on as many as eight U.S. cities was so deeply unsettling that Campbell decided to air the remarks again today.

What's going on here? Well, I'm sure al-Qaeda would love to be able to nuke eight U.S. cities at once, but there still hasn't been an al-Qaeda attack using weapons of mass destruction, much less one involving the shipment of nukes to multiple locations for simultaneous detonation.

Therefore, this is nuts.

Ah, but it's fun. It's fun to imagine bombing (or nuking) Mecca -- it's about as much vicarious fun as a right-winger can have with his pants on. Therefore, it's fun to imagine terrorists doing something so awful that we might be able to justify bombing or nuking Mecca -- even if what justifies this it is a staggering attack that presumably would leave tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans dead.

Oh, and I love that "some of them right in the heartland" part. (Yeah, this time the ragheads aren't just gonna kill New Yorkers -- they're gonna kill some real Americans!) That does, however, come straight from Juval Aviv, Campbell's earlier guest, who has a book out and clearly knows who in America is most likely to buy it.


UPDATE, MONDAY, 7/18: The story makes USA Today, via AP.

While it is theoretically possible that some jihadists were forged as a result of the invasion of Iraq, no specific instance of such a terrorist has yet been produced.... And though two of the London bombers appear to have traveled to Pakistan for religious instruction post-March 2003, there is not the slightest bit of evidence that it was Iraq which "turned" the cricket-loving young men into killers. In fact, it is transparently absurd for anyone to claim such a thing.

--Hugh Hewitt in The Weekly Standard, 7/14/05

Shahzad Tanweer, the 22-year-old son of a Pakistani-born affluent businessman, turned to Islam, the religion of his birth, a few years ago.... He became withdrawn and increasingly angry over the war in Iraq, according to those who knew him best.

The U.S.-led war was what likely drove him to blow himself up on a subway train last week, said his friends.

"He was a Muslim and he had to fight for Islam. This is called jihad," or holy war, said Asif Iqbal, 20, who said he was Tanweer's childhood friend.

Another friend, Adnan Samir, 21, nodded in agreement.

"They're crying over 50 people while 100 people are dying every day in Iraq and Palestine," said Iqbal. "If they are indeed the ones who did it, it's because they believed it was right. They're in Heaven...."

...Maroof Latif, an unemployed Beeston resident, said he knew Khan since he was a child and believes if he took part in the terrorist bombings of the subways it was because of his anger over the war in Iraq and the U.S.-British occupation.

--AP, July 15, 2005


UPDATE: In case you haven't seen it yet, the best refutation of Hewitt is this Boston Globe article:

...[An] Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters [in Iraq] compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, "the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."

"Only a few were involved in past Islamic insurgencies in Afghanistan, Bosnia, or Chechnya," the Israeli study says. Out of the 154 fighters analyzed, only a handful had past associations with terrorism, including six who had fathers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, said the report, compiled by the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel....

"The president is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism, but this is a front we created," said Peter Bergen, a terrorism specialist at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington think tank....

Foreign fighters were found to be like Saud Bin Muhammad Bin Saud Al-Fuhaid, according to [Saudi investigator Nawaf] Obaid's research, to be published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington this summer. Described as in his early 20s, Fuhaid blew himself up March 24, three days after he entered Iraq from Syria, according to newspaper accounts and interviews with his family.

...Like many of the young men from Saudi Arabia who make up the majority of the foreign fighters, the student at Imam University in western Riyadh was not initially a radical jihadist, according to information gleaned from Saudi newspaper accounts and intelligence operations. In fact, he apparently almost changed his mind.

Fuhaid is believed to have traveled through Syria to fight in Iraq, but once he arrived told his family he would be coming home instead, according to a death notice published in Saudi newspapers and posted on the Internet. "However, during that time he met some friends of his who were going to Iraq and told him they were going to declare Jihad with their brothers in Iraq," the celebratory announcement said. "It was at that moment that our martyr changed his mind and told them that he will go back to Iraq with them and called his parents to tell him he won't be going home."

Obaid said in an interview from London that his Saudi study found that "the largest group is young kids who saw the images [of the war] on TV and are reading the stuff on the Internet. Or they see the name of a cousin on the list or a guy who belongs to their tribe, and they feel a responsibility to go."...

Oh, and the foreign fighters are, as a rule, Sunnis, according to the studies -- this is a sectarian struggle, and we generated a war out of it, apparently without grasping what the hell we were doing.
I'm sorry to see that Rovegate is dominating the blogosphere right now. (Trust me, people, he's going to get away with it.) I'm much more interested in AMERICAblog's story on the Bush administration's decision in 2004 to publicize threats to New York-area financial institutions -- and how that may have prevented the British from breaking up the sleeper cell that went on to bomb London's transportation system. If you haven't read the story, read it.

If this story is accurate, it's of a piece with Rovegate, of course -- one more example of national security taking a backseat to raw politics in Bushworld. As Atrios emphasized last night, the 2004 announcement was timed for just before the Democratic convention.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You love life and we love death.

--Al-Qaeda videotape, March 2004

I'd say this isn't quite accurate. Some in the West -- in America, specifically -- absolutely love death. At least they love the deaths that happened on 9/11. For them, 9/11 is porn -- righteous-indignation porn, sentiment porn.

Most of these people, tellingly, don't live anywhere near Ground Zero or the other death sites. Like, for instance, the nimrod who was responsible for this:

Fla. Town Apologizes for Using 9/11 Calls

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - City officials apologized for playing a song during Fourth of July celebrations that was mixed with voiceovers of 911 calls from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

About 70,000 people had gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July when the song "God Bless the U.S.A." was played. The version had voices of people recorded during the terror attacks.

One voice on the mix said, "Oh my God, another plane has just hit." Another said, "Some of the casualties are in the collapsed building."

People at the celebrations said the mood of the night changed when the song was played.

"Everybody was in a really good mood, and all of a sudden this cloud of doom," said Siobhan Mangan. "It just seemed terribly inappropriate."...

Actually, more than one person was responsible for this. One guilty party, obviously, was the (unnamed) employee who put this recording on the soundtrack for the event. But beyond that, there's the person or people who thought it was a good idea to graft those cries of horror onto that song in the first place, who thought it was good to use human suffering to try to make the new unofficial national anthem a little bit more stirring.

I suppose I'd know who actually did the remix if I lived in a red state, rather than the state where most of the 9/11 dead actually died. (We don't get much country music up here.) While trying to figure that out, I came across this 9/11 tribute with "God Bless the USA" as the audio track (no 911 calls, though it does have Bush saying "I can hear you") and, for the visuals, a sequence of photos of the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

I find it really hard to watch. I was well north of the towers, I didn't know anyone who was in them, and yet the memory of what happened afterward, the chaos and the rubble and the volunteers and the missing posters, is still raw. It makes me angry to think that anyone would choose to watch this and think, "What a patriotic American am I." For me it's like watching a relative get shot.

A lot of idiots on the right believe that anyone who doesn't support every jot and tittle of Bush foreign policy must have "forgotten" 9/11. But some of us aren't ready to remember 9/11 as a simple patriotic pageant, something we'll reenact eventually, in period costumes. Moreover, we know it's affected virtually every D.C. decision that's come in its wake -- and the decisions that should reduce the likehood of another 9/11 but don't, or actually increase the likelihood, make us mad as hell.

Enron ... announced late Monday that it had settled lawsuits brought by employees and the U.S. Labor Department accusing it of mismanaging worker retirement money. The company agreed to set aside $356.25 million in its bankruptcy case to pay retirement plan claims.

...Lynn L. Sarko, one of the lead attorneys representing Enron employees in the class-action lawsuit, estimates workers eventually will see about 27 cents on the dollar with the settlement -- after Enron finishes paying other creditors.

--The Oregonian yesterday


Enron Directors Vote for Pay Raise

The five-member Enron Corp. board of directors has voted for pay raises that boost salaries by as much as $1 million.

In a filing with the New York bankruptcy court that oversaw the company's reorganization last year, the board said it voted to increase its compensation retroactively to the beginning of June.

It raises the annual salary of Chairman John Ray III, a Wheaton, Ill., bankruptcy specialist, from $200,000 to $1.2 million.

Three other board members had their pay double to $300,000, while vice chairman Robert Deutschman, a Santa Monica, Calif., investment banker, now gets $420,000 annually, up from $150,000.

The board, none of them Enron employees, was chosen by creditors last year as part of the bankruptcy reorganization plan....

--AP today

A story in today's New York Times discusses a new report on prison abuse in Guantanamo:

The report was presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt of the Air Force, who conducted the investigation after e-mail messages between Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at Guantanamo and their superiors in Washington were disclosed in a lawsuit.

In the messages, the agents complained that they had seen abusive, possibly illegal behavior by military interrogators. They spoke of "torture techniques" and described detainees forced into uncomfortable positions for 18 to 24 hours at a time or left to soil themselves....

The story is titled "Report Discredits F.B.I. Claims of Abuse at Guantanamo Bay," but that depends on the definition of the word "discredits":

General Schmidt said that an accusation by an F.B.I. agent that detainees were deprived of food and water as part of an interrogation regimen could not be substantiated. He said the agent was difficult to find and was therefore not questioned by his staff. Similarly, he said that about 10 former interrogators could not be questioned as they were no longer in the military and declined to answer questions voluntarily.

The report also said investigators could not corroborate an incident recounted by an F.B.I. agent who said she saw a detainee shackled to the floor for hours, soiling himself and pulling out his hair.

Gosh, how convenient.

Ah, but there's also a Washington Post story on General Schmidt's report; it's titled "Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo." That's an important point -- but, given that General Schmidt couldn't manage to find anyone who'd talk about truly brutal techniques, what we're talking about is the much-mocked nonviolent stuff:

Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Do I need to state the obvious? It's clearly been decided that there's essentially no downside to admitting to this kind of thing. The administration clearly believes that there's a red-blue split on the use of panties and dogs and leashes and menstrual blood and naked monkey piles -- that much of the country has no problem with this, and that if this is what's emphasized, a large percentage of the population will hear complaints of torture and gulags and think, What are you talking about? They just put panties on his head! The more people hear that torture = panties, the less they'll think about torture as chaining someone in the fetal position for 24 hours without food. So it actually helps the administration to admit to using panties.

Thus, I don't think it matters that the Post is confirming that Abu Ghraib's abuses weren't just the spontaneous invention of "a few bad apples." The real story here is torture = panties. It's now like an advertising jingle, and the administration is perfectly content if it's one America can't get out of its head.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Suspected Bomber Is Linked to Pakistan-Based Al Qaeda

Investigators have linked one of the suspected London suicide bombers to a group of accused extremists arrested here last year in a foiled terrorist plot by a Pakistan-based Al Qaeda group, authorities said Wednesday.

Mohamed Sidique Khan, a 30-year-old primary school teacher, has emerged as a key figure among the four suspected bombers, European and U.S. investigators said.... investigators now believe Khan was an associate of some of the suspects in last year's foiled plot linked to Pakistan.

...Investigators believe Khan and the other bombers, who traveled extensively to countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, received training from Al Qaeda specialists. Khan may have helped recruit and prepare his fellow bombers, like him all British-Pakistanis from the northern city of Leeds, investigators said.

... the London case seems to point toward the classic inner core of Al Qaeda, whose surviving leaders are thought to be hiding in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands....

--L.A. Times

Repeat after me: Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Iraq is the central front...
Hollywood's box office has hit the skids, and the entertainment media are in overdrive trying to explain why. The most obvious explanation for box office malaise is consistently overlooked: Hollywood's ruling liberal elites keep going out of their way to offend half their audience.

Constant gibes about Republicans, Christians, conservatives and the military litter today's movies and award show presentations like so many pieces of trash on theater floors....

--Govindini Murty, NewsMax columnist and co-director of the right-wing Liberty Film Festival, in the L.A. Times, 7/10/05

Er, no:

The North American box office is not alone in suffering a protracted slump.

...In Germany, box office admissions are off nearly 20% to 58 million in the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year. And Italian admissions have slumped 17%, sparking hand-wringing throughout the local industry.

French cinema attendance for the first six months plummeted 17%, while in the Netherlands, box office receipts are off more than 18% from last year. Spain looks to have gotten off relatively lightly, with a 12% drop to 49.9 million admissions....

--Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Yeah, right -- the French are pissed off because our movies insult Republicans and Christians.

The actual, reality-based explanations seem to be: the DVD boom (naturally); economic weakness in countries such as Italy; and Hollywood's new habit of releasing movies at the same time worldwide, which doesn't for reasons someone in Hollywood should have a clue about:

"The big blockbusters all come out in the summer in the U.S. because in the summer in the states everyone goes to the movies because it is nice and cool and that's the tradition," said Eva Matlock, managing director of German independent exhibitors group AG Kino. "But in Germany, most of the theaters don't have air conditioning, and when it gets hot, we don't go to the movies, we go outside to the park and the beer gardens."

Oh, and, of course, crummy movies.

...just in via e-mail. In its second week, Mark Fuhrman's Terri Schiavo book drops from #8 to #13; it'll be gone in another week, but a nation that bought this book at bestseller levels for even two weeks is diseased. Edward Klein's The "Truth" About Hillary drops from #4 to #8 in its third week. And despite (or perhaps because of) apparent point-of-sale confusion about just what kind of book it is, Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America is #6, in its first week on the list -- just below Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans. (What is it with right-wing books and their inability to outsell Karrine Steffans? She beat out Fuhrman last week. And by the way, why on earth is Jonathan Kozol #9 on Goldberg's list of screw-ups?)

Oh, and Bob Woodward's book on Deep Throat, You Still Care About This Stuff, Don't You?, is #4.
I know President Bush met with senators from both parties yesterday to discuss his Supreme Court pick, but I didn't know this:

President Bush called Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. - a frequent critic of his administration - on Tuesday to discuss the pending vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I appreciate President Bush reaching out to senators of both political parties, in an effort to find a consensus on a Supreme Court nominee," Byrd said Tuesday afternoon. "The Constitution's framers intended the process of nominating a person to the court to be a shared responsibility." ...

Now, do you really think he'd be doing all this outreach if he were planning to nominate someone mainstream, someone who could get a lot of Democratic support on his or her own? Do you think he'd even bother with all this if he were planning to name someone like Gonzales who'd already survived a major confirmation battle?


UPDATE: For whatever it's worth, Fred Barnes said this morning in The Weekly Standard that

President Bush now appears highly unlikely to nominate Gonzales to replace retiring Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Nor is Gonzales expected to be chosen to fill a second vacancy on the high court should Chief Justice William Rehnquist or another justice steps down in the near future.

His pick is Edith Brown Clement. Quite possible, I'd say, but commenter #17 here won't be pleased:

I come to the conclusion that Judge Clement is absolutely unacceptable. To draw so little criticism from the libertine left over a lengthy judicial career is a sign of Souterism waiting to sprout.

#17 adds:

P.S.: Gonzales delenda est.

It seems like ages ago, but it was only last month that President Bush, his poll ratings falling, gave a gung-ho speech at Fort Bragg in which he said yet again that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. Remember what happened the next day? A little-known Republican congressman named Robin Hayes declared that "Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11."

And now we have this in a Wall Street Journal column by Claudia Rossett, which almost takes your breath away:

...there's another speech Mr. Bush still needs to give. That would be the one in which he says: I told you so--there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

...If anything, Mr. Bush in recent times has not stressed Saddam's ties to al Qaeda nearly enough.


Rossett's column goes on to cite our old friend Stephen Hayes, author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, who has chosen this moment to publish yet another article in The Weekly Standard on Saddam and bin Laden.

Hayes declares that much of what he's writing about is fresh, but a good deal of it is recycled (in the current article we're told that al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri received $300,000 from the Iraqi regime after a 1998 trip to Baghdad, "[a]s first reported in U.S. News & World Report"; in 2003, Hayes made the same claim, insisting that, according to "an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has 'irrefutable evidence'" that the payment was made. "'It's a lock,' says this source").

Hayes's lead is a Pentagon report on the interrogation of an Iraqi prisoner at Guantanamo (yeah, that sounds likely to be 100% reliable, doesn't it?). He suggests that a March 30 AP report on the prisoner's interrogation was buried by the liberal media, but here it is, to pick two examples, in The Boston Globe and The Houston Chronicle. (From the report we learn, amusingly, that the Iraqi prisoner's "identity is being concealed by the Pentagon on privacy grounds.")

The Hayes article, was, inevitably, followed by an appearance on Fox.

Look, I'm perfectly comfortable with what the Senate Intelligence Committee said in 2004: that there were

several instances of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida throughout the 1990s, but ... these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship.

But if you're saying that Iraq was Jihad Central, where's the evidence? We've been holding prisoners from the war in Afghanistan for nearly four years. We've been holding Iraqis and poring over Saddam-era Iraqi documents for more than two years. Yet Hayes gives us stuff like this:

Recently, Ayad Allawi, the first post-Saddam prime minister of Iraq, stated that Iraqi intelligence documents show that Zarqawi was in Saddam-controlled parts of Iraq in late 1999. The documents, according to Allawi, also show that Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells with the full knowledge of Saddam's intelligence services. If the documents are authentic, and we cannot offer a judgment one way or another, then they will put to rest any doubts about Zarqawi's involvement with Saddam's regime prior to the war.

Wow -- a document we can't authenticate held by someone on our side who apparently won't show it to us.

(And by the way, Allawi is a guy who's been known to fall for phony documents on this subject.)

But, as Claudia Rossett explains in her Wall Street Journal piece, it's important not to let this flame go out:

More than ever, as we now discuss the bombings in London, or, to name a few others, Madrid, Casablanca, Bali, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, or the many bombings in Israel--as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center in both 1993 and 2001--it is important to understand that terrorist connections can be real, and lethal, and portend yet more murder, even when they are shadowy, shifting and complex. And it is vital to send the message to regimes in such places as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran that in matters of terrorist ties, the Free World is not interested in epistemological debates over what constitutes a connection. We are not engaged in a court case, or a classroom debate. We are fighting a war.

I'll summarize that in plain English: It doesn't matter how weak the connections are between this and that raghead -- they're all the same and they're thick as thieves. So let's run down the list of countries we hate and gin up a few more wars -- preferably starting in time for the midterm elections in '06.

(OK, I added that last part.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tomorrow morning, Alan Keyes will join several B-list right-wing extremists to demand that President Bush nominate Roy Moore to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Oh, Alan, for heaven's sake, get a job.
The Note at ABC thinks the Plamegate scandal could have legs. I wish I agreed:

And this is where that old Washington rule kicks in.

No, no -- not "it's not the crime; it's the cover-up" (although that has kicked in too).

We are thinking of: "It is the scandal that is understandable to Joe and Gennifer Six Pack that can get you in the end."

And this one is pretty easy to understand, based on known facts.

For the average American, it is unseemly for the president's senior adviser, using inside information, to discredit enemies of the president anonymously....

It's not a hard story line: Guy hits administration on Iraq so the White House potentially breaks the law (or, at least, the Marquis of Queensberry Rules) and gives up his wife, the CIA agent.

I'm sure that's how this looks to ABC's Mark Halperin, who writes The Note and is literally a son of the Washington Establishment. Me, I'm the son of a truck driver. Here's what I think Mr. and Mrs. Six Pack are thinking:

First of all, they're thinking: Who are these people again? Joseph Wilson's op-ed about the Niger claims in the State of the Union address made a huge splash within the political world, and among us political junkies, but I'm afraid the rest of the country doesn't know the first thing about it. If what Wilson had exposed was the fact that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction when we invaded -- something that really has begun to upset average Americans -- then he and Plame might have the nation's sympathy by now. But I'm afraid most Americans couldn't tell you squat about the Niger claim.

Second, the Six Packs may be wondering what harm was done. Valerie Plame suffered no physical harm -- at a time when an awful lot of people are being killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in terrorist attacks. And while her cover has been blown, she hasn't lost her house or gone into bankruptcy, something most Americans could imagine happening to themselves if someone forced them out of a job through malice. Which brings us to...

...this picture from the Vanity Fair article on Wilson and Plame. It's showing up on TV news again as the standard photo of Plame, and I almost think it's enough to spare Karl Rove's job all by itself. In the picture, I'm sorry to say, Plame and Wilson look filthy rich and arrogant; if these two haven't suffered an assassination attempt or a foreclosure notice and they look like this, forget it -- they'll never get sympathy. If they really wanted to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs, they should have given VF a wide berth and started hosting an evangelical talk show.
ABC News on the Bush-era Federal Emergency Management Agency:

...Last year, FEMA provided $5.4 billion to help Florida recover from the four hurricanes that battered the state. At the time, the agency won high marks for its initial response. But many Floridians have turned on the agency, saying it botched last year's recovery in crucial ways.

"The whole thing about FEMA is they pledge they're going to stay with you through recovery. They're not here," said George Touart, Escambia County Administrator and a Pensacola native....

There is also frustration further south in Punta Gorda, which was hit by Hurricane Charley 11 months ago. While FEMA constructed temporary housing, it has left the county to pay $5 million to clean up private property.

"The largest degree of blame goes to FEMA," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. "They've not been exactly cooperative. They changed the rules of engagement. They've instructed counties to remove debris and then said, 'No, we're not gonna pay you back.'" ...

At the same time, FEMA is demanding that thousands of homeowners return money FEMA overpaid to help rebuild their homes. Homeowner Sandra Witz says that is $700 she doesn't have.

"I've taken money that they've said I was entitled to and I've put it back in my home, and now they want this money back," she said....

Hmmm ... coming into town like heroes and then doing a terrible job of follow-through? Alienating the people who were supposed to be helped? Mismanaging funds?

Remind you of anything?

Monday, July 11, 2005


Well, that's that -- on Larry King Live, Bob Woodward shrugs off Plamegate:

KING: ... President Bush said a while back that if there was a leaker in the Judith Miller matter, he will be fired. What if it was Karl Rove?

WOODWARD: You know, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions on that at this point. I think that Rove obviously was talking about this. I have not seen any evidence that he really disclosed the identity of this CIA undercover operative who was married to Joe Wilson, who was the ambassador, former ambassador that they sent on this mission to look for some evidence that maybe Saddam was getting uranium from an African country. So you know, we'll have to let this play itself out....

KING: But the president did say he would fire, if it was connected with this case, whoever it was.

WOODWARD: Well, if it was connected with the illegal part of it. I mean, just talking about her and Joe Wilson, not having the knowledge that -- I think not too many people had the knowledge that she was an undercover operative or had once been one. At the time, she was -- you know, she -- her identity was protected, but she was working in headquarters, as an analyst. So, there's no -- in this case, there's no harm to national security. And her life certainly was not in danger, as best I can tell....


WOODWARD: ... I haven't seen any evidence that -- there have been allegations, but no evidence -- that somebody did this in a malicious way. Joe Wilson, who -- whose wife was outed in her CIA undercover capacity has alleged this, but I'm not sure it wasn't someone of an accident, where somebody passed on information about her role, and Bob Novak used the word "operative," which means undercover, and that may explain it all....

This is His Nibs Bob Woodward, so I fear what we're hearing is the sound of conventional wisdom being set in concrete.

Toss that in with the notion that Valerie Plame's position wasn't covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and you can see how the GOP and the mainstream press are going to work together harmoniously to persuade America that there's nothing here to be concerned about.

Our pals the Pakistanis:

A controversial new law critics say will seek Taleban-style moral policing has been presented in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province.

The bill would see the introduction of a moral police force to ensure strict adherence to Islamic injunctions.

...hardline religious parties have enough seats in the provincial house to pass the bill.

...The proposed law calls for the establishment of a new department to "discourage vice and encourage virtue."

The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says that in effect, a new office will be set up along the lines of the office of the ombudsman, at provincial as well as district level.

It will be headed by a cleric called "mohtasib" - one who holds others accountable - to be nominated by the government....

North-West Frontier Province is, of course, in that ornery border region with Afghanistan, the part of Pakistan that regularly gives Pervez Musharraf the willies.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, writes in today's International Herald Tribune that Pakistan has several reasons not to want bin Laden caught, some of which are new to me:

... the reality is that Musharraf has little incentive to catch bin Laden - and it may even be in the military's interest to keep him alive, without necessarily knowing where he is.

Pakistan's military fears that its alliance with the United States is a short-term one, based on cooperating in the war on terrorism, while Washington's long-term ally in the region is India, Pakistan's rival, with which the United States signed a 10-year strategic defense pact on June 29. According to this logic, America cannot dump Pakistan as long as the war on terrorism continues and bin Laden remains to be captured.

The Pakistani Army is also angry at President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan for giving India a strategic foothold in his country and at the Americans for doing nothing to stop it. Pakistan's government claims that India is using Afghan soil to support an insurgency by nationalists in Baluchistan Province.

Pakistan's military is keen to maintain its political influence on the Afghan Pashtun population in eastern Afghanistan, something it has done since 1989 and is loath to give up.

So turning a blind eye to bin Laden's whereabouts and to Taliban recruitment inside Pakistan gives the army leverage over both Washington and Kabul....

That's in addition to the obvious reasons:

At the same time, Musharraf's own political survival partially depends on not catching bin Laden.... The army's top brass has no interest in provoking the terrorist mayhem and increased extremism that would certainly follow if bin Laden is caught or killed on Pakistani soil.

Meanwhile Musharraf has kept the fundamentalists at home on his side by allying himself with Pakistan's largest Islamic fundamentalist parties, who idealize bin Laden and rule the two provinces bordering Afghanistan. If bin Laden were caught, the fundamentalists might break that alliance and leave Musharraf politically isolated.

The Bush administration appears to have decided that the risk of destabilizing the region was a good enough reason not to press too hard for the death or capture of bin Laden -- and then it decided that the risk of destabilizing the region wasn't a good enough reason not to overthrow Saddam. Even though bin Laden had 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 and Saddam didn't.