Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An oak tree may be the only remains of the home where Sen. Trent Lott raised his family and joined other political leaders for a rocking chair view of the sea.

Lott, R-Miss., learned from neighbors and relatives that the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, rising as high as 30 feet, leveled his Pascagoula home along the Gulf coast of Mississippi near the Alabama border....


God's wrath?
Tomorrow, the publicity tour rescue effort continues!

Aug. 31, 2005

In an exclusive live interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, President Bush will discuss the disaster on the Gulf Coast, the emergency response and what Americans can do to help.

Tune in to "Good Morning America" Thursday morning to watch the interview live from the White House.

It really is all about him, isn't it?
..."For 25 years, I would have said that the pro-life issue is the most pressing threat to America morally, but pornography has overtaken it," says the Rev. Richard Land, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest US Protestant denomination. "More people's lives are being destroyed on a daily basis by addiction to pornography than through abortion."...

--Christian Science Monitor, 8/25/05

Jesse Helms, writing with the same passion that made him the archconservative of the U.S. Senate for 30 years, renews his criticism of abortion in a memoir being published this week, comparing it to ... the Holocaust....

"...this is indeed another kind of holocaust, by another name," he wrote. "At last count, more than 40 million unborn children have been deliberately, intentionally destroyed. What word adequately defines the scope of such slaughter?"...

--AP, 8/29/05

So if both Land and Helms are right, I guess the existence of is worse the the slaughter of six million Jews.
Sorry to keep harping on this, but why is Bush addressing the nation at 5:00 this afternoon? What's he going to tell us about the damage from Katrina? That it's bad?

I don't remember any president ever doing a nationally televised address in a situation like this. Fly over? Sure. Visit the scene? Absolutely. And in theory it would be appropriate for a competent president to ride herd on agencies coordinating relief. But this is just (as I keep saying) Bush's effort to own the tragedy.
So, if we're going to treat evolution as debatable in American schools -- if we're going to "teach the controversy," as an apparent majority of Americans would prefer -- why stop with evolution? There's lots of "controversy" out there, after all.

Why not "teach the controversy" and give equal time to the theory that HIV doesn't cause AIDS? Look, here's a doctor who thinks it doesn't, and here's another, and here's yet another who's said the same thing, here's a group of doctors and other academics who've said they're not sure, and here's a head of state who's expressed doubts -- why not require teaching that controversy in our classrooms? Why not give equal time (say, in medical-school classrooms at state colleges) to the theory that AIDS can be treated with garlic, lemon, olive oil, and beetroot, as one doctor insists?

Or 9/11 -- there are lots of controversies surrounding that day. The juiciest, of course, says that 4,000 Jews got advance warning of the attacks and therefore escaped death. Here are some Muslims who believe that might be true. Here are some Christians who feel the same way. So this belief is broad-based. We should teach that controversy, too -- no?
This short New York Times story is getting a lot of attention on the right:

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean....

Problem is, the story quotes only two scientists -- and one of them, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, actually does think there's evidence of a correlation between global warming and the increased ferocity (though not the increase in number) of recent storms.

From AP a month ago:

Is global warming making hurricanes more ferocious? New research suggests the answer is yes....

The analysis by climatologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows for the first time that major storms spinning in both the Atlantic and the Pacific since the 1970s have increased in duration and intensity by about 50 percent.

These trends are closely linked to increases in the average temperatures of the ocean surface and also correspond to increases in global average atmospheric temperatures during the same period....

This is the first time I have been convinced we are seeing a signal in the actual hurricane data," Emanuel said in an e-mail exchange.

"The total energy dissipated by hurricanes turns out to be well correlated with tropical sea surface temperatures," he said. "The large upswing in the past decade is unprecedented and probably reflects the effects of global warming."...

The details of Emanuel's research are noted, weakly, at the end of the Times story ("In an article this month in the journal Nature, Kerry A. Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote that global warming might have already had some effect"), but -- satisfyingly to right wingers -- there's no acknowledgment that what Emanuel says contradicts the story's lead.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Oh, bloody hell:

Pope Benedict XVI held a meeting at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, a strident critic of Islam, Vatican sources confirmed.

The 76-year-old writer, who describes herself as an atheist Christian and was sued in Italy for insulting the Muslim faith in one of her books, asked to meet the pope, a source said....

Based in the United States where she is being treated for cancer, Fallaci once said in a newspaper interview that she was comforted by the writings of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope after the death of John Paul II....

"I feel less alone when I read Ratzinger's books," the journalist added....


Some of Fallaci's greatest hits:

"... Islam is a pond. And a pond is a trough of stagnant water ... it is never purified ... it is easily polluted, like a watering hole for livestock of little value. The pond does not love life: It loves death...” (Source.)

“to believe in the existence of a good Islam and a bad Islam goes against all reason”; “the Islamic faith sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom.” (Source.)

"It [Islam] is a tyranny, a dictatorship -- the only religion on earth that has never committed a work of self-criticism .... It is immovable. It becomes worse and worse .... It is 1,400 years and these people never review themselves, and now they want to come impose it on me, on us?..." (Source.)

Sorry -- whatever you think of the lawsuit (which I discussed here), and regardless of the state of her health (she's dying of cancer), she's a hater, period.

According to this Reuters article, we're not supposed to take this as an endorsement:

...Italian politicians said Benedict had been right to accept Fallaci's request for a private audience.

"The Holy Father has acted as the Vicar of Christ and acted like Christ himself, who never refused to talk to anyone," said former Italian president Francesco Cossiga.

Yeah? Well, let's see what happens the next time a pro-choice American Catholic Democrat wants to meet with the Pope. Or, say, a pro-gay marriage Canadian Catholic politician. Or a Catholic politician from any country who belons to a left-of-center party and who favoirs embryonic stem-cell research.
Good harvest foils Kabul efforts to cut opium production

Afghan farmers cut back plantings of opium poppies by a fifth this year, but a good harvest resulted in opium production being little changed, according to the latest United Nations figures....

It would take years to end the country's reliance on opium, which generates half its national income, [Antonio Maria] Costa [executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)] said. Afghanistan accounts for 87 per cent of the world's supply of the drug....

UNODC is calling for the removal of corrupt governors and civil servants, a "zero-tolerance" policy for warlords involved in drug refining and trafficking, and the renunciation of drug cultivation as a condition for farming communities to receive development aid....

Mr Costa urged the international community to stump up more cash for rural development projects to give farmers viable alternatives to poppy growing. "Crop destruction must be supported by assistance to farmers," he said.

Although in some Afghan provinces such as Nangarhar, drug cultivation had "all but disappeared", it had increased this year in others,including Kandahar, Nimroz and Farah....

--Financial Times

Gosh, I guess this little exchange at the White House in May didn't turn the tide:

PRESIDENT BUSH: ... One of the interesting issues, however, besides poppy crop eradication, and frankly, bringing people to justice who are running drugs is to -- is for crop substitution. And the -- President Karzai was talking about how the quality of the pomegranate that used to be grown in Afghanistan, evidently it's quite famous for -- the country is quite famous for growing pomegranates.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Or honeydew melons. In other words, there are some specialty crops, along with wheat and corn, that can and should be grown in Afghanistan. We look forward to working -- the President brought his Agricultural Minister with him, and we look forward to working on this aspect of economic development. After all, Afghanistan has had a long history of farming. And we can do -- we can do a lot to help the farmers get back on their feet and diversify away from poppies.

Oh yeah, I'm sure enough pomegranates and honeydew melons can be grown in Afghanistan to generate half the country's national income.
Didn't I tell you yesterday that Bush wants to own this hurricane?

President Bush will cut short his vacation to return to Washington on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, to help monitor federal efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday....

The president had been scheduled to return to the nation's capital on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Central Texas. But the White House decided to move the president's return up to Wednesday.

..."I urge everyone in the affected areas to continue to follow instructions from state and local authorities," Bush said. "The federal, state and local governments are working together side-by-side to help people get back on their feet. And we have got a lot of work to do."...


So for the war and the battle over the Iraqi constitution and the violent run-up to the Afghan elections and the buildup to the John Roberts confirmation battle -- for all that it was just fine for him to be in Crawford. For this, though, he has to be in D.C.

And just in case you missed the point, the AP publicist reporter notes that he "will cut short his vacation" "two days earlier than planned"; he "decided to move [his] return up to Wednesday."

Notice, by the way, that he's not going to the affected area yet. Hey, but that's understandable -- finding flattering camera angles takes time.


UPDATE: And if you haven't read it already, go read Will Bunch's report on how New Orleans flood control lost federal funding on Bush's watch. (Via Atrios.)
From today's New York Times, we learn that the people of Kansas -- you know, those people who, unlike us, have values -- allow grown men to marry girls barely out of puberty:

Rape Charge Follows Marriage to a 14-Year-Old

FALLS CITY, Neb., Aug. 29 - On Sunday evening, Matthew Koso tipped three ounces of formula into his 5-day-old daughter's mouth, then hoisted her atop his shoulder in hope of a burp. On Tuesday morning, he is scheduled to be arraigned on charges for which the newborn is the state's prime piece of evidence.

Mr. Koso is 22. The baby's mother, Crystal, is 14. He is charged with statutory rape, even though they were wed with their parents' blessing in May, crossing into Kansas because their own state prohibits marriages of people under 17.

The Nebraska attorney general accuses Mr. Koso of being a pedophile; they say it is true love....

Outrage over the case has rippled through this town of 4,800 about 100 miles from both Omaha and Kansas City, and to two state capitals. The governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, embarrassed by her state's status as one of the few allowing children as young as 12 to marry, has said she will propose a raise in the minimum age when the Legislature reconvenes in January....

First of all, good for Kansas's (Democratic) governor. Marriage at 12? That's barbaric.

As for prosecuting this guy, maybe that's excessive, given that he found a state where the marriage could be performed legally. On the other hand, the marriage is creepy:

...For now, Mr. Koso, out on $5,000 bond, sits in the basement of his parents' home, where the walls are papered with the pink-and-purple, heart-filled love notes that his wife, a ninth-grader, scribbled on notebook paper in class....

Matthew and Crystal met when she was 8, and he played video games with her half-brother. Mr. Koso, who was in special education classes for attention deficit disorder and other learning problems, graduated from high school in 2001 and joined the Marine Corps, but left after four months on a medical discharge....

"He's always been friends with people that were younger," said Peggy Koso, recalling her son at age 5 or 6 passing hours with building blocks and racing cars with a neighbor of 3 or 4. "His own peers never accepted him."

The two became a couple, according to Crystal's "Happy Anniversary" drawing on the wall, on Sept. 17, 2003. She was 12 and he 20. Exactly a year later, Crystal's mother, Cecilia Guyer, who is divorced from her father, filed for a restraining order against Mr. Koso, writing of him: "He's too old for early teens. He needs to stay away."

Despite the court order, both mothers now say, Crystal continued to go to the Kosos' home after school and stay through supper, sleeping over in Mr. Koso's basement room on weekends. Ms. Koso said she spoke to her son about the risks of pregnancy and prison and made excuses to check on the couple frequently when they were alone. Ms. Guyer said that she asked Crystal why she seemed to be using fewer tampons, but that she denied being sexually active.

Then one afternoon when Ms. Guyer and her daughter were shopping at a second-hand store for a dress for an eighth grade dance, Ms. Guyer noticed that Crystal had stretch marks. The couple confessed, but said they were not interested in adoption. On May 3, after consulting with a lawyer, they were married....

Wonderful -- a couple of middle-aged, mature, responsible gay people who've been together for twenty years can't get married in Kansas, but these two can.

If you go to the Times story, by the way, notice whose name is conspicuously absent: that of Kansas attorney general Phill Kline. You remember Phill -- he's the guy who was scouring the records of abortion clinics a few months ago, apparently looking for (among other things) evidence that the clinics were lax in reporting statutory rape. Underage sex really bugs him -- or at least it does when abortion is involved. But when it leads to marriage, even marriage with a big age gap? According to the Wichita Eagle, Kline isn't losing any sleep over that:

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline may seek a higher minimum marriage age in his proposals for the 2006 legislative session, spokesman Whitney Watson said.

"It's not something we've taken a close look at," he said.

No, of course not. Abortion is bad. Marriage is good.

(Recall that in 2003, according to the L.A. Times, Kline "issued an impassioned defense of a Kansas law that subjected sexually active teens to much steeper criminal penalties if they were gay ... because [a] heterosexual couple might some day marry, and 'marriage creates families' -- a desirable outcome for the state." Presumably, he considers even this marriage "a desirable outcome for the state.")

Monday, August 29, 2005

The news service of the Reverend Donald Wildmon's American Family Association wants you to know about this:

Citizens Challenge Obscene Materials in Fayetteville School Libraries

A retired teacher involved in Arkansas policy is urging the governor, state lawmakers, and school officials to protect children by removing pornographic books from the shelves of Fayetteville public school libraries.

More than 50 books in Fayetteville's school library system contain sexually explicit passages that alarmed parents and citizens have deemed not merely inappropriate but pornographic. One book called
Push, for example, contains a graphic description of a character having sex with a baby....

I believe that would be this book called Push, by the poet Sapphire:

... Enter the world of Claireece Precious Jones: eating herself into oblivion on the sagging couch in her mother's suffocating apartment. Illiterate 16 year-old "Precious," as she prefers to be called, is pregnant with her second child by the same father as the first--her own....

Precious' first child has Downs Syndrome, and the young mother names the baby "Lil' Mongo" for mongoloid, a word which she neither knows how to pronounce or comprehend. She gives birth to Mongo on the floor of her kitchen, after being kicked and beaten by her mother for "stealing her man." The infant goes to live with Precious' grandmother, but is brought over for the half hour of the caseworker's monthly visit so Mrs. Jones can claim her as a welfare dependent.

Sapphire conjures up every stereotype imaginable and lays each spread-eagle across the pages of PUSH, daring the reader, just daring the reader to flinch. Incest, AIDS, pedophilia, welfare fraud, illiteracy, homelessness, domestic violence-- she refuses to let up....

Anyone for whom this is "pornographic" already has problems way beyond the kind that can be solved by keeping the book off a library shelf.

The retired teacher spearheading this campaign is Debbie Pelley; her organization's Web site promises a "Link to Shocking, Pornographic Pictures & Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas Library," and tells us here, "We regret having to post them but evil today is so ugly that opponents can't even bring it out in the open publicly by the media." But if you're expecting something like Push: The Graphic Novel, prepare to be disappointed. Here's one of the "Shocking, Pornographic Pictures," from a book for young people called It's So Amazing:

Oh, the humanity!

(The rest, from this and other books, are more explicit, but they're all in the same vein -- they're here and here.)

Debbie Pelley can't seem to get Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican and a minister who's considering a run for president in 2008, to pay attention to any of this. She thinks his priorities are skewed:

Pelley says Huckabee seems to have time to fly to California to appear on HBO, campaign in New Hampshire, sponsor a "socialized" medical program called Kids First, and back a program giving illegal aliens prenatal care. However, she says the governor apparently has no time to speak out on destructive pornographic school library books and the health problems they will generate.

Yeah, I guess providing prenatal care to illegal aliens is also obscene, as is providing these services to low-income native-born children whose parents can't afford them.
Anyone else think it's odd that George W. Bush was personally warning people in the path of Katrina to evacuate? I mean, is this the president's job?

This morning on NPR, Cokie Roberts noted that Bush had declared a state of emergency even before the storm hit, which, as she says, is quite unusual. Roberts's mother lives in the French Quarter and other relatives live in the area, so she knows a little bit about hurricanes. She notes that Bush's father was criticized for a slow response to Hurricane Andrew in '92.

Katrina looks awful, and the federal government obviously needs to spearhead the recovery effort and do a first-rate job. But no one needs the president of the United States to tell them to get out of the path of 160 mph winds -- that's the job of governors and mayors and local TV and radio stations. I think Bush may be trying to own this hurricane, seizing on it as an means of gaining lost ground in public opinion polls.



Bush urges citizens to wait out Hurricane Katrina

US President George W. Bush urged Americans in areas battered by Hurricane Katrina to stay safe from the "devastating storm" and pledged government aid once it has passed.

"In the meantime, America will pray, pray for the health and safety of all our citizens," he said ....

Told ya.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we'd have to do once we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place. It's not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.

--Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney speaking on NPR in 1991

(The quote appears in this All Things Considered story from last Friday, at approximately 3:22 of the audio file.)

Why have I never heard this clip or read this quote?
David Brooks writes about an essay in Foreign Affairs that recommends a new strategy for fighting the Iraqi insurgency. Brooks thinks the strategy might just work.

But then he says:

The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

First, it requires a heavy troop presence, not a light, lean force. Second, it doesn't play to our strengths, which are technological superiority, mobility and firepower. It acknowledges that while we go with our strengths, the insurgents exploit our weakness: the lack of usable intelligence.

Third, it means we have to think in the long term. For fear of straining the armed forces, the military brass have conducted this campaign with one eye looking longingly at the exits. A lot of the military planning has extended only as far as the next supposed tipping point: the transfer of sovereignty, the election, and so on. We've been rotating successful commanders back to Washington after short stints, which is like pulling Grant back home before the battle of Vicksburg.

I have to ask: If right-wingers think the Iraq War was so vitally necessary, why don't they all despise Rumsfeld? Why don't they say that we've "had to fight the war with one hand tied behind our backs" and blame him for that -- as well as the Commander in Chief who hired him and is clearly determined to keep him on, come hell or high water?

The obvious answer is that right-wingers don't care about the Iraq War as much as they care about their side. It's more important to them to rally support for Republicans than it is to win whatever battle against terrorism it was that we were supposed to win in Iraq. Iraq is important primarily because it's their guys' war; if criticizing the battle plan hurts the GOP in the eyes of voters but helps the troops accomplish their objective, well, it's much more important not to hurt the GOP.

Maybe this will change. Maybe more and more right-wing columnists will bail on the people they put in office. But it's not happening yet to any great extent.
Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America -- and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.

--Frank Rich in today's New York Times

Chalabi as an Iraqi Ben Franklin? Even the Bush administration knows America won't swallow that now, but I have the feeling that this Washington Post article from Thursday is a search for a new variant on that formula:'s worth listening to a young Iraqi Shiite cleric named Ammar Hakim. He speaks for the people who arguably have gained the most from America's troubled mission in Iraq and, to a surprising extent, still believe in it....

I met Hakim a week ago during his first visit to the United States. He made quite a sight when he arrived for breakfast, dressed in his black turban and flowing clerical robes. Some of the other guests in the dining room of the Watergate Hotel seemed to back away a bit, as if they feared the visiting mullah might explode. I'm told he drew some stares when he toured the Pentagon dressed in the same garb.

Hakim is a remarkably articulate man, with the spark of curiosity in his eyes and a presence that we in the United States would call "star quality." Whoever had the good sense to invite him here -- where he met with officials at the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council -- should get a pay raise....

If I could sum up his theme in one sentence, it is that the United States should continue to bet on democracy in Iraq -- which of necessity means relying on Iraq's Shiite majority and the mullahs who speak for it....

I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq.... Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer....

Hakim told me ... that he hoped future generations of Iraqis would look at their current leaders with the same gratitude that Americans feel when they regard Lincoln....

A charismatic conservative Islamic cleric -- hey, that's sort of like Ben Franklin, right? I mean, they both make an impression when they walk into a room; they both have "star quality." Come on, please, swallow this -- conservative clerics are really OK. They're no more radical, in their conservative cleric way, than our Founding Fathers were. And he invokes Lincoln! Isn't that cool?

No? Hey, come on, work with me here....

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Last Sunday I predicted that Bush would never go below 40% in the Gallup poll.

Well, he's at 40%.

It really is starting to seem like free-fall -- though I still think his worshipful base provides him a floor. I want more.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Family gatherings this weekend. Posting will be light.
... the savages have declared war, and it's far preferable to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York (where the residents would immediately surrender).

--Ann Coulter, 8/10/04

Oh, Ann?

The New York Police Department may soon be swooping down over the five boroughs in helicopters armed with super-powerful sniper rifles that can disable trucks, explode concrete barriers, and blast through the glass of airplane windshields.

Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday that the Police Department purchased Barrett .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles, to mount the weapons on police helicopters and help protect the city from terrorist attacks.

--New York Sun today

Here's the rifle, Ann. Hope it's, er, substantial enough for you.

How much opposition to this is the mayor expecting from America-hating liberals in the city? How controversial does he think this will be? He thinks it's going to be so controversial that he's doing it ten weeks before a mayoral election.

Oh, and if you have a chance, dig up the article on NYC police commissioner Raymond Kelly that ran in The New Yorker earlier this summer. It's not online, but here's a Q&A with the author:

...There are N.Y.P.D. detectives permanently stationed overseas, for instance, in half a dozen different countries. Ray Kelly, the Commissioner, has gone way outside of the traditional police-recruitment channels, looking for people with military, intelligence, and diplomatic backgrounds, people with deep knowledge of international terrorist organizations. What's more, he has comprehensively persuaded the entire department to think of counterterrorism as a fundamental part of what cops call the Job. the languages considered critical to counterterror work today -- Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, and so on -- the N.Y.P.D. has deeper resources than the Feds.

...The Administration's efforts to reform our national-security agencies since the catastrophic failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed -- I'm talking about the creation of the Homeland Security Department, as well as the attempts to radically restructure both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. -- have been, so far, a disheartening spectacle. You start to wonder if we're dealing with bureaucracies that are so dysfunctional they're simply impervious to reform. The reorganization of the N.Y.P.D., by contrast, has been fast, fairly smooth, and basically self-driven. You get the sense that the N.Y.P.D., big as it is, can practically turn on a dime. David Cohen, who is the N.Y.P.D.'s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence, spent thirty-five years at the C.I.A.-- he rose to become director of operations there -- and he told me, "The N.Y.P.D. is on a hair trigger. The air gap between information and action is the shortest I've ever experienced." ...

[Kelly is] also willing to go right around Washington, and develop close department-to-department relationships with security services around the globe, which is a big part of what makes the N.Y.P.D.'s counterterrorism work so sophisticated. They're getting fresh information and ideas all the time from all over. The Israelis, who are generally considered to have the savviest counterterror operation in the world, work exceptionally closely with the N.Y.P.D....

Coulter, I'm sure, is more impressed by a flight suit.
In the Christian Science Monitor, Lisa Suhay tells us not to worry our pretty li'l heads about Pat Robertson:

Living here, just a stone's throw from Virginia Beach, and watching the chaos ensue after Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of the Venezuelan president, I feel the need to set things straight.

Not to downplay the sanctity of foreign government officials and their dislike of being an announced target, but for pity sake, it's "Old Pat."

... it was taken just a little too seriously....

In the South they call it "talking trash" - in New York it would be called "venting." Native Southerners I know view the words as garbage to be taken out of our mental houses and deposited in the bin. They know that the speaker is just tossing out the first awful thing that pops into his head without regard for reaction....

"Talkin' trash" isn't excusable, or very nice, but here in the South people turn the other cheek. They ignore it instead of making it into a federal case. Maybe they agree, maybe they don't, but trust me - nobody in Virginia Beach is in lock-and-load mode over this....

So I guess we should all be like Southerners and realize that Pat was just funnin' in 2003:

Charles Taylor, the Liberian president who has been indicted by an international court for crimes against humanity, has few remaining supporters in the United States. But one prominent American who has stuck with the West African leader is religious broadcaster and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

In recent broadcasts of his cable TV show "The 700 Club," watched by an estimated 1 million households, Robertson has defended Taylor as a fellow Baptist and Liberia's "freely elected" leader. The "horrible bloodbath" taking place in Liberia, he has repeatedly said, is the fault of the State Department.

"So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country. And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,' " Robertson said to his viewers on Monday....

And I guess this, from 1986, was just hyperbole:

Can we turn a deaf ear to the cries for material help from those brave freedom fighters in Angola, in Afghanistan, in Mozambique, in Nicaragua, who would take to the field of battle at the risk of their own lives to bring freedom and democracy to their people?

And I guess it was just trash talk when Robertson said and did all this:

Robertson, according to investigative reporter Sara Diamond, used his tax-exempt broadcast license to hold a fundraising telethon in the United States for the Guatemalan military and the Nicaraguan contras.... Robertson also ... praised death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson of the ARENA party as a "very nice fellow." ....

Pat Robertson visited [El Salvador] in 1985 and reportedly met with President Jose Napoleon Duarte. Upon his return he noted that the political situation in the country was encouraging and attributed the improvement, at least in part, to "one of the strongest religious revivals in the world. Whenever you see that, you are not going to see communism and oppression."...

Within a week of the 1982 coup which brought evangelical Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to power, Pat Robertson flew to Guatemala to meet with the new president. Rios Montt's first interview as president was with Robertson, who aired it on "The 700 Club" and praised the new military government....

The U.S. operation of [Robertson's] CBN was considered one of the top private funders of the contras.... CBN gave the $3 million to the contra's Houston-based Nicaraguan Patriotic Association, according to Juan Sacasas, Vice President of the group and representative of the FDN contra force.... Robertson was so popular among them that one group named itself the Pat Robertson Brigade....

Come on, people! It was all a figure of speech! Can't you Yankees recognize a figure of speech when you hear one?

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I didn't actually see this, and it's a bit garbled, but here's Leslie Unruh of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse talking earlier this evening on CNN's Paula Zahn Now:

UNRUH: ...We know that teen pregnancy rates are going down. We know that more kids are abstaining until marriage to have sex. And we are excited about seeing young men and women. I mean, there's movies about the 40-year-old virgin. We just came back from Hollywood California, had over 1, 100 abstinence educators there that are reporting unbelievable success in their communities, that there are less kids having sex before marriage.

ZAHN: All right.

"I mean, there's movies about the 40-year-old virgin."

Good Lord, is she actually citing this as a sign of success for the abstinence movement?

Do these people know anything about anything?
I almost missed this Robertson follow-up:

A day after calling for the U.S, assassination of [Hugo] Chavez, [Pat] Robertson speculated about biblical roots for Islamic terrorism.

Arabs and Muslims view themselves as descendants of Abraham's son Ishmael.

On Tuesday's broadcast of "The 700 Club," Robertson said, "The Bible talks about Ishmael as being 'a wild ass.' He's just uncontrollable, and it's almost like this seed of rebellion and uncontrolled anger has, you know, filtered into these people."

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network added that Islamic terrorists seem to be motivated by "a spirit of murder."

Full quote:

"The bible talks about Ishmael being a wild ass, he's just uncontrollable and it's almost like that seed of rebellion and uncontrollable anger has filtered into these people. There's an element of hatred and revenge that is just extraordinary, and you say they're deluded, there's poverty, this and that, 100 different reasons, but at the heart of it all it seems like to me, it's just the spirit of violence, the spirit of hatred, and a spirit of murder."

It's not clear whether, by "these people," Robertson means just Islamicist terrorists or all Arabs and Muslims. But one thing is indisputable: He's saying that they have an inborn taint that predisposes them to violence. This is a blood libel. (Though it should be noted that it's not original with Pat.)*

*URL possibly not suitable for work.

And four weeks at a vacation house is not a vacation:

...[Presidential spokesman David] Almacy said the reason that Bush is in Crawford, Texas, is due to the renovation of the West Wing of the White House.

"He's operating on a full schedule; he's just doing it from the ranch instead of from the White House,' Almacy said. "The only week he had officially off was this last week.'

Try that on the H.R. people at your company. Let me know how it works.

(Via Taegan Goddard and Raw Story.)

Well how would you interpret this, from yesterday's speech in Idaho?

An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations. So long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror.

(Emphasis mine.)

And I'm sure he's right about the part in bold.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oh, this ought to work out just great:

The head of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that his agency --- and not the federal health establishment --- would manage the nation's response if a deadly new strain of bird flu evolved into a human pandemic....

The Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies, has described itself as the "primary federal agency" in a national health emergency.

But at a meeting with reporters in Washington, Chertoff said his department expected to have overall responsibility for managing a national pandemic response....

There was no indication Tuesday whether Chertoff had White House backing for his declaration or was speaking on his own....

Many public health officials seem to be appalled:

"They don't have the infrastructure at Homeland Security, or the technical expertise, to handle" a pandemic, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who was Maryland's health officer during the 2001 anthrax attacks....

"It's hard to imagine that Homeland Security, which has not worked on epidemics, could engage with an issue of this level of complexity, coming up to speed almost from scratch," said Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Atlanta, who is chief of emergency medicine at Emory University and oversees the emergency room at Grady Memorial Hospital.

And just so you know that the grown-ups really are in charge, this is happening partly because no one reading government documents can tell who really is in charge:

A draft document released last August states, "HHS will be the primary federal agency responsible for public health and medical emergency planning, preparations, response and recovery."

The Department of Homeland Security asserts its authority to manage a pandemic response under a National Response Plan released in December that covers "incidents of national significance," including pandemics.

Both documents use similar language to assert their authority.

HHS said it would take charge when "the resources of state, local or tribal public health and/or medical authorities are overwhelmed and HHS assistance has been requested by the appropriate authorities."

Homeland Security would assume authority when "the resources of state and local authorities are overwhelmed and federal assistance has been requested by the appropriate state and local authorities." ...

Chertoff's claim of authority is based on a presidential directive issued Feb. 28, 2003.

The same presidential directive is cited in the plan under which HHS claims to be the federal agency primarily responsible for pandemic response.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

There is a silver lining, though:

At least the guy in charge won't be Bernard Kerik.

(Via Effect Measure and PSoTD.)
Right-wingers (Drudge yesterday, Rush today) have been paying attention to this story:

CANTON, Ohio -- There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository....

School officials are not sure what has contributed to so many pregnancies....

By the way, that's about 13% of the girls in the school. (The original Canton Repository story is here.)

I can't explain what's going on in Canton. But apparently this little lecture series somehow failed to stem the pregnancy tide:

Sunday, December 5, 2004

CANTON -- If you get a sexually transmitted disease three times, you can’t get pregnant. Birth control can cause infertility. And condoms can’t prevent disease.

These inaccurate statements are the kind that Planned Parenthood of Stark County is trying to correct, the agency’s officials said at a press conference for student journalists this week. The agency held the press conference after some high school students raised concerns about a pro-abstinence speaker who ad-dressed area schools last month.

Pam Stenzel, a Minneapolis psychologist and abstinence advocate, spoke at nearly every public high school in Stark County about character and waiting to engage in sex until marriage....

Lisa Martin, a Planned Parenthood community education specialist, said she was alarmed when students, after hearing Stenzel’s speech, asked questions about statements they claimed Stenzel said. Some of those alleged comments include: A condom cannot protect from disease, tests for sexually transmitted diseases are prohibitively expensive and birth control can cause infertility, Martin said....

According to reports Planned Parenthood received, Stenzel told students during her speeches that birth control makes women more susceptible to STDs. Stenzel didn’t cite a specific source for this information, which Planned Parenthood says is inaccurate....

Canton's sex education is "abstinence plus," according to this local source -- it's not one of the abstinence-only programs in Ohio that were recently criticized for wild inaccuracies. But I guess the abstinence advocates use whatever opportunities they can get to unleash their patented blend of truth, half-truth, and utter bullshit. And that's the kind of sex education our kids need, right -- thoroughly confusing and only partly accurate?
It's old news by now, but I'm sure a lot of right-wingers are feeling a renewed Schadenfreude as they read this in today's New York Times:

With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office....

To the Right, this couldn't happen to a more deserving community -- Hollywood, that left-wing cesspool.

Being a liberal, I'm going to offer the usual recommendations for reversing Hollywood's box-office decline: fewer commercials at theaters, fewer sequels, fewer TV remakes, fewer special-effects movies that look like all the other special effects movies. But, perhaps surprisingly, I'm also going to second the Right's prescription for Hollywood: make movies right-wingers want to see. I warn you, though: it won't be pretty.

I think this would work because for years booksellers have been able to count on the success of shrill, tendentious, amateurish-looking books from right-wing authors. Conservatives gobble them up -- right now, for instance, the two top nonfiction books on the New York Times bestseller list are right-wing, the IRS-bashing FairTax Book and Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. (And remember: it's summer. This is what conservatives regard as beach reading.)

Obvious, there is a significant segment of the population that wants to be bashed over the head with an agreeable ideology, and with one-dimensional portraits of villains from the other side. So why doesn't Hollywood just give these people want they want in film form?

The result would probably be a bit like what Anchee Min felt when she was growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. In her memoir, Red Azalea, she describes her response to the culture of her time:

I became an opera fan. There were not many forms of entertainment. The word 'entertainment' was considered a dirty bourgeois word. The opera was something else. It was a proletarian statement. The revolutionary operas created by Madam Mao, Comrade Jiang Ching. To love or not to love the operas was a serious political attitude. It meant to be or not to be a revolutionary. The operas were taught on radio and in school, and were promoted by the neighborhood organizations. For ten years. The same operas. I listened to the operas when I ate, walked and slept. I grew up with the operas. they became my cells. I decorated the porch with posters of my favorite opera heroines. I sang the operas wherever I went. My mother heard me singing in my dreams; she said that I was preserved by the operas. It was true. I could not go on a day without listening to the operas.

Not all that different from the right-wing response to The Passion of the Christ, I'd say.

Just in case you don't know what these works were like, here's the synopsis of one of the best known, The Red Detachment of Women, which was a ballet, an opera, and a film:

On tropical Hainan Island, a group of courageous women pursue the communist battle against the Nationalists. Wu Qionghua joins the group and becomes a proud leader after having suffered pain, humiliation and loss. The evil landlord Nan Batian had killed her father and taken Wu as his slave. She tried to escape but was always captured and punished. She was eventually freed by Hong Changqing, a communist agent disguised as a rich overseas Chinese arms dealer.

Wu joins the female detachment of the Red Army led by Hong. However, obsessed by her desire to seek revenge on Nan Batian, she is injured and endangers her comrades. Through correct communist education she is able to transform her personal hatred into class solidarity. After Hong is burnt to death by Nan Batian, Wu leads her women’s detachment in a successful offensive against the tyrant. He is captured, paraded through the streets and executed. Wu now takes over Hong’s command and continues the battle.

I think every Hollywood studio should set up a semi-autonomous right-wing film division, with a ponderous name (the right-wing book division of Penguin is called Sentinel). These divisions should make unsubtle, ham-fisted movies and then market each one with the strong suggestion that every ticket sold is a big thumb in the collective eye of Dan Rather, Ward Churchill, Jacques Chirac, Michael Moore, and the "MSM."

What kind of movies? Oh, how about The Red-State Detachment of Women, about a group of plucky cadres from the Concerned Women for America who battle for the right of pharmacists to refuse to distribute morning-after pills to rape victims? Or what about Taking the Political Science Department at Oberlin College (by Strategy), about a group of plucky home-schoolers who bring about an educational counterrevolution at a liberal-elite nerve center after sabotaging a sandal-wearing sixties-radical professor's "Iraq and the New Imperialism" teach-in?

If you film it, wingnuts will come.
From AP:

A U.S. Army officer's 90-day prayer campaign to win the war on terror starts today and runs through Thanksgiving Day.

Maj. Danny Davis has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants Christians to pray daily for terrorist leaders to be vanquished, peace and a safe homecoming for America's troops.

On his Web site -- -- he asks others to join him on "a focused, intense prayer campaign" and then "see what God will do."

According to his Web site, Davis was deployed Monday to Qatar.

Here's the site.

And hey, what can I say? Major Davis doesn't seem to be blaming Democrats or liberals or peaceniks or Cindy Sheehan or Dan Rather for the fact that God hasn't smitten bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi (the three terrorist leaders the major wants God to "end the reign of"); he seems to be the kind of Christian who sees all people as sinners, not just people who aren't like him. He doesn't seem to be trying to impose this on anyone who doesn't want to do it. And this doesn't seem to have government sponsorship. (Yeah, he works for the government -- but most of us work for somebody, and that doesn't mean our employers are responsible for what we say and do and post on our own.)

So hey, why not? Good luck to him. Hell, nothing Bush does is going to accomplish any of these goals.
The folks who told us that Terri Schiavo was so following that balloon with her eyes may be wrong again:

... a team of doctors has concluded that fetuses probably cannot feel pain in the first six months of gestation and therefore do not need anesthesia during abortions.

Their report, being published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on a review of several hundred scientific papers, and it says that nerve connections in the brain are unlikely to have developed enough for the fetus to feel pain before 29 weeks.

...Bills requiring that women be warned about fetal pain have been introduced in the House and Senate and in 19 states, and recently passed in Georgia, Arkansas and Minnesota....

(To be fair, some scientists and doctors, including some who are pro-choice, don't think this is the last word on the subject.)

Advocates of the proposed federal legislation will, needless to say, not be withdrawing it. It requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions,

"The Congress of the United States has determined that at this stage of development, an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain."

Because, after all, when you want reliable medical advice, isn't your first choice to turn to ... Congress?


Meanwhile, remember this story from yesterday?

Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells -- without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, as has always been required in the past, a Harvard research team announced yesterday.

The technique uses laboratory-grown human embryonic stem cells -- such as the ones that President Bush has already approved for use by federally funded researchers -- to "reprogram" the genes in a person's skin cell, turning that skin cell into an embryonic stem cell itself.

... if further studies confirm its usefulness, it could offer an end run around the heated social and religious debate that has for years overshadowed the field of human embryonic stem cell research....

An end run around the religious debate? Er, not quite:

If Harvard researchers who created embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos hoped to defuse some of the ethical controversies surrounding stem cell research, they did not succeed.

Catholic leaders said Monday they remain opposed to any research that uses embryonic cells, whether or not they come from cell lines approved for research by President Bush.

"It's still creating and destroying life for the purposes of research," said Marie Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the public policy office of the state's Catholic bishops. "Using parts of a person that has already been killed is a process that dehumanizes us all." ...

So there.

I wonder when religious conservatives, or at least Catholic religious conservatives, are going to start demanding that all fertility clinics be closed. The day can't be too far off.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Limbaugh, I gather, is asking whether the mother of Bill Cleveland, the pilot whose body was dragged through the streets of Somalia during the "Black Hawk Down" incident, ever protested Bill Clinton -- the point, presumably, being that only dirty filthy commies ever express anger at the President of the United States after the loss of a child in war. Real Americans would never do such a thing.

I find no evidence that Bill Cleveland's family ever mounted a protest against Clinton's Somalia policy.

The father of Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart, however, is another story.

Sergeant Shughart was one of two men posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the Somalia incident. According to Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal, Herbert Shughart

refused to shake President Clinton's hand at the Medal of Honor ceremony in 1994. "You are not fit to be president," Mr. Shughart told Mr. Clinton. The president did not reply, Mrs. Shughart reports.

I know there wasn't a public protest. That's not how people who hate Democrats do things. But the story made the rounds, and it somehow it found its way into Tom McKenney's 1994 Clinton Chronicles Book -- with this as a bit of garnish:

Clinton was visibly shocked, amazed, and momentarily speechless. It is revealing that he was surprised that the man should feel that way. Clinton really doesn't think the way most people do, seeming to lack a sense of personal responsibility. After a brief, awkward silence, Clinton caught his breath. Becoming angry, he turned to the mother of the dead her[o] and said, "What's he jumping on me for? I didn't kill the kid!"

Yes, he really did say that--to the bereaved mother--he really did! It was an eloquent demonstration of Clinton's insensitivity, and of his absolute inability to understand sacrifice and responsibility.

Freepers and others have spread that story for years.

Ah, but at least no parent ever embarrassed Clinton with a picket sign.

By now you know he wants Hugo Chavez assassinated. But did you know he has a campaign called Operation Supreme Court Freedom?

NARAL has WMDs! Begin shock and awe!
Odd, isn't it, that so many of the athletes who become friendly with George W. Bush seem to be fond of pharmaceuticals?

Jose Canseco.

Rafael Palmeiro.

And Bush's new friend and bike-riding partner from last week, Lance Armstrong:

A French newspaper says Lance Armstrong used the performance-enhancing drug EPO to help win his first Tour de France in 1999, a report the seven-time Tour winner vehemently denied.

L'Equipe devoted four pages to its allegations, with a Tuesday front-page headline "The Armstrong Lie." The paper said that signs of EPO use showed up in Armstrong's urine six times during the '99 race.

... the Tour de France's director said Tuesday that L'Equipe's report seemed "very complete, very professional, very meticulous" and that it "appears credible."

... L'Equipe ... printed photos of what it said were official doping documents. On one side of the page, it showed what it said were the results of EPO tests from anonymous riders used for lab research. On the other, it showed Armstrong's medical certificates, signed by doctors and riders after doping tests -- and bearing the same identifying number printed on the results....

Oh well -- it must just be one of those odd coincidences....


UPDATE: Judging from the comments, I'm the only non-French person who thinks there's even the slightest possibility that the Armstrong allegations are true. I defer to your judgment....


2ND UPDATE: The hell with it -- I'm un-retracting this. Judging from the more recent comments, apparently I'm not the only non-French person who thinks this could be legit.
You probably know that yesterday President Bush gave a speech in Salt Lake City in which he made a rare (for him) acknowledgment of U.S. casualties in Iraq. But did you know that nearly one-fifth of the speech -- approximately 600 words of a 3,500-word address -- was given over to banter?

I really enjoy coming to these conventions. Members here come from all walks of life and you do vital work across our country. I know firsthand the spirit of the VFW. I was raised by one of your members -- (applause) -- a proud veteran of Post 4344 in Houston, Texas, former President George Bush. (Applause.) Where is that mighty Texas delegation? (Applause.) Behaves yourselves. (Laughter.) ...

I appreciate John Furgess. I appreciated working with him for the past year. He's a good, honorable man, and he's represented the VFW with distinction and class. It takes judgment to be the President of an organization. And so when I first saw John this morning, I realized he was a man of good judgment. He said, "You've got to understand, Mr. President, most of the people are really excited to see Laura." (Laughter and applause.) ...

I got on Air Force One down there in Waco, and they told me that we had a special guest on our plane. I said, well, who is it? They said, well, it's Orrin Hatch. I said, fantastic, glad to give the fellow a ride. (Laughter.)...

They must have changed the immigration laws here in Utah, because they allowed the Idaho Governor to come across the border. (Laughter.)...

Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech? No banter.

The Gettysburg Address? No banter.

Bush finally acknowleging that a lot of blood has been in his Iraq War?

Banter. Lots and lots of it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My post from last Thursday about the odd resemblance between the prose in this John McCaslin column and an earlier item from the blog Libertas was picked up by TBogg (thanks) and then by, among others, Wonkette (here and here) and Garrett at fishbowlDC (here and here). McCaslin wrote to Garrett over the weekend; his message is quoted in the second fishbowl post:

"My source for the item in question, who was a member of the film audience, is obviously the contributor to the blog. What appeared in my column is what he sent to me -- in his own language -- after he had telephoned me while I was in California that same week. He obviously rewrote what he had written for the Libertas blog. I had never seen the blog item until you posted portions of its text next to my text. I would appreciate you making this clear in your next fishbowl."

OK -- I'm confused. McCaslin is saying that, yes, someone else wrote this and sent it to Libertas, then rewrote it and sent it to him -- and he ran it without any credit whatsoever. Now, I'm just a schmuck blogger, but isn't that a bit odd?

Go back to the McCaslin column. The byline reads, "By John McCaslin." McCaslin never says that he's quoting anyone. The words are presented as his own. Am I to understand that the the column isn't really "By John McCaslin," it's actually " 'By' John McCaslin," with "By" in ironic quotes?

Sure, as a blogger I reprint all kinds of material -- but I always credit (or at least link) the source. If I were a "real" journalist like McCaslin, and therefore had real journalistic ethics, would I not credit the source, and just run someone else's words as my own?


Paper cups made in Israel have caused a storm of protest in a Saudi hospital, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reports. Officials at the King Khaled National Guard Hospital says they are investigating after the catering subcontractors for the coffee shops in the hospital ran out and began using Israeli paper cups with Hebrew writing on them, sparking outrage among the customers.

Hospital executive director, Saleh Al-Mazroi, said the matter had been referred to the authorities in Riyadh and action would be taken.

The manager and owner of the catering company, Ibrahim Al-Musbah, told Arab News that the paper cups had been delivered to his company by mistake and looked like the ones they usually used.

The Saudi cup controversy comes a week after lawmakers in neighbouring Kuwait called for any Kuwaiti who visits Israel to be stripped of their passport. The request was prompted by an interview with Israel's foreign minister Silvan Shalom, published by a local newspaper, in which he claimed that businessmen from the tiny oil-rich emirate regularly travelled to Israel for business trips of medical treatment.

--Adnkronos International

Quick! Time to convene a panel on the new anti-Semitism among Western liberals!
News from late last week:

William F. Weld, the colorful former Republican governor of Massachusetts, said yesterday that he planned to run for the same job in New York next year.

...Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, who worked for Mr. Weld in the 1990's, had ... told him to consider running against Eliot Spitzer, the likely Democratic nominee...

Isn't it odd that when Karl Rove appears before a conservative Christian group -- when he, for instance, gives a commencement speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and Falwell says of him,"I have known Karl Rove for many years and I am greatly impressed with his wisdom, dedication to President Bush and his love for Jesus Christ" -- no one ever asks him about his association with perhaps the most prominent supporter of gay rights in either major political party?

Weld appointed the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who ruled that gay marriage was a right under the state's constitution, and approved of the decision. What's more, Weld went on to delivered the homily at a gay wedding.

And there's more:

Shortly after taking office in 1990, Weld signed an executive order providing domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian state workers. He also signed hate crimes legislation and expanded anti-discrimination legislation.... Weld continued to break new ground with the creation of a Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, which was charged to reduce suicide rates among gay and lesbian youth in the commonwealth.

Maybe we should all just join the Republican Party. Then we could advocate any liberal positions we choose without fear of attacks from the far right -- hell, Karl Rove might even run our campaigns!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The United States has eased its opposition to an Islamic Iraqi state to help clinch a deal on a draft constitution before tonight's deadline.

American diplomats backed religious conservatives who threatened to torpedo talks over the shape of the new Iraq unless Islam was a primary source of law. Secular and liberal groups were dismayed at the move, branding it a betrayal of Washington's promise to advocate equal rights in a free and tolerant society....

According to Kurdish and Sunni negotiators, the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, proposed that Islam be named "a primary source" and supported a wording which would give clerics authority in civil matters such as divorce, marriage and inheritance....


You know, for more than two years liberal opponents of the Iraq War have been accused of giving aid and comfort to Islamic fundamentalists. Now here's the Bush administration actually doing just that, actually giving aid and comfort to Islamic fundamentalists ... and in all likelihood the public will never truly grasp that fact. That's because Americans' stereotypes of the left and right run one way, and when reality goes exactly in the opposite direction, as it's doing right now, Americans experience cognitive dissonance. They just can't grasp it.

A little historical trivia: Do you know which president of the last half-century had the lowest Gallup approval rating ever? No, it wasn't Nixon. It was Carter:

Carter's approval plunged to 29 percent in the early summer of 1979 amid economic troubles and news of increasing problems with new Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The lowest rating Nixon ever got was 31%.

In 1979, the public turned against Carter because gas prices were through the roof and Shiite fundamentalists were having their way as America looked on helplessly. In 2005, er ... gas prices are through the roof and Shiite fundamentalists are having their way as America looks on helplessly (or, I guess, helpfully). And yet Bush has an approval rating of 45% in the most recent Gallup poll.

Carter was the anti-Nixon. Carter campaigned with long-haired, dope-smoking, coke-snorting rock-and-rollers. Therefore, when the country began to look weak, it was clearly because Carter was a Sandal-Wearing Hippie Peacenik Democrat.

That obviously can't be said about Bush -- so I'm predicting he'll never go below 40%.

Sooner or later, we need to construct an archetype of modern Republicans that resonates with voters and corresponds to what Republicans are actually like. They're not brave, patriotic, kind of cornball but utterly well-intentioned Boy Scouts -- yet that's what far too many people believe, even people who've soured on Bush. In reality, they're self-righteous, vindictive, irresponsible (look at the budget), and lacking in impulse control. They're like abusive husbands, impulsive drunks, your kid sister's scary boyfriend in high school. But for people outside the Democratic/liberal base, the building of that counter-image hasn't even begun.


UPDATE: Well, maybe I'm wrong -- as Atrios notes, the American Research Group now has Bush's approval rating at 36%, down from 42% in June and July.

Wearing the emblem of the Kurdish flag on his lapel, as he often does, Hitchens described the Kurdish areas of Iraq as the most civilized and progressive in the 'Arab' Middle East.

--report on a lecture at Kenyon College by Christopher Hitchens, 11/18/04

Christopher Hitchens: This is the flag of Kurdistan in my lapel but my Kurdish comrades say that the--their main responsibility is for the new Iraq now. And they who would have every right to say we want to get out of this prison house of the state are willing to still cooperate to help to emancipate the rest of it. I think that's an extraordinary sacrifice on their part. Deserves more recognition than it's had.

--conversation with Peter Robinson under the aegis of the Hoover Institution, 3/25/05

Across northern Iraq, Kurdish parties have employed a previously undisclosed network of at least five detention facilities to incarcerate hundreds of Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and other minorities abducted and secretly transferred from Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and from territories stretching to the Iranian border, according to political leaders and detainees' families. Nominally under the authority of the U.S.-backed Iraqi army, the militias have beaten up and threatened government officials and political leaders deemed to be working against Kurdish interests; one bloodied official was paraded through a town in a pickup truck, witnesses said.

--Washington Post today

(The Post article, by Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru, concerns militias run amok and deeply infiltrating the Iraq army and police -- not just Kurdish militias in the north but Shiite militias in the south. Billmon says the article describes "the transformation of Iraq into the new, juiced-up Lebanon." Well put. And read the rest of Billmon's post -- as he notes, we're providing huge amounts of military hardware "to the Iraqi Army -- and thus, indirectly, to the militias.... Try to imagine, just for a minute, the Crips and the Bloods armed with tanks.")
Mission not accomplished:

KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded three Sunday as they were patrolling in southern Afghanistan, the deadliest attack on American forces here in nearly two months, the U.S. military said.

Also Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy of U.S. Embassy vehicles, wounding two American officials, an embassy spokesman said. Police officials said the blast occurred on the western outskirts of Kabul.

Militant assaults elsewhere killed a senior pro-government Islamic leader and two Afghan policemen, as Taliban-led rebels step up a campaign to subvert key Sept. 18 legislative elections. Seven U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past four days....

Some 187 U.S. service members have been killed in and around Afghanistan since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 -- including 64 during an upsurge of insurgent attacks in the last six months that have also left about 1,000 others dead....


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Here in New York, the press and public actually seem to care about the fact that the husband of GOP Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro is a convicted tax felon who cheated on her and fathered a child. Clifford Levy of The New York Times wonders whether that means Pirro is the victim of a sexist double standard:

...Ms. Pirro's aides contend that even now, when women have made many strides in politics, she faces a bigger burden overcoming her spouse's transgressions than a male politician might, a view that is not uncommon in political circles.

...There is no way to determine whether her race would have been any different had she been a man, just as it is hard to speculate whether a male district attorney running for Senate in 2005 would have an easier time explaining away his wife's infidelities and tax improprieties....

Excuse me -- is Levy nuts? Does he live on the same planet as the rest of us?

Let's talk just about the sexual scandal. The analogy would be a wife who cheated on her husband and had another man's baby. Is Levy seriously suggesting that this might not be a setback for her husband's political career?

Some voters would consider the wife a symbol of society's sexual decadence. Others would simply call her a slut. Still others would see her as an adulterer too incompetent to take precautions.

And then on top of that she's got a felony conviction for tax fraud?

And Levy thinks she might not be a liability for her husband?

Is every campaign reporter required to suspend all skepticism about Republican spin points?
Max Cleland today, giving the Democratic response to President Bush's radio address:

... the Bush Administration's plan for victory is not working.

There is no strategy to win. The President disregarded the advice of top military brass who said that at least 500,000 troops were needed to secure Iraq. The President committed only one-fifth of that force to the war. Consequently, our military is completely overextended. Many servicemen and women are returning to Iraq for their third tour. The all-volunteer force is suffering -- not only in the active force, but also in the Guard and Reserves.

Iraq is still not secure and we don't have the forces there to make it secure.

Furthermore, Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist cadre who did attack our country on September 11, 2001 are still on the loose.

We are running out of time. We need a strategy to win in Iraq or an exit strategy to leave. The present course will lead us to disaster. More of the same just means more precious blood spilled in the desert....

The Bush Administration needs to step up the plate. It's time to face the truth. It's time for a strategy to win in Iraq or a strategy to get out....


Look, I doff my hat to Cindy Sheehan, whose protest has made a huge difference in the way we talk about the war -- but we need loud, clear voices to remind people in the political middle that you don't need to be fed up with war in the abstract to question the point of this war and the way it's being conducted. Cleland is exactly right: The Bush administration needs to do something different -- what's being done isn't working. Either get out or devise and execute a strategy to bring peace and stability to Iraq -- if you can. Now, I don't know that any strategy could work right now, and if there were a strategy to bring this war to a successful conclusion I don't know if America would be willing to accept the necessary sacrifice, but it's time for more people to say that that's the only acceptable alternative to getting out ASAP. The status quo isn't acceptable. A majority of Americans, left, center, and right, know that, and it's time to bring them all together.

AP reports on something I didn't know was being seriously considered:

Shiite lawmaker Saad Jawad Kandil said the division of Iraq's potentially vast oil revenues also remained unresolved, along with the question of whether federal units could maintain relations with foreign states.

Shiites insist that foreign affairs should be the job of the central government, while the Kurds prefer that each region have the right to maintain ties with other countries, Kandil said.

WTF? The Kurds -- it has to be the Kurds -- want to maintain a separate foreign policy?

Hey, neocons: Thanks a lot for all the regional stability.

(AP's lead, by the way, is that the Kurds might -- might -- drop their demand for the right to secede. I'm not sure which would make it harder to maintain a stable Iraq: a region that could legally secede at any time or a region that can't and therefore reserves the right to maintain a separate fifth-column foreign policy.)

Friday, August 19, 2005


...because he was not intimately familiar with the names and photographs of suspected terrorists, he did not realize that hijackers were listed until it was alleged to him after the attacks, [Lieutenant Colonel Anthony] Shaffer said. All of the charts that could support his claims have disappeared, he said.

--Washington Post, 8/19/05

In a particularly dramatic scene in Weldon’s book, Countdown to Terror, the Pennsylvania Republican described personally handing to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, just after Sept. 11, an Able Danger chart produced in 1999 identifying Atta. But [Congressman Curt] Weldon told TIME he's no longer certain Atta's name was on that original document. The congressman says he handed Hadley his only copy.

--Time, 8/14/05

The officer being interviewed said he saw this material only briefly, that the relevant material dated from February through April 2000, and that it showed Mohamed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn. The officer complained that this information and information about other alleged members of a Brooklyn cell had been soon afterward deleted from the document....

--statement from the 9/11 Public Discourse Project (successor to the 9/11 Commission), 8/12/05

Susie at Suburban Guerrilla has the best gloss on all this:

This is starting to sound like those stories about the anchorman with the gerbil up his ass – you know, the one everyone swears is true, because his neighbor’s cousin’s best friend is a nurse who works in the emergency room where they brought him in?


Meanwhile, I'm pleased that Media Matters has pointed out that the "Gorelick memo" couldn't be the reason that any of this information, if it ever existed, wasn't shared with the FBI. But Judd at Think Progress is wrong when he says that such charges are "rooted in ignorance." Sorry, these people know exactly what they're doing. They don't care if the story pans out, or is even coherent. They just want to be sure that, at backyard barbecues all over the country, right-wingers will tell their swing-voter friends and relations that, yes, Democrats are still evil.

The sudden resurfacing of "Able Danger" in recent weeks isn't an isolated event -- do you think it's a coincidence that a 1996 State Department warning about bin Laden also surfaced this week, as well as a claim that the Clinton administration ignored warnings about terror from U.S. attorney Mary Jo White?

This is the administration's response to escalating violence in Iraq and skyrocketing gas prices; this is the response to Cindy Sheehan: Clinton caused 9/11.

In Freeperland, they're linking Jamie Gorelick to Hillary Clinton and saying that Able Danger was being covered up by Sandy Berger.

They throw Berger in despite the fact that, as AP noted in April, he took no original documents and his theft was at the National Archives, whereas Shaffer says he left the now-missing Able Danger files "at a Defense Intelligence Agency facility in northern Virginia," according to yesterday's New York Post. Of course, none of that matters when all you're trying to do is create a vague impression of unspeakable Dem/lib evil.
I inadvertently put up a rough draft of a post here -- go to the second half of the post below to see what I intended to post.

From amNewYork's cover story on a plan to do more aggressive miltary recruiting at New York schools:

Citing national security concerns, an Army spokeswoman would not reveal the total number of recruiters assigned to the city.

Yeah -- Valerie Plame's undercover status? No problem. This information? Forget it -- don't you know there's a war on?


By the way, the more I read about military recruiting these days, the more it concerns me. You know, of course, that the No Child Left Behind law gives military recruiters access to detailed information about high school students unless their parents take measures to "opt out" of the recruiting process.

I'm intrigued by the parallels betaween the military and a certain other group that's said to "recruit" the young. As many fine conservative thinkers have pointed out, gay people choose to engage in the behavior that defines their "lifestyle." And, as conservative thinkers such as Ben Shapiro have recently noted, military service in this country is also a choice:

The favored ad hominem attack of the left these days is "chickenhawk." The argument goes something like this: If you believe in any of the wars America is currently fighting, you must join the military....

The "chickenhawk" argument is dishonest. It is dishonest because the principle of republicanism is based on freedom of choice about behavior (as long as that behavior is legal) as well as freedom of speech about political issues.

I'm wondering whether we're giving the Pentagon special rights -- including the right to recruit our children -- strictly because of voluntary behavior. That wouldn't be right, would it?
Drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge was kept out of the recent federal energy bill. But GOP congressional leaders have a plan: they want to call ANWR drilling a deficit-reduction measure, lie about the likely revenues, and ram it through that way.

Allen Smith of the Wilderness Society explains the plan in a Boston Globe op-ed:

...Congress earlier passed the FY 2006 Budget Resolution with instructions to the House and Senate resources committees to find $2.4 billion of "savings" in the Interior Department budget by Sept. 16. That Budget Resolution is also silent on Arctic Refuge, but majority leaders have indicated they will use those instructions to justify authorization of Arctic Refuge drilling. The plan would be to use inflated revenue projections to reconcile the FY 2006 Budget with current law.

Now, here's the lie:

Raising $2.4 billion from Arctic Refuge leasing will never happen. The Administration would have to receive oil industry bonus bids averaging $4,000 per acre for the 600,000 acres it would offer for lease to receive that much revenue.

Actual North Slope lease rates have averaged well below $100 per acre and are not expected to change. Just north of the Arctic Refuge in the Beaufort Sea, Minerals Management Service recently leased 618,751 acres to the oil industry for $46.7 million, an average of $75 per acre, not $4,000....

Got it? They cooked up a requirement for a specific amount of Interior Department savings, then they're going to declare that the magic revenue source will be ANWR -- even though ANWR leases would raise maybe 2% of what congressional leaders required.

The point of doing this in a budget bill is that a budget bill can't be filibustered.

It might not work, though -- most Democrats oppose the scheme, as do two dozen House Republicans. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


 An Indianapolis father can share his Wiccan beliefs and rituals with his 10-year-old son, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday in a unanimous decision upholding parents' rights to share their religion with their children.

The court declared that a Marion County judge erred in approving a divorce decree last year that also directed the man and his ex-wife to shelter their son from "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."...

The case involved the divorce of Jones and Tammie U. Bristol, both practicing Wiccans. The Indianapolis residents married in February 1995, and their divorce was final in February 2004. Bristol and Jones have joint custody, and the boy lives with his father on the Northside.

Both parents united in their fight to have the religious restriction removed. Wiccan beliefs center on the balance of nature and a reverence for the Earth. Wiccans do not worship Satan, a common misperception....

--Indianapolis Star