Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I learned a lot of new vocabulary words from this story at the Southern Baptist Conference Web site. I also learned what some right-wing Christians really think about simple gender equality:

Many evangelicals unwittingly live as feminists, Moore says

Egalitarians are winning the gender debate because evangelical complementarian men have largely abdicated their biblically ordained roles as head of the home and have, in practice, embraced contemporary pagan feminism, Russell D. Moore said in a presentation at the 57th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) Nov. 17 in Valley Forge, Pa.

Complementarianism is the view that men and women have been created equally in God's image but have different yet complementary roles. Egalitarianism is the view that that men and women have been gifted equally so that no role is limited to one sex.

Moore called for a complementarian response built upon a thoroughly biblical vision of male headship in which men lead their families and churches by mirroring God the Father, whom Scripture portrays as the loving, sacrificial, protective Patriarch of His people.

..."Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus," Moore said. "That’s what our forefathers would have called feminism -- and our foremothers, too."

Following this so far? Complementarianism is good -- it means men and women aren't alike, so men should make the tough, manly, non-chick decisions. Believing that men and women don't have strictly defined gender roles -- that's egalitarianism. It's pagan. It would have made the Founding Fathers cry. (No, wait, that's wrong -- it would have made their wives cry. The Founding Fathers didn't cry, dammit.)

...If evangelical homes and churches are to recover from the confusion of egalitarianism, Moore said, they must embrace a full-orbed vision of biblical patriarchy that restores the male to his divinely ordained station as head of the home and church.

Both Russell Moore and the author of this article are male, which I guess explains why we're talking about a vision of sex roles that's, er, "full-orbed."

..."... We must allow the patriarchs and apostles themselves, not the editors of 'Playboy' or 'Ms. Magazine,' to define the grammar of our faith."

I'm sure Gloria Steinem would be just delighted to share the credit for a societal shift in gender roles with Hef.

Oh, there's more, much more. I'll spare you the part about "'soft' complementarians" -- I don't even want to go there.

This story also appears on the Web site of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, where gender issues are subjected to even more humorless hand-wringing of this kind. Essays such as "Does Father God Have Too Much Testosterone?" and "A Not-So-Vast Left Wing Conspiracy and the Selling of Homosexualism" are much less amusing than you'd like them to be. [At the online store you can buy such books as Sex and the Supremacy of Christ -- "Another Christian book on sex? This is so much more ...," raves Joshua Harris, author of Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is) -- but even that book doesn't look like much fun.]

This is all a bit closer to the mainstream than you might imagine: One member of the Council's board is R. Albert Mohler, Jr., who is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was one of the driving forces behind the Justice Sunday telethon for Bush's judicial nominees (Justice Sunday took place at his church).

By the way, I see from Mohler's blog that he reads great significance into the fact that, according to a Washington Times story, more female visitors to D.C.'s National Zoo than male ones are willing to call Tai Shan, its new giant panda cub, "cute."

Remember Tai Shan the next time someone argues that there are no real differences between the sexes. Just call it the "Great Panda Divide."

Hell yeah! This is all the reason I need to send them dames back into the kitchen!
Barbara at the Mahablog, liveblogging Bush's speech:

Wow — he worked 9/11 into the intro.

Is that a surprise? He probably works 9/11 into foreplay.


UPDATE: I'm looking at the transcript of the speech, and the 9/11 reference comes in the thank-you section right at the outset. It's the seventh sentence in, in the thanks to the midshipmen in the audience. It's followed by eleven more thank-you passages. What I'm trying to point out is that he put 9/11 in the warm-up -- the part that's not really the speech proper. He treats 9/11 the way some eaters treat ketchup -- he slathers it on everything.

Bush loves 9/11. I'm really not sure he regrets that it happened.
So I've been looking at the administration's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq report (PDF available here) and I finally realize what Bush reminds me of.

A proselytizing pamphleteer on a streetcorner.

I mean, specifically, the kind who delivers a message you've heard thousands of times already as if this time it's going to penetrate: "Did you know that Jesus loves you and that he died for you on a cross?" The Victory in Iraq report even seems like a streetcorner pamphlet: 38 pages of utterly familiar, breathless bullet points:

Prevailing in Iraq will help us win the war on terror.

• The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror....

> If we and our Iraqi partners prevail in Iraq, we will have made America:

• Stronger…
• More Certain of its Future …

It's all like that. It's clearly written in the belief that this time you'll get it. Pathetic.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I told you last month about Joel Hinrichs, an Oklahoma University student who blew himself up near the OU football stadium. Quite a few right-wing bloggers, eager for a new enemy they could demonize from the comfort of their computer chairs, loudly proclaimed that Hinrichs might be not merely a violent suicide but a convert to Islam, and therefore a raghead-without-a-rag suicide terrorist (who, inconveniently, happened not to kill or injure anyone but himself). The utter lack of evidence for this theory was no deterrent. The howlers, led by Ann Coulter wannabe Michelle Malkin, became so grating that even The Wall Street Journal saw the need to debunk their desperate grasping at rumor straws.

Well, Malkin won't let go -- though, God love her, you've got to admire her pluck. A few hours ago she posted this:

On Nov. 18, U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie K. Couch released previously sealed records related to the FBI/Joint Terrorism Task Force search of Oklahoma University bomber Joel Hinrichs' apartment, his e-mail account and nine OU computers.

I obtained the nearly 350 pages of unsealed court documents just before Thanksgiving last week and reviewed them over the weekend....

Turkey tryptophan cannot stop her! And, well, she's sort of onto something here. Too bad it isn't what she thinks it is:

The affidavit of FBI special agent Jennifer Baker provides additional details of the bombing scene (pp. 16-28), including the recovery of a "white sock containing pieces of plastic" and at least "two wires protruding from the sock," as well as "a screwdriver with a hollow handle and white sock stuffed partially inside the handle," a "blue opaque ballpoint pen" with a "small razor consistent with an Exacto knife attached to the opposite end from the pen" and a "bullet casing of unknown caliber" attached to it (p. 18). Odd possessions for a depressed loner just trying to end his own singular life.

Well, maybe. She's making a pretty good case that this guy might have been deeply into the blowing-up part of his suicide, not just the dying part. But then she makes the leap:

The documents also confirm local Oklahoma media reports on the presence of TATP, "called the 'Mother of Satan' by Islamist extremists," in Hinrichs' apartment (p. 90)....

Well, there you go! Islamofascists give TATP a scary name; he had TATP -- therefore he's an Islamofascist!

(By the way, "called the 'Mother of Satan' by Islamist extremists" isn't a quote from the documents, which Malkin has uploaded and linked for your convenience as a huge PDF file; she got the phrase from the local news story she cites, the one that says TATP was part of the bomb. So the leap from Hinrichs to jihad isn't one the authorities are making -- though you'd never know that from Malkin's write-up.)

Now we come to the best part, the part that blows all of Malkin's fantasies about Hinrichs the Jihadist out of the water. She reproduces an excerpt of a document from an FBI special agent that says in part:

...Hinrichs' laptop computer was located and subsequently seized. When discovered, the laptop computer was on and in screen-saver mode. When the mouse was manipulated to activate the screen, a text document appeared. The document contained notes apparently written by Hinrichs to himself. At the point in the text document where the cursor was left, the phrase "Fuck all this. None of you are worth living with. You can all kiss my ass." was written.

"Fuck all this. None of you are worth living with. You can all kiss my ass."

Yeah, that sounds like the message of a devout Muslim devoted to holy war.

For comparison let's find the last words of a real jihadist suicide bomber -- here. Let's take a sample of the text.

Real suicide bomber: "I ask you to make dua to Allah almighty to accept the work from me and my brothers and enter us into gardens of paradise."

Hinrichs: "You can all kiss my ass."

You can hardly tell the difference!

So what else does Malkin have? She continues:

Beyond this, unfortunately, there's not much more of interest in the documents.


So why is she getting all worked up about this? Oh, right, I forgot -- spotting "the enemy within" under every bed is her business, and business is good.

But Malkin presses on to the chilling conclusion:

... So, was he simply a troubled soul, a freelance Islamist bent on mass murder at the OU football stadium, or something else? The unsealed papers neither prove nor disprove any of these theories.

Wrong. The unsealed papers prove, or at least strongly suggest, that he was a pissed-off, crazy, suicidal, possibly potentially mass-murdering red-blooded American. He was no Islamist suicide bomber. An Islamist suicide bomber who could bear to go through with blowing himself up wouldn't shun a crowd and spare others. And an Islamist suicide bomber wouldn't leave a departing message that said nothing about Allah or Muhammad or Muslims struggling against Jews and Crusaders, but did say, "You can all kiss my ass."

Case closed, Michelle.
Slate's Fred Kaplan says Bush is going to start withdrawing troops from Iraq relatively soon, and thinks this is a political winner:

... The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces ... have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason -- a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

...The political beauty of this scenario is that, even if Iraq remains mired in chaos or seems to be hurtling toward civil war, nobody in Congress is going to call for a halt, much less a reversal, of the withdrawal. The Republicans will fall in line; many of them have been nervous that the war's perpetuation, with its rising toll and dim horizons, might cost them their seats. And who among the Democrats will choose to outflank Bush on his right wing and advocate -- as some were doing not so long ago -- keeping the troops in Iraq for another five or 10 years or even boosting their numbers. (The question is so rhetorical, it doesn't warrant a question mark.)

In short, Bush could pull a win-win-win out of this shift....

I'm not so sure. I'm not sure the public is going to buy it.

Yes, it's true that this won't hurt him with red-meat rightists, who never complain when one of their heroes steps back from a fray -- Reagan got a free pass for withdrawing from Lebanon, and Bush hasn't lost support from his base for essentially abandoning the hunt for bin Laden.

But if the U.S. still has a significant number of troops in Iraq, and is still suffering a significant number of casualties, isn't the great fanfare that's likely to surround some of the homecomings going to seem like one more Bush bait-and-switch, at least to the anxious centrist voters who chose Bush in 2004 for security reasons but now think he's doing a lousy job?

If Iraq is still in chaos, and if there's Islamist terrorism virtually anywhere on the planet, isn't the war still going to seem like an utter failure to those voters in the middle? After all, it was sold as a cure for multiple malaises: it was supposed to banish brutality in Iraq, diminish the threat of Al Qaeda, and inspire every last Koran-owning tyrant and terrorist in the world to start making nice. This isn't "Why are we in Vietnam?" -- we know why we're in Iraq: to make the world a much, much safer place. At least that's what we've been told, in no uncertain terms, over and over again, and consistently. If, throughout 2006, after some troops come home, the world doesn't seem the slightest bit safer, and American blood still flows, I don't see how that helps Bush. He set the bar very, very high for himself, and everyone can see he hasn't come close to clearing it.

From The Washington Post:

...In a report this month, the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity said Cheney and his staff have sidestepped regulations that require annual reporting of travel expenses of more than $250 received from outside groups.... previous vice presidents routinely disclosed such payments for lodging, travel and food when the veep and his staff made appearances at colleges, think tanks and trade associations....

Cheney's office says nothing is amiss. In three letters since 2002 to the Office of Government Ethics, which collects the travel reports, David S. Addington, then Cheney's general counsel, noted that the reporting requirement applies to the "head of each agency of the executive branch."

"The Office of the Vice President is not an 'agency of the executive branch,' and hence the reporting requirement does not apply," wrote Addington, who this month replaced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as Cheney's chief of staff.

...according to the center's research, Cheney has given 23 speeches to think tanks and trade organizations and 16 at academic institutions since 2001 -- apparently all at taxpayers' expense....

It appears that some sniveling, snot-nosed weak sisters don't have the cojones to tell the bureaucrats where they can stick their regulations:

Since 2003, President Bush's office has reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in such travel, the center noted.

But Dick Cheney is made of sterner stuff!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Am I surprised at the results of the poll that was reported in The Washington Post over the weekend? Not really:

Democrats fumed last week at Vice President Cheney's suggestion that criticism of the administration's war policies was itself becoming a hindrance to the war effort. But a new poll indicates most Americans are sympathetic to Cheney's point.

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale....

I felt dread during the buildup to the war not just because I knew the war was going to happen; I also felt it because I knew the war was going to be embraced. I knew those of us who opposed the war weren't just going to lose -- we were going to be seen as the enemies of all that is good and decent and brave and noble and American.

If you manage to persuade the American people that an enemy is out there who can only be dealt with by means of war, the vast majority of them will see fighting that war as ennobling; they'll see it as a means to walk in the footsteps of those who fought at Valley Forge and Antietam and Normandy -- and nothing will ever really dissipate that belief, not casualties, not revelations about the duplicitousness or stupidity of the leaders who brought the war on. Fatigue might set in, polls might show public dissatisfaction with the way the war is going, but Americans will always focus on the fact that those are our boys (and girls) fighting over there, that's our honor (and manhood) at stake -- and they'll never really see the war any other way. (Clinton's wars were an exception because he never told us we were fighting evil bastards who threatened our way of life.) Even in a quagmire, the majority of Americans will never truly believe that the war was an exercise in futility, a waste of their time; they'll never say, "We were led astray by our leaders, and so we fought and bled for nothing, and it's their fault, the bastards." Not even after Vietnam did most Americans think that. Ronald Reagan called Vietnam "a noble cause" in an election year and then won in a landslide. He understood Americans.

What this means is that the time to stop the war was in the earliest possible stages of the buildup; when opponents failed to do that in the case of Iraq, when the opposition party failed to oppose, it was too late -- the die was cast, and as a nation we would never truly reject the war, because rejecting it would mean rejecting our own manhood and our own sons. We'll leave Iraq having accomplished little of what we said we'd do there, but jingoist leaders of the future will call Iraq "a noble cause," and the response will be a swell of pride, because we Americans, who claim to hate politicians, can't bring ourselves to hate the politicians who identify a Satan and send us to die smiting that Satan, even when the battle plan is rotten and the rhetoric is nothing but lies.
If right-wingers get to freak out over the appearance of an X on Dick Cheney's face for 1/15th of a second during a live CNN broadcast, I think I have the right to complain about this at Time magazine's Web site:

After a break of 13 months, President Bush returns this week to frank partisan politicking with a trio of GOP fund-raising stops. Aides say those events are simply a prelude to a heavy schedule in support of Republican candidates for next year's midterm congressional elections. And Bush advisers point proudly to his campaign schedule as proof that PLENTY of Republicans are happy to be seen with the President....

"PLENTY" is in all capital letters? What's up with that?

Don't tell me it's a glitch! Don't tell me it's a typo! It's editorializing! It's pro-Bush media bias! There should be an investigation! Heads should roll! The MSM needs to be destroyed!

Gee, that was kinda fun.
I'm intrigued by the fact that Bush's big push right now is on the subject of immigration, given that it's yet another issue on which his approach is unpopular with ordinary Americans. A guest-worker program is going to be a tough sell, especially to his base. It's bizarre, really -- this is how he decides to try to bounce back from his fall in the polls?

Clinton, under these conditions, would have looked for a safe small-bore issue with across-the-board appeal -- more cops, school uniforms, the V-chip. Bush is stubbornly sticking to his list of hard-sell agenda items -- this is what he wants to do, dammit, and he doesn't care what anyone thinks. He'll never get the votes for his immigration plan -- and it's as if he doesn't care. It's as if he's chosen a fight that he can't win without political capital because it fools him into thinking he has political capital. He seems almost Walter Mittyish -- a loser who needs to fantasize that he's a winner.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


As you may know, four women have recently died in California after taking Mifeprex or RU-486, the "abortion pill." This is by no means evidence that the drug is unsafe; as The New York Times notes,

The risks of death from infection after using the pill are similar to the risks after surgical abortion or childbirth, said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the F.D.A.'s center for drugs.

No deaths after use of RU-486 have been reported in Europe (a somewhat different drug regimen is generally used there). Nevertheless, there are now calls for a ban on the drug in this country.

And it appears that the anti-abortion community is taking advantage and chasing ambulances:

Problems After RU-486?
Call Attorney and Sue!

If you or someone you know has suffered physical injury or emotional harm from the use of the drug Mifeprex or Mifepristone, also known as the "abortion pill" RU-486, or, the labor inducing drug Misoprostol also know as Cytotec, you may obtain emotional counseling, medical attention and/or legal assistance....

Three numbers are listed in the ad at the link.

The third is a number for Life Dynamics, Inc.

Life Dynamics and its leader, Mark Crutcher, are quite influential. A couple of years ago they began a campaign to try to make the case that abortion clinics cover up pedophilia: LDI phone callers posed as underage girls in the hope that clinic workers would say something on the phone that violated the law. LDI has publicized tapes it says reveal such violations.

And, lo and behold, some law-enforcement authorities began focusing on just this issue shortly after Crutcher and LDI released the tapes:

An anti-abortion crusader in Texas says his organization provided the evidence that led to Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's controversial investigation of two abortion clinics.

Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said he had callers pretending to be 13-year-old girls call abortion clinics across the country, including four clinic offices in Kansas. The group says its tapes from the telephone conversations prove the clinics are operating illegally.

...Court documents show the Kline-led investigation of the clinics began in October 2004, less than two months after the hiring fell through.

[Whitney] Watson, Kline's spokesman, said ... "There is no connection."...

In addition, the Indianapolis weekly Nuvo noted recently that

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter began an investigation of Planned Parenthood last month, echoing a similar investigation that begun last year by Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.

These states are really choosing a swell guy to get information from:

Seeking to deter the next generation of physicians from providing abortions, in 1993, LDI distributed a threatening "joke" booklet to more than 33,000 medical students. The booklet recommended that physicians who perform abortions should be shot, attacked by dogs, and buried in concrete. One medical student, who received the booklet the same day that Florida abortion provider Dr. David Gunn was murdered, stated, "'It was very upsetting. . . . [T]he jokes all describe ob-gyns who perform abortions as people who should be killed.'"

In 1999, LDI sent another such booklet, entitled "Quack the Ripper," to dozens of physicians and medical students in Canada and the U.S. The booklet contained cartoons mocking abortion providers and "play[ing] on their safety concerns." The cover of the booklet stated, "[I]f you're a doctor, resident, or med student, someone's out to get you."


Oh, and there's this:

In the late 1990s the group claimed that Planned Parenthood trafficked in human body parts--a charge that sparked national media coverage and a congressional investigation.

The investigation fell apart when the key witness testified that he had lied about having witnessed trafficking in body parts and that Life Dynamics had paid him $21,000 for time and expenses as their spy.

And these folks are setting the agenda for at least two state attorneys general.

LDI's claims also got some play in at least two other states, but reason prevailed:

Judith Rossi, executive assistant states attorney in Connecticut, told that its investigation found no basis for bringing charges. "There was no child, there was no victim, there was no mandated reporter identified," she said. And in California, when the group Monrovians Against Planned Parenthood raised questions based on Life Dynamics' information, the office of the Los Angeles County chief medical officer Thomas Garthwaite responded that a routine inspection of Planned Parenthood of Pasadena "determined that the clinic was in compliance with the mandatory child abuse reporting requirements . . . [and] that the clinic's mandatory reporters were trained upon hire on the child abuse reporting requirements."

But if this harassment campaign doesn't pan out, there's always suing over RU-486.


UPDATE: In comments, Scorpio makes a good point -- There have been a hell of a lot of deaths among apparently healthy younger men who use Viagra, but I don't recall any indignation about that from the fundies.
Back in April, this seemed like good news:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday canceled a controversial study using children to measure the effect of pesticides after Democrats said they would block Senate confirmation of the agency's new head.

Stephen Johnson, as EPA's acting administrator, ordered an end to the planned study, a reversal from the agency's position just a day earlier...

Over the study's two years, EPA had planned to give $970 plus a camcorder and children's clothes to each of the families of 60 children in Duval County, Florida, in what critics of the study noted was a low-income minority neighborhood....

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, had joined with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, in demanding the study's cancellation as a condition for confirming Johnson's nomination by President Bush....

Johnson, who was acting head of the EPA at the time, was confirmed as the agency's head a couple of weeks after that, and everything seemed copacetic.

Well, now the EPA is proposing new regulations for the use of human subjects in pesticide research, and the Organic Consumers Association has picked out a few odd passages involving children as subjects of such experiments:

70 FR 53865 26.408(a) "...If the IRB [Independent Review Board] determines that the capability of some or all of the children [in a study] is so limited that they cannot reasonably be consulted, the assent of the children is not a necessary condition for proceeding with the research. Even where the IRB determines that the subjects are capable of assenting, the IRB may still waive the assent requirement..."...

70 FR 53865 26.408(c) "If the IRB determines that a research protocol is designed for conditions or for a subject population for which parental or guardian permission is not a reasonable requirement to protect the subjects (for example, neglected or abused children), it may waive the consent requirements..." ...

70 FR 53864 26.401 (a)(2) "To What Do These Regulations Apply? It also includes research conducted or supported by EPA outside the United States, but in appropriate circumstances, the Administrator may, under § 26.101(e), waive the applicability of some or all of the requirements of these regulations for research..."

On that last one, the OCA explains:

This clause is stating that the Administrator of the EPA has the power to completely waive regulations on human testing, if the testing is done outside of the U.S....

These passages are buried in a huge pile of bureaucratese, so it's possible I'm missing a nuance here or there, but it seems to me that the EPA is trying to sneak in unethical practices under the cover of a regulation seemingly written to keep research subjects safe. (The regulation is called "Protections for Subjects in Human Research.")

EPA is accepting public comments on this until December 12.

(Story via Human at Carbon Paper.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'll be taking the next few days off, unless I manage to slip away from the family and do a little venting on the sly. More likely I'll be back on Sunday.
I see, via Atrios, that Limbaugh is calling John Murtha a "useful idiot."

I think Murtha should drop by Rush's studios sometime soon and ask the orotund chickenhawk if he'd like to have an on-air debate about this subject.

Hey, Rush, what do you say? Do you have the guts?

And if not, why not?

For many months now, the insurgents have been shifting their attacks away from U.S. and coalition forces and directing them at Iraqis instead. Iraqis now make up the overwhelming majority of casualties resulting from insurgent attacks. This shift is evidence not only of the effectiveness of our protective measures, but also of the growing vitality of the Iraqi political process....

--Robert Kagan and William Kristol in The Weekly Standard

This isn't a joke. They're serious.
Apparently, according to right-wingers, if a news service merely reports that a bombing has taken place in Iraq, or acknowledges a death-toll milestone at all, it's "celebrating."

These people are insane.


And "insane" doesn't even begin to describe the group hysteria on the right in reaction to the technical gaffe that led to the brief appearance of an X on Dick Cheney's face during a live CNN broadcast. There are perfectly rational explanations for this from TV techies (Harry Shearer can point you to some), but the righties have already moved to Level Two -- now they're critiquing one another's enhanced, super-slo-mo downloads of the 1/15th-of-a-second clip. Holy Zapruder! Can an entire Regnery book on this be far behind?
Juan Cole, reading Al-Hayat, reports on the conference of Iraqi leaders in Cairo:

Sources at the conference told al-Hayat that they envisaged the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the cities within 6 months (i.e. mid-May?). They said that the withdrawal would be completed over a period of two years (i.e. November 2007). This timetable, al-Hayat says, appears actually to have been put forward by the Americans themselves. If that is true, we finally know exactly what George W. Bush means by "staying the course." It is a course that takes us to withdrawal.

I'm not so sure. With regard to Iraq, every time the American public seems restless, someone -- Donald Rumsfeld or a general or some other high-level functionary -- speculates out loud that a drawdown of troops could happen in the very near future. Then along comes Bush with his riding crop and jodhpurs to dismiss all that girl talk and reiterate that we're staying until the mission is accomplished, dammit. This little two-step is meant to placate both nervous centrist voters and rabid consumers of GOP red meat; it's intended to add up to: We're going to stay until we've kicked ass and established God's shining city on a hill, and we really are going to get that done very soon.

Nobody but the Republican base is buying it, of course, but it's the only riff these guys know how to play.

I suspect that this timetable is more of the same -- manly enough to make it seem as if the Bushies aren't caving into pressure from Democrats and other weaklings, yet light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel enough to offer a ray of hope to non-frothers. Persuading the Iraqis to accept the timetable was a victory for the Bush spin machine; Bush, however, should be rejecting it any minute now.

From the right-wing propaganda organ NewsMax:

Rep. John Murtha Urged Somalia Pullout in '93

After terrorists attacked U.S. troops in Mogadishu, Somalia 12 years ago, anti-Iraq war Democrat, Rep. John Murtha urged then-President Clinton to begin a complete pullout of U.S. troops from the region.

Clinton took the advice and ordered the withdrawal - a decision that Osama bin Laden would later credit with emboldening his terrorist fighters and encouraging him to mount further attacks against the U.S.

"Our welcome has been worn out," Rep Murtha told NBC's "Today" show in Sept. 1993, a month after 4 U.S. Military Police had been killed in Somalia by a remote-detonated land mine....

I just want to point out that Murtha had a bit of company:

One of our American Black Hawk helicopter men had a handcuff on one wrist. Nobody puts handcuffs on a dead body. They were tortured to death. Now, get 5,000 men in there and get these Americans back and then get out.

--GOP congressman Robert "B-1 Bob" Dornan, speech in the House of Representatives, 10/6/93

...Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee, stat[ed] bluntly, "Clinton's got to bring them home."

--New York Times, 10/5/93

During the Meet the Press program aired Sept. 26, 1993, Sen. Bob Dole was asked if he thought the United Nations would take exception to an immediate U.S. military withdrawal. He said "Bhutros Bhutros Ghali hasn't been elected to any office in the United States, as far as I know."

--op-ed piece by Idaho Republican Robert Vasquez, 10/3/93

Yet NewsMax has the gall to suggest that Murtha is particularly culpable -- and partly responsible for 9/11. Shameless.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Yeah, this is really a step in the right direction:

...Under federal rules effective Jan. 1, low-income and elderly patients who enroll in the [new Medicare drug] program, known as Medicare Part D, will lose the ability to get free medications through the drugmakers' tax-deductible charities, known as patient-assistance programs.

Some companies, going further, said this week that they would drop patients who were merely eligible for Part D, whether or not they actually enrolled in it, as allowed under long-standing rules.

As a result, in about six weeks, up to half of the roughly three million to four million charity patients nationwide may lose free access to more than 1,200 brand-name drugs, according to estimates of three companies....

News of the cut-off followed a ruling last week by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services barring companies from giving free drugs to Part D enrollees, hoping to prevent fraud....

Among patients depending on the assistance are at least 6,000 indigent people with HIV or AIDS, according to the advocacy group Title II Community Aids National Network....

Oh well -- those damn poor people were probably just using those lifesaving drugs frivolously anyway, right?

Iraq's foreign minister said Monday that terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi might have been killed in a gunfight with U.S. forces over the weekend, but U.S. military sources told NBC News that's probably not the case and that troops likely "just missed" capturing him....

--NBC News right now

U.S. forces in Iraq believe they just missed capturing most-wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a February raid that netted two of his associates, a senior U.S. military official said Tuesday.

--AP, April 26, 2005

U.S. war planes targeted the top terrorist in Iraq yesterday....

...A senior Pentagon official told CNN that the air strike just missed taking out al-Zarqawi...

--New York Daily News, June 26, 2004

One of the more popular right-wing blogs tells us this:

Zarqawi Still Alive, The Left Celebrates

The White House is now saying that it is "highly unlikely" that Abu Musab al Zarqawi died in a Mosul raid Saturday....

Of course over at dKos, when the erroneous news that Zarqawi dead broke, there were immediate signs of dismay. For the hardcore Left, any good news for our troops is bad news for them. They have pinned their political hopes on the defeat of our troops....

You'll note that the link takes you to a post at another righty blog, which in turn offers this quote from a Daily Kos post by Armando:

The death if Zarqawi would be a positive step in fighting terrorism and, one hopes, suppressing the violence in Iraq.

What it will not be however, is a solution for our troubles in Iraq, whose roots are political in nature. Zarqawi is not and has not been the source of our troubles in Iraq. It is the intractable political problems of the sectarian power struggle between Shia, Sunni and Kurd. [emphasis added]

At the post itself, we read further (emphasis mine):

Not only would the death of Zarqawi be a boon to the fight against terror, it will be a strong impetus to forcing the Bush Administration to address our Iraq Debacle in real terms - not in the empty rhetoric of "fighting them there, not here."

But it remains to be seen if indeed Zarqawi has been eliminated.

Anybody see any evidence of "celebration" here, or of dismay at the possibility that Zarqawi is dead?

Gee, and I sometimes wonder why I don't read right-wing blogs more often.


UPDATE: The Mahablog and Seeing the Forest noticed this before I did.
Last week, in response to a post at Blah3 that said,

But for all the talk we hear about how brilliant Bush's spin team is, they have one fatal flaw - they believe that the more they talk, the more people will come around to their point of view

Atrios made a good point:

I actually don't think this is Bush's spin team. I think this is Bush. This is "I won this election so I'm all grown up now and I get to do the presidenting my way and I'm the president and I know what's best and if other people disagree it's because they're stupid and I need to keep explaining until they're smart." It comes out of Bush's unwavering belief in his own rightness.

I think that's true, but I also suspect that there's one person who's perfectly happy to pitch in:

The Bush administration will keep punching back at Iraq war critics today.

Vice President Cheney delivers another speech in Washington this morning, defending the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Last week, Cheney shook off allegations that prewar intelligence had been trumped up as "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired" in Washington....

Perhaps Cheney's just being a good soldier, doing what he's been told to do -- but my gut tells me that Cheney does what he chooses to do, and doesn't take orders from Junior that way. And surely this is not intended to distract from charges that Cheney is the VP of Torture, or speculation that the trail Patrick Fitzgerald is following leads to his office; the speeches Cheney is making remind people of precisely these things.

No, I think Cheney's out there snarlingly defending the war simply because he's a guy who takes pride in his work.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dwight Garner writes this in The New York Times Book Review about Peter Schweizer's new bestseller, Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy:

It steams Schweizer's beans that conservatives - William J. Bennett (gambling), Rush Limbaugh (drug use) - are so often brought low on charges of hypocrisy.

Excuse me, but on what planet have Bennett and Limbaugh been "brought low"? According to the most recent ratings published by Talkers magazine, Limbaugh still has nearly 14 million listeners a week -- he's been the top talk-radio guy for about a decade and a half, and he's still so influential that the White House dispatched Dick Cheney to kiss his ring when it was still fighting for the Harriet Miers nomination.

Bennett, meanwhile, reaches about 2 million listeners a week on his radio show -- that's a bigger audience than Al Franken's -- and his standing on talk radio seems not to have been diminished at all by his gambling scandal or the racist gaffe in which he immediately leaped to the subject of unborn blacks while talking about the notion of aborting possible future criminals. He's never apologized for that, and not one organization with which he is affiliated has seen fit to distance itself from him.

And to most Americans it's still not a slur to suggest that a politician is an ally of Rush Limbaugh or William Bennett, while it is very damaging in much of the country to describe a politician as a "Ted Kennedy liberal," or to suggest a philosophical similarity to Michael Moore. So don't try to tell me Limbaugh and Bennett have ever truly been "brought low."


UPDATE: Oh, and let me also mention this announcement of a forthcoming William Bennett book project, courtesy of Publishers Lunch (subscription only):

William J. Bennett's AMERICA: The Last Best Hope, a two-volume history of the United States, counteracting histories that "have treated the American story largely as a social study of missteps and injustices," focusing on the glory, romance, and exceptionalism of American achievement while not shrinking from any hard truth's from the past, to [be published by] Nelson Current, with publication of the first volume in May 2006, and the second in 2007, [agented] by Robert Barnett at Williams & Connolly.

Nelson Current is an imprint of Thomas Nelson, a highly successful publisher of religious, inspirational, and (recently) business books; it will publish Billy Graham's next book. Robert Barnett is Bill Clinton's book agent. Bennett's doing just fine.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


The New York Times is reporting this in tomorrow's edition:

JACKSON, Miss., Nov. 19 - When the federal government and the nation's largest disaster relief group reached out a helping hand after Hurricane Katrina blew through here, tens of thousands of people grabbed it.

But in giving out $62 million in aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross overlooked a critical fact: the storm was hardly catastrophic here, 160 miles from the coast. The only damage sustained by most of the nearly 30,000 households receiving aid was spoiled food in the freezer.

The fact that at least some relief money has gone to those perceived as greedy, not needy, has set off recriminations in this poor, historic capital where the payments of up to $2,358 set off spending sprees on jewelry, guns and electronics....

But didn't Mississippi take a direct hit? Well, in Jackson's case, not exactly:

By the time the hurricane reached this far, its power had diminished. The sustained winds, recorded at 47 m.p.h. at the airport, were far below hurricane speed.

You have to skip to paragraph 23 to grasp what really happened here: Sept. 7, at Mississippi's request, the disaster zone was expanded as far as 220 miles inland, reaching 32 counties, including several that never experienced sustained hurricane-force winds. The zone eventually reached 47 counties. The disaster area in Mississippi - which is led by Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican ally of President Bush's - extends 200 miles farther north than that in Louisiana, which is led by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat who at times criticized the federal storm response.

Got it?

Yes, the individuals who took this money did so under false pretenses. But FEMA was practically demanding dishonesty from Hinds County, where Jackson is located:

Weeks after the storm, Larry J. Fisher, director of the Hinds County emergency department, got a call from a regional FEMA representative saying that staff members wanted to know why county officials had reported that so few homes were uninhabitable.

FEMA has sent aid to thousands of county residents who claimed their homes were ruined, including 7,622 checks for $2,000 in emergency financial assistance. But Mr. Fisher counted only about 50 uninhabitable homes and perhaps 4,000 with any damage at all.

To resolve the discrepancy, Mr. Fisher recalled, he was told: "You are going to increase your number." A Baptist deacon and a former city police detective, Mr. Fisher, 67, was going to have none of that. Backed up by digital photographs he had taken of damaged properties, he refused to revise his reports. "I am not going to change my figures up to yours," Mr. Fisher said he told the FEMA official.

I gave money to the Red Cross after Katrina and my tax dollars go to FEMA. It never occurred to me that I was helping an ex-lobbyist crony of Bush dole out pork to the undeserving.


UPDATE: In comments, I'm told that I unquestionably accepted an unreasonably rosy picture of what the storm did to the Jackson area, and I realize that's probably the case -- although the devastation in New Orleans was clearly on another level altogether, and I still believe that party politics is a factor in the federal government's response. But please read the exchange between blueneckFromBT and stjohndavid, who know a lot more about this than I do.

Various blogs have noted this, from yesterday's Atlanta-Journal-Constitution:

The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law....

That would be this Sue Burmeister:

There's a lot about an anti-abortion bill working its way through the Georgia General Assembly that its critics don't like. But there's one part they find particularly galling....

The "Woman's Right to Know Act" contains a section allowing the father or grandparents of an aborted fetus to sue a physician who performs an abortion in "knowing or reckless" violation of the legislation. The legislation would require a physician performing an abortion to give a woman information on the medical risks of abortion, development of the fetus, alternatives to abortion including adoption, medical assistance benefits available for childbirth and child support liabilities of the father.

... abortion rights supporters say the wording of the section would allow any father -- or his parents -- to sue a doctor, even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest....

...Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), sponsor of House Bill 197,
said this week she will seek to clarify the legislation's wording....

(That provision was eventually deleted from the bill, as was a provision requiring physicians to warn about the bogus link between abortion and breast cancer, and the bill became law.)

Burmeister, like so many right-wing Christians, all but wears a neon sign around her neck that says I'M MORE MORAL THAN YOU:

She keeps a Bible on her desk ("and I read that"). A business card holder next to it has a cross on it and reads "Today has eternal consequences." She wears a silver pin on her lapel depicting tiny feet inside the womb, a symbol of her staunch anti-abortion position.

And, oh, by the way, her son was arrested last spring on charges of

molesting a girl, now 16, over a period of nine years.

Make of that what you will.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Right-wing commentators can make whatever clever, polysyllabic arguments they like in favor of the war, but all the administration really wants to do is keep as many people as possible thinking along the lines of what's in this amateurish little slideshow.
Folks, please don't forget that the GOP still runs the country:

The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers, handing Republican leaders a hard-fought victory after weeks of resistance in GOP ranks....

The House measure would cut about 220,000 people off food stamps, allow states to impose new costs on Medicaid beneficiaries, squeeze student lenders, cut aid to state child-support enforcement programs and trim farm supports....

Under the bill, health care programs would be cut by $976 million, including a $249 million reduction to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the smallest percentage increase for the National Institutes of Health in 35 years....

Education funding would decline for the first time in a decade, with Pell grants frozen for the fourth year in a row. Infuriating many lawmakers from Northern states, funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which subsidizes heating bills, would remain stagnant.

Yeah, this is the result of a compromise with moderates, after an embarrassing defeat yesterday afternoon, but excuse me if I'm not uncorking champagne. Even a bloodied Republican Party still operates like the Republican Party of Bush's triumph years, if in a somewhat diluted form.
I think Swopa has a point here:

Given enough cognitive dissonance of endless stay-the-course rhetoric against a backdrop of military stalemate and mounting casualties, the American public will eventually say, "You're right -- we don't have the will to fight it out. Bring our boys home!"

We reached that breaking point in Vietnam, and it's rapidly approaching with Iraq.

... but here's the danger: Even though the public might reluctantly endorse withdrawing to stop the pain of the moment, they won't be proud of it. And when another threat emerges (say, due to another terrorist attack), they'll just flip-flop and go looking for another Republican strong daddy to protect them.

...As long as the debate is Dubya saying,
"Be strong enough to stay the course," versus Democrats saying, "No, it hurts too much -- bring the troops home!", any political victory we win is going to turn into defeat eventually.

He's right. A few years later, a pullout will be portrayed not as a response to widespread public disgust, but as a cave-in engineered by America-hating liberal Democrats and their allies in the media. No one will remember the name John Murtha (just as, even now, no one remembers that last summer Walter Jones, a deeply conservative Republican, said much the same thing Murtha just said yesterday); the withdrawal will be blamed on Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan and whatever Democratic officeholders work best at that moment at getting a rise out of the crowds at Republican rallies. A new Reagan will emerge, determined to help America "stand tall again." The familiar cycle will repeat.

War opponents never succeeded in framing this war as a distraction from the real enemy, al-Qaeda, and never succeeded at framing the low-troop-strength Bush/Rumsfeld war plan as unconscionable because it couldn't possibly secure peace in Iraq. Choosing to abandon the pursuit of bin Laden to fight this war made America (and the world) less safe; fighting the war Rumsfeld's way made America (and the world) less safe. This war is a failure on its supporters' own terms.

Americans want leaders who'll keep them safe. To this day no one's really made the case that George W. Bush is incapable of doing that.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

AMERICAblog says the Pentagon is trying to "Swift Boat" John Murtha, the Vietnam vet turned hawkish Democratic congressman who's now calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But so far, all that's happened is that his speech and his patriotism have been attacked. Surely the GOP sewer rats can do a lot worse. Here's a summary of Murtha's military record:

After serving in the Marines in the early 1950's, he re-enlisted in 1966, at the age of 34, and served in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry....

Think they'll literally "Swift Boat" him? How much do you want to bet someone's out there right now trying to prove that John Murtha didn't deserve his medals?

U.S. President George W Bush treated Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a surprise welcome on Wednesday when he rode on a Segway scooter to greet the Japanese leader at the Kyoto State Guesthouse before starting their talks there.

The prime minister looked taken aback at Bush's sudden appearance on the two-wheeled stand-up vehicle, which turned out to be Bush's gift to Koizumi....

--Japan Today

(Via DU.)
Them that's got shall get...

...The Navy is asking for $2 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, saying in a memo that it wants to restore Northrop [Grumman]'s three Gulf Coast yards, where most of the Navy's surface ships are built, to their pre-Katrina "capacity and profit opportunities."

...critics question whether the Navy and Northrop are using Katrina as an excuse to gain additional funds, outside the Pentagon budget, for shipbuilding programs that are notorious for cost overruns.

And $2 billion, these critics say, is suspiciously high for shipbuilding delays expected to take months, not years, and for a work force that is mostly busy again....

Them that's not shall lose...

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it plans to stop paying for hotel and motel rooms for Katrina and Rita evacuees beginning Dec. 1....

... more than 53,000 hotel rooms remain occupied by evacuated families -- primarily in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi....

You have read up to paragraph 21 of that first story before you encounter the key name:

[Northrop Grumman's] 800-acre Ingalls yard dates to the 1930's, and has long benefited from the political protection of Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican whose father once worked there; Mr. Lott's waterfront house - now flattened by Katrina - was just outside the yard.

The evacuees didn't have the foresight to buy a senator before they were flooded out, so tough luck for them.
What did The New York Times say earlier this week about the decision to reject over-the-counter sales of Plan B emergency contraception?

Top agency officials were deeply involved in the decision, which was "very, very rare," a top F.D.A. review official told investigators. The officials' decision to ignore the recommendation of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency's own scientific review staff was unprecedented....

And what does The Washington Post say today about the Justice Department's approval of a Georgia voter-ID law much desired by Republicans?

A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.

Hmmm -- a subtle pattern begins to emerge.

Staffers who review the evidence and make recommendations? We don't need no stinking staffers who review the evidence and make recommendations!

In a way, it's like what happened with intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. You underlings have evidence that the aluminum tubes aren't for weapons of mass destruction? Sorry, up here at the top we don't give a crap about your silly evidence; we've already made up our minds.

In the case of the Georgia voter-ID law, which the Justice Department "pre-cleared," the Post explains what upset the staffers:

The program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.

... sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that Georgia blacks were much less likely than whites to own vehicles and also less likely to have photo IDs, the memo said.

And, as The New York Times said in September about the limited number of sites where ID cards can be obtained,

It is outrageous that Atlanta does not have a single location.

Gee, and 54% of Atlanta's registered voters are black -- coincidence?

Obnviously, it's silly to expect anything different from the Bushies. They want what they want; they don't intend to allow any required process to threaten their revolution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


As you know, the GOP is desperate to get Katherine Harris out of the Florida Senate race; she's polling 17 points behind Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson (or is that 24 points?) --and now this story emerges:

...Back in 2001, when citrus canker was blighting the [Florida citrus] crop and threatening to reduce that vital source of revenue, an interesting -- if not quite scientific -- alternative was considered.

Katherine Harris, then Florida's secretary of state -- and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives -- ordered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, "researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test 'Celestial Drops,' promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its ‘improved fractal design,' ‘infinite levels of order,' and ‘high energy and low entropy.'"

The study determined that the product tested was, basically, water that had apparently been blessed according to the principles of Kabbalic mysticism, "chang[ing] its molecular structure and imbu[ing] it with supernatural healing powers."...

That's what we love about Republicans -- they just hate wasteful government spending....
The Drudge Report right now:


Actually, 10,000 books in one week may not be spectacular, but it's not bad at all. As you know, Matt (because you and I get the same pre-release e-mails from The New York Times), that was enough to get Dowd's book to #13 on the NYT bestseller list.

(The new list will be posted here on Sunday.)

...Which is more than I can say for Michelle Malkin's Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, which still hasn't made the Times top 35 -- and apparently never will.

(And no, I'm not a big fan of Dowd's writing on gender issues, but we all know that what's in the book isn't why Drudge is taking a swipe at her.)

Lest you think the U.S. government was shocked and dumbfounded at the recent discovery of an Iraq torture prison, today's Newsday has this story about Iraq police commandos -- "police commandos" almost certainly being a euphemism for "death squads," and "Iraqi" being a somewhat limited description, given the source of some of their training.

...One such group, the Volcano Brigade, is operating as a death squad, under the influence or control of Iraq's most potent Shia factional militia, the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, said several Iraqi government officials and western Baghdad residents.

In the past six months, Badr has heavily infiltrated the Interior Ministry, under which the commandos operate, the sources said. Badr also was accused of running the secret Interior Ministry prison raided Sunday by U.S. troops.

About 2 a.m. on Aug. 23, men in Volcano Brigade uniforms and trucks rolled into the streets of Dolay, a mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood of western Baghdad, residents say....

For three hours, the raiders burst into Sunni homes, handcuffed dozens of men and loaded them into vans....

Two days later and 90 miles away, residents of the desert town of Badrah, near the Iranian border, found the bodies of 36 of the men in a gully, their hands still bound and their skulls shattered by bullets....

Now, here's the part you may not know:

In the past year, the U.S. military has helped build up the commandos under guidance from James Steele, a former Army Special Forces officer who led U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador in the 1980s. Salvadoran army units trained by Steele's team were accused of a pattern of atrocities.

In a May article for The Nation, David Corn, citing this New York Times Magazine article, told us a bit more about Steele:

The [Times] article, by Peter Maass, noted that Steele "honed his tactics leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980s." And, as Maass reminded his readers, that civil war resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people, mostly civilians, and "[m]ost of the killing and torturing was done by the army and right-wing death squads affiliated with it." The army that did all that killing in El Salvador was supported by the United States and US military officials such as Steele, who was head of the US military assistance group in El Salvador for two years in the mid-1980s. (A 1993 UN truth commission, which examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador, attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the US-backed El Salvador military and its death-squad allies.)

Maass reported that the Special Forces advisers in El Salvador led by Steele "trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses."

And as the Times story notes,

Steele ... is not the only American in Iraq with such experience: the senior U.S. adviser in the Ministry of Interior, which has operational control over the commandos, is Steve Casteel, a former top official in the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent much of his professional life immersed in the drug wars of Latin America. Casteel worked alongside local forces in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia....

Oh yeah -- these guys are going to respect due process.

But let's get back to David Corn, who hasn't told you the best part -- Steele worked for Ollie North:

After the Iran-contra story broke in 1986, Steele was questioned by Iran-contra investigators.... Steele claimed that he had observed the North [contra-supply] network in action but that he had never assisted it. The evidence didn't support this assertion. For one, North had given Steele a special coding device that allowed encrypted communications to be sent securely over telephone lines. Why did Steele need this device if he had nothing to do with the operation? And for a time Steele passed this device to Felix Rodriguez, one of North's key operatives in El Salvador. Furthermore, Congressional investigators discovered evidence indicating that aviation fuel given to El Salvador under a US military aid program that Steele supervised was illegally sold to the North network.... And according to the accounts of others, Steele had made sure that the North network's planes, used to ferry weapons to the contras, could come and go from Illopongo.

When questioned by the Iran-contra independent counsel, Steele maintained that he had limited his actions to providing humanitarian assistance to the contras... But, as independent counsel Lawrence Walsh later pointed out in his book,
Firewall, a lie-detector examination indicated Steel "was not being truthful." Steele's name had also turned up in the private notebooks in which North kept track of his various Iran-contra operations. As Walsh wrote, "Confronted with the results of the lie-detector test and North's notebook, Steele admitted not only his participation in the [clandestine] arms deliveries [to the contras] but also his early discussions of these activities with Donald Gregg [the national security adviser to Vice President George Bush] and the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin G. Corr."

Steele was never indicted; he was merely denied a promotion to brigadier general at the insistence of Senator Tom Harkin.

And now he's Aiding The Cause Of Freedom in Iraq.


(More at Needlenose.)
I don't post much about Plamegate, one reason being that I feel I'd have to devote my life to it in order to run with the big dogs who've made it their special area of expertise. Y'know, all hail Jane Hamsher and her crew at firedoglake, but their tireless pursuit of this subject makes my head hurt. You know how you felt during the scene in Slacker with the JFK assassination obsessive? That's how I sometimes feel when I read the firedoglakers. It's my fault, not theirs -- I know I could get up to speed on the subject if I put a little effort into it. But I'm not very bright and I'm lazy.

What this means to you, Dear Reader, is that I've held back on saying what I think about the whole Plame mess. I've been afraid to say it because I'm afraid that somewhere, in the gigabytes of prose on the subject you've all processed and I haven't, might be the proof that I'm completely clueless on this. But I still don't know what that proof is, so here goes.

I've simply never bought into the notion that Patrick Fitzgerald has these guys just where he wants them, that they won't wriggle off his hook, that many of them are going to go down. Sure, he blew through one administration cover story. But these are some of the most vicious sewer rats in the history of American politics, many of them with experience going back decades. And if one story doesn't survive his scrutiny, they'll devise a fallback, and then another; they'll throw everything at this case to minimize the likelihood of convictions, or at least to limit them to fish who aren't very big (or who can be pardoned by the lame-duck Bush sometime after the '08 elections). Good as he is, I'm not sure he's a match for them.

Well, now we have Bob Woodward stepping into the picture.

The Washington Post tells us that Woodward heard about Valerie Plame from an administration official nearly a month before her name appeared in Robert Novak's column. This throws off the timeline that emerged at the time of Fitzgerald's indictment. This challenges Fitzgerald's credibility.

How convenient.

And note the timing:

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the [senior administration] official [with whom Woodward said he first discussed Plame] alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

Yes, how convenient -- that this new story emerged just after everyone had a chance to read Fitzgerald's indictment. Am I paranoid to suspect that the new story was shaped around what Fitzgerald told us he knew?

And how curious this detail is:

Woodward's statement said he testified: "I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson's wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst."

Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

"Are you kidding?" Pincus said. "I certainly would have remembered that."

I am, to say the least, extremely skeptical about what Woodward's saying. I think it's meant to undermine Fitzgerald in the court of public opinion, and to sow confusion. Possibly the strategy is for some administration official other than Libby to step up to take the hit in order to protect the key guys, Cheney and Rove. In any case, we now have a counternarrative; it may not hold up in court, but it just got much easier for the right-wing punditocracy to portray Fitzgerald as having feet of clay.

And the man responsible is Bob Woodward -- the flattering courtier who declared in May that Dick Cheney was "a serious dark horse candidate" for president in 2008. Oh yeah, he's just being a reporter in all this.

Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but this smells fishy.
For those who see Judith Miller's complicity in the lying sprees of the Neocons as a signal of the decline of the New York Times from some previous plateau of objectivity and competence I suggest a review of its sometime defense correspondent Richard Burt in the late Carter years, as Al Haig's agent in place. Burt relayed truckloads of threat-inflating nonsense about the military balance in the Cold War, particularly in the European theater, most of them on a level of fantasy matching the lies Miller got from Chalabi's disinformers and trundled in print.

When the Reaganites seized power in 1981, Burt promptly threw down his press badge and went to work in the State Department as Director of Politico-Military Affairs.... At least Miller didn't go and officially work for Cheney.

--Alexander Cockburn in Counterpunch

...[Miller's] relationship with Richard Burt, a Times colleague, turned controversial when he left the paper and joined the State Department. Burt declined to speak on the record for this article. News articles of that period say Burt's relationship with Miller was questioned during his Senate confirmation hearings as an assistant secretary of state in 1982 and, in 1989, as a chief U.S. arms control negotiator. Some senators wanted to know whether Burt had passed classified information to Miller during their relationship. Burt denied it.

--Washington Post, 11/10/05

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The U.S. military said today that more than 112,000 Iraqi police and nearly 100,000 Iraqi troops have been trained and equipped so far. While the numbers seem impressive, the greater concern is whether those Iraqi forces are capable of effectively securing their country.

Today's report from the Pentagon says only one battalion -- about 700 Iraqi troops -- has reached level one, meaning the soldiers can operate independently.

--ABC News

I knew about that one-battalion estimate, but this brings into focus.

Amazing, isn't it? It's 31 months since the overthrow of Saddam, and we have a whopping 700 troops fully trained and ready to fight on their own.

That's about 22 a month.

At that rate, the Iraqi military will be able to replace the 160,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq in the year 2592.

I found out about this Insight on the News article via Skimble; you probably found out via Drudge or Wonkette. You have to register to get the full article from the Insight Web page, but Liberty Post, an imitation Free Republic, has a nice excerpt:

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say....

"The atmosphere in the Oval Office has become unbearable," a source said. "Even the family is split." ...

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

For the president, what triggered the break with his father was the interview given to the New Yorker magazine in October by Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor in the first Bush presidency....

"Bush is living from hour to hour," said a senior Republican source who visits the White House frequently....

(There's more at the Liberty Post link.)

The important thing here is not the article, but who published it: Insight is a sister publication of The Washington Times. That means one of the most important organs of the right-wing media is burning its bridges to Bush.

Apparently the conservative movement, or at least a part of it, has decided that Bush is a traitor to the right (on government spending, immigration, and at least one judicial nomination), and/or believes he's an unpopular liability who threatens to bring down the GOP (if so, there's good reason -- go to Rasmussen Reports and check out some of the current Senate polls: Democrat Bill Nelson leads Katherine Harris in Florida by 17 points; Democrat Maria Cantwell has a 15-point lead in Washington State; Rick Santorum is trailing Democrat Bob Casey Jr. by 20 points in Pennsylvania; GOP incumbent Jim Talent is trailing Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill by 2 points in Missouri). What more will these people do if they've decided he's expendable?
Iraq detainees 'found starving'

Iraq's government says it has begun an investigation into the alleged abuse of more than 170 detainees held by Iraqi security forces in Baghdad.

The prisoners, many malnourished and some showing signs of torture, were found when US troops took control of an interior ministry building on Sunday....

Iraq's prime minister has promised to find those responsible for any abuse. Most of those held were Sunnis....

There have been persistent allegations of abuse by members of the Shia-dominated security forces, [the BBC's Caroline Hawley] says....

There are suspicions the building may also have been used as a base for a militia called the Badr Brigade, and that such militias may have infiltrated Iraq's security services, our correspondent adds....


And before the right-wingers start whining about devious prisoners who lie about being tortured and about the terrorist-loving BBC, they should note that the Iraqi government confirms this:

...Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said he had been told that 173 detainees had been held, that they appeared malnourished, and may have been "subjected to some kind of torture".

He launched an inquiry and said the prisoners had been moved and would be given medical care.

Deputy interior minister Hussein Kamal, who saw some of the abuse victims personally, said: "I've never seen such a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad, this is the worst.

"I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies." ...

Gee, good thing Saddam's gone, hunh?
The long, rather damning article on Donald Rumsfeld that appeared in The Washington Post Magazine a couple of days ago, with its focus on his screwup in Iraq, didn't get much attention in the blog world. I understand that -- lefties, most of whom opposed the war from the start, generally aren't interested in a critique of the workmanship of the Titanic's deck chairs, while the right doesn't even want to examine the question of an inadequate fighting force because it undermines the conservative myth of the Bush administration as Manliest Administration Ever.

But the article is well worth reading. I always opposed the Iraq War, but I still believe we made more of a mess of it than we had to, and Rumsfeld needs to be held accountable for that failure in particular.

The article's author, David von Drehle, accuses Rumsfeld of literally not making the war his top priority, because he was more interested in his own program for changing the way the Pentagon operates:

...Rumsfeld explained that he has had to "balance risks between a war plan -- an investment in something immediately -- and an investment in something in the future." This opened a small window into a very important section of his thinking.... Rumsfeld has conceived of Iraq on a smaller scale, as just one of many hungry conveyor belts inside his Pentagon.

He understood that as soon as the Iraq belt started rolling, it would carry resources away from his preferred investments in the future. So he speaks of his job as a matter of reaching onto that belt and pulling stuff off. "Balance" in this context is another word for "limit" -- limit the amount of money, troops, staff and materiel bound for Iraq. The war he wanted was a short one, involving a relatively small force that would start heading home as soon as Saddam was chased from his palaces. When Army generals urged him instead to load the Iraq conveyor belt with enough troops to fully occupy the country -- securing captured weapons depots, patrolling borders, ensuring order -- Rumsfeld saw the large fixed cost involved in recruiting and training thousands of new troops, a cost that would rattle down Pentagon belts for years to come. He tried to balance those risks of chaos against the conveyor belts that could otherwise be loaded with resources destined for future transformation.

It was a gamble, and one he has stuck with through round after round of raised stakes.

Actually, it wasn't just a gamble -- it was a betrayal, of Rumsfeld's country and of the men and women who fought under him. Many have died because he wanted to fight the war on the cheap -- inadequate troop strength, inadequate equipment, inadequate training for National Guard units. ("He cut the time for training National Guard units, including the ones that wound up photographing themselves with naked prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison," von Drehle writes.) Ultimately, Rumsfeld's choices have made the entire world less safe, by creating conditions that permitted a relatively new terrorist organization to grow, thrive, and now turn multinational. There isn't a circle in Hell low enough for him.

Yes, the real mistake was choosing this war in the first place, but once it was chosen, the war-fighting should have been done right -- all the way through the "postwar" period. Rumsfeld has helped make this an endless war because, narcissistically, he wanted to go down in history as the Pentagon's genius CEO, and he simply refused to shift gears when given a new set of responsibilities.

Ultimately, what we learn from this article is that the person who's done most to "undermine the war effort" isn't, as right-wingers would argue, Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan or someone else on the left -- it's Rummy. He's been a true fifth columnist, less loyal to his country than to his own ego.
People complain about left-wing "political correctness" and the left-wing "language police," but has anyone ever been as hypersensitive about language as the contemporary American right? Modern right-wingers get the vapors when department-store cashiers say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," they detect anti-Italian prejudice in the nickname "Scalito" -- and now we have Father Richard John Neuhaus, Bush advisor and editor of the right-wing Catholic magazine First Things, writing this about Judith Miller in his First Things blog:

... She said she is free from the "convent of the New York Times, a convent with its own theology and its own catechism." Who would have thought of the Times as a convent?

The image of the nun jumping to freedom over the convent wall was a staple in the heyday of anti-Catholic propaganda. Of course the nun almost never had the help of high-powered lawyers extracting a big severance deal from the convent....

Anti-Catholic innuendos notwithstanding, a convent, a theology, and a catechism are all things of beauty. In the service of Christ and his Church, they well warrant the surrender of a life in devotion to transcendent truth. As I would like to think Ms. Miller knows, that is very different from having spent 28 years of her life surrendering her intelligence in order to toe the line of the smelly little orthodoxies of the
New York Times.

I don't have much good to say about Judy Miller, but give me a break -- she's not exhibiting anti-Catholic bigotry here. Switch to decaf, Father.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The reason you're not seeing a whole lot of McVeigh-style anti-government activity these days, in my opinion, is that the off-the-edge wackos have been watching the only-marginally-saner Republicans in D.C. and figure they themselves can't be that far from power.

If my theory is correct, it might explain this:

...Activists are trying to put a radical measure on next year's ballot that could make South Dakota the first state to let people who believe their rights have been violated by judges put those judges on trial. Citizens could seek damages or criminal charges.

The measure would overturn more than a century of settled law in the United States by stripping judges of their absolute immunity from lawsuits over their judicial acts....

Legal experts warned that such a provision could dangerously undermine the independence of South Dakota's judiciary, plunge the court system into anarchy, and run afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

And they noted there are already remedies available to the public: Bad rulings can be overturned on appeal, and judges who break the rules can be punished by state disciplinary boards and, in South Dakota and other states, voted out of office....

Judicial immunity, the doctrine that says judges cannot be sued over their judicial acts, was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in an 1871 case....

Lest you think the people behind this are sane and temperate, check out their Web site and note that they call their proposal the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law -- J.A.I.L. for short.

And if you think they want to invoke the law only in the most extraordinary circumstances, well, you're right -- if by "extraordinary circumstances" you mean "whenever they're pissed off." Take a look at their new newspaper ad (PDF). At right, note the first example they list under the heading "Why is the J.A.I.L. Amendment important?"

Crime and no punishment
Deborah Robinson, the U.S. magistrate who recently fined former national security adviser Sandy Berger $50,000 for stealing and destroying classified documents from OUR National Archives, AND NO JAIL TIME.

They want the option of jailing the magistrate for this decision.

These people are nuts.

And it gets worse. The first link on the links page of the South Dakota organization* leads us to the wellspring of this movement:, founded Ron Branson of California. Let's learn a little bit more about Ron:

Born in 1946, Ronald Branson joined the U.S. Military in 1963. He had a very strict and straight-laced view of "just doing his job." Part of his military time was spent as a Prison Chaser over prisoners at Fort Belvoir. VA. He presided over work details and regularly strip-searched the prisoners. He quickly gained the respect of his superiors, and took on the reputation as the strictest Prison Chaser within the prison compound, having disciplined more prisoners than all other Prison Chasers collectively.


After his honorable discharge from the military, Ron entered Washington Bible College, and later graduated from two Bible Institutes, one in Wisconsin and the other in Los Angeles.... He was ordained into the ministry in 1977 and pastored several churches. He began to realize that the biggest cult and threat to the churches was government....

In 1980 Mr. Branson was called upon to travel with and meet appointments by the late A. J. Porth, the patriarch of the modern-day patriot movement, as his right-hand man. In 1992, Ron became co-founder of the Granada Forum, which held it meetings in Tarzana, California....

OK, let's stop there.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has some information on A. J. Porth:

... a building contractor from Wichita, Kansas, named Arthur Julius Porth scribbled "I plead the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States" across his Form 1040 and sent it to the IRS.

Opposition to the federal income tax predates Porth's 1961 rebellion, but his one-man act of defiance inspired a legion of activists, helped spark a national "Tax Strike" movement in the two decades that followed and laid the groundwork for today's generation of militant tax protesters....

Like present-day tax resisters, A.J. Porth gave plenty of reasons for breaking the law, including the notion that the 16th Amendment was unconstitutional and "put Americans into economic bondage to the international bankers" -- a thinly veiled anti-Semitic reference to the supposed "international Jewish banking conspiracy." ...

Reasoning like this led to Porth's 1967 conviction for violating federal tax laws, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

...Among those who campaigned for Porth's freedom was William Potter Gale, who would become the founder of the Posse Comitatus in 1971. Gale used the newsletter of his California-based Ministry of Christ Church -- a church espousing the racist and anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity -- to promote Porth and the early tax rebellion movement....

We can learn a little bit about Ron Branson's Granada Forum from a 1999 LA Weekly article:

"We are leaderless," says "Anne," the leader of the Granada Forum, when I arrive at the group's Thursday meeting. "We are like a big town meeting with no political affiliation."

... The ... woman goes on to speak about the unconstitutionality of birth certificates and ID numbers. "A birth certificate is a government certificate of human ownership," she charges, adding that the document is "valued at $630,000." ...

Don Kreigel, head of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, rises to speak about the dangers of fluoride, and an upcoming protest march. "We expect a hundred people," he says. "It'll be a huge demonstration." Kreigel also passes out copies of the Impeachment Roll Call and recounts his recent journey to Area 51 and a subsequent UFO sighting....

There's more at the link, not all what you'd expect (a former LAPD detective, for instance, claims there is a 1985 DEA videotape of George W. Bush and brother Jeb buying 2 kilograms of coke in Miami). Granada has also given a forum to the likes of Texe Marrs, whose "Discernment Ministry"

features the Power of Biblical Prophecies comparing globalization in both religion and the political arena [and] exposes the Pope's goals and the spiritual deception of the New World Order.

There's also Joyce Riley, a retired Army flight nurse who

presented damning Department of Defense classified "Secret"documentation to an audience at the Granada Forum in Tarzana, CA on July 1, 1999 which supported the contention that the military intentionally innoculated Gulf War troops with the pathogens that eventually caused Gulf War Illness as part of an insideous program directed by the CIA called MK Ultra.

(Oh, and according to Granada's not-regularly-updated Web site, David Horowitz has also addressed the group.)

I don't think the South Dakota bill stands a chance -- I hope it doesn't. But it's a sign that the kooks want to come in from the cold, and will, given half a chance.


*UPDATE, 3/17/06: The Jail4Judges link no longer seems to be on the South Dakota Judicial Accountability links page, but Jail4Judges still loves the South Dakota group.