Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Six questions/observations addressed to President Bush by ABC News co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas in the interview she conducted with him today:

"Your desk is so clean Mr. President."

"It's interesting you hold the most powerful position in the world, truly, but what do you think you were put on this Earth to do?"

"Flying you just feel awful. No matter how great and disciplined you are in the flight, it's really hard."

"You're a morning exerciser right?"

"You were talking about the importance of keeping your friendships. I think something many people have been struck by particularly with your staff is the enormous loyalty that you seem to inspire in them."

"How are the dogs?"

In the Republican utopia, all presidential interviews (at least with Republican presidents) would sound like this.

(Admittedly, these are from the softball, stroll-through-the-Rose-Garden part of the interview, not the (allegedly) substantive part, in which Bush insists that everything is on course in Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security, and the economy.)
Syria opposition says US funding counterproductive

Syria's liberal opposition has said it will not accept money from a U.S. offer to fund democratic groups in the country, saying that its credibility would be damaged if it took the cash....

"The Damascus Declaration refuses foreign funding, including the $5 million from the U.S. State Department for the Syrian opposition," a statement by the group said....


Yeah that $1.9 million in election aid to Fatah really worked like a charm, didn't it? These idiots never learn....
The story of the French rightists who combine charity and racism by staging distributions of pork-based "identity soup" makes The New York Times today. This passage in the Times story, which quotes a leader of the group that distrubutes the soup, bothers me:

..."Other communities don't hesitate to help their own, so why can't we?" she asked, noting that Europe's Islamic charities serve halal food to disadvantaged Muslims and that its Jewish charities operate kosher soup kitchens.

Fair enough, one might argue....

Why is it "fair enough"? That's a valid point if Jewish charities actually turn away hungry people who aren't Jewish, or Muslim charities turn away non-Muslims -- but eating kosher or halal food if you don't observe Jewish or Muslim dietary laws is not the same as eating food that violates your religious beliefs. Doesn't that go without saying?


(Here's an earlier post on this subject.)
Swopa at Needlenose directs us to this Knight Ridder article, which suggests that it's a wee bit too early to declare the Iraqi civil war averted:

Sunni Muslims from across central Iraq, alarmed by how easily Shiite Muslim fighters had attacked their mosques during last week's clashes, said Monday that they were sending weapons to Baghdad and were preparing to dispatch their own fighters to the Iraqi capital in case of further violence....

"I will be the first to go to Baghdad ... and help defend the mosques," said Mustafa Adnan, 27, a graduate engineering student from Fallujah, west of Baghdad. "It will not happen again. If the Shiites want to do that again, it will be over our dead bodies."

Residents expressed similar sentiments In Diyala province, north of Baghdad. "There is tension all over Diyala," said Dawood Salman, a 38-year-old mechanic from Baqouba. "Once we hear of any attack in Baghdad, we will immediately take our weapons and head there to fight. Even if the Iraqi forces close the roads, we will find a way."...

Residents in Tikrit, Kirkuk, Fallujah and Baqouba, all predominantly Sunni cities, said they either were shipping weapons or preparing in other ways to protect Sunni mosques.

Several residents in Anbar province told Knight Ridder they were sneaking weapons into western Baghdad by back roads to avoid checkpoints. They asked not to be named....

This is going to get ugly again -- maybe not right away, but soon.
How amusing -- we get to watch the Republicans fight one another for a change:

Peter King Blames Rush Limbaugh for Port Support

New York Congressman Peter King, who sounded the alarm two weeks ago over the Bush administration's decision to permit the sale of several dozen U.S. port terminals to a Dubai company, blamed conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday for softening the firestorm of opposition to the deal.

Asked why some hard-line opponents of the Dubai deal seem to have changed their minds, King told WABC Radio host John Gambling:

"I am very disappointed in that. It almost seemed that once the administration started to counterattack, you had people like Rush Limbaugh and others who have just been - ah - I think [they] have gone into the tank, quite frankly."

Limbaugh adopted a wait-and-see posture on the ports controversy early last week, saying that more information was needed. But by Friday he told his audience he was suspicious of the monolithic opposition.

"You remember the movie 'The Perfect Storm'?" he asked. "What do you suppose happens when 2006 politics and a liberal lust for power and longshoreman union power and Bush hatred and uninformed reporting and the GOP's fear of losing power all get tossed into a stew pot, and then you add in a dash of xenophobia and a touch of racism, and what do you get? Exactly what we had earlier this week: the perfect panic."...

I enjoy this part of what King said:

"I think you're seeing something of a split here in the Republican Party between what I call the Reagan Democrats, you know, the ethnics from the cities and the suburbs, the middle-income working people -- and the big-business wing of the party."

Yee-haw! Class warfare in the Republican Party! Pass the popcorn!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Some results from the new CBS poll (story here; PDF of complete results here and here):

Bush job approval:

America (Democrats, independents and Republicans): 34%
Republicans only: 72%

Approval of Bush's handling of the economy:

America: 32%
Republicans only: 68%

Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq:

America: 30%
Republicans only: 61%

Approval of Bush's handling of the war on terror:

America: 43%
Republicans only: 78%

Approval of Bush's handling of the Katrina cleanup:

America: 32%
Republicans only: 63%

Remember the aftermath of the 2004 election? Remember how Democrats were portrayed as hopelessly out of step -- not religious enough, not NASCAR enough, not sufficiently family-oriented or security-oriented, too urban, too accommodating of abortion and Hollywood and indecency and gays?

Well, it's time for the media to start talking about Republicans as the oddballs. It's time to start discussing them as the ones who don't have "mainstream American values."

It's the Republicans who are the outliers, the weirdos; it's Republicans who cling to a worldview that fails reality check after reality check.

Democrats, by contrast, are normal Americans.
The economy is going in reverse for the young, as The Christian Science Monitor notes:

In the race to get ahead economically, America's young workers are falling behind.

A new survey shows that median incomes fell for householders under 45, even as they rose for older ones, between 2001 and 2004.

Income fell 8 percent, adjusted for inflation, for those under 35 and 9 percent for those aged 35 to 44. The numbers add new weight to longstanding concerns about whether younger generations of Americans will achieve living standards that are better -- or at least equal to -- those of their parents....

If you automatically think "white collar" when you picture a young worker, remember that not everybody in America fits that description. An article in yesterday's New York Times explains what's happening to young blue-collar workers at Caterpillar, in comparison with their elders:

RICK DOTY is a 30-year veteran of Caterpillar, the big tractor and earth-moving equipment manufacturer. He is paid $23.51 an hour as a machinist, and he receives additional benefits worth almost as much. That sets him far above newly hired workers consigned to a much lower wage scale.

To these fellow workers, Mr. Doty, who is also a local union leader, struggles to justify an inequality that he helped to negotiate.

"I remind them they are making more now than they were before they came to Cat," said Mr. Doty, who spends part of his day at the one-story union hall of United Automobile Workers Local 974 arguing that $12 to $13 an hour is good pay here. "And I assure them that five years down the road, when the present contract expires, we in the union are going to improve their lot in life."

That does not seem likely. After more than a decade of failed strikes and job actions -- mainly in Illinois, where Caterpillar has its biggest factories -- the U.A.W. reluctantly accepted a two-tier contract that provides for significantly lower wages and benefits for newly hired employees. The new second tier is as much as $20 an hour below the cost of employing Mr. Doty, 50, and a dwindling band of other veterans....

That's the future. And it's just going to get tougher and tougher for young blue-collar workers in this country.
How hard is it for right-wingers to pick up transmissions emanating from outside their comfy little Brigadoon? Here's Glenn Reynolds (at his MSNBC.com blog, not at Instapundit), citing Jim Geraghty's National Review blog:

A tipping point on Islam?

With the Cartoon Wars giving way to the ports imbroglio, Jim Geraghty, blogging from Turkey, wonders if we're seeing a tipping point in Western attitudes toward Islam. Geraghty collects a lot of quotes, and writes of "my sense that in recent weeks, a large chunk of Americans just decided that they no longer have any faith in the good sense or non-hostile nature of the Muslim world. If subsequent polls find similar results, the port deal is dead."...

Yes, you read that right: These idiots think the reaction to the port story is something that wouldn't have happened two months ago, or a year ago, or, I guess, even in the latter part of September 2001 -- we just would have happily said, "A country with multiple ties to the 9/11 attacks? Controlling a firm that's going to run U.S. ports? Hey, no problem!"

These right-wing pundits won't even allow themselves to entertain the possibility that a lot of Americans oppose the Iraq war and oppose putting ourselves at what seems to be increased risk of an attack by terrorists, and when you add that group to the hawks who oppose the port deal, you get a big chunk of America. To the righty pundits that's incomprehensible. If you oppose the war, you just don't give a damn whether America is attacked again -- that's the righties' story and they're sticking to it.

USA Today reports:

Federal inspectors routinely concluded that safety violations at the Sago Mine endangered only one person, findings that helped keep fines to a minimum before the disaster that killed 12 miners in January.

A USA TODAY analysis of inspection records shows that inspectors found hundreds of safety and health violations in the West Virginia coal mine. Fines go up -- by hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars -- if an inspector finds numerous people at risk....

In 90% of Sago's violations in 2004 and 2005, inspectors said one person was endangered, according to a USA TODAY analysis of MSHA inspection reports....

An example:

Sago was cited for 22 violations from July 2004 to December 2005 for "accumulation of combustible materials" -- coal dust and coal chunks that can spread fires and explosions. All 22 violations said one miner was endangered. MSHA fined the mine a total of $1,768 for 17 violations and is deciding fines for the five others.

"If you have coal dust in the air, that becomes part of the explosion," says Robert Ferriter, director of mine safety training at the Colorado School of Mines. "That would certainly affect more than one person. That would affect everybody in the area."


Now, none of these violations were connected to the explosion that killed 12 miners in January -- but if you were running a mine and being cosseted this way every time you had a safety violation, I think you'd conclude that you were in a rather mellow regulatory climate.

Yes, my headline is meant to invoke Kanye West's statement about Bush and black people in the wake of Katrina. I agree with Kanye -- George Bush doesn't care about black people. But there are plenty of other people he doesn't care about. If you don't write fat checks to the GOP and you don't seem likely to hold the all-GOP federal government accountable when you're betrayed by the powers that be, then George Bush doesn't care about you.

Sign #1: Jerome "Swift Boat" Corsi cites Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!:

Dubai funds Neil Bush's company
Posted: February 27, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

Investors from the United Arab Emirates helped fund the $23 million Neil Bush raised for Ignite!, the learning systems company that holds lucrative No Child Left Behind Act contracts in Florida and Texas. The "Cow" is an Ignite! portable computer designed to work in a classroom, providing interactive instruction aimed at improving students' scores on standardized tests. If you loved Billy Carter and "Billy Beer," you're certain to love Neil Bush and the "Ignite! Cow." ...

(Link in original.)

Sign #2: New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams plays Seymour Hersh:

February 27, 2006 -- PAY attention. Pay large attention. Could be more, but for today the number is a dozen. At least a dozen members of Congress, primarily of the party currently in power, are about to be indicted. Influence peddling. One dozen....

Yes, this Cindy Adams:

Strange days indeed.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Well, it's the usual endgame in a Bush debacle:

After two days of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Bush administration and Congress, the Dubai company seeking to manage terminals at six American ports is expected to announce by Monday a deal inviting the government to conduct a broad new review of security concerns, senior administration officials and a company adviser lesay.

If an agreement is completed, the state-owned company, Dubai Ports World, will "voluntarily" ask the Bush administration to pursue the lengthier, deeper investigation....

The White House plans to portray the action as the company's own decision....

Instead of taking it like a man, Bush, whenever he has to change course, always insists on a cover story alleging that the change is someone else's idea or the result of some circumstance unrelated to his judgment. It doesn't even seem to matter to him whether anyone in America falls for the story, just so long as the official word is "Bush never actually acknowledges error." Harriet Miers:

...The White House said Miers had withdrawn her name because of a bipartisan effort in Congress to gain access to internal documents related to her role as counsel to the president....

President Bush said he reluctantly accepted Miers' decision to withdraw....

Bernard Kerik:

One week after President Bush nominated him to be secretary of homeland security, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrew from consideration Friday night after discovering a former household employee had a questionable immigration status....

(That's the nanny whose existence has never been confirmed.)

(Hell, there was even a pre-resignation story in Time magazine about discrepancies in Michael Brown's resume -- the result, I'd say, of a leak by the White House; the resume questions were mentioned when CNN reported Brownie's resignation, though the White House apparently realized how laughable it would be to suggest that that was the reason his resignation became necessary.)

America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable food distribution network, is now providing help to more than 25 million people, an 8 percent increase over 2001....

That increase in the number of people who are hungry or "food insecure" -- Washington bureaucratese for "not sure where their next meal will come from" -- is reflected in data collected by the US Department of Agriculture as well. In 2005, it found more than 38 million Americans lived in "hungry or food insecure" households, an increase of 5 million since 2000....

More than 35 percent of the people who are served by Second Harvest come from homes with at least one working adult, according to the study...

--Christian Science Monitor, 2/23/06

But, of course, a lot of people who say they can't hack it are just deadbeats -- right?

...On the day President Bush signed the bankruptcy bill, he said: "In recent years, too many people have abused the bankruptcy laws. They've walked away from debts even when they had the ability to repay them." ...

Now, in the first analysis of the tens of thousands of people who have undergone credit counseling since the law passed, the bankruptcy attorneys association found that nearly all (97 percent) of the debtors truly couldn't pay their debts.

The association [the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys] examined data provided by six large and small credit counseling firms from a cross-section of the country...

Four out of five filers felt forced to seek bankruptcy protection because of a job loss, catastrophic medical expenses, or the death of a spouse, according to the report, "Bankruptcy Reform's Impact: Where Are All the Deadbeats?"

Fewer than 1 out of 20 consumers (3.3 percent) were candidates for paying off what they owe under a debt management plan (DMP), the report indicated....

--Michele Singletary in today's Boston Globe (via The Washington Post)

Never mind the GDP and the housing boom -- for the have-nots, these are hard times.


Saturday, February 25, 2006


With Iraq burning (there was a lot more violence today, despite the curfew) and Bush refusing to reconsider the ports deal, what do you think the front-page story in the New York Post is today?

John Gotti's love child.

You might say that's just because the Post is a right-wing Murdoch paper and both the Iraq situation and the ports deal are embarrassments for Republicans -- but the Daily News also has the love child. And yesterday the big story was about some guys who ran a body-parts ring. (The News had that one on the cover, too.)

These are classic tabloid tales -- but this is New York. We took the big hit on 9/11. New Yorkers may not buy the argument that Iraq was an appropriate reaction to 9/11, but we know that's what it was meant to be. And the port story obviously is tied to 9/11.

But these stories are being downplayed in the tabs -- in the tabs, mind you, not in the Times, the paper of brunch-eating liberals who are forever being accused of having "forgotten 9/11" and having "a September 10 mentality." We're paying attention. But the editors of the tabs think Joe Sixpack isn't.

With regard to Iraq, are the editors acknowledging what Frank Rich argued last summer -- that, for the American people, the Iraq War is already over, that people began to realize it was a hopeless cause and started to tune out? Perhaps.

But I think it's also that the war on terror and Iraq could, in the past, seem like nice clean stories of good and evil, and they aren't anymore. We fought (we were told) to free the plucky Iraqis, long under Saddam's boot, and then we fought the evil insurgents -- but now the Saddamists and the anti-Saddamists, the evil insurgents and the victims of the insurgents, are killing one another, and our troops, our heroes, are doing ... what exactly? Apparently staying at middle distance, close enough to die in significant numbers, but apparently not able to do much to quell the violence. Not able to, or, perhaps more accurately, expected not to -- after all, aren't Iraqis supposed to be standing up so our troops can stand down?

And the port story must seem incomprehensible to a lot of people. If Joe Sixpack thought he could count on one thing, it's that George W. Bush would be a cowboy, a tough guy -- he might not aim at the right target, but he was always going to take a shot at somebody who looked at America crosswise. That myth has seemed nearly bulletproof -- it survived the failure to get bin Laden and it survived two years of insurgency in Iraq. I think people still believe it -- but the port story just seems to contradict it completely.

If Joe Sixpack were really ready to accept Democrats as his new John Waynes, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton on the white charger in place of Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, the civil war and the ports might be choice tabloid stories. But we're not there yet, and I don't know if we ever will be. So, in the tabs, it's almost as if 9/11 and the Bush era never happened.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Six months after Katrina, this is the best we can do?

New Orleans' Uninsured Get Primitive Care

Angela Jaster was wearing a turtleneck when she fell and broke her arm and so for days, she didn't change her shirt because she couldn't raise her arm.

The swelling stretched the fabric. Even though the pain was nearly unbearable, she did not consider going to the hospital, because in this flooded city there is only one for the uninsured and it doesn't treat broken bones.

It was only when the pain sent her into a hyperventilating panic several weeks later that her family called an ambulance and had her taken to the convention center....

Yup -- the convention center.

Inside their plastic and canvas walls, the doctors can only offer the most rudimentary care: They can X-ray bones, but not set them. They can draw blood and diagnose an ailment, but not treat it beyond prescribing pills. And with no ER and no capacity to operate, they can't do much more than stabilize trauma patients before sending them by ambulance elsewhere, often far away....

In Jaster's case, the doctors X-rayed her arm inside a tent where images of broken limbs hung like posters. But with no orthopedist on call, she was given an appointment at a hospital a 1 1/2-hour's drive away to get a cast.

"I don't have a car. The bus leaves in the evening, they can only see me in the morning -- and there's no vacancies in the hotels," said Jaster, who a month after her fall has run out of options and says she plans to let the break heal on its own, treating the pain with nothing more than ibuprofen, a non-prescription painkiller....

And that's just a broken arm. You don't want to be broke have be suffering from worse than that:

"If you have cancer, my advice is move. If you need dialysis, go. Get out of here. If you have any major illness and are uninsured, we cannot possibly accommodate your needs. You will die sooner if you stay here," said Dr. Peter DeBlieux, the head of emergency services for what remains of Charity Hospital.

I guess we're all supposed to just go spend money on Bourbon Street, so, in the long run, the magic of the free market can fill the pockets of capitalists, who, we fervently hope, will be inspired to build a brand-spanking-new charity hospital -- eventually. Until such time, God forbid we should intervene (with, if nothing else, subsidized transportation to real hospitals for the people whose need is greatest). Let the market work its magic; in the meantime, the poor can just drop dead.

(Via DU.)


UPDATE: Well, a new charity/veterans' hospital will be built in New Orleans, it says here -- if the city can come up with its share of the money. The hospital could open in, er, five years. Meanwhile, a Veterans Affairs undersecretary, Jonathan Perlin, tells us that

President Bush has either secured from, or proposed to, Congress about $675 million for health-care recovery in southeast Louisiana. Perlin said that gives him confidence the Bush administration is committed to restoring health-care services to the area.

That's nice, but what do desperately ill poor people in New Orleans do now?
I don't really believe the entire U.S. right wing is a Bush cult, but if Bush were to propose the mandatory eating of babies, at Free Republic the new policy would be approved by a landslide.
If it's been a long time since you thought your head was going to explode and you really miss the feeling, you might want to check out SuperPatriots.US, a Web site devoted to Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema, the bounty hunter who was convicted in Afghanistan after it was discovered that he was running a freelance torture operation. Prior to that, Idema had been convicted of fraud in the U.S., had peddled phony Al Qaeda training tapes to Dan Rather and Mary Mapes at CBS, and had (according to some accounts) helped rewrite Robin Moore's bestseller The Hunt for bin Laden in manuscript so that he, Idema, was its hero (see this New York magazine story for details).

I've barely sampled SuperPatriots, which starts right off on the title screen with invocations of "Trailer Tramp Condolezza Rice" and "American traitor and pro-Taliban puke Hamid Karzai" (these are the people who won't free Idema from an Afghan prison so he can return to torturing Islamofascists). Over here there's a list of villains, in this case folks you've never heard of, though they've clearly crossed Idema ("Chris Thompson, Woman Beater," "The Phony Colonel Joe Cafasso," etc.). And here's a page with blurry stills that clearly prove Idema was really working for the U.S. government, at least if you're already convinced.

In addition to all this, there's a "Free Jack Idema Blogburst" (though it's not much of a burst) in the murkier corners of Blogistan. It's being led by Cao's Blog and Rottweiler Puppy. At Cao's Blog, we learn this about Idema's suffering:

Shortly after their [Jack and his team's] arrest, they were subjected to varying degrees of torture and interrogation....

Idema was tortured with boiling water, starvation, threats of death, and assault with various implements (such as wire cables and rubber whips), resulting in broken ribs, a separated sternum, torn rotator cuffs, hemorrhaged eyes, multiple concussions, lacerations, contusions, and bruises....

Subsequent torture after the "interrogation phase" included beatings, 24 hour a day restraints, falaqua, whipping, threats of execution, attempted rape, beatings with sticks even while Task Force Sabre/7 were using bathrooms or naked taking baths....

All that reportedly happened after Idema's arrest in July 2004. Do you believe it? Before you answer, here's a picture of Idema taken at the beginning of his trial the following month. And here are some more pictures. Now do you believe it?

New York magazine tells us this about Idema's prison:

Early press reports indicated that three prisoners found in Idema's custody during the raid were blindfolded and beaten and strapped to the ceiling by their feet; five others were tied to chairs with rope in a small, dark room down a hall that was littered with bloodied clothing. All of the prisoners in Idema's custody were subsequently released; none was shown to be connected to Al Qaeda.

Yeah, a real superpatriot.

(Via Kathryn Cramer.)
No surprise here:

Family Incomes Slipped In 1st Part Of Decade

After the booming 1990s when incomes and stock prices were soaring, this decade has been less of a thrill ride for most American families.

Average incomes after adjusting for inflation actually fell from 2001 to 2004, and the growth in net worth was the weakest in a decade, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday....

Average family incomes, after adjusting for inflation, fell to $70,700 in 2004, a drop of 2.3 percent when compared with 2001.

That was the weakest showing since a decline of 11.3 percent from 1989 to 1992, a period that also covered a recession.

And a Bush presidency.

...The gap between the very wealthy and other income groups widened during the period.

The top 10 percent of households saw their net worth rise by 6.1 percent to an average of $3.11 million while the bottom 10 percent suffered a decline from a net worth in which their assets equaled their liabilities in 2001 to owing $1,400 more than their total assets in 2004.

"This is the continuing story of the rich getting richer," said ...

...some Commie, right?

...David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York.

And this is worrisome:

...The Fed survey found that debts as a percent of total assets rose to 15 percent in 2004, up from 12.1 percent in 2001....

Most of that is mortgage debt, and yes, I know -- we're all supposed to think that every home in America will be worth more next week than it is this week, and that this will never stop being true, so it's just fine if we just live our lives owing more and more every day. Of course, maybe it'll all come crashing down on President Hillary's watch -- I'm sure that would be fine with the current crowd, right?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why does this keep happening?

A candidate for Congress has been put on a federal watch list as a possible terror suspect, and he wants to know why.

Dr. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Sackets Harbor, near Watertown, [New York,] who is challenging incumbent Republican John McHugh in the 23rd District, said he was denied access aboard a Continental Airlines flight to Florida on Jan. 17 from Syracuse after officials informed him that he was on a "no-fly" list....

"Why would a former lieutenant colonel who swore an oath to defend and protect our country pose a threat of terrorism?" Johnson said.

Johnson, who ran against McHugh and lost in 2004, has been outspoken against the war in Iraq. He wonders if that is why he wound up on the list.

"This could just be a government screw-up, but I don't know, and they won't tell me." ...

Hmmm ... a few weeks ago we learned that James Moore, coauthor of the Karl Rove book Bush's Brain, had somehow wound up on the no-fly list. And back in '04 Ted Kennedy showed up on the list for a while.

Funny -- I'm still waiting to hear that a Bush supporter made the list through a "government screw-up."

Like, say, Peggy Noonan. Recently she took a recent trip to Florida, and to hear her tell it, she experienced the quintessence of Stalinist totalitarianism because she was treated less than fawningly by airport security people who mispronounced words:

...I gave the speech that night, and returned the next morning to the West Palm Beach airport for the flight home.... Again roughly a thousand people, again all of them being yelled at by airport and TSA personnel. Get your computers out. Shoes off. Jackets off. Miss, Miss, I told you, line four. No, line four. So much yelling and tension, and all the travelers in slump-shouldered resignation and fear....

This was East Germany in 1960. It was the dictatorship of the clerks, and the clerks were not in a good mood.

After a half hour in line I get to the first security point.

"Linfah," says the young woman who checked my ID.

"I'm sorry?"

"Linfah." She points quickly and takes the next person's ID.

"I'm so sorry, I don't understand."

Now she points impatiently. How stupid could I be?

Line Five. Oh. OK....

Where is the Solzhenitsyn who will record this suffering for the ages!

Noonan, by the way, lives in New York City. If brusque service personnel and lack of proper elocution give her the vapors, I don't know how she ever manages to leave the apartment.

Hey, Peggy -- you want an unpleasant airport experience? Let Bob Herbert remind you what happened to Maher Arar (free link):

...On Sept. 26, 2002, Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, was taken into custody by American authorities at Kennedy Airport in New York. He was locked in chains and shackles and accused of being "a member of a known terrorist organization."

There was no evidence to support the accusation, and no evidence has ever come to light. Nevertheless, as part of the hideous U.S. policy known as extraordinary rendition, Mr. Arar was shipped off to Syria, where he was kept in an underground rat-infested, grave-like cell, and tortured. (When I visited him in Ottawa last year, he told me how he had screamed and wept and begged both God and his captors for mercy.)

After 10 months, he was released. No charges against him were ever filed....

He's still experiencing post-traumatic stress and the U.S. government defeated him in a lawsuit in which he sought restitution. Wanna trade places, Peg?
We don't understand the way some conservative Muslims feel about speech when it involves the Prophet Muhammad -- but apparently some conservative Americans have a rather similar attitude about speech that involves an object of their worship. From The Virginian-Pilot:

Bill would bar doctors from asking about guns

CHESAPEAKE -- A pediatrician who asks a child's parent about firearms in their home could lose his or her license or be disciplined under legislation being considered by a Senate committee today.

The bill would prohibit health care professionals from asking a patient about gun possession, ownership or storage unless the patient is being treated for an injury related to guns or asks for safety counseling about them.

Sponsored by Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Martinsville, the bill sailed through the House by a vote of 88 to 11 last week....

Here's some information about the horrible practice these legislators want to outlaw:

The legislation is opposed by The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics because it blocks a common practice by medical professionals to inquire about gun ownership and safety when they go over a safety checklist with parents during a child's regular checkups from birth to puberty....

Medical professionals are encouraged to use the routine safety survey to counsel parents about everything from car safety seats and child-proofing a house and backyard pool to bicycle helmets and fire safety once the child reaches the appropriate age.

Pediatricians use the checklist to curtail preventable injuries, such as poisoning by household cleaning products, not to be intrusive, say Virginia physicians....

Note that one possible punishment for the profane utterance of the holy name of Gun is the loss of one's license to practice medicine. By comparison, here's what you can do in Virginia and still remain a doctor:

Over the past 20 years, John F. Pholeric Jr. struggled on and off with cocaine addiction, cycled in and out of rehab and was convicted of a felony. During that time, he also practiced medicine.

Pholeric, 55, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, admitted snorting cocaine "three to four times per week" in his office in 1999. He stole drugs from hospitals where he worked and wrote more than 40 fraudulent prescriptions for his own use, according to Virginia and District medical board records.

Several times, the Virginia Board of Medicine took up Pholeric's case. But it never took away his license to practice.

Pholeric, who retired last month after he was questioned by a Washington Post reporter about his substance abuse, is not alone. Virginia Board of Medicine records show that an Arlington ophthalmologist who performed cataract surgery under the influence, his hands shaking and his speech slurred, still has his license. So does a Loudoun County gastroenterologist who deprived his colonoscopy patients of painkillers and injected himself with the drugs between operations....

Ah, but that's just putting patients' lives in danger. This is a grave offense to the sacred Weapon (Peace Be Unto It)! This cannot be tolerated! (And I'm sure it won't be tolerated -- if this bill passes, I'm sure the NRA will make certain that it's enforced to the letter.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


May 15, 2005: Bob Woodward suggests that Dick Cheney might be the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

August 10, 2005: Bob Woodward suggests that Dick Cheney might be the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

February 6, 2006: Bob Woodward suggests that Dick Cheney might be the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

February 22, 2006: Bob Woodward suggests that Dick Cheney might be the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

Bob, are you prognosticating or campaigning?

Iraq was pushed closer to all-out civil war yesterday after the destruction of the dome of one of Shia Islam's four holiest shrines sent tens of thousands into the streets and set off a wave of revenge attacks on Sunni mosques.

... last night up to 60 Sunni mosques had been attacked. Three Sunni clerics were among 17 people killed in the wave of violence....

Last night gunmen in police uniforms seized 11 Sunni men from a prison in Basra and killed them, police said. In Najaf, the site of Shia Islam's holiest shrine, around 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Shia Islam's most senior cleric. "Rise up Shias, take revenge," they chanted....

--Telegraph (U.K.), February 23, 2006

Iraqi police recovered the bodies of dozens of people in Baghdad today as violence spread across the country following the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra....

Police and army officials said the bodies of 31 men were found at eight sites in the capital, predominantly in Shia areas. Most had their hands bound, and they had had all been shot.

At least 40 more bodies were found in the village of Nahrawan, south of the capital....

--Guardian (U.K.), February 23, 2006

...in the weeks ahead, Americans will likely see a good deal of political turmoil in Iraq as different factions and leaders compete for position and jockey for power. Our top commander in the region, General John Abizaid, has said he expects the coming weeks to produce "some of the hardest bare-knuckle politics ever in the Arab world." We should welcome this for what it is -- freedom in action.

--Bush speech, January 10, 2006
It's not often that I agree with the anti-abortion folks at LifeSite, but they're right to be appalled at this:

Forced Abortion on Poor Ethnic Women Proposed in Holland

Marianne van den Anker, an alderman in the Rotterdam city council in charge of public health and security has proposed forced abortion and forced contraception for teenage mothers whose origin is in the Antilles and on drug addicts and people with mental handicaps. The alderman suggested that such mothers are nearly always guilty of child abuse.

(An article at Expatica says van den Anker has only "called for a debate in Rotterdam on compulsory abortion and contraception" for these women, but there's not a huge leap from there to "proposed.")

Here's where LifeSite gets the story wrong, however:

While several reports have referred to van den Anker and her Leefbaar Rotterdam party as "right wing", the alderman is the furthest thing from the right side of the social conservative spectrum. In addition to being pro-abortion, van den Anker has set up a program in the schools to counter intolerance of homosexuality.

That mix of immigrant-bashing and sexual liberalism will remind some of you of the murdered gay Dutch sort-of-fascist politician Pim Fortuyn. And, in fact, Leefbaar Rotterdam is the local branch of Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), the party Fortuyn formed shortly before his death (as noted here and here).

Hmmm ... I'd be curious to hear a comment on this from Andrew Sullivan, who spent much of May 2002 telling us that Fortuyn was really misunderstood buy us awful P.C. liberals.


Meanwhile, it looks as if the Muhammad cartoons will be published in England after all -- in leaflets being distributed (clearly with the intent to provoke) by the far-right British National Party, according to Reuters. They're already up on the BNP Web site, Reuters tells us (the site is here, if you care, though I can't get it to load right now).

Hey, Islamists and Eurofascists -- you know what? Why don't you just have yourselves a nice clash of civilizations and leave the rest of us the hell alone, OK?
How stupid are the people running this country? So stupid that they apparently thought this might actually work:

CAIRO, Feb. 21 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday began a four-day visit to the Middle East, where she hoped to persuade Arab leaders to cut off financial aid to Hamas. But she ran into trouble on her very first stop.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, told her that Egypt believed funds to the Palestinian government should continue for an indefinite period, to give Hamas "time to develop their own ideas." ...

Another of Ms. Rice's major goals for this trip ... is to lock down commitments from the Arab leaders to stand firm against Iran's nuclear program. But once again, Egypt disappointed her.

Standing next to Ms. Rice at a news conference, Mr. Gheit reiterated a view Egypt offered during talks at the United Nations nuclear agency early this month over reporting Iran to the Security Council. Mr. Gheit said Egypt supported applying the same standard to all Middle East nations, not just Iran. That was a well-understood reference to Israel's secret nuclear weapons program....

Maybe -- maybe -- Egypt could have been persuaded to make the policy changes Rice sought after quiet, secret diplomacy. The Bushies, however, actually believed that Egypt might do so after a very public meeting between Rice and the foreign minister. Why didn't Condi just go all the way and bring Gheit (or Hosni Mubarak) a souvenir windbreaker stitched with the words "BUSH'S POODLE," and hand it over in a photo op? That wouldn't have been much more awkward for the Mubarak government in the current climate.

Remember, Egypt just had parliamentary elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood made hage gains, despite the rigging of the vote in favor of Mubarak's party. Mubarak postponed local council elections just last week, fearing new gains by the Brotherhood. And the Bushies seriously thought he'd anger Islamists even further by playing ball with the U.S. on these issues? Idiots.

Our old pal Tom Tancredo talks theology:

Rep. Tom Tancredo has accused leaders of some of the country's biggest religious denominations of being out of step with their own followers on the issue of illegal immigration.

Tancredo, a Littleton Republican, released a statement Tuesday blasting the U.S. Catholic Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for lobbying against a border-enforcement bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

"The faith community must step forward and tell leftist activists that undermining border security is not a religious imperative," Tancredo said....

"As a person of faith, I was offended by these radical advocates invoking God when arguing for blanket amnesty," Tancredo said....

Catholic and Presbyterian spokeswomen point out that their churches support the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which calls for a guest-worker program but not "blanket amnesty." The Presbyterian spokeswoman also points to a critical document that greatly influences her church's thinking on this issue:

...Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me....

Tancredo's not sure who this "Lord" is, but he sure sounds like one of those damn leftist activists.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Well, I see that Jack Abramoff isn't the only sleazy God-botherer with ties to Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition head who wants to be Georgia's lieutenant governor. The Atlanta Progressive News reports:

Ralph Reed's largest campaign financial supporters, members of Georgia's Hanna family, are major owners of CompuCredit -- the company which issues the highly usurious "credit rebuilding" Aspire Visa Card....

Aspire Visa is notorious for extremely high annual fees, monthly fees, account opening fees, credit line increase fees, and finance charges, in addition to awful customer service. CompuCredit, which runs Aspire Visa, targets individuals with past credit problems who are unlikely to receive a credit offer from any other company....

What kinds of fees are we talking about? David Lazarus explained last year in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Now let's look closer at the Aspire Visa card's terms.

It offers $300 in credit. To get that, however, cardholders agree to pay an annual fee of $150, an account opening fee of $29 and a monthly maintenance fee of $6.50.

That means $300 in credit will cost you $257 in cash the first year and $228 every year thereafter. (The $150 annual fee, $29 opening fee and initial $6.50 monthly fee are all due as of your first bill.) ...

It gets worse....

If you miss a couple of payments for something purchased with the card, the rate jumps [from 19.75 percent] to a minimum 25.5 percent. If you miss a couple of payments for a cash advance, the rate soars to a minimum 31.5 percent.

On top of that, insult to injury, a $35 late fee is levied for all overdue payments.

Let's pause for a moment and turn to Exodus 22:25:

If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

Various members of the Hanna family have given a total of $51,000 to Reed's campaign for lieutenant governor, including David Hanna (CompuCredit's president and CEO) and his brother Frank, who controls CompuCredit along with David.

Atlanta Progressive News tells us a bit more about Frank:

Like Reed and the Christian Coalition, Frank J. Hanna III is associated with the right-wing Legion of Christ, a multinational group of "orthodox" Catholic clergy known for fund-raising successes and an affinity for evangelizing the rich and powerful....

The Wall St. Journal ran an article on January 23, 2006, noting critics who argue that the Legion's "focus on the wealthy reinforces the sharp class divides that have long held Latin America back socially and economically. They say the Legion fosters intolerance and social climbing rather than devotion to Christ's gospel. Some in Mexico, instead of referring to the order's followers as Legionnaires of Christ, call them the 'Millionaires of Christ.'"

...Here in Atlanta, the Legion made front page news when they took control of the Donnellan School in Buckhead (now known as Holy Spirit Prep) by having police escort the Principal and two other administrators out of the building in the middle of a school day and in full view of horrified and weeping elementary school students....

You can read more about that incident and the Legion in this National Catholic Reporter story from 2000:

...In its literature, the order makes it clear that its structure is rigidly militaristic and that unity is prized. Wherever the order has put down roots in the United States, it has introduced into the Catholic parochial culture a highly authoritarian approach that brooks no challenges from underlings....

... A former Donnellan principal, Angela Naples, said that two school officials, Hopkins, the Legionary priest, and Dillon, the school's president, held her against her will for hours on Sept. 5 trying to persuade her to sign a confidential loyalty pledge. She described it as a modification of her contract that would have required her to resign at the end of the school year and to report to school officials anything negative said by employees or parents against the Legionaries. According to Diane Stinger, former guidance counselor, Hopkins ordered her to report on confidential conversations she had with students....

Legionaries have been accused of breaking up families by persuading boys as young as 12 to enter their "apostolic schools" in Centre Harbor, N.H., and Edgerton, Wis., to prepare to become priests....

Theresa Murray ... enrolled her third-grade daughter at Pinecrest Academy, another Legionary-affiliated school in the Atlanta suburb of Cumming.... The final straw came one day when her daughter, who was 8, came home and said "she wanted to commit suicide so she could see Jesus." Murray enrolled her child elsewhere....

By the way, Frank Hanna was also named co-chairman of the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans by the Bush administration.

Jesus wept.

(APN story also available here.)
Those nice, non-unhinged Republicans:

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt lashed out at fellow Republican state Rep. Tom Brinkman for using a long knife to sever her head on a large white cake that bore her likeness, calling on him to apologize for his "sickening behavior."

"I am told Mr. Brinkman and his followers in attendance, including my opponent Bob McEwen, all laughed as he placed the knife to my throat and cut," Schmidt said in a statement that included a picture of Brinkman cutting the cake. "They had a great time pretending to cut off my head."

Brinkman, founder of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, quickly owned up to the deed, explaining that cutting of the cake at the group's fundraiser last week was ... symbolic.

Each year, the group names one lawmaker for its annual Marie Antoinette "Let Them Eat Cake" award, a dubious honor intended to poke fun at the politician who "displays the most blithe ignorance of the plight of innocent taxpayers."...

Brinkman, by the way, said he's not apologizing. McEwen, who is running against Schmidt of Miami Township in the May 2 GOP primary, isn't apologizing either.

Neither is [Republican] Rep. Steve Chabot, who was the featured speaker at the event. Chabot's office said the Westwood Republican left the party before the cutting of the cake.

I don't want to make too much of this -- it's harsh but it's harmless. I'm bringing it up because we'd never hear the end of it if Barbara Boxer's campaign manager's wife's third cousin had done something like this at a fundraiser for the town council candidacy of the niece of someone Nancy Pelosi had campaigned for twice. Apologies would be loudly and relentlessly demanded, night after night after night, on cable news-talk shows, and the calls would only get louder if the apology wasn't immediately forthcoming, perhaps more than once. This, however, is all just Republicans, so everyone can say "Hell no, I won't apologize" and it's fine.

(Yes, of course, it's amusing that the aggrieved party is the vile Ms. Schmidt, who called John Murtha a coward, and who won't, alas, be challenged by Paul Hackett.)

Monday, February 20, 2006


...the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) ... said it damaged Shell's Forcados oil export terminal [and] ruptured a major oil pipeline belonging to the oil giant near its Chanomi Creek oil pumping station....

Shell spokesman in Nigeria, Donald Boham, confirmed the attacks and damages, saying the company has been forced to suspend crude oil exports from the Forcados terminal that handles an average of 400,000 barrels a day.

"We can't load crude at Forcados until the damage is repaired," he told IRIN....


Energy stocks BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc gained as crude oil surged after Nigerian rebel attacks cut output from Africa's largest producer of the fuel.

Uncertainty about crude supplies "lifts oil prices and feeds directly into the stock price of oil companies," said Johan Stein, head of European equities at Stockholm-based Nordea Asset Management, which manages $167 billion.

... Shell ... gained 15 pence, or 0.8 percent, to 1,810....


So Shell suffers a ruptured pipeline in Nigeria -- and its stock goes up? Does this always happen?

At a certain point, if this is a predictable pattern, wouldn't oil companies just want to hire people to sabotage their operations, because sabotage would raise the price of oil, and thus raise the price of oil stocks?
I'm still getting through yesterday's New York Times. I do recommend Nir Rosen's long Magazine article "Iraq's Jordanian Jihadis" for a lot of reasons, one of which is what it tells us about the notion that "we're fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here." Rosen points out that not every jihadi considers "fighting us over here" a top priority -- it's a question about which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda have disagreed.

Zarqawi's brand of Islam is called Salafism; it emphasizes Islamic purity as Salafis understand it, and thus focuses on bringing change to Muslim regimes that are believed to be insufficiently pure, rather than to non-Muslim foes overseas:

For Zarqawi, the "near enemy" was the priority, while for bin Laden the "far enemy" was. This has been perhaps the most critical dispute within violent, extremist Sunni Islam.... By focusing on the far enemy -- the United States, Israel, European states and Russia; whether on their own territories or against their citizens, embassies or interests in Muslim lands -- Al Qaeda could assert some charismatic leadership over an otherwise quite diverse and fractious "movement." And by leaving the many near enemies alone (or forming alliances with them), Al Qaeda could acquire a little breathing space.

The zeal for purity has led Zarqawi and Salafis more generally to focus on their close surroundings ... an impatience for changing the world and perhaps, in some, an appetite for violence has led many Salafis into vigorous engagement with the nearest enemies they could find, even when those enemies were extremists with ideas little different from theirs.

Zarqawi even criticized Al Qaeda and the Taliban for being insufficiently pure. But then the war happened:

...With [Saddam] Hussein removed from power in April 2003, Zarqawi had a new failed state to operate in. And the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent American occupation presented the perfect opportunity to heal the rift within Muslim extremism: the far enemy had made itself the near enemy as well.

So we created the conditions under which Zarqawi and Al Qaeda decided to make common cause. We made ourselves part of the "impure" Muslim world Zarqawi wants to cleanse. And Zarqawi would rather focus on the perceived impurities of Muslim nations than kill Americans in America (assuming he could even manage the latter).

Of course, Bush has argued that if U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq, Zarqawi might seize control of the country. Rosen's article suggests that he might like to do that. But I'm reading a lot of stories recently, by reporters who don't seem like administration cheerleaders, suggesting that the rift between Zarqawi and native-Iraqi insurgents is real. Fighting off Zarqawi may be one thing Iraqis really are in the process of doing on their own.

So let's review: Al-Qaeda does want to "fight us over here." Zarqawi doesn't. Yet we have 136,000 troops in Iraq fighting (among others) Zarqawi, but fewer than 20,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting (among others) Al Qaeda.

Why are we in Iraq?
Andrew Sullivan writes:

My prediction: we will see huge tax increases soon after Bush leaves the scene. He will insist they are a betrayal of his legacy. They will, in fact, be the logical consequence of everything he has said and done. Once they get past their loathing, big government liberals may well look back on the Bush years and wonder at the miracle of how he did what they spent two generations failing to do.

Atrios responds:

I don't know any "big government liberals" in the sense that Andy means. I don't know anybody who gets a stiffy at the thought of raising taxes and increasing government spending as a share of GDP just for the hell of it.... When taxes have to go up to cover interest and debt repayment costs no liberals I know are going to go "YAY! HIGHER TAXES! WOO HOOO!" ....

This is what I've been talking about for a while, going back to my post about the Protocols of the Elders of Liberalism: Republicans have told the public for decades now that Democrats are dangerous freaks -- people who screw up the country because they (we) have a neurotic desire to screw up the country. Republicans have said this so relentlessly for so long that people believe it, or at least find it plausible.

Every time a Republican says that this or that Democrat, or all Democrats, "never met a tax increase he/she/they didn't like," there's a double message -- not only will Democrats raise your taxes, they'll do it because they simply like to. This isn't honorable people differing on the proper role of government -- Democrats are just weirdos who just like taking tax money and pouring it down a rathole.

In foreign policy, Democrats are people who tear down the military, deliberately and willfully weakening it, again just for the fun of it, or because Democrats' idea of how to deal with a dangerous world is to stand around in a circle holding hands and singing "Kumbaya," or something like that. Again, Democrats are said to be in thrall to a view of how the world works that only a weirdo could find plausible; America mustn't elect weirdos because that will make them dangerous weirdos.

These are impressions of Democrats that have been built up and reinforced in the public's mind literally every day since Reagan began his 1980 campaign. There's nothing comparable for Republicans -- no dangerous-neurotic stereotype that the vast majority of Americans find at least somewhat plausible. In fact, the personality stereotype of Republicans is that they're unswervingly normal -- they're uncomplicated, steady, and sane.

That's why voters can't even see Bush's weird testiness. They haven't been able to see the cold-bloodedness and paranoia of Dick Cheney -- maybe now, a little, after the shooting, but not for years. Voters still see Rumsfeld as John Wayne, even though his pronouncements and koans are weirder than any Democrat wonk's.

I don't know what to do about this. I just want people to recognize it. I'm afraid there won't be a change in American politics until Americans are ready to see Republicans as bizarre.


UPDATE: What did I say above about the image of Republicans? "Uncomplicated, steady, and sane"? Well, here you go:

Yes, I know that's supposed to cut both ways -- it's supposed to seem frightening to Democrats and unwaveringly solid to Republicans. But the expression "sticking to his guns" doesn't come off as ambiguous -- what it says about Cheney is precisely what far too many people already believe about Bush: "Whether you agree or disagree, at least you know where he stands." Being "steady as a rock" is unquestionably a virtue in America -- and no matter what the rest of the copy on the cover says, no matter what the Cheney story inside the magazine says (I admit I haven't read it), this is a very powerful image that almost certainly gave Karl Rove a big, big thrill.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Leon Wieseltier, attacking Daniel Dennett's recently published critique of religion, Breaking the Spell, in The New York Times Book Review:

...Dennett's book is also a document of the intellectual havoc of our infamous polarization, with its widespread and deeply damaging assumption that the most extreme statement of an idea is its most genuine statement.

It's odd to be lectured on intemperate language by a man who opened his review of Nicholson Baker's anti-Bush novel Checkpoint with the words "This scummy little book...."

Gee, I keep reading on right-wing Web sites that Democrats have a monopoly on unhinged behavior. So how could this have possibly happened in Ulster County in upstate New York?

Rochester councilman finds nails in driveway

Alex Miller [a Democrat]has been told he doesn't belong in the Town of Rochester, much less on the Town Board making changes.

Sunday night, someone tried to hammer the point home by scattering about 150 galvanized roofing nails at the end of his driveway.

And if that didn't get the message across, the same thing happened to Democratic Supervisor Pam Duke; nails were discovered in her driveway the next morning. Both times he reported the incidents to state police in Ellenville....

Miller was elected to the Town Board in November and took office in January. The election put Democrats in charge of the town for the first time in memory.

Among other things, Duke and the new board replaced longtime building inspector Douglas Dymond with someone new, Steve Fornal. The board voted recently to update the town's 37-year-old master plan and approved a one-year large-scale building moratorium.

The moves have been controversial. At last Thursday's Town Board meeting, a state trooper stepped in to control one upset resident.

"It's been 'I do what I want on my land when I want to do it. How dare you come in here and tell us what to do.' " Miller said. "It seems like the town has been a family business, and the family doesn't like anyone looking at the books or asking questions."...

There's more, according to the Ulster County Press (story not available online):

...In what could be a related event on the night of Feb. 9, another incident took place on Queens Highway at the former home of the vice president of the Rochester Democratic Club, Zali Winn. As yet unkown vandals entered the empty house (recently sold by Winn) by breaking a window, and then placed a wicker basket on the stove, lit the burner and left the residence. In addition, two vehicles parked at the premises had all eight tires slashed.

Fortunately, the home alarm system alerted the fire department and volunteers, in close proximity, who were able to halt a fire that could have potentially destroyed the home....

I've restored two posts that were on the verge of disappearing as a result of Blogger's recent meltdown (which we're told is over now). The comments are also restored. I'll post some fresh stuff later today.

...At a news conference at the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi where he was treated, [Harry] Whittington called the incident an accident. He looked wan and the right side of his face appeared bruised, but spoke graciously of Cheney, with an occasional touch of humor....

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week. We send our love and respect to them as they deal with situations that are much more serious than what we've had this week," he said....

Moments later in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Cheney entered the state legislature chamber and was greeted by applause from lawmakers. Cheney began his political career as intern in the Legislature in the mid-1960s.

Officials praised a sizable donation from the Cheney family trust to the University of Wyoming where Cheney went to school.

"Thank you for the kind words," Cheney said. "I want to thank you for that welcome home. It's a wonderful experience to be greeted by such warmth by the leaders of our great state. It's especially true when you've had a very long week. Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well." ...

--L.A. Times

Somewhere in hell, Goebbels is giving Rove the thumbs-up.


By the way, a new Marist poll says 65% of Americans (including 46% of Democrats) don't think the shooting incident should be investigated further. On the other hand, in response to the question "Does each of the following bother you a great deal, a good amount, not very much, or not at all about the Bush administration," 66% are bothered (48% a great deal, 18% a good amount) by the administration's Katrina response, 50% (40%/10%) by warrantless wiretapping, and 50% (31%/19%) by the Libby indictment.

59% disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq; 58% disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy; 61% say the country's headed in the wrong direction.

So let's drop the Cheney shooting. It's over. The Bushies won that one. They're screwing up everything else, and America knows it. Let's talk about that.

(Restored post)
I hate this man:

A woman accused of chopping the arms off her 10-month-old daughter believed she was supposed to die along with her baby, a mental health counselor testified Thursday.

...[Dena] Schlosser, 37, thought she was "to have gone to God and that something went horribly wrong the day of the tragedy," Wing said.

Schlosser has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the November 2004 death of her baby Margaret, known as Maggie....

Before the slaying, Wing testified, Schlosser had refused anti-psychotic medications because her church considered them something "of the devil."

Schlosser, her husband and their three children went several times a week to the Water of Life Church. The pastor, Doyle Davidson, testified Wednesday that he believes mental illness is possession by demons and only God can cure it.

...After her arrest, Schlosser was diagnosed with manic depression and declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. But in May, after doctors treated her, a judge found she was competent.

My first thought in response to this was "There ought to be a law" -- though I really don't see how you could draw the line. (Jail Tom Cruise if an Oprah viewer goes off antidepressants and does her child harm?) In any case, this is one of our homegrown mullahs; he walls himself off from the modern world just the way they do. I guess we're a more civilized society because his atavistic ideas only led one person to take one innocent life.

(Restored post)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Atrios reads this post about Connecticut election law and agrees that if Joe Lieberman loses a primary challenge, he can't possibly get on the ballot for reelection to the Senate as an independent:

... independent candidates have to submit petitions by August 9th, 2006. It just so happens that the Connecticut primary is on August 8th. In other words, if Joe loses the primary, in order to run as an independent in the general, he'd have to file petitions the very next day.

This is all but a literal impossibility. Joe would have to collect petitions
while still runing in the Dem primary. Can you imagine such a spectacle? It would be beyond unheard of for a sitting senator to do such a thing. The only real way Lieberman could run as an indie would be if he abandoned the Democratic Party (save your jokes) well in advance of the primary. Otherwise, he's just talking smack. If he loses the primary, he's done, finished, tostada del dia.

I completely disagree. If you think a popular incumbent can't make dodgy plans of this kind (and yes, alas, Lieberman is still quite popular in his home state), let me remind you that Lloyd Bentsen, who was still well liked in Texas at the time, ran for VP in 1988 while also seeking reelection to his Senate seat. Everyone in the state clearly knew what he was doing and he won the Senate race anyway (with nearly 60% of the vote). I don't know what he had to do to get on the ballot twice in Texas in the same year, but nobody stopped him.

(UPDATE: Commenter gpb reminds me that Lieberman himself ran for Senate and VP simultaneously, in 2000 -- and LBJ also ran for both in 1960.)

Why couldn't Lieberman run a petition campaign? Republicans and (significantly) independents in Connecticut like him a lot. He can turn the negative into a positive by claiming that this is something being forced on him by those unhinged Deaniac Michael Moore Cindy Sheehan Ward Churchill Stalinist-blogger liberals. He'll get great press for that. He'll tell his sob story at every opportunity. His pal Don Imus will nod sagely in agreement.

I'm not saying it wouldn't be wonderful to drive Lieberman out of the Senate and replace him with a genuine Democrat -- of course it would. I'm just saying that he can get away with making contingency plans if he thinks he might lose a primary, so a primary loss probably won't end his race.
I guess Lucianne.com has decided that portraying Dick Cheney as Elmer Fudd isn't necessarily a vicious, uncalled-for act of Republican-bashing. In fact, it's fine to portray Dick Cheney as Elmer Fudd -- but only if you're suggesting that it would be a good idea for him to deliberately shoot a reporter in the face:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Shorter right-wing talk-radio host Kevin McCullough:

Sexual behavior! In Times Square! Of all places!


(Link via the Daou Report.)
Last December I told you about a silly-sounding novel by Robert Ferrigno called Prayers for the Assassin, in which it's 2040 and Americans drink "Jihad Cola" -- Islamofascists have taken over the country by force, you see, albeit with a number of willing Muslim converts, especially in Hollyweird. The only unconquered territory is the Bible Belt. (Everywhere else, presumably, people just shrugged and said, "Oh well, guess I'm not an Episcopalian anymore. Whatever. I suppose I ought to throw out that spiral-cut ham I've got in the freezer.")

Today, Janet Maslin reviews the book in The New York Times. Now, I haven't read the book, so I'm intrigued to learn this about it and its heroine, "feisty young historian Sarah Dougan":

It is Sarah's contention, as well as Mr. Ferrigno's, that the seeds of destruction can be seen in America's present-day reverence for celebrities, extreme tastes in pornography and across-the-board decadence. "They were so free, so unencumbered by morality, that they craved chains," one character says about the late 20th century.

And then there's this about "[a] sinister powermonger known as the Old One":

"The nuclear attack merely toppled a rotten tree," the Old One intones. Mr. Ferrigno propounds the rotten-tree theory and also appreciates Islam's power to persuade. "Muslims were the only people with a clear plan and a helping hand," one character explains, "and everyone was equal in the eyes of Allah. That's what they said, anyway."

Is that Ferrigno's point? Does he actually believe we could fall to the jihadis because we'd like it if that happened?

That's nuts. Do you detect a craving among people of your acquaintance for the strictures of Wahhabist Islam? I sure don't. Most of the people I know like gender equality and R-rated movies and alcohol and pork. Who thinks the Islamists' behavioral code is appealing?

Robert Ferrigno, perhaps?

That's what I'm wondering -- whether Ferrigno (and who knows how many other right-wingers) think America and Europe might be susceptible to the blandishments of the jihadis because they themselves, the right-wingers, find the jihadis' moral code rather seductive.

I'd say they're the ones who "crave chains" -- Bush says he can spy on them without warrants, jail them without charges, and they say, "Yes, master, we admire you greatly!" Various conservative religious denominations reject premarital sex, masturbation, homosexuality, contraception, strong drink, male-female dancing, dating, cusswords -- and right-wingers are flocking to these denominations, while abandoning old-line Protestantism and liberal strains of Catholicism and Judaism. By contrast, the rest of us are watching Sex and the City reruns on TBS or playing Grand Theft Auto or downloading songs about people's butts. And we feel fine.

If Ferrigno wants to know who might respond to the siren song of sharia, he should check out the people at his own book signings. If he wants to know who wouldn't chafe at the Islamists' moral code, he ought to go to the very Bible Belt he's sure would be the center of the resistance.


And speaking of resemblances between Islamic extremists and the local variety, I see that this is the silly news story of the day:

Iran Renames Danish Pastries

Iranians love Danish pastries, but when they look for the flaky dessert at the bakery they now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad."

Bakeries across the capital were covering up their ads for Danish pastries Thursday after the confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for caricatures of the Muslim prophet published in a Danish newspaper....

Hmmm. Freedom fries, anyone?
I see that the rollout of the Mega-Super-Secret Saddam Tapes!!! is not exactly going according to plan.

First we (or at least readers of Lucianne.com and like-minded sites, which have been flogging the tapes for weeks) were promised proof that Saddam had WMDs just before the war:

Reportedly armed with 12 hours of Saddam Hussein's audio recordings, the organizers of an upcoming "Intelligence Summit" are describing the tapes as the "smoking gun evidence" that the Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction in the period leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq....

Right-wingers were slavering for the tapes and counting the minutes until some of them would be aired on ABC's Nightline. Well, that happened last night, and the tapes weren't exactly as advertised:

ABC News has obtained 12 hours of tape recordings of Saddam Hussein meeting with top aides during the 1990s, tapes apparently recorded in Baghdad's version of the Oval Office....

"During the 1990s" meant "during the mid-1990s." Unless Saddam could see into the future, it's a bit hard to know how discussions in his office ten or eleven years ago could prove that he still had WMDs three years ago. And, remarkably, even the Bushies admit this:

A spokeswoman for John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said information contained in the transcriptions of the tapes was already known to intelligence officials.

"Intelligence community analysts from the CIA, and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that, while fascinating, from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post-war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report," she said in a statement.

Yes, Saddam (according to one transcript) predicts that "terrorism is coming" to America at some time in the future -- but the point of the conversation is that it won't come from Iraq because any damnfool can commit an act of terrorism:

...UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sir, the germ, any biologists can make a bottle at home.

SADDAM: This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq.

[TARIQ] AZIZ: Sir, the biological is very easy to make. It's so simple that any biologist can make a germ bottle and drop it into a septic tank and kill 100,000. This is not done by a state, no need to accuse a state, an individual can do it. Even an American in a house, close to the White House, I mean, they don't have a logical argument.

In the other transcript presented by ABC, Hussein Kamel -- Saddam's son-in-law and head of his WMD program at the time -- acknowledges deceiving the UN on WMDs. News? Nope. Kamel defected not long afterward and revealed much about Saddam's WMD program and the deceptions that concealed it. But he also revealed that the WMD stockpiles were destroyed in 1995 -- a fact that was ignored in the run-up to the Iraq War. (Kamel returned to Iraq and was killed there in 1996.)

Now, here's where the story of the tapes gets weird:

CAIRO, Egypt -- Two former CIA directors have resigned from the board of the organization planning tomorrow to make public secret recordings of Saddam Hussein and his advisers.

In the last week both John Deutch and James Woolsey abruptly left their positions at Intelligence Summit, according to its president, John Loftus, who said their departure is part of a campaign by the directorate of national intelligence to punish him for releasing the recordings.

The reason both men gave for their resignations was new information they received regarding one of the summit's biggest donors, Michael Cherney, an Israeli citizen who has been denied a visa to enter America because of his alleged ties to the Russian mafia....

What?! The Russian mafia? I don't know what the hell's going on here.

OK, let me backtrack: I think these tapes are coming out now because Karl Rove wants the Republicans to run on fear and terrorism in '06, so he's asked everyone on the GOP side to dredge up anything that will fire up the Saddam/WMD/9-11 synapses in the public's mind. It doesn't matter whether any of it actually changes the no-WMDs-in-2003 story -- all that matters is that it hits voters' fear buttons.

But if so, why is the administration downplaying these tapes? I'm confused.

And why are Deutch and Woolsey protesting their use at the Intelligence Summit? Woolsey, in particular, is a guy you'd think would want to demonize Saddam by any means necessary -- when a book by Laurie Mylroie arguing that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was reissued after 9-11, Woolsey wrote a new foreword for it, calling Mylroie's work "brilliant and brave." So why this little tiff?

And is there a Chalabi connection? Woolsey and Chalabi, of course, go way back:

[Woolsey] is also a well-known champion of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group run by Ahmed Chalabi.... And Woolsey's law firm, Shea & Gardner, is a registered agent for the INC, though Woolsey says he does not participate in his firm's work on behalf of the group.

And the article about the tiff is by The New York Sun's Eli Lake, Mr. Chalabi-on-Speed-Dial. Does the Chalabi/neocon crowd not want these tapes released? And if not, why not?

All rather mysterious...


UPDATE: OK, I think I understand now. Byron York explains in a National Review blog post on John Loftus, the source of these tapes:

... In January 2004, [The New York Sun] published an article on those notorious MoveOn.org ad submissions that compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. The story included a quote from Loftus, who said the ads were basically accurate. "The Bushes played a significant role in bringing money into the Third Reich," Loftus told the paper. "They literally financed Hitler. It was all about the money. It wasn't about the ideology."

Loftus's Web site confirms that this is a subject of more than passing interest to him. But wait -- there's more:

... A visit to his website finds, among other things, a May, 2002 article by him entitled "What Congress Does Not Know About Enron and 9/11." In the article, Loftus reports that the now-defunct energy company had a contract with the Taliban to build a pipeline, and that Vice President Dick Cheney, determined to help out Enron, forbade U.S. intelligence sources from investigating the Enron/Taliban/al Qaeda connection in the months leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks....

So I guess what happened is this: Rove asked all Republicans to dredge up whatever they could that would reinspire WMD fear. Congressman Peter Hoekstra hooked up with this Loftus character. But Loftus is deeply offensive to Bush and Cheney -- plus, his big find isn't worth a damn. So he must be shunned. Anyone have a better explanation?
When both Bob Herbert and Peggy Noonan are suggesting that it might be a good idea for Dick Cheney to resign, it starts seeming like a change that could actually happen.

But we should be careful what we wish for. If Cheney goes (I'd be really surprised if he does), my guess is that he'll be replaced by Condi Rice. That could give the persistently unpopular Bush administration a real boost.

I know a lot of you doubt this. You think it's impossible because she's a black woman. Please -- take a look at how well Rice polls, in survey after survey. In polls from CNN/USA Today/Gallup, Pew, and Quinnipiac, she has an approval rating over 60%.

America likes her -- or at least America doesn't dislike her. White America, I'm convinced, likes itself for admiring her.

I'm not saying racism has been wiped out in America. I'm saying that it's gone neotraditional. Whites still believe racial stereotypes -- what's changed is that they're willing (I'd say eager) to admire blacks who, in their eyes, don't live up to those stereotypes. Colin Powell and Oprah Winfrey. On the right, Alan Keyes and Clarence Thomas. The Maryland GOP is running an African-American candidate for Senate and the Pennsylvania GOP is running an African-American for governor. See? We like these blacks. We're not racist!

Bonus fun for right-wingers would be the opportunity to portray liberals and Democrats as racists and sexists, as they've done in the past.

Cheney may as well stay, as far as I'm concerned. The policies wouldn't really change either way, and I want the administration to continue appearing ill-tempered and sclerotic in the public's eyes. I don't want the Bushies to get a new lease on life -- I don't want to see Diane Sawyer interviewing the new vice president of the United States and cheering her on with a "You go, girl!" while America cheers.