Saturday, March 31, 2007

Last week, Mark Kleiman wrote about the farce that was David Hicks' guilty plea (Hicks is the Australian held in Guantanamo for four years, then finally brought to trial on charges less serious than what he was originally accused of):
One of the most disgusting rituals in the criminal law is the judge's questioning of a defendant who offers to plead guilty. If he says he's been pressured into pleading, the deal is off. So if he has been pressured, the law in effect requires him to lie, and requires the judge to pretend to believe the lie, for the plea to be accepted....

I suppose if you're facing a military tribunal and the judge disqualifies two of your three lawyers on the eve of trial, leaving you only with the one who has already been threatened with prosecution himself for representing you too zealously and daring to criticize the judge, the Secretary of Defense, and the President, you're well-advised to plead guilty if you can get any sort of a deal at all. And of course if you don't say that your plea was voluntary and that the dismissal of two-thirds of your legal team had nothing to do with it, the bargain is no good.
Now comes the sentencing, and it gets worse:
Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty at the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base yesterday to supporting terrorism in exchange for a nine-month prison sentence under a plea deal that forbids him from claiming he was abused in U.S. custody.

In return, Hicks, 31, will be allowed to leave Guantanamo within 60 days to serve out the sentence in his native Australia. He will be free by New Year's Eve. [emphasis added]
So David Hicks is such a dangerous guy that he had to be held without trial for four years, but not so dangerous that he has to serve more than 9 months. Right.

No, obviously they did think he was dangerous...but not in that way. Silencing him was pretty clearly the most important part of the deal. Everything else was just leverage to accomplish that. The shamelessness of these people is breathtaking.

Update: link and quote added.
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Michelle Malkin weighs in on the chocolate Jesus controversy with a post headlined How would the MSM cover "Chocolate Mohammed" at Ramadan? Her parting shot: "In the land of media dhimmitude, tolerance is a one-way street."

Quick quiz: between Catholicism and Islam, which one has a long-standing taboo against any depictions of its prophet?1

Hint: it isn't Catholicism.

What a moron.

1Yes, it's not all Muslims--there appears to be a Sunni/Shi'a split on the issue, for one thing--but there isn't any significant anti-iconic tradition in the Catholic church.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]

Friday, March 30, 2007

And now I'm out of here until Monday. Guest bloggers, take it away....


(Oh, and I've added a few more blogs to the ever-expanding blogroll: Alterdestiny, BAGnewsNotes, Freedom Camp, NewsHog, Pam's House Blend, Tennessee Guerilla Women, Welcome to Pottersville, and Zen Cabin.)

William Donohue is doing another victory dance after shutting down an exhibition of this sculpture, which he deems sacrilegious.

Er, Bill, isn't the whole point of the Catholic sacrament of Communion that the Body of Christ is eaten?

Gee, I'd be worried about this if Bush and Cheney hadn't made it clear that the only countries we have to worry about are the ones whose names begin with "Ira-":

Pakistan jihad schools thriving

THE International Crisis Group has condemned President Pervez Musharraf's failure to curb Pakistan's extremist Islamic schools.

A report released yesterday by the group, headed by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, says promises made by General Musharraf in 2002 to reform madrassas, or religious schools, are "in shambles".

...The ICG says that because of the Government's failure to register the madrassas, as promised, the number operating in Pakistan is uncertain but could be as high as 20,000.

Yup -- twenty thousand. And this is nice:

...The influence of the religious schools was demonstrated yesterday when an FM radio station espousing jihad and identified with the Taliban went on air from the extremist Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and its madrassas in the heart of Islamabad.

Dubbed "Radio Jihad", the unauthorised station can be heard throughout the capital, including in the nearby presidential and ISI spy agency headquarters.

Dudes, you may as well just move the radio station into ISI headquarters. No one would stop you.

...Thousands of students attend the Lal Masjid madrassas....

Asked about the presence of suicide bombers in Jamia Hafsa, principal Umme Hassan was quoted as saying her students were risking their lives "for a great cause".

"They are mentally prepared to sacrifice their lives any time," she said, claiming that "for President Musharraf, the Jamia is what Osama bin Laden is to President Bush"....

You mean, an enemy he pretends to give a rat's ass about only when an American TV camera is pointing at him?

I'm going to be a contrarian and say that the Giuliani story from today's news that will hurt him the most in the GOP primaries isn't the one you think.

"Testimony by Giuliani Indicates He Was Briefed on Kerik in ’00"? Over at Free Republic, they're just shrugging that off as a New York Times hit piece:

Does anyone actually buy this paper.


even if it had a circulation of zero - it would not matter. The new york times is the "head of the snake" in the media complex, it gives the marching orders to the networks and small market papers, for what stories to run with. they don't report the news, they make it.


The N.Y. Times has a very long record of doing not only major hit pieces on Rudy, but also as being one of the tentacles of the Clinton octopus team.

The story that's really going to hurt him with Republicans? This one:

Rudolph W. Giuliani says that if he were president, his wife would be permitted to attend cabinet meetings and advise him on federal policy, an unusually overt role in government decision-making for a first lady.

Mr. Giuliani made the remarks Tuesday in an interview that he and his wife, Judith, gave to Barbara Walters for broadcast tonight on the ABC News television program "20/20." ...

Asked by Ms. Walters how much of a role Mrs. Giuliani would have in his campaign, Mr. Giuliani said, "As much as she wants."

Asked if she would be involved in policy decisions, he said: "To the extent she wants to be. I couldn't have a better adviser."

As for cabinet meetings, she would sit in "if she wanted to," Mr. Giuliani said, adding: "If they were relevant to something that she was interested in. I mean, that would be something that I’d be very, very comfortable with." ...

You know this stings because has gone into desperate nothing-to-see-here-move-along mode...

At least she wouldn't be president. NYTimes takes innocuous interview answer and blows it into a hit on Rudy

...while over at Free Republic they're reacting to the Washington Post's story about this with a combination of horror and despair:

IMO, this is not a smart move. Not smart at all.


Oh, jeez, another Co-President?


Really going after those Clinton democrats.


Trying to appease errr.......I mean, win the female votes.... what if ALL the cabinet members brought in their spouses or lovers to the meetings? In fact bring the pets too. D.C. is just a collection of smelly Zoo animals rough tough NY Rudy needs his Judy to rub his baldy head at the WH meetings.....WUSS....


Could Foley bring his young page boy?


Let's see. His wife is a nurse so she will set in on discussions regarding the nations health care needs. Well isn't that just special! I was a railroad engineer, does that mean I can set in and help develop a master plan for the nation's transportation system? This is a bad as a actor who played a farmer giving testimony before congress on the needs of farmers.

The more Rudy talks the less I like.


Vote for a Clinton clone, get a Clinton clone.

And this won't even hit the national airwaves until tonight.

"Buy one, get one free" really ticked off the right in the Clinton years. I'm not sure I can figure out the exact rules -- Republicans don't mind that Liddy Dole held various high-powered jobs, began a run for president, and wound up in the Senate; a lot of Repubs, of course would vote for Condi Rice for president. But I think when a man is involved, the little woman is supposed to either go do something unrelated or hang back and be a deferential helpmeet until he steps aside. Then she has permission to speak up. Or something like that.



Debbie Schussel, November 14, 2006:

Every day, I'm asked whom I'm supporting for President in 2008. I've looked over the potential candidates, and on the Republican side, I believe the best, by far, is Rudy Giuliani....

... for those who want to know who I'm supporting for Prez, I say, "Viva Rudy." America's Mayor has what it takes to be America's President.

Debbie Schussel today, on the Rudi-Judi story:

... Whoa! That is NOT what we want. We've had enough of Hillary playing President when her husband was elected, enough of her secret health care policy confabs. It reminds me of Slick Willie's "You get two for the price of one" slogan. Sorry, but if I wanted a bargain, I'd go to Filene's Basement or TJ Maxx, not the polling booth in a Presidential election.

And I have the same rejoinder for this unwelcome news about Mrs. Giuliani that I always had about Hillary:

She was NOT on my ballot.

Not sure why Rudy thinks this is good news to any of our ears. But here's a newsflash about the First Lady . . . any First Lady:

She's not the President. She's not on the ballot. She should have no say in any policy or even the appearance thereof.

...Please, Mr. Giuliani. Another Hillary Rodham Cankles administration we don't need.

I really think this is a big deal.

Ronald Brownstein in today's L.A. Times:

... Democrats face substantial work to tie the 2008 Republicans to voter disillusionment with Bush.... It's not too early to predict that nothing may matter more next year than whether the Republican nominee can establish independence from Bush or Democrats succeed in portraying the GOP ticket as the extension of a leadership that has lost the country's confidence.

There ya go, Ron -- the two leading GOP candidates, well and truly tied to Bush.

Digging ditches is "substantial work," Ron. This wasn't.

Now, if only the damn Democrats would start doing what I just did, as often as humanly possible.

(Story links: McCain; Giuliani.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is there some sort of competition going on among religious conservatives to find new ideologically pure ways to harm young people's health?

First (via Ann at Feministing and Tom at If I Ran the Zoo) we have the North Dakota legislature requiring parental notification for prenatal care:

Pregnant girls should get adult permission before they get medical checkups for their unborn babies, the state House decided as representatives defeated a proposal to allow teenagers to seek confidential prenatal care.

North Dakota law now requires a doctor to have permission from a parent or guardian to treat pregnant girls who are younger than 18....

As Ann says,

Just to be clear, we're talking about prenatal care here, not abortion.

So if you think you'll be beaten, or forced to have an abortion, if you tell your parents you're pregnant, tough luck -- no prenatal care for you.

Now, you'd think it would be hard to compete with that -- but you'd be wrong. The Pennsylvania branch of the Reverend Donald Wildmon's American Family Association has a three-parter:

...The American Family Association of Pennsylvania is hoping to derail a bill introduced in the state's House that would require insurance companies to pay for the HPV vaccinations of individuals between the ages of 11 and 27.

The AFA of Pennsylvania is also voicing opposition to a Senate resolution requiring mental health screening for school students....

[Diane] Gramley [president of the group] is also troubled by the Pennsylvania Senate's passage of an anti-bullying bill....

Wow. Let's run through those one at a time.

Requiring insurance companies to cover HPV vaccinations -- not mandating vaccinations, just requiring insurance coverage -- that's bad. And no, it doesn't matter that, as even the AFA of PA admits, the bill "would not permit vaccines to be administered to minors under the age of 18 without written parental consent." It's still bad.

Screening kids for suicidal tendencies: Also bad. (This recommendation actually came from a Bush-sponsored commission -- but it doesn't matter to the AFA of PA. I'll grant that here the group might have a point -- it's possible that drug companies are pushing this legislation in the hopes of expanding their antidepressant market.)

And opposition to the anti-bullying bill -- well, that's out of fear of The Big Gay Menace. Even though there's no reference to sexual orientation in the bill, AFA of PA would rather have no state anti-bullying policy than one that might be construed as tolerant of the notion that heaping abuse on a teenager who's gay (or believed to be gay) is a bad thing.

I'm sure we'll see worse, of course.


(Via Taegan Goddard.)

It's been said that GOP presidential candidates are moving to the right on the war as the country moves to the left. Rudy Giuliani's doing it on the economy, too:

As Forbes Endorses Giuliani, Giuliani Endorses a Flat Tax

Rudolph W. Giuliani accepted the endorsement of Steve Forbes yesterday and embraced Mr. Forbes's signature issue, saying he liked the idea of a flat tax -- something Mr. Giuliani denounced when Mr. Forbes was running for president.

...In 1996, when Mr. Forbes first ran for president, Mr. Giuliani, then the mayor of New York City, disparaged a flat tax in general ... saying the Forbes plan "would really be a disaster."

These days, Mr. Giuliani calls himself an advocate of supply-side economics....

A flat tax? You'll love that if you're already enjoying this:

Income Gap Is Widening, Data Shows

Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans -- those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 -- receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released tax data shows.

... average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.

The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent....

This is a long-term trend, of course, as the accompanying chart makes clear. Please notice when inequality starts to increase, after staying more or less the same for decades:

Yup -- right after Reagan flattened tax rates at the top. And Rudy wants to flatten them even more.

And there's this about the current inequality:

The disparities may be even greater for another reason. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that it is able to accurately tax 99 percent of wage income but that it captures only about 70 percent of business and investment income, most of which flows to upper-income individuals, because not everybody accurately reports such figures.

And what does Rudy want to do about the taxation of investment income, most of which goes to the wealthy?

I've always been in favor of a low capital-gains tax. In fact, as mayor of New York, I used to try to urge--actually removing the capital-gains tax. I thought it would be one of the best special benefits of New York. I couldn't quite get the Congressional delegation to agree with that.

Remember all this next year when you're being told Giuliani's a "moderate."
Oh, and I see that a pro-war petition at John McCain's campaign Web site is titled "Surrender Is Not an Option" -- which is also the title of John Bolton's forthcoming book.

Beyond the tough talk, is this yet another sign of the Hollywoodization of the GOP right? In real life, Gene Kranz, the NASA flight director, reportedly did say, "Failure is not an option" -- but did the general public know that before the release of the movie Apollo 13? Are Bolton and McCain evoking Krantz or Ed Harris?

But here's the reality of it: We're at war. And we're at war because they're at war with us.

--Rudolph Giuliani, interview with Sean Hannity, 2/5/07

They are at war with us, they've been at war with us for a very long time. I see September 11 as the event that woke us up to the fact that they were at war with us.

--Rudolph Giuliani, interview with Dennis Prager, 12/5/06


[Chuck Hagel] says we are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims? Senator, you are an elected senator. You are one of 100 special people in the world's greatest deliberative body. It is Muslims who are at war with us!

--Rush Limbaugh, 3/28/07

But Democrats refuse to comprehend that Islamic extremists were already at war with us before we attacked Iraq....

--David Limbaugh, 10/26/06


Well, right-wingers have long argued that if you want to withdraw from Iraq, that means you don't believe in fighting any enemy of Americans anywhere. But this is something new, and rather Orwellian: As Bush leaves the stage, Giuliani and the Limbaughs want us to start thinking that "war on terror," the quintessential Bush notion, is actually a notion concocted by liberal Democrats who "blame America first" and therefore believe the U.S. is responsible for Islamicist terrorism. They're arguing that Bush's term is our term.

It's been suggested that Giuliani is implicitly criticizing Bush whwn he makes this assertion -- see, for instance, this CNN story. He isn't, and the Limbaugh's aren't. They're just moving the language goalposts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

First sentence of Thomas Friedman's column in today's New York Times:

Sometimes you read something about this administration that is just so shameful it takes your breath away.

Er, Tom? A lot of us think that happens every day.

I keep telling you that right-wingers take Hollywood far more seriously than liberals do, and here's more proof: a blog post from David Brody, the Capitol Hill correspondent of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

Brody says certain unnamed conservative activists have told him they're going to make it their life's work to prevent Rudy Giuliani from becoming president. Brody then adds this about the activists:

They know Rudy is getting some traction from social conservatives and they are not going to take for granted that Giuliani will fade once his views are known. As these activists galvanize, they could star in a movie. Click here to see who their leader would be.

I'll save you a click: That "here" goes to a clip of Mel Gibson in Braveheart telling his men, "They may take our lives, but they'll never take ... our freedom!"

Is everything a movie for these people? Specifically, a bombastic, ham-fisted war epic? Apparently so.

This is a horrible story:

A teenager has been jailed for more than a year for shoving a teacher's aide at her high school, a case that has sparked anger and heightened racial tensions in rural East Texas.

Shaquandra Cotton, who is black, claims the teacher's aide pushed her first and would not let her enter school before the morning bell in 2005. A jury convicted the 15-year-old girl in March 2006 on a felony count of shoving a public servant, who was not seriously injured.

...Under the sentence handed down by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, she will remain at the facility until she meets state rehabilitation standards or reaches her 21st birthday.

...Creola Cotton, Shaquandra's mother, and activists argue that while Superville sent Shaquandra to the state's juvenile prison system, he gave a white 14-year-old arsonist probation.

...In an interview with The Paris News, Superville said he chose the sentence because witnesses testified that placing Shaquandra back in her mother's care was not the best decision.

"If Shaquandra had been white, the outcome would have been the same," Superville said....

Excuse me -- jail? For seven years? For shoving a teacher's aide? That's better than returning her to her mother's care?

And I don't give a damn who pushed first -- this is an outrageous sentence.

A story that ran earlier this month in the Chicago Tribune makes this seem even more like the horrible outcome of a pattern of racism -- or, if not racism, institutionalized cruelty, or maybe just a vendetta against this girl (or her mother):

... the teen's defenders assert that long before the September 2005 shoving incident, Paris school officials targeted Shaquanda for scrutiny because her mother had frequently accused school officials of racism.

...Among the write-ups Shaquanda received ... were citations for wearing a skirt that was an inch too short, pouring too much paint into a cup during an art class and defacing a desk that school officials later conceded bore no signs of damage....

In prison she's treated like one of the worst of the worst -- and it seems, not surprisingly, to be taking its toll:

...Meanwhile, Shaquanda, a first-time offender, remains something of an anomaly inside the Texas Youth Commission prison system, where officials say 95 percent of the 2,500 juveniles in their custody are chronic, serious offenders who already have exhausted county-level programs such as probation and local treatment or detention.

...Three times she has tried to injure herself, first by scratching her face, then by cutting her arm. The last time, she said, she copied a method she saw another young inmate try, knotting a sweater around her neck and yanking it tight so she couldn't breathe. The guards noticed her sprawled inside her cell before it was too late.

..."I get paranoid when I get around some of these girls," Shaquanda said. "Sometimes I feel like I just can't do this no more--that I can't survive this."

Good grief.

It should be noted that the Texas Youth Commission

has been in turmoil since late February, when a two-year-old investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of inmates and a possible cover-up by TYC officials were reported in the media.

Since then, the board and several top staffers have resigned and the supervisor of the juvenile lockup in Marlin was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of lying to investigators.

Remember, that's sexual abuse of teenage inmates.

The now-resigned head of the TYC was Don Bethel, who owned a realty company and had been the president of a tire company when then-governor George W. Bush named him to head the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in 1998; he'd also been the mayor of Lamesa, Texas (pop. 10,000). I'm not sure how this qualified him to head the board of a state youth correctional system. Shortly before he and the rest of the board resigned, they used the Sergeant Schultz defense before angry state legislators wondering how they missed all the trouble investigators were uncovering in their system ("'I'm not sure how it happened,' said Board Chairman Don Bethel of Lamesa").

But maybe the scandal will, at least, get Shaquanda Cotton out of jail. Meanwhile, here's the Free Shaquanda Cotton blog.


I should have noted this Chicago Tribune follow-up:

The sentences of many of the 4,700 delinquent youths now being held in Texas' juvenile prisons might have been arbitrarily and unfairly extended by prison authorities and thousands could be freed in a matter of weeks as part of a sweeping overhaul of the scandal-plagued juvenile system, state officials say....

Among the leading candidates for early release is Shaquanda Cotton....

... officials at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex have repeatedly extended Shaquanda's sentence because she refuses to admit her guilt and because she was found with contraband in her cell--an extra pair of socks....

The mind reels.


UPDATE: Pam's House Blend has more on the sex abuse allegations in the TYC prison system -- and she links an article that questions why Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department failed to bring any charges as a result of the TYC investigation

Oddly, the article Pam quotes is at the far-right World Net Daily; many on the right, I guess, want to throw Gonzales under a bus, either because it's believed that doing so might spare more important figures or because he's not seen as a true loyalist to the right-wing Cause.

Well, it's Novosti, and I don't really trust anything I read in the Russian press, but...

Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost." ...

Well, that sounds like the Bushies. War isn't supposed to be costly, bloody, and difficult -- war is supposed to be easy and fun!

We'll know for sure if we hear that Dick Cheney has lit a bunch of candles, drawn himself a bubble bath, poured a glass of wine and moved a TV next to the tub (tuned to Fox, of course). This is going to be exquisitely pleasurable for him.


Over at Welcome to Pottersville, Jurassicpork puts this story together with other not-necessarily-reliable press reports and wonders if the fringe folks are right and we're headed toward an early April attack (April 6, perhaps). Scary.


Also: Craig Murray, a former British diplomat, says the map the British are using to determine the Iran-Iraq maritime boundary has no basis in fact. Barry Lando at Alternet PEEK has the details.


Officials: Policemen go on killing spree

Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in the northwestern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said....

Ali al-Talafari, a Sunni member of the local Turkomen Front Party, ... said more than 60 Sunnis had been killed, but a senior hospital official in Tal Afar put the death toll at 45, with four wounded.

The hospital official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, said the victims were men between the ages of 15 and 60, and they were killed with a shot to the back of the head....

The violence came a day after two truck bombs shattered markets in the city, killing at least 63 people and wounding dozens in the second assault in four days....

You may recall that President Bush, in a speech last March, went on at great length about how much better conditions were in Tal Afar, largely as the result of a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation. The name? Operation Restoring Rights.

...I'm going to tell you the story of a northern Iraqi city called Tal Afar, which was once a key base of operations for al Qaeda and is today a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq.

... One of the biggest complaints was the police force, which rarely ventured out of its headquarters. When it did venture, it was mostly to carry out sectarian reprisals. And so the national government sent out new leaders to head the force. The new leaders set about getting rid of the bad elements, and building a professional police force that all sides could have confidence in. We recognized it was important to listen to the representatives of Tal Afar's many ethnic and religious groups. It's an important part of helping to remove one of the leading sources of mistrust.

...After the main combat operations were over, ... we embedded coalition forces with the Iraqi police and with the army units patrolling Tal Afar to work with their Iraqi counterparts and to help them become more capable and more professional.

... by turning control of these cities over to capable Iraqi troops and police, we give Iraqis confidence that they can determine their own destiny ...

Here are your rights -- right in the back of the head.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


According to NewsMax:

Hillary Clinton: Bill Will Run the World

If Hillary Clinton gets elected president, her "first man" may just be running the world.

Hillary gave a clear hint last week at the prospect, comments that confirm a report in R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s new book "The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After the White House" that Clinton has been mulling becoming Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Tyrrell writes that in 2001, Clinton's "political prospects were nil." Still, agents assigned to his Secret Service detail would later report that Clinton was talking about getting the job as Secretary-General of the United Nations."

Critics scoffed at the idea. But don't laugh too long.

At a fund-raiser last week, Hillary discussed her husband's role in a Hillary administration. She suggested it would be "illegal" to name her husband secretary of state if she becomes president, as some have asked her to do.

Instead, she said, she "can make him ambassador to the world, because we have a lot of work to do to get our country back in the standing it should be."

Perhaps Hillary would like to see her husband running the world body -- the U.N. -- as she runs the country.

So, to sum up: Hillary proposes possibly making Bill some sort of ambassador at large -- which is not even remotely the same as proposing that he become UN secretary general, but it sounds kinda-sorta the same to NewsMax. And UN secretary general isn't all that powerful a job, but for the purposes of this discussion it's described as a job in which you "run the world."

If what NewsMax is saying makes sense to you, you may be a clinical paranoid. Or you may be a right-wing Republican.

But I repeat myself.

I'm sure there's a statistically significant percentage of the population that finds this theory of Clinton plans for world domination utterly believable -- possibly a majority of the electorate in some of the redder states.

I've never seen The Hunt for Red October -- is that the performance that's driving the Fred Thompson surge in the GOP polls (not merely to #3 in the Gallup Poll but to #1 in a GOP straw poll in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on Saturday -- yup, he beat not only Giuliani and McCain but favorite son Gingrich)?

I really think it might be -- here's a Fred fan's proposed bumper sticker, based on a line Thompson delivered in that movie:

Good grief -- the world is more dangerous for Americans than it's ever been in my adult life, and Republicans want our next president to be a fictional character?

(And a fictional character who fictionally fought the fictional version of the last enemy. Duh, we don't care -- fightin' commies was fun!)

Thompson, by the way, is also at 58% as I type this in an online poll conducted by the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail. (Giuliani and McCain did finish 1-2 in a GOP straw poll in Summit County, Ohio, on Saturday, but Thompson was #3 and in double digits.)

I think the problem for Republicans is that it really seemed as if the Cold War ended like a Hollywood movie, with total victory for The Good Guys and total defeat for The Bad Guys -- and a movie actor seemed to have won the Cold War all by himself. Republicans love that story, and they think everything in life should be that simple -- they don't understand why we can't just crank up the John Williams music and the CGI and kick Iraq's ass and Iran's ass and the asses of those al-What'stheirnames guys who fled Tora Bora a few years ago. They thought Reagan was a military hero because he loved to salute; and Bush, well, you know. They're going to give us another artificial hero as president if we don't stop them.


UPDATE: I think the illustration should be working now.


UPDATE: Thompson gets nearly half the vote in this multi-candidate online poll at Free Republic. (Duncan Hunter's #2, then Giuliani, then Gingrich. McCain is dead last.)

This doesn't sound promising:

Michael Moore, look out. Rick Santorum is getting into the documentary filmmaking business and he's out to tell ''the other side of the story.''

...The first project, Santorum said, would explore the relationship between radical Islam and the radical leftists in various countries around the world, including Latin America. It would be about an hour in length.

The second would be a longer, broader documentary that he said would aim to ''change the culture of America.'' He declined to go into specifics about the proposal.

''Politics and political dialogue has some impact on America but changing the culture has a much bigger impact,'' Santorum said....

Santorum intends to "change the culture of America'' with his magnum opus? Hmmm....

John L. Sullivan: I want this picture to be a... document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity... a true canvas of the suffering of humanity.

LeBrand: But with a little sex in it.

John L. Sullivan:
[reluctantly] But with a little sex in it.

--Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Yeah, I'm having visions of Ricky going underground disguised as a fetus with gay parents who was killed by Islamofascists. Or something like that. Actually, I'm sure the point will be that some of these Libertas types will make the magnum opus and then Ricky will spend a day narrating the film (a la Eric Idle in The Rutles) and pretending it's his work. The finished product will be dull as dishwater, it will bomb at the box office, and Michael Medved will blame Barbra Streisand.

(Via DU.)
This again?

Insurgents report a split with Al Qaeda in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Insurgent leaders and Sunni Arab politicians say divisions between insurgent groups and Al Qaeda in Iraq have widened and have led to combat in some areas of the country, a schism that U.S. officials hope to exploit.

...U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, on his last day in Iraq, said Monday that American officials were actively pursuing negotiations with the Sunni factions in an effort to further isolate Al Qaeda.

"Iraqis are uniting against Al Qaeda," Khalilzad said. "Coalition commanders have been able to engage some insurgents to explore ways to collaborate in fighting the terrorists." ...

That's from today's L.A. Times. And I guess we're supposed to believe that we really, really have a chance for a breakthrough this time -- just as we were supposed to believe that when we read:

'Enemy on Enemy' Fire Signals Split Among Insurgents in Iraq (New York Times, June 22, 2005)

Internal Violence Splits Iraqi Insurgents (NewsMax, November 12, 2005)

U.S. Trying to Widen Iraqi Rebel Split with Al Qaeda (New York Times, January 8, 2006)

Iraqi Sunni Leader Turns His Guns on Foreign Insurgents (Telegraph, April 16, 2006)

Time to Focus on Iraq Insurgency Split: Observer (Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview with Christopher Hitchens June 9, 2006)

Well, the L.A. Times says it's real this time, but here was Reuters a few days agos:

Most insurgent groups and their tribal supporters in Iraq's restive Anbar province have refused to join a U.S.-backed alliance to fight al Qaeda which is viewed as a ploy to weaken the rebels, a tribal leader said on Friday.

Sheikh Majeed al-Gaood, a leader of the powerful Dulaimi tribe, said the latest American strategy in Anbar, the deadliest part of Iraq for U.S. forces, was to sow divisions among rebels waging a four-year-old insurgency.

"By pitting groups fighting the occupation against each other they think they can finally control Anbar, but it is still in open revolt against the Americans and their agents. Its people know the occupation targets everyone," Gaood told Reuters after arriving from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar....

Gaood has ties with the former regime's army generals and officers who form the backbone of the Sunni insurgency. He denied any mainstream nationalist insurgent groups were in talks with the authorities to halt attacks....

Wake me when the exploitation of this real or alleged rift actually bears fruit.
Thank you, guest bloggers -- I've got to get you back here more often. (And I will, actually, next weekend.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

They Ask Questions

In today's NYT Paul Krugman asks:

Remember how the 2004 election was supposed to have demonstrated, once and for all, that conservatism was the future of American politics? I do.

Yeah, I do, too.

I also remember when I used to click on the latest "news" from Iraq. And I remember when I used to fret over what the likes of Michelle Malkin and Instapundit were talking about. And I remember wondering how the Democrats were going to counter the presidential campaign of George Allen.
Meanwhile, Back on Planet Cable Teevee, Anna Nicole Smith is STILL the Headline Act

I was trying to think of something witty or intelligent to say about this, but I am at a loss for words.
Senior Gonzales Aide Takes the Fifth

This does not look good.

The senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will refuse to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the unfolding U.S. attorneys scandal, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, her attorneys said today.

Monica M. Goodling -- who is on an indefinite leave of absence from Gonzales's office -- also alleges in a sworn declaration that a "senior Department of Justice official" has admitted he was "not entirely candid" in his Senate testimony and has blamed Goodling and others for not fully briefing him.

The only two people from the Justice Department who have testified before the Senate regarding the US Attorney firings are Alberto Gonzales and Deputy AG Paul McNulty. Shall we flip a coin?

Goodling, 33, is the second senior Justice aide to pose a serious legal threat to Gonzales and other senior Justice officials. Former Gonzales chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson, who has been accused by Gonzales of withholding information, is expected to dispute that claim in testimony scheduled for Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary panel.

I don't quite understand Goodling's explanation for taking the fifth. She says that some lawmakers have already decided there was wrongdoing, so her testimony could put her in jeopardy. How, exactly?

In the declaration presented to the Senate committee and released by her attorneys today, Goodling says [Sen. Charles] Schumer and other lawmakers, including Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), have already "drawn conclusions" about the U.S. attorney firings. As a result, Goodling says, she has decided to "invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination and decline to answer any and all questions from the committee or its staff."

"I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right, because the above-described circumstances present a perilous environment in which to testify," Goodling says.

Oh. I see. If that's sufficient reason to invoke the fifth amendment, then maybe Gonzales should try it too.

So Howie Kurtz writes another one of his standard both-sides-do-bad-things columns about nasty comments on the internet. (The examples given are comments at HuffPost and LGF, the former wishing Dick Cheney had been killed by that bomb, the latter wishing an assassination plot against Carter had succeeded.) Just your standard bit of journalistic false equivalence.

And so who should complain about this false equivalence but (of all people) Charles Johnson:
There’s no comparison between the levels of profanity and hateful venom you’ll find at left-wing sites such as Huffington Post and the comments posted at Little Green Footballs. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at Howard Kurtz’s lame attempt at moral equivalence though; it’s what mainstream media does, whether the topic is blogs or “terrorism” or the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Here's comment #13 to that post:
Besides stealing cars, sheep, beehives, whatever they can get their hands on, from their Jewish neighbors, the palestinians will uproot Jewish fruit trees and plant olive trees there. The Jews hesitate to cut them down, the army declares it a military zone, and the arabs steal Jewish land.
And you can tell they're on their best behavior there. Here's another, more representative thread:
I am beginning to see where some of the folks around here are starting to wake up. However, we do have an incredibly large Persian population. As well as just a very large muuslim population. So we better be WIDE awake.
I agree. Saudi Arabia intends to absorb the Black Muslim movement lock, stock, and barrel. Using money and the untrue, but apparently tempting, theory that American Blacks were Muslims before being forcefully indoctrinated in Christianity. 3 million native born terrorist. Just like Britain with their Pakistanis.
this war isn't going to be won on small 'intelligence' victories.

It will only be won by killing, killing, killing, killing....
[to which another commenter adds:]
/Iranians, we need to get to the root of the problem
Why do we have to tolerate these jackasses that want to spread Islame the death cult by hook or crook. It is a sick cult where the religious train there followers from a very young age to give them hugh amounts of power. These bastards should be horse whipped and run out of this country unless they are citizens. I am fed up with them. In Boston In Minnesota The Flying Imams why don't they fly there goat smellin butts back to the burning sands and leave us the hell alone.
Memo to Howie: there's a difference between wishing harm on a particular politician1 and wishing harm on entire races and religious groups.

I'm just saying.

1I would argue that there's even a difference between wishing harm to a politician in office because of the things he's doing, and wishing harm to a retired politician because of the things he says. Both may be reprehensible, but there are degrees of reprehensibility.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]

Some good points made upthread by Tom Hilton (and by Steve himself) regarding the sense that the big-name Republican candidates could trounce the big-name Democrats now. Personally, I think that it's way too early to be taking this kind of talk very seriously. Just to put it into some kind of perspective, we're now about nine months away from the point in the 2004 race where all the pundits were confidentally predicting that Howard Dean had the Democratic nomination sewn up. Still, it's a good idea to be prepared and ready to come out swinging.

But Tom refers to the media going after the Democrats with more zeal than they're going after Republicans. I'm sure there are specific instances that one could cite, and it's happened in the past--to Clinton, to Gore for damn sure. Right now, though, as a general phenomena, I don't see it happening that much; I think that the public image of Romney that's come through the mainstream media is that he's a sell-out, and McCain and Guiliani have both taken a few lumps recently, and I think that the press coverage of Obama that's concentrated on the warm glow he installs in people has mostly outweighed the coverage that deals with the sense some people have that he's an empty suit. I'm sure that there will be a lot to be outraged about when things pick up. Right now, the press actually seems to be on the verge of acknowledging, if not addressing, the real pressing question of the moment, which is: given what we now know, in the wake of this business with the Attorney General, and the sense that there's a lot more to come, how harshly will history judge us if we don't impeach the son of a bitch?

Which is why what I'm really concerned about now isn't so much press atacks on Democrats or Democrats doing enough to tar Republicans as Republicans (though I think that, in any open debate forum, Republican candidates should be asked whether they "support" the Bush presidency, and, when they inevitably say that they do, that they ought to be asked to justify that support on specific terms) so much as I am concerned about Democrats being attacked by Democrats--or by progressives, leftists, liberals, anyone who claims to care enough about what happens in this world to vote and who would seem to be better aligned with the Democrats than with the Republicans. One of the venerable lines you hear on this topic has always been that, well, it's a sign of better character and more open mindedness to vote for "the person" and not be partisan and identify with a party. Theoretically, that's a fine idea. Theoretically, voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 was going to help bring about a strong new "genuinely" progressive and viable third party and in the meantime, George Bush and Dick Cheney wouldn't screw up the planet because, well, they just wouldn't. As my grandpa used to say, why don't you crap in one hand and theorize in the other, and then see which one fills up first? Only a committed twit could still be making noises about how the two parties aren't "different." Even if you wish the prominent Democrats would do more to stand for something, where does that place them in relation to McCain, Guiliani, and Romney, all of whom have to some extent jumped into their campaigns by insisitng that they don't stand for certain things that they were recently on record as believing?

I actually rather liked that rogue anti-Hillary ad that made all that noise last week. I liked it even though, if I had to vote today, I'd vote for Hillary. (Who will I vote for in twenty months? How could I possibly know that?) I understand Steve's point in saying that it puts a fascist frame on a candidate who doesn't deserve that, but I don't think it was meant to be taken seriously in that way, any more than that Apple actually meant to suggest that its competitors were fascistic. It's a pop mash-up, a joke that taps into people's memories and that spins off an earlier joke that tapped into people's half-formed fantasies about the concept of being "Orwellian." It also addresses something that Clinton is going to have to deal with, just as Kerry and Gore (and before them, Michael Dukakis, and Walter Mondale, and going all the way back to the original victim of the modern television campaign, Adlia Stevenson) had to deal with the media-generated public perception that they were stiffs. What's distinctive about Hillary's problem, and what I think connects it to Gore's, is that actual, potential voters on her side have had as much to do with building this perception that she's the "establishment" candidate (God, talk about your nostalgic concepts) who must be destroyed because she stands in the way of the pure, grass-roots everyman candidates. She's supposed to be this Goliath powered by money and connections who's going to steamroller everything in her path so that she can gain power and govern from the center, like the madwoman she is. And it wasn't that long ago that the knock on her was supposed to be that her name recognition obscured the fact that she was an unpopular barnicle on the ship of state who under no circumstances could actually win.

I think the most reassuring thing about the whole Apple-Obama ad business was that it actually seemed to inspire responses from the key players that were more or less in proportion to the event. Hillary herself even seemed not just well-controlled but good-spirited about it, as if she'd seen the thing and had been unable to suppress a chuckle. Whatever underhandedness went into its being created and injected into the cultural bloodstream, it's definitely on a different level of scurrilousness than the Swift Boay slimers or Michelle Malkin pointing out that we don't have actual footage that would confirm that John Kerry's war wounds weren't self-inflicted. (Or, for that matter, or Fox News running with the "story" that Obama grew up in a Muslim terrorist training camp, or whatever the hell it was supposed to be. To say nothing of the cesspool rumors about Vince Foster.) I'm not saying that progressives should take what they're offered and like it or lump it. After all, it was Bill Clinton who said that Democrats are fated to disagree on things because that's an inevitable by-product of their greater receptivity to actual thought. (Unfortunately, he said it in the course of stumping for Joe Lieberman, but there's still some truth to it.) The closest that George Bush has come to fulfilling his claim to be a "uniter" was when he persuaded a record number of liberal-minded voters to swallow their differences long enough to pull a lever for John Kerry, not a man of such charisma and broad-based appeal that such an outcome would to be obvious. We can't count on the Republican nominee in 2008 being such a three-ring circus of horrors with extra added attractions that everyone in the country with sense can see that they need to get behind whoever the hell is going to keep this ass from assuming power. It didn't happen in 2000, and maybe the best thing you can say about history is that it probably can't cough up someting like George W.Bush twice in one generation.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

xposted from Sisyphus Shrugged: Giuliani campaign punks the AP, and are you sure about that 9/11 leadership thing?

Liz Sidoti on the latest events unfolding in the Rudy and Judi show, the bedroom farce America's watching
Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani has been married three times and, as it turns out, so has his wife. The campaign confirmed Friday that Judith Nathan Giuliani was married twice — not once — before she wed the former New York City mayor in 2003. It was Giuliani's third marriage, and, until Thursday, had been thought to be his wife's second.

Giuliani asked voters to judge his private life in the context of his performance as mayor of New York.

"I was able to handle the worst attack in the history of our country, while all these things the press is caring about were going on," Giuliani said, when asked how conservative voters might judge his personal conduct. "So I think when people look at it fairly, they will see it has nothing to do with job performance."

Mrs. Giuliani told The New York Post in an article on its Web site Thursday night that Giuliani was, in fact, her third husband. Her first marriage was to Jeffrey Scott Ross in 1974, when she was about 20. They divorced in 1979.

She then met and married Bruce Nathan. They divorced in the 1990s.
I guess Ms. Sidoti figured it goes without saying that the Giuliani affair came before her second divorce.

Even leaving that aside, there are a few problems with Ms. Sidoti's account (which presumably came from Mr. Giuliani's campaign).

The first would be that back in the day, when Mrs. Giuliani was newly redivorced, she gave the New York Times a slightly different chronology
Soon after she earned her nursing degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1974, Judith met Bruce Nathan, who came from a rich family and is now a sales manager for a wall-covering company based in New Jersey.

Now me, I lean towards the Times' version, in which the couple formerly known as the Nathans met a bit earlier than her first divorce, because it synchs a little better with this
It was Dec. 8, 1974, when then-20-year-old Judith Stish, fresh out of nursing school, ran off with Jeffrey Ross to the Chapel of the Bells in Las Vegas, according to a copy of the marriage certificate unearthed by the Daily News.

The couple separated after four years of marriage and, citing an "irretrievably broken" relationship, divorced in Florida on Nov. 14, 1979, according to court records.

Five days later, Judith married husband No. 2, wallpaper salesman Bruce Nathan, the records show.

Mrs. Giuliani is clearly a fast worker, but I don't think she's quite that fast.

Now, as amusing as it is following the trashy saga of the Giulianis unfolding, if you take a look at the last two occupants of the White House, it's pretty clear that an uncomplicated marital life and competence are not necessarily related.

So let's look at the latest news on his performance after the attacks, shall we?

You may have heard that the firefighters aren't too happy with Mr. Giuliani because they feel that his administration caused the rubble of the WTC to be dug up and carted away without all the bodies having been recovered.

Well, they weren't wrong.
The pulverized remains of bodies from the World Trade Center disaster site were used by city workers to fill ruts and potholes, a city contractor says in a sworn affidavit filed Friday in Manhattan Federal Court.

Eric Beck says debris powders - known as fines - were put in a pothole-fill mixture by crews at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, N.Y., where more than 1.65 million tons of World Trade Center debris were deposited after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I observed the New York City Department of Sanitation taking these fines from the conveyor belts of our machines, loading it onto tractors and using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts," Eric Beck said.

Beck was the senior supervisor for Taylor Recycling, a private contractor hired to sift through debris trucked to Fresh Kills after the trade center attacks. Before the arrival of Taylor's equipment at Fresh Kills in October 2001, the debris was sifted manually by workers using rakes and shovels.

Not wrong at all.
The papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan relied in part on affidavits from four people who participated in the recovery efforts at the Fresh Kills Refuse Site on Staten Island.

Plaintiffs who brought the case against the city in 2005 include World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial, a group of about 1,000 families who believe their relatives' remains are at Fresh Kills.

Court papers said the city failed to deliver on a promise to sift all debris through delicate screens to find body parts, human remains and personal belongings as small as a quarter inch in diameter. Only about 63 percent of the 1.65 million tons of debris recovered from the trade center site were subjected to the sifting screens, the court papers said.

In one affidavit, former police Sgt. John Barrett said supervisors at Fresh Kills pressured workers to sift through piles hurriedly. He said he once refused to sift quickly, only to see two other piles carted away and dumped without having been sifted at all.

In another, construction worker Eric Beck, who worked at the landfill from October 2001 through July 2002, said recovery workers found as many as 2,000 bones a day in the early months, along with personal belongings including keys, wallets, pictures and jewelry. But he said some debris that had been through the quarter-inch sifting equipment was later loaded onto tractors by the city and used to pave roads and fill in potholes.

Since the families sued, more than 1,200 human remains - ranging from small slivers to full arm bones - have been recovered from an abandoned skyscraper near the trade center site, the landfill of a service road at ground zero and underneath a former destroyed church.

Mr. Giuliani's campaign (and a number of friendly 'news' stories) point out that the firefighters (including, presumably, those who died) tilt towards the Democrats.

Now, while I certainly think that it can't be repeated enough that the real heroes of 9/11 support the Democrats, I'm afraid Mr. Kincaid of Accuracy in Media would call this a coverup by the liberal media.
One of the biggest stories of the presidential campaign is being ignored by the major media. It's how the president of the firefighters union engineered an endorsement of John Kerry for president without asking his members about it. It turns out most of the members of the union are Republicans who support Bush.

Harold Schaitberger, the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the IAFF, has received tons of publicity and has been shown repeatedly with Kerry at campaign events. These appearances convey the impression that the firefighters who performed heroically on 9/11 have abandoned Bush. But it's Schaitberger who abandoned his members.

During the Republican convention, the union representing New York City's 8,600 firefighters endorsed Bush. But stories about this development tried to diminish the significance of the endorsement by noting that the international union, the IAFF, had endorsed Kerry. The stories failed to explain, as we did in a recent Media Monitor, that Schaitberger made this decision without polling his members. Instead, a few members were asked about the characteristics they wanted in a president. On that basis, Scahitberger decided to endorse Kerry. Schaitberger admitted to MSNBC's Chris Matthews that there are more Republicans than Democrats in his union.

"Thank you so very much for your work on exposing these facts." That's how a professional firefighter and member of the IAFF local 2876 of South Kitsap Fire District 7 in Washington state responded to our Media Monitor on this matter. He told us, "I am so sick and tired of union 'leaders' talking for us, so much so that I don't pay into the PAC [political action committee] fund anymore because it does not represent my views or the majority of those of my co-workers either. No one in our department, to my knowledge, received or heard of a poll regarding who we supported. I am a proud firefighter for Bush as are, I believe by straw poll, a great many of my fellow firefighters, including our VP. "

Using the same old ploy, a Newsday story about the firefighters' endorsement of Bush claimed that, "the International Association of Fire Fighters unanimously endorsed Kerry and its members have since often campaigned with him." But that once again ignores the fact that the endorsement was delivered without polling members of the union. Not surprisingly, the New York Times compounded the error. It declared, "A year ago, the nation's main firefighters' union, the 260,000-member International Association of Firefighters, became the first large union to endorse Mr. Kerry." That falsely implied that these 260,000 members had voted to endorse Kerry.

The Firefighters for Bush website continues to ask firefighters whether any of them were ever consulted by Schaitberger about the Kerry endorsement. One posted the following answer: "I don't think anyone but Schaitberger's opinion counts at all. The IAFF is stealing our dues to support Kerry." Another said, "It's disgusting a portion of our dues go toward campaigning against President Bush." This is the story that the media should tell.

You're more than welcome, Mr. Kincaid. Any time.

So the firefighters? Practically teeming with Republicans. Fierce Bush-supporting Republicans.

Who, it appears, really, really don't like Rudy. Here's a quote from Mr. Cassidy, the head of the NY local which prominently endorsed Mr. Bush during the '04 Republican convention here in New York
Stephen J. Cassidy, the current president of Local 94 whose name appears on the press release endorsing Bush in 2004, has reportedly criticized Giuliani in the past. An October 12, 2002, Newsday article quoted Cassidy as saying that "[a]lthough Giuliani is 'the most despised man in America' among firefighters," they would not stage "an overt protest" at a memorial service that day. Instead, Cassidy told the paper, "We decided that this is a solemn day for our families and our fallen brothers so we decided to tell them they should sit on their hands," rather than having "uniformed firefighters stand and turn their backs on the former mayor."

The family group, by the way, is not asking for money. They're asking for the debris to be sifted and the remains disposed of in some way other than as paving.


(Actually posted by Julia.)
More of the Same

So Bush is the most unpopular president since Carter (with the longest streak of below-50%-approval since Truman), and the Republican party is a damaged brand. It should be smooth sailing into 2008. And yet...

As Steve M points out, Republican presidential candidates are running even with or ahead of their Democratic counterparts. This is partly because the Democrats have been subjected to more critical scrutiny so far, but it also illustrates the challenge we face. I think Steve is absolutely right about this:
No Democrat, when confronted with a microphone, should ever utter the name of a GOP candidate for president without attaching the word "Republican" to the name...
In addition to the Republican label, though, I think we need to do whatever we can to tie them to Bush. We need to make it clear that any Republican would be a change in name only. And there's one phrase I think we need to repeat whenever any of these clowns is mentioned: more of the same.

Romney: more second-generation multi-millionaire values, more fiscal lunacy, more pandering to religious extremists. More of the same.

McCain: more neo-conservative adventurism, more imperiousness, more shameless pandering to religious extremists. More of the same.

And the front-runner, Giuliani: more cronyism, more corruption, more incompetence, more authoritarian narcissism, and yes--you guessed it--more pandering to religious extremists. More of the same.

We need to make Bush the anchor that sinks anyone they nominate. We need to make the nominee as unable to escape Bush as Mondale was to escape Carter (after four years of a Republican president). And really, I think we can do it. Because we know exactly what these guys have to offer.

More of the same.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]
[This is Kathy from Birmingham Blues. Safe travels, Steve.]

AG Alberto Gonzales has maintained that he wasn't involved in any discussions regarding the firings of eight US Attorneys. That's his story, and he was sticking to it -- until the Justice Department made another document dump late Friday night.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales met with senior aides on Nov. 27 to review a plan to fire a group of U.S. attorneys, according to documents released last night, a disclosure that contradicts Gonzales's previous statement that he was not involved in "any discussions" about the dismissals.

...The hour-long November meeting in the attorney general's conference room included Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and four other senior Justice officials, including the Gonzales aide who coordinated the firings, then-Chief of Staff D. Kyle Sampson, records show.

Documents detailing the previously undisclosed meeting appear to conflict with remarks by Gonzales at a March 13 news conference in which he portrayed himself as a CEO who had delegated to Sampson responsibility for the particulars of firing eight U.S. attorneys.

"I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on," Gonzales said.

Of course, the Justice Department is parsing the whole thing, saying the documents don't contradict Gonzales' previous statement.

Spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said last night that there is no "inconsistency" between the Nov. 27 meeting and Gonzales's remarks. She argued that Gonzales was simply emphasizing at the news conference that he was not involved in the details of Sampson's plans.

Sorry, Ms. Scolinos, but, "I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on," does not square with, "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales met with senior aides on Nov. 27 to review a plan to fire a group of U.S. attorneys..."

The Justice Department also announced that the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department's Inspector General are conducting a joint investigation into the circumstances surrounding the firings. Given how well that went the last time, I don't expect much in the way of results.

As for Gonzales' underlings, who did the actual dirty work, they don't seem to share his job security:

Sampson, who resigned March 12 after the discovery of e-mails contradicting assertions that the White House was not closely involved in the firings, may be the official best positioned to describe the roles top Justice and White House officials played in the ouster of the federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department also said yesterday that Monica Goodling, a senior counselor to Gonzales who worked closely with Sampson on the firings, took an indefinite personal leave from her job on Monday. A Justice official said that she is still employed there but that it is not clear when she will return.

Sampson has agreed to testify before Congress and is scheduled to appear on Thursday.

Sampson's planned testimony complicates the standoff that developed this week between Democrats and the Bush administration, which has refused demands for public testimony from presidential adviser Karl Rove and other White House aides. The House and Senate judiciary committees have authorized, but not issued, subpoenas for the testimony.

Gonzales and other Justice Department officials have said that Sampson quit because he withheld information from other officials and Sampson's action may have led them to give misleading testimony before Congress. Sampson's attorney has disputed that characterization and has said that others in the Justice Department were fully aware of "several years" of discussions with the White House about dismissing the prosecutors.

The point is crucial because Justice officials said in previous statements and testimony that the White House was involved only tangentially, at the end of the process.

This whole mess reminds me of peeling an onion, layer after layer. Will the "loyal Bushies" ever come clean? Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'm going to be away from computers tomorrow and Monday, but some fine bloggers will stop by here while I'm gone.

Awful story from The Nation:

Jon Town has spent the last few years fighting two battles, one against his body, the other against the US Army. Both began in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was standing in the doorway of his battalion's headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head....

Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town's neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town's wounds were actually caused by a "personality disorder." Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits....

To be specific, the Army determined that Town's disability was from a preexisting "personality disorder" -- even though he was found fit to serve when he signed up and those who know him say he's not at all the way he was before the blast.

Town was not only denied disability pay and ongoing medical treatment from the VA, he also had to give part of his reenlistment bonus back.

Why is this happening? Why does the U.S. military hate the troops?

I would be a lot happier about the results of the new Pew poll ...

...if various polls of the 2008 presidential election weren't showing McCain, Giuliani, and even Fred Thompson beating the major Democratic contenders.

Er, does the public know these people are Republicans? How often are Democrats reminding the public of this fact?

The answer should be "At every possible opportunity." I've said this before and I'll say it again: No Democrat, when confronted with a microphone, should ever utter the name of a GOP candidate for president without attaching the word "Republican" to the name -- preferably more than once. (E.g., "The GOP agenda of the Republican John McCain....") It should be our side's version of "Barack Hussein Obama."

Yeah, the Pew poll seems to be all silver lining and no cloud, but I worry that the GOP/"liberal media" axis will twist its results (and any similar poll results in the future) in favor of whoever wins the GOP nomination. How? The poll says voters are noticeably (but not overwhelmingly) more secular, more gay-tolerant, and less old-fashioned about marriage. The press could spin that not as an increase of liberalism, but as a "new centrism" -- and then say GOP nominee Giuliani (or McCain or Romney or Thompson) represents precisely the country's new direction, while Hillary Clinton (or Obama or Edwards) represents "the left."

You want to bet that won't happen?

We need to hang the current popular-as-toxic-waste GOP around the neck of the next GOP nominee, before that nominee can be branded as a "fresh start" for the party -- as the "centrist" "everyone" really wants.

Friday, March 23, 2007

OK, I'm starting to see a way that Giuliani's front-runner status might end. Taegan Goddard reports (emphasis added):

American Research Group is out with a new batch of presidential polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, Texas and Arkansas.

...Among Republicans, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are tied in Iowa, McCain leads in New Hampshire, Giuliani leads in Texas and Mike Huckabee leads in Arkansas. Adding Fred Thompson's name to the ballot has hurt Giuliani in Iowa and New Hampshire.

So Thompson might be somewhat of a Giuliani-slayer. And then I don't know what happens if this guy gets going:

Having raised over $1 million for his presidential exploratory committtee, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) said it is far more likely that "he will follow through with a full-fledged candidacy" than run for Senate, reports the Rocky Mountain News....

Forget the actual positions these guys take on various issues -- both Thompson and Tancredo (Gingrich too) are seen as people who'll defend us against "them" -- just like Giuliani. Democrats? Terrorists? Immigrants? Serial killers stalking the Upper East Side? All these guys have impeccable "them"-fighting credentials (namely, they all show up in the media telling us they are "them's" sworn enemy).

Get enough of these guys in and it's a horse race again.

Thompson is actually beating Hillary Clinton by one point in a general-election matchup, according to a new poll -- but it's a Rasmussen poll, so I wouldn't make too much of it. (Rasmussen polls are highly skewed toward the GOP -- Rasmussen has Bush's job approval at 43%, for Pete's sake.)

I wonder if McCain could actually eke out a win as a result of all this -- all these other guys will split the "let's kick some ass" vote and he'll keep the votes of somewhat less rabid Republicans. That may not be how you see the GOP electorate dividing, but those are the lines along which it divides itself, as far as I can tell.


Iranian naval vessels on Friday seized 15 British sailors and marines who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters of the Persian Gulf, British and U.S. officials said....

The U.S. Navy said the incident occurred just outside a long-disputed waterway called the Shatt al-Arab dividing Iraq and Iran....

As predicted?

...In an interview on CNN, on February 12, [Hillary Mann Leverett, the former National Security Council Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Affairs under the Bush administration from 2001 to 2004,] accused the Bush administration of "trying to push a provocative, accidental conflict" from Iran as a pretext to justify "limited strikes" against the country's crucial nuclear and military infrastructures, as opposed to "an all-out invasion like what happened with Iraq."

...Zbigniew Brzezinski ... accused them [the Bush administration] of trying to spread the conflict in Iraq to other parts of the Middle East....

"A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, Brzezinski explained, "followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran. ... "

As predicted:

...Risky provocation has already begun with clandestine activities inside Iran, aggressive kidnappings of Iranian nationals in Iraq and placement of a massive offensive armada close to Iran's shores, inviting clashes with Iranian ships. Any provoked skirmish resulting in American casualties could trigger a congressional war resolution....


And gosh, what an astonishing coincidence: This happens at almost the exact moment the House approves a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

One reason I found the ad disheartening was that the leading Republican candidate for president once said the following:

Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

I don't know if there's audio or video of that floating around, but if you're going to do an ad the evokes totalitarianism and fascism and 1984, don't these words of Rudy Giuliani seem a hell of a lot more apropos?


And I may be reading too much into this, but here goes: Phil de Vellis called the ad "Vote Different." Last weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle called it "Hillary 1984," as did Drudge. Yet the title that seems to be catching on is "Big Sister."

Obviously it's a cleverer play on words. But beyond that, and beyond the emphasis on the totalitarian, I wonder if it's also, for some people, evoking the image of a bossy female sibling.

I think an awful lot of Hillary-hate fits her into images from childhood. See also Maureen Dowd a couple of months ago:

When she was little, Hillary Rodham would sit on a basement bench and pretend she was flying a spaceship to Mars. Her younger brother Hugh, perched behind, would sometimes beg for a chance to be captain.

No dice. ''She would always drive, and I would always have to sit in the back,'' he once told me....

So we should never vote for a presidential candidate who sometimes bossed a younger sibling around as a little kid? (Er, isn't that all older siblings?) Or do we apply this rule only to women? Or to Democrats? Or to Democratic women? Or just to Hillary?

Look -- oppose her on issues, or on how much you think she might compromise with the right. But don't oppose her for reasons like this.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

(with an update on the Giulianis' multiple marriages -- one more than we thought! -- and Rudy as a gun flip-flopper)

I was just poking around and I came across some of the demographic detainls of an AP/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month. That poll, like most recent polls, shows Giuliani way out in front among Republicans (35% to 22% over McCain); the demographic breakdown suggests that one reason might be the huge gender skew:

Giuliani got stronger support from Republican women (41 percent) than he did from Republican men (25 percent).

I really can't figure that out. Can you? Any theories?


UPDATE: A lot of interesting ideas in comments. Rudy as the macho rich guy in high school who's considered a dreamboat even though he may be kind of a thug on a date? Rudy as the embodiment of a sort of Munchausen's by proxy syndrome, for "people who relish the idea of the 9/11 attacks because it whipped up the Patriotic fervor"? Republican women as busy soccer moms who haven't really absorbed a lot of what there is to know about the candidates? I just don't know.

Todcay's papers have a couple of stories that may or may not relate to this. The fun story is about his marriage: It turns out that -- whoops! -- Judi Nathan, Rudy's currrent wife (#3), never quite got around to telling any of the reporters who've covered the couple since they got together that she has two previous marriages, not one. The story's in the New York Post and Daily News. Her first marriage took place when she was 20, in a Vegas wedding chapel.

(The Post, talking over our heads to social conservatives, takes care to add that "Aides said yesterday that her first marriage was over by the time she began a relationship with" her second husband. The Post also tries to transmit the Giuliani campaign's preferred message to female voters by noting that Judi "called her current husband 'a beauty' repeatedly throughout the interview, saying each spouse complements the other.")

I've never thought the Giuliani marital record was going to hurt him with GOP voters, and I still don't. He's a Republican, so he just has to avoid infidelity right now (cf. Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde). Who's going to be disillusioned by this? Country music fans -- people who like the song "All My Ex's Live In Texas"?


A story that could hurt him somewhat more with GOP voters is this one from today's New York Times -- it compares his record as a gun-control advocate when he was mayor (for instance, he lobbied for the Brady Law and attended Bill Clinton's signing ceremony) to his current flip-flopped stance (he now seems to oppose the assault weapons ban and advocate state rather than national gun laws).

Remember Giuliani's reaction in 1997 after a Palestinian man on a tourist visa went on a shooting rampage at the Empire State Building with a semi-automatic weapon he'd bought in Florida:

"It should be as difficult to get a gun in Florida as it is in New York City," he said, "And if that was the case, then maybe Miami and Fort Lauderdale and about six other cities in Florida would be as safe as New York City."

According to the story in today's Times, that was just a helpful suggestion, not a demand for new laws.


Maybe Republican voters (female and/or male) don't know a lot of this yet. Or maybe they do know and Republican women don't really mind because they don't really care quite as much about the standard-issue hardcore GOP line-in-the-sand positions. On marriage, maybe GOP women don't believe absolute purity is a prerequisite (men may deceive themselves about their own high moral standards, and thus demand them of others). And on guns, maybe GOP women don't think NRA-style absolutism is the only acceptable approach.

I sometimes think right-wingers, especially right-wing men, take these absolutist stands out of excessive fear of The Other -- criminals, promiscuous youth, promiscuous poor people, gays, illegal immigrants, non-whites in general.... All these scare right-wing men perhaps more than right-wing women. Maybe Republican women are (slightly) saner about all this -- maybe they're less likely to deceive themselves into thinking that bad (or somewhat bad) behavior is something only they do.


One last thing about the marriage story. The Post tells us this:

The interview was conducted in the offices of Changing Our World, the charity consulting firm where Judith Giuliani works. The campaign would not allow a Post photographer to take pictures of her.

Good grief -- it would be a huge story for a week if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama's wife refused to allow photos during an interview. Ah, but it's OK if you're a Republican.