Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supremes to Bush monarchy: Screw Yoo

When I was in law school, there were three Constitutional crises that we studied. The first, Marbury v. Madison (1803), established that it was the role of the Supreme Court to decide what the law is. The second, FDR's court-packing gambit, the Executive power-played the Court into allowing a fundamental expansion of federal power. The third was Nixon's "If the President does it, that makes it legal" episode in the 70s.

Today's decision in Hamdan is very likely to be #4 in future Con Law classes. Congress has utterly acquiesced in its own four-year disemboweling, and there has been no impediment to the Bush-Cheney onslaught until now. It has taken all this time for a proper case to come before the Supremes, but they have finally made it clear that the absurd rationale given for absolute power in the presidency -- the wildly overreaching theories of loathsome monarchist John Yoo -- have finally been laid to rest. I have not yet read the opnion, but Glenn Greenwald's analysis looks about right to me. A bare five-vote majority (stay away from Ann Coulter, Justice Stevens) still believes in the Constitution.

The interesting question is what happens next. Will Bush and Cheney defy the Supremes as they have all other conflicting authorities? Will they give lip service to the ruling and violate it in secret? I find it difficult to believe that they will simply accept a judicial and legislative leash after having run free for so long.

Even if the crisis does not end here, today is a good day.

Update: I'm still with Greenwald on the law. As to the politics and realpolitik, I'm with Digby.

A wingnut by any other name is just as stupid

At the Corner:

Bin Laden, Wherefore Art Thou? [Michael Ledeen]

So we're gonna get another audio from the great man. And so I ask, what's up with the audios Osama? How come your main man, Zawahiri, can make videos and you give us that gravely voice? Beard fall out?

It's been a long time since we've seen your face...going on two years, isn't it? How come?

Mr. Ledeen was probably too busy highlighting every line of Sun Tzu as a freshman to pay attention to his English Lit instructor, but when Juliet asks "Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore art thou," she's not asking where he is, she wants to know why he has to be a member of the rival Montague family.

But, to address Ledeen's presumed question, it would seem that very few people know where OBL is or what his reasons are for not appearing on videotape. George Bush is not among those few.

An understandable misunderstanding

The blogs are all a-twitter with the story that Katherine Harris has been saying that House Democrats were rooting for her to win her utterly doomed Senate race. (Read the details if you like.)

I think there is a simple explanation. My guess is that one or more Dems told Harris how happy they would be if she were no longer in the House of Representatives.

Her misinterpretation is understandable, really.

Trendspotting, the Digby way

Digby points out something that would never occur to most of us, but is so friggin' obvious that I immediately realized that it simply must be true.

He starts by noting, via Kevin Drum, an existing and some forthcoming "children's" books:

Kevin Drum linked to an article by Michelle Cottle in an obscure, subscription-only, outmoded journal in which she discusses the latest rightwing punlishing phenom, the child brainwashing author named Katharine DeBrecht who wrote the alleged runaway best-seller called "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!"

I hadn't heard of this children's book, but apparently Limbaugh is rivaling Oprah these days and managed to get 30,000 of them sold after mentioning it on his show. Debrecht now has a contract for several more books, the announced titles of which include:

"Help! Mom! Hollywood's in My Hamper!"
"Help! Mom! The Ninth Circuit Nabbed the Nativity!"
"Help! Mom! There Are Lawyers in My Lunchbox!"

Here's the Digbyan insight:

But, let's be honest about this. These children's books aren't actually aimed at children. They can't be. Kids won't read books about the Ninth Circuit. These books are cheap propaganda items aimed at the neanderthal base of the Republican Party, for whom Ann Coulter's screeds are over their heads. There are millions of them. They'll buyt them "for the children" but they'll read them outloud to the poor tykes over and over again for their own education.

It reminds me of the theory we've all seen circulated about why Bush always sounds like he's lecturing to five year olds when he has one of these town meetings. ("See, social security should make you feel secure. That's why the word security is in the name, see...") The only reasonable explanation for this infantile rhetoric is that he's regurgitating these explanations as they were explained to him.


Think about "The O'Lielly Factor for Kids." It is aimed at the the reading level of Big Giant Head's followers, who read at the level of kids. Talking to them about abstractions like the Bill of Rights is like reading "Principia Mathematica" to a pit bull -- they grasp the fact that we are talking, but they quickly figure out that it has nothing to do with them. It isn't just that those folks wouldn't read Greenwald's book -- they are simply incapable of doing so.

The long-term answer is obviously education. But I don't know what the short-term answer is -- The Constitution paint by Numbers?

Net neutrality update

Following the "close but no cigar" pattern, yesterday net neutrality fell just one vote short in the Senate Commerce Committee. The vote was 11-11 with one Republican joining all of the Dems in supporting neutrality, but under Senate rules that still counts as a loss.

The good news is that Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has signalled an intent to filibuster if the Stevens bill is not modified to include neutrality protections, and the bill's sponsor, Ted Stevens (R, Temper Tantrum) may not be able to defeat the filibuster.

Thank you, Senator Wyden, for understanding what is at stake here, and for doing something about it.

Read more @ Save the Internet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Smart Car is coming!


DaimlerChrysler AG will team with former auto racer and businessman Roger Penske to sell a funky and fuel-efficient two-seat car in the U.S. starting early in 2008, the automaker’s CEO said Wednesday.

The decision — announced by DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche during an appearance in Detroit — is a watershed moment for the company’s Smart car unit, which has not posted a profit since it was formed in 1998.

Penske’s United Auto Group Inc. will be responsible for picking potential dealers and developing and maintaining a Smart vehicle dealership network throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It will focus mainly on highly populated areas and have 30 to 50 dealerships, Penske said.

Smart will sell the next generation of its “fortwo” model, which has been popular in Europe. It gets an average of 40 miles per gallon in combined city-highway driving and will sell for less than $15,000. The company says it can get up to 69 mpg on the highway.


This is great news. I have driven both a ForTwo (shown above) and a ForFour in Europe. We got two adults and two big suitcases into a car so small you can park sideways where other cars have to park parallel. The Tahoe/Hummer/Bulgemobile crowd will dismiss them as toys, and they wouldn't make sense in Wyoming, but here in the Bay Area it is the perfect commuter car. San Francisco has literally thousands of parking spots between driveways that normal cars can't take, so Smart cars will be able to park damn near anywhere.

Roger Penske is no Malcolm Bricklin. He wouldn't be doing this unless he smelled money, and he has pretty impressive track record. So I think this is a good thing pretty much all the way around.

I'll be plunking down a deposit as soon as I can.

Arlen Specter's greatest hits

Senator considers suit over Bush law challenge - The Boston Globe

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter, said yesterday that he is "seriously considering" filing legislation to give Congress legal standing to sue President Bush over his use of signing statements to reserve the right to bypass laws.

Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, made his comments after a Judiciary Committee hearing on signing statements, which are official documents that Bush has used to challenge the constitutionality of more than 750 laws when signing legislation .

Bush has issued more signing statements than all previous presidents combined. But he has never vetoed a bill, depriving Congress of any chance to override his judgment. If Congress had the power to sue Bush, Specter said, the Supreme Court could determine whether the president's objections are valid under the Constitution.

"There is a sense that the president has taken the signing statements far beyond the customary purviews," Specter said at the hearing. He added that "there's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes, excluding the provisions he doesn't like. . . . The president has the option under the Constitution to veto or not."

But a lawyer for the administration, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michelle Boardman, testified that Bush has shown Congress respect by using signing statements instead of vetoes when he has concerns about parts of bills.

"Respect for the legislative branch is not shown through [making a] veto," Boardman argued. "Respect for the legislative branch, when we have a well-crafted bill, the majority of which is constitutional, is shown when the president chooses to construe a particular statement in keeping with the Constitution, as opposed to defeating an entire bill that would serve the nation."
At which point, Specter, broke out in song with this little-known "Wizard of Oz" outtake:

I could while away the minutes
Strengthening the Senates
Confoundin' Mike DeWine
The rule of law I'd favor
Lady Liberty, I'd save her
If I only had a spine.

The Bill of Rights I'd honor
More than Sandy Day O'Connor
Separate powers I'd define
Bush's over-reachin'
It's quite wrong I'd be a-teachin'
If I only had a spine.

Oh, I could tell you why
The Constitution weeps
I'd talk about the crimes of the neocon creeps
And how the Senate soundly sleeps

I would not be just a nuffin'
My torso full of stuffin'
My power undermine(d)
Impeachment they're deservin'
And subpoenas I'd be servin'
If I only had a spine.

Specter then collapsed in a gelatinous mound and agreed never to bring up the subject again.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Now that's what I'm talkin' about

Last Friday I mentioned that Rahm Emanuel had taken my suggested approach to the Coulter question. Kos reports that Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb has been eating his Wheaties, too:
The campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb today called the attacks on Webb's patriotism by Allen's campaign, "weak-kneed attacks by cowards" and demanded that Allen and his campaign apologize.

"George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb's position on free speech and flag burning. Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards. George Felix Allen Jr. needs to apologize to Jim Webb and to all men and women who have served our nation," Webb spokesman Steve Jarding said.

On Tuesday, George Felix Allen Jr. and his campaign issued a press release in which the Allen campaign, through Wadhams, implied that Webb's position in support of the Free Speech Amendment to the U.S. Constitution amounted to a political act and not a defense of our Constitution, which Webb fought for and for which he was highly decorated. George Felix Allen Jr. did not serve
...
"While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.'s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield," Jarding said.

"Is Dick Wadhams willing to publicly say that Colin Powell, John Glenn and Bob Kerrey are unpatriotic for having the same position on the flag burning amendment that Jim Webb has? Ask him," Jarding said.


Heh.

Indeed.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Flattery

Me, last May: Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me 87,453 times, shame on me.
Note to mainstream media: there's this concept called credibility. The way it works is that the extent to which you give credence to what someone tells you today is based upon the truth value of things they told you yesterday. Shall I repeat that for you? Use smaller words?
Ace political cartoonist Mike Luckovich, last week:




His lower total suggests that he must be applying a more exacting standard as to what constitutes being fooled.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The issues of the day

Lots of folks are pointing out that the rumored troop withdrawals now being discussed are a lot like what the "cut and run" Democrats proposed only a week ago. They are predicatbly howling about the hypocrisy of the Administration for embracing today the very policy they savaged yesterday.

Well of course it looks like Orwellian hypocrisy from a policy standpoint. But none of this has ever really been about policy, people. Congressional Democrats won't get credit for the apparent turnabout. Congressional Republicans couldn't have gotten credit if they had chimed in, either. I think the appropriate lens through which to view this is Glen Greenwald's: the White House is only concerned with defeating challenges to its absolute, unilateral power. The Bush/Cheney team will utterly reject any and all attempts by Congress to assert any role whatsoever in the GWOT. That is the dominant dynamic at work here.

And then there is the swiftboating of Kos. We shouldn't really be surprised at the attacks or their maliciousness. Kos calls what blogs are doing "Crashing the Gates;" we should expect that the gatekeepers will fight back, and that they will slime the figureheads of the movement that threatens their primacy.

There are a couple of things going on here. First, I think it is growing acknowledgement that we are fast becoming a serious thorn in the sides of those gatekeepers. The New Republic screws up; blogs rub their noses in it. Judy Miller leads the Times into disgrace; blogs makes sure Bill Keller and Pinch Sulzberger pay a price. If anything I am surprised it has taken this long for the Swiftboating to begin.

As per Ghandi's observation, we are now officially well past the "first they ignore you" stage. I think this pretty solid evidence that, as I said a few weeks ago, we are moving past the "then they ridicule you" stage. The fighting stage is going to be ugly.

But the outlandish claims from the likes of David Brooks are simply laughable. The idea that the left can function as a cohesive force under a centralized authority is absurd to those of us who actually make up this herd of cats. There are times many of us wish Bobo's fantasy had a grain of truth to it, but it seems to be an ironclad rule that a group of n lefties will have n+1 leaders. Kos may be the closest thing to a leader that the left blogosphere has, but by the standards of a far more disciplined and hierarchical right, Kos has less command-and-control power than your average Republican precinct captain.

What we have here is a textbook case of projection. The right is disciplined and top-down; Kos's attackers are of the right, or at least familiar and comfortable with it; they assume that the left, which is largely a black blox to them, is similar. It is a stupid, obvious mistake, but they seem to be making a lot of those.

Oh, and what Homme d'Poor says.

Let's revisit this whole Internets thing

My latest up at Raw Story has generated a little more discussion and email than usual. But what I am seeing does not exactly fill my heart with song.

I try to write about important and controversial subjects most of the time, but when I take on a subject as polarizing as Ann Coulter I guess I should expect to attract a little extra attention. Reading through the comment thread at Raw, I am of course disappointed to see how it has deterioriated into a flame war between a pro-Coulter troll and a few lefties willing to take the flame-bait. The fact that so many are so easily distracted is sad, but I've seen that pattern many times before. The wheat-chaff sensors in so much of America are in dire need of adjustment.

On the other hand, some have actually attempted to grapple with the substance. And that is where I have been a bit surprised. One emailer writes,
I am a registered Republican, ideologically a consistent benevolent individualist and I can tell you that it is a mistake to analyze the dynamics of a large, ideologically and culturally diverse organization as you are.
and
If you think you can shame prominent Republicans by the actions you suggest you are wrong.

Now I guess I should be happy that such people are reading my stuff -- getting outside the left echo chamber and being heard in the other one is a very good thing. But I am not sure this reader actually read what I wrote. Does this sound like I was painting all Republicans with the same brush?
Republicans have been able to maintain a Kabuki symbiosis with all manner of cave-dwellers by speaking in an elaborate, dog whistle-like code. They hold racists, homophobes and rapture acolytes close enough to keep their votes without ever having to either publicly embrace or disavow such extreme viewpoints. That relationship with white-sheet America has been essential to their electoral strategy for decades.
The whole point of the piece was that there are at least two flavors of Republican voters, and that Coulter provides a wedge to separate them.

And I never said anything about shaming prominent Republicans, a prospect I agree is nearly impossible. Shaming them is not essential to the effectiveness of my gambit. If they embrace Coulter's vitriol, so much the better. As I said, "It matters little, so long as we force them to go one way or the other. "

Then there is the Raw Story commenter who said,
My only argument with this editorial is the equating of Michael Moore with Ann Coulter as if she is his right-wing equivalent. Whether one agrees with him on everything or not, Moore is not a rabid hate-filled maniac like Coulter. Let's be careful not to validate their demonization of Moore.

Now here is what I said about Moore:
When Michael Moore had the gall to confront Americans with the footage of our deer-in-the-headlights 9/11 President in 2004, Republicans were quick to force Democrats to distance themselves from such blasphemy. They savaged as "Michael Moore Democrats" all who would not disown him. That cleft has contributed to the alienation of the grass roots of the party from those who chose respectability over populism.
...
We need to make Ann Coulter the third rail of Republican politics, just as Michael Moore was for Democrats two years ago. (They can be equally significant as symbols; there is obviously no comparison in talent or accuracy.)

Was I not being clear enough there? Did I leave open to interpretation what I think of Michael Moore?

As jaded as I think I am, I guess I can still be surprised by the ways in which people can hear what they expect to hear and miss what is actually being said. That may be the self-limiting problem for blogs -- the shortcomings of all other forms of written communication affect us, too.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

This (Ugly) Week in Baseball

First, Ozzie Guillen, career low-rent loudmouth, takes his high profile pie hole to new depths:

"After the Chicago White Sox manager (Ozzie Guillen) used his second anti-gay slur in a year, he offered three different non-apologies on Wednesday, including the claim that he loves Madonna and the WNBA, just like every other gay person."

OutSports.com reports: "White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who on Tuesday called Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a "fag," is just the latest in a long list of athletes who have issued the patented "non-apology" for an insensitive comment. By deflecting blame or not addressing the real issue, athletes for years have managed to somehow appease people by offering a post-screw-up statement that kind of sounds like an apology but isn't. Guillen has treated us to several laughable non-apologies with this one incident."

Oh, yeah, Ozzie's been lovin' gay people for ever-so-long a time. This from a 2005 WaPo article I happened upon whilst reading about his latest screed:

Unlike the majority of managers, who measure every word and try to be as vanilla and non-controversial as possible, Guillen has no governor switch on his mouth. He is, at various times, goofy, outrageous and profane. He has an opinion on everything, and he's happy to share them all with you. He never needs to go off the record because half the stuff he says is so vulgar and ridiculous, he knows it will never make print.

And, yes, occasionally his mouth gets him in trouble. Beghtol lives in fear of these moments, but sometimes, like an overmatched boxer, he's powerless to stop them. Guillen's mouth is too big, too strong.

Guillen has been suspended this season for calling an umpire a liar. He riled some of his players by telling reporters during a late-September losing streak, "We flat-out stink." He once suggested reliever Damaso Marte was faking an injury. He got in trouble this year when he pointed to an old friend he had spotted during batting practice, and said to the pack of reporters, "Hey, everybody. This guy's a homosexual. This guy's a child molester."

"Ozzie is the Hispanic Jackie Mason," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf explained, when asked how he deals with Guillen's talkative tendencies. "If you look at him in that light, you don't worry about anything he says."
Of course, if you look at him with your eyes open, Jer, what you see now is the inevitable consequence of trying to pass off grandiose bigotry as "colorful" once too often. Let's see if he ducks out on mandated sensitivity training as he claimed he would. Not that you can teach a pig to sing, anyways.

Had enough? The national pasttime isn't through with you yet:

The Philadelphia Phillies gambled a piece of their public image Saturday for three runs and seven hits in five innings.

The Phillies decided to let Brett Myers pitch a day after he was arrested for hitting his wife. He was booed repeatedly at Fenway Park in a 10th-inning defeat against Boston.

The pitching line for Brett Myers at Fenway Park was not nearly as significant as his presence. The day after Myers was arrested and arraigned on charges that he assaulted his wife, the Phillies allowed him to take the mound, another startling development in a trying weekend.

...
The Phillies did not seriously consider taking Myers out of his slot. When Pat Gillick, the Philadelphia general manager, was asked Friday why he would not push Myers back in the rotation, his response was refreshingly honest but potentially inflammatory.

"I think it's in the best interest of the club," Gillick told reporters. "He's our best pitcher."

Executives faced with similar situations often tell reporters that it is unfair to discipline a player before the legal process unfolds. But Gillick did not give the pat answer.

He implied that his decision might have been affected by Myers's ace status.

...
"It's disappointing that the Phillies didn't consider Brett Myers's status as a role model when they decided to play him in this game," Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said in a telephone interview. "It sends such a bad message to kids who watch sports. When someone who has just been arrested for assault is the starting pitcher, it seems like there are no consequences."

The incident between Myers and his wife, Kim, took place on a street corner. Courtney Knight, a witness, told The Boston Globe: "It was disgusting. He was dragging her by the hair and slapping her across the face. She was yelling, 'I'm not going to let you do this to me anymore.'"

...
Myers expressed little remorse Saturday, apologizing only that "it had to get public."

Sorta makes you long for the good old days of the steroid scandals. Heckuva job, Buddy. Keep it up and you might land yourself a job at FEMA.

Specter caves

Specter: Agreement on eavesdropping near

The White House is nearing an agreement with Congress on legislation that would write President Bush's warrantless surveillance program into law, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday.

Bush and senior officials in his administration have said they did not think changes were needed to empower the National Security Agency to eavesdrop - without court approval - on communications between people in the U.S. and overseas when terrorism is suspected.

But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and other critics contend the program skirted a 1978 law that required the government to get approval from a secretive federal court before Americans could be monitored.

"We're getting close with the discussions with the White House, I think, to having the wiretapping issue submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Specter told "Fox New Sunday."

...

Specter has said that the president "does not have a blank check" and he has sought to have administration ask the special court to review the program.

Predictably enough, Specter's solution to the problem was to hurry up and write the administration a blank check, preferably backdated. I used to think that Abu Gonzales must have been taking Arlen into the men's room in the Rayburn building and using the Louima approach to persuasion on him, but at this point it's difficult not to assume that Arlen simply lacks the courage and integrity to do the right thing. His political biography is really shaping up to be a pathetic read.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

No, no, no . . . the other kind of democracy

When Dubya incants his "when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" mantra, he must not mean standing up to include standing up to us. This from Newsweek: Iraq Govt. Plan Calls for U.S. Withdrawal Timetable
A timetable for withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq. Amnesty for all insurgents who attacked U.S. and Iraqi military targets. Release of all security detainees from U.S. and Iraqi prisons. Compensation for victims of coalition military operations.

Those sound like the demands of some of the insurgents themselves, and in fact they are. But they're also key clauses of a national reconciliation plan drafted by new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who will unveil it Sunday. The provisions will spark sharp debate in Iraq—but the fiercest opposition is likely to come from Washington, which has opposed any talk of timetables, or of amnesty for insurgents who have attacked American soldiers.

WMDs
Sadam-al Qaeda ties
torture
nurturing democracy

Next?

East Carolina, part II

Matt Stoller gets it right in response to this pearl-clutching nonsense from the WaPo interpreting the "study" from two researchers at East Carolina University finding that "Daily Show" viewers are more cynical than non-viewers.

As Matt points out, WaPo columnist Richard Morin (the next Richard Cohen, perhaps?) projects his entire anxiety closet of fears into a trivial and meaningless study about the effects of watching Jon Stewart.

Regular readers will recall that this story is old news here at Blue Meme Central. I took the East Carolina study apart more than a month ago. Please go ahead and read the linked post now. Go ahead, we'll wait for you.

Done?

Now here's a funny extra: I got an email a few days after the first post from someone who claimed to be a student of one of the "researchers" (echoed in one of the comments) claiming that said prof, Dr. Morris, is a liberal "Daily Show" fan. Said student objected to my guess as to the motives behind the study, but could offer no counter to my substantive criticism. I have no idea what Morris' peronal beliefs are. All I can say is that if Dr. Morris could not see how his study would be used by media and politicans who are, to put it mildly, not fans, he is clueless to a degree even academicians rarely achieve.

Or perhaps Morris is coldly cynical himself -- using a highly misleading but media-friendly fluff piece to advance his own career at the expense of larger truths. Which, when you think about it, is a lot like what Cohen Morin accuses Stewart of doing.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Somebody gets it

Rahm Emanuel Challenges Republicans to repudiate Ann Coulter

Turns out that Rahm Emanuel is actually on the case on hanging Coulter around Republican necks -- back on June 9, in fact:
That doesn’t matter to Ms. Coulter because she’s doing it to enrich herself. But there is something more sinister in Ms. Coulter’s words: The hate she spews is the same kind of hatred we’re battling in the war on terror. As a country of thought and reason, I urge all of us to reject it. I must ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: DoesAnn Coulter speak for you when
she suggests poisoning [..] Supreme Court Justices or slanders the 9/11 windows—widows? If not, speak now. Your silence allows her to be your spokesman.

And the response? Silence:
"It has also been one week since I called on my Republican colleagues to reject Ann Coulter's vicious attacks on the widows of 9-11.

"Not a single Republican elected official has stepped forward to reject her hate, so I have to conclude they are comfortable with her as their spokesperson.

"Their silence is deafening. Apparently it's OK to exploit 9-11 to shore up your own sagging poll numbers or make a quick buck. So rather than see 9-11 as a moment to unite America, Ann Coulter and her followers have chosen to divide and demonize fellow Americans.

Where the hell are the rest of the Dems?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ann Coulter Republicans

New polemic @The Raw Story.

And, just because you are all so special, here is an outtake from the column:

I have seen a lot of speculation lately to the effect that her hellmouth persona is a schtick. I don’t know if the intent in making that point is to somehow lessen her moral culpability. But which is worse: heartfelt bigotry, or a willingness to foment bigotry in others simply to make a buck? So she gets no credit from me for being some kind of anti-matter Stephen Colbert. At best she is perhaps more like Ali G creator Sacha Cohen’s Kazakh character Borat Sagdiyev, leading the denizens of a country western bar in a rousing chorus of “Throw the Jew Down the Well.”

What? You were expecting my Jackie Chan imitation perhaps?

Blogging means never having to completely follow Hemingway's advice to "kill your darlings."

If wingnuts were horses...

Victor Davis Hanson is at it again. His latest wingnut wish-a-thon is titled Democrats unlikely to regain power in November or 2008.

Now I am not at all confident that events will prove him wrong here, as they have so completely in Iraq. But his reasoning is so ... well, wingnutty that I feel compelled to point out a few of his logical sleights because, as is so often the case, Vic's falsehoods today are the lockstep wingnut talking points tomorrow.

1. Vic thinks Katrina has been neutralized as an issue because
Last September, many people blamed what they viewed as a stingy federal government for the chaos after Hurricane Katrina. But now we learn individuals' fraudulent claims and spending accounted for $1.4 billion in federal largess. Too much was apparently thrown around from big government too generously, rather than too little, too slowly.


Got that? When po' folks defraud the government, that is far more politically relevant and far worse than when Halliburton and its kind defraud the government. And when Republicans screw up by spending our money poorly in a way that resurrects the "welfare queen" meme, that is somehow bad for Democrats, too.

2. Vic's Plamegate spin is in overdrive.
Karl Rove was supposedly going to be "frog-marched'' out of the White House in cuffs for a role in outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. Instead, the special prosecutor recently found no evidence that he was involved in any wrongdoing.

Now I have to admit that recent developments in this case have taken much of the wind out of my sails. But if Fitzgerald has announced that there was "no evidence" Rove "was involved in any wrongdoing," that sure is news to me. Indeed, as I recall, public information made it abundantly clear that Rove outed a covert CIA agent. Last time I checked, that counted as wrongdoing. Neither Rove nor his lawyer have made this claim, but you can bet that the storm troopers will be making it at every possible opportunity.

3. Vic's rose-tinted view of Iraquagmire has not changed.
The recent killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the establishment of a complete Iraqi democratic Cabinet will not ensure a quick victory, as we see from the recent slaughter of American captive soldiers. But both events still weaken the liberal clamor that the American effort at birthing democracy is doomed in Iraq.

I suppose we could give Vic the benefit of the doubt here and assume that his editorial was submitted just after Zarqawi's death but before the rapid escalation of violence, the deeply troubling communication from our Iraq embassy, the capture, torture and execution of two young American soldiers, etc., etc.

But even if Vic gets a pass on that bit of silliness, there is simply no excuse for this:
Calling for a deadline to leave, as Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., advocate, is not so compelling when the current policy is based on training the growing Iraqi security forces so that American troops can come home as soon as possible.

Would that it were true, Vic. But nobody in the Bush junta believes or even wants that. Dubya has already said our soldiers will be there when his successor takes office in 2009. And although the House has now come out against permanent military bases there, I put little stock in that fact.

On some of the other stuff Vic talks about, it is frankly hard to argue -- the dismal records of northern liberals as Presidential candidates since 1960, for example. But when you strip away the fallacies, misstatements and absurdities, there just ain't a lot of meat justifying his lofty position as the thinking man's wingnut.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Interesting quiz

A blog I have never seen, Give Up Blog, has a list of 14 qutoes, which came from either Coulter or Hitler. How many can you correctly identify? I got 13/14 (and I'm not convinced that they are right about the one I got wrong). (Aravosis only got 10.)

The wingers at Reason are not amused.

I have submitted my own take on Coulter to Raw Story, which I assume will see fit to share it with you shortly.

Update: It didn't really occur to me the first time through, but I'm guessing the reason the wingers are upset is because they had much more difficulty distinguishing the 20th century insane person from this year's model. If they could score as well as Bloor and I did, they could have easily concluded that the test merely proves how different the two are, and would hold it up as evidence for their position.

Heh, indeed.

How not to raise money

In a curious effort to convince members of their target demographic group to open their wallets, NPR decides to wrap up their fund-raising drive by airing an homage to Christopher Hitchens. Guy Raz opens his piece by noting that the drink-soaked popinjay is already on his second drink by the time they meet (in a bar, natch), observes that Hitch consumes no fewer than four double scotches and three glasses of merlot during their four hour lunch, and lets Hitchens's claim that drink sharpens his thinking go unchallenged. It goes down hill from there.

If you must, you can listen here.

Senate denies working public an up or down vote on living wages

Senate Rejects Bid to Raise Minimum Wage

The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade.

The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval and came one day after House Republican leaders made clear they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it might pass.

The Senate vote marked the ninth time since 1997 that Democrats there have proposed _ and Republicans have blocked _ a stand-alone increase in the minimum wage. The debate fell along predictable lines.

"Americans believe that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty. A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He said a worker paid $5.15 an hour would earn $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."

...

Democrats had conceded in advance that this attempt to raise the minimum wage would fare no better than their previous attempts. At the same time, they have made clear in recent days they hope to gain support in the coming midterm elections by stressing the issue. Organized labor supports the legislation, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said that contrary to some impressions, most minimum wage workers are adults, not teenagers, and many of them are women.

"When the Democrats control the Senate, one of the first pieces of legislation we'll see is an increase in the minimum wage," said Kennedy.

His proposal would have increased the minimum wage to $5.85 beginning 60 days after the legislation was enacted; to $6.55 one year later; and to $7.25 a year after that. He said inflation has eroded the value of the current $5.15 minimum wage by 20 percent.

With the help of a few rebellious Republicans, House Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee succeeded in attaching a minimum wage increase last week to legislation providing funding for federal social programs. Fearing that the House would pass the measure with the increase intact, the GOP leadership swiftly decided to sidetrack the entire bill.


Shoving the sanctity of the "up or down" vote back up Frist's foxhole will be fun come campaign season, but I rather more like the idea of pushing the meme that only "rebellious" Republicans are interested in helping Americans feed and clothe their children.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

U.S. weighs shootdown of N. Korea missile

The Bush administration is weighing responses to a possible North Korean missile test that include attempting to shoot it down in flight over the Pacific, defense officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Because North Korea is secretive about its missile operations, U.S. officials say they must consider the possibility that an anticipated test would turn out to be something else, such as a space launch or even an attack. Thus, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of attempting an interception, two defense officials said, even though it would be unprecedented and is not considered the likeliest scenario.
...
Although shooting down a North Korean missile is a possibility, the Pentagon also must consider factors that would argue against such a response, including the risk of shooting and missing and of escalating tensions further with the communist nation.
...
Robert Einhorn, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. shootdown of a North Korean missile on a test flight or a space launch would draw "very strong international reaction" against the United States. He saw only a small chance that the U.S. would attempt a shootdown.
...

Baker Spring, a Heritage Foundation analyst and strong advocate of U.S. missile defenses, said he believes that "in theoretical terms" the U.S. system is a capable of defeating a North Korean missile. And he thinks that if the North Koreans launched on a flight pattern that appeared threatening to the United States, the administration "would be well within its rights" under international law to shoot down the missile.
Mr. Spring's "theoretical terms" are likely the same set of terms that have Kyra Sedgwick abruptly deciding that Kevin Bacon is a loser and dedicating the rest of her life to me. The biggest risk here isn't that an attempted shootdown would provoke anger from other nations; laughter and ridicule are far more likely responses.

Self-censorship run amok

from LAObserved via boingboing:

LA Observed: Protecting reporters from—what? *
Peacefire.org, which keeps track of the political websites and other non-sexual sites that are blocked by content filters, sent a note to subscribers saying that its own website can't be read on computers in the Los Angeles Times newsroom.

Irony isn't just dead -- it has been so mutilated that even dental records are of no use in identifying the body.

The Rude One nails it

The Rude Pundit asks the elephant-in-the-room, wrenching questions about the American soldiers kidnapped in Iraq:
What if we learn that their captors decide that the soldiers can offer intelligence that can be of use to al-Qaeda and, in order to get that information, the captors put the nude soldiers into rooms that are heated to hellish temperatures, followed by rooms that are impossibly cold with colder water tossed onto them? What if the soldiers are made to stand for days on end? Put into stress positions that fuck up their muscles and limbs? Denied sleep? Had loud music played into their cells? Kept in isolation and fed bread and water for days, weeks on end?

What if they strap one or both of those Americans to a board and hold them underwater until their drowning reflex forces them to panic, thrash, claw desperately for air, only to be brought up to breathe and then placed underwater again? And again? Until the captors get the answers they seek?

What if those captors take the nude, sleep-deprived, shit and piss-covered, nearly drowned and dog-frightened American soldiers and handcuff them to beds with women's panties on their heads, snapping photographs and laughing, talking about publishing the photos so that everyone can see the soldiers with their panty-sniffing heads and terror-shriveled cocks, so that all of al-Qaeda can laugh at what pussies Americans can be made to seem?

What if, and, really, does it need to be said, they are made to stand, hooded, with faux electrodes attached to their nuts and fingers, told that if they don't start answering questions, well, testicles only can take so much electroshock before they just pop like squeezed grapes?

What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit...anymore"?

But the answer, alas, is obvious. Dick Cheney will tell us that no one could have anticipated that our crimes would be used against us. George Bush will tell us that, as with nukes, torture is a weapon America can have and use but that is too dangerous to entrust to others who might abuse it. And the press will remain wilfully and completely blind to the contradiction between our outrage and our guilt.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Peas in a pod

When we who blog rant about the Washington Democrats and how difficult it is to find daylight between them and their Republican counterparts, the argument is generally anectdotal. The Real News Project has done some heavy lifting, and compiled some damning evidence. They have documented the revolving door betwen high-dollar corporate whoring and the campaigns of the Democrats we excoriate as toothless, compromised shills. The Real News Project - 25 Democratic Consultants proves to my satsifaction that we were not just imagining things.

Cui bono, indeed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Defeat from the jaws

As difficult as Iraq has been, Afghanistan was supposed to be easy. As endless as the cycle of violence in Iraq has been, the victory in Afghanistan was supposed to have been secured four years ago. But as the WaPo reports, this, too has been transformed into complete failure.
As fighting in Afghanistan has intensified over the past three months, the U.S. military has conducted 340 airstrikes there, more than twice the 160 carried out in the much higher-profile war in Iraq, according to data from the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East.

The airstrikes appear to have increased in recent days as the United States and its allies have launched counteroffensives against the Taliban in the south and southeast, strafing and bombing a stronghold in Uruzgan province and pounding an area near Khost with 500-pound bombs.
...
"I think the Taliban realize they have a window to act," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the 22,000 U.S. troops in the country, said in a recent interview. "The enemy is working against a window that he knows is closing."
...
Commanders say the combat is more intense than in the past three springs, both on the ground and from the air. The offensive has coincided with an effort to wipe out opium poppy crops in the south, resulting in an alliance between wealthy drug traders and anti-government Taliban forces. Anti-government fighters are moving in where the government has left a vacuum, especially where there is money to be made from drug trafficking and extortion.
...
The attacks have been executed by aircraft ranging from large B-52 bombers to small Predator drones, and have employed attacks including 2,000-pound bombs and strafing.

I have made this point many times before: you don't drop 2,000 pound bombs on land that you control. Large-scale aerial bombardment is a far more telling acknowledgement of our failures than the absurdist posturing of Rummy's lieutenants.

The failure in Iraq has been a boon to Bush's oily allies. But I think the loss of Afghanistan is a failure in every sense, the product of malign neglect and callous indifference.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mark Crispin Miller on election fraud

RFK Jr. made the case, Salon printed a largely inapposite response. Salon declines to print the counter from Miller, who has been all over the issue. THis is from Miller's response as printed @ The Huffington Post:

The DNC report is typical of that cowed, calculating party, whose managers consistently deny the evidence of fraud, even though the consequence is their assured political castration. Why exactly would they take that suicidal course? The reasons generally given for their silence on the subject are preposterous on their face. Kerry won't discuss the issue frankly on the record, we've been told, because he's worried that the media will smack him for it. ("They're saying that, if I don't concede, they'll call us sore losers!" he reportedly said to a stunned John Edwards just before he called it quits the morning after.) That may be what Kerry, among others, actually believes, but it's absurd, as no amount of public scorn, however withering, could ever be as frightening to a democratic politician as the twilight of democracy itself.

We also hear that Democrats have been reluctant to speak out about election fraud because they fear that doing so might cut down voter turnout on Election Day. By such logic, we should henceforth utter not a peep about election fraud, so that the Democratic turnout will break records. Then, when the Republicans win yet again, because they've rigged the system, how will all those Democratic voters feel? Maybe those who haven't killed themselves, or fled the country, will recover just enough to vote again. Would it then be prudent for the Democrats to talk about election fraud? Or would it still seem sensible to keep the subject under wraps?

The argument is idiotic, yet the people who have seriously made it -- Bernie Sanders, Markos Moulitsas, Hillary Clinton's and Chuck Schumer's people, among others -- are extremely bright. The argument, as foolish as it is, does not bespeak a low I.Q., but, I would suggest, a subtler kind of incapacity: a refusal and/or inability to face a deeply terrifying truth. The Democrats refuse to talk about election fraud because they cannot, will not, wrap their minds around the implications of what happened in 2004, and what is happening right now, and what will keep on happening until we, as a people, face the issue. In short, whatever clever-sounding rationales they may invoke (no doubt in all sincerity), the Democrats won't talk about election fraud because they're in denial, which is itself based on a lethal combination of inertia, self-interest and, above all -- or below all -- fear.

The kind of vermin who rig American elections need darkness to do their evil. What is remarkable and and terrifying is that so many Democrats, when presented with evidence of infestation, insist on turning off the lights.

Just a number

“It’s a number, and every time there’s one of these 500 benchmarks, people want something.” White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Marine Corporal Michael A. Estrella, 20, of Hemet, Calif., was killed June 14, 2006, in Iraq.

He was not just a number. He was the 2500th American serviceperson to die for this particular mistake. But he was not just a number.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Credit Due

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Proclaimed a National Monument
Today, President George W. Bush signed a proclamation designating the waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument. The status confers immediate and permanent protection upon 140,000 square miles federal waters surrounding 10 islands and atolls creating the largest single conservation area in the history of the United States, and the world's largest protected marine area.
...

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is more than 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park, larger than 46 of the U.S. 50 states, and more than seven times larger than all the 13 national marine sanctuaries combined.

The archipelago is inhabited by more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to the 1,400 surviving Hawaiian monk seals, the entire population of this critically endangered species. These islands are the breeding ground for 90 percent of the threatened Hawaiian Island green sea turtle population. The waters are full of healthy corals and giant schools of fish. Enormous flocks of seabirds still breed and nest on these islands.

The 1906 Antiquities Act gives the President the power to designate monuments without consulting Congress. There are now dozens of monuments. Most are managed by the Interior Department's National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service, but the Agriculture Department's Forest Service operates a few.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will be the first national monument in Hawaii, and the first to be operated by the Department of Commerce under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

...

Praise for the President's action came from all quarters today. Congressman Ed Case, a Hawaii Democrat whose district covers the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, wrote a bill last year that would have required the strictest possible protection for the region. He declared himself "overwhelmed and overjoyed" today because the President's action implements "virtually all" of his bill, said Case, who was at the White House for the proclamation ceremony.


Good news for a change, and credit where credit is due. If you're ever on a game show and the host asks you where geologists have absolutely, positively determined that there are no fossil fuel reserves, this would be your best guess.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Armageddon Watch, Part IV

Neocon recidivist Michael Ledeen meeting in Rome with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. Military intelligence being run through a "special office" outside normal channels and under Rumsfeld's control. Sabre rattling about WMDs.

The run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Yes. And no. It is also what they are doing right now, with Iran as this year's model.

I argued almost two years ago that the Iraq war has been a ripping success by the metrics that Bush & Co. really care about. The fact that they are following the Iraq script to a tee sure seems to support my hypothesis.

Signs of The Times

From today's NY Times, p. A17:
President Bush said on Wednesday that he 'took a sigh of relief' when fderal prosecutors decided not to indict Karl Rove, his top political advisor, in the CIA leak case.

But Mr. Bush, speaking with reporters in the Rose Garden, still faces tough questions about the investigation. One journalist asked if the President believed that Rove owed any apologies for providing 'misleading' statements about his role in the case. Another asked, 'Do you have any work to do to rebuild credibilty that might have been lost?'

And how did His Nibs answer those questions?

Hey, you wanna know the answers to the questions other reporters ask, read their newspapers. We don't consider it news unless we are the ones asking the questions. We're the NY Times. We decide, you go elsewhere to be informed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Congratulations

Donald Hall to be new poet laureate

WHITE APPLES

when my father had been dead a week

I woke

with his voice in my ear

I sat up in bed

and held my breath

and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again

I would put on my coat and galoshes

The new voice of moral authority in American politics

Cher urges Congress on helmet upgrades

Oscar-winning actress Cher is headed to Washington to urge government officials to upgrade U.S. military helmets.

Cher has been promoting Operation Helmet, and will join the organization's founder, Bob Meaders, in urging a House Armed Services sbcommittee Thursday to provide safer helmets for military personnel.

Operation Helmet gathering donations to purchase helmet upgrade kits, which include improved straps and shock-absorbing pads.

The group has so far distributed 8,000 kits, which range in price from $75 to $100. Cher recently donated $131,000, expanding the group's ability to distribute more kits, ABC News reported.



My, Secretary Rumsfeld sure is getting it from all sides these days, no?

Pass the popcorn, please

Attack ads take their toll on Senate candidates

Why do politicians use attack advertising? Because it works.

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, challenger Stephen P. Laffey has taken a pounding on TV from incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, which has coincided with a sharp increase in the percentage of voters who view the Cranston mayor unfavorably, according to a new poll by the independent national pollster Rasmussen Reports.

Fifty-six percent of likely voters said they had an unfavorable view of Laffey, up 11 points from a poll six weeks ago, before Chafee unleashed a media ad campaign that accuses Laffey of saying one thing while doing another.

Chafee's "unfavorable" numbers are also up in the past six weeks, by 6 points, as Laffey has attacked the senator's record on national security.

The poll of 500 likely Rhode Island voters, conducted on June 5, also showed:

...

If Chafee wins the primary, he would face a hard race against Democratic candidate Sheldon Whitehouse, the former U.S. Attorney and state attorney general. Chafee leads Whitehouse 44 percent to 42 -- within the margin of error. The April poll had Chafee ahead 44 to 41. Noting that Whitehouse has maintained his position on Chafee's heels, pollster Scott Rasmussen suggested that "the race is a lot more dangerous for Republicans than we thought six months ago."

...

Rasmussen said in an interview yesterday that it's too early to draw hard conclusions about who will win in November -- most voters have yet to turn their attention to the political races. It's reasonable, though, that the attack advertising in the increasingly rancorous GOP Senate primary is moving public opinion, he said.

In the past six weeks, Chafee's favorability among all voters has declined from 64 percent to 59, while his unfavorable number has increased from 29 to 35.

Looking deeper into the numbers, a good portion of the decline in the senator's popularity seems to have come from people who consider themselves liberal. In the April poll, 77 percent of liberals viewed Chafee favorably; 20 percent unfavorably. In the new poll, his favorability among conservatives and moderates held steady within the margin of error, but now just 66 percent of liberals view him favorably; 31 percent unfavorably. For comparison, 23 percent of liberals hold a favorable opinion of Laffey.

Chafee-Whitehouse is certainly closer than I thought it would be at this point. Laffey's negative ads may be taking a toll, although RI's essential blueness may just be reasserting itself. In related news, Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, who is something of a putz but is typically an inoffensive, no-high-profile-need-to-throw-the-bum-out kind of putz, is neck and neck with Charles Fogarty, the Democratic challenger. It's good that liberal voters are finally waking up to Chafee's act, but Whitehouse will have to bust ass to get enough moderates going his way.

No word as to whether Chuck Schumer will back Chafee if he bolts the party and goes indie.

The Green Meme's option is renewed

DSCC may back Lieberman even if he loses primary
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) won't rule out Campaign backing of Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) should he fail to win his state party nomination in the primary, according to the Hotline on Call blog at National Journal.


Because Lieberman belongs to the only party Schumer is really loyal to: the incumbent party.

The photo op behind the photo op



No, not Klink and Schultz. Snow and Bartlett, looking very pleased to be flying the friendly skies over Iraq.

So many possible captions, so little time.

Men in flack.

Flacks in flack.

Another reason why there are no atheists in foxholes or the Bush Adminstration.

Feel free to chime in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Corner too far

John Derbyshire on Iraq on National Review Online
I’ve never been able to work up any guilt, either on my own behalf or the administration’s, about the WMD issue. So far as I am concerned, what did I know? Saddam’s behavior sure made it look as though he was hiding something nasty. As an ordinary citizen, getting my information from newspapers and the TV, I had every reason to suppose that the WMD claims were true. Just why Saddam was behaving like that is now a bit of a mystery. Possibly he was a secret fan of classic Chinese literature (or opera) attempting a sort of Empty Fort Strategy. As for the administration: Well, either they knew the intelligence was worthless, or they didn’t. If they knew, then their duty was to assume the worst, and present it to us as the worst. If they didn’t know, then they honestly believed the lousy intelligence. None of this excuses the CIA’s incompetence, of course; but even that incompetence serves the good conservative purpose of driving home to the populace the fact that the federal government sucks at pretty much everything.

So why am I eating crow? Because I think it was foolish of me to suppose that the administration would act with the punitive ruthlessness I hoped to see. The rubble-and-out approach was not one that this administration, or perhaps any administration in the present state of our culture, would be willing to pursue. The universalist dogmas that rule unchallenged in our media and educational institutions have fixed their grip on our foreign policy, too. When the Founders of our nation said “all men” they had in mind Christian Anglo-Saxon men. Our leaders, though, want to bring the whole world under the scope of those grand Lockeian principles.

Perhaps this will work, or perhaps it won’t. My belief is, and always has been, that it won’t. My fault was in not grasping the scale of the administration’s multiculturalist ambitions. (Of which, to be fair to them, they had given plenty of hints, and even one or two frank declarations of intent.) George W. Bush believes that, to borrow and adjust a line from the colonel in Full Metal Jacket: “Inside every Middle East Muslim there is an American trying to get out.” The effort to stabilize Iraq, and the reluctance to just leave the Iraqis to fight each other among the rubble, followed inevitably from that belief, which is, according to me, a false belief. I see all that now. I didn’t see it then. I am sorry.

Amazing in its own way. The Derb manages to do the right thing (admit he was wrong to back the Iraq war) while preserving his barbarity (we failed because we were insufficiently ruthless) , prejudice (the wogs just can't handle our freedoms) and stupidity intact.

And that bit in the first graf: sure, the Administration knew the intel was cooked, but booga booga booga! When you don't know squat, best go bomb the hell outa somebody!

Monday, June 12, 2006

That explains Richard Cohen, I guess

The WaPo has a stunningly misleading and inacurate editorial about Net neutrality today. It is unsigned, of course, but combines the how-dare-you-proles-presume-to-speak righteous shilling we expect from the new Mike McCurry with the rhetorical skill of WaPo's own Richard Cohen. From The Internet's Future:

(T)he big Internet firms -- Google, Microsoft, eBay -- that want their services delivered fast but don't want the pipe owners to extract fees from them.
Can they really be that stupid, or do they just think their readers are? Google already pays tens of millions of dollars in bandwidth and connection charges every year. The rest of us pay out the nose every month. And the pipe owners should be able to charge as much per megabit of data as they can get away with (assuming competition exists). They just shouldn't be able to decide your bits are better than mine. This straw man nonsense just refuses to go away.

But if you want triple-distilled stupid, its is hard to top this:

The advocates of neutrality suggest, absurdly, that a non-neutral Internet would resemble cable TV: a medium through which only corporate content is delivered. This analogy misses the fact that the market for Internet connections, unlike that for cable television, is competitive: More than 60 percent of Zip codes in the United States are served by four or more broadband providers that compete to give consumers what they want -- fast access to the full range of Web sites, including those of their kids' soccer league, their cousins' photos, MoveOn.org and the Christian Coalition. If one broadband provider slowed access to fringe bloggers, the blogosphere would rise up in protest -- and the provider would lose customers.

Got that? If they pull my plug, why I'll just scream bloody murder. But how, and to whom? And the fact there are multiple providers today is little guarantee that there will be more than one or two tomorrow? Consolidation and concentration of market power are happily encouraged by the current administration witness their attempts to relax ownership rules for traditional media. This argument is just too naive by far.

There's more:
Meanwhile, there are powerful arguments on the other side. If you want innovation on the Internet, you need better pipes: ones that are faster, less susceptible to hackers and spammers, or smarter in ways that nobody has yet thought of. The lack of incentives for pipe innovation is more pressing than the lack of incentives to create new Web services.

You can see this imbalance in Wall Street's low valuation of Internet infrastructure firms such as Verizon (price-to-earnings ratio: 12) and its infatuation with Internet service firms such as Google (price-to-earnings ratio: 69).

OK, maybe they really are that stupid. Telcos have low valuations because they are in a commodity business with minimal growth. Google is, well, Google -- a phenomenon that makes every other big company's P/E look feeble by comparison. And there will be plenty of incentive for pipe innovation so long as demand for bandwidth keeps growing.

And finally, this:
The weakest aspect of the neutrality case is that the dangers it alleges are speculative. It seems unlikely that broadband providers will degrade Web services that people want and far more likely that they will use non-neutrality to charge for upgrading services that depend on fast and reliable delivery, such as streaming high-definition video or relaying data from heart monitors. If this proves wrong, the government should step in.

Lessee, that wouldn't happen to be the very same government that will likely be encouraging the telcos limit unpatriotic talk, now would it?

It should come as no surprise that the old guard would scoff at the possibility that the Big Telcos might simply decline to transport the bits of folks like me. The WaPo crowd does not see that particular possibility as a bad thing, so I guess we shouldn't expect support for a free press from those who already own one.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chutzpah

Josh Marshall describes a corruption story that is, even in the context of DeLay, Cunningham et al, breathtaking in its brazenness. Appropriations Committee chair Jerry Lewis hired a high-powered lobbyist, Jeffrey Shockey, to help him divy up the our loot. Before taking the gig with Lewis, Shockey worked at lobbying firm Copeland Lowrey. Now get this: Copeland Lowrey paid him seven figures in "severance" - while he was on the goverment payroll. And the payments were contingent.
Now, you don't have to be too stringent to see that there's a problem here. Shockey's working at Copeland Lowery as an earmark-finder. Then he goes to work as the deputy staff director of the earmark committee, basically an earmark-giver. And he's still being paid by Copeland Lowery, which is of course in the earmark business.

But it's actually worse than that. You have to go to the article in the Times to find out that "under an agreement with Mr. Shockey, the firm waited to see how much money the clients he signed paid the firm in 2005 to determine the full payment."

In other words, Shockey didn't just have a continuing financial interest in Copeland Lowery to the extent he needed them to make enough money to honor their buy-out agreement. His income was still directly tied to how much his 'former' clients paid the firm in 2005 -- while he was working as a congressional staffer.


There's more, of course.

Like I said, the chutzpah just takes your breath away.

Nunberg nails it

Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg puts his finger on the ways the Democrats forfeit an essential aspect of the battle for hearts and minds:
The right's real linguistic triumphs don't lie in its buzzwords and slogans, but in capturing the ground-level language of politics. When we talk about politics nowadays — and by "we," I mean just about everybody, left, right and center — we reflexively use language that embodies the worldview of the right.

Time was, for example, that the media used "elite" chiefly for leaders of finance, industry and the military — as the British press still does. These days, the American press is far more likely to use it to describe "liberal" sectors such as the media, Hollywood or academia, instead of the main beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts. "Elite" has become a placeholder for the effete stereotypes the right has used to turn "liberal" into a label for out-of-touch, latte-sipping poseurs. The phrase "working-class liberal," for example, is virtually nonexistent nowadays, though people have no trouble talking about "working-class conservatives" — the implication being you can't be a liberal if you can't afford the granite countertops.

It goes on. The media are far more likely to pair "values" with "conservative" than "liberal," even as they more often describe liberals as "unapologetic" (liberalism apparently being something people should have qualms about owning up to). And you hear the same tone in the dominant uses of words like "freedom," "bias," "traditional," and many others, even in the so-called liberal media.

Yet when Democrats try to recapture the language of politics, it's often with a clueless literal-mindedness. Sometimes they seem to believe that they can shed the fatuous stereotypes simply by disavowing their own labels. Many people who would have proudly called themselves liberal 40 years ago have abandoned the name in favor of "progressive" — like what Ford did in 1960 when it remarketed the tarnished Edsel line with a different grille under the name of Galaxie, in the hope that nobody would notice it was the same car.

But "liberal" is too deeply etched in the split screens of the American media to be discarded, and Democrats who avoid it in favor of "progressive" only confirm the widespread suspicion that liberals aren't talking the same language as other Americans, even when it comes to pronouncing their own name right.

Or sometimes, Democrats assume that they can neutralize the Republicans' linguistic advantages by co-opting their terminology, insisting, for example, that they have "values" too. But words like "values" have no particular magic in themselves. Since the Nixon-Agnew years, "values" has worked for conservatives because, through disciplined insistence, they've made it the label for a whole file of narratives about liberal arrogance, declining patriotism and moral decay.

It's only in this context that words such as "values," "liberal," and "elite" have acquired their potent political meanings. Democrats can't recapture the language of American politics except by weaving counter-narratives that dramatize their own vision.

That's not a matter of concentrating on symbolic politics while slighting the economic and social programs that brought Democrats to the ball in the first place. From the Progressive reforms of the early 20th century to the New Deal to the Great Society, the most ambitious social and economic programs of the past have always rested on powerful stories that dramatized the stakes and invited people into "a project larger than their own well-being" (as the American Prospect's Michael Tomasky has put it), even as they shaped the language of political discourse in the bargain.

From Jimmy Carter and Mario Cuomo to Bill Clinton and John Edwards, most successful Democratic politicians have been instinctive storytellers. Conventional wisdom credits Clinton's 1992 victory to his insistence that "it's the economy, stupid." But it wasn't just the economy — it was the way he told it, as a story about how "people who work hard and play by the rules get the shaft." That's a miniature narrative, complete with characters and a plot, the size of a capsule movie summary. Today's Democrats, if they choose to, have equally compelling narratives of their own to tell, touching the middle class as much as the working poor. They're stories that dramatize the increasing disparities of wealth and the shift of the tax burden from the rich to the middle class; insecurities over job loss, healthcare, pensions and college education; and a government that has broken faith with the American people.


The fact that Democrats have acquiesced in the demonization of the word "liberal" is one of the great self-inflicted wounds of our time. At the rate our Constitution is headed for the scrapheap, it could end up a murder-suicide.

War rhetoric running on empty

Three Guantanamo Bay detainees hanged themselves using nooses made of sheets and clothes, the commander of the detention centre said, in the first reported deaths among hundreds of men held at the base.

The suicides, which military officials said were coordinated, triggered further condemnation of the isolated detention centre, which holds some 460 men, including Australian David Hicks, on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Only 10 have been charged with crimes and there has been growing international pressure on the US to close the prison.

Two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen were found dead shortly after midnight today in separate cells, said the Miami-based US Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the prison. Attempts were made to revive them, but they failed.

"They hung themselves with fabricated nooses made out of clothes and bed sheets," base commander Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris told reporters in a conference call from the US base in southeastern Cuba.

"They have no regard for human life," he said. "Neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us."

Military officials said the men, whose names were not released, had been held in Guantanamo Bay for about four years. All three detainees had engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite incarceration and had been force-fed before quitting their protest, base commander Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris said in a conference call from Guantanamo Bay.

I can't remember where I saw it, but yesterday I read something about how the word "war" has been devalued lately. I think the proof is right here. Our government held these nameless, faceless men incommunicado, without charges, right to counsel or any form of recourse whatsoever, for four years. What our government has done is widely regarded as a flagrant human rights violation. Our goverment has, through forced feedings, not to mention torture, abuse and other violations, taken away even the most basic physical self-dtermination from these men who have never been charged with any crime. Our goverment has signalled that this situation is expected to be permanent -- a life sentence without a trial.

Perhaps you will recall another, equally aggresive act of war against our puppets in Saigon from 42 years ago:



(Wingnut disclaimer: I am not of course, equating a pacifist Buddhist monk with Al Qaeda. I am equating setting oneself on fire as protest with hanging oneself as protest. I am equating Vietnam with Iraq. And as for a government that tosses its own humanity overboard the instant it hits stormy seas-- well, I leave it to you to choose the appropriate antecedent.)

And so every act that blackens the eye of our Adminstration, no matter how personal, is an act of war.

It would be melodramatic in the extreme for me to define my humble blog as an act of war. Yet I suspect the time is approaching when my government will define it so -- such is the current rate of inflation. The return to Hobbes' Bellum omnium contra omnes may well be Bush's real legacy.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Constitution as Cadillac

General Motors has a multitude of problems these days. One of the few problems they seem to have solved was the fact that, until recently, their customers were literally dying off. When Yuppies moved on to Bimmers and Mercedeseses and Lexi back in the 80s, the average age of its customers started rising dramatically, reaching well into the 60s. The only thing that saved Caddy was the adoption of the over-the-top Escalade by the bling-bling crowd, which is now driving that number back down.

Today I read Glenn Greenwald's "How Would a Patriot Act." If you are a regular reader of his excelent blog, the book will be a quick read, though you might be in for a shock if you haven't fully internalized the implications of what Glenn is talking about. He's absolutely right about the danger he sees and its magnitude.

Those two paragraphs have approximately nothing to do with each other, you say? Trust me.

I also attended Glenn's book tour appearance in San Francisco earlier today. Glenn in person is a lot like Glenn in print: earnest, focused, polite, factual and persuasive. A crowd of about 75 attentive and supportive people showed up.

The thing that really struck me was the average age of the attendees. I didn't formally poll, of course, but I'd wager that close to 90% of the attendees were Boomers or older. A couple of women self-identified as Raging Grannies. I only saw two or three people I would peg as being in their twenties or younger.

I think this a symptom of a larger and frightening problem. Where are the college kids? The long-ago anti-Vietnam protests were largely a youth phenomenon. Can it really be the case that the vanguard of the resistance almost forty years later is largely composed of those same people?

I know the folks at Yearly Kos are talking about the diversity they see there. Maybe the younger San Franciscans who would otherwise have come were all in Vegas. And maybe a Constitutional crisis over separation of powers is still too abstract to appeal to most twenty-somethings. But I worry that, like Cadillac's cars, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights no longer appeal to the young.

That would be a failure of epic and tragic proportions.

Thoughts on Zarqawi

Steve Benen @ Kevin Drum's place reminds us that we had several chances to take out Zarqawi before, but didn't because doing so would have reduced the momentum toward war. I think that killing him now will not increase momentum away from it.

In the double plus ungood world of Bushtopia, things are rarely what they seem, and good and evil often seem to trade places.

The junta is trumpeting the death of Zarqawi. By all accounts he was indeed a horrible, evil man. But I have a strong sense that taking him out will have exactly the opposite effect from that intended.

I suspect that the folks charting our hapless course are very much still in a mid-20th century mindset in their approach to this new enemy. It would not surprise me in the least if they expect the effect of Zarqawi’s execution to be much like the intended effect when the good guys tried to take out Hitler with a briefcase bomb back in1944 -- strike the head, the body falls.

But Al Qaeda isn’t the Nazi nation state. The hundreds or thousands of terror groups we have helped to motivate are not Al Qaeda. And the thousands of insurgents who currently simmer the unrest in Iraq are not (all) terrorists.

If the violence in Iraq continues unabated --- and my guess is it will -- the killing of Zarqawi may come back to haunt the Bush cabal. It will serve as proof that yet another aspect of their “strategy” is pointless, and that the dandelion analogy will moot all of our attempts to defeat violence with violence. And when “victories” such as this do not translate in to reduced body counts or troop withdrawals, the Zarqawi hit will start looking as pointless as the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner.

Oh, and doesn’t the fact that Zarqawi was fingered by his own people suggest that Al Qaeda used us to pick up an easy twofer – eliminate a rival/problem while gaining a useful martyr, all without appearing to take out one of their own? It sounds to me like Tony Soprano leaked about a troublesome rival boss to the feds. I don’t know enough to say, but it all sounds too pat -- I could easily imagine that this is a classic tactical victory contributing to a strategic defeat.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

T'aint funny, McGee

Jack Balkin offers a satirical version of an internal DOJ memo explaining why the flag burning amendment is uneccesary:
Under the theory of the Unitary Executive underlying Article II of the United States Constitution, the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief-of-everything-under-the-sun, has plenary and unreviewable authority to detain, try, punish and execute enemy combatants. Persons who trample on, deface, or destroy the flag of the United States symbolically attack the country and the principles for which it stands, which include, among other things, the principle of the plenary and unreviewable authority of the Unitary Executive. Therefore the President, as head of the Unitary Executive, has plenary and unreviewable authority to detain, punish and execute any and all persons who desecrate the American flag, regardless of any laws or treaties to the contrary.
...
Moreover, because the President as Commander-in-Chief and head of the Unitary Executive has plenary authority under Article II to repel invasions and attacks on the United States, as well as to prevent future attacks from occurring, it follows that the President has plenary authority under Article II to detain, punish, and execute any persons that he suspects, has reason to suspect, or has no reason at all to suspect may be conspiring in the future to desecrate an American flag or to defend, harbor or otherwise support persons who would desecrate an American flag.
I really wish JB would stop doing that. The air kind of goes out of the balloon when satire becomes indistinguishable from the thing it mocks, and might actually enable it.

Arlen Specter, Republican Bichon Frise

Perhaps the most salient characteristic of prominent Republicans is their set-your-watch predicatability. Team Dubya will bash gays every two years. Tom DeLay will shake down every lobbyist, fundie and bigot within a hundred miles. And yipping lapdog Arlen Specter, the ghost of Republican conscience past, will bark unequivocal outrage at the Administration's ongoing salvage operation, in which it sells the Constitution for scrap, before meekly lowering his head and tail and curling up at his master's feet.

I've had on open browser window for a couple of days now, intending to note Specter's last demonstration of his obedience-school manners.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday he will hold off subpoenaing the telecommunications chiefs while he works with the White House on his legislation that would ask a secretive federal court to review the constitutionality of Bush's surveillance operations.
A mere two days later, this aged Republican Bichon Frise is yapping again.
In a terse and highly unusual letter to Vice President Cheney, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today rejected the Bush administration’s insistence that a secret wire tapping program being conducted on U.S. civilians by the National Security Agency is legal, complaining that efforts by the White House to stonewall Congressional inquiries into the program “denigrates the constitutional authority and responsibility of the Congress and specifically the Judiciary Committee to conduct oversight on constitutional issues," ROLL CALL reports Wednesday.

This nonsense has simply played out too many times. Remember Specter's claim of independence on Roe v. Wade when he was up for the Judiciary Committee chair? When the Republicans threatened to walk past him at the dog pound, he quickly whimpered and licked every anti-abortion hand in sight. Remember his roll-over on FISA last month? I don't have time to append the long list of similar bark-and-piddle incidents that have characterized Arlen's canine persona for the last few years.

I somehow doubt that Cheney worries much about being gummed by this pathetic embodiment of the "all bark, no bite" epithet. Feel free to start a pool in the comments, betting on the day on which Specter backs off yet again.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More echoes

Me, yesterday, re: the Islamist victory over the U.S.-backed warlords in Mogadishu:
Can there be any doubt that there is at least some element of cause and effect here -- that our alliance with these warlords motivated many Somalis to finally defeat them?
Tomorrow's NYT:
A covert C.I.A. effort to finance Somali warlords has empowered the Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize, critics say.

I'm still adamantly opposed to being called a journalist. Critic, I can live with.

Feh.

Francine Busby lost in San Diego yesterday, failing to capture the seat vacated by convicted felon Duke Cunningham.

Taylor Marsh, guesting @ FDL, is still sure there is a pony in there somewhere. Her margin of defeat was only 4%, down from 22% the last time she ran. If Dems can tilt the results that much nationally, the thinking goes, the result will be a landslide.

Feh.

First, when I'm not trying to show my game face, I'm damned tired of trying to find encouragement in the honorable, we'll-get-them-next-time, oh-so-close losses. I expressed similar frustration in November 2004. The pattern is not encouraging. I have this existential dread that we are approaching the overthrow of the junta asymptotically.

I know San Diego is a Republican stronghold. And I know Busby managed to fire a round into her instep a couple of days before the election. But damnit, Bilbray is so plainly a Duke Cunningham redux. In voting for Bilbray, these fools effectively begged for further abuse.

I think we have to acknowledge the possibility that the Democrats are Pepsi, the Republicans are Coke, and we in the leftiblogosphere are the only ones who have figured out that the problem is the ubiquity of sugary, caustic soft drinks.

Update: As esoder noted in the comments, Robert Parry nails it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Would that it were funny

Bush Abrogates Third Amendment, Just to Complete the Set
American citizens will now be compelled to allow British soldiers to live in their homes, thanks to a new signing statement from President Bush.

By negating the Third Amendment, the new order completes the abrogation of the entire United States Bill of Rights. High-level White House sources have indicated that this was Bush’s sole purpose in issuing the statement.
...
The new signing statement was written into the margin of an unrelated bill blocking any recount of votes in the massive GOP sweep of the 2006 elections, giving Republicans a resounding majority in 53 states. Some Democrats mildly protested the vote count in December, citing mathematical studies which they claimed demonstrated that only 50 states had existed prior to the election. Republicans denounced this as “math,” and the question remained unresolved for weeks.


In this case the satirist is, like a liberal, right but too soon.

Greetings from a parallel universe

Did you know there is a place in which Joe Wilson was proven wrong about Iraq's WMDs? Where Scooter Libby performed a "public serice" when he leaked classified infomration? Did you know that a major newspaper in this parallel world believes that the prosecution of Scooter Libby "suggest(s) that senior government officials have no right to fight back against critics who make false allegations"?

There's the signpost up ahead -- the Wall Street Journal Zone.

Aiding and abetting

Last week:
Thirteen years after President Bill Clinton withdrew forces from Somalia, in the “Black Hawk down” shambles, American security officials are giving clandestine support to the same warlords who mutilated and humiliated US soldiers in 1993.

The American Operation, in breach of the United Nations’ arms embargo on Somalia and therefore in breach of international law, is controlled through the US Embassy in Kenya and Washington’s 1800-strong Combined Joint Task Force in Djibouti, on Somalia’s northern border.

This week:
NAIROBI, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Islamic militia, which has been fighting with an alliance of warlords since February, claimed control of Somali capital of Mogadishu Monday, according to reports reaching here from Mogadishu.

Can there be any doubt that there is at least some element of cause and effect here -- that our alliance with these warlords motivated many Somalis to finally defeat them? That the United States is now so reviled in the Muslim world that the worst sin you can accuse your enemy of is that they are allies of the Bush Administration? That anything we now do to puportedly counter the Islamists actually helps them? That George W. Bush is the bestest friend that Osama bin Laden ever had?




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