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Wednesday, December 31, 2003
In the last week, the bodies of two stowaways have been found in the wheel wells of planes landing at JFK airport. Good that we have this Orange alert thing going, because otherwise I might get worried that next time it would be something like, I dunno, a bomb, or a box full of almanacs or something.
Dean for President
I'm still optimistic.

Vindication is the best revenge.
Howard Dean stood up and said that capturing Saddam didn't make us safer. He was skewered in the press. One Orange alert and 20 US casualties in Iraq (so far) later, no one's talking about it.

Howard Dean stood up and said we should bring back regulations in some businesses. He was skewered in the press. One mad cow later, we've increased regulations on ephedra and the beef industry, and the President's political handers are now saying that he's not a deregulator.

Happy New Year
I'm really optimistic that we can change things.

Profiles in cognitive dissonance
SFGate has a profile of Patrick Guerriero, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans.
To some, Patrick Guerriero is the ultimate contradiction: a gay activist working within a political party that embraces many ardently anti-gay positions.
To others, he's an enabler in an abusive relationship. To still others, a plain old damn fool.
"To abandon completely one party because they are not perfect on these issues right now would basically delay equality for decades," said Guerriero, 35.
Whereas playing footsie with the likes of Rick Santorum will advance the cause so much more quickly?

At stake, he said, is nothing less than the future of the Republican Party, which he believes would be torn apart if anti-gay lawmakers are successful in passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"A fight for a constitutional amendment would create a civil war within the Republican Party and I believe would ignite a cultural war around the country," Guerriero said.

Civil war? More like the US vs. Freedonia. But maybe others in the GOP are more welcoming than I thought.
Conservative Republicans question, however, why people who disagree with them on such a basic issue want to be part of the same party.

"It's like someone who lives in Iceland and doesn't like cold. You wonder why they do it," said Glenn Stanton, a senior analyst at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Or maybe not. So how effective is Mr. Guerriero?
He's counseled the Bush administration to withhold its endorsement from the constitutional amendment and to avoid making this a huge issue in next year's presidential campaign.

Earlier this month, President Bush said he could support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Ashcroft, Plame, &c.
I did a quick item on this earlier, but another thought or two. Doesn't this ring rather hollow considering that when the whole thing started, Karl Rove - who worked on two of Ashcroft's campaigns - was widely thought to be on the "short list" of likely suspects?
Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey Jr., who announced the decisions at a news conference, said: "The issue surrounding the attorney general's recusal is not one of actual conflict of interest that arises normally when someone has a financial interest or something. The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance. . . . That's the reason he decided, really in an abundance of caution, that he ought to step aside." (Emphasis mine)
This, from the same article...
Several outside legal experts said the decision signals that investigators may be narrowing their focus to one or more likely suspects, and that some of those people may have ties to Ashcroft. Officials said the recusal order applies to Ashcroft and his entire personal staff, which includes a number of longtime political aides from his days as a Republican senator.
...sure sounds to me like another hint that we may yet see Karl Rove under oath.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
On the dead trees front
I've just finished this one
Bruce Sterling
And I'm now in the middle of
The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson
I highly recommend both. As soon as I finish The Diamond Age, I've got Franken and Moore waiting (just got 'em for Christmas!).
When is a jar of pickles like a pair of blue jeans?
When WalMart uses them to decimate the companies that produce them. Do yourself a favor. Don't shop there.
Boom? What boom?
via Paul Krugman:
t was a merry Christmas for Sharper Image and Neiman Marcus, which reported big sales increases over last year's holiday season. It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains.

Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right.

Commerce Department figures reveal a startling disconnect between overall economic growth, which has been impressive since last spring, and the incomes of a great majority of Americans. In the third quarter of 2003, as everyone knows, real G.D.P. rose at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. But wage and salary income, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. More recent data don't change the picture: in the six months that ended in November, income from wages rose only 0.65 percent after inflation.

So even though productivity has been going up, it hasn't been carrying wages with it. What's happening to that value? It's going into the hands of management and/or stockholders.

Krugman summarises beautifully:

The bottom line, then, is that for most Americans, current economic growth is a form of reality TV, something interesting that is, however, happening to other people.
Classified dirt?
From SunSpot:
Since the Environmental Protection Agency put Fort Meade on its Superfund list of the nation's most hazardous sites in 1998, regulators have been pushing for an aggressive cleanup of the 5,400-acre complex.

Despite repeated requests, though, officials at the National Security Agency have refused to share with either Army officials or government regulators crucial information about environmental conditions on its section of the Odenton post.

They're basically claiming that their dirt is classified, even though many of the pollutants at the site predate the creation of the NSA.
This gets my vote for scientific breakthrough of 2003.
It's an understatement to say the doughnuts are a little different at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.

The late night haunt caters to an after-hours crowd that's willing to wrap their gums around doughnuts shaped like voodoo dolls or flavored with Tang.

Store co-owner Kenneth Pogson says he even used to sell doughnuts glazed with Robitussin, Ny-Quil and Pepto-Bismol, before the FDA cracked down on him.

One of the oddest doughnuts currently on sale is a pastry filled with 100 mg of caffeine -- equal to about a cup-and-a-half of coffee. Pogson says the combo is for people who don't have time to drink coffee with their doughnuts.

Good news on the Plame front
John Ashcroft has recused himself from the investigation.
Dean Labels Bush 'Reckless'
Dean Labels Bush 'Reckless' (washingtonpost.com):
"From Iraq to homeland security to public health, President Bush's 'reckless' habit of placing 'ideology over facts' has resulted in 'the most dangerous administration in my lifetime,' Democrat Howard Dean charged over the past two days.

In Midwest campaign stops and an interview, the former Vermont governor said developments both abroad and at home give credence to his assertion two weeks ago that the United States is 'no safer' with the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

'If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert' to the orange level, Dean said Sunday night in Ankeny, Iowa.

'All the other Democrats pounced on me and beat me up and said how ignorant I was about foreign affairs,' he said. 'I think most people in America agree with me today and it's only two weeks later.'"

You go, Gov!
Go Read It for December 30
I hope you all read A Christmas Carol over the holiday. For the updated version, check out this item over at Seeing the Forest. I'll excerpt the quote that Dave uses as a jumping-off point:
"There's something at an individual level that people in the [Silicon] Valley have to sign up to do, as well. In this globally competitive marketplace, you have engineers in China that go to work from 8 (a.m.) to 10 (p.m.). The company feeds them lunch, a great lunch. They have great facilities, equal to the Valley. They serve them a great dinner, and they work six days a week. They go home to be with their families during a month during Chinese New Year. But after that, they're working hard, and they're really dedicated to what they're doing.

And so we have to recover from the sense of entitlement. Individuals have to want to get retrained. They're going to have to want to work hard. Sometimes I wonder whether or not we've lost that in the Valley."

Yeah, there's the problem all right. We Americans have gone soft. We feel like we're entitled to rational work hours and seeing our families more than occasionally. Not that the executives feel the need to apply the same standards to themselves, of course. But Dave says it better. Go read it.
About freakin' time, too.
Orcinus reports that the Texas terrorism story has finally been picked up by a major media outlet: The Christian Science Monitor. Does anybody doubt that if the group had been made up of Muslims we'd have seen wall-to-wall Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft for days on CNN?
Monday, December 29, 2003
It's lonely out in space?
From the folks at Reason magazine, it looks like the Russians have really adopted the lessons of capitalism. They're offering the world's first honeymoon trip to space for some rich couple. Join (join? start!) the 240-mile-high-club!

Also, NASA may have done some research into zero-G sex.

Pierre Kohler, a French scientific writer, claimed in another book that NASA had tested 20 positions by computer simulation and then arranged for two people to try the best 10 in zero gravity.

Only four were possible to reach without "mechanical assistance", according to Kohler. An elastic belt and an inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag, were needed for the other six.

What the Dickens...?
You know, I really wish this was funnier.

Update: Fixed link, sorry.

Sunday, December 28, 2003
Kids, don't try this at home.
The Kiddy Corner strikes again, this time in the person of John Miller, who says
Bill Frist has an op-ed in today's Washington Post headlined "The Zoo I Know." Sounds like a provocative piece on what it's like to be Senate Majority Leader. Except that it's really about (drumroll please) the National Zoo in D.C. I suppose it's okay for political leaders to have pet causes (no pun intended), but I wish Frist would spend more time figuring out how to get Bush's judicial nominees confirmed and federal budgets trimmed.
Yeah, like either Bush or the Republicans running congress want to have the budgets trimmed. I mean, what's stopping them?
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Why are we in Iraq?
Remind me.

via Seeing the Forest

Friday, December 26, 2003
Do you feel safer?
Terra alert up to orange in the US. 20 casualties in Iraq. Does anybody feel safer now that we've got Saddam? Karl Rove, maybe.

via Counterspin Central

Next round...
Apparently the next O-fish-al GOP Talking Point is that Gov. Dean is "pessimistic". Expect to hear it a lot. Personally, I think he's pretty optimistic. But hey, what's the difference, right?
More on BSE
Someone in the comments below pointed out another book which, by coincidence, I had in my hand earlier today that should be required reading for anyone concerned about BSE and the state of animal farming in America: Also, because I don't think that going vegetarian is the right answer,
You've almost certainly seen one or more of the special logos they put up from time to time over at Google. Well, here's a cache of all of them. I particularly like the one for Escher's birthday.
Apparently the Valerie Plame investigation is moving forward, though there's been precious little said about it publicly. All hail Dana Milbank at the Post for hanging onto this. Lots of good stuff in the story. Some highlights:
The Justice Department has added a fourth prosecutor to the team investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, while the FBI has said a grand jury may be called to take testimony from administration officials, sources close to the case said.

According to administration officials and people familiar with some of the interviews, FBI agents apparently started their White House questioning with top figures -- including President Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove -- and then worked down to more junior officials. The agents appear to have a great deal of information and have constructed detailed chronologies of various officials' possible tie to the leak, people familiar with the questioning said.

But sources said the CIA believes that people in the administration continue to release classified information to damage the figures at the center of the controversy, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame, who was exposed as a CIA officer by unidentified senior administration officials for a July 14 column by Robert D. Novak.

"The only fear I've heard expressed is that the investigation will be too slow or too fast and will kick into a visible mode in a way that is poorly timed for the election," the Republican [legal source] said. "If they prosecuted someone tomorrow, I don't think the White House would care. And they can do it in December 2004. They just don't want it to become an issue in the election. [emphasis mine]"

Is Bush really concerned about this, or is it just about the election? What's the difference?
How now, mad cow?
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the biochemist who discovered prions, isn't happy with Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman's response to the dangers of "mad cow disease". Perhaps he shouldn't have expected more from a former cattle industry lobbyist. The only reason mad cow disease had not been found here, he said, is that the department's animal inspection agency was testing too few animals. Once more cows are tested, he added, "we'll be able to understand the magnitude of our problem."

Meanwhile, you can look at how the problem was handled in the UK, and see if it looks like we're starting down the same bad road.

Or you can see what the beef industry is saying:

From the American Meat Institute, we learn the following:

And from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:
Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser

I can't begin to recommend this book enough at this point.

America's CEO?
Remember when people referred to Bush as America's CEO? How his management style was going to emphasize results and responsbility?
Newsday.com - Report: Bush Ignored CIA Uranium Warning:
"The advisory board found that the sentence made it into the speech despite CIA objections because 'there was no organized system at the White House to vet intelligence,' the Post reported. Intelligence matters in presidential speeches are now approved by a CIA officer."
Can anybody say with a straight face that the administration is competent at this point? Or that they take "responsibility" seriously in any sense that doesn't put "somebody else's" in front of it?
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
What does a guy have to do to get a Congressional bribe investigated around here?
Dave Johnson over at Seeing the Forest has more on Nick Smith and various and other sundry ought-to-be-scandals. But hey, bribe, contribution, what's the difference?
The biggest crisis since, er, um, the last one.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
Ah, Jonah. Mrs. Goldberg's little boy. Poster child for nepotism.
It's probably a bit risky to declare this amidst an "orange alert," but I think the events of December signal that it's time to declare President Bush's foreign policy a huge success.

Note: I didn't say it's an "unmitigated" success. We haven't found Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The reconstruction of Iraq is incomplete and could go south again. American troops are still dying. North Korea hasn't abandoned its nuke program yet. The Middle East "Road Map" is a still a road to nowhere. And Osama bin Laden is still at large - unless Madeleine Albright is right and he's actually being held in the same warehouse where the U.S. government hid the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first "Indiana Jones" movie.

But that's only the warmup! Oh, yes, the serious fun doesn't start until you get down to
While recent revelations about links between al-Qaida and Saddam are troubling (a recently discovered memo suggests that Mohammed Atta was trained by Abu Nidal in Baghdad months before 9/11), the real link between 9/11 and Iraq has been based in our newfound resolve. In response to those attacks, America said we're going to take threats seriously again.
Yes, Jonah swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. But the most impressive thing here is the idea that 9/11 is linked to Iraq because we are resolved that it is. Eh, reality, fantasy, what's the difference? Pass it on.
Merry Christmas to the timber industry
From Reuters:
The Bush administration opened up undeveloped areas of the largest U.S. national forest to logging on Tuesday, scrapping a Clinton-era rule aimed at protecting the wilderness.

The U.S. Forest Service announced that it will exempt the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska from a national rule prohibiting timber cutting in roadless areas. The decision means about 300,000 acres (121,400 hectares) of dense, old-growth rain forest will be available for logging.

The Tongass is America's last old-growth temperate rain forest. But man, it's no good if it's not out there generating profit. Preferably for large GOP contributors.
The two sides [environmentalists, fishermen, and hunters vs. loggers] disagree about the effect of roads on the forest. Environmentalists say they damage the habitat, while development advocates say they allow local residents better access to the forest for a variety of uses.
You know, that doesn't sound like they disagree about what the effect of the roads is, just about whether the effect is good or bad.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Theocracy now.
More evidence that the entire Federal government is becoming faith-based, from 365gay.com:
All images of gay gatherings at national sites, including the Millennium March on the Washington Mall have been ordered removed from videotapes that have been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 according to a civil service group.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says that the directive came from National Parks Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy. Murphy is said to have been concerned about pictures in the video that showed same-sex couples kissing and holding hands after conservative groups complained.

The Millennium March held in 2000 to bring attention to LGBT civil rights issues drew tens of thousands of gays and their supporters to the mall for one of the biggest demonstrations since the civil rights and anti-war marches of the 1960s.

Also ordered cut from the tape were scenes of abortion rights demonstrations at the memorial, and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations "because it implies that Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion rights as well as feminism."

In their place, the Park Service is inserting scenes of the Christian group Promise Keepers and pro-Gulf War demonstrators though these events did not take place at the Memorial in what Murphy calls a "more balanced" version.

"The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks."

Last July, Murphy ordered the Grand Canyon National Park to return three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses to public viewing areas on the Canyon's South Rim. Murphy overruled the park superintendent who had directed the plaques' removal based on legal advice from the Interior Department that the religious displays violated the First Amendment.

This fall, the Park Service also approved a creationist text, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book by Tom Vail, claims that the Grand Canyon is really only a few thousand years old, developing on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. At the same time, Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis.

Vail's book is...unusual. A synopis from Powell's Books:
Monday, December 22, 2003
Dispatches from Bizarro World
Don't miss this item about everybody's favoriite flaming Nazi gasbag (apologies to the Hindenberg). It's just full of...well...bizarro stuff.

First of all, Rush's attorney says he was being blackmailed by his housekeeper and her husband. Now, I've never personally been blackmailed, but as I understand it, it involves having done something illegal (or at least extremely embarassing) that the blackmailer knows about. File that one away for a moment as Exhibit A, and let's continue.

Black [Rush's lawyer] alleged that the Clines had threatened to go public with information about Limbaugh's drug use unless they received $4 million.
Ah. OK, so there was something wrong with his drug use. Let's detour for just a moment and point out that, like methamphetamine, opium, and PCP, oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance. It's not like someone was selling amoxicillin without a prescription. It's illegal to possess this stuff without a prescription. Recalling Exhibit A, it sure looks like Rush was illegally in posession of a controlled narcotic.

Black said Limbaugh wanted to contact the FBI, but was told by an unidentified friend that if he went to the authorities, they would target him, and his political enemies would use the information against him.

"That's exactly what happened," said Black, who also alleged that Cline's husband was a convicted drug trafficker.

Now this is the first place where it gets downright surreal. They threatened to target him if he went to the authorities. He didn't. They "use[d] the information against him" anyway. Does that make sense? And what's the bit about "political enemies"? It just screams "paranoia" to me.

Also Monday, a spokeswoman for the radio network that carries Limbaugh's show said discussions have taken place between Black and prosecutors about a possible plea bargain to resolve Limbaugh's legal troubles.
Hm. Now, it seems to me that rich defendants with high-powered lawyers aren't typically prone to plea bargain if they're innocent. Let's file that one away for a moment as Exhibit B.

Bellows [a spokeswoman for Premier Radio Networks] said Limbaugh, who recently completed treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, "certainly had more pills than he could ever use." However, she said Limbaugh never intended to sell the drugs.
Now we're getting to the quality entertainment. As though the point was whether he was trying to muscle in on his dealer's action.

"He wants this thing to go away," she said. "He won't admit to anything he didn't do." ... Limbaugh has insisted he has done nothing illegal.
I'm quite sure he wants it to "go away". It's going to be interesting, though, to see how he reconciles those two statements with a plea bargain; plea bargains don't usually involve admitting that you did nothing.

I wonder if this sort of denial was covered in his rehab?

They Just. Keep. Talking.
It's amazing. Every once in a while the press pulls its head out of its...whatever...long enough to ask a question that shows that they realize they're being fed a line of utter bullshit, and whoever's doing the feeding doesn't even hiccup. Take, for instance, this from the briefing by Tom Ridge after the announcement of going to threat level Orange:
QUESTION: President Bush has said in the past that the war on terror has greatly hampered al-Qaida's ability to communicate within its network. What does it say that now you believe that the chatter is at a greater point than any time since 9/11?

SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, first of all, I think the President's assessment is correct. I mean, we've decapitated or imprisoned from one-half to two-thirds of the known leadership. We have literally taken off the table for their use probably a couple hundred million dollars by freezing those assets. Those that were in leadership have been dispersed so the communication is more difficult.

So, in reality, all those -- that may be the reason that it has been so long -- I'm not going to speculate, but remember, we haven't raised this level of alert for over a half a year.

But make no mistake about it, the President has said this is -- we have to be into this -- we are in this for the long term, that in spite of the extraordinary success of the military and the CIA, the cooperation with our allies, the apprehension or death of a lot of the principals and the freezing the assets, this is still an international war, international terrorist cells including al-Qaida, and the fact that we are picking up information that results in us going to Orange, I think is a reflection of increased capacity, probably on our side, not necessarily greater ability on theirs.

I think the President's assessment is correct? Great Whomping Jeebus, man, you've just been giving a briefing that says that the President's assessment is...how shall we put it?...not consonant with reality. This is like genuflecting or something. It's reflex. It's like there's an implant back in the lizard brain that you have to get to work in the administration that makes you say things like that. I mean, it's nice an all that he can list all these accomplishments, but in the final result -- at least outside of Bizarro World -- if there's more chatter going on, then we haven't actually hampered their ability to communicate, now have we?
Does anybody here speak English?
Tom Ridge was making the rounds of the morning news programs after raising the terra alert level to "Orange":
"I think it's very, very important to send a message to the terrorists of goodwill and resolve," Ridge said.
What on Earth is that supposed to mean?
Most impressive
0 to #1 in 10 days. I guess he really is unelectable. Guess that's what you get for being a miserable failure.
What's important in Texas?
Not a bunch of wackos with a cyanide bomb, apparently, because you can't find coverage of that without looking pretty hard. But sell a vibrator and you'll make the papers. Amazingly, this woman is looking at a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted. More amazingly, narcotics(?) officers went undercover to attend a home "sex toy party" in order to arrest her.

Violet Blue, sex educator for Good Vibrations, is encouraging people to protest this by sending vibrators to the appropriate authorities, who are:

Narcotics Task Force
Johnson County Sheriff's Office
Administration Building
1102 E. Kilpatrick
Cleburne, TX 76021
Tell 'em Rick Santorum sent you. Not that I'd want to suggest putting
The Honorable Rick Santorum
United States Senate
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
as the return address on the package or anything....
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Well, what do you know?
Remember the "Clinton did nothing about al Qaeda" line? And the "Clinton bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan" line? Well, apparently they're no longer operational, because there's evidence that Iraqis visited the "aspirin factory" in the months before we blew it up. And even though that didn't matter up until now, now it can be used as evidence of an Iraq/al Qaeda connection, so now it matters. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

via Seeing the Forest

Things aren't (ever) as they seem
Yahoo news says that the Sunday Express (UK) is reporting that Saddam had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops to find. You know, I'd been wondering why everything seemed so "neat" and why Saddam didn't have any bodyguards around willing to fight for him.
Don't Leave Home Without It?
Saturday, December 20, 2003
You Better Watch Out...
The 18 Minute Gap has learned of plans to insert an amendment into the VICTORY (nee Patriot II) act which would be called the Surveillance of Arbitrarily Named Terrorist Agents clause. When reached for comment, Attorney General Ashcroft said only, "we'll know if you've been bad or good. Aaa! A calico cat! Wolfowitz told me they'd all been shipped to Guantanamo!"
The Birth Tax
They're calling it "The Bush Tax", but I prefer "Birth Tax". It's what every new American is going to be born owing thanks to Bush's budget deficits. In only two years, Bush has gone from a $200B+ surplus to a $500B deficit.

But fear not, they say, in hopes you'll believe them. The deficit will be as low as $170B by 2009...if. If no new tax cuts are enacted and spending grows only at the rate of inflation. And if you believe that one, I've got a nice bridge I'd like to talk to you about. Because, you see, they've already blown that out. Neither the Medicare deal nor the $87B for Iraq would be allowed under that scheme. And they're planning on extending tax cuts that are currently scheduled to expire -- again, not allowed. Bush would like to revise the alternative minimum tax to prevent middle income earners from having to pay it -- again, not allowed. And there's the spending contained in the energy bill, already passed but again...aw, you know.

If, along with those items, spending controlled by Congress grows at the average 7.7 percent annual rate seen since 1998, the resulting 2009 deficit would be $666 billion, G. William Hoagland, budget aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., warned senators in a recent memo.
Now let's remember that this has happened with a Republican White House and a Republican Congress. So explain to me again why people think the Democrats can't be trusted with the economy?
Here's an odd one...
According to USA Today, Gary Condit (remember him?) is suing the National Enquirer, the Globe, and the Star tabloids for publishing "false and defamatory" articles linking him to the death of Chandra Levy.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Listen to the conservative talk about "Bush haters" whenever anyone fails to sufficiently laud The Unelectable One. It is to laugh, really. If you want the real thing, a true screed with lots of vitriol, you have to go to the primordial source of hate in the US political scene today: the right wing hate for Hillary Clinton. Take this item, for instance, which begins, "This Clinton is heartless. Not your cunning, swindling Clinton. No, not that Clinton. The precocious governor from Arkansas would never have brought up dissent back home." It goes on in that vein to the point of comparing Hillary's visit to Baghdad with Jane Fonda's infamous visit to Hanoi during Vietnam.
Support our troops?
Remember all the talk about how things were going to be much better for the Military under Bush than under that draft-dodging Bill Clinton? As usual, reality doesn't quite match the rhetoric.
In a move that is increasingly unpopular with some of the nation's military personnel and retired veterans, the Pentagon has decided to award the same campaign medal to those serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. This decision, ultimately taken by politically appointed civilians from the Bush administration, is meant to subtly convey a central -- if increasingly controversial -- tenet of their worldview: that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the same seamless global military fight against terror.

This unfortunate and politically inspired decision breaks sharply with military tradition and does a disservice to veterans of these two impressive military operations.

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Where'd I put my tinfoil hat?
This (photos here) is interesting, and a bit weird.
The appearance of a line of light stretching the length of an inaccessible area of Kuwait has stumped both military and petroleum industry experts. The images were spotted by Hank Brandli, a retired Air Force meteorological officer, who picked them up from a nonclassified military weather satellite.

Civilian oil industry experts tell POPULAR MECHANICS that the location of the lights, which extend to the Iraqi border, does not correspond with known pipelines. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which had a presence in the region from fall 2002 through (at the time of this writing) fall 2003, said it was unaware of any pipeline construction.

Brandli, an expert on satellite image analysis, thinks it is a major pipeline project. "Maybe all they're doing is building a highway. But I think we're pumping oil out of Iraq to pay for this war."

An extremely impressive collection of origami by a Japanese artist. (via Boing Boing)
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Virtue is its own punishment
Replacements, which specializes in providing replacement pieces for china and silverware patterns that are no longer for sale by their makers, is located in Greensboro, NC. Its CEO is Robert Page, who is gay and who refuses to discriminate against gays. And of course, for creating such an environment and supporting equal rights, openly-gay CEO Robert Page receives hate mail from neocon robots which says things like, "You should support family values, not the homosexual agenda." His response: "[his] company believes all people are deserving of dignity, respect, and equal treatment. If that is also what you consider to be the homosexual agenda, I proudly support it."

Good for you, Mr. Page!

via Different Strings

Hope Rowland's watching...
WBEZ, Chicago, is reporting that former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) will be indicted by a Federal grand jury for extortion, racketeering, and income tax evasion.
The wisdom of The Unelectable One
More from the Diane Sawyer interview:
“If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that,” he said. “The position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or at the state level.”
Now maybe I'm at a disadvantage here because English is my first language, but doesn't the second sentence there directly contradict the first one?
Mr. Bush reiterated that he doesn't read newspapers and prefers getting the news — without opinion, he said — from White House chief of staff Andrew Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Well, that's a relief. Nice to know that Andy and Condi don't have any opinions, or at least can completely put them aside. Personally, I suspect that really means that Andy reads him Garfield, and Condi reads him Peanuts.
Those honorable Republicans
From the NY Times:
Gov. John G. Rowland vowed again Wednesday to ``finish what I started'' as governor despite the furor over his admission that he took gifts from employees and state contractors.
Presumably, he means that he still needs to redo the kitchen in his lakefront cottage.
I'm confused again. Help me out.
IBM is planning on moving about 4,700 programming jobs to India, China, and other countries. Well, you say, that's the free market at work! All hail the free market! So what's this, then?
In a speech this fall, IBM chief Sam Palmisano defended the practice of going to Asian countries for skilled labor, saying those nations not only offer lower wages but also have invested heavily in education and modern communications networks.

He said the United States should respond with increased investments of its own to remain innovative.

"China, India, South Korea and other rapidly developing nations are replicating the structural advantages that historically have made the U.S. the center of innovation," Palmisano told the Council on Competitiveness in Washington on Oct. 30.

"increased investments" sounds suspiciously like he's calling for (gasp!) more government spending. And moving jobs offshore to take advantage of spending by the Indian government.
So what's the difference?
Part of an interview of Bush by Diane Sawyer on ABC News (from LiberalOasis). There's more commentary there, well worth a visit. Sawyer presses him harder on the issue than a lot of people have, and some cracks start to show....
SAWYER: 50 percent of the American people have said that they think the Administration exaggerated the evidence going into the war with Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction, connection to terrorism. Are the American people wrong? Misguided?

BUSH: No, the intelligence I operated on was good sound intelligence, the same intelligence that my predecessor operated on. The – there is no doubt, uh, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Uh, the – otherwise, the United Nations, by the way, wouldn’t have passed, y’know, resolution after resolution after resolution demanding that he disarm. I first went to the United Nations, September the 12th 2002, and said: “You’ve given this man resolution after resolution after resolution. He’s ignoring them. You step up, and see that he honor those resolutions. Otherwise you become a feckless debating society.” And so for the sake of peace, and for the sake of freedom of the Iraqi people, and for the sake of security of the country, and for the sake of the credibility of international institutions, a group of us moved. And the world is better for it.

(Bush shows look of self-satisfaction)

SAWYER: When you take a look back --

(Video clip of Dick Cheney saying, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons -- ”)

SAWYER: -- Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Not programs, not intent.

(Shot of Bush shifting in chair, looking a bit annoyed.)

SAWYER: There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction.
Secretary Powell --

(Video clip of Powell at UN saying, “Iraq today has a stockpile -- ”)

SAWYER: -- said a hundred to five hundred tons of chemical weapons. And now the inspectors say that there’s no evidence of these weapons existing right now.

(Video clip of Bush at the State of the Union address saying, “significant quantities of uranium --”)

SAWYER: The yellowcake in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn’t have been in your speech.

(Graphic of Tenet and the quote “This was a mistake.” Cut to Bush cocking his head, still annoyed.)

SAWYER: Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs, again the intelligence, the inspectors have said they can’t confirm this, they can’t corroborate.

(Video of Bush at the SOTU again, saying, “suitable for nuclear weapons production -- ”)

SAWYER: “Nuclear” suggested that he was on the way on an active nuclear program.

(Bush’s right leg starts to bounce anxiously)

SAWYER: David Kay: “We have not discovered significant evidence of an active -- ”

BUSH: Yet. Yet.

SAWYER: Is it, “yet?”

BUSH: But what David Kay did discover was he had a weapons program. And had that knowledge --

SAWYER: Missiles.

BUSH: Let me finish for a second. No, it was more extensive than missiles. Had that knowledge been, uh, examined by the United Nations, in other words, had David Kay’s report been placed in front of the United Nations, he, Saddam Hussein, would have been in breach of 1441, which meant it was a causus belli. And, uh, look --
(Bush’s voice begins to rise)

BUSH: -- There’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous person. And there’s no doubt we had a body of evidence proving that. And there is no doubt that the president must act, after 9/11, to make America a more secure country.

(Look of self-satisfaction returns.)

SAWYER: Um, again I’m just trying to ask -- and these are supporters, people who believed in the war --

BUSH: Heh-heh-heh.

SAWYER: -- who have asked the question.

BUSH: Well you can keep asking the question, and my answer is going to be the same. Saddam was a danger, and the world is better off because we got rid of him.

(Raised voice cracks a bit on “rid.” A pause, then Bush shoots Sawyer an exasperated look as if to say “Get it?”, though with a bit of a smile.)

SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

(Smile's gone.)

SAWYER: Well --

BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were acquire weapons [sic], he would be the danger. That’s the -- that’s what I’m trying to explain to you. A gathering threat, after 9/11, is a threat that needed to be dealt with. And it was done after 12 long years of the world saying, “the man’s a danger.” And so, we got rid of him. And there’s no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone.

SAWYER: But, but again some, some of the critics have said this, combined with the failure to establish proof of elaborate terrorism contacts, has indicated that there’s just not precision, at best, and misleading, at worst. [sic]

BUSH: Y’know, uh, look (shakes head). What (chuckle) what we based our evidence on was a very sound National Intelligence Estimate.

SAWYER: Nothing should have been more precise?

BUSH: I – I – I – I made my decision based upon enough intelligence to tell me that the country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.

SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction?

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

(Pause, as both smile.)

SAWYER: And if he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction --

BUSH: You can keep asking the question. I’m telling ya, I made the right decision for America. Because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait. But the fact that he is not there, is uh, means America is a more secure country.

You see, the questions Just. Don't. Matter. Because he's telling us. And we should all listen, and not question. The second exchange in bold shows the extent to which faith-based policymaking operates. There's no way to falsify things once Bush has chosen to believe them. Reality? It Just. Doesn't. Matter. Here's a message you can take to your conservative friends, as well: if George Bush doesn't know you personally, doesn't believe in you, you Just. Don't. Matter.

I do love the fiction that the policy was based on the NIE, when the NIE was only developed after the Senate Intelligence Committee insisted on seeing one after the administration had told them what the policy was going to be.

Bad cop. No donut.
Mark Kleiman has a good recap on the Dallas police fake-drug scandal that I (like him) heard about for the first time on NPR this evening. The most fascinating part of the story, in many ways, is how they "field tested" 80 or so seizures of fake cocaine and reported positive results.

Boy, it's a good thing the liberal media has been all over this story, huh?

Inability to tell fiction from reality
I remember reading Speaker for the Dead and thinking that Orson Scott Card was a really good writer. Then I read a couple more of his books and mentally added "...for a lunatic." I haven't followed his politics, other than seeing some perplexity among some bloggers that Andrew Sullivan sometimes quotes him with approval despite his attitudes toward homosexuality. But a right-wing acquaintance pointed me toward this Opinion Journal article, which the editors there apparently failed to recognize as fiction. I suspect that the author made the same error.
Instead, their platforms range from Howard Dean's "Bush is the devil" to everybody else's "I'll make you rich, and Bush is quite similar to the devil." Since President Bush is quite plainly not the devil, one wonders why anyone in the Democratic Party thinks this ploy will play with the general public.
Card claims to be a Democrat, but certainly doesn't seem to have been paying any attention to "his" party's candidates. To describe those as "mischaracterizations" of their positions would be preposterously charitable.
But then I watch the steady campaign of the national news media to try to win this for the Democrats, and I wonder. Could this insane, self-destructive, extremist-dominated party actually win the presidency? It might--because the media are trying as hard as they can to pound home the message that the Bush presidency is a failure--even though by every rational measure it is not.
I'm not sure what "national news media" he's talking about, but it's not the one that I see blithely repeating everything coming out of the White House as though it were Holy Writ. And I wonder if Card doesn't consider the Federal deficit, the number of jobs lost, or the fact that the Administration flat-out lied about WMD as "rational measures" for considiering the Administration to be a miserable failure.
And the most vile part of this campaign against Mr. Bush is that the terrorist war is being used as a tool to try to defeat him--which means that if Mr. Bush does not win, we will certainly lose the war. Indeed, the anti-Bush campaign threatens to undermine our war effort, give encouragement to our enemies, and cost American lives during the long year of campaigning that lies ahead of us.
And, of course, opposition to Dear Leader is treason. Nicely finessed, along with the fiction that somehow it's wrong to use the war as an issue against Bush, but there's nothing wrong with him using is as a campaign backdrop.
Vietnam was a quagmire only because we fought it that way. If we had closed North Vietnam's ports and carried the war to the enemy, victory could have been relatively quick. However, the risk of Chinese involvement was too great.
I think you have to be a pretty good writer to get away with contradicting yourself completely in the space of three sentences. Really, was it "only because" of our bad choices, or was it because of "the risk of Chinese involvement"?
We lost the war when the Democrat-controlled Congress specifically banned all military aid to South Vietnam, and a beleaguered Republican president signed it into law. With Russia and China massively supplying North Vietnam, and Saigon forced to buy pathetic quantities of ammunition and spare parts on the open market because America had cut off all aid, the imbalance doomed them, and they knew it.
I'm not a Vietnam historian, but I'm immensely dubious of any formula that would put all the blame for years of bad American political and military choices on a single act.
I would not have chosen Afghanistan and Iraq to start with; Syria, Iran, Sudan and Libya were much more culpable and militarily more important to neutralize as sponsors of terror. (They say that Libya and Sudan have changed their tune lately, but I have my doubts.)
Pardon me? Now, Card is apparently either not aware or willfully ignoring that none of the Democratic candidates opposed the attack on Afghanistan. It was eminiently justified, as al Qaeda was actively involved in helping the Taliban run the country and bin Laden was operating freely there. So why on Earth would he have attacked Syria or Sudan? Don't look for answers in this article.

But then he veers off into complete fiction.

It's not just the war, of course. Notice that even though our recent recession began under President Clinton, the media invariably refer to it as if Mr. Bush had caused it; and even though by every measure, the recession is over, they still cover it as if the American economy were in desperate shape.
What can you say? The NBER disagrees that the recession began under President Clinton. And again, I don't know where he's finding this monolithic media that's not been reporting Bush's promises of new jobs at least as loudly as the truth that we're not creating jobs, or that's not been reporting Bush's promises of the wonders of tax cuts in years to come at least as loudly as the truth of huge deficits today.

Apparently even Lieberman isn't conservative, proper, and bloodthirsty enough for Card. Why is this man a Democrat? I don't ask that as an accusation, but out of confusion. He doesn't appear to like anything about the party, so why does he choose to identify with them?

Ashcroft News
One generally expects a certain amount of respect for the law from one's Attorney General. At least, that's the traditional view, which is apparently "no longer operational."
  1. from the Washington Post:

    The Federal Election Commission has determined that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's unsuccessful 2000 Senate reelection campaign violated election laws by accepting $110,000 in illegal contributions from a committee Ashcroft had established to explore running for president.

  2. from Wired News:

    A federal judge strongly criticized U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday for violating a "gag" order imposed during the first terror-related trial following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

    U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen said Ashcroft's office "exhibited a distressing lack of care in issuing publicly prejudicial statements" about the case.

    But the Detroit-based judge stopped short of ordering disciplinary action or filing criminal contempt of court charges against Ashcroft.

I really, really don't get this one.
Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen being held as an enemy combatant in the war on terror, continues to provide valuable intelligence to the government and will not be allowed access to a lawyer until those collection efforts cease, officials said Tuesday.

So the government is worried about Saddam getting a fair trial, but not so much with Padilla, an American citizen?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Hot Stove League note
I don't think I've ever seen this before.

The A's traded C Michael Barrett to the Cubs for the infamous player to be named later. This came one day after they acquired him from the Expos for, yes, a PTBNL.

A new usage that I love.
Ted at Crooked Timber has a good item about "dumpster diving", meaning "to react to a political event by going to a site where random people post, digging up the stupidest thing you can find, and trumpeting it as the position of The Other Side."

Quote I love: "The world is full to the gills with stupid people who say awful things on the Internet. Pointing this out doesn’t constitute a political argument."

I'd add to that, "In any argument, there will be people on your side whom you will wish were on the other side."

More endorsements.
Former Arizona Governor (and Clinton Interior Secretary) Bruce Babbitt has endorsed Howard Dean. I'm happy to see this, because I liked Babbitt when he ran for President. It's also a good thing because it broadens his support in the Southwest, where NM Gov. Bill Richardson is widely reported to be in favor of Dean though he can't give an official endorsement since he's chairman of the Convention next year.
Monday, December 15, 2003
What fools these mortals be...
David Frum, in National Review Online: For now, let’s say that while the President’s opponents have made much sport of the idea that God called George Bush to the presidency, it’s becoming increasingy difficult to doubt that God wants President Bush re-elected.

Um...Dave? I'm not sure what method you've been using to consult with Him, but I'd strongly suggest trying a different one.

Go Read It for 15 December
David Neiwert over at Orcinus has some interesting information about the Texas terrorists, which we've talked about here before. Pretty scary stuff, including information from the FBI that the cyanide bomb they had, if detonated in an enclosed space, could kill everyone in a 30,000 square foot area in seconds. That's the size of a hall that seats about 3,000 people. Go read it.
Before you get too excited....
Yes, it's a good thing that we captured Saddam. However...
Yahoo! News - Iraq Car Bombs Kill Nine Day After Saddam's Capture :
"If anyone imagined Saddam's capture would bring swift peace, the words of U.S.-trained Iraqi policeman Ahmed Ali may cause them to think again.

'We want this to lead to more attacks on the Americans. There will be a holy war against them. It will be much worse. We all love Saddam,' he said, standing near U.S. soldiers he works with in Falluja, confident they would not understand his Arabic."

I'm not sure which bothers me more: that he's a US-trained policeman, or that he was willing to say that within earshot of US soldiers.

via Billmon

Hot off the presses!

US Supreme Court Overturns Gore Endorsement of Dean

Transfers Nod to Bush in 5-4 Decision

Just moments after former Vice President Al Gore endorsed former Vermont Governor Howard Dean for President in Harlem yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned his endorsement by a 5-4 margin.

The Court, finding the former Vice President's endorsement of Mr. Dean unconstitutional, transferred his endorsement to President George W. Bush instead.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, "There's really no explanation necessary - we're the Supreme Court, and if you don't like it, you can stick it where the moon don't shine."

While some Democrats howled that the Court was inappropriately politicizing itself with its controversial decision, Mr. Gore accepted the ruling, saying, "After four minutes of partisan wrangling over this matter, it is time for us to move on."

Mr. Gore expressed some regret that his endorsement had been transferred from Mr. Dean to Mr. Bush, but added, "It'll be nice to be on the winning side for a change."

But Mr. Gore's endorsement could turn out to be a mixed blessing for the Bush campaign, as a survey of those who heard Mr. Gore's Harlem speech showed that 55% felt "drowsy" while 40% "lost consciousness altogether."

In other political news, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) decided today to reinvent his campaign once more, officially positioning himself as "the most potty-mouthed candidate ever to run for President."

In an interview with Rolling Stone released today, Mr. Kerry said, "If anyone f--king says that I'm not f--king qualified to be f--king president, I'm going to f--k them up."

via email

With a bit of reflection...
I was thinking this morning. If Saddam had any significant contact with the resistance, the so-called "fedayeen Saddam", why would he have been hiding out without any bodyguards? Just asking....
Sunday, December 14, 2003
So, um, how's that war on terra going?
Al Qaeda's Finances Ample, Say Probers (Washington Post, 13 Dec 2003):
Governments around the world are not enforcing global sanctions designed to stem the flow of money to al Qaeda and impede the business activity of the organization's financiers, allowing the terrorist network to retain formidable financial resources, according to U.S., European and U.N. investigators.
Could Jesus beat George Bush?
This came to me in an email from a fellow Dean supporter, who's as sick and tired as I am about the continued questions about "electability". Clearly, there's only one character here who's truly unelectable.

I know a lot of democrats think nominating Jesus Christ is a sure thing, but they are dead wrong. Sure, he's got the most supporters and is a fundraising powerhouse, not to mention a miracle worker son of God, but let's look at the facts in post-9/11 America.

Fact: Jesus Christ has NO foreign policy or national security experience.
He was a great man, and did a lot for the world, but did he ever have to deal with trade issues? Did he ever visit Rome? Does he have any military experience? The answer is a resounding NO. He spent most of his adult life as a carpenter or wandering around Israel preaching to people. He never had to hash out trade deals or bust an Al Qaeda cell. Bush clearly has a tremendous advantage here.

Fact: Jesus Christ is a loose canon. He has temperament problems, is unscripted, and shoots from the hip.
For example, he went into a temple and went into a tizzy against the moneychangers. He will be too easily attacked for his temperament problems. Bush will attack this repeatedly. I can see it now: "Jesus is all anger and will blow his top the minute things get tough"

Fact: Jesus Christ is soft on terrorism!
I mean, what's with this "turn the other cheek" stuff? He's just inviting another devastating blow against innocent Americans! That will not play well AT ALL in the post-9/11 world. He'll lose all 50 states.

Fact: Jesus Christ has a wimpy message and hung around shady characters.
Will the South go for someone who preached about loving your fellow man and hung around prostitutes and tax collectors? Hell no! The day before the election Bush will just send out phone messages saying he fathered a black baby, or something like that. His message won't play well in the south, and we NEED the south!

Fact: Jesus Christ is too religious for the left.
They will abandon the Democratic Party and vote Green. There's a whole host of church/state issues that will turn them off, and too many of his followers have an anti-gay message.

Fact: Jesus Christ has... ahem... kooky followers.
I mean, the KKK backs him, those Waco nuts, and those fundy preachers... Pat Robertson! What will the average voter think? They'll be turned off! Just think, Bush will run an ad of slow-motion shots of the KKK, with the message: "The KKK supports Jesus Christ. Do you?" The African American population won’t back him up. Instant defeat.

Fact: Jesus Christ will raise your taxes.
How will his "render unto Caesar" message resonate with middle class voters? He will be too easily attacked as a tax and spend liberal. We cannot win with that message.

Fact: Jesus Christ has never held elective office!
He will never be able to pass his agenda through Congress. He would have to just have direct intervention from God, which I'm sure the Supreme Court will rule unconstitutional. And what is his agenda, anyway? Just a lot of rhetoric with no details. These post-9/11 times are way too tough for a rookie to handle.

Come on, fellow Democrats, Wake up. Jesus Christ is a nightmare for the Democratic Party! This election is too important to put up a candidate like Jesus Christ. He's unelectable. Too liberal in some places, too conservative in others. We will lose in a landslide. This election will all be about national security. And Bush has him dead to rights on national security experience.

Don't drink the Christ Kool-aid.


Fox News's latest Opinion Dynamics poll shows Jesus Christ losing to George Satan Bush by 66.6 points. Bush dominates all demographic groups except lesbian farmers in the survey.
Finally, some coverage. Sort of.
The home-grown terrorists from Texas have finally made it into the pages of the New York Times. In the Op-Ed section. Despite the fact that they were found with a cyanide bomb, a half-million rounds of ammunition, and neonazi and antigovernment literature. And the fact that the FBI has so far served 150 subpoenas and is looking for more.
Saddam Hussein Captured Alive in Tikrit
Well, this is good news.
Saddam Hussein Captured Alive in Tikrit :
"American forces captured a bearded Saddam Hussein as he hid in the cellar of a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit, ending one of the most intensive manhunts in history. The arrest, eight months after the fall of Baghdad, was carried out without a shot fired and was a huge victory for U.S. forces."

Now I guess we'll find out how much of the resistance was just loyal to Saddam and how much is motivated by other things.

Saturday, December 13, 2003
Time to go, Joe.
Joe Lieberman, who campaign is getting no traction anywhere, is now comparing Wes Clark to Dick Cheney over lobbying that Clark did (and appears to have previously fully disclosed) seems really overblown and more than a little desperate. It's also (IMO) over the line for one Democratic candidate to be making that kind of statement about another. It's fine to criticize him if you have substantive grounds based on the lobbying activity, but the Cheney comparison (like the ad criticizing Dean with Osama bin Laden) is damaging to the party. If that's the best you can come up with, it's a sign that you're past the point of having anything useful to add to the debate.

Time to drop out, Joe. For the good of the party.

Marjorie Williams, at the Washington Post, points out the "flamboyant humility" of the Bush administration. It's just one of the little ways they irritate me.
What is this man talking about?
David Brooks, writing from another planet with apparently much less oxygen than this one:
Op-Ed Columnist: A Fetish of Candor:
"I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs.

Until the Bush team came to power, foreign relations were conducted with a certain gentlemanly decorum. The first Bush administration urged regime change in Iraq, without sullying itself with the Iraqi peasants actually trying to do it. The Clinton administration pretended to fight terrorism without committing the sin of unilateralism by trying very hard."

Let's see, this would be the same Bush administration which claimed - over and over - that not only did Saddam have WMD, but we knew (whether from satellite photos or Rumsfeld's ESP) where they were? And the same Clinton administration that actually captured a number of the people behind the first WTC bombing? And that appears to have finished off any WMD-making capabilities Saddam did have in 1998?

"Honesty and candor"? Please. How about some honesty and candor about who exposed Valerie Plame? No, I think the right word is unelectable.

Hot stove news
I'm very happy to hear that the Red Sox signed closer Keith Foulke for 3 years/$21M. They're also apparently talking to Nomar Garciaparra about extending his contract, so the deal for Alex Rodriguez may have fallen through. I can't be upset about having to "settle" for Nomar and Manny Ramirez, though.

The Sox now have three "closers" in Foulke, Williamson, and Kim. Kim may move to the rotation, though with Pedro, Schilling, Lowe, Wakefield, and Bronson Arroyo there's not lots of room there. I'm actually hoping they'll trade Kim and put Arroyo in at #5.

"Go read it" for 13 Dec.
Matt Yglesias, on the story that should have been headlined, "Bush Officials Outline Bullshit Deficit Plan". Though I disagree with him that "horseshit would have served as well. IMO, that should be reserved for baseball stories.
Vampire Legislation
From Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown:
Never before has the House of Representatives operated in such secrecy: Always in the middle of the night. Always after the press had passed their deadlines. Always after the American people had turned off the news and gone to bed.

And that's not all.

via Kos

We're letting them get away with it.
See Josh Marshall with more contempt for the law and, really, for all of us from the administration re the Plame affair.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Remember, they get paid for this.
Rich Lowry at The Kiddie Corner:
Dean and Kerry have both been really tough on Bush for supposedly unfairly cutting veterans off benefits. I’m interested in hearing from anyone who would have an informed take on this issue. Thanks!
Great Whomping Jeebus, boy, you're supposed to be a reporter. Ever hear of research?

No, I didn't think so.

Somewhere, right now, there are people blaming Bill Clinton for this.
BostonHerald.com - National News: Man found shot to death on 'X' marking site of Kennedy assassination:
"A man apparently shot himself to death early Friday on the ``X'' in Dealey Plaza that marks the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago, authorities said.

Witnesses said they saw a man in a camouflage jacket holding a gun on his chest and lying in the middle of the street on the spraypainted 'X', an unofficial memorial maintained by the publisher of a local conspiracy theory publication."

Wish I'd thought of that....
Just imagine, for a moment, the first press briefing of President Dean's administration. The reporters are gathered. And out steps press secretary........Al Sharpton.

from Suburban Guerrilla via Angry Bear

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Word for the day.
Unelectable. Pass it on.
Olympic security update
As a precaution, United States track and field athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympics might be discouraged from wearing red, white and blue or anything with "USA" when they are not competing.

You see, it's because the world loves us so much because of the leadership of our miserable failure, and the security people are concerned that our athletes may be mobbed by people throwing flowers. Or bombs. It's so hard to tell the difference sometimes.

I'm confused.
Maybe one of you smart readers can explain this Jim Baker deal to me. Is he Either way, it doesn't sound like a terribly good idea.
Please, tell me he didn't say that.
From Yahoo News:
Bush scoffed at a question seeking his reaction to Schroeder's statement on Thursday that international law must apply to the awarding of the contracts.

"International law? I better call my lawyer," he said.

Dean = McGovern?
Not at all, in my opinion. But Dave Winer has some interesting thoughts on the comparison. Somehow, I think that if we start answering, "So if Dean is McGovern, that would make Bush Nixon, right?" they'd stop with that nonsense fairly quickly. Or maybe not. Heck, some of the wingers are trying to rehabilitate McCarthy, why shouldn't they do the same for Nixon?
Through the Looking Glass
From the Washington Times:
But Republican strategists say the Bush campaign will seek to portray Mr. Dean as a tax-and-spend liberal who cannot be trusted on national-security issues.
Joe Trippi must be thinking he's died and gone to heaven. The man who turned a budget surplus into a half-trillion dollar deficit trying to paint somebody who not only balanced budgets but lowered the state's debt in Vermont as a tax-and-spender? And the first time somebody asks Dean whether he can be trusted on national security, I hope he responds with just four words:
Where are the WMD?
The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight (except at their feet)
Can we. Please. Let the grownups run the country again? Please?
Diplomacy: Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred From Iraq Deals:
President Bush found himself in the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq's debts, just a day after the Pentagon excluded those countries and others from $18 billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects.

White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq.
White House officials said Mr. Bush and his aides had been surprised by both the timing and the blunt wording of the Pentagon's declaration. But they said the White House had signed off on the policy, after a committee of deputies from a number of departments and the National Security Council agreed that the most lucrative contracts must be reserved for political or military supporters.

Those officials apparently did not realize that the memorandum, signed by Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, would appear on a Defense Department Web site hours before Mr. Bush was scheduled to ask world leaders to receive James A. Baker III, the former treasury secretary and secretary of state, who is heading up the effort to wipe out Iraq's debt. Mr. Baker met with the president on Wednesday.

I've always tried to follow the dictum of "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence", but with this administration I'm no longer sure which is which.

People who just don't get it.
Letter to the Editor in the 9 December Albany NY, Times Union:
The Nov. 30 editorial, "Deja vu at the FBI" complains that although "all" protests in opposition to the war in Iraq have "so far" been peaceful (which may not be so), the FBI has ordered local law enforcement agencies to report any suspicious activity at anti-war rallies.

The writer is alarmed that "once again" our government is "spying on" anti-war protesters and riding roughshod over their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and to be secure against unreasonable searches.

This, to say the least, is naive. The reality is that the government's failure to scrutinize anti-war demonstrations would constitute gross neglect of duty. Where would the Times Union have the FBI look for terrorists if not at anti-war demonstrations?

Gee, how about in Texas? Or in Florida? Seems to me that neither of those folks were associated with the anti-war movement.

Dissent is not treason, people. Keep reminding these yahoos of that, or you may find that is, after all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
This isn't going help Bush's plans to manufacture a withdrawal from Iraq before the election:
Pentagon: A Third of New Iraq Soldiers Quit:
"Plans to deploy the first battalion of Iraq's new army are in doubt because a third of the soldiers trained by the U.S.-led occupation authority have quit, defense officials said Wednesday.

Touted as a key to Iraq's future, the 700-man battalion lost about 250 men over recent weeks as they were preparing to begin operations this month, Pentagon officials said."

What the Kerry is going on here?
From today's press gaggle:
Q Can you tell -- good afternoon to you, too. Can you tell us why the Coalition Provisional Authority has told the Iraqi Health Ministry to stop counting civilian casualties in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of that specific -- you might want to check with the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Just so you know...
...what the kiddies over at The Corner think is important about the debate, this breathless dispatch from Rich Lowry:
The debate hasn’t started yet but the verdict from the press is already in--the food stinks. The talk of all the reporters is why couldn’t ABC provide a better spread? There is a huge bowl of granola and another of dried prunes and apricots. One reporter approached me with a handful of dried apricots bewailing her fate. “Couldn’t Ted Koppel do better than this?” But at least the chocolate-chip cookies look okay…
And if that's not enough, there is a series of posts claiming to be from the dogs of these highly paid journalists.

Remember, kids, these are trained professionals. Don't try this at home.

More on Iraq and aluminum tubes
via Steven Aftergood's Security News.

This seems to settle, once and for all, the claims that the aluminum tubes were part of a nuclear program.

"Since the fall of Baghdad last spring, no evidence has emerged that Iraq planned to use the aluminum tubes in centrifuges. Despite months of searching, the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) has not found any link between the tubes and a gas centrifuge program," [David] Albright[, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)] wrote.
The most damning thing one could say about an intelligence agency is not that it sometimes makes mistakes in analysis, which is inevitable, but that it refuses to admit its mistakes. When an agency cannot admit error, it cannot learn from its own missteps and is doomed to mediocrity.

In a recent publication, Stuart Cohen, Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, finds no reason to acknowledge a single flaw in U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It is the critics, he says, who have it wrong.

This is why the CIA's current estimates of North Korean capabilities are being met with skepticism on many fronts.
Grover Norquist: Islamist Fifth Columnist
via frontpagemag.com article by Frank Gaffney, a Reagan Defense official. If you can make it through the whole thing, you have a stronger stomach than I do.
Some people don't understand plain English
He's been asked the question before. And Howard Dean told a Boston TV station, I did not perform abortions. I'm a medical doctor. Nor did my wife."

But that hasn't stopped the right-wing Cybercast News Service from running this smear as part of a "news story":

Yet, Dean's extensive ties to the Northern New England chapter of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., including his internship and work as a contract obstetrician/gynecologist at one of the group's Vermont clinics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are producing more questions about the nature of that involvement at a time when Planned Parenthood was cementing its role as America's largest abortion provider.
A bit further down, we find that this is the handiwork of Ruth Dwyer, who ran unsuccessfully against Dean for governor of Vermont.
While admitting that she has no first-hand knowledge, Dwyer told CNSNews.com that, "I have a hard time believing [he did not ever perform an abortion], just knowing Howard." Dwyer ran unsuccessfully against Dean for governor in 1998 and 2000.
This is the same Ruth Dwyer who started the flap over Dean's sealed records by suggesting to Michael Isikoff of Newsweek that there were unsavory things hidden in them. She also at one point alleged that Dean was getting a free ride from Vermont's political reporters because they were all like him - Jews. (Dean, of course, is not Jewish, though his wife is. I have no idea about Vermont political reporters.)
But Judy Wechsler, a retired physician's assistant who worked with Dean in 1980 at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Burlington, Vt., said that since the facility where Dean worked did not offer abortion services, "that would not have been part of his clinical practice."

There are no facts in this story that would indicate that Dean was anything less than completely truthful when he said he had never performed an abortion, just unsubstantiated allegations. But facts don't seem to be terribly important in what looks very much like the first salvo of the general election campaign.

Your move, Howard. Go get 'em.

A picture is worth....
To our Canadian friends:
I've been to Canada several times. I only live about 3 hours' drive from the border. I like Montreal, and the maritimes are very nice. And I downright envy you having the CBC to listen to on the radio. Heck, the last time we were there, our three year old wanted to stay and be adopted by some friendly Canadian. Preferably one who owned a Tim Horton's. I even like poutine!

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, we're not all like this. Really.

Monday, December 08, 2003
What's the story today?
I (thankfully) missed Bush's weekly radio address last week, so thanks to Anarchy Xero for calling this one to my attention. At a fundraiser a few days ago, Bush claimed that he eliminated WMD from Iraq. Now either that statement is, as they say, "no longer operative" or two of his speechwriters are not talking to one another, because in his radio address he said, "For more than a decade, Saddam Hussein went to great lengths to hide his weapons from the world. And in the regime's final days, documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned."

Gee, and you thought there wasn't any looting until we took over.

The Latest from the House of Really Awful Ideas
From The Guardian:
Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."

How can you top that for an assessment. It is bonkers, insane. And just how are we going to identify who to whack? I'm sure Chalabi and his buddies at the INC will be happy to give us a list (of their enemies).

The only thing stupider than thinking that Iraq is exactly like Vietnam is thinking that it's nothing like Vietnam.

I am a happy man.
If you haven't already heard, Al Gore is going to endorse Howard Dean. It's a good day.
"Go Read It" for 8 Dec
The GOP goes Amway, from Orcinus. They're makin' a list, checkin' it twice....
This isn't your father's Mad magazine
And a good thing, too.

via News from ME

What really happened in Samarra?
There's an article at LewRockwell.com with some interesting analysis. It points out, among other things, that our military has claimed (with a straight face) that 60 fedayeen Saddam attacked our troops, 54 were killed and 11 injured, but we didn't have any bodies because the -5 remaining insurgents carried away the bodies for secret burial (the numbers are in the article, but he gets the math wrong).
"Mission accomplished" for Iraqi insurgents?
We were making progress at repairing infrastructure during the summer, but the picture looks different now...
USATODAY.com - Sabotage continues in Iraq:
"Long gas lines and lengthy power outages are again plaguing the capital city, the result of continued sabotage of oil pipelines and attacks on contractors.

'We are in a security clampdown,' Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike McAleer said. Some reconstruction work has been halted while officials examine the threat to workers.

Gas supplies and electricity have been a problem in the capital since Baghdad fell in April. Over the summer, however, the coalition made progress in rebuilding infrastructure. Gas lines dwindled and electricity reached a level of at least 12 hours of power every day in Baghdad."

Sunday, December 07, 2003
The Canadian Menace
via Pharyngula:

Winning those hearts and minds
Apparently we've decided to take a page or 15 from the Israeli playbook. And why not, because, gee, it's worked so well for them! I mean, when's the last time you heard about a suicide bombing in Israel?
Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns (NY Times)
As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire.

In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in.
Do I need to mention -- again -- the Geneva Convention impact of imprisoning "relatives of suspected guerrillas"?

The Americans embarked on their get-tough strategy in early November, goaded by what proved to be the deadliest month yet for American forces in Iraq, with 81 soldiers killed by hostile fire. The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territories.

So far, the new approach appears to be succeeding in diminishing the threat to American soldiers. But it appears to be coming at the cost of alienating many of the people the Americans are trying to win over. Abu Hishma is quiet now, but it is angry, too.

In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identification card printed in English only. [Emphasis mine.]
The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line. Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in anger.

"I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," he said. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam fell."
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."
In Abu Hishma, residents complain that the village is locked down for 15 hours a day, meaning that they are unable to go to the mosque for morning and evening prayers. They say the curfew does not allow them time to stand in the daylong lines for gasoline and get home before the gate closes for the night.

But mostly, it is a loss of dignity that the villagers talk about. For each identification card, every Iraqi man is assigned a number, which he must hold up when he poses for his mug shot. The card identifies his age and type of car. It is all in English.

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