Thursday, June 30, 2005


Stop The Estate Tax Repeal

Click here to find out how. As for why, here's what OMB Watch has to say:

Repealing the estate tax will give more tax breaks for the wealthy while having devastating consequences for lower and middle-income taxpayers. Only the richest 1 - 2 percent of our nation's families currently pay any estate tax at all. These are people with estates larger than $1.5 million for an individual or $3 million for a couple. These exemption levels will rise to $3.5 million ($7 million for a couple) by 2009. Nearly half of all estate taxes are paid by the wealthiest 0.1 percent of the American population – a few thousand families each year. Repealing the estate tax would result in multi-million dollar tax cuts to the heirs of America's millionaires and billionaires, concentrating wealth and political power in fewer hands. Eliminating the estate tax will reduce federal revenue by nearly $1 trillion over the first ten years of full repeal, a serious blow to the Treasury at a time of when we face the growing fiscal challenges of an aging population, rising health care costs, unmet education needs, homeland security, and other challenges still unknown. This revenue loss will be made up by raising taxes on lower and middle-income taxpayers and/or by cutting services that families depend on. Repeal of the estate tax would also have a harmful impact on charitable giving to colleges, hospitals, museums, and nonprofit and charitable organizations assisting the poor and disadvantaged. The estate tax is scheduled to be completely repealed only in 2010 and then fully reinstated in 2011. However, pro-repeal forces in the U.S. Congress are continuing to push for permanent repeal or for an acceleration of the repeal date.
Here's some points from a friend of mine:
America has entered a new Gilded Age yet our leaders lack the fortitude to do anything about it. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the last 20 years. Today, the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans take in fully half of the country's income while the poorest fifth takes in just 3.5 percent. The notion of permanently repealing the estate tax in this context is plainly anti-democratic. Perhaps our leaders should take a cue from Theodore Roosevelt, who helped end the first Gilded Age. Roosevelt made the argument for taxing inheritance almost a century ago, claiming that the "really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Roosevelt also stated: “We are bound in honor to refuse to listen to those men would make us desist from the effort to do away with the inequality, which means injustice; the inequality of right, opportunity, of privilege.” Don’t believe the lies about small business and family farms being hurt by the estate tax. The sole claim that persuades many middle- and working-class Americans to support the estate tax repeal is that it will benefit small businesses and family farms. But virtually all family farms and small businesses are already exempt from the estate tax. As the New York Times reports, "Even one of the leading advocates for repeal of estate taxes, the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it could not cite a single example of a farm lost because of estate taxes." So-called compromise proposals on the estate tax are nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sen. Jon Kyl, who is leading Republicans in negotiations on the estate tax, has been pushing to not only lower the rate to 15 percent, but also increase the per couple exemption to $20 million. The Washington Post calls the plan "a Trojan horse proposal that amounts to repeal in disguise." And no wonder: Kyl's proposal would cost 94 percent as much as repeal. Even combining a 15 percent top rate with a lower $5 million per couple exemption would still cost 82 percent as much as repeal. With the top marginal rate at 15 percent, the effective tax rate—the share of an estate actually paid in taxes—would actually slump to an average of 5 to 6 percent.


Welcome To The Police State

Just what we need: Another spy outfit. Worse, a new spy outfit that mixes military and civilian spying. Hoo boy. Of course, BushCo's buddies might not even realize they're creating a police state -- what their real goal apparently is, as shown by the extremely scummy way in which they set up the Department of Homeland Security, is to break up, once and for all, the civil service unions such as AFGE, using the "demands of national security" as a pretext. (Note that DoHS was made exempt from most civil service regs.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Stats on Bush's Speech...

...provided by the ever-wonderful Maia Cowan of FailureIsImpossible. Maia did a word count on the transcript of the speech Bush gave last night. Notice what his favorite words were: Iraq (-i) 90 free (-dom) 35 terror (-ism, -ist) 31 America(-n) 24 I 21 fight (-ers, -ing) 15 military 14 security 14 war 13 us 12 coalition 11 democracy (-tic) 11 mission (-s) 11 world 11 elections 8 fail (-ed) 7 progress 7 ally/allies 6 insurgents 6 constitution (-al) 5 September 11 5 enemy (-ies) 4 Afghanistan 2 bin Laden 2 Saddam Hussein 2 al-Qaida 1 Taliban 1 win 0 (zero) And the five (count 'em, five) references to September 11. (Not blaming Iraq for September 11, oh no, not he. Just saying we're in Iraq to fight the same people who attacked us.) Here are the five references to September 11 -- and get a load of how Bush's flacks, usually so good at putting words in his mouth, have created some of the most inelegant (not to mention content-starved) sentences ever seen: "The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. This war reached our shores on September 11, 2001." "After September 11, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will take the fight to the enemy. We will defend our freedom." "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden." "We are fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001." "After September 11, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult. And we are prevailing." Notice the incredibly clumsy efforts to spot-weld 9/11 and Iraq together in our subconsciouses without actually seeming to do so? Even Bush's speechwriters are starting to crack under the strain.


Stand Up For The StarTribune!

From Liberal Oasis comes the word that prominent Minnesota conservablogger and right-wing radio host is leading a charge against the nation's best daily paper, the Minneapolis StarTribune. He's trying to get a large group of people to drop their subscriptions. Liberal Oasis' suggestion: Subscribe. Even if you're not from Minnesota! (And let the Strib know why.) I second that emotion.


Colleen Rowley (almost) announces a run for Congress

One of the few heroes who tried to prevent 9/11, Colleen Rowley, is on the verge of announcing a run for Congress in Minnesota. On Air America, Ed Schultz interviewed her, though much too briefly. Is the Bureau better today than before the attack? Some things are better, some not, she says. Homeland Security issues have not been addressed. Maybe next time Ed Schultz could ask her some substantive questions about her positions on issues of direct concern to Minnesotans. I've heard a lot of politicians, and she sounds like a definite possible. Update: Yesterday, AP was calling it definite Rowley would run. Another Democratic woman, Teresa Daly, may also run. I think that's probably to the good, since if Rowley is emphasizing her conservatism as a good fit to the district, she probably needs to consider where that conservatism has brought America. Campaigns, by forcing politicians to articulate positions, actually serve a purpose other than moving the red or the blue flag forward.

The Funniest Thing I've Seen All Day

No, it wasn't Bush's speech -- that was yesterday. (And that wasn't funny, so much as it was a pathetic attempt to re-link 9/11 to invading Iraq. But I digress.) Anyway, a member of Iran's parliament has a theory as to why Condi Rice hates his country so much: He thinks it's because she was jilted by a Iranian student when she was in college. I'd love to see someone in the press gaggle ask her if that's true.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


"Success", said Humpty W. Dumpty...

Naomi Klein: "Obviously, intelligence agents have an incentive to hide the use of unlawful methods," says the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer. "On the other hand, when they use rendition and torture as a threat, it's undeniable that they benefit, in some sense, from the fact that people know that intelligence agents are willing to act unlawfully. They benefit from the fact that people understand the threat and believe it to be credible." ...This is torture's true purpose: to terrorize—not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist—the individual prisoner's will and the collective will. ...As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture. But what is that success? "Success" is the destruction of the creative energy of a society. Nations that indulge in torture, like the former Soviet Union, decay from within. Those who are running the torture racket are destroying the foundations of the United States, the root of its power. There's an article by Peter Davis in The Nation, regrettably not online, in which he explains how El Salvador has become a broken nation. Part of this is the economic impoverishment that is globalization's shadow. But a large part of what is weighing down El Salvador is inside people's minds. Not only the survivors of violence, but also its perpetrators, are so tormented by it that they have ceased to be productive. People describe themselves as "bums." Gangs, which formed among El Salvadorians forced to emigrate to the United States for reasons economic as well as political, have now returned to terrorize at home. The police meet that with repression. And so the cycle of violence spins. The Old Testament prophets were onto something very important. The root of a nation's strength is in its commitment to truth and justice. Not the pieties about truth and justice mouthed by leaders who secretly worship heaven knows what gods, but in deeds done to achieve justice and to expose truth. And not just retributive justice, of punishing those who go wrong, but restorative justice, of making whole those who are broken. Not just malicious truth, such as exposing who the past president was fooling around with, but confessional truth, the errors that people like the current president are unable to detect in his own actions. Today there is argument about whether we are winning or losing in Iraq. But we are losing, have perhaps already lost, the source of strength derived by nations which root themselves in truth and justice. Torture certainly works... to destroy those nations that use it. Some more examples of how far we are fallen: U.S. forces have not held talks with insurgent leaders involved in attacks in Iraq... in remarks that appeared to differ from those of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. vs. On Sunday Rumsfeld said meetings between U.S. representatives and insurgent commanders "go on all the time." And yet another shoe of the torture centipede: The United Nations has learned of "very, very serious" allegations that the United States is secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, and notably aboard prison ships, the UN's special rapporteur on terrorism said.


Even as the RIAA and MPAA do battle with p2p networks, a TV pilot that was rejected by the WB network is now a hit online -- and WB doesn't like it one bit.


Stop Hiding Behind The Troops

I'm beginning to like that Wes Clark guy more and more lately. His latest idea: A drive he calls "Stop Blaming The Troops", and which I call "Stop Hiding Behind The Troops". Here's the deal: The people being punished for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are just the low-hanging fruit, the subordinates who were acting on orders from above, and/or from shadowy quasi-civilian "contractors". Let's go after the people who issued the orders in the first place.


Hitting the mattresses: Italians dump dirt on CIA in retaliation for kidnapping

Mercury Rising With luck, Bush will have us thrown out of NATO before we get thrown out of the UN. Via Brad DeLong, Robert's Stochastic Thoughts analyzes the Italian CIA situation and comes to the obvious conclusion The articles [in three American papers] make it clear that police and magistrates in Italy are furious with the CIA and the Bush administration. They are not allowed to talk to reporters, but they have clearly decided to ignore this rule pushing stories on the three papers simultaneously. It is clear that the person doing this (cough Armando cough Spataro) knows that he or she will not be able to bring the agents to trial and is determined convince the court of public opinion to inflict as much punishment as possible....They are stressing that the CIA has sabotaged the war against terror and that the CIA agents are totally incompetent and self indulgent. Not only that, but the Italians are pushing the line that the agents were corrupt, a dicey sell from Berlusconi's Italy, but in this case persuasive: The next day, anonymous sources open a new line of attack. The CIA agents were incompetent and corrupt. [Quoting Tracy Wilkinson in the LA Times] "MILAN, Italy — They ran up tabs of thousands of dollars at some of Milan's best hotels and restaurants. They chatted easily on their cellular telephones and gave out passport, frequent-flier and driver's license numbers when booking flights or renting cars. And now they are fugitives. Robert has the whole megillah, in highly non-random fashion. A recommended read.

Monday, June 27, 2005


A Pastor Niemoller moment

Just in case anyone believed the Bush Administration believed in private property, your assets can now be seized without due process because you do business with a company they don't like, whether or not you know the company is embargoed. You sell the wrong person a ream of copy paper and that's it: the US Government owns your store. I wish I were just being ridiculous, as so many people were in exaggerating Clinton-era actions. This is from The Washington Post It starts with the creation of a list. The list is beyond judicial review, so it's basically under Our Dear Leader's authority. None of the companies have faced sanctions nor is there any real proof they are involved in WMD activities: The effort would begin by targeting just eight entities, seven of which are suspected of working on missile programs, and not on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. According to a government list obtained by The Washington Post, three companies identified are North Korean; four are Iranian, including the country's energy department; and one is a Syrian government research facility. Three of the eight companies have been targeted previously by U.S. sanctions as have most Iranian government agencies. None is subject to any international sanctions, and the entities freely conduct business with companies around the world. This is what is called a dangerous precedent. Sure, North Korea, Iran, and Syria are unpopular. The companies named might even be engaged in something untoward, in which case they ought to be sanctioned or even attacked militarily. But what happens if Our Dear Leader decides to add, say, any company run by a Democrat to the list? After all, this Administration says regularly that there's no real difference between Democrats and terrorists. There is nothing to stop him from this sort of totalist action. Once the precedent is established, stopping the freight train gets very, very hard. Furthermore, this is a sweeping order. But the draft executive order goes far beyond previous measures by threatening the U.S. assets of individuals or companies, including foreign banks, that do business with those on the list. Sell the wrong company a ream of copy paper, and they can take title to everything you own. Definitely a Pastor Niemoller moment.

The Golden State Joins the National Security State

Just when it can't get more ridiculous, it does. California National Guard spies on families of soldiers killed in Iraq for daring to lawfully protest. Although Guard officials said the new unit would not collect information on American citizens, top National Guard officials have already been involved in tracking at least one recent Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers, according to e-mails obtained by the Mercury News. And who is the ultimate commander of the Kuhlifornia National Guard? Why, our own Bavarian princeling, the Verminator. The first guy that set up the so-called intelligence unit was a bit clumsy, The intelligence unit was quietly established last year by Major Gen. Thomas Eres, the National Guard leader who was forced by the Schwarzenegger administration to retire earlier this month. Eres left amid allegations that he failed to prove his shooting skills for a trip to Iraq, set up a questionable military flight for a Republican friend's political group, and improperly used money meant to stem the flow of drugs for anti-terrorism programs. so he hired another Col. Robert J. O'Neill, a veteran intelligence officer who started last week as director of the new program, said he envisions his team as being a one-stop shop for local, state and national law enforcement to share information. Intelligence officers will have access to sensitive national security information that they can analyze and potentially share with state and local law enforcement, he said. Great. Maybe they can work with Choicepoint and integrate your voting registration, music preferences, and choice of dining establishment into the intelligence files. Last month, a group of anti-war activists, including the parents of American soldiers killed in Iraq, held a small Mother's Day rally at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial near the California Capitol to call for the return of all National Guard troops by Labor Day. Three days before the rally, as a courtesy to the military, an aide in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's press office alerted the Guard to the event, according to e-mails obtained by the Mercury News. The information was passed up the chain of command directly to Eres and other top Guard officials including Col. Jeff Davis, who oversees O'Neill's operation. ''Sir,'' Guard Chief-of-Staff Col. John Moorman wrote in the e-mail to Eres that was copied to Davis and other top commanders. ''Information you wanted on Sunday's demonstration at the Capitol.'' In response, Davis indicated that Guard intelligence officers were tracking the rally. ''Thanks,'' Davis wrote. ''Forwarding same to our Intell. folks who continue to monitor.'' That rainy Sunday, the protest organized by Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies and CodePink, drew about three-dozen supporters. This is beyond pathetic, using the California National Guard to spy on a few dozen people memorializing their slain children. Where are all the people who spread scare stories about abuse of governmental power under Clinton? If they weren't being total hypocrites, they should be out protesting this.

Margolis on Lebanon

I guess it must be Lebanon week, 'cause here's the trifecta Eric Margolis of the Toronto Star Lebanon's politics remain deeply corrupt. Some voters in northern Lebanon were reportedly bribed $500 US apiece to cast their ballots for the U.S.-backed anti-Syrian faction. Around $35 billion borrowed by the former Hariri government to rebuild civil-war-shattered Lebanon is still unaccounted for. Since Hariri co-operated with Syria, his unsolved murder may have been committed by those seeking to drive Syria from Lebanon, or in revenge for the missing billions. Thanks to Johnny Wendell of KTLK for the lead.

Bush Daughters In Lesbian Shocker!!!!

No, we haven't turned into The National Enquirer. (Besides, they'd never publish anything like that if it involved the Bush girls.) But according to Democratic Underground, GOP porn star Mary Carey has professed her desire to get the Bush daughters in a threesome:

And finally, a quick update on Our Great Leader's quest to return honor and dignity to the White House. In Idiots 202 we noted that the National Republican Congressional Committee welcomed porn king Mark Kulkis to its President's Dinner with open arms; Kulkis brought porn star Mary Carey with him to the dinner.

According to World Nut Daily, Carey "made no secret prior to the event of wanting to have sex with Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan and Alan Colmes – in addition to at least one player from every team in the NBA." But last week it was revealed that Carey also had her sights set on... the Bush twins. Honestly.

"Oh my God, his daughters!" she said. "I'd love to party with his daughters. I'd love to meet them. I totally want to have sex with them." So let's not forget NRCC communications director Carl Forti's comment on Carey's appearance at the dinner: "They've paid their money. No matter what they do, the money is going to go to help elect Republicans to the House."

They could invite their cousins George P. and Jebbie to film it. Jebbie in particular would probably be more than willing to do so.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


A bit more on Lebanon

Robert Fisk on Lebanon (see says foreign intelligence agencies (Iran, Israel, US, Syria) are fighting out a covert war in Lebanon, with pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli/anti-Syrian politicians being primary targets. Someone may be trying to start an overt civil war. A US FBI agent was at the site of the most recent assassination very quickly. Fisk discussed the car bombing of George Hawi, former leader of Communist Party and Palestinian ally, but as Orthodox Christian who negotiated for Islamic-Christian peace. He was an opponent of Syrian occupation. This is the second opponent of Syria killed by car bomb in the last three weeks, so everyone is asking "Who is next?" Unlike the Hariri assassination, the latest two were incredibly precise bombings, in which only the human target was killed. Hawi's driver escaped. In neither case was much glass in the environs even broken. The long range effect could be that Lebanese could be pressured to sign a peace treaty with Israel, Fisk says. Again, all the fingers are pointed at the Syrians (who were certainly opponents of these men), but all the benefits of the assassinations appear to flow to the US. It's a hall of mirrors, and heaven only knows what the truth is.

Clueless Joe

David Podvin over at Make Them Accountable eviscerates The Backstabber Who Would Be President. Of special interest is Podvin's description of Biden's treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings -- especially now that David Brock, the right-wing's go-to guy for smearing Professor Hill, has long since repented and apologized for hurting her. From Podvin's piece, it's pretty obvious that Joe Biden has no such sense of decency:

Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court because Joe Biden is a coward. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Biden allowed Republicans to hijack the Thomas confirmation hearings. He watched passively while the nominee’s perjury was overshadowed by vicious right wing attacks upon Dr. Anita Hill. Witnesses who were prepared to substantiate Hill’s allegations of professional misconduct against Thomas were not summoned because Biden’s top priority was mollifying his reactionary colleagues. Biden became enraged during the Thomas hearings, but his hostility was not directed toward the Republicans who smeared an honorable woman or at the judicial nominee who lied under oath. Instead, the senator furiously denounced civil rights groups and women’s organizations that claimed they had convinced him to derail the nomination. “Joe Biden is not in anyone’s pocket!” he thundered.
Unless, of course, they're a corporation with money to burn on pliable politicians like Biden:
The would-be Democratic presidential nominee may not be in the pocket of the Democratic base, but he is definitely in the pocket of Corporate America. Biden co-sponsored legislation to change bankruptcy law so that it increasingly benefits big business at the expense of consumers. He voted against limiting predatory lending practices and against protecting citizens victimized by identity theft. The senator also endorsed Paul Wolfowitz for the presidency of the World Bank, a position from which Wolfowitz will coercively transfer Third World resources to multinational conglomerates. A self-described “national security Democrat who favors a muscular foreign policy”, Biden has referred to Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Evil Empire speech as a model of internationalist wisdom. Biden justified his vote to authorize conquering Iraq by citing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The senator also warned of the link between Hussein and al Qaida. When these pretenses were debunked, Biden dismissed the relevance of the lies and effusively praised George W. Bush for defying anti-war critics.
Just say No to Joe!


More on the Hariri assassination and the destabilization of Lebanon

In a story that would be funny if it were not so grim, potentially leading to civil war, Brian Whitaker reports in the Guardian on the assassination of Lebanese fixer Rafik Hariri. The Fitzgerald Commission report is on the web (this particular site has a hint of the scent of Bushco subsidization, but no matter) Most observers, including people like Robert Fisk and Juan Cole, seem to think there's a good chance the assassination was conducted by Syrian intelligence. The Syrians did threaten Hariri, did control the security forces in Lebanon, and did not use those security forces to protect him. Certainly a main beneficiary of his assassassination was the US, which forced Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, so the US has to be considered a suspect. However, Hariri was one of those businesspeople who manage through underhand tactics to accumulate enemies even more rapidly than wealth, so no one can be ruled out. The basic facts seem to be these: (1) Hariri was killed by a truck bomb. "The explosives - about a tonne of TNT - were also 'most probably' placed under a grey tarpaulin on a white Mitsubishi Canter pick-up truck, built in 1995 or 1996." (2) The bomb was probably detonated manually "Three of the Mercedes [in Hariri's convoy] were using high-powered signal jamming devices, intended to prevent bombs being detonated by remote control, at the time of the final journey. " (3) Hariri varied his routes. The route the convoy took was communicated to the lead car only six and a half minutes before the bomb exploded. "Intercepting Hariri's convoy with an explosives-laden truck in the Beirut traffic would have been a tricky business, almost certainly requiring knowledge of the convoy's intended route." For reasons that are extremely far from evident, the commission investigating the hit is convinced that only a state, not a terrorist cell, would possess the resources for such an attack. That's what Bushco said about the bin Laden attacks, as you will recall. At least based on the evidence presented publicly, this attack required (a) one pickup truck, (b) one ton of TNT plus detonators, (c) two cell phones, and (d) a little luck, not the massive finance and military precision the Fitzgerald Commission claims. (4) "Little more than half an hour after the explosion a man speaking in 'poor Arabic, or just pretending to have poor Arabic' called the Beirut office of al-Jazeera television with a statement saying: 'The Nasra & Jihad Group in Greater Syria claims responsibility for the execution of the agent Rafik Hariri, in the name of the oppressed, the Nasra and the Jihad.'"... "A little later, Reuters news agency also received a call from a man described as 'using a false Palestinian accent'"... [and claiming responsibility for the bombing for the same group]... "At 2.19pm a man speaking in 'very good Arabic', phoned al-Jazeera and said a tape could be found in a tree near the UN building in Beirut....[after a short comedy of errors, the tape was found] The tape showed a bearded young man claiming responsibility for the assassination..." (5) The bearded man was recognized as a 22 year old, unemployed Palestinian named Ahmad Abu Adas. He was religious, but not militant. Syrian-controlled "Lebanese security forces who raided his home seized 11 video tapes, 55 CDs, one floppy disc and a computer hard drive." The computer hard drive had "subversive" material on it which the Lebanese security forces said must have been downloaded from the Internet. His home had no Internet connection. Whitaker suggests that the Lebanese security forces may have loaded it onto the hard disk, but that would probably be evident to even the most cursory inspection. Also, if Adas wasn't deeply involved, why did he make a tape claiming responsibility for the attack? Why did the "Nasra & Jihad" group pretend to speak bad Arabic? Why did they claim they made the attack on behalf of "greater Syria?" Watch this story. If Lebanon blows up, as could happen with the heavy hand of Syria off the lid, the consequences will reverberate throughout the region.

The GOP Loves Jews -- Just Not In Our Air Force Academies

Being friendly with Ariel Sharon doesn't make someone willing to keep crazed evangelicals from attacking Jewish attendees at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs. Click, read, sign.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Billy Graham: Speak Pablum To Power

The Reverend Jim A. Siefkes on Billy Graham:

It seems worth raising the question about an evaluation of what his style and message have meant to America. To be sure, they have been a major force in the migration of evangelical Christianity into the American mainstream. Current and past administrations seem no exception. One wonders how much the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggerts, the Christian coalitions, a variety of politicos, denominations , and church leaders have and do find it comfortable and advantageous to ride on his coattails. In the evaluation process consider: Graham did not stand with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights offensive. Most religious leaders did. Graham criticized: "I am convinced that some Negroes are going too far and too fast." With King in jail he preached civic rectitude. "I do believe we have the responsibility to obey the law. No matter what the law may be -- it may be an unjust law -- I believe we have the responsibility to obey it." In response to King's "I have a dream" speech, Graham critiqued it with, "Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children." After King's death he put King down with: "Yes, he had his demonstrations in the streets, while I had mine in lawful religious services in stadiums." [...] George H.W. Bush had him overnight in the White House when the largest bombing run in history began in Iraq (1991); Graham held a prayer service and interpreted whose side God was on: "There comes a time when we have to fight for peace." Graham also had a liking for corporate executives. In his early days he described paradise as a Garden of Eden with "no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease." In 1954 he wrote in The Nation's Business: "Thousands of businessmen have discovered the satisfaction of having God as a working partner. It puts integrity into their organizations, sincerity into their sales, and spiritual and monetary profits into their hearts and pockets." [...] There have been and are untold and unheralded servants and leaders for the faith community who have and do elect to throw themselves into the dirty messes of this world which model variant paths. There's more than one way to make this world a place in which it is easier for persons to love and be loved. One can't help but wonder what Graham's risk-free style of religion, and the crusades, have in common with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Salvadoran Archbishop Romero? Over the years what has Billy Graham's style and message meant to America? Think it over.
Well, I have thought it over, and I find it no accident that the Billy Grahams and the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells all started out of their Southern strongholds and got onto TV just as the GOP was getting ready to jettison its stance as "the party of Lincoln" and openly embrace institutionalized racism, in the form of the Southern Strategy. UPDATE: I was just reminded that Billy Graham did indeed make one brave stance for civil rights: Since 1953, he has refused to preach before segregated audiences. So there is that to hold to his credit.


Judith Miller And The Texas Oil-for-Food Scandal

I want to revisit the Russ Baker story on how Judith Miller's trying to do to the UN what she did to Iraq. Here's why it's such a big deal:

Most of Miller's sleuthing centers on contracts handed out in connection with the so-called Oil for Food program (which got indispensable staples to the Iraqi people during the embargo). Miller's articles typically take murky evidence and create in readers' minds the sense that there's something deeply wrong in the UN's command structure, when in fact, there may not be. At worst, the malfeasance there pales by comparison to what goes on in Washington day after day. Since March, Miller has been largely invisible, but last week she returned to the UN dirt beat with a vengeance. On June 15, she came up with goods that at first looked damning. Her article, "Investigators To Review Hint of Annan Role in Iraq Oil Sales," dealt with a memo that seemed to indicate that Secretary General Kofi Annan may have had more contact with a UN contractor for whom his son worked than he had previously admitted. Miller makes it clear that the company in question, Cotecna, has been belatedly forthcoming with information about how it got the UN contracts. But in the penultimate paragraph, she drops this little bomb: "A new internal audit showed that Cotecna had not made the $306,305 in payments that [a UN investigative] panel said might have gone to Kojo Annan [Kofi Annan's son]." Is she being deliberately opaque or is this just bad writing? What she is actually saying in this throwaway paragraph is that the allegation behind her many previous stories, about a corrupt link between Kojo Annan and the company that got a UN contract, may be unfounded. If the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, why is that possibility raised only near the end of the article? Two days after that article appeared, the Times ran another in which Miller shared a byline with the Times' estimable UN bureau chief, Warren Hoge. Their jointly bylined article is headlined "Contractor Now Denies He Talked With Annan on Oil-for-Food Bid." What does that mean? It means that the very source in Miller's earlier piece is now changing his story. It also means that Times editors are sufficiently concerned to include this as an entirely separate article in a paper always short of space for important stories. This article notes that this is the second time that the source, a one-time business partner of Kojo Annan, has revised his story about what his partner's father might have known about UN contract favoritism. If this source is known to be unreliable, why write an article every time he's quoted saying something harmful to Kofi Annan (and, perhaps not coincidentally, useful to Miller's friends in the neocon community, who are ever eager to discredit the United Nations).
The thing is that Miller's pieces are focused, using bogus information, like a laser beam on certain key UN personnel -- even though there is no proof that her targets did anything wrong, much less on the scale of the theft being committed by the true villains down in Houston, Texas.

Friday, June 24, 2005


ARG Poll: Bush Approval Only 17% Among Independents

Geez Louise, no wonder why Rove is panicking. Operation Dixie Chick will no doubt be ramped up in intensity -- though Rick Santorum's refusal to play along will make this difficult.


If It's Friday, This Must Be A News Dump

All the interesting things seem to happen on Fridays: -- Rick Santorum is the first high-profile Republican to break from the herd and say, albeit rather weakly, that Karl Rove does NOT speak for him. (His dicey poll numbers against Casey may well be a factor.) -- CBS ran a story this evening on an Italian judge's ordering the arrest of thirteen CIA agents for kidnaping an imam off the streets of Milan and "renditioning" him to Egypt, where he was "allegedly" tortured. -- Judith Miller, NYT reporter and close personal friend of Iranian agent and convicted embezzler Ahmad Chalabi, has a new mission: Attacking the United Nations. -- And now that Mullah Ashcroft is no longer running DoJ, the Spirit of Justice's draperies have been removed.


RoveGate: Josh Marshall Gets It

Today, Josh Marshall's sole comment (so far!) on the whole RoveGate phenomenon is to bring up what he said in this August 2004 post of his on the philosophy behind the John O' Neill "Swift Boat" attacks:

Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really -- a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they're tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job. In a post-9/11 environment, obviously, this question of strength, toughness or resolve is particularly salient. That, of course, is why so much of this debate is about war and military service in the first place. One way -- perhaps the best way -- to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can't or won't defend themselves certainly isn't someone you can depend upon to defend you.
Yes, yes, yes! THAT is why so many of us were so pissed off about Durbin's crumpling up like toilet paper in a rainstorm. THAT is why Kerry himself wanted to hit back, and HARD, against O'Neill's Two-Lie Crew, but refrained from doing so because of his advisors. If Durbin -- or Kerry -- can't or won't defend himself, how the hell does he expect to get people to believe that he'll defend them?


How many hours before Emperor Berlusconi reverses this decision?

Thanks to NewsHounds, who watch FOX so that the rest of us don't have to. Italian Judge Orders 13 CIA Officers Arrested Friday, June 24, 2005 ROME — An Italian judge on Friday ordered the arrests of 13 CIA (search) officers for secretly transporting a Muslim preacher from Italy to Egypt as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts — a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally. The Egyptian was spirited away in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition (search)" program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

Creating Terrorists

I am barely coming to understand the US landscape of extremism and now we have to learn the Arab/Muslim landscape. Via Katherine Yurica, Pepe Escobar of Asia Times has a piece describing how the assorted outrages against Muslim sensibilities (occupation, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo) have brought together the Salafist cultural wing and the Wahhabist religious wing of Islamic reactionary movements, neither of which had been talking to one another much before. "Salafis don't even recognize political struggle as a means to establishing an Islamic state. For them, the soul of each individual Muslim takes precedence over politics..." But take it into the political realm and and you have Salafi-jihadists. Al-Qaeda [and some other groups] are Salafi-jihadis, considering jihad to be a personal, religious duty of every Muslim. This is analogous to the relationship between the Southern Baptist Conference and Eric Rudolph and other such "Christian" terrorists. Your typical SBC member, no matter how much he hates the "liberal media" and "Hollywood" and "secular humanists" would much rather pick up a chicken wing than a rifle. A member of the Muslim brotherhood who in effect founded al Qaida found the means to convert the non-violent and numerous Salafists into Salafist-jihadis by waging armed conflict using the Wahhabi religious wing (the Taliban) as the frontline troops. Azzam was neither a Salafi nor a Wahhabi. He thought at the time that the only winning jihad strategy was to fight for the liberation of the entire Islamic ummah (community). And this vision has succeeded, thanks to Bush's ineptitude or design: Al-Qaeda's dream of mobilizing the ummah by way of jihad may have taken a backseat role, but who needs it when you have reports of Korans flushed down the toilet? The Newsweek controversy reveals to the fullest extent how al-Qaeda may be reaching its goal of politicizing the masses through other means. Escobar says the Europeans fear linkages between far-left groups there and the Salafist-jihadis. I think a far more serious issue is the potential for a linkup with far-right American groups. We have some reasons to believe that that occurred on a small scale. (Thanks to Information Clearing House).

Plagues strike Iraq as doctors flee

Via Chris Floyd, an article in the Japan TimesUnending health disaster for Iraqi kids Some bullet points: * Iraq used to have a problem with childhood obesity. Today, at 7.7 percent, Iraq's child malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than the rates in Uganda and Haiti.. * Lack of dependable electricity and shortages of potable water throughout the country have led to ... outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever, particularly in southern Iraq.... [and has] probably been the cause of an outbreak of hepatitis particularly lethal to pregnant women. * the destruction of the refrigeration systems needed to store vaccines have rendered the vaccine supply virtually useless * 10 percent of Baghdad's 32,000 doctors have left the country or have stopped working * 25 percent of primary school-age children do not go to school It's very hard to sell people on how how wonderful the future will be when the present is this bad.

'Flypaper' Theory Becomes Unstuck

Picked this up from The Guardian's politics blog. You all remember the 'flypaper' theory, right? The one beloved of the neocons and their media and blogosphere enablers? The one that stated that invading Iraq would attract all the world's evildoers and hold them in place like a giant No-Pest strip so that we could whack them all and truth justice and the American Way would reign forevermore yadayadayada. Well, it looks like the CIA has just shot that theory full of holes. Turns out that the correct analogy is not to flypaper, but to the ultimate terrorist training ground. Afghanistan is landlocked, mountainous and not overly urbanized; Iraq contains a variety of terrain, from mountains to deserts to vast cities like Baghdad and Kirkuk. This makes it a far better training ground for groups like Al-Qaeda, who are very interested in learning about fighting in urban settings so they can then take the fight to the West's urban centers. This explains why the neocons and their defenders haven't talked much about 'flypaper' recently, eh?


Why BushCo's Doing The Latest Round Of Dixie Chicking

The cable TV shows are ignored by most Americans, but are beloved of the pundits who like to appear on them and push the themes beloved of the GOP/Media Axis. However, even these zampolit-packed gabfests are occasionally worth watching, if for no other reason than to see how the media intends to frame a given issue. The fine folk at DemBloggers have saved an interesting snippet from last night's Hardball. David Gregory was filling in for Chris Matthews, and shockingly enough, he was trying to force his guests, his fellow pundits, out of the pre-approved, pre-digested frames they were trying to spew. He kept asking, over and over again, "Why are they [meaning BushCo] doing this?" And his guests -- once they finished trying to push the Standard Lie Frame that Durbin called our troops Nazis and is somehow just as bad as Rove -- finally admitted that Bush is desperate to hide certain things, such as the fact Abazaid politely debunked Cheney's bloviatings about the Iraqi insurgents being "their last throes", or that the Senate hearings Rumsfeld was at this week were called by Republicans (whose constituents are scorching them every single day over this), or that Bush's poll numbers are plummeting across the board.


GOP Blogger John Cole Nails Rove's Hide To The Wall

Check it out. Cole, unlike most of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders (and unlike Karl Rove), served in the military. He knows how important it is that we uphold the Geneva Conventions.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Hobson's Choice, Revisited

Earlier today, I posted that I didn't think BushCo had any real plans on how to deal with Iraq. It turns out that while this is almost certainly the case, they can be highly coordinated and very specific when their goal is to try and do some cheap and disgusting political stunt that's apparently designed to throw "red meat" to their base while covering up the tsunami of bad news currently swirling in the media ether. You know: Things like the UN's confirming, barely a day after Durbin was browbeaten Maoist style into a bogus apology, that reliable reports exist of torture at Guantanamo and that we forced doctors to violate their Hippocratic oaths in order to facilitate torture at Gitmo, or that our top military officer in the Persian Gulf says that Cheney is wrong about the insurgency being in its last throes, or that a growing number of Republicans like Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones are now speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, or that the US Air Force may be one of the bigger perps in the Texas Oil-for-Food Scandal. However, the Democratic leadership, for a change, is now fighting back as one. Reid, Dean, Pelosi, Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and virtually every other prominent Democrat jumped all over Rove and Company's little stunt, and said exactly the right things to take Rove's carefully-crafted attempt at political theater and turn it against him. Old Turd Blossom's administration has been puttting their collective feet in it so badly of late that even Republicans are starting to call them Nazis. Karl must not have seen the latest polls that show that he can't use 9/11 to scare people into voting against their own best interests any more.


Why US Counterinsurgency Strategy in Iraq Will Fail

As a committed Christian, I have set aside violence as a solution to anything. But like most of us, I can't help but be fascinated by the worldview of those who live by the sword. World War II is the counterexample everyone gives. "The Good War", as Studs Terkel might say. It's hard to argue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, as a Christian in Nazi Germany, confronted evil head on and concluded that sometimes you just have to shoot the son of a b---h. Still, how many chances were wasted in preventing the rise of extremism in and the rearmament of Germany? And more important, how do these issues play into dealing with Iraq, in which we are centrally involved in committing violence ostensibly to prevent more violence? The Bonhoeffer dilemma is always before us. The more I look at the results of attempting to solve problems by violence, however, the more it seems to me that non-violence is far more powerful. There have been two articles recently that are worth reading. The first is by Peter Maass in the NYT Magazine. This presents a largely positive view of counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, in which a tough ex-Baathist leads brutal but effective repression under American guidance. The Salvador option. Terrorize, kill in battle, and assassinate until the opposition becomes exhausted. Hope and pray you don't become exhausted first. The key paragraphs: Paramilitary forces have a tendency to become politicized.... In the Middle East and elsewhere, they often serve the interests of the regime or of whatever faction in the regime controls them. ... In a country as riven as Iraq — with Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Turkmen vying for power — a paramilitary force that is controlled by one faction can be a potent weapon against others. That is why the commandos are a conundrum — in the country’s unstable military and political landscape, it is impossible to know where they are heading....Arriving at the correct calibration of military force and political compromise is excruciatingly difficult. Historically, insurgencies have lasted at least 5 to 10 years..." The second article is an inteview of Dick Marcinko, a former SEAL who trains mercenaries. He has a website here. Some key comments from there: But establish a rapport, and work on the hearts and minds in the inner city, and use the Iraqis to do the purging. ... I can see us there in 2010 – just for conversation's sake – with two major installations that would basically be USA fortresses with infirmaries and Mickey D's and those kinds of things." This presents the same vision of counterinsurgency: use locals to do the ugly work, leaving Americans to be at one remove from the actual trigger pulling, and to pet the heads of the colored kids "in the inner city" for good public relations. Americans remain the de facto power and the political system essentially remains a military dictatorship. The counterinsurgency in Iraq will fail because there is no real vision for the emergence of a pluralistic and democratic society. Granted, Marcinko is a soldier and Maass's piece is based on interviews with military. These guys are focused on suppressing violence through the use of even greater amounts of violence, not on "nation building." But the absence of any larger vision is shocking. As any corporate leader can tell you, if you want to know what your company is about, don't ask the vice-presidents. Ask the clerks and the receptionists and the salesmen, because they are the ones that the public sees. The soldiers believe they won the Central American war because the Salvadoran guerrillas were not able to defeat the regular army, because Guatemala remained under right-wing control, and because the Sandinistas were ousted in Nicaragua. But anyone with vision would see these as terrible failures, traumatized societies that will probably remain incapable of significant development for the foreseeable future. Societies which retain long memories of atrocities committed with American complicity, lacking only a bin Laden-like figure to become perfect recruiting grounds for terrorism. The CIA has concluded Iraq has become both a recruiting ground and a training ground for terrorism. The point is that soldiers can never seem to see beyond the battlefield, never able to see that insurgent movements are only really defeated when people are offered a better vision of the future. As in the Balkans, they can smolder over centuries. How many more such battles can we "win"? US bases dominating a puppet regime just don't cut it as an alternative vision. BTW, I did offer a reasonably detailed plan for genuinely winning in Iraq. The one thing it doesn't include is the US dominating Iraq. That's why it will never be tried. Read what the soldiers write. Understand how they see the world. Respect them as having bravery in the face of death. They are, I believe, profoundly wrong. But I say that having done my best to look at things through their eyes.

Listening to the right

One of the interesting things about getting on Christian mailing lists is that one learns so much about the structure and thinking processes of the right. For reasons not entirely clear, I receive Imprimis, the magazine of that notorious school for scandal, Hillsdale College. Today I received Crossings, The Book Club for Today's Christian Family. There's plenty of predictable stuff in Crossings. Franklin Graham (evangelical fundamentalism), Tim LaHaye (apocalypse), Charles Stanley (basic fundamentalism), tons of Joyce Meyer (representing strident women everywhere), T.D. Jakes (minority outreach), Betty Crocker's Baking for Today, Dr. Laura, C.S. Lewis, oceans of Christian chicklit (Gothic romance without any Goths). Some names I am not familiar with, like Max Lucado, Juanita Bynum, Stormy Omartian (now there's a name!). But interestingly, the most heavily-promoted book is Condi, appearing three times in the brochure. Who even knew she was pretending to be Christian? Imprimis is a whole 'nother story, not to mention century. The March issue is devoted to that most Christian of topics, money. Walter Williams (an African American at the what is to me a little creepy George Mason College) in which we learn that dollars are "certificates of performance": the more you have, the better a person you are. You know, like Paris Hilton. We also learn that the sole social responsibility of corporations is to operate without deception or fraud. Their use of the highways, products of the educational system, the protections of an established legal and regulatory system, not to mention the US Army comes free. And if your products happen to cause lingering death, like tobacco or asbestos, just cash in a few of those certificates of performance with a Congressman or President, and it will all go away. The June issue brings us the almost pathologically weird Frank Gaffney Jr., alerting us to another high Christian virtue, war. Ignoring an important bit of basic physics having to do with the exponent associated with the magnetic field, Gaffney claims that the electromagnetic pulse from a single nuclear weapon could disable every bit of electronic gear in North America. If this were true, of course, the age of electronics would have ended after the first lightning storm. He warns us of Al Qaeda cruisers steaming off American coasts to deliver the deadly atomic Scuds (which are fairly short-range missiles barely able to reach Israel from Iraq). The one sane piece here is the point that the electrical grid is vulnerable to any sort of screwup. But for that, we don't need Al Qaeda when we have Allegheny Energy If I were as creative in making stuff up as Gaffney is, I'd be making money the way Tim LaHaye does, which is to say, hand over fist. The March and June issues also advertise a two-week Cruise for Freedom, from Barcelona to Lisbon (chosen, I suppose, because of fond memories of the Inquisition). At a starting price of $6100 a couple, it's actually a pretty good deal if it weren't for the company. Robert Conquest of the Hoover Institute, author of a significant fraction of the fiction posing as history written about the Cold War teams up with David Pryce-Jones. And guess who's coming to dinner? Jose Maria Aznar, the former Duce of Spain, until he told a lie so enormous, claiming ETA responsibility for an attack committed by Al Qaeda, that the Spanish people decided he could no longer serve. Who better to represent Hillsdale? Hillsdale College, a tax-exempt institution. Your tax dollars at work, building a less complicated society through the destruction of reason.

Tyranny of the minority: GOP has built-in electoral advantage

Steven Hill in Mojo on the rural-urban gerrymander Excerpt: When the two sides are tied nationally, the Republicans end up winning about 50 more House districts than the Democrats. ...It turns out that there is a fundamental anti-urban (and thus anti-Democratic) bias with single-seat districts. The urban vote is more concentrated, and so it's easier to pack Democratic voters into fewer districts. As Democratic redistricting strategist Sam Hirsch has noted, nice square districts are in effect a Republican gerrymander because they "combine a decade-old (but previously unnoticed) Republican bias" that along with a newly heightened degree of incumbent protection "has brought us one step closer to government under a United States House of Unrepresentatives." Here's the best-known recent example of this dynamic. Even though Al Gore won a half million more votes nationwide than George Bush in 2000, Bush beat Gore in 47 more of the 2002 congressional districts. Yet one more reason why Democrats need to run candidates in red districts and offer people there a choice other than the rancid populism of the Republican party (as Kevin Phillips called it).

Hobson's Choice

A soldier stationed in Iraq has posted a chilling, and thought-provoking, Kos diary. Reading it, I asked myself: "Are there any good ways to deal with the situation in Iraq that don't involve simply throwing the remains of it to the wolves?" There may be, but Bush will never implement them, not unless his party turns on him before the 2006 elections. He and his inner circle flat-out refuse to admit that they are losing, so they're not bothering to make any kind of contingency plans. In fact, it's become increasingly obvious that they have no plans of any sort other than to funnel contract money to Bechtel and Co., and to hold onto those fourteen-odd bases at all costs -- and even those plans aren't being implemented very well. For guys usually depicted as preternaturally smart in their evilness, they sure are self-defeatingly stupid. For example: As Juan Cole notes, they need Iran's help and goodwill just to stay the course in Iraq. Instead, they keep making noises about wanting to invade, which is so unthinkably stupid -- not to mention immoral -- that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Joint Chiefs over at the Pentagon resign en masse if Rumsfeld tried it. (But then again, I thought we'd see them resign over the invasion of Iraq, and that didn't happen. Shinseki and White were the only casualties.)


Dean And The DC Establishment

Steve Perry of City Pages has as good an article on Dean -- and his enemies -- as you're likely to see (and will never see in a daily paper, much less on TV). The short version: Dean's verbal "gaffes" are minimal and in any event a) true, and b) nowhere near as bad as Bush's. Dean's real "gaffe" is working to wean the party from big-time corporate donors, and the fact that Dean's actually doing very well at this, while increasing the amount of money the DNC's getting, threatens the DC Democratic power elite -- which is why they are trying to destroy him while they still can. Perry, cynical third-party guy that he is at heart, doesn't think Dean will win the struggle. But I already think that Dean has. He's planted the idea into the state party leadership -- a leadership that has been increasingly ticked off at the arrogant antics of the Beltway types -- that they don't need the Beltway (or Corporate America) as much as they think they do. Dean gives them money, and helps them to raise money, but he also gives them autonomy. And they're liking it. Howard Dean could get hit by a truck tomorrow (Heaven forbid!), and that wouldn't unring this bell. Bear in mind that thousands of Dean campaign staffers and volunteers, reared on the "You have the power" principle, are now a big part of local Democratic politics. If the DC types give them lip, they'll give the DCers a big fat lip. As they say, in a retort to Joe Biden, the Senator from MBNA, "Howard Dean speaks for me."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


NPR Ratings: Holding Steady While TV News In General Tanks

In a MyDD post by Chuckles, we find this:

The audience trends for the The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, which started in 1973 as The Robert MacNeil Report and later became the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report, stand in striking contrast to those of commercial network television. Data published in the PBS National Audience Handbook show that NewsHour ratings were remarkably stable over the five years from 1998 to 2003, averaging a 1.2 household rating. According to PBS, that translates to roughly 2.7 million viewers each weeknight and more than 8 million different or "unduplicated" viewers who watch at least one night a week.15 That is still significantly smaller than even third-place CBS. But the NewsHour's ability to hold its audience distinguishes it in network nightly news. ... At a time when Nightline and other magazine programs are having difficulty, and commercial nightly newscasts are hemorrhaging audience, the NewsHour's numbers suggests a health that is unusual.
The links Chuckles provides don't give much details on cable viewership, alas. But here's a graph showing that with younger viewers, cable news is losing ground along with network news, as more young'uns turn to The Daily Show for their dose of reality.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


The God-King's Feet Must Not Be Allowed To Touch The Ground

Garrison Keillor, on page 215 of his book Homegrown Democrat, describes a nice little vignette from then-VP George Herbert Walker Bush's visit to Denmark in the 1980s that I intend to remember each time I see the Bush Family being depicted as "jes' plain folks":

When I lived there, Danes were still talking about the visit of Vice President Bush to speak at the Danish Fourth of July at Rebild Park in Jutland and how his armor-plated limousine had sunk down in the sand en route to the speaker's pavilion and how the man refused to get out of the damn car and walk 200 yards to the stage. He sat in his behemoth car with Old Glory flying from the front fender, surrounded by Secret Service, and it took twenty men on a hot day to push him and his tank through the sand to the pavilion where he disembarked and gave his speech on Freedom, America's Gift to the World. Denmark is a country where big shots walk. Mr. Bush made a big impression on the Danes.
Poppy's son carries on the imperial tradition, only mingling with preselected people. Contrast this with Bill Clinton, who not only walked to podiums, but wasn't afraid of crowds.


StarTribune To Durbin: We've Got Your Back, Dick!

...and don't apologize, dammit! You didn't say anything wrong! I'm very proud of my hometown paper today.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Did Condi Intend To Kick Bolton Upstairs?

If so, I may actually be forced to give her an "atta-girl" for a change. (Not that this in any way makes up for her being asleep at the wheel for the first nine months of 2001, or for her cheerleading the reckless, immoral, and disastrous invasion of Iraq, but hey, it's a start. Maybe.) See, it looks almost like Condi, once she took over for Colin Powell at State in January, suddenly and simultaneously developed the smatterings of a brain, a spine, and/or a conscience. She immediately started moving to isolate Bolton at State, even as she convinced Bolton's biggest fan, George W. Bush, that Bolton should be made our ambassador to the UN -- a job which, though high profile, is ultimately one where even someone as destructive as Bolton can't do as much damage as in the State Department. Consider this:

For years, a key U.S. program intended to keep Russian nuclear fuel out of terrorist hands has been frozen by an arcane legal dispute. As undersecretary of state, John Bolton was charged with fixing the problem, but critics complained he was the roadblock. Now with Bolton no longer in the job, U.S. negotiators report a breakthrough with the Russians and predict a resolution will be sealed by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin at an international summit in Scotland next month, clearing the way to eliminate enough plutonium to fuel 8,000 nuclear bombs.
The Russian breakthrough wasn't the only one that happened once Johnny Hammerhead's counterproductive nastiness was removed:
Without the hard-charging Bolton around, the Bush administration has not only moved to reconcile with Russia over nuclear-threat reduction, it has also dropped its campaign to oust the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency and made common cause with Europeans allies in offering incentives to Iran to persuade it to drop any ambitions for nuclear weapons. Bolton had also resisted using the so-called New York channel for communications with North Korea, a one-on-one meeting used sporadically through Bush's presidency and most recently revived in May. And fellow U.S. officials said Bolton had opposed a new strategic opening to India offering the prospect of sharing civilian nuclear technology, a move made in March.
The Russian and North Korean nuke situations aren't the only ones that Bolton bollixed up. Check this out:
...In a landmark speech at the National Defense University in February 2004, the president called for a toughened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other new initiatives. "There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated," Bush said. "Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action." By action Bush meant the hard work of diplomacy, John Bolton, the president’s point man on nuclear arms control, told Congress a month later. For one thing, America needed to lead an effort at "closing a loophole" in the 35-year-old NPT, Bolton testified back then. The treaty’s provisions had to be updated to prevent countries like Iran from enriching uranium under cover of a peaceful civilian program—which is technically permitted under the NPT—when what Tehran really sought was a bomb, according to the administration. But if the NPT needed so much fixing under US leadership, why was the United States so shockingly unprepared when the treaty came up for its five-year review at a major conference in New York this month, in the view of many delegates? And why has the United States been losing control of the conference’s agenda this week to Iran and other countries—a potentially serious setback to US efforts to isolate Tehran? Part of the answer, several sources close to the negotiations tell NEWSWEEK, lies with Bolton, the undersecretary of State for arms control. Since last fall Bolton, Bush’s embattled nominee to be America’s ambassador to the United Nations, has aggressively lobbied for a senior job in the second Bush administration. During that time, Bolton did almost no diplomatic groundwork for the NPT conference, these officials say. "John was absent without leave" when it came to implementing the agenda that the president laid out in his February 2004 speech, a former senior Bush official declares flatly. Another former government official with experience in nonproliferation agrees. "Everyone knew the conference was coming and that it would be contentious. But Bolton stopped all diplomacy on this six months ago," this official said. "The White House and the National Security Council started worrying, wondering what was going on. So a few months ago the NSC had to step in and get things going themselves. The NPT regime is full of holes—it's very hard for the US to meet our objectives—it takes diplomacy." Diplomacy is just a fancy word for salesmanship—making phone calls, working the corridors, listening to and poking holes in opposing arguments, lobbying others to back one’s position. But "delegates didn’t hear a peep from the US until a week before the conference," says Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "There’s no sign of any coordinated US effort to develop a positive program." One diplomat involved with the conference agrees. "There were a number of the issues Bush raised in his February 2004 speech that needed to be taken up here, like the establishment of a special committee at the IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency] to go after [treaty] noncompliers. But painfully little has been done on that a year later."
When he isn't busy shunning diplomacy for kissing up to Bush, Bolton's also taking credit for successful initiatives that he actually had fought tooth and nail:
Throughout the Bolton controversy, his backers in the Bush administration have argued that though he may need better people skills, he has been very effective as a public official. Yet some critics of Bolton say that his alleged mishandling of the NPT conference and other initiatives show that he has sometimes botched the administration’s business as well. Bolton, for instance, often takes and is given credit for the administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative—an agreement to interdict suspected WMD shipments on the high seas—and the deal to dismantle Libya’s nuclear program (a deal that Bolton had sought to block). But the former senior Bush official who criticized Bolton’s performance on the NPT conference says that in fact Bolton’s successor, Robert Joseph, deserves most of the credit for those achievements. This official adds that it was Joseph, who was in charge of counterproliferation at the NSC, who had to pitch in when Bolton fumbled preparations for the NPT conference, as well. Bush, in his February 2004 speech, also sought to give new powers to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which enforces the treaty. But Bolton, says the former Bush official, "focused much more time and attention trying to deny Mohammed elBaradei a third term" as head of the IAEA. The effort failed, and it was considered another international humiliation for the United States. (Ironically, elBaradei has been one of Washington’s chief allies at the NPT conference, pushing for parts of the Bush agenda.)
As has been said, just because Bolton's no longer there doesn't mean that Adlai Stevenson's ghost is suddenly running the State Department. It just seems that way, because in contrast to John Bolton, even Condi Rice looks good. And yes, that's a deeply scary concept.


The problem with the FBI is that it has been politicized

David Johnston of the New York Times was allowed to print a piece that nibbled at the surface of this. Here are excerpts: A lawyer who interviewed a number of top current and former counterterrorism officials at the F.B.I. in connection with a lawsuit against the bureau has written to three senators saying the officials lacked a detailed understanding of terrorism and had been promoted to top jobs despite having had little experience in the field.... Mr. Kohn's complaints, although clearly advocacy statements by a lawyer pressing his client's legal claims, are likely to be taken more seriously because they are similar to the findings of reports by recent independent review panels that have criticized the bureau's progress in correcting the flaws exposed by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks....Mr. Youssef has filed a lawsuit complaining that after the Sept. 11 attacks, he was unfairly kept out of counterterrorism matters because of his ethnicity. He speaks fluent Arabic and has extensive knowledge of the Middle East and terrorist organizations. The FBI (and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies) seem to have reverted to the monoculture that prevailed under J. Edgard Hoover. White, conservative men like Aldrich Ames are promoted whatever their qualifications. People of other ethnicities such as Sibel Edmonds find themselves locked out. And politically, the Bureau has devoted vastly more resources into investigating marginal "threats" from the left while being caught with their pants around their ankles by white supremacists like William Krar, who was arrested by local law enforcement. Anyone who really cares about this country should want to see a Bureau that is balanced, including people of all sorts. That's the best possible check (besides citizen oversight) that a democracy could want on an agency that has such extraordinary powers. The monoculture that has evolved is not so many few steps away from become a nightmare agency as we see in totalitarian societies.

Dems have tough case proving state obstruction of Ohio scandal

The federal side is more interesting. The Ohio Coingate timeline. The bottom line, according to The Toledo Blade is "The Blade has learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio knew of the campaign-finance allegations against Mr. Noe about three weeks before the November, 2004, election, giving it little time to do a thorough investigation." January, 2004: Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, a Democrat interviewed Mr. Noe's wife and Sam Thurber regarding complaints about Joe Kidd, then executive director of the elections office. March, 2004: Frank Stiles, an investigator who works for Ms. Bates, began examining the allegations. June 1, 2004: Kidd appeared as a witness before a federal grand jury in Toledo investigating Mr. Noe. Also testifying were Bush contributors Toledo Mayor Donna Owens, Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber, Toledo Councilman Betty Shultz, and former state Rep. Sally Perz. September, 2004: A county grand jury obtained information via subpoena that made it clear there would be no prosecution of the allegation by Mrs. Noe and Mr. Thurber against Kidd. So, according to Bates, the investigation turned to Mr. Noe. Another subpoena was issued to pursue Kidd's counterallegation. September 29th, 2004: The subpoena was answered and contained information suggesting violation of federal laws by Noe. But Stiles was on vacation. October 12, 2004: Stiles returns from vacation, and immediately goes to Bates with a request that this be referred to the US attorney, David Bauer. October 13th, 2004: Bates meets with U.S. assistant DA Bauer and assistant DAs, plus FBI agents. Due to a contact from Bauer, the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. DoJ opens an investigation. October 15th, 2004: Lucas County prosecutor's files turned over to the FBI. I think it's a hard to make the case that state officials stalled this. County officials were responsible for some delays, but these would not be unusual. The question to me is why the federal grand jury dropped the ball. Why is the US Attorney learning just two weeks before the election of an investigation by a Grand Jury in his territory?

The Death Of The Mainstream Media

I don't know that it's quite dead yet, but it's not going to any Pilates classes any time soon.


Bill Clinton Calls For Shutting Down Guantanamo

Good for you, Bill:

The Guantánamo detainees have been classified as “unlawful enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war and are therefore not subject to the Geneva Convention or to US law. The US military has admitted to using coercive interrogation techniques on prisoners but denied that these amount to torture. Mr Clinton said uniformed US military personnel had been “very outspoken” about abuses at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Aside from moral issues, there were two practical objections to the US military abusing prisoners, he said. “If we get a reputation for abusing people it puts our own soldiers much more at risk and second, if you rough up somebody bad enough, they'll eventually tell you whatever you want to hear to get you to stop doing it.”
But of course, the FT reporter had to make sure this was mentioned:
Mr Clinton was careful to avoid criticising the administration on the issue of indefinite detention. In three or four cases, his own administration had resorted to a US law that allows suspected terrorists to be held beyond the normal length of time without trial, if bringing an indictment or trial would compromise intelligence sources.
"Three or four cases". As opposed to the tens of thousands Bush has swept up and jailed without charges. Remember, Biden's sucking up to the right-wing press notwithstanding, Clinton kept a weather eye out for Al-Qaeda pretty much 24/7 ever since the first attempts to blow up the WTC -- and his national security advisor, Sandy Berger, warned Condi Rice that she should do the same. (Berger was rewarded for this by being hauled up on bogus charges of destroying documents -- when the 'documents' were his own copies of notes he'd taken, and were destroyed in order to comply with regulations requiring the destruction of duplicate copies of classified material.) And unlike Bush, Clinton not only got the culprit, but did so via the rule of law as opposed to the law of the jungle. But I digress. Here's Bill again, to wrap things up:
“It sounds so reasonable but you're the guy that is in prison and you are not guilty, you could be held there three, four, five years and there has to be some limit to that,” he said.
Very good, Bill. Now, could you have a little chat with your wife about this? Thanks.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


I Hear Country Joe McDonald In The Background

During the Clinton years, UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter was a frequent sight on TV, as pundits turned to him whenever they wanted someone to criticize either the UN's or Clinton's efforts to contain Saddam Hussein. But now that Scott Ritter is known as one of the strongest and most knowledgeable critics of Bush's invasion of Iraq, he doesn't get that many invites to appear on American TV any more. All this is by way of explaining why this piece is not to be found on CNN, but Al-Jazeera:

"Liberation" and the spread of "democracy" have become none-too-subtle code words within the neo-conservative cabal that formulates and executes American foreign policy today for militarism and war. By the intensity of the "liberation/democracy" rhetoric alone, Americans should be put on notice that Iran is well-fixed in the cross-hairs as the next target for the illegal policy of regime change being implemented by the Bush administration. But Americans, and indeed much of the rest of the world, continue to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that overt conventional military operations have not yet commenced between the United States and Iran. As such, many hold out the false hope that an extension of the current insanity in Iraq can be postponed or prevented in the case of Iran. But this is a fool's dream. The reality is that the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities.
This would explain why Bush kept shooting his mouth off about the evil beings that run Iran even though he (or at least his "Vulcan" advisors) must have known that each comment of his was yet another coffin nail in the cause of the Iranian reformists. A hardline régime would give him a lovely excuse to invade. Well it's one, two, three, what are fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn My next stop will be Iran And it's five, six, seven, open up the bomb bay doors Well there ain't no time to ask what for Whoopee! We're all going to war!


Why Framing Is So Important

Remember our favorite Spokane "alleged" pedophile? The guy who's the town's Republican mayor? Well, AOL is on the case, fronting the story -- but NOT as a pedophilia case. Instead, it's framed as "Oh, that poor Mayor! Those evil liberal media types violated his privacy! They could do that to you, too!" and with not a mention of his raping underage boys. (In other words, it's exactly how they treated the outing of White House press corps member (and right-wing stooge) James "Jeff Gannon" Guckert as a $200-an-hour male prostitute.) Check it out.I only WISH I were kidding.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


The Bush Administration planned the coup in Venezuela

The US was using destablization tactics such as funneling money to opposition groups and economic pressure. But it is increasingly looking as if the coup that took place was, in effect, orchestrated directly by the Bush Administration. "But the CIA intervention in Venezuela is of the crudest, simplest kind. Top secret documents recently obtained and posted on show that in the weeks prior to the April 2002 coup against President Chavez, the CIA had full knowledge of the events to occur and, in fact, even had the detailed plans in their possession. An April 6, 2002 top secret intelligence brief headlining "Venezuela: Conditions Ripening for Coup Attempt," states "Dissident military factions, including some disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers, are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possible as early as this month, [CENSORED]. The level of detail in the reported plans -- [CENSORED] targets Chavez and 10 other senior officers for arrest…" The document further states, "To provoke military action, the plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month…" So the CIA knew that a coup attempt would take place soon after April 6, 2002, and moreover, they knew the plan would include Chavez's arrest and an exploitation of violence in the opposition march. In other words, they knew the plans before the coup occurred and surely they knew the actors involved, many of whose names are probably in the censored parts of the top-secret documents. One could assume that if the CIA had the detailed plans in their possession in the weeks prior to the coup it was because they were associating and conspiring with the coup plotters. I suppose the CIA could have just gotten really lucky and overheard the detailed plans at the local cantina, but somehow it's easier to believe that they had them because they prepared them. The author suggests that the CIA may have assassinated Venezuelan Prosecutor Danilo Anderson. She has posted documents obtained through FOIA here

"Let's meet around the bend, my friend...'

The Guardian (of course) has started publishing Riverbend's blog, describing the experiences of an educated Iraqi woman, from a family mixed both in terms of being Sunni and Shia and religiously liberal and conservative, living in Baghdad. In a small piece of criminal negligence, the Gruadnia (inside joke)left off the header of her blog, and so I add it here: ... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend... Amen to that, dear one. Excerpt, June 18th: "I could see the tip of Abu Maan's cigarette glowing in the yard next door. I pointed to it with the words, "Abu Maan can't sleep, either ..." E grunted, "It's probably Maan." I stood staring at him like he was half-wild - or maybe talking in his sleep. Maan is only 13 ... how can he be smoking? "He's only 13." I stated. "Is anyone only 13 any more?" he asked. I mulled this remark over. No, no one is 13 any more. No one is 24 any more ... everyone is 85 and I think I might be 105." I know what you mean, River. I know what you mean.

Friday, June 17, 2005


One of those Rosa Parks moments

It's one of those Rosa Parks moments. The Washington Post, which seems to be the relief driver of the national media bus, has printed one of the most disrespectful and dishonest articles ever, quite an accomplishment for a paper which almost singlehandedly invented most of the "Clinton scandals". This piece, by Dana Milbank, is directed as a personal attack against a senior member of Congress, a man who has served long and honorably and well, John Conyers. (Conyers answers it here) This is not the sort of thing a smart business person does. You can probably get away with calling "wing nuts", as Milbank previously did, or make snide remarks about "bloggers" and nameless, faceless "conspiracy theorists" as a lot too many journalistic kool kids seem to think is ok. A smart businessman knows he doesn't need every customer. He can get away with some rudeness now and again.He can lie every so often. But not many would spit, so to speak, in the face of a senior Congressman. Not only that, John Conyers is one of those people who everyone loves. To deride a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, elderly man with this sort of corrosive prose, especially with such little provocation, is just the sort of ugly arrogance that inspired the African Americans of Montgomery, Alabama to follow Rosa Parks out of the bus and onto the sidewalk. No, I don't think Milbank is a racist. But I know his attitudes inspire in me the same sense of being disrespected as a reader that Rosa Parks felt as a bus passenger. And they inspire in me the same sort of quiet determination that led Rosa Parks and so many others to walk rather than ride. I'll stay off the comfortable ride provided by The Washington Post media group, because I know they think that a certain class of their readers are inferior. We who believe that the government and press are out of control, no longer serving their role in democratic governance-- we are all black now. We who question the myths that all citizens have equal rights to speak freely, to have their votes counted equally-- we are all black now. We who believe that the path this nation is on leads to endless war, economic ruin, and the loss of the mantle of world leadership the United States wore ever since World War II-- we are all black now. Since we are all black now, let's get out and walk, rather than pay to be spat upon.

Now Think Really, Really Hard Here...

Here at stately Wayne Manor the well-appointed HQ of Mercury Rising, I, Phoenix Woman, am wrestling desperately and sweatily with the following question: If, when the Bushistas took over, the "grownups" were then "now in charge", could someone please tell me who then immediately afterwards hauled the grownups down to the cellar in Ekaterinburg and liquidated them? Because I can tell you one sure thing about the Bushistas: They ain't grownups, any of 'em. None of them are the least little bit emotionally mature. See, emotionally mature people believe in things like "diplomacy", "compassion", and "discussion". Immature people of any age vastly prefer being rude, bullying and insulting. Under Clinton, we had a State Department staffed with people who were adults emotionally as well as physically mature. They negotiated with the paranoid and bellicose Kim Jong Il, and kept him from making nuclear warheads. We also had a reasonably good standing in much of the rest of the world. Under the Bushistas, the mature people were frozen out in favor of jerks like John Bolton. They believed that threats and bullying -- even when (or in most cases, especially when) we couldn't back up the threats -- would work better (or at least be more fun!) than boring old diplomacy. After all, the US is better and bigger than the rest of the world, so we should be able to screw a few faces into the dirt just for fun, right? Well, there's nothing much wrong with that concept, except for the fact that as Atrios and Charles Dodgson have noted, it doesn't freaking work -- because North Korea, which had no nukes when Big Soppy "I Feel Your Pain" Clinton was in charge, now has at least half a dozen in the Era of Big Manly Man Flightsuit Bush.


In Which Fafnir Channels a Famous Opinion Columnist

******SPECIAL FEATURE***** This is Fafnir, but not the real one. The real Fafnir lives at Fafblog with the real Giblets and the real Medium Lobster. The Fafnir on this blog is just a cheap imitation, probably manufactured at $1.15 an hour in Saipan in one of the fortresses of freedom that Tom DeLay helped build to defend underage Malaysian women from the evils of the minimum wage and the Voting Rights Act. But! And-- heeeeeere's the big selling point!-- fake Fafnir is capable of channeling a famous opinion pundit!!! The real Fafnir is much too honorable to permit the lich-like spiritual remains of the being occupying any pundit's body, much less the one in question, to be granted more media shelf space than he gets by merely appearing in an obscure newspaper published on the fringes of the Mojave desert. And lack of honor creates a business opportunity! Just ask Ken Lay! So, here we go! Liftoff approaches, and with it new life! Charles, initiate the channeling! Charles: Well, I'll try, Fafnir, but I have to admit this is risky. Normally we'd want to have a few kegs of of holy water bunkered around in case something went wrong, and we evoked Lawrence Welk or Richard Nixon. But I'm all out. Who do you want to channel? Fake Fafnir. A man who writes opinion for the obscure metropolitan paper on the fringes of the Mojave desert. Charles: Are you talking about the Los Angeles Times, Faf? Not what I would call obscure. Fake Fafnir: But they will be! Look at all the steps they are taking to become obscure. Bold, daring steps like threatening the staff on pain of being purged to report in all seriousness that abortions lead to breast cancer! Steps like firing Brian Robin for daring to treat Bill Thomas like a servant of the public. Steps like publishing Michael Kinsley! With acts like this, they should become unread in no time! Charles: Did you say Kinsley, Faf? Is that who you want to channel? Fake Fafnir: Yes! Charles: That's pretty dangerous, Fafnir. Just reading Kinsley is likely to damage the brain. Channelling could have more serious effects, like becoming a member of the 700 Club or learning to like music from The Carpenters. Fake Fafnir: Miiiiichael! Miiiiiichael! Miiiiiichael! Charles: (covering ears) Ok, ok, Faf! I'm not responsible for the consequences. (long pause) Let your mind go back in time. You're slipping backward from the Los Angeles Times....(pause)... to Slate, where you managed to divert large amounts of Bill and Melinda's money from curing AIDS into producing Mickey Kaus pieces so bad that Roger Ailes (no, not the one on FOX) typically required no more than three minutes and Google to reduce to ashes. Where you actually argued that editorial fact checking is pointless because writers become sloppier, a point which you confirmed by pointing out to readers that safety belts do not save lives. Fake Fafnir: (growls and snorts) Charles: Slipping back, back in time... to Crossfire, where you convinced those thousands of Americans who watched the show that liberals whine, pontificate, and have no real beliefs...where you taught America to accept casual lies by saying you were "from the left" while everywhere else saying you were a "wishy washy moderate." Fake Fafnir: (squish squish) "..from the leeeeeeft..." (squish squish) Charles: Slipping back even further in time to The New Republic, where you helped make it into the sort of a publication where Stephen Glass's fabrications would be welcomed because they were entertaining, a publication where Ruth Shalit felt free to plagiarize... a veritable journalistic Enron ... a place where Kondracke, Barnes, and Krauthammer displaced genuine liberal voices. Fake Fafnir: (whinnies) "...all whiiiiiiiite staaaaff..." Charles: Which published Betsy McCaughey's fabricated analysis on the Clinton health plan.... Fake Fafnir: (purrs) "...celebrated, influential, inaccurate and unfair... (uninsured people are so droll)" Charles: Back through your tenure on Firing Line. Fake Fafnir: Tailgunner Joe's pal, such a niiiiice man, so sweeeeet.... Charles: Back all the way to Oxford, back even to Cranbrook school, where they did their best to teach you to "Aim High. To enter to learn. To go forth to serve." Michael Fafsley: (snicker) "Enter" like Howard Hunt and the Cubans, yes. "Serve"-- serve myself, sure. Thirds on pickled okra, at least. Enter, serve, high.... what do they mean? Words mean what we tell them to mean. Charles:, Michael, I wanted to ask you about the article you published in The Washington Post. The one in which you say that believing that the Bush Administration may have decided to go to war against Iraq while it was publicly claiming to be trying to resolve the situation peacefully is "a paranoid theory." Michael Fafsley: Ha ha! Stupid readers! They actually pay us to spit on them. Or at least they pay me. Charles: You then go on to say that the Downing Street memo isn't anything new, because everyone knew we were going to war. Michael Fafsley: Right! Saying two mutually impossible things is better than one! Sell one and keep the other, invest the proceeds and see what you have in 20 years. That's the power of compounding, my boy! Look at the sinuous, yet structurally elegant logic here! Conservatives tell readers one thing. It proves to be false. Readers see it is false. Then people who play liberals on TV tell them that anyone who actually recognizes they were lied to is mentally ill! Wouldn't that make you paranoid? And so that makes me right again, smack on the money! Our readers become paranoid thanks to reading the Los Angeles Times! Charles: Aren't you concerned that readers might start throwing their newspapers back on the steps of the Los Angeles Times, as actually happened to The Washington Post when they offended their African American readers? Or just cancel their subscriptions and spend their time reading blogs? Michael Fafsley: Blogs? Bah! Those people are just.... well... people! You can't trust them at all! They sometimes say things that are wrong, instead of lying in a trustworthy manner! We've earned the public's confidence by lying every day, year upon year, decade upon decade, in a perfectly consistent manner. What blog can claim that? Charles: Well, there's Glenn, but I take your point. Michael Fafsley: And if readers start throwing papers back at us, why, we will just have more for ourselves and less for them. That will fix them! Charles Joe Conason went back and looked at what you were actually writing before the war. It seems you were saying that Bush might be bluffing, trying to coerce Saddam without actually planning for war. So apparently not everyone knew Bush's intentions because at least you were still deceived. Michael Fafsley: Ha ha ha! See why you should never check facts? You might find you were wrong and then where would you be? That Joe is even more stupid than my readers, because he thinks I care about being wrong. No no no! What matters is who knows you are wrong and as long as you keep talking loudly and confidently and with stern resolve to use military force on people who can't fight back, very few people are likely to hear any whispers of correction. Who will know? Not Jon Carroll, who is my love and earthly desire and every pink star in the galaxy as long as his signature appears in the lower right hand corner of my weekly remunerative rectangular piece of paper. He is too busy purging liberal bias from the newsroom! (At the end of time, angels will sing of how he bravely fired Brian Robin for daring to call a Congressman an ass.) Charles: You say in The Post that "Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style..." Michael Fafsley: Yes times three! And we need presidents who will destroy the CIA and corrupt the Pentagon. In fact, I recommend hiring two more presidents of equal skill because the demand is too much for Dear Leader. Charles: Isn't falsifying intelligence an impeachable offense? Michael Fafsley: (snicker) They only impeach presidents over lying about sex. Lying to Congress is ok because they lie to us. Oh, wait. That's Rush who said that. There are so many people in here, I never know who I actually am. Charles: Do you know that Robert Parry says you must either be a sloppy reader or a liar because you so substantially misrepresent what the Downing Street minutes actually say? Michael Fafsley: You know, what is truth, reeeeally? Can you buy anything with it? It's soooo last century. I got my own teevee show. What did truth get Parry? Not even free lifetime lemonade! Charles: So... exactly how did you happen to write this article? Michael Fafsley: I had 20 spare minutes on the plane. Fred Hiatt said he'd print anything that was spelled correctly, five hundred bucks, as long as it supported the editorial page. Charles: It sounds as if being a fake liberal pays very well. Michael Fafsley: Am I fake? Am I liberal? Am I even Michael Kinsley? I have been so many people, so many different things. (in rapid succession turns into Andrew Sullivan, Margaret Carlson, Robert Novak, David Broder, Blanquita Collum, Alan Colmes). Next week I may even be leading the pack, screaming for impeachment, telling everyone who will listen that no one paid any attention to me when I said the Downing Street minutes proved that Bush lied. Or maybe not, depending on what pays better. Charles: I am going to begin the process of bringing you out from this. Slip forward in time, from Oxford and a life of so much privilege and promise... to The New Slate... to The Los Angeles Times... Fake Fafnir: (opens eyes and shakes self, a spray of carrion flying across the room) Oboy! Oboy! Being a pundit is great! Lots of money, say anything you want because no one will remember next week! At least no one who wants to keep getting lots of money! And who cares about dead people in countries with strange names? Charles: Welcome Back, Faf. Are there any last lessons you can give our readers? Fake Fafnir: This is the takehome lesson. We all knew George Bush was going to war even though he might be bluffing to avoid a war. Top secret minutes documenting the deliberations of the British government don't prove anything because it all depends on what the meaning of "invade without provocation or justication" is. Whoop! Whoop! Happy days! We have turned the corner and are almost around the block! Go west, young man. On to Syria! Or Venezuela, whichever is closest! These are the deep matters of arcane knowledge I now know. But remember! Aim high, especially when kissing the rear end of power. That's where all the tastiest stuff is!

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