Friday, September 30, 2005


Mot of the day award to Mile Schilling

....who said on DeLong's blog regarding the Bill Bennett remarks that one could reduce the crime rate by aborting every African American fetus, the following: It's all very Monty Python, isn't it? There are no genocidal fantasies about ethnically cleansing African-Americans endorsed by the Republican party, absolutely none, and when I say "none", I do mean there is a certain amount. Posted by: Mile Schilling | Sep 30, 2005 6:39:38 PM This captures the total hypocrisy of this debate. * Did Bennett denounce aborting African American fetuses? Yes, he did. Did he do so knowing that if he did not, he would likely lose his radio show? Yes, he did. * Are African Americans justified in viewing the comment as indicating genocidal intent? Well, given the history of genocide against African Americans, which goes right up into Chapter 13 (if memory serves) of The Bell Curve, one could hardly fault them if they did. It's the sort of remark national leaders, even ex-leaders just don't make. * Was his claim that aborting fetuses would reduce the crime rate accurate? No, it was not. Even making the assumption that we can predict the behavior of an adult from a fetus, it relies on a selective definition of crime as street crime. But when one broadens the definition to include white collar crime, where whites are overrepresented, suddenly the picture looks different. We are far more likely to be victimized by a Ken Lay than by a John Allen Muhammed. Not only that, white collar crime is vastly underprosecuted, so even those figures don't give the full story. And these crimes are often deadlier than street crimes. Therefore, one might as accurately say that if we aborted all the fetuses of Republicans, the future crime rate would drop. * But of course, even that would be wrong. If Republicans were educated in issues of honesty, empathy, compassion, and the debt that each member of a society owes to all others, we could far more effectively cause the crime rate to fall than by using abortion. We don't know what is in Bill Bennett's mind, if anything. What he said was both false and, from a leader, morally wrong. He should apologize for it, as should many other pundits who have rushed in to defend the indefensible. Let's stop the hypocrisy, folks.

Correction! Fisk not banned from the US and other Middle Eastern news

The following interview is of considerable interest: Robert Fisk has not been banned in the US, as many people including myself inferred from a Santa Fe New Mexican article. He had the wrong passport. Fisk believes the Hariri investigation is being done energetically and on the level. My comment: an honest investigation would be very helpful in helping to prevent a regional conflict. He discounted the recent attack on a journalist as having been because of her anti-Syrian sympathies. He says that extrapolation of what he has seen suggests that there have been 150,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion. Honest numbers are not available because the US is controlling access. "Al-Jazeera is banned... just as it was under Saddam."

Listening over the limbic jukebox: unreason as the root of the "conservative" movement

One striking thing about "conservative" (read "anarcho-Leninist") discourse is the complete lack of rationality. Some of this is a financially self-interested falling in behind the Party Line of the day, but a lot of it seems to be a broader incapacity to reason. This deficit (which exists in some degree among all human beings) goes beyond simple emotionalism, although that plays its role in shutting down dialogue. It's very hard to listen to someone else if "traitor!" or "thug!" is the tune playing on the limbic jukebox. Consider the following, Protox, posting at William Arkin's blog; the post is not clearly identifiable as left or right: "Why do you casually assert that the risk of a hurricane is more likely than the risk of a WMD or Terrorist attack? There is simply no genuine empirical evidence to support that assertion. " This is one of those statements, like "Of course this planet is Mars, dummy!" that could serve as a substitute for curare. It sounds intelligent. With one minor error in capitalization, the spelling, grammar and punctuation resemble English. But, for reasons that do not require explanation to the MercuryRising readership, it makes absolutely no sense. Arkin's blog has become magnet for such totally inane posts, including a number that are identifiably from the right. I've collated some of the things these guys say, traced them to a ring of websites that appear to * pretend to be moderates independent of the Republican machine * act as enforcers against Republicans and others who exhibit insufficient enthusiasm for anarcho-Leninism and * act as a far more polished conduit of the morning FAX than Mr. Oxycontin can deliver nowadays I'm no mindreader. But it smells like Astroturf to me. (continues in comments)

Baghdad No Longer Exists

In two and a half years, one of the world's great cities has been turned into a filthy, deadly cesspool:

Al-Sharq al-Awsat carries a long, anguished and meditative piece by Maad Fayyad, an Arab journalist normally based in London, on the occasion of his return to Baghdad for the third time since the US invasion. I don't have time to translate the entire thing, but perhaps he will publish it in English. He says from Baghdad, "Here is Baghdad . . . But which Baghdad is here? The Baghdad that we do not know and which we do not want to be like this. I wonder-- did the Mongols descend on it only yesterday, led by the captain of catastrophe and devotee of death, Hulagu Khan, such that it was transformed into debris?" He says he is looking out of a helicopter window. He sees buildings below that look like the peaks of a historical city, except that circulation in the streets is lazy and mournful. But then the rubble stretches into the distance, punctuated by mountains of garbage clearly visible from the air. Even the formerly upper class districts were mired in fetid lakes of rancid water, swirling around once proud mansions. In the 1980s, Baghdad had once received an international award as the world's cleanest city. He says, "I search for Baghdad in Baghdad, and do not find it." Once the snooty capital had given birth to a verb, "to baghdad it up" [tabaghdada], meaning to put on insufferable airs and act superior. Today the only persons bagdading it up in Baghdad are those breaking civil, religious and tribal law with impunity.

"As for the law, it does not exist here. Most of the persons I've met in Baghdad say frankly, 'Iraq is living without a state . . . without a rule of law . . . with power going to the strongest . . ."
The most progressive city in the Middle East -- a place with the best universities, the best opportunities for women, the most prosperous and best educated people in general -- has been ruined, perhaps forever.


Now The REAL Looting Begins

The Nation's October 10, 2005 issue (published online on September 22, 2005) is all about the new brand of corporate carpetbaggers descending on the waterlogged Crescent City, looking to remake it into a playground for the rich while shoving aside the 70% of the residents that are black. Here's some of the things I learned: -- Areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District -- you know, the places that DIDN'T flood? -- have plenty of vacant housing in good shape to immediately resettle 70,000 of the 200,000 evacuees (the French Quarter alone, which just happens to be the whitest and driest part of the city, has a vacancy rate of 37%), but the landlords would rather the places stay vacant than lower their rent rates. -- 150 mercenaries from Blackwater, one of BushCo's key components, are in New Orleans looting apartments, but since they're white people it's OK. Other gun-for-hire companies are present, and sometimes they're a little too quick on the trigger -- which further complicates things for an already-overworked local police force. Just part of the looting by three-piece suits going on.


Free Link To Krugman...

...since I hate TimesSelect. Wankers didn't have the guts to make it á la carte, because they don't want to admit that Krugman would be propping them up while hacks like Tierney and Brooks wouldn't be earning them any money. Anyhoo, here 'tis. And here's some DeLay/Safavian/Abramoff-related outtakes:

David Safavian is a former associate of Jack Abramoff, the recently indicted lobbyist. Mr. Safavian oversaw U.S. government procurement policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget until his recent arrest. [...] Mr. Safavian is charged with misrepresenting his connections with lobbyists -- specifically, Mr. Abramoff -- while working at the General Services Administration. A key event was a lavish golfing trip to Scotland in 2002, mostly paid for by a charity Mr. Abramoff controlled. Among those who went on the trip was Representative Bob Ney of Ohio. [...] Tyco paid $2 million, most going to firms controlled by Mr. Abramoff, as part of its successful effort to preserve tax advantages it got from shifting its legal home to Bermuda. Timothy Flanigan, a general counsel at Tyco, has been nominated for the second-ranking Justice Department post. [...] Mr. Abramoff was indicted last month on charges of fraud relating to his purchase of SunCruz, a casino boat operation. Mr. Ney inserted comments in the Congressional Record attacking SunCruz's original owner, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, placing pressure on him to sell to Mr. Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, and praised Mr. Kidan's character. [...] Last week three men were arrested in connection with the gangland-style murder of Mr. Boulis. SunCruz, after it was controlled by Mr. Kidan and Mr. Abramoff, paid a company controlled by one of the men arrested, Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, and his daughter $145,000 for catering and other work. In court documents, questions are raised about whether food and drink were ever provided. SunCruz paid $95,000 to a company in which one of the other men arrested, Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, is a principal. [...] Tom DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader after his indictment, once called Mr. Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." Mr. Abramoff funneled funds from clients to conservative institutions and causes. The Washington Post reported that associates of Mr. DeLay claim that he severed the relationship after Mr. Boulis's murder.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Judy Sings.

From Editor and Publsiher Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said to the Washington Post today, "We told her lawyers it was not coerced. We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration." When they lie this blatantly, why do they expect us to believe anything?

Yes, people this stupid are running our government (Sid Blumenthal smackdown of Karen Hughes)

Sidney Blumenthal is an accomplished master of rhetoric, delivering with perfect deadpan lines like From her exile, Hughes produced a memoir, "Ten Minutes From Normal," which is deeply uninteresting and unrevealing. Amid long stretches of uninformative banality lie unselfconscious expressions of religiosity.... And yet, it is Hughes's own words that are the most deadly: When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why President Bush mentions God in his speeches, she asked him "whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind.'" Quoting Roseanne Roseannadana, I would imagine. Good! Grief! Has Hughes ever read the Constitution? One would guess from the quote, which evidently survived a (Viking) editor, that she has not. And now she's a high official in the State Department! Worse, as Blumenthal points out, every word she says confirms what bin Laden is telling his followers, that the United States is on a crusade bent on destroying Islam and the Arab world.

The Domino Effect?

Will Tom DeLay's indictment be the domino that knocks down the entire corrupt GOP leadership? Watchdog alleges Frist made $2-6 million on insider trade

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, now under a formal investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading, made between $2 million and $6 million by selling his HCA holdings just before stock values plummeted in the face of a bad earnings report, an analysis released today by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) alleges. FTCR also pointed to overly rosy earnings projections made by HCA executives at a conference with investors just as Frist and HCA insiders were dumping HCA stock en masse, saying HCA Sr. Vice President Vic Campbell's made misleading statements to investors.
SEC intensifies probe of Senate's Frist
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has given subpoena power to investigators looking into the stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said sources familiar with the matter on Wednesday.
Remember, "Every time a Republican is indicted, God creates a kitten."

Give 'Em Hell [Again], Howard!

Last May, the Usual Suspects had a collective hissy fit when Howard Dean said, "I think Tom Delay ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence down there." I can't wait to watch their heads explode when Our Howard is proven right yet again.


Help the FBI Fight Pornography

A suggestion from Robyn Su Miller:

Since the Army threw up its hands after a feeble investigation on the US soldiers' exchange of dead Iraqi pics for online porn access, I thought the FBI might do a better job... and that they'd be grateful for a serious case for their new porn unit to work on. The more the merrier, if others want to encourage them to investigate! Here is the contact info for the FBI.
Robyn's tip to them was as follows:
My information is fact is currently in the's about the US soldiers in Iraq trading pictures of Iraqi dead in exchange for free access to an online porn site. However, since the Army has failed in its feeble attempt to identify the soldiers involved, claiming that it was a "challenge" to find anything "reasonably identifiable" although the soldiers faces are clearly visible in their photos, I thought the FBI would be better suited to follow up on this investigation. I thought it would make a stunning first victory for the FBI's new porn unit. The only leads I have are a couple of mainstream websites, but I am sure the FBI can access the offending porn site and track down the malcreants involved. Army ends probe on porn site photos of Iraq corpses US soldiers allegedly trading pictures of dead Iraqis & Afghanis for porn I agree with the website author, who says:
"I can't say for 100% that these photos really are our service members...But everything about this story rings true ... This Web site, real or fake, is going to be another public relations disaster for the US, and a bonanza recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Our government needs to tell us, fast, whether this is for real or not, and what they plan on doing about it."
Someone needs to fully investigate this, and since the DOD has thrown up its hands in despair I hope that the FBI is better equipped to finish the job. Thank you for your attention to this.


Visit the World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.

(Thanks to Johnny Wendell for the referral) I don't know what permits them to make the claim of being the world's most dangerous, but it has a good shot at being the funniest. Sample: Even Chris Matthews says that DeLay is "strutting" today. Honey, take it from those of us who have known him for decades --- he can strut sitting down!

I'm Sick of the Right's Self-Righteousness

A co-worker forwarded me an email he got from a "conservative Republican buddy" of his. The email said in part, is hard to decide which politicians are more contemptible -- Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or Republicans who are rediscovering poverty and claiming that the government can fix it. Both sides are unwilling to face reality: We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem.
It got me a little worked up. I sent him the following reply. "...the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years" Bzzzzzt! Wrong. The poverty rate dropped all through the Clinton Administration. There was a net increase in jobs. The number of people with health insurance increased. Median household income increased. The rate of home ownership increased over five times more under Clinton than under Bush. In other words, people were getting out of that "underclass". We had a budget surplus and were paying off the national debt, which is good for the economy and that's good for people who need economic opportunity. Since Bush took office, the poverty rate has increased. There's been a net job loss. The number of people with health insurance has gone down. Median household income decreased. The budget deficit and the national debt have exploded, which is bad for the economy and that's bad for people who need economic opportunity. You don't have to take my word for these statistics. Democrats aren't "rediscovering" the underclass, because they never lost sight of it. They're the party that's trying to preserve the safety net and to protect middle-income families from falling into poverty, who support the programs that help people get out of poverty. Republicans are claiming the government can fix poverty? They have a funny way of showing that, gutting the programs that provide job training, child care, higher education, and other opportunities for people to get out of poverty. Republican power broker Grover Norquist famously [infamously] said, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Mr. Norquist exceeded his goal by a few years, but it wasn't the government that drowned. It was a thousand people (and counting) along the Gulf Coast, because along with all those evil "entitlement" programs, he and his fellow rightwingers were starving programs that maintained the country's infrastructure. For the rightwingers, their own money is more important than other people's lives. It makes me wild that so many of those people claim to be Christians. I think they never opened the New Testament in their lives:
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46)
The rightwingers deny the government's Constitutional duty to "promote the general welfare", and they deny their personal duty to help the poor. I guess the poor are just supposed to follow Ebenezer Scrooge's advice to "die ... and decrease the surplus population."

Dreier and McGreevey: A Comparison

Steve Clemons (via Atrios) brings up the fact that, for Republican politicians at least, today's media looks the other way when it comes to closeted pols, even when it's obvious that the person's being a closet case impacted his career in a negative way, as has happened with David Dreier's being denied sole ownership of the House Majority Leader spot. But of course, the GOP/Media Axis is not afraid to use the "G" word when discussing Democratic politicians. Let's play compare and contrast: In 2004, NJ Governor Jim McGreevey was revealed to have a boyfriend on the payroll. He resigned after a nationwide media orgy/firestorm directed against him. In 2004, Congressman David Dreier was revealed to have a boyfriend on the payroll. The national media looks the other way, and Dreier keeps his Congressional seat. However, he is denied further advancement when Roy Blunt conducts a successful whispering campaign against him (rumor is that Blunt was telling his House colleagues that their constituents, whom they'd just riled up to vote for a passel of anti-gay legislation, wouldn't tolerate even a closeted gay man as House Majority Leader). The difference? McGreevey had a "D" after his name, whereas Dreier has an "R" after his.


Pat Tillman Liked Noam Chomsky!

...and Ann "I Hate Liberals" Coulter simply can't process that bit of knowledge. You can almost watch the smoke curl from her ears here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


A Timeline of Today's Events

The events of today, as demarcated by AmericaBlog and other places: 12:39 PM EDT -- John in DC posts that Tom DeLay has been indicted. Under the House rules that DeLay had tried to repeal last year, he must now step down from his leadership position until the legal action is resolved -- assuming he doesn't go to prison. 12:54 PM EDT -- MSNBC mentions that Hastert recommends David Dreier to take DeLay's place as House Majority Leader. 1:26 PM EDT -- John in DC posts a transcript of the key part of the Mike Signorile interview with David Dreier, wherein Dreier dances around admitting that he's gay. Josh Marshall states that Dreier was picked to be a placeholder: DeLay fully expects to beat the rap, and he doesn't want to have to fight off Roy Blunt (R-MO), who actually has a power base in Congress that could lead him to withstand an attempt by DeLay to take back the Majority Leader mantle. 2:52 PM EDT -- Commenter Marky over at Steve Gilliard's News Blog makes the following recommendation: "Call Hastert's office at 202-225-2976 and thank him for standing up to the radical religous right by recommending a gay man as majority leader." 3:05 PM EDT -- Eschaton regular commenter Pseudoymnous in DC notes the following: "Oh, so Dreier may not be a done deal. Blount may well be calling up all the radical clerics and saying that ol' Dave is too poofy, um, Californian to be acting MajLeader." 4:17 PM EDT -- Josh Marshall asks, "Dreier out?" 4:22 PM EDT -- Josh Marshall asks, "Blunt pushing Dreier aside?" 5:15 PM EDT -- Josh Marshall posts the following:

So what's the deal exactly? Clearly, Blunt has pushed David Dreier aside for the Majority Leader's job, allowing Dreier, in turn, to edge out Robert Livingston for shortest ever tenure as Republican congressional leader. But the latest reports I can find have Dreier and Blunt, how else to say it, cohabiting in the Majority Leader's office. Says Reuters: "After a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, lawmakers said Blunt's position was an interim arrangement for the rest of the year and that he would share leadership responsibilities with Rep. David Dreier of California. It was not immediately clear how Blunt, who had had been the third ranking Republican member of the House, would share duties with Dreier, the chairman of the House Rules Committee." How does that work exactly?
Most interesting!


Raspberry pie alert! Arkin debunks Able Danger

Able Danger was a danger to the Republic In April 2000, Able Danger, only months old, was abruptly shut down. Caught violating Reagan administration Executive Orders and Defense Department and Army regulations restricting intelligence agencies from collecting information on United States "persons," the highly compartmented cell within the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) was halted in its effort to use data mining and link analysis to characterize the worldwide nature of the al Qaeda terrorist network. ...According to military sources familiar with the Able Danger legal side, the effort stepped over the line when LIWA contractors purchased photographic collections of people entering and exiting mosques in the United States and overseas. One source says that LIWA contractors dealt with a questionable source of photographs in California, either a white supremacy group or some other anti-Islamic organization. Able Danger was ineffectual First, to debunk the myths: * As best as I can determine, having spent tens of hours talking to military sources involved with the issue, intelligence analysts did not identify anyone prior to 9/11, Mohammed Atta included, as a suspect in any upcoming terrorist attack. * It is not even clear that a "Mohammed Atta" was identified, let alone that it is the same Atta who died on 9/11. * No military lawyers prevented intelligence sleuths from passing useful information to the FBI. * Able Danger itself was not an intelligence program.

Trent Lott blocked coastal preparations; why undermining Posse Comitatus is a bad ides; good news for dissent.

Democracy Now had an extraordinary show. There was the excellent news that a prosecutor's hysterical attempt to turn what would normally be charged as vandalism and trespassing into terrorism was turned back by a jury of Americans. Had the prosecutor succeeded, American law would have been irrevocably transformed. He should go back to whatever planet he came from and the jury deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom-- from an elected president. There was also a report stating that Trent Lott used his position and senatorial powers of investigation to block the appointment of a man who who might have protected the Mississippi coast from disaster by preserving wetlands-- but interfered in gambling: To accommodate the moral qualms of conservative locals, the [Mississippi] legislature relegated gambling to navigable waters,” [Jane Mayer] went on, but Browner says, “But they were huge and they were right up against the shore. If you put structures this big into an estuary, you're disrupting the aquatic life and changing the habitat and eradicating wetlands, which has a huge effect on drainage. The wetlands act like a sponge in a storm. ...they have to be kept moist like a sponge ...If they’re dried out and developed, they don’t work. The shoreline’s a very important buffer in the storm.” ...Lott was particularly single-minded in his support of casino development. She said, “I had barely taken office,” Browner said, “when I discovered there was a hold on a department nominee.” She said “I didn't have a clue on who put the hold on the nominee. Then Trent Lott called me up and said he'd done it. He told me, ‘I figured I'd have a problem with the E.P.A., I don't have one yet, but this is a warning to you.’ Then he lifted the hold but the message was clear.” The third is an interview with William Arkin: First of all, there's really nothing that prevents the President of the United States from declaring a national emergency and using the military in this type of circumstance, and second, I, for one, am extremely uncomfortable with the notion that we're going to supplant civilian authority by using the military to deal with disasters in the United States, and also as an American, I’m just incredibly ticked off with the notion that we spend $100 billion a year for a new Department of Homeland Security, and we're letting it get off the hook in terms of its responsibility for this basic function. There is also a link to Arkin's blog

Chertoff directly to blame for New Orleans disaster; Brown just a scapegoat

Not that I mind. For Michael Brown to have sought a senior position of government should have brought him enough bad cess for several lifetimes. Being a leader is not Village People make-believe; people died. But Brown was apparently the patsy for Chertoff. Chertoff is the one who belongs in the criminal dock. From Democracy Now Ultimately, this [National Response Plan] designates the Secretary of Homeland Security as the person who is supposed to be the principal federal official in charge when disaster strikes. A presidential directive by President Bush going several years back has designated the Secretary of Homeland Security as being in charge in domestic incidents, and so while Michael Brown very much was a point person down on the ground, there are a number of questions for Secretary Chertoff. AMY GOODMAN: So you write about this memo, saying Chertoff didn't shift power to Brown for 36 hours after the hurricane. Talk more about that. ALISON YOUNG: Sure. Part of what triggers this so-called “proactive federal response” is designating an event, what they call an “incident of national significance.” This is a new term that is coming into play in the whole emergency management sector as part of the National Response Plan. Secretary Chertoff – the plan says that it is up to the Secretary of Homeland Security to make that designation. He did not do that until about 36 hours after Katrina struck, even though that designation can be made when a catastrophe is known to be imminent. And in doing that, 36 hours after the event, he empowered Michael Brown to be the principal federal official in charge.

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Driving home today, I was astonished to hear on NPR that the House Republicans, after having all but accepted Number One DeLay Sock Puppet Dennis Hastert's promotion of Number Two Sock Puppet David Dreier to be Hot Tub's placeholder, suddenly revolted and went for the logical choice, Roy Blunt of Missouri. I just LOVED how the NPR people danced around why Dreier was dumped for Blunt. "He was selected by Speaker Hastert, but ran into opposition from conservative House Republicans" was essentially what they said. Translation: 1) We 'Publicans ain't a-gonna have no faggit as our Whip, even if he's jest a placeholder for Hot Tub Tom! 2) By dumping Faggit Placeholder for The Supremely Corrupt But Definitely Hetero Blunt, we are admitting that DeLay's chances of survivin' this are slim and none -- and Slim just lef' town. David Brooks essentially confirmed that DeLay is toast in his little tête-a-tête with E.J. Dionne on NPR this afternoon. As Atrios says,

David Brooks was on NPR, and he's a reliable peddler of a certain strand of Republican information. Things we learned: Bush never really got along with DeLay, conservative Republicans have come to believe that DeLay only wants more and doesn't have any genuine conservative principles (whatever they are), everyone just loves Blunt. Whatever the truth of any of these things, the fact that Brooks is peddling these storylines says that they're pushing him out permanently.
Expect to see DeLay quietly resign, oh, sometime before New Year's Day. I'm picking Christmas Eve, myself. He'll want to do it at a time when the media are looking the other way even more than usual. Oh, and as for Roy Blunt: He'd better not get too comfy in Hot Tub's chair.
'Rep. Blunt and his staff have close connections to uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is the subject of criminal and congressional probes.'


David Dreier: The New Tom DeLay

That's what they're telling us. By the way: In honor of his accession to DeLay's Whipping Post job, Raw Story has reprinted their September 20, 2004 outing of Dreier as a self-hating gay man who routinely votes in finest Roy Cohn fashion. And after you're finished looking at that, here's the Hustler piece that Larry Flynt promised, as referenced in the Raw Story article. Enjoy!


Newspapers In Turmoil!

Or why most dailies, even the better ones, are clueless about what to do as they lose eyeballs to blogs and Jon Stewart. Though the StarTribune (which actually has bucked the trend by gaining eyeballs -- a phenomenon linked to its having a reputation for being a liberal and opinionated paper) may have hit on a solution:

The appeal of good, sometimes irreverent writing, beyond what traditional mainstream newspapering currently allows, is borne out in a study by Northwestern University’s Readership Institute. Lately the Institute has partnered with the Star Tribune, testing models for the newspaper’s long-awaited redesign. The makeover is supposed to incorporate significant advances in online service, among other things. Many Star Tribune employees will be curious to see if it addresses anything mentioned here. Northwestern spent a lot of time assessing the tastes of those elusive “younger readers,” the ones who don’t read newspapers much, don’t watch traditional network news programs, and only leaf through Time and Newsweek at the dentist’s office. What they found was interesting: A remix of news choices with hipper, more irreverent headlines and stories written with blog-like attitude—not Jen-Brad-Angelina-style celebrity junk, but actual news—was in fact more appealing to young readers than the stuff the Star Tribune actually published (they focused the study on the Star Tribune’s Valentine’s Day 2005 edition). The Star Tribune test material was very similar to Chicago’s competing Red Eye and Red Streak free tabloids. (The “Reds” are two free weeklies published the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune since 2002. They are aggressive efforts to lure young readers.) “What is interesting and revealing,” says Mike Smith, managing director of Northwestern’s Media Management Center, “is that the Sun-Times and Tribune have found that adults, loyal newspaper readers, are picking up the free weeklies in far greater numbers than first imagined.” In other words, a general loosening of the more staid conventions of professional journalism may very well offer more upside than risk to mainstream media.
Well, no duh. But will other papers follow the Strib's lead? Probably not:
But lacking a relaxation of profit demands so counter-effective to creativity, risk-taking, and invention, the death spiral for most newspapers will probably continue. Few will actually fold. A monopoly in a market will always guarantee steady positive cash flow, no matter what the quality of the product. But as their irrelevance to literature-loving readers and aggressive news ferrets deepens, most will become glorified community newspapers and “repeater towers” for the handful of major papers and wire services.
Meanwhile, the local TV stations shouldn't chuckle too loudly over the plight of their print brethren and cistern:
As for local TV news, the gold standard for cash-cow-dom and exemplar to so many others in the industry, they had better have a plan for the day the first shrewd video bloggers fire up their own local newscasts in the looming all-digital age. They must offer Daily Show fans a valid alternative to the silly, ossified, lucrative formula of happy faces, bloody pictures, weather, and sports that sent viewers to the Comedy Channel in the first place.
Which reminds me: Don't know of any local video TV bloggers, but we've already got the beginnings of a national internet TV blogger network.


Hot Tub Tom in Hot Water

DeLay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe

A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that could force him to step down as House majority leader. DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee. ... A state political action committee he created, Texans for a Republican Majority, was indicted earlier this month on charges of accepting corporate contributions for use in state legislative races. Texas law prohibits corporate money from being used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses. With GOP control of the Texas legislature, DeLay then engineered a redistricting plan that enabled the GOP take six Texas seats in the U.S. House away from Democrats — including one lawmaker switching parties — in 2004 and build its majority in Congress.
Yeah, yeah, "a good prosecutor can convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." It still shows there's some things The Exterminator can't bully and buy his way out of. Courage, mes amis!

Déja Vu All Over Again: Brazil Edition

I don't know if it's Charles' influence on my thought processes, or if it's just that the whole thing smells ever-so-much like the infamous witchhunts conducted against Bill Clinton and his associates, but boy, this alleged Brazilian corruption scandal reeks like last week's garbage. First, we have The Official Story, as pushed by the Washington Post and NPR's "Morning Edition" program. (It was listening to NPR this morning that alerted me to the whole shebang.) Corruption charges leveled against the President (in this case, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or "Lula" as he is universally known) by disgruntled former Administration members, with the sense of invisible wires leading from their limbs to the fingers of right-wing puppeteers. Six months of wall-to-wall "coverage", which is mostly a parade of figures spouting innuendo on the right-leaning media, claiming that Lula was involved. But there's no actual evidence that Lula really was involved. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. (Of course, one had to wait until the very end of the NPR piece before that little fact got mentioned.) And, again just as with Clinton, the fact that the economy has done much better under Lula than it had before him is working in his favor. So I went looking for The Non-Official Story, and I think I've found it. Some interesting things I've learned: -- While there's no doubt that corruption exists in Lula's ruling party, Lula's right-wing enemies don't dare openly attack him over it, preferring to let their friends in the media go after him instead. Why? Because they don't want their own corruption revealed. (The pols attacking Lula are generally ones who, if anything, are disappointed at what they see as his Clinton-style tacking to the right. So any American conservatives hoping to see a conservative government emerge from Lula's troubles are bound to be bummed out.) -- The resignation on September 21 of Severino Cavalcanti, the disgraced chairman of the House of Representatives, has also lowered the pressure on Lula. It's quite likely that, even as the US media is just starting to notice the hoo-ha, that it has already peaked. The upshot of all this? My guess is that it'll be Lula returning to the policies that got him elected in the first place, in order to shore up his support. But that's not what we'll hear about on our radios or read in our newspapers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Waxman, Pelosi Introduce Anti-Cronyism Bill

Let's publicize the heck out of this:

Washington, DC - Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act, which would prohibit the President from appointing unqualified individuals to critical public safety positions in the government. "President Bush has handed out some of the country's most difficult and important jobs - leadership positions in public safety and emergency response - to politically well-connected individuals with no experience or qualifications," Rep. Waxman said. "This common sense legislation will end this practice and ensure that public safety is back in the hands of those who are trained and experienced in protecting the public." The bill would require any presidential appointee for a public safety position to have proven, relevant credentials for that position. In addition, the legislation bars from appointment to an agency any individual who has been a lobbyist for an industry subject to the agency's authority during the preceding two years. "As Hurricane Katrina tragically demonstrated, serious consequences result when unqualified cronies are appointed to federal public safety positions," Pelosi said. "The Bush Administration's culture of cronyism comes at the expense of public safety. It is unconscionable and must stop immediately - it is literally a matter of life and death. This legislation is critically needed, and I thank Mr. Waxman for his strong leadership in protecting the American people." Subject to the bill are specific senior-level emergency preparedness offices at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as any position with the primary function of responding to a direct threat to life or property or hazard to health.
This is EXACTLY what the Democrats should be doing. If the Republicans vote it down -- which they will -- they are on the side of corruption and paybacks. If they vote for it, they piss off Bush. Oh, and it happens to be good public policy. Perfection.


What's the next in the series and what does the series represent? Fallujah, Tal Afar...

If you guessed "Samarra" and "ethnic cleansing", you'd be correct. From the UN News service Hundreds of families have started to flee the Iraqi city of Samara, some 120km north of the capital, Baghdad, following a recent Ministry of Defense announcement that preparations had started for an offensive by Coalition forces against insurgents holed up there, officials said.... the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS) urged the Iraq government not to proceed with their operation, saying the last offensive against insurgents in Talafar had forced nearly 5,000 families to flee the city. "We put all our efforts to help the people who fled Talafar, another operation will just bring more injustice and pain to Iraqis. We had difficulties getting aid to Talafar as our stores were empty and another offensive will be much worse," Ferdous al-Abadi, spokeswoman for the IRCS, said.... Despite the returns, however, thousands of displaced people [from Tal Afar] are still living in camps and surviving on aid from various humanitarian organisations. The fighting also disrupted the school year, which has now been delayed across the city, residents said. Speaking of which, this AP tidbit on Ariel Sharon's Peace-Prize-in-Process diplomacy: A United Nations rights expert yesterday said the disengagement from the Gaza Strip has allowed the Jewish state to divert attention from its further expansion into East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories.

Samizdat, keeping truth alive: The real news from Iraq

Thanks to the Lannan Foundation, and many volunteers who swiftly responded to this attempt at censorship, the US Government failed to suppress this important news from Iraq. Amy Goodman interviews Robert Fisk Quotes may not be perfectly exact, but are close.

And my personal favorites:

Fisk also does a reading on broader issues of insurgency in the Middle East

The Diebold Went Down to Georgia...

...and created one colossal hellacious mess in the 2002 and 2004 elections. And now our side's got the goods on them. Andrew Gumbel tells us about it in The Huffington Post.

Cathy Cox, the Secretary of State of Georgia... was the first Secretary of State to champion and purchase an all-electronic touch screen voting system for her state. She persuaded Georgia to spend an initial $54 million on a hitherto untried Diebold system in 2002, and has tried ever since to parlay the e-voting revolution she helped launch into a bid for the Georgia governorship in November 2006. “Advancing the e-government revolution,” is the slogan on her website. Contrary to the fine rhetoric, however, a raft of official documents obtained exclusively by the Huffington Post – including the original contract signed with Diebold and a flurry of six amendments that followed between July 2002 and December 2004, as well as official correspondence and legal papers – show that Cox’s management of Georgia elections has been little short of a disaster. The documents were obtained by way of multiple public records requests, most of them coordinated by the Georgia voting rights activist Roxanne Jekot and her organization, Count The Vote. The documentary record shows that elections were run on software that was not only untested but also uncertified, that key components broke down during live elections, that county officials were left clueless on how to operate the new machines because of a breakdown in the training schedule, and that the cost of installing the electronic touch-screen system jumped dramatically beyond the advertised $54 million, without proper legislative oversight or approval. None of this has previously been made public.
(More sordid details at the link.) Serious questions about Georgia's voting machines have been raised since before the 2002 election, including whistleblowers' reports that software patches were downloaded after the machines were certified and that machines were deployed for the elections after they failed the quality tests. By sheer coincidence, Diebold's chief lobbyist in Georgia was Lewis Massey, former Secretary of State and Cathy Cox's former boss. Cox's response to these problems has been to deny, obfuscate, and stonewall. The shame of it is that she's a Democrat, and her "incompetent" handling of elections very likely cost the Democrats the governorship and a Senate seat. Now all we need is somebody in the so-called unbiased media to lift this story out of the blogs and put it in the public consciousness. And a prosecutor with the gonads to do a thorough investigation of the connections between Cathy Cox's office and the election-machine vendors.

Leadership, Bush-Style

Suddenly, Bush is all in favor of energy conservation:

[Bush] asked Americans and federal workers to cut back on unnecessary travel to make up for fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Rita. "If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees," Bush said. "We can encourage employees to car pool or use mass transit, and we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation." The White House also will be looking at ways to conserve, press secretary Scott McClellan said...
With exceptions, of course:
...although that didn't include curtailing the president's travel plans. Tuesday marked the president's seventh trip to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes in less than a month. ... Bush also has asked that his motorcade be scaled back, his spokesman said, and it was shorter upon his arrival in Texas. However, the multiple-vehicle caravan moved just several yards from his presidential jet and dropped Bush off at an airport terminal for his meeting with Texas officials. ... On Saturday, in a visit to the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., some of Bush's briefers were linked from the White House situation room steps from the Oval Office.
Please note that last sentence. Bush flew from the White House to Colorado Springs and had a videoconference with people in the White House. That's leadership, Bush-style: "Do as I say, not as I do." Maybe if somebody sends him a cardigan with the Preznitial seal on it, he'll take the hint.

The wages of stun: Taser being probed by SEC

Michael Baron of Marketwatch reports Taser tumbles; SEC probe's now formal Last Update: 9:41 AM ET Sept. 27, 2005 NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - Shares of Taser International fell early Tuesday after the stun-gun maker said a previously disclosed Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry is now formal. The stock dropped 7.7% to $6.73 in early action. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company (TASR: news, chart, profile) also said the SEC's probe has been expanded to include examination of "the possible unauthorized acquisition of material non-public information" by individuals outside the company in an effort to manipulate the price of Taser stock.

Abramoff: So Who Shut Down The 2002 Probe?

That's what we want to know.


Sun Rises In East. Dog Bites Man. Jim Sensenbrenner Is A Greedy, Callous Liar.

I read in the print edition of the NYT this morning an article stating that Congress had never imagined such a thing as Katrina when passing the Bankruptcy bill earlier this year. I knew that had to be bullshit -- I remembered countless Democratic efforts to soften various parts of the bill, all of which got shot down by the Republicans -- and Scout Prime confirms it for me:

Go read a copy of the Democratic House Judiciary Staff's dissenting views on the bankruptcy bill that was leaked to RAW STORY prior to the bill's passage. It's right there...
While some people abuse the bankruptcy system, more than 90 percent of debtors file for bankruptcy due to unemployment or underemployment, an illness or accident, or divorce. The bulk of the remainder suffered from other legitimate difficulties, including activation for military service, being a victim of crime or natural disasters, or a death in the family ...


a. Concerns Regarding the Means Test

It is incorrect to assume that the effect of S. 256’s harmful provisions would be limited to individuals seeking bankruptcy relief who earn more than the state median income.

The definition of “current monthly income” used in the means test measures a debtor’s income based upon how much the debtor earned in the six months prior to bankruptcy. If the debtor lost a good job in month three and has been working at a low-wage job ever since, the income from that good job, and help from family members, would be counted as if that is what his future income would be. The debtor would be expected to pay out of income that may no longer exist. Also, the means test will pick up a variety of revenue sources – such as disaster assistance, and Veterans’ benefits – which will result in lower- and middle-income individuals being cast as bankruptcy “abusers” with income above the median.

The Democrats tried to get the Republicans to allow this provision, but of course the Republicans wouldn't allow it. Oh, and despite Katrina and Rita, the Republicans still don't want to deprive the credit-card companies and banks of one single penny of their 30%-and-higher interest rates (none dare call it usury). Get a load of that fat load, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin:
But House Republicans, who fought off a proposed amendment that would have made bankruptcy filings easier for victims of natural disasters, said there was no reason to carve out a broad exemption just because of the storm. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, rejected the notion of reopening the legislation, saying it already included provisions that would ensure that people left "down and out" by the storm would still be able to shed most of their debts.
As seen above, that's a damned lie, and Sensenbrenner knows it. But he's an arrogant bastard:
Lawmakers who lost the long fight over the law, he said, "ought to get over it," according to The Associated Press.
Yeah. Katrina victims "ought to get over it". Rita victims "ought to get over it". And people in western Wisconsin who lost homes and jobs to the recent killer storms in the area "ought to get over it". This clown needs to be taken down a peg or two. And it looks like it would only take a million or so to do it. Yeah, Sensenbrenner's in a "safe" district. But so was Jean Schmidt. Here's Bryan Kennedy, who in his first try -- and with minimal money -- did better against Sensenbrenner than any other Democrat has in years. Let's see what we can do for 2006!

Monday, September 26, 2005


What follows will be a picture perfect economic crash landing

Reuters via Doug Henwood via Brad DeLong: Reuters - September 24, 2005: Paul Carrel: WASHINGTON -- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told France's Finance Minister Thierry Breton the United States has "lost control" of its budget deficit, the French minister said on Saturday. " Budget deficits are funny things. The US ran an enormous budget deficit through World War II and things worked out well. Yes, some scary inflation and shortages of beef in the late 1940s, but winning the war put the nation on the track for prosperity. On the other hand, Germany lost World War I, tried to print money, and ended up with wild hyperinflation. Winning and losing wars makes a difference. If the US could eliminate (or vastly reduce) weapons of mass destruction by its "war on terror," things would work out. It may yet accomplish that, since it has most of the WMDs on earth. The Russians are second, and they can't afford theirs either. Both of our budget deficits could be eliminated by eliminating WMDs and pretensions to being grander than other nations. But until these changes happen, economic disaster is very likely.

Prepare the raspberry pie for Able Danger

Johnny Wendell brought to my attention the following Wikipedia article: Manucher Ghorbanifar has emerged as the probable origin of the information cited by Congressman Curt Weldon's book, Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America... and How the CIA has Ignored it (Regnery Publishing, June 2005) ISBN: 0895260050. Weldon cites an anonymous source, "Ali," believed to be Fereidoun Mahdavi, a former Iranian minister of commerce before the Iranian Revolution who is a close associate of Ghorbanifar. I guessed this from the beginning (and have the e-mail to prove it). Calling Ghorbanifar a con man is to improperly exalt that profession. He is an artiste of disinformation, virtually unparalleled at making things up. The Hindrocket of the 1980s. If the New York Times is using him as a source, even indirectly, they deserve the raspberry pie should his information prove to be as reliable as in the past.

In which the Poor Man solves the riddle of the age

How Republicans manage to say completely idiotic things without being called complete idiots. (Hint: It has to do with decompression) More here

Snopes Does Katrina

The "urban legends" web site has a section for Hurricane Katrina. In particular, they analyze the various alleged personal accounts that have been making the email rounds. It shouldn't surprise you that the accounts of bad behavior (from ingratitude and laziness to violence) by the poorest victims of Katrina range from "undetermined, but contradicted by all other accounts" to "false".


Why Bush Couldn't Care Less About His Poll Numbers

Some Congressional Republicans, their eyes on 2006, might be a bit antsy. But Bush doesn't care about his poll numbers, and here's why:

A recent Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal by Fred Barnes — the conservative pundit who most consistently reflects the administration's outlook — argued that Bush's unpopularity should not hamper his ability to cram through his agenda. As Barnes writes, "The simple fact of governing in Washington is that popularity is not a measure of power." He proceeds to quote a Bush aide practically gloating about the president's low poll numbers. The reason they have nothing to fear is that the structure of our political system makes our leaders almost completely unaccountable. If we had a parliamentary system, the opposition party would be calling for a vote of no confidence and a new election. Americans, though, can only hold an election every four years. And because the 22nd Amendment limits presidents to two terms, we'll never get another chance to vote Bush out of office. ONE REMEDY ought to be the prospect that voters could throw congressional Republicans out of power. Yet that is extraordinarily difficult to do. Republican states, which tend to be more sparsely populated, are disproportionately represented in the Senate. Bush won less than 52% of the vote in 2004, yet 62% of senators represent states that backed him. The House is even tougher to flip. Not only did 59% of the districts vote for Bush in 2004, the seats are so gerrymandered that less than a tenth are even vaguely competitive. Political scientist Michael P. McDonald estimated that the Democrats would need about 57% of the total House vote to win control of the chamber. In this context, Bush's strategy of catering to his base and mostly ignoring the center makes perfect sense. All he needs to do is maintain the support of his own party. And he has. Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove of Bush's performance, as do independents. But Republicans still love him. Bill Kristol, another prominent conservative, recently told the New York Times, "I think the Clinton administration would have done a better job in handling Hurricane Katrina, but I'm also glad Bush is president and not a Democrat." What could this statement mean? Bush may have mishandled a massive natural disaster that may have killed thousands, displaced tens of thousands and cost tens of billions of dollars, but Kristol is still glad he's president. Because we need his skillful handling of Iraq. No, I mean the federal budget. No, wait…. What I think it means is that Kristol, like most conservatives, will remain loyal to Bush as long as he remains ideologically true, no matter how badly he governs.


What a Tangled Web

Joseph Schmitz, until recently the Inspector General at the Pentagon, left that job "amid accusations that he stonewalled inquiries into senior Bush administration officials suspected of wrongdoing." He was promptly hired by the Prince Group, parent company of Blackwater USA. Blackwater USA is "a private security company with millions of dollars in contracts in Iraq." (Blackwater USA also got contracts to provide "private security" in New Orleans, not just protecting rich people's property from all those hordes of looters but working under a contract with the Department of Homeland Security.) Blackwater's CEO and co-founder, Erik Prince, is the son of a co-founder of the Family Research Council and the brother of Betsy DeVos. Betsy DeVos is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party; she's so extreme that former governor John Engler publicly opposed her agenda. Betsy is Lord Voldemort in drag. Betsy's husband, Dick DeVos, is the son of the co-founder of Amway. (Yes, that Amway.) He's also the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor of Michigan; he's already running on a platform of "Gov. Granholm caused Michigan's high unemployment rate", notwithstanding that, as head of Amway, he eliminated 1,400 jobs in Michigan and outsourced thousands more to China. But wait, there's more about Mr. Schmitz. Jane Hamsher of firedoglake reminds us that Joseph Schmitz is the son of California Republican John Schmitz, who ran on "the family values" platform and considered Ronald Reagan a pinko. The thing is, Joseph was John's son by a woman other than John's wife. Joseph had a half-sister (John's "real" family) who grew up to be Mary Kay LeTourneau. Do I need to mention the huge sums of money these people have given to Bush and the GOP? These are the people who claim to be the party of morality.


"Brownie" Has a New Job

Raw Story has the scoop.

CBS News' Bob Schieffer just announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has rehired ex-FEMA chief Michael Brown-- as a consultant to evaluate the agency's response to the disaster! ...CBS says they've confirmed Brown had been rehired.
We need a new word. "Hypocrisy" is just so inadequate, and "arrogance" is such an understatement.

Bob Woodward Misses the Point (Again)

From the Akron Beacon Journal:

Woodward also touched on the criticism of Bush for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. Like Iraq, he said, Bush's response to the hurricane was a failure of intelligence. "No one told him in a forceful way, 'You need to get moving on this,' " he said. "If Katrina had hit Texas, I know people who have a phone relationship with Bush who would have said, 'George, get your (butt) down here.' There was no one in Louisiana who could get through to him to say, 'Get your (butt) down here.' "
You'd think it would have occurred to a veteran reporter who's covered the White House since the Nixon Administration that the [expletive deleted] President of the United States shouldn't need to be told to get his butt in gear when a Category 4 hurricane is on its way to destroying most of the Gulf Coast. That Bush strummed while Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana drowned was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of leadership.

Did Ashcroft REALLY Step Down As Attorney General?

You'd never know it, considering that BushCo STILL insists on making anti-porn efforts their top priority. Porn -- you know, one of the many freedoms for which Bush says the 'terraists' hate us? When even the FBI agents think this is a sad joke, you know it's a sad joke. (Now, if they were serious about fighting obscenity, then Dick Cheney and the entire board of directors for Halliburton would be in jail right now. But so it goes.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Summer Book Report: Bob Graham's Intelligence Matters

Most people think that unraveling a complex historical event like 9/11 is a simple matter of convening a commission of honest, smart investigators. Experience does not substantiate that view. After 8 or so serious and searching investigations, there is still not unanimity that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise to FDR and the American military. While I think many of the bases for thinking FDR was in on it are poorly-founded, I imagine that most of those who hold the opposite opinion are sane, sincere and honest. So, it is not a surprise that after a couple of reasonably competent-- if outrageously delayed and presidentially-manipulated-- investigations of 9/11, there's still significant disagreement about what happened. The "Able Danger" kerfuffle is just the latest. While I suspect that AD will eventually be debunked in whole or in part, this back-and-forth is part of the normal historical process. That process involves forming a coherent picture using flawed elements from many sources. In understanding 9/11, Senator Bob Graham's book, Intelligence Matters is an essential book. This review should be useful even to hardened 9/11 junkies. (continued in comments)

Juan Cole is off the fence; Frist covers up torture as McCain stands silent

Juan Cole draws our attention to a Think Progress piece that suggests that Senators John McCain and Bill Frist have attempted to coverup evidence of torture: The Captain revealed this abuse to Human Rights Watch in July 2005. He also reported his charges to “three senior Republican senators,” including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain. ...On July 27, the same month the Captain came forward, Sen. Frist single-handedly derailed a bipartisan effort — led by Sen. McCain — to clarify rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at U.S. prison camps. In what news reports at the time described as an “unusual move,” Frist “simply pulled the bill from consideration” before it could be debated. In a piece on ICH from which that is linked, Juan Cole states narrow reasons why we must withdraw ground troops (note the qualification): the conduct of the war is brutalizing our troops: The brutalization of the US military and of its prisoners is a brutalization of the entire American public. It is an undermining of the foundational values of the Republic. We cannot remain Americans and continue to behave this way routinely. Well, um, yes, sort of. Memories of Operation Phoenix, free fire zones, and the Strategic Hamlets program were an element in why many of us opposed the Iraq intervention. I would say that violence is very much one of the foundational values of America. Slavery, the genocidal conquest of the West.... don't get me started. Down a notch on Cole's list is this: The second reason is that the ground troops are not accomplishing the mission given them, and are making things worse rather than better. Actually, they are accomplishing the mission George Bush gave them-- Shock and Awe-- brilliantly. The problem is that shocked and awed people can still be Very, Very, Angry and Determined people. Why Cole does not see that "Chaos is the Plan" escapes me. Ironically, Cole presents a far better case for withdrawal by describing what has happened in Mosul, Fallujah, and Tal Afar. Three hundred thousand made homeless and two-thirds of the buildings damaged in Fallujah. Two hundred thousands made homeless in Tal Afar. Baghdad and Mosul increasingly in the hands of Sunni nationalists. Uncounted dead, maimed, wounded. If one is causing this much damage by trying to control a country, maybe the best thing is to stop trying. I remain in favor of using US troops to serve as an external defense (mostly to prevent the Turks and Kurds from going at one another) and to foil internal set-piece battles between massed troops. The real problem is that US troops are trying to do law enforcement, and that is not a mission they trained for. But militarily, one can't do that exclusively with the USAF. You need ground troops to guard bases. You may need ground troops to guard supply lines. I am sure Cole understands this, but the way it comes it is a little muddled. If I have twitted Cole above, it is because he is very much worth the energy: he's a brilliant and knowledgeable commentator on whom I frequently rely. He supplies the facts; here, I supply the attitude.

Statistics that make you go "hmmm"

From Andrew Buncombe at the London Independent US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel.

An Amusing Story -- With An Interesting Moral

This morning, Atrios and Shakespeare's Sister point us to this UK Observer story about how Bush's nationwide fundraising appeal for the Iraq invasion and occupation hasn't exactly got Bush backers to open their wallets wide:

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt… The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.
[UPDATE: A Kossack hunted up the USAID link to which the Observer story refers: The actual amount is $589.00 as of September 23, 2005.] This is yet another reason the internet in general, and blogs in particular, are more effectively used by the left than by the right. I've wondered out loud in this blog before why that should be so, and I think I've finally hit on it: Hardcore righties don't think in terms of community. Ever. They do think in terms of top-down leadership, but they never think in terms of "let's all work together for the common good". They think in terms of getting their little soapboxes out there, getting their craven GOP/Media Axis buddies to give them free publicity -- publicity and "respectability" that is never quite granted by the corporate media to lefty blogs -- and spreading their version of reality. That's why there are gobs and gobs of new righty blogs out there, even as the righty share of the blogosphere is shrinking, both in terms of actual readership numbers and in terms of the percentage of the blogosphere's readership, despite the best fluffing efforts of the GOP/Media Axis. These are all people who are talking to themselves out loud or chasing the same half dozen readers. This is why they could never do a Howard Dean and raise money from the Net the way he did (and does). This is why Jean Schmidt's appeal for grass-roots funds against Paul Hackett fell flat and she was compelled not to just spend 200K of her own money, but to put out an emergency appeal to the RNC in the last week before the election. (And even though she squeaked by on the skin of her teeth -- in an election that is still somewhat questionable -- Hackett's people got so many voters to the polls that they got passed every single school and municipal levy for the area, including a few that had been languishing for years.) The simple fact is this: Lefties give until it hurts, and then give some more. Most righties don't give at all -- and the richer righties only give if they think there's a percentage in it for them, or they can control what's happening.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Bradblog interviews Chris Floyd

Clicky the linky

Mercury Rising

Well, I see that Homeland Security is working overtime to ensure our freedoms. This time, they are protecting our minds against pollution by those well-known subversives, British journalists: U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday to allow Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation’s readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night. (by way of Doug Ireland's blog, by way of If you want to see for yourself why Homeland Security deserves applause for having protected the American people against such dangerous ideas, you can listen to Fisk by downloading here

George Galloway Speaks

We listen. From his speech at the antiwar rally today in D.C.:*

There is an absolute need for your country and my country to stand shoulder to shoulder against the war criminals Tony Blair and George W. Bush, and to thus demonstrate to the people of the world and particularly the people of the occupied world that these criminals are not acting in our name. This is not any clash of civilizations. This is not a war between the people of the West and the people of the East. This is not a war between the religions of Christianity and Islam. George Bush doesn't represent any civilization. George Bush and Tony Blair certainly don't represent Jesus Christ and the great religion of Christianity. Christianity believes in the prophets, peace be upon them. Tony Blair and George Bush believe in profits and how to get a piece of them. Mammon, that's what they worship. None of us is the enemy of the soldiers in the British and American forces. We love our troops. In fact, we love our troops so much we want to bring them home before any more of them are killed, before any more of them are maimed. Our soldiers, conscripted by unemployment and poor prospects and hopelessness, are our sons and daughters. It's George Bush, who's sending them to be killed on a pack of lies, who hates our troops.
(* Not guaranteed to be 100% verbatim, since I was typing as he was speaking and may not have heard exactly what he said.)

Rightwing Logic an oxymoron. As evidenced by Charles Krauthammer, quoted in History News Network:

In our lifetime, has there been a more politically poisonous U.S. Supreme Court decision than Roe v. Wade? Set aside for a moment your thoughts on the substance of the ruling. (I happen to be a supporter of legalized abortion.) I'm talking about the continuing damage to the Republic: disenfranchising, instantly and without recourse, an enormous part of the American population; preventing, as even Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, proper political settlement of the issue by the people and their representatives; making the U.S. the only nation in the West to have legalized abortion by judicial fiat rather than by the popular will expressed democratically.
I wonder if he holds the same opinion of the ruling that declared the poll tax was unconstitutional: "The Supreme Court shouldn't have decided the issue, because doing so deprived the people of the right to settle the issue by a democratic vote." That's why the Supreme Court exists, Krauthammer, you twit -- because democracy is more than just the will of the majority. Not to mention that a state referendum on the issue of whether abortion should be legal would not settle the matter. Whichever side lost would just try to overturn the decision with another state referendum; or with a lawsuit asserting that the law is unconstitutional, which would just toss it back in the court's collective lap. That is, after all, how Roe v. Wade ended up in the Supreme Court -- it was a challenge to a state law. If Krauthammer thinks that either side on the abortion issue would accept the outcome of a referendum that went against them as final, anymore than they accept judicial rulings that go against them, he's deluded.

New allegations of torture

Human Rights watch has a new report on abuses of prisoners by the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan and at FOB Mercury in Afghanistan. The report presents evidence that torture of prisoners began early on, involved "Other Government Agencies" (i.e., was ordered from the top) and continued after Abu Ghraib. Oh-- and that people involved in torture knew that lots of their charges were innocent of having done anything against US troops.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Chris Floyd is moving

Floyd's new, swankier quarters. Bookmark it.

The NRA has its priorities straight

You can count on the NRA to have your interests at heart. With New Orleans partially destroyed, and faced with another blow from Rita, the NRA has filed suit against Mayor Ray Nagin, alleging that he attempted to confiscate weapons. You can't make this stuff up. In my own attempt to become the Great American Novelist, I've tried to, and haven't come up with anything as whacky as Bushmerica.

Friday Cat Blogging

Since they're not allowed outside, the door fascinates them.

Lightfoot staring out the door Alex on the ledge beside the door


Abramoff: Rove's My Best Buddy!

Sing, Jack, sing! La la la la la....

WaPo:"Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove on behalf of a large, Bermuda-based corporation that wanted to avoid incurring some taxes and continue receiving federal contracts, according to a written statement by President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general."
The number of reasons for frogmarching Karl Rove just grew by one. Or two. Or eight.


Confrontation with Syria draws closer

The assassination of former Lebanese PM, Rafik Hariri was A Bad Thing, and not just for Mr. Hariri. Lebanon is one of those many countries in the world where extreme sectarian strife bubbles just below the surface, largely because Christians and Druze hold disproportionate power and warlords control large regions of the country. Since it's a former French colony, it also suffers the disadvantage of a former colonial power thinking it has the right to butt in. And then there's Israel. In his business dealings, Hariri was something like the Donald Trump of Lebanon. When he showed up dead (over large parts of Beirut; massive car bomb), probably the first question wasn't "Who did it?" It was more likely, "Who didn't do it?" Knowledgeable people like Robert Fisk and Juan Cole fingered Syria as the most likely culprit. Non-knowledgeable people like me are confused. The Fitzgerald Commission report identifies Syria as the cuprit largely because the attack was "sophisticated." I have always thought of "sophisticated" as, for example, using krait venom delivered by a miniature electronic syringe placed in the victim's falafel as "sophisticated." Or a Predator equipped with a death ray. But I have never thought of detonating a huge amount of explosives as sophisticated. I guess it's just me. The latest announcement is that a Syrian defector has said he heard the plot discussed. And there's forensic evidence recovered by divers (when I said "large parts of Beirut," I should have included the coastal waters.) There's probably not a lot of law enforcement value in failing to release the defector's name. The Syrians probably can count noses and figure out who is missing. So, the investigators are withholding the information from the public. And they are trying the case in the court of public opinion. As to forensic evidence recovered after a massive bomb blast and seven months of sitting in the ocean, I'm doubtful. If it's biological, it wouldn't last. A car part with the VIN number of the guy who is believed to have been the bomber I might believe. Since the investigators have given me nothing to feel they have made their case, I look at this case from a different viewpoint. Who would like it to be Syria? Well, the US would be a big beneficiary. They could use this as evidence of Syrian terrorism, thereby justifying raids on Syria. France recovers lost influence in Lebanon. by discrediting Syria. (I don't see any motive for the other players, Britain and Germany.) Whether Syria is guilty or not, if there are US strikes on Syria, the world will be one step closer to the nightmare scenario bin Laden surely hopes for: a region-wide terror war in the Middle East. As the Guardian says, Syria is none too steady. If there is a collapse of the Syrian government, the anarchy that makes terrorism possible will be next. It would probably start civil war in Lebanon. Israel might well be tempted to intervene, as it has done historically. And downhill from there. By the way, there is a sane way to deal with this and that could still happen: prosecute the guilty parties without making accusations against the Syrian state. Bets, anyone?

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Stand and defend a friend

Suppose that someone came to you and said that your neighbor's house had been burgled by the crack-addict son of the local sheriff, out on parole. The person said that they had entered the house and snapped photographs of the burglary in progress, but for obvious reasons they are afraid to go to the sheriff. You want to see justice done. You show the photos to the local newspaper, relying on their First Amendment protections to shield you. Instead, what happens is that the identity of the photographer as well as your role in contacting the newspaper is exposed. In this completely corrupt county, the photographer is fined $5,000 and you have to pay a million in legal defense fees. If you fail in the corrupt county courts, you lose your job. You lose everything. But you fight it, because the people need to know that letting crackheads run free because of whose son they are isn't right. If I were your friend, I would stand by you. If you are a friend of justice, you should stand by Representative Jim McDermott, the one man in Congress who stood in the way of Newt Gingrich's utter and complete corruption of the American government.

Got Your Back, Jim!

Remember the gutsy Congresscritter in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911? No, not John Conyers -- the other one. Well, he's under attack from the right wing. Help him out.


FEMA, Chertoff and Houston: Same S---, Different City

Looks like Bush and Chertoff are applying the same crack disaster-management techniques to Houston that they did to New Orleans. Did I say "crack"? I must have meant "on crack".


Document Dump

National Archives Indian Records Discarded

Federal officials are investigating how National Archives documents of interest to Indians suing the Interior Department were found discarded in a trash bin and a wastebasket. The discovery came to light on Sept. 1, when Archives staff noticed federal records in one of the trash bins behind the National Archives Building near the Capitol. They notified the Archives' inspector general, Paul Brachfeld, whose staff recovered the documents. They found at least a portion of the documents were Bureau of Indian Affairs records dating to the 1950s, according to Jason Baron of the Archives' Office of General Counsel, in a letter last week to an Interior Department official. Brachfeld's office began investigating, and "what appear to be Indian records were discovered in a waste basket in the stack areas at Main Archives," Baron wrote. Taken together, the two dumping incidents "may be intentional acts aimed at unlawfully removing or disposing of permanent records from the Interior Department," he wrote.
This report raises a few questions: Will we see the same outrage over this attempt to destroy government records that we saw over Sandy Berger's possibly unintentional removal of copies of records? Have they found John Roberts' records that went missing from the Ronald Reagan Library (which is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives) when the Democrats requested them? Is it significant that the current Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, was appointed by George W. Bush? Is anybody surprised that Mr. Weinstein was previously president of a think tank that received funding from the ultra-rightwing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Society of American Archivists and American Historical Association expressed strong reservations about his nomination? (And that there are clues that the previous Archivist was pushed out of the job?) Has Albert Lloyd been seen loitering in the Archives?

"The Grover"

A group of activists, financed largely by blog readers, are taking their message to the enemy, all over the US of A. Lovely!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The Stain of Moral Relativism

One of the battle cries of the right, notably the so-called "Christian right" has been "moral relativism." Supposedly they live in a world of moral absolutes. Most of the not-particularly-religious people I know are actually absolutists, and snobs about it, at that. If I were to ask why they don't take money from the Salvation Army kettle when Santa is looking the other way, they would tell me "Because it would be wrong." When pressed as to why, they would say, "Because! That's why!" No mention of God, religion, a formal ethical system, or even a logical rationale. Just, "Because!" A number of today's stories show just how adept the human mind is in rationalizing the doing of wrong. Entry number one, from the Catholic Church A Mexican bishop has admitted that the local Catholic church receives donations from drug traffickers, but claimed these are "purified" through good works. Entry number two, from those great Christians in the Bush Administration President Bush's multi-billion dollar reconstruction plans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are being used as "a vast laboratory" for conservative social polic[i]es, administration critics claim. The White House strategy involves the suspension of a series of regulations guaranteeing the going local wage and affirmative action for minorities, while offering tax incentives for businesses in the affected region. Education aid for displaced children will include $500m (£276m) in vouchers for private schools, while a senior Republican has also proposed a new law permitting a wide-ranging waiver of environmental regulations. Entry number three, from a typical Republican calling in to Ed Schultz (sorry, no link): This fellow argued that using New Orleans to experiment with storm-shattered people is justified, because they were all "on the government tit" anyway (unlike, say, Halliburton) and the punk neoliberalism of the Bushites was the only way to help them become free. Entry number four, from Japan, where the Post Office is more than a place to mail letters, and the (neo)Liberal Party is trying to privatize it: Dealing with the post office can involve a lot of paperwork, and the people on the counters aren't as polite as bank staff, but they do a lot for the community. My elderly mother goes on cheap day trips organised by her local post office, which also arranges cookery classes and other events. If you are busy, post office workers will even come to your workplace to collect your money and deposit it in your account. What will happen to services like that when private firms take over? Entry number five, from Basra, where the Brits decide to instruct their charges on the fine points of due process by using tanks to recover a couple of commandos from the local hoosegow, as Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters illustrate the dedication of Islam to charitable works in a rather unusual way: Earlier this year a group of students on a picnic in Basra park were attacked. Others speak of kidnapping even killings, although his supporters shun the suicide bombings and beheadings favoured by Sunni extremists Entry number six from Paris where, like Florida, being the child of a high official can make charges go away (Noelle; Jebbie's status is pending as far as I know): A police report on a street scuffle involving Arthur de Villepin, son of France's aristocratic prime minister Dominique, was mysteriously removed from the station's files the day after the incident, French media said yesterday. Entry number seven from our gallant ally, the Dominican Republic: On market day in Dajabón, a bustling Dominican town on the Haitian border, you can pick up many bargains if you know where to look. You can haggle the price of a live chicken down to 40 pesos (72p); wrestle 10lb of macaroni from 60 to 50 pesos; and, with some discreet inquiries, buy a Haitian child for the equivalent of £54.22. And entry number eight is Pat Robertson. The man, the life, the perfect expression of hypocrisy. Understand, it's not just that people are doing wrong. That's expected. They're people. It's their facility for inventing reasons to explain why the wrong they're doing is actually right. That is moral relativism and it is a genuine problem. Are the only people who can, indignantly, say "Just because!" benighted heathens?

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