Friday, June 30, 2006


Liars, cheaters, knaves

Declan Walsh reports in The Guardian that: "The United States government said it could not find the men that Guantánamo detainee Abdullah Mujahid believes could help set him free. The Guardian found them in three days." Why were they so easy to find? Because one was a senior official in the Karzai government, one was a prominent Afghan known by one and all, and the third teaches at the National Defense University in Washington DC. This is shameful. Our system of justice is based on the model that no one wants to convict an innocent man, nor even subject him to the anguish of imprisonment a moment longer than is necessary. We now know that most of the men interned at Guantanamo were innocent, picked up by naive American troops on the word of unscrupulous bounty hunters. In a system of law that claims to to presume that innocence, to make a pretense of searching for the witnesses a man needs to prove his innocence is despicable. But it gets worse. As I posted regarding the Hamdan decision at "Avedon Carol's highly-recreational Sideshow, Even more troubling was a discussion at Georgetown, led by Tushnet and Lazarus, in which they explained how Bushco would subvert, evade, or ignore the Supreme Court: 1. Congress could pass a statute contrary to Geneva, authorizing the kangaroo court envisioned by Bush, and effectively withdrawing the US from the Conventions (not to mention the civilized world). 2. The Executive and Congress could collude to pretend to be in the process of enacting legislation, and tell the courts to lay off enforcement until the law can be worked out. 3. The Administration could just continue to hold prisoners, denying them a trial of any kind. Why can't we just do the right thing...?

Readers Digest of ICH

ICH had a number of articles worth reading. The US quietly promoted Israeli-Palestinian conflict Ha'aretz reports that Suskind quotes Bush as saying during his first National Security Council meeting that the U.S. must refrain from active mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To then secretary of state Colin Powell's argument that such behavior could be interpreted by Sharon's government as a green light to apply force, Bush responded that sometimes a show of force can clarify the issue at hand. This article also points out that Islamic Jihad figured out that their financial transactions were being tracked and used to target them for assassination in 2004. The only people to whom the Swift program and related activities are secret is the American public. Michael Lerner on that conflict misses two key points: it is extremely difficult to maintain a campaign of non-violence. Martin Luther King barely held it together in the US-- there were repeated riots despite his best efforts-- and after his murder, it was impossible. Gandhi did better, but non-violence as a national movement did not survive him. The stronger party is the one that is capable of changing the tenor of the dialogue. So, as a practical matter, a successful campaign of non-violence can only emerge from Israel. Palast says, GEORGE Bush’s operatives have plans to jigger with the upcoming elections. I’m not talking about the November ‘06 vote in the USA (though they have plans for that, too). I’m talking about the election this Sunday in Mexico for their Presidency...The target nations for “foreign counterterrorism investigation” were nowhere near the Persian Gulf. Every one was in Latin America — Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and a handful of others....Most provocative is the contractor to whom this no-bid contract was handed: ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia. ChoicePoint is the database company that created a list for Governor Jeb Bush of Florida of voters to scrub from voter rolls before the 2000 election...Foreign — that is, American — interference in political campaigns is a crime. That didn’t stop Team Bush. Jerry Falwell: God is pro-war. There's a real irony here. The Book of Revelation, which is the only Christian authority for war, describes a world in which every last good person has already been killed (or, in the case of 144,000 virgin Jewish males, raptured). The only people left are those who have irrevocably dedicated themselves to doing wrong. In other words, it is the only possible just war. Falwell says, "President Bush declared war in Iraq to defend innocent people." That is a huge lie, almost as huge a lie as the notion of God commits the kind of random destruction that war is. Falwell correctly says that the Commandment generally translated as "Thou shalt not kill" should be translated, "Thou shalt not murder." What's the distinction? Murder is killing people not on the testimony of two witnesses. In modern war, that happens all the time. But for people like Falwell, lying about the Bible is just one more day at the office. This is particularly poignant as we learn that the soldiers recently kidnapped and executed may have been the targets of a revenge killing: The American army in Iraq suffered a fresh blow to its image today as it emerged that five soldiers were being investigated for allegedly raping a woman and then murdering her and three members of her family....A US official close to the investigation said that at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role in the attack and been arrested. ...Two soldiers from the same regiment were killed this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah. The official said the killings appear to be unrelated to the kidnappings. Or maybe they were. I don't think the American Army understands tribal relations or the Iraqi rules of retribution for crimes of the sort alleged.

Friday Cat Blogging

The cats prepare for a long holiday weekend.


Noted with pleasure: Spocko's brain

The author of a new blogSpocko's Brain, which boasts 19 readers (up 5 from yesterday!), had a good suggestion: in responding to right-wing radio/TV crackpots who advocate assassination and other crimes, direct comments to the people who place advertising. Radio stations and TV stations have people who are accustomed to act as heat shields for their "entertainers." You can fill their in boxes with no effect. But when a big advertiser withdraws support, it's a blow. Most advertisers also route mail through heat shields. But if you can find out who in the company places advertising... well, they're likely to consider whether they want their company's image associated with calls to murder.

Curt Weldon, WMD Expert. (Not.)

By the way, remember the ancient and deteriorated "WMD" Santorum and Weldon are yammering about? A real WMD expert (not Curt Weldon) confirms what we already knew: You have chemicals under your kitchen sink that are more dangerous. The stuff Weldon and Company are whining about? It stopped being WMD about a quarter of a century ago.


Great Moments In GOP Hilarity, Minnesota Edition

Just as the Republican Congress and their tame media enablers are calling for things like putting the NYT's Bill Keller to death for revealing "secrets" that were already revealed by the Bush Administration, Minnesota Republicans are now blasting the StarTribune for covering a story that the Minnesota GOP has, in a press release, urged them to cover. This is what happens, Big Media, when you coddle and suck up to Republicans and give in to their demands, as you have done for decades. They will take the power over you that you have ceded to them, and use it to attempt to destroy you.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Some "Secret"

Hey, remember that Tightly-Held Anti-Terror Secret those dirty Commie traitors at the NYT revealed? Well, the dirtier Commie traitors of the Bush Administration revealed it two years ago. What's more, it turns out that the terrorists also knew about it and were taking measures to work around it. I'm waiting for the right wingnuts like Melanie Morgan to demand that George W. Bush be executed for revealing this not-so-secret secret, just as she called for the gassing of Bill Keller for the same alleged offense. Think it'll ever happen?


The Hamdan Ruling Is a Major Slapdown for King Dubya

The Hamdan ruling does more than require the Bush regime to comply with the Geneva Conventions. As SCOTUSblog explains, it also specifies that

the President's conduct is subject to the limitations of statute and treaty.
Bush's claim that his role of Commander in Chief during wartime puts him above the law just got shot down. So, what about all those "signing statements" in which he claimed exceptions and exemptions from the laws Congress passed? I'm thinking they're just as unconstitutional as his dismissal of the Geneva Conventions.

Some Blunt Truth About Iraq

From "Karl Northman" in Salon's discussion forum Table Talk:

There's some stuff that I'd really appreciate the media making clear, because you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. First - we are no longer part of the solution in Iraq. And as we said many years ago, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Second - one way or another, sooner or later, we will be leaving and there (hopefully) will become some sort of Iraqi national government which does not have to salute when they get emails from PNAC. Third - this government will have to issue amnesties to large numbers of fighters. They may do it explicitly and publicly and announce it, or it may just be an internal policy that becomes widely known, that no prosecutions will ever be taken against people who only did this. Look at the aftermath of WWII - I know of no country occupied by the Nazis that ever prosecuted its own people, even if they were just active civilians, for killing German troops. If memory serves, there were prosecutions against people who killed collaborators with the Nazis, but killing a collaborator was roughly like killing your neighbors dog, in terms of criminal liability. Bottom line? There will never be a stable government in Iraq that does not issue an amnesty against people who killed (at least, lets say, after June, 2004) American military personnel. Sure, random American civilians, that's different. Innocent bystanders, that's different. But American military - killing American military is simply ordinary partisan warfare against an occupying army. We don't like this. You may damage your re-election chances by mentioning it, or acknowledging it. Probably will. But it's the flat truth. If we really want an independent, self-sustaining, Iraqi government, than we simply have to admit that one way or another, they will give an amnesty to people who merely attacked our troops. Anyone who doesn't understand this doesn't understand what the situation is.
I don't expect the media to make this clear, because, as Upton Sinclair said, "It's impossible to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it." In spite of their high-flown idealistic-sounding talk, the Busheviks don't want a real government in Iraq. They want the appearance of democracy (prime minister and a cabinet, photogenic elections) as camouflage for their control of the country. Bush will never tolerate the "Iraqi government" doing anything Bush doesn't like, and the media won't take on the tough job of telling us that a free and democratic Iraq that never does anything objectionable to us just ain't gonna happen because Bush won't let it happen.

Man Bites Dog. Sun Rises In West.

The Roberts-Scalia Court does something noble and good:

"More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes)."

Tell all your wingnut friends: the United States Supreme Court spanked George Bush's CIA-network-destroying, war-crime-committing butt today.


Life In Iraq, 2003 - 2006

Anyone wanting a good idea of whether life for Iraqis has improved since the US-led invasion and occupation should go over to this Iraqi woman's blog. Before the invasion, Riverbend could wear Western clothes while taking the bus by herself to her job as a computer technician. Now, she doesn't have a job, and she doesn't go outside without being covered head to foot and in the company of at least one of her male relatives. In the opening weeks of her blog, Riverbend was able to post nearly every day, and definitely every week. That was because Baghdad still had electricity. Now, Riverbend often goes months (her last post was nearly three weeks ago) without posting because in her Baghdad neighborhood right now, they're lucky if they get twenty minutes of electricity a day. (Let's not even get into the whole running-water issue.) Before the invasion, crime was manageable. Now, criminals rule the streets and, for all intents and purposes, the government, and they slaughter people by the hundreds every day. So somebody please explain to me how the US' invading Iraq has helped the Iraqis? (Besides those named "Chalabi"?)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


A conspiracy so vast...

A few weeks ago, I wrote a multipart series amounting to a detailed refutation of Farhad Manjoo's article in Salon on Election 2004 and the Bobby Kennedy article. I was as polite and balanced as one can be. Salon promptly mischaracterized what I said to invert its meaning. Well, whatever. I now regard Salon as infotainment. Buy it for the soft core porn, if that's your thing. It's not mine. Having my intelligence insulted isn't either. One of the big arguments that has always been made against the idea that the 2004 election might have been stolen is that it would require a massive conspiracy. Today, we learned from a report commissioned by The Brennan Center just how massive the conspiracy would have to be: it would require a gang ofone. I'll probably write to the senior authors of the study to point out that some of their assumptions on retail election theft are too rosy, but basically the meme has entered the mainstream: elections are not secure. In other words, you don't have to believe that this nation elected George W. Bush if you don't want to. And me, well... I don't.

The center cannot hold: US cuts and runs from Afghanistan

The Pentagon is cutting and running from Afghanistan, as India extends its proxy war to Pakistan's western border: AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. What is your assessment of the situation in Afghanistan right now, from where you've just come out of? AHMED RASHID: It's very, very bleak, on all sides. There has been a failure by the international community to deliver enough funding for reconstruction, enough troops for security, and this is something the Afghans have been warning about for a long time, two or three years. There's been a failure on the side of the Afghan government and President Karzai, himself, to show really effective leadership and to get rid of a lot of corrupt and drug-induced warlords, who he's been ruling with. There has been also a failure of the neighboring states, who continue to interfere, particularly the accusations that Pakistan has been harboring Taliban, which Karzai and most Afghans completely believe. So what we have now, of course, is this -- we have two problems. We have a major insurgency in the south, where no longer is it just the case of hundreds of Taliban massing, but thousands of Taliban are now massing to take on the NATO and American forces in the south. And we have a failure of governments in Kabul, where the international community and Karzai have been blaming each other for this debacle.... ...India has come back into Afghanistan after more than a decade, when it was ousted during the Mujahideen and the Taliban period, but there is now this kind of proxy war going on between India and Pakistan, which of course has gone on for the last 50 years on the eastern border, in Kashmir and other places. Now it is taking place on Pakistan's western border, as well. ... I mean, the signals coming from the Defense Department are that the U.S. wants to pull out some troops. It wants to cut funding from the DOD. What has been, I think, totally criminal, that is the -- Rumsfeld informed Karzai several months ago that the Afghan army, which the Americans are training and funding, would not be as large as originally planned. They would get fewer weapons, and that from this year on, the Afghan government, which has absolutely no money, should be paying the salaries of the troops, rather than the Americans, who have been paying the salaries for the last two years. Now, you know, I mean, in the midst of a Taliban offensive, for Rumsfeld to say something like that is not much of a morale booster if you're an Afghan soldier or an Afghan general.

Supreme Court to states: Just make stuff up

In what I think has to be one of the more ridiculous rulings in its history, the Supreme Court has accepted the Texas redistricting ordered by Tom DeLay after he illegally used corporate money to seize control of the legislature-- or so his indictment alleges. This opens the doors for congressional redistricting to be done every two years. The result could be chaos. In our entire national history, I seem to recall that the Texas case is only the second time redistricting has been done off of the decennial cycle. The problem, you see, is that Census does proper demographic mapping only once every 10 years. In between times, estimates are performed, but they're just estimates. I don't see that the legislatures would be bound by them, and could just make it up. Fortunately, there is a remedy. The Congress can and--when in Democratic hands-- should "re-district" the Supreme Court to remove every justice who voted for this contemptible result. In the meantime, states should pass Constitutional amendments declaring that redistricting can only be done on the basis of real data.

Good News On The Labor Front...

...and from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, no less:

Unions win broad victory over DHS labor relations system By Karen Rutzick An appeals court on Tuesday rendered a severe blow to the Homeland Security Department's attempt to curb collective bargaining rights for employees, unanimously upholding and even broadening a lower court decision to strike down large parts of the department's new labor relations system. The unions that brought the lawsuit said the decision could mean they would now have the ability to bargain over pay -- something only a few federal agencies do -- if DHS continues to implement its new pay-for-performance system. A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found, like the lower court, that DHS' proposed system would illegally curtail collective bargaining rights for employees by giving management the ability to cancel negotiated agreements after the fact.
This effectively stomps on Bush's efforts to break the Federal unions using DHS as the wedge. They're already got their asses kicked in the DOD suit, and now they've been whacked in the noogies on this, too.


Did Someone Finally Kick John Bolton In The Wedding Tackle?

It would seem so. He's still talking tough, but it sounds as if some people with a stronger grounding in reality have been making him realize that he can't treat the rest of the world like used kitty litter.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Rescued from the memory hole

Via ICH, here are some things you aren't supposed to remember: Remember that the Bush Administration swore they weren't kidnapping suspects and housing them in European prisons? Well, the rendition side of the denial just collapsed. The right stole the 1988 election in Mexico by jacking the computers. If, as is widely anticipated, they try it again, it could lead to Millions of angry protesters claiming vote fraud, chaos in the courts, financial markets collapsing, troops in the streets .... Just a 10% chance of that happening. The US is claiming that it's not violating banking secrecy, because it's only trolling the electronic transactions of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunications, which handles 9 million transactions per day. Sort of like their claim they aren't wiretapping you because they're also trolling millions of other people's phone calls.

Hard landing or soft splat?

Brad Setser: With gross debts of nearly $8.6 trillion at the end of 2005 – nearly 70% of US GDP (the end 2005 estimate is mine; the formal data will be out soon) and an estimated 2005 net international investment position of around $3.2 trillion (25% of GDP), the US is increasingly vulnerable to an interest rate shock. Most US lending to the world is in dollars and is tied to US rates – generating offsetting income should US rates rise. But the US would still be hurt on its net debt, and borrowing abroad to invest in equities and the like would be less profitable. With a net (interest bearing) debt position of $4 trillion (gross debts of $8.6 trillion v $4.6 trillion in external lending), a big rise in rates would really hurt. And even a little rise can have an impact. The 2005 interest rate was around 3.6%. It will go to 5% or more. That would push interest payments on existing US debts up by $65b – and the US is adding about a trillion in new debt a year. The best case is the US cannot reduce its current account deficit no matter what. So, the rest of the world has to continue to loan us money so we can buy stuff we'll never pay for. At least, until they don't.

Real socialism: government funded propaganda

The word "socialism" gets misused a lot. Here's a clear case: using taxpayer funds to... produce propaganda... that supports partisan groups who prop up... the government... which decides where to spend taxpayer funds. The Buffalo News has revealed that a former spokesman for President Bush has been encouraging U.S. newspapers to run news stories from Iraq written by two combat veterans who are now embedded reporters in Iraq. The official -- Taylor Gross -- has pitched the stories as "balanced and credible viewpoints gained directly from those closest to and most affected by the Iraq War." But it turns out the veterans are from a pro-war group called Vets for Freedom that has ties to the Republican Party. Veterans for Freedom: * "is represented by a very sophisticated Republican public relations firm that Taylor Gross founded, called the Herald Group" Gross was until recently a Bush spokesman. Before then he was one of the Florida 2000 rioters. * has a website maintained by the "Donatelli Group, the same organization that provided similar services to the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth * has large, shadowy sources of funding, probably Republicans * may be "part of the bigger propaganda campaign that has received hundreds of millions of dollars of public money over the last few years", such as the Lincoln Group. At least most socialist governments spend money on railroads or utilities or something you can use. Bushco spends it on lying.

None Dare Call It Treason -- If Right-Wing Papers Do It

Riddle me this: If it's "treason" to point out that the Bush Administration is doing a wholesale Hoovering of the financial data of millions of Americans, then WHY are Bush and his right-wing press parrots and enablers only going after the NYT -- and not the more conservative and Bush-friendly papers like the Wall Street Journal and LA Times, which also published that news? Nothing like a blast of rancid orchestrated GOP/Media Complex hypocrisy, is there?


The heroes are us

Jim Rigby at The Puffington Host [L]iberal values cannot be saved by heroes. Liberal values can only be saved by ordinary citizens living up to their principles. In the biblical story of the Exodus, Moses dies just before Israel can enter the Promised Land. The story is told as a way of making a point. Leaders can only take you so far. At some point it's up to the people to govern themselves. Eugene B. Debs used to tell his listeners, "I would not lead you into the promised land even if I could, for, if anybody leads you in, someone else can lead you out." ... The flipside of not having heroes is not having demons either. Liberals must stop fixating on George Bush. Corporations took over America using politicians as sock puppets. It certainly makes a difference who sits in office, but we have not solved our problems if we impeach one of the socks. We must change the system. And the system is us: not the constructive and thoughtful readers of this blog, but our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors-- even the non-constructive and unthoughtful people who come to troll this blog. They must come to see again that this is America, not a plantation, that they are God's highest creation, not serfs to be marched around, used, and ultimately discarded.

TNR Scores An Own Goal. Again.

Sheesh. We already knew that they were both morally and financially impoverished (if not bankrupt). But do they have to keep proving it over and over again? I just surfed over from Atrios' shop, and he has this to say about TNR: Personally I was astonished by the movie Shattered Glass and TNR's response to it. They were promoting the damn thing, and they were right to. Somehow it made them look good! Everyone managed to be a bit of a hero except for Glass himself. No one else was responsible. EGGGGZACKTLY. TNR played the fricking "Sergeant Schultz Defense" when Glass was uncovered. They literally tried to pretend that they were too stupid to know what was going on, and why, so they could escape the consequences of their actions. It was no coincidence that Stephen Glass' mentor was the late Democrat-hating Michael Kelly -- who himself was known for slinging bullshit, though he was apparently just careful enough not to do anything that would be blatant enough to get him busted. And it's no coincidence that Jason Zengerle was tasked to be Glass' fact-checker -- and fell down on the job. And it's no coincidence that TNR worshiped that stinking pile of debunked right-wing racist crap known as The Bell Curve. Pattern and practice, my dear. Pattern and practice. TNR wanted to pretend that they were the victims of Bad Apple Glass, when in fact as far as they were concerned, his only real sin was being clumsy about it. To name just one example: Glass writes a lie-filled hit piece on Vernon Jordan for George magazine (and Jordan was a guy whose ties with the Clintons made him a favorite target of the GOP/Media Complex), and that wasn't questioned at the time because making up vicious lies about prominent Democrats is A-OK with the GOP/Media Complex. It was only when Forbes magazine wanted to do a follow-up piece on his hacker story that he finally got nailed. If he'd accused Bill Clinton or Vernon Jordan of being one of the hackers, nobody would have questioned him, and he'd still be writing for TNR today.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Around the blogs in 80 clicks

When Lou Dobbs is to the left of many Democratic senators, you know that the Democratic Party is in trouble (via Nathan Newman): Raising the minimum wage to $7.50 would positively affect the lives of more than 8 million workers, including an estimated 760,000 single mothers and 1.8 million parents with children under 18. But even this 46 percent increase would get them only to the poverty line. Don't you think these families just might need that cost-of-living increase a bit more than our elected officials who are paid nearly $170,000 a year? With no Congressional action on raising the minimum wage since 1997, inflation has eroded wages. The minimum wage in the 21st century is $2 lower in real dollars than it was four decades ago and now stands at its lowest level since 1955, according to the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also, since the last time Congress increased the minimum wage for our lowest-paid workers, buying power has fallen by 25 percent. Yet over that time our elected representatives have given themselves eight pay raises totaling more than 23 percent. Raising the minimum wage isn't simply about the price of labor. It's also about our respect for labor. One of this country's greatest business innovators, Henry Ford, made history almost a century ago by raising the salaries of his production-line workers far beyond the prevailing wage. Ford not only paid his employees well enough to buy the products they built, but he kept his employees loyal and productive. That's also very good business. The myth that raising the minimum wage will lead to job cuts is just that: a myth. In fact, research suggests just the opposite. Via Crooked Timber, we learn of a study showing that the society is fragmenting: The number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled. The mean network size decreases by about a third (one confidant), from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. The modal respondent now reports having no confidant; the modal respondent in 1985 had three confidants. TPMuck quotes a retired FBI agent to the effect the Miami terror case may be in serious trouble: Mike German spent 16 years in the FBI; for over a decade, he went undercover to bust up domestic terrorist groups around the country. I called him to get his opinion on the "Seas of David" case. He wouldn't discuss the specifics of the case, but it's clear he's got some concerns about it."Cases like these generally hinge on who reached out to who first," German told me...The rule of thumb for an undercover investigation like this, German said, was: "You don't want your operative to be the worst guy in the room." If the FBI's informant was the only guy professing any al Qaeda connection. . . that's tough. Agents rarely speak out in this way. Via TPMuck, Rawstory says that Murtha has got a Swiftboat roachpack after him. The hero in this story is Sean Paul Kelley, who picked up the plot and got some light turned on the roaches. And Kos diarist cynic gets kudos, too. A worthy effort to join, if you can donate some research time. Don't miss Tom Tomorrow's take on David Brooks

More On The Shoeless Scary Brown Kids Who Talked Big

Remember the horribly dangerous Black Muslim terrorists who were planning "an attack bigger than 9/11" except they were so impoverished, silly and pathetic that they begged their Al-Qaeda contact -- who turned out to be an FBI agent running a sting operation -- to give them military footwear so they could all have the same stuff on their feet? Well, turns out that not only were these kids NOT "clear and present dangers", they aren't even really Muslim. And Larry Johnson reminds us that other highly-profiled (by the Bushies) Dangerous Evil Muslim Guys busted in the Bushistas' War on Terra have turned out not exactly to be as advertised.


If A Democrat Makes An Important Point, Will The GOP/Media Complex Bother To Cover It?

Yeah, but only on Page A14 of the print edition. (What, you thought this rated going onto the front page? Silly person, you.) Don't expect to see this on your evening radio or TV news today, either.


Time To Haul Out Occam's Razor

Well, Jason Zengerle has finally admitted that the "e-mail" he attributed to Steve Gilliard, the very linchpin of his "case" alleging that Kos controlled the lefty blogosphere (I wish -- then we all might actually be able to coordinate our messages and our energy instead of frittering it away), was a fake. But he still refuses to reveal his source -- even though one of the things they teach you in Journalism 101 is that if a source gives you bad information, you are under no obligation to protect that source. In fact, you are obligated to nail that scumbag so he or she never tries that crap again. So we are left with two possibilities that I can see: 1) Zengerle is, against all common sense and ethics, protecting a source who gave him false information. 2) Zengerle made it all up. The evidence in favor of #1, besides Zengerle's own unsupported word, is the recent pattern and practice of Beltway journalists. They are so eager for "access" to the rich and powerful in DC's power elite that they will do anything to get it and maintain it. But I can't see that being part of the equation here. The people on the Townhouse e-mail list don't exactly have the ability to wine and dine Zengerle the way a DC power broker could. (Buy him a hamburger, maybe.) So it's not as if he's going to lose anything by dropping a dime on the guy or gal who screwed him. The evidence in favor of #2: TNR's, and Zengerle's, past history. TNR not only was the chief journalistic home of notorious serial liar Stephen Glass, but Zengerle was also apparently the guy who TNR had tasked to be Glass' fact-checker. Zengerle and the rest of the TNR staff, I seem to recall, escaped punishment for Glass' sins by using the Sergeant Schultz Defense: The idea that they were too stupid to breathe unassisted, much less suspect Glass' perfidy. But this faked e-mail incident suddenly brings that into question. So which is it to be, Door #1 or Door #2?

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Straining the GOP

Via TPMuck, we learn of an article in Roll Call describing a filter to block Republicans: What's the Logic? Some members of Congress are requiring would-be emailers to complete a simple "logic puzzle" before being allowed to send a note through their official Web site. But several advocacy groups are complaining, saying the puzzles -- several of which are actually basic arithmetic problems -- went beyond their stated purpose of preventing spam and actually prevented logic-challenged constituents from having their voices heard. (Roll Call) So, Petewhen is Blogger going to incorporate one of these?

Signs of the apocalypse


I got Orwell on my mind...

I was about to place a satirical post on Thers's blog replacing Kos as Emmanuel Goldstein in the Hate Moment from "1984," when I happened to glance at Billmon's site. Billmon is on an Orwell tear, and never has the satire been more biting. He's correctly identified the GOP strategy for Iraq as 1. Cut 2. Run This, of course, is exactly opposite of yesterday's talking points, which were that anyone who wants a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is a traitor giving aid and comfort to the enemy. "Yesterday's talking points? When was yesterday?" the GOP asks. He has pointed out that CNN has absorbed the GOP talking points, omitting any mention of controversy over a withdrawal timetable. "We're not losing the war!", the GOP said, stamping its feet And, as Billmon points out, that's true. We're losing two wars He remarks that Ron Suskind said on Blitzer's Follies, Al Qaida preferred that Bush be re-elected. Orwell's vision of a society in which truth no longer mattered, in which citizens were led around by mental images inserted into their minds by a media that can completely invert the Party line in mid-sentence, in which no one was free of the sense of being watched has now been fulfilled.

Bear This In Mind When You Consider That Bush Wants To Take Our Social Security Money And Give It To The Brokerage Firms

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has put out a rather interesting working paper (warning: PDF file) on dishonesty in American life and its policy implications. Here's an excerpt therefrom:

In addition to corporate scandals, almost all companies present their employees with the conflict between selfishly pursuing their own financial goals and being honest. Perhaps the clearest of these examples is brokerage companies. The fact that brokers are rewarded based on the volume or profitability of the business they place provides ample opportunities for conflicts of interest. Even though brokers are supposed to act in their clients’ best interest, the commissions system can tempt brokers to choose personal gains over their clients’ interests: they may pressure clients to buy and sell when the brokers stand to gain larger commissions, recommend stocks or funds that are suitable for the broker but not in the client’s interest, delay the trades ordered by their clients to first invest their own money, or misuse knowledge of a large impending order (Davis 2004; McDonald 2002).
Bear in mind that the current Social Security system has overhead costs of less than one percent, even as similar US private sector endeavors such as the life insurance industry have obscenely high overhead rates averaging 12 to 14 percent of the benefits. (Remember, Social Security is an insurance program that's run by the public sector.) And that's not the worst of it: In countries where the pension plans were privatized, such as Chile, overhead costs are typically twenty times that of Social Security.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


LAT: 50,000 Iraqis -- At A Minimum -- Violently Dead Because Of Bush

EZ Writer has the early scoop. And yes, the death toll's much higher in reality, but counting all the deaths has been next to impossible. All so Bush could put in those permanent bases and super-bases. And people wonder why the Iraqis hate us? Under Saddam, they at least had stability and a secular culture. Women could go to work in jeans. Now women, if they have jobs outside the home, must go out in hijabs or abayas and with a husband or brother at their side -- and they still risk being raped and killed by any of the sectarian gangs running around with machine guns.


Decayed Glop Or RDX Explosives: Which Is More Dangerous A Weapon?

Steve Gilliard and Larry Johnson take turns smacking around Rick "Twenty-Six Percent" Santorum for his truly unhinged claims concerning "Iraqi WMD". I want to add something else: While Santorum has his undies in a bunch over twenty-five-year old glop that stopped being nerve gas twenty years ago, he doesn't seem to care about the fact that the invasion of Iraq forced the International Atomic Energy Commission to abandon its watch over the hundreds of tons of high explosives contained in various munitions depots across Iraq, and Rumsfeld couldn't be bothered to provide enough troops to secure these depots. One such depot, at Al QaQaa, was looted almost immediately after the IAEA's forced pullout. Remember, it only takes a pound or two of the stuff to pop open a tank.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Real Americans on the Culture of Corruption

For most people, the graft and bribery exemplified in the Abramoff scandal are just part of business as usual. But for the real Americans, the Native Americans, the corruption has hit home hard. It is their money, spent in good faith to try to gain some influence in Washington, that ended up being essentially stolen. It is their development projects that have gotten screwed up. And despite the molestation of the facts by The Washington Post, it is-- at least within rounding error--a 100% Republican scandal. Via Amy K, I got a copy of the newsletter, produced by the economic development arm of the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. Among the : Menominee man paid for hooking up Abramoff (6/23) Report urges investigation of Norton associate (6/23) Sandia Pueblo forced to hire Abramoff's partner (6/23) Rep. Ney initially denied knowing of Tigua Tribe (6/23) Ralph Reed paid more than $5M by Abramoff tribes (6/23) Here's an excerpt from the Ney story: Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), one of several members of Congress linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal, initially denied knowing of the Tigua Tribe of Texas despite being heavily involved with efforts to reopen the tribe's casino. In a November 12, 2004, interview with the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, "Congressman Ney said he was not at all familiar with the Tigua" and didn't recall meeting with the tribe. But evidence produced to the committee and testimony from tribal leaders directly contradicted Ney's claim. The Republicans came to clean up Washington, and so they have. They have vacuumed up every last dollar.

Geez, Can't They Make Up Their Minds?

Even as we're being told by FOX and MSGOP MSNBC that seven guys were busted the other day for allegedly planning to TAKE OUT THE SEARS TOWER IN CHICAGO and that they were about to pull off something BIGGER THAN 9/11, we find buried in the hoo-ha this little tidbit:

There is no imminent threat to Miami or any other area because of these operations," said Richard Kolko, spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. He declined further comment.
"No imminent threat". Got that? They were about to pull off something "bigger than 9/11", but they were "no imminent threat". Geez, can't the Bushistas make up their minds here? And it turns out, the more one reads past the headlines, that the seven guys busted were little more than idiot teens and twentysomethings who got trapped in an FBI sting, similar to the Canadian idiots trapped by an RCMP sting:
Narseal Batiste, the leader, told the FBI informant posing as the Al Qaeda agent that he was experiencing delays "because of various problems within his organization."
Seems that his biggest problem was that neither he nor his young group of runaway teens and twentysomethings had anything resembling a clue:
One source said the suspects had been trying to buy weapons and other things needed to carry out attacks. Ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can also be used as an explosive, was reportedly among the items.
"Trying" to buy weapons?! Hell, thanks to the NRA, any semi-competent street gang can gather up tons of weapons, legal and otherwise, without risking much in the way of punishment or even detection. (The arsenal that the infamous baby-raper Vernon "David Koresh" Howell acquired was so nasty that the FBI, expecting to take serious damage, brought along to Waco a "tank retriever" -- which is used to fetch disabled tanks and get them out of harm's way.) As for the fertilizer compound: Hello?! Most any gardening store stocks that. Landscaping and farm supply firms buy and sell the stuff in bulk all the time. If you're dead broke, you do what the meth-lab guys do and steal the stuff from a farmer or two. But it sure gives Bush some nice "I saved the WORLD!" headlines going into the weekend, doesn't it? UPDATE: Ensley, a frequent commenter over at Steve Gilliard's blog, brings up the likelihood that the kiddies were thinking of this tower when they talked to FBI agents about blowing up a "Sears Tower":
phoenix woman, to a kid in the Liberty City area of Miami, this is the Sears Tower -- not some building in Chicago. It's all that's left of the old Sears Building on Biscayne Blvd in Liberty City. Since I no longer live in Miami, I can't tell you what stage of construction it is at, but it supposed to be part of a new Performing Arts Center. These kids probably never even heard of the building in Chicago.


Death Of The Middle Class: GOP's Finger On the Trigger

More evidence that the wonderful "Bush boom" is booming only for those at the very top of America's income pyramid:

Chief executives of U.S. corporations earned 262 times the pay of the average worker in 2005, the second-highest level in the 40 years the data's been kept, an economic research group said this week. Last year, the average CEO was paid $10.9 million a year, or 262 times an average worker's earnings of $41,861, the Economic Policy Institute said Wednesday. The research group also found a CEO earned more in one workday in 2005 than an average worker earned in 52 weeks. The group includes salary, bonuses, stock options and other payments in its definition of CEO pay.
While the CEOs are doing great, the average American? Um, not so much:

Let's compare that to regular guys salary increases in this expansion.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly pay for production workers was $14.79 in November 2001 (when this expansion began) and $16.62 in May 2006 for an increase of 12.37%.  Over the same period the inflation gage increased from 177.4 to 202.5 for an increase of 14.14%.  This means 80% of the population has seen their wages decrease 1.77% during this expansion.

At the same time, corporations are doing extremely well.  According to the Federal Reserves Flow of Funds statement, corporate profits as a percentage of national income have increased from 8.5% in 2001 to 13.88% in the first quarter of 2006.  Over the same period (2001 to the first quarter of 2006) corporations are the only economic sector to actually save any money.  Their savings increased from $192.3 billion in 2001 to $606.3 billion in the first quarter of 2006.  In other words, if corporations wanted to increase salaries beyond inflation, they clearly have the money to do so.

But of course, they aren't -- and America is suffering as a result:
But after 2000 something changed. The pace of productivity growth has been rising again, but now it seems to be lifting fewer boats. After you adjust for inflation, the wages of the typical American worker--the one at the very middle of the income distribution--have risen less than 1% since 2000. In the previous five years, they rose over 6%. If you take into account the value of employee benefits, such as health care, the contrast is a little less stark. But, whatever the measure, it seems clear that only the most skilled workers have seen their pay packets swell much in the current economic expansion. The fruits of productivity gains have been skewed towards the highest earners, and towards companies, whose profits have reached record levels as a share of GDP.
And yet the House Republicans just passed another bill designed to give the CEOs and companies even more money while further starving those government services that most benefit those of us who aren't CEOs or corporations.


Blog Locally, Not Globally?

Actually, I think we can and should do both. But the writer of this DKos diary has a point, and not just on the top of his head. To that end, I note the cowardly response of Minnesota's Republican governor, Smilin' Tim Pawlenty, whose manhood is in the hands of David Strom and the (Rich) Taxpayers' League, to a newspaper ad by civic-minded wealthy Minnesotans calling on him to stop the insanity that is gutting what once was the best infrastructure in the nation.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Somewhere, Joseph Conrad Is Laughing....

...or crying. Can't decide which, after reading this:

TRACY, California (AP) -- The Pentagon waited nine months after completing an investigation into the deaths of two U.S. soldiers before notifying relatives the men were killed by Iraqi troops, the military acknowledged Wednesday. The June 2004 deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, of Tracy, and 2nd Lt. Andre D. Tyson, 33, of Riverside, were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq. The Army said this week a military investigation found the two had been shot by Iraqi civil defense officers. No possible motive has been divulged. Military officials visited Tyson's family on Tuesday and McCaffrey's on Wednesday to deliver the report, which was completed on September 30, 2005, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer. The California Democrat called the nine-month delay troubling. "If the American people knew that the people we are directly helping train turned on our soldiers, support for this war would slip," Boxer said. "It's very disturbing to think that the Pentagon might be told to keep this kind of thing close to the vest."
This ties in rather neatly with this:
THE level of violence in some areas of Iraq is worsening dramatically and US forces may soon be asked to leave by the Iraqi Government. In an exclusive interview with The Australian, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has given a gloomy assessment of the situation. "The British used to make a big deal of walking around in their berets in the south," he said. "Now they won't even go to the latrines without their helmets. The south has got much rougher, it's mainly Shia on Shia violence." Mr Armitage said much of the violence came from differences over how the Islamic religion should be interpreted. And he said he believed the Iraqis would soon ask the US to leave their country. The most optimistic scenario following a US withdrawal would be that Iraq would become a loose federation - although the term federation would not be used because it upsets neighbouring Turkey - with a weak central government. "The difficulty then will be to stop them (the Iraqis) causing violence for their neighbours," Mr Armitage said. This was because almost all of Iraq's neighbours had restive Shia minorities and the governments of both Iraq and Iran would come under pressure to intervene on their behalf.
Oh, and there's also this from a few months ago:
Since the Iraqi elections in January, US foreign service officers at the Baghdad embassy have been writing a steady stream of disturbing cables describing drastically worsening conditions. Violence from incipient communal civil war is rapidly rising. Last month there were eight times as many assassinations committed by Shia militias as terrorist murders by Sunni insurgents. The insurgency, according to the reports, also continues to mutate. Meanwhile, President Bush's strategy of training Iraqi police and army to take over from coalition forces - "when they stand up, we'll stand down" - is perversely and portentously accelerating the strife. State department officials in the field are reporting that Shia militias use training as cover to infiltrate key positions. Thus the strategy to create institutions of order and security is fuelling civil war. Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting.
And as you read these three stories, note that two of them came from papers outside of the US. The US media is in the RNC's hip pocket and always will be.


What Steve Said

Gilliard says it all. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. We're currently at Stage Three.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Institutional Wingnuttery

Somebody's spreading the loony paranoid rumor that the U.N. is going to take our guns away on the Fourth of July. Yes, really. It's completely not true, of course.

"That is a total misconception as far as we are concerned," [Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka’s U.N. ambassador] told reporters ahead of the two-week meeting opening on Monday. For one, July 4 is a holiday at U.N. headquarters and the world body’s staff will be watching a fireworks display from the U.N. lawn rather than attending any meetings, he said. For another, the U.N. conference will look only at illegal arms and “does not in any way address legal possession,” a matter left to national governments to regulate rather than the United Nations, he added.
Any sensible person would recognize immediately that it's a hoax. Like virus hoaxes, this dire warning goes too far for credibility, with that melodramatic detail that we will lose our America freedoms on the holiday that celebrates our American freedoms. But many people are not sensible, and the United Nations is being flooded with cards and letters of protest. So who or what is responsible for this ridiculous fearmongering? Some ineradicable email pass-around? The farthest fringes of rightwing hate radio? Nope. It originates with a supposedly respectable and mainstream political organization.
The campaign is largely the work of the U.S. National Rifle Association, whose executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, warns on an NRA Web site ( of a July 4 plot "to finalize a U.N. treaty that would strip all citizens of all nations of their right to self-protection."
John Bolton's response to this campaign?
"We understand their concerns and will work during the conference to communicate their concerns," Bolton spokesman Richard Grenell said.
That statement doesn't do anything to debunk the accusation. In fact, it encourages people to believe it and to keep those cards and letters coming in. And oh by the way, to hate and fear the United Nations. Wayne LaPierre, John Bolton, and their ilk make Lyndon LaRouche look sane. But they're also deeply cynical. It won't surprise you that the home page of contains links for joining the NRA, donating money to the NRA, and oh yes, buying Wayne LaPierre's book Global War on Your Guns.

Dean's Fifty-State Strategy Bearing Fruit

This e-mail from The Good Doctor Dean made me smile:

MISSISSIPPI: Republican Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Democrats representing competitive districts in the state legislature to various boards and commissions, triggering four special elections at a time when he believed that his personal popularity would translate into new Republican legislators. Just a few months prior, the 50-state strategy had taken the number of Democratic Party staff in Mississippi from one full-time person to five. By organizing on the ground the way Democrats in Mississippi haven't had the resources to do in a generation, we swept all four special elections. Now Gov. Barbour has four more Democrats holding appointments in his administration and the same number of Democrats sitting in the legislature.

OHIO: The 50-state strategy means new staff in Ohio who have been reviving the field organizing efforts across the state. In a place where it had been typical to build and tear down an entire campaign infrastructure every election cycle, new staff are creating permanent organizing teams in every single county. These teams will be responsible for various functions during the course of the very competitive campaigns there in 2006 -- and won't disappear after Election Day.

SOUTH DAKOTA: With the added boost from new staff and resources, Democrats fielded a record number of legislative candidates this year, recruiting challengers in nearly 40% more races than in 2002.

INDIANA: With fresh resources and energy, Indiana Democrats have been making waves. The Indianapolis Star reported recently that, "Gov. Mitch Daniels and other state Republicans have taken a beating in recent months from the Indiana Democratic Party" thanks to the 50-state strategy, which provided the opportunity to hire a full-time spokesperson. Indiana is also the first state in the country to hold elections under new laws that requires voters to use photo identification that includes an expiration date. Predictably, rightful voters have been disenfranchised by this law. New staff and resources have helped collect data from the May 2nd primary election that will be needed to appeal to the federal court.

OKLAHOMA: The 50-state strategy has been credited with re-energizing grassroots throughout the state. In April, the new staff paid off when the Democratic candidate scored an upset victory, unseating a Republican incumbent as mayor of Tulsa.

NEW YORK: In rural upstate New York, which Republicans rely on for their base voters, unprecedented ground organizing is showing that the 50-state strategy means leaving no county behind. Already, new staff on the ground have identified 12,000 new Democratic voters -- voters who we will get to the polls this November and in elections to come, helping Democrats up and down the ballot.

UTAH: Already, 2006 marks the best candidate recruitment for the Utah Democratic Party in over 15 years. Democrats have recruited candidates for every single State Senate race, and Democrats have challengers running in ten State House races that went unopposed in 2004. The recruitment efforts, led by new staff deployed as part of the 50-state strategy, include not only life-long Democrats but also six Republicans who have switched parties.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Regional field organizers deployed as part of our 50-state strategy have already racked up important wins. They have already worked hands-on to elect three new Democratic members to the State House -- in seats that had been held by Republicans since 1912.
This is especially gratifying because Mississippi's Haley Barbour used to run the Republican National Committeee. Nice to see the current DNC Chair spank the former RNC Chair. You can help the Doctor do similar good works by going here. And this is also good news:
Congressional Democrats Pass GOP in Funds Updated 4:58 PM ET June 20, 2006 WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate and House Democrats, optimistic about their election-year prospects, have more money in the bank for the midterm contests than their Republican counterparts. Some four months before the voting, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has $33.5 million cash on hand compared to $18.3 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the groups said Tuesday. The Democrats raised $4.7 million in May; the Republicans collected $4.3 million in the month. "Our fundraising success reflects a deep desire for change and recognition that the best way to get things back on track is by electing more Democrats to the Senate," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic committee.
Very nice!


The GOP Panders to Black Voters

Well, yes, that headline is ironic. Or maybe just sarcastic. Because what really happened is that the GOP decided that protecting voting rights is unfair to southern states.

House GOP leaders on Wednesday tabled the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act under objections from Southern Republicans who complained during a private meeting that the legislation unfairly singles out their states for federal oversight, a leadership aide said.
Terribly, terribly unfair, enforcing the Voting Rights Act in states that have had widespread violations of voting rights in the past. That's your cue, Harry, Nancy, and Howard.

Invitations To Rational Discussion: The Ultimate Troll Repellent

Over at Pharnygula, PZ Myers has discovered the sure-fire way to make right-wing trolls disappear: Ask them to back up their assertions with verifiable evidence (in this case, evidence that any of them actually read, much less found nuggets of truth in, Ann Coulter's latest book). We've found that a similar technique works, albeit usually only temporarily, here at MR. The trolls will at first try to change the subject, but when that fails they make a big show of waving bye-bye, only to come back later (often under a different handle). This may mean that we get more paid Rendon-Group-style trolls than does Myers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


What is anti-semitism? What constitutes using false claims of it to smear people?

We were recently treated in comments to an example of just how carelessly the term anti-Semitism is thrown around. Since the person in question had the grace to identify himself to me, I think he's simply young and dumb. If he had done it anonymously, I'd think he was a thug. But look how completely debased, how meaningless the term anti-Semitism has become when an exchange like this can take place: I say, Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous. Dan says, I will conclude by going so far as to say that if you can't admit that anti-Semitism exists at all, you are in effect negating a part of Jewish history and the historical suffering of the Jewish people and then, yes, you are an anti-Semite. I hope you're not, and I hope you can find it in your heart at some point in your life to examine why you write posts like this about Jewish people. What part of Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous didn't you understand, Dan? Despite the weasel words, Dan's statement amounts to a baseless accusation of anti-Semitism. It falsely claims that I have attacked Jews in general. It is a deeply irresponsible accusation; indeed, it verges on being libelous. This sort of casual and offensive misuse of the term anti-Semitism trivializes the term and weakens the world's defenses against hatred of all kinds. Worst of all, the misuse seems to be for the trivial, venal goal of discrediting of an African American candidate purely based on who he associated with and not on any specific action or statement that could be construed as anti-Semitic. Dan laid many other false-- ludicrous--accusations against me and against this blog, including: 1. stating that I "think Jews are somehow 'howling' about anti-Semitism where none exists". Absolutely false. 2. stating that Mercury Rising is "promot[ing] ideologies that aren't directly anti-Semitic, but are so focused on demonizing a tiny country called Israel that one cannot help but wonder what the agenda is behind such anger..." No example is or can be provided. 3. in a truly bizarre stroke of excess, equating the phrase "using charges of anti-Semitism" with "caricatured images of the greedy, sneaky Jew that Joseph Goebbels perpetuated relentless in Nazi propaganda." Um, sort of like missing lunch is the same as the Irish Potato Famine. 4. claiming that I have said that Joshua Wirtschafter speaks for all Jews. Joshua Wirtschafter was a fellow student of Keith Ellison who knew him well, worked with him, and-- because Wirtschafter was a Jewish leader-- understands the responsible and irresponsible use of the term "anti-Semitism." Has this guy Dan even seen Ellison? 5. claiming that I deny the right of Israel to exist. This accusation-- a boldfaced lie--is casually laid out as if there were even an atom of evidence for it. These false claims range from dishonest innuendo to despicable lies. Ironically, Dan's anger arose against me because he can't read. I say, The Republicans-- and especially Jews who go along with them on this-- are playing with fire by using charges of anti-Semitism for political purposes. Anti-Semitism was deliberately stoked by Republican leaders like Henry Ford. Dan agrees, Of course there are Jews who "cry wolf" about anti-Semitism, just as there are people of any group who see victimhood in situations where none exists. ...[Ford] WAS an anti-Semite, in the extreme. He was an active Nazi sympathizer/supporter [etc.] But then his reading comprehension fails. Connecting the past fact that anti-Semitic Republican leaders like Henry Ford exacerbated anti-Semitism to divide Jews from others who would be potential allies to the present-- Republicans laying false charges of anti-Semitism against Keith Ellison to divide Jews from a potential ally-- causes core meltdown: However, bringing Henry Ford into this argument simply makes no sense. When you talk about people using the issue of anti-Semitism, I take it you are objecting to ACCUSING others of anti-Semitism where it is not actually occurring. But this has nothing to do with Henry Ford. ...I'm really confused by your post. Do you somehow think Henry Ford wasn't an anti-Semite? Do you think the charges of anti-Semitism against Henry Ford were somehow "hysterical and baseless"? You seem to be linking him to the phenomenon of "lobbing charges of anti-Semitism" but he was indeed an anti-Semite himself. If Dan could read, this is what he would have understood as the gist of my post: Republican tactics of divide and conquer today are different than those of the past, but have the same strategic objective: to get minority groups fighting with one another rather than keeping their eyes on the prize, namely justice for all. And that returns us to the topic of this post, namely anti-Semitism. I said and will repeat: Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous But what is it? What is it not? Even getting a precise definition is very difficult. One area everyone agrees on. The ADL recorded approximately 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents per year in the United States, including violence, vandalism, defacing with swastikas, making of threats, Holocaust denial, etc. Most would also agree that less clearcut examples should also be regarded as anti-Semitism. There's a history of discrimination against Jews in employment, residence, and opportunity. While in much of the country that is in the past, there's some residual discrimination. Furthermore, any time that kids are involved, most would draw the line more carefully than in interactions with adults. What adults can laugh off, kids sometimes can't. At work, we draw the line more carefully. But from there on, it gets much fuzzier. It's easier to define what is not anti-Semitism. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli policy. International law clearly states that Israel has a right to exist. The areas in which there is conflict between Palestinians and Israelis are, for the most part, not in the territory that international law defines as Israel. They are in land annexed by war and not sanctioned by the United Nations or treaty. Therefore, there will be debate about the appropriateness of actions by settlers who are clearly present in defiance of international law and of Israeli troops in those lands. Those who would suppress that debate with unsupportable charges of anti-Semitism simply trivialize the meaning of the term and diminish Israel's allies. It is also not anti-Semitic to point out that not all of the hate in this world is directed against Jews. I have the horrifying memory of a young, hip Israeli telling me in all seriousness, "The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian." This was before the intifada, at a time of peace! But it's not just Jews, not just Palestinians, it's all kinds of people who endure hate. I even documented an unusual case of anti-Christian hate in a previous thread. If you want an example of a calm, measured discussion of hate speech, you can look to that. The trouble arises in the gray zone between what is clearly anti-Semitism and what is clearly not. Human beings often use stereotypes, and most of the time those stereotypes are negative. Use a broad enough brush, and one can call almost everyone anti-Semitic. But Jerome Chanes has identified clear criteria for when it makes sense to confront these borderline cases and when it's best to leave it alone: The lack of nuance in the recent literature on antisemitism, particularly with respect to the delicate relationship between antisemitic expression and the security of Jews in the contemporary world, does these distinguished authors — and their public — a disservice. At bottom, for most Jews, the issue is not antisemitism, it is Jewish security. There is the need for analysts to distinguish, both in the United States and in Europe, between antisemitism — which does exist to a greater or lesser degree and must be monitored, repudiated and counteracted — and Jewish security, which is strong, especially in the United States and indeed in most places. Jewish security best may be defined as the ability of Jews, individually and collectively, to participate in the society at any level without the fear of anti-Jewish animus.... . In the United States, whatever antisemitism there may be has nothing to do with the security of Jews, which is unparalleled. Conversely, the threats to Jewish security in the United States come from sources that probably have little if anything to do with anti-Jewish animus; attacks on constitutional protections, especially on church-state separation, fall under this rubric.... ((emphasis added) So, who is the threat? Keith Ellison? Or Pat Robertson? No, it's not an either/or choice, but one does have to keep priorities straight. We get into these absurd situations, where one ugly comment by Jesse Jackson made in private (calling New York "Hymietown") overshadows an entire career in seeking social justice for all-- even as Pat Buchanan can engage in Holocaust denial yet appear as a respected personality on cable TV and the Republican convention. Do people like Dan understand how dangerous this sort of unequal framing is? How many people put in the position Jesse Jackson has been placed would not become bitter against those who keep holding this one incident against him almost two decades after he has apologized for it? I have not seen one example of an action or a statement by Ellison that is anti-Semitic. Inviting speakers who are anti-Semitic is no more proof of anti-Semitism than inviting John McCain to New University was a proclamation that the institution had gone Republican. We have a statement by Joshua Wirtschafter-- who is not just by a Jew, but by a fellow-student who know Ellison and worked with him at the time--that Ellison never said anything anti-Semitic. This looks like a Republican attempt to use bogus charges of anti-Semitism to destroy the career of a promising young African American. Whoever falls for it is dumb. Speaking of which, Mr. Young and Dumb: your turn.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Jury convicts ex-Bush official on 4 counts

A U.S. jury on Tuesday convicted a former Bush administration official of four counts of lying and obstructing justice in the first trial to be held in connection with the influence peddling scandal of lobbyist Jack Abramoff
One down....

The You're On Your Own-ership Society

Ever since the New Deal, Americans have expected to be able to live in relative comfort and security at the end of their lives. We no longer have that security, thanks to the assault on the social compact that proceeds apace under George W. Bush. Employers are mostly abandoning real pension plans that guarantee their loyal workers a retirement income, and most workers get no help at all in effectively managing their retirement "savings".

As traditional pensions fade into history, employers have shifted the financial risks of a secure retirement to individual workers through company-sponsored savings plans like 401(k)s. No matter how well you save and invest, the list of risks is a long one, according to Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research. "We now have all the risks," she said. "From the first day, the employee has to decide whether or not whether to join the plan, has to decide how much to contribute, has to decide how to invest those contributions, has to decide how to change those investments over time, has to decide what to do about company stock, has to decide what to do about cashing out when moving from one job to another. And then, at retirement, this person is going to get, if they’re lucky, $100,000 and be told goodbye and have to figure out what to do with that over an uncertain lifetime. So it’s an enormous challenge." As employers have shifted responsibility for retirement to their workers, they've also left them largely on their own when comes to learning how to managing their investments. Most individuals are poorly prepared to duplicate the professional investment management that is a critical component of traditional public and private pensions. So even those workers who do accumulate retirement savings are often frozen into inaction when it comes to the daunting task of actively managing their investments, according to Lockwood.
The Republicans in power want to do the same thing to the Social Security retirement insurance program: eliminate the security, eliminate the shared responsibility, and leave workers on their own for making decisions they are not educated to make. If they get their way, within a generation we'll be a society of aristocrats and serfs. Guess which they intend to be, and which they intend us to be?

Yes Siree, Bush Sure Did Liberate the People of Iraq

The Independent has published the confidential memo from the U.S. ambassador to Iraq that explains in horrific detail how bad conditions are. Women, in particular, are so much better off that they've completely lost most of the rights they had under that evil dictator, Saddam Hussein.

2. Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shia who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her Baghdad neighbourhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. She said some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative. 3. Another, a Sunni, said people in her neighbourhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones. She said the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats. 4. The women say they cannot identify the groups pressuring them. The cautions come from other women, sometimes from men who could be Sunni or Shia, but appear conservative. Some ministries, notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transportation, have been forcing females to wear the hijab at work.
The memo details the lack of basic necessities of life: drinkable water, and electricity (in a city where temperatures can reach 140F at this time of year). It cites an embassy employee who said he attends a funeral "every evening". This memo describes conditions in Baghdad. We can assume that conditions outside the city are worse.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Data Mining: Useless For Nabbing Terrorists, Excellent For Creating A Stalinist Police State

From the WP, via TPM Muckraker: Data Mining Still Needs a Clue to Be Effective

Details of the NSA's activities remain unclear, but data mining experts say they are puzzled about how the information might be used. . . . [T]o discern suspicious call patterns from lists of dialed numbers, they will have to dig past the raw data into callers' identities, and, in the vast majority of cases, will find they have simply tapped into networks of law-abiding people involved in daily routines. This approach, several experts said, raises privacy questions even as it wastes time.
Which is what anyone who knows anything about data mining has been saying all along. Not only is it ineffective, it wastes time and money that are better spent on other things, such as nurturing CIA overseas operative networks like the one that Valerie Plame was running in Iraq when Cheney and Rove burned her cover.* But that's not stopping the "get government out of our lives" Republicans from insisting that it be done. So odd: They want government out of their lives when it comes to helping poor people, but then they welcome it when it sniffs through their underwear drawers on alleged "terrorist searches" that don't catch terrorists but do gather up gobs of info which can be used to harrass political enemies. *Remember, it was Plame's network that was tasked with determining if Saddam still had any usable weapons of mass destruction from the huge cache given him by Rumsfeld and Cheney back during the Reagan Administration. These WMDs were the pretext Bush and Cheney gave for invading Iraq in the first place. Plame's people on the ground reported, truthfully, that everything was either used up during the Iran-Iraq War (in which we backed Saddam) or is now "harmless goo" (most chemical weapons have a shelf life of five years or less, and the stuff Reagan gave Saddam is now twenty years old; UPDATE: Sky-Ho points out in the comments thread that while the goo is no longer suitable for use as a weapon, it's still noxious stuff, especially when it's not disposed of properly). By outing Plame, the Bush Administration showed that it really didn't give a rat's ass about whether or not Saddam had usable WMD.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Whodunnit? The Army Corps Done It

Ivor van Heerden's book The Storm is out. Van Heerden did a presentation at Octavia Books, recorded on C-Span, that everyone should see. While he didn't spare anyone, he pointed out that the Army Corps of Engineers is resisting sharing data that could save lives, that it failed to deal with subsidence problems over the years, and that it is re-building the levee and canal system to the same substandard specifications... but this time, leaving in place weakened sections of retaining wall. The solutions he proposes are feasible. He puts the cost at $30B. The oil companies could afford to pay that out of their annual profits, and probably should. Partly because they created the environmental problem and partly because they have helped create a political system in which troglodytes run things.

Spinning Gold into Straw: Bush shapes America into a Third World nation

George Bush has turned the phrase "sound as a dollar" into an anachronism. The books have been cooked, with net external debt almost twice as large as officially reported. The recent rallies in the US market are hedged with a rise in put options. Brad Setser writes: Nouriel and I postulated back in early 2005 that there was a meaningful risk that the next “emerging market” crisis might come from the US as the American debt monster finds it no longer could place its debt with the world’s central banks, the dollar would fall, market interest rates would rise, US debt servicing costs would go up, the economy would slow and the value of a host of financial assets would tumble....Currency collapses do not necessarily translate into economic slumps. ...The US, thankfully, has financed itself by selling dollar-denominated debt, pushing currency risks onto its creditors. ... I certainly didn’t see this kind of global sell off of emerging economies coming, though I worried about a few specific markets. ... A big fall in the dollar isn’t bad for the US. A big fall in financial inflows that led to a rise in US interest rates though is another story. Daniel Gros in the Financial Times, quoted on Brad DeLong's site [I]t is likely that the true US net external debtor position is around $4,000bn (about 40 per cent of GDP) rather than the $2,500bn reported officially for end-2004... both the current account deficit and the net debtor position of the US are even worse than officially reported. This can only mean that the need for a substantial depreciation of the dollar and/or a period of sub-par growth is even bigger than generally accepted.. Bill Gross of PIMCO: We're about 4% dollar short and that's about as much as we can be. That may sound like nothing, but that position does represent our maximum confidence that the dollar is going down in the next several years. We can't gauge imminent weakness of the U.S. economy any more than Bernanke can, but this is for us a several years' bet. And we're willing to suffer ... if we have to. Because we are expecting the economy to slow and housing to crack and Bernanke to start thinking about lowering rates, that basically suggests that you don't want lots of credit risk. The sentiment index, which seemed as if it would rise on Friday, ended at 77, meaning that traders are betting on a further drop in the US market. In effect, they bought stocks, but hedged that buying with puts. In the short term, they may be squeezed. In the long run, we will be.

Cynthia McClinton

Remember how even when the Clintons won in the courts, the GOP/Media Complex kept spinning the situation to make it look as if the Clintons really hadn't been vindicated? "Questions still exist..." was a typical passively-voiced press extrusion of the time, even though a) the questions were bogus and b) the only people asking those questions were the members of the Republican Noise Machine and their willing tools. Now look at the extent to which the GOP/Media Complex is trying to discount the news that the charges against Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have been dropped. No such discounting happened when it was Republican Congresscritters like Bob Barr who managed to escape punishment for similar charges. But that sort of discounting happened and still happens all the time with Democratic politicians like McKinney and Clinton.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


And Another Republican Lie Is Summarily Debunked

Yeah, yeah, I know: Dog bites man. Sun rises in East. Just consider my further publicizing of this as my own effort to combat the well-funded cogs in the Republican Noise Machine. Take THAT, PowerLine Doofi! From today's StarTribune (scroll 2/3 of the way down):

HE OPPOSED ANTI-SEMITISM Ellison, then and now I was president of the Jewish Law Students Association at Minnesota Law School in 1988-89, when the Black Law Student Association, led by Keith Ellison, cosponsored speakers on campus who had previously made comments that were anti-Jewish, sexist and homophobic. I led a coalition that issued a petition of protest signed by law student organizations representing Jews, women, progressives, and gays and lesbians. In response, Keith explained that he disagreed with these speakers' views of Jews, gays, and women's equality, but he believed that African-American students should have the opportunity to hear the messages of self-sufficiency and pride that these speakers brought. Keith challenged one of the invited speakers regarding past comments about Jews, and he constructively participated in dialogue between blacks and Jews on campus. Keith understood that Jews, even in America, have faced discrimination, and he appreciated the contributions of Jews to the movement for civil rights. I recall Keith questioning Israeli policy, but not the necessity of Israel's existence. I disagreed sharply with Keith about whether the positive messages of the speakers he sponsored could be separated from their hateful statements. I am not surprised that he soon changed his views on that question, given the genuine humanism that animated his passion for activism. JOSHUA WIRTSCHAFTER, BERKELEY, CALIF.
To bring everyone up to speed: Keith Ellison is a black man, a Muslim, and a really nice guy according to pretty much everyone who's ever dealt with him. He's been in the Minnesota State Legislature for a number of years, and now has the DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor, the local arm of the Democratic Party) endorsement for the congressional seat held by the retiring Martin Sabo. The primary isn't for a couple of months yet, but he's the front-runner for the DFL nomination. Which is why the Republicans, led by the PowerLine bozos, are doing everything they can to smear him. (No, I won't link to those clowns -- just Google "Keith Ellison" and scroll down; you'll find their swill.) Their weapon? His brief association, as a college student, with folks affiliated with Louis Farrakhan -- an association which he ended when he realized that Farrakhan was more about nastiness than he was about good works. Well, a Jewish college friend of Ellison's has come along to debunk this particularly vile GOP smear job, and I thought I'd pass it on, as noted above.

Karl Rove says this man is a coward. I say Karl Rove should enlist and be sent to Iraq.

Rolling StoneIt was said that we got into Vietnam to save Vietnam, but we got out to save the Army. Have we reached that point in Iraq? [Rep. Jack Murtha] Yes, we have. The Army is broken. Today we're 112,000 soldiers short in critical specialties. They're paying bonuses up to $150,000 for a person to go into the service. The National Guard is meeting only eighty percent of its goal nationwide -- and to get the other twenty percent, they've lowered the standards to take those least qualified. All these things put together means an army stretched too thin. Long-term, we've got a $50 billion shortfall in equipment. I've visited three bases: Hood, Bragg, Stewart. I found shortages everyplace. Infrastructure shortages. Equipment shortages. Troops going to Iraq were C4 -- that's the lowest state of readiness. The reason is, they didn't have equipment to train on. They didn't have radios, they didn't have vehicles they needed to train on before they left. The equipment is worn out. I'm concerned for the future of the country. We couldn't deploy against a major conventional force if we had to right now. I don't know what the threat might be ten years from now, but we gotta prepare for that threat. And we're not able to because we've spent so much on this war. This is the point the Republicans just don't get. You can't fight every war you might want to. But you better be ready to fight the ones you have to. Thanks to Iraq, we could not handle any other conflict. Thanks to Iraq, the army is no more than 6 months to a year from getting a case of Vietnam syndrome. Haditha may be a sign that it's already begun.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Friday Cat Blogging

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Which side are you on?

I know that the "conservative" blogs will dodge the issue or write this off to the color of the Grand Jury's skin. But what I want to know is how many liberal blogs will admit they rushed to judgment and that there might be a deeper story here. The AP is reporting that A grand jury has declined to indict Rep. Cynthia McKinney in a March incident in which she admitted hitting [or slapping or pushing or something-ing] a police officer who tried to stop her from entering a House office building. Grand Juries don't have to be unanimous to indict, so they tend to over- rather than underindict. And African Americans, contrary to white caricatures, tend to be pretty tough on African Americans who break the law. For the Grand Jury (which I assume from the venue was probably roughly two-thirds African American) to decline to indict means that maybe her story is correct, that she was improperly stopped and that any contact was inadvertent. She may have a case for assault by the officer, or a civil case for harassment. In political debate, there are no good people and bad people per se. There are people who own up when they are wrong, and then there's the rest. I hope I am underestimating how many liberal blogs are in the latter category. But there were sure a lot of liberal bloggers who behaved like perfect asses on this issue.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

Larry Johnson made the followingcomment on his blog Karl is a shameless b[.....]d. This could explain why his mother killed herself. Once she discovered what a despicable soul she had spawned she apparently saw no other way out. The responses are predictable. Some people on the left are shocked and say it's inappropriate. Some cheer him on. People on the right uniformly attack Johnson and (because Johnson points out Rove's failure to serve in the military) use the occasion to unearth every bit of hate they spewed against the Clintons. But the lack of self-reflection is what is really telling. If it needs to be said, I think it's wrong to use a parent's suicide as a verbal dagger against a political opponent. Since Larry Johnson is a conservative Republican (or recovering Republican), I am not especially surprised that he's engaged in this sort of bitter, scorched earth tactic. So let's go back a few years to the Clinton White House, and rememeber what Republicans were doing then. All sorts of scurrilous allegations (Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Haircutgate, etc.) were made against the Clintons and circulated freely by the so-called "liberal" press. In the end, all of those smears proved false-- though Republicans continue to circulate them. But worst of all was the attack on White House counsel Vince Foster. Yes, he did suffer from depression. But a very small fraction of depressed people commit suicide. And fewer of those specifically ascribe their feeling of hopelessnes to a relentless smear campaign by The Wall Street Journal. What followed was one of the most disgusting episodes in American political history. Free Republic had board after board claiming Vince Foster had been Hillary's secret lover. Many of the people spreading this scum also claimed that Hillary was a lesbian, but then logic was never their strong suit. Foster-- unable to defend himself-- was accused of enormous crimes, such as espionage and money laundering. Indeed, ten years later, the right was continuing to metaphorically exhume Foster to claim a conspiracy far less credible than any "conspiracy theorists" of the left have ever come up with. For the right-- especially the WSJ, Limbaugh, and others who spread this venom--to continue to deny any responsibility is monstrous, despicable, almost inhuman. There's a further irony. The anti-Clinton wars were almost certainly run by the Bush family. That the attacks came through the Wall Street Journal and were allowed to pass almost unfiltered through corporate media suggested that the corporate right was uniformly on board. Maybe they all had the same bright idea. Or maybe Poppy's Rolodex had something to do with it. So maybe-- not certainly, but maybe-- Karl Rove was personally involved in driving Foster to suicide. None of this justifies Larry Johnson's use of a personal matter against Karl Rove. It's kicking below the belt. But if he felt that was the only way to communicate with Rove, that I can understand. About 10 years ago, Bill Clinton warned us against the politics of personal destruction. I took the message to heart, as I know that many people on the left did. But some people's hearts are very hard. In creating a climate of division and anger, the Republican Party has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Here are a couple of the comments from right-wingers on Johnson's thread: Add to your list pot smokin' Oxford attending Bill Clinton to your "Chickenhawk" list. And, if Karl is dispicable, what about Hillary?? Defending her rapist husband while all the time knowing he was guilty of the very least serial adultery, the very worst, felony rape. Being involved in the "suicide" of her "friend" Vince Foster. There is two America's now.. both hate each other and I am personally looking forward to swinging my Louisville Slugger and smashing some liberal pumpkinheads. Liberalism is the cancer... a bullet is the cure.

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