As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The New Economy

The new economy is where the world is flat, unfettered free trade and corporate deregulation is king, and working Americans can't afford to feed themselves.

Nine million Americans sought aid from food pantries and soup kitchens last year, even though they were members of households where at least one person had a job.

That's what you get when you don't raise the minimum wage for five years (adjusted for inflation, it's 29% lower than it was in 1979), when total real wages remain stagnant for three years, and when your trade imbalance ensures that the only job creation will be in the low-wage service sector.

I, for one, welcome this new economy. Think of all the job creation at our nation's food banks and soup kitchens! Those staffers have employment security like you've never seen!


Who Said It?

February 17, 2003, a month before the invasion of Iraq:

To this day, the President has not made a case that war against Iraq, now, is necessary to defend American territory, our citizens, our allies, or our essential interests...

We have been told over and over again what the risks will be if we do not go to war.

We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.

If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration's assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. I certainly hope our armed forces will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad.

I certainly hope Iraq emerges from the war stable, united and democratic.

I certainly hope terrorists around the world conclude it is a mistake to defy America and cease, thereafter, to be terrorists.

It is possible, however, that events could go differently, . . . .

Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

And last week's tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

There are other risks. Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

Iran and Turkey each have interests in Iraq they will be tempted to protect with or without our approval.

I don't expect anyone in the media, and certainly not in the Republican Party, to apologize to Howard Dean for slandering him when his most dire predictions turned out to be pretty much entirely correct. Unlike the Democrats in the Beltway who are so terrified of running on national security (although this poll suggests they have nothing to fear). I'm sure Dean doesn't expect an apology either; but an acknowledgement would sure be nice.

P.S. This post by Glenn Greenwald is important. Dean was slandered two months ago for saying what William F. Buckley, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have all said this week (and this doesn't happen out of the ether; some preparations are being made, some groundwork is being laid). You can't call anyone who disagrees with an endless war in Iraq a coward anymore. To do so ignores reality.

Go see some examples of the pretzel logic Bush supporters are trying to twist themselves into over these developments.


I Like A Sense of Humor With Bite

After a legislator in Ohio put forth a bill seeking to ban gay adoption, a Democratic legislator retaliated with a bill designed to ban Republican adoption:

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." […]

Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.


I actually do think this bill would be tough for the Ohio Democratic Party, if passed. After all, so many Democrats come from Republican households. This would hurt registration. Maybe I'll start a "Democrats Against Banning Republican Adoptions" 501(c)(3).

It's so rare to find a politician with a sense of absurdity and irony like this. Gotta love it.


Friday, February 24, 2006

William F. Buckley - Liberal Traitor

This moonbat from some rag called The National Review (which only coastal elites read, probably) just undermined our troops in the field in a time of war. Thanks for giving aid and comfort to the enemy:

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols...

A problem for American policymakers — for President Bush, ultimately — is to cope with the postulates and decide how to proceed.

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure...

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

How can this guy live with himself? His brand of angry, Bush-hating liberal pessimism is antithetical to the American spirit. We ARE winning in Iraq. We WILL win in Iraq. William F. Buckley was never a REAL conservative anyway.

(Wow, that came out of me too easily. I've been reading too much Free Republic)


Meanwhile, in the Civil War...

The fear that the al-Askariyah mosque bombing would be the Fort Sumter moment for Iraq appears to be coming true. Over 200 are dead in Baghdad alone from sectarian violence, and nearly 200 Sunni mosques have been damaged in retaliation for the bombing of the Shiite shrine. A curfew has been instituted to calm things down. The US Ambassador has admitted this is the brink of civil war. Worst, the leading Sunni parties have pulled out of talks for a national unity government.

And even the Ayatollah al-Sistani, the "George Washington" of Iraq, is openly calling for Shiite paramilitaries to protect their holy sites and their people. That's definitely the answer in Iraq, another paramilitary group. Oddly, Muqtada al-Sadr sounds like the Great Communicator in all this:

Muqtada al-Sadr had been in Lebanon. He cut short his trip and went overland to Iraq. He told the Syrian news agency that he condemns this "despicable crime" and called the Iraqi people to "unity and solidarity so as to deny any opportunity to those who wish to ignite public turmoil."

Of course, he rejected the Iraqi Constitution a few days ago, so who knows what to believe? And a day later, he seemed to back up Sistani's calls for militia to guard Shiite holy sites. You'll notice that the main figures whose voice has become prominent in Iraq nowadays are the clerics:

The sectarian crisis illustrates not only the power of the religious leadership but the weakness of mainstream political figures on whom the U.S. must rely if it is to begin pulling troops out of Iraq this year.

Clerical power is a political reality in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq - regardless of what the constitution has to say about religious freedom, women's rights and institutional democracy.

This is condition critical in Iraq.

P.S. Some great links to Iraqi bloggers and how they're seeing this unfold here.


The Liberal Media

Never let it be said that the media isn't out there tackling the big stories that affect us all. From infrequent contributor Cosmo, here are 3 stories from a local news station in Central Florida:

Man in Spider-Man Mask Steals $11,000 Worth of Comics

Monster Cat in China Weighs 33 Pounds

Family Finds Raw Meat Instead of iPod Inside Sealed Box

And I don't think these are exceptions. Just turn on your 6 o'clock news any day of the week. It's not whether the media is too liberal or too conservative, it's whether the media even knows what's news anymore.

And people wonder why Americans are misinformed.

By the way, I think the argument that "the people tell us through the ratings what they want to watch" is a canard. If it's vapid, meaningless content vs. vapid, meaningless content, who cares who wins the battle? The fact that so many people are demonstrably moving online for their news should be a wake-up call to these guys.


Stop Competing With Me!

Oh, this is too funny. O'Reilly shows concern for MSNBC:

Dear Chairman Wright:

We, the undersigned, are becoming increasingly concerned about the well-being of MSNBC and, in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8:00 PM EST.

It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings, at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago, were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host.

Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring Phil Donahue's show back at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage is done.

I guess Mr. Olbermann has been getting under Mr. Loofah's skin. Shouldn't O'Reilly be doing his own show at 8:00? Is he TiVo-ing the competition?

This reminds me of any time a Republican shows his "concern" for the Democrats by explaining very patiently what they should be doing to return to political prominence. Somehow I don't think they have the best interests of their opponents at heart.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh Crap

This is really ominous news. From Reuters:

U.S. Treasury debt prices extended losses on Thursday after an auction of five-year notes garnered surprisingly weak demand, including from indirect bidders.

That category includes customers of primary dealers but also foreign central banks, and it is therefore used as a proxy for offshore interest in U.S. government debt.

Already unnerved by a drop in jobless claims that reinforced the likelihood of further interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, traders kept bond prices well into negative territory.

"It was a terrible auction," summed up one trader at a U.S. primary dealer. "The bid-to-cover stank, the indirect bid was bad -- I would be surprised if the market manages to rally from here."

We all know how this works. We put billions and billions on our national credit card and auction off the debt to the highest bidder. In the past, Asian nations (led by China and Japan) were happy to snap those dollars up. After all, it gave us the capital we needed to continue purchasing their goods. They were basically giving us money so we could give it back to them. It was a faith-based economy; as long as the other countries believed in the myth that we actually might pay them back, and as long as we believed in the myth that no nation would ever so no to us, everybody could rest easy.

Well, today was a very, very bad sign. Only 21% of the 14 billion dollars we offered was snapped up. The long-term yield on these notes remains lower than the short-term yield on 5-year notes, known as the inverted yield curve:

Historically, inversions of the yield curve have preceded many of the U.S. recessions. Due to this historical correlation, the yield curve is often seen as an accurate forecast of the turning points of the business cycle. A recent example is when the U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted in 2000 just before the U.S. equity markets collapsed. An inverse yield curve predicts lower interest rates in the future as longer-term bonds are being demanded, sending the yields down.

Now, I'm no bonddad, but as an armchair economist who balances his own budget, thank you very much, this looks extremely bad. Add in to this the fact that the Iranian bourse (as discussed in Sherlock Google's diary) will soon trade in petro-Euros instead of petro-dollars, and this could be the moment when everything simply falls to pieces. Somebody has stopped believing in this faith-based economy.


Hat in Hand

Karl Rove today, on the Ton y Snow show:

When asked if Bush would accept a slight delay in implementing the takeover of P&O (PO.L: Quote, Profile, Research), Rove said: "Yes, look, there are some hurdles, regulatory hurdles, that this still needs to go through on the British side as well that are going to be concluded next week.

"There's no requirement that it close, you know, immediately after that."

This issue has been demagogued to death, but if scuttled it's a small triumph for anyone who believes in labor, environmental, or human rights policies. Dubai lags far behind the world in all of them, and at some point trading partners have to be held to some kind of standard, lest we ever want to stay competitive.

As long as we're talking about port security, I invite you to read this brainstorm session I had last year about "security tariffs" paid by exporters and incentives for American-based manufacturing to lighten the load on the ports. These are some of the real problems that need to be addressed. Of course, Democrats in the Senate and House have offered countless bills designed to enhance port security, all of them rejected by the very Republicans who are now jumping all over this story. I hope Reid continues to make a push to get this storyline out there as the White House continues to slink toward reconciliation. Now is the time to offer a giant port security bill and dare anyone to vote against it. Good policy, good politics.

UPDATE: The UAE gives a helping hand:

United Arab Emirates company offered Thursday to delay part of its $6.8 billion takeover of most operations at six U.S. ports to give the Bush administration more time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal poses no security risks.

What's another two weeks if it means 100 years of profit?


Joke Machine, tomorrow night

For those in the Los Angeles area who want to see me in a self-styled "stand-up comedy game show," tomorrow night is finally your chance. I can't tell you how many emails I get asking for me to do this.

Details here.

UPDATE: I won!!!!

Ok, I came in last and was eliminated, and the other two duked it out in the final round, and the audience judged it inconclusively, and they both decided to forfeit, whereupon I jump up out of the audience and yell "That means I win!!!"

You had to be there.


Never So True

As now. From Howard Beale in Network:

In this country, when one company wants to take over another company, they simply buy up a controlling share of the stock. But first, they have to file notice with the government. That's how CCA took over the company that owns this network. But now somebody is buying up CCA. Somebody called the Western World Funding Corporation. They filed their notice this morning. Well, just who in the hell is the Western World Funding Corporation? It is a consortium of banks and insurance companies who are not buying CCA for themselves but as agents for somebody else. And who is this somebody else? They won't tell you. They won't tell you, they won't tell the Senate, they won't tell the SEC, the FTC, they won't tell the Justice Department, they won't tell anybody. They say it's none of our business. The hell it ain't! I will tell you who they're buying CCA for. They're buying it for the Saudi-Arabian Investment Corporation. They're buying it for the Arabs...We all know that the Arabs control sixteen billion dollars in this country. They own a chunk of Fifth Avenue, twenty downtown pieces of Boston, a part of the port of New Orleans, an industrial park in Salt Lake City. They own big hunks of the Atlanta Hilton, the Arizona Land and Cattle Company, the Security National Bank in California, the Bank of the Commonwealth in Detroit. They control ARAMCO, so that puts them into Exxon, Texaco, and Mobil Oil. They're all over - New Jersey, Louisville, St. Louis Missouri. And that's only what we know about! There's a hell of a lot more we don't know about because all of the those Arab petro-dollars are washed through Switzerland and Canada and the biggest banks in this country. For example, what we don't know about is this CCA deal and all the other CCA deals. Right now, the Arabs have screwed us out of enough American dollars to come right back and with our own money, buy General Motors, IBM, ITT, AT and T, Dupont, US Steel, and twenty other American companies. Hell, they already own half of England. So listen to me. Listen to me, god-dammit! The Arabs are simply buying us. There's only one thing that can stop them. You! You! So, I want you to get up now. I want you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the phone. I want you to get up from your chairs, go to the phone, get in your cars, drive into the Western Union offices in town. I want you to send a telegram to the White House. By midnight tonight, I want a million telegrams in the White House. I want them wading knee-deep in telegrams at the White House. I want you to get up right now and write a telegram to President Ford saying: 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore! I don't want my banks selling my country to the Arabs! I want the CCA deal stopped now! I want the CCA deal stopped now.

And the response, from Arthur Jensen:

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT and T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon - those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state - Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and mini-max solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you to preach this evangel, Mr. Beale.

I'm reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man right now, and between that and this Dubai port deal, I'm wondering whether Paddy Chayefsky wasn't actually a time-traveler.

(hat tip)


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Well, Here We Go

I see the Alito court was very prompt in wading into the culture wars again:

The Supreme Court wasted little time jumping back into the contentious abortion issue, agreeing Tuesday to review the constitutionality of a federal law banning a controversial late-term procedure critics call "partial birth" abortion.

The case could provide a judicial sea change with new Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the high court January 31, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor.

O'Connor, the first woman on the high court, was a key swing vote for a quarter century, upholding the basic right to abortion.

The views of Alito, a more conservative jurist, could prove crucial in the new debate.

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency.

The Court could have very easily said, "Look, we already ruled on this when Nebraska tried to enact the same law 6 years ago, sorry, run along," but of course the players on the stage have changed since then. I do think it's clever to write a law that's already been struck down, and then, should the Court strike that one down too, proclaim it the work of "activist judges." Making a decision and holding to it does not make you activist. If the Court decided that some Congressional law banning newspapers was unconstitutional, they wouldn't be "activist." They'd be following the law.

But of course, this law will likely be upheld, beginning the long process of chipping away at reproductive rights. The legislative apparatus of the conservative movement has proved that they're ready to send this stuff up the legal food chain, starting in South Dakota:

South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.

"My understanding is we are the first state to truly defy Roe v. Wade," the 1973 high court ruling that granted a constitutional right to abortion, said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood's South Dakota chapter.

State legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky also have introduced similar measures this year, but South Dakota's legislative calendar means its law is likely to be enacted first.

So get ready for several more years of heartache and yelling on all sides. Meanwhile there already is a de facto abortion ban in South Dakota already; there's one provider in the state, and its doctors have to be flown in from Minnesota because physicians there are routinely intimidated into denying the procedure.

Digby is really good on this issue today. If those in the "pro-life" movement were committed to saving the unborn they wouldn't be for the procedure in cases of rape or incest. All children are innocent means ALL. Right? And then this:

They seem to think that sex isn't a primary biological imperative --- meaning that succumbing to the most primitive urge we have is an act which should be punished if it results in what nature intends --- pregnancy. It is not a function of bad character. It’s a function of nature. There seem to be few people who are willing to admit that the sex drive is stronger than most people’s willpower from time to time --- and therefore unwanted pregnancy will also happen from time to time.

We could take a fair amount of chance out of this equation by simply promoting the use and availability of birth control. The more available and easy it is to obtain the less likely unwanted pregnancy will happen. We could at least educate young people and make it easy for them to get reliable birth control. If pro-lifers really cared about not killing “innocent life” they would have condom machines in school alongside the cokes and candy bars. There is no group of people on earth who are more horny, more impulsive and more likely to think there is no tomorrow than teen-agers. Yet this is the group that the pro-life people most want to punish with early pregnancy if they fail to beat back their natural urges.

But let’s face it. Even if everyone had birth control, unwanted pregnancies would still happen. Nothing is foolproof. As the Republicans remind us incessantly, the only foolproof way to ensure there is no unwanted preganancy is abstinence. That's the real message of the "pro-life" movement. If women don't want to endure forced childbirth they shouldn't have sex. Period.

The issue is control. Control and punishment.

(a certain reader of this blog will be coming after me in the comments forthwith)


Big Trouble in Iraq

Today's events in Iraq should cause concern for anyone interested in keeping that country from teetering into civil war. Insurgents bombed one of the holiest Shia mosques in the world, putting a giant crack in its roof. This is the latest in a wave of attacks on Shia targets. Juan Cole explains its importance:

The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonnstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.

The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.

Some Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi's father.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.

Both Sunnis and Americans will be blamed. Very bad

This is after the US military built a wall of dirt around Samarra to protect it from attack. Maybe that's why some of them believe it ws an inside job.

The retaliation has been swift; reportedly more than 90 Sunni mosques have been attacked. History may look back at today as the beginning of this civil war. If we weren't in the middle of it already. This is a telling sign of that, from the "Great Communicator" of Iraq:

The country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sent instructions to his followers forbidding attacks on Sunni mosques, and called for seven days of mourning.

But he hinted, as did Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, that religious militias could be given a bigger security role if the government cannot protecting holy shrines - an ominous sign of the Shiite reaction ahead.

And if you think the US won't be swept up in this, read on:

Some Shiite political leaders already were angry with the United States because it has urged them to form a government in which nonsectarian figures control the army and police. (US Ambassador Zalmay) Khalilzad warned this week - in a statement clearly aimed at Shiite hard-liners - that America would not continue to support institutions run by sectarian groups with links to armed militias.

One top Shiite political leader accused Khalilzad of sharing blame for the attack on the shrine in Samarra.

"These statements ... gave green lights to terrorist groups. And, therefore, he shares in part of the responsibility," said Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the former commander of its militia.

Very bad news indeed.


Little Richard

The blogger Will Bunch has written a long and detailed investigation into Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum for The American Prospect. It's extremely dense and far-reacking, and the upshot of it is that Little Richard is cutting so many ethical corners that his ethical card is perfectly round:

The Prospect decided to heed Santorum's advice by taking "an honest look at the family budget" -- his family budget. What we found is that Santorum's exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren't available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators' filings. Santorum's PAC -- a "leadership PAC," whose purpose is to dispense money to other Republican candidates -- used just 18.1 percent of its money to that end over a recent five-year period, a lower number than other leadership PACs of top senators from both parties.

Bunch goes on to note that all of these potential violations are going on at the Santorum home in Northern Virginia - where he lives, which might be news to his so-called "constituents" in Pennsylvania (he also has a house in Penn Hills, listed as his legal residence. His niece lives there, and in 2004 the Penn Hills School District paid $67,000 to school his kids via Internet in Virginia). The biggest issue is that the house in question was financed through a special mortgage (likely BMR) typically reserved for investors at the lender, Philadelphia Trust. Santorum is not one of them. Any kind of special treatment like this, says Bunch, "would violate the Senate ethics rules that Santorum is now charged with reforming."

There's no way to summarize the article that does it justice, so go on over and read it. Santorum has been tapped as the point person in the Senate on ethics reform in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. It's not like they can get someone else who's all that squeaky clean, but in the light of this investigation that seems like a particularly bad choice. CREW has filed an ethics complaint against Little Richard.

Once he is kicked out of the Senate, he better not put it on his private sector resume, because with a record like this, ain't nobody hiring him.


The Two Percent Solution

Here's the backstory: a federal judge ruled that the invocations to prayer in the Indiana State House were too often "systematically sectarian", appealing to Jesus and a Christian God. A Jewish lobbying group went to the State House to ask about this issue. Here's the reply:

The day ended with a private meeting with Speaker of the House Bosma meeting our group in the beautiful House chambers.  We asked questions about full day kindergarten, about the clinics, and a young member of the delegation asked about providing sexuality education in public schools that is more than abstinence based.  He responded to everything we asked.  Sometimes we liked what he said and sometimes we didn't.  Speaker Bosma wondered why we hadn't discussed the controversy surrounding the issue of prayer in House chambers.  He told us his version of what happened and what he believes, and a passionate exchange took place.  The end of this exchange left us, the Jewish delegation, in shock.  Speaker Bosma, defending the prayer issue, asked, "How many Jews are there in Indiana?  About 2%?  There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana."  The implication of this statement was that our minority community doesn't and shouldn't have any say or any voice.  It is about the majority and what the majority wants.  The jaws of the delegation dropped to the floor.  We were speechless.  Everything we believed about this country had just been trampled.  Gone was the belief of the constitutional protection of minorities.  Gone was not feeling marginalized.  Gone was the belief we were not strangers in this country.  I am sure that Speaker Bosma is a fine man, but in that moment, for the first time in my life as a citizen of this country, I was scared.  It is what I now call the 2% solution (and Jews are much less than 2% of this state) that if you are only 2% don't even bother to speak up as the "Tyranny of the majority" will prevail.

This became major news in Indiana, forcing Speaker Bosma to apologize. But the damage was done, and that first impression is a window into the soul.

Wow, at least African-Americans got 60% way back when.


Shrinking Republican Opportunities

This is funny. Golden boy Michael Steele, the African-American running for the Senate in Maryland, was supposed to be the new face of the Republican Party. Then he started talking, comparing stretching the truth about this uncorroborated "pelted with Oreos" story, stem cell research to the Holocaust (in front of a Jewish audience!), and generally making such a mess of things that his campaign manager quit. And presto, he's way down in the polls against prospective Democratic nominee Ben Cardin.

How to Blow a Senate Race in 10 Days, starring Mr. Steele, will be coming to a theater near you this November.


It's The Money

Right from the outset I've stated that this Dubai deal is about the dark underbelly of privatization and global trade, realpolitik on a fiduciary scale. We all know that money can blind you to a lot of things. It sets up strange bedfellows; to take another example, it's like an Orthodox Jew ex-lobbyist and the anti-Semitic ex-leader of Malaysia getting together:

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Monday that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was paid $1.2 million to organize his 2002 meeting with President Bush, but denied the money came from the Malaysian government.

Mahathir told reporters he was aware a payment was made to Abramoff, but he didn't know who made it. He said he had been persuaded by the U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation to meet with Bush at the time.

"It is true that somebody paid but it was not the (Malaysian) government," Mahathir said. "I understood some people paid a sum of money to lobbyists in America but I do not know who these people were and it was not the Malaysian government."

Mahathir said the Heritage Foundation believed he could help "influence (Bush) in some way regarding U.S. policies."

The Blog of the NJDC expands on this, and shows how there's been quite a bit of projection coming from Team Bush on this one:

In 2004, the Republicans had the gall to accuse John Kerry of an alliance with Mahathir, a vicious anti-Semite...

Let's get this straight -- Republican superstar lobbyist Jack Abramoff works his mojo successfully with the Bush Administration on behalf of vicious anti-Semite Mahathir... and Karl Rove and his minions sent out this libelous piece of mail to Jewish voters?

For more on why Mahathir's access to the Bush Administration was so good, consider this recent LA Times article:

One such GOP outreach featured Mahathir pictured beside Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat above a Kerry quote in which he said "foreign leaders" wanted him to win the election. The campaign mailer suggested Mahathir and Arafat, "renowned for their hatred of the Jewish people," supported Kerry.

On one occasion, Abramoff — an orthodox Jew and a supporter of Israel — was asked whether he was comfortable representing a country led by a man known for anti-Semitic comments.

Abramoff responded, "They pay their bills on time."

Yes, it's the money. And it's also an object lesson for Democrats: whatever the Republicans are using to slander you, you can bet there's the same evidence against them, two-fold.


President Idunno

The old alibi returns. "I don't think anybody expected planes to fly into buildings." "I don't think anybody could have anticipated the breach of the levees." "I don't think anybody saw Hamas winning the Palestinian elections." And now:

President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

So who DID know about this? Yesterday we learned Rumsfeld didn't know about it either.

Is that really a good strategy for dealing with an unpopular decision? "Well, sure, we decided to let a country with ties to Osama bin Laden manage some ports, but you don't understand... we didn't KNOW about it until a couple days ago!" How does that burnish your national security credibility?

One interesting thing in this whole business is the degree to which the Republicans in Congress have pounced to demagogue this issue. It's turned into "you think YOU hate Muslims? Oh no, WE hate Muslims!" which is a perversion of the real issue. David Sirota has a nice piece out which tries to get to the bottom of the Dubai deal:

...almost no one is talking about what may have fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.

How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push to ink a corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004, in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly boasted of his trip to the UAE to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal - regardless of the security consequences - likely greases the wheels for the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President Bush - supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty - took the extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency to protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those interetsts - regardless of the security implications for America - is integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are demanding.

Dubai is a proud member of the United States of Greenbacks along with a lot of other multinationals (you can say that they're one of the first purely corporate states). By turning this into a "the terrists are going to kill us" issue, Republicans in Congress are providing cover for the REAL system underneath.  It also has the added benefit of distancing themselves from an unpopular President in an election year.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tone Deaf

Wow. He's pushing to veto on this? The first veto in 5-plus years? On THIS?

Forget what you think of the Dubai deal. I've already suggested that I'm pretty conflicted about the amount of jingoism and xenophobia inherent in the controversy. I agree that a foreign national shouldn't control US territory, but the idea that turning management (maybe operational, maybe just a paper deal) over to rich Arab businessmen who work with Great Satan of the West every day is the same thing as planting Osama bin Laden in the customs house is silly.

However, from a purely political standpoint, this is as tone deaf a move as I've ever seen. I guess it's not all that out of character for a President who doesn't feel that anyone has the right to dare question him about anything. This is more of that "stiff resolve" with which he's governed throughout two terms. But this decision is out of character with the "oceans won't protect us" mindset that he's forged in stone. Port security is not another ordinary contract and the American people fully understand this. To be this defiant over an issue that obviously angers both sides of the aisle is to be completely out of touch. There is almost no doubt that there's a veto-proof majority against this deal. And Republicans in the rank-and-file can't be happy about the leader of their party taking on something this radioactive in an election year.

Either he's totally in the bubble or there's lots and lots of money in it for him. I thought the Saudis were the ones that always bankrolled him...


On A Mission From God

I have a friend, an ex-Democrat turned neocon, who embodies the paranoid style of politics central to such a swing in ideology. He has now on two occasions pushed this "big story" about tapes unveiled by a former UN weapons inspector (I thought these guys hated the UN!) named William Tierney. Tierney released some of these tapes, which he says prove that Saddam not only had WMD, but he was culpable in virtually every terrorist attack committed on this country, from the World Trade Center to the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The House Intelligence Committee has said that these tapes are authentic; most have yet to be translated (good work, guys).

Now desperate to salvage his central thesis for war, my friend has put this guy on an altar, vowing that "the Democrats will rue the day they ever made "Where's the WMD" a household phrase."

This is the guy he's putting all this faith in:

William Tierney, the former United Nations weapons inspector who unveiled the so-called "Saddam Tapes" at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, Saturday, told National Review Online that God directed him to weapons sites in Iraq and that his belief in the importance of one particular site was strengthened when a friend told him that she had a vision of the site in a dream.


Afterward, in a talk with NRO, Tierney addressed comments he made in February 2003 on "Coast to Coast AM," a radio program devoted to paranormal phenomena. On the program, hosted by George Noory, (who took over from predecessor Art Bell), Tierney discussed a possible nuclear-related facility in Iraq. A description of Tierney's remarks on the "Coast to Coast AM" website says:

Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. "I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. "Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria," Tierney said of the power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility.

Talk about chasing rainbows. This is the guy they're going with? A guy who says that God told him where WMD sites were? A guy who takes the completely debunked theories of Laurie Mylroie as gospel? A guy who's literally quoted as saying "In all thy UNSCOM inspections, He shall direct thy paths to the weapons of mass destruction"? A guy who's biggest exposure for this theory until recently was what was once the Art Bell show?

A guy who speculates on Iraqi involvement the 93 WTC bombing and the 95 OKC bombing based on tapes he's never heard? (And by the way, Byron York didn't even make it all that clear in the article that Tierney was speculating on unheard evidence. Tierney CORRECTED him on that)

A guy who makes statements like this as his proof?

"All I said is that there are more tapes out there, and I would not be surprised if there is discussion of these things. If there is, then we take it from there. If there isn't, then there isn't."

A guy who first says that Steven Hatfill is innocent in the anthrax case, then a little later asserts he is a proxy for Iraq?

A CNN producer asked him a question, "Do I infer correctly that you believe that the anthrax letters were an attack on the U.S. by Iraq, with Steven Hatfill being used as a proxy by Iraq?" Tierney gave a one-word answer: "Yes." Nevertheless, it should be said that in his speech, Tierney said that Hatfill was innocent, while after the speech he said that Hatfill was being used as a proxy in the attack. The best that can be said is that it is not entirely clear just what Tierney's theory is.

Excuse me while I attempt to make the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous snarky laugh.

This is what we've come to on the Right in their desperate dig for the truth: they'll put an obvious crackpot out there as "irrefutable evidence." It'd be funnier if these guys weren't, you know, in charge of things.


Islamofascist Chickens Coming Home to Roost

As Digby notes, the outcry over the port situation really is a kind of poetic justice for the Bush Administration. This is a group of folks who have demagogued the issue of terrorism since 9:45am EST September 11, 2001. They made their case to invade Iraq by insisting there were operational, financial and ideological ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Now they hand over management of some of the nation's largest ports to a country with ACTUAL ties to Al Qaeda? Did they think nobody would notice?

Whatever you think of the Dubai deal, the irony there is delicious.

Digby also notes, as I said in an earlier post, that this is just about the rich getting richer:

The Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.
One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose agency heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container port.

Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations and was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

You knew somebody had to be paid something for this to go through with such little fanfare.


The Port Debate

I'm more than a little disturbed by the degree to which anti-Muslim sentiments have fired the UAE/Dubai Ports World takeover of managing ports in six major cities in the United States. Port security is a major problem in the United States today, with or without the United Arab Emirates' involvement. It comes from critical underinvestment within the rapidly growing port industry. We're looking at an underfunded mandate on maritime security that is not all that different from the underfunded mandate in No Child Left Behind. The containers are largely unchecked; the security is so lax that human beings have stowed away in containers. The ones cited in that story were found; I doubt highly that they were the only ones.

As I said initially, Dubai is a very rich, business oriented nation-state that is far more concerned with the almighty dollar than international terrorism. There are no American multinationals big enough to manage these ports, plain and simple. Dubai Ports World operates in dozens of countries across the world and have shown themselves to be quite competent.

The problem you do get with DPW is that they are owned by the UAE government. So now you have a precedent of a foreign country operating our homeland territory. This is a slippery slope. The newest member of the US Senate, Robert Menendez, explains this:

DOBBS: And DP is a United Arab Emirates-owned company. It is a state-owned company. And at the same time, we're hearing charges of racism. In this case, Islamophobia is the way one particularly, in my opinion, clumsy craftsman expressed himself on this. How do you react to those kinds of charges?

MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, I don't believe that the ports of the nation should ultimately be in the hands of any foreign government, first and foremost.

Exactly. These are issues of sovereignty. Matthew Yglesias takes this a step further and asks why foreign-owned companies should be involved at all. I suspect he's speaking rhetorically, as there's really no other option. US companies big enough to do this job are in the defense industry.

I'm glad in a way that this happened, to call attention to the woeful port security in this country, and open up the debate. Maybe some will see that privatizing everything is not a panacea for all that ails. In many cases the effects are far-reaching well beyond efficiency concerns. That the US government simply has no manpower to take over the ports and run them in a way that protects the homeland should worry us all. Still, there's a lot of fearmongering in this debate that is threatening to overtake the real issue. Maybe that's a political winner, but it sure doesn't sit well with me.


Monday, February 20, 2006

If All Scandals Could Die Like This...

Despite the best efforts of Mr. "We will fuck him!" and The Shootist, the illegal NSA wiretapping story is not going anywhere. It certainly didn't look that way around the end of last week, when Pat "The Loyal Soldier" Roberts and Mike DeWine appeared all set to sweep the story under the rug. Strongarming from The Shootist and others even got Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe to change their vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee, allowing it to adjourn without considering an investigation. DeWine said "we don’t want to have any kind of debate about whether it’s constitutional or not constitutional." Probably because it isn't. But at any rate, it appeared that the Senate would abdicate, that the penalty for breaking a federal statute would be getting a new law passed saying you're allowed to do it.

And then Glenn Greenwald noticed a pattern over the weekend:

The supplemental claim we hear most from the Administration is that this scandal is dying. It will all fade away with some nice legislation designed to render legal the President's four years of deliberate law-breaking. But the NSA scandal continues to dominate the news. Every day brings more conflicts, more disputes, more internecine fighting among Republicans. Indeed, Republicans are all fighting with each other on virtually every aspect of this scandal - when have we ever seen that?

Just review media reports on this scandal over the last 24 hours alone. Does this sound like an Administration that welcomes this scandal as something that is politically beneficial?

Greenwald goes on to cite articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times which depict a frazzled White House offering deals and making concessions to legislators to make sure the program doesn't get a full investigation. As Greenwald notes, that doesn't exactly sound like a group that is thrilled to have this debate heading into the midterms. Indeed they sound scared and desperate to stop it in its tracks, using the rhetoric of "this scandal is going away" and the bravado of "we want to know if Osama is calling somebody and you don't" as a mask.

And apparently, Snowe and Hagel, the moderate turncoats on the Intelligence Committee, want everyone to know that they have done no such thing:

Snowe earlier had expressed concerns about the program's legality and civil liberties safeguards, but Card was adamant about restricting congressional oversight and control, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing office policies. Snowe seemed taken aback by Card's intransigence, and the call amounted to "a net step backward" for the White House, said a source outside Snowe's office.

Snowe contacted fellow committee Republican Chuck Hagel (Neb.), who also had voiced concerns about the program. They arranged a three-way phone conversation with Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Until then, Roberts apparently thought he had the votes to defeat Rockefeller's motion in the committee, which Republicans control nine to seven, the sources said. But Snowe and Hagel told the chairman that if he called up the motion, they would support it, assuring its passage, the sources said. . . . .

Hagel and Snowe declined interview requests after the meeting, but sources close to them say they bridle at suggestions that they buckled under administration heat. The White House must engage "in good-faith negotiations" with Congress, Snowe said in a statement.

Now that's quite a turnaround. And it's not limited to them. Lindsay Graham defied his own majority leader by saying "you need to get some judicial review." Arlen Specter wants FISA to rule on the legality of the program. Even Doormat Roberts appeared to announce tht he wasn't satisfied with simply exempting the program from FISA. If you've lost that many members of the Intelligence and Judiciary and Homeland Security Committes, you can only hold out for so long. This President is at 39%, and his Shootist Veep is well below that. They don't have the kind of pull in an election year to bend the Congress to their will. Especially because the whole point of the controversy is that they willfully and deliberately ignored Congressional statute.

Greenwald finally calls attention to this op-ed from deep in the heart of Kansas:

Many Kansans, including members of The Eagle editorial board, have long admired Sen. Pat Roberts for his plainspokenness and reputation for fair brokering of issues.

So it's troubling that Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is fast gaining the reputation in Washington, D.C., as a reliable partisan apologist for the Bush administration on intelligence and security controversies.

We hope that's not true. But Roberts' credibility is on the line. . . .

This week, Roberts sidetracked a Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into the possibly illegal National Security Agency wiretap program, saying the White House had agreed to brief lawmakers more regularly and to work with him on a behind-the-scenes "fix" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

That prompted a scathing New York Times editorial Friday headlined "Doing the President's Dirty Work," which opined: "Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?" . . .

But whether the law needs a "fix" is far from certain. Roberts' deal could thwart Congress' duty to learn more about and evaluate this program, while securing from the White House only a vague pledge to talk about fixing the law down the road. . . .

What's bothering many, though, is that Roberts seems prepared to write the Bush team a series of blank checks to conduct the war on terror, even to the point of ignoring policy mistakes and possible violations of law.

That's not oversight -- it's looking the other way.

Democrats have not exactly been vocal on this issue, but behind the scenes they have uniformly voted for additional investigation and oversight, not to mention doing a good job in the Torquemada Gonzales hearings. They could do a lot more, because there is simply no downside. There is no reason to sit on the rhetorical sidelines the way they did with the torture issue, allowing McCain to be the hero (this time it would be Hagel). The Rovian talk of "this will make you look weak" is a paper tiger. The Republicans up for election this year know it.

It's time to stand up for checks and balances and against the Imperial Preisdency. If not now, when? I have little trust that anyone but Future President Feingold will rise to this occasion.


Stamping Our Wittle Feet

It certainly is a lot easier in a dictatorship, ain't it, guys?

From the NY Times:

The American ambassador to Iraq issued an unusually strong warning today about the need for Iraq's political factions to come together, hinting for the first time that the United States would not be willing to support institutions plagued by sectarian agendas.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke as a fresh wave of violence swept the country. A string of bombing attacks, including one inside a crowded commuter bus in Baghdad and another in a restaurant in northern Iraq, left at least 26 people dead and more than 60 wounded, the bloodiest day in Iraq in almost two months.

Mr. Khalilzad, speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, underscored the hope of American officials that Iraqi political leaders, who are deep in negotiations over the formation of a new government, would choose new cabinet ministers who would place the interests of their country over those of their political party and sect.

More than two months have passed since Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections, but signs of serious disagreement over the shape of the government persist. The new parliament is required by law to meet for the first time on Saturday.

"The United States is investing billions of dollars" into Iraq's new police and army forces, Mr. Khalilzad said. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."

See, imposing democracy and defining democracy as "elections" rather than actual democratic institutions necessarily winds up with sectarianism. What the hell else were Iraqis supposed to vote for? Candidate names were basically held secret, positions on the issues were vague and unformed, and campaigning was pretty much nonexistent. When the leader of the Shi'a issues a fatwa declaring that all his followers vote, how do you think it's going to turn out?

Add to that stew the decades of animosity and suppression between the factions, that has exploded into revenge killings and death squads on both sides. This is not the milieu for reasoned diplomacy. And the US Ambassador saying "you guys better get along or else we'll take our ball and go home" doesn't provide a whole lot of help. It may be why we've lost the Iraqi public so rapidly.

This ICG report I mentioned in an earlier post is pretty fascinating for those who actually think profiling and understanding an enemy is central to defeating them (like the FBI with serial killers, for example). The report looks at the insurgency "in their own words" and shows how they use Information Age elements to try to further their goals. Nightline has a story out on the report which goes deeper into the recent history of the insurgents:

Early on in the war's aftermath, there were myriad insurgent efforts. Based on Internet communications, there has been much consolidation. The four major groups are, according to ICG: Tandhim al Qaeda fi Bilad al Rafidayn (al Qaeda's Organization in Mesopotamia), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna (Partisans of the Sunna Army); Al Jaysh al Islami fil Iraq (the Islamic Army in Iraq); and al Jabha al Islamiya lil Muqawama al Iraqiya (the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance).

ICG says these groups have monthly magazines, professionally designed PDF files that are distributed via e-mail.

They use what we in the United States might call "synergy," providing information and links to relatively sophisticated movies -- like one mythologizing the so-called Baghdad Sniper who claims to have killed more than 140 U.S. troops.

"It gives the impression that the Iraqi insurgency can kill Americans wherever they are," said Peter Harling, an ICG senior analyst.

The ICG says that these productions not only bolster the insurgency's confidence and image, but also help recruit new fighters for the cause with biographies of suicide bombers and movies that document terrorist operations...


The insurgents also deploy what in politics is called rapid response. In one instance, they took a New York Times article about the U.S. military secretly negotiating with some insurgent groups, translated it into Arabic, and rebutted it in a signed letter from those groups.

"They're very quick at this. They come back, show the allegation, deny it -- the group itself denies it, every group denies it," said Malley.

The ICG worries U.S. forces are not doing enough rapid response themselves. Though the United States shuts down many insurgent Web sites, the crisis group worries U.S. officials still allow insurgents to spread allegations of U.S. atrocities by not disputing them until it's too late and they've taken root in the Iraqi consciousness.

"They were reaching Iraqis for a long time before we," said Malley.

Having no interest in nation building to begin with, this Administration had no plan for how to do it when they radically changed their ideological course. Rumsfeld was whining about this at the end of last week, and it boggles the mind. An enemy hiding out in bunkers is more technologically sophisticated than the most advanced country on the planet? I agree to an extent with Anthony Cordesmann, who later in the article explains that the realities on the ground - massive unemployment, a fractured government, power and water supplies below pre-war levels - are far more important factors fueling the insurgency. Still, if our idea of bringing about any kind of harmony in Iraq is through threats of pullout, we only play into the hands of the sectarians, not to mention the Iranians and the Muslim world, who could then point to another area for martyrdom ("The US has starved our brothers in Iraq!").

Grand Moff Texan has some very interesting things to say about this, including this:

The fact that information is propaganda does not make it useless, it makes it useful, if your goal is defeating the enemy who produced the propaganda.  You have right in front of you the things they value, how they want people to think about them, etc.  They're showing their hand.  IF you have the sense to read it.

Strategically, we gain nothing from the readily available intel smack in front of our faces. We continue the same tired strategies of Iraqization (like Vietnamization). We can stamp our little feet that things haven't gone our way in Iraq, that our handpicked leader Ahmad Chalabi didn't win a single seat in the elections, that a Prime Minister was elected who's laid wreaths at the grave of the Ayatollah Khomeini, that the insurgency has, amazingly enough, gained the kind of credibility to get a seat at the bargaining table, but we're not prepared to do a goddamn thing about it.


Environmental Science for Dummies

I don't think anybody would argue with the contention that the Bush Administration is skeptical about the issue of climate change. I mean, there aren't any polar bears drowning in DC, after all, so what's all the hubbub?

So hearing that the President grants meetings to fellow skeptics in a sort of mutual admiration society is not surprising. The fact that he doesn't bother to grant those meetings to scientists, who might have actual data to back up their claims, but science fiction novelists, is simply ridiculous:

In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush," Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.

Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement."

"The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more," he adds.

Look, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Bush and Crichton weren't talking about global warming at all; maybe they were discussing the cloning of dinosaurs or how robots will malfunction at Western-themed amusement parks.

(Incidentally, they're remaking Westworld? Why can't the Hollywood gatekeepers allow anyone to generate a new idea?)

I work in media my own damn self. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm not qualified to brief the President on the environment. With the help of my trusty friend Google, I could probably come up with a list of a few thousand peer-reviewed scientists (I mean peers who aren't political operatives) who are. Or I could bring back some digital photos of the polar ice caps or the Greenland Ice Sheet melting away. Either way, my opinion on the subject, informed or not, simply pales in comparison to an expert's. Michael Crichton falls on my side of the fence in this scenario.

This is priceless:

Mr. Crichton, whose views in "State of Fear" helped him win the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award this month, has been a leading doubter of global warming and last September appeared before a Senate committee to argue that the supporting science was mixed, at best.

That's right up there with George Lucas winning the Association of American Light Saber Manufacturer's Raising Awareness Award.

Of course, this preference for political opinion over scientific opinion is not surprising from an Administration that sends a 24 year-old who lied about graduating from college to silence NASA scientists on climate change. This is really par for the course from the "addicted to oil" crowd. But its effects for those of us who want to see Venice someday, or who'd like to breathe clean air in Southern California, or who'd like to leave their kids and grandkids at least a partially un-toxified Earth, are far-reaching.


Doctor Doolittle

I've just started reading The Daily Muck on the TPM Cafe site, whose mission is to dig deeper on a story and go beyond the surface. Today's effort, about Rep. John Doolittle of California, is pretty amazing.

Apparently Doolittle gave a lengthy interview to the Sacramento Bee, wherein he acknowledges close contact with just about every Republican scandal target of the last five years:

Here is a man who admits he was close to Jack Abramoff (who pled guilty to, among other things, bribery)…

“Oh, it was definitely a friendship….I guess on a scale of my interaction with other lobbyists, he would have been one of the closest ones, frankly.”

to Tom DeLay (indicted for money laundering)…

Q: You were very close to Tom DeLay.

A: Absolutely.

to Duke Cunningham (pled guilty to bribery)…

“I believed Duke to be above board - what you saw is what you got.”

to Brent Wilkes (defense contractor implicated by Cunningham for bribery)…

“I must tell you Brent Wilkes and his family have always seemed like very fine upstanding people to me.”

and to Ed Buckham (head of Alexander Strategy Group, forced to shut down his firm because he’s a likely target in the Abramoff probe)…

“Ed Buckham was a good friend of mine”

Doolittle seems not to be a very good judge of character.

Wow. How's that for a kickoff to the re-election campaign? "John Doolittle - break the law, he'll be your friend." I'm surprised he didn't go on to say "I always liked Haldemann. He seemed on the up-and-up."

Doolittle is a perfect example of a member of Congress whose long-held opinions and beliefs go out the window when the money men come calling. He sold out his anti-gambling beliefs, for example, by defending his support for the Mississippi Choctaw tribe (an Abramoff client), who are "very free-enterprise oriented." Feel the relativism!

Meanwhile, that Republican reform we've heard so much about in January has turned out to be, um, just talk. Though how could you expect any different? To actually clean up the corruption in Washington would involve mass resignations and re-registering most members of Congress into a new party. That's hard work.


Stamping Out Threats to the Homeland... The Ones With Big Boobs

While allowing management of the nation's biggest ports to be purchased by the agent of a country who had diplomatic relations with the Taliban as recently as September 21, 2001 (one of only 3 countries to do so, the others being our other great regional allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), The Department of Homeland Security is going about defending us from the real threats to the nation:

Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography.

After the two men made their announcement, one of them challenged an Internet user's choice of viewing material and asked him to step outside, according to a witness. A librarian intervened, and the two men went into the library's work area to discuss the matter. A police officer arrived. In the end, no one had to step outside except the uniformed men.

They were officers of the security division of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, an unarmed force that patrols about 300 county buildings -- but is not responsible for enforcing obscenity laws.

Michael Chertoff made a right ass of himself on the Sunday talk shows, straining to be credible when he talked of his "young agency" working to correct the problems shown to the world during Hurricane Katrina. But he only scratched the surface of the real problem. The real problem is that there is a seeming anarchy in the department if some of its agents are harassing library patrons for looking at porn. That's the mission creep you get in a huge federal agency with a complete lack of leadership. What's next, DHS agents giving out jaywalking tickets?

It's not hard to take your eye of the ball when your agency, like so many federal agencies, operates with political concerns never far from the mission statement. Playing politics with homeland security is obvious when 3 year-old information is used to increase threat levels in the middle of an election. But when these issues of social control start to pop up in your agency as well, it's playing politics on a more subtle level.


Bloody Mary

I don't know how Mary Matalin got into the wardrobe department from 101 Dalmatians, but let's just say her performance defending the Vice President on Meet the Press isn't going to do wonders for her boss' approval ratings. Arianna has the blow-by-blow description.

I watched it too, and was particularly piqued by this exchange between Cruella and NBC News' David Gregory:

GREGORY: If you thought he did everything right... why did you do a big national interview this week?

MATALIN: Because you went on a jihad, David. For four days you went on a Jihad.

GREGORY: And that's an unfortunate use of that word, by the way. This is not what that was.

MATALIN: Oh, OK. All right. How -- were you saving up for that line?

Cruella crosses the line, calls asking questions a jihad, and when Gregory calls her on it, she asks "were you saving up for that line?" What? The line in question was a direct repsonse to something she said. How could David Gregory have possibly been waiting to pounce with "that's an unfortunate use of that word?" Did he somehow know telekinetically that Cruella would drop the j-bomb?

This is all part of the conservative tactic to paint the "liberal media" as all about scoring political or rhetorical points. It's projection, of course, because that's what they do on an hourly basis. It's the tried and true "attack your opponent when you're the weakest" strategy. And that exchange is emblematic of it.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

As Iraq Turns

Remember how it's important not to close the detainee camp at Guantanamo because we're still getting such valuable information there? Well, that suggests that the jihadist movement uses the same tactics for years and years (liek some armies I know) A recent report regarding the Iraqi insurgency suggests otherwise:

Despite reports of growing tensions and even occasional clashes between Islamists and nationalists, the predominantly Sunni insurgency in Iraq appears increasingly united and confident of victory, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

The 30-page report, based primarily on an analysis of the public communications of insurgent groups, as well as interviews and past studies about the insurgency, also concludes that rebel groups have adapted quickly and effectively to changing US tactics - in both the military and political spheres

This would explain the fits and starts with which attacks are now carried out in the country. The LA Times has an interesting rundown of this phenomenon today, suggesting that cease-fires have political goals, that Sunni insurgents are reaching out to and even becoming enmeshed within the government, that foreign fighters have become marginalized, and that a civil war on multiple fronts is taking hold.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi constitution has lost more support:

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has said he rejects the Iraqi constitution backed by his partners in the biggest parliament bloc, raising the possibility of a crisis over one of the country's most explosive issues.

"I reject this constitution which calls for sectarianism and there is nothing good in this constitution at all," he told Al Jazeera television.

I wonder if this will lead to more internecine fighting between Shiites like there was in Najaf last summer. Shiites battling Shiites? Insurgents battling insurgents? Not a pretty picture for a war that drags ever forward.